Monday, May 31, 2004

COVER ME!


Donovan Carless: Be Thankful For What You Got
From 7" (Impact, 1972)

Jack Willkins: Red Clay
From Windows (Mainstream, 1973)


A pair of covers today. The first is Donovan Carless' beautiful reggae version of William DeVaughn's soul classic "Be Thankful For What You Got." Plugola: this is off my Deep Covers CD (cop it!) but I'm sharing it with ya'll because it's just so sublime. Loooooove this song and this version of it.

Second is guitarist Jack Wilkins take on Freddie Hubbard's hit "Red Clay," taken from Wilkins' strangely scarce Windows album on Mainstream. I've always liked this Hubbard tune - the bassline is so memorable and funky in an understated way. Wilkins is pretty loyal actually...at some later point, I'll have to remember to post up Mark Murphy's vocalese version of "Red Clay." For now, hope you all enjoy these two songs.


Speaking of good covers, The Suburbs Are Killing Us is currently offering Val Bennett's "The Russians Are Coming," a fantastic rocksteady version of Dave Brubeck's classic "Take Five." Peep.


Sunday, May 30, 2004

ROLL WITH THE NEW(ER)



Encore: It's Time (Ode to Breakin' Atoms)
Mr. Lif: Trouble Shooting
Both from D-Tension: Contacts + Contracts (Brick, 2002)


This is neither old nor new exactly but either way, D-Tension's heavily snoozed-upon album from 2002 has two of my favorite hip-hop jawns from that year. "It's Time (Ode to Breakin' Atoms)" was on my Top 10 for that year, and was probably the #1 independent song, with a bullet while "Trouble Shooting" is one of my all-time favorite Mr. Lif tracks (which says a lot considering how much of his material I enjoy). It's just an added bonus that they both happen to be on the same album.

Encore's "It's Time" flaunts this amazing track - someone might describe it Kanye-esque with its sped-up vocals but that swinging sample is hyper than what Kanye typically hooks up. This song is actually mid-tempo but it feels like its jamming much faster because there's so much energy behind the beat. Encore drops that "gritty finesse," as good an oxymoron as any, and the hook is pure gold. With "Trouble Shooting," the blues guitar lick that powers the song sticks to ears immediately while the incoming bassline rolls heavier than 16 wheelers. Love Lif's narrative about dumb ass MCs messing up the show (who hasn't seen that shit go down?)


Saturday, May 29, 2004

THE REMIX WARS CONTINUE: ROOTS VS. ROOTS



The Roots: Distortion to Static (Black Thought Mix)
From 12" (Geffen, 1994)

The Roots: Silent Treatment (Beatminerz Remix)
From 12" (Geffen, 1995)


Two more of my favorite rap remixes from the 1990s. The first is Black Thought's jazzed out remix of the Roots' first hit single, "Distortion to Static." This initially came out on a promo-only 12" of "Distortion" remixes that, to this day, remains one of my favorite pieces in my collection. The hyper-than-a heart-attack rap fan in me likes the "Freestyle" mix of the song better, so much so that I put it on my Incognitos mix-CD. Nowadays though, I like the vibed-out cool-like-that flavor of Black Thought's mix. Very Sunday afternoon, you know?

This goes up against the Roots' "Silent Treatment" remix which had not one, not two, but THREE remixes included (man, I miss them days). They're actually all REALLY good and at some later point, I'll try to post up the other two remixes. However, I'm feeling the Beatminerz remix. It uses the same Blackbyrds' sample as GangStarr's "Say Your Prayers" and unlike the other two remixes, this one features new lyrics including one of my favorites from the group:
    I take it all in moderation, about my loving situation
    While patience is a virtue but I wasn't used to waiting
    I mentioned making moves without hesitation
    I want this physical and mental stimulation not the perpetration.
    The penetration of the center as I enter
    Intercourse keeping you warm through winter
    The source is the wood that won't splinter
    Enter dimentions of brain tension when Black Thought back bends ya.
.


Saturday, May 22, 2004

BLACK MOON VS. BLACK MOON



Black Moon: I Gotcha Opin remix
Black Moon: Buck 'Em Down remix
Both from respective 12"s (Nervous/Wreck, 1994)


This may be one of the most difficult debates ever to exist in hip-hop. More than Nas vs. Jay-Z. More than Bad Boy vs. Death Row. More than J.J. Fad vs. Salt N' Pepa.

Which Black Moon remix is better, "I Gotcha Opin" or "Buck 'Em Down"?

How can you choose between Barry White's "Playing Your Game" and Donald Byrd's "Wind Parade," both beautifully reworked by the Beatminerz? Seriously ya'll, this is like Bush/Gore '00 all over again, it just too close to call and will have to be taken to the Supreme Court of Public Opinion.

Shout out to Hua, aka the biggest Black Moon fan I know.




Erma Franklin: Piece of My Heart
From 7" (Shout, 1967) (also on Golden Classics)

William Bell: I Forgot To Be Your Lover
From 7" (Stax, 1968) (also on Best Of...)


No offense to Janis Joplin but f--- Janis Joplin. Her big hit "Piece of My Heart," was based off of Erma Franklin's amazing original version of the song but unlike JJ, Erma never found cult stardom (or death at the bottom of a bottle) and certainly never came remotely close to the fame that her sister, this lil gal named Aretha, enjoyed. Erma's the veritable definition of "unsung" (though she sang quite a bit).

"Piece of My Heart," is a soul sledgehammer. It opens innocously enough, with a clean piano melody and Erma keeps the tone even-keeled. But about eight bars in, when the back-up singers start sliding on, the song muscles up quick, hard and fast to a chorus that just destroys you. This is a love song for those who've been ripped apart by love yet Erma doesn't bemoan her condition - she's like a love masochist and there is something in the fury of her singing that nails you straight in the gut. An amazing song.

As for William Bell, this Stax crooner's "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" has been getting quite the contemporary workout lately, covered by Jaheim, sampled by Dilated Peoples, etc. As usual though, the OG is mo' sublime, thanks to that intro guitar melody, amplified with just the right tough of reverb. I love Stax and I've listened to many tracks from their catalog but this may be the best opening I've heard of anything from Stax/Volt. Then Bell drops in the vocals and the strings start-up: this is the best Al Green song that he never sang and the best Willie Mitchell production that he never made. It's absolutely haunting and frankly, makes you wish people would just leave it well-enough alone and let the master do his thing.


Monday, May 17, 2004

MISC - THE GOURDS HAVE THEIR DOG DAY; CAMRON BARKS AT NAS


The Gourds: Gin and Juice
From Gogitchyershinebox (Watermelon, 1998)


Camron: Camron Speaks
From DJ P-Cutta's Street Wars Vol 5 (2002)


For a gimmick song, the Gourds' cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" is a complete joy to listen to. Part of it is the familiarty of knowing the lyrics and hearing them presented in an unexpected fashion but really, Austin's Gourds just sound like they've having such a rollicking blast doing this song, their energy is infectious. Hip-hop purists might sniffle at this as being a mockery of their artform but I'd prefer to think of it as a tribute that transcends genre (and yeah, race too). Feel this.

As for "Camron Speaks," this was recorded during the height of the Jay-Z vs. Nas war and Killa Cam unleashes a Harlem World beatdown on God's Son. That's actually not even the best part (though his line about how Nas still rhyming when he's 48 was funny as hell) - when Cam starts challenging people to come rob him, he brags "I'm get another hole in each ear and I'm going to start rocking FOUR earrings at a time. And I'm going to come out dolo. Riot punk. Holla at your boy." Damn, he's gully.


Thursday, May 13, 2004



Julius Brockington and the Magic Force: This Feeling
From 7" (Burman, 1973)

(same): This Feeling (Freedom) Part 1
From 7" (Burman, 1974)


You're not seeing double - not exactly at least. "This Feeling," originally came out in 1973, a slick soul groover with a fantastic, catchy chorus - "hold on to...this...feeling...freedom...freedom." For some reason though, the single was popular enough to warrant a remix a year later in 1974. "This Feeling (Freedom) Part 1" retains the basics of the original arrangementl but now adds some whining synthesizers on top (very Dr. Dre circa The Chronic) and the feel is more aggressive than its progenitor. While I'm sure there were other remixes being done prior to this, I can't remember of a case where a 7" single got remixed onto 7" again. Go figure.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

RAP REMIXED



A Tribe Called Quest: Oh My God (Remix)
From "Oh My God" 12" (Jive, 1993)

Lord Finesse feat. Big L: Yes You May (Remix)
From "Party Over Here" 12" (Giant, 1992)


If there was a golden age of remixes in hip-hop, it likely began around 1987 with the Coldcut remix of Eric B and Rakim's "Paid In Full" and ended somewhere around 1995 with the remix of "One More Chance" by the Notorious B.I.G. In between there, remixes were de riguer for your average hip-hop 12"; some songs were virtually redefined by their remixes, from the Pete Rock remix of Public Enemy's "Shut 'Em Down," to De La Soul's Native Tongues posse cut, "Buddy" to Black Moon's "Buck 'Em Down." I still have found memories of the days where artists might hit you not with one remix but with two or three: anyone remember The Roots' "Silent Treatment" 12"?

Here are two of my favorites (out of many) from the early '90s. Tribe's "Oh My God" took a great song and gave it a remix of at least equal quality (though it's hard to exceed the OG). What I appreciate about the remix is how different it is: the mood is darker, more reflective compared to the happier, cheery feel of the original. The lyrics are the same but re-rhymed.

In terms of the "Yes You May" remix by Lord Finesse, starring Big L, this far exceeds the original (good as that was) from Finesse's Return of the Funkyman album. This is strictly some back-in-the-day-when-MCs-could-spit (what up JC!) as L and Finesse murder this song with some of the best braggadocio lyrics ever committed to tape. "I bend a rapper like a fender/I'm slender/but far from tender/killin' ni**as like a Clan member." or how about "brothers couldn't win against with me with their hardest tactics/I hang 'em and use their ass for target practice/if you think you can troop/go get your team or group/we can battle for some loot/shit." Unfuckwittable.

And the track? That minimalist, smoky drum loop plus the horns on the chorus? Siiiiick.


Monday, May 10, 2004

NOT LOOKING FOR TROUBLE BUT...



Pete Rock (w/ CL Smooth): Appreciate
From Soul Suvivor II (BBE, 2004)


Pete Rock and CL Smooth: In the House
From The Main Ingredient (Elektra, 1994)


Am I the only person who found this album be bland, boring and non-essential? "Appreciate" is fanfuckingtastic but that plus maybe one or two other songs is about all I would ever take with me. I'm not trying to hate on Pete, but his beats leave no impression on you whatsoever on the disc and his guest MCs are almost all forgettable, save for maybe Skillz and CL of course.

Maybe I'm just old and nostalgic, but I miss the days of "In the House," don't you?


Friday, May 07, 2004


Blossom Dearie: Sunday Afternoon
From Blossom Dearie Sings (Daffodil, 1974)


As a vocalist, I find Blossom Dearie to be a strange enigma. In a genre dominated by either sweet singers (i.e. Ella) or throaty growlers (i.e. Sarah Vaughn), Dearie slid in on this squekey voice that is entirely reminiscent of Betty Boop. There's no richness, no depth in her voice, it slides in high, stays there and seems to pretend that no one will notice that she sounds like she's freebasing helium. I'm not trying to cap, I just want to understand what her appeal was. "Sunday Afternoon" is from the first album relesaed on her own label and this is some beautiful Sunday afternoon jazz, if you know what I mean - just something you can throw on when it's nice outside and you're chilling at the crib.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Milton Nascimento: Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser & Saidas E Bandeiras No. 2
From Clube De Esquina (EMI, 1972)


The lovely and talented Julianne Shepherd of Cowboyz and Poodles made mention of this album recently and I was remembering the first time I heard it. Dave Tompkins had brought it back from Sao Paulo two years back. He dropped the needle on "Tudo Que" and I was immediately mesmerized. The song is amazing, probably one of the best Brazilian songs I know yet it doesn't give you, at all, an indication of what the rest of the album is like. As a double-disc, Clube De Esquina covers a huge range of musical styles and sounds, including what I seem to think are a lot of psychedelic influences ("Saidas" certainly seems to fall into that category, no?).


Monday, May 03, 2004


Dapele: Whose Blues & How Do You Love?
From Bop 'N Pop...And All that Jazz (Dapele, 1978)


I love random LPs like this. It looks instantly forgettable with its cheesy packaging and these photos of three white teenagers mugging for the camera on the back. After all, their main claim to fame includes having played at the Boston Public Library. It's the kind of album that people pass by in bargain bins all the time yet here are these three brothers, the oldest being 18, the youngest, 15, and they make a really solid jazz album with great straight-ahead songs like "Whose Blues" and decent ballads by eldest brother David Gruenbaum (Dapele is an amalgam of their names: DAvid, PEter, LEon). He's no Andy Bey or anything but he's at least a little better than Carrot Top aka John Stevens on American Idol on a song like "How Do You Love?" Just proving that you can find ANYTHING on the internet, brother Leon is still a jazz musican and has his site here: Samchillian.com.