SOME STUFFS: America, Earth Wind & Fire to get the audiophile treatment from Audio Fidelity

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If you enjoy your audiophile CD’s as I do, you are going to like the next two releases Audio Fidelity will be releasing on March 31st.

  • The first one is America’s second album released in 1972, Homecoming. This is the one that features the big hit “Venture Highway”, but also featured “Don’t Cross The River” and “Only In Your Heart” which were released as single, although FM radio did give other songs a shot. Some fans will also know this album for Hal Blaine playing drums on it. The album went as high as #9 on Billboard, went gold and was certified platinum after 1976.
  • After a few jazzy adventures with their first two albums, Earth Wind & Fire moved from Warner Bros. Records to Columbia and started changing their momentum with the addition of vocalist Philip Bailey. 1973’s Head To The Sky was the first hint of what was to come but it was 1974’s Open Our Eyes which showed how determined the band were to create hit songs and albums. The band were involved with two albums to be released in 1974, with Open Our Eyes getting a release in February of that year. It’s the album that offered songs like “Devotion”, “Kalimba Song”, “Fair But So Uncool” and the funky “Mighty Mighty”. While the group would share a bit of their jazzy roots, there was a worldly influence too. The other album that band were involved with that year was Ramsey Lewis’ Sun Goddess, released in the fall and that would help take Lewis to the high end of the charts. These two albums would help lead EW&F to higher realms with the release of their follow up, That’s The Way Of The World but Open Our Eyes remains my favorite EW&F album and one of my favorite records of all time.

    Outside of the new remastered versions, the hybrid SACD’s come with surround sound mixes, with America’s Homecoming getting the 5.1 treatment while EW&F’s Open Our Eyes is pulling out the original 4-channel quadraphonic mix, the first time this has ever been released digitally.

  • SOME STUFFS: Things get “Ugly” for British duo Vienna Ditto

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    England’s Vienna Ditto released their Liar Liar album awhile back, and now they’re ready to commit themselves to getting their music out to you with a new EP called Ugly, the title track of which can be listened to below. Vocalist Hatty Taylor brings in a number of influences into her style, while multi-instrumentalist Nigel Firth knows how to complete the picture and add in his own colors into the spectrum. The CD version for Ugly also features four live tracks, which you may pre-order below through Bandcamp, which offers a full stream of the EP for your listening consideration.

    Vienna Ditto have a small handful of shows lined up in the coming weeks, check them out if you can:

    September 28… London, England (O2 Academy 2 Islington)
    October 5… Oxford, England (The Jericho)
    October 10… Reading, England (Oakford Social Club)
    October 19… London, England (The Victoria, Dalston)
    October 25… Nottingham, England (Jam CafĂ©)
    October 27… London, England (The Amersham Arms)
    November 23… Oxford, England (O2 Academy 2 Oxford)

    AUDIO: Zacardi Cortez’s “1 on 1”

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    Gospel radio stations have been playing this song a lot, and there’s a bit of crossover appeal going on, which is making people take notice of Zacardi Cortez. The songwill be released on the Kerry Douglas Presents Gospel Mix Vol. VI compilation, but people are looking at Cortez hoping that he will breakthrough without lowering his standards. In other words, pay attention to Cortez. If you like what you hear, he has two other songs on the Gospel Mix Vol. VI comp.

    VIDEO: Snoop Dogg & George Clinton interview (Part 1)

    This video has come to my attention a few minutes ago, a segment from the Double G Network, or GGN. It is the creation of Snoop Dogg, who some may call Snoop Lion right now but I’ll be safe and just call him Snoop. He brings in George Clinton for an interview and a smoke, and Clinton digs deep about his musical history. There has been word of a reality show for Clinton and while I’m split on that concept, I like this idea a lot more. This is only Part 1 of the interview, so I highly look forward to the second part, maybe a third? We’ll see.

    This video comes courtesy of Snoop Dogg TV/West Fest TV, so click the link and browse through the many videos he has to offer.

    REVIEW: RJ & The Assignment’s “The Stroke Of Midnight”

     photo RJTheAss_cover_zps36b0efee.jpgIf you are one who desires music with substance & music from the heart, you are in the right place.

    These are the words that greet the potential buyer on the back cover of The Stroke Of Midnight (Jazz Bridge), the latest album by RJ & The Assignment, and I think the words are apt, for this is a mind blowing album, especially if you love traditional jazz with nice drops of jazz, funk, soul, and gospel. When the album opens wit “Midterm”, I found myself getting locked with what they were doing but the song fades out at the 2:01 and I’m thinking “what the hell? Give me more.” Same with the vibe created with the the title track, as they get incredibly intense with their instrumentation but it fades out at 3:47. I honestly thought that perhaps I was given a “snippet tape”-type situation, where all I was getting was excerpts. Please don’t let this song fade, but it was too late.

    Things get a bit better with their cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together”, featuring Jocelyn Winston on vocals, and one is able to hear a song come to a conclusion. Their cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Don’t Do For Love” (titled on this disc as “What You Don’t Do 4 Love”) goes into jazz mode, and Winston’s performance on it is superb. Their cover of John Coltrane’s “Naima” (where Coltrane is credited as “Coletrane”) is very nice, with RJ (credited as always in playing keyboards, credited here as “keyz”) getting extra smooth with a brilliant solo that will make other keyboardists smile in envy.

    If the music on here is meant to represent the mood you need to put yourself and significant other once it reaches The Stroke Of Midnight, it’s best you not catch yourself in mid-stroke. Lay it on your stereo system and let the vibes flow through, and let it soothe until the sun rises.

    REVIEW: Marco Benevento’s “Tigerface”

    Photobucket Marco Benevento is going all over the place on his new album, Tigerface , and upon first listen I wasn’t sure if I liked it.

    The first portion sounds like a delibereate effort to create a pop album, and that’s nothing against Benevento, he has the freedom to create the kind of music he wants. In my mind I wondered how I would describe that in words. Was I taken aback and it so, why? I liked his musicianship and music before, what would make this (in my mind) new exploration any different from the explorations he had done in the past? Was it the elitist critic in me which made me want to say “I don’t want his talent to be taken and abused by people who will not respect him in the same way I do?” and that’s when I stopped. It becomes “a penis in the gym shower” mentality and I wasn’t happy with that coming out of my memory bank at all, so I chose to wait it out and listen to it when ready.

    I was ready.

    Tigerface is a continuation of Benevento’s musicianship and talents, but this time he shows textures and songwriting structure that might catch some by surprise, specifically songs that sound like something you may expect to hear in television or films, or in a Broadway setting. The structure is less freeform than some of his other works, but he has always showed this sense of structure in everything he does. It’s nice to hear, and perhaps the structure heard (real or merely a perception) may help him do more works that are along the same lines. Then again, he could be the kind of musician that might get a toy piano and screw with it as if he was John Medeski. Here, he sounds ready to be the kind of composer that will receive accolades, and create music that becomes timeless for all and not just someone respected in certain daring circles of jazz.

    Maybe I was taken aback for foolish reasons, but the second and third listen lead to me enjoying it, foolishly or otherwise. I found myself placing these songs within different visual environments, but then again I’ll do that occasionally with other songs. It’s Benevento pushing forward with new music, and if this leads him to where he wants to go, may this become the sacred bean hunt of a time and place unknown.

    REVIEW: Steve Vai’s “The Story Of Light”

    Photobucket Steve Vai continues to be one of the more interesting and brilliant guitarists of the last 30 years, for he is more than capable of doing anything and everything with his music, and how he delivers “the show” in the form of an album is interesting in itself. The Story Of Light (Favored Nations) consists of material that continues to explore the mind and world of Vai as he experiences and sees it. He has never been afraid to show his spiritual side, and on this album he takes it on with bursts of heavy metal but also gets into down home gospel. The album is a nice mixture of instrumental tracks along with vocal track featuring a number of different singers.

    The last paragraph might sound like something straight from the press release, but I didn’t do any copying of any kind. I tend to prefer his earlier works when he seemed a bit more chaotic in nature, but this is someone who has played guitar since he was a kid, so there’s a level of maturity that comes not only in his playing, but everything else that has to do with these songs, from the arrangements and structure to understanding space and control. When he’s ready to explore the universe, he does it very well but isn’t also afraid to come back to Earth and share his martian experiences in the language of the planet we live on.

    That Story Of Light that he speaks of in the title is perhaps the story of us, why we exist, why we persist, and why we do what we do. He doesn’t argue nor question, merely explains himself with his guitar work. In fact, it would be a much better world if we could solve all of our political and culture problems with sound. It wouldn’t surprise me if The Story Of Light has spiritual connotations, but that’s for him to explore even further, and the interaction fans have with his music and how they interpret it. Whatever the language, Vai’s music continues to show the mindset of a storyteller that hopefully continues to inspire all musicians.

    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.

    REVIEW: Various Artists’ “Eccentric Soul: The Nickel & Penny Labels”

    Photobucket The good people of Numero Group continue their Eccentric Soul series with something called The Nickel & Penny Labels, focusing on labels created by Richard Pegue in Chicago in the 1960’s, and essentially focuses the output and work of Pegue himself, who was not only the label’s owner, but engineer and producer. With some releases, he also helped play on some of them.

    As with a lot of indie soul labels, it welcomed a wide range of styles from artists coming not only from Chicago, but whomever happened to be in town at the time and who Pegue felt like working with. What I hear are great styles of soul, gospel, R&B, and blues that eventually faded due to corporate fashion concerns, although everyone involved evolved with what was in, with the hopes of having a bit hit single, regional at first but hopefully national. It’s hearing these potential achievements that make albums like this great, even when a song or two may not be so great (or when an obvious knock-off doesn’t give its all).

    Nickel and Penny labels were as distinct as they could be, but throughout you’ll hear efforts that may have ended up complete obscurities, but sometimes the music that isn’t played out makes it possible to hear its maturity, looking into what could have been.

    REVIEW: Various Artists’ “Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio” (Sampler)

    Photobucket This CD is a sampler of the full 5LP/3CD box set The Numero Group is releasing called Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio, and if you think you’ve heard some of the best music Ohio has offered in the last 50 years, you haven’t heard anything. Unfortunately I didn’t get the full collection (I guess I’m not hip enough), but what I was able to hear is a group of singers and musicians who were willing to put all f their talents on the line for the sake of having that possible hit. Some of them did it for the sake of their religious beliefs, as heard on the batch of gospel songs that are here. They are devoted to the beliefs they were given to learn, and they take it from the cradle to the grave. But the emotions each of these songs create will make you want to hear this from start to finish. The full collection consists of 59 songs, and I’m sure the usual goods that The Numero Group are known to provide.