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!





New Avalanches Album… Coming Soon

28 06 2010

According to a recent Pitchfork.com article, The Avalanches are nearly ready to release a new album. This new work would be just their second but is very highly anticipated after nearly 10 years since their initial debut, Since I Left You. For those that are not familiar, The Avalanches are an Australian band, turned DJ troupe, that has become a quiet sensation after their first official full length release. I must say, all the accolades are 100% well deserved as it was truly a masterpiece. Since I Left You is a collection of 18 tracks that were created from some 3,500 samples. It was not originally intended for wide release, which lead them to disregard any concerns about copyright restrictions and therefore paid little attention to keeping track of the samples of music they would later need to clear. Although the band started as a noise-punk outfit, they became interested in the potential of mixing and the “mash-up”. Armed with an extensive vinyl collection from artists, both popular and obscure, from all over the globe, they turned out a fluid, thoughtfully conceived and flawlessly produced album that has not lost it’s luster since the initial release in November of 2000. Essentially, what started as a concept album for a mere side project soon turned into a permanent gig. They spent the last decade touring the world, both playing their material live and performing DJ sets. During that period it has long been rumored that they have been working on a new album based around a similar premise. The rumors have wavered considerably so it’s tough to tell what is what, but many sources close to the band feel that this is finally it… the new album is on it’s way with a release date yet to be announced. I’ve got my fingers crossed that this time, it’s for real. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they do as an encore to their breakthrough coming out.

Below is the official video for the title track, “Since I Left You”. It’s one of two singles from the album. They had a really tough time selecting the singles, not just because many of the tunes are so good but because the entire album flows straight through from one song to the next. It’s like one continuous piece that mimics the seamless feel of a DJ set. But, I actually would liken to something more in the realm of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon because it is cleverly more deliberate than a bunch of cut up dance tracks. You will notice the faded ending, which is not how it appears on the album but, with the help of the cinematic subtext, it works for this format.

Here is the video for the other single and perhaps the most radio friendly of all the tracks because it stands up really well out of the context of the album, it’s “Frontier Psychiatrist”. This one contains a sample from the film Polyester as well as numerous others from artists like Flip Wilson, Enoch Light, Wayne & Shuster and many, many more. One of the toughest things about releasing a project like this is that you have to get the proper approvals to use such samples. It has been said that the new album has been complete for a few  years but is still awaiting clearance. Perhaps it’s just a rumor but it sounds like typical industry red tape, which I believe to be true. They were able to get permission from artists as large as Madonna for the first one, so it’s only a matter of time before they get it all cleared and ready to roll.

The Avalanches have a pretty good website that keeps their fans up to date on the latest developments. You can find news about the new album and other mixing projects or performances. They often have info about what samples they are using so you can check them out in their original state, which is really cool. They also have a forum that has been very helpful to sort through all the release rumors and other BS. Check it out to keep on top of the status of the forthcoming album.

References:

The Avalanches Official Site

The Avalanches on MySpace

More info on The Avalanches

More info on Since I Left You

Track Listing: Since I Left You





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.

References:

More info on George Clinton

More info on “Atomic Dog”

More info on “Flash Light”

More info on Parliament Funkadelic

More info on Bootsy Collins

More info on Bernie Worrell





Feelin’ Good

27 04 2010

This tune is simply a classic. Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1964 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd it has been covered and/or sampled by countless artist. The most notable version though has got to be Nina Simone’s from her 1965 album I Put Spell On You. Below is a student produced music video for that epic song.

There are so many others that I cannot include them all here but there is a list of just a few below. Each artist’s name is actually a link to their unique version. Have a listen and see how each puts their own personal touch on this timeless hit. There are quite a few cool versions here. My favorites are probably Coltrane, Traffic and Jean DuShon, with My Brightest Diamond and Joe Bonamassa coming in close second… but the others are excellent as well. Too close for me to make the call. Go ahead and judge for yourself:

John Coltrane

Gilbert Price

Traffic

Sammy Davis Jr

Bobby Darin

Freda Payne

Joe Sample & Randy Crawford

Jean DuShon

Joe Bonamassa

George Micheal

My Brightest Diamond

Muse

*For a complete list of artists and some more info about “Feelin’ Good” click HERE.





Idris Muhammad | Loran’s Dance

24 03 2010

This one is from my own personal collection. I threw this video together so that it was accessible for all to hear at a moments notice. It’s a phenomenal song from a really great album by famed New Orleans funk and soul jazz drummer, Idris Muhammad. The first few bars of the song were sampled by The Beastie Boys for an interlude on Paul’s Boutique. In fact, many of Idris’ beats have been sampled over the years because they’re so damn funky. “Loran’s Dance” is from the album Power of Soul which is a prized CTI session that includes an all-star lineup typical of this era (1974). The full band breakdown is Grover Washington Jr (sax), Randy Brecker (tp), Bob James (ep), Joe Beck (gtr), Gary King (bass), Ralph McDonald (prc), and of course Idris (drums). One listen and you will hear why it’s so compelling. The overall synergy and dynamics between the group is amazing. The thing to keep in mind is that there is a lot of improvisation in this session so although they are playing around the arrangement, they are really letting their sensibilities guide them in a collective effort.

As a little aside, I wanted to introduce CTI Records as I will be featuring work from this incredible label of yesteryear in future posts. CTI stands for Creed Taylor Inc. Creed Taylor was a producer for various major labels and their subsidiaries until he created CTI. Before CTI, he was most notable for not only creating Impulse! but also signing John Coltrane to essentially be their flagship artist. He was also responsible for starting the Bossa Nova craze in the US as he is the one who gathered Antonio Carlo Jobim and Stan Getz for “The Girl From Ipanema” sessions while at Verve. CTI is his real legacy though. His work there captured the ideals of the time in a way that jazz is intended to do. What really made it a success was that he always had access to the top players of the day. He would contract guys like Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Jack Dejohnette, Ron Carter, Stanley Turrentine, George Benson, Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Nina Simone and so many more. He also used legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder to record his sessions. Van Gelder was considered a genius for his innovative recording techniques and had long been used by Lyons & Wolfe at Blue Note because of the incredible sound of his studio. One thing you will notice about all of his work with CTI is that it has a very specific and distinctive aesthetic that for some reason cannot be duplicated. Like Blue Note, Taylor always used some VERY cool imagery on his album covers which only enhanced the appeal. So it was this powerful combination of resources and Taylor’s own point of view that shaped the history of jazz within this era. Unfortunately, some say it was also Taylor who is primarily responsible for the eventual emergence of what we would now call smooth jazz and Muzak. Taylor was an absolute master at balancing artistry and commercialism and that would later be bastardized by jazz artists who tried to copy his model throughout the 80’s & 90’s. During his tenure, he often introduced pop tunes of the day into the predetermined repertoire for a given album. Basically, he would take really great, well-known songs and let his master musicians have their way with them in the studio. Because of this, the music was extremely accessible for all music fans and remain so to this day. I’m a huge fan and will likely be featuring CTI material again.  Until then, there are some links below to learn more about Creed Taylor and his impact in jazz and the recording industry as a whole.

Creed Taylor on Wiki

Creed Taylor on All About Jazz

Rare interview with Creed

Full CTI (+ Kudu/A&M) Discography

Idris Muhammad on All About Jazz

Power Of Soul session details





Guilty Pleasures

19 02 2010

We all have them and I am no exception. A good friend recently asked what mine are. It was part of a discussion about the stress of putting your iPod on shuffle while with others and hoping that one of those guilty pleasures doesn’t somehow pop up and embarrass you, which always seems to happen. Here are a few of my guilty pleasures but I’m not that embarrassed by them so I don’t know if they really count. But, they are certainly not tunes I want the guy next to me on the subway overhearing from my headphones although they’re really nice to squeeze into playlists here and there… they seem to go really well with the rest of the ‘so bad it’s good’ yacht rock in my library. I hear this stuff is coming back so maybe I’m actually on the fore of something big here.

This is Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl”. I once worked with a guy who famously said, “Daryl Hall is the greatest blonde-haired, blue-eyed soul singer of his time”. Despite not being able to come up with another to challenge that, I would hardly give the guy that much credit. Nevertheless, they do have some really great songs… and this is perhaps their best. Either this or “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”. It’s too close to call.

I just want to add that Hall’s outfit in this is hysterical. It’s way Don Johnson in Miami Vice.

Here’s Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin”. Now this one is more commonly appreciated because it was the sample used for Warren G’s “Regulate” circa 1994. Sure McDonald is hard to take seriously but it’s a pretty good song. There is a newer live version available but I actually prefer this early 80’s disaster of a music video.

Bowie should never be a guilty pleasure but I tend to lump “Ashes to Ashes” in there. Unfortunately, Mr. Bowie has blocked the embedding of the official video (yes, every single one on the web) so this is just the song with the album cover. It’s from Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) ca. 1980.

This is both guilty pleasure and Soundtrack classic. Huey Lewis & the News’ 1985 hit from Back to the Future, “Back in Time”. Embarrassing and amazing all at the same.

This does not fit the soft rock trend going on here but it still qualifies for the guilty pleasure category. Weezer doing “Undone (The Sweater Song) back in 1994 on The John Stewart Show. That’s right, not the Daily Show… this was that long ago. Look how young they are…





Beware The Two Headed Freap

18 02 2010

I’ve been looking for a Ronnie Foster album from 1972 off Blue Note entitled The Two Headed Freap. I’ve tried to track it down on vinyl for a while now but just can’t seem to find a copy in my local record shops. It’s a great “acid-jazz” album that features this cult(ish) classic “Mystic Brew”. The tune may sound familiar as it has been sampled numerous times by a hand full of hip hop artists. The most notable in my mind is A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation”, from their 1994 album Midnight Marauders. It’s a great example of how a sample can be used to create a piece that stands on it’s own. In this case, it may even be regarded as better… well, certainly more successful. That aside, there’s definitely something slightly more compelling about the Tribe song than the original. But that’s mostly attributed to the fact that this early acid jazz was really watered down at the time plus Tribe tends to make a lot out of a little as seen in most of their work. Also notable is the fact that the beat is a three bar loop which is very uncommon in Hip Hop. Most popular music utilizes even meters and/or time signatures but the cool thing about 3 (odd) is that once you double it, it becomes 6 (even) so you can be playful with the feel, taking it in either an odd or even direction. Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” is a phenomenal example of this in the jazz world.

Below is Ronnie’s “Mystic Brew” and A Tribe Called Quests’ “Electric Relaxation”. To give it another dimension, I have also included contemporary jazz pianist, Vijay Iyer’s version of “Mystic Brew” from his 2009 album Historicity. I like to place them all side by side to see/hear the transformations and adaptations that have occurred over the years.

Other uses of this sample include:

Madlib’s “Mystic Bounce” off Shades of Blue

Pete Rock’s ’99 Mix Tape version off Diggin’ On Blue

Freeway’s “Alright” off Philadelphia Freewayinstrumental version too

Marco Polo’s “Relax” off Port Authority

Joy Jones’ “Over” off GodChild Directed

Rell’s “Real Love” (Single produced by Kanye West)
Other Links:

More about Ronnie Foster’s career

More on Sampling as an industry practice

Academic brief on Sampling

Ref: Wayne Shorter’s Footprints from Adam’s Apple (Blue Note ca 1966)








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