Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #192

Aloha, and welcome to the 192nd edition of you know what. You know what, right?

YEAH, THE RUN-OFF GROOVE, WHOO-HOOOOOO!!! I am me, and you know who... eh.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The Run-Off Groove, in conjunction with Shanachie Records, is giving you have a chance to win a copy of Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Police, featuring new interpretations of classic Police songs by Horace Andy, Inner Circle, Junior Reid, Toots & The Maytals, The Wailing Souls, and even Joan Osborne. I reviewed the album in Run-Off Groove #190, and I think the album is worthy of many listens. Click the following link and enter right now:

  • Before I start things, there was news today that drummer Buddy Miles died this morning at the age of 60. This was a guy that was a powerhouse on everything he played, and not only played mean, but looked cool when he did it too. Expressway To Your Skull was my favorite album by the man, the cover used to scare the crap out of me. It wasn't the distorted photo of Miles, but those damn skulls that were found in the title's lettering. If any of you have never heard this man's work, hunt his albums down. Buy the Band Of Gypsys album, that should be in every collection, rent or buy the DVD. Understand why this man's passing is a great loss in the world of music. Rest in peace.

  • Begin? We must.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us This is not Lorna Doom of The Germs fame, but Lorna Doom, two happy and funky white guys from Providence, Rhode Island who like to twist hip-hop into shapes unknown. The Diabolical EP (Corleone) is a brief look into what these guys are about, which is mixing and arranging various beats of known and unknown origin, sometimes changing the texture and mood a number of times in the same song. Over that are lyrics that are twisted and, from the outside, odd, but upon listening and understanding, you'll realize that beyond the dope doodoo rhymes are hints of intelligence:

    Another caucazoid annoyed at the void
    In culture in white boys brought up playing Asteroids
    Genealogies and my family tree is free in the breeze
    Got the whole culture on its knees
    My skin's a birthright that I don't accept
    Nonetheless, white still moves first in chess
    Who's the best? I confess, I vote for Deep Blue
    22 divided by 7
    Never clean sheve, 3.14
    What's the score? Pro-war fanatics antics got me
    Panic stricken, manic, sick and tired
    Of guns fired and lives expired
    Satire's too easy and inappropriate
    Disassociate myself and exfoliate

    If it wasn't for the funky loops, it could easily be one of those great songs you'd find on a punk 7", where someone feels isolated from the rest of the world, feels like an outsider, yet seeks the music that gives him inspiration to carry on and make it to the next level. A track like "How Cool Can Two White Kids Be?/Playa Hatin' (Player Hating)" is their way of saying that they are true to the music, and as different as some might hear it, they're struggling like anyone else and are willing to prove themselves by going on the road for a world tour, if need be.

    Lorna Doom have no dance routines, no flashy grills, and aren't about snappy choruses. It's dorky and nerdy, but not in a cLOUDDEAD or Reaching Quiet sort of way, it's hip-hop 98 percent of the time, with the occasional "off" sample that will keep the edgy sample spotters coming back for more. I only received the EP to review, I can only hope the full album takes things over the rim so one can ask for a refill of Brim.

    (The Diabolical EP is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Electronics and acoustics, classical and avant garde.

    I didn't know what to expect when I played Sulle Tracce Di Ned (Studio V38), but it is one of the more interesting and beautiful things I've heard in awhile. Mauro Orselli is a musician/composer who has explored the outer side of music and life in his work, and he does so on this album. His playing is remarkable, easily being able to play something classical in nature to making sounds as if he's inside of the piano. Throughout the album, he decorates with sound and brings in various other instruments and voice to make things appear more vivid. There can be some angelic singing in the songs, courtesy of Marina Mulopulos and Beatrice Carratori, while in another part of the album they might be grunting at each other.

    The album is avant-garde classical that's not for the faint of heart. Everything is open to interpretation, or no interpretation at all, just a willingness to create and make music, and to keep sound moving at a lively pace. Very moving and motivating, makes me wish I could find people like him locally so I could contribute and participate.

    (Sulle Tracce Di Ned is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The last time I heard Saint Bernadette, they were playing in an empty venue that helped give the music its warmth, space, and eeriness, making it a personal favorite. But with the release of the I Wanna Tell You Something EP (Exotic Recordings), it seems the entire band have shed their melancholy and are ready for, get this now, pop radio!

    Is it true? While I do like to hear music with slight dark and fearful tones, the accessibility of the five songs on this EP is too good to ignore, and too good to even call bad. "In Between" could easily become the pop/rock hit of the summer of 2008, with vocalist Meredith DiMenna tearing up the place to create something that is quite heartfelt. I kept on listening, wondering when they were going to bring back the charm of gloom, or to see things through a green tint, and it wasn't here at all. Is this their way of wanting to become more popular, or just a way to prove that they can do it too? Regardless of the answer, there's a lot of variety on this for something that's only five songs in duration. With their next one, they could easily go down a new wave-ish/electronic sound, or maybe country with a hint of funk. It's unknown, and I hope their fans are open enough to go with them for the duration of the ride. Another remarkable release from a band everyone should pay attention to.

    (I Wanna Tell You Something will be released on March 4th.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Chris Humphrey is a jazz singer who is in control of his voice and his music, never going too much over the edge, never holding back. Nothing But Blue Sky (Cadence Jazz) has him coming off like the perfect gentleman of jazz, with the help of some incredible musicians, including Matt Wilson (drums), Mark Shilansky (piano), and Martin Wind (bass). Together, they take some classics and turn it into a smoothed out party of sorts. The album includes covers of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now", Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud", and Duke Ellington "Solitude". He has the kind of qualities that are not unlike Harry Connick, Jr. or Michael Franks, but Humphrey has his own unique sound that separates him from them.

    The small handful of original compositions (""Anna's Song (Safe In My Arms)", "A Love So Strong", and "Lullaby For Jackson") will definitely keep him in the spotlight for those who are looking for future standards, and... I like a good, expressive singer and this is one who knows what he's doing. Fans of Wilson will also like his drum work throughout this album, so pick it up for him too.

    (Nothing But Blue Sky is available directly from ChrisHumphrey.net.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Doug Munro plays the guitar like there's no tomorrow, and he does it in a way where you want to hear his work all day. If you could, you'd put him on pause, and he would be there when you came back. He's that reliable, and he is that good, or at least I think so. Big Bossa Nova 2.0 (Chase Music Group) sounds like a pre-digital album, as the sound is very warm, as if it was recorded directly to tape. That is due to engineer Eric Helmuth, and while it doesn't list what kind of microphones or equipment used to capture everything, Helmuth definitely has the ears to determine what will make everything sound perfect, or at least the closest thing to perfection. For those who seek Brazilian albums from the 60's or 70's for its sound, this is that album that will make you stand up and weep.

    Then there's the music and the musicianship itself. I like Munro's sense of space, where he knows how to carry the melody but occasionally flirts in and out with the kind of elegance that comes from someone with knowledge of music. The selection of jazz songs he covers are amazing, from Wayne Shorter's "Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum" and Sonny Rollins' "Blue Seven" and Chick Corea's "Spain", which sets up the colors and tones as the opening track. Bassist Michael Goetz is subtle in this and the rest of the album, but one can sense when he's going into his space too. Then you have another major highlight: a guitar-based album where you can actually hear the drums, an important part of a lot of "world" music. Musicians can show off all they want, but when the drums are there and it's pushed way back in the mix, I tend to think that the engineer, producer, and artist didn't care enough to share the talents of their drummer. On this album the drummer role goes back and forth between Jason Anderson and Jason Devlin, and their playing is ear candy for any fan of percussion, and well recorded percussion at that.

    The big surprise is Munro's gentle cover of Beck's "Devil's Haircut", and I say gentle because while it lacks the sampled soundscape of the original, the listener gets a chance to focus on the melody and Munro gets a chance to explore that melody through his improvisational playing. That's the one thing I also like about this album too, that it is improv, the jazz influence of course is everywhere, so this isn't one of those Starbucks-type albums where everything is put in cruise control, "just add spice".

    Big Bossa Nova 2.0 carries the traditions of all of those jazz and bossa nova hybrids that continue to thrill the cratedigger, and is not an imitation of what was, but a continuation of what is. This is a "vinyl-worthy" recording, and I hope Munro and/or his label will consider releasing this on vinyl in the near future.

    (Big Bossa Nova 2.0 will be released on April 2nd, but is available online from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us If one tends to believe the trends of mainstream music, then someone will tell you that the sounds of South America are not an issue anymore. Yet musicians continue to be influenced by the sounds and the different cultures those sound represent. Felipe Salles's South American Suite (Curare) sounds like a man with a plan, and a band on a mission to commit themselves to honoring and sharing the beauty of the music and people of "the other America".

    Salles' opening saxophone solo in "Seven Days" may come off a bit like an introductory John Coltrane salute, but is more along the lines of Sonny Rollins or Pharoah Sanders. The rest of the band get in there, and Salles begins playing along with Jacam Manricks (alto sax), and suddenly one can sense that this is going to be an album that will reach its goal by taking the scenic route. Having the violin within the mix (courtesy of Laura Arpiainen makes things even sound more complex, and with a tight band helping things along (Joel Yennior on trombone, Bertram Lehmann on drums, Rogerio Baccato on percussion, Nando Michelin on piano, and Fernando Huergo on bass), it reminds me of those albums one would find where the entire band is on the cover, and everyone is smiling. It's a trip down south (interpret that as you want), and one can understand why there are grins from ear to ear. "Seven Days" goes on for close to eleven minutes, and that's just the first track. Inbetween you have songs about unity and strength, family, innocence, and having that private time for play time. By the time it reaches "Three Views", where Salles and the band sound like they're hesitating because they're about to get to their destination, you wish the album went on for at least another half hour. It doesn't touch on just one style of Brazilian music, but the various styles that exist throughout the countries, the different moods, shapes, and colors that one would normally have to explore on a series of CD's released by Luaka Bop. But it's here performed by a group of musicians and friends, and it might move people to leave their jobs and join Salles' caravan. The theme for the album is great, and it's an album meant to be heard as an album from start to finish. One can get lost in the sound, and that's not exactly a bad thing.

    (South American Suite is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Diane Hoffman is a jazz vocalist who is very expressive in her work. Perhaps it comes from her love of painting, or being able to utilize her painting skills to create art in anyform. She does this on her new album, My Little French Dancer, where she goes back to a number of standards for new interpretations.

    How are those interpretations? Quite good actually, with new renditions of "Close Enough For Love", "You're My Thrill", "Sunday In New York", "Two Years Of Torture", and "Well You Needn't". Even if you've heard these songs before, or are more familiar with the original instrumental versions, Hoffman throws in a lot of surprises by either changing the tempo and style, or adding something with her singing that adds a bit of the new to the traditional. She also offers a sad song to a friend who had passed away, in the form of "Farewell, Noelle". I had expected something soft and delicate, or perhaps bluesy, but the song has a bit of "Fever"-like spunk to it, as Hoffman sings: Noelle, my little French dancer, Noelle, my little French dancer/so full of life, so full of love/Noelle, only yesterday we sat across from each other, toasting love, life and kitchen-ly things/glad were we with our own little song. Rather than dwell on loss, it's a celebration of the life of a good friend, and that unexpected approach is something she utilizes throughout My Little French Dancer. She does show hints of her influences, but of course most musicians and singers too. Listen to her and find out what they may be, then with luck she may influence you.

    (My Little French Dancer will be released on May 5th, but is available online from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us What are the Stolen Moments (Jazz Net Media) the Piers Lawrence Quartet speak of on their new album? For one, Lawrence is a "young" guitarist who fell in love with jazz at a young age and was moved to study the instrument formally. He decided to take his music to the studio and stage, and with this album he decided to collaborate with three jazz greats, all of whom still play with youth in their hearts.

    Stolen Moments features drummer Sir Earl Grace, pianist Chuk Fowler and bnassist Jim Hankins and together they play the kind of jazz for fans who have never forgotten the music of Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, Bill Evans, or some of George Benson's early CTI sides. While there are a number of cover versions here, I really liked the songs Lawrence had a hand in writing, including "Samba Christina" and "Dimanche". While Lawrence occasionally displays the kind of flashiness he could easily pull off in an Al Di Meola manner, his approach is to keep it simple and become 1/4 of the ingredient behind each of these songs. Those who love a good piano in their jazz will definitely fall in love with Fowler's playing. It's a satisfying sound, it sounds like home.

    So what are these Stolen Moments? Buy, don't steal this album, and discover them for yourself.

    (Stolen Moments will be released on March 1st, and is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us I've seen his name in a number of magazines and website, but up until now I had never heard the music of Søren Kjærgaard. This Denmark musician gained a love for music at an early age, and at the age of 20 was already performing his own compositions on stage. Contests, awards, honors, all of this for a man who will only be celebrating his 30th birthday next week (early Hau'oli La Hanau to you).

    I mention the age factor because when I popped in Optics (Ilk Music) to listen for the first time, I didn't know any of these things. I generally avoid bios until I listen and reviewed the album, so obviously as I write this I have listened to the album and am coming up in my head ways to describe what I had heard. What I heard was someone I assumed was up there in age, someone maybe in their 40's, 50's, or even 60's. Kjærgaard plays with the kind of maturity and power that comes from someone I generally thing has been around the block a few times, and puts all of his passion in his playing. I'm talking about someone who can play on a Keith Jarrett or Cecil Taylor level. I then look in the bio and I think... 30?

    Optics is part of a long line of albums Kjærgaard has recorded, but it's his first international recording as a leader, as the album features Ben Street (bass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums). As soon as the album begins with the title track, there is an immediacy to the sound. It doesn't sound digital or cold, and in my mind I'm thinking this has got to be an analog. While it doesn't list it in the liner notes, I was right; the album was recorded direct to analog 2-track by James Farber, with everyone in the same room. This results in a sound that becomes more intimate without barriers, similar to a nightclub setting but without annoying conversations and glasses breaking in the back room.

    What's on the album? Musicians who play incredible together, but also know the intricacies of each's others playing and their own. Some of it sounds a bit avant-garde, the closest mainstream comparison I could make would be the Rick Wright tracks on Pink Floyd's Ummagumma album, where the piano may not be played in a normal fashion, or where temps and signatures to not exist. It can be free, and one can sense mental movement with these three trying to carve something out of sound. It then moves into some very tight playing, which at times can sound like they're trying to compete against each other, while other times it's allowing each other to shine cohesively, and of course for Street and Cyrille to allow Kjærgaard to speak his mind through his playing. Some of it sounds abstract, some of it sounds minimalistic (like some of ECM's more obscure moments), other times it sounds like a puzzle being put together one by one, where Cyrille will find some percussion (could be sleigh bells, could be maracas, could be shakere) and throw it on the floor, on his drum set, or on himself.

    For impatient ears, Optics may be painful to listen to because this isn't just one standard after the other, playing the familiar solos, melodies, and drum fills. There's a lot of depth in this album, but it takes a concentrated listen or two to listen to. The title track itself is a 4-song suite meant to be heard as a whole, and it is assembled in real time, no quick fixes here. By the time they get to "Cyrille Surreal" (the third song in the suite), they finally reach a platform to work on and even then it's not done in a regular 4/4 way. It's a challenging listen, but it comes from musicians who challenge each other and themselves to create something like this. The amazing thing is that these three had only met each other once before, so everything recorded in the studio was done spontaneously, and yet it sounds like Kjærgaard, Street, and Cyrille had been rehearsing this for days or weeks. Optics is an album that will become a personal "secret masterpiece" that if someone was to ask if people still make incredible, forward-thinking jazz in the 21st century, I'll have to bring this album up in conversation.

    (Optics will be released on March 3rd.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Community, or at least a sense of it, is something I have talked about for years. It's what I seek in my own life, it's what I try to find on various music forums, it's what I like to find with friends. Because of that, it's something I don't consciously look for when listening to music, but it's something that moves me when I do sense it.

    Lazy Magnet is actually the creation of one man, that being Jeremy Harris. He described Lazy Magnet as being "10 bands trapped inside one man's body", and after hearing He Sought For That Magic By Which All Glory And Glamour Of Mystic Chivalry Were Made To Shine or Is Music Even Good (Corleone) (you can simply call it Is Music Even Good?), he goes from playing bluegrass to high voltage noise, pure indie pop to svelte punk rock. Today, Lazy Magnet is everything from a self-contained solo project to bringing in any and all friends to create the biggest bands, the tightest trios, any and all combinations are okay. The album will appeal to fans of Schlong, Ween, David Bowie, Sparks, Todd Rundgren, 10cc, The Duhks, Mr. Bungle and lost Sesame Street episodes. Hell, I'll even say that some elements sound like some of my own early music.

    Throughout the album, the songs go back and forth from sounding like wholesome homemade recordings, to full on orchestrated metal and punk madness, or some country music played in the backyard shed. This means that Lazy Magnet are/is far from being lazy. When Harris brings in his friends to collaborate, the mental musical chaos in his mind becomes a virus and everyone celebrates the unity of sound through becoming hyperactive from an overdose of Slim Jims and Western Family cheese. Seeing him and his collaborators (14 in total) in the inside of the CD package shows friendship, unity, and yes, community. They all look like they're braving the cold with their fall/winter clothes, and all looking like they're having an incredible time. Yeah, it's nothing but photo booth photos, but there's still a sense of "something", perhaps communication between each other that is often lost in some forms of music. Which leads us back to the title of the album: is music even good? In the hands of Lazy Magnet the man, and Lazy Magnet the everchanging concept of a band, music is indeed good.

    (Is Music Even Good? is available from Corleone Records.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Uke Of Spaces Corners County, what kind of name is that? I'm listening to the opening track to their So Far On The Way (Corleone) album, and "Dead Pens" is nothing but a guy with an eerie voice playing a messed up guitar, a choir of unknown voices, and someone playing a Moog or some unknown analog synth, and it sounds like the kind of distorted recordings I'd find on some cult compound. Then "Today The Mirror" is a compressed drum machine, or the drums from some old keyboards, with the singer doing his thing while pouring pellets on his guitar. It sounds like it was recorded in the same room that has a rusty lawnmower, and I don't know what to do.

    Uke Of Spaces Corner County is the creation of Dan Beckman, the primary eerie voice behind the name. There's a photo inside where there's a sign telling people to listen to the "folkish-baladry featuring many fine voices and plucking cluckers", and it sounds exactly like that, all recorded onto cassette or the tape machine from the recording studio that hasn't been in use since they converted to digital 25 years ago. The music is folky, very much of the moment although the songs are arranged to a degree. It's music of the people, but what people I'm not quite sure. It's very free and independent, without a care in the world. If Arlo Guthrie was born and raised in Olympia, Washington, traveled the country on a bicycle and eventually met up with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips while jamming with Beck Hansen's peanut butter & jelly eating cousin, it still wouldn't sound anything like Uke Of Spaces Corners County. However, I'd like to hear what he would be able to do with Jordin Sparks's "Tattoo".

    (So Far On The Way is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Mugwump rock never sounded any better in the hands of a band who call themselves Night Wounds, a bunch of noisy, nasty punks who tear it up big time on their brand new album, Allergic To Heat (Corleone).

    The music is high velocity rock and noise with a slight punk edge, think of a band who was totally possessed by Nirvana's "Endless, Nameless" instead of "In Bloom" and you got an idea of what these guys are about. Things get very claustrophobic sounding immediately, but it's very organized in a Rapeman or Trumans Water fashion, complete with monotonous drums and fierce drones that move in and within the riffs and twisted vocals. This is not the kind of music for everyone, but since you're not everyone, this is for you. If Night Wounds sound like this here, I can only imagine how much more intense this would be in a small club or basement.

    (Favorite songs: "Allergic To Heat", "Less Dead", "Hex Appeal", and "X.O.T.", although to be honest I like the entire album.)

    (Allergic To Heat is available from CD Universe.)

    The American Beat label are still turning out the goods, this time coming out with two nice albums from the pop/rock world and a country gem:

    Daryl Hall & John Oates-Whole Oats
    The Romantics-The Romantics/National Breakout
    Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton-Always, Always/Two Of A Kind

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us There are many generations of Daryl Hall & John Oates fans, some think they started out with "Sara Smile", others got into them during the X-Static era, while many became fans when MTV first hit the airwaves. But the Philadelphia duo had made an album on Atlantic that initially didn't do well and because of it, it had been hard to find. Whole Oats is their first album together, and it shows that their deep love for soul music, especially that of their home city, was very evident on this album. It might easily be mistaken for some Robin Thicke or Remy Shand outtakes, but then again those guys were probably ripping off Hall & Oates. All of these songs are great, from "Fall In Philadelphia" to "Lazyman" and "All Our Love". Oates handles vocals on two tracks "Thank You For..." and "Lilly (Are You Happy)", and even back then they had a sense for the kind of sound they wanted to achieve, a mixture of soul, pop, and early 70's rock.

    For me, hearing this album was like hearing a lot of the music I grew up hearing as a kid in Hawai'i, particularly the mid-70's. Throughout the album I kept on thinking that almost every pop/rock group from Honolulu pretty much borrowed something from the Hall & Oates recipe book, be it groups like Country Comfort, Kalapana, or Cecilio & Kapono. In fact, Cecilio & Kapono received tons of airplay for their version of "Goodnight And Goodmorning", the original version of which can be found on Whole Oats. It might be considered a pre-cursor to Yacht Rock, but for my fellow kama'aina who have ever wondered where that love for pure pop comes from, seek Whole Oats and consume immediately.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us I'm old enough to remember when MTV actually played multiple videos for The Romantics. Before they became one of MTV"s early darlings, I had heard of them on a compilation album Epic Records came out with way back when called Exposed, which came out in 1981. By the time MTV rolled around, the first Romantics album was two years old, an oldie and not so much a goodie in the world of new wave. But were they new wave? They were new and part of the wave, but they were a rocking band from Detroit who showed their love of rock'n'roll. While MTV did play other videos from the first album, what was appealing about "What I Like About You" was the riff and the fact that it was the drummer who was the singer, not the guys in the front. It had attitude, it had balls, and that's one of many reasons why that song lives today. You can't escape an evening of television without hearing that song, but the group had a lot more going on for them than just "that song". American Beat has put together the first two albums they did for Nemperor/Epic, and not surprisingly it hasn't dated. Of course, I remember what these albums were like when they first came out, so how would a newbie take this? Consider this a band who poured all of their heart into their brand of rock'n'roll, and sometimes had the image of being pop-friendly punks. "What I Like About You" was wholesome, but they also did "She's Got Everything", "Little White Lies", and "Girl Next Door". Their second album, National Breakout, owed a lot to Detroit's Motown sound, but in terms of rock, one could not find anything better than "21 And Over", which suggested that if you wanted "the goods", you had to wait for it. It made waiting all that much more special, even for impatient pre-teens with itchy nuts.

    The first album has been long out of print, with the original CD commanding prices of $20 and up. National Breakout makes its digital debut here, and both albums are here in their entirety.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Country music was in somewhat of a crossroads in the late 60's and early 70's, but just as the worlds of rock, soul, funk, Hawaiian, Latin, and jazz were going through revolutionary times, so was country. A number of artists were struggling to move away from the pure manufactured country that seemed to be far from the origins of the music, while others were trying to bring back the ruthlessness of the outlaw. Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton were those who had been caught up in the lush style of country, but would find happiness together in the country music they wanted to create.

    Always, Always and Two Of A Kind were originally released on RCA in 1969 and 1971 respectively, and for some country fans this is the golden era. Parton had become a star through Wagoner, and together they recorded a string of albums that would help take them to the top of the charts, and it also helped bring Parton the stardom she enjoys today. These songs are a bit more optimistic and perky than some of the lonely records George Jones and Tammy Wynette made together, but with songs like "I Don't Believe You Met My Baby", "No Reason To Hurry Home", and "Curse Of The Wild Weed Flower", it didn't always have to be a melancholy world. There was always love and joy, but as with many love songs, especially country ones, you can't have both without a bit of heartbreak and pain. Wagoner had a way of expressing himself but still leaving himself vulnerable, while Parton became the voice you wanted to spoon with if there was ever a chance you could travel to the South and meet her for a cup of coffee and a nightcap. Together, both of them made the perfect musical couple, and one gets to hear not one but two albums on this CD.


  • Tickets for this year's Rothbury Music Festival in Rothbury, Michigan went on sale as of Wednesday (February 27th) at noon EST. This year's massive four day festival will be held from July 3rd-6th, and some of the artists already confirmed to play include Diplo, Bettye Lavette, Sage Francis, 311, Thievery Corporation, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival, Taj Mahal, and many others, all of which leads to the headliner, The Dave Matthews Band.

    For more information on special ticket packages and lodging, click here.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
  • Time Machine has returned and they are about to release a long awaited new album called Life Is Expensive. As a sneak preview, the group have released a digital-only single for the songs "The Groove That Just Won't Stop" and "Something We're Becoming", which you can find right now on iTunes. I'll have a review of the single next week.

  • DJ Vette is back with a brand new mix for everyone to listen to, and it's appropriately called Back From Hibernation. Download it right now by doing right click thing here.

  • Lyfe Jennings will be dropping a new album on April 29th, called Lyfe Changes on Columbia. For a preview of what's to come, you can stream a brand new song called "Midnight Train" in the most convenient way for you:
    Windows Media

  • KRS-One and DJ Revolution can now call Duck Down their new home. The Blastmaster will be doing his album with Buckshot of Black Moon fame, while DJ Revolution's King Of The Decks album is currently being recorded and mixed for release later in the year. KRS-One will be on there, along with Sean Price, Tash, Guilty Simpson, Dilated Peoples, The Alchemist, Royce 5'9", Q-Bert, Defari, Kidz In The Hall, Planet Asia, and more.

  • If you're in the Chicago area, make sure to check out Anti-Crew, who are performing on Thursday night (2/28) at Reggie's (2109 S. State St.). If you're on the Columbia College (Chicago) campus, there will be a free shuttle bus picking up concert goes to take you to Reggie's at 7:45pm. For more information, contact Anti-Crew's manager Joe at 574-226-2963 or e-mail, joelluevano@gmail.com. First come, first serve.

    The show will also feature Fly Phoenix and Jamal Dose performing. $8 cover, and it's an 18+ show.

  • Hardcore black metal fans will want to be on the lookout for a forthcoming book by photographer Peter Beste. Titled True Norwegian Black Metal, it's an in-depth look at the scene in Norway that moved on much further than similar scenes in Europe and South America. These are bands whose members who have scared people by ruining graveyards, killing people, and burned down churches. The scene has been the topic of numerous documentaries, but this is the first time these bands have allowed an "outsider" to take a look at their world. The photos are accompanied by a number of articles, including those written by metal journalist Jon "Metalion" Kristiansen. VICE Books will release the book in the United States on May 15th, and a True Norwegian Black Metal photo exposition will be held in New York City at the Steven Kasher gallery during May 8-June 7. The photo exhibit will also make its way to London, Stockholm, Oslo, Berlin, and Los Angeles before the end of the year.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us A premiere party for the new Stones Throw Records DVD, Stones Throw 102: Living The True Gods, will be going on this Friday (February 29th) in Los Angeles at Evil Monito (1830 Echo Park Ave). The party will begin with a screening of the DVD at 8pm, followed by a live Q&A with Peanut Butter Wolf. The next 90 minutes will feature DJ sets from a wide range of people, including one from Egon, and the evening closes with a video DJ set from PB Wolf. Cost is free with RSVP, contact evilmonito@NOSPAMstonesthrow.com (make sure to remove the NOSPAM before mailing) for information and let them know The Run-Off Groove sent you. There will also be a free after-party too, so if you make it, ask around.

  • Lizz Wright has a new album out in stores right now called The Orchard (Verve), and you can catch her live if you have the chance. Here are confirmed dates:

    Wed 3/5/2008... Century Ballroom, Seattle WA
    Thu 3/6/2008... Yoshi's at Jack London Square, Oakland CA
    Fri 3/7/2008... Yoshi's at Jack London Square, Oakland CA
    Sat 3/8/2008... Yoshi's at Jack London Square, Oakland CA
    Mon 3/10/2008... Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles CA
    Thu 3/13/2008... Birchmere, Alexandria VA
    Fri 3/14/2008... Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis MD
    Tue 3/18/2008... Highline Ballroom, New York NY
    Wed 3/19/2008... World Cafe Live, Philadelphia PA

  • Marco Benevento's Invisible Baby album will be released by Hyena Records, and before it comes out, you can watch the video made for the song "The Real Morning Party" right here:

  • Jazz vocalist Charmaine Clamor has been gaining a lot of attention with her album Flippin' Out, and due to all of the positive reviews (including one from yours truly) that it has received, she's about to make some "next level" moves. Word has it that she is about to collab with an unnamed Grammy winning member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to be announced at a later time. She has two CD's planned for release later in the year. To make it even more interesting, she will be seen and heard in upcoming performances of The Vagina Monologues in San Francisco at the Herbst Theater on March 31st, and in New York City at the Philippine Center New York on Apri 18th and 19th.

  • CasUno and Rock Solid have a new EP they want you to hear for free, called Stink Talk. You can download it in full by clicking here:

  • I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but Colin Stetson is coming out with his debut album next weel for the Aagoo label, called New History Warfare: Volume 1. Stetson is all about the woodwinds and has played with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Medeski Martin & Wood, Antibalas, Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, and TV On The Radio among others. The press release for the album says it "defies genres", which means it can and will go all over the place.

    I'll have a review for it next week, but you can take a sneak preview of it by downloading two free MP3's from the album:
    Letter To HST

  • Can't leave without a bit of proper self-promotion. Book's Music digital broadcast #54 is ready to be heard and worshiped. Explore the potential of your iPod by listening to great music I myself put together. Go and download it by heading to PodOMatic.

  • That, my friends, is is for #192, and yet there's a lot of stuff I didn't get to. Some of the music I'll be reviewing include a new album on Quannum by Curumin. Imagine if Beck came from Brazil instead of East L.A., now imagine him doing traditional music with slivers of funk, soul, and hip-hop. Plus it's on Quannum, you know it's going to be hot, and it is. I'll have a full review next week.

    I'll also have some new classical albums from the Bridge label, including an album of Dmitri Shostakovich compositions by pianist Melvin Chen.

    There's jazz from Jimmy Bruno and the previously mentioned Colin Stetson to be discussed.

    I also have two DVD's from DJ Mike Relm and a compilation video highlighting the first 10 years of the Corleone label (upcoming releases from Corleone were reviewed in this column).

    What else will I be reviewing? Send me books, give me magazine subscriptions, fit me in clothing. I would also be willing to review audio equipment, pass them along, loan them to me. If you want to send me something for review, contact me through my MySpace page.

  • Until the Vagina Punch becomes the nation's official hand tactic or energy drink, I remain John Book, and I shall return next week.

    How about I leave with a goal? I want to be a fatty that gets a chance to be on G4's Attack Of The Show. Can we make that happen? DVDuesday my ass, how about some music reviews?
  • Monday, February 18, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #191

    Aloha, and welcome to The Run-Off Groove, a weekly column that covers a wide range of music, from hip-hop to jazz, experimental to electronic, funk to soul, blues to rock. If it gets to me, I'll review it. Me? I am John Book, and this is the 191st column, only 9 away from the big 200.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The Run-Off Groove, in conjunction with Shanachie Records, is giving you have a chance to win a copy of Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Police, featuring new interpretations of classic Police songs by Horace Andy, Inner Circle, Junior Reid, Toots & The Maytals, The Wailing Souls, and even Joan Osborne. I reviewed the album in Run-Off Groove #190, and I think it's album worthy of many listens. Click the following link and enter right now:

    When you do, come back here, as there's a lot of reviews waiting for you. Ready? Let's continue.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us I had never heard of Kelpe before until an online friend told me to take a listen to a track. It moved me to hear more and find out about this Kelpe.

    Come to find out that Kelpe is the moniker of Kel McKeown, an electronic artist from England who has not quite gained a massive audience stateside but should. Ex-Aquarium (D.C. Recordings) is an incredible album with a dense layer of sound and groove, coming from a mixture of what sounds like analog synths and the digital realm, where drum and percussion samples mix in with natural sound and the kind of bass that makes you want to pull out your teeth. In a few reviews I came across, Kelpe has been compared to Boards Of Canada and Four Tet a lot, artists who are able to take their creative ability in making electronic music, and taking it to higher and proper nether regions. There are moments when it sounds like it could turn into something of the dub variety ("Pinch And Flare") while "Bread Machine Bred" has a bit of German minimalism going on, as if something was shipped from 1978 and arrived 30 years later. Some of the songs are quite full with a lot of textures, while others are painfully spare, and I say painful because one can imagine these songs being filled with a hell of a lot of over-production, but they aren't. "Colours Don't Leak" sounds like a song that could go overboard, with a rhythm track that sounds like it was pulled from a jazz label's tape vaults, where one might mistake it as a Jazzanova outtake or something from the Future Sound Of London. There are some lounge qualities to their music, but just when it gets easy to describe his sound, he turns a new direction and comes up with a surprise or two. Things get jazzy and funky "Cut It Upwards", and one can get caught up in the soundscapes quite easily.

    I guess with all the comparisons made, one can say that Kelpe is IDM, but as someone who generally hates those types of sub-genre names, I wonder if Kelpe would be happy with that association. Nonetheless, Ex-Aquarium is an excellent album for those who have wondered about where electronic music has gone, and more specifically where is it headed. The best electronic-based music heads in all directions, and it seems Kelpe is one of many musicians who will be taking it everywhere with this album and all future endeavors.

    (Ex-Aquarium will be released on February 25th, and can be pre-ordered through CD Universe. Samples of the album can be heard by going to the D.C. Recordings website.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Bing Ji Ling could be an exotic name to most, but in truth it's the moniker being used by... Quinn Luke. Liner note junkies may not even recognize his name at first, but he has worked with the likes of Blackalicious, Honeycut, Curumin, and The Rondo Brothers. If you are familiar with those artists, you may be surprised to hear what he created with June Degrees In December (To The Curb), a fantastic 5-song EP that is an ode to late 70's/early 80's pop and soul. I'm talking about soothing grooves on a Christopher Cross/Michael McDonald/Peabo Bryson, or what some trendoids have called "Yacht Rock". That's right, if you're cruising harbors looking for husband-less MILF's while wearing your special brand of scented Dove shorts, this is the perfect music for you.

    Jokes aside, Bing Ji Ling takes his musical expertise and creates music that might not be expected, a hint of modern day pop craftiness that has become the blueprint of a lot of pop music for the last 30 years. With tracks like "Be Here With You", "This Song Is For You", and "Home", you may want to grow out your beard and get into what Bing Ji Ling is trying to promote and celebrate: a good life with a big yard and that boat that may or may not come, but you know about the finest woods, wines, and women. Ooh, the women. Robin Thicke has nothing on this guy, trust me, and while there is a thin layer of irony in this project, it's actually quite good. No no no, very good. I'm impressed by the charm, going back to a time when MTV didn't dictate musical tastes.

    (June Degrees In December will be released on March 4th. His 2003 album, Doodle Loot Doot Doodle A Doo, is available from CDBaby, and can also be streamed in its entirety by clicking here.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Roommate are a band that take the dark side of our pessimistic lives and tries to turn it inside out in order to see the joys that we as humans have left in this world. Or at least that's what they're trying to do with We Were Enchanted (Plug Research), an album that explores the blurred thin life between the real life and the alternate world that some people in a modern generation live through video games and multi-personalities through the internet. In other words, people are living that alternate world as real life because for some it's far better to grip and understand than the reality of the real world, especially when the real world is nothing more than 80 distinct reality shows on 9 networks.

    The music on the album is a nice mixture of rock with hints of psychedelia, pop, rock, and occasionally jazz although that comes primarily from the arrangements more than anything. Imagine of Linkin Park didn't suck, or if Mike Shinoda was the main man behind their sound and it comes close to what Roommate create here, with heavy use of atmospherics, space, and adapting their lyrics into creating different levels of intensity in their music, especially with such verbal statements as someday we'll let the machine do everything/someday we'll never complain, as heard in the title track. Apocalyptic it isn't, but with their hybrid of real instrumentation, synthesizers, and electronic beats, it is the soundtrack of today, with an outlook that struggles with the traditions of yesterday and the fulfillment of instant gratification ordered via PayPal.

    (We Were Enchanted will be released on April 15th through Plug Research.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Actress Nancy Priddy released a few albums in the 1960's before fading into a bit of musical obscurity, but not without gaining a following for that album. Some may also recognize her name as the voice behind a series of Signs Of The Zodiac albums the late Mort Garson recorded for A&M, on which she asked "what makes Cancer tenacious?... The moon moves the fluids, including the inner juices of human beings, that which assimilates and feeds the body, so the crab feeds the astral planes, assimilating and distributing all that he receives... slowly, until it becomes a part of him." But for a generation or two, she is known as the mom of actress Christina Applegate.

    In 2007, Priddy decided to return to one of her original muses to record a great album, with a little help from her friends, called Christina's Carousel (Monte's Moolah Music), where she sings songs in various styles from folk to jazz and pop. For the most part they sound like great backyard songs, and perhaps that's the point, as these are the kind of songs that would have been perfect in the late 1960's or early 1970's, when times were different and perhaps a bit more optimistic. Her voice is still as strong as youthful as it was 40 years ago, but now she sings with more experiences behind her and perhaps with a view that comes from living in the second half of her life, especially with such songs as "I Saw The Face", "Little Bit Of Rain", and "Sweet Jerusalem". "Y2K Drinking Song" sounds like the kind of song one would sing if your friends were The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and David Crosby, where all you need to worry about is drinking and smoking the night away without fear.

    Christina's Carousel is very much a community album, in this case Priddy's community of friends and the bonds that they share in life and music, and yet it doesn't sound dated. In fact, if one is to call her a folk artist, then Priddy sings for all of the folks who are still open to listening to someone with a positive outlook on life. Perhaps surprisingly, the album sounds approprirate today as it would when she first started making music. An excellent piece of work.

    (Christina's Carousel is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Tom Dempsey and Tim Ferguson play the guitar and bass respectively, and for their new album What's Going On? (City Tone) they take that simple approach and make a very good album of acoustic jazz.

    All of the songs are laid back and cool, imagine a bit of Jim Hall and Ron Carter going at it on a beach front, a hint of tropicana, or just two jazz lovers playing music together because it feels good. That's what you get on this album with wonderful renditions of ""First Song (For Ruth)", ""Stardust", "Three And Won", "Deep River", and of course the title track as made famous by Marvin Gaye. There are also a number of original pieces from each musician, including Dempsey's "As Spring Begins" and "Tandem", and Ferguson's ""Julie's Tabouleh". There are moments that sound like Ferguson wants to take on the role of being the lead with his stand-up bass, and at times he does, maybe without Dempsey knowing. For good duo jazz that is relaxing without being smooth, opt to pick this one up.

    (What's Going On? is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The Eric Byrd Trio have gained a lot of attention through their musicianship and live performances, leading to them winning a number of local and regional awards and touring around the world. As a trio, Byrd (vocals and piano) Alphonso Young, Jr. (drums), and Bjagwan Khalsa (acoustic bass) are as tight as tight can be. For their new album Brother Ray (Foxhaven) they have expanded their sound by four with the inclusion of a horn section (Brad Clements on trumpuet, Paul Carr on tenor sax, Chris Watling on baritone sax, and Lyle Link on alto sax) to honor the man behind the album title, which of course is the late Ray Charles.

    It's jazz and blues rolled into one phat joint, which of course helped create the music that we all know as R&B. It's a chance for Byrd to hit the big time with this music, not only towards gaining a wider audience but musically "big time". Byrd has that kind of sweet soul voice that you can't help but be charmed buy, and along with his piano runs and phrasing this is a musician who is not only confidence about the music he plays, but in himself. Hear him sing "Them That Got" and "Get On The Right Track Baby" and Mr. Charles would be honored to hear these songs done in this manner. The album also returns to the trio lineup, but features the vocals of Lea Gilmore, who helps take "Baby It's Cold Outside" and "Watch Them Dogs" closer to home while raising a few curious eyebrows at the same time. Also impressive is Link's flute work in "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Cryin'", worthy enough to stand out in its own right and definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.

    It's good music meant to be revived during any time of the year, and whether it is in a trio setting or +4, these are a set of musicians that should be heard under any circumstances. Eric Byrd is a musician who has the passion to soothe any painful soul, and hopefully with this album he'll be able to do that on a wider scale.

    (Brother Ray is available directly from Eric Byrd's website.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us I first heard of Tangria Jazz Group through their second album, Mebane's Eleven: Tunes for Two, which I felt was like a union of the musical mind, or minds in this case with Sheryl Mebane (drums), Justin Hellman (bass), and Simon Rochester (piano) creating the kind of jazz that sounds as if they are perfect for each other. The trio are back with a new one, self-titled this time around and upon hearing their rendition of "Nature Boy" it is obvious that that love of playing jazz and with each other has grown stronger. The song begins with the melody we all know and love before Rochester begins to travel and make his presence know, as if he becomes the nature boy himself, as Hellman holds things down by describing the scenery, and of course Mebane pulling everything together to let them know that she will set the pattern and keep things at a lively pace. There are countless versions of "Nature Boy" out there, but what I like about this is how it remains at a steady pace for the first half before it reaches the bass solo, and then it proceeds in half time, to become as sensual and mysterious as the song wants to be.

    The mystery aspect is what makes this album great, in that you know what these three are capable of doing but you don't know what's going to happen next, which makes the listener want to concentrate on the music a lot more. One word that is mentioned often when describing the Tangria Jazz Group is "inventing", which for me means that they play things that sound as if they come out of the blue, with an "of the moment" intensity yet with the confidence in each other which results in the kind of playing that you can't stop listening to. One can hear that in well known pieces (John Coltrane's "Impressions" or Joe Henderson's "Isotope") or original songs (Mebane's "Teach Yourself To Live Elsewhere" and "Bamako Love Walk"). They are good in playing bebop and hard bop as they are in incorporating Latin sounds, or to make the kind of luxurious jazz that would be perfect in a romantic setting for a big budget Hollywood film, all without compromise. Well played jazz for fans who demand the best, and the Tangria Jazz Group are some of the best musicians out today.

    (Tangria Jazz Group is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Vince Seneri has been playing the Hammond B-3 organ for years, recording a string of albums that have taken him around the world, and he loves the instrument so much that he is also a full time dealer. That kind of expertise takes a lot of determination and dedication, and you can hear both in The Prince's Groove (Prince V).

    The prince in this case is himself, a/k/a "Prince V", which of course he has a lot of respect for those B-3 masters who came before him. Anyone who loves mean B-3 jazz will fall in love with this album instantly, and his style and touch will remind many of the West Coast jazz flavor of Richard "Groove" Holmes, and at times some of the British soul of Steve Winwood. In the uptempo "Dearly Beloved" he completely rips things left and right without any room to breathe, but allowing guitarist Paul Bollenbeck to pave the way for an amazing solo. The title track is a bit loose and funky, almost downright slinky in its after hours style, where Seneri is helped out by Bollenbeck, Randy Brecker (trumpet and flugelhorn), Buddy Williams (drums), Gary Fritz (percussion), Richie Flores (percussion), Houston Person (tenor sax), and Dave Valentin (flute). The mood is very reminiscent of some of the work Santana and Steely Dan did in the late 70's, or all of those great mid-70's Blue Note and CTI albums that continue to influence generations. Yet the core of these songs is, of course, Seneri's playing, who knows how to be subtle at the right moments, and then kick things open by letting people know why he is the prince. This one is vinyl worthy.

    (The Prince's Groove can be ordered directly from Vince Seneri's website.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us When you put together two jazz legends, anything can happen. More often than not, a bit of "musical magic" is created, and both the musicians and listeners are rewarded with the kind of excellence that some might say is a rarity these days. But if you take a listen to this new album by Louie Bellson and Clark Terry, their union sounds like it's a common occurrence, as it should be.

    Louie & Clark Exposition 2 (Percussion Power) is the second time they've teamed up for a project like this, where big band jazz is the name of the game and nothing else will do. For this album, Bellson serves not only as the primary drummer, but also composer and executive producer. As any Bellson fan will tell you, his music are a lot more than just drum expeditions, although with his drumming and that of Sylvia Cuenca and Kenny Washington, it is definitely a drum heaven. As he has shown in the past, Bellson is an incredible composer who enjoys expressing himself with some powerful pieces. In fact, the album begins with a 4-part "Chicago Suite" where one is allowed to hear and feel the power and influence of the windy city. It then leads to "Davenport Blues", where you almost feel like doing your own strut with the help of saxophonist Steve Guerra and of course Terry on the trombone.

    Let's not forget about Terry, whose playing has been a major part of jazz for over six decades. He knows how to decorate songs as a fantastic accompanist, but when it comes time for him to blow, he carries it through. The rest of the musicians hit all the right spots at the right time, and that's what big band jazz is all about, enhancing the emotions to higher levels and then keep people there, wanting and demanding more. The arrangements are stylized, and while subtle, I was also very impressed with the piano work of Helen Sung, who has played with Terry a number of times in the past. She gets to shine on "Piacere" and it makes me wish she had taken the lead on some of the other songs, but that's what her solo albums are for.

    The two main musicians are in their 80's and flirt with it in "Back To The Basics (Old)" and "Now (The Young)", but they and the musicians in these sessions show that regardless of the number, good music is the perfect union between good music and good musicians, which often turns up great results. Louie & Clark Exposition 2 is not only about the two of them, but everyone who has been a part of the jazz community, and the result of strong friendships and the friendships to come from playing and hearing music as grand as this.

    (Louie & Clark Expedition 2 is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Lolita Sweet's vocal style mixes the old soul and gospel stylings of the 70's and 80's with occasional hints of modern groove on her album I'm Taking Applications (self-released), and that mixture is bittersweet. On the good side, there are times when her sweet voice sounds like some of my favorite singers, such as Natalie Cole and Chante Moore, and it becomes the perfect Sunday morning music, especially "Place It In His Hands" (which on the surface could be about her singing to her man, but could also be about a higher power). Her vocals, the background vocals, musicianship, and arrangements go back to a much better time in R&B, that good ol' quiet storm when all you needed was an album and a few candles to set the mood up right.

    The bittersweet part happens when she tries to cater to modern R&B tastes, when she would have been better in setting up her own space to say "this is me, this is where I am, step up to me" instead of trying to sound trendy. I understand timeliness, but being trendy only makes you sound dated in a year or two, where in today's marketplace you want to stand out for being an incredible talent. She is, but the modern cliches should be replaced by the confident songwriting she displays on the rest of the album.

    To tie in with the name of the album, she also includes an application in the CD booklet for men she may be looking for. While I do not have any fears of going downtown, I am flirty and nerdy, freaky and geeky, and my current credit score sucks at this present time. I'm not the perfect guy, so my submitted application would be half impressive, half "eh", therefore I would be put into the trash bin before she would even read the Financial section. Relationship applications aside, her album presents a great singer with a lot of emotion and talent, but with room for a few adjustments in terms of material. It's not flawless by any means, but it shines in all the right places. In terms of musical applications, she may be the one you've been looking for. In terms of endurance and performance, yes indeed.

    (I'm Talking Applications is available from CDBaby.)


  • Rob Swift is about to drop a new album on Domination Recordings called Dust To Dust, which he says is an album that is about bringing YOU back to the purest form of Hip Hop. Rob will also be reuniting with Total Eclipse and Precision as part of a new group called Ill Insanity. The three are currently working on their first album under that name.

  • Time Machine are about to come back with a brand new album, called Life Is Expensive, and will preview it with a new single called "The Groove That Just Won't Stop" b/w "Something We're Becoming". A vinyl release for it is unknown at this time, but it will be available via the trendy iTunes on February 26th.

  • For fans of free jazz and other forms of eclectic and eccentric music, be it experimental or avant-garde, the folks at Downtown Music Gallery have an incredible amount of music on sale, including a brand new 10CD Sun Ra box set, a collaboration between Matthew Shipp and Guillermo E. Brown, a limited edition release from Charlemagne Palestine. Those who subscribe to their newsletter often get incredible bargains that are not announced on their website or store, including a 50% off sale.

  • Lil' Duce has done a track with Big Tuck called "Playa Like Me", which you can listen to by clicking this link.

  • Are people really looking for Why? of Anticon fame? Why, you ask? Find out by clicking this YouTube link or over at imeem. BTW - Why? will be touring this Spring, check your local record shindig for where he will be near you.

  • 65daysofstatic are about to go on tour with none other than The Cure, and the group will be touring North America for the first time. Here are the confirmed tour dates. Those that are marked with asterisks are shows they were doing with The Cure
    05/09 Washington, DC @ Patriot Center *
    05/10 Philadelphia, PA @ Wachovia Spectrum *
    05/11 Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwells
    05/12 Boston, MA @ Agganis Arena *
    05/14 Montreal, PQ @ Bell Center *
    05/15 Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre *
    05/15 Toronto, ON @ El Mocambo
    05/16 Chicago, IL @ Allstate Arena *
    05/16 Detroit, MI @ The Magic Stick
    05/17 Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
    05/18 St. Louis, MO @ 2 Cents Plain
    05/19 Kansas City, MO @ Starlight Theatre *
    05/21 Denver, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheater *
    05/22 Denver, CO @ Lorimer Lounge
    05/23 Salt Lake City @ E Center *
    05/24 Boise, ID @ The Venue
    05/25 George, WA @ The Gorge Sasquatch! Festival *
    05/26 Vancouver, BC @ General Motors Place *
    05/28 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill
    05/29 Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl *
    05/30 Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
    05/31 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl *
    06/01 San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
    06/02 Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction
    06/03 San Diego, CA @ Cox Arena *
    06/04 Phoenix, AZ @ Dodge Theatre *
    06/04 Phoenix, AZ @ The Sets
    06/06 Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center *
    06/07 Austin, TX @ Music Hall *
    06/07 San Antonio, TX @ Rock Bottom
    06/08 Austin, TX @ Emo’s
    06/09 Houston, TX @ Toyota Center *
    06/11 Tampa, FL @ St Pete Times Forum *
    06/12 Orlando, FL @ The Social
    06/13 Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Bank Atlantic Center *
    06/14 Gainsville, FL @ The Atlantic
    06/15 Atlanta, GA @ Gwinnett Civic Center *
    06/16 Charlotte, NC @ Charlotte Bobcats Arena *
    06/18 Cleveland, OH @ Cleveland State University *
    06/19 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
    06/20 New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden *
    06/21 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall *

    You can listen to a streaming sampler of their past work by clicking here.

  • King Megatrip recently had a mix featured on Solid Steel last month, which he is calling Another Swank Evening at Wayne Manor, and he is making it available on his blog as a free download. You can download it by heading here.

  • On a self-promotional note, the new edition of the Book's Music digital broadcast is ready to be heard. #53 is the current installment, and you can go here to download or stream it:

  • NO! Yes, this is the end of the 191st edition of my column, and as always, I still have a small handful of albums I didn't get to, including music from Piers Lawrence Quartet and a great album by Soren Kjœrgaard, Ben Street, and Andrew Cyrille.

  • If you have music you'd like for me to review, contact me through my MySpace Page, and I'll pass along my contact information. Vinyl and compact discs preferred.
  • Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #190

    Aloha, and welcome to the 190th edition of The Run-Off Groove. With luck you will know who I am, but if not, there will be a Bookopedia. Until then, 190 is here.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Before I start, I would like to say that The Run-Off Groove, in conjunction with Shanachie Records, is giving away a CD. In this case, you have a chance to win a copy of Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Police, featuring new interpretations of classic Police songs by Horace Andy, Inner Circle, Junior Reid, Toots & The Maytals, The Wailing Souls, and even Joan Osborne. My review of the CD can be found elsewhere in this column. To win, click to the following link, and good luck:

  • ...and now, we begin.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us I originally wrote a long ass essay, about three paragraphs worth, about me. Yeah I know, it's always an ego fest, but I realized that I have all the time in the world for things to be about me. Instead, I'm reducing the essay to a sentence or two to say this. As a Hawaiian, I have been looking for hip-hop music that would make it possible for me to say "I'm proud of this". There have been many instances of this in the past, and I have not hesitated to say it. I want it because it's all about home, and I can say that I represent the people, the places, the music, all of it. Then came this album, and it has been the album from Hawai'i I have been awaiting. It's very much "a local t'ing", but it also represents what rap music has become, or perhaps has always been about. These are the kind of guys I probably would have hung out with during high school, but they represent today's generation, and while that does set me apart as the old man, what I hear is a group who creates music that is much more than just their locale. It's hip-hop that touches on that feeling that millions of people around the world can appreciate. Those fans will be able to appreciate what makes home "home", but this group also understands what rap music is all about. This is the Hawaiian equivalent of some of the best hip-hop albums in its history, and it does so by looking beyond its boundaries without being eccentric or weird. The proof of the pepper can be found in their name: Hunger Pains. The name of the album represents them and much of what Hawaiian hip-hop is all about: Dirty Aloha (Siq).

    Readers might thing I'm being bias, and rightfully so. But this is what I hear. What I hear is an accumulation of influences and styles, fine tuned to create something that is uniquely their own. Seph I, Risup are the MC's behind this crew, with Risup and Big Steve handling the bulk of the beats, and from the beginning ("No Bluffs") they show that they have the skills and intellect to bring to the mic, at a time when it might be easy to just deliver a barrage of crap and deposit it at the bank the next day. Seph and Risup are not like that, instead what you hear is only the music from a Hawaiian perspective, but the outlook of the world from being in Hawai'i, meaning that when it comes to struggling and looking for better, it's the same wherever you go.

    What I like the most about the album is the interaction between their lyrics and the instrumentals, it doesn't sound like they dialed it in, downloaded a track, and decided to rhyme Old McDonald over it. They both talk about how other people's "pen game" is just lazy, and they prove this by talking about the dark alleys where you don't want to be after 3am, where local people will pick a fight in an instant, where tourists know to find their high, and that it's the same shit in a different place surrounded by the sea/Only difference is that police are waving hi to me. When you hear Risup rhyme, he's telling his story but with the sampled vocal harmonies you are also hearing the stories of his uncles, his dad, perhaps his grandfather, going through the same issues and motions, carrying on with that love of something, anything on a higher level. "Make A List", with beats and samples that are a cross between Art Of Noise and Mountain, has them speaking about ones credentials in order to take care of business. It isn't a secret that crystal meth/batu has caused a lot of damage in the 50th state, and they get into this with, "Rock Ice", where Risup, Seph I, and special guest Creed Chameleon talk about what people do for the sake of getting that high, from the outside and inside. Risup has a verse where he talks about how things are packaged and what the money will go towards, how things begin at public school and despite how smart people think they are, they somehow end up at A'ala Park. The reference will go over the head for most, but in Honolulu, A'ala Park was once a skateboard park made in downtown Honolulu in the late 70's when people like Tony Alva inspired local boys to grow their hair and go over the lip. When the skateboarding trend ended, the park was all but abandoned, and like a lot of local parks became the place where bums and drug addicts would hang out as they looked at Chinatown's entrance. When crack hit Honolulu, A'ala Park would become an unfortunate crack heaven. In time, batu became the killer and all of the batu heads would eventually make the park the place to live/die and simply gather. What was meant as recreation has become an eyesore. In the last few years, it was also one of Dog The Bounty Hunter's hot spots, and if they were ever looking for people downtown, they always found their way within the vicinity of the park. Hunger Pains cover this in a way that sounds like they've been personally affected by the drug game, and not for the better, and what they say in "Rock Ice" and a few other songs is that there is something better, and with a bit of strength and determination they can make it out, even though that void seems to be getting deeper by the second.

    The downtempo vibe, complete with eerie, cathedral-like vocals with a hint of dub, is in full effect in "Kings Come Home", teaming them up again with Creed Chameleon and Jonah The Whale. In Honolulu, these guys were all a part of Direct Descendants, who were in many ways the Hawaiian equivalent of some of the best collectives in hip-hop, be it Freestyle Fellowship, Quannum, or Hieroglyphics. Hearing this song sounds a bit like when you hear one of those Dungeon Family posse tracks, where everyone is at the top of their game, the competition is fierce, and yet they're doing this for the love of hip-hop. Each line only keeps getting better, and as a whole you can't believe you're listening to something this great.

    The flows are sick, the rhymes are tight, and these guys have definitely checked their egos at the door. There's something about them which demands concentrated listening, and while them coming from my homeland does have a small part in me saying this, it's something else. It's the fact that these guys are doing something this good, something that is very on the edge to where it sounds like a carbuncle about to make its stench known, and that this is the kind of hip-hop a lot of people should be hearing at this very moment. It's intense, powerful, moving, and inspiring, and it happens to come equipped with faces that some may not be used to. This is only a minor flaw to the mentality of some. What Hunger Pains are is the hunger fans have had for far too long, and as Raekwon once said 15 years ago, they're simply making the kind of music they have been wanting to hear. Without waiting around for the next best thing, they are making music to fill the void, and in the process have made a place in independent/underground hip-hop that should bring them to a wider and bigger audience. No one wants to struggle in this life, but when one does, one tends to express themselves best through music. Dirty Aloha is the spirit of something that still lives through the muck and mud, and the brightness of the light, and in time that light will be diverted into creating an energy that will no doubt grow in the coming years.

    (Dirty Aloha is available directly from Siq Records.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us I first heard of Obsidian Blue with a CD he did a few years ago called Freon, and I really liked what I heard then. His music spoke to me as a fellow artist/producer, and I wanted to keep an ear out for what he would do next. He has done a few productions and released another CD, but he told me has a new one for 2008 and wanted to know if I wanted to hear it. Of course I wanted to hear it, so I awaited the CD. It arrived with a simple black cover with blue lettering, nothing more, nothing less. It's called Sound Design (self released), which is clever yet simple. What would the music be like is what I asked myself. It had been awhile since I had taken a serious listen to his work, but when I popped the CD in, I was immediately floored.

    Sound Design is just that, but of course just what? This is what rap music should be sounding like right now, artists from across the world should be coming to this guy and asking to work with him, and I'll tell you why. Every single song on this CD sounds complete, it's ready to go, ready made for anyone, and yet as I listened to it, the songs are perfect as is on their own, and amongst one another. This is electronic soul music, some people may use other names and slogans to say they do the same thing but they're not Obsiidian Blue. There is a sense of soul and power in his music, incredible melody and harmonies, especially the vocal samples that ring through, it sounds like a lot of thought was put into this even though I'm told that the album was not originally recorded as a cohesive album. Instead, it's a collection of projects he has done over the years. Yet I listen to this and I'm truly in awe. No, Obsidian Blue is not my relative, I've never met the guy, never talked to him, nor is he my alter ego. But I truly give praise to him and this music because it's done so well, and I'm moved by music that is truly this good. I rank him up there with the Pete Rock's, the 9th Wonder's, the Timbaland's, and then I'm going to say that in a few years, producers are going to be claiming that they want to get on that Obsidian Blue vibe.

    But what is the vibe? A combination of hip-hop with the class of soul and the grit of funk, merging musical generations in an effortless manner. It doesn't sound just like hip-hop, it sounds worldly, something much bigger than hip-hop and yet it is just that. This is not a mere beat tape/CD, but it can be one of two things. This is a soul-inflluenced hip-hop album, or a hip-hop influenced instrumental soul album. Herbie Hancock may be calling Obsidian one day and saying "hey, I heard this track and I have to play some piano on it. Can I fly you here?" I'm not joking. Take this album to heart, this should be one of many blueprints that the architects of tomorrow will be analyzing today.

    (Sound Design is available as a free download from Obsidian Blue's MySpace page and through iTunes.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Canadian beat box master Poizunus is someone who wants to show people that there are more people out there than Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Rahzel, and Justin Timberlake who can make music with their mouths. Of course, some will argue and say that beatboxing is not a true art, and that it borders on outright parody. Those who say that probably have no rhythm, but on Active Dreaming Disorder, Poizunus shows that he not only has rhythm, but skills and knowledge about the music he calls his own.

    On this 12-song EP (it's just under 23 minutes), he shows off some of his skills, whether it's making beats, simulating a DJ flipping and slowing down records, to speaking about one of the semi-lost art forms in this music. It works, and he works it, and by keeping things at EP length he is able to excite and delight without growing stale. Too much spit in the air is not a good thing, so perhaps this is his plan, to spit out EP sized chunks and let people know what he's about. But is he worth a full length album? I think he is, because Poizunus is more than just the guy who makes beats with his mouth. He can do it live, but he also gets involved in the recording process by doing multi-layered stuff and songs with other rappers and singers. It will be interesting to see if others hold true to his music and mission, but I think he has a lot going for him.

    (Active Dreaming Disorder is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Hot In Pursuit: the name sounds simple enough, but the cover photo consists of the two guys in the group with their heads attached to the bodies of Mario and Luigi, those video game plummer dudes. They are seen smiling in a video game world, a throwback to what made life entertaining way back when. But one listen to their self-titled album shows that while they are proud of their upbringing, they are not a joke but do not mind including a small sliver of humor into their music.

    As they indicate on the opening track "High 5ive":

    I don't know, I'm just here to have a good time
    Hands up like you're catching a good vibe
    Two brothers, and I might do it all night
    If you're feelin' good, give me a high five

    It sounds innocent and a few might say corny, but it's genuine and really good as they talk about honor, friendship, trust, and doing this for a good cause. In their case, doing "this" means not only hip-hop but also spreading the good word. When I say good word, I of course mean that they want to share their good word, good vibes, and positive messages, but this isn't something that is Jesus this or Christ that, because I would probably tune them out if it was like that. What I do hear are two guys who like any of us live under the pressures of the world, and the only hope is to steer through in one piece from start to finish, as best as possible. In a track like "Raise The Bar" they are talking about raising the level of excellence not only in hip-hop, but in life as well. JG and Middle are great together, they each have different flows and styles but they somehow compliment each other by drawing on each other's strengths and weaknesses, and in truth there's not much that's weak about them. You want to hear these two guys rhyme because it comes off as "you got my back, I got yours". The good vibe isn't an ego fest, there's a good sense of unity that comes from wanting to create decent, positive hip-hop. Favorite tracks include "Prisoner Of Your Imagination", "Reaching The Point", ""Raise The Bar", "High 5ive", and "Fly Away", although the entire album is a solid piece of work, and with a small group of rappers (Braille, ILLmaculate, The Kid Espi, and Rasco) and producers (Mo Poundz, Observ, and Terminill among others) helping them out, this music is sure to get out to a wider and broader audience. The silliness of the cover is nothing more than a way to bring you in, and once you're in, you'll find out immediately what they're about: a great group with a good vibe who want to rock the party and the world in their own way. They're off to a fantastic start.

    (The debut from Hot In Pursuit is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us It seems Metallica's "The Unforgiven" is becoming the hot underground sample as of late, for it made its way onto the Hot In Pursuit album. But a few weeks before that, I heard it on the new Joe Budden in a track called "Un4Given". The album in question is called Mood Muzik 3: The Album (Amalgam Digital), and anyone who has wondered where he's been will definitely find out what he's been up to. The guy is not taking no for an answer, and he commits himself to writing some powerful rhymes in the way Budden fans have come to know and love. When fans hear tracks like "Warfare" (which features Joell Ortiz, ""Star Inside Of Me", "Roll Call" and "4 Walls", this is someone who should be this generation's biggest and most influential MC, someone who should have Kanye West status at this point in his career. He doesn't, perhaps a crime in itself, but these songs show why fans are willing to wait to hear his work.

    For those who do collect his work, some of the tracks here have been released in various forms on a few mix tapes and CD's, but with voice-overs. These are the full tracks as is, and together they are a precursor of what's to come on Joe Budden's forthcoming LP, Padded Room. Those who felt the man has been sleeping will be left with ears and eyes open, A Clockwork Orange style.

    (Mood Muzik 3: The Album will be released on February 26th and can be pre-ordered from CD Universe. The digital version, Mood Muzik 3.5, is available directly from Amalgam Digital.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us East Side Magic are a duo from Vancouver, BC consisting of Lithium and Bizoid, two guys who aren't afraid to smack people around verbally. They have that attitude as if they "just don't care", but it's about digging deep, throwing it out, knowing what they say will either impress, offend, shock, or both. They aren't shock rappers but will definitely bring a few "oh shit"'s throughout their album, with such lines as up in your ass like a Catholic priest and fuck her in the butt just to leave on a dirty/Sanchez.... Much of these raw lyrics come from Lithium, but despite the explicitness and almost juvenile approach, there is a method to his madness and you have to hear him out before one things he's nothing but dirty sex rhymes. He pulls pranks, but he pulls them well and that's one of his best points.

    Then you have Bizoid, who is less about the humor (he's subtle in that sense) and more about producing lyrical gems at the drop of a time, and perhaps he knows it, or perhaps he acts like he doesn't know it. Maybe it's a bit of his Vietnamese background that allows him to go for broke and truly rip shit up, as he does on the one solo track he has here, "Back To My Crib". In this track he sounds like he's been listening to either a lot of DJ Quik and CPO or truly understands the groove and soothe of 70's soundtracks. His attitude is just the right amount of cocky, but those in the know will hear it and know it as just being hip-hop, and the guy has what it takes to not only balance his rhymes with Lithium, but to branch out and do his own thing as well. Both of these guys are very different and yet take on similar paths when it comes to reaching a common goal. It's hip-hop, Vancouver style, and no one in the lower 48 will know what hit them if they dare take a listen to what they have to offer. East Side Magic is like having some White Flower balm up in your face until you're drowning in super hot menthol and all you breath is shards of someone elses stuff.

    (The debut from East Side Magic is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The music by Amateur Prose is really good, and they make some incredible beats and sounds on The Hundred Stair EP (Hundred Stair Recordings). One of the guys in the group, Secret Of Crim, handled the production and I found myself wanting to get more into the music, as there's a lot going on. Of course by me saying this about a rap album, it must mean that the rapping itself must not be as good.

    Well, it's good, but at times it sounds like something I would prefer to hear on Flight Of The Conchords. One of the guys sounds like a dorky, robotic, news anchor, and the cool thing is that he has some of the best lyrics on here, but the most obnoxious voice. It keeps me from perhaps hearing this in the way it should be heard.

    But what is "that way", and what if this is how they want to present themselves? Well to be honest, Amateur Prose do not center around this robot MC, in fact they kind of come off more like a well trimmed Jurassic 5, complete with sing-songy choruses that happen every now and then. While they call themselves Amateur, their prose shows that they know what they're doing. Bustin Fabulous has the higher voice of the three and comes off like the wicked kid with a lot of tricks in his bag, ready for anything that's thrown his way. Then you have kneverknown the halucinagenius, who simply goes by the name of Kneverknown, and is the mid-range MC although far from someone who is middle ground. The third man in the group is Secret Of Crim, whose productions are worthy enough to where I would like to hear a full album of his work. But I believe he is the man with the low rapping voice, and when he drops his rhymes it comes out of left field and somehow manages to balance things fairly well.

    I'm curious how they do this live, I wonder if Crim yells like Onyx or if he maintains in a Chali2na-type manner. In the end I like what I hear, with Bustin Fabulous and Kneverknown being the better of the three, and Crim being a producer to watch.. There's also an oddball thing going on with the low-voiced rapper and I'm almost waiting for the theme to Tongan Ninja to be done at any given moment.

    (The Hundred Stair EP is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us In the opening track to his album, Neighborhood Fame, Ray Ricky Rivera says his music is for the working class, for the hustlers/for the gangsters and for the strugglers/this for the haters and the lovers, just because /when the beat drop, everybody turn it up, and that means Rivera is someone who wants to make a wide variety music for a wide range of listeners, whether it's a nice up-tempo dance track ready made for the clubs, something for a backyard party ("Still Livin'"), or something to listen to while consuming some liquid spirits ("Sunshine").

    The guy definitely carries the trademarks of being a California rapper, where you have him talking about where he comes from and the people and community that made him who he is, but with the polish that perhaps comes from the shine of the Hollywood lights. In other words, it doesn't sound like a rough demo, the guy doesn't need a makeover for his rhymes and style of rhyming is ready to be taken to the masses. He creates songs with incredible hooks, and as a storyteller he is believable. I can see how the ladies will eat him up, while guys may be intimidated by how well Rivera does his thing, because he knows this is his thing. In a track like "Mami", where he tries to start up the engine Meters style, one can hear how he is on the fine line between someone who has the rawness of Soup or Slim Kid Tre but has the capabilities of being as accessible as will.i.am. Acknowledging his self-proclaimed Neighborhood Fame will have his home crowd reaching out to him, but they better hang on tight because it seems Rivera wants to be able to visit each and every neighborhood across the nation, for fine food, fine ladies, and the many other finer things in life.

    (Neighborhood Fame is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Before the internet became a place for music discussion, one had to find out about out-of-the-way record stores by reading fanzines and the occasional article in Spin, or to go through countless interviews and hope to find references to an artist's favorite hideout. One place that was often mentioned was Wax Trax Records in Denver, and co-owner Duane Davis decided to form an in-store label called Local Anesthetic. The Colorado punk and alternative scenes has been adventurous for many years, but it was Local Anesthetic that was one of the first to give a few bands their first break, and move others across the state to start their own labels. The Local Anesthetic is a compilation that looks back at those days of yesteryear when it felt like a 7" single could save the world. In typical punk rock style, this CD is filled with 33 songs, a little over 78 minutes of music with the kind of raw appeal that you really had to look for in order to find. Once found, you would enjoy it for a long time.

    Some of these bands are considered Colorado legends, including Your Funeral, Young Weasels, and the almighty Frantix, whose songs have been covered by a number of bands over the years, including such classics as "My Dad's A Fucking Alcoholic", ""Sharin' Sharon", and "My Dad's Dead". There are also essential tracks by White Trash (who sound like they may have been an influence on Tri-Cities' own Diddly Squat), Bum Kon, Rok Tots, Defex, Nails, Jeri Rossi, and a single by Gluons featuring Allen Ginsberg.

    This is the kind of music one would be able to find in MaximumRockNRoll at any given time, if you were lucky. Many of their records became nothing but local favorites, and not surprisingly, the music still holds up, a testament to what they were trying to do, even if the bands didn't know if they could finish one song all the way through.

    (The Local Anesthetic is available from CD Universe, and directly from Smooch Records.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The Police are about to take on one last jaunt on tour before officially calling it a day. But between the years of 1979-1984, one could not turn on the radio without hearing their music, whether it was their "white reggae" or their trips into the worldly unknown. Over the years there have been a small number of albums honoring the music of the band, with the Reggatta Mondatta series being the popular of the bunch. The series featured a number of reggae artists both old and new taking the music "home" so to speak, so fans would be able to hear the material if the songs were born and raised in Jamaica or from various Jamaican communities around the world.

    Shanachie Records goes for the reggae treatment again by releasing Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Police and for the most part the covers here work, featuring a few artists that one might not normally expect on a reggae compilation. Intrigued? Read on.

    One of my favorite singers opens up the album with a cover of the great "Synchronicity I". It is covered by Junior Reid, who was known in the early 90's for the song "Stop This Crazy Thing" with Coldcut. His voice sounds as powerful as ever but with one exception: his vocal track is run through a pitch corrector, so he ends up sounding a bit like T-Pain, which in my opinion is completely unnecessary. Reid's treatment of The Police song is to take it as a 4/4 song instead of 6/4, although it works in this context. "One World (Not Three)" didn't have to travel too far for a conversion, especially not in the hands of The Wailing Souls, since the song is ready-made for ska. Toots & The Maytals change the lyrics to "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" slightly (the references to "rape" are removed and replaced), but it's great to hear Toots do his thing in a romantic stylee. Before he left UB40, Ali Campbell was able to do my all time favorite Police song, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", and with luck he will include this in his sets as a solo artists.

    There are a number of highlights here, and a few surprises. Highlights include Horace Andy and his great cover of "Invisible Sun", and you can't have a good song without a great version. In this case, the "Invisible Dub" is handled by none other than the genius Lee "Scratch" Perry. The funky Cyril Neville turns "Wrapped Around Your Finger" into something much deeper, and as one of my favorite Neville brothers, it's great to hear him do his thing too. The biggest surprise happens to come from Joan Osborne, who has covered a wide range of music over the years even though the mainstream spotlight hasn't been on her. Here she covers "Every Breath You Take" with her elegant voice, and it is interesting to hear her sing these lyrics from a female perspective, since the song is not a love song.

    Spirits In The Material World holds up quite well as a tribute to The Police, and a tribute album as a whole, with credit going to the artists selected to make this a solid effort. Unlike some tribute albums in recent years, this is one that is worthy of repeated listenings.

    (Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Beatles is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Yoshi Wada is a Japanese avant-garde/experimental artist who has created his own unique works with homemade instruments and improvisational performances and recordings. Lament For The Rise And fall Of The Elephantine Crocodile was originally released in 1982 and was considered by some to be one of his rarest albums, almost impossible to find. The kind folks at Em Records in Japan have reissued it on their Omega Point imprint, making it possible for older fans to rediscover this long lost gem, and for new fans to find out what others have known about for years.

    The original album consisted of nothing but two side-length tracks, and are meant to be heard as one, in one sitting. The first piece is a 31 minute track called "Singing", featuring Wada singing in a meditative manner. I should also say that the entire album was recorded in an empty pool because the acoustics inside created a unique type of reverb that was appealing to Wada. For "Singing", he simply sings to himself and at times because of the reverb that is going on, he is able to sing over himself, creating a multi-layered effect that is very interesting. Even more interesting is the original side 2 piece, the 33 minute "Bagpipe" which is just that, or what really sounds like a bagpipe going through some distortion pedals. Within the continuous drone are layers of other sounds, including Wada's own voice, and if listened to in the right frame of mind, it can be meditative, mindblowing, or it will create a scratch that you can't get rid of. It's quite unique, and one that would be interesting to listen to through repeated listenings.

    (The reissue of Lament For The Rise And fall Of The Elephantine Crocodile can be ordered from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Japan's Em Records have returned with a new album in their Steel Pan Series with the release of Reggae Is Here Once Again by Steel An' Skin. The original was a four song, 15 minute, 12" 45 released in 1979, with the title track having a mild disco beat while they talk about the power of reggae via Trinidad, via London. These guys were incredible in what they did, and while this single may have been overlooked by some, this style of music has been highly sought after by collectors in the last few years. The CD features two extra tracks from the album Steel An' Skin recorded, Acid Rain, and a previously unreleased track, the short but brief "John Belly Mama", showing how great these guys were. Cratediggers may recognize some of the names on this album as being those who played with the infamous 20th Century Steel Band.

    Even if you have the original single and album, you'll want this reissue for the DVD that comes with it, featuring a great documentary about the group, as directed by Steve Shaw. It covers their history from their rough times in Liverpool to playing at some of the more elite country clubs of the United Kingdom. Highly recommended for any party and music historian.

    (Reggae Is Here Once Again can be pre-ordered through CD Universe.)


    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The idea is simple enough: create lullaby instrumentals, Hawaiian style. Yeah, perhaps not the most original idea in the world, but one that works fairly well in the hands of Friends Of Aloha, who offer up the 16-track Hawaiian Style Lullabies (Ono).

    The credits are very minimal, stating that the music was played by Friends Of Aloha, but doesn't list who they are, or who (s)he may be, since it could be someone making music straight out of the box. The ki ho'alu (slack key) and steel guitars are played by and credited to one Kalani but Kalani who? Maybe the target audience for this music don't care, but give credit where credit is due. I had not heard of Friends Of Aloha before this, but apparently their music is quite popular in Japan.

    So how is the music? To be honest, it's nice and pleasant, and while that may not sound convincing enough, consider this. The songs are a mixture of traditional Hawaiian music, popular lullabies, and a few classical songs, mixed in with field recordings of the ocean, rain, or trees. It does sound new age, but the music is not about complex guitar work or complex arrangements, but rather to create a soothing and relaxing mood. If you know the Hawaiian songs ("E "Ala, "Pupuhinuhinu", "E Mama E", "and "Kahuli Aku" among others), I think listeners will find the arrangements to be faithful to the songs themselves.

    Are they effective lullabies? While I did not listen to them as I was about to doze off, the playing is perfect for something if you wish to fall asleep to the sounds of something peaceful and tranquil.

    (Hawaiian Style Lullabies is available from Mele.com.)


  • iCON The Mic King has put together a mix featuring highlights of some of the tracks he has done over the years. You can take a listen by going here, or download it directly by right clicking this link.

  • Fred Knuxx has a new track out now called "Freedom Part 2", featuring Crooked I. It is being made available as a free download, which you can have by clicking here.

  • That's it for The Run-Off Groove #190. I did promise some other reviews but this column is late as it is so I will hold it off until the next one. There will be reviews for new music by The Eric Byrd Trio + 4, Tom Dempsey & Tim Ferguson, Tangria Jazz Group, Bing Ji Ling, Nancy Priddy, Roommate, Vince Seneri, Lolita Sweet, and many more, so come back next week.

  • If you have music you'd like for me to review, contact me through my MySpace page.