Monday, June 30, 2014
June 1, 2014
"Summertime" performed by Louis Armstrong
"Solitude" performed by Ella Fitzgerald
"Gloomy Sunday" performed by Billie Holiday
"The Chess Players" performed by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
"People Make The World Go Round" performed by The Stylistics
"Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation" performed by The Dells
HAPPY 54TH BIRTHDAY JESSE JOHNSON
"Can You Help Me"
"I'm Just Wanting You"
"Stop The Violence" performed by Boogie Down Productions
"One Minute Man" performed by Missy Elliot with Ludacris
"Keep On Keepin' On" performed by MC Lyte with Xscape
"Just Another Day" performed by Queen Latifah
"Kingdom" performed by Common with Vince Staples-WSPC PREMIERE
June 2, 2014
"Tryin' Times" performed by Roberta Flack
"All Blues" performed by Ron Carter
"Walkin'" (live) performed by Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Billy Cobham
"Canyon Lady" performed by Joe Henderson
"Real" (instrumental) performed by Madlib-WSPC PREMIERE
"Soon As I Get Paid" performed by Keb' Mo'
"Statesboro Blues" performed by Taj Mahal
"Summer Swim" performed by George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars
"Love Rollercoaster" performed by Ohio Players
"Smokin' Room" performed by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
"Yeah Yeah" performed by Blackrock
June 3, 2014
"Summer" performed by War
"You're On My Mind" performed by Rose Royce
"Zoom" performed by The Commodores
"Love And Happiness" performed by Al Green
"Computer Love" performed by Zapp
"Follow" performed by Ritchie Havens
"I'll Rise" performed by Ben Harper
"Conversation" performed by Eagle Eye Cherry
"Change" performed by Tracy Chapman
"Something Real" performed by Phoebe Snow
"Only The Strong Survive" performed by Jerry Butler
"Turn Back The Hands Of Time" performed by Tyrone Davis
"Groove Me" performed by King Floyd
"Why I Keep Living These Memories" performed by Jean Knight
"Bring It On Home To Me" (live) performed by Sam Cooke
June 4, 2014
"I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" performed by Thelonious Monk
"Send One Your Love" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Good Morning Heartache" performed by Diana Ross
"Impressions" performed by Wes Montgomery featuring The Wynton Kelly Trio
"I'll Be Seeing You" performed by Sarah Vaughan with the Jimmy Jones Orchestra
"Love Love Love" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Leave Me Alone" performed by Living Colour
"The Slouch" performed by Vernon Reid and Masque
"From The Bottom Of My Soul" performed by Eddie Hazel
"Cause I Love You" performed by Lenny Williams
"Paper Doll" performed by PM Dawn
"After Hours" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"Mathematics" performed by Mos Def
"Passin' Me By" performed by The Pharcyde
"Ain't No Half Steppin'" performed by Big Daddy Kane
"Because I Got It Like That" performed by The Jungle Brothers
June 5, 2014
"1975" performed by Incognito
"West Side Girl" performed by Bilal
"You're My Everything" performed by The Robert Glasper Experiment with Bilal and Jazmine Sullivan
"Juicy Fruit" performed by Mtume
"Oops Upside Your Head" performed by The Gap Band
"I Want Your Love" performed by Chic
"Music Is The Message" performed by Kool and the Gang
"The Pride" performed by The Isley Brothers
June 6, 2014
"Going To A Go-Go" performed by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
"Stoned Love" performed by The Supremes
"Nowhere To Run" performed by Martha and the Vandellas
"Are You Man Enough?" performed by The Four Tops
"All I Do Is Think About You" performed by Tammi Terrell
"Your Old Standby" performed by Mary Wells
"Since I Lost My Baby" performed by The Temptations
"Distant Lover" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Every Little Bit Hurts" performed by Brenda Holloway
"Looking Through The Window" performed by The Jackson 5
"I Am Love" performed by The Jackson 5
"Darling Forever" performed by The Marvelettes
"I'll Be Around" performed by The Spinners
"Let's Get It On" performed by Marvin Gaye
"You And I" performed by Stevie Wonder
June 7, 2014
HAPPY 56TH BIRTHDAY TO PRINCE
"Breakfast Can Wait"
"Let's Go Crazy" LIVE in Manchester 2013
"Guitar" LIVE in Portugal 2013
"Mutiny" LIVE on "The Arsenio Hall Shoe" 2014
LIVE footage from Brussels 2014
"The Line" performed by D'Angelo
"Kaleidoscope Dream" performed by Miguel
"Say My Name" performed by Destiny's Child
"I Used To Love H.E.R." performed by Common
"Hip Hop Is Dead" performed by Nas
"Love Of My Life" performed by Erykah Badu
"Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall" performed by The Ink Spots
"Cab Driver" performed by The Mills Brothers
"Misty" performed by Johnny Mathis
"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter" performed by Fats Waller
"Saturday Night Fish Fry" performed by Louis Jordan
June 8, 2014
"Mood" performed by Miles Davis
"I'm Old Fashioned" performed by John Coltrane
"Calcutta Cutie" performed by The Horace Silver Quintet
"Lady Bird" performed by Dexter Gordon
"Summertime" performed by The Oscar Peterson Trio
"People...Hold On" performed by Eddie Kendricks
"Jazzoetry" performed by The Last Poets
"Message To The Messengers" performed by Gil Scott-Heron
"The Long And Whining Road" performed by Public Enemy
"Twin Stars Of Thence" performed by Sun Ra
June 9, 2014
"Blue Monday" performed by Fats Domino
"What's Your Story, Morning Glory" performed by Mary Lou Williams
"Early In The Morning" performed by BB King
"Earth Blues" performed by Jimi Hendrix
"Wake Up" performed by Funkadelic
"Friends" performed by Whodini
"Friends" performed by Meshell Ndegeocello-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Way" performed by Jill Scott
"Halfcrazy" performed by Musiq
"Charlene" performed by Anthony Hamilton
"Harry Hippie" performed by Bobby Womack
June 10, 2014
"Natural Mystic" performed by Bob Marley
"Chove Chuva" performed by Miriam Makeba
"Ain't No Way" performed by Aretha Franklin
"Cigarettes And Coffee" performed by Otis Reddig
"What Am I Living For?" performed by Percy Sledge
"It's All In The Game" performed by Nat "King" Cole
"Right On For The Darkness" performed by Curtis Mayfield
"Going In Circles" performed by Isaac Hayes
"Addiction" performed by Kanye West
"Delicate Flowers" performed by Talib Kweli
"Soul Power" live in Zaire 1974 performed by JAMES BROWN
"1983" performed by Flying Lotus
"Overcome" performed by Tricky
"Second Song" performed by TV On The Radio
June 11, 2014
"Zanzibar" performed by Earth, Wind & Fire
"Sun Goddess" performed by Ramsey Lewis with Earth, Wind & Fire
"Harlem River Drive" performed by Bobbi Humphrey
"Liquid Love" performed by Roy Ayers
"Hihache" performed by Lafayette Afro Rock Band
"Ghetto Organ" performed by Jackie Mittoo
"Open Sesame" performed by Kool and the Gang
June 12, 2014
"Definition" performed by Black Star
"Bulletproof Soul" performed by Sade
"Another Generation" performed by Fishbone
"Busting Out" performed by Rick James
"More Bounce To The Ounce" performed by Zapp
"Gettin' Up" performed by Q-Tip
"Close The Door" performed by Teddy Pendergrass
"Affirmation" performed by George Benson
"Stop That Train" (acoustic) performed by Peter Tosh
"Some Kind Of Wonderful" performed by The Drifters
"Spanish Harlem" performed by Ben E. King
"Black Dreams (Sludge Fight)" performed by Madlib-WSPC PREMIERE
June 13, 2014
"Let's Do It Again" performed by The Staple Singers
"Holy Ghost" performed by The Bar-Kays
"Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You" performed by Wilson Pickett
"Walking The Dog" performed Rufus Thomas
"I Believe In You (You Believe In Me)" performed by Johnnie Taylor
"You Roam When You Don't Get It At Home" performed by The Sweet Inspirations
"Soothe Me" performed by San and Dave
"Showered With Love" performed by Ollie and the Nightingales
"I'll Understand" performed by The Soul Children
"I Forgot To Be Your Lover" performed by William Bell
"I'll Run Your Hurt Away" performed by Ruby Johnson
"Grab This Thing' performed by The Mar-Keys
"I've Got No Time To Lose" performed by Carla Thomas
"As Long As I've Got You" performed by The Charmels
June 14, 2014
"Leaving Me" performed by The Independents
"Can This Be Real" performed by Natural Four
"5 10 15 20 25 30 Years Of Love" performed by The Presidents
"You're The Reason Why" performed by The Ebonys
"Shoe Shoe Shine" performed by The Dynamic Superiors
"Cowboys To Girls" performed by The Intruders
"Make Me Yours" performed by Betty Swann
"Potholes In My Lawn" performed by De La Soul
"They Want EFX" performed by Das EFX
"Humpty Dance" performed by Digital Underground
"Bust A Move" performed by Young MC
"Poison" performed by Bell Biv Devoe
"The Breaks" performed by Kurtis Blow
"P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)" performed by Parliament
"I'd Rather Be With You" performed by Bootsy Collins
"Left And Right" performed by D'Angelo
"You Don't Know My Name" performed by Alicia Keys
"In My House" performed by Mary Jane Girls
June 15, 2014
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY-ALL MILES DAVIS FOR MY FATHER
"So Near, So Far"
"Once Upon A Summertime"
"Bess, You Is My Woman Now"
"My Funny Valentine"
June 16, 2014
"Ol Skool Company" performed by Prince
"Cool" performed by The Time
"Nasty Girl"performed by Vanity 6
"A Love Bizarre" performed by Shelia E. and Prince
"Walk In Sand" performed by Prince
June 17, 2014
"Song Without Sin" performed by Living Colour
"Behavior Control Technician" performed by Fishbone
"Water" performed by The Roots
"Seasons" performed by Terence Trent D'Arby
"Trust" performed by Meshell Ndegeocello
"Till I Met Thee" performed by Cody ChesnuTT
"Me" performed by Erykah Badu
"When My Train Pulls In" performed by Gary Clark Jr.
June 18, 2014
"Just Squeeze Me" performed by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington
"Long Hot Summer Night" performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
"Don't Disturb This Groove" performed by The System
"The Makings Of You" performed by Gladys Knight and the Pips
"Summer Soft" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Let's Stay Together" performed by Al Green
"Senor Blues" performed by Horace Silver R.I.P.
"Sorrow, Tears & Blood" performed by Fela Kuti
"Escape-Ism" performed by JAMES BROWN
"Sax In The City" performed by Clarence Clemons
June 19, 2014
"Rainin' In California" performed by Albert King
"I Can't' Stand The Rain" performed by Ann Peebles
"Stormy Weather" performed by Lena Horne
"Falling Rain Blues" performed by Lonnie Johnson
"Didn't It Rain" performed by Sister Rosetta Tharpe
"Pouring Down Rain" performed by John Lee Hooker
"Pouring Rain" performed by Fishbone
"P.D.A. (We Just Don't Care)" performed by John Legend
"911" performed by Wyclef Jean with Mary J. Blige
"If I Ruled The World" performed by Nas with Lauryn Hill
"Rain" performed by Divine Styler
"In The Sunshine" performed by Arrested Development
June 20, 2014
"Music For My Mother" performed by Funkadelic
"Brother, Brother" performed by The Isley brothers
"Sister" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Papa Was A Rollins Stone" performed by The Temptations
"Papa Don't Take No Mess" performed by JAMES BROWN
"Be Bop Medley" performed by Dizzy Gillespie and the Double Six Of Paris
"Killer" performed by Seal
"Get It Together" performed by India.Aire
"Bitties In The BK Lounge" performed by De La Soul
"Da Booty" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"The Goose" performed by Parliament
"Jive Turkey" performed by Ohio Players
clip from "The MIke Douglas Show" featuring Sly Stone and Richard Pryor
"The Ghetto Walk" performed by Miles Davis
June 21, 2014
"Summertime" performed by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
"I Wish" performed by Skee-Lo
"Rump Shaker" performed by Wreckx-N-Effect
"Shoop" performed by Salt N' Pepa
"Hold On" performed by En Vogue
"La La La" performed by Lucy Pearl
"Be Here" performed by Raphael Saadiq with D'Angelo
"I Feel Love" performed by Donna Summer
"Zulu War Chant" performed by Afrika Bambaataa
"Don't Sweat Te Technique" performed by Eric B. and Rakim
"You Talk Too Much" performed by Run DMC
"Sexual Healing performed by Marvin Gaye
"Baby Wants To Ride" performed by Frankie Knuckles
June 22, 2014
"I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" performed by Donny Hathaway
"St. Thomas" performed by Sonny Rollins
"Ecclusiastics" performed by Charles Mingus
"Street Dance" performed by Les McCann
"Malibu" performed by George Duke
"I Love Every Little Thing About You" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Summertime" performed by Billy Preston
June 23, 2014
"Then Came You" performed by Dionne Warwick and The Spinners
"One Less Bell To Answer" performed by The 5th Dimension
"Ain't No Woman Like The One I Got" performed by The Four Tops
"Let Me Prove My Love To You" performed by The Main Ingredient
"Wish That You Were Mine" performed by The Manhattans
"Sideshow" performed by Blue Magic
"Stoned Out Of My Mind" performed by The Chi-Lites
"I'm Stone In Love With You" performed by The Stylistics
"The Chamber" performed by Lenny Kravitz-WSPC PREMIERE
GUEST DJ: SONYA B! (three song set)
"Werente Serigne" performed by Orchestra Baobob
"Still Livin' On" performed by Eric Bibb
"Summertime" performed by Angelique Kidjo
"It Was A Good Day" performed by Ice Cube
June 24, 2014
"Sleeping Satellites" performed by Tasmin Archer
"Stratus" performed by Billy Cobham
"Winning Hand" performed by Bilal
"You" performed by Raheem DeVaughn
"Drop The Pilot" performed by Joan Armatrading
"Pass The Dutchie" performed by Musical Youth
June 25, 2014
REMEMBERING MICHAEL JACKSON-FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY
"Music's Takin' Over" performed by The Jacksons
"Different Kind Of Lady" performed by The Jacksons
"Enjoy Yourself" performed by The Jacksons
"I Wanna Be Where You Are" performed by The Jackson 5
"I Can't Help It"
"Stranger In Moscow"
"Blood On The Dance Floor"
"In The Closet"
"Give In To Me"
"You Are Not Alone"
"Don't Stop Til You Get Enough"
"Rock With You"
"Baby Be Mine"
"Skywriter" performed by The Jackson 5
"Forever Came Today" performed by The Jackson 5
"The Eternal Light" performed by The Jackson 5
"Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)" performed by The Jacksons
"Can You Feel It" performed by The Jacksons
June 26, 2014
"Brother John/Iko Iko" performed by The Neville Brothers
"That's It!" (live) performed by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
"Happy Talk" performed by Kermit Ruffins
"Fire And Brimstone" performed by Trombone Shorty
"Ku Klux Klan" performed by Steel Pulse
"Ballistic Squeeze" performed by Sly and Robbie
"War Party" performed by Eddy Grant
"Black Cinderella" performed by Sister Carol
"In Your Eyes" performed by Johnny Osbourne
"Money In My Pocket" performed by Dennis Brown
"Ganjaman" performed by Rastaman
June 27, 2014
"If It Wasn't For You" performed by Handsome Boy Modeling School
"Rock The Bells" performed by LL Cool J
"You Gots To Chill" performed by EPMD
"Star/Pointro" performed by The Roots
"Rapper's Delight" performed by The Sugarhill Gang
WSPC TRIBUTE TO BOBBY WOMACK
WHO PASSED AWAY ON THIS DATE AT THE AGE OF 70
"Across 110th Street"
"Woman's Gotta Have It"
"I Can Understand It"
"Close To You"
"Where Do We Go From Here"
"Fact Of Life/He'll Be There When The Sun Goes Down"
"Something For My Head"
"I'm In Love"
"The Bravest Man In The Universe"
"Please Forgive My Heart"
"That's Heaven To Me"
June 28, 2014
"Games People Play" performed by The Spinners
"Show And Tell" performed by Al Wilson
"I'll See You When I Git There" performed by Lou Rawls
"You Know How To Love Me" performed by Phyllis Hyman
"Darlin', Darlin' Baby (Sweet, Tender Love)" performed by The O'Jays
"Who's That Lady" performed by The Isley Brothers
"Fire It Up" performed by Rick James
"Backstabbers" performed by The O'Jays (BY REQUEST!)
"Funkentelechy" performed by Parliament
"Pyramids" performed by Frank Ocean
"Blood On The Leaves" performed by Kanye West
"Oh Girl" performed by Raphael Saadiq
"That's The Way Love Goes" performed by Janet Jackson
"Untitled (How Does It Feel)" performed by D'Angelo
June 29, 2014
"While My Lady Sleeps" performed by John Coltrane
"Blue Monk" performed by Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane
"Passion Dance" performed by McCoy Tyner
"Humus: The Life Expanding Force" performed by Don Cherry
"Our Gift To The World" performed by The Hanah Jon Taylor Artet
June 30, 2014
"Black And White America" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"What's Going On" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Revolution" performed by Nina Simone
"The Times They Are A Changing" performed by Ritchie Havens
"The Dreamer" performed by Common with Maya Angelou
"Black Man" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Stardust" performed by Louis Armstrong
"I Am Human" by Maya Angelou
Friday, June 27, 2014
Recorded 1974/Released 1978
-Until about a week ago, I only ever owned this album on cassette, so when I wanted to hear it again after viewing the documentary "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me," my friends at B-Side records hooked me up! Unlike the glistening first album and the ragged power pop glory of the second album, "Third/Sister Lovers" is nearly a Big Star album in name only as Alex Chilton is fully operating within deconstructive tendencies, making stunningly beautiful, heart aching songs while also re-contextualizing what exactly could possibly make a beautiful, heart aching song in the first place. .
Released October 1975
-I tend to listen to this album in the Summer, and while that season has not officially arrived, there have been a few days around these parts that have suggested those languid days.
I originally purchased this album in the Summer of 1988, when I was working in a phone office center for Ticketmaster during my break from college. From the moment I began college and for about a year or two afterwards, I slowly began collecting every single Todd Rundgren release as they were all being re-issued on compact disc at that time. This particular album, the second from Rundgren's band Utopia is an entirely live effort that truly has it ALL!! You will hear prog rock/fusion on "Another Life," "Mister Triscuits," and the gloriously vibrant "The Seven Rays." You'll hear blistering hard rock on a cover of The Move's "Do Ya" as well as Rundgren's own "Heavy Metal Kids." Elements of folk, jazz and gospel all arrive of the splendid acoustic track "The Wheel" (complete with horribly off-time audience clapping) and you'll even hear a bit of Broadway with an incorporation of "Something's Coming" from "West Side Story." And to cap it all off is the song known to Rundgren fans worldwide as the Utopia National Anthem, "Just One Victory."
Released May 22, 1972
-While listening to the latest album from The Roots, I was compelled to return to an album that I feel truly set the stage for what The Roots have accomplished with their most recent works as well as what Erykah Badu achieved with "New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)" (released February 26, 2008).
This album, the band's fourth, was the first to attain a bit of the studio polish the earlier releases did nto have, but believe me, it is no less freaky, funky and nasty. George Clinton and his collective of singers and musicians, including the mind melting guitar work of Eddie Hazel and the iconic keyboard flourishes of Bernie Worrell, created a double album treatise reflecting on the status of Black America, as well as America at large, in the early 1970's.
Released August 22, 2000
-In my classroom, this album possesses a constant presence, especially on those cloudy, rainy days. It really sets a more tranquil mood, most necessary for those excitable little ones.
Released July 1970
-For a group that has almost nothing but GREAT albums, their second album is possibly my most favorite release. While George Clinton and his arsenal of singers and musicians had not quite mastered obtaining a certain studio polish quite yet, the ragged nature of the album's six songs contributes masterfully to the music's dark, acid rock/funk palate. The 10 minute title track, with all manner of spoken voices increasing in paranoid existential frenzy combined with Eddie Hazel's mind melting guitar work, firmly sets the stage for the full throttle audio experience we will hear. From tracks like "Friday Night, August 14th," "Funky Dollar Bill," the incredible "I Want To Know If It's Good To You," "Some More" and the album's downright bizarre final track, "Eulogy And Light," the brilliantly disturbing re-working of "The Lord's Prayer," complete with backwards female vocals, delivers a grim journey that will also essentially give you a contact high. Never has such a bad trip sounded so amazing.
Released November 8, 1988
-When this album was first released, I was a Freshman in college and believe me, I was just trying my best to get away from this band as their presence just permeated the landscape. You really couldn't get away from them (much like U2 during the same time period) and therefore, my opinion sof the actual music contain within this album were clouded. It wasn't until many years later, when I had fully embraced the band that I began to re-evaluate the very albums that I had previously dismissed.
For a band that is/was as idiosyncratic and enigmatic as R.E.M., I do think that this album, their major label debut release, is a strange, weird and pretty album that defies classification. I loved the louder, more politically motivated songs ("Get Up," "Turn You Inside Out," "Orange Crush"), and the beauty of "You Are The Everything" has begun to reveal its power to me. But "Stand" remains just as irritating as it ever did for me but on the other hand, I have to say that the earnest and dark "The Wrong Child" is the one that I find deeply haunting.
Also, I happen to have been listening to the album's 25th anniversary deluxe edition's second disc which features a complete live set, which further proves tome what a thunderous band R.E.M. was, packing a ferocious wallop through the excellence of their performance plus the arrangements of their song selections.
Released September 26, 1995
-Now how did I not know about this????
As with the terrific music of Papas Fritas, which I somehow only discovered just last month courtesy of the fine young DJs at student radio WSUM-FM, this very album came to me as a gift from my friend Steve Manley, the proprietor of the legendary B-Side Records, my record store of choice in Madison.
Don't let the resemblance to a certain Rick Astley deter you as Steve knows precisely what he is talking about. Eric Matthews, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist (he even plays all of the wonderfully lush brass sections on the album) brings you glorious, symphonic pop songs, the very kind that feel born from the world of The Beatles but somehow blaze their own creative path through Matthews' terrific performance and expert songwriting which indeed grabbed me from the very first listen.
In fact, Steve played the first two songs for me while I was in the store making a new purchase and seeing my pleasure, he handed me this copy from the cut-out bin for free, as a gesture of musical solidarity feeling that I would appreciate it most. As he so often is, he was absolutely right!
Released February 19, 1971
-A personal favorite from one of my favorite bands that somehow popped into my head one day, inspiring me to listen to it once again, after having not heard it for many years. I could travel through the wormhole of "Starship Trooper" forever.
-Out of their lengthy catalog, this album remains one of my favorites as R.E.M. fully embraced their glam rock passions and delivered a loud, brash, more sexually driven album fueled by Peter Buck's rainbow colored guitar heroics.
Released June 27, 2006
-On the morning that I went to my classroom to begin preparing for the summer session, I felt the need to hear the blues!!! Just song for song, I was blown away all over again wit the gift that has been given to us all courtesy of B.B. King and Lucille.
Released February 29, 1988
-I needed some extra special energy to motivate myself to clean the classroom in preparation for summer school. Yes, I listened to The Clash while I cleaned my preschool classroom. WHAT!
"TUG OF WAR" PAUL McCARTNEY Released April 26, 1982
"FLAMING PIE" PAUL McCARTNEY Released May 5, 1997
-To celebrate Sir McCartney's 72nd birthday on June 18th, I listened to both of these absolutely wonderful albums.
Released February 1974
-For a musical odyssey that has possessed more than its share of hairpin curves, this 1974 double album is one of Rundgren's most experimental and diverse releases...and it remains one of my absolute favorites.
Yes, there are the lush pop songs and heart-on-sleeve, yet decidedly left of center ballads ("Izzat Love," "I Think You Know," "Useless Begging"), but this is an album that proudly makes considerable room and space for volcanic guitar driven prog rock epics ("Heavy Metal Kids," "Everybody's Going To Heaven/King Kong Reggae," and the mind blowing "Number One Lowest Common Denominator"), utopian hymns and anthems (the classic "A Dream Goes On Forever," "The Last Ride" and "Sons Of 1984"), plus tributes to Gilbert and Sullivan ("Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song"), and indescribable synthesizer wormholes (the impossibly titled "In And Out The Chakras We Go (Formerly: 'Shaft Goes To Outer Space'"). You will truly never hear anything quite like this album and once you do, it is one of those releases that once the music fishes, you realize that you have truly been somewhere.
And yes, I should also say that I listened to it on June 22nd, Todd Rundgren's 66th birthday.
Released October 1, 1973
I owe it all to Crockett and Tubbs.
Back when I was a teenager in the mid 1980's, I, like so many of my friends, was obsessed with television's "Miami Vice." While so many were taken in with the cars and the clothes I paid close attention to the cinematography, which appeared to be more like a feature film than television, and most notably, the musical score, which was composed and performed by keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jan Hammer. I proceeded to do some investigative digging and soon discovered that Hammer had been a member of Mahavishnu Orchestra. I then asked my Father if he knew of this fusion band, and not only had he heard of them, he owned the "Birds Of Fire" album (released March 1973).
Well, that album led me to the album featured just above these digitally printed words as Hammer was bandmates with drummer extraordinaire Billy Cobham and with all due respect to Miles Davis' groundbreaking , pioneering work, "Spectrum," Cobham's debut solo release, which he composed and produced the entire recording (and on which Jan Hammer appears throughout), is without question my favorite fusion album.
Recorded over only three days (!), "Spectrum" is an album of ferocious velocity, versatility, precision and jaw dropping forcefulness. From the very first seconds, I guarantee that you will be holding on for dear life as Cobham, Hammer, the late Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin and bassist Lee Sklar take the listener upon a blistering musical joy ride. Tracks like "Quadrant 4" and "Anxiety/Taurian Matador" will leave you breathless while the propulsive, nearly 10 minute "Stratus" and the funky "Snoopy's Search/Red Baron" provide the moody, slow burns that build beautifully in intensity.
Released July 29, 1981
-The debut release from the only band Prince has claimed to have ever been afraid of. He truly created his own monster as this album, on which he wrote and produced every track (under the pseudonym of Jamie Starr), in actuality features only himself and Morris Day in the studio. Just six songs (including "Cool" and "The Stick," all of them masterful and it is really great to hear how the mythology of The Time all began.
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Released July 6, 2007
-As Billy Corgan is currently hard at work on the first of two new albums by The Smashing Pumpkins, as well as shouldering more band lineup changes (drummer Mike Byrne is sadly no longer part of the Pumpkins' patch, bassist/vocalist Nicole Fiorentino's presence is limited at best and Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee is bashing the skins on one of the new albums), I wanted to return to the punishing art-metal of this 2007 album, the first music released after the band's resurrection. With tracks like "Doomsday Clock," the cymbal destroying "Starz" and the nearly ten minute, Fela Kuti inspired juggernaut "United States" (which features former drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's astonishing drumming all recorded live to tape and all in one take), this album finds Corgan's songwriting more overtly political and even paranoid as he examines what it means to live in America in the 21st century.
Released June 4, 2002
-As I have been saying more and more recently, uplift the art, uplift the race. Just imagine if an album like this received the level of airplay as what typically finds itself upon the radio or is placed in the front row seat of our public consciousness. We deserve better and Meshell Ndegeocello provides copiously.
"LED ZEPPELIN II" LED ZEPPELIN Released October 22, 1969
"LED ZEPPELIN III" LED ZEPPELIN Released October 5, 1970
-The Zeppelin remasters. Supervised and produced by Jimmy Page. 'Nuff said.
Stay tuned to this station to see where the music takes me next month.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Believe it or not dear readers, I have actually met Miles Davis. Yes, it is true and the impact of that very brief moment has only reverberated over time as it was more than little lost on me when it actually happened. But first, I feel the need to hit the "rewind" button...
As I have expressed to you in the past, my personal musical "Holy Trinity" consists of The Beatles, Todd Rundgren and Prince as they have each spoken to my soul in ways that surpass all other musical artists that I have ever listened to, no matter their relative levels of greatness. For my ears, all three are artists who have taken everything that has come before them and existed around them and have somehow, almost through a sense of alchemy that is magical to the point of being either spiritual or cosmic, invented their own musical language.
The Beatles have been with me since birth although I never fully latched onto them until later in my childhood. Prince took hold of me during my high school years as his constantly shifting and evolving musical vision truly seemed to be the closest thing I could have to experiencing what hearing The Beatles' latest musical adventures for the first time could have possibly been like. As for Todd Rundgren, I tentatively began listening to him late in high school but his musical odyssey took complete hold of me once I arrived at college, and without hyperbole, I do not know what my first two years of college would or could have been like without having his vision to follow alongside me, to guide me, to help me flesh out my growing world view as well as my view of myself.
In contrast to the realm of athletics and sports, what I assume would be the most typical bonding connections between Fathers and sons, my Father (the sports enthusiast) and I (the arts enthusiast), connected over film and music...although where he embraced jazz, I was drawn to rock and roll. I have heard of the musical majesty of Miles Davis throughout the entirety of my life. Even as a very small child, the name of Miles Davis was invoked by my Father with the purest of reverence and unabashed amazement and it seemed as if he made it his mission for me to eventually know and understand exactly who this musical giant happened to be. It's not as if he forced me to listen to Davis' music and it is also not as if he tried to introduce it to me over the years (although he would occasionally listen to it himself), Simply stated, the presence of Miles Davis was everywhere as symbols of his iconography were fixtures within my household.
As for the music of jazz, and most specifically the music of Miles Davis itself, absolutely none of it made sense upon first listen, but it would have been impossible to disregard the obvious joy that music gave to my Father when he listened or when he shared his arsenal of stories about all of the many times he had the pleasure to witness jazz musicians and Miles Davis perform live in concert over the years. I have to admit that even as a child, there was an inexplicably seductive pull to the tales my Father told me about this extremely idiosyncratic man who sometimes played with his back to the audience and who sometimes didn't even arrive for his own concerts! Miles Davis was and remains a figure so inimitable, indomitable and seemingly impenetrable, and additionally, so astonishingly ahead of the curve. Without even hearing the music, Miles Davis seemed to be unlike anyone else walking the planet and it would be years before I would even have any sense of perception as how to begin to approach the musician so many referred to as a musical genius.
I, in turn, tried to reach out towards my Father with music that perhaps possessed a jazz influence. The most notable one was Sting's "The Dream Of The Blue Turtles" (released June 1, 1985), which featured the musical skills of legendary jazz musicians Branford Marsalis (saxophone), Omar Hakim (drums), Daryl "The Munch" Jones (bass guitar), and the late Kenny Kirkland (keyboards) as his full band.
During that same period, I was deeply immersed with progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson, Rush and my favorite, Genesis. I think that for my Father, this avenue was quite possibly his way into fully leading me to his musical hero. Through my Father, he introduced me to the concepts, styles and genre of fusion music and within his own record collection, he introduced me to the music of Jeff Beck, drummer Billy Cobham and even the Mahavishnu Orchestra led by the blistering guitar work of John McLaughin. Ingeniously, what my Father achieved in his tutelage was to firmly lay the groundwork where all of those musical roads led straight to Miles Davis and most specifically, his quintessential double album opus "Bitches Brew" (released April 1970), a seismically revered work, widely regarded as the first fusion album.
While my initial reactions to the murky and even apocalyptic sounding "Bitches Brew" were confused and confounded to the point that I just did not know what to think about it or even how to listen to it, I did soon find myself taken in by then current Miles Davis releases including, "Decoy" (released June 1984), and "You're Under Arrest" (released September 9, 1985), an album which even featured the voice of Sting screaming Miranda rights in French.
Most certainly, there was the landmark album "Tutu" (released September 1986), Davis' moody, atmospheric collaboration with bassist/multi-instrumentalist//composer Marcus Miller.
It was also during this time when I actually began to accept my parents' invitation to witness Miles Davis live in concert, a ritual my parents embarked upon each time Davis' concert tours arrived in Chicago. I have seen Miles Davis perform on three occasions, all at the beautiful Chicago Theater, and honestly, while I did indeed enjoy myself each time, the majesty of Miles was still more than lost on me, as was my backstage meeting with him as I mentioned and teased at the outset of this remembrance.
One thing about the relationship between my Father and the musical world of Miles Davis is that whenever we went to go to a concert, I was able to witness my Father in a state that I had never seen him in any other context. I saw my Father as a fan, much as I was a fan of The Beatles, Prince, Todd Rundgren or better yet, the late Chicago writer/filmmaker John Hughes during those same years. My parents still laugh about the time when after a performance, they actually tailed Miles Davis' limousine throughout Chicago, just hoping to see where in the city he would end up. On the occasions when I joined them for a concert, we habitually stood behind the theater near the limo with the hopes of finally being able to meet and greet my Father's musical hero. Twice, all of the waiting was to no avail. The third time definitely was the charm.
I was 17 years old and once again, there we stood behind the Chicago theater near the limo waiting and waiting and I grudgingly endured the experience, annoyed that I was a captive audience as I didn't know how to drive and could not be left to my own devices. I was also more than convinced that even if we did see Miles Davis, my Father would become starstruck and not even make a move towards him in the first place, making the whole escapade pointless, I reasoned to myself. After what felt like eons, my Father was surprised to witness a colleague of his quickly waking past us and wearing a Warner Brothers Records jacket, Miles Davis' recording label at that time. My Father caught his attention and after a quick discussion where he learned that his friend performed some PR duties for Warner Brothers as supplemental income, his friend asked if we wanted to go backstage to meet the man himself. It is a "no brainer" to know what we ended up doing.
Once we were granted entrance into the inner sanctum, I have to admit that I was stunned to see this man who presence had filled my Father's life and the home and family he built with my Mother, standing mere inches from us. My Father nervously introduced himself and us to Miles Davis and with a smile (!), he reached forwards, shook my hand and croaked a salutation in his unmistakable scratchy, hoarse voice and moments later, we exited. That was indeed the meeting and as I stated, while exciting, it was completely lost on me.
What I clearly did not understand in that spectacular moment did not arrive to me until many years later when I began listening to Miles Davis on my own and completely unprompted by my Father. I cannot even begin to tell you how it happened or why other than when music is ready to find you, it will indeed make its presence known.
Since my twenties, my immersion in the music of Miles Davis, as well as the genre of jazz, has been slow going but the more I explore and expand my musical horizons and education, the more I realize exactly what extraordinary contributions all jazz musicians have made to the world through their boundless creativity, endless imagination, timeless compositional skills and a performing virtuosity that is nothing less than spiritual. As I have listened to more and more artists like Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Grant Green, Thelonious Monk and others, it has been truly sobering to realize how much I just did not know about these musicians, the musicians they played with and the collective mark they all made upon African-American, and let's be honest, American culture in its entirety. In fact, I initially began to feel anger and some resentment at not knowing who these people actually were. I mean--if the entire world knows who Paul McCartney is (and should), then the whole world should know about these people without question. I began to wonder why the culture of jazz is not appreciated in America or at least with the same reverence it is loved and cherished abroad. And further more, I wonder why my own race has not nurtured and cultivated the very art that we created.
When I really began to listen to these musical virtuosos, Miles Davis completely found his way to the very pinnacle for my personal tastes as well and precisely for the very same reasons that The Beatles, Prince and Todd Rundgren are heroes to me. Miles Davis was the true individual, an artist of the highest order. One who was willing to alienate his biggest fans in order to keep to the musical path of his own making and following it wherever it guided him. His musical journey existed regardless of musical genres, trends and fan expectations and in doing so, he invented his own musical language and demanded that we re-learn how to listen and experience the art of music.
Currently, I have been listening to "Miles At The Fillmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3" (released March 25, 2014), a boxed set that flies completely right up my alley in regards to Miles Davis' musical evolution. While my Father will always cherish the era that produced works like the iconic "Kind Of Blue" (released August 17, 1959) the most, I have found that Miles Davis during the 1970's speaks the loudest to me, even when the music still forces me to scratch my head in confusion and amazement.
Within this particular set of music, which captures four nights at the legendary Fillmore theater, what struck me is how Davis and his band quickly adapted themselves to the elements of rock music but accomplished this feat completely on their own terms. Instead of the slow burn of classic jazz, Davis and his band attack the material with voluminous speed, power and force but the selections are completely malleable. Songs can sometimes feel as if they will disintegrate due to their unpredictable cacophonous nature. And miraculously, all of the musicians will magically re-connect in a glory that is unstoppable. There are so many passages where I have found myself open mouthed and slack jawed at the proficiency and fury at which Davis plays, unbelievably eliciting sounds from his trumpet unlike any other human being who has ever played the instrument It is as if we are hearing Miles Davis' true voice when his trumpet blows.
And like musical figures like Prince and Frank Zappa, I wish I could understand just how Miles Davis knew that the musicians he picked to play with him would be individuals who possessed the mental and physical dexterity to keep pace with him. How is it that Miles Davis knew exactly when to ride a groove and then extinguish it, nearly evaporating the musical time signatures in the process? In doing so, Miles Davis created a band and music that performed and operated outside of time itself, essentially inventing its own time signature for us to decipher. That is absolute genius!!!
There is a joke about jazz music that I heard not that long ago where the complaint is from a listener who is just confounded as to why jazz musicians simply don't just play the right notes. While that is funny, in all honesty, I am now discovering that in order to find those elusive "right notes," a journey must be taken, a process must be explored. For whatever reasons, and how inscrutable and even impossible the music often became and what a mercurial figure he happened to be, Miles Davis was so purely open with his audience as he allowed everyone to live within his headspace, that unique journey, that extraordinary process.
And through all of the discoveries I will continue to make about jazz and Miles Davis, I will forever return to my Father and all that he taught to me. He wasn't just teaching me about music. He was giving me a window into himself. His process of forging bonds and connections with me through the bonds and connections he made with the music of Miles Davis is unquestionable as he also provided me with beginning to make bonds and connections with my musical and cultural heritage. He achieved all of this through patience, perseverance and powerful love and it just goes to show how music is just never solely "music." It is a life force, a gossamer that connects us to each other in the past, the future and so beautifully in the present.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Produced by Smoke And Mirrors
Released June 3, 2014
Meshell Ndegeocello: Vocals, Bass Guitar
Chris Bruce: Guitar, Bass Guitar on "Friends"
Jebin Bruni: Keyboards and Programming
Amp Fiddler: Synth Bass on "Friends"
Sylvester Earl Harvin: Drums and Percussion
Kaveh Rastegar: Bass Guitar on "Conviction"
Gabe Noel: Cello on "Comet, Come To Me"
Jonathan Wilson: Guitar on "Good Day Bad" and "Comet, Come To Me"
Doyle Bramhall: Guitar and Vocals on "Tom" and "Good Day Bad"
My Brightest Diamond: Vocals on "Comet, Come To Me"
If receiving a new album from a treasured artist is akin to receiving a long awaited letter from an old friend, then receiving an album from an artist previously unfamiliar is very much akin to making a new friend. Dear readers, please allow me to tell you about the new album by my new friend Meshell Ndegeocello.
Now I first have to explain that Meshell Ndegeocello is an artist who has existed upon my musical radar for many years but I never really had, or at least felt the opportunity to reach out and try her music. But, like I always say, music chooses you! Very late one evening near the end of May, I was at home simultaneously working on my computer and scrolling through the Facebook news feed when I came across a link to Ndegecello's new album, which was being streamed for free upon the official National Public Radio website. For an unbeknownst reason, I clicked upon the link and found myself listening to about half of the album, completely intoxicated and determined to purchase it on its release day, which I most certainly ended up doing. Since making that purchase and now having heard the entire album several times I am extremely excited to announce to you that I think that Meshell Ndegeocello has released one of the finest album releases of 2014.
I have to inform you that my knowledge of Meshell Ndegeocello's discography is even less than scant, as I have heard perhaps a song or two. She is also an artist that I have not really ever heard played on the radio aside from her duet with John Mellencamp, the hit cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night" from 1994, so I truly had no idea of what to expect with "Comet, Come To Me," Ndegeocello's 11th album.
The myriad shadings of love make up the full subject matter throughout the album as "Comet, Come To Me" contains introspective interpretations of interpersonal relationships. But even so, Ndegeocello has not concocted quaint selections of polite dinner music. What she and her bandmates have delivered is what could be described as audio paintings; atmospheric, moody, intoxicating works of art designed to lose yourself inside of.
With a plucked guitar pattern which would not sound out of place on a King Crimson album, "Comet, Come To Me" begins with on a most ominous note with a cover of Whodini's classic hip-hp track "Friends," a percussive selection filled with eerie analog synths, the repeated almost robotic sounding chant of the song's title and lyrics, partially rapped, sung or even whispered, suggesting not the duplicitous voices of others being spoken into your ears but rather the conflicted voices inside of one's head, as with this following section...
"You say you and you girlfriend were so tight
You took her out with you and your guy one night
She even had a set of keys to your home
And you shared mostly everything you owned
But as she shook your hand, she stole your man
And it was done so swift, it had to be a plan
Couldn't trust her with cheese, let alone your keys
With friends like that you don't need enemies"
Once "Friends" makes it fade out and the gentle acoustic guitar strummings of the album's second track "Tom" fade in, it seems that the storm clouds have passed. Yet, once Ndegeocello sings, "There's nothing between us/Except the feeling of nothing/The nothing of so close/The nothing of being too close/How it slips away...love," we know that we are still in for an emotionally turbulent ride.
As the lyrical path of "Comet, Come To Me" suggests a journey from the tension of interpersonal dissolution to the satisfied release of resolution (the album's closing track "American Rhapsody" contains the sentiments, "There will suddenly be new success, like Easter clothes...A bonafide life will arrive at last...There will be the sound of silvery thunder to shatter all the insane silence.."), what really struck me abut the album was its musical sophistication, beautiful sequencing and completely enveloping production. Ndegeocello and her bandmates have created a collection of songs and performances that are so sonically malleable, that they flow to the point of sounding almost liquefied.
From the acoustic based blues of "Good Day Bad" where Ndegeocello laments, "I'm surprised every sunrise the Earth would have me back/Surprised my knees hold me up and that it's not all gone black," the album glides us through "Forget My Name" with its dub reggae textures, the hypnotic title track with its mantra like vocals, the shimmering and glistening "Shopping For Jazz," and more ambient selections like the airy piano/bass dialogue found within "Choices," which contains the gorgeous lyrics, "So many colors...I choose you."
It just pleased my ears to hear how all 13 tracks phase seamlessly from one genre to another, almost shape-shifting at will or whim. For instance, "Continuous Performance" begins as a song that is threatening to break off into a full rock and roll number with its chugging guitar rhythms but it soon transforms into something that is lusciously atmospheric. Elements of reggae also merge luxuriously with atmospherics throughout the album as on tracks like "Modern Time," and throughout the entirety of "Comet, Come To Me" everything sounds so miraculously free flowing. In some ways, I think that Ndegeocello could easily re-record all 13 of these songs in completely different textures so that "Comet, Come To me" would almost sound as if it is a completely different album. Even so, we do have this album as it is and with musicianship of such high quality, you will easily be able to gather that the songs had to have been meticulously arranged in order to be performed this effortlessly.
Meshell Ndegeocello's "Comet, Come To Me" is an album that I would place in the same musical neighborhoods of releases from Peter Gabriel, late period Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon or even some of Kaki King's works. It is an album of sublime succulence that demands to be played on repeat as the album's flow is not one that I think you would wish to end.
As I stated at the outset of this month's activities, which pay tribute to Black Music Month, Meshell Ndegeocello, along with The Roots' latest release, have given us what has been so desperately needed within the culture of 21st century African-American popular music. This is a month that not only celebrates the entertainment of Black singers, songwriters, musicians and performers, but mostly and triumphantly, the art and artistry contained within the music and the artists themselves. "Comet, Come To me" is an album of supreme texture, provocative quality and yes, it is also enormously entertaining, no easy feat to produce but Meshell Ndegeocello provides the goods sumptuously.
And now...I think it's time for me to discover Meshell Ndegeocello's other albums and I do have some serious digging to do!
Friday, June 6, 2014
Executive Producer: Richard Nichols
Released May 19, 2014
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson: Drums
Tarik "Black Thought" Trotter: Vocals
Kirk "Captain Kirk" Douglas: Guitar
Kamal Gray: Keyboards
James Poyser: Keyboards
Frank "Frankie Knuckles" Walker: Percussion
Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson: Sousaphone
Mark Kelley: Bass Guitar
"I'm more or less interested now, at this point in my life, with making art records, with making actual statements."
And so you have, Questlove. And so you have...
First things first, "...and then you shoot your cousin," the eleventh album from The Roots, is far and away one of the best albums of 2014. Even with the highest of praise from me, an endorsement as emphatic as I can deliver, I do feel compelled to warn those of you out there who just may be expecting an album release that extends the high styled party atmosphere as seen during The Roots' nightly gig as Jimmy Fallon's house band on the new and revamped "The Tonight Show."
"...and then you shoot your cousin" is indeed a dark, challenging, claustrophobic and despairing affair that despite its brief 34 minute running time, quite possibly the shortest album in The Roots' entire discography, the album is an audaciously presented conceptual piece that not only demands the fullest of your attention, I also do not believe can be fully digested within one or even a few listenings. Conceptually and thematically, this new album extends itself from last year's outstanding collaboration with Elvis Costello entitled "Wise Up Ghost And Other Songs (released September 17, 2013) and most specifically from The Roots' game changing "undun" (released December 2, 2011), an album that, to my ears, re-wrote the rules for exactly what hip-hop could achieve if hip-hop artists only allowed themselves to delve that deeply and push boundaries that far.
Thankfully, The Roots, who do find themselves in a most unique position as being a band nearly 30 years in existence (eons in hip-hop years), and who have struck lucrative gold through their prominent presence on late night television, have decidedly and defiantly embraced this stage as an opportunity to make artistic statements regardless of trends and popularity and also by refusing to fall back on the tried and true formats within the hip-hop genre, the very formats that have left the art form within a sad and precarious state of arrested development and creative stagnation. By supreme contrast, what The Roots have achieved so brilliantly and disturbingly with "...and then you shoot your cousin," is to create and reveal what is unquestionably a powerful, sobering work of art.
"..and then you shoot your cousin" is an album that Questlove has referred to as The Roots' first opera, a description that seems more than fitting when you consider the expansive landscape and musically adventurous presentation. With "undun," Black Thought, The Roots' chief rapper/lyricist, worked with a collective of Roots collaborators (including the frequent voice of Dice Raw) to reveal the variety of emotions, thoughts and actions of one fictional character, in this case drug dealer Redford Stevens, whose tragic story is detailed in reverse from his death through the final day of his life. With "...and then you shoot your cousin," The Roots, with ample assistance from their collaborators, widen their focus to give voice to the people, neighborhoods and communities that life has seemingly forgotten in our so-called "post-racial" America, where hope has been all but extinguished and nothing has changed but the day.
The opening moments of "...and then you shoot your cousin" features a segment from Nina Simone's "Theme From Middle Of The Night," a selection that essentially serves as somewhat of an overture for the album's cast of characters, albeit it is the most somber overture you are likely to hear. "Only the lonely love/Only the sad of soul/Wake and begin their day in the middle of the night," Simone sings. "To breakfast on their ride/Where joys and tears just dried/To breakfast with the moon/In the middle of the night." And then, in the crippling solitude, our ears our stricken with the sound of two funereal hits to Questlove's snare drum, possibly gunshots in the distance but close enough to pierce your soul.
"Never," the album's second track is possibly one of the most striking selections in The Roots' entire catalog. It is a creepy, supremely haunting song that opens with ghostly choir voices, strings plucked in dissonance, mournful piano chords and Questlove's funereal drums keeping time, all creating a sonic landscape that, to my ears, suggested...well...let's say a metaphysical space where souls arrive and depart and just maybe, in the case of this song, we are hearing the voice of a soul either arriving or departing a physical place where a person's life is doomed even before birth.
The eerie, echoed vocals of Patty Crash descend upon the scene like a specter, creating a palpable sense of unease, and possibly suggesting the full "undun" departure of Redford Stevens' spirit from life. "Street dreams, close your eyes/Say goodbye to my memory/Street dreams, this is the moment/The moment that feels like forever/They say time flies/Down from the sky and says never/I look down...all I see is never...And all I know is all I know..."
The inimitable Black Thought then makes his first appearance on the album unleashing a world weary, soul crushing yet furiously paced flurry of poetic lyrics describing the inner state of so many who are living on the fringes of society and sanity.
"I was born faceless in an oasis/Folks disappear here and leave no traces," he begins, perfectly illustrating an urban landscape of distant empathy and riddled with dire consequences and circumstances. Throughout "Never," Black Thought gives voice to a world of situations and emotions from the lack of educational opportunities ("Waitin' on Superman losing all patience") all the way to the inner state of existential desolation ("Life is a bitch and then you live/Until one day by death you're found."). And throughout the track, the drums keep marching forwards, the choir moans onward and Patty Crash's ethereal vocals disturbingly return to the scene. "Never" is precisely the kind of album opening grabber that firmly sets the album's overall tone, setting the stage for everything we will soon hear and the effect left me more than a little shaken.
As for the remainder of "...and then you shoot your cousin" and what the entirety of the album means lyrically and thematically (including the significance of the title), I have not fully grasped it all and frankly, how could I as the album is completely designed to be digested over many listenings, and over a considerable amount of time as well. This factor is exactly what makes art albums so treasured and ultimately meaningful, as they continuously reveal themselves to you as you grow with the music. Additionally, this very factor is one that would indeed make an album like this one so risky in these accelerated, instant gratification times as "...and then you shoot your cousin" really doesn't contain anything that could qualify as a "hit single" and in some respects, there aren't really that many songs on the album anyway. It feels like what The Roots have conceived and crated is a more symphonic piece, something to be listened to in its entirety, where the songs function more like movements.
What has struck me within these tales of the bruised, the broken, the disillusioned observers, the drug dealers, drug addicts, and even a self-described "sex-addicted introvert" (as featured within the song "When The People Cheer"), were all of the various lines that seemed to leap from the speakers. Lines that almost felt to be floating within mid air, lingering their sting and pain, echoing into the distance long after the words were uttered and heard.
When the album addresses the topic of inner city malnutrition in the selection "Black Rock" (which is built from the sample of Blackrock's "Yeah Yeah"), the lines "Hey whats for breakfast?/Same as yesterday/Oh that's right cheeseburger and a 40 ounce" hit like the proverbial ton of bricks. When the album focuses on the futility and frustrations with religion and spirituality, lines like "Everybody acts like God is all that/But I got the feelin' He ain't never coming back" from "When The People Cheer" and "People ask for God 'til the day He comes/See God's face-turn around and run" from the church organ driven track "Understand" are profoundly solemn.
Musically, The Roots' have created a work that stands as their most audacious, at least their most audacious since the terrifying 10 minute plus track "Water" from their epic album "Phrenology" (released November 26, 2002). As previously stated, the full running time of "...and then you shoot your cousin" is only roughly 34 minutes, but The Roots have achieved what so many musicians and songwriters from decades prior achieved on a regular basis. Basically, from album to album, The Roots have discovered how to do more with less.
In addition to the album's chilling interludes from outside sources (Mary Lou Williams' "The Devil" and "Dies Irae," the jarring musique concrete of composer Michel Chion), we can now hear the spaces between the notes as the album is indeed filled with a variety of pregnant pauses that only serve to increase the tensions and emotional states of the album's characters and themes. The Roots have also incorporated a wider musical canvas fully illustrating the artistic reaches that hip-hop can stretch towards like on the fantastic "The Coming," featuring the vocals of Mercedes Martinez, which contains severely distraught piano and string sections clashing violently. And on "The Dark (Trinity)", a track which may be a deconstruction of the hip-hop MC bravado, the strings become even more foreboding as they echo the final countdown to doom crescendo of The Beatles' "A Day In The Life."
Lyrically, Black Thought only continues to raise his game, making it such an inexcusable shame that he is so under-rated within the hip-hop community. Ever since the band's creatively rejuvenating album "Game Theory' (released August 29, 2006) and especially with the track "Dear God 2.0" from the outstanding "How I Got Over" (released June 22, 2010), Black Thought has grown tremendously with increasingly provocative lyrics that provoke and challenge while fitting so effortlessly within his boom-bap flow. Hi character sketches are wonderfully vivid, his satire savagely pointed, and then, he just strikes a newfound level of poetic grace time and again.
Please just read this particular couplet from "Understand":
"Love is like a harlequin's romance
Lost between sips of liquor, that empty bottle in my hands
It was a shot away, but I never got away
Dreamed a little dream of me, but that was an anomaly"
Or this one from "Never":
"I tried to keep both of my feet on the ground
But I know my head is surrounded by clouds
Spirallin' down, destined to drown
Forever is just a collection of nows
Off on my own, nowhere is my home
Approaching infinity's fork in the road"
Or even this masterful section from "The Unraveling," a track that delves into the inner world of the self-described "man with no future":
"What did the thief say onto the hanging man?
'Here come the hounds, lay your burdens down in advance'
Redemption in the slow grind of chance
My grandmother's hands, the pomp and circumstance
Free at last! Free at last! A different me at last
Scattered like an ash, or history that's past
Came from nowhere, disappear just as fast
A life out of balance, a touch out of grasp
A time traveler headed to a night catches us
The final stop on the line for all passengers..."
In hip-hop or otherwise, when was the last time you heard lyrics like these on the radio? Bow down to Black Thought I say, bow down!! And additionally with that, The Roots have found a bridge between art and commerce, but unlike so terribly many, they aligned themselves with the nurturing and conservation of the art, hoping that the commerce will follow.
The Roots' "..and then you shoot your cousin" is a quiet storm of grace and fury. An uncompromisingly grim musical vision that reflects upon the even more uncompromisingly grim realities that shamefully populate our cities in President Obama's America.
The Roots have not only thrown down the gauntlet socially and politically with this album, they have drawn the line in the sand artistically, especially between themselves and the remainder of the hip-hop community and current musical pop culture at large, a culture that has swung its pendulum back towards the hopelessly plastic and superficial completely in pursuit of all things commercially viable yet artistically vacant. In fact, this also makes "..and then you shoot your cousin" work as a musical companion piece to Questlove's exquisitely written and essential six-part essay series for the Vulture publication entitled "How Hip-Hop Failed Black America."
What The Roots have accomplished with this new album, despite its relentless bleakness, is truly uplifting as they have showcased a creativity, imagination, skill and tenacity that is sorely lacking and regardless of how their work is ultimately received critically and commercially, the band have ascended to a point in their career where they creatively have nothing to lose so why not just swing for those fences! And as an added point, the were even astute enough to release the album on Malcolm X's birthday!
As far as I am concerned, The Roots are truly one of the very best that we have, so please do celebrate, appreciate and take the time to fully immerse yourself in the experience of "...and then you shoot your cousin."
Sunday, June 1, 2014
"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."
It seems to be more than fitting to begin this month's activities and experiences with a quotation from the peerless and timeless Dr. Maya Angelou, a creative force of nature whose towering empathy, eloquence and endless education has worked wonders in the continuous process of lifting up all of humanity. Angelou passed away at the age of 86 on May 28th of this year and at this time, I wish to not begin this time on Synesthesia upon notes of sadness but of recognition and celebration.
Dear readers, this site and my fictional/virtual radio station WSPC are enormously proud to embark upon the annual event which celebrates the month of June as BLACK MUSIC MONTH.
I came upon this idea through a chance sighting of an advertisement broadcasted upon the Centric cable channel and within those moments, I wondered to myself that if I were to play DJ as I had been performing upon my Facebook page and attempted to feature the art and artistry of Black musicians performers, singers and producers, what exactly would I play? It was an undertaking that filled me with a tremendous amount of surprises and pride as I had intended to perhaps post a song or two a day and ended up posting an enormous amount of music on each day of the month.
When the month of June arrived last year, I felt compelled to try it again, to which I did, surprising myself in the process. And now, here I sit, preparing myself for the third year, with only scant ideas of what I wish to begin with and no ideas whatsoever of where the month will take me musically.
And that is precisely how I like it and how it should be.
My wishes concerning Black Music Month for my self as well as for all of you, is essentially the mission statement of this site as well as WSPC, that this is a home of celebration and appreciation. To take the time to pay homage to all of the Black artists from around the world who have ever given us the gift of music, regardless of genre or generation. While the topics and subject matter contained within the music may be fully representative of the Black Experience, I am thinking and feeling that despite any racial specifics, all of the music that I will play throughout the month are fully representative of the Life Experience!
In regards to this month's content on Synesthesia, I have some ideas of what to feature that may stick closely to the theme of the month, yet I will keep those cards close to my vest at this time. but all going well, I am hoping to forge some sense of discovery through the music I'll be listening to and the postings that I am hoping to write.
Black Music Month is designed to be received as a musical journey, a journey through art that will bring such vibrant light to the artists who have given so much of their spirits and talents to the world, gifts that we will forever be able to enjoy. And with the entertainment, I am hoping that the empathy, eloquence and endless education contained within the artists and the music they created illuminates even greater.
So, for now, I shall end these session notes as I began, with another quotation from Dr. Maya Angelou:
"Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances."
So it is and so it does...
...and remember, as always...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!