Contrary to what some revisionist music historians might have you believe, the transition from late 70s punk rock to the hardcore of the early 80s wasn't such a clean break. A number of artists of the period were making explosive noises to bridge the gap.
Only because many were working regionally and distributing their recordings independently under the radar of mainstream media, groups like the Zero Boys could be all the rage in Indiana yet remain largely unknown outside the Midwest until the rising collector value of their rare vinyl inspired a critical rethink. Listening back to the Zero Boys' Vicious Circle LP from 82, just reissued by Secretly Canadian along with the History Of compilation, you can hear the ripping guitar leads of their snotty punk past rubbing up against the shorter, sharper attacks that would become synonymous with the raging hardcore rumble beginning to take hold.
It's interesting that the amped-up version of their classic Livin' In The 80s, originally intended as a line in the sand separating the new breed from aging arena rockers, could conceivably become a dance-floor anthem for 80s nostalgia nights once these reissues make the rounds. zeroboys.net.
Zero Boys - Livin' In The 80s
Dust-To-Digital's second exploratory dig into Art Rosenbaum's vast collection of American folk songs he documented himself over the past 50 years, Art Of Field Recording, Volume II, is finally out, and it's just as exciting, eerie and engaging as the first four-CD set proved to be.
Whereas many critics praising the first volume have referred to Harry Smith's influential archival ear-opener (Rosenbaum admits to being inspired by the groundbreaking Anthology Of American Folk Music), the big difference is that the informal one-off performances captured here are mostly by non-professionals who typically sing and play for friends and family within their own communities, whereas Smith's set was drawn from commercially produced 78s recorded by career artists with musical accompaniment.
That's not to say the musicianship here is of lesser quality. On the contrary, you'll often be shocked by the string-bending finesse, the complexity of the group interactions and the power of the a cappella singing. There's just more of an unvarnished "real people" quality to this music that you typically only hear with privately pressed home recordings.
A number of Rosenbaum's finds, such as Golden River Grass and Cecil Barfield, could've been big stars on the folk revival circuit if they'd had the gumption to leave their hometowns. Roots music fans will also notice a few ringers in the mix, like Buell Kazee, Scrapper Blackwell, Ola Belle Reed, the Balfa Brothers and Alice Gerrard, who show how slim the margin really is between the pros and so-called amateurs. dust-digital.com.
Cecil Barfield - Georgia Blues (Art Of Field Recording)
Golden River Grass - Over In The Glory Land (AOFR)
Buell Kazee - Barbara Allen (AOFR)
As the UK Jazzman label continues to uncover and re-release rare recordings from the 60s and 70s, there appears to have been a move away from conventional James Brown-derived funk toward more exotic variants of dance-floor heaters from around the globe, not unlike the direction Andy Votel has been pursuing with Finders Keepers. You'll get a better idea of where Jazzman is coming from on the recent Welcome To The Party compilation of tracks selected from the label's 7-inch releases, which includes Salah Ragab's bumpin' Egypt Strut, Al Escobar's zesty retouch of Tighten Up, soundtrack maestro Sohail Rana's swinging Soul Sitar and Ricardo Marrero's hard-bangin' Babalonia.
Of course, Jazzman hasn't gone off the James Brown thing entirely. To underscore that fact, it's reissued the rare Funky Superfly album (on CD and 7-inch set) of original jams by Bobby Williams, one of the greatest Godfather of Soul sound-alikes you've never heard. jazzmanrecords.co.uk.
Salah Ragab - Egypt Strut (Welcome To The Party)
Sohail Rana - Soul Sitar (WTTP)
Bobby Williams - Funky Superfly