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Archive for July, 2007
Who Is It
I haven’t heard the newest Björk album yet but it arrival made me realize it was probably time to revisit Medúlla again, as I’ve owned it for three years and only listened to it once. I couldn’t get into it at all on first attempt. Medúlla is almost entirely made up of voices. The only non-voice sounds are a bass synthesizer on “Who Is It” and a piano and gong on two other songs. I thought this was sort of a left-field (that’s saying a lot for her) Björk-fans-only album as I don’t really remember a single doing particularly well (so, she sang her first single at the Olympics, I’m not impressed, who watches the Olympics?) and I was surprised to just read that this album reached 14 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and received two Grammy Nominations.
Upon second inspection I gravitated to two songs: “Oceania” (the first single) and this song.
If I’m sleeping on any songs on this album, please leave me comment.
>> songs are available for two weeks [5.4 MB]
cd shopping heaven
I just got back from Cleveland where I picked a bunch of cds (of varying social acceptability) that I’ve been looking for a while…for $1-$2.50 each.
And I got these for a little more…
In The Sun
Second Guess, 2005
This is another dose of new British soul that I’m catching up with 2-5 years late, as usual. There is a pretty comprehensive bio on their site but in short, “young record store manager Oli Lazarus initiated his Reel People project back in 2000…the project’s first release. “Spiritual”…found favour…gain[ed] a reputation…straddling the boundaries of house and broken beat…Oli came across the talents of Mike Patto…invaluable compositional element…working with Dyanna Fearon, a vocalist from the D-Influence stable, Reel People began to take shape as an actual band…full release on Papa in July 2003…string of worldwide live dates…Defected Records re-releasing ‘Second Guess’ in early 2006 with three brand new tracks…Mike and Oli again drafted in the amazing vocals of Angela Johnson on ‘In the Sun’…another world tour taking in Sao Paolo, Miami, Europe and the UK…”
It was hard to pick what song to post because there are five songs I play off of this album (an abnormally high number), so I picked two that really show the varying moods of their production. “Second Guess” is perfect night driving music. The upright bassline sounds a little like “Juice (Know The Ledge)” by Eric B. & Rakim, but the as soon as the keyboards come in at :15 it’s clear that the song is going in a much more layered, subtle direction. The syncopated percussion anchors the atmospheric instrumentation and keeps the song from floating away.
“In The Sun” features Brooklyn’s Angela Johnson (who was the former singer for Cooly’s Hot Box and has two solo albums under her belt as well). It also features their trademark syncopated percussion but (true to the title) conjers a sunny daytime vibe. What takes this song to the next level is the change up at 2:03 (and 4:07) where they throw in a slightly foreboding descending bassline that adds a little contrast to all the sunny vibes.
>> songs are available for two weeks [9.3 MB]
>> songs are available for two weeks [8.3 MB]
Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky)
Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky), 1973
Want to know how not cool I am? I got into this album via High Fidelity. I can’t remember if it’s the book or the movie or both but the main character says he always imagines someone singing “Angel” by Aretha Franklin at his funeral. Foolishly thinking I had a pretty good grasp on all of Aretha Franklin’s good songs (even now, 7 years later, I only have ~20 of her ~45 albums) I sought out this “Angel” song, confused why I didn’t know already it if it was good. Well, it took me another several years to listen to the rest of the album. Like the saying goes, I know enough now to know that I don’t know anything.
This song starts out a little slow but, oh is it worth the wait. The keyboard breakdown @ 3:01 is sublime. I’m no producer but if someone were to loop the first bar of that break starting on the “and of 1″ so that it included the first “ooh” from the background singers on the downbeat of the second bar…they would have a nice little something to work with…I’m just saying.
This album was co-produced by Quincy Jones and Aretha and while this isn’t a trademark Quincy sound, the song structure is quite different from any other Aretha songs I know and I’m curious as to what the creative process was like with those two.
>> songs are available for two weeks [6.4 MB]
Hello, It’s Me
This song seems to be ever elusive. I first heard Groove Theory’s version on their self-titled 1995 debut and I thought it was ok, but it didn’t stand out at all. Then a few years later I overheard someone mentioning “the Isley Brother’s cover” on the Groove Theory album. Turns out the Isley Brothers had recorded a version in 1974 on their Live It Up album. I eventually found it and understood why Groove Theory were drawn to cover it (although I think that they should have left it alone because they didn’t improve on it or change it). After I few years of knowing the Isley Brothers’ version, I read the writing credit and noticed it said Todd Rundgren. I didn’t know much about him (still don’t) but I thought of him as a hard rock artist and I couldn’t really imagine what his version sounded like. I was content to go without it for the time being. I eventually was given a vinyl collection that included some Todd Rundgren records and I finally heard the song…only realize that I knew it all along. It was a Top 10 hit in 1972 and accordingly, had been sporadically echoing out of radios around me my whole life. I was reading Todd Rundgren’s Wikipedia page just now and apparently, even this is not the original version of the song. He recorded the song with The Nazz, a group he was in from 1967-1969 and then re-recorded it when he went solo.
I put this song on a playlist for a BBQ a few weeks ago and someone asked me if it was Carole King (I love Carole King) and something about that seems to sum up the song for me. The Isley Brother’s version is really centered around Ronald Isley’s voice – the few harmonies are far in the background, whereas Todd’s version is all about the instrumentation, texture and lyrics just like a Carole King song (he played every instrument by the way). The voice is just another instrument, or set of instruments – his harmonies are more chorus like, with the voices pretty close to the same volume and they play off all the other instruments as if they were just another element in the mix, especially after 2:56. I think that’s why I never connected them as being the same song.
>> songs are available for two weeks [6.2 MB]