There’s a part of me that truly despises most smooth jazz. Some of this deep seeded abhorrence I harbor for the genre may be due in part to the “purist” side of the brain, while some of it may be attributed to it’s association with elevator music, which as well all know, is heard in such unnerving places as the good ol’ doctor’s offices. That place always gives me the creeps. The irony of all this is today’s “smooth jazz” centerpiece features one song I do remember hearing in elevators, hotel lobbies, convenience stores in the airport and while on hold with the local cable company on the phone. And simply put, I fucks with it. The atmospheric vibe of it is super chill, and for DJ Shok to flip it into something as sincere as DMX’s Slippin’ is moving. The other two songs featured here are probably too funky to be considered “background music.” Nonetheless, Grover Washington Jr.’s Feels So Good, arranged by the one and only Bob James, is proof (at least to me) that not all smooth jazz is eerie fluff that makes you want to pull your own wisdom teeth out instead of waiting in the lobby of your dentist and having enough self control not to throw a chair at the ceiling speakers.
You all know about the legendary Blind Alley break by The Emotions. But do you know about this bootlegged version of the Volt classic? This dub-esque version features the reworked Blind Alley on the A-side, with an extended cut of Isaac Hayes’ Bumpy’s Lament on the flip. Both were culled from the original master tapes from the Stax/Volt sessions, which in turn blesses us with a version of Blind Alley (written by David Porter) that features an extended break intro with that heavy bassline, those notorious keys that get the head nodding (pause) and dubbed out vocals. So ill. Now excuse me while I browse through the profiles of blossoming Tiger Mom MILFS on Asian Avenue for a good laugh.
Listen, I don’t know jack about Intimate Strangers, this song’s history or who else chopped this break, so instead I’ll leave you with a random, yet important science fact:
The Sun is approximately 93 million miles from Earth, and the speed at which Light travels is approximately 186,000 miles per second, yet it takes the Light from the Sun about 8 minutes and some change to reach us here on Earth. Which ultimately means the Sunlight we are seeing is 8 minutes old, or about the same time it takes Jim Jones to catch a new case.
Originally released on Stax Records’ subsidiary label, Enterprise, David Porter’s I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over was just one chapter in a series of many recorded for his 1974 Soul-Opera album Victim Of The Joke? By the mid-70s, Porter was already a well-established and highly esteemed song writer for Stax, who, along with writing partner Isaac Hayes, had penned many top charting hits for the racially integrated Memphis, Tennessee label. Hits included Soul Man and Hold On, I’m Comin’ by Sam & Dave, the former which charted at #2, while the latter rolled in a #1 hit; The Charmels’ As Long As I’ve Got You; Soul Girl by Jeanne & The Darlings (which served as a call-and-response song to Sam & Dave’s Soul Man); I Like It by The Emotions and many more.
The down side to Porter’s story was that by the time Victim Of The Joke? was released, Stax was already in a steady state of decline, where the label was currently dealing with shady business when music exec Clive Davis was fired shortly after CBS struck a distribution deal with Stax, ultimately leading CBS to quietly back out of the deal. Eventually Stax completely folded and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in ’75, but not before Porter released his unique soul opera.
The upside to this story is that Porter’s single, …The Masquerade Is Over, solidified his legacy in music forever when countless producers ended up sampling Hip-Hop’s favorite Stax break (which interestingly enough was recorded way before the album was released). In my opinion Porter & Hayes top the list of my favorite and most legendary songwriters of all time, and it’s safe to say I’m not the only one who shares this opinion, as the two multi-talented artists have been inducted into the acclaimed Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In my humblest opinion, Zap Pow’s 1972 hit This Is Reggae Music epitomizes the perfect coalescence of the bouncy rhythm of Reggae, the impassioned sounds of Soul and the unrestrained spirit of Funk. It hits the right notes, at the right times amidst a superlatively balanced blend of wah-wah guitar licks that drive the track, a filthy bassline, a string section arranged by Harry Robinson (which is usually unheard of in reggae music) and the vocal mastering of Dwight Pinkney. Although I’d love to have heard this exact song with Beres Hammond on the vocals, Dwight really does his thing, complimented with those amazing strings. God damn. Did I mention the strings? This is reggae music.
A song from my childhood that I remember vividly hearing emanating from Pops’ Nissan Datsun back in the 80s. During that time when most oldies (but goodies) were mad short (like Kim Jung Un’s stature and temper. Speaking of, have you ever seen a photo of dude that shows him from head to toe? No. Know why? Because with his iron-fist raised, he said so. Unless you wanna get thrown in his labor camp, eat funky-ass week’s old sticky white rice and watch re-runs of Dennis Rodman’s wrestling career. Nobody wants that). Co-written by the greatest to ever fucking do it, Otis Redding.
It’s hard being a digger in today’s economy. It’s even harder knowing you have a growing list of “Holy Grails” that steady increases in price, and you’re already pinching pennies to buy more records. Let’s add the cost of a jump ticket (skydiving) and wanting to save up for some fairly used gear (container, main parachute, reserve parachute, AAD, etc) which can run upwards of $2000. And that’s used gear we’re talking about. Obviously all this quasi-saving and spending leads me to a pretty mundane lifestyle, save for those days (or months) I do get to fling myself from an airplane 13,000′ up. The price we pay for pleasure though, right? Some like to splurge it on a Thai hooker and some blow. Not I. But I digress.
One record that’s up there on my “To Get” list is the very fucking rare After Laughter by Wendy Rene (of The Drapels). You know, that highly sought after 45 with the old Stax logo, flipped into the legendary Tearz. That one 45 that fetches upwards of $200 + because, well, it’s that fucking rare. So I said “Fuck it”, caved in and bought the repress. (Trust, I will get my hands on the original one day). I’ve included the re-imagined reggae cover by Belizean singer Sweet Tea up top. Peep that bassline though. Rugged and raw! Cop it here for a mere bag of shells.