Archive for the ‘Stevie Wonder’ Category

Morning cuppa Go…

January 17, 2008

Been meaning to compile a list of morning tracks that get me going on my 5 mile commute to work. Kyle and I have traded tracks for years now, when our sleep cycle is stoked by a particular “morning” track – I think I’d be doing a good service to share them, you know, in case anyone is looking for a musical pick-me-up in the morning. Please feel free to post your own in the comments, I’m always looking for a new morning cuppa go…(these aren’t presented in any particular order) “Okra” by Olu Dara (from 1998’s In the World: From Natchez to New York) – Olu does is damn thing here, with this sense-sational track that awakens more than the eyes. This laidback, breezy track reminds me summer days sitting in my uncle’s apple orchard, eating fresh strawberries and plums; and that cornet…like coffee teasing the olfactory sense. “Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela (from Still Grazing) – probably one of the more recognizable trumpet melodies, Masekela’s “Grazing in the Grass” is one of the most invigorating tracks in my music collection and man, you have to love the cowbell. If I were a producer, I’d make the cowbell my signature piece. I would say this could be considered a standard, as it’s been covered by several artists, since it was first written in the mid-1960’s; if you prefer the harmonica, check out Eivets Rednow’s version from 1968’s “Alfie.” (yeah, that Stevie Wonder). I can’t think of anything off-hand that has sampled this, other than this from Nice & Smooth’s Ain’t a Damned Thing Changed. “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield (from Curtis) – Kanye did us all a service by bringing a much-deserved light to this gem. Mayfield actually has a few candidates for the A.M., but the horns on this certainly move it up the list. “Work to Do” – Kidz in the Hall – ill soul-sample; empowering message; beat that instills optimism. This is a great track to pump when you know you’ve got a contentious meeting waiting for you. “I Was Made to Love Her” – Stevie Wonder (from I Was Made to Love Her) – What can I say? I love Stevie and I love how Stevie seemed like he was always singing for the last time ever. This is a great example of why soul of the 60’s and 70’s trumps the majority of “soul” or “R&B” today – you can’t help but believe Stevie loves Susie; most contemporary cats don’t get this aspect of singing. Thank God for cats like Dwele. “Starlite” by Panacea (from Ink is My Drink) – love the pace of the beat and the effervescence of the melody. “Jaimerais” by Hocus Pocus (from 73 Touches) – it’s in French, I have no idea what he’s rhymin’ about (or if he’s even rhymin’), but I reckon it’s some tale of lost love (?). The melody and chorus create a care-free sound, and the horns put the nail in the coffin for this being a morning classic. I swear, that singer sounds like Vinia Mojica…but I have nothing to back it up. “Me, Myself, & I” by De La Soul (from 3 Feet High and Rising) – if you don’t know, you better ask somebody “Won’t Do” by J Dilla (from The Shining) – there are a slew of Dilla-produced tracks that make their way into the A.M. playlist, e.g. SV’s “Raise it Up,” but this is one of my favorites. Great sample! And Dilla, on the hook! “Whatever You Say” by Little Brother (from The Listening) – if this beat doesn’t conjure buds, bees, and birds, and all things related to the seeds of amorous feelings, the good old vernal equinox, then I’m through. Phonte’s non-rhyming verse is classic in my book, and 9th killed this…as with the majority of tracks on that album.That list is not exhaustive of course, but it’s a good start to any morning. Throw them on a playlist, and enjoy better days in 30 days or less…Peace

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.

Found “Finding Forever” & Stevie

August 2, 2007

I’d be remissed to let this week pass without dedicating a few thoughts to Common’s Finding Forever, or as I conceptualize it, “Be, the extended version.” (I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner). Really, after listening to this several times through (the beauty of a brief album), it flows from the sound of Be nearly seamlessly. In reading the thoughts of other bloggers, some have intimated that Finding Forever contains throwaway joints from Be; I assume they mean that with a deprecating tinge. I wouldn’t go that far.

The things I love about Finding Forever:

First, I love Common’s optimism. This seems to be a characteristic that’s always been thumping in his chest, but really took off on Like Water For Chocolate – at least in the sense that it was readily tangible to his listeners. Again, I love his optimism. Not only for his perpetuation of love between people, respect for women and children; but also how he lets that conspiculously shine through his music. Secondly, I love Pops. Damn, Pops is always droppin’ knowledge.

I really like “Start the Show.” Are those steal drums?

I love “Break My Heart.” Admittedly, I think “And your clothes are tight, but you don’t seem gay/I said nah, that’s dude from N’Sync-ay” is cheesy…(Did he just call JT out?) But, that sample, as simple as it is, is brilliant. I don’t know its source…anybody? That sample = instant smile. Besides, it reminds of something Michael Jackson would be on.

Finally, I really dig “The People” (We need to get a Dwele post on here) and “Misunderstood.” I am usually skeptical when a producer attempts to sample a song as popular, and classic, as Nina’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood;” it usually comes off as cheesy or tacky. However, dude does a great job of using that, especially at the end.

Okay, a few points of contention. One, I’m still on the fence with “I Want You.” While the hook is great, the rest of the track nearly bores me, sonically and lyrically. When I see Will.I.Am on a track, I always think “Like That,” which he geeked down…but his stuff is hot and cold for me. This track is warm… Also, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about “Drivin’ Me Wild.” I really like Lily Allen on the hook. I hear this is set to be the album’s next single, and I think it fulfills the successful single formula. In the end, I’m going to end up liking this song.

Overall, and I’ll keep this short: I really like the album. If you peruse my ‘likes’ versus potential down sides, mathemetically it’s clear that it’s a good album (# of likes > # of points of contention). While it may sound similar to Be, it’s not…it’s Finding Forever. If anything, I interpret the comparison positively. Common & Kanye demonstrate consistency…and in the shoes of such a great album, consistency is an absolute compliment. And let’s be honest, those “points of contention” are minor, and within the context of the entire album, they’re less than conspicuous. They certainly aren’t skipped over…I am easily able to listen go to stop. Like its predecessor, it maintains a continious sound, and it packages it in a succinct, pleasant package to boot. As long as Common keeps producing quality like this, I’ll keep finding him…forever?

Okay, real brief. I listened to Stevie’s Where I’m Coming From today and damn man, “Think of Me As Your Soldier” is killer! Stevie knew how to make a love song! That’s actually a great album, front to back. (See: “If You Really Love Me” & “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer,” nice way to tie this in with Common, no? Check One Day It’ll All Make Sense and it’ll all make sense. If “Think of Me As Your Soldier” renders the heart weightless, “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” drops it right back into your stomach like a boulder. Still beautiful).