Wednesday, 23 July 2014
"Chicago, that's my kind of town" sang old blue eyes, but to somewhat paraphrase Common off his last album (2012's underrated classic 'The Dreamer, The Believer'), "this ain't no mother******* Frank Sinatra". The Windy City is in need of an air of change that not even Barack Obama can bring right now. This classic and great city is a beautiful place but its rife with bullets and violence. This is why its greatest M.C., (yeah I'm sorry Kanye West, but your friend is possibly the greatest rapper around today on top of his game) Common has called his new album 'Nobody's Smiling' in a sombre show of solidarity all the way down to its black and white portrait of the pensive rapper which is a classic, polar opposite, perfect picture of album artwork to the sunny and bright iconic look of 'Be'. 'Be' being the definitive album of the career of a man who asked us if he could 'Borrow A Dollar' before showing more Common Sense with the 'Resurrection'. After showing more classics with 'Like Water For Chocolate' and 'One Day It It'll All Make Sense' (also the name of his amazing autobiography) Common followed the epic experimental but critically unfairly denied 'Electric Circus' with his own resurrection in 'Be' and its fantastic follow up 'Finding Forever', much like his last album followed up the electric slide of 'Universal Mind Control'. Now with his tenth album, one of hip-hops top ten should expect no critical frowns off anybody for 'Nobodys Smiling'.
The emotions evoked in the wake of this dark depression will have nothing but an inspired influence for the man that puts his city on his back and leads the charge in this town of basketball Bulls now Michael Jordan is retired and Derrick Rose still injured. Chi-town doesn't have to worry about "rooting for a garbage team" anymore now that the man who used to mop up the greatest of all times sweat off the Bulls basketball court is wiping the floor with the competition. This man has a legendary R. Kelly successful affinity with his city. Forever music all begins again with the outstanding, soulful and beautiful beginnings of 'The Neighbourhood' which features a superfly, Curtis Mayfield sample around the way. Then as the beat, snare and sneaker references of 'No Fear' kicks in the tempo is upped along with the ante as Com raps "The way of the road is our ode to the legacy, c'mon dog, you know my pedigree, find it forever be". Referencing his biggest hitters during baseball season the man that once wanted to "bear some cubs" with his Chicago muse is showing all battle rappers they needn't pick up the mic he just dropped. There's no competition. Common has already won. Celebrating like a Mike cigar to go with championship champagne, Common wears diamonds for his stellar single with rhyme slinger stud Big Sean in a single that shines like the flash-bulbs of its black and white artwork and continues the reign of his crowning singles 'The Kingdom' and the ears lent to 'Speak My Piece'.
Catching more lobes than Lisa, it all continues on 'Blak Majik' for a man that isn't afraid to notoriously sample old B.I.G. like Diddy in his prime. Carrying the card of No I.D. throughout the production of this collection, the "east coast Gangstarr" bring even more mass appeal to this partnership than when Com went West. He even details this relationship and the one with the late, great boardman J Dilla in all its heartfelt memory and honest regret on the tape deck, reel ready worthy 'Rewind That', that brings us back to the good ole days of Common's affectionate first love for H.E.R. In tearful memory and melody of Jay Dee from free beats to a T.V. tray gift he regrets not using he laments this mans generosity, legacy and loss, testifying "I'm wishin', I could wheel him out of his wheelchair/it was hard for me to come home every day/and see my homie J's life fade away". It's a new Common classic in a catalogue not uncommon to these cuts that bring this album to life like 'Hustle Harder' and this new classic albums title track that features poetry rap legend Malik Yusef, whose powerful prose make his town of Chicago proud of him like they are Lonnie Lynn. To Chicago what Loretta is to country, this man has more stories to tell from 'Real' to the deluxe tracks that are 'Out On Bond' to the '7 Deadly Sins' and the 'Young Hearts Run Free' that is frankly thankfully not a sample. Still from snippets of fresh new beats to tomorrows classic hip-hop quotables, Common brings another classic album like chocolate and water making sense one day. Following his 'Be'/'Finding Forever' definitive duo, Common now has a new, but underrated couplet of classics now this album has followed the last dreamer and believer. Now that's something everybody in the city of Chicago can smile about. That will be something we will all have in Common. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
These Boots Where Made For Singing.
"You have to live my life to get boots like these", sang Ben Harper back on the 'White Lies and Dark Times' of a collaborative album with one of his many groups Relentless7. It's clear to hear that Norah Jones has earned her spurs, strapping her boots on for many hard worked projects. The smokey, smouldering singers sensational and successful solo career is as soulful as it is one of a star. After the diamond mining classic 'Come Away With Me', the follow ups 'Feels Like Home' and 'Not Too Late' continued that trends testimony until 'The Fall' of a break-up album delved into darker depths before 'Little Broken Hearts' reached new songwriting and crafting classic heights. Raising the bar for herself it may have been a couple of years since a Miss Jones signature but Norah has been hard at work collaborating from everyone from Ryan Adams to Talib Kweli. The woman whose career began with the Peter Malick group appeared alongside fellow supporting guest star Jack White on Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi's 'Rome' soundscape and even last year had an Everly Brothers tribute duet album with Green Day's Billie Joe-Armstrong for 'Foreverly'.
Now just over half a year later there's no sleep to Brooklyn for the New Yorker with her new bar-room beautiful band Puss N Boots which judging from its boyfriend shirt and knee high boot only cover has nothing to do with a classic childrens story or Antonio Banderas 'Shrek' character...even though no one can resist those cat eyes. It's more like the tongue in cheek, innuendo of her other country band in tribute to Mr. Nelson, The Little Willies. All parental advisory joking aside this is another seriously stellar tribute to the hall of fame that runs through Nashville, Tennessee that is as country strong as all the chords of storytelling covered here. The woman who gave Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' plea as great a reworking as her White Stripe 'Rome' travel companion gives us a collection of classic covers, live takes from the watering hole and some outstanding originality at the centrepiece of this collaboration. She's not alone however on her relentless year after year output, being joined by Sasha Dobson, the jazz singer who laid some groundwork on 'The Fall' and Catherine Popper who is the former bass player of another Jones collaborator Ryan Adams' Cardinal group. Covering every classic from 'Down By The River' (that is as great a live rendition as Dave Matthews one with Tim Reynolds) to 'Jesus etc' (that Jones took live on her deluxe edition of 'The Fall' and on this deluxe edition we have another live take of Cash's 'Cry, Cry, Cry' favourite) this set-list of a collabo collection is born, raised and tailor made for classic New York bars as Jones takes her sultry sound further from the coffee houses to the after hours to late night whiskey chasers.
It's all so smooth too from the smoke of a cigarette to the ash in the bottom of the glass. These American beauties get real Smokey on their big opener 'Leaving London' that's a capital exclamation to a country landmark. So begins this genius co-working of another Norah band album for the good times. 'No Fools, No Fun' is a straight shot of a record with no chaser that suffers none for a serious bit of entertainment. Perfect for when Friday night, pool hall billiards meet to hustle for change this all just clicks for these co-stars. These grown women are anything but Pussycat Dolls as they cover every legend from Neil Young to Johnny Cash over a cup of tea in creating their legacy, even reworking the man in blacks 'Bull Rider' whose lyrics inspired the naming of this album. "No rides, no pay bull rider". In a year where even Cash affords an album (previously unreleased) these country sisters have the roots of the genre growing under the heels of their collective soles with an E.P's worth of originals (5 tracks) to go with seven seals of sublime tributes. The Bands Robbie Robertson 'Twilight' tribute shows more of this Bell Room, Brooklyn bar talk, before 'Sex Degree Of Separation' combines some of the creative originality from the ladies. The Jones penned 'Don't Know What It Means' writes this notion further into songwriting stone as the best singer/songwriter out of the United States on top of her game not called Springsteen or Harper shows that even amongst their latest releases she has the most creative cohesiveness. After enjoying more great takes of 'Tarnished Angel' and the drive time radio repeat of 'GTO', Popper steps up the beat on 'Always' before where taken to a cabin in the woods in a new American country classic 'Pines'. As countries new Dolly, Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris big three sign off with 'You'll Forget Me' its clear to hear we'll still remember these cats. One day these boots are going to walk all over the whole of America's country. C'mon boots! TIM DAVID HARVEY