Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Better Day Is Coming For You And For Me...(I Swear It Is, Children)


"Choice Of Colors"---The Impressions (zShare)

"Choice Of Colors"---The Impressions (savefile)

"My Deceiving Heart"---The Impressions (zShare)

"My Deceiving Heart"---The Impressions (savefile)

In addition to being blessed with an uncanny and seemingly supernatural ability to reflect the times during which he lived, Curtis Mayfield's awe-inspiring music has also extended a wealthy inheritance to the soul children of the new millenium. While it may be difficult for younger listening audiences to fully empathize with the spirit of the turbulent era in which Mayfield rendered the majority of his dynamic compositions, the essence of these recordings effortlessly establishes common ground through such enduring themes as solidarity, empowerment, and love. Although he frequently addressed grave social injustices and bravely challenged the consciousness of the people, his lyrics were rarely cynical or nihilistic. On the contrary, his spirituality and deep love for humanity translated into uplifting songs that encouraged peacefulness, dignity, and pride.

As the leader and chief songwriter for The Impressions, Mayfield's poetic lyricism and musical eccentricities formed the foundation of the group's highly influential and distinctive style. Firmly rooted in the gospel tradition, Mayfield and The Impressions introduced the secular airwaves to three-part vocal trade-offs and a divinely inspired sense of moral authority which markedly distinguished them from many of their contemporaries. Additionally, they were unique in their reluctance to exemplify the typical trappings of pop superstardom. The Impressions were able to command the attention of music listening audiences without leaning on slick choreography, flamboyant outfits, or grandiose gestures to generate enthusiasm from the crowd. Rather, the cornerstone of their legacy has always been their brilliant craftsmanship and subdued eloquence.

Although my favorite Impressions record varies with some frequency, my needle is currently stuck in the groove of The Young Mod's Forgotten Story (Curtom, 1969). Although some music critics have argued that the album lacks a cohesive theme (apparently the title led some to believe that a definitive concept was at work), few would disagree that the majority of the songs themselves are of an extraordinary caliber. In exchange for a strong sense of continuity, The Young Mod's Forgotten Story offers a fairly balanced interplay between socially-conscious anthems and songs that explore love from many different angles. Furthermore, Johnny Pate and Donny Hathaway blessed the album with beautifully harmonious arrangements, which greatly impacted the impeccably smooth vibe of these recordings.

"Choice Of Colors" is the most well-known track on the album, having climbed to #1 on the R&B charts and #21 on the pop charts. Despite its popularity, the song was met with a degree of controversy. Mayfield's thought-provoking masterpiece posed some unsettling questions of the collective conscience, causing some to become so incensed that they pushed for the song to be banned on the radio. Also, when The Impressions were slated to appear on "The Joey Bishop Show" in 1969, one of the producers forbade them to perform the song, but Bishop himself stepped in and granted them permission to play it. Nearly 40 years have passed, but many of the questions that Mayfield asked on "Choice Of Colors" remain unanswered and continue to resonate.

From the love side comes "My Deceiving Heart", one of those deeply emotive soul ballads which would characterize much of Mayfield's work with The Impressions, in addition to being a staple of his solo material. Fans of his more strident, politically-charged fare may carelessly cast some of these tracks aside, but to do so would be to overlook a core component of Mayfield's essence as a human being, songwriter and musician. From the very beginning, when his lovely falsetto laments, "Oh I could die, so hard I've cried", he ushers the listener into a flurry of anguished emotion so heartfelt that it could literally evoke tears from a stone. Such is the substance of the most provocative soul music, and Curtis Mayfield pulled at the strings of the heart every bit as masterfully as he played his guitar.

If you find yourself checkin' for more from the quintessential soul group from Chicago, the Curtis Mayfield & Impressions: Movin' On Up: The Music & Message DVD features interviews and 22 classic performances. Highly recommended not just for those who love soul...but for just about anyone who has a soul.

Meanwhile, dig deeper to peep their discography and learn more about the group's formation and history...

"Don't Take It So Hard"---Johnny Robinson (zShare)

"Don't Take It So Hard"---Johnny Robinson (savefile)

I'm convinced that one day I'm going to stumble across this holy grail of deep soul on vinyl during one of my crate-digging expeditions. Buying the Sony reissue or purchasing the original for upwards of $100 on the internet somehow takes the joy out of the experience. At any rate, I'm grateful that one of my readers (thanks scizzorhandz) sent me a digital copy. I just want to hear it crackle and snap on my turntable at least once know...I die.

Robinson was born in Tuskagee, Alabama in 1939, another artist who started out performing gospel before gravitating towards secular music. He recorded a few stellar singles for Okeh, but his collaboration with Willie Mitchell produced his sole full-length LP.

Willie Mitchell is, of course, the man who guided Hi Records through its most commercially successful period. In addition to Papa Willie's own solo offerings, the label boasted Memphis soul artists such as Al Green, O.V. Wright, and Ann Peebles on its phenomenal roster.

Mitchell's arrangements perfectly complement the raw emotive power of Robinson's highly impassioned vocals. Robinson clearly wrestled with a few inner demons, and he evidently was unafraid to purge the contents of his psyche and memorialize his despair on wax. "Don't Take It So Hard" is a prime example of this. Robinson seemingly had no fear of exposing his vulnerabilities, which in this case is related to being jilted by someone he describes as "the only woman I ever loved". When he speaks...and at times his friends for their lack of understanding, the bottomless depths of his pain and desperation are palpable to say the very least.

For anyone who loves gut-wrenching soul, this record deserves a truly enthusiastic nod.

Dig hear "It's All Over", one of the sides Robinson cut for Strike Records.

"Angelic Remedy"---Dirty Elegance (zShare)

"Angelic Remedy"---Dirty Elegance (savefile)

Dirty Elegance's Finding Beauty In The Wretched LP was released in '07, but honestly, I wasn't feelin' it all that much in the beginning. A couple of months ago, I realized that I just hadn't been listening to it at the right time of day. It isn't a soundtrack for mornings when you're trying to motivate yourself to get through the drudgery of another day at your 9 to 5. It's not well-suited to parties or celebrations...not something you can sing to in the shower. This is a CD for nicotine-stained evenings, when you've had far too much to drink, and neither your head nor your bed wants to stop spinning.

Although Finding Beauty defies precise categorization to some extent, it's reminiscent of moodier material by RJD2, Massive Attack, Blockhead, and Portishead. The beats provide a heavy and gritty underbelly, rounded out by layers of speeches and vocalizations, sound effects, and beautiful melodies. Much of the music is haunting and dysphoric, making it a prime choice of material for the Zoloft generation. Strange as it may sound, I mean that as a compliment. As one introspective fan describes it, "Listen only when you are ready to see your soul staring back at you!"

The man behind Dirty Elegance is somewhat of an elusive figure (the only way to be, snitches). He resides in New York, but outside of that minor detail, he doesn't offer much in the way of a biography. Here is a quote from the DE website: "Dirty Elegance is not music. Dirty Elegance is not art or pictures or clothing, though the emotions which comprise the movement may be reflected through these creative mediums. Dirty Elegance is an idea. An idea that beneath the soot filled superficiality lies a classic greatness. A reinstating of something that once was valued but has since been forgotten. An idea that it is still beautiful, despite is nicks, cracks, and tears. That it may be resurrected if it is truly seen. And truly loved." yeah...interpret that as you will.

Finding Beauty In The Wretched is best listened to from beginning to end, because it sounds as if the artist idea intended for the project to unfold sequentially. "Angelic Remedy" comes towards the end of the CD, as the sonic journey begins to wind to a close. Its melancholic, downtempo beat is accompanied by the repetition of a sampled clip from a Malcolm X speech: "We love everybody who loves us. But we don't love anybody who doesn't love us." Whether that sounds appealing to you right now or not...I 3 am, it will all make perfect sense.

Dig deeper...

"You Don't Want Me No More"---Candi Staton (zShare)

"You Don't Want Me No More"---Candi Staton (savefile)

Candi Staton is yet another vocalist whose musical origins can be traced back to the gospel circuit. Blessed with the first name Canzetta at birth, she and her sister Maggie (along with Naomi Harrison) formed the Jewel Gospel Trio in 1953 when Staton was still a young teenager. The righteous threesome quickly gained popularity in the South, and were eventually granted the opportunity to tour with the likes of The Soul Stirrers, Mahalia Jackson, and The Staple Singers. In fact, it was Mavis Staples who originally gave her "Candy" as a nickname, telling her that she was too sweet to have a name that no one could pronounce.

Several years later, Staton left the group and got married. The marriage turned abusive and ended in divorce, however, and she once again turned to music for her livelihood. People have told slightly discrepant tales to explain exactly how Staton met Clarence Carter (who she also later married), but it's certain that he heard her perform in Birmingham, Alabama and asked her to join him on the road. More importantly, he introduced her to Rick Hall, owner of the Fame record label and studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Hall was equally impressed by her stunning vocals, and brought her in for her first recording sessions in 1968.

Staton's first four chart singles at Fame became the foundation for her I'm Just A Prisoner LP, easily one of the nicest soul records of all time. "You Don't Want Me No More" explores the heartache of a good love gone bad, and Staton's intense delivery will keep you hangin' on every note of her despair. She expresses her grief with such authencity that you almost wanna go shake down her dude and ask him what the fuck his problem is...or maybe that's just me.

In all, Staton garnered 16 R&B hits during her tenure at Fame. However, her commercial viability didn't truly peak until she became a beloved disco queen, releasing popular tracks such as "Young Hearts Run Free" and "Victim". Dance records and glitter aren't exactly my areas of expertise, so the bus stops here, soul children. There's whole lot more to Candi's enduring legacy, though, so by all means...dig deeper.

"Home Again!"---Menahan Street Band

"Telephone Song"---Charles Bradley/MSB

As much as I stay stuck in like...1969 (it's always the summer of love in my world, son)...I do occasionally find myself highly anticipating a new release. At the moment, what I want more than your mama's two front teeth is Menahan Street Band's long-awaited debut album.

Many of you will remember them as the group sampled on Jay-Z's "Roc Boys". As legend has it, their song "Make The Road By Walking" was discovered by Diddy's production team at some point in between their presumably lengthy cheesecake runs. Tommy Brenneck, the founder of the band, has been quoted as saying that Hov laughed at him when he asked if MSB could get a well-deserved shout-out on the joint. If that's true Jigga, you know Gloria Carter raised your ass better than that...

Anyway, MSB is what I consider a supergroup (such an idiotic fuckin' word), consisting of members from Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Antibalas, the Budos Band, and El Michels Affair. All of their tracks are recorded in Brenneck's apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn on...drumroll, please...Menahan Street. Their Make The Road By Walking LP will be released on Daptone/Dunham on October 21st, and it will be available on vinyl for those who actually enjoy getting a little wax inside their ears. If "Home Again!" is any indication, this one's goin' down in music history as one of the best instrumental albums to be heard in the new millenium.

"Telephone Song" is a mindblowing joint that MSB recorded with the almighty Charles Bradley. It will be released later this month as a 7" (b/w "Tired Of Fighting"), and hands down, it's one of the best tracks I've heard all year.

As a final unsolicited pitch for the album, I'd ask you to be mindful of the fact that supporting the handful of artists who are still crafting authentic soul compositions is as crucial as saving any other endangered species on the planet. For every mediocre offering you've purchased because it was tauted as neo-soul, try spending your hard-earned dollars on these guys instead. That should help Brenneck make his rent on Menahan Street for at least the next few thousand years or so...

Note: These tracks are now only available in streaming audio format as per the request of Daptone's marketing team. They were kind enough to offer me free tickets to one of MSB's shows, but as a small label, they can't afford for this material to be leaked on the internets. I understood their position, and I hope you do as well.

Dig deeper... (Dunham's MySpace page, including a link to buy the album. Listen to all the amazing joints while you're there and thank me later)

"Trap Door"---Jake One ft. MF Doom (zShare)

"Trap Door"---Jake One ft. MF Doom (savefile)

Dammit Metal Face! Just as I was beginning to give up on you...this started leaking all over the internet.

After pissing off your fans with an assload of imposters and incurring the indignant wrath of your friend in Jesus, I was starting to wonder if you'd spend the rest of your life in windowless seclusion...fuck merely hiding behind a mask. Also, I don't know if it's just the quality of the weed on my block or what, but I couldn't get all that excited about that Unicron EP you did with Trunks earlier this year. Unless you're smoking high-quality special herbs, the whole thing just sounds borderline a'ight, cousin.

Now there are talks that you've dropped the initials from your moniker (Diddy style), and will be releasing a DOOM LP called Born To This on Lex Records in October. The LP allegedly features production by Dilla (2Pac style) and DangerMouse, while Ghostface and Raekwon are slated to appear as guest MCs, but apparently that might just be another figment of the imagination.

I'm on your side, Daniel Dumile. I think you might be in need of some hardcore psychotropic medication to help you reconcile that stupid superhero/masked madman image, but I won't front on your skills as a producer and MC. I'll be listening if Born To This becomes a reality, however you're insane in the membrane if you think I'm going to pay $16.99 for it. Your loyal fan base deserves a free drop or two, especially since you tricked them into paying to see your talentless henchmen make a mockery of their admiration. Retribution's a sumbitch, Danny boy.

In the meantime, I will be purchasing the Jake One LP that spawned this killer collaboration. For the unfamiliar, Jake One is a truly gifted Seattle producer who's worked with a wide spectrum of artists, including 50 Cent/G-Unit, Planet Asia, De La Soul, and Nas. His debut album, White Van Music, will be released on Rhymesayers Entertainment on October 7th. Featuring MCs such as Busta Rhymes, Slug (of Atmosphere), Black Milk, Prodigy (of Mobb Deep), Little Brother, Brother Ali, and Freeway, the album promises to generate some fourth quarter excitement at the tail end of a shamefully lackluster year in hip hop.

Dig deeper... (Jake One)

Dig deeper... (MF Doom)


Daniel Edlen creates some truly phenomenal vinyl art. His pieces are handpainted acrylic on wax, so anything you purchase from him will be unique and original. He has a wide selection already available in his collection, but he will do other pieces upon request. He only charges $100 for each portrait; $175 if you want it framed. A discounted price is available if you ship him your own record of choice. Visit Edlen's amazing online galleries here and here. You can also catch his work on display in San Diego, Austin, Phoenix, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, or Tempe.

POLITRICKS: analyzes exactly what separates Sarah Palin from the "radical Muslim extremists" that she and John McCain promise to protect America from if they're elected. The answer: Lipstick.

Additionally, some hilarious (yet insightful) satirical pieces about the GOP's VP nominee are available via Welcome To The PalinDrome, Sarah Palin's fictitious blog.

No matter what country you reside in, you can cast a virtual vote to have your voice heard about the 2008 presidential race in America. Cast a vote and see how well your candidate of choice is faring according to global opinions.

It goes without saying that the topic of health care is of the utmost importance in the upcoming election. HealthDecision ’08 offers an unbiased, side-by-side comparison of Obama’s and McCain’s healthcare positions and proposals. It's an interactive site, so once again you have an opportunity to vote for the candidate whose positions most closely resemble your own ideals. I don't care who you vote for (well actually I do, but...); I'm just hoping you'll make an educated and informed decision. We can't afford anymore fuck-ups in the White House, children...


Mekka Don's inspirational tribute to Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes and lots of other heroes we've lost throughout the years. "Death Is Life" came to my attention via word from the homie Travis. Check out Mekka Don on MySpace:

None of us like paying taxes, but few of us can claim the sort of crazed ingenuity that Richard Mellor employed to attempt getting back all the money he's ever paid to the IRS. Mellor claims that the U.S. is a "fictional entity" and that he's not subject to their jurisdiction because he's a "citizen of heaven". No...seriously.

If you've never had an opportunity to see Before The Music Dies, you can currently watch it via Milk and Cookies. Narrated by Forest Whitaker, this incredible documentary features artists such as Questlove, Erykah Badu, Branford Marsalis and a host of other artists. Offering a fairly unbiased commentary on the state of the recording industry, this is a must for anyone whose happiness is contingent upon music's continued prosperity.

Word From Your Moms:

"It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake."---Frederick Douglass


Viktor said...

Confirmation once again as to why this is my favorite blog. Thank you.

Rocco said...

Hey nice blog man!
visit also

Styler said...

Hello there Scholar, hope you're well.

Another epic tome of insightful soul for one's posteria. Kudos as always good sir.

As I said before, it is impossible to not love "beautiful brother of mine" Mr Mayfield along with the orchestration and arrangements of Johhny Pate, The Impressions certainly left one on anybody who had the good fortune of listening to them.

Love Candi Staton and I have been lucky enough to see her a couple of times in my home city. Most people know her from "Young Hearts.." and especially in the U.K clubs from the ever popular dance remix of "You Got The Love" which is always a massive tune on any dancefloor, but she does have an excellent back catalogue and a fantasic voice with a beautiful quality to it, still.

As for everyone's favourite mask wearing M.C. gun for hire, what a joke! I am a fan of ol' Metal Face and having heard this 'no show' story before I had checked out some footage from you tube etc. Hilarious! what a bloody embaressment. It's bad enough to not show up when your booked, we've no doubt all suffered that from some over hyped hip hop acts before, but to put some fat fucker in a hoody or over sized polo and one of your cast off masks and ask him to walk about stage keeping the mic up close tight to his lips so no one can see the bad synching is truly pathetic. Especially when the other cronies on stage are clearly live and very loud, while the backing tape has kicked in at the wrong bloody level for the fat doppleganger!
Anyway as far as I'm aware Doom hasn't got a passport, so if he tries to pull that shit outside the U.S. we'll know it's his fat pal with a mix tape!

Peace to you and yours mio amico

Having seen the picture of 'Mom of the Year' candidate, sexy Sarah Palin ( a PR masterstroke by the McCain crew, "let's get someone who is more right wing republican that you and is younger and is a bird") with the bikini and the automatic assault rifle, it got me thinking that I might just sign up for 'Machine Gun MILFS Monthly' after all.

To be fair I'd shag a barbers floor right now, so don't take that the wrong way, I mean I wouldn't vote for her or anything.
For one thing she's Pro Life and Pro Gun, is that not a bit like being a Vet and a Butcher!

Good Luck with all that, I hope people make their vote count, for political reasons and not for a popularity contest.

"Lipstick on a pig" and all that

(for "Bird" see woman, lady, female. for "Shag" see fuck, bang, hump, mount, ride, screw etc etc etc)

Laters cousin

Anonymous said...

Hey Scholar ~~Once again a masterpiece of a post. 'Choice of Colors'is a very inspiring tune. "Better days are coming for you and for me"... in more ways than one ;).
After being challenged by you and watching the Democratic Convention '08, I have risen to a higher desire of wanting to become involved in this political process.
I do believe that the change is coming in our favor.

How can anyone not be moved by the sound of Candi Staton's voice...Goosebumps! Both powerful and dynamic.
Thank you for blessing the soul children with such great art work lately. It is most appreciative.

Love ya much ;)

Travis said...

Class was in session. Had to come back to it a couple times to get all the way through.

And thanks for the Sarah Palin satire blog thing, that is hilarious. But I have to admit, in some kind of kinky principal kind of way, I kind of want to be her boy toy. Eh, what do you do?

purple_Crayons said...

hey scholar,
the dirty elegance track was pretty cool; a little repetitive to be almost 5 minutes but smooth.

btw, what track has jake one produced for Nas? I gotta hear it!

Scholar said...

Viktor---I'm humbled. Thank you.

rocco---You have a nice blog as well, sir. You have a couple of rare albums posted that I'd like to hear, so I'm sure I'll pass through again. Peace.

Styler---This is exactly why I want you to be my "foreign correspondent". You are hilarious, cousin.

Candi Staton is a favorite of mine as well---I'm sure she must put on an excellent show. I've willfully passed over much of her career...I have her first three albums, and then I skipped all the way to His Hands. I have this massive R&B guide from the UK, so I'd actually read about how the bootleg mix of "You Got The Love" was such a huge success for her.

From one Doom fan to another, I have to admit that I'd probably never pay to see him live unless he was with Madlib or something. It just seems like a bloody, sweaty ordeal, even if it was really him.

Be easy, Styler...and try not to hurt yourself shagging any barbers' floors. I should send you some of my aftershave. It might help you catch some birds.

PK---I have to admit, you're even more optimistic than I am about the upcoming election. I feel like I have to prepare myself for the tyranny of the GOP to continue, but my fingers are crossed.

I'll hook you up with some more Candi Staton. I think you'd really like her newest album.

Much love.

Travis---I think I may have learned the power of the mega-post from you...or did you learn it from me?

I'm not at all surprised that you've had some unclean thoughts about Caribou Barbie. You know she's Dan Quayle with a wig, right?

purple crayons---co-sign about the repetition on the DE joint. It should have been more like a 3 minute track.

As far as Jake One/Nas, I still can't figure that out. The press releases for White Van Music all state that he's worked w/ Nas, but I couldn't find any direct evidence of that myself. I did come across a couple of sites while I was researching this that said that Jake was going to be one of the producers on Nas' Untitled LP, but that was early on. That obviously never materialized, so I don't know if that track is unreleased or if that was just a rumor. Let me know if you find out any info.

Styler said...

"Funny How?, Like I'm a clown? I amuse you, I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin amuse you? Watta ya mean funny? funny how?" etc etc "Ya stutterin prick you!"

I'm only messin dude, I've been in a foul mood for long enough so apologies for the potty mouth... is that right? is that what Palin would say?

So what you sayin to me is your aftershave is a sure fire winner with the ladies (of the night)? I hope they are respectable ones, you know working girls, with strong calfs and a good attitude, reasonable rates etc. Credit crunch an all that, know what I mean?

Jakeya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Commish CH said...

Yo my man, thanks for the DOOM info and Jake One drop. I'd love to see his upcoming LP a reality. Im itching for a DOOM cd. As always, great post braaaaaah. Cheers.

Problem with no man before black I'm first human/
Appetite to write, like Frederick Douglass with a slave hand...

-Fugees "How Many Mics"

Anonymous said...

Some people should just keep their thoughts to themselves or maybe send an e-mail. Sounds a little personal.

Jakeya said...

thoughts mostly in service of the music, but... probably right. 'ppreciate that.

polk said...

hey scholar, just wanted to say a big thank u for the fine, fine jams AND the commentary. one of the best on the 'net...

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