Thursday, 30 June 2011
Still in the right key.
This week marks the 10th anniversary release of Alicia Keys major label debut 'Songs In A Minor'. A first-release which showcased not only one of the best albums of the last decade but one of the best artists too. New York's finest came straight from Hell's Kitchen, cooking up a heavenly sound. Alicia ruled the world of music with her huge, platinum classic. Stirring soul music, whilst bringing it to the popular, mainstream consensus. The epic, dramatic 'Piano & I' intro tinkled us with her incredible, inspiring ivory skill, while the ODB sampling shimmy of 'Girlfriend' (featuring Jermaine Dupri) and it's funky foundations laid the groundwork for chart success. Still it was the ultimate, timeless music classics that has kept this album in CD changers for years. Songs like the legendary rising 'Fallin'' or the perfect Prince composition 'How Come You Don't Call Me'. Miss Keys really proved her value with 'A Woman's Worth', setting the Aretha Franklin respect benchmark for rally-cry songs for females. The Nas and Busta Rhymes remixes of this and 'Fallin'' respectively earned even more respect with it's musical and lyrical dynamics and differences.
Unlike most big albums it didn't end there however. Alicia Keys kept going with us on 'Rock Wit U' and made a name for herself with album favourites like 'Jane Doe' or the freeing 'Caged Bird'. Through 'Troubles', 'The Life', 'Never Felt This Way' and 'Goodbye', Alicia went through it all on the 2001 release that lasted beyond the four seasons. 'Mr. Man' showed more of this woman's worth, as did the floating 'Butterflyz' and the unquestionable 'Why Do I Feel So Sad'. Even the hidden gem 'Loving You Is Easy' was a real bonus. Not only was this disc a groundbreaking record for this young Manhattan made singer, it was also earth-shattering for music. Modern day rhythm and blues grew up in the new millennium and it hasn't looked or sounded the same since.
Now after more classic songs ('You Don't Know My Name', 'No One', 'Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart'), albums ('The Diary', 'As I Am', 'Element Of Freedom') and great guest appearances (Eve's 'Gangster Lovin'', Usher's 'My Boo' and Jay-Z's 'Empire State Of Mind') A. Keys returns wth the deluxe edition of her complete opening album. With enhanced content and new improvements on favourites like 'Butterfly' this bonus disc really stands out. The lead single 'Typewriter' shows this singer/songwriter has plenty more left in keys, while the 'Original Funky Demo' of 'The Diary' entry 'If I Was Your Woman' is a great take. As is the 'ALI Soundtrack Version' of 'Fallin'' which is as epic as the film itself, (just like her 'Fight' song from the great Will Smith film about the boxing legend). The 'Mixtape Version' of 'Juiciest' also packs a punch showing this New Yorker hits the tapes as hard as rap icon The Notorious B.I.G. While cementing her own N.Y. State of legend and legacy, Alicia Keys adds a little something extra to a perfect album. These big tracks just show us how much of a star and talent she is. On the decade anniversary of a modern-day great and all-round classic, Keys celebrates with decadence. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Saturday, 25 June 2011
Following an incredible, inspired performance at the indigo 02 this week, 'AMPs & 808s' 'Artist Of The Week' is R&B superstar Ginuwine. Also with this weeks 'Tape Deck Shuffle' looking at the young and mature sides of G's career lets select an album that bridges the gap between both. The huge album 'The Life' really kept this then braided haired singer going through the seasons of his change. From the epic, rhythmic blues number of 'Why Not Me' to the massive single 'Just Because' there was no reason why this album wouldn't be great. Ginuwine showed shades of his old self with Timbaland on the Ludacris assisted 'That's How I Get Down' and also kept it funky fresh on the now title-dated only '2 Way'. Even the filler of 'Why Did You Go', 'How Deep Is Your Love', 'Open Arms' and 'Superhuman' was anything but, a set of formidable tracks rounding out a hit album. Still it was Ginuwine's move into more mature territory that won everyone over with his beautiful ballads. 'Tribute To A Woman' is a deep dedication and 'Differences' is just a decedent all-round classic. G even gave all those 'Heard It All Before' ladies a run for their money with the brilliant, irreplaceable, break-up track 'There You Go'. Nothing however held more meaning, then the movingly beautiful, brave and honest, 'Two Reasons Why I Cry' tribute to the tragic loss of his parents (rest peacefully). Genuine emotion from this real talent. Overall this album was a complete classic. Before 'The Senior' matured he really lived on this one. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Selections from our 'Artist Of The Week' Ginuwine. 'Side A' features today's more mature side. While 'Side B' plays the young mans classics.
FROZEN: Off his latest album 'Elgin'. Mr. Baylor delivers his coldest break-up cut yet. It's a favourite of his and ours.
OPEN THE DOOR: Off the album 'A Man's Thoughts', this epic 'take me back' track takes us back to those R&B singers who open up the genre with meaning.
I'M IN LOVE: Deep and delightful, beautiful and bold, simply put this should be your wedding song.
LOVE YOU MORE: How about more? With this and the previous play no R&B singer can write and perform a more genuine love song then Ginuwine.
DIFFERENCES: The difference between this and the rest of the rhythm and blues ballads out there? This makes the genre look good. A certified classic.
PONY: The classic of all urban legends. You've never hears a Timbaland beat like this, the freshest and most original and in G a star was born.
TELL ME DO YOU WANNA: Blending seamlessly on 'The Bachelor' from 'Pony'. This is a deep cut of striving to cure loneliness.
WHEN DOVES CRY: This take on Prince's classic is R&B royalty. Even 'The Artist' himself liked it and he hates covers of his work.
SHE'S OUT OF MY LIFE: After channeling Prince it was only right Ginuwine covered the king and his inspiration and influence on his next album '100% Ginuwine'. His take on a young Michael Jackson classic is timeless in itself.
SAME OL' G: Throughout Ginuwine's career even though he's evolved, he's never changed, always staying G. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
G was great, after all the wait.
15 years deep into the game, grown-up and old-school, R&B leading man Ginuwine returns to London, England, by the way of the intimate 'indigo' venue inside the 02 to play-out and perform numbers from his classic catalogue. 'AMPs & 808s' where on hand to see an all-round, all-time great guy who has also lent a hand to the buzz of this site via Twitter (thank you). Ginuwine had some serious support from, May7ven, Junbug, Dotstar, Grhymey, Scandal and New Jack in this relentless R&B show in festival season.
Before G, J. Holiday took to the stage to co-headline and he really got the crowd more then warmed up. Wrapping up and singing his way through his favourite hits, he was note perfect with some incredible, inspired singing. His charisma was on point to, whether hammering with his entourage or hitting on the crowd. Holiday looked at a perfect, comfortable ease, his excellence making his work look like a vacation. As J departed the stage he left the crowd begging for more...it was about to come.
If people thought that J. Holiday got the fans screaming like 'The Jackson's' where back together then they hadn't seen, or heard anything yet. As Ginuwine was ready to take the stage, ecstatic women (and even some men) rushed the stage like they where ready to fight (you could almost see the nails getting pulled off), screaming with a shattering tone (it's a good job the wine was served in plastic cups). With a genuinely brilliant group of backing singers, dressed in burnt-orange, off red jackets and white, this looked like something between Guy and 'Heavy D & The Boyz', as they told us they "see nothing wrong with a little Ginuwine" to R. Kelly's 'Bump N' Grind'. Then G came bouncing out to 'Same Ol' G', teasing with his back turned, greeting each member of his group he really took us back to classic times proving he hasn't changed. As he finally turned around to welcome the crowd, face-to-face, you knew it was on.
From the outset his energy, charm, charisma, cool and effortless, excellent vocal-ability was turned up to the highest notch. Even though he played for under an hour and missed some requests it didn't matter because he gave us all in a sweet, short set. He more then made up for it with his incredible, perfect performances with added love for the live show. 'The Senior' rolled through 'Stingy' and 'Hell Yeah' before finding room 'In Those Jeans' and the old-favourites like 'None Of Your Friends Business' and 'Differences', showing that he can move through his young and today's more mature sound as seamlessly over time on stage as his albums have done over the years in the studio.
Elgin Baylor held his court and this stage like a pro really bringing the intimate vibe out of the 'indigo'. It felt more like a club show, then atypical concert and that worked just right. Giving 100% Elgin performed one off his new, literally self-titled album(a quick sip of the cool 'Drink Of Choice') despite some briefly mentioned label difficulty. He even played his classic collabo with Nas ('You Owe Me') while getting changed into a crisp, all-white number. He also paid tribute to the Jodeci song 'Let's Go Through the Motions'. A song he came up with via video, it's refreshing Ginuwine recognises his roots. With three-men behind him G showed what could have been if he was part of that group or the TGT one he's formed with the terrific Tank and Tyrese. Then on came the glittered Nike 'Air Force's as Ginuwine paid tribute to the king of pop, dance, R&B and all-music, Michael Jackson, dancing through his hits. Ginuwine proved he's still got it, cutting a rug (and a towel) while paying tribute to "one of the three reasons" he's where he is today (God and the fans being the other two). This dance lord really was qualified to speak and move on this tribute, being the first R&B solo singer after M.J. to bring the dancing and singing to the mainstream. Way before Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and even Usher.
Then the beat changed to an infamous, legendary production from former 'superfriend' and partner Timbaland as 'The Bachelor' broke down into his classic, huge-hit 'Pony' to finish up. Riding on the crest of the wave of the fans and his own maintaining energy G acted as excited as his fans to hear their reaction to his classic, dancing away and jumping in the crowd. That's when the sea of Blackberry's and iphones (held so far up in the sky like they where trying to find a signal to tell jealous friends how good this was) really bum-rushed the stage. I'm sad to say one pair of steam -rolled aviators didn't make it. It's a good job the security didn't end up like the bouncers in the Ludacris video, 'Move B****'.
After 'Pony' the G-man galloped off stage only to be followed by fans looking for a photo, proclaiming "Where's this Ginuwine" like the English man sample off the Bachelor's debut. Even though Mr. Baylor was done for the night he really proved tonight he was legendary like his Laker namesake. Like a fine wine, age 'aint slowing this G down. From his engaging energy to his acclaimed appreciation for the fans and their love, this genuine talent proved that the real thing, really is the best thing. This night it was all a 'G-thang'. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Monday, 20 June 2011
An awesome, agonisingly anticipated acoustic set.
It took a two year retreat from the music industry, a last-minute purchase on London's 'Gumtree' service, a packed tube via Baker Street (Rest Peacefully Gerry Rafferty) and a nervous navigation around London's beautiful, nuclear-bunker like 'Barbican Theatre', but last night we finally got the chance to see reclusive, legendary Rock superstar Ryan Adams and it was well worth the wait and journey. From the joyous, crowd-communicating support of rising star Jesse Malin, to Ryan's own ground-work with the fans we where treated to a perfectly personal evening. As intimate as acoustic gigs are supposed to be, despite the big stage this superstar was place on.
He didn't disappoint treating us to an alluring, over two-hour acoustic set that was both epic and calming, charming and humorous. From self-deprecating, to audience bashing banter, it was all friendly and it was all love. The man who has self-confessed to being a 'p****' and is notorious for his gig-leaving temper was nothing but good-natured last night. Sure his former fronted bands ('Whiskeytown' and 'The Cardinals') where in the rear-view last night but all he needed was his guitar, extensive Dylan-chasing songbook, Lebowski rug, harmonica and his beautiful piano to his right. With all that we where left with some of the most honestly beautiful and simply sublime music we could hear in one night.
In the vast, wonderful wooden theatre the sound was anything but that as it felt velvety smooth. From the well-received opener of 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' to the eagerly requested, excellent encore. Ryan Adams prolifically strolled through his vast catalogue and set with an ease and excellence. Sure there where troubles, his Italian guitar was often out of tune, but he made up for it with banter and bravado and hey this was the guitar he strummed along the way with all his classic albums so that can be forgiven. Despite the hiccups this high-quality performance set the standard for acoustic performers.
Dedicating songs to his respective muses Adams performed 'Amy' and thanked 'Louise'. He also showed us his 'Desire' and charged us with the 'Gold' standard of 'The Rescue Blues' among so many of his fond-favourites. Even if at times his guitar didn't keep up, his vocals sure did from the harmonies to the harmonica. He was note perfect, even sounding soulful as he bared his heart. Still the evening reached perfection when he walked like a wilderbeast over to the piano for some perfect performances. From the poetic 'Sylvia Plath' to a new, nice take on 'New York, New York' that was so good you'll want to go back and hear it one more time...I guess that's why he's playing another night. So if your in the London area why not hit up the Barbican tonight for the end of this double-header and see just why this solo artist is singled-out from the rest? Truly a one-of a kind performer. From the laughter to the tears, to the fans and the technicians, everyone gets involved. You should too. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Friday, 17 June 2011
This week sees the reunion of Eminem and Royce da 5'9" as 'Bad Meets Evil' and the highly anticipated release of 'Hell: The Sequel', a long awaited EP. So let's take it back to the first-time these two got together for the record on Eminem's Aftermath debut 'The Slim Shady LP'. As Marshall Mathers became a superstar and introduced himself to the world with 'My Name Is', Dr. Dre's perfect protegee showed that a 'Guilty Conscience' wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Classic and controversial from the deep ('If I Had') to the disturbing ('Just Don't Give A F#$@') this bleached blonde rapper released a debut as strong as peroxide. Em' channelled everyone from 2Pac ('97 Bonnie & Clyde') to his own inner demons ('Brain Damage'). The shadiest rappers slimmed down the competition with an album that didn't send him on his way to the top but one that put him there right away. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
To celebrate the return of the reunited Royce da 5'9" and Eminem and their 'Bad Meets Evil' project ('Hell: The Sequel') this weeks 'Tape Deck' shuffles through their classics. Side A is 'Bad' (Royce da 5'9") while Side B is 'Evil' (Eminem).
I'M THE KING-This song is so hard it will make you want to rob a car...on 'Grand Theft Auto' that is. Taken from the soundtrack to the third instalment.
ROCK CITY Feat Eminem-Em and Royce get together for Detroit on a rap banger that rocks.
MAKE THIS RUN Feat PHARRELL & KELIS-This Neptunes jam back in the Kelis/Star Trek family days is out this world.
POLITICS Feat CEE-LO GREEN-This presidential introspective political rap rolls out Cee-Lo as a guest speaker.
WRITERS BLOCK Feat EMINEM-'Bad' and 'Evil' meet again to show they haven't run out of things to say. No one can stop the rhyme.
MAXINE-Off his 'Infinite' debut, an ode to love and his one-of-a-kind style.
STAN: How can we not write about this two sides to a story, hip-hop letter. Turned Dido into a superstar and revealed another side of Eminem.
SING FOR THE MOMENT-What do you get if you mix Eminem and Aerosmith? You get one of Slim Shady's best singles and defining moments of his career to date.
JUST LOSE IT: The king of joke songs really pulls out a full deck on this one. Other jokers had to be aware, this ace really had something up his sleeve.
BEAUTIFUL-On his 'Relapse' Marshall still gathers a real, genuine, beautiful introspection on his life. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Good meets great.
Formed in Detroit, Michigan back in 1998; hip-hop underground star Royce da 5'9" teamed up with establishing rap megastar Eminem to form a dynamic duo deemed 'Bad Meets Evil'. It started with a self-titled track debuting on Em's first album 'The Slim Shady LP' in 1999. Royce brought the bold and 'Bad' while Marshall Mathers brought the excellent and 'Evil'. Following the classic, before Jay-Z 'Renegade' track came the dramatic and a 5'9" fallout with D12 and the ending of 'Bad' and 'Evil' as we knew it. Years later, late, legendary D12 rapper and Eminem's best-friend Proof helped build bridges between his close friends that laid the foundations for this project. Now in 2011 following Eminem's return to top-and before the release of Royce's 'Success Is Certain'-comes a reunion and guaranteed seller in the EP 'Hell: The Sequel'.
This play really is so extended it may as well be an LP. With enough excellent tracks even the buzz promoting single 'Nuttin' to Do / Scary Movies' is now the stuff of mixtapes, being left off this album. The tracks here however are full of rhymes as hard and kinetic as the beats that balance out this pairs flow. The duo of Em' and Royce have enough rap science chemistry and rhyme calibre to go the double-disc distance as these guys duke it out.
The brimstone hot intro 'Welcome 2 Hell' show this long-awaited collaboration is heaven sent as the duo duel with determined fire in their tongue twisters, trying to out-do each other, speed for speed, punchline for punchline. Eminem sets things off with cold, cutting lyrical torture. As he spits fire, "There’s a switch, I flip, emotions cut off/so cold I done froze my butt off/and this ain’t even the tip of the iceberg yet/it's like squirting a squirt gun in the ocean, f#$@ off/other words I didn’t put a dent in the game compared/to the damage I’ve yet to do/as long as you still have feelings to hurt" nobody can fan his furious lyrical flames for 16 bars or 11 deluxe edition tracks.
The single 'Fast Lane' is an energetic, torque filled racer, while 'The Reunion' shows the two getting back together and taking it back with some classic Slim Shady raps. Other top rappers thinking of collaborating on an album better 'Watch The Throne' as with songs like, 'Above the Law' Eminem and Royce da 5'9" handcuff the competition with gavel hard, determined rhymes.
Screwing with everyone from Kanye West to Nicki Minaj, the pair show- anyone's fair-game as they poke fun and jest. If you think these punch-line hard-hitters are funny then wait until you hear 'I'm on Everything'. This drug-abusing record makes the best of a Mike Epps sample soundbite for a track that will leave you fiending for more, whether it be jokes from the comedian or rhymes from 'Bad Meets Evil'.
With 'A Kiss' the two rappers get so explicit they have to wash their mouths out. The two rappers who like it dirty get a little cleaner however with the squeaky Bruno Mars on 'Lighters'. Reaching out to burn the pop charts up with the brightest chorus man of the moment, the pair lighten up the dark tone of this album as this track illuminates with inspiration. 'Bad Meets Evil' give their best on 'Take from Me' that once again features the vocals of rising talent Claret Jai, (Skylar Gray's about to have some company). On 'Hell's' highlight, Em and most notably Royce take everyone who's used them -from family to downloading fans-to task. "I know that without the fans/I ain’t s@#$ but y’all better read my lips, I don’t spit raps this ill/for you to just hack and steal and leak my s$%#," Royce sneers with serious lyrical and subject-matter superiority...and believe there's more where that came from.
If the lambs of competition hadn't already been led to slaughter by these two lions then they really will bleat at 'Loud Noises', an ear-piercing, explosive track that brings everyone from the pairs 'Slaughterhouse' group to Steve Carrell's 'Anchorman' character 'Brick'. This collaboration collects the hilarious one-liners in vast, posse cut helpings. The most rib-tickling comes from the feathers of Joell Ortiz to Joe Budden, but it's not all light and breezy with these heavyweights.
The 'Deluxe Edition' of this project takes this EP To album numbers. Want an example? Well, the track 'Living Proof' (another Mr. Porter produced piece of perfection) does Eminem and his partner in rhyme, Royce da 5'9" proud like Slim's legendary hypeman and D12 'dudie'. Plus to play us out, the energy everlasting 'Echo' sounds great as it reverberates from the tone set by this disc, along with Royce's renaissance and Eminem's career 'Recovery' success. All in all this 'sequel' does just as well as an original album back in the day would have intended. These two Detroit rappers take it beyond Aftermath and 8 Mile. Reuniting and complimenting each other perfectly the pair create their own lane down the road. Now we can't wait for what's next. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Thursday, 16 June 2011
It's been 15 years since we saw 'Better Days' , 'R U Still Down'?
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
On September 13th, 1996 Tupac Shakur tragically died as the result of his injuries after being shot on the Las Vegas strip after a Mike Tyson fight. 15 years later on the 16th of June in 2011 (what would have been his 40th birthday) we mourn once again the loss of the greatest rapper/poet/prophet/activist of our generation, which today still feels as raw as the moment the unbelievable news broke. After mourning and blasting 'Staring Through My Rearview' as loud as we can out our cars (I see you), we look back and celebrate the man's life because even after 15 years we can't and won't forget.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the greatest rapper of all time. Sure when your asked 'Who's the greatest MC'? You may reply 'Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas' but you know in the history of hip-hop there's been no one quite like 'Pac and there will never be another like him. As iconic in African-American culture as Michael Jordan. As iconic in music as Kurt Cobain or Marvin Gaye. From recited lyrics to tattoo's, T-shirts, posters, murals and the most evocative of memories. From every fan, the real G.O.A.T, Tupac lives.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the music. The sound from '2Pacalypse Now' to right now. From the old school to the new. From Digital Underground's to time on Death Row. The 14 studio albums, 6 recorded before his death, 8 posthumous. How could we even miss a beat? From the club to the church and from the streets to the graves, Shakur lamented it all. He inspired, he showed love for his mama and he fought with the best and came out on top. Tupac could give it to anybody in so many ways, 'How Do You Want It?'
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about 'All Eyez On Me'. An instant and timeless classic. Most artists these days would fall short on recording a double album (even Jay and Nas have found it tough) but obviously Tupac had a lot to say over two books after coming out of prison. You wouldn't be blamed if you confused 'All Eyez On Me' with his 'Greatest Hits'. What other rap album could boast as many diverse and prominent rap classics as 'Ambitionz Az A Ridah', 'All About You', 'How Do You Want It', '2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted', 'Life Goes on', 'California Love (Remix)', 'I Aint Mad At Cha', 'Picture Me Rollin', 'All Eyez On Me' and so much more. No wonder 'Pac had everyone's ears as well as eyes.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about 'California Love'. A club banger so classic the love for the West Coast dedication never dies. Hate it now if you dare but what other hip-hop club classic stands the test of time? Even these days with ipod's, music downloads and throw away rap club bangers that saturate the music market 'California Love' still makes noise. To all the DJ's out there, you could throw this record on at any point in the night and people will go as crazy as the first time it dropped. What other record does that these days?
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget that when 2Pac was 'Against The Odds' and everybody he made one of his best albums in 'Me Against The World'. From 'If I Die Tonight' to 'Outlaw' Shakur showed everyone that he found his own. With timeless rap records like the title track, 'So Many Tears', 'Temptations', 'Dear Mama' and 'Death Around The Corner'. Tupac proved that if anybody in hip-hop had a songbook a impressive and as big as Bob Dylan's it was him.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about Makaveli and 'The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory'. Tupac's album under the name Makaveli was released just months after his death and is his most compelling and haunting set. We heard him 'Bomb First' and then after saying a 'Hail Mary' we learned how 'To Live & Die in LA', 'Against All Olds'. All throughout this we learned how passionate and determined this young man really was and ultimately we learned how tragic a time this was.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget that not only was Tupac a brilliant rapper but a brilliant poet also. The lyricist and artist was 'The Rose That Grew From Concrete'. Even though Tupac came from dark times his words where still a thing of beauty giving light to ugly truths. We could see the 'Pride Of A Panther' and the blues of a thug. Most importantly though we read between the lines and saw the man himself as he put himself out there on paper. Resulting in something truly inspirational. Real 'Poetic Justice'.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the acting. Whether 'Above The Rim', 'Gridlock'd' or with a little 'Juice' the always genuine and intense Shakur proved he could be a legend in two games like Pee Wee Kirkland. Even when 'Pac shared the screen with talent at the level of Tim Roth, Omar Epps and Janet Jackson he was still the films silver lining. Most rappers appear in movies because they can. Tupac was a bonafide actor however, he appeared in movies because he could.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget the great life of one the most influential and inspirational figures of the 90's. 15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the tragic death of this man. Taken way before his time, I guess the good really do die young. 15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget however that resurrected through his music Tupac Shakur lives on in our memories and through speakers, every time we bang out 'Can't C Me' and every time we knock 'Rebel Of The Underground'.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the lessons learned. What he taught us through his music and what we learned after his death. We'll never forget what we learned after his and The Notorious B.I.G.'s murders. We'll never forget how he 'Let The Knowledge Drop' and how he told us that 'Life Goes On', but we will still, always remember.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the inspiration that this man brought. He spoke to everyone from the projects to the high-rises. He spoke about everyone, every injustice he saw, telling us "unless we're shootin, no one notices the youth". Through everything though 'Pac recognised the forgotten youth, telling us that 'Brenda's Got A Baby' and being there for everyone when no one else was. Telling us to 'Hold On, Be Strong' and to 'Keep Ya Head Up'. Even with our backs against the wall Tupac told us "Through every dark night; theres a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it get; stick your chest out; keep ya head up.. . and handle it". Even if we were against the world Shakur was right there with us.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the influences this man has had on music and youth. Whether they look like it or not every rapper in one way or another has taken a page out of Tupac's rhyme book for inspiration. From Ja Rule to Kanye West, East, West and Dirty South . Half of these rappers wouldn't even be around without the influence and inspiration of Tupac, he paved the way. Sure one day one of these new up and coming rappers will join Eminem and outsell this West Coast icons 75 million albums but believe me know one will touch as many people as Tupac Amaru Shakur.
This is because 15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the legacy left by this larger than life figure. The legacy that lives through his mother Afeni Shakur, through the 'Tupac Foundation', through his statues and countless murals and through his music. The music that grows day by day as new generations pick up copies of 'All Eyez On Me', or as the hundreds of remaining 'Pac lyrics are released. Through the music we'll always picture Tupac 'rollin' and 'As The World Turns' we'll never move on without him.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget it's 'All About You' 2Pac, Rest In Peace and Happy Birthday!
Friday, 10 June 2011
With the release of Ben Harper's first solo album in years (the brilliant 'Give Till It's Gone') lets take a look back at one of the last and greatest solo-sets from a man who's ran more bands then Paul McCartney. Not only was 'Diamonds On The Inside' the name of a classic song by Ben Harper, it was also the title of one of his best records to date. As vivid, beautiful and innocent as the album cover this gem was a classic as soon as it was popped out the jewel case. From the incredible intro track 'With My Own Two Hands' to the dusk of 'She's Only Happy In The Sun', Ben gave us musical grace leaving fans eating out his palms. The best, beautiful, compassionate songs 'When She Believes' and 'Amen Omen' gave us food for thought. While the uplifting, spiritual 'Blessed To Be A Witness' and the great 'When It's Good' where so complete it left every listener fulfilled. In fact all the tracks on this album where brilliant as this novel piece really had 'Everything', no fiction or filler. The man who likes to jam with Eddie Vedder dropped pearls, from 'Brown Eyed Blues' to 'Bring The Funk'. Harper really saw and brought it all. Outside of this pop heavy and throw-away world this album would have gone diamond, but still platinum will do. Beside it's not about a plaque you can keep that. It's about what's real and Ben Harper gives that with no sign of going anywhere anytime soon. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
To make up for our lateness on the review and to celebrate his latest success this weeks 'TAPE DECK SHUFFLE' is a Ben Harper special. 'Side A' features his solo work. 'Side B' his collaborations with his brilliant bands.
MORNING YEARNING: One of the most beautiful songs ever in music, period. Over velvety violins Ben reaches greatness and lyrical beauty. The legendary, late, great Heath Ledger (Rest In Peace) also directed the artistically stunning and elegant video. Harper returned the favour penning a lovely lullaby for Heath's daughter ('Happy Everafter In Your Eyes'). (From The Album: 'BOTH SIDES OF THE GUN')
WAITING FOR YOU: Following the intro of 'Morning Yearning' on 'Both Sides Of The Gun' this song flows perfectly on Harper's finest record. A love song at it's most simplistic and beautiful. (From The Album: 'BOTH SIDES OF THE GUN')
ANOTHER LONELY DAY: You really should hear the live version of this with 'Relentless7' from the 'Montreal Interational Jazz Festival'. Still this acoustic classic is string, note and lyric perfect. (From The Album: 'FIGHT FOR YOUR MIND')
BEAUTIFUL BOY: Starting a beautiful marriage with Beatles music that ends up with some new album Ringo Starr collabos, Ben beautifully terrificaly takes on a legendary Lennon lament in tribute. (From The Album: 'INSTANT KARMA')
DON'T GIVE UP ON ME NOW: One of Ben's newest and greatest, no wonder this was a hit in Italy. 'Grande' rock fashioned with love. (From The Album: 'GIVE TILL IT'S GONE')
PLEASE BLEED: Flowing with energy, passion and power. This pleasure was a guilty classic (From The Album: 'BURN TO SHINE' With 'The Innocent Criminals')
SEXUAL HEALING (LIVE): All of Harper's live songs bring more life to his classics but it's this re-working and re-invention of the legendary Marvin Gaye classic that brought this song and artist to new audiences. (From The Album: 'LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL' With 'The Innocent Criminals')
WHERE COULD I GO?:With the spirit and light of 'The Blind Boys Of Alabama' Ben testified to greatness with heavenly inspiration. (From The Album: 'THERE WILL BE A LIGHT' With 'The Blind Boys Of Alabama')
FLY ONE TIME: This upbeat jam with Ben's latest bunch of rock boys builds with inspiration as it grows musically. Heart and soul personified in rock and roll.(From The Album: 'WHITE LIES FOR DARK TIMES' With 'Relentless7')
FISTFUL OF MERCY: Now what sort of group would release a track named after themselves apart from AC/DC? Well how about a super-group with a super-song like this? From Harper's sensational slide guitar riff to his harmonies with Joel Arthur and Dhani Harrison (son of George, told you about The Beatles matrimony) this latest Harper incarnation is incredible. The Travelling Wilbury's of this generation take us on a musical journey. (From The Album: 'AS I CALL YOU DOWN' By 'Fistful Of Mercy'). TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Harper's still here, giving us everything he's got.
Ben Harper isn't just one of the greatest musical artists of modern-times, he's also one of the most prolific. Right now he's releasing so much material even a die-hard fan would be forgiven for missing the latest cuts from his classic cloth. Yet the man who has made a career out of forming some brilliant bands has crafted the last two years creating two more. Yet even now after the success of his more upbeat 'Relentless7' collective and his sublime supergroup show 'Fistful Of Mercy' (http://ampsand808s.blogspot.com/2010/10/review-fistful-of-mercy-as-i-call-you.html) last fall, the man himself is far from done. So here comes his latest offering 'Give Till It's Gone', his first real, solo set since the distinctly classic 'Both Sides Of The Gun' which might just be his best work to date.
From the artwork to the artists, one-man-band graft on the tracks this is an album of colourful and vibrant numbers ready to paint the Summer's music scene. With a little bit of help from his friends from The Beatles and classic singer-songwriters from his home in America, Ben has brought us a book of songs worthy of an international best-seller. Harper even released this album first in Italy (note the blue and red artwork) weeks prior, and the classic country thanked him with the love of a number 2 position in the charts. This release also coincided with the dropping of the album opener, 'Don't Give Up on Me Now' as a single. This 'grande' track is a new Ben Harper classic. Big, bold and beautiful, the fans will 'bella' it. Harp also blessed his following world-wide with a free download of the sensational single 'Rock N' Roll Is Free'. A classic statement record that is rich with love, protest and the classic elements of anthemic rock and roll.
Another standout single is 'Feel Love', a song debuted live last year that was originally thought to be on a new 'Relentless7' record. Still this perfectly personal record is one of the best songs this rock man with a soul has ever bore and just to think this is the man that's given us 'Morning Yearning', 'When She Believes' and 'Faithfully Remain'. If you thought that was a blessing, the deep cut 'I Will Not Be Broken' is evocative in it's excellence without equal, from it's unyielding spirited lyrics to it's haunting, Jazz-tangent guitar riffs. While 'Clearly Severely' is a crystal-tough number that could have easily found itself on the veterans earlier solo albums just as much as on this disc.
After backing him up with his 'Relentless' energy on a live performance on 'The Daily Show With Jon Stewart' Harper gets into the studio with legendary Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. What results from this pair is the dynamic duo 'Spilling Faith' and 'Get There from Here', two tracks that sound distinctly Ben and distinctly Beatles all at the same time and on the same note, especially the latter. As Ben's strings and Ringo's skins form a marriage over eight minutes, the chemistry is clear from the flawless sound to the fawning around and joking recorded as the collaboration comes to a close. With this hook up (and the featuring of Jackson Browne on the fantastic following 'Pray That Our Love Sees the Dawn') the man that has formed lasting alliances with the groups 'The Innocent Criminals' and 'The Blind Boys Of Alabama' has just lent the ears of two legends to add to his legacy.
Then Harper plays his own hand to close out this set with three-of-a-kind plays worthy of a deal but no shuffle. You'll want to put the wonderful 'Waiting On A Sign' on repeat like you really where playing the waiting game regardless of your horoscope. While the clean-cut 'Dirty Little Lover' is big lyrically and worth lusting over. Still it's the epic closer 'Do It For You, Do It For Us' that is full of big guitar, big lyrics, big singing and big heart. Thank God this big star came back and did it for us.
No matter the work-load, success or personal problems of this artist he won't stop baring his soul in all the heart of his rock and roll redemption and renaissance. Ben Harper has already done enough, but still he's living up to his album title and giving us everything he's got. Even without his band he's still relentless. They don't make singers like him anymore...and the music industry is all the better for it. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Friday, 3 June 2011
One of hip-hop's greatest albums of modern and all-time comes from one of the greatest and most underrated artists in the genre. This is the perfect sound of the Summer and now it's officially here it's time to get your tape decks ready for this one. This Kanye West executive produced classic is Grammy certified G.O.O.D. music. Right from the uplifting 'Be (Intro)' this Windy City rapper breezes through with effortless cool, blowing down any past or present competition with this seriously soulful hip-hop album. With the sensational single 'The Corner', the ready-fire collaboration with John Mayer ('Go!') and the most beautiful, heartfelt, soulful hip-hop track 'Love Is' (that samples the greatest artist Marvin Gaye) this album has and is everything. John Legend adds his legacy to 'Ye and Com's classic on 'Faithful' and 'They Say' while the pair awake a live version of 'The Food' from 'Chappelle Show' which is as legendary as the show itself. If that wasn't enough Common tells a crime story that paints a better picture then most television dramas with 'Testify', and also drops an anthem for his hometown Chicago with 'Chi-City'. Every track on this timeless album is incredible. One of the realest people in music made it his world in 2005 with a groundbreaking album that was just pure and simple art, from the covers artwork to the artists inspired, shining delivery. Thank God we received the sense this uncommon rapper sent our way. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Bob Dylan turned 70 last week so lets take a listen to some of his classics. 'Side A' is old (current) Dylan and 'Side B' is from a younger (or older) Bobby.
THINGS HAVE CHANGED-They sure have but one thing hasn't; the 'The Times They Are A-Changin'' singer still knows how to write a classic.
THE MAN IN ME- From the soundtrack and opening credits of 'The Big Lebowski' , Dylan rolled out another lyrical strike.
FORGETFUL HEART-Off the beautiful 'Together Through Life' , Dylan laments love like no other.
JOLENE-Off the same album and with another ode to the love of a good woman, this man touches greatness.
THUNDER ON THE MOUNTIAN-“I was thinking ’bout Alicia Keys, I couldn’t keep from crying/While she was born in Hell’s Kitchen, I was living down the line.” With a nod to soul superstar Alica Keys the greatest songwriter shouts out one of the modern-days best.
I WANT YOU-Springsteen was right, there's not many lyrics in music with more meaning then Bob's repetition of the phrase "I want you".
HURRICANE-Dylan's songbooks most meaningful and heartfelt track. His protest of the wrongful impisonment of legendary boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter strikes a blow at racism and injustice. Truly inspirational and influential.
SHELTER FROM THE STORM-Decades later this song sounded as fresh on hit movie 'Jerry Maguire' as Bruce Springsteen's 'Secret Garden' (written for the movie. Just like the bosses take this song owned the methaphorical simplicity of a perfect love song.
BALLAD OF A THIN MAN-Bobby at his most scathing and critival. Making points as sharp as the pencil he wrote these lyrics with. Even rappers don't go this hard. Take that Mr. Jones.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'-Truly the best. Stands next to Sam Cooke's 'A Change Gon' Come' and Marvin Gaye's 'What's Goin' On' as one of the best takes of the changes and goings on in the world. Still relevant today. TIM DAVID HARVEY.