Monthly Archives: November 2010

J = Just a sweet sixteen

J has flashed past me in a similar fashion to my youth, too fast but with little to really regret.

Here’s the top 10 albums from the 16 in this section of my collection:

  1. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – “Naturally”
  2. Janis Joplin – “Pearl”
  3. JaConfetti –“Rainbow Express”
  4. Junior Senior – “D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat”
  5. Robert Johnson – “King of the Delta Blues Singers”
  6. Jane’s Addiction – “Ritual De Lo Habitual”
  7. Syl Johnson – “The Complete Syl Johnson On Hi Records”
  8. Jet – “Get Born”
  9. Etta James – “The Best of…”
  10. Matt Johnson – “Burning Blue Soul”

A victorious effort for the ladies it would seem.

Getting all Web 2.01, I’m launching a new angle: tell me (via Comments) the top 3 albums in the J category that I should own but don’t (and why).  Feel free to go back and comment on previous letters too (click on “Not a Review” under CATEGORIES to see my earlier lists).

I’ll shut out the Js with a clip of a single I do own (perhaps the sentiment is a promise re: this blog and it’s quality):

424. Junior Senior – “D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat”

As promised, the letter J has been bookended by a pair of Danish pop duos.

There is no long-winded tale of discovery here.  I was just one of the many people who succumbed to being bombarded by the power tracks from this highly contagious bundle of disco-targetted fluff.

There is so much to love about this CD.  The cover perfectly captures the content, which is all neon and bubbly, and inducing of much arm-waving and other silly gestures.

Sitting around at home today reading through academic articles has not been the ideal setting for this collection of tracks.  This is a Saturday night album (or whatever evening it is that the kids do their thang these days).

It is helium-like in its upbeat-ness. The songs have that breathy, rushed jolliness that so few bands manage (think B-52s), over a great set of rhythms.

The two lads obviously have very short attention spans, as they jump from one floor filler to another, chanting choruses that anyone/everyone will yell along to (while ignoring that glam poppers like Sherbet and Bay City Rollers were onto this schtick in the mid-70s).

Somehow, the duo do find time within the 32-or-so minutes to manage to produce a hilarious Dylan meets Beach Boys meets Oasis hybrid on Shake Me Baby.

In the end everyone bought this album for Move Your Feet and it was worth every cent:

File under: Move your feet to your local music retailer

423. Jungle Brothers – “VIP”

Way back before Al Gore invented the internet and digital music, I owned two fantastic albums from the Jungle Brothers on a medium known as the cassette (a.k.a. tape).

These were the first full-lengthers in the JBs’ long career – ‘Straight Out the Jungle’ and ‘Done By the Forces of Nature’. Both were an innovative mix of hip-hop and house music, coupled with a ‘black and proud’ Africanistic thing. They were a distinctive companion pieces to the works of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

This here CD was released more than a decade later, and hits none of the cassettes’ heights.  The JBs’ earlier experiments with the house and dance genres are expanded, as they hook up with a Propellerhead.  This means loads more simplistic chanting than warranted, a higher level of repetition, and very little quality rhyming.

That is not to say this is a tough listen.  It’s all very light and breezy, and you’d have a better than 50:50 chance of getting folks dancing with the majority of the tracks.  The jazz crossover on Get Down is closest to their classic material:

And here’s one of their old gems (as a reminder to myself to go shopping for those two albums on CD):

File under: What does the V stand for? And the I?…

422. Juluka – “Ya Vuka Inkunzi”

This is the second album I have reviewed from South African stalwart Johnny Clegg.

While Savuka were Clegg’s band through much of the late 80s and early 90s, this 1997 release saw him reform an old act one last time. Being super hip and groovy, we own the South African CD with the Zulu name, rather than rest-of-world version called ‘Crocodile Love’.

I find this incarnation of Clegg much more exciting and innovative than in his Savuka guise.  The music is much more danceable and less overtly poppy and disposable.

I find it more listenable on the tracks where he and Sipho Mchunu sing in Zulu than the English language material.  The latter are a little too ambitiously poetic for my liking, especially as said poetry tends to be very tie-dyed (think Grateful Dead meets Lion King vibe). This  pushes Clegg dangerously close to Sting territory.

This CD would work as a nice companion piece to Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album, especially Journey’s End which features a startlingly similar accordian opening.

I couldn’t find a decent video of any tune on the album, so here’s Clegg and Co with a famous bloke (and an awful jacket):

File under: Don’t judge a man by his jacket

421. Janis Joplin – “Pearl”

It has been an icon-heavy week around this blog, and here’s a true musical original.

Album cover CD Janis Joplin Pearl reviewI was introduced to this classic by my lovely spouse, and I am eternally grateful.

Of course, I’d heard Mercedes Benz and Me and Booby McGee before, but never in their natural setting. Appearing alongside eight other bluesy rock gems, they make a hell of a lot more sense.

This album (posthumously released after Joplin ODed during the recording) showcases an artist in her prime belting out some of the most powerful songs you’re ever likely to hear.

Ms. Joplin has an astoundingly engaging and expressive voice. She bends notes and bursts with emotion. The production quality is great, leaving enough space for the vocals to roam free, but with some sensational playing.  The organ work on My Baby, for example, is a real treat.

It is such a shame that Joplin joined the Forever 27 club (i.e. famous musos who died at 27 – the club also includes Robert Johnson) and left no more tunes, but she certainly went out with a huge bang:

File under: Sweet Mother of Pearl

420. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – “Naturally”

The woman whose wild, wagging hips shimmied Syl down my gig of the year list was Ms. Sharon Jones and her regal Dap-gang.

Shazza has wowed my repeatedly in the live arena with her sass and soul.  Shows from this 50-ish lady and her well-dressed band are truly a thing of beauty.

I defy all but the spinally-damaged to not find themselves bewitched and bouncing along to every tune these guys ever play.

This album is a glorious exercise in timelessness revivalism.  Without prior knowledgem I would place it’s provenance as being mid-1960s (rather than 2006).  Each tracks sounds like an immediate classic (yet only once is a cover).

SJ bemoans the meaness of her man, his dragginess, his failure to commit, and her desire to let him down for being too good (!).  Meanwhile, the tightest band since the Funk Soul Brothers makes it all sound sexy and sultry:

I’ve listened to this album all day long (as I have numerous times since purchase) and I haven’t tired of it yet. I aspire to be a NBL who TCB…

File under: She’s taking care of business

419. Syl Johnson – “The Complete Syl Johnson On Hi Records”

On Valentines Night 2009 I tagged along to a gig by a man I’d embarrassingly never heard of.

All I knew was that he was some soul/funk demi-god. 72-year Syl Johnson was an astounding bundle of energy, playing tracks I’d never clicked were in his back catalogue and raising the bar for the physical state I’d like to be in late 2043. The gig was good enough to crack my top 5 for the year.

The next day I jumped online and purchased this double-disc set. It’s actually four entire albums from 1973-79 plus a raft of bonus tracks.  At 44 tunes in total, that’s great value.

This is a great mix of soul (a la Al Green), with occasionals forays into Brown-ish Funk.

Johnson’s voice has that ability to sound like he’s on the edge of tears, coupled with the roughness necessary to get down and dirty and growl out a command.

The musicianship is superb, especially the horns, and the arrangements are such that many standards become his own.

Now Syl didn’t look quite this good in 2010, but he sounded almost this fresh:

And while I’m bombarding you with vids, here’s the best cover ever of Syl’s cover (it was originally an Al Green track):

File under: Don’t be a dill, embrace Syl