Sunday, December 18, 2005

Extraordinarily Fiona Apple

Image hosted by Extraodinary Machine shows more than promise..

It shows Fiona.. Image hosted by

You may have been waiting for this album to release, you may have been taken by pleasant surprise. Either way there is much to be had from "Extraodinary Machine" whether you are ready for it or not.

Like Tori Amos and Bjork ( who would have seen the connection there?) Fiona's albums are sharing the same kind of evolution in music. All three artists' began with an 'everyone can relate to this' debut, but quickly moved on into more personal expressions, ideas, feelings, experiences, and of course sounds. There is no doubt that Fiona can sing but what she has done beyond that is find more personal things to reveal as she sinks deeper into her own apple.

Gone are the confessions of bad ideas and welcomed are the notions of objectivity, insight, a definitive lexophilia ( obsession with words) and perhaps even a literary notion that this time, this life, this feeling was song worthy as a gift.

You can listen to the album and hear some magical connections, some good advice, and something bigger happening..

"Extraodinary Machine" sequals in some respects "Enter the Pawn" but not to fear the attitude has changed. You get the impression that she has found a kind of melody that makes writing and performing more unified but you also get the feeling that the good old rowdy Fiona we discovered in "Tidal" is far from gone.

With what appears to be strategically loaded Edamame on the 3/4 shell for the cd jacket, I had to wonder why is that so few celebrate the accomplishment of being able to write about oneself in such a way as Fiona does it? Total self endulgence that anyone can identify with - the kind of talent that challenge the measure of talent.

In a recent article exploring the evolution of her third release by Chi Tung for 'Paste Magazine', Fiona confesses to being a "dramatic person" born under the sign of virgo I wondered - would the universe have it any other way?

Another interesting biographical/autobiographical moment in the interview reads," Thankfully, Apple doesn't suffer from the illusion that artistst are the last bastion of everyman (everywoman?) sensitivity. She'll speak her piece but no one else's.

["I think it's still ego-driven for me, but I'm not worrying about people thinking I can write a really good song' I'm worried about people listening to me andknowing how I feel..and that doesn't even make sense to me, a lot of the time.. It's definitely ego-driven. I don't think I'm a selfish person, but I'm very, very self centered..You look at the facts of it- I write about myself and how I feel about things, and then I get a bunch of people to sit in the dark while I stand in the light, and they quietly listen. That's gotta be really ego-driven."]

"I don't see myself as a tortured artist or person. But it makes sense that I'm seen that way." - F. Apple

All I can say is.. Soup is in fact good food and age on a woman is something more intriguing than mere reinvention.

It's a new Fiona; It's a new album; it's an old story.

Score: 5
rating range 1-5
1. extrodinary machine 5
2. get him back 5
3. o'sailor 5
4. better version of me 5
5. tymps (the sick in the head song) 5
6. parting gift 5
7. window 5
8. oh well 5
9. please please please 5
10. red red red 5
11. not about love 5
12. waltz (better than fine) 5

this is an audio post - click to play

Samples of: "Extrodinary Machine", "O' Sailor",& "Window" Link

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Legend, John

'Get Lifted'

  1. Prelude
  2. Let's get lifted
  3. Used to love u
  4. Alright
  5. She don't have to know
  6. Number one (featuring K. West)
  7. I can change (featuring Snoop Dogg)
  8. Ordinary People
  9. Stay with you
  10. Let's Get lifted again
  11. So High
  12. Refuge (when It's cold outside)
  13. It don't have to change (featuring the Stephens Family)
  14. Live It up (featuring Miri Ben-Ari)
The Bio:Taken from the John Legend website

"..Whether you call it "fate" or "destiny" or "a calling," the fact is that some people are born to sing and create music. If you ask any of the "legends" in the music business, chances are you'll get a variation on the idea that music is and always has been the artist's most natural expression. The industry's latest "legend" -- John Legend, actually -- reveals that from the age of five or six, he expected to be 'discovered.'

“I used to watch Michael Jackson on television and I figured I could do what he was doing." Music has been the central theme in the life of John Legend (born John Stephens) for as long as he can remember and now, some twenty-odd years later, this multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician, arranger and producer is fulfilling his childhood dreams and ambitions.

With Get Lifted, his major label debut album on Columbia Records, Legend demonstrates a rare ability to fuse the "feel" and vibe of classic old school soul music with the edgy flavor of 21st century hip-hop. While the romantic themes of traditional R&B permeate John's Get Lifted, there's alsoa street-worthy hipness and confidence: the sensuality of Marvin Gaye and the sincerity of Stevie Wonder merging with the directness of Snoop Dogg and the wit of Kanye West. Yet, John Legend is very much his own artist, gifted with singular talents and a unique sensibility.

Take "Ordinary People," one of the last tracks John worked on in the summer of 2004 for the album, which is executive produced by hitmaker Kanye West (who also co-wrote and produced several tracks on the record). Recorded with John's simple and plaintive piano accompaniment, the song is, according to its creator, "real, a composite of experiences. It's about love, not as a fantasy or fairytale, but as it really goes down between two people."

"Used To Love U," the infectious first single--co-written and produced by Kanye West-- has, according to John, "a bangin' hip-hop beat with a little Latin flavor, and a soulful melody and vocal arrangement; it's a cool mix and fusion of different musical influences. We had the Black Eyed Peas horns and guitar player on the track so you get a little of their flavor too."

With production by West, longtime musical associates Dave Tozer and Devo Harris, and Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas, Get Lifted runs the gamut from the celebratory "Live It Up"--which John describes as "a personal testimony about how hard work and paying dues really does pay off"--to the thought-provoking "Refuge (When It's Cold Outside)," a spiritually evocative ballad reminiscent of Lauryn Hill.

Among the impressive credits John's amassed in the last few years (which includes session work with Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Talib Kweli, Jay-Z, Britney Spears, Eve, Common, the Black Eyed Peas and, of course, Kanye West), John is particularly proud of his work on "Everything Is Everything," a key cut on Hill's multi-platinum Grammy-winning The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. "Through a friend of hers," says Legend, "I went to the studio when Lauryn was working on that record and I sang a couple of original songs for her and ended up playing piano on that song. I'm still very proud that that was the first major record I was on.".."

I found out about John Legend inadvertently, I was on one of my prowls for music at Tower Records where I always end up when I just have to hear something..

I don't always start out at Tower. I do occasionally go to those independent low traffic used record stores too because its a great way to collect less commercial jazz recordings at rock bottom prices.

Still I was at Tower late at night on a Sunday and its the best time because you are one of three customers there. Like a pearl its just open for you.

John Legend's album was uniquely showcased in the front line with the best selling albums of the week.

I believe that this album was mentioned to me loosely. It was on sale so I thought I would give it a chance. I do occasionally get a taste for new sounds, though I am often skeptical when the "new sound" is highly backed by corporations. Like you I have found there is a lack of purity in the content.

John Legends - Get Lifted

Puts you in that same open mood that dangles first album 'Brown Sugar' did. I found out later that other's were saying the same thing. What they don't say is that if you had to chose which album to keep D'Angelo would win out.

Yet and still Legend offers similar sensitive lyrics and smooth blues melodies. It is a certain feel good. He talks about love, or what he understands of it.

Some of it was subjective and though I was familiar with the topics he was touching on I was not always "touched".

The most compelling feature of 'Get Lifted' is the collaborations that were involved. Kanye West provides some of his best work on the production of this album, Snoop Dogg provides reminiscent credibility to the track "I can change".

While I cannot say I expect better from this effort in the future as singers go he is good. As piano players go, he's good. Not innovative but good, thoughtful. He's also a good looking man in the conventional sense and therefore creates a kind of attraction. He's easy to look at and listen too even if you aren't inspired you certainly won't be threatened, if you are prone to such instabilities that is. I support the effort even if I admittedly am not stirred as I prefer to be.

I recommend this album to those looking to:

Hear something more personal from Hip Hop,
Are followers of K. West's from a production aspect,
Are tired of waiting for then next D'Angelo album (lets face it, he's incredible),
Want to start listening to Hip Hop but are not ready to jump in head first.
Are looking for a starting point to release your own projects.
Want to analyze men for better emotional understanding;
Want to hear some passionate self revealing mistakes that boys go through in the struggle to become men.

Analytically speaking, the characters in the songs are immature and full of excuses as to why after all their mistakes deserve regard. One of my favorite lines, "..Girl I'm gonna repent from my sinnin' if that's what you want me to do. I'll get right if you want it. Go to church get baptized if you it.." Just a secret tip though, don't try this to get her back, she may just call you on it.

There are some dated references to pop culture icons that are used to characterize man's struggle to ascertain the expectations of women that come close to stupid or condescending. I will go with stupid because its more forgivable. Lets just say it lacks perception and insight.

None of the songs note "J.Legend" as a writer for the songs. So I do not know if the performer is the actual writer or co-writer for any of the tracks. No one is talking about it.

His website is quality, different tracks play as you navigate through the pages to give those interested a "taste" of what the album has to offer.

I had some skipping sounds on both browsers I tried but you may have better luck.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Grace loves Genious

Remembering Ray or Rediscovering Ray?

The announcements of the nominees for Oscar as well as the results of the Golden Globe tell us that America is ready for a little truth.

The truth about completing the life story of a man just months before his demise speaks of how poignant and poetic life can be.

The story of Ray Charles covers American history, African American history, and Music History to perfection.

The soundtrack was as inspirational as the movie, including songs like:

"Drown In my own tears"
"You don't know me"
"Unchain My heart"
earlier and later versions of "Georgia (on my mind)" which shows changes in delivery from Georgia being about his home state and lingering memories to maybe being about someone else..something more provacative and memorable to a different sense.

Never the less, the popularity of Ray Charles as a performer thrived mainly with the obviousness of sexual provocations that may exist in sound and clever melody as well as double attendre verse. Their was in fact leadership in his genious and insight in his perception.

Just a musician really. A simple man who desired to overcome disabilities as well as to embrace the freedom that his disabilities provided.

He was an inspiration if only circumstatially.

A man to regard, study, remember, and rediscover the way the sound of his voice made you feel. Ray Charles influenced pop culture in many untold ways. Including reminding business that honesty sells better than a lie.

He also pioneered sining piano players as a staple in visual music, so that we could have the Alicia Keys', Tori Amos', and more..

People get excited about the music first because music is about life and life is nothing if not exciting.

With that in mind the Movie, the Man, and the Music should remain forever in our reverence simply because it happened.

God Bless Ray!

this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

This is Jennifer Johns

Jennifer Johns Live at the Temple Bar.


I got the assignment to interview Ms. John's just days before. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. Had about 24 hours to prepare for the interview which surprising everyone cut into the holiday. I read her bio, listened to the album 'Heavyelectromagnetsolarpoeticjunglehop' on repeat for the full 24 too.

I liked the way it made me feel right away. It put me a inspired futuristic sexy mood. It made me excited to see the show.

The following night at the Temple Bar in Santa Monica, CA the place was packed with a big line up of new musicians.

I had never actually been to the Temple Bar but I had the heard great things from those that had and those that had performed there.

It was a great show, high energy, and full of depth. Jennifer has a special quality when she performs she takes you somewhere more profound and she understands how to do it right.

By the time I actually caught up with her long enough to do the one-on-one interview the night was wrapping up.

She was full of energy but a little shy at the same time. I wanted to make her feel comfortable, I wanted it to be easy. It was just like that. We talked just us first just to get familiar with things. We talked about the usual stuff how are you? How was your Thanksgiving? Where are you from? When is your birthday?

We actually hit it off which seldom happens in these instances. Typically its you do your thing I do my thing its business. But I got lucky and people things happened. I really liked her and found her to be quite mature and together. She's an artist I realized. She's not just doing it to Entertain people. Its bigger than that.
I admired what I discovered. I was inspired by her ability to just do what she needs to do. It reminded me of things I had not seen in a while. Life, Freedom, Expression, natural things.

When we finally got down to business that just happened too. The recorder was on and I asked a couple of questions. Did the usual prying to get any extra juice, scoops, or tid bits out there that I could.

I don't like doing interviews in the usual way. I don't cling to useless quotes and mindless sentences. I like to keep things plain and simple. Find out who they are, what they do, how they do it, and what that is good for.

Because after all good writing gets attention, good subjects get praise.

She was a good subject. Even for a novice like me. Its been a long time since I have found this much talent in the unsigned or indy lable market.

It gives me renewed hope for the future of real music in the age of iconicpop.

Jennifer moved me rhythmically, spiritually, and emotionally. Her shows are definite must sees for any and all.

The Temple Bar exploits some real talent these days and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience it. Its a moment; when you find that perfect bar or club, with good music and great talent, good drinks and cool people. Its a phenomenon not to be missed.

I am glad I was there. I am sorry if you weren't but hopefully you won't miss the next one.

Meanwhile, here are some clips from the album, pictures from the night, and the link to the "refined" interview publishing.

Feel free to holla back!

this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

Jennifer Johns Interview by Camille Jacks for Link

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fela Kuti


He was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria. His Family was of the Yoruba tribe. His father and father before him were ministers of the Protestant Church.

Fela went to the Trinity School of Music in London where unlike his siblings he studied music not medicine and like so many others from Africa realized that his needs were greater than study and belonged to his roots.

There are many popular African musicians that have impacted the way musicians everywhere hear music, play music, and chose to influence generations.

Fela Kuti has had notable mention in many hip hop albums as well as blues and R&B.

So, the question becomes who was Fela Kuti and what did he do to motivate so many?

Fela returned to Nigeria in 1963 which was the time of great social change all over the world. Fela become involved with members of the black panther movement and combined his rich knowledge of African history and Afro American turmoil to create music in Nigeria that would guide people through the boundaries of language and expression and liberate the ideas that there was room for African Art as well for European.

Fela was by no means a passive man and began many revolutionary projects in his life. The Kalakuta Republic was his motion to begin an independent state.

Fela was renoun for songs like "Zombie" and "Lady".
in which lyrics posed certain revelations about the circumstance of modern mans' confusion and quest for enlightenment.

Lyrics Like:


"Zombie won't go unless you tell him to go
Zombie won't stop unless you tell him to stop
Zombie won't turn, unless you tell him to turn
Zombie won't think, unless you tell him to think
Tell him go straight - march, march, march
No Brains, no sense - march, march, march
Tell him go kill - march, march, march
No brains, no sense - march, march, march
Tell him go die - march, march, march.."


"If you call her a "woman"
African woman will not agree
She says "I am a Lady.."

Some of the word usage mixes tribal verse with modern ideas and definitions that can easily be trodded upon by bad translations and too objective observers. But for all intents and purposes does respectfully illustrate some common misconceptions about gender identifications in African culture.

Him can be a term used for a woman
she can likewise be a term used for a "man". The identification process has more to do with character than with anatomy..

These modest distinctions can be more readily comprehended by listening to his music rather than analyzing statements to firmly.

'The best of Fela Kuti'
is a 2 cd recording of 13 songs. Strong Afro Jazz music is played in extended durations with minimal but poignant lyrical proclaimations along the way. Musically and lyrically Fela speaks of the times and performs of journeys with total clarity.

Like many great musicians he too was a visionary a man who saw into the wide open field of the sky and spoke of what would come to pass. These times are bringing new understanding of those that were so often misunderstood. Likewise artists are finding new leadership from the other side. Its never to late to listen.

It is never too late to learn.

this is an audio post - click to play