Thursday, 19 February 2015

Forgotten musical experiences

Our children may never know the connection
The single/EP
Remember sifting through the new single releases - or even delving into the really old ones for recently-discovered artists - and scouring through the variety of mixes on offer?  Obviously, the mixes still exist - well, nowadays there are a few hundred more for every song than there used to be - and at least there's less of a gamble involved now.  You could pick up a single with 4 remixes on the CD (including instrumental and acapella, oh yes!) only to spend your £3.99 and get home for them all to sound awful.  Even the vast amount of EPs only exist as online compilations nowadays and fairly rare to find as hardcopy purchases anymore (which unfortunately does make more sense).

The mixtape
There was a time when creating a mixtape was one of the most affectionate and intimate things a guy could do for a girl.  The picking of the perfect selection, the arrangement, and the fact that you HAD to sit there while each song played in its entirety, all meant something.  Nowadays, she just sits at the PC, clicking and dragging what she wants for her MP3 player - no fancy mixtape titles, no personalised enscrawled message or doodles on the inlay card... Now, fellas have to start visiting perfume shops again for gifts!

Music shows
Not just the specialist music shows like Yo MTV Raps but also the ones like Ozone and Top of the Pops - regular Thursday night programming completely out of the window.  Remember watching MTV or VH1 for hours and hours with the hopes of catching the Michael Jackson video you've only seen the last 30 seconds of but every one at school has been talking about for days?!
Special mention to those who made a point to stay in recording their favourite songs from Capital Radio or Radio 1's Top 40 countdown on a Sunday afternoon - thinking about it, that was probably the unsung beginnings of music piracy (oo-er!).

Categorising your music
Still a fetish for music fans - even in the electronic age - but the age-old technique of how you, as a music fan and enthusiast, categorise your music collections seems to be a diminishing one: alphabetically? by genre? be record label? by year?  This is one of the cool updates for electronic devices as you're free to indulge those petty bugbears by tagging genres (or creating your own?), composers, etc.

Hidden tracks
Another casualty of the MP3, but remember how your mind would be blown by those additional seconds of silence at a song's completion only to reveal another song with the same track number?  "What's this!?  There's no mention of this hidden song on the inlay card - it's as though it doesn't exist!?"  Although it still does happen, it's a completely irrelevant and unnecessary practice, particularly if you digitise your music and can see the song length at the outset.
The Beatles' track 'Her Majesty' off the original pressings of their 1969 album, 'Abbey Road', is considered the first hidden track in recording history - A vinyl record may be double-grooved, with the second groove containing the hidden tracks.  Placing the song as uncredited after a song is the most popular method of hiding a track on a CD, but there are also countless instances of albums containing a song in the pregap - meaning that the CD would need to be manually rewound to actually be able to hear it.  Even digitising the CD won't reveal the track.  Just think, how many CDs you may currently own that have had tracks you never knew existed!?

Music shops
Although music stores still exist, they are significantly harder to come by nowadays.  Oh the bliss of rifling through music stores for new releases, and even in the larger HMVs, trying to sift out the CD/artist you were looking for amongst the variety of music genres they were likely to be placed in: Is Prince rock, pop or r&b??!!?  But with the revelation of vinyl sales having increased massively in 2013 and 2014, this may be a tradition we can hold on to for just that little bit more.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

2015 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album: Diane Reeves

Huge "Congratulations!" to Dianne Reeves for scoring the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her excellent release 'Beautiful Life' available on Concord Records. 

I've actually had this album myself for only a couple of months and have been playing songs from it incessantly on our weekly show.  'Beautiful Life' really does boast an all-star cast of vocalists and musicians including the incredible Gregory Porter, Lalah Hathaway, Esperanza Spalding, Raul Midon and Robert Glasper; each tackling a number of cover versions including Marvin Gaye's 'I Want You', Bob Marley's 'Waiting in Vain' and Fleetwood Mac's 'Dreams'. 

It's an excellent release and we're thrilled for the album's success, but also thrilled for the other albums named within that category: Rene Marie's remarkable release on Motema Records, 'I Wanna Be Evil', has long been a standout for us as well - Marie's tribute to her hero Eartha Kitt features a number of great songs, probably none better than the album's infectious and vibrant title track which definitely deserves your attention.

To toast Dianne Reeves's success though, let's leave you with the aforementioned 'Dreams' featuring Robert Glasper...

Friday, 30 January 2015

'Yesterday I Had The Blues' by Jose James [album preview]

The tireless workhorse that is Jose James wastes no time with following up on his 2014 album release, 'While You Were Sleeping' with his third release for Blue Note records - 'Yesterday I Had The Blues', his musical tribute to iconic jazz vocalist, Billie Holiday.

Always seeming to enjoy keeping listeners on their toes, James follows the unpredicatble genre-fusing album of last year with a release that aims to take things right back to the purists who fell in love with his debut album release 'The Dreamer' - much like he did in 2010 when he followed the hip-hop and electronic-sounding album of 'Black Magic' with his collaborative jazz classics project with Jef Neve, 'For All We Know'.

The release is due out 31st March State-side and features an incredible band, including Jason Moran on piano, Eric Harland on drums, and John Patitucci on bass.  The complete tracklist has also been released along with - what's a real treat - a 5-minute album preview with words from James himself, and album producer, Don Was:

1. Good Morning Heartache
2. Body and Soul
3. Fine and Mellow
4. I Thought About You
5. What a Little Moonlight Can Do
6. Tenderly
7. Lover Man
8. God Bless the Child
9. Strange Fruit

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Baker Brothers: "Testify!" [Interview]

For soul music fans, we seem to be within the midst of a glorious renaissance where new soul and funk bands are far from a rarity with new names springing up at every turn, and although it gives us tremendous pride to be a place to feature brand new acts like Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos and The Liberators, it’s also massively encouraging and exciting that we’re able to meet an excellent UK band who are on their … get ready … SEVENTH album.

With a career spanning ten years, it’s an incredible feat that Bournemouth’s Baker Brothers have been bubbling away all this time with a loyal following in tow. 

‘Time to Testify’ is a worthy – for lack of a better term – testament(!) to the years these soul veterans have put in and the record oozes of their professionalism and sheer skill.  More than anything, this record portrays The Baker Brothers as a band with a clear identity and a unique take on the genre, completely devoid of the tiny foibles, although not pitfalls, that some funk bands can fall into.  We have a lead singer (Christopher Pedley) who’s unique and confident enough to steer clear of the James Brown-esque parodies or vocal techniques he’s famed for, the music isn’t drowning in heavy and over-used horns and pounding through at 100mph – all the elements are masterfully pulled together here resulting in more groove-led music, and we’re presented with a wonderfully accessible record that would cement the affections of a casual fan and certainly that of a die-hard one as well.

‘Time to Testify’ feels like how a new record should.  Songs like ‘The Bottom Rung’, ‘Patience’, ‘Snap Back’ and ‘Once I Had A Friend’ all capture its freshness, it’s vibrancy and inevitable heavy replay value.  Should this be someone’s first Baker Brothers release, I can’t imagine them hearing this and not wanting to immerse themselves in the band’s back catalogue as well.

It’s a huge coup for Liberation Frequency that Christopher Pedley (bass player, producer and vocalist for the band) took the time out to chat with us about the new record...

IMRAN MIRZA: Seven albums in 10 years is an incredible achievement – do you still feel the pressure of releasing new material?
CHRIS PEDLEY: We feel personal pressure to create new music on a regular basis. Writing is the most important and exciting part in the process of making an album, consequently it’s something that we make time for. It is important to practice whatever your passion regularly. We tend not to think too much about what we write – we want to be natural and honest. This is often the downfall of many artists trying to be ‘like this’ or ‘like that’, we endeavour to just sound like ‘The Baker Brothers’.

Can you tell us about what went into the making of ‘Time to Testify’?
‘Once I Had A Friend’ was the first tune recorded for the album, early in 2010, followed by the single ‘Patience’ and ‘The Young Patter’ recorded in autumn 2010. Rich Baker (the original drummer) decided to leave the band on January 1st 2011 following the birth of his third baby boy and family commitments.  The rest of the band wanted to continue so Ted Carrasco stepped up to play drums and finish the recording of ‘Time To Testify’. The guitar player, Geoff Lai, and I got some song ideas down in November/December 2010. Other band members brought various offerings to the table, i.e. Paul Young’s ‘Head South’ and ‘The Bottom Rung’. January 2011, we rehearsed lots of new material and had a 4 day session in mid February to get it all down. We wanted to be impulsive and instinctive and follow the buzz of ideas that everyone threw into the pot.  We picked a great studio with a rock solid engineer who had a strong vision for our sound, and then we went for it.

How does the new release hold up to your previous efforts?
We feel proud to have represented ourselves honestly with where we are at right now. As a band we have been through many twists and turns over recent years and feel glad to now be in a stable position to write, record and create with a collective vision. As I consider those things, I believe in many ways that ‘Time to Testify’ surpasses anything we have ever released, it is our most consistent and potent work to date!

How would you say the creative process in writing, producing and recording new music usually work for you?
Jamming is a big part of our creative process, refining ideas, trying different approaches to ideas, pulling apart and then rebuilding. When we have the tunes written, we rehearse till we feel they are ready to record. Production-wise we look carefully at our studio options and consider what sound will suit us best at that time. 

Do you think funk bands and artists in the UK get the credit they deserve?
The music business is pretty tough, I feel happy and hopeful when I hear about the success of any funk or soul band! It obviously brings pleasure to hear praise but at the end of the day we have to make music because we love it. 

Who would you love to have grace a stage, or appear on an album, with The Baker Brothers? 
I would love to hear what Quincy Jones or Questlove could do with The Baker Brothers!

You're famed for having performed all over the world – how do audiences differ, and apart from London, where's been a particular highlight?
Firstly, you never know how things are going to turn out. You could be in an empty warehouse at 10pm and then step out again an hour later and it be rammed with people.   In August 2011 we played the beach stage at the Sunset Festival in Fukuoka in south Japan to around 4000 people. It had been raining most of the afternoon and we were on at 5pm before Soil and Pimp finished off the festival that night. When we came on stage the sun came out and there was a rainbow over the festival, the crowd went nuts.

If you were introducing your music to a prospective new fan, which song from your catalogue would you recommend they listen to that best sums up the group? 
I would recommend they listen to ‘Snap Back’ from ‘Time to Testify’ (our latest album) as this song has all the main ingredients of The Baker Brothers: killer horns, riffs and rhythms. 

What’s been a career highlight for The Baker Brothers?
Making it through 10 years of releasing music and still wanting to make more is a highlight for me. I feel privileged and lucky to be part of a positive, creative partnership, and that is the bottom line! The band have become like a family and when we write together it feels like a safe environment. Every day has its challenges but this year past we have a new found momentum and I hope it lasts another 10 years. Thanks to you for your support.

Friday, 9 January 2015

My Funky (In)Disposition Make Believe MashUP Series [No.06]

This is a pairing that will either take people by surprise and not make a whole lot of sense initially, or you’ll totally hear what I’m hearing and would get really excited at the prospect of a Raphael Saadiq-produced Lenny Kravitz album.

Let’s establish each of our candidates’ credential firstly: Lenny Kravitz – certainly no introduction would be necessary though – iconic rock performer, producer, writer, multi-instrumentalist whose first album was released in 1989 and since that time has released ten studio albums, not including his work for other artists which would list collaborations with Cree Summer (for her incredible and slept on album, ‘Street Fairie’) and Madonna, having produced her hit ‘Justify My Love’.  Lenny Kravitz has long been established as one of rock’s premier artists but the world of R&B, soul, funk and hip-hop certainly isn’t something that’s alien to him or his music, already with a list of collaborations that include Mary J Blige, Jay-Z, P Diddy, The Neptunes and Swizz Beats, amongst others.  In fact, Kravitz’s 2011 album ‘Black and White America’ is very much the reason for me selecting Kravitz for this series as this album has since been considered his long-talked about ‘funk’ album, but, for me, despite the excellent title-track, I don’t think the album hit the funk and soul heights that I had been expecting.  It’s never really been Kravitz’s M.O. though so I won’t hold it against him, but it has consistently made me think of who could be the absolute best person to bring a more soul-fused approach out in his music and the best person I could possibly think of to do that… is Raphael Saadiq.

Here’s another name that should require little introduction: one of the most consistent, established and incredible producers within R&B and contemporary soul music is Raphael Saadiq.  The Tony Toni Tone’ and Lucy Pearl alumni, despite having a career with the Tony’s since 1988, only branched out as a solo artist in 2002 with his well-received debut album, ‘Instant Vintage’ and has since followed that up with a further three studio albums.  But Raphael Saadiq’s brand and reputation is also equally built upon his work for other artists including ‘Lady’ and ‘How Does It Feel’ for D’Angelo, ‘Soul Sister’ for Bilal and further production for R&B and soul acts including The Isley Brothers, Kenny Lattimore, Kelis, Total, Anthony Hamilton, Angie Stone, Jill Scott among countless others.  (Raphael Saadiq’s amazing production talents have in fact been highlighted twice within our ‘GetToKnow… The Producer’ series which you can check out here.)

Could it happen?
Well, out of all the MashUPs we’ve created, this one I’d say has the best chance of actually coming to fruition.  Sort of.  Lenny Kravitz, although he has recruited outside collaborative writers and producers for his music, has never really relinquished complete control of his music, and, in fairness, it would probably work better for them to collaborate together then for one person to completely steer the project on their own.  There is something of a common denominator between both factions that makes this that much closer a possibility, and that’s Trombone Shorty.  Horn player and vocalist, Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews, has been a part of Lenny Kravitz’s touring and studio entourage as far back as 2005 and has even cited him as his mentor – in the time since Shorty has gone on to distinguish himself as a named artist in his own right chalking up several solo studio albums on Verve Records with his most recent 2013 effort produced by – can you guess who…? – Raphael Saadiq.  The ‘Say That To Say This’ album featured this Kravitz-esque guitar-heavy sound merged with funky New Orleans soul making for a blissful listen, and it serves as the perfect example of what a Lenny Kravitz/Raphael Saadiq collaborative album could sound like.

For our exhibits, we’ll opt for a couple of fairly obvious choices: Exhibit A is Lenny Kravitz’s funk-filled ‘Black and White America’ with the added bonus of Trombone Shorty on trombone)…

And Exhibit B will take a slice of Trombone Shorty’s ‘Say That To Say This’ record and the Saadiq-produced ‘Long Weekend’…

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

What I'm listening to...

'GoGo Soul' by The Rongetz Foundation featuring Gregory Porter
Headed up by Stephane Ronget, The Rongetz Foundation's 'Brooklyn Butterfly Session' is a new discovery for me and it's packed with jazzy awesomeness.  'BBS' features Gregory Porter's vocals on two tracks plus Renee Neufvillle on another - it was very difficult to pick a standout from this album but figure I'd introduce you to 'GoGo Soul' with the always excellent Gregory Porter...

'Maz' by Richard Spaven featuring Jose James
As my '2014 honourable mentions' post indicated, I'm thoroughly immersed within music by Richard Spaven currently so here's a number from his 2010 EP release 'Spavens 5ive' featuring his long-term 'match-made-in-heaven' collaborator, Jose James, on vocals...

'Red Balloon' by Gizmo
This is just awesome!  Really, this song is me to a tee!  Recently discovered musicby producer, bassist, vocalist Gizmo who seems to have a healthy dose of music floating around.  There the 2012 album 'Red Balloon' (where this song comes from), a 2013 EP 'The Middle' and new material recently surafcing on his SoundCloud page so there's plenty to catch up with.  Here's the title-track from said 2012 album release which- as I say - is brilliant!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Podcast #8: 'Get to Know...' Robert Glasper

Episode 8 of our 'Get to Know the Producer' series brings us to Grammy-winning Blue Note pianist/musician/producer, Robert Glasper. We've dug deep to present a number of great tunes featuring his expert piano and keyboard playing and hope you enjoy the selection.

Below is the tracklist for your listening and downloading pleasure:
'Life is Better' - Q-Tip f/t Norah Jones
'Slim and Juicy' - Chris Dave f/t Sy Smith
'Vanguard' - Jose James
'Now I Know' - Brandon Williams f/t Robert Glasper & Jesse Boykins
'In A Dream' (Remix) - Gretchen Parlato
'Letter to Hermione' (Robert Glasper Remix) - Robert Glasper Experiment f/t Black Milk
'When Will You Call' - Bilal
'Already There' - Taylor McFerrin f/t Robert Glasper & Thundercat
'Get Lucky' (Daft Punk cover, live) - Robert Glasper Experiment
'A Love Supreme' - Robert Glasper Experiment