Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Down In Mississippi

Another live clip today. One of my very favorites from YouTube.

Ry Cooder is known for his fantastic blues-rock slide guitar. This collaboration with The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces is just fantastic soulful blues. I'm pretty certain this is a Staple Singers song originally. This version of course features Cooder on guitar, but the whole thing just turns me on. Everything is soul, from the horn section, to the raspy vocals, to the insistent bass. And speaking of bass, pay special attention to the tall skinny fellow with the trucker cap on. He's singing a bass line that's so low I first thought it was a brass instrument playing his part.

Down In Mississippi, some blues for your Tuesday.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Thieves In The Night

Jazz and Hip-Hop. If you haven't made this connection yet, you're about to. Sorry in advance for the history lesson.

Both of these African-American musical styles came into being and were popularized during the 20th century in the United States of America. Both draw heavily from other musical styles, including Blues, R&B, Pop, even Country and Folk. Both became popular music, dominating dance floors and youth culture in their heyday. Both emphasize rhythms, specifically African rhythms. And most importantly, both have a culture of improvisation. These genres are brothers, and while most laypeople don't think about the two together, artists from both fields are continuously embracing the connection.
Thieves In The Night, from the 1998 collaboration album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, exemplifies this mutual respect. Listen to the original. It's a literature and jazz infused masterpiece. I'm going to link you to a live version however.
The band here is the Robert Glasper trio, and this is how I think Hip-Hop should be preformed. Real, talented musicians, playing their instruments. There's improvisation here from everyone on the stage. Pay special attention to Chris "Daddy" Dave on drums. This group works with Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) frequently, and I can't think of anything healthier for both genres than more collaborations of this sort. Enjoy.

Robert Glasper Trio ft Mos Def: Thieves In The Night

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Car Is Haunted

Well, it's almost Monday. Fun.

Today we're going for an up tempo apocalyptic number called My Car Is Haunted, by the Royal Bangs.
These guys were discovered by Patrick Carney, the drummer for the Black Keys, so you know they rock hard.
This song is all about the rhythm for me. Everything about the beat from the shaker introduction on is exciting and chaotic. Basically, put this one on and crank it up!

The Royal Bangs: My Car Is Haunted

I'd really like some feedback if anybody has suggestions or things they'd like to see. You can comment on any of my posts, or tweet me @listen_a_ning. Thanks!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Skin I'm In

The weekend's here, and it brought the rain with it. Yuck.

Days like today we all need a tune to keep us going. Today, for me, that tune is Skin I'm In, from Sly Stone's 1973 album Fresh.

It's almost impossible for me to overstate how important Sly and the Family Stone is. They were more than funk pioneers and pop superstars. Sly led a band that mixed both race and gender in the 60's. He wrote music that had such a huge impact culturally that lines from his songs became everyday sayings ("different strokes for different folks" is one of his). His songs faced the serious issues of racism and bigotry with hope and funky horn lines. His bass player (Larry Graham) even popularized the "slap bass" technique that has become synonymous with the funk sound. Sly Stone is a big, big deal.

Skin I'm In is a fantastic example of slow-groove funk. There's a short build on bass and organ until... bam! The vocal delivery here is somehow both pleading and defiant. Hope, something this band managed to convey on almost every track they ever recorded, comes in the form of short horn breaks after each verse.

I honestly can't say much more besides LISTEN TO THIS SONG! And this album, and this band. It will definitely help you get over nasty weather.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mountain Sound

Happy Friday!

Something new for you (and me) today.

Of Monsters and Men is a folk-pop band from Iceland, apparently. I first hear them yesterday. The song is called Mountain Sound. It's driven by a cheery pulse and an uplifting melody, and made intriguing through use of accordion and trumpet, among other things.
This group blends wonderfully. Each instrument plays a specific role, and nobody is stepping on toes or showing off. When the chorus hits everyone sings in unison, something I'm certain their audience is always encouraged to do. Even the lead singers, one male one female, both of whom have unique voices, blend well together when singing harmonies. The female lead through the chorus just grabs me. This applies more to the live version I first heard (link below) than to the album version. Singing live she delivers her lines like a whip, bright and sharp.

If you're into the "indie" scene this is a group you should definitely check out. And if you want a breezy song for a Friday afternoon, I highly suggest Mountain Sound.

 Mountain Sound: live

The Way You Look Tonight

The idea here is that I review one song a day, and you (whoever you are) read my thoughts about it. I have no song-picking system, other than it's got to be something I'm excited about. Obviously this is compelling reading that you absolutely need in your life, so I'll get right to it!

Today's song is The Way You Look Tonight, from Jim Hall's mid-70s recording Jim Hall Live!.

This is one of those jazz standards that was originally written for a movie; in this case Swing Time, a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers flick. Jim Hall and the Toronto musicians on this album take the simple tune and turn it into something magical. When I first heard it, I closed my eyes and slipped into a trance. Everything about it, from the understated introduction, to the playful call and response of the guitar and bass, to the sizzling, ocean-wave cymbals made me tingle. As well, the sound on this recording hasn't aged a bit. If I didn't know this was recorded in the seventies I would never have believed it. Part of Jim's sound is his simple approach to instrumentation and instruments. His clear, lightly amplified tone just doesn't go out of style.

This is a jazz tune. It's over six minutes long and has a lot of improvisation. There is no vocalist, the bass doesn't "drop" and you can't (or maybe just shouldn't) dance to it. What this song does have is hugely talented musicians, an atmosphere of shared delight, and a very humble moment from Jim himself buried in the back of the mix at the end. Listen to it if you're a jazz student, are interested in live recordings, or want a song that will set a relaxing mood. But mostly just listen to it.

Work was rough today, this song made it better. Thanks Mr. Hall.