June 10, 2020

Keith Nelson Jr. Bob Marley’s Uprising Gave the George Floyd Protests a Soundtrack 40 Years Ago

George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer 40 years after Bob Marley & The Wailers forecasted the civil upheaval that would follow Floyd’s death on the 1980 album Uprising. Clashes with classism, the “us vs. them” division between the people and the those in power, and the quest for liberation are paramount in both Marley’s message in 1980 and the hearts and minds of those protesting Floyd’s murder.

Marley’s voice, with its almost empyrean tranquility, could make a revolution sound as palpable as a lullaby — he could make the cries of the Jamaican people as soothing and unavoidable as the rain. He helped momentarily quell a civil war in Jamaica by uniting the leaders of two warring political parties, Jamaican Labour Party and the People’s National Party, on stage at his One Love peace Concert two years before he and The Wailers gave the world an Uprising.

The album details the path of an uprising, from the forgotten upheavals against oppressed obscurity (“Coming In From The Cold”) and the uncertainty in surmounting the ruling power (“Real Situation”) to seeking retribution for “the innocent blood that they shed every day” (“We and Dem”) and, finally, liberating themselves from mental slavery (“Redemption Song”). Uprising was released six months into 1980, following countries arming themselves with nuclear weapons; a decade of rampant, politically charged violence in Jamaica; and Marley contracting skin cancer.

Aside from a few mentions of nuclear power, Uprising makes little to no specific mentions of world events preceding its release; Uprising is timeless, not a time capsule, for that very reason. Marley understood unity among people is achieved through the uplifting of similarities and not the exhumation of difference, because only by exposing the root will those splintered acknowledge they hang from the same family tree.

If you listen to the chorus of people that fill the streets across the world in protest of police brutality, you can hear the beliefs of the distraught. The belief that “the biggest man you ever did see was just a baby” from “Coming In From The Cold” is why protesters won’t capitulate to others simply because they’re in power. Marley’s elegant warning of “love would not leave us alone” on “Could You Be Loved” is a belief shared by protesters who have been vigilant in calling out companies posting photos of solidarity while having a culture of racism. Marley defiantly told oppressors “two thousand years of history could not be wiped away so easily” on “Zion Train” and now America is once again reckoning with its racist history because of an uprising he warned the world of 40 years ago.

Tapping into what’s elemental in us all — childhood, love, history — was always the Rastafarian genius’ preferred method of connection. One of his most famous songs, “I Shot The Sherrif,” was never solely about admonishing law enforcement. “That’s not really a sheriff, it’s just the elements of wickedness,” Marley said in a 1975 interview. He believed in the universality of man because he is a product of warring factions.

“My father’s white, my mother’s black. You know what them call me? Half-caste or wh’ever. Well, me don’t dip on nobody’s side, me don’t dip on the black man’s side nor the white man’s side, me dip on God’s side, the man who create me, who cause me to come from black and white, who give me this talent,” Marley said.

On the Uprising standout, “We and Dem,” Bob exhaustedly sings, “We no know how we and dem a-go work this out.” The typically upbeat album fades into the nighttime vibes of this song o a morose organ that sounds like a setting sun and darkness blanketing the commotion. You can close your eyes. It’s in this somber tune somber song where Marley unites the protest in retribution.

The chorus highlights not only the “us vs. them” binary at the heart of our current civil unrest but also the unity that comes from the oppressed uniting against a common enemy. The inability to make it work implies a broken system, paramount in any uprising. The Daily Show host Trevor Noah eloquently explained how the sort of rift Marley described 40 years ago is why parts of the George Floyd protest devolved into looting: “How does it help you to not loot Target? Because the only reason you didn’t loot Target before was because you were upholding society’s contract. There is no contract if the law and people in power don’t uphold their end of it.”

Uprising was the final studio album Marley would release while alive. He died May 11, 1981, from complications with the skin cancer he struggled with for the last three years of his life. Uprising was a gift bestowed upon the world by a man whose purity of self gave peace corporeality and millions of people hope. It was a blueprint for freedom. It was an echo of cries unheard and an explanation for feelings once ineffable.

Bob Marley’s legacy will never die as long as there are people still rising up.

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Morgan Enos How Talking Heads Embraced the Everyday with Little Creatures

Talking Heads crash-landed on the new wave scene as paranoiac aliens who proceeded to hang a “no” sign on everything about Earth — buildings, food, oxygen, even electric guitars. Singer David Byrne spouted dadaist gobbledygook. They made “dance music” that was ironically inert as if Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker” sculpture lurched from its seat and cut a rug. Rolling Stone wrote that their 1980 album Remain in Light would make the listener “dance and think, think and dance, dance and think, ad infinitum.”

Does that sound less like a band and more like an impenetrable art-school idea of a band? Fair enough. Three out of four Talking Heads met at the Rhode Island School of Design. But Byrne, guitarist-keyboardist Jerry Harrison, bassist Tina Weymouth, and drummer Chris Frantz were too smart to freeze their music in conceptual amber. Their 1978 album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, featured a guileless cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” a song that bypasses the frontal lobes and accesses the heart.

After two forbidding mid-period albums — 1979’s Fear of Music and 1980’s Remain in Light — Talking Heads began to warm up. Their 1983 single “Burning Down the House” from that year’s Speaking in Tongues was funky and user-friendly enough to shoot to No. 9 on the Hot 100. The album that followed, Little Creatures, which was released on June 10, 1985, was another simple, straightforward breath of fresh air as typified by cuts like “Creatures of Love,” “Road to Nowhere,” and the minor hit “And She Was,” which resonate still on the album’s 35th anniversary.

Little Creatures is pop-friendly in the sense that Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album Ram is. Beneath its abundant melodies and polished production, it feels slightly warped in the sun, right down to its hallucinogenic album cover, which features UFOs, anthropomorphic clouds, and quotes from Samuel, Daniel, and Revelation, as well as depictions of Harrison, Weymouth, Frantz, and an underpants-clad Byrne shouldering a smiling-continent-filled Earth like Atlas.

“[Little Creatures] had a pared-down sound and a vaguely innocent air,” graphic designers Michael Bierut and Peter Hall explained in the book Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist. Instead of enlisting a modernist eye like Kalman (who co-designed Remain in Light), Byrne commissioned a painting by Reverend Howard Finster, an outsider artist from Georgia who also collaborated with Michael Stipe on the cover of R.E.M.’s 1984 album Reckoning.

“David Byrne is now on TV. I am listening to him while painting this art,” Finster’s note in the bottom-right corner reads. “3:15 past midnight, April 12, 1985. This is my [4,411th] piece of art.”

The peppy “And She Was,” which kicks off the album, was inspired by a “blissed-out hippie chick in Baltimore” Byrne once knew who liked to drop LSD in a field near a Yoo-hoo chocolate soda factory. “Somehow that image seemed fitting, the junk food factory and this young girl tripping her brains out gazing at the sky,” he told Q magazine in 1992. “It wasn’t a drugs song at all … I think it gives the impression of a spiritual or emotional experience, instantaneous and unprovoked. The sublime can come out of the ridiculous.”

And Little Creatures gets ridiculous frequently, but in a human way, not a calculated one. Terrestrial concerns no longer fried their circuits; specifically, Weymouth and Frantz, who wed in 1977 and welcomed their son, Robin, in 1982, and Byrne had babies on the brain. “Well, I’ve seen sex and I think it’s alright / It makes those little creatures come to life,” he sings on “Creatures of Love.” He gets even sillier — and cringier — on the rugrat jam “Stay Up Late”: “Cute, cute little baby / Little pee-pee / Little toes / Crawl across the kitchen floor.”

Women — especially Byrne’s then-girlfriend Adelle Lutz — figure powerfully in the album, too. On “The Lady Don’t Mind,” Byrne observes a captivating-yet-elusive gal from a distance. (Byrne and Lutz wed in 1987, welcomed their daughter Malu in 1989, and divorced in 2004.)

All this celebration of domestic bliss wasn’t an end to itself — it was an act of resistance. On “Television Man,” Byrne describes watching the tube as being “inside and outside at the same time” and “the world crashing into my living room” before deciding to unplug, stretch his legs, and connect with real people: “Take a walk in the beautiful garden / Everybody outside would like to say hello.” The band wasn’t going soft; after once perishing the thought, they decided to strike out for the big country.

“Road to Nowhere” suggests that Byrne was willing to eventually ride that train straight off the edge of the Earth. “I wanted to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom,” Byrne explained in the liner notes of 1992’s Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads. “At our deaths and the apocalypse — always looming, folks.” A locomotive beat, a perky accordion, and a gospel choir hurtle the band toward the precipice.

Talking Heads didn’t last long after Little Creatures. They’d release two more, 1986’s True Stories and 1988’s Naked, before breaking up in 1991. Still, despite its turn toward simplicity, the album was well-received. Rolling Stone’s Rob Tannenbaum called it “modest, enchanting … what could be more subversive [for them] than a clean, happy record?” The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau wrote that “the music is rich in hidden treasures in a way that their punk-era stuff never was.” Weymouth, who by then was just as absorbed in motherhood as music, tended to agree.

“It’s so much fun to be able to relax and just play without feeling you have to be avant-garde all the time,” she told The New York Times in 1985 during a breather in their cramped Greenwich Village rehearsal space. “We spent so many years trying to be original that we don’t know what original is anymore.” Other priorities, like her and Frantz’s toddler son, had taken over. The world was moving, she was floating above it, and she was.

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RIP Bonnie Pointer. The Pointer Sisters at Biba’s Rainbow Room in London, 1974. All were…

via The Real Mick Rock

CAS Kraftwerk ‘The Man-Machine’ Legacy Playlist

Kraftwerk helped launch a musical revolution that started with new wave and extended itself through hip hop, techno, electro, house music and just about every variation of electronic music that is created today.

Check out this playlist of music that inspired the album including Afrika Bambaata, The Egyptian Lover, The Normal, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Depeche Mode, New Order, Gary Numan, Derrick May, Lindstrom and The Orb.

Read more: The Story of Kraftwerk ‘Trans-Europe Express’
Listen: Kraftwerk ‘The Man-Machine’ Musical Lead-Up Playlist


The post Kraftwerk ‘The Man-Machine’ Legacy Playlist appeared first on Classic Album Sundays.

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CAS The Story of De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’

De La Soul…. Ooooohweeeee… where do we even start? Personally, I’ll start by saying that I’ve been with “De La” since Day 1—since that day in 1989 when I first heard Me, Myself and I and its infectiously fun representation of a few high schoolers just having a heck of a good time just as I was getting ready to enter 9th grade.

But in trying to answer this question in critical terms, luckily for us De La Soul themselves have already provided us the blueprint, complete with instructions to assembly, in their 1989 debut classic “3 Feet High and Rising”. All we really need to do is step back, listen closely and learn as ‘De La’ laid out the roadmap for understanding their seminal work… oh, and by the way, while they were at it, they might have also given us the roadmap to understanding the whole goddam world.

Watch: De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ with Joe Lapan at Classic Albums at Home

“De La Soul posse consists of three and that’s the magic number”

Formed in the Amityvile area of Long Island, New York in 1988, De La Soul consists of Kelvin Mercer aka Posdnuos aka Plug One, Dave Jolicoeur aka Trugoy aka Plug Two and Vincent Mason aka Maseo aka Plug Three. The three formed the group known as De La Soul, directly translating to From The Soul, in high school and quickly caught the attention of producer Prince Paul with a demo tape of the song “Plug Tunin’”.

The group’s Long Island roots may help explain their unique, quirky, spacious and eclectic perspective. Once removed from the hustle of New York City, but close enough to be well familiar with the roots of hip hop culture and music, De La Soul expresses a side of the black hip-hop experience that may benefit from, and also be a benefit to, the space and distance they enjoyed to truly digest, re-interpret and create an evolutionary hip-hop sound based on playful wordplay, innovative sampling and, of course, their trademark wisdom laid out over positive and soulful grooves.

Early concepts for 3 Feet High and Rising involved music being transmitted from Mars by three microphone plugs (each one representing a member of the group). Though this idea was abandoned, the titles “Plug One”, “Plug Two” and “Plug Three” still became relevant on the album and the group’s subsequent career as identifiable monikers that express the group’s unity and individuality.

“Downstairs where we met, I brought records, she cassettes”

As noted, one of De La Soul’s trademarks and innovations is the use of funky, quirky and eclectic sampling to create an unmistakable, upbeat vibe of unfiltered fun. One of the early tracks on 3 Feet High “Jenifa Taught Me” is one of the best examples of the De La sound. Utilizing a primary sample from Maggie Thrett’s 1965 diddy “Soupy” about a playful cat and dressing it up with high-energy cutting and scratching, De La transforms the sample into a teenage anthem of a pre-pubescent play date with a girl name Jenifa that turns into a PG-rated sexual encounter.

In the second verse of “Jenifa”, Posdnuos arrives to Jeny’s home ready for play time, rapping “The downstairs, where we met / I brought records, she cassettes / Lost the breaks, found her shape / Jenifa, oh Jeny”.  Of course Posdnuos arrived at his school-age crush’s home record crate in tote; he had probably just come from a session of soul record digging to find the perfect sample for the fella’s next song. And while Pos arrived at Jeny’s house ready to teach her about some records, Jenifa was ready to teach him about something else.

On a personal note, I clearly remember recording a portion of this song’s hook onto my sister’s outgoing answering machine message. Her name is Jennifer.

ListenDe La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ Musical Lead-Up Playlist

“Eye know Eye love you better”

Despite their youthful exuberance and expression, moving through 3 Feet High and Rising quickly reveal that De La Soul possesses a wisdom and sensibility beyond their years. Perhaps this sensibility in no better expressed that through the consistent themes of love and respect for women, an issue that had until this time and continues to pervade hip-hop.

Over a brilliantly wholesome musical composition that uses Steely Dan’s “Peg” and The Mad Lads “Make This Young Lady Mine” as a backbone, De La Soul offers an earnest and sincere love song aimed at wooing a target of their affection. Posdnuos summarizes his proposal, rapping “It’s I again and the song that I send / Is taking steps to reach your heart /Any moment you feel alone /I can fill up your empty part”.

The pervasive whistling melody on this track serves as exactly the opposite of a “cat call” and instead offers an invitation to the ladies of the world to whistle along with their favorite hip-hop tracks. As one of the best hip hop love ballads on this record, or any record of its era, a song like Eye Know paved the way for hit A Tribe Called Quest track “Bonita Applebum” and helped show a hip hop audience that love is all right.

“Always look to the positive and never drop your head
For the water will engulf us if we do not dare to tread
So let’s tread water”

As 3 Feet High and Rising enters its middle portions, De La Soul has fully perfected its alchemical balance of fun and wisdom, with a heavy dash of silliness. The track that precedes “Tread Water” called “A Little Bit of Soap” is simply a classic teenage tease track suggesting that certain people need to wash themselves a bit better.

“Tread Water” is De La Soul’s turn at pulling a page from Aesop’s Fables, famed ancient Greek storyteller who used characters from the natural world to tell stories covering religious, social and political themes and provide ethical guides for children and adults alike.

On this track, Posdnuos and Trugoy aka Dove bring us on a little journey in which they encounter a series of animals. First, they encounter a crocodile expressing how he may be misunderstood and “villains try to hold you underwater”. Next a squirrel expressing his natural needs saying “Like the Daisy, I need water I need chestnuts to consume”. Followed by a visit from Mr. Fish who seems to be grateful for his world “cause my water’s clean and no-one’s mean”. Finally, a monkey who just needs a little assistance to get his needs met, “My bananas are at their ripest, but they all stand at three feet”.

Through these little encounters and fables, De La Soul provides us the wisdom of compassion, temperance, gratitude and service to others.

“Now when Tribe, the Jungle, and De La Soul
Is at the clubs our ritual unfolds”

Listen: De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ Legacy Playlist

Don’t get it twisted. De La Soul knows how to have a good time. And “Buddy” is one of the best examples of a De La track that shows the unbridled fun and camaraderie that De La Soul helped birth alongside their Native Tongues brethren.

Paraphrasing Angie Martinez from the 2011 A Tribe Called Quest documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life”, Native Tongues was never about “Fight the Power” or “Fuck the Police”… we had other groups for that… Native Tongues was about expression and upliftment using the best tool out there: fun.

The Native Tongues is a collective of late 1980s and early 1990s hip-hop artists known for their positive-minded, good-natured Afrocentric lyrics, and for pioneering the use of eclectic sampling and later jazz-influenced beats. Its principal members are the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. Built on the foundation of likeminded youngsters and support from hip-hop veterans DJ Red Alert, Afrika Bambaata and Prince Paul, Native Tongues stormed the gates of hip-hop in the late 80’s and early 90’s, with Jungle Brothers being the first to hit.

But next to hit was De La Soul. On 3 Feet High and Rising crew cut “Buddy”, De La layered samples from Commodores and Bo Diddley to create an era-defining party track with an accompanying music video featuring the entire posse. With contributions from the members of Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love and Q-Tip, Posdnuos sums it up, rapping “Now when Tribe, the Jungle, and De La Soul / Is at the clubs our ritual unfolds / Grab our bones and start swingin’ our hands / Then Jenny starts flockin’ everywhere)”.

De La Soul was a pillar of Native Tongues, and while other members came and went, outgrew each other or matured into other endeavors, De La has remained a hip-hop institution, releasing 9 studio albums, still doing shows and helping usher in a new generation of hip-hop artists. On their 2001 album AOI: Bionix and reflective track “Trying People”, Posdnuos raps “Throughout my change to grow, Some of my people got left behind / They didn’t listen for the gun, as I leaped from off the line / Thirteen years deep in this marathon I’m runnin / Paid dues and still got bills to pay”.

“But when it comes to being de la

It’s just me myself and I”

Deeply tied to the De La Soul ethos is the concept of self-expression and self-acceptance. “Me, Myself and I” is the anthem for this philosophy and one of 3 Feet High’s hit tracks. Over disco-funk infused samples “(Not Just) Knee Deep” by Funkadelic and “Funky Worm” by Ohio Players, Trugoy aka Dove raps “Proud, I’m proud of what I am / Poems I speak are Plug Two type / Please oh please let Plug Two be / Himself, not what you read or write”.

‘Nuff said.

“One Million Demonstrations have been heard
My hair burns when I’m referred
Kid shouts my roof is on fire”

It’s likely no coincidence that De La Soul wraps up 3 Feet High and Rising with a simple message over a simple beat. The term D.A.I.S.Y. Age was coined by De La Soul: it stands for ‘DA Inner Sound Y’all’. This Daisy Age references and pays homage to the flower children of the 1960’s who pushed for social change while re-interpreting the ideas of social awareness and activism for a new age.  As one observer has written, “at a time when we had bands such as Public Enemy and N.W.A. penning these fired-up, political and vastly important songs, there was a movement emerging that took a more peace-and-love, pacifist approach; the need for us all to come together and create some love.” THIS is De La Soul’s legacy. More than legacy, it is their live that they live and share with us through their art.

Peace, love, justice, equality, fun, togetherness, self-expression and self-worth. Yep, De La Soul gave us the blueprint, assembly instructions included. And if we’re following De La’s blueprint, let’s all take a look at their May 27th, 2020 post on what we should be doing and thinking right now.

The post The Story of De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ appeared first on Classic Album Sundays.

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CAS De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ Legacy Playlist

Pioneers of alternative hip hop, De La Soul opened doors and laid a groundwork for many to follow. The trio, hailing from Long Island, brought positivity, humor and a jazz-influenced feel to their music.

Check out this playlist of music that was inspired by De La Soul including A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, Digable Planets, Camp Lo, Leaders of The New School, Jurassic 5, Mos Def, Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, The Creator. 

Listen: De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ Musical Lead-Up Playlist
Watch: De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ with Joe Lapan at Classic Albums at Home


The post De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ Legacy Playlist appeared first on Classic Album Sundays.

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CAS De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ with Joe Lapan at Classic Albums at Home

Classic Album Sundays Washington DC host Joe Lapan tells the story behind and discusses his personal recollections of De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’. After the album presentation, we encourage you all to play the entire album from beginning to end, without interruption, following the Classic Album Sunday listening guidelines: turn off our phone, refrain from conversation and give yourself over to the music.

Listen: De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ Musical Lead-Up Playlist

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CAS Gilles Peterson On His Favourite Lockdown Albums at Classic Albums at Home

Like the rest of us, the DJ /Radio Host / Label Owner has been locked up at home but luckily for him, he is surround by thousands of records! Like many record collectors, Gilles has been digging up old favourites and discovering hidden gems whilst in lockdown.

In this special event, he and Colleen will discuss the albums that have been giving him solace, comfort and inspiration, so expect to be turned on to some great new music.

Join our Album of the Month club, our monthly Friday night Classic Album Pub Quiz, our ‘Safe & Sound’ webinar for tips on improving your hi-fi and receive rewards after six months of subscription here.

Read more: Gilles Peterson’s Top Five Sun Ra Albums Of All Time

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