Tag: Al Green

Throwback: Happy 75th Birthday, Al Green!

JOVM celebrates soul legend Al Green’s 75th birthday.

Throwback: Black History Month: Al Green

Time does what it usually does: it flies by faster than what you’d expect or even want.Today is February 14. It’s Valentine’s Day and the 14th day of Black History Month. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been proudly featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles with the hopes that these artists can guide you towards further understanding of the Black experience.

As the month goes on, I hope that you’ll be reminded of these urgently important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

So because it’s Valentine’s Day, I felt it was necessary to feature one of music’s patron saints of love and of heartache, the Rev. Al Green.

If you haven’t seen it before, check out the footage of Al Green on Soul Train in 1974. It’s one of the most transcendent and uplifting TV performances I’ve ever seen.

Noosa, Australia-born, London-based twin siblings Toma and Andy Benjamin grew up in a musical home, and as a result they wound up joining the local church band when they were teenagers. Coincidentally, that same church band was where the Banjamins met their future Tempesst bandmates Kane Reynolds and Blake Mispeka.

The Banjamin Brothers eventually left home and discovered a whole new world of music, ideas and ways of living that weren’t part of their previous purview: after a short stint in the UK, the Banjamins wound up in Brooklyn, where they soaked up the DIY ethos of the  late 2000s Williamsburg scene. They started to develop their own ideas, starting home recording projects initially inspired by Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Wings, Electric Light Orchestra and others.

After a year in Brooklyn, an expiring visa forced the Banjamins to relocate to Hackney, where they hunkered down and got serious about writing and recording material. They recruited Swiss-American Eric Weber (guitar) and reconnected with their fellow Aussies Reynolds and Mispeka — and at that point, the rising London-based indie act Tempesst started.

Unsurprisingly, the need to practice, write and record in a city like London helped facilitate the creation of their own studio. “We started out with a basic production studio that Tom kept at his house but one of the biggest challenges in London is that you can’t make noise,” the band’s Andy Banjamin recalls. “So we began looking for a rehearsal space and came across this warehouse, which was way bigger than anything we were looking for but got us wondering about what it would actually take to set up a proper studio.”

Naming the space Pony Studios, the band started to convert the warehouse into multiple studio rooms and practice spaces. Simultaneously, the band started Pony Recordings, which helped changed the way the band had approached their work.  “These days artists are expected to do so much themselves and we have always been slight control freaks anyway,” Andy Banjamin says in press notes. “DIY is part of everything that we do, so that extends to our label, the studio, the videos, all of it and really it’s just how the indie music scene has evolved.” Toma Banjamin adds “With the studio, we have time to work on all the key things that have become quintessential to our sound but also experiment and add an element of surprise, whether that is a weird synth solo or a key change. It’s those little departures that keep the listener on their toes.”

After releasing a handful of critically applauded, buzz worthy singles and EPs, the Aussie-born, British-based members of Tempesst will be releasing their highly anticipated full-length debut, the Eliot Heinrich co-produced Must Be a Dream. Slated for a September 30, 2020 release through the band’s own Pony Recordings, Tempesst’s full-length debut reportedly finds the band boldly taking a step forward with their songwriting and their sound. Generally leaning towards folk-tinged psychedelia, the album’s material nods at Spiritualized, The Flaming Lips, and The Beach Boys — but with a modern melodic sensibility.

Sonically, the material is deceptive: complex musical ideas are centered around seemingly simple melodies.  Seemingly sun-kissed, the album thematically explores themes of longing, love, loss, substance abuse, the death of loved ones — and yet remembering the beauty just underneath all of it. “This record is the first time that I feel like I’ve had the uninterrupted ability to create and have full control at our own pace,” Toma Banjamin says in press notes. “With this LP, we’ve created something we’re really proud of that truly cements our identity as a group. The joy of taking these songs live is something that we’re really excited about.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about Must Be A Dream‘s first single, the Brit Pop meets psych psych rock “On The Run,” a track centered around shimmering and reverb drenched guitars, layered vocal harmonies, an enormous hook and Toma Benjamin’s serpentine-like vocals. And while superficially being a sun-kissed, summery anthem, the song is actually much darker, as the song thematically focuses on substance abuse, death and the loss of innocence — that feels haunted by the weight of heartache. “High On My Own,” the album’s third and latest single sounds as though it draws influence from Electric Light Orchestra, The Beach Boys and Primal Scream, as the song is centered by a  motorik groove, shimmering guitars and a soaring hook within an expansive song structure. But underneath the trippy, feel good vibes the song finds its narrator — and in turn, the band — juxtaposing their lives with those of their peers back home. Recognizing that settling down and having the family life at this moment isn’t for them, the song’s narrator does the brave thing — setting their own path in their own way.

“I grew up near Noosa, a small beach town in Australia. In my town, a 30 year old man was typically a family man, with a normal job, a mortgage etc.,” the band’s Toma Banjamin explains. “The kind of guy who had a balanced life and what seemed to be contentment as a byproduct. These guys had beliefs, they lived by a code that guided each decision with a brand of certainty that I envy and in my subconscious, this archetype framed the kind of firm identity one should expect to acquire by age 30. A couple of decades on, here I am, 30, still wandering, without the beliefs or certainty I expected to have.”

Live Footage: Nick Hakim Performs “QADIR” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut, 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2. Armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn.

As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it, making the album feel like a series of different self-portraits. Much like Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad strokes, with subtle gradations in mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press notes at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare.

The JOVM mainstay released his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD earlier this year through ATO Records. Interestingly, the album’s material manages to be distinctly Hakim while being a tonal shift from its predecessor: his sophomore album reflects the ideas with which he grappled with while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shared the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

“QADIR” is a slow-burning and atmospheric single, centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals — and as a result, the track is a fever dream full of ache and longing, partially written as an ode to a late friend and an urgent reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. ”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Recently Hakim and his backing band performed a socially distant rendition of “QADIR” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which features Hakim singing the song on a cartoon-background that’s one part hood, one part Sesame Street. 

New Video: Rising London-based Act Tempesst Releases a Brit Pop Take on Psych Rock

Growing up in a musical family, Noosa, Australia-born, London-based twin siblings Toma and Andy Benjamin joined the church band when they were 14. Coincidentally, the church band was where the Banjamins met their future Tempesst bandmates Kane Reynolds and Blake Mispeka. 

The Banjamin Brothers eventually left home and discovered a whole new world of music, ideas and ways of living that weren’t part of their previous purview: after a short stint in the UK, the Banjamins wound up in Williamsburg, where they soaked up the DIY ethos of the  late 2000s Williamsburg scene, while developing their own ideas and starting home recording projects inspired by Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Wings, Electric Light Orchestra and others. 

After a year in Brooklyn, an expiring visa forced the Banjamins to relocate to Hackney, where they hunkered down and got serious about writing and recording material. They recruited Swiss-American Eric Weber (guitar) and reconnected with their fellow Aussies Reynolds and Mispeka. And at that point, the rising London-based indie act Tempesst started. 

Unsurprisingly, the need to practice, write and record in a city like London helped facilitate the creation of their own studio. “We started out with a basic production studio that Tom kept at his house but one of the biggest challenges in London is that you can’t make noise,” the band’s Andy Banjamin recalls. “So we began looking for a rehearsal space and came across this warehouse, which was way bigger than anything we were looking for but got us wondering about what it would actually take to set up a proper studio.” 

Naming the space Pony Studios, the band started to convert the warehouse into multiple studio rooms and practice spaces. Simultaneously, the band started Pony Recordings, which helped changed the way the band had approached their work.  “These days artists are expected to do so much themselves and we have always been slight control freaks anyway,” Andy Banjamin says in press notes. “DIY is part of everything that we do, so that extends to our label, the studio, the videos, all of it and really it’s just how the indie music scene has evolved.” Toma Banjamin adds ““With the studio, we have time to work on all the key things that have become quintessential to our sound but also experiment and add an element of surprise, whether that is a weird synth solo or a key change. It’s those little departures that keep the listener on their toes.”

After releasing a handful of critically applauded, buzz worthy singles and EPs, the Aussie-born, British-based members of Tempesst will be releasing their highly anticipated full-length debut, the Eliot Heinrich co-produced Must Be a Dream. Slated for a September 30, 2020 release through the band’s own Pony Recordings, Tempesst’s full-length debut reportedly finds the band boldly taking a step forward with their songwriting and their sound. Generally leaning towards folk-tinged psychedelia, the album’s material nods at Spiritualized, The Flaming Lips, and The Beach Boys — but with a modern melodic sensibility. 

Sonically, the material is deceptive: complex musical ideas are centered around seemingly simple melodies.  Seemingly sun-kissed, the album thematically explores themes of longing, love, loss, substance abuse, the death of loved ones — and yet remembering the beauty just underneath all of it. “This record is the first time that I feel like I’ve had the uninterrupted ability to create and have full control at our own pace,” Toma Banjamin says in press notes. “With this LP, we’ve created something we’re really proud of that truly cements our identity as a group. The joy of taking these songs live is something that we’re really excited about.”

Must Be A Dream’s first single “On The Run” is a decidedly Brit Pop-take on 60s and 70s psych rock centered around shimmering and reverb drenched guitars, layered vocal harmonies, an enormous hook and Toma Benjamin’s serpentine-like vocals. And while superficially being a sun-kissed, summery anthem, the song is actually much darker, as the song thematically focuses on substance abuse, death and the loss of innocence — that feels haunted by the weight of heartache. “it’s about a close friend who disappeared for a decade and returned as someone completely different, and it’s an ongoing trauma,” Toma Banjamin explains. “When I connected the music to the lyrics to try and finish the song, it felt like it had a rolling rhythm, so the chorus fell into place from there. For me, this song carries a lot more emotional weight.”

Directed by Andrea Banjanin, the recently released video is centered around cinematically shot footage of the band performing the song in a studio space with symbolic imagery placed in quick cuts — and that imagery focuses on the songs overall themes of mortality, loss of innocence and the complications of adult life. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Gorgeous and Surreal Visual for Atmospheric “Bouncing”

I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay  Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s 2017 full-length debut, Green Twins was written after he had completed   Where Will We Go Part 1 EP and Where We Will Go Part 2 EP and relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. 

After getting himself settled in, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording song sketches sing his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He fleshed out the sketches as much as possible and then took his demo’d material to various studios in New York, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused one specific experiences, feelings and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composting it, and as a result the album is a series of different self-portraits that generally captures its creator in broad strokes — but if you pay close attention, you pick up on subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins was drew from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim has also developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Now, as you may recall, Hakim’s highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records. 

Interestingly, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD reportedly represents a tonal shift from its predecessor with the album’s material reflecting the ideas that he had grappled with while writing and recording it. 

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.” Hakim writes in a statement on the album. 

“For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here — or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR,” a fever dream of ache and longing that brings up psych pop, psych soul and 70s soul simultaneously.  “QADIR” was the first song that Hakim wrote for the album with the track being an ode to a late friend, and a urgent and plaintive reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. “BOUNCING,” WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s third and latest single is a delicate and atmospheric track centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, blown out and distorted drums, gently swirling feedback paired with Hakim’s aching falsetto expressing a vulnerable yearning for companionship and warmth on a bitterly cold day — and knowing that it won’t come any time soon. “BOUNCING” is a sound bath where I wrote about one of the coldest days in New York I remember, while lying in my bed, restless by a radiator. It’s about feeling uneasy,” Hakim says in press notes. 

Directed by Nelson Nance, the recently released video for “BOUNCING” continues Hakim’s ongoing visual collaboration with the director while serving as a sequel to “QADIR.” The video follows Hakim and a small collection of attendees to a surreal event that becomes a spectacle that’s recorded by the attendees. But it asks much larger questions of the viewer: “”The ‘BOUNCING’ video asks the viewer to question our drive to find spectacles and how the pursuit of such can lead to becoming a spectacle,” Nelson explains in press notes. “There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or being a spectacle but I think it’s healthy to question if our energy is being put in the right place when interfacing with what draws our attention.” 

New Audio: Carlton Jumel Smith Releases a Swooning, Classic Soul-Inspired Declaration of Devotion

Last month, I wrote about Carlton Jumel Smith, a New York-based R&B/soul singer/songwriter, who emerged into the international soul scene with the release of his debut single “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” a 70s soul and R&B-inspired track that found him collaborating with the renowned Timmion Records production and house band team Cold Diamond & Mink. Building upon a rapidly growing profile within soul circles, Smith, who cites James Brown, Al Green, The Temptations, Sly Stone, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits as influences on his own work will be releasing his full-length debut 1634 Lexington Avenue through Timmion Records and Daptone Records.

Slated for release later this week, 1634 Lexington Avenue reportedly finds Smith and the Timmion Records crew carrying on in the tradition and sounds of Curtom Records, the Chicago-based studio and label founded by Curtis Mayfield; Memphis soul; and of course, by default Motown for contemporary listeners.  Now, as you may recall, album single “This Is What Love Looks Like!” while centered around a shuffling, two-step groove, a sultry horn line and Smith’s soulful crooning thematically and sonically drew from the classic soul and pop songs of the late 60s and 70s with the song’s narrator expressing his devotion to his life with a sweetness and passion that you’ll rarely here in contemporary music. Continuing in a similar vein as its predecessor, 1634 Lexington Avenue’s latest single “Woman You Made Me” is triumphant declaration of the narrator’s appreciation of the woman in his life, complete with the tacit recognition that love is complicated and hard — and that finding that special someone is both lucky and rare. Sonically, the song seamlessly meshes the classic 60s Motown sound with Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield psych soul.

“I sing the type of R&B and soul that I grew up with and I present it in a fashion that is designed to make one thing of love and loyalty, which as DJ Rogers once said ‘are not for sale,'” Smith says in press notes. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Pop Artist Ryahn Releases Sensual Visuals for Sango-Produced “Popstar”

Ryahn is a 20 year-old, Broward County, FL-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and pop artist, who grew up listening to her parents’ Al Green, Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams and The Delfonics records — and those records would eventually inform the up-and-coming Floridian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s own self-described soulful music. “I call it soulful music ’cause it comes from my soul,” Ryahn says in press notes.

While in middle school, Ryahn taught herself how to play ukulele from watching YouTube videos and from there, she picked up guitar, eventually writing songs in her bedroom. Her father’s death wound up being the impetus for the young singer/songwriter to start sharing her music publicly, and in 2015, she released her debut single “Babyboy” on Soundcloud, which has amassed about 500,000 streams to date. Since then she has released three singles “Ease Your Mind,” “Studio” and her latest single, the Sango-produced “Popstar.” Centered by a subtle and understated trap beat, skittering beats, brief blasts of electric guitar, Ryanh’s self-assured and sultry cooing, a sinuous hook and breezy, tropicalia vibes, the song which reveals a superstar in the making, is about manifesting what you want and living your fantasy — right this very second.

Directed by Yavez Anthonio, the recently released video, which was shot in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil further emphasizes both the song’s tropicalia vibes and the song’s theme of living out your fantasy by following the up-and-coming pop artist and her friends surrounded by the city’s gorgeous landscapes.

“Popstar” will be included on Ryahn’s soon-to-be-released debut EP Light Blue, which is slated for release next month. The EP’s title pays homage to her career’s journal so far. “I started this project when I was feeling at rock bottom and looking for a way out of the mental hole I was in. It’s about coming from your lowest point to a place of peace and clarity. Light Blue,” the Broward County-born, Los Angeles-based artist explains in press notes.

New York-based R&B/soul singer/songwriter Carlton Jumel Smith emerged into the international soul scene with his debut single “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” a 70s soul and R&B-inspired track that found him collaborating with the renowned Timmion Records production and house band team Cold Diamond & Mink. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the New York-based soul, who cites the likes of James Brown, Al Green, The Temptations, Sly Stone, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits as influences will be be releasing his full-length debut 1634 Lexington Avenue through Timmion Records and Daptone Records.

Slated for a May 10, 2019 release, 1634 Lexington Avenue reportedly finds Smith and the Timmion Records crew carrying on in the tradition and sounds of Curtom Records, the Chicago-based studio and label founded by Curtis Mayfield; Memphis soul; and of course, by default Motown for contemporary listeners.  Centered around a shuffling, two-step groove, a sultry horn line and Smith’s soulful crooning, 1634 Lexington Avenue‘s latest single “This Is What Love Looks Like!” draws from the classic love songs of the late 60s and 70s — and as a result, the song’s narrator expresses his devotion to his love with a swooning sweetness and passion devoid of the cynicism and selfishness of most contemporary pop.

“Here is a guy that woke up and realized what he had before it was too late and he is only too happy to share this with the world and he proclaims and declares his love for the world to hear,” Smith explains in press notes. “He is talking directly to his girl…but loud enough for everyone to hear because he is so proud of his involvement with her.”