Tag Archives: album review

DELTRON 3030: Deltron Event II (2012) Album review

Rating: ★★★★★ Ignore everything I’ve ever said about releases taking a long time to come out. No one has ever taken the piss to this extent before. Mind you everything about Deltron 3030’s Deltron Event 2 screams ‘epic.’ There are the main participants (West Coast underground rap legend Del The Funky Homosapien, production legend Dan The Automator and turntablist legend Kid

VERNON GARRETT: The Story Of Vernon Garrett (2012)

Rating: ★★★★★
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said that Tramp Records’ Tobias Kirmayer has done it again – but he has done it again. The Story Of Vernon Garrett is yet another quality retrospective look at the career of a funky soul legend who failed to get the recognition he deserved back in the day. And

SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS: I Learned The Hard Way – 2010 – Album review

Rating: ★★★★☆

Over the best part of the last decade the combination of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings has been massively influential in underground funk circles. In fact they are probably the most widely respected act on the scene – with good reason, indeed, if creating the sound of soul/ funk authenticity were a competition, this lot would effortlessly wipe the floor with every rival, every single time. No doubt this is partly to do with their use of eight-track analogue recording using an Ampex tape machine but also a consequence of Jones’ voice and the musicianship of the Dap Kings themselves. But then again, it’s not a competition and so we have to address the fact that like it’s predecessor this LP lacks a big dancefloor banger of the kind that their rivals have been providing. This isn’t to say there aren’t big tunes on here – for example both Money (which finds Jones pondering her inability to hang on to any bucks in her best soulful growl and is the closest thing to a dancefloor single on here) and I’ll Still Be True offer big brassy, funky soul but the horns and vox take priority over the breaks even on these.
Elsewhere Better Things To Do offers a sweetly mellow groove though the emphasis is on the chill rather than the ill. Talking of sweetly mellow grooves – the summery soul vibe on The Reason sees the Dap Kings taking a front seat for once with this instrumental at the halfway point. Without A Heart brings the northern soul (and why not – every other deep funk band has been there recently) while Mama Don’t Like My Man plunders an early Motown vibe. The remainder is much the same – more of the soul – less of the funk – lots of lamenting about blokes who ‘window shop’ (Window Shopping), ‘learning the hard way’ about blokes (I Learned The Hard Way) – and stressing about whether a bloke is going to call or not – If You Call. But then again – why not? They’re all traditional and perfectly serviceable soul-themes.
Musically this has far more in common with last LP 100 Days, 100 Nights than the blazing funk of first LP or even the excellent well-balanced variety of second LP Naturally which I still maintain is their finest hour and ought to have been the one that broke them into mainstream consciousness. Since even the Guardian name checks them these days I think it’s safe to assume that mainstream recognition has now been achieved and frankly no-one deserves it more. It does occur to me though that an end to all that ‘struggling musician’ lifestyle might leave Jones short of lyrical material – although thinking about it – her love life does sound pretty catastrophic, so maybe not. Anyway – enough about that – as long as you remember that this (like its immediate predecessor) is one for late-night driving, and post-dinner drinks rather than late-night drinking and post-pub kicks, you’ll be into it. Nice to see them offering a mp3 download code with the LP too…
(Out now on Daptone Records)

Listen to Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way


Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Myspace

EYEDEA & ABILITIES: By The Throat – 2009 – Album review

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

It says here that these two are, ‘a duo thoroughly steeped in hip-hop accolades’ – which is ironic really because they sound like a duo thoroughly steeped in shit American rock. It turns out it’s been five years since Eyedea & Abilities last troubled people’s ears – personally, I could have handled a full decade. Ironically (again) a full ten years would almost bring us to the inevitable nu-metal revival which should be due somewhere around 2017. Not that that would have made any difference. I’d still have given this both barrels. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have anything against rock, American or otherwise. If it’s good. But when is ‘Nu’-metal good? And this owes nothing if not a massive debt to nu-metal. Honestly – of all the conceptual creditors you could have. And let’s face it – the place where rock-rap crosses over is full of ugly train-wrecks – Fred Durst trying to rap, Korn (in general) and Linkin Park. Then, if you’re travelling from the other direction there’s Mos Def’s Black Jack Johnson project and now By The Throat. Ok, this might not be quite as heavy as your average nu-metal LP but the guitars on Junk or Factory would certainly give lightweights like Incubus a run for their money. Then again, place this next to your average hip-hop LP and you’ll have trouble finding any common ground. Time Flies When You Have A Gun is the closest thing to hip-hop on here and it’s kind of like Aesop Rock after a pint of Red Bull – heavy, fuzzy, staccato beats and one eye on the rock audience. Alright, Abilities has been more inventive with the beats – and it’s true that the aforementioned Junk employs a drum n bass rhythm – but then I seem to remember Slipknot doing that some time ago.

If you’ve heard previous LPs you’ll know that Eyedea’s rapping is both unusual and that he has a phenomenal turn of speed when he wants. But why bother with what you’re good at when you can deliver the whiny vocals of some third rate copy of a Linkin Park covers band? And did I mention the lyrics. Almost as if trying to pre-empt critical response to By The Throat Eyedea presciently opens Hayfever with the words “I’m not shit,” a statement which, as a defence, has all the effectiveness of wiping your arse with a rizla. And (much as you wish he wouldn’t) he continues, “ I’m champagne, let’s all go home kill ourselves and our radios.” I’ve got an issue with the first part of that. Upon hearing it on this first track I felt sure this was some kind of post-modern ironic joke and we’d be back to hip-hop directly – albeit quirky Eyedea & Abilities style hip-hop. How wrong I was. They were still banging on in this vein some thirty minutes later in the final title track – fuzzy beats, fuzzy-feedback-fuelled guitars and dogged belief that sixth-form lyrics are the best way forward, “No anchor to the past. Cut the blood supply and hope the heart beats itself to death.” Indeed. On the plus side, the album is only half an hour long, though be prepared for it to seem much, much longer.
I will put in a good word for Spin Cycle because it’s the LP’s one saving grace with a strong melody and I would have liked it when I was fifteen. Coincidentally it is to fifteen year olds that I suspect this will largely appeal.
Five years is a long fucking time. On the evidence of this Eyedea and Abilities spent the time listening trying to make themselves sound like a cross between Incubus and Limp Bizkit with a dash of early Def Jux. Some might argue they could have occupied their time more wisely.
(Out on Rhymesayers, 12 October)

Eyedea & Abilities – Myspace

BROTHER ALI: Us – 2009 – Album review

Rating: ★★★★★

With the follow up to 2007’s Undisputed Truth, Ali is back delivering Rhymesayers’ most convincing drop in ages and, it has to be said, one of hip-hop’s. Jay Z recently pointed out that hip-hop is going through a period like rock went through in the mid-eighties when the hair ‘metal’ bands ran wild and real rock was flatlining, the implication being that a breath of fresh air is due. Then there’s Ali himself who, a while back, pointed out that there’s currently little originality in music and everyone is desperate for something different and good. Similar arguments then, a key difference being that Jay Z’s just released the hip-hop equivalent of a Whitesnake album while in the same analogy Ali might be seen as having more of a Pixies type role.
Featuring slightly fewer guest appearances than Jay-Z’s saggy offering, this LP nevertheless opens with one – none other than Chuck D, preaching about the state of the nation over a gospel chant and setting the general tone – characterising Ali as nothing less than a, “soldier in the war for love,..[who]…carries with him a message of hope and peace.” You’ve got to love a bit of dramatic licence, especially when the fiery soul horns of The Preacher and the beat kick in hard, with Ali claiming he’s, “…all off the chart.” But you know what? He ain’t lying. He spends large swathes of this album wading fearlessly through the moral slurry of American society, verbally sifting his unpleasant findings in that distinctive voice with the slightly manic waver.
You got issues? They’re probably dealt with on here, whether it be drug-dealing (House Keys), a pull-no-punches examination of slavery (The Travellers), child abuse (Babygirl), single-parent families (Bad MuFucker Pt II) or anything else he might have have missed out on Tight Rope. Then again you might find him indulging in some (not undeserved) hip-hop self-aggrandisement (The Preacher, Fresh Air, ‘Round Here, Best @it). Indeed, on ‘Round Here he appears to be indulging in some self-aggrandisement about how humble he is – “Fact about it, I’m a force of nature/ Leader of men, boss of my organisation/ I ain’t into being ostentatious”. No mean feat, I think you’ll agree. Oh yeah – and there’s a hip-hop love song – You Say (Puppy Love). Which is actually good.

Of course, while this might be travelling under Ali’s name, you can’t not recognise the massive contribution of beatmaker Ant. I don’t generally find myself in whole-hearted agreement with press release exaggeration but, on the one for Us, Ali and Ant were described as, “staying true to their soul and blues influence,” and the music as having a, “lush and dense sonic quality,” a description with which, on this rare occasion, it’s hard to disagree. The horns of Preacher already got a mention, Fresh Air adds some squelchy funk, and Breakin Dawn’s got that whole chain-gang breakin rocks at the roadside going on and Round Here’s fuzzed up bounce is as relevant as anything from the mainstream hip-hop camp – just classier. Then there’s the sad xylophones of The Travellers or the fifties Hollywood orchestral strings on You Say Puppy Love. Plus the beats are all diamond cutters.
In a nutshell, it’s musically the don, lyrically a blue-collar bomb, and arguably number one as far as hip-hop LPs go this year. So far anyway…hey – how’s that? A whole review and I didn’t even mention that Ali was albino or Muslim…
(Out 21 September on Rhymesayers)


Brother Ali – Myspace