Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Let Your Mind Free. That's The Past...Don't Remind Me

Update: All links via LimeLinx have been fixed/re-upped; let me know if you have any other previewing/downloading problems

"Foolish Fool"---Dee Dee Warwick (LimeLinx)
"Foolish Fool"---Dee Dee Warwick (savefile)

"I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else"---Dee Dee Warwick (LimeLinx)
"I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else"---Dee Dee Warwick (savefile)

If you've been reading Souled On for a while, you may already know that I consider Dee Dee Warwick to be one of the most underappreciated female soul singers of all time. When she passed away at a nursing home in New Jersey a few weeks ago, it was predictably with little fanfare or recognition by mainstream media sources. As it was throughout her lifetime, so it was at the time of her death...

Dee Dee (born Delia Mae) and her sister Dionne began their music careers in the 1950s, performing together as The Gospelaires and joining forces with The Drinkard Singers, some of whom were members of their family. While both vocalists crossed over into secular music the following decade and embarked on solo ventures, it wasn't long before Dionne's popularity and commercial viability would come to fully overshadow that of her younger sibling.

Ultimately, Dee Dee enjoyed a few R&B chart successes and managed to garner a couple of Grammy nominations, but she primarily made her name and living as a session singer. Sadly, her talents were continously outshined by the radiance of the stars she was professionally aligned with, including legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Anyone familiar with the warmth and resplendence of her vocals, however, might agree that soul heaven burns that much brighter now that she has passed through to the other side. Rest in peace, sweet soul sister.

Dee Dee performing "We're Doing Fine":

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"All Good"---Illa J (LimeLinx)
"All Good"---Illa J (savefile)

Anyone familiar with the hustle of the late great J Dilla knows that the hip hop producer/MC was one of the most prolific and hard-working artists to grace the pages of music history. As a result, he left behind a wealth of unreleased material that has gradually been leaked onto albums, bootlegs, and mixtapes. While posthumous efforts by many artists sound unfinished and are often greatly lacking in terms of quality, Dilla's stash of unused beats has proven to consist of quite a few gems worthy of unleashing.

A grip of these unheard sounds were recently handed down to John "Illa J" Yancey, Dilla's younger brother, from the vaults of Michael “Mike Floss” Ross, owner and founder of Delicious Vinyl. An aspiring singer/rapper/musician himself, Illa moved from Detroit to Los Angeles after his brother passed away, setting up the Yancey Boys Studio with Dilla's recording equipment. When Ross met up with Illa last year, he decided to bless him with beats he'd been holding for over a decade. "They're his birthright" he said. "I really believe Jay Dee would be proud of what his brother is doing."

Illa J dropped his self-penned lyrics over the material, culminating in what would come to be known as the Yancey Boys LP. The album wasn't officially released until November 4th, but the "We're Here" single and speculations buzzing from Dilla's loyal fanbase have already resulted in quite a bit of hype about the project.

You don't need me to tell you what to think, which is good because I can't offer a definitive opinion about Yancey Boys. Sometimes I think oh-that's-so-nice-this-Illa-J-kid-is-really-tryin'-his-absolute-damnedest-to-keep-his-brother's-legacy-alive, but other times...despite feeling kinda guilty about it...I want him to shut the hell up. I'm like...damn...couldn't we have just gotten these beats on some Donuts: The Sequel-type ish?

Regardless, I ain't the least bit mad at Illa J about "All Good". I can usually do without the neo-soul caterwauling, so this joint's laidback spoken word/rap takes a smoother ride through my aural pathways than the lion's share of the tracks on the LP. Dilla's ridiculously tight beat is as fresh as it is familiar...something new to nod your head to, but uncompromisingly true to his signature sound. Illa flows over the beat like H 2 the O, lacing the track with a few lines that seem to especially penetrate and resonate. Check it for yourselves, children.

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"(I Remember) Mr. Banks"---Maceo & All The King's Men (LimeLinx)
"(I Remember) Mr. Banks"---Maceo & All The King's Men (savefile)

When Maceo Parker revolted and momentarily left his role as James Brown's sideman, the aptly titled Doing Their Own Thing (1970) was the first record that he and other members of JB's orchestra released without the Hardest Working Man In Show Business at the helm. Obviously, the project wasn't given the proverbial Godfather's blessing, and it's been rumored that Brown paid radio stations not to play it and/or used his widespread influence to ultimately spell the record's demise.

Whether or not there's any truth to this claim, it's difficult to understand why else this masterpiece of funkdafied jazz failed to move any units, quickly descending into a realm of obscurity reserved for the serious-crate-diggers-only crowd. Although the LP was released on the relatively unknown House Of The Fox label, it had the invaluable benefit of featuring heavy players such as Maceo's brother Melvin Parker, Alphonso Kellum, Richard Griffith, Bernard Odum, Jimmy Nolen, and Eldee Williams. If you're familiar with the talents of any of these guys, then I shouldn't need to say more.

Maceo's style as leader clearly didn't fall all that far from The JB tree, but he charted his own impressive territory by sponsoring a more relaxed, jamtastic rhythm section that was accompanied by unbelievably tight horns. While Maceo's sax would often trail off on JB recordings just as he was really beginning to blow, the tracks on Doing Their Own Thing seemingly allowed him to more fully realize his creative potential. The only possible downside/distraction is that Maceo isn't exactly a world class vocalist, but hell...if that's what you're looking for, perhaps you should cop some Celine Dion.

Doing Our Own Thing has been reissued a few times, so it's relatively easy to secure a copy. There are a quite a few funky highlights on the LP that are just perfect when I'm in a certain mood, but "(I Remember) Mr. Banks" is the sort of jazzy, melodic groove that I can fall into wherever, whenever, whatever is going on around me. Mr. Banks, by the way, was the music director at Maceo's high school who mentored him and nurtured his prodigious talent during his adolescence. This lovely homage would no doubt make him proud.

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"We Have Love"---Amnesty (LimeLinx)
"We Have Love"---Amnesty (savefile)

Amnesty was a collaborative effort featuring the vocal talents of The Embers and the instrumentation of Crimson Tide. The Indianapolis band recorded the tracks on Free Your Mind: The 700 West Sessions on two separate occasions in 1973, but most of them didn't see the light of day (with the exception of two obscure 45s) until they were compiled and released on the Now Again label last year. Egon from Now Again (a Stones Throw subsidiary) has a knack for conjuring up exemplary unheard material from decades past, and this release is certainly no exception. According to the liner notes, these killer recordings were shelved because the Lamp label they recorded them for specialized in rock music, and listening to this album, it's not difficult to understand why their eclectic funk/jazz/psychedelic soul/afrobeat style might have sounded like untread alien territory.

At any rate, the whole album is as brilliant as it is engaging. On "We Have Love", you get a distinct sense of how effortlessly these guys blended soulful harmonies with their vividly colorful palette of sounds. Fans of Whitfield-era Temptations, Mandrill, Rasputin's Stash, L.A. Carnival, P-Funk, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Black Heat will definitely want to pick this LP up without hesitation. Better recognize...

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"Writes Of Passage"---Sadistik w/ Vast Aire (LimeLinx)
"Writes Of Passage"---Sadistik w/ Vast Aire (savefile)

When I first heard about Sadistik, I imagined something along the lines of shock producer/MC Necro's tenebrific fare...you know, one of those my-mommy-wasn't-very-nice-to-me-and-now-I'm-going-to-take-ruthless-revenge-on-the-trailer-park-and-the-entire-fucking-world- rappers. I also immediately associated his name with this guy, whose voracious appetite for homocide is...I dunno...lightweight disturbing.

Despite my reservations, I decided to give the The Balancing Act a spin and I certainly wouldn't be typing this now if I hadn't been incredibly impressed by what I heard. The album's soundscape is melancholic and moody...certainly nothing you'll hear bangin' in the trunks of your friends who dig Rick Ross and Young Jeezy. Sadistik's poetic lyricism is deeply introspective and confessional in nature, straying too far from traditional subject matter to make the album suitable for mass consumption. That said, there is most assuredly an audience for the Seattle-based MC...they're just not likely to discover him on BET. There's no denying that this kid is all heart, and his rhymes are bound to strike a chord with a particular segment of the underground sector.

I've been keeping a lot of joints on The Balancing Act in heavy rotation, because really...I ain't 'fraid of his ghosts. Sadistik was clearly exorcising some of his personal demons through these narratives; at times you can literally hear him flailing on the tightrope between madness and lucidity. Depending upon the listener's perspective, his lyrics are either cleansing and cathartic or dreary and depressing. As a wise friend of mine once said, some people are rightly driven to create from their despair, because otherwise it will completely devour them. Sadistik's reflective writing style validates and personifies this sagacious truth.

"Writes Of Passage" is probably the most accessible track on the LP, featuring Sadistik's elevated wordplay, stellar production, and some razor-sharp rhymes courtesy of Vast Aire. It's been somewhat of a disappointing year for hip hop, so the head rush I got after listening to this joint was exhilarating to say the very least. Damn, I miss those natural highs...

Anyway, if you're feelin' this like I do, show some love and support the artist.

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"If I Could See You One More Time"---Johnny Adams (LimeLinx)
"If I Could See You One More Time"---Johnny Adams (savefile)

Like so many of my favorite soul artists, Johnny Adams (aka Laten John Adams) began his career singing gospel. Born and raised in New Orleans, Adams left high school at 15 and eventually began making his living a roofer, showcasing his extraordinary vocal talent in his spare time with acts such as The Soul Revivers and Bessie Griffin and the Consolators. However, fate took an abrupt turn in his life one day while he was singing "Oh Precious Lord" in the bathtub. His neighbor, celebrated songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie, overheard him and pleaded with him to record a song she'd been crafting. Subsequently, "I Won't Cry" was released as a single on the Ric label in 1959, becoming a substantial hit and launching Adams' illustrious career in secular music.

One of the things that I love most about Adams is that he truly embodies the spirit of New Orleans. Well-versed in soul, jazz, country, R&B, and the blues, Adams' artistry reflects the rich musical tapesty and eclectic stew of his birthplace, capable as he was of expressing himself brilliantly through any one of those genres.

It will come as no surprise that I prefer the deeply soulful side of Johnny Adams, the sort of raw and hearfelt emotional catharsis that gives such tremendous power to a song like "If I Could See You One More Time". He gets to testifyin' so expressively that you can't help but believe in the pain and confusion he's feeling in the absence of his lover. If that's not the hallmark of the greatest soul music, then I don't know what is.

If you're interesting in becoming more familiar with Adams' canon of works, the Heart And Soul reissue on Vampi Soul is a good place to start. It contains all of the tracks on his phenomenal 1969 LP of the same title, as well as a few bonus joints. Also, be sure to dig deeper for more biographical info.

"The Sly, Slick, And The Wicked"---The Lost Generation (LimeLinx)
"The Sly, Slick, And The Wicked"---The Lost Generation (savefile)

Some of you may already know this song, as it was a relatively big hit in the summer of 1970, but it's such a phenomenally smooth track that it's undoubtedly worth revisiting.

Originally released on Brunswick Records, "The Sly, Slick, And The Wicked" and the LP of the same title were produced by Eugene Record, vocalist, chief songwriter and primary creative force behind the legendary Chi-Lites. Although The Lost Generation aren't nearly as well-known, they definitely bear some distinct similarities to The Chi-Lites. Both groups hailed from Chicago and helped to usher in the omnipresence and crossover appeal of the sweet soul sound, in conjunction with like-minded artists such as The Stylistics, The Delfonics, and The Moments. Although all of these acts maintained an uncompromising loyalty to traditional vocal harmonies, they infused them with contemporary sounds and an adrenalized energy that effectively distinguished their style from that of their old school predecessors. Collectively, these ensembles would come to represent a significant evolutionary shift in the tenor and commercial viability of R&B and soul music.

The Lost Generation was comprised of Lowrell Simon, Fred Simon, Jesse Dean, and Larry Brownlee. Although they would never score a hit as popular as this song, they did do some minor damage on the charts with singles such as "Wait A Minute" (a saccharine-sweet ballad penned by Eugene Record), "Talking the Teenage Language", and their final chart climber, "Your Mission (If You Decide to Accept It) Part 1". Shortly after the release of the latter, the group disbanded, but not without making their mark on music history. In addition to the handful of exceptional material they left behind, their staggering success with "The Sly, Slick, And The Wicked" generated enough funds for Brunswick to buy itself out from its owner, Decca Records.

Search for this in the crates, children...and get mellow/get laid.

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Word From Your Moms:

"I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind."---Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free."---Clarence Darrow

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."---Jean-Paul Sartre

"Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom."---Marilyn Ferguson


Bosshog said...

Great post as usual, keep it up man!!

dennis b said...

Is this one of the best posts ever or did I just miss your writing and primo taste in music?

Ravel said...

BTW, Dee is better than her sister... Discovered her 2 years ago, she's fantastic!

Keith said...

It is a shame that Dee Dee never got the attention and credit she deserved. She was incredibly talented. R.I.P.

chrome said...

illa's effort is commendable, has set himself a very high standard. hope the vault is deep enough ...

Commish CH said...

As a huge Can O fan, that Sadistik/Vast Aire track is pure jubilation to my ears. Great stuff all around Schooly Scholar; I'm rocking a scarf like Adams tomorrow.

john said...

The Dee Dee post made my month. She really needs us to sing her praises. "Foolish Fool" is so raw and fine

Styler said...

Greetings Scholar, another fine selection of words and music, including a deserved mention and doffing of cap to Ms Dee Dee, who in my humble opinion was the better of the sisters, but it would appear I am not alone on this one.

I think i'm in the "I want him to shut the hell up. I'm like...damn...couldn't we have just gotten these beats on some Donuts: The Sequel-type ish?" camp when it comes to Dilla's take on the Bacharach classic, I can do without his brother's ramblings, not that it's bad but it's not that great.

My boy Shug who played with Mudbone and Billy Nelson, met Maceo at the Prince aftershow party last year in London, the only words the great man spoke to him were, " Muddy told me you Scotch cats was some bad ass motherfuckers" before turning away from him. Suffice to say Shug was suitably happy with that and decided to try and chat up Amy Winehouse who as propping up the bar, he thought he'd have a better chance with her, as she was wasted and the rest of the crowd was made up from the great and good of London fashion week.

I heard the said of Celine Dion, although not exactly a world class saxophonist, after a few Congnacs she can't wait to get her sax on, "Sister Celine Blow Your Horn!"

I have decide that I had better recognise with regards to Amnesty.

Anything involving Can Ox legend Vast Aire is usualy worth a listen.

You don't even have to listen to Johnny Adams to know he is one smooth bastard, look at that photo, anyone who can rock those shades and that silk neck tie is in the zone baby!

The Lost Generation, are we not all part of that?

Well 45 years since ol' JFK got his head blown off by someone other than the poor patsy Oswald.
I don't remember where I was at the time, I wasn't even a twinkle in my daddy's eye, however I will remember where I was when I heard that Barack decided to put the would be Zionist, Bush War supporter and all round scary bird Hilary Clinton on his team.
What the hell is he doing with her? He beat her fair and square, he doesn't need her, could this be his first mistake? Let's hope not.

Peace to you and yours brother

p.s. I tried mailing you from both my hotmail and yahoo, any joy?

Scholar said...

bosshog---many thanks, fam.

dennis b---you've been reading this piece for so long that i think you probably are biased, but i sure the hell ain't mad.

hope it's all good...


keith---dee dee should be required listening for all soul fans, but there are still far too many people who don't recognize her talents. it's too late for her to be acknowledged in her lifetime, but i'll keep doing all i can to preserve her memory.

chrome---from what i understand, the vault still has a lot to give. even though i dig some of illa's joints, i wish they'd pass some of those beats along to more accomplished MCs. i know blood is thicker than water, but damn...i can think of quite a few lyricists who could do some serious damage on his tracks.

i have to link you up this week, man.

commish---damn, bro---it's good to know i have another Vast fan in the building. Post-Can Ox, too many heads have been hating on the man...usually for no reason.

bet that scarf looks fly as fuck with the beer T.

john---agreed, "foolish fool" is one of her best, and really gets at the essence of what made her so amazing.

styler---what's up good dude? i changed my junk filter for you, so hopefully you can get through now.

illa's ramblings on that joint are a'ight...better with a blunt, yes...but tight enough to do some justice. obviously you haven't heard him sing, because that gets straight painful at times.

celine and a sax are like...spaghetti and chocolate.

def check amnesty...i'll send you some joints if you can't track them down.

see my comment above about Vast. i don't give a damn what anyone says. I dig that muthafucka's style.

johnny adams was a fly dude for a minute there. later, he tried on some styles that weren't such a great look, but he had it goin' on in the early years.

i don't know what to think of obama selecting hillary. not sure how he arrived at that decision, but it's a bit like weird science to me. she does have a decent rapport with some world leaders, but i just really didn't see that one coming.

round two comin' soon?


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