Friday, November 19, 2010

The Detroit Emeralds!

Name: The Detroit Emeralds, I’m in Love with You (Westbound, 1973).

Is this title acceptable? No. It feels like they didn't even hardly try. Minimalism and sincerity are fine things, but in the early '70s lapels were big and basslines were fat. Record titles had to be powerful, memorable. Alas, the Emeralds were victims of the ol’ Stylistics one-up (“I’m Stone in Love with You”). Al Green and his qualifier-in-the-title (“I’m Still in Love With You”) preceded the Emeralds' album by a year, too.

Produced by: Hm. Things are a little cloudy here. The record is a Katouzzion production, but what does that mean? The surname Katouzian is from Iran, but there's not even a geographical connection there because Westbound was founded by an Armenian-American (Armen Boladian). The record's production supervisor is Bob Scerbo, who was already at Janus records when it took over distribution for Westbound. Mr. Scerbo seems to know what he was doing, as he also supervised production on (which I guess is better than plain old produced) The Ohio Players' Climax, Cymande's Second Time Around, and Eddie Harris' Smokin, with this beauty:

Entered my life: Ah, this is a problem. I cannot remember. I know I got it at a Beat Swap Meet and it was at the Echo, an awful venue for such an event. The lighting was really bad, I recall, so it was not just hunched-over dorks flipping through bins and not talking to each other, it was squinty hunched-over dorks. It says $8 on the sleeve but you should know the man who sold it to me charged a criminal $20! I'm surrounded by criminals/Heavy rollers, even the sheisty individuals*. I am complicit in my own poverty, though, since I paid him what he asked with no hesitation.

*independent record sellers in Los Angeles, CA

Global events at the time of its release: Lonnie Liston Smith heard some Cosmic Echoes and did some Astral Traveling, babycakes. I should’ve been alive and of fornicating age in ’73, lord have mercy.

Coleman Young, Detroit's first African-American mayor, was elected in '73. The Belleville Three were preteen boys; their uncles worked at GM and they'd visit them in the factory and so years later they'd make music sounding like cars being put together. Motown had just moved to LA, which sort of allowed Westbound and its signees (Parliament! Ohio Players!) to flourish. Berry Gordy was probably tired of the cold and felt guilty about what he'd done to Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Difficulty of finding, vinyl-wise (1-10 scale): Pretty high up there, I think. That's why the man at the Beat Swap Meet did me like that. (He saw the hunger in my eyes.)

Breaks contained:

“Incarcerated Scarfaces”! “The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World”! Drums, drumsdrumssss. Also “Lookin at the Front Door,” and “The Light,” which would have been perfect if left as an instrumental plus Caldwell's sangin, and all of Com's lyrical cliches and platitudes were taken away. “My heart's dictionary defines you, it's love and happiness”; UGH. I was never a huge fan, but I do know things were better when he was bad as Leroy Brown.

Reason for this post on today of all days: 2 things happened--I wore green which made me think of green-themed records, and I saw this picture of Mr. Pasty Elbows um, “guarding” Kareem. I therefore thought of Detroit.

Sartorial accompaniment: “Flouncy-skirted record nerd with too much eyeliner goes to Coachella” is today's aesthetic. Celery-colored tank and lilypad-colored skirt that I made myself (!) as a much cheaper replica of the $40 AA one I was going to buy. Ha ha, Dov! I support your amazingly progressive labor practices but stop being gross*! HA HA.

*every girl in LA has had a Dov is gross experience, including this girl

Suitable activities while listening: Playing hooky from work, so I've really got to make today count. I'll go to the bookstore and finally give in to the Just Kids juggernaut. OK PATTI SMITH, FINE I WILL BUY YOUR BOOK. LEAVE ME BE.

Best YouTube comment:

I love this song. If anyone is out of East Dallas Texas, and remembers the Maverick skating rink, this was the jam. It's like Missed Connections but on YouTube. ADORABLE.

Other notable things about today:

The mack god said that just because you meet a ho/And she wear a jersey that say “champion” and eat a bowl of Wheaties/Don't make her a winner. '96 E-40 washes away the dust of everyday life. Even though the based god has obviously replaced the mack god in my heart.

Every time I'm jammed I always find a loophole/I got a crime record longer than Manute Bol. The Voice has a good article about the almost-stardom of Big L, a man whose violent death and current status as solemn rap ghost means his lyrical content is too sacred for us to inspect through a terribly critical lens. This is a relief. I wish they'd leave other performers alone in a similar way. If you too are sick of rap writers deciding what our enjoyment of moral repugnance in song says about ourselves and the human experience, we should probably go on a date. Let's take ourselves off the market and be together, because we're just annoying everyone else.

If Big L got the AIDS every cutie in the city got it
. Big L had a bunch of AIDS raps, which I guess are right up there with rape raps in terms of things that people want to inspect and ruminate on. Whiffle-ball bat raps, snuffin-Jesus raps, there is nothing new under the sun; Judas Priest, 2 Live Crew, Body Count, Tipper Gore found a new hobby thank god, but the West Memphis Three are still locked up. I have intellectual pretensions but overall this is a party blog so I won't try to address such things or keep yelling at people who think they know the secrets of my heart and brain and want to write Internet essays about why it is bad that we like Odd Future...

but hey, how 'bout “Full Clip”? Remember? So good. The video is a funny rap time capsule, plus it features rare footage of Premier not watching porn.

It Gets Better is Dan Savage's beautiful venture and website with messages for gay and lesbian kids currently in the bell jar. Inspired by such a project, a writer at The New Gay compiled a list of the top 19 anti-suicide anthems. OK. Sorry, nice idea, but I have a few things to say. First of all, there's the cognitive dissonance of a Joy Division song being on the list. I guess I should be thankful there's no Elliott Smith-? But the main problem is that the list is just so replete with guitar jams by white men--David Bowie, Wilco, Peter Gabriel--that apparently there was no room for any rapping of any kind (ew, The Streets does not count). Personal taste in music is one thing, but leaving out an entire genus of music in the kingdom is irresponsible and makes me want to kill myself! Heh. The New Gay purports that its list is made of “songs that acknowledge how bleak and bad things can get, but by their very existence prove that it’s surmountable.” Oh my god, how weird, I already made a list just like that, starting with Aesey Rock's “One of Four.” Or any song by any Minnesota MC 5 years ago. Or any songs by any Brooklyn MC, or really any MC from anywhere who is forthcoming about past poverty and endorses the fact that money makes it all right. Sloppily composed song compilations are the worst.

I like this: Women's “Narrow Down the Hall.” On Pitchfork they talk about it, linking the words “half-diffident vocals” and “catharsis.” Nobody wants to read that, a boring description of what it sounds like; let's talk instead of what it makes us want to do (here's mine: walk down the street in a cotton sundress, in slow motion, filmed by Hype Williams circa '94 or Benny Boom in '08 or Little X a couple years prior). “The nice melody plus the chanting over throbby bass” is all I will say to describe it. Something sweet with something simple makes something powerful and intoxicating, like how sugar plus yeast equals alcohol.


New Orleans, I love you. But your Jay Electronica has a boring voice and a boring flow, OH NO! All the boys in town love him, so they all stopped their respective activities and got tongue-tied when Jay and Jay (Z's) “Shiny Suit Theory” was made available this week. Most people loved it; I did not. I find the lyrics to be unbearably pretentious (Egyptology, yawn) and there's a ridiculous Puffy/Miami mention, plus Jay E. already had a song with a little story about Puffy in it. I appropriately freaked out over Exhibits A, B, and C, and I love my Moleskine too, but that had everything to do with Just Blaze and nothing to do with the MC on those particular songs. I would be happy if Jay Elec would preserve the crazy and become a recluse, and I really would be satisfied with Jay-Z retiring and that's been true for at least 5-6 years. But I'm usually in the minority regarding both of these opinions. So when I see comments daring to criticize Jay + Jay's musical linkage, it makes me feel a little more understood by all my invisible Internet boyfriends out there.

Amid a sea of “YES”es and “NICE”s and not-so-funny Jay/camel references (meanies), plus one “I just came” (LOL, sexy commenters), a young man emerges, standing brave and tall, to loudly ask what I was just about to: Where, the fuck, is the drums. I'm in love with this individual and his opinions. Coffee + conversation, Somebody Somewhere?

The kids around the way used to think that I was buggin; this is because they did not understand how I feel about the funk. Erykah Badu, it turns out, had similar experiences in seventh grade. She's my pretend sister, my pretend buddy, my idol due to her ability to draw cosmic and pretty-eyed rappers to her naked body (Andre, not boring Jay Elec). All I want is for her to talk about music and let me listen. So thank you, NY Mag, for gathering up all her funky dreams and memories into a nifty slideshow where she explains all of the songs that made her a “child of the funk.” Killing it since the Clinton administration, Erykah washes away the dust of everyday life with her irony-free sweetness that comes through when she talks about these songs. She doesn't include any Ohio Players or Meters or Curtis or even any James Brown or “I Get Lifted, but to each her own.

A common trope in the lady-blogger-nerd inbox is the request to talk about music while wearing a bathing suit. First of all, have you seen my blog, gentlemen who email me, 'cause that's what I do already. Second, I am a lot sweeter and a lot more boring in person--I don't even cuss, really--so you should probably calm down with that fantasy. And third, I now understand the request. I wish Erykah would talk about music every day on the Internet so I could savor it and think about how alike we are, she and I. Her in a bathing suit is not necessary. I would like her to do a lot of sensual poses and faraway glances out of windows, though.

“Things you've heard Logan say” are in bold, below.

On Chaka Khan's “Sweet Thing”:

“Oh Chaka Khan, she is our queen. Anyone who sings soul and funk goes through the school of Chaka Khan. She has so many gorgeous songs but ‘Sweet Thing’ is the one — she sung that song from the vagina, from the bottom of her stomach, you can hear it all in her throat, she felt it. The places that she went with her voice, man, it was so scintillating in every way; it made me happy, it made me loving, it made me weak, it made me sad.”

The Isley Brothers, “Groove With You”:

“When I first learned that I could be in love, that that was an actual thing that I could feel, I remember the Isley Brothers.”

Stevie Wonder, “As”:

“It's a beautiful song. Before I knew what the words said I was in love with the melody. His voice rocks you to sleep, it's constant in me — his voice is a part of my DNA.”

Soul II Soul, “Keep on Movin'”:

“I remember when I knew that I could do things on my own, I was going away to college, and this group called Soul II Soul came out. (The) song was “Keep On Movin'," don't stop. And I felt like, damn, you’re right, I can do things on my own. I can do things on my own and isn’t that just beautiful.

Rickie Lee Jones, “Chuck E's in Love”:

“Rickie Lee Jones was the first white chick I saw with a cigarette in her mouth on her album cover and back then that meant a lot. Back then we didn’t have Internet or TV, so everything you knew about the person you knew from the album cover, that's all you had, you turned that thing upside down and around studying your favorite singer — their face, their clothes, the art, the shape of the words, the look of their fingers. And there she was with her cigarette, she reminded me of a hippie chick and she had this raspy voice and it was just so funky, like she didn’t give a shit, she didn’t give a damn. And that’s part of who I am — Rickie Lee Jones is a big part of who I am — and I imagine her being someone who showed up as she was, I’m just here. And I wanted to be that. And when you really admire a singer or a song you either want to be them or have sex with them, and with Ricky Lee Jones I just wanted to be her, to feel what she said and sound like she did and have the whole experience just like that coming out of my mouth.”

Parliament, “Aqua Boogie”:

P-Funk. Funkadelic made me love purple and black, it looks cosmic and sloppy; throw a little neon green splash of something oozing and that's what funk is to me. 'Aqua Boogie' is everything I love about a funk song...I’m talking about changing voices, thirteen people, 76 instruments and 900 people on stage… damn, this song was just a cosmic funk party.”

The Brothers Johnson, “Strawberry Letter 23”:

“On the album cover is these two dudes with Afros and goatees and mustaches and just chilling with the guitars, really making love to them, their shirts open to the navels, and just, damn, these are so grown men! And they sang together and it was just so groovy. And I wanted to get high. I didn't even know what high was, but it was groovy. I like the groovy shit a lot, I’m a child of the funk. I live by the funk, I die by the funk. When people ask in school what I wanted to be when I grow up – teacher, doctor, whatever — I said I was gonna be funky. If God could make me funky, I’ll handle the rest.”

"Hajj 2010" by The Big Picture, gaze-worthy beauty like nearly every post on The Big Picture.

I have much respect for the peaceful religion of Islam. But I still want to caption every one of these pictures with THANK YOU BASED GOD or a Poor Righteous Teachers lyric.

(Also lush and beautiful: National Geographic's Photography Contest 2010. “Three hundred and sixty degrees of perfected styles” - my caption for photo #3.)



Dart Adams said...

Logan, just now whenever I'm on an old man tirade playing an instrument I formed with my own hands whilst standing outside chanting down Babylon here you go writing something that reaffirms my faith in humanity as a whole. Thanks for that, I truly needed it.

P.S. You find Jay Electronica boring? Aw man...


danps said...

And yet you found Jay E. swoon worthy at the start of the year. Oh, fickle woman!

Good call on Deerhoof - I like it a lot.

danps said...

P.S. Download and listen to this over and over and over again.

You're welcome.