Monday, October 15, 2007
Bringing Genius To The Table...
Before we formally begin today's listening session, a note regarding the music you intend to download (for educational purposes only, of course). A lot of people have expressed opinions via comments and email regarding the best place to host mp3s. I'm still giving the matter some thought, but in truth, I'm never going to please all of you. Uncle Pee Wee likes Sharebee. Grandma prefers Megaupload. Auntie Peaches wants me to use divShare. I had to make an executive decision, so for the time being, it's savefile or zShare. Such will be the case until I change my schizophrenic mind. Feel free to bitch if you want, but I can't promise it will get you anywhere.
Alright then---now that the "official business" is out of the way, it's time to start shaking your collective rump...
"See And Don't See"---Marie Queenie Lyons (zShare)
"See And Don't See"---Marie Queenie Lyons (savefile)
Marie Queenie Lyons was a funky soul diva whose powerhouse vocals and raw emotive energy drew stylistic comparisons to many other outstanding female artists of her era, including Lyn Collins, Betty Davis, Marva Whitney, Vicki Anderson, and Ann Sexton. She only released one full-length album (Soul Fever, 1970) that wallowed in obscurity for a number of years alongside her ultra-rare 45s. In more recent years, her material has been reissued, sampled, and comped, allowing a wider audience to become familiar with her work.
"See And Don't See" is the first track on Soul Fever, and for me, the most memorable and immediately engaging. This heart-wrenching ode to the art of denial as a means of self-preservation contains some truly unforgettable lyrics, such as "If I ever face reality, I know that's gonna be the end of me" and "I must look beautiful standing here in the dark all by myself/ But the only way I can take it is pretend I'm someone else". Throw in a funky bassline, some seriously soulful belting, a "good God almighty" or two, and you have the makings of a certifiable classic.
"Ooh Ah Ee"---Vern Blair Debate (zShare)
"Ooh Ah Ee"---Vern Blair Debate (savefile)
Despite bearing a title that merely sounds like some phonetic gibberish, "Ooh Ah Ee" is a supertight funky instrumental from the underappreciated Vern Blair Debate. This track was on the flipside of their "Super Funk" 7-inch, but this little gem packs a powerful punch and more than maintains the energy and momentum generated by the A-side of the record. This single has been re-issued on vinyl and I'd strongly suggest digging until you find it. If all else fails, this joint is also included on Quantic Presents The World's Rarest Funk 45s, an excellent selection of forgotten grooves. "Super Funk" can be found on Stones Throw's Texas Funk 1968-1975: Black Gold From The Lone Star State compilation LP.
"Two Of A Kind"---Lord Luther & Counts (zShare)
"Two Of A Kind"---Lord Luther & Counts (savefile)
Once upon a time, there was a vocal quartet known as The 4 Deuces who formed in Salinas, California in the mid-5os. The members were army buddies who initially tried their hand at gospel, but eventually decided to experiment with an R&B/doo-wop style. Their lead singer Luther McDaniels wrote a tune called "W-P-L-J" that was about a popular concoction at the time, white port wine and lemon juice.
In search of a record deal, the group ultimately crossed paths with Roy Dobard, who owned Music City Records in Berkeley. They ended up recording "W-P-L-J" and a couple more sides ("The Goose Is Gone" and "Down It Went") for Dobard before they disbanded and went their seperate ways.
Although "W-P-L-J" was a relatively successful record (later covered by Frank Zappa), the group members didn't receive any of the royalties. The quartet even re-recorded the song as a commercial jingle for the Italian Swiss Colony wine company (who offered a yellow vinyl copy of the song with every bottle of their white port), but the group apparently didn't receive any monetary compensation from that venture either. As Luther McDaniels would later tell it, "My name was on (that song) with Dobard's, but he had registered it in his own name...I didn't get a cent from "W-P-L-J."
Luther McDaniels continued on his musical path after The 4 Deuces parted ways, recording for some independent labels in Cali, Imperial Records, and eventually for his own Lusan label. During this period, he morphed into Lord Luther, playing and recording with a variety of other soul, blues, gospel, and jazz musicians.
None of these ventures were particularly successful, but they certainly weren't without artistic merit. "Two Of A Kind" (credited to Lord Luther & Counts) is a lost soul treasure that he recorded on Lusan as the B-side to his rather obscure "Tough" vinyl 45.
This year, Lord Luther put out a retrospective of his work called Pure Soul Music that includes "W-L-P-J" and 14 other undiscovered gems. "Two Of A Kind" doesn't appear on the CD, but I'm hoping it will generate some well-deserved interest in Luther's material. You can purchase Pure Soul Music via CD Baby.
"Cold Hearted"---Blu & Exile w/ Miguel Jontel (zShare)
"Cold Hearted"---Blu & Exile w/ Miguel Jontel (savefile)
Despite being a fan of Blu's capabilities on the mic and Exile's deeply soulful production, I erroneously procrastinated about buying Below The Heavens (Sound in Color, 2007). It wasn't until my personal hip hop guru Travis suggested that it would probably suit my taste that I finally checked this out a few weeks ago. It turns out he was right on point---this will ultimately be one of my favorite records of the year. Although Below The Heavens is not without flaw, it's got a few truly outstanding joints and remains fairly consistent throughout the entire length of the LP. "Cold Hearted" is one of the tracks that's recently been on heaviest rotation at the crib.
If you like your rap music gritty and meaner than cat shit---well, this probably isn't for you. Otherwise, it's worth giving a spin. There's an insightful review of the album over at Hip Hop DX, so I don't feel a particular need to echo Shake's sentiments. Just be sure you don't sleep on this one.
The video for another gem on the LP, "Soul Amazin' (Steel Blazin')":
"Love Put Me On The Corner"---The Isley Brothers (zShare)
"Love Put Me On The Corner"---The Isley Brothers (savefile)
I just realized the other day that I've never really done a feature on The Isley Brothers, which is probably a bit strange considering the length of time that I've been running a soul and funk blog. I'm sure that there are two main reasons for my avoidance---their popularity coupled with their overwhelming abundance of material. I usually prefer to spotlight lesser-known artists, and then really, how the hell do you extract a single track from the discography of a group that's been around for half a century? Even subtracting the mostly insipid quiet storm era material, I was still left with an enormous selection of prospects.
As you can see, I ended up with somewhat of a leftfield choice, a relatively unassuming track from their Brother, Brother, Brother LP (1972). "Why this song ?", you may rightfully inquire. My formula was actually quite simplistic---I recently scored a very scratched vinyl copy of this album at one of my favorite digging sites for 99 cents. I often preview records this way because my ass is so old school that I still prefer this method to streaming music online. My boy Sonny has boxes of battered records that he sells for dirt cheap and if I like something a lot, I search for a cleaner copy.
I don't think Brother, Brother, Brother is going to top my list of LPs I need to upgrade in the immediate future, but it's still pretty wonderful. There are some worthwhile Carole King covers on the album and their own "Work To Do", which has been sampled and covered on countless occasions. Furthermore, the record marks a very transitional moment in The Isleys' career, a sort of musical purgatory if you will. Although Ernie, Marvin, and Chris had made previous appearances on other releases by the brothers, this was the record where they truly began to have a significant impact on the group's sound. This album was directly followed by 3+3 (T-Neck, 1973), their breakthrough LP that obviously marked the point in time when the trio officially became a sextet.
At any rate, the album's closing song, "Love Put Me On The Corner", has been very appealing to me as of late. I get stuck on this groove every time I play the album, and not just because it has a couple of deep scratches. It's a haunting track that is easily one of the group's finest ballads released during this time period. Dusty Groove describes the song as "a baroque soul symphony in itself", which perfectly expresses how lush and deeply moving this song truly is.
I would have ripped the track from my well-worn vinyl, but in the interests of preserving the quality of the audio, I decided against it. I would still urge you to try to find this LP on wax, as the overall sound is far superior in vinyl format.
"Mass Hysteria"---Lateef & Z-Trip w/ Chali 2na/ Crystal Timberlake (zShare)
"Mass Hysteria"---Lateef & Z-Trip w/ Chali 2na/ Crystal Timberlake (savefile)
Since we're already into the fourth quarter of musical releases in 2007, I've begun evaluating and reconsidering some of the year's greatest successes and failures. It's one of my favorite exercises in futility, since I've never actually bothered to write a year-in-review post. There are always plenty of those to go around, and it generally takes me a decade or two to make a final decison regarding an album's overall artistic merit anyway.
Perhaps that's why I didn't immediately embrace the Ahead Of The Curve mixtape, Lateef and Z-Trip's release from earlier this year. Clearly my ass is still lagging somewhere behind the curve, but I did take the time to revisit this CD just in case I had overlooked something.
Don't get me wrong---I can generally appreciate Lateef's slightly off-kilter rhyme patterns and Z-Trip is an undeniable force to be reckoned with on the tables when he's in his zone. Maybe I was just in a cranky mood the first time I listened to this, but I thought the project was an overall disappointment. Suffice it to say that I wanted to like Ahead Of The Curve quite a bit more than I actually did.
Like Dj Shadow and RJD2 before him, Z-Trip seems to have somewhat lost me with his newer material. I believe that every artist should progressively alter their style and sound, and fans who expect a continual repeat of an established trend tend to annoy me. That said, come on Z...is there a reason we must suffer a remix of E-40's "Tell Me When To Go"? And why would you do such a grave injustice to "Lady Don't Tek No" as to blend it with shitty beats and Slug rhyming like a fish out of water, creating the ultimate hyphy hybrid disaster?
These questions continue to perplex me, but I guess what I'm getting around to is that I've finally begun to digest at least half of the CD. I've been listening to it in the ride for a couple of weeks now and in all fairness, it has some exceptional moments like "Mass Hysteria". The bass on this joint knocks so loudly, it becomes pretty difficult to resist opening the door. Lateef and Chali 2na both showcase some impressive rapidfire verbal techniques on the joint, and their rhymes are nicely syncopated with the heavy pulsation of the music. In short, some funky fresh goodness with a futuristic lean.
My only complaint with this track is that I can't get Crystal Timberlake's slightly perturbing and overly repetitive hook out of my head. Shit's worse than crack, but it's still a thousand times better than having something like "hey bey bey" knocking around the corridors of my dome...
Word From Your Moms:
"I'm just a musical prostitute, my dear."---Freddie Mercury