The Run-Off Groove #237

Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #237. I am John Book, welcome.

This column is about music reviews, along with music-related books, DVD’s, etc. Each review will usually be followed by a graphic, when upon clicking you can make a purchase:
(for compact disc)
(for MP3’s)

The point of this is to make readers aware of some of the good music out there, music I hope to be able to pass along to you. With that said, all MP3’s here are “legal”, which means they are being passed on to you with permission from the artist and/or publicity firm. All of you that are tech savvy should know where to get all the free music anyway, but please make a purchase whenever possible, whether it’s from your favorite store or in many instances from the artist themselves. If your tax return is coming in, get to those bills first and foremost, but with a bit of extra change buy a few albums.

Also please consider clicking some of the links under the “Music and more” category to the right, which will help keep this website afloat.

This week features only five reviews, but I wanted to get this out sooner than later so I can get to the other albums while being able to highlight an EP that comes out on Tuesday, which starts off the column that you’re about to read. Enjoy

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Joyo Velarde has been doing her thing in music for a long time but has made only small baby steps towards making a full project. A few years ago she released the beautiful single “Sweet Angels” and anyone who enjoyed hearing her on various Solesides/Quannum projects were quietly pushing her for more. Then the silence was too much, fans had to hear more and soon see more. She would eventually do shows with Quannum, especially with her man (now husband) Lyrics Born, and within small circles she was discussed. It seems 2009/2010 will be her time to shine, and she begins to let people know who Joyo is about with her brand new self-titled 5-song EP.

Velarde has a voice that is a mixture of soul, jazz, and a bit of pop thrown in. Her voice never sounds forced, although if a certain part of the song demands a certain vibe, she goes all out. The EP begins with “Build This World”, touching on her spiritual side with a verse that is sung in a manner not unlike Mary J. Blige‘s “You Bring Me Joy”, and perhaps that was the purpose, a bit of musical and word play on her behalf. The musical vibe has a groove that will make Seawind fans quite happy, in fact this EP could have been released in 1977 and it would have been a huge success. Being raised in Hawai’i, I grew up listening to a number of Asian singers who were influenced by funk, soul, and jazz and make it their own. There is a certain asthetic that I hear in her voice that probably comes not only from her own musical tastes, but from her upbringing, and that to me has always been an important factor in setting Velarde apart from other singers, Asian, part-Asian, or otherwise. “The Way We Are” is a nice mid-tempo track that sounds like something you’d dance and nod your head to as you wait for the ice cream man to drive down your street, it sounds festive and she sounds like she’s having an incredible time. “Feels Right” is that mixture of the old soul traditions with a bit of hip-hop, mix this song up with some tight Jill Scott, Stephanie McKay, and Erykah Badu tracks and it would fit in perfectly, and she slaps on her rollerskates for a jam called “Take You Home”, the perfect song to keep dancefloors hot and ready for more.

The last song, “I Need You Boy”, is listed as a bonus track even though this EP will be a digital only release. I will say that Velarde knows how to do the reggae too, and I would not be surprised if this song reaches Hawaiian audiences, enough to where they’ll never want to let go. It was produced by influential dancehall reggae producer Bobby Digital, which is sure to widen her audience even more.

This EP is not enough but it will have to do until November, when her long awaited debut album, Love And Understanding, will finally be revealed.

(Joyo Velarde’s self-titled EP is available now at your usual digital/MP3 outlets.)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic It may be listed as a General Steele album, but Welcome To Bucktown (Bucktown USA/Duck Down) feels more like a compilation album than something from one half of Smif-N-Wessun.

Let’s get into the technicalities. 14 tracks are on this album, packed with some well known names: Shabaam Shadeeq, Sean Price, Black Moon, Smoothe Tha Hustler, Trigger Tha Gambler, Boot Camp Clik, DJ Revolution, and DJ Evil Dee among many others. If you are to look at the back cover, at times the guests overwhelm the main artist, but Steele is basically telling people “welcome to my world”, and his world features some of the best MC’s and DJ’s/producers ever. As for Steele himself, his rhymes and flows have never been better, he’s no longer that kid of “Wontime” fame but he’s still ruthless and almost as flawless as he can be. In other words, this is the raw, gritty hip-hop without baby wipes, and anyone who has remained a fan of the Duck Down empire will find more reasons to pick this and wish for more from Steele.

One significant factor. In the past, some of Duck Down’s albums have not sounded as cohesive as I’d like, but this album was mixed and mastered by Brian Herman, who is able to take the various elements given to him and make it sound like one solid project. I hope all future Duck Down albums will utilize Herman’s talents because he knows what he’s doing.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Emotional, heartfelt music is what Headless Heroes are about, and they at times are almost without any drums or percussion on their new album, The Silence Of Love (self-released). Maybe the title is meant to suggest that love is the heart, and the heartbeat has rhythm, and the rhythm… okay, maybe not. But vocalist Alela Diane sings in a way that seems too close to the bone, too harsh for the soul, almost too revealing and yet you listen because you feel like you should care because what you’re hearing is the sound of your soul in musical form. At least what’s what I got out of hearing songs like “Hey, Who Really Cares?”, “To You”, and “Here Before”, where there’s a pace that is very deliberate, one that you want to follow every step of the way.

The Silence Of Love is the kind of album you don’t want to be alone to listen to, and yet you know it’s the only way to go through the therapy that is your life. Take it one step at a time, lads and lasses, things will be alright.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Stax: The Soul Of Hip-Hop (Stax/Concord) is by no means a comprehensive look at the countless samples from the Stax Records vaults hip-hop producers have used over the years, but it’s a brief peak into the ingenious ways they were able to tap into the favorite songs of our parents and turn them into our personal favorites.

All of the songs here were used in classic hip-hop songs, and just naming them will bring to mind the songs that sample them: The Sweet Inspirations‘ “Why Marry” (used incredibly by The RZA to create Raekwon‘s “Criminology”), 24-Carat Black‘s “Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth” (Eric B. & Rakim‘s “In The Ghetto” among many others), The Emotions‘ “Blind Alley” (Big Daddy Kane‘s “Ain’t No Half Steppin'”), The Bar-Kays‘ “Humpin'” (DJ Shadow‘s “Entropy”), The Dramatics‘ “Get Up And Get Down” (Lifers Group‘s “The Real Deal”), and many more. You’ll hear the sound of the Wu-Tang, you’ll hear a bit of G-funk, you’ll hear the Dirty South, you’ll hear the New York swagger, you’ll hear breakbeat standards, sounds of which originated in the streets of Memphis. There have been countless compilations with sample sources, including the infamous Shaolin Soul counterfeit LP’s, but Stax: The Soul Of Hip-Hop is a label realizing the influence they had on us fiends of the boom bap, and perhaps by acknowleding this, they will remaster more albums and perhaps dip into the vaults and release some isolated drum and bass tracks.

Well, one can only hope.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Once upon a time there was a great group called Blectum From Blechdom, but I’m sure fans of theirs have heard this story before so everyone skip to the next paragraph.

The two ladies behind Blectum From Blechdom decided to start their own musical paths, and Kevin Blechdom has started a new voyage with Gentlemania (Sonig), which continues to move further away from the music she created with Blevin Blectum, so what does this album sound like? It’s a mixture of folk, pop, and I don’t know if you would call it vaudeville, but it sounds like music one would hear in the 1920’s or 1930’s, if not from an earlier period. The songs may sound musically distant at times but the lyrics show Blechdom opening herself up in a way that feels much more intimate, in line with much of what she has done in the last few years. It’s not a rock album. or at least not rock the evil beast, but it’s very rootsy, making it timeless and timely at the same time. One could easily picture these songs being interpreted on Broadway or off-broadway, or even used in popular television shows but I don’t know if this is the path Blechdom wants (even if her work has the potential to reach wider audiences). “I Thought I Knew You” may sound like a somewhat cutesy rock’n’roll flashback full of poodleskirt imagery and greased hair, but she realizes the hurt she feels after failed relationship and sarcastically tries to butter up her former lover with words that sugar coat the truth of the pain she feels.

The closest this album comes to her older material can be heard in “Tell Me Where It Hurts”, but with Blechdom is seems she’s having more fun finding new places to visit, new faces to see, and new sounds to explore. It’s not about running away from her musical past, it’s simply about making music that feels good and Gentlemania is a feel good album, but not in a John Mayer sort of way. This album is far better than that, and it’s an album that is sure to be in many “Best Of” lists come December.”

  • That’s it for this week’s Run-Off Groove. If you have any new music, DVD’s, books (music, poetry, cook books), or hot sauce, please contact me through my MySpace page and I’ll pass along my contact address. In the past I have generally frowned over receiving digital files, but I will accept them on a case by case basis. I still prefer hard copy as I want to hear the quality of the recording (which is important to me), but digital files are fine.
  • Thank you, and come back soon for #238.
  • SOME STUFFS: Ellay Khule performs in Honolulu this Thursday night

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    If you are in Honolulu this week, or about to head there, you’ll want to go to this concert at The Loft (115 N. Hotel St. #2). It brings together Ellay Khule along with NoCanDo, Joe Dub, and DJ Jus Jones. Anticon‘s own Jel is scheduled to appear as well, so head to the show and celebrate the last weekend of May 2009 in style.

    The show is 21 and over, $10 at the door. For more information, head to Lightsleepers.

    Unfamiliar with Ellay Khule? Hui:

    FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD: High In The Low 70’s

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    Matt Lipstein of has created a mix of songs that are perfect for what Oliver Wang calls a “nice mix for the unofficial launch of summer”. It’s called High In The Low 70’s, a mixture of tracks that take you high into the period between 1970-1975, when the drums still sounded good, people still did it for the music, and radio stations actually played requests.

    You can download it and look at the playlist by clicking here

    OBITUARY: ex-Wilco member Jay Bennett

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    Jay Bennett, an important part of the complex machine that is Wilco, died early this morning at the age of 45 in Urbana, Illinois. His family released a statement stating Bennett died in his sleep. An actual cause is not known as this time but an autopsy is being done this week.

    Bennett was a member of Wilco for years and critics say that his songwriting and musicianship that he shared with Jeff Tweety were important in turning the band from an indie favorite to a group who could easily compete with the best in the mainstream. Bennett’s departure from the group shocked many, although those who loved Bennett’s input with Wilco chose to follow his musical adventures as well.


    SOME STUFFS: Big Business’ mountain grows from two peaks to three

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    The L.A. band Big Business recently expanded themselves from a duo to a trio, and their sound is as solid as a night after a Taco Bell fourthmeal. They have a new album out as a trio, called Mind The Drift, and there’s a great article at the East Bay Express about it and them.

    Mind The Drift is out on vinyl, and there are three different color variations, including “pea soup and carrots”:
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    This is the same label who came out with the deluxe vinyl box of Melvins(A) Senile Animal, and these guys are vinyl junkies of the highest order.

    SOME STUFFS: DJ Phatrick goes for more than just hat tricks

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    The end of Native Guns did not mean the end of DJ Phatrick. He’s made the move from Texas to Oakland and currently calls Los Angeles home, he takes part in the Devil’s Pie sets with his residency at Verdugo Bar and releases mix CD’s, tracks, and mash-ups on a regular basis. He’s a fan of the deep soul, and he knows his records very well.

    Phatrick’s official MySpace page has links to some of his recent mixes, including tributes to James Brown, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and P-Funk. He also has a great mix CD that shows respect to his fellow Asian brethren and sisteren, which you can find on his MySpace page.

    SOME STUFFS: “The Graff Life” takes a look at graffiti from a different point of view in Los Angeles

    You may have seen the infamous half-mile long piece of graffiti in a number of recent graffiti documentaries. Director Randy de Vol explores this and other pieces in a brand new documentary called The Graff Life, which goes out of its way to explain why graffiti is a way of life. Some might say it is nothing more than vandalism, but others will tell you it’s an extension of one’s identity, to tell you “hey, I was here, you may not see me the next day but you’ll see my piece again in a week, a month, another year.”

    Some of the people who are interviewed in The Graff Life include Ghost, Gas, Rance, and Kofie, and features a soundtrack from BLX Crew (a/k/a Gershwin BLX).

    The documentary will be coming out on DVD and there will be a release party for it in Los Angeles at Senor Fish (422 E. 1st Street) from 7pm to 12midnight.

    VIDEO: Cage becomes one of the few artists to get any rotation on MTV in 2009

    So is this MTV’s way of trying their best to find another white rapper to be their next Eminem-type discovery, or did the dying cable network finally wake the fuck up? Well, truth be told, it’s MTV2 but they have slowly molded into a carbon copy of what MTV is today.

    But they occasionally squeeze out actual music, and they’re hyping up Cage this time with his new video, directed by Shia LeBeouf, but pfftt, is that what it takes to get hyped? With luck, people will finally wake up to the greatness that is cage, but we’ll see.

    MTV2 is into this project so much, that Cage has made it possible for everyone to download his brand new I Never Knew You EP for free by heading to the MTV-affiliated