Trying To Get To You

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Great Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack is one of those great artists who, while well known and loved dearly by soul aficionados, is less known elsewhere. There aren’t any streets named after him, and there haven’t been any Lifetime Achievement Grammys for him. It’s a shame, because for decades, Womack has been one of the great threads running through American music.

Starting in Gospel, his family’s group the Womack Brothers was discovered by Sam Cooke and signed to Cooke’s SAR label in the early 60’s. Renamed the Valentinos, they put out some seminar sides of the period, including “Looking For A Love” (a song Bobby would remake in to a huge hit in the 70’s) and “It’s All Over Now,” which, with Sam Cooke’s blessing, was given to the Rolling Stones in late 1964 (and was their first U.K. #1). Womack also served as the lead guitarist in Cooke’s band.

Womack gained infamy in the soul community for marrying Sam Cooke’s widow Barbara in March of 1965, only three months after Sam had been shot and killed at a motel in Los Angeles. Womack later said that he married Barbara out of fear of what she would do to herself if she were left alone, but it caused enough controversy that Womack had to retreat. His next step was working as a session guitarist at Chips Moman’s American Studios in Memphis, playing on records by Joe Tex, the Box Tops and Wilson Pickett (he contributed several seminal songs to Pickett, including “I’m A Midnight Mover.”)

In the late 60’s, Womack began to find his stride as a solo artist, ironically, it was at the same time that his marriage with the former Barbara Cooke began to unravel. He played guitar on Sly Stone’s epochal post-60’s reckoning, There’s A Riot Goin’ On. In the 70’s, hits like the sublime “Across 110th Street,” “Harry Hippie” and “Daylight” brought Womack major success on the R&B charts. Not wiling to consign himself to any one genre, Womack also took stabs at country (B.W. goes C.W.), blues and gospel. His last big hit was in 1981 with “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.” He's still touring today.

(Thanks to Bob Dylan’s fantastic radio show, I’m able to post the demo version of “Across 110th Street” followed by the original. Buy his music!)

Download: "Across 110th Street" (Demo - from Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour)
Download: "Across 110th Street" (original)
Bobby Womack at Amazon

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sound Of The City, 2007

After falling in love with the songs he produced on Amy Winehouse’s album, I’ve been looking forward to Mark Ronson’s new album, Version. It doesn’t disappoint. Featuring re-arranged covers of songs varying from Coldplay (“God Put A Smile On Your Face) to Britney Spears (“Toxic”), Ronson does a brilliant job of creating a modern soul (while still infused with hip-hop) context for the songs, providing a sleek and sexy urban vibe while remaining substantive in feel. This is dance music that you can sink your teeth into. Ronson’s real skill is making these highly stylized versions sound organic, even while he’s using every technological trick in the book. It’s New York City meets London soul circa 2007. Find it and buy it.

Download: "Stop Me" (featuring Daniel Merriweather)
Buy it at Amazon U.K.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I Ain't Got Nothin' To Say

It's dark, rainy and gloomy. I've got a ton of work to do today - and dear readers, I've got nothing to say. So rather than just pontificate about any old thing that I can drum up, here's some music that's fitting the day, and my mood.

Download: Lou Reed - "Perfect Day" (acoustic demo for Transformer)
Download: The Beatles - "Revolution" (acoustic demo for The Beatles)
Download: Bruce Springsteen - "Thunder Road" (acoustic demo for Born To Run)
Download: David Bowie - "Lady Stardust" (acoustic demo for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars)
Download: The Rolling Stones - "Cocksucker Blues" (from the unreleased film Cocksucker Blues)
Download: Elvis Costello - "Blame It On Cain" (acoustic demo for My Aim Is True)
Download: Bob Dylan - "If You See Her Say Hello" (acoustic outtake for Blood On The Tracks)
Download: Bruce Springsteen - "Pink Cadillac" (acoustic outtake for Nebraska)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Indie Soul

We’ve had the Pixies revival (don’t get me started), so now I’m lobbying for a revival for the most soulful (and messy) American indie band of the 80’s, the Replacements. I hadn't listened to them in a long time, but I awoke this morning with them on the brain, and once I put them on the stereo, I was reminded of my deep love for the band. The trio of Let It Be (1984), Tim (1985) and Pleased To Meet Me (1987) are about as good as anyone did in the 80’s – if you don't have them, buy them now. "Unsatisfied" and "Answering Machine" are about as soulful as it gets - just transmuted through punk. (And had they concentrated more on the soul, and concerned themselves less with the punk ethos, they might not have self-destructed the way they did.)

Download: "Unsatisfied"
Download: "Answering Machine"
Download: "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man" (Live in Detroit, 11/12/87)
Download: "Gimme Shelter" (Live in Detroit)
Download: "Little Mascara" (Live in Detroit)
Download: "Can't Hardly Wait"

Buy the Replacements at Amazon

Monday, April 09, 2007

Songs Of The Day

I never paid too much attention to the Electroclash/DFA scene that James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem (and his partner, Tim Goldsworthy) inspired in New York a few years back. It got a ton of attention, but other than the Rapture’s “House of Jealous Lovers,” not much from of it stuck with me. It sounded pretty good to me, but not much more than that. Admittedly, it generated from an NYC post-punk scene that I’ve never felt particularly at home in – it was hipster music, and my first impulse is usually to recoil from most things hipster, perhaps as a defense mechanism from the feeling I’ll be excluded from it.

However, I’ve been greatly enjoying the new LCD Soundsystem album, Sound of Silver, and it’s first single, “North American Scum.” It’s Jonathan Richman-esque in the best possible way – wry, witty and incisive. And it employs irony to illuminate the song and its lyrics instead of employing it in the manner most artists use it – as a substitute for talent.

Download: “North American Scum”


If all Georgia born performer and songwriter Joe South did during his career was play the guitar intro to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain Of Fools,” he’d still be fondly remembered. But he wrote a bunch of hits for other artists, and a recorded a couple of classic songs under his own name, including “Games People Play” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes.”

A few years back, Otis Clay (“Trying To Live My Life Without You”) recorded “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” as part of a Joe South tribute record. It’s a beautiful version, and listening to it, I’m reminded that of all the human virtues that I’ve found present in the best soul music, it’s compassion that has been the most powerful, and the most necessary.

Download: "Walk A Mile In My Shoes"

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Subscribe To A Deeper Shade Of Soul!

I've gotten a few emails from people asking how they can subscribe to A Deeper Shade Of Soul. Well my friends, it's easy. Just scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and on the left it says "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)." You'll need a reader for Internet feeds. I use the Google Reader. There are many others and you can use it to set up a page for all of your favorite blogs and news outlets. Do it - because you really do need more information in your life.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Today In The Bad Idea Department

Oooof.

Brooklyn Soul Sister

Here is a link to last week's Village Voice article on Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, a Brooklyn based soul outfit who are starting to get real attention. It's a worthy read in that I believe it signifies soul's continuing comeback in the public consciousness as well as the utter boredom that many people are finally finding in and verbalizing about "dull-ass, sweet-dude, indie guitar rock."

I've seen Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings live, and while it's been an enjoyable experience, for me, something has been missing. I've found the songs somewhat unsatisfying; they occur for me as approximations of a soul sound rather than soulful in and of themselves. But I am hopeful that they will improve over time, and that the songs will dig a little deeper emotionally on the next release.

The Dap-Kings are backing Amy Winehouse on the road, so this has to be a very exciting time for them. If Sharon Jones and her band are not quite the thing that will break down the door for this kind of music in the 21st century, they're knocking really hard on the door. I won't do anything but applaud that.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on MySpace

Friday, April 06, 2007

Rosalita From Carnegie Hall

A pretty rough clip from last night's finale, but very sweet nonetheless.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bruce Tribute At Carnegie Hall

I did not attend tonight's tribute to Bruce Springsteen at Carnegie Hall. Why? Well, the lineup didn't hold too much interest for me (had I known Patti Smith was going to be there in advance, I might have attended - she got subbed in for Jewel today) and I'm usually not into hearing people do Bruce other than Bruce.

Fortunately, we have a special guest contributor to A Deeper Shade Of Soul who attended the show tonight. His name is Scott Black, and there could be no one more fitting to do this blog entry, as he is one of my oldest friends - I've known him for about thirty years, and he, more than pretty much anyone else, is responsible for turning me onto Springsteen when we were nice little Jewish boys attending Solomon Schecter Day School together in the late 70's and early 80's. (He's still nice...me, not so much.) I returned the favor by turning him on to the Beatles and "Gimme Shelter." Overall, it was probably an even trade.

In the interest of posting this immediately, the text is going up as Scott sent it to me with no edits. Scott is an Ivy League graduate, so please understand that he does know how to use proper punctuation. Enjoy!

Early highlight was clearly patti smith doing an acoustic "because the night" with a heartfelt introduction explaining how bruce's song has pulled her numerous times during her life from the doldrums of despair. She's heads and shoulders above the rest of the talent so far present.

 Another highlight was the elysian fields' rocking (and haunting) version of "streets of fire". Interesting to hear this track (not one of my favorites) song by an indie female.



8:56: frankie vallie's younger brother, bobby, his band ("some jersey boys", and a "soparanos" guest cast member (who's really up there just for show, as he apparently can't sing), perform, what else, "jersey girl.". The whole set is cheese incarnate (down to frankie jr's slicked back hair, and "sha-la-las" with audience clap-alongs, but I still can't help but smile: I love this song, and it's hard to ruin it, even though these guys are way off key.



9:10: uri cane performs an all musical piano rendition of "new york city serenade.". Great song, but Bruce is not best appreciated in non vocal renditions.



9:14: juliana hatfield performs a solo guitar country-tinged version of "cover me". Not bad, but not particularly interesting either. Like many of the other performances, the artist's apparent belief that she has to tone down the song to accommodate the prestige of the venue detract from the force of the song.



9:26: badly drawn boy, a huge bruce fan, takes the stage to perfrom "thunder road.". "I'm scared to death, but fearless at the same time," he begins. The version is good: he sings with a sense of reverence, almost afraid to come across as ever trying to match the original. Plus, it's cool to hear bruce sung in a british accent.

9:34: joseph arthur dedicates a guitar and piano driven "born in the usa" to "our troops.". Ok, we get it already, this is no rah rah patriotic anthem. But the words are so haunting every time.



9:39: pete yorn introduces "dancing in the dark" as a "dark song.". The acoustic, aching version he delivers certainly is: and it works.



9:45: jesse malin and ronnie spector team up for "hungry heart," dedicated to joey ramone. I've heard malin do this cover before, and he sounds like a frog to me. I'm not crazy about the song either, and ronnie botches the lyrics midway through. This is pretty much a disappointment.

9:55: the crowd breaks into "bruuuce calls" as the stage is being prepared for odetta who takes the stage in a wheelchair to perform... "57 channels".?? She's a poet and talks her way through the song, and the song long joke draws ample chuckles and one of the few standing ovations thus far.



10:00: the much heralded hold steady nail
 "Atlantic City." After a soft and melodic intro they ROCK THE HOUSE. A clear highlight.

10:07: THE MOMENT WE ALL HOPED FOR: bruce takes the stage: "I'm wounded, but still alive"...

Solo acoustic "promised land": bruce is in full-bodied woody guthrie mode here.
The version emphasizes the chain of tradition that has always linked bruce to the great folk artists of our nation's past. Next up: acoustic Rosalita.

Bruce interrupts Rosalita to say it's too long to see the whole thing, and proceeds to say, you know the rest of the story... Man grows up to be a rock star, finds a woman he loves happily ever after (despite the rumors), write about being happy (but no one likes it), the country becomes a kingdom, kids buy music out of the air... It's hysterical and ends with a full audience sing along to the song's conclusion. This man is simply a master performer.

Show's over: hold steady, badly drawn boy, jesse malin and bruce took turns on rosie verses for the full band finale. A great time! And bruce was hysterical.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, Keith Richards

I'm used to hearing some great, outlandish quotes from Mr. Richards, of the Glimmer Twins. But the news that Keith snorted his own father's ashes (mixed with a little coke, of course) has set the bar anew. The man can do no wrong by me, even when he calls the new generation of British bands, "c***ts."

He is the embodiment of rock and roll excess. But Keith Richards' latest admission is likely to surprise even his most hardened fans.

The Rolling Stones guitarist has told how he snorted his own father's ashes in a drugs binge.

"The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father," he said.

The 63-year-old detailed in a magazine interview how he mixed the
ashes with cocaine and inhaled them.

Scroll down for more...

Keith Richards has told how he snorted his own father's (right) ashes
in a drugs binge

"He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little
bit of blow.

"My dad wouldn't have cared - he didn't give a s***. It went down
pretty well. And I'm still alive."

Richards's father Bert died in 2002 aged 84. The news may not be met
with too much enthusiasm by Richards' mother Doris.

The star also recounted his worst drugs experience. "It was when
someone put strychnine in my dope," he said.

"It was in Switzerland. I was totally comatose but I was totally
awake.

"I could listen to everyone, and they were like, 'He's dead, he's
dead!', waving their fingers and pushing me about, and I was thinking,
'I'm not dead!'," he recalled.

He went on: "I've no pretensions about immortality - I'm the same as
everyone else - same as you, same as everybody, I'm the same old
b******, just kind of lucky.

"I was number one on the Who's Likely To Die list for ten years. I
mean, I was really disappointed when I fell off the list," he told
NME.

Richards added: "Some doctor told me I had six months to live and I
went to their funeral. The obit columns are of quite an interest to me
these days. I don't trust doctors.

"It's not to say there ain't some good ones, but on a general level,
no, I wouldn't trust 'em at all."

Richards predicted that Pete Doherty could be the next drugs casualty
- and told him to leave supermodel Kate Moss alone.

"My advice for Pete Doherty is that he should shut the f*** up and
leave her," he said. "I don't know the man. All I know is he's pushing
his luck and there it is, but so is Kate, who I know very well.

"Kate wants to play with bad boys, and she's done one, and then
another one, and then another one. Badabing, badabang, badaboom.
She'll live, the boys will die."

And he warned rock stars not to emulate his fabled drug-taking.

"I did it because that was the way I did it. Now people think it's a
way of life," he said.

Of today's musicians, he said: "Everyone's a load of c***. They're
trying to be somebody else and they ain't being themselves.
Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party? Load of c***, load of c***.
Posers, rubbish."

The Rolling Stones will kick off the European leg of their A Bigger
Bang tour in June.

Last year their touring was interrupted when Richards reportedly fell
out of a palm tree while on holiday in Fiji.

He said of the incident: "I wasn't climbing a tree. I was sitting on a
f***ing shrub. I was sitting on that shrub again today, but I happened
to fall off it the wrong way that day."

He had brain surgery after the accident and revealed: "I've been
trepanned. That's quite an interesting experience, especially for my
brain surgeon, who saw my thoughts flying around in my brain.

"I've got pictures of it, mate. They cut my head, brain, skull open,
went in and pulled out the c***, and put some of it back again.

"But that's the way it is. I mean, s*** , Keith Richards has got to do
everything once."

· The full interview appears in the new issue of NME, out today.

Monday, April 02, 2007

EMI Drops DRM

A big, big day in the record business. EMI announced in London this morning that they're dropping DRM (Digital Rights Management) and are going to offer a greater range of choice in digital music offered to the consumer. Here's the article from Business Wire:

EMI Music Launches DRM-Free Superior Sound Quality Downloads Across Its Entire Digital Repertoire
Apple's iTunes Store to be the First Online Music Store to Sell EMI's New Downloads

LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--EMI Music today announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

The new higher quality DRM-free music will complement EMI's existing range of standard DRM-protected downloads already available. From today, EMI's retailers will be offered downloads of tracks and albums in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates up to CD quality. EMI is releasing the premium downloads in response to consumer demand for high fidelity digital music for use on home music systems, mobile phones and digital music players. EMI's new DRM-free products will enable full interoperability of digital music across all devices and platforms.

Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, said, "Our goal is to give consumers the best possible digital music experience. By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans. We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music.

"Apple have been a true pioneer in digital music, and we are delighted that they share our vision of an interoperable market that provides consumers with greater choice, quality, convenience and value for money."

"Selling digital music DRM-free is the right step forward for the music industry," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "EMI has been a great partner for iTunes and is once again leading the industry as the first major music company to offer its entire digital catalogue DRM-free."

Apple's iTunes Store (www.itunes.com) is the first online music store to receive EMI's new premium downloads. Apple has announced that iTunes will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29/€1.29/£0.99. iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

EMI is introducing a new wholesale price for premium single track downloads, while maintaining the existing wholesale price for complete albums. EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice. Music fans will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free digital music for personal use, and listen to it on a wide range of digital music players and music-enabled phones.

EMI's move follows a series of experiments it conducted recently. Norah Jones's "Thinking About You", Relient K's "Must've Done Something Right", and Lily Allen's "Littlest Things" were all made available for sale in the MP3 format in trials held at the end of last year.

EMI Music will continue to employ DRM as appropriate to enable innovative digital models such as subscription services (where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to music), super-distribution (allowing fans to share music with their friends) and time-limited downloads (such as those offered by ad-supported services).

Nicoli added: "Protecting the intellectual property of EMI and our artists is as important as ever, and we will continue to work to fight piracy in all its forms and to educate consumers. We believe that fans will be excited by the flexibility that DRM-free formats provide, and will see this as an incentive to purchase more of our artists' music."

I believe that the price is still too high for the files for the premium files - I'm firmly in the camp that lowering the price will increase sales. But this is a big first step. More commentary to come.

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