Thursday, July 30, 2009

Barney Wilen's African Adventure

With the wedding just a couple weeks out I've been narrowing down and perfecting the various wedding playlists. Being a collector and DJ I'm naturally pretty particular about the music that will accompany possibly the most significant ceremony of my life. There will be no ABBA (sorry) and likely nothing else that has ever been featured in a TV commercial or any wedding movies. Jamie pretty much knows what she's getting herself into and for the most part enjoys my musical contributions to our shared life, but I've been intentionally playing her songs that I'm planning on putting on the wedding playlists. These Barney Wilen tunes are some that got strong support from the soon-to-be wife. I love the carefree vibe of these two tunes. They're really unlike anything else I can think of and I wish there was more out there that sounded like this, so if anyone has suggestions, leave em in the comments.

I don't know much about Barney Wilen, other than he's a French saxaphone player who graced many an American jazz leaders' group in the 50s and 60s when American expats were setting up shop in Paris. He then became pretty engrossed with the hippy scene, as evidenced by his "Dear Prof. Leary" album from the late 60s. The album from which these two tunes were pulled was released in 1971 on the French label Saravah, discussed here. The back story goes that Barney and friends spent two years travelling from Tangiers to Dakar and documented their trip musically and with film. The resulting album is a double LP that fetches a pretty penny when it comes up for auction in the original pressing (the image featured below) or the simpler, and less appealing reissue cover. Orgy in Rhythm has the album for download here.

Barney Wilen - Gardenia Devil
Both songs are making the wedding mix, despite the barely noticeable "f" word usage in this one. If it weren't for that I would think it would make a great kid's song. Maybe it still can? I mean I plan on being an open-minded parent and have every intention of raising my child(ren) on african jazz freakouts. You with me Jamie?

Barney Wilen - Zombizar
This one is the stomper. Man, I love this stuff.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

M.J. Tribute - Trying To Be Like Mike

It's interesting that for an artist as monumental as MJ there were not that many imitators trying to rip his style or even cover his songs. I mean, you hear more Prince wanna-bes than you do M.J. clones, but just because they don't try to fuck with his musical style doesn't mean they don't try to cop his visual aesthetic. Props to Sterling for sending me this great link. That being said, I did track down two interesting covers of some classic MJ tunes. Enjoy. This now concludes my MJ Tribute.

Os Tarantulas - Saiba Ser Feliz (Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough)

Slingshot - Do It Again/Billie Jean

M.J. Tribute - The Solo Years

Here's round two (of three) of my M.J. Tributes . . . moving on to solo Michael. Not that I was alive back then, but what many people seem to gloss over is that it wasn't a forgone conclusion that Michael Jackson the adult was going to be a superstar. Sure, the pint-sized James Brown was a certified sensation, but as he morphed into a gangly teen and his voice wavered from the high-pitched, almost femenine tone to a more mature, yet still feminine, delivery there was a time there when the Jackson 5 were borderline irrelevant, circa 1975-1978ish. They had left Motown, signed to Epic and started recording with Gamble & Huff at Philly International as "The Jacksons" seeing as Motown owned their original name. It wasn't until 1978's "Destiny" album did you begin to see what a mature Michael sounded like. That album is basically a prequel to "Off the Wall".

The 2001 expanded reissue of "Off the Wall" featured some interesting demos of some of the classic songs from the album such as "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Workin' Day & Night". These demos, while far from superior to the original give a window into Michael's creative process and the ambiance in the home studio where he doubtless recorded these tracks with his brothers and sisters. This is Michael before the nose-job, before the glove and before the impenetrable security and back when he was really close to his siblings.

I found this 1980 issue of Jet magazine down at my local flea market and couldn't help but pick it up. It talks about Michael's production work on his sister Latoya's debut album (still looking for a cheap copy of this one that doesn't require eBay shipping).

Michael Jackson - Girl You're So Together
This is a strange album. I picked it up at the same place that had the "Joyful Jukebox Music" thinking it was more of the same: MJ from the Motown vaults. It is, but then again it ain't. The vocals were recorded back in the day but all of the instrumental tracks are from the early 1980s as this thing hit the stores in 1984. Sadly, the instrumental tracks are not graced by Quincy Jone's magic touch, but are done by some studio hacks I've never heard of. Most of these tracks plain BLOW, but the following two are at least worth hearing as they build on some pretty great vocal parts from Michael and these ones manage to stand above the rest because the 80s musical stylings are minimal. This first one is a Mizell Bros. composition like the one from the previous post. I can't help but dig the Mizell-MJ collaboration even if it got dumbed-down a decade later.

Michael Jackson - Touch The One You Love
This one's got a horrible opening, but the hook got to me.

Michael Jackson - Workin' Day & Night (original demo)
Like I said above, it's so great to hear Michael in his element working out one of his classic songs.

Michael Jackson - Baby Be Mine
This is probably new to few, but its probably my favorite non-obvious track off of Thriller. It's interesting, I was DJing a little gathering a few years back and there were a couple people that were a few years younger than me - let's say there were born in the 80s - and they had never heard this song! Thriller was such a huge album that for most anyone that was conscious when it came out, all the tracks are probably familiar, but for those who came to know MJ later, they may only know the big hits. Its a sad thing, but oh so true.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

M.J. Tribute - The J5 Years

So, I'm not sure if people are totally saturated with M.J.alia, but good tunes are good tunes and hopefully some of these will be new to some of you. I have a trio of posts coming in rapid succession that will begin with his early years with the Jackson Five. Michael was the star of the group from day one, but that doesn't mean he was always the lead-singer so I tried to pick out some songs that feature Michael on lead vocal duties, but some of these, like "Pride & Joy" is more of an ensemble performance, which is fitting as it was a rare Norman Whitfield produced/written number who was best known for his work with the Temptations.

I've tried to pick out some album cuts, a live cover/medley and a couple of selections from the motown vaults after the bros. left Soulsville, USA.

The Jackson Five - Ready Or Not (Here I Come)
Most people know this one because of the Fugees and I have to say its my favorite tune of theirs, but that doesn't mean the J5 version is no less definitive. The song was penned by Thom Bell and the Delfonics did the song first in 1969.

The Jackson Five - Walk On/The Love You Save (live)
This soundtrack/live album is a strange one with some real through away tracks (the title track for one), but the real money is in the live cover tunes they do (Sly, Dave Mason and Isaac Hayes on the above cut). Instead of doing a full version of "Walk On By" as interpreted by Ike the J5 just use it as a heavy and funky opening riff for their hit "The Love You Save". I guess that's why they didn't use the full name of the song and just "Walk On."

The Jackson Five - It's Your Thing
This cover tune was previously unreleased when the 1995 Soulsation box set came out. I got the single disc compilation (picture above) around when it came out and this was my go-to party joint.

The Jackson Five - Pride & Joy
Like I said above, this tune was written and produced by Norman Whitfield and his trademark sound is unmistakable from that opening drum roll. Not a truly classic J5 cut, but I can't help sharing the intersection of Whitfield and Michael.

The Jackson Five - Love Is The Thing You Need
Another cool cut from this Joyful Jukebox Music compilation is this great Mizell Bros. composition and production. One of the hidden secrets of Motown is the membership of the elusive "Corporation" that produced many J5 tunes. Its been said that Freddie Perren (a friend and frequent Mizell Bros. collaborator) and Fonce Mizell were active members of the corporation, but this cut is penned by both main Mizell bros. and showcases early elements of their trademark sound.

Next up, the Solo Years . . .

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brazilian Funk Explosion!

Apologies for my absence. As you may have read in the past, I'm getting married later this summer and that's been keeping me plenty busy. Add to that the work that needed to get done for the upcoming Wax Poetics issue, which will be all about Brazilian music, of which yours truly contributed four unique journalistic morsels (one big one on the late, great Tim Maia). With that theme in mind I present to you a super dope mix from my main man DJ Cliffy whose Black Rio 2 I very favorably reviewed for said forthcoming issue of WP and which you should be able to buy now or very soon.

The downloadable mix features a tight selection of cuts from the generous comp. You can get it here on zShare or here on mediafire.

Or, you can just stream it here.
DJ Cliffy - Black Rio 2 Mix

I'll be back sometime soon with some more Brazilian goodies, some MJ rarities and more. Also, if you haven't heard the new Mayer Hawthorne joint, you should. Yes, it's a cover, but for my two cents Mr. Hawthorne one-upped the original.