Record Lection #49- Mos Def & Talib Kweli “Black Star” In 1998, with the hip-hop community still searching for some semblance of order and identity after the Tupac/Biggie deaths, it was up to the underground to shoulder the responsibility pushing the genre forward and maintaining its focus. Enter Rawkus Records, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli. Already potent individual artists in their own right, Mos and Talib geniusly decided to combine forces and create what was not only one of the most vibrant rap records of all time, but a blinding genesis to each of their respected and lengthy careers. What makes this LP so great is the fiery chemistry between Mos Def’s nimbly charismatic storytelling and Talib Kweli’s machine gun encyclopedia wordplay that upon first listening left me dazzled and overwhelmed. However, I kept listening…and listening…and listening.. and I was soon realized and converted. This energy, paired with the most thoughtful beat selection this side of Illmatic and a Native Tongues vibe that is equal parts thought provoking and spiritually massaging created a product that is both well rounded and delightfully accessible. Also, within this whirlwind of progressiveness and creativity there is even a successful attempt the an oft mishandled rap “cover”(!), Mos Def’s lovingly updated treatment of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story”, which remains on the highlights of his career. If you were to listen to one track on this LP, however, it would be “Definition”, literally a three minute lyrical and sonic attack on your brainstem. In my opinion, rap music rarely gets better than this song. The beat, the verses, and the overall intent have inspired my soul throughout the years since my first listen and I still think either MC (or most other ones for that matter) has yet to top its timeless execution.#recordlections
Record Lection #48-VInce Guaraldi “Oh Good Grief!” One of my favorite memories of childhood was watching Peanuts cartoons on Saturday morning. However, this always a harrowing crap shoot in my region because CBS always played that program at the end of their program run, which meant that sometimes when they aired a baseball game or golf tourney instead, I was left disappointed because Peanuts seemed to be the only one of the cartoons that got put on the chopping block! Of course there were also the excellent movies and stuff on early cable channels like HBO that of course I obsessed over (I seem have the one where they go white water rafting memorized). Anyway, the constant that runs through all of those wonderful episodes and specials was the playful and lilting theme song to “Linus and Lucy”. The minute you hear the dancing piano riff you recognize exactly where it comes from, and you feel this connection inside of your HEART not just in your head. Like a bike ride on an autumn day this composition motivates and inspires with a warm optimism comparable to some of Dave Brubecks best numbers. You can practically see and hear Charlie, Patty, Woodstock and the entire gang jogging to the nearest ballpark or embarking on their newest adventure within the lyrical voicings. The great composer Vince Guaraldi spent much of his musical career exploring and innovating the Bossa Nova craze of the 50’s and 60’s but this is definitely his most treasured creation by far and is deeply entwined into both american and my own personal culture. Whether hear it in a commercial or someone ambitiously try to cover it, those first two bars always transport me to back to my fondest recesses of my childhood. Simple and warm.
Record Lection #47 The Headcoatees-“Girlsville” The world of Billy Childish is vast and voluptuous. Most fans of his tend to speak about his work with The Mighty Caesars, The Milkshakes, or The Headcoats, but perhaps is his most universally treasured creation might be Thee Headcoatees, essentially a feminine outlet for his impressively prolific songwriting (although each individual member has subsequently gone on to produce quality work on their own). Even though Billy’s powerful ego shines through on the music end (It took me a couple of years to realize that these wonder women weren’t actually playing the instruments of the cover), the focus is solely on each individual personality, creating quite possibly the coolest gang EVER. Traits like young Holly Golightly’s smokey snarl and Kyra’s exuberant yelp give added dimension, spark, and sexiness to the already potent Childish songbook. With very little touring and seemingly without any effort whatsoever this group has influenced infinitely so many girls (and boys) alike to scream/dance/play punk music, with the numbers of devotees amounting to an army of garage rockers. Even though The ‘Tees have many great albums in their canon, everyone in the know seems to always have this one, and it is often the first one those people can remember hearing. I have been to a few impromptu dance parties where this was the only record played, and in fact you could probably go a whole night listening to their version of “Wild Man” alone!! Ive been struggling to make music nearly as good since I first put a needle on it about 20(!) years ago. I’m thinking of buying a house in Girlsville actually….
Tonight is the record release for the new Hornet Leg 12in “Wrecking Ball” at the East End Tavern! With Hurry Up and Blesst Chesst..
Record Lection #46-Thelonious Monk “Genius of Modern Music Vol. 2”-Time is a manmade construct designed to apply a linear rhythm and order to an otherwise chaotic universe. It was designed to keep our fragile underdeveloped minds from completely exploding from intense everythingness. Thelonious Monk exists above time. He has mastered time musically to the point at which he can completely destroy it with one hand while gently caressing with the other. His piano playing is unanimously heralded by all the virtuosos who’ve ever had a chance to hear him, yet his strength is his tasteful minimalism and intelligent humor, NOT his dexterity. One of the many things I’ve learned from constant listening to his music is that chaos, when allowed to roam on a short leash, can exist harmoniously with order and precision. When I hear Monks music I hear deliciously wrong notes, inappropriate spaces, and a nimbleness that allows him to fit an impossible amount of notes within a single bar. The rhythms of jazz are syncopated, historical, and regimented. The titans he employed to play these classic performances pay respect to this ideology by resting firmly within the flow of this style. Thelonious Monk adheres little and pays no mind to tradition, but oh so naturally pushes the boundaries of what seems acceptible in a totally accessible way. He is completely free. Like Jimi Hendrix, Like The Shaggs, Like Ol Dirty Bastard……totally fucking free! But not like Free Jazz, where one is choosing to release the anguish and pain of past spirits through aggression, but a freedom that can only exist when a being is not bound by this mortal coil of repetition and conformity. A freedom that is present without effort, it just “IS”. After coming to this epiphany I began to see this in all the great artists I adore whether it be in film, music, sports, or writing. These people always have something special in them that separates them from the masses. A troubled ease or a quiet unrest you might call it that is undeniable. These genius’s are celebrated because they have successfully broken a rule that has bound us all to this mundane dimension. Time, by definition is a law. Monk has broken it and showed you how to burn down the jail.#recordlections
Record Lection #45-The Kingsmen “Louie Louie” When I was growing up in the 80’s my family used to gather around the TV on Sunday evenings and watch a Seattle based sketch comedy show called “Almost Live”. I remember thinking that this show to be every bit as funny as SNL at the time, although I should mention that all of the humor was VERY local (I’m from Lacey, WA) and I was probably 10 years old. Anyways, I remember vividly that John Keister, the shows second host, started a very public crusade lobbying for Washington’s State song to be “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen. He would travel to other cities and rural areas playing the song and trying to garner attention to his cause. I remember listening to the immediacy of the organ and the unintelligability words and being instantly taken by them. The openness of the recording makes the whole experience sound like a huge party is taking place. And then there is the greatest mistake of all time. That extra drum roll and false start on the third and final verse…..Whenever I hear this song I wait for that moment, in my mind some of the most exciting 8 seconds ever put to wax. It’s so simple but incredibly jarring. Sometimes I feel like my entire time looking for records is hoping for more moments like that. Both larger than life and punk as fuck this song represents a lot of reasons why rock n roll is the best. It’s a cover of a cover that has been covered a thousand times. I’VE probably played it a thousand times!! I don’t know a guitar player who can’t play it and if you ever find who can’t, teaching him or her these three iconic chords might change their life. There’s even a great book documenting the legacy of this great song (The first known version is from the caribbean!) In the end, John wasn’t successful in making our version part of Washington States identity but his efforts greatly inspired and influenced mine and most likely quite a few others…
Record Lection #44 Tom Tom Club “Tom Tom Club” Tina Weymouth is one of the best bass players who ever lived. Tina Weymouth is a super babe. Tina Weymouth is a major deity in my pantheon of musical idols. The fact that she is responsible for the groove on “Genius Of Love” automatically puts her in the music Hall Of Fame for it’s epic impact on dance culture. It is a guaranteed floor filler at ANY party you go to and frankly…..it’s just one of those perfect songs. Basically, Tina and her husband/bandmate Chris decided that their “real” band Talking Heads weren’t funky enough (somehow) and decided to have a groovy drug/sex party in the caribbean with some of the best musicians in the world and your friends and family, write and sing lyrics that describe this dyonisian adventure in full, then record the results and put out a record. Sounds like a win/win/win situation to me! And they won…emphatically. The results are warm and inviting, almost like you are getting a contact high from…whatever they were doing. Anyways, I don’t how many times I’ve heard this song, but the energy and playfulness within “Genius Of Love” and the rest of the songs on the record continue to sound fresh with every listen. “Wordy Rappinghood” feels like you are eavesdropping on some teenage girls at the mall speaking their own language and you are in on the joke. The amazing stylistic combinations of musicians mixed with a proper mixture of Kraftwerk and Parliament contribute to the genderless/raceless appeal of the music. Any hip hop group worth their salt has a version of the “Genius” beat sampled into their catalog and every intelligent suburban white college kid will have this CD somewhere in their closet. Very few bands can claim to do this type ubiquitousness with one song. Musically complex, wildly childlike, and everything I like about music. Tina Weymouth is….
Record Lection #43 The Creation “Singles Collection”-Most people might recognize the song “Making Time” from the most riveting scene of the movie Rushmore by Wes Anderson. It is quite an experience to hear that monolithic opening riff on state-of-the-art cinema speakers and co-opt it with an energetic and eye-popping montage using colors, editing, and personalities as only Anderson can. After leaving the theatre the first time i saw that scene I needed to know more. And hereis where i must credit my friend Michelle Noel for hipping me on to a band that turned out to be more hard edged than The Who, more Mod than the Small Faces, and (at the time) possibly more english than The Kinks while unifying the best parts of all three. Pomp and Circumjams like “Painter Man” & “How Does It Feel To Feel?” belie this statement and Shel Talmys aggressive production assure that all of the instruments properly explode in your face. The centerpiece of this perfect storm is Norman Miffens use of the violin bow to play his guitar. The resulting sound is akin to a cropduster being recorded through a distortion pedal or perhaps an angry dentists drill. It’s unfortunate that Jimmy Page reduced this innovation into a mere stage hi-jink but a studied listen to this collection of 60’s singles will steer your opinion away from mere gimmickry. Frankly, their music to me is a joyous cacophony and satisfies all of my noise receptors.#recordlections
Record Lection #42 Thin Lizzy “Johnny The Fox” The individualism of Phil Lynott is almost overwhelming to me. He was a black, Irish, bass playing, lead singing, motorcycling rock ‘n roller who was sensitive enough to harness his incredibly complex and cinematic emotions and craft them into song-stories. His wordplay, rich visuals, and blue collar language should have him included in the pantheon of great poets and writers from the northern UK. Not only was he blessed with this artistic verbal acumen, he also happened to be surrounded by an incredibly strong rock band that showcased a soaring twin guitar attack. These abundant resources came together best on their 6th album which most consider to be their masterpiece, which they named “Jailbreak” Their follow up is my favorite one by them however, with the title track specifically being a great mix of a nice warm 70’s breakbeat with a Harley-Davidson badditude. Like the Ramones a bit later, Thin Lizzy were able to mix 50’s rebel culture with more edgy and modern sensibilities. Johnny The Fox is no doubt at least a little autobiographical and with this song Phil has inserted himself into great lineage of Rock N Roll Johnnies (B.Goode, Thunders, etc.) As a black punk he is easily enthroned on my musical Mt. Rushmore and a constant source of awe and inspiration. As a musician and songwriter I can only hope to achieve his perfect blend of coolness and candor. That may never be possible but I feel very lucky to have Phil Lynotts music in my life.
Record Lection #41 Ozzy Osbourne “Blizzard Of Ozz” When Black Sabbath decided to 86 their flaming mess of a lead singer, I bet they thought that he would crawl quietly into the gutter and die in a drug addled heap. Unfortunately for them, he had an incredibly tenacious manager/wife who paired her star client with arguably the best heavy metal guitarist who ever lived. Now By no means is solo Ozzy better or more important than Sabbath, but this debut and Diary of a Madman come dangerously close and actually made Ozzy more famous! The real workhorse here is Ex-Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads who proceeds to destroy your skull throughout the LP with epic face melters (Crazy Train) baroque level introspections (Dee) and psychedelic mind grinds (Suicide Solution). Listening to this today takes me back to my prepubescence, trying desperately to hang out with camel smoking ape drapes in run down apartment complexes baking in the summer sun. All of their girlfriends seemed to have Anthrax shirts and they were constantly working on cars that seemed to run only sometimes. This cassette was always playing in one of those cars.