Monday, December 22, 2008

As If The Heart Were Not Enough...

Fa la la la la and all that good shit, soul children...

It's always a bit of a mindfuck trying to decide what to do around here during the holiday season. The stream of traffic always falls off somewhat around the end of the year, because apparently some of you snitches would rather be at the mall buying Chia pets for your loved ones or eating figgy pudding than hanging around this joint for the time being. Understood.

Then there's the whole problem of what to post. I mean, should I bust out my John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together LP at this juncture...or should I just stick to doing what I do best (which is clearly...I dunno...not that)?

As good fortune would have it, my good friend and resident correspondent from Glasgow, Styler, momentarily delayed my brainache by sending along a phenomenal post and killer selection of tunes. Even if you didn't check out his last offering, you'll quickly recognize why his acerbic wit and...ahem... supreme taste in music substantiates the notion that he could well be my brotha from anotha motha. As long as he's too inebriated to raise any major objections, I plan to take full advantage of his willingness to keep us enlightened and entertained.

All things naughty & nice,


'Tis the season to be jolly, etc. Unless of course you do not buy into the famous tales of Horus, Krishna, Mithras or indeed Yeshua-bar-Yosef and let's not forget the many other Gods who share their 'birth date' with the 'rebirth of the Sun', around about the time of year we now call the 25th of December. All good entertaining stuff but, along with the Coca Cola company's promotion of a fat bearded man in red and white supping their syrupy beverage (especially the new rather creepy CGI one currently doing the rounds on the adverts), not for me. "Also sprach Zarathustra" and all that jazz.

This has much to do with the fact that I am currently in a state of depression which is of a wholly new level to what I have experienced before coupled with my being, for the most part, a moany miserable bastardo..., especially at this time of year when I long for the Sun to be reborn and bestow all it's heavenly glory!

Anyway that is my spleen vented for now, so I will turn my attention and hopefully yours - all you good people of the Souled On family, to the matter at hand...the music of the soul, garnished from a varied array of artists I have enjoyed over the days and nights that have made me the great guy I always wanted to be and I shall share with you even if you like them or not because good ol' Scholar has allowed yours truly to do another blog type thang!

"Come In Out Of The Rain"---Parliament (LimeLinx)
"Come In Out Of The Rain"---Parliament (savefile)

First up is a truly great song by the legendary Parliament. This little number can be found on the re-release of Parliament's 1970 debut album Osmium, which was also packaged and released as First Thangs. The track itself was not on the original album but was put out as a single in 1972, by which time Clinton had dropped the Parliament tag and they were again known as the mighty Funkadelic. A powerful sociopolitical song with some good old stomping soul clap and rousing vocals that are as poignant and profound today as when first belted out all those years ago. I defy anyone not to dig it...

The song was co-written by Durham born English folk songstress Ruth Copeland, who along with her Motown staff producer husband, moved to the newly formed Invictus label with song writing greats Holland-Dozier-Holland in 1970, who had just secured the talents of George Clinton and his band of merry funksters. Copeland co-wrote another couple of songs during the Osmium sessions including the haunting and epic "The Silent Boatman" which makes some good use of the bagpipes! This involvement naturally led to a couple of solo albums for Invictus and successful tours backed by the original Funkadelic boys of course, and then the almost inevitable disappearance into the ether around 1976.

"The F Word (RJD2 Remix)"---Cannibal Ox (LimeLinx)
"The F Word (RJD2 Remix)"---Cannibal Ox (savefile)

Like any good and decent lover of the hip to the hop I am a big fan of pretty much all things Definitive Jux, which in my opinion has to be one of the best alternative, underground, independent, groundbreaking and whatever else you want to call it record labels of the last 10 years. With a consistently good roster of MCs, DJs and producers on board with label CEO and ex-Company Flow man El P, 2001 saw the release of not only one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, but one of the best albums of any genre full stop. I am of course talking about the all important, all powerful Cold Vein by the legendary Cannibal Ox.

The track we have here is a very good remix of "The F Word" from another top artist who was with Def Jux at the time, one RJD2 and was featured on the 2001 single release which also had another couple of exclusive bonus tracks not from the album. Although both Can Ox and RJD2 are no longer with Definitive Jux, it still stands strong as a platform for new, exciting and groundbreaking hip hop, that thankfully will never make top of the pops.... there just isn't any room for them what with Lil Wayne, Akon, and other frankly awful hip pop stars blinding the sheep with their bling bling lame lame excuse for rap music.

"How Long Can I Go On Fooling Myself"---Jean Elias (LimeLinx)
"How Long Can I Go On Fooling Myself"---Jean Elias (savefile)

"Spiders and Snakes"---Erma Coffee (LimeLinx)
"Spiders and Snakes"---Erma Coffee (savefile)

These next couple of tracks, I know very little about except that I like them and I'm sure a few of you Scholettes may well like them also. The Jean Elias track could have been a Candi Staton or Bettye Swan hit if either of those fine ladies had recorded it but that wasn't the case and it was left to the little known Ms. Elias. Released on the Back Beat label in 1971, the writing credits go to a Harrison Calloway, who was at one time a writer/producer with the Fame label, which utilised the talents of the in house Fame Gang giving the famous "Muscle Shoals Sound", which is maybe why it sounds like it could have been a Candi hit!

As for Erma Coffee, all I know is that this sultry southern funk 45 was released on the Tamtown label from her home state of Florida, and with it's great horns and sleazy guitar it kicks some serious ass!

Anyone with more info on these ladies or any noteworthy releases they put their name to, then please share your knowledge with the Souled On family. Grazie!

"Chains and Things"---B.B. King (LimeLinx)
"Chains and Things"---B.B. King (savefile)

What more can be said about the Riley B. King? Probably not much, but I'll have a go. Still going strong at 83 with a new album out earlier this year and tour dates in the offing, it goes to prove you can't keep a good ol' blues cat down. Beale St. Blues Boy, was shortened to Blues Boy, then just B.B. and the legend was born. Having stayed with his cousin Bukka White, a blues legend of his time, B.B. honed his skills and soon found fame in the mecca of southern music that was Memphis. There he took the moniker of B.B, and of course would eventually open the first of his Blues clubs, which I visited on a trip to Beale St. when I was still just a lad. Alas I couldn't buy a whisky as I was of legal drinking age in Blighty, but not stateside! The rest of the B.B. story is well written and easily available, so like I said...what more can I say?

Anyway the reason I picked this tune is because it was the main sample used by Ice Cube on one of my favourite tracks, "A Bird In The Hand" from 1991's Death Certificate, which is another really great album, (remember when Cube was the fuckin' best thing since sliced bread, at the very top of his game, back when he was rollin' wit' Da Lench Mob instead of rolling with a bunch of annoying kids askin "are we there yet!")

So I done my homework and eventually sourced where Cube found it - 1970's Indianola Mississippi Seeds LP, which was promoted with the aim of cashing in on the huge success of a little known '50s track by Roy Hawkins that King had made his own the year before -"The Thrill Is Gone" from the album Completely Well. In truth, the aim worked with the ...Seeds album a success, doing well on the various album charts and releasing a couple of well-received singles, including "Chains and Things". The album also featured some experienced and talented backing players including Joe Walsh and Carole King, with the very talented Ms. King playing electric piano on this very track. I reckon that just about covers it.

"A Bird In The Hand"---Ice Cube (LimeLinx)
"A Bird In The Hand"---Ice Cube (savefile)

*Note: The drums on this track are sampled from " Don't Change Your Love" by The Five Stairsteps.

"Roderigo"---Lack Of Afro (LimeLinx)
"Roderigo"---Lack Of Afro (savefile)

My next choice is from a talented young Exeter chap by the name of Adam Gibbons, better known to the wider music world as Lack Of Afro. I do believe our good host has posted a couple of remixes by this man, and well he should as he's not at all bad by the way! LOA's a multi-instrumentalist and DJ/producer who has been riding high since his first couple of singles flew off the shelves in 2007 after only posting some of his stuff on a friend's website the year before. His debut album from 2007, Press On, has been getting rave reviews from all the main players in the U.K. and beyond, with a mix of live and cut-n-paste soul, funk, and Afro-Latin beats and pieces. It's no surprise he is being likened to another U.K. funkster in Will Holland, the man behind Quantic and The Quantic Soul Orchestra.

This track was the second single release on Freestyle Records, put out as a 7" and a definite favourite of DJs. With great horns and driving drums it's easy to hear why this is a true rug cutter if ever there was one. Put it simply, you cannot beat some spankin' dancefloor funk!

"Twice the First Time"---Saul Williams (LimeLinx)
"Twice the First Time"---Saul Williams (savefile)

The first time I heard Saul Williams, it was so good I put it on again, so it was, in a very slight way, twice the first time....mmm (note to self; not sure I should leave this in as it's a bit shite). This quality piece of prose and music was on a 1998 compilation CD from Big Dada records. In fact it was the label's first album, a great transatlantic effort made up of released, exclusive and remixed tracks from their roster including most notably Roots Manuva, Abstract Rude and the aforementioned Saul Williams. The CD was a birthday gift that year from a friend who has not had his troubles to seek, so at this time of good cheer to all men, and of course women (there is no sexism on this page kids, we are men of the 90's), I hope all is well in your world, Nicky.

"Twice The First Time" was put out on BigDada006 as part of Saul Williams' 1998 EP, Elohim (1972) (Elohim being either the Hebrew name for God, or false Gods, interestingly). Both tracks attack the shallowness and weakness of so called hip hop and those who laud it, true then and now you may concur. The EP title track was also on the compilation CD, and has the great opening line -"In 1972 my mother was rushed from a James Brown concert in order to give birth to me".

I for one am thankful to all your Gods in heaven, but more so to the medical staff involved in that particular 1972 drama that brought Mr. Saul Stacey Williams into this world, a streetwise polymath, a true Renaissance man!

Lastly I give you a couple of videos that represent soul music from two men who do not fall into that particular genre, but nevertheless elude enough soul for most.

Firstly my man John Martyn, if not underrated, certainly under-celebrated and nowhere near heralded enough until, admittedly, very recently (maybe because he turned 60 this year and no one thought he'd live that long). He's a true hero of the U.K. folk blues scene, and he's pretty fuckin brilliant! Born Iain David McGeachy in Surrey, he moved to Glasgow at age five to live with his father and grandmother.

His father taught him to "fish, fuck and ride a bike" and John grew up fast on the mean streets of Glasgow-"you went out and kicked a few heads or you were looked on as a pansy"-while seeking out and learning the guitar. He soon played to an exceptionally high level, taking him from the Glasgow folk scene down to London and beyond.

Anyway, the big man has lived a crazy old life and his story would take more than I can write here - “I’m not a violent man, but sometimes it just happens. I’ve been mugged in New York and luckily I fought my way out of it. I’ve been shot a couple of times as well, but I just lay down and pretended to be dead.”

Martyn drank and played with friends who didn't all make it, including Hendrix, Paul Kosoff, and Nick Drake. He worked with Lee Scratch Perry, and has a new album in the wings with one of his heroes, sax legend Pharoah Sanders. I urge you to check him and his story if you haven't already.

This track, "Couldn't Love You More", is quite simply one of the most beautiful love songs ever written, and as was the norm for many sessions, John is joined by the excellent Danny Thompson of Pentagle fame.

Secondly is a dude that I only heard a few months ago and he blew me away. Justin Vernon as Bon Iver has made a beautiful, heartfelt soulful album in For Emma, Forever Ago that would bring a tear to a glass eye, given half the chance and make it a Good Winter at least. This track "The Wolves ( Acts I & II )" is amazing, with a certain gospel feel to it. Replace the guitar for piano and think Nina Simone.

Well I think I have banged on enough for now so it just leaves me to say happy festivus to one and all, thanks for reading/listening, etc. and many thanks again to the main man, my friend and yours, the always right on and unless Google says otherwise, the one and only Scholar. Grazie mille mio amico!

Words From Someone's Mother:

"Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."---Albert Einstein

"The head learns new things, but the heart forever practices old experiences."--Henry Ward Beecher

"The heart has reasons that reason does not understand."---Jacques Benigne Bossuel

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Music Is Never Over~Her Silences Are Pauses, Not Conclusions

Lazarus is back, snitches...hopefully all the good people in the place to be have been especially fat and happy since we last met.

For a number of different reasons, I've been going through a little bit of a mid-blog crisis and have been evaluating how/if to carry Souled On into the future. It's all too easy to become complacent and lackluster (simply put, a lazy bastard) after being in the game for this long, so I'm considering at least making a few slight changes to keep things fresh both for myself and all of you. Not sure what exactly this might entail, but I definitely anticipate greater variety in terms of content and the music featured. In the future, my posts will also likely be somewhat shorter, which should enable me to provide updates with much greater frequency. Regardless of what decisions are made, I solemnly swear that preserving the soulful essence of this joint will remain the top priority until the day I pull the plug. I might throw a few curveballs here and there, but this is never going to transform into a site about fungal infections, llamas or Britney Spears. Word.

As always, I welcome your input...if there's anything you'd particularly like to see happenin' 'round here, hit me up via with your thoughts and ideas. I do eventually read all of my mail, so if you've already written and haven't heard back from me yet, I'll definitely hit you up as soon as possible
. I also read through anything you see fit to drop in the comment boxes as well.

Enough of that nonsense for now. Let's get busy and do this damn thing...Scholar

"If You Move I'll Fall"---The Soul Children (LimeLinx)
"If You Move I'll Fall"---The Soul Children (savefile)

I've posted a couple of tracks by this group, but for (hopefully) obvious reasons they're worth an occasional mention up in here...

Formed in 1968 by Isaac Hayes and David Porter in the aftermath of Sam & Dave's departure from Atlantic Records, this soulful outfit was comprised of John Colbert (aka J. Blackfoot), Norman West, Anita Louis, and sometimes Shelbra Bennet. The group achieved a moderate degree of success on the R&B charts, but their only song to crack the Billboard Top 40 was their 1974 single, "I'll Be The Other Woman". Despite their inability to take mainstream radio by storm, The Soul Children became a mainstay of the Stax/Atlantic roster and continue to be highly revered amongst soul enthusiasts and hip hop producers on the search for righteous loops.

Although I've been spinning their records for as long as I can remember, I do have a couple of armchair criticisms regarding the overall quality of their canon of works. For one thing, most of their full-length recordings are burdened by an abundance of filler material, which can be somewhat discouraging if you prefer listening to albums from beginning to end. Additionally, their lyrical content (often written by Hayes/Porter) too frequently centered on overwrought themes such as adultery, because...let's face it...R&B's been tapping the other woman's ass since forever began.

Despite these potential distractions, "If You Move I'll Fall" (Finder's Keepers, 1976) perfectly illustrates why it's imperative to thorougly explore their discography in search of their more substantive material. The Dells recorded a killer original of this tune, but when The Soul Children rose to the occasion, the result was damn near sonic supremacy. The emotive, gospel-inflected vocals that they laid on the track grab me by the throat and maintain their grip until the chorus fades into silence. To fully understand what I'm talkin' about, ya just gotta turn up the volume and get lifted...

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"Leanin' On You"---Geto Boys (LimeLinx)
"Leanin' On You"---Geto Boys (savefile)

*From The Foundation LP (Asylum Records, 2005); track produced by Mr. Mixx

"Weird Fishes/Arpeggi"---Radiohead (LimeLinx)

"Weird Fishes/Arpeggi"---Radiohead (savefile)

"Reckoner (Boy Eats Drum Machine Remix)"---Radiohead (LimeLinx)
"Reckoner (Boy Eats Drum Machine Remix)"---Radiohead (savefile)

I've already decided that when I get old and lose what's left of my mind, I'm going to keep a shit ton of cats and smoke myself into the stratosphere where all of Radiohead's ethereal surrealisms make perfect, literal sense. If I can find my laptop and the keyboard doesn't melt while I'm typing, I may even blog about my findings. Lucky you.

As evidenced by past behavior, I apparently don't possess the self-discipline or compulsion towards enumeration that must work in tandem if one endeavors to compose a year-end best-of list. I'm quite certain if I did, however, that "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" would have fallen somewhere around #23 last year in the pseudo-orderliness of my mental chaos.

The first several times I heard the track, I admittedly thought about ending it all by driving my neighbor's stupid moped directly into a tree. Although Radiohead's trademark is their existential malcontent and anemic melancholy, few scenarios one can conjure are more catastrophically depressing than being eaten by worms...I mean, Pink Floyd stumbled upon that stark truth a few decades ago, if you recall.

Anyway, I can't remember exactly when my listening experience took a turn for the better, but lately I've been playing it often, especially when I'm rollin' down the block on my 15" rusted rims...NWA-style, BB gun on my lap cocked and loaded. I've earned a great deal of respect and street cred as a result, so if you're looking to stay super-fly, children...thou shalt bump this. I uploaded it for all 12 of you who haven't heard it yet.

Meanwhile, the Boy Eats Drum Machine reconstruction of "Reckoner" is one of my favorites to emerge via Radiohead's remix contests. BEDM (aka Jon Ragel) is a singer/songwriter/musician/turntablist from Portland who's been generating some well-deserved hype on the internets as of late. I'm sure many of you will pass on this, but in light of his penchant for crate digging, quirky style, and one-man band musical wizardry, this kid is definitely a'ight by me.

Check out the BEDM website. Listen. Learn. Cop free music.

"Give It Up Turn It Loose"---DJ Ayers (LimeLinx)

"Give It Up Turn It Loose"---DJ Ayers (savefile)

It's not my usual style to fuck around with uptempo club tracks, but every once in a while I come across something that inspires me to spontaneously combust into a series of ironic dance moves. Fortunately most of you will never have to witness this unrestrained mayhem firsthand, but my friends can tell you it's both spastic and amusing.

This collection of mixes, covers, and tributes to the Godfather Of Soul is a fairly well-rounded collection that should have something for just about everyone. I definitely don't have unconditional love for the project in its entirety, but I'll tell you stays funky and energetic from start to finish, and how better to pay homage to the spirit of JB than that?

"Hommage"---Specswizard/Fratello Beatz (LimeLinx)
"Hommage"---Specswizard/Fratello Beatz (savefile)

"The Most Beautifulest Loop In The Game"---Fratello Beatz (LimeLinx)
"The Most Beautifulest Loop In The Game"---Fratello Beatz (savefile)

Another ridiculously dope tribute to a soul legend comes courtesy of Mr. Tee Bow and Vincenzo Terranova (aka Fratello Beatz). I was semi-reluctant to fuck with their recent tribute to Isaac Hayes, because we've all heard Ike's beats get flipped a time or two zillion. Despite my reservations, after listening to just a few minutes of this mix I was obliged to fix my face.

Check these guys out on MySpace or at LZO Records, where you can download a grip of their remixes for free.

"I Was Born All Over"---O.V. Wright (LimeLinx)
"I Was Born All Over"---O.V. Wright (savefile)

Being a fan of deep Southern soul, there's sort of an unspoken rule that O.V. Wright will be a permanent staple of your musical diet. He's considered by many like-minded enthusiasts to have set the standard for the genre, but what is it exactly that gives him bragging rights over other artists who recorded music in a similar vein? This can certainly only be answered in subjective terms, but I'm of the mindset that his ace in the hole was, at least in part, his uncanny ability to express his worldly afflictions within the parameters of a traditional gospel sound.

The transition from the sacred to the secular is far from being Wright's exclusive domain, but his reluctance to wholeheartedly immerse himself in the trappings of popular music differentiated him somewhat from the majority of his peers. Artists such as Aretha Franklin and Al Green would often revert to their spiritual roots by cutting straight-up gospel records, but Wright arguably took his devotion a step further by blessing nearly every song he touched with the intensity, fervor, structure, and style he mastered during his tenure in the church. The lyrics to his secular offerings revealed a tortured man whose soul was plagued by earthly temptations and constraints, but he never strayed far from his spiritual roots in terms of his sanctified delivery.

Wright's uninhibited acknowledgement of life's hardships and gut-wrenching emotionalism ultimately became the cornerstone of his rich legacy, and has certainly contributed to his highly revered status amongst Southern soul aficionados. In many ways, the interplay between the sacred and the profane embodied by his music can be universally understood, and the language of deeply felt emotion possesses the lofty ability to cross all boundaries in place and time.

Wright's friend (and fellow soul singer), Otis Clay, described his spellbinding effect on the crowd at of one of his performances in Miami as follows: "Oh man, he was killing the place. He said 'If you know about the blues come up here and shake my hand!' and the people lined up and came across the stage. This is what a Baptist preacher does. . . . He would do anything to stir emotion. That's typical of a gospel singer. That was O.V. Wright."

"I Was Born All Over"(Back Beat 620) is one of many songs that effectively illustrates Wright's uncompromising artistic passion and charismatic style of delivery. Although the lyrics are directed towards a lover who has transformed and reinvigorated the narrator's existence, they could just as easily describe being "born again" in the spiritual/religious sense of renewal. Couple that with the fact that Wright and his backing vocalists sound as if they were singing straight from a hymnal, and you will surely be inspired to believe in the gospel according to Overton Vertis Wright.

Dig deeper...

Word From Your Moms:

"Like snowflakes, the human pattern is never cast twice. We are uncommonly and marvelously intricate in thought and action, our problems are most complex and, too often, silently borne."---Alice Childress