NEW AEON MASTERS OF REALITY

New Masters of Reality album out in North America in October, with tour (!). Info: mastersofreality.com

Chris Goss: beloved Masters of Reality mainman for twenty-plus years—a storied New York band whose debut album was produced by Rick Rubin and released on American Records, which was followed by a move to California and some time on the record label that brought us Tone-Loc. For two years, three tours and a studio album, Masters of Reality’s drummer was legendary fiercehead Ginger Baker of Cream. Pine/Cross Dover is the band’s first studio effort in five years, and finds longtime drummer John Leamy once again on skins, joined by Brian O’Connor on bass, and Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal, Earthlings, QOTSA, etc) and Mark Christian on guitars.

Here’s the two covers for the new album, and the opening salvo…

263_BRH9905-Animated_300

Download: “King Richard TLH” — Masters of Reality (mp3)

Stream: [audio:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/King-Richard-TLH-128.mp3%5D

Goss is also known as: Kyuss producer, occasional Queens of the Stone Age/Desert Sessions member/collaborator, UNKLE contributor, and, with Twiggy Ramirez and Zach Hill, one-third of Goon Moon. As one-half of the pictured-below The 5:15ers (QOTSAer Josh Homme was the other half), he headlined the second night of ArthurBall in Los Angeles in spring 2006.

LARecordBall

Let’s have some classic Masters from the past. Here’s a couple from the Ginger Baker era, first up is a live rendition of “John Brown” off Masters’ first album…

“Mister Who?”: A video by Casey Niccoli from the Ginger Baker era…

A live one from the Queens era…

And an unbelievably majestic 1999 live take on another classic from Masters’ first album…

Also….

“Sound Methods and Weird Channels: How producer and Masters of Reality main man Chris Goss got his groove” (2004 profile I did for the LAWeekly)

Goss is the author of arguably the best piece of neighborhood/cooking writing to appear so far in the pages of Arthur: check out his super-porkout Immigrant’s Sauce recipe/reminisence from the Brian Eno cover ish (No. 17, July 2005—still available, collectors!).

Let’s wrap it up with a message/manifesto to artists from Goss…

LESTER BOWIE on Fela Kuti (1999)

lesterbowie

This article was originally published in Mean Magazine (October 1999), with art direction by Camille Rose Garcia, and an overview of Fela’s catalog by Michael Veal; the main article text, and sidebars, were later reprinted in full in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 book (thank you Douglas Wolk and Peter Guralnick). Main article text is online here: http://www.arthurmag.com/2009/11/02/fela-king-of-the-invisible-art

LESTER BOWIE
by Jay Babcock

Lester Bowie, who died Nov. 8, 1999 of complications from liver cancer, was one of America’s most acclaimed trumpet players and jazz composers. He is best known for his work with the adventurous avant garde troupe Art Ensemble of Chicago. Less than two months before Lester joined the great orchestra on the other side, I was privileged to visit the great lab-coated trumpeter at his Brooklyn home. As we shared half a watermelon, Lester recalled his 1977 trip to Nigeria…

Continue reading

BILL LASWELL on Fela Kuti (1999)

armyarrangement

This article was originally published in Mean Magazine (October 1999), with art direction by Camille Rose Garcia, and an overview of Fela’s catalog by Michael Veal; the main article text, and sidebars, were later reprinted in full in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 book (thank you Douglas Wolk and Peter Guralnick). Main article text is online here: http://www.arthurmag.com/2009/11/02/fela-king-of-the-invisible-art

BILL LASWELL
by Jay Babcock

Bill Laswell is a bassist, producer and, having worked with countless important musicians from dozens of countries, one of the vortex points around which the musical universe revolves. I spoke with Laswell about his controversial work with Fela…

Continue reading

GINGER BAKER on Fela Kuti (1999)

GingerFela

This article was originally published in Mean Magazine (October 1999), with art direction by Camille Rose Garcia, and an overview of Fela’s catalog by Michael Veal; the main article text, and sidebars, were later reprinted in full in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 book (thank you Douglas Wolk and Peter Guralnick). Main article text is online here: http://www.arthurmag.com/2009/11/02/fela-king-of-the-invisible-art

GINGER BAKER
by Jay Babcock

Best known for his work with Cream, Ginger Baker is one of the all-time great drummers, a versatile master at ease in a number of the world’s drumming traditions. He also has a reputation as an imposing interview subject. Still, at his wife’s recommendation, I called Ginger at his South African home at 7am, interrupting his morning bath. Here’s how the conversation went.

Continue reading

TONY ALLEN on Fela Kuti, Afrobeat, solo career, more (1999)

tonyallen

This article was originally published in Mean Magazine (October 1999), with art direction by Camille Rose Garcia, and an overview of Fela’s catalog by Michael Veal; the main article text, and sidebars, were later reprinted in full in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 book (thank you Douglas Wolk and Peter Guralnick). Main article text is online here: http://www.arthurmag.com/2009/11/02/fela-king-of-the-invisible-art

TONY ALLEN
by Jay Babcock

Tony Allen is the original funky drummer. As a member of Fela’s ’60s highlife group Koola Lobitos, Allen, Tony traveled with Fela to the U.S., where Fela developed Afrobeat. Allen’s complex, seemingly eight-armed and eight-legged drum parts—an encyclopedia of inventive groove spread over dozens of albums—were the only parts of Fela songs not composed by Fela himself. Allen released an incredible series of solo albums in the late-70s and early ’80s, three of which featured Fela and the Afrika 70.

Continue reading

FELA: KING OF THE INVISIBLE ART by Jay Babcock (1999)

felasmokes1

This article was originally published in Mean Magazine (October 1999), which I was editing at the time, with art direction by Camille Rose Garcia. The piece was accompanied by a set of sidebar interviews and an overview of Fela’s catalog by Michael Veal [who was finishing his work on the manuscript that would be published as Fela: The Life And Times Of An African Musical Icon]. The main article text, and sidebars, were later reprinted in full in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 book (thank you Douglas Wolk and Peter Guralnick).

FELA: King of the Invisible Art
by Jay Babcock

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: 77 albums, 27 wives, over 200 court appearances. Harassed, beaten, tortured, jailed. Twice-born father of Afrobeat. Spiritualist. Pan-Africanist. Commune king. Composer, saxophonist, keyboardist, dancer. Would-be candidate for the Nigerian presidency. There will never be another like him. This is the sensational story of Fela, the greatest pop musician of the 20th century, featuring the words of Fela’s friends, fans and the Ebami Eda himself.

“What can I say? I wasn’t Hildegart!”
Fela always knew the power of a name.

If you are African—and especially if you work with music, which shares a link of common invisibility with the spirit world—you must have a spiritually meaningful, beneficial name. Without the correct name, Fela explained, “a child can’t really enter the world of the living.”

He didn’t like the name he was given when he was first born, in 1935: his Nigerian parents had followed a local German missionary’s suggestion. So Fela died and was born a second time, on October 15, 1938; this time his parents called him Fela.

“Bear the name of conquerors?” he asked Carlos Moore, author of Fela: This Bitch of a Life, in 1981. “Or reject this first arrival in the world? The orishas [spirits] they heard me. And they spared me. What can I say? I wasn’t Hildegart! It wasn’t for white man to give me name. So it’s because of a name that I’ve already known death.”

In 1975, at the height of his popularity and power, Fela changed his middle name. “I got rid of ‘Ransome.’ Why was my name ‘Ransome’ in the first place? Me, do I look like Englishman?” Fela’s full name was now Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, which meant in whole, ‘He who emanates greatness, who has control over death and who cannot be killed by man.’

That same year Fela also started to cheekily call himself Black President, eventually releasing an album bearing the same title in the midst of a thwarted campaign. And sometime in 1986, following his release from Nigerian prison after serving 20 months on trumped-up charges, Fela began to call himself the Ebami Eda, which translates roughly as “the weird one,” or more delicately, as “the one touched by divine hand.”

Fela was touched, alright. But he was not only a visionary musician who created a whole new style of music—Afrobeat—and left behind an incomparable body of recorded music. No. Fela also simultaneously spoke truth to power, and then recorded it as a 12-minute dance-funk song, with a title like “Government Chicken Boy” or “Coffin for Head of State.” He endured brutal physical punishment and constant imprisonment. In the end, he died from complications associated with the AIDS virus. His heart was broken: he had sung so much, fought so hard, amassed such popularity, and still, hardly anything changed for the better in his beloved, heart-shaped continent of Africa. So: following is the story of that big generous, humorous, creative, divine heart that Fela had: from its early heartbeats, to Afrobeat, to the beatings it took, to its final, slow heartbreak.

Continue reading

Nov. 4, London: Ginger Baker's 70th Birthday Jam at Jazz Cafe

Mighty Chris Goss will be joining Steve Winwood, Jonas Hellborg, Eric Clapton, Jon Lord, Charlie Watts, Courtney Pine, Kofi Baker, John McLaughlin and of course Ginger Baker at Ginger’s 70th Birthday Party Jam on November 4 at London’s famous Jazz Cafe.

Chris sez: “We’ll be covering 45 years of musical selections that span the career of one of the centuries most influential musical geniuses. It looks like we may be including a song or two from Masters of Reality’s ‘Sunrise on the Sufferbus’ as well.”

The night before the jam Ginger will be honored at a dinner hosted by Classic Rock Magazine.

Goss adds: “Since Ginger has been living in South Africa, this is a rare, mindblowing occasion to reunite with a dear friend and musical mentor that taught me so much.”