With the release of the biopic Straight Outta Compton about pioneering hip hop group N.W.A., Dr. Dre has found himself rejuvenated as an artist. The rapper and onetime N.W.A. member has long been largely behind the scenes as a producer and businessman, but there’s still been hope he’d release something of his own, with a long-promised Detox album now shelved. That’s for the better; with an artist of Dre’s caliber, we’d rather have something polished to compare with his first two solo albums, and Compton, a companion piece to the film, doesn’t disappoint. Among A-list guest spots (Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Eminem) and lush jazz-funk production by Dre and a score of others, the album finds Dre looking back at his legacy. “Goddammit, I'm too old, I forgot I got it all/But Andre young enough to still get involved” he says on “Talk About It,” embodying his younger self to hang with the next generation he’s helped mentor. Dre tells the story of Compton’s troubled history (along with fellow Compton native Lamar) on standout “Genocide,” with dizzying production by Dem Jointz and a sick hook by Marsha Ambrosius. It should go without saying that the rapping across Compton is jaw droppingly great, not least of all by Dre himself, who raps circles around the young’uns on tracks like “It’s All On Me.” I would have liked to hear more of Dre and fewer guest spots (two tracks don’t have him at all), but taken together it’s an incredibly solid amalgam of compilation and solo album. It’s too soon to call Compton a new hip hop classic, but with countless memorable moments across the album’s 16 tracks, it’s looking that way. Certainly it’s an appropriately great finale to Dr. Dre’s rap career, though with as great as Compton is and as much acclaim as its received, hopefully it’s just the start of his next chapter as an artist.
A family band if there ever was one, Tweedy consists of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer. Originally conceived of as a solo project for the senior Tweedy who was demoing and rehearsing songs at home with Spencer on drums, Tweedy soon came to include Spencer as he became more involved. The pair had previously worked together on Mavis Staples' 2013 album, One True Vine. In 2014, Wilco's dBpm label released Tweedy's debut, Sukierae (now available on CD and LP), which is named after Jeff's wife and Spencer's mother, Susie, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. When performing live, the duo are joined by guitarist Jim Elkington, bassist Darin Gray, and keyboardist Liam Cunningham.
Jeff and his sons Spencer and Sam joined us at Amoeba Hollywood where the three dug for choice vinyl and found some great titles. Jeff shows off a copy of Chastity Belt's Time To Go Home and points out the band's name, promo photo, and the song title "Why Try" were all factors in his decision to get the album. Already a fan of Captain Beefheart, Sam opts for a vinyl copy of Safe As Milk. Spencer picks up the stellar compilation Eccentric Soul: The Outskirts Of Deep City (Numero Group). The Numero Group label do an amazing job with their compilations. A must have in any soul aficionado's collection!
As for me, my number one pick of the Record Store Day 2012 releases is (drumroll, please):
The Mynah Birds
"It's My Time" b/w "Go On and Cry"
How about a little oldies for your soul courtesy of Messrs Rick James (before he was Rick James, bitch) and Neil Young (way before the Harvest) recorded circa 1966 only to be shelved indefinitely by Motown due to James AWOL U.S. Navy status and subsequent arrest. The remaining Mynah Birds went on to found Buffalo Springfield and play in Steppenwolf. All that rock 'n' roll history aside, this solid single made by some young dudes before superstardom carved them anew is a must have for my collection. Oh, yes - it will be mine!
In recently trying to fill in a friend on what I'd spent the last year or two listening to, I realized that my personal taste tends to gravitate towards some element of either Folk form (any hint of hill-folk finger-pickin' or Ozark/Appalachian melancholy and I'm in), Psychedelia or the tendency to extend a theme for a good long jam (a category in which I include a lot of the Jazz that I like), or just a great, funky groove.
With those qualifiers in place, the following is a year by year review of the last decade which somehow got past me with out noticing it. I mean, really?!! 2010?!!! I didn't see it coming:
2000: Album of the Year
Air's enjoyable and wacky Moon Safari had been on the decks for a couple years before they contracted for the soundtrack to Sofia Coppolla's Virgin Suicides. The resultant score is absolutely sublime and marked the French electronauts as contenders to watch.
For myself, it was the defining sound of the millennium's new year.
Shelby Lynne released a killer country-soul gem, I Am Shelby Lynne, that echoed early material from the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Thinking that it was a brilliant debut from a talented 32yo unknown, I was eventually shocked to find that it was her 6th album. I listened to it for months.
Sometimes I think that I might throw the word love around too much... I do tend to fall in love with music and sometimes don't know how else to describe it. But I worry that it might take away some of the value of the word. How do I describe an album that I love more than any other if I have already claimed to love dozens of albums this year already? I might need to just start describing albums as pretty good. I do seem to use this phrase a lot when describing my feelings of certain situations, but I really actually mean pretty great when I say pretty good. So when I say love or great, I really do mean it. When an album like this new album by The Gossip comes around I really wish I had a new word to describe it. I do love it...but I really, really love it. I was a bit worried that I might just sort of like it. How could they follow up the brilliance of the last album Standing in the Way of Control? There was just no way. Their albums have been getting better and better but I was worried they had just gotten as good as they were going to get. This new album also marks their debut on a major label. They have gotten to be huge stars in England with the last album and were signed. I was worried they were maybe too busy playing big festival shows and doing big fancy photo shoots, too busy to concentrate on making another brilliant album. But I really had no reason to be worried. I had heard rumours that the new album was going to be great, and it most certainly is. Music for Men was released last week digitally and as an import. We will have to wait for the domestic CD and LP until later in the year, but I could not wait for this one. I had to pick up the import. I had to hold something in my hands. I wanted to look through the liner notes as I listened to the album for the first time. I wanted to own the album! You know, like we all used to do.