Monday, January 9, 2017

"Awaken, My Love!" - Childish Gambino

I was hoping to do this for the second review of the new year, and I pulled it off. This is the new album by Childish Gambino. He is a writer/comedian/rapper and I guess now singer known as Donald Glover. I loved Community while it was on TV and I did see some Derrick Comedy while it was on the Internet. But I do know over the summer I actually saw his stand up special the day I broke up with my ex. I feel really dumb bringing it up but it has to do with this. I thought the stand up special was good but I also didn't expect to even think this was good. It wasn't until after this dropped and I heard Redbone I was like.... Let's peep this out.
  1. Me and Your Mama: The track opens with a sort of feeling of uncertainty. I was unsure if I would like this as much as I liked Redbone when the song started. There is a sort of waiting for something to happen. Once it does happen its sort of worth the wait, but I still wonder if the wait was shorter would the pay off be the same I guess. There are chimes and kind of a music box playing before this beat comes in and vocals and it's building up the song until the lead vocals come in. The beginning has some interesting textures and cool sounds and I think it sounds pretty damn good. I mean I don't think this is the highlight of the song, but it's still solid. My only complaint is the song takes a whole 2 minutes to start. If this introduction was an intro track I could just skip it, but I love that guitar and the fucking fuzz on it. The choir makes this feel so big and gives it that punch I need it to have. Then that scream, it reminds me so much of the scream in the beginning of (Don't Worry) If There Is a Hell Below, Were All Gonna Go. Which also happens to be one of my favorite songs off all times, so positive points there. I fucking love the keyboards that play towards the ending, the rhodes and the moog and Hammond organ all sound so good. I'm fucking jealous that he got to get his hands on those, really, the lucky bastard.
  2. Have Some Love: This track's choir has a very overy Parliment/Sly & The Family Stone vibe. The group vocal thing is something George Clinton would do all over a later record from the group. I like the way he's kind of rap singing. That organ sound is also great. I don't really know what to call it but I like it. I also like the acoustic guitar that comes in the second chorus, gives it a nice twang. I appreciate how it sort of goes into a different section after the second chrous that could be like a solo but it's got a lot of weird sort of psychedelic sounds going one. There are what sounds like hits on triangles and electronics and then it has this sort of spacy vibe. After that it goes to a group vocal of before going back to the intro and ending the song off. This is a very well put together songs. And the message is great
  3. Boogieman: The intro has a sort of Jimi Hendrix feeling and the first vocal part remind me of Parliment again. The thing though is I can kind of picture Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey when I hear that intro. It's a bit of a stretch, but I can kind of almost say it as it was said in the original song. I don't know, maybe I just has Sly on the mind. I like the sort of weird vocals on this and I trippin' feeling of the song. The best part is the chorus, the rest of the song is just kind of okay. I like the rhythm guitar that comes in during that also, adds a nice texture. It's not as good as the last two, but I do still jive with it.
  4. Zombies: This opens with some effects before giving us the guitar and the funky track. There is a weird perverted sort of Isley Brothers vibe I'm getting from this track. I really dig the harpsichord and the backing vocals the most on the track. I also really like that second where he holds the note and they use auto tune. Nice little details like that, that also happen to work, are what makes an album so much better. I also appreciate that organ part that plays before the song changes and quiets down. That woman on this track, fuck she is something else. I'm really jiving with what she's doing. I mean it's kinda sexy, but it also adds to this song. I also love that now there is a piano and then it gets a Rhodes. This is a very well constructed song that takes a number of listens to even pick everything out.
  5. Riot: This track is based on Good to Your Earhole by Funkadelic, and it isn't that bad. To be honest I think that was a good basis to use for the track. This is a very fun track but the deatils I love are because of the direct sample. I love that clavinet though, but it is more of a rocker to shake things up from the last and the next track.
  6. Redbone: I'ma be honest, I love this track.
    I know this is an interpolation of I'd Rather Be With You by Bootsy, but I'm be honest.... he fucking out does Bootsy. It is such a good track and kind of transforms it into something different and the vocals work so fucking good. This is a much more memorable and fun and sexy song that the original. In my opinion at least. I would bone to this, I think. I am also aware of the similarities to the one Isaac Hayes song too, but this songs trumps both of them. This kind of takes the best of both worlds and makes them better. I love the details and the little chimes and just how this works so fucking well. I am actually kind of wordless to describe the song, I just love this song much. I like how there isn't a solo at the ending of the song to the outro. I think it might work better that way, though I guess there kind of is.... in the lower guitar that could almost pass as a bass. It could also be a keyboard. I don't know this thing is so layered, it's fucking great.
  7. California: This is honestly a great tune. Its weird and fun and kind of a great diddy to be had. I love weird little things like this, Masoko Tango, Wild Honey Pie, EXP, New York Telephone Conversation, Tomorrow Never Knows, The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet and I kind of guess the intro to Pena. There are tons more but just weird things that kind of don't exactly fit or seem odd you know. They add some personality you know, rather than being a one trick pony, and can kind of show a sense of humor a bit. And the more I hear this the more I hear how much time was actually spent on this. There are these bottles and these voice pops and it's got a lot more work put into the track then you might initially think. I was so glad when I heard he did stuff with his voice on this to make the percussion, I knew it when I heard it :). I also love that soul jazz organ, and the vocals that soul like woodwinds. And that guitar on the track too. The amount of effort spent on this alone should make people happy.
  8. Terrified: This is another solid tune that kind of reminds me of The Weeknd. Like his early stuff, but maybe a bit more clear and not so drowned in reverb or the effects. I like the space on this though, and when the track starts I go this is a solid ass song. I also like those chimes, and the la las. The guitar again has a great tone, and I like all these section changes thought the album. The vocals at the end though kind of make me think of Great Gig in the Sky. And it also make me think of the potential. Like I guess it could be copying, but imagine if the next song was a sort of extended version of that chill ending and it just gets bigger and the vocals fucking orgasm as they do on that track.
  9. Baby Boy: If you know me, it's hard to hate a clavinet. It sounds so fucking good, and the rhythm section works very well and I love Gambino's vocals here. The lead to the chorus has some nice textures added and then it goes into a soulful group vocal vibe in the chorus. The only complaint is during the verses it could almost be a copy and past of the last one. This is still a solid tune though. The keyboards solo in pretty solid, but I wish it was better. The organ coming in makes the solo much better but it still doesn't really fix it you know.
  10. The Night Me and Your Mama Met: Now I gotta be honest, outside of tracks and the first two records I'm not a Funkadelic fan. In fact they tighter and more together the songs got, the less I like them. But this kind of has a sort of Maggot Brain feeling that isn't so loose, but it's chill and funky and has a well enough wah/phased guitar and solo. I don't know if its better or worse that the solo isn't like a fucking mind blow. The reason being there's no way this guy can compete with Eddie Hazel so if he tried he might fall flat. But then again if he tried it might just be a "rip off". But I guess since he didn't go nuts it keeps the chill vibe rather than the emotional breakout vibe. I still dig this, don't get me wrong, just a nugget that popped in my head while listening. I love the choir in this and it adds a nice tough. I can very easily see myself making love, or see in a movie people making love, to this song. 
  11. Stand Tall: This is honestly a very strong way to end the album. I love the track and think its a touching message. It makes me hope I can pull something like this, something touching, off if I ever have a son.I really like the Rhodes and the guitar in the beginning and he does a solid job of singing. I also love the sort of use of Strawberry Letter 23 for the refrain and I love how it seems very sincere. It's not like Picasso Baby, if memory serves correctly on the title. I also think this is a solid ending to the album, because it ends on a soft note where the album opens with a fucking bang. The woodwinds, and clarinet/flute sound great and I like the autotune he uses. I'm not sure how I feel about the synth patch that plays over the backing vocals, I like it but I'm not sure it's necessary. Though it does transition into the next section of the song, but it's comes up kind of abrupt. I do think that last section of the song where he's just singing and it feels like a party, I feel like could use a clean lead guitar soloing and going crazy you know. But the ending of the song is fine the way it is.
Overall I have to give this a 8/10. The more time I spend with this the more i appreciate it and like it. While it can never be a 9 or a 10, it was originally a high 7. This is one of the contemporary albums in pop music where I would totally want to jam along with, or play a session on. Given I need to be better, but you know what I mean. I recently listened to that Bruno Mars album, and I was like.... "it's okay and kind of fun. But I have heard things that sound like this and can get more out of those albums than this". While this emulates those older styles of music quite a bit, I think it's more in line with RAM than it is with say just a rehash. Like the more I revisit these songs the more I find that I like and find this is a pretty damn good record. Probably one of my favorites of the year, if I'm being completely honest. Needless to say I'll eventually pick up a Cd and maybe vinyl of this album.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sail Away - Randy Newman

So I am using this month to finish up some albums that can be finished either fast, or are in various stages of completion and are..... Basically I'm cleaning out my draft folder on the site. That doesn't mean I'm shitting out reviews, I am just doing ones I know I don't need to spend as much time on or i have spent the time and just need to type it out. The album I picked first is this. This is the only, besides possibly Trouble in Paradise, Randy Newman record I'll ever review. The reason being I like the title track and Political Science.  That's really the only reason, I guess that and to give this maybe another chance, considering how much I love PS. And honestly, that the only reason to do this review. Oh yeah this is album number 4th studio album.
  1. Sail Away: For this record, I feel this to be a great tone setter and terrific open to the record. It's got that wit, and the cynic inside me loves the tone. So basically this song's story is a slave trader talks to the slaves, on the boat, about how great America will be and all the great things that lie ahead. The one thing he decided to leave out, is the fact they won't get any of those opportunities because they are slaves. Kinda dark, he doesn't have an aside or anything, he just withholds that part. It makes you think a bit, I wonder if they actually did that to make the slaves less irritable or more willing to submit. I don't know, and you probably don't either (we weren't there). But still, if a song can make you think, and not about something stupid, Damn! Man I wish I came up with that. The strings on this thing are great and it just feels American, it feels like it could fit in as a Nationalist type song, though it's not really. I don't know, I just know I love it. Also Ray Charles actually did a solid more gospel inspired cover of this tune, which I'm not sure if I prefer to this version, off his 1975 record Renaissance. If I do a review of that I'll go into more detail about the song, on the Ray side of things. 
  2. Lonely at the Top: Hahaha, this was written for Sinatra. I do quite like the creeping feeling of this song. There is also a cabaret feeling to the song, if I'm not mistaken. I think this works, unlike that one song... *cough* Who Needs the Young *cough*. I wish I had more to say, but I do quite like this track and think it works for what it is. Plus this is some what smarter than some of the other songs Sinatra would sing. And it doesn't seem that pityful. I mean I like No One Cares and other tracks like that, but look at that cover.
  3. He Gives Us All His Love: Originally written for a movie, and I don't think the joke works unless you have the back story. Unlike God's Song or Sail Away this is not as clear what its about. In the movie they were saying this and it was kind of point out the foolishness of believing. I don't really know how to explain it without you looking it up or making it sound like I don't believe in God. I do, but I love this song. It has a very strong standard feeling and I think it should be. While the lyrics are simple its kind of supposed to be. 
  4. Last Night I Had a Dream: There is a slide guitar, played by Ry Cooder, present. This is a solid song, but his vocals remind me of what I think he's funny to laugh at. But this is an odd enough rocker that I think if someone else did it it'd be fucking phenomenal. Maybe someone with a larger range of vocals. Really everything else works here. I love the guitar ton, the building feeling and the anticipation I feel in my blood when the song builds to the chorus. This is also a rocker.
  5. Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear: This song is about a guy who, by use of dancing bear. There's more to the story, but I feel like this has a sort of fun feeling to the song. The piano playing is very impressive and I like the changes in rhythm. While its not as grand as I could picture it, or rearrange it in my head, it is solid. I'm not completely sold on the track, but I do enjoy it. I really think the worst part of the song is the vocals, there's a part at the end that hurts my ears. Also I guess its a bit of a let down that there aren't other instruments like horns or woodwinds and strings. That would certainly add to the track. 
  6. Old Man: I assume this is about an old man or his old man. I think ths song is a pretty sad song, and I has to have some personal meaning to it. There is something in the inflection if his voice where it sounds like a child singing to his father who is on his death bed. Honestly I could see this being a Sinatra, the string arrangement is beautiful enough to be on In the Wee Small Hours or another of his best records/ballads. There is something's very touching about this and the sole piano and vocals for one verse then the next having strings makes it more effective. I read somewhere he said after his father passed, years later, he revisited this song and pictured his father. Its funny because I hvemmave written songs where they either came true or they were more insightful of my ownself than I could have imagined. 
  7. Political Science: Quick, straightforward and to the point, possibly Newman's best song. Really, another hit to Americas ego. This is how good Rednecks should be, but it isn't. This song makes me laugh more and more with each listen. There is a sort of Toy Story feeling tie this track, but I like this a lot. I cove the brushes and the horns that are in the background. A favorite part of mine is the Australia part. This really is a phenomenal track and the ending gets big and just works so fucking well. Great, funny, and on point.
  8. Burn On: and on and on and on and on and on. This is a very piano oriented in the beginning and it has this weird cabaret feeling to it. Then the other instruments come in and I really like the um pa feeling I'm getting form the arrangement. The string/woodwind/brass arrangement on this is spectacular. Honestly I can't find flaw in it. It really is a fucking great track and I think his vocals even work well for this track. This is a pretty silly feeling song but I am pretty sure there is a son what deeper meaning. Maybe it was a topical song about Cleveland like Baltimore
  9. Memo to My Son: I am surprised that I would love this thing, but I do. There is a sort of country vibe to this track. I can't exactly point my finger on what to call it but I do quite like it. It has a sort of honky tank piano and a rocking back and forth feeling. Like I could see this being in a movie from the 70s, maybe in a sort of flashback sequence. Or it could be the theme to a TV show about a single dad who has a son. It has a sort of sentimental feeling too it. I don't have a really reason why but I just can. There is also for whatever reason, Eagles pop in my head.
  10. Dayton, Ohio - 1903: You know, this title pisses me off. It's not a bad song, it's actually quite sad, but it's also a sort of predecessor to Baltimore. This is a very mellow song and it kind of reminds me of Short People if it was depressed. I don think its that great, but it aint half bad. I could see it being in a movie or something when its someone pondering something maybe. He isn't the greatest player but he is far better than I. 
  11. You Can Leave Your Hat On: I never liked this title, that's not saying the sing it self is bad. Just my feelings of the title. There is a sleezy feeling to this song, but I kind of like that. I like guitar in this and the sort of bar band feeling with the piano. Like a sort of piano blues feeling to it. Though I woukdnt say its exactly like Eddie Boyd or someone like that. Its nice and it is not half bad. I like guitar on the track or whatever is playing that sort of motif in the verses. The bass? I don't know for certain but the only real complaint is it goes a bit long for what actually happens in the song and looking at the length of the other tracks. 
  12. God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind): Funny idea, but I guess I feel like this is pretty dark. Its kind of like God does these horrific things to us, but we still love him. I understand that its probably pointing out people are foolish but I think its worth pondering. I also think the music is perfect for this and its a great opposition to the opening. The opening was much more cheerful and hopeful, in feeling not message. This is just a dreary and kind of straight forward song. Like it is kind of fucked to imagine like God just doing stuff to fuck with us because he doesn't actually care. I mean I myself don't think people should find value in themselves to the point if them being above someone else, but there is a part of me that makes me feel like yeah. I don't really think God owes us anything. That's a bit of a way off front the song. But the music is phenominal and his singing works very well. A great track that grows with each listen. 
Overall I have to give this album a 8/10. I don't care for Randy, his albums are structured in a similar way and his music is very samey. There are some songs here that are okay, but most are average or boring elsewhere in his discography. But the upon meditation, and the cynicisizing (?) of my heart I kind of grew to love this. It's far from the greatest thing ever, but I laugh at it and contemplate what it talks about. It's funny, it's satire, it good. The only negative is these aren't really the definitive versions of some of these songs for me. But the template here is great, and the songs are all solid and have high potential to be re-imagined. I know most of these have been redone or covered in the last 40-50 odd years, but still. This album is great and its got solid song writing, but there are other versions of the songs far more realized. I hope that nukes sense, but ill say this. If I can make something as good as this ill be happy you know. So, yeah, as we all know, Randy Newman's the best. Also as a side note, I think I might do a De La Soul review. I mean I was disappointed by The Chronic and Reasonable Doubt, so maybe their debut will fill that void. But hopefully up next was a surprise favorite of mine from last year. I was not expecting to dig it as much as I did and continue to. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas with Tammy

What better a way than to close out the year with my main girl Tammy. While Ill never be one of her husbands, sad I know, I can still admire her and her music. So I wanted to say that while I am not expecting much out of this album, I still think it is a fitting ending you know.
  1. Silent Night, Holy Night: This is an ok version of the song, it isn't anything new but I like it. It give you that warm feeling that you are supposed to get from the song. It makes me want to look at a fire and makes me think of christmas. Plus I like that organ. The harmonies and the echo sounds quite good.
  2. O Little Town of Bethlehem: This feels like a Tammy version of the song. It's got the twangs that I've grown to become accustomed to on albums like Stand By Your Man. The strings here are phenomenal, and this is possibly the best version of the song I have yet to review. I think her voice works, I like it, the organ comes band and kind of peaks it's head out at different points. The swells are fucking great. Really, there is a punch to it, and the transitions are also very well. Honestly I'm surprised it's this good.
  3. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear: A song I love done in a manner that I is similar to that last track but not as effective. I much prefer the last track done in the country manner than this one, or the Nashville Sound rather. That's not saying it's bad I'm just pointing out it isn't anything terrifically mind blowing or 
  4. Joy to the World: This is a christmas classic, and it's done in a manner that I think is fitting of the song. This works for what it is, and I think the Jordanaires are for more effective here than on Elvis' album.
  5. Away in a Manger: This is a first for the blog. I have yet to review this track, which is kind of weird. I have heard this song so many times at church its weird I am not hearing it more on record. The album is more or less what you'd expect at this point from the sound and style. It's solid enough, maybe like a 6.
  6. Gentle Shepherd: I don't recall a song with this title. But it closes side one of the vinyl pressing of the original record. It's not that bad of a song, and it's pretty inoffensive. It's not overtly bad or anything annoying. But I'm pretty sure I'll forget it once the albums over. It's again not that bad.
  7. Blue Christmas: I'll have a pleasant experience with this track. Like it's honestly inoffensive.
  8. (Merry Christmas) We Must Be Having One: I don't think I have heard this song before. And honestly I don't mind this song, I got to say it's a nice change of pace. I mean it's a new song that works, for me at least. And the harmonies work also quite well.
  9. White Christmas: This is another Nashville Sound rendition of a classic christmas tune. I like the strings on this and the arrangement is pretty solid. It's not mind blowing, as I've said before, but I like it. I could see myself coming back to this version.
  10. One Happy Christmas: Eh, I don't know if I'm digging this tune. It's okay I guess, but I don't want to get 100 percent on board or give it a complete pass.
  11. Lonely Christmas Call: This isn't a bad song, but it's kind of a sad song. Sadly at this point I've run out of things to say other than I like the vocals and the way she says the words. I like the backing instrumentation, but it isn't the best you know.
  12. Let's Put Christ Back Into Christmas: I wonder what would happens if someone made this song today. This song is kind of stupid, if I'm being honest I don't really care for it. I mean this isn't really a last track, outside of the title. The rest of the song is a pretty bland arrangement considering what is on the rest of the album. It's not that it sounds bad, but it's just lets go out luke warm.
Overall I have to give this album a 6/10. This is a Tammy album, what did I expect. Something I wanna say is we lost a lot of talented musicians who, while I may not be fans of every single one of them personally, they played on something that some how helped shape the music that got me to where I am today. So I wanted to take this paragraph to just name them as a way of respect I guess and to condense this I decided to mention only those whom I haven't already mentioned earlier in past reviews. Paul Bley, Pierre Boulez, Jimmy Bain, Dale Griffin, Alan Haven, Al Caiola, Ray ColcordMaurice White, Keith Emerson, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Jimmie Van Zant, Lonnie Mack, Billy Paul, Isao Tomita, Candye Kane, Gayle McCormick, Nick Menza, Marshall Jones, Henry McCullough, Dimitri Tiomkin, Bernie Worrell, Don FriedmanScotty Moore, Alan Vega, Bobby HutchersonBob CranshawTJ Tindall, Toots Thielemans, Rudy Van Gelder, Rod Temperton, Leon Russell, Mose Allison, Joe Esposito, Allen Zavod, Pauline Oliveros, Greg LakeGeorge Michael, Alphonso Mouzon, John Thomas, Carrie Fisher

Thursday, December 22, 2016

World Percussion Christmas - Andrea Centazzo

So I decided to shake things up and throw a curve ball. The other albums were, and have been, a bit dry. I also don't want to run out of James Brown christmas albums just yet. This is a sort if bizarre idea for an album. I mean in reality it isn't that bizarre, I just wish there was more information about it. I guess it would make sense this guy would make this album, after all he is one Elektriktus. So without further ado, Andrea Centazzo.
  1. Jingle Bells: This track features, marimba and Togo drums. I fucking love the marimba with a passion but am unaware of the Togo drums. But also, fuck this song. No really fuck it. The only time give heard a version I like is the short quote on Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life. And actually, I can really jive with what I'm hearing. Like honestly, this is the first time I can't really find something to nit pick for a christmas album. I have heard the song, but this is kind of honestly a breathe of fresh air. I really like these Togo drums and the marimba. There sounds like there is other instruments used, but it is very good. It gives me a synclavier vibe, but much more sophisticated. Which it should, it's 20 years after the release of Jazz from Hell.
  2. Silent Night: I almost didn't recognize the track with the introduction. I like it. My only thing is I don't like how it repeated the first verse twice before going to the second. Maybe I spaced out for a second, but this is still much more enjoyable. I love the percussion and the different rhythms and it sounds great. It says that Bali sarongs, Indian drums and contemporary mallet keyboards where used in this track. I'm gonna have to buy some of these when I get rich :D. It does go a bit long, but it's forgivable.
  3. Feliz Navidad: I don't jive with this tune. I think its kind of a stupid and annoying song, but maybe this version will give it fresh eyes for me. Or fresh whatever the phrase is. This has another great introduction and is probably my favorite version of the track. It says it uses samba drum ensemble and Latin marimbas... I don't care what it uses, this sounds freaking great. It's got a playful feeling to it and the rhythms are so fucking good.
  4. White Christmas: There is a nice feeling here, though it doesn't feel all that new. The reason I say is this has kind of begin to run out of ideas. I mean not in a bad way, but it's not something I'm that excited about. Like there isn't anything making anything stand out thus far. This track is okay, and it's well enough, but I don't feel that rush I felt from the other preceding tracks you know. The instruments used are Mali drums, Javanese mallet keyboards, vibes and marimbas.
  5. Sleigh Ride: I actually like this much more than the last track. While you can argue, it sounds all the same, but I really like way the melody is played on those contemporary mallet keyboards. I also like the African drums and what sounds like a midi bass. I really like when the melody speeds up and it reminds me of why I love when you use percussion effectively.
  6. Holy Night: This features the Bell's ensemble. I have no fucking idea what that is, unless it's an ensemble of bells or an ensemble called the Bell's Ensemble. Either way this opens with chimes and rain, reminds me of Black Sabbath. I do like this version quite a bit, it feels like a lullaby. On Spotify this is titled the Rainy Version, but on Discogs it's titled Holy (Rainy) Night. I like it and it's solid.
  7. Greensleeves: I happen to love this tune. There are a number of old traditional/public domain songs that I love. This one is one of my all time favorites, its a gorgeous melody I was excited to see it played on Trinidad steel drums and Caribbean percussion. This is fun and has a bit of a spy feeling to it. Honestly this is the best track here and reminds me a bit of Goldeneye 64.
  8. Silver Bells:This Javanese  version uses gamelan. I was excited for it, I have an interest in gamelan, and how it works. There is a very peaceful track and I quite enjoy it. Damn, this thing is quite fun. There is a lullaby feeling. I can jive with this.
  9. The Little Drummer Boy: The use of a Japanese Taiko drum ensemble and Kabuki instruments really work well for this track. I like the melody instruments and the textures work quite well. Giving it a surprising twist, you'd think it'd be more Arabian sounding or eastern. Though it does has a bit of a Macedonian feeling.... I think if I remember humanities class right. This goes a bit long, but it isn't terrible.
  10. Silver Bells (African Version): Finally to close we get some Senegal drums and rattling kalimbas. Kalimbas are finger pianos, for those who don't know. Now to sound less pretentious, I don't know what senegal drums are by name. I know what they are but I had to double check. The African drum, and actually I enjoy this opening. It's setting up a groove in a similar way that Fela does. Except it isn't as explosive, loud or not percussive. This feels like it could be a cover almost, kind of. The non melody parts you know. Like just re arrange the lead with a saxophone and add other instruments and your there. It isn't half bad to be honest. I dig it.
Overall I have to give this album a 7.5/10. This was a lot of fun and kind of revitalized my hope for other christmas albums. Plus it will definitely survive past this review of the album, and I will revisit this in the future. Solid effort. I don't have more to say other than listen to this if you don't give a fuck about christmas music or you want an breathe of fresh air, or you like world music, or you are a percussionist.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas '64 - The Incredible Jimmy Smith

This is the first and only Christmas album released by Jimmy Smith. I kind of decided to review this album because the first time I did this I decided to do a Jimmy McGriff album, oh whom I'd mix up with Jimmy Smith. To be fair they both play the same instrument and genre of music, so not that much of a stretch. I also find it fitting to do this because Rudy van Gelder was the recording engineer on this, and he passed away earlier this year. So while not a proper tribute, it'll hopefully be a fair one to review with his name in the credits. I also want to point out there are some people whom I recognize, like Kenny Burrell, Al Cohn, Art Davis and Billy Hart along with a number of people whom I don't recognize, but have played on records I want to or have heard.
  1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: I really dig the rendition of this track. I mean I do enjoy this song. This is a track that seems to be a quintet (organ/guitar/bass/drums) with a horn section (4 trumpets/1 flugel horn/2 trombones/2 bass trombones/4 french horns/1 tuba) and a percussionist and a harpist. The timpani in the beginning sets the song for a large feeling. Almost the same way Thus Spoke does. The track is a bit odd, and I think would take a few listens to get my first time through. But I do like what I'm hearing, it just might seem a bit over blown. Like there is a very big band feeling to this track. The unfortunate thing though, is I knew how I felt about this arrangement by the ending of the album.
  2. Jingle Bells: Ah we meet again for round number four. This time though, it's only a trio. With Quentin Warren on guitar and Billy Hart on drums. This is much different than the last track and feels much less. Not in a bad way, but less going one. I actually prefer this to that last track. I don't think that was arranged as well as this. This feels nice and is quite enjoyable to be honest, but when it switches orchestra it just doesn't work for me. Like I have no interest.
  3. We Three Kings of Orient Are: Another Christmas song I dig and don't wanna kill myself during. There are moments I like in this big band sort of arrangement, but I'm not completely sold. I think it works a bit better than the opener. I mean I don't think it's really anything that mind blowing, but it's well enough. I do like the organ though, and the band without the orchestra is by far the highlight, but I don't know, I think the 
  4. The Christmas Song: Fuck this song, I think it's so stupid it's called this. Chestnuts really, fuck you. I do like how it feels a bit darker, but I mean this arrangement should have a singer. I mean again, nice organ playing, but I don't want to only enjoy the band. Honestly again, the group works so much better than the orchestra. I like the drums a lot, but I think it blows it once the orchestra comes to the forefront.
  5. White Christmas: This is a decent version of the song. And I do have to say this is nice, I like how the other instruments are in the background. They are accompanying, not in the forefront.
  6. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: This is a cover of a song later covered by Bruce Springsteen. Useless fact of the day. This is a trio version, and it's nice. Finally a track that doesn't feel overblown. This is actually a solid track that I can jive with, I probably won't revisit it, but I do dig it. The guitar sounds good at the ending and I like the fade. This is what I want the album to be like.
  7. Silent Night: I did like the version on Jackie's album. And this is the orchestra again, it's almost like they got him to guest appear on his own album [Jimmy]. I do like the song though, once the pesty orchestra gets out of the way. Keep it that way, because this is a great version of the song. The ending works too.
  8. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: This is a trio track, and is probably the reason it's on the album twice. Once orchestra, one trio and works as a book ending. After the rest of the album, I was looking forward to this. I am very glad to say, this track works quite well. Though it makes me want to do a re arrangement of the first track. Honestly, this track is great. It's not perfect, but the album would have been far better if it was in this vein for most every track.
Overall I have to give this album a 4/10. This was an okay album, while I've come to expect nothing more than a 4 or 5 out of a christmas album, you never know. The album would be a solid 5 or 6 if they'd have stuck with the trio or orchestral accompaniment, not fore front. It's not the worst thing I've heard, just a lot of moments that ruin songs for me or ruin them in the context of enjoyment and a higher score.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Merry Christmas from Jackie Wilson

Last time I reviewed Elvis, this time I'm doing the guy who Elvis called the Black Elvis. With that being said, this is Jackie Wilson's sole Christmas album from 1963. Now unlike the James Brown Christmas this is all covers, and while I love Jackie, I don't know if this'll hold up. I have heard a song or two from the album here or there, but front to back... That's a whole different story. Let's delve into my second of four, possibly five, Christmas review(s). Note: of the 12 tracks here 5 are in common with the Sinatra Christmas. The album was conducted by two guys, Dick Jacobs (1-3, 6, 8, 9) and Alan Lorber (4, 5, 7, 10-12)
  1. Silent Night: Ah we meet once again.This is a very chill version, that I think honestly works well. There is a white noise in the version I hear, but if that was cut it'd be perfect. The bells really work in this arrangement, and I honestly think this is what helps a bit. Or at least adds to it for me. I love the organ and the chorus sound great. I also like that guitar you hear towards the ending. The arrangement is great, though I wish I could hear all of the instruments. Strings might have helped.
  2. White Christmas: I think I've grown to find humor in this track. Probably because of Uncle Bernie's Farm, but this rendition isn't half bad. I like that organ, and the swells in the track take up a lot of the white noise that was in the last track. I feel like his vocals were recorded over the track, there is a distance, but the piano sounds good when you hear it.
  3. O Holy Night (Cantique de Noël): This is a standard version of the song. But the vocals are great and you feel Jackie singing in it.This isn't the These Arms of Mine. I do kind of wish they went into a gospel feeling though, like. "Oh night de------ vine!" he holds the "ine" and the backing section turns to a gospel choir type song like The Jefferson Theme. You know what I mean? I think it'd be a nice touch.
  4. The First Noel: I also think this is a standard arrangement. Nothing to crazy here, but there is something endearing about the monologue. I mean, I don't know, I like his delivery. And he gives a solid vocal performance.
  5. Deck the Halls:  I don't know how this will go over, honestly I was a bit nervous. Not that I doubt him, but you never know. And if I'm being honest, this is too light. Also it just doesn't feel like Jackie fits. I kind of can say this when you turn a rock song into a soul song and don't do it properly. You know, if you go on a covers website, look up your favorite soul/jazz artist and they do a cover of a Beatles or folk tune and the arrangement doesn't work. You end up with a sort of "this is...... kinda good? right?" feeling. Billy Paul's Magic Carpet Ride for example.
  6. Silver Bells: I never cared for this sing. It is kind if stupid if I'm being honest. This has this sort of Felice Navi Dad feeling to it in the response to the "ring a ling" lyrics. This isn't a terrible version, but I don't think it really works perfect. Like it has it's short comings I guess. But I also don't like this song either in general. So that could also affect my outlook.
  7. Joy to the World: You know this song, and nothing new is here. I like the guitar strumming you can hear, and I like the timpani and the backing vocals. The triangle is nice too. I wonder if his vocals weren't meant for this song. Like I feel like this is a bit of a nightmare, but like it's not his fault.
  8. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear: So this track, while not done particularly crazy or different or even new... Works. How you say? Jackie has a great voice and he just oozes charisma. I do actually like this, and it works quite well. The tremolo strings actually work very well and I think he sounds like he fits on this track.
  9. Adeste Fideles: Sinatra, did it first. Honestly, I like the church feeling of this song. I just feel the vocals need to be much larger, he sounds like he is in front of the mic and everyone else is in the other room singing into the same mic. There aren't enough swells and it isn't powerful enough for me to feel anything really. The second verse should get larger and add other things, and the way he says "given" sounds weird. I do like this rendition, I just feel it's to bare. But I like it well. And that last note sung, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Kind of indecisive.
  10. I'll Be Home for Christmas: Fuck this song, but whatever. This has a nice shuffle feeling to it, but the damning thing about that is I wanna hear solos. It's almost like a sequence, for me. Not that it is one, but how it takes you from one thing to another.
  11. O Little Town of Bethlehem: This is just okay, this doesn't do much for me. It's nice, but I've heard it before I guess. Like nothing that new is added. It's not that compelling.
  12. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen: Hey, guess what. Next we have one Jimmy Smith who plays a fucking killer version of this track. Like in the next review, not on this track. I do like the harpsichord, it's a nice addition. But I wanna make a suggestion, instead of the bells why not add timpani or a percussion instrument that is a bit more eastern.
Overall I have to give this album a 6/10. There is a sort of soul-jazz feeling through out, like I'd heard on Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith and so on. It's very hard to breathe new life in these songs, especially now. While this isn't mind blowing, I gotta say it's more enjoyable than most other albums that cover this music. Well at parts at least. His voice also helps the album a lot. Don't get me wrong, but there are moments I felt, this is a Ain't that Good News Christmas nightmare isn't this. I guess I think the biggest disappointment was two things. He's great, so I can't imagine him not making at least a 7 or 8. Second, I feel like this soul jazz/vocal jazz christmas thing would work phenomenal. I guess it sound be revisited another day maybe. Also I wanna have a shout out to "Awaken, My Love!". I can't believe how much I'm digging this thing.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Elvis' Christmas Album

So last year I did this Christmas themed thing, and while I did it I came across about a million different Christmas themed albums. Some look like shit, some might be okay (but probably will be shit), and some I don't know why but I want to hear. I'll probably kill myself after this, but why not do Christmas again this year, and maybe I'll get more than four done. This album, being Elvis' Christmas album, released on October 15th, 1957 (I don't really know why), but it is sure to have some classics. I mean look at the track listing. Something I wanna point out too is the last 4 tracks were released on Peace in the Valley Ep that was released earlier that year (in April). Let's see how many songs the albums have in common from this and last year. After looking I saw four songs, one of which was on three of the albums.
  1. Santa Claus is Back in Town: Not to be mistake with one of a number of songs related to this holiday that makes me want to kill myself. Wow that's a run on. But anyway, this opens and it isn't what I thought it would be. It's a blues number and to be honest it isn't the song I thought it would be. Like I was expecting something horrific. It's well enough, not that the whole album should be like this, but it ain't terrible.
  2. White Christmas: Last year I did Sinatra's Christmas album and this song was featured in it. The vocals on this kind of bother me, but again it isn't terrible. I mean it's not like I'll revisit it the same way I do Hey America, but it's well enough. Only real major complaint, why can't my Christmas be yellow or black or red or insert other colour relating to race.
  3. Here Comes Santa Claus: This is a song that I never really cared for any version of, this is kind of a bland song that does nothing for me. I could see people eating this up at one point, but I don't. There is a feeling of Christmas though from this song. 
  4. I'll Be Home for Christmas: Another song I don't think i ever liked. This has a jazzy feeling, but it's like fucking bland. It's more bland than the Sinatra album. Now that's not to say I hate it, it just doesn't have any flavor.
  5. Blue Christmas: This is a famous song that I know without even hearing it. For the review I'll listen, but I've heard this so many fucking times. I don't really care for this song, and I think it's a bit boring. There isn't even anything appealing to me about this. I mean I don't really have anything to say about this. I like the way he sings, and they harmonies. But it's not like I love this. And I guess it's nice to kind of focus on everything going on for once. I think the acoustic guitar sounds pretty good.
  6. Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me): Now I'm pretty sure I've heard this song before, but I do know the title interested me. Like is this song about the war, is this song about something that could be deeper than just a break up. This actually makes me think of Weird Al. Like I could see him doing a parody and this being the outline but instead it's something over the top and absurd. But done straight.... This isn't really anything special. And it's not pulling me in at all. I guess it's nice to hear a new song.
  7. O Little Town of Bethlehem: I know this song, and I think it's an okay song in general. There are versions I do enjoy, and this isn't terrible. I feel like the song should be much larger, and the vocals should overwhelm, but in a good way. The organ sounds nice and I like that.
  8. Silent Night: So this fucking song, why is this on every Christmas album? Like really I don't quite get it. It's not that phenomenal of a track. This rendition, well honestly, it ain't anything special either.
  9. (There'll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me): While in opposed to reusing tracks, this is nice. In glad it isn't just a spew of the boring Christmas standards. This title also reminds me of the one Dylan song, Down in the Valley Below, or something like that (it's off Desire). This isn't that bad of a song, and to be honest it's probably my favorite song here. It has a gospel feeling to it, but there is also a doo wop feeling to it. So it does pull on my heart strings a bit. But not in the same way others of the style do.
  10. I Believe: This track has a very large feeling, and I think works. Do I think it works as well as it could...... probably not. But it is a breathe of fresh air. This song has so much potential, but it just doesn't reach that for me.
  11. Take My Hand, Precious Lord: This is another song that ain't half bad. But again, the high I need from this isn't reached. It's so close, and I'm pretty sure if I was to hear a cover or another rendition it would hit that. This isn't terrible
  12. It is No Secret (What God Can Do): This is a nice closer, but again nothing crazy
Overall I have to give this album a 5/10. So at no point did I really feel anything, outside of feeling of Christmas on a few songs. The only songs of quality were from that fucking EP. But there was nothing at all, like not even me being bothered. By definition I felt what I'd consider a 5. But it just is so bland I don't think I can give it a neutral feeling. Maybe I'm cynical but if I feel nothing then I think that's negative. I like that there might be some originals, as in new songs for this, but yeah. I'm not a huge fan of Elvis, I only truly love a handful of his later songs and some earlier songs but nothing like this early. Ill probably do another Elvis one next Christmas. I mean I probably set myself up for failure considering I'm not a fan of that period of his music or his music in general. I respect him, but next week... Oh boy. I got something good planned.