Wednesday, May 23, 2018

BART & THE BEDAZZLED's Blue Motel reviewed!


BART & THE BEDAZZLED
BLUE MOTEL

Available NOW


Bear with me here…

Music can so often dictate my emotions.  It can literally transport me from one mood to another in the blink of a chord change. And this brings me to something that I call ‘3 A.M. Music’. How would I describe this style of music? Well, imagine that melancholy feeling you get when you are floating halfway between consciousness and sleep very late at night/early in the morning. Then, as you lie there and prepare to drift off into la-la land, you hear a magical song on the radio that gives you chills. It is so emotionally powerful that you want to leap out of bed and express love and thankfulness… yet you are paralyzed and lost in the music so you give in to it’s charm. Does that sound familiar to you?  Are you picking up what I’m laying down?  Well, this phenomenon that I refer to as ‘3 A.M. Music’ sends those melancholy feelings through my body at any given moment of the day when I hear certain chord changes. ‘3 A.M. Music’ connects every emotion in my body and while the overall outcome is melancholic, it is a truly powerful experience.


So, what the hell does this have to do with BLUE MOTEL, the brand-new album from Bart & The Bedazzled (Bart Davenport, Jessica Espeleta, Wayne Faler, and Andres Renteria)? Well, it seems that main man Bart Davenport has a patent on those kinds of chord changes that I love and he allows them to flow freely on this fine platter. This is sophisticated Pop music that combines elements of Soul, Power Pop, and Indie Rock. Imagine, if you will, hearing something off of the first album by The Ocean Blue mixed with early ‘70s Todd Rundgren, early ‘80s Scottish Pop (Aztec Camera/The Bluebells) and some tasty Yacht Rock for good measure. You can even throw in some Prefab Sprout for some extra zest. Not to mention a little John Barry (the guitar lick on “Halloween By The Sea” is reminiscent of the Midnight Cowboy theme). The album is a wonderful blend of sounds, styles and influences that span 50 years of Pop Music history. And thankfully, Bart & Co. manage to make it all sound cohesive inspiring and most certainly unique.


BLUE MOTEL is an album filled with moody and melodic Pop that will appeal to anyone with an ear for a great melody and a heart for honest music-making.  The Glen Campbell-like guitar riffs on “The House That Built Itself” are a treat. “Life Under Water” is haunting and lovely. “The Amateurs” is a new Yacht Rock classic that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Player album. “Grown Ups” is beefy Twee Pop with some Rundgren soulfulness. The album’s closer, “Vampire,” is stunning in it’s simplicity and emotional depth.  Davenport’s vocals drip with emotion on this track – and throughout the album for that matter.


Simply put, BLUE MOTEL is one of the best albums of the year.


Keep on truckin’,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee


Monday, May 21, 2018

SPAZ reviews KID CREOLE & THE COCONUTS on Cherry Red!


KID CREOLE AND THE COCONUTS
PRIVATE WATERS IN THE GREAT DIVIDE 
YOU SHOULDA TOLD ME YOU WERE... 

(2CD)


When August Darnell transformed himself into Kid Creole for 1980’s OFF THE COAST OF ME, he was already a music industry veteran, spending time as a member of DR. BUZZARD’S ORIGINAL SAVANNAH BAND alongside his brother Stony Browder, Jr. Darnell’s blending of musical genres – Salsa, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, Funk and Swing – initially confused lovers of Top 40 but was embraced by the quirky New Wave kids. Within a few years, Kid Creole & The Coconuts were scoring hits in Europe but were looked upon as a ‘novelty’ band in the U.S. By 1984, KC&TC finally scored a hit in the States with “My Male Curiosity” (from the AGAINST ALL ODDS soundtrack) and it seemed as if radio programmers finally understood where August Darnell was coming from, musically. Sadly, the band’s next batch of albums didn’t set the charts on fire and by 1989, even with the support of their new label home, Columbia, their future as hitmakers seemed bleak. Even faithful sidekick and lucky charm Coati Mundi had moved on. Thankfully, Prince stepped in and offered the band a track called “The Sex of It.” The song was another hit for the band and gave them a much-needed commercial boost. And that is where Cherry Red’s two CD Kid Creole release – PRIVATE WATERS IN THE GREAT DIVIDE/YOU SHOULDA TOLD ME YOU WERE… - comes in.


PRIVATE WATERS IN THE GREAT DIVIDE was scheduled for release in 1989 but when Prince offered up his song, “The Sex of It,” Columbia Records decided to hold the album so that they could add the song to the track listing. “The Sex of It” was an unreleased Prince recording that Darnell added his vocals to yet it worked well within the context of KC&TC’s unique world groove style. The funky guitars ‘n’ bass and the Swing horn swirls – staples of the Kid Creole sound – were mixed with the distinct Prince style, creating something different enough without deviating too far from Darnell’s musical vision. The rest of the album – like their three previous full lengths – traveled familiar Kid Creole ground, moving away from the full band vibe and embracing then-modern recording technology. Programmed rhythms had replaced live drums and while that ‘band playing in the room together’ vibe was missing, the songs were catchy and certainly great additions to the KC&TC catalog. “I Love Girls,” “Takin’ A Holiday,” “Corey’s Song,” “He’s Takin’ The Rap,” “(No More) Casual Sex,” and “Pardon My Appearance” are highlights but there’s more where that come from. Disc One on this two CD set features the full album alongside the non-album “Ode to A Coloured Man” and mixes of “I Love Girls” and “The Sex Of It.”


1991’s YOU SHOULDA TOLD ME YOU WERE… continues where PRIVATE WATERS left off: post-Prince funkiness with Darnell’s distinct (and magical) touch. Again, the album relies on studio technology over band dynamics but the songs are still undeniably catchy. There are some fantastic Pop moments on this, their eighth album, including “My Soul Intention” and “(She’s A) Party Girl” (both of which recall 1985’s “(Darlin’ You Can) Take Me”). However, Darnell’s funky Latin R&B world groove tendencies get a workout on tracks like “It’s Automatic,” “Oh Marie,” and “Baby Doc.” “Your Move!” trades on late ‘80s R&B tropes while adding that Darnell magic. “Something Incomplete,” “How Can I Forget You? (The Benediktion),” and “Consequently” show the softer side of the Kid’s sound. “Madison Avenue” sounds like it was lifted from one of the band’s early albums yet fits perfectly amongst these tracks. Disc Two of this set features the entirety of this album with no bonus material.


For nearly 40 years, Kid Creole & The Coconuts have created music that is meant to engage the listener and these two albums do just that. Whether the songs make you dance, think, laugh or sing along, this double disc set is a party in your pants!


Keep on truckin',
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

Friday, May 18, 2018

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: FATOUMATA DIAWARA/FENFO


FATOUMATA DIAWARA
FENFO

5.18.18

Fatoumata Diawara is a highly acclaimed singer, songwriter, guitarist and actress from Mali. Her journey began when she was born in the Ivory Coast and has included stints in her father’s dance troupe, as an actress on stage and screen, as a singer in Paris night clubs and as a show-stealing performer at a star-studded tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. All of these experiences inform her sophomore effort FENFO, an album born from tradition yet entirely modern and unique. The long-awaited follow-up to her 2011 debut full-length, FATOU, FENFO lives up to the promise of that debut… and then some.

ROUGH GUIDE TO… WORLD MUSIC NETWORK: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with Phil Stanton


ROUGH GUIDE TO… 
WORLD MUSIC NETWORK:

An EXCLUSIVE Q&A 
with 
Phil Stanton


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: As you release the 25th Anniversary Edition of THE ROUGH GUIDE TO WORLD MUSIC, how are you feeling about the way things have evolved for World Music Network over the last quarter century?
PHIL STANTON: So much has happened! Twenty-five years ago, we released our first compilation, the inaugural ROUGH GUIDE TO WORLD MUSIC. Some twenty-five years and 369 Rough Guides later, I went through the archives to put together this special anniversary edition. The precursor to World Music Network was my first imprint, Riverboat Records, founded in 1989. At that time, I was living on a leaky barge along London’s Grand Union Canal, hence the name, which stuck. This Rough Guide anniversary collection is compiled purely from Riverboat Records releases. From modest origins, we have become one of the best-known labels in this area of music. It has been quite a ride!

SPAZ: Looking at this collection, how do you feel about the choices you made? And what was your criteria for deciding what was going to make it on the CDs?
PHIL: I was compiling from the perspective of today –  in line with the label ethos, this album promotes deeper understanding of musical traditions and global cultures, perfectly demonstrated by the meditative album opener ‘Sunno’ by Rafiki Jazz - a band with members who span four different continents! Their music includes some of the world’s most distinctive folk instruments including the West African kora, Caribbean steelpan, Indian tabla, Brazilian berimbau and Arabic ney. From the virtuoso musicianship of Calcutta’s guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya and Palestinian buzuq player Ramzi Aburedwan to the danceable grooves of Klezmer-Balkan band She'Koyokh and Chinese folk rockers Shanren, I believe the quality of this music is timeless and some choices are simply great irrespective of current trends!

SPAZ: How did you go about discovering the music two and ½ decades ago?  It’s not like you had Spotify or iTunes readily available….
PHIL: We did a lot of research and still do. How we research has changed a bit. We also work with experts in each genre to ensure a consistent high quality. We have enlisted renowned DJs, journalists and musicologists to help with our compilations including Dan Rosenberg, Nigel Williamson and Pablo Yglesias.

SPAZ: It seems that music from different cultures and different continents relies less on recording technology and more on atmosphere, which makes many recordings timeless. Are you sometimes surprised at just how fresh the older recordings sound today?
PHIL: Yes – we have explored all sorts of areas including a series of Psychedelic guides which include many recordings from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Recording quality is really important, too - as it is for all types of music - but there are deep and rich archives worth exploring.

SPAZ: Twenty-five years ago, it still wasn’t that common to see a healthy World Music section in most music stores. Was it difficult to get the releases out into the marketplace in the early days?
PHIL: Yes, that was the whole idea of 'world music': giving the stores somewhere to file these releases. There was an educational process with the stores and the public. Early on we found that grouping the Rough Guides together helped get our releases noticed. We were actually one of the first independent labels to create our own display fixtures and our own listening posts!  It was hard at first but strong sales helped establish the idea and eventually the brand.

SPAZ: Artists like Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel brought certain aspects of World Music into the charts in the mid to late ‘80s. Do you feel that this time period was the turning point for World Music and its commercial acceptance?
PHIL: Yes. I think those collaborations helped. Another important collaboration that comes to mind was the Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure album and subsequent tour.  This opened the door to the music of Mali and helped make the connection between African music and American Blues music to western audiences.

SPAZ: The internet has brought the world and all its music to our telephones. Do you see a rise in people accessing world music more frequently or is it a case of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin?
PHIL: I think it works both ways – some people just listen to music they know but others use the new technologies to explore music that is new to them. Playlists have been an enormous tool in presenting world music to new audiences. One artist/song will lead to another, then another.

SPAZ: Your releases feature music that not only embrace different cultures, they also touch on different emotions, which everyone can understand and connect to. How difficult is it to distill the essence of each genre or country into one ROUGH GUIDE collection? There are so many stories to tell…
PHIL: That's true. Our approach is to give as good an overview as possible – including some very popular tracks alongside less well-known pieces that are significant for one reason or another. Our commitment is to releasing lesser-known artists from places often underrepresented in the Western market, which we hope promotes deeper understanding of musical traditions and global cultures.

SPAZ: What is next for World Music Network and your labels?
PHIL: We are releasing more artist albums on our Riverboat label – artist development is a new focus. We have exciting Klezmer music from a London-based band called Don Kipper, Celtic American from Kyle Carey and Bulgarian folk music from singer Eugenia Georgieva. We are also starting a new Indian legends series of ROUGH GUIDES. The first release in this series will be a collection from sitar master Ravi Shankar.

SPAZ: What are you currently spinning on your CD and record players?
PHIL: I'm really enjoying the connections between Jazz and World – the latest Anour Brahim album is stunning!

Thanks to Phil Stanton
Special thanks to Steve Dixon and Dave Rayburn

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO WORLD MUSIC:

25th Anniversary Edition

5.18/18

Monday, May 14, 2018

FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH returns with AND JUSTICE FOR NONE!


FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH
AND JUSTICE FOR NONE

5.18.18


Five Finger Death Punch has unleashed “When The Season’s Change,” marking the most massive, melodic song in their repertoire yet, the new song is off the group’s album AND JUSTICE FOR NONE, due out May 18.  A brash bloodletting of airtight riffs, muscular grooves, and seismic melodies, AND JUSTICE FOR NONE’s 13 tracks see Five Finger Death Punch maintain their signature intensity, all while pushing themselves into new territory.

Friday, May 11, 2018

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: SOFI TUKKER/TREEHOUSE


SOFI TUKKER
TREEHOUSE

Available NOW!


Although there is a dark side lurking beneath the surface, the music of Electronic duo Sofi Tukker is upbeat, fun and adventurous. While the duo’s music is aimed for the feet, there’s certainly a lot to wrap our head around. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me introduce you to Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern AKA Sofi Tukker. Their name may evoke the spirit of legendary stage/screen/radio icon Sophie Tucker, but this duo’s music is world’s away from the original Sophie’s bawdy burlesque. Sofi Tukker’s two-year journey to their debut album, TREEHOUSE, has included a Grammy nomination, loads of great press and a coveted iPhone 7 commercial spot. Other artists toil away in obscurity for years, anxiously awaiting their time in the spotlight. However, Sofi Tukker’s combination of Pop smarts and luck have put them on the fast track to the front of the line.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

COURTNEY BARNETT: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A






TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL:

An EXCLUSIVE Q&A 
with
 COURTNEY BARNETT


STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Your album, TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL, is just about to be released.  How are you feeling about the way the project turned out and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
COURTNEY BARNETT: I feel a weight off my shoulders, I feel proud of the album. Reactions seem good but it’s hard to say, not many people have heard it yet. It’s hard to ever really assume to know what someone else is thinking anyhow. I’ve enjoyed hearing people’s stories as they listen and connect with the songs.