14. 2020 Mixes

During the mixtape era, I was fully committed to keeping up with what was coming out and sharing what I was listening to with my friends. For a few years, I maintained a bimonthly pace, typically working with 90 minute cassettes. 60 minutes seemed too limited, and 120 seemed too much. Those longer tapes also had a tendency to break. I recently digitized more than a dozen of these collections, but unfortunately I don’t have the associated playlists. They were lost to various operating system updates, and I’m slowly working my way through them in an attempt to identify what is on each one. Sometimes it is a bit embarrassing to hear what I put in a mix, but such is life.

When I switched to CDs, it felt a waste to not use every bit of space, so I always tried to fill up the full 78 minutes or so. This format turned out to a be a convenient means of sharing control of the music on countless trips between Massachusetts and New York City. Each person got to play one CD and then it was somebody else’s turn. With the shift to digital players, this became trickier. Just how long was a playlist allowed to be? Or rather, how much of a playlist were you allowed to go through before you had to gracefully step aside? We tended to stick with the equivalent of one CD, but the calculation was always bound to be a little fuzzy.

During the CD era, I sent out my mixes at the end of the year, rather than bimonthly or quarterly. That gave me time to really think about what I had been listening to and reflect on what my moods and tastes had been. Last year, I finally relented and acknowledged that many people don’t have CD players or would rather stream music than deal with a disposable media. Rather than burning and mailing out CDs, I just sent folks a list of what was on my own archival copy. Now that copy itself seems pointless since I have the music and the playlists backed up in various hard drives. Freed from that limitation, I’m going to go back to the 90 minute standard for mixes. It just seems right.

So in the continuing spirit of sharing what I listened to during the past year, here are six 2020 mixes. And they are mixes, not just lists, so something will be lost in being limited to reading through and clicking on selected tracks rather than popping something into a tape deck or CD player. But such is life.

Mix One

Shake Daddy Shake     Eula Cooper

Bad Girl Pt. 1.     Lee Moses

What’s a Matter Baby (Is it Hurting You)     Timi Yuro

After Laughter Comes Tears                Wendy Rene

Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over               Alynda Segarra and the Special Men

Until You Came Along     Golden Smog

Pack Up     The Classics

Uptown Top Ranking     Althea and Donna

Bright Lights       Postcards

Grey Cell Green      Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

Roman Cars      Buffalo Tom

Glass Towns     The K’s

Get Out     The Popguns

Running for Your Life      Tommy Keene

Tibetan Pop Stars     Hop Along

Fuck Me Up     Pokey LeFarge

Khalid     Grant Hart

I Ain’t Got No/I Got Life     Nina Simone

Ladaney      Dur-Dur Band

Dieuleul-Dieuleul      Aby Ngana Diop

Professor 3      Professor Rhythm

Kala      Mbongwana Star

16 Shots     Vic Mensa

Pig Feet      Terrace Martin and Denzel Curry (feat. Kamasi Washington, G Perico and Daylyt)

Comments: As is typical, the mixes are a combination of some fairly newly released music (The K’s), some older songs that got stuck in my head for whatever reason (Ned’s Atomic Dustbin), and older songs I had never heard before (Professor Rhythm). I played The Popguns record more than anything else last year, and if I didn’t have a rule about putting more than one song by an artist in a mix nearly the whole LP would be here someplace. As you can see from the list, rock steady and music from various African countries were also in high rotation. Special note: I’d always been reasonably interested in Pokey LeFarge, but Fuck Me Up feels like a breakthrough in his sound to me. I’m interested to see where he goes now.

Mix Two

1951 Blues     Luther Huff

Which Side Are You On     The Almanac Singers

Long Lonesome Road     Ian and Sylvia

Fist City      Loretta Lynn

The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss     X

Never Wanted To Know     Bash and Pop

Stars Align     Belly

Doom or Destiny     Blondie

A Faint New World                envy

CatVMouse     Buffalo Tom

Break     Fugazi

Break to Broken     One Last Wish

International News                National Wake

Nterini     Fatoumata Diawara

Went to LA   Frances Quinlan

So Cold   The Popguns

Gold Dust    Duster

X y z a   Lau Nau

Ii Ooy Aniga     Iftin Band

Double Cross     King Tubby

Declaration of Rights     The Abyssinians

Whisper to Me     Cecile Campbell

Fancy Make Up     John Holt

Virgenes Del Sol   Manzanita

Rojo Lamento    Ranil

God’s Mighty Hand     Rev. Utah Smith

Be With Me Jesus    Angola Quartet

Doors Talk  Carola Baer

Comments: There is a lot of Guy Picciotto in these mixes, spread across three bands – One Last Wish, Happy Go Licky and Fugazi. Carola Baer’s backstory is wild. She made a single tape of her own music for a love interest, but they didn’t work out. Decades later, the tape somehow survived and made its way to a Goodwill, where somebody picked it up on a lark. They loved what they heard and tracked her down. She had become a teacher in England, rather than a musician, but agreed to let them put the tape out on an LP.

Mix Three

Stop Right Now (It’s Praying Time)   Bells of Joy

Joe Louis is a Fighting Man               Dixiaires

Hawaiian Boogie    Elmore James

Wait! Wait!      Jonathan Richman

O! To Behold     Grant Hart

Girl    Belly

Already Made Up Your Mind            Tommy Keene

Superbike   Jay Som

Over Your Head    The Popguns

Got A Feeling    The K’s

Arpeggiator    Fugazi

My Better Half   One Last Wish

Juicy J    No Thank You

Earth Moon Transit     Duster

Wrinkles                Postcards

See High the Hemlock Grows   Buffalo Tom

They School    Dead Prez

Black Balloons Reprise    Flying Lotus (feat. Denzel Curry)

Stay Sane                Pink Siifu

God’s With Me    Mike

Caligari    Lau Nau

Sirmaqabe   Iftin Band

Hada Jil    Aziza Brahmin

That’s How Much I Love You    Eula Cooper

When You Walk in the Room             Jackie DeShannon

I’m Sad About It      Lee Moses

Do What You Gotta Do     Nina Simone

Comments: Is there anything better than Do What You Gotta Do by Nina Simone? The gap between her vocals and the horrible noise that comes out of my mouth when I am invariably moved to sing along is the starkest in human history. For that reason, I find this song is best listened to by myself.

Mix Four

Waakaa Helaa    Fadumo Qassim and Shareero Band

Ewure Ile Komoyi Ode Haruna Ishola and His Apala Group

Wokunyeya   Gabelo

Mais Dis-Donc   Toite Sandja

Azali Mwasi Baponeli Ngai            Franco and L’O.K. Jazz

Bi Kameleou   Orchestra Volta-Jazz

Bonya    Fatoumata Diawara

Deep Six Saturday           Tommy Keene

Second Time Around   The Popguns

No Promise Have I Made   Grant Hart

Burning in the Undertow   One Last Wish

Five Corporations             Fugazi

Police State   Dead Prez

Solidarity Forever   The Almanac Singers

V’La L’Bon Vent    Ian and Sylvia

Malevitziotikos Horos    Evstratios Kalogeridou

La Parada   Manzanita

La Minga                 Ranil

Before We Sleep  Postcards

Row Fisherman Row   The Wailing Souls

Hurting Me   Alton Ellis

Crying All By Myself   Wendy Rene

Diamonds and Rust             Joan Baez

Double Trouble Blues   Kansas City Kitty

Black Cat Trail    Country Paul

Kaike Ena Sholio   A Kostis

 Comments: Throughout the year, I keep any new records I buy on a separate shelf. Only once the new year comes around do I integrate these records into my existing collection, adjusting genre sections as necessary. If this year is anything like last year, soon I may have enough records from Africa that I can sort some into country specific groupings. Benin and Ethiopia are the leading candidates at this point. Peru already has a spot apart from the rest of South America, since I really dig chicha (e.g., Ranil and Manzanita).

Mix Five

Manaram Sidevi   C Benjamin Fernando and HD Manuel

The Only Living Boy in New York   Buffalo Tom

Here in Heaven  The Popguns

Human Child   Belly

Crying Shame   Wild Strawberries

Mercenaries   National Wake

Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not             X

Torso Butter   Happy Go Licky

I’m A African   Dead Prez

Edine     Zenobia

Ya Banat Al Yemen           Shiran

Awnafin    Tamikrest

Tentenublo   Xabier Diaz and Adufeiras De Salitre

Ondas Del Lago  Manzanita

Licenciado   Ranil

Kanou Dan Yen   Fatoumata Diawara

Waves   Postcards

The Queen of Hearts   Duster

Elina     Lau Nau

Last Love               Wendy Rene

Wedding Bell Blues     The 5th Dimension

Something Beautiful     Margaret Mandolph

Leave My Man Alone   Kansas City Kitty

We Shall Not Be Moved  The Almanac Singers

Comments: The fifth mix in any year is a bit rougher in terms of flow. It is all still good stuff, but the sequencing is harder because you have less to work with.

Mix Six (Chill)

If I Never See You Anymore      Rev. Pearly Brown

I Know I Got Religion    Andy Mosely

All Aboard   Original Five Blind Boys

Juju for Grandma     Jujus

African Roots   King Tubby

Mido Yrima  Awa Poulo

Mouneïssa   Rokia Traoré

Bayne Lay Yidal   Asnakech Worku

Tezeta   Mulatu Astatke

Yadra   Souad Massi

Mama   Fatoumata Diawara

Bear Creek   Lankum

Kestrel   Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett

Dambura               Hamid Sakhizada

Tunti     Lau Nau

Kya Baat               Guy Buttery & Kanada Narahari

Titrwm Tatrwm    Llio Rhydderch

Zacataque     Cuartetto Iberia

Paghjelle                Corale Corse

Stratosphere    Duster

Comments: Traditionally, the sixth mix is for chilling. This one has a somber tinge to it, but I’m keeping it 100%. It was a somber year, at both the personal and societal level.

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