Out of the Crate is our monthly column (which seems to have taken a couple of months off) that highlights the world of new vinyl releases, including reissues, compilations, and whatever else is available and interesting. In May, we’ve got deep crate jazz, a pop-meets-R&B banger from Detroit, lo-fi bedroom pop from the aughts, and classic rock ‘n’ roll from the early ’90s. We do it all … And it’s Out of The Crate.
DJ AMIR PRESENTS STRATA RECORDS: THE SOUND OF DETROIT VOL. 1 (180 Proof Records)
With an abundance of legendary Strata label material now entering the BBE Music catalog for the first time, joining together with already-released gems such as the long-lost Charles Mingus live album Jazz In Detroit, BBE Records asked 180 Proof founder and Strata catalog curator DJ Amir to compile a selection of tracks as an introduction to the label for the uninitiated. Hold onto your butts.
DJ Amir, with care and discretion, put together a compendium that represents all shades of the historically Black-owned jazz label. It begins with one of his favorites from the catalog, “Beyond the Dream” by Kenny Cox, “a spiritual groover, highlighted with the haunting mellotron strings and soulful vocals from Detroit legend Ursula Walker,” as he puts it. “And I absolutely love the ending, with the chanting of ‘Vamonos Que Ya Fiesta Se Acabó’ (‘It’s time to go because the party is coming to an end.’)
Later on in the release, we get treated with the spacey orchestrated funk from Sam Sanders on “Inner City Player.” A standout from the catalog, it still fills me up with pure walking-these-concrete-streets-at-4-a.m. vibes. Is the lo-fi, almost TV crime theme oeuvre of Saturday Night Special by The Lyman Woodard Organization. The cover art for that album is composed of articles found in bandleader Lyman Woodard’s pockets—just cigarette papers, cash, and a pistol—that were placed on a hotel bed after a show that presumably took place in his hometown of Detroit.
This entire compilation is filled with stories brought to life by organ groove, mellotron strings, and selections featuring the Contemporary Jazz Quintet (CJQ), Larry Nozero (the saxophone player from “What’s Goin’ On” by Marvin Gaye), and the ever-elusive and spiritually-deep Maulawi Nururidin.
Jazz never felt so vivid. You can order the must-have comp here.
VESPRE, “BACK TO ME” (800073 Records DK)
Kaylan Waterman a.k.a. Vespre wrote a catchy, drum-fueled, break-up pop song during COVID by accident. The songwriter, pianist, and producer grew up listening to Detroit house and going to jazz festivals. Matter of fact, as she stated in Audiofemme recently, she feels most inspired by female artists such as Patrice Rushen—so much so, she named her Subaru after the jazz-funk composer extraordinaire.
Listen folks, break-up, clap-back, flapjack, whatevs … “Back To Me” is a banger, a coolly-sung R&B jam you can throw on while cruising around town or drop in the middle of a DJ set. Waterman keeps her vocals tepid, middle-of-the-road. She may be singing back to me, but the feeling is “meh” over color chords, booming drum tracks, and a simple pop arrangement built with swing. It’s such a slapper it’s not even available on vinyl, but I still had to give y’all the scoop. Support this artist. We need more banging R&B-pop songs from Detroit, ya know?
You can purchase here.
GENEVA JACUZZI, LAMAZE (Mexican Summer)
My first stumbling across Geneva Jacuzzi’s name was under choreography and director credits in several Nite Jewel music videos a couple of years ago. Those videos were always retro-tastic and just a bit off, which made the whole concept stand out FOR miles in front of other projects. So when I found out Jacuzzi was an early pioneer of the modern lo-fi bedroom pop terrain, it made immediate sense.
Lamaze is Geneva’s 2010 debut—a full-length pressing of analog 4-track and 8-track recordings that document the development of her musical style, from her first appearance in 2004 up to 2009. The recordings from this period are largely electronic pop songs that are typical minimalist constructions with dance floor tempos that trot around at about 100 BPM. With this album and the unique video companions, you understand real quick she’s playing and testing boundaries, with varying types of interludes—soliloquies, dialogues, free vocal speech, cheerleading chants, unintelligible prattling, or onomatopoeic sounds.
All this, over some type of synth-pop, quasi post-punk rhythm package. She excels at curating ’80s feel, but she’s also doing so much more. Lamaze is a ride you should take. Support this pioneer here.
THE BLACK CROWES, SHAKE YOUR MONEY MAKER 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (American/UMe)
I grew up on the Rolling Stones. You can blame my Dad for leaving Exile on Main Street, Some Girls, and Emotional Rescue lying around the house. “Miss You” was a big crossover hit that everybody got down to.
He loved jazz, but his younger self felt what Mick and the boys were doing as well.
Around the time I was off to college, the Black Crowes, a skinny white dude band from the South, was desperately trying to sound like they were in a “Wild Horses” video. And just like that, in the throes of the golden age of hip-hop, with grunge steadily encroaching, I became a Black Crowes fan too.
(In this piece I fawn over their second album, it’s the first one that’s getting the 30-year treatment, but that’s ok, I got great taste.)
The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion was the group’s version of the confessional Exile and my God, I bumped the hell outta that record, front to back. The Black Crowes always existed in their own time frame. Old style dirty rock was supposed to be dead, with Public Enemy and Kurt Cobain tossing dirt on the archaic grave. But God bless the Black Crowes with their inner brotherly tension and out of context rawk ‘n’ roll. It insulated my eardrums from the bullshit nu-metal folks were trying to sell. Whew, the corporate stink on that.
The Crowes’ sound swam upstream from everything else coming down the pike. And somehow outta stubbornness, undeniable rock talent, and that little bit o’ hippie veneer … they blew the fuck up.
Southern Harmony, in my opinion, was the best they’ve ever been. I soon moved on after that. Lenny Kravitz dropped his apex masterstroke album, Are You Gonna Go My Way, and I was off.
Damn, tho—Southern was a dark record that has remained timeless, beautiful, somehow. They achieved their goal of creating something evergreen. It still holds up.
(With the exception of its closer, “Time Will Tell,” a problematic Bob Marley cover.)
Attention skinny white dude rock bands: Stay in the waters you can do the backstroke in. Stop covering Bob and damn sure quit naming your pets Marley, Ella, Monk, Mingus, Coltrane, Duke … you get the idea. But that’s a different topic.
This 30th Anniversary edition of Shake Your Money Maker is a multi-disc set that includes a remastered version of the original album, a collection of B-sides and demos, and a recording of the Crowes’ in-the-pocket December 1990 “Homecoming Show” in Atlanta. This well-designed commemorative set captures well-mastered vinyl pressings of all their material, a booklet filled with photos and ephemera and some fetching reproductions of a tour pass, and a poster from an early gig when they were known as Mr. Crowe’s Garden.