Posts Tagged ‘sam cooke’

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Has Technology Ruined Music?

March 24, 2011

One of the trademark complaints of older generations of music fans is that today’s music is created on a computer, or “ripped off” from the music of previous generations. Of course, the “young people don’t respect nothing” argument has been around since the days of Ancient Rome, and that is a different topic altogether. The specific point made, however, is something I often ponder. Is today’s music even music?

Like most things in this world, this is not a black and white issue. While I believe there are some major drawbacks to computer-generated music, I also believe it has opened the door for creative, out-of-the-box artists to make new and exciting music. Sampling old songs, as long as it is done with the original artist’s permission, is not only a great way to make fresh music but also introduces younger generation to great music from the past. For instance, I world never have gotten into Sam Cooke had I not heard Papoose’s sampling of “A Change is Gonna Come” on “50 Shots.” That would be a real shame, as I consider Cooke to be one of the greatest recording artists ever. Music is meant to bring people together, and electronically incorporated samples can bridge generational gaps.

One thing that should be made clear: studio production is not exclusive to hip-hop, and had been around way before DJ Kool Herc spun his first record at a South Bronx birthday bash. Songs like Ray Charles’ classic “I Believe to My Soul” was recorded using over-dubs, as was Bruce Springsteen’s title track from “Born to Run.” Even today, artists of various genres use electronically enhanced sounds to create music. Many producers have extensive music knowledge and talent, and some can even play musical instruments. Think about it: who in their right mind would say DJ Premier isn’t a creative genius because he doesn’t play guitar?

I do realize that technology has the possibility to induce laziness. A lot of artists today are e-mailed “beats” and then record lyrics to them. This is a major flaw in the music making process. Jay-Z once said that he never records a song unless the producer is in the studio with him, because face-to-face collaboration can change and improve the entire direction of a song. Another problem with technologically enhanced music is that some of it is entirely created synthetically. However, there are still many artists who record with live instruments or incorporate them into production.

Don’t get me wrong; I have great respect for musicians. It takes extraordinary skill to play an instrument. However, this does not make producers- especially those who collaborate with a team of knowledgeable engineers in an honest effort to create great music- inferior to musicians in any way.

In a previous article on this site, I predicted that as record sales decline, artists who can put on a great live show will be more financially successful than those who rely on the likes of auto-tune and synth beats. Still, there are those who use sound systems to put on excellent concerts. All in all, I feel that, despite its drawbacks from studio-production generally has improved the quality of music. I look forward to more creativity and innovation by producers and musicians alike in the future.

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The Ten Greatest Albums I’ve Ever Heard

March 23, 2011

Although in my “Coming Up…” post, I mentioned that I would be doing a 2nd quarter preview and a producers vs. musicians editorial, I’ve decided to hold off on those for a few days because I’ve been itching to post a list. Creating lists of the greatest movies, athletes, albums, songs, etc. has been one of my favorite pastimes for years. This specific list was created after years of carefully listening to a wide variety of albums. I added “I’ve Ever Heard” because I am sure that there are albums out there that I might consider to be better than the ten I have selected if I were to hear them. This is a greatest list, meaning that these are not my ten favorite albums, but the ones that I believe to be the best I’ve ever heard. Read on as I count down the greatest albums I’ve ever heard.

*All images were acquired from Google Images

10. Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.- 1988

This album changed music forever. Never before had violence, sex, and drugs been so graphically portrayed on an album. Suburban moms hit the roof. Law enforcement officials went nuts. N.W.A. even got a letter from the F.B.I. Still, the album that went platinum without a single or any hype remains to this day one of the grimiest works of art of the 20th century.

9. Thriller by Michael Jackson- 1982

It’s easy for me to roll my eyes at the mere mention of this album, due to the constant references of it from other artists in music and the hero-worship of Jackson since his passing. Still, the album itself is an undeniable masterpiece. Paul McCartney, Quincy Jones, and Eddie Van Halen all chipped in to help the King of Pop create his magnum opus.

8. Abbey Road by The Beatles- 1969

Although I still hold in contention that many music fans tend to have a romanticized view of everything The Beatles ever recorded, I cannot deny that Abbey Road is remarkably creative. Every member of the band simultaneously shines individually while also working together to make sure that the album is greater than the sum of its parts. The medley on the second half of the album is nothing short of epic.

7. Illmatic by NaS- 1994

This album, recorded when NaS was just 19 years old, remains the greatest hip-hop album ever released. Backed by masterful production from the likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, and Q-Tip, NaS uses detailed imagery and excellent rhyming skills to portray life in the Queensbridge projects in a brilliantly crafted masterpiece. And he did it all with only one guest appearance (a young, focused AZ on “Life’s a Bitch).

6. Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 by Sam Cooke- 1985

While most casual listeners will remember Sam Cooke as the man behind the legendary “A Change is Gonna Come,” the man with the golden voice secretly longed to sing soul music the way it was meant to be. He got his chance in this Florida nightclub, where he was free from the reigns of having to croon for a white audience. As a result, his voice is raspy and soulful, and he works the crowd beautifully. The band backing him does in excellent job in helping create a raucous, soulful environment. Although it was recorded in ’63, it wasn’t released until 1985, 21 years after his death.

5. Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan- 1975

Dylan was a poet. He was an excellent musician. His voice, though polarizing, sounding like nothing else in music. Never did all these amazing elements of his mesh into anything as great this album, which showcased Dylan at his best both musically and lyrically. Although most people remember “Tangled Up in Blue” from this album, hidden gems include “You’re a Big Girl Now” and “Idiot Wind.”

4. At San Quentin by Johnny Cash- 1969

Most people remember At Folsom Prison as Cash’s greatest live album, mostly because Folsom Prison itself was the source of inspiration for Cash’s hit, “Folsom Prison Blues.” At San Quentin, however, is just as energetic and just as powerful, but with an added treat: Cash performed, for the first time ever, the Shel Silverstein-penned “A Boy Named Sue” for the San Quentin inmates.

3. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen- 1975

The Boss and co. worked their tails off, trying so hard to create a timeless record. Tales of last chances, broken dreams and Jersey girls added nostalgia and heart into an album that Springsteen clearly poured his blood, sweat, and tears into. The result is just want he and his E-street band so badly wanted: a classic for the ages.

2. Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers- 1977

Although presumably titled after one of the songs on the album, the name Exodus probably has double meaning, as it was recorded during Marley’s self-imposed exile from Jamaica to London after an attempt on his life left himself, his wife, and his manager wounded. The result is a brilliant album that is stylistically reggae but contains universally themes of love, peace, and awareness. It is an undisputable classic.

1. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, 1971

After much thought and consideration, I decided that I have never heard an album greater than Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. This album is perfect: it is at once soulful, enjoyable, meaningful, emotional, lyrical, melodic, and intelligent, all in just eight songs. The brevity of this album leaves little room for error, which Gaye fortunately must have realized. It is a flawless work of art that, much like Marley’s Exodus, contains universally themes of love, peace, and awareness, though it also contains turmoil, sadness, and optimism. It is musically brilliant, and Marvin Gaye has never sounded better. Recorded at a very difficult time in his life, one can tell just by listening that he put all he had into this record. Can you believe he had to battle with Motown’s Berry Gordy just to get this album out?

Well, that’s the list. Feel free to tell me where I went wrong or what you liked about it. Peace.