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Old 03-20-2008, 11:49 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Better late than never....

Marvin Gaye - What's Going On

It feels a bit strange writing this review. Normally I stick to stuff I know about or am familiar with. However here I am reviewing a man i've only really been aware of in name only and an album i've done my very best to avoid.
It wasn't avoided because of any great hatred from me towards it. It's just I have heard so much about this album and of how much of a landmark record it is I couldn't help but think that with me being , if honest totally indifferent to soul music I had a feeling that most of the message behind it would be lost on me. Somehow I even managed to avoid listening to it while I had a girlfriend who thought this was the best album ever recorded.
Luckily the week this was supposed to be posted I was able to see a documentary on Marvin Gaye and now knowing a little bit about him and what he was going through in his life at the time this was recorded I feel just about ready to tackle it.
The first thing I notice on hearing this is just how slick the production is. In fact it's so polished I have to remind myself that I am listening to something that in it's heart is social commentary. Musically the title track is faultless , superb musicianship , fantastic production , heartfelt personal lyrics , but to me something was missing. There's no dirt anywhere. Always while i'm listening to this in the back of my mind i'm thinking of Sly & The Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin On album. That album is one soul album I am familiar with and as it was a direct response to this record listening to that album was kind of like a gateway into this one. The thing that There's a Riot Goin On has over this album is that it feels like it was written and performed by someone who was pissed off. This album in comparison feels like it was written by someone who was mildly concerned rather than annoyed.
Having said that some of the songs on this album are sheer beauty , the title track itself deserves every accolade that has ever been bestowed upon it. It really is a beautiful song and it hits you like a tidal wave of sound.
Like I said at the beginning soul isn't really my thing but I like to think that I can appreciate it in some way , however I do find that ballads tend to bore me a little so a song like Flyin High literally flew over my head. Save The Children is just flat out terrible and I can't help but think this inspired even more crap in Michael Jackson's terrible Earth Song.
However on the whole my reaction to this album was better than I imagined. Of the 9 songs on the album 6 of them I really enjoyed. The title track & Mercy Mercy I had already heard before and love. The other stand out for me was Inner City Blues , A glorious slow burning gentle funk workout that brings the album to a satisfactory close.
On the whole I liked this a lot , I don't pretend to know enough about soul to say if it really is the classic it made out to be , personally I prefer There's A Riot Goin On & Stevie Wonder's Innervisions more than this. But overall it is a solid album.

Now onto the Wu Tang.
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Old 03-20-2008, 12:43 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Wu Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang-36 Chambers

I can't remember where or when I first became aware of the Wu Tang. I know it was sometime between this album and Wu Tang Forever coming out. I just remember reading about them , their music and the philosophies and imagery behind the group and thinking that this was something that demanded my attention , if only for the originality of it all. When I finally got around to hearing the album I wasn't disappointed at all , it was everything I expected it to be , and more.
Bring The Ruckus has to be one of the best opening statements on a debut album ever, every bit as powerful as a 1969 , or an Anarchy In The UK. You want to know what happened to punk rock? Well it's alive & well and doing just fine here with turntables instead of 3 chords thankyouverymuch.
I can't write a review of this album without mentioning Amsterdam.
For me Amsterdam and this album go hand in hand and each track brings back many happy memories. A friend of mine spent some time living over there in a luxury apartment above a porno cinema and I spent some time staying with him and generally got used to the pleasures that you can get in that city. This album was the soundtrack to those times. It was either this or some faceless trance bollocks , so Shame On A Nigga reminds me of sitting there with a giant spliff waiting for him to finish playing on his playstation so we could go out get drunk. Clan In Da Front reminds me of getting back there afterwards either drunk or stoned & dancing like a twat shouting out 'WU WU WU WU WU'. Can It Be All So Simple was our 5am chill out tune.
Funnily enough it's only the first half of the album that brings back memories , I think I may have passed out before we got to stuff like CREAM or Protect Ya Neck , but even so those songs still piss on what passes for mainstream hip hop these days.
I don't listen to anywhere near the amount of Hip Hop that I should and hearing this again for the first time in ages reminds me of just how good it can be.
Now if only someone would be good enough to point me in the direction of Liquid Swords
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Old 03-20-2008, 03:25 PM   #23 (permalink)
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MEAT PUPPETS : II

The initial description for the meat Puppets music left me with a little sense of dread. Punk, Rock, Country AND Psychedelia? I couldnt envisage how this was going to sound, so I was expecting a genre hopping album that lacked cohesion.

How fucking wrong I was! The marriage of the genres sounds easy and effortless. It does also sound isolated in their uniqueness and I could imagine them playing to a handful of people in a shack in the middle of nowhere and still giving it their all.

Magic Toy Missing has this almost Bluesgrass riff jangling on a mid tempo beat. Plateau would'nt sound out of place on many 80's American Indiepop albums and Aurora Borealis is a great little instrumental.

I also really like the production. nothing too flashy and with everything easily heard in the mix.

I hate to say that I am ignorant about a lot of 80's American alternative music and I need to adjust that. Meat Puppets has definitely piqued my interest. It takes in many genres but it has the sensibility of a pop album-good hooks, produced well and easily digestible. Recommended highly.
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Old 03-21-2008, 07:12 PM   #24 (permalink)
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that meat puppets album really is great, I'm allergic to noise today yet that was the only thing I could listen to next to Ravi Shankar
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Old 03-23-2008, 08:32 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Meat Puppets "II"

I'm actually surprised by how much I like this. Not because of its sound or anything but for some reason I just didn't think I'd like it much. Probably because I heard they were such a huge influence on Nirvana who I have a really weird relationship with. Sometimes the vocals bugged me because of how much they sounded like Cobain's but that wasn't too much of a bother because Cobain's voice alone bugs me some of the times when he does that whine thing too much mainly.

This album went by surprisingly fast I was looking at it thinking "19 Songs? I really hope they weren't the inspiration for all my least favorite Nirvana elements." but writing this now I'm already on the 16th track and I didn't really notice how fast it had slipped by. The guitar playing is stellar, it seems to be influenced by a desert like country atmosphere but at the same time doesn't carry that usual annoying twangyness all country has.

All in all this is a good album I'll probably listen to a few more times. I prefer the slower songs like Plateau over the more energetic New God type ones so I imagine I'll be revisiting mostly for those tracks.
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Old 04-02-2008, 03:42 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Ethan -Linda Perhacs fella? Nearly a week and a half late. I have not listened to it yet. I am waiting for your expert review to fill in a little background.
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Old 04-02-2008, 03:46 PM   #27 (permalink)
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I was kind of waiting for more people to jump on the Meat Puppets train =/
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Old 04-02-2008, 03:51 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Yeah RT. Swim. Scott-guilty as charged!
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Old 04-04-2008, 01:04 PM   #29 (permalink)
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When the Wu-Tang Clan signed their first deal for 36 Chambers they made sure it covered the respective members as solo artists. This exemplifies the Clan's business-like approach and the creation of hip-hop's first franchise and dynasty...

Here is a whistle-stop tour of the first (i.e. pre-'Forever') slew of Wu-Tang solo albums that I believe to be essential. Seriously recommended if you are not sure where to go after the debut:



Method Man - Tical (1994)



The first Wu solo album, 'tical' = weed. RZA is on the boards of course, steering Meth (the Clan's dynamic, charismatic, substance-fuelled MC) through a dark and gritty soundscape that was responsible for kicking the Wu into commercial overdrive.
We're still in early Wu-Tang mode here, with 'Bring the Pain' being a classic example of the quickfire sampling and minimal beats limited by the technology employed by RZA at the time - to great effect.



******




Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)



This is, for all intents and purposes, a collaboration between the Clan's two most surreal, slang-driven story-weavers - Raekwon the Chef and Ghostface Killah. Ghost appears on nearly every track on the record, and what a record... Cuban Linx is credited with inspiring hip-hop's longtime mafioso obsession, courtesy of Raekwon's 'Wu-Gambinos': the diamond-studded aliases of the Clan, all of whom appear on Cuban Linx between mob movie samples and the usual 5 Percenter/kung-fu VHS vernacular.

To my ears, Ghost's and especially Raekwon's bars are often indecipherable (I'm a long way from Staten Island), but a cursory search for lyrics and you'll see there is a deep, deep goldmine of slang-thick narrative that coalesces into what can only be described as... poetry.

RZA is no slack on this album either, bringing the bleak but also, this time, painting an appropriate background for the tales of gang war and botched drug deals.



******




Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return to the 36 Chambers (the Dirty Version)(1995)



For the next solo debut, ODB yanks us across the water to Brooklyn Zoo. Cousin of RZA and one of the Wu-founders, ODB is a one-off MC that needs little introduction - coming like a demented, drug-addled hybrid of rapper and soul singer. RZA produces again, as he does for all the early solo projects, and the murky beats combine with the Drunken Master's off-the-wall, profoundly entertaining meanderings to produce a macabre banger.
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Old 04-04-2008, 01:06 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep (Europe)/ Niggamortis (US) (1994)



Whiz back to '94, the year Wu-Tang burst onto a scene that was never the same again. RZA has been staying up all night, smoking alot of dope and watching gore-flecked, video-nasty marathons. He's gone a bit mad.

The result? A supergroup side project, who popularized the 'horrorcore' sub-genre over two albums. 6 Feet Deep, the first, is a cult classic where RZA and Native Tongues don Prince Paul front 3 other erstwhile partners in evil for a hardcore rap blitz.
The lyrics are hilarious, and 'the RZArector' takes a backseat behind the mixer to spray violent and frantic over Prince Paul's demonic, not-un-RZA-like beats. Just dial 1-800-Suicide...



******




Ghostface Killah - Ironman (1996)



Ironman (a reference to the Ghostface 'Gambino' alias Tony Starks, superhero Ironman's real name) is Ghost's debut album, and sets the scene his later career as one of the Wu's most respected solo MC's. Ghost, up there with hip-hop's elite, has a real talent for telling a story right down to the smallest detail without deviation from his stream-of-consciousness flow.

The emotionally charged 'ballads' were to come well after Ironman, but this is still one of my personal favourites of the bunch - RZA's production is noticeably broadening it's horizons and there are 70's soul samples abound; thematically this record looks to blaxploitation as well as kung-fu, resulting in a surprisingly retro sound without losing any of the Clan's raw immediacy or steel.
Raekwon contributes to Ghost's debut in kind, and there are some tight verses from unofficial Wu Tang member Cappadonna.



******




GZA/the Genius - Liquid Swords (1995)



I won't go on about Liquid Swords too much, as it seems to be very well known on here as well as in the 'indie communtiy'; but they don't call him the Genius for nothing... He's the philosophical mastermind behind the Clan who introduced it's core members to their guiding Nation of Islam principles.

Liquid Swords (sharp tongues, deadly rhymes) is the definitive platform for GZA's deceptively simple style - cold, piercing, meditative and seemingly a vocal manifestation of the Supreme Mathematics that the Clan lives by - listen, and let the chess metaphors grow on you!
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