Kool Keith, the cocoa butter lover, has a new album out called Feature Magnetic and as with most of Keith’s works, this one has a nice buzz. Now ,a track from that album but presented in remix form, this time done by L’Orange. It’s a nice new version of “Super Hero” and this one is for free, while supplies last. The album can be ordered below via Amazon.com
If you’re a fan of MF DOOM, the rapper formerly known as Zev Love X, you are going to want to check out this new album by Wally Clark. It’s nicely called Dear Daniel: A Tribute To MF DOOM and you’re able to buy this as a cassette along with the digital former so check it out, stream it first before wanting to pick up a tape.
For some people, when they listen to the tracks on the 21-track album Ohnomite (Five Day Weekend/Brick), they might want to call it this type of hip-hop or that type of hip-hop, balancing on the thin line between opinions of the greatest and the elitist. I’ll tell you what I think: this is hip-hop. Period.
Being “of the hip-hop spirit” runs in the family, and when you hear this, you’ll understand. Ohnomite may be celebrated for a few things: the amount of different MC’s and producer collaborators that help out Oh No on this, although the one thing that is constant is his own production, for he is in control of this entire album. His rhymes go anywhere and everywhere, crazy and abstract when it can be but distinct and direct when it matters, everything carefully written/choreographed like a surprise football play.
Musically, this shows the strength, power, and influence of underground hip-hop, which for me has always been major and at times better than what is pushed as mainstream music, thus the spirit Oh No has. This is why Frank Nitt (of Frank-N-Dank), MF DOOM, Phife, The Alchemist, Chino XL, Med ,Guilty Simpson, Sticky Fingaz, Phil The Agony, Rapper Big Pooh, and Erick Sermon among others are all on here: there’s a vibe here that is unspoken but is heard in each of these tracks: go for what you know, go for broke, and don’t give a fuck.
Being the younger brother of Madlib, being spontaneous and making music that sounds like a trippy collage of anything and everything (i.e. random scatterbrain funkiness) seems to be part of the family DNA. Yet you enter Ohnomite not to follow a distinct storyline or concept, but being confident in the mission about to take place and putting face in Oh No, knowing that you will be in one piece at its conclusion. Once again, this is not a specific type or style of hip-hop. For me, this is hip-hop. You’re welcome.
Nude bodies on picture discs aren’t nothing new. When Metallica were at their height, there was a series of bootleg 12″ picture discs with various naked ladies, and cheesecake nudes are documented on records from the 1930’s, if not earlier. But what happens when you put together butt cleavage of different skin tones and use that as the image on your record? Stones Throw Records has an answer with a new 12″ picture disc by CX Kidtronix called, appropriately, “Black Girl, White Girl”. Flip the record over and you get “Wild Kingdom”, which isn’t about Mutual of Omaha but instead focus on mutual respect from special guests King Geedorah (a/k/a MF DOOM), and Diallo. The picture disc comes with a bonus CD, so you’ll want to snag it up before you can only find it on eBay for $122 tops.
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.
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.
Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #234. I am John Book, welcome.
This column is about music reviews, along with music-related books, DVD’s, etc. Each review will usually be followed by a graphic, when upon clicking you can make a purchase:
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Now, the column.
To say that you’ve heard every piece of music John Zorn has ever released or composed would mean that you are an impossibility, unless you have spent your entire life following Zorn and his musical legacy everywhere. The only person who may have heard everything Zorn has made is Zorn himself, and even he may have forgotten a piece or two. If you’ve come across Zorn and his music anytime in the last 30 years, you know how intense it can be, to the point where you feel like you either want to get involved or run out of fear. These are the emotions that writer John Brackett tries to define and demolish in his book John Zorn: Tradition and Transgression (Indiana University Press).
Brackett’s book is very in-depth in terms of analyzing every twist and turn to Zorn’s creativity, to the point where you may put down the book after a chapter or two, if not after a paragraph. Brackett is an assistant professor of Music at the University of Utah, and therefore what you’re reading is very much a collegiate view of one’s music, which isn’t a bad thing. If you want a casual read, this is definitely not for you. This is very much like enrolling in Zorn 101, and the pace of the book is always at its peak for that is what the music demands and maybe represents. You can either listen to it as a barrage of choreographed noise, or examine it the way rock and jazz critics examine their favorite artists. Yes, Zorn is known for his work in jazz, but he has been accepted in the experimental and avant-garde worlds, even if Brackett challenges the notion. If there is one method to describe what he’s trying to establish, it’s this: Zorn is. Zorn isn’t. He’s both. He’s neither.
It gets into things more seriously of course, but it is intense as it is difficult to read, and it has nothing to do with Brackett’s writing style. This isn’t something where you will read things such “Zorn is Jewish. Zorn likes to incorporate his upbringing and experiences into his music. This is the music. It is on this album. Zorn likes to bring in other elements, some traditional, some not.” Every little element in Zorn’s pieces is carefully examined and deciphered to where you feel you’ve entered the point of no return, and one becomes more appreciative of Zorn’s work, even if it might not be completely understood. One can say the same thing about Brackett and his book, for while you’re not going to fully embrace the research put into it, it will eventually sink in and become overwhelming. In many ways, just like Zorn’s music.
Keri Hilson has portrayed herself in many ways, or I should say her image has been put out to show Miss Hilson as a number of different things. Some may see her as the cool and confident “around the way girl” who is down for whatever. For others, she may be that sexy, hot fucktoy with the confidence men demand but will never completely get because she is the one in control. She may be promoted in that fashion, and some of it may be true, some of it pure hype. But beyond the hype is the music and for someone who has received a lot of hype, how does In A Perfect World (Interscope) measure up? Quite good, actually.
Her music, which she had a major hand in writing, flirts with the idea of what she is, tantalizing the listener with what she makes herself out to be so that fans will become devoted believers. In “Turnin’ Me On” (the first single featuring Lil’ Wayne), a song that at times sounds close to Aaliyah‘s “Read Between The Lines”, she tells her man that she’s more than a good shop at the mall and a lady who wants to see the bottles poppin’, she is someone who “gotta be feeling your energy” first and foremost before one dares to know anything more. In other words, she’s a lady, treat her that way. “Set Your Money Up” has her teaming up with Keyshia Cole and Trina and for this one it’s a girl’s night out at the club. The Timbaland-produced “Return The Favor” sounds like both of them entered a game room and never escaped, while NE-YO helps out in “Knock You Down”, only for Kanye West to pick it up and steal it for himself.
It takes five songs for In A Perfect World to reach its first ballad, the Prince-flavored”Slow Dance”, followed by the seductive “Make Love”. She’s very comfortable in her musical pillow talk, but immediately wants to move and groove in a mid-tempo fashion with “How Does It Feel” and “Alienated”, each of which show her as someone who uses the familiar hooks in today’s R&B to lure people into hearing what she’s really all about. In other words, her sexy lyrics and voice are what brought you to listen, now you have to listen, and what a listen it is.
As a songwriter, she knows how to write effective hooks and decent verses that at times show a gifted storyteller, or at least someone who is willing to tear out pages from her mental diary and pass it on to you. I hope she continues to establish herself as a songwriter as I have a funny feeling there’s a lot more she wants to share but is waiting for the right time to do so. Her voice is much more polished and developed than Ciara, and along the lines of Keyshia Cole and Mel B. If I have to compare her sultriness and occasional hints of hip-hop attitude to anyone, I would compare her to Monica Payne of The Gyrlz/Terri & Monica fame, as both share those high tones that are able to excite and surprise due to ones own expectations of their vocal capabilities. Hilson goes beyond that, and after hearing and enjoying this album, I can see her going beyond what this album represents and getting into more challenging projects.
Because of the circumstances that MF DOOM has shown in the last two years, people have wondered if the fake DOOM’s that have been showing up at his concerts are part of an elaborate scam, or part of what DOOM wants to represent as an artist. Regardless of what the situation is, DOOM said in a recent interview that when it comes to music, he wants you to listen, not to see, so what you see may be not what you want or expect. If you keep it on that premise alone, Born Like This (Lex) is the return of DOOM in the flesh, still with his shiny mask.
People have been quick to say that DOOM has weakened, that the new album is trash, and I will say this: if you liked DOOM back when he was dropping 12″ singles on Fondle ‘Em, you will like DOOM now as he gets abstract in his tales of thievery, bravado, pride, and even some “Microwave Mayo”. The man is nuts, but anyone who craves a lot of lyrical gems on their nuts will eat this up like crazy, this is pure, insane wit just like mama used to holla at. DOOM finds no need to drive a hook home, not when he has stories to tell. In “Angelz”, his track with Ghostface Killah he talks about getting involved in a major drug deal, only to be confronted by none other than Mr. T, who wants to take part in hanging out with seductive bitches. One almost feels that DOOM became DOOM became who he is when Black Bastards was rejected by Elektra, and what what we’ve been hearing for the last 15 years os resentment and rejection from someone who wants to go out of his way to prove that he has what it takes to do damage. If he can’t do it as himself, he’ll take on a persona in order to execute his performances like, in the words of his old friend MC Serch, like sex endurance.
What does this have to do with DOOM’s new album? A lot. DOOM raps about things that are so off the wall at first, but take a step back and one begins to see a better developed picture. This is as close as you will ever get to his mic, and either you’re hopping on for the ride or not. Born Like This, at least for now, is the real man behind the mask and his return only means other MC’s better plan on stepping down before being demolished by this supervillain.
The He’s Just Not That Into You soundtrack (New Line) puts together 17 songs that were featured in the movie, and that alone could be used for any other review representing a soundtrack. What you want to know is if the songs are good. Truth: they are.
First off, there are two different soundtrack albums for this: one being the soundtrack of various songs (black cover), the other being the film’s score (white cover). You’ll want the black cover to hear songs by Corinne Bailey Rae (the addictive “I’d Like To”), Tristan Prettyman (“Madly”), and The Ting Tings (“Fruit Machine”). Even Scarlett Johansson (who appears in the film) offers up “Last Goodbye”, and the song will definitely appeal to those who felt her debut album last year was an epic fail, for she is much more spirited here than she was on her tribute to Tom Waits (I felt the album was great, but as I said in my review at Okayplayer, I think too many people expected something different because of how she looks and presents herself to the public.) The original mix of Maroon 5‘s “If I Never See Your Face Again”, sans Rihanna, appears here too.
The soundtrack is balanced by a number of older tracks, such as Talking Heads‘ “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” (one of my favorite TH songs), The Replacements‘ “can’t Hardly Wait”, The Cure‘s “Friday I’m In Love”, and The Black Crowes‘ “By Your Side”, each one meant to represent the different characters in the film. I think fans of the older tracks will definitely welcome the new material, while fans of the current artists will find something of value in listening to the songs of yesteryear. Fans of the film are sure to enjoy hearing these songs as a whole, but even if you never plan on seeing the film, it makes for a soundtrack worth keeping in your collection.
If the cover to Melodia (Ivy League/World’s Fair) looks familiar, and you’re wondering “wow John, you’re reviewing an album that came out last year?”, then you’re probably wondering why I am indeed reviewing it.
The album by The Vines was recorded a year ago, released in Australia but was not released in North America. Melodia finally gets released domestically and they are hoping to get the same success they’ve received around the world. The band are in top form and show all of the qualities they presented before: catchy melodies, good hooks, and an energy that feels powerful and believable. Some feel they should be as abrasive as their older material, while others want them to be more hook-savvy, but do The Vines satisfy? If you love the band, you’ll like them regardless, but if you truly love the band, you probably bought this last year and have been waiting for them to come to your town. I don’t blame you. There are a lot of great songs here, including the tentative/sensitive ballad hit “True As The Night”, the fierce and funky “Braindead”, and the reckless “Jamola” (which I wish went on for another minute or two instead of limiting itself to a mere 59 seconds), and in between you get potential hits, soon-to-be-concert staples, and that gritty pop crunch fans have come to enjoy and appreciate.
On the surface, he has a number of special guests on the album, including Juelz Santana, Rawanna, Ron Browz, Oshy, Ryan Leslie, NOE, Ludacris, and Busta Rhymes, but Jones’ style and grace doesn’t allow him to let them overshadow him, not when you’re in top form and going in for the lyrical kill. He plays the mack and pimp roles very well, not afraid to talk about bitches, money, and the price of fame. but he also knows that when you execute yourself as a man of the street, you have to be willing to die for the street, or at least that’s how the story goes. If it’s not the life he lives, it’s definitely the life he has witnessed through others, and no one quite does it the way Jim Jones does, with effort, power, and an incredible sense of humor that at times comes off like dry wit. In other words, he knows he can crack a few jokes and it may take a few listens before you realize you’re supposed to laugh.
My top picks: “My My My”, “Blow The Bank”, “This Is The Life”, “This Is For My Bitches”, “Girlfriend”, and “Let It Out”.
Ali Baba Abnormal has been around for a few years, and with House Of Baba (the first of two “mix tapes”) he sets himself off as the leader of a hip-hop clientele that is hard to break through. Or at least that’s the semi-theme here, creating a concept that makes him out to be the it man, and he does it by delivering some really good songs and beats that are a healthy exchange between MC and producer.
Worthy stuff for the most part, but the concept (and I use the word loosely) gets a bit thin about half way through but this is a mix tape so maybe it’s not meant to be executed properly. What he does execute are fine songs with lyrics that are worthy, nothing wasteful, and I would like to hear an official album with a bit of diversity in topics.
Bipolar are purists of jazz of the highest order, or are they? They could be purists of Western classical music, but these are jazz renditions of classical pieces, so why mention anyone being purists? Beats me, but what you will hear is pure musicianship from the people behind Bipolar, and perhaps this is the disorder in question: riding the thin line between jazz and classical and rather than hold to a preference, they handle both on Euphrates, Me Jane (self-released).
Jed Feuer (trumpet, flugelhorn), James Windsor-Wells (drums), David Ostrem (double bass), Stephanie Long (saxophones, flute), Craig Swanson (piano), and Robert C. Kelly (drums) work in unison to create a style of music that sometimes goes back to the glory days of Dave Brubeck, or at least that’s how I hear it. The music is played clear and distinctly without friction, and in a song like “Killer Beau (Soir)” you may not realize that it is a classical piece without reading the liner notes (or this review). Their version of Grover Washington Jr.‘s “Just The Two Of Us” has a nice jump that the original lacked, and probably would have done well in this setting if Bill Withers was a jazz vocalist circa 1956 or ’57, and the piano work from Swanson would have made people move and bow down for its majestic touches. Feuer’s arrangement of The Beatles‘ “And I Love You” is as beautiful as any other version released since 1964, and hearing it makes it difficult to believe the song is 45 years old. I like this a lot.
Blue Sky 5 + 2 are a group who get into a style of swing jazz perhaps long gone, but it goes back to an era when jazz was king. Five Minutes More (Groove Juice) is their second album, and the band (fronted by Craig Gildner shows that while the music may be considered old and nostalgic, if you have what it takes, you can put yourself in those days of yesterday or more realistically find yourself wanting more of that music played today.
The album features many standards: “Me, Myself and I, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”, and “You’re A Sweetheart”, and what these songs reveal at times are a sense of innocence that we tend to ignore or neglect these days, when companionship meant a stroll through the park and maybe ice cream at the parlor, nothing more. In fact, “Every Young Girl Should Know” establishes the rules between woman and man, and one wonders how much better we as a people would be if we still held on to the values of our grandparents. If you want quality swing with vocals that don’t go beyond its boundaries or capabilities, get this album.
Pianist Bob Albanese would be considered a wiz kid in his prime, but he’s no longer a kid or young man, but very much playing in his prime, if One Way/Detour (Zoho) is any indication.
Albanese is described on the back cover as being “a rhymer, a poetic soul whether he is thinking and talking or composing and playing”. To put it simply, he is good at what he does, and what he does is highly respected by his peers. On this album he performs with a group of musicians who have always played with power and they do so with no remorse: drummer Willard Dyson, bassist Tom Kennedy and legendary saxophonist Ira Sullivan. People love the term “instant classic”, and that definitely applies to an album like this, featuring a number of Albanese originals (including the textural title track, “Friendly Fire” and the appropriately titled “More Friendly Fire”). If there is a fire, it’s the heat between these four gentleman playing in a way that puts everyone on their A-game. It’s serious music where you’re constantly trying to create mental pictures of the music before you realize your strokes are wrong. But wrongs can be turned into rights, and by saying that I mean these guys can do no wrongs even if they tried. Each of them show their individual personalities through their playing, especially the Dyson/Kennedy rhythm section, you hear the ta-da-dat-dat-DAT of Dyson’s drums and then he’ll tighten up with some wicked funk before Kennedy pulls him back into the program. “Morning Nocturne” could easily be interpreted by Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, or Shinichi Osawa. There’s not one bad song on here, you want to listen and see if Albanese or any of these musicians are playing live. With luck, they’ll be playing near you soon and you may find yourself wanting to hear extended jaunts of each of the ten tracks featured here.
(One Way/Detour will be released on April 14th, and can be pre-ordered through CD Universe.)
Southern rock has a rich legacy, with a number of older bands still playing across the country and the world, and many new artists getting into it in order to keep the vibe alive. Brothers Of The Southland is a collective of musicians and singers who went on tour to share their love of Southern rock and the South, and this 13-track album (Zoho Roots) will be something fans of classic rock will eat up. “Can’t You See” and “Dreams” (the latter the classic Allman Brothers Band song are both taken to new levels with the help of American Idol runner-up Bo Bice, while Jimmy Hall and Henry Paul trade vocal duties from song to song, handling “Dixie Highway”, “Blue Sunrise”, and “a number of D. Scott Miller originals (Miller produced the album) that gets to the roots of it all to show where it all came from and where it could be leading.
The South rises once again.
(Brothers Of The Southland will be released on June 9th, and can be pre-ordered through CD Universe.)
The laid back jazz of a trio known as Framework (Jay Epstein on drums, Chris Olson on guitars, and Chris Bates on bass) is the perfect music to listen to on a rainy day like the one I’m experiencing as I’m listening to the music and writing a review of said music. Olson’s guitar is on the George Benson/Pat Martino tip throughout their self-titled CD (GoneJazz), and you don’t need complex arrangements or heavy twists and turns when you are more than capable of playing smoothly, melodically, and thematically without sounding too soft. “Yesterday’s Past” fits the mood of the title extremely well, , and Bates’ bass work almost has the same kind of roundness Roger Waters‘ is known for, where it’s deep but not plodding.
It is indeed a Framework with these guys, but it’s not robotic or predictable, everything just sounds… proper. Music that is for rainy days like these, or for hot silky nights with a significant other. Bust out the warm jellies, Framework are about to tickle your fancy and then some.
Cool jazz, true jazz: many words can be said about a certain sound that moves people in to the music and not allowing them to escape, but jazz covers a lot of ground. The Frank Wess Nonet go back to that time for a bit on their new album, with a title that is more than self-explanatory. One can say that that time in jazz was once in a lifetime, but for Wess and friends, Once Is Not Enough (Labeth Music).
Most of the songs on this album are Wess originals, and it’s hard to tell considering how well written and arranged they are. When you hear Wess’ arrangement of Billy Strayhorn‘s “Lush Life”, it becomes perfectly clear how genius this guy is. His sax work makes you feel welcome, and when his nonet offer up a big band vibe or allow him to glide with a bit of Duke Ellington or John Coltrane flair, it hits you immediately. Steve Turre‘s trombone work throughout the album stand out, easily ranking alongside his own albums over the years, listen to his solo in “Sara’s Song” for proof. Together, the musicians here (Wess and Turre along with Winard Harper, Frank Greene, Peter Washington, Gerald Clayton, Scott Robinson, Ted Nash, and Terell Stafford) have a little swagger to their step and playing, which shows the confidence in their playing and the fun they have together as creators of this music called jazz. With the exception of the brief “Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)” (which is a mere 2 minutes and 48 seconds), all of these songs are well over five minutes in length, with “Lush Life” and “Sara’s Song” being the most demanding, clocking in at 9:39 and 8:22 respectively), and one wishes they could’ve went on another two to three minutes. When he swings, he really gets caught up in it and you don’t want him to stop.
It’s hard to believe that any major label would want to drop people with incredible talent, but it seems after one album, Warner Bros. Records gave Leela James a pink slip. She received a lot of attention for her voice, music, and of course her big hair, but the hair was a partial lure to get people to listen. Again, why anyone would drop someone like her is anyone’s guess, but she’s now an indie artist and with her second album she has had to resort to doing cover versions at this early stage in her career.
She gives each of these songs a nice soulful treatment, especially the jazzified take of The Rolling Stones‘ “Miss You”. Foreigner‘s “I Want To Know What Loves Is” is taken back to church, while Betty Wright “Clean Up Woman” honors the original with respect. The rest of it is respectfully done but I would have preferred more original arrangements as some of them just lack that extra something. I hope the downfall of today’s soul music doesn’t limit her to just a cover artist, for the world needs people like James to carry on the legacy and traditions.
Modulok could be described as a dark themed MC, or perhaps that’s the way he presents himself in his words and lyrics, and along with producer Leon Murphy they help make Cities And Years (Takaba) an EP of importance.
Why important? I think this guy is on to something, and he awaits a mass audience who will appreciate him, and that time should be now. What I hear on this album is someone who has a gift of songwriting, he knows how to transfer stories from head to pen to paper (or computer screen) in a way that feels like a movie, and he does it by allowing Murphy to twist up his stories through different musical sculptures. “Ink Spots” sounds like crunk dressed up in PVC, while “A Certain Time Of The Day” sounds like something he might do with DJ Krush, while “A Certain Time Of The Day” has him sounding like a mixture of Mos Def, Common (think his first two albums), Justin Warfield, and Jesse Dangerously, as he talks about where he’s from, where he’s been, touching on his Guyanese roots and how “people don’t realize how deep that shit is/but it’s real, deeper than the fucking Grand Canyon”. There is an incredible sense of energy in his words, methods of speaking, and the music that tells me he’s hungry for interaction and feedback, and while he not call himself a teacher, I would say he is an educator of sorts, someone who wants to be able to pass on his experiences in an honest way that doesn’t take away any of his integrity or credibility. An EP of importance? I’ll take four a year, please.
Radam Schwartz is a madman on the Hammond B-3, and what he’s able to do with the instrument on his album Blues Citizens (Savant) is nothing short of brilliant. Those who have read my reviews of a number of jazz albums will know that I’m a huge fan of the B-3, just love the song and it would be great to learn how to play. When I hear someone tear it up as if there’s no tomorrow, it brings a metaphorical tear to my eye, and it’s heard in tracks like “Dem Philadelphia Organ Blues”, “Hangin’ With Smooth”, and “Pay Up”, the latter a vocal track featuring singer Kice. Schwartz knows how to play rugger blues, jazz, and ballads beautifully, and the little things he adds in songs like “Driftin'” helps give the song a bit more flavor when needed, like sprinkles of bacon salt. What’s also amazing is that not only does Schwartz play the melodies and solos, but he also handles the basslines too, and along with drummer Cecil Brooks III they make one hell of a rhythm section.
I also love the distinctive sound he produces with the B-3, it’s as if you’re feeling the organ breathe, pant, and moan. He doesn’t use it throughout but when it’s there, you feel it in the gut. I also like Eric Johnson‘s guitar work here, played with class and style the way Wes Montgomery would have liked it. Tight as punani.
3/4’s of these guys look like they’ve been smoking a lot in the last 30 years, so when you got that kind of tar buildup you know it has to result in something wicked. This is the sound of Rufus Huff, which is not the name of any one individual but a band consisting of Chris Hardesty (drums), Jarrod England (vocals, and the young man of the group), Greg Martin (guitarist, known for his work with The Kentucky Headhunters), and Dean Smith who play some of the best hard rock I’ve heard in quite some time. Their self-titled debut album Zoho Roots) shows their brand of rock to be of the Bad Company, Blackfoot, and Electric-era Cult, the kind of hard rock Rick Rubin would be excited to record. Now this isn’t just rock drenched in heavy blues, this is by all means Southern rock with an extra crunch and some type of beef jerky soaked in whiskey. Imagine Soundgarden from the Louder Than Love period playing and singing with an incredible amount of intensity, and you’ll know what “13 Daze” is. “High On Heaven Hill” sounds like what Alice In Chains would be making today if Layne Staley didn’t pass away, and in fact if you want to know how the distinctive Seattle sound got that heavy influence, you can hear the Southern influences in a band like Rufus Huff with that sweaty bottle neck blues that will make you want to shag your ol’ lady for weeks.
A lot of younger hard rock bands, or bands who claim they play hard rock, are nothing but bullshit artists hoping for a big break and the stupid eggets of the industry deliver crap. Rufus Huff, as they say, is “the truth”, these are guys who truly love the music and make it sound heavier than anything you’ve heard in your life. I hope the folks at Zoho Roots (their label) will think about releasing this on vinyl, as this is “vinyl worthy”, which means it gets my stamp of approval.
(Rufus Huff’s self-titled debut will be released on April 14th, and is available for pre-order through CD Universe.)
The liner notes on the album begin this way:
We are well aware of the benefits of performing the great jazz standards of the past. Now is the time for new compositions, making them new standards by the mere fact that once they are heard, everyone would want to play them.
With a mission like that, you can’t lose, and that’s what bassist Steve Haines and his quintet (Thomas Taylor, Rob Smith, David Lown, and Chip Crawford) attempt and succeed with on Stickaboom (Zoho), one of those albums that makes you feel proud to be a jazz fan and enthusiast.
For this one, Haines lets drummer Taylor play on only two tracks, since Jimmy Cobb wanted to jam with the guys. Together, they create songs that not only sound good, but feel good, especially “Sutak 9-1-1”, “Prospect Park”, and Cobb’s own “Composition 101”. The sax work of Smith and Lown suit the mood of the songs very well, they both seem to describe the landscapes that the songs depict, and when Crawford feels like driving his way into the grooves with his piano work (as he slyly does in the title track), you know they’re all about creating a common musical picture with beautiful colors and tones. If you’re a bassist, you’ll love what the leader of these sessions does, especially with Cobb and the two tracks with Taylor. It’s the type of music you’ll want to hear over and over.
Stickaboom sounds incredible thanks to engineer Rob Hunter, who mixed and mastered this one. He probably wanted to be able to capture that same sense of space found on many jazz albums of the last 55 years, but still letting the listener know that this is 2009, not 1954. Whether it’s an intense dancer or a rainy day with a loved one, there’s something for everyone here, and enough music to keep you going until they record a new album.
Yoshi Wada is an artist not easy to pin down, but for those who know his name and the pieces he has created, he is someone who is of intense value. The reissue of his Earth Horns With Electronic Drone through the Japanese Em label has already been the topic of discussion for fans of drone, and you get that on this album, which is nothing but a drone.
A drone? That’s it. If you are into experimental, avant-garde, or minimalistic pieces,you will really like what he does here, and sadly this single disc is a 77 minute excerpt of a 2h42m performance. What you get are a number of “Earth horns” created by Wada and played by a number of people, mixed in with electronics. The piece is just one continuous drone, but the joys is hearing how one horn weaves into the other, sometimes playing all at once, other times interacting, all while a drone carries it through. They are playing along with the drone, but not in a jazz way where one is creating a melody around it, but at the same key. The only thing that interrupts the performance are the coughs from the audience (there is also a photo of the crowd for proof.) I can’t tell you if it works or not, but it did work for me. A simple drone can be very meditative and for some quite spiritual, and at 77 minutes it does seem too short.
Youth Group released The Night Is Ours (Ivy League/World’s Fair) last year in their native Australia, and after gaining a buzz for their brand of addictive power pop, it is getting a stateside release. Their style of music mixes up the best of U2, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, and some critics have said that Toby Martin‘s voice reminds them of Matthew Sweet.
It sounds like the band really wants to make music that speaks to and unites their audience, for potential anthems that will carry people to the next decade. Songs like “Two Sides” and “All This Will Pass” can sound like either early 80’s pop or early 90’s British power pop, which if anything helps explains the band’s influences. Their lyrics are not too complex or lazy either, it’s again about making songs that not only move people, but are able to tap into the consciousness of a generation who are looking for something to believe in. I’m not saying Youth Group are this generation’s Ramones, but they are special. Don’t ignore these gents.
MF DOOM has been the topic of discussion in the last year, when people attend “his” shows and allegedly find someone who isn’t DOOM. Who is it? Hell, who is MF DOOM? Well, outside of his K.M.D. roots, many people still don’t know who the man behind the mask is, or his agenda. However, he wants you and everyone to know that he is now just DOOM.
It doesn’t matter, because he’s about to drop a new album on March 24th in the form of Born Like This, being released through Lex Records. The album can be pre-ordered through CD Universe through the following links:
To make things more interesting, “Gazzillion Ear” has been remixed by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, and according to an article at Pitchfork will be an iTunes-only track when you download the album there (BOO!) I’m almost certain that you will be able to buy the track on some imported pressing of the LP, but if iTunes suits your needs, you’ll get to hear it that way.
MF DOOM? MC Serch? Beatnuts? Hi-Tek? 88-Keys? No, this is not your made-up fantasy hip-hop football league, but rather some of the guests that will be appearing on Kurious Jorge‘s forthcoming album, II.
Longtime heads will no doubt be thinking “wait, THE Kurious Jorge?” The one and only, who released the infamous Constipated Monkey album back in 1994, which was promoted alongside Nas‘ Illmatic. One of those albums would become the first to get a 5 Mic rating from The Source, while the other would gain a good amount of underground support. While he may have been obscure for the last decade, fans have not forgotten and he hasn’t forgotten his fans, so it will be a chance to see what he’s capable of doing on the eve of a new decade.
Here is the confirmed track listing:
1.) Take What is Given (produced by Dame Grease)
2.) Back with VIC (produced by VIC)
3.) Work It (produced by 88-Keys)
4.) Sittin’ In My Car (produced by Ed Noodles)
5.) Drinks In The Air f/Vanessa Liftig (produced by Boola)
6.) Animals and Horses f/Kadi (produced by Yogi)
7.) Rubberbandz (produced by The Beatnuts)
8.) Benetton f/MC Serch & Mf Doom (produced by Sosa)
9.) Rain On f/Co Campbell (produced by Dame Grease)
10.) Wake Up f/Vanessa Liftig (produced by Team Demolition)
11.) Smiling (produced by Domingo)
12.) Brand New Day f/Dave Dar & Co Campbell (produced by Hi-Tek)
13.) Mysterious (produced by Boola)
14.) New Heights (produced by Oner)
15.) Back From Up Under f/Max B (produced by Dame Grease)
16.) Is This the End (produced by Sosa)
17.) Prosperous (produced by Fyre Dept.)
18.) The Magician f/ Del The Funky Homosapien (produced by James Strong)**** Amalgam Digital BONUS TRACK
II will be released on March 24th through Amalgam Digital. Until then, here’s the first single, “Back From Up Unda”: