Heat Rocks

Hosted by Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes, every episode of Heat Rocks invites a special guest to talk about a heat rock - a hot album, a scorching record. These are in-depth conversations about the albums that shape our lives.

Our guests include musicians, writers, and scholars and though we don't exclusively focus on any one genre, expect to hear about albums from the worlds of soul, hip-hop, funk, jazz, Latin and more.

New episodes every Thursday on Apple Podcasts or whatever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe to our website updates for exclusive bonus content (including extra interview segments, mini-episodes, etc.)

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EP107: Gerrick Kennedy on Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love" (1998)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Gerrick Kennedy

The Album: Whitney Houston My Love Is Your Love (1998)

What was initially supposed to be a greatest hits compilation ended up being a full-on album. Whitney got everyone on this record. Babyface, Kelly Price, Faith Evans, Missy, and even Mariah Carey, all came into the studio to help create a true heat rock; four times platinum, six Grammy nominations, and the Oscar for Best Original Song/

Writer and critic Gerrick Kennedy joins Oliver and Morgan in the studio to talk about Whitney's move to hip-hop, her growth as an artist from her last studio album, and how this record helped celebrate black womanhood in a way that was so rarely heard at that time.

More on Gerrick Kennedy

More on My Love Is Your Love

Show Tracklisting (all songs from My Love Is Your Love unless otherwise stated)

  • My Love Is Your Love
  • It's Not Right But It's Okay
  • Lauryn Hill: Ex-Factor
  • It's Not Right But It's Okay (Remix)
  • Aaliyah: Are You That Somebody
  • Brandy: Never Say Never
  • Brandy: The Boy Is Mine
  • If I Told You That
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Heartbreak Hotel (Live)
  • Get It Back
  • Total: Trippin'
  • Deborah Cox: Nobody's Supposed to Be Here
  • Whitney Houston: Tell Me No
  • Oh Yes
  • In My Business
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • I Learned From The Best
  • When You Believe
  • My Love Is Your Love
  • If I Told You That
  • Oh Yes
  • Get It Back
  • When You Believe
  • I Learned From The Best
  • Kelly Price: Secret Love
  • Deborah Cox: 2 Good 2 Be True
  • Missy Elliot: All N My Grill

 

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there.

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP106: Luz Mendoza on Nina Simone's "To Love Somebody" (1969)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Luz Mendoza

The Album: Nina Simone To Love Somebody (1969)

Nina Simone's discography is vast and full of true fire, but To Love Somebody often gets overlooked. Perhaps it's because it was released right after 'Nuff Said and Nina Simone and Piano, both fantastic albums in their own right. And although the album contained almost all covers (Revolution 1 and 2 were credited to Simone and Weldon Irvine), she found a way to make every single song truly her own.

Luz Mendoza of Y La Bamba joins Oliver and Morgan in the studio to discuss the chances Nina took on this album, the smaller, quieter moments in the music, and what Nina told us about herself throughout this LP. This is an episode you definitely do not want to miss.

More on Y La Bamba

More on To Love Somebody

Show Tracklisting (all songs from To Love unless indicated otherwise)

  • I Can't See Nobody
  • Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Released
  • I Shall Be Released
  • I Can't See Nobody
  • Y La Bamba: Octavio
  • The Times They Are A-Changin'
  • The Byrds: Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)
  • Turn, Turn, Turn, (To Everything There is a Season)
  • Revolution (Pt. 2)
  • Revolution (Pt. 1)
  • Revolution (Pt. 2)
  • Suzanne
  • Leonard Cohen: Suzanne
  • Bob Dylan: Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
  • Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
  • Bee Gees: To Love Somebody
  • To Love Somebody
  • Cosi Ti Amo
  • The Glory of Love
  • I Shall Be Released
  • Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
  • James Brown: September Song
  • Meshell Ndegeocello: Nite and Day
  • La Lupe: Fever

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts do it here!

EP105: Jason Woodbury on Karen Dalton's "In My Own Time" (1971)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Jason Woodbury

The Album: Karen Dalton In My Own Time (1971)

In My Own Time was the second and final studio album by Karen Dalton, a musician who preferred to stay out of the spotlight. She didn't enjoy much commercial success when she was here with us, but the impact she left on the world is immeasurable. Artists like Joanna Newsom, Nick Cave, and Bob Dylan have cited her as an influence (Dylan would even back her up on harmonica in live performances). Her unique voice, often compared to Billie Holiday, was a blend of bluesy, world-weary, and haunting, but warm.

Music writer James Woodbury joins Oliver and Morgan to discuss Karen's voice in the world of strangely captivating voices, the value of reissue labels, and Karen's interpretations of popular songs. Join us as we leave for the country and take a deep dive into this forgotten classic.

More on Jason Woodbury

More on In My Own Time

Show Tracklisting (all songs from In My Own Time unless indicated otherwise):

  • Take Me
  • Joanna Newsom: Sadie
  • Wall: Something on Your Mind
  • When a Man Loves a Woman
  • Laura Nyro & Labelle: Jimmy Mack
  • In My Own Dream
  • Esther Phillips: Home is Where the Hatred Is
  • Angela McCluskey: It's Been Done
  • Tiny Tim: Tiptoe Through the Tulips with Me
  • In A Station
  • Something On Your Mind
  • Take Me
  • George Jones & Tammy Wynette: Take Me
  • Something On Your Mind
  • One Night of Love
  • Same Old Man
  • Are You Leaving for the Country
  • When a Man Loves a Woman
  • Judee Still: Jesus was a Cross Maker
  • Valerie June: Workin' Woman Blues
  • Big Mama Thornton: Sweet Little Angel

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts do it here!

EP104: Jeff Chang on the "Wild Style" soundtrack (1983)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Jeff Chang

The Album: Wild Style soundtrack(1983)

Wild Style began as a low budget but ambitious film project, centered around Zoro, a young graffiti writer swashbuckling his way through the style wars of early ‘80s New York. Directed by Charlie Ahearn and starring Lee Quinones as Zoro, Wild Style would become more of a quasi-documentary of hip-hop’s on its cusp from South Bronx street culture into the global phenomenon we know today. Filled with MC, graffiti, DJ and b-boy performances from a host of now legends, Wild Style would inadvertently spread the hip-hop gospel to a generation of youth around the world, enraptured with how it depictions of an explosive, impossibly colorful subculture that few had laid eyes on outside of the five boroughs. Its soundtrack, overseen by Fab Five Freddy and Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, was largely built off an exclusive disc of original breakbeats that became the sound bed for various live performance scenes throughout the movie. Electric, dynamic and fly as hell, the Wild Style soundtrack helped capture the sound of early hip-hop’s energy and flair from A to motherf—-ng Z.

For a young Jeff Chang, growing up far away from the Bronx in Honolulu, Wild Style was like a secret cypher that he and his friends could pass around and decrypt. Long before the days of streaming video, if you didn’t catch a theatrical screening of this tiny, indie flick, you had to rely on nth generation bootleg dubs on VHS but as crappy as the images might have been, the inspiration was no less dimmed. This put Chang on the path to eventually become one of the most accomplished hip-hop critics in the formative ‘90s era, eventually culminating in his award winning Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (2005), which, among other things, digs deep into hip-hop’s earliest days preceding even the Wild Style era. He’s since followed that up with Who We Be: The Colorization of America (2014) and most recently, We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation (2016) which became the inspiration behind the digital video series of the same name which just debuted this year.

More on Jeff Chang

More on The Wild Style soundtrack

Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Wild Style soundtrack unless indicated otherwise):

  • Stoop Rap
  • Stoop Rap - Film Version
  • Cuckoo Clocking
  • Military Cut
  • Nas: The Genesis
  • Stoop Rap
  • Gang Star: DJ Premier In Deep Concentration
  • Gangbusters
  • Common: Gettin' Down At The Amphitheater
  • MC Battle at the Dixie
  • A Tribe Called Quest: Sucka N****
  • Fantastic Freaks at the Dixie
  • Public Enemy: Raise the Roof
  • Wild Style Lesson
  • MC Battle at the Dixie
  • Down By Law
  • Grandmaster Flash: Flash it to the Beat (Live)
  • Lisa Lee Wild Style deleted scene
  • T's Limo Ride
  • Double Trouble at the Amphitheater
  • Basketball Throwdown
  • Gangbusters
  • South Bronx Subway Rap
  • Subway Theme

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP103: Lee Fields on Sam Cooke's "Portrait Of A Legend" (2003)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lee Fields

The Album: Sam Cooke Portrait Of A Legend (2003)

Legendary soul singer Lee Fields (Daptone, Truth & Soul, Big Crown Records) stopped by Heat Rocks to discuss the 30 tracks compiled by ABKCO records on Sam Cooke, Portrait of A Legend, released in the summer of 2003. The album covers multi-genres including gospel, pop and soul - Sam's hits, during his storied 15 year career which ended tragically with his untimely death at 33. Referred to as, "the man who invented soul" Sam Cooke hummed and crooned his way into soul music's canon starting with three words: You Send Me .

Lee Fields' career began 50 years ago with the release of his first single on the Bedford label "Bewildered". Since then he's released dance tracks, recorded with The Expressions, had his music placed in shows like Atlanta and Dear White People, toured the country and has his songs remixed by some of the best.

He and Morgan discussed the gospel according to Sam Cooke, symbolism in A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke as a lyricist, Sam Cooke as a storyteller. A veteran soul singer in conversation about one of the architects of soul music It gets no better.

More on Lee Fields

More on Sam Cooke

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Portrait Of A Legend unless indicated otherwise):

  • Nothing Can Change This Love
  • Lee Fields & The Expressions: Honey Dove
  • Touch The Hem of His Garment
  • You Send Me
  • You Were Made For Me
  • Only Sixteen
  • Soul
  • Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers: The Last Mile of the Way
  • Little Red Rooster
  • Chain Gang
  • Cupid
  • Bring It On Home To Me
  • Nothing Can Change This Love
  • (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
  • Summertime
  • You Send Me
  • Sugar Dumpling
  • Muhammad Ali: The Gang's All Here
  • A Change Is Gonna Come
  • Aretha Franklin: A Change Is Gonna Come
  • Otis Redding: A Change Is Gonna Come
  • Touch The Hem Of His Garment
  • You Were Made For Me

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP102: Lorraine Ali on M.I.A.'s "Kala" (2007)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lorraine Ali

The Album: M.I.A. Kala (2007)

In 2005, when M.I.A. dropped onto the pop scene with her debut, Arular, heads weren’t quite ready. It was like she brought the full force of Global South dance culture in with her — gloriously bombastic — and the Sri Lankan/British singer/rapper simply didn’t sound like anyone else on the charts. For her follow-up, the idea on paper seemed smart: why not pair M.I.A. with one of the most innovative American producers of that era: Timbaland. Alas, in a post-9/11 world, Homeland Security deemed M.I.A. a threat to national security and refused to give her the necessary visa to come work in the U.S. Undaunted, M.I.A. and producer Switch jumped around the world, recording parts of what would eventually become Kala in cities across South America, Africa and Asia. The resulting masterpiece, propelled on the strength of the eventual mega-smash “Paper Planes,” all but established M.I.A. as a key voice in a different kind of new world order, one in which the borders of nationalism and colonialism were imploding and emergent movements and calls to action were part of that destabilization. As it turned out, M.I.A. didn’t need to come to the U.S. to help invade it with her sound.

Kala was the album pick of this week’s guest, Lorraine Ali who currently writes about television for the Los Angeles Times but also got her start as a music critic. As one of the few Muslim American culture critics out there, Lorraine connected heavily with who and what M.I.A. represented and during the course of our conversation, we got into what it was like to listen to Kala in the wake of the second Gulf War, burgeoning refugee crises and the shifting geo-political map in which the music of the Global South could be heard as a subversive force, bamboo bangas and all.

More on Lorraine Ali

More on Kala

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Kala unless indicated otherwise):

  • Paper Planes
  • M.I.A.: Galang
  • XR2
  • Come Around
  • Bird Flu
  • 20 Dollar
  • The Turn
  • Mango Pickle Down River
  • M.I.A.: Bad Girls
  • Boyz
  • World Town
  • Jimmy
  • Paper Planes
  • The Clash: Straight To Hell
  • Hussel
  • Bamboo Banga
  • Paper Planes
  • Diga Rhythm Band: Razooli
  • Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar: Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai Pyar

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP101: Allen Thayer on João Gilberto's "João Gilberto" (1973)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Allen Thayer

The Album: João Gilberto João Gilberto (1973)

Before the summer got away from us, we wanted to record one more episode for the season and we invited a guest to pick the perfect LP for the end of the summer. We were not disappointed...

João Gilberto was as integral to Brazil’s bossa nova movement as Ray Charles was to soul or Run DMC was to hip-hop; it’s impossible to imagine its sound and style without his touch. By 1973, Gilberto was largely living outside of Brazil and on a stint in the U.S, he rolled through New Jersey with just a single accompanying musician, percussionist Sonny Carr. Together, they crafted what’s considered a minimalist masterpiece of the genre, Gilberto’s equivalent to the Beatles’ White Album. Parts of it sound like a dream, others like a lullaby, but at the heart, it’s the soothing voice of Gilberto and his nimble guitar playing that anchors all of it.

Our guest Allen Thayer, aka The Ambassador, is no stranger to Brazilian music. Though he hails from the Pacific Northwest, he’s long been fascinated with south Atlantic sounds. Author of last year’s 33.3 book on Tim Maia's Racional Vol. 1 & 2, Thayer also hosts the weekly “Brazilian Beat” radio show on KMHD and you can find him spinning Brazilian grooves (amongst other tasty treats) in and around Portland on the regular when he’s not penning articles for Wax Poetics.

More on Allen Thayer

More on João Gilberto

Show Tracklisting (all songs from João Gilberto unless indicated otherwise):

  • É Preciso Perdoar
  • Eu Quero Um Samba
  • João Gilberto: Chega Se Saudade
  • Chet Baker: My Funny Valentine
  • Izaura
  • Elis Regina and Tom Jobim: Águas De Março
  • Águas De Março
  • Undiú
  • Gilberto Gil: Esotérico (Acustico) - Ao Vivo
  • Glucklich: To Be
  • Earth, Wind & Fire: Brazillian Rhyme
  • The Rolling Stones: Dance (pt 1)
  • Undiú
  • Valsa (Como São Lindos Os Youguis) (Bebel))
  • Na Baixa Do Sapateiro
  • É Preciso Perdoar
  • Águas De Março
  • Eu Vim Da Bahia
  • Falsa Baiana
  • Valsa (Como São Lindos Os Youguis) (Bebel)
  • Eu Quero Um Samba
  • Águas De Março
  • The Third Wave: Waves Lament
  • Caetano Veloso & Gal Costa: Avarandado
  • Sessa: Dez Total (Filhos de Gandhy)

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP100: 100th Episode Spectacular: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings' "100 Days 100 Nights" (2007)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks

The Album: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)

On the occasion of our 100th episode, we decided to devote a Host’s Choice episode to talking about the breakout 2007 album from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Coming out hot on the heels of Amy Winehouse’s best-selling Back to Black (2007) which featured the Dap-Kings horn section, 100 Days, 100 Nights made it clear who the queen (and kings) of the retro-soul sound was. As their third album, that latest LP showcased the group’s growing prowess as songwriters and Jones was in top form with a voice able to bring heft and spark to the group’s stylings on Southern soul, uptempo funk and deep gospel.

Morgan and Oliver are mostly excited to have made it to #100 and we wanted to thank all our listeners, guests and producers for their support of our show over its first two years. Here’s to 100 more!

More on 100 Days, 100 Nights

Show Tracklisting (all songs from 100 Days, 100 Nights unless indicated otherwise):

  • 100 Days, 100 Nights
  • Nobody's Baby
  • Amy Winehouse: He Can Only Hold Her
  • Solange: I Decided, Part 1
  • Raphael Saadiq: 100 Yard Dash
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: She Aint A Child No More
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: Stranded In Your Love
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: All Over Again
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: Cut That Line
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: Window Shopping
  • Amy Winehouse: You Know I'm No Good
  • The Poets of Rhythm: More Mess On My Thing
  • Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators: If This Ain't Love (Don't Know What Is)
  • Repercussions: A Gentle Kind of Love
  • Repercussions: Let's Do It Again
  • Alice Russell: Somebody's Gonna Love You
  • Mayer Hawthorne: Just Ain't Gonna Work Out
  • Durand Jones & the Indications: Can't Keep My Cool
  • Saun & Starr: Big Wheel
  • Keep On Looking
  • Let Them Knock
  • 100 Days, 100 Nights
  • Otis Day & The Knights: Shout
  • Tell Me
  • When The Other Foot Drops, Uncle
  • LeAndria Johnson: I Couldn't Have Done It
  • Answer Me
  • Thee Lakesiders: Parachute
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: All Over Again
  • James Ingram: One Hundred Ways

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP99: Raphael Saadiq on Earth, Wind & Fire's "That's The Way Of The World" (1975) + Remembering Nipsey Hussle

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Raphael Saadiq

The Album: Earth, Wind & Fire That's The Way Of The World (1975)

On March 15, 1975, Columbia Records released "That's The Way Of The World" the sixth studio album of Earth Wind & Fire, a band of 10 members who fused rock, jazz, funk and soul. The album sold five million units, and won a Grammy for the single "Shining Star" (Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group). Produced by Maurice White and Charles Stepney, the album focused on EWF's familiar themes, spirituality, oneness, love.

Oscar and Golden Globe nominated composer Raphael Saadiq joined Oliver and Morgan in studio to talk That's The Way of The World and all the things that made EWF iconic including, Philip Bailey's falsetto, Maurice White's mysticisms and drum heroics, Charles Stepney's production and the harmonies that caught his ear and his attention and the happy feelings the band's music inspired in his own musicianship as a youth growing up in Oakland.

You'll want to catch this one. Because Reasons.

And stay tuned after the interview for a special segment celebrating the life and music of Nipsey Hussel, who would have turned 34 this week. Rest in power, Nipsey.

More on Raphael Saadiq

More on That's The Way Of The World

Show Tracklisting (all songs from That's The Way Of The World unless indicated otherwise):

  • See The Light
  • Raphael Saadiq: So Ready
  • Earth, Wind & Fire: On Your Face
  • The Jacksons: Show You The Way To Go
  • Al Green: I'm Still In Love With You
  • B.B King: Heed My Warning
  • War: Why Can't We Be Friends
  • Rick James: Bustin' Out
  • 2 Men, A Drum Machine and A Trumpet: Tired of Getting Pushed Around
  • Funkadelic: (Not Just) Knee Deep
  • Earth, Wind & Fire: Love Music
  • Earth, Wind & Fire: Love's Holiday
  • Earth, Wind & Fire: Imagination
  • Earth, Wind & Fire: Yearnin' Learnin' (Live)
  • Minnie Ripperton: Les Fleur
  • Africano
  • Earth, Wind & Fire: Can't Let Go
  • All About Love (First Impression)
  • Shining Star
  • That's the Way of the World
  • Shining Star
  • Happy Feelin'
  • Reasons
  • Shirley Murdock: As We Lay
  • Erick Sermon: Stay Real
  • Earth, Wind & Fire: Boogie Wonderland
  • The Emotions: Don't Ask My Neighbors
  • Ramsey Lewis: Sun Goddess
  • The Randy Watson Experience & Bilal: Can't Hide Love
  • Nipsey Hussle: Hussle in the House
  • Nipsey Hussle: FOREVER ON SOME FLY SHIT
  • Nipsey Hussle: They Roll
  • Nipsey Hussle: Face the World
  • Nipsey Hussle: Shell Shocked
  • DJ Khaled: Higher

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP 98: Mark "Frosty" McNeill on Nina Simone's "It Is Finished" (1974)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Mark McNeill

The Album: Nina Simone It Is Finished (1974)

It Is Finished is an ominous title, least of all given where Nina Simone was in her personal life at the time. Much of the early ‘70s had seen the High Priestess of Soul escaping to Barbados, first to avoid a troubled marriage, then to avoid the IRS. But RCA Records lured her back to New York to tape a live show, much of which would go into It Is Finished alongside a few tracks from an earlier studio session. One of those vault cuts, “Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter” would become an unlikely hit on the funk/soul dance floor circuit but It Is Finished was far more than one-tracker, especially as Simone dipped into Afro-Caribbean spirituality via the (under-credited) participation of Exuma on much of this album. Our guest, Mark “Frosty” McNeill is the co-founder of the long-running Dublab internet (now terrestrial) radio station and together, we got deep into Nina’s public and personal tribulations of that era, how the album reflects a particular moment in black cultural identity and a spirited debate about Tina vs. Nina.

More on Mark McNeill

More on It Is Finished

Show Tracklisting (all songs from It Is Finished unless indicated otherwise):

  • Obeah Woman
  • Nina Simone: Wild Is The Wind
  • Nina Simone: See Line Woman (Masters at Work Remix)
  • To Love Somebody
  • Nina Simone: Revolution (Live at the Harlem Cultural Festival)
  • Mr. Bojangles
  • Kumbaya (earliest known recording)
  • Walter Hawkins: Come By Here Good Lord
  • Com' By H'Yere Good Lord
  • Exuma: Mama Loi, Papa Loi
  • Ike and Tina Turner: Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter
  • Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter
  • Let It Be Me
  • Elvis: Let It Be Me
  • I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl
  • Obeah Woman
  • Esther Phillips: Home is Where the Hatred Is
  • Ganga and Hess OST: Survival Drive
  • Exuma: Exuma, The Obeah Man

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!