In a new series, Choice Cuts, Jonathan Patrick talks with artists - both local and international - about their favorite records.
As dusk lingers in the sky, DJ Gabriel Mendoza -- one Dallas' richest resources for music knowledge -- meets with me to discuss soul music. He's upbeat and enthusiastic as always, though his eyes look pinched this evening--a telltale sign of sleepless nights. "I'm tired," he tells me. "Been up till two or three each night, digging through records." Needless to say, Mendoza takes music very seriously; the sort of seriousness that's turned a passion into a lifestyle. Only in this instance, given that Mendoza is a DJ, we all share in the joy.
As a DJ, Mendoza is clinical, a technician as artist. Make no mistake, DJing is, more than anything, an art form. A medium that sees the intangibility of recorded music transfigured, made manifest as kinetic artifice. And the quality of the results that Mendoza consistently delivers makes one thing very clear: he's the real deal.
Having spun all over town and for over 10 years now, Mendoza has worked with all manner of sound. At the moment, he's engaged in several regular DJ sets, including "Away From the Numbers," "Punky Reggae Party," "Lollipopshoppe" and "Stoned Soul" (alongside Sir Scott and DJ Wild in the Streets). That's why Mendonza was a no-brainer to start this series. Conveniently enough, next month marks the two-year anniversary of "Stoned Soul" (make sure to catch the gig's anniversary set June 7th at Single Wide). Without further ado, here are DJ Gabe's Ten Favorite Soul Records: Listen to a Spotify mix from Gabe's list here
Roots - Curtis Mayfield If there ever was a hard time picking a record for this list, it was picking which Curtis Mayfield album to include. It could've been Curtis or Superfly but I went with Roots. This record has funk and soul but what really gets me is that it's sooo damn smooth. With most funk and soul records I usually pay attention to the drums, horns and bass, but what makes Roots so damn special to me are the string arrangements. [And] the opener, "Get Down," is a call to action on the dance floor. Man, if people can't move to that, well there ain't no hope for the human race.
Selda - Selda I've listened to this record more than any other in the past 10 years, without question. When I first heard this, it was through Finders Keepers when they reissued it in 2006. When I put it on, there was an instant connection even though I had no idea what she was saying. This is a slice of Turkish awesomeness. To quote Andy Votel (co-founder of Finders Keepers), "Behold! Space age, Anatolian, electronic, progressive-protest, psych-folk-funk-rock from the Middle East." The music ranges from folk protest songs to ballads, but even those are layered with strange electronics and sound effects. Like Curtis Mayfield, Gil-Scott Heron or Marvin Gaye's What's Goin On, she blends music and politics to perfection, informing the listener but never once forgetting to keep you moving.
Hot Buttered Soul - Isaac Hayes It's equal parts soul, psychedelia, funk and electronic grooviness. I first bought this record when I heard "Walk On By" on the Dead Presidents soundtrack back in 1995. I thought: "damn, I need to hear where this came from." Pretty much before this record (with the exception of Sly and the Family Stone) I got my soul fix from Motown and 50's oldies radio. But after Isaac Hayes planted these seeds of fuzzed-out funk weirdness, it was on!
The Future is Here - The Mighty Mocambos Raw funk and soul coming at you from Hamburg, Germany. If Selda is my favorite album of the past ten years, this might be my second. I have to give Wanz Dover credit for introducing me to these guys. I always have it in my crate when I DJ out. I've put some miles on this one. It's one of the best new soul/funk albums. Ranks up there with the Budos Band, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and, more recently, The Cactus Channel. The music is new and fresh but pays its respect to the ones that laid the foundations decades before. There's something so damn addictive to me about an album that embraces hip hop, soul, funk, Afrobeat and krautrock.
Live! - Fela Ransome Kuti and The Africa '70 with Ginger BakerHere's another record that made me think outside the box of what is soul and what is funk. The combination of Afrobeat, Sun Ra-style jazz and rock influences floored me. I heard this record about the same time that I heard Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul. On first listen, I thought of Crash Worship and even Neurosis. That's the beauty of great music, you start connecting the dots even when that's not your intention. This record is all about the drums, the percussion. It has to be, especially with both Ginger Baker and the great Tony Allen blasting away.
The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend - Baby Huey One of the great "what ifs" for me is what if Baby Huey had not died of a heart attack at 26 while working on this album? Judging by this record, he could have put out a string of great albums, especially if he would've continued under the wing of Curtis Mayfield (who produced this record). But the reality is that he had a masterpiece, and that's something that most musicians never achieve.
What's Going On - Marvin Gaye I'm not going to waste any time. This is a masterpiece. Everyone knows it. The main reason I love this record is that it flows like a perfect mix tape. Songs blend in and out of each other with such ease that you don't even notice when you've arrived at your next musical destination. This was Marvin Gaye's most personal album to date. Unlike some of the other great socially conscious albums of the era, Marvin's approach is more laid back. He's asking for change, but in a way that would make even the harshest critics listen. For me, the songs are always haunting. Some records are classic for a reason.
Genclik Lle Elele - Mustafa Ozkent Orkestrasi Another Turkish funk and soul classic. This is one of the many records I bought just for the cover. I saw it at Good Records about eight years ago and thought, "This has to be bad ass." The universe was telling me: "Buy this fucking record." The closest comparison I can think of is that it's like an Anatolian Incredible Bongo Band. The standout tracks for me are "Burçak Tarlaları," "Dolana Dolana" and the spaghetti western style closer "Ayaz." I have no idea if Turkey has or had a bboy/bgirl culture, but if so, this record would be essential to it.
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Histoire de Melody Nelson - Serge Gainsbourg There's a scene in Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas where Ray Liotta's character, Henry Hill, speaks about Paulie Cicero; and what he says always makes me think of Serge Gainsbourg: "Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn't have to move for anybody." I think of that when I hear Histoire de Melody Nelson . Most his music, in fact. Serge Gainsbourg takes his time delivering the lyrics. He's never rushed or in a hurry. It works perfectly. It was hard to choose between this album and his soundtrack for Cannabis, but I went with Histoire because it's the funkier of the two.
Grupo Irakere - Grupo Irakere Here there's Afro-Cuban funk, soul, and Latin jazz. I'm a sucker for records that mix all kinds of sounds. My DJ sets are usually a melting pot, so that's what I usually gravitate to. I just found out about this record earlier this year through my friend Ivan Reyna (he owns and operates the label Lost Records, which reissues rare hip hop gems). When he was my guest for "Stoned Soul" Saturday he said something to the effect of, "You're not going be ready for this." And I wasn't. How this got away from me all these years is beyond me, but better late than never.