Sunday, February 24, 2013

Big Audio Dynamite - This Is Big Audio Dynamite

 Go ahead, London.
I was a fan of the Clash when I was in high school, but not the ravenous fan who maintains that Sandanista! is one of the few true genius works of the 80s (if only for its crazy ambition) that I am now. When Mick Jones left the band in 1983, I was 13 and didn't know it was a big deal, if I even had any idea it happened. But I was interested in his next project, "General Public" by General Public. Say what you will about General Public—or better yet, let me beat you to the punch by saying their cover of "I'll Take You There" is a terrible, terrible song—that first single is a weird dubby sinister record. I'm a fan. He didn't last long there, and in 1985, he debuted his new band, Big Audio Dynamite. Listening to their first album now, it's simultaneously dated and timeless. It doesn't really sound like anything. You can hear the music they were drawing from, like Ennio Morricone, dub, and early hip-hop, but there really hasn't been anything that sounded like it since. The anger of the Clash is muted, reduced to wry lyrics, and there's a bit of weird xenophobia on the song "Sony," a song that gained an ironic edge when its label, Columbia Records, was bought by Sony four years later. While hits "The Medicine Show" and "The Bottom Line" still have a good vibe, album tracks like "Sudden Impact" have aged better. Even though it's ostensibly dance music, I never danced to it at the time, and it doesn't have enough bass to shake my ass now, but it's still a fun record.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sade-Diamond Life

Dress cool.
In 1985, Paul Schaffer and the World's Most Dangerous Band wrote a song/shot a video for the Late Night Holiday Film Festival called "Dress Cool," in which he sang about meeting Sade for a date, and she rejects him because he's not dressed cool. At the time, it seemed like the ultimate slam, because NO ONE was cooler than Sade. That breathy voice was all about a jazzy coolness. The years have been more kind to Paul Shaffer's novelty tune than they have Sade's debut. Diamond Life is all about surface gloss, the kind that seems more in place on a smooth jazz radio station or a shitty piano bar. It doesn't get much better than the opening track/monster hit "Smooth Operator," and that song about a globetrotting gigolo is better remembered than actually played for fear that one would pay attention to the trite and geographically inaccurate lyrics. It's a bland, silly album, and I can't for the life of me figure out what drove its popularity in the first place. I'm gettin' this out of here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Funkin' Lesson: George Clinton, The Time, Kool and the Gang

George Clinton-Computer Games: 
You have the right to remain funky.

I know why I bought this. It's George Clinton. I also know why I didn't listen to it for so long. It's George Clinton solo, and not Parliament or Funkadelic. It's after the break-up, and what good could that be? Jesus Christ, I have to get out of my own head. Computer Games boasts most of the P-Funk personnel, it has "Atomic Dog," and it contains the boast "I could out-Porky a pig. I could out-Woody a pecker." It's great. Clinton was still on top of his game here, and this album is every bit as fun and eclectic as the rest of the P-Funk cannon. Dare I say "masterpiece?" Why not? I'm not accountable to anybody. It's a masterpiece of electro-funk, a party classic. I'm keeping this one for sure, but it needs a deep cleaning. 

The Time-The Time:
Minneapolis circa 1982
Predating Computer Games by one year was The Time's eponymous  debut. I've always liked The Time. Ice Cream Castles was on heavy rotation along with Prince's Around The World In A Day in the basement of my 8th grade friend John Coopey's mom's framing shop/dad's portrait studio (John's dad, Lou, had taken my class picture from 1st grade through freshman year of high school and had once taken Lorne Greene's portrait). Later in life, when I DJed with my friend Chris (we were DJs Aperitif and Digestif, aka The Cordial Squad), we'd both play funk. He'd veer more toward New Orleans and deep funk. I would go toward the electro-funk of The Time and Sly Fox. This album is tasty, in part because—according to Wikipedia—Prince recorded everything but the vocals, but also because this was before Morris Day became the character of Morris Day, and his vocals are more strut than swagger. It's a solid keep, duh, as are all of The Time's albums.

Kool and the Gang-Ladies' Night:
Sexy lady/Sophisticated baby

For most of my blog posts, including this new round, I listen to the albums once, maybe twice, before I write about them. Maybe it's not a charitable way to write about music, but I have a realistic grasp of my attention span. But Ladies' Night (kudos to Kool's copy editor for the proper placement of the possessive apostrophe) has taken me several listens to form an opinion on. I feel like I should like this, I mean really really feel like I should like it because I like the song "Ladies' Night." I mean, I kind of like it. It's hard to be passionate about it. Though I agree with the general message of ladies the song is promoting, it's not terribly sexy. Or funky. The whole album is a tepid collection of songs about boogieing and dancin' without activating the rump to do so. It's not really fair to lump this album in with two funk greats, since it's actually disco from the tail end of the disco era. I'd probably go see them live and have  great time, but I'll be damned if I can remember one hook besides from the title track. Sorry ladies. This goes.