Diana Ross | diana

15 06 2010

For some strange reason, I have recently become reacquainted with an album that I only remember from my childhood. It’s Diana Ross’ 11th studio release from 1980, diana. My memories of this record are a little faint but there are two songs in particular that I remember very well and consequently, prompted me to revisit the album. Both songs, you will undoubtedly know as they are some of her biggest solo hits. The first is the original single “Upside Down” and the second is a follow up single, “I’m Coming Out”. The whole album was a huge success for her and Motown Records, selling over 6 million copies and going platinum in just months. “Upside Down” reached as high as #2 and was on the charts for 12 weeks, marking her highest peak performance as a solo artist. “I’m Coming Out”, despite being the fourth single from this album, made it as high as #13 and stayed on the charts for 10 weeks. Since it’s release, diana has sold well over 10 million copies worldwide, an incredible achievement considering the timing of it’s release.

Following the success of 1979’s The Boss, Ross wanted a fresher, more modern sound. Production team Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic had recently written a whole album’s worth of material with Aretha Franklin in mind. Franklin had however declined the offer and all the songs were subsequently passed on to Ross. The sessions were grueling and there was a lot of tension throughout. After the recording wrapped, Ross received an sneak peak at the resulting work. Reportedly, she was not pleased with its results. Following an advance preview of the record, to be released in the aftermath of the anti-disco backlash, an influential New York City DJ warned Ross it would even be the end of her career. When the master tapes were submitted to Motown in March 1980, a nervous Ross consequently remixed the entire album with the assistance of Motown engineer Russ Terrana. The goal was to tone down the funkier elements of Chic’s playing, removing extended instrumental passages and speeding up the tracks’ tempos to give the her voice a brighter, more youthful sound. The new mix also put Ross’ vocals front and center. The remixing of the master tapes and the re-recording of all Ross’ lead vocals were performed without the knowledge or approval of Rodgers and Edwards. Needless to say, it made for a very awkward record release, with the production team threatening to remove their names from the credits. They even unsuccessfully tried to sue Motown over it.

So, in a post-Supremes, post-Disco world the incredible Diana Ross is still making hits. It’s great material like this that introduced her to a whole new, much younger, audience and helped her establish that iconic persona that will forever live on in music history. She’s the original diva and with tunes like this (in addition to her earlier catalog) she deserves every bit of praise. Other than notables like Marvin Gaye, she’s one of the only Motown artist to take her career into 70’s & 80’s and beyond.

Below are both the singles I referred to above: “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out”. Younger audiences will most certainly recognize the latter as the sample for Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”… a 90’s hip hop classic. It makes sense when you consider the source.


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George Clinton & P Funk | Atomic Dog

3 06 2010

To anyone who grew up in the early 90’s this song will immediately sound familiar but it was actually released in 1982. It was George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic’s last song to hit #1 on the Billboard charts. Despite a lack of air play, this song became widely popular which eventually prompted radio stations across the US to finally give it some love. The reason so many young people will recognize it is that it has been sampled over 50 times by various hip hop artists. The most notable is Snoop Dog’s “Who Am I ? (What’s My Name)” but the list includes others such as Biz Markie, Digital Undeground, Ice Cube, MC Hammer, 2Pac and more. The song not only features a great hook and a the refrain of “Bow Wow Wow…” seems to never get old. This version below is the extended version that stretches to almost 10 minutes. In this version, P Funk’s Bernie Worrell really flexes his muscles on the Moog while Bootsy Collins just digs in deep on the repetitive bass line.

That song will forever standout in the P Funk catalog but I am also partial to an earlier hit from 1978, “Flashlight”. This song was written as a tribute to Bootsy Collins although the distinct bass groove is actually played by Worrell on the Moog. Interestingly, Bootsy plays drums on the track in the studio version though. “Flash Light” was also heavily sampled and by the usually suspects… Snoop, Digital Underground, 2Pac, and so on. Like “Atomic Dog”, George and Co recorded an extended version of this tune but the one below is the condensed version.


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Lee Fields & The Expressions | Ladies

27 05 2010

When I hear a song like this, I ask myself how it’s not ubiquitously known by all music fans. It’s one of those tunes that’s so good you would just assume that it has made the rounds on radio, TV and all the internet music outlets already. It was featured in the credit sequence of an Entourage episode a while back but even with that flash of exposure it still remains a hidden gem. It’s a total mystery to me but is, perhaps, telling of what today’s music scene is seeking. It’s almost like Pitchfork and all the other musical taste-makers don’t give any love to artists who A) are not younger than 26, B) don’t possess shabby, unkempt facial hair, or C) are not making cheap viral videos of their act. Because of such bias, the old talented guys like Lee Fields get swept under the rug. “Ladies” was released on the 2009 album My World, from Truth & Soul Records based out of Williamsburg, NY. El Michel’s Affair is on the same label. You may even hear a bit of their sound coming through in the arrangement as some of the players overlap. Blend that aesthetic with Lee’s incredible raspy soul-soaked vocals and it’s a no-brainer. Check out “Ladies”  and you will likely run out and buy this album right away. Be sure to look into some of the other bands on the label too.


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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


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”




“Purple Rain”


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Download the set from The Village Underground

NEW! On The Turntable

23 04 2010

I have been very delinquent with my updates to the On The Turntable page. So much so that I completely missed March. So, in order to keep a clean house and have everything in order I have updated for both April and March. April is up on the current page, featuring Herbie Hancock’s incredible album Fat Albert Rotunda. While March is in the archive on the side bar. Unfortunately, March never got a fair shot but you can still enjoy it. It features one of my favorite short lived bands Blind Faith and their self titled album. Take a look at both, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. For those desk jockey’s out there, these make for some great listening while hard at work in your cubicle. You can locate these links on the top navigation bar and the side bar archive… or you can just click the album covers below to listen to these albums in their entirety. Enjoy!

Blind Faith                                              Fat Albert Rotunda

As a little extra fanfare, there are few videos to get you in the mood. The first is Blind Faith live at Hyde Park in 1969. They do an awesome version of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”. Now, perhaps it’s just because I am a huge fan of young Steve Winwood but I think this rivals the original… Sorry Mic.

The next is the opening theme to Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert cartoon. For those not familiar with the Herbie’s Fat Albert Rotunda, it was inspired by the work he did for this show.  To be clear Herbie did not write this theme but he did some work for the show as he was friendly with Cosby. That said, the album is FAR superior to anything ever featured on the show but this will likely get you in the mood and perhaps even trigger some nostalgia.


22 04 2010

Whoa! I just found this video of Sly & The Family Stone (the original band) performing live on the short-lived TV show Music Scene circa 1969. This is some true Sly at the peak of it all. This performance is essentially a medley of some of their hits including “Everyday People”, “Dance To The Music”, “Hot Fun In The Summertime”, “Don’t Call Me N(word), Whitey” and “Gotta Take You Higher”.  Now, as far as medley’s go I am typically not a fan. As a purist, I enjoy the full cut of the song as it was intended to be, but I have yet to see live footage of Sly that is this good. This is legit, not that past-his-prime,  burnt out stuff that has recently surfaced. For someone that wasn’t around in ’69, I actually get the sense that this is what the “Music Scene” was actually like… hence the name of the show.

Despite loving this video, of all those songs the only one I really listen to by choice would be “Hot Fun In The Summertime”. The others I appreciate and enjoy but they are not at the top of my Sly queue. Two songs that always seem to jump out as my favorites are “If You Want Me To Stay” and “Family Affair”. They are from his later years and all but, man, do they sound great… pure slow burning Sly soul funk. To check them out follow the links below:

If You Want Me To Stay

Family Affair

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Sly At His Slyiest

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Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley

20 04 2010

I love this song “Sneakin’ Sally Though The Alley”. It was written by New Orleans singer/songwriter Allen Toussaint who first recorded it with Lee Dorsey (as in “Working in the Coal Mine”) in 1971. Toussaint was his producer for Holy Cow and supposedly wrote this tune for Dorsey. Then in 1974, Toussaint was the producer for a young Robert Palmer and suggested they do a version which became the title track for his solo debut. The backing band for that version is none other than The Meters, who are fellow New Orleans natives and old friends  of Toussaint. It is not confirmed but I have read that they also played on the original Dorsey version as well. It does sound like them, specifically Leo Nocentelli on guitar and George Porter Jr on bass, so I’m convinced. When you listen to Palmer’s version there is some really funky clav in there from Art Neville… I love it! The video below is the original music video made for this song. At the end, Palmer says he doesn’t know why they made it. Back in 1974 they didn’t even have an outlet for it yet, this predates MTV by 7 years. Anyway, it’s a cool video to watch now.

Here is the original 1971 Lee Dorsey version from Holy Cow. Still a great song that’s funky as hell and full of soul.

There is some live footage of Allen Toussaint playing this at Jazzfest back in 2009… it’s pure New Orleans.  CLICK HERE TO WATCH

The jam bands love this song too. I remember seeing Phish play it a bunch of times and Warren Haynes plays it with Gov’t Mule. Follow the links below to hear their versions, both are very well done and surprisingly the quality of these recordings are great:


Gov’t Mule

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