Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dead Men Walking Don't Dream...


"Gotta Get Away"---Gloria Barnes (LimeLinx)
"Gotta Get Away"---Gloria Barnes (YSI)

I've been interested in hearing Gloria Barnes' Uptown LP for quite some time, but unfortunately I didn't treat it as a matter of great urgency. I have notebooks full of albums I plan to dig for at some point in the future, and I'd be hard-pressed to put the slightest dent in this ever-growing list before the Funky Mothership arrives to collect my soul. Thankfully I have some of the illest readers in the universe, and one of them sent me a rip of the LP a few weeks ago. Hearing this for the first time put me on the kind of natural high that record junkies live for, so I had to share some love with everyone who hasn't had an opportunity to hear this yet. If I was a contortionist, I swear I'd kick my own ass for failing to be up on this sooner.

The most reliable information and insightful commentary about Barnes I've run across comes by way of my friend Colin Dilnot's blog, In Dangerous Rhythm. Colin featured a breakdown of every track on this Harlem vocalist's killer LP, and was also involved with Uptown's reissue on Castle/Sanctuary Records in 2007. The reissue is part of the Outta Sight Soul Essential series, and is paired with The Chosen Few's Taking All The Love I Can LP for a ridiculously generous price. The common denominator of these fine albums is that they were produced by Johnny Brantley, whose underappreciated mastery is also evidenced on records he cut with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Lee Moses, The Ohio Players, Jimmy Castor, and Hermon Hitson.

This stellar 2-for-1 release (aka Soul Twins Vol 2) is available as an import via Amazon for collectors in the US, and can also be purchased through numerous online retailers in the UK and beyond. I can assure you that the Gloria Barnes tracks are worth the price of admission alone, and The Chosen Few is another hands down Souled On favorite.


"Let It Be Me"---The Voices Of East Harlem (LimeLinx)
"Let It Be Me"---The Voices Of East Harlem (YSI)

I think "Let It Be Me" is one of the sweetest love songs ever written, although David Hasselhoff put its good reputation in jeopardy by fucking it up beyond belief on an episode of Knight Rider (note: bad outfits, lip-synching, offensive amounts of hair spray and a giant disco ball were also abused during this travesty). Despite being lightweight emotionally scarred by that unfortunate incident, gratifying renditions by artists such as Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown, Betty Everett & Jerry Butler, and The Sweet Inspirations have gone a long way toward restoring my faith in the song. Ultimately, I had to just get over myself and...you know...drop it like it's Hoff.

"Let It Be Me" was originally a French song called "Je T'Appartiens". It was first recorded in 1955 by Gilbert Bécaud, who co-wrote the tune with Pierre Delanoë and Mann Curtis. The English version first came about when Jill Corey performed the song on the television series Climax. Corey released her version as a single in 1957, enjoying only a moderate degree of chart success. The song didn't fully penetrate mainstream culture until The Everly Brothers released their cover in 1960, a runaway hit that peaked at #7 on Billboard's Hot 100. Although they were hardly the only recording artists to popularize the tune, their harmony arrangement became the blueprint for countless versions that were subsequently released.

The Voices Of East Harlem were a vocal ensemble that was comprised of as many as 20 members, ranging in age from 12 to 21 years. They released four albums between 1970 and 1974, working with soul legends of the caliber of Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, and Leroy Hutson. The group's obvious gospel/inspirational overtones caused them to be widely overlooked by the soul/R&B community, although their material gradually moved towards a more secular vibe.

Their debut album, Right On Be Free, may have been more heavily steeped in the gospel tradition than its successors, but it's every bit as soulful as it is righteous. While I don't necessarily find it quite as listenable as their latter LPs, I've come to appreciate it as an essential link in the evolutionary chain between gospel and soul music. Their rendition of "Let It Be Me" is a fine example of this: it's instantly reminiscent of holy sanctified Sunday mornings, although there's only the slightest hint of religiosity to be found within the content of the lyrics.

Initially, the song struck me as somewhat of an oddball choice for a choral ensemble. The other renderings I've heard have been a far more intimate affair, and I'm still not sure that this is the sort of song best suited to interpretation by a massive group of kids, but one day the brilliance of this record just sort of dawned on me out of nowhere and I've given it quite a bit of play ever since. Hopefully the spirit of this groove moves some of you as well.

Dig deeper...

"Baba Nla Iya (Intense Suffering)"---Kaleta & Zozo Afrobeat (LimeLinx)

" Baba Nla Iya (Intense Suffering)"---Kaleta & Zozo Afrobeat (YSI)

While I'm on the subject of amazing ensembles, I've been remiss in failing to mention Zozo Afrobeat up to this point. This phenomenal 13-piece collective is fearlessly led by Kaleta (aka Leon Ligan-Majek), one of the mightiest living legends of African music. Having recorded and performed during his formative years with Nigerian kingpins Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade, Kaleta's style remains deeply rooted in the provocative sociopolitical messages and captivating musicianship associated with his predecessors. That said, he embodies his own distinct contemporary flair, and has toured in recent years with the likes of Fela's son Femi and Lauryn Hill. Based in NYC, Kaleta and the rest of Zozo Afrobeat hail from various countries around the globe, forging an eclectic sound that effortlessly blends a cornucopia of diverse musical origins.

What I've posted for you is an instrumental edit of "Baba Nla Iya (Intense Suffering)" that originally appeared as the B-side of their "Country Of Guns" 7-inch (Tramp, TR-1008). A longer vocal version appears on the Country Of Guns LP, but my guess is that fewer of you have gotten to hear the flipside of the single. Despite its somber title, this is a groove you can actually dance to...or at least my ass has made the attempt.

I realize that a lot of you snitches are afraid of anything you might consider "world music", but if you're adventurous enough to give this is a spin, I think you may be pleasantly surprised...

Dig deeper...

"4 AM Instrumental"---6th Sense (LimeLinx)
"4 AM Instrumental"---6th Sense (YSI)

"AM Set"---6th Sense & Wildabeast ft. Andras (LimeLinx)
"AM Set"---6th Sense & Wildabeast ft. Andras (YSI)

6th Sense is easily one of the illest hip hop producers on the scene at the moment, and the fact that he's also a prolific songwriter/MC makes him all the more worthy of your undivided attention. Heavily influenced by J Dilla, Miles Davis, Jay-Z, Nas, Stevie Wonder, and Kanye West, 6th draws his inspiration from some of the greatest to ever do it. These lofty aspirations are quite evident in the impeccable quality and precision of his output, and these echoes of the past are part of what makes him such a formidable contender for hip hop royalty in the present and future.

His latest effort, It’s A 6th Sense Beat, Yo!, was released on February 3rd, and is available for free download via Nodfactor. If this is your first introduction to his work, you'll also want to check for his free mixtapes with Mick Boogie, the killer tracks he's released with Wildabeast, and his It's Coming Soon LP. You should definitely do some checking on your own, but a couple more spots where you can find lots of free and legal downloads are included below.

Dig deeper...

"Amnesia"---Blu (LimeLinx)
"Amnesia"---Blu (YSI)

"Just Relax (Dan Aikido Remix)"---Noah ft. Blu (LimeLinx)
"Just Relax (Dan Aikido Remix)"---Noah ft. Blu (YSI)

I waited for Blu's new mixtape, Her Favorite Colo(u)r, with the same pins and needles anticipation that causes old people to get grumpy when the morning edition of the newspaper doesn't arrive on time. Blu simply can't release music quickly enough for myself and other members of his cultlike fanbase.

For the most part, I'm not sure what kind of reviews writers, bloggers and critics have been giving it. I usually try to form my own opinion about things so that I don't find myself falling under the influence of other people's thought processes. However, I did come across one writer (no sense giving him a shout) who essentially argued that emotionalism has no place in hip hop. Now I won't front---lyrically, Her Favorite Colo(u)r stands in stark contrast to the standard fare issued by prototypical gun-toting MCs...think 808s & Heartbreak minus the Auto-Tune. However, hip hop really ain't shit if it isn't the voice of the people. There are plenty of releases geared towards those who prefer heavy doses of misogyny, playerism and pimpitude. By the same token, however, there is undoubtedly a growing audience clamoring for Blu's more confessional style of lyrical poetry. Anyone who's so uncomfortable with the latter that they want anything heartfelt to be excommunicated from the genre evidently has some issues with their manhood. Stop typing and start checkin' for your balls, son.

Anyway, I would guess that many of you are already up on Blu's new mixtape, so I threw in a couple of bonus tracks to accompany "Amnesia", my favorite joint from Her Favorite Colo(u)r. Dan Aikido's remix of "Just Relax" is representative of jazz-hop at it's very finest, and Billie Holiday's "Am I Blue?" is the phenomenal Lady Day track that was artfully sampled on "Amnesia".


"Am I Blue"---Billie Holiday (LimeLinx)
"Am I Blue"---Billie Holiday (YSI)

*Sampled On "Amnesia"

"Once I Have You (I Will Never Let You Go)"---The Originals (LimeLinx)
"Once I Have You (I Will Never Let You Go)"---The Originals (YSI)

Although The Originals have quite a few outstanding sweet soul offerings in their canon of works, their legacy tends to be overshadowed by many of their Motown labelmates who were infinitely more successful. The group's popularity climaxed in 1969 with the release of "Baby I'm For Real", followed the subsequent year with another successful single, "The Bells". Marvin Gaye produced these two hits for The Originals in addition to a handful of other tunes, and this formula undoubtedly resulted in some of the most memorable moments of the group's recording career.

By the time they released their Naturally Together LP, the group was already beginning to lose their commercial appeal. Although "God Bless Whoever Sent You" rose to #14 on the R&B charts, the album as a whole didn't sell nearly as many copies as its predecessors. That said, there are a few gems on this record that I wouldn't want to live without, and "Once I Have You (I Will Never Let You Go)" is certainly one of them. The soaring harmonies and unfeigned lyrical sincerity certainly push the song to the very edge of sappiness, but if you happen to be a fool in love, the syrupy flavor might just be to your liking.

If you're interested in seeking out more from The Originals, the collection pictured above serves as an excellent primer. I've always been forthcoming about the fact that I much prefer the grittier vibe of southern soul, but no matter how bitter one might be, a little spoonful of sugar every now and then ain't never hurt nobody.

Dig deeper...

"Hometown Glory (Chewy Chocolate Cookies Remix)"---Adele (LimeLinx)
"Hometown Glory (Chewy Chocolate Cookies Remix)"---Adele (YSI)

"Make You Feel My Love (Remot Remix)"---Adele (LimeLinx)
"Make You Feel My Love (Remot Remix)"---Adele (YSI)

I honestly had to swear off British blue-eyed soul divas for a while after my ex-girlfriend Amy Winehouse went and fell in love with a crack pipe. It made some sort of twisted sense at the time, but I was wrong to intentionally look past Adele for such a completely illogical reason. Truth be told, the differences between the two are every bit as relevant as their commonalities, despite the fact that the media has incessantly plugged Adele as a kinder, gentler answer to Winehouse's unique brand of frenzied delerium.

The fact that Adele is somewhat of a safer and more wholesome option doesn't necessarily add to her appeal in and of itself. Some of my favorite artists of all time were insufferably tragic human beings, but it can be quite a nerve-wracking affair to stand by and wait for someone you admire to spontaneously self-destruct. It seems that if Adele leaves us it won't be with eyeliner smudges running down her face and a big needle sticking out of her arm. No...she's far more likely to accidentally drown herself in a bowl of oat bran cereal or something equally innocent and seemingly innocuous.

All ridiculousness aside, I do often find Adele's 19 LP refreshing, and the melodic lullaby of her mellifluous vocals can be all too engaging when I'm in the proper frame of mind. That said, my love affair with her material has only gotten more serious after numerous DJs and producers started releasing killer remixes of the tracks from 19. In many instances, these reduxes have inflated the replay value of her work, and effectively preserved the viability of her music long before it could descend into tedium and monotony. The CCC and Remot remixes are a couple of first class examples of why it's still easy to catch me these days with Adele bumpin' out the windows of my ride. If you can't respect that, your whole perspective is wack.

Dig deeper and deeper...


For those of you who aren't familiar with the revolutionary artwork of Emory Douglas, please do your homework. In his role as the Black Panthers’ official artist and Minister of Culture, Douglas created countless provocative images that were regularly printed in the organization's weekly newspaper. His graphic illustrations were crucial in visually defining the organization's ideology, and became a vital means of extending their message and objectives, even to those who were unable to read or write. While the philosophy and methodology of the Black Panther Party continue to incite much controversy and debate, it is virtually impossible to deny Douglas his rightful iconic status. The historic, cultural and sociopolitical significance of the boldly symbolic images he created simply cannot be forgotten or overlooked.

In 2007, many of these visual artifacts were reprinted and preserved in the book Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas. I would recommend buying this book only if you intend to actually open it, as opposed to casting it off as a coffee table prop to make your friends think you're cooler and more intellectual than you really are.

Recently, Station4 in the UK teamed up with Douglas to produce a series of limited edition silk-screened prints that are signed and numbered by the artist himself. The first few are already available, although there will be 12 in total before the series is complete. I ain't gonna lie...these are some expensive-ass posters, but they may be a worthy indulgence for yourself or someone you love if you've got it like that. The irony of these prices being so...ahem...unrevolutionary hasn't been lost on many critics, but on the flip side, it's mighty difficult to avoid participating in the great paper chase. Any thoughts?


The Obama administration releases a top secret Bush memo authorizing warrantless seizures of terror suspects; vows to continue releasing previously protected documents.

God isn't responding to your prayers quickly enough? Have you tried leaving a message on his answering machine?

The fearless leader of the No Cussing Club edges closer to persuading LA County to honor a weeklong silence on four-letter words. Scholar says: Fuck yeah!


If this doesn't make you smile today, nothing will (assholes aside, of course):

Word From Your Moms:

"Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real."---Tupac Shakur

"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."---Edgar Allan Poe


dennis b said...

Pure excellence.

chrome said...

Yes scholar! feeling that dutty Afrobeat riddim. never heard of Kaleta & Zozo. intense

Crystal said...

It's a good thing you're sexy, because you have to be the worst friend ever lol. Patrice just came to visit last month and we both talked about you really bad. Im staying with Ki and flying home Sunday. Call me. It's LAME that this is the only way I can catch up with you any more.

PS. MJ said to tell you hey.

Anonymous said...

Special thanks for the video and the Adele remixes.

Would you know who filmed the video by any chance?

Keith said...

Great post as usual. I hope you're doing well. Cheers!

yiristos said...

It's been a while since I passed on my thanks to you in the comments, but your music choices are a constant inspiration to me, and the Playing For Change video has made my week. Many, many thanks.

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