Friday, July 29, 2011

Old School Fridays - "Let Me See Your Earrings Jingle"

A few days ago, I came across a great blog - Euphoric Ears. Specifically, I happened across a post titled "Ratchet Music". Ratchet music, for those not in the know, is booty-shake music. I'm not going to pretend that I've never heard some of the songs... heck, I was the first one on the dance floor when the first bars of Luke's "I Wanna Rock" came across the speakers.

The post got me thinking about what I consider the first 'booty-shake' songs I heard; I'd say it's a toss up between E.U.'s "Da Butt" and L.L. Cool J's "Jingling Baby"... so I posted LL's video above and E.U.'s after the break.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Favorite Albums: Rocky Motion Picture Score

Though I rarely mention film scores here, I’m a high fan of the original compositions that color movies. Of the twenty plus file score albums I own, none is as special to me as Bill Conti’s Rocky. Note that I said Rocky, not Rocky III (that introduced “Eye of The Tiger”) or Rocky IV (“Hearts On Fire”).

I listened to this film score non-stop during the summer of 1998. I was living in Columbus, OH, working as a college intern at a technology company. Though a series of mistakes and mis-steps, I was facing cross-roads in my college career. Nothing as serious as dropping out (never that)… but I was struggling with my grades (too much Alpha and not enough studying).

Monday, July 25, 2011

More Amy Winehouse: Remixes and Demos

I shared some of my favorite Amy Winehouse songs in my last post; I thought I'd follow that up with some of the music I just discovered due to her untimely passing.

I have both Frank and Back To Black; however, I never dived into some of her demos and remixes. Here are three that stand out.

"In My Bed (CJ Mix)" - A nice use of The Heath Brothers' "Smiling Billy Suite" (famously used by Q-Tip on Nas' "One Love"). It takes the edge off the original.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Best Music You've Never Heard: The Late Amy Winehouse

I was all set to grind through a 1000 word discourse on the genius, talent, and self-destructive nature of the late Amy Winehouse.

There’s so much to cover: her gritty, earthy, doesn’t-match-her-body voice (reminds me of Tina Turner); the inspiration for the “screw-you” nature of Frank and the depression of Back to Black; her recent attempts at a comeback.

But then I came across two quotes from Ms. Winehouse:
“If I haven’t done it, I just can’t put it into a song. It has to be autobiographical.” (1)
"Sorry, I'm really s---ty at interviews. I'm not great at talking about...I just think...the songs are enough." (2)

And that, dear readers, is good enough for me. Amy thought that her songs spoke for themselves… so I’ll simply share a few nuggets about some songs you may not be familiar with, and let Amy speak for herself.

"In My Bed" - The best track off Frank; less jazzy that the other tracks. It’s bold and serves as a statement song for the album (and her state of mind at the time).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Old School Fridays - "I Really Wanna Meet You Girl"

Mushroom 'dos... Cross Color Jeans... Timberland boots... high top fades... silk shirts... Starter caps... air-brushed jackets... and  puberty. Better known as the Summer of 1992 (or as a friend likes to refer to it: The Summer of Hard Times).

I've been working on my next "favorite albums" post (here's a hint)... and it got me thinking of this song. I liked the original album version, but I LOVED the remix.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Favorite Albums: Ask Rufus

Dear Questlove,

Thank you for your love of music.

[Note: Why am I thanking Questlove (drummer with the Roots and overall musical Renaissance man)? And what does he have to do with Ask Rufus? Give me a moment to explain.]

In 2006, I came across your rare groves compilation Babies Making Music. I appreciate your desire to share lesser-known musical nuggets with the masses. All of the tracks are great; however, two in particular really caught my attention: Bill Withers’ “Can We Pretend” and Rufus’ “Magic In Your Eyes”.

As you know, Rufus (the 70’s R&B and funk group fronted by Chaka Khan) is best known for funk jams like “Tell me Something Good” and “Ain’t Nobody”. Even though “Sweet Thing” and the underrated “Circles” stayed in heavy rotation on the iPod, I couldn’t claim that I loved the band.

“Magic In Your Eyes” changed my entire perception of the group, and music in general.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I'm Looking Forward To Hearing... Roman GianArthur’s new release

For the last two weeks, I’ve been devouring everything I can about the music behind Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid, so I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a 2010 compilation released by the Wondaland Arts Society (the collective behind the sound of The ArchAndroid).

There are a lot of interesting tracks on the abstract-titled We Bumped Our Heads Against The Cloud; my favorite is “Depraved Valet” – a smoothed-out, 80’s electronic, Prince-tinged ballad by Roman GianArthur (with vocals by Kevin Barnes).

Clocking in at just under 3 minutes, “Depraved Valet” is a nice teaser: good enough to get a flavor of the song, but leaving the listener wanting more.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Eternia (not the planet He-Man is from)

Man, I wish I heard this track before I created by podcast on Canadian artists... I would have definitely included Eternia. I love her verse on her extended remix of Elzhi's "One Love" (inspired by the original by Nas). 

This track (as well as the Elmatic mix tape) are both still available for download. Get them while you can.

[Hat Tip to Ghetto Blastic]

Old School Fridays - "Yo Hitman Howie Tee You Should Have Seen Her On Me"

Yesterday's post got me thinking about my summer at A&T; that was the first time I saw people line dance (or party walk, if you're a Greek from the East Coast)... which automatically got me thinking about this video. Forget the frats... I miss the cutoff jean shorts and combat boots.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Favorite Albums: Sketches of Spain

Though this blog post is about my favorite albums, I’ve made an exception for Sketches of Spain. Sketches isn’t overly sentimental to me (that honor belongs to the first straight-ahead jazz album I purchased – Terence Blanchard’s Billie Holiday Songbook). Sketches isn’t Miles Davis’ best work (that would be Kind of Blue). Heck, it’s not even my favorite Miles Davis album (Porgy and Bess).

So why is Sketches of Spain on this list? I'll answer that in a minute. First, let me take you back to the summer of 1994.

I was 17 when I first heard Sketches of Spain. It was the summer before my senior year in high school, and I was a just discovering straight-ahead jazz. I knew of Miles Davis and other jazz greats because of Quincy Jones’ Back On The Block. I wanted to explore Davis’ recordings, but I couldn’t – there were just too many to choose from. I had no idea where to start. Fortunately, a very cool professor pointed me in the right direction.

Actually, it was my brother who first learned of Sketches of Spain. We were both on the campus at NC A&T University in an eight-week engineering program. My brother needed to go to the bank, so our sponsor (a professor in the chemistry department) offered to give him a ride. When my brother got back, all he could talk about was the music that my professor played in his van. It was jazz, but not exactly jazz. 

A week later, we got the professor to dub his original for us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Music: DJ Jazzy Jeff and Ayah are Back For More

Hat Tip to Soul Culture blog for the info on the new DJ Jazzy Jeff & Ayah Back For More EP - available for free.99 on Jeff and Ayah's bandcamp page.

So far my favorites are the brassy "Notorious" (levering a great sample of Billy Brooks "Fourty Days") and the mellow "Telephone".

Stream the album and see the track listing after the bounce.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Best Music You've Never Heard: Janelle Monáe's "BaBopByeYa"

I’ll admit it; I was late to the Janelle Monáe train. When she released “Tightrope” in early 2010, I was like “ehh”. Fortunately, the good people at Soulbounce got it right, and covered Monáe in their end of 2010 posts. I checked out a few of her tunes, realized what I was missing, and headed straight to the iTunes store to get a copy of The ArchAndroid.

I remember being physically moved by the romanticism of “Say You Go”; the majestic nature “Suite II Overture”; the old school vibe of "Locked Inside". Those songs had regular recurrences on my iPod playlists. For some reason, I was lukewarm on “Babopbyeya”. For some reason I just didn’t “get it”… it was just too complex for me.

Well, I lucked on a video where Monáe and her production team explained the genesis and meaning of “BaBopByeYa”…. damnit, it’s a beautiful and wonderfully magnificent song (the “Moby Dick” of The ArchAndroid). With this understanding, the song has new significance to me. The producers and song writers can do better justice than my words can; watch the video, then peep the track, my thoughts, and the lyrics after the bounce

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Favorite Albums: He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper

Flashback: December 25, 1988

I run to the living room to see what I got for Christmas. I’m 11 years old; too cool for toys and uninterested in clothes. I want a stereo and music. Fortunately, my dad doesn’t disappoint. I get a combo record player/double-bay tape deck and three albums that would serve as a harbinger to my “golden age” of music discovery: Run DMC’s Tougher Than Leather, Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s He’s the DJ, I’m The Rapper.

He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper was on constant repeat in my brand-new stereo. I could recite every rhyme. I pretended to scratch like Jazzy Jeff. It was the soundtrack to my final year in elementary school. That’s why it’s one of my favorite albums.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

I'm Looking Foward To Hearing... Zo!'s ...just visiting three

[Note: Audio has now been restored]

There’s been a lot of talk on twitter about Zo!’s ...just visiting three (due out next week). I wasn’t the biggest Zo! fan; that is, until he released SunStorm and changed my perception with the beautiful “All Is Well With Love” (which I blogged about in my ‘end of 2010' post).

While I love “All Is Well…”, sometimes you need something a little more…. grown-up. That’s where the Monica Blaire featured “Make Luv 2 Me” comes it. The song is ten and a half minutes of frustration, anticipation, and ejaculation/elation (with a 2 minute interlude to boot).

I’ve got this track on repeat based on the twitter traffic around Zo!’s new LP. According to Butta (@butta), ...just visiting three might make "Make Luv 2 Me" come across like a nursery rhyme.

Check out the track below, then let me know what you think when ...just visiting three drops next Tuesday!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

My Favorite Albums: Forever, For Always, For Love

July 1st was the 6th anniversary of the passing of Luther Vandross; given that, I thought it made sense to start for “favorite albums” series with 1982’s Forever, For Always, For Love (see the cover flow page).

I love this album for two reasons: first off, it’s probably Luther’s best album. I still get goose bumps every time I hear the opening sequence to “Bad Boy/Having A Party” (sing it with me – “Ahh Yeah… scooboody, dooboody, dee dee…”). It’s amazing what Luther and frequent collaborator Marcus Miller did with this Sam Cooke track; it doesn’t sound anything like the original. Luther does another masterful cover of the Temptations “Since I Last My Baby”.

Monday, July 04, 2011

15 Covers of "Giant Steps"

I swear…. those guys at Breath of Life make me want to chuck my laptop against the wall. If you’ve never visited their site, let me give you the quick run-down.

Every week, they post three mixtapes, each with a different focus.
  1. one on a classic artist
  2. one on a contemporary artist
  3. one on covers of a classic song
They make their mixtapes available for download for one week, and then remove the mp3 to make room for the next feature.

I’ve read their blog off and on over the last year… but have become a more frequent visitor since I’ve gotten back into the blogging game. They do their homework and they pick some great subjects. Case in point: last week’s focus on covers of “Giant Steps”.

I think it’s almost blasphemous for anyone to record anything made famous by John Coltrane… but maybe I’ll relax my stance. Some of the featured covers were pretty good, especially Marian McPartland’s jazz piano version. I don’t think I realized how complex in simplicity this song is… or maybe it’s simple in its complexity. Whatever it is... the song is beautiful.

Check out their mixtape it while you can!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Old School Fridays - "He Always Keeps Me Guessing..."

I wisely skipped the train wreck called the BET Music Awards last weekend... though it sounds like there were some bright spots: namely, the Patti LaBelle tribute and Ledesi’s cover of Teena Marie’s “If I Were A Bell". That got me thinking about Teena's live performance of “Cassanova Brown” on Video Soul in the early 90s.

Damn… I miss Video Soul.