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Thelonious Monk

Monk's Blues

    Renowned and revered for his improvisational abilities, his contributions to the lexicon of jazz standards, and his many innovations in composition, it's no wonder that Thelonius Monk's catalog is one of the most recorded of all time. (Topped only by Duke Ellington.) An eccentric and quirky pianist, Monk's recordings were marked by strategic dissonance, abrupt key changes, and the usage of silence as an instrument, a style which was not fully understood in its time, (One jazz critic referred to Monk as "the elephant at the keyboard") but would prove highly influential to the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Mulatu Astatke, Chick Corea, and even his contemporaries like Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. Monk primarily worked alone or with a quartet of musicians, but this was not always the case.

    1968's Monk's Blues changed up his formula by pairing his traditional cool bop sound with a big-band horn section, orchestrated and conducted by bandleader and television/film composer Oliver Nelson. Pairing the normally very cerebral and precise Monk with an array of brass was a strange decision at the time, and baffled critics, who believed the horn elements distracted from Monk's piano-playing. In spite of this, Monk's Blues holds a unique place in his catalogue as a remarkable oddity. (An oddity that featured appearances from jazz session pros like Buddy Collette and Tom Scott, as well as big band legends like Conte Candoli.) 

    The live performance which would be the focus of Miles Davis' 1965 album, My Funny Valentine, was the second of two live sets recorded at the recently built Philharmonic Hall in New York. The concert, consisting primarily of slow and mid-tempo numbers, presented a tense and awkward atmosphere to Davis and the latest iteration of his quintet; they were embarking on their highest prestige gig at the time, right on the cusp of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy.

    Tensions were so high that by the end of the concert they believed that they had botched their performance, and bombed the entire show. Fortunately Davis and his quintet were wrong. Far from bombing, the recordings on My Funny Valentine were critically applauded, with Davis biographer Ian Carr going on to call the album " of the very greatest recordings of a live concert." My Funny Valentine features inspired performances by Davis and his crew, who brought solemn depth to compositions by Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Victor Young, Jimmy Van Heusen, and a live take on "All Blues", the lone Davis piece on the record. My Funny Valentine would not only rank as one of his finest live recordings, but it would be his last collaboration with saxophonist George Coleman, ushering in the arrival of his "Second Great Quintet" period

    From her early days raised as a youth in Bombay, Asha Puthli initially trained in Indian classical music and opera, but over time gravitated towards contemporary western pop, upon discovering talents like Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dusty Springfield. After making a name for herself in her native country, she found her way to New York, where she happened upon John Hammond of CBS Records. Hammond would introduce Puthli to the avant-garde legend Ornette Coleman, who utilized her unique vocal stylings on his 1971 record Science Fiction.

    Her work on the album earned widespread praise, and though It didn't lead to further work in the United States, it did bring her a record contract in Europe. After her self-titled debut in 1973, Puthli wasted little time in recording her next album, heading back into the studio, and re-emerging with 1975's She Loves To Hear The Music. Building on the eccentric amalgamation of pop, avant-garde, jazz, and proto-disco that her debut contained, her sophomore release once again featured production from constant collaborator Del Newman, as well as a new array of covers ranging from Cole Porter to Van McCoy to Neil Sedaka

    This is the one and only solo LP released by the Roy Ayers Ubiquity guitarist / keyboard player (he played on the "Lifeline" LP and Ayers' classic "Running Away"), but what an LP it is! Originally released in very small numbers on the tiny New York label Chiaroscuro, this LP became a holy grail item for jazz-funk collectors, mainly because it includes the CLASSIC track "Sweet Power Your Embrace", which is a total anthem. But this ain't just a one track pony! Elsewhere, the fucking insane Theo Parrish play "Free" brings an uptempo spiritual vibe to any DJ set, and the hyperactive title track which killed it for Kruder and Dorfmeister back in the day. It was as rare as hens teeth for the longest time, but luckily for us Soul Brother reissued the LP with its original artwork (apart from the Soul Brother logo and barcode on the back) in 1999. It's taken long enough to get another pressing, but you're in for a treat.


    David says: I've mostly found that most stuff that gets reissued and described as a 'long, lost, classic' is usually lost for a reason. This however, IS a straight up jazz funk masterpiece and is equal to, if not better, than anything Mason's previous employer, Roy Ayers put out around the same time.

    Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

    The Message

    In the whole history of hip-hop music, few groups can claim to have been as influential and important as Joseph Saddler's group Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. Many of the genre's signature elements and trademarks can be traced back to the supergroup founded by the Grandmaster; their discography was among the first to feature recordings of scratching and turntablism, their's was the first to feature songs with political and social commentary, they were the first to refer to rappers as "MC's", some might even say they were the group that first coined the term "hip-hop."
    Though Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five was considered the number one hip-hop group on their home turf of New York City, they only maintained a following on a local level, performing and releasing singles exclusively on the East Coast. It wasn't until the release of Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" that the group realized they could break into the mainstream. After signing with Sugar Hill Records, the group released their debut album The Message in 1982. Bolstered by Flash's deft turntablism, rappers Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, and Keef Cowboy's vocals, and production which sampled everything from Chic to the Tom Tom Club to The Jimmy Castor Bunch, The Message was a revelation of sorts.
    More than simply being a Billboard hit for the group, the album helped cement hip-hop's credibility with mainstream audiences, and is considered a major achievement in hip-hop history. The album's title track was especially praised, and is considered one of the greatest rap tracks in music history.


    Patrick says: All killer no filler OG block party business here. Fresh from the era when popping a hydrant was totally acceptable, "The Message" sees Flash & the Five doing their thing in wild style boasting gem's 'Scorpio', 'It's Nasty' and 'The Message'.

    Robert Johnson

    King Of The Delta Blues Singers Vol. 2

      The story of influential blues musician Robert Leroy Johnson is the stuff of music legend. Stories go that as a young man in rural Mississippi he became part of a Faustian pact with The Devil to become a blues musician. Whether the tale was true or not does not take away from the immense legacy Johnson brought with him. Even though his recordings were released more than a decade and a half before the inception of rock and roll music, they provided a solid blueprint for the genre, as well as guitar techniques that were revolutionary at the time.

      The music world rediscovered Robert Johnson in 1961, with the release of King Of The Delta Blues Singers, which kickstarted the blues rock movement, and was considered a badge of coolness at the time. Nine years later, as blues-inspired artists like Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton were riding high, Columbia Records decided the time was right to release a second volume of King Of The Delta Blues Singers. Like its predecessor, the songs on volume two were recorded in the span of 1936 and 1937, and consisted primarily of Vocalion Records master recordings, but with the addition of five previously unreleased tracks and alternate takes. Though the follow-up was not as popular or influential as the first, it was still a critical smash, containing the blues standards "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Love In Vain", and has been listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time.

      The Ramones

      Leave Home

        The Ramones' self-titled debut was released in 1976 to glowing praise and acclaim from music critics, and the development of the punk rock scene in the US and UK. The band were hailed as the next big step in the development of rock music, and correctly predicted their debut would be a massive influence for musical acts to follow. Those that were hooked by their debut wouldn't have long to wait for the band's follow-up, which came a mere nine months after The Ramones was released. Leave Home did not receive the massive critical acclaim that The Ramones' debut album had, but it still received rave reviews from the publications of the day. Immediate attention was paid to the album's production values, which was more crisp and polished than their previous works, and put them yards ahead of their fellow punk contemporaries in terms of sound quality. The band themselves were significantly more comfortable and together in Leave Home's sound, with vocalist Joey Ramone tackling heavier melodies, guitarist Johnny Ramone's guitar attack sharpening over the tracks, and the normally minimalist drummer Tommy Ramone adapting a slight swing to his beats. The songs themselves were no slouch either; among them were eventual fan favorites like "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment", "Pinhead", and "Carbona Not Glue", which would later be removed from subsequent album releases due to a trademark complaint. Though the album doesn't maintain the same legendary status as the debut or their pinnacle Rocket To Russia, it's agreed that Leave Home is an essential part of The Ramones' discography, and not an album to be passed by

        Carole King

        Her Greatest Hits

          Her Greatest Hits is the first comprehensive collection of hits from folk-pop songstress Carole King. Twelve of King's greatest works recorded from 1971 to 1976, the album is a sterling introduction to the discography of one of the definitive female singer-songwriters of the 1970s. Billboard smashes like "It's Too Late", "Jazzman", and "Nightingale" are just a small sample of the soft rock staples to be found within, which feature contributions from the likes of Tom Scott, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Curtis Amy, and others. 

          Robert Johnson

          King Of The Delta Blues Singers

            The story of influential blues musician Robert Leroy Johnson is the stuff of music legend. Stories go that as a young man in rural Mississippi he became part of a Faustian pact with The Devil to become a blues musician. Whether the tale was true or not does not take away from the immense legacy Johnson brought with him. Even though his recordings were released more than a decade and a half before the inception of rock and roll music, they provided a solid blueprint for the genre, as well as guitar techniques that were revolutionary at the time. Robert Johnson's music was only available on Grammophone singles until 1961, which saw the release of a definitive compilation of Johnson's recordings.

            King Of The Delta Blues Singers was a collection of 16 mono recordings cut from 1936 to 1937, and is widely considered the linchpin for the electric blues and blues-rock movement of the 1960s. The album was a critical smash, a badge of coolness during the time, and is now considered one of the greatest albums of all time. It was the first album to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, and greatly impacted the development of artists like Bob Dylan, John Mayall, and Eric Clapton, who most famously had a smash hit on rock radio with his band Cream's cover of "Cross Road Blues

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