Friday, October 03, 2008
We Can Funk Until The Dawn...
Wussup soul bambinos?
Hopefully all of my peoples are restin' easy despite all the insanity that's happening in the United States and the universe at large...
Yeah, I know---the American economy is royally fucked and McCain thinks we're overlooking the obvious solution of marrying a beer heiress; Caribou Barbie could end up being a world leader by default (because we can never have enough crazy douchebags occupying positions of power); it's suddenly snowing on Mars...check it; zany zealots or sneaky satanists are stealing all the 666 road signs along U.S. highways, sending a prophetic message to the superstitious that we'd better start partying like it's 1999; and scientists have recently confirmed that Clay Aiken is gay, spawning a slew of destructive uprisings waged by tween girls and Barry Manilow. Hard times, children. Hard times.
I ain't no Jackie Stallone, snitches. I have no idea what perils the future may hold, but I do know that the only way our species can survive is to take up arms and join the ranks of the turntable revolution...
“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”
Towards that end, allow me to supply you with some auditory artillery against the audacity of the absurdity around you...
"I Don't Want To Have To Wait"---Barbara & The Browns (zShare)
"I Don't Want To Have To Wait"---Barbara & The Browns (savefile)
Last year, Kent Records released Can't Find No Happiness: The Sounds Of Memphis Recordings by Barbara & The Browns. Considering my enthusiasm for Southern soul, I came across material by Barbara and her sisters a number of years ago, but the release of their work as one comprehensive collection was something I'd been highly anticipating. Barbara's soaring, gospel-inflected vocals epitomize Memphis soul at its very finest, making it difficult to understand how a talent of this magnitude has been so shamefully overlooked.
After releasing a few singles that were distributed by Stax, Barbara cut a side called "Plenty Of Room" b/w "I Don't Want To Have To Wait" (Cadet 5544) that was issued in August of 1966. Both songs were recorded at Sam Philips' studio and featured some of the finest session players on the scene at the time. She recorded a few more tracks during that same year, but Cadet inexplicably declined to release any of this material. According to some sources, the Aretha factor was at least partly to blame. By 1967, Atlantic was enjoying such success with Franklin's breakthrough that many labels were hesitant to try to compete with her.
Barbara continued to record in 1967, singing her heart out on tracks that were distributed by Atco and Tower (a Capitol subsidiary) the following year. After dropping out of the recording scene for a few years, Barbara resurfaced in 1971 and released a side on XL that was backed with one of the tunes from her 1967 sessions. Her final recordings were in 1972 for release on the MGM/Sounds Of Memphis label. Although her sound was perhaps as impeccable as ever, the industry had shifted greatly during her hiatus, precluding the possibility of Brown and her sisters making a significant dent on the pop or R&B charts.
Few personal facts about Brown are known, but despite her relative obscurity, her legacy is firmly planted in the hearts of those who have the good fortune to stumble across her deeply soulful recordings.
"Northern Midnight"---Rawhead (zShare)
"Northern Midnight"---Rawhead (savefile)
I almost slept on Beatwise and Alchemy because...well...I thought Rawhead was one of those '80s hair metal bands who used eyeliner and pentagrams to inspire fear in the hearts of old ladies and small children. As it turns out, Rawhead isn't such a menacing guy after all. The NY beatsmith apparently prefers bicycles, tea, his family, and waking up early to spandex, beer guzzling groupies, and products that deplete the ozone layer. Nice.
Citing influences such as Pete Rock, Otis Redding, J Dilla, GZA, Diamond D and James Brown, Rawhead's origins are deeply rooted in the finest soul, funk, and hip hop music. Add a touch of punk and dub sensibilities with a background in live instrumentation and you have the formula for one of the most promising beatmakers on the horizon.
"Threats"---Jean Grae w/ Chen Lo (zShare)
"Threats"---Jean Grae w/ Chen Lo (savefile)
This has been a rollercoaster year for Jean Grae fans, from the release of Jeanius to word of her retirement to the release of The Evil Genius, her jaw-dropping collabo with Blue Sky Black Death. For those who don't know, the latter is a highly acclaimed underground production duo who've released some stellar instrumental material in addition to working with artists such as Wise Intelligent, Jus Allah, Hell Razah, and Mikah 9. BSBD easily exceeded my somewhat lofty expectations by blessing this project with innovative soundscapes, perfectly complementing one of the most ridiculously talented MCs in the game. Hands down, one of the dopest joints I've heard all year.
"I Found You"---James Hanns & The Soul Entertainers (zShare)
"I Found You"---James Hanns & The Soul Entertainers (savefile)
Back in the day, James Brown impersonators and wannabes were even more prevalent than Louis Vuitton knockoffs have been in the 21st century. I can tell you from personal experience that most Soul Brother Number Twos aren't worth the time and energy to bother digging in the crates for, but this phenomenal offering by James Hanns & The Soul Entertainers is a true gem. Inspired by JB without sounding overly derivative, "I Found You" is a gritty love song that proves to be the real deal.
"Home"---The Problemaddicts (zShare)
"Home"---The Problemaddicts (savefile)
Ever hear that if you pair Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon with the film The Wizard Of Oz, the sounds and images will synchronize? It's my humble opinion that this is a textbook case of apophenia, otherwise known as the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.
Regardless of the veracity of this claim, The Problemaddicts have released an interesting project playing off of this concept called The Dark Side Of OZ. Featuring Pink Floyd samples and soundbytes from the movie, the tracks on this release couple razor-sharp, intelligent lyricism with killer beats. Although this could have been a shamelessly wack gimmick, The Problemaddicts come hard enough on this release to convince even the most cynical bastards of their skills. I can easily listen to this from front to back, but "Home" is nothing short of amazing.
"Purple Track 4"---Black Milk (zShare)
"Purple Track 4"---Black Milk (savefile)
While we wait not-so-patiently for Tronic to be released at the end of October, Black Milk has dropped a dope bootleg mix for his fans. The Detroit producer chopped up various Prince songs for what's been dubbed Music From The Color Purple, but don't expect to be able to identify the samples he used right away. This ain't no Diddy-style production, in the sense that it isn't always child's play to determine the original song. That said, listening to the last several seconds of each track should make things easier for even the most clueless sample seekers.
Download all 11 joints via Black's MySpace (direct link below).
"Didn't Want To Have To Do It"---Madeline Bell (zShare)
"Didn't Want To Have To Do It"---Madeline Bell (savefile)
Madeline Bell is another soul vocalist who was trained in the gospel tradition, joining The Glovertones in her homestate of New Jersey when she was 16-years-old. She later teamed up with the Alex Bradford Singers, with whom she eventually traveled across America and Europe as part of the cast of Langston Hughes' "Black Nativity". Upon completion of the tour, Bell decided to make her home in the UK, cutting her own singles and doing background vocals for artists such as Dusty Springfield and Doris Troy.
Bell's A Poppin' was her i967 full-length solo debut album (on the UK's RPM Records), an effort which thoroughly illustrates her poise and sophistication as a world-class vocalist. Although it's been established that I tend to prefer Southern grit to the more polished perfection of Northern soul, I have no shame in admitting that Bell's first LP is an undisputed classic. Her cover of Dee Dee Warwick's "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" is the track that enjoyed the greatest commercial success in America, but "Didn't Want To Have To Do It" stood out as a favorite from the very first time I heard this record. If all apologies sounded this sweet, holding a grudge would be nearly impossible.
This album marks only the very beginnings of Bell's illustrious career, so as always, it's recommended that you dig deeper...
"Why Have I Lost You"---Cameo (zShare)
"Why Have I Lost You"---Cameo (savefile)
I don't usually feature a lot of radio-friendly R&B from the late '70s because by definition, it's gotten far more exposure than the majority of the music highlighted here. That said, who can hate on this delectable joint by Cameo? For 30 years now, people all across the funkin' universe have been making and breaking up to this timeless slow jam. This was the joint that was playing during the sweaty couples skate just before you finally lost your virginity. If not, you might just be a soul baby who's living proof of one of these unrestrained, sintastic escapades.
I would guess that between this song, "Back And Forth", "Find My Way", "Word Up", "Candy" and a host of other hits, most of you are already somewhat familiar with Cameo. The eclectic group, founded by Larry Blackmon in 1974, originally boasted 13 members. Known as The New York City Players, the group changed its name shortly after being signed to the Chocolate City imprint in 1976 to avoid being confused with The Ohio Players. Apparently, most heads didn't know shit about geography back then either.
Their first album, Cardiac Arrest, was released in 1977, immediately followed by We All Know Who We Are in 1978. The group released two more LPs in the late '70s, continued to be astoundingly prolific through the '80s, and even issued a few offerings in the '90s. Their final LP, Sexy Sweet Thing, was released in 2000. Tauted as a comeback effort, the album was anything but, peaking at #64 on the Hip Hop/R&B charts.
Despite the gradual waning of their commercial success, the group's legacy is firmly cemented in music history. Many members of the group continue to work in the industry (bassist Aaron Mills laid down the bassline on Outkast's "Ms. Jackson", for example), and their songs are frequently covered, sampled, and featured in movies. Cameo's reign as R&B/funk/disco/slow jam kings may be over, but many of us will be spinning their infectious grooves well into the future.
Word From Your Moms:
"If you love it enough, anything will talk with you."
"When our thoughts - which bring actions - are filled with hate against anyone, Negro or white, we are in a living hell. That is as real as hell will ever be."
"The beating on the tail of the snake may stop his progress a little, but the more vital parts must be struck before his poisonous death-dealing venom will be wiped out."
"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom."
"Where there is no vision, there is no hope."
*All above quotes by George Washington Carver