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Archive for the ‘Wu-Tang Clan’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANKO JONES-Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998 (2014).

Danko Jones has released nine albums an a bunch of EPs.  Back in 2014 he released this collection of songs that he wrote and recorded before his first proper single (1998).

This is a collection of raw songs, but the essential elements of Danko are in place. Mostly fast guitars, simple, catchy riffs and Danko’s gruff voice, filled with braggadocio.  With a cover by Peter Bagge!

He describes it:

Back in the 90’s,the Garage Rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some Rock N’ Roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear. Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

The first two songs are the best quality, with the rest slowly deteriorating with more tape hiss.

1. “Who Got It?” a big fat bass sound with lots of mentioning of Danko Jones in the lyrics. [2 minutes]
2. “Make You Mine” is 90 seconds long.  With big loud chords and rumbling bass Danko says “one day I’m going to write a book and let everybody know how to do it.  Seems to me there a lot of people around who want to see if I can prove it.  I been a rock prodigy since the age of 20 and my proof… my proof is right now.”
3. “I’m Your Man” is a bit longer.  The quality isn’t as good but the raw bass sound is great.
4. “She’s Got A Bomb” is good early Danko strutting music.
5. “Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.”  He would name an album this many years later.  This song is fast and raw and only 90 seconds long.
6. “Dirty Mind Too” This is a fast stomping one-two-three song that rocks for less than a minute.
7. I’m Drinking Alcohol? This is funny because later he says he doesn’t drink.  I don’t know what the words are but the music is great–rumbling bass and feedbacky guitars with lots of screaming.
8. “Love Travel Demo” and 9. “Bounce Demo” are decent demo recordings.  “Bounce” has what might be his first guitar solo.
10. Sexual Interlude” “ladies it’s time to take a chance on a real man.  I’m sick and tired of seeing you women selling yourselves short, going out with a lesser man.
11. “I Stand Accused” Unexpectedly he stands accused of “loving you to much.  If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty.”
12. “Best Good Looking Girl In Town” a fast chugging riff, “oh mama you sure look fine.”
13. “Payback” This one sounds really rough but it totally rocks.
14. “Lowdown” Danko gives the lowdown: “You want a bit of romance?  I got you an bouquet of Flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why you crying for?  That ain’t enough?  Me and the fellas wrote this song just for you.”
15. “One Night Stand” garage swinging sound: Danko is a one woman man and you’re just his type.
16. “Instrumental” is great.
17. “Move On” is a long, slow long bluesy track about love.

It’s not a great introduction to Danko, but if you like him, you won;t be disappointed by this early baby-Danko period.

[READ: August 10, 2019] I’ve Got Something to Say

In the introduction (after the foreword by Duff McKagan), Jones introduces himself not as a writer but as a hack.  He also acknowledges that having something to say doesn’t mean much.  He has too many opinions on music and needed to get them out or his insides would explode.  He acknowledges that obsessing over the minutiae of bands is a waste of time, “but goddammit, it’s a ton of fun.”

So this collection collects some of Danko’s writing over the last dozen or so years. He’s written for many publications, some regularly.  Most of these pieces are a couple of pages.  And pretty much all of them will have you laughing (if you enjoy opinionated music writers).

“Vibing for Thin Lizzy” [Rock Hard magazine, March 2015]
Danko says he was lured into rock music by the theatrics of KISS, Crue and WASP.  But then he really got into the music while his friends seemed to move on.  Thin Lizzy bridged the gap by providing substance without losing its sheen or bite.  And Phil Lynott was a mixed race bassist and singer who didn’t look like the quintessential rock star.  What more could Danko ask for? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GZA & The Soul Rebels-Tiny Desk Concert #738 (May 2, 2018). 

GZA is the latest rapper to come to the Tiny Desk with a live band.  He had a six piece brass band Manuel Perkins (Sousaphone), Julian Gosin (Trumpet), Marcus Hubbard (Trumpet), Erion Williams (Saxophone), Corey Peyton (Trombone), Paul Robertson (Trombone) and two percussionists Lumar LeBlanc and Derrick Moss.

It turns out that on a recent tour The Soul Rebels were actually the headlining band and GZA was a special guest:

This set was recorded when The Soul Rebels were in Washington, D.C. for a performance at the 9:30 Club that featured GZA and Talib Kweli. It was one of just a handful of live concerts GZA has done with the group.

I was surprised to hear than GZA (or frankly anyone from Wu-Tang Clan was “notoriously introverted.”  Also that “Most rap fans would name RZA as the head of the Wu-Tang Clan. But Wu purists know that GZA, or The Genius, is the crew’s unspoken elder statesman.”

Once they stepped behind the desk they got right down to business, opening with the sparkling “Living In The World Today,” from GZA’s 1995 solo album Liquid Swords. These 23-year old lyrics and metaphors felt timeless.

After the song he smiles, “That was cool.”

GZA continued his onslaught of poetic precision with another beauty from Liquid Swords, “Duel of the Iron Mic.” “I ain’t particular,” he spat, starting to break into a sweat behind the desk. “I bang like vehicular/Homicides on July 4th in Bed-Stuy.” At one point, GZA even channeled his cousin, the late great Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who provided the hook on the original version of the track.

By the third and final song at the Tiny Desk, driven by unbridled passion and his command of the room, GZA was soaked in sweat as they broke into the title track of Liquid Swords. The Soul Rebels perfectly recreated the track’s seamless horn hits while adding on a bit of their own flare. The cherry on top arrived when GZA used his final minutes to tell the story of how the hook originally came together. In RZA’s basement, smoking and drinking with fellow Wu lyricist Masta Killa, RZA was sold on a routine he, GZA and ODB used to perform as teens.

I don’t know GZA’s solo stuff.  I don’t really know his flow.  He sounds a bit old and a little rusty, but his delivery is strong (even when he “forgets his own verse” in “Liquid Swords”).   I love the way The Soul Rebels play the eight notes over and over in an almost menacing holding position.

And the tale he tells about the final song is pretty great.

 

[READ: April 10, 2018] “The Mastiff”

This is one of those stories (translated from the French by Linda Coverdale) that to me just seems endless despite its brevity.

The Master has never seen this thing before.

He releases the howling mastiff.

He follows the dog.

For the rest of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PERCEPTIONISTS-Tiny Desk Concert #661 (October 20, 2017).

The Perceptionists are Mr. Lif [Jeffery Haynes] and Akrobatik [Jared Bridgeman] two emcees whose names rock bells among true hip-hop heads. The duo of Boston natives first teamed up as The Perceptionists in the early aughts to release Black Dialogue on El-P’s Def Jux label in 2005. Their side project went into indefinite hiatus soon afterward, but now LLif and Akrobatik are reunited on their new LP, Resolution.

In a world that often appears to be spiraling out of control, their Tiny Desk set provides a much-needed breather.

With sharp, heartfelt lyricism, The Perceptionists critique the current political climate on “Out Of Control.”  There’s some great lyrics in this song.  I especially like

Man, I’m right there with them
Keeping it funky
If I’m African American, tell me which country
Our differences shouldn’t make you wanna hunt me
When in reality every fruit came from one tree

The song has a groovy funky bass from the really animated (H)Ashish Vyas.

On “Lemme Find Out” they rhyme about the symbiotic human relationship with technology.  They say our lives are just so dominated by technology…  Mr Lif wonders “if I am living in the real reality or just a predetermined reality that I’ve been programmed with.”  Akrobatik says, “50 years from know humans are going to have craned necks from [cell phones].”  The track opens with a cool echoing somewhat sinister guitar riff from Van Gordon Martin [“Not known for shit startin’ but his name is Van Martin”]

Once again, I love Akrobatik’s rhymes:

Microchip implanted in my hip
Got me feeling like an alien that landed in a ship
Probed my frontal lobe now I’m standing here equipped
With abilities to flip
But I can’t get a grip on regular shit
I’m about to dodge my competitor’s wit
Hit them with something that they’ll never forget
Deprogram, roll up a hell of a spliff
And smoke Master Kush at the edge of a cliff

I really like the little growls that Mr Lif does at the end of the verses.

The next song is “A Different Light.”  This chorus is great:

Want to crucify me for toughest era in my life?
That’s all right…
Thought the world of you but now I see you in a different light
That’s all right…

The duo’s

conscious ethos is perfectly encapsulated by Ak’s lyrical run.  He raps: “But I’m above all of the melodrama / When they go low / We go high / Michelle Obama.”

Mr. Lif says, “Everyone enters a relationship with different levels of expectations.”  Sometimes we are looking too closely at our expectations and not looking at the other person and being present with the situations right in front of us.   The song is mellow with some gentle synths from “Chop” Lean Thomas. The end of the song has a retro flute sound.  There’s also a mellow guitar line that runs through the song.

The song tells the story of Ak’s near-death experience with a pernicious aortic dissection, as well as the betrayal of a close friend during his convalescence.

About that incident, Acrobatik raps:

I don’t need to call your name out – I ain’t trying to embarrass ya
This is not about revenge, it’s more about your character
Or lack thereof, step back there brov
How can you call someone a friend and then attack their love?

The final song is “Early Morning.”  It’s got some great funky bass and some great funky drums from “Tommy B” Benedetti.  They say they hope this resonates with us all.

As the song ends, there’s some great riffs on the guitar and then Ak says, “we can’t  make a crazy exit… don’t wanna knock shit over.”

[READ: February 13, 2017] Hip Hop Family Tree 3

Book three continues the rise of Hip-Hop and bands who really start selling big.

Interestingly, it starts with Rick Rubin setting the tone for hip hop: “Sorry but girls don’t sound good rapping” (said to Kate Schellenbach of Beastie Boys.  And then getting the Boys all dressed in matching tracksuits (Puma).  Kate gets two rather unflattering drawings of her as the Boys tell her that the three boys will be the first white rap group (with Rubin as DJ).

Two art critics also get involved with tagging and graffiti at this time. Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant take photos of the art but find time and again that “legitimate” businesses want nothing to do with this illegal work.  This also accompanies the rise of break dancing–there’s a funny page in which people think that a group of kids break dancing is actually fighting with each other.

But this book really tracks the rise of Run D.M.C., with the promise by DJ Run that he wouldn’t leave Jay behind.  He was good to his word. (more…)

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11SOUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-“Tall Tall Shadow” and “It Can’t Be You” live at Polaris Music Prize (2014).

basiaSwinging to the other side of the musical world from Tanya Tagaq, Basia Bulat also performed at the 2014 Polaris.  I like Bulat a lot, she comes across as a sweet singer (no idea if she is actually sweet).  And I love that she can make really complex songs out of such random instruments (she plays autoharp, hammered dulcimer and others).

In this performance, she is fairly traditional for “Tall Tall Shadow” on the piano (although the french horn accompaniment is a nice twist), but “It Can’t Be You” on charango really highlights just what you can do with, essentially, a souped up ukulele.

“Shadow” highlights her voice which she holds for some quite long notes.  The song is really pretty with a great chorus.  “It Can’t Be You” is just her and the charango (which looks like a ten string ukulele but is Andean in origin).  It’s quite a song–her voice and that instrument are lovely.

[READ: February 4, 2015] Grantland #11

I enjoyed this issue quite a lot, even if I didn’t know who half of the people profiled were (and won’t remember them in two days time).

I am very curious why Grantland is just so obsessed with basketball than other sports.  It’s a little crazy how one sided these books tend to be.  They obviously love all sports but the preponderance of NBA articles is really staggering.

I do wish there’d be a bit more about TV and movies (and even more about the shows that I watch), but it is a fun way to learn about shows I would never watch.  And maybe that’s why I like these books so much, it’s my chance to vicariously enjoy sports without having to care about any of it (especially since it is all a year old, I never know if anything they talk about actually came to fruition or not).

This issue covers January-March 2014 (it’s fun reading about things almost exactly a year apart–to read about Oscars and Super Bowl stuff but have it be last year’s Super Bowl (especially since it too had the Seahawks) was very trippy indeed).

(more…)

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