Snowfall on the Sahara
Elektra Records 62401-2 Pop
our teens, a lot of our spare time was spent helping the United
Farm Workers' boycott of table grapes and Gallo wines. We'd stand
outside of large supermarket chains with our flyers and thank shoppers
for their support as they entered through the automatic doors. We
also were involved in a lot of bad "street theatre" and
the occasional demonstration (Boycott lettuce! / Boycott grapes!
/ Boycott the wine that Gallo makes!). In a time when the seeds
of political correctness were just being born, we pronounced Gallo
as GUY-YO, as Mexicans would, despite Gallo's Italian orgins and
we pretended to enjoy the folk music and traditional union songs
played at our rallies and get-togethers.
of these get-togethers was a planning meeting at our house. Always
a potluck, our only real responsibilty was a clean house and supply
the correct music. We carefully laid out our records of Pete Seeger,
the Weavers, a compilation of famous union songs (You can't hurt
Me / I'm stickin' with the Union
) and Gracias a la
Vida by Mercedes Sosa. Well, the meeting was a roaring success
and the jug-wine was being passed around so we thought we'd break
tradition and put on Natalie Cole's very popular Inseperable
album. It was a huge hit and by the time This Will Be came
on (last song, first side, if we're not mistaken) the whole room
was dancing and shaking. We ended up helping the UFW for several
more years and from this point on, we were in charge of the music.
Cole has a fine voice that occasionally hits notes of reckless abandon
in a manner similar to Aretha Franklin or Chaka Khan. We just love
this big out-of-control sound, especially when it's used judiciously
and inspired by the music. Cole's voice isn't as big as Franklin's
or Khan's but when she's singing the right song, the effect is great.
Unfortunately Natalie Cole has some difficulty in choosing material
and it's quite hard for an admirer of her voice to remain faithful
to her career. We gave up years ago but our interest was piqued
when she recorded her tribute to Daddy Nat, Unforgettable.
Much more satisfying was her follow-up Take a Look. Her shining
hour should have been this new release, Snowfall on the Sahara,
but let's just say there's a snowball's chance in the Sahara that
we'd ever play this album for a Farmworkers' meeting, or for much
else for that matter.
order to show off her eclectism, the songs chosen are from all over
the map. There are several 1970s numbers that really didn't need
to be re-done (Leon Russell's A Song for You and Bob Dylan's
Gotta Serve Somebody) or are inferior to the originals (Judy
Collins' Since You've Asked and Bette Midler's Stay With
Me). The contemporary ballads are forgettable. After several
listenings (we really did try with this one, folks), they all end
up a generic blob. Her one acknowledgement to a more adult-oriented
fan base is Everyday I Have the Blues. This was a big hit
for Count Basie and vocalist Joe Williams. Later in their Basie
tribute Sing a Song of Basie, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
did a very clever (and quite famous) version where the singers sing
Jon Hendricks' lyrics to the orchestration. Cole sings the Lambert,
Hendricks & Ross version, note for note, yet Hendricks' lyrics
this disc, we still think Natalie Cole has great potential and we
will continue to follow her career. We'd like to give her a brief
spank for being so naughty and then march right back into the recording
studio where she can record material worthy of her legacy and talent.
Skin On Skin
Rhino R2 75689 Latin
one would dispute Mongo Santamaria's importance in the development
of Afro-Cuban music but it's hard to get a handle on what his style
would be. As Skin On Skin, a fine new compilation from Rhino
Records proves, Santamaria was musically all over the map.
of licensing restrictions, there are large gaps in his career on
this disc, but the liner notes thoughtfully point you in the right
direction should you need a more complete view. We respect Santamaria
a lot but this compilation (and the several other albums we own
by him) never set us on fire the way other leaders can. Rather than
go the Boogaloo or straight Salsa route, Santamaria chose Funk and
Jazz. We like it but we don't love it.
for us are Barandanga, Guaguanco Mania, Cinderella and of
course his seminal Afro Blue.
Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings
Rhino / Atlantic R2 75627 Soul / Gospel
you are wisely an Aretha fan, you don't need MrLucky to tell you
how swell an album Amazing Grace is. You may wonder why it's
been re-released again on CD and why you should own this new version.
original Amazing Grace was edited to fit on two long-playing
records. Sequences were changed and some of the music was cut. Even
more surprising to discover is that the original version of Clara
Ward's How I Got Over, the highlight of the album for many
of us, was actually re-recorded and isn't live at all. Amazing
Grace: The Complete Recordings follows the two-evening Gospel
event from start to finish (with one irrelevant switch). It's an
inspiring recording and listening to the whole thing through in
one sitting is the way to go.
those of us who love the original How I Got Over, not caring
if it's live or not, it's still available on the Aretha Rhino box
and as of this writing, the Lp version of Amazing Grace is
still in print.
disturbing fact about the event is that it was filmed. Our list
of cultural crimes of the 20th century now includes Roz Russell
playing Mama Rose in Gypsy, the recordings that could have
been by Martha Raye, and now the fact that a film of Aretha singing
Gospel in her prime is collecting dust somewhere.
Grooves & Messages: The Greatest Hits
Avenue Records R2 75903 Pop
recently found an inexpensive copy of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's
Déjà Vu. We played it once, had the appropriate
nostalgic journey and promptly filed it away, most likely never
to be heard again.
be frank, we expected the same fate with this new compilation of
WAR, but to our surprise, we keep coming back for more. WAR, you
will remember, had hits with songs like Spill the Wine, Slippin'
into Darkness and Cisco Kid. There were bongoes, traces
of reggae and salsa and there was soul mixed in with the rock. Our
favorite has always been Low Rider and there are few better
tunes to accompany a late-night cruise.
the early 1970s, the music was naïve, fun and slightly political.
As the decade petered out, so did the band. One of the last tracks
here is You Got the Power. Not being framiliar with it, we
assumed it was another political anthem. Oops! It's a disco track
and "You've Got the Power" refers to "the power to
turn me on!"
in all, this compilation is great fun, especially if you were in
junior high school when the originals were recorded.
bonus CD of contemporary remixes is useless.
information on PDF files and the free Adobe