Friday Music

dcee8e66d8bfbca61e739b2be7ba65e6.352x350x1Been so busy on FAR WEST and teaching this week that I’ve slacked off on posting regular entries… but I’m not about to let Friday Music slip!

To start off, here’s one of my favorite hip-hop tracks, from 2002. Those of you getting into hip-hop via HAMILTON will probably like this one — it’s got that kind of nested-complex-rhymes thing that Lin-Manuel Miranda does so well, and the backing track is based around jazz samples. K-OS, “Superstarr, Pt. Zero.”

From around the same time, coincidentally, here’s a bit of indie pop/soul from Philadelphia-based singer Res. It was her breakthrough single, but her label was eventually phased out during a buy-out, and she eventually asked to be released from her contract when the new label owners weren’t releasing any of her material. She’s gone completely indie, and still records and releases work — including as part of a hip-hop/electronic duo with Talib Kweli, called IDLE WORSHIP. Res – “They Say Vision.”

This song is a helluva lot older than I thought it was. I knew it was a Lead Belly song from the 1940s, under the title “Black Gal.” Turns out that it’s actually a traditional Southern folk song, dating back until at least 1870, and possibly earlier, with the original title “In the Pines.” This is my favorite recording of it, under the title “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”, recorded live during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged appearance in 1993. Cobain’s ragged voice, and especially the pained howl he gives during the climax of the performance, really sends chills down my spine. Nirvana – “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.”

I know almost nothing about this next artist, aside from the fact that her album, Skin, was just released, this single was featured on Apple Music, and one of the music blogs I read really, really likes her. After giving a listen to this alt-pop track, so do I. Carmody – “Skin.”

Sticking with the alt-pop genre for a while, I really like this one, too: Ardyn, a group comprised of 2/3 of a set of triplets from Glouchestershire, who have really put together some rousing, yet slightly melancholic, pop structures in this song. Ardyn – “Over The River.”

We’re gonna close out with more high-quality hip-hop — with the kind of genius verbal dexterity I really love, layered over a solid bass & horns 70s-soul/funk groove that I might love even more. Shirt is an indie Queens-based MC, and he’s getting some serious boost from the fact that this track was used in the closing credits of a recent episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley. I cannot emphasize enough how fucking GOOD this is. Enjoy: Shirt – “Phantom (Redux).”

There ya go, kids. See you back here soon.

Friday Music

debeacafcd0f62a70642622316721ee395e7df34I had been planning another regular installment of Friday Music, but as I drove home from teaching on Thursday, the news broke that Prince had died.

Prince has always been my litmus test for someone’s musical opinion. If they could recognize genius, even if they weren’t a particular fan of that style of music, then I know that I could trust their opinion. I had always thought of Prince as, essentially, cut from the same cloth as Bowie. Brilliant, androgynous, (often uncomfortably) sexual, glam-rock glittered space alien from the future. I would argue that he was the greatest living guitarist, pointing to the closing solo of “Let’s Go Crazy” as my evidence — which often won over even the most die-hard rock fan.

What I’ve decided to share here are two of my favorite Prince tracks (less known that the songs that I’m sure will be filling the airwaves for the next few days), and the songs that he wrote for others, which many people are unaware he created. (I’ve left out big Prince-penned hits like The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” and Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2U”.)

First up, a track from his 1992 “Symbol” album (the debut of the emblem that would eventually become his name, during his contract dispute with Warner Brothers), recorded with his band of the time, The New Power Generation. It’s one of my favorite Prince songs, from a period that is often overlooked. Prince – “7.”

Going back a few years to 1989, here is my favorite piece from his soundtrack to Tim Burton’s amazing BATMAN film. It features some of my favorite lyrics of his: “If a man is considered guilty for what goes on in his mind, then give me the electric chair for all my future crimes.” Prince – “Electric Chair.”

During the 80s, he was so prolific that he created additional acts to release his music, often with him playing almost all the instruments on a record, before turning it over to the performing artist to add additional instruments and vocals (and often, Prince would provide backing vocals). These acts would often gain exposure by being featured in a Prince film, concurrent with the release of the music.

One such act was The Time, fronted by Morris Day. Created essentially for Prince to release older written material while he experimented with new forms, here is one of their two biggest singles — with Prince recording every instrument except the lead guitar. The Time – “Jungle Love.”

Songs that he had demo’d in a falsetto often saw release through female acts like Vanity 6, Apollonia 6 and Sheila E. Sheila E was an actual musician — a multi-instrumental percussionist who had already recorded with many jazz, pop and soul artists, and this Prince-written track became her biggest hit. Sheila E – “Glamorous Life.”

Not many people know this song was co-written by Prince. Stevie Nicks improvised the lyrics on a road trip, singing along to Prince’s “Little Red Corvette”, and asked if she could use the chord progression when she went to record her next album. Prince agreed, and also showed up at the studio to play the synths on the record (for which he refused credit — the story only came out later). He altered a few things from the “Corvette” riff, and so the song is credited to both Prince and Stevie Nicks — Stevie Nicks – “Stand Back.”

Prince took a song that he’d written as a teenager, and gave it to a young gospel singer that was appearing in his film “Graffiti Bridge”, and the result was a #3 Billboard hit in 1990, the opening singing of which can still be heard as a sample in the title theme to the TV series, “Top Chef.” Tevin Campbell – “Round and Round.”

Rest In Peace, Prince.

Dearly Beloved,
We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Electric word “life”, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you, there’s something else; the After World.
A world of never ending happiness, you can always see the sun, day or night.
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills; You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright. Instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind, baby. ‘Cause in this life, things are much harder than in the After World…
In this life:

You’re on your own!

And if the elevator tries to bring you down, go crazy; punch a higher floor!

-Prince 1958-2016


Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt

c63a3bc9cb626e9d33671ba9fe78ea291455257069_largeOh my. Another new GUNDAM.

This one is “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt” — a story taking place in the main Universal Century timeline (my preferred, concurrent with the events of the first series, but in an area called the “Thunderbolt Zone” — a debris field made of the wreckage of orbital colonies destroyed in the war, which is constantly filled with electrical discharges (hence the name). The soundtrack (and a lot of the show’s thematic elements) is jazz-based.

It’s an “ONA” (Original Net Animation) — the 21st century equivalent of the created-in-the-80s “OVA” (Original Video Animation): Shows which are not theatrical releases, nor broadcast, but created directly for the audience (on VHS in the 80s, and streaming in the 2010s).