Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Music Tuesday - Common

Common seems to stir up a lot of mixed emotions in the hip hop world. Not hardcore enough for a lot of people, too artsy for others. Lyrically he comes across as the sensitive, thinking type, and largely eschews the whole bitches'n'hos thing - altho' he stills drops the N word quite a bit. Personally speaking I have enjoyed all of his records, even the much maligned Electric Circus. His new LP Finding Forever drops today, and it sticks to the formula of it's predecessor Be. Kanye West is once again the man in charge. He produces the majority of the tracks, and he brings his warm, soulful take on hip hop - gritty beats, lush soundscapes, gospel vocals and a few choice samples (like the drums from Paul Simon's 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover). He also brings a few choice guests; Lily Allen (yes, that Lily Allen) sings on Drivin' Me Wild. D'Angelo and Bilal croon, DJ Premier scratches and Will I Am produces and sings. I have only had a couple of listens and a few tracks stand out - the hard rocking Southside, the Lily Allen bit, The Game with it's old skool Premier cuts, and today's selection, I Want You. This is Common's collaboration with Will I Am. It's a love song that floats on dreamy Bob James samples. I have a love-hate thing with Will. I think he's plenty talented. I was a fan of the first few Black Eyed Peas records. But then Fergie entered the picture and the dopiest pop songs ever ensued. I like what Will does for others, and this is no exception. Smooth.

Find more Common on Hype Machine or Elbo.ws

Friday, July 27, 2007

Funky Friday - New York Latin Hustle!

Soul Jazz Records brings the hotness again with this smoking 2 disc set of NuYorican tastiness. Covering "The Sound Of New York" from the Latin POV, it's tracks range from the '60s to the '80s. It covers all the bases, with authentic rhythms bumping up against jazz, funk and disco. The big names are here; Tito Puente, Willie Colon, Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto all represent. There are lots of lesser known gems too, including a great cover of "Ain't no Stopping Us Now" by La Charanga 76. There are a few other covers of "Tighten Up" and "Soul Makossa", and a classic bit of lost disco greatness by J Walter Negro And The Loose Jointz. There is no chronological order to the comp, and I'm sure they missed a bunch of stuff, but when the end result is a good as this who am I to argue? A fantastic selection of funkiness to get you grooving today...
Nature Zone - Porcupine
Louie Ramirez - Do It Anyway You Wanna
Jose Mangual - Mai Kinshasa
J Walter Negro And The Loose Jointz - Shoot The Pump

Look for more Latin hotness on The Hype Machine and elbo.ws.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My '70s Remastered - The Pop Group

Rhino Records is a great label when it comes to reissues - everybody knows that. In April they put out a remastered and (slightly) expanded version of the classic Y by seminal UK post-p(f)unkers The Pop Group. It is a glorious thing. The only problem is that it is a Euro only release. Seeing as how the label has a big presence in the US I find it surprising that it hasn't surfaced yet. This week I came across the import at my local priced at $17 and had to have it. I have been rocking a crusty rip of this record for years now and it is ace to hear a crisp, loud and clear recording.

Originally released in 1979, this is the Bristol band's debut, produced by UK dub master Dennis Bovell. It is a royal soundclash, with funk, punk, jazz, art rock and radical politics all colliding in a sometimes heady brew. Lets be upfront here - it is not an easy listening record. Half the time it sounds as if the five members are all coming from someplace different. But then they hit that spot where they are all in agreement and BAM! You get a song like their debut single
She Is Beyond Good And Evil. Not on the original version of the album, it is a memorable bit of audio roughing up, as vocalist Mark Stewart rants and shrieks and squawks at you while the band plays like The JBs on acid. Included on this reissue is the bonus cut 3:38. A cool bit of psychedelic dub, it was created when Dennis Bovell took the track for She Is Beyond Good And Evil and played it backwards. A nice bit of deconstruction.

For further critical analysis read this review on Julian Cope's Head Heritage site or this review from Stylus.

Listen to more of The Pop Group on The Hype Machine.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Music Tuesday - Prince

The Purple One has a new LP out today on NPG/Columbia Records. Called Planet Earth, it is 10 tracks of typically Prince-ly fare. Rumor has it that some of these songs have been around for ages, and I can hear that in the music here. There are several ballads, some pop tunes and a couple of funk rockers. This set is notable for some of his collaborators too. Wendy & Lisa contribute guitar, mandolin and vocals and Sheila E is on percussion. I like it. It has some nice variety, and the guitar playing on it is phenomenal. Dude can shred the frets, and some of his soloing is pretty sweet. I have to say that I have enjoyed the resurgent Purple One's last few albums, and I am enjoying this one too. Chelsea Rodgers is a throwback to the really old school Prince of the early '80s. It rides disco beats, has bass poppin' goodness, big horns and lots of soulful backing vocals. Mmm-mmm good. I dig the hologram-a-glyphic cover too.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Funky Friday - A Handful Of Covers

Today is a rare Saturday repost of yesterday's offerings. The occasion? To let you all know that you can now bookmark me at
That's right - I'm a dot-com, baby!

I pulled this February 2003 Muzik Magazine compilation off the shelf today to play at work. Heroes! Rewind! is a set of covers and a few odds and ends, and features a couple of exclusives from Soul II Soul, LTJ Bukem and Bent. It is an interesting selection of tunes and artists, and made for a fun listen. Today's selections include two Prince covers, a classic by Parliament and a Pink Floyd song - two slices of downtempo, two slices of uptempo. Tasty.

Bent - Dirty Mind
A slightly goofy yet endearing reading of this Purple chestnut puts it in the realm of psychedelic downtempo.
Open Door - Breathe
I was wary at first but this one ended up winning me over with it's breakbeats and warm keys.
Rae & Christian - Flashlight
I think this is a pretty unique take. It loses all the vocals and adds R&C's Britfunk flavor.
Space Cowboy - I Would Die 4 U
Another Prince cover given a little bit of four to floor action.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Somebody ratted me out to mac.com and the DRM police forced them to remove all of my files from my public folder. So, you'll notice today that if you try to d/l something it will not work. I hope to get things going again in the next couple of days. I need to find an alternate host for the mp3s - can anyone recommend a service? I am willing to pay, but there are a lot of free services too. I need a service that can be read by the Hype Machine and Elbows. Any of my fellow bloggers have any suggestions? Let me know in the comments.

The record industry really needs to get it's shit together. It is apparent to me that music blogging has changed the music biz. Many bands owe their success to the bloggers who championed them early on. It is also apparent that the industry is conflicted on how to deal with it. Several of those mp3s that were just removed from my server space by the DRM police were record company sanctioned. I received promos from the labels, wrote the pieces, uploaded the mp3s, sent the label reps an e-mail with a link to the post, and got responses thanking me for the pieces. Go figure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New Music Tuesday - Big Science

This is the time. And this is the record of the time.

Today brings the release of the re-mastered 25th anniversary edition of Laurie Anderson's debut LP Big Science. I lived in the UK when this came out and I can remember how amazed I was that O Superman almost topped the UK charts (it got to #2) - all 8 minutes (!) of it, with it's bizarre repetition and vocodered vocal samples and sounds. It remains one of those rare moments when a performance art piece reached out and crossed over into popular culture, and it's hit status still amazes me today.

In the early 1980s Laurie rose to prominence as a conceptual artist and composer in the Lower Manhattan music-visual avant garde art-performance scene that Philip Glass and David Byrne emerged from. At the time of its original release, the NME wrote of Big Science, “There’s a dream-like, subconscious quality about her song which helps them work at deeper, secret levels of the psyche.” With instrumentation ranging from tape loops to found sounds to bag pipes to sampling, Big Science anticipated much of the contemporary electronic and dance music that followed over the past 25 years. Most of the songs were adapted from United States, her seven-hour performance art/theater piece. She was able to articulate the social/political anxiety she perceived in American society as well as a longing for safety and emotional connection. Big Science includes images of planes falling out of the sky (From the Air), the comforting yet sinister embrace of technology (O Superman), and the failure of men and women to speak in the same language (The It Tango). This reissue includes liner notes written by Anderson, and is enhanced to include the classic video for O Superman, and an mp3 of it's original B-side track Walk the Dog. Despite it's age it sounds remarkably good today. This is the beginning of a bit of a media blitz for Anderson; next year Nonesuch Records will release her new album Homeland, and she will then be touring extensively.

Check out the Big Science micro site at laurieanderson.com for some very interesting interview footage about the making of/history of/imagery of the record, as well as song lyrics. There is also a great clip over on YouTube of a new song called Only An Expert/Maybe If I Fall, where she tackles the state of the world's environment and the current US policy towards Iraq. As always she is right on the money. Here are the last two songs from Big Science - they run into each other so let them play together and enjoy the gently undulating rhythms of Let X=X and It Tango.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Casino Classics

I love Saint Etienne. The trio grabbed my attention with their 1990 debut Foxbase Alpha with it's catchy pop stylings, heavy on the '60s girl pop flavor. I've remained a fan, right up to 2006's Tales From The Turnpike House (originally released in Europa in 2005). Distinctly British, they started out as an electro pop act that mutated into something more organic. Over the years they've teetered between the two, all the while retaining their signature sound. One constant through the years has been the ace selection of remixers the band has employed over the years. Aphex, Chemical Brothers, Paul van Dyk, Faze Action, Aim, To Rococco Rot, Etienne Daho and on and on and on. Casino Classics is a two disc set that came out the UK in 1996. It is a collection of some of more memorable remixes from the band's first 6 years. It never got a US release, so I plunked down the big $$$ on the import. It is s a pretty accurate snapshot of where my electronic music tastes were at that year, with mixes by Death In Vegas, Secret Knowledge, Lionrock, Underworld, the Chemical Bros, David Holmes and Broadcast. Among the older mixes is one of my favorite Saint Etienne moments, Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Andrew Weatherall Remix). Mr.Weatherall applies his best spaced out dub trickery to this killer cover of an old Neil Young song, giving you four minutes of beats and melodica before the meat and potatoes of the song kicks in. Huge. I am also very fond of Filthy (Monkey Mafia Remix). I'm not too proud to admit that I was into a bit of big beat back in the day, and Monkey Mafia were one of the acts I dug - they always had a bit of ragga flavor mixed into their funkiness. This is stripped down, focusing on Q-Tee's vocals, the crunk bass and beats and the wicked wah-wah guitar riff. Love it. A great compilation - if you ever see it anywhere snap it up!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Funky Friday Is Sneaker Pimpin'

I'm taking you back 10 or 11 years here, deep into the recesses of (ugh) "trip-hop", when downtempo beats + smoky chanteuses = the way to get peoples' attention. Sneaker Pimps seemed a bit different from the rest, and stormed my stereo for a year or two with their slick yet edgy noise and all of the ensuing remixes. Then the lead singer Kelli left to go solo, got replaced by a bloke, and I lost interest in (ugh) "trip-hop". Those early records still sound pretty good to me, so here are a few choice reminderss...

6 Underground
Becoming X
The classic single with the gorgeous John Barry Golden Girl sample. Still gives me a bit of gooseflesh.

Post Modern Sleaze (Underdog Remix)
Post Modern Sleaze
Trevor Jackson AKA Underdog goes all dub hop, infusing the song with the spirit of Lee "Scratch" Perry. Dreamy and spooky and dub-tastic.

Spin Spin Sugar (Armand's Dark Dub)
Spin Spin Sugar
Armand Van Helden brings the boom-hiss-boom-hiss-boom-hiss-boom-hiss 4-to-the-floor house flavor, then halfway through drops in the dub steppa beat and makes like a slowed down junglist.

Post Modern Sleaze (The Salt City Orchestra Nightclub Mix)
Becoming Remixed
A great, minimal '80s disco treatment that adds a huge slap happy bass riff to a stomping beat, and then sprinkles an occasional bit of fx over it all. Nice one.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Music Tuesday - Spoon

One of my fave indie rock bands is Spoon. I love the minimalist approach of singer/songwriter Britt Daniel. He is able to convey such depth and feeling with such economical arrangements, both in the music and his lyrics. Their latest LP Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga drops today. It is a great record. It doesn't really stray too far from the previous efforts - taut rhythm section, a hint of classic rock and the odd bit of studio embellishment, all topped off with Britt's raspy, melancholy vocals. The big thing here for me is how freaking pop-tastic this record is. If there was any justice in the music world, several of these songs would be top 10 hits. From opener Don't Make Me A Target to You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb to the groovy The Underdog there isn't a bum note on it - again with the economy! I've been listening to it for a month or two now and it is so damn catchy. Today I picked up the limited edition version - it comes with a bonus CD that crams 12 tracks into 22 minutes. It is some demos and alternate takes and studio jams and is weird and wonderful. Today I offer one of my favorites from the album, Don't You Evah. It is a cover of an unreleased song by The Natural History, and it features a great bass riff and crisp hand claps and for some reason it reminds me of vintage Joe Jackson. From the bonus disc enjoy the experimental spaciness of I Can Feel It Fade Like An AM Single. A great album which you can listen to in it's entirety here, and then you can go out and buy it for yourself!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Funky Friday Four Pack

It's a nifty mix of stuff today. There are a couple of leaky leaks in the Hexstatic and Happy Mondays - the Mondays may or may not be the mastered final version. The Kenna is some bumpin' Neptunes produced promo action, and Shalamar give you a great '80s oldie.

Hexstatic - Tokyo Traffic
When Robots Go Bad

Happy Mondays - Rush Rush
Uncle Dysfunktional

Kenna - Say Goodbye To Love
Make Sure They See My Face

Shalamar - A Night To Remember

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My '80s Remastered - Concert Edition

Tonight the wife and I are going to see this trio of geezers from the '80s who have recently reformed, The Police. You may have heard of them before - they were "the shit" for a while there. They conquered the pop charts of the world over the span of five albums before their pompous git of a lead singer/songwriter left to pursue jazz-lite, yoga and tantric sex. As much as I am not a fan of Sting, I am a fan of The Police. I love the punk-ish energy of their debut Outlandos d'Amour, the reggae grooves of Regatta de Blanc. and the world dominating pop of Zenyatta Mondatta. Yes, I enjoy the other two records, just not to the degree that I like the first 3. I feel a tad bit guilty about forking over my hard earned $$$ to Stink - like he needs it - but I never saw them back in the day, and I loved 'em so, so there you go. As you would imagine, I have spent the last week listening to my remasters from 2003. Here are three songs from those early records, and bring on the geezers rocking!
Next To You
Walking On The Moon
When The World Is Running Down