Calvin Keys – Proceed With Caution! (Jazz)
Calvin Keys is a Jazz and session guitarist from the Bay Area who has played with greats like Ray Charles and Bobby Hutcherson. This is his second solo album on the label. Again, this has a sweet cover, with a leapord skin-clad Keys scowling straight at the camera. The music is equally good. It was released in 1974 on the famed Black Jazz label. Like other early 70s Black Jazz titles, this record is full of loud drums (provided by the talented Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, who would go on to play drums on Michal Jackson’s “Billie Jean”), and Fender Rhodes. Most of the album is straight-ahead jazz, but tracks like the soul-influenced “Aunt Lovely” depart from that format.
Tim Moran & Tony Vacca – Wizards Dance
I picked this one out for the cover art, and a personal vow to listen to anything with the word “wizard” in the title. It turned out to be a good choice. Wizard’s Dance, released in 1982 on the Vermont-based Fretless record label, consists entirely of spacey percussion jams with some flute and screaming thrown in for good measure. All the tracks have the same overall feel, though they differ in instrumentation, structure, and the degree of free-ness. If the words “mbira,” “cup chimes” and “samba whistle” appeal to you, you should check this one out.
Arif Mardin – Glass Onion (Jazz)
Like the title suggests, this album is almost entirely big-band arrangements of popular songs. Two things set the record apart from other terrible orchestrated cover albums from the late 60s and early 70s. The first is the artist. Arif Mardin was a prolific producer for Atlantic records, who had already worked on albums by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and King Curtis when this came out in 1969. The other is song choice-Walk on By, the standout track, does great justice to the Isaac Hayes original. Unfortunately, the rest of the album never really reaches that level of funkiness. My second favorite cut is the title track, specifically everything before the 1:50 mark.
O’Donel Levy – Black Velvet (Jazz)
This is another funky jazz record from the early 70s. You can’t go wrong with O’Donel Levy, who’s other excellent album, Simba, is in the WOBC vault as well. Its kind of similar to proceed with caution, but more soul-influenced.
Boney M – Love for Sale (R&B/Disco)
Boney M was a studio-created “fake band” in the vein of Milli Vanilli. A lot has been said about this record, so I’ll keep the review brief. Every song on here is really, really good. The best-known tracks are “Daddy Cool,” (which has 9 million views on youtube), and Ma Baker. If you like Disco and you haven’t heard this one, get familiar.