MP3: Seattle’s Maktub release new album for free

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One of my favorite bands out of Seattle, Maktub, are back with a brand new album called Five and you can download the entire thing for free through by clicking here

However, if you go through Maktub’s official site, you can choose the price you want to pay. In other words, “fee is optional” so if you want to show support, do so by clicking here.

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REVIEW: Queen Ifrica’s Montego Bay

The distinctive sounds of the nyabingi open up Queen Ifrica‘s Montego Bay (VP) in a way that takes reggae music back to its own roots, and kind of comes off like Sunday Manoa‘s “Kawika”, reminding people about where things came from and what is being missed by not acknowledging the most obvious.

It’s very much in the reggae tradition but it is more Miriam Makeba than Dawn Penn, and when she gets a little bit of dancehall stylee in “Welcome To Montego Bay”, you realize this is a much different ambassador than those of the past. It’s an incredible positive vibe, something quite refreshing to hear and it’s not sappy as some of the poppy reggae coming from Jamaica as of late. When she talks about the “Coconut Shell”, she’s not talking about the milk or spoon meat, but as a container to hold certain natural substances that will enlighten you, and this will no doubt be a song stoners around the world will be praising to the highest. As she says in the song, the chalice is never empty when you “season” things the right way. She let’s down her guard a bit in the sensual “Lioness On The Rise” and she sounds a lot like another well known musical queen, Queen Latifah.

With production from Tony Rebel, Donovan Germain, C. Hurst, DJ Flava, Adrian Locke, Steve Locke & Teetimus, they help Queen Ifrica take everyone to the promised land that is a positive world, via Jamaica. You hear the love, the pleasure, the pain, and the struggles of the sufferer and in the hands of the Queen you feel that you will be pulled out of the doldrums and the babylon fires. I’m very curious to hear how far she’ll take her musical career.

REVIEW: Donald Malloy’s Spirituality

Donald Malloy plays the trumpet like the fine artist he is and should be, and with Spirituality (self-released) he creates a journey all his own by not only exploring his own spirituality, but perhaps spirituality as a whole.

The music is not heasy as John Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme tends to be, but what you hear is someone going on his own journey to explore what he’s about and his own ethnic roots. Malloy goes back and forth between the trumpet and the flugelhorn playing in a way that you know you can trust him to take you on his journey. It’s intense but not over the time, and some of it could easily find a home on ECM. With a band that includes Rody Royston (drums), Tom DiCarlo (bass), Shamie Royston (piano), Tia Fuller (saxophones and flute), and Seth Johnson (guitar), they are equipped to take on the challenges of these songs, then to coat and soothe for maximum relief.

Prepare to be moved if you wish to be.

OBITUARY: Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

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There will be well over ten million words said about the man, and I realize you can read opinion anywhere and everywhere, but these are mine.

I probably got into his music first in the period they moved from being The Jackson 5 to The Jacksons. I loved to dance but never had any dance ambitions, but here was this young kid who was doing some incredible moves on TV, one couldn’t help but be impressed by someone dancing like a robot to “Dancing Machine”, it seemed futuristic. But the music was funky. “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” and “Blame It On The Boogie” was everywhere in the second half of the 70’s. But then came Off The Wall.

It was not his first solo album, in fact it was his fifth, but it was his first as an adult. It would become the biggest album of his career up until late 1982, but from the summer of 1979 to the fall of 1982, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”, “Rock With You”, “She’s Out Of My Life”, “Girlfriend”, and of course the title track, plus a number of album tracks, including “I Can’t Help It”. That album was considered to be the equivalent of Stevie Wonder‘s Talking Book, an artist known for being a child star but progressing into adulthood with a string of hits and a wave of success that no other young artist had at the time. Growing up in Honolulu, my radio listening habits were the Top 40 stations on AM radio (KKUA and KIKI respectively) and as much as they played MJ, these songs were great. It was a world before MTV, before Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous, before TMZ, and obviously before Thriller.

Once Thriller came out, things would never be the same. It was superhype at its very best, but… most albums have a shelf life of six to nine months, a year if you’re lucky. Thriller held up for three years, and people were still buying it. I don’t need to tell you what happened during and after Thriller, that story is well documented, but some have argued that pop success brought him the world. In the end, the world would eat him up.

He was not perfect, but the moment actress Elizabeth Taylor called him “The King Of Pop”, it was as if he had taken advantage of it and created a pedestal for himself. To be famous… it’s a concept that’s interesting but not something I would want, at least not on an MJ level. But I don’t know if I would’ve built the pedestal and walls so high. He did eccentric things in the last half of his life, much due to his enormous success, and it has almost become the main focus of the entertainer. By 1984 he reached a level that everyone wanted to aspire to, and he was truly one of the most successful musical artists in the world. That kind of fame seemed powerful in the 60’s and 70’s, but things moved to sinister levels when it seemed the public demanded (and perhaps deserved) more. I think in the end, he just couldn’t take it. To paraphrase the man himself, he didn’t want to stop but this time I think he had enough.

When the news of his death was official, I found out about it online. I was in the car soon after running some errands and I was trying to find a radio station locally that would stop and speak of Michael Jackson. It was NPR who broke the news, but on the other radio stations, it was business as usual. It would be a few minutes before I heard one of the big Top 40 “urban” stations stop and tell everyone that he did. Then the DJ goes on to say “we don’t have any Michael Jackson songs in the system, but I’ll find a way to get some songs to play”. In case you don’t know, most big stations no longer have any physical records or CD’s, everything is a digital file and stations can run itself uninterrupted for a week or two without anyone knowing. 15 minutes later, the station played its first MJ song, about 75 minutes after the official word of his passing. It was an embarrassment, but then again I do live in a “small market” town. I am certain that if I lived in a bigger city, I would have heard everything from tributes to phone dedications to interviews. Then again, maybe it wasn’t a surprise that local coverage was close to nil.

Michael Jackson was an incredible performer, an artist, musician (he did play on his albums), and producer who was a perfectionist. But he wasn’t able to control the imperfections of a world he always seemed to love, with occasional bursts of hate that showed he was indeed human. He allegedly did things that no one should be proud of, but those may have been some of the demons that pulled him down. At least now, he doesn’t have to show and prove when he had already done more than enough to mark his place in history.


REVIEW: Jogujo Circuit’s A New Tide

They call themselves Jogujo Circuit and are an electronic-based group from Copenhagen, Denmark who mix up electronics and laptops with real instrumentation that results in something that’s a cross between Jazzanota and Jaga Jazzist with a hint of Supreme Beings Of Leisure or Soulstice. A New Tide (Ilk) is an album with a nice blend of mid-tempo songs with the occasional downtempo groover, and when they go back and forth between click-style production and something more orchestrated, it sounds like there’s more people in this group than there is (Jogujo Circuit are currently a trio).

The best song on the album is vocally enhanced by a non-member of the group, Kirsti Huke, whose silky ways has her sounding like Denmark’s version of Clara Hill. The time signature is 17/4 so there’s always an extra step throughout the song as she sings about being concise and watching one’s time. I love when she handles the layers of background vocals too. If she doesn’t have a solo career of her own, she should and have these guys handle a few tracks.

The music is not chaotic, more for the chillout vibe in you with touches of jazz but not overly so.

REVIEW: Marco Polo & Torae’s Double Barrel

When I saw the title for this album, the first words I thought of were “I… am the magnificent”. But are Marco Polo & Torae subliminally saying they too are magnificent? No need to hide behind a guise, for this hip-hop duo are definitely going to make a name for themselves in a positive way.

Double Barrel (Duck Down) is an album that delivers both lyrically and musically, and I say that especially in 2009 since a lot of times a hip-hop album shows a lot of promise and things are a bit lopsided. This is a nicely balanced, album, not a “perfect balance” but I don’t want to boost the ego of the songs and have people think “wow, is this the renaissance?” Yet in a small way, it is a throwback to a golden era even though it doesn’t specifically sound like one specific era. It has that boom bap, it has that rah rah, but Torae is an MC who thinks about what he has to say, or at least he puts some serious thought into his lyrics, it’s not a sloppy bit of “yes yes y’all, and you don’t stop”. Not once are listeners going to say “stop that already, I heard it countless times before”, although the familiarity of his flows only mean that one is comfortable with his execution.

As for Marco Polo, this guy is going to take off in the same way The Alchemist and Jake One have in recent years. It’s not an album where the MC goes into his lyrics toybag, because Marco Polo wants to play too. It’s chops, it’s slices, it’s a puzzle and he does it in a way that at least made me go “yes, this is how you pull it off” because he’s cutting up various records, pieces them together as if various MC’s are right there in the studio. It’s a tribute to the punch they offered before, and it honors a music that still can give you a couple back slaps at any given time when it feels it’s the right time to do so. The back slaps are long overdue, and this is a group that knows the power of a good fwack.