Palo Congo by Sabu

Palo Congo by Sabu

Listening to this album is like attending a meeting of a secret society.  Or a cult.  Critics and record stores categorize it as latin jazz.  I wouldn't say that's not true.  But, I think it's more psychedelic than that classification would lead you to believe.  

Released by Blue Note in 1957, Palo Congo by Sabu Martinez contains none of the elements most commonly associated with psychedelic music.  There's no garage-y surf guitars or weird effect-filled instrumental passages.  What it does contain is a lot of drumming coated in a ton of reverb.  There are also vocals, whistles and other traditional instruments snuck in to keep the project from sounding entirely toneless.  There are songs included in this set—most notably the popular "El Cumbanchero." But a good 50% of what's here is pure manic, percussive energy without much melody at all and its ability to draw the listener into a trance is arguably the album's most impressive quality.

Palo Congo is an audacious debut from Martinez, a percussionist who had already developed a reputation as an expert sideman. Depending on your mood, it can serve as either a boost of caffeine or a sedative. It's rewarding to pay close attention to it, or to simply put it on as background music. In the huge catalog of Blue Note, this is truly a hidden treasure worth seeking out.



Teenage House Party by Sandy Nelson...I love this album cover. Look at that spread on the table!

Sandy Nelson is a famous drummer and bandleader of the early 60s whose name would be found prominently in the fictional "Encyclopedia of Surf Rock."  His drums can be heard on many hits including "To Know Him Is To Love Him" by The Teddy Bears, which is probably played on Sirius XM Radio at least twice per day.  As All Music Guide critic Richie Unterburger puts it, Nelson's recordings "might have helped inspire aspiring musicians as things to play along and learn with, if nothing else." Unterburger argues that legendary drummer Keith Moon was "no-doubt influenced" by Sandy Nelson's "reckless style." 

Released in 1963, Teenage House Party wasn't one of Sandy Nelson's most famous records, but it's a whole lot of fun.  Like many albums of the early 60s, House Party  is a short one, clocking it at around 27 minutes.  But in those 27 minutes are 12 very danceable rock 'n roll numbers.  Part of the kitsch of this record is the addition of overdubs of teens partying—quite conservatively, I might add—which definitely makes the record live up to it's title.  It's funny and kind of cute.  I like to picture the Peanuts characters in their early teens dancing to this record.  

Since this will be the only Sandy Nelson article I intend to write, I'm going to include a "best of" album with all his early hits, including the Top 10 hits "Teen Beat" and "Let There Be Drums."  

Teenage House Party by Sandy Nelson

The Very Best of Sandy Nelson