Monday, July 26, 2004
well, she don't NEED no geetar...
Well, here we go again with another mix session here at the Hut.
If it's Monday, I must have some 'splainin' to do.
For the past several months, I've been sending out a mix CD collection with an arbitrary and offbeat theme (previous mixes include "songs by children", "songs with the word "f*ck" in the title", "songs that start with the letter B by artists whose names start with the letter B", "embarrassing music to listen to at the gym" and our last compilation, "spider music"). These CD's are sent to Tofu Hut listeners who are granted a scant few days to listen to the CD and then email me a track by track review of the mix. Then I post their reviews UNCUT, UNCENSORED and UNEDITED (but peppered with my own smartass comments and observations in italics) along with the tracks in question. It's like listening to a mix CD with a bunch of friends... only you don't have to have any friends... except me. And I'm already your friend! Yay! Get it? Got it? Good!
This time (and for the next two and a half weeks!) our theme is:
DON'T NEED NO GEETAR: ENTIRELY ACAPELLA
With the exception of some light percussion, these songs will be entirely fashioned from the human orchestra. It took some hunting, but I managed to unearth a pretty healthy variety of tracks: hip hop, blues, rock, novelty, spoken word, bluegrass, gospel, music from Bulgaria, Africa, Russia, Ireland... my cup runneth over!
I'm very happy with this mix; I sorta shook up the listing so that it didn't conform to any natural flow... that was my first inclination, but I found that it made the disc sort of hypnotizing. I've been listening to it for about a month now and I'm excited to share it (albeit in piecemeal) with all of you.
First let's meet our guest reviewers.
Kevin: An introduction: I'm Kevin from Walla Walla, WA. I just returned from What The Heck Fest in Anacortes, Washington, where I saw Calvin Johnson perform an amazing partially acapella set. It makes sense if you think about it; acapella takes the egalitarian principles of punk rock almost as far as they can go; anyone with a voice can do it.
P.S. acapella fans should also seek out the Unaccompanied Voice comp on Secretly Canadian.
Adam: Here's my commentary. It's late and I'm tired, so hopefully it worked out. Overall, pretty cool. I'm not as keen on the world stuff as I am to the stuff where I can understand the lyrics. But I dug it. Most of my answers were a bit longer than most of what the reviewers in the past had done, and I try to be clever more too. Hopefully you'll like what I wrote and I'll get to do this again. :)
Our last reviewer is Spencer, his commentary echoes a grand and sad percentage of my Hut listeners eternal refrain:
Spencer: sorry so late!
Ah well; seeing as I'm typing this up at four in the morning myself, how can I not understand? All's forgiven. Let's get to the tunage.
glisten: Acap' CD 1
Adam - Interesting way to start the CD. Strong vocals, and very soulful. This is probably one that a lot of people wished they had an original 78 of in their collection.
If you're one of those people, you can get a copy for twelve bucks on vinyl from Otis Records. And yes, I do believe it IS THAT Otis.
Spencer - Odetta is somebody I never understood. I don't know her story but everytime I hear her music she reminds me of that guy who sang Zipadeedoodah. That said, this is a good reading of the song but I'd rather the Vera Hall version.
Kevin - One thing I notice about acapella music is that the lack of backing instruments eliminates the need for applying dynamic compression to the vocals. This means that we're able to hear so much of the detail and nuance of the vocal performance that would otherwise be lost. So much dynamic range even in a single phrase.
I won't even pretend to be a serious Odetta fan, but I very much prefer her voice as a solo instrument rather than in concert with a guitar.
Spooky and mournful as all get out.
Buy "Sings Ballads and Blues" from Amazon.
Visit Odetta's official home on the web at Vanguard Records. Includes biographical background.
Explore the Odetta Discography
Read about Odetta's acting experience.
Kevin - I can't hear Ladysmith Black Mambazo without thinking of that punchline in Mean Girls or the Lifesavers commercial. "Life! Savers! Yum!" This was apparently produced by Paul Simon. What did he do, set up the microphones? Still, absolutely lovely harmonies.
'Mean Girls' can bite me.
Adam - Ahhh harmonizing. Though some would disagree, I think Paul Simon had some taste after ditching that freeloadin' Garfunkle. The chorus echoes like a cello which is a nice effect, though the fact that this is a vocally driven track (as is most of a capella) the fact that I don't speak whatever language it is makes it that much more difficult for me to get into.
The lingo is Zulu. Here's a few simple phrases in Zulu for you to learn, with another Ladysmith song in the background.
Spencer - I don't mean to reference Disney soundtracks for every song but I can't help be reminded of the Lion King. Too slick for my liking. My friend just returned from a trip to the Florida Keys & described to me a sunset he saw as beautiful in a disgusting sort of way, like it was lifted straight from a Hallmark card. That's how I feel about this song. The harmonies are too perfect & the sound too peaceful, so much so that the song provokes no emotional reaction from me.
When this ceases to provoke an emotional reaction from ME, ya'll can put one in the brain, just to make sure.
Time and again on the Hut, I've hyped up and name dropped Ladysmith. They're beautiful people and they make beautiful music. It's a dreadful shame that they're linked forever to sillyass commercial jingles, but hey: Brother Ray was the right one baby, uh huh; ya know?
Buy "Shaka Zulu" from Amazon.
Visit Ladysmith's official home on the web.
Listen to the NPR interview with L.B.M. frontman, Joseph Shabalala.
Read this Guardian piece on L.B.M.
I'd like to go on record as saying that it's a sin and a shame that one of the very best and first musicblogs, boomselection is down solely due to lack of hosting space. I would consider it a personal favor if one of my readers with the means to do so would find a way to get these fellas back on the air. Boomselection has been a consistent favorite for years and it really wounds me to see them grounded.
I openly admit to not getting around to updating the new musicblogs, but it's hardly due to lack of material: it's lack of TIME. Still, there's some new hotties on the block and just as soon as I catch my breath I'll be sure to share all the HOTTness.
If all this organic acapella leaves you yearning for a little mechanical vocoder action, may I recommend you watch and listen to some breakdancing transformers?
This is breaking the ceiling on the cool index.
O-Dub joins the lamentations of the pedestrian nature of the new Roots album in this Voice review.
I suppose I really should buy this to find out for myself; at this point it feels more like an obligation to listen to than something I'm looking forward to and that's bad.
I've yet to receive my first statement, but I only have one word for YOU, young man.
The last track off of the new acapella Bjork album (the genesis of this mix!), Medulla has leaked and david f has it; scroll down a bit for the bjork clicky. The listing comes up as "DO" but the title is "Triumph of the Heart".
After listening, I'm distinctly underwhelmed but hopeful. We shall see.
I'm finding it hard to believe that people are so COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY sleeping on the new Stevie Wonder Album, "A Time 2 Love," especially seeing as it's been rumoured to drop _tomorrow_. Information? Anyone?
An Open Challenge
ATTENTION ALL REMIXERS: I'd LOVE to hear your take on any of these tracks.
Here's the deal: if you remix ANY of the tracks that I post here as part of the Acapella collection and send me a copy, I promise I WILL post it here in the Hut.
Heck, if there's enough interest I'll even do another week of remixes.
N.B.: Quality mixes only please. Spread the word; I'd go bonkers if the boys over at GYBO got ahold of this!