OLDIES: What Color Is Love by Terry Callier

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I’ll make a bold statement here and say that I’ve never heard an album encompass the feelings of love and heartbreak better than Terry Callier’s 1972 masterpiece What Color Is Love. This album has been getting a tremendous amount of play from me lately and a different track is my favorite with each listen. Chicago Soul is the specific genre title assigned this album, which makes sense considering Callier was from Chicago and this album is filled with as much soul as any other album. The album seems to cover each step in a romance, which ultimately ends by the end of the album. “Just As Long As We’re In Love” is  definitely a standout track that details the height of their relationship only to reach the point of “You Don’t Care” by the end of the album, which is about exactly what the title suggests. Overall, this album is a great listen and one of those that require a listening from start to finish.

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OLDIES: Dreamin’ Wild by Donnie And Joe Emerson

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Fruitland, Washington is home to Donnie & Joe Emerson. In the late 1970s, they built their own state-of-the-art $100,000 home studio and recorded Dreamin’ Wild in 1979. The album was pretty irrelevant for nearly 30 years until it was discovered by Jack Fleischer, who is a famous record collector, in an antique shop in Spokane. Many people discovered this album after Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti covered “Baby“.

This album certainly has all of the appeal you could want out of a DIY soul album from the 70s, without sounding too gimmicky to listen to today. Something about Dreamin’ Wild feels off compared to a Marvin Gaye or Bill Withers album, but that sort of contributes to the cult-ish allure of it. They’re by no means talented vocalists, but they play to their creative strengths. The only way to truly understand the mystique of this album would be to actually give it a listen, which you can do so below.

OLDIES: Who Is William Onyeabor? by William Onyeabor

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Who is William Onyeabor? That’s not an easy question to answer. What I can say is that William Onyeabor is a Nigerian Funk legend who influenced dozens of musicians I enjoy today. I can say William Onyeabor was one of the first African musicians I ever got into and that he definitely led me to listen to much more African music. I can say he was one of David Byrne from Talking Head’s biggest signings on his label Luaka Bop. Most importantly, I can say that music lost an innovator, a pioneer and one of its most interesting characters that it had ever seen. I’m not even going to go into talking about this album because I want you guys to listen and research for yourselves, William Onyeabor is worth it. Rest in peace, William. Whoever you were, we’re going to miss you.

OLDIES: Long Season by Fishmans

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Fishmans were a band from Japan, where musical genres cease to exist the way the do in the Western World. However, Fishmans are generally considered to be a dub band. They were primarily active during the 1990s and released 7 albums, of which Long Season is the their 6th. Fishmans disbanded in 1998 after their final concert on December 5th of that year, which was recorded as a live album. Their bassist, Yuzuru Kashiwabara, was leaving the band after this show but members Shinji Sato and Kin-ichi Motegi still planned on releasing new music as Fishmans, but Sato tragically died the following March of heart problems before the band could release any new music. They’ve remained one of the most influential Japanese indie bands and current big Japanese bands such as OOIOO and Bonobos have done covers and tributes to Fishmans.

Despite not being able to decipher what Shinji Sato is saying throughout the album, Long Season very much feels as if it’s a storytelling album. The album is split into 5 parts that are all titled “Long Season”. There are common music elemnts, loops and sounds that are repeated throughout the entire album, which gives it a contingent feel and makes it best enjoyed if the album is listened all the way through. There are certainly dub elements all over the place, but trying to compare this directly to the type of dub music you’d find out of Kinston seems silly. There are pretty clear elements of dream pop and psychedelic rock also found in the album, which really gives Fishmans their distinct sound. This album is nothing short of inspiring and it still feels just as magical as the first time I heard it. I don’t think there’s a better album I could recommend to someone who is trying to get more into Japanese music, because Fishmans are such a shining example of their culture and influenced an entire generation of Japanese musicians. All of their albums are extremely worthwhile listens, especially their live album, but Long Season feels like their Magnum Opus that really defines what they were trying to accomplish. I really hope you guys enjoy this one even half as much as I do.

OLDIES: Outkast’s Aquemini

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I wanted to make first post about an older album about Aquemini because it’s bar none my favorite hip-hop album of all-time. I think too many people only recognize Outkast for their pop singles with tracks like “Ms. Jackson” or “Hey Ya!”, which are probably the best pop songs to come out in my lifetime so far, but don’t do any justice to Outkast’s first 3 albums. Filled with soulful spoken-word, story telling, and black consciousness, Aquemini encompasses all of the beauty and pain experienced in Atlanta, Georgia. I was only 3 when this album came out and didn’t go to Atlanta (especially the specific places they talk about) until I was a teenager, but I can picture everything they talk about.

I’ll be honest, my ear for hip-hop is definitely primarily for the production than it is for the lyrics. I think it’s extremely tough to pull off wordplay without sounding like a try-hard. Outkast’s wordplay was so impressive that an English teacher at Armstrong University has announced there will be an entire course devoted to studying their lyrics.

Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. I is the only song on the album that also features a music video. It’s a shame because Outkast’s brilliance shined through their music videos such as Hey Ya!, Roses and Prototype. I would love to see other tracks such as Slump or Spottieottiedopaliscious be reimagined as videos, but at least we have Da Art of Storytellin’ which oddly enough tells stories about various girls that the members knew growing up. Da Art of Storytellin’, along with pretty much all of Outkast’s music, balances a fine line between hyper-masculinity and sensitivity. Their feelings towards these girls in this song grow as the song progresses until the song reveals their tragic endings that come as a result of the terrible circumstances that they were born into.

As far as production goes, I don’t think there are many albums that compete with Aquemini. Outkast shows a clear affinity and influence from soul, funk, gospel, jazz and reggae music. Andre said that he primarily listened to Bob Marley while recording Aquemini and I think that’s most evident in Spottieottiedopaliscious which I always thought feature a dub-like bassline and horns. This was Outkast’s 3rd album and they had found much more commercial success on ATLiens than they did with Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, so they had a much higher budget for Aquemini and were able to spend much more time in the studio. They were afforded the opportunity to  feature live instrumentation on this album rather than relying as heavy on a sampler. Most of the album was produced by Outkast themselves but Organized Noize and Mr. DJ are also cited in the production credits.

Overall, I’ve tried really hard to find a better rap album than this and have yet to be successful. I couldn’t recommend this album enough and I would put this on my small list of absolute required listening. This album has had a profound people for nearly 20 years now and its messages and sounds remain relevant still.

Favorite Track: Spottieottiedopaliscious (but just listen to the whole album)