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Month: December 2007

Michael’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007:

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Write a Year-End Best of Column

I’ll be honest, the thought of figuring out a ‘Top 10’ for the year is far more daunting a task than I had imagined. So much so that I found it difficult to pare down the list to ten. Why is it always the top 10, anyway? In the spirit of non-conformity and as a big nudge to ‘the man’ here’s my ‘Year in (Ick)Music’

Before we get started, I’d like to note that both Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen are not on my 2007 list as I obtained copies of the UK release of both Back to Black and Alright, Still in 2006. While they certainly got tons of play in 2007 they remain last year’s news to my ears.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s…

Michael’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007

Songs of the Year:

1. “F.U.N.K.”, by Prince – What “Chelsea Rodgers” should have been this is the funkiest track that His Royal Badness has graced us with in years. Hell, I don’t even care about the circumstances that it was released under. Here’s hoping that it’s not just another tease.

2. “No One Is Gonna Love you”, by Band of Horses – There is something so decidedly simple and beautiful about this tune. Ben Bridwell delivers the lyrics with such heartbreaking, self effacing honesty that you almost feel wrong for listening to his tortured soul.

3. “Just Fine”, by Mary J. Blige – This one snuck in at the close of the year. I’ll tell you that the first time I heard this I listened to it at least three times. Something about the lyrics really just grabbed me. This is a different Mary than we’ve seen in years and it’s a great to hear her belting out an upbeat track.

So I like what I see when I’m looking at me
When I’m walking past the mirror
Don’t stress through the night, at a time in my life
Ain’t worried about if you feel it
Got my head on straight, I got my vibe right
I aint gonna let you kill it
You see I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just Fine…

4. “Good Life”, by Kanye West featuring T-Pain – Not many artists can get away with releasing three singles within a few weeks of each other and have them all blow up the way the first three tracks from Kanye’s Graduation did. And while I cringe at almost everything that has the tag “featuring T-Pain” this was the exception. It’s hip-pop at it’s best. And I’d be remiss if I did not give you guys the video. These are the type of videos that make me actually miss when MTV showed videos.

Cover Songs of the Year:

1. “Don’t Stop Believing”, by Petra Haden – This is an easy one. Take a beloved song that’s inclusion in the closing scene of “The Soprano’s” put it back in the hearts and minds of just about everyone and add the ethereal voice of Petra Haden and you’ve got a masterpiece.

As a bonus, this video is too good to not share

2. “Valerie”, by Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse – Nearly every track on Ronson’s solo debut is a smash, but this track stands head and shoulders above the rest.

3. “Hard Sun”, by Eddie Vedder – Though it stands on this list as the cover that almost no one knows is a cover, this track shows the power of Eddie’s voice.

Albums of the Year:

1. Cease to Begin, by Band of Horses

2. In Rainbows, by Radiohead

3. 100 Days, 100 Nights, by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

4. Planet Earth, by Prince

5. Magic, by Bruce Springsteen

Honorary Mention: Finding Forever, by Common; Graduation, by Kanye West; Chase This Light, by Jimmy Eat World; Kala, by M.I.A.; Version, by Mark Ronson; Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, by The Foo Fighters; Sky Blue Sky, by Wilco.

Underground Hip-Hop Double Blast of the Year:

Ahead of the Curve, by Lateef & Z-Trip

From the Corner to the Block, by Galactic

Pete and I both fell upon the Lateef & Z-Trip release around the same time and he beat me to the punch featuring them here. Between that and the stellar release of the jam-band favorites Galactic (featuring many of the underground hip-hop communities finest) my faith in Hip-Hop was well and alive.

Best Live Show of the Year:

Dave Matthews Band at New England Dodge Music Center, August 4th. – The wife and I make a yearly pilgrimage to see Dave and the boys and I’m not sure if it was the great seats or the overall vibe of the show but it was the best since MSG in Dec of 2002 (when the Godfather of Soul, James Brown joined the band for a 15 minute jam on “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine”).

Best New (to me) Artists

Alice Smith – I foresee her blowing up in 2008. With her soulful yet rocking tunes she’s sure to win over fans.

Amel Larrieux – I had loved Groove Theory and a last.fm friend pointed me towards he solo releases and I’ve since become a full on advocate.

The Brothers Johnson – One of two (related) ‘digging in the crates’ finds for 2007, this act lays down some of the funkiest grooves ever committed to tape.

Saul Williams – I had heard his name before but never had the opportunity to listen and with the free release of “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!” I’ve become an instant fan. I’d highly suggest everyone taking the chance to listen as it’s still a free download.

Shuggie Otis – As Pete said in a previous post, this is like “Prince 1.0”. Shuggie not only displays great musicianship and songwriting but he is one of the more underrated guitarists of the last few decades.

In Conclusion

As Pete said in conclusion of his year in review, I can’t wait to hear what 2008 has in store and look forward to sharing it with you.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! An Ickmix just for You…

So how was 2007 for you guys and gals? I can’t complain here. I’m blessed with a beautiful wife and two precious girls, I have a steady job (knock wood), and my family and loved ones are healthy.

I thought I’d punt the blog into 2008 with my premiere podcast on Ickmusic. I used Garageband for the first time, and it made podcast makin’ a breeze. I’ll have to figure out some of the bells and whistles so I can include sound effects and some DJ action next time. For now though, we stick strictly to music – some tunes that will get you kick started for a great New Year’s Eve, even if it only involves sitting at home. That’s what I’ll be doing! Woo hoo!

Enjoy, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Download: Ickmusic’s New Year’s Eve Ickmix (mp3 – about 42MB)

Playlist (30:35):

Reverend Horton Heat – “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin'” – from Liquor in the Front
The Ramones – “Surfin’ Bird” – from Rocket to Russia
The Clash – “Lose this Skin” – from Sandinista! (Tymon Dogg on vocals, in case you’re wondering)
Trouble Funk – “Trouble Funk Express” – E Flat Boogie
Shaggy – “O Carolina” – from Oh Carolina
Buckwheat Zydeco – “Ma ‘Tit Fille” – from The Big Easy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Old 97’s – “W. Texas Teardrops” – from Too Far to Care

Shuggie Otis – a psyche-funky-soulful classic

One of the categories I forgot to include on my Year in Music post was “Best Aged Album Discovered This Year”. Undoubtedly, it was 1974’s Inspiration Information by Shuggie Otis. Some buddies on my defunct Prince forum recommended Shuggie as sort of a “Prince 1.0”; or Prince, rather, as Shuggie 2.0.

  • He released his first album in his teens.
  • He played all of the instruments and sang.
  • He wrote his own music.
  • His music is a combination of funk, R&B, pop, and psychedelic soul…

One of the standout tracks on this record, “Strawberry Letter 23”, was later covered by the Brothers Johnson, who turned it into one of the top R&B tracks of 1977. Almost thirty-four years after its original release, the album sounds fresh and ahead of its time.

David Byrne reissued it in 2001 on his Luaka Bop label. Stylistically, the songs are all over the map. The two I give you here are a short blast of Innervisions-era funk (“Ice Cold Daydream”) and an electronic instrumental slow jam (“Pling!”). But you need to hear the whole thing, especially the finale, the 12 minute plus trippy soul/funk suite “Freedom Flight”.

BUY Inspiration Information on Shuggie Otis - World Psychedelic Classics 2: California Soul - Inspiration Information

Pete’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007

I know you’re probably all sick of the obligatory year end list mania sweeping the interwebs, but indulge me, if you will, as I throw in a few favorites myself. I give you….

Pete’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007

Songs of the Year:

1. “Intervention”, by Arcade Fire – Win Butler and his band of gypsy maniacs known as Arcade Fire rocked my soul with this song. I had the heard the song in earlier incarnations, specifically on one of AF’s Morning Becomes Eclectic appearances. But it was after Neon Bible was released, when I was on a run with the iPod, when this song raised the hairs on my arms, brought tears to my eyes, and zapped me with an extra dose of adrenaline. In my opinion, “Intervention” is an epic masterpiece, joining songs like “Purple Rain”, “Thunder Road”, “London’s Burning”, and Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” on my mantle of all time favorites. The church organ, the lamenting lyrics that spotlight the brave and innocent soldier stuck in a unnecessary war:

“I can taste the fear
Lift me up and take me out of here
Don’t wanna fight, don’t wanna die
Just wanna hear you cry.”

“Intervention”s lyrics are a bitter reminder of our current leadership here in the U.S – an administration that continues to take a giant dump on a lot of the ideals of our forefathers. As of this writing, there are 390 days left of this god-awful president and his gang of deceivers. The door’s over there, fellas – don’t let it hit you in the ass.

Cheers to Win Butler and Arcade Fire.

2. “F.U.N.K.”, by Prince – Who knew? He still has it in him. All it took was a little passion and anger to get a great song out of him. Too bad his ire is directed at his most passionate fans – those who have carried him through his career. Finally, we get inspired, funky, creative Prince. Whatever it takes, I guess! Prince - F.U.N.K. - Single

3. “City of Immigrants”, by Steve Earle

Though it’s still hard to adjust to the latest live incarnation of Mr. Earle (Steve, a guitar, two turntables and a DJ), he released a very solid album this year – Washington Square Serenade – and to me, this track stands out from the rest. NYC / Brazilian group Forro in the Dark back Steve up in this spirited homage to New York City’s immigrant roots. Steve’s delightfully upbeat mandolin playing, Forro’s Brazilian percussion, and the sweet backing vocals of Allison Moorer make this one of my favorites of the year.

It’s worth watching the Letterman performance of it too…

Albums of the Year:

1. Magic, by Bruce Springsteen

Refreshing. Like opening the windows on a cool, sunny morning. The man just has it, doesn’t he? His talent at songwriting and tunesmithing (not to mention performing) leaves me in awe. Bruce’s tip o’ the hat to Brian Wilson and sixties pop, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”, leads the charge for me. But there is no shortage of excellent songs on this one: “Gypsy Biker”, “Long Walk Home”, and “Livin’ in the Future” to name a few. Now if only Bruce would book a date in Phoenix on his early 2008 tour. Still nothing, and it’s killin’ me!

2. Sky Blue Sky, by Wilco

This album reached out to the mellow, country-rock side of me, and wrapped its arms around me. I’ve enjoyed all of Wilco’s albums (particularly from 1999’s Summerteeth on) for their spontaneity and originality. You just never know where they’re going to head next. When I threw on Sky Blue Sky, it immediately connected, right from the opening notes of “Either Way”. It’s the opening salvo of songs 1 through 4 that move me the most: “Either Way”, “You Are My Face” (can there be a cooler song title?), “Impossible Germany”, and the title track. I could listen to Jeff Tweedy sing the phone book. His scratchy, smoke & whiskey-soaked voice makes jeff one of my favorite vocalists around.

Disappointment of the Year:

Planet Earth, by Prince

No one wants a great Prince album more than me. Every year I hope I’m going to hear it, but once again, Prince underwhelmed. Songs like “The One U Wanna C” and “Somewhere Here on Earth” were the highlights for me, and gave me some hope. But duds like “Mr. Goodnight”, “Lion of Judah”, “Resolution” and the title track pollute Planet Earth enough to make Al Gore pitch a huge hissy fit. And the song that had the highest funky Prince potential – “Chelsea Rogers” – is marred by Shelby J.’s mic-hogging, with Prince’s vocals just a footnote in the background.

The Throwing It All Away Award of the Year:

Amy Winehouse.
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I discovered Amy’s music back in February when I heard the retro, soulful, yet still modern “Rehab” of hers. Then I picked up Back to Black. What a VOICE! Effortless and so rich with soul. Then it soon became apparent how troubled she was (and is). Her demons & addictions (and those ratty old ballerina slippers she insists on wearing) have been all over the tabloids and gossip web sites this year. Surrounding herself with folks like her hubby Blake Fielder Civil and chronic fuck-up Pete Doherty don’t bode well for her future. Of course Blake is locked up now for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t look like she’s using it as an opportunity to straighten herself out.

Back to Black was recently nominated for six Grammy awards. We’ll see if she even turns up for the ceremony (by the way – Year 2 of Ickmusic Live Blogging the Grammy’s, comin’ up!). You can’t help but pull for her, though. So much talent. Get it together, Amy!

Underground Hip-Hop Double Blast of the Year:

Ahead of the Curve, by Lateef & Z-Trip

Rise Up, by Zeph & Azeem

These two joints were a breath of old school fresh air to my hip-hop starved lungs. If you’re looking for something – anything – to prove to you that real hip-hop is alive & well, pick up these two albums now.

Lateef & Z-Trip – “Get Down” (DJ Zeph Remix)

Zeph & Azeem – “That Type of Music”

Best Live Show of the Year: Arcade Fire at Austin City Limits Music Festival, September 15th. 90 minutes of adrenaline-filled bliss for me. They are one of a kind: inspiring, energetic, and grandiose. Like I’ve said before, there’s something powerful about Win Butler’s stage presence and charisma. The defining moment of this show was their encore finale, “Wake Up”… a sea of humanity singing along with the band, a collective of goosebump-filled arms raised in the air. To me, Arcade Fire are one of the defining bands of our generation. There’s something very special about these guys & gals.

Best New (to me) Artists

Music is all about discovery for me. Often times I don’t pick up on an artist until well into their career. Here are a few that I came across this year – some who have been around a while, others who haven’t.

Aceyalone – Acey has been a fixture on the LA underground hip-hop scene for years. I was finally brought into his world through his reggae/hip-hop album Lightning Strikes.

The Avett Brothers – These guys hail from Concord, North Carolina, and knocked me out with this year’s album, Emotionalism. Cool neo-bluegrass folksy sounds come out of this trio’s guitar, banjo and stand-up bass.

“Die Die Die”

Brett Dennen – Five words: “There Is So Much More”

British Sea Power – This powerful foursome from Brighton, England pushed me on a recent 10k race. I look forward to hearing a lot more, and seeing them when they come to town.

Cat Power – Thanks to an Austin City Limits TV performance, I have been turned on to Chan Marshall – aka Cat Power. Amazing singer, and completely and utterly unique. I’m loving this girl.

“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” (from the soundtrack to I’m Not There)

Look out in early ’08 for her latest album of covers, called Jukebox (click the cover to find out more)…

Damien Rice – One song sucked me in: “The Blower’s Daughter”. It led me to his two great studio albums, O and 9. Irish singing / songwriting at its finest.

The Felice Brothers – I first heard these guys on Vin Scelsa’s Sirius radio show. 21st century Dylan/Springsteen hybrids from the Catskills.

Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts – Catchy hooks and melodies, a smoking hot bass player. What’s not to like?

“Spacemen”

==========

So what will 2008 bring? No idea, but I look forward to finding out. Don’t be shy about sharing your favorites with me. I’m always interested in quality tunes, wherever and whenever they may come from.

Santa Smokes Mistletoe! Christmas with Rotary Connection

A guest post coming to you from reader & fellow funk brother # 1, Jshua…..

Happy Holidays Brothers and Sisters (or as I like to say–Happy Holy Daze….)

But I digress….

Today’s topic of discussion comes from the legendary Rotary Connection, who discovered way back in 68′ the secret behind Santa Claus’ is….

(gasp) HE SMOKES MISTLETOE!!!

Actually, it makes all of the sense in the world.

1) Living at the north pole.
2) Riding HIGH on his sleigh.
3) Leaving milk and cookies for him (aka the munchies).
4) His JOLLY behavior.

Think about it ( I mean, really think about it and tell me I’m wrong…)

Three points of interest which makes this particular song/album/and legacy of interest.

1) Sidney Barnes is the lead singer on the cut, and is also the one of the legendary songwriting partners of George Clinton and the Parliafunkadelicment Thang Inc, a huge part of the “northern soul” movement. Never mind the stuff that he did at Golden World.

2) That female voice is the legenday Minnie Ripperton and if you’re not familiar with her, you should be! Start with Come to my Garden (1970) with the Ramsey Lewis Trio as the backing band (featuring a very young Maurice White on drums).

and

3) Charles Stepney (arranger, composer and producer) – Now, if y’all don’t know about Charles, then you wouldn’t know that Charles is the secret behind Earth, Wind & Fire, period. Check out every Rotary Connection album and the first Minnie album and you’ll find out why Maurice (as EWF alumni would suggest) was the quarterback and Charles was the coach of that band until his untimely death in 76′.

But then again, never mind me….I hope you enjoy the music.

– J

Rotary ConnectionPeace at Last (mp3)

Buy Peace.

Joe Strummer: 5 Years Gone

Hard to believe it’s already been five years since Joe Strummer passed away at age 50. Until it’s time for me to check out, his music will remain a huge part of my life.

We miss you Joe.

Videos:

The Clash – Safe European Home (US Festival, 1983)
The Clash – Tommy Gun (1978 or 1979)
The Clash – London Calling, Train in Vain (Fridays, 1980)
The Clash – Guns of Brixton, Clampdown (Fridays, 1980)
The Clash – Police & Thieves (Germany, 1977)
The Clash – Interview, 1977, White Riot, London’s Burning (1977)
The Clash – This is Radio Clash (Tom Snyder Show, 1981)
The Clash – Interview (Tom Snyder Show, 1981)
The Clash – White Riot (Victoria Park, London, 1978)

Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros – Johnny Appleseed
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros – Yalla Yalla

Mick Jones & Joe Strummer – White Riot, London’s Burning (November 15, 2002, Acton Town Hall, London)

Kanye’s updated Billie Jean

For the 25th anniversary of Thriller, the reissued CDincludes some contemporary versions by the likes of the ubiquitous, overrated and overhyped Will.i.am, Fergie, Akon, and Kanye West. Ol’ Kanye offers up “Billie Jean 2008”. After hearing it, all I have to say is: “Wow!” Like, “Wow, what a piece of shit!” Adding a signature Kanye beat and uttering a couple of “Uh Uh”s is talent? They thought this would enhance the reissue of one of the greatest albums in music history? Not to these ears.

It made me think of the Live Earth performance where Kanye joined the Police for “Message in a Bottle”. It made me think of the awards show (AMA’s or Grammys?) where Jay-Z barked in on Paul McCartney & Linkin Park singing “Yesterday”.

Maybe it’s cross-genre synergy they’re shooting for, but it does nothing to showcase the talents of a good rapper / MC. Watch these, and tell me, does screaming “Yeah” and “Uh Huh” over  otherwise great tracks enhance them in any way? Are there really people out there who hear & see these who think to themselves: “Woww, Kanye/Jay-Z is a genius, man!!”

I don’t get it.

“Billie Jean 2008” (Kanye West Remix)

P-Funk: Um, Yeah, I’ll Have Some of What They’re Having

I have one of these sweet little Apple Airport Express gizmos that allows me to play my iTunes on any stereo inside or outside my house. So when it was time to string up the Christmas lights this past weekend, my 4 year old girl and I fired up the iTunes, set it to shuffle, and took to the front yard with wild holiday abandon.

What I didn’t realize was that earlier in the day I had filtered my iTunes to show me only “parliament”. So what ensued was 90 minutes of the P-Funk discography on shuffle. Okay, no one – not my 4-year old or my passing neighbors – realized the intensity of this Spontaneous P-Funk Christmas Light Hanging Ceremony, but I sure funked out in delight for an hour and a half.

It made me rediscover some of the gems of their catalog, including some tunes that jumped out at me for their uncharacteristic qualities. Like this song. This isn’t the P-Funk your ears expect. You hear it, and you’re wondering what it is you’re listening to. A mellow, otherworldly, fantasy-like rhythm; Peter Chase’s melodic, bird-like whistling solos. What a cool little P-Funk nugget.

ParliamentI Just Got Back (from the Fantasy, Ahead of Our Time in the Four Lands of Ellet) [mp3]

Buy: Up for the Down Stroke (1974)