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Classic Album Sundays

Classic Album Sundays CAS Birmingham presents Fela Kuti with special guest Lekan Babalola (Fela Kuti political protege)

We were delighted to be joined by Lekan Babalola (Fela Kuti political protege) at our latest Classic Album Sundays event in Birmingham where CAS Birmingham host Chris Watkiss was able to ask Lekan about his first hand experiences of working with Fela.

You can also here our Worldwide FM radio show featuring Fela’s manager Rikki Stein about Fela Kuti here.

Check our our Fela Kuti playlists here.

Grab one of our Fela Kuti posters here.


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Classic Album Sundays Nick Mason’s Top 5 Albums Of All Time

Ahead of our event with Nick at The John Peel Centre For Creative Arts on Thursday 11th January we caught up with Nick to get the lowdown on his Top 5 Albums Of All Time.

Full details of the event and tickets can be found here.

Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’

“Still the greatest song writer in rock music.”

Jimi Hendrix – Axis Bold As Love

“Not only the great guitar player but one of my favourite and most influential drummers in Mitch Mitchel.”

Thelonious Monk – Monk at The Town Hall

“One of my favourite modern jazz players of all time and his piano playing is a lesson in timing and percussion as well as the music.”

Miles Davis – Jack Johnson

“Probably the greatest groove album of all time assembled by Miles and a stellar line up of players.”

Bruce Hornsby & The Range – Halcyon Days

“Love the songs, love the band and you also get a bit of Eric Clapton.”

You may also want to check out the podcast from our last event with Nick Mason at The V&A where we discussed Pink Floyd’s iconic ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’.

Check out our blog Pink Floyd ‘Animals’: The Story 40 Years Later here.

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Classic Album Sundays Classic Album Sundays and Spittlefields Music present Max Richter & André de Ridder Interview

If you weren’t able to join us at Spittlefields Music Festival 2017 you can hear the full interview with Max Richter and André de Ridder discussing their collaboration on Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi ‘The Four Seasons.

Check out the photo gallery from the event here.

Check out the Spittlefields Music website here.

Read An Introduction to André De Ridder here.


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Classic Album Sundays Album of the Month: Dr. Dre ‘The Chronic.’

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Dr. Dre is surely the undisputed godfather of west coast hip-hop and gave meaning to the phrase “music for the streets”. From NWA to his solo records, Dre sought to shock his audience and be the life of the party. His seamless and undeniably funky production gave life to the most controversial music of its time, with NWA’s Straight Outta Compton and his first solo album, The Chronic.

The Chronic best achieved his mission and exposed the rap genre to its widest audience so far, selling over two million copies within the first year and six million copies to date. The album’s smooth and bass-heavy production rattled boomboxes and car stereos nationwide and modernized west coast hip-hop with g-funk. After 25 years, it still sounds innovative and powerful, especially through a hi-fi audio system.

After touring to promote their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, NWA, the rap super group featuring Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, MC Ren, The D.O.C., and Arabian Prince, gradually fell apart. In 1989, Ice Cube left the group over disputed royalty payments and started his solo career. Dr. Dre would follow-suit after producing albums for other Ruthless artists, like The D.O.C. and Michel’le, and NWA’s second release, Niggaz4Life, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts in 1991.

Niggaz4Life fashioned Dr. Dre’s first experiments with g-funk, and the album brought the group’s lyrical shock value to staggering heights. This success couldn’t convince Dre to remain an active member and sparked the interest to start his own label, where he could recruit new talent and rake in the majority of the earnings from his production contributions.

The D.O.C. introduced Dr. Dre to the intimidating force that helped open this chapter in his musical career – Suge Knight. Knight was a long-time friend and bodyguard of the D.O.C. who helped mistreated songwriters receive proper compensation for their work, no matter what cost. After hearing out Dre’s qualms with Ruthless and discussing the potential of starting a new company, Knight approached Eazy-E to release Above the Law, Dre, The D.O.C., and Michel’le from Ruthless Records with threats of harming his mother and Jerry Heller, if he didn’t cooperate. After begrudgingly signing the agreement, Eazy-E began a spree of suing Dre, Knight, the DOC, and any label associated with them to assure Dre would come crawling back to Ruthless before making it his own.


Dre, Knight, The D.O.C., and Solar Records Dick Griffey would create Death Row Records, thanks to the funding of a prestigious drug dealer, Michael Harris (aka Harry O). Harris was in jail on drug and murder charges at the time (he supposedly distributed in eleven states) but keen to enter entertainment business. He signed a check for $1.5 million to purchase a recording studio from Solar Records, update its equipment, and house Dr. Dre and his collaborators while they wrote the label’s first release, The Chronic.

The Chronic hoped to redefine gangsta rap. While NWA used the genre to say what other Compton rappers wouldn’t, Dre wanted his music to be more accessible and to make more money. That’s why he called it The Chronic—he wanted his record to be the new, premium dope that everyone needed: to get his audience higher than ever. He found his solution in g-funk, a style of hip-hop first employed on NWA’s Niggaz4Life to smooth out the group’s aggressive demeanour. The style utilised funk and soul samples, most prominently from George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic – high-pitched synthesizers, deep bass grooves, and a chilled-out vibe. The characters of The Chronic claim this method is perfect for joy-riding down LA streets or lighting up a joint.

Dre is notoriously secretive about his production process, but it’s obvious that he’s a perfectionist, fine-tuning every sound until it’s to his exact liking. While samples are frequently used in g-funk, they’re only utilized for specific instrumental features – a drum beat or bass melody. Dre, however, completes his mixes with live instrumentation, including flute, guitar, and bass. Multi-instrumentalist Colin Wolfe frequented the studio to help conceptualize songs and lay down additional guitar and bass tracks. Dre’s contributions were driven by an 808 drum machine and Moog synthesizer, the latter an integral element to g-funk that appears throughout The Chronic. The so-called “funky worm” helped craft some of the album’s most memorable melodies, while its low-end ensured a reliably rumbling bass.

While he probably discovered records by Sly Stone, Bill Withers, James Brown, and Leon Haywood in his mother’s record collection, Dre also consulted his local record stores for un-mined musical gold. Keven Donan, owner of As the Record Turns, claimed Dre visited his shop often, and he played records for him over the phone to see what piqued Dre’s interests. Still, George Clinton is the most dominant sampling influence— the producer adopted about a half-dozen of his tracks on the album; “The Roach” recycles Parliament’s “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” for a humorous weed-themed interlude; and Snoop’s “Bow-wow-wow” rap call is taken from “Atomic Dog”.

While Dr. Dre is an extremely talented beat maker, he has never claimed to be a lyrical mastermind. Many of his lyrics on The Chronic were composed by previous Ruthless signee the D.O.C. His underrated debut, No One Can Do It Better, was produced by Dre, but two weeks after its release he was in a nearly-fatal car crash that crushed his larynx, altering his speaking voice and ending his rap career. Dre still saw value in his lyric writing and considered him as an essential member of the team. 


Another pivotal collaborator on The Chronic was Snoop Doggy Dogg, then fresh on the hip-hop scene. Dre discovered this “unpolished diamond” after his step-brother, Warren G, showed him a demo tape he and Snoop made together. Soon, Snoop would be an essential piece of Dre’s work as a solo artist, giving birth to his first single “Deep Cover” (also Snoop’s first released recording) and the foundation of The Chronic. While writing the album, The D.O.C. coached Snoop to better his vocal style, and the pair worked on Dre’s lyrics together.

Their rhymes on The Chronic are fuelled by gangsterism— the impression of a tough character from the streets who shouldn’t be messed with. They direct this front at Eazy-E, Jerry Heller, and Tim Dog (who previously dissed Snoop on his songs) in album opener “Dre Day”. Both rappers were sick of the perpetual drama and used their rhymes as ammunition to humiliate their opponents. Dre’s authoritative rapping makes these threats feel realistic and almost unquestionable. This aspect caused a stir between Death Row and local gangs, who were offended that Dre and Snoop were capitalising on gang activity without being a part of it. But the rappers spoke on what they saw and experienced from the outside.

The nation gained a glimpse of LA’s simmering tensions during the case of Rodney King and the 1992 riots. Rodney King was a black man who was viciously and unfairly beaten by several LAPD officers in early 1992, and after the court found the participating men not guilty of police brutality, fires and looting broke out all over Los Angeles. The Chronic reference these incidents on “The Day The Niggaz Took Over” and “Lil Ghetto Boy”, and mentions the sadness they felt when the verdict was released, stealing from shops during riots, and a new violent change in their environment, where gangbangers were pulling triggers faster than ever. Both tracks feature audio samples from documentary filmmaker Matthew McDaniel, who captured the riots on film.  


On the album’s second half Dre takes a step back to let his Death Row roster shine in the spotlight. After discovering Snoop, Dre also signed The Lady of Rage, Kurupt, RBX, Dat Nigga Daz, and Nate Dogg to the label. Their contributions feels like a wild cypher, with each rapper bringing as much heat as possible. Their success proved Dre’s ability to discover new talent for the first time, leading him to sponsor Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, and Anderson Paak after his days at Death Row.

The Chronic marked a triumphant beginning to Dr. Dre’s path as a musical entrepreneur. It proved he could sustain his musical expertise outside of N.W.A. and set a new standard for how seamless and epic a rap album could sound. Many hip-hop albums of the time were produced with a string of samples randomly tied together— Dre’s curatorial expertise and use of live instrumentation put that method to shame and made listeners’ speakers boom like never before. While many understandably rejected the album’s violent lyrics, its funky sound kept listeners engaged, ultimately forcing listeners to respect his vision. The Chronic encouraged the world to think differently about hip-hop, ultimately paving the way for its dominant position in today’s society.

By CAS Chicago host Sam Willett Facebook/Twitter

Read Next: Dr. Dre ‘The Chronic’ Legacy playlist

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Classic Album Sundays CAS and Spittlefields Music present Max Richter Gallery

Thanks to everyone who joined us at Shoreditch Church on Monday 4th December 2017 for a special event – CAS Presents Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi ‘The Four Seasons’ with special guests Max Richter and André de Ridder.

Check out the Spittlefields Music website here.

Read An Introduction to André De Ridder here.

 Photos: Gavin Mills


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Classic Album Sundays Dr. Dre ‘The Chronic’ Legacy Playlist

The Chronic branded g-funk as an official sound of west coast hip-hop, and you can hear it all over this legacy playlist. The squealing Moog synthesizer and cool and dominant bass can bring life to any party, and dozens of artists have reinvented it to carve their own signature into the rhyme game.

Many artists featured here are California natives and were discovered by Dr. Dre. Snoop Dogg was Dre’s first successful gem added to the Death Row roster and, together, they built a majority of The Chronic and one of the best selling debuts of all-time, Doggystyle. When he founded Aftermath Entertainment, his luck-streak would only continue and be essential to priming some of hip hop’s best talent since 1997, including Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, and Anderson .Paak. Outside of that, you will find other Death Row-associated tracks, most notably his collaboration with 2Pac, and artists who accurately emulate Dre’s perfectionism and swagger.

By CAS Chicago host Sam Willett Facebook/Twitter


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Classic Album Sundays Dr. Dre ‘The Chronic’ Musical Lead-Up playlist

While Dr. Dre perfected the art gangsta rap and g-funk, he didn’t invent either style. Instead, he found the potential in both, spent hours behind the board with his endless repertoire of samples and live instrumentation, and pumped loads of badass attitude into the mix to create one of rap’s seminal albums, The Chronic.

In this musical lead-up playlist, you’ll find a handful of selections Dre probably discovered from his mother’s record collection, like Parliament, Leon Haywood, Bill Withers, and Ronnie Hudson, that were transformed into riveting bass parts on the album. It also features some of the founding building blocks of the gangsta rap genre, including Ice-T’s “6 ‘N Tha Mornin’”, Eazy-E’s “Boyz-N-The-Hood”, and a selection from Dr. Dre’s first claim to fame, N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton.

Spin via Spotify or Tidal!

By CAS Chicago host Sam Willett Facebook/Twitter


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Classic Album Sundays Classic Album Sundays on Worldwide FM: Fela Kuti’s ‘Gentleman’ & ‘Zombie’ with Rikki Stein

Join us on Sunday 26th November as we are live on Worldwide FM at 12pm & 6:00pm GMT for our latest show which focuses on two albums from Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti Gentleman and Zombie with Fela Kuti’s manager Rikki Stein as special guest.

The two albums not only celebrate his self-acclaimed Afrobeat style but also marked two pivotal moments in his life and dedication to politics and social issues.

Tune in live here.

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Classic Album Sundays John Peel Archive & Classic Album Sundays on Audio Note UK: Nick Mason on ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’

We are honoured that Pink Floyd founding member Nick Mason will be joining us for our next event with The John Peel Archive on Thursday January 11th 2018 to look at his favourite Floyd album A Saucerful of Secrets.

After becoming aware of Pink Floyd when he lived in California, John first saw the Floyd perform live at the UFO club on Tottenham Court in spring 1967 and would to regularly play their tracks on his Perfumed Garden shows for Radio London and helped launch the band to a wider audience.

Pink Floyd  went on to record six session between 1967 and 1970 for John’s BBC radio show and they actually recorded a session for John’s very first programme on Radio One, on 01 October 1967!


After Syd Barrett’s departure which could have been the end of the band, John believed they went from strength to strength in the face of adversity, on his 30 June 1968 show, he enthused over their performance in Hyde Park the previous day:

“Pink Floyd played better than I’ve ever heard them play before. I don’t know what it was, it must have been the people there, the feelings that everyone was generating, because they played superbly. It was nice to hear them play that well, because they’ve been through a lot of very sad things in the past year.”


In a 1976 interview for Capital Radio’s “Pink Floyd Story”, he recalled:

I hired a boat and rowed out, and I lay on the bottom of the boat, in the way that we hippies did, in the middle of the Serpentine, and just listened to the band play, and their music then, as I think, suited the open air perfectly. … It was like a religious experience, it was marvelous. They played ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ and things… they just seemed to fill the whole sky and everything y’know. And to coincide perfectly with the water and the lapping of the water and the trees and everything.”

Nick Mason Live Photos (9)

As part of Their Mortal Remains Classic Album Sundays was able to interview Nick on The Dark Side Of The Moon in which he revealed A Saucerful of Secrets was his favourite of the Floyd records so we knew we had to ask him back for another sessions and The John Peel Archive was the perfect venue!


Join us to hear an extended interview with Nick followed by a full album playback of John Peel’s personal DMM stereo copy of the album.

You can check out the interview from The V&A here and the full video here.

Date and Time: Thursday, 11th January from 7:00 to 10:00pm

Venue: John Peel Centre for Creative Arts Church Walk, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 1ET

Tickets: £18 in advance here

Audio Menu: Supplied by Audio Note UK

Transport by train: 5 minute walk from Stowmarket Station on the Norwich route from London Liverpool Street Station

Transport by car: Off the A14 and more directions here

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