Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Insanely good instrumental afrobeat/funk/soul from Menahan Street Band

Today I hope to turn you on to a kind of supergroup. The Menahan Street Band is an 11-piece instrumental ensemble featuring an absolutely sick lineup with members of Antibalas, El Michels Affair, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and the Budos Band. Yeah, go back and read that list again. It’s crazy. In 2007, Thomas Brenneck of the Dap Kings pulled the guys together for this project, which released their debut album, “Make the Road by Walking,” in 2008.

The album's name was inspired by a community center below founding member Thomas Brenneck's apartment in Brooklyn.

If you are familiar with the bands these guys come from, you can imagine the sound they achieve. They pretty much meet at the dead center of the Dap Kings’ new soul, Budos Band’s funk, and Antibalas’ afrobeat sound. They sometimes lean one way or the other and even stray into jazz occasionally, but by and large it is an interesting exploration of the intersection of those three sounds. Fellow Brooklynite Jay-Z sampled the title track for his hit “Roc Boys (and the Winner is…).” Oddly, Rolling Stone Magazine declared the Jay-Z song the #1 single of 2007, but “Make the Road by Walking” was released in October of 2008 so I’m not sure how that happened. Apparently, the single was released before the rest of the album or something.

Anyway, the music is unpolished but accomplished, funky, and beautiful. Check out my 4 favorites.

  • Make the Road by Walking – Flanged guitar and glockenspiel create an oozy groove for the horns to play around in. After a mellow intro, it jumps up into an energetic passage that you would expect from Antibalas.
  • Home Again! – This features a pleasing horns melody and percussion that reminds me of ‘Groovin’’ by The Young Rascals.
  • Karina – The Band gets a little more jazz-oriented on this track and the result is wonderful. Clearly, these guys are all monsters on their instruments, but they all lay back in service of the song, trying not to be too flashy.
  • Birds – Delicate keyboards back up fat (or maybe even phat) and ambitious horns. You can occasionally hear the trumpet miss a note, but they’ve left it in to keep the spontaneous, first-take feel of the sessions.

All of these guys have their own other things going on. I hope they had enough fun and success with this project to do another one.

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December 21, 2010 Posted by | Funk, R&B, Soul, World Music | Leave a comment

Rootsy R&B/Blues from G. Love and Special Sauce

G. Love (born Garret Dutton) formed Special Sauce in Philadelphia, PA in 1993. When you hear him speak or sing, he sounds like he would be a great guy to hang around with and maybe share a few beers. Their music is relaxed and bluesy, though they don’t confine their sound to the 8 or so traditional blues chord progressions. They incorporate R&B, soul, and some hip-hop influences into their sound. They play sloppy without sounding crappy. Their music is more about feel than polish. That gives them a lot of freedom musically to take chances and they do, usually to good effect.

The sauce is particularly special on this one.

In 1999, they released “Philadelphonic.” I have a friend who is a huge G. Love fan – really rabid about him – but he isn’t crazy about this album. It might be his least favorite, in fact. For me, this is my favorite G. Love album I have heard. I like G. Love’s loose and sloppy sound, but on “Philadelphonic” the production is tighter and the grooves are catchier. There is infectious joy in a lot of the songs and I always like hearing songs from this album come on. Check out my favorites.

  • No Turning Back – This is a great opener with the percussion and stand up bass intro. The energy is great and it really gets you up for the rest of the album
  • Dreamin’ – “Dreams are like fish: you got to keep on reelin’.” A great R&B/funk riff is spiced with singing rap and a bit of scratching.
  • Rodeo Clowns – Jack Johnson wrote this song and eventually released it himself on 2003’s “On and On.” I like this version he did with G. Love in 1999 better.
  • Numbers – For all the sloppiness of the guitars, the vocals are polished and beautiful.
  • Do It for Free – The best part of this song is the warm harmony vocals at the chorus, but for some reason they don’t get to it on this sample.
  • Kick Drum – This is a peaceful groove with sweet harmony vocals and foul lyrics (almost).

G. Love played a part in the rise of Jack Johnson after they became friends when surfing. I actually haven’t heard their last two albums, released in 2008 and 2009. Hearing this stuff again makes me want to look them up.

http://www.philadelphonic.com/



October 18, 2010 Posted by | Blues, Popular, R&B, Rock, Soul | 2 Comments

The Friday mix: Old school love songs

Back in May, I compiled a mix of Songs for the Dumped. Kind of a sad topic, but I thought it was a pretty good mix. I may return to the topic too because I only had to go through about half of my music to find those tracks. I probably have another mix that size waiting to be plucked from my collection. Today, however, I want to go in the opposite direction and bring you a collection of love songs for the start of your next relationship.

See? That's what I'm talking about

People are still writing great love songs today, obviously, but to my mind nothing sets a romantic mood like old love songs.  I’ve pulled together some 50s, 60s, and 70s R&B, a few 40s crooning tunes, and some newer stuff that borrows heavily from these traditions.

If you’ve ever seen As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, this mix is like Nicholson’s tape labeled “For Emergencies Only.” Use it with care.

  • Satisfy My Soul – Paul Carrack
    This was the only song I could pick to kick off the mix. Carrack’s wailing, heartfelt intro is perfect and the gentle percussion, plucking, and harmony vocals set a nice mood.
  • Make It Good to Me – Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
    The Kings lay down a nice groove for Jones to sing about love and longing. The arrangement is great, with oozy horns and sweet strings.
  • Give It Everything – Al Green
    The Reverend also got a spot on my Dumped mix. What can I say? The man sings straight to your heart. Love the horns, too, of course.
  • Sure Hope You Mean It – Raphael Saadiq
    The album this comes from was one of my very first posts when I started this blog. This Motown revival song has a wonderful vibe.
  • I’ll Come Running Back to You – Sam Cooke
    Cooke was great at crafting evocative songs like this one (remember ‘Chain Gang?’). This sweet love song is from 1957.
  • At Last – Etta James
    I have recommended this song before, but I simply can’t put together a mix like this without including one of the most beautiful, stirring love songs ever.
  • I Only Have Eyes for You – The Flamingos
    This 1934 song has been covered by Al Jolson, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Bette Midler, The Temptations, Jamie Cullum, Frank Sinatra, Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, and that’s not even half the list. The winner, though, is this unforgettable version by The Flamingos.
  • Fool for You – Branford Marsalis & The Impressions
    Curtis Mayfield’s original is great, but I really like the update Marsalis puts on this song. It’s got funky percussion and horns but the chorus still has beautiful piano and vocals.
  • Groove Me – King Floyd
    This song has a fun feel like the early days of a relationship, though he’s talking about marriage.
  • Love Makes the World Go Round – Deon Jackson
    It starts with light keyboards and almost whispered vocals, but horns and backing vocals dress up the great payoff pop hook at the chorus.
  • People Gonna Talk – James Hunter
    Like the Raphael Saadiq song above, this is a relatively new song with a throwback feel and, in fact, I wrote these two albums up on the same day.
  • Old Fashioned Way – Ken Boothe
    OK, so the lyrics are about heartbreak and loss, but it still fits the romantic mood, I think.
  • Knock Me a Kiss – Louis Jordan
    Jordan croons the goofy lyrics with the muted trumpet and brush snare behind him. It just can’t miss.
  • Groovin’ – The Rascals
    Another pretty simple song. Mostly harmonica, harmony vocals, tambourine, and a little piano but the lyrics are sunny and full of hope and promise.
  • Your Precious Love – Marvin Gaye
    Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell produced several great duets, but this one is far and away my favorite.
  • I Can’t Imagine – Aaron Neville
    I’m not usually a big Neville Brothers fan, but I found this one on the Truth About Cats and Dogs soundtrack and it is undeniably a winner. Aaron’s sweet alto is well suited to this kind of couples skate ballad.

Enjoy on the couch with a glass of wine for each of you. White wine, I think. Have a great weekend.

June 25, 2010 Posted by | Mix CD, Motown, Popular, R&B, Soul | 1 Comment

Bonnaroo 2010 recap: Saturday

Saturday is probably the most grueling day at Bonnaroo. Thursday starts late and ends early. The first few years, there wasn’t much music at all on Thursday. Now there is music, but it’s an abbreviated day. Friday is your first full day, with music going from noon to 4:00 AM, or thereabouts, but you’re still pretty fresh. Sunday starts at noon also, but ends at around 11:30 PM when the final headliner ends. But Saturday… You’re coming off a long Friday, you probably haven’t had much sleep, and it’s another noon to 4:00 AM day.

The weather varies from year to year, obviously. Some years it’s hot, dry, and dusty. Some years it’s rainy and muddy. This year we had rain the week before so people were setting up camp in some mud, but once the festival started there was no rain (except for a blessed 10 minutes on Saturday afternoon). Temperatures and humidity were both in the low 90s. You’re so sweaty and oily with sunscreen that your skin becomes flypaper for every particle of dust that wafts your way. There is a fountain for people to play in, but I think the same water flows in it all week, so you have to be pretty dirty for that water to actually make you cleaner. You can buy a shower for $7 or do the old shower-in-a-bottle between cars at the campsite. I have done both. Still, the crowd is all in it together and no one is there for comfort. It’s all about the music.

One of my companions knows The Melvins' road manager, Dave. We got backstage passes and met a variety of cool people.

I stayed in camp a little longer Saturday to rest (OK… and to drink) and headed for the venue shortly after noon. I caught a few minutes of Norah Jones. Jones is as talented as she is adorable but a lot of her music is a little too sleepy for me. I like the more upbeat, poppy direction she took on her latest album but the few live tracks I heard were very mellow. I was headed in search of larger game so I didn’t stay long.

The first full show I saw Saturday was Isis. If you aren’t familiar with this band out of Boston (via L.A.) they play metal that ranges from math rock to slowcore, reminiscent of Neurosis or Tool. They played a great set that was heavy and tight, which is why I was disappointed to discover the band has announced they are breaking up after this summer’s tour. If they have any dates left in your town, go check them out as it looks like they won’t be around in the fall.

Immediately following Isis on the same stage came The Melvins. This was apparently no accident because Isis and The Melvins are reportedly releasing a split EP together in July of 2010. The Melvins’ stage presence is strange. All four guys were in different dresses, from one of the drummers’ pizza print dress to the bass player’s 70s futuristic gown (think Logan’s Run or Battlestar Galactica) to lead singer King Buzzo’s black frock. I thought the set was just going to be heavy and weird. Well, it WAS heavy and weird, but it was also very engaging and extremely cool. I had never heard much from The Melvins, beyond what came up on some of my friend’s iPods, but I was much impressed and will start going through their 20+ years of albums (suggestions, anyone?).

I went from there to the main stage, where The Dead Weather was playing. This is Jack White’s (White Stripes, Raconteurs) new new band. The music on their debut album was good (I have but have not listened to the new album) and the performance was intense, but I couldn’t help wishing that the Raconteurs were playing again. In fairness, I only got to see a little bit of their show because I had to go see a personal favorite, Ozomatli. (whom I have written up more than once: here and here).

Ozomatli never disappoints. Amazing energy, individual talent, tight work as an ensemble, and great songs make this a danceable show every time. I was also delighted when Trombone Shorty (see my previous post) joined them on-stage. This was a highlight of the weekend for me.

I watched their entire show and then went to the great highlight of the entire week: Stevie Wonder. I have been excited about this show since the line-up came out. I thought I would never get a chance to see Stevie Wonder but the music gods smiled on me this year. Conan O’Brien introduced him, saying, “Let me get real serious for a moment. There is no one better than Stevie Wonder. I am honored – honored! – to be standing within 500 yards of this man. He has done it all.” I was glad Conan tried to give the kids some perspective and I couldn’t agree more.

Stevie, wearing a pure white dashiki, was led to his keyboard and the music began. He had 12 or 15 musicians on the stage with him and you know that to get the gig in Stevie’s band you have to be an absolute monster. The band were all great improvisers and tightly rehearsed. Stevie would occasionally call out, “Go to A flat!” or, “Go to E! Now F!” and the band never missed a beat or a note. The singers danced and Stevie sang with all the energy and fluid power you remember. He hasn’t lost a step. It was a celebration. He played songs spanning his entire career, including a few from my favorite, “Songs in the Key of Life.”

My only complaint about the whole show was that Stevie kept asking us to sing. Please, Stevie, don’t make us sing. You have almost as many Grammys as I have teeth. Please sing to me. I came here to hear you, not the drunk, off-key schmo next to me. Anyway, the show was amazing and all too short.

I ended my Saturday with a set from Thievery Corporation. Theivery Corp is ostensibly just DJs Rob Garza and Eric Hilton. However, they had a two-tiered stage filled with a variety of instrumentalists and singers. Their music touches dub, chillout, jazz, bossa nova, and other world influences. It was a cool set and I sank into the grass and relaxed after a long, hot day.

I had intended to write a single post covering Saturday and Sunday, but I think this is enough for today. I’ll cover Sunday tomorrow, though it was a short day and I only took in four shows.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Metal, Popular, R&B, reggae, Rock, Soul | 2 Comments

The Friday mix: gibberish

I got a twofer out of my iPod the other day that inspired me to make this mix. Sometimes I’m sure the words just flow off the pen for musicians. I’ve read interviews with musicians who say certain songs were just a gift from their muse and appeared fully formed in their heads. In other cases, I think the music is there, but they may not have much to say. Or perhaps they’re in a goofy mood and the song concept involves nonsense lyrics. Either way the songs today all involve titles – and sometimes entire songs – that are gibberish. I’m not sure how well this will hold together as a mix, but the individual tracks are all on my iPod and I like ‘em.

De do do do, de da da da is all I want to say to you.

  1. Gotta Jibboo – Phish
    This is from one of my favorite Phish albums, “Farmhouse.” The whole disc is full of fun, accessible songs with great grooves. I love it when the guys work in some horns.
  2. Hoodoo Voodoo – Billy Bragg & Wilco
    Crazy honky tonk music and lyrics that barely make sense. I think Woody Guthrie wrote these lyrics for his kids.
  3. Itche Koutche – Angelique Kidjo
    OK, so I’m sure Itche Koutche means something in Kidjo’s native tongue – I’m assuming not “itchy coochie” – but I don’t know what it means and it’s a cool song with great horn and vocal work.
  4. A Minha Menina – Band of Bees
    I’m not sure what language he’s singing in, but it sounds cohesive enough to be actual words, not scat. Still, it sounds a little silly and I love the Bees.
  5. Boo-Wah Boo-Wah – Cab Calloway
    The great Hi De Ho Man himself. What a brilliant bandleader. This one is as much fun as any of his songs with some great big band jazz.
  6. Mahna Mahna – Cake
    Maybe this version isn’t as funny as Jim Henson’s original, but it’s a brilliant choice for a cover and they have a lot of fun with it.
  7. Chamchu – Cornershop
    I’m pretty sure this means something in Hindi or Punjabi, but the way it is used in the song makes it seem a little nonsensical, so here it is. I was tickled that Cornershop came back with another album and particularly that it was this good.
  8. Ya Ya Ya (Looking for My Baby) – The Detroit Cobras
    She’s going to find her man and drag him back to town by the balls. I have to say I hope she doesn’t find the poor sap.
  9. Oo La La – Edie Brickell
    Yes, Brickell continued writing music after 1988 and she’s still a talented songwriter and musician.
  10. Bow Wow – The Fiery Furnaces
    The Furnaces’ music is hard to describe. It’s catchy and it grows on you.
  11. Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap  – Gabin
    What a great choice for an old jazz standard to regroove. They do a nice job with it too, layering the vocals and samples.
  12. Wah-Wah – George Harrison
    George wrote this while the Beatles were still together, but didn’t release it until “All Things Must Pass.” 4 out of 5 Internet commenters agree that this song is about fighting with Paul.
  13. Fa Fa – Guster
    I just realized I’ve never written up this great album, but I’m going to next week. “You’re always saying something you swear you’ll never say again. Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa. Never be the same again.”
  14. Izzy Izzy Ahh – Missy Elliott
    Misdemeanor and Timbaland are like peanut butter and jelly: they’re both good doing their own thing, but together they are more than the sum of their parts.
  15. Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz – Mr. Bungle
    This is the weirdest song on this mix. Maybe the weirdest song on my iPod. I can’t even explain why I have it. Something this strange and creative just reaches me. This sample barely scratches the surface of this song’s many distinct parts. You can hear a somewhat different demo version here, but be aware of the profanity in this version.
  16. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) – Otis Redding
    The King of Soul died in a plane crash at just 26 years of age. You hear the expressiveness of his voice in a track like this one and you realize what a loss it was.
  17. Uh, Zoom Zip – Soul Coughing
    I freaking LOVE Soul Coughing, so even though this isn’t my favorite of theirs, it gives me another chance to spread the word.
  18. Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day – Stevie Wonder
    No longer Little Stevie Wonder, we get a little Motown from Stevie Wonder, the man, in 1968.
  19. Zwing Ting – The Streamers
    Bending strings and horns, heavily sampled vocals, and a cool beat make this chillout track interesting to the ear.

Enjoy with a Tim’s Ridiculous Concoction (beer, ice cream, vanilla, and tomato juice), or something else that makes no sense whatsoever. Have a great weekend.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Jam Bands, Jazz, Mix CD, Motown, Popular, Rock, Soul, World Music | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Songs of war and peace in honor of our veterans

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone. I couldn’t quite get the Friday mix posted yesterday, so here it is a day late.

I am grateful for the work done and sacrifices made by our armed forces. While I don’t always agree with the way and places they are deployed, I recognize that the life I live would not be possible without the work they do. In honor of Memorial Day, I have compiled a mix of songs about soldiers, war, and peace.

Sincere thanks.

Of course, the world would be a better place if no one needed armed forces and many of these songs are of a protest nature. I appreciate what they do, but I think we can all agree that it would be better not to have to send soldiers into harm’s way in the first place.

  1. Both Sides of the Gun – Ben Harper
    This song is a protest specifically against the Iraq War. He talks about an archaic doctrine that no longer serves us and brings a war that can’t be won.
  2. Goodnight Saigon – Billy Joel
    A powerful song that follows marines from training to deployment in the Viet Nam War.
  3. War Pigs – Cake
    The Black Sabbath classic covered in Cake’s droll indie-funk style.
  4. Spanish Bombs – The Clash
    I have no doubt that this is the catchiest, happiest sounding song about the Spanish Civil War (‘36 – ’39) ever written.
  5. Running Gun Blues – David Bowie
    Some seriously old school Bowie from “The Man Who Sold the World.” It’s about a soldier who has completely lost it and sneaks out at night to kill more civilians after peace has been declared. No disrespect intended to our honorable veterans. The song is cool.
  6. Whine & Grine / Stand Down Margaret – The English Beat
    OK, so the first half of this song is just a ska song about a girl, but the second half is a protest song asking Margaret Thatcher not to start World War III.
  7. It’s a Mistake – Men at Work
    Colin Hay tells a tale of accidental war a la Dr. Strangelove, and points out that the casualties are just as dead, regardless of why a conflict starts.
  8. World Wide Suicide – Pearl Jam
    Eddie Vedder said of this song, “It’s about [Pat Tillman] and a bunch of the guys who didn’t get as much coverage—the guys who barely got a paragraph instead of ten pages.”
  9. Goodbye Blue Sky – Pink Floyd
    This song about the aftermath of war is beautiful and chilling.
  10. Us and Them – The Easy Star Allstars
    This is from the brilliant reggae cover of the Pink Floyd classic. It isn’t so much a protest song as much as a discussion of the causes and senselessness of war. The Allstars do a fantastic job with it.
  11. People Get Ready – Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Phoebe Snow
    The classic peace ballad by The Impressions given a gentle and soulful treatment with the incomparable vocals of Ladysmith.
  12. What the Fuck Are We Saying? – Lenny Kravitz
    Another plea for peace and sanity, this time from my favorite of Kravitz’s album, “Mama Said.”
  13. Melt the Guns – XTC
    This is a weird as anything XTC has done, and that’s saying something.
  14. Don’t Kill – Hammel on Trial
    Hammel is from Syracuse, NY and he plays a lot of smart, funny songs. Here’s a heartfelt protest song that absolutely rocks.
  15. One World (Not Three) – The Police
    Sure Sting can get preachy, but this one has a sunny melody, a great positive message, and horns.
  16. Peace – Los Lobos
    Los Lobos are in my top 5 favorite bands, largely because David Hidalgo is an incredible songwriter. I love the heavy acoustic groove and the lyrics are inspiring.
    Enjoy with a glass of iced lemonade to kick off your summer. Have a great long weekend.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Mix CD, Popular, punk, reggae, Rock, Soul | Leave a comment

Sick instrumental afro-soul from The Budos Band

A friend sent me a text the other day that said simply, “Check out Budos Band.” This friend, Dave, likes bluegrass and roots music a whole lot more than I do, but he knows where my tastes run and when he tells me to check something out, it is usually worth my time. I picked up “The Budos Band II.”

Kudos to the Budos.

I hadn’t read anything about the band, but I was expecting something in the jam band space, given that Dave wouldn’t recommend bluegrass to me but he does like The Dead, Black Crowes, Phish, etc. as much as anyone I know. I was not expecting what I got. The Budos Band plays instrumental funk with American roots (they are from Staten Island, NY) but influenced by east African music (Ethiopian). They remind me a lot of The Daktaris, another New York based instrumental funk group I included in my write-up of some soul revival music.

The band has eleven members and occasionally as many as 13, apparently. They play guitar, organ, several flavors of percussion and lots and lots of horns. And these guys blow hard. The sound is big and the beats are late 60s funky. The melodies can be complex, or at least long, and the soloing is right in the pocket. A dozen guys can make a lot of sound and they all seem to be very talented individually. I ripped 5 of the disc’s 10 tracks. Check these out.

  • Ride or Die – Buzzing keyboards, and clean, spare guitar set the backdrop for a broad horns melody. Watch out for the outstanding baritone sax solo about 2 1/2 minutes in
  • Mas O Menos – The percussion and guitar a busier in this track and once the main line has been laid down, the trumpet and baritone sax take turns getting nasty with the groove.
  • Adeniji – Budos brings the energy down a bit for this one, but it still gives me happy feet. I like a flute solo and this song is a perfect place for it.
  • King Cobra – They take the energy down another notch for this one with percussion that would be at home on a Carlos Santana album and a horns melody that could be late-Connery era bond music.
  • Origin of Man – The chord progression has a Middle Eastern feel to it and the guitar and keyboards have an oozy feel.

The Budos Band put out an album before and since this one. I plan on picking them up. I will be interested to see where they came from on their first album and where they are headed now.

http://thebudos.com/

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Jazz, Soul | Leave a comment

Extraorinary new soul music compiled by iTunes

I enjoy the process of finding new music. I like trawling through the library stacks looking for likely candidates. I like spinning a disc with no idea what might be on it. It’s like opening a birthday present. I like stumbling on the one good track on a mediocre album. I enjoy discovering that the artist I’m listening to was in another band I know. Sometimes I’ll pick up a disc based simply on who produced it. I enjoy the legwork. That’s why I do this.

Soul is back.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice when someone else does the heavy lifting for me. That’s why I often listen to movie soundtracks. Some are scattered, but a lot of them have a consistent feel all the way through and you can sometimes find a soundtrack with great songs from 7 or 8 obscure artists. Compilations are even better for this, pulling together a bunch of songs with a consistent sound. That’s why when I saw that iTunes was offering a compilation album for free download via FaceBook, I figured I would give it a shot.

I would say 80% of the free music offered on iTunes doesn’t do a thing for me. Eh, what do you want for nothing? That’s why I downloaded “Songs from the House of Soul” and sat on it for a few weeks before I listened to the music. I mention this because the free download has apparently expired. Truly, I’m sorry about that because I would have loved to send you off to get this collection free. Instead, I can only tell you that the collection blew me away and encourage you to go find these artists. The songs are truth in music form, full of aching sadness, iron tenacity, and musical joy.

I kept 7 of the tracks from this collection, 3 of which are by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Listen to and watch these.

I haven’t really been plugged into the soul revival movement, but if this collection is representative of what’s being done, I will range around some more in search of these and similar artists.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Popular, R&B, Soul | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: songs for the dumped

It comes to us all at some time in our lives. The end of a relationship you didn’t want to end. It’s a sick and helpless feeling and a sad time. Plus the older the relationship is, the harder and more complicated the process is. Still, there’s nothing to do but carry on. As Janeane Garofalo noted, “You can’t argue your way out of dumped.”

Ouch.

At times in my life when I have felt hurt and lonely, I have found sympathy, camaraderie, forgetfulness, and healing through music. Here are some songs that might help you through a tough breakup, if they don’t make you want to stick a fork in your neck.

  1. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? – Al Green
    When you’re mourning the end of a relationship, you don’t want bouncy, happy music. You want the reverend to tell you how it is.
  2. Love Is a Losing Game – Amy Winehouse (featuring Mos Def)
    Winehouse is a woman who has had some love troubles and though you might not think Mos Def would fit in well with her sound, it’s an inspired pairing.
  3. Breakin’ Down – Ben Harper
    There’s a certain joy to Harper’s music, even when the lyrics are as heartbreaking as these.
  4. Bad Luck City – R.L. Burnside
    “It’s a problem when you love them womens and they don’t love you.” The great R.L. Burnside wails and moans, his guitar cries right along with him, and somehow you feel better.
  5. I Miss You – Blink 182
    This is the only Blink 182 song I like. I don’t think it’s about a breakup, but it is about missing someone.
  6. Again and Again – Bob Mould
    This is the sound of marriage breaking up. The song is heart wrenchingly honest and beautiful.
  7. Sideways – Citizen Cope
    “Whenever you come around me these feelings won’t go away. They been knocking me sideways. I keep thinking in a moment that time will take them away. But these feelings won’t go away.” Well spoken, sir.
  8. Coast – Eliza Gilkyson
    I believe Gilkyson wrote this song after the death of her father, but it’s about taking some time for yourself to figure out your feelings are and what is next.
  9. I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello
    If there’s anything harder than losing someone, it’s losing someone to someone else. The black humor with which Costello meets this makes it a little easier.
  10. Knowing Me Knowing You – The Lemonheads
    Turns out this is a good song, but I didn’t realize it because I don’t like Abba. Dando and company do a good job with it, though.
  11. Let It Die – Foo Fighters
    The Foos rock, so you can viscerally feel the anger behind the lyrics in this song.
  12. And the World Turned – Gabe Dixon
    I have written up Gabe Dixon before. He is a gifted piano player and songwriter who respectfully declined an offer to tour in Paul McCartney’s band. This song is about turning the corner after a hard breakup.
  13. Find Another Girl – The Hives
    This song is a bit goofy, but it’s somehow uplifting just the same.
  14. Guess I’m Doing Fine – Beck
    Beck wrote this album in the aftermath of a breakup so it’s full of emotional songs of loss and recovery. He is a real craftsman, too, so it’s not the quirky fun of “Odelay.”
  15. Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
    The lyrics to this song have it all: the knowledge of something special going away, the lingering desire, the sadness, the anger… and it’s a beautiful song to boot.
  16. Divorce Song – Liz Phair
    Disentangling from an entrenched relationship is fraught with unexpected complications, like the ones Phair encounters in this song.
  17. Always See Your Face – Love
    John Cusack turned me on to this gem about being unable to escape the memories of a loved one who is gone.
  18. Song for the Dumped – Ben Folds Five
    Simply the best breakup song ever written. God bless Ben Folds.

Enjoy with 6 or 7 salty gin and tonics. Have a great weekend.

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Blues, Classic Rock, Country, Hard Rock, Hip Hop, Indie, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, Rock, Soul | 4 Comments

The Friday Mix: Deep and passionate rock from Ben Harper

For the Friday mix today I want to do one of my favorite things: make a mix of the best of a single artist. Today I hope to turn any stragglers on to Ben Harper. Harper is a phenomenal guitar player, a brilliant songwriter, a strong singer, and an electrifying presence on stage.

Aaaaa! I'm so talented it hurts!

I’ve been lucky enough to see him numerous times as an opening act, as a headliner, and at festivals. If you haven’t seen him, don’t miss your next opportunity; he puts on a great show and his band is amazing. If you haven’t listened to his music somehow, start buying them one at a time (so you have a chance to digest each one before the next).

I will confess I don’t have all of his albums, so this mix is just my favorites from what I know. If I’ve missed something that you feel strongly about, feel free to let me know.

  1. Breakin’ Down – From his second album, “Welcome to the Cruel World,” this has a great up-tempo energy.
  2. How Many Miles Must We March – Harper is a passionate man with strong opinions on issues of race, equality, and freedom. This is one of his earliest anthems.
  3. Faded – The opening track on the first Ben Harper album I ever bought. I love the way he will play an absolutely ripping guitar riff, but sing gently and sweetly.
  4. Homeless Child – The album is well sequenced, and this track follows ‘Faded’ perfectly. In fact, I knitted the two together in my collection because I am so used to them coming up together on the CD.
  5. Roses from my Friends – The lyrics to this song are beautiful and my understanding is they relate the feelings of a middle eastern man who is facing some corporal punishment – being placed in stocks, which some people don’t survive – for sharing banned books. On his way to the stocks, he says goodbye to his family. Stones are thrown at him by his enemies, which doesn’t affect him much, but he is heartbroken by his friends giving him roses.
  6. The Will To Live – Great bass work in this song and, of course, the guitar work is superlative.
  7. Mama’s Trippin’ – This might be my favorite track on this album. The funky horns make me think of something off of Lenny Kravitz’s “Let Love Rule.”
  8. Steal My Kisses – The second Harper album I got was “Burn to Shine” and it contains this, my daughter’s favorite  Harper song. It’s a fun feel-good tune, too.
  9. Forgiven – There are only live versions of this one on YouTube, but I’m sending you there anyway. You get a good look at his setup on this one. He usually has a big area rug down and a comfy chair to sit in while he plays slide guitar. Oh, and the song utterly rocks.
  10. Burn One Down – What a pleasant, peaceful tune. And you know what? It’s just possible that Harper is a fan of cannabis. “Herb is a gift from the Earth and what’s from the Earth is of the greatest worth. So before you knock it, try it first and you’ll see it’s a blessing and it’s not a curse. If you don’t like my fire, then don’t come around ‘cos I’m gonna burn one down.”
  11. Ground on Down – You may have read some of these song descriptions without following the links, but this one is not to be missed, particularly with the fabulous video they made for it.
  12. With My Own Two Hands – Whenever I hear that song by John Mayer, “Waitin’ for the World to Change,’ I think of this song in which Harper proclaims, “I can change the world with my own two hands.” The inspiring message is right at home in this reggae groove.
  13. Diamonds on the Inside – Pop genius with a guitar hook so fat you may have to change your screen resolution to watch the video.
  14. Everything – This is a pretty, up-tempo love song but he has a gift for lyrics and avoids sounding cliché. “The colors of your garden, they’re yellow, blue, and green. And the sound of your sweet voice, it’s better than all my dreams.”
  15. Better Way – This is off Harper’s 2006 release, “Both Sides of the Gun.” He chooses some interesting harmonies and rocks a little sitar for this one.
  16. Please Don’t Talk About Murder While I’m Eating – Another great rocker and it has a different feel from a lot of his older stuff. Harper continues to grow and stretch. This is a live performance, but it the studio version isn’t any tighter.
  17. Take My Hand – Harper put together a gospel project with The Blind Boys of Alabama in 2004 called “There Will Be a Light.” It’s a brilliant pairing. Forgive the narcissistic photo montage somebody put up with this song. It’s the only studio version of this song on YouTube. I’m not gay, but if I was…
  18. Strawberry Fields – Harper contributed this one to the great “I Am Sam” soundtrack. It’s not very far from The Beatles’ arrangement but he handles this with a delicate touch and keeps it moving and lyrical.

Alright I’m going to stop now, but I have many more on my iPod. If you haven’t delved into Harper’s catalog, I hope this list inspires you to do so. Enjoy this with a fine wine that has improved with age. Have a great weekend.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Jam Bands, Popular, R&B, reggae, Rock, Soul | Leave a comment