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Showing posts from January, 2013

Following - Phenomenal Handclap Band

from the album Form & Control (2012)

Phenomenal Handclap Band emerges from the New York City club scene.  They produce a mixture of club music and indie rock that spans the past 35 years of genres and styles.  If you are the type of person who knows you like a song when your body parts start moving, this band is for you.

Following is the song on Form & Control that I listen to most.  Disco and the 80's collide here with great results.  It might take you back to the days when you drove around in your Datsun, disco ball dangling from the rear view mirror, headed for a club that played your favorite tunes.

I read that Phenomenal Handclap Band has played several dates opening for Bryan Ferry.  That makes perfect sense to me.  I've also read on the band's web page that after a tough summer touring Europe, the band has decided to leave the indie music scene and return to NYC and immerse itself in its underground club roots.  I wish them well.

Click Here to listen to Follow…

Forever And A Day - Giant Giant Sand

from the album Tucson (2012)

I've been digging the album Tuscon by Giant Giant Sand lately.

The record tells a story of drifting and romance set in Tuscon and the surrounding country.  The 19 songs interweave a hip desert twang with morphean songwriting that is accented by mariachi horns, smokey lounge numbers, and galloping beats.  I am most attracted to the songwriting and all the nuanced, little nuggets of pleasure tucked into each song.  It's like Nick Lowe, Tom Waits, and Guy Clark grabbed some tequila, went on a musical vision quest, howled with Johnny Cash's ghost, and came back with a bucket full of tunes.

Most of the record is written by Howard Gelb, who has been writing great songs for nearly three decades.  For this album, he has expanded his Giant Sand collective to form Giant Giant Sand.  The resulting 12-piece ensemble adds rich textures of mexican cumbia and noir-tinged rockabilly reverb.  Every listen unveils something new.  I can imagine myself listening t…

Baby - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

from the album Mature Themes (2012)

I am in awe of songs that have the power to grab you by the mind and transport you to another place and time.  Baby by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti is one of those songs.

This song is a down-tempo lovers grove, intended for later in the evening than Barry White.  It is filled with soft tones, moody minor chords, and warm analog textures that define the most intimate soul of the early 1970s.  It is beautifully recorded.  I imagine the producer at the recording console in the wee hours, mixing the tracks, lost in the vibe.  Then he drives home, jamming to that night's mix.  I bet that nothing ever sounded better.

This masterful cover of the Donnie and Joe Emerson classic starts with a simple bass line, a deadened beat, and funky guitar riffs in the distance.  It slows you down and establishes the seductive groove.  Enter the electric piano and "ooh ooh baby" of the background singer.  Now you are in the mood and ready for the lead v…

You've Been Very Good To Me - Ralph "Soul" Jackson

from the album "The Alabama Love Man" (2012)

When I first stumbled across this record, I could not help but ask myself "How does someone earn the moniker "The Alabama Love Man?"  I once knew a guy called "The Detroit Piston of Love," but that was mostly wishful self-promotion.  My gut told me that this guy meant it.  Was he sneaking thru back doors, leaving women with a little sugar in their bowls, or was it something more?

After listening to this record, I realize that he earns his title by creating a brand of thick, romantic soul that has been missing since Al Green was in his prime.  Why did people stop producing records with this sound?

You've Been Very Good To Me transports you to the early-70's world of sexy, black R&B and Soul from the first beat, with the ascending horn intro serving as a duet with Ralph "Soul" Jackson's textured falsetto, that climbs and climbs the vocal register leaving me with chills at each step a…

Downwind - Sean Rowe

from the album The Salesman And The Shark (2012)

Sean Rowe recorded his second album - The Salesman And The Shark - at the famed Vox Recording Studio in Los Angeles, making a "live" recording using the same mixing board that was used by The Rolling Stones on Exile On Main Street and by T. Rex on Electric Warrior.  There must be magic in the wires, because this is one record that gives me the chilly-willies.

Whenever you listen to Sean Rowe, you are immediately struck by his magnificent baritone vocals.  Not since the Crash Test Dummies has an artist emerged with such a compelling baritone.  However, there is so much more here than a voice.  The choice of instruments, the attention to tone, and the songwriting chops that allow him to craft songs around his voice while evoking the surf guitar and soul legends of the 1960's is phenomenal.

Downwind is one of many songs by Sean Rowe that I have been basking in of late.  I dig the drumming, the reverb on the guitars, and the br…

Rudy's Intervention - The Sugarman 3

from the album What The World Needs Now (2012)

Saturday night, my funky friends and I gathered to spin some records that we've been groovin' on lately.  One that hit the spot was What The World Needs Now by The Sugarman 3.

The Sugarman 3 are a Brooklyn-based instrumental soul band. They are grandmasters of vibe and tone.  Close your eyes you'll swear your listening to vintage wax.  This is the kind of thick, soul groove you found at a pre-Woodstock 1960's house party with just enough Memphis juke-joint, booty-grindin' funk to keep things interesting.

You know the party, women wearing spectacular prints and guys are drinking Dewars and Vodka Gimlets.  There are ashtrays and people are talking about space travel.  And the music playing is instrumental soul and jazz, mixed with latin grooves for those ready to do the bugaloo.

Track One on this record is Rudy's Intervention.  The song starts with the punch of a New York City horn section, that falls back into the l…

Well You Better - Yo La Tengo

from the album Fade (2013)

Once upon a time, a good friend took me to a club in Hoboken, New Jersey to check out a hot, new band he had read about.  The band was Yo La Tengo.  That night marked the first time I saw a band of such high calibre in such a small venue.  It amazed me that the band was hanging out at the bar before taking the stage.  It was my indoctrination into a world that I have been frequenting ever since.

A few years later, the album Fakebook was released.  It remains one of my favorite records to this day.  I particularly enjoyed songs like Griselda and Yellow Sarong, that were played with an innocent pop spirit.  It is this side of Yo La Tengo that I continue to identify with.  Over the years, there is usually a song or two on each album that hooks me.  One particular song, My Little Corner Of The World, from the album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, is on my desert island mix.

So when Fake, the band's thirteenth album, was released this week, I gave the re…

Gawd Above - John Fullbright

from the album From The Ground Up (2012)

John Fullbright is a gifted 24 year-old singer/songwriter from Okemah, Oklahoma.  His album From The Ground Up is nominated for Best Americana Album at the upcoming Grammy Awards.  This is well deserved, as John Fullbright represents the best in American roots music today.

The song Gawd Above is one of the highlights from this album.  The song is a blues-roots-rock-folk hand grenade, sung from the perspective of an ego-centric God, hungry for human worship. Check out the first verse:

Six long days, seventh day He rested
Said, "There's one sure way humans can be tested
Give em wine and song, fire and lust
When it all goes wrong I'm the man to trust
And they'll be all my own, all mine together
They will sing my praise, sing my name forever
I am God Above, Lord God Almighty, mama

I made the heaven and earth, I made the stars above
Is it too much to ask for a little love?

This song starts with a simple acoustic guitar riff with the vocals b…

Run To Your Mama - Goat

from the album World Music (2012)

Once upon a time, I spent my share of Sunday nights at a place called Ed's Bay Pub in Hampton Bays, New York.  The special attraction on these summer nights was a masked shamen called The Maloney Man. Over a cacophony of african rhythms, The Maloney Man hollowed out a giant watermelon, filled it with ice, champagne, lots of vodka, and other spirits.  He then held the watermelon up to the Gods, before offering it as communion to his pagan parishioners.  At the conclusion of the ceremony, he broke the watermelon over his head. Pretty weird, but lots of fun.

Goat is an underground Swedish band that takes this concept to a whole other level.  The band claims to hail from the tiny village of Korpilombolo in the northernmost reaches of their homeland.  Here they have build their own Glocca Morra dedicated to Voodoo Worship and Psychedelic Mysticism.  And on this sacred ground, they create wonderful music.

Amongst these songs is Run To Your Mama, a tune …

Save It For A Rainy Day - B.B. Seaton

from the single Summertime b/w Save It For A Rainy Day (2012)

B.B. Seaton is a 68 year-old Jamaican musician, songwriter, and producer who has been based in London for several decades. Coming of age in the 1960s, he is well known for his years in early ska bands, such as The Gaylads and The Astronauts.  His songs have been recorded by artists including UB40, Dennis Brown, Marcia Griffiths, and Maxi Priest.

Today, he and his son Richard - a hip-hop producer - run Soul Beat Records.  He is actively re-releasing remixes of his past recordings. This includes Save It For A Rainy Day, a song that I have been really enjoying over the past month.

On the Soul Beat Records web site, it says that B.B. Seaton's ambition is "to write a song that the whole world will sing."  That is one fantastic ambition.  I dig it beyond words.

The song lays a cool Jamaican ska vibe over a dance beat.  I imagine hearing it late night in a tropical dance club.  The song is very catchy and loaded with…

I Keep Saying No - Mr. T-Bone & The Young Lions

from the album Nothing To Lose (2012)

I Keep Saying No by Mr. T-Bone & The Young Lions is a song that has been bouncing around my brain since my first listen.  I simply cannot get it out of my head.  I guess that means I really dig it.

Mr. T-Bone - whose actual name is Luigi De Gaspari - is a trombone player from Milan, Italy.  He and his band play an infectious style of ska that mixes the pre-reggae Jamaican ska of the late 60's with first-wave ska of late 70's London, and wraps it with a modern sensibility.  I have pretty discerning tastes when it comes to ska, and I thoroughly approve of Mr. T-Bone.

The thing that hooks me is the vocal line.  In the old Jamaican ska tradition of call and response, Mr. T-Bone sings the line "I Keep Saying No" followed by backing vocalists replying "No-o-o" in a descending manner that mimics Mr. T-Bone.  It is that response that commands you to sing along.

The vocals are supported by a bright beat that lifts you up and …

Runnin' - Sinkane

from the album Mars (2012)

I dig the grit of 1970's funk and soul.  I think of Isaac Hayes and the Theme from "Shaft" with its opening hi-hat and funked up guitar track.  It blows my mind.  Then there is Curtis Mayfield playing Freddy's Dead (Theme from "Superfly") with its hi-hat opening, deep bass groove, and Curtis' sweet falsetto.  Talk about great music. Where did it go?

It went to Brooklyn and manifests itself in the music of Sinkane. Listen to the song Runnin' from Mars album, and there you are, riding dirty in your Monte Carlo down Atlantic Avenue at midnight. Right from the first note of funky guitar, followed by the falsetto and hi-hat beat, it is all there for you to get your groove on. Praise to Sinkane for bringing back this vibe.

I dig everything about this song.  The vocals, the wah-wah, the keyboards.  It is just incredible.  Had I heard it a week sooner, it would have made my Top 10 list.

Sinkane's real name is Ahmed Gallab.  Bo…

One More Day Above The Roses - Gaelic Storm

from the album Chicken Boxer (2012)

Today is a milestone birthday for a good friend of mine.  What better way to celebrate than with an Irish romp.  So here it is, One More Day Above The Roses.  This song may have been written for you. Here are some random verses:

I'm done with you begrudgers
You pushers and you shovers
The scurrying, the worrying
I'm goin' to have some fun

I'm done with all the snitching
The balling and the bitching
The striving and conniving
I'm heading to the pub

All the shmoozin' and the boozin'
Will catch up with you they say
At least that's what them old ones
Told me every day
So I quit just like they said
Stopped everything that's bad
'Twas the worst twenty minutes that I've ever had

So, give it over, take a break
Shut yer hole! You're causing my poor heart to ache
To all you saints and sinners
You losers and you winners
Here's to One More Day Above The Roses 

I hope that you, and everyone else, have a great day.

Click Here to wat…

Run Free - Rebecca Ferguson

from the album Heaven (2012)

Over the holidays, I enjoyed listening to the remake of The Hollies classic He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by The Justice Collective. I love the story of how this song was written.  Songwriters Bobby Scott and Bob Russell were introduced to each other in a California nightclub by the great songwriter, Johnny Mercer.  Bob Russell was dying of lymphatic cancer.  In the short time he had left, he and Bobby Scott got together a handful of times and wrote a few songs, including He Ain't Heavy.  To me it stands as a reminder that it does not matter how much time you have, it is what you make of that time.

The Justice Collective version is a tribute to the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough football tragedy in England, where 96 people were crushed to death as the result of poor crowd control.  The group is looking for justice for the families of the disaster and put together an all-star music line-up to remake He Ain't Heavy to promote the cause.  …

Freedom - Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton

from the original motion picture soundtrack to Quentin Tarrentino's Django Unchained (2012)

Who doesn't dig the music from Quentin Tarrentino films?  When I first heard Bobby Womack singing Across 100th Street during the opening scene of Jackie Brown, it sent me into an R&B fever that lasted almost two years.  The Al Hirt version of the Green Hornet (TV) Theme song from Kill Bill Volume 1 gave me this Mexican Trumpet fever that I still suffer from today.

So I immediately jumped at a chance to give the Django Unchained soundtrack a spin.  I was not disappointed.  Of all the great tunes, Freedom stands out for me.

The songwriting and production are stellar.  Beyond that, there are over a dozen things I really dig about this song.  It starts with the opening bars with its pumping beat and groove joined by deep, subtle male vocals chanting "ummmm...ummmmm".  I am instantly hooked.

Next is the acoustic guitar, sliding chords up the fretboard.  It brings an element of …