Encore Lovey! – Trinidad String Band Music 1912 – 1914

In 1912 Trinidadian metalworker and violinist George Lovelace Baillie – aka Lovey – and his band headed to New York City to play engagements and record for the Victor Talking Machine Company and the Columbia Graphophone Company (sic) — the first recordings by a black band from the English-speaking West Indies.

Adverts described them as playing music “never heard before in America.”

They recorded for Victor on June 20 1912, as Lovey’s Trinidad String Band, and for Columbia over the next two weeks as Lovey’s Band.

They waxed an unknown number of 78s featuring an array of string instruments, including twin fiddles, string bass and guitar family variants including the four-string cuatro and the braga.

Black string bands were common in Trinidad, specialising in waltzes, tangos, and paseos (calypso), performing dances during holidays and at Carnival time – many slaves had learned to play string instruments to entertain white audiences.

Prior to the outbreak of WWI Columbia engineers visited Trinidad and recorded them on over 50 sides in late July and early 1914.

This three-CD set contains all the known surviving recordings from 1912 sessions and reprises 40 of the 50 selections recorded in 1914.

They reflect the rhythms of the Caribbean as well as mainland South America. With the exception of Cuba, Argentina and Brazil, Lovey’s band was the earliest black band to record in the Americas specialising in hot dance music with 19th-century roots.

Lovey and his band were still performing throughout the 1920s. Lovey died in 1937 following an operation.

Produced by noted musicologists Dick Spottswood, Steve Shapiro, and John Cowley complete with remastered sound, historic graphics and detailed booklet by Cowley, this is the roots of West Indian music.

Encore Lovey! The Historic Trinidad String Band Recordings 1912 & 1914 is released by Richard Weize Archives (RWA).

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Excavated Shellac Now A CD Box Set

In 2015, Dust To Digital began working on Excavated Shellac: An Alternate History of the World’s Music with record collector, researcher, and writer Jonathan Ward.

At the beginning of the process, things were moving ahead just as they had with so many previous productions: liner notes were finalized, licensing requests were submitted, audio was digitized and restored, and the text and graphic elements were being laid out and designed. Then, like everyone, we were impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout 2020, there were postal service delays, shipping container shortages, record store closures, and manufacturing plant shutdowns. In response to this new reality, D2D made the tough decision to forego a physical version of the Excavated Shellac box set that we had been planning for years, and in December 2020 it was released digitally.

in late 2021 D2D began moving toward fulfilling the original vision for this release. Our designer Barb Bersche who had originally designed the set to be printed and had modified the format for digital release, set to work once again to finalize and submit the files to our printer. D2D decided to expand some of the elements into features like a gloss-laminated box, artbook-quality paper, and die-cut reproductions of vintage record store stickers from Jon’s collection.

The production process was moving along well when they were informed that to print the book we would need to comply with government imposed censorship of the words Dalai Lama, Tibet, and other terms deemed problematic. They found this unacceptable and moved production to a printer in Hong Kong which had a significant impact on the cost of the set.

Now, seven years later the set is now releases in a physical CD box set.

Read about the digitally released set here in an article by Garth Cartwright in The Guardian.

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Global Routes : Orchestre Massako

Jean-Christian Mboumba Mackaya (aka ‘Mack-Joss’) fronted Gabon’s Orchestre Massako from 1971 – when the armed forces formed their own band. Aged 17, he was well known on Gabon’s nightlife scene having released the pan-African hit record ‘Le Boucher’.

Between 1968 and 1970 Mack-Joss and his Negro-Tropical recorded 45s at an open-air studio. In the late 1970s his Studio Mobile Massako was built and he would fly to France, (carrying the master tapes in his hand luggage), press the records and ship them back to African distributors.

A dozen albums were recorded between 1978 and 1986 some featuring the king of Afro-Cuban music Amara Touré who hailed from Dakar, Senegal.

Searching for tracks for reissue on his Analog Africa reissue label Samy Ben Redjeb recalled: “The last time I heard Mack-Joss’s voice was in August 2016. We had spoken a few  times before – but on that particular day,  I could hear gunshots being fired. Libreville (the capital city of Gabon) was in turmoil following the re-election of president Ali Bongo.” Ali Bongo and his corrupt father Omar Bongo who had ruled Gabon for forty years is believed to have ripped off $130 million (a conservative estimate) of Gabon’s assets.Mack Joss had retired in 1996. “By the time I was ready to go ahead with the reissue project, Mack-Joss’s phone number had been disconnected. Shortly after-wards I found out that he had passed away in 2018. I regretted that we hadn’t been able to be in touch after that tumultuous day” says Samy Ben Redjeb.

Mack Joss’ music and songs occupy a special place with the Gabonese people and a new generation of musicians. This infectious four track vinyl and download set by Orchestre Massako has two tracks with vocals by Amara Touré.

This article appeared in my feature Global Routes Morning Star on-line May 20th

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Global Routes – Vieux Farka Touré

Vieux Farka Touré, son of Grammy Award winner and Malian national hero Ali Farka Touré has a new album out called Les Racines (“the roots”) on World Circuit which sees Vieux reconnect with the Songhai music of Northern Mali — known as “Desert Blues.”

His father, who died in 2006, was the finest guitarist Africa has ever produced. Following in his father’s footsteps Vieux is now known as the “Hendrix of the Sahara.”

Because of the pandemic he spent two years making the album. “I’ve had a desire to do a more traditional album for a long time. It’s important to me and to Malian people that we stay connected to our roots and our history. Early in my career people asked why I wasn’t just following my father. But it was important for me to establish my own identity,” he says. “Now people know what I can do, I can return to those roots.”

Recorded in Bamako in his home studio, the album is steeped in the mesmeric music of West Africa. With 10 original songs, Vieux addresses the problems Mali faces after a brutal civil war which saw Islamist militants destroy recording studios, close down radio stations and ban music in parts of the country.

“In Mali many people are illiterate — music is the main way of transmitting information and knowledge. My father fought for peace and we have an obligation to educate people about the problems facing our country and to rally people.”

Les Racines is also a tribute to his father whose name is invoked in the album’s closing track Ndjehene Direne. “The album is an homage to my father but, just as importantly, to everything he represented and stood for.”

Les Racines is available on World Circuit Records.

This article appeared in my Global Routes feature in the Morning Star April 15th 2022

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Cameroon Garage Funk – “a legacy of raw grooves and magnificent tunes”

Yaoundé, in the 1970s, was a buzzing place. Every neighbourhood of Cameroon’s capital was filled with music spots – but surprisingly there was no infrastructure to immortalise those musical riches.

The country suffered from a serious lack of proper recording facilities, and the process of committing your song to tape could become a whole adventure unto itself.

Of course, you could always book the national broadcasting company together with a sound engineer, but this was hardly an option for underground artists with no cash. But luckily an alternative option emerged in the form of an adventist church with some good recording equipment.

Many of the artists on this compilation recorded their first few songs, secretly, in these premises thanks to Monsieur Awono, the church engineer. He knew the schedule of the priests and, in exchange for some cash, he would arrange recording sessions. The artists still had to bring in their own equipment, and since there was only one microphone, the amps and instruments had to be positioned perfectly. It was a risky business for everyone involved but since they knew they were making history, it was all worth it.

At the end of the recording, the master reel would be handed to whoever had paid for the session, usually the artist themselves. And what happened next? With no distribution nor recording companies around this was a legitimate question. More often then not it was the French label Sonafric that would offer their manufacturing and distribution structure and many Cameroonian artist used that platform to kickstart their career.

Mballa Bony & the Ndenga Boys, 1977 (Copyright: Analog Africa)

What is particularly surprising in the case of Sonafric was their willingness to take chances and judge music solely on their merit rather than their commercial viability. The sheer amount of seriously crazy music released also spoke volumes about the openness of the people behind the label.

But who exactly are these artists that recorded one or two songs before disappearing, never to be heard from again? Some of the names – like Jean-Pierre Djeukam whose song “Africa Iyo” from 1978 opens the compilation – were so obscure that even the most seasoned veterans of the Cameroonian music scene had never heard of them.

A few trips to the land of Makossa by Analog Africa’s founder Samy Ben Redjeb, and many more hours of interviews were necessary to get enough insight into Yaoundé’s buzzing 1970s music scene. On one crate digging trip he found sixteen 45’s (most from Sonafric) at the national radio station in Niger.

The set comes with the extensive liner notes are the result of meticulous research by Ben Redjeb and Volkan Kaya, full of personal stories and beautifully designed with plenty archive images.

Despite the myriad difficulties involved in the simple process of making and releasing a record, the musicians of Yaoundé’s underground music scene left behind an extraordinary legacy of raw grooves and magnificent tunes.

The songs may have been recorded in a church, with a single microphone in the span of only an hour or two, but the fact that we still pay attention to these great creations some 50 years later, only illustrates the timelessness of their music.

Cameroon Garage Funk is available on Analog Africa o a double LP pressed on 140g virgin vinyl with gatefold cover + full colour 12-pages booklet and on CD with a full colour 28-pages booklet (AACD092)

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The Trojan Records Story – Rob Bell and Rusty Zinn Interview

Rob Bell and Rusty Zinn to talk about their contributions to Trojan’s latest release – ‘The Trojan Story’. Rob Bell was the brains behind the original release of ‘The Trojan Story’ back in 1971, exactly 50 years later he talks about his motivations behind the release and reveals life at Trojan in the 1970’s.

Watch the Full interview here.

Find out more about The Trojan Story: https://Trojan.lnk.to/thetrojanstoryFA

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C. P. Lee of legendary Manchester underground band Greasy Bear

Chris ‘C. P.’ Lee, leader of Greasy Bear, the legendary Manchester underground died suddenly on July 25th.

Chris Lee, was born in Didsbury, Manchester in 1950 and as well as being a musician, he was a writer, broadcaster, performer and university lecturer.

A student at The Manchester School of Art, in 1969 he formed Greasy Bear along with his friend Bruce Mitchell – of The Durutti Column fame – as well as Ian Wilson, Steve Whalley and John Gibson.

Greasy Bear were christened ‘Manchester’s answer to The Grateful Dead’ and they were managed by Manchester music promoter and DJ Roger Eagle.

Greasy Bear played countless gigs in the North West and Manchester area.

They seemed to play every local festival, all dayers, as well as pub and college gigs and of course at Manchester’s Magic Village. Their gigs were promoted in the Manchester underground newspaper Grass Eye.

In 1970, with a collection of songs penned by Chris Lee and Ian Wilson, Greasy Bear recorded nine tracks, hoping to secure a deal with the Philips underground and progressive label Vertigo. They worked with producer Terry Brown, who had recently produced the work of Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick.

After the deal with Philips/Vertigo fell through the band went their separate ways.

In 2016 the album, ‘Is Adrian There?’, finally saw the light of day after being released by Vinyl Revival on Record Store Day.

C.P. Lee and Bruce Mitchell formed Manchester anarchic-satirical rock band Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias. Bruce went on to form half of Factory records duo The Durutti Column.

Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias released three albums in the 1970s and were scheduled to appear on Top Of The Pops to promote a new single but a power cut meant they couldn’t appear.

Their remarkable story is told in C.P.’s own memoir, ‘When We Were Thin’.

This was one of many books that Chris would write over the years including ‘Shake, Rattle & Rain’, is an adaption of his PhD thesis on popular music making in Manchester.

A fanatic of all things Bob Dylan, Chris attended Dylan’s Manchester Free Trade Hall ‘Judas’ concert in 1966, of which he later wrote about in his book ‘Like The Night (Revisited)’.

He hosted hosted a number of film, music and performance events at the Kings Arms in Salford over the years.

In more recent years he toured as C.P. ‘Ukule’ Lee in a bid to keep the Albertos legend alive by going on the road and performing his band’s hits.

For more information on Greasy Bear and to see some great memorabilia visit their section on the Manchesterbeat website

You Tube clips of Greasy Bear:
Geordie from 1970 recorded for Phillips/Virtigo but not released.

Windy Day from a compilation of unissued and rare tracks from Manchester bands called Man Chester Hair

Tallawaya 1970

From the Manchester Digital Music Archive Interviews:

C.P. Lee on Greasy Bear at Main Debating Hall, 1971

C.P. Lee on Captain Beefheart at Main Debating Hall, 1968

C.P. Lee on Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Main Debating Hall, 1968

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The Passion Of Chris Strachwitz

Chris Strachwitz is a man possessed. “El Fanatico,” Ry Cooder calls him.

A song catcher, dedicated to recording the traditional, regional, down home music of America, his adopted home after his family left Germany at the close of WWII. Mance Lipscomb, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Big Mama Thornton, Clifton Chenier, Rose Maddox, Flaco Jimenez… the list is long and mighty.

Chris Strachwitz is a keeper. His vault is jam-packed with 78s, 33s, 45s, reel-to-reels, cassettes, videos, photographs — an archive of all manner of recordings. And an avalanche of lifetime achievement awards — from the Grammy’s, The Blues Hall of Fame, The National Endowment for the Arts – for some 60 years of recording and preserving the musical cultural heritage of this nation through his label, Arhoolie Records.

Featuring interviews with Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt.

“The Passion of Chris Strachwitz” was produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson) with Nathan Dalton and Brandi Howell, mixed by Jim McKee. For The Goethe Institute’s Big Pond series.

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Off The Record Presents Joe Bussard.

Off The Record makes the record-collector’s version of the pilgrimage to Mecca to Joe Bussard’s wonderful basement!

Owner of one of the finest collections of prewar blues, country and jazz records in the world, Joe Bussard has been one of the most famed and accessible names in the 78rpm world for generations.

Great short film with great stories.

Posted in 78rpm, Americana, Blues, Country/Hillbilly, Gospel, Jazz, Rare Records, Roots, Uncategorized, Website, You Tube | Leave a comment

Interview With Charlie Gillett From 2008

The late Charlie Gillett was a renowned broadcaster, journalist and author. He wrote the acclaimed and influential ‘Sound Of The City’ (“the first serious and comprehensive history of rock & roll”) and the story of Atlantic Records ‘Making Tracks’.

He wrote for the first serous music magazine I ever read ‘Let It Rock’, for ‘Rolling Stone’, ‘The Observer’ and the ‘NME’

As a radio DJ he appeared on the national and world service BBC, and presented the influential BBC Radio London show ‘Honky Tonk’.

Ace Records released two volumes of ‘Charlie Gillett’s Radio Picks Honky Tonk’ which included some of the classic records he played on his show including a demo by Dire Straits of ‘Sultan’s Of Swing’ which lead to world wide fame for the band.

On London’s Capital Radio he began playing ‘world music’ and developed an unparalleled knowledge of world/global music scene (check out his multi volume issued between 2000 and 2009 ‘World’ and ‘Sound Of The World’ series of double CDs).

He was the boss of Oval Music, a label named after the local south London cricket ground that he formed with Gordon Nelki in 1972, which released the influential ‘Another Saturday Night’ a compilation of South Louisiana and Cajun music.

Charlie was the recipient of  a Sony Gold Lifetime Achievement Award and the John Peel Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music Radio by the Radio Academy.

In July 2006, after eleven years of broadcasting his regular Saturday-night show of world music, Gillett had to end his weekend slot due to ill health, but until his death he continued to present his half-hour show, ‘Charlie Gillett’s World Of Music’.

Charlie died on 17th March 2010, following a series of health problems, including being diagnosed with Churg-Strauss syndrome in 2006.

Music fans will enjoy this hour lone interview with a great man.


Posted in 45 rpm, 78rpm, Americana, Blues, Books, Film -TV, Gospel, Rare Records, Rhythm & Blues, Rock, Rock & Roll, Roots, Soul, Vinyl, Website, World Music, You Tube | Leave a comment