Shot Of Rhythm

[ Friday, December 29, 2006 ]


2006 In Review, Pt. 1: The idols

We're gonna ring in the new year by looking back at the old one. Now, I'm not even gonna try to be comprehensive, even within the 5 entries that I've got planned for the wrap-up, but instead I want to hit on some of the main sounds and styles that had my ear these past 12 months. If anybody's got any requests, or wants to revisit anything I've posted in 2006, let me know.

To kick things off, I thought I'd spotlight what was - to me - the year's most important musical trend: namely, the veritable renaissance of records from idols both teen and American. While there have been signs that such a blossoming was on the way, it was really only in 2006 when it came home to roost, with a bunch of remarkable music being made by folks who've graced many a glossy magazine page over their time. The records were mature, sexy, politicized, straight bangin', and - in the case of "Dreamgirl" Jennifer Hudson, who didn't even place in the Top 3 of AMERICAN IDOL when she participated - damn sure Oscar-worthy. Fantasia and Beyonce staked their claim as premier 21st-century blues women. Pink found The Clash and Woody Guthrie waiting at the dark end of the street. Taylor set the table for himself to pull a Clarkson-style transformation once he's free of IDOL's imminent shadow. Christina mashed up the last century of American music and forever left former rival Ms. Spears firmly in the dust. And Justin didn't just join with maestro Timbaland (of whom more later) to bring sexy back... Tim and Tim released the 2006 album that sounds most like the pop music of the future.

The kids are alright...

Christina Aguilera - "Candyman"

Beyonce - "Ring The Alarm"

Fantasia (feat. Big Boi) - "Hood Boy"

Taylor Hicks - "The Right Place"

Jennifer Hudson - "And I Am Telling You That I'm Not Going"

Pink (feat. Indigo Girls) - "Dear Mr. President"

Justin Timberlake - "What Goes Around, Comes Around"

On the box right now: Various Artists, AMERICAN MUSIC: THE HIGHTONE RECORDS STORY, Disc 1.


Dove With Claws [11:13 AM]

[ Tuesday, December 26, 2006 ]


We tip our hat

It seems unnecessary to say that James Brown's impact on American music (and American society) is incalculable. But, perhaps something so important deserves to be repeated ad infinitum in these scoundrel times. The Godfather rewrote the rules of rhythm to such an extent that it is almost inconcievable to imagine any - and I do mean any - of today's most prominent grooves and grinds finding their way onto any radio station or dance floor without Brown's music, which invented and reinvented itself with each release. His vocal style, both deeply rhythmic and straight outta church, made a similar impact, alternately stinging and caressing his onomatopoeic lyrics, which only seem nonsensical to people who have basically no fuckin' clue what's going on. His live performances, of course, set the intensity meter for everybody who came after him, and - as former blogista Mr. C told me a couple years ago - it's no surprise that Prince plays a loop of Brown's apocalyptic TAMI Show performance from 1964 before His Royal Badness goes on stage each night. (Indeed, if Brown has an heir in terms of live presence, it's gotta be the Purple One.) He paved the way for hip-hop on almost every level, as well, and - thanks to the copious use of Brown samples by hip-hop generations from old school to next school - anyone looking for JB's legacy need only rifle through any random sample of the best, most popular and most important hip-hop tracks.

Then, of course, there's the fact that Brown felt the funk on levels that extended from the musical experimentation (through which he introduced the world to genius musicians from Maceo Parker to Clyde Stubblefield), through to the blatant quality of his lyrics and subject matter. Sex, race, drugs and politics were always upfront, and the themes were about the only thing that Brown didn't dance around. Indeed, his politics deserve to be spotlighted, since they never fit cleanly into any easy (or white) ideological orientation, but the complex interplay Brown expressed between - on the one hand - radical assertion of Black Power, and - on the other - Republican-esque embrace of capitalism and self-uplift are a perfect encapsulation of the ambiguous nature of black-nationalist politics, as effective a manual as the speeches of Marcus Garvey. The fact that such strong, complex messages were combined with grooves that forced listeners (particularly, though not exclusively, white listeners) to find new avenues into understanding the heavy thang that Brown disciple George Clinton later described this way: "with the rhythm it takes to dance to what we have to live through, you can dance underwater and not get wet." Besides, all that aside, "Say It Loud (I'm Black And I'm Proud)" is still one of the most important singles of the modern era, a proud and loving celebration of blackness that won't ever go out of style. We can't quit, until we get our share. For a man whose life began at the very bottom of America's socio-economic ladder, the triumph inherent in the snapping snare and insistent call-and-response of "Say It Loud" is affirmation at its highest personal and community level.

So much more to say; many books worth, literally. But I'm tired of talking, and I kinda got the feelin' to get on the good foot, bump Mr. Brown as loud as possible through the biggest speakers I can find, and try to release that pressure. So let's dance, y'all, in tribute to one of the most important Americans of the 20th century. (And I mean that shit.) Say it loud!

"Cold Sweat, Pt. 1"

"Get Up (I Feel Like Bein' A) Sex Machine, Pt. 1

"Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose"

"I Got The Feelin'"

"Papa Don't Take No Mess, Pt. 1"

"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, Pt. 1"

"The Payback"

"Say It Loud (I'm Black And I'm Proud)"

As you might imagine, a few of our good friends around the virtual universe are posting other writing and music in tribute. Soul Sides, Nah Right, and Notes From A Different Kitchen are three I've checked out so far, but there are sure to be more.

Also, you may have noticed that I didn't post any live Brown on here, which is not a sad mistake on my part, but rather an attempt to get y'all to hop over to YouTube and check out the numerous great clips of the Godfather located there. Pay attention; you might learn something.

On the box right now: James Brown, 20 ALL-TIME GREATEST HITS.


Dove With Claws [8:36 AM]

[ Monday, December 25, 2006 ]


We tip our Santa hit

More later on this, of course, but first...

James Brown - "Let's Unite The Whole World At Christmas"

James Brown - "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto"

James Brown - "Christmas Is Love"

On the box right now: James Brown, FUNKY CHRISTMAS.


Dove With Claws [7:35 AM]