Tuesday, September 30, 2008

posted by Eric Luecking

Victor Davies: Sound Of The Samba

From Victor Davies (Compost, 2001)

Curumin: Sambito

From JapanPopShow (Quannum, 2008)

A few years ago I came across this lovely track by Victor Davies called “Sound Of The Samba” from his self-titled album.. Immediately I was taken away with lovely acoustic instrumentation and mellow vocals. As the track progressed I was transported to a summer block party in Rio de Janeiro with jittery drums and jaunty horns. Since then I have been hooked on samba. You just can't help but feel good and dance... even if other people ARE watching. It's musical alcohol; inhibitions just disappear.

Quannum's upcoming release of Curumin's sophomore effort, “JapanPopShow,” combines the feel good samba along with touches of afrobeat, hip hop, and even reggae. Curumin not only sings in both English and Portuguese (Brazil's official language) on the album but also handles most of the instrumentation. Labelmates Blackalicious and Lateef The Truth Speaker drop by on “Kyoto,” with Chief Xcel handling the production while Gift Of Gab and Lateef drop their 16 bars. “Caixa Preta” continues with the hip hop beats as the intro drums sound like Neptunes production.

“Sambito” has a very bouncy feel to it. Accompanied by San Francisco skateboard legend Tommy Guerrero on guitar, the song lyrically references the joy of playing along to the music with friends. My personal favorite track on the album is the seductive love ballad “Misterio Stereo.” With its lovely cavaquinho, a small four-stringed guitar, and hypnotic background instrumentation, it's one of those songs that just sounds sexy even if you can't understand the Portuguese that Curumin lulls.

Recently I had a chance to talk to Curumin about his influences, his upcoming appearance at the Brooklyn Music Academy, and what samba means to Brazil:

What does samba music mean for you and your country?

Samba it's a genre of music that I love, as many others. Of course that is genuine Brazilian music, so I understand very well what it expresses, the soul in it. But you know that, as a paulista, and without music lover parents, I grew up listening to pop music on the radio. Just when I was about 12 or 13 years old, my brother showed me Stevie Wonder and then I fell in love with the afro-American music. And just after that I discovered the afro-Brazilian music. Today I listen to a lot samba. To my country samba it's everything. It's the Brazilian soul. It's most important genre of popular Brazilian music. Samba and Baião.

Name your top 5 Brazilian music influences and speak just a short bit on why they have influenced you.

Oh no! This a hard question in these mp3 days! Because I have about 5000 songs walking with me everyday, anytime, and I lose that sense of top 5 or top 10, whatever. And the relation with that idea of influences changes too. I get more influenced by an album than a song. Can I tell you about 5 great albums that I've heard a lot in the last week? Check it out:

- artist: Clementina de Jesus
- album: Vai, Clementina, Vai
Clementina is the real samba singer for me. And in this album she sings deep and strong. The band is very simple, almost just percussion and a trombone. Roots.

- band: Cidadão Instigado
- album: Metodo tufo de experiencias
With Fernando Catatau ahead, the band released this excellent album in 2005. Very progressive, creative and provocative. The love songs are killer!

- artist: Buguinha
- album: Vitrola Adubada
Fresh, and one of the best releases of the year here in Brazil. Buguinha, actually, is a great sound engineer, and made this album in original dub style. Dope.

- artist: Iara Rennó
- album: Macunaima
Based in the book Macunaima, by Mario de Andrade, the album mixes beautiful melodies and roots percussion lines.

- artist: Artur Verocai
- album: Artur Verocai
I discovered this album from a reissue by the Ubiquity label. It's almost impossible to find the original one here in Brazil. The album has this Minas Geras (a state in Brasil, same of Milton Nascimento) flavor. The arrangements are amazing!

There is such a diverse sound on JapanPopShow, even more so than on your debut album. Expand on how you are able to blend the rhythms of reggae, afrobeat, funk, hip hop, and samba and still have it sound so cohesive.

As I said, mp3s have changed my way of listening to music. I mean, I am used to hearing all the rhythms you've said walking to work, taking a bus to the cinema, getting my car to travel, etc. I'm the shuffle guy!

And growing up in São Paulo, I always heard different types of music all the time. I'm not a specialist in any kind of style. I just like, more than the others, the afro-American music (remembering that Brasil, Cuba, Jamaica, Colombia, Uruguai, Mexico are all a part of America too). For me, there's no frontiers between reggae, funk, samba, salsa, afrobeat, candombe, soul, hip-hop.

Describe how the collaboration came about with Gift Of Gab and Chief Xcel of Blackalicious. I know you met while they were touring Brazil. Is that how you came to Quannum initially?

Blackalicious came to play here in 2004, I guess, and my co-producer, Gustavo Lenza, was their sound engineer. He gave a copy of "Achados e Perdidos" to the guys and they liked it and wanted to put it out.

In 2005, I guess, they released the album "The Craft" and ask me to make a riddim of a song from the album, and I made "Kyoto."

We started to play that song with a different beat in the shows and we put it in the new album, JapanPopShow. It was very natural to call Blackalicious to guest in the new version.

Who is on your shortlist to work with on future projects?

Buguinha, the guy I recommended in the top 5 influences question; Tommy Guerrero, that is already a partner in some songs, but now we want to make a record together; the guys from Lifesavas; Kamau, a great rapper here in São Paulo…

Wow! It's hard to make a shortlist!

You're slated to perform in December at Red Hot + Rio 2 in Brooklyn. What are you looking forward to the most about that show?

I don't know. They have asked me to sing two songs and for me it's hard because I am not a crooner or an entertainer. I always get myself thinking "oh my god! What am I gonna do without a drum!? Where do I go if I can walk trough the stage?" Ha!

Anyway, will be great be with Kassim, João Paraiba, Money Mark, Domenico, Moreno, Ceu, making some music.

What does it mean to you for the Brooklyn Academy Of Music to sponsor the Red Hot + Rio event and put you as one of the artists at the forefront of today's Brazilian music scene?

Oh! I must show that to my parents, to convince that I'm working; that I'm not a tramp, chilling out and partying everyday! Hahaha!

But there's so much good music being made down here, that it's hard to put someone in the forefront. At the same time, it's always good to feel this good reception.

JapanPopShow is being released digitally on October 7, although you can buy it a week earlier on iTunes and receive an exclusive bonus track, while those who prefer something more tangible won't see it on shelves until November 4. Regardless of what the calendar says, summer doesn't have to be over. So crack open the windows, grab a Xingu, and jam along with Curumin and friends at your own neighborhood block party.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

posted by O.W.

I've been reading Jerry Wexler's excellent, engrossing - but alas, out of print - autobiography, Rhythm and the Blues since I wanted to learn more about his life (catalyzed to do so by his death). Wexler talks about one of his protegés, Bert Berns, the songwriter and producer best known for his work with the Drifters, Van Morrison, Solomon Burke and a slew of others. One of the sources of Bern's inspiration was Latin music and Wexler shares how some of Bern's greatest hits, including the Isley Bros. "Twist and Shout" and "My Girl Sloopy" (better known as "Hang On Sloopy") were all based on the chord progression Bern learned from the best known Cuban guajira of all time: "Guantanamera."

Here's the thing about guajiras: they're a distinctly Cuban style, the term itself refers to a girl from the country and the sound of it is meant to invoke a kind of folksy, romantic and nostalgic mood. It can be a bit confusing though since guajira can refer to either a girl or the song style, therefore when some artists entitle their song, "Mi Guajira," it's not always obvious if they're talking about "my girl" or talking about "my song."

In any case, when I first started to research the boogaloo and its evolution out of the Afro-Cuban tradition, my mentors like Vinnie Esparza and Chris Veltri tried to explain that a boogaloo rhythm was, in essence, a variation on both cha-cha-chá and guajira and that's absolutely true. If you listen to either cha-cha-chás or guajiras from earlier in the 1960s, it's very easy to hear within them the basic structure of boogaloo rhythms as well. As a result, I've been a big fan of guajiras because they have that appealing sound I associate with boogaloo, primarily a strong, central montuno riff, often on piano.

What I couldn't quite figure out though is what exactly separated cha-cha-chás from guajiras and as it was, I was recently hanging out with Joe Bataan and he broke it down (I'm paraphrasing): "the cha cha is upbeat and its usually played in a major key which makes them sound happy. Guajiras, on the other hand, tend to be a little slower but more importantly, the montuno is usually in a minor key, giving it a sadder sound. It's like blues for Latin." And suddenly, that totally made sense to me though, given my musicological ignorance, it wouldn't have occurred to me to think about it in that way.

Back to "Guantanamera." The basic chord progression here is a I-IV-V; an incredibly common progression that, once you pick up on it, you'll begin to hear in countless songs, across many different genres. Mathematically, I'm sure there's an explanation to why the I-IV-V is so pleasing to the ear (at least in a Western context) but it most certainly is part of what gives "Guantanamera" its distinctive melody.

The best known version of the song to most Americans is probably one of Celia Cruz's versions, especially given her and Wyclef's collabo from the '90s. However, the song is attributed to Cuban songwriter Joseíto Fernández (who would have turned 100 this year), who supposedly originally wrote it back in the late '20s.

Joseito Fernandez: Guajira Guantanamera
From 75 Years of Cuban Music (Pimienta, 2003)

In terms of evidence of how "Guantanamera" has returned through popular music, the examples are legion.

Richie Valens: La Bamba
From 7" (Del-Fi, 1958). Also on The Very Best Of.

I can't say this for certain but "La Bamba" was likely one of the earliest examples of a pop song interpolating the "Guantanamera" chord progression and with this massive hit by the young Richie Valens, songwriters were off to the races...

The Drifters: Sweets For My Sweet
From 7" (Atlantic, 1961). Also on The Very Best Of.

The Isley Brothers: Twist and Shout
From 7" (Wand, 1962). Also on The Definitive Collection.

The Vibrations: My Girl Sloopy
From 7" (Atlantic, 1964). Also The Very Best Of.

This trio suggests how powerfully resonant that progression would become, sticking itself into some of the big pop hits of the time. "Sweets For My Sweet" wasn't a huge song compared to some of the Drifters later material but "Twist and Shout" (originally recorded by the Top Notes in a version that few would likely recognize) would become gold in the hands of first the Isley Brothers and then, of course, The Beatles. (The song is credited to "Bert Russell" which was a nom de plume of Bert Berns).

As for "My Girl Sloopy," the world knows it better as "Hang On Sloopy" by the McCoys but Berns brought the "Guantanamera" chords back again when he originally recorded the song for the Vibrations.

The Righteous Brothers: You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
From 7" (Philies, 1964). Also on Very Best Of

And hell, for good measure, Phil Spector built it into the bridge for one of the biggest pop hits of the 20th century, the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."

Bonus: Jack Costanzo: Guantanamera
From Viva Tirado (GNP, 1971)

The actual song itself has gone through countless versions - this one's a personal favorite, off of Jack Costanzo's excellent Viva Tirado album (feat. singer Gerri Woo). Costanzo, aka Mr. Bongo, gives the song a funkier feel but it's still true to its Cuban roots all the same.

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posted by O.W.

1943 - 2008

Updated: Mark Anthony Neal weighs in on Whitfield's leagcy.

A few of my favorite productions of his:

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posted by O.W.


Monday, September 22, 2008

posted by Captain Planet

O'Donel Levy : I Believe In Miracles
taken from the album
Windows on Groove Merchant (1976)

King Harvest : Take It Easy
taken from the album
Dancing In The Moonlight on Perception (1973)

Som Tres : Take It Easy My Brother Charles
taken from their self-titled album on Odeon (1969)

Nilsson : Coconut
taken from the album
Nilsson Schmilsson on RCA (1971)

Van Morrison : It's All Right
taken from the album
Bang Masters on Epic (1991)
originally recorded for the Bang label in 1967

Today I pulled together a seemingly random bag of tunes that share a certain slinky slowness- the noggin bopping tempo- which fits perfectly to an early Autumn blue sky day with nothing to do but laundry.

I have a few other LPs by
O'Donel and I can always count on him for some solid jazz-funk fusion goodness, but when this slow bounce scat-fest came on I too was reminded about the realness of miracles. Keep in mind- O'Donel is on guitar while vocalist Aleta Green is vocalizing the EXACT same line! There's plenty of other good funky moments on the record, but this track is what I'm needing today.

King Harvest is a group I knew nothing about until now. I picked up the record because I usually like the soul music I find on the Perception label. Definitely not The Fatback Band, this funky-country-soul song still won me over instantly.

Som Tres record was an easy pick to follow up with, and I'm surprised we haven't posted it here in the Crate before. Such a classic! And when your name happens to be Charlie, the song feels that much more like it was written specifically for you. I've heard a handful of other Brazilian versions of this song- written by Jorge Ben I believe- but this Som Tres take on it has got to be the most true embodiment of the song's message. Check the rest of the record at Loronix.

Do we ever need an excuse to drop a lil
Nilsson into our set? Whether or not this song has been played 2 bazillion times does not seem to affect my love for it. And with the new track by Tyga getting spins in the club and on MTV, I wanted to return to the version that made me realize Bobby McFerrin wasn't the first vocalist to get crazy nice with the vocal instrumentation and tropical-coco-butter harmonizing. I can also relate to the way the man feels on the cover of this one- sometimes putting on an entire outfit is just too much work, that's why we have bathrobes.

Last but certainly not least, a song of pure, unbridled catharsis from an album that I can't seem to take off repeat. There's a whole
story behind the recordings found on this CD (which were never collectively released at once until 1991!), but there's also the tale of a much younger me, listening to this record by default every other weekend when I stayed at my Dad's house and came up with another thousand ways to use a stick as a toy. Is Van the most soulful white man ever? Until I'm shown a better example (Bobby Caldwell comes close) he will hold the title.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

posted by O.W.

Soul II Soul: Back To Life (acapella mix)
From 12" (Virgin, 1989)

Bonnie and Shelia: You Keep Me Hanging On
From 7" (King, 1971). Also on New Orleans Funk Vol. 2.

Patti Drew: Stop and Listen
From Tell Him (Capitol, 1967). Also on Workin' On a Groovy Thing.

Bobby Matos: Nadie Baila Como Yo
From My Latin Soul (Phillips, 1968)

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: If You Can Want
From Special Occasion (Motown, 1968)

Menahan Street Band: Home Again
From Make the Road By Walking (Dunham/Daptone, forthcoming 10/14/08)

Final Solution: I Don't Care
From Brotherman soundtrack (Numero Group, 2008)

Freeway: Let the Beat Build freestyle
From ? (?, 2008)

Q-Tip: Gettin' Up
From The Renaissance (Motown, forthcoming 2008)

Black Ivory: You and I
From Don't Turn Around (Today, 1972)

It's the end of another summer, alas.

Looking back over the summer songs season, I wanted to do the last post on the songs that ended up forming my personal soundtrack the last few months. To be honest, I thought this list would be a lot longer than it ended up being but I wanted to keep it to songs that I kept returning to over and over rather than something I found merely "good."

Soul II Soul's acapella mix of "Back to Life" came at me three different ways: Murphy's Law dropped it at Boogaloo[la] and reminded me how cotdamn fresh it was, Greg Tate's Summer Songs post made me revisit the Soul II Soul catalog and I finally saw Belly which makes incredible use of the song to open the movie. Personally, I grew impatient to actually get to where the beat drops so I edited my version down to about a 30 second teaser before the "Impeach the President" drums kick in. As ML showed me, it's always a fun cut to play out.

The Bonnie and Sheila, I have to admit, I learned about first through a quirky youtube video[1] and I wondered how the hell I didn't know about this earlier. Great little slice of New Orleans funk produced by the great Wardell Quezergue and released on King (the Cincinnati label most associated with James Brown). Words are insufficient to explain to you how much I love this song.

The Patti Drew I owe to Chairman Mao. When I interviewed him for Asia Pacific Arts, he mentioned "Stop and Listen" as an example of a great soul tune that doesn't cost and arm and a leg yet sounds like a million bucks (not his exact words but you catch the meaning). I couldn't agree more. Don't sleep on the equally excellent ballad, "Tell Him" on the same album.

I had totally forgotten about the Bobby Matos and Combo Conquistadores song, "Nadie Baila Como Yo" (nobody dances like me) off the incredible My Latin Soul album until I heard the Boogaloo Assassins play it at their shows. This may very well elevate itself to my top 10 Latin soul songs given how it changes up chord progressions and tepos not once but twice - it's like getting three songs in one; one of the marks of a superior son montuno. I can't believe I slept on this track all these years.

I found the Smokey Robinson and Miracles song during my search through Motown's catalog to find tracks to play out that wasn't part of their Big Chill/Greatest Hits collection and I never failed to be amazed at the generosity of greatness that Motown provided over the years. For those who think Smokey is all droopy ballads, "If You Can Want" is a loud, proud wake-up call of funky power. How has no one ever done a 12" edit of this?

I already wrote about the Menahan Street Band and Brotherman songs already but they're so nice, I had to list 'em twice.

Freeway's freestyle over "Let the Beat Build" goes well with my official, beginning of the summer post where I nodded at Lil Wayne's original. Free, who had one of the best albums of last year that few seemed to notice, murders over Kanye's beat here. After, uh, a million subpar "A Milli" freestyles, I was happy to hear someone pick a different track to rip.

The last song is one I should have started the summer with. Late pass. Q-Tip's had a rough, um, decade so far in terms of being able to get this music to the masses but I'm hoping "Gettin' Up" does it right for him in preparation for his Renaissance album. This is, by far, the best thing I've heard from 'Tip since this and without getting all misty-eyed for my halcyon teens and 20s, listening to Tribe, this song just f---ing sounds good in the way the best Tribe songs just sounded f---ing good. (No doubt, it helps that the sample source is also f---ng good: "You and I" by Black Ivory. Read more here.).

By the way, if I had to pick my absolute favorite song of the summer...surprisingly, it'd end up being Solange Knowles' "I Decided." Don't ask me why but this has stuck with me the entire time through without ever ceasing to be pleasurable.

And with that...I bid all you adieu until next May but hope you keep the memory of summer in your mind alive until then.[2]

[1] Don't laugh - he dances better than you.

[2] Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere.

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posted by O.W.

So Alma was an unqualified...flop. Clearly, we underthought the importance of outreach for the venue which only makes me respect the success of their Wed and Sat salsa nights even more; they must really have done a bang-up job of getting the word out. I can't be 100% certain about this, but I'm pretty sure our only paid guests of the evening partially comprised of an older sugar daddy and his younger, um, "friend."

Shout out to Bao Tran, the Seattle filmmaker behind Bookie who stopped by with some friends.

The upside to a totally dead evening is that Rani D and I were more...shall we say...creative in our mixes? It actually reminded me of my radio days, when I'd be on late at night, had no idea who was listening, and therefore, felt empowered to just do whatever.

Here's an edited-down, 80 min set from Friday evening. DJ Phatrick says that people prefer individually tracked mixes so I want through and hand-edited that sucker. No tracklisting however mostly because neither I nor Rani wrote down the songs as we were playing. Consider it the price of free-ness (that plus the low audio quality but that's what recording on high-capacity minidisc sounds like).

On that "just do whatever" tip: you might note a subtle yet copious amount of scratching in the set...that'd be by yours truly...especially those scratches not-quite-in-tempo. I'm ashamed to say that despite learning how to DJ in the Bay Area and being Asian, my scratching skills have never really been very strong. I learned how to DJ from mixers not scratchers and never had the patience or time to train intensively to get my crabs or flares in working order.

That said, when there's literally two people in the room (not including yourself), and the sound system is good, why not get in some practice time? To wit:

"The Ill Advised Scratching Bonus Set." Rani D on the mix, O-Dub on the scratch (though I may deny this at a later point).

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posted by O.W.

Things I've realized with this Bataan giveaway:

1) I've either sold copies of Deep Covers 2 to the maximum amount of readers or else, you folks are cheap... (Kidding!)

2) I need to make my trivia questions just a little easier.

3) Or I can just have been randomly write in but where's the fun in that?

In any case, winner of the non-signed copy: B. Holt
Winner (and sole competitor) in the trivia contest: H. Mestdach

For those playing at home, here were the answer to the trivia contest:
    1) What Latin producer of Alegre fame did Joe Bataan record with prior to signing with Fania?
    A: Al Santiago.
    2) How many original albums (not including compilations or reissued content) did Joe record for Fania (this is a trick question of sorts so think it through carefully)?
    A: Nine. Gypsy Woman, Subway Joe, Riot, Singin' Some Soul, Poor Boy, Mr. New York and the Eastside Kids, Sweet Soul, St. Latin's Day Massacre, Live From San Frantasia. The trick question was the last album, Live From San Frantasia which was recorded but never released.

    3) Some of Joe's most successful songs have been covers: "Gypsy Woman, "Shaft," "The Bottle." Name the original artists behind these other Joe Bataan songs:
    a. "It's a Good Feeling (Riot)"
    b. "I'm No Stranger"
    c. "Make Me Smile"
    A: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Seven Souls, Chicago

    4) What Ismael Miranda boogaloo mash-up/cover of "Tighten Up" does Joe Bataan make a cameo on? Name the song and album.
    A: "Horsin' Up" from Presenta Ismael Miranda.

    5) What pseudonym did Joe take on when he recorded for Bobby Marin's Dynamite label?
    A: Mister Love and Company.

    6) Two different songs that Joe recorded earlier in his career ended up re-released on later albums in their intact (i.e. non-rerecorded) form. One was "Ordinary Guy" - the same version appears on both Riot and Singin' Some Soul. What is the other song and which two albums did it appear on?
    A: "Shaft." It appeared on a second run issue of Sweet Soul and was on all copies of St. Latin's Day Massacre.

    7) What classic from Joe's repertoire appears on his Salsoul album, but with a different name?
    A: "Ordinary Guy," under the title, "Muchacho Ordinario."

    8) What's different about the 7" version of "Woman Don't Want to Love Me" compared to the LP version from Afrofilipino (be specific)?
    A: The 7" version has as a keyboard arrangement missing from the LP version.

    9) What old school rap duo was supposed to appear on "Rap-O, Clap-O" instead of Joe rapping himself?
    A: Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.
    10) What martial art are Joe's children all masters of?
    A: Karate.
Keep an eye open for our next giveaway!


Thursday, September 18, 2008

posted by O.W.

"The intent of this mix was to try and capture what WE'VE all been feeling these past months: hope, struggle, and the importance of facing a challenge. It also serves as a reminder, and perhaps an introduction to what OUR candidate is all about. With that being said enjoy, register, & get involved.

History, Change, & Victory In November" -King Most

The Obamix
    Intro/Smoked Sugar: I'm A Winner
    Roy Davis Jr.: People Get Ready
    Jackson 5: We're Almost There (DJ Spinna Remix)
    Erykah Badu: Solider (Sasaac Remix)
    Masta Ace: Beautifull
    Black Spade: We Need A Revolution
    Skull Snaps: It's A New Day
    Marvin Gaye & The Mizzel Brothers: We Are We Going?
    James Brown: Mind Power
    Antibals: Si Se Puede
    Grandmaster Flash: The Message (Next Message Blend Version)
    Dj Day: A Place To Go
    Double Exposure: Everyman For Himself
    Donald Byrd: Change Makes Ya Wanna Hustle
    Stevie Wonder: Blackman (Kay Sputnik Re-Edit)
    L.T.D.: Love To The World
    Cymande: Bra
    Pitbull: American War
    The Dynamics: Move On Up

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Monday, September 15, 2008

posted by O.W.

Skye: Ain't No Need
Family Tree: Family Tree
From 12" (Ananda, 1976). "Ain't No Need" is also available on 7".

I'm jacking a concept from my man Murphy's Law, i.e. disco songs that not only do not suck, but will seriously make you consider starting up your own collection.

This pair of songs originally came out on separate 7"s on Ananda and then were put onto the same 12". It's unclear to me if that was an official Ananda release or a bootleg but the cost of that 12" and the original Skye 7" are quite expensive (the Family Tree is relatively more "affordable" but only relatively). Either way, this is a remarkable pair of songs.

Of the two, the Family Tree is more upbeat and dance-able in a conventional sense. It opens with that great bassline bounce and the vocals are soulfully rich - I love how the vocal arrangement unexpectedly shifts on the chorus, it's a small touch but adds so much to the song. However, as much as I like this single, "Ain't No Need" is the kind of song I want to wrap around me like a sleeping bag - everything about this is sublime to me. It's practically all chorus in essence but the chord progressions and instrumentation combine so beautifully that you can lose yourself inside the groove forever.


Friday, September 12, 2008

posted by O.W.

Lou Perez and His NY Sound: Caribbean Woman
From S/T (Parnaso, 1972)

Lou Perez y su Orquesta Barrio: Antillana
From Barrio (Parnaso, 1972)

I always find it interesting when artists cover their own songs. It's hardly an unusual practice but you sometimes wonder how much of it is dissatisfaction with the original version and how much of it is trying to capitalize on an already successful song by flipping a variation on it.

The Lou Perez, to me, is especially notable since, from far as I can tell, these two songs are probably, at most, a year or so apart. "Caribbean Woman" has been a favorite at Boogaloo[la] - dancers seem to dig its combo of Latin rock/funk rhythms with that whiff of island flavor. It's always reminded me something that Santana's cousin might have whipped together - not deep but sweetly satisfying.

When I picked up Perez's Barrio LP, I was surprised to hear him, in essence, remake the song in a charanga style. That means here a faster tempo, a strong acoustic piano montuno and most charanga-ish, the string accompaniment. That plus he flips the lyrics into español.

I've never had a chance to play out both songs to a Latin-friendly crowd but I'd be mightily curious to see which of the two goes over better.

Unfortunately, Perez passed away just a few years ago at the age of 78. He wasn't a household name to casual Latin fans even though his career was rich and long-lasting, having risen with the charanga fad of early 1960s not to mention a prolific songwriter to boot.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

posted by O.W.

Menahan Street Band: Home Again!
From Make the Road By Walking (Dunham/Daptone, forthcoming 10/14/08)

This has to be one of my favorite songs I've heard all summer, a beautiful mid-tempo ballad off the new Menahan Street Band. The MSB is the brain child of Tom "TNT" Brenneck, the guitarist for the Dap-Kings and a rising songwriter/producer from within the Daptone's deep camp. I wrote about MSB last fall after their single, "Make the Road By Walking" was sampled for Jay-Z's "Roc Boys" and I've been eagerly awaiting the release of their full-length album.

The MSB sound is less like what the Dap-Kings themselves turn out and more on what I'd call "soul meets cool jazz" tip, not unlike what Leon Michels has done with the El Michels Affair over at Truth and Soul (and not surprisingly, many T&S players are featured in the MSB. I'll have more to say about the album as a whole once it drops but did want to at least tease people with "Home Again!", which I'm finding sublime, especially with that opening guitar melody and the horn arrangements. Enjoy this and make sure to pick up the album when it drops October 14th.

(Also, Daptone is about to put out another single from the album, feat. the vocals of Charles Bradley).


posted by O.W.

DeBarge: Love Me In a Special Way
From In a Special Way (Gordy, 1983)

AZ: Love Me In a Special Way
From S.O.S.A. (N/A, 2000)

Face it, early '80s R&B was far better then you think you remember it.

AZ knew what's up. (So does MAN).

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Monday, September 08, 2008

posted by O.W.

Common feat. Bilal: Play Your Cards Right
From Smokin' Aces soundtrack (Lakeshore, 2007)

Joe Bataan: Under the Street Lamp
Available on Under the Streetlamps: The Joe Bataan Anthology 1967 - 1972 (Fania/Emusica, 2008)

Joe Bataan was just here in Los Angeles the last week or so (and I feel stupid for not posting up links to his performances) and we caught up twice during that time, including one meeting where he broke down the entire history behind "Rap-O, Clap-O". Fascinating stuff and I'll have to try to write that up sometime.

Anyways, the other time we met, he was asking me if I knew anything about this Common song that sampled one of his songs. Joe had gotten a check for the clearance but hadn't heard the actual use of the song yet. Not having really followed the sampling game that closely of late, I couldn't think of anything off the top so we sat down and googled it and sure enough, it was Common's "Play Your Cards Right" from last year's Smokin' Aces soundtrack. And once you hear it, it's plain as day that producer Kareem Riggins had looped up Joe's great "Under the Street Lamp" (from his Singin' Some Soul album originally). (Joe got a kick out of hearing his song sampled).

He was also gracious enough to sign a copy of his anthology that I did the liner notes for and I'm going to give this away to one lucky (and informed) reader.

To be eligible, send an email to soulsides AT gmail.com with the subject line "Joe Bataan giveaway." You need to answer the following:
    1) What Latin producer of Alegre fame did Joe Bataan record with prior to signing with Fania?

    2) How many original albums (not including compilations or reissued content) did Joe record for Fania (this is a trick question of sorts so think it through carefully)?

    3) Some of Joe's most successful songs have been covers: "Gypsy Woman, "Shaft," "The Bottle." Name the original artists behind these other Joe Bataan songs:
    a. "It's a Good Feeling (Riot)"
    b. "I'm No Stranger"
    c. "Make Me Smile"

    4) What Ismael Miranda boogaloo mash-up/cover of "Tighten Up" does Joe Bataan make a cameo on? Name the song and album.

    5) What pseudonym did Joe take on when he recorded for Bobby Marin's Dynamite label?

    6) Two different songs that Joe recorded earlier in his career ended up re-released on later albums in their intact (i.e. non-rerecorded) form. One was "Ordinary Guy" - the same version appears on both Riot and Singin' Some Soul. What is the other song and which two albums did it appear on?

    7) What classic from Joe's repertoire appears on his Salsoul album, but with a different name?

    8) What's different about the 7" version of "Woman Don't Want to Love Me" compared to the LP version from Afrofilipino (be specific)?

    9) What old school rap duo was supposed to appear on "Rap-O, Clap-O" instead of Joe rapping himself?

    10) What martial art are Joe's children all masters of?
I'll select a winner at random from those with the most correct answers. Deadline: next Monday.

I also have a second (unsigned) copy of the anthology to give away, randomly, to those who buy Deep Covers 2 in the next week. (Physical CD orders only, digital downloads don't apply, sorry).

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posted by Eric Luecking

Raphael Saadiq: 100 Yard Dash
From The Way I See It (Sony, 2008)

Having been in the music industry since the '80s, Raphael Saadiq has been a part of numerous hits, whether his own solo work, with Tony! Toni! Toné!, or by others (D'Angelo, Bilal, Joss Stone, John Legend and Mary J. Blige). “The Way I See It” sees Saadiq reach way back to that sound of sweet soul music of the '60s with its proclaimed Downtown Sound. The inspiration for the album came while Saadiq was on vacation and heard everyone listening to classic soul. Hearkening back to the sound of Motown house band The Funk Brothers, “100 Yard Dash” and “Staying In Love” have that classic backbeat and sound like lost Smokey Robinson and the Miracles sessions.

As a producer he knows how to stand in the shadows and let the music stand in the forefront. Longtime influence Steve Wonder brings along his harmonica while protégé CJ Hilton takes the lead for “Never Give You Up.” Hilton sounds like a deadringer for milk carton soulster Ray Parker, Jr. The album looks back to numerous influences, not just Motown, for its feel-good rhythms. “Oh Girl” is cut from the same cloth as many of the Stylistics hits with next register lead vocals. A remix of the song featuring Jay-Z will be included on the album due to hit stores on September 16.

With its swinging horns, the production on “Big Easy” almost sounds like Earthtone III helmed the boards. Each song sounds like period music, with “Big Easy” being the song that sounds more like it's trying to mimic the old soul sound. However, it's the opening “Sure Hope You Mean It” that really stands out. With its rolling piano licks, grooving bass line, and backup singers that set the perfect tone, you feel like there might have been a pressing error with a previously unreleased Temptations song starting the album.

To hear a preview of the album, log on to his MySpace page. While the biggest knock that one could make against the set is questioning whether or not it pays homage or copies the '60s and '70s sound, to that I retort that with its cohesive sound, so what? There are much greater evils being churned out of the music industry mill today. We should champion good music - not drag it down. If Stevie can dig it, then so should we.

Oliver's Note: I just wrote about this CD for Side Dishes as well, with two other songs to check out. The short story is that I like this album, quite a bit, but it feels a bit...I don't know...perfunctory? Well-executed but it feels like a competent exercise at times rather than a wholly passionate artistic endeavor. Just my .02.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

posted by O.W.

I just hope Fontella Bass is getting a nice check off this ad. Otherwise, my opinion of its usage can be summed up thusly.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

posted by O.W.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

posted by O.W.

Right above is Soul Sides's "word cloud," in other words, a visual display of all the words listed in our RSS feed, sized by frequency.

Make your own (just be warned it's a huge time suck).


posted by O.W.

Final Solution: Theme from Brotherman
Final Solution: Never Coming Back Again
From Brotherman soundtrack (Numero Group, 2008)

(Editor's note: Since I had already written up the Brotherman soundtrack for both Side Dishes and an forthcoming LA Weekly review, I asked contributor Eric Luecking to take a whack at it and here's what he came with. Be sure to check that Side Dishes post to hear my personal favorite song from the album, "I Don't Care." --O.W.)

Written by Eric Luecking:
    Somewhere in time the unknown soul band meets The Temptations and The Impressions. That point in time was captured back in 1975 when the Final Solution wrote the soundtrack for the as-yet-unfilmed Brotherman. Imagine Curtis Mayfield writing the soundtrack to Superfly but not having seen one scene; in fact, it's questioned whether a script was even finalized for Brotherman.

    Final Solution was originally known as the Keldirons. Their recorded output was a single 45 for Twinight under the (misspelled) name The Kaldirons. Having developed their style of singing and jamming in the hallways of Crane Tech high school, they had built a reputation as a stellar Chicago band filling dates on the club circuit nightly thanks to the help of Five Stairsteps member Marcellus Burke.

    After starting from scratch with a new name, the Final Solution reconnected for a different label and started working with Chicago songwriter Carl Wolfolk, another Crane tech alumnus. Their short time together yielded this blistering blaxploitation soundtrack. Although they never finalized the mixing and full string and horn arrangements for each song, the first 10 tracks on the soundtrack were what was cut at PS Studios. Later, Wolfolk would lay down string arrangements for the title cut as well create another instrumental, “No Place To Run,” for use in the film.

    The aforementioned “Theme From Brotherman” also gets a vocalized version as the opener of the album. Sans the strings, it's replaced by a more minimal mix with backbone harmonies and lyrics encouraging you to “tell it like it is” and to “help your brotherman.” After all, that's what a pusher turned preacher does.

    The next tune, “Never Coming Back Again,” picks up the rhythmic urgency where the title cut left off. At that point, the album takes a sharp turn for more mellow grooves. That's not to say that the rest is forgettable because it's certainly not. It's a showcase for how well stripped arrangements and their tight Windy City harmonies that highlighted Allen Brown, who sounds like a vocal doppelganger of Eddie Kendricks - THE soul falsetto voice of his day, can work. Throw that in a pot with some slinky bass and chicken scratch guitar and you've got yourself a sound; what's even more amazing is that this was recorded in a 24-hour period!

    As with previous management experiences that had let them down, Brotherman would not bring them the fame Final Solution desired. Money was short for the film and all parties moved on. Wolfolk tried shopping Brotherman to another label a couple years later but was turned down.

    Lady Luck never appears on command, so it's no surprise that this project didn't find a final home until now, however unlikely the circumstances were that led to its discovery. The reels had been stored on a dusty shelf for the last 30-plus years before being passed along to the folks at Numero. If previously unknown gems like this turn up in 2008, who knows what else is buried in a box in somebody's closet?


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

posted by O.W.

While you're waiting for the next post on Soul SIdes, don't miss:

  • Captain Planet waxing on more summer madness for his official Summer Songs post.

  • Two new Side Dishes posts, one on the new Calypsoul compilation and one on one of my favorite albums this year, the awesome Brotherman soundtrack (there will be a post on this album for Soul Sides proper soon, complete with giveaway!).
  • Last but not least, my June set for Dublab - "Under Covers" - is now available on their Dubstream and should soon be posted to their archives. More covers!

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