SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS — SOUL OF A WOMAN

November 28, 2017 Leave a comment

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BY MAT WEIR

To live is to die, it’s a truth none of us can escape. Despite how often we eat right, exercise, take our vitamins, do the right thing or ignore those grey hairs starting to crop up, nobody gets out of here alive. It’s a reality humans try not face until it stares them in the face–in one way or another. But for us music lovers, these last few years have been more of a slap in the face from the Grim Reaper. In the past two years we’ve lost Lemmy, Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Leonard Cohen and many, many more. Unfortunately, 2017 was not any easier.

 

The past year saw the Greek god, Thanatos, escort his modern, musical counterparts–like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, J.Geils and Gregg Allman–to the other side. The Egyptians Anubis and Nephthys quickly snatched souls from us, leaving humanity shocked over the deaths of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Tom Petty. But one of the saddest passings for us–and this author in particular–was Sharon Jones.

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Born in Augusta, Georgia in 1956, Jones grew up listening and imitating the music, singing and style of James Brown–whom her mother knew growing up in Augusta. The family would later move to the infamous Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Jones was raised. She cut her musical teeth in the choir at church, belting gospel with her powerful voice for all to hear. Yet despite multiple attempts to break through the mainstream–and many odd jobs to keep her career going including a long stint as a prison guard on Riker’s Island-Jones wouldn’t catch her first break until the age of 40 when she did a session backing up soulman, Lee Fields.

In 2001 she formed indie label Daptone Records, jump started a new band–the Dap-Kings–and the rest is history.  Their eccentric and pure soul sound ignited eardrums and defied calm feet. They tapped into a musical plane that took the listener back to the sounds of the 1960s without imitation or sounding stale. Their  seven studio albums were wildly popular among the underground and mainstream alike, selling out at record stores and earning Jones a Grammy nomination in 2014 along with some minor cameo roles in tv and film. The band was cooking so hot, Amy Winehouse used the Dap-Kings as her backing band for her breakthrough album Back To Black and accompanying tour.

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Anyone lucky enough to have seen can attest that even at sold-out shows there were plenty of empty seats because everyone had to dance when the Dap-Kings started. Jones would grace the stage with a presence that commanded respect; a lady’s elegance with a fiery woman’s passion. And when she sang—hot damn–it could bring a smile to every face and a tear to every eye. When I heard she finally succumbed to her three year battle with pancreatic  cancer in November 2016, there was a core group of us who called one another to share the news and relive the couple of shows we were blessed enough to catch.

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Yet, it seems that even in death, Jones is a force to be reckoned with. To mark her one year passing, Daptone Records released her final, full-length studio recording with the Dap-Kings,  Soul of a Woman. Much like Bowie’s last album (although he technically was alive when he released it only to pass days later), Soul resounds like a powerful posthumous letter to her listeners filled with love and bittersweet joy. Songs like “Pass My By” and “Girl!(You’ve Got to Forgive Him) are classic Jones and the Dap-Kings, while the final track, “Call On God”–featuring Jones’ Brooklyn church choir–is a touching good-bye to friends, fans and loved ones.

They say that  death is certain but life is not. Luckily for us, Sharon Jones truly lived. Thanks again for all the music, you can rest well now in the great beyond. As for me, I’m going to flip this record and let it spin one more time.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Record Store Day: Black Friday 2017 Top Ten Vol. 2

November 23, 2017 Leave a comment

by Mat Weir

 

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  1. Sonny Clark Trio — The 1960 Time Sessions

Been getting into Jazz lately and this particular record caught my attention. Not only was Sonny Clark a master but his death at 31 from a heroin overdose helped to create a mythos around him. Featuring greats Max Roach and George Duvivier, the 1960 Time Sessions is a treat in pure, soulful jazz. Of course it’s just a remastering of the Sonny Clark Trio, but this pressing also contains alternate versions of the album and takes giving the listener a true recording experience.

 

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  1. LEONARD NIMOY — MR. SPOCK’S MUSIC FROM OUTER SPACE

1967 was a crazy time for America. The Vietnam War raged as people fled to the streets in protest, the Monterey Pop Festival was held and Leonard Nimoy recorded his debut album as Mr. Spock. This highly illogical move produced a cult gem filled with eerie, 1960’s sci-fi sounds and out-of-this-world noise. With the popularity of Star Trek, the album reached number 83 on the Billboard charts and earned Nimoy his only hit single, the Emo-Before-Emo named, “A Visit to A Sad Planet.” Definitely a fun piece to add to your collection and a great album to test on new people to see who’s cool.

 

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  1. THE KILLS — BLACK ROOSTER 10”

I love The Kills. LOOOOOVVVEEE them. Every release they’ve done is unique while remaining within their signature sound. Over the years they’ve come to evolve and grow their style, adding more layers and production in lieu of their original, gritty start. Black Rooster is a reissue of their debut EP of the same name, which is the same songs they first recorded for a demo tape. A first issue of this 10” can cost some big bucks so I was stoked to see this on the Black Friday list.

 

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  1. BILL HICKS — LIVE IN LONDON 2LP

The man. The myth. The legend. Bill Hicks was a comedian’s comedian. Highly prophetic, he tapped into the same cosmic river of George Carlin and called bullshit on everything in the society we’ve built around us. Like any guru, he received relative success in his lifetime–selling out major shows– but after his untimely death his popularity soared to saintly heights. This double LP is the full special of his final, 1992 recording, Revelations. If this is on your list–and it should be–put it on the turntable and see how many things the sage got right about who we are today.

 

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  1. BLUE OYSTER CULT — RARITIES VOL. 1 1969 – 1976)

Finally, number one! This spot goes to the one and only, Blue Oyster Cult, another band I absolutely love to the point of getting their logo tattooed a couple times as filler on my sleeve. This special, double LP on white vinyl contains their original, Columbia demos under their short-lived name, Soft White Underbelly. If you’re like me, you’ve never seen the originals and any that you might find online will cost rent for the month. Here’s a great, cheap way to experience the magic that is early Cult. The rest of the album contains live cuts from the band’s archive spanning their self-titled to Agents of Fortune, basically their best material minus Spectres. Feel the tyranny and mutation blasting at you from the height of these heavy metal godfathers this Friday!

RECORD STORE DAY: BLACK FRIDAY 2017 TOP TEN: PART 1

November 23, 2017 Leave a comment

by Mat Weir

 

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              10. GAME OF THRONES SOUNDTRACK — PICTURE DISC

         Okay, I’m kicking this off with a gimmicky picture disc. But for all you purists, cynics and elitists out there: GET OVER IT. After a decade of RSD releases, you need to accept the fact that gimmicks are part of the fun. So don’t be a wretched ol’ White Walker. Why not buy one of the best soundtracks from one of television’s hottest shows, and have some rad art in the process?

 

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    1. DEATH FROM ABOVE — FREEZE ME/KEEP IT REAL DUMB 7”

    Death From Above (re: Death From Above 1979) has earned themselves a bit of a cult following over the years. In 2002, Canadian duo–Sebastian Granger and Jesse F. Keeler–released their debut release, Heads Up, to minor success. Two years later they began recording their debut album, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, and released it with major, underground success. Their minimalist sound is thick as gravy and boiling hot with blues riffs covered in post-rock music. But in 2006 they disbanded, leaving fans to cling to their record. In 2011 they reunited but it wouldn’t be until this year that they would drop a second album, Outrage! Is Now. This 7” is the single and B-side to that album.

     

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    1. HIGH TIMES : SMOKE SIGNAL SONGS FROM THE MOTHER PLANT

    Every stoner has their 420 playlist. Music sites and apps like Spotify, Pandora and iTunes have made it easy to throw hundreds of fire tracks into a playlist that will keep you lit all night. But for those of us who like to spin wax, making a playlist ends up with a stack of records and constant flipping or changing, totally harshing the vibe. Thankfully, this Black Friday, High Times Magazine has released a comp of sweet, stoney tracks to keep the party going and the smoke floating featuring Damian Marley, Action Bronson and more.

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  1.       7. JOHN LEE HOOKER — BLACK NIGHT IS FALLING
  2. I love me some John Lee Hooker. He was one of the first blues musicians my dad got me into and one that remains near and dear to my heart. This is a killer live recording from the Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club (Montreal) in 1977 when Hooker was still cookin’. Featuring staples like “Boom Boom” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” this is the perfect LP for Hooker fans to spin AND for noobs to check out to get a taste of the blues master.

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    1. REVEREND PEYTON’S BIG DAMN BAND — 16 TONS 7”

    For almost two decades Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has breathed new life into American blues, country and bluegrass. With a voice as thick as mountain mist, the Reverend, his wife–”Washboard” Breezy and drummer, Max Senteney, bask themselves in the rays of all blues genres and cultivate original tunes chock full of wholesome goodness. This Black Friday, don’t miss out on their cover of Tennessee Ernest Ford’s classic, “16 Tons,” for a rootsy sound about Capitalism’s exploitation of the working class. What’s more American than that?

Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is 45

October 14, 2017 Leave a comment

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by Raul

In September of 1972 Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4, originally intended to be titled Snowblind, didn’t hit the mark with critics, but still managed to go gold within a month of being released. 45 years later it’s still holds up with the band’s dedicated fans as well as newcomers.

Recording for the album began in June of 1972 in Los Angeles California. With the band three recordings deep in gold records and a severe cocaine habit, many problems haunted the members. Some say it was the beginning of the end of the classic lineup, but all that aside Black Sabbath produced their most experimental album to date.

Bringing in an orchestra to back “Iommi on Laguna Sunrise,” which was written after being up all night and watching the sunrise at Laguna Beach, was outside of the band’s usual heavy sound.

Other out of the ordinary recordings came with “Changes.” Adding mellotron to the piano lead song was a change musically, but they stuck to their dark side with heartbreaking lyrics of lost love by Geezer Butler.

From it’s Iconic cover to the classic songs such as “Supernaut,” “Changes,” and “SnowBlind,” Vol. 4 will forever hold its own.

Sunny & the Sunliners: Mr. Brown Eyed Soul

October 14, 2017 Leave a comment

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by Raul

This month Big Crown Records brings a Sunday evening dedication from a homeboy to his ruca (ol’ lady/girlfriend) with a collection of singles from Sunny Ozuna.

Mr. Brown Eyed Soul contains 17 tracks chosen with the cooperation of Sunny himself, to satisfy the most dedicated fan as well as newcomers.

Gaining popularity straight out of high school, Ozuna has not slowed down. Even now, over 50 years later, he is still bringing crowds to their feet at Lowrider shows and Latin oldie themed concerts with classics like “Smile Now Cry Later” and “Put In Jail.”

Aside from this, Sunny has also left another mark in music history by being the first Chicano/Latino artist to perform on American Bandstand.

Mr. Brown Eyed Soul is available on CD and LP and contains informative liner notes and plenty of rare photos. Listen to the following tracks and imagine cruising the boulevard.

Fresh Stuff from Big Boi

July 24, 2017 Leave a comment

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One-half of the legendary hip-hop duo OutKast, Big Boi is back with a new album titled Boomiverse.

While his counterpart Andre 3000 is often credited with being one of the best of all time, Big Boi is still, as XXL reports, “flying the Atlanta lyricist flag in an era of mumble rap repetition.”

The instinctive balance he applies to his music straddles the fine line between cunning wordsmith and strategic songwriter, both of which have appeared while alone and as part of that iconic pair. It’s a skill that is incredibly unique to Big and since OutKast’s musical disbandment; it has been taken horrendously for granted. But Mr. Patton is now on his third solo album (four if you count the Phantogram collaborative album, Big Grams) and realistically has nothing left to prove to anyone yet on Boomiverse he sounds as hungry as he did back in the day when he was rocking shoulder-length braids and all-white velour tracksuits.

Although this album is considered a solo album, Big brings along a slew of different friends and flavors with him in attempts to create his own booming universe. In many instances, it sounds like you are listening to a playlist of Big’s favorite music, just with his own verses spread throughout.

 

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Beach House B-Sides and Rarities

July 24, 2017 Leave a comment

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After releasing six albums, dream-pop duo Beach House recently dropped a collection titled B-Sides and Rarities.

Comprising Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, Beach House has never been a typical pop band with singles, so a b-sides collection is a bit unexpected. But, as the band explains on the Sub Pop website, the goal with this project was to put all the non-album tracks, of which there are quite a few, into one place.

When we announced that we were releasing a B-sides and rarities album, someone on Twitter asked, “B-sides record? Why would Beach House put out a B-sides record? Their A-sides are like B-sides.” This random person has a point. Our goal has never been to make music that is explicitly commercial. Over the years, as we have worked on our 6 LPs, it wasn’t the “best” or most catchy songs that made the records, just the ones that fit together to make a cohesive work. Accordingly, our B-sides are not songs that we didn’t like as much, just ones that didn’t have a place on the records we were making.

The idea for a B-sides record came when we realized just how many non-album songs had been made over the years, and how hard it was to find and hear many of them. This compilation contains every song we have ever made that does not exist on one of our records. There are 14 songs in total.

As NPR reports, “B-Sides And Rarities is upfront about being an exercise for enthusiasts, completists and other loving obsessives. But more casual fans shouldn’t shrug it off, either. Beach House has mounted a marvelous career on its ability to set a gloomy electro-pop mood without losing touch with its brighter side — and that gift stays on full display throughout this shaggily appealing assortment of orphaned gems.”