Track Of The Week #39 – Mark Morrison ‘Innocent Man ft DMX’

 

Yes he’s back in your ears, but this return of the ‘Mack’ surprisingly doesn’t come in the form of his staple classic. That’s right, the infamous gunslinging Mark Morrison has more than one banger in his arsenal. This one however, is as nearly as catchy as his best. He was always an artist who made people think, how can such an gangster sound so smooth? Well, I say, just look to Nate Dogg and there lies your answer. The main difference being that not many people know that Morrison is in fact British, as pose to many of his American counterparts. Although born in West-Germany, the smooth criminal always had a way of seamlessly floating in and out of the tops of charts in both the US and UK, whatever the case. He only had released two studio albums during his career, with each ones eponymous track being a classic within their own right. Aside from this, the Mack released various singles and EPs, each one showcasing just why he truly was, the man. Although a clear, natural born talent, Morrison’s career was never truly able to hit the heights he clearly craved as his life was scattered with crime and career tarnishing allegations.

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This week’s track symbolises Morrison’s struggle throughout music. ‘Innocent Man’ is track that in my opinion, everyone needs to hear. Stressing how before the crime, before birth, he would always been seen as guilty. His focus on a society which only breeds failure and hate for working class black males has been a common theme in music throughout history, but this, this was his own story. What can be best described as an R&B infused hip-hop record, him and DMX created a powerful yet soulful hit. As expected, Morrison leads the vocals with his distinguished and unique sound. Supplying all the hooks and majority of the verses doesn’t leave much space for fellow released convict DMX; however, the New York rapper ensures that no breaths are wasted as he spits a real and honest verse riddled with poignancy. The track was released in 2006 on Morrison’s second studio album ‘Innocent Man’. Although the album was supposed to be Morrison’s big comeback, it unfortunately failed to chart and was the subsequent victim to mixed reviews. It boasted an array of eclectic musicians, mostly falling into the realm of ragga and dancehall. Such artists as Tanya Stephens, Tippa Irie and Elephant man all featured but even their presence couldn’t boost it’s popularity. But alas, reviews are reviews and the charts are the charts. Mark Morrison may have owned it at one time, but he was never your stereotypical chart artist. He was a singer of the underground, a rogue in a game of fair play.

I respect his music massively and I honestly feel that there has never been a voice quite like his before. Morrison brought swag to soul by being the gangster in his genre. He was the wildcard that everyone was too afraid to gamble on, but everyone loved. He was the true Mack.

Listen & enjoy here –

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Track Of The Week #38 – Mo’ Horizons ‘Foto Viva (Nicola Conte Mix)’

Another week goes by and we’re still clutching on to the sounds of the summer, desperately clinging on to the season we can all feel slipping out of out grasp. Attempting to replicate a foreign environment is never as bleak as it may sound however. Allowing our ears to be flooded with songs that induce good feelings and escapism is nothing to be ashamed of. Our desire as humans to persistently chase mental vacation via mellifluous melodies ensures that we discover and create playlist after playlist of sweet sound music. In my attempt to go on a poor man’s holiday, I stumbled across the enthralling German duo, Mo Horizons. Like a few of the recently featured artists in these posts, I struggle to narrow their sound down to just one genre but if one thing is for certain, it is that their sound is far from being quintessentially German. The eclectic nature of their melodies stretches from acid-jazz to downtempo, from trip-hop to bossa nova. Just right for that three minute getaway. The group were founded in 1999 and are still active to this day with their heavily latin-influenced sound and amalgamations of funk, soul and house.

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Their first album ‘Come Touch The Sun’ was an exceptional success. It featured twelve songs, each one heavily laced with soft, wispy vocals and a heavy latin groove. The original version of this week’s track of the week featured on the album. Although all of the songs were popular, ‘Foto Viva’ was the only one to really receive serious air time. It has a special quality to it, one which makes it quite the unique record. In Nicola Conte’s version of the track, the producer combines the mesmerising Bebel Gilberto-style lyrics with a choppy and sprightly beat. One which creates the most accessible and inviting sounds imaginable. I believe this song strikes such a chord with fans around the world is due to it’s nature. Being both laid back and lively at the same time ensures it’s adaptability on the dance floor. It could be the perfect opener to a sunroof or terrace DJ set, or at the same time, it could very easily be the last song spun in a gloomy jazz cafe as the night descends into a thick haze of smoke. Since releasing ‘Come Touch The Sun’ Mo’ Horizons have consistently delivered, album after album. Their latest full studio release came back in 2011 but they have released numerous records since. Each once still proving to be a smart infusion of influences from Brazil, India, Portugal and many other destinations around the globe. They have truly nailed the international sound and they express it with enthusiastic charm and class.

So go on, take a leap and do a holiday on the cheap. Lean back and get lost in the sounds of the Mo’ Horizons. Similar to such artists as St.Germain and Thievery Corporation, you are in safe hands when it’s Mo’ Horizons in charge.

Listen & enjoy here –

Track Of The Week #37 – Them ‘Gloria’

Now to of all of us, ten, twenty years ago seems like more than a lifetime. So when we try to think back to something over fifty years old it proves to be almost impossible. Dating back to 1964, this week’s track is an exciting and riveting record. Not only is it a phenomenal piece of music, but went on the start an illustrious career for it’s creator as well as kickstarting a powerful trend within rock and roll. This week’s track of the week was written by no other than the legendary Irishman, Van Morrison before he pursued a solo career and was with his band ‘Them’. His rough, rugged and raw sound mixed in with his surprisingly soulful voice ensured that even a young, eighteen year-old boy from Ireland could make the big time, not just in the UK but over the pond too.’Them’ were formed in Belfast all the way back in 1964 and played a significant part in creating what was known as ‘Garage rock’, a genre which enabled bands to really build bridges in the rock and roll scene between the US and UK. Despite their relatively short stint at the top, the group also had a dramatic impact on groups such as The Doors and became major players in what went on to be known as ‘The British Invasion’ in the US.

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There is no doubt that this song is popular; so popular in fact that it can be found everywhere. It pops up at least once in all big television series, in every parent’s record collection and thanks to it’s simple three-chord structure, in every guitar playing manual imaginable. The song’s simplicity has to be one of the reasons that it has become so successful. It’s basic structure leaves itself open to a world of interpretation and one which a powerful roster of singers embraced with open arms. Jimi Hendrix, The Patti Smith Group and AC/DC we’re just a few of the names to cover the track. One of the most impressive features of the it’s simplicity was how Morrison himself would be able to chop and change whilst playing live, throwing in ad-lib lyrics and even sometimes stretching the song to around fifteen to twenty minutes long. For me, the most remarkable feature of the track is by far, it’s energy. It’s not often you come across such a song so basic yet exhilarating. Like Steppenwolf’s hit ‘Born To Be Wild’, it possesses that truly unique ‘road-trip’ feel, the sort which can be felt regardless of whether you own a 1965 Ford Mustang and whether the wind blowing through your hair is Californian or not. This track is a timeless masterpiece and one which defined the great British era of rock and roll which was to follow. It was released as part of a two-track EP on Decca records in 1964 and was accompanied by another explosive and riveting record in ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’. The EP created a storm around Them and before you know it, a few fall-outs later and Van Morrison had set sail on his long and illustrious solo career. The group’s image of long hair, corduroy trousers and slick, pressed suits ensured that the group weren’t just one of the sounds of the sixties, they were the look too.

Their swagger was only intensified by the presence of ‘lead-man-van’ as their frontman with his can-do attitude and his ‘middle-finger to the world’ style. However, if we’re to call ourselves anything along the lines of honest music fans then we mustn’t forget how it all started with ‘Them’… not him.

Listen & enjoy here –

Track Of The Week #36 – Mop Mop ‘Kamakumba’

Mop Mop is an artist who has only come to my personal knowledge of late. Is it not often that I have come across music that grabs my attention so quickly, but yet still leaves me in a sense of bewilderment. The producer describes his work as ‘A bastard performance of modern jazz’ which is harsh to say the least. Whilst i’m still unsure as to what he means by this, I can still vouch for the fact that his work offers an oddly and creatively unique approach to traditional standards of music. Now Mop Mop, although a group, is pioneered and lead by the crafty Italian musician Andrea Benini. He has meandered his way through the Jazz and Afrobeat scene for years now and has built up both an iconic sound and reputation with Mop Mop. Described by themselves as being a mix of Funk, Afro and Jazz, I can’t help but feel that the group are being a little modest on this one. Yes, they do encapsulate every element of these three genres. However, their sound is broad and more than often it stretches far into the depths of dub, the rhythms of reggae and the calmness of sweet calypso music. The fact that their discography extends all the way back to 2005 shows just quite how far they had slipped under my nose as they are still producing to this day and have spun a thick and tangled web of soulful and perplex music just waiting to be explored.

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Their most succesful and I have to say, most impressive sounding album has to be the 2013 release ‘Isle Of Magic’. It not only showcases the talents of over fifteen different contributing musicians, it also creates a mindset within itself. For it is not merely an album, it is a world created by Mop Mop. Described as being “An imaginary land populated by musicians who spend their time fishing, cooking, playing and practicing voodoo rites at night;” the album really takes the listener on an unforgettable trip. The songs that make up the album show you each and every aspect the world and what can only be described as hypnotic voodoo-Jazz. If I were to pluck of one of the tracks from this mesmerising album it would have to ‘Kamakumba’. The track has a trance-inducing and spellbinding feel to it, one which almost feels like a ritual within itself. The track is primarily a composition of alluring steel pans; pans which lull the listener before breaking off into a funkier and far more vibrant rendition. Mop Mop’s masterpiece in ‘Kamakumba’ is cool, vivacious and bursting with island flavour. It’s zesty and captivating rhythm leaves you praying for just a moments sunshine so you can draw for the ice cold cocktail and bask in rich, calypso pleasure.

With twelve other tracks on the album, Mop Mop go to extreme lengths to ensure that each one differs from the other. All this differentiating proves to be key in shaping and guiding the listeners on a truly unique and unforgettable journey. Mop Mop’s ‘Isle Of Magic’ is the holiday we all want and need.

Listen & enjoy here –

Track Of The Week #35 – St.Germain – Sure Thing

Described a being a “conscientious producer with an ear for detail”, St Germain is a musician famous for his unprecedented and unique contribution to both the house and jazz scene. Known to be a purveyor and creator of the sub-genre ‘French touch’, the producer has been creating some of the most mindblowing-ly niche and distinctive music to grace our ears over the past two decades. His phenomenal contribution to House, Jazz and even Acid-Jazz has gone quite frankly unparalleled in my opinion and he deserves every ounce of credit he gets. For all that know of, and are familiar with the works of St.Germain, they will vouch that he is not simply a producer, but more so a virtuoso, a pioneer, a revolutionary. Never before has anyone ever quite captured the Parisian sound like he has; because that’s exactly what he is, a Parisian artiste with the ability to envisage and sculpt the sound of the city, the beat of the street. St.Germain is the cosmopolitan king, the French fanatic, the municpal mingler. His sound represents the everyday city life, from Monday morning’s first fresh espresso to Sunday evening’s late night hazy scotch, St Germain has you covered. His ability is as limitless as his sound but yet, his style is something so unique and altogether special, that it really does take the listener’s breath away. His style of creating amazing electronic music with live instrument playing side by side has earned him a limitless reputation.

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His first release ‘Boulevard’ was back in 1995 and really kickstarted his career as it proved to be a huge success. It was then followed up five years later by the phenomenal album ‘Tourist’ which was released on the largest and most respected Jazz label of all time, Blue Note. This is the same record label that Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock were all signed to, just to put things into perspective. This week’s track of the week ‘Sure Thing’ is just one of many spellbinding tracks off the album and is just as addictive as the next. However, I feel the reason it caught my attention is down to it’s alluring and hooking groove. I briefly touched before on how St.Germain works with live musicians over his beats to create that perfect sound, well this song in particular features a very special guest. John Lee Hooker, arguably one of the most famous and prominent Blues musicians of all time features on this mellow and lethargic number. Together the two concoct a soulful and melancholic sound like no other. With St.Germain’s masterful use of delay combined with the sheer wizardry of John Lee Hooker’s voice and the twangs of his guitar, the duo prove to be any music lover’s dream combination. The song is as absorbing as it is bewildering. It perfectly encapsulates the late night city feel, the feel of cruising and floating through the hustle and bustle of downtown madness, absolutely care free and wrapped in a blanket of breezy and jovial satisfaction.

‘Sure Thing’ is a relaxing and mesmerising trip that I urge you to get lost in. I’ve had it on repeat for the past week and have no intention of letting up soon. Give it a listen and you’ll see why. Considering as the song was recorded over fifteen years ago just proves how the work of the French lounge and Jazz pioneer is as timeless as it gets. ‘Sure Thing’ is the dream you don’t ever want to end.

Listen & enjoy here –

Track Of The Week #34 – Xavier Omar ‘Blind Man’

A scientific compound can best be described as a product composed of various elements. It’s musical equivalent? Look no further than American R&B sound-sponge, Xavier Omar. The Texas based singer-songwriter has had a life of influential excursion, picking up skills and soaking up inspiration every step of the way. Born to a military, yet religious, family, Omar spent his childhood hopping from city to city with his eclectic family with their rich musical vein. After embracing Funk in Washington, Trap in Georgia and Christian Hip-hop in what is now his hometown of San Antonio, it is fair to say that the singer has certainly tested the water and developed his palette into something rather exquisite. Drawing influence from this plethora of knowledge has ensured that Omar’s final product is something to take very seriously. His sound was first noticed by the Red Bull artist development program which saw him landing gigs alongside Alunageorge and Steve A Clarks. Since bursting onto the scene, the somewhat shy and reclusive singer has gone on to develop a reputation for himself as a compassionate and amiable vocalist with most of his lyrics preaching positivity and equality. Like most R&B singers, it is not just his lyricism which earns him his brownie points; his voice is quite simply something out of this world, never mind the sheer magnitude of the production.

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Being a relatively new artist, his discography is comparatively small. It also doesn’t help by the fact that he produced majority of his music to date under the alias SPZRKT (pronounced spazzy rocket) as his releases now lie in all different sorts of places. The past two years have seen a handful of releases and collaborations with Sango, the most notable being the ‘Hours Spent Loving You’ EP. I’d have to say his major solo release under Xavier Omar is the album ‘The Everlasting Wave’, a blissfully melancholic yet euphoric record containing a broad spectrum of deeply emotive soul and R&B music. This week’s track of the week ‘Blind Man’ is a perfect example of that type of harmony. The song burst onto the new-looking R&B scene last year and has really struck a chord with fans inside and out of the genre. From the off our ears are met by a dulcet and honey glazed instrumental and before we even have time to comprehend it’s glory, the voice of Omar hits you like a thick fug of soul-filled smoke. Chopping and changing, dipping and dropping, his voice plays games with the listeners ears and takes you on a twenty-first century R&B trip like no other. His vocal ability is clearly an end product of his time spent exploring and soaking up other sounds and influences.

Xavier Omar, or SPZRKT to some, is clearly a talented, talented singer which I feel that we can expect a lot more from. Considering R&B is having a mini-renaissance period at the moment with singers like Frank Ocean, Sampha and The Internet all killing it right now, I don’t see any reasoning as to why he shouldn’t blow up.

Listen & enjoy here –

Track Of The Week #33 – Lenzman Ft IAMDDB ‘In My Mind’

This week’s track of the week derives from the dutch drum and bass maestro, Lenzman. Throughout his illustrious career, the Dj and producer has been gliding through the genre with style and finesse, creating some of the most impressing and well sampled sounds that are around today. His vast depth and knowledge of sampling, hooks and his ability to fuse and warm other genres into the realm of drum and bass puts him among the best of the best, the elite realm of producers. This internationally renowned willingness to embrace has brought a plethora of eclectic musicians pouring in his direction. It is not just artists that he experiments with either, Lenzman has been signed to a variety labels over past years, with the most notable and refuted being the legendary Metalheadz. Now with his own label ‘The North Quarter’, Lenzman isn’t showing any signs of slowing down as the proficient producer is still striding through the genre with considerable momentum.

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One of my favourite of Lenzman collaborations and, an artist turning all the heads right now is Manchester’s very own Neo-Soul and Urban Jazz prodigy, IAMDDB. The twenty one year old singer only burst onto the scene last year, but her unprecedented vocals and eye-catching swag ensured a prompt and explosive entrance. With one of her tracks ‘Leaned Out’ already eclipsing a million views, the Mancunian starlet looks to be set on a big, big wave which is quickly moving from coast to coast.  Their impeccable collab goes by the name of ‘In My Mind’ was released on The North Quarter records earlier this year. The crisp and clean number comes as one of the singles to feature on Lenzman’s ‘Earth Tones EP’, a four track release featuring some of the neatest and freshest liquid drum and bass i have heard for a long time. As great as the other tracks may be, the standout track is simply ‘In My Mind’. It is not purely down to the addition of the vocals which stand this record which much greater recognition than its counterparts, but more-so the synergy between singer and producer. Each one seems to have a great understanding of the other and together, they are able to create a sound which quite simply leaves the listener with a breathtaking final product. Lenzman’s robust and bouncy rhythm is graced with the mellifluous melodies of IAMDBB to create a sound which really boasts and showcases both artists capabilities.

With Lenzman already a proven name on the scene, draw your focus to the unbelievable talent and capabilities of IAMDDB. Never mind one for the future, she’s tearing it up right now and the only direction I can see her going now, is up.

Listen & enjoy here –