Saturday, May 31, 2008

And we at it again

Melvin Sparks: "If You Want My Love" (Westbound, 1975)

Melvin Sparks is a jazz guitarist who cut some pretty solid funk material for Prestige and Eastbound. His lone LP for Westbound featured this track, which along with another cut on there is the only thing Sparks ever cut as a leader that had a singer on it. The singer, Jimmy Scott, is evidently not the androgynous (but really kinda feminine) jazz singer Little Jimmy Scott, but beyond that I don't know much.

Back in the mid-90s, Hard 2 Obtain sampled it for their single "L.I. Groove". Every time I listen to the Sparks original, the scatted chorus from that kinda bleeds into what I'm hearing.


Friday, May 30, 2008

It's cold and cool... it's outta sight

Carl Davis & the Chi-Sound Orchestra: "Windy City Theme" (Chi-Sound, 1976)

Some context: Carl Davis was a music biz guy who acted as head A&R for some pivotal Chicago soul labels including Okeh and Brunswick. He's also credited with production and songwriting on a fair number of releases for those labels. In the mid-1970s he had a label deal with United Artists, which released his productions on the Chi-Sound label, including this track, credited to him.

I don't know what Davis's role in the record was-- he's credited as co-writer of the b-side-- but I suspect most of the credit goes to co-producers Sonny Sanders and Tom Tom 84 a/k/a Tom Tom Washington. Both are largely unsung but created mountains of great music as arrangers and producers.

For more info on the three, check out Robert Pruter's 1991 book, Chicago Soul. Pruter is (was?) a long-time R&B editor of the record collector tabloid Goldmine and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Chicago soul scene. As a result, the book often reads like an encyclopedia; it's organized around labels and filled with somewhat formulaic bios and recitations of chart positions, etc. What the book lacks in narrative oomph is largely made up for by the sheer volume of information Pruter draws together about figures and institutions in the Chicago scene-- it's a really comprehensive picture.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It had better be tonight

The other day I had an intense Peter Sellers jones and watched The Pink Panther for the first time in 20+ years. I had forgotten all about the dance scene, so I flipped when it came to this part:

Within the context of the film, the scene makes no sense—Claudia Cardinale’s ambiguously ethnic (but really kinda Indian) princess character spontaneously rocks a ski chalet with a latin-esque dance number (in Italian, no less) and then the action resumes with no comment—but Mancini’s “Meglio Stasera” is a great song.

This version is pretty good, too:

Les McCann: “It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera)” (Pacific Jazz, 1964)

Those chords are immense.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jimmy McGriff, R.I.P.

Over on DJ Day's blog, I read that Jimmy McGriff had passed away.

I can't really speak to his importance as an organ stylist, but throughout the 60s and 70s he was probably the most consistently funky of the many jazz organ players working the R&B crossover market.

Here are a few of my favorites by him. The first four are just solid funk; the last three are winning oddities-- McGriff backing the great soul singer Junior Parker on one of their two full-length collaborations, him playing piano (or simply comping on pedals while someone else does), and him riding a synth bassline, respectively.

Jimmy McGriff: "Charlotte" (Solid State, 1969)

Jimmy McGriff: "Chris Cross" (Solid State, 1969)

Jimmy McGriff: "Fat Cakes" (Capitol, 1971)

Jimmy McGriff: "Super Funk" (Groove Merchant, 1973)

Jimmy McGriff & Junior Parker: "It Ain't What You Got" (Capitol, 1971)

Jimmy McGriff: "Deb Sombo" (Blue Note, 1970)

Jimmy McGriff: "Stump Juice" (Groove Merchant, 1975)

If you enjoy these and want more, Soul Sugar, Electric Funk, If You're Ready Come Go With Me and the Blue Note anthology are all good places to start.

Oh, and the last time I brought up Jimmy McGriff, I would have posted this, too, but I forgot about it:

Wise Intelligent: "Steady Slangin'" (Contract, 1996)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Sucka free

It's an unsolved mystery why San Francisco has never produced a major rap star.

Maybe it's the untimely deaths of promising folks like Mr. Cee and Coughnut or maybe it's the endless crosstown beefs between Fillmore and HP and Sunnydale, but Frisco has never launched a star the way smaller cities like Oakland, Vallejo and even Richmond have. As a result, a lot of people (including me) sleep on San Francisco rappers.

That's why R8R & L-Wood's 2-CD mix of 90s SF mobb music, Sucka Free Classics, is a really great look. It's not a conventional overview of the SF scene-- although it features most of the bigger names of that era (RBL Posse, Rappin' 4-Tay, Messy Marv, JT the Bigga Figga, etc.), there's no "Bammer Weed", "Players Club" or "Many Clouds of Smoke" (RBL's "Bounce to This" is as close as it comes to obvious hits). Instead the focus is on capturing the depth of the scene-- the 56 tracks from 56 acts feature not just those who kinda made it locally, but also those who didn't, like Young Know, Young Ed, T.P.O., etc. etc. The mixing is smooth and unfussy and the selections are remarkably consistent in quality and style. (Over 160 minutes, the latter can be a bit much unless you're really into synthesizer basslines and lyrics about dank.)

Here's a taste:

R8R & L-Wood: "Sucka Free Classics (Snippet 1)" (Double J Promotions, 2008)

Ordering details are here. You should probably buy at least one copy for each person you know in Frisco.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ridin', sidin', whippin' & dippin'

Next week, the super-homie DJ Eleven will be off touring the Midwest with Too $hort. (ARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHH, jealous!) Full details and RSVPage for the free shows in Minneapolis, Chicago, Columbus and St. Louis are here.

The Too $hort/Scion combination is a head-scratcher-- putting aside the whole lyrics about pimping and getting head thing, $hort's a Cadillac or Benz guy. On the other hand, it's not like he's out promoting Mini Coopers; to paraphrase Robin Harris, you probably can fit all that ass in a Scion.

I really hope $hort performs this:

Too $hort: "Fuck My Car" (Jive, 1996)

Oh, btw, you need this. Get it here or holler at me.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Always in the audio, stereo and video

I was listening to an ancient Dr. Dre mixtape (as in a 1986-era tape mixed by Dr. Dre) when it reminded me to rip this:

Boogie Boys: "Run It" (Capitol, 1986)

Also, I really wish that guy Girl Talk didn't sound like what he sounds like and instead sounded like this:

Boogie Boys: "Girl Talk" (Capitol, 1986)

I think he already has the wardrobe.

Oh and the Dre tape has been circling the internet for a while and, among other places, can be grabbed over at the Mad Decent blog.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's too hot to move

I'm gonna whine for a minute.

I just looked at a thermometer and it's 96° outside. I'm dying. It NEVER gets this hot in the Bay. Well, maybe a couple days a year.

If god wanted it to be this hot he would have given us scales.

It'll be nice tonight.

The Santa Ana winds are blowing, so this seems right:

Les Baxter: "Hot Wind" (Sidewalk, 1969)

The song is from a soundtrack to a biker movie that's not really any good even by the standards of biker movies, although Jocelyn Lane is really, really watchable. (That's her skirt you're looking up.)

The Hell's Belles soundtrack is pretty amazing, though. Most of the tracks suck in one way or another-- stupid horns, a corny vocal-- whatever, but the sound of the record is incredible for the way it blends fuzzed out guitars and harmonica with ridiculously banging drums. The only things I've heard that sound even close are a handful of garage and library records, or maybe that Italian thing Cut Chemist used for Edan's "Torture Chamber".

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Tribute to Disc Jockeys and Radio Stations

The J.B.'s: "Damn Right I'm Somebody (Love and Happiness) A Tribute to Disc Jockeys & Radio Stations" (Polydor, 1974)

This is a promo-only track in which James Brown, Lyn Collins, Danny Ray, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and the JB's name every radio DJ they can think of over an instrumental version of Al Green's "Love & Happiness". Now if only Chuck and Flav had recorded themselves reading the Rapp Control DJ list....

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An annotated guide to perhaps the greatest Kells cameo ever

In preparation for his forthcoming album, 12 Play: Fourth Quarter, R. Kelly has been dropping unofficial remixes like crazy, first for Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”, then Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body”, and now Raheem DeVaughn’s “Customer”.

The original version of “Customer” is a modest hit, but basically it sounds like low-rent Kells—musically it’s a standard-issue slow jam, and although Raheem DeVaughn’s a fine singer, the lyric is just a tame version of the sort of extended sex metaphor/single-entendre riffing that Kells did on “You Remind Me of Something”, “Ignition”, “In the Kitchen”, “Sex Planet”, etc. etc.

Kells owns the remix, though. He manages to pack his one verse plus adlibs with more goofy imagery, non-sequiturs and disturbing shit than I would have thought possible.

Raheem DeVaughn feat. R. Kelly: "Customer" RMX (Jive, 2008)

Here is your guide to the “Customer” remix, together with explanatory notes.

Ladies, when you see us in the mall, tip us [1]
When you see us step up in the club [2], tip us
When you see us rollin’ in that drop, tip us
Yeah, that’s right, it’s the remix killa [3]

Welcome, can I help you
Take a minute to read the menu
If you're looking for a man
If you're looking for a friend
If you're looking for someone to talk to
Take your time bout taking your order
I can appetize ya or main course ya
(caution, caution)
Cause the plate is hot (hot)

I'm the catch of the day (ay ay ay ay ay)
Your dessert, your meal, your drink (ay ay ay ay ay)
You can find it all in me
I'll fill you up for free
If your heart is hungry
You can place your order here with me

Let me serve you up
Let me let me serve you up
See you can have it your way
You're the costumer
If you want me supersized with some loving on the side
Just ask for what you want cause you’re the costumer

Hello, and welcome to the Chocolate Factory [4]
Baby place your order, I got everything you need
See your catch for today is me on a platter [5]
It’s Chef Boy-R. Kells [6]
Remix, I’m the writer
Now I recommend you do the taste test, baby
If not that then you can try my buffet, baby
I be serving you up (up)
Over-flowing your cup (cup)
Put that roast [7] in your oven [8] until you can’t get enough
Girl you’ll be contagious and calling me “Ronald” [9]
Serve you up drive-through style [10] like McDonald’s [11]
And yaaaa-ahhhhh
You’ll be screaming yaaaa-ahhhhh [12]
The service so good Kells gonna make you wanna cry-y
Shorty [13] if you’re thirsty, I got some good good lemonade [14]
12-play, [15] four quarters gonna wanna make you scrape your plate
Shorty let me serve you up

Let me let me serve you up
Let me let me serve you up
See you can have it your way
You're the costumer
You can have me supersized with some lovin on the side
Just ask for what you want cause you're the one, you're the costumer

It’s the remix killa and my man Raheem
Young fella, [16] doing his thing
This is the
This is the
Have it your way [17] version, aww yeah
Can I say what I feel?
Can I break it down and keep it real?
See, I ain’t tryin’ to smash or out-shine nobody [18]
I just gotta be true, yeah
Raheem, Raheem
Kelly, Kelly
Young fella, [19] this song reminds me of something that I would do [20]
So ladies, when you see us in the mall, tip us
When you see us step up in the club, tip us
When you see us rollin’ in that drop, tip us
On the radio non-stop, tip us

[Kells talking in a high-pitched voice]
Kells, you crazy for this remix, man
A lot of these guys don’t even know how to serve these girls
You know what I’m sayin’
Old ?-ass nuhs
That’s why you need to keep hittin’ them cross the head with these remixes
Now come on fade this shit, let’s get out of here and get us some waffles
Shit, I’m tryin’ to get served up, you namsayin'
Raheem, you comin’? Well, let’s go.

[1] This is a reference to Kells’s current single, “Hair Braider”, a song that features the refrain,

Hairbraider, I’m doin’ my hairbraider
And she do my head so good that I’ve gotta tip her
The way she strip for me I gotta tip her

I’m not sure why exactly Kells needs tips, but then again, attorney fees are a bitch. The whole "tip her" thing is stolen from The-Dream's "Shawty Is Da Sh*!".
[2] R. Kelly is the author of more songs about arriving at a club and making an entrance than, well, anybody.
[3] This is the second time Kells has referred to himself on record as the “Remix Killa”, the first being his remix of Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body”. Although Kells has a rich history of cameos on other peoples’ remixes (and killing those appearances; go Kells!), this is clear reference to The-Dream, the R&B wunderkind who refers to himself as the “Radio Killa”. Dude, get off The-Dream's dick already.
[4] “Chocolate Factory” was the title of R. Kelly’s sixth album, which was released shortly after Kells was arrested and charged with 21 child pornography counts based on a videotape that allegedly depicted Kells engaging in various sex acts with a 14-year old girl, including urinating on her. Prior to that, the phrase was most commonly associated with a children’s story by Roald Dahl.
[5] Given Kells’s taste for literalism, I’m really hoping there’s a video so I can see him enact this line.
[6] Hey, what kind of restaurant is this? They serve canned pasta? Kells is really reaching with the Chef Boyardee reference. Poor Ettore Boaiardi.
[7] I.e., his penis.
[8] I.e., your vagina.
[9] Ronald? R.’s given name is Robert! Oh, wait, that’s a reference to Ronald Isley, who duetted with Kells on “Contagious”. Ronald Isley is currently in prison for felony tax evasion. (Yo, say what’s up to Wesley Snipes for me!) I don’t understand how being contagious is a good thing in the context of food service, though.
[10] Kells has actually done this! According to the Chicago Sun-Times, after storming off stage from a 2004 Best of Both Worlds show in St. Louis, Kells drove to a local McDonald’s and spent several hours serving food from a drive-through window. Eugggghh, I just remembered this.
[11] Oh, shit! He rhymed Ronald with McDonald’s! As in Ronald McDonald! Where do these rhymes come from? In the DVD commentary to Trapped in the Closet, Kells offered a unique insight into his creative process when he explained his decision to rhyme the words “dresser” and “Beretta” in the verse “Checks under the bed and opens the dresser/He looks at the closet, I pull out my Beretta.” He said,

Now to be honest with y’all, the Beretta… I really needed a rhyme word for “dresser” you know and “Beretta” just came out, but, at the same time, it makes sense. That’s the interesting thing about Trapped in the Closet, when ummm…. It’s rhyming all the way through if you notice; some people don’t even notice, cuz they be so into the story that they don’t really realize that there’s rhyming all the way through this, uh, all the way through Trapped in the Closet and that’s what makes it even more interesting, you know, and I don’t even know that happens, but it just comes off like that.

[12] Here, Kells mimics sounds of sexual ecstasy, I think. I was playing this in the car and, when it got to this part, my girlfriend recoiled. For some reason, I think she does not find these noises erotic.
[13] Slang term denoting a female, someone small in stature, young in age or all of the above.
[14] Now, me personally, if I were awaiting trial on 14 child pornography counts because I had allegedly videotaped myself urinating on a 14-year old, I probably would not have recorded a song with a lyric in which I offered a “shorty” a beverage, particularly one the same color as urine; Kells is, and did. It bears noting that Kells is über-successful and I am not, so I’m not sure what conclusion you should draw from this.
[15] 12 Play is, of course, the title of Kells’s second major-label album, a classic that contained the hits “Bump n’ Grind” and “Your Body’s Callin’”. 12 Play: Fourth Quarter is the title of Kells’s next album, which is scheduled for release in July. There's no word yet on whether the new album is three times as good as foreplay.
[16] Kells turned 41 in January. He’s sounding anxious about his age.
[17] Hey, a Burger King reference! Kells knows his fast food.
[18] Liar.
[19] Dude, you might want to quit bringing that up.
[20] That’s what I was thinking!

Kells's trial finally began last week. The Chicago Sun-Times has comprehensive coverage here.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Gangs of New York

My homie Kenan a/k/a Kool Kear hollered to tell me about a radio show he and his partner Kray just started on East Village Radio (available as a podcast here and on iTunes). They also have a new blog, chanceswithwolves.

One of Kenan's first blog posts was on the film 80 Blocks From Tiffany's, a 1979 documentary about Bronx street gangs which I'd been jonesing to see ever since Jeff Chang described it to me a few years ago. (I've also been pestering Kenan to mail me a copy for like 2 years... yo, Kenan!) It turns out the film is up on youtube, although its hour running time is broken into into 8 pieces. Here's the first:

I'm fascinated by the early history of hip hop, including the crossover between gangs and rap crews, so this film has been kind of a holy grail for me. It's set in the borough that birthed hip hop just at the moment before rap music entered the national consciousness. While it's far from the film's focus, there's a moment in the closing block party scene that touches on hip hop in a cool way, when a woman starts chanting a bunch of generic park jam emcee patter. The film doesn't establish the context very well and it sometimes seems unbelievable, but there are some great random monologues (not to mention shit-talking!).

The music in the film is good, too, but none of it is identified in the credits. During a couple scenes, this plays:

Chico Hamilton: "Conquistadores (The Conquerors)" (Impulse, 1965)

The guitar parts are by Gabor Szabo, who is one of my favorite musicians but who I seldom remember to play or listen to.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Busy off of basic instinct

Last Thursday, I went out to Sake One's PST party. It was my li'l homie Jules's birthday, but I would have been there anyway to check out DJ Spinna, who was DJing at the party along with Sake and with Hakobo from the Culprits.

Spinna is a great, great DJ-- his mixing was impeccable and his selections were cool and varied-- some Dilla, some classic rap, some dancehall and some classic samples (I remember thinking, "Wow, he's playing the Turtles and people are whylin' out!").

I was really enjoying myself (i.e., too much Chimay) when, at about 1:45, something strange and awesome happened. What follows is a reconstruction of my experience:

It's cool that Spinna's playing "The Most Beautifullest Thing in the World"... I don't hear this song that often.

Who's that guy who grabbed the microphone? He looks like E da Boss.

Wow, he seems to know a lot of the lyrics.

Wow, he probably knows more of the lyrics than anybody except Keith Murray.

Oh, shit, that IS Keith Murray! Holy fuck! YAHHHHHHH!

I wish shit like this happened at my parties.

It was already a great night, but the surprise performance from a long-M.I.A. rap legend put it over the top. So, in Keith Murray's honor, here are a couple of tracks from an obscure 12" he cut with Curt Cazal (!) a couple years before he hooked up with Erick Sermon and came out on Jive.

Keefy Keef: "Cause I'm Keefy Keef" (GMV, 1992)

Keefy Keef: "Three's Company" (GMV, 1992)

I've never actually seen the 12" these songs come from; I lifted the better of the two tracks from the always-great Cocaine Blunts and the posse cut from DJ K-Prince's random rap collaboration with DJ Muro.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

May day (and everybody's celebratin')

Harlem River Drive: "Idle Hands" (Roulette, 1971)

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