Return of The Green Gorilla

6 10 2010

The GG is back! Sorry for the short hiatus and infrequent posting over the last few weeks. I’ve been busy with some other projects and thus, have been less active here on The GG. Everything should be back up and running with new posts daily… or at least close. It’s also time to update the On The Turntable page. It’s long overdue and I would like to fill in the lost months in the archive.  Look for that, and more, in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy this dated 90’s R&B classic, “Return of the Mack”. I dunno, it seemed oddly appropriate. PS– You may recognize this sample as Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love”, which was also famously covered by the Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense.

…I’m Back!

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Bass Extremes

12 08 2010

I was recently reminded of this video (which I own and used as inspiration for some time) from two masters of the bottom end. This trio, Bass Extremes, is the brain child of world renowned bass players Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten. Before starting this side project, they built their careers as 1st call sideman to some of the biggest acts in the biz, as well as doing session work on numerous albums and actively teaching at various institutions around the country. One look at these fellas and you’ll see they are truly musician’s musicians. Not to say that their music is completely inaccessible to the common music fan, it most certainly is, but they are guys who have been playing their instruments with an insane fervor to learn and develop their technique since they picked them up. Both have played since they were just kids. In Vic’s case, he was about 4 years old when he started playing live with his older brothers. The Wooten Brothers even toured with Curtis Mayfield and were almost the next big thing in R&B until the Jackson 5 stole their thunder. Steve used to spend hours practicing in a literal woodshed (not just a term from the old jazz days) at his parents home in South Carolina. He once told me he would try to practice 12 hours a day… which always seemed impossible to me. Nevertheless, he said he would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to practice, go to school, think about playing while in school and then come home and immediately get back to practicing, going until the sun went down. Somehow he got some surfing in there too but I never asked about that.

They were inspired by the giants that came before them. Guys like James Jamerson, Chuck Rainey, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, Jerry Jemmott, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and many others. They have made it a mission to carry on that tradition of discovery and exploration to a younger generation of players. All of these men are part of a small group of players that have dedicated their lives to pushing the boundaries of what could be done on the bass and, consequently, have redefined the instrument and the expectations of it’s role in music. These 2 videos will show you what I mean. They are taken from an instruction video where they play a song live and then follow that with a little Master Class session explaining the techniques they use and how they developed those techniques.

Keep in mind this is just a trio: 2 basses and drums. The reason it is not overly muddy is that the bass voices are quite distinct. Vic plays a fretted four string that is often tuned up to be an octave higher, known as a tenor bass. Vic is famous for his unique thumb and pluck style which has taken “slap bass” and reinvented it. Steve plays a fretless six string which allows him to play more chords and sweeter tones. He is a master at using harmonics, more specifically artificial harmonics which allows him to play many octaves higher than the instrument was intended. It all makes for a very clear and well organized sound… sonically speaking. Oh yea, the drummer is famed session man Greg Bisonette. *I should add this video was shot during the early 90’s and REALLY looks dated. The moustache, hair and clothes are all a little tough to take seriously but the music is just the opposite. Enjoy.

This song is inspired by Stanley Clarke. It’s called “Stan The Man”.

This next one is inspired by another one of their musical influences, this time piano player Chick Corea. It’s called “A Chick From Corea”. One thing you have to know about these guys is they don’t take themselves too seriously. Consequently, they have silly senses of humor, often cracking dumb jokes and they love bad puns, hence the title of this song.

If you are curious, there is a lot of other footage of these guys out there, both playing together, solo and with other ensembles. Much of it is pretty remarkable, especially Vic’s solo stuff. Check it out, it’s incredible to watch.

References:

Steve’s Official Site

Vic’s Official Site

More info on Bass Extremes

More info on Steve Bailey

More info on Victor Wooten

More info on Jaco Pastorius

More info on Stanley Clarke

More info on James Jamerson

More info Chuck Rainey

More info on Jerry Jemmott

More info Marcus Miller

More info Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn





Sneak Peek: Weezer | Hurley

10 08 2010

Have you seen this new album cover for the forthcoming Weezer album, appropriately titled Hurley? It’s a hilarious picture of Lost character, Hurley (actor, Jorge Garcia).

When asked about it by Pitchfork.com, frontman Rivers Cuomo explained the rationale behind this odd choice, “We just wanted to use that picture of Jorge Garcia’s face on the cover. It’s such an amazing album cover, and we didn’t want to have any other words on it, so we just figured everyone was going to call it Hurley, so that’s what we call it.” I can accept that. Given a few of their other albums have just been self-titled and otherwise referred to by their colors (i.e. the green album, the blue album, the red album) this seems like a slight shift in protocol. Hurley comes out on September 14th but they released a single entitled “Memories” early to create a little buzz. Honestly, I like the picture of Jorge more than this song but I’m sure there are fans out there that are excited about it nonetheless. Below is a sneak peek of the new track for those loyal Weezer fans… I know there are still quite a few.

I’m more partial to their old tunes but I suppose they can’t just keep doing that stuff anymore. Anyway, it’s nice to see they still don’t take themselves too seriously. It is actually their sense of humor that I appreciate most about them these days. In fact, I think they might be getting sillier with age. Check out some of their music videos from the last decade+ below and tell me if you agree.

References:

Pitchfork.com Article/Inteview

More info on Weezer

More info on Hurley

Weezer’s Complete Discography





Partyup Prince

6 05 2010

Prince, formerly “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” (aka TAFKAP), played at the TIMES 100 Gala here in NY the other night. I just heard that they used the nearby Village Underground on W 3rd St in the Village as their practice space during the day. After the gala on Tuesday, they then returned for a short set that evening. Now, those are exactly the types of things you live in NY for. You just never know. One night Prince just drops by and plays for an hour… how cool is that? You got to love this city.

Anyway, with the viral nature of things these days, I saw a surprising amount of negative things being said about Prince. In the face of such negativity, I would like to officially stand up as a long time Prince fan and supporter. Sure, he’s a little weird but the guy’s a genius. He’s a modern day musical prodigy who writes, produces and plays almost all the instruments. As one of the most prolific artist of the last three decades, he has written over 1,000 songs. Sure, I only enjoy a handful of them but that collection of hits is unstoppable. It’s not just “1999” and “Purple Rain”. How about “I Just Want To Be Your Lover” or “Partyup” or “Delirious”. The list goes on and on (and on) because you can find a ton of GREAT material amongst his huge catalog of deeper cuts.

My allegiance to this pop legend goes back to my youth. I recently found the very first album (it was actually a cassette) that I ever bought myself. And, guess who it is? That’s right… Prince. Well, technically it’s Prince & The New Power Generation. My first purchase was the 1991 release Diamonds & Pearls. It was his 13th album and was a bit of a turning point for Prince. It was his first to be co-credited and marked a new hybrid of styles by including hip hop into his funky blend of Pop and R&B. I was about 9 years old when I bought this beauty…

How did I even know who Prince was? I remember first hearing the singles “Cream” and “Gett Off” on a friend’s stereo and I guess the next time I had the chance I bought it. I don’t know, the details are very cloudy. Ok, so maybe I wasn’t that cool back then, perhaps it was actually the hologram on the cover that played a big part in the allure. Who’s to say? It was either that or the look of those guys on the inside cover. For the early 90’s, that was about as cool as it could get. I mean, Prince was like the Miles Davis of 1991.

Of the 13 tunes on Diamonds & Pearls, here are a few of my favorites:

Willing & Able

Cream

Walk Don’t Walk

Gett Off

Diamonds & Pearls

For any of the naysayers out there, I beg you to watch this video of Prince playing in a tribute to George Harrison at the 2004 Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He plays lead guitar and takes the solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. With all the immense talent on this stage it’s like he’s the only guy up there. His presence is just amazing. Clearly, the guy is an icon.

*If that’s not enough, there is always THIS CLIP from Batman. Apparently, when the The Joker is feeling mischievous he loves to listen to Prince’s “Partyman”.

Listen Online:

“I Want To Be Your Lover”

“Partyup”

“1999”

“Delirious”

“Purple Rain”

References:

More info on Prince

More info on The New Power Generation

More info on Diamonds & Pearls

Prince’s complete discography

Download the set from The Village Underground





Voodoo Child | The Hendrix Hoax

26 04 2010

Back in the mid to late 90’s a cunning but disturbed musician perpetrated a wild hoax that  involved music legend Jimi Hendrix. This man’s name was Billy Yeager, a struggling artist from Hollywood, FL who, despite a bit of talent and a ton of effort, could never make it in the music industry.  Yeager was a multi-instrumentalist who was primarily a guitarist. He constantly wrote music and gigged around town. He even had numerous interactions and minor friendships with some big time players like Bruce Hornsby, Jaco Pastorius, Tommy Bolin and Pat Metheny but even that wasn’t enough for him to finally get that big break. After receiving countless rejection letters from labels his frustration got the best of him and he came up with this elaborate fraud that has now made him famous… well, somewhat. Yeager created this story that Jimi Hendrix had a long lost son named Jimmy Story. Story was supposedly the result of one of Hendrix’s drug induced romps with a South Florida girl named Sunshine Story while touring in Miami. Yeager took on this persona of Jimmy Story by spending almost a year falsifying documents and creating fake music and photos to help corroborate the news he was going to break to the world. With that, the Hendrix hoax was in motion. It’s an amazing tale of a desperate man doing desperate things. Take a look at the video below to see how he “became” Jimmy Story.

I love how he says it was the Dustin Hoffman movie Tootsie that really inspired him… simply amazing. I just want to know who actually believed this guy. C’mon! Are they serious?

As if that is not enough, what is really wild about this is actually the Billy Yeager story behind it. What is only touched upon here is that Yeager had been documenting his life on film for 20+ years. Whether he knew it or not, he was collecting footage that would eventually become a mild hit in the independent film world called Jimmy’s Story. The film is about Yeager striving for success and falling short only to devise and execute a silly scam that fooled the world. I have yet to see the film but in the bits and pieces I have sampled, it looks like a sad tale of man desperately grasping for fame.


Billy Yeager is a shameless self-promoter so you can get a good glimpse of who this whacko really is by visiting his site. It’s like an online scrap book of all the odd things he’s ever done in music, cinema and life. Not only does it explain how he accomplished the hoax, it also depicts how weird and unusual the man behind it really is and what he is capable of with full artistic license. Yikes!

If you are curious and have some time, go ahead and poke around at www.billyyeager.com. I recommend you at least visit the “Music” and “Film” sections as they are very enlightening.  Oh, and there is this little piece on Yeager’s principles that is an absolute must: CLICK HERE TO READ “HUMILITY”.





AIR

8 04 2010

AIR is the French duo consisting of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel. They play downtempo electro pop that is really laid-back and despite being mostly electronic it’s very organic sounding with real appeal to the analog snob. One thing that I particularly like about them is that they have both instrumental and vocals tunes, with the instrumentals usually being the standouts… well, in my mind. However, there are numerous exceptions to that. Some of the vocal stuff is really good like “The Vagabond” which features Beck on lead vocals. The duo is a very interesting format with a unique dynamic and these guys are no exception. Nicolas plays guitars, including bass and provides vocals too. While Jean-Benoît plays all the keyboard instruments and contributes vocals. Another thing I really like about these guys is that they are quite fond of music from the 70’s and are also very particular about using only vintage gear. Because they are just a duo, essentially everything they do is  an overdubbed studio project. It’s a lot like Walter Becker and Donald Fagan with Steely Dan. It’s that same principal but with a new electric groove and modern attitude. Their first release was a very cool little EP called Premiers Symptoms in 1997. Then the following year they released a full length album called Moon Safari that was phenomenal. They have made six other albums since then, all with a few excellent songs among them but the first two releases remain to be their best work. In addition to their own albums, they have done music for films. Director Sofia Coppola must really like them because not only did she ask them to do all the music for The Virgin Suicides, she used a song from one of their albums in Lost In Translation.

I really like this simple video for the opening track of Moon Safari, called “La Femme D’Argent”. This is probably the best song on this album and perhaps one of the best from their entire catalog.The album version is like 7 minutes long but this version is slightly abbreviated.

Below is an official video produced for a live performance. The song is “Talisman” also off Moon Safari.   Despite being just a duo, they bring around a small band for live gigs. The performances are extremely well replicated versions of the album material with some extra (but not overdone) improvisation and perhaps some fresh dynamics.

This next song is the tune used in Lost In Translation. It’s originally from their 2004 release Talkie Walkie. The song is called “Alone In Kyoto”. This is a great live video that is also of very high quality. It’s cool to see how they recreate songs like this live.

More info on AIR

AIR’s Official Site

All their music on Amazon

More on Steely Dan

A few more AIR songs to check out:

The Vagabond (featuring Beck)

Alpha Beta Gaga

Playground Love

Kelly Watch the Stars

Radian

J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau

Le Soleil Est Près De Moi





The Carrot Highway

7 04 2010

Despite what you may think, this one’s not just for vegetarian and vegans. It’s ridiculous (and therefore amazing!) regardless of your fondness for veggies. Not only is the song a fantastic blend of folk, rock and spoken word but the video features some really great style choices; specifically the oversized Champion sweatshirts donned by hosts Nigel & Cassidy. Not to say that songwriter Tom Gorman’s look isn’t equally as out of date. Enjoy your trip down the “Carrot Highway”…








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