Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sing It Motherf*cker, Sing It!

RIP JBThere's a gazillion other JB tributes out there - many of them YouTube videos (I defer, as always, to O-Dub), which is easy to understand, given that the man was as much a visual experience as he was a sonic one - and I don't have anything more authoritative to add. I always liked this little story from the recording of Live At the Apollo though:

"As the show went along I started noticing little things and filing them away in my mind. Every now and then the band made a mistake or the Flames were a half tone off. Sometimes I hollered where I usually didn't in the song, and some of the audience down front was too enthuasiastic. A little old lady down front kept yelling, 'Sing it motherfucker, sing it!' She looked like she must have been seventy-five years old. I could hear her the whole time and knew the overhead crowd mike was right above her. Mr. Neely had strung it on a wire between the two side balconies. Most times none of those things would've mattered, but we were recording and I was thinking, 'Oh Lord, this take's ruined.

"During a quiet stretch of 'Lost Someone' the woman let out a loud scream, and the audience laughed right in the middle of this serious song. I thought 'Well, there goes that song, too.' Then I thought I had better try and fix it some kind of way so I started preaching: 'You know we all make mistakes sometimes, and the only way we can correct our mistakes is we got to try one more time. So I got to sing this song to you one more time.' I stretched out the song, hoping we could get something we could use; then I went into 'Please.'

"Mr. Neely brought the tape into a back room between the first two shows and played it for us on a little tape recorder. As soon as we heard the little old lady, we all busted out laughing. He didn't understand. All he could hear was her high piercing voice, but he didn't really understand what she was saying even though it was as clear as a bell. Finally somebody told him. Then he understood...

"He was getting all worked up, while all the cats were listening to it over and over, laughing, having a great time, and getting other cats to listen to it. After a while, watching everybody carry on, Mr. Neely settled himself down and said, 'Hey, maybe we've got something here.'

"He found the lady down front and told her he'd buy her candy and popcorn and give her $10 if she'd stay for the other three shows - he didn't tell her why. He moved the overhead mike so it wouldn't pick her up so strong. We were using two-track, which meant practically mixing as we went along. She stayed for the next three shows and hollered the same thing every time I did a spin or something she liked. It was like it was on cue. I think the shows got even better as the day went along...."

(from The Godfather of Soul by James Brown with Bruce Tucker)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Obligatory Update No. 2, with more to come, a'ight?

I've got another post on the slow-burner (read: EZ Bake slow), but 'til then, here's that Rosie vid that Angry Asian Man more than succinctly describes as "ching-chong-ery":

Given Rosie's own sensitivity to the Kelly/Clay shizz, her reaction to this has seemed a little hippo-something something. I'm not typically oversensitive to these types of joke, but if she's gonna talk the talk...(yeah, there's an open joke there - go ahead, take it!)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Tale of Two Administrations

I'll get right to the obvious when it comes to Jay Z's Kingdom Come ("Jordon, Wizards" etc.) and Diddy's Press Play ("Press Skip" etc.): Johnny Pate's the biggest winner of them all, with thousands (more) now rocking "Shaft in Africa" on their iTunes, in that way that I'm sure thousands rocked a rose in their lapel in Trudeau's prime. See - the Man (Men) work for the little people.

That said, the Jay Z administration's been taking a hit otherwise. Flickers were lighting as to the crummy job he's been doing o'er at Def Jam (Russell now everybody's favorite yoga Governor-General), only to be fanned into full-tilt flames with a relatively ho-hum comeback in Kingdom Come. It's true, what the people say: the Prez hasn't come back from the mountain high with anything remotely close to the Ten Commandments. It wasn't as though the Hova was the best of rappers, but he was one of the more charming ones, and if that strong asset's gone, as it largely is on Kingdom, then we've got problems in the polls.

It's not that Kingdom's a boring album, it's just that it's not interesting for the right reasons. It's a no-brainer by now that Jay Z should've spent more time working on a comeback that would've had everybody realizing how missed he was in the 'game' (is it still a game when you control the board?). That's not, however, the same as saying that Kingdom isn't without merit.

The thing that makes Kingdom interesting is precisely how lacklustre it is. This is the definitive statement of hip hop's two feet firmly planted in MOR. Kingdom is to Jay Z as Wings was to McCartney (no "Live and Let Die," though). For a genre that has been intimately connected to urban, and moreover, youth culture, it's fascinating to see its forerunners completely disconnected and, at times, scrambling as to what to do. Kingdom's largely a failure because it's utterly ridiculous for Jay to still pretend he's a rep of the streets - once you enter office, there's only so many of your old friends you take with you - and it only succeeds where Jay finally acknowledges it (see "Lost One")(that said, Jay Z - and Diddy - has got to stop rhyming "Life is but a dream." Seriously, that shit is for high school papers). Kingdom is interesting in that it shows Jay Z at his most conflicted, but it's a failure because it's unintentional.

Which is the reason why Diddy's Press Play is so much more enjoyable to listen to. It's like enjoying Jimmy Carter or Al Gore much more now than when they were in office. Sure, it helps that no one quite expects the same from Diddy as they do the Hov, but that doesn't quite explain why Play is so much more listenable. Diddy's always been about the bling, and he's always sounded more comfortable with it, perhaps because Diddy, unlike Jay Z, knows to revel in the inanity of it all. He makes no bones about the ghost-writing, and he's chosen to model the album after two other successful ones: the first half follows the same Jesus-myth as Jay Z's Black Album, and the second (and more interesting) half follows Andre 3000's A Love Below. He's not quite as successful as either: no one will ever quite believe that Diddy was ever of the streets, and no one will ever quite believe that Diddy is quite that sincere (though Kim Porter must be the most patient woman on Earth). It sure helps, then, that Diddy's got hotter beats, and that the second half shows that Diddy's got a great hand at producing RnB.

Thoughout Play, Diddy comes across as a ham, but a loveable ham, and that's what matters. It's a much more rounded picture that Diddy paints, and it's a bit more obvious that Diddy's not only more comfortable with the show, he understands it a bit more, too. If Jay Z's buddying it up with Chris Martin, Diddy's going after Bono. If Jay's gonna stay in office, he better ditch the grassroots and learn to love the spin as much as Diddy.

Note: Yammering aside, I'm gonna take a note from Jay Z and search for the beach chair. We're on "vacay" for a week

Friday, December 01, 2006

Obligatory Update, many apologies

I generally find the Decemberists kinda boring, but not this online argument between Chris Ott and Meloy's gf, Carson Ellis. I suppose you had to expect some boosterism on Ellis' part, being Meloy's babymama and all, but honestly....