SOME STUFFS: Lost Beach Boys multitrack tapes found

Photograph by Lance Robison
It’s not so much that the Beach Boys multi-track tapes were lost. Someone had them, but they were not in the hands of Brian Wilson or any of the surviving Beach Boys, or even with any former Capitol Records employees.

These tapes, which are the original session tapes The Beach Boys recorded some of their songs, have been missing for years but somehow they managed to get into the hands of a few kids, who kept it around for 45 years. When it was discovered that someone had what is considered to be a very prized find, Capitol Records had no idea what they were dealing with. A sign of the demise of the record industry? Sadly it’s an occurance that has happened too often with record labels, as companies would regulary toss out tapes in the trash in order to clear out inventory, with no care about history or value of what lurked on those reels. Only the diehard music junkies who knew of the practice made regular trips into trash bins in order to raid them. This happens to be one story of a (re)discovery.

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REVIEW: LeVert II’s “Dedication”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic There are some music projects that should have never even been thought of. Case in point: LeVert II.

I was a huge fan of LeVert, grew up with my share of O’Jays songs, so I understand the sentiment of carrying on the musical legacy. This one, however, just seems to reek in a bad way. The two LeVert brothers are no longer with us, so surviving member Marc Gordon has decided to not only carry on with the name, but recreate himself as best as he can as Levert II. Gordon has a decent voice, but the primary reason why people loved LeVert was because of the LeVert’s. So who outside of Gordon is in the group? Someone named Blaq Rose. That’s it. The original concept behind this album was that it was meant to have Sean LeVert. When he died, it left the group without its soul. Fortunately his presence is heard in “My Brotha”, in honor of Gerald LeVert, but the rest of the album doesn’t hold up.

Let’s get direct and to the point. Half of the songs are okay, while the other songs, some of which lean towards hip-hop, should never have been released on anything using the LeVert name. I know LeVert dabbled in hip-hop every now and then, but these songs sound like a cheap way to promote your music on the backs of someone else’s legacy, which isn’t right. The promotion is not as powerful as it could be either, it sounds like instant mall music, and there’s no excuse for that either, don’t give me the “we didn’t have a big budget” excuse either. To make it worse, the official press release for the album says that the CD is a posthumous release. It would be posthumous if it was an actual LeVert album, but this is being promoted as LeVert II. No one in Levert II is dead.

Outside of the great with Sean LeVert, the other song that shows promise is also a promotional one, as Camryn LeVert sings “Daddy”, for father Gerald. She is still young but she shows incredible potential if she wishes to make music a part of her career. It’s difficult to say if she’ll have the voice of a Keke Palmer, but only time will tell.

As for Levert II, leave well alone.

SOME STUFFS: Burn To Shine project celebrates destruction through music

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Photo ©Jim Saah

This is a really cool project. Someone finds out about a home in a city that is about to be destroyed. That someone gets a bunch of bands to perform at that home. They can only play one song, but perform it twice. The performances and any actions in and around the home are recorded, audio and video. The performances are preserved as is, warts and all. When the performances are over, the home is destroyed as scheduled.

This is the result of a project called Burn To Shine, where the performances/home demolition was taken to five cities. The city with the best results? Seattle, where Eddie Vedder, Jesse Sykes, and Blue Scholars had taken part. Each city are now represented by their own individual DVD, the Portland and Seattle editions are still available by going here (nicely priced too). You can watch highlights from each of the five cities by clicking there.

REVIEW: April Hall’s “Fun Out Of Life”

 photo AprilHall.jpg When you have a good singing voice, share it with the world is what I often say. When you have a great voice, it is only a matter of time before others will notice. Okay so maybe it’s time, hard work, and determination. Of course I did not forget talent, and someone who has all of this is April Hall, whose Fun Out Of Life (Bee Boy) is a nice middle finger to those who insist jazz has no more life.

What moves me about hearing Hall is that this woman can sing, without a doubt. But she’s not just a jazz singer, for while she has done some work with pianist Pamela Hines (whose work I’ve reviewed a number of times over the years), she also has a folk album in her discography. But when I hear songs like “Foolin’ MySelf, “Boogie Woogie Blues (I May Be Wrong)”, and “I’m A Fool To Want You”, she can really tear it up in the blues department and I would love to hear her in a soul setting.

In other words, what I hear is character from someone who sings with a lot of passion and heart. I can’t stand it when someone just sings jazz-by-the-book, it’s almost effortless regardless of how decent or half-decent the songs are. Hall makes me want to hear more, as she is very comfortable in what she does and her voice is very comforting. I think with her range, she could play around with the song selection too, not only do the expected jazz standards, but to take any song from any genre and reinterpret it into the April Hall songbook. I hope she’ll take her talents as far as she can take it, but then go around the corner and push it to new places.


REVIEW: Says She’s Ms. Blat’s self-titled EP

Says She’s Ms. Blat is a new project featuring musician Bret Puchir, who is one half of this duo and plays drums, guitar, and bass, and also recorded, mixed, and produced this EP. The other half of the duo is vocalist/keyboardist Lottie Leymarie, whose voice is one of the more striking elements upon hearing their self-titled 8-song EP (self-released). By keeping themselves to just a duo, one tends to want to hear and/or expect more and will hear the alleged void. What I find myself doing is focusing more on Puchir’s drums backing up Leymarie’s voice, whose voice take some of the more daring elements of Bob Dylan, Pink, and Carrie Akre and ends up sounding like someone who you wouldn’t dare fuck with, in any situation. In truth, she sings with the kind of unabashed power that pulls you in to what she’s singing about. A song like “Not Sorry” plainly states she’s unapologetic about things, while “Crazy Little Eyelids” sounds as if she’s been hanging out with punk and hip-hop crowds and is better because of it.

Their MySpace page describes their own music as being “dark vaudevillian pop”, and that couldn’t be any more accurate. The music sounds like it could be unveiled as an elaborate show, as if you’re expected to show up and take part in their evil deeds. After hearing their songs, you can’t help but want to be corrupted.

It’s music you listen to and be affected by, something that sticks to you because there is some substance in what Puchir and Leymarie. It’s like a plate of ribs, but nothing is too sweet. Well, maybe there’s some sweetness in Says She’s Ms. Blat’s sound, but they’re not about to reveal where it’s coming from. This is one group I will be keeping an eye and ear out for.

REVIEW: David Starobin’s “Favorite Tracks Vol. 2”

Subtitled 20th Century Classics with Guitar, these recordings by David Starobin from 1976 to 1997 are newly remastered. For fans of the guitar or classical music, one will be able to hear Starobin as he pushed himself beyond the boundaries of what was accepted in classical music to create bold and daring music that was part of a movement of classically trained musicians who wanted to get out of their suits and let loose.

This is not radical in a rockist sense, but rather in the mentality of how to apply an instrument (the acoustic guitar) that may have been used in classical music for years, then to say “let’s see how we can turn things inside out.” Fans of Starobin will be happy to hear treasured pieces such as “Changes”, “Tell Me Where Is Fancy Bred”, “Sunday Song Set”, and “Three Poems Of Robert Frost”. They sound brilliant, Starobin’s playing is nothing short of brlliant, and I get a sense of feeling enlightened even though I’ve never heard of these pieces before, I can only imagine what longtime fans of his will feel.

REVIEW: Rented Mule’s “X”

Great jazz gets me going, funky jazz has me sold, so when you combine the two genuinely, I’m wanting to shake what’s left and just get locked into the grooves they’re slicing left and right. Now add to that a bit of fusion and what might sound like a collision ready to get ugly, it’s perfect in the hands of Rented Mule, who combine these elements successfully on X (self-released).

They may call it jazz-rock, perhaps in the vein of Santana‘s mid-70’s output, and you would come very close, but Carlos Santana always flirted with jazz without ever pushing it to the side (at least in that era of his career). X sounds a bit like Frank Zappa if he wanted to jam with Tower Of Power, complete with great musicianship and arrangements, and a tightness that you want to somehow get inbetween in order to, in your mind, truly feel its magic. The rhythm section of bassist Danny Greenberg and drummer Don “DA” Jones are the bands core, and with them the entire band follow while not being afraid to share their individual qualities in their instruments. It’s loose and funky, and when there is a guitar solo (duties of which are exchanged between Pete McRae, Ron Budesa), it takes the music on another playing field. It’s very much in the spirit of those jazz/funk/fusion albums of the mid to late 70’s, where jazz was splintering into more directions yet keeping to the integrity of the music.

They’re more than capable of backing any vocalist if they wanted to, but this is an all instrumental album, which is perfect. Solid from start to finish, I’d like to see these guys become a house band for a talk show, or maybe do some movie soundtracks.

REVIEW: Steelo’s “Music”

Now I know why I didn’t listen to this when I was sent a copy two months ago. I like good R&B and I love hip-hop, and unfortunately you have people out there blurring the thin line between the two, and unfortunately most of the time it ends up sounding like crap.

Okay, sonically the recording sounds great. But as far as what <a href="“>Steelo are about musically, I want to metaphorically vomit down its throat. Is it accessible, yes? Is it potentially catchy, yes, but it sounds like what a raw birdie hole smells like. It’s very bubble gum, it sounds like everyone else who are offering the exact same formula, there is absolutely nothing in their music that sounds original, bold or daring. You’re probably saying “this isn’t supposed to be original, bold, or daring, this is supposed to make people in the club…” and when you mention that dreaded word to me, I’ll walk away.

What would have made this album better? Harder beats, songs that are structured better, and stronger lyrics that have more to do than just dancing til the break of dawn. I can hear why they could have a devoted audience, but it would be great if they applied their talents to create something more moving.

SOME STUFFS: Miles Davis enters the “bloop”

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So what if Miles Davis grew up in the late 70’s or early 80’s and felt a need to make some incredible music with friends by using the same technology that made old table-top video games, Atari 2600, Nintendo NES, and Game Boys? If you’ve made it this far, then you know that there’s already a genre of music that caters to this called chiptunes. What would happen if you combined Davis with 8-bit music? Blasphemous, or pure lo-fi genius?

This project was released a few months ago but I was not made aware of it until this week, but it’s a song-for-song recreation of Davis’ Kind Of Blue album, but done in chiptune form and called Kind Of Bloop. It was created by Andy Baio, the man behind Waxy.org, and Kickstarter.com, and as Ast0r, Baio has made a number of chiptunes so for Kind Of Bloop he collaborated with fellow 8-bit music enthusiasts to create a note-for-note revision of one of the most well known jazz albums. It’s really cool, but will probably upset jazz purists. Show some support.