This week I’d like to debut a new feature on my blog.
The unambiguously-titled “The Best Music In The World This Week” will feature a run-down of my most-listened-to tracks of the past week, with some comments and analyses of the songs in question. I hope you enjoy.
For more music, check out my mixes (three of which are Gold, which makes me happier than it probably should) on 8 tracks.
. . .
1.) Stevie Wonder – “Lately”
Lately I’ve been giving Stevie Wonder’s 1980 Hotter Than July album a second chance. When I first started getting heavy into Stevie back in high school, I became fixated on his “classic period” records (Talking Book and Songs in the Key Of Life in particular), and never gave July much play. That was a mistake.
A friend of mine recently turned me onto this standout from July, which stands out as one of Stevie’s finest moments (which is really saying something, considering the man’s absurdly-rich discography). From album opener “Did I Hear You Say You Love Me” on through to “Happy Birthday,” this album boasts more than a few great moments.
Highlights include “All I Do” and “Lately,” which sounds like a sort of spiritual sequel to “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” Few singers can emote like Stevie, and though he’s among the most versatile vocalists of the past 50 years, to my ears he sounds most at home when showcasing a good ballad.
2.) Jungle Fire – “Firewalker”
White-hot Latin jazz. These stalwarts of the LA scene are due for big things in 2014, and their debut LP accomplishes the rare feat of sounding as energetic and infectious as their live act. Fela Kuti’s influence is more than apparent here… I’m a sucker for a prominent baritone sax, no matter the genre. (I really dig Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black for this very reason… why don’t more pop artists make use of the instrument?)
3.) George McCrae – “Rock Your Baby”
I’ve spent a fair amount of time tracing the origins of disco over the past year or so. I’m an obsessive, so when I want to explore a certain artist, time period, genre, etc. I go deep. That said, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover this classic.
“Rock Your Baby” was George’s only big hit (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 1974), but if this was all he did, he’s still worthy of recognition as one of the first artists to take electronic/disco to the mainstream. (Note: the album of the same name is great all the way through.)
Mix the bass a little (or a lot) higher, and this track would not sound out of place in the club today. (… which is probably my main complaint about many early-mid 70’s dance records. It seems like it wasn’t until the latter part of the decade that producers and engineers concluded that they needed more bass to really inspire the masses to get up and move.)
4.) Haim – “Don’t Save Me”
As a huge Fleetwood Mac fan (does that constitute a “guilty pleasure?” Serious question), of course I’m getting into Haim’s 2013 debut Days Are Gone. The influence of the Mac is all over this record… play it back to back with Tango In The Night and I’m sure you’ll agree.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKSmskT3fPQ]
5.) Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions – “So in Love”
Those Marley-esque horns, those silky sweet vocals, the delicious laid-back groove of the thing… God damn this is a gorgeous piece of work.
Curtis remains one of the most criminally-underappreciated artists of the ’60’s and ’70’s. Anyone who dives into his work will be rewarded with a discography jam-packed with gems like “So in Love.”
Most of us have heard–and liked–his Superfly soundtrack, but for my money this might be Curtis’ most beautiful performance. (I know, I know–it’s tough to beat “Move On Up,” but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a song that captures the intoxication of a new romance like “So in Love.”)
We miss you, Curtis.
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