Friday, June 25, 2010

Review: The Gobots-D-Boy Era

The Gobots- "Play At Your Own Risk" (Video at YouTube)

It's high concept hip hop. On D-Boy Era, a new release out of the Bay area, an examination of contemporary thug life is set to the sounds of the roots of rap. "I'm Paid," for example, samples Cameo's "She's Strange" and quotes Grandmaster Flash's "The Message." The lyrical content, however, is pure 2010. For people of a certain age, including myself, The Jacka and Lee Majors, it's the best of both worlds. Accordingly, D-Boy Era just might be the album of the year for music lovers capable of embracing both Wild Style and E-40. Here's a 30-second commercial. Consider this blog post an unpaid 100-word advertisement for the album.

Tech N9ne fans can be scary.

James Christos is streaming his new album at Bandcamp.

Jazz saxophonist Fred Anderson has died. Here's a wonderful tribute.

Oh man, I wish I could attend the Albert Ayler Festival on July 10 in New York.

The M P M salutes Rappin' Duke.

Kansas City hip hop artist Greg Enemy posits that Bob Dylan and Lil Wayne are essentially the same person.

I have a few Rdio invites. Let me know if you'd like one.

Kansas City Click: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band open for JJ Grey & Mofro Friday at Crossroads KC.

Faster Horses at Prospero's bookstore on Saturday.

Aakash Mittal performs Sunday at the Record Bar.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kansas City's Star-Spangled Banners

Congratulations, Kansas City Royals, on securing the 2012 All-Star Game for Kauffman Stadium!

Now it's time to start thinking about the most important decision you'll need to make- whom will you select to perform the national anthem before the game?

The massive entertainment conglomerates will probably insist on making your selection for you. Don't let them. Show the world that Kansas City is truly "the home of the brave."

Don't settle for an obvious pick like David Cook, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge or Martina McBride. That's been done. And disallow superstar outsiders like Michael Buble, Miley Cyrus, Elton John and Alicia Keys.

Go local. Make your hometown proud by shining your spotlight on a musician with a direct connection to Kansas City.

I've taken the liberty of making 25 suggestions. They're ranked in order of my personal preference. If you're looking for a Marvin Gaye moment, Pat Metheny and Tech N9ne are candidates capable of creating headlines with an unconventional arrangement. If you'd rather play it safe, try Marilyn Maye, Kevin Mahogany or Karrin Allyson.

Good luck. I trust you'll do the right thing.

1. Bobby Watson- The top jazz artist in a jazz town.
2. Tech N9ne- This would be killer. Krizz Kaliko can provide the hooks.
3. Pat Metheny- I have no idea what he'd deliver, but I'd like to find out.
4. Myra Taylor and the Wild Women of Kansas City- Wild indeed.
5. Quixotic Fusion- The performance art ensemble would be extraordinary.
6. Marilyn Maye- Marvelous.
7. Joyce DiDonato- Classy.
8. Jonelle Monae- As fresh as it gets.
9. Ahmad Alaadeen- The preeminent elder statesman of KC jazz.
10. Ida McBeth- Long a sentimental favorite.
11. Eldar- Tremendous piano.
12. Marva Whitney- The soul legend is cooling her heels in KCK.
13. Kevin Mahogany- Elegant.
14. Sellie Truitt- He rubbed shoulders with Buck O'Neil and Satchel Paige.
15. Karrin Allyson- A natural.
16. The Elders- The Celtic rockers are one of KC's most popular acts.
17. Diverse- The most celebrated young jazz act in KC.
18. Megan Birdsall- Introduce the world to a fresh face.
19. The Wilders- KC's top bluegrass act.
20. Hearts of Darkness- An international vibe would surprise.
21. Angela Hagenbach- Beautiful.
22. Oleta Adams- Warm and inviting.
23. The McFadden Brothers- Old-school show-stoppers.
24. Ron Ron- Maybe Ron Ron will be a star by 2012.
25. Rich the Factor- Try keeping it real.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review: Summer Jam III at Sandstone

It would be disingenuous to suggest that Saturday's Summer Jam III was a walk in the park.

Even though I was on hand as a hip hop fan, attending the 7 hour and 30 minute concert was hard work. Sandstone offers precious little shade and the venue's concrete bowl resembled a blast furnace. And while most devotees of Tech N9ne are toxicology experts, a few dozen members of the audience of about 2,500 became excessively hyphy or ill. Dodging scuffles and vomit became increasingly tiresome as the day progressed.

Instead of composing a conventional review, I ranked the 18 entertainers by the quality of their performances. The musicians' actual order of appearance is in parentheses. (The headliner, Tech N9ne, is #1. Nelly immediately preceded Tech N9ne. He's #2. Etc.) The show was divided into two segments- eight national acts and ten local openers. They're ranked separately.

National acts.
1. Tech N9ne (1)- The "Strange Days" tour provided several refreshing changes. New material like "O.G." was introduced and a few old favorites featured reworked arrangements. Two songs from horrorcore rapper Brotha Lynch Hung and Big Scoob's shirtless rendition of "Salue" were excellent. As Tech N9ne rapped on "Blown Away", a track about an infamous incident at the first Summer Jam, he remains the man to beat.

2. Fat Joe (4)- Terror! I was thrilled to finally see Fat Joe. Hilariously bellicose, he didn't disappoint. Fat Joe also had the good sense to immediately pay tribute to Tech N9ne. KPRS' Tony G. claimed that this was the rap star's first appearance in the Kansas City area. That can't be right, can it?

3. Lil Jon (3)- It takes a genius to be this moronic. Lil Jon's set was Idiocracy in full effect. And yes- I danced as Rome burned.

4. Nelly (2)- I'd never seen so many soccer moms at a hip hop show. At least 500 women were on hand primarily to see Nelly. While I may have forgotten about hits like "Ride Wit Me" and "Shake Ya Tailfeather," they sure hadn't. Fun.

5. K Michelle (5)- Most of her set was a tribute to Mary J. Blige. Still, I'm a "Fallin'" fan.

6. Bertel (7)- Atrocious.

7. Recognition (8)- Insufferable.

8. John Brown (6)- He initially thought he was in St. Louis. Too bad he wasn't this John Brown.

Local acts.
1. B Double E (16)- "K.C. Say Yeah" is a clever survey of the scene.

2. Cash Image (10)- Showmanship and legitimate hits.

3. Jae Casino (17)- Versatility impresses.

4. S.H.A.D.O.W. (15)- Flashed talent while freestyling.

5. Chief Wakil (13)- Just because an artist has good taste doesn't automatically make him good.

6. Blydell (9)- Solid Tupac impersonation

7. K.D. (11)- Forgettable.

8. Jvanizz (18) Anonymous.

9. Mel Balu (12)- Generic.

10. Kareem Rush (14)- Not a good idea.

Ron Ron and Yo Gotti were no-shows. Also noteworthy- several artists, including Tech N9ne, acknowledged the passing of Kansas City comedian Jus Jay.

(Original images of Tech N9ne, top, and Fat Joe, bottom, by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: The Farewell Drifters- Yellow Tag Mondays

The Farewell Drifters perform "Everyone Is Talking" at WAMU (YouTube video).

My proper introduction to bluegrass and folk music came when I shared an office with a hippie. The Dillards, Peter Rowan and Doc Watson were among my co-worker's favorites. I learned to love that stuff. In subsequent years the most popular variations of these styles came from excellent but subversive acts like the Bad Livers and Split Lip Rayfield. Cynicism became part of bluegrass' vocabulary. Yellow Tag Mondays, the new album by Tennessee's The Farewell Drifters, is a refreshing throwback to a time when the music was undiluted by the crassness of contemporary culture.

Do I like Built To Spill, Caribou, Ted Leo and Roky Erickson enough to drive seven hours to hear them at the Pygmalion Music Festival in September? I suppose I could be talked into it.

Here's my love letter to 82-year-old Marilyn Maye.

John Hammond astounded me last weekend. Here's my review.

Jimmy Dean has died.

Kansas City Click: Everette DeVan plays Tuesday at The Phoenix.

Mumford & Sons make their Kansas City debut Wednesday.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: George Clinton at Crossroads

Appropriately low quality video snippet from concert.

Cosmic slop indeed.

Thursday's George Clinton concert was horrific. It wasn't Lubriphonic's fault. When the front man for the opening act wasn't taking tedious guitar solos, the Chicago funk band was really good.

Clinton's sprawling band of about 18 musicians seemed intent on killing as much time as possible before their boss hit the stage. A song delivered by Belita Woods lasted at least fifteen minutes. I'd had enough by the time Clinton finally made an anti-climatic appearance. So when I spotted Woods grab a microphone for the second time I ran for the exit.

Then again, everyone else seemed to be knee-deep in hardcore jollies. Maybe this whole sobriety thing is a big waste of my time.

People have asked why my review of 50 Cent's concert is so harsh. A creative and intelligent artist like 50 Cent, I believe, should demonstrate a bit of imagination.

I reviewed John Hammond's appearance at the Gladstone Summertime Bluesfest.

I like my friend Scott Severin's "Farshtaist" video.

Midwestern fans of serious music should know about the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival. (Tip via Dean Minderman.)

Kansas City Click: I intend to catch Bobby Watson's set at the Jazz In the Woods festival on Saturday if the rain lets up.

Joe Ely returns to Knuckleheads on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Review: Blake Shelton at Power & Light

I walked out on a great singer-songwriter's set last Thursday in order to catch a country music pretty boy. I don't regret the decision. Howard Iceberg had just performed "Dance Hall Girl," a new song that hit me hard. It didn't matter. I walked out of the Czar Bar's intimate listening environment and headed to the chaotic Power & Light District. Blake Shelton was already on stage and thousands of hard-drinking fans were singing along to hit after hit. I joined in for "The More I Drink", "Austin", "She Wouldn't Be Gone" and "Redneck Girl". It may be crass, calculated and obvious- everything Howard Iceberg isn't- but sometimes nothing sounds better than mainstream country.

"I Can't Get Over Losing You". Marvin Isley has died.

Here's my review of Sunday's Zappa Plays Zappa concert.

I enjoyed last night's Dirty South edition of Hip Hop Honors. The highlight for me was seeing Mystikal again.

I watched KROQ's Weenie Roast as I was stuck at home Saturday. The two best performances were by Devo and Stone Temple Pilots.

Kansas City Click: Steve Rigazzi leads a group that includes drummer Todd Strait at Jardine's on Tuesday.

George Clinton returns to Crossroads on Wednesday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Review: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

Live acoustic version of "Low Road" at YouTube

"The star-making machinery," as Joni Mitchell described it, is in overdrive for Grace Potter & the Nocturnals.

I don't like it. The roots-rock-jam band's new album is on sale for $6.99 at Amazon and at Best Buy. The latter's version contains video content.

The enchanting nouveau hippie depicted in the lovely "Low Road" video is largely absent from the new slick and polished eponymous album. The relaxed vibe on display here is spoiled by unflattering stabs at crossover.

I can't fault Hollywood Records. Their heavy-handed approach will probably pay off. Potter may soon enjoy the same level of celebrity attained by the Black Crowe's Chris Robinson and Blues Traveler's John Popper. (Careful, Grace- fame didn't necessarily agree with those men.)

Even though I don't care for the new album, I can't wait to hear songs like "Hot Summer Night" live. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals are an exceptional live act. An over-produced album shouldn't change that.

Boasting a King Crimson sample and dark lyrics, Kanye West's new single "Power" is a contender for my favorite song of 2010.

I'm thrilled that Roland White's I Wasn't Born To Rock 'n Roll has been reissued by Tompkins Square.

Prediction- Travis McCoy is going to be a huge pop star.

Credentials Hip Hop interviewed Signif. The new album by Milwaukee's answer to Speech Debelle is available as a free download.

Ollie Woodson of the Temptations has died. He's associated with the '80s hit "Treat Her Like a Lady".

Phono-Mode, a new vinyl shop, recently opened in St. Louis. The RFT has the story. (Tip via St. Louis Jazz Notes.)

Kansas City Click: I'm not too cool for classic rock. Kansas, Foreigner and Styx play Thursday at Starlight Theater.

The Black Keys are Friday's headliners at Crossroads.

The Hearts of Darkness hit Davey's Uptown on Saturday.

Zappa Plays Zappa Sunday at Crossroads.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

On the Corner In Kansas City

It's hard to hate an attractive park. Yet I loathe Paseo Green.

These photos show what's standing at Kansas City's fabled intersection of 12th Street & Vine. Here's a satellite view.

The corner represents much more than a Leiber and Stoller lyric from a Wilbert Harrison hit. It was once one of the world's premier musical destinations.

Here's the text on a plaque at the site:
During the early-1970s, 12th and Vine fell victim to Urban Renewal. Kansas City's Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority leveled most of the neighborhood surrounding 12th and Vine, as part of a city-wide rebuilding effort. In 1977, the Authority realigned the streets to create Paseo Green Park. Unfortunately, the reconfiguration of the streets eliminated the famed intersection of 12th and Vine. Now, with the creation of the Goin' to Kansas City Plaza at Twelfth Street and Vine, the historic corner of 12th and Vine has been restored.

Established in 2005, the grand piano-shaped plaza celebrates the intersection of 12th and Vine and the song "Kansas City." The piano monument base, nestled in the heart of the treble clef at the center of the park, serves as a platform for a featured sculpture that embodies the spirit of 12th and Vine. The park is designed to be a work-in-progress with a new sculpture commissioned every few years. Existing sculptures will then be placed throughout the park creating a sculpture garden. Linking Kansas City's past and future, the Goin' to Kansas City Plaza at Twelfth Street and Vine allows visitors, once again, to be standin' on the corner of Twelfth Street and Vine.
The original "piano monument base" remains the park's sole sculpture. I really don't care about that broken promise. A thousand sculptures couldn't begin to repair the tragic debasement of the celebrated location.

(Cross-posted from Plastic Sax. Original images by Plastic Sax.)