Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  I hope you all enjoy spending quality time with your families, and y'all get what you want!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Smokey Robinson: Pure Smokey

I've slept on Smokey's solo albums forever, not realizing how great his albums were from the 70's.  Of course, I have plenty of early compilations and albums with Smokey & The Miracles from the 1960's, but I never realized how introspective, sensual, and funky his 70's albums were until recently.  Over the past few months, I've picked up Pure Smokey, A Quiet Storm, and Smokey's Family Robinson.  All are great, but my favorite has to be Pure Smokey.  Released in 1974, Pure Smokey feels like Robinson's response to the introspective albums Motown was now releasing, like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.  Smokey was tackling some heavy subjects like male virginity, as well as babies (young women) having babies, among other subjects.  Among it all, the music is great while maintaining the funkiness that soul music veered into in the 70's.  And of course, Smokey's voice and songwriting was top notch, as always.  Here are a few of my favorite tracks off of Pure Smokey, "Asleep on My Love", and "Virgin Man". 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Michael Jackson "Rock With You"

For my final day of the week of my Old School Video Focus, what better artist to finish off than with the King of Pop?  Honestly, when picking a MJ video, it's hard to pick my favorite.  Picking Michael Jackson videos is like trying to pick my favorite Ken Griffey Jr. catch, or my favorite Miles Davis album, in that it's hard to pick a favorite because they are all so great.  I decided on "Rock With You", because it is my favorite MJ song off my favorite album of his.  It's not necessarily his best video, per se (that would more likely go to "Thriller"), but it brings a smile to my face every time I watch this.  Gotta love the sparkled outfit and the boots!  Written by Rod Temperton (the great songwriter from Heatwave...I plan on featuring a post solely on his songs in the near future), here is "Rock With You". 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Super-Wolf "Super-Wolf Can Do It"

"Old School Video Focus" is turning into "Old School Hip Hop Video Focus", as I'm slowly realizing that a lot of my favorite videos are of the late 70's/early 80's hip hop variety.   Today, I'm featuring Super-Wolf, and the track "Super-Wolf Can Do It".  Say what you want about Sugar Hill Records (and there have been a lot of negative press regarding how the Robinson's treated their artists, but that's a whole other story), they had an ear for music, an eye for talent, and a vision on how to market their product.  Sugar Hill Records helped bring hip hop to the masses.  Before the Robinson's and Sugar Hill Records, hip hop was just an underground street/NYC thing, but songs like Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", and Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" helped bring the genre of hip hop into the public eye, and for that, Sugar Hill Records should be commended.  Anyway, I don't know anything of the artist Super-Wolf, but I dig the song, of which I first heard it after buying The Sugar Hill Records Story box set.  Check it out!  Super-Wolf Can Do It! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Heavy D. & The Boyz "We Got Our Own Thing"

I found Heavy D. & The Boyz Big Tyme on vinyl at the Goodwill a few weeks ago, and was suprised to hear how well it has held up over the years.  Released in 1990, Big Tyme featured the single "We Got Our Own Thing", and the subsequent video that was released to the public showed that, for a big dude, Heavy D. had some amazing dance moves.  Heavy D. passed away just last month of pneumonia, at the young age of 44. 
R.I.P. Heavy D.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Mantronix "Bassline"

For today's classic old school video focus, I thought I'd go way back in the hip hop world to the mid-80's with electro hip hoppers Mantronix.  Taken off of their seminal first album Mantronix:  The Album, "Bassline" is not only a classic hip hop track, the video is so freaking cool as well.  Check it out!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Old School Video Focus: Zapp & Roger "I Can Make You Dance"

A few months ago, I posted one of my favorite old school videos of all-time by The Fat Boys, and it gave me an idea:  to devote an entire weeks worth of posts to classic, old school videos.   The video I'm featuring for today is by Zapp & Roger,the Cincinnati funk-soul band from the early 1980's.  Bootsy Collins was a childhood friend of Roger Troutman, and after Bootsy made it big with Parliament-Funkadelic, he helped his friend Roger out in getting a record deal, where Zapp & Roger eventually released their first album, Zapp, in 1980.  Heavily sampled by many West Coast area hip hoppers over the past 20 years, here is Zapp & Roger, with "I Can Make You Dance". 


Friday, December 9, 2011

Get Out The Friday Funk!

Kool & The Gang
Earth, Wind, & Fire
I've been seriously busting out the funk in my car the past few weeks, focusing mostly on early Kool & The Gang, and Earth, Wind, & Fire.  Both amazing bands, yet I feel that Kool & The Gang topped out in the mid-70's, as their late 70's/early 80's period just doesn't do it for me ("Celebration", "Ladies Night", fun songs, but the bite is gone).  Earth, Wind, & Fire, however, could do no wrong.  Sure, probably their late 70's period was a similar path to Kool's in that they veered into a more commercial disco approach.  However, EWF was just more consistent, from album to album, from That's The Way of The World to Gratitude (one of the best live albums ever!) to I Am to All N All, they were a hell of a great album focused band, while Kool's albums weren't as consistent.  God, I love Kool & The Gang though, as they put a hell of a lot of great singles in that early 70's period that just blows your mind.  For Friday, I thought I'd feature a few of my favorite tracks from both Earth, Wind, & Fire, and Kool & The Gang. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"This Reminds Me of..."

I've moved around a lot, especially in my early 20's when I lived in four states during a five year time span.  Now firmly settled in Seattle for the past seven years, it's giving me time to reflect upon my times in other places.  As a music junkie, it's easy to associate certain songs and artists with certain places.  Gram Parsons, for example, reminds me of the transition from my final year living in Portland, and moving to Phoenix.  My first six months living in Phoenix, I listened to a lot of Gram, probably because of the open, dusty, warm air of the southwest.  The country-rock of Gram and The Flying Burrito Brothers just made sense on so many levels.  So did The Byrds, and Townes Van Zandt.   My college years in Portland I listened to a lot of everything, from indie, to hip hop, to soul, to jazz, but if I had to associate any artist with my time in Portland it would be Elliott Smith.  Elliott wrote about Portland, and breathed the streets, as it was so wonderfully conveyed in his songs.   Yet at the same time, Elliott reminds me of my wife as well, as we listen to a lot of Elliott on road trips. I associate Buffalo Springfield with my brief time living in Southern California, but probably because the only album I bought during my brief residency was the Buffalo Springfield box set, so I drove along the Southern California hills everyday blaring "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong", "Out Of My Mind", "Baby Don't Scold Me", and "Bluebird".  My time spent in Seattle conjures up so many artists, but I fondly remember my times when I first moved to Seattle, I had an apartment which if you climbed to the rooftop, you had a view of the entire city, including the space needle.  At night, I would bring my i-pod up to the rooftop with a glass of wine, and listen to Miles Davis Ascenseur Pour L'├ęchafaud repeatedly.  These days I'm married with an 18 month son aptly named Miles, and will pull out albums I haven't listened to for years, and it brings it all back. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Frank Sinatra: Cycles

An email to a friend tonight triggered this post.  I've been going back to Sinatra a lot more recently, especially his 60's output.  The 1960's was an interesting time for ol' blue eyes.  Folk rock protesters, and psychedelic hippies/hipsters raided the airwaves. Sinatra could have continued swinging during this decade, and probably would have still kept a healthy population of devoted fans.  Instead, Sinatra went more introspective, more melancholy.  Maybe it started with the Bossa Nova pairing with Brazilian great Antonio Carlos Jobim in Sinatra/Jobim (which was featured in an earlier post).  From there he released albums such as Cycles (a theme album based on seasons, and people changing through the years), A Man Alone (theme album based on growing older and being alone), and Watertown (theme album based on a couple with kids going through a painful divorce).  All of these albums are special in their own right, but my personal favorite is Cycles.  Released in 1968, it's Sinatra's version of a folk album, yet he is crooning as only Sinatra can.  There are beautiful songs on here, and ol' blue eyes covers songs by Joni Mitchell, and Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", among others.   My two favorite tracks on Cycles is "Both Sides, Now", and the title track, "Cycles".  But honestly, every song on this album is a gem.  Only 31 minutes long and not a minute wasted, Cycles is musical perfection.