Tuesday, January 30, 2007

MC Search

OK, I admit it - I watch VH1's The White Rapper Show. Yes, it's another reality TV show, but I like the twist - a bunch of white rappers compete against each other for prizes and the perhaps dubious tag of the "next Eminem". They live in Brooklyn the Bronx, in less than fabulous quarters, dubbed "The White House". They get visits from some of hip hop's big names - Grandmaster Flash, Fat Joe, Juelz Santana, Brand Nubian's Sadat X & Lord Jamar - who offer sage advice. It's four episodes into it and I am hooked.
It is hosted by MC Serch from old skool original white rappers 3rd Bass. I was a big fan of 3rd Bass back in the day, as it was refreshing to hear some white rappers who didn't suck. Watching this show has me digging out their oldies. Today's post spotlights their 1989 debut album The Cactus Album (Cee/D). Wow, it's two years shy of being 20 years old! It definitely sounds dated and of it's era, but to me it is one of the great eras of hip hop, with the rise of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers and Queen Latifah as well as fellow white rappers The Beastie Boys. Serch and Pete Nice had Prince Paul, Sam Sever and PE's Bomb Squad on production, so their sound was definitely not the watered down pop hop of their rival Vanilla Ice. Lyrically they mixed social commentary (Product Of The Environment) with goofy humor (Brooklyn Queens or The Gas Face), and both rappers had pretty good mike skills to complete the package. Here are two of my favorite tracks; Wordz Of Wisdom (produced by Sam Sever) features a crisp breakbeat,some funky keys and good wordplay. The killer Steppin' To The A.M. comes with beats and bass courtesy of the Bomb Squad's Hank and Keith Shocklee and Eric "Vietnam" Sadler. Check the chorus with it's samples of Beastie Boys, Schoolly D, Chuck D and The Time (what time is it!?!).
The pair went on to hook up with DJ Richie Rich and record 1991's Derelicts Of Dialect which gave them their biggest hit (Pop Goes The Weasel) before they split up. Serch released a solo joint in 1992 called Return Of The Product (which I also listened to today and enjoyed - maybe a post forthcoming...) and Pete Nice and Richie went on to record 1993's Dust To Dust (which I sold long ago). They reunited in the late '90s to record a song, and there were rumors of a full blown record/tour but all of it fell through. Pete Nice now sells baseball memorabilia in Cooperstown NY, and Serch is on my TV every Monday night.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Funky Friday Is Coming Out Of Leftfield

This funky Friday is a step away from the usual sources...

Of Montreal - Gronlandic Edit
Kevin Barnes' latest offering as Of Montreal is another mind warping trip through a genre blender. It's funky, it's twee, it rocks and then it doesn't, it's a bit new wave-y, there is a song that goes on way too long, and then there is this lovely bit of Krautrock along the lines of Fujiya & Miyagi. The vocals are as insane as ev-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah...

K-OS - Black Ice - Hymn 4 Disco
From his forthcoming (February 20th) album Atlantis - Hymns To Disco. Canadian (via Trinidad) rapper K-OS is a hard one to pigeonhole. He is musically all over the place, incorporating garage rock, reggae, folk, r'n'b and more into his hip hop brew. I only got this advance copy yesterday so I have no strong opinions yet. It is an incredibly broad sonic palette, with contributions from a couple of Broken Social Scene-sters as well as Buck 65 and Kamau. It took quite a few listens for me to get accustomed to 2004's Joyful Rebellion, so I expect the same here.

Yppah - I'll Hit The Breaks
Fresh from NinjaTune comes Texan Joe Corrales, AKA Yppah (say Yippah). His debut album is called You Are Beautiful At All Times. It takes Joe's rocker roots and pits them against keys and beats and loops. What emerges is a beautiful slab of moody post-rock-tronica, full of organic instruments put through arrays of effects. It is reminiscent of Ulrich Schnauss and Boards of Canada and MBV, yet it has it's own voice too. Probably because he's from Texas. This tune has some great beats and guitar.

Tim Fite - I've Been Shot
Tim Fite is a Brooklyn based singer/songwriter who records for Anti- Records. Armed with his deep love of hip hop as well as a great distaste for the state of hip hop today, he has recorded a hip hop record called Over The Counter Culture. The clincher is that he will be giving the album away for free on his website (Tim Fite.com) beginning February 20th. He has made what he calls "an overtly political hip hop record... free from the paradox of art reconciling with commerce." The result is a pretty entertaining underground hip hop album, full of wit and bite. This tune is a hilarious poke at rappers like 50 Cent.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Die Mensch-Maschine

Yesterday was the first big new release day of 2007. My personal list went thusly;

1. The Shins' Wincing The Night Away - check.
2. Clinic's Visitation - next time...
3. Echo & The Bunnymen's Songs To Learn And Sing expanded edition - check!
4. Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna... - Check.
5. David Vandervelde's The Moonstation House Band - check.
6. 8-Bit Operators - The Music Of Kraftwerk compilation - check.

There were a few other bits and bobs that got missed out or skipped over, but all in all a good shopping day. Which leads to today's tunes...

8-Bit Operators is a compilation of the music of Kraftwerk performed on vintage 8-bit video games systems. It is the perfect synthesis of old school video games sounds and the classic old school grooves of the German electro pioneers. I am a huge Kraftwerk fan. I was never much of a video gamer, but I recognize the blips, bleeps and bloops. There are a couple of versions here that aren't so great, but I will say I am enjoying most of this compilation. Here are a few of my faves...
Glomag - Pocket Calculator
8-Bit Weapon - Spacelab
Bubblyfish - It's More Fun To Compute

Monday, January 22, 2007

Stroppy Little Island Of Mixed Up People

Tomorrow sees the US release of the new album from Damon Albarn's supergroup The Good, The Bad & The Queen. I am a huge fan of Damon - love Blur, love the Gorillaz, love the Mali Music project, and I even enjoy Democrazy. I have yet to come across anything I haven't liked by the man and his various bands. This latest is no exception. The line-up; former Clash bassist Paul Simenon, drummer extraordinaire Tony Allen, former Verve guitarist Simon Tong, Damon on vocals and keys, and producer Danger Mouse. The album is a moody, melancholic look at the state of the world and the UK today. It features a lot of lyrics referencing the war in Iraq and and the state of the environment. This shit is right up my alley. And also going to confuse people looking for something closer to Gorillaz. I've played the advance copy that I got in the mail this morning three times already, and I like it. It is mostly downtempo and often gloomy which is going to turn some people off - it doesn't bother me. There is also that unmistakable British-ness about it all, present in almost all of Damon's music. This record is steeped in the neighborhood where it was born, the Portobello Road area of West London, which is home to a diverse, multi-cultural stew. This really comes through in the fat dub bass lines and the skittery Afro pop beats. Three Changes features the lyric that titled this post, and is one of the more uptempo tunes. Anchored around a shuffling beat and twangy riffs, it also features some nice, fuzzed out guitar and spacey synths. Green Fields is a spaced out sort of ballad, mostly strummed guitars and Damon's carnival key riffs - "I wrote this song...years ago...before the war and the tidal wave". Highly recommended, this is going to get played a lot in the next few weeks!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Funky Friday Is In Your System

This week's funky Friday is dedicated to Robert Palmer. Possessed of a unique voice and a willingness to experiment, Robert's career began in 1970 when he joined jazz-rock fusion band Dada, which also featured singer Elkie Brooks. A year later the two of them formed the r'n'b group Vinegar Joe, who went on to release three albums. In 1973 Robert went solo, and his debut LP Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley was recorded in New Orleans. It featured The Meters and Little Feat's Lowell George, and was deep south flavored rock'n'r'n'b - a style he stuck with for several records. Over the years he went on to incorporate reggae and other Caribbean flavors. His early '80s recordings were new wave, defined by the classic Johnny & Mary. At this point he embraced electro and singing in Urdu (Silver Gun), which got him critical acclaim but poor sales. Then we have The Power Station, where mainstream American rock was mixed with a dash of dance beat gloss. Robert sang, 2/3rds of Duran Duran rocked the house and Chic drummer Tony Thompson provided the beats. This blueprint was then tweaked for Robert's most successful era, with it's monster hit Addicted To Love. Over the years he continued to record, although with much less success. He sadly passed away from a heart attack at the young age of 54 in 2003. A remarkably varied body of work is left, much of it funk-da-fied. Enjoy these four reminders of why he is missed - a couple of funky '70s tracks, an '80s electro classic and a great cover of a Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis song, originally by Cherelle.

Give Me An Inch
Pressure Drop

Every Kinda People
Double Fun

You Are In My System

I Didn't Mean To Turn You On

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Arthur Russell - Springfield (DFA Remix) - removed by request

This week's back catalogue purchases included two Arthur Russell reissues. One is the remastered reissue of 1994 release Another Thought. The other is called Springfield, and is six previously unreleased tracks plus this remix by DFA. Originally recorded in 1988, it shows Russell moving away from the ambient and avant funk of his early '80s stuff and into electro and early house territory. The original version is 8 minutes of booming post-disco beats bathed in a massive amount of reverb. DFA brings it all down to the basics, and strips the tune of all of it's watery effects. The result is that you can clearly hear all of the various parts, and when Arthur's weedy voice breaks through, it is clean and right up front in the mix and almost startling in it's clarity. A fascinating addition to an unpredictable body of work, this is a really lovely tune.

On a related note I'm happy to pass on this bit of info... original music blogger (and one of my favorites) Spoilt Victorian Child is back in business. After several years Simon shut down the blog last fall, presumably to concentrate on his fledgling record label. His first post back is the most excellent Arthur Russell AKA Dinosaur L track Kiss Me Again.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Best Of Bootie 2006

Best Of Bootie 2006
I'm a big fan of the bootie AKA mash up. The last few years have seen the bootie move out of the underground and into the charts. Sure, there have been some dubious booties out there, but when they are done right they can often be mindblowing. I'm always amazed at how well the good ones work - two seemingly disparate sources coaxed into something new and exciting. Today is all about the good stuff. Best Of Bootie 2006 is a collection of the good stuff, available for you to nab by clicking the link above. Here are a few samples to whet the appetite...

DJ Topcat (Jay-Z vs. Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons) - December 4th, Oh What A Night
A Plus D (Kanye West vs. Beethoven vs. Walter Murphy) - Beethoven's Fifth Golddigger
A Plus D (Justin Timberlake vs. Siouxsie & The Banshees) - Bringing Siouxsie Back/Sexy Peek-a-Boo

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lola Rastaquouere

The mid winter lull in musical new releases often finds me stocking up on the back catalogues - the oldies, greatest hits collections and remasters of the classics. The last few weeks has been no exception; recent additions include VU's 2 disc set Gold, the Essential Hall & Oates (an Xmas gift from the wife), Robert Palmer's The Best Of The Island Years, the expanded remaster of Harry Nilsson's Nilsson Schmilsson, and this splendid two disc, expanded remaster of Serge Gainsbourg's Aux Armes Et Cætera.

Originally released in 1979, the recipe is easy, and a good one. Serge takes his debauched act to Jamaica, where he hooks up with one hell of a smoking house band, essentially the Compass Point All Stars. Led by dub reggae's rhythm kings Sly and Robbie, they are the masters of establishing heady dub grooves. This is the band you heard on those Grace Jones tracks from the early '80s, and this is the band who backed up Black Uhuru on their first 3 or 4 albums. Then take it one step further by bringing in Bob Marley's backing vocalists, the I-Threes (featuring Bob's wife Rita), on harmony vocals. Lyrically Serge is in top scandalous form, and the grooves really sweeten it all. The remaster includes a second disc which collects dub, DJ & singer versions of every tune. It is top talent working at the top of their game, and it is smoking good. I particularly enjoy the dub versions, where studio trickery and effects are put to good use. Today I share all of the versions of Lola Rastaquouere, Serge's ode to sex with a mysterious, underage girl. Despite the dodgy subject matter, the tune is an unforgettable reggae groove, good in all of it's forms. Enjoy...
Lola Rastaquouere
Dub Rastaquouere
Lola Rastaquouere Is Back (featuring Lisa Dainjah)
Lola Rastaquouere (Version Anglaise) featuring Bruno Blum

Friday, January 12, 2007

Funky Friday Is What It Is!

Happy New Year. I'm back from my two week (unplanned) hiatus. It's been awfully quiet around here the last few weeks, largely due to the holidays, entertaining house guests and general apathy about writing anything. I've been far more inclined to recline on the couch and surf the cable, watching Around The Horn & PTI on ESPN and then surfing back and forth between CNN & Current TV. December and January are notoriously slow months for new music, so I haven't been shopping much. However, one of my Xmas gifts was a gift certificate to my fave record shop, so last week I splurged and used it towards buying the bitching box set I'm about to introduce to you...

91 songs spread over 4 CDs, culled from the vaults of Atlantic, Atco and Warner Bros. Records. A lovely hardcover box, about 7 inches square. A great book, full of photos and stories about every track. All of it adds up to What It Is!, a collection of funky soul and rare grooves spanning from 1967 to 1977. It features rare sides from well-known acts plus killer grooves from lesser-known acts, so the array of artists is pretty wide - from The Commodores, Earth, Wind & Fire, Curtis Mayfield, Little Richard and Aretha Franklin to The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Rasputin's Stash and Cold Grits. It is a smorgasbord of soul, a feast of funk and a gang of grooves that I am still absorbing. It's glorious stuff, both the original songs and lots of great covers too. Enjoy some fine funk gems...

Johnny Cameron and The Camerons - Funky John - a fantastic one-off single from 1970 with smokin' chunky bass and guitar and loads of horn. There's a party goin' on!

6ix - I'm Just Like You - can you say Sly Stone? No, really. 6ix was a pseudonym used by Sly to put out music on his own label, Stone Flower, while he was under contract with Atlantic. Playing everything, once again Sly shows his mighty influence on modern music, especially the Purple One.

Lulu - Feelin' Alright - a pop star in the UK since the '60s, this cover of the Traffic classic finds Lulu in the Muscle Shoals studio in the year 1970, with a band that included Duane Allman and her then hubby Maurice Gibb. Swanktastic, funky, and her gritty voice is perfect for it.

Young-Holt Unlimited - Wah Wah Man - riding in on a stone cold classic beat that has been sampled by just about everybody in downtempo and jungle, this is a jazzy little tribute to the lovely effect that is the wah wah pedal.