Monday, May 28, 2007
"This One's For My Baby"---El Michel's Affair
Since I'm such a devoted fan of classic funk and soul recordings, I tend to be relatively skeptical about the idea of contemporary artists replicating these vintage sounds in any sort of meaningful way. I realize that may sound a bit judgmental, but sorry---Joss Stone just ain't no Aretha in my book. There are, however, a few post-millenium exceptions to the rule, and El Michel's Affair is undoubtedly one of them.
Not long ago I posted "Creation", an El Michel's track from their Sounding Out the City LP. I've also featured links to their much-heralded instrumental renditions of Wu-Tang Clan-related material. This particular joint may be a bit more difficult to come by, as it's only been released on the 12-inch vinyl effort, The PJs...From Afar. This phenomenally mellow groove provides further evidence of the fact that these guys truly are a modern-day funk powerhouse...even if they are about 35 years late getting here.
"U-N-I Verse"---Soul Kid Klik (from The Amadou Project/ Weldon Irvine)
Since I'm obviously in the mood to make sweeping generalizations, let me also say that projects released by second-generation, extended Wu-Tang family members are disproportionately inclined to totally suck ass. Clan in da front, if ya know what I mean... However, please don't let that interfere with your propensity towards previewing this outstanding end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it anthem by the good people of the Soul Kid Klik.
SKK was a crew of artists who were managed by Gza Entertainment, a venture that was co-owned by The Genius himself. Due to internal chaos and industry politricks, the group disbanded before they had completely finished working on their album. A collection of demos and studio tracks was eventually released in the form of their Invisible Army LP, including this philosophical manifesto about Life, Death, and Truth.
As far as the inspiration behind the song, you can read some very interesting stuff about Weldon Irvine and his Amadou Project here.
"Yesterday's Mistakes"---Jimmy Jones
Quite a few underappreciated gems were released on Twinight Records, a Chicago-based soul label that was essentially a side project of an independent promotions company. Syl Johnson was the only artist on the label who produced any hits, perhaps because most of their records were given the disadvantage of being played exclusively on the local airwaves, and at a relatively late hour.
However, don't mistakenly assume that these records are obscure because they weren't of a high enough grade to have achieved mainstream success. On the contrary, most of the label's output is on par with material released by the most legendary figures of Chicago soul. To sleep on these recordings a second time around would be borderline criminal.
Numero Group compiled all of the songs that the label had to offer on an double-CD called Eccentric Soul: Twinight's Lunar Rotation. I am certainly not the first blogger to sing the praises of this stellar compilation, and many of my favorites have already been posted elsewhere. Before someone else beats me to it (again), I wanted to share "Yesterday's Mistakes", an incredible soul track that's bound to pull you in with its charming sound and palpable sincerity.
I don't often preach at you about buying records---I figure that part is between you and your God...or whatever. This time, however, I'm strongly suggesting that you buy a copy of this for yourself and everyone else that you even kinda know. Seriously...
"Deb Sombo"---Jimmy McGriff
James Harrell McGriff was once quoted as saying: "They've always classified me as a jazz organist which I am not. I'm more of a blues player. That's what I really feel." Understanding that about him may give you a hint of the versatility and genre-bending properties of his style and influence.
McGriff started out playing alto sax and acoustic bass, and had also learned how to play drums, vibes, and piano by the time he graduated from high school. He may have favored playing the bass, but his hometown of Philadelphia was especially renowned for their jazz organists. He was eventually schooled by soul jazz organist Richard "Groove" Holmes, and also studied the instrument at two colleges (including Julliard). After being discovered at a small club in Trenton, NJ, McGriff began his exceptionally prolific recording career. I don't have an exact figure, but I know for a fact that he's since been featured on more than a hundred different albums/recordings.
My copy of the smooth organ groove "Deb Sombo" is from another amazing compilation, Blue Note Trip: Saturday Night/ Sunday Morning. For some of you, this is going to make your whole day.
"My Name Is Mable (AKA Able Mable)"---Mable John
Mable John is a blues/soul/gospel vocalist who was the first female artist that Berry Gordy signed to Motown's Tamla label. Although John was born in Louisiana, she and her family eventually migrated to Detroit, Michigan. She landed a job as a secretary at an insurance company that was run by Gordy's mother. He signed her in 1959, and she immediately began recording some bluesy singles, such as "Who Wouldn't Love A Man Like That" and "Actions Speak Louder Than Words".
As the Motown sound became more defined, the label seemed to find its niche in smoother, more accessible R&B offerings. John would ultimately get lost in the shuffle, as Gordy began to phase out many of the early blues artists who were on his roster. Mable was quickly relegated to background singing, until her contract was completely dissolved in 1962.
Afterwards, John joined the Raelettes, and provided backing vocals on many of Ray Charles' most celebrated recordings. She embarked on another solo venture with Stax in 1966, but only her first single ("Your Good Thing Is About To End") met with any commercial success. In 1968 she rejoined the Raelettes, performing and recording with them until she left secular music altogether in 1973. Since then, she's managed several Christian gospel acts, and has occasionally laid down some of her own vocals in the studio as well.
"My Name Is Mable" is an incredibly infectious tune that is planted firmly at the intersection of soul, blues, funk, rock, and gospel. I'm exceptionally lazy, and it makes me want to move, so anything is possible.
If you're interested in exploring John's discography further, this track appears on a compilation also known as My Name Is Mable.
"Shut 'Em Down (Pete Rock remix)" ---Public Enemy
I think that the majority of you already know what a brilliant producer Pete Rock is, but most of us don't really understand how he does what he does. The unique way that he layers multiple dimensions of classic sounds gives his tracks an incredibly lush texture that is paralleled by few. Here's a video of Pete droppin' some knowledge about his technique:
In my humble opinion, this PE remix represents one of Rock's finest moments on wax. It originally appeared on the "Shut 'Em Down" 12-inch single, and has recently been spotted on my friend Flood's mix, Soul Brother Blends '92-'94.
Word From Your Moms:
“Nothing great or enduring, especially in music, has ever sprung full-fledged and unprecedented from the brain of any master; the best he gives to the world he gathers from the hearts of the people, and runs it through the alembic of his genius.”---James Weldon Johnson