June 25, 2009

rocked my world / you know you did


So first I was all, “Wow, that’s sad news but I am not qualified to blog anything about this musician, since I never could’ve honestly counted myself as a real fan.” And then I went home and the first thing I typed into my iTunes search box was “Michael Jackson” and then before I knew it I was mouthing, “I’m not gonna spend my life bein’ a color,” dancing around the kitchen. It happens.

RIP Michael.

You Rock My World (Trackmasters remix feat Jay-Z) – Michael Jackson

PREVIOUSLY: Jackson 5 audition for Motown Records

I absolutely loved this with all the soft parts inside me.

August 8, 2007

Memorable Moment: Jackson 5 audition for Motown Records, shimmy their way into our hearts

Okay, so I never really, truly got deep into Michael Jackson. I mean sure I adore singing along to “Man In The Mirror” in my car (shmoa) as much as the next girl, have roller-skated to “Rock With You,” and I do know the whole rap part from “Black or White” (I’m not gonna spend my life bein’ a color). However, I think I may be the only one of my generation that doesn’t know the Thriller dance (as was sadly evidenced at a recent wedding reception I attended), I was never tempted to wear a single white glove at any stage in my adolescence, and I can’t moonwalk. Truthfully, I can’t even really look at Michael anymore without thinking of that scene in South Park where his nose crumbles off.

But I do love me some Jackson 5. I have a weak spot for prepubescents singing sugarplum layers of pop-soul (that kinda sounded wrong but whatever). My fourth memorable music moment for the WXPN series is a cool snippet I unearthed showing a very young supergroup in the making, auditioning for Motown Records by covering some James Brown — and boy can Michael move even at that young age.

July 23, 1968: Jackson 5 Audition for Motown Records

The Jackson Five were signed to Motown after this audition was videotaped and sent to label founder Berry Gordy who couldn’t attend. After watching the above clip, he decided to sign them and in early 1969, the boys got to work recording in Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio in Detroit.

The results of these sessions were mostly covers of other hits by artists in the doo-wop/R&B/soul catalog, such as Sly & The Family Stone’s “Stand!” and Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Loving You.” They also recorded a new version of “You’ve Changed,” a song by Gordon Keith which they had recorded for his small Steeltown label before signing with Motown. Their songwriters (known as “The Corporation“) were working on penning their original soon-to-be megahit, “I Want You Back.”

As the Jacksons rehearsed and performed in clubs around L.A., the PR machines kicked into high gear and truth-telling was not at the forefront of the agenda in promoting this new discovery. The marketing team at Motown started changing facts about the band in press kits to increase their appeal. Michael’s age was lowered from 11 to 8 to make him “appear cuter”, two band members who were not related (Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer) became cousins of the Jacksons with the stroke of a publicist’s pen.

Diana Ross was also credited with discovering the group — a fanciful bit of wishful thinking, as she wasn’t even present for any of the performances or meetings leading up to their signing. In fact, the real credit goes to fellow Motown artists Bobby Taylor (who would go on to produce most of their first album) and Gladys Knight. Ross did, however, attach her name with their very first record to help vet this new group: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969). And they were off and running.

Stand! (Sly and The Family Stone cover) – The Jackson 5
You’ve Changed – Jackson 5
I Want You Back – Jackson 5

LISTEN AGAIN: This track stands up as one of my all-time favorite remixes ever. I love the way Z-Trip strips off everything from the beginning and just brings in each instrument one layer at a time so you can fully appreciate it. It actually reminds me of a funkdafied soul version of Pachelbel’s “Canon” (no, listen) the way each sound, each instrument gets its own spotlighted solo entrance into the game. Absolutely wonderful:

I Want You Back (Z-Trip remix) – Jackson 5

In news of related tastes, Chris at Gorilla vs. Bear recently pointed out the newest album in the undeniably awesome “library of the lost” collection from the Numero Group, which I’ve lavished love on in the past. It’s called Home Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul, and is the story in song of countless groups in the same vein as Jackson 5 who have been forgotten in the halls of history but are so worth a listen. Here’s a sampling:

Can’t Let You Break My Heart – The Quantrells

January 23, 2007

Whooo, owwww, yeah, and unh

PopMatters has a divine article trying to pin down those varied vocalizations that singers have been throwing in the midst of their songs since time memoriam. Maybe James Brown is the best-known for his off-the-wall hollers, but read about the rest. Here are some snippets from the extremely well-written and entertaining article, as author Zeth Lundy takes you through the different species of yowl — and you know I had to include a few of the songs in question:

The Columbus (or, the Land Ho!)
The wild-eyed whoop of abandon, emitted early when a song kicks into its full roar and meant, in part, as an alarm for the impending auditory devastation. Consider it rock ‘n’ roll etiquette, not unlike that exhibited on the golf green: heads up, ‘cause this one’s gonna rock you in places you didn’t know existed. Gaz Coombes demonstrates this nicely in Supergrass’s Richard III (1997), letting fly a preparatory yell in concurrence with the landslide entry of the bass and drums. He whoops it up like a man who has a storied history with whooping, one which he would probably recount over a few pints even though he’s a bit tired of doing so. This particular example is compounded by how Coombes sets up the holler with a brief prelude of tritone guitar riffage—ye olde Devil’s interval!—that stokes the song’s start-up with a bit of horned provocation. See also: the Faces’ Stay With Me (1971), at the moment that the double-time intro downshifts to that filthy pub shuffle—as good a time as any for Rod Stewart to launch a Columbus, back when a Rod Stewart Columbus actually meant something.

The Phantom Columbus
Quite possibly the most common and unnoticed improvisatory hoot, this occurs deep in the background of a song’s mix, always at a moment where all other instruments drop out, and usually at the song’s onset. In essence, it’s a Columbus (the hasty shout-out predicting some kind of calamitous rapture), but it’s not necessarily one intended to be heard by the public at-large, since it’s only serendipitously picked up by a microphone that just happens to be dedicated to another instrument. Really listen—put on the noise-isolating headphones, crank up the volume to that decibel the doctor warned you about—and you’ll catch more Phantom Columbuses than you’ll care to count. Two songs in particular sport perceptible examples of this holler:
Superdrag’s Sold You an Alibi (1998) and Mission of Burma’s 2wice (2006). It occurs during the opening of both songs, between the gutsy plunges of the former’s wicked guitar riff and immediately after the latter’s colossal solo drum foundation. See also: the first few seconds of the Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (1971), soon after the drums are introduced to that impeccably slouching guitar.

Read the whole “Hoots, Hollers and Barbaric Yawps” article

I think the most elusive of the vocalizations (and my personal favorite to imitate on road-trips) is hands-down the “shmoa“:

Man In The Mirror – Michael Jackson

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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