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Charlie Musselwhite, King Curtis And Dorothy Ashby Coming To VMP Classics

Learn About The Classics Records For April-June 2021

On March 25, 2021

It’s that time again: Time to hip VMP Classics members about their upcoming Records of the Month. Read below to find out more about our Classics records for April, May and June 2021.

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April: Charlie Musselwhite Blues Band’s Tennessee Woman

In April, VMP Classics will feature it’s first blues album of 2021, when VMP reissues Charles Musselwhite Blues Band’s deep-cut blues classic, Tennessee Woman. The album, originally released in 1969, is a stone-cold Chicago blues jam out that showcases Musselwhite’s exemplary electric harmonica playing. It’s an album that hasn’t been released on vinyl since it came out, and we’re honored to bring it back here on 180g black vinyl, remastered AAA from the original tapes, pressed at QRP and with new Listening Notes. Here’s an excerpt from those:

Tennessee Woman is an undervalued Chicago blues masterpiece, a flawlessly executed showcase for Charlie Musselwhite’s unique blues harp sound, an album that perfectly meshed the urban, raucous sounds of Chicago electric blues of Musselwhite’s adult life and the down-home sound of the Memphis blues of his youth. Musselwhite never set out to be a musician; he just wanted to find a job in Chicago that would allow him some spending money to see the blues musicians he loved. When it came time to make his own records, all of Charlie Musselwhite went into Tennessee Woman, and you can hear it from the first notes.”

Tennesee Woman is available for signups now.

May: King Curtis’ Live at Fillmore West

In May, VMP Classics will bring its members the 50th-anniversary edition of King Curtis’ landmark Live at Fillmore West, remastered AAA from the original tapes on 180g black vinyl, pressed at QRP and with new Listening Notes. In 1971, Aretha Franklin was on top of the world, but Atlantic, her label, was unsure if she had penetrated the rock ’n’ roll market like they thought she could. So they booked her some dates at the Fillmore, and had King Curtis serve as her band director. King Curtis and his band opened the shows, which are often on the list of greatest concerts ever, and this album takes the best from his band’s opening sets; it’s a masterclass in instrumental soul and R&B. Curtis was tragically killed a week after his greatest album was released. Here’s an excerpt from our Listening Notes:

“Aretha Franklin’s 1971 stand at the Fillmore West was meant, by her and her longtime producer Jerry Wexler, as a coronation. She’d spent the better part of the previous five years at the top of the charts, and she toured stadiums around the U.S., but Wexler and Franklin were curious how deep her crossover actually was. Would she go over with the crowd used to seeing the Grateful Dead or Janis Joplin or the Allman Brothers Band? It was a moment to test Franklin’s mettle on an away court, the music version of a football team being so dominant that they decide it’s time to conquer baseball too.

“When it came time to book the band backing Franklin up at the Fillmore, Wexler and Franklin needed a band that could rock and could pull off being the tightest soul outfit running, especially since Booker T. and the M.G.’s had folded up shop by then. They’d open the shows, and then back up Franklin. There could be only one choice. The man who played the sax lines on “Respect,” and who more or less presented the saxophone in rock ’n’ roll from the very beginning of the genre. A man who’d be dead a mere week after he released an album of his band’s own set at the Fillmore.

“That man was, of course, King Curtis, and his band the Kingpins.”

Live at Fillmore West will be available for signups starting April 27.

June: Dorothy Ashby’s The Rubáiyát of Dorothy Ashby

In June, Vinyl Me, Please Classics members will receive a brand new reissue of Dorothy Ashby’s crate-digger classic The Rubáiyát of Dorothy Ashby, a flawless album from the jazz harp legend that routinely sells for hundreds of dollars in its original form. VMP’s edition has been remastered AAA from the original master tapes, comes on 180g black vinyl pressed at QRP, and comes with Listening Notes written by VMP’s Music Operations Coordinator Stephen Anderson, who suggested this album for Classics and has stumped internally for the greatness of Ashby and Cadet Records. Here’s an excerpt from his notes:

“By the time she entered Ter-Mar Studios to record her third and final album for Cadet in late 1969, Dorothy Ashby had spent the better part of two decades convincing the world that she was a jazz harpist. But if The Rubáiyát of Dorothy Ashby makes anything clear, it is this: The harp was but one of her many means, and jazz was far from her only end.

“Making good on the promise of Rubáiyát’s cover, here the fantastic jazz harpist just as often — just as convincingly — presides over the koto, a 13-stringed zither of arguable Japanese origin, to lay down her slinky solos. At times it feels as if Ashby, so long an outsider herself, is pulling the misfits of the bandstand up for their own overdue time to shine: On what other jazz record — or any slice of wax, for that matter — does a soloing harp tag out to a bass flute, in turn to a vibraphone? A koto to an oboe? Where else does the kalimba, here drenched in watery wah-wah, outnumber saxophone solo outings three-to-one? But the medium is not the message, and The Rubáiyát of Dorothy Ashby would be exquisite fluff if not for its sweat-breaking interplay, ground upon which all instruments, all players share equal footing to pluck, plink and honk.”

This album was a passion project for Anderson, who, above all, is excited to be bringing Ashby’s masterpiece to more people.

“With its high-concept poetics and exotic arrangements, The Rubáiyát of Dorothy Ashby is about as bewildering as a ‘jazz’ album can be for the uninitiated,” Anderson said. “But beneath the Around the World in 39 Minutes theatrics, it's the unquestionable crowning achievement of an artist whose greatest ambitions were always backed up, pound-for-pound, by talent and determination.”

The Rubáiyát of Dorothy Ashby will be available for signups starting May 26.


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