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The Stories Behind Three Crate-Digger Classics Now In The VMP Store

Groundbreaking Rock Bands, Funk-Jazz Freak Outs, And Outlaw R&B

On May 13, 2020

Today sees the release of three albums that haven’t had reissues in more than 45 years and now available in the VMP store, and to help you make sense of these dustbin classics, we thought we’d tell you the stories behind them.

Oliver Nelson, apart from his masterpiece, The Blues and the Abstract Truth, is probably most well-known for his work as the ace arranger of big band groups for albums from everyone from Thelonius Monk to Sonny Rollins. But his career was varied, and he did more things in his 15 year career to list in a tidy form. He’s got a couple classic film scores in his pocket (Death of a Gunfighter the choicest of them), and was known for his collaboration albums with a variety of players. But the weirdest piece of Nelson’s discography is probably Skull Session, getting its first ever vinyl reissue thanks to this release via Tidal Waves. Skull Session came out the same year Nelson died of a heart attack at the age of 43, and was released on Flying Dutchman. A big band album featuring contributions from a lineup of Shelly Manne, Willie Bobo, Jerome Richardson, Grover Mitchell, Lonnie Liston Smith, and at least 15 other performers, it is built upon the incongruous electric piano and backbone of jazz-funk. It imagines a world where a huge group of people can get together and lay on thick funk that sounds like a summer day on prime weed. You can hear it below:

From one person working on the semi-fringes of jazz we go to someone working on semi-fringes of R&B, Eugene McDaniels. McDaniels--who died in 2011--had his greatest success as a songwriter, as Robert Flack took his “Feel Like Makin’ Love” to number one on Billboard, and his “Compared to What” became a much-covered Civil Rights Anthem. In the early- 60s, before his songwriting success, he was another solid R&B singer clad in sweaters on his album covers and made to cover the normal teeny-bopper R&B of the day that would play well in the supper clubs that paid the best in those early days.

But after McDaniels got involved in the fight for civil rights, his music took an interesting stylistic left turn, particularly with 1970’s Outlaw, back on vinyl in the U.S. for the first time for 50 years, thanks to this release from Real Gone. You’d be hard pressed to find and R&B album, from any year, that is this overtly polemic, this fiery, and this damn good. Original copies sell for $50+, as McDaniels’ Atlantic deal fell apart after his 1971 album--the equally adventurous Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse-- and he mostly pivoted to songwriting after. Listen to the album below:

And we round out our trio of recent crate-digger drops is Fanny, the self-tited debut from L.A. rock band Fanny, the first all-female rock band that played all their own instruments signed to a major label. The group was “discovered” by producer Richard Perry, who’d later go on to infamy as the producer of, among others, Nilsson Schmilsson, and they gained an underground audience that included David Bowie, who, in the ‘90s, would famously write a letter to Rolling Stone asking for Fanny to be remembered more fondly (you can get a podcast-length background on the album from this episode of Lost Notes) Fanny, their debut, didn’t chart, but in its Cream covers, and raucous garage-psychedlia, you can hear the strains of so many musical movements that came later, from punk (the Runaways sound like Fanny, 5 years later) to riotgrrrl.

Fanny were ultimate victims of being too soon for their specific sound; if they had come around even three years later, they might have been much bigger than beloved by the folks like David Bowie. Well, now they can get their appropriate due, as Fanny is out now on vinyl via Real Gone, and this colored edition we’re carrying. Listen to the album below:


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