DVD Review: “Pearl Jam Twenty”

Photobucket Pearl Jam Twenty is the 2011 documentary film on a Seattle band that, for some people, came out of/from nowhere, figuratively and literally. Directed by Cameron Crowe. the movie is an in-depth look at Pearl Jam’s roots, along with the roots of each member, plus what they had to get through in order to get from way over there to becoming the Seattle band naysayers didn’t think would last more than two years. Through a mix of newly shot interviews and archival footage, one is able to watch the growth of the band, their music, along with how each member managed to stick together despite initial mental obstacles. In terms of rock documentaries, this is one of the best because the band allowed complete access to their lives. Die hard fans will love this, as it offers a chance to see not only early nightclub shows when they were known as Mookie Blaylock, but also some of the promotional duties they had to do during the first album, all of which lead to what guitarist Stone Gossard calls “the birth of no”: no videos, no interviews, no Ticketmaster. It seemed so revolutionary and out of the norm, and years later, we have people like comedian Louis C.K. who is able to sell concert tickets directly to fans and have it be celebrated rather than criticized. There are so many highlights to this, but I liked it when Eddie Vedder said that the innocence of Seattle did not die when Kurt Cobain killed himself, but when Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood died after being taken off of life support following a heroin overdose. Then years later, have Vedder and the rest of the band sing a Mother Love Bone song. There are a number of touching moments here, but it has to be watched to be truly felt. It feels like a concert film even though it’s not. I have seen many music documentary films, but along with the Fishbone doc Everyday Sunshine, this is one of the best docs I’ve seen in a long time. While the film does touch on the hype and mystique, you also hear them talk about why they shunned it, and how they managed to beat the odds after taken the route most bands would never do, especially not today.

  • Now, my sidebar story. I remember when Mookie Blaylock was getting a lot of attention in the Seattle bi-weekly magazine, The Rocket. It was a magazine that pretty much covered anyone and everyone, and they championed some of the best bands in their existence. At the time, Europe and Japan were enjoying the superhype of the Seattle music scene. Alternative fans in the U.S. loved it, and it was far from being pop. People talked about how Soundgarden were on A&M, and people were wondering who would be the next to get a major label offering. Everyone was hoping for Mudhoney. But these Mookie Blaylock guys… it seemed like every issue had a status report on shows, demos, and how they might be getting a buzz. They then talked about the name change. Soon, there was a bit of mystery about a secret project from Nirvana, and something was very much in the air. I lived 200 miles away from Seattle, but if you were in touch with their music scene, you wanted to show support. I, on the other hand, felt like this Pearl Jam stuff was crap, and I hadn’t heard a note of their music. I was a long time Green River fan, ordered their “Together We’ll Never” green vinyl 7″ after reading a review from Bruce Pavitt in his Sub Pop column in The Rocket. It arrived with a letter from vocalist Mark Arm, who was nice enough to introduce me to a new band. He threw in a free record by some band called Melvins. I ended up enjoying Melvins much more than Green River, but I loved how sarcastic Green River were in their approach. When they split up, there was news on what the members would do next. The bassist from Melvins decided to join up with some members from Green River, ended up creating Mudhoney. Two other members of Green River would create Mother Love Bone. I knew Mother Love Bone received a lot of praise due to vocalist Andrew Wood. Loved when Mother Love Bone got signed to a Polygram deal. Then Wood died. I went to the New Music Seminar in 1990, and as I walked around in New York City, there were loads of posters of the forthcoming Mother Love Bone debut. It was meant to be a promotional push not only for them, but of Seattle. I wanted that to be their moment, but it didn’t happen, so the posters were just there and MTV played “Stardog Champion” as much as they could.

    This is why I hated Pearl Jam. I honestly felt that Eddie Vedder was nothing more than a random surfer stoner from San Diego who was trying to cash in on the Seattle thing, and they just snapped him up for attention. Keep in mind that I was in punk rock mode, and being overly protective for a music scene 200 miles away. I didn’t care too much about Vedder’s singing, his songs, I didn’t want to listen to it. They didn’t sound like what “grunge” sounded like, but then again, compared to everyone else, neither did Nirvana. Hell, every band sounded completely different one another. It would be too easy to say “Melvins is the sound of grunge”, but they loved Flipper as much as they loved Black Sabbath. Their influences were as diverse as everyone else. I thought Pearl Jam sucked, but they were always on MTV so they were hard to miss. I had to admit, even though they sucked, I found the sounds oddly catchy. I didn’t want to admit it. “Jeremy” got all the hype, “Alive” was their grand opening song, but I liked “Evenflo”, especially the video since it was shot at the Moore Theater, one of my favorite concert venues. To me, Vedder came off like a pompous poseur and that’s because I did not understand what he was about. He didn’t seem like the sarcastic fuckers of Seattle, and that’s because he wasn’t from Seattle. I’d read his interviews and thought “wow, who in the fuck is this guy?” I always heard the “hits” on the radio, but being in Washington State, the few rock stations in my area also played the album cuts. I happened to have a liking to the one “hit” that didn’t have a video: “Black”.

    After the buzz from the “Jeremy” video died down and they were getting ready to put together album number two, I still didn’t like them, but then they started doing things that I did like. I liked the fact that they chose to not too any more music videos, at a time when videos were meant to be “all or nothing” for artists. I liked that they would battle Ticketmaster when most major label/mainstream artists never had the balls to do the same. At a time when the compact disc was finally the preferred format of choice, I liked that they were pro-vinyl, often releasing albums two weeks before the CD release. (Today, if an album has a vinyl counterpart, it is usually released two weeks after the digital and CD releases are out). They also had a fan club where they would release Christmas records, just like The Beatles did. As serious and as “poseur” as I felt they came off as, there was a sense of something else that perhaps I had always wanted in a band. There was humor, there was fun, and there was a true love for music. What convinced me was when they started collaborating with Neil Young. I’ve been a Young fan since a kid, had an uncle who adored After The Gold Rush, which remains my all time favorite NY LP. It sounded great, and I realized wow, have I been wrong in assuming this band was crap? It sounds good to me.

    The weird thing about is that, Epic Records would send me promos of their albums and I didn’t bother listening to them. That hate was strong. Yet I found myself traveling 45 miles to the only record store in the area (Hot Poop in Walla Walla, Washington) to buy a vinyl pressing of Yield. The early reviews seemed good, and I thought “okay, this is album number five. I need to put my unrealstic hatred away. Maybe this album will change me.” It did.

    In between this hate, I became a huge fan of Gossard’s other band, Brad. I played the Shame album religiously and felt that this was the sound of Seattle, and it still is.

    I then realized wait: I’m from Hawai’i, where surfing originated. I was born in California, and there’s still a small bit of that boho California vibe in me. Why should I feel hatred for a guy who loves the ocean? I’m that guy who is always writing about how the lure of the ocean is strong and a beach tends to bring to me a bit of inner peace, even if just by thinking about it.

    I’ve been a Pearl Jam fan longer than the seven years I chose to hate them. It was more Vedder-hate than Pearl Jam, and as I began listening to his songs with the band and his solo work, I felt much of what he was going through. He can pick up an ‘ukulele and make it heartfelt. I could relate to that. No more hate.

    There is little chance they will read this but: to Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Eddie Vedder, and Mike McCready: I apologize for being ignorant to your music from 1991-1998. Call it Pacific Northwest pride, call it support for the Seattle music scene from a distance, call it dumb. It will not happen again.


  • DVD Review: “Everyday Sunshine – The Story Of Fishbone”

    Photobucket Fishbone are and will remain one of my all time favorite bands, despite the sad fact I never got to see them live. I had a number of opportunities in the 27 years I’ve been a fan, but it seemed each time they were “within my vicinity”, I wasn’t able to make it. I go back to a time when Fishbone’s music was not available at my local stores, when wanting Fishbone meant having to special order it, a process that would take two to three weeks, sometimes more. It was better (and faster) for me to drive 200 miles back and forth to get their new album, although back then, I didn’t have my license so I had to rely on my mom to get me there. That also meant how I had to see them in concert, so when you’re still under the rule of mom, she had to prioritize and my music fanaticism was not part of the deal. I had seen Fishbone live on the pay-per-view special 21 years ago, but that was the only way I had come close to seeing the original band lineup (at the time with additional guitarist John Bigham. While I, as a fan, selfishly would love to see the original line-up get to together again for a tour, this new documentary film explains why things turned out the way they did, but more importantly, documents their love of music and one another despite obstacles and circumstances.

    Everyday Sunshine: “The Story Of Fishbone (Cinema Guild) is one of the best documentary films I’ve ever seen on a band, and I have seen countless films and docs in my lifetime. With narration from actor Laurence Fishburne, the viewer gets a chance to see for themselves how Fishbone originated, who they were, how they came together, and what lead to them getting signed to Columbia Records, complete with archival footage and photographs. Fishburne’s commentary doesn’t overpower, in fact most of the time you’re hearing words directly from Angelo Moore and Norwood Fisher, the only two members of the original lineup who have remained in the group throughout their duration. You also get to hear from original keyboardist/vocalist Chris Dowd and vocalist/horn man “Dirty” Walter Kibby II, both of whom talk about how it was to live in the ghettos of Los Angeles, having to deal with rough surroundsing but not having any concerns about where they lived because that was was home. They had to be bussed to white schools, and by being the oddballs of their own neighborhoods, the schools also allowed them to discover a wide range of sounds, including punk. All of that is discussed, and how their individual spirits in life and on stage would become the Fishbone sound and vibe on stage.

    They do touch on why original guitarist Kendall Jones left the band during a moment when they felt he was going crazy, with Norwood speaking on the indicent where he was accused of kidnapping his friend from “the compound”. In the second half of the film, Kendall meets up with Moore and Norwood for the first time in 15 years, in what becomes one of the movie’s finest moments. The other moment is when Dowd also returns and meets up with them. They no longer look like the L.A. kids who wore clothes that were a mix of new wave, punk, and cholo uniforms, but it was great to see a hint of the spark of magic that once was, as everyone touches on why they fell apart from one another. Dirty Walt, often the most honest and blunt one in the band, also states clearly what went wrong: egos. People started to feel that Moore not only became the sole focus, but that perhaps he felt he was the sole focus in a band that were built on a “one for all, all for one” premise. Yet a lot of fans (including myself) loved the fact that there wasn’t a main focus. Original drummer “Fish” Fisher was always cool, calm, and collected, maintaining the funk. Norwood was always laying cool while playing incredibly well. Dowd acted like a loon but would instantly switch over into the cool, calm, and collected one, and having a voice that was one of the best in the band. Kendall was the band’s electricity and could do everything from traditional ska scratching to brilliant guitar solos. Dirty Walt was an anchor, the uncle of the family. Then you had Angelo, who may have been the most flamboyant but there was always the real man behind the curtain and one merely had to watch and listen to the spectacle in order to enjoy not only his wisdom, but the collective wisdom of the band. That is what made Fishbone work: the odd chemistry of seeing a bunch of looniewacks acting spastic as if they were six guys with individual cases of itchy ass, but all digging into one another rhythmically.

    Everyday Sunshine also touches on the band’s fall from a major label, the struggles they had with labels and one another, and with themselves. They keep on going because they know it pays the bills, but also aren’t afraid to say that they were the ones who influenced so many, but they’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Through interviews with Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Les Claypool of Primus, Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction/Porno For Pyros, and Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal of No Doubt</B., each of them bow down to the magic and majesty of one of the best bands to come from Los Angeles in the last 40 years, and each of them realize that without Fishbone, they would not be in the positions they are at now. I remember in the late 80's/early 90's, as each of these bands were making their way into the top of the alterna- heap, I always thought "okay, this is going to be Fishbone's year, for sure." Faith No More had switched vocalists, found someone (Mike Patton) who had incredible skills on the microphone, and they blew up. Then Primus were getting a buzz, and after two indie albums, they found themselves on a major and people were going nuts. Meanwhile, Fishbone had the power and yet fans were doing everything in their power to let them know they were loved.

    Another interesting moment is when producer David Kahne, who brought Fishbone to Columbia Records and helped them get signed, discussed the process of how to market them to the heads at the label. Fishbone are a black band. It was perceived that they did not play “black music”, or at least popular black music in a mid-80’s context. In fact, one reason why some were attracted to them was because they were often pushed as a black band playing ska, and ska for years was considered “white man’s reggae”, at least in the United States. Bands like The Specials and Madness were simply reviving what they had grew up on, reggae was still boho island music. Most Americans had no idea of ska’s true origins or that ska was one of the styles that would eventually lead to reggae. While the issue of “Fishbone playing white man’s reggae” was not discussed, that’ is one reason why they were favored by some white audiences. They were new wave and punk, but they were the freaks of new wave and punk simply because they were black. Yet their soul and funk influences were also there, listen to “V.T.T.L.O.T.F.D.G.F.” Kahne talked about how he helped design the Fishbone logo, and when he handed it to the black music division of Columbia, they treated the cassette and artwork like a piece of shit, and basically told him “you can release it”, as in “you’re a white producer, you handle white music, you can sign him for your division”. From the beginning of their time at Columbia Records, they were immediate outcasts. Yet those who loved the music could hear much more than just them playing “white man’s reggae”. In fact, Black Entertainment Television (BET) would regularly put them in rotation when one watched shows like Video Soul and Video Vibrations. The only times one might see Fishbone during primetime was when you might see Moore make a cameo in videos by Jane’s Addiction (“Mountain Song”) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Knock Me Down”) for you see, these bands knew that if they were getting a bit of attention, give Fishbone that push. No one made the connection. Yet if you turned to BET, you might see Moore and Norwood in George Clinton‘s “Do Fries Go With That Shake”, or Moore dancing in 99.9‘s “All Of Me For All Of You”. It seemed they were street teaming themselves before anyone ever came up with the word, but they were always there, doing a bit of Hollywood-style marketing to benefit themselves whenever possible.

    One thing that this documentary does not to is take a deep exploration into their recordings. Their 1985 EP is cited as being both their EP and “first album”, even though their true first album was 1986’s In Your Face, an album of which isn’t discussed but referred to only by a computer graphic. While some elements of their recordings are briefly touched upon, don’t expect a Classic Albums analysis. I would love to do something like that for them, or if someone else is able to do it, please do. I would love to hear Legacy editions of everything they did for Columbia, and just raid the multi-tracks to hear every song from every angle. So if you’re that type of music junkie and hope to see and hear that in Everyday Sunshine, you’ll be disappointed. But in terms of a movie that covers their bond as friends and musicians, and brings up the debate on whether not it was the industry and “the powers that be” that didn’t allow them to be one of the greatest bands of the late 20’s century, this film is the place to go. There’s a sense of honesty in this that a lot of bands are afraid to discuss or reveal, especially when one sees (as shown in the trailer) Norwood complaining to Moore about how he would prefer to be in a band with Moore, not his “Dr. Madd Vibe” character. They eventually find a balance, but maintaining that balance is a part of the struggle. They are getting older, and while both of them touch on leaving the band, they never really discuss the idea of breaking up. However, Norwood does refer to the reality that Fishbone will eventually reach “the finish line” and his hope is that they (the original lineup) will be able to do it together, if and when that happens.

    Another part I also loved is when Norwood talks about his love of surfing, which wasn’t expected but as someone who grew up near and in the ocean, this was of interest to me. He speaks on how he was brought up to believe that surfing was not for “someone like him”, but that after he stopped drinking, he realized he had to break out from some of the self-made barriers he had, some of which was passed on to him from cultural and social influences, and simply explore. In a way, watching him surf is a metaphor for what Fishbone has represented for years. When someone walks into a room, people begin to make assumptions and accusations of what they are like, how they speak, and what they may do for a living. Fishbone went beyond what anyone would ever expect, and they explored music and one another for fun and sonic harmony, finding a way to create movement in the light and fucking up the brightness in the process with a ghetto soundwave.



    DVD Review: Frank Zappa “From Straight To Bizarre”

    Photobucket It’s a documentary movie about Frank Zappa without the assistance from the Zappa Family Trust, so what’s the purpose of this? To shine the light on a record label that a lot of people enjoyed, but is now caught up by record industry (and perhaps familial) bullshit.

    From Straight To Bizarre (Sexy Intellectual) is a documentary that is being pushed as being “unauthorized” because it has no input from ZFT, but a lot of times the best information comes from those who did work with ths topic at hand. In this case, it’s the two labels given to Zappa by Warner Bros./Reprise when Zappa was frustrated with working with Verve, the label who gave him his initial exposure to the mainstream. The film takes a look at the music Zappa discovered, along with his exposure to what is called the “freaks”, a close-knit community of musicians, artists, and individuals who did things on their own and were truly outcasts, not unlike the category Zappa was put into throughout his life. It explores the origins of the label with Zappa’s manager, Herb Cohen, and what lead to the discoveries of Captain Beefheart, Wild Man Fischer, and The GTO’s, complete with interviews from various members of The Magic Band, and Pamela Des Barres. While some had pointed the finger at Zappa for exploiting some of these artists as inside jokes, others say he was nothing more than a documentarian not afraid to cover what most people would turn their heads away from.

    It also looks at how Alice Cooper got into the label, first as a band and then the band which turned into the identity of the man, and how Cooper being an outcast eventually lead him and the group outside of Zappa’s circles. It was only a matter of time before Cooper jumped ship, but not without having to deal with a few legal issues, which are briefly touched upon here. With that said, there are many who feel that Cooper’s first two albums on Straight are incredibly impressive, with a small minority feeling he and the band have never done anything better since.

    From Straight To Bizarre would have been a perfect film in 1991 when a small handful of albums on the Bizarre and Straight labels were being reissued on CD for the first time. This is one of the more impressive and highly researched documentaries I’ve seen, it will definitely appeal to all of the record and Zappa nerds out there, but is its close-to-180-minute length a bit too much? To a degree, yes, but if you wish to watch it as two halves, feel free. The one thing that this movie will make you do is hunt down these albums not only by the artists mentioned, but other records released on the labels, including Jeff Simmons, Tim Buckley, and Lenny Bruce. The sad disgrace is that, most of these albums are out of print, the collector’s market have priced them ridiculously, and you’re not going to find them on iTunes, eMusic, or any of the legitimate music distribution websites out there. What to do? Hunt down these albums on blogs made by fans who have archived the music far better than the industry has ever done. It’s frowned upon by the Zappa Family Trust, but really, this movie serves as an audio and visual booklet to a box set that doesn’t and will never exist. It will be up to the fan to rediscover what made all of this music odd, trippy, unusual, and great. If anything, the film reveals the disgrace in not having this music widely available to anyone who wishes to seek it. Zappa himself frowned upon the fetishism of people who crave black discs in cardboard, but he realized when it came to the music, people were willing to do anything just to hear it. How he would interpret today’s digital distribution of music is anyone’s guess, but the film shows the passion and humor he had when it came to presenting the creativity of outcasts, from someone who may have felt like an outcast himself. The music he worked with was very much a documentary of his life and musical interests, in the hopes people would seek, find, and listen. Now it comes full circle.


    DVD Review: Timeless (3 DVD box set)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic A lot of people have wanted to see the end result of the Suite For Ma Dukes performance that was created in honor of the late James “Dilla” Yancey, and now it has been released. While it is certain it will be released on its own, you’ll have to purchase the full DVD box set it is in, but it’s worth the cost of admission.

    Timeless: The Composer/Arranger Series (Mochilla) was, as the press material says, “the name of a concert series that was created in homage to the composer/arrangers who have influenced hip-hop in the most literal and profound ways.” In other words, it is a much deeper way of experiencing the music that influenced a cast of producers, DJ’s, and fans than just reading interviews.

  • Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke was someone whose music may not have been massively spread in the same way Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but his influence has spread around the world for his unique musicianship, compositions, and arrangements. A recent reissue of his work by Strut Records (my review can be found here) explores what he has been known for, primarily in hushed circles but now people are getting a chance to hear his genius. For some elitists, jazz should be purely American and only American, but by going directly to the primary source of that jazz, Astatke comes full circle with it as an unspoken means of communication, and to finally see him performing this live is incredible.
  • Things get lifted to a higher level when Eothen “Egon” Alapatt introduces an artist who was a big influence on him and a number of people. He’s interrupted by MF DOOM briefly before Egon speaks on finding Verocai’s album, and asking the crowd if they have a specific pressing of the album, the “must have” pressing (record nerds know the deal). Before this segment, we see a photo collage of Verocai in the studio, and almost 40 years later, we see him as he is today, in the flesh, tall and lanky, ready to play. As soon as he gets the orchestra and band ready, there’s something you feel will happen. Then “Karina” begins, and it’s true magic. It’s the unfolding of the album, the equivalent of seeing a music video for the first time after staring at album covers and reading liner notes for years. In this case, it’s in the flesh, in your face, and live. You are seeing your imagination and admiration come to life, and it’s happening, song by song. Those in the crowd know these songs by heart, and to hear each song get applause less than five seconds after each one is sensed is very moving. It’s soulful, it’s funky, it made an impact on hip-hop in a small way, and it is that “outside” admiration that has managed to make him bigger outside of his home country of Brazil. You see Verocai smile a bit, and you know he’s feeling it too. 18 songs later, and you wish he would play another 18.
  • Suite For Ma Dukes is the music of Dilla recreated by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and a 60 piece orchestra. As a record collector, you’ve probably gone through countless records by big bands, high schools, and Air Force groups, and yet you enjoy them because it’s small parts of a big puzzle unknown and unnamed. These big bands will not hesitate to cover the music of a musician, band, or composer. Dilla was known for not just sampling known and unknown tracks, but to do it in a way that doesn’t exactly sound like the original, he was funky and got a lot of attention because people liked his work. To be able to hear his works recreated by a 60-piece orchestra is a trip, because now you’re hearing one’s sample-based intellect turned into reality, it’s not a drum machine or sampler you’re seeing, but each sound reproduced as traditional composition, notated note by note, beat by beat. You’ll hear familiar sounds, familiar beats and rhythms, and one can only imagine what it would have been like of Dilla was alive to see and more importantly, hear this. The crowd goes nuts as soon as they recognize things.
  • One of my favorite moments is when “Stakes Is High”, the song Dilla produced for De La Soul is performed. Various special guests roll up on stage, showing love and support for the music Dilla created, and… I should also state that most of the songs performed in Suite For Ma Dukes is very much a suite in the jazz and classical sense, all done instrumentally. The orchestra is getting down, the guests are getting down, and conductor Ferguson is banging and head-nodding, showing his appreciation for the feeling he is helping create. All of a sudden, out from the crowd of special guests on the stage comes Posdnuos with microphone, and the crowd absolutely goes nuts. It turns from a controlled jazz and classical performance to one where one could imagine people in the crowd pointing at the stage, placing hand to mouth, and saying “oh shit, that’s motherfucking Plug One!”. In place of Dave (Trugoy) was Talib Kweli, and to see the smiles on the entire orchestra… they know what’s going on. It was such a moment for me, especially as a De La Soul fan, I almost started to tear up. It’s a great song unfolding and revealing itself, from our imaginations to the reality, and it looks and feels good. As Jurassic 5 once said, it’s about holding on to what’s golden, and this was truly a golden moment. The cinematography is incredible, true to the photographs of Brian “B+” Cross and Eric Coleman (who directed this), one of my favorite shots is at the intro to “”Don’t Nobody Care About Us”, when you see the drummer about to get ready, he’s looking at Atwood-Ferguson’s cue as he conducts. The music is causing the drummer’s sound barrier to vibrate, and it makes Atwood-Ferguson look like a cross between the album cover of Johnny HarrisMovements and the music of Don Ellis At Fillmore. When the drummer finally kicks in, instant chicken skin. As you see Atwood-Ferguson vibrating and rocking you realize: that’s how a lot of us feel when we’re listening to hip-hop. The effect works.
  • The entire DVD was beautifully shot in black & white, and the extras on the DVD’s, featuring everything from behind the scenes footage, photo galleries, and interviews only add to the greatness of this box. What I liked is that while hip-hop is far from dead, people are acknowledging the influence and its influences by archiving what has existed, so that those in the future will know what it meant to people. Just as jazz has become America’s classical music, hip-hop music is very much that for its followers, creators, and admirers, even though the powers that be will never make it so. Hip-hop, at its best, has never been about what anyone else thought, it was done because there was an unspoken movement to make it work. The Timeless treats Astatke, Verocai, and Dilla as legends, or at least humble musical spokesman for those who were not able to speak, as musicians and producers who had a need to be heard. This is honor, and I hope Mochilla will continue to “unfold” and “reveal” more artists and producers like this in the future.

    As a producer, it is an extreme honor to have your music created in this way, and one can only show support for a “fellow producer” who was shown this kind of respect. To see one’s hard work, determination, and creativity turned into a project like this… it’s a beautiful thing. Job well done.


    Hoc n’ Puckymochilla.com


    Pela Sombrasmochilla.com

  • REVIEW: Copyright Criminals (PBS’ Independent Lens)

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    This week, PBS affiliates throughout North America are showing a documentary called Copyright Criminals, as apart of PBS’ Independent Lens series covering works by independent filmakers. The film takes a look specificially at the world of music where samples have become something of value.

    If you’re a regular visitor of my website, you should know what a sample is. If you came here from a Google search and somehow stumbled onto my page, here it is. The word “sample” is described in the film as “to use a segment of another’s musical recording as part of one’s own recording”. In the early days of digital sampling, and I’m specifically talking about early 1980’s when Art Of Noise were some of the pioneers in taking other previously recorded sounds and rhythmically turning it into something else, it wasn’t even called “sampling”, or the act of using a “sample”. Remember this, as I will bring it up again.

    The documentary primarily focuses on hip-hop music, since it is a music that became a billion dollar industry by making music from other people’s music. The documentary, directed by Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod interviews various hip-hop DJ’s and producers, along with lawyers and “music industry insiders” looking at both sides of the sampling equation. While it does describe what sampling is and how creators and fans of hip-hop music and production have turned it into a form of art in comparison to other forms of art, it didn’t take on a cratedigger mentality to dig deeper. In other words, it only scratched the surface. Producers such as El-P and Shock G. talked about their craft, George Clinton spoke on how it felt to create music that would become a huge influence, while Clyde Stubblefield talked about he simply wants to be recognized as the man behind his beat. Sure, he’d love the money too, but he knows the logistics of the music industry and the legal system, and it’s humbling because if he was ruthless, he would make huge demands. It’s almost as if he still senses James Brown lurking in the distance, leery of taking any legal action against the Godfather of Soul.

    I think as a surface, slap-butter-on-the-roof-until-it-falls type of documentary, it’s okay. However, one can easily find old archival news footage of some of the artists interviewed in this doc and discover much more informative information. Matt Black of Coldcut was briefly seen here, and yet he was a major part of an MTV news story that also covered De La Soul. As for De La, they did mention their use of “You Showed Me” by The Turtles and how that made a huge impact on their career, for better or worse. While the group and producer Prince Paul did have to give a list of samples used, they only submitted the obvious ones. The Turtles sample was taken from the 45, played at 33, and it became a not-so-obvious one. That is, until a daughter of one of the Turtles (not sure if it was Howard Kaylan or Mark Volman heard the song, played it to his father, and he knew exactly what it was. That trippy, Beatlesque sample was just a Turtles song slowed down. All of this information was not mentioned in the film. The doc did cover the Biz Markie/Gilbert O’Sullivan case, but again, very briefly.

    It did touch on the fact that you cannot, under any circumstance, sample any Beatles songs. Yet if you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed the reference to The Betales being a group who also included “found sounds” in their works. I would have loved to have known more about this, but it’s barely a nick.

    What was also omitted was earlier examples of sampling, they made reference to blues and jazz often paying “homage”, but they never used the word “homage”. It also focused on black artists, which almost suggested that black artists were the only ones who had taken and delivered, as if they could not come up with things on their own. While Led Zeppelin were seen and heard as part of a video collage, no one mentioned how Led Zeppelin were huge musical thieves.

    What exists on Copyright Criminals is good, but it was like grabbing a rock, allowing it to skim the surface of the water, and saying “is that it?” An extra half hour could have been spent on digging deeper, and maybe there’s extra footage on the festival edit of the film or on the DVD version, since PBS does have regulations as to how long their documentaries can be. If anything, perhaps it will encourage more people to discover what sampling is all about. I felt Jeff Chang was someone who revealed an incredible amount of information, coming off as a historian and in truth just a fan of the sounds within the grooves. Yet with Chang throughout the film, I thought it was somewhat funny that some of his closest friends, arguably what we’d call true “copyright criminals”, were not in the film. Then again, if one needs to know more, then can be like Latimore and dig a little deeper.

    (Copyright Criminals is a part of PBS’ Independent Lens series, which is being shown on PBS throughout the week, check PBS.org for air times in your city/region.)

    The Run-Off Groove #233

    Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #233. 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.

    Now, the column.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Everyone wants to be remixed, everyone wants to remix someone else, but when it’s someone who hasn’t been a part of our world for decades, people wonder if it’s an honor or a disgrace. I had seen the cover of Re: Generations (Capitol) and wondered if Nat King Cole really needed a remix treatment. You have jazz purists who hate him because he went pop and catered to white audiences, while those say you can’t deny the passion of a man who wanted to pay bills and put food on the table. It still doesn’t answer the question: does Nat King Cole need the modern remix treatment?

    I entered the album with skepticism, but I came out a fan, especially when I had seen some of the names associated with this project. Even though some of the lyrics are arguably dated, there is still a charm about hearing Cole sing about going to the barbeque stand and ladies borrowing combs from him with newly created instrumentals by The Roots (“Walkin’ My Baby Back Home”), Amp Fiddler (“Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere”), and Brazilian Girls (“El Choclo”). eden ahbez “Nature Boy” is one of those sacred songs in jazz and pop that you just don’t want to mess up, but somehow TV On The Radio‘s blitzkreig take on it fits in quite well, an unnatural feel to a natural song. Salaam Remi brings on Nas for “The Game Of Love” to add his views on the game, and love in general. will.i.am gets Natalie Cole to create a new collaboration between father and daughter in the form of “Straighten Up And Fly Right”, over a funky groove that will get people head nodding on the floor. Major highlights include Stephen & Damien Marley adding their Jamaican stylee to make the vibe of “Calypso Blues” come full circle as they attack hot dogs but show love for shrimp & rice, fish, and banana pie, and Cut Chemist‘s take on “Day In Day Out” from the inside out to reconstruct the song in the CC trademark fashion.

    Re: Generations is an effective album musically, but let’s hope the younger generation will take this and help keep the spirit of Nat King Cole and his music alive.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic The album cover is somewhat somber, at least if you associate a black with feeling somber, with what looks like something astrological. Jeniferever are a Swedish band who are all about taking their brand of pop and rock to unknown boundaries, only to define and rip them apart. Spring Tides (Monotreme) is an album based on concentrated melodies and countermelodies played at a deliberate pace that helps develop the musical picture in your mind even more. It’s very intense, and one of the more orgasmic songs is the album opener, “Green Meadow Island”. It starts out fairly mellow and sweet, dare I say quaint, and about three minutes in they grunge things up in a wall of noise and distortion that fits that particular moment, as if to say “don’t expect the sweetness to last forever, in fact here’s something downright ugly” and yet when you hear the moving guitar solo, you know that they know exactly what they’re doing. The distortion and haze lasts for a minute before the group relaxes again, and it only helps prepare the listener for the remaining nine tracks.

    I enjoy hearing the depth in the composition of these songs, and in fact I love hearing composition, and it unfolding to reveal new things,whether it’s the sunset-like guitar in “Concrete And Glass” or the delicate touches of “The Hourglass” and “Nangijala”. It’s a remarkable listen and it’s great to think music like this can still be released in 2009. Don’t miss this.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Brooklyn’s Soft Black have been in existence for a few years, and are a band fronted by Vincent Cacchione. Their music sounds like the 1980’s never happened, with hints of Bob Dylan, The KinksTom Petty, The Clash, Randy Newman and some black new wave band that somehow weren’t a success. The Earth Is Black (And Other Apocalyptic Lullabies For Children (Plays With Dolls) is an album with the kind of strong pop songs that make you want to drink your life away through their anthemic music and drenched lyrics. “Mouth Is Drippin'” sounds like the kind of song written after a bad date and all you have in your pocket are peanuts and ludes. There’s a Southern sensibility to this even though Cacchione is from New York City, but it’s that abandoned spirit in these songs that make them work not only as good tunes, but stories to share, lyrics to remember and recite later in life.

    It’s a great album for those who love singer/songwriters and the nuances they wish to share.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Not sure what makes rock duos work, but somehow it works when certain expected elements in a band or song do no exist. The Naked Hearts consist of Amy Cooper and Noah Wheeler, and while the 6-song These Knees (self-released) sounds like the music of veterans, as a duo they’ve been together for less than a year. Someone described their music as “cat & mouse”, meaning that they both trade off on vocals and pass that concept to each other back and forth ad finitum. I don’t see it that way, in fact I hear their music as an equal balance where they are able to communicate to each other without being that stereotypical call and response game, which it isn’t. You hear songs about life, hope, fears, and dreams through a wall of rock, country, noise, and even more rock, and with lines like tell me what you saw in your dream, did you underestimate the dark? (from “One False Move”) you’re intrigued and want to hear more. At times they sound like a Sonic Youth with a female voice that’s more finely tuned, or to put it better, a cross between Michelle Branch and Kim Gordon. Wheeler’s voice almost sounds bored, almost as deadpan at Beat Happening‘s Calvin Johnson but maybe he’s into Malt-O-Meals and wants to create a soothing, sleepytime adventure for his listeners.

    Regardless, the basic qualities are simple yet effective, and I’m curious to see what they could pull off with a full length.

    (+ free MP3 download)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Corbin Bleu has become a hit sensation among teens for his role in the High School Musical films. He has released music in the past, including a full length album, but now with the demise of the HSM franchise, the entire cast are looking towards the future. Bleu will no doubt cover a lot of ground, but his love of music has moved him to keep at it as a recording studio, which he does on his second album, Speed Of Light (Hollywood).

    The album is primarily pop, and while he has never been afraid to show his R&B side, he’s only done it in spurts. While his album was recorded long before the Rihanna/Chris Brown incident, much of this Auto-Tuned tinged album could easily replace what Brown left behind in terms of effective soul and pop. In fact, it sounds like Brown was the template for all of these songs, even though Bleu has shown to be a talent when it comes to decent singing. The emulation of style in songs like “Rock 2 It”, “Moments That Matter”, and “Close” will make this great music for any and all future Disney films, and that’s where Bleu needs to break out. Nothing wrong with friendly, but he needs to work with the right producers and songwriters before his entire catalog ends up sounding like the credits for every Pokemon cartoon. In other words, something a bit more ballsy, and I’m not saying he needs to go hip-hop, as it may come off as forced as a Ray J penis imprint, but to be able to capture a style that fits him and his style, as Speed Of Light is too safe. It’s music for pre-teens, and he could capture a few more hearts if he tried something more mature.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic DJ Myxzlplix is back with a brand new mix CD, and this time he’s tossing around the best in soul, jazz, funk, and hip-hop.

    Strictly Social Mixed Vol. 4 (Strictly Social) is a mix you’ll want to listen to repeatedly, for all of the blends, along with song selection, is perfect for the long haul. It’s not just something that you’ll place on your digital player and wait a few years, this is a mix that works because all of the songs feel like they’re meant to be heard together, everything is carefully selected.

    Here is the track listing:
    1. take it slow-boozoo bajou
    2. revolution ft. lyrics born & the mamaz-j boogie
    3. the final view-nujabes
    4. air signs-illa j
    5. keep it real-milkbone
    6. broken-ursula rucker
    7. u do ft. stacy epps-jazz liberator
    8. sunshine ft. phonte-marsha ambrosius
    9. draw your bow-restless soul ft. shea soul
    10. talking to you-brother dvooa
    11. you and i-kissey asplund
    12. believe-ayah
    13. put it down f. kissey asplund-replife
    14. this love-vanessa freeman
    15. mojo-erin leah
    16. underlined(rapson rmx)-atjazz ft. ernesto
    17. keep your shirt on-hint ft. laura vane
    18. come get with it-basic vocab
    19. sun vibes(beef wellington rmx)-swamburger
    20. i wanna dance-brother dvooa
    21. want you to know-vanessa marquez
    22. my gift (destroyer rmx)-rogiers

    (free MP3 download)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Why Joe Budden has not become the big star he deserves to be remains one of the biggest mysteries in hip-hop, and Padded Room (Amalgam Digital) proves why.

    The guy knows how to tap into all of the right formulas: great club friendly tracks, make songs strictly for the streets, offer something for the ladies, and then a song which touches on his love and commitment for family. While that template has become a huge cliche in the last 15 years, Joe Budden handles it in a way that shows he knows what he has to do to be heard, and now that people are listening, he’s going to give them something worth listening to. That’s the major difference between him and others, the fact that he wants to give fans something worth listening to. The album opens with what could be considered an early reveal of the moral of the story, or the great beginning to a movie. “Blood On The Wall” (produced by Moss) is a song that would be one of those “instant classics” that fans often look for but miss, while “Adrenaline” (produced by Dub B) has him breaking out heavy metal style, and he would do well if he did some tracks with Mike Shinoda. The rest of the songs have an R&B feel that at times seems like too much, but that’s not his fault. Why this guy is not on the same level as Ludacris, I’ll never know.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Eyran Katsenelenbogen is a pianist who has released a number of albums over the years, and 88 Fingers (Evran) is his tenth solo album. These type of albums are always interesting, because it’s just the musician and the instrument and with a piano you can take the music to new and interesting places. For this album he recorded a number of personal favorites, including “Dream A Little Dream Of me”, “A Night In Tunisia”, “Mack The Knife”, and “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans”, along with a few other standards and classical pieces. The classical touches are nice too, and to me it helps broaden their playing quite a bit, or at least I hear that when I know a jazz pianist also has classical influences. They are able to keep within the boundaries of Western classical music, but are able to go over and beyond the boundaries when they play blues, jazz, or pop.

    What I enjoy about this album is that even if you know these songs inside out, you don’t know how he’ll interpret them until they are heard, all expectations are thrown out. He’s a very eloquent player and one of those who deserves a serious listen, be it on disc or digital file, or in a live performance.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic
    Scripts ‘N Screwz are a hip-hop duo consisting of MC Scripts and producer Loose Screwz, and both call St. Louis home. The New Noise (self-released) is a mixture of what they have done individually over the years, but bring it into the new sound they’re putting forth today. Their bio states they bring “their blend of experimetnal innovation and mastery of hip hop fundamentals”, but while I do not hear anything particularly experimental or adventurous (the closest thing would be the distorted samples and vocal tracks in “Hands High”, as they at times have more of a nice retro-soul sound), I do hear the fundamentals of what makes rap music so great, especially in “Fairy Tale”, which looks at hip-hop music as a delightful fantasy. “Eyes Wide Shut”, “My First Rhyme”, and “The war Outside” are definitely powerful songs done in a fashion that rings of the old but is very much done with the confidence of today.

    Fans of SA-RA, The Roots, Crown City Rockers, and N*E*R*D will find a lot to sink their teeth into with this album, bring them to the front of the line so naysayers can beg for less. Foolish naysaers.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic The name Kinetic Stereokids seems very cool, the description of the group and their approach sounded like something I would really like, but their bio quoted a review from Seattle radio station KEXP:
    a particular kind of post-rock from a post-industrial city … Imagine if DJ Shadow were into noise rock, if the Dead Milkmen rapped, or if My Bloody Valentine composed purely with found sounds.

    It’s a bold statement, so I was curious to see/hear if this was true.

    The post-industrial city they speak of is Flint, Michigan, the home of documentary film director Michael Moore and Grand Funk Railroad. If you know anything about Flint’s history, then you know what a band could sound like if they were to come from there. This is that sound, an abrasive and aggressive sound that’s complimented with hip-hop-styled rhythms where a loop becomes the anchor for each song. They bring in an acoustic element to something that sounds like some obscure acid rock gem from 1971 but also have the jingle-jangle of countless alternative bands of the 80’s and 90’s, so you may hear some Poi Dog Pondering here, and American Music Club or Violent Femmes over there. You hear a clusterfuck of sound and I know for me I was unsure about the direction they wanted to go. I think that for them, any direction is a legitimate path, so if a violin or fiddle sounds like a sarangi, that’s completely fine. Imagine Beck if he was able to be spliced and cloned into five individuals, and you would have the spontaneity of Kinetic Stereokids. In a way they are very much like their name, playing mental games with their stereos and trying to see who can do the most out of a record, or in this case their instruments or “found sounds”.

    Even with the bag of sounds they bring into the studio, you either have a purposeful agenda or just create massive child-like noise, which is not a bad thing. What Kinetic Stereokids want to do is create a slightly warped vision of pop and rock perhaps to compliment a slightly warped world. It’s pop but quirky in the same fashion Flaming Lips quirky even though you know that there is genius in what they do. You can apply that to these guys too, but hopefully they will not have to wait over 15 years to hear it.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic In The Run-Off Groove #164, I stated that the music of Jah Cure is ” is very much in a positive light, as he looks towards a much brighter future.” This was written to discuss his release from serving time in prison, and how he looked to turn his music into a vehicle to promote peace, harmony, and change. Two years later, he continues to do this with The Universal Cure (SoBe/Fontana).

    First off, the album is released by SoBe, a company known for their juices so that caught me by surprise, but let’s get away from label politics. What you will hear here is a man who is comfortable in being one of Jamaica’s brightest stars not only in reggae, but in soul and R&B. In fact, I think a number of so-called R&B artists in the United States should listen to his vocals, lyrics, and performances here because he is about putting back class into his music. In tracks like “Mr. Jailer”, “Soon Come”, and “Hot Long Time” it pretty much sounds like late 70’s/early 80’s soul with a reggae tinge, and when he gets into the ballads, be it a romantic tune or love of a grander scale, he’s comfortable in that too.

    For fans of Jawaiian music, I can see this album getting a lot of airplay back home, especially “Freedom” as it sounds like a song Sean Na’auao would sound comfortable in covering. His music is very humbling, and with enough of a promotional push it should get a lot of attention. The appearance of Flo-Rida, Mavado, and Jr. Reid in “Hot Long Time” helps make a good album much better, and one hopes radio will be able to put all of these songs into heavy rotation. He shows that he is much more than just a reggae artist, and I hope he continues to show that with future releases.

    (Universal Cure will be released on April 14th, the CD can be pre-ordered through CD Universe.)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Everybody, Come Outside (Lujo) by Pomegranates has the Cincinnati band back at it with their brand of power pop that mixes up elements of the old with a modern urge.

    I listened to it and it sounds like Flaming Lips combined with Coheed & Cambria, and the guy’s singing voice is high and whiny, which I get to a point but it makes me laugh because I can sing like that and I don’t have a singing career. What’s up with this?

    Anyway, it’s carefree powerpop that these guys know how to do very well, I love the stop and suspense of “Beachcomber” and the clouds of “Tesseract” and “Jerusalem Has A Bad Boy” help bring the song out of a lofty situation and into the warmth of hearts that desire something to care for that is very emotional and sensitive, but still contains its huevos. The title is perfect: Everybody, Come Outside. It’s a return to innocence, and I would like to hug it.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic There’s a line that a lot of journalists like to use, and I plan on using it in this review. We like to refer to something “coming out of nowhere”, which is a cliched way of saying that we as fans and critics are blown away by what we’re listening to because it leads to another cliche, the one that goes “where has this artist been all this time?” or “all my life?” I would like to apply these cliches to a great band out of Bremerton, Washington, but for the sake of not confusing anyone I’ll just say “Seattle area”, who call themselves Alligators. Their bio states their music “can be described as a high-energy, precise pop laced with beautiful harmonies and clever arrangements.” I definitely agree with this, as Piggy & Cups ( Applehouse) has a few U2 and The Alarm sensibilities with an occasional hint of early R.E.M. (I think it has to do with the Richenbacher’s I hear) and the kind of vocals and background vocals that sounds like a celebration of the best that AM radio used to offer (back when kids used to listen to AM radio for fun). “Mama, Stop” combines all of this with a sharp love for Electric Light Orchestra and courageous guitar riffs that are tough but not a nuisance. Some have compared them to Radiohead and the only similarities I hear are the range in Joshua Trembley ‘s voice in “Original Fear”, but his range on the album is varied.

    There’s a sense of freedom in these songs too, and maybe it’s my association with the sounds that are on here, be it the sampled Mellotron’s or the background vocals that remind me of a time when background vocals and choruses were what made life worth living, and perhaps that too is a cliche. What’s not a cliche is a band’s need to rock and push the pop envelope to the limit. Pop is the template, but the musicianship of these five gentlement makes it feel like they’re wanting to kick pop’s balls hard in order to show it can be one of many things and not just one thing.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic With a name like Boom Box Repair Kit, one might expect that this might be good, right?

    Well, My Dear Antagonist didn’t quite thrill me in the way I had hoped for, but maybe that’s due to me hoping for a lot wit a great band name. However, what they did offer is something a bit more lighthearted, or what someone called “a new breed of Afro-Caribbean rock”, or basically what the group does is take on various styles of music and run it through the rock and pop filter to create something that sounds like all of the great hybrids you wished to listen to as a kid. Imagine Smashing Pumpkins mixed in with Los Lobos, Rapeman, and some young new band you heard on the festival circuit. Or how about this, remember when MTV meant something? Yeah, seemed like generations ago but believe it or not, MTV did matter. Boom Box Repair Kit would have been the leader of a movement back then, but this isn’t about then, this is about now. I like how some of the vocals have little to no effects applied to it, reminds me of World Party and The Smithereens on vacation in Cuba. It makes me wish Ozomatli progressed in this direction.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Bill Wimmer‘s new album is an interesting one in that the entire album was recorded live in front of an audience but it seems they’re told not to applause or anything until the end. Okay, I’m assuming that’s what happened judging by the sound of it, maybe Wimmer was inspired by what Joe Jackson did on his Big World album, but Project Omaha (Wimjazz) is one of those albums that could like any other random jazz album, but the musicianship and comraderie amongst them is something that doesn’t make this a random album. Wimmer brings in guitarist Dave Stryker, drummer Victor Lewis, bassist Mark Luebbe, keyboardist Tony Gulizia and percussionist Joey Gulizia to create an album that is approrpriately lively, and it would have been great to have been one of the people in the crowd witnessing this. “Soy Califa” starts off like musicians getting ready for some kind of war, with Wimmer’s saxophone work being the call to progress forward. Stryker’s guitar work has impressed me in the past and here he almost shifts the song to his direction before bringing it back, around, and full circle to his bandmates. The song runs for almost nine minutes and could’ve went on for another five had they chosen to do so.

    “Rhyne, Rhythm and Song”, “Geo Rose”, “Gypsy Blue”, and the album closer “Carnaval” (the latter clocking in at 9:43) should convince everyone that these guys should go on tour for the next few years, there’s a driving force in their sound that sounds brilliant. My first thoughts when I heard Tony Gulizia’s keyboards was “do I like this? Do I want to like this?” But I believe the steel drums heard in one of the tracks are actually played by him on the keyboard, and it was simply adding a unique color to the music. The only turn-off, for me at least, was Tony Gulizia’s vocals, as he sings on four of the nine tracks featured. His voice is actually fine, but I am not big on jazz vocals and while it helped to ease up the intensity of the album, sometimes it felt like it went to a grinding holt. Fans fo jazz vocals will probably cringe and say his performances are superb, but I just don’t want to listen to it. If you were to take the five instrumentals on here, it would’ve made for a perfect album that clocks in at under 40 minutes. Apart from my personal preference, this album is for anyone who craves the mental action of musicians at work, and re-living it through repeated plays.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic The Wright Family are a group where the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is certainly true. One guy looks like he just got off of work on Friday at 5pm and he’s ready to go to the batting cages. Another guy looks like he owns some real estate and wants to hang loose. The lady in the group has a 60’s vibe about her and appears to look like one of those moms on a TBS weekend marathon. Just by that alone, what kind of music do you think they record? alt.country? Folk? Alternative rock? It may surprise you that these three individuals create hip-hop.

    The World’s Happiest Gremlin (self-released) reminds me of something that Slug of Atmosphere would be associated with, or the kind of album that would be perfect on Rhymesayers with that loose-yet-aggressive flow that comes from late night mental sessions mixed in with week and imported alcohol. “Chance To Change” sounds like a dusted track with a laid back, almost downtempo vibe to it mixed with a hard rock guitar riff with a blow that has a slight Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony feel with a slight Kool Keith motif.

    Away from the comparisons, it sounds like some damn good independent hip-hop with top notch production, rhymes and flows that sounds like a hungry MC in need of a decent meal, and the occasional female background vocals that add to the songs without being overbearing. Could become the sleeper album of 2009.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic The Great Kat is back with a brand new DVD called Beethoven’s Guitar Shred (TPR), and while the back cover lists seven music videos and four extras (one of which is the credits for the DVD), I’m curious as to what’s the reason for this?

    I’ve been a fan of her and her work since high school, and that was 22 years ago. This is a lady to takes her classical training and thrashes it around by adapting it to playing electric guitar and playing speed metal in a ridiculous manner, and I say ridiculous in a musical fashion. She does this by wearing fishnets and fetish gear, smeared make-up and always being seen with her mouth agape. Fair enough.

    The seven songs on here are very brief, and by the time you get into them, they’re over. I love the homemade/independent feel of this project, but for those who may not have heard of her, it may be a bit confusing as to why she’s just letting out brief spurts. I would love to see a more relaxed Kat in the studio, recording, composing, practicing, take away the blood, gore, and sexy outfits and allow fans to at least see the woman behind the savagery work herself to become the GOD she proclaims she is. Many musicians, from Michael Kamen to Frank Zappa have brought in their classical influences into their brand of rock, and The Great Kat is no exception, but it would be cool to see her teach a lesson to younger ladies or girls who may not only want to mix together classical and metal, but who want to be aspiring musicians. Maybe The Great Kat is not ready to be anything but The Great Kat, and that is alright, but I’d like to suggest a DVD with more stuff on there than a few music videos. With that said, it is worth the $8 she is charging for it, but cram it with goodies to make the non-believers want to beg in front of her until she forgives them for not knowing.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Danny Carvalho is a young slack key guitarist who has released a few projects over the years, and it’s a chance to hear him develop as a musician. Somewhere (Lava Rock Music) will be an album enjoyed by ki ho’alu enthusiasts along with fans of the acoustic guitar, for he is a musician who will definitely influence tomorrow’s guitarists in the same way he was influenced by his favorites.

    On this new album he does new versions of “Aia Hiki Mai” (Atta Isaacs‘ version may be the most familiar), “Maui Chimes”, and a great tribute to Leonard Kwan, a medley of “Aloha Ku’u Home” and “E Mama E”. “Pua Lilia” is a well known Hawaiian song written in 1916 by Alfred Alohikea but I know it as a Sunday Manoa track from their 1971 classic Cracked Seed, and Carvalho’s take on it is great, I love some of the drones he creates with the high string. A personal favorite is “Sangisangy”, a composition recorded and writte by Zafimahaleo Rasolofondraoslo (who records as Dama). The original version was recorded as a way to show the artist’s African roots, but Carvalho states in the liner notes “although written on the other side of the world, its composition and style may have beebn influenced by Hawaiian music.” It is possible that since it has been said that the Hawaiian slide guitar may have been influenced by a musician from India, perhaps the Indian influence also made it throughout parts of Africa, or that it is simply the continuation of the musicianship and dedication of the guitar. His versions of John Lennon‘s “Imagine” and Simon & Garfunkel‘s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” are also done respectfully and are sure to become favorites among many.

    Despite the influences that come through the songs he covers or the flavorings he adds to his playing, it still sounds distinctly Hawaiian. Carvalho is taking ki ho’alu into the 21st century with grace and let’s hope he encourages musicians around the world and of course in Hawai’i to pick up the guitar to listen, learn, and perpetuate in the same way he is.

  • That’s it for this week’s Run-Off Groove. If you have any new music, DVD’s, 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’m also slowly catching up with the barrage of music that came out in the last month, so if you sent something, have patience, they will be reviewed.
  • Thank you, and come back next week for #234.
  • The Run-Off Groove #230

    Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #230. I am John Book, and it seems a lot of people are angry at President Barack Obama even though he hasn’t been in office for a year. Why the hate, mates? Let’s not get political here, there are countless websites and blogs where you can discuss this.

    Anyway, 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:

    DVD junkies, look no further:

    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.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Los Angeles heads, along with DJ and turntable fanatics, will no doubt know who Tarek Captan was. Better known as DJ Dusk, he was an important part of the L.A. DJ’ing community who united the best and showed what hip-hop was, is, and what it could/can be with a series of shows and presentations that live on with the help of various DVD releases and YouTube clips. Dusk was known for putting together the Root Down Soundclash, which brought the Jamaican aesthetic of battling your sound system through music and equipment into DJ territory. As with ska, reggae, and dancehall, the soundsystem is a musical geek out, where you take pride in knowing you are killing someone with sound.

    The passing of DJ Dusk three years ago did place a void in the L.A. DJ’ing community, and to be honest no one had intentions of releasing this. DJ Dusk’s Root Down Soundclash (Mochilla) is a lo-fi affair in that it was nothing but two guys with camcorders documenting an event, something both Brian Cross (a/k/a photographer/author B+) and Eric Coleman did on a regular basis. The sound is taken directly from the camcorders, not the board, so you beat bootleggers will have to recreate these sounds on your own. The footage can be rough at times, but if you like the look of homemade porn, you’ll enjoy the bootleg vibe of this show. But what you get in the three soundclashes on here are examples of hip-hop battling, using the techniques rooted in the music and culture’s Jamaican roots.

    The DVD begins with a battle between Madlib and Cut Chemist, Southern California record junkies taking things to the upper level and beyond. In early 2001, Cut Chemist still had the woolly hair and Madlib was still the hidden secret for many underground hip-hop heads. Each of them tap into their own catalogs to create, recreate, and preview songs from their catalogs, so you may hear hints of Pleasure Web’s “Music Man” within. Madlib concentrates deeply on his set-up while Cut Chemist has a bit more fun, although equally as determined to make sure his system is the best. The most interesting soundclash is the battle between will.i.am and Thes One, and this is will.i.am in early 2002, months before mainstream American discovered who he was. Thes One shows off his skills in the beats he created, but with will.i.am combining music from his hard drive and playing a Moog live, one can clearly see a genius and musical nerd at work, and it’s a trip to see and hear. Then it’s a 2003 soundclash between Ohno and Exile, and this one is really loose and incredibly funky as both DJ’s dig deep into their crates and slowly develop the tracks that they have been known for. In each of the performances, each producer slap each other silly as if to say “now do me one better” and each battle has a clear winner. You have to watch this and decide for yourself.

    I would have preferred this DVD if it was mixed from a board recording, but DJ Dusk’s Root Down Soundclash is very much of the moment, without edits, cuts, or post-production overdubs. What you see and hear is what people in the audience saw and heard as well, and you will be blown away in the same manner as That Kid Named Miles, J-Rocc, Rhettmatic, Egon, and Nu-Mark are when you see them on stage reaction to music and history in the making. The DVD in many ways shows respect to DJ Dusk, who did this not only to hear great music and share it with the people but to allow DJ’s and producers to, to paraphrase a Jeru lyric, leave their egos at home and brings their skills to the battle. A respectable document from start to finish.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Jupiter Rising, according to their bio, create “sounds from teh past, present, and future”. If that’s true, the future doesn’t look too bright.

    Okay, I’ll admit that that is a bit harsh, but this self-proclaimed urban-electro duo are nothing but a pop duo with R&B touches and The Quiet Hype sounds like everyone else on the Top 100 charts. “Guarded” has vocalist Jessie Payo sounding like everyone from Jessica Simpson to Faith Hill, and the bad thing about that is if radio is the first time you’re exposed to Jupiter Rising, you’re going to get lost among the countless other anonymous singers who sound the same. The music, created by the production half of Jupiter Rising, Spencer Nezey, is done quite well but to me it works just as well as commercial knock-off music. You know, brand name deodorant wants a Justin Timberlake vibe but can’t afford Timberlake or his recording, so they find something cheaper. This is what they would end up finding.

    Truth is, Payo is not a bad singer and Nezey definitely knows how to make incredible music, but they’re wasting their talents on creating bullshit music like this. Then again, it might not be bullshit to the potential millions who will know them, or at least the anonymous million people who will care when it’s heard but not seen at an ice hockey game. It’s musical wallpaper created for the lowest common denominator, and if this is all that they’re capable of doing as a duo, why would anyone want to stick around to hear their next projects? If Nezey does an album under his own name or another project that is distant from this, he could become one of the hottest producers of the 10’s (i.e the next decade.). We’re only one year from that, so I’ll wait until he comes up with his masterpiece-in-the-works. Reach towards the back pocket, I can’t wait.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic LoDeck & Omega One are back together with one of the more impressive hip-hop albums of the last year, Postcards From the Third Rock (Johnny 23). LoDeck has been called one of the more gifted lyricists of our time, and he proves himself many times over in tracks like “On A Pain”, “A Day In The Triangle”, and “Shrimp”. What also makes this album work is how different each song is from the other, LoDeck makes a successful effort in changing his style and flow for each song, and Omega One compliments him by digging deep into the archives for a range of sounds that sound like an alien circus just came into town.

    The best song off this album is “Maui”, and not just because it has a Hawaiian word in the title, but LoDeck is low-key, lo-fi, and almost coming off as a low-rider as he raps in a way that sounds like he just left a garage full of pakalolo smoke, with B-Real, Chino XL, Madlib, King Tee, and Funkdoobiest passing the bong around. You can smell the resin as he speaks about something that comes off like a sick freestyle, it’s just his mind at work, coming up with stuff that may not make sense at first but give him a few more lines and everything finally comes into focus.

    Postcards From the Third Rock is an album that is of its own time, on its own rhymes and beats, in its own world, there aren’t many (if any) albums that sound like this. It’s a straight up hip-hop album where fans of raw lyrics and tight beats are going to leave yellow puddles in their listening areas. In other words, this is a quality hip-hop album that is spontaneous because there isn’t an effort to make this sound like the last twenty albums that were trying to copy the next big thing. A true original, now go get some Bambu

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Cool, calm, and collected: a lot of times you don’t need the extravagance to share your talents to the world, and one person who doesn’t plan on going over board is jazz vocalist Mark Winkler, whose album title is self explanatory: Winkler is about to do his thing Till I Get It Right (FreeHam).

    Long time readers of this column will know how fickle I can be with jazz vocal albums. If it’s really good, I’m going to praise it inside and out. If it’s nothing more than “dentist jazz”, I still want to be able to find something that I may like, even if the music is ugly. Winkler doesn’t have to worry about making ugly music, for he sounds like the kind of guy who knows and loves the music and goes out of his way to make it each own. He’s in jazz and pop mode throughout, but he and the band also dabble into a bit of soul too, such as “How Can That Makes You Fat?”. For an extra touch of class, Manhattan Transfer‘s Cheryl Bentyne duets with him in “Cool”, and as the album goes on, one can’t help but enjoy and admire Winkler’s performances. Again, cool, calm, and collection, and very smooth.

    The cover photos may show hints of him admiring the spotlight (if not himself), and perhaps it is deserving, but there’s no ego involved, the emphasis is on the songs, the vocal performances, and the musicianship. You can listen to this on repeat and not get bored, the type of jazz album you may want to buy for family and friends even though you know it’s your guilty pleasure. Don’t feel guilty.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Electronic music is one of my favorite genres, and I’m not talking about just the electro boom bap bim with all of the chug-a-lug of the Chemical Brothers, but also some of the minimalist electronic excursions that I allow myself to get involved in, at least for 45 to 60 minutes. Roger O’Connell has provided my next excursion in the form of his second album, Songs From The Silver Box (Great Society/World’s Fair), and whether you like Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Richard Wright, Gary Numan, or Tangerine Dream, there is something for everyone on this album.

    O’Connell has performed with The Cure for years, but he wanted to be able to let loose on his own without the restrictions of his boss. His previous album The Truth In Me, received positive reviews by the press and while I didn’t hear it, I can sense a bit of tranquility in the music he creates. The entire album was performed with a Moog Voyager, everything done by multitrack, and what you hear are songs that offer a warmth within the mechanics of his creation. They would be the perfect music to listen to on an escalator, as it would to hear them at a huge open air music festival as the crowd weaves back and forth like a field of grass. The playing and arrangements are very open, sometimes sparse, and that gives the music its minimalistic touch, where you have to ride it out with him in order for everything to gel together. Once it does, it will become a personal favorite that you want to suggest to everyone willing to listen. Songs From The Silver Box is very cinematic, but in a very monochrome way, and after listening to it and walking away, you’ll understand why.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Jazz music in a different motif: some shun the idea while others embrace it and change into the outfit the music provides. Billet-Deux are a quintet consisting of Troy Chapman (guitar), Roger Bennett (drums), Michael Yocco (bass), Josephina Hunner (guitar), and James Hinkley (cello/vocals), and their music sounds like something you’d hear in a European cafe or jazz festival on the East Coast than the place they call home: Seattle. Then again if you know your Seattle history and the city’s ethnic heritage in the last 150 years, their brand of gypsy jazz will make perfect sense. Chapman plays with such fluidity that you may catch yourself playing the song repeatedly to catch every note and melody, while Bennett’s drumming is subtle but powerful enough to remind you of the many drumming greats of yesteryear. When you hear them play Dizzy Gillespie‘s “Be-Bop” or Charles Mingus‘ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, one can only imagine these legends smiling and tapping their feet if they were around to do so (Mingus might yell and curse them out, but that would be his way of showing approval).

    You do hear a heavy Django Reinhardt on Deux (self-released), as both Chapman and Hunner have a way of letting themselves go and letting the time and essence of things take its course. When Hinkley gets in their with his band mates, he can either sprinkle the music with delicate sounds or take a lead role, as he does in “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”.

    The aforementioned songs sound nothing like what you’d expect, especially not in this setting, and yet you feel a need to welcome their interpretations into your lives because it feels… right. Gypsy jazz may not be the most perfect term to describe what they do, but if it’s the entry to the gateway, Billet-Deux have a number of keys ready to present to you.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic While not as prosperous as the almighty Sizzla Kalonji, Mavado is proving himself to be one of the hottest reggae/dancehall artists out now. His last album was very rugged and raw, ripped from the streets of Jamaica where it seemed one could not escape. For Mr. Brooks… a better tomorrow (VP), Mavado has recorded an album that is more accessible, pop friendly, and it could easily help him gain a greater audience around the world.

    It’s a positive album, and not that he didn’t promote positivity before, but it almost seems like a 180 for him. In “So Blessed” he talks about not being lured in by the fires of babylon, and that regardless of what happens, he know he will survive any situation. Rather than this being an album about someone looking out from the inside, it’s Mavado looking at the world with a very different outlook than before, and the transformation is quite impressive. “Overcome” has Mavado extending the struggle outside of the island nation and letting other sufferers around the world that one has to have to look and live positively.

    I’m someone who generally hates Auto-Tune, and while it is heard throughout this album, it’s used sparingly, something other artists should listen to. It’s hard to say what Mavado I like best: the brutal ruffneck who isn’t afraid to speak out, or the one who wants to offer guidance through peaceful living. Mr. Brooks… a better tomorrow represents the latter, and I’m curious to see how much this will influence other Jamaican artists to do the same.

    (Mr. Brooks… a better tomorrow will be released on March 3rd.)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Elephant Man is unpredictable, you never know what he’s going to say in his music. In the last few years he has made a huge impact on the world of dancehall music and now you’ll get to celebrate him with the 18-song Energy God: The Very Best Of Elephant Man (VP). You get a chance to hear “Elephant Message” (using the famous diwali riddim), “Pon De River, Pon De Bank”, “Nuh Linga”, “Jook Gal”, “Genie Dance” (both using the Coolie Dance riddim) “Krazy”, “Bun Bad Mind”, and “Gully Creppa”, and many more throughout this album, and if you’ve never been moved to dance to one of his tracks, you will now. He is truly indeed the dancehall king, although Beenie Man might have issue with that.

    The CD comes with a bonus DVD featuring an interview, some live performances, and a look at some of his more well known music videos.

    (Energy God: The Very Best Of Elephant Man will be released on February 17th.)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Reigns create the kind of electronic-based music that will take you to the unknown and leave you there to dwell in its mystical odor until you suffocate in pleasure. At least that’s what I experienced upon listening to The House On The Causeway (Monotreme).

    The group like to create their albums centered around a theme, and in this case brothers Tim and Roo Farthing take on the surroundings of where the music was recorded and turn it into a moody collection of melancholy with eeriness and chicken skin felt throughout. If Ween were a goth band who were heavily influenced by Rise Robots Rise and early Depeche Mode, well… it’s a silly way to make a comparison but I hear some of those elements in Reigns’ atmospheric, minimalistic sounds, the kind of sounds The Buggles would be happy in making in their own way. “Everything Beyond These Walls Have Been Raised” (free MP3 download) would be the kind of song that would make new fans bow down in honor of their newly found musical gods. From the carefully selected pace of the singing to the spacing in the musical arrangements, everything is deliberate and despite the electronic landscape, it’s very personal and very human, intimate as well if you allow it to be that.way. The mixture of natural sounds also helps enhance the mood and texture of each song.

    A very moving album from siblings who know how to egg each other without cracking the shell.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Gretchen Phillips has been know for years for her bold music, and for those who have loved her brand of “lesbian folk music”, they will be surprised at the pop touches of I Was Just Comforting Her (Seasick Sailor). Some of the music holds true to her folk roots, but in a track like “Honey, I Feel So Good” you hear the kind of early 60’s, pre-Beatles pop that are a staple of thrift stores across the country, with a mix of old style country, and a bit of innocence in the lyrics that makes it sound of a time, timely, yet also timeless:
    Don’t ever stop loving me so
    Just this way, I love what you know
    I relinquish control, it just gets in my way
    My legs are tingling I’m exploding through space
    And you’ve got that sweet lovemaking look on your face
    My pleasure is yours
    Honey, I feel so good
    Honey, I feel so good

    You may get a few memories of classic records by Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Crystal Gayle, and Loggins & Messina just hearing the twang of the steel guitar and the voice choir heard in the background, and just as those sounds may have sounded daring years ago, it’s a bold statement now to the qualities that are still strong in the 21st century.

    Despite the pop tendencies, Phillips’ lyrics are just as moving, strong, and occasionally humorous as they ever were. Older fans will not need to worry, because the pop-oriented songs will only help people get into the works of this very creative artist, someone isn’t afraid to say “I tried and I tried to get you by the side of the pool so I could stick my fingers into you” (from “Swimming”) or “I had the pleasure of being stuck in traffic again/behind a car whose bumper sticker read: ”Blessed Is The Country Whose God Is The Lord”/I guess that means the U.S., and I guess that means your heathen country will have to be destroyed” (from “In Case Of Rapture”)

    The pop qualities of I Was Just Comforting Her could easily make her accessible to fans of The Dixie Chicks, Kasey Chambers, and Wilco, and by covering Sonic Youth (as she does in “Burning Inside”) she will keep the edginess in alternative/underground circles, which is a good thing. Phillips herself calls this album “a big, thick slab of humanism”, and after hearing the last few minutes of “In Case Of Rapture”, you’ll want to get human with someone and celebrate the rich artistry of someone who will no doubt continue to tantalize and excite her inner muse. This will be the album music fans will talk about ten to twenty years from now as an album of value.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic NOODLES!!!

    Okay, maybe it’s not the best word to start a review, but it is one legitimate way to describe the music on Devotion (Coalition of Creative Artists) by The Rocco John Group. It’s jazz with e leaning towards bebop and hard bop, but Rocco John Iacovone (alto and soprano saxphones), along with Dalius Naujokaitis (drums and percussion), Aaron Keane (bass), and Michael Irwin (trumpet) sound like four guys from different places coming into New Orleans, playing jazz in their own way while honoring the influence the city and its music has had on them.

    The music on the album are, in th words of Iacovone, about searching for “limitless possibilities”, and they do just that in “Riffin’ For Eric”, said to be written in honor of Eric Dolphy, whom you can definitely hear in Iacovone’s playing, especially as he goes modal. He bites the reed, and the band continue on, getting involved with each other and themselves, and one of the best moments is when drumer Naujokaitis casually walks into a bit of funk before coming out, dusting his sticks off and getting back into jazz mode. A lot of times when jazz artists cover the music of the past, it’s the old standards and warmed over chestnuts, which isn’t a bad thing. But when a group of musicians get trippy and start showing their love of jazz as it became more “out there” than ever, that’s when I stop everything I’m doing and take a listen, and on top of them, they’re good too. Devotion could not have been a more appropriate title that not only honors the musicians of the past, but the jazz of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic These days in the music business, you go to where the money is, even if it means doing things that your core audience will think is foolish, even if it means “a check”. Case in point: Jake Hertzog. He is the music director for The Naked Brothers, the TV group featuring Nat and Alex Wolff, the sons of musician Michael Wolff (the one-time band director for The Arsenio Hall Show, and who plays piano on three of the ten tracks here). If you gave kids, nephews, nieces, or have a think for Nickelodeon, you probably know who The Naked Brothers are. A smart person also knows that The Naked Brothers make better music than The Jonas Brothers, but that’s another topic, another time. So sure, it’s what gives Hertzog the checks, but for a chance to hear how he truly plays, pick up his new album, Chromatosphere (That’s Out).

    Hertzog plays some nice decent jazz with a bit of a rock edge, so if you’re a fan of Allan Holdsworth, Steve Lukather, or Al DiMeola, you’ll enjoy the world Hertzog plays here. “California Hills” sounds like the kind of jazz fusion one might have heard on the first three Journey albums, or some of the more progressive moments of a lot of rock/pop bands of the mid to late 70’s. “Almost Like Being In Love” is straightforward jazz with a slight nod to bebop, and in “Bonding” he goes out of his way to not play by the rules. “Back” is on the soulful tip, and one could easily imagine Michael McDonald, George Benson, or Al Jarreau doing their thing to it. “Lullaby For A Dreamer” is mellow enough to gain some smooth jazz radio airplay, but he surpasses the limits of mainstream radio in the 9 minute “In Your Own Sweet Way”, which I’m sure is further explored in a live setting.

    After hearing this, you’ll realize Hertzog is a musician’s musician, and it makes sense that he apply his talents to a group like The Naked Brothers, because he knows how to play any and all genres without hesitation, even though he keeps himself within the boundaries of jazz and soul. Chromatosphere is maybe not the full vision of his musical capabilities, but it is sure a nice glance into the world that he will hopefully continue to dive in to in the years to come. The man is only 22, so as long as he keeps healthy and stays on a good path, we have at least 40 years of music to look forward to.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic The swing of bossa nova and smooth Latin jazz comes through with Matt Finley, whose Brazilian Wish (Kingsmill Music) is an album that makes you wish you could shave all over and get a full body tan. It’s that good.

    This is the kind of jazz that you can’t argue over nor deny, the kind of smoothness that may bring to mind the sounds of Herb Alpert, Herbie Mann, or some other guy with Herb in their name. Finley plays trumpet and flugelhorn, and as he plays he does it in a way that is soothing, romantic, and yet clear and distinct, no stress whatsoever. When he and the band get into a samba or something more furious, it’s their chance to let loose and get into the minds of its listeners, then they go right into something more luxurious and sensual. Good jazz makes you want to listen seriously, but good jazz also makes for the best mood music, perfect for those early Sunday morning lovemaking sessions. Get your suntan lotion, your bedroom is going to smell like coconut tonight.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic For jazz fans who want something a bit more exotic, take a listen to Boleros (self-released), the new album by Raquel Bitton.

    She takes on jazz with a Spanish and French flair, with the kind of charm and gentility that has thrilled audiences around the world. Upon listening to “Solamente una Vez”, one can tell why many have compared here to the legendary Edith Piaf, and upon covering standards like “Besame Mucho” and “Toda una Vida”, you can hear why these songs are as strong as they were then they were originally written and recorded. One can say that this is lounge music, but it’s the best lounge jazz you haven’t heard in years.

    The album was recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, so if you enjoyed the many albums that have been down there, you will hear that sound on this album, produced by Bitton and Gerald Prolman and engineered by Raga Sardina and Jesse Nichols. It’s one of those albums where you wish a higher resolution was available, but even if you listen to this on a clock radio, you will hear one hell of an album by one hell of a woman with one hell of a voice. Aiya!

    (Boleros will be released on March 17th.)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Iron City are a band fronted by guitarist Charlie Apicella, and he leads a combo that includes drummer Alan Korzin and Hammond B-3 man Beau Sasser. Put The Flavor On It (self-released) is the perfect album for fans who love their jazz with a pinch of boogaloo and 70’s-flavored jazz fun, and of course for those who love the guitar and the thickness of the B-3.

    While Apicella is the primary focus, he allows both Sasser and Korzin to stand out on their own, and they do this in tracks like “Goodnight Tonight”, “Chappy’s Groove”, and “Dalia Soul”, all Apicella originals. They take on the Burt Bacharach classic “Walk On By” (made famous by Dionne Warwick and later covered by Isaac Hayes) as if they were the originators, and you really have to hear it to know what I mean. Jerry Butler‘s “Hey Western Union Man” is also hear, and Apicella honors another great guitarist, Dave Stryker, with his interpretation of “24 For Elvin”.

    Put The Flavor On It is an album that deserves better distribution, the kind of album that should be released by a bigger label, released as an advanced resolution disc or even better, on vinyl. Yes, this is a “vinyl worthy” album, the type that you hope to pass on to the next generation of jazz fans and the next two after that. May this album take them to places never imagined.

  • That’s it for this week’s Run-Off Groove. If you have any new music, DVD’s, 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 basic. 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 next week for #231.
  • DVD REVIEW: Okie Noodling II

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us When I found out about Bradley Beesley’s Okie Noodling a few years ago, I was interested because I had heard The Flaming Lips did the soundtrack for it.  What I discovered was a fantastic documentary about a rural type of fishing in Oklahoma where people catch fish with their hands.  I’m not a fisherman but I have an uncle who is a diehard and has always been.  He had taken me to my first fishing trip as a kid out in Wai’anae (on the island of O’ahu) and I was able to catch a few with nothing but a bamboo stick and string.  He always fished Hawaiian style, whether it was by throwing a net or other techniques.  But no one in Hawai’i had ever caught fish that way, so it was great to see people in Oklahoma do something I was unaware of, and it’s a community and culture that is foreign to many people.

    Beesley returned almost ten years later to catch up with some of the people who were in the original, and with a slightly bigger budget, Okie Noodling II offers the sport from a few different perspectives, including with a man from Missouri who has to deal with the illegalities of hand fishing in his state.  He has been trying for years to make it legal, was able to have a trial season only for the state to pull the plug.  Like many, he said it feels good to him and he will never stop.  The fishermen in Oklahoma feel the same way, and while it is legal there, they all say it is in the blood and they’ll never stop.

    These guys don’t just catch 5 to 10 pounders, we’re talking fish that are 30, 40, 50+ pounds pulled out by feeling for the fish, waiting for a bite, and yanking it out.  Some do it alone, some have family and friends, and one of the great things about this installment of the film is that they talk with families and show how those traditions have been passed along from generation and generation.  While different traditions have quietly faded away in the city, out in the country it is very much a symbol of pride and honor.  They also show that noodling is not just a man’s sport, but regardless of who and what you are, they say if you don’t like getting hurt, don’t fish.  A huge catfish can feed a family for days if not for a few months, and it makes you feel like you want to participate.

    As with the first, Okie Noodling II was professionally shot and edited, and doesn’t feel like a simply follow up but rather an extention of the first film.  It is unusual to see these guys make the effort on something we city folk often taken for granted, but this is the way Native Americans did it and the Okie’s are proud to keep these rural traditions alive.  The best line in the movie was from a man who said that in the last ten years, Americans have been looking back to find a bit of “authenticity”, to seek things that we may have mistakenly forgotten, whether it’s the blues or other roots music, or living in a much more simple manner.  Hand fishing doesn’t require equipment or heaps of money to do, you take the risk, stick your hand in and hope for the best.  You can’t get any better than that.

    (Okie Noodling II is available directly from OkieNoodling.com)