Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob (2007)

Britpop band Kaiser Chiefs' new effort is a nice collection of upbeat, poppy rocktunes.

In comparison to 'Ruby' - their smash hit single - the rest of the album might sound a little on the average side. However, 'Yours Truly' still is a lot of fun to listen to.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Los Van Van... Cuba's Number One

Los Van Van has been around for decades. Fusing Cuban dance rhythms like salsa with reggae, pop/rock, latin jazz and many other styles the combo really offers something for everyone...

The Legendary Los Van Van - Volume One. Try it!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Derroll Adams, Banjo Man (folk)

Derroll Adams was a legendary folk artist, originally from the US, who settled in Belgium. A folk artist in the most traditional sense, travelling from town to town to play his banjo and tell his little stories...

A couple of months ago, I saw a music documentary about him on Belgian television. Although I'm not your typical folk fan, I was impressed by Derroll Adams' presence: a simple man playing simple music with an honest message. Especially his voice struck me. Adams' vocal style is quite similar to Johnny Cash' and though Adams' music sounds really oldfashioned and monotonous at times, his deep, mesmerizing voice gives it a real edge.

Here's a link a found to his 1972 album Feelin' Fine.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Rotary Connection (psychedelic soul)

I'm currently exploring some great early 70s psychedelic soul bands. So why not check some out yourselves. First up is an album by The Rotary Connection...
The following text is a copy of a wikipedia document. If you don't feel like reading and want to start groovin right away, just skip to the link below.

Rotary Connection was a psychedelic soul band formed in Chicago in 1966. The highly experimental band was the idea of Marshall Chess, son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess. Marshall was the director behind a start-up label, Cadet Concept Records, and wanted to focus on music outside of the blues and rock genres, which had made the Chess label popular. This led Marshall to turn his attention to the burgeoning psychedelic movement. He recruited Charles Stepney, a vibraphonist and classically-trained arranger and producer for sonic wizardry. Marshall then recruited members of a little-known white rock band, The Proper Strangers: Bobby Simms, Mitch Aliotta, and Ken Venegas. Sidney Barnes, a songwriter within the Chess organization, also joined, as did Judy Hauff and a Chess receptionist named Minnie Riperton, who would later be successful in her own solo career. Marshall also called up prominent session musicians associated with the Chess label, including guitarist Phil Upchurch and drummer Morris Jennings.

The band released their self-titled debut album in late 1967. It plays like a melange of styles, borrowing heavily from pop, rock, and soul, but in a way that isn't entirely radio-friendly. The album also boasts an Eastern influence through its use of the sitar on Turn Me On and Memory Band. Stepney's arrangements, brought to life by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, imbue the album with a certain dreamlike quality; this would become a trademark of both the arranger and the mouthpiece. The album proved to be a modest success within the Midwest, but failed to make an impact nationally -- this was to be the Rotary's ultimate fate.

The band returned in 1968 with a pair of albums, Aladdin and Peace. The former was the group's proper sophomore effort, and it found Riperton assuming a more prominent vocal role than the "background instrument" status she had on the debut. The latter was a Christmas release, with strong pervasive messages of love and understanding for a nation in the grips of Vietnam. The album's cover art of a hippie Santa Claus more than makes its intentions known. Peace is notable for being involved in controversy: an anti-war cartoon in a December 1968 edition of Billboard magazine featured a graphic image of a bruised and bloodied Santa on a Vietnam battlefield. Mistaking this cartoon for the album's cover art, Montgomery Ward cancelled all shipments of the album.

Rotary Connection would release three more albums: Songs, in 1969, a collection of drastic reworkings of other artist's songs, including Otis Redding's Respect and The Band's The Weight; Dinner Music in 1970, in which they added elements of folk and country into the mix along with some electronic experimentation, and; Hey Love in 1971, where the band, oddly credited as the New Rotary Connection, ended its career with a jazz-oriented affair. From this particular album came the uplifting I am the Black Gold of the Sun, which was famously covered in 1997 by underground dance outfit Nuyorican Soul.

After the break-up of the band, Stepney served as a producer and arranger for other artists, most notably the soul outfit Earth, Wind, & Fire. He died in 1976 of a heart attack. Minnie Riperton enjoyed the fruits of a successful solo career until breast cancer ended her life in 1979. Sidney Barnes continues to work a singer and songwriter, and in recent years has gained a following in the U.K. The other remaining members of the band either attempted other, lower-profile, musical endeavours or divorced themselves entirely of the business. Thanks to reissues of their catalog in the late 1990s and the appropriation of material through sampling within the hip-hop community, Rotary Connection has been formally introduced to a new generation.

The Rotary Connection - Hey Love (1971). Get it here.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Such A Night!

Last summer a friend of mine invited me to attend a concert by Dr. John (Malcolm 'Mac' John Rebennack Jr.) at the Blue Note Festival in my hometown of Ghent. It was a night to remember...

It was great to see the legendary New Orleans blues/jazz artist perform live. At the age of 66 he seemed a bit tired and down, still shaken by the mayhem reaped by hurricane Katrina in his hometown New Orleans a year earlier. His hopefulness in times of despair gave the performance an extra dimension: the city of New Orleans would fight back and rise above the devastation, Dr. John claimed.

After Dr. John, Randy Newman performed a humorous concert. Such a night!

A friend at the PNF forum posted a link to 'Such A Night - Live in London' by Dr. John. Check it out here.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A cure for the blues and other short stories...

Some interesting new releases have been brought to my attention. I fell in love with that old Motown sound all over again, discovered one of the most highly acclaimed electronica releases of the past months and... some nice indie too.

Amy Winehouse - Back To Black (2006 - soul)
Winehouse's single 'Rehab' currently airs on every radio station in the land. It's one of the great collection of songs on the album 'Back to Black'.
The album owes a great deal to the Motown sound of the 60's. In fact, it really sounds as if it was produced during that era. 'Back to Black' has got all the right ingredients for that: a hint of Phil Spector in the production and the arrangements and heartfelt vocals that remind us of legendary vocalists like Etta James, Shirley Bassey and Billie Holliday. An impressing effort indeed, especially compared to het debut album 'Frank' (2003), which was a bit too much on the contemporary R&B side for my taste.
Back to black, that's vintage soul from 2006. A cure for the blues.

The Knife - Silent Shout (2006 - synth pop)
This one has been an office favourite for quite a while now. The Knife is an enigmatic Swedish duo (brother and sister) that produces electro-pop with heavy eastern and tribal (dare I say folk) influences. The vocals are very prominent: Karin Dreijer Andersson's voice sounds a lot like Bjork's.

The Good, The Bad and The Queen (2007 - indie)
Blur and Gorillaz member Damon Albarn's
new project balances between indie rock and electronic music. The album produced by Danger Mouse is surprisingly diverse. Some of the stuff reminded me of Blur and The Beatles, while the single 'Herculaneum' - my personal favourite - seems to be influenced by the music of Air and Lemon Jelly. Although some of the accoustic songs seem a bit out of place on this album (well, that's just my opinion), it still comes highly recommended!