Tuesday, July 2, 2013

what i found in california iv

what is it: unusual things
where i found it: california

I owe a number of recent discoveries to my good Californian friend Mr. PM, the Arabic music expert and obscure LP authority mentioned several days back in connection with Reptilian Obama. This may be a longish post, but it's worth your while.

First up we have something so fucking California I can't believe it. If you've ever heard the Nat King Cole hit Nature Boy, it was written by a character named eden ahbez (lower case on purpose) an early utopian proto hippie who lived under one of the big Ls in the Hollywood sign. Further more, he lived under there with his wife and kid and survived on $3 a week while penning hit songs. He wore robes, had long hair and only ate raw food. He made albums about utopian islands and surfing. Here's a weird clip that shows ahbez arriving to a TV show with a bicycle and sitting cross legged while reading about his love of nature. Before you write him off as a typical hippie, remember that this is 1948, twenty years before San Francisco was full of ahbez carbon copies. The clip then goes on to present Nat King Cole and some other guy singing Nature Boy with no trace of soul whatsoever. You would never guess from this that early Nat King Cole is mastermind material. At any rate, even if you don't take the time to listen to ahbez's albums, at least visit his wikipedia page, one of the best I've read.

meeting of two great minds

meeting of two great, if unusual, minds

Secondly, Mr. PM turned me on to Arabic music legend Abdel Halim Hafez. Known as the Great Dark Skinned Nightingale, AHH wrote long form compositions, usually about love, which had a gigantic impact on classical and popular music across the Arab world and integrated a very strange mix of influences. Here's a clip which features stratocaster vs. orchestra, an extremely enthusiastic crowd and vocals by a seemingly sincere and blissed out AHH for a mind numbing length of time. This one, on the other hand, hits us with some spooky haunted house accordion, telecaster vs. orchestra, a psychedelic backdrop and, you guessed it, vocals by a seemingly sincere and blissed out AHH for a mind numbing length of time. As for his wikipedia page, it sounds like it was written by a smitten third grader.


Third, which I'll keep short, is the excellent label Numero Group, which puts out beautiful vinyl reissues of generally unheard music. The one I listened to the most revolves around Michigan gospel and is great through and through. The Numero website kind of sucks and doesn't provide a whole lot of information, but I'd venture to say that you couldn't go wrong with any of their releases. That's a slippery slope, because they have a ton of them. Good luck to you and your wallet.