Tag Archives: gil scott heron

The third soul

Reading Nick Kent’s memoirs of his misspent 1970s as an ascendant music journalist (and hell-descending drug addict), I was struck by his simultaneous joy and horror at having helped give birth to punk. ‘Kenty’ is at great pains to point out that America didn’t ‘get’ punk, possibly because its only exponent of the genre was the too-weird Ramones.

Instead, America in the 1970s was gripped by a fever for funk and soul, kick-started by Sam Cooke in the 1960s and really set in motion by the 1969 release of Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul (about which I waxed converted here). Kent is an inconsistent music aficionado: he extols the sophistication of Steely Dan but loathes the Eagles; he revels in the psychedelic wanderings of Hawkwind but finds the seminal post-punk act Public Image Ltd. rather dreary. The biggest revelation of the decade, for Kent, is the Sex Pistols’ breakthrough; on the other side of the pond, however, he raves about Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

Kent, in spite of his odd preferences, is right to allude to soul’s importance. All through the 1990s, as punk’s descendants crept back into the alternative shadows, R&B morphed into something chartable and marketable without losing sight of its illustrious forebear. Hayes and Gaye played their part in setting up R&B’s dominance, and their magnum opuses should always be lauded.

But alongside Hayes and Gaye, there was a third man. Continue reading The third soul

“Let It Come Down”

“And I heard of that Japanese girl, who jumped into the volcano—
Was she trying to make it back,
Back into the womb of the world?”
—Beck, “Volcano”
Well, it’s not quite as dispiriting as the last one. The end of my finals is in sight; summer has arrived; the time has almost come to bid farewell to my university days.
  1. Pink Floyd — One of These Days
  2. Shy Child — Disconnected
  3. Yo La Tengo — Saturday
  4. Blur — The Universal
  5. Kanye West — Who Will Survive in America
  6. TV On The Radio — Love Dog
  7. Spoon — Out Go The Lights
  8. Cut Copy — Strangers In The Wind
  9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds — Midnight Man
  10. J Dilla — Last Donut of the Night
  11. Pulp — Sunrise
All wrapped up in a convenient YouTube playlist.

Radio Is Dead: Long Live Radio

So I finally received my beta invitation for Spotify, the new internet-based music-streaming service that’s absolutely free at the point of use, but is subsidised by the occasional advert. And I’m exceptionally happy, because, much as I love buying music, I also like hearing songs that I’ve heard a lot about, but which aren’t being played on the radio, because the radio only plays rubbish.

This means that Spotify makes an awful lot of sense for any kind of music listener.

It’s 100% legal, because the money raised from advertising and premium passes goes to the record companies; it’s of a decent quality – around 160 kb/sec; and, best of all, they’ve put an awful lot of thought into the design of the application, which is available for both Mac and PC. It’s a joy to navigate around in; it’s dead easy to find artists, albums and individual songs; and what is even more promising are its ‘social’ features. Any user of Spotify can create playlists, for which a URL will also be created, which can be shared with any other user. Already there are plenty of websites springing up which list and categorise people’s uploaded playlists: for instance, some enterprising souls have created playlists for Pitchfork’s Top Albums and Top Songs of 2008, which is ideal for anyone wanting to actually hear the music that’s being acclaimed but not heard through conventional media.

The only downside is that it’ll probably convince me to buy more music too, for now that I’ve finally heard ESG’s “Moody”, or the excellent live version of Wilco‘s “Poor Places”, I’ll definitely be thinking of buying the original albums. Of course, nothing beats the physical embodiment of an album, as I’ve already discussed, but I’m not exactly going to rush out to buy an album from which I’ve heard absolutely nothing; only read reviews.

That aside, it’s also a great way of hearing old singles that I really should have heard by now – for instance,  Gil Scott-Heron’s landmark proto-rap poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. However people use Spotify, it makes money for the music industry, which can’t be a bad thing, given its current beleaguered state (I would give anything to get Guy Hands‘ hands off EMI), without imposing a compulsory cost on the end-user. It’s a great idea, and while I’m here in halls, freed from the constraints of bandwidth download limits, I’m planning on making heavy use of it, not only to preview my potential purchases, but also to stock up on the music history that I’m lacking. Next stop: Arthur Russell!