According to Slate’s Dan Kois, Stevie Wonder’s “We Can Work It Out” is the best Beatles cover out there:

Stevie Wonder and his cover of “We Can Work It Out,” not only the best Beatles cover of all time but the only one that is definitively better than the Beatles’ original.

Now…my first response to this claim can be summed up as “OH, WORD?”

To my mind, as good as Stevie’s cover is, it’s in competition with at least two other covers from the same era: Al Green’s “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and Aretha Franklin’s “Eleanor Rigby.” Showdown!

Who wins? You decide.


Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: What Can You Bring Me?
From You’re So Beautiful (Warner Brothers, 1971)

Craig G: Take the Bait
From Now, That’s More Like It (Atlantic, 1991)

A Tribe Called Quest: Rock Rock Ya’ll
From The Love Movement (Jive, 1998)

(Dec. 2011: This is another repost/resurrection. First posted in 2007 but original comments were lost. Since I just wrote about this Wright/Watts 103rd song for the Oxford American, it also seemed totally apropos to bring it back. –O.W.)

Original post from ’07: The original song is off the last Watts 103rd album before the group disbanded and it’s also one of the handful of their songs sung by drummer James Gadson instead of Wright himself. Great guitar line and horn reply, right?

The man, Marley Marl, was one of the first to work with that loop for one of Craig G’s unsung masterpieces – “Take the Bait” – which, if I may add, very nicely incorporates Gadson’s falsetto. I’m actually rather surprised that no one seemed to have picked up on it until ATCQ used the same loop (albeit slightly differently) for the posse cut off of The Love Movement.

KMD vs. Eric. B and Rakim: Who Flipped It Better?

Bobbi Humphrey: Blacks and Blues
From Blacks and Blues (Blue Note, 1974)

KMD: Plumskinzz
From 12″ (B-side of “Nitty Gritty”) (Elektra, 1991)1

Eric B. and Rakim: Keep the Beat
From Don’t Sweat the Technique (MCA, 1992)

(This was originally posted four years ago but because of how my commenting system has changed since then, I lost all the original comments about it and that seemed like a shame. As it was, I was listening to “Plumskinz” again – I never can get enough of this song – and I figured, “hell, why not just repost it?” and see where folks are at in 2011/2 with this question. I may end up reposting other entries in the  “Who Flipped It Better?” series but we’ll at least start here. –O.W.)

Original post: I wrote about the Humphrey song before, about two years back, and had this to say: “My favorite Mizell’s related track though is Bobbi Humphrey’s sublimely mellow “Blacks and Blues” – I love how it foregrounds Jerry Peters’ beautiful piano work at the front end and Humphrey’s flute floats in with a nice subtlety as does Fonce Mizell’s clavinet. It’s a great arrangement – memorable from jump and a song you can come back to a dozen times over and never tire of.” (Note: I still feel the same way).

Of course, back in the early ’90s, I didn’t know much about the Mizell Bros or Bobbi Humphrey. I did know something about KMD and their sequel to “Peachfuzz.” Right from jump, the beat for “Plumskinzz” caught my ear and that’s no small reason why I continue to be charmed by Humphrey.

I wasn’t alone – “Blacks and Blues” shows up a few other places but if you’re going to go head to head with KMD, who better than Rakim Allah himself? I’m not sure how actually produced this cut (real heads know what I’m talking about) but I like how they included a vocal interpolation to go along with the original sample. The whole cut has a nice smoothness that complements Rakim’s honeyed baritone well.

  1. I know this song is also available on Black Bastards but not only did they split it in two but the fidelity sounds demo-quality, which is to say: bad. All about the original B-side version.


I finally got around to catching up on my blog reading and noticed that Super Sonido recently wrote up Mon Rivera’s “Lluvia Con Nieve.” This salsa classic was introduced to me by Murphy’s Law and I consider it one of my Top 3 go-to, never-fail salsa cuts to get an audience moving (Willie Colon holds down the other two with his “La Murga De Panama” and “Che Che Cole”). “Lluvia Con Nieve” fits right between those two – more aggressive and forceful than “Che Che Cole” though, for my money, nothing can ace the horn opening to “La Murga” but that “Lluvia” comes pretty damn close. Trust a trombonist to know how to use some brass to get feet to slide.

Super Sonido included Rivera’s original plus a cover by Lucho Macedo on Virrey which I had never heard before (good stuff Frank!) and that made me think of this:

Carlos Pickling: Lluvia Con Nieve-El Molestoso
From Suplemento Dominical (MAG, 1970s)

Can’t say I know much about this Peruvian organist except that he’s, um, Peruvian and an organist. I picked this Mag LP up a while back, mostly on the strength of this medley/cover of “Lluvia Con Nieve” that segues nicely into “El Molestoso,” a pachanga (Eddie Palmieri’s?). The use of organ is what sells this cover for me, just adding enough of a touch of difference to stick in the ear.

Meanwhile, over at Philaflava’s TROY blog, he’s got the latest post in his “Who Flipped It Better” series up, focusing on samplings of Five Stairsteps’ “Danger, She’s a Stranger.” It reminded me that I hadn’t done an installment of my own, similar series in well over a year and as it was, in going back over some key Willie Mitchell productions, I forgot how many folks had flipped Al Green’s “I Wish You Were Here.”

Al Green: I Wish You Were Here
From Al Green Is Love (Hi, 1975)

Nas: Shootouts
From It Was Written (Columbia, 1996)

The Lootpack: Wanna Test
From Soundpieces: Da Antidote (Stones Throw, 1999)

Consequence feat. Kanye West: The Good, The Bad, the Ugly
From Don’t Quit Your Day Job (Good, 2007)

Wu-Tang (Ghostface Killah + Tre Williams): I Wish You Were Here
From Chamber Music (E1, 2009)

I find it rather remarkable that this song has been such a popular sample over the years if only because it’s just not what I associate with Green’s core canon. Doesn’t mean it isn’t a great song and in particular, such a classic Willie Mitchell sound. On that note, it’s rather amazing that no one in the Wu seemed to mess with this until last year given that it sounds pitch-perfect for the Wu’s well-known affections for the Hi catalog.

However, it was Nas who seemed to have been the first to flip this (Poke and Tone of the Trackmasters to be more exact), back with “Shootouts” from It Was Written. Call me crazy but listening back to this, some 14 years later, doesn’t one get the sense that Poke and Tone were listening to some of Rza’s beats and thinking, “yo, we need to get on this steez?” In any case, I admire how they didn’t opt for a straight loop but chop it up instead (Jesse “Fiyah!” West style!) Madlib’s flip on the same sample for The Lootpack’s “Wanna Test” doesn’t cut things up as much, opting instead to filter parts of the main, opening loop to add some dissonance. Fast-forward to 2007 and it’s an interesting contrast with how Kanye uses more of the original sample in its “pure” sonic form to open, but then chops it up a bit (w/ Green’s vocals sped-up and attached) for the main parts of the song. Honestly, I think I gotta give it up to the Trackmasters for the best flip of this sample – it just has the most edge and appealing sound of the bunch.

Continuing my “songs I thought of while reading other people’s posts” – Earfuzz has the new Kings Go Forth’s single, “One Day” and that reminded me that I’m behind on posting this:

The One & Nines: Something On Your Mind
From The One & Nines EP (2009)

This soul band out of New Jersey (no Jersey Shore jokes, please) contacted me over winter break and I really dug this one song off their new EP. Reminds me of that Noisettes song I posted last year in general sound but sans the rock elements. The arrangement here is done with smart subtly – the song doesn’t try to force an overly aggressive crescendo; it’s content with maintaining a slow burn that sparks towards the end without ever departing too far from the core, Southern Soul aesthetics that make this such an appealing tune. (Excellent use of back-up singers too – this isn’t nearly as acknowledged as it should be.)


Gladys Knight: Try to Remember/The Way We Were
From I Feel a Song (Buddah, 1974). Also on The Essential Collection.

Wu-Tang Clan: Can It Be It Was All So Simple?
From Enter the Wu-Tang (Loud, 1993)

Freeway: When We Remember
From Free At Last (Roc-A-Fella, 2007)

Yeah, I know it’s been a minute since the last “Who Flipped It” segment. This one came to mind the other week when I was chatting about this Gladys Knight song with my wife and I thought about both the Wu and Freeway songs that use Knight’s vocals so effectively. But before we get there, let me just note that it wasn’t until that conversation that I realized: duh, this was the same song as Barbra Streisand’s hit. Not only that but Knight manages to combine the song with lyrics from The Fantasticks, making this song an impressive proto-mash-up conceit.

Musically, RZA doesn’t really much of Knight’s song for “Can It Be So Simple” (look to Labi Siffre for that) but the song also wouldn’t be the same without the forlorn sounding snippet of Knight ghosting into the chorus. In contrast to that kind of subtlety, Bink decides to set off a bomb in your face when he takes a different part of the song and uses it power Freeway’s explosive “When They Remember” (one of my favorite songs of all 2007…the energy here is so palatable). On hypeness, I’d have to give the nod to Bink’s flip.


Pleasure Web: Music Man Pts. 1 and 2
From 7″ (Eastbound, 1973). Also on Super Breaks 3

Jurassic 5: Jayou
From Jurassic 5 EP (Interscope, 1997)

Jurassic 5: Concrete and Clay
From Quality Control (Interscope, 2000)

Similar to the last “Which flip is better?” post, this one features a single producer who has used the same sample source twice for two different songs.

The source here is one of the more obscure 45s on Eastbound: “Music Man Pt. 1 and 2” by Pleasure Web. Personally, I couldn’t find much on the artist at all; if anyone knows some details, illuminate the rest of us.

Cut first used “Part 2” of the song for “Jayou,” arguably the most distinctive cut off the first Jurassic 5 EP from ’97. Then, he revisited the same 7″ and flipped “Part 1” for “Concrete and Clay” which first appeared on the “Improvise” EP of 1999 (and was later released on the full-length Quality Control album). Personally, I was always more partial to “Concrete and Clay” myself though “Jayou” had more buzz going. It’s hard to choose b/t the different parts of “Music Man” though given that they’re practically two different songs. My inclination is to go with Part 1 simply b/c I like it with lyrics better but it’s hard to front on the flute flavor of its sibling.

Taking On Nautilus: Who Flipped It Best?

Bob James: Nautilus
From One (CTI, 1974)

Lord Shafiyq: My Mic Is On Fire
From 12″ (NUWR, 1987)

Main Source: Live At the BBQ
From Breaking Atoms (Wild Pitch, 1991)

Ghostface Killah: Daytona 500
From Ironman (Epic, 1996)

I had the idea for this post for quite a bit, ever since I remembered reading an interview with Bob James where he was asked what he thought about different samplings of his music. RZA’s flip on “Nautlius” for “Daytona 500” drew high praise, especially because RZA transposed the sample into a different key, giving it a more sinister edge. However, RZA was the latest in line of hip-hop producers to play off “Nautilus,” arguably the most popular of James’ CTI-era compositions, though not the most recognizable.

I realize the three songs I picked were merely a handful out of dozens of possibilities but “Live at the BBQ” seemed like a good contrast, especially because the way Large Professor worked with “Nautilus” isn’t as obvious as other uses. On the other hand, I went with Lord Shafiyq’s random rap classic, “My Mic Is On Fire,” because it was one of the early rap tunes to use “Nautilus” so prominently, and using one of the more striking passages at that.

Ski vs. Dr. Dre: Who Flipped It Better?

Labi Siffre: I Got The (Blues)
From Remember My Song (EMI, 1975)

Jay-Z: Streets Is Watching
From In My Lifetime (Roc-a-Fella, 1997)

Eminem: My Name Is…
From The Slim Shady LP (Interscope, 1999)

About time we got these two producers in the mix…and with an intriguing contrast of a shared sample. The Labi Siffre track has been used multiple times but most tend to flip the front part of the song – that dramatic portion that Ski uses for Jay-Z’s beat. It’s easy to see what the attraction to that would be. But it was Dr. Dre, coming up with Eminem’s first break-out single, who really put the highlight onto the bridge instead.

Personally, the real winner here has always been Siffre’s song. Apart from the fact that I love how an openly gay Black British singer would supply a track that’d be the backbone for rap artists not exactly known for their queer-friendly attitudes, “I Got The” is an incredible song in terms of how it builds, shifts and unwinds. Right around 3:25 is my favorite portion, right in the middle of that bridge that Dre uses. Simple sublime.

Pete Rock vs. Kanye West: Who Flipped It Better

Don Covay and the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band: If There’s a Will, There’s a Way
From Different Strokes for Different Folks (Janus, 1970). Also on Funky Yo Yo.

Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth: Lots of Lovin’ (remix)
From 12″ (Elektra, 1993)

Common: Southside
From Finding Forever (Geffen, 2007)

When I first heard the “Southside” during a listening session, my automatic thought was, “ah, ‘Ye is flipping that old Pete Rock beat.” Well…not exactly – there are some similarities, especially in how both songs use the same guitar/piano loop but while Pete Rock sticks with that sample, West uses more of Covay’s guitar to give “Southside” a harder edge. Gives the song a nice touch of difference and should make debating these two tracks more interesting.

Speaking of Covay, this Different Strokes album follows his Country Funk album and that’s an apt way to describe a lot of his tunes. It’s not “funk” in the conventional James Brown sense of it but Covay’s songs in this era managed to blend together country, blues and hard Southern soul together in a raucous little package.

“If There’s a Will” gets love given its sampling but frankly, I’ve always been a bigger fan of a different song off the same album: “Standing on the Grits Line.” Covay’s not from NOLA but this song has a distinctive Mardi Gras piano touch to it if you ask me. Recommended!

Primo vs… Primo?: Which Flip Is Better?

Caesar Frazier: Funk It Up
From 75 (Eastbound, 1975)

Gang Starr: Ex Girl to the Next Girl
From Daily Operation (Chrysalis, 1992)

Gang Starr: Speak Ya Clout
From Hard to Earn (Chrysalis, 1994)

I thought it’d be fun, for a change of pace, to pit a producer against himself. In this case, DJ Premier sampled two different portions from the same original source: “Funk It Up” from Caesar Frazier’s other Eastbound album, 75. (I put this up a little over 2 years ago. Fans of this series will get a kick out of the first line of that old post. Looks like I’ve backed off my own policy, at least for the time being).

Personally, I like that a producer would go back to a once-used source and find a new way to flip it (better than Marley putting out both “Ain’t No Half Steppin” then “Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag”…one of the stranger re-uses I’ve heard). There’s a rather obvious Dilla example of this too which I might throw up at some point.

What’s so striking in this case though is how utterly different the two uses sound which reflects the differences in the portions of Frazier’s original. It’s unexpected that a single source would yield such contrasting sonic styles.