Archive for the ‘Soul’ Category

Order restored

May 31, 2008

With the addition of a new network card, via a new computer, and the inclusion of an Apple Time Machine to my world, I’ve finally restored some normalcy to my own WWW. No more manipulating the rabbit ears to check my email.

My inconsistent WWW over the previous month has left me feeling a bit out of the loop. I’m not sure how accurate my own perception is, however. I’ve still managed to procure Tanya Morgan’s The Bridge, Kidz in the Hall’s, The In Crowd, Al Green’s Lay It Down, Jackson Conti’s Sujinho, and most recently, Common Market’s Black Patch War. I’d say that’s a pretty good yield for a month. Isn’t it interesting that there’s an apparent correlation between my WWW access and music acquisition? I can’t say I saw this coming in 1998, when I was still racing to Music in Your Ear on Thayer St. with my boy Skillz to cop Blackstar and The Love Movement.

Thanks to WTR for throwing that Common Markets track out there. I’ve been listening to Black Patch War for literally 24 straight hours. Sabzi’s production is a subtle throwback. Kind of reminds me of late 1990’s Shawn J. Period, employing lots of floating horns, flutes, scratches, etc. And RA Scion makes me think of Talib Kweli without the nasal congestion. Feel of album is akin to the contemporary-old school-feel goodness that has been coming out of the Pacific NW, see Blue Scholars & Ohmega W-W-Watts, Watts. (Note: I’ve also added Common Market, conveniently located on the WWW too).

Al Green’s Lay It Down. Talk about a throwback. Maybe I’m an ageist, but I usually don’t get too amped when old school cats come out with new albums. It’s a long story I suppose, but in short, it has something to do with the given, now-aged artist, attempting to contemporize their style in a new context. It’s a tough task. Or…maybe I am just an ageist…(or maybe I just have the bad tastes of Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige in mind). Whatever the case, Lay It Down exudes the familiar Al Green of I’m Still In Love With You…30+ years later. Much of this credit of course is due to the man himself. His voice is as smooth as ever. Green’s adlibs are fresh. The man is soulful. The title track, featuring Anthony Hamilton, has Green all over the musical scale, but it works just as it did on “Call Me.” On the production side, The Randy Watson Experience (James Poyser & Questlove) continue to make amazing music. The backdrop they provide Lay It Down preserves Al Green’s soulful crooning. Some how they manage to capture soul of Green’s early days within a 2008 context. At points through Lay It Down, it’s difficult to date the song. That’s the definition of timeless.

Sujinho brings together Madlib and Brazillian drummer/percussionist Mamao, as Jackson Conti (their respective last names). Sujinho is Madlib doing his homework. This isn’t him simply diggin’ through some crates and putting a YNQ spin on some old standard, or concealing some 1964 drumline in some far-out, Quasimoto-Monk Hughes amalgamation. This is Madlib, as Otis Jackson, being the music fan and doing his homework; traveling to South America; eating local cuisine; and kickin’ with an old-school drummer. The result plays like a jam session. Sure, it’s got that now-classic YNQ style to it – the indiscrete shifts in tracks, the occasionally discordance of sounds – but this time, you can hear that more than one person and his imaginary friends are playing together. Madlib and Mamao have made what I presume all jazz-fusion albums of the 60’s and 70’s were like. A few dudes getting together and trading industry secrets, and experimenting. This is nicely demonstrated on “Brazillian Sugar.” Honestly, I’m still digesting the final product. While I’m not a music theorist and cannot dissect the the technicalities, I can judge feelings sounds provide; the overall sound is dynamic, feel-good, & is a perfect Spring-Summer soundtrack.


Reaching Outside the Box…

October 15, 2007

For me, one of the collateral effects of 2007’s hip-hop explosion has been an increased desire to reach outside the genre in the hope that I find some new soul music bubbling beneath the surface. That is, the quality of recent albums has had me listening to hip-hop all day long–and that’s a good thing. It’s not that I’m not always looking for newer, more diverse types of music, but lately I’ve been casting a larger net.

Well, I haven’t been terribly lucky. I previewed Angie Stone’s and Jill Scott’s new LPs, but wasn’t impressed. Even though the dearth of soul music in 2007 has been discussed here, for the sake of argument, I’m willing to think that maybe it’s just me and a desire for something less conventional.

Enter Steve Spacek and J. Davey. Spacek last released an album in 2005 and I believe J. Davey’s label issues are keeping their stuff away from a formal release. So I took a different angle: I came across some recent radio appearances by both artists.

Listening to DJ sets by familiar artists can often provide a unique window into their influences… and artists like Spacek and Jack Davey, who have a relatively eclectic taste in music, can make the exercise even more interesting–that is, when you’re looking for a departure from the usual.

The first link I offer is to Steve Spacek’s appearance on the Red Bull Music Academy’s new radio service. I always like to keep an ear to what dem Brits are bumpin. Here’s the playlist:

Sepalot – Touch Too Much – Eskapaden
George Mc Crae – I Get Lifted (Tangoterje Remix) – Supreme
Saian Supa Crew – Blow – Source
Main Concept – Was Geht`n – Buback
The Meters Vs Angie Stone – My Man – Scenario
Belleruche – The Itch – Hippoflex
The Katzenjammers – Cars – Red Hook
Gerardo Frisina – Conqart – Afro Art
Boozoo Bajou – Killer – !K7
Legends Of The Underground – Cafira (Seiji Mix) – K.Spirits
James Brown – Furtherout (Re-Edit) – CDR
Charlie Dark – Unknown – Ninja Tune
Small World – Develop A Style – Red Hook
A Tribe Called Quest – Love – Jive
Daz I-Kue – Get Down – Soundincolor
Tangoterje – High Jack – Supreme
Jumbonics – Baxophone – Tru Thoughts
Gumdrop – Sinking Feeling – Altered Vibes
Steve Spacek – Dollar – Soundincolor

The second link is from a J.Davey performance on the incomparable Chocolate City radio show. No playlist here, but rest assured, there’s some punk, some Prince, and a lot more to keep your attention–not to mention a discussion of their outlook and label politics. Click the picture for the audio link.

In all fairness to Jilly from Philly, I just heard the full-length version for a couple tracks off her new album on Gilles Peterson’s most recent show, and both “Crown Royale” and “Insomnia” were excellent. On second thought, I might have to cop that album.

Where’s the Soul?

October 8, 2007

Yeah, other than Jill Scott & Musiq (along with Angie Stone, and Eric Roberson), the soul scene has been relatively quiet. There has been quite a bit of noise about possible 2007 releases, including at least one Erykah Badu album (my “I’m holding my breath” button is my kitchen’s utility draw…far back), and a new Al Green album, produced by The Randy Watson Experience. Those are the only leads I have. I think 2008 is probably more realistic for both projects.

I’m not sure what label goes around 4hero, but their Playing With the Changes may be considered a “soul” release; pretty solid listen highlighted by a cover of Stevie’s “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You?)” featuring Terry Devos, as well as tracks with Jack Davey, Darien Brockington, & Phonte. (Speaking of Phonte, I think we can expect a new Foreign Exchange in 2008!)

It’s been a pretty stellar year for hip hop, particularly underground. It started with Madlib & Kweli’s (Kwelib?) Liberation, to which Kyle & I commented to each other, something to this effect: “Damn good start to 2007’s music.” That was my first “2007” album, added to my library 1/1/2007 as per my iTunes. If I recall, Kyle called me on my way home from New Year’s events and told me he had copped it, and the link was waiting for me when I got home (it was a free release).

It’s much too soon to do a year in review. Nuff said.

Why the Soul Music Drought In ’07?

October 8, 2007

After getting finished listening to Ohmega Watts’ newest offering, Watts Happening, I continue to be flabbergasted by the quality hip-hop that we’ve heard in 2007–and we’re only three quarters of the way in, with LPs from Jay-Z (curious) and The Roots (egh…) on the way.

This is surely something to appreciate, but at the same time, I can’t think of a good R&B/Soul album that has dropped this year. I put this out there to get the brain-trust thinking: am I overlooking someone?

I’m an admitted stan right now, and I’m really feeling his newest LP, Songs About Girls. But I refuse to put a producer who really ain’t a singer in this list–especially if he is only making the list by default. That album is fresh, in my opinion; but I’d like some more choices.


EWF & Raheem Devaughn

August 30, 2007

Getting a few soul joints in before bed and I realized that I had forgot to bring the Bilal/EWF/Raheem Devaughn thoughts full circle. DeVaughn’s “Guess Who Loves You More” uses the bassline and drums from EWF’s “Can’t Hide Love.” A conspicuous omission on my part but it slipped my mind – until a few minutes ago. That bassline is excellent.

Also, Kyle made a great point: that song is great because he sings like he’s having a conversation with a female…this isn’t isolated to this track and his delivery is the reason I like his album…

Soul is good for your health

August 29, 2007

I’m trying to get my RDA of soul, not that I need it – I’ve been bumpin’ Stevie, Curtis, & Dwele for about 72 hours – but capitalizing on it’s salubrious sound nonetheless. Soul is great, because unlike, say, chocolate, too much is never bad for you; but similar to chocolate, it’s condusive to remarkable tastes, perpetual good moods, and in the right context, amorous exploits.

While I’m a huge Dwele fan, and have been pushing (at least to myself) to get a Dwele post on TT, I need to pay some respect to Bilal. Remember him? Him & Raphael Saadiq freaked us with “Soul Sista,” and he even was nice enough show up on Common’s LWFC, including what I consider one of the smoothest, illest interludes in the history of music, which coincidentally closed out one of my favorite Dilla beats, “Funky For You.” Not to take away from that song (excellent track!), but I used to fast forward to about the 4:32 mark so I can get a quick listen to Bilal pleading with somebody that it was “going to be okay” right before I walked into class. Brilliant voice!

Earlier tonight I was dyin’ for something smooth (duh). I found a cover of EWF’s “Can’t Hide Love,” featured on Interpretations: Celebrating The Music of Earth, Wind, & Fire, revisited by The Randy Watson Experience (Quest & James Poyser), and featuring Bilal. A few thoughts: first, I love Quest’s perspective on music (definitely aware of that ill “something” that makes classic soul so f*cking cool), and I love the prospects of him and Poyser producing an entire album under the Experience. I could be wrong, but I think Poyser also joined Quest on Pharrel’s Out Of My Mind, which really is a great listening experience.

Anyway, so I’ve been bumpin’ the most recent incarnation of “Can’t Hide Love” with Bilal teasing the listener: I’ve never heard anyone say he couldn’t sing. To me, Bilal is the quintessential soul/jazz singer. At one minute, he’s voice is smooth and dips down into the “holy crap this sounds amazing” part of the body. And then a few moments later, he can stir that same part of the body into an uncomfortable, yet intriguing, frenzy dancing between various tones/harmonies/[insert appropriate musical theory term here]. Whether you’re a music expert or not, you know what I’m talking about when it happens, and Bilal is a master at it. (Refer back to 1st Born Second’s “Love Poems” versus “Second Child,” and compare how he conveys two contradictory moods with his voice. Note: “Slyde” is one of my favorite tracks – “I’ve been eyein’ you for a long time, and I don’t think you really understand, that I’m just so fucking in love with you…” Amazing.)

Besides knowing that there are label issues floating around Bilal, I don’t know the specifics about the delay of his supposed sophomore album, Love For Sale. What I do know is that whenever I see his name as a featured guest, I am sure to grab the track(s). On Sa-Ra’s The Hollywood Recordings, the Bilal featured “Sweet & Sour” is one of my favorite tracks: Sa-Ra’s synth production really is a great match for Bilal’s unpredictable delivery.

So, in a roundabout sort of way, that’s what I’ve been listening to for most of this evening. RWE’s “Can’t Hide Love,” EWF’s “Can’t Hide Love (always love hearing the contrast, regardless how subtle they may be…it’s worth noting that the horn section that closes out the Randy Watson Experience version is simply amazing (starts around the 3′ mark).

Other tracks that have been on steady play today include Dwele’s “Weekend Love,” from Some Kinda… (the trombone in the beginning IS soul as far as I’m concerned), and Raheem DeVaughn’s “Guess Who Loves You More.” If you’re not familiar with it, Raheem (probably best known for his cameos on Jazzy Jeff projects, e.g. “Love Savior” from The Magnificent) has a classic falsetto sound, and his casual delivery on that song IS also soul.

Nina Simone, the truth!

July 30, 2007

I have been thinking about getting back to TT for a minute now…and what a way to return! I swear man, Nina is the rare singer that can send chills up my spine. One thing that particularly interests me about Nina (and several of her contemporaries, particularly within jazz) was her intimiate relationship with the civil rights movement. Her cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” “Backlash Blues,” one of my favorites, and her tribute to MLK Jr., “Why (The King of Love is Dead” are but a few examples, but it seems for her, music certainly was a weapon of the people. This 1965 performance of “Four Women” is ridiculous!

Spring Soul

May 13, 2007

It always seem to happen that about this time of year I find a soul album that I spin the hell out of; something about the salubrious change in weather, coupled with a retro sound and soulful, amorous vocals…yeah, it gets me every spring. Last year it was Darondo’s Let My People Go (or here).

Much thanks to NPR & Soul Sides for shining the light where it need be pointed. “Didn’t I” has fast become one of my favorite soul songs of all time; really, at brief 9 tracks, Let My People Go is a gem from front to back.

Soul Sides is also where I was introduced to Joe Bataan; his track, “Average Guy” was featured on Soul Sides, Vol. 1. At any rate, this spring’s album which has been on constant play is Joe Bataan’s Riot, yet another 9-track spring soundtrack. Classifying sound isn’t my forte, but for the sake of describing Riot’s sound, I’d venture to say it was Latin Soul. It features a full lineup of incredible songs, including “Pa Monte” & “What Good Is A Castle,” the latter a 7+ minute foray into paradoxes of love & life, “What good is a heart/after it’s torn apart?” Actually, this may be a soul precursor to ATCQ’s “What?” Half-way through the track, the tempo changes (love them horns) and what was once a lamentation on unfulfilled expectations, transforms into a celebration of unexpected fulfillment. I love this song. Also, a different version of “Ordinary Guy” (compared to the Soul Sides version) closes out Riot.

Regardless of the season, this is a great album; it features an inviting soundscape from front to back. Bataan, whose sound comes from the boogaloo & salsa traditions, presents a sound that masterfully joins those two worlds with soul; the rolling transition from more traditional soul to Latin sound is seamless. Currently, I am not sure how hands on Bataan was with the production but if anyone has more information on the album, please forward it my way.

UPDATE: I found this article, authored by Soul Sides Oliver Wang, which provides a good, albeit brief, background to Bataan.