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





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





People Make the World Go Around

2 04 2010

CTI LogoThis is a great tune from legendary vibraphonist Milt Jackson’s CTI album Sunflower. The 70’s Philly Soul/R&B group, The Stylistics, originally wrote this song but this one is so good you might as well forget the original ever existed. The title of the album is an abbreviated take on what might be considered the title track, Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower”. Freddie plays trumpet and flugelhorn on this album as this was in the prime period of CTI when he was a regular on most of the sessions. Joining Milt and Freddie is a phenomenal line up of Herbie Hancock on piano & Fender Rhodes, Ron Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums. Although there are some string & horn arrangements by Don Sebesky and acoustic guitar from Jay Berliner, this song is one of the more straight forward tunes on the record that is stripped down to just the quintet. It’s for the better because they have all the room they need to stretch out and have fun with it. The entire album is absolute perfection. In my opinion, it’s not just Jackson’s best CTI album, it’s probably the greatest of his incredible career… Not to mention the album cover is super cool. The whole album is a perfect representation of the CTI aesthetic.

There are a few covers of “People Make The World Go Round”, including one by the Jackson 5 but the only one that is even close to Milt’s is this cool version by lesser known Jamaican reggae singer Hortense Ellis. Hortense is the younger sister of the more popular Alton Ellis, so it’s no surprise it’s so good.

The Stylistics original “People Make The World Go Round”

The Jackson 5’s version

References:

More info on Sunflower from AllAboutJazz

More info on Milt Jackson from AllAboutJazz

More info on The Stylistics

More info about Hortense Ellis








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