Dennis Brown: Things In Life
From Hold Tight (Live & Learn, 1986). Also available on Money In My Pocket.
Faye Wong: Dream Person
From Random Thinking (?, 1994). Also available on Chungking Express Soundtrack (?, 2003)
For as much praise as Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai gets for his visual imagination, WKW also showcases a superb taste in music. I was tempted to combine today’s post with music from In the Mood For Love but I’m just going to stick to this pair from his Chungking Express. If you’ve never seen it – dudes and dudettes: walk thee to a video store (or Netflix) and rent that shit. You won’t be sorry (though you may never want to eat a can of pineapples again).
For those who haven’t seen it, the film is split into two distinct vignettes, the first involving Takeshi Kaneshiro and Brigette Lin…and at least two, three times, there is a bar scene where Dennis Brown’s “Things in Life” is playing on the jukebox. This song is so damn infectious: after I played it once, my g.f. Sharon began to singing the first line over and over, almost unconsciously. One of the best songs ever.
In the second vignette, Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Faye Wong’s lives intersect and at the very end of the film, Wong’s “Dream Person,” a cover of the Cranberries’ big hit, “Dreams,” comes on. The moment where it drops in is perfect: there is something so ebullient about this song – even if you don’t understand Wong’s lyrics in Chinese, the feel and spirit just nails down the emotion invoked at the film’s end.
One of these days, I’ll do some proper research on this group. Five Filipino sisters from Stockton, all who happen to be the niece of singer Ruby Tenio, are discovered by jazz composer George Duke. He promptly whisks them off to Europe where they record for Germany’s MPS under the name the Third Wave. They are a jazz vocal group, compared by some to the Mamas and Papas or King Sisters. They record one album, Here and Now, and a single 7″ with two songs, neither of us are on the LP.
“Waves Lament” begins the album and also happens to be my favorite song off the LP: it begins with a swinging pace but quickly eases down into a melancholy, smooth lope that invokes the image of a smoky lounge full of hard-drinking, chain-smoking types. Meanwhile, “Love Train,” is a driving jazz dance number complete with a breakdown in the middle. Third Wave keeps on rolling! (Shout out to “Cool” Chris Veltri at S.F.’s Groove Merchant for putting me up on this beaut of a 7″)
By the way, I need an OG copy of Here and Now. If you got one for sale or trade, holla.
Most people I know are not feeling this song – a remake of the Neptunes’ produced hit from last summer. Ya’ll know that here at Soul Sides, we’re suckers for covers, but besides that, I really kind of LIKE this. It doesn’t come off as campy, even though you might expect it, and while I’m not big on the UK’s Cullum in general, I think he puts in a fine vocal performance here.
Donovan Carless: Be Thankful For What You Got From 7″ (Impact, 1972)
Jack Willkins: Red Clay From Windows (Mainstream, 1973)
A pair of covers today. The first is Donovan Carless’ beautiful reggae version of William DeVaughn’s soul classic “Be Thankful For What You Got.” Plugola: this is off my Deep Covers CD (cop it!) but I’m sharing it with ya’ll because it’s just so sublime. Loooooove this song and this version of it.
Second is guitarist Jack Wilkins take on Freddie Hubbard’s hit “Red Clay,” taken from Wilkins’ strangely scarce Windows album on Mainstream. I’ve always liked this Hubbard tune – the bassline is so memorable and funky in an understated way. Wilkins is pretty loyal actually…at some later point, I’ll have to remember to post up Mark Murphy’s vocalese version of “Red Clay.” For now, hope you all enjoy these two songs.
The Gourds: Gin and Juice
From Gogitchyershinebox (Watermelon, 1998)
Camron: Camron Speaks
From DJ P-Cutta’s Street Wars Vol 5 (2002)
For a gimmick song, the Gourds’ cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” is a complete joy to listen to. Part of it is the familiarty of knowing the lyrics and hearing them presented in an unexpected fashion but really, Austin’s Gourds just sound like they’ve having such a rollicking blast doing this song, their energy is infectious. Hip-hop purists might sniffle at this as being a mockery of their artform but I’d prefer to think of it as a tribute that transcends genre (and yeah, race too). Feel this.
As for “Camron Speaks,” this was recorded during the height of the Jay-Z vs. Nas war and Killa Cam unleashes a Harlem World beatdown on God’s Son. That’s actually not even the best part (though his line about how Nas still rhyming when he’s 48 was funny as hell) – when Cam starts challenging people to come rob him, he brags “I’m get another hole in each ear and I’m going to start rocking FOUR earrings at a time. And I’m going to come out dolo. Riot punk. Holla at your boy.” Damn, he’s gully.
Dutch Rhythm Steel and Show Band: Down By the River.
From Soul Steel and Show (Negram 197?)
Ok – this is a little self-serving since this song is featured on my Deep Covers Mix-CD, with the not so-subliminal message being: COP MY SH*T!. That said, this song is just too good to keep hidden. It’s a steel drum band cover of Neil Young’s “Down by the River” and it is amazing. Funky, soulful and with such depth and power that I never, ever get tired of listening to it. My friend Dave Tompkins put me up on this via a radio interview he had recorded feat. DJ Shadow on some European radio show, where they played this. Truly awesome.
Myryam’s Quintette: Solo Quintette
From Discotheque ’71 (Syllart, 2000)
I first heard this song at KALX FM when the station got the CD in. This is taken from a compilation of Guinean pop songs from the early ’70s (part of a larger series where a new comp was issued every year between 1970 to at least 1976). I appreciate how funky “Solo Quintette” is but not in a really obvious or force manner – that string melody doubles as a rhythm track too and the lo-fi drums give the song a sharp kick. Yet, the interplay with the other strings give this some melodic complexity and the song manages to appeal to both ear and ass. I’ve always wanted to spin this cut out. Also, it sounds like the sample for Motion Man’s “Mo Like Flows On,” but that’s neither here nor there.
Donny Hathaway: Jealous Guy.
From Live (Atlantic 1972)
I played this on my radio show last year and I just keep going back to it over and over. While I freely acknowledge the brilliance of John Lennon’s songwirting it’s all about Hathaway’s incredible, emotive voice. It always makes me sad to remember how short his life was (31 years) but my god, could he sing with the time he had.
Ramsey Lewis: Julia
From Mother Nature’s Son (Cadet, 1968)
Pianist Ramsey Lewis, along with Cadet’s Charles Stepney and Chess’ Marshall Chess, were so taken with the Beatles’ White Album, released just months earlier that they went in the studio and recorded ten cover songs from that album. The resulting LP, Mother Nature’s Son, produced a surprisingly striking collection of songs that both nod at the Beatles, even as they transform their sound. While a few of the cover songs fell flat, still others offered provocative interpretations. “Julia” is one such example – transforming the more plaintive, simple ballad by Lennon into a song of dramatic flourish and sweep. It retains its sublime character but Lewis and Stepney add a rich depth and bottom that goes beyond what Lennon imagined for it on The White Album. This song is just so damn gorgeous in whatever form.
See…when I first found this LP in Indianapolis, I thought I was on some killer secret digger shizzle. This is on some local Indiana label, looking and sounding like a private press album with some dude named Peter Bankoff carressing the Rhodes all over the place. The real blaster though is the cover of “Hikky-Burr” which is pretty fierce considering this is a big band album. Move over Caesar Frazier and let Al Cobine do this thing! Dope cover – clean and funky.
Anyways, so I’m all excited and what not, talk to some folks and it sounds like the only other time someone’s heard about this is because J. Davis (no, not Q-Tip, the other J. Davis) had scouted it once. So now I know I’m sitting on some rare heat. Or not. A year later, my man J.Toro goes back to Indianapolis and turns up something like 25-30 copies of this. Now I see folks up on eBay selling it, titling it “Stage Band Jazz Funk LP”. Oh the humanity, the humanity!