Wipe Off The Dust: Summer Madness (July Edition)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Passing of Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse is a part of that group of artists who, whenever I first heard them, the time and place was symmetrical. Yes, this brawny, sharp-tongued, bedraggled, lopsided beehive hairstyle wearing, whiskey swigging, smeared mascara warbling brassy Brit with biting wit and a sneer was that voice in my head. She just 'got' my situations at that point in time as I was in the early throws and isolation of college and with songs like "Tears Dry On Their Own", "You Sent Me Flying", "Love Is A Losing Game", and "Wake Up Alone" were the remedies I needed, as I was on the edge of so many things at that time.

We don't know what was reeling in Winehouse's mind at the time of her death and why she chose the options she did, but that's not for us to know nor is it for us to judge. While, like most of her fans, I wanted Winehouse to get her life back in order so she can grace us with more of her style and her music---but things aren't as simple as we hope. I'd like to think that Winehouse is now free from her aggression and that she understands that even though she was only with us for a short time that she left behind a body of work, a body of work that will be admired for years to come by many others and that she helped me, like so many other fans, feel like they weren't 'waking up alone'. May she rest in peace.

For further Amy Winehouse worship, ThisIsRealMusic has released a sprawling 36-track set called simply, Amy, that is chock-filled with rares, remixes, a lot that are not featured on the extended editions of Back To Black and Frank[Download - Amy]

Blu Is A Mood
I can't remember the exact time I began loving the groove Rahsaan Patterson put forth (I'm not counting watching him on Kids Incorporated as 'The Kid' eons ago, k?), but I do know that I'll be stuck in the grooves he cooks up for---well, life. Bleuphoria, Rahsaan's long-awaited 5th album, has sort of exceeded my expectations, as it oozes with just real thought out music patterns and energy. What I like most about Rahsaan is that he doesn't pander to the club of now or tries to capture some sort of nostalgic sound as a theme. He just escorts his ideas into the room and lets them take over. With guest stars such as Jody WatleyThe Sounds of Blackness featuring Tata Vega, and his pal, Lalah Hathaway, making appearances, the show is still all Rah. To not be pulling chains, the tracklist of Bleuphoria is quite flawless. Earlier singles ("Easier Said Than Done" and "6AM") were the indicator, but they are exceeded with tracks like Ghost", "Miss You", his rendition of "I Only Have Eyes For You", and my personal favorite, "Insomnia" which are all delightful. Hell, the whole album is a delight and is exactly the quality of what Rah fans wanted and expected.

Seven The Easy Way
Emily King has often been lost in the shuffle amid 'flashier' artists of her breadth, but now she is found with the emergence of The Seven EP---an album that warranted a four year wait for her dedicated fan base. Though seven songs is never enough (yes, I'm greedy), the glass is half full with this collection of even more of King's soul lullabies. Tracks like "No More Room" and "Every Part" show King has grown since her excellent 2007 debut, East Side Story, and that she's got room to grow further. To be honest, I believe King should be breathed in the same breath with the likes of Adele or Corinne Bailey Rae as she possesses that same 'girl scribbling out her heart in her journal' type of vibe, just that she has a more Americana style hence the grit behind her plush tone. No note or minutes are wasted on this sweet n' short collection. [Download - The Seven EP]

Back For More
I can bet DJ Jazzy Jeff is past being thought of as the bane of Uncle Phil's existence on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but every time I watch the show in syndication, I can't help but smile thinking that Jazz is still out there in the game along with that Will guy (ha!). I also get some enjoyment for educating those who have zippo clue that Jazzy Jeff is still a go-to-producer and collaborator these days when folks thought his prime was up. I've been following the joint venture of Ayah and Jazz since I got a ear full of Ayah and her fantastic album, 4:15 and a song called, "He Don't Want It". So I was pretty 'jazzed' to hear that this wasn't going to be the last I'd hear from them as a collective. Now they have a whole album's worth of goods on Back For More, which is no doubt a sizzling collection of grooves n' moves. Best part of it all is that the collection is free of charge, so no need to sweat about it---unless you're sweating because of the heat these two have packed on this set. [Download - Back For More]

Ritual Of Love
Ritual Union may not be the all-together best from the brood from Sweden, but it is nothing short of engulfing. Little Dragon is this always---just so absorbing that probably if they recorded the sound of a microwave with lead vocalist Yukimi singing the theme song to Darkwing Duck, it'd be masterful, biggest hit ever. While '09's Machine Dreams and their self-titled 2007 debut mark some of electronic soul's finest moments, Ritual Union falls into being slightly mainstream, but still with a squirting quirk that distinguishes from the rest of the pack. The project as a whole has grown on me in these last few months (who can resist those squeaky and shimmering synths?), but I'm still attached at the hip to tracks like "Nightlight", "Shuffle A Dream", and the sweet surrender of "Seconds"---really great moments of sound.

Beverley Knight Waves Her Union Jack
While the US celebrated Independence Day, Beverley Knight dropped her love letter to her native country's soul roots in the guise of Soul UK. Ms. Knight had a lot of ground to cover, but she settles on covering tracks from the foundation builders of the modern set such as Soul II Soul, Junior, Jaki Graham, Princess, Freeez, Lewis Taylor, and George Michael. The choices makes for an eclectic and thoughtful project that kicks off with the savvy "Fairplay" and my favorite, "Southern Freeez". A misfire (Heatwave's "Always and Forever" seems a less imaginative cover amid such variance) and a sagging middle hampers the project a tad making it not as robust as Knight's ode to Americana Soul 2007's Music City Soul. What Soul UK does accomplish is that it plays up what is so delicious about the soul movement on other shores and gives way for those who haven't delved past their soul backyards to discover something new.

Luxrious Mixtape #23
The Queen of Mixtapes is back with another freebie collective of sounds that keeps the respirator on R&B music. Upon first impressions, I think Luxurious Undergrind, Teedra Moses' 1,467th mixtape, is probably her best one yet. 'Luxurious' isn't in the title for funsies as the album is coated in with the R&B grooves and smooth pillow talk that seems to be missing from the game nowadays. True R&B heads will gobble this morsel up, and be begging for some red wine in order to properly enjoy it---yes, the mixtape is sexy again. Moses recently dished about the mixtape plus upcoming projects, you know, just to keep us on our toes so we don't count her out of the game just yet. [Download - Luxurious Undergrind]

Nneka Gets 'Heavy'
Nneka wowed me last year with Concrete Jungle, an album fashioned to be an introduction piece for US shores and a re-introduction to those who have already been aware of her talents. I'm pleased to hear that Nneka is not re-releasing material this time out, but is giving us some new stuff as single, "Soul Is Heavy" got a surprise drop this summer. If you enjoyed Concrete Jungle like I, "Soul Is Heavy" has Nneka continuing on her political driven Reggae-Rock vibe, now even brassier than ever. At blog post time, no word on when Heavy Soul, the album, will be in your possession, but I can tell just from viewing the above video that she's pulling out the big guns for this pending project.

The Weird Timez of Theophilus London 
We're in the day where mixtapes and EP's outshine albums, so when an artist who has succeeded strictly through mixtapes makes the leap to a full album format---things tend to get a wee bit lost in translation. Whatever you want to call Theophilus London's style, the Trinidad-born-Brooklyn-raised artist presents a better package of styles and vibes that can be heard on top 40 radio. His samples are impeccable and towards my old school tastes a la Kanye West. In all these good attributes, Timez Are Weird These Days, London's official debut, reminds me of when I heard Cee-Lo's The Lady Killer after his Stray Bullets mixtape project. Just somewhat underwhelmed. Here the sum of it's parts doesn't add up to the whole package. London released earlier this year the Lover's Holiday EP and last year the ambitious, I Want You mixtape, and they were excellent reflectors of his talent. So instead of getting some of the same gusto on Timez, things seem a bit lazy. Including tracks from Lover's was smart (like my favorite "Why Even Try") but some of the remaining tracks pale in comparison to those corkers. One good thing to come away with upon listening: this won't be the last we'll hear about Mr. London---trust.

Joss Stone's 6 Day LP
Sometimes it's a bit quirky and daring to do an album in a short span of time and other times it can be a complete disaster area. I don't think many were waiting with bated breath for Joss Stone to release a new album this year due to the lukewarm reception her last album, 2009's Colour Me Free! received (which is actually one of the best albums she's done, in my humble opinion). There are also those going, Joss Stone who? I often feel Joss could be better than what she is (sometimes her material can sound monotonous) but when she's good, she's right up there with Winehouse and Adele, a credit she doesn't often get even though she came out relatively earlier than the those two. LP1, Joss' now 5th set, is raw in its delivery, with production done by Euryhtmics' Dave Stewart (who is also Joss' bandmate in the newley formed super group, SuperHeavy with Mick Jagger and Damien Marley). To be honest, it isn't 2011's most exciting album, but it is her Bluesiest one yet where she's really channeling some by-gone early 70's Southern Soul sound this side of Mavis Staples and Ann Peebles. Hear "Don't Stop Lying To Me Now" and "Drive All Night", my personal favorites if you're not yet swayed.

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