Archive for October, 2008

31
Oct
08

Robin Thicke – Something Else

Well, we’re coming up on my favorite time of the year again.  I’ll be able to wear jackets soon, I’ll have an extra hour of sleep on Sunday, and soon the airwaves will be free of these incessant political ads.

I hate that fucking shit.

I rarely use my land line at home any more, and I never answer it because anyone who really needs to get a hold of me has my cell phone number.  So I was pretty surprised the other day to check it and find eight messages.  My first reaction was that maybe I had forgotten to pay a bill…or the Elks Lodge autodialer was on the fritz and called me eight times.  Wrong on both counts.

All eight were recorded political messages.  Why anyone thinks these things are effective is beyond me.  I just erased all of them without listening.  And while I don’t hate Robin Thicke and his fucking mind-blowingly awesome new album “Something Else,” I would certainly like to.

I mean, come on…look at him!  He looks like a million douchebags out there.  Pretty boy good looks, rich pimp of a dad, connections up the ass.  It’s almost a shame that he kicks so much ass.

Born in 1977 to actress Gloria Loring and actor Alan Thicke, Robin showed an interest in music from an early age…especially the sound of classic soul music.  It probably didn’t hurt that his father was a well known theme music composer and writer who wrote the theme songs to “Different Strokes,” “The Facts of Life” and a slew of popular game shows. So at 16 he decided to pursue music as a career and was soon to Interscope subsidiary Nu America recordings where he started writing songs for artists such as Mya, Usher and Marc Anthony as well as writing and co-producing his own album under the name Thicke.

The album, 2002’s “A Beautiful World” was released on the strength of it’s ‘Fifth of  Beethove’ sampling single ‘When I Get You Alone.’ But, without a strong second single and minuscule promotion, the album didn’t do very well.

At 28 he had his first Grammy for his work on Usher’s “Confessions.” He signed with The Neptunes Star Trak label and  started work on his sophomore effort “The Evolution of Robin Thicke.”  After building the hype with the first single ‘Wanna Love U Girl,’ released in 2005, the album was released a year later and eventually went platinum.  I love that album a lot, and had considered using it here, until I heard “something Else.”

While I enjoyed Robin’s previous work and his amazing retro sound, “Evolution” seems to be a lot like it’s title…an evolution towards something better.  With “Something Else,” it seems like the evolution is over and Robin Thicke has finally made it to where he was going. Whether he’s channeling Jimi and Curtis on ‘Hard On My Love,’ or Marvin on the smooth ‘Loverman’ Thicke looks back affectionately at the past while blasting into the future.  When my friend Sean played it for me in his car on the way to the Clippers game, I prayed the drive would take long enough for me to absorb the entire album without stopping.

It would be easy to dismiss his work as just a throwback sound-alike if he wasn’t such a great songwriter and producer.  The problem with most new soul and R&B artists is they tend to sound alike.  Reaching back to bygone hits, taking everything that made them great and making it his own…Robin pretty much just kills it here.

It really is that good, and with a range that swings from “getting busy” to “getting down” it’s as versatile as it is awesome.  Gets my vote for R&B album of the year.  No doubt.

I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

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29
Oct
08

Jive Bunny and The Mastermixers – The Album

Sorry I missed posting this last week, but I had a friend in town and we went out on Thursday night…till 2:30 in the morning.  At least that’s when I passed out.  Drew and Pete went home and drank Harvey Wallbangers till 4:30.

The point is that very little got done on Friday.

One of the hardest parts of DJing is the time constraint’s.  If you think about it, you have to be ready to do something awesome and delicate every three or four minutes…which leaves little time for conversations or anything else.

Like peeing for instance.

I once got stuck in a corner of a house party with about 150 people around my booth, and I was really considering turning around and peeing out the window the urge was so bad. Even though I had a track to throw on that was five and a half minutes long, it left me with only five and a half minutes to fight my way through the crowd, fight my way to the front of the bathroom line, pee and get back through the crowd to my booth.

It was a close one, but in the future I made sure to pack a good supply of medleys when I went to a gig.

Medley = Pee Pee time.

Drew has an awesome collection of records called “Stars On 45,” where they take all the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Fifties hits and have some sound-alike band re-record them into a seamless medley.  I’m not sure how many of these records they made, but I think they stopped around the eighties.  The last hurrah for this strange little genre came with the inception of “Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers: The Album.”

Truthfully, this is kind of a novelty record, but it’s exceptional in it’s selection and execution. Just listen to my favorite ‘Do You Wanna Rock’ above and see if your answer isn’t “Yes!”  Besides, Jive Bunny was the first ‘novelty” album to turn out three number one singles in a year. The idea started at the Mastermix DJ service in the UK, when Les Hemstock came up with the concept. The execution and management were left to the father son team of Andy and John Pickles.

Drawing from a large amount of original material instead of sound alike bands, the Pickles created a series of concise and elegantly designed medleys structured mainly around the Glenn Miller Big Band sound, like their hit ‘Swing The Mood’ but also dig deeply into fifties pop and classic rock as well.

When all the other DJs were digging for black music, Jive Bunny began to mine the depths of the pale face genre…and found something awesome.  It’s pretty easy to listen to it now and see where the techniques would eventually become mash-ups or B-More remixes. Either way, it’s a good little history lesson that shouldn’t be missed.

21
Oct
08

Darondo – Let My People Go

I’ve always been the guy who gets heavily into things, fully immerses himself in them, them drops them to move onto the next thing.  It’s not that I can’t commit, it’s just that I love so many things.

At one point I was really into animals.  I worked at a wildlife rehabilitation center and at home I had a gopher tortoise, a painted turtle, a cat, a dog, and a parakeet.  I was like Doctor fucking Doolittle.  Then, as I matured and realized how much I was missing out on by spending all my time with animals…I dropped it.  Just like that.

(I did not leave my animals to die BTW, they all died of old age…except for my tortoise who simply crawled away one day to live a life of fulfillment in the city I expect, and my parakeet who escaped through the garage one day, hopefully to rejoin his flock somewhere.)

I also used to be way into art. It was once regarded as a plain fact amongst my classmates that my friend Pete and I were going to be animators for Disney.  Looking back now, and realizing that we were basically aspiring to be the bottom of the pile, it seems pretty naive.  We might as well have aspired to be janitors.  But anyway, soon I was no longer carrying around scrap books full of sketches and drawings.  The same fate befell my coin collection, stamp collection and collection of Garbage Pail Kids (I still have all that shit in the attic though!)

Point is, my hobbies jump around a lot…just like Darondo.

After listening to the collection “Let My People Go,”it’s hard to believe he only released three 45’s in his short career.  Even after that, he considered his music a hobby and never looked back at a musical career that never was.  And it certainly might have been…especially when you listen to the title track ‘Let My People Go.’

Born William Puliam, Darondo was a Bay Area native who started playing in the seventies, releasing his three singles and playing four shows.  His final show, opening for the Godfather of Soul himself, ended with Darondo getting into his white Rolls Royce and (licence plate: Darondo) and drove home.  After that, no more music.

But that wasn’t the end of Darondo.

HE was soon traveling the world collecting all kinds of interesting artifacts, he became king of the early Bay Area cable scene putting out three shows a day, then went to work as a physical therapist.  He lived a high lifestyle that would eventually sap his resources, but in his words “I used to get my suits tailor made, one of a kind, like my rings. A player can’t have the same ring as someone else. Got my rings specially made with diamonds and stones. But in order to get yourself together you had to get away from all the fastness. I was driving around in a Rolls Royce, I was a fast young man.”

And who doesn’t need some custom pimp rings?

His recordings are highly sought after by collectors, especially after getting serious airplay from Gilles Peterson and props from John Mayer.  Mostly over his sound ‘Didn’t I?’ His sound is as hard to categorize as it is to get out of your head.  A heavy mix of R&B, soul, funk, latin and blues, Darondo could have been a superstar had he continued on that path, but soon he was chasing another dream…then another.

Luv ‘N Haight recently compiled the six songs from his singles and added three more unfinished tracks found in a box with some VHS copies of his cable show into a smart little reissue.  He recently has been working with San Francisco soul man Bing Ji Ling and says the experience has got him excited about music again, so keep your fingers crossed!

Don’t be left out on this one folks…you deserve better, and Darondo certainly delivers.

17
Oct
08

Young Holt Unlimited – On Stage

Welcome everyone to the 100th post here at Albums Everyone Should Own, I’m so glad you could make it! Did you remember to bring beer?

No?  Well, there’s still time to run to AM/PM.

You know, it was only seven months ago that I started this blog with a hope to not only fill the dead space during our off season, but to inform the general public of fucking awesome music that they need.  Along they way, I’ve tried to give props to the great albums out there that most people know about, but also to some albums that not everyone knows…records that may have slipped through the cracks.

So far, I think it’s going pretty well.

I’d like to take the time to thank those bloggers who have supported my cause, so shouts out to CorrinaCorrina, What The Deuce, And Ya Don’t Stop and The Musics Over for all the great linkage.  Come on down to my bar sometime and the drinks are on me.

But, I’d also like to take the time to thank you, the anonymous Internet reader for allowing me an audience.  If it weren’t for all the hits, I probably would have lost interest long ago and gone back to my other job…drinking until I can’t feel feelings.

So keep on visiting, and I’ll keep throwing up the bomb for all who care enough to dig for it. And speaking of digging, I dug up some dusty soul jazz grooves for you today by the name of Young-Holt Unlimited with their 1967 live release “On Stage.”

Drummer Isaac ‘Red” Holt and Bassist Eldee Young were a part of the famous Ramsey Lewis Trio in the early sixties where they had a hand in creating two of Lewis’s biggest hits of the day ‘The In Crowd’ and ‘Hang On Sloopy.’ In 1966, though, they left the group to pursue their own direction and hooked up with pianist Hysear Don Walker in 1966 to form The Young-Holt Trio.

Said trio only made one album, titled after their only hit ‘Wack Wack,’ after which Hysear left the group.  After a period with Ken Chaney on Piano, he was replaced by Floyd Morris and the group became Young-Holt Unlimited.  There seems to be some confusion as to when this happened, as all the information I’ve found says the name change didn’t happen until 1968, but our album “On Stage” was released in 1967 and clearly names the group as Young-Holt Unlimited…but then again does it really fucking matter?

No, but I’m a little hung over from celebrating, and it makes me testy.

(If you’ve heard of Young-Holt, it’s probably because of their famous backing track to the Barbara Acklin hit ‘Am I The Same Girl?’ Their arrangement was so hot that the group also released it as an instrumental called ‘Soulful Strut’ with Floyd’s piano replacing the vocals.)

I’ve always loved the soul jazz genre because it had a much smoother sound than the jazz funk era that was to come, and while it had a good run, I’ve always felt they could have dome more.  This is pretty self evident considering the raw energy captured in “On Stage.”  The recording captures more than the music, but also the feel of the famous Bohemian Cavern in which it was recorded …right down to the band’s banter with the audience and the screams of delight from the crowd. No track displays this better than the medley of ‘Wade In The Water/ Ain’t There Something That Money Can’t Buy,’ part of which you’ll hear above.

Truth be told, I’m not that thrilled with their version of Mellow Yellow, but the monster ‘Yon Gimme Thum’ that closes the set pretty much seals the deal for me anyways.

I got introduced to these guys in college and their Greatest Hits album was a staple of our pool room/bar/garage hangout for the three years that we had it.  This album is highly recommended to people who have hangouts and the folks that like to hang out in them.  Grab it HERE!

And next time bring beer.

15
Oct
08

Pump Up The Volume – OST

I find it kind of odd that people have grown nostalgic for the nineties and got a little tinge of loathing at the news that college kids are now having nineties parties. To me it just doesn’t seem that long ago that I was dressing grunge, listening to EMF, and enjoying the Clinton Administration with all their Lewisnky-ish antics.

Ah, those were the days.

So maybe I do miss it…except for Jesus Jones and Y2K mania. But if you want an excellent snapshot of the early nineties indie/alternative scene, you need look no further than the soundtrack to “Pump Up The Volume.”

First of all, let me explain that this was the movie that started the small fire in my soul than would, several years later, lead me to purchase my first  DJ set.  It’s like a superhero movie about pirate DJing, where an unpopular high school kid played by Christian Slater becomes an underground hero …fighting the system with his illegal pirate radio show of awesome tunes and anti-establishment invective. But aside from my awesome DJ set up, I have yet to get that all important radio transmitter and become the pirate sensation that I was always meant to be. And maybe also get to see Samantha Mathis’s breasts.
Sigh.

Yet, aside from the fact that the soundtrack was released in 1990, the selection of music has stood up incredibly well, probably due to the choice not to use the period pop music that so many other teen films of the era clung too. What you are left with is a moody, dark and twisted compilation of great and mysterious music music.  The compilation is sprinkled with some amazing covers such as the Henry Rollin’s and The Bad Brains cover of the MC5 classic ‘Kick Out The Jams,’ or the haunting cover of the Robert Johnson standard ‘Me and The Devil Blues’ by the Cowboy Junkies. Other strong tracks is the late eighties sound of Above The Law’s “Freedom of Speech,’ The Pixies ‘Wave of Mutilation’ and the smooth crooning of Ivan Neville’s ‘Why Can’t I Fall In Love.’

I won’t say that it’s a perfect soundtrack, as it does have it’s weak spots like the nearly un-listenable early Soundgarden’s ‘Heretic,’ which is the sonic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, and the goofy ‘Tale of The Twister’ by Chagall Guevara.  But still, they get points for even knowing about Soundgarden in 1990 and the goofiness is not unbearable.

But What really sets this soundtrack apart isn’t what music it includes as much as the music it leaves out.  A good handful of awesome tunes figure prominently in the film, yet were left off the album.  Used as the DJ’s opening track throughout the movie is Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows,’ yet the album only includes a Concrete Blonde cover of it.  It was a sad omission, but made me track down as much Leonard Cohen as I could find afterwards.

Also missing is Was Not Was ‘Hello, Dad, I’m in Jail’, which sets me laughing maniacally every time I hear it…and the frenetic ‘Weinerschnitzel’ by the Decendents.  It did take me years though, to locate the extremely rare Beastie Boy’s track called ‘The Scenario,’ as it was never released (WTF Beasties???) I’ve had a lot of fun collecting these songs and building the soundtrack out to be more complete.

What can I say? I’m a dork.

You can pick it up HERE for a pretty cheap price, and have your own 90’s party at home!

10
Oct
08

DJ Neil Armstrong – Original

A few years a go I got invited to a house party down by the beach and I was told to “just bring a crate of records” since I would be one of four or five DJs who would be playing.  Soon after arriving I discovered that there were no longer three other DJ’splaying, just me and this other kid with dreadlocks.

I wanted to drink so I let him go first.

All he played was progressive house…it was all he had with him, and from what could see, it was all he ever played.  He was really into it too, so I felt kind of bad for him because no one else at the party was.  He cleared the room fairly quickly, and soon realized that (A) he was alone  (B) no one wanted to hear his music and (C) he had nothing else to play.  At that point, his gig was pretty much over.

He was not “all city.”

There’s an old graffiti documentary where a kid explains “all city” in graffiti terms as the ability to not just paint walls, but also breakdance and DJ.  You couldn’t call yourself “all city” unless you had mastered all styles of the hip hop culture.  I have not mastered all styles, but at least I’m capable of mixing several genre’s of music.

The best all city DJ I’ve ever heard is DJ Neil Armstrong. This guy does it all from turntablism, beat matching and music selection…especially music selection since his taste covers everything from hip hop to pop, slow jams to hard rock.

But what he’s really known for are his mixtapes.

Neil grew up in New York City, where he honed his turntable skills in the early nineties and formed his world famous crew The Almighty 5th PLatoon.  He’s toured alongside hip hop greats like De La Soul and Wyclef Jean, but was also part of the Grammy nominated jazz group Russell Gunn and Ethnomusicology (who are great by the way.)

Some people make a mixtape and put very little into it, just playing a song then yelling over the transition (DJ Clue…cough, cough.) Or they just make a jumbled audio mess that you listen to once then turn into a coaster on your coffee table…I have a few of those.  But Neil’s work has been coming out for over ten years now and it still holds up.  Especially when you look at his first big mixtape, “Original.”

Neil, who often likes to work within the framework of themes, took a very simple concept of mixing great hip hop songs and the original songs they sampled and then proceeded to blow everyone’s mind with his mad knowledge and skills.  I picked it up at Fatbeats when it came out and it became a staple for bringing to parties for well over a year…who am I kidding, I still pull that shit out.  And that’s what draws you in about Neil’s work.  You can keep going back to it and it still seems fresh.   Don’t just take my word for it though!

After dropping “Original,” he did a sequel called “Original 2” before releasing a double disc mix of both tapes performed live. He then moved onto an epic love song series (Sweeet, Bittersweet, and Smoove) and his freaking awesome All Out King series that mixes all styles (Warmfuzzy, ExtraOrdinary, Filthy and Oscillate Wildly.)  Once you get a taste, you’ll pretty much be hooked and have to track all of them down. You can buy them HERE.  Support the man and all the good work he’s doing.

Give it up to the All Out King…and feel free to grab his newest free mix HERE!

07
Oct
08

Steely Dan – Aja

Remember when Chevy Chase was funny?  It seems like an age has gone by since it was true…and before his train wreck of a talk show sort of sealed his fate.

Not that I blame him, at the time they were giving out late night talk shows to just about anyone and only Conan survived the carnage. And it seems like he was only real funny when he was coked up, which is a shame. The man was Fletch for God’s sake!  And Clark Griswold, Dusty Bottoms and Ty Webb! He was like the Harrison Ford of smarmy comedy.  And man, did he do it well.  And aside from all that he used to be the drummer for Steely Dan.

True story.

Well, kind of…since they really weren’t called Steely Dan at the time. But I’m getting ahead of myself, and I don’t think you can blame Chevy for not staying with the band since the only two constants have always been Don Fagen and Walter Becker.  Everyone else has been pretty liquid.

Fagen and Becker met in 1967 at Bard College in New York and quickly formed a bond over their shared love of music…especially jazz. They began writing together and playing in local groups like The Bad Rock Group (AKA Leather Canary) where Chevy had a brief stint as their drummer.  I wonder what Chevy’s life would have been like had he just been Steely Dan’s drummer, but any attempt to imagine someone else playing Fletch makes me shiver with horror.

After a while playing cover songs and living like filthy beatniks, Fagen and Becker slowly drifted away from their friends…moving to Brooklyn to try and sell their songs.  Kenny Vance, who had an office in the same building and worked with his own group: Jay and the Americans, liked their material enough that he got them work doing the soundtrack to the overly long named Richard Pryor film “You’ve Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You’ll Lose That Beat.”

Yeah, I’ver never heard of that one either.

Apparently Becker and Fagen weren’t to thrilled by it either, but it was a paid gig.  The created a series of demos between 1968 and 1971, all of which don’t exist except in bootleg form (yay bootlegs!)  They had no success, and were soon touring with Jay and the Americans, where they built a reputation for their anti-social behavior.  They might have vanished into obscurity until a friend, Gary Katz, dragged them to LA to become staff writers for ABC Records.

The only problem was that Fagen and Becker’s stuff was too complex for the ABC roster, being that so much of it was built on jazz scales. Katz suggested they form a band, which they did and named it Steely Dan after a strap-on dildo from William Burroughs novel “Naked Lunch.”  They released “Can’t Buy A Thrill” in 1972 and their stock began rising.  With a knack for working with nothing but top notch studio musicians and a reputation for perfectionism beyond what anyone could believe, Steely Dan released an album a year until 1977, when “Aja” dropped.

What sets ‘Aja’ apart from the other works was it’s return to the thing Fagen and Becker loved most…jazz.  They brought in top names like Lee Ritenour and Wayne Shorter, and even Michael McDonald as backing vocals on the chart topping ‘Peg.’  But the album also includes such transcendent hits like ‘Black Cow,’ ‘Josie’ and ‘Deacon Blues.’  But what makes Steely Dan and “Aja” so great aren’t just the hits, but the sound. They sound like a seventies band, but at the same time not so much.  In a time when everything fit nicely into a particular genre, Steely Dan didn’t.  They made their own noise, and that’s what keeps them relevant today.

Unlike Chevy Chase.




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