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My Funky (In)Disposition

The LF soul music blog run by music-mad Imran Mirza, in conjunction
with his Starpoint Radio show, 'The Blue-in-Green Sessions'.


Saturday
Jan212012

‘Back To Love’ – Anthony Hamilton

2011, RCA Records

With an incredibly sneaky entry into 2011, Anthony Hamilton delivers ‘Back To Love’ just in time, 12th December to be exact.  Following the precursor to the album – the massively welcome online mixtape we covered here previously, ‘Soul’, my expectations were certainly high; and on paper, ‘Back To Love’ should deliver everything expected, with production tackled by heavy soul-hitters, James Poyser, Salaam Remi, Babyface, Kelvin Wooten, etc. as I say, my expectations were definitely high.

It’s a little difficult to be able to put my finger on exactly what doesn’t hit home with me though.  I take great pride in declaring myself a solid fan of Anthony Hamilton and remember being very excited at the eventual release of a major-label full-length album, in the form of the brilliant ‘Coming From Where I’m From’ in 2003. [I remember playing ‘Hold Your Head Up’ where he provided backing vocals for Heltah Skeltah back in 1998 and trying to find something official from him since then.]

Subsequent album releases have all paled in comparison to the gritty Southern soul he captured in his debut, which I wouldn’t say he’s been close to surpassing since then.  Although it’s undeniable, each follow-up album has contained some stunning songs within them (see ‘The Truth’ and ‘Pass Me Over’ from ‘Ain’t Nobody Worryin’; ‘Please Stay’ and ‘Soul’s On Fire’ from ‘The Point Of It All’), the total package of ‘Coming From Where I’m From’ and the timeless pieces of perfect soul captured in songs like ‘Charleene’, ‘Lucille’, ‘I’m A Mess’ and ‘Chyna Black’, as I say, have yet to be surpassed. 

I earlier described the music as ‘gritty’ and that definitely feels like an apt description, particularly when comparing the finished product of, in particular, ‘Back To Love’ and just how ‘neat’ and polished it sounds.  There’s almost a paint-by-numbers approach involved in the album being put together and what’s even more confusing for me, is that he’s working with all the right people, yet something from the formula seems to be missing.

A huge source of disappointment for me was the head-scratching absence of Jack Splash, whose previous collaborations with Hamilton have delivered the aforementioned gem ‘Please Stay’, and ‘You’ from the ‘Soul’ mixtape.

This all sounds very negative but that’s really down to the immensely high standard I hold Anthony Hamilton to.  I do want to stress that there really is brilliance to be found here, namely the title track itself, ‘I’m Ready’, ‘I’ll Wait To Fall In Love’ and ‘Who’s Loving You’, and he still is – and will likely be for a very long time to come – a true leader of the pack.

Wednesday
Jan042012

11 Songs... #2

I knew it would take me a while to complete this series but I didn't think things would get this bad!?

Part 1 explored my favourite Marvin Gaye songs of ALL time and this one is actually a two-song entry which I hope will make up for the stupidly long gap in presenting Part 2.  This one (or two) are interesting choices for me as they both represent songs that made we want to delve deeper into music and start to expand beyond what I was listening to.

This entry's selection is The Roots' 'What They Do' and Method Man & D'Angelo 'Break Ups to Make Ups'.

So we're in 1998/9.  I'm in uni.  Luton of all places(!)  And my music tastes are predominately R&B and hip-hop, as was the case with nearly everyone I knew.  Thinking back, I still hold a genuinely strong affection for a lot of 90s R&B and every few months, I tend to immerse myself with as much as I can get my hands on from people like Babyface, Jodeci, Boyz II Men, R Kelly.  I was a complete stan for Bad Boy Records and almost everything that they put out, and I really don't think they/Puffy get the credit they deserve for their quality output over the years but perhaps that'll be another entry from me for another time.

'Break Ups to Make Ups', I will always credit for introducing me to so much more than I was listening to.  I knew who D'Angelo was obviously and knew of 'Brown Sugar', but it didn't mean anything to me at the time.  I had heard his voice on so many different songs but there was something about his pairing with Method Man that just had me hooked.  The way he sung that chorus - he was so fu#king cool.  He knew it and so did everybody else.  It was released 1999 before 'Voodoo' came out and this song had me chomping at the bit to get my hands on it.  'Voodoo' was the first soul album I owned and 'Brown Sugar' subsequently became the second.

The experience with 'What They Do' was almost similar.  I had never heard of The Roots and in many ways, this could be described as their breakout song.  It was certainly one that made a lot of people pay attention anyway.  Raphael Saadiq's sweet chorus isn't even what steals the show here - the lush instrumentation and the fact they knew just how good their groove was that they left it to play for the remaining 1.5 minutes of the song.  For a hip-hop record, I had never heard anything like that before!  The Roots have always stayed ahead of what hip-hop was doing as they always released good music first and foremost.  (If you don't own 'Home Grown' 1 and 2, I strongly recommend you doing so as their versality and skill shines on so many more songs!

Saturday
Dec312011

'Clearlight' - Directions in Groove [album review]

DIRECTIONS IN GROOVE (DIG) – Clearlight
(Universal/ABC Music)

Written by Krissi Weiss

Directions In Groove were most active during the ‘90s when their unique blend of acid-jazz, funk and groove-based music was splashing itself all over Sydney, Australia, and beyond to international stages.

Dig have always been musician’s musicians, creating songs that may not always be “easy” to listen to, but are always skilfully expressed.  Drummer, Terepai Richmond, is perhaps his country’s greatest jazz/funk drummer and the band have created melodic mayhem around his infectious rhythms.

Almost 20 years after their inception, Dig have released 'Clearlight'. With a fairly quiet ten years on the recording front with only one live album released this century, Dig are masters at their craft and continue to make mind blowing music.  The addition of vocalist Laura Stitt to the line-up, however, is their only questionable decision.  She is a fantastic jazz-influenced vocalist, but the tracks that she features on are the weakest on 'Clearlight'.  Dig are at their best when the well-crafted yet almost chaotic melodies of Tim Rollinson and Rick Robertson are allowed to run free from the traditional shackles of a dominant vocal melody.

Dig have had some impressive vocalists join them in the past (Toni Mott and Inja Liljestrom among many others) but the traditional structure of a verse/chorus vocal melody has never been the moments where Dig truly shine.  The instrumental tracks on this album are great on their own and do not need vocal accompaniment, but ultimately, Dif are as funky as ever, even after all these years!

This article was originally published in Rave Magazine http://www.ravemagazine.com.au/

Monday
Dec052011

Liberated! [Part 2]

Firstly, I'll start with a huge 'thank you' for the great feedback we've had from our feature on The Liberators, so I'd like to throw a further big 'thank you' to Jada (who's awesome and always comes through for us!) at Record Kicks for putting everything together!

If you're yet to read it, where you been?!  Give it a click here.  The band have also secured regular rotation on The Blue-in-Green Sessions with strong responses from Starpoint Radio listeners.

As always, we like to keep back that little extra treat to readers of the MF(I)D blog so here's an exclusive extract from our chat with Nathan Aust.  If we had to put in our bid for what would surely, undoubtedly, without question, be our video of the year, there's very little I could come up with that could trump The Liberators' excellent 70s throwback, blaxploitation video for their single, 'Rags To Riches'.

Here's Nathan Aust chatting a little about the video, and feel free to see for yourself!

LF: Where did the concept for the excellent video for 'Rags to Riches' come from, and how hard was it to execute?

NA: The idea came from Bari sax play Andrew and his then house mates, the guys at Don't Look Back Pictures.  I'm guessing, it was conceived during a late night poker session.  I had no involvement in the shooting of the clip as my wife was having our second child at the time but I heard it was fun but hard work.  We had a lot of support from the actors.  I did the intro music in my kitchen.

Friday
Nov252011

One to Watch: Nigel Hall

For a long time, the only inclusion of Nigel Hall music amongst my catalogue was via his 2-song contribution to Soulive’s ‘Up Here’, released in 2009 via their Royal Family Records label.  Laying his lush vocals on ‘Too Much’ and the band’s reworking of Andre 3000’s ‘Prototype’, I was happy to find out that the marriage of the two would potentially be extended into Nigel Hall’s debut release as a signee to the label.

Although the Royal Family release has unfortunately yet to happen since those two years have passed, more importantly, what seems to have almost passed me by, is that he already has an album out, dated as far back as 2006.  ‘The Face of Things To Come’ has MP3s which are readily available to download from Amazon and iTunes, and is clearly a ridiculously poor reflection on my research skills.

And seeing how many gems are actually waiting to be heard here, what a ridiculous shame it would have been had this one got away!  The uptempo sing-along nature of the album opener ‘Destination’ is a terrific one to kickstart things to, and the thick and delicious slice of rich soul on the bonus cut, ‘In Love Again’, equally brilliant.

There are a few instrumental tracks which don’t actually connect as well as the vocal ones and, although one of them is a nice tackling of Incognito’s ‘Always There’, it can be a little frustrating – in the absence of appropriate inlay card or album credits – to actually ascertain Hall’s input or involvement in these songs.  Is he drumming, playing bass, doing the running man, etc?

Honesty must prevail as I confess it’s certainly not all good listening though, as ‘Don’t Be Shy’ screams as the song to prove the point.  I’ve actually tried on three separate times to listen to it but genuinely can’t get all the way through it.  Maybe it’s my slightly bashful and prudish nature, but why dudes ever want to do songs about… y’know, them being alone… and bored… y’know, no one around… y’know... y’know… Please tell me you know as I’m running out of hints here?!

The ‘absence of appropriate inlay cards’ is another personal battle.  I’m unsure at this time as to whether hard copies or CDs were ever available but I sure can’t find any trace that there ever was.  But the search continues… as it always does!

Even though I’m still pining for the Royal Family release, along with ‘The Face of Things To Come’, the treats just keep on coming: Soulive’s 2011 DVD release ‘Bowlive – Live From The Brooklyn Bowl’ features fantastic live performances with a host of friends and musicians, including Ivan Neville and Warren Hayes, but also with Nigel Hall taking centre-stage on several songs, and performing on none better than the two back-to-back James Brown covers, ‘Soul Power’ and ‘Give It Up Or Turn It Loose’ (both featuring the awesome drumming prowess of The Roots’ Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson).  (MP3s of ‘Bowlive’ are also available to purchase from iTunes and I can’t recommend it enough!)

It does feel like we’re still waiting for Nigel Hall’s ultimate breakthrough opportunity and fingers crossed 2012 will be the year it happens.  In the meantime though, there’s a huge amount of great music from him out there to whet our appetites!

 

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