Apr 8 2010

Rocking Retro: Kool and the Gang

I grew up shaking my booty to “Celebration,” but thanks to my boys in Girls We Never Slept With, a resurgence of this 70’s funk powerhouse has made its way back into my life.

Kool and the Gang have sold over 70 million records worldwide, but that should come as no surprise after hearing pop-funk jams like “Hollywood Swinging” and “Ladies Night.”  But their breakthrough hit is one that was somewhat forgotten until 1995.  That was the year that Quentin Tarantino put the song in question, “Jungle Boogie,” in his seminal flick Pulp Fiction.  Listen to that song, and then listen to their biggest hit, the aforementioned “Celebration.”  We can clearly hear Kool and the Gang’s transformation from the early 70’s straight-funk sound to a more disco-based sound, the latter of which the group is best known for.

However, whether you like your Kool and the Gang raw and dirty, or if you prefer their polished later work, one thing is clear and consistent throughout – they bring the funk.

A sampling of funky fresh joints after the jump, y’all.

Continue reading

Mar 31 2010

Rocking Retro: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Up until 1965, this quartet was merely known as the Four Seasons, but you can’t keep a trilling falsetto like that of Frankie Valli out of the shadows for too long.  Once he launched a solo career, the other guys were happy to follow the money trail.

I think, for most of my generation, we associate this group with the scene in Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams walks in step, in old-lady attire, to “Walk Like a Man.”  Of course, our college rock and roll history classes briefly cover Valli and the gang when discussing the post-Elvis/pre-Beatles period of the early ’60s, featuring Spector’s girl groups, the surf-rock fad (featuring the Beach Boys peak), and, my favorite, the doo-wop style.  The Four Seasons were probably the most popular of the last category, churning out almost 40 singles and over 20 albums on the Billboard pop charts.

The group’s fame began to wane around the time Rubber Soul and Blonde on Blonde were being released, but the Four Seasons continued to deliver hits sporadically throughout the 70’s.  They are a treasure of oldies and rock’n’roll music, and their songs were usually pretty airtight and awesome.  While other vocal groups of their time dabbled in cheekiness, the charisma of the group – and strong leadership of the talented Valli – made them stand out as the best.

A sampling of classics can be found after the jump.

Continue reading

Mar 14 2010

Rocking Retro: Robert Palmer

I learned how to use my dad’s now-primitive CD player by age 3, and I proceeded to go through his somewhat modest collection, picking out my early favorites, music that would end up sticking with me for the rest of my life.  I first discovered my personal favorites Dwight Yoakam and the Beatles doing this activity, and that is how I discovered Robert Palmer.

Turns out Palmer was quite a talent, a diverse songwriter and performer who is more known for his 80’s pop stint than his interesting back catalog, consisting of everything from jazz-influenced music to standards to straight-up 80’s electronic tunes.  And let’s not forget the great hits he penned for Power Station.

Of course, at age 3, I didn’t really care about any of this; all I was into was his two biggest albums, the ones my dad had a copy of.  I’m, of course, referring to Riptide (1985) and Heavy Nova (1988).

Check a sampling of tunes from both albums after the jump, and enjoy expert 80’s pop craftmanship from a gifted, multi-talented, and, today, under-appreciated, musician.

Continue reading

Mar 10 2010

Rocking Retro: MC Hammer – Pumps and a Bump

There are many reasons why MC Hammer’s attempt at a gangsta-rap comeback with The Funky Headhunter failed miserably.  For one thing, the man was already overexposed and ridiculed ad nauseum by the time the album dropped.  Another point is the pure and simple fact that the whole act seemed (and was) forced; Hammer wasn’t a thug, he was a talented dancer and composer.  The first single, “Pumps and a Bump,” featured two music videos, both of which feel artificial compared to the classic Hammer strutting and crabwalking that littered the video for his hit “U Can’t Touch This.”

Of course, by this time, that was 4 or 5 years past, and Hammer was dated.  He had to redesign his image to pay for the now-multiplying debt and support his family.  He also needed a break back into the spotlight.  Death Row and Tupac were huge, so a move to the gangsta genre seemed reasonable.  But he didn’t fit in, and everyone knew it.

That’s not to say that Hammer isn’t in top form with “Pumps and a Bump.”  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Sure, the first video, filmed at Hammer’s stupid-expensive mansion, is overtly sexual and, at times, disgusting.  But the second is prime Hammer, making love to the camera with smooth lip-synching charisma and a new badass dance made for the song.  The track alone is a bumping club jam that probably would have been a radio hit with any other Death Row labelmate at the time; Hammer’s name had been dragged through the mud too much at this point.

He may have been aimless, lost, and on his way out at this point, but even then, when you let him have the stage, Hammer shined.

Mc Hammer Remix pumps in a bump – MyVideo