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Harry Mosco – For You Specially

March 23, 2014

SSR-LP-32-Harry-Mosco-Specially-For-You-DIGITAL-300x300

A few years ago I stumbled across the Secret Stash label.  I fell in love with their reissue of a reggae interpretation of Kind of Blue (sadly out of print, but available digital via various sources).  Then I met the Secret Stash guys at a Record Store Day event at the Electric Fetus.  I feel in love again with their fantastic compilation Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost Grooves from Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979.

For about a year I have been trying to attend one of their assembly parties.  When Secret Stash has a new release they email a bunch of volunteers to help put together the LPs (glue the jackets, insert the records into the jackets, insert jackets into a cellophane sleeve with a download card, seal the cellophane, etc.).  As compensation for this work (about 2 hours for a run or 1300 LPs) the volunteers receive beer, pizza, fellowship with fellow music-heads and a free limited edition copy of the album. I attended my first assembly party for the LP Harry Mosco – For You Specially.  It was a total blast.   Imagine hanging out with 20 friends you have never met.

ss assem

Assembly party at Secret Stash world headquarters in Minneapolis

For the official background on this release, see Secret Stash.

I don’t have a lot of experience with African music beyond what Paul Simon taught us all on Graceland.  This album has a pretty mainstream pop funk feel and for an album recorded in 1977 it is pretty forward thinking.  My understanding from talking to the guys at Secret Stash is this reissue was sourced from a sealed copy of the original LP – I like that – no temptation to mess with the original mix – it gives the reissue real authenticity (not to mention the reprise of the original misspelling of “specially” as “specialy” on the cover art). Most of the cuts are in English which makes the album even more accessible.  The reissue  sounds very good.

The album starts with “Wasting My Time (Loving You).”  This is nice pop funk jam.  It has a touch of reggae, disco and a slight African feel.  It sound at least five years a head of its time – this sounds like mid-80s New Wave dance pop (bands like the Bob Marley and the Police had infused pop with island and African sounds by that point).  This would not have sounded out-of-place as a Specials or Selector show back in the day.  Huge bass lines on this track.

“Usassa Funk” – This is my favorite cut on the LP.  You can totally hear The Clash doing a cover of this or grooving to it in their clubhouse.  It is political, edgy and funky as hell.  Mosco clearly foreshadows the punk infatuation with African and Island grooves.  I tried to Google “Usassa” and could not come up with anything that made sense within the context of the song.  However United States Asshole Association is a pretty cool top search result.

“Consolation” has a Sly Stone feel: in the groove, the vocals and the lyrics.  A nice jam, but a little to derivative of Sly to be remarkable like the first two cuts.

Side two opens with “Ada Aku.”  This is the most Afrobeat cut on the album – non-English lyrics, great grooves and horns – that Fela feel.  Great arrangement with driving horns over a foundation of amazing bass lines and spooky organ. It ends with a nice drum solo that would make a great hip hop sample.

“It Ain’t Easy” – This cut opens with what could be the best hip hop break on the LP.  Great horns on top of an infectious beat.  Includes an awesome elastic guitar solo.

The LP closes out with some pop funk in the vein of the opening cut.  “Sweet Loving Girl” is a funk ballad that boils to a full-out dance floor jam.  Like the rest of the album the bass is the most prominent instrument.  I would love for the boys in whysowhite to cover this jam – it would totally fit their repertoire.  The song has what sounds like vocoder guitar lead that borders on an almost marimba like sound that is pretty cool.

Overall this is a fun record that reveals itself after repeated listening.  Mosco’s bass is an amazing instrument – it has just enough Afrobeat and American R&B to be familiar yet exotic.  It is so great there are indie labels like Secret Stash discovering and making available lost gems like this.  Highly recommended.

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