Joseph Spence: Living on the Hallelujah Side (1980)


The Les Claypool of folk.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: Les Claypool is reknowed both for his unique mastery of the bass guitar and his eccentric vocal style, a clenched piercing squawk that sounds like “Donald Duck: Delta Bluesman.” He may never sing a duet with Boyz II Men, but within Primus his voice and bass alchemize into a brilliance on its own terms. This type of paring rarely occurs in folk music, but Bahamian guitarist and singer Joseph Spence was a phenomenon, as witnessed on his live album Living on the Hallelujah Side.

Spence’s musical training was limited to family members, church, and short trips to the U.S. so his musical style was left to develop on its own, a previously unheard mixture of complex, multi-harmonic fingerpicking and the oddest vocal mutterings this side of Popeye.

A devout Christian, he would re-engineer classic hymns to be performed by three guitars, or so it sounds. The mellow gypsy twang of “A Closer Walk With Thee” spins spirited bass lines among the melody and harmony clusters, but it’s all played by him, live. It also features his lyrical attack, where he sings just enough words to set up the song then deconstructs it with deep growls, meandering yelps and primitive beatboxing. In “I’ll Overcome Some Day” he becomes his own hype man, shouting back at himself and stifling laughter while throwing down some inventively dense country blues.

Like Ol’ Dirty Bastard at guitar jam, he pops melodic wheelies all over the odd boogie “When The Saints Go Marching In” and sprinkles lyrical scraps like fish food in an aquarium during the beatific “Irene Goodnight”.

But it all comes together in his take on “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”, a joyous swinging version stuffed with drunken sailor humming, stray jazzy notes flying out of the ether, then ends with a crash of a chord that makes one think he fell upon his guitar during a single rapturous moment. His barely says a word you could recognize, but then again, does he need to?

THE FALLOUT: Due to his reticence to travel, indifference to recording, and lack of desire to have an entourage of groupies hang out in The Champagne Room, he never gained much fame during his lifetime. If not for the fandom of musicians like Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal and Duck Baker, it’s possible he would have been completely forgotten. Hallelujah was the last album he recorded before his death in 1994.

Living on the Hallelujah Side is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

In a world of spray-on beats and Auto-Tuned™ voices, we may never hear another work of outsider music like Living on the Hallelujah Side, one of simply expressed genius.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: What does Bootsy want for Christmas?

Roswell Rudd & Toumani Diabaté: MALIcool (2003)


An odd duck in the perfect watering hole.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: In the last decade, Malian kora master Toumani Diabaté realized that the average music purchaser wasn’t particularly aware of either Mali or the kora, so to raise his profile he subsequently recorded several cross-genre albums with many global artists. Since the kora (the West African 21-string lute) sounds like a blend between a harp and a guitar, many of his collaborations have been with harpists or guitarists. But in 2003 he surprisingly became the first musician to incorporate a horn into kora music, which became the watershed release MALIcool.

His musical partner this time is Roswell Rudd, an American jazz trombonist with both Dixieland and avant-garde leanings, which means he’s been mostly unheard and under-appreciated. It also means that his rubbery mallard-like phrasing is elastic enough to fit many forms, and it adds a unique vocal timbre to the percussive Malian melodies.

In “Rosmani” Diabaté unleashes quick sprinklings of beautiful notes like water dropping from a leaf then exploding into hundreds of tiny micro-splashes, to which Rudd’s trombone plays the drunken drowsy traveler, splattering in the puddles. “Malicool” has Diabeté’s plucking and Rudd’s growly kazoo sharing time with an icy balafon solo, its frenetic xylophone tones helping the band resemble an African Oingo Boingo.

Some old standards are transformed into modern classics: their take on Thelonoius Monk’s “Jackie-Ing” is a sweetly atonal blues, their gentle call-and-responses resembling the conversation of jungle beasts. And they kick it really old school in “Malijam” where the seesaw of pinpointed beats set the stage for a Malian take on “Ode To Joy”.

Yes, Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”. And it works.

THE FALLOUT: MALIcool‘s progessive oddness also worked for Roswell Rudd, which resuctitated his career as a world-class auteur. But it didn’t sell particularly well, partially eclipsed by higher profile Diabaté albums, and became another critical darling that stalled.

MALIcool is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

You can also view a documentary of the album’s creation below. Yes, Uppity Music is all multimedia’d up.

Defying the blanding that frequently occurs with cross-cultural music-making, MALIcool in a brand new sound that sounds instantly familiar and familial.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: A lil’ holiday music.

Busdriver: Cosmic Cleavage (2004)


Like Tigger on Red Bull.

Purchase this album: Amazon 

THE SCENE: In 2002 the supremely abstracted emcee Busdriver released his critically acclaimed second disc Temporary Forever, a sonic snapshot of his madcap visions and theatrical flow. Trading the standard boom-bap for jazz licks he returned in 2004 with the dada-esque European-only Cosmic Cleavage.

You know that kid in first grade who wasn’t supposed to have sugar because it made him hyper?If that kid was a rapper, this is the album he would have made. Busdriver approaches the mic as if every rhyme could be his last, so he raps at breakneck speeds, croons at different pitches and frequently gasps for oxygen, usually all within the same phrase. And with his gift to free associate without an internal censor, his raps ricochet from one subject to the next like a room filled with hundreds of tiny active Spongebob superballs, a thunderous multicolored non-stop shower of energy.

The brilliance of Cosmic Cleavage is the appending of his cartoonish raps to the type of jazz that was actually used in cartoons, circa 1940. The screeching and sleazy horns of the title song evokes wolves in zoot suits brandishing oversized tommy guns down at the speakeasy. Busdriver’s rubbery cadence on “Kev’s Blistering Computer Tan” mimics Popeye’s broken down jalopy, valiantly failing to move its mismatched tires before crashing into a rusty, dust-pooting heap.

Cosmic Cleavage is a concept album on mating and dating. “Nagging Nimbus ” touches on divorce, his trumpet-like voice nearly blending in with the horn section. He’s surrounded by 300 rpm rubber ducks in the girl-focused “Beauty Supply And Demand”, and he works up some unique macking in the demented tango that is “Unnecessary Thinking”.

Constantly changing voices he becomes the ringmaster and tightrope walker of his own animated circus cabaret during “She-Hulk Dehorning The Illusionist”. Can he finish his rap before he runs out of air? Only on the Soul Coughing sound-alike “Pool Drowning” does he relax his one man Muppet Show vocal acrobatics, but it’s merely the eye of his clownish hurricane.

THE FALLOUT: Much like Ren & Stimpy cartoons, Busdriver is an specialized taste, and the tastemakers who flocked to Temporary Forever dropped the increasingly oddball Cosmic Cleavage like the proverbial 16-ton weight. He bounced back the following year with the easier-to-swallow Fear of a Black Tangent.

Cosmic Cleavage is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

Unhinged and unmedicated, Cosmic Cleavage rolls you inside the many cerebral folds of Busdriver’s cortex, and shows you what he’s made from.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Meet dUg (sic).

Dorothy Ashby: The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby (1970)


Give the koto player some.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: During the 1960s bandleader and composer Dorothy Ashby surpassed the novelty of being the only female jazz harpist by showcasing her fluid dexterity and harmonic syncopation across nine jazz albums. But for her tenth album she jettisoned her harp for an even more surprising instrument, the koto. The thousand-year-old national instrument of Japan, the koto is six feet long, has 23 strings, and had never been so prominently exhibited in western music until her culture-hopping opus The Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby.

Inspired by the 11th century Persian poetry collection The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyám, Ashby lights a thick incense vapor of Arabic plucks, romantic strings, and funk percussion, seamlessly fusing cross-cultural melodies of the 1970s with the 970s, bathed in psychedelic and spiritual overtones.

“Myself When Young” unfolds like a spy movie theme song, as its dramatic snake charmer opening slithers its way into a Shaft-like escapade of funky flutes and villainous violins. The lush Jamaican dance of “Wax and Wane”, swollen with with strings Ornette Coleman would love, plays out warm and crisp like an October dusk.

Her koto appears in many guises. It cameos in the sprightly Technicolor “Shadow Shapes”, one of the many romantic solos in this boldly romantic show tune. In “For Some we Loved” its gentle tones are lullaby calm against the spoken words, the stray tings and bongs sounding miraculously like an 808 beat performed by real people . After the ominous Druid-like intro of “The Moving Finger” it flutters over a tangy funk riff stuffed with firework bursts of watery kalimba:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: neither your Piety or Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor will all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

At long last, Ashby had created a unique masterwork that showed the world the depth of her talents.

THE FALLOUT: Depth, shmepth. It was a critical sensation within jazz circles, yet this koto-led concept album about 11-century Persian poetry did not find a large audience and fell out of print for decades, becoming Ashby’s last album as a bandleader. Interestingly enough, the very next year a band featuring her labelmate Maurice White also released an album with cross-cultural melodies, psychedelia and spiritual overtones plus firework bursts of watery kalimba, 1971s’ Earth, Wind & Fire. Judging by that groups’ success it seems Dorothy Ashby may have been on to something.

The Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

So far ahead of time it still sounds current, The Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby makes the exoticness of globalization feel as down-home as the koto next door.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Linda Perry gets grounded.

Q-Tip: Open (2004 but unreleased)


Record company people are still shady.

THE SCENE: When we last left Q-Tip in 2001, Arista Records refused to release his album Kamaal The Abstract, deeming his ambitious fusion of hip-hop, jazz & rock “uncommercial”. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Record Exec: “I don’t think this album is going to sell.”
Q-Tip: “But every album I’ve made has sold over half a million units, including all the Tribe Called Quest albums.”
Record Exec: “You were in A Tribe Called Quest?”
Q-Tip: (says nothing in return, makes note to call J Records.)

After negotiating a release from his label, Q-Tip moved to J Records where in 2004 he refined Kamaal‘s breakthroughs with the abstract grooves of Open.

Melting the melodic expressiveness of jam-rock into the cadence and form of hip-hop, Open is a confetti explosion of re-interpreted sounds. Q-Tip’s treble flow retains its tap dancer grace, but his usual sunny self is shaded with caution and abandonment. He’s also singing again, but he’s given near duet status to guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, who drops prominent chunks of jazz-metal riffs over the live band.

“Johnny Died” crystallizes Q-Tip’s manifesto, as he raps over a headbopping beat in 6/8 time, playing slip-n-slide around the guitars’ ragged pogoing. The sneaky, circus-like riffs of “Black Boy” crunch greasily like fried chicken as Q-Tip’s sweetly paranoid vocals peel back the carnival curtain:

Be careful of the thing you say
Or they’ll tow your black butt away
Be careful ’bout how you roll
They’re gonna say that you’re outta control

Anyone expecting traditional rap songs on this album will also think he’s outta control with his blues jam “Feelings” and the spidery, climaxing 9/4 rhythm of “Where Do You Go?”. The tracks get groggier and drowsier in the rapidly detuning “Late Mornin'” and the constantly rewarping “I’m Not Gone Have It”. He finally collapses, sinking into the magenta mud of “Lisa”, his melancholia telegraphing the beginning of a romance’s end:

When I woke up in the morning
I still felt it in my bones
Because I think about that morning
When I called you at your home
I told you about my rough times
And you rushed me off the phone
Was it because you didn’t really care
Or because you weren’t alone?

A tour de force of grand experimentalism, with sharp lyricism and tight beats. What could go wrong?

THE FALLOUT: J Records refused to release Open, deeming his ambitious fusion of hip-hop, jazz & rock “uncommercial”. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Record Exec: “I don’t think this album is going to sell.”
Q-Tip: “But every album I’ve made has sold over half a million units, including all the Tribe Called Quest albums.”
Record Exec: “You were in A Tribe Called Quest?”
Q-Tip: (says nothing in return, makes note to call Universal/Motown Records.)

Q-Tip eventually decamped to Universal/Motown, where he recorded Live at The Renaissance in 2005, which also remains unreleased. On November 7 he’s scheduled to release a reworked version called The Renaissance, making it his first solo joint in 9 years. As this is the same date as the most important presidential election in American history, will anyone even notice?

Open remains unreleased, but you can sample tracks here:

Throbbing with human fraility, Open ushers in a stillborn musical genre, one too un-regimented for an official airing.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Step aside, Larry Graham! Dorothy Ashby plays her funky…koto?

Ornette Coleman: Skies of America (1972)


The home of the tonally brave.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: Although iconoclastic saxophonist Ornette Coleman is currently considered a genius (having actually won the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant), in 1972 he was entering his third decade as Jazz’s most polarizing oddball. Was he really the shape of jazz to come, or an out-of-tune charlatan with meandering note clusters masquerading as compositions? The previous year’s Science Fiction was a funky career rebirth, but his next release shocked even his die-hard fans, the classical and magical Skies of America.

Fascinated with the breadth and speed of American re-invention, Coleman composed a expansive hymn to his republic, performed solely by the London Symphony Orchestra. (Thanks to the uptight British Musician’s Union, his current band was forbidden from playing on the recording.) Skies is where Coleman first gave a name to his theory of music, “Harmolodics”, ironically assigned to the least recognizable work in his canon. In Coleman’s mind, harmony, melody and rhythm are given equal weight while the key of the song is deemed irrelevant, a tonal situation that can produce continual discovery in both the performer and the audience.

Skies superbly uses smears of strings to create the sound of the sky, an infinite inverse chasm of healthy blue, poisonous brown and inky blackness. The tension of the title song mimics a wounded bird soaring through the air, dipping and tilting with the wind, but soldiering onward. In “Love Life” the sky lingers with the ashy, bitter scent of an arson aftermath.

As Coleman recorded this during the Vietnam Conflict, it’s easy to hear the swarming, swirling helicopters of “The Military”, or warriors running over jungle land mines in “Holiday for Heroes”. The woodpecker drums-led “The Good Life” is the soundtrack of our heroes coming to save the day, but in “Foreigner in a Free Land” our heroes are really disturbed rednecks at heart, full of fear, anger and ignorance.

Coleman makes only a few cameos on this album: the crushing terror of “The Men Who Live In The White House” opens up into a gentle hopeful solo, a theme repeated in the agitated loopzilla of “The Artists in America”. Is he soloing over a cheering crowd, or the boos of a hostile mob? He also rises into the vapor on the final cut “Sunday In America” a remembrance of prettiness interrupted, a day of grief turned to stillness.

THE FALLOUT: As usual for most Ornette Coleman albums, reviews were mixed and sales were meager, becoming the last recording for his label. After its release Skies Of America had one live performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1972, but it was revived again in 1983 by the Fort Worth Symphony as part of celebration of their hometown hero, including the proclamation of September 29 as “Ornette Coleman Day”.

Skies Of America is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

With equal amounts of amazement and revulsion, Skies Of America reflects the schizophrenia and the hope of American identity.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Q-Tip gets shutdown again.

Living Colour: Stain (1993)


Friendly as a backhand.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: In 1992 Living Colour was surfing an unprecented wave as “America’s Favorite All-Black Rock Band™”. Their melding of social positivity and hard rock, combined with catchy lyrics, world-class musicianship and colourful imagery had led to gold records, hit singles, Grammy awards, sold-out tours, commercial fame and musical credibility. And then…the bass player quit. The next year brought a new bassist, a new vision and new dark album, the nihilistic Stain.

Unlike the hopefulness of their last two releases, Stain defines a unsettling, friendless landscape without happy endings. Even the song titles burn with desolation: “Never Satisfied”, “Mind Your Own Business”, “Nothingness”. Always a sample-happy band, Living Colour now populated their metallic songs with bursts of atonal squawks and random found sounds, much like how crazy street people yell things at you right before they nod out from narcotics.

The characters that singer Corey Glover inhabits in these songs aren’t any more balanced, suffering from sexual discrimination and bipolar disorders (“Bi”), police brutality, (“This Little Pig”) and nervous exhaustion (“Go Away”). Racism haunts the victim of the combative “Auslander”, as he shrieks a duet against the assaultive melodies. The titular “Postman” is one step from going postal himself, muttering creepy revenge strategies:

Day in, day out, day in, day out
Chaos and carnage around me
Well I hear their shouts and cries
Well I laugh at the gut when they try to surround me
They won’t take me alive

Even the instrumentals get under one’s skin. “WTFF” is a brilliant glittery slice of claustrophobic hip-hop laced with fear, while “Hemp” is a contemplative eulogy to a dead mentor, whose graveled speaking voice wafts through the mix.

It’s ironic that an album about finality should result from what was essentially a new band.

THE FALLOUT: A caustic grunge song cycle was not what the world expected from Living Colour, as “America’s Favorite All-Black Rock Band™” had suddenly transformed into “Four Angry Black Guys”. No hit single, no gold album, no Grammy award. Sadly it also led to no Living Colour, as they disbanded due to creative differences.

Stain is out of print in America but you can find it supercheap on Amazon, and you can sample tracks here:

Stain is sound of innocence lost and paranoia found, but it’s lotsa fun.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: A repost from the hardest working Santa in showbiz.

Rufus Harley: Re-Creation of the Gods (1972)


Take a breath.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: Imagine you’ve been invited to a fine dinner party, where you are expected to share your latest art project. The woman seated to your left displays her bronze abstract sculpture. The man on your right shows off his new painting, a classic oil-on-canvas of a fruit basket. And you proudly produce, to everyone’s immediate revulsion, an unfeasibly large beehive, actively teeming with thousands of buzzing, swarming bees. While you’re explaining your dangerous interest in massively oversize stinging insect colonies, the other guests slowly begin to back away from you, except for the few who bolt out the backdoor like a redneck perp on “COPS”. The host makes a mental note to erase you from her address book, her phone book and her Facebook.

This was the typical response to the revolutionary music of Philadelphia-bred Rufus Harley, the world’s first jazz bagpiper. He recorded a quartet of innovative but meagerly received albums for Atlantic Records in the mid-1960s but didn’t break out of his novelty status until 1972’s joyous Re-Creation of the Gods.

In Scotland the bagpipes are a nation treasure; its unmistakable bird-like drone can be heard during national celebrations and similar pagentry. In days of yore the Scottish army would also use bagpipes as an instrument of war, marching through the Highland mists scaring the bejeezus out of their enemy with its unearthly squawk. But its unearthly squawk called out to Harley, who put down his saxophone and began a singular obsession: fashioning jazz music for bagpipes.

A loose concept album about freedom, church, and community, Re-Creation is one swinging party album. “The Crack” greases up a hippo-sized bass fog that only the golden milky light of bagpipes could cut. His notes circle constantly like hawks in flight.

He sprinkles an old Negro spiritual with future esssence in “Nobpdy Knows the Trouble Us People Done Seen”, with a fat beat that could get Lutherans up to the dance floor. Harley makes his bapipes yodel along, like a tuned siren on a hipster ambulance blaring “MAKE ROOOOOM! NEW SOUNDS COMING THROOOOOOUGH!”

Like a long-lost Beastie Boys funkstrumental, “Gods And Goddesses” brays along like a donkey-led wagon with square wheels, happy and lopsidedly snappy. With all these songs the fun is infectious, as if Harley took all the negative, dismissive energy about his craft and turned into a tartan-clad trampoline, then jumped on it.

THE FALLOUT: Re-Creation was highly admired by the few who knew if existed, mainly other musicians.. He toured the world extensively and guested on a few left-of-center pop albums (The Roots’ Do You Want More!!!??! and Laurie Anderson’s Big Science), but only released one album after Re-Creation before his death in 2006.

Re-Creation of the Gods is available from Amazon, and you can sample tracks here:

The saxophone was created for orchestras yet was rejected by the classical music world, only to become a foundation instrument of jazz, America’s original punk music. Harley’s devotion to the bagpipes follows a parallel path: how one person can effect the sonic recontexualization of music by sheer force of will.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: A challenge! Andre 3000 released his second solo album this year. Can you find it?

Eugene McDaniels: Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (1971)


Executive branch pimpslap.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: 1971. Post-hippie America was fracturing under the twin weights of the Vietnam Conflict and the harsh social policies of the soon-to-be-impeached President Richard Nixon. Gene McDaniels was a moderately successful smoothed-out R&B singer-songwriter whose growing political awareness had started to blossom on his 1970 album Outlaw. Reclaiming his given name of Eugene McDaniels he set his angry, humanitarian ideals to music and recorded the groovalistic Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse.

Stirring up a Molotov cocktail of blues, rock and free jazz Heroes set the sonic and lyrical blueprint for conscious rap decades before it existed. The luscious gravy-thick groove of “Jagger The Dagger” was wholly sampled by A Tribe Called Quest at the beginning of their first album, and mirrors Tribe’s approach to positivity and questioning of the music industry.

Armed with a musical posse of Roberta Flack’s sidemen, including both acoustic and electric bassists, McDaniels tunes snap like dry twigs in a bonfire. Their prickly grooves are a match for his cactus-sharp insights. The slow genocide of the American Indians in “The Parasite” is smoothly supported by a blanket of downtempo melody that slowly devolves into a smallpox of chaos.

McDaniels looks for answers to painfully clear social inequities. “What is the connection between racism and mob violence” he asks in his only-funny-in-retrospect “Supermarket Blues”, where his attempt to return a can of peas results in a personal beatdown. “How much ass will Jesus kick when he returns” is the subject of the rockin’ “The Lord is Back”. His razor-sharp voice evokes preacher-like rage when he sings of impending divine payback:

The Lord is mad
His disposition’s mean
He’s traveling the road to mass destruction
Poor hearts be glad
Y’know your troubles have been seen
He promised he’d make power reductions
Revelations tells us the time is near
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Better pay attention to the warning voice you hear.
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)

There was a payback all right, but not what McDaniels expected.

THE FALLOUT: It’s hard to conceive of it now, in a post-hip-hop universe, but in 1971 there were no angry, government-criticizing Black artists on a major label. In fact, Heroes enraged sitting Vice-President Spiro Agnew so much that he personally called up Atlantic Records and demanded to know why they had released such a disturbing and seditious record. From that point on Atlantic stopped all promotion and the album died. Although Heroes lived a secondary life in hip-hop, baked into songs by The Beastie Boys, Organized Konfusion and Pete Rock, McDaniels didn’t release another record under his own name for thirty-three years,

Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

Muzzled by the powers that be, yet sampled by a future generation, the social rage of Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse is eerily current and prophetic.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Just in time for Yom Kippur, the music of Ugandan Jews.

Defunkt: Thermonuclear Sweat (1982)


Skyscrapers of groove.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: The downtown scene of New York City circa 1980 was the nexus of punk, jazz and dance music yet few artists attempted to compile all three styles into one mega-style, citing reasons such as “technically impossible” and “virtually unlistenable”. Enter trombonist Joseph Bowie, who developed the Voltron-like powers to merge these genres into one sound with his group Defunkt, who released their debut album the same year. A hit with musicians and a miss with everybody else they returned in 1982 with a tighter yet schizoid follow-up, the pummeling Thermonuclear Sweat.

Named after a song from their first album Thermonuclear Sweat stacks fast and furious funk grooves on top of one another – horns colliding with guitars crushed by percussion – until every sonic cavity is bursting with sound, and then Joseph Bowie sings on top of that. If the orchestral funk of Earth Wind & Fire walks with military precision Defunkt moves like a prison break: quick and focused but chaotic and angry.

“Avoid the Funk” ignores its own advice, slapping horns upside their heads with mercilessly heavy low end. Ever the versatile band they can stampede “Ooh Baby” into a headlong fury of melting guitar harshness, courtesy of a pre-Living Colour Vernon Reid, yet also float into the straight jazz (kinda) of “Big Bird (Au Private)”.

Bowie sings like a football coach yelling plays, which makes the revealing “I Tried to Live Alone” much more engagingly paranoid, and their revved-up fluttery cover of the O’Jays “For the Love Of Money” increasingly desperate.

THE FALLOUT: Not only did Thermonuclear Sweat not gain Defunkt a larger audience but it divided their fans over the inclusion of more traditional jazz elements. Defunkt soon left their label.

Thermonuclear Sweat is available from Amazon, and you can sample tracks here:

There once was a band from New York City who combined serrated punk guitars with high-speed polyrhythmic funk beats and made a breakthrough dance record in the early ’80s. That album was Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. Defunkt, ironically still together after 25 years, has yet to receive their due for pioneering the same sound years before.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Eugene McDaniels reaches the apocalypse.