Archive for the 'Reggae/Dub/Dancehall' Category

01
Dec
11

Last.fm

In the digital age we live in music has excelled, not beyond anything we thought it might become, but in how it’s delivered to us. The past 20 years saw the decline of the cassette tape, compact disc, and physical formatting is now all but dead.

So as physical media phases out we turn to more convenient ways of obtaining music (not always done legally now is it?) from services such as Morpheus, Kazaa, Limewire, and most famously: Napster.

So we learned that the RIAA severely dislikes not making money on album sales… so we downloaded even more, torrenting sites becoming more and more popular, The Pirate Bay, for example.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my education I’ve found out that artists usually sign a contract and make most of their money up front. A label will give you, say, $2 million, to buy equipment, record, produce, create music videos, and finish an album. How much of that gets spent on production is usually at the band and manager’s discretion. They are then, most of the time, offered some ridiculously low royalty percentage that means even less after you divide it up between band members and management.

So artists generally don’t make that much off of album sales, but usually off of touring. Ever notice that’s why Bruce Springsteen doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about putting out new albums but will sell out stadiums on a yearly basis? Or that U2’s music has been in steep decline since the late 80s but still manage to have gigantic concerts where they rake in obscene amounts of fans a.k.a. money? (And they don’t even pay taxes to the Irish government!)

Before my tenure at Hi-Fi started I was dealt several cease and desist letters for uploading music just to my former blog’s domain just for personal use. Talk about touchy by the record companies!

So where’m I going with all of this? Well, today’s digital music playground is found through music streaming services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, SHOUTcast, Pandora and the least famous… Napster.

I’ve tried using all of those, and iTunes, while on my home computer is fine, because I have my library there too, is not viable on the road. With the rest of these you can build and tag artists/genres you like, but c’mon, that’s a huge hassle for us to list all the bands we like and may have an itch to hear.

Last.fm takes care of that. They have a nifty piece of scrobbling software that will record what songs/artists you play the most, it even makes charts! But by far the best thing is, is that you can take your library with you wherever you go. For free. They offer your library streamed to you, they also offer your library with suggestions for similar artists. Which keeps the likes of Maroon 5 the hell out of my easy listening playlist and doesn’t turn me into a fit of rage.

So, if you’re going places, constantly on the move and let’s say maybe you’re trying to preserve some hard drive space, Last.fm is the way to go, take your own music with you and still gives you a taste of similar artists or you can just play a channel as you would on those other streaming sites.

It gives you everything… and what’s yours.

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11
May
11

Bob Marley – 30 years gone today

Hard to believe, but 30 years ago today Bob Marley past away at the early age of 36! 

His passing was a tragic blow to music worldwide and his contributions are immeasurable in so many ways.  Granted there are many pioneers in the Reggae genre that are often overlooked, Marley seemed to be the most diverse, celebrated, and remembered of his generation. 

Bob Marley was introduced to me in my senior year of high school during art class; our teacher would allow us to put on our choice of music during our projects.  A classmate of mine (who now goes by the web name Ze Frank ) played Marley’s greatest hits album “Legend” over and over again, nearly every class.  An interesting thing about Marley is that no matter how much you play his music “ad nauseum ” rarely do I find myself urged to change the channel or turn it off; his music just has a consistent freshness and beat that remains truly timeless. 

My all time favorite studio albums are Catch a Fire (1973), Rastaman Vibration (1976).  As for live albums, the one and only Babylon by Bus (1978) is just ridiculous and must have in anyone’s collection. 

If you are in the mood for a day of Reggae and some reflection on how influential this man was in the world of good music, click here for Bob Marley Radio (it will require RealPlayer).

Happy 4:20 everyone in memory of Mr. Marley.

17
Apr
10

Mountain Jam VI – 2010 Line Up

Ah yes, as the spring birds make their voices heard and the flowers begin to peek out from their long winters nap it’s time once again for the summer festival announcements and this year seems off to a very impressive  start. 

I am a self-admitted jam band fan since high school loving any project involving Warren Haynes and/or Dickey Betts; so I’m sure that the 6th Annual Mountain Jam Festival will be well worth the trip. 
This year’s line up is very impressive and also focuses around the 70th birthday of Levon Helm has been contributing the music scene.  Helm will be joined by a who’s-who of musicians ranging from Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Ray LaMontange (If don’t know who this guy is you need to, very talented!), Steve Earle, and many others.

On other stages or at other times during the festival the line up is equally as impressive and I’m pleasantly surprised at the assortment and variety of artists appearing.

Alison Krauss & Union Station
Les Claypool (Primus, Oysterhead)
Matisyahu
Dave Mason
Toots & The Maytals
The Drive-by Truckers
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Yonder Mountain String Band

These are just some of the bands performing that weekend, there are too many bands to list so check the line up link on the main page.  The Mountain Jam website has a nice free player that lets you listen to an assortment of the artists performing, so if you’re not familiar them initially you can get a better idea of what to expect.  The headling act is Warren Haynes’ Government Mule.  I saw Government Mule and Black Crowes about 10 years ago at The Orpheum Theater in Boston, personally I was not impressed but I would imagine that over 10 years they’ve developed their sound. 

Yes, the pricetag in this economy for the plain old one-day ticket is a costly $79.00; tough if you married with kids like me, but perhaps worth the cost for a full day of music and sunshine (if the weather cooperates, always a risk with outside festivals!).  If you are in the New York City area or from Upstate New York where HiFi Central is located, Hunter Mountain (where the Mountain Jam is held) is a very easy drive up or down I-87  and is nestled in among the sleepy Catskills Mountains. 
I am still hoping that one year a reunion of The Hatters (an Allman Brothers-esque band that faded away in the mid-90’s) might happen at Mountain Jam, but I’m not holding my breath.

If you would like more information about this fun summertime festival check it out by clicking here: Mountain Jam VI

16
Mar
10

Watcher of the TV: 2010 rock & roll Hall of Fame

Normally I eschew award ceremonies (other than the Oscars), but last night I found myself intrigued by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction proceedings, which aired on the Fuse Network (whatever the heck that is).  Being inducted were Genesis, the Stooges, the Hollies, Jimmy Cliff and ABBA, along with some songwriters and music mogul David Geffen.  My initial interest stemmed from one of my favorite bands, Phish, inducting Genesis, another of my all-time favorites (at least during the Peter Gabriel years and early post-Peter years).  The show opened with Phish playing the Genesis classic “Watcher of the Skies,” and it was flawless:

Genesis has had a unique career – with Gabriel, they were a theatrical progressive rock band, known as much for their long, complex compositions as they were for Gabriel’s on-stage costumes and performance art-like expressions.  Following his departure, the band found enormous commercial success with mainstream pop hits year after year, with drummer Phil Collins now captaining the ship.  Phish recognized that era of the band as well, playing “No Reply at All” after singer Trey Anastasio officially inducted the band and Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett gave short speeches.  I had heard that Gabriel would not be attending – the official excuse was that he is planning a European tour…but I think it’s safe to say that I’ll never see a complete Genesis reunion show, something that is on my musical “bucket list” (if there is such a thing).

The Stooges had a very profound influence on the punk movement – and they still have that punk attitude and raw power in their music.  Iggy Pop gyrated around the stage, shirtless, in his rubber-limbed style.  And then, quite poignantly, he headed into the crowd during “I Wanna Be Your Dog” – it was a very punk image, seeing Iggy bop around in front of older, stuffy tuxedoed folks who seemed a little uncomfortable but tried to keep smiling.

But the most amazing part of the show revolved around Jimmy Cliff, the Jamaican reggae star.  I was not familiar with much of his music, but I knew he was almost as important as Bob Marley in terms of his bringing reggae music and Jamaican culture to the rest of the world.  As they showed clips of his performances during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, I began to realize that his brand of reggae was fairly unique – there was a lot more soul and R&B infused into his music, almost like a cross between Motown and reggae.  Cliff’s stage presence was also very entertaining – part James Brown, part Elvis.  I was captivated.  After Wyclef Jean inducted him and Cliff gave a very humble, slow-paced speech, he took the stage…and blew me away.  The first song was “You Can Get it if You Really Want it,” a somewhat straight-forward, high-energy reggae song, but Cliff’s voice was great as he danced around the stage.  He followed that with a slower tune called “Many Rivers to Cross.”  His voice was so amazing, so soulful and passionate – he made Marvin Gaye sound like Tiny Tim. By the end, I’m not ashamed to admit, I was nearly moved to tears.  It really was that good.  Wyclef then joined him on stage for “The Harder They Come,” a fantastic upbeat number.  The crowd gave Cliff a huge ovation, deservedly so.  I immediately purchased “Jimmy Cliff: In Concert” online, and it’s terrific.  I’ve never been a big fan of reggae, but I’m now a huge Jimmy Cliff fan.

Finally, I’m pretty apathetic when it comes to ABBA, so I barely paid attention during their segment on the show (only two of the members attended).  But then keyboardist Benny Anderson went to the piano and Faith Hill sang “The Winner Takes it All”:

It was a fantastic performance – best ABBA ever, for me anyway.
And that’s what I thought of last night’s festivities.  Happy listening.

08
Jan
10

Dub Side of the Moon

As I think I’ve alluded to in previous comments, I’m not big on cover bands or tribute albums, unless the band takes the original material and makes it their own, as opposed to simply playing someone else’s song note for note off the sheet music.  I have recently found an album that does the former – “Dub Side of the Moon” by the Easy Star All-Stars, a reggae group based in New York City.  As the title suggests, this is a reggae/dub version of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album.

The Floyd is my favorite band of all time, and I am always skeptical when bands cover their songs.  And I’m not a huge fan of reggae – most of it is a little slow and repetitive for my taste.  But “Dark Side” is a pretty mellow album as it is, and so the songs work fantastically as reggae/dub versions – “Dub Side” is a truly enjoyable album.  The Easy Star All-Stars added a few of their own touches, like instead of the cash register sound effects at the beginning of “Money,” we hear a bong being lit, ripped, and then a man coughing.  Several of the songs also feature some additional lyrics during the instrumental portions.  But some amount of the original recording is also retained in the songs, so it’s almost like some songs are remixes rather than brand new recordings…but this only adds to the charisma of the record.  In all, it’s a loving tribute to a landmark album, redone in a way that keeps the charm of the original but presents it in a new light.

The Easy Star All-Stars have also released two other cover albums which I am eager to try out – Radiohead’s “OK Computer” (released as “Radiodread”) and the Beatle’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” (released as “Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band”).  I’ll let you know the result.

“Dub Side of the Moon” gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!

04
Dec
09

Long Beach Dub All Stars – Right Back (1999)

It would seem that whenever I choose to work out in the gym  (which is quite rare these days) I’m always challenged with the issue about what I will listen to; usually it is a decision between Tool, Pantera, or some metal mix that seems appropriate.  Yet last night I decided to go past the normal flavor and explore the other 400 albums on my iPod.  I had forgotten about a lost gem of an album by the now defunct Long Beach All Stars entitled Right Back released in 1999.

With the death of  Sublime’s vocalist Brad Nowell in 1996 bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh decided to pursue other musical ventures thus founding The Long Beach Dub All Stars along with free form guest artists, a horn section, and a DJ.  The debut album Right Back was a refreshing sound that resonated with a culmination of reggae, hardcore, dub, and hiphop.  If you are a Sublime fan, this album is a nice continuation of where Sublime left off, minus the vocals of Nowell, it is consistent with the tempo’s and rhythm’s of the Sublime sound.

The beginning of the album starts off with Righteous Dub, a nice dub song to ease one into the album on a mellow but upbeat note.  Songs like Rosarito , My New Life, and Like a Dog resonate pure Sublime and provide some clarity that the bands unique sound did not die with Nowell.  The lead singer of the band Bad Brains (Hr) makes a cameo on the song New Sun and does a nice job adding a hardcore/reggae type funk and tempo to the album. 

Although I’m not the biggest fan of rap I have been drawn back several times to the song Kick Me Down which features a great beat and great vocals.  Perhaps that is why I like this album so much, the variety of different angles the album provides.  Most albums today, in my opinion, songs are often to repetative and monotonous in their style and sound, yes the album might be good, but the songs are begin to sound the same and that is where I begin to lose interest. 

Right Back is a fun album that seems to be an amalgum of styles that keeps the listener wondering what the next song will be, I like that.

Several albums followed after 1999’s Right Back, they are Wonders Of The World (2001), and Sunny Hours (2002).

Sadly, The Long Beach Dub All Stars broke up officially in 2002, but members continued until 2007 under the name Long Beach Shortbus.

The Long Beach All Stars album Right Back gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.

16
Nov
09

The English Beat – On tour?

english_beatYes, it’s true The English Beat (or The Beat if you are cool) are currently touring the U.S.  If you are not familiar with this legendary Ska group pick yourself up I Just Can’t Stop It and you should be converted in a short time. 

I’ve provided a link below of some cities they are hitting for the rest of the year; I would imagine they put on a great show. 

11/20/09 Poughkeepsie, NY – The Chance
11/22/09 Teaneck, NJ – Mexacali Live
11/23/09 Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall 

  Click here to see more scheduled shows.

I’ve provided a sample of their hit Mirror in the Bathroom check it out and tell us what you think.