Sunday, February 18, 2007

Variations On A Non-Existent Theme

"T Plays It Cool"---Marvin Gaye

The soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Trouble Man (1972) is one of those records that seems to fall through the cracks of most people's music collections. Although the LP offers a strong selling point in that it was entirely scored by Marvin Gaye, it's never been nearly as celebrated as more popular contenders such as Shaft (Isaac Hayes) or Superfly (Curtis Mayfield). One possible reason for the oversight is that the album is mostly instrumental, and is much more oriented towards jazz than fans of Gaye's typically soulful sound would likely expect. Additionally, the soundtrack no doubt suffered from its placement in time between two of Marvin's most widely revered recordings---What's Goin' On (1971) and Let's Get It On (1973).

Despite all of this, Trouble Man is certainly not without merit. It produced a few undeniable gems, such as the title track, and the smooth, infectious groove of "T Plays It Cool". According to everything I've read on the subject, Marvin felt a deep connection with jazz, and saw scoring the soundtrack as an opportunity to further explore his enthusiasm for the genre. In order to more fully understand the musical genius of this legendary recording artist, it seems essential to keep this particular record from getting too dusty.

"I Love You"---Eddie Holman

Eddie Holman is generally only mentioned when talking about his most popular record, "Hey There Lonely Girl". While he may be considered a one-hit wonder as far as most people are concerned, soul and gospel fanatics tend to have an awareness of his career that extends beyond this famous recording.

No disrespect to "Lonely Girl", but I've always had a much greater appreciation for some of his other recordings---"I Love You" being just one example. The track may have been released in 1970, but it's one of those timeless soul records that still rings true for anyone who's ever loved...and possibly even lost. The sense of urgency that Holman's vocals convey perfectly captures the essence of what makes him such a tremendous soul singer.

Although "I Love You" was a only a minor hit when it was originally released, it got a second wind in 2002, when it was revived on "Heaven" by Nas (from the God's Son LP).

More info about Holman's career can be found here and here.

"You'll Find A Way"---dead prez

I'm sure that others may disagree, but I've always believed that dead prez has been exiled to the underground largely because they're too overtly political to enjoy a great deal of mainstream and/or commercial success. Despite the fact that it wasn't widely embraced by the hip-hop community, their debut album Let's Get Free (2000) was highly acclaimed by critics, and managed to earn them comparisons to other politically-conscious artists like Public Enemy and X-Clan.

While I personally can get down with most of the sentiments that these guys spit on their first record, I still have to be in the proper mindset to listen to most of the tracks on the LP. "You'll Find A Way" stands out in that regard---I've probably played it at least a thousand times. It's an incredibly uplifting instrumental that seamlessly blends hip-hop and jazz elements into one exceptionally satisfying recording. I know it may sound fucked up, but this joint gets me just as high today as the very first time I heard it.

"Move Your Hand"---Lonnie Smith

I first heard this track after acquiring Blue Note Trip: Saturday Night/ Sunday Morning (2003). It's one of those records that I still regret not having listened to much sooner.

Dr. Lonnie Smith is not to be confused with either the baseball player of the same name, or Lonnie "Liston" Smith, another legendary jazz musician. Dr. Lonnie is widely known for his mastery of the Hammond B-3, an instrument he has referred to as both "the monster" and "the love of my life". He has played on and/or composed more than 70 recordings throughout the course of his relatively prolific career, and has kept company with many other icons of jazz, such as George Benson, Lou Donaldson, and David "Fathead" Newman.

Since encountering this track, I've sought out many of Dr. Lonnie's other musical efforts. However, this particular groove continues to be a favorite. This song originally appeared on an album with the same title, and was recorded in 1969 at Club Harlem in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Prior to its release, Smith was primarily popular in the Northeast region of the United States, but this effort gained him some well-deserved attention from a much wider audience base. One listen and you won't need to question what all the hype was about...

"Let It Slide" ---OC

This joint is from OC's debut LP, Word...Life (1994). The world at large may be immune to this record's existence, but many hip-hop enthusiasts properly recognize it as an underrated musical gem. The production on the LP was largely handled by Buckwild, who crafted some of the nicest jazz-rap beats you're ever going to hear on any record. For his part, OC served up some fairly elevated wordplay that meets a higher standard than most "rappers" today will ever see.

"Let It Slide" isn't necessarily the dopest track on the LP, but it's one of the joints I've listened to most consistently. It showcases OC's storytelling abilities rather nicely, and like I said, the beats on this record are astronomical.

OC has had a rather lengthy run in the hip-hop game. In addition to his solo material, he's also been affiliated with D.I.T.C., Crooklyn Dodgers, and the Hieroglyphics crew. If you know nothing about his legacy, go here to get familiar.

Eat these with a spoon, and call me in the morning...

Word From Your Moms:

"Great artists suffer for the people."---Marvin Gaye


Anonymous said...

T Plays It Cool was terrific jazz infused funk from an artist that was reported to be unable to read or write music. It reminds me of the deep jazz leanings that Ray Charles had. I think their love of jazz added a sheen of complexity and beauty to their songs.

Soul is a way of life รข€”but it is always the hard way. Its essence is ingrained in those who suffer and endure to laugh about it later.
quote from Ray Charles

Anonymous said...

That's great that you're giving some shine to the Truble Man soundtrack; I think it's some of the finest music Marvin ever had a hand in creating. It's one of my "blazing hot summer evening" records.

Beautiful post, as usual, Scholar.

Anonymous said...

That's so weird that you posted an OC song...I threw on "Word Life" today in the car because I was fiending for some hardass NYC jazz rap. It's a shame OC never gets mentioned in the mid 90s NYC golden era of albums ("Illmatic," "Ready to Die," "Enta Da Stage," "36 Chambers") because "Word Life" is still incredible.

Travis said...

I recognize that Marvin Gaye joint from some old hip hop songs. I like it a lot and I always liked that sample.

Was never that big of a dead prez fan, always came off too preachy without the music to hook you, ie old Public Enemy, or even X-CLan to a point.

Yeah, I even slept on OC at first. Not sure why, I liked "Times Up" when it dropped, but it was one of those albums I never picked up until about 5 years later.

Scholar said...

Debs---Very insightful analogy, and gratitude for sharing the Ray Charles quote. That would have worked perfectly as a Word From Your Moms.

Flood---I read a lot of reviews and critiques of Trouble Man before I posted a track from it. I just wanted to get a feel for people's perception of the LP. I always thought this album was something you loved without question, but a lot of Marvin's fans seemed to be greatly disappointed in this offering.

Glad you share my enthusiasm for this record, and thanks for the feedback/props.

zilla---I've come to the conclusion that most of the great things in the universe are underappreciated. Word...Life happens to be one of those critical oversights.

By the way, your mix of "Hope" was one of the best I've heard. The first time I listened to it, I was damn---who is this dude? All respect due...

Travis---"Take a Rest" by Gang Starr featured a sample of "T". I was going to mention that in the post, but it got lost somewhere in the translation from my pen to my PC. DJ Jazzy Jeff flipped it, too.

I thought about posting "Time's Up"---I like that joint, too. I went with "Let It Slide" because it's less known, but just about any track from that LP would have been worth mentioning.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the props on the Nas joint. Check out my group Clean Guns. I can hit you with a CD if you like what you hear.

Last note on OC: did anyone actually listen to his album "Bon Apetit?" I'm curious to hear it now--I avoided it like cancer when it dropped because everyone bashed it and I was too broke to cop it.

Travis said...

Zilla, I played it some last year, and in all honesty, it wasn't as bad as I remembered. Yeah, it still has some major downfalls on the album, but if you put it up against some of the stuff being offered up to us now a days, it's not all that bad.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to the site and I'm hooked already...props to Scholar!

DL said...

Trouble Man is one of my favourite Marvin songs of all time. My Dad is heavily into Motown and Marvin Gaye - I grew up around the stuff. Trouble Man is one of those songs that I nearly always put on any comp that I make for someone new that I meet; I love it.

I think everything about Word...Life may have been said already but for me it is one of the finest albums of the era.



Scholar said...

zilla---I checked out the MySpace page for Clean Guns yesterday---props. I'll definitely take you up on that CD.

Trav---I listened to Jewelz a lot, but I don't think I know a single track from Bon Appetit. Thanks for droppin' knowledge---I was kinda stuck on that one.

Anon---Glad you're diggin' the site.

I guess there are worse things you could be addicted to...right??

Dan---My parents don't really like music, so I imagine it must be pretty fuckin' cool to have a dad who digs soul.

I just realized that I haven't hit Da Bricks in a few days. Definitely need to pay you a visit.

Be well.

To the rest of the Souled On family---I'm finishing a post as we speak. Apologies for the delay.

Jzzy said...

nice ones again dudue.!
i back also;)


crybo said...

Love the Lonnie Smith track, I actually played that at my wedding last year.

Buy Viagra online said...

I loved Marvin Gaye, I used to heard his music a lot, I think he was one Of the best in his genre..thanks for the post, just keep posting..