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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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BADBADNOTGOOD are a special, special band. Coming fresh out of Toronto, Canada, the group are a fine modern day quartet who have been making a solid name for themselves in the world of experimental hip-hop and jazz. Their completely unique approach to soul, jazz and hip-hop combined with their unparalleled production value ensures that BADBADNOTGOOD are redefining the way we perceive the modern day ensemble and twenty-first century jazz music. Since they appeared on the scene back in 2010, the group have gone on to work with some of the biggest names in game. Such names include that of Ghostface Killah, Tyler The Creator and Frank Ocean. The group have also gone on to cover the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West and James Blake. Over the past seven years BADBADNOTGOOD have managed to build up a substantial discography with a nice collection of albums, the most notable being ‘IV’ and ‘Sour Soul’ which was composed together with prominent Wu-Tang Clan member, Ghostface Killah.
As undeniably majestic as ‘Sour Soul’ is, this week’s track of the week was plucked from the group’s latest album ‘IV’. Like the band itself, ‘In Your Eyes’ is a special, special track. The song is a cool, soulful and meticulously composed number. Assembled like an ancient Roman mosaic, ‘In Your Eyes’ chimes the aural taste buds with seamless composure and grace. If the music alone isn’t enough, jaw-dropping vocals are provided by R&B singer and fellow Torontonian, Charlotte Day-Wilson. She graces the song with elegance and composure as she skims over the piece like a stone on water. I’m not the first to think this either, Colin Robinson of Stereogum states how “Wilson’s beautiful voice glides over soulful, retro bass, craftily syncopated drums, and soft orchestral flights”. Although my imagery isn’t quite that explicit, there’s no denying that it’s certified hit and it deserves all the credit it gets. Wilson’s vocals transform the song from a calm, sweet-sounding and mellifluous piece of work into a groovy, kitted out love song that descends into a thick fog of soul and nostalgia. The best thing about this track however, is how it invites you in to take a deep plunge into the pool of BADBADNOTGOOD. For this is not a one-off; if you give the album a good listen you will realise that the song is only one part of the puzzle. The album ‘IV’ offers a plethora of profoundly immersive musical talent that you’ll struggle to find by looking elsewhere.
So invest, gorge and bask in the glory of BADBADNOTGOOD with this taster. ‘In Your Eyes’ is just the song you need to whet your appetite for that good, summer soul food music.
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Godfather…the phrase used to describe an individual who is influential and pioneering in a movement or organisation. An individual whose presence alone is enough to send waves rattling through whatever outfit they so chose to desire. When it comes to Soul music, there is none more electric and omnipotent than the man himself, James Brown. The reason Brown is seen in such light is thanks to the way that the revolutionary icon took soul music and made it explode into something completely different and historical. Brown’s unquestionable and ever-energetic approach to soul saw him redefine a genre renowned for love and pain into a genre renowned for sex, drugs and living life on the edge; James Brown is the creator of Funk music. The fact that the genre was his lovechild meant that he could go on to mold and channel it in whatever manner he so chose. The Godfather of Soul very quickly became the father of funk and he went on to spearhead the genre into the bold and artistic nature that it so frequently became associated with. Brown was born in California back in 1933 in a time of hardship, racism and hate and went on to prosper into one of the greatest of all time.
Sex, love, hate, pain and triumph all played a part in the godfather’s funk. His sound was raw, loud, exciting and iconic. The 1973 album ‘The Payback’ is arguably the most iconic of all. As well as being considered a landmark funk album, ‘The Payback’ was intended to be the soundtrack for the Blaxploitation classic film ‘Hell Up In Harlem’ until the producers stated how it sounded too much like the typical ‘James Brown Stuff’ and decided to scrap it. Little did know that this album would go on to become one of the best selling Funk albums of all time, go to number one in the soul charts and sell to a certified gold status. Brown was making the haters eat their words, and rightly so. Although the album contains such classics as ‘Stone to the Bone’ and ‘The Payback’ itself, this week’s track of the week has to be ‘Take Some…Leave Some’. This socially conscious, funk riddled number talks about rising to the top, taking things for granted and living life to the fullest. Brown, famously coming from nothing, like most funk and soul artists, came from poverty and went on to enjoy the lavish riches they had earned. ‘Take Some Leave Some’ highlights exactly the indulgence that comes with the rise. The song itself can even be seen as the representation of that journey. From the way that the band introduce the track, walking the listening through rivets of bass and licks of the guitar. In typical fashion, the godfather explodes on the track out of no-where, as if to act as a metaphor for the quick-fire nature of the music industry.
Sadly the Godfather left us on Christmas day back in 2006 due to heart failure. His legend however, is something that still lives on, and something that has inspired thousands around the world today. For yet another fresh and powerful insight into the Godfather of Soul, the minister of new super heavy funk, just listen to ‘Take Some…Leave Some’…
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