Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Handsome Boy Modeling School - Are You Down With It (feat Mike Patton)


The Handsome Boy Modelling School are producers Prince Paul (of Stetsasonic and De la Soul fame) and Dan Nakamura (who was part of Dr. Octagon and the Gorillaz, amongst others). On their two albums they have become famed for their extensive list of guest vocalists over their unique brand of Hip Hop. This track is from their second, less critically successful album and features former Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton making a rare excursion into coherence.

Having been a long time fan of Patton, it was first and foremost his work with FNM that appealed. Since the end of that band, his vocal work, whilst always distinctive, has not so much strayed as run full pelt from convention. In particular his work with Fant├┤mas is just plain nuts. Over their several albums there is barely one recognisable syllable. Which has its time and place and i'd be a liar to write that i never visit that time and place, however i still enjoy hearing his voice in coherence.

Here as one might expect, he does employ a fair range of different voices and styles from his vast arsenal. But they are all engaged in singing, or rapping, actual words and it is a rare treat.

Musically, HBMS are on the ball as ever. Their gift is to be able to not only put their various vocalists at the centre of each piece and build a different sonic background for them, but to be able to join all the disparate pieces together to form an harmonious whole. This is an approach that could probably only work in Hip Hop. Seen from afar, the album's patchwork array of styles reflects the cut-and-paste approach that is the mainstay of Hip Hop.

This piece is has a deep and slow groove that is instantly recognisable as one of theirs.

Monday, February 27, 2006

(radio silence)

Nothing today at all. I forgot to listen to whatever i had in my head when i awoke and soon after i was playing cars with a small boy called Rory, thus losing it for good. It was probably The Wonder Stuff, though.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pharoah Sanders

ORIGINATION his lungs, i guess
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT really quite high, considering the quantity of his recordings where i woke

Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders is one the best known musicians to have been involved in the free jazz movement of the '60s and '70s. He is famed for the sound he produced, which was unlike almost any other before or since. It is a sound that was rich and full of overtones and, when he really let lose with it, he was able to balance on the very point at which tone gives out to noise. It is a breath-taking sound, which sadly many poor fools found unlistenable. That's there loss. The spirit and passion in such playing was and is unmistakable.

This morning i woke with the sound of his playing in my head. Such is the nature of the playing, its very freeness, that finding that one small particular riff in his work is next to impossible. Around the period of his work that i know best (the late '60s to early '70s), he recorded many pieces which stretched whole sides of LPs. In fact, for many of the CD re-issues, i suspect that many of these pieces have been put back together, as they could never have fitted on one side of an LP. So finding a tiny, half second riff in a piece that is over 30 minutes is a task that i will happily fail. Instead, i'm just going to listen to all 32 minutes and 47 seconds of the staggering The Creator Has A Master Plan and let its energy carry me on into my day.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Jimmy McGriff - The Bird Wave


Another superbly funky piece of jazz from the period that Blue Note records calls its Rare Groove period (that being '67-'70). Jimmy McGriff only put out a few LPs for Blue Note during that time and Electric Funk is probably the best known.

On The Bird Wave, he tickles his hammond in a lovely fashion, with a style that is far more light fingered than the often-copied Jimmy Smith. As you would probably expect, there is plenty of funky brass stabs throughout, however here it's the rhythm section that is the big story. Sadly, they and the rest of the band are listed as unknown, which is a real shame because the drumming is excellent (i've long suspected it could be the superb Idris Muhammad, but there is no way to know).

The track opens with the drums alone, and it's one killer break. Next up is the electric bass, which meshes to the funky drums perfectly. Then in comes light-fingered McGriff, soon followed by those brassy slabs. The rest of the song plays out with as many funky breaks and crescendos as could be hoped for and all the time those drums and the bass keep the funk rolling.

The rest of the album, incidentally, is pretty damn good too.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Wonder Stuff - Donation

ORIGINATION Never Loved Elvis

Sometimes it can be hard to separate music from the time and place when it was first heard. I've always had that problem with certain bands from around the late '80s and early '90s. The Wonder Stuff is definitely one of those bands. Floppy fringes, baggy shirts, flowery dresses. Kids who are playing at being 'different'. It's like getting a hint of the smell of an ash tray from a glass of wine. You don't want it to be there, but it always will be.

Somehow of the other, i have managed to see through this in the case of the Wonder Stuff. It's probably because their songs are so catchy in a very poptastic way. Vague hints of the Beatles. Their album Never Loved Elvis is probably the best for this. All manner of lovelies are on here, chief amongst them being Size Of A Cow.

Donation is one of the less catchy numbers. Even still, there are still enough hooks for it to stick well in the memory. Also, and this is the main reason for my recent enjoyment of it, there are large washes of wah-wah throughout the song.

I reckon that the Stuffies were head and shoulders above their competition and should probably have a higher standing in musical history than they do. On the strength of tunes like this, i'm sure their time will come (again).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

James Brown - Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (Remix)

ORIGINATION In The Jungle Groove
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT jump back and kiss myself

I love this too much to put into words. Listen to it. Listen to those drums. Listen to that bass (oh the bass)! And the brass. And the organ. Listen to James Brown. Mr. Dynamite! Soul Brother Number One! The Hardest Working Man In Show Business! Mr. Superbad! The Godfather Of Soul! JAMES BROWN!

Listen when James shouts "Clyde!" after the bongo break (oh yes, bongos too!) and the drums return, followed by Bootsy on bass, it is one of those moments when i lose the power of speech.

If you don't like this song, i suggest you stop reading here and never, ever darken this page again. We don't like your kind 'round here. Have you no soul at all?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sly & The Family Stone - If You Want Me To Stay

LAST LISTENED TO can't say for sure
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT piccadilly line

One of my favourite Sly moments. It's a lovely, laid back and slinky piece of funk that is moved along by the power of the bass playing, which right in the middle of the tune. Bolted on to that is some sparse drumming, that is backed by a very simple drum machine pattern. Behind this brass and piano bubble along to either side of the listener, keeping things light and giving hints of playfullness. This, in turn, points to Sly's vocal, which is definitely one of his most playfull-sounding. Finally, Sly uses his organ to stab out emphasis every so often with some big, but not overpowering chords. It's hard not to end up with a smile on your face after listening to this. Just what the world needs on such a grey and miserable day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Yellow Sunshine - Yellow Sunshine

ORIGINATION Skye Presents The Breaks (v/a)
LAST LISTENED TO some time ago
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT it not quite as small as it may appear at first

Yellow Sunshine were formed for only one self-titled LP of funk rock fusion in 1973. This, the title cut, is a respectable entry in the funk rock field. It is an entirely guitar driven piece, with the only non-rock standard instrument being some bongos. This gives it a vague Santana-ish feel, although to be fair the guitar playing is never as flash.

The track has also been plundered several times over in recent years for its groovy drum break that occurs near the end.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Monday Mash Up

Today's song was a little confusing. This was because, as it turned out, there were four songs running into each other in my head. It took my barely awake brain a little while to prise them apart and work out what they all were. So, here they are in order of appearance:

DNA vs Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner


As far i can recall, Vega had originally released this track as an acapella on one of her albums. When a couple of naughty sample-boffins nicked the whole thing and put it out as a bootleg, her record label didn't like it but she did and it was given a proper release. The result is a fairly sparse song mixing electronic beats and basic electronic instrumentation with Vega's original lyrics. It went on to become a hit.

Danny Elfman - Augustus Gloop

ORIGINATION Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Danny Elfman is one of the best and most unique composers working in films today. He has been a long-time collaborator with director Tim Burton, working on films such as Edward Scissorhands and Mars Attacks!, as well as countless other projects (including the theme for The Simpsons). His scores always carry his particular brand of fair-ground otherworldliness and darkness, that not only make them instantly recognisable as his, but also perfectly suited to the kind of dark fairy tales that Burton often spins.

Last year he scored Burton's remake of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, which saw him using lyrics in his score for the first time. Augustus Gloop is the first song we see sung by the Oompa Loompas and is comes about when that 'great, big, greedy nincompoop' is sucked away up a chocolate pipe.

The has something of a rock-meets-primitive-tribe feel. Many voices sing the ludicrous lyrics and a variety of drums pound away. There are also lovely big stabs of brass. The song ends with drums and chanting, echoing the supposed tribal background of the Oompa Loompas that was about to be revealed.

Danny Elfman - Violet Beuregarde

ORIGINATION Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Violet met her end by chewing bubblegum, a disgusting habit. Here the Oompa Loompas get funky in the tale of her end. For not having been known as funky, Elfman pulls of mid-'70s funk with discoish flourishes incredibly well.

The song builds up slowly from random sounds and (more) chants of Oompa Loompa, until disco strings and funky guitar take over. From then on it's funktastic: organ! bass! brass! even the comedy ultra-low voice. It returns to the random sounds again at the end, as if the whole thing had never happened. Quite excellent!

Nouvelle Vague - Friday Night, Saturday Morning

ORIGINATION Nouvelle Vague

This is a nice, easy version of a not so well known Specials track. The dreamy, washy sound of the track contrasts well with the unpleasant story of british friday night binge drinking.