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Old 06-10-2009, 01:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default stranger in a strange land.

As this is my first foray into this forum, I intend to use this journal as a record of my musical journey through such genres as funk, soul, jazz, rhythm and blues, and rap. I'll be tracking down obscure albums from all over the world and giving them a full listen, as well as some consideration and analyzation before I report them on mb.

Every album that I report will be brand new to me, so bear with me as I explore something completely new.

First off:

"Sun Song" by Sun Ra

Track listing:

Call for all Demons
Street Named Hell
Lullaby for Realville
New Horizons
Fall off the Log
Sun Song

I've recently come accross the entire Sun Ra discography, so get ready for a lot of jazz reviews. This is Ra's first album and was recorded in 1956 in Chicago. It was originally released as "Jazz by Sun Ra", but was later retitled as "Sun Song" and re-released in 1967. My first impression is; wow, this **** is really good. I thought all Sun Ra's stuff was spacey and hard to get into, but this is pretty standard jazz fare. The horns are great, they play much more of a central role on this album than I thought they would, and Ra's piano work is pretty good on "New Horizons" and "Call For All Demons".

The standout track on this album has got to be "Possession", which has impressed me so greatly that it might be one of my favorite jazz tracks ever. It's got great drum work, and a real passionate feel to it that makes for an incredible listen. Ra's subtle sound on the keys doesn't diminish from the horns, which again lead the song. The melody swings and gets stuck in your head, and the brief explorations by the band at the end are great foreshadowing for future albums. I'm starting to think that the Arkestra could've got along well enough without Ra, but then I remember that he basically arranged and composed most of this stuff to complement his playing.

A relatively short album, "Sun Songs" also contains some darker songs. "New Horizons" especially caught my attention with it's slow, brooding melody. The hook is great, and the track really showcases the band's versatility.

Some more lively tracks include "Street Named Hell" and "Swing A Little Taste", both of which are upbeat and jumpy songs. What I love about these tracks is that Ra is able to capture the feel of a live jazz club in a studio setting. This isn't something that every artist can do, and I really think that Ra got it just right. I really enjoyed "Fall Off The Log", with all the sax/horn combinations firing on all cylinders.

This is, to me, a quintessential jazz album, as it encompasses swing jazz, smooth jazz, and a little bit of big band too. If I were to suggest an album to someone who is interested in jazz, this is a great one to get your feet wet. Hopefully Ra's subsequent albums can impress me just as much.
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Old 06-10-2009, 01:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Wow, looks pretty good man. Nice work.
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Old 06-10-2009, 03:16 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Great review, I'm thankful you posted it. I've officially been inspired to go find a live Jazz Club and to go get this album as soon as possible. Looking forward to more reviews in here.
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Old 06-10-2009, 03:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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About fucking time too. When you get your shit together you can produce a decent post or two! He is not obscure but I hope I see some Fela Kuti brotherhood here in this thread.

“A cynic by experience, a romantic by inclination and now a hero by necessity.”
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Old 06-10-2009, 03:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Gentleman Johnny is back.
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Old 06-10-2009, 03:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Sun Ra's been on my list for a while, nice reminder and good review!

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Old 06-10-2009, 04:38 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Your review made this sound so tantalizing. I'm not very seasoned in jazz but this sounds very interesting and I will give it a listen, thanks.
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Old 06-11-2009, 09:59 AM   #8 (permalink)
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thanks for your support guys.

@lee - of course, i'm gonna go heavy on the west african music and the whole kuti family real soon.
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Old 06-12-2009, 12:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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"D.I.T.C." by Diggin' In The Crates

Track listing:

Get Yours
Where Ya At
Way of Life
Day One
Hey Luv
Champagne Thoughts
Ebonics (Premo Mix)
Drop It Heavy
Stand Strong
Weekend Nights
Thick (Rockwilder Mix)

Alright, I have a confession to make. For the longest time I've hated the entire New York rap scene, with only some notable exceptions (Wu-Tang, MF Doom, Native Tongues Crew, etc.). I still think that Notorious B.I.G., DMX, Nas, and Bad Boy Records are too generic, focusing only on their fabulous lifestyles and how much money they have. This opinion might have been a result of ignorance on my part, but it doesn't really matter because anytime I've been recommended any East Coast rap that might been seen as "typical", I've absolutely abhorred it. For some reason or another I've always preferred rap from the West Coast or from the Midwest, but all that changed when I discovered the Diggin' In The Crates Crew.

Anchored by Big L, who is arguably the greatest MC to come out of New York City and has subsequently become one of my favorite rappers, D.I.T.C. features a conglomeration of the top underground NY artists of the early 1990s. Lord Finesse, Showbiz and A.G., Diamond D, O.C., Fat Joe, and Buckwild all contribute to this absolutely stellar album as well, and their performances have opened up my mind to NYC rap. It’s rare that an album of any genre impresses me as much as D.I.T.C.’s self-titled debut has, and it’s even rarer that I genuinely enjoy every track on album, a feat that D.I.T.C. has easily accomplished.

The album begins with “Thick”, a track with a killer beat and an even killer hook. A.G.’s opening verse is fluid and entertaining, but it’s Big L’s lines that really make this song. This song really embodies the idea that you should always start strong when organizing tracks on an album. Following “Thick” is “Get Yours”, a track that features rapidly alternating verses by Big L and O.C. that provide a raw and intense portrayal of street life in Harlem.

Third on the album is “Where Ya At”, tag team by Milano and Big Pun, who exhibits a flow that is both mellow and quick at the same time. His rough voice perfectly complements the verse he spits, one that revolves around him calling out fake rappers. This track begs replay after replay as it goes by so quickly that you don’t even have time to register is being said, but you still know it’s ill.

Big L puts in another quality performance alongside Fat Joe on “Way of Life”, and it’s this track that changed my perception of Fat Joe from complete disdain to begrudging acceptance. Likewise, it’s “Day One” that further fuels my transformation, as the entire crew sans Fat Joe puts in verses that verbally symbolize everything that NYC rap can be at its apex. The beat is sick, and is reminiscent of “Thick” with the marimba/xylophone sample.

“Hey Luv” is a brooding track by guest MC Milano and Cuban Link and has a beat that sounds like someone breathing into a telephone, yet the song itself is a description of how these guys pick up chicks. “Foundation” is the mandatory dance track and I’m sure it was a club banger because of the upbeat feeling it invokes. “Drop It Heavy” contains perhaps the most technical and complex lines yet as KRS-ONE makes an appearance alongside A.G. and Big Pun to create an esoteric analysis of the dark side of rap.

Fat Joe and Big L are absolutely haunting on “Da Enemy”, a song that details both MC’s, and an entire generation of young disenfranchised blacks, hatred of cops. Over an ill beat, this relatively short track does not disappoint.

My favorite song on this entire album is easily “Stand Strong”, a song that has everything I enjoy about rap; sick rappers and a great beat. The song’s beat is particularly tricky, as it only appears at the beginning and end of each rapper’s verse, as well as the hook. Big L’s contribution might be one of his best, and is definitely in my top 10 verses of all time.

Originally Posted by Big L
When I`m onstage you niggaz know who`s mic this is
Sport the presidential Rol` full of ice-eses
My name it ring a bid-ell, I`m hot as hid-ell
I live swid-ell, how could you mention Harlem and forget L?
Me and you can get it on, and we`ll see who gets shitted on
You tried to do what I did but you did it wrong
I`m not a child, I`m a grown man
You push a Six but I own land, try that
You can`t buy that, pass the lah black, let my fry that
Where I rest frontin fly cats get robbed and shot at
Knuckle up, bet I swell you
I stay Rolex-ed and never get tested, so what that tell you?
My whole crew puff blunts and fuck stunts
I won`t lie, I got stuck once
Then I seen the kids who did it, cocked my gat and got that back
Now you figure the rest, I`m a stop at that
You still living cause I allowed it, coward
Runing round, fronting hard like you "bout it, bout it"
But I doubt it, doubt it
What I recite be taking hours to write
So if you bite just tell your man what kind of flowers you like
Ending D.I.T.C.’s first and last studio album, "Tribute" is a poignant commemoration of Big L’s tragic death on February 15, 1999. Capping a stellar album, this song features all of Big L’s best friends on one of the best tributes I’ve ever heard, regardless of genre.

This is one of my new top albums of all time, and I'm really glad that I came accross it while searching for new music. I strongly encourage all of you to get this album and listen to it, and hopefully it can change you like it changed me.
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Old 06-16-2009, 10:44 AM   #10 (permalink)
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"The Concept" by Slave

Track listing:

Stellar Fungk
The Way You Love Is Heaven
Thank You Lord
Drac Is Back
We've Got Your Party
Just Freak
Coming Soon

Alright y'all, I think it's time for us to get FUNKY! Slave's "The Concept" is a rare funk gem from 1978, which features a young Steve Arrington on percussion and backing vocals. "The Concept" is also Slave's debut album and was recorded in Dayton, Ohio. What drew me to listen to "The Concept" was the great balance between old school funk roots and synth/effects based vocals and guitar licks.

Starting off the album is "Stellar Fungk", an 8 1/2 minute opus that features spacey vocals and funky guitar work. Synth plays a major role in this song, which sounds like it was meant to be listened to while geeked out. The singer's voice sounds like it's being created by a guitar that's traveled through Jerry Garcia's brain and was recorded through a paper towel roll, and the repeating "We are stellar!" is creepy yet oddly funky. One of Slave's hallmarks is their extensive guitar work, and these licks play a much more central role that other funk bands. Escalating horns and a final guitar solo that fucking shreds caps this funksterpiece.

Next up is "The Way You Love Is Heaven", which has got to be one of the cheesiest song titles I've ever heard. What's even lamer is that the lyrics are even more cliché, but their executed in a way that makes you disregard what their saying and focus on the jam. A solid rhythm and great background music saves this track from being too mushy, although I can't lie; I love the airy synth and oddball guitar riffs in this track.

"Thank You Lord" is a drums-only song that sounds like they just recorded a preset off my 1996 Casio electric keyboard and stuck it on the album as a prelude to the next song...

...and what a song it is. "Drac Is Back" is Slave at their best. A straight party track that slams on all cylinders and contains one of the rawest guitar solos in funk history. Mark "Drac" Hicks really wails on his guitar in this song, I'm beginning to wonder why he never recorded a solo album. After Hicks's 2 minute shredfest the entire band joins in shouting "Party! Get Down Y'all!", which I often do while listening to this song. I've literally gotten up and danced to this album in front of strangers, something I don't usually do, and I'm hoping this is a sign of quality rather than a sign of my insanity finally taking over.

"We've Got Your Party" is basically an alternate version of "Drac Is Back", seriously. The music is exactly the same, the only differences being the absence of Hicks's guitar solo and the lyrics being changed. Party song, period.

Up next is "Just Freak", the second longest song on this album and my second favorite as well. Female vocals telling me to "Just Freak!" are convincing and sensual, and while the guitar plays a diminished role in this song it is still present and rocking. This song is more about the horns for me, which invoke a feeling of exuberance and all around happiness in me. What's remarkable about this lengthy song, as well as "Stellar Fungk", are both 8 minutes or long yet they don't drag on. I've never had the feeling to change the song because I knew what was coming next, or worse, had no interest in what was coming next. These songs may be long, but they've got plenty to keep you interested.

Finishing off Slave's debut effort is "Coming Soon", a synth based track that talks about love and romance and all that shit. Whatever, disregard the subject matter and listen to the electric piano and horns instead. The real cool part of this song is its sudden transformation into heavy, driving rhythm guitar and altered vocals at about the 1 minute mark. Arrington's lyrics are sexual and rough invitations to enter his "love cabin", and it's these lyrics coupled with Hicks's powerhouse guitar work that make this song sick.

Overall, Slave's "The Concept" is one of the last great funk albums of the 70s. If you're into soulful lyrics and heavy riffage, I'm sure you'll enjoy Slave.

Last edited by anticipation; 06-16-2009 at 11:02 AM.
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