If everyone believed in peace the way they say they do, we'd have peace.
Here in the USA we recently passed the 15th anniversary of our state of National Emergency. That's right. For 15 years now we have been officially in a state of emergency, continuously, 24 hours a day for 15 years. And counting. Gil Scott-Heron recorded this song more than 20 years ago and unfortunately it's as relevant as ever.
They took the honour from the honourary,
they took the dignity from the dignitaries,
they took the secrets from the secretary,
but they left the bitch in obituary.
After the September 11 attacks, this was probably justified. For a while. Fifteen years later it's business as usual. It's an emergency situation, everywhere in the country, all the time. "Terrorism" has replaced the old USSR as the excuse for unending, unlimited military spending. If one opponent falls, it's no problem, they'll find another one. Don't worry, the bombs will keep on falling, and it doesn't seem to matter where. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, and now Syria. Maybe we'll beat ISIS into the ground, maybe not. If we do, rest assured that some other enemy will be presented as the next target. Iran maybe? North Korea? There's no shortage of possibilities. Ever since Bush's cronies went to the UN and lied to the world to start a war this has been just how things are around here.
Peace is not the absence of war,
It is the absence of the rules of war and the threats of war and the preparation for war.
Gil Scott-Heron is probably best remembered for "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". It's an amazing and powerful song. But he wrote and performed a lot more that was amazing and powerful besides, so have a listen. I first encountered his music watching reruns of Saturday Night Live many years ago when they re-ran his live performance of "Johannesburg". In his flowing, poetic, often jazzy style, he pioneered political rap. He was a powerful, inspiring voice, sadly gone too soon.
Nobody can do everything,
but everybody can do something,
everyone must play a part,
everyone got to go to work, Work for Peace
Back in the nineties a recording company rep told Sharon Jones that she was "too fat, too black, too short and too old" to sign with them. She got the last laugh. In the 20 or so years since she's become the queen of 21st century soul. A "best of" for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings covering that period would be a boxed set of every recording they've made.
Miss Jones is the subject of a new documentary-- Miss Sharon Jones-- covering her story. It's a story that sounds like it could have been written for a movie. A former prison guard at Riker's Island in New York City who dreams of making it as a singer, and eventually does. For her first recording at Desco Records (a forerunner of DapTone) she came to the studio and recorded the song in uniform.
It's not all good news, though. Jones has battled with cancer for a few years now, seeming to beat it back only to have it return. Although reportedly doing well, she recently had to cancel a European tour for medical reasons.
The soundtrack for Miss Sharon Jones includes a new song, "I'm Still Here". It's Jones's autobiography, delivered in the most appropriate manner possible.
De La Soul is Dead back, with their first new album since 2004. With all the weird and negative news this year, I'm so glad to have something like this come along.
Of course they never completely went away. There have been some guest spots on other people's albums, for example on Gorillaz' "Plastic Beach" album. But now they're back doing their own thing, and they brought their friends.
It feels like a rebirth of the group. That might be wishful thinking, but I'm hopeful. A couple of years ago they gave away downloads of all of their previous albums for free. Then came their incredibly successful Kickstarter project to raise money to fund a new album. And now, finally, it's here. The whole thing feels like breaking with the past and moving on toward the future. I don't know what their plans are but I hope more is coming.
I love how they made this album. Years of recording with studio musicians to build their own library to sample, free of legal issues. Working without a record label but getting the recording process financed directly by their fans. The Kickstarter project is the internet age at its best-- instead of fans hoping that some studio executive might greenlight the album, they can just directly help it happen.
This hasn't been a good year for musicians of, well, a certain age. I've done too many tribute shows for recently deceased artists this year-- David Bowie, Prince, Maurice White, and Bernie Worrell, to name a few. To lighten the mood a little I've started doing occasional "still alive, doing well" shows to feature artists while they're still around instead of waiting for the next one to fall.
In that spirit, today is Barry Gibb's 70th birthday. Happy birthday, Barry!
The Bee Gees were something of musical chameleons, recording in a variety of styles over a long career. Of cours they're best known for their disco era hits, which probably peaked with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Not everyone cared for disco, of course, but anyone who can't appreciate "Stayin' Alive" has no soul.
In 1975 they'd been around for a while, and their "Main Course" album saw the first signs of disco-era Bee Gees. Barry Gibb's distinctive falsetto makes its first major appearance. "Jive Talkin'" was the first single. That same year, Rufus and Chaka Khan covered the song on their self-titled album.
Quiero Creedence is a collection of Latin-American interpretations of Creedence Clearwater Revival songs. "Fortunate Son" was originally a Vietnam war protest song. It wasn't specific to the war though, being more generally about the detachment of those in what later came to be called the 1% from the lives of the less economically fortunate. As a result it's just about perfect for a modern mixed English/Spanish update. The economic divide is wider than ever. No soy hijo de un senador, indeed. Plus, Bang Data's take on the song kicks ass.
I've been watching "The Get Down" recently so I've had Grandmaster Flash and early hip hop in my head.
"The Adventures..." features Grandmaster Flash at his best. Sugarhill released a lot of records with his name on them. But in the early 1980s it was way too risky to put out a record that contained someone else's music, even in small bits. Sampling was a dream. Literally, since such samplers as existed were extremely expensive curiosities rather than mainstream devices. Flash did it old school, mixing records with two turntables (a technique which he invented).
On records then, "Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five" was mostly the Furious Five with studio musicians. Flash was well-known to Sugarhill's customers from live performances, so they were happy to boost sales by mentioning him. I'm not sure how "The Adventures..." eventually got released, but it's a rare and amazing glimpse of Flash's technique.
Among many records making an appearance, Flash features Blondie's "Rapture", in which Blondie name-checks Flash. Flash is fast, Flash is cool. Take a listen.