Saturday, January 28, 2017

R Gratia Artis

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Hello, Happy Saturday and dawning of American Fascism. Let's try to occupy ourselves before the SS arrives with the cattlecars, shall we? Today, after all, is the 49th birthday of merely The Greatest MC Ever To Live.
OK, bold statement. Hip-hop is a 40 year old genre now, and surely I exaggerate this gentleman's influence, right? There's other contenders, I hear you say. People say Chuck. Biggie. Kool Moe Dee. Too $hort. There are likely as many candidates as there are luminaries of the rapgame.
None of them, however, would have been what they were without today's Heavyweight champion. You say to yourself, OH COME ON JOSHY, Eminem set the standard of extended bar lines, of rhyming phrases within phrases, of taking the genre to another artistic level. But who was the first to do those things, before anyone had done anything but spit their verses on the 1 and 3 beats, all foursquare and linear? Oops, you guessed it.
It's all to be expected now, as hip-hop rules the world and everything in it. But back 30 years ago, there was a Golden Age, when the genre was so powerful on such a consistent basis, you'd drive into NYC on a Friday night with DJ Red Alert on the radio and end up just driving around Manhattan, because the music was just too compelling and unprecedented to leave the vehicle.
Nowadays, very little of it is compelling or at all innovative. But from 1987-1991, it was like a sledgehammer to the face of puerile pop music, with a record a week coming out to top last week's masterpiece. All killer, no filler recordings that defined the standard before there really was one.
Into this maelstrom of creative output --  the last such period in American popular music to date, by the way -- stepped today's birthday boy and his Hall-of-Fame turntable cohort, the first to get crazy with the James Brown samples that would come to define the Golden Age. The first record they had out is still considered perhaps the greatest single hip-hop record ever made... certainly Top 10 all time, as is their follow-up from 1988, the face-frying mission statement title track of which graces the top of this page.
He started out as William Griffin in 1968, but by the later Eighties he had converted to the Five Percent Nation and taken the name Rakim Allah. Known professionally as simply Rakim, for me he is the alpha and omega of the modern rapper, without whose presence and influence it would not have been what it subsequently became.
Those albums define the genre as perhaps no other, and if there is ever to be a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame first ballot inductee, this is your Babe Ruth/Jackie Robinson character right here. When they came out, we would literally stare at the speakers with our jaws to the floor, wondering how this guy got so many galaxies ahead of everyone around him. To say nothing of the funked-to-death-and-back aural sample-backdrops supplied by his partner  Eric B., as wicked a wheels-of-steel Samurai as ever walked the Bronx.
To honor The R, I spent Tuesday last remastering a short-but-ferocious opening set from FM radio, recorded on the 1987 Fall Def Jam tour in support of Public Enemy and LL Cool J. This is 25 minutes of Big Bang-caliber hip-hop at the dawn of the art form's maturity, and these guys do not disappoint, trust me. The idea that Paid In Full has only been out a couple of months at this point registers little with the Amsterdam audience, who sing along and participate like they somehow knew what was coming.
Eric B. and Rakim
Jaap Edenhal
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
11.5.1987

01 introduction by Flavor Flav/Rakim's entrance
02 Move the Crowd
03 I Ain't No Joke
04 Paid In Full
05 My Melody
06 Freestyle
07 Eric B. Is President
08 I Know You Got Soul/radio outro

Total time: 24:19

Eric B. - turntables & samples, vocals
Rakim - vocals

FM master tape remastered by me
173 MB FLAC here
This is as raw a document of the Golden Age as exists, so pull it down and get extra busy sampling its pure, unadulterated power. As you do, please wish a HBD to The R, who is as responsible as any single dude for the lasting power of the form, and arguably its Greatest of All Rhyme.--J.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Metronomecoming

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The first two musical heavyweight deaths of 2017 have happened; one of them is the sister of friends. The other is today's subject and one of the greatest drummers that will ever be, from one of the greatest bands ever to be.
I'm not gonna recount the Can story or the Krautrock history lesson today; if you don't know who they are, finding out is just a web search away. In many ways our hero was their leader and anchor, without whom they could not have been what they were.
Of course he didn't just play with them; he must be on 100+ records over a 50 year career, bashing for a million luminaries. He might be the most precise European drummer of them all, with so much prodigious timesense that Atomic Clocks could be set by him.
Yes, Jaki Liebezeit passed yesterday at 78, but not before leaving behind a How To Be A Human Metronome instruction manual for the rest of us aspiring percussives to peruse. If there were a Hall Of Fame for beats, he'd have his own wing.
If I had a dollar for every time I practiced the drums to Halleluwah or I'm So Green, I could buy the Zildjian corporation and still have enough left over for a controlling interest in Gretsch. If it's clock tutelage you seek, young PadawanaCobhamas, there's no one who ever done it better than Jaki.
He was also a drummer worthy of the coveted This Is As Funky As White Folks Get title; some of those Can tracks sound like what would happen if the James Brown rhythm section got dropped off in Cologne on a dark and stormy night. Thunderous booms, lightning crashes, and precision Sturm und Drang on The One. No German band ever funked harder and none ever will.
Obviously such a glorious player requires a glorious send off, so I have blown into the MegaCloud a rare thing indeed. Captured from the WDR high def channel -- they run these things every so often, in 1280p clarity, on it -- here comes the legendary Halloween 1970 concert of Can in Soest, Germany. Opened by the 1st public performance of Kraftwerk, this comes from a multimedia event that is thought to be one of the first to feature videoscreens onstage. It's an hour and a half of pure, vintage Cannibalism and is also thought to be their first TV appearance with then-new vocalist Damo Suzuki.
Can
Mixed Media Show
Tresor
Soest, Germany
10.31.1970

01 intro
02 Sense All of Mine
03 Oh Yeah
04 I Feel Alright
05 Mother Sky
06 Deadlock
07 Bring Me Coffee or Tea
08 Don't Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone
09 Paperhouse

Total time: 1:24:29

Holger Czukay – bass
Irmin Schmidt – keyboards
Michael Karoli – guitar
Jaki Liebezeit – drums
Damo Suzuki – vocals

HD mkv file captured from the WDR high def stream site
5.51 GB MKV here
This is a big file but trust me, it's worth it. Someday I'll put up the Kraftwerk segment too. Today, though, is a day to remember and give thanks and praises to the Universe for giving us Jaki -- one of the central timekeepers of the last 50 years -- for five decades of impeccable musicking and for being like a Drum School on two legs to all us novices. Can you dig it? I know you Can.--J.
5.26.1938 - 1.22.2017

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Drive-In Saturday Night Live: Bowie 70

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The Sunday rains bring the 70th birthday of a MainMan, at almost the year anniversary of his untimely passing.
It also dredges up an ages old debate: What is the single greatest musical performance in the history of NBC's Saturday Night Live? This post hopes to settle that question, forever.
Of course there are others. Elvis Costello famously changing tunes mid-song. Joe Jackson and his stopwatch timer. That Radiohead freakout with the horns. John Belushi cramming Fear down Lorne Michaels' throat. But one performance stands, I'm afraid, head-and-shoulder-puppet above the rest.
He starts out in an authentic China Airlines stewardess outfit and things get progressively wilder from there. Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias provide possibly the single most memorable backing vocals in human history, plus a little toy poodle with a TV for a mouth. By the time it gets to the third song, whole revolutions in music video technology are happening live onscreen. Sorry Joe, you'll need more than a stopwatch to top this guy.
I admit I have searched for a clean, master-sourced copy of this 11 minutes of utter mayhem for almost 30 years, always having to settle for the washed-out VHS dubs. Well, settle no more friends... I finally found the NBC pre-broadcast source two days ago, on a somewhat stealthy Bowie-dedicated tracker. I have got it in the cloud and all you need to do is click the link below to make it rain.
There's always been a mystery with this footage: who the f are the dudes in the band besides noted Downtown NYC late-'70s freaks Klaus and Joey? It's gone back and forth for years, with some even suggesting the sunglassed dudes are Tony Thompson, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards from Chic, attempting anonymity! Upon a daylong perusal of the thing frame by frame, my opinion is it's just Dennis Davis, Carlos Alomar and George Murray from DB's band of the time, plus session ace guitarist Stacey Heydon and Jimmy Destri from Blondie on keys.
No matter, it could be Alvin and the Chipmunks and it'd still be the weirdest 11 minutes of TV ever. This is as crazy as any musical segment on television ever shown in our lifetimes, dare I say. I think this version even has the simulcast FM stereo audio... yes, they did that for the heavyweights back in the days before you could stream it all to the device of your choice and be home in time for the collapse of civilization.
David Bowie
"Saturday Night Live"
Studio 8H
NBC-TV Studios
New York City, NY
12.15.1979

01 The Man Who Sold the World
02 TVC15
03 Boys Keep Swinging
04 outro

Total time: 10:55

David Bowie - vocals
Jimmy Destri - keyboards
Dennis Davis - drums
Stacey Heydon - lead guitar
Carlos Alomar - guitar
George Murray - bass
Klaus Nomi - vocals
Joey Arias - vocals

NTSC DVD, looks like the NBC master tape at last!!! Sounds like the stereo audio from the FM simulcast as well
502 MB here
BUT WAIT, there's more. By way of a special new wrinkle here, I shall begin Easter Egging tasty extra treats into these screeds, for the hardcore beasts of bloggliness who endeavor to slog through the whole thing, as anyone reading this has done. By way of rewards for the effort, I have also placed into the rainy Sunday clouds my 71-track, 4CD ridonkulous Bowie playlist, with each track fussed over to make it all sound of a piece and a few real rarities, that I have had in my phone since the sad day a year ago when  he passed. This is 5 and a half hours of what made him possibly the definitive artist of our lifetimes and I'd put it up against any Best Of Bowie thing ever concocted. Anyway go get it, the FLACs are right here and I made 320K mp3s as well, to be grabbed right here.
There you are, rare footages and gigando playlists abundant! All to celebrate the Man Who Sold the World with a tribute fitting a true Artistic Titan of all times. It's no accident our world has seemed to spiral downward since he left us... maybe if we play his music enough, the balance will reset. At any rate he'd have been 70 today, a Starman waiting in the sky for you to look up and see him in the Heavenly firmament. Enjoy and HBD DB, born this day in 1947 and definitively immortal as anyone ever to have lived.--J.
1.8.1947 - 1.10.2016

Friday, January 06, 2017

Fothering Day: The Lady at 70

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The lady she had
a silver tongue
For to sing she said
And maybe that's all
Wait for the dawn
and we will have that song
When it ends it will seem
That we hear silence fall
The lady she had
a golden heart
For to love, she said
And she did not lie
Wait for the dawn
and we'll watch for the sun
As we turn it will seem
To arise in the sky
We heard that song
while watching the skies
Oh the sound it rang
So clear through the cold
Then silence fell
and the sun did arise
On a beautiful morning
silver and gold
"The Lady"
The Songs of Sandy Denny
Barbican
London, UK
5.23.2012

01 introduction: Sandy Denny - White Dress/artist montage
02 Lavinia Blackwall - Late November
03 Maddy Prior - Solo
04 preamble
05 Green Gartside - The North Star Grassman & the Ravens
06 preamble
07 Thea Gilmore - London
08 preamble
09 Lavinia Blackwall & Dave Swarbrick - Quiet Joys of Brotherhood
10 Dave Swarbrick & Sam Carter - It Suits Me Well
11 preamble
12 Maddy Prior - John the Gun
13 Maddy Prior - Fotheringay
14 preamble
15 P.P. Arnold - I'm a Dreamer
16 Green Gartside - Nothing More
17 preamble
18 Blair Dunlop - The Sea
19 Joan Wasser - The Lady
20 preamble
21 Joan Wasser - No More Sad Refrains
22 Thea Gilmore - Don't Stop Singing
23 Sam Carter - Bushes and Briars
24 preamble
25 Ensemble - Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
26 preamble
27 P.P. Arnold - Take Me Away
28 end credits

Total time: 1:28:45

Pete Flood - drums & percussion
Andy Mellon - piano & trumpet
Benji Kirkpatrick - acoustic guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, tenor banjo
Nick Pynn - violin & viola
Sam Carter - acoustic guitar, vocals
Jerry Donahue - electric guitar
Ben Nicholls - bass
Nigel Stonier - guitar & keyboards
Lavinia Blackwall - vocals
Maddy Prior - vocals
Green Gartside - vocals, guitar
Thea Gilmore - vocals
Dave Swarbrick - fiddle & vocals
P.P. Arnold - vocals
Blair Dunlop - vocals, guitar
Joan Wasser - vocals, piano

mkv file of a 1080p HD capture of the 2012 BBC broadcast
3.75 GB here
1.6.1947 - 4.21.1978