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HIP-HOP AND BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Posted by Billyjam, February 22, 2010 04:06pm | Post a Comment

The Last Poets
From its early days, hip-hop has been closely interrelated with black history and culture. Hip-hop is really a continuum of many previous black art forms. Rapping or MC'ing, for example, is merely carrying on a tradition of various oratorical forms in black history that include West African griots, talking blues, the sharp verbal flow of 1950's & 1960's hipster-jive talking radio DJs, the spoken word of artists like The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron, and of course, the toasting style in reggae. Additionally, hip-hop music, through both its lyrical content and its endless sampling, is responsible for teaching black history in a non traditional way.

Thanks to hip-hop's ubiquitous sampling of such historical black figures as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (especially in the 80's and 90's), many young people first learned about the philosophies of these black leaders and black history in general. One of the earliest popular hip-hop songs to sample Malcolm X was Keith La Blanc's "Malcolm X - No Sell Out" 1983 single on Tommy Boy that utilized absolutely no rapping, just samples of the black leader speaking. In later years most hip-hop artists sampled bits of Malcolm X to Malcolm Xcompliment the emcee's message. In 1988 Public Enemy's politically charged album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back opened with a powerful Malcolm X sample.

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Make Mine A Triple: Joanna Newsom says, "Have One On Me"

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, February 22, 2010 02:09am | Post a Comment
Joanna Newsom Have One On Me Record review drag city art deco cover image album
Have you ever been so hungry for something, a rare treat that smelled so good sizzling on the coals, that against your better judgement, you burned your mouth in your wolfing haste to taste it? Upon procuring my copy of Joanna Newsom's latest opus, the fresh-from-the-fire triple LP Have One On Me, Christmas morning-ish feelings of borderline maniacal anticipation welled up in my belly and I imagined my immediate consumption would be not unlike taking a rich, slow-baked indulgence dish to the face and, Lord knows, how I tried. Eighteen songs and two hours later I felt pleased to have a feel for the depth and complexity of the bounty, but proper digestion recommends dipping in --- all the better to savor the flavor. Seriously folks, this big 'un is a whole mess of treasure that takes time --- sweet, precious time --- to appreciate in both fathomed comprehension and measured worth. So approach with a mind to settle in and absorb each third accordingly, one by one (because you know we'll be referring to them from now 'til eternity, respectively, as record one, record two and record three), and be sure to make time and take it, like Joanna's first cooing words on the opening track, "easyeasy."

"Easy"
joanna newsom have one on me legs lithe album artwork record review black and white pretty
Have One On Me as a complete work, generally speaking, plays like an almanac harkening a bygone age which, when you think about it, encompasses everything we've come to expect from Miss Newsom. The album artwork appears to draw heavily on art deco influences, what with the choice of typography, the subtle design notions featured on the insert and, of course, the cover image in which we see Newsom, sprawled kittenish on a couch, pictured in what appears to be a vintage tinted photograph of a disheveled dressing room decorated by a deranged zoologist. And it's all show inside as well: the black box houses three individually sleeved albums and a booklet packed with lyrics, credits, and a curious lack of thanks set against a series of four, seemingly sequential black and white candid shots of our girl in a simplified portrait setting evoking a subdued recollection of the madness depicted on the cover, looking very lithe, long-limbed and undeniably beautiful in bib-and-brace short-shorts (something tells me this look'll be trending a little while longer) as she twists her hair in a fix, gorgeous. Then there is the music.
joanna newsom triple album record review have one on me ys street band live
For me, Joanna Newsom is as much Elton John on holiday as she is a harp-wielding Morgan le Fay. "Easy," the opening number, showcases the shadow and the light of Newsom's "Elton" leanings, that is to say, her ability to lay down a playful yet solid piano track that is as much of a portal unto itself as it is a portent of things to come. "Easy" begins slightly dormant in bed, yawning with lyrics suggesting the movements of a doomed relationship from contentedness to conflict to confrontation and, interestingly enough in the end, to conjuring. It's good stuff and good enough to rouse the listener into readiness for the multi-instrument maelstrom of musicianship to come in the eleven minute title track where Newsom flaunts her penchant for folklore and the storytelling origins of the bard instrument that have sensationalized her skills internationally. The song "Have One On Me," like "Easy," features a host of arrangements around Newsom's central vocals and instrumentation, providing a lushness very much like that of Van Dyke Parks' orchestral wizardry that graced the strains of Ys, not to mention the four man and a lady Ys Street Band (still a corn-nut of a moniker) that provided a miraculously scaled-down live distillation of the aforementioned orchestration on a scattering of instruments for Newsom's Ys tour (three of the original five comprise the core of the guest players on the new record). I suppose that's why Newsom claims that Have One On Me reflects an amalgam of her previous works. 
joanna newsom have one on me album review record harp strings harpist
While there are a few uncluttered, straightforward harp or piano plus vocal compositions on the record, many of the songs are dressed up in one way or another with arrangements attributed to the guest musicians themselves, some of whom play such exotic oddments as timpani, kora, Bulgarian tambura, kaval, vielle, rebec, and coronet (the bulk of the latter lending "Kingfisher," on record three, courtly virtue). Still, at first spin, these endowments make for a complicated, tight-lipped listen that takes a little getting used to and may, at least in my case, leave the listener wondering what some of these songs might sound like en deshabille. Still again, what works for songs like "Go Long," where Newsom plays three harps (!), and the jaunty seventies (1970's, not 1870's or earlier like some of Newsom's other pieces suggest) feel of "Good Intentions Paving Company" is the motley mélange of guitars, percussion, banjo, mandolin, trombone, piano and (especially!) the warm waves of the Hammond organ and layered vocal harmonies à la Joni Mitchell or Fleetwood Mac or --- so clearly single-worthy a track it was no mistake that it was leaked as a teaser (in fact, all the pre-release date treats are stand out numbers by now, just as surely as impatient hunger for the feast has broken them in). 

Oscars 2010 Predictions

Posted by Charles Reece, February 21, 2010 11:07pm | Post a Comment

Using the most advanced heuristic available to me, namely my own cynical reasoning about the Academy, here are my predictions:

Leading Actor

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Both Bridges and Firth are exceptional in not particularly good movies that play to Academy tastes, addiction and identity politics. Clooney is in the best movie here, but he'll lose to Bridges for the same reason Firth will: Bridges has been around for nearly 40 years and has always been excellent. Call this his "should've won for The Big Lebowski" win. Renner is competent in a stereotypical hot shot role -- big deal. Freeman plays the Freeman role once again -- this time they call him "Nelson Mandela."

crazy heart jeff bridges
Jeff Bridges

Cinematography

Mauro Fiore, Avatar  
Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker  
Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds  
Christian Berger, The White Ribbon 

My friend Will said Avatar looks like a moving Yes cover. And was it all the shadows in Half-Blood Prince that got it nominated? No quibbles with the other three, though. I'm going with the master of the down-and-dirty-shaky-cam, Ackroyd, because this is Bigelow's year (on which, I'll have more to say anon). I'm more infatuated with Richardson's colors, though.

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(In which Job introduces the character Ryan.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 21, 2010 06:56pm | Post a Comment

Ryan "Mouth-hole" Cassano

This weekend I played host to a friend of mine, Ryan “Mouth-hole” Cassano, who was visiting from my beloved home town of Nevada City, California. He had come to investigate 1980’s video arcade games and literature concerning it for some future enterprise that I’m not at liberty to divulge but involves alcohol, supermodels, and rooms of plastic balls.

He met me after my hard but spiritually fulfilling shift at Amoeba Music Hollywood, waiting out the last few minutes of my shift by browsing the clearance section of soundtracks, where he found two items that made him squeal like a flame-covered, 500 pound, chocolate gorilla who sounded like a happy little girl: the soundtrack to the film Kill the Moonlight (which features some very early work by Beck), and to the documentary King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters.

The latter was serendipitous, as it was related to his arcade quest. In fact, he was traveling with a copy of that very film and insisted I watch it with him. I told him he wasn’t the boss of me and I can do whatever I want and I hate I hate him I hate him, then we drove back to my place for a home-cooked dinner of gimlets.
Just like Ma used to make!

I introduced him to the refined art of Tom of Finland, who’s work is so lovingly collected in my Taschen art book. He found it deeply educational and oftentimes frightening. Imagine my embarrassment when, half way through flipping through the book, I realized it was a souvenir photo album of my trip to the Anne Frank House! A common mistake, sure, but no less silly.

Puzzler: Can you tell which one is which?

After half an hour of explaining to him the difference between gay sex and the methodical genocide of six million people, we decided to go to bed.

February 21, 2010

Posted by phil blankenship, February 21, 2010 04:32pm | Post a Comment
Shutter Island movie ticket stub






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