Monday, 1 September 2014

Monday Funday Post: 'Girl 2.0'

While my anticipation for Pharrell's 'Girl' album was immeasurably high, I have to confess that in complete honesty... the end result didn't really move me as I hoped it would.  I'm a humungous Pharrell and Chad fan (as other posts here prove) so ultimately, I'm thrilled for the huge resurgence in his star and popularity - it's also compounded with the amazing work he's actually done for other artists too so my current musical fantasy is for a Pharrell album with his vocals on the songs he produced for others.

Can you imagine what that version of 'Girl' would sound like?  Well, below is my fantasy playlist for 'Girl' featuring my favourites from 'Girl' as it was initially released...

(1) Brand New (f/t Justin Timberlake)

(2) Happy

(3) Know Who You Are (f/t Alicia Keys)

(4) Gust of Wind

(5) Blurred Lines
 Originally performed by Robin Thicke featuring TII imagine little needs to be said about this number - this is what made Pharrell an in-demand producer again and although he does include this song amongst his current live set-list, a studio version would be amazing.

(6) Get Lucky
Originally performed by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell on lead vocals with Nile Rodgers on guitar.  The song served as one of two vocal contributions Pharrell made to Daft Punk's 'Random Access Memories' album and catapulted Pharrell back into front-man limelight.

(7) Scream
 Originally performed by Cee Lo for a song that appears on the 'Dispicable Me 2' soundtrack.  Recent reports state that Cee Lo's camp turned down 'Happy' so I imagine they did so for this song instead.

(8) Reach Out Richard
 Originally performed by Mayer Hawthorne for his album 'Where Does This Door Go'.  I actually named this one as my song of the year last year - it serves as one of four songs Pharrell contributed to Mayer Hawthorne's album.
 (9) Wine Glass Woman
 Also originally performed by Mayer Hawthorne for his album 'Where Does This Door Go'.

(10) Love is the Answer
 Originally performed by Aloe Blacc for his album 'Lift Your Spirit'.

 (11) Can't Rely On You
 Originally performed by Paloma Faith for her album 'A Perfect Contradiction'.  Definitely an unlikely union, but that's what's great about Pharrell.  The funky guitar sounds like a James Brown riff and could have made a great addition to 'Girl 2.0' (I may need to copyright this title quick-smart!).

 (12) See That Boy Again
 Originally performed by Mary J Blige, featuring Pharrell, for the 'Think Like A Man Too' soundtrack.

(13) My Life
Originally performed by Robin Thicke for the 'Dispicable Me' soundtrack.

Friday, 29 August 2014

What I'm listening to...

'And So We Dance' - Kellylee Evans
Stumbled on to this gem online and bought the album it comes from, 'I Remember When', the next day.  Turns out this is from Evans's fourth album so I clearly have some catching up to do, but if the catalogue is anything like this, I imagine I'll have fun doing so...

'I Want You To Stay' - The New Mastersounds
Taken from the band's ninth studio album, 'Therapy' (released on Legere Recordings this year), this excellent number, featuring vocals by Kim Dawson, has been getting lots of plays on the show and is the standout song from a brilliant album.

'All The Critics Love You in New York' - 4St
How awesome is this?!  There's a bunch of songs I could have linked to from this SoundCloud page, and I'm sure I will do on separate occassions but, for now, I'll leave you with this fairly incredible version of Prince's classic 1980s number.  As I say, 4St's SoundCloud page has some amazing gems so please feel free to explore it...

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

'Free Souls' by Nicola Conte [album review]

I’m considering starting an online petition for a new Nicola Conte album every summer – who’s with me?  The Italian, bossa nova and jazz icon makes music that’s just beautifully befitting of warm sunshine and smiley faces, and he paints everyone’s favourite season the best backdrop they could hope for.

…And he’s done it again with ‘Free Souls’ which is brand new from his label Schema Records.  The guitarist and producer holds the unique distinction with his previous album, ‘Love and Revolution’, having been named our ‘album of the year’ for 2011, which really isn’t a title we band around – it’s actually quite a big deal: this blog’s accompanying radio show shares a month-long buildup to unveiling the annual winner, there’s a top 5 list, etc.  Trust me, it’s a hotly contested thing even if no one knows about it :)

Each Nicola Conte album, while glorious in its celebration of bossa nova, can often feature subtle leniencies towards different genres: ‘Other Directions’ was heavy on the jazz; ‘Love and Revolution’ leant itself wonderfully to 70s soul, and ‘Free Souls’ seems to intriguingly dabble with blues.  Songs like ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ and ‘Ahmad’s Blues’ are great examples of this and further demonstrate the producer’s versatility.

Conte’s ear for singers – as always – is impeccable with previous contributions from Gregory Porter, Melanie Charles, Jose James, Nailah Porter and Kim Sanders.  While always exciting to see Jose James and Melanie Charles return for vocal duties, the inclusion of Bridgette Amofah, who appears on three songs, marks her out as another voice to pay keen attention to, as we’ve previously discussed on this site.

It would appear that for fellow Londoners, the summer is now long gone but ‘Free Souls’ can definitely go a long way in keeping the sun’s glow beaming that little bit longer.  Anyway, fear not though – if my petition works out, we’ll have another one from Nicola Conte by about May 2015.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Blue-in-Green Podcast#7: GetToKnow_Raphael Saadiq(pt2)

I think it's somewhat fair to open with the words... "Due to popular demand" when introducing you all to Episode 7 of our 'get to know the producer' series, once again featuring the brilliance of Raphael Saadiq.

I've happily caved to pressure and brought Part 2 of the soul scientist's great work a lot sooner than initially planned and I think it's safe to say, it's been massively well-received so thank you to all who have taken the time to check it out and will potentially do so from reading this.

Our list of producers and musicians that I'm aiming to cover is still a long one and includes Eric Krasno (from Soulive), Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Babyface, Pino Palladino, Casey Benjamin, Lack of Afro and Maceo Parker among others.  I'll be providing a slight interruption of this series at some point over the next 2 weeks with my very first jazz mix which I'm excited to let rip.  99% finalised the tracklist of gems so fingers crossed the end-resuly sounds as good as it currently does in my head :)

Please feel free to visit the Soundcloud page for this and the previous episodes (which include Jack Splash, Thomas Brenneck, James Poyser, Prince and Questlove).

'Brotha' - Angie Stone
'Harvest for the World (Raphael Saadiq Remix) - The Isley Brothers
'Long Weekend' - Trombone Shorty
'Aint Nobody Worryin' - Anthony Hamilton
'My Life' - Adrian Marcel
'She's Got the Love' - Calvin Richardson
'Show Me' - John Legend
'What They Do' - The Roots featuring Raphael Saadiq
'Broken Heart' - Booker T featuring Jay James

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

What I'm listening to...

Well, I kinda enjoyed putting the last list of ‘what I’ve been listening to’ together so I thought I’d make this a somewhat more regular thing.  So in what will now become a time-honored tradition, here’s a quick playlist of a few recent discoveries:

‘Be Free’ [Jazzy Jeff & James Poyser Remix] - Moonchild
I stumbled onto this one by complete accident and while I’m completely unfamiliar with who Moonchild were before (I’ve since discovered they’re an LA-based horn trio with two albums to their name so I hope to explore further soon) – the production combination of James Poyser and DJ Jazzy Jeff is something only a fool could ignore.  Needless to say, the end-result is excellent and here it is…

‘What It Takes’ - Bridgette Amofah
Bridgette Amofah was one of the standout names on Nicola Conte’s new album, ‘Free Souls’, and to my excitement, she has a double A-side out from 2008 pairing ‘What It Takes’ with ‘Not Your Style’ along with a good bunch of guest spots on other projects available too.  Fingers crossed we’re treated to a lot more from Bridgette really soon!

‘Come To Me’ – Apple Juice Kid featuring Yahzarah & Raheem DeVaughn
Another song I’m a little late in getting my hands on… Apple Juice Kid superbly (and bravely I might add) remixed a collection of Miles Davis records and thoughtfully gave the whole project away for free, which you can download from SoundCloud.  Anyway, this absolute gem provided the only vocal track and expertly incorporates Davis’s trumpet and Bill Evans’ piano.

Monday, 18 August 2014

'While You Were Sleeping' by Jose James [album review]

Following up on his Blue Note debut early last year, ‘No Beginning No End’, Jose James takes a bold stab at capitalizing upon that album’s success with his follow-up release, ‘While You Were Sleeping’.  While that album introduced an element of neo-soul into the mix, notable on the album’s first half, as well as continuing his tradition of 21st century jazz, ‘While You Were Sleeping’ knocked everyone for a loop with a completely new sound, one that showcased his affection for musicians and bands like Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and Radiohead.  In many ways, these are artists that sound a world away from the Jose James we were first introduced to through 2008’s ‘The Dreamer’.  (If people were surprised by James’ change of tactics in 2010’s ‘Black Magic’, then this will redefine that emotion.)

‘No Beginning No End’ was notable for its extensive list of collaborators including Amp Fiddler, Chris Dave, Pino Palladino, Robert Glasper, Emily King, etc, but on this go round, the music has been kept almost entirely amongst his own band which consist of Solomon Dorsey (bass), Richard Spaven (drums), Takuya Kuroda (trumpet) and Kris Bowers (keys).  ‘Team Jose James’ has already had an excellent year with the release of Kris Bowers’ debut album ‘Heroes + Misfits’ and Takuya Kuroda’s ‘Rising Sun’ (the latter of which was produced by Jose James), but the band has also now made room for its new guitarist, Brad Allen Williams, who helps the collective in capturing the right feel for their new direction. 

Fans were introduced to the band’s new ‘direction’ via the album’s lead single ‘EveryLittle Thing’ (somewhat reminiscent of James’s previous collaboration with Basement Jaxx, ‘Gimme Something Real’) which in honesty may not have been the best single choice to woo fans.  When listening to the album as a whole, the song flows almost seamlessly amidst the other songs, but as a first-song introduction, I have to confess my jaw hit the table when I first heard it.  ‘Angel’ sets the album’s tone perfectly, the title track is dreamily-romantically brilliant; ‘Anywhere You Go’ and ‘Without U’ exemplify the energy and proficiency of a masterful team; Becca Stevens provides a beautiful guest vocal spot on ‘Dragon’ (I implore people to check out her vocal contribution to Ambrose Akinmusire’s ‘Our Basement’ from earlier this year too!), and Takuya Kuroda earns himself a ‘featuring’ spot on the album’s closing Al Green cover, ‘Simply Beautiful’, which is very much the album’s high point.

Does it all work though?  Ultimately, Jose James is an artist that needs your trust – if you trust in him, you couldn’t possibly be disappointed because he knows exactly what he’s trying to achieve, and the fact that he consistently accomplishes it with ease is testament to his overall skill and ability.  I saw Jose James (and this very band) perform last year and I actually would’ve thought a shift towards the style of traditional soul stylings of artists like Bill Withers and Al Green (of which James is an open fan of, even going as far as working in covers of each into his set) is where they were likely to go with this release, as exemplified by ‘Simply Beautiful’.  ‘While You Were Sleeping’ is genuinely an excellent piece of music from start to finish and I hope people will give it the chance it deserves.  Never to be accused of having made the same album twice, all I can leave you with is to wonder… what will he do next?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

'The Brazil Connection' by Studio Rio [album review]

Stumbled on to this one through the Studio Rio take on Aretha Franklin’s ‘Walk On By’ – and what a gem that is!

Hailed by the Berman Brothers (Frank and Christian) who packed up and headed over to Rio assembling a dream team of musicians established within Brazilian bossa nova.  Being fortunate enough to recruit names including Marcos Valle and Roberto Menescali, twelve soul classics are revisited here and reimagined in a completely unique context – some of the songs have such a perfect end-result, you almost have to remind yourself that the vocals in some cases over 50 years ago.

As well as the aforementioned ‘Walk On By’, Dave Brubeck and Carmen McRae’s ‘Take 5’ finds itself a perfect backdrop amongst the Studio Rio musicians, as does Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and Bill Withers.  An impassioned and sentimental producers’ notes section in the inlay booklet – prepared by the Berman Brothers themselves – describes more intricate details of how the project came together along with stories of the recording sessions, which is really worth a read.  It also discloses that 20 songs were recorded in total so hopefully the remainder can see the light of day some time.

The project is reminiscent of Buena Vista Social Club’s ‘Rhythms del Mundo’ project in 2006 which saw the legendary musicians pairing themselves with existing material by Kaiser Chiefs, U2, Coldplay and Faithless.  As enjoyable an album as that was though, there was little for specifically soul music fans to embrace – quite the opposite in this case!

While you peruse the complete tracklist below, let me leave you with Studio Rio and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Walk On By’ for your listening pleasure…

1. Bill Withers with Studio Rio - 'Lovely Day'
2. Aretha Franklin with Studio Rio - 'Walk On By'
3. Marvin Gaye with Studio Rio - 'Sexual Healing'
4. Billie Holiday with Studio Rio - 'You've Changed'
5. Sly & The Family Stone with Studio Rio - 'Family Affair'
6. The Isley Brothers with Studio Rio - 'It's Your Thing'
7. Mel Torme with Studio Rio - 'I've Got You Under My Skin'
8. Nina Simone with Studio Rio – 'I Wish I Knew What It Means To Be Free'
9. Johnny Nash with Studio Rio - 'I Can See Clearly Now'
10. Dave Brubeck with Carmen McRae with Studio Rio - 'Take 5'
11. Andy Williams with Studio Rio - 'Music To Watch Girls By'
12. Sarah Vaughan with Studio Rio – 'Summertime'