Hyperbole – it still has its uses. Hopefully. Tonight I’m doing a DJ set that I have dubbed The Greatest Music In The World. I am not even the greatest DJ in my street. But it’s not about my skills, it’s about the music – it’s always about the music. And though I love music from all genres, or nearly all genres, I really do believe, if I had to choose, that I could live out the rest of my life only listening to funk, soul, R’n’B – a bit of jazz and blues that feeds into them too. That, to me, is the Greatest Music in The World. So here’s Five For Friday (morning) to get us started. There’ll be about a hundred tunes to follow later tonight – down at the San Fran from 7pm…
1. Al Green, You Ought To Be With Me
I think of Curb Your Enthusiasm when I think of this song – and that’s a happy memory. Ripping through those early seasons of Curb, by the box-set; devouring a series in a weekend. It all fell into place with Al Green and me when I picked up his autobiography in a book sale and promptly tore through it. I realised I knew all these songs already, from the radio, from cover versions, from hearing some of them via other record collections and soundtracks. And so I bought that classic “Greatest Hits” album and then on to several other of the original albums. He’s a voice I never get sick of hearing.
2. Curtis Mayfield, Kung Fu
When I was 22 or 23 I got a music voucher for my birthday and I strolled down to my then-favourite music store, Fish-Eye Discs. The guys in there gave me many great suggestions, especially Seamus, the owner. I can thank him – and I have – for introducing me to Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything, to loads of other things actually…all via imported CD-reissue; that was the hot ticket back in the late-90s. And Fisheye did a great line in Classic Albums and reissues. And then one day I spied this Curtis Mayfield box-set. And I asked for a second opinion on it and Seamus said something like, “That’s some of the greatest music you’ll ever hear in your life”. And it was. And it is. And I return – still – to this box-set. As well as grabbing almost anything else by Curtis Mayfield too. It was all here when I first heard this. And it’s all there still. Magical.
3. The Har-You Percussion Group, Feed Me Good
Just to further the point, this album was another discovered through Fisheye Discs. I had this in my collection for years before I ever heard it reference anywhere else. It was a favourite in the days before playlists/iTunes/mixtapes/YouTube. And remains a favourite to this day.
4. Chris Bartley, The Sweetest Thing This Side of Heaven
I found this record recently – an interesting find. The hook was in knowing that Van McCoy was behind the production/arranging – his disco-soul classic, The Hustle is never far from my stereo (via the original single, the album and on more than one compilation). This isn’t towards the Mayfield tip really. A really sweet single and a terrific album.
5. Bettye LaVette, Wait
I want to give a shout to Rodger Fox – I don’t think we’re kind/grateful enough in considering the people he has introduced to New Zealand; the platform he’s made whereby international names will tour New Zealand and work with locals – from there it opens up reciprocal hosting, opportunities for Kiwi kids to travel to America and Europe over the years…Well, one time, back in the early 00s, and frankly long before anyone really cared, Rodger brought Bettye LaVette to New Zealand. She put on a kick-ass show and a few years on from that was back releasing records and suddenly an “overnight success” of sorts. I’ve loved many of the albums – her ‘back in the day’ ones and the several that have arrived across the last decade. Her last album was brilliant and check out this as a way to do a cover. You’d hardly know it was a Beatles song unless you were told – which is what I’ve just done. I reckon even hardcore Beatles fans could miss this one…in the scheme of things it’s not one of The Beatles’ big-Big-BIG songs and this version just turns it inside out, changes the whole flow of the song. Magically so of course. I’m always in the mood for Bettye LaVette’s soul and grit. And I have Rodger Fox to thank for the introduction – it was at that gig that I bought a live album showcasing the old LaVette songs. It was as if a whole bunch of people caught on a couple of years after…
And – a bonus full clip here from Aretha Franklin – truly one of the absolute greatest, and because I couldn’t pick just one thing from her faultless period (1967-1972) you can have this whole gig: