I will be far far away on vacation so I’ll see everyone in early March sometime. Peace out. But, being that it’s Tuesday, I can’t leave you without dropping a break. I was trying to think of the perfect song that would illustrate how much I’m ready to get out of here and, even though for some reason Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills” was the first thing that came to mind, I ended up deciding that Flaming Ember’s “Gotta Get Away” would be perfect.
The Flaming Ember were a hard rock / blue-eyed soul group that kicked around the Detroit music scene in the 60s. Never really elevating themselves past the local scene, they were given their first real big break in the late 60s by signing a contract with the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Hot Wax imprint. At that time Holland-Dozier-Holland had broken away from Berry Gordy and the Motown machine in order to start their own thing, which became Hot Wax as well as their other imprint, Invictus. I always looked at Flaming Ember being their answer to Rare Earth. Good, kind of cheesy, but I liked them and they’re not without merit.
I first heard the break from “Gotta Get Away” as the backbone to one of my favorite Diamond D cuts, and when I discovered the album a few years later it was definitely one of those “Oh snap” moments. In this case it’s the simplicity that’s the key. Straight ahead drums with that little organ stab = that crack. It’s always stayed in my “classic rock breaks” crate since and always gets a good response when I play it out for a crowd in one of my sets. Plus I have to give Diamond the credit for finding this break because I don’t think too many people knew about it before he flipped in on “Stunts, Blunts And Hip-Hop.”
So here’s Flaming Ember with “Gotta Get Away” from the “Sunshine” album. Great song, greater break, and plus I really dig what they’re saying, cause man I am so ready to get away right now hahah… Peace!
So yeah, that particular break works so well with people that I used it for a remix of Biggie Smalls that I did couple of years ago, and whenever I played it I got a tremendous response. I don’t know I haven’t shared this on my site in the past. Plus I have to make a concerted effort to not make my website about my “weird records that suck” – I have to keep a healthy allowance of bangers.
Yeah yeah, it’s Wednesday I know. I was in Canada, chill out. (and shout to all my Canadian friends.) Anyway, yesterday was Mardi Gras and so I figured we’ll make this week’s post a tribute to that. I’ve never been to New Orleans but I have always wanted to. We almost went there a few years ago with the A-Trak “Sunglasses Is A Must Tour” but the date that was scheduled in 2005, for 2006 happened before Katrina (we went to Baton Rouge instead.) But anyway, I’m fascinated by the city, its rich history and culture, its spirit. Choctaw Indians, jazz, Second Line, voodoo, Wild Tchoupitoulas, honestly in concept the city has pretty much everything for me haha. And I don’t really ever think my death, but have occasionally thought that I would like my funeral to at least have the spirit, if not the customs, of a Second Line march. But let’s get to the music…
So obviously like any kid my age, there was a fair amount of Paul Simon / Simon & Garfunkel that I was raised on. In fact it’s quite possible that “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” might have been one of the first songs that I memorized the lyrics to. And it’s funny to me because when you’re a teen and you want to rebel against anything that you parents like, it’s very easy to say that Paul Simon isn’t hip. “Turn this wack juice off mom, I want to listen to Public Enemy.” But now that I’m older I have no qualms about not only accepting, but publicly proclaiming that Paul is that dude. Honestly, who doesn’t have love for “Graceland?” And in my humble opinion, “Rhythm Of The Saints” is one of the finest albums of the 80s. One may say that without Paul Simon there would be no Diplo (oh snap, did I just say that haha…
Now, let me bring up CTI Records. CTI Records was founded in the late 60s by legendary record producer Creed Taylor as a subsidiary of Herb Albert’s A&M Records. It was a very distinctive record label that during the early and mid 70s was very much at the forefront of releasing a sound that bridged the gap from jazz to funk to easy-listening, all with a certain swing to it. Taylor, along with his artists and other in-house producers and arrangers, took the de rigueur sound of tepid 60s soul / jazz and infused a particular sheen to it that gave it all a very modern sound. That sound was embraced en-masse by a whole generation of hip-hop producers who mined the readily available CTI catalog in dollar bins to help sculpt the landscape of rap music in the late 80s and early 90s, a debt that often goes overlooked. And “diggers” often poke fun at CTI records because, for many of us, when we first started digging in the crates it was all the CTI records that many of us got in the initial stages of amassing our collection. So while many look at it the records as almost being somewhat pedestrian, I challenge that the back catalog is stronger than many of the rarer pieces out there. And trust me, I’ve GOT RECORDS, dudes…
Okay, tying this whole thing together, Bob James recorded a cover version of Paul Simon’s “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” for his 1975 release “Two.” It is a funk-infused monster at times, an easy-listening masterpiece at others… (did I really just say “easy-listening masterpiece?”) But the thing that James’ version is best known for is its incredibly infamous breakbeat at the top. Peep the game and tell me I’m lying. At the end of the day I can kind of listen to the Mardi Gras loop over and over, it’s just that classic. And it’s definitely one of those segments of music that’s ingrained into the minds of kids my age, word to Jam Master Jay (RIP.)
And just to make it so that I’m beating you all over the head with the obvious, here’s a Mardi Gras tribute treat courtesy of my homie Supreme La Rock. For the few of you who don’t know him, Preme holds in own in Seattle and one of the illest DJs I know, period. Not only is his DJ game sick, he’s one of the top diggers in the world and has been for as long as I can remember. His is game to respect, no question. You should also check out his podcast here. So Preme sent me this record by The Spotnicks, a pop group from Sweden who recorded a version of Mardi Gras – complete with their own breakbeat. It’s pretty ill, and completely different from the Bob James version. Check it out, and happy Mardi Gras yall…
So for the past couple of weeks the Breakbeat Tuesday feature has been getting it’s world tour on and so with that premise we’re going to take a trip to Cameroon and check out the legendary Manu Dibango.
Manu is one of Africa’s most famous and accomplished musicians and was instrumental in the development of “afro-funk.” He’s possibly most known for his breakbeat classic “Soul Makossa” which most people probably know from its appropriation by Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something.” But it’s also widely considered to be the first real “disco” record (having been broken by David Mancuso at his Loft parties.) It’s actually quite an interesting story.
So this past summer my wife and I were driving in the car listening to Grandmaster Flash play a set of all rare breaks during one of Hot 97s Mixmaster Weekend and Flash was dropping straight lava. A lot of breaks that I knew, and a lot that I didn’t know. Then he busted out this African sounding track that made both of our necks snap. After a minute I said this must be Manu but I didn’t know because I had never heard it before. Turns out I had the album all along, but honestly I just never got past the song “Weya.” Anyway, this is “Senga” which is not your typical “breakbeat” but it is still the lava joint.
This is from the 1974 record “Makossa Man” – I guess Manu was really trying to cash in on the Makossa craze sweeping the globe. The origins of the unique sound of Makossa come from the kossa dance performed by the native Duala people of Cameroon (makossa literally means “dance” in Duala language. The sound itself is a unique blend of jazz, Ambasse bey (Traditional Cameroonian folk songs,) Latin music, rumba and highlifemusic – the precursor to the almighty Afrobeat. Although listening to it one would say it’s impossible to discount the influence of American funk in the mix. So here’s “Senga” off the 1974 album “Makossa Man” – a record that’s usually pretty easy to find, so if you see it definitely grab it.
Speaking of African music, let me introduce my homeboy Frank aka Voodoo Frank. We met years ago – I don’t remember that circumstances – and we have stayed cool ever since via the music and digging community. Dude is a thorough dude, a class act, and knows more about certain styles of music than almost anyone that I know. A few years ago he took a several year long trip traveling around Africa strictly to find music, and he kept a chronicle of his adventures. Dude is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to Afrobeat, High Life, all that stuff. Check his blog at voodoofunk.blogspot.com for some incredible music and even more incredible stories. And for real when it comes to dedication in this “digging thing of ours” I really don’t think anyone can test this dude at all. He makes us all look like “that little dude” hahah. Also check Frank out in the Africa edition of the latest Wax Poetics magazine, as well as my stromie Rich Medina.
This week I’m going to talk a little about Janko Nilovic. Who is Janko Nilovic you ask? That is a good question, and so let me shed some light on this dude…
Mr. Nilovioc is a Montenegro born, French based jazz composer whose keys can be found on a ton of (mostly library) records of the 60s and 70s. Think kind of like European jazz space fusion, with elements of psychedelic rock combined with classical Baroque music, and you’ve kind of got an idea of his sound, Janko is an absolute genius with his arrangements and the way he’s able to convey moods with his compositions.
According to his official Facebook page which is the only information that I’ve been able to find on him on the internet, “Janko Nilovic gets up every morning at 5. After breakfast, he works till 1 o’clock. Then he has lunch, an afternoon siesta and continues to work until late evening. He loves tennis, dance and horses.”
Now tons of people have touched his music for hip-hop from The Beatnuts to (most notably) No I.D. for Jay-Z’s “D.O.A. (Death Of Autotune).” But here’s a little piece that I unearthed that I think has been completely unscathed by those greedy thieving hip-hop producers and their dastardly sampling techniques. (No Albini!) They are kind of like the hardest smacking drums that I’ve heard in a while, and just perfect for this week’s edition of Breakbeat Tuesday. So I hope you enjoy, and respect the architects. I present to you, “Roses & Revolvers” from his 1973 album “Supra Pop Impressions.” As a bonus I have also included the very funky “In The Space” which you will see is the cut that No I.D. blessed for HOV’s call-to-arms anthem. The dude extracted some really good and powerful parts from the song but, as is often the case, when one listens to the original composition in its entirety it’s framed in a different and more powerful way in my opinion, proving that the song is greater than just being a sample-source. The song comes from the library record “Psyc Impressions” that came out in the late 60s and was repressed by Dare-Dare Records in 2003. Both the original pressing and the reissue are extremely hard to come by on vinyl. Shit, I don’t have either, but I’m always looking haha… Well, these MP3s will do for now – thank you modern technology. Enjoy!
DJ Stuart "Re-Work V2"
Wet "All The Ways" (Branchez Remix)
De La Soul "Beautiful Night"
With You "Ghost" feat. Vince Staples (Major Lazer Remix)
Tall Black Guy "The Heart Of The Town"
KRNE "I'll Be Good"
Drake "With You" Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR
Christopher Cross "Ride Like The Wind" (Joey Negro Dub Disco Mix)
BAKERS DOZEN BONUS
Club Cheval "Discipline"
Mura Masa "What If I Go"
Kate Bush "Why Should I Love You?"