Archive for August, 2008

30
Aug
08

Various – Motown Remixed Vol 1 & 2

Not everything goes well together.

I used to have a writing class sitting next to an odd girl with badly self cut bangs and Egyptian style eye make up who. often took to wearing a bright orange jumpsuit.  She asked me if I wanted to come to her art performance once.

“What kind of performance?’  I asked.

She explained that she would be stripping naked and throwing herself on broken light bulbs whilst screaming.

I declined.  She was acting particularly odd that day, swinging her head from side to side and squirming in her seat and I asked her if she was okay.

“Oh, yeah…” she trailed off, staring into space “I smoked crack and speed before I came to class.  I like the combination”

I laughed at first, before realizing that she wasn’t joking.  But for many years, most of the major record labels made a similar mistake.

It wasn’t until the nineties that the concept of the remix album appeared, probably because the whole concept arose from the newly emerged genres of Hip Hop and Electronic.  And like most things that are just getting started, there were a lot of mistakes made and a lot of crummy dance remixes made.  Most boiled down to the fact that the people picking the original source music and the remixers to go with it didn’t have a clue as to what they were doing.  This lasted until around 2002 , when like a revelation from above the first of the Verve Remixed series was released.

{youtube=http://youtu.be/lFT49eRr4f8]

What set it apart from similar projects was the pure genius of the formula.  Take timeless classic music, and match it up with producers who love it.  In an industry where taste is usually not looked upon favorably, this was something new, which brings us to the newest contestant in the remix world, “Motown Remixed Vol 1 & 2.”

The Motown Remixed Vol 1 was released to rave reviews in 2005, using the same surefire formula.  Why wouldn’t the hits of Motown be even more fucking awesome if given over to the same hip hop producers who had been listening to and sampling it for years? It was a great record and a staple for any party I played at the time.  But the hip hop/soul combo seemed almost too easy…which is why I was so blown away by Volume 2.

This time…Motown took a little trip to Miami.

Gone are the hip hop or house beats, replaced by the frenetic sound of salsa. And for music that was already made for parties, adding the latin element just seems to crank the energy up to 11.  The real standout here is the Miami Mix of the Jackson 5’s ‘Dancing Machine’ which you’ll find below.  It practically grabs you by the shoulders and kicks you ass onto the dance floor.

Other notable reworkings are the Jr Walker All Stars classic ‘Shotgun’ remixed by Los Amigos Invisibles, which really draws out the funk nicely, and the amazing version of Smokey Robinson’s ‘Being With You’… remixed by Eric Bodi Rivera and reunited with Smokey’s spanish language vocals (I had no idea he had done this until now), now called ‘Aqui Con Tigo.’ Pure magic.

Check out the official site HERE to listen to the whole album.  It’s really something else.

So if you like Motown (even if you’re a purist) and you like a little latin in your party, grab this for your collection.  It’s two great tastes that taste great together.

Amazon!

26
Aug
08

The Grateful Dead – American Beauty

Anyone ever watch “Freaks and Geeks?”

It was probably the best and most honest show about high school that I’ve ever seen. Less drama and more insane awkwardness than you could hope for, it was so good that the network canceled it after one season.

Because why wouldn’t they?

The people who made that decision are probably the same people who signed “According to Jim” to it’s third season.  But I digress…

The series finale of “Freaks” has the main character discovering the Grateful Dead, and one of the heads loans her “American Beauty.”  Her hippy guidance councilor sees her with it and says something like “Ahhhh….American Beauty.  I wish I’d never heard it, just so I could hear it again for the first time.”

And that kind of sums up the nostalgic feeling the album invokes.

Released at the end of 1970, the Dead’s fifth album ranks among their best along with “Workingman’s Dead.”  It also included one of the band’s biggest and most recognizable hits, ‘Truckin’…which I believe was only toppled by 1987’s “Touch of Grey.”  It was during that late 80’s resurgence that my generation was reintroduced to the magic of the Dead. ‘Ripple,’ another great song from “American Beauty,” was voted as our class song at our high school graduation.

There were a lot of stoners in my class.

But, the album was also great for a number of other reasons.  Recording had begun only a few months after “Workingman’s Dead” was completed and the band found themselves without their veteran sound crew.  The Dead had been scheduled to participate in the Medicine Ball Caravan Tour, but had to back out…the crew was still on board though and had to go on without them, taking producer Bob Matthews with them.  That’s when staff engineer Stephen Barncard stepped in to the empty producers seat and started making magic.

The album was also marked by a notable absence of guitar work by Jerry Garcia, who had switched over to the more country tinged feel of pedal steel guitar work that became a signature sound on the record.  The recording also took a historically awesome twist when Garcia ran into mandolinist and songwriter David Grisman at a baseball game and invited him to play on the record.

Such was the beginning of a musical partnership that would last until Garcia’s death in 1995.

All history aside though, “American Beauty” stands as a wonderful testament to what the Dead played best: American music, in all it’s varied glory.  From the opening strains of ‘Box of Rain’ to the closing tune of ‘Truckin,’ the album meanders like a country road leading to a barn dance.  It was the first time the concert staples ‘Sugar Magnolia’ and ‘Friend of the Devil’ were heard, and the last album to feature Micky Hart when he took a four year break from the band.

If you never heard an actual Dead album, this is the place to start.  If you have, it’s a good time to hear it again for the first time.  Buy it now!!!

(NOTE: And if you look at the title on the album by Kelly-Mouse Studios, it can also be read as “American Reality.”…Pretty cool!)

22
Aug
08

Los Hermanos Latinos – The 12″ Collection

Billy brought over Serato to my Loft the other day and it was every bit as awesome as I thought it could be…therefore cementing my desire to finally switch over to the digital realm of DJing.

To be honest, I’ve fought it as long as I could.

I was getting used to being stared at as I wheeled my gear into a gig and people saw only vinyl.

“Are you playing real records?” they’d ask.  And I’d nod.

“Wow…do they even make them anymore?” I’d nod again, then have to listen to some story about records they used to have while I ty to get everything wired.

But vinyl always seemed better to me.  Maybe it’s the sound quality, maybe it’s the substantial feel (better than CDs), but most of all it’s because there is music out there that simply doesn’t get released in any other format.

Usually these are just singles, remixes or blends…and eventually someone converts them to digital formats for DJ usage. But for the most part, they remain out of all public knowledge…and I find that kind of sad.

How does that help anyone?, let alone the music?

Take Los Hermanos Latinos for example.  I picked up the first of these 12″ singles a few years back and it instantly became a crate staple.  The kind of music that would guarantee dance floor booty-shaking no matter where you dropped it.  Since then, three more volumes have dropped and each one has been awesome in it’s own right.

Not much information is floating around about these records, which is usually how it goes in these cases, but they appear to be a side collaboration project between Will Holland (AKA Quantic) and Miles Cleret of Soundway Records.  The formula is simple.  Take a great latin tune (Mexican, Colombian, Cuban etc) that most of the English speaking world has no knowledge of, and pump it up with some stanky hip hop drums.

It’s simple, but it works.  In a lot of remix projects, the music gets so over worked that the original tune gets lost in the translation.  But with Will and Miles at the helm, the original tracks really shine through.

You can pick up the wax at some of the better online record shops (most seem to be sold out), or maybe some of your local record shops (support em!). But, I’ve looked around online, and aside from the vinyl no one appears to be selling the digital tracks…they do appear do be freely shared though!

Grab ’em HERE!

It may not count as a full album, but there are four other tracks out there for you to collect…if they really float your boat.   Put em on a mixtape, toss em on your iPod, bring em to work!

And you’re welcome.

19
Aug
08

DJ Frane – Electric Garden of Delights

The other day my sister gave me a Sirius Satellite radio.

She got it for my brother in-law, but he already had it in his car, and as the technology clearing house for my family, I stepped in and took it over.  I haven’t gotten around to setting it up yet, but it got me thinking about other radio options.

See, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about HD Radio and wondering if it really is better than Satellite radio…or even regular radio.  The big pro over Satellite is that you have no monthly fees.  The con is you have to buy a whole new radio to hear it…although it’s not really a con, but more of a tie because Satellite has that issue too.

So what it really come down to is content. Satellite obviously rules here because they have better content and no commercials, whereas regular radio just sucks.  And being that HD radio is run by regular radio, I have to figure it’s gonna suck too.

Suck whale balls, that is.

I have no idea when radio decided to suck. Obviously it was before my time, or during a portion of my time when I was busy with other things, but I wish I was at the meeting where all the radio bosses sat down and decided:

“What everyone wants is to hear the same 50-100 songs on loop all day!”  They would all loudly agree..or make agreeable grunting noises at least.  Then the discussion would turn to the DJs, and the bosses would all agree that they didn’t really need to be a part of the equation anymore.

“Why bother having a passionate and educated person choosing what songs people should hear?  We’ll choose the music, or at least let the record companies pay us to choose what they want, and all our DJs have to do it be mildly entertaining!” they’d say, clapping each other on the back and lighting cigars.  Congratulating themselves for inventing ‘crap radio.’

I think we’ve only tolerated it for so long because it’s free.  But, free or not, regular radio will most likely never return to the old format of making hits or breaking new talent.

That task is now left to the people…and the internet.

One such discovery was DJ Frane and his fantastic 2003 sophmore effort “Electric Garden of Delights: Beats to Blaze To Volume 2.” I have to give credit where credit is due here and bow to whomever used to do the Vice Magazine music page.  A few years back, they were doing their year-end music round up and all the dude could talk about was how awesome this album was.  I decided to take him at his word, and was glad I did.

If you like DJ Shadow or DJ Krush…or any kind of downtempo beatmaking (Blockhead, old Nightmares on Wax, Jon Kennedy) then this is for you.  See, for the genre, one has to wade through a lot of poseurs and fuck sticks before you come across anything of worth.

And DJ Frane is worth it.  The best part of writing this blog and researching the artists is that you learn new things. I learned that DJ Frane lives here in jolly old Los Angeles and sometime plays at Carbon in Culver City.  Good to know since it’s near my house.  He started mixing and DJing in his teens and dropped his first album “Frane’s Fantastic Boat Ride: Beats to Blaze To Volume 1” in 1999.  Apparently someone at Good Vibe records heard his work and suggested me make a whole album of it.

In a world where sample based music has mostly drifted away on currents of legal woes, Frane keeps it going with real artistry and a lot of live intrumentalization (He plays guitar and keys as well.)  He likes his stuff to be less samples and more sound collage and there fore gives your ears a nice workout.  It’s really good chill out and smoking music as the title implies…with lots of jazzy, psychedelic touches.  Try out my favorite ‘Synethisia’ to see what I mean.

After that, try the Black Sabbath sampling opening track…if you’re not hooked by then, then I can’t help you in this post.  But be on the lookout for his newest album “Journey to the Planet of the Birds.”

16
Aug
08

Backini – Threads

What the hell is wrong with people these days?

I went to an Obama fundraiser event the other day.  It was the first political event I’ve ever been too, but I mostly went because DJ Z-Trip was playing and they were giving away Sheperd Fairey prints. The big Obama “Hope” prints that you’ve probably seen around.

The first hundred folk to show up got one that was signed by the artist, and since I like Sheperd’s work I was down.

Problem was, so were a lot of other folk.

Turns out said posters were already fetching upwards of $500 on Ebay, so instead of a bunch of stoked music fans/ political supporters, you got a shitload of poseurs who showed up at noon to stand in line (I would have done the same, but I have a job.) These leeches got their posters and promptly left.

They didn’t stay for the show, they didn’t come to support, they came to make a buck…and something about that really pissed me off.

I might have been less annoyed if they had some extra posters about for the real fans, or even if they had some for sale.  But they didn’t…and all through the night I saw people walk up with their pre-appointed wrist bands grab their posters and then immediately walk off.

Wankers…

Or maybe I’m just jealous.

Back to the topic at hand, I give you the eclectic awesomeness that is Backini…and if you haven’t heard of him, then you aren’t alone.

The Brighton native’s real name is Rob Quickenden, and he’s a sound engineer as well as a crate digger of much renown.  While most sample based artists hunt for snippets of funk (Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow,) and others go for obscure dance music (The Avalanches,) Backini seems drawn towards the records that no one wants.

The kind of albums that even thrift stores tend to stuff into cardboard boxes and write “Free” on the side.

Backini’s creations are not meant as deep messages or strong statements, according to Rob, but rather what he calls “shallow, throw-away music.” This is due to his fascination with the world of pop music.  And pop is kind of what it is, if pop was constructed from old 78rpm swing music, kids records and other assorted jazz and easy listening records, but what the listener is left with is nothing short of wonderful.  With his engineering background, Rob deftly manages to bring all the sound together in ways that please and amaze.

After releasing a hand-full of acclaimed singles on the newly formed Lumenessence label (most of which can be found as a collection called Backini “Lumenessence” on some P2P networks), Backini released his first full length album in 2003 called “Threads.”

And it’s a really great little album.  The big hit that ended up on a lot of DJ playlists was the war time sampling ‘Company B-Boy,’ which at first listen will explain it’s appeal.  Then you get the moody, interweaving noir of ‘Go Go Killer’ and the spaced “Close Encounters” sampling on ‘Dreamer.’  But you know what?  The rest of the album is pretty damn satisfying as well.

Will Backini “Threads” change your life?  No, but it will live in your iPod, car stereo, or office computer for many days.

And you’ll look back and thank me.

Only $9 for a download on Amazon!

Bargain!

12
Aug
08

Digital Underground – Sex Packets

Whenever I end up DJing, I inevitably come across people who are dying to hear their favorite artist.  Of all these folk, none are more rabid than Tupac fans.

Not that I can blame them much.  I like Tupac too.  But for many years, before I started bringing Tupac’s Greatest Hits with me to every gig, I kept having conversations like this:

“Hey, do you have Tupac’s ‘How Do You Want it?'”

Me, pointing to my crates: “Ahh, sorry.  I didn’t bring any Tupac.”

“Crap.”

And then they’d walk away…only to return ten minutes later.

“Hey, you got any Tupac?”

Me: “Uh…no.  None has materialzed since you last asked me.”

You get asked a lot of ridiculous questions by ridiculous people when you DJ.

But what always got me about the Tupac fans was how many of them were completely ignorant of the fact that Tupac got the part playing the thug Bishop in “Juice” and then decided to act that way for the rest of his life.  Before that, he was just this incredibly goofy back up dancer for Digital Underground.

Group leader Greg “Shock G” Jacobs, also known as Humpty Hump,  got his start growing up in New York and South Florida before he brought his love of hip hop and 70’s funk to Oakland in the mid eighties.  He formed Digital Underground in 1987 with fellow members Money B, Piano  Man, 2Fly Eli, DJ Nu Stylez, Cleetus Mack, DJ Fuze and a slew of others including the earlier mentioned Tupac…and they were already a popular act when “Sex Packets” dropped.

Since then they have been touring for nearly twenty years straight.

Aside from the fact that they are my hometown boys (Oaktown!), Digital Underground represents an important part of the West Coast sound, as is apparent in their 1990 debut, “Sex Packets.”  A good portion of the end of my high school career were spent with this blaring out of my speakers.  And with good reason, with hits like ‘The Humpty Dance’ (which, incidentally can still get a party groovin,) ‘The Way We Swing,’ ‘Doowutchyalike’ and my personal gettin’ busy anthem ‘Freaks of the Industry’ how can you miss?  Their sound is just too infectious.

It’s interesting to note that it was released at the same time when Public Enemy’s star was on the rise with their release of the seminal “Fear of a Black Planet.” But Digital Underground decided to take an opposing road. Steering away from harder gangster trends in hip hop at the time, they strove to become a Funkadelic for a new generation, sampling heavily from said library and adorning his album covers with similar cartoon artwork.

And they had a lot of success with this formula too.

It’s kind of sad that the band has chosen to break up as of May of this year, but one can always look back at their humble beginnings and smile.  And when the dude a chump pump points a finger like a stump…tell him step off, I’m doin’ the Hump!

08
Aug
08

Black Kids – Wizard of Ahhhs

You know what sucks?

I mean aside from house fires, speeding tickets, and being mauled by bears.

Trying to stay on a diet.

Not to say I’m pushing maximum density or anything, I can still see my genitals and all, but I am heavier than I’d like and I have clothes that don’t fit as well as they did say…eight months ago. So I’m trying to buckle down and drop a few pounds.

The only obstacle seems to be my friends.

All I want to do is eat a healthy lunch, hit the gym for an hour, eat my Lean Cuisine and be done with it. But with my circle of friends it’s harder and harder to do so. Never mind the fact that I’m a partner in a Bar and Grill and therefore have access to free buffalo wings and burgers whenever I want. My friends always want to BBQ somewhere and always want to drink.

On Monday I was settling down when Billy called me (we were going over our new menu at the bar) and asked if I’d eaten. I told him I had and was taking it easy, but if he wanted to cook for himself on my grill he was welcome to.

The next thing I know, he shows up with four huge fresh sausages and two giant stuffed portobello mushrooms. Then, the next night he showed up with fresh foccacia and olive tapenade and two excellent cheeses as well as some wine!

I know this doesn’t sound like something to complain about, but fucking-A! How’s a man going to stay thin with shit like this going down on a nightly basis?

Well, the one thing I don’t have a problem doing is listening to The Black Kid’s album from last year, the highly acclaimed “Wizard of Ahhhs.” This is what you’d hear on the radio if radio wasn’t a repetitive wasteland where hit’s go to die.

Formed in early 2006 in Jacksonville Florida, the band consists of siblings Reggie and Ali Youngblood on guitar, keyboard and vocals; Kevin Snow on drums, Owen Holmes an bass and Dawn Watly on keyboard and vocals too. That’s a lot of vocals and keyboards!

At first the band did pretty well as an opening act for larger bands that toured through the area, but soon hit it big after a stunning performance at the Athens Popfest in Georgia that August. With a flurry of favorable reviews and coverage they released this EP for free download off their MySpace page soon after, showing once again that giving away music for free isn’t the career suicide that it was once accused of being.

Their sound is kind of indie, but as I’ve said before it’s more good than anything else. Catchy and uplifting. Check out the awesome ‘I’m Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You’ or my other favorite ‘I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again).’ I find it no wonder that they were picked up by Quest management who also manages the equally badass Arcade Fire. 

(I’ve heard a lot of peolpe hating on their music lately, but I take it as a backlash to the overhype they’ve been getting as of late. This is pop music.  What do you want from it anyway?)

They’ve recently released their first full length album “Partie Traumatic” which is not up for free download, but you can still find “Wizard” online at their MySpace page. I haven’t gotten a chance to check it out yet, but I figure it probably rules.

Go get it, people.




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