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

Monday, January 17, 2005

John or Elvis

All of a sudden there doesn't seem to be much difference.


As teenagers it was fun to pose the question to all of your friends, " Are you an Elvis person or a John Lennon person? The answer could vary but when I was coming up it was decidedly all about Elvis. Even when mentioned in 'PulpFiction' the answer was decidedly Elvis.

Now however, it seems that they were not such different men. Both grew up in relatively modest homes financially; Both from small towns; Both had several interesting affairs with numerous women; Both thrown in to politics, war, and social uprisings at young ages; Both were tradgically taken from their fans at young ages; Both were revered as neo Jesus's; Both were inarguably gifted visionaries if only recognizable from the point of view of the future.

Likewise, no matter what time of year it is, it is usually time to remember the anniversary of their birth or death.

John was tied into pop culture by being socially out spoken. He was the intellectuals artist and a highly creative musician. John was less pop and more "punk" or "alternative" early on in his career. Initially, it seemed smart to individualize oneself from the popular boy band image of the early Beatles. But truthfully he was not as timid as the media made him out to be.

Elvis though not remembered as much as a political activist stirred up trouble in his own way. And though pop culture embraced him they just as quickly kept him at arms length for his own insistence on individuality, rebellion, and challenging societies perceptions of integrity and honesty.

A recent cover story in Tracks Magazine on John Lennon inspired me to do this similarity piece. Since current events in politics and the results of the presidential election have a lot of new minds interested in John Lennon which spurred the article and sub articles regarding the final release of the 10 remaining FBI file pages. The fact that many of the issues that motivated Lennon are still troubling us today. I found it note worthy too that many of the 48% side of voters sought solace / comfort in playing either lemon or Elvis songs to get them through the emotional waves of the election results.

Upon learning of Kerry's loss I immediately located and played any and all Elvis CD's I owned. Surprisingly, when I drove around that Wednesday morning many others had done the same. I even saw a few pink Cadillac on the road that day. Its just what people do. Elvis was not necessarily any one thing and in a better world he could have been more things but he was a believer the beauty of life and the possibilities for America. So are we..

I wonder if either of them could have guessed that it would be their respective home countries waging the war of the millennium today?

Both men lived for life and died for some new definition of freedom. Whichever one best represents your ideas about things I hope the torch for real freedom is carried on to the end.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

What's up with Von Dutch?

Depending on just how hip you are these logo's may have already gotten your attention or found their way into your closet.

Is it just Hollywood hype or a fashion movement?

You've seen all the hot, young celebs from Mtv to well any random Hollywood after party sporting some Von Dutch item or two (Trucker Caps are a big hit).

You may have even already done your own homework and found well depending on your income rather highly priced casual wear.

You went one of two ways, you groaned at the price tag and ran the other way or you bought something. You could at this point still be saving up..too that's o.k.

So is Von Dutch a marketing gimmick or is something real going on? The originiator of Von Dutch designs was said to be an artist / greaser from Compton CA.

Compton CA these days is more notoriously known as the hometown of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg or the NWA crew so are you really ready for the 50s greaser throw back items ?

I couldn't find out much more about him other than what was at the actual website. I could also surmise that he may have been just one of the local odd ball underdogs who was among the first in town to paint flames on classic cars and motorcycles.

Whatever the case there is no undermining the reality that someone somewhere in CA started some seriously unforgettable automotive trends.

I don't mind giving Von Dutch the credit, I don't mind giving Compton CA a bigger history book, hell I don't even mind the price of owning some of these items. When last heard from Von Dutch apparel was one of the first in the garment industry to provide Tsunami Relief clothing that at a fairly low price brought fashion to humanitarianism and profits to relief organizations for the victims.

You may be thrown off by Von Dutch but you haven't heard the last from them. They are walking hard and heavy and brought some equally impressive models along for the ride.

Stay tuned or better still go restore that old chevy in the backyard..
Von Dutch is coming for you.

Beautifully Human

Jill Scott's
Beautifully Human
Words and Sounds Vol.2


Jill Scott - Beautifully Human Vol.2
(Hidden Beach Recordings)

Jill Scott is picking up where she left off and giving her growing
number of fans more of what they fell in love with her for the raw simplicity.

She continues to mix delightful melodies of jazz and R&B fusions with
earthy intimate lyrics of esteem and home trainin'.

Those are the delicious delectable reminders that evoke a graceful
presence like sweet cornbread cakes and butter metamorphosing with harmony.

'Beautifully Human' is a testimate to the complexity of being alive
and the intensity of being able to love. One gets the sense that
'Beautifully Human' means to be more daring in observation and sentimental in expression.

It is in the weaving of sound that note by note supports the meaning
of verse in a broad range of "color usage" that neatly stays inside the lines of self portrait.

Since there has been very little mention of this second album in the
music circle I was slightly apprehensive about what to expect. Usually, the second album determines the artist's potential.

This album is introspective and honest; raw and occasionally
vulnerable with a lot joy and optimism. It is passionate without being tragic or dramatic.

Musically, I do get the impression that there is a lack of commitment to genre. Will it be Jazz, R&B, Funk, Hip Hop, Blues or will it become a Fusion?

There is a lot of experimenting that goes on but in reality how
honest is that?

I think once she becomes more comfortable with making albums she will
most likely become more aggressive about topics and accompaniment
selections. I look forward to that time. Until then, however, we have now and right now, 'Beautifully Human' honestly and directly represents the direction in which Jill has gone and the
album takes you.

Warm Up - 100
I'm not Afraid - 100
Golden - 95
The Fact is ( I need you) - 95
Spring Summer Felling - 100
Cross My Mind - 100
Bedda at Home - 100
Talk to me - 95
Family Reunion - 100
Can't Explain (42nd Street Happenstance) - 95
Whatever - 100
Not Like Crazy - 95
Nothing (interlude) - 100
Rasool - 95
My Petition - 100
I Keep/Still Here - 100

Totaling : 98

*side note: This Album is excellent and a welcomed addition to the first. Album reviews typically don't get 100 unless it is believed to be a climax album in the artists career. I expect more great albums from Ms. Scott and left some room for the future!

47th annual Grammy's February 13, 2005

5 Nominations for Beautifully Human