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Record Shuffle: Soul seeking social awakening

Dimitris Katsourinis presents new soul - funk (and not only) releases ...
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Dimitris Katsourinis presents new soul - funk ( and not only) releases and at times driven by the feeling, some favorite recordings of the past ...

2. The soul of today is looking for social awakening

Aloe Blacc is not fresh in the musical things. Born in the late '70s in Los Angeles and since his teens, has been looking for artistic expression as a rapper participating in various formats. In the process, the interests began to escape the narrow confines of hip hop and the streets of his music, joined those of the great company Stones Throw. In this company he released in 2006, his debut solo album titled "Shine Through", trying to propose a comprehensive, yet multi-dimensional and multi-layered sound proposal.

In this year's "Good Things", Blacc decides to focus so generously providing us with an exemplary album of modern soul. The production balances perfectly between present and past. The sound is basically simple and austere. It builds on a solid rhythm section led by the melodic piano or keyboards, supported by local sharp, wah - wah, funky, (even) psychedelic-like  artistic guitars and colored by subtle touches of brass and strings.

The inaugural "I Need A Dollar" is arguably the most powerful moment of the album. The backbone and structure brings to mind some of the best moments of Gnarls Barkley. The voice of Aloe Blacc, reveals a singer who has graduated with honors from that school, in which the records of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers (mainly) and Gil Scott Heron (the softer moments), are played without interruption. These expressive means are used to externalize the concerns of his generation (us) about what the future holds and how to make ends meet. There are times when the concern becomes spontaneously despair ...

"... What in the world am I gonna to do tomorrow
Is there someone whose dollar that I can borrow
Who can help me take away my sorrow
Maybe it's inside the bottle ... "

Concerns are transported in some other parts of "Good Things". The America of today, the brutal hunting of money down the social - economic structures, slums and ghetto, eloquently depicted in "Life So Hard". The aim of Aloe Blacc is the awareness and through it, searching for hope. This hope, as a true soul man, he finds ways to bring it to the audience, either by optimism (Good Things), or through a mental escape ("Green Lights"). There is no shortage of course, the emotional nature stories, with "Hey Brother" stealing the show,  relative characteristically to "Use Me" and "Who Is He And What Is He To You" of the great Bill Withers. In the defining moments of the album one can add the unexpected slow rhythm 'n' blues cover version of ... "Femme Fatale" of Velvet Underground!

Aloe Blacc - I Need A Dollar

From the one hand, social unrest, poverty, unemployment and the war in Vietnam ...and on the other hand, the influence of leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X ... Among other things, the '60s and '70s were particularly relevant to the position of African Americans in the society of the USA and of course this strong sequence of events and situations, could not but leave its strong sign in the music ...

John Legend met with members of Roots two years ago, in the Democratic campaign for the nomination of President Obama. Since both the Legend and the Roots, are two of the most healthy and creative forces of the modern era, the news of the record of cooperation were greeted with joy and eagerness. Initially the project would be limited - their goal was to record a mini lp with four to five pieces. In the autumn of 2010 eventually, an entire album, entitled "Wake Up" makes its appearance on the shelves of music stores.

The goal is clear from the beginning. The alarm, information, reflection and reinforcement of social consciousness. The obvious reasons ... the economic crisis, wars, racism, the ghetto. For promotion considerations, the artists involved have decided to refer the golden past of soul music, cultural heritage, ie. The "Wake Up" is full of diamonds accurate renditions of past songs now sounding equally to date than the period when they were released - the end of the 60s until the middle of 70s.

The selection of tracks that were eventually included in "Wake Up" could not be better. After all the participation in the project of a mobile music encyclopedia, such as the resourceful Questlove, Roots' drummer and famous producer, left no doubt. Some of them are bitter and ... "Hard Times", the composition of Curtis Mayfield ... " Wake Up Everybody " of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes ( 1975 - vocals by Teddy Pendergrass), the melancholic but never defeated and always hopeful nature of the war ... Compared To What, have said the Roberta Flack and Les McCann ... the "Little Ghetto Boy" of Donny Hathaway starting "dipped" in introspection, to reach a sing along of optimism "... everything has got to get better ..." ... and the list is long ... Wholy Holy - Marvin Gaye, I Can't Write Left Handed - Bill Withers, Hang On In There - Mike James Kirkland etc

The participating artists approach their material with drive, enthusiasm, respect. The always reliable and worthy Roots give their best, with rich arrangements, "imaginative" playing, fresh ideas. The sonic result is delicious, seems timeless and in no way sounds old-fashioned. The interpretation of John Legend, discern sincerity, passion and perhaps a subconscious tendency to "rounded" corners to highlight the positive message. There are moments when the roughness of the original performances, collate depth and emotion, sadness, longing, but not anger. It is the temperament like that. In the interviews given, he speaks constantly for the need to upgrade education, for information and training on awareness and finding solutions for equal rights.

In any case, it is fortunate to see one's soul today, taking over the situation at hand and to exploit this unique internal energy has to say two words above. Especially when this trend, combined with a quality albums ...

John Legend & The Roots - Wake Up Everybody

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