vendredi 17 août 2012

Switch - The Best Of (Funk/Soul)

1. There'll Never Be 
2. I Wanna Be Closer 
3. Best Beat In Town 
4. I Call Your Name 
5. Don't Take My Love Away 
6. Love Over And Over Again 
7. You And I 
8. I Do Love You 
9. Call On Me 
10. (You Pulled A) Switch 
11. My Friend In The Sky 
12. Next To You 

 With songs custom-made for those tender moments up at Inspiration Point ("There'll Never Be," "I Wanna Be Closer," "I Call Your Name," "Love Over And Over Again"), Switch was a hot Motown band who came on the scene at a time when that label really needed them. At the time of Switch's debut release in 1978, Motown had lost The Four Tops, The Temptations, Martha Reeves, The Marvelettes and Mary Wells, and had also been without The Jackson 5 for a couple of years. Of the star artists that remained, only Stevie Wonder still had mass appeal with the younger crowd. Switch and Rick James were Motown's (successful) effort at turning that trend. The creative mainstays of the band of multi-instrumentalists were Bobby DeBarge and Greg Williams, who wrote and produced the bulk of Switch's hits. (Bobby wrote some beautiful songs with his sister, Bunny, for some of the group's later albums.) Switch was obviously quite adept at churning out songs to get busy by, but they got down too, on cuts like "Best Beat In Town," "We Like To Party," "You Pulled A Switch," and "Go On Doin' What You Feel." I feel the inclusion of a few songs ("I Wanna Be With You," "Why'd You Let Love Fall," and "This Is My Dream") would have made this collection 5 stars. The group was outstanding in concert, and was a big hit with the ladies. Bobby DeBarge was an outstanding singer, as well as a crack writer and producer. But perhaps his greatest gift to popular music was the introduction of his brother, El. Bobby was a huge influence on his younger brother. El grew to have a singing style very similar to that of his mentor. He also became a reknowned writer and producer. Bobby DeBarge produced the first album on the family act (DeBarge) led by El. Switch's star seemed to fade just as that of DeBarge rose. After 5 lps for Motown, Bobby and brother Tommy left Switch, and the group left Motown for Total Experience Records, before fading from sight. When El and sister Bunny left DeBarge for the solo spotlight, Bobby took their place in a four-man version of DeBarge. The one album from that union, "Bad Boys," was a good effort produced by Bobby and brother James. Sadly, Bobby and his solo-star brother Chico were incarcerated on drug charges soon after that album. Bobby DeBarge contracted AIDS from drug use while behind bars. By the time he was released, he was in very ill health. But he released a solo album, "It's Not Over," before his tragic death. It had a very up-to-date sound and is worth looking for. Chico DeBarge served his time and has returned to the charts. He has insisted in interviews since his release, that he and Bobby were not involved in drug dealing and were made scapegoats. El has had tremendous highs in his career, but is a very religious man. He has kept a very low profile since his brother's death. This compilation of the best of Switch is the legacy of Bobby DeBarge. He should be remembered for being the gifted musician and unselfish brother he was. Comment |

jeudi 16 août 2012

Velvet Underground - Velvet Underground & Nico (Rock)

1. Sunday Morning
 2. I'm Waiting For The Man
 3. Femme Fatale
 4. Venus In Furs
 5. Run Run Run
 6. All Tomorrow's Parties
 7. Heroin
 8. There She Goes Again
 9. I'll Be Your Mirror
 10. Black Angel's Death Song
 11. European Son 

 The Velvet Underground only put out 4 albums (5 if you include the Doug Yule only Squeeze album, which most of us Velvet fans don't), but everyone was a masterpiece, and the journey commenced right here. This is my favorite VU album. It is adventurous, eclectic, tuneful, scary, moving, and assaulting, a true work of art. There isn't one throwaway track (in fact, the Velvets never wasted a track on any album). Sunday Morning begins the album beautifully. I love the drug songs Waiting for the Man and Heroin. Venus in Furs is sad and powerful, and All Tomorrow's Parties is scary and hypnotic (with Nico's best vocal). The Black Angel's Death Song is pure, avant garde Cale, and European Son predates the sonic assault we were going to get on White Light/White Heat. You think that the Velvet Underground would have choked after making such a fine debut album, but they followed it up with 3 masterpieces. How many bands only made a handful of albums and yet have had such a lasting impact? The MC5 is the only other band that comes to mind. This is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I listen to it once a week. Lou, John, Mo, Sterling, and Nico rule.

mercredi 15 août 2012

Dwele - Subject (RNB/Soul)

1. Poppa Yo (Intro)
 2. Truth
 3. Find A Way
 4. Twuneanunda
 5. A.N.G.E.L. (Interlude)
 6. Day At A Time
 7. Subject
 8. Sho Ya Right
 9. Money Don't Mean A Thing
 10. Hold On
 11. Kick Out Of You
 12. Without You
 13. Whoomp (Interlude)
 14. Lady At Mahogany
 15. A.N.G.E.L. (Reprise)
 16. Let Your Hair Down 

 One-man show Dwele’s debut, Subject, comes correct with neo-soul staples in place. That is to say, there are enough acoustic guitars, stacked harmony vocals, mid-tempo grooves, and sound effects of scratchy vinyl to power an old-school symposium. What the Detroit-bred associate of backpack-rappers Slum Village lacks in depth, he makes up for in sheer summer-ready listenability. Dwele’s genre could be called neo-neo-soul; he seems to owe as much to the foundations laid down by D’Angelo as to obvious idol Stevie Wonder. While lacking the idiosyncrasies of those artists, Dwele manages to slide out of the speakers with enough skills to convince a casual listener to let the languid mood take over. Subject’s title track is its most fully imagined; the needle-on-record gambit that obscures its likable chorus could actually be heard as a conceptual gambit rather than a mere irritation. Elsewhere, Dwele piles on the quiet-storm stuff so masterfully that he sows confusion, while at least seemingly hoping to settle down with one conquest. Vision is hardly up to talent here, but for now, Dwele gets a pass on winning sonics alone.

dimanche 12 août 2012

Horace Silver - Finger Poppin' (Jazz)

1. Finger Poppin' 
 2. Juicy Lucy 
 3. Swingin' The Samba 
 4. Sweet Stuff 
 5. Cookin' At The Continental 
 6. Come On Home 
 7. You Happened My Way 
 8. Mellow D 

 "Finger Poppin'" (1959) followed Silver's most under-appreciated (and perhaps most ambitious) Blue Note date, "Further Explorations" (1958). The cast is different (though the fiery Louis Hayes remains on drums), but the compositions and arrangements by Silver are no less artful and the soloists as inspired as the frontline of Art Farmer and Clifford Jordan from the preceding album. This time it's Blue Mitchell and Junior Cook negotiating the fast tempos and tricky stop-and-go melodies with precision and ease, with Mitchell impressively setting the pace with the first solo on the date. He's crisp, lyrical, inventive, melodic--reminiscent of Kenny Dorham with a fuller sound--and Junior Cook takes his cue accordingly, delivering a solo that's almost as melodically arresting as an inspired Hank Mobley construction. Both soloists employ the too-rare practice of "listening to themselves," repeating and modifying their phrases while developing whole structures at top speed as opposed to letting fly with a stream of bebop cliches. Besides "Finger Poppin'" the program has one other indispensable Silver standard, a number that's infectious if not irresistible in its communication of a visceral groove: "Come On Home" (Lambert, Hendricks and Ross would add lyrics and re-record the tune). But this album will strike some listeners as atypical Silver. There are lots of quiet moods, ample space allocated to each of the soloists, and a willingness to go beyond the formulaic, hard-driving and boppish, frequently "danceable" miniature gems with which the composer is primarily associated. (I know some jazz devotees who, because of such unsophisticated, "limited" qualities, consider Horace's records a waste of time and money.) But the arrangements on this occasion have some of the complexity and sophistication of earlier Silver masterpieces like "Ecarole" and "Moon Rays," stylings reflective of the creative (even Ellingtonian) side of Silver which, unfortunately, became less apparent beginning in the 1960s and especially after simpler fare like "Song for My Father" (1964) proved a commercial formula that could best serve to keep tiny Blue Note records financially solvent (though it should be noted that the operation folded within several years after such Blue Note blockbusters as the aforementioned and Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder" (and its numerous imitations). Thanks to the eventual purchase of the label by mega-conglomerate EMI, "Blue Note" still lives on at least in name, but it's albums like "Finger Poppin'" that testify not merely to its commercial niche but its invaluable contributions to a vibrant American art form in full bloom. 

samedi 11 août 2012

Cameo - Ugly Ego (Funk)

1. I'll Be With You 
2. Insane 
3. Give Love A Chance 
4. I Want You 
5. Ugly Ego
 6. Anything You Wanna Do 
7. Friend To Me 
8. Two Of Us 

 Cameo play the late 70's synth funk card extremely well and where it with a flare on the thumping title song,"Insane" and just about every cut here.A note on Cameo in my opinion:where I grew up on the 'Word Up' era small band Cameo this gagantuan addition has a special sharm that I actually didn't fully partake in until I was a teenager with the advent of the Funk Essencial CD series.So I popped onto the vinyl in a used record store and over time fell in love with it's Funkadelic- inspired grooves,yowling vocals and tight arrangements.Even the few slow songs here off a nice change.So if you can afford it pick up this import-it'll change your opinion of Cameo.

vendredi 10 août 2012

The Temptations - Ultimate Collection (Soul)

1. The Way You Do The Things You Do 
2. My Girl 
3. It's Growing 
4. Since I Lost My Baby 
5. Don't Look Back 
6. Get Ready 
7. Ain't Too Proud To Beg 
8. (I Know) I'm Losing You 
9. All I Need 
10. You're My Everything 
11. Angel Doll 
12. I Wish It Would Rain 
13. Cloud Nine 
14. I Can't Get Next To You 
15. Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today) 
16. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) 
17. Papa Was A Rollin' Stone 
18. Shakey Ground 
19. Treat Her Like A Lady 
20. Error Of Our Ways 
21. My Girl (A Cappella) (Excerpt) 

 The Temptations was the soul band that captured me most in those years when I was entering in my early adolescence. Their sense of dynamical rhythm, their variegated gamut of timbers, imaginative compositions and frenetic proposals really engaged not only me, but besides a vast audience all over the world. So, when they decided to join with the Supremes to create that unforgettable song "I'm going make you love me" - one of the most original soft ballads of 1968 - together with "Sitting on the dock of the bay", "Honey", "Little green apples", "Hey Jude", "Over you", "I say a Little pray for you", "This magic moment", "Promises", "Angel of the morning", "I love how you love me", I`m coming home" and "Release me" - among my affective memory retains - they reached an even major recognition around the world. But mostly, they knew to readapt themselves as band as any other soul ensemble with three master-songs , "Papa was a rolling Stone", "Psychedelic shack" and "Ball of confusion." That outburst of igneous creativity was indeed, their golden passport for the immortality, neither more nor less.

mercredi 8 août 2012

Thrid World - 96 Degrees In The Shade (Reggae)

1. Jah Glory
 2. Tribal War
 3. Dreamland
 4. Feel A Little Better
 5. Human Market Place
 6. Third World Man
 7. 1865 (96º In The Shade)
 8. Rhythm Of Life 

 "96 Degrees in the Shade" is Third World's most militant album, and in my opinion their best album so far. I loved this album on vinyl in the 1970's, so I was delighted to find it available on CD now. Beautiful melodies, strong roots rhythms, masterful musical arrangements and superb musicianship combine with powerful Rastafarian lyrical messages to make this CD a "must have" for anyone who appreciates great reggae music. The title of the album derives from the refrain of its best-known and most moving track, but the original and true title of the song is "1865." This reggae ballad is a narrative tribute to Jamaican freedom fighter Paul Bogle, who was hanged for leading a slave revolt in 1865, but was named a national hero 100 years later. This should be a lesson from history regarding the death penalty, not only in Jamaica and other Third World countries, but also in the United States, where capital punishment continues to be used extensively and almost exclusively as a weapon of genocide and political repression. Third World's lyrics are as relevant now as they were in the 1970's: "Some may suffer and some may burn, "But I know one day my people will learn, "As sure as the sun is shining way up in the sky, "Today I stand here a victim, the truth is I'll never die." (Third World, "1865") "96 Degrees in the Shade" is reggae music at its best. Enjoy - and learn!

Del The Funky Homosapien - Both Sides of the Brain (Rap)

1. Time Is Too Expensive 
 2. If You Must 
 3. Jaw Gymnastics 
 4. Pet Peeves 
 5. Press Rewind 
 6. Offspring 
 7. Style Police
 8. Fake As F**k 
 9. BM's 
 10. Skull & Crossbones 
 11. Soopa Feen 
 12. Disastrous 
 13. Signature Slogans 
 14. Catch All This 
 15. Phoney Phranchise 
 16. Proto Culture 
 17. Stay On Your Toes 

 This is, by far,the best Del album to date. YOU are not a fan of hip hop, if YOU do not have this album in your hip hop collection. Del comes with raw rhymes and great unconventional hip-hop beats (some of which he produces himself). "I'm looney with language...this art form is truly endangered", Del says on the spitting "Jaw Gymnastics". He is truly in pure MC form,as his word connections carry you through seventeen linguistical experiences. The opening track,"Time Is Too Expensive", gets the listener ready to constantly rewind or skip back to songs and re-listen to verbal blurbs from Del. Like Ghostface Killah, Del has mastered the art of "breath control",pushing the limits of rhymes-per-air-taken-in. It amazes me how much Del is underrated as an artist.More importantly, Del finds ways to elevate the hip hop genre (who can forget past tunes like "Catch A Bad One"), staying away from the Rah Rah rap that plagues most of the California scene. Del directly addresses this issue on "Stay On Your Toes",saying "I know you're hungry too... I need food...but I don't re-do what he do... I'm lethal". One of the highlights on this album is the ode to video game life, "Proto Culture",which offers visual and reminiscent imagery about growing up in the game development culture.Khaos Unique also does a guest spot on this song, adding their gaming tidbits. El-P,from Company Flow, also appears on a tune with Del-- "Offspring",and definately commands the attention of the listener. One of the most catchiest songs and hooks for this album appears on "Skull and Crossbones". Del spits the lines,"Give me the keys...I'm ok... Quit telling me I'm drunk... I've only had five hurricanes", which will undoubtedly surface a few times in the listener's head! On "BM's", Del shows how good of a beat composer he has become. Del presents a very thumping and atmospheric sound,as he contemplates 'slowing down'."Phoney Phranchise" serves as the call to hip hop tune. Del ponders his verbal powers when he says, "Bench press rappers...doing sets...with my syntax". For a great laugh,one can't miss listening to "Soopa Feen",as Del talks about this guy,who interacts with some funny interventions. The head knodding underground hip hop purist will definately love "Press Rewind" (I would have loved to hear Ghostface spit over this one)!Del speaks with conviction,when he rips the line, "Who ever hearing this... Deltron Z be a lyricist...Fronting on your fake false appearances". You Can not contest that.......

dimanche 5 août 2012

Mint Condition - Definition of a Band (RNB)

1. Definition Of A Band
 2. Change Your Mind
 3. You Don't Have To Hurt No More
 4. Gettin' It On
 5. What Kind Of Man Would I Be
 6. Let Me Be The One
 7. Definition Of A Band
 8. Ain't Hookin' Me Up Enough
 9. Funky Weekend
 10. I Want It Again
 11. On & On
 12. The Never That You'll Never Know
 13. Asher In Rio
 14. Raise Up
 15. On & On (Reprise)
 16. Sometimes
 17. Missing
 18. If It Wasn't For Your Love 

 Throughout the 90's most artists in R&B,even famed legacy artists with a huge influence on the music scene were being forced to be pigeonhold into one or several catagories in order to survive. During the time this album was recorded you basically had two options:neo soul or some varient of hip-hip/R&B and it's a state in the R&B,soul and funk world that fifteen years on has yet to be improved upon to any serious degree. This Minneapolis sextet put the city into relevenece on the music scene for the 90's the same way that Prince did for the 80's and Mary Tyler Moore did in the 70's. One reviewer wisely put it that while Mint Conditions main claim to fame was the use of live instrumentation. what?We heard that before with The Roots and Toni Toni Tone. The question is in a musical environment that was totally dominated by very commercial styles of hip-hop based R&B that was sounding predictable what use was it to have strong instrumental skills anyway since the commercial enviroment worked against you? This album finds itself in that same situation. Cover art flaunting their instrumental nature aside a good bulk of this album,about half actually is unoffensive but rather generic sounding hip-hop/R&B that,frankly sounds as if it could've been made by anyone. There's nothing wrong with songs like "Change Your Mind" and "Gettin' It On" but these songs could've been ten other songs from ten other artists in the mid 90's structurally. Interestingly enough the bands instrumental ability finds the most creativity in their interludes,similar to EWF although that band was thriving in such a more creatively stimulating commercial music environment no one noticed as much with them likely. "Asher In Rio" and the title opener,with their jazzy latin flavors are the best of them and should've been worked into more full songs. In terms of sheer funkiness this album really breaks out on "Funky Weekend",which does show their strong groove potential outside the hip-hop relm with it's bass oriented rhythms while "Raise Up" and "Missing" have some wonderully progressive jazz style chord sequences. Even the majority of the more commerical of these songs have some excellent instrumental turns on piano and sax I cannot say this is an absolutely terrible album but one with an ear towards well produced live instrumentation can tell this band could and still can do a whole lot more than they do. Perhaps it was the need to be commercially relevent in their time,which meant sticking like glue to some variet of hip-hop styling. And I am not bashing the last two decades of music here even if I don't feel it was at all creatively stimulating as what came before. In the end Mint Condition became mainly based on a slogan and there are many of them:"they're such great singers" and,in their case "they play REAL music". And as we're finding out more and more,even in past decades all the live instrumentation and production in the world will never take the place of innovative,forward thinking songcraft and harmonic sophistication. I truely believe from what I hear on this album Mint Condition have that in spades but they try to keep up with the times and the result is a sound the underscores their own abilities as a result. Suppose it all depends on what your looking for in modern R&B.

vendredi 3 août 2012

Isaac Hayes - Joy (Soul)

1. Joy 
2. I Love You That's All
 3. A Man Will Be A Man
 4. The Feeling Keeps On Coming
 5. I'm Gonna Make It (Without You) 

 This classic album should be considered a 1970s R&B essential. The chugging, bubbly, sensual mid-tempo title track remains one of Isaac's most compelling ballads and also foreshadows the Disco style which would take the world by storm just a few years later. "A Man Will Be A Man" and "I'm Gonna Make It Without You" were not released as singles but are pure vintage Hayes and are high points of this classic album. Nearly 40 years after its original release this album remains a true "Joy" to listen to.

mercredi 1 août 2012

Common - Can I Borrow A Dollar (Rap)

1. A Penny For My Thoughts
 2. Charms Alarm 
 3. Take It EZ 
 4. Heidi Hoe 
 5. Breaker 1/9 
 6. Two Scoops of Raisons
 7. No Defense
 8. Blows To The Temple
 9. Just In The Nick Of Rhyme
 10. Tricks Up My Sleeve
 11. Puppy Chow
 12. Soul By The Pound 
 13. Pitchin' Pennies 

 Common's first album Can I Borrow A Dollar? may surprise those who are looking for some of Common's mature/insightful lyrics. Instead, Common offers up some humorous lines and songs that are just meant not to be taken seriously. Tracks such as "Breaker 1/9" show Common's humorous side while "Take It EZ" and "Penny For My Thoughts" have Common displaying his amazing lyrical skills. The production is mostly solid (especially the Beatnuts' beat for "Heidi Hoe"), but it still can't compare to the jazzy and diverse beats used on Resurrection. Some may also find it disappointing that "Soul By The Pound" isn't in its famous remix form, although the original is still very good. If you are looking for something just to sit back and nod your head to, Can I Borrow A Dollar? might be what you are looking for.