On Recent Vinyl Rotation: First Vacation Day Spins.

Yay! I am off from work for some weeks now, so the first day was just spent super relaxed and with a whole lot of sun and music… so let’s dive into my vacation spins!
Needle drops of the records mentioned here can be found in the video below.

After sleeping in, I started with something smooth:

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The El Michels Affair – Enter the 37th Chamber (2009, Fat Beats)

The El Michels Affair – founded by the saxophonist and organist Leon Michels – are a well-known Funk and Soul instrumental ensemble from New York. Some members of El Michels Affair played with Sharon King and the Dap Kings, Lee Fields and the Budos Band. They were asked to play a promotional concert with the Wu-Tang member Raekwon once and afterward toured with several members of the Rap group. This sparked the idea of re-interpreting Wu-Tang songs and led to the release of a single with covers of “Bring Da Ruckus” and “C.R.E.A.M.” and the recording of this album. I have made a comparison between the originals and the instrumental reinterpretations in the video below. Even if you do not know Wu-Tang at all – this is an incredibly enjoyable listen: very laid back, funky tunes with great heavy drum beats. And if you know Wu-Tang, the highlight for me is “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” sung by a children’s choir. This fits perfectly because you know: Wu-Tang is for the children!

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The Pyramids – King Of Kings (1974, Pyramid)
This beautiful African Jazz piece is the second album by the Ohio-based band The Pyramids, which they recorded after traveling trough Africa as students from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It incorporates African rhythms, chanting, and spirituality into their Free Jazz approach. This second album – after 1973 released Lalibela – added several guests to the original bands cast and maintained the great powerful and meditative vibe they created the year before. This record does not only have a terrific spiritual feeling on its own – the recording studio was on the site of ancient Indian burial mounds – which Idris Ackamoor, the composer and saxophonist of the group, also made responsible for the spiritual force represented on here.

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Witch – Introduction (1974, Zambia Music Parlour)
I am a big fan of Zamrock (Psychedelic and Garage Rock from Zambia), which always has an unique vibe to it: for me, it radiates zest of life and a powerful soul way more than any other rock form.
Being a British colony for a long-time contributed to the musical influences of the musicians living in Zambia, even after the country gained independence in 1964. The Western vibes of the likes of Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown were mixed with a very own distinguishable African flavor. Records were recorded in Lo-Fi and in very small quantities since the country was very unstable due to the oil crisis. Witch (an acronym standing for We Intend To Cause Havoc) was actually the first Zambian Rock band to produce and release a commercial album, which was thankfully re-released by Now-Again Records in 2013. Every track on this self-produced album will stick in your ear and get you to your feet: the English lyrics and fuzzed out guitars and psychedelic and funky grooves make this a key piece in Zamrock history.

For some reason, I love to listen to Free Jazz while cooking. So preparing dinner for some friends, I put on:

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Albert Ayler Trio – Spiritual Unity (1965, ESP Disk)
This is probably the album the Free Jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler is most known for. Together with Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums he recorded this iconic album, which includes two superb variations of “Ghosts”, which became a standard for him. It also contains two other songs “The Wizard” and “Spirits”, which fit the innovative wild and unleashed Free Jazz approach of “Ghosts” perfectly. The session that led to this album was the very first recording session for the ESP Disk label and became a quite memorable session: After the trio played the first notes, the sound engineer fled the studio and just came back right in time to change the tape. This album is Free Jazz at it’s best.

The next album is my current go-to mood lifter album:

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Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974, Island Records)
To put this album in a box of a certain genre is basically impossible. Art Rock, Electronica and awesomeness could be at least some of the labels that definitely fit. This is the British musician’s second solo recording after ending playing with Roxy Music. It contains a great diversity of styles: from catchy choruses, prominent sawing rhythm guitars, innovative percussion (one time there is a typewriter featured) to sailor style chants, Enos almost spoken lyrics and a big dash of craziness. Every song on this album is basically a hit. Eno got the inspiration to the album from a postcard series depicting scenes from a Peking opera with the same name. The mellow and catchy mood of the instrumentation stands in great contrast to the dark and humorous content of the lyrics. If there is any meaning at all since Eno once said that rather the sound of the words matter than the content itself. Anyway, this album is amazing, weird, beautiful and a definitive feel-good album.

And the perfect ambient album to end the day sitting on the balcony with friends and beer:

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Michael Hoenig – Departure from the Northern Wasteland (1978, Warner Bros. Recording)
Singha (Pale Lager, Boon Rawd Brewery)

This is a perfect example for Berlin School – the 20-minute title track lives through it’s great repetitive and meditative structure. Michael Hoenig played with Tangerine Dream and Agitation Free and – after recording this solo album – moved to the US and worked as a composer for soundtracks. It is perfect Ambient Electronic music, with mellow and dark passages alternating, hypnotizing loops and – sometimes a bit on the cheesy side bordering -keyboard play.

And this was only day one of the vacation. I will be off to Gran Canaria and afterward to Brussels for a rad concert and hopefully be rummaging through the record shops there…

Check out the needle drops of the records above in the video below:

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