Filed under: Breaks
Although I don’t know a great deal about saxophonist John Klemmer, his relatively extensive discography and collaborations with artists such as Tim Buckley, Nancy Wilson and John Lee Hooker speak volumes about his contributions to music over the last 35 years or so. Having recently stumbled upon a reissue of his first solo outing Blowin’ Gold, I was pleased to discover the rousing ‘Free Soul’, a track that has received the sample overhaul at the hands of several prestigious diggers. Although the song is most closely associated in my mind with Kurious’s ‘Leave Ya With This’ and Ed O.G.’s ‘Less Than Zero’, I wanted to instead shine a light on the following selection of cuts that either qualify as under-acknowledged or display particular finesse behind the boards.
Although I’m a huge fan of MC Lyte’s earlier material, there’s no doubt that her 1993 release Ain’t No Otherleaves something to be desired. It’s not that the album is necessarily bad by any means, but when compared with the energy and originality of her defining moments in the late ’80s there’s definitely something missing here. With overt attempts to cash in on the more prevalent street aesthetics of the era, Ain’t No Other goes down for me as a relatively typical example of an artist trying to stay in line with contemporary trends but failing to do so very convincingly.
Having said this, ‘Lil Paul’ is an enjoyable enough number that incorporates the main sax refrain from Klemmer’s original to produce one of the standouts from the album. Honed by the essentially unknown Funk (anyone know anything about this Sweet N Lo’ album that features contributions from Funk and members of the Alkaholiks’ camp?), there’s enough bounce to the beat and variation in the production to keep things interesting and provide Lyte with a palatable platform to get verbally aggressive. Groundbreaking this ain’t, but bump it loud and that head will develop a satisfying and all-too-familiar nod: rock the house, L to the Y and the T to the E!
Picking favourite beats from Akinyele’s solo debut is nigh on impossible due to Large Pro’s devastating realised craft on Vagina Diner, but I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘Exercise’ and Ak’s somewhat goofy debunking of the virtues of exercise. In terms of the production, ‘Exercise’ features a trademark Large Pro manoeuvre with the succinct use of a low pass filter applied to the first couple of bars of the sample, although it is uncharacteristically stripped down with only drums to act as a bolster for the song’s three minute duration. Still, with that bass rumbling underneath the cymbal-heavy percussion you won’t hear me complaining: this is slammin’ early to mid ’90s production at its very finest.
Yea, you guessed it: yet another ‘isn’t Pete Rock great’ diatribe. However, in this particular instance I feel comfortably justified in saying that both ‘Blah Uno’ and ‘The Life I Live’ really are amongst his best work and am thereby absolved of the nagging feeling that maybe there’s a little too much Soul Brother focus here at FDB (as if).
Pete was obviously digging on Klemmer’s LP back in the mid ’90s, using carefully selected sax loops from ‘Free Soul’ for both of his shelved projects of the era that were subsequently released on BBE in 2003. Despite my love of the InI project, my preference here lies with the Deda beat that features the same filtered bass that can be found on the Akinyele joint. In addition, Mt. Vernon’s finest adds a flurry of sax jacked from the 1.25 mark that gives the production a magnificently warm, jazzy feel that is vintage Soul Brother. Of course, the InI track is still fantastic, incorporating a couple of bars of Klemmer’s squealing sax from the 0.47 mark to sit over the Rotary Connection sample and neck-snappingly fierce drum track in the creation of a certified banger (a link would be much appreciated if you’re fortunate enough to own this album released on Cadet).
Although purists would undoubtedly cite Mecca & The Soul Brother as his finest moment on wax, this particular fan would argue that there is a sophistication to the beats in this period of Rock’s career that is unparalleled in his broad discography. It’s a damn shame that these albums fell victim to the same old industry bullshit because to my mind both Center Of Attention and The Original Baby Pa would otherwise have rightfully asserted their places as classic material. Discuss/contest/crucify at will dear readers: I’m poised and ready.