November 30, 2010

Music Is... Robin Thicke: Something Else

Yes, music is truly that indeed. "Something Else" is the third studio album from Robin Thicke. Now, just for background purposes, and for anyone who's not up to speed, Mr.Thicke has produced for some big names in the music biz such as Jennifer Hudson, Usher, and Whitney Houston, putting his footprint on some nice hits. Robin also has two prior releases, "A Beautiful World"(2003, originally titled Cherry Blue Skies) and "The Evolution of Robin Thicke"(2006). I've mentioned before that I don't care too much for chart positions, or album sales. Not that those aren't notable accomplishments, it's just that I feel a number can't fully detail the feel and impact of an album. I have also made mention that it's a rarity when I come across material that I like in it's entirety. I love every song on this CD. Some of the tracks are more uptempo, then others are very melodic and dialed down, just something to help you relax, alter your mood. Often I've wondered if the track-listing was placed in a specific order or if it was a random pick but regardless of the order, every one of these songs has something to offer to the musical pallet. Since I could harp on this forever I'll only choose a few to speak on. 

"Cry No More", a gorgeous song. Lately I've been trying not to look at the lyrics of songs and putting more effort into listening and figuring out things for myself. As with any song, this one can be interpreted a few different ways. However, listening numerous times I've come to my own conclusion. I feel it's about a man who has seen and been through many highs and lows in his life. Probably my favorite part of the lyrics are:
"And I am a hero, but I'm not made of steel And I'm not the smartest man, but I know the deal And I'll bleed for your lips, if you bleed for mine And I can't escape it, cause I do love you"
 So nonetheless, he realizes that despite his faults, his imperfections and his being made a fool of, he loves her and he'll no longer cry over the past because she accepts him and wants all of him. To me, the mesh between what is being said and the melody pair really well. The sound doesn't overshadow his voice nor is he too subtle in his delivery. Overall, this is definitely one to listen to.

Next I pick "Dreamworld". I chose this because it just sounds good and it projects a message that hopefully anyone would accept and respect. It reminds me of Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way" not so much regarding subject matter, but in terms of the "color" and instrumentation. The sound of this track really gives the impression that he was inspired by some old-school, the sound of the 60's to be more exact. What the songs speaks on is not necessarily a "perfect" world, but just being able to do certain things and live his life without racial criticism or being looked down upon. I say racial criticism because if you didn't know his wife is known actress Paula Patton and as the words go:  
"...There would be no black or white the world would jut treat my wife rightWe could walk down Mississippi no one would look at us twice..."
I think anyone would want to live and go about day to day without being talked down to or messed with. It only makes since to me.

Something Else doesn't offer new subject matter, which I don't mind because those sort of things go in rotation, I mean eventually they will repeat in some form or another. The album as a whole relinquished itself from what I feel was an ongoing monotony and uniformity of sound in 08'. Don't take that literally, not everything sounded the same. There were a few highlights, but the majority of other mainstream music coincided with each other. However this one continues to offer a sound and vibe past 2008 that I hadn't heard too often prior to its release and that's what gravitated me and still does. Typically so many songs are synthesized and computerized that it will begin to sound robotic in opposition to being human. Musically this record consist mainly of live instrumentation. It's got piano, violin, guitar, bass, different percussion, maracas, congas, bongos, cow bell, tom-tom, different drum kits and many other instruments. Makes it feel present instead of sounding so boxy. On every track Robin gives you a very smooth progression with his voice and the beat, synchronization and a job well done.

November 19, 2010

Music Is...Carly Simon

Get it - I chose the CD format but, of course you do you :)

Ok, I chose Carly Simon for the main fact that I love her single "You're So Vain". 

I'm gonna get southern here and say that Carly did her thang' on this one. As you can see, this song is featured on her album No Secrets. Not trying to sound like a school teacher, but vain means lacking in value or irreverent. In this case, you could also add egotistical. I love the arrangement for the intro. I think it's a synthesizer that creates that bubbly, gurgling sound. The first words she says are, "Son of a gun", and then as the beat drops the lyrics go, "You walked into the party, like you were walking onto a yacht. Your hat strategically dipped below one eye your scarf it was apricot. You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte...". I find the intro and those lyrics are a match made in heaven because to me it symbolizes this man having such an underlying yet flashy arrogance that he just can't hide it as it bubbles forth. That line "I had some dreams there were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee and..." has been decoded and left to many an interpretation. I take it to mean that something obstructed her "view" in terms of where she was in her life, but who knows. 

Janet Jackson also sampled from this in her single "Son Of A Gun" off her album All For You. As with Carly, there was much speculation as to whom she was speaking of, who knows. There's a lot of symbolism and metaphors in this song. Only Carly Simon knew who she was and wasn't talking about. This song is kind of an anthem for some women, something they can relate to. Regardless of the target this song will always get an A+ from me. 

Music Is...James Taylor

Or JT, whichever you'd like to call him, that's a heavy name in the world of music.

What made me want to step back and take a look at some of the music James Taylor has created is again due to my mom. She was looking up and down the house trying to find a CD of various songs of his that she burned. You should have seen her. Anyway, to make a long story short, she found it and had me immediately make another copy and I'm glad I did. I imported all the songs into my iTunes library and let my ears relax. I tell you, you never know how good something sounds until you listen to it after awhile. The photo above is just a random find. I assume it's from a concert or some sort of live appearance. I just wanted something showcasing what he does best, playing that guitar and making good jams. James Taylor has a large catalog of music. He's been doing his thing since the late 60's, and is still going strong. As with any artist, Taylor has his ups and downs. I like to look at the upside to things so I'll try to stick with that. From 1972 - 1981, he was married to Carly Simon. That relationship was inspiration for him to create some of my favorite songs of which she's been on the background vocals of a few. I've always felt that you can only write from a few influences: the past, what could have been, the present, what you want to be, and something totally fantasized. From what I've read and learned here recently James derived most of his songs just from life experiences and observances and hey, that makes sense to me. Main thing I have to say about this man that he plays one heck of a guitar. What gets me is not just the melody alone, but the fluidity of the song as a whole. The way the notes go in and out of each other always gets me. None of his songs are long at all, at least to me. I know that he's done numerous live performances and there is always room to improvise and stretch the song a little longer. I'm usually a fan of the original, but I'm up for a change. 

Onto the music...I have many favorites. One would be "Fire and Rain" from his 1970 release of Sweet Baby James. New to me is the backdrop of the song, his battle with handling a friends suicide and his experiences in mental institutions. A messed up situation, however he was able to turn that into a memorable tune. This is the only song I've heard from this album so I'll have to listen to the others one day, but if this one song is any indication of the tone of the record, I look forward to it. 
Skipping  about two years ahead, we have the release of the 1972 album One Man Dog. From this I decided to pick two songs to discuss. First up we have "Chili Dog". That's right "Chili Dog", and the title is pretty self explanatory. This man wants his hot dog with no onions, no sauerkraut, no relish, no ketchup either if I'm right. He does want mustard and, you guessed it, chili. As far as I'm concerned, any title that contains food is alright with me. Next is "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight". The chord progression is beautiful, and towards the last 40 seconds or so, I love the saxophone, I think its a sax. A really relaxing song overall and worth the time. 1975's Gorilla features "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)", originally by Marvin Gaye, with his then wife Carly providing some backup vocals. 
 From 1977 comes his eighth album (WOW) titled JT. This release featured many hits that I like, including "Your Smiling Face", "Handy Man", and "Terra Nova". Taking nothing away from the other singles, my all time favorite from this record would have to be "Secret O' Life" mainly because of its subtlety and how the theme of the song, which is letting things occur naturally and enjoying yourself, matches the melody and the tempo. Kinda smooth sailing. Like it says, "Try not to try too hard". I can't skip Flag(1979) and Dad Loves His Work(1981). The 79' album includes "Rainy Day Man", "Sleep Come Free Me" and "Up On The Roof", all excellent. The 81' record illuminates "Her Town Too", "That Lonesome Road", "Believe It Or Not" and "Hard Times". That one,"Hard Times", reminds me of The Commodores "Easy" released four years earlier, influence I guess. A single, off his debut album James Taylor, I saved for last is "Carolina In My Mind". This has been known as sort of an unofficial anthem for North Carolina, and being that NC has been my home for over 19 years, I couldn't ignore it. 

I know I only skimmed the surface of 7 albums out of many, but it's clear to me that what is discussed here have a commonality between them. They all have withheld a sound that only James Taylor can produce. All of them have this smooth, folk sound at the base that give them a 'twang'. None of them are too flashy or over the top. Each song has a catchy beat, that can easily calm you down, cheer you up, even make you dance a lil' bit. Go ahead an throw on some JT, and I guarantee he wont let you down.

Something to get you goin'.

November 16, 2010

Music Is...The Police: Every Breath You Take - The Classics

Get it

This type of record is known as a compilation album consisting of singles from other albums of the group or artist. Needless to say, The Police have racked up some hits that are definitely worth the recognition. Now I'm not telling you that you HAVE to listen to these songs, that you have to hear these great singles but, if nothing from The Police has pounded your ears just yet, I encourage you to start with this and then continue to familiarize yourself. The lable they were on, A&M, released this one in 1995. This compilation consist of a few singles that are revised a bit, but not at all to where it takes away the flavor. The majority of the singles where released during the late 70's to 80's. Though I've never listened to any of the individual records, I decided to look up the album each song was released on. 

"Can't Stand Loosing You"   Outlandos d' Amour
"Message In A Bottle"
"Walking On The Moon"   Reggatta de Blanc

"Don't Stand So Close To Me"
"De Do Do Do De Da Da Da"   Zenyatta Mondatta

"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
 "Invisible Sun"
"Spirits in the Material World"   Ghost In The Machine

"Every Breath You Take"
"King Of Pain"
"Wrapped Around Your Finger"   Synchronicity
Though this was released in 95', I didn't fall in love with it until mid 2006 or so. Very rarely do I listen to a CD, and it turns out that I like the whole thing, well, I like the whole thing. I could nit-pick at little things here and there, but no song will go without that. Something about music from the 80's seems to have a certain sound to me. I can't really explain it, and it can't quite be duplicated. Personally, I could put on any one of these tracks during any point of the day and jam out and I find myself listening to Roxanne more often than any of them. It has to be among the most popular songs The Police have made but I like it for more than its popularity. To me, it's got this soft rock/reggae sound going on with it and I like that mix. Synesthetic too, for me every song is. I've mentioned that synethesia thing only once or twice if I'm right, and for those of you who know what I mean, I'd label this song red. Not because the lines, "Roxanne, you don't have to put on the red light..." and "...Put on the red light" are repeated a few times over. Because of the meaning and how the melody fits the meaning. 

All in a nutshell, every song is awesome. Here are a few to listen to.

November 13, 2010

Music Is...Gladys Knight

The way in which Ms. Knight has established herself as an artist surely leaves a few things that are undoubtedly noteworthy. She is truly a lady who has maintained longevity in the music biz, and as far as I'm concerned needs no introduction, no nothing. I'm only 20 years old, but I've been listening to her music since I was in the womb, literally. I remember bobbing my head to the beat before I was known to the world......OK, that's a bit too far, but you get the idea. Once again I have to attribute my knowledge of this woman to my mom, who has definitely instilled the LOVE  of music in me. Personally, I don't measure music by its position on the Billboard charts, however many times it went gold or platinum, record sales or any of that. I just go by what I like.

Gladys dished out a buffet full of hits as a solo artist and with the incomparable Pips. Its impossible to fully explain the vibe, feel, and impact of every song and record she's ever put out but I do believe I can name a few to satisfy the musical palate. This isn't necessarily in order so bare with me. The first song/album off the top of my head is 1974 "I Feel A Song". I've never listened to this record in its entirety, I have nonetheless listened to the title track. It is about the loss and recapture of love, a good man. What I visualize when I hear the song is depicted by the cover art of the record. I like the light watercolor's chosen. The fact that a flower is growing is what looks like barren or dry surroundings shows me that good has the ability to come out of what may seem like a bleak situation. 

Lets see, we then have 1973 "Neither One Of Us". Again, a record from which I haven't heard everything, but I've heard a couple. The title track 'Neither One Of Us(Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)' and 'Daddy Could Swear (I Declare)'. Both of these songs are da bomb, seriously. 'Neither One Of Us' has such a smooth sound, like "butta". Now as my mom would say, there would be no new-school without old-school, and Angie Stone proved that to be so when she sampled it for 'No More Rain(In This Clouds)', which by the way is also like "butta". 'Daddy Could Swear' truly says what soul music is. Its an honest track about her dad. She's basically saying that it may have been so that he couldn't do very many things well, but when the time came he could swear, so the title is pretty self explanatory.  

How could I even bring up Gladys Knight without mentioning the 1973 album "Imagination". This record spawned some of my favorites such as 'Midnight Train To Georgia', 'I've Got To Use My Imagination', 'Where Peaceful waters Flow', and 'Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me'. What I love most is the way the tempo shifts between faster and slower paces. 'Imagination' is uptempo and I find it fitting considering what it speaks about, " to keep on keepin' on". 'Midnight Train To Georgia', probably among the elite songs in the karaoke lineup, but by no means is it simply karaoke material. My favorite line, "Mmmmm, LA, proved too much for the man (Too much for the man, he couldn't make it)...", love it.
This next plate of songs is from a soundtrack to the movie Claudine (didn't know that). Now, I've never seen the film, and again I haven't heard all the songs. I can say I've listened to 'Make Yours A Happy Home', which don't even get me wrong, I love. of my absolute favorites hands down is 'On and On'. Something about that track get me up and moving. The melody, the upbeat tempo, the content, the way the words seem to bounce back off the beat. 'On and On' is truly about love and how it's simply nonstop.

Ohh, and just for namesake, I like 'Love Overboard' too. So It goes without saying that Gladys Knight is an incredible songstress. Her voice has this wonderful contrast between silky smooth and grit. The music has withheld itself against a changing industry and changing taste. Haaa...feel much better now.

November 03, 2010

MUSIC IS......

So many things to be said for what music is.

Music is: learning, love, hurt, pain, joy, anger, frustration, relating, reliable, unique, different, enjoyable, excitement, in the moment, here, there, everywhere, commonality, comfort, consistent, life, experience, growth, wacky, goofy, silly, insane, laughing, yelling, chill, relaxed, laid back, lazy, slow, fast, major, funny, thrilling, dramatic, fantastic, over the top, art, showcasing, flamboyant, glamorous, lovely, ugly, dark, light, meaningful, low, corny, great.

If I forgot to mention it, believe me I meant to. All in all, music is darn near everything.

Music Is...In Living Color

This is truly a blast from the past for me. In Living Color first aired April 1990. I had yet been born. Well, all that aside, I'm glad I was introduced to this crazy comedy show. I have to credit that introduction to my mom and good ol' VHS tapes. She recorded some bloopers and some full skits with different members of the cast. I love this show. I mean, there are tons of aspects that make it so memorable. The comedy (duh), the different skits and imitations, the characters, tons of parody's, the sets........(breathe). Need I say more? I could but I'll try not to drag on too long. Speaking of the skits, one of my favorites has to be Jamie Foxx playing Wanda. That gold, tight curly wig. The lipstick, bright dresses, and that phrase, "I am ret to go". Hahaha, what is 'ret'? I know it's ready but still. The way he could twist his lips up when he/she, it would talk, Jamie Foxx portrayed her to a tee.

I'm all bout my music though, and that's the main facet that jogs my memory the most. There's just something about the sound of the 90's that has that "it" factor. Seasons 3 and 4 have the same intro they just introduced a few new comedians and actors to the scene. All and all I love everything about the show but that intro gets me every time.

Music Is...Dawen - I Found Him On YouTube

First let me say that I'm always for up and coming artists in the music industry and in my estimation this guy has what it takes.

So, I was on YouTube a few months ago and I was looking up music covers for random songs. I didn't get too deep into my search when I stumbled upon Dawen's line of videos. One that caught my ear specifically was his cover of Usher - There Goes My Baby. I highly enjoyed it. He played guitar on this one, which made it all the better for me. A little past midway on the cover, he switches to En Vogue's 'Whats It Gonna Be'. I like that its a smooth transition rather than being rocky. The vocals aren't overdone or too loud. 

He released an album recently titled American Me. On "Wake Up" just about everybody can relate to the subject matter. He talks about the typical stereotypes people have against him and that his looks don't determine everything. I haven't heard every song, but one in particular called "Just You" sounds really nice, very much worth the listen. 
Here's a link to his site so you can listen for yourself -

Lets Try This Again

My apologies toward anyone who actually took the time to read or view my blog. I appreciate any viewership I get. I slacked off quite a bit as of late and I'll try not to take such a long time posting.

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