Tag: 1980s

Initially known as a vocalist and keyboardist in NYC-based pop act Strip Darling, Jacque Ryal is a singer/songwriter and pop artist, whose career began crafting Portishead-inspired trip-hop; however, along with producer and collaborator Aaron Nevezie, Ryal, who writes, record and performs under the moniker RYAL, the duo have received attention for a soulful synth pop sound that while seemingly inspired by Prince and 80s synth pop, is also reportedly inspired by Solange, The xx, Bjork, Kendrick Lamar and others while paired with deeply personal lyrics rooted from her own experiences.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you may recall that I caught RYAL perform during the eclectically curated Festival 8 at C’mon Everybody last summer and although I haven’t personally written about her in a little bit, the New York-based singer/songwriter and pop artist has been rather busy, recording a sultry and soulful yet minimalist and subtly atmospheric-leaning rendition of one of my favorite George Michael songs “Father Figure.” And while being fairly straightforward, RYAL’s version manages to have a swaggering vibe, thanks to big, tweeter and woofer rocking beats.

 

 

 

 

 

Preview: Living Colour at City Winery 3/13/17

Currently comprised of founding members Corey Glover (vocals), Vernon Reid (guitar, synths, backing vocals) and Will Calhoun (drums, percussion, keys, samples, backing vocals), with Doug Wimbish (bass, drums, guitar, programming, backing vocals), the New York-based rock quartet Living Colour originally formed in 1984 and they quickly received attention for a sound that meshed elements of heavy metal, funk, jazz, jazz fusion, soul, prog rock and alternative rock with lyrics that frequently focused on the personal and sociopolitical, frequently commenting on and attacking Eurocentrism and racism in America. The quartet’s original lineup, featuring featuring the founding trio of Glover, Reid and Calhoun with Muzz Skillings (bass) cut their teeth and honed their sound and live show playing shows at CBGB’s.

Interestingly, the band found an unlikely champion in The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, who took the band under his wing, produced a demo, which caught the attention of Epic Records. And with the release of 1988’s commercially and critically successful full-length debut Vivid, the band’s original lineup, quickly rose to attention with their smash hit “Cult of Personality,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance; they also won the Best New Artist Award at 1989’s MTV Video Music Awards. Adding to a growing international profile, The Rolling Stones had Living Colour opened for the rock legend’s Stateside leg of the Steel Wheels tour. They quickly followed that up with 1990’s sophomore effort Time’s Up, which also won a Grammy.

After releasing three full-length albums with a number of major and minor hits, the band split up with the members focus on a variety of creative projects; in fact, Wimbish, Calhoun and Glover had teamed up with Glover in a project called Headfake, which played frequently in the New York City area. And as the story goes, in late 2000, Headfake played at CBGBs with Reid joining them, leading to rumors of a Living Colour reunion. Of course, those rumors proved to be true, as Living Colour went on their first tour together n six years the following summer.

The members of the band have since released one of their most experimental efforts to date, 2003’s Collideøscope, followed by 2005’s rarities and B-sides compilation, a few live albums, 2006’s Best of compilation, Everything Is Possible: The Very Best of Living Colour and 2009’s Chair in the Doorway. And over the past couple of years, the band has been on a rather busy touring schedule, touring to support the 25th anniversary of their seminal effort Vivid.

As a personal note, as a music obsessed boy, I’ve almost always listened to a wildly eclectic variety of music, and in the 80s metal was a big thing. I loved Metallica, Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and the like; but when I watched their videos and concerts, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me — and even in my 8 year old mind, I knew that I couldn’t be those guys. I was black and from Queens. However, seeing someone who looked like me with guys who came from neighborhoods that I knew or had family in, kicking ass and taking names was a revelation. And it made them heroes to me.

Sadly, I was too young to catch them back then; however, I have since seen them twice — once at Afropunk during their Vivid 25th Anniversary Tour and later at Brooklyn Bowl, and I’m thrilled to know that the band is playing tonight at City Winery.

New Video: The 80s MTV-Inspired Visuals and Sounds of Rudie Edwards’ “Lover Like You”

Rudie Edwards is an up-and-coming Dover, UK-born, Kent, UK-based singer/songwriter and producer, who has been influenced by a wide range of music including disco, Joy Division, gospel, Ray Charles and others. And like a lot of musically obsessed kids, living in small towns, Edwards realized that she had to leave her small town to make something of herself. “I knew I had to move out of there,” Edwards says in press notes. “Music was the easiest way for me to escape. My sisters and I were the only mixed race kids at school. It’s a beautiful place, but i knew it wasn’t where i was going to be spend the rest of my life. I was bursting at the seams. I needed more. I wanted more. I was longing for the stage. I had to get to London.”

Edwards eventually relocated to London, where she attended the renowned BRIT School, the alma mater of Adele, Amy Winehouse, Imogen Heap and others. By 2012, Edwards’ music career had started in earnest as she was splitting her time between Los Angeles and London, writing for CeeLo Green, Erik Hassle, Beatrice Eli and others. And with her later single “Lover Like You,” Edwards reveals that as a solo artist, her material is fueled by a sensual, bold confidence and a sassiness that’s reminiscent of I Feel For You-era Chaka Khan while simultaneously drawing from 80s synth pop, disco, soul and contemporary synth pop in a similar fashion to Escort’s Adeline Michele. Sonically the song reveals a slick and seductive production featuring layers of arpeggio synths, electronic bleeps and bloops, a sinuous bass line, a blistering 80s guitar solo, stomping beats and a rousingly anthemic hook to give it all a shimmering, club rocking feel. And in some way, the song sounds as though it’s the sort of song you’d expect people to shout along with lustily at the club as soon as they hear it.

The recently released video manages to visually draw from 80s synth pop and pop videos while being shot through a slightly faded VHS meets Instagram filter with a fittingly coquettish, fun-loving air.

 

Currently comprised of founding member Mike Score (keys, vocals), Joe Rodriguez, Michael Brahm and Pando, the British new wave/synth pop quartet A Flock of Seagulls initially formed in 1980 — and with their most famous and longest running lineup featuring Mike Score, his brother Ali Score (drums), Frank Maudsley (bass) and Paul Reynolds (guitar), the quartet had some of their biggest success, including a string of international hit singles including their smash hit “I Ran (So Far Away),” “Space Age Love Song,” and “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You),” all released in 1982 and 1984’s “The More You Live, The More You Love,” an anthemic pop song featuring angular guitars played with tons of reverb and delay pedal, an equally angular yet funky bass line, and a soaring hook.

 

Recently, JOVM mainstay artist Rhythm Scholar remixed A Flock of Seagulls’ 1984 hit single and his remix of the 1984 hit song, as futuristic bleeps and bloops, radio transmissions and feedback, along some distorted vocals during the song’s intro, bridge and coda and bigger, more forceful drum programming while retaining the angular guitar chords with reverb and delay, the equally angular bass line and the soaring hook of the original, essentially giving the song a subtle space-age feel — but space-age from what we would imagine 2017 would look like and feel like in 1984.

 

 

 

Comprised of the Ann Arbor, MI-born, Los Angeles, CA-based soul singer/songwriter Mayer Hawthorne, arguably one of the most unheralded vocalists and singer/songwriters of the past decade; and Jake One, a Seattle, WA-born and based, Grammy nominated producer and artist, who was best known as part of the G-Unit, production team The Money Management Group, for collaborating with Brother Ali, Young Buck, De La Soul, M.O.P., Freeway, M.F. Doom, Atmosphere‘s Slug, Keak da Sneak and others, and for contributing tracks to the soundtracks of major motion pictures such as Get Rich or Die Tryin,’ The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Gone Baby Gone, the electro funk act Tuxedo can trace its origins to around 2006 when Hawthorne and Jake One began exchanging mixtapes, which revealed that they had a mutual appreciation and love of classic funk and soul.  The duo quickly worked on and released three singles while both were working on separate solo projects — and those singles wound up on the duo’s 2015 self-titled debut, an effort, which I think was one of that year’s best party records.

Now, it’s been some time since I’ve last written about them — and that shouldn’t be surprising, as Hawthrone released his fourth, full-length effort Man About Town last year and opened for Hall and Oates during the duo’s U.S. tour and Jake One released the #prayerhandsemoji mixtape; but speaking for myself, I’m always in the need of some funk in my life and thankfully, the duo have returned with a three song EP, titled Fux with the Tux.. “Fux with the Tux,” the EP’s title track and opening track pairs Hawthrone’s vocals with a late 70s and early 80s synth funk production featuring squiggly arpeggio synth blasts, propulsive drum programming, a wobbling and tumbling low bass line, a chant-worthy and anthemic hook and a brief braggadocio-filled guest spot from Snoop Dogg. And while sounding as though it drew a some influence from Heatwave‘s “The Groove Line” – 12″ Disco Version,  Cherelle‘s “Saturday Love” feat. Alexander O’Neal and others. “Special” clearly continues on a similar vein as it’s incredibly dance floor friendly, while being a sultry come on. It’s the sort of song you’d want to play while dancing with that pretty young thing, you’ve wanted to get with for an entire summer or however long it’s been for you. Completing the three song set, “July” is a slow-burning and silky smooth, Quiet Storm-like track about unexpectedly, stupidly and desperately in love and that love changing the narrator’s life for the better — and of course, its underpinned by Hawthorne expressing a vulnerable, urgent and plaintive need that gives the song an irresistible sensuality.

 

 

If there’s one thing that listeners will instantly gleam from this new EP is that Hawthorne and Jake One have further cemented their reputation for crafting dance floor friendly, two-step, 80s-inspired synth funk and sexy, slow-burning ballads with a subtly modern take.

 

 

 

 

There are bands, whose sound and aesthetic make such a forceful and immediate impression that you can instantly recall the first time you had come across them; in fact the first time I had ever heard Soundgarden, I was watching MTV‘s Headbanger’s Ball.  And what I can still remember more than 25 years later was how the show’s host at the time, Rikki Rachtman told viewers that they needed to be on the lookout for Soundgarden — mainly because of Chris Cornell, who Rachtman had described as being a little guy with an enormous voice. They promptly followed that with the music video for “Outshined” off Badmotorfinger — and I can remember being blown away.

Strangely, as the years have passed what’s been forgotten is that the members of Soundgarden had initially started their career with Sub Pop Records; in fact, the now long-renowned grunge label had released the Seattle-based band’s first two EP’s Screaming Life and Fopp, which Sub Pop re-issued a few years ago, marking the first time that both of those early efforts would be availably digitally, as well as through vinyl. But interestingly enough, the renowned Seattle-based label also help distribute  Soundgarden’s full-length debut, Ultramega OK.

On March 10, 2017, Sub Pop Records will be releasing a remixed and expanded reissue of Soundgarden’s full-lengtht debut, as a long-planned “correction” of their debut. Ultramega OK was originally recorded and released through SST Records in 1988 — and while the members of the band enjoyed working with the album’s original producer, Drew Canulette, they were dissatisfied with the album’s final mix. And as the story goes, the band had intended to remix the album for subsequent pressings; however, the band quickly had major label success and were signed to A&M Records and the band went into the studio to work on their major-label debut effort, Louder Than Love. And as a result, the Ultramega OK remix had fallen off to the wayside.

Last year, the members of the band finally acquitted the original multi-track tapes from the Ultramega OK sessions and they all decided to set some time aside to work on the remix. Naturally, the band enlisted the assistance of renowned producer and engineer Jack Endino, a long-time friend and former collaborator, who has worked with Nirvana, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Skin Yard, The Black Clouds and others to create a new mix of the album that would tie up some persistent loose ends and fixes the album’s overall sound. Interestingly, the members of the band also found six early versions of songs that eventually wound up on the full-length album, which they initially recorded in 1987 with Jack Endino and Chris Hanszek at Reciprocal Recording — and mixed by Endino last year. Reportedly, those early versions of songs, which were later staples of the band’s live sets, capture the band in a much rawer form — and much closer to the Screaming Life EP. Naturally for die-hard fans and completists, the rediscovered material will serve as a window into the development of the band’s songwriting approach and sound. The forthcoming re-issue’s first single is a crisper, tighter and much more forceful version of “Beyond The Wheel” which better displays Kim Thayill’s guitar work and its interplay between Matt Cameron’s Bonham-like drumming and Cornell’s vocals. And compared to the original, the re-mixed alternate version almost sounds like a completely different song.

Now if you had been frequenting this site towards the end of last year, you might remember that I wrote about the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter BETS, who quickly came to attention with the release of her critically applauded debut effort Days Hours Night. In the blogosphere age, artists have to strike quickly and while the iron is hot — and building upon the buzz she had received, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and producer initially planned to write and record new, original material when the two collaborators discovered that they shared a mutual fondness of Violent Femmes‘ 1983 self-titled, breakthrough debut. And reportedly, within a few minutes, BETS along with her producer decided that the album of original material should be put on hold for a bit, to allow them some time to write and record an her soon-to-be released Violent Femmes tribute album, in which she re-imagined and reworked the original material into haunting and dreamy shoegaze.

BETS’ Violent Femmes album’s first single was a slow-burning rework of “Blister in the Sun“in which guitars were fed through layers of distortion, fuzz and feedback paired with gently padded drumming and BETS’ dreamily distracted vocals to craft a version of the song that slowly pulls apart the song’s familiar melody and chorus in a way that’s both ethereal and moody.  The album’s latest single is a radically different rendition of “Gone Daddy Gone”/”I Just Want to Make Love to You” that nods at David Lynch and 60s bubblegum pop as twinkling percussion, shuffling drumming and dramatic bursts of guitar are paired with BETS’ coquettish and bratty vocals. Whereas the original possessed a neurotic and urgent need, BETS’ rendition sounds how I would imagine someone like Nancy Sinatra doing it — swinging and sensual as hell.

Although over the past twenty years or so Cape Verde, the tiny island nation comprised of an archipelago of 10 different, volcanic islands off the Northwestern coast of Africa has been hailed as one of the continent’s most stable democracies, its history suggests that things were very different. With a prime location in the Atlantic Ocean, the island nation was uninhabited until the 15th century, when the Portuguese colonized it, established it was not only the first European settlement in the tropics; but as a major commercial center and stopover point for the Transatlantic Slave Trade during the 16th and 17th centuries. The decline and eventual abolition of the slave trade in the 19th century resulted in a crippling economic crisis; however, because of the island’s location in the middle of major shipping lanes, it quickly became an important commercial center and port. Interestingly, with few natural resources and inadequate sustainable investment from the Portuguese, who had controlled the island nation for the better part of 300 years, Cape Verde’s citizens had become increasingly frustrated with colonial rule.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, a series of independence and nationalist movements across colonized Africa began sprouting up across Africa –including Cape Verde. In 1951, Portugal changed the island nation’s status from a colony to overseas province in an attempt to blunt Cape Verdeans growing nationalism; however, by 1956 Amilcar Cabral led a group of Cape Verdeans and Guineans, who formed the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). The group demanded improvement in economic, social and political conditions in Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea — and interestingly enough, formed the basis of both nations’ independence movement. After moving its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea in 1960, the PAIGC began an armed rebellion the following year, which resulted in a bloody and complicated civil war that had Soviet Bloc-supported PAIGC fighting Portuguese and African troops.

Portuguese Guinea declared independence in 1973 and was granted de jure independence the following year as Guinea-Bissau. Amilcar Cabral led Cape Verde’s burgeoning independence movement until his assassination that same year, then led by Cabral’s half-brother Luis Cabral, who led the archipelago nation to independence in 1975. Much like their counterparts across the continent, the tiny island nation suffered through the similar ills of a society born by and influenced by colonialism, slavery and greed struggling to integrate into a rapidly globalizing world — and not quite knowing how to do so. The sense of detachment from the modern world fostered among Cape Verdeans a yearning to integrate, to connect with the larger world in any way that they could. And those who emigrated to the cosmopolitan European cities didn’t find much respite as Cape Verdeans were viewed as “hot-blooded” “dropouts” and “juvenile delinquents.” However, with the ready availability of electronic instruments, a doorway to a sense of modernity and an perceived anchor in their adopted homes was understandably seductive. As Val Xalino, a Cape Verdean-born, Gothenburg, Sweden-based electronic music artist and pioneer of his birthplace’s electronic sound explains in press notes “Cape Verdeans were celebrating their independence and with that the dancing became even more important.People wanted to hear something different. They wanted the synthesizer!”

Émigré musicians began traveling back and forth between Europe and their island homeland with luggage packed with synthesizers and MIDI instruments. And although many were primarily urban-based, musicians began frequent traveling to the countryside to learn the rhythms and melodies of rural farmers, frequently sampling melodies played off of slightly off-tune and damaged accordions and other field recordings. The result was this weird and compelling sound that drew from folk melodies and rhythms and contemporary electronic production — and from both African and European influences. The hearts and minds of a new nation of passionate, musically-included people were enthralled, including Paulino Viera, who would quickly become the island nation’s most important, beloved and influential musician.

Veira was especially drawn to keyboard-based instruments as he had honed his skills playing organ and piano at a Catholic seminary. His musical career started in earnest as a backing member of the renowned vocalist Cesaria Evora, whose cavaquinho-based folk songs received international attention while being instrumental in establishing the island nation as a music scene worthy of your attention — especially if you were into music across the wildly diverse African Diaspora. Interestingly, an underground electronic music scene had started with Viera leading charge once he relocated to Lisbon, Portugal, where he lead Voz de Cabo Verde, a beloved ensemble that frequently collaborated with other Cape Verdean-born musicians across the Diaspora. As Elisio Gomes, a Cape Verdean-born, Paris-based vocalist, who collaborated with Veira often, explained in press notes ““Paulino was the most visionary. He always had this gift to be 10 years ahead of his time. That’s why our music sounds like it was produced today.”

Now, as I’ve mentioned frequently on this site, the technological advances brought forth by computers and the Internet have made discovering new and extremely rare, lost music from known and little known artists much easier, all while contributing to the proliferation of extremely niche based labels, who are willing to take careful and thoughtful risks based around the tastes and listening habits of their staff and their most fervent followers. Naturally, it meant these smaller, niche labels would frequently spend their time re-introducing artists, whose work was so far ahead of its time that audiences just couldn’t grasp it upon its initial release — and yet fills in an important gap historically speaking; re-introducing regionally favored artists, whose work should have seen a bigger audience but didn’t; releasing music from various locations around the world that Westerners should know and love but was largely ignored; to provide an alternate history of developments across a genre — based on a region or a country that Westerners had long ignored and so on. And adding to a growing list of small labels releasing cool stuff, Ostinato Records will be releasing a cool compilation of electronic music from Cape Verde — a compilation in which the aforementioned Paulino Veira contributes to about half the songs — titled Ostinato Records Presents: Synthesize The Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Island 1973-1988.

And through 18 extremely diverse tracks, the compilation will reveal how immigration from Cape Verde to Europe and the US created an alternate history of electronic music that had been largely ignored by most Westerners. Manuel Gomes’ “Jelivrà Bo Situaçon” pairs propulsive African percussion, shuffling Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, twisting and turning keyboard chords played on what sounds like an old Casio keyboard paired with Gomes’ softly yearning, bittersweet vocals and is the compilation’s first single. Sonically speaking while the song clearly has the mark of either decidedly lo-fi production or comes as the result of re-mastering from old analog masters, it possesses a hypnotic, cosmic glow with groove and melody turning into one cohesive unit. And while being a bit bittersweet, the song at its core possesses the sense of unbridled freedom and possibility of the dance floor, and the hopes and dreams of a new nation learning to create its own image and history for itself.

 

 

 

 

Throwback: George Michael

I suspect that it’s a sign of getting older is when people you admired, listened to or just remembered from your childhood start to die, whether suddenly or after some protracted illness. Certainly, as a child of the 80s, George Michael and his music both with Wham! and as a solo artist informed significant portions of my music listening life; so as you can imagine hearing about the man’s death the other day was both a surprise and a reminder than I’m getting older. Interestingly, a few months ago I had stumbled onto George Michael’s Faith on Spotify and I had forgotten that it was very good pop album with a ridiculous number of chart topping singles. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, give it a spin; it’ll be worth it.

In terms of this post, George Michael had a collection of songs that I remember very fondly and still occasionally play but by far some of my favorites were “I Want Your Sex,” “Careless Whisper,” “Everything She Wants” “Freedom 90” his duet with Elton John “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” and his duet with Aretha Franklin “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).” As I mentioned on Facebook, “Holy shit, that was a white boy, who could sing his ass off.”