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Murphy's Law

L.A.-based Murphy holds down the Left Coast regional office of Mixtape Riot--his living room--where he writes & schemes on grand ideas. He also hosts BOOGALOO! a weekly residency at The Short Stop in Echo Park with colleague and fellow superblogger O-Dub (www.soul-sides.com).


I’m Always Worried ‘Bout The Wrong Thing…

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Kanye West feat. Mr. Hudson: Paranoid
Taken from the album 808s and Heartbreak on GOOD (2008)

Mr Hudson & The Library: Too Late Too Late and Bread & Roses and Ask The DJ and 2×2
Taken from the album Tale Of Two Cities soon-to-be-released on GOOD

I’ve finally accepted things as they are. It’s taken me four albums and nearly five years, but I get it now. Kanye West understands music better than we do.

How else can you explain the fact that every time he drops an album, he sends the whole of the critical world into an existential crisis about “where rap music is” (or drop the “rap” and let’s talk about music wholesale); they lambast his cheeky sound, his would-be populist approach, the hubris that he seems to wear just barely under the surface of his Prada. He’s out of touch. He’s out of his mind. “Kanye’s finally gone too far,” they say. “This time, he missed.”

And then a funny thing happens: two weeks, two months, two years later we’re still bumping those very same songs deemed duds by those in the know. Somehow the music doesn’t stagnate. Tracks off College Dropout still fill headphones from Tokyo to Toronto. A witty line dropped on Late Registration is still being quoted years after the fact. And perhaps most tellingly of all–the true test of what the masses crave at their most unguarded–DJ’s can still invariably pack a dancefloor with at least half a dozen cuts off of any single one of his albums. WHO ELSE DOES THAT?

Now. All that said, one of the things I’ve always appreciated in particular about Mr. West is that he not only challenges us, but that he challenges himself. How? By nurturing and keeping company with tremendous musical talent. Dude gets the best guest spots in the game–collabos that look like pure gimmick on paper but down the road leave folks scratching their heads for the pure genius of it.

At the level of a Kanye West, I reckon it’s not terribly hard to get Jay-Z in the studio to record a verse. Or Madonna. Or Justin Timberlake. The list goes on. (Hell, I think Timbaland actually created a List). And Yeezy could do it, I’m sure. And he’d still sell a grip of records. Every song an all-star affair with the kind of big name artillery that would make Quincy Jones shudder.

But Kanye, for all the critical bellyaching he has engendered by not sticking to a “gameplan”, understands something that other superstars these days just don’t seem to get: it’s not the shine of the name, it’s the scope of their talent; it’s not about label politics, but the real, intangible chemistry between artists that makes for innovative collaboration. Sure he’ll put Lil’ Wayne on a track (he’s gotta be on every album somewhere, as a rule), but he’ll also introduce you to Lupe. He’ll tap T-Pain (see Lil’ Wayne), but also remind you that Dwele is a serious songwriting force.

Kanye West’s music is as much the showcase of an expert recruiter as it is the singular vision of music maven. His work surprises us because he knows how to assemble a team around him whose composite parts–incredibly diverse and rich in talent–measure up to a greater whole than Kanye West.

And talent is the key. He gets the best in the Hip Hop game (the list is long), the best in Dance music (Daft Punk), in Alternative Rock (Coldplay) or, as in his latest effort, pure, unadulterated Pop…

And this, friends, is where Mr. Hudson comes in. I actually stumbled upon this album while living in South Africa last year, where I was starved for music and only had sporadic access to new albums. This was one such disc that really floated my proverbial boat. An unadorned gem; a highly likeable record; a rarity these days.

The London/Birmingham based quintet, Mr Hudson and The Library dropped Tale of Two Cities in March of last year and made some noise in the UK but never really arrived stateside. Maybe it’s because the music speaks rather simply for itself, or the band didn’t have the flash of something revolutionary(!) in their sound. But of course, that’s all set to change…

After co-starring with Kanye on what is in my opinion the absolute standout sleeper track on an album full of standout sleeper tracks and producing or contributing to a handful of others (“Street Lights”, “Robocop” and “Say You Will”), the group has now signed to Kanye’s GOOD Music and, critics be damned, will likely forge on with General Kanye West leading the charge toward the future of pop music.

“Tale of Two Cities” is a start to finish winner. I had trouble even whittling the selections down to just four or five… but I think you begin to get the idea. Brit-guitar-pop with equal parts catch and class, laid over a hip-hop backbone. Dig deeper and you’ll be treated to grimey-remixes and even a few club-friendly dancers.

This is good music. But, of course, Kanye West already knew that.


A Day of Downloading…

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Mr. Scruff: Music Takes Me Up
Taken from the album Ninja Tuna on Ninja Tune (2008)

Allen Toussaint: Worldwide and Last Train
Taken from the album Southern Nights on Reprise (1975)

Rodriguez: Only Good For Conversation and Sugar Man
Taken from the album Cold Fact on Sussex (1970) and re-issued on Light In the Attic (2008)

Barbara Mason: Another Man and Jake & Jody: She Freaks
Taken from the album Uptown Soul, Downtown Funk on Perpetual (2007)

BONUS: M.I.A.: Paper Poppa (Murphy’s Mix)
Courtesy of Yours Truly

Spent the day yesterday geeking around on the worldwide web. These were some of the fruits of my labors.

Quickly (because I’m running out the door):

Mr. Scruff rules. Alice Russell rules. This song rules.

Allen Toussaint hopefully needs little introduction. (Have you ever heard of Funk Music?) But these later efforts of his call to mind more Steely Dan than the Meters. And I’ll be damned it don’t make my heart flutter. (Also, a little FYI: Jean Grae sampled “Worldwide” pretty nicely on her first album. Just so you know.)

–Kinda sounds like Donavan? Kind sounds like Dylan? But who’s that at the mixing boards? Dennis F’ing Coffey. This record is awesome. Get it.

–Amazing Mod-Soul comp that also boasts perhaps my favorite tune of this genre/era, Hipnotic’s “Are You Lonely?”. I didn’t post it because I figured y’all should prolly buy the whole darn thing. Worth the bucks if you enjoy music/dancing/sex. (Another FYI–this one a bit more obvious: Sean Puffy P. Diddy Puff Daddy Combs say “thank you” to Barbara Mason.)

–Lastly. I know everybody’s tired of it already, but a friend of mine asked me to give the most played out song of the year a latenight re-work for a piece she’s choreographing. This is what happened….

And now look what happened: I’m LATE!


Reagan Babies Be Proud!

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Talking Heads: Crosseyed And Painless and Born Under Punches
Taken from the album Remain In Light on Sire (1980)

And: I’m Not In Love
Taken from the album More Songs About Buildings And Food on Sire (1978)

And… Girlfriend Is Better
Taken from the album Speaking In Tongues on Sire (1983)

As a man who was born into the ignominious era of Reaganomics and Alf (among other things), it is easy sometimes to forget that I was also birthed into a exciting transitional period in American music. That as punk and disco were crashing and by most accounts burning; that while much of radio-played pop music bordered on the unlistenable (don’t tell the revivalists–they might get upset); and even as many of the tried and true bastions of musical purity (see soul, see jazz) seemed to be pushing through uncomfortable growing pains… a unique climate was beginning to blossom. One that would allow the ushering in of some genuinely outsider music. The kind of explosive, subversive, bizarre and utterly enjoyable pop that probably would not have flown at all if the pervasive landscape had not been so barren.

I’m not going to embark on a whole hoo-rah New Wave rant here. Partly because, truth be told, I’m not a particularly ardent fan of the New Wave writ large… (Certain exceptions exist obviously; Blondie comes to mind.) I did however grow up listening to the Talking Heads (my dad was a fan and had a “Best Of” or two laying around) and though I largely took them for granted in my youth, I’ve been recently re-inspired by the how-shall-we-say “unique” vision that David Byrne & Co. realized with their music. Let’s put it this way: I just saw Stop Making Sense for my first time and, um, it was incredible.

(If you haven’t seen it, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Witness art. Byrne and director Jonathan Demme did it so proper they even got Pablo Ferro [Dr. Strangelove, anyone? Look him up.] to do the opening/closing credit font; I swear that’s only damn font I’ve ever seen that makes me want to weep for its beauty…)

But I digress… So I went online and downloaded every Talking Heads album from ’77 right on through and have since been slowly wading through this very impressive body of work, unearthing plenty of gems that were completely new to me and re-embracing a few of the ones that I had forgotten about…

The songs here are ones that stuck out as particularly innovative or amazing or, as in all of their cases, struck me as highly danceable. But again, these are just a small taste of a prolific and incredibly diverse body of work.

“Girlfriend” is the only one of them that I really remembered from childhood and still occasionally drop in DJ sets. The others were all pretty new to me. And boy oh boy. What treats. Listen to Brian Eno getting CRAZY afro-beaty on “Crosseyed”… And how ’bout the BLISTERING dance-punk of “I’m Not In Love”? LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture? Recycled goods.

Art of real character and depth should be discovered and re-discovered. Music this good might just require your own personal journey into the known and the unknown.


Psyching Myself Up.

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The Bee Gees: Holiday
Taken from the LP Bee Gee’s 1st on Atco (1968)

Count Five: She’s Fine
Taken from the LP Psychotic Reaction on Double Shot (1968)

The Zombies: Leave Me Be
Taken from the 7″ on Decca (1964)

Arthur Brown: I Put A Spell On You
Taken from the LP Crazy World Of Arthur Brown on Atlantic (1968)


The Id: Short Circuit and Butterfly Kiss
Taken from the LP The Inner Sound Of The Id on World In Sound (1967)

I was shocked when I realized recently–somewhere in between my not writing entries for this blog and wishing that I was writing entries for this blog–that for several weeks now, I have possessed exactly zero desire to listen to music. Sure, I would muster the goods for my weekly DJ throwdown, and occasionally I’d put something on, albeit noncommitally, while I made my breakfast or cleaned my house… but the sad, simple truth is that I just wasn’t feeling it.

Continue reading…


Snipping Simply

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Bill Withers: No Hands, Gramma (Re-edit by Shoes)
Taken from the whitelabel 12″ (2008)

Barbara Acklin: I Can’t Be Myself (Floorman Re-Edit)
Mp3 taken from here

Chic: I Want Your Love (Re-edit by Todd Terje)
Taken from a mix cd that a friend gave me… (a few weeks ago)

James Brown: Sayin’ It And Doin’ It (Sugarloaf Gangsters Mix)
Taken from the album Doin’ James on Gamm (2008)

Chaka Khan: Every Little Thing (Barna Soundmachine Edit)
Taken from the whitelabel 12″ (2005)

Ralfi Pagan: Didn’t Want To Have To Do It (4 Hero Remix)
Taken from the album I Like It Like That: Fania Remixed on Fania (2008)

“Simplify, simplify.” –Henry David Thoreau

I’ve always liked that quote. And let it be known, friends, that as sure as it applies to the great quandries of existentialism, so too with… a proper re-edit.

The beauty of a good re-hashing of somebody else’s (hopefully) already realized work is the subtle accentuation of elements already present to form a just-barely-ever-so-slightly-more groovy groove. A more slinky slink. A more rifftastic riff. Likely, but not necessarily limited to the intention of moving a dancefloor more provocatively.

But pay heed re-editors and re-mixers, because often the song itself doesn’t need too much work… Your job is to find those few subtle elements and re-establish them as the cornerstones of the whole shebang. All you’re looking for is one narrow window–a guitar line, a bass burble, a drum break–and suddenly a 3 minute song becomes 6, a piano spurt becomes a great anticipatory soliloquy… and a dancefloor becomes a temple to your work.

The tracks: These are some of my current favorites in the re-edit department. Some for their obvious potency on a dancefloor (Chaka Khan, James Brown) others for their truly fine interpretations of the originals (Bill Withers, Ralfi Pagan). I do feel a need to emphasize just HOW amazing “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It” is… This song for me has been a frickin’ revelation. As a long time fan of Mr. Pagan (and 4 Hero, for that matter), this little number absolutely guts me, leaving me panting, sweating and begging for more.

The rest I’ll let speak for themselves.


ALSO. Tonight is BOOGALOO! @ The Short Stop in Echo Park (1455 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles,90004)

For those of you who haven’t made it out yet… QUIT SLEEPIN’!!! Thursdays are your weekly chance to get up on joints like these while getting down on the dancefloor. Holler.


Desperate Times Call For Desperate Pleasures

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Johnny Johnson: Love Is Blue
Taken from the album Soul Survivor on Bell (1970)

Third Guitar: Lovin’ Lies
Taken from the 7″ on Rojac (19??)

The Parliaments: Your Goodies Are Gone
Taken from the 7″ on Revilot (1967)

Eddie Holman: Four Walls
Taken from the album I Love You on ABC (1969)

O, wracked wail of heartache. O, plaintive moan of sorrow. How the heart strains!

The selections today are born of the kind anguish that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The kind where the knees buckle and the heart cramps. The kind that can reduce a grown man to pathetic teary desperation. The kind of abject grief that can drive a guy to the loony bin… or, if fortune prevails, to the recording booth.

We got lucky with the latter.

Leading off with the Johnny Johnson track: um, I mean, WOW. How about this joint. Forget about the folk guitar that gives way to the meanest orchestral onslaught since Beethoven’s Fifth. Forget about the Ghostface sample. Forget that this track has been recorded by a bunch of heads. THIS IS THE VERSION. Listen to ol’ boy holding that note in the last bar of the song. That, my friends, is suffering.

Third Guitar are best known for making a highly noteworthy appearance on Shadow & Chemist’s Brainfreeze, but listen to these cats digging deep on “Lovin’ Lies”. When was the last time heard such ballistic hand drums, breaks and heavy emoting crammed into a track that clocks in at under two minutes?

Then there’s George Clinton in his pre-Funkadelic days cranking out a hard-hitting soul number with the Parliaments (drop the “s”, add acid, and you’ve got one loked out 70 year old with technicolor dreadlocks). A recent flea market find that I can’t seem to get enough of.

And lastly, a repeat of one of the first posts put up on this blog. A song that I have ADORED since the moment it entered my life and will likely continue to adore until the day I die. What a shame that Eddie Holman will only ever be remembered for “Hey, There Lonely Girl” because, as far as I’m concerned this is as good as it gets. Wail on, brother man. Wail on.