I didn’t really mean for this series to go on and on. It’s slipped a bit out of my control, but not necessarily in a bad way. The next one will be the last one; I’m 99% sure of that. Maybe 95%. Well, we’ll see.
This one was like 90% done for about a month, but those last little adjustments proved difficult for some reason. I think it’s right now. I wouldn’t say perfect, because that’s not a thing, but I find it quite satisfying.
A: In 1997 I was a reggae dilettante — owner of a few Bob Marley and Peter Tosh albums, and the The Harder They Come soundtrack — when I decided to take a flier on the Lee “Scratch” Perry Arkology box set after reading an article about it. I’ve never been quite the same since.
Something about the way my brain processes music was rewired, and while I still don’t like all reggae — because a lot of it is boring and repetitious, just like the haters say — I’ve come to appreciate much of it in a way my younger self wouldn’t have anticipated. The problem is that it can he hard to mix with other things. I’ve been toying with the idea of making a reggae mix for a while now but lacked an organizing principle.
When Scratch passed away recently,1At least they tell me he’s dead — I’m still having a hard time believing it. I prefer to think he merely abandoned his physical body to manifest himself in the form of music.I decided that it would be fun to salute him with a mix where every other track is one he produced, in order to salute his towering genius while still leaving room for a full spectrum of stylees.
So here it is. There will be at least one other installment, maybe two, we’ll see.
Q: I’m not into reggae.
A: That’s not really a question, but…. I’d like to think I’m going to change your mind with this magical collection of sounds, but over the years I’ve learned that the taste for reggae is the like the taste for cilantro — some people have it and some don’t, and you’re not going to talk anybody into it. As always, de gustibus non est disputandum. I won’t be offended if you want to sit this one out.
Q: Will it help if I’m high while listening?
A: I mean, it isn’t going to hurt. But I think that the music is strong enough to stand up on its own, with or without herbal assistance.
Q: Isn’t an hour too long?
A: Yeah, probably. But once you get into that groove it’s hard to stop.
OK – without further ado — let us now Blow Away the Wicked.
As always seems to happen, as soon as I wrapped up the last part of Gangsters & Pranksters, I either learned about or was reminded of several things that I might have liked to include. Foremost among them is this one, which is from a bizarre album called Songs of Couch and Consultation:
Jazz saxophonist Bud Freeman came up with the idea for Songs of Couch & Consultation, a cult classic comedy album that pokes fun at psychoanalysis and psychiatric jargon. Freeman wrote a dozen songs’ worth of lyrics, which Leon Pober set to music and Bob Thompson arranged. Katie Lee, an extraordinarily pretty folk singer who previously recorded an album for Specialty called Spicy Songs for Cool Knights, was brought in to sing and pose for the cheesecake album cover. The songs describe an assortment of neuroses and psychiatric conditions in a variety of musical styles, delivered with a heavy dose of hand-wringing self-scrutiny. There’s ragtime, big-band blues, and even cowboy music as Lee coos her way through topics such as schizophrenia, repressed hostility, and maladjustment.
I also forgot (to my great shame) about the Bonzo Dog Band’s “Ali Baba’s Camel,” which begins with this snappy verse:
You’ve heard of Ali Baba Forty thieves had he Out for what we all want Lots of LSD
Musically this song is pretty wackadoo, even by Bonzos standards, and so would have been hard to mix in with other stuff.
But I probably would have segued it into or out of John Holt’s “Ali Baba”:
And while we’re at it, let’s listen to King Tubby’s dub version, just because it’s awesome. That will be all for today. Class dismissed.
For those of you with Too Much Time on Your Hands, I have put together a YouTube playlist covering the entire Gangsters & Pranksters series. It is not comprehensive — I only included things that have a moving visual component — but it’s not a bad way to while away an hour or three.
If you prefer to stick with the old-fashioned audio, here you go. Playlist is after the jump, as always.
The nice thing about the “& Pranksters” part of this concept is that if you loosen your mind enough, you can squeeze in just about anything. I took some liberties here but the result sounds pretty damn good, to my ear at least.
The third installment of anything is usually the mistake. Godfather III, Alien 3, whatever that third Matrix movie was… and don’t get me started on Return of the Jedi.
It is with full knowledge of this that I’m plowing ahead with a third round of Gangsters & Pranksters. In the 17 years since the last one a lot of good material has piled up, including older stuff I didn’t know about or didn’t properly appreciate at the time. I like the way this one sounds; see if you agree.
“Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan… one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present…. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu.” —The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu