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Talking Book - Just One of Stevie Wonder's Masterpieces

Posted by Miss Ess, February 24, 2009 12:30pm | Post a Comment
An album that consistently brings me to tears is Talking Book by Stevie Wonder.

talking book by stevie wonder

I was fortunate enough to grow up near a classic independent record store, Village Music, where I purchased Talking Book many years ago during one of my dreamy hours-long visits there.

When I got the album home, I stared and stared at its front. I absolutely love the cover of Talking Book --stevie wonder on it, Stevie is literally feeling the earth between his fingers, much like he does verbally on the record. He doesn't need to literally see it to understand what it is made of; with music, he captures both the grit and the softness that make up humanity.

Over the years my favorite track has changed bunches of times, but since college I have predominantly played side 2, skipping "Superstition," which kicks it off (killer track, just heard it enough times, plus its mood feels different from the rest of the side), and going straight from "Big Brother" to the end. The four songs that close side 2 of Talking Book are definitely my favorite run of songs on any Stevie album.

Throughout this album, which Stevie largely wrote, produced and played all the instruments on, he touches on stevie wonderunscrupulous politics and the possibility of everlasting love with salient clarity. He sheds light on the daily lives of those living in poverty, noting that the corrupt politicians in charge, not the poor, "will cause [their] own country to fall" (still quite apt these days). He also sings songs with overwhelming optimism regarding love despite past disappointment, both in himself and in others. The album captures an illuminating feeling of hope, a vibrant sense of anticipation.

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A Raisin In the Sun

Posted by Amoebite, February 24, 2009 12:28pm | Post a Comment
a raisin in the sun
"What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?"

Langston Hughes' opening lines to his poem "A Dream Deferred" inspired the title of the film A Raisin in the Sun, which is adapted from Lorraine Hansberry's 1951 Broadway play. The story is about the working-class African American family in Chicago, each member struggling against the idea of deferred dreams. The way each character has to fight against generational prejudice to achieve their dreams makes a most powerful, touching story, cutting deep to the core of African American history. And while I want to cry at the injustices that bind many to social despair, I am inspired by the moments of strength that the human spirit can possess.claudia mcneil in raisin in the sun

Every character is a symbol that has to find what value they have to play out in order to gain a better life. They must confront oppression, identity, assimilation, poverty, and African-American racism. The most beautifully portrayed role goes to Claudia McNeil, who is the mother holding the family together like "a syrupy sweet."

Dreams deferred: 
"Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?"

These questions are not simple to answer, but answers need to be explored.

-Tiffany Huang

I feel like bootin' up -- The Take Fo' story

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 20, 2009 06:06pm | Post a Comment
Take Fo' Records

Take Fo' Records
is a little known (outside of New Orleans) music label that truly broke ground with its motley roster of artists and progressive attitude, yet it's never received adequate recognition for its pioneering role in music. Whereas New Orleans's other big labels: Big Boy, Cash Money, Mobo, Parkway Pumpin', Untouchable, Tombstone and No Limit all seemed to consciously project a hard-as-nails image with tales of slangin', bangin', head bussin' and wig splittin', Take Fo' welcomed gangstas but also ball busters, dancer-cum-rappers, party starters and probably the first openly gay rapper. Despite the possible negative associations that might come with being part of this hip hop Island of Misfit Toys, the rappers on Take Fo' seemed unbothered and showed up on each others' albums in a show of courageous support.



THE HISTORY OF FUNK BY RICKEY VINCENT

Posted by Billyjam, February 17, 2009 12:51pm | Post a Comment
rickey vincent
Rickey Vincent
literally wrote the book on funk. The college professor, writer, and radio DJ, who resides in Berkeley CA with his wife and two sons, is the author of the acclaimed music history book Funk: The Music, the People, and the Rhythm of The One (St. Martin's Press) which won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. If you don't already have this book, with a forward by George Clinton, I highly recommended it since it is the most comprehensive study on funk.

In addition to being an author & journalist, Vincent has taught at City College of San Francisco and SF State University where he taught a course entitled Protest Music Since 1965: Funk, Rap and the Black Revolution. Rickey is also a longtime Bay Area radio DJ at stations KALX and KPFA, where he still hosts his popular weekly funk show The History of Funk, Fridays at 10PM on 94.1FM.

The widely respected funkateer's musical knowledge (and music collection) is unmatched. I recently caught up with Vincent to talk about the funk/hip-hop connection and the impact of funk and black music in general on both American and global cultures, among other things. The conversation inevitably turned to godfather of soul / funk pioneer James Brown a few times during the interview. 

Vincent is currently finishing up last minute details on his next book Party Music -- a fascinating historical account of the Black Panther Party's own funk band, Oakland's The Lumpen, who took popular funk songs and rhythms but substituted more revolutionary lyrics. (Look for a future interview with him about this upon its publication.) For more information on the author, you can visit Rickey Vincent's website or his MySpace. You can also read his book or check out his show on KPFA.

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Love Story - The Band Love and Arthur Lee's Skewed Genius

Posted by Miss Ess, February 17, 2009 10:45am | Post a Comment
love with arthur lee

One of my favorite bands from the 60s has to be Love. Their music is so unexpected and so unconventional, both lyrically and sonically. I give Arthur Lee the lion's share of credit for this (slove storyorry Bryan MacLean). Lee was truly one of a kind.

I've just watched the recent documentary about Love, Love Story.

Lee formed the band under various names in Los Angeles in the early 60s. It was one of the very first integrated rock bands to hit the scene and gain popularity -- something that is discussed in the film quite a bit, as band members feel they were arthur lee of loverepresented to the press/public early on by colorful psychedelic drawings as a way for the record company to avoid presenting the potentially "risky" fact that the band was made up of both black and white musicians. 

Love was one of the first rock bands to sign to Jac Holzman's Elektra Records and it was not to be a simple relationship between the band and their label. The band members spend a great deal of time in Love Story accusing Holzman of not promoting their work enough. Holzman counters this by pointing out Lee's aversion to touring outside of California. Regardless, the band made three brilliant albums within a span of a year and a half (!) -- Love, Da Capo and Forever Changes -- and increasingly, Lee's moments of brilliance were aggravated by longer and longer durations of virtual insanity because of his drug use.

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