22 November 2007

Jesca Hoop - Kismet

I can't remember how I first got this but my impressions when I first heard it were pretty neutral. After a while I started to have some favorite songs on the album and some some material I disliked. The most remarkable piece of info on Jesca Hoop I found was that she's been a nanny for the children of Tom Waits, if you search you can find she's from a mormon upbringing and has lived in rural areas, two aspects that formed her musical experience.

What I hear is interesting. It sounds like an album only a talented young woman can make in my imagination, it's something singer/songwriter but quite poppy, with a dreamy finish over it. There are all sorts of influences hidden in the music but nothing too obvious, it's a neatly produced album only slightly too excentric for mainstream pop.

I hear a very talented and promising person at work, achieving results that sometimes please me and sometimes don't. I therefore don't see this album as something fantastic, at best an album of somebody who can be a huge star in the future. It's not that there's anything particularly wrong with this album; it's remarkable for it's quality and originality but nothing so exceptional I'd feel compelled to recommend it for. What's the point of this then? Simply: the reason I eventually bought the CD and ultimately put it up here is that I listen to it and keep listening to it. Ever since I got the MP3s I've heard this album at least once a week and despite all the commentary I have on the music there's really nothing better than music that continues to entertain me. This album is better than I am; I hope that puts this post a bit in perspective.
Columbia / Sony BMG, 2007

Jesca Hoop - Kismet

Cambodian Rocks volume 2

Volume 2 in every respect. Mainly Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea, solo or as duo, with a few other artists and you can often play the 'Name The Original' game again. If you've tried the first volume and saw the fun in it, this is a safe download. Musically it's a bit more 60's, the sound quality is good.
Booklet contains English translations and nothing more. I recognize of course that having access to the music is the most important part but when I listen to the CD I know there's a world behind the music and I wouldn't mind knowing more about the motivation of the people behind this release either. This way, the only reason to buy the CD is to support a small label with a non-mainstream catalog, and that's a good reason, but the CD itself doesn't offer much beyond the zip file I've put below. Do the right thing, the label has a good on-line shop.
Khmer Rocks, 2004

Cambodian Rocks volume 2

19 November 2007

Jamaica To Toronto

"Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974"
A long time ago I posted an album called 'The keyboard king of Studio One' by Jackie Mittoo and I'd like your attention for that one again. I think I've finally managed to get a good rip but this is more about its cover. On the front and back of the CD you see photographs taken of Mittoo by Coxsone Dodd at Kingston Airport, immediately prior to Jackie Mittoo's departure for Canada. Jamaica to Toronto, indeed.
Let's just ponder that for a while. Jamaican rum vs. maple syrup. Sunny beaches vs. snowy mountains. You get it? I can see Canadians nodding happily, but really... Perhaps there's a natural progression: ska, rocksteady, reggae, ice-hockey or maybe the rastafarian "Back To Africa" movement had "via Canada" added, who knows.

Jamaica is one of those countries that have about as many countrymen living abroad as in the nation, it's even called the Jamaican Diaspora. Poverty sent lots of Jamaicans in search of a better life and many ended up in Canada, establishing a community which kept the flow of people going. I don't know why Mittoo left for Canada: it seems to me his success in Jamaica gave him commercial and artistic freedom whereas in his new home he had to start all over making a name for himself and taking on every opportunity to make some money. The pictures on 'The keyboard king' do not indicate his relationship with Coxsone had gone sour.

But anyway, Jamaicans, even in Canada, make music and this is an attempt to document that scene. The subtitle "Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974" quite accurately describes the content: soul and funk primarily (and r&b but not much reggae) and there's one song from 1983. Rough edged and powerful, quality musicians and some innovative tunes, good sound quality overall; you're going to like the CD (or 2LP). The concept demands more and you get what you pay for, this release is made by people who understood their responsibilities. Every artist has a little biography, a few pictures and there's some general background on the Jamaicans in Toronto theme; it's a very good package. The Light In The Attic label (general website) provides more stuff in the Jamaica to Toronto series with compilations and re-releases, but they've plenty more nice goodies in their catalog.
Light In The Attic, 2006

Jamaica To Toronto

13 November 2007

Blanche - Little Amber Bottles

The first time I heard this album, I got visions of large dust covered pick-up trucks where the sun burns mercilessly through the rear window, the people on their way to church or gun shop. Then there was a song called "I can't sit down" and I came really close to locking all the doors, closing the curtains and doing a bit of line-dancing myself. Some research revealed Blanche is from Michigan which isn't typically dustcovered I believe and subsequent listens showed this album is 'Americana' instead of 'Country & Western'. Nothing to stop me therefore to publically announce I like it.
Seriously, it's not just C&W but very American folk / rock, think banjo and pedal steel guitar but also electric guitar. Lyricwise maybe not pick-up truck or gun shop stuff but I think I got the churches right; there's hardly a song without god or praying in it. If there's a message with this album though, it's respect the classic traditional music and musical craftsmanship.
Well, plenty of that! Excellent band, excellent singers, excellent result. For more info read the band page on their label Loose' site and you can also spend time on the band's own cute site.
Loose Music, 2007

Blanche - Little Amber Bottles
(Fantastic, I managed again to upload an archive where one of the filenames (track 9) had a questionmark in its title. Fixed again but let's ask Microsoft to allow "?" in a filename because I just don't seem to get smarter with my uploads. I'm really sorry.)

08 November 2007

Tears Full Of Soul

"Back to the basement for a double helping of tear jerkers from the heart and soul" & "A collection of classic, rare and undiscovered soul ballads delivering a message of passion and elevation". So, that pretty much paints the picture here. If you've listened to some of the compilations on this blog then you probably get a feeling of what to expect when I say that most songs are from the first half of the 70's. It's in fact quite decent how they've marketed this 2CD set, it could also have come as "Romantic Soul For Lovers" or "Girls beware when a guy plays this and you just want to be friends". It seems aimed at music enthousiasts with a small booklet with a little info on each song and artist, with many pictures of those artists (and of 7'' recordlabels, again). Pretty good overall imho.
Slow soul ballads therefore, from modest waterfalls of strings to brass sections stuck in the swamp, from single teenage heartbreak to close harmony choirs indicating more physical harm judging by the falsetto voices. This set has more to offer than just cheap disposable lovesongs; the "classic, rare and undiscovered" looks true and there are some really intriguing songs to be found. The most curious example is probably Captain Beefheart's soul persiflage I'm Glad treated as a 'real' soul song (and why not). All in all it's safe to try if you're not completely allergic to romantic soul.
Responsible for this release is Castle Music, known for more compilations. This particular release seems part of a series called 'Outta Sight Soul Essentials' which includes sets on the southern sound and the east coast/ New York sound. In that line, this one's called 'Outta Sight Soul Essentials The "Heartfelt" Sound'. Check out the Sanctuary site for more goodies.
Castle Music / Sanctuary Records, 2007

Tears Full Of Soul
CD 1
CD 2