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Archive for April, 2005

clockin’ the double nickel

Riding High
Riding High, 1977

I played “Da Goodness” by Redman last week and one of the lyrics that usually floats by undeciphered suddenly came through loud and clear, “I been had a demo before Riding High.” It was one of those moments that made me wonder how many other (potentially more important) connections sit in front of my face every day that I don’t notice. “Riding High” is one of those songs that I actually found “backwards.” As in, the track has been massively sampled but I actually heard it before I heard any of the tracks that sample it. The Breaks says that it been sampled 18 times but I think EPMD’s “Please Listen To My Demo” is the best known, or at least it’s the best known to me (and probably to Redman).

“Riding High” makes me think of driving next to a moon-lit body of water around 1:00 in the morning. It’s a pretty unique song, I can’t really think of anything else that sounds a lot like it.

Don’t miss the drum fills that start @2:37 and continue sporadically throughtout!

>> songs are available for two weeks [7.2 MB]

like no other day

The Real Thing
Sergio Mendes & the New Brasil ’77
Sergio Mendes & the New Brasil ’77, 1977

I was looking for a nice warm-weather song for this week and this one is perfect in light of the upcoming “WONDER-Full (Part VII) Annual Tribute To The Genius Stevie Wonder” party. It’s a full night of Stevie classics, Stevie covers, Stevie-penned songs, Stevie samples, and little-known Stevie tracks brought to you by Bobbito, DJ Spinna and the fine folks at KeiStar Productions.

I went two years ago and had a little bit of an out-of-body experience. Not in the literal sense but in that I heard songs that I was totally used to dancing and jamming out to in my living room and all of the sudden, I was in the middle of a couple hundred people having the same would-be private reaction. Dancing at this event wasn’t really like dancing everywhere else. There’s no “that’s a hot beat” – people were moving in synch with vocal inflections, hi-hat hesitations and harmonica bends that they knew…WELL.

I remember looking up during the last 1/3 of “Please Don’t Go” to see Bobbito dancing in the DJ booth as if he was on the main floor and had just had his mind blown by something he hadn’t heard before. Of course, he had heard the song 100 times before. At that moment the entire room (the people sitting down, the people trying to look hard, the crazy “is that a cross between modern dance and capoeira?” dancers, etc) seemed to be in the same moment.

What does Stevie have to do with Sergio Mendes in a referee uniform, you ask? As unlikely as it may seem, Stevie co-wrote “Love City” and wrote “The Real Thing” on this album. Stevie pops up in all manner of places that you might not expect. My favorite is on Minnie Riperton’s Perfect Angel album. Aside from writing two songs under his “real” name, he’s also playing drums, piano, electric piano, and harmonica, billed as “El Toro Negro” (a play on his Black Bull Music Publishing Company). The arranging credit for the whole album goes to “Wonderlove.”

“The Real Thing” has a special place in my heart because it’s the first song I played in public. The DJ that I was playing after came back by the DJ booth to give me props for my selection. I thanked him…and then stood up a little straighter and relaxed my shoulders and went on to have a really good night.

>> songs are available for two weeks [6.4 MB]

Whatup Jonesy!

better days and getaways

Gone (featuring Cee-Lo)
We R in need of a musical ReVoLuTIon!, 2005

As I previously mentioned at great length, Esthero is back with a new EP. I got my hands on a promo copy and I am not disappointed! (that’s big for me…)

Each track is in a totally different style but they’re all good vehicles for her voice and they all work as a unit as well. It was really hard to pick one song to feature but I settled on “Gone,” her duet with Cee-Lo. It actually reminds me of another great duet that she did that I don’t think made it very far. She was the other half of “How Could I?” on John Forte’s little known second album, I, John. (If someone has that MP3, or better yet, the CD, hit me up!)

I haven’t really lived with this song very long but here are the things that jump out at me right now:

1) the way in which they both used harmonies on single words and partial phrases for emphasis and variation:
–@1:35 -”…I was meant to be your freedom…”
–@2:54 -”girl, how could say that you ??? me, we used to have such a hot thing…”

2) how late in the song Cee-Lo comes in and how Esthero (or her character in the song) starts to sound shook where she was confident for the first 3:00 minutes.

When I first heard Cee-Lo’s voice come through my headphones, I thought, “how did THAT come together?” but then I remembered that she and Cee-Lo go back at least as far as their collaboration on “The World I Know (Country Livin’ Version)” on the Slam Soundtrack (1998).

Here are snippets of the other tracks:
1. We R in need of a musical ReVoLuTIon!
2. Everyday Is A Holiday (With You)
3. Gone (featuring Cee-Lo)
4. This Lullaby
5. I Drive Alone
6. Amber And Tiger’s Eye

The first five tracks are available at the iTunes store. You can click here to launch your iTunes and go to her page.

>> songs are available for two weeks [7.1 MB]

courtesy of the nytimes

courtesy of the nytimes

Open Your Eyes
Bobby Caldwell
7″ Single, 1980

Bobby Caldwell is the man behind the mid-tempo-wanna-be-a-slow-jam classic “What You Won’t Do For Love.” Its in-between tempo was always a reason (in a long list of very good reasons) why I couldn’t ask some some girl to slow-dance in middle school (back when they would play a slow jam or two at a party!).

I didn’t discover “Open Your Eyes” until Common and Jay Dee increased its audience a couple of years back. I remember going to see Common and Jill Scott at The Hammerstein Ballroom in October of 2000, around when “The Light” was big. That was a memorable show for a couple of reasons. In between the time that they had booked the show and when it actually happened, Jill’s status had risen such that she was a little out of place playing before Common. The conversation while waiting for the show to start was whether she was opening for him or whether it was it a double bill and we never found out but we saw the answer to what was behind our question when she was presented with a gold record (for selling 500,000 copies of Who Is Jill Scott? (Words And Sounds Vol. 1)) at the end of her set…and then half of the crowd left.

To Common’s credit, after a twenty or thirty minute set change, he come on and put on a show that really engaged the remaining folks (it wasn’t THAT empty) and greatly exceeded my expectations. It included an un-akward mid-tempo slow dance with a 4-year-old to “Open Your Eyes” before he went into “The Light.” I was a little cocky about how music I thought I knew at the time (big surprise) so when a decent-sized portion of the crowd seemed to know the whole song (not just the parts that were sampled) and I didn’t, I got a little upset.

Needless to say, it went onto my master record shopping list and I eventually tracked it down. (Nothing like excessive pride to get you in touch with some good 7″s!)

Bobby Caldwell seems to be the master of the tempo-ambiguous love song. This song has become a Madame X late night classic and is often accompanied by lots of singing, acting and dancing. It seems to require both the dancing and the acting because it can’t make up its mind whether or not it’s a ballad.

What I love about this song, besides its overall charm, is that he is basically calling this woman a fool but he does it so lovingly, you wouldn’t really know. All he really says is “you think you’re so wise…open your eyes.”

>> songs are available for two weeks [5 MB]

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