Zapp

It’s been a while since I brought out a blast from my past – the funky years. From 1984 thru, oh, 1986, I immersed myself completely in R&B, funk, soul, and rap of the day. It got so intense that I remember smashing the Scorpions ‘Blackout’ album with a drumstick. Of course I regretted it a couple years later when I re-opened my mind to all music and I wanted to crank “The Zoo” on my turntable. Ah well, live and learn.

So Zapp was one of my favorites of this era. Comprised of Roger Troutman and several of his brothers, they rose from the Dayton, Ohio music scene in the late 70’s. Zapp’s defining sound is Roger’s mastery of the vocoder talk box, a tube he would plug into his synthesizer to alter / synthesize his voice. You also heard Roger years later on Tupac’s “California Love”. Tragically, Roger was shot to death by his brother Larry in a 1999 murder-suicide. But his music lives on.

The first tune, “Computer Love”, was probably Zapp’s biggest commercial hit. From their 1985 album, ‘More Zapp IV U’, it features the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson and Shirley Murdock on vocals.

“Itchin’ for Your Twitchin” is a direct nod to Prince: from the synth riffs to the guitar solo, to the “Irresistible Itch” chant (referring to Prince’s “Irresistible Bitch”).

Zapp: Computer Love (mp3)
Zapp: Itchin’ for Your Twitchin’ (mp3)

More Bruce? Yes, More Bruce.


Here are a few selections from Bruce?s Nov. 21st show at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey (his 2nd to last show of the tour). I go through ?all Bruce all the time? phases like this. You?re just going to have to work through it with me.

Bruce Springsteen: Song for Orphans
Bruce Springsteen: Dream Baby Dream (Suicide cover)
Bruce Springsteen: Two for the Road

All live from November 21st, 2005, Trenton, New Jersey

RIP Chris Whitley

Sad news. Chris Whitley has succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 45 [Yahoo News Story].

My brother and I went to see him over the summer here in Phoenix. It was the first show of his tour, he had just flown over from Germany, and what we witnessed was profoundly sad. The show cut off after around 5 songs after what we thought was substance related behavior (crying, falling off his stool, cursing, and basically saying he didn’t give a shit about anything). Whatever the reason, it was sad to see.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Chris’ work through the years, but I do love his debut album, ‘Living with the Law’ (1991). So in memory of Chris, here are a couple of my favorites.

Chris Whitley: Living with the Law (mp3)
Chris Whitley: I Forget You Every Day (mp3)

Chris Whitley Official Web Site.
Buy Chris’ music.

An Afternoon with Blaze

I watched a great Austin City Limits last night: John Prine and Amos Lee. During Prine’s set, he introduced his last song as one “that just about knocked me off my chair” when he first heard it. It was a song called “Clay Pigeons” by Blaze Foley. The song about knocked me off my couch last night too; a heart-wrenching, beautifully written song. It’s on John’s latest CD, ‘Fair & Square’, which I own, but it had never hit me like that before. It’s in the Texas singer songwriter vein, the finger-pickin’ akin to Townes van Zandt (a friend and hero of Blaze).

So I went a searching to find out more about Blaze Foley. Well, like a lot of talents, he died young at the age of 39 years old in 1989. He was shot to death apparently while defending an elderly friend of his. He was a very eccentric, hard living character (he had a strange fixation with duct tape, so much so that his coffin was duct taped at his funeral). He spent most of the 70’s and 80’s playing gigs in Houston, New Orleans, and Austin. But he didn’t leave behind much of a body of work. A couple of albums were released after his death. One of them was ‘Live at the Austin Outhouse’, which was recorded on December 18th, 1988 (his 39th birthday), about three months before his death.

So I have to thank John Prine, not only for his music, but for mentioning Blaze Foley, one of the hidden stars of Texas music, another one who faded away much too fast.

Blaze Foley: Clay Pigeons (mp3)

Funky Friday

Thanks to great mp3 sites like Home of the Groove, and in this case, Can I Bring My Gat, I’ve been introduced to some great tunes out of the New Orleans area. Thankfully after all these years, I’m finally discovering the Meters.

Considered by many to be the founding fathers of funk, The Meters created a unique sound that lasted through the sixties and seventies and was reborn in the late eighties. Their trademark sound blends funk, blues, and dance grooves with a New Orleans vibe.The history of this native New Orleans band dates back to 1967, when keyboardist Art Neville recruited George Porter, Jr., Joseph (Zigaboo) Modeliste and Leo Nocentelli to form The Meters. When Neville formed the band, he had already been a prominent member of the New Orleans music community for 15 years.

So the Meters song I have available tonight sounded very familiar to me. The opening riff was the opening for an old school hip hop song I liked way back when, I just couldn’t place it. Well, it hit me tonight – it’s none other than Droppin Em from LL Cool J’s third release, 1989’s Walking With a Panther. Of course!! You can’t begin to tell me that beat ain’t funky.

Compare, contrast, enjoy, have a funky good weekend. In the words of a young Robert Goulet, holla back.

The Meters: (The World Is a Bit Under the Weather) Doodle-Oop (mp3)

  • appears on Trick Bag (1976), the tasty album cover above

LL Cool J: Droppin Em (mp3)

Mo’ Live Boss


Here’s a treat for the Boss fanatics. Bruce is still churning along on his solo acoustic tour supporting ‘Devils & Dust’. Wednesday night in Philly, Bruce debuted a couple of oldies that came out on Tracks several years back.

Here they are:

Bruce Springsteen:

Santa Ana and Thundercrack (mp3)

(live – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 9, 2005)

David Gray Acoustic


Here’s a couple of good live ones from David Gray back in April of 2001. The first is my favorite D.G. ballad, followed by his version of Senor Springsteen’s “Mansion on the Hill”.

David Gray:
Twilight (mp3)
Mansion on the Hill (mp3)

(live from St. Louis, Missouri, April 14, 2001)

You can download the rest of the show here if you’re so inclined.
Buy David Gray’s latest, ‘Life in Slow Motion’.

I Like My Morning Jacket


During my work trip to L.A. this week, I had the privilege of seeing My Morning Jacket at the Music Box @ the Henry Fonda Theater. Their latest album, Z, really has endeared me to these guys. But the highlight last night was most definitely “One Big Holiday” (from 2003’s “It Still Moves” – pure unadulterated guitar driven assault on the senses (and the eardrums). One of those concert moments where you take a look around and everyone is beaming and totally in the moment. The band was tight as hell throughout, and their manic head-banging during the heavy parts of the night was infectious and fun to watch.

Another favorite of mine was “Dondante” (from ‘Z’). Starting off quiet, building up to the crescendo (“You had me worried, so worried that this would last”), and finishing off with a sax solo… great stuff. Check out their stuff, and definitely catch them live if you can.

As a whole, awesome show; though I’m starting to get rude reminders that I’m getting old. The first half of the show I was standing 5 deep from the stage, but damn if didn’t get really tired of standing. So I made my way to a nice seat in the balcony for the second half. Oh cruel hands of time!

My Morning Jacket:
One Big Holiday (mp3)
Dondante (mp3)

(both live at the Vogue Theater in Indianapolis, Indiana, October 23, 2005)

Mercy Mercy

Mary Gauthier (pronounced Go-Shay). If someone was cut out for a duet with Steve Earle on his next album, it’s her (it might be the Lucinda-esque drawl). She’s a Nashville singer songwriter, originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who has led a hell of a life thus far: alcoholic father, suicidal mother, stole her parents car at age 15 (read her bio here).

Well this song gets better and more profound each time I hear it. And after watching the video, I’m almost genuinely bummed… there you have it, the power of a great song. A great melancholy tune will drag you right down with it. This is definitely one of ’em. Shout out to Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight for turning me on to Ms. Gauthier.

Mary Gauthier: Mercy Now (mp3) – title track from her latest CD, buy it on Amazon.

Unearthing the Dead


I have located the mother of all Grateful Dead show mp3 repositories here at Archive.org. WOW. While my old tapes have been collecting dust, and I struggle with mustering up the enthusiasm to convert them to mp3?s, this site has saved me all the trouble.

I saw the Dead a total of 10 times in 1994-1995 (Phoenix, L.A., and Las Vegas), which is nothing compared to some friends of mine who were in the triple digits. Nothing will ever match the atmosphere and ambience of a Dead show, both in and outside the performance itself (the parking lot sideshow is something you can?t explain without experiencing it). It was a traveling carnival, a mass of friendly people selling their wares (both legal and not), dancing, drumming, walking around, checking each other out, smoking, and smoking some more? and the throng would just take over the surrounding area. It was something to see?

Here?s part of one my personal faves:

Grateful Dead: The Other One > Wharf Rat > Throwing Stones > Not Fade Away (mp3 16.5 MB) ? live at the Oakland Coliseum, December 31st, 1987

Link to hundreds of Dead Shows at Archive.org.