UK rockers The Sisters of Mercy called it quits in 1993 when they went on strike against their record label, Warner, over accusations of withholding royalties. They vowed never to re-sign and therefore have left a slim discography of only a handful of releases. Fans of The Sisters will be glad to learn that next month Rhino will be releasing a four LP boxed set reissue of 1985's First And Last And Always (available for pre-order on Amoeba.com). The set's special 180 gram vinyl and digital versions will combine their classic album from 30 years ago, First And Last And Always, along with three EPs from that same mid-eighties period: Body And Soul, No Time To Cry, and Walk Away.
When The Sisters of Mercy signed with Warner, the band consisted of Andrew Eldritch (vocals), Gary Marx and Wayne Hussey (guitars), Craig Adams (bass), and their drum machine whom they lovingly called Doktor Avalanche. Their first release for the label was the 12" EP Body and Soul, which Eldritch described at the time as "a vision of heaven with everyone on speed." On the new reissue, two of the EP's four-tracks (the 1984 version "Body Electric" and "Afterhours") will be available again after only appearing on the original 12" single.
Huge loss for jazz and freeform music fans the world over with news breaking this morning of the passing of 85 year old jazz innovator / freeform icon / musical theoretician Ornette Coleman. The groundbreaking jazz composer/alto-saxophonist, who was instrumental in changing and expanding the concept and path of jazz music, died earlier this morning, June 11th 2015, in New York City reportedly the result of cardiac arrest. In his oft times contentious music career Coleman, who in 1994 was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, completely unhinged and unsettled the conceptions of what jazz is and in so doing opened the genre up to a whole new style into something more avant-garde and adventurous, adhering less the old rules of musical structure, rhythm, and harmony.
At the start of his career his approach and style fit in with the accepted jazz norms but as time went on he began to explore new avenues and questioned the very foundation of what was considered "jazz" as he began to apply his own ideas and concepts. As noted by his Amoeba biographer Coleman developed “harmolodics,” a word and a concept that combine harmony, melody, and movement just as his music integrates them in a radical assertion of freedom for each player in an ensemble, with Gunther Schuller noting that Coleman’s “musical inspiration operates in a world uncluttered by conventional bar lines, conventional chord changes, and conventional ways of blowing or fingering a saxophone...his playing has a deep inner logic.” Consequently Coleman's influence on several generations of jazz musicians is very great.
Since the news broke Tuesday afternoon that longtime Brooklyn indie hip-hop artist Pumpkinhead (aka PH) had died at age 39 - and with no cause of death announced - the hip-hop community has been in shock over the sudden death of this widely beloved underground rapper born Robert Alan Diaz who came up in 90's hip-hop and built a rep on the battle scene and collaborated with a slew of artists. Above is a still from a KOTD rap battle where he handed it -via way superior battle freestyle - to his losing competitor Skelly. Not much is known about his sudden death except that he reportedly had only very been recently admitted into the Somerville, N.J. hospital where he was pronounced dead on Tuesday morning June 9th. As news traveled fans and fellow hip-hop artists reacted. Upon finding out that he had lost a friend, Brooklyn hip-hop contemporary Talib Kweli took to Instagram to recall how, "Robert and I went to PS 282 together in Brooklyn, 4th grade. We then reconnected when he became an MC during the indie era of the late 90s. He signed to Makin Records, I signed to Rawkus. Then PH went on to reinvent himself again in the new battle rap era. He LOVED MCing and was great at it. To lose such a great human being so early in his life, man. No words. There is a fraternity of artists who were around for all of this. PH inspired us all. He will live on thru us even though his physical presence will be missed." Meanwhile longtime friend Jean Grae, whose stage name was given to her by PH, Tweeted that "Dynamic and the Dynamic Remix were the first songs I produced that got released. man. Man. MAN. Pumpkinhead. Man." That track she produced is below, as is another Pumpkinhead collaboration with Jean Grae when both joined another frequent musical collaborator Immortal Technique on his dope track "The Illest." Among his numerous collaborations the one with Marco Polo "Orange Moon Over Brooklyn" (insert) was an excellent one. I met Pumpkinhead when he guested on my radio show back in 2008 at the Knitting Factory as part of Brooklyn Academy along with Mr Metaphor and Block McCloud. Meanwhile beyond the hip-hop world's loss, more profoundly impacted is the rapper's surviving family - his wife and two kids with another on the way - who are currently still scrambling to come to terms with the shock of his death, and slowly realizing that they do not have enough money to cover all of the sudden expenses that have landed in their lap. Hence a crowdfunding drive has been just set to help with the funeral services and a memorial that would "make him proud."
Summertime is here with tons of great hip-hop stuff happening from NY to Cali, including the recommended all-day The Art Of Rap Festival happening July 18th at the Irvine Amphitheater in SoCal and the following day (July 19th) at the Bay Area's Shoreline in Mountain View. This talent rich festival promises to deliver "the full festival experience of hip-hop culture with break dancers, graffiti artists" and more. However, to be politically correct and a tad picky, the exact terms to use would be "breaking" in place of "breakdancing" and "aerosol art" in place of "graffiti." Regardless of semantics, this hip-hop festival is going to be great. With its lineup it simply cannot be.
Drawing its inspiration and theme from the Ice-T-curated 2012 documentary movie Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, this traveling fest features, not surprisingly, Ice-T along with a stellar line-up of performers including the pioneering Cold Crush Brothers (Grandmaster Caz was the star of the movie), Big Daddy Kane, Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force (see video for their landmark, game changing track "Planet Rock" below) , Grandmaster Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, EPMD, Slick Rick, Too $hort, as well as Amoeba friend DJ Quik, plus many more. Info/advance tix.