Tuesday, October 31, 2006

posted by O.W.

Ruby Andrews: Whatever It Takes To Please You + You Made a Believer Out of Me
From Black Ruby (Zodiac, 1972). Both also available on Just Loving You.

Ruby Andrews' two albums on Zodiac in the late '60s are easily some of the best, strong-armed soul recorded by any woman in the era. Both are pricey showpieces though Black Ruby tends to sell even higher than Everybody Saw You (personally, I think both are fantastic albums though I might have to give Black Ruby the nod for overall excellence).

Mississippi-born but Chicago-identified, Andrews had her share of hits though she never achieved marquee status. Interestingly enough, I didn't realize that Andrews was part of the Detroit-based Brothers of Soul (one of several female leads they worked with in the late '60s). The Brothers were also the team behind Zodiac and, as I recently learned at Ear Fuzz, they also recorded under the name, The Creations. (The Brothers of Soul's "I'd Be Grateful" is one of the Northern Soul singles that makes you understand why Northern Soul goes for beaucoup bucks).

In any case, the Brothers are responsible for the sound behind Andrews' Black Ruby and Everybody Saw You LPs and thus, deserve part of the credit for lacing her with some fantastic production: a rousing, energetic mix of mid-60s funk and soul that's a nice fit with Andrews' powerful vocals.

"Whatever It Takes To Please You" showcases all those elements, combined with a thick sound that draws powers off the horn and string sections but most of all, that driving bass that anchors the whole song. Don't sleep on that back-up singers other. This whole thing is just fantastic.

"You Made A Believer Out of Me" was actually off of Everybody Saw You originally but I guess it was so nice, they ended up using it twice. And indeed, I love this song enough to program it twice as well. If you missed it the first time, here's the rewind. (De La Soul fanatics might find this tune familiar as well).

I really want to emphasize that if you like either of these songs, seriously consider copping that Andrews/Zodiac comp I listed above - you can only imagine how good some of the other songs are in her catalog...these two here are simply first among equals.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 29, 2006

posted by O.W.

First of all, welcome to Soul Sides if you've never been here before. I'm assuming those who are visiting via today's New York Times article on the Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" are looking for the post on the song that appeared here last year: here you go.

I also assume, if you actually found your way here, you were able to do so through excellent google skills since the NYT, for all their touted fact-checking skills, managed to get our URL completely, absolutely wrong. No doubt, Mark Stanwyck, whoever you are, is enjoying a lot of traffic today despite the fact that his site is literally an empty template. Good god, it's a URL, not leaked intelligence about Iraqi's nuclear program. In any case, does this mean we get to be a "greenie"?

I greatly enjoyed Will's piece - the whole history behind "Apache" is such a remarkable tale about how a throwaway song became an anthem for an entire movement but I do have one, small nitpick. In the article, Will writes, "“Bongo Rock” is significant, however, for being one of the musical cornerstones of rap. While it’s hard to measure these things accurately, it is certainly one of the most sampled LP’s in history, if not the most sampled. Most every history-minded hip-hop D.J. has a copy..."

Well...not exactly. With all due respect to Will (who had an excellently researched and written piece otherwise)... what most hip-hop DJs have is a copy of "Apache" but not necessarily a copy of Bongo Rock. The song was what got bootlegged...by the early '80s, it was on at least three important sources: Paul Winley attributed the song to the "Arawalk All-Stars" and put it on 12" as well as one of his Super Disco Breaks series and of course, it was also on one of the Ultimate Beats and Breaks volumes. Between that trio of sources, no one ever really needed a copy of the Bongo Rock album and though I don't doubt many an interested DJ and collector has sought out the LP over the years, the LP always took a backseat to the song.

Likewise, "Apache" is a well-sampled song but in fact, there is some place where this sort of statistic is measured, however unscientifically: the-breaks.com. And what this reveals is that "Apache" barely makes the top 20 list. In contrast to the most sampled song of all-time, James Brown's "Funky Drummer," (182), "Apache" isn't nearly as popular (45). The reason: the "Apache" break is fantastic...a great, stand-alone breakbeat for dancers. It does not, in my opinion, translate as well as sample fodder. In those cases, you really want something that's cleaner, with more "open" space between kick and snare...this is why the Honey Drippers' "Impeach the President" is almost three times as better sampled than "Apache." With "Apache" what you hear is what you get: you can't really manipulate the "Apache" break unlike "Funky Drummer," "Sing a Simple Song," "Impeach the President," etc. It's those bongos - they're wonderful for the sense of polyrhythm but they also pack the break with a lot more sonic detail which can't be fiddled with easily.

Anyways, like I said, I'm being nitpicky but I think these distinctions are actually important to note.

Labels: ,

posted by O.W.

Lee Fields feat. the Expressions: Honey Dove
From 7" (Truth & Soul, 2006). Also available on Fallin' Off the Reel (CD)

El Michaels Affair: Ocho Rios + Behind the Blue Curtains
From Sounding Out the City (Truth & Soul, 2005)

Darondo: Such a Night
From Legs EP (Luv N Haight, 2006)

Spanky Wilson & The Quantic Soul Orchestra: I'm Thankful
From I'm Thankful (Ubiquity, 2006)

Yeah, I'm playing catch-up. Sometimes it's beez that way. Ask Nina.

All five of the above songs have come out in the last year or so (either on Luv N Haight/Ubiquity or Truth & Soul), all of them were releases I was "planning on getting to" but left on the backburner. Until now. If nothing else, they suggest that the opportunities for soul performers, raised on the aesthetics of yore but powering into the present - are as good as they have ever been. (See Nicole Willis if you need further proof).

I'm still not even sure if the Lee Fields/Expressions song is new or old (from what's been written, it sounds new but if you would have told me it was from 1969, I would have easily believed that too. Regardless, it is, in the parlance of Soul Strutters: (aka, "face-melting").

Seriously, it's really f***ing good. Easily one of the best soul songs I've heard in the last few years and by that I mean, new and old. It's on some, "hmmm...I wonder if I can license this for Soul Sides Vol. 3" goodness (yeah, I said Vol. 3. Which, would, of course, mean that Vol. 2 is already plotted. Ssssshhhh). In fact, I'm listening to it again as I type and all I can think is, "cotdamn, this is good."

Also on some really f***ing good level = El Michels Affair. Yeah, I know, that album came out last year but I didn't get to it until more recently and I'm simply marveling at how good their sound is. Definitely one of the strongest nuevo-funk efforts I've heard...reminds me of the Poets of Rhythm, not so much in their direct sound but in how adroitly they can shape their music to collide together a variety of styles and genres with it sounding perfectly organic. Case in point, "Ocho Rios," which is this unclassifiable song that sounds like the miscegenated product of a three-way affair between ranchera, Ethiopian jazz and Memphis soul. Ethio-tex-memph-mex. It's what's hot.

"Behind the Blue Curtains" also appears on that Fallin Off the Reel comp and I've seen it pop up on a few other blogs which were all more timely than I. I don't even know what to say now - I exhausted all my superlatives on the last song but this is deserving of whatever laudatory vocabulary you can come up with. In other words, it's also R.F.G.

The Darondo is a sweet treat: a previously unreleased session song from the early 1970s that Luv N Haight managed to recover. Melt into it - it such a velvet texture despite being a little lo-fi. The music is understated but it works beautifully with Darondo's distinctly plaintive voice, made all the more dreamy through the echo chamber. Call it spacy soul - it'll take you there.

Last but not least, it's the powerhouse pairing of Spanky Wilson and the Quantic Soul Orchestra. It's a great idea for collaboration, especially given how deft QSO can be with their chops. To be candid, I didn't find this overall album to be as adventurous as Willis' or Sharon Jones' last one but it's still a solid effort by both of these masters.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

posted by O.W.

Sugar Minott: Love Gonna Pack Up
From Sugar Minott at Studio One (Soul Jazz, 2004)

Shyam Brass Band: Dum Maro Dum
From Street Music Vol. 2 (?, ????)

What Cheer? Brigade: Dum Maro Dum
Live recording (2006)

Over the last few weeks, SS readers have been kind enough to send in songs that relate to posts we've had. Scott C. sent in the Sugar Minott version of the Persuaders' "Love Gonna Pack Up" - a beaut of a reggae-fied remake of the song.

A few weeks back, George L. of the What Cheer? Brigade sent me two different brass band versions of "Dum Maro Dum." The first is by India's Shyam Brass Band, the other by the Brigade themselves. Who knew the song was so popular? (Uh, apart from everyone who knew the song was so popular).

Thanks for sharing folks!

Friday, October 27, 2006

posted by O.W.

Gloria Lynne: If You Don't Get It Yourself + I'll Take You All the Way There
From Happy and In Love (Canyon, 1971)

I've been going through a short stack of records, looking for stuff to sell and I had put this Lynne on the shelf for consideration. I had originally picked it up for "If You Don't Get It Yourself," which I thought was a nice enough example of female funky soul but with more time, it just didn't sizzle as much as other records I had so I figured I could put this one up. However, I realized I had never really listened to the entire LP and in giving it that last shot, it became clear that I should have really given this a fuller session. It's not transcendentally good but it's also better than just a single-tracker.

Lynne is one of those mid-century singers who managed to dip into a few genres - gospel, jazz, pop, soul - but was never really at the top of the pack in any of them. She's best known as a jazz singer, especially in the 1960s, and by the time she had recorded this album for Canyon (her sole output for the imprint), she had heading towards a nadir in her career (her next major album wouldn't be until 5 years later and after that, it took over a dozen years before she was back in the studio). Not being that familiar with her catalog, I'd still surmise that Happy and In Love was probably a bit of aberration for someone who spent most of the previous decade doing jazz and torch songs. This is an unquestionably soul album and Lynne performs admirably in that capacity - hers isn't quite as powerful or rich as her colleagues but her training means she knows how to make the best use of what she has. She sounds a little like a rougher edged, less powerful Etta James which might be apt since "I'll Take You" was actually written by James' cousin Monk Higgins (undersung but prolific '60s-'80s blues and soul producer).

Even though I originally picked this up for the mid-tempo funk track, it's actually the ballads like "What Else Can I Do," "Dont' Tell Me How To Love You" and the second selection above, "I'll Take You All the Way There" that are the primary reason why I decided to keep it. Nice string arrangements by Art Freeman, a good rhythm section (anchored by Paul Humphrey) and a great, bluesy touch by Lynne add up well.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

posted by O.W.

The Persuaders: Love Gonna Pack Up
From Thin Line Between Love and Hate (Win and Lose, 1971)

Sly, Slick and Wicked: Love Gonna Pack Up
From 7" (Bad Boys, 197?)

It's not often that I consider a cover version to be superior than the original song. I love covers for the twist they put on the familiar but different doesn't equate to "better" most of the time. I'd make an exception here.

"Love Gonna Pack Up (And Walk Out On Us)" was the second single, following The Persuaders' huge hit, "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" and to be certain, it's a very good song the way the group performs it. However, what Sly, Slick and Wicked do with it is take out the electric guitar and replace it with keyboards instead and in softening up the edge of the song, it really brings out the sublime, sweet soul qualities of the song that, in my opinion, improves on the sound that The Persuaders' introduced. It's not a radically different song on the surface but listen to them side by side and it actually sounds like the Sly, Slick and Wicked's version would be the original and The Persuaders' is the cover. (The lower-fi quality of SSW's version doesn't hurt).

(Just to be clear too: There were two groups in 1970s named Sly, Slick and Wicked. One was from Cleveland and recorded for Paramount and People. The other (above) were from Los Angeles. Just to make things even more confusing, there was the soul group called The Lost Generation who had a decent hit in the same era with a song called "Sly, Slick and Wicked").


Monday, October 23, 2006

posted by O.W.

Nina Simone: I Loves You Porgy (1962)

People can rightfully argue over the racial politics of Gershwin's musical Porgy and Bess but I'll just put this out there: whatever "I Loves You Porgy" was meant to convey to Broadway audiences, once Nina Simone got her hands on it, it has, for me, become one of the most devastating performances of love and terror I've ever heard performed. The lyrics - "I loves you Porgy, don't let him take him, don't let him put his hands on me" - are about the relationship between Bess and her pimp, Crown but I inevitably always read an underlying reference back to slavery as well. Either way, this song, in Simone's hands, is unspeakably affecting in the same way I get around Billie Holiday performing "Strange Fruit" or Coltrane blowing the opening lines to "Alabama."

I had never seen this live version before (thanks to the Clutterer) and while I still like her original recorded version the best, just seeing Simone, so young and vibrant, is a blessing unto itself. Ella Fitzgerald, for many years, has been my favorite female vocalist (not to mention my daughter's namesake) but as I get older, I find a poignancy in Simone's career and character that resonates as richly as her voice.

By the way, not like I'm not the billionth person to say this but YouTube is simply incredible. I don't want to make light of the copyright controversies that plague the site (more so now that Google money has made it even more attractive for the litigious) but in terms of as a resource for finding these miracles of cultural moments formerly lost to the dustbin of history, it's really been one of the most amazing resources I've seen. I think now that we've crossed this threshold, we're never going back: even if YouTube gets shut down, there will almost certainly be others to take their place (just look at what happened post-Napster and Audiogalaxy...assuming you have a memory that goes back far enough to actually remember Napster and Audiogalaxy).


Sunday, October 22, 2006

posted by O.W.

Towa Tei: Technova
From Future Listening (Elektra, 1995)

A Tribe Called Quest: Find a Way
From The Love Movement (Jive, 1998)

Bonus Remix - Technova (O-Dubnova Edit)

For the longest time, all I really knew about "Technova" was that it was "that song by the Japanese guy in Deee-lite that ATCQ interpolated for "Find a Way" but I had never actually HEARD the song. (What's also incredibly embarrassing is that I always thought the female vocals on the original (interpolated into the chorus for Tribe) was Japanese but when I learned it was Bebel Gilberto, I realized: oh, that was probably Portuguese. Doh).

Once I actually heard it, I realized: wow, this is a really great tune. However, the version I had heard on a few mixes began with Gilberto's vocals done acapella and as you can hear on "Technova," there is no such acapella moment. Paul Nice finally hepped me to the source: "Dubnova" (also on the Future Listening album) has an acapella intro though, overall, I like the arrangement of "Technova" more...

...which lead me to create the "O-Dubnova Edit" - combining the best parts of both songs. A Soul Sides exclusive!

(By the way, random SS moment: I was in a Trader Joe's parking lot yesterday with my daughter when a stranger approached me and asked, "Excuse me, but are you Oliver Wang?" Turned out to be a Soul Sides fan. I'm just astounded people actually know what bloggers look like. I could get rolled on by the entire crews of both Music For Robots and Ear Fuzz and not realize it).

Labels: ,

Friday, October 20, 2006

posted by O.W.

Showband U.S.A.: Let Me Down Easy
From Una Linda Senorita (Hacienda, 1982)

10CC: The Worst Band in the World
From Sheet Music (UK Records, 1974)

Given that I buy a lot of records off of eBay...you always have to be wary of how things get pitched/marketed. It's tricky to try to pass off something that, in real life, may be rather mediocre or common as more brilliant or obscure than it actually is. I'm not saying this to hate on anyone: certainly, when I sell records, you want to find some comfortable middle between being honest but also sexing up the product a bit. Here's two recent examples that I saw on the 'Bay that I thought were rather humorous given how far the sellers went to really sell the albums in question.

First of all is this Showband U.S.A LP. The pitch (CAPS = in the original):
The reality: "The Fire I Fell" is not remotely a "stepper." More like a bland ballad. I did, however, actually enjoy "Let Me Down Easy" which definitely is on some modern soul tip but I think "killer" is far overstated. It's pleasant (and hey, I like pleasant).

A more hilarious example was for this 10CC record which was listed only as "J-DILLA ORIGINAL HIP-HOP SAMPLE FAT BREAKS"

The pitch:
    Secret record
    Original sample for "Workinonit" by J-Dilla on Donuts...
    Sampled by Jay Dee on his latest release on Stones Throw. Donuts. I don't think this record had been discovered yet .... Nice nice work by Jay-Dee but the original track is very nice too ... R.I.P J-Dilla !!!!!
The reality: Sheet Music is one of the more common 10CC albums out there. You can cop one for less than $10 in most cases, including online.

Remember: I'm not hating. I respect anyone's record hustle who is able to move so-so material at prices higher than the market would typically command. I don't feel like I got taken on the Showband LP personally. But the fact that someone could get over $25 for a 10CC LP (not to mention the $14 in shipping on top of that) is deserving of awe.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

posted by O.W.

Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators: No One's Gonna Love You + Soul Investigators Theme
From Keep Reachin' Up (Timmion, 2005)

You need this album. You just do.

I'd say - "I slept on this" - but in all fairness, even if the album came out in 2005, it's on a Swedish Finnish label that had limited U.S. distribution and it didn't hit my radar until Seattle's Light In the Attic picked it up (note: my radar = not that wide though). If you were already up on this from jump, then you're lucky enough to have been enjoying this for a minute. If you hadn't heard this album until now, then consider your day greatly improved by discovering an album that, as noted, you need.

I'm willing to go on record as saying that this among the best "nuevo-soul/funk" albums I've ever heard (a field that may seem small but actually covers a lot of ground including Sharon Jones, the Dap-Kings, The Whitehead Brothers, El Michels Affair, etc. What distinguishes it is how versatile both Willis and the S.I. are: there's a real attempt at covering a range of R&B eras/styles here - not just the JB/Marva Whitney/Lyn Collins era of the late '60s but there's nods to the pop sound of early '60s girl groups ("My Four Leaf Clover"), Brook Benton-esque crossover soul of the mid-60s ("A Perfect Kind of Love"), the lush, heavily produced style of '70s soul ("Feeling Free"), and a few tracks that I don't even know how to classify ("If This Ain't Love"). I don't think Willis has as strong a voice as someone like Jones but in terms of her ability to adapt to different styles, she does a fantastic job here and her songwriting also seems a step stronger.

The two songs I picked out are my favorites - both highlight the strength of the Soul Investigators chops as a band, especially their "Theme" which has this beautifully dreamy vibe to it but as good as that is, I'm even a bigger fan of "No One's Gonna Love You" which takes a great song and then pushes it up a notch with a chorus that's unexpected and for that reason, completely delightful.

Did I mention, you need this album? Yeah, ok.

Speaking of mind-blowing, I just posted this to Soul Sights, but fortheloveofgod, you have to check out this video of New Edition playing "Candy Girl". I n c r e d i b l e.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 16, 2006

posted by O.W.

Nina Simone: It Be's That Way Sometimes
From Silk & Soul (RCA, 1967)

You could run through the superlatives all day and you still wouldn't begin to capture the thrilling complexity of Nina Simone. One thing can be said categorically, however: Nina Simone was one of those rare talents who chose eclecticism over any single easy genre - possibly the most difficult path for an artist - and, moreover, it was a choice that she triumphed with, both commercially and artistically.

Such eclecticism depends on the right palette of material, of course. It also depends on a wide open emotional versatility. And, yes, Simone had that, too - whole warehouses full of it. She could croon an English folk ballad with tortured vulnerability, slap some joy back into even the moldiest jazz lyrics, or - in the case of "It Be's That Way Sometimes" - extract those choice bitter notes and polish them until they shined like metal. Written by her brother Sam Waymon, Simone seems to especially relish the ironic spirit of this composition; hard drums breaking like waves beneath her, she tears into the material with a ferocity that could've bent steel. She is practically screaming "IT BE'S THAT SOMETIMES" by the end of the song. Powerful stuff.

"It Be's That Way Sometimes" was the highlight of 1967's Silk & Soul, one of Simone's earliest albums for the RCA record label.  

--DJ Little Danny (Office Naps)

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 14, 2006

posted by O.W.

J.R. Bailey: After Hours + Love, Love, Love
From Just Me 'N' You (MAM, 1974)

Donny Hathaway: Love, Love, Love
From Extension of a Man (ATCO, 1973)

Work has me running ragged of late. By the time I get home everyday, I'm burnt the hell out and personally, I feel like my posting ideas have been rather dull. If no one noticed, all the better, but I know for myself, when posting up Youtube videos counts as as a "post," it just means I'm too fried to put in more work. Now that I'm on a mini-break this weekend, visiting family, I feel a bit more energetic and decided to come correct with a post that's long overdue.

J.R. Bailey is one of those soul artists who never really made a name for themselves in a major way yet were important within the R&B scene and was an unsung talent in his own right. I first learned about Bailey when I was listening through Gilles Peterson's superb Digs America: Brownswood U.S.A. comp and came upon Peterson's inclusion of Bailey's title track to his 1974 debut album. The Bailey is one of the standouts on an already excellent comp and it made me interested in learning more.

As it turns out, Bailey's career began in the doo wop era with the group, The Cadillacs and apart from his own solo career, he was probably better known for his songwriting. His biggest hit was "Everybody Plays the Fool" which I'm sure many of you are familiar with. Bailey's Just Me 'N' You was not a huge seller for him and as such, its relative rarity has made it fairly expensive but trust me: it's worth every penny.

Compared to other one or two-trackers, Just Me 'N' You is notably consistent across the entire LP. In fact, the title track, good as it is, isn't even my favorite song. Instead, I'm a huge fan of the album's opening song, one of Bailey's solo hits, "After Hours" (interestingly enough, there's a cover of it included on Chairman Mao's excellent Run For Cover mix-CD). Released on single, the song is actually part of a 2-track medley on the LP (along with "Heaven On Earth") and from jump you can hear all the dynamics that makes this song - and album - such a profound joy. The production and arrangements are lush and complex but not overcooked - it's really one of the best sounding soul albums from this era I know, especially for something that didn't come out on Philly Int'l or Motown. And Bailey has a great voice - it's not as nuanced or rich as some of the giants of the era but bottomline, he sounds good.

Also on the LP is Bailey singing a song he had previously written for Donny Hathaway, "Love, Love, Love." I included Donny's version here as a point of comparison - Donny might have the better voice but I actually think these two songs run neck-in-neck in quality (I find Bailey's arrangement more engaging and he does a great job in nailing his own song even though he knew Donny's was already out there).


Friday, October 13, 2006

posted by O.W.

Makeba and Scratch: Mama Feelgood
From Mental Fitness (Nuff Said, 1991)

Look - I swear to god I'll stop updating stuff related to Jay-Z and what not, but I couldn't help but put this one up since I had just linked to this. Besides, I doubt too many of you have ever heard much from Makeba and Scratch (save you random rap fiends) and the minute this dropped over my speakers, I started laughing to myself. All this "who bit who" chatter needs to chill. Rap recycles - that's how it do. Question becomes who does the best with the materials at hand.

(Credit: Bust the Facts)

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 12, 2006

posted by O.W.

D-Nice: Call Me D-Nice (1992)

Hey, if we're going to recycle old beats, how come no one's messed with this since the Human TR-808 dropped it? (Is it because the Turtles will sue your ass quick?)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

posted by O.W.

The Johnny Otis Show: Mojo Woman + Watts Breakaway
From Cuttin' Up (Epic, 1970)

With no disrespect intended, it's extraordinary that Johnny Otis is still around. Not just because he's pushing into his mid-80s but mostly because he's seen and done so much that it's enough for several lifetimes. I won't bother with an extended bio (you can find that here) but suffice to say, he's been a pivotal figure in the development of R&B on the West Coast.

Cuttin' Up finds him at this moment in the early 1970s where he's trying to stay on top of the changes in the R&B world, namely by incorporating more funk into this soul and blues-driven tunes. Though he didn't have a mass of LPs reflecting this sound, it wasn't a total aberration either (look for his x-rated, humor/exploitation album, under the name "Snatch and the Poontangs"). His son, enigmatic blues/rock guitarist Shuggie Otis, plays on this album and if you're familiar with any of Shuggie's work, you know he can get down with some funky stuff.

"Mojo Woman" has long been a favorite of mine - I'm a big fan of funky blues. The two styles obviously mesh well together based on heritage only but when a set of players can pull off the blend, it sounds exceptional (see Lowell Fulsom's "Tramp" for another example). "Watts Breakaway" is a funked-up take on a more conventional '60s R&B arrangement but the addition of the drum breaks and the peppery horn section kicks it up a proverbial notch.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

posted by O.W.

Jay-Z: Show Me What You Got
Kingdom Come (Def Jam, 2006)

Afro Lafayette Band:
Darkest Light
Malik (Makossa, 1976)

Johnny Pate:
Shaft in Africa
Shaft In Africa (ABC, 1973)

So...on second thought, this Jay-Z song is getting weaker with each repeated listen. Here's why:

1) Lyrics = weak. Not as bad as some of his worst stuff from the past year (i.e. anything he and Beyonce appeared on) but why drop a "hey mami" track when this is your comeback? Take some notes from LL Cool J circa Mama Said Knock You Out or KRS-ONE circa Return of the Boom Bap. This is supposed to be Jordan's return after his White Sox stint, not the Wizard years. Step yer game up.

2) Just Blaze's track just isn't up to where it should be. Take a listen to the two source songs: either is incredibly more superior than "Show Me What You Got" that it's kind of embarrassing putting them back to back. Contrast with Kanye West's "Touch the Sky" - I never loved that song but if you compare it with the original Impressions' song it samples from, at least Blaze captured the essence of what made the original so lovely. Blaze, I think, takes a major misstep in using the Afro Lafayette horns - it sounds slightly off, either in rhythm or key or both and regardless, becomes a distraction rather than an asset. The Shaft in Africa is hard to mess up and had the song focused more on accentuating that loop, I think it would have done itself a greater service. I'm a big fan of Just Blaze but this felt surprisingly lazy to me. Contrast this with what he did for Ghostface earlier in the year: forced the abandon sampling, he pulled together a live performance version of the same song and made it sound incredible. Where's the workmanship here?

I'm not saying I hate the song. I just wish it were better. And for Jay's sake, I hope the rest of his album is better too. I'm scared by the Chris Martin collabo but hell, if Adam Levine and Kanye West could make good music together, who knows?

(Credit for Jay-Z track: Spine Magazine)
Bonus - Jay-Z: Kingdom Come

Say it with me..."now that's more like it!"

And just one more...this is pure comedy. The "making of 'Show 'Em What You Got'":

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

posted by O.W.

The Sugar Hill Gang: Rappers Delight (Sugarhill Records, 1979)

Previously unbeknownst to me until my colleague handed me a clipping, the LA Times' Robert Hilburn recently reviewed a few Sugar Hill related compilations a few weeks ago, two of which I wrote the liner notes for. These are part of Rhino's new Definitive Groove series and (among others), I wrote for the Sugar Hill Records and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

In his review, Hilburn is kind enough to quote my notes for the Sugar Hill comp and I wanted to elaborate on what he said about "Rappers Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang:
    "...the song wasn't original in most fundamental ways. The verses drew heavily from other rappers in the area, and the song echoed the bass riff in Chic's "Good Times."
As someone who is fascinated by hip-hop's early years and those moments where the music goes from local to global, "Rappers Delight" is such a remarkable document, especially as the song that helps spark off the popularization of hip-hop.

To clarify however: the Gang didn't just "draw heavily" from other rappers - they straight up BIT (or copied if you prefer) their lyrics from other rappers, especially Grandmaster Caz who was acquaintances with Big Hank. And the bassline didn't simply "echo" the riff from Chic - it was the riff from "Good Times." It's just that, in this era, digital sampling wasn't affordable yet so the the Sugar Hill house band replayed the bassline note for note.

None of this history is particularly new. Any of these books cover the same basics. However, the point here is just to remind people that hip-hop's entry into the popular world began as a fake, a construction, a bite of a variety of different artists' work. And I'm not saying this as condemnation, only that it's important to remember that so much of what makes hip-hop hip-hop is posturing and that the idea of "authenticity," prized as it is, is far more of an ideal than reality in most cases. Yet, what matters in the grand scheme of things is how the music is received and perceived. Despite the stories behind "Rappers Delight," no one denies its important or influence and even if its origins weren't as mythical as we'd like to think, it's still a song that arguably changed the world.

I like the idea of hip-hop having that kind of play and internal conflict and complexity, rather than ascribing this suffocating ideal of purity that so many want to cloak it in.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 01, 2006

posted by O.W.

Asha Bhosle & Chorus: Dum Maro Dum
From Hare Rama Hare Krishna (Odeon, 1971)

(Ed. note: I've invited Daniel Shiman of Office Naps to become a guest contributor to Soul Sides. Hopefully, time allowed, we'll be seeing something from him every couple of weeks. Here's his inaugural post. --O.W.)

The soundtrack music of India's Bollywood cinema has only recently started to garner much attention in the West. If you've heard it, though, it's likely that you've also heard the playback singer Asha Bhosle; hers is the spellbinding wail heard in literally thousands of Indian movies. "Dum Maro Dum" first appeared in 1970's Hare Rama Hare Krishna , a Dev Anand production featuring Zeenat Aman as the Westernized hippie girl, and a movie whose subject matter must have afforded R.D. Burman, one of Bollywood's more experimental composers, a refreshing amount of latitude. Constrained only by the clichés of Western hippie culture that he could dream up, Burman makes the most of his charge with "Dum Maro Dum" (which apparently translates as "Take Another Toke"). It's a montage of creaking synthesizers, psychedelic guitars, and, of course, vocals nailed by Asha Bhosle in an ear-piercing exposition of sound.
--Daniel Shiman

Bonus video footage (thanks Souther)

Labels: ,