The Return of the Thin White Duke (finally!)

It’s been ten years since David Bowie has released any new music and most of us were beginning to think that he packed it in. He just turned 66 so no one would blame him, right? Yet here is…back with a corker of a new track called “Where are We Now?” It’s sort of a cross between Young Americans mellow Bowie and the Berlin Era. The new album, entitled The Next Day will be out March 11th in the UK and March 12th in the USA.

Here’s the new single:

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Morris Day and the Time, or, How I Made Peace With a Fake Jerome

Shame on me. I should’ve known better. But now I know: “Morris Day & the Time” is not the same thing as “The Time“.

A few weeks back, a local Old School radio station, Mega 104.3, threw itself a 10th birthday party at one of the cool, retro venues in town, Phoenix’s Celebrity Theater. The bill: 70’s R&B outfit GQ, disco/funk/jazz group Brick, and the evening’s headliner, Morris Day and the Time.

Morris Day and the Time? Hell yeah I’m going! So in the days leading up to the big night, I’m checking out the “Original” Time’s Facebook page and wondering why they’re not plugging their gig in Phoenix. I’m reading their tweets, and notice no chatter at all about any upcoming gigs (if you’re following them, you see approximately 2-3 tweets a day about their new album to be released this fall – ad nauseam, day after day with no details).

But still I don’t connect the dots. I meet up with my friend Jen and head to the Celebrity Theater excited as all hell to see Jimmy, Terry, Jesse, Morris, Jellybean, Monte, and maybe even ol’ Jerome.

So we were close to the stage (which is in the round, by the way, rotating slowly clockwise & counter-clockwise), about 6 rows back. First, GQ was introduced. Out walked a single solitary man – “Mr. Q”, I soon found out – aka Emmanuel Rahiem LeBlanc. He played guitar and sang a short set of his hits along to a full backing track. Interesting, and I came away thinking, “Man, you gotta hand it to Mr. Q for having the balls to keep the GQ thing going on his own.”

Next up: Brick. Most of you have heard “Dazz” I’m sure. Here…

And Brick killed it! They were great. The star of the show was without a doubt Mr. Jimmy Brown – singing, dancing, and alternating flawlessly between sax, trumpet, and flute. He’s gotta be in his mid to late 60’s, and he just won over the crowd from the first song. It was a Disco Jazz Funk workout – great stuff, and completely unexpected. Jimmy Brown: a consummate showman.

So after Brick tore it up, the mood was just right when Morris Day and the Time were introduced, and out walked the boys in the band.

“Huh”, I thought, “that doesn’t look like Jesse..”
“Okay, that looks like Jellybean.”
“Well, that’s not Jimmy Jam.”
“And that’s definitely not Terry Lewis on bass.”
“That looks like Monte on keys.”

My “A-ha” or “What the fu–” moment came when a short chubby guy in a hat came out with a mirror, playing the part of valet. A fake Jerome!! Nooooo!!

The immediate feeling was disappointment. I felt like I was watching a Vegas tribute act, where each member tried to resemble the originals. Yeah, Morris came out and they launched into “Cool” and “Wild & Loose”, but it just didn’t feel right. It seriously took me 20-30 minutes before I loosened up and accepted “Morris Day and the Time”, and got back into the spirit of the night. The rest of the crowd didn’t seem to mind a bit. There was crazy Morris Day, after all, working his 30 year old schtick in the flesh.

Granted, it was good to see drummer Jellybean Johnson. It was good to see keyboardist Monte Moir. Obviously it was fun to see Morris sing those great songs: “Jerk Out”, “Jungle Love”, “The Bird”, “777-9311”, “The Walk”. And no disrespect to the musicians either, including bass player Ricky “Freeze” Smith and guitarist Tori Ruffin.

But I was led to believe I was gonna see the real thing.

It turns out I didn’t do my homework. A couple of my Prince peeps on Twitter acknowledged that Morris regularly tours with this band as “Morris Day and the Time”. And one of my buds, Mr. Popblerd, was right when he remarked that it’s bad for the brand.

So buyer beware. Morris Day and the Time is not The Time, or, rather, The Original Time Band – I mean The Original 7ven. Confusing, I know – but when you’ve worked for Prince, everything’s complicated.

You’ll have a good time with Morris Day and the Time. You just need to make your peace with a fake Jerome.

My Top 3 Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

If you had to choose your top three rap / hip-hop songs of all time, what would they be? As I got on down to my Old School Mix at the gym today, that question worked its way into my head. My top two came to me immediately. The third took a few more seconds of thinking.

My selections all came out in either 1986 or 1987. Many years have passed, and many great hip-hop songs have come along. But when all’s said and done, these three still do it for me. There are a lot of great old school tunes from this era, but a lot of ’em haven’t aged too well. I’m talking to you Whistle, UTFO, and Boogie Boys. But the three classics below definitely stand the test of time.

How ’bout you? Whether you’re a fan of hip-hop or not – if you had to pick, what would your top three be? Speak, people!

My Top 3 Hip-Hop Songs of all Damn Time

#3: “Paul Revere” (mp3) – Beastie Boys / “Fight For Your Right” and “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” were the early mass favorites from Licensed to Ill, but based on those two songs, I wasn’t wholly impressed by the Beasties… but when I heard “Paul Revere” – the funky as hell backward beat; the fun story set in the old west… there are lots of great Beasties songs – “Root Down”, all of Paul’s Boutique, but nothing beats “Paul Revere”.

#2: “Peter Piper” (mp3) – Run-DMC / As far as crossover appeal goes, 1986 was a monumental year in hip-hop. Licensed to Ill was released in the spring, and in the summer, Run-DMC released Raising Hell – which featured the biggest rap-rock crossover to date: “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith. But again, for me, the appeal lay elsewhere on the album. In particular, “Peter Piper”. It’s the rhythm that primarily does it for me with hip-hop. Give me a dope beat and I’m a happy camper. “Peter Piper” was like nothing I’d ever heard. In fact, color me ignorant, I didn’t know until a couple months ago that the beat is taken from Bob James’s version of Paul Simon’s “Take Me To The Mardi Gras“.

#1: “I Know You Got Soul” (mp3) – Eric B. & Rakim / The summer of ’87 was when I met my high school sweetheart, and also the summer that Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full album was released. Like all my music back then, I bought the vinyl and immediately taped it so I could bump it in the car. Many an hour was spent in my mom’s Buick Park Avenue with my girl and the song “I Know You Got Soul.” It still doesn’t get any smoother than Rakim. His delivery flows effortlessly, and it’s still my favorite old school tune to rap along to in the car. Numero uno.

If you’re interested, I just re-posted my Old School Mix here. Please – when Too Short’s “Freaky Tales” hits, make sure your mother isn’t around. It’s about as NSFW as a song can be.

Peter Piper / Take Me To The Mardi Gras

Show of hands: who knows the genesis of the bell & percussion groove of Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper”?

I stumbled on it tonight. I was listening to Afrika Bambaata’s radio show on Sirius Backspin on the way home from work today. He was playing short clips of some of his favorites from back in the day. He played a minute or so of “Nautilus” by Bob James. Nice funky, jazzy little groove. I went on to to track it down. Didn’t find it, but I did see “Take Me To The Mardis Gras”.

I clicked it, and – lo & behold – the source of “Peter Piper”! The song itself was written by Paul Simon, released a year earlier (1973) on Simon’s ‘There Goes Rhymin’ Simon‘. Bob James added that memorable percussion and his own flair to the song on 1974’s Two.

Bob James has to be flattered, but I also think he’d be pissed to know that people go their lifetimes not knowing that his creation is the backbone of one of the classics of early hip-hop.

Bob James / “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” ( from 1974’s Two

Sounds from the Old School (Electro Mix-Tape)

I took some time this past weekend to dive into some old school hip hop sites, and uncovered some gems. Don’t even get me started about Original Underground Hip-Hop, where S.O.U.L. posts a staggering amount of old school mixes (two a day since I subscribed). Go over and take a look, you’ll be blown away.

But tonight I have to share a mix I found on DJ Dee-Ville’s blog, Ain’t It Good To You. I’m a little nutty about 80’s electro, particularly artists like Egyptian Lover, the Soulsonic Force, and Man Parrish. So stumbling across an hour and 20 minute long mix dedicated to electro was like strikin’ gold, people.  Someone out there has to be feeling this too!

DJ Dee-Ville’s It’s Electro!! Mix (mp3)

Here’s the track listing…

Two great sites to get your old school fix: Ain’t It Good To You and Original Underground Hip-Hop. Have fun…

Sirius Backspin Will Return, and doggone it if it ain’t raining

As a guy who came of age in the classic age of early hip-hop, aka the 80’s – I was seriously bummed when Sirius’ Backspin channel was canned after the Sirius – XM merger. Sirius and XM did a pretty good job of consolidating, and holding on to the genres, whether on the Sirius or XM side. Old School Rap, unfortunately, was a casualty with no replacement on the XM side.

Fast forward to today’s press release, that, due to subscriber complaints, Backspin will make a triumphant return on January 15th! Sweet! I can can get my fix of the greats: Kurtis Blow, Doug E. Fresh, Eric B. & Rakim, Grandmaster Flash, and all the other Old School pioneers.

1/19 Update: Backspin is indeed back. I confirmed today. It doesn’t show up in the menu yet (probably not until Sirus-XM’s next update, whenever that is). You can find it on Channel 39 on the Sirius side.

Stay tuned for an Old School mix I’m putting together, featuring a bunch of my favorites from the era.

Disco and Old School Hip-Hop Channels Back by Popular Demand on SIRIUS XM Radio: Financial News – Yahoo Finance.

So the question you’re asking yourself at this point is: “Why the photo of Keith Sweat in a lightning storm?” Well, Keith is most definitely old school, and something rare has come to the my hometown – Rain. I’m talking all day, steady, beautiful rain. And since the late 80’s, when Make It Last Forever was released, “In the Rain” has been one of my favorite rain songs. Okay, yes, I know Zeppelin’s “Rain Song” is legendary, and so is CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, and of course, Prince’s “Purple Rain”.

Buut, old Keith’s rain tune always pops into my head when the rain falls, which isn’t very often in these parts. Listen to Keith’s rain song, won’t you?

Keith Sweat – “In the Rain” (mp3)

From the 1987 album, Make It Last Forever.

Public Enemy at Pitchfork’s Festival

In the annals of classic hip-hop, last week’s Public Enemy show at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago has to go down in the books as Historic.

Chuck D., Flava Flav and the boys performed their classic, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, in its entirety.

Here’s “Rebel Without a Pause”…

I saw P.E. perform “Rebel” 20 years ago at a concert in Milwaukee with LL Cool J and Whodini (and..?) – long before the hipsters grabbed hold of “It Takes a Nation…” Aren’t I awesome?

Old School Friday

My geeky music life just got geekier. You know the new iPhone came out today. Well, those of us with “old” iPhone get the 2.0 upgrade gratis, which includes the App Store – which includes a ton of free apps made exclusively for iPhone. The coolest, in my humble opinion? Remote!

By downloading the free Remote app, I can now control my iTunes from anywhere in the house. I’ve had the Airport Express, which lets me stream my iTunes to any stereo inside or outside my house. So how does Remote enhance the experience? It means when I’m out washing my car in the driveway, and Manilow’s “Mandy” comes blasting through the speakers, I can coyly hit the “Next” button.


But that was now and this was then…

George Clinton – “Do Fries Go With That Shake?”

The System – “Don’t Disturb This Groove”

Beastie Boys – “Hey Ladies

Shaq joins the Suns – Sports Music

I’m a baseball fan above all else, but I have to say, my hometown team’s recent trade for Shaquille O’Neal has me pretty excited to watch more Phoenix Suns basketball. The Suns are the second best team in basketball as it is – thanks in large part to the guy they just traded away to the Heat – Shawn Marion. But something tells me things are going to get even better with Shaq on our side. And you Heat fans must be a happy bunch picking up someone of the caliber of Marion.

This of course segues into sports music. The only basketball song I can think of is Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball”, with his shout out to the greats of the day: “Dantley and Wilkins are on the scene, And Ralph Sampson is really mean!” Who’s Dantley?

Are there any other basketball songs out there? For baseball, all I can think of off the top of my head are “Centerfield” by John Fogerty, and Bob Dylan’s “Catfish”. Football…. yep, the “Super Bowl Shuffle”. Ah – Steve Earle’s “No. 29”. What else in the way of pop/rock sports-themed tunes?

Kurtis BlowBasketball (LastFM)

Bob DylanCatfish (LastFM)

John FogertyCenterfield (LastFM)