Thursday, January 24, 2013

Passion of the Weiss

A few weeks back, I posted a link to L.A.-based writer Jeff Weiss's music blog, Passion of the Weiss. I recently got in touch with Jeff and yesterday I contributed what I hope to be the first of many essays/posts for the blog. The piece was inspired by a few records I recently bought. I noticed a theme of soul acts in the early 70s that were covering material written by singer/songwriters and folk-rock artists. Please read and add your thoughts. I'm curious if other listeners can hip me to some other tracks that fit this trend.

Hip Hop Transcriptions

The estimable Charles Hely has created an awesome archive of his hip hop transcriptions. The only tools used are pen, paper, and a ruler--and also an incredible ear for rhythm. We talked at length last week about this project.

Notice how Charlie chose consciously to use graph paper rather than sheet music. The typical music staves of sheet music would convey that hip-hop has evolved totally from a Western music tradition, which is debatable absurd. The graph paper allows the music to be viewed purely as a representation of time passing at evenly spaced intervals. It's cool to see these pieces as math as well as pieces of music. 

Also, I learned that Premier produced "Ten Crack Commandments" for Biggie. Thanks for filling a musical knowledge gap Char!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Diana Ross: Surrender

I bought a handful of records at Flat, Black, and Circular while in East Lansing, MI before the end of 2012. I bought Diana Ross's Surrender on a whim. I was struck by the cover, and thought I'd correct my lack of knowledge on her post-Supremes sound. I've since read that this is considered a rather sea-level effort for that part of her career. But I'll be the first to admit I really liked what I heard upon the first spin. Two tracks in particular strike me.

At first, I thought the last track of Side A was a super strange minor/major version of "I'll Be There". That song was made famous, of course, by the Jackson 5 (and didn't Diana Ross have a hand in that?). News to me that "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" is actually a different Holland-Dozier-Holland composition and was written in this really harmonically complex way. Need to take a few more listens to this one to see how it is structured.

Meanwhile, "Didn't You Know (You'd Have to Cry Sometime)" is just an awesome soul-pop song, pound-for-pound. It's the kind of song that, when you first hear the groove, you think, this has to be a sample somewhere. I just WhoSampled it... No samples! It is, however, a cover of Gladys Knight & The Pips (showcasing my ignorance here). Well, maybe I'll be the first (?) to give it a go.