April Music Discovery
Each month I'm going to dig into my library and post 9 albums/artists you should own.
I went to University as a music major in composition theory. To say I love music would be a grand understatement. I'm hoping that each month I'll post something you don't have or don't know...and make sure there is something for everyone.
Former half of Buckingham Nicks and the driving force of Fleetwood Mac (post blues), Lindsey Buckingham is a genius whose solo releases are too far and few between. While there are a number of people who have probably reached their tolerance level of Mac tunes, Buckingham is often under appreciated for his contributions to music, and that's unfortunate.
The thing about Lindsey is that he not only has a sense of harmony so perfect that it is on par with Brian Wilson and Jeff Lynne, but his skills as a guitarist are often ignored and overshadowed by his work with Fleetwood Mac.
The great thing for me about Lindsey is that he has a "sound." Now some people consider this a detraction, but for many of us, it is what we love most of all. Some artists work their entire lives and never reach the level of perfection that you'll find in his playing and song writing. The Buckingham sound is clean and precise, but not just through production...he's just that good of a singer and player. Remember this live rendition of Big Love?
On the opening track of his new album, Under the Skin, there is a sense of sadness and longing for that recognition...a sense that he lives within the shadow of this enormous weight, this superstar group that he'll always be associated with, that sells millions of albums...and yet when he steps from that shadow...he's nearly forgotten.
And isn't that an interesting curse we see with any group that reaches that level of stature...that when you are ready to move on to new things...the audience isn't ready to move with you?
Which is really odd, because I can name countless solo artists whose work I've enjoyed more after they left the comfort and security of their "supergroup."
Fleetwood Mac has given Lindsey the financial freedom to explore himself as an artist, but as an artist...what good is creating that art if no one else hears it. Lindsey is on tour right now, and unfortunately I missed his show when he was around here (snif), but I highly recommend you catch him if he's around your way.
Here's a few tracks I love off the new album.
I was sitting in the car one night waiting to pick someone up, when I ran across a song on the radio. I was hooked by it, but I missed who it was...and after trying very hard to locate it online, I finally emailed the station and described it. It was Che Che Colo by Antibalas. Digging a little deeper, I've become an enormous fan of the band.
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra is a Bushwick, Brooklyn based afrobeat band that is modelled after Fela Kuti's Africa 70 band and Eddie Palmieri's Harlem River Drive Orchestra. Although their music is primarily afrobeat, their music incorporates elements of jazz, funk, dub, improvised music, and traditional drumming from Cuba and West Africa.Founded 1998 by Martín Perna as "Conjunto Antibalas," the group played its inaugural concert in May 26, 1998 at St. Nicks Pub in Harlem at a night organized by artist Xaviera Simmons. Over the course of the next few months, the group solidified with a core of eleven band members and began to develop a repertoire of original songs. Guitarist and producer/engineer Gabriel Roth wrote several of the earlier tunes and oversaw recording and production of the first three records.
While you are probably more familiar with Gary Numan's nuwave hit Cars, he's been steadily making music all these years. About 10 years ago he had a bit of an artistic rebirth (as he is wont to do) as a bit of a tech/goth genius. It is certainly not for everyone, but if you are a fan of NIN, you'll probably like his newer work.
Here's my favorite track from the album Jagged, called Halo:
What's funny is that there are a number of YouTube video mashups of Numan's music with video from the game Halo. It actually works very well together, so when you make that movie, Peter Jackson, maybe you should consider Numan for the soundtrack?
Do I really need to write anything about Robert Plant? All I can say is that if you were ever wondering if an artist with as long of a history as Plant, can still be musically and socially relevant, this album cements that as fact. While other artists like the Stones are going out and cashing in, Plant is making compelling music with a statement on the political affairs of the day. Mighty Rearranger is an outstanding and challenging album that I love.
Here's a great track on iTunes called Shine It All Around
Hawkins was an enigmatic figure through most of his career; he split his time between his adopted hometown of Venice Beach, California where he was a mostly-anonymous street performer, and Europe, where he and his songs were better-known and well-received in clubs and small concert halls.
Born into a poor family in Mississippi, Hawkins lived a difficult early life, ending up at a reform school by age 12, and drifting, hitching, and stealing his way across the country for the next dozen years, earning several stays in prison including a 3-year stint for stealing a leather jacket as a teenager. Along the way, he picked up a love of music and a talent for the guitar. "I was sent to a school for bad boys called Oakley Training School in 1949," from a brief piece of autobiography he wrote. "There I developed my voice by singing with a group that the superintendent's wife had got together." After reform school, he ended up in the state penitentiary and was released at 19. "Then I heard a singer whose name was Sam Cooke. His voice did something to me." For the next ten years or so he drifted in and out of trouble around the country, living in Chicago, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Newark. In the middle of the mid-1960s folk music boom Hawkins set out for California to try for a professional singing career. He recorded several tunes without commercial success, worked at odd jobs, and took up busking along the piers and storefronts of Venice Beach as a way to supplement his income. Hawkins made ends meet by developing a small following of locals and tourists who would come to hear this southern black man, sitting on an overturned milk-crate, play blues and folk standards as well as a few original tunes in his signature open guitar tuning and raspy vocal style (Hawkins claimed the rasp in his voice came from the damage done by years of singing in the sand and spray of the boardwalk).
When I played the first track off this album, it was like a sip of 100 year old scotch...smooth with a slight burn at that end...but delicious nonetheless, leaving me wanting for more.
It is hard to find any of his tracks online to point to, but go to this iTunes link and listen to the sample of the track Strange Conversation. I defy you to not buy the album after that track.
Ojos de Brujo
("Wizard's Eyes" in English) is an eight-piece band from Barcelona, who describe their style as "hiphop flamenkillo" (hip-hop with a little flamenco). The band sold over 100,000 copies of their self-produced Barí album, and has received several awards, among these the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award for Europe in 2004 (having also been nominated in 2003).Their success is also notable for being achieved without the aid of label backing; they set up their own label, La Fábrica de Colores, to get complete artistic freedom for Barí, away from the pressure they perceived from their record company Edel Records for their debut Vengue 
The Town and the City
When I was 13 (23 years ago)...I heard the album How Will The Wolf Survive? and it touched me in one of those ways that only music can...and after all these years it still speaks to me. In my mind I can still hear the pop and hiss of the album vinyl over those Advent A4's (those were some beautiful speakers).
I still play that album and I still feel broken up inside when I hear tracks like A Matter of Time, not to mention Is This All There Is?, and The Mess We're In from their follow up album, By The Light of the Moon.
I've been a rabid Los Lobos fan since that time (every side project & album), and this work continues to cement a place in my heart for them. This is a beautiful album, and another heartfelt one from the band from East LA.
Here's some of my favorite tracks from Los Lobos over the years, and a couple of great performance.
And the great Cesar Rosas performing Anselma
What can I say about the late great Oscar Brown Jr...?
Songwriter, activist, singer, poet.
Probably the best compilation.
Oh Green Gartside...you just can't be pegged can you? Always on a path of musical self discovery, you've flipped on me once again. The first new album in 7 years since Anomie & Bonhamie, I have to say I like this album a lot. Green sounds as good today as he did 20+ years ago...and for that I'm jealous.
People tend to get a little miffed at bands that they loved that continue to reinvent themselves...since it violates some memory they had when they were in junior high making out in somebody's basement...but I not only respect it, I look for it. The new album is another departure and a welcome one. It is smooth, unexpected, goes left when you think it will go right...a challenge at times to listen to, but very rewarding.
One of my favorites is Cooking:
And here's a throwback from Anomie & Bonhamie, Tinseltown to Boogie Down. Some people were shocked to hear this record. They felt Green sold out to make a hip hop album, but I think that's an uneducated knee jerk reaction. This is a good album, and the inclusion of Mos Def here is unexpected but welcome. I actually love the blending of these two opposites...the well constructed hip hop with the tight perfection of Green's voice. Very interesting.