Tag Archives: Warner Music Group

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?

Advertisements

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.


Keith Sweat – Make It Last Forever

Keith Sweat
Make It Last Forever
November 24, 1987
Vintertainment/ Elektra RecordsWMG
080/100
Keith Sweat - Make It Last Forever
1. Something Just Ain’t Right // 2. Right and a Wrong Way // 3. Tell Me It’s Me You Want // 4. I Want Her // 5. Make It Last Forever (feat. Jacci McGhee) // 6. In the Rain // 7. How Deep Is Your Love // 8. Don’t Stop Your Love (feat. Jacci McGhee)

Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever is often seen as the startingj point of New Jack Swing, the musical genre that first succesfully blended soul-styled vocals with hip-hop styled beats, but that’s only because Teddy Riley is behind the boards. This album is in fact simply a quiet storm album on which nobody plays actual instrument beyond Teddy and the off keyboard. The only thing that ties this to the hip-hop of 1987 is the use of the same tinny drum machine clatter and the same sparkly keyboards one might find on a Heavy D album, only this time around they’re used to create something for the ladies, not the B-boys.

With that said, it is a really good quiet storm album. Keith’s yearning tenor is a terrific instrument and blends well with Riley’s beats which go back-and-forth between ballads (Right and a Wrong Way, Tell Me It’s Me That You Want, Make It Last ForeverIn the RainHow Deep Is Your Love) and midtempo funk numbers (Something Just Ain’t RightI Want HerDon’t Stop Your Love).

Make It Last Forever is instantly datable to 1987, but not in a corny or bad manner. The songwriting may be a little too earnest and lacking in the four letter word and house beats-departments for many a modern R&B aficianado but its old fashioned charm may just be what Chris Brown’s output is lacking for others.

The guest appearances are kept to a minimum (no rappers here) so these fourty minutes, divided into eight tracks are quite sufficient to get to know Keith and watch him drop a couple of classics in the mean time, most notably the title track and I Want Her.
Keeping the album brief has the advantage of making you want even more when the album is done spinning, and isn’t that what a guy called Keith Sweat should strive to achieve?

Best tracks
Make It Last Forever
Don’t Stop Your Love

Recommendations
Pick this one up.


Johnny Gill – Chemistry

Johnny Gill
Chemistry
April 22, 1985
Cotillon Records/ Atlantic RecordsWMG
065/100
Johnny Gill - Chemistry
1. Half Crazy // 2. Can’t Wait Til Tomorrow // 3. Don’t Take Away My Pride // 4. One Small Light // 5. The Way That You Love Me // 6. Because Of You // 7. Chemistry // 8. I Found Love

It can’t be stressed enough in reviewing a Johnny Gill album. The voice you hear on the record does not fit the little boy on the cover. Even though he was eighteen by the time Chemistry dropped he looked fifteen and had the voice of a thirty-plus year old. A very exceptional thirty-plus year old even. Gill’s husky, masculine baritone could give the likes of Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass a run for their money in its sheer power, seductiveness and sultriness.

Unfortunately for Gill up until the 1988 New Edition album Heart Break, on which he replaced Bobby Brown, he had never gotten the material to unlock his potential. His epynomous Freddie Perren-helmed debut had been boring as hell, as had Cotillon Records’ attempt to sell the boy to starlet Stacey Lattisaw’s audience: the far from perfect Perfect Combination. Producers Freddie Perren and Naranda Michael Walden couldn’t come up with material that was either memorable or did more for Gill than showcase his excellent voice.

The Linda Creed-helmed Chemistry isn’t quite the instafix to Johnny’s problems, it shares the same questionable ’80s production values and dime-a-dozen R&B songwriting that evaporates from memory as soon as the record stops playing. But moreso than either of Gill’s two prior albums it’s rather entertaining when it is on.

Half Crazy and Because of You are decent piano ballads. They may be corny but they are corny by design and bear their queso with pride.
Can’t Wait ’til TomorrowOne Small Light and The Way That You Love Me are the sort of uptempo ’80s post-disco soul songs that brings to mind Lionel Richie’s Running With the Night and summon nighttime joyrides.
Don’t Take Away My Pride and I Found Love take a cue from Freddie Jackson and JG does this type of song as well as the man himself (take that how you will).
Chemistry makes it’s titular subject a metaphore for sexy business and doesn’t quite manage to have fun with it, but doesn’t outright suck and its sticking to a subject makes one wonder what the hell happened to songwriting as of late.

At only eight tracks Chemistry doesn’t overstay its welcome, which is never a bad thing, and although it’s not a very substantial album it is, very much like, and certainly no worse than Whitney Houston’s debut (it’s a shame Cotillon didn’t put more effort in pimping it to her fanbase), a pleasantry (albeit a carbon dated one), and sometimes that is all music needs to be.

Best tracks
Half Crazy
Can’t Wait ’til Tomorrow
Don’t Take Aaway My Pride
Because of You

Recommendations
Chemistry is not for everyone. It’s some seriously cheesy, slight ’80s R&B/Soul, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for what it is it’s pretty good. So white, middle aged housewives easy listening/ adult contemporary audiences, if you come across this one for a reasonable price, go for it.


Fabolous – Ghetto Fabolous

Fabolous
Ghetto Fabolous
September 11, 2001
Desert Storm Records/ Elektra Records/ WMG
050/100
Fabolous - Ghetto Fabolous
1. Click & Spark // 2. Keepin’ It Gangsta // 3. Young’n (Holla Back) // 4. Get Right // 5. Ride For This (feat. Ja Rule) // 6. One Day // 7. Trade It All (feat. Jagged Edge) // 8. Right Now & Later On // 9. Take You Home (feat. Lil’ Mo) // 10. Get Smart // 11. Can’t Deny It (feat. Nate Dogg) // 12. Ma’ Be Easy // 13. We Don’t Give a Fuck // 14. Bad Guy (feat. Pain in Da Ass) // 15. Gotta Be a Thug // 16. If They Want It

Another rap album that dropped on that uneventful date (september 11, 2001) was Roc-a-Fella Records’ house DJ, DJ Clue?’s protégé Fabolous’ Ghetto Fabolous, although the fact that this shit actually came out may have done more damage than the 9/11 attacks. Fabolous’ debut is anything but fab, although I’ll be the first to admit that the man himself is almost entirely blameless.

Fab had been making a name for himself ever since he first appeared on a major label realease (DJ Clue?’s own major label debut the Professional) with his lackadasical, monotone flow (which got him compared to blingy cuddly-gangsta turned preacher Ma$e) and his funny/corny punchlines (which got him compared, a lot more flatteringly, to the likes of Big L)
The album had two songs that were moderately succesful on the U.S. charts back in 2001 (Can’t Deny It and Young’n (Holla Back)) but there’s really only one single sort of, kind of related to this album that people occasionally still listen to, which is the glossy Puff Diddy-featuring remix of Trade It All released on the soundtrack to the Ice Cube movie Barbershop.

Still this album could be considered a commercial success since it had moved over a million units by 2003, which was the time Fabby started having some real charts success with singles off his sophomore album, on which he emulated Ja Rule (who makes an appearance on Ghetto Fabolous), romantically dueting female R&B singers Lil’ Mo and Tamia over bootylicious beats.
Except unlike Jeffrey Fab brought his punchlines with him to these radio songs and knew better than to sing the refrains on his own material and in stead let the hired help do that. This is probably what saved him from the sort of riducule Ja would endure as soon as the hit songs stopped coming.
But I digress, suffice to say that this album earned its platinum plaque probably not because of its own merits, but rather because his 2003 album Street Dreams hit the jackpot and people in record stores (yes people bought actual physical copies of music they liked in stores, as late as 2003) picked this one up since they were there and expected Ghetto Fabolous to be another album of Into Yous and Can’t Let You Gos. I’m sure the people who bought Ghetto Fabolous for this reason women were pissed when they actually listened to it. (Street Dreams itself was hardly all acoustic guitars and Commodores-interpolations either, but we’ll get to that soon enough.)

Clue? and his cohort DURO, his colleague mixtape jackass DJ Envy, as well as relative unknowns Rush da Spyda, Omen, Armando Colon produce most of Ghetto Fabolous, and they don’t do a particularly good job, serving up overly glossy store brand imitations of what East Coast hip-hop tended to sound like at the time, that are too clean to be hard and too incomplete to be poppy (somewhat sketchy beats are what marred the first two installments of Clue?’s the Professional series. And it’s no different here.)
Surprisingly the Neptunes contribution and second single Youngn (Holla Back) is boring as hell too. I’m quite confident Pharrell and Chad don’t remember having ever made it. Maybe Clue? stole it out of their reject-bin while the guys were having an argument.
Get RightMa’ Be Easy and Right Now and Later On‘s beats were made on sleep walking strolls too, except this time by Rockwilder, Just Blaze and Timbaland respectively.
Can’t Deny It has Rick Rock selling Fab the exact same boring-ass beat he reused several times on most of his Dynasty contributions (I bet he charged full price too) while the usually reliable Nate Dogg jacks an old 2pac hook over it to meh results.

The other guests don’t add much either, Ja Rule gives Ride For This a DMX-esque overly shouty hook.
Lil’ Mo does that early naughties thing where an R&B singer jacks an old hook of a soul song (In this case I Wonder If I Take You Home by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam and Full Force) and goes out of his/her way to gangsta it’s lyrics up (In this case by unnaturally jamming the word “thug” into it). Yuck.
Speaking of uninspired, unneccesary gangstaness; Bad Guy has Roc-a-Fella skit-personality getting his bullshit Scarface on between Fab’s verses. It wasn’t funny on Reasonable Doubt and it still wasn’t on Ghetto Fabolous.

The only exception to this is Jagged Edge who give Fabby’s ode to a special lady a sunny hook over an uncharacteristically nice Clue?/DURO beat. It’s not quite as groovy as the Barbershop version, but it comes close and it compensates by not having that wack P. Daddy verse. Regardless it’s Ghetto Fabolous best song, hands down, it’s also the most pop (coincidence?)

As for Fab’s rapping, he is obviously a more than competent punchline rapper, one not devoid of pop appeal either, which is something Canibus or Big L can’t say about themselves. That’s not to say he doesn’t make any beginners mistakes. For instance he all but reuses the same outdated (it wasn’t even fresh in ’01 when Ghetto Fabolous dropped) New Jack City punchline on the album’s first two songs. Also the guy uses the same “swallow my babies” line on two of this album’s songs. This kind of fuckery makes Clue? come across as a sloppy executive producer and Fab as an uninspired rapper. Keeping in line with the corny movies-references; Leathal Weapon gets namedropped on Keeping It Gangsta as well. Not that referencing old movies is a major offence in and by itself (Although rappers, including Fab on this album, definitely overdid it with the Scarface-enacting. And the next rapper who goes and pulls that shit on his album needs to get his recording contract torn-up. One could quote the entire movie verbatim without having ever seen it if one has heard enough rap albums from the ’95-’05 timespan.), but as a running theme it makes it seem as though Fabby hadn’t entered a cinema in the decade prior to relesing his debut album, in which case movie-references may not be a good idea at all.
While he stays on beat and doesn’t fuckup majorly that often besides the minor offences dropping the occasional cheesy clunker of a punchline and tired gangsta’ism, but over these shitty beats he sounds like a complete tool, even if he simultaneously does show his ability to write actual songs as opposed to srings of bad jokes while keeping his style consistent, which isn’t exactly a given with rappers, especially punchline rappers.

Despite Fab having considerable talents there is absolutely no reason to revisit Ghetto Fabolous, an album that gives off a promise of a pretty decent sequel on the condition that the guy cops some proficient production, but has absoloutely nothing else going for it.

Best track
Trade It All

Recommendations
Don’t bother.


Kara’s Flowers – The Fourth World

Kara’s Flowers
The Fourth World
August 19, 1997
Reprise RecordsWMG
060/100
Kara's Flowers - The Fourth World
1. Soap Disco // 2. Future Kid // 3. Myself // 4. Oliver // 5. The Never Saga // 6. Loving the Small Time // 7. To Her, With Love // 8. Sleepy Windbreaker // 9. Pantry Queen // 10. My Ocean Blue // 11. Captain Splendid // 12. Buddy Two-Shoes

Kara’s Flowers, an L.A. based alternative rock band consisting of Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, Ryan Dusick and Adam Levine, released their debut album on Reprise Records, to the sounds of crickets in the summer of ’97. The only single off the album Soap Disco failed to make a splash on the charts and the guys gave up those silly rockstar dreams and went to college never to be heard from again.

Well that’s what should have happened, but in stead the foursome returned around the turn of the millenium with bringing guitar player James Valentine and the funk with them under the name Maroon 5, started to making hits doing catchy come on- and kiss off-numbers, and continue to be a thing to this day.

Maroon 5, once they became successful, maintained their success by moving (or mooOOooOOoo00ving) with the times, adjusting and incorporating trends into their formula, and therefor it is not surprising that The Fourth World sounds as though Adam and co. temporarely put away their Prince and Police records, took a time machine to 1997 and recorded a post-grunge record.

Off course Adam Levine has as about much in common with Kurt Kobain as Justin Bieber has with 2pac, and therefore it is commendable that Kara’s Flowers stays completely clear of Nirvana’s emo angst and alienation generation X-shtick and just writes pop-songs with a grunge-influence in stead.

The resulting album could serve as the score to a mediocre, late ’90s-to-early-naughties “search of self” young adult roadtrip-movie (Being that this album came into existence in ’97 it baffles me that a Kara’s Flowers roadtrip-movie wasn’t commissioned. That would not only have helped The Forth World move some units, but that would also have gotten the three band-members that aren’t Adam out of anonymity.)

I don’t know much about this particular genre of music, but as usual with Maroon 5 everything is, if nothing else, neatly done. These songs are catchy and inoffensive my ears. Making music that is both catchy and acceptable to people who aren’t fans of whatever particular genre they’re dabbling in at that particular moment in time has apparently always been Maroon 5’s forte (which conversely amost certainly means that purist fans of “real” grunge, garage rock, Brit-pop, power pop and other genres that are namechecked in other, better informed reviews of the Fourth World will probaby hate the everliving shit out of this album, for “watering down” their beloved music for “pop” audiences.)

Kara’s Flowers keeps things brief with eleven tracks, clocking under fourty minutes, which is also positive since nothing sticks out, and consistency tends to turn into dragging if stretched out too long.

The Fourth World should be taken for a spin by M5 fans, but not because it’s interesting to see the band form into what they eventually became . Their catchy songwriting and music, as well as Adam’s nasal falsetto are fully formed here already, all that’s missing are the funk/ soul influences, (Besides, the M5 boys aren’t that interesting to begin with, they make catchy pop-tunes, not progressive, avant-garde music)  but rather because there is plenty to like here for fans of Adam’s distinctive singing and these songs are fairly catchy and fun which is all one can want from a Maroon 5 album.

Best tracks
Soap Disco

Recommendations
If you find this album in the used bin for the price of some loose change you might as well take it with you.


Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw – Perfect Combination

Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw
Perfect Combination
February 27, 1984
Cotillon Records/ Atlantic RecordsWMG
055/100
Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw - Perfect Combination
1. Block Party // 2. Fun And Games // 3. Falling In Love Again // 4. 50/50 Love // 5. Perfect Combination // 6. HeartBreak Look // 7. Baby It’s You // 8. Come Out of the Shadows

Johnny Gill’s debut album hadn’t sold very well or provided the charts with any hits (the internet provides no clues of the opposite being true), so the people of Cotillon/ Atlantic records decided to put him in the studio with proven success and labelmate Stacey Lattisaw (Wikipedia says they were childhood friends as well, believe what you will) to pimp him to her fanbase and to create a cute teeny 1980s update of a Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell duet album (although those two things are actually one and the same thing.)

That this album isn’t  as horrible as that description makes it sound is largely to thank the vocalists for, Johnny with his singing that sounded like it belonged to a man twice his age, and miss Lattisaw sounding capable and confident beyond her years as well, but to a lesser extent (they were both seventeen when they dropped this).

The sound is fine for those who enjoy this particular brand of queso (not me.). The midtempo cuts sound like store brand imitations of SOLAR Records svengali Leon Sylvers III’s post-disco electro-pop jams. (Shalamar’s A Night To Remember, Lakeside’s Fantastic Voyage, Dynasty’s Midas Touch et al.) and the ballads sound like they are rejects from the An Officer and a Gentleman soundtrack.
That’s not to say anything sounds horrible, in fact the songwriting itself puts most of today’s R&B music to shame in it’s ability to choose a subject/ concept and stick to it, and this Naranda Michael Walden guy seems at least adequate in putting together a record, but that is not to say you should give a fuck.

That the best thing on here is a cover of an old Shirelles song, previously covered by the Beatles, written by Burt Bacharach is telling about the songwriting. Kinda how Johnny’s debut‘s best song was a cover of an old Sam & Dave song written by Isaac Hayes.

Best tracks
Perfect Combination
Baby It’s You

Recommendations
Don’t bother.