Thursday, November 30, 2006

posted by O.W.

Clipse + Lee Fields: Mr. Me Too (Z.A.K. Remix)

Especially since I find all the Clipse haters to be high comedy (see the comments in the previous post for examples of what I mean), it seemed tremendously apropos that I should get sent a remix of their "Mr. Me Too" that combines the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) of both worlds: a little soulfulness + a little crackfulness. The result = a blend of the Clipse over Lee Fields' "Honey Dove." Thanks to Z.A.K. for the remix.

You can hate it now. Proceed.

By the way, what I find particularly funny about the people sniping at the Clipse CD is that, inevitably, one piece of "evidence" offered up for its weakness is the fact that bloggers like it. This makes a remarkable set of assumptions about who bloggers are...which I think it's pretty f***ing funny since, not to long ago, bloggers were basically making similar remarks about "writers" (i.e. dudes in print journalism), as if anything writers liked was suspect. Yet now, bloggers are the new (well, not so new) standard for poor (or at least, overhyped) taste, to such an extent that commentors (who basically are bloggers in small scale form. Think about that) will seemingly go out of their way to scrutinize something that too many of the wrong people seem to like.

C'mon people...who the f--- cares what bloggers (or anyone) has to say about it? Anytime you have to open up a post by saying, "I'm not buying into the hype" (or some variation on that), you're, in essence, jumping on a different bandwagon but it's still petty groupthink. Hating the Clipse is the new loving the Clipse.

And note: I don't care if you like the group or not. There are many valid reasons to dislike the Clipse. Other people liking them is not one of those reasons however.

By the way, I found the following on a message board and it's probably one of the most impressive pieces of music criticism I've seen yet on the Clipse (or any rap album) this year. On a message board. The game done changed.
    Written by "James"

    "I picked this up yesterday (full price, suckers—s’nothin’), and I think dudes trying to graft onto this record some overarching concept or some moral underpinning are reaching. I can appreciate the impulse, because for many reasons (reasons, it should be noted, that are being missed by many of the over-literal smart-dumb vivisectors around here who have mistaken all the hubbub for something having to do with originality or message or subject-verb agreement or some similarly irrelevant shit) this record doesn’t feel like just another record, but, I mean, come on now: When every expression of paranoia or regret is a single pea under mattress after mattress of coke, money, lifestyle, and coke-money lifestyle, reading it as a moral tale takes an unseemly amount of princeliness.

    I think this insistence on the album’s progress or movement (from victim to victimizer, from underdog to top dog, from braggadocio to remorse, etc.) rings false because part of what’s really hitting me is the brilliant static quality of this record. Nothing on here goes anywhere. Every single song on this thing traces a very small circle--sell crack, get money, spend money, feel vague regret, but then get back to business--but traces it repeatedly, deeper every time, and with perfect focus. And it’s this repetition, this relentlessness, this inescapable acting-out of the same sequence and following the same circuit track after track after track that gives the whole thing its hypnotic gravity.

    It makes no sense at all to hold up individual lyrics and say, “See, these guys are smart because they know that the crack game is destructive, they know that wealth has made them paranoid and incapable of love, and I know that they know because they say it once in this one song and again in this other and….” Please miss me with that shit. Whatever this record accomplishes, it does so not by talking about it, but by feeling like it. Just like Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” succeeds not because it says “Man, heroin sure is fucked” but because it feels magnetic and horrifying, or just like There’s A Riot Goin’ On succeeds not because it says “Fuck you, hippies—shit is real” but because it feels dystopian and personal and cauterized and utterly non-communal.

    Hell Hath No Fury succeeds not by pointing out the traps of the crack game, but by feeling, on every conceivable level, trapped. Everything that happens in these songs feels like it's already happened--no real history, no important future, just...done. Time is flat. Everything just is. For all the references to jets and Europe and globe-trotting hither and yon, I hear no exterior at all in this record—it’s all driver’s seats and cockpits and showrooms and hotel rooms and front rooms and VIP rooms and rooms with walls that seem to be closing in because they are. It's the airtight coffin that won't let the body decompose, yunno? You won’t get that listening to one cut or quoting one verse; it's all in the accumulation. They keep piling on detail after detail because, after all, what else can they do? Shit just keeps coming, but their circle isn't getting any bigger.

    And the music knows this, too. All the beats are big, but not one of them sounds open to me. Just like the lyrics, they all sound both inescapable and incapable of escaping themselves, just evil and broke-dick, grindstone after grindstone. No whole drums anywhere—those that are shiny are broken (the clipped cymbal fills in "Dirty Money"), and those that are healthy are obscured (the massive rolls buried alive under "Hello New World"). There’s all these bits of hand percussion beating cloven hooves under everything, and from the wheezing squeezebox in “Mama I’m So Sorry” to the muzzy keyboard nag in “Dirty Money” to the unintelligible spoken-word particulate that clogs some distant filter in the deep background of “Trill,” the whole thing just sounds enormous and syphilitic. As a setting for the above, it couldn’t be more perfect. I don’t expect to hear a record this good for quite a while."

Speaking of the trap game, Jeezy + Timbaland. You're welcome.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

posted by O.W.

Clipse: Ride Around Shining
From Hell Hath No Fury (Jive/Zomba, 2006)

Clipse: Diana Ross
From The Funeral (Elektra, unreleased, ~ 1997)

The new Clipse album is quite good. Even though it's not nearly as good as this, compared to this or this, it comes off a lot stronger. "Ride Around Shining" is one of the best tracks off a scant 12 songs and it begs the question: if the Neptunes are still capable of dropping beats like this, what happened on Pharrell's album? Just asking.

Speaking of the Clipse...I was listening to this earlier today and what came home like a ton of bricks (pick what type) is not a new observation but one that bears repeating : the old model was someone like Jay-Z bragging about going from the crack game to the rap game and that his ability to master both is a sign of his ultimate hustler status. However, post-Clipse (and exemplified by Young Jeezy, Juelz Santana, et. al.), the new standard is that real hustlers never left the kitchen. Forget platinum plaques or gold records - it's all about Pyrex and baking soda. The real rappers don't see themselves as rappers - it's a remarkable pose.

Quick (and admittedly undercooked) thoughts: Is hip-hop the only lyric-based genre (in other words, excluding jazz or classical but including rock, blues, etc.) that calls attention to its own linguistic aesthetic? It's not like jazz divas shout themselves out by claiming, "check my range" or "step to my melisma and get bodied" Nor do blues singers moan about how their songwriting creativity is more morose than the next person's. It seems that hip-hop is inherently self-referential but maybe the fact that rappers have now moved away from wanting to focus on the fact that they're, you know, rapping, is actually pushing it closer in line with most of popular music. Chew on that and holler back.

In any case, I also put up a song from the Clipse's first (and unreleased) album for Eleketra: "Diana Ross." Interesting example of early Neptunes production and the Clipse's nascent attempts at craft their crack rap persona but believe me when I say that by the time they got to Lord Willin, it definitely came together better.

P.S. If the above image doesn't make immediate sense to you, the translation = "we are not rappers" and you can refer yourself to here for further explanation.

Special thanks to Triple H for the old Clipse joints.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

posted by O.W.

Gene Faith: Family Man
From 7" (Virtue, 196?)

The Sticks of Dynamite: It's Football Baby
From 7" (Saxton, 196?)

For whatever reason, the older I get, the more I appreciate why 7"s are so satisfying. Unlike LPs that may only offer one or two good songs amidst a lot of tiresome filler, a good 45 makes the experience of quality music immediate (save for a flip on the turntable). Here's a couple of recent favorites:

Gene Faith traces his history back to Philadelphia's '60s group, the Volcanos, but back then he was known as Gene Jones (he got his "Faith" when he went solo in the late '60s). "Family Man" is great...reminds me of something King Floyd might have recorded except with some NOLA drummer hired to supply that chattering second line back beat.

Not much is known about the Sticks of Dynamite - clearly, their entire sound is totally borrowed from James Brown but for a derivative funk track, they've mastered the style down cold: the chicken scratch guitars, the rolling drums and those blaring horns. Sometimes, imitation can be a good form of flattery.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

posted by O.W.

Wilie Hutch: Tell Me Why Our Love Turned Cold
From Fully Exposed (Motown, 1973)

Willie Hutch: Overture of Foxy Brown
From Foxy Brown OST (Motown, 1974)

Willie Hutch: Baby, Come Home
From Concert in Blues (Motown, 1976)

Trae: Restless
From Restless (Rap-A-Lot, 2006)

Except for the fact that he, you know, uh, died in Sep 2005, Willie Hutch has had a solid year. The late R&B star's music has been coming back into play thanks to a few high-profile hip-hop songs sampling his work. The most famous example was Three 6 Mafia's "Stay Fly" from 2005 which was built solidly around Hutch's "Tell Me Why Our Love Turned Cold" but early 2006 also saw Ghostface and Ne-Yo teaming up for "Back Like That," whose main melody borrows (interpolates actually) the pretty piano that opens up Hutch's "Baby, Come Home." (We love that song, by the way. It's a lovely little ballad).

This year, the most prominent example of Hutch getting more love has been from Houston's Trae (aka Z-Ro's cousin) with the title song to his album, Restless. This may be a rare case where the sampled song is actually better than the original if only because the source for "Restless" is the short, one-minute, "Overture of Foxy Brown, which is more of a musical interlude than actual song. In contrast, the short part that gets looped for "Restless" breathes rich life into the entire song, especially in using part of Hutch's "no, no, no, no no" croons.

More Hutch!

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

posted by O.W.

El Lele de Los Van Van and Radiohead: High and Dry
From Rhythms Del Mundo (Hip-O, 2006)

(Note: This review was originally written for's "Song of the Day." It appeared on NPR's website on November 21, 2006).

The idea behind Rhythms Del Mundo: Cuba is high-concept simplicity: Alt-rock meets the Buena Vista Social Club. Assorted '80s and ‘90s rock songs and pop standards are remade within a Cuban aesthetic, though some songs are more like remixes -- think Arctic Monkeys' vigorous "Dancing Shoes," done up with a descarga groove. Others are complete makeovers, such as the late legend Ibrahim Ferrer covering "As Time Goes By" in a classical son ballad style.

Given the conceit, it's not surprising when the album leans toward artifice -- imagine Coldplay's "Clocks," but with Chris Martin's plaintive melody replaced by an upbeat but poorly fit muntono piano riff. However, at the other end of the spectrum is the album's best song, El Lele de Los Van Van's re-imagining of "High and Dry," Radiohead's hit song from The Bends.

It helps that the Radiohead original is a brilliant pop ballad to begin with, but the song also boasts a sparse arrangement that can be easily tinkered with without the result sounding forced or gimmicky. The Cuban remake remains tastefully minimalist, with a slowly paced Afro-Latin rhythm, a soft trumpet chorus and an acoustic piano, which replaces the guitar on the original. In contrast to the fragile falsetto that Thom Yorke brought to bear, El Lele approaches the vocals with a rich, throaty tenor, as sweet and dark as caramel. Though the vocal arrangement hews closely to Yorke's, El Lele's performance sounds so captivating on its own that until he reaches the distinctive climb of the chorus, it's easy to forget this is a cover. Beautifully serene and affecting, El Lele de Los Van Van's take on "High and Dry" achieves the best intentions behind the compilation: to create songs that sound both familiar and unique.

Speaking of NPR, I also reviewed Jay-Z new album for Morning Edition, which ran the same morning as the "Song of the Day" post.

Small correction: In the NPR review, it says that Jay retired two years ago when in fact, it was three. Man, time flies!

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Friday, November 17, 2006

posted by O.W.

Ruth Brown: So Long
From Rock and Roll (Atlantic, 1957). Also on Miss Rhythm.

Ruth Brown passed away today in Las Vegas at the age of 78. To be candid, I never followed her musical career in any meaningful way - her sound helped set the stage for later soul divas, especially for other Atlantic stand-outs like Aretha Franklin, but even if I never spent much time with her discography, I could appreciate the equally important contribution she made as an advocate for her fellow artists. Atlantic might have been the "House that Ruth Built" but Ruth herself created other institutions to assist other singers and musicians whose needs were rarely looked after by their record labels, especially once their hit-making days had ended.

For people who bought copies of my Soul Sides Vol. 1 compilation, a portion of your money went to the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, dedicated to the "historical and cultural preservation" of R&B. Ruth Brown founded this organization (with help from Atlantic) as a way to make sure that the legacy of the music - and its creators - wouldn't be trampled under either label greed or industry neglect. I'm proud my modest CD could help support such a cause.

To learn more about Brown, check out her award-winning autobiography, Miss Rhythm.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

posted by O.W.

Apologies for not having any recent updates - it's been a very busy week. In the meantime, enjoy this wholly awesome video originally spotted at Soulstrut.


Friday, November 10, 2006

posted by O.W.

7.13.66 - 11.10.06


posted by O.W.

Our man up in the Bay Area, Jason N., is auctioning off a copy of Sugar Pie DeSanto's Hello, San Francisco LP to help raise money for the singer after she lost her husband and home in a recent fire.

You can find the auction here. (Sound files included to check out what's on there. The version of "Git Back" is excellent).


posted by O.W.

Hudson County: Bim Sala Bim
Brother Soul: Cookies
From Disco-Funk (RCA, 1975)

Backstory: Most comps don't merit much in terms of collectability but this mid-70s RCA LP is a notable exception. Sunbar Productions (Canadian outfit) put it together and a few of the pieces included were rare enough that there's still confusion over whether the LP compiled these songs or were the original source. The most famous would be "Bim Sala Bim," by Hudson County which was bootlegged - twice - within two years of the comp's release, re-credited to the "Fantastic Soul Inventions." Pretty gutsy actually - a wholesale jacking of a song off a comp and resold as its own 45 that now earns even more than the original LP. Ah, rekkid craziness.

What's the hype? Well - check it out: "disco funk," as blase as it may sound seems dead-on here as a descriptor: those guitars, those horns, the keyboard slide, and that chorus which basically is nonsense but it's still goddamn catchy, ain't it? It's a slick workout of a track.

As for "Cookies" - this comes originally from a 45 by Brother Soul and it's my favorite song off the song: hot and chewy, just like a good cookie should be.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

posted by DJ Little Danny

Manny Corchado: Pow Wow + Up and Down
From Aprovecha El Tiempo (Swing While You Can) (Decca, 1967).

Barely had early boogaloos like Joe Cuba’s “Bang Bang,” Pete Rodriguez’s “I Like It Like That,” and Ray Barretto’s “El Watusi” become bona fide commercial hits than young Latino combos were coalescing to perform it, savvy older bandleaders were adding it their repertoire, and homegrown New York City record labels were there to package, promote, and, naturally, sell it. This is part of what’s exciting about the boogaloo: for a few years in the ‘60s, there was this great rush to capitalize upon its ephemeral success, and forty years later it makes for a lot of hip, fascinating music. It’s also what’s vaguely disappointing about the boogaloo. After hearing what sounds like your thirty fourth derivation of “Watermelon Man” for the day, you’ll start looking around, exhausted - wondering if maybe there isn’t something a bit formulaic about it all.

Then - heralded as though with a chorus of miniskirt-ed angels - you’ll catch something like 1967’s “Pow Wow.” From its long, soul clapping introduction, “Pow Wow” sails forth in a brilliant burst of percussion, piano, horns, and pure Nuyorican dance floor bravura potent enough - unlike possibly any other boogaloo - to transcend its embarrassing Tonto wampum and “pipa de la paz” chatter.

Sometimes I’ll hear that note perfect nugget of 1970s harmony soul - or, say, some blissed out ’68 pop production - and I’ll scratch my head, amazed that, in its time, the release in question went absolutely nowhere commercially. Not so with Corchado’s “Pow Wow.” It’s obvious why it wasn’t a hit: it’s just too heavy, too booming, too wild. Too everything. Which, of course, is why we love it today.

Loyal Soul Sides readers may already know “Pow Wow” from its recent reissue as part of the fabulous Jazzman 45 series. Less familiar, possibly, is Corchado’s “Up and Down,” a storming jazz mambo with a bottomless bassline, which, even more than “Pow Wow,” showcases the heart stopping power of a full Latin orquesta.

Corchado’s name turns up occasionally in the context of the ‘60s NYC Latin scene (primarily as timbalero for the same Joe Quijano ensemble that recorded an early version of “Up and Down”), though Aprovecha El Tiempo - a sublime mix of mambo, boogaloo, bolero, and Latin jazz - was, alas, his only album as a band leader. This album was part of Decca’s brief lived and forward thinking Latin series, which also included slick releases by Chano Martinez, Joe Panama, Johnny Zamot, and Ozzie Torrens.

--Little Danny (Office Naps)

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Monday, November 06, 2006

posted by O.W.

I have a post over at Office Naps looking at a few Bay Area soul 45s, one of which has been a Soul Sides favorite since the beginning, but the other two I've never blogged about before. Enjoy (and thanks to Little Danny for the collabo).

Here it is: Bay City Rollin'.

By the way, I found out some terrible, terrible news last week. Sugar Pie DeSanto (whose song, "The Whoopee" is one of the ones featured on Office Naps) lost her husband and home last week to an apartment fire. There's now a fund being set up to help her out and Ubiquity Records will also be running some similar work. This is a legend and a very sweet person and our heart goes out to her during this terrible tragedy. To help donate or get more info on the story, visit here. I'll try to run a promotion in the next few weeks as well.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

posted by O.W.

Mark Holder: Sweet Caroline
From Where There's a Will, There's a Way (Deriva, 1973)

Alas, despite having been indoctrinated into the Red Sox Nation since a wee lad, growing up outside of Boston, I've never been to a game at Fenway (had a shot in 2004 but had to pass it up for family business). That said, thanks to friends and, uh, Fever Pitch, I know a lil something about the park traditions. This version of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" comes from Guyanese artist Mark Holder (who also does a surprisingly good version of Clyde McPhatter's "Mixed Up Cup" of all songs).

This post is dedicated to HH, JM, JP, AM, SKH and most of all...Jeff Chang ;)

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posted by O.W.

(thanks to Elias T.)


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

posted by O.W.

Nas: Hip-Hop Is Dead + The N
From Hip Hop Is Dead (Def Jam, 2006)

Nas: Thief's Theme
From Street's Discipline (Columbia/Sony, 2004)

Here is some Real Talk™ about Nas, spotted over at Soul Strut:
    "i don't understand why we keep expecting anything good from nas... the same s--- just keeps happening over and over again... nas is like a high schoool girlfriend that you associate all these good times with (illmatic), then you go off to college and s--- is still ok, but kind of weird (it was written), then you run into her during the holidays and it's great to see her (nas is like) so you decide to hang out (i am...) and you're like "i don't even know this person"... it keeps happening, every few years you run into each other (the jay-z beef, ether, made you look), and you think there could still be some sparks there (because there was that one time (god's son) you ran into each other at that bar had pretty good sex - even though it didn't quite have the same magic it once did, it was still good), so you hang out again (stillmatic, street's disciple, hip hop is dead), but it will just never be the same... at some point you just have to move on, and i think this is that point for me and nasir...

    unless he puts out a really good single in a couple of years.
It is rather true...hip-hoppers of a certain generation (*cough cough* mine) keep a candle burning for Nas, waiting for...for...actually, I'm not sure what we're waiting for. Maybe we just want to stop being disappointed.

With that said...I'm not really mad at these two songs from Nas' upcoming album that have leaked so far. I won't say anything at length about either - you can listen and decide for yourself - but here's one thing I have to let off: "Hip Hop Is Dead," is produced by Will.I.Am and it uses, prominently, "In a Gadda Da Vida." "Thief's Theme," which came out two years ago, produced by Salaam Remi, also uses, prominently, "In a Gadda Da Vida." Notably, the two songs sample different versions of the original but, and let me just state this clearly...

IT'S THE SAME BASIC SAMPLE, ergo, the two songs sound like variations of one another.

I don't get it. Why is Nas (or Will or whoever) recycling the same song just two years later? It's not like they put a new spin on, say, "Halftime." Again, I don't get it.

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