Monday, June 20, 2016

Gary Clark Jr. - The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (2015)




Even if it's a bit cliché, I love it when an album opens with a track that suits its mission or the mission of the artist.  For Gary Clark Jr.'s 2nd album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, the song, The Healing, is perhaps the most prophetic way to lead off a most excellent record.


The Healing

The Texas native Gary Clark Jr. is perhaps one of the most under the radar Blues musicians active right now, mainstream anyway.  His first major label full-length album, Blak and Blu back in October of 2012 established him as a Neo-Soul, Blues, guitar playing master.  Who would have guessed that there was even a way to fuse that many seemingly related styles of music so well.  While that album brought Gary to our consciousness, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim from last year is the album that brought it all together perfectly.  

His influence didn't just become realized because he made a good album.  Back in Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy were both taken back by Clarks style and talent.  So much so that Clark became one of the youngest headliners at Clapton's Crossroads concert in 2014.

Cold Blooded

The Blues as a whole is a crazy genre of music that somehow over time has managed to evolve, unlike most music.  Sure music evolves all the time, rock in the 1950's differs vastly from the 80's and the 2000's  Blues is just a little different.  It's almost impossible for any form of music to maintain its roots, tell the same stories, and continue to be influenced by its originators all the while progressing to take on new elements from other sources.  Confusing right?  Consider R&B music, I only bring this up because of the recent death of Prince Be from the great 90's R&B duo PM Dawn, R&B in the 90's was beginning to become less about R&B and more about Hip-Hop.  R&B came from Blues and Soul, at some point in the 80's, let's call it the Luther Vandross era, R&B shifted away from the Blues and picked up elements of Jazz in its absence.  However, it wasn't until PM Dawn and the general rise of Hip-Hop in the 90's that R&B became what it is for the most part what it is today, Hip-Hop & R&B.  It's so blatant that most award shows actually categorize that as a genre.  Seriously.  The two couldn't and by all rights shouldn't be similar, but it's an evolution.  What does that have to do with Blues?  Well, everything regarding modern music comes back to Blues.  Whenever a new artist, particularly a Blues artist comes on the scene, a true Blues musician will play their music with the sound of their influences.  You'll hear Robert Johnson, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and others.  You'll hear blues rocker influences like Jack White, Jeff Beck, and John Mayer.  Here's where Gary Clark Jr. Comes in.  He's got the influence of Jimmy Vaughn and Eric Clapton and a style all his own.  The music that Gary Clark Jr. put out on this album while having shades of everything from Gospel to Hip-Hop to Blues to Rock, is ultimately a pure modern Blues exposition.

  Down To Ride

I was made aware of Gary Clark Jr. about 2 years ago while I on vacation in Chicago appreciating their Blues scene and of course, buying records.  At first, I didn't really love it.  I only had his first album to work with on mp3.  Up until about 2 weeks ago, I had actually forgotten him until I saw his performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he performed a great version of Cold Blooded with Jon Batiste and Stay Human.  I immediately thought that it sounded familiar.  I used my trusty Google Music search, and sure enough, I had Gary Clark Jr. Tagged from back in 2014.  I figured this time that I should really listen to this newer album a bit more closely.  After about 3 listens, I bought this beautiful double 3-sided record at Exile on Main Street in Branford CT and I've been listening to it non-stop for days.  Partially because for whatever reason it came with 2 DL codes.    Regardless, this album is truly a must own for any fan of the Blues, Rock, R&B, and or Funk.  Here's the bonus about getting it on vinyl, remember what I said about it being a 3-sided release?  Well, check out the B-side of the 2nd record.  

Yeah but that etching tho!

Just go get it!  Get it now!


I'm thinking...  Who wants a digital copy of this album?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Word Up! New From Eric Clapton, Mari And Other News.



I had tweeted this earlier, but it's worth noting and even adding a little more to it.  Eric Clapton was profiled in the Wall Street Journal for a new single that he kinda released ahead of his 23rd studio album due out later this month.  The crazy thing about this single, Spiral, he improvised the whole damn thing.  Check it out when you can.  It's the WORD!  Obviously, I'll be buying the hell out of this album when it hits the street Friday, May 20th.



In other news, I just wanted to post another apology for the lack of updates.  Simply put, I've been really preoccupied with everything except enjoying my free time.  You should know however, that what little free time I do have, I've been spending it inside of a bunch of record stores.  Since my RJD2 post back on April 9th, I've managed to increase my vinyl collection by about 33%.  I bought a new Pioneer turntable from the awesome folks at In Your Ear Records.  I acquired new speakers from a good buddy and augmented them this past weekend.  Why I have a 7.1 surround sound system in a room that's roughly 150/sq is anybody's guess, but damn.  It's fantastic!   Try listening to Tame Impala's Currents on a 7.1 surround system and tell me that doesn't make you hot.  All of that has contributed to me settling into a newer space and getting more comfortable with my surroundings which are things I haven't been able to do since the holidays.  

Over the next few weeks up through late June:

  • I have a lot coming up and going on.  I'll be traveling in, around, through, and back and fourth about CT for a while, so look out, I'm going to Red Scroll Records to do some damage!  I'll also be in and out of Exile On Main Street to soak up something new.  
  • My birthday is coming up and there's no better way to celebrate than buying myself that new Clapton record.  
  • I have a few concerts in June down in NYC and my long awaited vacation whereupon I'll definitely get some writing going on. 
All that said, this time last year it looked as if I would be blowing through all of the vinyl that I owned posting once a week, now, if I actually were to stop collecting, I could run this blog weekly for another 2 years and you'll never see the same record twice!  


Of course, I missed a lot by not posting, and that's not because I couldn't, it's because I made a conscious decision not to.  I purposefully didn't post for Record Store day because the original post that I made, I did so out of anger.  I actually condemned RSD because of its effects on music, record stores, indie artists, and the lack of quality releases.  I still have a draft of it, and perhaps I'll revisit it, until then I choose to stay positive.  Besides, I did end up supporting a few local record stores, and that's what's really important.

I also didn't post regarding the death of Prince mainly because what I had written devolved into an angry post about vinyl flippers and how they were seizing the moment and profiting off of the genius that was Prince.  Frankly, owning 2 of the greatest albums that he ever made, (IMHO), knowing that I'll never sell them nor be tempted to makes me happy.  I think that there are quite a few people out there that just don't give a fuck about music and too many fucks about money to appreciate music and vinyl.  So to that end, when I clean up that post, if I clean up that post,  and make it 98% about the artist and his music, I'll post it.  

I also had 2 other posts that I had started and subsequently shelved because I wasn't happy with the pictures that I took!  Needless to say now that I have a better sound system in place, with really bad lighting, I'll do a little more work and get those posts in the cannon over the next few weeks.

Finally, I do need to answer one of the comments that I had received over the past few months.  Someone had messaged me glowing over the success of my RJD2 post.  Which again, thank you all for the love.  It was by far the biggest post in this blog's history.  The indictment was that I spend too much time focusing on bands that nobody's heard of hence why those other posts don't get anywhere near the views and reactions that this one did.  Ouch.

In response, that's kinda the point.  I would get on my own nerves if I wrote about music that everybody's heard on the radio or a passing car.  There's a trove of outstanding music out there that many have never heard of.  it just happens to sound great on vinyl, and that's why I'm here.  The whole point of what I'm doing is in celebration vinyl culture.  Which in itself is an indie hobby.  If I didn't love indie music and bands that weren't widely known, I wouldn't be doing this.  So to all the indie groups, and those following me on Twitter, play on !  Let me know about your vinyl drops and I'll keep spinning.  That said, when you get some time, check out Mari who's released a flurry of music and remixes recently.  If you are a fan of Mozez, and by extension Zero 7, and yes, even Sia, you may enjoy Mari immensely. 


Mari - Free

Lastly, this post unofficially begins the countdown to #100.  The 100th post needs to be something special while I have an idea or two in the works, you just need to know that it'll be something kinda cool.  Like the 50th post, it'll also usher in a format change.  I'll be jumping to Wordpress and refreshing things a bit.  That project begins today.

That's all for now.  I'll be back Wednesday, where I'm going to get my immolation on.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sublime - Jah Won't Pay The Bills - 2016 (1991) RSD2016



The year was 1991, I was in junior high, gas was cheap, and music subcultures were trying giving rise to all kinds of new heights and identities.    The 80's ended on a really high note compared to the way it soared throughout that decade.  A lot of that had to do with the strength of film during that decade transition, and to an even larger degree subculture.  With pop music beginning to become annoying having been consumed by R&B and  "Boy Bands", hip-hop becoming regional, and rock bands becoming less hair and more power ballading, music in the 90's was set up to become really strange.  All the while there was an awful lot of music that had been considered underground or alternative to whatever was popular.  That was starting to take shape amidst the changes.  One of these "underground" genres, Ska, really came into its own with some awesome hero's and gained astronomic popularity with a set of fans that still wanted their music happy, but not necessarily defined.

Enter Sublime.  Sublime in 1991 certainly wasn't new, they just release a demo tape that launched them into a wider audience.  From their inception in 1988, they were relegated to playing small venues and clubs like a lot of local indie bands.  At some point in 1990, they were fortunate enough to be invited to literally break into a recording studio, record a collection of songs overnight and create one of the most popular demo tapes in the history of music that night.


Jah Won't Pay The Bills, the cassette, was released, or should I say, sold, from the trunk of their car for a while.  It's that kind of self-promotion that gained them some real popularity in southern California and enough to parlay them onto the national stage as leaders of the "Third Wave" of Ska music.  The Third Wave of Ska meaning that Ska wasn't even new.  Jamacia has been pumping out Ska since the 1950's.



DJ's


Wait.  What?  "I though Jamacia had been known for its Reggae and that Ska was an American  copy of that."  Nope.  However if it wasn't for that western influence that America was known for around WWII, there's an above average chance that Ska wouldn't have become what it did.  Simply put, Ska is essentially Reggae music with Blues/Rock influences.  Whereas true Reggae is more Jazz/Blues and less dancehall.  Ska has also changed and evolved over term adding new era-specific ingredients to its sound as the music shifted through the years.  

First Wave Ska, which was defined by Bob Marley & The Wailers and the Skatalites had heavy influences from the 1960's America.  Second Wave Ska was made popular by bands like The Specials and Beshara and had all of the influence from the late 60's with some more Rocksteady vibe built in.  It wasn't until the 1980's when The Third Wave Ska groups like Sublime and No Doubt infused it with Dub and heavy Calypso influences, that it became hugely popular as a genre again.  Sublime's demo album, really showcased these qualities.

Let's Go Get Stoned

As a group, Sublime was one of the early underground success stories of the 90's.  They were emerging during an era that was so crowded with subculture music it literally seemed as if the popular thing was to be unpopular.  1991 gave us everything from Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten to Massive Attacks Blue Lines and Prince's Diamonds & Pearls. That's pretty wide ranging.  Who would have thunk that by this time the following year Sublime would be so popular that their official first release, 40oz To Freedom, would go down in history as one of the biggest Reggae/Ska albums of all time?  It all started with this simple demo tape, illegally recorded, and sold from the trunk of a car in Long Beach California.

Badfish

For the first time ever, Jah Won't Pay The Bills was released on vinyl this past Record Store Day,  (A bright spot on an otherwise dreary promotion), and it sounds as good as I remember it back with I was in junior high.  Hell, it sounds a little bit better.  You really appreciate just how strong a singer that Bradley Nowell was.  You can hear how true Sublime was to the sound of Ska and years later you really get the message that they were sending through their music.  

If you were lucky enough to get one of the 420 of these albums that were pressed on green vinyl, you'll have to take a picture for me.  I really wanted one of those.  I am really fortunate enough to own this again in any variation though.  Sometimes I miss my tape collection.  If you were ever into real Ska or amped Reggae, you need to own this one.  Check it out anywhere tapes are sold, or if you can, venture into you local record store and grab this RSD release.  It's more than worth the $20 you'll spend.  


If you really try hard, you might make out a tip-off about the next vinyl pick somewhere in this post.  Hint, it's kinda obvious.



Saturday, April 9, 2016

RJD2 - Dame Fortune - (2016)



In yet another hard left turn, I was turned onto a release from RJD2 last week that based on the strength of the first single, Peace Of What, I just knew that I had to own it.  For a bunch of reasons, though it may not seem like it, it's rare this became a release day purchase.  If you recall the last time I felt this strongly about a release, it was David Bowie's final album, Blackstar.

Peace Of What (feat. Jordan Brown)

What got me with that first single is his departure from anything that I've heard from him before.  I alluded to it briefly in the single teaser post last week wherein this really sounded as if this album was going to be, at least emotionally, the deepest DJ album that anybody's heard in a while.  That's a distinction that's thrown around a lot on the DJ circuit.  You can gather all the Hudson Mohawke's, Dan The Automator's, Moby's, Wax Taylor, Ratatat's, and Gramatik's of the world,  all of their fans will say that they have at least one song that was so deep and meaningful that it really ties that particular album together.  Well, what if an entire album were full of rhythms and lyrics that just hit on different levels of replayability.  Not because they affect you, but because they're just good.  They're catchy.  They're different.

At some point, perhaps in the teaser post for the single a few weeks ago, I mentioned that many may not be aware of who RJD2 is.  Ramble John Krohn, RJD2, is the genius behind the theme to Mad Men*.  You've also heard his work if you've spent any measurable amount of time in Washington State over the past 10 years or so as his most well-known song, Ghostwriter from his first album, Deadringer, was used in various regionally significant things my favorite surprise being the music played before the introductions to the Seattle Mariners home games.  It's not from the new album, but you really should hear it.

Ghostwriter - Deadringer (2002)

Almost any review or write up of RJD2 will point out the hip-hop aspect of his work, some going so far as to call him a hip-hop artist.  That may very well be true, frankly, I've never asked him and if I ever do get the chance to, you best believe I will, to that end this album goes a long way, in my mind anyway, toward showing just how complex he is as an artist.  Sure, there are blatant hip-hop infused tracks on this album like this....

Up In The Clouds (feat. Blueprint)

...and you're not wrong.  One of my most favorite tracks on this album is just begging to be ripped, sampled and abused by some ass-hat so-called hip-hop artist who's looking for a single with a catchy hook.  (I cannot like, the 5th track on this album, A New Theory, is straight fire.) There's just so much more of a collaborative effort throughout this album this time, more so than his previous albums that it really feels as if his whole existence was working up to this album to show off just how much he's grown as an artist.  I mean, given everything I've posted above, can you honestly say that you expected to hear this?

Your Nostalgic Heart

I guess that's the hallmark of an artist that stays true to their art.  They're willing to experiment and change for the sake of growth and not necessarily for being popular, edgy, or even rich.  These will be the artists that can make an album every 3-6 years and remain ever popular in between as opposed to only hearing from them whenever they come up with a new single or decide that producing is really where they belong.

Having read a wide array of reviews of this album, I'm really glad that I took an unhealthy amount of time listening to this album over and over for weeks before I finished this post.  I think a lot of people really missed the mark on offering their opinions of Dame Fortune. The ones that didn't miss the mark were treated to one of the best menageries of sound that only comes around once in a great while.   After listening to this album so much recently, it made Telefon Tel Aviv's Immolate Yourself that much better.  Regardless, be sure to check out A New Theory and Sheboygan Left as well for some added depth to truly get the most out of listening to this awesome record.  Also thank you all for making my previous (teaser) post the most read post ever! 

Snag this vinyl be it ever so beautiful along with the mp3 download code from you favorite local record store.

My next post will feature either one of the following, Record Store Day, or an album that has been alluding me like a mother-fucker till very recently.  


*Oh, and well there's this by the way...

A Beautiful Mine (Theme From Mad Men)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

(UPDATE) Honest/ly RJD2 Peace Of What - (2016)



Update:  After the massive feedback I've gotten, thank you all by the way, I'm going to snag Dame Fortune first thing in the morning and listen to it while I travel up and down the east coast this weekend.  Expect a full WMV vinyl pick post when I get back in town after Easter.  I'll even try to spin Deadringer before I leave Saturday.  Frankly, Dame Fortune is sounding like it may be the "deepest" DJ album in a real long time, I'm talking 90's, to attack music. 

I can confirm that if you're in the New England states, you'll be able to find this album at Newbury Comics, (Call ahead to your local store, it hasn't hit their website yet.), or online through Amazon here.  Not familiar with RJD2?  Shame...  Check these guys out, they're kinda something special.

This is the most psyched I've been over a launch day album since Blackstar.   

~~~

So this is happening on Friday 3/25/16.  The Philly Hip-Hop infused Chillwave DJ is back with his 10th studio album, Dame Fortune.  DJD2 falls into the category of music you've definitely heard but probably don't know where it came from.  From what I've heard of the new album, this one is full of guests, and all kinds of new rhythm.  I really can't wait to go on faith that this is as good as if not better than the last few of his albums that I've bought.  Remind me to feature 2002's Deadringer for you one day.

I'll be traveling to CT on Saturday, hHopefully Exile On Main Street  in Branford has this one in stock.  I gotta shop local whenever possible, though if that's not possible for you, it's available through Amazon, and I'm sure if you ask nicely, the fine folks at Newbury Comics ought to stock this one.



Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Neon Indian - VEGA INTL Night School (2015)



Twice now I've lied about what vinyl I was going to feature here.  A month ago, I "promised" that I was going to feature my collection of singles.  Last week I "promised" that I was going to talk about soundtracks.  I called an audible over the weekend when I received my vinyl copy the newest Neon Indian LP, Vega International Night School.  You see sometimes, the first world problems of a vinyl appreciator/collector include getting music that's so good, you just have put a lot of things on hold to create a new playlist for your life.

So a little upfront disclosure about a few Neon Indian related things.  I was turned on to these guys back in 2010 about a week before my birthday at a concert in Terminal 5 in NYC.  They were one of the openers for yet another best I've ever seen Massive Attack concert.  Initially, I wrote them off as a really strange psychedelic/electronica group.  Lots of sounds, with no real music that drones on 5 minutes too long.  I came to that conclusion simply because the girl that I was dating at the time had pulled me along to an Animal Collective concert that previous summer.  There's nothing more aggravating than being eaten alive by mosquitoes in Prospect Park on a summer night listening to what roughly balances out to music class for kindergartners.  I'm all about psych-rock, but damn.  There's a line between Phish and a bunch of high 20yo hipsters jamming out to 20 minute long instrumental menageries of sound.  {sigh}  I had a point here, at the end of the half hour, maybe less, that Neon Indian's set was, I couldn't help but say to my lady friend, "Why aren't these guys headlining somewhere?"

Annie

In 2010, they were touring with various bands mostly on the indie circuit behind their first album, Psychic Chasms.  That's the album that I bought on mp3 that year and subsequently spend an unhealthy amount of time listening to.  (Side Note:  That album is hard AF to find on vinyl.  If anyone should venture across one, please let me know.) Somehow an indie electronic chillwave group managed to create a sound that was beyond the experimental and actually made music.  All credit to Alan Palomo and his visionary style.  Annie was the first single from this album, from jump after a seemingly literally backwards broke beat intro song, Annie goes into a real synth driven Caribbean banger.  It's borderline Caribbean funk.  That may be the biggest takeaway from this whole album.  In addition, to it falling under Psychedelia/Chill-wave/Synth-Pop, I really can't help but to actually groove to this when I'm alone.  By its categorization, this isn't dance music, though it really is simply because of the funk element.  

Slumlord

VEGA INTL Night School is the 3rd album from Neon Indian.  Frankly, I wasn't going to buy this one, let alone on vinyl after their 2nd album, Era Extraña in 2011.  It was such a departure from their first album that clearly they were going mainstream.  You know you've made it as an indie artist when you're more concerned with production and radio quality than a focus on the art of your craft.  With this album, Neon Indian made good on the assumption that Psychic Chasms was an incomplete album that left the listeners wanting more.  To that end, the 2nd single, Slumlord, was probably the most coherent radio-friendly song on the album.  That's not to say that there wasn't a good groove throughout the rest of the album.  It's more of an indictment that their 2nd album, Era Extraña, which was all about radio play and seemingly little more.  Wasn't bad by any means, but it was a pretty hard left turn from Psychic Chasms and Night School.


The Glitzy Hive

So in the disco funk vein of this album, the 3rd single, The Glitzy Hive released in October was somewhat of a "Yasss Queen" moment for the group.  If you ever really wanted Goldfrapp's 2005 Supernature to have a continuation, it would have ended with this song.  Why?  Cause it's glamourous. 

All things considered, for this Chillwave group's 3rd release, it's easily one of the best albums out there that you may never have even heard of.  There's enough approachability to turn even the hardest anti-electronic music fans on to trying something new.

It took some serious wrangling to finally get this album on vinyl.  It's not difficult at all to get, and it comes with a mp3 download card for you non-vinyl folk.  I also encourage you to check out Neon Indian's previous 2 releases, you will be pleasantly surprised with what you hear.  

The next post will be heavily critical to RSD 2016. Then we're back to the music.  All the music that's fit to spin anyway.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tricky - Maxinquaye (1995)



I've mentioned it numerous times in and out of posts for as long as I've been posting, but I figure I may as well dive into it a bit deeper as opposed to making an entire post about it.  Music from the 90's was strange.  That's my point, and I'm sticking to it.  

What does that mean exactly?

Well, for openers, unlike any other decade before it, the 90's somehow managed to cycle and support many different types and genre's of music.  Sure, each decade has it's factions, but in the 90's, never have so many distinctly different types of music manage to come to the forefront of prominence and stay there, or at the very least, leave a lasting impression.  Go with me for a sec, How on earth does such a huge amount of seemingly underground music, become so mainstream that it actually makes things like alternative and subculture, popular?  This is really a whole other type of post after all and I'll do it someday.  Instead, think about how on earth we rediscovered that music could come from anywhere that wasn't LA, the midwest, or down south?  In the 90's we discovered that "Seattle" sound, praised the resurgence of Detroit Rock, this time, they're garage rockers.  Both the east and west coast took rap music and did two very different things with it, both somewhat incredible.  Globally, music became just that, more global.  The Caribbean influences we once knew of Reggae, Island, or World music, became Ska when mixed with punk.  European DJ's began fusing musical styles together and created Trance.  Still there was one real big surprise, a holdover from the 80's that somehow managed to evolve into something bigger.

Music from the UK in the 80's was largely straight Punk.  Sure, there were UK rockers, but they were for older people.  Nobody can or should ever discount The Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Who, and much too many more to mention.  Instead, you got to ask what could pass as UK's underground?  Frankly, Rap.  Rap, across the pond, was by many rights considered, well, dirty.  Not from a context point of view, but more of a class point of view.  Not too dissimilar from here in the US when you think about it. though while Rap here was generally always been about either status social issues, there it was more political and then social.  Yet, for some reason, it was far too liberal for the mainstream and therefore, considered something that should only be heard in a club or the confines of your personal music player.  To that end, is it any surprise that the 90's trend in music could affect the UK as well?  The global landscape changed so much in Europe that the tail end of generation X began to speak up and have a voice.  It was that voice that took underground music to the mainstream with a message.  Fittingly, in January of 1994, this happened.

Aftermath

For context, I was still in high school when I heard this for the first time, Coming from the school of darkwave music where Depeche Mode, the Cure, Dresden Dolls and Bauhaus were my hero's, this was so damn life changing I had to really think about whether or not I was completely goth or not.  Ahead of Tricky's first solo album, Maxinquaye, he released Aftermath as the first single about a year before the album ever went off.  At the time, people only knew of Tricky from his work with Massive Attack who at this point were still riding high from their legendary 1st album, Blue Lines.  Tricky enlisted his then Girlfriend, and accomplished and incredibly talented singer by her own right, Martina Topley-Bird to duet with him, and for added quality, selected a co-producer in Marc Saunders.  The same Marc Saunders that produced 2 Cure albums, Mixed Up and Wish 2 years prior.  The thing about Aftermath that really caught my attention as well as the attention of others was the production style.  Up until this point, nobody had even conceived such a style of music.  How could something so gritty, disjointed, and tempo shifting be so addictive?  3 Months later we found out that Aftermath was only the beginning.

Ponderosa

Ponderosa popped up like a fluke.  People had already forgotten whatever Aftermath promised to be, without an album to support it, it became a 1 off to musical oblivion.  Then Ponderosa happened.  Tricky took a slightly bigger backseat to the performing side and let Martina shine here.  He also experimented with a number of musical styles, samples, some seriously unheard of broke beats.  It came together like a beautiful mess.  It was the first song that I had ever heard that sounded like it could have started off with worst of intentions and became someone's art project.

As 1994 wore on, Tricky finished producing Maxinquaye, named after his mother, there wasn't another single released until January of 1995, a month before the actual album was released.  It made a lot more sense to release something that's was as hard hitting as Aftermath was a year before.  It ended up serving as the arrival of something differently great.  You see, had Maxinquaye been released in 2004, it may not have really registered with anyone.  We needed to hear Queen Latifah's U.N.I.T.Y, Ini Kamoze's Here Comes The Hot Stepper, Sheryl Crow's All I Wann Do, and quite a few others before we could absorb something so different to music.  (Yep, that all happened in 1994.)  By 1995, Aside from TLC, there really wasn't anything else out that nobody hadn't heard of yet.  That really developed a landscape free for the taking.  That's when Tricky released Overcome.

Overcome

By the time the album dropped a month after this, Trip-Hop was officially a genre.  Tricky, along with Martina Topley-Bird, Massive Attack, up and comers Morcheeba and Portishead a year before had become legitimate with the release of this album.  This song, in particular, gave this music an anthem for the most underground of underground sound.  

Black Steel

In March, Black Steel was Tricky's take on a Public Enemy hit from 1989.  If you ever wondered what Public Enemy would sound like if they were Punk - Rock, you get a real good sense of it here.  Martina Topley-Bird really stood out here more so than any other song on the record.  Tricky at this point was really a background singer.  Another thing of note is that it's the 4th in a series of released music that doesn't have a stable tempo whatsoever.  This style of music would continue to not only be a hallmark of music that will become popular in the future but a trademark of Tricky for years to come.  


Pumpkin

The last single released from here was Pumpkin.  If you listen really close, you'll hear a very young Allison Goldfrapp.  That's right, the same Goldfrapp that got super popular during the resurgence of glam-pop in the early to mid 2000's.  You'll have to listen to this song on its own.  It's a good thing that there's no official video to go along with it.  I'm sure you'll have no problems whatsoever coming up with your own images here.  It's just that vivid.  Tricky is one hell of a personal storyteller and an even better artist.  Maxinquaye is the result of such genius.

Maxinquaye to date has sold well over 500,000 records worldwide, and while that doesn't sound like very many, I assure you for something once widely regarded as underground only, or for subculture fans only, to be as acclaimed it was, and to become a defining album in all of music, it's nothing short of outstanding.  Like much of music from the 90's, it was up until fairly recently damn near impossible to find on vinyl.  The fine folks over at Music On Vinyl rereleased this album in 2012 and as of 2016, it's becoming harder to get again, especially as a new generation of people are discovering Tricky for the first time.  The jury is still out on his newest album, Skilled Mechanics.  It was released on January 22nd and I haven't had  a chance to listen to it completely yet.  When you're ready, you can find this, Maxinquaye and perhaps a few other great Tricky releases at Newbury Comics.  

Next week, yes I promise you there will be an update next week, I've already started writing it, I'm going to deal with a few soundtracks.  Some fun, others funny.  All of them on vinyl.  Never stop spinning.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Maroon Five - Songs About Jane - 2002


What the what now?  Maroon 5?  On this blog!?  I know what you're probably thinking.  I done sold the hell out, or that I have been featuring so much retro pop that I've just acquired a new taste in music.  I assure you, that's not the case.  Not even a little bit.  Matter of fact, this is a borderline Sia(esque) post.  It's more of a WTF happened post.  What if I told you that there once was a time that Maroon 5 was actually a very good alt-pop group?  Before they started crashing weddings and moved like Jagger, Maroon 5 actually made really good music.  So good in fact that they were regarded as indie hipsters along the lines of Gotye.

From 1994 till roughly when this album came to life, the group was originally known as Kara's Flowers.  Kara's Flowers, to say the least, was essentially what I would call 90's Bro Rock.  Which, if you don't know what that is, it's anything you would have heard on the original American Pie Soundtrack.  The only album they released under that name, The Fourth World, was a mediocre indie success and definitely wasn't anywhere near commercial enough to be considered a commercial failure.  They really didn't fit into that era of music.  As a band from California, the sound just wasn't right for the time.  We're talking about a year that saw Ace Of Base hold 3 of the top 10 songs.  Salt N' Peppa had Shoop, and the music was so strange that the Crash Test Dummies had a hit with a song was literally little more than humming, Mmm - Mmm - Mmm - Mmm.  I'll give them this though, had they had a major label backing them, they would have beat a lot of people to the stage, but then grunge happened anyway so there's that.

Fast forward to June 25, 2002.  Songs About Jane is released to a field of crickets.  A newly renamed, and a fresh sounding band came out with an entire album with zero publicity and no singles.  Here's the rub, the first single from the album, Harder To Breathe, was released on July 9th 2002, about 2 weeks after the album.  It took 20 weeks for it to even register on charts.  The International charts that is.

Harder To Breathe

It was sometime around this period that I picked up the CD.  Initially, I didn't think very highly of it, but it was the best of a really bad situation.  I mean, Nickelback had the biggest single of 2002 with How You Remind Me.  I'll never forget the day that I went to pick up a futon in SoHo and forgot to grab my other CD's for the road trip.  I ended up listening to Songs About Jane about 4 times that day.  It grew on me.  By the time I hit the Manhattan Bridge, I was blasting it with the windows open that unreasonably warm and rainy March day.  I tried to get other people to listen to that album, but nobody cared.  I do however remember saying to no less than a few people, someday this might catch on.

This Love

Their second single, This Love, was released 2 years later.  That's right.  I said 2 years.  January 27th, 2004.  Sometime between 2002 and 2004 something really strange happened.  Figuring that their first single took 20 weeks to chart, making it the longest ever to do so, The Maroon 5 brain trust felt that their album really had legs.  I would like to think that they caught up to their time.  You see, 2003 was all about Soul and R&B.  Aaliyah, Beyonce, and R Kelly made up more than half of the top singles of 2003.  By early 2004 when this single was released, it was done so in the same cannon.  R&B was popular then.  Maroon 5 had found their sound.  They were dubbed as "white soul" with shades of R&B.  So much so that they were asked to tour with some of the largest R&B acts of that time period.  Just like that, 2004 found Usher, Alicia Keys, and Maroon 5 making up the top 5 singles of the year.  The song, This Love, ended up winning Maroon 5 their first Grammy, and two years after the album was released, suddenly it's hitting the charts in the top 10.  

The album flirts with hard rock, elements of soul, and lots of R&B.  Not Beyonce R&B, but 80's style R&B.  Think Billy Ocean R&B.  What made Maroon 5 unique was their approach to how they timed their music.  They knew that they were either way ahead of their time, or too far behind it.  The 90's weren't ready for them.  The 2000's signaled a huge redefinition of music anyway, and they changed with the time.  

The next 2 singles also came in 2004.  They figured to ride the success of their Grammy and make sure that people heard what Maroon 5 was all about.  In July they released, She Will Be Loved.

She Will Be Loved

She Will Be Loved reached 35 on the Billboard charts that year.  How is it that a group can have 2 of the top songs in a year, 2 years after the album those songs are from is released?  I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that there was really only 2 types of music around then.  R&B or Country.  For those that are old enough to recall, 2004 was roughly when Country music began it's popular resurgence.  It was also the year that I famously reminded a lot of folks that I had an original CD of Songs About Jane long before Maroon 5 was popular.  As a matter of fact, there were a good number of people actually believing that Maroon 5 was a new group.  They've been around for 10 years at this point.  Essentially, me knowing about and to a degree liking this group in 2002 made me a hipster.  They later released Sunday Morning just before Christmas of 2004.  No doubt hoping for even more of that Grammy love, but sadly it was too much a ballad in a sea of really bad stuff that began to creep into 2005.  Holla Back Girl anyone?

Sunday Morning

The final single, Must Get Out, was little more than small club material, however, it made it to 61 on the charts domestically.  It's appropriate that this was the last single from this album.  At some point, and even listening to it now, it really sounds like Adam Levine knew that Maroon 5 was going to enter another shift in music style.  Actually, more appropriately, it sounded like he wanted to make a hit record.  What did that mean?  In a nutshell, it meant that rather than make a sleeper hit, such as Songs About Jane, make a radio friendly pop album.  So, they did, and thus the Maroon 5 that you all know these days some 10 years later was born.

I get it, there's a reason Pop music is called Pop music.  Supposedly it's what the music buying public is into.  That doesn't make it good.  It certainly doesn't make it bad either.  It just makes it manufactured.  It creates a lot of acts that sound very much the same.  It's sad that Maroon 5 chose to go in such a radically different direction post Songs About Jane, but I'm sure someone will find greatness in whatever it is they do now.  Maybe to others, it'll be near as good as this one.

Originally, like most music in the late 90's early 2000's, anything released on vinyl was remarkably difficult to find.  It took the better part of the last 5 years for this album to get a proper re-release and was done so by 2 different labels and distributed by 4 different vendors and as 4 different types.  If you were lucky to get one of the 4000 copies last year during the reissue, you landed something special.  This is a great pressing.  2 slabs of 180grm wax packaged with some remixes and mp3's of the entire album.  If you can find one of these for less than $50 go out and get it. 


Next week, in light of Valentines Day, I'm presenting, Singles.  Cause, well, that's what I feel like, being single.

Must Get Out

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Massive Attack - 3D - Tricky - Take It There (2016)



Oh. Shit.  Massive Attack just jumped up and smacked us in the head with a 4 song EP and it's hard as fuck.  Why would a digital EP of all things elicit such a response from me?  Well, for those in the know, Massive Attack is in my top 5 most favorite groups of all time.  This group of random recovering political rap stars from the UK's underground literally created what was known in the 90's as Trip Hop.  Without them, there would be no Portishead, Morcheeba, Nightmares On Wax, Thievery Corporation, Zero - 7, and the list goes on.  From their first groundbreaking release, Blue Lines back in 1991, it was clear that these guys were the voice of a lost group of pre-grunge self-aware indie music listening bunch.  Their music was and to a degree continues to be downtempo electro darkwave for adults.  Their subsequent releases, Protection (1994), No Protection (1995), Mezzanine (1998), 100th Window (2003), and Heligoland (2010) evolved their sound so much and brought so many artists into prominence that it's almost criminal the mainstream isn't listening to this. 

That, however, isn't the only reason this is such a big deal.  The real hook is, this is the first time since Protection that Massive Attack has performed with the original lineup fully intact.  Meaning that Tricky has returned.  Harder than ever.  Tricky is perhaps the most "real" rapper in music today.  He's also a gifted producer.  He's literally everything that Kanye West thinks he is.  From Tricky's first solo album in 1995, Maxinquae, which will be featured here in the coming weeks, you got a real feel for just how gifted he is lyrically and emotionally.  Having the whole group together again even if only for a 4 song EP, is nothing short of brilliance, and a long time coming. If Robert Del Naja is the heart of this group and 3D is the body, Tricky is the soul.  He's the single piece that they've been missing for years, and here released today, you'll find out why.  

If you've ever seen Massive Attack or Tricky live, you know exactly what to expect from these guys.  Some of the most technical displays, hard-hitting messages, and over the top music that not only makes you move but makes you think just important music is.   That said, for the next 4:31 listen to the first single from Massive Attacks newest EP released today, Take It There.  They really took it there.  I hope there's a new full album on the horizon from these guys.  The world needs their music back.  I'll be back with more 90's vinyl next week.  In the meantime, you can reserve this EP on double vinyl over at their website.  Its official release is March 4.  You best believe, I got that on lock.


video
Take It There

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Serious/ly (Sort Of) - Tricky - Boy (2016)


Well, don't look now.  Somebody has awakened the beast.  Judging by this single, one can only imagine what sort of music we're getting this time from the ever reclusive always brilliant Trip-Hopper.  Sounds radically different from anything I've heard from him before.  Can't wait to hear this.  It's out January 22, 2016.





Friday, January 15, 2016

David Bowie - Blackstar - (2016)



It's been an awful start to the New Year with regard to influential musicians.  The ending of last year was probably a horrible warning of things ahead, beginning with Scott Wieland, Natalie Cole, and Lemmy Kilmister.  Every single one of those musicians left such a mark in music as a whole, it's hard to actually conceive music moving ahead without each of them.  It's even more difficult to quantify what their best work was.  Each of them left us with something new and unforgettable.  Each of them defined their genre of music and kept evolving it.  All of them will be remembered for being larger than the music they created.

That brings us to 2016.  Believe it or not, the first album that I planned on buying and featuring here this year was David Bowie's 25th album, Blackstar.  With the dearth of musicians announcing their releases this year I had to go on faith that David Bowie wouldn't disappoint and delay his release.  After all, he hasn't released an album since 2013, and frankly I was shocked when I heard about this one over the summer.  I decided immediately that would probably be one of the biggest and best albums I could own, at that point, it became a matter of when it would be released.  Fast forward to Record Store Day light, (AKA Black Friday) when I found out the official release date would be David Bowie's Birthday, it was official.  Blackstar became the first David Bowie album that I ever bought on release day.  A distinction that I'm sure my parents couldn't even claim.  A good bunch of the 24 other releases Bowie has had over the years has managed to elude me while crate digging.  So to be able to get in on the ground floor of something I knew I literally waited my whole life for was so worth being one of the only people in the record store that morning buying that album.  The question is, was I waiting for this experience because of the music, David's talent, a release of an icon or all of the above?  The answer, at the time, was easy.  New music from someone that I knew I needed to have.  Now, a week later my reasoning has changed.  I knew I needed to have Blackstar on its release day because I knew I needed to have Blackstar on its release day.  That's all nothing more.  Turns out, it's one of the best decisions that I've made all year.  

Friday, November 17, 2015:  The first single, the title track was released and I had heard it for the first time on Satellite radio.  Blackstar, at first, wasn't immediately recognizable as something that David Bowie was even capable of.  I thought that it was an intro for something.  It was calm and haunting.  Not in a way that any of his other music was.  You see, David has had a way across 25 albums of evolving his sound so much that you would have a very difficult time placing what era a particular song of his was even released.  About 5 minutes into the song, something really interesting happens.  The entire song changes from haunting and ominous to something so fantastical, you would think that it came from the Labyrinth soundtrack.  It became hopeful and poignant.  Elements of jazz and funk invaded what was once something setting up to be a wall of sound in an experimental soundscape, to become a real complex hybrid of instruments and orchestrated brilliance. The remaining 4 minutes of the song became something special.  It became something that an entire album could be carried with.  This was a 9-minute teaser of what David could very well have been working on for the past 3 years.

Blackstar

Monday, December 14, 2015:  I posted here what would be for the final time of 2015.  I had made it up in my head to map out how I was going to begin the new year.  I was going to open with a New Years day post and follow it up with a release day vinyl pick of Lazarus on Friday, January 8th, David Bowie's birthday.  Somewhere in that post, I even remember suggesting that David's new album was one to be anticipated.  Hopefully, I made that point as clear as vinyl.

Thursday, December 17, 2015:  I had already made up my mind to buy this album after listening to the first single multiple times whenever it was on.  The 9-minute song is something of music past that I have long missed, and having one that was so good be so current was so worth waiting in your car to finish listening to before you went off to do whatever you were doing.  So on this day when his 2nd single was released, Lazarus, this was a complete surprise.  This sounded like classic Bowie set to Jazz.  The only visual I had in my mind was something akin to his 1999 album, Hours.  It reminded me of "Something In The Air".  It had the same pedigree, it began slow and solemn and over time built to something massive with so much emotion you actually felt better when it was over.  It was like a hype song without the rapping.  That was the vision of Lazarus with nothing more to go on than the radio.  It's a week before Christmas, and release date for this album can't get here soon enough.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016:  I elected to skip a New Years day post.  It would have been little more than a pointless Happy New Year to everyone with little substance.  Because of that, I was now investing all of my time pre-writing what was in my mind, the most anticipated record release in a long time.  In 2 days I would finally own a release day copy of an album, which up to this point, is incredible.  A lot of reviews had come in and this album sounded incredible.  For the first time, David Bowie made an entire album with a 4 piece Jazz ensemble. There were rumors of influence from hip-hop artists such as Kendrick Lamar.  This whole thing is building up to something real special.  Later this day I saw the video for Lazarus.  Suddenly the world changed.  Did I really just feel uncomfortable seeing David act like this?

Friday, January 8, 2016:  It's finally here.  I called Newbury Comics and had them hold a copy of the album for me, which they amazingly obliged, I was finally going to own this album.  The plan was to grab it, run home and finish the first post of 2016 with a bang.  I had been listening to the album all day on Spotify at this point, like someone listening to an album on their way to a concert.  I couldn't wait!    Unfortunately, I ended up working later than I thought, I didn't make it to Newbury Comics till just before they closed and I was consumed that whole weekend.  I was so frustrated with that, that I scrapped everything I had written up to then in advance of posting the album.  I thought, I'll listen to the album all weekend and do a Vinyl Monday post instead.   The more I listened to the album, the better it got.  I also watched Lazarus once more, this time, it became even more unsettling. 

Monday, January 11, 2016:  I was awoken at about 2 am by a friend of mine who simply asked if I had heard the news.  "What news?" I asked.  David Bowie had passed away late Sunday night.  Fast forward to 8 am, I couldn't believe it, still.  Over the past few days as more details came out about what he had been suffering from the past 18 months, and really listening to the lyrics of all of the songs on this album, I finally understood that this was his last album.  


It took a few days of listening to damn near all 25 albums and watching Labyrinth more times than I chose to admit to getting here.  This isn't the post that I wanted to make.  The original post was about how it took 24 albums for David Bowie to sound at peace with himself.  It would have talked about how through 25 albums, this one, Blackstar, was the first one that ever reached #1.  The post I wanted to write would have compared this album to Heathen, and Hours and contrasted with Earthling and Young Americans, (Frankly his best album).  I would have gone on at length about how David Bowie, more than any other artist was capable of remaining relevant.  His style, his music, his artistry, and everything else about him kept him in our minds.  Whenever an artist as unique as Bowie releases anything, it's a big deal.  That's what people look forward to, being first to see what comes next.  That's why it struck me as really strange...  Friday night January 8th when I picked up the album, I asked the clerk if they had sold out of the album.  She said no, they had plenty left.  I looked at her strangely, thanked her and went on about my night.  Why was I the only person in the store buying that album?

So here we are, a week after the release of Blackstar.  5 days after the death of David Bowie.  I can honestly say that owning what has become one of the single best records of my collection, has become one of the greatest albums in the history of music.   This beautifully packaged and presented final swansong of David Bowie was purchased at Newbury Comics on Newbury Street in Boston.  All 180gm of it and it came with a mp3 download code.  Own this album any way you can, and never stop till you find the rest of the Bowie that you'll come to love if this is your indoctrination to the incredible talent that David Bowie is.  With that, the video that defines his career.  Happy New Year.

RIP David Bowie.

Lazarus