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Archive for the ‘Nina Simone’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BABY ROSE-Tiny Desk Concert #944 (February 10, 2020).

I had not heard of Baby Rose, which I suppose makes sense since she put out her debut album last year.

The blurb makes it sound like she has been through a lot more than her 25 years might suggest.

But when the voice behind those words is as seasoned and vintage as Baby Rose’s, everything it utters reverberates like the gospel truth. The D.C. native — who came of age in Fayetteville, N.C. before coming into her own as an artist in Atlanta — returned to her birthplace.

She even speaks like a much older person:

“I would not be able to write with such emotion about these things without my fair share of regrets.”

It sounds like a sincere statement until you realize it’s a bit, an introduction to the song strangely spelled “Ragrets.”

But that is my favorite song here.  It’s got a great opening guitar riff from John Scherer that is duplicated on the bass (with some great high notes) by Craig Shephard.  Backing vocalist Erika JaNaé is there with her throughout–matching her with lovely backing ooohs.

Baby Rose has a voice that sounds a bit like Antony from Antony & the Johnsons–wavery and operatic.  Especially as the Concert opens with “Sold Out” which features strings from Jasminfire on viola, Yuli on violin and Noah Johnson on cello.

It’s also evident in the third song “Over.”  In the middle of the song she sings low and it sounds very Antony, although I suppose another comparison would be “the bluesy melisma of Nina Simone and the deep register of Sarah Vaughan–two of her idols.”  This song is, surprisingly, less than two minutes long.  It has a simple piano melody from Timothy Maxey.  In addition to Erika JaNaé, Jasminfire and Yuli sing backing vocals.  I like the bass slide at the end, which seems like it’s a transition to another part of the song, not the end.

The next song is “Mortal” which opens with a loud drum hit from Tauseef Anam and quiet shimmering guitars.  There’s a lot of backing singing on this song and they all sing very nicely.

As this song is ending she introduces the band and says

“This is what real love sounds like.  This is what it feels like.”

The blurb says

From any other new artist, a Tiny Desk declaration like that might sound a tad bit presumptuous if not altogether premature.

I actually thought pretentious was the word.

She asks if she can do one more (because of course an artist I’ve never heard of gets an 18 minute set).  And in introducing “All To Myself,” she says she is

Dedicating the song to herself — and “to anyone here that’s ever wanted to call or text somebody that you know you should not call or text” —  congratulating those of us who’ve refrained from squandering our emotions on the undeserved.

Her voice is really impressive on this song and I like that the blurb acknowledges that she’s not using autotune

In an era when the over-reliance on Autotune has nearly everybody in radio R&B land sounding like automatons, her unadulterated voice is almost otherworldly. It’s confounding how a vocal tone so weathered and wise emerges from her so effortlessly.

I was a bit cynical about her at first, but Baby Rose really brings the goods.

[READ: July 10, 2019] Who is Rich?

Rich Fischer is a cartoonist.  As the book opens, Rich is beginning his annual week-long teaching assignment at a New England beachside Arts Conference.  Rich was once sort of famous for his first (and only) published book and that’s why he was initially invited to instruct.  In the intervening six years, he has not really produced anything except drawings for magazines, but the head of the council still likes him, so Rich has that annual work to look forward to.

Although he doesn’t really look forward to it.  People come from all over to study all kinds of arts with esteemed faculty.  It’s a place where writers, artists and historians show off that they are really drunkards and perverts and are willing to do anything to dance naked on a beach in a drum circle.  At this point, he knows what he is and how he fits along with the rest of the teaching staff:

unknown nobodies and one-hit has-beens, midlist somebodies and legitimate stars.

His was a four day intensive workshop that cost $1500.  He details his students–a former high school art teacher (who tried to take over the class), a med student who didn’t want to start med school, a trans kid, a Vietnam War veteran, a grandmother and a teenager skulking in the back.

But he was also sick of it.  The same faces year after year.  Nadia Klein  “was widely mocked an imitated.”  Larry Burris skipped his meds one year and wore a jester’s cap to class and lit his own notes on fire.  And yet when he was asked to name another cartoonist he could vouch for to teach a second comics workshop, he didn’t answer the director, “because of the way my career had gone, I worried that I’d be hiring my replacement.”

He talks about his precocious success–at first it seems like a mistake, but you get used to it quickly. You assume it will always be there.  Until it isn’t.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 28, 2019] Hozier @ Newport Folk Festival

Ever since I learned that Hozier’s “Nina Cried Power” featured Mavis Staples who knew Nina Simone, I was more blown away by the song.

From Billboard:

it was important to me to have Mavis involved. She was kind of there at the beginning of the song. Even when the song was in its embryonic state and the idea of it was forming, I wanted to credit the legacy of the artists in that song and the names were kind of popping into my head, [and] I knew it needed Mavis. I just felt incredibly fortunate and honored that she got where the song was coming from and vibed with it and was up for being a part of the song.

I’d already been impressed by “Take Me to Church” and “Jackie & Wilson,” so I knew I’d want to see him live. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VERVE-Remixed Christmas (2008).

One of my favorite Christmas CDs is the Christmas Remixed discS (1 and 2) which adds some fun beats and loops to some old standards.  Generally speaking I don’t love remixes.  They are usually just longer with louder, danceable drums.  Although remixing old songs does tend to modernize them, which I do like.

I was pretty excited to see that Verve records has made one as well, using their back catalog.  I assumed it would be just as wild and fun.  But it turns out either Verve has very few Christmas songs in its back catalog or the remixers are kind of low on ideas.

I’m also fairly surprised at just how few actual Christmas songs are here.

1. Count Basie “Good Morning Blues” (Real Tuesday Weld Clerkenwell Remix)
This is probably my favorite track on the disc.  It’s got a fun looping piano melody which is added to by a trumpet and some strange sound effects. This is in fact a Christmas song, I wonder why it’s not sung more.
2. Louis Armstrong-“Zat You, Santa Claus?” (The Heavy Remix).
There’s heavy winds blowing which may be in the original.  Overall it feels like there’s not that much remixing going on.  Still a fun song.
3. Ella Fitzgerald-“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” (Magini Vs. Pallin Mix).
It starts distant and muffled then bursts through via harps.  The music is definitely different, but not crazy or anything. I’m assuming the only remixed element is the bigger drums that come in.  It’s a fine version, but nothing especially fun.
4. Billie Holiday-“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” (Yesking Remix).
There’s a Jamaican element to this song, including a guy with a heavy accent shouting.  That whole reggae element is an interesting twist.
5. Louis Armstrong-“What A Wonderful World” (The Orb Remix) 
The intro is looped.  After several loops complete with shushing sounds, an electronic bass comes in with loud drums in a regular loop.  But the vocals are  pretty much the same.  This is of course not a Christmas song by any stretch of the definition.
6. Shirley Horn “Winter Wonderland” (Christian Prommer Remix)
This is made bouncy with a slightly funky bass line and kind of sultry drums. Slowed down with a funky slightly bass line. Vocals are slow and trippy.  The vocals sort of don;t work either–they feel like more of an afterthought.
7. Jimmy Smith “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (Oh No Remix)
This is the most radical song on the disc.  The bass is crazy, the tone is crazy.  The whole thing has a kind of sinister feel.  I love the whole thing.  There’s some keyboard soloing, some menacing horns riffs and no vocals.  It’s wonderful how much this doesn’t sound like the song and yet you can tell that what it originally was.
8. Nina Simone “I Am Blessed” (Wax Tailor Remix) 
This opens with vinyl crackling.  A funky drum is added, but otherwise I don’t think much has been modified.  It’s a pretty song and the drums add to it, but it is not a Christmas song.
9. Dinah Washington “Silent Night” (Brazilian Girls Remix)
This is a full on dance song with a kind of conga rhythm.  Dinah is mostly just repeating “silent night, holy night” with no other vocals.  Normally I don’t like messing with this song, because it is so beautiful.  But Brazilian Girls has deconstructed the song so much that I now rather like it,
10 Mel Tormé “The Christmas Song” (Sonny J Remix)
The Velvet Fog is accompanied by some electronic and techno beats.  His voice is reduced to a loop of “know how to fly” for much of the song although his other verses do come through from time to time.  They manipulate his voice in interesting ways too.  I rather like this one.
11. Nina Simone “Chilly Winds” (Fink Remix) 
Quiet looping of piano and repeats of “chilly winds don’t blow.”   This is also not a Christmas song and seems the largest stretch, except that the winds are cold.

So there are certainly some fun songs here, but overall, it’s far less successful than the other remixes.

= Not a Christmas song.

[READ: December 11, 2018] “Mister Elephant”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I enjoyed this story for a number of reasons.  Primarily, I think because the narrator is so inadvertently unreliable (which in the interview, Jessica doesn’t really mention).

It begins with this line: “My former friend is an elephant trainer.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer July/August 2010 Music Issue Compilation CD: “We Bumped Our Heads Against the Clouds” (2010).

Of all the Believer music compilations, this is by far my least favorite.  It would be oversimplifying things to say that the music is not for me, but in many respects it is not.  Chuck Lightning, the curator of the project states that this compilation is more or less a look into the state of the union for black artists.  And that invariably means a lot of R&B and songs that might be heard on Glee (I like the show, but I never know any of the music).

Deep Cotton’s “Self!” reminds me of novelty dance hit from the late 80s.  Of Montreal, who I thought sounded totally different from this, offer “Hydra Fancies” which is as catchy a disco anthem as any disco anthem can be.  Roman GianArthur’s “Depraved Valet” is an amazingly falsettoed Prince knock off.  Cody Chestnutt’s “”Come Back Like Spring” is a simple almost acapella ode to spring.  Saul Williams’ oddly titled “B.S. in a Tampon” is a spoken word with acoustic guitar that reminds me of Gil Scot-Heron.  Janelle Monáe’s “Cold War” is the first really catchy song (the la las remind me of Carole King), although  I could do without the overstated “Calinda” part and the extended fade.

The first song I really liked was BLK JCKs “Iietys” which sounded enough like TV on the Radio to be really interesting.  Spree Wilson’s “Chaos” also sounds like TV on the Radio (the more R&B side of the band, although the guitar solo is a dead ringer for “Hotel California.”  Scar’s “Rewind” is the song that should be on Glee.  I want to hate it but it is so damned catchy, I can’t.  Again, those Oh Oh Ohs are too perfect (and the auto0tune of course is unassailable).

Rob Roy’s “Velvet Rope Blues” is my favorite song on the disc by a large distance. It’s a weird rap that reminds me of The Streets, with an awesome sung chorus ala OutKast.  Hollyweed’s “Have You Ever Made Love to a Weirdo” is a trippy, juvenile space rap that is really silly.  Sarah hates it but I kind of like it, as it’s in the spirit of Frank Zappa, (although I hate the sax solo).  Fear & Fancy’ s “Off the Grid” sounds also not unlike OutKast.  And George 2.0′ s “Turn Off the TV” is a anti-TV rap rant (with the somewhat ironic conclusion that you yourself might end up ON the TV).

M.I.A. is probably the biggest name on the disc. “Born Free” is a weird little track of highly distorted vocals over a punk guitar buzzsaw sound.  But her vocals are mixed so loud in the mix that they sound unrelated.  It sounds not unlike a Go! Team track.  This track makes me wonder how she became such a sensation.

Hot Heavy & Bad’s “One” returns to that disco sound in the vocals with some contemporary bass sounds.  It wears out its welcome pretty quickly.  Tendaberry’s “Cold Boy” sounds like a less horn-y Fishbone.  Mother Novella offers one of the few all guitar songs, “Closer 9 1/2” and it’s an okay mid tempo rocker.

The final song is pretty awesome in theory: Nina Simone covering Alice Cooper.  That’s right, Nina Simone covering Alice Cooper.  Sadly I don’t know the Alice Cooper song, so it’s a bit lost on me.

[READ: September 16, 2010] Speaking with the Angel

I bought this volume when it came out (and apparently donated $1 to TreeHouse at the same time).  It’s a collection edited by Nick Hornby (and the cover is designed similarly to the way High Fidelity and even About a Boy were at the time (“the Hornby look,” I suppose).

I didn’t buy it for Hornby alone, although he does have a story in it, but because it looked like a really promising collection of stories from authors I liked.  And for some reason I didn’t read it until now.  It includes 12 stories, and as the introduction notes, $1 was donated to TreeHouse.org.uk (in the US $1 goes to TreeHouse and another $1 goes to New York Child Learning Institute).  I don’t know if the money still goes there, but you can donate with a form at the back of the book.  (more…)

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