Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #205

Aloha, and welcome to the 205th edition of The Run-Off Groove. This edition is not as packed as recent editions, but it's here, so since you're here, now you need a list of things you should hear. Start it, bra.

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Image Hosted by Kidz In The Hall have gained a bit of attention in the last year due to their efforts to make themselves heard and known. Now they're getting some MTV rotation due to the release of The In Crowd (Duck Down/Major League/Koch), and their sound is refined and polished. Some of their lyrics seem to be specifically written for a bit of mainstream recognition, kind of like The Roots when Malik B. said that he could make Metallica and Guns N' Roses thrash, there are some reference that one might not have heard on their first album but this is a more sophisticated Kidz In The Hall, Double O and Naledge are willing to open themselves up to exposure by exposing the exposed, and does it work? For the most part yeah.

Musically they are more varied than before, banging like they were from the South but still doing the NYC-vibe, the East Coast groove, and also doing tracks that could appeal to West Coast heads, but when you hear "Drivin' Down The Block (Low End Theory)", ""Middle Of The Map Pt. 2", and "Love Hangover" (the latter featuring Estelle), they become coastless and borderless, they are truly about making good hip-hop that everyone can enjoy, as it should be. Phonte of Little Brother blesses "Paper Trail" with an incredible verse, and in fact the overall vibe of Kidz In The Hall on this one is as if they were Little Brother's, well, little brothers. Camp Lo sit in on "Snob Hop", unfortunately their vocal tracks obviously sound like they were done elsewhere although hearing them both in the track is the ultimate honor. Buckshot drops a great verse in "The Pledge", and other guests on the album who help out the Kidz include Sean Price, Guilty Simpson, Black Milk, Skyzoo, and Fooch.

The suits they wear on the cover artwork is just a front, they'll bust out and go crazy when you hear the album and do everything hip-hop style. When they try to branch out and do something else, as they do in the rock/soul "Lucifer's Joyride", for me it doesn't work, it sounds like they're catering a bit too much for reality show acceptance, or a chance to tour with Gym Class Heroes and these guys are worth much more than that. The In Crowd is an album that tells their fans that Kidz In The Hall are in, and you can be too if you want to be. B-boy-isms are still around, help yourself.

(The In Crowd is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by The last I heard from Mochipet he was twisting beats and throwing out LFO's as if they were free cheese and ramen packets. They call it "breakcore", and I was expecting some really mind-tripping experimentation again with his new album. I was pleasantly surprise to hear Microphone Pet (Daly City) and hear his approach to hip-hop, and if his sonic electronic soundscapes weren't proof that this guy knows what he's doing, this new album shows he has the confidence to continue to do anything and everything he wants to do.

Microphone Pet has a distinct California sound in terms of how laid back and freeflowing the music and MC's are. It's not an "I don't give a fuck" attitude here, but more like "hey, the beach is only a few miles away, I got some drinks in the other room, I'm going to groove, be fly, and let this Mochitrack move me". It's not as claustrophobic as his Girls Love Breakcore album, and not something you want to drill your head with. In fact, "Lazy Day" (featuring the smooth luscious vocals of KFlay, who sounds a few shades away from Ladybug Mecca) could easily become the summer jam of 2008 if both of them had their way. This would be the kind of track one wouldn't mind hearing Fatlip drop a rhyme on. Hieroglyphics fans will get into "We Put It Down" for it features Opio, Pro The Leader, Dopestyle with enough clever lines and verses that will give you that smirk of pride and made you wish you wrote something that good Considering some of the video game beats heard within, it's surprising Del isn't in the song for a line or two but it holds up very well as is. Dopestyle joins Casual and Humanbeings in a song that will give you brain damage, "Mr. Malase" as the bass and boppy keyboards will fuck up your head, seriously.

Fans who are anxiously awaiting something new from Crown City Rockers will have to pick up this album to hear Rahsaan offering his soulful "lyrical treasures" in "Ride On", and perhaps an EP between Rahsaan and Mochipet would be a great addition to their discographies (or at least I would welcome it). The album never slows down with contributions from Mykah9, Mike Boo, E da Boss, Bicasso, Dubphonics, 215 The Freshest Kids, and other collaborators both old and new that establish themselves as artists, but also help Mochipet define them for a brief moment, and everyone allowing each other to just... party in the name of music. Mochipet's production on this album is up to par with name producers in the hip-hop and electronic genres, and if there is anyone who could easily boost the musical careers of Brenda Song, Christian Serratos, or even give Sean Kingston a challenge or two, it would be this guy. Until then, enjoy the Rubik's cube of production that Mochipet provides, then step back and await to hear what he'll offer up next.

(Microphone Pet is available directly from Daly City Records.)

Image Hosted by I've been a fan of Daptone Records for years, and if you were a fan of the Desco and Soul Fire labels, Daptone was the natural place to go. The label has received a lot of attention over the years, whether it's for the analog pleasures of their recording techniques to the explosion of Sharon Jones and Binky Griptite. It was enough for them to be able to move their label HQ and studio to a new place, and because of them there has been a surge of soul and funk bands getting into the game as well, releasing vinyl all over the place (as they should). Daptone are allowed to celebrate, and they did by releasing a compilation of songs that were originally released on 45rpm singles. They're doing it again with a second volume, and like the first, it will only be available as MP3's. Weird? Yeah, a little, but if you are a diehard fan you'll buy the records as well.

Daptone 7 inch Singles Collection Vol. 2 (Daptone) examines various songs and artists in their singles discography and puts them together as one for all to hear in one place. We're talking stuff like a cover of "Che Che Cole" by Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, the 2-part "Stand Up" by Lee Fields & The Sugarman 3, the too-funky-for-your-ass "The Matador" by The Mighty Imperials, and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings offering their perspective of The First Edition classic, "I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Is In". The Dap-Kings take it alone for "Nervous Like Me" and it may move you to want to become a part of their exclusive Dap echo chamber.

I should also say that I've always been a purist in that when I've listened to Daptone output, it has always been on vinyl. I was given a promotional CD copy of this digital-only album and hearing their production makes me wish all modern music was still this warm. I wish people like Res and Danielia Cotton would go into their studio to record, but I know these guys are picky about what goes in. The same attitude is applied when it comes to what makes it out of their doors, and this 13-track album is proof that regardless of the influence of the music, there's still a reason to make that kind of music today.

(Daptone 7 inch Singles Collection Vol. 2 will be released on June 2nd and will be available through eMusic

Image Hosted by When you have a band who has gained recognition for playing intense instrumentals, what better way to try something new with a title like The Distant And Mechanised Glow Of Eastern European Dance Parties? That is exactly what 65daysofstatic has done on their new EP (Monotreme), and this "something new" involves a bit of electronic tomfoolery and, yes, singing. Their singing efforts aren't bad at all, the three songs on here (it's a four track EP, with one song being made in two different mixes) sound like the kind of thing a band would do between sessions and tours, for fun. "Dance Parties (Distant)" sounds like something New Order or Dirty Vegas would do, and this might make a few of their fans scratch their head wondering if what they're hearing is what they should be hearing. It's a house/techno track more or less, a unique treatment of a song fans are familiar with from their most recent album. One is a bit grittier than the other, but those who have enjoyed their creativity within the group's self-made restrictions will love the exploration they do here.

The EP features two brand new tracks, "Goodbye, 2007" and "Antique Hyper Mall", the former sounding like Mike Shinoda if he joined nine inch nails, the latter a bit of abstract minimalism after it overdosed on luudes. These two songs show the progress of what the group has done over the years, along with hints of what may be coming in the future. 65daysofstatic for me are up there with Supersilent and The Necks in terms of wanting to take their music to new and interesting places, helping the listener on with their journeys making them never return to where they came from before. This EP may very well be that for 65daysofstatic. Welcome to the future, gentlemen.

(The Distant And Mechanised Glow Of Eastern European Dance Parties is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by It's safe to say that most people have never heard Jex Thoth, and if you are a fan of progressive, psychedelic hard rock, the daring stuff that you want to make yourself numb with, get yourself familiar. Jex Thoth are a band from California who were previously known as Totem. They decided to switch their name and call themselves after their vocalist, so like Tad, Jex Thoth are a woman and a band.. Their self-titled debut (I Hate) will please those who love the electricity of such bands as Monster Magnet, The Four Horsemen, MC5, and early Black Sabbath. At first listen I thought her vocals were pushed too forward and that her vocal tracks were a bit cleaner, if not different from the music itself. A second listen (and a brief look at their bio) made me realize that Thoth is not just some alterna-friendly rocker girl, she is someone who belts it out strong, a continuation of that thick hard rock that once dominated the Earth for years.

Their music is just not plodding heaviness, the arrangements and occasional shifts in mood and time signatures are a welcome surprise to the murkiness they offer in their music and lyrics. It sounds like the sound of doom, think leather jackets, endless rainy days, and a constant chill in the air. Yeah, probably the soundtrack of your life, right? Thoth may not have the operatic qualities of a Ronnie James Dio, but the emotions expressed are just as moving and she can be as majestic as some of her metal and folk heroes, as she reveals in "The Banishment", ""Stone Evil", and the 3-part suite (!!!) called "Equinox Suite". I love the sound they're able to achieve, and a part of me knows that if they were ever able to work with Rick Rubin, their sound would be over the top. However, the sound they're able to achieve on this album is perfect as is and I don't want to hear any tweaking of the formula, at least not now. Right now, they may be one of the more original hard rock bands out today, a band not afraid to embrace their influences and show to the world what the future could be like.

  • On a self-promotional note, the brand new digital broadcast of Book's Music is available, and it's free. This week's installment is the 69th one, with the number 69 there's a need to raise an eyebrow or two and get a little frisky. You can do so now, in a digital broadcast that is exactly 69 minutes... in length.

    Click here to get your own player.

  • That's it for this week's Run-Off Groove. There's still a lot I didn't make it to this week, so come back next time. If you have any music, DVD's, or books you'd like for me to review, contact me through my MySpace page and I will pass along my contact information. When it comes to music, vinyl and CD's are preferred. Thank you.
  • Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #204

    Aloha aikane, pehea 'oe? Mabuhay my friend to you, NI HAU MA!, and welcome to the 204th edition of this column called The Run-Off Groove. I am John Book, and talofa regards to you. Let's begin.

    Download 25 FREE songs at!

    Image Hosted by I'm going to start it from the top: very good album, terrible album cover. Let's attack the cover. The cover features a picture of the artists in a desert, hanging around some camels. That's alright. But then you have a DJ booth, a record collection that is monochrome green, and speakers that were all added in during the Photoshop process. The two men, the camels, and the trees cast shadows. Other items in the photo do not. Very bad and amateurish. But the music? Very good.

    I've been a fan of DJ Logic since his days with Medeski, Martin & Wood, and later discovered that I had been a fan a few years before when he was with Eye & I. Jason Miles is a musician who has played with some of the best over the years. For Global Noize (Shanachie) the two men collaborate on a project that removes the boundaries of music and countries and create something that's quite worldly. For Logic, it may be one of the more milder projects he has done in quite some time, but what he does here is create some atmospherics that is fitting for each song. Miles does a bit of programming too but his keyboard work is what shines on this album. Other contributors on the album include Billy "illyB" Martin on drums, Karl Denson on sax, Cyro Baptista on percussion, along with special guests Herb Alpert (trumpet), Bernie Worrell (organ), Suphala (tabla), fellow Yohimbe Brother Vernon Reid (guitar), Me'Shell NdegeOcello (bass), John Popper (harmonica), and together they create some interesting journeys that travel from the continent of Africa to the swamps of the South and the grandeur of New Orleans, which all can he heard in tracks like "Spice Island", "Dar' abesque", "Bollyhood", and "Pool Of Honey". The music itself comes from experiences abroad, or a curiosity from hearing them on records and wanting to know more. Popper's playing in "The Souk" is different from what he may be known for but it fits in beautifully.

    Overall the music is quite accessible, decent enough for smooth jazz radio airplay even though it doesn't quite fit the mold of what smooth jazz is. In a better world, this would get as much attention (if not more) than Paul Simon's Graceland, as it has a way of telling a story through music and words to where one begins to sense that what Logic and Miles are doing is saying that despite our locales, we're all in this together. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Logic gave all of these songs the Yohimbe treatment.

    (The CD for Global Noize is available from CD Universe. MP3's can be purchased through eMusic.)

    Image Hosted by From Michigan comes a crew that want to let people know their style is not to be messed with. They're called the Bake Up Boys (not to be confused with San Diego's Baka Boyz, and while they are from the mid-west, they definitely have a Southern vibe to their music that has them sounding like a cross between UGK and early Goodie Mob with a touch of Ludacris finesse. Fresh Out Da Kitchen (Phase One) has them talking about the rough and grimy ways of living, but wanting a lot more so they can provide for themselves and their family. "Now I Can Do That" (free MP3 download), produced by Flawless, Young RJ, and Craig Lane, has them "networking with my kin folk" along with Jim Jones, who definitely adds a unique touch to the song. The chorus has them also talking about taking their girls to the mall, so obviously there's a target audience they're trying to reach, and they should eat this up big time.

    Another track that will also do well is the song MC Breed did with them, "Gucci's On My Feet" (free MP3 download), where they speak about having the top cars, doing everything before everyone else, and making sure they are fresh and clean. At times it sounds extremely materialistic, but when it sounds this good you may want to get some bootleg grills and spit game. Producer J'Seezie combines a mixture of Southern pride and West Coast funk in one of the album's best songs, "Chef J.R.", where they use cooking metaphors to talk about coming up with top recipes that will satisfy and make people impressed with them.

    As one of the songs on the album states very clearly, "Ain't No Sense In Y'all Hatin' (free MP3 download), and I say this because while hardheads may want to express THE SHATE THAT SHATE MADE, there's absolutely no reason for anyone to hate the Bake Up Boyz or this album. It grooves, the production is tight, you can dance to it, and within it you'll find some well written lyrics. If these guys did a track with the Youngbloodz, it would be all over.

    (Fresh Out Da Kitchen is available from CD Universe in both dirty and clean editions.)

    Image Hosted by Sky Balla was once a member of Tha Gamblaz, who appeared on albums by Master P and JT The Bigga Figga. Sky has been working hard in the last ten years but had never rereased a proper album under his own name.

    Until now.

    Tycoon Status (Tycoon Status/Koch) is an album by a rapper who isn't afraid to talk about making money and never wanting to be broke, and also saying a few things that people might find offensive. That might prevent him from appearing in a G-funk musical, but he seems to be the kind of guy who could care less about stupid bullshit. Every song on this album could turn into a radio or street hit, especially "Creep With You", which features the high pitched honey vocals of Tynisha Keli, sounding a bit like Monica Payne in this one. The guy is able to bring on a number of special guests, including Cassidy, Hell Rell, E-40, and one of my favorite MC's out there, San Quinn, and they all help push Sky Balla's music over the top. People who aren't into the constant materialistic metaphors will be turned off by this immediately, but again, Sky Ball could care less. He is reaching an audience with his music, and his star will no doubt shine. I would not mind having an instrumental version of this album.

    (Tycoon Status is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by The new issue of Entertainment Weekly features an article about the new teen movement in entertainment, where everyone wants to be a knockoff of Miley Cyrus, Drake Bell (who isn't a teen but has teen appeal), Miranda Cosgrove, or Selena Gomez. The big musical heartthrobs, according to well paid publicists, are the botoheads in The Jonas Brothers, who make innocent music while promoting abstinence and wholesome milk. I think the "movement" of sorts is a way of filling a void, because what was new is now in its 30's and marrying Nick Cannon and the kids (the ones with the disposable income) need to have new heroes. Or need to find a reason to go to the mall and spend. They want good rocking music, stuff tha may sound wholesome but are really good and splendid variations of pop. Instead of going down the teen route, you can be your collegiate self and listen to a band called Her Space Holiday.

    Okay, I lied, Her Space Holiday is actually the creation of one man, Marc Bianchi. He hasn't been a teen in awhile, but plays with the same enthusiasm found in a room of 500 girls. XOXO, Panda And The New Kid Revival (Mush) sounds like someone who discovered AM radio for the first time and tapped into all of the sugery sweetness that is pop music, and that's not bad at all. I really like what I hear, it's the kind of music that will be enjoyed by those who like singer/songwriters, infectious pop, and just some level of creativity that's beyond the norm. I'm digging it.

    Image Hosted by Gospel is not a genre of music I listen to on a regular basis, the only time I will is if I go to thrift stores and pick up the odd 45 or two. It came as a surprise when I opened up a package and saw this CD. Was I the right recipient? I wasn't sure to expect so I popped it in.

    Songs From Sunday Morning Vol. 1 is the first release from Holy Mountain Music, a group founded by producer Bobby Bush who wanted to create updated versions of gospel standards and classics. The music is jazzy and funky, but not overly so. What you do hear is a groove that is undeniable and one that provides a positive message if it is what you seek. Guitarist Rick Bowlby is a highlight throughout the album, I'm not sure if he does work outside of Christian music but I would not mind hearing a full album of his guitar work.

    As for the material, the titles are familiar but you haven't heard them like this: "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", "Nothing But The Blood", "What A Friend We Have In Jesus", and "Crown Him With Many Crowns". There is a spoken intro at the beginning of the title track, and immediately you feel like you're entering church awaiting the good word from the pastor. When it becomes, you feel comforted and want to listen to it all. Despite the Christian themes of all of the songs, one does not have to be Christian to enjoy the songs, there is nothing wrong with wanting and seeking good in yourself and life, and the way they perform is definitely uplifting. I know there are issues with people who ask "where are all of the great black musicians?", because some say that you rarely see that in the mainstream. You can look to jazz or go into the church and see real musicians playing the music that satisfies them, but it is interesting when the gospel and jazz worlds collide together. Songs From Sunday Morning Vol. 1 was originally released in 2006 but is getting a re-release next month. If you are a fan of good gospel music, you will find it here.

    (Songs From Sunday Morning Vol. 1 will be released on June 24th, and be made available directly from Holy Mountain Music.)

    Image Hosted by Let's face it, there seems to be an overabundance of Broadway-based anything out on the market these days, to the point where one might be overwhelmed by the amount of people who want to make themselves known. Not everyone will, but one singer that may have a chance is Roberta Duchak, although to say that she has a chance seems to underestimate her talents, as she has been releasing music since 1996.

    Intersections (self-released) combines the best of jazz and Broadway and sings with a voice that pushes the limits of both without getting too over the edge. She holds herself back at the right moments, and when she hits a moment that feels just right, she knows how to work it good. Take a listen to her scat-like ways in "Takin' A Chance On Love" or the grace of "Raise The Roof" and you'll hear what I'm talking about, someone who wants to create a story not only through the lyrics but by the strength of her voice that tends to add to the overall warmth and emotions being stirred up by the band. Duchak is a strong vocalist who can hold her own, and the album is her way of letting people know that along the path of life, it's best to keep on moving forward.

    (Intersections is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Leanne Weatherly is a voice that is described as "pure", and at times one can tell her influences come from two to three generations ago, and nothing wrong with that. Go and Find... (self-released) has the class and beauty of jazz and pop singers of the past, but she can also do things with a contemporary touch, which means she will not be limited by her own interests. She writes a good amount of her material and one can tell why she is a part of the West Coast Songwriters Association, this lady knows about the art of the song.

    Let me repeat that for emphasis: this lady knows about the art of the song. It's nice to hear someone who sings her own words and does it as a way to say "this is from me, this is me, this is what I am about", which you can hear in songs like "Simple Things", "Go and Find", "Oo So Cool", and "Chocolate and Roses". When she does cover other songs, she does so by understanding the song, the music, and its intent, and in turn becoming the new voice of the song. Her versions of "Caravan", "Midnight At The Oasis", "God Bless The Child", and even Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird" are remarkable, and she is backed by a wide range of musicians who know how to paint the soundscape with their playing.

    If there was one flaw on here, to my ears it felt like the vocals in some songs were pushed too far up in the mic, and because of this it revealed the coldness of the digital recording. When you have a warm and welcoming voice, you want everything to gel together, and it is in those moments that don't that slow the pace down for a brief moment or two. Apart from that, it's a welcome album to any vocal jazz collection.

    (Go and Find... is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by TQ has been singing for most of his life and has been an artist for the last ten years, and his bio states that some have called him a "singing 2Pac" due to his swagger and appeal to the ladies. While he hasn't had major success as of yet, it seems that the changes in the music industry may change that path with the release of Paradise (Gracie/EMI).

    The sing-songy vibe that has been a part of hip-hop for the last 13 years seems to be what TQ is all about, but instead of being some random singer who sounds like a cousin on luudes, the guy can really sing. "Soulja", with some mean LFO's courtesy of producer Deezle, has him talking about braving the ways of the streets and popping "it" for life. He refers to the street dealers and hustlers who do what they have to do in order to pay the bills, and mocks those who sell fradulent product. He also isn't afraid to give a shout out to his lord and savior in one song, and then talk about his pole position as a lady in question makes it clap in the stripper friendly "In My Lap" in the next. Think of some of the slow jams by Usher and Jodeci and you'll have an idea of what "In My Lap" sounds like (complete with a line which says "I'mma make it rain, put it in my lap". Hopefully she isn't too drippy.) Krayzie Bone shows up in the title track (MP3 download) and it's obvious TQ wants to create music that will make people get in the mood and have a good time, while occasionally showing respect for friends and family. A wholesome album in an itchy dick sense.

    He speaks about his songwriting skills in his bio, which are there but sometimes what he writes about are just revisions of what has been done before. While that is nothing different from other genres that can find a thousand ways of writing about love lost and love found, there are moments on this album where I wish he would bust out and do something a bit more "grown", to show the maturity he no doubt has. I just hate to think he's putting a bit of his energy into having a decent singing career by taking everyone else's formula and not really getting into that TQ can provide. Someone like Usher manages to keep one foot on the side for his younger audience, the other foot for those who have followed his career since the beginning, and with songs like "Pumpin'", "S.E.X.Y." and "Whatchagondo?" it feels like TQ just wants to write lyrics for what he feels is his core audience. If you do listen deep enough (and it's hard to say if anyone is listening deep these days), there is someone who wants to show off how clever he can be and I wish he would show that side of his compositions more frequently. His productions though are top notch, he handles some of the songs here and co-produced a few others.

    TQ presents himself as someone with confidence. He has also dabbled in acting and a bit of modeling, so to add singer, songwriter and producer to the resume, there aren't many people who are willing to cover all of those angles with equal determination. Perhaps that's why he's called the "singing 2Pac", and Paradise is what he may be able to find in this lifetime if he keeps working it at this pace. However, I would not mind seeing him do a traditional soul album without the modern R&B cliches and hip-hop hybrids that often plague the music. I can hear it in him, and I hope one day he'll make it happen.

    (Paradise is available from CD Universe in both dirty and clean editions.)

    Image Hosted by Dream Bitches aren't really dreamy (well, Yoko Kikuchi is), and I wouldn't think they are actual bitches. For all I know they could be complete nags, including guitarist Casey Holfort, the only non-female in the band. What is the point in mentioning any of this? With luck it will intrigue you to continue reading as I talk about their album, Coke-and-Spiriters (Olive Juice/Recommended If You Like).

    This ten song album is all about that indie rock glory, jangly guitars and harmony vocals that remind me of the best of The Breeders and Bratmobile as they sing songs about vacations, silent days, cars, and in "Video Games" they talk about wanting to talk to a man until they get lost in the zone, only to question his motives in life. On the surface, their songs might seem like an endless collection of quirky pop references but take in the whole picture and one will find a lot of well written songs. They can be puzzle-like and unfold to reveal its truths, and perhaps that's what they're doing, hoping for fans to unravel the puzzle in order to reach the song's final destination and dwell in the glory of the epiphany. Are they dry and "wry", as their bio indicates, making them a part of the anti-folk movement like Kimya Dawson? They do enter that musical VFW hall every once in awhile, but they champion the kind of sound that would be familiar to fans of the Kill Rock Stars label. The vocal harmonies of Kikuchi (who plays guitar) and Ann Zakaluk (their lead vocalist who plays tambourine) can be a harmonious deadpan, which tends to be purposely "girly" but with lyrics like "I'll fuck you till you love me/you will remote control me/you'll pile it on my dreaming/until I wake and screaming/what could be a better way to go/than losing your life at a Dream Bitches show?", it's obvious that they do things with sarcasm and a devilish grin.

    (Coke-and-Spiriters is available directly from Recommended If You Like Records).

    Dream Bitches - Maniacal Mechanic (this is not a direct MP3 link, this will take you to the Recommended If You Like Records downloads page, where you are able to download "Maniacal Mechanic" and other RIYL artist MP3's for free.)

  • On a self-promotional note, the brand new digital broadcast of Book's Music is available, and it's free. One hour of solid music, not a second more, never a second less.

    Click here to get your own player.

  • Over at Okayplayer I have two brand new reviews that I'd like for you to take a look at when you have some time:
    Jackson Conti-Sujinho
    Orchestra Baobab-Made In Dakar

  • I'm now a part of FudgeFM, a website that calls itself "the future of urban music, film, art, intelligence, and culture". It's about to make its formal grand opening in a few weeks, but it will be a website dedicated to music discussion through sharing blogs, videos, reviews, and more. I've posted a few blog entries there and I hope you are able to join me there and get involved.

  • On a musical note, the new Crut album recording sessions are underway. I am hoping to release a 45 or 12" for "I Wanna Be A Rock'N'Roll Star" before the end of the year, and I'm currently in negotiations with someone to do a remix of the track. I haven't released any vinyl in six years, so for you true record junkies, this is for you. Stay tuned.

  • That is it for The Run-Off Groove As always, I still have more music to review and that will have to wait until next week. Perhaps a look at the new Kidz In The Hall? A good range of jazz? Yes to both.

  • If you have new music, DVD's, or books that you'd like for me to review, you can contact me through my my MySpace page and I'll pass along my contact information.
  • SOME STUFFS: Holy Crap! PPP Are Back!

    Image Hosted by

    Mark July 8th on your calendars, for that's the day Ubiquity will be releasing a brand new 12" from PPP, which also marks the formal introduction of their new singer, Karma Stewart. The song has a mean 60's soul vibe, with Stewart getting down by singing in a manner that will make Sharon Jones proud and Nicole Willis may want to show some respect as well. Amy who? The 12" has a remix of the song by Trackademicks which almost gives it a slight Gnarls Barkley feel.

    The B-side is "Angel", featuring Coultrain, moves with an undeniable 70's groove, complete with a guitar solo and pounding drums that is sure to move any crowd.

    The single is a hint of what's to come on the group's forthcoming album, Abundance, due out around October. The group promises a "celebration", and if this new single is any indication, it may be a very festive autumn.

    SOME STUFFS: P.I.C. premiers new video for "Fonzarelli" next week

    Image Hosted by

    I haven't even heard the new album, but the great band known as P.I.C. have made a third video for the album, El Nova Hustle, this time for the song "Fonzarelli". The video was directed by P.I.C.'s own Mr. Sulu (Steve Mallorca). It will be premiered in NYC at Slainte (304 Bowery) on Wednesday, May 28th at 7:30pm.

    You can check out other P.I.C. videos by clicking to YouTube.

    SOME STUFFS: new Crooked I single, and it's FREE

    Image Hosted by The great Crooked I has teamed up with the wack Akon for a song that is half good, and I'm talking about the part with Crooked I in it. It's called "Dream Big", and the song is available for free through

    The website also has a number of songs by other artists available for free download, including a really cool song by Perfecto called "Government Assistance", where he is seen holding a food stamp and a block of unmeltable cheese.

    Hip Hop West also sells a bunch of hip-hop related merchandise, including CD's and DVD's, T-shirts, shoes, magazines, and more, so download a free MP3 or two and show some support by buying a shirt for yourself and a hoodie as a gift.

    SOME STUFFS: 4 Peaks Music Festival (Bend, Oregon)

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    If you are in the Pacific Northwest or are about to head up here this summer, you'll want to be in Bend, Oregon for this year's4 Peaks Music Festival, described as 2 Days of Music + Camping. It will be held on July 25th and 25th at the Rockin' A Ranch (19449 Tumalo Reservoir Road), and artists scheduled to appear include Zilla, Tea Leaf Green, Hot Buttered Rum, Everyone Orchestra and many more. Families will be happy to know that children under 10 will be admitted free. There will be camping on site, and tickets are available right now, at a discount for a limited time.

    It's a great chance to hear some great music and of course enjoy the great outdoors. High gas prices may make it a problem to do some heavy duty traveling, but it shouldn't mean a slowdown of good music and good times. For more information, head to the 4 Peaks Music Festival website

    SOME STUFFS: new documentary on legendary jazz musician Billy Taylor

    Image Hosted by It was recently shown at the IAJE Conference in New York, and now it is available for viewing and downloading. Billy Taylor: American Hero is a documentary film directed by Brett Primack in honor of the legendary jazz musician. The man isn't only known for his playing, but his compositions, his efforts as an instructor, and his humanitarian causess.

    Director Primack said rather than have him wait around for placement in festivals and airing on TV, he will distribute his film on the internet and sees internet options eventually replacing TV. You can see the film by going to Billy Taylor's official home page.

    A video of "Perdido" performed by Duke Ellington, Willie The Lion, and Billy Taylor:

    SOME STUFFS: Nina B. mashes up with Madonna

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    Here's an interesting project, a New York artist by the name of Nina B who has created a complete mash-up album between her and... Madonna. It's called The Icon, and perhaps Nina B is hoping for the passing of the torch. The Icon is being made available for free through her label, which you can download by right clicking the bottom link and choosing the "save as" option:

    The interesting think about the illustrated cover is not just how Madonna is wearing a Union Jack shirt, but the fact that Madonna is showing off her asscrack.

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    Eh, she has shown much more before. Listen to how Nina B. musically plays with one of her musical idols.

    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    SOME STUFFS: two Pacific Northwest music blogs of interest

    Anyone who was a part of the music scene in the Pacific Northwest will know it was much more diverse and active than what passed through and what was accepted by MTV. Those of us who lived in the shadows of Seattle and Portland always supported the bands, whether it was through buying the records, tapes, and CD's, or making it to a show. I was one of those standing on the outside by being involved in the Tri-Cities music scene in the 1990's, and much of what I did then would lead to what I do today.

    I came across two blogs, put together by people who were a part of what happened in the late 80's/early 90's, and before and after.

    10 Things Zine

    Both boths feature flyers, articles, MP3's, and often feature comments from those who were there, occasionally from the artists themselves. Perhaps it's time for me to dig up my old photos, my Intensity fanzine sheets and start putting them up in its own blog.

    Reading them makes you feel like you're outside of the club or in a van, shooting the shit, wondering if there's enough money to go around for beer or a visit to Denny's. Seeing a lot of these flyers reminds me of when I was going to high school, heading to Fred Meyer to pick up an issue of The Rocket and seeing flyers and ads for
    concerts I always wanted to go to. Check them out.

    For some reason, I remember the 10 Things zine and submitting music for a compilation way back when, but it may have been another zine. Oh well.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    SOME STUFFS: The Pharmacy's audio prescription hits the road

    Image Hosted by The Pharmacy (as reviewed in #194) are out of the Seattle for the moment and hitting the road in support of their album, Choose Yr Own Adventure. The band are on tour with Japanther, so catch the both of them if you can.

    (Shows marked with asterisks are with Japanther):
    05/15 Pensacola, FL @ Sluggo's *
    05/16 New Orleans, Louisiana @ Big Top*
    05/17 Austin, TX @ Red 7 *
    05/19 Las Cruces, NM @ The Farm *
    05/22 Flagstaff, AZ @ Stab Mountain *
    05/23 Long Beach, CA @ Babe’s Warehouse*
    05/24 Los Angeles, CA @ The Smell *
    05/25 San Francisco, CA @ Thrillhouse Records *
    05/25 San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern *
    05/27 Eugene, OR Shady Pines *
    05/28 Portland, OR @ Exit Only *
    05/29 Olympia, WA @ Midnight Sun *
    05/30 Seattle, WA @ Sonic Boom Records - Ballard
    05/30 Seattle, WA @ Booty Cave *
    05/31 Silverdale, WA Jackson Hall
    06/27 Seattle, WA Bend-It Fest @ Cal Anderson Park

    To hear what The Pharmacy are about, download the following free MP3's (courtesy of Don't Stop Believin'):
  • Mirror
  • Little Toys On A Shelf
  • Adieu, Adieu

    or catch their video for "Little Toys On A Shelf":

  • SOME STUFFS: new "digital mixtape" from DJ Ian Head

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    Brand new mix from DJ Ian Head, ready for download right now. How obscure? Listen and find out.

    SOME STUFFS: Les Paul's 93rd birthday celebration performance in June

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    (Photo by Jim Eigo)

    Electric guitarists, musicians, and artists around the world owe a lot to the man known as Les Paul, and there is no need for an explanation as to why. Paul continues to record, perform, and tour on a regular basis and on Monday, June 9th, you are able to celebrate his 93rd birthday with him at his home away from home, the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City (1650 Broadway, corner of 51st).

    There will be two shows, 8pm and 10pm. No word on if any special guests will show up, but this is a chance to witness someone whose legacy is still being created.

    SOME STUFFS: 9th Ward teams up with Dupri

    From New Orleans is 9th Ward, a rapper under the eye of Jermaine Dupri. He has a new single coming out called "Add Me Up", which is a hint of what's to come from his album on So So Def/Island Def Jam. You may be hearing a bit from him this summer, so take a look and/or listen:

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #203

    Aloha dukes, welcome to the 203rd edition of The Run-Off Groove, a column not a blog as composed, compiled, and whatnot by me, John Book. I'm going through concert withdrawals. I need concerts. But I have recorded music to satisfy me for the time being, so we must start right...


    Download 25 FREE songs at!

    Image Hosted by In 2005, Blueprint came out with one of the best albums of the 21st century thus far in the form of 1988. He collaborated again with RJD2 for another Soul Position album. In the meantime, Blueprint has spent less time waiting around by writing and making more music. One of those projects is an interesting mini-LP where he rhymes over Funkadelic samples, and that's it.

    Simple? In a way yeah, there was a time when dropping lyrics over loops and beats was all you needed to move yourself from a mere rapper to becoming an MC. Blueprint vs. Funkadelic sounds like it was done off the head, perhaps in a day, and it feels like those sessions you had not at a professional studio, but in front of your stereo or boom box. In fact, the entire album features bursts of audio that sounds like what we used to do when we made out own mix tapes, and clicked over to the radio just to make it sound funky. It has a homemade feel, but in "Don't Make Me Laugh" he has a mission that goes beyond his four-cornerned room:
    I'm not a slave to the stage or the radio
    I'm not a follower of fashion or the trends
    The only challenge is to make good records
    And be seen as a musician when this ends
    You wanna turn rap into high school
    You wanna gossip about what I do
    Whatever it takes to inspire you
    I wish I had something to gain from fighting you

    Even though everyone has sampled something from the P-Funk empire, no one has quite done an album like this where it still feels like listening to it means being part of some secret society, when Funkadelic records meant spending $150+ for Maggot Brain. It feels like that De La Soul tape you once found in the garbage, but you brought it home and felt it was the best thing in the world because someone's trash became the reason you wanted to rap, DJ, break, or do a little graffiti. Blueprint has always been an incredible storyteller with a way of words, and his productions are always deserving of recognition, and now he's giving this album for free. Catch? No catch. This is a labor of love for Blueprint, and when he promised to funk, the whole funk, and nothing but, he meant it. It is devotion at its very best, and one is eager to find out what he plans on coming up with next.

    (Blueprint vs. Funkadelic can be downloaded for free wherever downloads can be had. You can also purchase the CD from Weightless Merchandise.)

    Image Hosted by A commitment to hip-hop: you generally don't hear that coming from a lot of people these days, or when you do, the commitment is dedicated to having 12 commercial endorsements and creating a DVD to submit to film directors for future roles that everyone will bash once the film is released. If you want to make the next Cool As Ice, be my guest. It is nice when I do come across an artist whose commitment to the music is felt immediately, and I can say that about Truth Universal. He has been doing his thing from New Orleans for almost ten years, and has developed a reputation for telling it like it is over hot tracks created by some of the best underground producers out there. The fact that he hasn't been recognized alongside Mos Def and Common is a crime, but he continues to do the hustle and grind with the release of Self-Determination (Dragon's Breath).

    Truth Universal writes lyrics that are meant to be listened to and read, it is obvious he puts a lot into his words and if you don't pay attention you might miss the kind of wisdom that is intended for you. In "Heat!!!" he lights a verbal fuse and you get to watch the mission become possible in the name of "grown folks hip-hop". The track has him saying that he has paid his dues and will not be involved in a battle unless you dare confront the man about how black culture (being) sabotaged or how some are taking niggas out the picture, like Passion of the Christ. The metaphors are sharp and throughout the album one will find themsleves with a smirk on stand-by, for he's clever with his lines and rhymes and he always pulls out a surprise out of nowhere. He's not out there to simply snap at anyone, for he touches on the importance of family, political and social struggles, and isn't afraid to state that the powers that be put people in their domestic prisons without ever stepping into a jail cell. "Angola 3" talks about some of the injustice happening in the Louisiana state prison system, something that can be found in any part of this country. He does it with such a groove that you can't help but nod your head or move from side to side, and yet you're also moved by how great the songwriting is, ranking up there with some of hip-hop's best. The negativity on this album is what Truth Universal is fighting against, and while he realizes that drastic changes can't be done without an effort, Self Determination proves that with an effort you can rise to your personal best, and make the world look into themselves and unite for the common cause. That common cause will still exist, as long as rappers like Truth Universal are living.

    Top picks: "Angola 3", "Heat!!!", "Black Culture", "Feminine Melanin", "Freedom Or Death".

    (Self Determination is available directly from You can also listen to MP3 snippets from the album on the order page.)

    Image Hosted by Radius is a producer/DJ from Chicago who has made music for himself and others for the last few years. Neighborhood Suicide (The Secret Life of Sound) is a wordless narrative about his home, told through sounds, basslines, beats, and occasional spoken word segments.

    Some might call it trip-hop or down-tempo with an edge, but all of it are one and the same: instrumental hip-hop, and that is the vibe Radius tries to convey in his music. On the surface it sounds like a decent break tape, or something you might hear playing from an apartment bedroom with the curtains moving in the air. "Southshore (Baahumbug!)", "Hyde Park (Miss You)", and "Englewood (Necessary Growth)" all contain the visions seen through Radius' eyes and ears, with a bit of hope and dreams in the distance for him and his neighbors. "Rogers Park (North Pole Bakery)" has a sample that sounds like a cross between a saw and a fire alarm, and mixed in with something close to a church choir and bubbly synths, it sounds funky and sinister at the same time. All of the songs are mixed very well, with things evened out and never lacking in any particular area. When it comes time for Radius to keep his eye on a sparrow, he does so with intention to let it fly high. By the time he reaches "South Chicago (The Journey)" we realize that it is the end of his travels on the album and despite the subtlety of the dramatic melancholy samples, he hopes people will come back and revisit Chicago for all its glory, good and bad.

    If there's only one thing lacking on this album, it's a rapper or two. Radius himself admits in the liner notes that some of the songs were originally submitted for projects that weren't completed, so they come off as true instrumentals rather than songs that have a bit more development. Fortunately it's two songs out of eleven, the rest of the album shows his expertise at cratedigging and record finding, resulting in beats that are both familiar and unfamiliar. The familiar sounds give it an old school feel, while the "new" sounds help shape Radius' craft on the boards.

    (Neighborhood Suicide is available through Dusty Groove.)

    Image Hosted by Rave Tesar plays the piano like the true musician he is, although in order for you to experience that you have to take him on throughout the album. The album in question is called You Decide (Tesar Music) and is performed by Tesar and his trio (Bill Tesar on drums, Kermit Driscoll on piano), and together they create the kind of sound with the kind of intellect and power one would expect to hear on albums by McCoy Tyner, Dave Brubeck, or Herbie Hancock. The reason is because of his playing and improvisational skills and knowledge of how to fill in all of the right gaps. There's a point in "Helium" where he plays to the point of the piano lighting itself on fire, then he eases up while the other members carry the groove along with him, and then he works into the piano again. The bad part about it is that the song fades, and I'm there listening and going "no, I want to hear more, come back, don't fade".

    The other songs on this 10-song album show the range of capabilities between these three, but if you take a look at the sessions they've been a part of, there's a reason why these guys play as well as they do. Their playing is tight and loose at the same time, with the Tesar brothers almost reading each other at times (when Rave plays in a way where he is about to do a number of different strokes on the drums, Bill will know when and where to switch up and when to come back. The same communication can be felt between Bill and Driscoll, with Driscoll never slowing down when things seem to never stop. "Have Some More" and "Someone Else's Spell" have to be heard to fully understand this.

    You Decide is recorded very well, also helps when you run your own recording studio. The playing on this album is exceptional, those who love piano-based jazz will be excited about it, and anyone who loves good quality jazz will find this to be an album worth suggesting to friends at every opportunity.

    (You Decide is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Upon seeing the city skyline on the cover of Kenny Carr's Changing Tide (TAS Management), you immediately get a few and sensation of what the music could sound like. Within the first two seconds, Carr (guitar), Frank Russo (drums), Tom Baldwin (acoustic bass), and Donny McCaslin (tenor sax) immediately bring to mind the visions of a sunrise or sunset on the buildings with "The Chase", which could either be about cars, or about the paper chase all of us go through on a daily basis. It's performed at a slightly-faster-than-mid-tempo bass, as if someone is trying to speedwalk without looking like a fool or stumble upon everyone. Carr's hand strumming style is smooth and detailed, always maintaining himself within the structure of the songs and never falling too far from the song's core. It's great when he and McCaslin will play the melody with each other and occasionally bob and weave before they take off into different directions. They are a great team that gives both of them a distinct sound, and when it's time for McCaslin to create his low end theory, everyone moves back and allow him to shine. (I didn't know this until after I listened to the album, but the liner notes from Carr indicate that he and McCaslin are childhood friends, and perhaps that's why they feed off of each other the way they do, it's serious and yet playful).

    The tone Carr has with his playing is great, whether it's during a solo or when he's playing low-key during one of Baldwin's passages (check out the great "Blues For Ray" as an example), it's nice to hear not only a good guitar player but an album that captures a good guitar sound. The album goes back and forth between trio and quartet combinations, and no matter what they play or how it is played, these guys know how to bring the most out of these songs. Anyone who loves jazz guitar of the Wes Montgomery/Pat Martino/Jim Hall variety will most likely put him up there with the greats, especially after hearing the lounge tropical stylings of "Bossa Luna", which would sound equally well in a romantic setting as it would in a surf film (one can perhaps hear a bit of his Santa Cruz roots in play here). The tropicalia vibe makes its way to the surface again in "Costa del Sol", and as the album's final song it very much sounds like the music of home, whatever home may be for the listener. Or perhaps that's my island roots at play.

    Changing Tide is an appropriate title, for it features the kind of jazz one would find at a late night jazz club along with the kind of laid back (but never too smooth) musicianship one could hear on the beachfront, and then getting down and dirty with a bit of the blues (playing for the late Ray Charles for ten years definitely sharpened his chops in that department). The ocean is unpredictable, and the tides can be either high or low with a lot of factors inbetween. Carr is comfortable in playing with the high and low and is one of those guitarists that you have to hear in order to become a believer.

    (Changing Tide is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by As the leader of Another Day (Whole Rest), Bob Claire shows what one can do to show off not only his talents from years of expertise, but to also present the musicianship of his friends who do an incredible job on the 9-song album they play on. The guitar, piano, and bass playing are unified almost in a Pat Metheny manner and the music does glide along like some of Metheny's music, one might look at the cover photo and if it wasn't for the fonts, it might be mistaken for an ECM release. Claire's flute work immediately takes the material to a new level, and it is then one becomes involved with the music going on within. "El Nino Del Campo" begins almost in a low-key manner, nothing too complex, a standard introduction that paves the way for incredible playing from each of the musicians, including pianist Art Lande (whose name should be familiar to ECM enthusiasts), who plays here as if he just got off of the plane from Rio and can't keep his excitement to himself. The intro to "A Thousand Hills" could have easily been mistaken for Paul Horn or maybe Herbie Mann's Stone Flute, as Claire's playing is meditative, but then it gets into something that might come from the Impulse vaults circa 1964 or 1969.

    Outside of playing in a jazz manner, Claire at times plays with a slight Indian influence. I'm not sure if that's intentional or it's his love of baroque in play but the way he gets into a pocket and colors the song is like seeing an audio portrait for the first time. Then Lande gets in there and when he is in improvisational move, he can create sounds from luxurious to gloomy, then turn around and compliment Claire's romantic flavors. I was equally impressed by the drumming of Gaylord Birch, who is mixed upfront in the mix so he's not just there for rhythmic atmosphere, he seems to play in the tradition of Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones in that they are not just timekeepers, but time explorers, and one path can lead to 80 or more off-trail adventures. Bill Douglass' bass playing is nice as well, some of it done on a fretless bass. I also liked Steve Cardenas and his guitar work, but I wish he would have used different sounds to fit each song's mood. It's as if he liked one effect and just ran with it, which is unlike his playing on other albums.

    Another Day is for those who want their jazz cool but not upset, creative but not dizzying. A hidden masterpiece.

    (Another Day is available directly from Whole Rest Music.)

    Enrico Pieranunzi has got to be one of the more vibrant pianists recording and performing today, and if you are unfamiliar with his name or work, I highly recommend As Never Before (CamJazz),a new album which teams him up with drummer Joey Baron, bassist Marc Johnson, and special guest Kenny Wheeler on trumpet. When you have musicians such as these to help you out, you can't help but be on your best playing behavior. But when you yourself are a musician who plays with the kind of skill that often leads to comparisons with some of the best, you know you have some expecations. This is one of those albums that fulfills them and goes beyond for one hell of an incredible ride.

    Pieranunzi has played with Baron and Johnson for years, so they can pretty much read each other. Now add Wheeler into the music, which according to Pieranunzi was a dream come true for him, since he was able to hear his music performed by a musician he admired. When you hear him in "Winter Moon", "A Nameless Gate", or "Soundings", it's like witnessing the origins of magic and you can't help but sit there and just be floored by what you're hearing, at least that's how I felt. Pieranunzi's recordings are almost immaculate, in terms of how they are recorded and how they are eventually mixed, it creates emotional sensations that will definitely bring a tear to your eye (or should) because you didn't think recorded music could sound this great again. Through his playing and arrangements, Pieranunzi allows everyone to be equal, and you can tell he is moved when he and Wheeler play together, it's done so with passion and acknowledgement. A very moving album, worthy of the accolades it will receive from this point forward.

    (The CD for As Never Before is available directly from CamJazz, and digitally from

    Image Hosted by The last time we heard from Patrick Flynn, he was playing some nice rootsy blues and rock. This time around he is taking part in a collaborative effort with Emily Palen (violin & vocals) and Darryl Webb (banjo, accordian & vocals) and calling it SilveRoot. The focus this time is country and folk, call it Americana if you will, and the music on Full Measure (Silverado) is feel good music. The lyrics tap into the heart and soul of one's being, none of these songs are superficial. Instead what you hear is the human spirit as it tries to extend a helping hand towards one another, and the music pushes that message. Palen's violin playing reminds me of the work of Al Garth, especially when she reaches a note, plays with it, and has her way with it as if she's dancing with it.

    A unique touch to this is Flynn's guitar work. Most of the songs are acoustic in nature, but in "Long Train" he turns up the amps to 11 and let's the feedback move through as if he was Frank Marino, as you hear an acoustic guitar and banjo in the forefront. Perhaps the electric guitar represents the power and strength of a train, and as with many train-related songs, Flynn touches upon life that comes and goes, and if you don't hop on for a ride, you'll miss out on things that you'll eventually regret.

    These songs sound at home in a living room, a garage, the back yard, or at a huge Americana music festival, and what people seek in this style of music is the human qualities that go through it, between friends or family, communicating through the joy and pain of life. Flynn presents himself as a renaissance man of sorts, and with his next project he might go all electric on us again and maybe talk about what he likes or dislikes about the new U.S. president. For this one, it's about person to person affairs, what we see everyday and what we wake up to. What these three musicians are saying is if you don't take time to stop and look around, you may miss out on the things in life that are truly important, including finding home grown music like this.

    (Full Measure is available from CDBaby.)

    American Beat Records are back once again with a series of reissues that will please fans of rock and hard rock, including a number of albums that make their digital debut.

    Image Hosted by In the United States, April Wine may only be known for a few songs due to heavy exposure in the early days of MTV, with "Just Between You & Me" and "Sign Of The Gypsy Queen" getting more airplay today than it did upon initial release (some people may even remember the slightly suggestive "If You See Kay"). But the band were like a cross between Bad Company, Grand Funk, Foghat, and Queen in terms of musical intensity, and probably could fight Triumph in any battle of the bands back then. There are many who still hold on to those cherished LP's (as they should). The release of 1978's First Glance shows how well this album has traveled over the years, with powerful guitar riffs and solos, strong vocals, and yes, the almighty cowbell. The album may make new fans believe it is their first but it is actually their 7th album so they were very much in their prime. "Hot On The Wheels Of Love', "Right Down To It", and "Roller" (which was released as a single) still pack the same punch as they did, and while FM radio airplay would give these songs and the band a bit of a boost, perhaps it's best (for now) for First Glance to be a bit low key. Then again, give this album the respect it deserves.

    (First Glance is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by The Flamin' Groovies were one of many bands from the late 60's/early 70's who combined pop, blues, and the rock'n'roll spirit that a lot of bands felt was slowly disappearing. It's the kind of spirit one could find in bands such as Canned Heat and Jefferson Airplane, although The Flamin' Groovies made it more obvious by adding a touch of humor to their sound, a sound that was appreciated by many of their fans. Flamingo was their second album and one can hear the pride that these guys put into songs like "Jailbait", "Headin' For The Texas Border", and "Childhood's End", and why fans ate it up at home or on the stage. The band at this stage played in a way that was respectful to their influences, but at the same time would end up creating a sound that would influence various power pop and punk bands with the kind of crunchy guitar riffs that were short and to the point without being flamboyant or wanky. Their devoted cult following may be small compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple, but perhaps it's because The Flamin' Groovies were too busy traveling and keeping their feet firmly planted on the earth.

    (Flamingo is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by When The New York Dolls were no more, many fans and critics were wondering about the future of singer David Johanssen. He surprised everyone with his self-titled debut album from 1978, which showed a love of rock'n'roll through the then-modern day punk ideals, with hints of soul, blues, and an uncanny knack to be a decent pop artist (which he would later explore when he put on his Buster Poindexter duds). Fans of the first album will definitely remember "Girls", I remember it getting a bit of airplay in Honolulu way back when and it was exciting to hear even though I had no idea what he was really talking about. Today the song still has the same anticipation and anxiety over that one thing many young men can't live out, one can still feel the swagger he was trying to put into the songs. "Donna" could have easily been a Rolling Stones song from the Black & Blue or Some Girls era but Johansen's voice almost has a vulnerability that Mick Jagger probably would not have done had he recorded it, and one tends to remember their own "Donna" from their past. Johansen may have turned off a few fans who still wanted the pretty ugliness of the Dolls, but Johansen was looking for something that would become more than the cool trend, even though he himself was someone who wasn't afraid to dip in and out of them. This was the start of something new.

    Image Hosted by If there were any benefits to MTV, it was that they helped bring Johansen to an audience who had never heard him before, specifically a younger audience who didn't read the music magazines or listened to anything but what was in the middle of the radio dial. In 1982, Johansen went on tour with his band and covered a wide range of classic rock and soul songs that showed people the music that made him what he is, as well as hints of his not too distant pass. The release of Live It Up was a success, due in part to a music video for his "We Gotta Get Out Of His Place/Don't Bring Me Down/It's My Life" medley that gained a lot of airplay in the early days of the music cable network that once celebrated music. It was a simple video of Johansen and his band playing in a small club, and the crowd who also shared a love for these songs were blown away and literally treated him as a born again rock'n'roll prophet of sorts. It was also a live album, from a time when a live album felt like a souvenir of the concert experience or a place to hear songs done in a raw manner that often blew away the studio versions. This is evident in his update of the Dolls' "Personality Crisis" except in this case the mascara and heels is replaced by a gentleman who wasn't afraid to be a juvenile, as long as it was in controlled moderation. The seeds planted with this album would eventually lead to everything he has done since then, including people accepting him (and discovering him for the first time) as Buster Poindexter, but Live It Up is a monarch strutting himself and celebrating his reign on his home turf.

    (David Johansen is available from CD Universe.)
    (Live It Up is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by Before Billy Squier became known for "The Big Beat", "The Stroke", "In The Dark", and the silky-smooth "Rock Me Tonight", he was making himself known as the man behind Piper. While the band has been lost in obscurity, people will be able to (re)discover them with the 2-in-1 reissue of their first two albums on A&M.

    There's a big more edge and grit to his singing and guitar playing, owing a lot to The Rolling Stones before developing a sound he could call his own. Songs like "Out Of Control", "Sail Away", "Who's Your Boyfriend? (I Got A Feelin')" and "Telephone Relation" each have an anxious urgency that really never let up throughout his career, but hearing it originate here is great. The cover of The Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" makes the influence come full circle.

    By the time the band reached Can't Wait, there was no need to cover anyone elses material. The band (Alan Nolan on guitars, Tommy Gunn on guitars, Danny McGary on bass, and Richie Fontana on drums) were mean and unbeatable, and they play like they knew it. Nolan and Gunn attacked their guitars as if they were weapons, and occasionally showed that Southern dual guitar twang. Again, that cocky attitude can be heard in the way Squier sings each of these songs, no doubt an attempt to prove he could pull it off and perhaps to bring in the ladies sitting in the first two rows.

    The first album was produced by John Anthony with engineering from the one and only Eddie Kramer while Can't Wait was produced by Sean Delaney and Chris Kimsey, so there was definitely an attempt to push these guys to the top (the back covers had the Rock Steady logo, which for many meant it had to be of quality. Check your Kiss albums for references.) Squier would of course move on to bigger and better, but if there was any band who could 1-Up Cheap Trick, Piper had a big chance of doing it, even though they only left behind two albums.

    (Piper/Can't Wait is available from CD Universe.)

  • On a self-promotional note, the 67th edition of my Book's Music podcast is available for downloading and listening purposes. Check this and podcasts from the last month:

    Click here to get your own player.

  • That is it. More music for review on its way. If you have any music (vinyl and CD's preferred), DVD's, books, or generic macaroni & cheese for me to review, contact me through my MySpace page.
  • Saturday, May 10, 2008

    SOME STUFFS: the sole purpose of S.O.U.L. Purpose

    Fans of rap music will rejoice when S.O.U.L. Purpose releases his album, The Construction, later this month. The album features cameos from MURS, Poison Pen, C-Rayz Walz, Wordsworth, and Immortal Technique. A video has been made for the song "The Way We Live", which you can view here:

    If you want to know what he's about, you can also check out an interview that he calls "Lesson B", where he speaks out about fake hipsters and all that is wrong with hip-hop today.


    SOME STUFFS: Gnarls Barkley's brand new video

    This is for the song "Going On", so go on.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #202

    Aloha, and welcome to the 202nd edition of The Run-Off Groove. I am John Book, and sometimes you need THREE burritos to carry you through the day. This is that day. Before I start, head over to Okayplayer for a look at some reviews I've done for them recently, including:

    Carole King-Tapestry (2008 2CD Legacy Edition)
    3 Na Massa (self titled debut)
    Various Artists-Gold: New Jack Swing

    Along with Okayplayer, I'm a contributing writer at FudgeFM and I will be doing reviews for them very soon. You can read some of my recent blog entries there.

  • Oh yes, the "three burrito"-worthy column. Tapatio ready? We begin.

    Image Hosted by Marco Benevento is a pianist/keyboardist who looks not only to jazz, but music in itself as a place of exploration, even if it takes him to the extreme. It's not free jazz, but Invislble Baby (Hyena) is an album that takes advantage of the freedoms with jazz and music and travels to some unique and occasionally strange places.

    The album features Benevento playing not only the piano and Mellotron but also getting into circuit bending toys. For those who don't know what this is, circuit bending is the process of taking old toys and electronics, opening them up, and fooling around with the circuitry so that they will create sounds and melodies, far from their original intention. There is even an annual festival dedicated to nothing but the Bent way of life, with workshops and performances from those who make this not only a hobby but a way of life, to recycle the old in order to create brand new sounds. Benevento takes the art of improvisation and audio manipulation and incorporates this into his music, whether it's to accent the songs (as he does in the appropriately titled "Atari", which begins with the sounds from actual video games, leading into him playing video game music on the piano as 8k sounds dance around him). Or with "The Real Morning Party" it sounds like his alarm clock is singing to him instead of sounding like an annoyance, and the groove the trio (Benevento, drummer Matt Chamberlain and bassist Reed Mathis) create is uplifting and encouraging. Do I also hear an Omnichord? The way the album moves along from being in the jazz tradition to creating futuristic pop tunes is nice, and the unpredictability of things upon first listen will only make listeners want to hear it as a whole again.

    Invisible Baby was said to be inspired by a dream Benevento had about a baby girl that would become a part of his life, so perhaps some of the music can be considered exploration of the inner child that will pass its experiences on to his daughter, only to pave the way for the big world that is out there. It could be said that the album moves back and forth from the concert hall to the bedroom, as the songs leaning towards jazz are big and bold, while the bedroom music comes from fooling around with sounds in your immediate environment to see what happens. The combination of the two is just as fun, and the intensity of Benevento's playing and arrangements comes through as his bandmates steer him and each other on to make something so moving and passionate. I dig it.

    (The compact disc for Invisible Lady is available from CD Universe. MP3's are available from

    Image Hosted by It's hard to say what people like about Portishead because I am not other people. Is it the haunted elegance of Beth Gibbons' voice? If so, it's a shame that a lot of people did not fully support the music she released under her own name. Or is it the instrumental films created by Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley? As anyone will tell you, it's about the perfect balance of both, with the musical side becoming as in-depth as a great soundtrack album, and Gibbons' voice taking on the emotions of the song deeper than anyone ever would or could. Third (Go! Discs/Mercury) has Portishead continuing on with eerie and trippy music that for some defies definition, but really has to do with setting yourself to their soundtrack and putting yourself in an altered state in order to appreciate it in full. What I like is that while one may know how the group looks, the music on Third is the kind where that doesn't matter. You make up the imagery in your head and allow the sounds to coat you in its spirit or drown you in its misery, whichever it feels like doing at any given time. One can find hip-hop, dub, and exotica origins throughout ("Nylon Smile" sounds like something one might hear at a Martin Denny listening party if someone poured LSD into the mai tai drinks), and perhaps unlock a few doors that aren't evident at first. It's definitely an audio movie, with the songs sounding good individually but you may have an epiphany or two as you piece everything together. It is an album that brings Portishead back into the forefront, where they always should be.

    (Third is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by Hearing The Brakes for the first time sounded like what would happen if Jack Johnson and Jeff Tweedy went to school together with Paul Simon or Glenn Tilbrook as their instructor. Tale Of Two Cities (Hyena) consists of really crafty rock where it's not just about saying smart things because they can, there's a bit of wit in what they do and it's nice to hear. "Supermarket" has a slight Boz Scaggs vibe to it and I'm not sure if it's because of the attitude in the music and playing or if comes through in the vocals of Zach Djanikian. They play music that is as tight and as loose as The Black Crowes, which means they make room to be improvisational if need be (as they show in "Big Money", "Who Am I To Be", and "Song Of Imponderables"). I was someone who never really got into Phish, but if I looked for a band that would give me a reason to drop all my worries and make me want to follow them from city to city on future summer tours, I'd probably end up bowing down to The Brakes. It's good, hearty rock with a touch of pop that isn't corny, but pop that isn't afraid to executve itself with the occasional smirk.

    (Tale Of Two Cities is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by The amount of artists and collaborators on Brian Culbertson's Bringing Back The Funk (GRP/Verve) was overwhelming and I wasn't sure what to expect. Was this an industry-forced album where a musician gathered a number of out-of-work, previously influential artiists and singers because of certain inside guilt-trips, or was there some some substance to this? A title like Bringing Back The Funk almost made me wonder if this was some goofy Broadway revival of sorts, where everyone comes out with jazz hands and says "hey, funk is back". I firmly believer that funk is still its own reward but people have abused it to the point where others have turned it into a lame late 70's stereotype. One is sure to say "stop with your commentary and give us your review", but this is my review, leading to the point I'm about to make.

    Culbertson is a multi-instrumentalist who studied his music through intense listening of records, in fact the cover art features a photo of him as a child with a big pair of headphones. I can relate. The music comes from his past, and it is very much a part of his heart and soul. He was given an opportunity to record with the best, and he went in for the kill by bringing on Maurice White, Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham, and Ronnie Laws among others. What you hear may be a throwback to the late 70's funk sound, but one that shows that it can still be as intense as it was because true music never dies. This is true on "The World Keeps Going Around", featuring Ledisi on vocals, a song I hope he will release as a single. There are moments on this album where it does sound too much like a Broadway show celebrating the death of what's good, and that's what I don't like, because the music is as alive as it was when I was listening to it in front of my dad's stereo. What keeps it alive is the spirit of the music and singing, and just having good songs. I could have done without Musiq Soulchild doing "Hollywood Swinging", I like Musiq and the song but it just didn't gel well with me here. What did work well was an update of Tower Of Power's "You Got To Funkifize" (from their great Bump City album), featuring Chance Howard in the vocal position.

    What I found interesting about Bringing Back The Funk was as I listened, I recognized certain sounds and would automatically think of the groups I grew up listening to, only to find out that some of my assumptions were correct. Some of the musicians who collaborated on this album with Culbertson include Larry Dunn, Ray Parker Jr., Maceo Parker, Tom Scott, and Bernie Worrell, people who had distinctive sounds and ways of playing. Occasionally the songs will feature a break or two from a drummer that goes back to the funk of 1967-1970, and that's when I get my case of chicken skin because they not only play that way, but that sound is captured to perfection. Bringing Back The Funk is a sound that never really died, and the title lead me to ask "where did people think funk went?" It's funk, soul, and jazz in all its glory, all of which lead to the hip-hop and R&B that we hear today. The title initially made me think that this was just an attempt by someone who thought he could save the day by shining the light back on an alleged dead genre, cue on Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise" for maximum impact. After listening to it, he's not so much a savior as he is a participant of the continuation of the good grooves and funky vibes. Perhaps the celebratory feelings expressed is his way of saying "I told you all, this is far from dead."

    (Bringing Back The Funk is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by When it comes to the music of New Orleans, if it seems like there is an overwhelming amount of people that are called "legends", you're right. But music has been an essential part of the city's fabric for decades, and it's sad to think that a hurricane had to make people realize this. With that said, it was nice to see a new CD by soul and blues legend Walter "Wolfman" Washington. Washington recorded a string of singles on his own and played guitar for a wide range of people, some uncredited. It wasn't just soul or blues, but he also played with a number of gospel groups. His singing and playing got a lot of attention, and he had no fear, if he wanted to get down, he got down. If he wanted to give thanks and praise, he did that.

    On Doin' The Funky Thing (Zoho), he displays his skills as a guitarist, and he doesn't just groove and chicken scratch either. Washington is a mean guitarist who serves his band in whatever fashion, be it in, out, underneath, whatever, you can tell he comes from a long line of musicians who understands what it is to play music amongst others. His work is a powerhouse, check him in "Tweakin'", "Crescent City Starlights", or ""Just Like That", the latter written by bandmate John "Jack" Cruz (bass/vocals). Even though Washington has been there and done that, he sings with the strength of someone three times as young, and that same youthfulness still comes across in his guitar work, which doesn't get too show-offy or flamboyant, it's straight up blues with a bit of gutbucket. There's even a nice slow jam here in the form of "One Day From Being A Fool" that could easily be performed by everyone from Billy Paul to D'Angelo, if not David Coverdale or Jill Scott. It has that kind of heart that makes it possible for anyone and everyone to sing it, but to hear it from its author is what it's really all about, and the accents from keyboardist Judson Nielsen and the horn section are nice touches.

    Doin' The Funky Thing is authentic blues, soul, and funk brought into the 21st century by someone who thrilled audiences and record buyers in the 20th century, holding true to the traditions of the past by still creating and feeling it from the heart today. Thank you, Wolfman.

    (Doin' The Funky Thing will be released on June 10th through Zoho Roots.)

    Image Hosted by David Thorne Scott is a vocalist whose DYAD album celebrates his love of pop and jazz standards while incorporating new material as possible standards of tomorrow. The album features Mark Shilansky on piano and nothing more, an intimate setting of music perhaps made for intimate times. Anyone who is into piano/vocal albums will find this one to be of interest, with performances of "Rocky Mountain High", "A Simple Song", "Night's Affair With Day", and "When I Fall In Love". The best song on this would have to be a cover of Emmylou Harris' "Boulder To Birmingham", and Scott brings a unique twist to it and makes it work.

    I would be very interested in hearing more from Shilansky.

    (DYAD is available from CD Baby.)

    Image Hosted by Pascal Bokar is the kind of guitarist I could listen to throughout the day without ever getting bored. On Savannah Jazz Club he plays with the kind of style and class that brings to mind those classic Verve and A&M albums by Wes Montgomery, but moving forward to incorporate styles and techniques that bring to mind a number of different guitarists from the 70's and 80's.

    At the same time, he also brings a bit of his African roots home to jazz, and in many ways Savannah Jazz Club has all of the music coming full circle within itself. The introduction to "When Lights Are Low" sounds like something one could hear one one of the first three Osibisa albums, and then he and the group take off from there. Each of the songs sound like a journey, whether it's one that has reached its destination or one where the trip is about to begin, the flutes that occupy the melody in "Donna Lee" are a nice welcoming touch, and the vocals in "How High The Moon" (courtesy of Don & Alicia Cunningham) makes the album sound more like a live performance. One of the big reasons why the album sounds lovely is because it was recorded at Fantasy Recording Studio by Stephen Hart, so the album not only was recorded at a historic place but by someone who is a proven award winner, so it benefits Bokar's music and playing tremendously. It makes me wish an album like Savannah Jazz Club would get more notice and recognition, because I feel it's one of those albums that shows effort from everyone involved. With luck, curious jazz fans will be moved enough to want to know more.

    (Savannah Jazz Club is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by History either loves or hates the one-hit wonder, depending on how much you laugh at a VH-1 show about them. Arthur Brown was the frontman behind the 60's group The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown who freaked people out big time with their one and only giant hit, and one of the best songs of the 1960's, "Fire":

    What people may not realize that he has continued to make music in the 40 years since "Fire", creating intense music that ranges from rock to blues and folk. The craziness is long gone but those who have valued his music away from the heat of "Fire" have come to enjoy him as a singer and songwriter. His new album, The Voice Of Love (Zoho Roots), is credited as The Amazing World Of Arthur Brown, and it has him singing sounds that are very much in tune with a lot of what he has been singing about in the past. This time, hopefully people will give him and the songs and closer listen, especially songs with titles such as "Love Is The Spirit", "I Believe In You", "Shining Bright", "Devil's Grip", and "Kites", each of which sounds as intimate as something you'd hear at the park or at a low-key function, there's nothing extravagant here in terms of sound. All of the songs were recorded in analog, everything done straight to tape without going back to repair mistakes or add anything new. The musical side of things is due in part to musician Nick Pynn, who went out of his way to make sure that all of the instruments used were real, no electronic hybrids of any kind. Mix that up with the talent of Brown and you really have something quire remarkable.

    (The Voice Of Love will be released on June 10th through Zoho Roots.)

  • On a self-promotional note, the brand new edition of my Book's Music podcast is ready for downloading, listening, and absorbing. Digital broadcast #66 has a bit of Cinco de Mayo in it, but that doesn't mean that because the day is over with that you can't enjoy it. So enjoy.

    Click here to get your own player.

  • That is it for this week's Run-Off Groove. I had a few other albums up for review this week and while I could have waited and delayed the column even more, it will have to wait another week. Next week I will have reviews for music by Truth Universal, Kenny Carr, Rave Tesar Trio, Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron, Radius, Bob Claire, and Silveroot.

    If you have any music (vinyl and CD preferred), books, DVD's, or have bacon of the month memberships you'd like for me to check out, you can send me a message by contacting me through my MySpace page, where you will find music that I create under the name Crut. A new album will hopefully be released before the end of the year, so keep tabs of what I'm doing musically.

    Image Hosted by 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: