Archive for July, 2008

29
Jul
08

Various – The Super Breaks Series

Do you like samples?

Not the free ones that they hand out at Costco…even though they are delicious. But the one’s that are used to back up a good song (or a bad one.) Usually they are slices of old funk or soul, usually they are the best shit you never heard, and usually they are incredibly rare and hard to locate.

Some albums do you the favor of listing where their samples came from in their liner notes…but some don’t.  So, if you’re looking for the goods it wasn’t always easy.  At least it wasn’t until books like The Sampling Dictionary, or websites like The Hip Hop Directory came out.

I’ve always said a good compilation is the best bang you can get for your buck…aside from a good mixtape. And one of the better series that came out was the Super Breaks series on the BGP (Beat Goes Public) label.  They lay down a bread crumb trail that any aspiring beat head will find easy to follow.

In the late 80’s this subsidiary of Ace records got their hands on the virtual goldmine that was the Fantasy label and began sifting through their  vaults.  The results are nothing short of stunning.

You’ll find easily recognizable tunes like Jean Jaques Perrey’s ‘E.V.A.’ used by Gangstarr for ‘Just to Get a Rep,’ or the original Linda Lyndell version of ‘What a Man’ covered by En Vogue.  The rest you may not immediately recognize…but are good enough to make you want to find out who sampled them and for what.

Besides, who wouldn’t want a good copy of William De Vaughn’s seminal pimp classic ‘Be Thankful for What You Got’ or Rufus Thomas’ ‘The Breakdown (Part 2).’ Or the stomping good time tunes of The Fatback Band’s ‘Got to Learn How to Dance’ that I must have searched forever to find. Fans of good old soul and funk will find hits galore here.

Yup, the good folks at BGP have done good work, and not just with this series.  Be on the lookout for their other collections like the ‘Acid Jazz’ series by Giles Peterson and the smooth soul crooning of ‘Sweet Taste of Sin’ as well.

It’s all good baby!  Go get em HERE!!!

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22
Jul
08

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Deja Vu

The Police. Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Eagles…

All great bands.  All great musicians.  All hate some, if not all, of their band mates.

What is it about a band full of guys who can’t stand eachother that makes for such great music?  I guess there could be many reasons but, I’m gonna take volatility for $400, Alex.  Luckily, most of these bands have found a way to overcome this cycle of loathing.

It’s called money.  Big truckloads of cash can do a lot to ease the stress of mutual hatred.

At least it’s worked a lot lately with a bunch of older bands. Like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

In 1968 Buffalo Springfield was breaking up, and after finishing the final album.  Stephen Stills found himself with a lot of extra time on his hands.  David Crosby had been let go from the Byrds the previous year, and the two began jamming together.  Graham Nash, then with The Holies, had met Crosby when the Byrds toured the UK in 1966 and had maintained contact since.  Then, on one magical night at a party, Nash persuaded Crosby and Stills to perform on of their songs with Nash singing an improvisational harmony…and a legend was born.

As it turns out Graham was fed up with The Hollies and promptly quit to give this new group a try.  After a rejection from Apple Studios, the group was picked up by Atlantic thanks to the sure hand of the legendary Ahmet Ertegün, who was a huge Springfield fan. Because of their volatile musical histories, the band used their surnames as the bands new title to ensure that if any member left, the band would not continue without him.  After hammering out some contractual problems, the band headed to the Studio and recorded their self-titled first album, which was released in spring of 1969.

The album was a smash, but presented the band with a major problem.  With the exception of their drummer, Dallas Taylor, Stills had handled most of the intrumentalization himself.  It was an impressive feat, but if the band was to tour, they needed another guy.

That’s where Neil Young came in.

After some more contractual tweaking, Neil was added to the band and the moniker as well…and the tour began.  After a trial by fire at Woodstock and a near miss escape from the disaster at Altamont, CSNY released their new quartet back album, “Deja Vu” in March of 1970.  Brimming with supernatural harmonies and great music to back them up, the album quickly topped the charts with it’s mixture of pop, rock, country and roots music.

Hit’s like ‘Carry On’ and “Teach Your Children’ would help propel it to the top for years afterward and cement it a place in rock history.  Shortly after the tour the band imploded, although they still continue to tour and record from time to time.(read every few years)

Thank God for the money, eh?

Amazon!

17
Jul
08

Carol King – Tapestry

-Carol King?

Yeah, what of it?

-My mom listens to that crap! What are you smoking?

Crack…with a little speed sprinkled on top.  I call it speedballing!

-But, Carol King?!?!

Have you listened to the album?

-No, but…

Then shut up and take notes.

I too found it weird that I would like an album like this…until I listened to it and said: “Damn…that’s that shit, right there!” Hell, I would never have picked it up if I hadn’t been perusing the ‘Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time’ list, spotted it and gave it a spin.

More people should give that method a try.

I’ve always had a soft spot for singer/songwriters…or anyone who has a profession that has a slash in it.  I admire multi-taskers.  Born in Brooklyn, King learned piano at an early age before moving on to singing. While attending Queens college, she made some new musical friends like Neil Sedaka (who wrote “Oh! Carol” for her,) Paul Simon and Gerry Goffin.  It was her partnership with Gerry that would launch her career.

The two formed a partnership working as songwriters for Aldon Music, who was churning out hits all through the sixties.  Their first big hit was ‘Will You Love me Tomorrow?’by the Shirelles which topped the charts in 1961 and was later covered by folks like Dusty Springfield, Laura Branigan and The Four Seasons.   The two eventually married and had two daughters.

Over the course of their career, the two penned a slew of hits like ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ for the Monkees, ‘The Loco-Motion’ by Little Eva and ‘(You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ for Aretha Franklin.

As the sixties came to a close, King and Goffin grew apart and divorced, as King began to focus on her own singing career.  After a few failed albums( “Now That Everything’s Been Said” and “Writer”), and modest hits, she had yet to crack the top 10.

Until 1971, that is.

That’s when King released “Tapestry,” a piano fueled folksy collection of her early hits and new compositions.  You know she struck gold when “Tapestry” held the title of best selling pop solo album ever until it was de-throned by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” twelve years later.  The LP is chock full of wonderful singles like ‘I Feel The Earth Move,’ ‘It’s Too Late’ and ‘You’ve Got A Friend.’ And the vibe is warm and inviting…and sometimes rocking!

“Tapestry” Still remains a landmark album and a testament to the power of the singer/songwriter era of the early seventies.

And you don’t have to smoke crack to enjoy it.

Amazon!

14
Jul
08

G Love and Special Sauce – Coast to Coast Motel

I remember the first time I saw G Love and Special Sauce back in 1994.  Their self-titled debut album had just dropped, they were getting a lot of good press and the streets were hungry for what they were laying down.  We managed to get tickets to catch their show at the American Legion Hall on Highland, just south of the Hollywood Bowl.

After getting over my initial shock at what a broad spectrum of Angeleno’s had shown up for the show,  and being a little pissed that my key chain pocket knife had been confiscated at the door, the band pretty much proceeded to blow my mind. I’ve seen a lot of shows in my day…and only a very few rank up there in the “Freakin’ Amazing” category…but this was one of them.  The energy in the room that night was unparallelled.

I got on the horn the next morning to alert my friends in the Bay Area of what was coming, exclaiming:

“G Love is coming!!!  Get tickets now!!!”

They had no idea what I was talking about, or who G Love was…but I gave them my personal musical guarantee (I don’t give that out very often) that their money and time would be well spent… after which, they all agreed that I had been correct on all counts.

Because G Love puts on a helluva show.

The band consists of G Love, (a Philadelphia native whose real name is Garrett Dutton III) on harmonica, vocals and guitar; Jimmy “Jazz” Prescott on stand up bass, and Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens on drums.  Their sound hovers in a twilight area where blues, hip hop, folk and jazz all combine into an entirely new animal.  And after their audacious debut, it was thought they might be the second coming.

The following year, the band had gone to New Orleans to record the follow up album titled “Coast to Coast Motel,” and when it was released it fell flat.

I was puzzled…and confused.

I would read the bad reviews, go back and listen to the album again.  Were they listening to the same album I was?  What the hell was going on?  Where did my drink go?  A few people liked the LP, but it seemed to get no press.  I would drop it at parties and people loved it, but none seemed to know about it.  It made no sense that an album this good had pretty much gone unnoticed.  WTF?!?

Even more confusing was the almost complete absense of any of these songs from G Love’s live show.  I collected his live tapes for a while and you were hard pressed to find any “Coast to Coast” material on any of them.  Did he really want to sweep this under the rug?  I never got to ask him.

The band had matured in sound, pulling more from New Orleans funk and folk roots while still retaining their original hybrid aesthetic.  The songs like ‘Kiss and Tell,’ ‘Soda Pop’ and ‘Sweet Sugar Mama’ are literally dripping with soul and a laid back good time funk that catches you off guard.  And the New Orleans vibe pours out so think, you’d think you were at Mardi Gras.

Once again, the critics missed the boat on this one.

But now you don’t have to.

Cheap on Amazon!

11
Jul
08

DJ Spinbad – Rock the Casbah

Eleven years ago, I had no idea what a real mixtape was, at least not in a way that didn’t entail making a tape full of songs that you like to give to a friend…or a girl…or a girlfriend.

Then came the internet boom, and I found myself stationed at a nice cushy graphics job.  One day I was walking past a programmer’s desk and saw him doing something odd.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Napster!”

“What’s Napster?”

“It’s a program that lets you download music from people on the web for free!”

“What Kind of music?”

“EVERYTHING!!! WHOO HOOOO!!!!”

So the next thing you know, I’m downloading away…and it’s even sanctioned by my company!

Needless to say I built up most of the original bulk of my digital collection in those heady days of the 1990’s.  But one day I came across something I hadn’t seen before. While searching for tracks by Cut Chemist, I found something called “Rare Equations” and it was, like, and hour long.  I wasn’t aware of any track by that name…or an album for that matter.

After a quick Google, I found out it was a mixtape; a professionally mixed compilation of music used by DJ’s as promo tools and give-aways.  After that I was hooked.   Now I have several hundred mixtapes, and even more live sets and radio sets.  The genre is great because it gives you stuff you want and stuff you need at the same time, all while making the delivery as fresh as possible.

I’ve often thought that all modern recorded music will one day be used in this fashion.  As a promotional tool to get people to come see you live.  And of all the people I want to see live, DJ Spinbad is at the top of my list. Spinbad, born Spencer Kitson, grew up in New York as a member of the infamous Cold Cutz Crew and can be heard on NY radio stations WWPR and WHTZ almost on the daily.  He also is one of the most prolific and collected mixtape makers in the world. (I own his entire collection)

In the mid-nineties, the mixtape game was kind of stale. As Spinbad puts it “A lot of the mixtapes that were coming out of New York at the time, were the Clue type of tapes, where things weren’t mixed together, there was no blending or scratching and they just shouted over the top. Basically they had only exclusive songs on DAT and they shouted over them. And I hated it, I couldn’t stand it and I wanted to do something that those people would absolutely despise.”

So what did he do?

He made an 80’s mixtape.  Originally done as a 15 minute joke, Spinbad showed it to fellow NY DJ, Jazzy Jeff, who thought it was awesome. With Jeff’s encouragement, Spinbad went back to the studio and finished the tape which, when it came out in 1995, looked like this:

Ahhh…remember cassettes?

Full of every corny 80’s song you can think of, Spinbad mixes them up in really cool ways and has a knack for dropping in 80’s movie and TV quotes.  Where else can you hear Chevy Chase shouting a line from “Vacation” only to have the track mix into The Go Gos ‘Vacation?’

Originally, only a few hundred copies were dropped off at Fatbeats NY, but the tape has been bootlegged more times that you can count and traveled around the world.  The CD version I have has a completely different cover than the one at the top of this page, and I’ve seen several legit and non-legit versions.  He has a sequel as well which is equally awesome on all counts.

If you see DJ Spinbad’s name on a mixtape, you can rest assured that your ears are in good hands.  And to keep the underground vibe going, download the fucker HERE! (right click, save as) Or just visit Spinbad’s site and have a look around his mixtape page.

Give it to a friend…or a girlfriend.

And check out the set list HERE!

08
Jul
08

The Postal Service – Give Up

 

I feel a bit biased putting this up. Mostly because I went to college with Jimmy.

Not to say Jimmy and I hung out exclusively or anything, but he was around the radio station group enough that I knew him. (go KXLU!)

Come to think of it, he probably wouldn’t remember me at all…even if you asked him at gunpoint.  And I never even knew he made music until this album came out and Farmer Dave said “That’s Jimmy Tamborello’s band…” in that dry monotone voice of his.

Regardless, The Postal Service “Give Up” definitely deserves a place on this blog no matter what my connection to the members are.  Even if I never knew any of them.

Turns out that while in collage, Jimmy started producing electronic music and soon was releasing stuff under the name Dntl.  In 2001 he was collaborating on a track called ‘(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan’ with Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie.  Since Ben was in Seattle and Jimmy in LA, they would work on the track individually then mail it to the other guy.  The single was so well received that it spawned a remix EP, and Ben and Jimmy decided to do a whole album that way, under the moniker of The Postal Service.

Jimmy wrote and produced the instrumentals in LA, then mailed them to Ben to add his vocals and edit in any way he saw fit. They brought in some nice guests like Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley, Jen Wood, and additional production from Death Cab’s Chris Walla who also added keyboard and piano.

I’m a huge fan of ‘We’ll Become Silhouettes’ and ‘Clark Gable,’ but the group will mostly be recognized for the ubiquitous ‘Such Great Heights’ which many will know from Garden State and the UPS commercials.

If you are familiar with Death Cab for Cutie, then I’ll have to let you know that this is much happier music then Ben usually does for them.  Full of amazing synth pop and great writing all around, the album goes down with a spoonful of sugar, but avoids being to sweet. Now that I think about it…I don’t even think synth pop is a good label. Nor electronic, or indie rock.

In fact,  I don’t think this music needs a label…

Unless that label is “Good Music.”

Amazon $9 download!

 

02
Jul
08

AC DC – Back In Black

Back in grade school I used to be a metal head.

Not to say that I had long hair or lots of bitchin concert shirts…I didn’t, but that’s all I listened to.

Def Leppard, Poison, ZZ Top, Pantera and Motley Crue…you get the picture.

Well all these memories came flooding back the other day when I discovered an old mixtape I made back then, appropriately titled “The Mofo Party Mix.”  I actually dumped all my old cassettes like three years ago because they were taking up space and I never listened to them…so that fact that I somehow missed this one was kind of a surprise, and a pleasant one at that.

Once again I could tear through the streets blasting ‘Slaughterhouse’ at full blast while pumping my fist and screaming.  I did notice that one band was represented more than the others on the tape…and that band was ACDC.

Back in 1980, ACDC was at a crossroads.  After spending several years touring and becoming one of the biggest rock bands in the world, their lead singer Bon Scott had died at the age of 33 after drinking too much and choking on his own vomit.  At least that has become the popular myth, the official cause of death was acute alcohol poisoning.  It was a sad way to go, but also an incredibly rock and roll way to go.  The group began discussing the idea of disbanding, but decided that Bon would have wanted the band to go on.

But how do you go on without your front man?

True, Angus Young is as much a front man as a lead guitarist can get, but how many bands have lost their lead, replaced him and had success at it?

Not many.

Luckily Angus remembered Bon telling him a story about one of the best singers he ever saw.  Brian Johnson of the band , Geordie.  Apparently, Bon caught the show where Brian was screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of a song, then dropped to the floor writhing and screaming. Then to top it off, some guys came out and wheeled him off stage.

It turned out Brian had severe appendicitis that night and it nearly burst as he was rushed to the hospital, but that’s not the point.  The point was that Bon had felt this guy had the right stuff.  He was brought in to audition, and a few days later he had the gig.

Primary recording began in the Bahamas at Compass Point Studios, as the band and their new singer worked to complete the album they has started with Bon. I was watching the VH-1 Behind the Music special on the album, and Brian talked about how hard it was to really get into the writing and to take over for such an established singer…but he apparently had some sort of vision of Bon Scott and after that was off and running.

Whether that is pure bullshit or not remains to be seen.

But when completed, “Back In Black” would become the band’s greatest album and one of the top selling albums worldwide. With hits like ‘Hells Bells,’ ‘Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution’ and ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ the album comes as solid as it gets.  This is an angry album for when you’re feeling good.  This is black coffee on your cornflakes.  This is what they were thinking of when they invented the electric guitar.

And the black cover?  Meant as a sign of mourning for Scott’s death, it ended up becoming one of the most iconic album covers of all time.

How people get along without this album baffles me.

It’s as fresh today as the day it was released.  Cheap on Amazon too!




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