CD stocking stuffer guide

Chris Maynard Bopst is an eclectic musician and artist based on the East Coast who performed throughout the last 20 years in celebrated punk and experimental rock bands on SST, Discord and other labels (as well as having been a roommate of legendary Bad Brains singer H.R.). Having a few friends in Chico, he agreed to send us a sampler of favorite recordings as holiday gift ideas. Bopst currently resides and hosts an alternative AM radio program in Richmond, Va.

Super Afro Soul
Orlando Julius & His Modern Aces

(Afro Strut Records)

Nigeria’s premiere highbred of high life, Motown and down and dirty funk, Orlando Julius & His Modern Aces are a dance band without equal. Released in 1966 and now available for the first time outside of Africa, this potent fusion is an important snapshot of a time when African musicians were opening their sound to American black music influences. After spending some time in the United States working with Hugh Masekela, The Crusaders and Lamont Dozier, Orlando Julius returned home to his native Nigeria with the intent of putting together the quintessential high life. Super Afro Soul represented a totally new musical innovation and quickly became one of the country’s top-grossing records ever. If you are tired of the same old tried-and-true dance grooves, I strongly suggest picking up this long-forgotten classic.

On to the Show! The Original Little Rascals Music
The Beau Hunks

(Koch Screen Records)

The Beau Hunks describe themselves as a “documentary orchestra” serving the purpose of reconstructing and performing the works of unjustly forgotten composers. Leroy Shield, the man responsible for the unforgettable music in the 1930s serial The Little Rascals, as well as Laurel and Hardy, has his compositions brought back to life here by this remarkable Dutch orchestra after nearly 60 years of nonexistence. Painstakingly transcribed from the original Hal Roach movies and played and recorded on original instruments, On to the Show! presents Leroy Shield’s music with all its spry innocence intact. These 50 compositions were originally used to drown out the loud hum of primitive film projectors, but they stand on their own as mini-symphonies of unspoiled sentimentality. I have to say that this is one of my favorite recordings of all time by a group whose importance can’t be overstated.

Shine on Me
The Soul Stirrers featuring R.H. Harris

(Specialty Records)

During the Golden Age of Gospel Singing in the ‘40s and ‘50s, no other touring group had the reputation of electrifying church audiences like the Soul Stirrers, as this greatest-hits collection testifies. Led by the velvet-voiced R.H. Harris, the Soul Stirrers transformed traditional quartet singing into the intense, emotional style known today as hard gospel. This set brings together all of the group’s best known songs ("By & By Parts 1 & 2” and “Feel Like My Time Ain’t Long") as well as previously unreleased gems such as, “Everybody Ought to Love Their Soul” and “Jesus Hits Like An Atom Bomb.” Sam Cooke honed his craft with the Soul Stirrers for several years before leaving to pursue a highly successful solo career singing secular music, but the group continued to bring down the house wherever they went after his departure. If you know nothing about gospel singing, this must-have recording is a great place to start.

Blazing Arrow

(Quannum Records)

Blackalicious, helmed by Gift of Gab on the vocals and Chief Xcel manning the boards, are hip-hop’s latest reinvention of soul. Featuring a who’s who of the rap/hip-hop underground (Cut Chemist, Jaguar Wright, The Roots’ drummer ?uestLove, etc.), this recording is a laid-back, earnest affair without allowing itself to become slickly saccharine sweet. Xcel and Gab learn the lessons of 30 years of funk, soul, hip-hop and modern R&B, blending all these different styles into a unique sound. Songs such as the title track, "Blazing Arrow," and "Green Light: Now Begin" move fluidly, utilizing plush string arrangements and spirited female vocals to seduce the body and stimulate the mind. Blackalicious is a celebration of diversity that will have you yearning for the lazy days of summer. This is a breakout release from two of the Bay Area’s most promising hip-hop artists.