Monday, November 30, 2009

Nitzer Ebb on Tour!

So normally I'm not one to just throw up tour dates for the heck of it, but I literally just found out that the British 80's industrial band Nitzer Ebb are touring over the next few weeks here in the States in support of Industrial Complex, their first new album in fifteen years! I haven't heard it yet, so I can't tell you anything more about it, but if I had found out about these tour dates earlier, you can bet I'd have been in Boston this week to check them out.

12.1 Toronto @ Mod Club
12.2 Montreal @ Le Foufounes
12.3 Boston @ Paradise
12.4 New York @ Gramercy Theatre
12.5 Philadelphia @ The Starlight
12.6 Fairfax @ Jaxx
12.8 Jacksonville @ Jackrabbit’s
12.10 Atlanta @ Masquerade
12.11 New Orleans @ The Hangar
12.15 Tucson @ The Rock
12.16 Tempe @ Marquee Theatre
12.17 San Diego @ Brick By Brick
12. 18 Ventura @ Majestic Ventura
12.19 Santa Ana @ Galaxy

Nitzer Ebb - Never Known : Saw VI Soundtrack

Visit their website and become their friend on MySpace.

Black Merda

So if you were asked to come up with a list of ten black rock musicians, would you be able to do it? What about if you were asked to name some all black bands? And finally, could you name the first all black rock band? Yeah, I couldn't either until I got a hold of Force Of Nature, an album that came out earlier this year from Black Merda, a band that could qualify as the answer to that last question if you were playing Trivial Pursuit.

The foursome got their start in the late 60's, playing fuzzy, funky, psychedelic, blues laden rock that was part Jimi Hendrix and part B.B. King (listen to Maintain below to pick up on it for yourself). The group only recorded a couple of albums (two to be precise) before fading into obscurity, only to be brought back to life by Vampi Soul Records to cut a new round of tracks which would become Force of Nature. Listening to it reminds me of another experimental funk/jam band from the 70's, Mandrill (who enjoyed somewhat more success and are still alive and kicking as well).

So, if you're down on a little history listen, pick up the album, which includes liner notes much more comprehensive than my little summary above. You can also find some comp's that bring together their older work to check out as well (which I've just started to do myself).

Visit their website, their label Vampi Soul, and become their friend on MySpace.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Soul - Shining Star

Shining star come into view,
To shine its watchful light on you.
Gives you strength to carry on,
Makes your body big and strong.

So, if you find yourself in need,
Won't you listen to these words of heed.
Be a giant or grain of sand.
Words of wisdom- Yes, I can.

You're a shining star, no matter who you are.
Shining bright to see what you could truly be.

Earth, Wind & Fire - Shining Star (stereo) : Shining Star 7"

Earth, Wind & Fire - Shining Star (mono) : Shining Star 7" B-Side

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why you listenin'

If you're in an alt-country, Neko Case/Stevie Nicksish mood, you could do much worse than check out the debut EP from Rock Island, IL native Lissie. It was recorded at her current home in Ojai, CA, and at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, NC, with her friend Bill Reynolds (of Band of Horses). The EP's lead-off track, Little Lovin', is a rousing, foot stomping rambler, and you can hear it below. From there she does a haunting cover of the old country song Wedding Bells, that is very evocative of Case's dusty voice. The mood turns gospelish with the hymn-like Oh Mississippi, and her voice begins to soar in a more soulful pop persuasion on Everywhere I Go. The EP comes to a close with Here Before, a track that really highlights her melodic voice. The five tracks do a nice job of imaging Lissie's potential and is worth a check-out for certain.

Visit her label Fat Possum Records and become her friend on MySpace.

For the Love of Pop that's not Love

El Perro Del Mar (aka Sarah Assbring) is back with her third album, Love Is Not Pop, and it's just as lovely a slice as electro-pop as you hope for coming from the Swede. For me at least, one of the fascinating aspects of her music is the almost inhuman artificiality of the instruments in her music paired against her lyrics of pure human sentiment. One of the tracks on it is her cover of the Lou Reed song Heavenly Arms, which you can watch (and listen to) above.

and an older one:

Visit her website, her label The Control Group, and become her friend on MySpace.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rene wants to be a Matador

To start off this week I've got a fun, slightly kitschy Cake meets a twenty-first century Tito Puente slice of goodness. It's titled Johnny Wants To Be A Matador, and is from artist Rene Lopez's EP of the same title that is scheduled to come out on the first of December. I really don't know much about Lopez, but the five tracks on this EP are all upbeat Latin infused numbers (I do know that his father was a trumpet player in the renowned Latin salsa band Tipica 73). Anyway, here it is. Download it, spin it, then keep your eyes open on the 1st for the EP's other 4 tracks.

Rene Lopez - Johnny Wants To Be A Matador : Johnny Wants To Be A Matador EP

Visit his website and become his friend on MySpace.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Soul - Compared To What

i said i love the light
the light of love
hanging on
with push and shove
possession is
the motivation
hanging up the whole damn nation

looks like we always end up in a rut
trying to make it real
but compared to what?

Roberta Flack - Compared To What : First Take

Visit her website and become her friend on MySpace.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Daptone Gold

So unless you've been living under a rock for the last few years, you've got to have heard of Daptone Records. And if you HAVE been listening under a rock, I hope it's got a turntable or record player so you can listen to their latest release, Daptone Gold. It's a twenty three track collection of hits and obscurities, album favorites and unheard exclusives from the Daptone Records catalog. For those of you who've seen Sharon Jones live, you'll recognize the voice behind the album's intro, Binky Griptite. From there you'll find cut after juicy cut of soul, funk, and gospel goodness that's became their status quo. You'll hear Sharon Jones, The Dap Kings, The Budos Band, Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, Lee Fields, Antibalas, Charles Bradley & the Menahan Street Band, and The Sugarman Three. To top it off, you can get all 23 tracks on a single CD for the ridiculous price of $11 OR, even better, a double LP version in a gold foil gatefold jacket for only $22 (that includes a coupon for mp3 download)!

Here are two tracks from the collection. The first is from Dap-Dippin with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, their debut album. The second is from a 45 RPM only release from 2006.

Visit the Daptone Records website

Friday, November 20, 2009


well i reached to grab the glowing rose
but instead i burned my hand
it was just a thousand moths
covering a light
hoping that they'd eat that night

life could be a luxury
if life forfeited time
cuz all that time's done to me
is give and take what's mine

well it's not mine, it's not mine
i ain't gonna waste more time
honey i'll be gone before the nightfall

This song comes from Before Nightfall, the sophomore release by Robert Francis, and a warm slice of classic, Americana rock.

Robert Francis - Nightfall : Before Nightfall

Visit his website, his label Atlantic Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

DOOM, and his Unexpected Guests

"Listen up you punks..."

If you're a fan of hip hop, especially of innovative, noncommercial hip-hop, then DOOM is either on your radar screen or darn well should be. For old fans and new alike, his latest release Unexpected Guests is an insane collection of tracks that you'll be salivating over. Over the course of his career, DOOM has worked with the cream of the crop, artists like Talib Kweli, J Dilla, Scienz of Life, Ghostface, and many others. This album culls through his deep catalog and pulls some of the most masterful collabs that he's put together, as well as some new, unreleased ones. Unless you're a DOOM fanatic with his complete works, chances are there's a bunch here that you'll want to get your ears on. Check out a sample below (one of the previously unreleased cuts), then investigate this track line-up on your own by picking up the album.

Visit his website, his label Gold Dust Media, and become his friend on MySpace.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Malaria No More

‘Tis the season of giving, and today I have another charity project that could use your support. In previous weeks I’ve written about the Playing For Change project and Funk Aid for Africa. Today I want to share news about a benefit album that just came out today titled Indie Rocks! A Benefit Album For Malaria No More. It’s been put together by RED Distribution, and its aim is to raise money for the organization Malaria No More, whose mission, in their own words, is as follows:
Malaria No More is determined to end malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. Malaria kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds, but it doesn't have to be this way-m alaria is a treatable and preventable disease. Luckily, the world is mobilizing to end the disease. In the past few years, new tools and increased awareness have pumped new energy into the fight against malaria. Individuals all over the world are helping parents keep their children safe from the deadly bite of a malarial mosquito with a simple, $10 mosquito net. Millions of individuals across the globe are helping to make malaria no more once and for all.
The album is comprised of fourteen tracks from a wide variety of artists, some from previously released albums, some recorded especially for this charity. Here’s the listing for you to check out:
1.) Peter Bjorn & John - Summer Breeze (Exclusive)
2.) Juliette Lewis - Fantasy Bar , from Terra Incognita
3.) Jeff The Brotherhood - Bone Jam , from Heavy Days
4.) The Grates - Two Kinds Of Right from Teeth Lost, Hearts Won
5.) Third Eye Blind - Bonfire (Exclusive, Live in NYC)
6.) Dirty Little Rabbits- Hello , from Simon
7.) Wild Light - Adult Nights , from Adult Nights
8.) The Walkmen - Four Provinces, from You & Me
9.) State Radio - Let It Go , from Calling All Crows
10.) Those Darlins - Wild One , from Those Darlins
11.) Great Lake Swimmers - Pulling On A Line , from Lost Channels
12.) Kate Miller Heidke - Politics in Space , from EP Kate Miller-Heidke
13.) Yonder Mountain String Band - Fingerprint , from The Show
14.) Youssou N'Dour - Fight Malaria
Starting today, and for the next four weeks, the album will be exclusively available through Amie Street, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to Malaria No More. After that, it will be available through other digital store fronts. When purchasing the album, you’ll be able to choose your donation, starting at $10 and going up to $20, $50 or $100, again, with all proceeds going to the charity.

For a sneak peak, listen to Peter Bjorn & John’s cover of the classic Seals & Croft tune Summer Breeze below, and then consider purchasing the album.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Barel Coppet et Mister Lof

There really isn't any better time to be a musical collector than the present. There are just so many great smaller labels putting out some phenomenal stuff, both new and old. An excellent example of the latter is Soundway Records. I wrote about them earlier this year, during the summer, when talking about their excellent Latin release, Panama! 2: Latin Sounds, Cumbia Tropical and Calypso Funk on the Isthmus 1967-77. Go into your local music store and I'm guessing you'd be hard pressed to find any Panamanian music (unless of course you live in Panama and you're reading this), which makes it all that much more necessary for a small label like Soundway to do the great work they do to make it available for all of us who can't fly around the world digging for records.

Well, last month, they've dug even deeper into Latin America, and as if Panamanian music wasn't getting nitty gritty enough, they've zeroed in on an even smaller target: Guadeloupe and Martinique. Heck, ask the next ten people you talk to if they can tell you where those two countries are and I'm guessing 1 or 2 of them might be on target (for your info, they're two islands which are part of the Lesser Antilles, the eastern Caribbean island chain that also includes Dominica, St. Lucia, and Marie-Galante). The two islands are overseas departments of France (i.e. I guess they're rough equivalent of Alaska and Hawaii?), and have a lengthy history of outside influence of all sorts, not just French. The musical output of these two islands far exceeds what one would expect from their size, and it's documented on Soundways' latest release: Tumbélé! Biguine, Afro & Latin Sounds - French Caribbean 1963-73.

The album's twenty tracks (all previously unavailable outside of the islands and their near neighbors) attempt to represent this varied yet distinct musical identity which draws upon French, African, and Latin influences. Accompanying the music are liner notes that detail the development of the islands' sound, as well as song by song notes explaining their origins and how they fit into the islands' musical histories. Try out two of the CDs tracks below.

Visit the Soundway Records website.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jazz Brunch Jam - September Blues

"The premise: the loss of love. This universal theme is handled here in uniquely Ethiopian manner. The inspiration comes from an old Ethiopian song, where a woman leaves her husband just before the Ethiopian New Year (which is in September). Jorga Mesfin's sax plays a mournful refrain lamenting the loss of his love. Andrea Fabbri's playing, on the other hand, represents a former scorned lover, still seething, which boils over into a rant. By the end, both remember what it was like to love this woman, and they sing the mournful refrain together, almost as one."

- from the liner notes for The Prester John Sessions

This song is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in a while. The first time I heard it, it struck me as something powerful, and I listened to it several times over. It comes deep in The Prester John Sessions, the first solo album from Tommy T (a.k.a. Thomas T Gobena), bassist for Gogol Bordello. Born in Ethiopia, Gobena draws upon his native's country culture to create an album here that explores his country's musical diversity, blending dub reggae, funk, and jazz into music that flows between the mystical and worldly.

The saxes in this piece, trading space back and forth, interacting, conversing, mourning, pull you through to share their sadness. Sheer beauty. Listen and be prepared for melancholy.

Visit his website, his label Easy Star Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Double Dose of Nick Cave

For all you Nick Cave fans out there, I've got two Caveities to share with you. One to read, one to listen to. The first is something for your nightstand: The Death Of Bunny Munro. It's the second novel by Cave, and came out in September. For those of who familiar with Cave, this novel is everything you'd expect from his twisted mind and so much more. It opens with:

"I am damned, thinks Bunny Munro in a sudden moment of self-awareness reserved for those who are soon to die. He feels that somewhere down the line he has made a grave mistake, but this realisation passes in a dreadful heartbeat, and is gone - leaving him in a room at the Grenville Hotel, in his underwear, with nothing but himself and his appetites. He closes his eyes and pictures a random vagina, then sits on the edge of the hotel bed and, in slow motion, leans back against the quilted headboard. He clamps the mobile phone under his chin and with his teeth breaks the seal on a miniature bottle of brandy. He empties the bottle down his throat, lobs it across the room, then shudders and gags and says into the phone, 'Don't worry, love, everything's going to be all right.' "

Of course, as a reader, you KNOW that everything isn't going to be all right with an opening paragraph like that! The book chronicles the accelerating demise of it's title character, Bunny Munro, a man whose lusts guide his bearing, ultimately leading him to a cracked, premature ending. The book starts with his wife committing suicide, and although one never knows for sure, it's fairly easy to guess that it's as a result of her husband's wanton ways. He is left to handle their nine year old son, Bunny Jr. as he careens toward the death that even he subconsciously realizes is fast approaching.

While you're reading, you can also be listening - to White Lunar, the latest audio release from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, his long time collaborator for more than fifteen years with The Bad Seeds, Grinderman and The Dirty Three. It's a double disc release and its sleeves describes itself as thus:
"White Lunar is a selection of pieces taken from various motion pictures and documentaries that we have been involved in, namely The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Proposition, The Road, The English Surgeon, The Girls of Phnom Penh and a variety of pieces selected from our vaults. White Lunar was recorded in Air Studios and Air Edel, London and Scuzz Studios, Ivry Sur Seine between 2005 and 2009. The first CD has the big themes, the orchestra and the songs and the second CD is fractured, haunting and sometimes badly behaved."
As presented by Cave and Ellis above, these are cinematic pieces heavy with portent. On disc one, you'll also find a sneak peak from the soundtrack for The Road, whose full soundtrack doesn't come out for another few weeks. I'm not sure you can listen to both of these atmospheric discs back to back, but they provide an ample of dose of just how powerful Cave's soundtracking efforts are. Stark, haunting, sometimes unsettling, and never trite.

Visit his website, his label Mute, and become his friend on MySpace.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Cherry Cherry Christmas

It's getting to be that time of year. The time for egg nog (preferrably spiked), candy cane colored underwear, and Christmas CDs. I know what you're saying, "It's WAY too early to be listening to Christmas music." Well I say, "Stop bah-humbuging the seasonal grooves and start ordering them now so you'll have them in time to spin for your Black Friday suicide shopping mission."

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, it's time for the first Christmas CD review of the year here at MISB. I'll straight out admit that I get into the X-mas jams, so long as it isn't the same tired tunes over and over again. My love of the holiday music goes deep; as a kid I can remember listening to the Beach Boys' Christmas album every year (on vinyl never the less). While today's review doesn't come from them, it does come from an artists who's been around almost as long and who I have almost as old a connection with: Neil Diamond. It's titled A Cherry Cherry Christmas (a play on a very merry Christmas perhaps?), but isn't Diamond's first foray into the field. He's released two previous albums, aptly titled The Christmas Album and The Christmas Album, Volume 2, some of whose songs appear in this latest release.

Of this new collections fourteen tracks, four are pulled from his first Christmas album, five from the second, and five are new songs for this album, including the title track and a cover version of Adam Sandler's Chanukah Song. While a few of the recycled songs feel very much so, there are few many that hold their enjoyability here, fifteen plus years later. The title track, on other hand, is pure and timeless Diamond. Those fans out there who've enjoyed his stripped down sound under the guidance of Rick Rubin might be disappointed here. This is your parents' classic Diamond. Come into it with that in mind, and you might just enjoy it regardless.

Visit his website, the compilation's label Columbia Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Since I wrote about Fela Kuti yesterday, it seems only appropriate to take today to talk about the fourth volume in Strut Records’ Inspiration Information series. As is typical in the series, the album pairs up two artists unlikely to share a studio otherwise, typically and older artists with a more contemporary one. In this case, it’s eccentric SwedishFinnish electronic instrumentalist Jimi Tenor with Tony Allen, the former drummer and impromptu director for Kuti’s band Africa 70. Although I’ve really enjoyed every volume thus far in the series, this one has really caught hold of my ears.

That the resulting product seems more Allenish is not surprising if you’re not familiar with Tenor and his previous work. His last few outings, while still retaining his electronic elements, display a shift towards Afro-beat. That being said, pairing him with Allen seems less drastic then one might assume otherwise. Allen, of course, was partially responsible for the genesis of Afro-beat along with Kuti, so the sound here has his stamp all over it. Mix the new and the old, and you’ve got the fourth volume for the Inspiration Information series.

Although heavily indebted to Afro-beat, by no means does this album stop there. Tenor brings some of his personal touch to bear as well, and the resulting nine tracks mix the Afro-beat base with elements of jazz (check out the killer flute solo brought forth in The Darker Side of Night), reggae (hear Selfish Gene below for a wonderful example), funk (take your pick – the whole darn thing is funky), afro-lounge-exotica (it’s the best term I can use to describe Cella’s Walk), and even early proto-rap a la The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron (listen to Path To Wisdom, one of the album’s most unique tracks, to experience this).

At only ten tracks, the album really flies by, although each track does have its own particular character. One wouldn’t expect less from Allen, but it’s no doubt a refreshing introduction to Tenor for many listeners. Check out Selfish Gene below, then the album, and finally check out some of Tenor’s solo work.

and some solo work:

Visit the Strut Records Website.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Best of the Black President

Here’s some very wonderful news that I’m personally very excited about: Knitting Factory Records will be reissuing ALL of Fela Kuti’s albums over the next year and half. That’s right, forty-five releases, not only on CD, but also on vinyl. How insane is that? Kuti on vinyl…does it get any better? I’ve now got my wish list for my birthday and Christmas for the next two years written up and ready to be fulfilled.

Fela Kuti. Even if you’ve never heard his music (which is doubtful), it’s nearly impossible that you haven’t come across his name. He is one of the great musical visionaries of the 20th century, a world musical icon that really hasn’t got his complete due here in the States. Part musician, part political radical, part social activist, part sheer entertainer, Kuti was a force unto himself ultimately laid low not by the government that he railed against but by an invisible disease that to this day lays waste to Africa: AIDS. Although I hadn't even realized it before this instant, it's appropriate that I'm writing about Kuti after posting on Funk Aid for Africa the other day, a charity album raising money in support of children affected by AIDS

To kick off their Kuti extravaganza, Knitting Factory is starting with The Best of the Black President, a two disc collection including some of his best/most well known work. It's also available in a deluxe version including a DVD featuring segments from Music Is The Weapon, the Berlin Jazz Festival, Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonesense, and interviews with Bill T. Jones and Carlos Moore. For those of you not familiar with his work, this is a great place to start, as most of his albums typically only handful of long, developed tracks.

Coincidentally, also opening this month is Fela!, the Broadway musical based on his life. I'm planning on heading down to NYC next month to check it out. Any readers out there interested in a Broadway field trip?

and a cover of it from the brilliant tribute charity compilation Red Hot + Riot

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Funk Aid for Africa

Last week I wrote about the charity album Playing For Change. Hopefully you checked it out, and possibly even bought a copy of your own by now. Although only ten tracks, it's a powerful collection of music that deserves your attention and coin. Today I've got another charity project that is equally as deserving: Funk Aid For Africa. Here's what is given in the liner notes for the album:
"Funk Aid For Africa is the first in a series of compilations created to raise funds for African children affected by AIDS, by harnessing the positive power of music. Proceeds from the sale of this compilation are going toward the construction of a 'green' playground for the children of Youth With A Vision (YWAV), a South African organization that runs AIDS prevention programs in Dennilton, South Africa. The playground is part of NextAid's and YWAV's premier project, a 25 structure children's village and multi-purpose center that will be a home for 50 children orphaned by AIDS, an after-school center for hundreds of children living off site, and an economic hub for the surrounding community."
If the charity wasn't good enough reason to buy this album, check out the line-up
1. Ocote Soul Sounds – ‘Contra El Sol’ / ESL Records

2. The Lions – ‘Jungle Struttin’ / Ubiquity Records

3. The Pimps of Joytime – ‘San Francisco Bound’ (Remix by DJ OBaH) / Wonderwheel Recordings

4. DJ Kiva – ‘A Walk In Broken Shade’ Feat. Afra Behn

5. Dario Boente & Huge In Japan – ‘Pasado Pisado’

6. Amayo’s Fu-Arkist-Ra – ‘Fist Of Flowers’

7. Ticklah – ‘Mi Sonsito’ Feat. Mayra Vega / Easy Star Records

8. Tm Juke And The Jack Baker Trio – ‘Party Favours’ Feat. Gecko Turner / Tru Thoughts Recordings

9. Nappy G – ‘Habanaha’

10. Ursula Rucker – ‘Electric Santeria’ (Remix By King Britt) / Five Six Media

11. Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra – ‘Sabroso’ (Remix By Sabo & Zeb)

12. The Pleasuremaker Band – ‘What We Came’

13. 7 Miles Per Hour Band – ‘Latin Freak’ / Kay-Dee Records

14. Happy Mayfield – ‘Jesse James’

15. Chico Mann – ‘Ease On Out’

16. J Boogie’s Dubtronic Science – ‘Together’ Feat. Jennifer Johns / Om Records

17. Sbirrofunk – ‘Nostalgicdreamsong’

18. Daisuke Naito – ‘Leopard’

19. Meta & The Cornerstones – ‘Hasta La Vista’ / 54 Soundz Llc

20. El Pueblo – ‘Ina Funky Dub’
While many of these names might be familiar to you, I assure you that there's not a lemon in the bunch here. It's also expertly mixed by DJ Obah (website) into a non-stop afro-latin-funk-soul-reggae fest. Take a few bites of it below, then donate a few of your dollars in the right direction.

Visit the official Funk Aid for Africa website, the comp's label Dubspot, and DJ Obah's website.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Love Song

it starts with a crack
in a heart
that was made of stone
i thought it was dead
had been sleeping
so all alone
now what a mistake
i've made
drifted off so far from you
and from how it began

and love i want
to give myself away
love i want to receive you
back in the same way
i make no sense on my own
but we're made for each other

and this is the love

Army of Me - Love Song : Make Yourself Naked EP

Visit their website and become their friend on MySpace.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


So I'm sure I've shared this before, but I'm not a TV watcher. I can curl up on the couch and watch a movie every once and a while, but watching a weekly show just isn't my bag. I think that might change though. I've been listening to the soundtrack for the TV show Glee nearly non-stop for the last couple of weeks. Here's the show's description: "GLEE, the genre-defying new musical comedy series, follows an optimistic teacher who - against all odds and a malicious cheerleading coach - attempts to save McKinley High's Glee Club from obscurity while helping a group of aspiring underdogs realize their true star potential."

I had caught bits and pieces of the show here and there, and while entertained, wasn't hooked. Listening to this soundtrack though makes me want to go back and watch the entire season. They take some contemporary songs, well know to all, and very handily make them fresh, new, and their own. Everything from classic rock ballads (Journey's Don't Stop Believin') to Motown (the Supreme's You Keep Me Hangin' On) to hip hop (Kanye West's Gold Digger) to Karaoke classics (Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline) to 80's pop-punk (Billy Idol's Dancing With Myself) to_______ (you name it). No matter the song, no matter the genre, the Glee cast makes it catchy as all get out.

So yeah, this coming Wednesday you'll find me sitting on the couch (which is quite the rarity) catching the newest episode of Glee. In the meantime, I'm going to keep spinning this soundtrack.

Visit the show's official website, the soundtrack's label Columbia Records, and become their friend on MySpace.

Friday, November 06, 2009

From Ella to Jill

I've been sitting on this one way to long. Listening to Amy Serrata's debut self-titled album is really quite refreshing. I keep coming back to it over the last few months, and every time, it's just as fresh. On it, Serrata pulls in influences from other female songstresses as diverse as Jill Scott and Ella Fitzgerald. Especially in the first half of the album, the Ella comparison really jumps out at me. She has the emotive, jazzy bubbleyness which made Ella so irresistible. Her voice carries a crisp, clear and bright delight to it that is just contagious.

What makes it even more impressive is that this is her debut album, and she's come out swinging for the fence. As mentioned above, the first few tracks evoke Ella's jazz, albeit with an updated electronic beat running the show. This modern feeling accelerates as you get deeper into the album, creating a electronic, poppy jazz feeling that slowly shifts into more of an R&B vibe (the track Lets is where it becomes obvious) with some slight hip hop undercurrents. By the time she's done, Serrate proves she's got spunk and soul. There's also a little Latin flair thrown in near the end of the album on Yes To Life.

Try out two of the album's tracks below. The first, Rooted, has got a strong R&B beat to it, almost something that you could bounce to. The other one here, Love Another, takes that same vibe even farther with some hip hop sampling action upping the action. Both reside more on the modern end of the release, coming at the tail end of the thirteen tracks on the album.

Visit her website and become her friend on MySpace.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Playing For Change

“Music is the universal language of mankind”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"As a human race we come together for birth, we come together for death. What brings us together in between is up to us. Stop and listen to the universal language of music and bring that positive energy with you everywhere you go"

-Mark Johnson, director of the Playing for Change project

I don't think I need to explain the quotes above. It's part of why I write this blog. It's part of why you come here to find new music. Music is everywhere, in every form. It speaks to the very young, it speaks to the very old. Man. Woman. When NASA launched the Voyager spacecraft in 1977, they included a golden record which included songs from around the world and which was inscribed with "To the makers of music — all worlds, all times."

The Playing For Change Foundation believes that, too. In their own words, they are "dedicated to connecting the world through music by providing resources (including, but not limited to facilities, supplies, and educational programs) to musicians and their communities around the world." In an effort to bring that message to people everywhere, they have recorded a ten track CD of music played by musicians from around the globe. They sing songs of weight. Songs of power. Songs of import. Stand By Me, One Love, Biko, Talkin' Bout A Revolution, the hopeful A Change Is Gonna Come, and others. And they play with passion, a passion that is true to their mission. Many of the songs here you've heard before, but never quite like this. They convey that belief in music in genuine terms.

Accompanying the music CD is a DVD with the full length documentary Peace Through Music. Here's how they describe it:
"A co-production of Timeless Media and Engine 7 Films, Playing For Change: Peace Through Music, is a story of hope, struggle, perseverance and joy. The version included here contains an additional 26 minutes of never-before-seen narration and performance, with scenes filmed in Nepal , India , New Mexico and Barcelona . The filmmakers traveled the globe with a single minded passion: to connect the world through music. Their ambitious journey took them through a myriad of cultures and visually stunning locations including post-apartheid South Africa , the ancient sites and conflicted regions of the Middle East, the remote beauty of the Himalayas and beyond. Using innovative mobile technology, the Playing For Change crew filmed and recorded more than 100 musicians, largely outdoors, in parks, plazas and promenades, in doorways, on cobblestone streets and amid hilly pueblos. The film, broadcast nationally on PBS this summer, spawned the intensely emotional video clip “Stand By Me,” featuring 37 musicians from around the world including now famous Grandpa Elliott, Roger Ridley and Clarence Bekker. It has been viewed by more than 30 million people to date on sites like YouTube and Vimeo sparking the global Playing For Change movement, one of 2009’s most unlikely and inspiring cultural phenomena."
The film opens with the song that started the project (and which you can hear below), Stand By Me. Mark Johnson explains how he heard a street entertainer, Roger Ridley, singing the song while walking down a street in Santa Monica, CA and how it gave birth to this project. Eventually, over 35 musicians from all over the world would contribute to this one song (although they never met in person), providing a model that would be followed in many of the songs on the album, and serving as a concrete example of the universal reach of music. Over the course of the album, you'll hear musicians from Nepal, Zimbabwe, India, Italy, Argentina, Congo, Cuba, South Africa, Ireland, Palestine, Isreal, Ghana, New Orleans, and many other places.

I'm not exagerating when I say that within the first five minutes of the film I had butterflies in my stomach from its power. Although the music on the CD was incredible, the film really brought home the fact that this is something bigger than just instruments and the notes they make. Something bigger than human voices and vocals. When you buy this album (don't consider it an if), make sure to watch the movie at least once. You won't regret it.

Hopefully I don't need to tell you what a worthy cause this album supports or why you should order this now. Music is something that all should have access to, regardless of class or color. Buy this album. Heck, buy a bunch and give them away as Christmas presents and you'll do double duty - sharing great music and spreading awareness. Buy the deluxe version of this powerful release and you'll also get a 24 page booklet which shares pictures of the artists as well as the background information for each song.

For more information on this amazing organization, visit the Playing For Change website, where you can read about the projects they are supporting. Or, catch the Playing For Change band on tour to experience the power of their music in person (dates below).

Visit the Playing For Change website and Concord Records.

Upcoming Tour Dates

11/06/09 Minneapolis , MN O’Shaughnessy
11/07/09 Kansas City , MO Uptown Theatre
11/08/09 Denver , CO Paramount Theatre
11/09/09 Santa Fe , NM Lensic Performing Arts Center
11/12/09 Mesa, AZ Mesa Arts Center
11/13/09 Los Angeles, CA Club Nokia
11/14/09 Anaheim , CA The Grove of Anaheim
11/15/09 San Francisco , CA Palace of Fine Arts
11/17/09 Portland , OR Aladdin Theatre
11/18/09 Seattle , WA Moore Theatre
11/19/09 Vancouver , British Columbia Commodore Ballroom

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dillanthology 3

So as all good things must come to end, so does the Dillanthology series that Rapster Records has been releasing this year. The third volume, Dilla's Productions, hit shelves at the end of last month. Want to know more about it? Start by reading about the first volume (which highlighted Dilla's production work) and the second volume (which focused on his remix work), and then prepare yourself for the closing chapter, which brings together tracks off his solo albums and the Jaylib album with Madlib, including some guest spots from Guilty Simpson, Black Thought (The Roots), Phat Kat, Common, and D’Angelo.

What else is there to say that I haven't already sprouted out with? He was a genius whose time came prematurely. Who knows what he would have laid down if he was still with us today. Thankfully, we're left with some most deaf material that will probably never go out of style (and hopefully never be forgotten). If you haven't picked up all the volumes, word on the street is that Rapster will be releasing them as a collection - not sure if it will have extra goodies in it or not, so keep your eyes open for it coming down the pipeline.

In the meantime, check out Anti-American Graffiti, a nice slice featuring some samples of famed DJ Wolfman Jack. Keep Dee Jay's memory alive and pick up these comps for your own collection.

Visit J Dilla's Myspace page and the comp's label Rapster Records.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Wake Up Contest

This song / video from French artist Sliimy is just quirky as all get out (and reminds me quite a bit of the old Peter Gabriel video for Sledgehammer). In high pop song fashion,I have no idea what he's singing about and why, but it's enjoyable never the less. It comes from his album Paint Your Face, which at the moment is only available physically as an import, but is available digitally now for a reasonable price. OR, leave a comment (or email me) with your name and email address and you'll be in the running for one of two T-shirts featuring him AND a free download code for the entire album. I'll pick the winners next Wednesdayish and notify them via email.

Become his friend on MySpace.

The emergance of Ethio-jazz

So I was listening to From New York City to Addis Ababa: The Best of Mulatu Astatke, the compilation just released by Strut Records, when I got to Lanchi Biye and realized the tune has been boosted by Somalian rapper K'naan on his latest effort, Troubadour (which I wrote about earlier this year), for the song America. Now I don't have a physical copy of it, so I couldn't tell you if he cited his source (anyone out there help me on this?), but it should be pretty telling of Astatke's musical genius that he's getting picked up on by a Somalian rapper from the 21st century. Makes you think maybe you should check him out, eh?

I wrote about Astatke earlier this year, when he paired up with the UK collective The Heliocentrics for volume 3 of Strut's Inspiration Information series (read about it here, and listen to one of its tracks below). Even diluted, you could get a sense of his Ethiopian mystique and magic. Probably as a result of that volume's success and the interest it generated, Strut has put together a compilation of his original work in the 60's and 70's. Knowing first hand how hard it is to locate much of that material (I went a-searching after being introduced to him), this comp is incredibly welcome in its breadth. Alongside the 21 tracks are in-depth liner notes detailing the storied career of Astatke and the birth of Ethio-jazz, an eclectic mix of his native music with latin, carribean, highlife, and countless other flavors.

the sampled:

Mulatu Astatke - Lanchi Biye w/Tilahoun Gessesse : New York - Addis - London - The Story Of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975

the sampler:

K'naan - America : Troubadour

one from earlier this year:

The Heliocentrics+Mulatu Astatke - Masenqo : Inspiration Information, Vol. 3

Become his friend on MySpace and visit the Strut Records website.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Jazz Brunch Jam - Dr. Funk

Although the name Vince Guaraldi might not mean anything to you, I can almost guarantee that you've heard his work. His piano is the magic behind the music of Peanuts, that timelessly classic cartoon featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and the gang. All together, Guaraldi produced the music for 15 network Peanuts cartoon specials, and in doing so, assured his place in pop culture. Most probably don't realize though that his Peanuts work is but a small slice of his creative output, output that first began way back in the 1950's when Guaraldi was working behind countless other jazz musicians.

After nearly a decade of putting in his time though, Guaraldi finely starting tasting success for himself. This success eventually landed him the gig of scoring the Peanuts' specials and going down in the history books. For those of you who'd like to dig deeper into his material though, Fantasy Records released a two disc compilation of his work last month which is the perfect method of doing so. Of course there are some selections from Peanuts (including the appropriately seasonal Great Pumpkin Waltz below), but there are also songs from his many other albums. Accompanying the CDs are liner notes which do a pretty good job of outlining his career, as short as it was (he died at only 47 in 1976). Listen to the following two tracks from Dr. Funk (as he was known), and then look into The Definitive Vince Guaraldi.

Visit his website, this release's label Fantasy Records, and become his friend on MySpace.