Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Soulfest: D'Angelo




In May this year, D'Angelo sat down with Nelson George for a rare extensive interview as part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York.

It's a fascinating insight into his career - my fave moment is at 34 minutes in, when D'Angelo is talking about how he met Questlove, and Questlove pipes up from the audience, so D'Angelo says, "Y'know Questlove tells this much better than I do" so calls him up onstage, and Quest tells the story. Damn it's funny.

D'Angelo is part for the lineup for Soulfest, currently making its way round Australia, before hitting Auckland this weekend. Don't miss out! D'Angelo is on from 8pm til 9pm, with Maxwell closing the event. Set times below.

SOULFEST featuring Maxwell , D'Angelo, Common, Mos Def, Musiq Soulchild, Angie Stone, Anthony Hamilton, Aaradhna, Che Fu (DJ set), Bella Kalolo and more. Western Springs Stadium, Auckland, Sunday 26th Oct (Labour Weekend). Tickets from www.ticketmaster.co.nz

Soulfest Auckland set times

Monday, October 20, 2014

RIP John Holt



Veteran reggae singer John Holt has died, aged 69, reports the Jamaica Observer.

"Copeland Forbes, Holt’s manager since 2006, confirmed the entertainer’s passing. “John died at 2:40 am English time. His [John’s] nephew informed of his death,” Forbes told OBSERVER ONLINE. The cause of death is yet to be confirmed."

Holt collapsed onstage back in August, after recovering from an operation the month before.





Changing fortunes of Messrs Aloe Blacc and Mayer Hawthorne



Aloe Blacc and Mayer Hawthorne both blew up in 2010, off the back of great albums (Good Things, and A Strange Arrangement, respectively) for the Stonesthrow label, an indie outfit run out of Los Angeles. Both artists played well received live shows here in NZ following that, cementing their popularity in this neck of the woods. So what happened since then?

In short, both made the jump to the major labels, and Aloe Blacc ended up getting songwriting tips from Dr Dre and a hugely successful single ('The man', as featured in a Beats By Dre TV ad aired during the 2014 Superbowl, with a hook via Elton John).

Mayer dropped two albums that had pretty much zero visibility down here, despite his ongoing popular live shows. Switching from an indie to a major label is not always an easy transition.





When I heard Hawthorne's follow up album "How do you do" in 2011, it sounded like he was mining the exact same styles as his previous album, but without any of the hooks that made those songs stay with you. He was repeating himself. It was an easy option, but didn't make for a great record, or even a memorable one.

Hawthorne's latest album, according to Stonethrow's site "Where Does This Door Go (2013, Universal Republic), features production work from Pharrell Williams, Greg Wells [Adele], Jack Splash, John Hill, and Oak (of Oak & Pop)."

Aloe Blacc took a while longer to follow up his breakthrough album "Good things", dropping "Lift your spirit" in Europe in late 2013, with a major US release happening off the back of the single's success post-Superbowl in March 2014.

The album got released here around the same time, with big promo posters going up around Auckland city, plugging the album and a show at the Auckland Town Hall, on October 21. The current posters for that show now say 'new venue', as the show has downsized to The Powerstation. Same for the Wellington show, now at James Cabaret, Oct 23.

On first listen, while "Lift your spirit' has Blacc's distinctive soul croon, the production is leaden, unimaginative, and lacks all the charm that made 'Good things' such a  great listen. That was thanks to the restrained musical contributions of the Truth and Soul team, who added tasteful flourishes from their horn section, and kept the rhythm section tight.





What else? Pharrell Williams contributed production to both Blacc's and Hawthorne's latest albums. Unlike his first two albums, Hawthorne gives up the producer's seat.

This seems to have been a sharp move on his part, as his A&R/label folk have hooked him up with some sympathetic producers, much like the pairing of Aloe Blacc and Truth & Soul for his Good Things effort. [sidenote: Truth & Soul are currently working on the new Aaradhna album. Can't wait to hear that!]

Where Does This Door Go makes for a satisfying listen. Hawthorne has pushed his blue eyed soul into encompassing styles like Hall & Oates, and Steely Dan, and it works. Would love to see Hawthorne back down here to play these songs live!

Rick Rubin goes way back....



Via Fader; "Rolling Stone enlisted director Josh Swede to shoot a mini-documentary in which Rick Rubin visits 712 Weinstein at New York University, 30 years after the dorm room served as Def Jam's first office.

Rubin, Russell Simmons, LL Cool J, Adam Horovitz, and more all reflect on how Rick piled drum machines floor to ceiling, shipped white-label vinyl from the dorm's mailroom, and threw parties with the biggest rappers in the country next door to kids studying for finals."

Read Rubin's 2004 FADER profile.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ring The Alarm playlist, Oct 18



George Benson - The world is a ghetto
Freddie Joachim - Kool in the summer
Skullsnaps - It's a shoe day (Shoes edit)
Lou Rawls - For what it's worth
Shoes - In the mood for dub
Lightning head - Steelsation
Manasseh - Maga dub pt 1&2
Roots radics - Praising version
Dub Syndicate - Roots commandment remix
Fat Freddys Drop - Slings and arrows
The Pioneers -Sweet inspiration - Justin Robertson remix
Luiz Bonfa - Apache talk
Quincy Jones - They call me Mister Tibbs
Stargard - Which way is up
Chris Williams and the austral funk mac - The funky get down
Big Youth - Wolf in sheep clothing
Big Youth - Lions den dub version
Lovejoys - Let me rock with you
Horace Andy - Prophesy
Maxwell implosion - Follow my riddim
John Gibbs and the US of Steel Orchestra - J'Ouvert - Lord Echo re-edit
Recloose - Solomon's alive
Dexys midnight runners  -Tell me when my light turns green
Jakcie Stoudemire - Invisible wind - Shoes edit
Guilty Simpson - Man's world

John Gibbs + steel drums x Lord Echo



I've been hunting down a copy of this record for a little while now... a very cool steel drum tune done in 1979 by a US artist, released on a Japanese label, pressed in Germany, with a re-edit by Lord Echo, a cat from my own country, New Zealand. Catch is this record is impossible to find here, so I ordered it from the US. Totally worth the wait.

Originally released as John Gibbs and The Jam Band, this reissue pulls in a previously unreleased version, PLUS Lord Echo gives it a groovy swing on the re-edit.

Even better news, Em Records will be reissuing 'Steel Funk' in mid November... it's a fantastic album from John Gibbs and the Unlimited Sound of Steel Orchestra, which I am lucky enough to have on vinyl, thanks to some generous folk who gifted me a copy - thanks Jeff and Lisa From Down The Road!

"EM Records proudly announces a new addition to our 'EM Steel Pan Series', a project long in gestation, John Gibbs and the Unlimited Sound of Steel Orchestra. It's official, and of course it's excellent.

We are preparing to release their fine 1977 album "Steel Funk" on CD/LP/digital this fall, and as an appetizer we will issue two 12" singles ahead of the album:

"J'Ouvert" is a non-album track which was originally recorded and released in 1979 as a 12" single, in co-operation with legendary Philly Soul producer Louis Anthony deLise.

This EM1129TEP version is, surprisingly, a previously unissued original version that was held in the vaults by the artist for 35 years, after the 'remixed' 12" version was released in 1979. This original version is some two minutes longer than the 1979 12" and the pitch and mix are quite different from the 1979 version. Transferred from the original master tape and newly mastered. A great-sounding release!

LORD ECHO, a rising star from New Zealand, re-edited this classic with deep respect for the original, featuring his trademark cutting guitar playing. This is Echo's first remix/re-edit work for another artist. Both tracks are NOT on the upcoming EM Records album "Steel Funk".

Friday, October 17, 2014

8Wired's splendid new brew

8Wired's Søren Eriksen. Photo: Andrew Childs

I had the pleasure of sampling the new beer from 8Wired's Wireless range last night, now on tap down at 16Tun on Auckland's Wynyard Quarter. It's their Wireless NZ Pale Ale, and damn it's good - tasty, golden drop. I reckon the music match for this beer would be something fruity and funky like a slice of Roy Ayers, or the godfather of soul, James Brown. Give the drummer some!

8 Wired's Søren Eriksen, was in attendance, so I got to meet him and tell him in person how much I was enjoying his new beer. He told me all about brettanomyces, the yeast they used, to make this Farmhouse pale ale. 

The blurb says - 'It’s all down to the brettanomyces. It’s a yeast used for beer fermentation. But it’s not a yeast we normally have in our favourite beverage. Still, it does all the things that yeast is supposed to do in the brewing process. It’s just that it’s unusual to use it in primary fermentation.'

That's a photo of Søren above, in residence at 16Tun. Hat tip to Andrew Childs of Behemoth Brewery for the pic - go catch Behemoth's tap takeover at Brothers Beer this evening, from 5pm.

Soulfest feature: Angie Stone

Angie Stone, playing live at Soulfest in Auckland, Oct 26

Angie Stone first came on the music scene as a youngster, in the all-girl rap trio The Sequence, most famous for dropping Monster Jam, with Spoonie Gee, on Sugarhill Records.

She went on to form several other groups {Vertical Hold, Devox), and eventually worked on D'Angleo's album Brown Sugar and the followup Voodoo, as a songwriter, and also a backing vocalist on tour.

She describes that experience as "In my case, I came from a hip-hop success story to a songwriter that ended up getting a second chance with another group, ended up falling in love with a superstar sex symbol [D'Angelo whom she had a relationship with]. And within that pivotal moment of my career, it’s almost like I lost myself because the relationship overshadowed Angie Stone, the singer, the songwriter, the producer. It reduced me to just being a woman with a baby from a superstar."

She launched her solo career with the album Black Diamond in 1999, following it up with Mahogany Soul (2001), and has produced four more albums since then, the most recent being Rich Girl (2012). She's also done a few acting stints and also featured on reality tv, most recently in a show called R&B Divas: Atlanta, where she was a vocal coach.

Here's my fave tune from Ms Stone, great sample from the O'Jays running under it....



SOULFEST featuring Maxwell , D'Angelo, Common, Mos Def, Musiq Soulchild, Angie Stone, Anthony Hamilton, Aaradhna, Che Fu, Bella Kalolo and more. Western Springs Stadium, Auckland, Sunday 26th Oct (Labour Weekend). Tickets from www.ticketmaster.co.nz

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Praise Be: New Picassos EP reviewed




Praise Be NZ Listener Sept 27 2014 Review by Jim Pinckney

"It's generally not good news when bands reform. The motivations are invariably financial or related to ego reinflation, and the results can sour the sweetest musical memories.

Fortunately that isn't the case with Auckland's Hallelujah Picassos, whose cross code adventures confused, delighted and occasionally appalled audiences from the late 80s to the mid 90s.

New EP Bullet That Breaks The Key shows they've lost none of their barricade manning fire. As ever, they remain the magnificent exception that proves the rule."

AND one more, from Australia.....

HALLELUJAH PICASSOS -Bullet That Breaks the Key EP (Independent) 4 Stars

By John O’Brien, news.co.au

"Of all the band reunions in recent years, this is one of the most welcome. Hallelujah Picassos’ fusion of ska, dub, hip-hop, punk and pop was one of the most refreshing sounds to come out of the Land of the Long White Cloud and they left fans fanging for more when they disbanded nearly 20 years ago after just a handful of albums and EPs.

In the past few years they’ve resurfaced with a best-of collection and EP of rarities and now this four-track EP. Technically there are only two new tracks, but it’s a good cross-section of their eclectic style, from the tropical melody and harmonies ofSalvadore (Miles Away From You) to the repetitious rant of Hang All Bankers, to the hypnotic dub remakes of Cracked Salvation (based on 1992’s Crack Dub) andSalvadore Dub Asylum vs. Pains People Remix. 

It might be but a taster of things to come but it’s great to hear them back in the game. An underappreciated part of New Zealand’s indie scene, they deserve wider attention this second time round."



NZ Music Awards finalists announced

Tiny Ruins, Lorde, Ladi6
Tiny Ruins, Lorde, Ladi6

The NZ Music Awards finalists were announced earlier this evening, along with the winners of the technical awards.

Lorde and Sol3Mio (who share the same manager) have both got 5 nominations, with Lorde off to an early start, with Joel Little winning best engineer and best producer for Lorde's album, as I predicted. Stand by for the 2014 awards to be the year of our Lorde. Not that hard to call, I know.

Ladi6 and David Dallas both have 4 nominations, and Tiny Ruins is up for 3. @Peace didn't make the cut in the hiphop category but are finalists for best group. Go figure.

Supergroove will be inducted into the NZ Music Hall Of Fame at next month's awards. The other inductee, scheduled for this month's APRA Silver Scroll Awards, will be announced this Saturday.

The winners will be announced at Vector Arena on November 20, with live performances by Tiny Ruins, Benny Tipene, Blacklistt, Sol3 Mio, Broods, and David Dallas.. Full list of finalists....


Album of the Year
Ladi6 - Automatic
Lorde - Pure Heroine
Sol3 Mio - Sol3 Mio
The Naked And Famous - In Rolling Waves
Tiny Ruins - Brightly Painted One

Single of the Year
Broods - Bridges
David Dallas - Runnin
Ladi6 - Diamonds
Lorde - Team
The Naked And Famous - Hearts Like Ours

Best Group
@Peace - @Peace and the Plutonium Noise Symphony
Sol3 Mio - Sol3 Mio
The Naked And Famous - In Rolling Waves

Best Male Solo Artist
David Dallas - Falling Into Place
Liam Finn - The Nihilist
Stan Walker - Inventing Myself

Best Female Solo Artist
Ladi6 - Automatic
Lorde - Pure Heroine
Tiny Ruins - Brightly Painted One

Breakthrough Artist of the Year
Broods
Doprah
Sol3 Mio

Best Rock Album

Blacklistt - Blacklistt
Clap Clap Riot - Nobody/Everybody
Ekko Park - Tomorrow Tomorrow Today

Best Pop Album
Benny Tipene - Toulouse
Lorde - Pure Heroine
Stan Walker - Inventing Myself

Best Alternative Album
Grayson Gilmour - Infinite Life!
Liam Finn - The Nihilist
Tiny Ruins - Brightly Painted One

Best Urban/Hip Hop Album

David Dallas - Falling Into Place
Ladi6 - Automatic
PNC - The Codes

Best Roots Album

House of Shem - Harmony
Mark Vanilau - Dark Horizon
Tama Waipara - Fill Up The Silence

Best Electronica Album

Bulletproof - #Listen
Opiuo - Meraki
Sorceress - Dose

Best Music Video
Campbell Hooper - Hearts Like Ours (The Naked And Famous)
Thunderlips - Stranger People (Doprah)
Tom Gould - Runnin (David Dallas)

Best Maori Album
House of Shem - Harmony
Rob Ruha - Tiki Tapu
Tama Waipara - Fill Up The Silence

Best Gospel Christian Album

Lifestyle (of Worship) - Lifestyle (of Worship)
Mosaic Music - You Surround
Saving Grace - The Urgency

Best Classical Album

Dame Gillian Whitehead - Alice
Jack Body - Poems of Love & War
Voices 16 - Voice of the Soul

People's Choice Award

Lorde
Sol3 Mio
David Dallas
Broods
Stan Walker

NZ Herald Legacy Award

Supergroove

NZ On Air Critics' Choice Prize line-up

Estére
Lake South
Randa

Upper Hutt Panhead: Against the flow




The last decent thing to come out of Upper Hutt was way back in 1988, with the Upper Hutt Posse. New Zealand's first rap record, E Tu, blasted onto unsuspecting ears that year, with rapper D-Word spinning rhymes about Te Rauparaha and Von Tempsky. It sounded incredibly fresh. Still does.

Fast forward about a quarter of a century, and you'll find one of my fave local beverages being produced in Upper Hutt - Panhead Custom Ales.

These newcomers started its first brew in August last year, after owner and operator Mike Neilson sold his house to fund the venture. He'd previously worked as a senior brewer at Tuatara Brewery for several years.

One of the features I dig about Panhead is their distinctive labels and strong graphics. Love their label design, bold typeface, simple colours. Which perfectly matches the style of their beers, big and bold, brimming with flavour. Their Supercharger APA is one of my favourite beers.

They've recently done a series of special brews, with some wicked label designs by Wellington artist Simon Morse. They are in the style of Ed Roth's Ratfink and they kick arse. Check these....



Read more on Panhead, from Geoff Griggs: Hop on the Panhead wagon

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mantis - smoking Fiji funk rock


Fascinating slice of heavyweight funk rock from Fiji, circa 1973. Mantis arrived in New Zealand, having honed their chops at a club residency in Suva. They landed a similar slots in clubs in Wellington, and were soon spotted by  a record producer.

At their first recording session, they cut an uptempo version of Booker T and the MG’s’ ‘Time Is Tight’ in one take. Another session produced a cover of US band The Wackers’ ‘Night And Day’ , these two songs being their first single. 




It was quickly followed by an album, with songs mostly recorded in one take, that's how tight they were. Songs on the album include Wilson Pickett’s ‘In The Midnight Hour’, Mountain’s ‘Mississippi Queen’ and Jo Jo Gunne’s ‘Shake The Fat’.




Via Audioculture: "One of the most valuable records ever recorded in New Zealand on the international collectors' market wasn't made by a local band. Mantis came from Fiji and were resident at the famous Golden Dragon in Suva - a club with a reputation that stretched far beyond the South Pacific.

In 1973 they arrived in Wellington and were signed by Polygram. Their only album, recorded at the EMI Studios by Ed Morris, and released later that year on the Vertigo label was an instant classic - honed by countless hours playing funk and soul in Suva.

Long unavailable, it now goes for well upwards of $500 if you can find it, although it's about to get reissued by Universal, we are told. There have been a few unofficial bootleg reissues over the years also.

Teneti Ririnui has done some digging and we have the Mantis story here."

MORE: Fiji Times on Mantis (2013)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

RIP Style Scott (Dub Syndicate, Roots Radics)


Via Fact Mag: "Lincoln “Style” Scott, best known for his work with Adrian Sherwood in Dub Syndicate, has reportedly died. Scott’s career in the reggae world dates back to the 1970s, first with the Roots Radics band and also with Prince Far I, Bunny Wailer, Scientist, and Creation Rebel.

The circumstances of his death are unknown, but murder is rumored. Dub Syndicate have confirmed the news via Facebook: "Very very sad news – but it is true. Style Scott is dead. We do not have very precise information from Jamaica and we are not able to comment anything in the moment because we are totally shocked and we are in a vacuum of sadness and we are speechless…!"


Soulfest feature: Common on "The Light"


Common is heading our way as part of the lineup for Soulfest, happening October 26. He's playing alongside the likes of Maxwell, Angie Stone, D'Angelo, Anthony Hamilton, Aaradhna, and Che Fu.

"Complex’s Magnum Opus series continues with light being shown on Common’s 2000 breakthrough single. Com speaks about working with Dilla, not doing punches, and sampling Bobby Caldwell. Interviews with Erykah Badu, Frank Nitt, and Bob Power are included.

“It was one of those songs that when you’re really pouring out heart, it’s just coming from your soul… I just had to let the truth come out,” Common says of “The Light.” “I was really grownin’ into my own. That stage of my life was… really learning’ who I was, being able to express myself… trying to find that pure place within me.”


Highest Frequency compilation



From Saving Grace Music: "Highest Frequency is a sonic journey into the continuum of electronic beat music. This is a global record, influenced by global sounds; Instrumental Hip Hop, IDM, Garage, Jungle and Dub.

The producers showcased on the compendium hail from Huddersfield, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and Bristol in the UK as well as Germany, Spain, the US and Mexico...."  Listen to the album in full,. below. Some excellent, bleepy, beaty bizznizz, taking in a wide range of electronic styles.