Thursday, November 27, 2008

Music I've Been Listening to Lately II

Immortal Technique
The 3rd World
Confession: Immortal Technique is my fourth favorite, currently-operating MC today (MF Doom, Mos Def, Aesop Rock). Beatmeiser hates his production value, but I love the man. He's rough and rugged and (like his first two albums proclaim) revolutionary. When was the last time we've heard lyrics like this?

I'm from where the gold and diamonds are ripped from the earth
right next to the slave castles where the water is cursed
from where police brutality's not half as nice
and makes the hood in America look like paradise
compared to the AIDS-infested Caribbean slum
African streets where the passport's an American gun

Revolutionary Vol. 1
and 2 barely have a radio-friendly track on them. I actually admired Technique for that--forcing us to appreciate him on his own terms. The 3rd World has a bit more bounce to it, and DJ Green Lantern has mixed each track to bleed together like a bootleg mixed tape. But the abovequoted lyrics aren't an anomaly. Technique's as leftist and angry as usual. No surprise, I'm down.

Black Kids
Partie Traumatic

I don't know, a bunch of folks callin' themselves "black kids" come into my old neighborhood, sounding like this? They woulda got they asses kicked.

OK, seriously, I grew up in some really white suburbs. The kids in my neighborhood would've been like, "You guys are, like, sooooo awesome," and would've danced like Molly Ringwold the whole night. The irony is, I would've hated the Black Kids back in the '80s. But I find this '80s throwback band pretty fun now.

Yeah, I know. There are way too many '80s throwback bands going right now. And, like the rest of them, Black Kids are a confused hodgepodge of the Reagan era. Their lead singer reminds me a bit of Robert Smith, but the group itself mixes a bit of post-punk pop, post-punk disco, and post-punk funk. A little ESG, a little Scritti Politti, and a little (oddly enough) OMD. But most of all, they're just fun.

Cold Fact

This disc is your classic "Big in Belgium" success stories. Talented singer/songwriter is produced by the legendary Dennis Coffey and backed by the incredibly gifted studio musicians who produced the Motown hit factory. They come out with their debut in 1970, it's horribly marketed, they don't know what to do with their idiosyncratic artist who refuses to look at his audience while performing, they come out with an even less successful follow-up album, and the singer/songwriter disappears off the face of the North American map. But wait! There's more! Over the next 30-plus years, the artist is a cult hit in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. He even performs there every blue moon. In fact, he's so popular, Light in the Attic decides to re-release his first album and (what?!) promote it.

I fell for the okey-doke. I bought it. I actually like it. Really like it. Cold Fact is psychedelic and fuzzy and (with "Inner City Blues") a tad funky. Rodriguez's 1960's Detroit wasn't our usual vision of folksy protest and flower children. His world is infected with pimps and whores, johns and junkies. You know, I'm a hip-hop kid. I love it when folks tell it like it T-I-is.


After one of my many rants (I can go on), Queenie at work informed me that I just don't like R&B. I had to think about it and ultimately conceded that she may be right. After all, I often contend that R&B still hasn't recovered from disco, and my music collection really doesn't have many post-funk R&B artists in it. Besides, my favorite R&B artist is Steve Spacek, and how many people know who he is?

So, I bought Estelle to see if Queenie were indeed right. Also, I heard that this woman was griping because she felt she was getting short shrift as the only black soldier in this new British invasion (I guess Corinne Bailey Rae is Malaysian). I thought, Wow, this woman has collabos with Cee-Lo, John Legend, and Kanye West, and feels like she's being oppressed?! I love the balls on her!

My reaction to Shine hasn't really proven Queenie wrong. Estelle's definitely no Badu or Goapele. She's pleasant--like Lina was a few years ago--definitely talented, and a good listen. In other words, she has some good beats and you can nod to her.

Return to Forever
Romantic Warrior

OK, there's absolutely no debate here: I've always hated fusion. Headhunters and Black Byrd aside, I just can't stand the stuff. For years, when I think fusion, I think Kenny G., "smooth jazz flavors," middle-age milquetoast mediocrity that makes me wanna machete Michael McDonald. I mean, what is the point of the stuff? To make me fall asleep? to drone painlessly through the rest of my years with Courvoisier, Addidas track suits, and console myself with the fact that no musician today can compare to Joe Sample? What the fuck?!

Anyway, I'm trying to be fairer to some of these fusion musicians--the earlier ones, before "fusion" jumped from Quiet Storm to owning their own radio stations. I figured why not try Return to Forever. They were apparently very influential, and they've got Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Al DiMeola. The problem is (and I have this problem when listening to Bob James and Weather Report) that so much of what these guys pioneered became so pat in much less talented hands. So, what was revolutionary sound in 1976 sounds a little cheesy in 2008. It's one of those cases where I wish I'd been there. Despite my complaints, there's still a lot on this album I do like, but I have a feeling I would've liked a lot more of it then. The irony is there are probably a lot of current fusion listeners who can't stand this album for its being too experimental.

Van Morrison
Astral Weeks

All right, in my recent campaign of "Give Rock a Chance," I decided to pick up a little Van. I had no clue what I was getting into. I don't know much about rock and know even less about him, but the man sang "Gloria." So, I figured he was all right in my book. After listening to this disc, Morrison's first solo joint, I still don't know what I've gotten myself into. I just know that I like it--especially "The Way Young Lovers Do." I have no clue how in the world to describe Astral Weeks other than by saying that it's some weird, brilliant shit--like taking a long, twisty ride with a drunken bard on mushrooms--so I figure I'll just let you read this Rolling Stone review.

DJ Spooky
Creation Rebel

Well, as advertised, this disc is Spooky's bringing us the legendary reggae label, Trojan Records' archive "re-mixed, re-visioned, re-versioned." Basically, the man's conducting a shotgun wedding between hip-hop and its Jamaican roots. I love Spooky, I love everything the man does, I love this disc, and I really love his remix of Dawn Penn's "No, No, No."

Speaking of love, I can't stop listening to Santogold. A lot of people have compared her to M.I.A. It makes a sort of sense since she's used M.I.A. producers Diplo and Switch and they do share a musical sense that's hard to categorize. Santogold dabbles with pop, punk, and dub with some '80s splashes. She's just a lot of fun to listen to.

Various Artists
Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay

Hater at work told me about the Numero Group label awhile ago and their reissuing obscure funk. I've been meaning to get this funky gospel disc they released, but I decided to get this because I a)found it in a CD store and b) found a CD store. This is pure, rough funk from the 1970s. If you're expecting something like the Soul Power Jamaica re-issues, a more syncretic mixture of American and Caribbean rhythms, you've come to the wrong place. Apparently, these Bahamanian artists were heavily influenced by Florida radio, and this compilation sounds a lot like the old Miami Sound compilation SoulJazz came out with a few years back. It's not a knock. That disc was a lot of fun, and so is Cult Cargo. If you like rough, obscure funk, this is a disc you'll like. Check out Sylvia Hall's "Don't Touch That Thing."

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