The buzz over the compact disc packaging of The Stimulus Package by Freeway & Jake One has been causing ripples on many hip-hop board and forums, making people realize that there’s still life in proper album packaging. I liked it, but of course being the vinyl junkie I am, I asked “HOW ABOUT THE LP VERSION?” Here’s the answer.
As you’ll see by the video, The Stimulus Package will be available as a 2-record set in a color gatefold cover, and the vinyl itself… aaah yeah. This will be a beaut.
Both the vinyl and CD versions of The Stimulus Package can be pre-ordered directly from Fifth Element, and if you order now, you’ll be automatically entered to win one of five 100 dollar cash prizes, and you’ll get a number of extra goodies too like free mixtapes, coupons, etc. Rhymesayers may be practicing quality packaging with their cash money, but they’re also giving away something in recession-conscious times. Now let’s see if the label helps stimulate the brain matter of other labels and artists to push their product in the same fashion.
Dave Sharp is a musician who knows his stuff, he is very much his name, I’m not going to lie. 7 (Vortex Jazz) is the name of the album by Dave Sharp’s Secret 7, and yes the album features seven track. Oddly enough, the Secret Seven features only four members, so there’s something going on here.
Sharp is joined by Chris Kaercher (saxophones, flute, and harmonica), Eric “Chucho” Wilhelm (drums/percussion), and Dale Grisa (Hammond B-3 and piano) and together they are jazz adventurists, willing to combine African roots and Latin rhythms in one song (“Africano”) while getting cool, blue, and calm in others (“Boop Bwee Ahh” and “Lootmar (Wind Song)”). They probably sound more powerful in a live setting, but this has a feel of a live performance and it’s quite intense. There’s a chemistry between Sharp and Kaercher, which extends to the two collaborating in the songwriting/arranging department, and when Wilhelm and Grisa jump in, it feels like something is about to happen but you don’t know what. The group are joined by a number of other musicians adding different colors and textures to these tracks, and they could arguably widen the depth of this mysterious 7, but this is unknown.
It seems the group want to aim high, for one of the bonus tracks is a radio edit of “Africano”, reduced by about 90 seconds although the full-length 7:11 take is worthy of airtime too. What might help them get a bit more airplay and attention is the second bonus track, a cover of Chuck Carbo‘s funk classic “Can I Be Your Squeeze”. It’s unusual to hear the song, recorded 40 years after the original, so clean and crisp opposed to the grit of Carbo’s version, and perhaps it will help bring this song to a new generation.
Whatever the secret to 7, it will not be guarded for long.
When an album has a track listing featuring 21 different songs, I’m thinking “damn, this better be good”. In truth, Serene Poetic (Shemspeed) by Dreams In Static is not only good, it’s pretty damn good that despite some of its flaws, holds up incredibly well.
It’s a 21-track instrumental album, so the dialogue can be found in the music. They cover a wide range of different styles, flowing in and out of the melodic, structured, jazzy, soulful, funky, and sometimes hard hitting tracks that would be perfect for surf/skateboard films/videos, potential hip-hop/electronic samples… let me stop here for a moment. Next paragraph please.
Sometimes these songs sound like they would be perfect for hip-hop and electronica. The beats are sometimes slightly off, so either the drums were played live or the slightly-off groove was intentional. This is something a bit of editing can fix, but it’s very atmospheric, or to paraphrase jazz musician Eddie Harris, it’s music in search of a movie. The title of the album Serene Poetic is very appropriate, for they are poetic in nature, never going above or beyond where it needs to be. Some songs, like “Magic Carpet”, “Befalllen”, and “Lost/Forgotten”, would have been nice if the rhythms were tighter. Being slightly off isn’t a nuisance, but perhaps their intention was to not make it so mechanical. The human lurks within the machine, perhaps why I found myself putting certain tracks on repeat.
Audiophile is a word that can be good to some people, complete lunacy to others. I am not an audiophile by any means, but I do care about what I listen to and try to pay close to attention to what I’m hearing. I enjoy knowing that a song or album was done in a way that shows hard work and respect towards the music, and if you’re familiar with the word NAIM, then you’ll know about their approach to sound and music. I saw the NAIM logo on this album by Empirical and I looked forward to opening this up so it could open me up.
Empirical consists of Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Shaney Forbes (drums), Tom Farmer (double bass), and Lewis Wright (vibraphone), and together they play what can be described as post-bop, reminiscent of some of the best jazz albums of the early 1960’s that may show John Coltrane‘s, Ornette Coleman‘s, or Charles Mingus‘ influence at any given time. In truth, the album was created with Eric Dolphy in mind. Out ‘n’ In is perhaps a nice way of describing the band’s approach on this album, always trying to step out of jazz’s boundaries while very much being in it by default. In fact, Farmer’s own “Out But In” shows the possibilities of being genius and ingenius in terms of how they play and how the song is structured. When they take on Dolphy’s own “Hat & Beard”, you immediately go back to the era the original song was done and feel as much as what Dolphy tried to share with his listeners. The rhythm section of Forbes and Farmer will make you want to see and hear how these two do it live, and it just sounds so great here.
Jason Yarde produced this, while Dave Moore engineered and mixed it (with a bit of assistance from Toby Hulbert. It was mastered by Ray Staff. It’s a British production from start to finish, even though the music sounds as if it was recorded in Chicago, Detroit, or St. Louis. Empirical have been getting a lot of recognition for their live shows, now you’re able to sound how they keep things bottled up in a studio setting. Explosive? This is the future of jazz now.
Something I enjoy about hearing certain albums by bands is being floored, or feeling like I’ve been brutally attacked by sound, wondering how could this be missing from my life for so long. I’ve never heard of them until now, but now I will become a devoted follower of a 1-man/1-woman powerhouse known as Lullabye Arkestra. When I first heard their music, I thought they were a four piece, and that their name was somewhat yin yang in nature. You know, a “lullabye” is soft and delicate, an “orchestra” is big, bold, and loud, although they spell it “Arkestra”, which brought to mind Sun Ra and his intergalactic adventures in Earth-bound sounds. That left me wondering what this could sound like.
I’m playing the album, and keep in mind I had no idea what they looked like or who made up this group. I heard a man and woman alternate vocals in each song, occasionally uniting in some tracks. What I hear are heavy, distorted bursts of metal and hardcore punk, I’m hearing shades of L7, Monster Magnet, Christ On A Crutch, and St. Vitus. The guitars are on the low-end, but as I move into the album a bit deeper, I realize “is this album just all bass guitar?”, with loud drums Some of these songs sound like ruthless battle cries, other sounds sound like having a kegger in hell. This isn’t Freedom Rock, this is more like extra-secluded rock not meant for outsiders, and everyone who is inside will have an incredible time. They go back and forth betweeen playing incredibly heavy, but aren’t around playing willy-nilly solos. Instead they prefer to do it punk rock style by playing a song, playing mindlessly, and then moving to the next track. One builds up a lot of energy during a song, only for the next one to start immediately so by the end of the album, you have to release that energy somehow.
It wasn’t until after listening to this album, when I was to look for an album cover scan, did I realize that Lullabye Arkestra are a duo, in this case vocalist/bassist Kat Taylor-Small and vocalist/drummer Justin Small. They are small but basic in the same sense that Jucifer are a 2-piece, but if you love Jucifer slothing around in their rich stoner metal gumbo, Lullabye Arkestra come off like the prankster sibling, the one with an itchy ass but there’s no wall corner to scratch out the relief. At the end of “This Is A Storm, Kat lets out one of the most wicked Roger Waters/Kelly Canary/Kim Shattuck screams I’ve heard in a long time, and the only thing one can say after that is “fuuuuuuuuuck”. In “Floating Graveyards” they turn the tempo down and grind in a sludgy fashion, with choir-like vocal harmonies that is a signal for LORD SATANA to enter the world. At the end, they completely switch to do a song that sounds like it could be done at a honky tonk. If you remember Best Kissers In The World‘s “Hungover Together”, it’s that type of song where you tell everyone “one last round” and head home, with vomit in your shirt or blouse.
Threats/Worship (Vice/TVT) is an album you put on, turn up very loud, and wait until you’re thrown out of your apartment or a cop pulls you over for violating city ordinances. It’s a spirit that I’ve always enjoyed, when punking it up doesn’t mean putting on sk8r boy clothes and going to the mall on Saturday to hang out at Old Navy. It’s ugly rock’n’roll the way it’s meant to be heard and played. A few of these songs have extra synth/keyboard elements that only helps to take songs to an elevated level, showing that they not only know how to have a good time, but they can be anthemic if they want.
If you’ve been in the need of a Flight Of The Conchords fix, you’re in luck since October 20th is the release date for I Told You I Was Freaky, which will be released on vinyl (YES!) and CD (eh) by the good homies at Sub Pop.
If the album cover looks familiar to you but can’t figure it out, then take a look below. Sadly, the new Flight Of The Conchords will not be released in quadraphonic.
The album cover for Exterminating Angel (Corleone) is an illustration of a demented being, perhaps the exterminating angel itself, eating the flesh of someone who is hanging from a tree (click thumbnail for bigger version of cover). It’s creepy, some may call it disgusting, maybe something that would be perfect on a death metal album. But Alec K. Redfearn & The Seizures use accordions, ‘ukulele, drums, bass, and vocals to create a somewhat folksy/rootsy feel to their indie rock, but this indie rock doesn’t have any guitars. The heaviness comes from the accordion and ‘ukulele, which might come off as a novelty at first but when you listen to their music, they reveal that they are as complex and heavy as King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Smashing Pumpkins, and Mr. Bungle, bringing together an ironic thrash mixed in with eclectic pop tendencies. Lyrics such as “Rubber fists and candlesticks adorn the narrow halls/cipher scratched into the wood and lipstick on the walls/a naked smile on your lips, a hunger red and deep/broken teeth and metal tongues to sing us all to sleep” (from”Elzebet”) would have fit perfectly on Master Of Reality, and the way the song unfolds itself while revealing new dimensions at the same time could easily turn this into a prog rock staple if placed into the right hands.
A part of me feels these songs would work in the hands of others, which would make Redfearn a musical prodigy of sorts, but hearing them in this form, as they were intended, makes these songs even more beautiful. Maybe the decay of the album cover is meant to represent what the music will do to the mind of the listener. If so, I have a lot of cleaning up to do right now.
Only 500 vinyl LP’s and 1000 CD’s are being pressed for this album, I would recommend buying doubles so you can keep one and give one as a gift to friends. It’s that good.
Good funk is good, great funk even better, and we all know that funk is its own reward. But occasionally there is a bit of mystery in the funk, especially when you’re not sure why it was made. Case in point, The Memphis Sounds.
There are a lot of soul and funk bands from around the world, showing their love of the music from the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s. Isaac Hayes is a legend, so it seems only fitting that the man is honored with what is essentially at tribute album. The Memphis Sounds are not from Memphis, but rather is a collection of musicians who normally find themselves in The Dap Kings, Antibalas, and El Michels Affair. It’s a mystery because the album cover looks like one of those cheapy cash-in covers Laff Records were known for, and nowhere on the cover does it indicate it’s an all-star album. In other words, you have to really dig deep to find out who The Memphis Sounds are.
Now that you know who the musicians are, perhaps it makes sense why some of these renditions would have fit perfectly on an Antibalas, El Michels Affair, or Dap-Tone LP, especially when things move into Afrobeat form. Some of Hayes’ best songs were merely renditions of other people’s songs, so what you are hearing here are new versions of Hayes’ own revisions. Sounds odd, but it works.
Sample junkies will find this album worthy, for there are enough funky moments that would be perfect for any new songs. It would be cool of someone released this album as a box set of 45’s, because it’s that cool. It’s the music of Isaac Hayes in rustic funk mode, and yes it is a bad mother.
After over five years of writing a column that had its start at Music For America, I am going to put The Run-Off Groove to rest. However, music reviews will continue on this site and will be done on an individual basis.
I want to thank everyone who has supported my column over the years, from everyone at MFA to people at Okayplayer and Soul Strut. I want to try things differently, preferably something that will be a bit easier in format, at least in theory.
Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #238. 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:
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Now, the column.
When it comes to success amongst musicians, you generally see the excess. With a band as big and bold as Iron Maiden, one would expect to see them living the good life and being spoiled by their riches. Perhaps it is their British sensibilities that keep them grounded, and that’s what makes their Flight 666 documentary so amazing.
Here is a band who has become one of the most influential heavy metal bands of the last thirty years, and they’ve done it with a considerable amount of MTV airplay in the early days of MTV but limited radio airplay. Def Leppard and Whitesnake they were not. Nonetheless, the band wanted to conduct a tour in 2008 not only as a way to play some of their classics, but to bring to a younger audience a chance for them to hear the songs their parents fell in love with over 20 years ago. Iron Maiden continues to record new music that is a progression of what they’ve done since the late 70’s, and the only true sign of their success you see in the film is the Iron Maiden plane that they went on tour with. They wanted to be able to have a plane that they could travel on with families and roadies, while carrying all of the equipment with them. Not only that, but singer Bruce Dickinson, himself a trained pilot, wanted to fly the plane.
What you see in Flight 666 is a band who truly love to play and have friendships that are genuine, they don’t put on faces for each other for the camera. In fact, outside of magazine photo shoots and music video, Iron Maiden have generally been shy from the kind of bombardment the paparazzi places on entertainers, but that’s generally the case for a lot of British and European stars. They even talk about how they feel the cameras might be a slight invasion, but directors Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn never push themselves onto the band to find a story. Instead, the story is the power of their music amongst the fans, particularly fans who have either never seen them or had only seen them once fifteen years ago. It shows not only the dedication toward Iron Maiden, but also heavy metal and basically rock music. South American fans are known to be hungry, and they treat the band like religious figures. It’s incredible, and I think any of the fly-by-night artists of today who think they have it made should watch this. This is a band who has it made, but works at it to make sure their success never goes away.
It’s not just serious 24/7, although the one who always makes sure the machine is running at the appropriate moments is bassist Steve Harris. The only time you see him breakdown is when he talks about having jetlag when he traveled from one country to the other, and having a possible case of the shits. But he says that the crowd doesn’t care what you have or how sick you are, and a lot of times the adrenalin of the moment keeps you going and smiling for two hours, only for you to touch ground when it’s all over. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson is often the voice of the group on and off stage, and isn’t afraid to be open with his fans. However, if you are a true Iron Maiden fan, then you know that the funniest guy in the group has to be drummer Nicko McBrain. Most got a chance to know the ways of McBrain from an Iron Maiden B-side called “Mission From ‘Arry’, a secret recording made by Dickinson of an argument between McBrain and Harris. It was a chance to hear McBrain with his thick accent, talking about “fuck my ol’ boots” and eventually discovering someone recording the conversation and then coming up with the statement “some cunt’s recording this.” The humor expressed in that recording, his photo shoots, and music videos presents himself in the interviews featured in the him, and his love of cheese pizza can’t be denied.
Fans also get to see a side of guitarist Adrian Smith most haven’t seen, the fact that he is tech savvy and wants to be sure that everything is done as properly as possible. Unfortunately we don’t get to hear much from longtime guitarist Dave Murray, but the band state that he is the man of wisdom. Janick Gers gets a chance to speak a bit but not as much as I would have liked. Perhaps next time.
Again, it is about the music and the fans, and you’ll get a chance to hear many of their classic songs, including “Can I Play With Madness”, “Aces High”, “2 Minutes To Midnight”, “Wasted Years”, “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”, “Run To The Hills”, “The Number Of The Beast”, “Heaven Can Wait”, and of course “Iron Maiden”. But to see the loyalty amongst fans in India, Costa Rica, Brazil, Tokyo, Anchorage, and New York City shows that when you love your favorite artists, it’s to the death. The documentary doesn’t look like an MTV mess, instead it is edited at a comfortable pace and you wish that they could have added more to this. Flight 666 is a testament to one of the greatest bands in my lifetime, and it’s a nice finger to the naysayers who used to think they were the most evil bands in the land.
The Graff Life is not like some of the other graffiti documentaries that have come out in recent years, and there have been many. This doc, directed by Randy DeVol, takes a look at the Metro Transit Assassins, a graffiti collective that explains without disguises or cenorship what graffiti means to them. It is a way of life, and it comes from not only their love of hip-hop music and the community it comes from, but for the pride and respect that graffiti demands.
It’s a unique video from the inside because one is able to see how certain graffiti challenges are created, and what the end result is. The narrator (who sounds like an 8 year old boy but the credits show the name of a woman) also explains that a lot of times resorting to graffiti comes out of boredom, due to local, regional, and national arts programs being taken away, something that has increased in the last 25 years. On one hand it may indeed be vandalism, but for an artist they need to express themselves and these guys are doing what they can to get their names seen and known. They follow graf artist ethics where you don’t write over another person’s piece. But if a wall or train is clean, it’s fair game. At the end of the day, these guys do have real jobs, while some will live the ways of a G and do what needs to be done, by any means necessary. It amazed me that these guys allowed themselves to be recorded. This movie was done before the Metro Transit Assassins, also known as the MTA did their now-famous half-mile tag displaying the MTA letters in the Los Angeles River:
Had that footage been captured (and perhaps it is in someone’s archives), it would have been incredible. Nonetheless, The Graff Life is a great look at a bunch of individuals who simply want to create, and rather than devote themselves to gangs, they celebrate their friendships and their love of bombing L.A. and beautifying the ugliness that exists in the inner and outer city.
There is heart to this doc, and that perhaps is what makes this movie different from the others. It looks at the art, the people, and makes a successful attempt at explaining why they do what they do, even if that means debating on whether it’s right or wrong. It’s freedom of expression, and the hope is that they’ll express themselves until they no longer can. It is certain that there’s a new generation out there ready to display their talents on the public canvas.
Critics have called ApSci “alternative hip-hop” but if that’s what people call N*E*R*D as well, so be it. In this case, Ra Lamotta and wife Dana Diaz-Tutaan create fun-loving party music with a nice dose of new wave and rock with hints of hip-hop, even though the hip-hop influence is as mixed up as everything else in their sound. For most of Best Crisis Ever (Quannum) they sound like they entered electro land and found themselves sliding in baby oil for the funk of it. It’s kind of loonie at times but the one time the group let their guards down is in the sensitive song “The Tradeoff”, where they speak on what must be done to become a success and the attempts to keep it, and by revealing they are the risk takers, they also reveal that they don’t want to fail at it either. It may not be the song that ends up defining them in 2009, but it should be. It’s the group you’ll find at a hotel at 9:57am, not knowing where they are or why they have to get up in the first place. People may be quick to compare Diaz-Tutaan to M.I.A. or Santigold but she is her own singer doing things completely different from them. Discover her for herself.
The silliness of things threw me off at first, but once it got to “The Tradeoff” it made me want to listen to it with different ears. Best Crisis Ever may become one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year. Do not fear them.
(Best Crisis Ever is scheduled for released on August 11. Extra bonus points to the group for shooting the video partly up at Tantalus and near Rabbit Island on the island of O’ahu in Hawai’i.)
Psychedelic music can be a little difficult to describe since its sound isn’t exactly distinct. It can be trippy musically or lyrically, but when you have a band that combines both, it’s a recipe for success.
Or at leas that is what the hope was for Pisces, a band from Rockford, Illinois who simply wanted to trip out while making potentially awesome music at the same time. They did, but no one ever got to hear it. With The Numero Group to the rescue, they’ve released A Lovely Sight, an album meant to be but never was.
The liner notes indicate that this was heavily influenced by The Beatles‘ self-titled album (a/k/a “The White Album”) from 1968, but one can hear strains of Pink Floyd and Jefferson Airplane in there. A song like “Children Kiss Your Mother Goodnight” may sound like a lullaby, but the band tells the children that when they wake up, their mother will be dead. Yeah, real nice. (That was sarcasm, BTW.) The album was privately made and they were going to release it themselves, and sadly it wasn’t. Had it been released, it could have been a cult favorite, if not someone’s holy grail. They get freaky for the sake of freaky but they could play fairly well and knew how to do everything right at the proper moments. It is hidden/lost albums like these that keep me wanting to hear more from The Numero Group. Here’s to more.
Church are a band who are in the vein of Engine Kid, Sonic Youth and to a degree Radiohead, where they like to make music that starts off soft and proper before building it up to a multi-climax and never letting go until it’s absolutely necessary. Song Force Crystal (Tender Loving Empire) is an album that mixes up rock, pop, and a heavy dose of boldness one commonly finds in indie rock to create something that mixes real instrumentation with electronic elements. The clash could be typical of everyone else doing the same thing, but what works to their advantage is the quality of their songs, which are really good. The distorted guitars and snail pace of “Opposite People”, the partial ugly tones of “Hidden Tone”, and the curiosity of notes that open “Quinty’s Guilty” helps develop the band’s full picture, with many colors and hues that help shape their sound that makes you want to hear them continuously. In other words, it’s an album that deserves the attention of the listener, something you just can’t throw at a party and expect for it to entertain as audio wallpaper. Church are intense, and they like it like that as they sing songs of dispair, agony, and innocent charm.
Looking for a jazz singer with the stylings of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Al Jarreau, and, well, just a damn good singer who puts most so-called R&B singers to rest? You’ll have to take a listen to Ron Mitchell, whose Jazzy Me: Live In Japan (REM Solo Music) is a live recording showing how lacking much of today’s singers are. Mitchell takes some of his cues from the past, be it jazz, Broadway, or even a few showtunes, but takes it into today’s world without catering to the needs of today. In other words, he brings a sense of class and style that at times seems missing in today’s music, if not today’s world. This is someone who would make the ladies drop panties in his instance, especially upon hearing “Someone To Watch Over Me”, “The Look Of Love”, and “Our Love Is Here To Stay”. Mitchell never forces his voice to go overboard, he knows how to work it and it’s a delight to hear.
Please, get this guy some work and share his talents with the world.
Wand is James Jackson Toth and as he puts together material for a new album, he has released Hard Knox (Ecstatic Peace), a compilation of demos, outtakes, and home recordings that allow fans to hear not only new music, but new things from a musician who continues to excite and delight thousands of fans.
Basic versions of songs well known will reveal a lot as it’s now possible to hear what went on from the initial recording to what it would develop into, but what also is a trip is to hear all of the songs that did not see the light of day until now. It’s a shame, but I can see this album being used for television shows, movies, and perhaps a few laid back surf movies. With luck, it will be the reason people will make love and have children. I feel it, and I feel like procreating right now.
Want to head to West Africa but can’t afford it? You can do it through sound and find thousands of classic albums, or maybe wait for a band from Africa to play in your city. If you can’t wait but want to hear its influence right now, look for Toubab Krewe. Their Live At The Orange Peel album (Upstream) allows you to hear a North Carolina band mix up the sounds of Africa with a bit of Appalachian folk, rock, and pop to create music that sounds like what would happen if everyone was heavily influenced by Paul Simon‘s Graceland, but it’s much more than that. It’s a rootsy and folksy music that at times sounds neither rootsy or folksy, it’s very much of the now and it may move people to dance and discover their own roots.
From Senegal we have Maher & Sousou Cissoko, who play an instrument called the kora, with Sousou being one of the few women who have mastered the kora. Together they have recorded the album Adouna (Ajabu!), bridging together Maher’s African origins and Sousou’s Swedish upbringing to create some of the most harmonious music I’ve heard in some time. Musically they merge the sounds of Africa with hints of the influence of the Middle East, so through the kora you may hear the kind of playing one may expect with the Indian santoor or sarod. In “Keep On Trying” the bluesy harmonica work of <BSam Hagberth lets people know that this is travel music, or that the sound of the blues can be translated into all languages. It sounds like something you would find on Peter Gabriel‘s Real World label, various musical and cultural hybrids that end up creating a one world music. Maybe through the Cissoko’s, we’re one step closer to that reality.
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.
I have a lot of music to go through, and I’m the only one doing it, I’m trying my best to review everything in a timely manner.