aretha franklin – skylark
brother jack mcduff – shadow of your smile
flying lotus – massage situation
noya rao – fly
the roots VS christopher walken – eve
holger czukay – the photo song
leon bridges – flowers
joseph malik – take a left
dee felice trio – nightingale EDIT
ricardo ray – las caraqueñas
charlie wright & the watts 103rd street rhythm band – fried okra
malcolm mcClaren – world famous
the doors – riders on the storm (Lego edit)
chaka Khan – like sugar
trees – rootwork
shawn lee’s ping pong orchestra – ethio
marcia griffiths – don’t let me down



PROLOGUE: Every year around this time, I make some eclectic mixes specifically for my friends going to Burning Man. While I haven’t gone myself in some time, I am happy to supply a few choice recordings for maximum bugout while riding bikes in the endless void that is the alkali flats of the Nevada Desert. We started this tradition years ago and these magical sunset bike rides are forever stuck in my memory banks. The music is all a bit random, and often chosen for it sonic qualities and congruence with certain illicit drugs favored by Burners. People like to diss Burning Man, and I get it, but I simply tell them you would only enjoy it if you like camping, music, dancing, drugs, and fun. If you don’t, it’s not for you.

Skylark – It’s true, Aretha Franklin has gone home, but she left the world an infinitely better place. There were a lot of beautiful tributes in the music press last week. My favorite was David Remick’s in the New Yorker. Here’s an excerpt:

“Smokey Robinson, her friend and neighbor in Detroit, once said, “Aretha came out of this world, but she also came out of another, far-off magical world none of us really understood. . . . She came from a distant musical planet where children are born with their gifts fully formed.”

Etta James once recalled listening to Franklin’s version of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s standard “Skylark.” In the second verse, Franklin jumps an octave. “I had to scratch my head and ask myself, How the fuck did that bitch do that? I remember running into Sarah Vaughan, who always intimidated me. Sarah said, ‘Have you heard of this Aretha Franklin girl?’ I said, ‘You heard her do ‘Skylark,’ didn’t you?’ Sarah said, ‘Yes, I did, and I’m never singing that song again.’ ”

Shadow of Your Smile – jazz organist Brother Jack McDuff was a staple on the Soul Jazz scene of the 60s who recorded primarily for the Prestige label. He grew up in Champaign, Illinois and came up as a bassist in Joe Farrell’s group. This song was written by Johnny Mandel, a 60s/70s composer for film & TV who also wrote the theme from M*A*S*H*, among others. It was sampled on this somewhat unsung De La Remix by the Pharcyde’s LA Jay.

Massage Situation – A heavy stomper from Flying Lotus from his 2007 “Reset” EP on Warp Records. Flying Lotus, in case you are unaware, is Steven Ellison, an LA-based rapper and iconic producer of left field experimental Hip Hop that has influenced just about anyone working in that genre today. He came up as an intern at Stones Throw Records before signing to Warp. He is the grand-nephew of Alice Coltrane, and the grandson of singer-songwriter Marilyn McLeod, who wrote Diana Ross’s “Love Hangover.” So you can definitely say he comes from good stock.

Fly – A really nice joint I came across from Leeds Funk quartet, Noya Rao. This is off their debut album “Icaros”, that came out last year on Manchester’s Gondwana Records – also home to GoGo Penguin and Nat Birchall. Check out their whole catalog HERE

Eve – A simple beat from The Roots’ “Dilla Jawns” mixtape that came out a few years after his death. The Walken speech is lifted from a rather forgettable 2002 Chaz Palminteri movie, “Poolhall Junkies.” We can all benefit from some sage advice from Chris Walken every now and then.

The Photo Song – A quirky slice of Krautrock from one of the very founders of the genre , Holger Czukay – best known as the leader of the awesomely eclectic group, Can. Czukay was born in The Free City of Danzig (WAY cooler than the Free City of Mereen, IMO) in 1938. He studied avant-garde music directly under the legendary Karlheinz Stockhausen, which is a bit like having studied physics under freakin’ Einstein. This is from his 4th solo album, “Der Osten ist Rot” (The East is Red), which the NME (remember them?) listed as one of the albums of the year for 1984.

Flowers – This Leon Bridges debut album “Coming Home” (2015) just keeps growing on me. At first listen, I often dismiss these retro R&B acts, just because I’m not sure there’s any point in rehashing the sounds of yesteryear with such unwavering devotion. Yet at the same time, maybe some people just want to play what they love, and if your going to pick an era, early Sam Cooke & Curtis Mayfield is certainly a sweet spot. Something tells me I’ve said this all before… Anyway, This ballad, also from the same album, is fucking fantastic.  Worth noting that Leon has since ditched such a straight retro sound and these days sounds a bit more like a far superior version of Usher with a seriously dope-ass backing band.

Take a Left – Scottish DJ, vocalist and producer Joseph Malik has been making records since the early 2000s, but he seems to have finally found his groove with this foot stomping blues sound. This was recorded at Rusty’s Yard in Edinburgh, by ex-drummer & founding member of the Edinburgh post punk band, The Fire Engines. Hopefully Malik follows this up with an album of similar goodness.

Nightingale – An infectious Bossa Nova track from the Dee Felice Trio, a little known Jazz combo from Cincinnati that is mostly remembered for being the backing band on James Brown’s “Getting’ Down To It” LP (1969) – an album of mostly Jazz vocal standards and a funky, big band interpretation of “There Was a Time.”  Though I digress, I gotta say, one of the testaments to James Brown’s genius is just how good all of his songs sound when re-made in almost any genre.

Las Caraqueñas – A dose of classic 1968 salsa from Nuyorican giant Ricardo “Richie” Ray, who teamed up with Bobby Cruz in 1957 and proceeded to record a ton of hits as a duo in the golden era of NY salsa & boogaloo. Richie grew up on Hoyt St in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, not too far from my spot. He did a year at Julliard before quitting to focus on his own band. These guys recorded for all of the great labels, including Fonseca, Alegre, and Vaya (Fania). In their later years, they both converted to evangelical Christianity and founded over 70 churches in the US and Puerto Rico. They still reunite for shows every now and then in PR. This Latin rework of Chopin’s “Étude Op. 10, No. 12” is probably a good measure of Richie & Bobby at the height of their power.

Fried Okra – I often search for weird gems that accentuate these annual headphone mixes, and this split-channel Funk number from Charlie Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band surely does the trick. This is from their debut LP, “Hot Heat & Sweet Groove”, released in 1967 on Warner Brothers. They are best known, of course, for their 1970 mega hit “Express Yourself.” I first came across it via the Tribe Called Quest remix for “Can I Kick It”, from Danish producer Henrik Marquart aka DJ Don’t Care. It came out on the 12” only.

World FamousSee Divine the Mastermind and Jazzy Just Allah the Superstar aka The World Famous Supreme Team got their start at the Mecca of Old School Hip Hop radio, Newark’s WHBI – home to Afrika Islam, The Awesome 2, and Mr Magic. I think their show preceded Mr Magic’s Saturday night 2am slot. They are also credited as the first Hip Hop group to embrace the 5% Nation of Islam. Malcolm McClaren made them famous when he teamed up with them for Buffalo Gals, which became an international hit. This is still my favorite song of theirs by far, which only came out on 12”, - a snippet of it appearing on the album. This, and just about everything else they ever put out, has been sampled to death, no doubt. Youtube has a few  cassette recordings of their shows, which are great time capsules of the early 80s. School yourself, homey.

Riders on the Storm – Yeah yeah there’s been about a thousand remixes of this Doors classic of the years, but this one just put a beat under it, ditched the vocals, and left the rest alone. I ain’t mad.

Like Sugar – Believe it or not, this is the brand new Chaka Khan record (!). Just came out in June and the shit BUMPS! This is produced by Major Lazer member Switch. She’s signed to his label and they made a dope video for it too.  If I was President, this would be the White House telephone hold music.

Rootwork – This song has been kicking around my hard drives since 2014. Its a very weird mix of Afro-Cuban percussion and Sun Ra craziness and some very heavy Techno synths to fatten it all up. It’s so weird that I never knew where to put it on a mix, but as it turns out, these Headphone Odysseys are the perfect place! Trees aka Charles Trees is a producer and musician from, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Peep the whole record HERE

Ethio – Kansas-born Shawn Lee is a drummer with a pretty interesting trajectory. He grew up in Wichita Kansas. Played in a band with future country star Martina McBride. He moved to LA and fell in with the Dust Brothers and Jeff Buckley. Then he went to London to work with my hero, Giles Peterson. He’s since released a ton of albums, including ten with Shawn Lee’s Ping Ping Orchestra. This came out in 2011 and captures the whirling swing of Ethiopian Jazz perfectly.

Don’t Let Me Down – Jamaica never failed to produce stellar covers of pop songs in every genre, and this Marcia Griffiths rocker is another fine example. This appeared on her first solo album for Trojan in 1984 – when she had just left the super duo Bob & Marcia, and had yet to form the I-Threes with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt. The other day I was in a bar drinking bourbon, recovering from a very fresh and very painful tattoo, and this song came on the jukebox – and all was well again.

Dassit mayne. Thanks for listening/reading. Check out the other two Headphone Odyssey remixes, Mu & Nu, as well as a long, chilled out house mix, Back To Center - all made this week for my ride-or-dies heading out to the desert with a pair of headphones and a sack full of drugs I mean DREAMS. Peace.


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