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CD Review: Gilles Peterson Digs America: Brownswood USA

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… as in “digs” through record crates (for those in the over 30 set like myself). Legendary British DJ Gilles Peterson‘s compilations and mixes are almost always dependable sources of not only “rare” but interesting “groove” music from across the stylistic spectrum. For the most part, this CD is no exception with 16 tracks culled from a record collection so large that Mr. Peterson has a seperate house for it (known as “Brownswood” according to the liner notes… which is not located in the U.S.A… but the albums/artists presented here are apparently all American… thus the title…I guess.)

These tracks are not “mixed” in any way, just compiled… several fade out but I imagine that’s because the source tracks do also. All are of 1960s-70s vintage and the sequencing is good, moving from soul/R&B-ish tunes through vocal-jazz-grooviness into psych-jazzy-pop toward disco-soul ending up with pseudo-african-mystical-jazz/pop with a bit of freak-funk-fusion along the way. Some common threads include a thing for piano-driven rhythms, jazz touches even on “pop” tracks, light orchestral instrumentation, flute solos, wordless vocals/chants/choruses, and (unfortunately) electric violin solos (on two back to back tracks… each of which I had to skip past at about the mid-point…)

Do any of these tracks qualify as “forgotten classics?” Not really. Some you’ll love, some you’ll like, and some are completely disposable. Will young club-goers enjoy this one? Probably not… Is this on the level of Peterson’s INCredible or Desert Island Mix? Not even close — this is more comparable to his Impressed series of rare UK jazz tracks. So… if you have an unquenchable thirst for (very) obscure vintage jazz/soul/funk/etc. tracks, be happy that Gilles shares his finds with us on CD compilations like this and enjoy the ride… short of spending a few months digging through the crates at Brownswood yourself, this is the next best thing.

(Extra credit points: there is interesting commentary for each track in the liner notes and many even include the album cover art. Nice work, Ubiquity!)

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