Saturday, December 22, 2007

Three Musical Restorations

Three important musical restoration projects have come to my attention in the last week or so.

The lattest was Friday's NPR report on Moby Grape


All Things Considered, December 21, 2007 - Mention the name Moby Grape to a roomful of rock critics, and you'll hear nothing but praise for the 1960s San Francisco rock band. But aside from fans and critics, few people today have ever heard of Moby Grape. Why? Bad advice, bad breaks and bad behavior are three short reasons. Now that a label is trying to right these wrongs by reissuing the group's first five records, old problems still stand in the way.
The name Moby Grape comes from an absurdist punch line: What's big, purple and swims in the ocean? But the band that influenced groups ranging from Led Zeppelin to The Pretenders was no joke. Neither was its 1967 debut, according to Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke.
"It's one of the few rock 'n' roll albums of any era that you can say, 'That is a perfect debut album.
I was a big Moby Grape fan. I once owned most of their LPs, but at some point they vanished from my collection. Did I sell them at a second hand record store, possibly, but more likely I loaned them to someone who forgot to return them. My brothers, however, deny this. The NPR story made me want to hear them again.

Since the reissue of the classic Grape LP's has been sabotaged by the band's ex-manager, I;ll have to choose between the two CD compilations. I'll add one to my collection in 2008.

While doing some holiday shopping Friday night, I decided to buy a CD for myself. I considered Dwight Yoakum's tribute to Buck Owens Dwight Sings Buck, but chose Betty Lavette The Scene of the Crime.

Who is Bettye Lavette, you ask? Short answer: the best soul singer you've never heard of. Longer answer, listen to Terry Gross interview Lavette on NPR's Fresh Aire.

In 1972, Atlantic shelved an LP Lavette recorded at Muscle Shoals. If it had been released, chances are she might have been as well-known as Aretha Franklin. Finally,thirty years later a French company leased the masters for a Euro release. Rhino put it out in the US a little later with a few additions as "Child of the Seventies." That revived her career. For The Scene of the Crime, Lavette returned to Muscle Shoals and recorded with some of the same musicians and members of the Drive By Truckers. Truckers leader Patterson Hood is the son of Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood, who plays on the new Lavette CD.

The third restoration project is the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project. I learned about this when I heard Robert Darden, former gospel editor for Billboard, and author of People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music, interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air" this week.

The goal of the project is to preserve as much as possible of the thousands of black gospel 78s, 45s, and LPs recorded between 1945 and 1970. These were mostly done by small labels which have disappeared. Hence, the importance of the project. The records are being gathered not only from collectors, but from flea markets, estate sales, and so forth. They are also interested in publicity photos, posters, and the like.

Information on how you can loan or donate materials is here. I hope that KMUW's Gospel Reminiscences, The Community Voice, and the black churches will get the word out about this valuable project.

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