FROM DA BRICKS


Slice of Soul – ‘Piece of Mind’
August 1, 2008, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

Idris Muhammad – ‘Piece Of Mind’
taken from Power Of Soul (CTI, 1974)

So once again the parameters of genre are subtly bent for this installment of Slice Of Soul, but ‘Piece Of Mind’ is such a great track that quite frankly, I don’t care. The discovery of the wonderful Power Of Soul LP is down to my workmate Greg who is making his way through the CTI back catalogue at the same time as I am, and although I’ve been happy with my pick-ups from Hubert Laws, Deodato and the legendary Bob James, this for me has been one of the most complete and consistently enjoyable releases that I’m yet to hear from the label’s formidable body of work.

What I love, apart from the music of course, about the CTI material is the way in which you can completely geek out on the trivia, given that pretty much all of the musicians played on each others records at one time or another. The chance to explore all of the different connections between artists is fascinating and I find myself quietly smiling to myself as another section of the web is woven as I make my way through the liner notes and notice that so-and-so played this-or-that on whoever else’s record. Unfortunately for me, this isn’t the sort of information that grabs most people, particularly when rammed down their throats by an overly enthusiastic ephemeral psychotic. Ah, my friends love it.

Back to the music. ‘Piece Of Mind’ is a beautiful ten minute composition that features both Grover Washington Jr. and Bob James himself, propelled forward by Muhammad’s wonderfully crisp work on the drums. It’s a brilliant representation of how the musicians working with Creed Taylor during the ’70s managed to dissolve some of the boundaries between jazz and soul, and although the formula falters at stages, this particular track is deftly executed and a joy from start to finish. My favourite moment is at the 0.26 mark when the horns initially drop, but there’s so many layers and moments to unravel here that it’s impossible to isolate individual parts of the groove. Ultimately, this is one of those songs that demands you stop what you’re doing and listen: trust me, the rewards are plentiful.

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Slice of Soul – ‘Cleo’s Apartment’
July 7, 2008, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

Marvin Gaye – ‘Cleo’s Apartment’
taken from Trouble Man OST (Tamla Motown, 1973)

I’ve been on a soundtrack tip pretty hard of late and although the vast majority of the albums that I’ve copped have been more than worth the price of submission, none have stood out for me as whole works as fervently as Marvin Gaye’s score to Trouble Man. The title track was one I was already familiar with as it stands as one of my favourite Marvin cuts of all time, but I’m ecstatic that I’ve now shaken myself out of a deep slumber to enjoy the complete score as it is excellent from front to back.

‘Trouble Man’ itself and of course the classic ‘T Plays It Cool’ are likely to be familiar material to you even if you’re not particularly up on Gaye’s discography, but there really isn’t a misstep to be found here. To me this is staggering, as music that is scored to be specifically twinned with the moving image can often suffer when removed from its visual counterpart, but the soundtrack to Trouble Man really does manage to stand on its own two feet and goes down for me as essential work from one of soul’s most charismatic and enduring figures. ‘Cleo’s Apartment’ is the song that has received the most rotation of late, a track that begins with harrowing strings before dropping into one of the most delightfully soulful pieces of music to have graced my ears in a minute ever. The layering of vocals is to die for, as is the gently twinkling piano part and booming claps that punctuate the groove.

As bonus material, you should definitely check out the first of the following videos from Denver’s Boon Doc, who does a fantastic job of flipping the sample with real finesse. I think it was probably Dart that probably put me onto this guy, but I’m now a real fan of his sequence of YouTube videos where he displays genuine talent behind the boards; let’s hope he can make a full transition into the game ‘proper’. The second video is his latest installment, and although it has nothing to do with the post at hand, it’s so damn fresh that I’m chucking it in anyway…

…that is if embedding video was working properly. Grr… check the ‘Cleo’s Apartment’ flip here and ‘Smooth Beat 2008′ here. Damn WordPress gremlins.

 

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Slice of Soul – Enchanted Lady
June 16, 2008, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

Milt Jackson & Ray Brown – ‘Enchanted Lady’
taken from Memphis Jackson (Impulse, 1970)

The vibraphone remains an instrument for me that encourages a mixed reaction. Although in certain musical settings it is able to maintain a soulful and smoky edge, all too often the tone of the instrument can leave me feeling a little sterile with an unsettling sense that I’m stood in a slightly rundown elevator in the sort of hotel that needed a decor update somewhere around 1987. The figurative cousin of the dreaded panpipes, the sound of the instrument has been unfortunately corrupted for me by associations that definitely don’t do it any justice. That is unless Milt Jackson’s holding the mallets.

Now I can’t say I’m particularly up on the man’s work, but what I have heard I love. ‘Enchanted Lady’ is one such number, found on his seemingly forgotten-about LP Memphis Jackson where he worked closely with long-term collaborator bassist Ray Brown. With frustratingly little information online regarding this album, I’ve got little to give you in the way of background to the release, but fortunately ‘Enchanted Lady’ is so good that it temporarily eclipses the desires of the detail-fixated geek in me. What really gets me about this song is the progression over the first minute and the wonderful way in which various elements of the mix join, leave and re-enter it seamlessly over the track’s duration. Jackson’s vibraphone part is of course worthy of its own mention, but it’s really the way in which all of the instruments gel and the momentum maintained by Paul Humphries’s drums that make this such a beautifully realised composition.

It’s not hard to see why Pete, De La and Large Pro have jacked sections of this for their lush bangers, but this really is a song that stands alone from its later incarnations. If you have any background on this LP then I’m all ears, but for the moment I remain remarkably content with the music alone. And let’s not be too hasty… sometimes even those elevators have charm.

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Slice of Soul – What’s Your World
June 6, 2008, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

Leon Ware – ‘What’s Your World’
taken from Leon Ware (United, 1972)

Leon Ware – ‘What’s Your World’ (FDB Self-Indulgent Edit)

Ever since stumbling across the soundtrack to The Education of Sonny Carson that included a past subject for the FDB Slice Of Soul series, I’ve been hankering after more Leon Ware. Unfortunately it transpires that several of his records have never received the reissue treatment, and secondhand copies of even the more well-known albums cost a little more than I’m usually willing to spend on one of my sessions of indulgence on Amazon. Fortunately for me, the exceptional 4 Brothers Beats recently posted up his self-titled solo studio debut from 1972, a record that has several excellent moments, but no song has grabbed me as emphatically during my initial period of acquaintance with the LP as the beautiful ‘What’s Your World’.

Wonderfully atmospheric and expertly arranged, this particular song is proof positive of Ware’s musical genius that has seen him work with pretty much everybody who’s anybody in the annals of 1970’s soul. Credits with Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton and Marvin Gaye only scratch the surface of his career and yet these names alone would prove a high accolade in their own right. ‘What’s Your World’ makes it clear why his services have been so frequently enlisted, a song that hasn’t left the back (and for the most part, the front) of my mind since discovering it at the beginning of the week. The song is enjoyed best in its entirety as it allows the listener to fully appreciate the nuances of the arrangement, but I can’t resist aiming your focus at the opening 30 seconds or so as it is nothing short of sublime, with the drop into the verse at the 0.23 mark and the introduction of Ware’s vocals sending shivers down my spine every single time.

As bonus material I’ve actually chopped and spliced together a couple of one and two-bar sequences in the ultimate act of self-indulgence. Holding onto the allusion that I’d actually ‘produced’ something, I even played this to my tutor group of kids at school, one of whom described it as ‘magical’. Rather than explain to them that all I’d done was rearrange someone else’s music in the most basic of ways, I chose to bask in the glory for a minute: if you can’t live the dream in a company of fourteen year-olds, then when can you? Hope you enjoy it as much as I have done for the last 24 hours.

 

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Slice of Soul – ‘There’s Nothing Like This’
May 15, 2008, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

Omar – ‘There’s Nothing Like This’
taken from There’s Nothing Like This (Talkin’ Loud, 1990)

Two things have struck me about my blogging habits of late. First of all, I’ve clearly been experiencing the notorious slump that seems to plague most people who spend untold hours emptying their thoughts for public consumption. Thankfully, this phase seems to now be coming to a close (three posts in four days: you’re kidding me right?!). Secondly, I seem to have been making relatively constant reference to the weather, a distinctly British trait that has caused me both joy and anguish since the spring season supposedly kicked in. The problem with Blighty is that after months of sustained darkness and rain any small glimpse of sunshine has you reaching for shorts, t-shirt and exclamations that the summer has arrived, only to be brought crashing down after 72 hours or so as the cloud recovers and the grey drizzle kicks in once again. Don’t get me wrong though, we wouldn’t have it any other way: take away a Brit’s right to a good moan and you’re essentially killing one of the cornerstones of our national identity.

Such has been the case over the last five or six days, with gleaming sunshine and warm air now stepping aside and letting the rain gods take control once again. Bollocks. However, one positive thing that came out of this brief spell of sun-drenched happiness was a rediscovery of the fantastic ‘There’s Nothing Like This’, which as far as I can tell is the only good song that British artist Omar ever put together (let me advise you not to get the album of the same name). The song is not only a great summer-infused cut in itself, but the back story behind the track is equally as pleasing. Having woken up on a sunny morning, Omar laid down the instrumental for the track before popping out to get himself some lunch. Suitably relaxed post-meal he laid down the lyrics. One sunny day + fleeting musical genius + full belly = summer anthem. Ah, if only things were always this easy.

So when the sun shines where you are make sure you indulge in this delicious slice of early ’90s British soul. In typical fashion I’m also going to blame the weather for Omar’s ephemeral musical greatness: my guess is that as he rolled out of bed the following day, the sky had returned to a dull grey. God I love hate like this country.

 

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Slice of Soul – ‘Girl, Girl, Girl’
April 15, 2008, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson & Leon Ware – ‘Girl, Girl, Girl (Sonny & Virginia)’
taken from The Education of Sonny Carson OST (Paramount, 1974)

[Shouts to Beeboy at the Pete Rock forum for putting me onto this.]

My knowledge of the Blaxploitation era of film-making and the soundtracks that they spawned is painfully limited, and it’s only when I stumble across records such as Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s score for The Education of Sonny Carson that I realise how badly I need to step my game up in this field of musical history. According to my fam at the Pete Rock forum this is a very rare record, so props go out to Tony for posting it up in the first place (I got a feeling I’m going be digging around his archives for the foreseeable future).

The album itself is a wonderful collection of both instrumental and vocal tracks, and ‘Girl, Girl, Girl (Sonny & Virginia)’ is the song that instantly jumped out at me for this particular post as it features staggeringly beautiful arrangement by Perkinson and an equally impressive vocal performance by Leon Ware. It’s always satisfying when a little internet research starts to open up a new web of understanding to my knowledge of the era, and it turns out that Ware has worked with numerous high-profile artists such as Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton and Quincy Jones. A foray into the depths of the internet is in order for both of the artists involved here: trust me, I’m on it.

In the meantime, enjoy. This is one of the most delectable slices of soul that I’ve come across in recent times, and as indicated above, I imagine that this won’t be the last time you hear about either Perkinson or Ware around these parts. Any specific recommendations for music or reference guides to Blaxploitation films in wider terms gratefully received: school me readers!

 

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Slice of Soul – ‘You Don’t Have To Change’
March 19, 2008, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Breaks, Slice Of Soul

Kool & The Gang – ‘You Don’t Have To Change’
taken from Light Of Worlds (De-Lite, 1974)

About a month or two ago I copped Kool & The Gang’s seventh studio album Light Of Worlds, albeit with the sole intention of getting my hands on a high quality version of the undoubtedly brilliant and heavily sampled ‘Summer Madness’.

 

To my delight I stumbled upon ‘You Don’t Have To Change’, which is both a fantastic song in its own right and the basis for one of the standout beats from NY’s Finest, ‘We Roll’. Granted, the track isn’t exactly soul in the more traditional sense of the word, but ‘Slice Of Soul’ was never conceived to be constrained by petty genre definitions: deal with it.

The song details the plight of a man who like a “zombie in the night” has been awakened by love only to be struck down by the realisation that his object of affection harbours concerns over her own worth within the relationship. Alton Taylor’s lead vocals are beautifully delivered over a soulful groove that runs through several different sections, all contained within a pleasingly compact two and half minutes or so that proves when done right, there ain’t nothing wrong with a dose of brevity.

Inevitably, I particularly like the section that begins at the 1.43 mark as the track gathers a sense of pace with the introduction of a more prominent drum track, but as a whole this is a perfectly crafted number that has had a smile plastered across my face all week: here’s hoping it has the same effect on you.

As a brief aside from the music, I’m off to enjoy the delights on London town over the Easter weekend. Have fun, I’ll catch you on the other side.

 

 

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Slice of Soul – ‘It’s Time To Break Down’
March 11, 2008, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Breaks, Slice Of Soul

The Supremes – ‘It’s Time To Break Down’
taken from New Ways But Love Stays (Motown, 1970)

If you’d told me a couple of years ago that in 2008 I’d be spending as much time listening to other genres of music as I do hip hop, I would have pointed towards the large piece of swine hovering above your head and told you to get outta here in a rather aggressive manner. However, times change, and with the progression of the blog and a continually growing infatuation with sample sources I’m currently listening to a wider range of music than ever before: it’s great.

Of course, due to its assimilation into the beast that is hip hop, a lot of my listening habits currently revolve around soul, hence a new weekly feature that will put forward a choice cut that has had me reaching for the rewind button on numerous occasions over the course of the previous seven days or so. Although there will be some reference to its use in a hip hop context, the intention here is really just to put forward a track that I’m feelin’ and fill you in on a bit of background that I will almost certainly have just discovered myself: it’s gonna be as simple (and as manageable for me) as that.

First up in this new series we have ‘It’s Time To Break Down’ by The Supremes. Lifted from their 1970 albumNew Ways But Love Stays, the LP was the second outing for the group after the departure of Diana Ross (excluding their album with Four Tops, The Magnificent 7). The album is most notable for housing their smash hit ‘Stoned Love’, but it also clearly marks a shift into the ’70s both in terms of musical aesthetic and the appearance of the group, constrained somewhat by Motown who were concerned that the new black power look deviated too far from their established image, hence the more traditional pictures inset in the circles below the ‘fros and black turtlenecks.

Sampled by Premier on Gangstarr’s ‘JFK 2 LAX’, ‘It’s Time To Break Down’ is a clear standout on the album, a deeply soulful burner that details the difficulties of distancing yourself from a lover who still holds your heart captive. Jean Terrell (sister of Tammi) does a fantastic job on lead vocals, and the production and arrangement by Frank Wilson is nothing short of outstanding, with a particularly well-crafted opening 30 seconds before the drop into the first verse. All in it’s a fine example of dusty groove soul and goes down as an essential addition to your digital archives.

This first edition of ‘Slice Of Soul’ is especially dedicated to my Dad whose love of all things Motown runs deep: thanks for making Marvin, Martha, Diana et al. such a significant part of my adolescence Shaggy. Now it’s your turn to embrace some of that good ol’ New York rap! I’ll keep dreaming…

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