Monday, February 20, 2023

Here is a revived version of a Line Out post about Andre Williams' Hoods and Shades (these posts were purged from the internet after The Stranger pulled the plug on their music blog).

BLOGS Feb 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

Soul Brother in Heaven and Hell


Andre Williams, Hoods and Shades, Bloodshot Records

  • Bloodshot Records

Detroit R&B survivor Zephire "Andre" Williams teams up with guitarist Dennis Coffey, upright bass player Don Was, electric bass player Jim Diamond, and drummer Jim White for this earthy effort. The cover art promises blaxploitation sleaze, but there's more restraint here than self-indulgence. Fittingly, he's described his fourth Bloodshot release as "the Andre Williams folk album.”

Though there's plenty of electric guitar on tap, acoustic takes center stage. And when Coffey lays down his funky licks, he resists the urge to crank it up, which keeps the focus on Williams, an unpolished singer with personality to spare.

A highlight from his years on Chess Records.

Among his achievements: Williams has recorded for MotownChess and Fortune, written and produced for Ike TurnerMary WellsEdwin StarrStevie Wonder and Parliament-Funkadelic, and penned and performed down and dirty R&B sides "Jail Bait," "Shake a Tail Feather" and the Cramps favorite "Bacon Fat."

As with talk-singing peers Blowfly and Gil Scott-Heron, who collaborated with Jamie xx on his final album, a younger generation discovered the outspoken entertainer in the late-1990s, helping to bring him to national awareness after decades of cult obscurity. Since then, he's worked with the Demolition Doll Rodsthe Dirtbombsthe New Orleans Hellhounds, and the Sadies.

  • Norton Records

On Hoods and Shades, Williams shares hard-fought wisdom about his life on the streets. As he sings on dope dealer's lament "A Good Day to Feel Bad"—counterpoint to Cube's "Today Was a Good Day"—"Your lady's out there double dealing, because you're stealing." (He references another L.A. rapper on track #3 when he sings, "I've got money on my mind." Those are the only lyrics.)

On other songs, he shines a spotlight on a lady from Louisiana (original Motown number "Mojo Hannah"), a fellow jailbird ("Swamp Dogg's Hot Spot"), and young miscreants in hoodies and sunglasses ("Hoods and Shades"). As Greg Kihn once sang, "They don't write 'em like that anymore." Williams may be 75 and Coffey 71, but they've held on to the spark that made them exciting in the first place.

Bloodshot Records releases Hoods and Shades on February 28, 2012.

Friday, February 03, 2023

February Reviews

These are the reviews and other projects I'm working on this month.

Letterboxd: The Adventures of Saul Bellow, All My Sons, Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverThe Liberation of L.B. Jones,
 and Watermelon Man.

Seattle Film Blog: Big Time Gambling Boss (to come in March). 

Video Librarian: Hatching, Hold Me TightI Didn't See You There, MissingThe O. Henry Playhouse - The Complete Series, Vol. 3, and Official Competition.

Image: Big Time Gambling Boss via Radiance.  

The Blank Project from 2014, Neneh Cherry's First Solo Album in 18 Years, Was Her Best to Date

Here is a revived version of a Line Out post about Neneh Cherry's The Blank Project (these posts were purged from the internet after The Stranger pulled the plug on their music blog).

Blogs Feb 19, 2014 at 12:50 pm

The Blank Project, Neneh Cherry's First Solo Album in 18 Years, Is Her Best Yet

  • Photo By Kim Hiorthoy / Smalltown Supersound
Neneh Cherry
The Blank Project
(Smalltown Supersound)

The Blank Project is a more personal statement from Anglo-Swedish artist Neneh Cherry than The Cherry Thing, her 2012 collection of cover songs with free-jazz trio The Thing (which also featured one original number from Cherry and one from Thing). If that record provided an insight into her taste, with tracks from Suicide and MF Doom, the follow-up provides more of an insight into her mind.

This time, collaborators include producer Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), electronic duo RocketNumberNine, and dance-pop star Robyn. They help to keep things moving with ribcage-vibrating drums and searing synths, but it's a more thoughtful enterprise than that description would imply. You could dance to it, but the lyrics are hardly repetitive or innocuous as she questions her relationships ("I'm addicted to you"), worries about her children ("my fear is for my daughters"), and reflects on life lessons ("paper-cup regrets will not stick").

It's pop, jazz, funk, and noise-rock all at once, making it hard to classify, define, and market—especially when she adds what sounds like the rattle of a spray can ("Across the Water") and a didgeridoo ("Spit Three Times") to her arsenal (her Ari Up-like vocal ululations on centerpiece track "Everything" are also worthy of note).

And that describes Cherry's career to date, from her days in the Slits--with Ari Up--and Rip, Rig + Panic to solo albums on which she duets with other musical adventurers, like Tricky and Senegalese vocalist Youssou N'Dour (1996 hit "7 Seconds"). As she sings on "Weightless," the most dance-worthy entry: "I don't fit the right shoes."

I tried to read the newspaper while listening to The Blank Project, but found it difficult. There's background music and there's foreground music, and Cherry doesn't make the former. Nothing wrong with that. It just required an adjustment on my part as I'm usually doing something else while digging into new releases, but after several spins, I settled into her unique groove, and the paper got read.

Neneh's been on a roll for a few years now, and she's making the best music of her life. I wish I could say that about more of her peers from the 1980s, but many have left music behind, moved in a more commercial direction, or died (like Up, who had a lot of living left to do). For my money, she's up there with Colin Newman and Mark Stewart for keeping it real year after year. Long may she reign.

Smalltown Supersound releases The Blank Project on Feb 25 (stream it now via NPR). These live performances of "Weightless" and the title track are worth a listen (yes, that's Alexis Georgopoulos on bass).