Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Sylvers: II

I've been jamming this album a lot recently.  I just recently saw the "Unsung" documentary on The Sylvers, and it prompted me to pull out this gem (that episode was very good by the way--one of the best Unsung documentaries I've seen so far).  Released in 1973, some would say that they were Jackson 5 influenced, being a soulful family band.  Yet as much I love the Jackson 5, The Jacksons, and everything related to MJ, I don't know if any Jackson 5 album is quite as complete as this album from beginning to end.  The first two tracks on this album especially, "We Can Make It If We Try", and "Through the Love In My Heart", provide a great 1-2 punch, and the album flows wonderfully throughout, and closes with a beautiful a-cappella cover version of The Beatles "Yesterday".   Certainly, the Jackson 5 have a more complete discography, from Diana Ross to ABC to Dancing Machine.  Unfortunately, after The Sylvers third album (titled III), they turned into more of a disco-influenced group, and lyrically more fluffy than their first three albums. The Sylvers II is a monster of an album, criminally underrated in it's time, and up there with some of my favorite soul albums of all-time. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer '12: Get Yr Rawk On!

Black Sabbath in their heyday
There was a time many, many years ago, that I listened to tons of rock.  I am a product of the northwest, exposed to all the grunge music filtering throughout the region as teenager, so rock is in my blood.  Besides listening to old school rock like Jimi Hendrix, I loved the Seattle sounds of Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney in the early 90's, among others.  Over time, most of those grunge albums have been traded in for other albums.  Just recently, I decided to put on some Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin for the first time in years--I've been in a rock mood over this past weekend, and it felt right.  Really, if someone asks you who are the greatest rock bands ever, those are the two I would say immediately.  Beatles are more melodic pop, Rolling Stones can be rock, but also had a bluesy bent.  Velvet Underground could rock but were too arty to be considered a pure rock band.  As everyone knows, Zeppelin is blues inspired (or ripped off blues artists, depending on who you talk to), but they seriously rocked.  And of course, Black Sabbath rocked like no other.  While Paranoid is probably my favorite Sabbath album, Vol. 4 is highly underrated and may be the most interesting Sabbath album because there was a lot of musical experimentation on this album.  One of my favorite rock songs of all time is the track "Supernaut", off of their 1972 release Vol. 4.  It's up there with "War Pigs" as my favorite Sabbath songs.  "Supernaut" has everything you could possibly want in a track that seriously rocks--great guitar intro, face-melting guitar solo, and a cool drum-breakdown.  I played "Supernaut" in my car the other day with my 2 year old son in my back, and he went absolutely nuts for it!  Head bobbing and swaying all over the place, makes me wonder if all this 'high-brow' soul, jazz, and Latin that I regularly play for him isn't his thing--maybe he's a rock child after all!  Anyway, it was hilarious, and just to test, I repeated "Supernaut" at least three times on the car trip, and he reacted the same each time.  It's pretty apparent that the rock is in his blood as well, just as it is in his father's.

Friday, June 15, 2012

When It's Feeling Hot...

We've had a lousy June here in Seattle, weather-wise, but I have sunny weather on my mind.  Why you ask?  The obvious answer is summer is fast approaching and I know we'll eventually get some nice days in the Pacific Northwest, but another answer to the posed question is that I scooped up Ronnie Laws Fever the other day, as they say, I'm "feelin' it".  Especially the title track, as well as the first track on the album, "Let's Keep It Together".  I'm really digging Bobby Lyle's electric piano on this album.   The soulful group Pleasure represents on Fever, and Wayne Henderson has his mitts on the album, producing the album in it's entirety.  S-M-O-O-T-H! (ed. note:  upon third or fourth listen, the two tracks I previously mentioned are the only two I'm really feelin'.  This may eventually go into the 'trade' pile for me.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Classic Revisited---Marvin Gaye: Here, My Dear

I'm always buying music, but this album has been on constant rotation for the past few years.  I keep finding nuisances that I enjoy, whether it's Marvin's multi-tracked vocals coming from all angles, or the funkiness and airiness instrumentation, everything about this album continues to astound me.  Released in 1978, Here, My Dear is a stone-cold classic.  It's Gaye's ultimate bummer trip, and we are brought along for the ride.  I don't need to go into detail about the album, as I did more so in a previous post, but the album is a definite answer to finalizing a divorce from Anna Gordy.  While I'd probably have to give the edge to What's Going On as my favorite Marvin Gaye album (and probably my favorite album of all-time in any genre), Here, My Dear is definitely my second favorite Marvin Gaye album, and definitely up there in the top 20 of all-time favorite albums.  This is Gaye's most underrated album.  It's perfect in it's imperfections, the windiness of it can be criticized, and the self-absorption (Gaye could be painfully self-centered) lyrically can be over-the-top but it's what makes it the most interesting album he ever recorded.  Here, My Dear is completely Gaye, emotionally exposed for all to see.      

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Smile

David Axelrod
Remember when DJ Shadow's Endtroducing came out and everyone flipped over it?  Then shortly afterwards the music of composer David Axelrod developed a resurgence due to Shadow's occasional sampling of Axelrod?  Axelrod was before my time, so I admit that I was one of the many whom discovered the music of David Axelrod through DJ Shadow.  Shadow's Endtroducing, released in 1996, still holds up well to this day.  And David Axelrod's music also holds up well.  In terms of his self-releases, I consider his Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, and Seriously Deep, as my three favorite Axelrod albums, with the latter being more jazz-fusion while the Songs albums were more cinematic and psychedelic.  Most of the music Axelrod was involved with in the 60's and early 70's were great.  The two albums he produced for The Electric Prunes, Mass in F Minor, and Release of an Oath are well worth checking out, and the music he produced with jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley--Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, and Soul Zodiac, are good as well.  "The Smile", released on the 1968 album Songs of Innocence, is Axelrod to a T (if you're familiar with his productions you know what I mean)--and one of my favorite tracks he released.