Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What's rocking my stereo at the moment...

Amy Winehouse - "Love is a Losing Game"
This is the most beautiful song I've heard in ages. I love the deliberately retro production, the subtle vibraphone and majestic string section in the background, the note of resignation and inevitability in Amy's soulful voice. It finishes almost too soon.

Aretha Franklin - "One Step Ahead"
Having heard bits of it sampled on Mos Def's "Ms Fatbooty", it was great to finally track down the original. Another song that finishes way to soon, it's a reminder not only of the pure fabulousness of 60s soul, but how Motown and the like perfected the art of a pop-soul package - melody, orchestras and brilliant vocalists all packed economically into a 3-minute song, sweet enough for mass consumption but still keepin' it real.

Lily Allen - "Smile" (Mark Ronson Remix featuring Wale)
The original version of this song is nice enough, but Ronson's reworking shows why he is one of the most interesting producers around at the moment. He flips it completely into an old soul track, borrowing liberally from James & Bobby Purify's classic "I'm Your Puppet", as if Lily always wanted it to sound like this. For more Ronson stuff, check out "Ooh Wee" and "International Affair".

The Pharcyde - "Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde" album.
Dug this CD out of the crate recently and loving it more and more. Probably the funniest rap album ever (check "Ya Mama" and "Oh Shit"), yet musically and lyrically dope. Ironically it came out in L.A. in the early 90s, in the West Coast's heyday of gangsta rap. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

John Legend - "Live at the Knitting Factory" album
Released before his first album proper, this intimate live recording takes off all the fancy production and drops it down to vocal and piano, allowing this guy's extraordinary talents to shine through. Hearing "She Don't Have to Know" on the radio for the first time was one of those jaw-dropping "Oh my God who is this guy?" moments. Yet the show is almost stolen by a pre-stardom Kanye West, rapping over Legend's piano back when no one had ever heard of either of them, and their version of "All Falls Down" reminds you what an amazing lyricist Kanye can be when he puts his mind to it.

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