Dennis and Bob. Bob and Dennis. Two of Jamaican music’s finest and most beloved artistes. Legends both. Bob, the songwriter, international star and soul rebel supreme; Dennis, the voice, the Crown Prince, your favourite reggae singer’s favourite singer. I can’t imagine my life without them. And neither should you. And it’s February. And Dennis was born in February. And so was Bob….
Maybe it’s the Jamaican in me but I’m not the biggest calypso or soca fan; I’d be hard pressed to tell you the last time I made a point of listening to soca on my iPod for example. But there are certain calypsos or soca tunes that I just find irresistable–Lord Kitchener’s Sugar Bum comes to mind–and I take great joy in attending Caribbean weddings; once the DJ begins spinning the sweet, sweet soca it takes some doing to drag me from the dance floor.
So to celebrate Trinidad’s 50 years of independence I thought I ‘d bring out my dancing shoes and share not one, but two of my favorite soca tunes courtesy of David Rudder, one of the twin islands’ favourite sons. The tunes in question? Gotta be ‘High Mas‘ and ‘Trini To The Bone‘. Listen, if ‘High Mas‘ doesn’t make you raise your hand, and if ‘Trini To The Bone‘ doesn’t make you long for the comforts and joys of home, wherever that “home” may be, then I’m pretty sure you’re soulless.
Anyway, Happy Independence Day Trinidad & Tobago! I’m raising a glass of Angostura 1919 in your honour. Cheers.
Ask the average person if they know Freddie Scott’s music and your likely to be met with shrugs and blank stares. But trust me, everybody knows Freddie Scott. If you’ve ever drunkenly sung along with Biz Markie’s ‘Just A Friend‘ or if you’re a hip-hop head who swears that Ghostace Killah is the man, then you’ve probably nodded your head to ‘Save Me Dear‘; both of which sample ‘You Got What I Need’, as classic a slice of soul music as I’ve ever heard.
Anyway, it’s Sunday, it’s as hot as Hades and I recommend whipping up a refreshing cocktail to help make it through the day. A little Freddie Scott couldn’t hurt either.
Here’s the latest episode of Bass Kultcha via Studiofeed. urbansteve and I celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence with a diverse musical mix representing a slice of past, present and future sounds of Jamaican culture. Peace. And love
I recently spent 17 days in Jamaica. How was it you ask? Well, it was the perfect holiday. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Spent some time with family and toured the island with friends. Hit beaches in Montego Bay, Negril and Port Antonio. Had fruit so fresh and so sweet that I’m not sure I can buy fruit from my grocer anymore. Ate more ackee & salt fish, breadfruit, festival and fried dumplings than necessary. Drank more beer in 17 days than I usually drink in a year (The LCBO needs to start stocking Red Stripe Light). Laughed so hard with my friends I thought my sides were going to split. Biked for the first time in over 15 years….and did so on a Blue Mountain bike tour. Splashed around in the YS Falls. Took the Appleton Estate Rum Tour. Twice. And brought back lots of rum. I can’t wait to tell you guys all about the rums so check back in soon. In the meantime, enjoy the following clip. Popcaan, the hottest artiste in Jamaica right now, has tune after tune that sticks to my ribs. I love how he rides a riddim. And I love his lyrics. Especially on this tune….
On my way home. Or back to Toronto. Whichever.
Yes folks, I’m still on the move. Wondering where I am? Well, I’ll let General Trees fill you in……
Jamaica, and my memories of Jamaica inspired the very first post on this blog. Well, I’m heading there once more and felt like sharing this (ch)tune with you all. Walk good people.
Chune! Yes, we’re back again….
Kevin Reigh and urbansteve return for the fourth episode of the Bass Kultcha show, on StudioFeed Radio. This episode is filled with a blend of dancehall, spacey dub, future bass, and “a few odds and ends”. Kicking the set off with the trippy Sun Araw and punctuating things with their agreed upon big tune of the mix by Up, Bustle and Out, The Bass Kultcha duo guide us through what is arguably their best episode yet. Oh ya, all this and a special reggae tinged tribute to their favourite Beastie, the late legendary MCA.
Check out this wicked cerebral and tripped out episode of Bass Kultcha in the video below, or download the free mp3 audio podcast from the SoundCloud player. Track list after the jump. Enjoy.…
Folks, a year has ended and a new one is beginning. Really, I have nothing more profound to say than that. Let’s just hope your coming days are filled with good times, good laughs and good people. And good rum. And good music. Speaking of which, enjoy the following video clip and may the new year bring you sun-shiny days….
Every once in a while I come across a song that fully and completely articulates things I’ve been thinking or feeling. Sizzla Kalonji’s ‘Thank You Mama’ is one of those songs. If you’re a man and if you love your mother, you can’t possibly hear this song and not be moved. Unless of course you actually are a real life cold hearted son-of-a-bitch. And if that’s the case, well, never mind.
Anyway, it’s my mother’s birthday. So I felt like playing this for her….
……Thank you mama for the nine months you carried me through.
Our pop-cultural landscape is decidedly beige. Vanilla. Nondescript. Nothing is truly dangerous. Our icons assume dangerous poses without actually being threats to the world order, to the orthodoxy, to the conventional. To anything really. Our icons threaten the order of things in the same way that Jean Claude Van Damme poses a threat in Kickboxer or Bloodsport ; only if you suspend belief, play make believe or don’t actually have to fight. It’s pantomimed danger.
And I say “our”, because these are our icons, the ones we crave, create and debate. These are our icons because we don’t demand any more of them. Now I’m not about to suggest that things were better back in the day. I wouldn’t really know if that were the case. Plus it’s too easy to reflect on days gone by and make heroes out of men, make martyrs out of pop singers and make sages out of songwriters. But I do know that I’m not the only one fighting to stifle yawns when so-called cultural critics and commentators talk about the likes of Lil’ Wayne, Lady Gaga or Rihanna with the reverence one usually associates with statesmen, spiritual leaders and social activists.
I was left pondering this crap after enduring a conversation with someone who seriously believes Christina Aguilera and Rihanna are legends. Think about that for a while. Let it marinate. It makes me want to scrub my brain of this conversation. Not erase. Not clean. Scrub. It makes me wonder what the cerebral equivalent of Dettol would be. I decided there was but one antidote: Nina Simone.
There are some songs guaranteed to tear up a party, I mean, seriously mash up a dance. Boogie Down Productions’ ‘The Bridge Is Over’ is one of those songs. It is primal, rhythmic and melodic and never ceases to make me want to…I don’t know what it makes me want to do but it makes me want to do something. And when you hear folks talk about “real hip hop” this is the kind of sh** they’re talking about.
Watching this clip brings me back to my youth, one spent taping videos and re-watching them with friends. The thing I love most about this video? Easy, the energy of the crowd. Their joy, their enthusiasm is palpable and every time I hear this song I feel something. Again, I’m not sure what it is but I feel something. Isn’t that what great art is supposed to do?
I’m going to keep this short but sweet. I was at the Harbourfront Centre a couple weeks back and checked out Rum Chef Paul Yellin’s food demo. How was it you ask? Well, the food was good (I tried Coo -Coo for the first time) and I drank rum. I think that’s a win. Anyway, I know a guy who dates a girl who knows a guy who knows another guy (okay it wasn’t that convoluted but I like how mysterious it sounds) who introduced me to Chef Paul. A small group of us ended up sharing rum later in the evening. The highlight? Probably this:
Yeah, you’re reading that right. Mount Gay Rum. Eclipse Black. 100 proof. Now, it wasn’t good for sipping, but it was magic mixed with a little orange juice and bitters. Unfortunately for me the LCBO doesn’t carry this gem. Anyone heading to Barbados?
Oh, and for your troubles I thought I’d share another gem. If you don’t know Darondo, you’ll want to after checking out this video clip. If you love soul music, you’ll love this tune.
It’s summer. The temperature is rising, the barbecue is on fire and drinks are flowing. Friends you haven’t seen since the Christmas holidays are mingling in the backyard, talking slick, cracking jokes and catching up on old times. Oh yeah, and the music. Summer isn’t officially here without tunes that capture the right good time flavour.
Because I’m fortunate to know someone, who knows someone who knows a guy who met a girl, I happen to possess an advance copy of Amy, Beatface’s soon to be released EP. My verdict? This summer’s soundtrack is about to get better.
Clocking in at a shade less than 28 minutes, length is the only thing Amy is missing. This release has variety, from ‘A Bottle of Wine’, the acoustic tinged opening track to up-tempo floor fillers like ‘Amy’, ‘In Your Bed’ and ‘We Don’t Need to Pretend (whose sound is reminiscent of Phoenix) where slinky synths meet dance-floor beats. I’m a sucker for this sh**. Straight up, this EP is a fun listen.
Take a listen to this clip if you don’t believe me.
‘We Don’t Need To Pretend’ – Beatface
FYI, Beatface is hosting an EP release party on July 11. Fore more info on the band and the release visit Beatface @ www.beatfacemusic.com
Dante Smith p.k.a. Mos Def is the consummate emcee and performer. His lyrics, his flow, his unparalleled rhythmic sensibilities. I won’t call him the greatest emcee ever but there are few (none?) better. I’m not talking record sales here, I’m not talking pop hits, I’m talking sheer artistry. Plus, I like Mos’ sense of style; he is nothing if not his own man. I’m willing to say if you don’t like Mos Def you don’t like Hip Hop. If you don’t like Mos Def you don’t like good music. If you don’t like Mos Def we probably couldn’t hang out. Anyway, enjoy the clip and enjoy the music. Oh, and peep the shoes, I love those shoes.
“You will not be able to stay home brother. You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out”.
I was lying on the couch this past Saturday evening when I heard the news that Gil Scott Heron had passed away. Being a fan of his art I was saddened. I was reflective. I gather many of you held similar thoughts and feelings. But I was also disturbed. Disturbed by the coverage of his death. Not because the coverage was salacious or pandered to our basest instincts. Nor because it was factually incorrect or lacked proper appreciation for his artistry. But I was disturbed by the (relative) lack of coverage, the (relative) lack of column inches, the (relative) lack of attention paid to GSH’s passing.
I spend a good part of my days trying to avoid reading or hearing about which celebrity checked into rehab and which politician was caught with his pants down and which athlete got punked by his wife. Y’know stupid sh**. Meaningless sh**. The crap that passes for news, the crap that takes up column inches and warps people’s perceptions of what really matters. Yet news of Gil Scott Heron’s passing barely made a ripple. I know he was never “mainstream” but godda…
…Let me stop before I start getting too preachy and holier than thou up in here. But I just had to vent.
I could go on and on about GSH’s influence on rap/hip hop. I could discuss the delightfully (in a manner of speaking) incisive and insightful social commentary of his oeuvre. But better writers than I have already done so. Plus if you’ve read this far you probably know all about GSH (if not exit this page or open another browser, Google Gil Scott Heron, get up to speed and check back in).
But what did I expect. Did I expect an artist who once said “…America’s revolution will not be the melting pot but the toilet bowl.”, while asking “who will survive in America?”, who told us “the revolution will not be televised” would be the lead story on news programs across the globe.
I tell you what coverage of Gil Scott Heron’s passing did prove: He was right on and way ahead of his time. Indeed, “there will be no highlights on the 11 o’clock news…the revolution will not be right back after this message…the revolution will not be televised”. Gil Scott Heron, may your soul rest in peace. And may the rest of us who are so inclined insure that you do.
Gil Scott Heron – The Bottle
“I heard in [his voice] a strength my own voice lacked…made me remember that when a lot of women listen to music, they want to feel the power of a real man.”
–Marvin Gaye speaking about David Ruffin
David Ruffin is my kind of singer. Yeah, I know I just used the present tense and I know he died many years ago, but f***, if you can listen to this:
Let Somebody Love Me – David Ruffin
Rainy Night In Georgia – David Ruffin
and not be moved, not feel as if the man is present, then you’re deader than he is. Ya’ dig. As one of the Temptations’ lead voices during their classic era, D-Ruff (can I call him that? Yeah, this is my blog, I think I can) helped crystallize the soul singer blueprint. Emotional? Check. Anguished? Yep. Vulnerable? Absolutely. Authoritative? Yessiree. Authentic? You damn right.
“His voice had a certain glorious anguish that spoke to people on many different levels.”
Go and listen to classic Temptations tunes like ‘Beauty’s Only Skin Deep’, ‘I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)’ and ‘You’re My Everything’ (where Ruffin shares lead duties with Eddie Kendricks and his sweet falsetto) to hear what a soul singer sounds like. Hell, he sang lead on ‘My Girl’ and ‘I Wish It Would Rain’ for christsakes (The latter tune in particular is a personal favourite. When I was a teenager I used to hold a speaker in my lap, rest my head against it while listening to the song, almost like I was trying to get inside of it or something. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say I really like this song).
Anyway, the point is, David Ruffin is a great soul singer (there’s that pesky present tense again). Nowadays, we bandy about the terms underrated and underappreciated way too often when referring to athletes, actors, musicians, singers etc…Well, David Ruffin is truly underrated and underappreciated. And in an era of manufactured and packaged singers/artists, listening to D-Ruff is a revelation. Head to your latest music retailer or look him up on i-Tunes to further your edification.
Okay. I know this track is four or five years old. I know in some circles it has a complex and controversial history. Guess what? I don’t care. We’re all grown ups. You can decide for yourself the legitimacy of this track. What you can’t deny: This track is nice.
Dollar (Let The Dollar Circulate) – Steve Spacek
It’s found its way back into my holiday rotation and has been getting lots of play the past couple of days. Considering the rampant consumption of the holiday season perhaps it is a timely choice (Sidebar. The sales rep. I was dealing with in a store today gave me a big speech about the evils of mindless capitalism/consumerism/consumption. He then punctuated his rant by saying “But that shouldn’t stop you from buying something today. We’ve got some good deals”. I bought a pair of shoes. What can I say, they were more than half-off).
Anyway. Consider it a chance to laugh at or marvel at the awesomeness of Mr. Spacek’s shades. Plus, it’s a good excuse to check out a bit of Billy Paul (of Me and Mrs. Jones fame for those who don’t know).
…you sure do treat me nice.
Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding
This might be my favourite Christmas tune. There are other versions of this song, most of which are okay or good. Some are excellent. But Otis’ version kills. There’s not a wasted note, every instrument and sound is in its rightful place. Otis sings the lyrics as if he wrote them himself (for the record they were written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore) ’cause that’s what great soul singers do. And Otis Redding was a great singer.
When I turned
26, Otis Redding was one of the first folks that sprung into my mind. Why? Well, I was in my early teens when I first really got into his music and the fact that he died at 26 seemed sad, though at 14 or 15, it seemed a lifetime away. Yet it wasn’t until I reached the milestone myself did the scope of his death, the tragedy of it really hit home.
Anyway, just like most of us, as I get older I tend to value each day more and more, value my friends and family more and genuinely appreciate the good things in life. And the holiday season is a time to celebrate the good things. So, enjoy the tune and enjoy your holiday season….
….oh, and Merry Christmas Otis, you sure do treat me nice.
Curtis Mayfield is like the spring. Let me specify: His music is like the spring. Much has been written and said about the impact of his artistry on the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Reams of paper have been devoted to his groundbreaking work on soundtrack albums in the 70s like Superfly, Sparkle or Short Eyes, all of it deserved. But for me, what makes Curtis special is the voice.
Let me be clear; by voice I’m not just referring to the physical apparatus, the vocal chords, the throat and the beautiful sound created. I’m also using voice the way one refers to a writer or painter or sculptor “finding their voice”, the state when an artist finds their niche, their raison d’etre and finally inhabits the particular space that allows them to comment upon or express ideas and feelings pertinent to the human condition. And Curtis’ “voice” is like the spring.
Let me provide an example, a more personal one. When I was 14 I had a serious crush on a girl named Marie. Marie was cuter than a button and possessed a devilish grin, the kind that promised much mischief and delivered even more. But for me, the most surprising thing wasn’t the way her brown locks framed her face like climbing vines on a trellis. Nor was it her infectious laugh. No, the biggest surprise was that she said she liked me too.
Now, anyone who has been through the hormonal tumult that is puberty knows what often comes next: daydreams, hand holding, first kisses. The unadulterated bliss of a hand on a thigh. The hours long telephone conversations. Contemplating huge words like love. And the sheer pride of walking down the street in the company of someone you might-just-sorta-kind-of-could-maybe-one-day love.
I didn’t possess the words to articulate my feelings back then. I probably still don’t. And at that time I didn’t fully understand the pride and the hope, the eternal optimism that my hardcore crush on Marie stirred in my soul. Or rather, I didn’t until I heard “I’m So Proud” by the Impressions. It’s not just the truthful simplicity of the lyrics (“Prettier than all the world, And I’m so proud, I’m so proud of you…I’m so proud of being loved by you) it’s the delivery of said lyrics, the sound of Curtis’ “voice”, and the harmony of his “voice” along side those of fellow impressions Fred Cash and Sam Gooden.
Everyone, especially the fellas, knows what it’s like to have a woman you adore so much you want to show her off, whether walking down the street together, or holding her whisper close on the dance floor. And this romantic dynamic, so well captured in this song, is highlighted by its usage in the movie A Bronx Tale.
This flick, one of my personal favourites and one I’ve watched countless times, is a coming of age story that partially deals with the burgeoning interracial romance between a young Italian American boy and an African-American girl in the 1960’s. Watching this movie and watching this clip all these years after first seeing the movie, after first hearing that song, after my ultimately unrequited crush on Marie, still stir within me a complex set of feelings and emotions that never cease to put a smile on my face and add a little pep to my step. If you’ve never heard “I’m So Proud” before, do yourself a favour and click on the player.
I’m So Proud – The Impressions
When an artist dies commentators often say “___________ may have passed, but their artistry lives on”. This is another in a long line of modern life’s well-worn clichés. But in the case of Curtis Mayfield it is truer than most. It is so true, so self-evident, it might not really need to be said. Yet, I’m still going to say it. Because his “voice” filled so many with a sense of pride, a sense of hope. Because Curtis Mayfield’s “voice” is like the spring. And hope springs eternal.