Thursday, June 25, 2009

It Ain't No Use In Jivin'; Some Souls Need Revivin'...

"A Song For You"---Merry Clayton (LimeLinx)
"A Song For You"---Merry Clayton (YSI)

~Appears on the Merry Clayton LP (Ode 1971)

Although "A Song For You" was written and originally recorded by singer/songwriter/musician Leon Russell, most soul fans tend to enthusiastically agree that the definitive version was rendered by none other than the late, great Donny Hathaway. While the lyrics themselves are undoubtedly imbued with a degree of poignancy, it was Hathaway's deeply affecting take on the song that arguably blessed it with such a palpable sense of sincerity and longing. His impassioned delivery epitomizes the very essence of what makes soul music so moving and evocative~ unless you have sociopathic tendencies, it's virtually impossible not to absorb and fully empathize with his pain.

Now that I've lavished Hathaway's rendition with such high praise, you may rightfully be wondering what in hell would possess me to post an alternative cover of the song. For one thing, of the 30+ versions of this song I've heard, Merry Clayton's take is easily amongst my favorites once you control for the daunting Hathaway Effect. I sincerely dig the way Aretha, The Temptations, and Ray Charles interpreted the song, but Clayton's enormous vocal talent is too often criminally overlooked, which keeps me perpetually inspired to champion her sound. I featured her stellar rendition of Neil Young's "Southern Man" quite some time ago, and while it arguably surpasses "A Song For You" in terms of overall quality, she has the chops to transform nearly everything she touches into a quasi-religious experience.

It also may be of interest that Clayton was actually the first artist to release a cover of "A Song For You". She and Hathaway both released their versions in 1971, a year that also saw covers issued by Bill Medley, Helen Reddy, and Andy Williams. Oddly enough, only Williams garnered any measurable commercial success with the tune, peaking at #82 on the Billboard charts. I've never been a big fan of the popular crooner's work, but evidently that makes me uncivilized~ old people think he's dope and Ronald Reagan once declared his voice a national treasure. I'm certain there has to be a Time-Life retrospective of his material floating around on eBay, know...get busy, son.

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"D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)"---Jay-Z (LimeLinx)
"D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)"---Jay-Z (YSI)

Souled On Sample:

"In The Space"---Janko Nilovic & Dave Sucky (LimeLinx)
"In The Space"---Janko Nilovic & Dave Sucky (YSI)

Only in the rapidly cycling age of the internets would a track that leaked 2 1/2 weeks ago be considered old school, but for all intents and purposes, "D.O.A." has already been thoroughly vetted. Not only has it already undergone intense scrutiny by the armchair army, it's also spawned an impassioned response from the community of artists who utilize Auto-Tune. I'm sure that most of you have heard this already, but it's all good. You probably missed this just recently escaped the clutches of an extremist cult that forced you to marry your cousin, punished you for refusing to drink the kool-aid, and banned access to all forms of media (with the possible exception of Channel 18).

Jay declaring a moratorium on Auto-Tune doesn't particularly bother me, because I would bet my meager life savings on the fact that "T-Painin'" (formerly known as the Cher Effect) will go down in history as one of the tackiest trends to ever infiltrate popular music. There's no doubt that a handful of artists have used it imaginatively and effectively, but for the most part, the novelty has progressively worn off with every irritating instance of creative abuse. Perhaps my bitterness is biased because I'm positive that I deserve credit for inventing this shit in the early '80s~ I nearly ripped my face off once while singing an MC Hammer song into the back of my Auntie Peaches' metal blade 12 volt fan.

Much as I'm down with Hov , I gave up hoping a long time ago that he would drop something as lyrically impressive as his rhymes on Reasonable Doubt, or even The Black Album. That said, he flips some clever lines on this joint, and I don't think I'll be mad if the final version of Blueprint 3 contains material of this caliber.

I also included the song that producer No I.D. sampled on the cut~ a track from a dusty library record called Psyc Impressions. I'm kinda scratching my head at all the people who are going bananas over the production on this song. Don't kill me~ I'm a No I.D. fan from way back, and I give him an A+ for being an industrious crate digger. The entire record is full of creative possibilities that heretofore have been overlooked and I give him mad props for having the foresight to unearth it. My only issue is that it's so faithful to the original that it comes across as more derivative than imaginative.

All in all, this is a pretty good look for Hov, with the added bonus that wifey isn't all up in the cut singing some of that oh oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh oh shit...

"Can't Buy Soul"---Hebrew Rogers (LimeLinx)
"Can't Buy Soul"---Hebrew Rogers (YSI)

Funky Music Machine is one of the illest funk compilations ever released on the Soul Patrol label. I know that many purists prefer to search for the original 45s, but since that's not always probable or practical, I'm never ashamed to cop a set of killer funk and soul grooves.

One of the obvious standouts on this particular collection is "Can't Buy Soul" by Hebrew Rogers. First released on the Original Sound label in 1973, the track was penned by the multi-talented Preston Epps. While Rogers remains a bit of an enigma, Epps is an accomplished percussionist who settled in Southern California after his tour of duty during the Korean War. While stationed in Okinawa he learned to play a number of different instruments, most notably the bongos. After being signed to Original Sounds Epps released "Bongo Rock" in 1959~ a hit single that climbed to #14 on the Billboard charts and was later covered by The Incredible Bongo Band. Epps subsequently released a full-length LP, and tried to mirror this early success with other bongo-themed joints such as "Bongo Bongo Bongo", "Bootlace Bongo", "Flamenco Bongo", "Bongo Boogie", "Mr. Bongo", "Bongo Shuffle", "Bongo in the Congo", "Bongo Rocket", etc. Perhaps it was bongo overkill, because none of these records touched the popularity or impact made by his first single, but Epps continued to work as a session musician and was a fixture on the SoCal club scene well into the 1990s. At any rate, I was impressed to learn that Epps wrote this extraordinary deep funk classic, and I'm also quite grateful that he avoided lacing the title with any of his standard bongoisms.

The Funky Music Machine compilation is becoming increasingly difficult to find through major retailers, but this particular gem is still available as the B-side to Deloris Ealy & The Roadrunners Band's "It's About Time I Made A Change" on Deep Groove Sounds, and was also compiled on BGP Records' SuperFunk Is Back- Rare And Classic Funk 1968-1977 LP in 2007. The latter has a bit more filler material than Funky Music Machine in my opinion, but it boasts a number of hard-to-find and previously unissued recordings that unquestionably inflate its overall worth.

"Words Of Wisdom (They Don't Know)"---Sam Sever and the Raiders of the Lost Art (LimeLinx)
"Words Of Wisdom (They Don't Know)"---Sam Sever and the Raiders of the Lost Art (YSI)

Although relatively few heads recognize Sam Sever's name these days, the NY-based producer has worked with a myriad of artists, including The Beastie Boys, Tricky Tee, Run-DMC, Oran 'Juice' Jones, Tashan, Ms. Melodie, Nikki D, Sham & The Professor, and A.D.O.R.

Although many hip hop elders still highly regard his early 90's hip-hop group with Bosco Money, Downtown Science, Sever (aka Sam Citrin) is perhaps most widely recognized for his affiliation with 3rd Bass. Having worked with both MC Serch and Pete Nice on their respective demos, he suggested that the two rival MCs work together, which ultimately lead to the group's formation. 3rd Bass scored a contract with Def Jam, and Sever stayed on board to produce a great deal of their material.

"Words Of Wisdom (They Don't Know)" was released by Sever on a Mo Wax 12" in 1995. What's That Sound? featured an ill side and a chill side, and this dope little throwback joint was one of three tracks featured on the latter. According to Can I Bring My Gat?, the spoken word on the track is courtesy of one of The Last Poets. This joint may be 14 years old, but its commentary on the recording industry couldn't be more relevant: “Record company is the pimp, artist is the ho, the stage is the corner, and the audience is the trick.” Word.

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"The Truth Shall Make You Free"---King Hannibal (LimeLinx)
"The Truth Shall Make You Free"---King Hannibal (YSI)

*From the Truth LP (Aware, 1973)

King Hannibal starts off "The Truth Shall Make You Free" with a big wailing echo: "I wanna talk to all you addicts out there...that's got yourself a great big jones...and you done tried...the methadone...and you just can't leave that herion alone...I wonder...have you tried Jeeeee-zussssss." Those few lines speak volumes about a man who is perhaps one of the most interesting characters in all of soul music's history.

Born James Shaw, Hannibal started singing doo-wop in his hometown of Atlanta, GA. By 1954 he was singing with the Overalls, a group that included two future members of the Pips, Edward Patten and Merald "Bubba" Knight. He soon moved to LA and stepped out as a solo artist, releasing material on various labels as Jimmy Shaw, Hannibal, and the Mighty Hannibal.

By the mid-60s, Hannibal was beginning to fully realize his artistic potential. His vocal abilities were progessively more impressive, and he had developed a distinctive persona that involved his trademark turbans and an indescribably hypnotic stage presence. Upon returning to Atlanta, he signed with Shurfine Records and released two sides that were amongst the finest of his musical career, "Jerkin' The Dog" and "Hymn No. 5". Originally issued in 1966, "Hymn No. 5" became Hannibal's most commercially successful single, peaking at #21 on the R&B charts. Vividly depicting the horrors of the Vietnam War, the anti-establishment anthem was both radical and visionary in the sense that it preceded most of the protest music that would later be released. Despite the fact that many radio stations refused to play it, the record sold more than 3,000 copies in Columbus, Georgia alone, presumably because many of the soldiers stationed at Fort Benning could relate to the song's powerful sentiments.

Although this defining moment could have launched Hannibal into superstardom, the charismatic vocalist was spending more of his time pimping than performing, in addition to being consumed by a crippling heroin addiction. His gradual descent into hell-on-earth would be further punctuated by a stint a jail for tax evasion.

These trials and tribulations ultimately lead to Hannibal's re-emergence in the '70s as a reformed man with a newly signed contract with Aware Records. King Hannibal, as he was now calling himself, had officially traded heroin for Jesus, and he was enthusiastic about sharing the recipe for his triumphance with anyone who would listen. Understanding a bit of the backstory makes "The Truth Shall Set You Free" more than an in-your-face anti-drug anthem; it's the tale of a man whose life crumbled under his excesses until he found the strength to rise above his struggles and put himself back in the game. I'm not much for hyper-religiosity, but I can certainly appreciate the man's resilience, and's a funky-ass cut. (If you dig this, you might wanna check out his slight variation on this same theme, aptly titled "God's The Only Cure For The Crack". Seriously, cousin...)

Hannibal languished in obscurity for much of the '80s and '90s, but his career was jump-started when some of his music was featured in the film Velvet Goldmine. The artist is now blind and living in the Bronx, but he's still hustlin' CDs out of his apartment, and returned to Atlanta in 2007 for the proclamation of Mighty Hannibal Day.

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"Fly Crow"---Tha Connection (LimeLinx)
"Fly Crow"---Tha Connection (YSI)

I think I may have mentioned this before, but Tha Connection's Trapeze was one of my favorite hip hop releases last year. Although 2009 is far from over, I feel confident in saying that their latest LP, The Love Royale, is likely to achieve the same elevated status this year when all is said and done.

Critical analysis/deconstruction isn't really my forte~ if I like something I like it, and I usually don't feel like bustin' out my thesaurus to justify whatever wild claims I'm making about a song or album on any given day (how fuckin' gangsta and anti-blogger of me). Consequently, I'll keep this relatively simple...What makes these guys so ill is their instinct for blending the soulful and the gritty. Their press release for The Love Royale vividly depicts their style as "pure nostalgic soul sounding vibes as sharp as blade winds".

If you had asked me in '93 what soulful hip hop sounded like, I would have probably referenced Gang Starr, Wu-Tang or Mobb Deep. RZA, Premier and Havoc were masterful at flipping some lovely old records, but those guys also knew how to keep it grimy. It would be ludicrous to blame the regression exclusively on Kanye's "chimpmunk soul" period, but that's roughly the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Soulful hip hop got saddled with an oversized pink backpack and it hasn't quite managed to regain its integrity, composure, or credibility ever since.

In any case, I have much respect for Tha Connection in the sense that their music is an authentic throwback to the raw soul and jazz-infused bleakness of the golden era's east coast vibe. Don't jump on this expecting the caliber of The Infamous or 36 Chambers, but appreciate what is undoubtedly a positive step towards reclaiming a long lost art. MCs SmooVth and Hus don't spit the wittiest rhymes I've ever heard, but they're ingenious at creating the sort of moody atmosphere that characterized a grip of venerable hip hop classics. .

I've been listening to this album for a couple of months now, and I keep getting stuck on different tracks that I'll play on repeat until I step to the next one. I just started diggin' "Fly Crow", but you'll wanna cop the whole album so you can check out other dope joints such as "Royale", "Dum Dum Dum", "Let's Go", "Fool In Love", "Get Live", and the revamped version of "Take It Higher".

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"When It's Over"---Don Varner (LimeLinx)
"When It's Over"---Don Varner (YSI)

Although I'm guessing that many of you haven't heard of Don Varner, the raspy-voiced soul vocalist performed or shared the stage with the likes of Ray Charles, Billy Preston, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson, just to name a few. Primarily issuing his singles on a string of obscure labels during the '60s and '70s, Varner recorded most of his material at Quin Ivy's studio in Muscle Shoals.

While the singer became somewhat legendary on the Northern Soul scene, his records enjoyed considerably less success in the States as compared to the UK. It's nearly impossible to justify why his talents were so underappreciated, but Varner is one of many accomplished artists who simply didn't receive the proper marketing and distribution to garner significant acclaim. In addition to his impressive baritone voice, Varner was also a prolific songwriter who stockpiled an abundance of original material in his vault.

The first proper collection of the artist's works, including previously unissued tracks, was released by RPM Records in the UK in 2005. Sadly, Varner passed away in 2002 and wasn't able to fully enjoy the rekindled interest in his material that was sparked at the turn of the millenium. His widow is fully committed to keeping the spirit of his music alive, and she was instrumental in laying the groundwork that led to the posthumous release of Finally Got Over!

Varner's tracks have appeared on various compilations, but I'd definitely recommend purchasing this excellent CD reissue of his recordings. "When It's Over" (an R&B twist on the same basic theme Cat Stevens explored on "Wild World" IMO) is merely one of 23 solid cuts from a man who epitomized the very heart of Southern soul music.

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"See It All"---Fink (LimeLinx)
"See It All"---Fink (YSI)

*Appears on Sort Of A Revolution (Ninja Tune, 2009)

I'm thoroughly bored with writing in paragraph format, but I do want to share this one last song from Fink's captivating Sort Of A Revolution LP. A few random and potentially poorly organized facts:

*Born Fin Greenall, Fink was raised in Bristol in a musical household~ his father was a folk artist and his mother was a music manager. He started off his own career in the industry as a DJ and club promoter.

*Fink was the first traditional singer/songwriter to be on Ninja Tune's roster.

*He has worked in various capacities with artists such as Amy Winehouse, Nitin Sawhney, Zero 7, and Bonobo. His Sort Of A Revolution LP contains material he collaborated on with John Legend.

*Fink has drawn comparisons to artist such as Massive Attack, JJ Cale, Nick Drake, Nick Cave, Jeff Buckley, and John Martyn.

*His Sort Of A Revolution LP was preceded by Fresh Produce, Biscuits For Breakfast, and Distance And Time

*I didn't listen to Sort Of A Revolution very much at first, but one day not too long ago its brilliance just sort of crept up on me. In my experience it's often the albums that finally dawn on me after repeated listens that ultimately have the greatest replay value. "See It All" was the track that was coming out of the speakers when I experienced my little "holy fuck" moment...

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Word From Your Moms:

"I am gonna write poems til i die and when i have gotten outta this body i am gonna hang round in the wind and knock over everybody who got their feet on the ground."---Ntozake Shange

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How We Ever Gonna Get Up If That's How We Get Down?

How ya feelin' out there, soul children?

Hopefully things are starting to heat up in your part of the world, and there's nothing more potent than some scorching hot music to fan the flames. Whatever it is that may be ailing you, don't let it keep you down~ just sweat it out, kids. Like my grandmama used to always say, sometimes you gotta blaze up if you wanna stay lifted.

Be easy, fam...Scholar

"Funky Hi-Life"---CK Mann & Carousel 7 (LimeLinx)
"Funky Hi-Life"---CK Mann & Carousel 7 (YSI)

CK Mann (aka Charles Kofi Amankwaa Mann) is a renowned Ghanaian musician whose profound impact on the evolution of highlife music has made him a beloved and highly influential artist not only in West Africa, but in many other parts of the world as well.

A self-taught guitarist, Mann's illustrious career began in the 1960s, when he joined Moses Kweku Oppong's band Kakaiku. Once he had fully established himself as an artist, he struck out on his own to form the Carousel 7 , swiftly garnering success with a mega-hit called "Edina Brenya".

I won't torture you by rambling on about the complex history of highlife~ I'm pretty sure that a good many of you snitches are content in believing that the Black Eyed Peas constitute "world music" (although seriously, having an appreciation for "lovely lady lumps" doesn't necessarily make you sophisticated, playa). It's still important to note, however, that highlife music's relevance and viability was greatly threatened in the early '70s by the increasing popularity of the funk and disco movement. It was at this critical juncture that Mann began to innovatively fuse core elements of osode (a music sung by Ghanaian fishermen in the west of the country) and highlife with heavy, funkdafied basslines, effectively saving the genre from extinction.

One of the best records to emerge from this stylistic fusion was undoubtedly "Funky Hi-Life". Originally dubbed "Asafo Beson", this irresistible groove first appeared as the intro to a 1975 album-long party LP. The handclaps, footstomps, and vocals harmonies are reminiscent of highlife's origins, while the thunderous bass and whirling organs gave the track a more contemporary vibe that was favored by the younger generation.

This has long been one of my favorite summer records. Hopefully it will have a similar effect on all of you and get you hoppin' around on your feet and shit. If you've been sprawled out on your couch all winter, it's probably a good time to burn off some of that excess baby fat anyway, children...

"On And On (Deep Focus Remix)"---Erykah Badu (LimeLinx)
"On And On (Deep Focus Remix)"---Erykah Badu (YSI)

Deep Focus (aka Robin Andrews) is an unsigned producer from the UK who is extraordinarily masterful at creating lush electronic soundscapes. In addition to reworking tracks from a variety of genres, he's also dropped quite a few of his own beats on MySpace and his YouTube channel (be sure to check out his joint "Heavy Metal"). While his music is loosely categorized as drum & bass, the majority of his compositions bear a chilled out, relaxed vibe that you won't need copious amounts of amphetamines to appreciate. This reworking of Erykah's classic should serve as a proper introduction...

"Strange Fruit"---Ohene ft. Greg Soundz (LimeLinx)
"Strange Fruit"---Ohene ft. Greg Soundz (YSI)

As strongly as I believe that reinventing, remixing, and reimagining soul music is crucial in maintaining its relevance to coming generations, I get more than a little nervous when anyone tries to fuck around with Nina Simone. My reverence for her artistry runs deeper than I could possibly explain with words, and hacking away at her material to produce lame rap joints or shitty dance tracks is nothing short of blasphemy in my opinion. Consequently, the odds were greatly stacked against me appreciating...let alone endorsing...Ohene's magnificent tribute to the High Priestess of Soul.

What makes this project so outstanding is that Ohene is capable of channeling the same revolutionary spirit that made Nina one of the most impassioned, engaging, and socially conscious artists of all time. Dividing time between his homes in Philadelphia and Ghana, West Africa, this young griot's insightful storytelling and uncanny wisdom are undoubtedly rooted in his unique global perspective. Almost every line he utters is worthy of quotation, introspection and profound meditation, which has led to his work being analyzed and deconstructed in several university classrooms around the United States.

Although it may be challenging for Ohene to survive a climate where meaningful lyricism is progressively falling from grace, his music and message will undoubtedly have a strong and lasting impact on anyone who's willing to openly listen. His tribute to Nina Simone scratches the surface of his capabilities, but he's got several other releases you may want to look into as well. Be sure to cop his new free mixtape, The O Files, via Hip Hop Linguistics.

Dig deeper... (Ohene's MySpace)

"My Love Will Never Die"---Johnny Jenkins (LimeLinx)
"My Love Will Never Die"---Johnny Jenkins (YSI)

Johnny Edward Jenkins was born in 1939 in a rural area east of Macon called Swift Creek. His love for music was nurtured by the country and R&B music he heard playing on the radio, and at age 9, the self-taught guitarist built himself a crude version of the instrument with a cigar box and rubber bands that he played left-handed and upside down. His first performances were held at a gas station nearby, where he honed his skills while attempting to hustle the locals for tip money. After his sister bought him a real six-string, Jenkins grew to be quite a flashy guitar player, and his ostentatious and acrobatic antics had a seminal influence on a young Jimi Hendrix, who was profoundly affected when he saw him perform.

Despite Jenkins' own prodigious talents, the musician is perhaps best known for his somewhat rocky relationship with Otis Redding. After seeing Redding perform at a talent show, Jenkins invited the vocalist to join forces with his blues group, The Pinetoppers. By most accounts, Redding was primarily cast in the uneviable role of running errands and acting as the group's chauffeur.

However, the tides began to turn in Redding's favor when The Pinetoppers were invited to record an album in 1962 for Stax Records in Memphis. The sessions were reportedly disastrous and ended sooner than expected, but history was made when Otis asked if he could use the remainder of their studio time to sing some of his own selections. "These Arms Of Mine" was one of the tracks Redding recorded at that time, featuring Jenkins on guitar and Steve Cropper on piano. The song would, of course, become Otis' breakthrough single, and he alone was subsequently offered a recording contract.

It's often said that Jenkins was invited to join Redding's band, but declined the offer due to an intense fear of flying. However, Jenkins was known to occasionally make unkind remarks about the soul singer, including that he was "hell to get along with" and a bully.

Jenkins recorded a solo LP called Ton-Ton Macoute in 1970, accompanied by Duane Allman and other members of The Allman Brothers Band. Although the album was well received by critics, Jenkins grew weary of the trappings of the music industry and didn't release another solo record until Blessed Blues in 1996. He released two subsequent LPs in the new millenium, Handle With Care and All in Good Time, before dying of a stroke in the summer of 2006.

To be honest, I never checked out any of Jenkins' releases from the second phase of his career, but Ton-Ton Macoute remains a permanent staple at the core of my music collection. His cover of Dr. John's "Walk On Gilded Splinters" is easily the album's masterpiece, and the only reason I didn't offer it at this juncture is because I'm planning to feature it for an episode of a themed post in the near future. "My Love Will Never Die" more than holds its own, however, as a soulful, bluesy ballad that strikes right at the heart of Jenkin's inimitable flamboyance and enviable musical dexterity.

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"Days Of Fire"---Nitin Sawhney ft. Natty (LimeLinx)
"Days Of Fire"---Nitin Sawhney ft. Natty (YSI)

Soul children in the UK are likely already well-versed in the versatile and creative talents of Nitin Sawhney, but for my peoples in the U.S., the genre-bending artist is still far from being a household name. It's difficult to observe an economy of expression when describing Sawhney's numerous achievements, but suffice it to say that this award-winning musician has garnered much worldwide acclaim as a multi-instrumentalist, DJ, songwriter, composer, and producer. Having worked with artists such as Paul McCartney, Sting, Jeff Beck, Brian Eno, and Sinead O’Connor, Sawhney has managed to not only establish himself with his growing fanbase, but also with many of the music industry's most high profile celebrities.

His most recent offering, the 2008 London Undersound LP, has largely met with praise and commendation, although the album has also been panned by a handful of the armchair critic elite. Inspired by the bombings of 7/7 and eventual shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the recounting of these tragic events understandably resonates rather deeply with many listeners. The undertaking of this stirring subject matter has, in fact, sparked a bit of controversy that's led to a array of unyielding opinions. Perhaps nowhere is this divergence of sentiment more evident than on the album's opening track "Days Of Fire", sung by Natty, who witnessed the 7/7 bus bombing and was in the Stockwell tube station at the time of the De Menezes killing. Here are a few examples that illustrate the dissenting public viewpoint on the track:

"Opening with hip-hop vocals by DJ Natty over folksy guitars and background samples that mimic half-heard train announcements, 'Days Of Fire' is the kind of first track that makes you both want to smack Sawhney for being so clever and bow down before the fact that he is, as he deftly mixes English and international influences in achingly modern protest songs for the 21st century."~ Music OMH

"Sadly, I can think of no worse start to an album than 'Days of Fire'. Featuring reggae-soulster, Natty, the track describes how Natty got caught up in events on the day Charles de Menezes was fatally shot in Stockwell. Where to begin? Perhaps the general inaccuracies of the story, or maybe just the plain, abhorrent insensitivity of using a tragic murder and miscarriage of justice to bolster your personal point-of-view. The plainest thing that comes to light is the complete selfishness of Londoners; there is no art in a smug exploitation of art masquerading as moral explanation."~ Drowned In Sound

"Natty's opening commentary on the shooting is impassioned but his Marley-lite voice can't convey the true horror."~ the BBC

"Starting with 'Days of Fire', reggae singer Natty speaks of somber realizations about how the citizens of the capital, and himself personally, have been affected by 7/7 and other disasters. The lyrics of the songs describes how things changed after the terror attacks. Natty sounds honest as he progresses with his description - one of the best on the album."~

"Natty’s gravelly delivery is strained in places, hinting desperation, to a deeper, lower approach, sounding somewhat detached and desensitised. In other places, he jaunts along as he talks us through his actions and his frame of mind throughout. Instrumentally simplistic and repetitive in its acoustic arrangement with only Natty traversing verbally, it only serves to effectively heighten his emotional state in his vocal tonal changes thus being extremely lyrically aware."~ DIY

There you have it, kids. Since there's a fair amount of geographic distance between myself and these dreadful events, I couldn't possibly weigh in on the intricacies of the song's merits in any meaningful way~ my goal, as always, is merely to provoke thought and emotion on the part of my readers. As a fan of Sawhney's work, I would implore you to explore his discography, but as far as how you receive it...well, that part's up to you.

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"Love Is Pretty"---The Lovelites (LimeLinx)
"Love Is Pretty"---The Lovelites (YSI)

The Chicago-based Lovelites' foray into music began when three high school girls~ Patti Hamilton, her sister Rozena Petty, and Barbara Peterman~ joined forces in the 1960s. In 1968 Peterman left and was replaced by Ardell McDaniel, a year before the group scored a fairly impressive hit with "How Can I Tell My Mom & Dad". The song's lyrics seem to imply the theme of teenage pregnancy, a subject still widely considered as taboo at the time of the record's release.

On the strength of this one single, the vocalists were afforded the opportunity to found their own label, Lovelite Records, in 1970. The group endured further line-up changes and enjoyed success on the R&B charts with "My Conscience" in 1971, but by 1973 their label had folded and the members had gone their separate ways.

The Lovelite Years compilation passes over a few gems from their canon of works, but for the most part, it's a fairly solid retrospective. "Love Is Pretty" is so endearing, you can't help but embrace its syrupy optimism. Released as the flip side of the "Bumpy Road Ahead" single, the song's sentimental flavor is bound to satisfy your cravings for something sweet with absolutely no worries about tooth decay.

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"Where Is My Boy?"---Faultline ft. Chris Martin (LimeLinx)
"Where Is My Boy?"---Faultline ft. Chris Martin (YSI)

Faultline is the moniker for DJ/producer David Kosten, an electronic musician whose affinity for synthesizers was cultivated after he burst a lung while playing clarinet for the National Youth Orchestra. This experimentation with new sounds ultimately led to the release of his Closer Colder LP in 1999, followed by Your Love Means Everything in 2002. The latter album was re-issued a couple of years later by Capitol/EMI, bearing a slightly revamped tracklisting.

Your Love Means Everything is a magnetically charming LP, imbued with a quiet melodrama and fragile ambience that allows for a thoroughly intimate listening experience. While the album boasts a number of accomplished guest vocalists, the main selling point is undoubtedly its spellbinding synthesis of gripping emotion and musical innovation.

I only find myself skipping through a couple of tracks on the album, but only one stays on repeat~ Chris Martin's profoundly haunting tale of lost innocence known as "Where Is My Boy?". This song, as well as the title track, were recorded by Martin before Coldplay became the worldwide juggernaut that it is today, and perhaps that's part of why it sounds so plaintive and honest. It must become exceedingly difficult to convey heartbreak and desperation when you're filthy rich, playing at packed arenas, and choosing baby names from the fruits and vegetables category...but what the fuck do I know?

Kosten apparently has nothing but positive regard for the Coldplay frontman: "With Chris, it wasn't a huge leap to imagine major success happening. So it feels good to be right, but more to the point I’m really happy with what he did on the record – it still stands up."

Martin apparently doesn't share these same warm and fuzzy sentiments about the collaboration. He's been quoted as saying that he's doesn't like "Where Is My Boy?" and is embarrassed by his performance on it. He obviously has a right to his opinion, but then I'm also entitled to think he sounded far better before he plummeted into such shameless douchebaggery. Just joking, kids...settle down.

"Shook (Sigur Rós vs. Mobb Deep)"---Emancipator (LimeLinx)
"Shook (Sigur Rós vs. Mobb Deep)"---Emancipator (YSI)

This mash-up was first released about 100 years ago (okay...maybe more like three), but for some inexplicable reason, it's been spreading across the internets like wildfire for the past couple of months. Which really makes me wonder, kinda like swine flu~ what's the pig deal all of a sudden? (Awwwwwww snap...that was cheap)

I first came across this bizarre phenomenon while checkin' to see if Emancipator had dropped any new projects or remixes lately. My query elicited an extraordinary abundance of search results for blogs and websites that were featuring this timeworn mix, and since I was at work (the only respectable place on Earth to kill time), I was actually bored enough to count how many times this track had been featured since April. I think I stopped at about 253, when I finally buckled under the glare of my boss' freaky evil eye.

What made this whole exercise in monkey-see monkey-do especially weird was that a large number of these posts were prefaced by a desperate-to-be-the-popular-kid disclaimer, such as: I know I'm late to the party, but I hope that you still believe in the weak-ass powers of my uber-geek hipsterdom and blahhh blahhh gurgle boo hoo blahhh.


Accordingly, there are a few life lessons to be learned here, children:

1) 99.9% of people are actually just sheeple in disguise.

2) Never apologize for being late to a party. If you have the right swagger, you can pimp limp into that bitch 40 years after it's over, and still look mad fly doin' it. Those jive turkies who had their mommies drop them off early might be supermad that you're superbad, but screw it...

3) Emancipator truly is an amazing talent~ it's not his fault that 253 of his fans are silly fucks. 254 if you rightfully include me in the mix...

Dig deeper... (Emancipator's MySpace)

"Get Down (Nick James Remix)"---Nas (LimeLinx)
"Get Down (Nick James Remix)"---Nas (YSI)

One of my most highly anticipated upcoming releases won't get any of the fanfare showered on mediocre major label artists, but it's destined to be one of the hottest efforts to drop this summer. Oakland producer Nick James is in the process of wrapping up his John Coltrane Project, a collection of instrumentals featuring samples of the jazz legend's finest material. Himself the son of an avant-garde jazz musician, James' production is heavily influenced by many of the genre's most accomplished artists, including Miles Davis, Archie Shepp, Ahmad Jamal, and McCoy Tyner. Combine those sensibilities with a penchant for Prince, Outkast, Talib Kweli, Jimi Hendrix, Madlib, Nina Simone, Pete Rock, Al Green, and J Dilla, and you have a production wizard who's drawing from the best possible pool of musical influences to craft his supreme beats.

This Nas redux is just one example of James' limitless artistic capabilities. Keep up with him via MySpace and The Free Experience: A Subsidiary of Nick James Music where you can freely download his remix projects, as well as some of the original material he's sampled on them.

Word From Your Moms:

"If there is a transmigration of souls then I am not yet on the bottom rung. My life is a hesitation before birth."

"Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate... but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins."

"We all have wings, but they have not been of any avail to us and if we could tear them off, we would do so."

~All above quotes by Franz Kafka