Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hip Hop In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five have made this year's ballot for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. They are the first hip hop group to get nominated, and it's a well deserved sign of the times. 25 years after they released the classic scratch happy single Adventures Of Flash On The Wheels of Steel, with it's mad cuts between Chic and Blondie and Queen, hip hop is a dominant force in modern popular music. This song blew me away back in the day, and it still makes me smile today - especially when you consider that it was all done with vinyl and turntables - not a sampler in sight!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Money Mark's Three O'Clock

Money Mark is back in action with a six track EP called Demo Or Demolition? on on Chocolate Indrustries. Stylistically it's really nothing new, but I've always been a sucker for his lo-fi, soulful musings. Three O'Clock is a funky little shuffle with a sweet harmonica line, some cool keys and soulful vocals from Money and a nice bit of guitar from Smokey Hormel. Perfect listening for this sunny Wednesday afternoon...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Serge Gainsbourg In A Rub-A-Dub Stylee

Back in the early '80s French icon Serge Gainsbourg flew into Compass Point Studios and hooked up with rhythm section extraordinaire Sly & Robbie and their smokin' house band to record an LP of songs called Mauvaises Nouvelles Des Étoiles, inspired by a Paul Klee drawing hanging in his home. The end results show how unafraid to experiment Serge was - his smokey drawl fits very nicely into these dub grooves. The set has been remastered and reissued this year with a bonus disc. The second disc is 10 dub versions of the LP songs, and 11 "DJ and Singer" versions, with guest toasting and singing on every track. It's fascinating stuff, and so here is the title track Bad News From The Stars, a song on which Serge doesn't sing - the only vocals are the repeated title refrain from former Bob Marley & The Wailers backing vocalists The I Threes - Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt & Marcia Griffiths. As a little bonus enjoy the dub version too - Dub From The Stars. I'm sure I recognize the vocal refrain from somewhere else - I mean, someone might have sampled it, but I'm drawing a blank. Do any of you recognize it?

Late update... thanks to David F who pointed out that Stereo Total do an odd little version of this song - it's where I heard it. He's posted a link to the mp3 of it in the comments. Enjoy!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Joe Henderson Does Jobim

Inspired by the last couple of days worth of jazz links over at Totally Fuzzy here's a little more jazz. In 1995 Joe Henderson released Double Rainbow, a tribute to the music of noted Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was recorded with 2 different groups of musicians, all hot up and comers of the time. The band on side one is made up of Eliane Elias on piano, Oscar Castro-Neves on guitar, Nico Assumpçao on bass and Paulo Braga on drums - all giving the music a very native feel. Triste is from side two of the album, with a different band - Herbie Hancock on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. It's a great rendition, with good input from everybody. These songs have long been associated with the sax so it's no surprise that Joe is smokin' - actually, everybody is. A great set.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Original Techno Boffin - Thomas Dolby

The first time I heard Thomas Dolby was in 1981 when he released the single Europa and the Pirate Twins. I promptly took my pocket money and bought the 45. The combination of electronics and real instruments (that's XTC's Andy Partridge on the bitchin' harmonica) and that huge, catchy melody (and drum machine clappy noises) made it a big song for me, and I was amazed that it didn't chart higher. The rest of the album The Golden Age Of Wireless was an equally good batch of tunes, a mix of new wave rockers and arty synth pop. The record was largely ignored, and so was he until She Blinded Me With Science came out, and the proverbial "one hit wonder" was born. Even though I love the goofiness of that tune, there are so many other, much better songs to consider.

Second album The Flat Earth remains, for me, his peak achievement. Opening with the ultra funky Dissidents it fades into a blissful other worldy vibe with The Flat Earth - a big bass riff, some beautiful Soweto style guitar and the weird rubber band like noises through out the song enthralled me in 1984 and still sends shivers down my spine today. The musicians on the LP are top knotch - former Soft Boy Matthew Seligman on bass (also Robyn Hitchcock, who does a spoken bit), Kevin Armstrong on guitars, original NY No Wave scenester Adele Bertei contributes stellar vocals, and usual cohorts Bruce Wooley and Lesley Fairbarn all contribute. At this point things drifted towards the US, and TD moved to LA to do film music (Howard The Duck, anyone?) and continue to make records.

The last Thomas Dolby record I bought was 1988's Aliens Ate My Buick. By now he was working with LA session musicians, and his songs began to began to lose that distinctly British feel he always had. It's a OK album with a couple of great tunes. There's funk on a cover of George Clinton's Hot Sauce, dance pop on Airhead, Zappa-esque jive on The Key To Her Ferrari, and cod reggae on My Brain Is Like A Sieve. My favorite tune on it is the hardest one to peg - Budapest By Blimp. It rides a very US r'n'b groove - a very funky bass line, chikka guitars, all very slick, and mixed in with it is a gorgeous Hungarian aria. Yes, it's the classical funk hybrid. Sounds like it should really suck, but it doesn't. The aria's melody is beguiling and recurs often. The tune builds up to a giant funk rock break with a searing strangled guitar solo before it all drifts back into the original funk groove. Somehow all of these disparate styles that shouldn't work together do, and it's always amazed me. I gave up on Dolby at this point - he continued to write and record, and I heard a few things here and there, but nothing that grabbed my attention like the first 2 records - albums in dire need of the remastered reissue treatment!

A little bonus, Dolby related tune - Ryuichi Sakamoto's Fieldwork from 1985 features Dolby on vocals. This is the 12" London Long Mix, and it's an odd electro tune - it starts with a very Art Of Noise style synth line and develops into uptempo synth pop (with a nod to New Order's Blue Monday beats). The key is the killer weird break in the middle - all of a sudden it's tight, quirky art funk for a couple of minutes before it returns to the synth pop. A strange little record.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Funky Friday Evening

Chicago indie hip hop label Chocolate Industries is behind one of the grooviest records of the year - McNeal & Niles' Thrust. They were Machelle McNeal on vocals and keys and the brothers Darryl (drums) and Wilbur (guitar/synth/perc) Niles. The album was orignally released in '79, and now it's out again, a lost r'n'b gem of that era. It's got elements of disco, funk, and even a bit of rock. It's fantastic stuff, and so on this "end of summer" evening I hope you enjoy Summertime - a mid tempo funk jam, it comes off like a scruffier Chic. It's got a nice bass and guitar riff thing going and some breezy lyrics, and the rest of the record is funktastic too. Well worth investigating.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Dosh's Epic Struggles

OK - it works now!

Minneapolis native Martin Dosh's band has a new EP out on Anticon records - a new LP Pure Trash is out soon. Dosh specialize in leftfield hip hop and post rock, and Epic Struggles is a lovely instrumental - over loping, abstract beats he cuts and pastes a bunch of what sounds like easy listening piano riffs, throws in a bit of rough guitar, and the result is a very nice, hypnotic little tune. The EP also features remixes by a couple of other Minneapolis scenesters, Fog and Cepia.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Interpol Vs. Spoon

Last week saw the release of the new Interpol single Slow Hands. It's one of the standout tracks from their forthcoming Antics LP, and on the single there are two remixes - Dan The Automator gives it the glossy treatment and makes it sound like something from his Head Automatica side project - it doesn't do much for me. The other is handled by Britt Daniel from indie rockers Spoon, and his take on Slow Hands is the shit - it strips it all down to the bare essentials (much like a Spoon record), and the focus is put on the hugely funky bass line and the hissing disco beats. It's raw and groovy, and I think I might like it even more than the original!

Monday, September 20, 2004

What I Listened To At Work Today

Last week I posted a bunch of Madchester era tracks. I've been listening to some other records from that era, and today at work I played The House Of Love's self titled album from 1990. Big, epic songs swirling with psychedelia, classic British rock influences (Beatles and the Stones) and a certain swagger made this record a big one for me. When I got home today I had to dig out my old 12" from 1988, Destroy The Heart. What a great tune - thick, swirling guitar riffs, a driving beat, and a couple of wickedly cool guitar spazz solos - a bit reminiscent of Ride. Two minutes and forty seconds of melodic bliss.

I also recently purchased Of Montreal's latest, Satanic Panic In The Attic. I had downloaded a tune from one of my mp3 blog brethren, and it made a big impression. The album is full of whimsical, psychedelic pop rock with goofy lyrics and song titles - much tweeness abounds, as befits a band that used to be on Elephant Six, but it still makes for a very entertaining listen.
Vegan In Furs fits the bill on all of these counts. It starts off like a Talking Heads song from the late '80s and goes on to incorporate new wave, disco, and guitar riffs in a Boston stylee. Very infectious and lots of fun

Sunday, September 19, 2004

A Few Of This Week's Favorite Things

Tears For Fears have just released their new LP Everybody Loves A Happy Ending here in the US (it was out in Europe in June). After a few years apart Curt & Roland have reunited, and after some trepidation about it (as well as having read a few bad reviews) I am happy to report that, IMO, the record doesn't suck. It pretty much picks up where Seeds Of Love left off - super melodic, adult oriented pop. There's plenty of Beatlesque moments, and the production is pretty sweet - lush, and full of nice touches. Ladybird is definitely Beatles inspired, a swoony, summery song with a fabulous chorus and some very George Harrison guitar. I always loved the dynamics of these two singing and writing together, and it's good to hear them again.

Jill Scott has really impressed me with her new album Beautifully Human. It's some class act soul music that hearkens back to the golden days of her hometown Philly's vaunted soul scene. Talk To Me spends it's first 2 minutes bumping to a fantastic hip hop soul groove while Jill asks her distant lover to talk to her - then suddenly it's a swinging, big band jazz tune, all breezy horns and scatting. Not too many singers can try this kind of thing and be successful, and Jill carries it off effortlessly. A great album.

Deceptikon is Zack Wright, out of Portland, Oregon. His album Lost Subject is out now on Merck Records, and if you are a fan of well crafted instrumental hip hop grooves then look no further - this dude's got 'em. He does a deft job of blending samples and beats, and creates jazzy moody soundscapes that never fail to get my head bobbing. Ox Conservatory is one of the more uptempo tunes on the album, riding a funky ass beat, some killer keys and a few beautiful horn samples. Highly recommended.

Ultra Vivid Scene provide this week's flashback track - How Sweet. I have always felt that Kurt Ralske's band was one of the great under appreciated acts of the late '80s / early '90s rock scene. He had great song writing ability, creating catchy pop songs swathed in all manner of cool production sounds. How Sweet is from their second album on 4AD, Rev (the first is Joy 1967-1990 - a great record!) and rocks like T.Rex infused with a even bigger dose of psychedelia. Also of note on this track are the guest musicians - Matthew Sweet on bass and Fred Maher on drums. Kurt's guitar playing is blazing on this track, and the melody is very beguiling. If you ever come across these old albums you must buy them!

Friday, September 17, 2004

Funky Friday Hangin' On A String

Back in 1985 Brit trio Loose Ends broke into the charts with their amazingly good single Hangin' On A String (Contemplating) . In the long standing tradition of Brits trying to emulate the US r'n'b sound and not always suceeding, these guys actually did a great job. This track, to me, is on a par with the stuff that Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis were doing with the S.O.S. Band et al. Sweet programmed beats, some nice guitar and a catchy as hell song & great vocals all make this tune a true '80s classic.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Beatboxin' With The Super Furry Animals

The SFA remix album Phantom Phorce got it's US release this week. It's filled with some great mixes and a few duff ones. There are some naff commentary tracks bewtween every song (also on the DVD) which seriously intrude on the flow of the music, so be prepared to program your disc player to edit them out. Human beat boxer Killa Kela has done a smashing job of funking up Golden Retriever - it's gone from a straight up rocker to a mid tempo hip-hopper. The beats are super tight and there are some cool vocals effects too. I love the Furries - they are unafraid to experiment, and quite often the results are brilliant.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Bloc Party's Banquet

Are you bored with the whole post punk thing? British four piece Bloc Party are here to get you interested again. Their self titled EP got it's US release this week on Dim Mak Records, and it's 6 tracks of searing, spiky guitar riffs and hugely catchy songs. Leadoff track Banquet is a wicked tune, rocking but danceable, a little bit reminiscent of the earliest Cure records. As a bonus cut you get a second version, Banquet (Phones Disco Edit), where the dance factor is cranked up with a lot more disco thump and some whizzing electronics. Fantastic band, great EP.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Birth School Work Death

Back in 1988 British rock band The Godfathers had their moment in the charts with their somewhat amusing take on life, Birth School Work Death. 16 years later the song has turned up on a compilation from ultra cool label Output Recordings. Channel 3 features Manhead's version of Birth School Work Death. It's turned from a punk pop tune into a real dancefloor groover - poppin' bass, chicken scratchy disco guitars, and monotone Euro vocals mixed with just the right amount of electronics. Label honcho Trevor Jackson has a great ear for cool bands, and the rest of the compilation is just as good as this tune.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Remastered Ant Music

Last week saw the reissue of the first 3 Adam & The Ants albums - Dirk Wears White Sox, Kings of The Wild Frontier and Prince Charming, all with bonus tracks. I picked up Dirk... this week and am giddy about it. It's a great album of art school post punk rock, without all of the emphasis on tribal rhythms and facepaint that was to come. Malcolm McLaren liked this band so much he stole them away from Adam so he could put them behind his latest protege Annabella, and thus was born Bow Wow Wow. Anyway, the record holds up very well, and the remastering is awesome - finally at a decent volume! One of the bonus tracks is the Chris Hughes mix of the classic single Cartrouble (Parts 1 & 2), from the 1982 12" EP release. Hughes later became Adam's drummer, and this recording also features soon to be regular Ant guitarist Marco Pirroni. It's a more produced version that boosts the bass and drums, a sign of things to come. Great stuff, and I look forward to getting the next 2 over the coming weeks.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Crate Digging - Some Classic 12" Singles

This week, 12" remixes from the late '80s / early '90s Madchester - Baggydelic scene...

Frazier Chorus were initially signed to 4AD Records, where their brand of dream pop fit in with that label's aesthetic. They eventually moved on to Virgin Records, where they released the single Nothing (Raid Mix). This is the killer Paul Oakenfold remix of this swoony, string laden electro-disco song - before Oakey became the dodgy trance DJ saviour of the world he actually did some pretty cool remixes. It's got the Italo- disco piano stabs and a truly dreamy feel to it, right down to singer Tim Freeman's fey, whispy vocals. A big tune that never fails to get me grooving.

Electronic burst out of the inactivity of New Order and the demise of The Smiths. Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr introduced themselves to the world with Getting Away With It (Extended), their debut single. Featuring the guest vocals of Neil Tennant from The Pet Shop Boys, it's a fantastically lush disco tune - the cool electro beats and synths of New Order/PSB combined with the always inspiring Johnny Marr jangle works wonders. There are also some lovely strings, and a cooler than cool acoustic solo that never fails to send shivers down my spine.

Happy Mondays were, for me, the height of the baggydelic scene. OK, The Stone Roses are in there too, but the Mondays were a different kettle of fish. They rocked, they funked, they were always on the verge of collapse, and they were groovier than shit. The afore mentioned Paul Oakenfold had a big hand in their success, taking them from their gloomy Martin Hannant produced roots and turning them into a drug splashed (OK - they were already that) funk rock and soul band, ready to get people's asses on the dancefloor. At the height of their popularity they released the single Loose Fit, which was backed by Bob's Yer Uncle. The 12" was remixed by Oakey and his partner Steve Osbourne. Factory also issued a companion 12" - the same two songs , but remixed by techno boffins The Grid instead. From that 12" I give you Loose Fix - a truly huge guitar riff, the great soulful backing vocals, all spaced out nicely for the dancefloor. The flip side is Bob's Yer Tune, a very pervy space disco tune - a bit of flute, some breathy backing vocals and Sean's mumled sex talk all make for a very smooth ride on this remix. Ah, those were the days...

Friday, September 10, 2004

Funky Friday with ABC

Since ABC were the subject of Bands Reunited earlier this week I give you their debut single Tears Are Not Enough. I loved this tune the first time I heard it, and promptly went out and bought the 45. It's got cool chikka chikka guitars like Chic, great horns, sharp and witty lyrics, and Martin's falsetto soars. It also features a uniquely funky harpsichord breakdown - not too many songs have those! From the LP The Lexicon Of Love, produced by Trevor Horn - one of the great albums of the early '80s.

Life's been hectic this week so there haven't been too many posts - this coupled with the fact that my updates are no longer being seen by the mp3blogs aggregator have made me feel a bit meh! about things. Can anybody shed light on this aggregator thing? It seems to be working now...

Monday, September 06, 2004

The return of Bands Reunited - Haircut 100

VH1's great mini-series Bands Reunited is back tonight, and features the poptastic Haircut 100. Remember the cardigans, the nautical themes? I do, and I loved every minute of it. The songs were always eminently catchy, full of funky bass and guitar, lots of cool percussion and big horns. I was 17 when I bought Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) on 45, and was way into it's weird cross pollination of James Brown style funk grooves with the whimsy of British pop. I still listen to their debut Pelican West - too bad they never made more than one album.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The NME's Big Four from 1986

The NME used to give away cool 45's with issues of their paper. Today's mp3s are all from the '86 EP The NME's Big Four....
Tom Wait's Downtown Train (NME Version) is a great tune that most people know of because of Rod Stewart's hit version in the '80s. It's a more traditional style song than a lot of Tom's stuff - straight up rock with a fairly straightforward vocal, instead of swampy voodoo cabaret. I think that's why I like it so much. It's a hell of a lot better than Rod's rendition too...

The Jesus And Mary Chain's Some Candy Talking is from the earliest years of their career, when it was all about the huge, Phil Spector-like reverb laden VU riffs. When I first heard this song all those years ago I thought it was rubbish - but then, I was young and foolish. A lovely melody buried in a wall of sound.

Husker Du were Minneapolis' garage rock gods at the time of this recording - a great little cover version of the Beatles classic Ticket To Ride. It captures the trios raw energy - big drums, the bristling guitars and the vocal interplay between Grant and Bob. Big rock music.

Troublefunk burst out of DC with their vibrant, big band sound - "go-go" music's rising stars, fusing the energy of rap, the funk of bands like Parliament and the instantly recognizable "go-go" drum rhythms of this uniquely DC/Maryland/Virginia scene. For a year or two there was a lot of hype and a bunch of fresh records, but it never crossed over. Let's Get Small is a typically funky number with a very memorable melody line that sounds like it's played on a harmonium, and lots of call and response shouts. Definitely a booty shaker.
The Beat's Stand Down Margaret

When The Beat / English Beat released the song Stand Down Margaret it was a call to get rid of then Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, the neo-con queen of the '80s. In light of the upcoming elections, and the end of last week's Neo-Con Wankfest '04 in NYC this song's opening salvos still ring true - you just need to change the name of the leader. "I see no joy, I see only sorrow, I see no chance of your bright new tomorrow, So stand down Margaret ( or "W") stand down please...". A lovely bit of ska.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Funky Friday - Jill Scott

Jill Scott's new LP Beautifully Human hit stores this week, and it's a stunner. She has a beautiful voice, and it's displayed over all manner of fresh grooves, from jazzy riffing to hip hop beats with stops at some classic Philly soul in between. Bedda At Home is one of the more hip hoppy tracks on the album, and it's a funky piano driven tune with a nice jazzy guitar lick. Lyrically it's her checking out the hot guys all around her and letting them know that she's got something better at home. It's nice to see that she's kept some of that sassiness from her first record. Great stuff.