Friday, September 30, 2011

the low end theory

A Tribe Called Quest took hip hop back to its jazz roots with pensive loops built around heavy rhythms. When most of rap was focused on violence and an aggressive sound, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad focused on a more positive and laid-back vibe. Phife says, “a lot of people will scare you into believing certain things or liking their material, but it was never like that with us. We just spoke on how we felt at the moment and it was the truth. We were one of those groups that didn’t have a problem admitting that we cried in front of our mothers.” They produced the album alongside Pete Rock and Skeff Anselm, using live drums and upright bass to get a realistic jazz sound. Q-Tip recalls, “I just felt like a conduit… like I wasn’t even conscious...It was just like energy that we didn’t even plan on, we just got in and it was almost just like how a band jams.” The downbeat Afro-centric intelligence of 'The Low End Theory' was a game changer for hip hop, selling platinum and influencing a whole generation.

sets the scene with samples from 'Time' by The Last Poets, 'Tribute to Obabi' by The Last Poets, 'The Soil I Tilled for You' by Shades of Brown, and 'A Chant for Bu' by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers.

“Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
We could find the Abstract, listening to hip hop
My pops used to say it reminded me of bebop
I said, ‘Well daddy, don’t you know that things go in cycles?
The way that Bobby Brown is just ampin like Michael
It’s all expected, things are for the lookin’
If you got the money, Quest is for the bookin’”

'Check the Rhyme' was the first single and debuted the vocal interplay between Q-Tip and Phife. It made it to number one on the Hot Rap Singles chart. It samples 'Fly Like an Eagle' by Steve Miller Band, 'Love Your Life' by Average White Band, 'Hydra' by Grover Washington, Jr., and 'Baby, This Love I Have' by Minnie Riperton.

"You on point Phife?
All the time, Tip."

This black-and-white video for 'Jazz (We've Got)' segues into a bit of 'Buggin' Out in full color. The single for 'Jazz' peaked at number sixteen on the Hot Rap Singles chart. It samples 'Don't Change Your Love' by the Five Stairsteps, 'Sing a Simple Song' by Sly & the Family Stone, 'Red Clay' by Freddie Hubbard, 'Green Dolphin Street' by Lucky Thompson, and 'Long Red' by Mountain.

"So push it, along, trails, we blaze
Don't deserve the gong, don't deserve the praise
The tranquility will make ya unball your fist
For we put hip-hop on a brand new twist"

'Scenario' hit number six on the Hot Rap Singles chart. It samples 'So What' by Miles Davis, 'Blind Alley' by Emotions, 'Give It Up' by Kool & the Gang, 'Soul Vibrations' by Kool & the Gang, 'Ecstasy' by Ohio Players, 'Oblighetto' by Jack McDuff, and 'Little Miss Lover' by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

"It’s a Leader Quest mission and we got the goods here
Never on the left cause my right's my good ear
I could give a damn about a ill subliminal
Stay away from crime so I ain't no criminal
I love my young nation, groovy sensation
No time for hibernation, only elation"

 'The Low End Theory' 
full album:

All songs produced by A Tribe Called Quest, except tracks 6 and 10 produced by Skeff Anselm

1. "Excursions"   Jonathan Davis 3:55
2. "Buggin' Out"   Davis, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Malik Taylor 3:37
3. "Rap Promoter"   Davis, Muhammad 2:13
4. "Butter"   Davis, Muhammad, Taylor 3:39
5. "Verses from the Abstract" (featuring Vinia Mojica and Ron Carter on double bass) Davis 3:59
6. "Show Business" (featuring Diamond D, Lord Jamar and Sadat X) Skeff Anselm, Davis, Lorenzo Dechalus, Joseph Kirkland, Muhammad, Derrick Murphy, Taylor 3:53
7. "Vibes and Stuff"   Davis, Taylor 4:18
8. "The Infamous Date Rape"   Davis, Muhammad, Taylor 2:54
9. "Check the Rhime"   Davis, Muhammad, Taylor 3:37
10. "Everything Is Fair"   Anselm, Davis, Muhammad, Taylor 2:58
11. "Jazz (We've Got)"   Davis, Muhammad, Taylor 4:10
12. "Skypager"   Davis, Muhammad, Taylor 2:12
13. "What?"   Davis 2:29
14. "Scenario" (featuring Leaders of the New School) Davis, Bryan Higgins, James Jackson, Muhammad, Trevor Smith, Taylor 4:10

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ragin', full on

Ed Crawford convinced the hardcore's greatest rhythm section to blaze chemical wire with him. The story goes that the members of Camper Van Beethovan told him (while sitting on top of their van) that the surviving members of the Minutemen were auditioning for a new singer. In reality, Mike Watt and George Hurley were not eager to get back into music after the recent death of D. Boon; but Crawford's passion won them over. fIREHOSE got their name from one of the cuecards Bob Dylan holds up in the video for 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'.

'Brave Captain'

"There are doubts in your ability
There's too many blanks in your analogies"

'Chemical Wire'

"Fire turns your wire
This torch is for hire"

'Choose Any Memory'

"Gone too far again to no surprise (no surprise of mine)"

'Relatin' Dudes to Jazz'

"My place in a time
Is a big nada-history
But my place with you
Is shown symbolically"

Ragin', Full-On
full album:

"Brave Captain"
"Under the Influence of Meat Puppets"
"It Matters"
"Chemical Wire"
"Another Theory Shot to Shit"
"On Your Knees"
"Locked In"
"The Candle and the Flame"
"Choose Any Memory"
"Perfect Pairs"
"Relatin' Dudes to Jazz"
"Things Could Turn Around"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

songs in the key of life

Stevie Wonder reached his high water mark with this sprawling spiritually and socially conscious magnum opus. In the wake of critical and commercial success, Wonder was ready to quit the music business; but after signing a new thirty seven million dollar deal with Motown Records, he decided to record an ambitious double-album (which would also include a four track seven-inch EP entitled 'A Something's Extra') with the working title: 'Let's See Life The Way It Is'. 

Sessions took place over nine months and were split between Crystal Industries in Hollywood, The Record Plant in California, and The Hit Factory in New York City with over one hundred and thirty session musicians including Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams, and Mike Sembello. Wonder spent hours in the studio perfecting each track while his session players struggled to keep up with him as he incorporated fusion, jazz, funk, balladry, pop, and soul into the musical mix and saw him singing in Spanish and Zulu. 

'Songs in the Key of Life' made a debut at the top of the US album chart, a first for an American artist. It was also the last of Wonder's albums to reach the top of that chart. 'Songs in the Key of Life' sold over ten million copies in the US alone and won four Grammy Awards (it was nominated for seven) for Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Male Rhythm and Blues Performer, and Producer of the Year.

VH1 did an episode on the album for their 'Classic Albums' series:

For the release Stevie brought all of the musicians and engineers, plus music writers and reporters to Longview Farm in Massachusetts to preview the album.

'Sir Duke' went to the top of the pop and black charts.  

'I Wish'  went to number one on both charts as well.

'Love's in Need of Love Today'

"The force of evil plans
To make you its possession
And it will if we let it
Destroy everybody
We all must take
Precautionary measures
If love and peace you treasure
Then you'll hear me when I say..."

'Village Ghetto Land' was co-written with Gary Byrd.

"Now some folks say that we should be
Glad for what we have
Tell me would you be happy in Village Ghetto Land "

'Pastime Paradise'

"They've been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They've been wasting most their time
Glorifying days long gone behind
They've been wasting most their days
In rememberance of ignorance oldest praise
Tell me who of them will come to be
How many of them are you and me"

'Isn't She Lovely?'

"Life and love are the same
Life is Aisha
The meaning of her name
Londie, it could have not been done
Without you who conceived the one
That's so very lovely made from love"


"As around the sun the earth knows she's revolving
And the rosebuds know to bloom in early may
Just as hate knows love's the cure
You can rest your mind assure
That I'll be loving you always"

'Another Star'

'Songs in the Key of Life' full album:

all songs composed by Stevie Wonder unless noted.

1. "Love's in Need of Love Today"   7:06
2. "Have a Talk with God"   Wonder, Hardaway 2:42
3. "Village Ghetto Land"   Wonder, Byrd 3:25
4. "Contusion"   3:46
5. "Sir Duke"   3:54
6. "I Wish"   4:12
7. "Knocks Me Off My Feet"   3:36
8. "Pastime Paradise"   3:28
9. "Summer Soft"   4:14
10. "Ordinary Pain"   6:23
11. "Isn't She Lovely"   6:34
12. "Joy Inside My Tears"   6:30
13. "Black Man"   Wonder, Byrd 8:30
14. "Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing"   3:49
15. "If It's Magic"   3:12
16. "As"   7:08
17. "Another Star"   8:28

A Something's Extra 7" EP 

Side one
18.   "Saturn" Michael Sembello, Wonder  4:54
19.   "Ebony Eyes"   4:11
Side two
20.   "All Day Sucker"   5:06

21.    "Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call)"   3:55

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

another monty python record

No one expected 'Another Monty Python Record'! Although it was an improvement on the sound from their first album on BBC Records, it was most certainly not 'Beethoven Symphony No. 2 In D Major'. It's a glorious satire of culture with sweeping serious implications behind the naughty bits and explosions. Many of the sketches were from or ended up on their BBC television show and everything is credited to the entire troupe of Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam. Terry Jones wrote about the recording: "We had this horrendous time because we were recording in this rather hippy recording studio which fortunately I can't remember the name of. ... We were very keen to use the stereo and everything, but what we hadn't realised was that the guy who was doing the recording, who I think was out of his head most of the time, had not been making any notes. We'd end up with tapes and tapes of material with no idea of where anything was on the tapes ... That was a bitter experience."

'Spam' isn't only for vikings.

'Spanish Inquisition'

"...Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms - Oh damn! "

'Ethel the Frog' is also known as 'The Pirana Brothers'

This sketch combines the audio ridiculousness of 'The Death Of Mary Queen Of Scots' with 'Penguin on the Television'.

Watch for the secret handshake in 'The Architect'

'Undertaker' causes a riot.

'Another Monty Python Record'
full album:

Side One
Apologies (2:11)
Spanish Inquisition (2:03)
Gumby Theatre (1:50)
Norman St John Polevaulter (Contradicting People) (0:28)
Old Ladies Thrown Into The Fjord (0:08)
The Architect (2:44)
Spanish Inquisition (1:18)
Royal Festival Hall Concert (4:18)
The Piranha Brothers (10:07)
Side Two
Death Of Mary, Queen Of Scots (2:20)
Spam (2:30)
Spanish Inquisition (Comfy Chair) (1:25)
Sound Quiz (1:20)
Be A Great Actor (3:07)
Theatre Critic (1:26)
The Judges (1:27)
Stake Your Claim (2:26)
Still No Sign Of Land (Lifeboat)
The Judges (0:25)
Undertaker (1:38)

Monday, September 26, 2011

play that funky music

This one hit wonder named after a box of cough drops laid down the boogie and had everyone dancin' and singin' and movin' to the groovin'. Wild Cherry had had a few unsuccessful self-released local singles and, after quitting and trying to run a steakhouse, lead singer Rob Parissi returned to the music business and built a loyal following in Pittsburg. Their fans kept requesting more danceable songs, and, one night between sets at 2001 Club, drummer Ron Beitle jokingly echoed the requests with the familiar catchphrase: "Play That Funky Music, White Boy!" Parissi got a pen and drink order pad from the bartender and wrote the song in five minutes. When they went to record the song, their engineer Ken Hamann was so impressed he got them in touch with Sweet City Records. The band deliberately pursued a disco sound in the studio with session horn players and the bass and drums mixed up front. Parissi had used the bassline from the Ohio Players' 'Fire' as a template for the new song. 'Play That Funky Music' became an instant classic, topping Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Soul Singles charts, selling more than two million copies, and earning the band several awards.

Hey, do it now
Yeah, hey

Hey, Once I was a funky singer
Playin' in a Rock and Roll Band
I never had no problems, yeah
Burnin' down one night stands
And everything around me, yeah
Got to stop to feelin' so low And I decided quickly (Yes I did)
To disco down and check out the show
Yeah, they was dancin' and singin' and movin' to the groovin'
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted
Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right
Play that funky music white boy
Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die
Till you die
Oh ya, ya

I tried to understand this
I thought that they were out of their minds
How could I be so foolish (How could I)
To not see I was the one behind
So still I kept on fighting
Well, loosing every step of the way
I said, I must go back there (I got to go back)
And check to see if things still the same
Yeah they was dancin' and singin' and movin' to the groovin'
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted
Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right
Play that funky music white boy
Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die
Till you die, ya
Till you die

(Gonna play that electified funky music, yeah)

(Hey, wait a minute)
Now first it wasn't easy
Changin' Rock and Roll and minds
And things were getting shaky
I thought I'd have to leave it behind
But now its so much better (it's so much better)
I'm funking out in every way
But I'll never lose that feelin' (no I won't)
Of how I learned my lesson that day
When they were dancin' and singin' and movin' to the groovin'
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted
Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right
Play that funky music white boy
Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die
Till you die
Oh' till you die

They shouted play that funky music
(Play that funky music)
Play that funky music
(You Gotta keep on playin' funky music)
Play that funky music
(Play that funky music)
Play that funky music
(Come and take you higher, ya)
Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right, ya
Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right
Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right

Sunday, September 25, 2011

is this it

The Strokes invigorated rock and roll with the gritty retro riffs and exuberant power pop punk attitude of their debut album. Their Rough Trade EP 'The Modern Age' made serious waves in the UK and led to sold out tours and bidding wars. After signing with RCA, they recorded 'Is This It' with Gordon Raphael at his Transporterraum basement studio in New York City, where they had recorded their EP. Most of the songs were recorded once, to pursue a raw live sound; and the low-fidelity vocals were produced with a small practice amp. Released first in Australia to capitalize on a recent tour, it peaked at number five there. In the UK, it debuted at number two. The American release was delayed by the attacks of September 11, and the album cover and track listing were changed to avoid controversy. It only made it to number thirty three on the US album chart; but it had a powerful effect on the recording industry, giving alternative guitar bands a new commercial credibility.

The sleepy groove of 'Is This It' pokes fun at the hype surrounding the band.

"Can't you see I'm trying
I don't even like it. I just lied to
Get to your apartment, now I'm staying
Here just for a while.
I can't think 'cause I'm just way too tired."

'Hard To Explain' was the first single. It peaked at number twenty seven on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart and at number sixteen in the UK.

"I missed the last bus
I take the next train
I try, but you see
It's hard to explain
I say the right things
But act the wrong way
I like it right here
But I cannot stay
I watch the tv
Forget what I'm told
Well I am too young
And they are too old
The joke is on you
Cos this is a zoo
You're right, it's true"

'Someday' was the third single, peaking at seventeen on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart and number twenty seven in the UK.

"My ex says i'm lacking in depth
I will do my best
You say you want to stay by my side
Darling your head's not right
I see alone we stand, together we fall apart
Yeah I think i'll be alright
I'm working so I won't have to try so hard
Tables they turn sometimes"

'The Modern Age' clearly shows the influence of the Velvet Underground.

"Up on a hill, that's where we begin
This little story, a long time ago.
Start to pretend, stop pretending
It seems this game is simply never-ending
Oh, in the sun, sun having fun
It's in my blood.
I just can't help it,
Don't want you here right now,
Let me go
Let me a go-go-go-go-go-go-go-go."

'Barely Legal' tells a story of first experiences and pregnancy scares.

"And all together it went well
We made pretend we were best friends
And then she said Oh I can wait
They ordered me to make mistakes
Together again like the beginning
It all works somehow in the end
The things we did the things you hide
For the record it's between you and I "

'Last Nite' was the second single and became their biggest song (so far) in the US, peaking at number five on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

"Last night she said
Oh baby I feel so down
Way to turn me off
When I feel left out
So I, I walked out
Oh baby don't care no more
I know this for sure
I'm walking out that door"

'Is This It' 
full album:

All tracks written by Julian Casablancas.

1. Is This It - 0:00
2. The Modern Age - 2:33
3. Soma - 6:06
4. Barely Legal - 8:44
5. Someday - 12:41
6. Alone, Together - 15:48
7. Last Nite - 19:00
8. Hard to Explain - 22:18
9. New York City Cops - 26:07
10. Trying Your Luck - 29:40
11. Take It or Leave It - 33:09
12. When It Started - 36:24

00:00 - Is This It 
02:32 - The Modern Age
06:00 - Soma
08:33 - Barely Legal
12:28 - Someday
15:32 - Alone, Together
18:40 - Last Nite
21:54 - Hard To Explain
25:39 - New York City Cops
29:12 - Trying Your Luck
32:35 - Take It or Leave It
35:51 - When It Started