Friday, January 17, 2014

Bedroom Soul: Electronics, Drum Machines, and Otherwise

Timmy Thomas
I haven't posted in what feels like forever...I've recently been listening to a lot of soul music that feature drum machines.  These albums use a minimalist approach, which I find soothing.  Besides the obvious electronic/drum machine heavy albums like Sly Stone There's A Riot Going On and Shuggie Otis Inspiration Information (both albums which I'd consider close to perfect albums and have meant a lot to me for many years), I've also been getting into albums like Timmy Thomas Why Don't We Live Together

Why Don't We Live Together is just a fabulous album, one that I just picked up about a month ago, and I play it repeatedly.  Vocals are slightly similar to Otis Redding's, but a little less gritty, and of course, I dig the plaintive, minimal music and drum machine that go with it. 

I also picked up the Little Beaver Party Down album about the same time as the Timmy Thomas album.  The title track is damn sweet, with the opening female chatter, and Little Beaver's voice telling us to "let's party down".
"I Can Dig It Baby" is a nice track as well, off of the 1974 release.  Love the intro drum machine beat, and Little Beaver's vocal wail that kicks off the track...

This album I've had for almost a year, but since I'm talking electronic soul, with drum machines, I couldn't not discuss the wonderful compilation Personal Space, which features damn fine tracks like this:
 and this:
Fricking smooth bedroom, electronic/drum machine soul straight from the 70's and 80's. 

Finally, this album I wouldn't necessarily categorize as "bedroom soul", but it does have a lo-fi, bedroom, electronic feel to it...It's the Young Marble Giants Colossal Youth.
I've owned Colossal Youth for over 15 years, and always thought it was "ok", but it wasn't until recently that I've been rediscovering this album, playing it like crazy, and man, I've missed out for all these years.  Colossal Youth is a fantastic album.  Love Stratton's vocals, the lyrics are dark, keyboards are a little creepy, but the overall sound is endearing, even if a bit cold.     

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lou Reed

Lou Reed passed away last Sunday after having complications from a liver transplant.  Reed's recent passing brought back so many feelings, good and bad, about my life.  The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed were THEE soundtrack to my life in college.  I don't know how many times I listened to "Heroin" and "Sunday Morning" on my headphones while I was in the study hall of my dorm in my freshmen year in college.  This time of my life was probably the most depressed I have ever been, and as dark as the Velvet Underground could be, they brought lightness to my life back then.  I completely connected with the music, and as a 19 year old, I felt the anger and depression, yet tenderness at the same time from the lyrics of Reed--lyrically and musically he could be as spiritual as he was dark (listen to "Jesus" as an example of Reed's spirituality).  I was obsessed with all four Velvet Underground albums, but especially Velvet Underground & Nico.  I was never as big of a fan of Reed's solo work, but enjoyed listening to Transformer and Berlin occasionally (even though Berlin was too much of a downer even for the dark, goth-influenced late teen that I was back then).  I remember once listening to Metal Machine Music once ALL THE WAY THROUGH, which I think barely anyone can attest to--of course I was under the influence, but that's beside the point.  The point is that Reed's music, his lyrics, his deadpan New York vocal delivery, his style, and his fearlessness to grow and change as an artist were inspirational and commendable.  Lou was an artist, a rock legend, and probably one of most influential musicians in rock music of the past fifty years.  R.I.P. Mr. Reed, you are gone but will never be forgotten.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"The Plague": A Forgotten Song

Scott Walker
Scott Walker's first four albums (Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3, and Scott 4) were big fixtures for me about twelve years ago.  Somehow, over the years I've moved away from Scott Walker--I think I burned out on his music.  In the past few weeks, I've been rediscovering his music, and really enjoying it.  I recently discovered his track "The Plague", a B-Side off of his first album, Scott.  This track really blows me away--I can't believe it wasn't released on any of his proper albums.  You can find it in the box set of Walker's music, or on the compilation Boy Child (a very nice introduction to Walker's music).  I love the introduction to the track--the la, la, la's of the female vocals, the fuzzed out-acid-drenched guitar intro to the song, then Walker's vocals kick in, "I spent many nights laying on my back, waiting for the dawn that appears to crack..."   Just a great song!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Can This Be Real?

Not necessarily a HUGE fan of Natural Four, but I've always been a sucker for "Can This Be Real?", the first track off of their debut album Natural Four.  It definitely has that Gamble-Huff, Philly soul sound to it.  Beautiful vocals, and a nice, sax lead-in solo just to start the song off right.  Just a solid single overall, once of those 'repeaters' for me, I can never get enough of it. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nilsson: Aerial Ballet

Nilsson (No, It's Not Elliott Smith)

I haven't done much of anything with this blog recently.  It's not that I have stopped listening to music (that never happens), and it's not like I haven't heard anything that has inspired me to write (that isn't the case), it's just finding the time to sit, gather my thoughts, and try to articulate why I like what I like can be difficult.  I'm not a writer, so it makes it all the more difficult for me. 

What I do know is that I've been on a 60's/70's pop kick recently, running through the catalog of post-Pet Sounds era Beach Boys albums (Sunflower, Surf's Up, and Friends are all enjoyable albums while nightly getting my mind blown by Smile and the outtakes), delving back into Syd Barrett/early Pink Floyd era, repeatedly listening to the first three Love albums (Love, Da Capo, and of course, Forever Changes)--essentially I'm going back to my college music interests...

While I've heard plenty of Nilsson songs, and even once had a solid compilation of his work called Personal Best, I recently picked up the Pandemonium Shadow Show/Aerial Ballet albums on cd, essentially the first two solo Nilsson albums compiled on cd.  While I like Pandemonium Shadow Show, and can understand John Lennon's obsession with the album, Aerial Ballet is the album of Nilsson's that really gets me.  From the brilliant pop of "Good Old Desk", to minimalist organ (keyboard?) track "One", to the gospel-tinged "Bath", to the Fred Neil, country-ish cover of "Everybody's Talkin'", it's all pretty brilliant in my eyes.  This song particularly gets me...
..."I Said Goodbye to Me" is probably one of the best break-up, moving-on-with-my-life songs I have heard.  Maybe because I wasn't familiar with this track, and was already familiar with a majority of Aerial Ballet from compilations, I don't know.  It doesn't resonate with my current life, but everyone has had a break-up in which they felt afterwards, everything in their life is entirely changing, and they have moved on.

And Aerial Ballet ends with "Bath", a nice closure to an album with it's gospel-like opening piano chords...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sunshine Pop, Psych Pop, and Pet Sounds

I've been on a bit of a warm weather, sunshine and psych pop bent recently.  Of the things that has "floated my boat" recently:

1.  The Beach Boys The Pet Sounds Sessions--If I had to choose one album to take on a desert island, it would certainly be Pet Sounds.  That album means everything to me, and has since I was a kid.  Just recently I decided to pick up The Pet Sounds Sessions, released in 1996, and have been absolutely blown away by the disc 3 of the box set.  Disc 3 is vocals only, a cappella versions of Pet Sounds in its entirety.  The album blows me away even more after repeatedly listening on my headphones to strictly the harmonic vocals of The Beach Boys, pure as day and absolutely brilliant.

2.  Curt Boettcher--I dug the singer-songwriter and his compositions with The Association, and I'm also rediscovering his band The Millennium, and realizing what a brilliant album Begin is.  I bought Begin a few years ago, but never really delved into it until the past month.
Curt also formed a band named Sagittarius and recorded an album in 1968 (same year as The Millennium Begin was released) called Present Tense, which I just recently purchased so I can't form a great opinion of it yet, but I have enjoyed what I heard thus far.
3.  Lastly, I've rediscovered Olivia Tremor Control, and have been listening to their two albums, Dusk at Cubist Castle, and Black Foliage recently.  They were an amazing band from the late 90's from the Elephant 6 Collective, and were one of my favorite bands during that era.  It's fun rediscovering albums that I haven't heard in over ten years--I feel like I'm approaching the band with fresh ears again and they still sound wonderful to me. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Up All Nite (With The Nite-Liters)

I've always loved listening to instrumental funk and soul over the years.  From the obvious bands like The Meters and Booker T & The MGs, to Funk, Inc., and The Bar-Kays, all those bands each have a few impressive albums in their catalog.  I would have to put The Nite-Liters A-Nal-Y-Sis album up there as one of my favorite instrumental funk albums.  Their cover of Donny Hathway's "Valdez in the Country" has always been one of my favorite funk songs.  It's a real groover...
 And of course, "Damn" is one of my favorite Nite-Liters songs as well...
The Nite-Liters only released five studio albums total as a band from the early to mid-70's (not counting albums by the band The New Birth, which many of its bandmates were members...but that's a whole other story).  K-Jee is a great album from The Nite-Liters as well, but I highly recommend checking out A-Nal-Y-Sis first if you're interested in a little instrumental funk.