Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #229. I am John Book, and we’re a few days away from the Super Bowl. Buy those chicken wings, there’s a shortage, or just buy some decent Boca burgers with some mushrooms. Fresh!
If you are new to this column, let me tell you a little about things here. Each review features links to the artist’s home page or MySpace page, so if you want to hear them, you can do so easily. Links are also provided to make a vinyl, CD, or digital purchase, since your local mall probably doesn’t have most of these titles. If you would like to buy the compact disc, click the icon that looks like this:
If you wish to make a digital MP3 purchase, you can click the digital player icon that looks like this:
Vinyl junkies, you are in luck too:
Also please consider clicking some of the links under the “Music and more” category to the right, which will help keep this website afloat.
Now, the column.
When going into a new column, I always make the CD’s I receive a first priority. Sometimes I receive new albums through digital files. Other times I’ll go through the intrawebs and come across something I’m curious about, and if I like it, I’ll tell someone. It doesn’t happen often, but I came across an album recently and I was immediately blown away by what I heard, moving me to play it again. Then again. The next day, and the next. Yes, also the next day. I hadn’t heard of them before, and it makes me wish I did but now I can catch up.
The album I speak of is by a group called Indigo Jam Unit, and keep in mind when I found this, I had no idea who it was or where they were from, but I knew it was jazz. Jazz can be anything and everything, but when it affects you within the first five seconds, you can sense that it’s going to be something quite brilliant. These guys are dedicated into creating and keeping a groove, making hot bebop and hard bop that’s done with the passion of hip-hop’s insistence on endless loops, to where it works like a mantra. Within that trance, a piano works its way by speaking to the rest of the musicians, and helps speak for everyone. Then the bass diverts and takes the off ramp, only to jump back on and off for the remainder of the destination. Jazz fans will love how tight their musicianship is. In the track “Rumble” it sounds like something you’d expect on a Dave Brubeck with the same kind of drive Brueck and his bands always had, complete with a slight Latin feel. All of the musicians are at one with each other, but by the end of the song the actual rumble begins, where it sounds like heavy traffic going into a tunnel and filling up to where you think no one can escape. The heat increases, and something is about to blow up, and it does. Indigo Jam Unit owes a lot to the jazz of the 50’s and 60’s, but combine that with the acid jazz funk of the late 60’s/early 70’s with a small but not-so-obvious nod to hip-hop, and I can’t get enough of it.
Who are they? Indigo Jam Unit are a quartet from Japan who have been around for a few years, and Pirates is their fourth album. Take the mentality of Jazzanova and Jaga Jazzist, remove the electronic tendencies and put them in Soulive, Medeski, Martin & Wood, and have them hang around Breakestra for a bit. Now let them reincarnate themselves as the jazz musicians they admire. While Indigo Jam Unit sounds like none of them specifically, when you hear their music you’ll understand the references. The music is perfect for an intense Sunday morning listen, but you can’t help but dance to the healthy grooves found in “Giant Baby”, it’s the perfect ass shaking music to play on a normal day of rest, or any day/week/month/year. The 7/4 time signature of “Arctic Circle” is the perfect chillout song after a long night at the club, but it may leave you wanting more satisfaction. If this is what the new movement of jazz in Japan is like, I want to move there right now.
The movie has been out for a few weeks, it has done fairly well and as used to be the tradition, if you loved the movie, you’d opt for the soundtrack. In this case, the soundtrack to Notorious is an interesting one, for it of course honors the life and music of the late but great Biggie Smalls, and before I review this CD, has anyone noticed that with the release of this movie, the mainstream media is calling him Biggie? When he released his first album, or really after the release of “Juicy”, he had always been The Notorious B.I.G. but longtime fans called him Biggie or Big. I’m curious as to why the shift.
Anyway, the soundtrack. Most of it is Biggie tracks of course, and it does feature most of his greatest hits: “Juicy”, “Warning”, “One More Chance/Stay With Me”, and “Hypnotize”, along wth key album tracks and material that came to be after his death. Sadly no “Big Poppa”, no sign of Super Cat‘s Bad Boy remix of “Dolly My Baby”, or even the remix to Craig Mack‘s “Flava In Your Ear, but we do get the classic “Party & Bullshit” from the Who’s The Man soundtrack when it was released under the name BIG. Early demos for “Microphone Murderer”, “Love No Ho”, and “Guaranteed Raw” is the perfect look at the grimey hip-hop of the early 90’s, when the East became hungry as the West dominated the charts, and it was people like Biggie who said “I don’t fuck a fuck”, and we’re all thankful for it.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack is held back by a song that should not have ever been released, yet thought of. There’s a new take of “One More Chance/Stay With Me”, but in this case the mix is called “One More Chance/The Legacy (Remix)”, and it features Biggie’s son, CJ Wallace. His role in the song is to do some of the lines that his father did, so Biggie and CJ pass the mic to each other metaphorically. The idea may have worked for Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole, but to hear a 12 year old rap in a song where his father speaks about how girls urinate when they see him, and how he’ll tell their boyfriends to masturbate as he pleases the ladies by having rough sex, then he penetrates deeply until she climaxes. It doesn’t matter if they are Native American, he will step up in their homes and make her orgasm. This is not what a 12 year old needs to hear from their father, and the idea that someone thought it was a cute idea shows extremely bad taste.
I doubt they’ll release a second pressing of the album to remove the song, but without it, it’s a nice retrospective of Biggie’s work and maybe a formal introduction to those who were introduced to his music for the first time through the movie.
E Reece is back with a brand new album, and this time he’s backed by Core Elements, a genuine band playing genuine music for a genuine MC.
l.i.s.n. 2 this live.in.studio (Elevated Mental) is the next album in his catalog following 2007’s The New Breed, and anyone who enjoyed his flows and ways of writing and rhyming will find a lot to grasp onto with this new one, with the spontaneity of having a live band behind you. “Everything”, a song that celebrates all that is hip-hop from its origins to what it is and was, will definitely be a song that will move crowds to destroy the venue they’re at. The guy likes to party but they’re not party rhymes per-se, more like “around the block” rhymes where it feels like comfort food due to its familiarity, but it’s still fresh, new, exciting and inviting.
Have a band that know how to play and fill in all of the pockets at the appropriate moments, and you have a recipe for success. Now let’s hope he’ll knock down a few heads, enough for them to want to hea rmore from what he has to offer in the future.
Krohme has one of those laid back voices that sound like he would have been perfect in Channel Live or doing some pass the mic action with Big Daddy Kane. On The Onset Of Change (Godsendant) the album begins with a recording of President Barack Obama speaking to the world, and then Krohme himself offers up “Yes”, where he (like Jay-Z is honored to say that his/our president is black. Krohme is socially and poltically aware, and that in itself is nice to hear over someone who may talk the talk but isn’t fully aware of certain situations. Tracks like “Sound Off (Riot)” sounds like something from the Paris catalog while “Live The Dream” could have been done by a Relativity-era Common, or even Brand Nubian. Krohme tells his listeners to improve their situations and become more aware of what’s going on because “yes we can, so we did/accomplish, succeed, now feed the seeds”. It feels like hip-hop circa 1993 when people were inspired by the changes hoped for by President Bill Clinton. I think with Obama, the inspiration for change seems more real for others because it’s change that feels legitimate, and not just another false promise. Krohme represents the movement in the country today, and if someone were to ask me in ten years how the country felt, I would suggest this EP as a hint of what was experienced by the people.
Caroline Peyton is a singer/songwriter who should have received a lot of attention in the 1970’s for her music, and perhaps if things had moved to where she was heard and accepted by the major labels, she would be a huge influence on many of today’s singer/songwriters, male or female. For the most part she is fairly obscure but anyone who has ever dug for private press records knows that these are the things that make those long days of digging worth it. In this case, Caroline Peyton and the band that backed her up did audition for Clive Davis when he was the head of Columbia Records, but due to a few circumstances (which you can read in the liner notes), he passed. However, someone told Peyton herself that if she ever felt a need to get rid of the band, she could be huge. So is the story of the give-and-take music industry, and so is the partial story of Caroline Peyton, who The Numero Group are focusing on with the release of two, long out of print albums also featuring a few EP’s she released along the way.
The story of Peyton begins in Bloomington, Indiana, the home of John Mellencamp although while the former Mr. Cougar was still listening to and enjoying music on the radio and his phonograph, Peyton was hard at work making music along with her companion, Mark Bingham. The music they created together ended up becoming the Mock Up (Asterisk/The Numero Group) album, featuring music performed by the two along with Peyton being backed by Bingham and a full band. The music sounds like something you might hear on a Carole King or Judy Collins album where you feel the earthiness and roots of these songs, a bit closer to the source since you’re hearing it from the person who wrote it, feeling the experiences and perhaps remembering when you too felt like that. Songs like “Engram”, “Tuna”, “Pull”, and “The Sky In Japan Is Always Close To You” are life experience songs, and they fit in perfectly with what was going on at the time in the United States, the idea that love and isolation could lead you to frustration if you don’t find the definition of freedom you’re looking for. The wildest (and for me unexpected) moment of the album happens in track #3, “Don Beggs”. Peyton starts singing a bit operatic and comes off like Lene Lovich and Nina Hagen, years before punk and new wave existed. It’s a bold move to sing these tentative folk flavored songs and splash it with a slight freakish act, but it only helps to expand the perception of what she may have been as an artist.
If Mock Up captures 1971/1972 beautifully, the same can be said for 1977 Intution (Asterisk/The Numero Group) . In comparison, this is a very different album from Mock Up as it’s more electric, more bluesy, and it also shows the rise in popularity of the hybrid of rock and country. The thing that amazes me about hearing this album is that Peyton’s voice is ever so soulful, easily comparable to everyone from Lydia Pense to Linda Ronstadt, and unlike the open-eyed wonder of Mock Up, you hear a sense of experience, pain, sorrow, and struggle, even as she bathes herself in the disco light with a track like “Party Line”. “Still With You” could have fit in easily on an Allman Brothers Band or Dickey Betts Band album, while “Light-Years” could have sparked the Yacht Rock movement a few years earlier than normal (there’s a slight “Just The Way You Are” tinge to it too, complete with saxophone solo.)
Upon hearing this, one senses that this is an album that could have been huge in its time, and one can only imagine if this received the same kind of airplay that Tapestry, Rumours, or Back In The U.S.A. did. It has everything that makes it the perfect album: great songs, great instrumentation, produced and mixed beautifully, complimented by a voice that becomes endearing, a voice you’d like to take home to mom. If I had a way to program oldies radio, albums like these would be played along with the mainstream so music fans can discover a talent that did not get the recognition it deserved. Don’t take my word for it, the albums are back in print, pick them up immediately.
He was an MC called Jake The Snake, but perhaps being aware of the threat of trademark infringement, he decided to shorten his moniker and call himself simply J The S.
Rooted in the West Indies, raised in Massachusetts, but now calling NYC home, J The S has been working hard in perfecting his style of rhyming, and as he gets into moving into the next phase of his career, he has put out an album for free with the help of Mr. Peter Parker and the incredible DJ Warrior for a mix-CD type situation called My Will (self-released).
The CD has the feel of a mix tape in that the DJ’s are talking over sections of each track, and for me it can be unnecessary especially when you as a rapper are trying to impress listeners with what you’re about, not established DJ’s, but that’s a minor complaint. One thing I will not complain about is his presence on the mic, or what he is able to communicate through his music. He will be the first to call his style of music “blacktop hip-hop”, and it’s very much down to the earth, of the streets, of the neighborhood, of the now and you hear the sound of today, complete with sped up samples, well recorded vocals, and production that for the most part is quite good. J The S is not a bullshit rapper, he gets to the point and then goes deeper, making sure his lyrics are embedded in your consciousness as he talks about delivering the “new slang” and “coming up fresh” while talking about one of the problems of the world: “Oil”. Yes, the man is effective in touching on the headlines and does it without sounding like he’s piggybacking on someone else’s schtick. It’s a message song with a chorus that has the T-Pain touch (courtesy of The Greater Good), and while he could build his career off of message songs alone, he lets people know throughout the rest of the CD that he’s out for the kill and if he wants to have fun, he’ll have fun every now and then. However, we live in a different world and My Will is a statement about the conditions we live in today. J The S states this is a mere tease for what he’s about to offer with his forthcoming full length, The Last Days.
If there’s only one problem with this mix CD, it’s that some of the songs do not sound like they were mixed or mastered properly, with a small handful of tracks lacking the boom and bass that’s sorely needed. Fortunately the album is available as a free download, so one hopes when the proper album is released, the boom will pound as deep as the intelligencia stored in his cranium.
…AND NOW, THE HAWAIIAN MUSIC CORNER
Cityside are a Jawaiian band from Honolulu who are brand new to the scene, and you know how I am with Jawaiian music: either it’s going to be decent, or it’s going to be a huge epic fail, and in this case, Welcome To The Cityside (DDD) is far from a failure.
When you look at the three guys that are Cityside, they look like they’d be down with hip-hop, and they might be, they might hang out at A’ala Park doing freestyles or busting moves at the Hongwanji, I don’t know. Instead, what these three have is the proper sensibilities to combine reggae music, pop accessibility, and island style living to become a success. They’re not as abrasive as New Zealand’s Katchafire but what they have are quality songs that will appeal to people of all ages, but doesn’t sound like 5th grade notebook puppy love scribbles. What will impress listeners at first are the vocals of D. Kekoa Tsukiyama, who has a great voice and it will definitely take him far. Bassist Kekoa Onaga and ‘ukulele man Devin Yamada (who also plays keyboards and percussion) handle background vocal duties, and together they sound like the classic Jawaiian styles of Three Plus and early Ka’au Crater Boys.
I think what made me impressed to hear more is hearing them branch out to do other styles, showing how it’s perfectly okay to bring in other influences. There are hints of pop, rock, and soul coming through, and it’s not just reggae-fied versions of pop, rock, and soul, it’s successful attempts at simply playing and jamming the music they listen to on a regular basis, and I hope fans will welcome that as a sign for other Hawaiian bands to open up their songbooks. While “Make You Mine” will no doubt gain a lot of airplay with the interpolation of Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, the rest of the album should bring them to a wider audience, especially with songs like “Watchin’ You”, “Back To The Days”, and “Girl I”. There’s a lot of love songs too, because people in Hawai’i love to love and fall in love, but it’s not stereotypical fluff. Their songs could easily help them crossover to mainland and international audiences, with reggae being their core but not the sole reason for their existence. If these guys keep at it and dedicate themselves to their music for the next few years, they could be huge. I hope they take on the festival circuit this year so they are able to bring their music to a wider audience.