Staff Picks Category: Soul music

A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III by Liam Hayes []

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Recently I was discussing Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, a film that a mere 27% of Rotten Tomatoes voters enjoyed (thus proving my hypothesis that 73% of the population is completely nuts). In any event, I closed out my mini-review mentioning Liam Hayes’s “brilliant score”. Well, ask and ye shall receive! Forbes now owns the soundtrack. Thanks, Genie!

Coppola learned of Liam Hayes through his cast member/cousin, Jason Schwartzman. Hayes, a Chicago resident, has been releasing soulful/ 1970’s-ish style/indie-rockish music since the early 1990’s. The songs are hooky with a sometimes classic, “Philadelphia sound” arrangement. On top, his voice could be likened to the tenor of a Mr. John Lennon.

The affinity for 70’s sounds (pianos, tasteful synthesizers, horns) work perfectly with Charles Swan’s groovy universe; a marriage made in heaven. Many of the songs were pulled from Hayes’s back catalog as a solo artist and also from his tenure in the group Plush. “A Glimpse Inside”, almost the film’s theme, was written especially for the picture and here we can listen for Hayes’s tremendous vocal range. Another highlight is “So Much Music”, an anthem discussing the undying spirit of a musician. Hopefully Hayes is good on this sentiment because he’s a truly talented artist.

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Bobby Charles by Bobby Charles []

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No album better represents the sound of a bunch of guys hanging out, having good times and recording music than Bobby Charles’s  self-titled album.  Charles, celebrated for writing “See You Later Alligator” for Bill Haley and “Walking To New Orleans” for Fats Domino, found himself relaxing with The Band in Woodstock, New York in ’71.  The circumstances for his east coast residence have something to do with a divorce and hiding out from a Nashville marijuana bust.
The Band (with Dr. John in tow) back Charles through a set of lazy melodies with New Orleans influence and a loose, country bounce.  With this all-star line-up, it’s really not a shocker that the backing is as cool as can be.  However, it’s Charles’s voice that shines brightest.  There is a exceptional fullness and soul in each word that Charles projects and yet he sometimes gives the listener the impression that he’s singing softly, almost narrating a local tale.
The feeling of living out in the country, slowing down and finding peace are intertwining themes throughout Bobby Charles.  On “Small Town Talk”, after a whistled intro, Charles croons “and it’s small town talk, you know how people are/they can’t stand to see someone else doing what they want to”.  “Tennessee Blues”, the album’s closer, is also no exception to this sensibility.  The song is so perfect and timeless, one might imagine Charles ripped it from a book of standards at least 25 years earlier.  With one of my all time favorite vocal performances (Doug Sahm’s version is definitely worth hearing as well), Charles sings:
Find me a spot on some mountain top
With lakes all around me
With valley and streams and birds in the trees
And lakes that surround me
A place I feel loose
A place I could lose these Tennessee Blues

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Girl Groups []

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This rare, long out of print copy of Steve Alpert and Stephanie Bennett’s 1982 film provides a joyous glimpse into the history and development of the girl group sound. In addition to candid interviews with key figures like Darlene Love, Mary Wilson, Ronnie Spector, Arlene Smith and Ellie Greenwich, the film includes rare performance footage discovered by the filmmakers in the damp basement of a local TV affiliate in Windsor, Canada. These clips and performances by seminal groups of the era were originally aired on Teen Town, Detroit’s local version of American Bandstand. The film traces the history of the girl group sound from song writers in the Brill Building in New York to Motown and beyond, and includes clips of the Ronettes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Shangri-Las, the Marvelettes, the Angels, the Dixie Cups, the Shirelles, Dee Dee Sharp and a rare short color film of the Exciters bizarrely miming “Tell Her” in the general direction of lions and bears in a zoo. The film quality is certainly dated and shows it’s age in places, and a segment on the Supremes runs perhaps a bit too long (Motown required a minimum of ten songs to be featured for the rights to the Supremes) while other important groups are barely mentioned. All things considered, the interview segments and performances more than make up for these faults and the film stands as a valuable artifact of the times, and must viewing for fans of the Girl Group Sound.

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ATLiens by Outkast []

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ATLiens is Outkast’s follow up album (1996) to their debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994). The title is a portmanteau which combines the ATL abbreviation for their beloved Atlanta with the term “aliens”. Outkast have always considered themselves outsiders in the world of hip-hop, geographically, stylistically and lyrically and on ATLiens these lyrical differences, with the emerging sound of production teams Organized Noize and Earthtone III set the album apart. ATLiens has the head-nodding beats, funky synth bass, rhymes about cadillacs and other trappings of typical mid-90’s hip hop but remains a cut above and hints at sonic revolutions to come. Recommended for fans of lyrical hip-hop.

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Under the Munka Moon by Alice Russell []

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The 2004 debut album from the criminally overlooked UK singer with a lavishly soulful voice and sass to match. While British singers such as Duffy, Amy Winehouse, Estelle, Joss Stone and Lily Allen have sold millions, Alice has remained relatively unknown in the United States. With production fusing Latin, Girl Group, Hip-Hop, house, drum & bass, funk, gospel, jazz, rock and classic R&B sounds , Alice’s voice remains the core of her first release, which was largely a compilation of singles, remixes and collaborations. Known for her numerous side projects including Bah Samba, the Here Lies Love project with David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, the Bamboos, Quantic Soul Orchestra, her tours with diverse artists like De La Soul, Roy Ayers, the Roots and Lonnie Liston Smith and her collaborations with producer and co-writer TM Juke, the blue eyed, blonde haired lass from Brighton makes every song she performs unique and joyful.

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T.A.M.I Show []

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Long overdue full release of a forgotten classic for the first time on DVD. Filmed just eight months after The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in October 1964, this spectacular concert film was mastered from a new High Definition transfer, and features the Beach Boys performances that were removed from previous versions following the films initial theatrical run. The list of performers is a veritable time capsule of the pop music scene of 1964 and includes the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Lesley Gore and a riveting performance by James Brown and the Furious Flames. Thrown into the mix are a few British Invasion acts (Gerry & the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas), surf legends Jan & Dean, and Cape Cod’s own The Barbarians. The bands perform in front of a bevy of enthusiastic young dancers (including a young Teri Garr), sometimes alternating songs and all the acts return to the stage at the end for one last number. A must see for fans of 60’s pop, rock, surf and soul music and a fascinating look back at the popular youth culture of the moment.

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Wax Poetics []

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Are you the sort of person who’s interested in Gilberto Gil, Stax Records, Roger Troutman, John Coltrane, J Dilla or the history of the Wah-Wah pedal? If you’ve answered in the affirmative, you ought to be investigating Waxpoetics. Luckily for you, Forbes has a subscription! This magazine is packed with soul, jazz, funk, Tropicalia and hip-hop music stories. Furthermore, recent issues are accompanied by a 7″ vinyl record.

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