October 17, 2001

 

On Point and Red- Readymade
endearing, 2001

I came home from my dead-end job, and right away I put On Point and Red into my player and hit repeat.

Suddenly time has no meaning and I’m transported to a place where two worlds simultaneously exist. I drift down dark cobblestone streets where my footsteps are lit only by the oil lamps on the street corners. Then I enter a concrete maze of graffiti-laced alleyways that lurk in the shadows. Somehow both worlds are comfortable and familiar – there is no fear. Waves and layers of sound engulf and crash all around me, welcoming me into their embrace. I feel heartbreakingly fantastic.

Hours passed by that I couldn’t account for. After awhile, I seemed to wake, and I kept that small smile on my face, the remnants of a beautiful dream and broken threads of thought, until the next time I need a Readymade fix to pick me up. Suddenly the world doesn’t seem so bleak after all.

Boys – listen up. If you want to seriously get anywhere with that cute girl (who may or may not write music reviews at the *-), take her out, end the evening back at your place and put this disc on. Even better, just keep a copy of it in your bag.

She will be putty in your hands.

– Kristin Maxom

Back in the Day- Courtney Pine
Universal/ Blue Thumb Records, 2001

Universal’s Blue Thumb Records is fast becoming one of my favorite jazz imprints (and it’s a subsidiary of Verve, that mega jazz label). Earlier this year they released Metalwood’s major label debut and now I’ve discovered this little treasure from last year’s crop of releases.

London, England’s Courtney Pine is an accomplished and dynamic saxophonist who in his early days (the ‘80s) seemed like the heir to Coltrane’s lyrical, playful style of the ‘60s. Since the early days though, he has dipped his sax in many musical waters, like funk, reggae and hip-hop. This may have lost him some purist fans, but it has provided for an interesting back catalogue.

Back in the Day, despite the title, is not a throwback album; but rather a look at current and future streams of jazz music. In an inversion of the norm, jazz pays tribute to the contributions of hip-hop and shows how creatively genres can blend. Turntables, guest vocalists and emcees are featured throughout the album; a development I’m glad to see becoming more common – as long it is done as well as it is on Back in the Day.

Pine’s chops are refined enough to glide smoothly over scratch backing or take on the turntable in a battle of staccato bursts. Most of the tracks on the album are originals, and the few from "back in the day" are expertly chosen to compliment the new. (Examples include Curtis Mayfield’s "Hardtimes" and Gil Scott-Heron’s "Lady Day and (John Coltrane).")

One of the new cuts, "Inner State (of Mind)" links Pine to Coltrane in yet another way – it’s a marvelous interpretation of Gershwin’s "Summertime" that stands the tune on its head much the way Coltrane did with "My Favorite Things."

Forget back in the day, this album is today and tomorrow.

–Michael Elves

The Almighty Dallah Bill- Dallah Bill
Last Tango Productions, 2001

The new album from Edmonton’s own Dallah bill is the equivalent to that late ‘80s hero Gerardo (and his hit song "Rico Suave") or the style of Vanilla Ice.

Lyrics like "E-town E-town yah! Funky funky fun-kay!" are just some of slick ryhmes you can expect on The Almighty Dallah Bill. But it gets much worse, as he develops the theme of guns, drugs, sex and, of course, ca$h – a theme that is repeated throughout the entire album.

You might think that these elements would be the perfect formula for some bad-ass hip-hop album, but while others may be able to pull something like that off, in Dallah Bill’s case it just isn’t possible.

Dallah Bill’s sound is loaded with crappy, old-school Casio synthesizer sounding keyboarding (think back to the keyboard you wanted so badly in elementary school) and laden with cheap drum beats. Old school can sometimes sound cool, if it’s done properly, but I think that he couldn’t afford anything more sophisticated. In other words, this album is cheap.

Everyone needs to start somewhere, and to that end I value his effort. So if you really like cheap production, crappy pointless rhymes and something to crank up in your tricked out K car, this album is for you.

One end note: I don’t actually know how rough Edmonton is, but I think there is probably more to experience in "E-town" than "rollin’ wit ma hommies and clubin,’" This is one Dallah Bill with no sense.

– Chris Roznowsky

In the Mode- Roni Size/ Reprazent
Mercury Records , 2000

In the 311 song, "Come Original," from the band’s 1999 release, Soundsystem, frontman Nick Hexum sings "Roni Size coming full range." He called it perfectly. Roni Size/Reprazent’s latest release, In the Mode, comes full range in originality and just flat-out kicks some funky beats.

In the genre of electronica music, one may very easily find repetitiveness. But if you come across a fresh electronica sound, filled with beats you never thought could exist, it’s like breaking up with your boring girlfriend for a beautiful girl – one who actually likes you.

Roni Size/Reprazent make their music original by mixing so many flavors of cultured music. Styles such as soul, hip-hop and reggae find their ways into this mix of electronic noises and beats. Highlights include guest tracks with Method Man on "Ghetto Celebrity," and former Rage Against The Machine centrepiece Zack de la Rocha on "Centre of the Storm." The latter results in a strange, yet amazing, relationship between de la Rocha’s phat lyrics and Size/Reprazent’s amazing rhythms.

In the Mode showcases the best aspects of so many forms of music by putting an electronic spin on them, making it a most-refreshing breath of sound in a time when music seems to be on life support.

– Liam Phillips

Earl Scruggs and Friends- Various
MCA Nashville , 2001

I’m not too knowledgeable on country music – but, even with my limited knowledge, I have heard of Earl Scruggs and his devilish banjo playing.

On this latest outing, he teams up with some of country’s biggest talents, but in this case it’s not saying much. His border doesn’t stop there, because he also does songs with Elton John and Sting, which isn’t saying much either.

I tried approaching this album with an open mind, but it quickly shut after a disgusting version of "Ring of Fire" – featuring none other than Mr. Angelina Jolie: Billy Bob Thornton.

I actually found the remake duet of "Fill Her Up" better than the orginal, despite the fact that I am a fan of Sting, who did the original. However, "Brand New Day" was not very good.

On a brighter note, there were some surprisingly good tunes, which opened the door a little wider into the world that is Country/Bluegrass. "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," "True Love Never Dies" and "Foggy Mountain Rock" are all examples of rawking tunes that this album has to offer. The energy and talent captured in the latter made even me want to start dancing.

The duet between Johnny Cash and Don Henley is a good, modern country tune. Another bright side of the album, is Earl Scruggs amazing talent playing such a "sick" banjo. (Reviewer’s note: I apologize. I first heard the term "sick" when someone described DMX. At first I was confused because I thought maybe DMX was ill, but then I was informed that DMX being sick was actually a description of the DMX style and it was a good thing, but I digress.)

Though a true country fan can probably appreciate this album more than I can, the reality remains that four good songs out of 12 just isn’t worth it.

— Ruslan Tracz

 

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