Berry Jones | Tonight

3 08 2010

This album from Philly-based Berry Jones is an extremely refreshing release from some young new talent. Tonight is a collection of works that honors two musical legends who spent their careers perfecting the art of the dance song: Quincy Jones and Berry Gordy. Released on a format I happen to think is ideal for today’s consumers (LP w/ free MP3 download), it’s one of my top Summer picks that will surely be great for late night parties and lazy beach days alike.

As I said, all of the music was conceived as an homage to two of leader Jim Thomas’ musical heroes. Creating something that stands up to such visionaries is quite a tall task but Thomas does it with great reverence while being sure to inject his own youthful sensibilities into the mix. The album is separated (rightfully so) into an A Side & B Side, true to vinyl form. The A side tends to showcase the aesthetic and appeal of mid-80’s Quincy Jones. Throughout you’ll hear all the electronic synthesized tendencies that ooze so tastefully from those great Michael Jackson albums of the era, along with a pulse that undeniably makes you want to move. The opening track “Bouffant Bangout” is, perhaps, the best tune on this side as it’s inclusive of all the elements that made Quincy an icon. “Philly Night” is also a standout but it’s difficult to narrow them down as each song has it’s own unique thing happening and all are equally enjoyable. The B Side is full of tunes that bring back that propulsive Motown sound. Wisely, Thomas doesn’t try to recreate the sound of Gordy’s famous Studio A. Instead, he focuses on the power of those old R&B  arrangements from yesteryear. It’s a style that has nearly been forgotten by young musicians but Thomas seems to be a long time fan who grew up listening to old Detroit soul music. Fittingly, there is a little inspiration from the Sweet Philly Soul days as well. As a native to the Philly area, it would be hard to ignore such influences like Jackie Wilson, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and even The O’Jays. As evidenced by songs like “Baby, Baby” and “Work It Out”, he definitely has a firm grasp on this 60’s soul thing. But, what is most interesting to me is how the sound and style of the contemporary singer/songwriter at the heart of Thomas’ solo work blends so smoothly with the material on this entire album. By design, it’s a concept album but in execution it’s much more. Each song is a testament to something old but they all seem so relevant and relatable for young audiences. As an album, it proves to be very accessible and may be just what the doctor ordered for the tail end of this long, hot Summer.

Here are a few of my favorites songs to sample:

“Bouffant Bangout”

“Philly Night”

“Baby, Baby”

“Work It Out”

These guys are pretty cool live too, although  as of lately you can only catch them in the local Philly area. Here is a video I captured from a pre-release gig a few months back. Right on par with Thomas’ typical musical tastes, they do a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s classic “Move On Up”. They were a horn or two short that night but the energy is still all there…

Below are some links to learn more about the album, artist and this interesting side project. Of course,  you will also find a link to sample the album and purchase it in either vinyl or digital format.

References:

Purchase Tonight Online

The Official Berry Jones Site

Berry Jones on Facebook

Berry Jones on MySpace

Berry Jones on YouTube

Blue Floor Records Site

Blue Floor Records on MySpace

More info on Quincy Jones

More info on Berry Gordy





The Black Keys | Brothers

8 06 2010

A week or two ago I picked up the latest Black Keys album Brothers. For those not familiar with the band, they’re a blues-rock duo consisting of vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney. Formed in 2001, they have 7 full length albums to their credit plus some EPs and collaborations. At this stage in their career I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. In recent years they have become wildly popular, receiving accolades as one of a hand full of true rock bands on the scene. In the last 5 years their music has even been used in movie soundtracks, on TV and in video games. Such success can often be a double-edged sword. On one hand, this means access to some better industry resources, including studio collaborators like high profile producers or guest artists. But on the other hand, such widespread acclaim and reverence can also heavily dilute the music.

After numerous listens (I always give it the proper due diligence), I’m a afraid I must give Brothers mixed reviews. I’m really glad to see the guys have moved on from the same old sound of their first few albums. I really appreciate that raw, simplicity-is-key, blues-based aesthetic but have thought that most of their past material sounds very much the same. So much so that if you were to put all their songs on a playlist and hit shuffle, it would be hard for anyone who’s not a fan to tell if they’ve heard a song twice. However, Brothers is a venture that showcases their ability to create something a little different. There is no absence of the root of their sound but it is now developed just a bit further. Some songs are simply embellished with bigger multi-track arrangements while others feature a more complex structure at the core. Not all are winners but it’s refreshing to hear a more distinct progression in their music. On all of their albums The Black Keys always seem to produce at least one standout that shines a bit brighter than the rest. Brothers is no exception. “Tighten Up”, which is the albums single, is without a doubt the best song. It’s a fantastic tune that is still very rough around the edges and yet is very catchy featuring a great hook and syncopated beat. The B Side to the “Tighten Up” single is “Howlin’ For You”, which is also very catchy but I have a hard time really getting in to it. If I had to pick a few other songs that rise to the top, I would definitely select “I’m Not The One”. It’s a very cool tune that sounds a bit like an updated Traffic song. Digging deeper into the cuts, I would go with “Ten Cent Pistol” and “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The former is a blues soaked beauty, while the latter takes it’s musical cues from the world of late 60’s soul. Both are refreshing takes on the status quo.

Below is the video for “Tighten Up”. It will likely be on every playlist I create this summer… and perhaps beyond. They did a great job with this video too. The music is very fitting for what transpires…

Here is “Ten Cent Pistol”. It’s no fancy high quality/high priced, studio produced video like “Tighten Up” but at least you can get a taste of the song.

References:

The Black Keys Official Site

The Black Keys YouTube Channel

More info on The Black Keys

More info on Dan Auerbach

More info on Patrick Carney

Purchase Online:

Buy Brothers on Amazon

Buy Brothers on iTunes





NEW! Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

12 04 2010

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings just released a new album this past week. Recorded for Daptone Records in their modest Bushwick (Brooklyn, NY) studio, the new album, I Learned The Hard Way, continues the tradition of beat heavy, groove-based soul music reminiscent of that which was coming out of Stax and Motown in the 60’s & 70’s. Not only does the material bring you back to this amazing era in American music but the sound of the recording is true to the classics. Recorded on a Ampex 8-track tape machine in Daptone’s analog studio, it’s remarkable how great this album sounds. There is an amazing  warmth and richness to it that harkens back to the old days of real soul music. As good as the songs and performances are the sound of the recording is truly the standout for me. I’m a sucker for that old school sound and there are very few folks out there today who are able to capture it so well. This album is available on vinyl too so you can really appreciate the nuances of what they are doing out there in Bushwick. That being said, when it comes to the material and performance Sharon and the gang did not take this 4th studio effort lightly. I Learned The Hard Way is without a doubt among their best releases thus far. Between this and their previous (2007) album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, it’s a close call.

The whole album makes for a great listen all the way through but I particularly like the title track “I Learned The Hard Way” as well as “Better Things”, “Mama Don’t Like My Man” and the bonus track “He Said I Can”. I was surprised to see that there is an instrumental on here given Sharon is such a presence in this sound, but I really dig it… it’s called “The Reason”.

“I Learned the Hard Way”

“Better Things”

https://thegreengorilla.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/03-better-things.mp3%20

“Mama Don’t Like My Man”

https://thegreengorilla.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/12-mama-dont-like-my-man.mp3%20

“He Said I Can”

https://thegreengorilla.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/13-he-said-i-can-bonus-track.mp3%20

“The Reason”

GG fans may already know I’ve been into Sharon & The Dap Kings and Daptone Records for years. For those that are not regulars, you can take a look at an earlier post on Sharon  and the boys HERE. There is also some more really cool Daptone stuff HERE.

If you want to learn more about Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings visit their site. Once there, you can sample music, check out tour dates and learn more about the band and the label. You can also buy their albums on CD, LP or MP3… which ever suits your needs: www.sharonjonesandthedapkings.com.

Here is a link to a PBS interview that showcases Sharon’s amazing personality and offers a little background on the band, the label and music. : Sharon on PBS





She & Him | Vol. II

26 03 2010

I just picked up the new She & Him album, Volume II, which came out earlier this week. For those that are not familiar, “She” is actress/musician extraordinaire Zooey Deschanel and “Him” is indie rock impresario M. Ward. She is not just an actress but also a gifted vocalist as seen in a few of her films. What most people don’t realize is that She also knows her way around the piano and banjo. M. Ward has made a name for himself with his own work but decided to partner with Deschanel after a chance meeting on set. She told him that She has been writing and recording demos for years but never thought much of doing anything with them. Soon after, She sent those recordings to Him and with a little tinkering they had Volume I. I have to be honest, I prefer M. Ward’s solo material to this… but only slightly. I think it’s because She & Him is a bit more alt country/indie folk than indie rock but it’s great nonetheless. I particularly like Vol. II. Below is the first single from the new album, “In The Sun”.

This is “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here” from last year’s Volume I.

*She & Him doing “I Put A Spell On You” live at LA’s Disney Concert Hall… great version of this classic song but, the recording is abbreviated as the taper was interrupted by a pesky usher and forced to stop filming.

* Zooey doing the War tune “Why Can’t We Be Friends” from the movie, The Bridge To Teribithia.

Fun Bio from the She & Him site

Find more on the official She & Him website

Volume II on iTunes

Vol I & Vol II on Amazon.com

PS- See the comments section of this post for a more comprehensive review… I guess I wasn’t feeling it until prompted by a really well informed peer and good friend PBeat & J.  ~GG





*Update: MGMT | Congratulations

23 03 2010

It turns out the new MGMT album, Congratulations, has been leaked in full. This time it was not deliberate. It was probably some insider slip that is now causing total chaos in the Columbia offices. Since it is now out there in the ether, the band wants to be the one’s to bring it you. As they say on their site, they wanted to make it available for download but the suits wouldn’t have it given their lack of understanding of the ever-evolving profit model of the music industry. So as a consolation, MGMT has posted the entire album to stream from their site instead. It’s a fair trade-off. I have only had one listen and so far, so good. They are really playing around with some different clichés on this one. Oddly, there are some surprising moments of Motown. I otherwise stand by my initial conclusion… very Bowie. That said, they do mix in some more traditional psychedelic rock elements from the 60’s psychedelia era as well as some disco-esque tendencies. There is some downtempo stuff too though. It’s kind of all over the place but not too disjointed. Purely based on titles, I wanted to really like “Brian Eno” given I’m an Eno fan, but it’s not as much of a standout as I would have hoped. It’s a decent tune (with some very interesting lyrical and musical references) but not the best on the album. So far, I’m really liking the title track “Congratulations” and “Someone’s Missing”.

Ok. So, this is how it works. Go to the MGMT site: www.whoismgmt.com. Once there, you will see the tracks listed above the fold. Just click the “play” triangle on the first track and let it rip. It’s really nice that they play continuously so you can leave it running in the background while you do other things. Enjoy!








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