Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #201

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:

Aloha, and welcome to the 201st edition of The Run-Off Groove. John Book is the author of what you are reading, so please make yourself at home but make sure to put your soda cans or bottles in the recycle bin. Thanks. Last week I celebrated my 200th column... by myself. Yeah, in the words of Cappadonna it was a by-myself-meeting, but not that kind of meeting if you know what I mean. For those who are confused and have no idea what I mean, you're thinking "how come John always has to start off his columns with some kind of baggage that I don't even care about? I'm not going to be tested, so why do I have to make the..."

You know what, bra? You want the column? Column it is. 201, let's go.

Image Hosted by Anytime The Roots release a new album, it leads to heavy discussion among fans and haters who are ready to bash anything and everything the group releases. Let me begin by saying this: Rising Down (Def Jam) is a different album by The Roots. I mean different in the sense that it's not Do You Want More?!!!?!?, Things Fall Apart, Phrenology, The Tipping Point, or Game Theory. This is a completely different beast, and if you're someone who has figured out The Roots plan of execution, then you might say that this should be their "off" album, the one where it's less about what the fans think and more about what they wanted to do at the time.

If you listen to the songs casually, the musical pace goes all over the place, to the point where it's a bit scatterbrain. This pace is deliberate and perhaps it's a response to not only what hip-hop is today, but how the world is. A lot of different influences and elements are around us, and it's hard to figure out what's right or wrong, good or bad, and it always seems that the bad or crap finds its way to the surface. Or as the last jazz musician Artie Shaw once said: "No matter how carefully and assiduously and how deeply you bury shit, the American public will find it and buy it in large quantity." Like Spongebob Squarepants and humans who dress up just like him, The Roots have been on a mission. Even if the word "integrity" seems to be almost (keyword: "almost") out of style, if not non-existent, the group are here for hip-hop, or as Common puts it so well in "The Show":

I remember the show, like Doug E., where people quiet was ugly
Yellin' "get money", now we showin' we dummy
Still doin' shows where the spots be bummin'
Roaches in the dressing room, I'm thinking of a better room
Maybe the upper, where my people won't suffer
The leather gets tougher, we drive like a trucker through the night
For every wrong, making two rights
And use mics to reach new heights, the blue lights
Follow, I guess it's the cit' of Chicago
That make me want to mess with my tomorrow
In these borrowed days, the rhyme and the mind that pays
The world is a show, you define your stage
1, 2, it's live so you can't undo
No sleep, 'cause then your dreams won't come true
And everyone's like a bra that we run through
Each venue, this ain't go stop so we just go continue

Every song on the album does not sound like what came before, and at times it seems songs end abruptly or too early. The song titles give slight hints over the subject matter: "I Can't Help It", "I Will Not Apologize", "Singing Man", "Unwritten", "Lost Desire". The album itself begins with a phone conversation with members of the group that leads to a huge argument about how their careers up to 1994, and the fact that Love?uest allowed anyone outside of their circle to hear this is amazing. This is the kind of private moment that most people should never hear, and as cryptic as ?uest can be in his writings, this is probably the most revealing he has been (at least on an album). It could be the hip-hop equivalent of that infamous Troggs tape, and maybe it also represents how strongly people are either talking about, defending, or complaining about today's hip-hop. Everyone yelling and no one really making a point, it's just volume for the sake of being loud. On the lyrical side, this is easily some of Black Thought's best work, not only lyrically but one can sense sentence and verse structure, along with how he plays with words and lines, it's not just rhyme after rhyme after rhyme. Even when he and the others on the album are playing around and slyly mocking the current state of rap music, he does so in a manner that you know he's poking people in the eye but they don't know it yet. Listeners will think "yeah, he's conforming" but he's not. Far from it. His words are biblical scriptures in the vein of Rakim, and spoken like the guy downtown who has the loudest voice speaking what he believes in, and Black Thought speaks what he believes, whether it's condemning everything that everyone else condemns ("75 Bars") or putting your fist up in the air for a bit of self-pride ("Get Busy").

There are stories of failure and disappointments here, but not in an obvious manner. With help from Common, Dice Raw, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Peedi Peedi, Truck North, Porn, and the almighty return of Malik B., it sounds like nothing more than a group of friends shooting the shit in a basement, sharing their hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, it truly goes back to the metaphorical roots of things when rap music was simply a dialogue amongst your main man down the street and the cool ladies you like to talk with at the corner store. It truly has that feel to it, but not an old school feel. People for the last year are quick to talk about how hip-hop is dead. Rising Down's world seems to take place in the future when hip-hop has long been forgotten, only the diehards shine a light to it like 65 year old kids dusting off their 45's one last time for the doo-wop reunion show at the local high school. If we are truly beyond the tipping point, if we have figured out the game theory, then this album is a display of the rise and fall. The album's first true song is the title track, but the last song is "Rising Up". Just like Game Theory, there is a bit of optimism if you stick to those hopes and dreams, and they do so with Wale and Chrisette Michele. The mood of the song sounds like one you'd hear at the family picnic, and in this case it sounds like an ode to the go-go of D.C., but if you listen to the drums and percussion real good it's as if ?uest is trying to create a bell-less (or muted) "Mardi Gras". Maybe it's just me.

Inbetween the fall and its eventual rise is the discussion about where it's been, where it is now, and what's to come. As Pink Floyd once said, "everything under the sun is in tune/but the sun is eclipse by the moon", and it seems The Roots are certain that this music and community is looking at the eclipse. Rising Down perhaps represents waiting impatiently for the sunless Saturdays to disappear, thus making this the perfect Sunday morning album. E ku'u morning dew.

(Rising Down is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by When it comes to punk and hardcore, fans hold true to their favorite bands and albums for life. A group can split up and become prog rock, one of them may join a cult or have a sex change, but 15 to 20 years later someone will say "oh, I remember when I was bloated at Willie's practice shed. That band ROCKED!" That's the power of punk, and there is still a punk community that could care less about appropriated T-shirts on sale at Target right now. It wasn't even about a dream or big arena and massive success. It was about coming out with a 7" record to sell a few copies at shows, maybe silk screen T-shirts so you can earn enough to split amongst the band so you can each buy yourselves a Filet-O-Fish and maybe, just maybe, have change to buy a 6-pack of your favorite local brew.

Bum Kon out of Denver probably had that outlook, like every other local punk band: make a record, create a bit of organized chaos during shows, get drunk (unless you're Straight Edge) and then do it all over again. Drunken Sex Sucks Drunken Sex Sucks (Smooch/MaximumRockNRoll) consists of music from their first and only 7" record, and for years fans had to deal with that. But during the sessions that produced the record, they recorded a lot of songs that were meant for an album but the group split up before that ever happened. The photos of the band inside the CD booklet is like countless other punk bands across the U.S. and the world: playing in the basement, a VFW Hall, or any place that was willing to open a small room to a bunch of punks for a few hundred dollars ("just as long as you clean up and don't damage shit"). Like a number of hardcore bands, Bum Kon were good and anyone who is into short and bitter songs about getting drunk, lack of money, no job, boredom, fear of being drafted (it was the Reagan-era, after all), and also having a sense of humor will love this stuff. It sounds local, but anyone can appreciate the power, anger, and alleged disgust over anything and everything. It wasn't just playing loud, distorted guitars over fast rhythms, but maybe that's all it was, a complete "fuck you" attitude and being able to play and be coherent also helps too. With songs like "Gay Rodeo", "Reagan Sucks", "Nancy Reagan Fashion Show", "and "Wasted Mind", they were going to say what was on their minds and not care what anyone thought, because their community of friends either agreed with them or were open to listening to new ideas.

Even as someone who hasn't been involved in my local punk scene for years, I still can feel the energy Bum Kon were trying to create. The Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, and Black Flag were bands that were more than just rebellious music, it was a way to find people who were like you and in time a way to find yourself. This was music you had to seek yourself, it wasn't going to be at the mall or even at your local head shop, you had to really want music like this, and this album is a document of a group that was and one that Colorado punks will always remember. Had the music on this album been released in 1983, it probably would have been on a number of best of lists.

(On a side note, one of the members of Bum Kon would eventually move on to another band I was a huge fan of, Duh, who were also label mates with fellow Donut heads Warlock Pinchers (check your Boner Records discography, folks). On top of that, some of the photos inside the booklet were taken by Patrick Barber, who was once in a great band called Expatriate and would eventually move to Seattle and get involved with the music scene as a journalist, artist, and founder of a few record labels, including Apraxia Records, a label that would feature a Crut album in their discography. He was also the art director for a publication I also wrote for, the late but great The Rocket. I could also talk about a great band called Stymie but I've gone beyond my boundary.)

(Drunken Sex Sucks is available directly from Smooch Records.)

Image Hosted by The hype machine says that Everything Is Alive (Lujo) by Pomegranates is "experimental pop", but it depends on what experimental means to you. Originally I thought the band were lead by a female vocalist and was ready to say that the group were able to combine abrasive playing with a bit of a feminine touch, but right there that sounds corny. Then I looked at the liner notes and noticed there were no ladies in this group. I thus freak.

It's not really experimental or really adventurous, but what it is (at least to my ears) is crafty. Before "alternative" music became "alternative", some would call it college music, something a bit more grown-up than the usual b.s. one would hear on the radio but filled with the kind of adventure and musicality one would expect as you were making "next level" moves. To me they sound like all of the bands today's hip groups are trying to be, but unfiltered, with bits of The Buzzcocks, Treepeople and Let's Active. The guitar sound can be boxey at times but that's enough to pull me in and listen for the duration, especially with such powerhouses as "Late Night Television", "The Uncanny Terrace Treeclimber", and "Whom/Who" (free MP3). If you give this a casual listen, you might miss all the little things this group squeeze in to ever second of their collective being. Very digable.

(Everything Is Alive will be available directly from Lujo Records.)

Image Hosted by It's great to look at an album cover, see the band name and wonder "what the hell is this?" Some might say it will lead to "I hope this rocks" but that has been happening since the dawn of (name band here). I'm looking at the cover of Deliver This Creature (El Marko) by a group calling themselves mr. Gnome and I have no idea what I'm going to get into. Their bio rattles off some of the genres they include in their music, but I stop there, I don't want to know anymore, but I'm warmed up to expect a bit of everything. The album begins with an electric guitar, and at the 9 second mark I'm hearing the faint voice of a lady. It's dreamy, like Norah Jones with a babydoll dress, and at this stage I'm not sure what to expect. At the 46 second point the guitars are driven up and I immediately think of Polly Jean Harvey. The execution and balance between the fine and the rugged is met, but then at the 1:28 point I hear a Bjork-ish or Alanis Morisette-like wail. It rocks, and I love the start-stop-start vamps midway into the song. There are a few psychedelic drones, as if someone is turning the crank by hand and delivering the audio seeds to be planted in the mind, and one wants to just create Satanic hand gestures and rock almighty. Then things get interesting.

Vocalist/guitarist Nicole Barille has the kind of voice that might seem unusual at first, but give it a few listens and eventually you'll warm up to her style of singing. It's not just gentle whispers, because the moment you expect her to stay calm she'll scream, curdle, and puke out each word. With lyrics such as rabbit lives up in my head/wake to find that I've been dead/times it hops from side to side/times it picks a place to hide/rabbit seeping in my brain/wishing things would stay the same/slowly we become alive/me and rabbit now decide (from "Rabbit"), this is not something you are able to listen to one time and put away. Some songs are filled with metaphor and vivid imagery, but as is the case with "Silhouette", it's a song of love that doesn't need to get complex to make its point. Barille's lead vocals are not only impressive, but it's great when she multi-layers too, creating an incredible wall that might make people remember the strengthen and power that Siouxsie Sioux provides.

Drummer Sam Meister is her partner in crime, and with a group that's only two members, the focus is more direct. His drumming will be loved by anyone who loves a solid drum sound, the entire album is a drum fest and hearing just that and an electric guitar is a voyage back to the days of rocking out all alone in your bedroom. They do include a few other elements into their music, as Meister plays piano and brings in a few friends to add in different elements, but the sound of mr. Gnome is very much about the union between Meister and Barille. Some might immediately compare them to The White Stripes, and I think the openness of the music allows those comparisons to happen but their brand of gut-busting rock is their own, and there are thousands of duos out there who rock out with just guitar and drums. mr. Gnome just happen to have the chops, and well written songs that will keep people coming back for more. One of the more effective moments of the album happens in "Night Of The Crickets", where all you hear are the words "ding dong" repeated over and over. It becomes an instrument in itself, a meditative tool that helps drive the song's message home, even if its actual meaning may be the subject of discussion (is it really about nature and crickets, or something to do with human nature?)

Deliver This Creature is a creature indeed, but one that you want to take care of and bring to its proper destination. It's a very exciting album that brings to mind the greatness of what music can and should be today if you just put your mind to it, or make an effort to find something as moving as this.

(Deliver This Creature will be released on May 6th and will be available directly from El Marko Records.)

Image Hosted by Bridges and Powerlines are a four man band who love their pop as much as their rock, and do it with a nod to the synth-happy new wave sound of the late 70's and early 80's, but with the guitar power of The Alarm. With Ghost Types (Citybird), these guys should be the soundtrack for anyone who looks forward to the future but are afraid to leave the innocence behind. In other words, it's youthful yet mature, these guys aren't about pulling pranks or being idiots in their music. The keyword in the previous sentence is "mature", for these guys have the kind of sensibility that belongs in bands who have been at it for ten years and going, or imagine Weezer if they didn't end up doing bullshit music like "Beverly Hills".

Bridges and Powerlines are a group for people who seek adventure in their music, those who want and demand forward movement. A lot of songs on this album are destined to be anthems, such as "The Golden Age" and perhaps it will represent those who will remember these years as their golden era.

(Ghost Types is available directly from Citybird Records. MP3's can be purchased through eMusic .)

Image Hosted by There's a question that I want to bring up in this review: how come people hate 9th Wonder? Are people jealous because his productions are nice, simple yet effective? Because he adds in the kind of soul that, once again, shows what is lacking in today's so-called R&B? Or because his haters aren't working as hard as him?

You know what? 9th Wonder haters are going to be surfacing once again with the release of The Formula (Duck Down), which teams him up with Buckshot, known for years as the voice of Black Moon. Buckshot has never had a problem with dropping lyrics and wisdom, especially over obscure soul and funk tracks, so the union here is perfect from the start. Tracks like "Be Cool", "Just Display", and "Here We Go" are bangers from beginning to end, and on Buckshot's side he shows the continued growth in his writing and as for his rhyming style, he's older but still has the attitude and swagger that made him the man among his fans. Talib Kweli and Tyler Woods show up to help out in "Whassup With U?", but it's very much about 9th's beats and Buckshot's rhymes.

As much as I don't want to complain about a project like this, there's just something missing in this chemical equation. 9th's beats are as good as they always are, Buckshot shows once again why he is a hip-hop legend, but there's no interactivity between the two. Buckshot will drop a verse, and then you'll hear a vocal sample as the chorus, but that's it, it feels empty. I would have done some turntable work or hired a DJ to do a bit of scratching, anything to fill the void that some of these songs have. Some of the beats themselves seem to lack a bit of low-end, I definitely hear the high-end. I state this because one listens to Buckshot's vocals and there's a bit of warmth in the tone, and when mixed with 9th's instrumentals it doesn't sound uniform. I would expect this from MP3's, but not something on compact disc.

I'm not saying the album is a disaster, I'm nitpicking at the audio quality because I expect better from these two, especially in a collaborative effort. If you're a Buckshot fan, pick this up and buy doubles so you can give this to friends. 9th Wonder's beats I've never had a problem with, I always like what he puts into his craft, but the sound quality of the instrumentals is lacking the mmph that is evident in his previous work, be it Edgar Allen Floe, Braille, or even Little Brother. Hell, listen to his track on the new Erykah Badu; now that's quality, quality that pops up only here and there on The Formula.

(The Formula is available directly from

Image Hosted by Eliot Lipp's The Outside (Mush) is definitely music with access to the inside, and it's some pretty good electronica with an emphasis on melody and incredible basslines. In other words, these are fully developed songs and not synth blasts (although I like that too).

There are a few things this album reminds me of. Some of the songs sound like early to mid-80's soundtrack albums, a mixture between Harold Faltermeyer and Paul Hardcastle. Whereas their sounds may have been incidental, Lipp's music takes a lead and keeps on running without stopping, as if Giorgio Moroder went into the studio with these guys and said "we need to take it this way". You can hear some of these influences in the title track, where one can almost visualize movie credits and a scene of someone being arrested for wanting to bring on some Turkish hashish onto a plane.

Other times, these songs sound like enhanced 8-bit productions. When I say enhanced, what I mean is if Prince was playing with NES, VIC 20, and a Gameboy instead of proper synths, but still had that same level of soulfulness, it probably would sound a lot like Eliot Lipp, who seems to take the lo-fi sound and brings it to the next level. It's great when he adds in a bit of techno and hip-hop influences, "The Machine And The Wind" grooves on a down tempo vibe as distant Malcolm McLaren chops and slices are placed over a synthesized orchestra. Imagine China-era Art Of Noise with ZTT-era Aon and you get a sense of one of his styles. "Beyond The City" could easily be mistaken for something off of Moby's new album, same can be said for "See What It's About", which is a well known break treated with the kind of keyboard work that Monk Hughes or Malik Flowers would be proud to jam over.

The Outside has a feel that's not unlike some of Money Mark's early solo work, where the songs were done with a plan in mind or on the spot, all with a spirit that simply says "this is my music and this is what I love to do, take it or leave it." Whether he continues on with solo projects or moves on to collaborate with others, I can see this guy becoming an influence for the next generation of music creators.

(The Outside is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by Streetlight Music (Granola Funk is album #4 from Foul Mouth Jerk, a rapper out of North Carolina (Asheville to be exact) who shows he has the skills that are comparable to many of his contemporaries. The album has a nice NY hip-hop feel to it, and that comes through this guy's love of not only running his voice to the mic, but a true love for rhyming, and it's nice to hear it. He has a number of people rhyming on the album with him, including MURS, El Da Sensei, Breeze Evaflowin, and Masta Ace, who can be heard in Smalltown USA (free MP3 download), but it's Foul Mouth Jerk is the center of attention as he speaks about being the authority, the core, the main reason you buy his albums in the first place. It's a solid CD from start to finish, recorded and mixed very well, and it's worthy of being placed in any hip-hop collection.

(Streetlight Music is available directly from the official Foul Mouth Jerk MySpace page.)

Image Hosted by The last we heard from Grant Peeples, he showed off his brand of Americana with a political bite yet with a sense of humor that showed a bit of optimism. On It's Later Than You Think (self-released), a lot has changed in his world, and in truth our world, for the optimistic fellow of a few years ago now sees the world differently, or perhaps the world has changed so much that we now have to reprogram how to live and interact.

In "Sunshine State" (streaming MP3), a song that talks about (in the words of Homer Simpson) America's wang, Peeples talks about the pleasure of a place where everyone seems to escape, only because these days there's nowhere to go. He takes sarcastic pride in a state with a golf course for every man and woman, and of course everybody thought it was some kinda joke/when we said it ain't over till your brother counts the votes/but eight years later they're still blowing smoke/it's what you call a State Steal. "OD Holton, 1979" (streaming MP3) should be a fond look back at the good times, but instead Peeples looks at the Iranian hostage situation of 1979 as the beginning of the end, a pre-cursor to everything that is very much a part of our world today.

"Grant's Talkin' Blues" (streaming MP3) has him speaking as he plays his guitar, and it has him rattling off a few things that are on his mind, particularly the state of things in the United States and what might be contributing to its perceived downfall:
Hip-hop, NASCAR, American Idol
iPod's, porn stars and virtual battles
Immediate gratification hummed a collective groan
Promenading thru shopping malls while there was a war going on

We’d been duped and screwed by unscrupulous minions
Who gave away the store and stole the elections
They started that war under false pretenses
Then abandoned justice and those poor soldiers in the trenches

I was shocked to hear the hip-hop reference, especially when joined up with something as hideous as American Idol but one can see this as an outsider's view, but I had to figuratively step back and think. Hip-hop in 2008 is perceived as music that is nothing more than "immediate gratification", no one wants to dig deeper and find something better, of substance, even though it exists. Peeples doesn't bombard you with puzzles or complex metaphors, he's a realist and sees things as they are. One of the more darker songs is the opening track, "Pitiful Little Town" (streaming MP3), which touches on what many people across the U.S. feel as corporate businesses try to take over every piece of land in order to plug it up with another Wal-Mart and Walgreen's, getting rid of history, culture, and families who struggle to keep home in the heart, only to face the reality that nothing is affordable, and that nothing lasts forever.

If Dr. John played an acoustic guitar instead of playing the piano, he probably would be akin to Grant Peeples, someone who sings and plays with the kind of emotion that will make it feel as if he's writing about your experiences. Times are tough and It's Later Than You Think cuts to the chase by telling its listeners that it's too late, perhaps things are beyond repair. The human condition, for those who remember how to think without relying on an external hard drive, tells us there has to be better. This is a singer/songwriter whose work needs to be heard and with luck there will be people open enough to take his music and words to heart (for those who remember what the heart is.)

(It's Later Than You Think is available from CDBaby.)

  • SOME STUFFS is what I called the news section in each column, but now I will highlight each item as its own individual post on The Run-Off Groove page. You probably see a few entries right below this column.

  • On a self-promotional note, the 65th podcast of Book's Music is ready for downloading and listening. Very soon, the podcasts will sound like a proper radio show, or as proper as I can make it. I haven't done them yet, but I look forward to putting them together. Until then, #65 can be tapped into by clicking over to

  • Finality is here, at least for #201, but I will return with more music reviews. If you have any music you'd like for me to review, I prefer CD's and vinyl. On the way are reviews of new music by Brian Culbertson, The Amazing World of Arthur Brown, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Marco Benevento, Rave Tesar Trio, Portishead, Truth Universal, The Brakes, Blueprint, and more.

    I also review books and audio equipment. I'll also review soft drinks, why not? You can get in contact with me through my MySpace page.

  • Speaking of my MySpace, I will be uploading the site with a number of tracks from my back catalog, in order to pave the way for the next Crut album. I may be releasing an EP in the meantime, hopefully on CD. As reported in previous columns, my next album will be called L**********ss. The title will be revealed in full at a later date, but notice the introduction of a third letter. That's all you're going to get.

    The Crut MySpace page does feature songs from the past, plus a few recent projects. You can also purchase a number of MP3's through Snocap, so take a listen and show support. I'm also open to doing collaborations, and May will be the start of a few collaborations I hope will come to fruition. I could go on, but head on over to the page and be updated there.

  • In closing, I also have a new blog over at FudgeFM, I only have two installments so far but head on over there and take a look, and also go through the site. It will make a grand opening in about a month, so bookmark it.

  • May Day is lei day in Hawai'i...
  • SOME STUFFS: 13th Annual Litchfield Jazz Festival

    Image Hosted by

    The lineup has been announced for the 13th Annual Litchfield Jazz Festival, which happens between August 1-3 at the Goshen Fairgrounds in Northwest Connecticut. Some of the artists scheduled to perform include The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Paquito D’Rivera, Kenny Werner Trio, Cyrus Chestnut Trio, John Pizzarelli, and Bebe Neuwirth among others.

    For more information, including ticket and hotel information, head to for details.


    The Philadelphia Weekly called their album "this year's first summer cookout record." I speak of a band called The Brakes, who have gained a buzz within their fan base and may be on the verge of breaking beyond that, as they're about to release their debut album, Tale Of Two Cities, next week on Hyena Records. If you haven't heard about them, you can download a free MP3 (for the song "Into The Ground") by clicking here. If you need visual evidence, click on the following video:

    The band (from Philly) are about to go on tour with Carney, here are the scheduled tour dates:

    May 7, 2008 / Sticky Fingers Chicken Shack / Little Rock, AR
    May 9, 2008 / The Cavern / Dallas, TX
    May 10, 2008 / Warehouse Live / Houston, TX
    May 11, 2008 / Emo’s Alt. Lounge – Inside / Austin, TX
    May 13, 2008 / Blueberry Hill / St. Louis, MO
    May 14, 2008 / Birdy’s / Indianapolis, IN
    May 15 / The Redstone Room / Davenport, IA
    May 16, 2008 / The Rave / Milwaukee, WI
    May 17, 2008 / Kinetic Playground / Chicago, IL
    May 18 / The Eagle Theater / Pontiac, MI
    May 20 / The Cambridge Room @ House of Blues / Cleveland, OH
    May 21 / Club Cafe / Pittsburgh, PA
    May 22 / Coffee East / Easton, MD
    May 24 & 25 / Hard Rock Park / Myrtle Beach, MD
    June 2 / Mercury Lounge / New York, NY
    June 3 / Higher Ground / Burlington, VT
    June 5 / The Stone Church / Newmarket, NH

    I will have a review of Tale Of Two Cities in next week's column.

    SOME STUFFS: new Tyga interview @

    Tyga is making the rounds on MP3 and ringtone websites, and now you can find out more by reading this exclusive review at

    Image Hosted by

    Tyga's album, No Introduction, is scheduled for release on June 10th

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    SOME STUFFS: Echo chambers at Capitol Records in danger

    Image Hosted by It might sound like a laughing matter to some, but it's not. Before it was possible to alter any and every song digitally with plug-in's and external gear, one way to make a vocal or guitar in the recording studio have a distinct sound would be to run it through an echo chamber. EMI Recording Studios, now known as Abbey Road, had their own echo chambers that helped The Beatles a number of times throughout their recorded history. Phil Spector is of course known for his "Wall Of Sound". But if one is to think of Pet Sounds or some of David Axelrod's productions in the mid to late 60's, then one has to think about how those songs and albums were done, and most likely they were run through Capitol's echo chambers, created by legendary guitarist Les Paul.

    Back then, every recording studio had their own way of recording and documenting sound, some of it was secret until recording nerds were curious and made it possible to share the secrets with the world. Due to a developer who plans on building a high rise right next door to Capitol (dollar dollar bill, y'all), the record label feels that those cherished underground echo chambers will be damaged. There's an argument which claims that one can digitally simulate any form of echo and reverb, so even if the echo chambers were damaged, it would not be that much of a deal.

    Unfortunately, the world of audio gets the shaft once again, and yet if this had something to do with the archiving of Hollywood's motion picture industry, one phone call from George Clooney would stop the building from being erected. This is music history, recorded history, and the threat of the echo chambers is not to be ignored. To read the full article, head on over to the L.A. Times:

    Capitol Records says recording quality at its Hollywood building is at risk (link to L.A. Times article, written by Bob Pool)

    SOME STUFFS: Rhino Handmade releases two brand new Charles Wright compilations

    Rhino Handmade is a subsidiary of the great Rhino Records, and it is within the halls of the Handmade that you can find some incredible new compilations, live albums, box sets, and rarities. Rhino Handmade are about to release two new compilations gathering previously unreleased music from Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band:

    Image Hosted by The first is called Puckey Puckey: Jams & Outtakes 1970-1971, and the songs come from the recording sessions that produced the Express Yourself(1970) and You're So Beautiful (1971). All of you soul and funk fans know how hard it can be to find some of these records (be it 45's or LP's) in VG+ to M- condition, but it's even more RAER to find any labels going into the archives and releasing things that were never meant for released, material that usually is regarded as trash. You not only get a few alternate versions of the familiar, but full jam sessions, including a 30-minute take of "Puckey Puckey". We're talking about a band that featured James Gadson and Al McKay, and the fact that these jam sessions still exist is more reason to pick up this collection.

    Image Hosted by The second release is a previously unreleased live recording done in 1968. Live At The Haunted House - May 18, 1968 shows the band when they were still playing covers, trying to be heard and noticed to crowds who were discovering their brand of soul. Almost every soul group wanted to become the next James Brown, or try to have a bit of that Motown or Stax sound, and the group found themselves including a wide range of music that definitely moved the crowd, including versions of "(I Wanna) Testify" (then a hit single by The Parliaments), "Papa's Got A Brand new Bag", "Philly Dog", "Mustang Sally", "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", and "Day Tripper". The California Sound we know today really didn't exist at this point, but there was something brewing in the Bay Area while musicians in Los Angeles found themselves wanted to become more than just the recording studio elite, the session musicians who played on almost any and every record that came out of the city. These recordings by The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band show a group also in development, but who would be responsible for a solid sound that influenced funk and soul throughout the 70's and became an inspiration for many hip-hop producers and DJ's.

  • Each title is a 2CD set, and both are limited editions with only 5000 copies of each being pressed. Both contain liner notes from Oliver "O-Dub" Wang, and loads of previously unreleased photos. Get your copies now by clicking here and here.
  • SOME STUFFS (a/k/a Music News): Darfur Now College Tour

    I often include a news section in my column, but sometimes the news needs to be known now and not in a next column, so starting today I am starting the Some Stuffs section, which means "Music News". Stuffs is casual Hawaiian pidgin slang for "things", as in "wow bra, what kind stuffs you get?". Nothing complicated, and in this case, da kine stuff I get is news. So let's begin.

    Image Hosted by

    This is directly from the press release:

    Los Angeles, CA, March 28th, 2008 - STAND and Participant Media are proud to sponsor a nationwide tour of the critically acclaimed new documentary, Darfur Now, which will be available on DVD May 27th. Schools around the country, chosen for their outspoken efforts to fight genocide, will host a special screening of Darfur Now and a concert to raise awareness, funds, and send the message that NOW is the time to end genocide in Darfur. Across the country, tens of thousands of students have shown that they will not stand idly by in the face of genocide. From passing legislation to fundraising for relief and protection efforts in Darfur, they have declared that they are the anti-genocide generation. But we can do more...

    Berkeley April 24, 2008

    University of California Berkeley
    ft. Zion I, DJ Fuse, Goapele

    Atlanta April 25, 2008
    Emory University
    ft. Janelle Monae, Anthony David, Novel, DJ Drama

    St. Paul, MN April 27, 2008
    William Mitchell College of Law

    Minneapolis April 28, 2008
    University of Minnesota Law School

    Washington D.C. April 28, 2008
    Georgetown University
    ft. Wale, Asheru, DJ Yzo, Mastamind DJ

    Chicago May 21, 2008
    University of Chicago

    Los Angeles May 29, 2008
    University of California Los Angeles

    STAND and the Genocide Intervention Network are proud to partner with Participant Media in the college tour of the acclaimed documentary, Darfur Now. With more than 700 chapters at schools around the globe, STAND is the fastest-growing student anti-genocide coalition in the world today. STAND chapters actively organize to prevent and stop genocide wherever and whenever it may occur. In partnership with the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net). STAND's long-term goal is to establish a permanent anti-genocide constituency that holds elected officials accountable for doing all that they can to prevent and end genocide.

    Participant Media is the leading provider of entertainment that inspires and compels social change. It is a Los Angeles-based production company that focuses on socially relevant, commercially viable feature films and documentaries. Participant Media is headed by CEO Jim Berk and President Ricky Strauss and was founded in 2004 by philanthropist Jeff Skoll, who serves as Chairman. Their films include George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck, Stephen Gaghan's Syriana, Niki Caro's North Country, Louise Hogarth's Angels in the Dust, Jonathan Demme's Jimmy Carter Man From the Plains, Ted Braun's Darfur Now, Marc Forster's The Kite Runner, Mike Nichol's Charlie Wilson's War and Davis Guggenheim's Academy Award-winning An Inconvenient Truth. Upcoming films for 2008 include Brett Morgen's Chicago 10, Tom McCarthy's The Visitor and Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure.

    Darfur Now was released by Warner Independent Pictures. Written and directed by Ted Braun, the film explores the Darfur conflict through the first-hand experiences of Don Cheadle, Hejewa Adam, Pablo Recalde, Ahmed Mahmoud Abaker, Louis Moreno-Ocampo and Adam Sterling. The DVD will be out on May 27th, 2008.

    The Marketing Division is producing the college tour. They are is a full service marketing agency with a dynamic team dedicated to the delivery of solutions individually tailored to the needs of each client. Its co-founders, Evan Cerasoli and Eddie Donaldson, not only have committed to providing exceptional work that shows impressive results, they also believe deeply in the organization they now run to deliver them.

    For more information and ticketing details please visit

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #200

    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:

    Aloha, and welcome to the 200th edition of The Run-Off Groove. I am and remain John Book.

  • Wow, 200 columns. I have not counted the amount of reviews I've done here since the beginning, when this column started at MusicForAmerica but it has been a lot, trust me. There have been a few interviews in that time, and I hope to do more very soon. But, I've made it to the 200th mark, without fanfare of any kind. I wanted to do this column because I enjoy writing about music, and have done so for the last 23 years. It was a chance to have a column, and to be on a site that showed support for what I did. What began as a hip-hop music column widened, and that's only because I do listen to a wide range of music. I allowed myself to talk music, share my views, and I'm fortunate that people have put faith in my opinion, even though I know very well not everyone will agree with me. This column could have easily been molded into an ego-fest. When I do put the ego in the column, it pops up close to the end. I take my writing very seriously, which is why The Run-Off Groove now finds a home here. Is this column a blog? To me it's a column, but blogs can be filled with reviews of things so call it what you want. It began as a column, is written as a column, and will remain that.

    The fanfare. Ask any writer and they will tell you that it is a thankless job. Don't take that wrong, I do get a lot of great feedback from not only fans but artists who like what I had to say, it makes me feel good to read their comments, especially when it goes further than "I like the review". To all of you, I say thank you.

    I would like to write for a magazine or two again, perhaps for a newspaper or a bigger website. Looking for a music supervisor for your next television show or movie project? Work with me, I'm the perfect one for the task. Put me to work.

    Here's what you will not find in The Run-Off Groove. My column is on Blogspot/, but you will not find any links to full-length albums. Those of you who know how to get them, you do what you have to do. But with each review I include information on where you can pick up the CD or the MP3's. Whenever possible, I do include links to "legal" MP3's within or after each review so you can sample their work. Like it? Show support and buy a copy. The only time I will include a full length CD in my column is if the artist says it's okay. But please, show support. If you like the music, head to a local show, buy a T-shirt.

    I don't know what the next year will bring, or the next four years. Will I be doing this column in four years? I honestly don't know, I take it on a year... no, monthly basis. 200 is a lot of writing, and i want to keep on writing. I do want to concentrate on some book projects too, and I hope that by doing this column and contributing to others, I will have more access and opportunities to cover what I want to cover in my books.

    On top of that, I want to finish my album and also release a series of EP's, on CD or in digital form. I haven't had new music out in years, and it also means I have to do the superhype all over again. But it's worth it, so with my ego in front of me, listen to my music on my MySpace page and catch a bit of Crut-ness.

    Away from me and onto you, the reader. This is a new column, so let's begin with a brand new album out this week.

    Image Hosted by It has been said that to start a review with the word "I" means you're not working hard enough. Therefore, I will begin my second sentence in this review that way.

    I don't know how hardcore fans keep track of the music from Slug and Ant, the two guys behind the group Atmosphere, although I say this as someone who doesn't go out of my way raiding blogs to hunt down Rapidshare links. I do know this. The last time I heard these guys in full was with the great album You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having (as reviewed in The Run-Off Groove #75), and I had said the album is an important piece of music that in a better world would make teenage girls burn their Avril Lavigne T-shirts and want to rock some Atmosphere gear. Slug had also released another Felt project and then when they were to go on tour, they released tour-only EP's. I missed most of those but I'm still playing that album like crazy, it has become a personal favorite, one of the best of the 21st century thus far.

    A few months ago I heard the group wanted to promote their new album in a unique way. Their promotional tactic was that they weren't going to send out any promotional copies of the album, that if you wanted to hear it, you had to be invited to a listening party. I honestly thought that was great, but not everyone lives in NYC and LA, so I wasn't able to attend (read "wasn't able to collect that many aluminum cans to pay for a plane or Amtrak ticket). Then it was announced the album was going to be released as a deluxe edition, with a hard cover book and a bonus DVD. Damn, I want that! The reason for them not wanting to send out advances was because they wanted to prevent it from leaking early, feeling that a good portion of the leaks may be coming from journalists. Slug himself posted on a board I used to frequent, and I told him that not every writer leaks an album, some hold to the unwritten code ethic. Even though he understood that, I and other non-threatening parties weren't an issue, but those who did. With no promos, it went back to a time when you heard the album on the day or week of release. But, copies were sold at indie stores and a week before its official release, one could find the album online. Not surprisingly, this is how I obtained the album for review. I hate reviewing MP3's because it removes a good part of the sound quality, which I always take into consideration in this generation of clock radio bullshit. But this was Atmosphere, two guys whose music I respected so until I buy my copy, I have to deal with the inferior MP3's. Here I am.

    When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers) has Slug and Ant doing their thing again, but the first listen may make you think that Slug and Ant aren't as hardcore or in your face as they have been in the past. There are moments on this album where it sounds as if they're trying to cash in on the current trends by creating synth-heavy production, lightweight beats, and a lot of singing. That's right, Slug sings and while I was initially taken aback by that (only because the guy is a great rapper), he's not that bad. Yet what I found was that when he did sing, it almost seemed like he did it for parody, in a Flo & Eddie or Frank Zappa manner where the hooks sell but...

    That's the key point right there, the "but..." If one takes a deeper listen to these new songs, Slug is still the same guy condemning the ills of hip-hop culture while describing a day in the life of the B-I-G, D-A-double D-Y S-E-A-N. The album seems to be divided into three distinct segments, beginning with "Us". The album opens with "Like The Rest Of Us", where Slug speaks over a laid back, abstract jazzy groove (think Ahmad Jamal) on the evil that men do, and the evil he occasionally puts himself in from time to time, when he has to open that bottle, swallow that friend just like every other person. What I like is that immediately he sets himself on the same level as everyone, he's not Slug, he's himself, but it's just a bere primer for what's to come. "Puppets" is about manipulation, whether it's by others or ourselves into believing what isn't there, and the lyric that hit too close to home are the last two lines in the chorus: barely trust 'em, they're all puppets/love is nothing, scared of success. The second segment, begins with "You", and this time Slug places the target on fucks and low life's. "Painting" sounds like Pink Floyd on 45, and with its soothing yet eerie slide guitar, it's almost as if he's looking at another as a way of him looking at his inevitable self:

    Ain't no color paint gonna cover the stains
    The pictures on the wall will all remain
    And even though he's home now, sound and safe
    Surrounded by the faces that he places his faith
    The images visit from the past, he witnessed
    Can't stay away from the memories, sticks with
    Each detail, embedded in stone
    Like he chisels those condition into his bones
    The progress stops and pauses
    Spits and sputters like the basement faucet
    And it's obvious he's lost in his regrets
    You can smell it on his breath
    Ain't no color paint gonna cover the stains
    But now the alcohol is gonna mother the pain
    Tuck it away, no complaints, just laying on his
    Back, on his backyard under the rain
    Take tomorrow, but doesn't know how though
    For every swallow, there's another to follow
    He weaves his way throughout the story
    Looking for a new missing piece or a door key
    Spirits used to be for celebration
    But now they just take him away from the hell that's waiting
    Re-up until there's three sheets up
    And pick a place for the skeletons to lean on

    "Yesterday" is a personal talk with someone who meant a lot to him, and it's his way of saying thank you for what he used to ignore or take for granted, and when it's revealed who the person in question is, it's a very touching moment, especially for those who have ever lost a loved one.

    When the album reaches the "Me" segment (with the song "Me"), Atmosphere begins to sound like the group of old, or at least it has all of the touches they have been known for: funky beats, obscure samples, and a more hip-hop approach. Up to that point, it sounds like an album that probably would have been recorded in the early 80's, before hip-hop would take over the world. In fact, the album is less about hip-hop and its bravado and pride, and more about a world without it. A post Lesson 6 world? Is it the idea that hip-hop is long dead, but you still think and comprehend in a hip-hop manner? "In Her Music Box" has Slug speaking to his daughter about what she sees, teaching her good from bad and hoping she'll never have to go through some of the things he did. The music box is the sound that opens the album, and at this point we realize that what we've been hearing is not only a bit of self-examination, but the music box in question. It's lessons from an elder to a youngin, and it is then you fully understand the title When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Maybe we are all lemon squeezers, but it doesn't mean one has to take in that tart tang day in, day out. It's almost a way of saying "I see a white surface on that subway train. I see it over and over. But I got a can of paint and I'm going to make it nice, add a bit of me on that train, show the world what it's like to see something new and different. When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold is new and it is definitely a different Atmosphere album, but it seems the group have always delivered what the fans want and love. This time they offer a challenge to see if they can figure out what's going on. This album is just a derivative of Slug and Ant's masterplan together, and it's grown hip-hop that's can be listened to as a guide us through the second half of life.

    (The standard edition of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold is available directly from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by Atmospheric. Trippy is what I call it, or at least that's what some call the lyrics of Aamir, whose debut album, Underwater Regions (Siq) is a display of a rapper with character and a resistance to bullshit. His music goes back and forth between sample-ridden tracks with manipulated instrumentation, and within that he speaks about how I am a descendant of Adam, tampering with ridicule/fascinated by language, I label myself passive ("Teach Me"), and song after song he just oozes with this kind of mental power that is unlike the majority of rappers out there. "Recovering Satellites" has him speaking in double time while the instrumental is a Diplo-like instrumental moving at a down-tempo pace.

    Upon first listen, Aamir is not the kind of MC that you may understand (or want to understand) at first. His words are much more deeper than what's on the surface, maybe a more comprehensive Divine Styler with the best elements of Chali2na. When the lyrics are direct, they are meant to be (listen to the attack of each verse in "Breath Of Fire") but within the understandable are puzzles where you'll have to type it or print it out and then look at it from afar. He's not a simple line-after-line, song-after-song rapper, he plays around with composition and song structure. The rhyme emphasis may be within a line, or he'll rhyme 4+6+4+2 instead of just 4+4+4+4, and it caught me off-guard at times because I have expectations of what a song should sound like, but rhymes are his playground and he's not just going to let anyone join in. He's not complex just because he wants to be, in fact all of his songs are easy to take in, but it's the execution that impresses me.

    (Underwater Regions is available directly from Siq Records.)

    Image Hosted by Hella resilient is what The Grouch calls himself in "Favorite Folks", and it is just one of many lyrical gems and schemes he offers on Show You The World (Legendary Music). The album cover has him holding up his daughter on his shoulders, with a star-filled background and a pink butterfly in the distance. While the world he will show her will be sharp and bitter, there is also the positive things as well as the reality of reality. True to form, he offers the kind of wisdom and composition that he has been doing since his last album came out in 2002, and has it been worth the effort? Indeed it is.

    The Grouch remains one of the best storytelling MC's out there, and perhaps it's less about storytelling and more about an MC that stays true to telling stories, rather than bulletin board Post-It note lyrics. He's not a notepad rapper, but a notebook rapper, as he shows in "God Bless The Elephant" (his duet with Abstract Rule). "Yardwork" is a piece of the puzzle that may or may not have began with De La Soul's "Potholes In My Lawn", where he speaks metaphorically about maintaining his yard while avoiding the potholes in life, be it biters or fraudulent people. In the title track he speaks about traveling around the world as he speaks about his goals and dreams through the eyes of a hip-hop fan, as he speaks to his daughter, cousins, nephews, and nieces. Raphael Saadiq handles background vocals on this one and helps The Grouch out on making sure everyone achieves their goals. That rapping nut known as MURS rips into the scene in "The Bay To LA", where they both get into a hyphy crunky snap-type track that could be perfect for the club if people in unsterile rooms would be willing to consume a bit of fresh air. MURS' pakalolo-influenced performance is a highlight of the album.

    Another highlight is hearing a brand new version of a song The Grouch did with edIT last year (which I reviewed in The Run-Off Groove #169). "Artsy" is redone with a more abstract style of production where the beats are varied, and Grouch's vocal track has even more pep and attitude to it. The rest of the album is packed with quotables, but the one that moved me the most was the one that hooked me from the title alone: "Mom & Pop Killer"

    I heard you bought your whole style off of eBay
    They even selling everything now that we say
    Sally furnished her apartment at Best Buy
    But Target got the best buys, and that's why
    I'm gonna do a Wal-Mart Exclusive
    With Hallmark rhymes, and Fisher-Price gon' produce it
    Oh, you ain't heard weak lyrics? That's the new shit
    Like all over print ain't and telling the truth is

    Even though he's dropping name brands as if it was... wait, it is part of the norm, it also refers to Sally whom modern hip-hop fans aren't going to recognize but should, for she has been part of the fabric of rap music for the last twenty years (from Stetsasonic to Diamond D) and now it seems Sally's world is dominated by recognition and devoid of self-identity.

    It's confusing, but it's the world we live in today, but it's a world worth exploring, and passing along to an unaware younger generation who will hopefully improve and uplift the conditions of today.

    (Show You The World is available from

    Image Hosted by The Grouch continues to seek the path with his crew, Living Legends, and they've returned with the 7-track The Gathering (Legendary Music), and if you've been a fan of Aesop, Bicasso, Eligh, Sunspot Jonz, MURS, Scarub, and Luckyiam, then you will no doubt hearing the flows and chemistry they have, all in the name of MC un-supremacy and rap music. They talk about being laid back, occasionally (!!!) high, and having the itch to take on every twist of the hip-hop Rubik, including some songs that sound more new wave and video game-ish than "true" hip-hop, but if artists today aren't making true hip-hop, perhaps it gives more people license to twist that Rubik's cube one more time.

    The Gathering is about family and a group of friends, or maybe this gathering is what people would be talking about and celebrating while reminiscing over hip-hop, which is dead. Dead? Well, not quite and if it ever went into cardiac arrest, you can bet these guys would be the lyrical IV's.

    (The Gathering is available from CD Universe. MP3's can be downloaded from eMusic.)

    Image Hosted by The majority of so-called hip-hop heads out there don't realize the greatness that can be found in rap music from the Pacific Northwest. While most should know of Sir Mix-A-Lot, most have never heard of Source Of Labor, Boom Bap Project, Blue Scholars, Turntable Bay or Mr. Supreme (and I'm almost certain the majority of my readers have no idea who Vitamix is and if so, learn). The underground and indie scenes have always been filled with top notch artists, but for whatever reason they have only enjoyed regional success. With luck this will all change with Animal Farm, whose The Unknown (Focused Noise) album is easily one of the more exciting hip-hop albums of the year. This Portland group features members of The Cleveland Steamers, Soundproof, and Money Shot, if you are familiar with any of these groups then you know what they're capable of doing. Those capabilities are put to the test immediately in the opening track, "We Came To Rock", where the hard booming beat and "hip-hop" vocal chants become as meditative as Nyabingi rhythms with the command forget these shiny new rims, let the rhyming begin and then the battle for sonic domination is underway with such bitter blows as A dope amount of rappers turn sweeter than metrosexual/Porcelain cats shatter when I knock them off the pedestal and 'Cause I defeat MC's that challenge me/See you won't wanna fuck with this cat like bestiality/A street mentality need a beat to balance me/Like a schizophrenic with plenty of personality.

    They get humorous but their rhyming ways are no joke, they know how to outwit and outlast more effectively than Eliza Orlins, and whether it's the jazzy ways of "Ragtime Gal" or the Wu-type blitzkrieg of "War", they have a sound that is very reminiscent of the creativity heard on albums by The Beatnuts, Tha Alkaholiks, Jurassic 5, and Blackalicious. The key word in that last sentence is "creativity" and it's nice to hear people who put a lot of emphasis into their words and music and not in making fashion statements or strengthening their shoe endorsements. It goes back to a time when discussion about rap music always lead to talk about the "artform" and not about who is dating whom and becoming Hollywood's favorite group. Now go get a dozen donuts at Voodoo and make sure to pick up a bacon maple bar or two or a Dirty Snowball.

    (The Unknown will be released on May 20th.)

    Image Hosted by DL Incognito isn't someone who has to hide in order to get his lyrics across, the guy is there in the open ready for confrontation if need be. A Captured Moment In Time (Nine Planets Hip-Hop/Urbnet) is an album that comes from a rapper who has a lot of heart, where it's for his family, friends, the world, or hip-hop in general. Throughout the album he goes out of his way to tell stories that you'll want to listen to and remember, wanting to recite and share to everyone in your vicinity. He has a commanding voice not unlike Pharoahe Monch, and has a way of being intensive with his words without your really knowing it until you sit and think about it.

    It's a well produced album with the kind of production that will make you go "oh damn, I have that beat in my crate right now, and I was about to chop that hi-hat up too", courtesy of such collaborators as T-Wrecks, Techtwelve, Kelakovski and DL himself. Again, it's an album with a lot of heart, and at a time when people say that hip-hop and anyone who listens to it is heartless, bust this out and show them how it's done. As the great Samson S once said, this ain't Kid or fucking Play.

    (A Captured Moment In Time is available directly from Urbnet Records.)

    Image Hosted by School Of Beats are a production team from the East Coast (Walk On is from DC, Laid Back from Delaware) who are out to make an impact with their well crafted beats, and find some of the hottest upcoming rappers who also want to be heard as well.

    The beats are very much in the nature of 9th Wonder, Blueprint, and Evil D in the sense that they find some of the prime funk and soul, and then twist, chop, and slice it beyond recognition. Basslines seem to move forward, only for it to move backward and somewhere else entirely, and you can tell these two know what they're doing, it's a love for beats and having a craft to find new ways to manipulate the known and unknown. With guest spots from Shak-C, Big James, Laelo Hood, Ice Da Villain, K-Ruck, Freddie Thumps and many others, together they're creating a sound that defines them as a collective, a group of friends, and of course as individuals. It may be a simple compilation but it also works as a resume, in the hopes that everyone will get a chance to work and collaborate with others.

    The sound is very professional, although there were two or three songs that sounded like rough demos compared to the polish of the rest of the tracks. I like rough, don't get me wrong, but maybe (keyword "maybe") a bit of uniformity would have helped those tracks just a pinch. It's not a big deal though, the big deal is the production, and they're ready to conquer whatever and whomever is sent their way.

    (Lesson III: The Progress Report is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by The CD arrived in a simple yellow CD envelope with the name of the group, the album title, its release date (4/1/08) and record label information. The Camp are signed to Commonwealth Records and they just released The Campaign. Without an album cover to rely on I couldn't make any assumptions or form any expectations. I played it, and what came out was some of the most clever, funniest, freshest, dopest, messed up rap lyrics I've heard in awhile. Are these guys a bunch of smart asses who fully understand what could happen if their music started influencing others to do the same? I'm not sure if these guys really care, at least from the outside. Deep down, it's all about business, and they're in the business of tearing up microphones in a manner that could put them in the crazy house.

    Grime Da MC , Excetera, Dese, and DJ Hevan are The Camp, and the album starts with some obscure 60's R&B tune with a familiarHoneydrippers breakbeat and with the appropriate vocal "ladies and gentlemen" we are welcomed into a very insane world. You smell the alcohol, you sense hashish, and then you hear My dick's so white, I got the gift like Christmas night/Don't be pissed, a'ight, I only hit your sister twice. With a chorus that goes All I know is booze and ho's, they speak about "Gentleman Needs", referring to everything from rhyming right to needing a comfortable couch to crash on. "Calm Down" has them wanting to bring a ruckus but are being told that they should relax as they talk about being biracial, personal conflict, and holding grudges on the world. "Little Story" may start out as a raw sex rhyme until they realize they each know the woman who has a love for white liquid very well, throw in an STD and it gets ugly from there. Each of the MC's in the group have their own voice and it reminds me of what The Procussions were doing recently, but with much more partying and unpredictable drunken antics. They write individually but it's great when they seem to write with a unified theme, it might be easy for any one of these guys to step out on his own but there's that bond between friends that can't be defined and they have "it". They want to joke around, they rap about it, if they want to talk shit about each other, it's all done in fun. When they get serious, it's direct and to the point and they go in for the kill each and everytime, knowing that when their verse is over, the microphone smokes. If The Camp are truly on a Campaign, I can only imagine what the sound of victory will be like.

    (The Campaign is available on CD from, and digitally from Amalgam Digital.)

    Image Hosted by Jean-Philip Grobier performs as Kites, and his brand of music is pop beyond. Yeah, maybe not an original term, but the music you're hear on his self-released EP You and I In The Kaleidoscope is definitely the kind of music that is the start of what will become his own sound. The guy has the lush vocal harmonies, the pop finesse, the guitar riffs, and most of all the guy has songs, whether it's a nice folky-ballad or something that could lead people into the world of hard rock without Jon Bon Jovi smiles. "Daylight" has verses that you want to pump your fist to, and when the chorus hits it will move you to do the Chris Cornell-styled Jesus Christ pose. I enjoy hearing the layers of different sounds that are on here, all of which are played by Grobler, and there are moments where it might sound like a long lost Brian Wilson masterpiece, or it gets brutal enough to resemble a more pop friendly Sunny Day Real Estate. There's guitars, there's distortions, there's ancient pianos, there's fat Moog-y synths, there's victory and power. Kites is ready to conquer the world if he had the power to do so, but I do not think the world is ready for this kind of melodic power pop. You know what, too bad, because this guy could become huge with enough fans and support from them. If anything it moves me, it's someone who wants to take his influences and not just say thank you, he wants to say "come along, we're going to pile everything on".

    (You and I In The Kaleidoscope is available directly from the official Kites' MySpace page, or you can go through iTunes.)

    Image Hosted by This Is Ivy League is the name of a duo who create quirky indie pop, as if Simon & Garfunkel hung out with Calvin Johnson and Al DeLory. Their self-titled debut album (Twentyseven) is a pleasant listen, especially for those who like their pop music a bit dreamy, but it's not too lofty. They have the hooks, the musicianship, and these guys (Ryland Blackinton and Alex Suarez) know what it takes to make good music.

    It's "indie worthy" but is it worthy of being heard outside of that audience? I think it is, but listeners have to step up to the challenge of accepting these guys. Take them on.

    Image Hosted by The bio says Biography Of Ferns are three friends from Seattle, and they love late 70's British punk/art work, and wave. Connection to grunge? Well, they actually sound like a lot of early 80's Seattle bands, more U-Men than Mudhoney. Forget the grunge thing.

    This trio have a love for that twisted pop that has a little more balls to it, accepting their love of thrift store records while respecting the craft that pop music has. Pastel Gothic (Tellous) have a spirit that shows they love rock, and that rock is very much alive. It's good music that would work well in a nightclub but will today's kids get it? I think so.

    Image Hosted by The cover has Bill Prouten casually playing a tenor saxophone, eyes hidden behind the brim of the hat, as if it's just another night on the town. But the music on Low-down, No-good... (self-released) is just as intimidating as the title suggests, only because his casual stance on the cover is replaced with someone who plays with such ferocity that at times I caught myself looking at the cover and going "where does this guy come from?"

    First, the basics. This Canadian musician resides in the Toronto area, and has played with a number of musicians in both Canada and the U.S., heading into the studio and touring whenever possible. He is also an instructor, so his music and committment to it is a serious one. What I hear on the album is someone who plays with a lot of intensity, and not just someone who can play Giant Steps forwards and backwards, but is someone who is confident about his playing enough to explore at any given point of a melody or a solo. When he does it, there's still a bit of subtlety but when it gets intense, one can only step back (or move more comfortably in their listening chair) and be in awe. The awe (without shock) can be heard in "Billy's Bossa", "The Brightest Moon", and the nine-minute "Unbalanced", which I could easily listen to for another nine. He and the band (Ted Warren on drums; Mike Downes on bass; and Robi Botos on piano) get down and dirty in the opening song, "Low-down, No-good Downright Nasty Blues", where the full title is revealed and the group as a whole reveal their mission for the album.

    I point a finger to the group as a whole for while this is very much Prouten's time in the spotlight, his backing band are equally as powerful and competent as the leader. In jazz you often come across references to classic trios, quartets, or quintets, a group of musicians who seem to play incredibly well as a whole even when there's an unspoken competitive force that helps move each other to where their playing needs to be. The songs have a familiar feel to them, and that only comes from having respect for musicians who can play. I state this because all of these songs are Prouten originals, and when they want to lay down a low-down funk they can do that in "Low-down, No-good Downright Nasty Blues", or in the romantic "An Aire For Claire", where Prouten's playing comes close to sounding a bit like Hank Crawford.

    What also appealed to be was the fullness of the sound captured, it feels as if you're about five tables back at a jazz club and you can feel the breath and mental activity of everyone in the room. When Downes plays his solo in "An Aire For Claire" you can almost smell the steel and wood as fingers touch the neck and strings. This is due to the work of engineer Jeremy Darby, mixer David Travers-Smith, and mastering engineer Peter J. Moore, all of whom did an incredible job transferring the music of Prouten and his quartet from studio to mixing board to compact disc. It's hard to believe that this is Prouten's debut album as a leader, but I am certain he will release many more in the future. It may be with these set of musicians or with others, but I will be following their musical progress from this point on.

    (Low-down, no-good... is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by It had taken a few consecutive listening sessions for me to listen to Out Of The Blues (self-released), an album by The Thom Rotella 4-Tet in full, only because I was listening to it within a hectic schedule. It was an album that I kept returning to not because I had to finish the entire album before I did a review, but because I was intrigued by what and how Rotella (guitar) was playing.

    Good guitar jazz always moves me, bad guitar jazz pops up all too frequently and fortunately Rotella happens to be on the good side. He plays without a pick so he has that Wes Montgomery style that somehow always signifies class, and he shows this in "Who Dat?", "The Dr. Is In", and "I Hear A Rhapsody". The bluesiness he and the band (Roy McCurdy on drums; Luther Hughes on bass, and Llew Matthews and Rich Eames trading piano duty throughout the album) immediately sets up the vibe they create. It's bluesy, but the title of the album is Out Of The Blues so with an album cover that shows shades of green and orange, it is trying to step out of the known imagery towards creating new ones.

    One thing I like about this album is the recording, you can imagine the musicians being right there but you can also try to capture what were going on in their minds when they played these songs, or how a crowd would react if Rotella and the 4-tet were playing. "Never Say Goodbye" sounds like sensuality and anticipation, while the brush strokes in "The Way You Look Tonight" might bring to mind certain Santana songs from his Marathon album. The evenness of the musicians are also a major plus, I can't stand when the bass (be it stand-up or electric) is pushed in the background or the guitarist hogs up everything, as if the listener didn't know he was the leader. Rotella isn't an ego player, but instead uses the music as a guide and then his band follow him as he creates a soundscape for all to play. There's no indication in the liner notes on how the album was recorded or mixed, but Out Of The Blues has the right touch of everything that makes this an album you'll want to hear in small doses or in full many times over.

    (Out Of The Blues will have a national release on June 1st, but can be ordered from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by To Kill A Mockingbird (Zoho Roots) by The Malchicks features the kind of blues rock that made the crossbreed feel so exciting back in the early to mid-1960's. In this case it is done by two teenagers (vocalist Scarlett Wrench and guitarist George Perez) who sound like they come from a time before the existence of heavy metal and hip-hop, it's very primal and very nice to hear. The album was the first project to be released last year from Côte Basque Music, a label who are dedicated to creating music, "not information storage", and do this by recording the entire project in analog from start to finish. Everything was recorded live, no multi-tracking, and done on old microphones and equipment that in the end helps give the music a bit of character. Wrench's voice still has a bit of delicate innocence, and at first it may not sound right singing songs rich with experience, especially "Little Bird", but when you listen to it as a whole you get a chance that she is very much perfect for songs like this and the guitar work from Perez. They work together very well in "I Put A Spell On You" where you can almost imagine the heat slowly crawling up your back.

    I also like the fact that everything was done in analog, and I wish more artists would record like this. Teenagers singing music that is more than twice their age, singing songs that are still relevant today, even though people of their generation may not be listening. Turn off American Idol or any Idol-oriented program that may be on, the future of music belongs in the hands of The Malchicks, who respect the hard work of the past by offering again to a world starving for musical nourishment again.

    (To Kill A Mockingbird will be released in the U.S. on June 10th through Zoho Music.)

    Image Hosted by The music of Chin Chin is a bit like polished soul with disco elements, basted with a funky groove that sounds like late 70's all night entertainment at parties Chin. Their self titled debut (ITS Music/Definitive Jux) sounds like a cross between Money Mark and Jamiroquai, as WIlder Zoby (keyboards and vocals), Torbitt Schwartz drums, percussion, geetur, synth and vocals), and Jeremy Wilms (bass, guitar, keyboards, and vocals) look for a groove and try to stay in there as best as they can, with accompaniment from a horn section and other musicians who make the song much more filler. Sometimes the music comes close to sounding like Afro-rock, perhaps taking hints from Antibalas.

    The only thing that slows them down is the amateurish qualities of some of their vocals, and when it becomes cringe worthy it's hard to tell if they're being serious or they're hoping everyone will get off on the joke. It's not a joke, but I think if the guys in Why? (the Anticon-related band) were to get funky and outward instead of folky and inward, they would pull it off better. It borders on mockery, and even those who have made fun of that falsetto in soul music (Beck Hansen and Mike Patton are great examples) didn't insult it. It's like Remy Shand on crack.

    The music is great and I could listen to these guys if they just stuck to playing. The singing is irritating as hell, and maybe things sound better in a nightclub under the influence of vodka and a can of Bush's bourbon & brown sugar Grillin' Beans but... I'm not quite feeling this one.

    (Chin Chin will be released on April 29th, and you can pre-order it through CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by What's the saying, if it ain't broke don't fix it? In the case of The New Frontiers, they are a band I've never heard before but they establish a solid sound on Mending (The Militia Group) that combines rock, pop, folk, and blues sensibilities that has them sounding like a cross between Wilco, toad the wet sprocket, Radiohead without the headiness, and Death Cab For Cutie. They do this without being ashamed, and it's nice to hear a band that can do it with a smile on their faces. "Black Lungs", "Spirit And Skin", and "Who Will Give Us Love?" is the kind of music that sounds like the soundtrack to hope, the promise of a new day that Paula Abdul failed to deliver, and it comes through with great vocals, background vocals, and the kind of playing that sounds like freedom, and just a true love for the music. "The Day You Fell Apart" may sound a few shades away from Coldplay, with Nathan Pettijohn's falsetto vocals sounding a bit familiar, but when you hear a piano melody mixed in with a slide guitar that sounds like the entrance of what you've been looking for, all you can do is gawk in amazement. The New Frontiers play edgy pop that manages to stick to your ribs when the song moves to the next one, moving you to press back and play it again. A lot of the songs could easily become someone's summer soundtrack.

    (Mending is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by When I first looked at Sylvia Bennett's Songs From The Heart (Out Of Sight) CD cover, I thought it was actress/singer Gloria Loring (a/k/a Robin Thicke mom). But Bennett is a smooth and cool jazz vocalist who revives the classics and does so with Three Tenors, not the opera singers but three respected tenor saxophonists: Boots Randolph, Kirk Whalum, and Ed Calle. Each of them get a chance to "duet" with Miss Bennett in such songs as ""Ain't Misbehavin'", "Here's That Rainy Day", "and "You Make Me Feel So Young", as she waxes poetic in a way that might remind listeners of Cheryl Bentyne or Karen Carpenter if she had been a jazz singer instead of a pop one.

    For fans of the saxophone, this album is definitely more than a treat, more like a feast. Each of these musicians have their own roots ranging from country, jazz, pop, and gospel, and yet when they play it becomes a language anyone can understand. Bennett's performance in "My Funny Valentine" is very seductive, and Calle responds to each of her lines in a way that perhaps he only knows. The highlight of the album is in "Since I Fell For You", where all three saxophonists get a chance to shine in one song to the point where you might get emotional as the song comes to its inevitable end.

    Well produced, well performed, and of course well sung, Sylvia Bennett's interpretations of jazz standards would be welcome in any home, and saxophone fiends will be putting this one into rotation for months.

    (Songs From The Heart is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Like Tanya Morgan, Eli Jones is not a person, but a group, in this case a groovy sounding funk/soul band out of Chicago. Vocalist Stefanie Berecz mixes up grit with sensuality to come up with a voice that is a cross between Nicole Scherzinger, Teena Marie and Nikka Costa. Some of the background vocals have a heavy late 70's vibe to them, as if she has been brushing up on her Seawind, but that comparison also leads to the other members of Eli Jones: Frank Check (drums), Tyson Ellert (drums), Jeremy Schmidt (bass, guitar), Max Neeseman (guitar), and Brendan O'Connell (vocals, guitar). They are incredibly tight, and when they incorporate a horn section (as they do in "Disco Smooth", "Make It Right", "Candlelight and Satin Sheets", and the silky "Finally Did For Me") they could easily be this generation's Ozomatli, North Mississippi All-Stars, or Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, because when they want to drive it home, they do so with finesse. When O'Connell handles the vocals, they sound like the kind of band that one might find at a jamband festival alongside Ben Harper or Donavon Frankenreiter, and it is here where the Seawind comparisons can be heard, or at least they play that smooth funky soul that one might find on CTI.

    Eli Jones aren't a band with one defining sound, which may turn off those who want variations of the same song over and over. These guys are a vibrant band with a lot of life in them, and by switching back and forth with male and female lead vocals it only widens the perceptions (and maybe wipes away the misconceptions) of what they are about, could be or should be.

    (Make It Right is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Not sure about you, but to me pop music has been going in the wrong direction for the last... oh, decade or two. When I am in a pop mood, I like it to have a bit of adventure even though one might argue that pop music is not about the adventure, but the need to be accessible to everyone. Sometimes the pop formula is as old as grandpa's bran muffin farts, and one needs to throw in a few new elements to catch the ear of a new generation, or at least my ears.

    Peter Daily is someone who understands the love of pop, but wants to be able to establish his own identity and not just be someone who carries in the tradition of others. We find out how he does it in Who Is Peter Daily? (Sideshow Media Group), where he throws hints of Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, and even Elton John in the addicting "Hear Me This Time":

    Day after day, I go on living
    But I don't
    Searching for that missing piece
    That completes my soul

    I thought that you noticed
    My shirt, my shoes, and my tie
    But that went right past you
    Because you saw the frown down deep in my eyes
    All I'm saying is just hear me this time

    What I like about this song is how it's played out, it's not nice seven or eight words in a line, line after line, he does it almost like a dialogue and that intimacy and immediacy can be appealing. Musically it sounds intimate too, as if everyone in the studio is close to each other just creating something they feel everyone will get into . Daily himself also handles synths and drums in some of the songs, so perhaps the self-containment I hear may come from these songs originating as solo tracks. Hearing them open up with the help of other musicians give the song more depth, although they are so well written and arranged that I think he had a good sense of how he wants his music to be heard. Miho Hatori (ex-Cibo Matto) gets another chance to share her style of soul in "Without You", and when her and Daily sing together in circus mode, it sounds perfect.

    The EP (8 songs clocking in at a little over 25 minutes) was mastered by Deeskee, who has done a lot of underground hip-hop over the years and always manages to bring out the best in the final versions of his work. The drum sounds are a plus, and I'm sure mixer Blake Knight had a hand in how the final drum tracks sound, as they go from sounding straightforward to a bit of added compression to where it almost has a slight golden era hip-hop feel to them. It's not a pop album with hip-hop breaks or any weird hybrid, it's emotional pop music produced and mixed the way I like to hear it. Edgy yet very accessible, I hope people will give him a chance and finally discover who Peter Daily really is.

    (Who Is Peter Daily? is available directly from Sideshow Media Group.)

    Image Hosted by With a name like Herd Of Mers one might bring to mind the family vibe of Parliament/Funkadelic or some kind of Sun Ra Arkestral voyage, but this herd is a duo. Karen (Reindeau) Orsi sings and also plays guitar and bass, while John Orsi handles drums and percussion. That's it, that is their formula, and one may be reminded of Mecca Normal where all you hear are the sounds of two. They do not overcompensate or underestimate their sound, what you hear is what is meant to be heard, and on Aurora Caught Napping (it's Twilight Time) is the sound of a slow paced world that everyone seems to be racing through in order to get to the non-existent finish line.

    The sounds are very easy going, with fuller arrangements they might sound well as rock, indie rock, country, or blues rock songs, but instead Herd Of Mers play music that sounds as simple as it is: plug in a guitar or bass to an amp that has some electricity, have someone play drums, and record. Some of the lyrics come off abstract at first, or if you take a closer look at the idea of the song, it's nothing more than them expanding, widening, and exploring the song in unique ways. "Walls" is about making and building walls, or walls existing, it depends how one interprets the lyrics or places the emphasis of the words. "Keep" is about having personal fears and how a lot of them would not exist if one kept their eyes closed, which may or may not be Beatlesque depending on understanding the reference.

    It's that basic, it's that simple, but it's what Karen & John Orsi are able to do with that makes it work. You hear the lyrics and try to piece them together in your mind (perhaps it's best that a lyric sheet isn't included). The music is just drums and guitar or drums and bass, with a few extras thrown in the mix for the hell of it. You hear them taking the music to its penultimate limit without turning into wailing cachophony, one can sense the limits created and they just push it as far as they can go. One might hear shades of The Breeders, L7, and Kim Gordon, but Herd Of Mers manage to sound like none of them. It's not an album for everyone, but those who partake in the listening experience will be caught up in the emotion and power in what they've created.

    (Aurora Caught Napping is available from CDBaby and directly from it's Twilight Time.)

    Image Hosted by Soul Messages From Dimona is a brand new compilation from The Numero Group, and this time the label centers around soul and funk recorded between 1975-1981 in Israel. According to the bio information, a group of American ex-pats took the native sounds of their Detroit and Chicago homes, combined them with the messages of the Israeli Black Hebrew culture and declared Dimona the center of their spiritual universe. What you hear is the heavy influence of Detroit and Chicago from the early 1970's, especially the mixture of Funkadelic electricity and Jackson 5 vocal harmonies, but the lyrics are far from love songs for rats and dancing machines.

    What you hear are a group of Americans who were fed up with the American system, and their songs are based on their new-found spirituality and looking for opportunity that couldn't be found at home. "Our Lord And Savior" by The Soul Messengers sounds like it could have been performed by Osibisa or The Emotions but once they reach the chorus you realize you're hearing a variation of Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)", but done disco style. Tonistics seem to be their version of Jackson 5, but in "Holding On" they are talking about ignoring the devil and going for self, while in "Dimona (Spiritual Capital Of The World)" they sing about how Israel is better than weaker nations and the reasons they are there.

    Some of the bands here play the kind of funk one might expect to hear on Tower Of Power, Brass Construction, and B.T. Express albums. In Sons Of The Kingdom's "Modernization" they question the need to be an advanced society when everything we could ever want as humans has been in existence for years, stating High level apartments, tower in the sky/What kind of people desire to live so high and perhaps I'll think I'll stay on the ground, one level house is all I'll use, but it also goes further than ones habitual habits:

    Water, water, water to drink
    What do you call this stuff coming out of my kitchen sink
    A competition in the sky, the first man on the moon
    Artificial ingredients, he keeps putting in my food

    It's left of center only because we have come to expect fun and good times from soul and funk, and those who were spoke on social problems were often the outcasts. The collective of singers and musicians on this album knew this and moved around the world to find a better way to live, eat, and breath. Over 25 years later, attention towards these problems are at an all time high with no sign of improvement, and while they may have been viewed as the outcasts, today it seems that everyone else were the fools, or at least those who chose to ignore the social and economical ills of yesterday. They also speak of the spiritual ills that they were once a part of, and rather than enforce their beliefs, they simply sing about it and it sounds as proud and happy as those who struggled with a smile 10,000 miles away. Bottom line, the music is incredible and it showed what a group of people did when struggling for a common cause was not enough, and perhaps the reason a lot of R&B today is so weak is because there is no promise to look forward to. Take heed.

    (The CD and MP3 files for Soul Messages From Dimona will be available directly from The Numero Group. The album as a 2LP set will follow.)

  • That's it for this week's installment of The Run-Off Groove. #200. Damn, that's a lot of words. If you have any music, DVD's, books, or audio equipment you'd like for me to review, you can contact me through my MySpace page.

  • On a self-promotional note, I have a podcast called Book's Music and an effort is made to bring you an assortment of sound every week. I'm up to #64 so if you have an hour to space, please consider downloading this to your digital player of choice or stream it from the website. You can find the podcast page @

  • Outside of music, I generally don't ask for anything in this column but before I end this week's column, but I would like for you to consider making a donation to a charity I have supported for a few years. The Hawai'i Foodbank. The food bank was started in 1983 by John White as a way to bring food to those in need. As a kid, I had great parents who never allowed me to go hungry, but I had a few friends who weren't as fortunate. Look at me, and let's be honest, I don't look hungry. I love my food, but I cannot and will never forget where I came from, who I am, and where I hope to be in the future. It's my way of giving back when I'm not physically there to do it, and if any of you have ever enjoyed any of my first 200 columns, please make a donation to the Hawai'i Food Bank.

  • While you're at it, also consider donation to your local food bank. There's an article at Yahoo that looks at the growing world food crisis, and while donating to a food bank will not solve the problem overnight, it can lead to a family having a meal and not going to bed hungry.

  • Now, the finale: