Sunday, February 28, 2010

Black History Month à la Britannia (pt. 2)

In America, the most famous “slave narrative” was written by Frederick Douglass. In England, the most famous such book was written by Olaudah Equiano.

“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African” was published in 1789... more than 50 years before Douglass’s autobiography.

The book was popular and very influential in the British anti-slavery movement.

Olaudah Equiano, according to his memoir, was born near the River Niger and kidnapped into slavery by other Africans. But there is controversy about this. Some scholars say he was born in South Carolina.

The details of Equiano’s adult life are unchallenged. Owned as an adolescent by a British naval officer, Equiano was trained as a seaman and taught to read. He was also baptized a Christian in Westminster, England.

Sold to a Quaker merchant, Equiano was able to buy his freedom in his early twenties. He moved to England, became an active abolitionist, married an Englishwoman, and fathered two kids.

The text of Equiano’s autobiography can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg.

BBC Radio produced a dramatization of Equiano’s autobiography in 2007. I’m streaming a 5-minute excerpt of “Grace Unshackled: The Story of Olaudah Equiano” on my Vox blog. The adult Equiano is portrayed by Afro-British actor David Oyelowo.

In this excerpt, Equiano tells the story of his purchase by Michael Pascal, the British naval officer, who assigned him the name Gustavas Vassa. Click here to listen.

A free MillionYoung download

South Florida’s Mike Diaz, a.k.a. MillionYoung, is giving away FREE MP3s to draw attention to his music. Good on him.

Click here to hear “Feel the Same” on my Vox blog. The style is called “chillwave,” though I would simply call it electro-pop.

To download the track, follow this link to MillionYoung’s official website and look in the upper left corner.

Canada’s Little Richard

Bet you don’t know who Jackie Shane is.

I didn’t know... until Toronto-based music writer David Dacks (an occasional commenter here at UBM) reached out.

Jackie Shane was a popular performer in Toronto’s R&B clubs during the 1960s. He was openly gay, and his flamboyant stage persona invited comparisons to Little Richard and Esquerita.

David Dacks worked on a radio documentary called “I Got Mine: The Story of Jackie Shane” for the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster. This one-hour documentary airs today... and you can hear it streaming live on the Web at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

[UPDATE (02/28/10): This was a great show! Turns out you have a couple more chances to hear it today. It’s re-playing at 3 p.m. in each time zone. So follow this link and look for “Inside the Music” in the “Listen Live” directory.]

Jackie Shane had only one hit single – “Any Other Way” (1963). To hear it on my Vox blog, click here. And to see the man in action with your very own eyes, check this:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Playlist: White chicks got the blues

Not till I spent a few weeks listening to B.B. King’s satellite radio channel did I realize... there’s a lot of white women singing the blues.

I am most intrigued by Fiona Boyes, who isn’t even American. She’s Australian. And a hellified guitar player. Hellified!

I’m streaming on my Vox blog a Whitman’s Sampler of white-chick blues... including a 2009 track from Maria Muldaur, who has been performing American roots music for nearly 50 years (though she’s most famous for her pop smash hit “Midnight at the Oasis”).

1. “I Want to Go” – Fiona Boyes

2. “Fried Chicken” – Eden Brent

3. “Watermelon Time” – Marcia Ball

4. “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl” – Ingrid Lucia

5. “The Panic Is On” – Maria Muldaur

Saturday morning cartoon

Friday, February 26, 2010

‘A Walk Through Fort Greene’

Renaissance man Nelson George and Brooklyn filmmaker Diane Paragas are working on a wonderful-looking project. Check this teaser out:

This is my 2,500th post.

I like marking these little milestones. Ten months ago I hit 2,000... and used that occasion to announce my retirement from blogging.

The retirement didn’t take, but clearly I’ve slowed my roll since 2008. I used to be a freak about this shit. Some of y’all remember.

Anyway... thank you to all my readers and commenters. Your feedback sustains me. I’m on a horse.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Vulgarity defined (or, Keith Olbermann serves up six liters of pus and another ‘goddamn’)

Tonight MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann delivered a 14-minute “Special Comment” that’s setting the left-wing blogosphere on fire.

You’re a hero, Keith! Stay strong, Keith! Everyone in Congress should hear your words, Keith!

I didn’t have that reaction while watching Olbermann speak at length about his near-dead father... as prelude to a mawkish appeal for health-care reform.

To me, it was jaw-droppingly vulgar. From start to finish an insult to the dignity of persons... and an assault on such old-fashioned values as family privacy, public propriety and on-air professionalism.

It was a bizarre bit of broadcasting that I cannot imagine coming from any other broadcaster in the history of broadcasting. It was morbid narcissism dressed up as moral indignation. And was politically incoherent to boot.

It’s embedded below... the whole shit. Watch for yourself if you think I’m tripping. I am too sleepy right now to unpack all my thoughts. But I’m sure I’ll stay wound up about this into the weekend.

Status update

(Click it if it’s too small to read.)

A free Rufus Reid download

Face it. You need more jazz in your life.

Bassist Rufus Reid, who has played alongside such great ones as Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard and Jack DeJohnette, has a new album coming out in two weeks. But you can cop a FREE MP3 right now.

Click here to hear “Glory” on my Vox blog. To download it, click the title below.

“Glory” (MP3)
More on this album

Hot rocks

I dig women’s curling.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Random hipness

Seventeen days on YouTube... and 2.4 million views. For an Old Spice commercial? Yes. You need to see it. (Hat-tip: Harry Allen.)

I really like old newsreels.

Here’s Louis Armstrong visiting Africa 50 years ago.

I like old newsreels.

And Internet Archive’s got ’em. Here’s one that’s certified kosher for Black History Month:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday morning cartoon

For Ricky Gervais fans only. This animated version of his famous podcasts debuted last night on HBO.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A free Disco Biscuits download

Want a FREE MP3 from the Disco Biscuits? Have you ever even heard of the Disco Biscuits? (I hadn’t.)

The type of music they play is called “trance fusion.” (Never heard of that either.)

Click here to hear the band’s new single, “On Time,” on my Vox blog. To commence downloading, hit this link.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black History Month à la Britannia (pt. 1)

Are you bored with Black History Month because you know all you wanna know about Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and the same old short list of African-American luminaries?

I’m about to spice your shit up, friend, by casting my gaze across the pond. England has its own Black History Month – in October. But I shan’t wait till then to showcase a few intriguing cultural figures from Britain’s past.

We begin with George Bridgetower, a virtuoso violinist who rocked the stage with Beethoven two centuries ago.

George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower was born in Poland circa 1780. Black father, white mother. As a child prodigy on violin, Bridgetower was taken under wing by England’s future King George IV, and received an elite education in music.

In his twenties, he was introduced to Beethoven. They jammed in Vienna. Beethoven was so impressed, he dedicated his new Violin Sonata No. 9 to “the mulatto Brischdauer.”

Beethoven and Bridgetower debuted the sonata together on May 24, 1803. It was a triumphant performance.

But then, so goes the story, Bridgetower made an insulting remark about a woman Beethoven happened to know. Pissed off, Beethoven re-dedicated the piece to another violinist... named Kreutzer.

To this day, the composition is known as the “Kreutzer Sonata,” while Bridgetower is said to have died in obscurity.

(Click here to hear the sonata’s third movement, as performed by Itzhak Perlman.)

George Bridgetower’s name and story have been resuscitated in recent years. Afro-British pianist Julian Joseph has composed a “jazz opera” about Bridgetower’s life. And American poet Rita Dove last year published “Sonata Mulattica,” a poetry collection inspired by Bridgetower’s relationship with Beethoven.

Check the two vidclips below:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Random genius

More where that came from... BAM!

The new Gil Scott-Heron album...

... came out last week. Anybody checked out “I’m New Here”? Any reactions?

Frankly, I’m not feeling it. Happy as I am to hear any new stuff from Gil, this set comes up short. Literally. There’s less than 30 minutes of material. And four of the tracks aren’t even new writing.

“Your Soul and Mine” is an inferior remake of one of Gil’s earliest pieces, “The Vulture.” There’s a Robert Johnson cover (“Me and the Devil”) and a Bobby “Blue” Bland cover (“I’ll Take Care of You”). The title track is a cover of an underground rock tune by Bill Callahan.

I also don’t dig the soulless electronic soundscapes designed by Gil’s new British sponsor, Richard Russell. For example, click here to hear “On Coming from a Broken Home (Pt. 1).”

Contrary opinions welcomed.

UPDATE (02/15/10): I must report that “I’m New Here” is getting rave reviews in the British press... particularly in the Daily Telegraph (“...a revelation”) and the Guardian (“... one of the year’s best albums”).

For whatever that’s worth.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Random wrongness

Hard to believe that Smokey Robinson, Morgan Freeman and President Obama don’t know the first verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by heart. This is embarrassing. (Hat-tip: Deron Snyder at The Root.)

UBM presents: Racist Audio Theatre

A longtime hobby of mine is collecting racist literature. Fascinating stuff... especially when it comes from the mind of a well-educated man.

There was no better-educated racist writer active in my lifetime than Revilo P. Oliver. Dude was super-intelligent... a philologist and professor of classics at the University of Illinois for decades. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright Scholar.

As a right-wing anti-Communist, Prof. Oliver was an early writer for National Review and a founding member of the John Birch Society.

In the 1960s, he became stridently anti-black and anti-Semitic until he was no longer welcome at National Review. He even broke with the Birchers.

Revilo Oliver’s style of political rhetoric involved casual disdain for his racial enemies (referring to blacks as “the savages”) and lots of smirking sarcasm (the “civil riots movement”... “snivel rights”), all presented with high-toned eloquence.

I find him quite entertaining to listen to.

Yes, some of the professor’s speeches are available on the internets. I’m streaming a couple of pops on my Vox blog.

Click here for a 4-minute excerpt from “Can Liberals Be Educated?,” a 1965 address to the John Birch Society.

Click here for a 5-minute piece of Oliver’s 1968 lecture “Race and Revolution,” presented to the Canadian League of Rights.

By the 1980s, Revilo Oliver felt the white race was doomed to extinction, weakened by its attachment to Christianity. (“... hoping [for] a pat on the head from the ferocious old Jew-God’s son...”)

He committed suicide in 1994.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A free Budos Band download

The Budos Band out of New York City is another American group doing the Afrobeat thing. Wanna sample a FREE MP3?

Click here to hear “The Proposition” on my Vox blog. To download, follow this link to for a 2009 sampler album called “CMJ 2009: The Bands, The Music, The City, Vol. 3.”

Saturday morning cartoon

Not for kids.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A free Gigi download

Two years ago I blogged about the Ethiopian-born singer known as Gigi. Now I got another FREE MP3 for those who may want. She’s the guest vocalist on a 2009 track by her countryman Tommy T.

Click here to hear “The Response” on my Vox blog. To download, click the title below.

“The Response” (feat. Gigi) (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store
Album available at Amazon MP3

Growing up in America.

With a soundtrack. It’s all about the soundtrack.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Amiri Baraka on African-American literature

Nope, I didn’t forget it was Black History Month. Just been busy is all.

I always like to do something a little deeper for February. Particularly I’m into audio artifacts (such as an actual phone conversation between Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson).

Today, I’m sharing a 1984 classroom lecture by Amiri Baraka, the writer and radical-left activist, on the development of black literature.

Click here to hear a 9-minute excerpt. For the entire 95-minute sound file, follow this link to Internet Archive.

This lecture – delivered at Naropa University in Colorado – is part of the Naropa Poetics Audio Archive, a repository of hipness that demands further examination.

The Internet is a free university at your fingertips, y’all. Blows my mind sometimes.

Anyway, Baraka begins with a reference to his essay collection “Daggers and Javelins,” which was published in ’84.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New cuts from Fishbone

Ever go through the pockets of some old clothes and find a long- forgotten $10 bill? And it feels as good as if you’d found it on the street?

That happened to me today online.

I hardly remembered joining the Amie Street music site two years ago, let alone that I had nine bucks and change sitting in an account there. Hey... found money!

So I started looking for tunes that might be worth downloading. (Amie Street seems to specialize in artists I never heard of.) Guess what I found? A Fishbone live album I didn’t know about.

“Fishbone Live” (a.k.a. “Live in Bordeaux”) was recorded in France in 2008. The 2009 CD/DVD combo is only available as a high-priced import. The MP3 version, released last week, will cost you $8.49 on

On Amie Street I paid $2.76 for it. That’s 77 minutes of Fishbone music for less than the price of a Big Mac. (That price isn’t set in stone. The site’s “demand-based pricing” model means the price goes up as a track gets more popular.)

Let me stream a couple of cuts so you can hear how good it sounds.

Click here to hear “Hide Behind My Glasses,” which is one of my favorite Fishbone rarities. I am absolutely delighted to have a live version of this song.

Click here to check out “Party at Ground Zero”... a tune now 25 years old.

A free Scott Amendola download

Want a FREE MP3 from hipster drummer Scott Amendola? It’s kinda Afrobeat-ish. Click here to hear the 2005 track “Oladipo” on my Vox blog. To download, click the title below.

“Oladipo” (MP3)
Album available at Amazon MP3

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Super Bowl commercial worth noting

I don’t go all twerky over Super Bowl commercials. That’s not me.

I mean... yeah, Betty White is a game old broad. And it was cool to see one of my old “Kingpin” cast members, Shay Roundtree, in that house-made-of-beer-cans commercial.

I giggled at some other shit too. But I’m not going to devote a whole post to Super Bowl commercials.

This post is about Christopher Guest, filmmaker and comic actor, and his new source of income. Did you happen to catch the commercial for the U.S. census? (Follow this link if you missed it.)

It was directed by Mr. Guest. And it features familiar faces from his “mockumentary” films such as “Waiting for Guffman” and “A Mighty Wind.” (Ed Begley, Jr., Bob Balaban, Don Lake...)

I’m not wild about that census commercial. Just sort of puzzled by it. Nevertheless, I am digging the fact that Chris Guest is in the ad game big time.

Perhaps you’ve seen his spots for DirecTV. Those are comical.

His biggest campaign so far has been for Healthy Choice frozen foods. Surely you’ve seen those Julia Louis-Dreyfus commercials.

I can’t stand ’em. Thirty seconds is not the ideal length for Christopher Guest’s brand of whimsy.

Actually, there’s a Healthy Choice commercial on YouTube that I’ve not seen on TV. And I like it. Because it’s got Jane Lynch, who is No. 4 with a bullet on my list of favorite dykes. Check it out:

A free Shilts download

Wish I had time to do another full-blown Funky Whiteboy Appreciation Week. For now, let me give Shilts some dap.

London’s Paul “Shilts” Weimar is a sax player formerly with the Brand New Heavies. He’s better known in the U.K. for his involvement with another acid-jazz group... Down to the Bone.

I’ve got a FREE MP3 from Shilts’s 2006 solo album, “HeadBoppin.”

Click here to hear “Break the Mold” streaming on my Vox blog. To download that track, click the title below.

“Break the Mold” (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store

Sunday, February 7, 2010

D.C. represent!

You know I’ll be rooting for dem Saints tonight in the Super Bowl. But I’m glad to have this occasion to recall my hometown Redskins: Offensive lineman Russ Grimm was just elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Big fella earned three Super Bowl rings during the Joe Gibbs era.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The last white mayor of New Orleans

It’s election day in New Orleans. Even though the city is caught up in Super Bowl fever... plus, of course, being smack in the middle of Mardi Gras season... today’s mayoral primary is a pretty big deal.

Chances are, New Orleans will have its first white mayor since 1978. Mitch Landrieu has been polling far ahead of his competitors.

Interesting thing is, Landrieu ran four years ago against incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin, who by then was a national joke for his handling of Hurricane Katrina.

The way the story is told, Mitch Landrieu lost in 2006 because old-line white New Orleanians simply loathe the name “Landrieu.”


Because Mitch’s father, Moon Landrieu – the last white mayor of New Orleans – did so much to empower black people. The “progressive” Mayor Landrieu appointed many blacks to public office.

On the flip side, while many black New Orleanians respect the Landrieu name, they were reluctant in 2006 to return the keys of City Hall to a white man. Black voters went four-to-one for Nagin in the runoff.

Times change. If Mitch Landrieu wins today’s election, it’ll be because of black support. As this campaign ad illustrates.

I’m finding that New Orleans has a fascinating political history. Would you like to hear a little of it from the mouth of Moon Landrieu himself?

I’m streaming a 3-minute excerpt of a 1974 Moon Landrieu interview on my Vox blog. Click here to listen. (Certified kosher for Black History Month.)

Saturday morning cartoon

Bow down to Louis Armstrong.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mallia Franklin (c. 1953 - 2010)

Word spread today through the P-Funk online grapevine that vocalist Mallia Franklin has died. She had suffered a stroke last summer.

I hope her passing does not go unnoticed by the news media... at least in her home town of Detroit.

Mallia Franklin was a lead voice in George Clinton’s first female spinoff group, Parlet. Her credited background vocals with Parliament- Funkadelic date back to the 1975 “Chocolate City” album.

Deeper still, Ms. Franklin introduced G. Clinton to a young and struggling Bootsy Collins in 1971, thus changing the course of pop-music history.

Click here to hear the 12-inch version of Parlet’s biggest single, “Ridin’ High,” streaming on my Vox blog. That’s Mallia singing lead.

And she is the first one speaking in the Parlet retrospective vidclip below.

Meet the ‘lint-licker’ lady

If you thought me frivolous for showcasing a daggone chewing gum commercial on this blog, hang on... I’m not done.

For one thing, the “lint-licker” ad has been hailed far and wide across the internets. Last May, the PopEater blog declared: “This Orbit commercial is one of the funniest things we’ve ever seen.”

On first viewing (mere weeks ago), I tripped out on “Pickle you, kumquat!” But now, it’s all about “You lint-licker!” – about as perfect a moment of comic acting as you will find in any medium.

I had to find out more about that actress.

Her name is Jesse Copano. Actually, that’s her married name. She’s also known as Jesse Meriwether.

I would’ve bet money that Jesse had an improv background... like Stephanie Courtney from those Progressive Insurance spots. That doesn’t appear to be the case, though. She got her start doing plays in New Orleans.

Jesse Copano is doing well for herself as a commercial actress. (Movie blogger Joe Blevins calls her “the Meryl Streep of TV commercials.”) But I hope bigger things are in store for her.

Below are two of her other spots. Matter fact, these are the first two jobs Ms. Copano got after moving to Los Angeles.

Thursday, February 4, 2010