Friday, April 30, 2010

3rd Bass "Brooklyn Queens (The U.K. Power Mix)" (1989)

Seems like hip-hop singles from around 1990 sometimes have these British remixes on them which are usually about making the tunes more "club-friendly". Now, back in those times doing something up "for the club" often meant adding thin synthesizers chords, a house beat, and MIDI orchestra stabs, but occasionally it just meant beefing that shit up. And that's what happened here.

(I'm assuming here that U.K. stands for "the United Kingdom" and not "Ultimate Knowledge" or some shit, but you can never be sure with these rap guys).

While still based around the same core sample, this mix is a pretty noticable improvement on the original - the beat is a lot easier to get down on, the horn samples on the chorus actually make sense musically, and the layering and stripping back of samples gives each verse a different feel.

You don't gotta take my word for it though, first download and listen:
3rd Bass - Brooklyn Queens (The U.K. Power Mix)

...and then compare the original:

The video also features several notable details such as:
- MC Serch's flat-top (note the "3" shaved into the side)
- The intro - ladies if you ain't got me no rings already, don't be talking to me now.
- Jackin' from 3:06... god damn I like to see me some jackin'.
- The very high probability that everyone in the video went to school with MC Serch and Pete Nice. 

...and of course, many many examples of the classic rapper pastime of "pretending to be rich", which, at this point in hip-hop history, was still pretty unconvincing most of the time. See also:

What's that you're holding guys, like, twenty-three dollars? Come on.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peggy Lee "Sneakin' Up On You" (1965)

Alright doggs, here's a quick one to keep things breathing.

Peggy Lee was a very prolific jazz/lounge singer with about twenty or thirty albums to her name, peaking in the 50s and 60s. I tend to think of her as a more schoolmarmish version of Julie London - in 1950s terms, Peggy Lee could probably make 1 bow-tie spin around for every 4 bow-ties set spinning by Julie London, or; Julie London could make one single bow-tie spin at a rate four times faster than the same bow-tie in the presence of Peggy Lee - I'm not quite sure how it worked exactly. 

Peggy Lee - "a swell dame"

Julie London - "dang, up to 4x sweller"
(In the interests of being even-handed in my sexual objectification of musicians, I will be comparing 2Pac's abs against this Korean in a later post)

"Sneaking Up On You" is not a famous joint, but like many of the world's great songs it is about stalking. Peggy vows that she is going to "creep up" and "pounce" on her target, regardless of whether he is at the beach, on a date with another girl, or "standing around on a roller-whirl" (whatever that is) - those seem to be the three scenarios she has allowed for.
She even trucks out the phrase "if it's the last thing I do", more famously associated with Gargamel, nemesis of the Smurfs. The whole thing rides a nicely arranged and surprisingly tough groove (given the genre and the early vintage), I'm particularly fond of the double-bass work and the drumming. Check it out.

Peggy Lee - Sneakin' Up On You

BTW, keep 'em peeled for Peg's stomping version of "Dock of the Bay" - I haven't managed to track down a copy yet.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

OVS "Crimes of Passion" (1985)

In my system, 1985 is pretty much a last chance year. If a record says '86 or '87 on the label I will not touch that mess with a barge-pole borrowed from a disliked neighbour (unless of course it's "So" by the delightful Peter Gabriel).

That is my shit right here.

Even then, I have to make allowances before dropping the needle on a joint from 1985, because odds on someone will have made some bad decisions. e.g. The snares will probably be too loud, or there will be no bassline, or a melodic hook will be played by pitch-shifting a sample. I don't know why a few months' drift in production trends makes such a difference, but it does. "Crimes of Passion" by Dutch outfit OVS, however, sounds like an earlier production, possibly because cocaine was less readily available in Holland.

(In fact from the limited information available on line, I suspect it may be a release of a tune from '82 - which kind of makes all this nonsense about production year a bit irrelevant).

I think Ben put it best when he characterized vocalist Bernard Oattes' voice by pointing out that you can't imagine him meaning anything remotely rude or sleazy, regardless of the actual lyrics. His is a pure voice, an angelic voice - almost asexual, certainly without a smidgen of lasciviousness. You can't help feeling that the "Crimes of Passion" referred to in the song could only be something like "holding hands when a policeman can see" or "teasing with intent to tease".

Bernard van Oattes, today.
By my reckoning this is a near perfect pop song, hit the link and see who you believe.

OVS - Crimes of Passion

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Living Diamonds "What's On Your Mind?" (2009)

In an effort to cajole my silent partner - the elusive "Second Dragon" - to actually write about a song or something, I have agreed to do a write up of his new project "The Living Diamonds". It also serves as a shy tilt at relevance since, as Ben said to me in a recent money-counting session, "ain't no-one give but five percent of a shit about them stank-ass old rekkids, no how".

So here goes.

The Living Diamonds were initially forged from the wreckage of late Auckland outfit "The Shades", a live neo-soul/hip-hop outift who were something like what The Roots would be if they were white Aucklanders and there was a strong lady vocalist taking over from the rappers for every other song.
The bones of the Shades still show through in the Diamonds' ability to stitch together heavy, memorable rhythms from less-than-obvious elements - the groove on "What's On Your Mind?" is reminiscent of intro music from 70s live shows, a riff for the hype man to bellow over before some sequined soul celebrity jogs out onto the stage with a wave. But the Living Diamonds also represent a new trajectory for budding Kiwi superstar Ben Anderson, into territory closer to psychedelic rock, and with a new rawness and hard-won authenticity in his vocal performances.

"What's On Your Mind?" is the Diamonds' only recorded single so far but their entire set impressed when they played late at Whammy Bar last Good Friday, energizing a crowd that had seemed about ready to be kissed on the nose and tucked in, and leaving them baying for an encore which, Ben sheepishly admitted, could not be provided as they had run out of songs. The core line-up has changed since the single was recorded last year with celebrated guitarist Hayden Booth and feared yet admired drummer Alex Freer bringing strong contributions alongside Shades alumnus swoon-worthy starlet Cass "Fresh" Mitchell on bass and of course Ben Himself on vox and ill vintage keyboards. I confess that I was pretty drunk but it seemed to me that they were all playing their instruments real good and when I looked at faces in the crowd I could tell they all agreed.

The Living Diamonds sum a diverse set of influences into a sound dangerously new yet instantly familiar that harks back to the rawness and strength of the late '60s without falling into the trap of shallow reproduction. I'm confident all that remains for Ben Anderson and the Living Diamonds is to write some more songs and count that money.

You can hear the studio version of "What's On Your Mind?" at the Living Diamonds' myspace.

There's also this recording of a live session on bFM below...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

EASTER SUNDAY SPECIAL - King Hannibal "The Truth Shall Make You Free" (1973)

Within the Christian community there's a full spectrum of opinion on the acceptabilty of rockin' out in favour of Jesus, but the argument can be broadly broken down into three positions.

Firstly, there is the obvious position that rock music is created and actively controlled by Satan in his worldly guise as record label honcho "Lew Siffer".

Under this position, God is strictly into old-timey music and rocking is not acceptable under any circumstances - not even to save a drowning friend.

Secondly, there are Christians who want to be able to listen to normal music but are generally more comfortable if the song lyrics explicitly reference the rejection of Satan and his works. However this music is mostly terrible for the many of the same reasons that mainstream music is mostly terrible, with the addition of an interpretational minefield as to whether the artists are singing about Jesus or their girlfriends at any given moment.



Then there is a third category, into which King Hannibal falls. These Christians learned how to rock out the traditional way - i.e. while strung out on heroin, murdering prostitutes and/or reciting the Lord's Prayer backwards. For these prodigal offspring, conversion may have changed their ethics it sure as shit ain't changed the way they throw down - hence King Hannibal's ode to religious drug rehab is laced with heavy rhythm, fuzz guitar and psychedelic delay drops on the vocals.

Have a happy, non-drug-addicted Easter.

King Hannibal - "The Truth Shall Make You Free"