Saturday, July 08, 2006
Africa - Music From Lil' Brown (1968)
There's some very soulful psychedelia--or is it psychedelic soul--on this slab of vinyl. From the opening of the 1st song (Paint It Back) this is clearly a keeper--the song starts with some Latin percussion (nice set of congas) & a few well placed guitar chords. Then it adds a soulful electric guitar to carry the melody, a bass break, some weird laughing & what sound like a guy popping his mouth with his finger. There are a few vocal snippets (some seem to be in Spanish but I can't really tell since they're not all that clear). Later you do get some other vocals that are clearly distinguishable in the mix: some of the nah-nah-nah chorus, a "paint it black" chant, someone singing about being "out of my mind," a bit of the rest of the chorus ("I see a red door..."), and the some signing ("the old lady sure looks good to me") that I'm pretty sure belongs to another song (although I can't recall the name of it at the moment). Really though it's the instruments that carry the song--all very laid back and hip and both soulful and trippy. The rest of the record doesn't disappoint although Paint it Black remains my favorite track. You also get covers of Light my Fire and a Louie-Louie/Ode to Billy Joe medley that really hits the spot. Some cool orginals as well: a soulful Here I Stand & the funky Widow. Throughout there's plenty of cool rhythm breaks and some fine guitar work.
You may have noticed that artwork & title reference The Band's Music From Big Pink but it does seem the Lil' Brown was a real place. Group member Rip Spencer notes (in an article on the Valiants, linked below), "We used to rehearse at Gary Pipkin's house and he had this little brown shack, a playhouse in the back yard, for his kids."
The core group of Africa started their music career as members of the doo-wop band the Valiants--there's a great history of their various transformations available on the Web here.
This album was produced by Lou Adler and released on Ode records (a subsidiary of Columbia). It was, unfortunately, their only release. However, a second album's worth of material was recorded for MGM but never issued--another music industry crime since if it's half as good as this I'd rush out and buy a copy. You can't get this album on CD (another crime) but you can download it here.
Next week I'll be posting Bobby Jameson' Working album from 1968, which was requested by TBA on his/her great blog: Palestinian Light Orchestra
In coming weeks I'll also be posting the soundtrack to Angel, Angel Down We Go & Kathe Green's Run the Length of Your Wildness. I'm trying to keep a steady pace of 1 record a week so as not to burnout. If you like what you hear or have any requests please leave a comment.