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Remembering Jimmy Ruffin

Posted by Billyjam, November 20, 2014 07:28am | Post a Comment

Since the sad news broke yesterday of the passing of Motown great Jimmy Ruffin - who died earlier this week at the age of 78 - I've been going back and digging up some of the popular recordings by the man. While he may not have been quite as famous as his younger brother David Ruffin (the lead singer of the Temptations), he was an incredibly talented artist. Born in Mississippi, Jimmy Ruffin moved to Detroit in the early sixties to connect with Berry Gordy's Motown Records - or rather Motown's Miracle Records imprint. There he recorded his biggest hit in 1966 with "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted."

Other Ruffin songs that enjoyed success over the years included "Gonna Give Her All the Love I Got," "I've Passed This Way Before," and the 1980 hit "Hold On To My Love." Ruffin, who relocated temporarily to the UK in the 1980s where he recorded with such artists as Paul Weller, continued recording up until two years ago when he released his final album, There Will Never Be Another You. Below are a few select videos featuring the man that Berry Gordy called "truly underrated."

Check for his music at Amoeba including his 1969 album Ruff'n Ready, the 20th Century Masters collection The Best Of Jimmy Ruffin - The Millennium Collection, and the duet full-length I Am My Brothers Keeper  that he recorded with his late great brother David who died 24 years ago. Hopefully, the two Ruffin brothers are reunited in the afterlife and singing sweet soul music together again.

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John Waters Returns to California With His Popular Annual Christmas Show

Posted by Billyjam, November 19, 2014 03:52am | Post a Comment


Film-maker, screenwriter, author, stand-up comedian, art collector, hitchhiker, and friend of Amoeba John Waters will be doing another one of his popular one-man Christmas show tours this upcoming holiday season. The tour kicks off in San Francisco at the end of this month features back to back California dates including LA on December 5th, all before heading back East to wind up the four-week tour.

Themed loosely around his 2004 release A John Waters Christmas, Waters' live show focuses as you would expect on the offbeat and the kitsch end of the holiday. He covers a lot of territory, discussing gifts to give and how to react to ones you receive. Also, as he states in an interview from last holiday season with his hometown TV interview below ? of Baltimore's WBAL TV, he offers invaluable tips on how to survive the drama of the holidays and "how to react to the trauma of it, if your family's crazy, and how to get through it."

Tickets are on sale now, but some shows are already sold out including the SF date. California dates include San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall on November 29th, San Diego at The Stephen and Mary Birch North Park Theatre on December 1st, Palm Springs at McCallum Theatre on December 2nd, San Juan Capistrano at The Coach House Dec 3rd,  Agoura Hills at The Canyon on December 4th, in Los Angeles at The Comedy Store in Hollywood on December 5th, and back up in NorCal at the City Winery in Napa on December 6th.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: June 1990 Billboard Hot Rap Singles Top 30 Chart

Posted by Billyjam, November 18, 2014 10:50am | Post a Comment


In the 24 years since the first publication of the Billboard Hot Rap Singles Top 30 Chart, rap/hip-hop has grown by leaps and bounds in both terms of widespread acceptance and (seemingly) unstoppable global popularity. Upon publication back in mid-June of 1990, while popular enough to deem its own weekly chart, hip-hop was still somewhat marginalized and was far from the mainstream cultural force it is today. However, while examining the contrast between radio/sales charting hip-hop in 1990 and 2014, there are many notable differences. For starters, hip-hop was still largely labeled or referred to as "rap" back then, which is somewhat ironic since popular "hip-hop" today is technically more "rap" than it was back at the beginning of the nineties.

From eyeballing this June 1990 chart that was compiled from a national sample of both retail and one-stop sales, it's evident that commercially popular hip-hop appeared to be a lot more adventurous and much more diverse in style both production-wise and lyrically. Also notable is how major labels did not dominate the bulk of rap sales. It was pretty much evenly split between indies and majors, although many of those same independent labels would in time make deals with the majors. Another notable business factor was that record labels (indie or major) could still be very profitable ventures since 1990 was a time when people still bought records and tapes to hear music. There was no illegal free downloading/file-sharing of music and the only threat to labels was illegally dubbed bootleg cassette copies of their releases. Hence labels had more money to spend on promotions of their artists.



Women hip-hop artists, whom to this day have never gained equality in their genre, were still in the minority back in June 1990 with only five out of this top 30 chart being female acts. These five included three groups - something much rarer today when female rappers tend to be solo acts - and included Hammer proteges Oaktown's 3-5-7, Def Dames (whose "Set It Off" heavily sampled Strafe's 1984 club/radio hit of the same name and who should not be confused with the Euro girl group who came a little later), and early career Jermaine Dupri-discovered rap/r&b trio Silk Tymes Leather. The other female chart entries were Icey Jaye ("It's A Girl Thing"), and Queen Latifah in a duet with David Bowie for "Fame 90."

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Essential Records: The Pharcyde's 'Bizarre Ride II'

Posted by Billyjam, November 17, 2014 02:23pm | Post a Comment

The Pharcyde

Each person has their own personal way to judge and rate the music they love. For me the criteria for rating an LP an "Essential Record" includes two key qualities: first, it's an all killer, no filler album (no temptation to ever skip over any track); and secondly, it is such a quality release that it doesn't age one bit over time (the timeless factor). Sometimes an Essential Record gets even better over the years. Such is the case with The Pharcyde's remarkable 1992 debut album, Bizarre Ride II (Delicious Vinyl), which sounds even more amazing today than it did when I first heard it 22 years ago. I say this after playing the 57 minute record from start to finish twice in a row today, having not listened to it in a few years. Damn, that J-Swift-produced album is so incredibly good! It's packed with soul, passion, and richly varied but cohesive beats and flows - from jazzy to old school to next generation - with varying BPMs. But, most notably, the album was totally unlike anything else at the time.

In late 1992, the SoCal-based Delicious Vinyl record label released Bizarre Ride II within just a few weeks oThe Pharcyde Ya Mamaf fellow LA based hip-hop artist Dr. Dre's G-Funk classic, The Chronic. While the two landmark hip-hop releases may have been linked by timeline and geography, they could not have been further apart in sound and style. Even Bizarre Ride's wild, fun, cartoonish cover art set it apart as a record that did not take itself too seriously. The album effuses a feeling of nonstop fun all the way through, as proven by the numerous impromptu-sounding hilarious studio bits that were mixed in or left in the final recording, like at the end of "Ya Mama" where they are just riffing off of each other. Unique, too, is how many of the "skits" on Bizarre Ride sound like songs, such as the 2:10 long "Quinton's on the Way (Skit)" which is like a Louis Armstrong inspired jazz song that captures the guys having fun in the studio with their different sounding voices and tones perfectly in contrast with each other.

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Patti And The Pope

Posted by Billyjam, November 14, 2014 10:52am | Post a Comment

Singer/poet and friend of Amoeba Patti Smith, seen in Reuters photo above being greeted by Pope Francis in St Peter's Square at the Vatican, will be among the specially selected artists invited by the pope himself to perform at the Vatican Christmas concert in mid December in front of bishops and cardinals.

Since this news was reported by the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera many, including myself, have had a similar reaction (say wha?) with that one Patti Smith song lyrics instantly popping into our collective heads: the one from the famous Horses album track "Gloria" that goes
"Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." Whether at the Christmas Vatican concert, scheduled for December 13th and to be broadcast live, Patti Smith will perform that song or not remains to be seen. Meanwhile below is a 1979 live performance from Germany of the song.



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