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Saturday, 30 October 2010


('AMP's & 808's' is taking a sabbatical for at fortnight, but you'll hear from us again in two weeks. Until then look forward to top albums coming out this fall, in our Holiday Season Preview below)

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 21: Rapper, writer and director Kanye West attends the 'Runaway' New York premiere at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema on October 21, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

It's been a G.O.O.D. no great two months of free Good Friday, Kanye West music. That is apart from when some ungrateful fans leaked some of Kanye's new music, causing a brief hiatus for those spoilt kids. Still in creating a buzz for his upcoming 'My Dark & Twisted Fantasy' album and his collaboration albums with Jay-Z ('Watch The Throne') and Pharrell and Lupe Fiasco (Child Rebel Soldier) K. West has already released enough material for a G.O.O.D Friday album. With a lot of cover art style, striking red captions, bass, signature sounds and Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Kid Cudi and Mos Def, Kanye gives us some of his most valued work for free. So let's look at these cuts track by track.

POWER (REMIX) Feat Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz: If you thought the original was a bravado piece than you aint heard nothing yet. Kanye's really 'got the power' as the brilliant SNAP! change in the middle of this remix proves. Kanye & Jay-Z trade verses as good as they did on 'Never Let Me Down' and 'Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)' on their way to a throning. The two kings go hard with plenty of big production, plenty of autotune and plenty of Swizz Beatz 'ish' talking. There's no beautiful death on this remix as the power stays on. 4/5.

MONSTER Feat Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaji & Bon Iver: Kanye gets his swagger on a track that also features Jay-Z and Rick Ross, two guys who's swagger is always on a hundred, million. 'Ye takes it to a thousand, million however with his beat, bravado and flow. He even has the audacity to rename Malibu. Of course Ross and Jay keep this monster track roaring on with Mr. Carter practically name dropping ever monster. It's Young Money's Nicki Minaji however that is the monster that stands the tallest amongst the hip-hop skyscrapers with a verse so inhumanly brilliant that it's got to be heard to be believed. Oh and Bon Iver, (a guy who may not be used to keeping it crisp and clean with that beard) also blesses the track. The folk star rocks out with these fellas and looks the part. 5/5.

RUNAWAY LOVE Feat Justin Bieber & Raekwon: Who else in this game could put Justin Bieber and Raekwon on the same track but 'Ye. This Bieber fever is getting crazy, either West and Rae where on something or this kid really is on to something. This track proves it's the latter, despite the fact that Justin will never be street no matter how many times West calls him JB. Still ODB once said Wu-Tang was 'for the children' and mixing Bieber's hit with Raekwon's ‘Wu Tang Clan Aint Nuthing Ta F*** Wit’. is his 'Who would of thought it' genius. It somehow works. Even hardcore heads can't turn their nose up at new Rae verses over classic Wu, complete with singing that hits the right note. 4/5.

DEVIL IN A NEW DRESS: The Prada wearing rapper channels the dark side and fashions a great run of verses over a beat that sounds vintage, pre-Dropout Ye. Hit the books and check his history if you don't know. Mr. West even warns over losing your hot streak like one of his favourite rappers pastor Ma$e. Holy moly. 4/5.

GOOD FRIDAY Feat Common, Pusha T, Charlie Wilson, Big Sean & Kid Cudi: This is the celebration track for the G.O.O.D. label and Friday theme. Now almost everyone is on this track, complete with an end of the week feeling. Kid Cudi sounds grown on this track and Charlie Wilson and Pusha T feel at home. It's even more celebratory to see Common and Kanye reunited yet again for more classic material. In fact this is vintage uplifting music from Chi-towns finest. Light but hardly breezy, this is strong like the Windy city air. 4/5.

LORD, LORD, LORD Feat Mos Def, Raekwon, Swizz Beatz & Charlie Wilson: Forget 'Devil In A New Dress', Lord have mercy this may be the smoothest track Kanye has ever cut. At almost 6 minutes this track is no snippet. Each MC is given plenty of breathing space for lyrical exercise. 'Ye is 'Ye and as for Rae he sounds just as comfortable on something smoother as he does menacingly on his usual harder stuff. Even Swizz Beatz gets down on some lines, going in against bloggers...uh, hum. The usual energetic producer also sounds laid back and soulful, thank you Miss Keys. Wests label mate Charlie Wilson provides his trademark syrupy sound on the catchy hook but it's Mos Def that owns this track. His opening verse is his best in years and breathes for the longest. His intro is so damn good you almost want him to rap the whole song. Mos' real talk is the rap equivalent of his 'Umi Says'. 5/5.

SO APPALLED Feat The RZA, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Swizz Beatz & Cyphi The Prynce: Now this is a heater for the winter ahead. The production is Halloween haunting and the verses are so epic, if they weren't so disgraceful they'd be biblical. It's Jay-Z again that offends the most with yet another classic verse for the rhyme book. Pusha T further shows why he was signed with malicious rhymes (but won't Kanye sign both of The Clipse now?). One of West's darkest beats yet deserves the perfect closer and that comes from the haunting rhymes of The RZA which again shows that Mr. West has been upping his Wu-Tang. This 's*** really is f****** ridiculous' as the hook says. Now listen to this and be really appalled. 5/5.

CHRISTIAN DIOR DENIM FLOW Feat Kid Cudi, Pusha T, John Legend, Lloyd Banks & Ryan Leslie: This branded song is labelled with great design. From John Legend and Kid Cudi's harmony to classic 'Ye violin and distorted vocals. Just like denim, the song is tough but a good look, you could even rock it with a shirt. The high class rap has more market value with Pusha T and Lloyd Banks's quality material. While just like with Common on 'Good Friday' it's great to see Legend and West reunited. They haven't missed a note. As the guitars come in the tone changes as Ryan Leslie sees how the track fits. With raps as cool as his croons Les' wears it well. What were left with on the rail is a great ensemble posse cut that is tailored in great fashion by Kanye. 4.5/5.

DON'T STOP! (Child Rebel Soldier): Most supergroups come with a lot of hype but often fizzle out and people end up believing in them as much as Public Enemy would in 'A Nation Of Millions'. Still years after 'US Placers', Kanye, Pharrell and Lupe Fiasco put it all in place to reunite as their unit, 'Child Rebel Soldier'. With an album on the front line the hype is back on and with 'Don't Stop' fans will be glad the group is starting back up. The three sound cohesive going verse for verse and Pharrell's raps get even better. With two beat men and two Chicago mic legends, Kanye has done it again. 4/5.

TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM Feat Pusha T, Keri Hilson & Cyphi The Prynce : You might want to replace your speakers in after this one because even those Dre headphones would have trouble taking one for the team with this much bass. Kanye opens with a lines even harder than the bass line. Taking it hard to the rack like Jordan with basketball references. Pusha T features again and is welcome as is Keri Hilson who makes herself feel at home with her flow on this guest spot. Still like every other free track present from Kanye he is the tracks gift. Like all ten tracks Kanye scores a top ten with his rhymes and production. With all these stars at his disposal Kanye still shines like the sun in the west. 3.5/5.

DON'T LOOK DOWN Feat Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco & Big Sean: It's Mos who provides the chorus for this song that also features Lupe Fiasco. The Black Star MC proves he's definitely Def by showing his versatility. Mos' ability to rap and sing seamlessly make him more than just a G.O.O.D. addition. Just like his roster Kanye puts this all together to true magic. Everythings on the up for West. Forget about looking down, Kanye isn't even looking back. 4/5.

THE JOY Feat Pete Rock, Jay-Z, Curtis Mayfield, Charlie Wilson & Kid Cudi: Kanye is the one that keeps giving us joy. With weeks to go before his albums released the fans are kept happy. Happy that Jay-Z's guesting again and happy that Kid Cudi's back on track. Happy that Kanye goes back to the old school with Pete Rock and happy that he goes back even further with some sensuous Curtis Mayfield soul. Speaking of sensuality guys will be happy Miss Brow (Foxy or Jackie), Pam Grier is bareing all on the songs cover artwork. Kanye keeps pushing the boundaries with his stylish and sexually provocative artwork. Mr. West is looking real good right now. Judging from the quality of these freebies, 'My Dark & Twisted Fantasy' is going to sell, sell, sell. 4.5/5.

LOOKING FOR TROUBLE Feat Pusha T, Big Sean, CyHi Da Prynce & J. Cole: The new best tag team in hip-hop, Kanye West and Pusha T once again go line for line battling with the haters and yet again they sound like family. G.O.O.D. family. Kanye uses the same sample that former Rocafella label mate and collaborater Cam'Ron used for 'Purple Haze's' 'Bubble Music'. The 'looking for trouble' sample may be apt here as Cam recentley through rocks his former labelmate and as Kanye sneers on the chorus in response to the sample, "But you found it m***********" , perhaps he is answering Cam'Ron back. Still on this heated banger it's Roc Nation signing J.Cole that goes the hardest, even after this beat and sample cut out. The next in line proves it's going to be a Cole winter with lines like, "I thought that real s*** is what you been fiending ’bout/what you been praying for? What you been screaming ’bout/ironic you been sleeping on the one that you been dreaming ’bout". 4/5.

CHAIN HEAVY Feat. Consequence & Talib Kweli: On this Q-Tip produced gem about necklaces. The renaissance man and the revolutionary rapper take it back to the old school all whilst flossing in all their shine. The track is also laced with clever rhymes from two of Kanye's oldest and most frequent collaboraters. A Tribe Called Quest affiliate Consequence gets the chain letter with great choker references including, "Uh, that old ball and chain had me chained up for weeks/Of course I'm off the chain as soon as I hit the streets/And now when we leak she saying the games over/I drove her crazy and she became a chain smoker". While Talib Kweli who Kanye toured with when he was coming up brings up some lyrical links draped with lines like "Some wear a suit and tie, they dont wanna remain average/Some wear a suit and tie like a chain in a straight jacket". All in all this trap looks right worn with anything. Sure it's flashy but it's got a lot more to say than bragging. It's a concept song and a conscious one at that and with the guys on this track, would you expect anything less. 4/5.

So as we await even more music from Kanye West we already have enough incredible material to tide us over even if he pushed the release of 'My Dark & Twisted Fantasy' back even more. With his weekly plays Kanye has done 'A Good Ass Job'. Now if these 'G.O.O.D Fridays' are anything to go by, what Kanye gives us the fall is going to be great. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Friday, 29 October 2010


LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08:  (L-R) Rappers Kanye West, T.I., Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne perform during the 51st Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

(SWAGGER LIKE THEM? Will we get an album from all these guys this fall? (Left to Right, Kanye West, T.I., Jay-Z & Lil' Wayne))

...the fall release schedule starts real funky with 'Rock Dust Light Star' which is the long awaited return of U.K. dance outfit, Jamiroquai and that infamous hat...

...keeping it British the end of 2010 see's the release of Duffy's long awaited, highly anticipated 'Endlessly'. The follow up to her classic first album 'Rockferry', features some production and backing from The Roots and judging from their collaboration with John Legend this album is set to 'Wake Up' classic soul, 'Once Again'. Duffy hopes to rule British soul like Corrine Bailey Rae, unless Rumur has it...

...Weezer hot off the heels of the last three years' 'The Red Album', 'Ratitude' and last months 'Hurley' also release another set yet again with 'Death To False Metal', a b-side collection of real Weezer rarities...

...if complimation collections are at the top of your Christmas list than you just might find a gift 'Featuring Norah Jones' under your tree. Following 'The Fall' last year (thanks for the inspiration Norah), this falls album features all Miss Jones famous, classic collabos, from Ryan Adams to Andre 3000...

...the pick of the complimation litter has to be Bruce Springsteen's 'The Promise'. Boss fans will rejoice as Bruce sees a darkness with a promising collection of outtakes from the sessions of his classic 70's album 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town'. Judging from the collection 'Tracks', Springsteen's b-sides are better than most artists greatest hits. Speaking of which the album gives us the long awaited studio version of 'Because The Night' a hit for the Patti Smith Group, that Bruce wrote and gave up...

....Elvis Costello also returns with 'National Ransom'. The greatest musician out of Liverpool bar four looks to provide some warmth in those cold Canadian Winter months...

...N.E.R.D. follow 'Seeing Sounds' with 'Nothing'. The production geeks once manned the boards on a N.O.R.E. song of the same name but this time Pharrell and co look to make a name for themselves once again going alone on their fourth album....

...Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry shows us both sides of the coin with 'Late Nights & Early Mornings' hoping that those sleeping on her talents wake up...

...Cee-Lo Green forgets that curse words aren't exactly radio friendly but still looks to hit big with 'The Lady Killer', his first solo album in years after murdering it repeatedly with Danger Mouse as Gnarls Barkley...

...if that's not out of this world enough for you why not cure those no Lupe Fiasco blues and take a trip to space once again with Kid Cudi's sophomore set 'Man On The Moon 2: The Legend Of Mr Rager'. Expect more original, earth breaking hip-hop you can play in the day and right through the night...

...another part two trying to best the original is G-Unit soldier and second in command Lloyd Banks 'H.F.M.2'. The punchline king hopes 'The Hunger For More 2' delivers on his debuts promise...

...if you like your New York hip-hop a little harder than you could always check rap ironman Ghostface Killah's newest. One of the most hardest workers in the game delivers, 'The Apollo Kids' just in time for Christmas. An album named after a track from 'Supreme Clientele', which Wu fans will be pleased to know will have it's own sequel next year. Looks like fellow Wu Tang member Raekwon's 'Only Built For Cuban Linx 2' really has changed the game yet again...

...completely crossing the Hudson from Staten Island to the Brick City of New Jersey you'll find Wu-Tang Clan , Method Mans partner in high Redman who drops his namesake 'Reggie'...

...if that's too hot or you maybe it's time for some Nelly back in heere. The pop rapper, with the catchy hooks and millions of sales returns with his fifth joint '5.0'...

...if you haven't had enough pimp juice after that then why not try the catchy hooks of Nelly's assist man and Isley Brothers, soul legend Ron Isley. The Mr. 'Between The Sheets' is glad to be out from between the bars with his new release 'Mr. I'...

...speaking of catchy hooks the iconic Akon returned with 'Akonic', which is set to catch everyone out again this fall just like 'Konvicted's' cage of hits did back in '06...

...for your ultimate slice of urban pop however try the new Black Eyed Peas flavour. You thought it was 'The E.N.D.' but and co return with 'The Beginning', but will this album be a more back to basics approach for the former backpackers?... he may be a little bit late of his original departure time but hopefully this year you can still catch Diddy and join him on his 'Last Train To Paris'. An album where Sean John embarks on a different type of journey with some Dirty Money in his back pocket. Look for the daddy of hip-hop's experimental collaboration to pay off as he invents new sub-genres of rap yet again...

...Eminem D.J. And Mobb Deep producer 'The Alchemist' is working on some hip-hop potion for 'Gutter Water', which should whet the appetite for those hardcore heads, especially if Alch's collaborators return his many favours... of the biggest, breakthrough acts of the year has the most anticipated albums of the year. The undeniable Nicki Minaji is set to follow in the footsteps of fellow Young Money foot soldier and big hitter Drake and Lil' Wayne and Kim with 'Pink Friday'...

...a former breakthrough artist who's now a star in this game Ne*Yo is set to release 'Libra Scale'. A sign of the times R&B 'Thrillerscope' designed to move feet and units. M.J would be proud...

...better start re-writing those Christmas lists now as it doesn't end there with R&B leading men. The incredibly underrated Avant has penned yet another album of slow jams entitled 'The Letter', just in time for the holidays...

...and your 'Basic Instinct' should tell you that the ATL's queen of Crunk & R&B, Ciara's new album is all set to be a sure fire hit, full of chart ammunition...

...if that doesn't motivate you how about Young Jeezy's return with 'TM103'. After surviving some time out the album circuit after 'The Recession', Jeezy has been making working on a sequel to his classic mixtape 'Trap Or Die'. Now completing his 'Thug Motivation' trilogy series, Jeezy is ready to set the street's on fire yet again with more get up and go, power bar energy hip-hop...

...still it seems this fall will be tailored more swiftly to the ego himself, Kanye West. Ye is readying the release of a 'Gorgeous' movie plus a revealing look at his 'Dark & Twisted Fantasy'. Still West's 'Power' move may just be a real 'Best Of Both Worlds' 5 track EP collabo with mentor Jay-Z. A royal appointment that will ensure their rap heirs 'Watch The Throne'...

If that hasn't filled your stockings enough, who knows what else will hit shelves and end up wrapped up. With potentially even more albums in 2010 from Ryan Adams and R. Kelly, and more big 'releases' from T.I. And Lil' Wayne 'Amp's & 808's' will be sounding great right through to the new year. The long awaited releases of Jamie Foxx and Jagged Edge may even come to light. As may Nas' second batch of 'Lost Tapes'. So before we get into 2011 release schedules make sure you aren't naughty this Christmas because the next two months look real nice. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010



On his tight renaissance piece, Bilal also finds revenge and redemption.

It's been a long time and a lot of stress since Bilal Oliver was introduced to the world with '1st Born Second'. The Dr. Dre endorsed neo-soul singer has been patient over the years and after '1st Born Second' his second album 'Love For Sale' never did sell as Interscope shelved the release. So armed with a chip on his shoulder and a lot of time on his side Bilal releases his third album but his second official release with 'Airtights Revenge'. An album that shows that although one of the best soul artists in the game has been sitting on the shelf he hasn't been collecting dust. Bilal is polished and ready to shine after almost a decade of helping other artists glitter with all his gold.

After blessing Rap and R&B hooks for years from Game to Tweet or Solange to Clipse. Bilal has stood out on tracks like Jay-Z's 'Fallin'' and many Common hits including 'The Light' and many Talib Kweli standouts, most notably 'Waitin' For The D.J.' Now after years of being everyone elses guest, it's time for Bilal to make himself welcome.

Bilal is one of the frontier acts in the stellar rise of neo-soul. Like all the genres acts he is undeniably unique. 'Airtights Revenge' adds more modern, polished neo soul to the matrix of classic albums over the last few years. 'Airtight' sounds as cool as Maxwell's epic 'BLACKsummersnight' all while sounding like classic soul from decades gone by like Rapheal Saadiq's classic, 'The Way I See It'. It's Bilals versatility and vocal range that separates this man from the boys however. Bilal's trademark falsetto, free form, almost at times female sounding voice makes him able to stand next to original neo-soul acts like Erykah Badu too.

This album was recorded by Bilal in response to his label pains and the result is a star, pregnant with classic, diverse soul pieces. Bilal wanted to express through love songs and dark tales his frustrations with the shelving of 'Love For Sale' and his difficulties with Interscope. The tone of this album is further expressed in it's artwork. A passionate, rageful red background, with Bilal mimicking the dress and stance of Malcom X in the famous photo where the human rights activist was peering out of his window with a gun. This isn't the first time an album cover has mirrored this. Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One adopted the pose for the Malcom X slogan named album 'By All Means Necessary'. Still however on 'Airtight's' cover Bilal is holding a microphone behind him, his greatest weapon. This cover could connote Bilal looking in on the industry that he was pushed out of from behind the curtain, keeping his precious asset, his microphone protected at arms length.

The more literal way of interpreting this singers message is through the music however. Bilal's label experiences have tagged his songs with a strength and mature outlook on his subject matter. Bilal has grown up and produced one of the best sounding albums out there at the moment. The joint 'Flying' is a great story that mirrors the record industry. Bilal laments about metaphorical characters that relate to his life and the trials of the music business singing, 'could of been a star, but you know how it is, you can't do s*** when your injured, less these h*'s out here is younger every day'.

Again 'Airtight's Revenge' sounds as smooth as Maxwell's latest classic, especially on the song 'All Matter' which builds with drums like 'BLACKsummers Night's', 'Phoenixrise' and Bilal like a phoenix himself rises from the ashes of his nine years of release problems with record labels. While the records opening cut, 'Cake And Eat It Too' sounds like Dr. Dre himself put that shiny silver suit back on for a 70's esque beat with plenty of bounce. It's Bilal and Steve McKie however that man the boards on this gem with Oliver's slow almost jazz esque singing. The lines 'I just can't do it again' reinforce Bilal's point. While he offers others wise words of advice to up and comers in the industry, "when you give into desire, theres no telling what it brings, one pathway can take you higher, or it just might bring you down".

The track 'Little One' hits the high notes all whilst pulling the guitar and heart strings. It's about Bilal's son with autism. The lyrics are beautiful and hopeful with starting with, "they say its gonna take a miracle to bring you back again, they say there's nothing they can do, but I'm not the only one that sees the possibility in you, you know your mother sees it too." The track 'Move On' follows and continues in the same musical vain as 'Little One' but with a different baseline. On these atmospheric, sad songs Bilal is instrumental, lacing these potent stories in perfect harmony.

Even when Bilal gets experimental he yields great results and positive conclusions. On analysis, tracks like 'The Dollar' feel so much like scientific soul it's like they actually were crafted in a lab. The song also has a film noir esque soundtrack feel to it, with dark but hopeful lyrics like, "life has no meaning at all, and its all set up for you to fall, they'll make you believe it, but don't you believe it, no, no".

The six minute gem 'Who Are You', feels like a song in three acts of different levels. The first act is an incredibly cool instrumental piece, with some great singing serving as the meat of the sandwich. The track ends with Bilal repeating the words 'Let me take you higher', which further shows how uplifting neo-soul music like this can be. Speaking of which the second to last track 'Who Are You' sounds like some 'Prototype' , elevator music that takes you higher. Further showing that neo soul is a time machine that takes you back decades and forward to the year 3000 all at the same time. Also the futuristic but classic sounding track 'Robots' is so out there and diverse it could sit with versatile Janelle Monae's show tune, futuristic, 'Metropolis' work.

After years of spending time stuck in the 'Fast Lane', with this album, the 'Soul Sista' to his debut, Bilal finds his own lane. Sequels rarely best their originals but on this official sophmore set Bilal proves he's the fresh man, delivering something better than his '1st Born'. Although this album is Bilal's way of venting his frustrations with his former music home, this album is no middle finger to Interscope. Bilal's incredible deliverance and performance on this album gives Interscope instead that regretful feeling of seeing an old ex that they should have never let go of move on so well. It's all about love and Bilal's got plenty to give. What's their loss is the next labels gain. On 'Airtight's Revenge' Bilal awakes the classics, sounding like 'Instant Vintage' but at the same time he still makes himself and his message heard 'NOW'! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010



Three of rocks biggest talents are called down to the studio for a fistful of magic.

30392, ROME, ITALY - Wednesday April 22 2009. Ben Harper - Mr Laura Dern - performs at the Earth Day concert in Rome. 1000 trees were planted nearby to offset the carbon emissions created by the event. Photograph: © Bruni, Clicphoto, UK OFFICE: 131 557 7760/7761 US OFFICE:1 310 261 9676

Ben Harper is a busy man. The elite talent who over the years has had many different bands backing him is now getting behind a supergroup of his own. Between relentlessly recording material with his new '7' band, touring Europe with Pearl Jam, reinventing timeless Michael Hutchence classics with INXS and performing with Ringo Starr on 'The Daily Show' Ben has still found time to come down to the studio with another Beatle family member and another great singer/songwriter to form a group for the ages. There seems to be no musical mercy for Harper who teams with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur to form Fistful Of Mercy, a group that gives us a handful of gems with their 9 track debut, 'As I Call You Down'.

The vocals on this record are handed out equally to the three members of Fistful Of Mercy. This hand to hand, give and take is heard at it's best on the albums title track 'As I Call You Down'. Harrison, Harper and Arthur harmonise in a perfectly beautiful melody the lines 'When I fall inside a hole, that I can't crawl out/ better give up my control, as I call you down". The in time, old soul, socially relevant chorus is sung in such an emotive way that it would make Crosby Stills & Nash proud.

As well as this debut album having a title track in the set list there's also a record named after this new bands moniker. 'Fistful Of Mercy' is an introspective gem which awakes even the most lost of listeners. It's beautifully haunting and bravely hopeful at the same time. The influence of Dhani's father George seems to have waxed of on this record with a eloquent engaging chorus, "Maybe it's soft inside her heart, fistful of mercy/maybe it comes from where we are, land of the thirsty".

The records these three have produced are short, sweet but are far from shallow. Mercy don't tread water, they reach new depths. This act makes you glad Arthur recruited Harper and Harper met Harrison in a skate park in Santa Monica. 'As I Call You Down' leaves you shouting up for more. The trio throughout the album keep the wheels of this project going, recording at the Carriage House studio in LA's Silverlake neighborhood where they produced gold songs that in a better world would go platinum.

Harrison likened the big three's joint recording to George Harrison's own supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. Although this group doesn't feature as legendary names as Dylan, Orbison or Petty the music itself makes more than a name for itself. Take the country song 'Father's Son' which is dripping with American culture and could easily have made it's way into Harper's earlier work.

Speaking of Ben, despite this being a group effort the calm atmospheric slide guitar of Harper on the instrumental '30 Bones' evokes rising memories of the serene 'Paris, Sunrise' off Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals album 'Lifeline'. It's timeless, classic numbers like this that pulls the album and band towards the 'greats' status.

Still however this is a group effort. Sure each super talent brings there unique gifts and styles to the mix but there is no show boating or stealing. Fistful capture their own, unique sound. A style that shows the cohesiveness and tightness that's come in a short space of time. This supergroup feels like a regular new act. From a sum of their parts they've got a whole lot of originality in their hands. This is evident in the spiritually sound tracks 'Restore Me' and 'In Vain or True', two of the best tracks called out on this LP offering more meaning and reasoning to this bands method and rhyme.

'Things Go Round' is a more upbeat number and as time's go round, on and change it's hard to tell how long this 'side project' will last with all the members other work aside. It would take a fool however to say this genius outfits number will soon be up. Sure just like The Travelling Willburys this band is wonderfully unassuming but that's a good thing. They may just fit in rather than break the mould but just like Dhani's farther their music acts as the perfect road companion for travellers that know the musical landscape. Not only is Fistful Of Mercy's debut 'As I Call You Down' a tremendous record it also furthers the reach of Arthur, the classic discography of Harper and the legendary legacy of the Harrison family. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010



The Kings 'Come Around' once again to reclaim their rock throne.

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 12: Bassist Jared Followill and musician Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon attend the Rag & Bone - Presentation Fall 2010 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on February 12, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images)

Over the last decade the Kings Of Leon have gone from long haired folk rockers to commercial darlings but over the years one things hasn't changed and that's their output of classic American folk rock and roll for the ages. From hanging round in 'Molly's Chambers' to having burning problems with love the band have grown up from youngsters travelling and touring the States to men with regal status amongst the best bands in the world. 'Because Of The Times' set the ball rolling and then 'Only By The Night' scored big, kicked off by the huge success of anthem 'Sex on Fire'. The album which went 2 times platinum in the U.S., 5 in the UK and 9 times in Australia. It would be a big task for anybody to follow this success but just two years later Leon returns with 'Come Around Sundown' and it's clear from the opening that time hasn't dawned on the band.

The Kings fire hasn't burnt out and that's radiated clear from the LP's lead single 'Radioactive' which is classic catchy, Kings Of Leon feel-good rock. The reason the Kings latest material stands out from it's equally good original recordings is because of the more atmospheric sound. Tracks like 'Trunk' and 'Cold Desert' really captured the feelings of isolation and loneliness in such an evocative way. This is continued on 'Come Around Sundown' on the opener 'The End' and the closer 'Pickup Truck'. Both tracks feature the Kings Of Leon's trademark haunting guitar and emotional vocals.

'The End' and the album starts with the emotive lyrics, "Running with the streetlights/laughing in the grave/he swears he's gonna give it up, its never gonna be enough /I just wanna be there when you're all alone, thinking bout a better day, when you had it in your bones". While 'Pickup Truck' lifts up the emotion further with the lines "Hate to be so emotional, I didn’t mean to get physical/But when he pulled in & he revved it up, I see you crawl out a pickup truck, /And in the moonlight I run him down, all kickin’ screamin’ and rollin’ around,/A little piece of a bloody tooth, just so you know I was thinkin’ of you,". 'Pickup' wont lift up the spirits of a broken man lost in love, but it sure acts as the perfect soundtrack for a jilted, broken hearted ex, the kind of pain and frustration only a man knows. These are the kind of lyrics that you thought songwriters didn't pen anymore and that's why the Kings Of Leon are such a refreshing band more than ten years and five albums deep in the game.

Kings Of Leon also muse over one of the most sung about women in the history of rock and roll music 'Mary' (See, Springsteen, Bruce) resulting in one of their catchiest numbers since 'Charmer'. 'Mary' has as much appeal as Gina Gershon. She stands out as much today as she could of a decade or so ago drawing in a crowd. The back to back tracks 'The Face' and 'The Immortals' denote atypical classic Kings Of Leon songs which are as more than welcome as the track 'Birthday' that on listen makes an otherwise ordinary day that much better.

The album may not be as strong as 'Only By The Night' but 'Come Around Sundown' is not pretending to be something it's not. It's a cohesive, tight listen start to finish where 'repeat' will be hit more times than 'skip'. It also features great numbers like 'Back Down South' that hark back to Leon's original material sound and 'Beach Side' that goes back even further to classic, Southern American rock. As well as going back to find their sound the band also move forward, further developing their signature traditional sound and making it all their own, hitting the right notes on 'No Money' and 'Mi Amigo' resulting in 'Sundown' being an astronomy of diverse but focussed rock shining in all it's brightness.

The Kings Of Leon may have had it best 'By The Night' but as they hit 'Sundown' they don't disappear below the horizon. Instead they carry the torch that still burns from the success of their last LP and with their new release they still produce beautiful conditions of atmospheric music. Even after the first listen this heart warming rock feels as familiar as anything before it in all it's classic magnitude. It's the perfect music to listen to on one of those disappearing Summer nights, parked up in your car with the one you love watching the sunset come around. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Friday, 8 October 2010



After assisting others with hits Bruno Mars decides to go for his own, be our guest.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 05: Singer Bruno Mars visits the set of Extra at The Grove on October 5, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Extra)

Bruno Mars is a bit like Owen Wilson's character Hansel in 'Zoolander' he's got everyone saying 'He's so hot right now' and with good reason. Bruno Mars sung, and co-wrote two of the biggest songs that came out this year and are still on constant radio play. These are B.O.B's 'Nothing On You' and Travie Mcoy's 'Billionaire'. Songs that left both artists with plenty of spin and hype for their solo debuts to take off the ground. A hype that was well justified but would still be nothing without Mars' billionaire dollar sound, which is so 'frickin' good. So now with all the hype and attention that has come with those 2010 classics Bruno debuts his first solo LP 'Doo Wop's & Holligans', the perfect set of Summer lovin soul ditties drenched with some now trademark, beautiful acoustic guitar.

Bruno who knows how to turn a curse word laced song into a radio friendly hit (See 'Billionaire' or Cee-Lo Green's 'Forget You' (which remember isn't really called that)) might just be a marketing genius. After getting his name and his credibility as an artist out there with B.O.B. and Travie Mcoy Mars went on to release a teaser EP called, 'It's Better If You Don't Understand'. The short take previewed 'Doo Wop's' standout tracks, 'Count On Me' (a feel good classic), 'Talking To The Moon' (a gem), and 'The Other Side' (where Cee-Lo and B.O.B. return the favour with their guest spots). Now although the albums here now understand the EP released a couple of months back is still worth a cop as it features the brilliant, non-album track 'Somewhere In Brooklyn'.

'Doo Wop's' continues in the same vain as the EP. At 10 tracks long it's of unassuming quality and everything about the songs seems refreshed espeically in this modern world of diluted R&B. The albums opener 'Grenade' is a great concept song where Mars lamenting lost love croons, "What you don't understand is/I'd catch a grenade for ya/yeah, yeah, yeah/throw my hand on a blade for ya/yeah, yeah, yeah/I'd jump in front of train for ya/yeah, yeah, yeah/you know I'd do anything for ya".

After the albums opening explosion with 'Grenade' the soul after shocks reverberate through the rest of the album hitting everything. The cut 'Our First Time' starts like it was meant for the R&B side of Drake than takes it's own unique sound of it's own. A perfect song that you could listen to on a sunny day... Somewher in the Caribbean. A feeling which is furthered by the Damian Marley assisted 'Liquor Store Blues'. The track 'Just The Way You Are' is a sure fire hit that is a study of the type of song every girl wants to have written for them straight from the school of Ne-Yo. The pupil has learnt well. 'Runaway Baby' is another song that could be a big hit, a crossover creation that Maroon 5 would be proud of. A track that again displays Bruno's vocal, written and instrumental range and prowess.

Mars even drops the word 'Frickin' again on 'The Lazy Song' where he playfully pokes fun at his need for censorship on the radio, singing "Yeah I said it/I said it/I said it 'cause I can". Despite this Bruno still has the ability to sing about mature topics but still turn them into sure fire rewinds for his young fanbase. This is espeically evident on 'Marry You' which is a big step for Mars and sounds like matrimony from the very first note. A song that would make the perfect playlist partner for Tank's 'Wedding Song' or Jagged Edge's 'Let's Get Married', two down the aisle classics.

After his two co hits this year big things were expected from Bruno Mars and he doesn't disappoint his great expectations. Bruno not only creates a disc full of guaranteed pop hits, he also carves himself his own niche in pop and R&B much like Robin Thicke did but in a different way. Mars in less than a year establishes himself as one of the premiere, most sought after songwriters in the biz. This one man and his guitar will be around for some time releasing albums and doing even more collaborations. Bruno has the unique double threat talent of penning or singing hits for himself and others, much in the same way a Ne-Yo does, but don't get it twisted he is very much his own man. You can count on seeing Bruno Mars name in shining lights for quite some time. TIM DAVID HARVEY.



A classical guitarist reworks rocks greatest classics for the ages.

Carlos Santana with Santana performs in concert at the Cruzan Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, Florida on August 1, 2010. UPI/Michael Bush Photo via Newscom

There will always be an unsolved debate to what the greatest rock song of all time is and who the greatest guitarist is, but you will find some of these songs played by one of the best on 'Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time'. This new album by Santana is more than just some tribute band piece. It's one of the greatest bands and guitarists of all time giving their own personal favourites their own unique twist.

Carlos Santana and company whittled down all the best guitar classics to 14 for this unique album. Despite 'Guitar Heaven' being a covers piece Santana (who still haven't run out of steam making their own hits, see 'All That I Am' for all your proof) show that their homage set is a lot more focussed and dedicated than you would expect. This isn't a bunch of old timers hungry for sales and recognition. The only recognition these guys want is for the guitar classics they are tributing. Songs that have paved the way for big bands and songs of today. This LP isn't some throw away, half baked set where the performers just flick through 'Guitar Hero' for their selections. This deep, well worked piece is exactly what it says on the case, heaven.

This act of tribute opens with the classic 'Whole Lotta Love', which does justice to the original all whilst being complete with the world sounds of Santana's classic riffs. On standouts like this and 'Bang A Gong' Santana reinvigorate raw classics bringing them to a universal forefront. The real timeless gem however is 'Sunshine Of Your Love' which reunites Rob Thomas with Santana and his band Matchbox Twenty. With drums and guitar licks reminiscent of their classic summer heater 'Smooth', Santana and Thomas prove that going back to old, timeless classics really furthers that distinct 'Supernatural' sound. On the anniversary of the classic album the combination don't forgot the magic of when they first got together.

Other classic re-inventions include an alternate take on AC/DC's 'Back in Black' which features hip-hop legend Nas. Carlos's guitar work give Nas the perfect beat to deliver his trademark on point lyrical strikes. Ironman rapper Ghostface Killah would be proud. Speaking of the Wu-Tang Clan on The Beatles classic 'While My Guitar Gentley Weeps' Santana and India Arie rediscover the soul of this classic record much like The Wu and Erykah Badu did years back on 'While My Heart Gentley Weeps" off the Wu-Tang Clan album '8 Diagrams'.

Even when Santana play it safe and go for simpler, similair versions of classics like The Doors' 'Riders On The Storm' and Red Hot Chilli Peppers' 'Under The Bridge' they still deliver straight forward post era rock brilliance. With this new concept album Santana work the idea down to a tee. Despite using covers as a basis for this record they still produce material that sounds original. Santana further extend their legendary status while paying homage to the legends of rock. With 'Guitar Heaven' Santana awakes the spirit and help keep these classic records eternal. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Thursday, 7 October 2010



Kelz mines some gold whilst compiling his platinum hits.

ATLANTA- NOVEMBER 15: R & B singer, R. Kelly performs on November 15, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Annette Brown/Getty Images)

The R in R&B begins his 2010 epic fall release schedule with the first of three albums. The studio albums 'Zodiac' and 'Love Letter' will follow the latest compilation release of R. Kellys vast library of hits. After his greatest hits and his remix album 'Remix City Volume 1' Robert Kelly cuts a disc consisting of all his inspiring, stadium and movie esque power ballads. Needless to say Kelly entitles this hits collection 'Epic' and the sound of the album is the definition of this in the same way that it's singer has defined rhythm and blues for decades.

'Epic' displays the range and depth of this mans talents. A singer who can take it to the club, church or the bedroom and still every time never look like he's leaving his comfort zone. This album includes some classics which are among everyones favourite R. Kelly songs including the uplifting 'I Believe I Can Fly' and the inspirational 'The Worlds Greatest'. The compilation also includes 4 new songs which previously unreleased are worthy to stand next to the hits on a CD that is full of favourites and not filler.

The albums first cut is one of the deepest. 'Heal It (Prelude)' proves that even on an intro Kelz can still draw the holy spirit. His lead single 'Sign Of A Victory' (which was this years South Africa World Cup official anthem) is a testament to the fact that even though he moves with the times the R's more motivational signature sound still has relevance today right from the studio to the stadium. The other new epics 'Fireworks' and 'Can You Feel It' further expand Kelly's feel good repertoire. It's the Obama tribute 'I Believe' however that stands out even amongst his oldest and truest classics. The song really captures the change, joy and hope that came with the Presidents inauguration with lyrics like, "You endured to the end /Walked through the strongest wind /The storm's over /And a new day begins". The dediction is uplifitng and references other Kelly epic's like 'The Storm Is Over Now' (which is surprisingly absent on this collection). His ode to the worlds leader is his best 'Epic' work since 'The Worlds Greatest'.

Older fans of the more vintage R. Kelly will be please with this collection as although he's still made hits with albums like 'Double Up' and 'Untitled' it does seem Roberts spent the last few years 'Trapped In The Club' which has left some fans more hungover than Bradley Cooper. This album also shouldn't just be viewed as another cashing in project. It's the perfect mix for those fans who can only tolerate one side of the R&B swingman. Also the album is a just the right tonic of big hits ('If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time') and house favourites (Like 'U Saved Me's', 'Peace' or 'Spirit'). This release is also perfect for Kelly's growing fan base of new lovers who may not know that with 'I'm Your Angel' Kelly recorded a surprisingly refreshing duet with Celine Dion who would probably more likely be seen at a wine club than an 'Ignition' club jeep party dancing to 'Slow Wind'.

Even though he uses old techniques and goes off old form Kelly aims for the fence with his first strike of 2010 and hits big. He builds the anticipation for his next two pitches well with a collection of his hall of fame moments. 'Epic' overall is a concise and selectively sound mix which has fans now eager to read the 'Love Letters' of this 'Zodiac'. With that being said however epic songs like 'Rise Up' and 'Happy People' to name just two could have also been added to the mixture. In fact with Kelly songbook that rivals the greats this compilation could have easily went into double disc territory. Still with this album Kelly paints a picture that is as 'Epic' as promised even if a directors cut edition would of provided more of an epos. TIM DAVID HARVEY.