Tag Archives: Warner Bros. Records

Saafir – Boxcar Sessions

Saafir
Boxcar Sessions
May 10, 1994
Qwest Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. RecordsWMG
053/100
Saafir - Boxcar Sessions - Front (1)
1. Grap the Train // 2. Swig of the stew // 3. Poke Martian (feat. Poke Martian) // 4. Playa Hata // 5. Pee Wee // 6. Battle Drill // 7. Westside (feat. King Saan) // 8. Worship the D // 9. Light Sleeper // 10. Rashinel (feat. Rashinel) // 11. Can-U-Feel-Me? // 12. No Return (Goin’ Crazy) // 13. Big Nose (feat. Big Nose) // 14. Just Riden // 15. Hype Shit // 16. Real Circus // 17. Bent // 18. The Instructor // 19. Joint Custody

Well that was unexpectedly boring. Saafir, a Digital Underground associate and an Oakland CA native, released his solo debut Boxcar Sessions in early 1994. It apparently has a cult status of sorts. This album is a combination of his own battle rhymes and awkward flow with mostly dusty, shuffling jazz drums, booming basslines, scratching and very little more in the way of melody. Every song on it sounds the same to such an extent that I literally can’t remember a single one of them for positive reasons, and I’ve just listened to this album three times. I’m a well-documented fan of all of Digital Underground’s projects so far but both the vocal side and the instrumental side of this album are underwhelming and pretentious, both of which could’ve been helped by adding some Shock G. Where the fuck is he at?

I would wonder why 2pac decided not to show up on this album but I can’t think of anything on here that he would sound appropriate over. There are many criticisms one can throw in 2pac’s direction but boring he was not.

This album was released on Qwest records which means Quincy Jones inked him a deal. Maybe Q doesn’t actually care about rap music and his only demands of the genre are for it to not interfere with his afternoon nap, in which case Boxcar Sessions achieves its goal nicely. Don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics either because when I finally forced myself to do so something apparently called Worship the Dick was on.

Boxcar Sessions is simply not very interesting and besides that, at nineteen tracks there’s much too much of it. Reviewing it however isn’t difficult, so at least it has that going for that, which is nice.

Best track
Worship the Dick

Recommendations
What do you think?

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Al B. Sure! – In Effect Mode

Al B. Sure!
In Effect Mode
Uptown Records/ Warner Bros. RecordsWMG
May 3, 1988
080/100
Al B. Sure! - In Effect Mode
1. Nite and Day // 2. Oooh, This Love Is So // 3. Killing Me Softly // 4. Naturally Mine // 5. Rescue Me // 6. Off on Your Own (Girl) // 7. If I’m Not Your Lover // 8. Just a Taste of Lovin’ // 9. Noche y Dia

I wonder if it today still would be possible for an R&B singer to be on the cover of his major label album with his unabrow fully intact (not to mention that peach fuzz on his upper lip) and sell records. I guess that grooming habits have changed for men as well as women since 1988.

Al B. Sure! was the second act to release an album on Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records after making his debut appearances on Heavy D’s Living Large… in the prior year. Apparently he got his break in the music industry performing at a talent show organised by Sony Music Entertainment in 1987 where he was picked the winner by music industry legend Quincy Jones. How he went from Sony to MCA-distributed Uptown records, and then had his albums distributed through random, unaffiliated Warner Bros. is unknown to me but that is what happened.

New Jack Swing inventor Teddy Riley was supposed to produce the album wall-to-wall but after finishing two songs with Al he got called away to supply his beats to Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever in stead (presumably to cash a bigger cheque). The two songs he did produce were If I’m Not Your Lover and You Can Call Me Crazy. The latter didn’t make the cut of In Effect Mode but was transplanted to the 1988 epinomous debut album of Teddy Riley’s group Guy with Timmy Gatling on vocals. The same Timmy Gatling who left the group right after the first album was released. Oh the music industry trivia.
After Teddy left Al B. decided to produce the album himself with assists by his cousin Kyle West, which turnt out a fortunate turn of events since the instrumentals these two created were actually a little different from Riley’s. Sure! and West infuse their New Jack Swing quiet storm with quirky soft rock guitar riffs, percolating synths and groovy synth funk basslines, which helped Sure! create a niche of his own in the budding New Jack Swing movement. Keith Sweat was the soul man, Bobby Brown would be the bad boy, Teddy Riley was the svengali and Al B. Sure! was the romantic soft-rocker.

Nite and Day is about as graceful as an R&B ballad can get with Al’s floaty falsetto riding the atmospheric instrumental and the lyrics about ‘making love in the rain’ and ‘feeling so deep it comes within’. It is the perfect soundtrack to a romantic daydream. Actually that description fit the entirety of In Effect Mode. It’s a dreamy exercise in romanticism that’s so high above the clouds that even the earnestness of it all can’t weigh it down. Wow.
Off On Your Own (Girl) has the sort of tumbling groove you could lounge equally well to as you could dance to it and its pleading subject matter is something that’s easily relatable and Sure! turns out to do uptempo numbers just as well as he does his signature balladry.
Oooh this Love Is So manages to make something seductive out of fingersnaps, keyboards and not much more and is probably the best showcase of Sure!’s voice on this album.
The worst of the lot on here is probably the ‘hard’ sounding numbers If I’m Not Your Lover and Just a Taste of Your Lovin’ tacked on at the end, and even those are fairly decent. It’s just easy to imagine Bobby Brown doing a slightly better job at performing them. But they do contribute to the album in creating more variety.

The rest of these songs are pretty cool too. Besides a Spanish language version of Nite and Day there isn’t any filler on here and like Make It Last Forever its length of only eight tracks is a prime example of ‘less is more’, one many of today’s artists could learn a thing or two from.

In Effect Mode is a terrific R&B album. It’s got this veneer of old school romantic class over it, as though it is willing to wait until the second date to get into your pants (if you are capable of restraining yourself, that is) with a slight hint of hip-hop swagger. Also it’s short, which with albums is never a bad thing.

Best tracks
Nite and Day
Oooh This Love Is So
Off On Your Own (Girl)

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Prince Rakeem – Oooh I Love You Rakeem

Prince Rakeem
Oooh I Love You Rakeem
July 1, 1991
Tommy Boy RecordsWarner Bros. RecordsWMG
050/100
Prince Rakeem - Oooh We Love You Rakeem
1. Ooh We Love You Rakeem [Baggin’ Ladies Mix] // 2. Ooh We Love You Rakeem [Baggin’ Ladies Instrumental] // 3. Deadly Venoms [Vocals Up] // 4. Sexcapades [DMD Mix] // 5. Sexcapades [Wutang Mix] // 6. Sexcapades [DMD Radio Mix] // 7. Sexcapades [DMD Instrumental] // 8. Sexcapades [Wutang Instrumental]

Like his boy GZA, RZA had something of a career before Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) came out, gained a cult following and started a hip-hop dynasty. Not that it was going anywhere in the direction of what one could consider succesful, but Ooh I Love You Rakeem, which isn’t named after the single Ooh We Love You Rakeem, exists, so therefor it is an inevitable speed-bump in the Wu-Tang discography, much like GZA’s Words From a Genius.

Ooh We Love You Rakeem, officially called an EP, but in reality it is a glorified maxi-single, what with its instrumentals and remixes sequenced right after their original incarnations. It would seem that the intended audience for this is DJs and, once RZA became the legend he is today with the Clan, Wu-completists. (Just kidding, I don’t actually think Tommy Boy had the foresight to predict Rakeem becoming what he is today. Everything on this EP more or less points to them pushing RZA in the opposite direction.)

Eight tracks long this “album” has only three actual songs; the sorta, kinds title track, Deadly Venoms and Sexcapades: all of them about how much play he gets from the ladies. On most of these songs his rapping sounds like a mix of LL Cool J’s and label mate Shock G’s, and not as this album cover implies: the Fresh Prince. Allegedly (according to himself) he already was in fact already the grimy rapper the world would get to know on later releases, but Tommy Boy records forced this radio friendly style upon him.

The surpise is that it doesn´t suit him that poorly. Except for the Ooh We Love You Rakeem on which he goes balls-out Digital Underground on us, which should be left to Humpty, nothing here sucks balls. Deadly Venoms, which would an have all-female Wu-Tang offshoot group named after it, definitely wouldn’t sound out of place on 36 Chambers if it had Meth, ODB, Deck, Rae or Ghost on it. Both the Wu-Tang Mix and the DMD Mix of Sexcapades knock, although they don’t sound different enough to warrant inclusion of both.

Also, the instrumental versions of Ooh I Love You Rakeem and the two Sexcapades may be interesting to own for aspiring rappers, but offer little to the average listener.

So, there you have it. Two, or three out of these eight are commendable whereas the rest isn’t. Devout Wu-followers should have a peep at this, although even they have little reason to pay for something that includes three instrumentals, two remixes and only three actual songs.

Best tracks
Deadly Venoms
Sexcapades [Wu-Tang Mix]

Recommendations
Get the above two tracks off iTunes.


the Genius – Words From the Genius, volume 1

the Genius
Words from the Genius, volume 1
Februari 19, 1991
Cold Chillin’ Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
060/100
the Genius - Words From the Genius

1. Come Do Me // 2. Phony As Ya Wanna Be // 3. True Fresh M.C. // 4. The Genius Is Slammin’ // 5. Words From a Genius // 6. Who’s Your Rhymin’ Hero // 7. Feel the Pain // 8. Those Were the Days // 9. Life of a Drug Dealer // 10. Stop the Nonsense // 11.  Living Foul // 12. Drama // 13. Stay Out of Bars // 14. What Silly Girls Are Made Of // 15.  Superfreak

The story of the Wu-Tang clan is a long one. One that, god willingly, will take this blog and any uneventful reader through a stack of 214 albums – and counting – released the group as a whole, its members, its affiliates and even through soundtracks of films the group’s leader, the RZA, scored.

The obvious starting point would be Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) since it is the album that actually started the movement. Fate however would have it that one of the ten core members of the clan; Gary “GZA/Genius” Grice actually had released an abum before the Clan existed. Words from the Genius is that album.

Released on the Juice Crew’s record label Cold Chillin’ Records in februari of 1991 and produced by Big Daddy Kane’s beatmaker Easy Mo Bee doesn’t show a trace of RZA, Meth, Rae, Ghost, Deck, U-God or ODB, which isn’t strange considering where and when this was released. What is strage is that there are no assists from Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan or Marley Marl. Considering that he was signed to their label and was a complete unknown at the moment one would think that a guest verse by at least one of these legends would both be a major selling point and something that shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange.

But no, this is just Easy and GZA and the occasional no-name producer for the entirety of Words from the Genius with zero guest appearances, which in today’s rap music landscape is almost unthinkable.

Words From the Genius‘ instrumentals shouldn’t be compared to the dark cinematic instrumentals the RZA would serve up on Enter the Wu-Tang. Easy Mo Bee’s classic old school beats have little to do with Prince Rakeem, in stead one should put it toe-to-toe with albums by the aforementioned Kane and Biz Markie, classic, swinging and a bit simplistic but still comfortably above the old school average. Still this album released at the end of the period in which this style of rap was popular doesn’t add much to Cold Chillin’ Records’ list of achievements as Kane and Biz had done just about everything there was to do with this particular style of rap. Also since nobody purchased it it didn’t earn anybody a gold plaque.

As for GZA himself, sounds exactly how he would on subsequent releases, which is to say he’s in fine form, all that’s different this time around is the beats. Lyrical themes include GZA’s mic superiority over other rappers (Genius is Slammin’), nostalgia (Those Were the Days) and the dangers of pubs (Don’t Go Into bars).

As a whole Words is pleasant, jazzy oldschool affair that’s fine when it is on but evaporates immediately from the listener’s conscience when it stops spinning. It’s a pretty consistent release, the only song that outright sucks is the Wu-jack swing opener Come Do Me. The rest is just fine, but nothing special.

Best tracks
Those Were the Days
Drama
Genius Is Slammin’
Stay Out of Bars

Recommendations
If you’re a fan of the Cold Chillin’ records brand of rap music and you haven’t yet heard this you should definitely give this a spin. Fans of the Wu needn’t really bother.


Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Lykke Li
Wounded Rhymes
25 February 2011
LL Recordings/Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
080/100
Lykke Li Youth Novels

1.Youth Knows No Pain // 2. I Follow Rivers //  3. Love Out Of Lust // 4. Unrequited Love // 5. Get Some // 6. Rich Kids Blues // 7. Sadness Is A Blessing // 8. I Know Places // 9. Jerome // 10. Silent My Song

2011, the year of Lykke Li’s Zachrisson second album, is more than an uneven number, for Wounded Rhymes is very different from Youth Novels. Björn Yttling again teams up with Lykke Li and their gem of a single I Follow Rivers gives Lykke Li enormous exposure over TV and radio. Remix after remix follows of which The Magician version in some ways obscures the original single. I found the Magician’s Remix rather boomy sounding but more danceable. I guess ‘danceable’ sells much better…

Where Youth Novels mostly tells stories with a girly frailty Wounded Rhymes sounds rougher and more grown up. Youth Knows No Pain is pretty much a live-it-up-song inspired by being youthful. The intro though via subtle hints makes way for a bombastic rhythm driven yet melodiously interwoven track that sounds as if I imagined I travelled back at least 40 years in time. Nostalgia leads to the Doors, I dig that sound. That organ… Back to my senses I Follow Rivers is more dance oriented yet sounds more heavy than dance floor material. Beats pound, percussion patterns do a rhythmic dance while Lykke Li sings a bit lower with her voice sounding a bit more raspy. This song works with its intriguing lyrics about clinging to her lover while the rhythms move you and induce curiosity melodiously accompanied by that organ again until the echoes lure you to Love Out Of Lust.

Love Out Of Lust continues the adventure of I Follow Rivers with a call to celebrate love via dancing. The lover vocals work miracles with the overall production of this track. Peter Bjorn and John’s Björn Yttling gives you a gentle wall of sound with whistle tones, echoes, slow grooves and rhythms that carry a vibe that is perfectly described by the lyrics. Unrequited Love bursts the bubble though. A foot taps, an electric guitar plays and the raspy sounding voice is being backed up by the choir in an acoustic song. Unanswered love makes way for lust and dominance. Bombastic beats and rhythm patterns pull you in while the electronic groove pulls you into Get Some while I can’t sit still. This is real dance floor material with a sixties vibe. The overall production again is worth of a attentive listen. Björn Ytlling’s musical approach is a pleasure inducing the listener into repeat listens.

Rich Kids Blues continues the sixties sound with an organ driven song. As the song becomes more bombastic the rock sound becomes more apparent while Lykke Li sings about being in her rich kid bubble. The bubble bursts again as the slow Sadness Is A Blessing becomes audible. “My wounded rhymes make silent cries tonight”, which provides this album a title, is the first line of this song and as the song progresses the bombastic productions gives this song and extra dimension. Counting the layers is almost mandatory. Oh yes the lover is gone again, back to being a single. Sadness leads to I Know Places. It’s an acoustic song about shelter and comfort. The feeling of a small tear tells me enough.

The slow fade out leads to Jerome. Possessive desire for Jerome is found. As the song becomes more bombastic and more layers become distinguishable while the screams increase. “You’ve got me for nothing Jerome” should be enough of a clue. Silent My Song continues the plot as the bombastic instrumentals emphasize the intensity of the emotions expressed in the lyrics. Intense pleasure and pain silent the song. This track is quite the closer.

As you might have noticed this album is different from the first album. Lykke Li sings with a lower and more raspy voice increasing her reach. The lyrical content is more grown up and the instrumentals induce nostalgia with the typical organs and the bombastic wall of sound from several decades ago. The Doors, Kate Bush and many other names come to mind with this album.

Best Tracks
Unrequited Love
Get Some
I Know Places
Silent My Song

Recommendations
If you liked Youth Novels get this album. Whether you liked the debut or not this album is at least worth a listen. This album is an adventure and the production sounds super amazing, especially through a good sound system.

My regards,

Rura88