Tag Archives: Marvin Gaye

Phil Cook

Phil Cook

It’s hard to overstate the influence the people in this photo have had on my musical life.

Not long after Phil Cook started playing at last week’s Friday Cheers, I saw Matthew E. White walk through the crowd and settle in near the front, and at the risk of being a little bit of a creeper, I made sure to get a shot of these two hugely important people in one place.

This was my first time seeing Phil Cook play under his own name, but I’ve gotten to see him perform three (I think) times before — twice with Hiss Golden Messenger in Richmond and once with Megafaun in Portland, OR. That 2011 Portland show at the Doug Fir was the seed of something that’s grown much bigger. I’ve written about this idea before, but every single thing the Megafaun diaspora touches or is associated with — HGM, Sylvan Esso, The Shouting Matches, Grandma Sparrow — turns to gold, and those projects and Phil Cook’s solo album have brought me a great deal of happiness in the years since Portland.

Less than a year after that show, the first songs from White’s Big Inner debut (Phil Cook was involved with that too) started appearing on the interweb. I hadn’t been clued into Fight the Big Bull back then, so these songs were my introduction to White. It was a little like when I first heard White Laces — it felt like I’d stepped on a live power line in my own backyard, like “Holy crap! Was this here all along?” I preordered the album and followed White on all possible social media channels, including his Spotify profile.

I’m not sure how many of y’all use the feature that allows you to see what your friends/the people you follow are listening to, but White’s feed changed everything for me. It’s how I found out about Randy Newman. About Harry Nilsson. About Stevie Wonder. And then Stevie opened up the whole world of soul music for me — Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Nina Simone… there’s an entire section of my record collection that probably wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for White’s Spotify feed.

The same goes for one of the happiest moments of my life: In the spring of 2014, Mrs. YHT and I did a long weekend in Corolla, NC while she was very pregnant, knowing we were going to skip my family’s summer beach trip that year. On the last day, before heading back to Richmond — and back to reality, where parenthood was imminent — we spent a few minutes in (what I believe is called) Historic Corolla Park literally sitting on the dock of the bay (OK, the Currituck Sound) listening to Otis Redding. For that short time, I felt completely at peace with the world and my place in it. Peace was scarce in those days, given how anxious I was before our daughter was born, so I’ll never forget listening to that song in that setting in that moment. Without Otis Redding, and by extension, Matt White, I’m not sure I would have found that sense of peace.

Toward the end of his Cheers set, Phil Cook dedicated a song to a friend in the audience, and while I can’t remember the exact words of his dedication, it seemed clear he was talking about White. The song ended up being Randy Newman’s “Sail Away.” Two days later, at the P.S. 321 Flea Market in Brooklyn, I found a copy of Newman’s album of the same name. It felt like all the musical connections I’d been thinking about for those two days came together in that one record I was holding. I’d held a copy of the album before — while flipping through records at Deep Groove a while ago — but on Sunday, it felt like the most valuable record in the entire world.

I really wish I had video of Cook doing “Sail Away” on Friday. My phone’s battery was low because I had already taped Cook playing “Crow Black Chicken,” which Ry Cooder recorded for Boomer’s Story. Here’s that recording — it’s a little blurry, but there’s an excellent bass solo from Michael Libramento. And it seems only fitting, given that this is a story about connections, to share that Ry Cooder played on Newman’s Sail Away album.

Phil Cook — “Crow Black Chicken” (Ry Cooder cover) [YouTube]

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Covered: Super Bowl 50

I’d say a long day of Super Bowl prep — braising a pork butt, assembling elaborately unhealthy pigs-in-blankets, etc. — calls for some situationally appropriate album art.

Michael Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Stephen Stills — Super Session

Super Session

Stephen Stills’ second Covered appearance in two opportunities. Not sure what’s happening here, but Super Session seems entirely appropriate at this juncture.

Michael Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Stephen Stills — “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” (Bob Dylan cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

The Beatles — Live at the Hollywood Bowl

The Beatles

Different bowl, similar setup —  a bunch of people crowded into a California stadium, shrieking.

The Beatles — Live At The Hollywood Bowl, August 23, 1964 [Discogs]

The Grateful Dead — Live at Hampton Coliseum

The Grateful Dead

The game is being played Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, so a little Dead is called for, I think. Going with Live at Hampton Coliseum, which came out on Record Store Day 2014. While I never got to see the Dead at Hampton (or anywhere else), I did see Phish there, and the building’s rep as a jam-band Mecca rings true for me. That was a fun show. Except for the part where a friend passed out from dehydration. And the part where another friend got turned away because the ticket he bought turned out to be fake. Otherwise — fun show!

The Grateful Dead — “Eyes Of The World” [Discogs]

 

Beyoncé — Beyoncé

Beyonce

This goes out to the halftime performer who deserves right of first refusal on all halftime performances everywhere. I wish I were as perfectly suited for any task in the entire world as she is for halftime shows. It’s like watching Bob Ross paint or Mrs. YHT spoon Nutella out of the jar — it’s what they were put on this Earth to do, and they do it more gracefully and perfectly than anyone else. Fingers crossed she does “Formation” tonight.

Beyoncé — “Formation” [YouTube]

Marvin Gaye — Super Hits

Marvin Gaye

This one’s for Cam. I heard through the grapevine he’s gonna win — 28-18.

Enjoy the game!

Marvin Gaye — “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Yasiin Gaye

Yasiin Gaye

Just a quick check-in to let y’all know that side-b of the Yasiin Gaye mashup project I posted about a little while back just became available.

The whole thing is remarkably well executed, and it’s done me a huge service in waking me up to how terribly shallow my appreciation of these two artists has been. I have tremendous respect for both Marvin Gaye and Yasiin Bey, yet significant chunks of the Yasiin Gaye project are entirely unfamiliar, which tells me that there’s plenty of source material that I need to catch up on. The good news? Not only can I look forward to those study sessions, I can look forward to returning to Yasiin Gaye with the kind of perspective that will let me unpack the choices creator Amerigo Gazaway made when putting it together. For an intertextuality junkie like me, it’s hog heaven.

Click here to listen to/download the whole thing for free.

Yasiin Gaye — “Undeniable feat. The Temptations” [Bandcamp]

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Yasiin Gaye

yasiin gaye

My fingertips are still sore from that protracted Truckers recap I posted on Wednesday, but I wanted to sneak in a quick post about something I’ll be listening to over the weekend.

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A Capellooza

Fat Amy

So Mrs. YHT and I ummm… sorta… kinda… maybe… [looks around nervously] watchedPitchPerfectagain.

It’s not our fault! It was on HBO, we were bored, one thing led to another and yadda yadda yadda… another notch on the ol’ TV cabinet. Bing bang boom.

I don’t know what to say — it’s not like we were big into a cappella groups when we were in college. We certainly weren’t in any. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I think I’m safe in speaking for both of us when I say we wish we had that kind of talent…) Pitch Perfect is just such an all-around feel-good exercise, with outstanding one-liners, some solid vomit humor, a healthy sense of self-awareness and a dynamite final routine that raises goosebumps even when I’m consciously trying to suppress them.

Ditching Pitch for a moment, there is one type of a cappella performance I can enjoy without feeling the need to equivocate, but you won’t see a movie made about it anytime soon. I’m talking about isolated vocal tracks from classic songs. I love when these hit the interweb, as Marvin Gaye’s from “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” did earlier this week. They’re so revealing and personal. You can picture the dark-grey foam of the recording booth’s sound-proofed walls… you can hear the bleed from singers’ headphones, bringing you amazingly close to what it would have been like to stand next to them as they sang… It’s also fun to wonder whether they know, ya know? That they’ve made something special. That the take they just did was a keeper, destined to become a piece of history that will live on in people’s hearts years after they’re gone.

Vocals from newer songs don’t have the same effect on me (I think the portability of vocals in the remix/mashup era takes some of the thrill out of it), but give me the vox from a 30 or 40 year old hit that I’ve heard 30 or 40 times and I’m one happy camper. Just for fun, I thought I’d hold a mini A Cappellooza by sharing Gaye’s brilliant “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” vocals and two other isolated tracks that are definitely worth a listen.

In each case I’ve posted a YouTube video of the isolated vocals and the full version of the song below. Enjoy!

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Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes EP

Alabama Shakes, Part 1
(Editor’s note: I’m so excited about last night’s Alabama Shakes show that I’m splitting my reaction up into two parts, one offering a macro view of the experience, and one that gives a little more detail. Hope you enjoy!)

“Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the french I took
But I do know that I love you”
— Sam Cooke

Over the course of 28 years, I’ve become an expert at certain things. Choosing which tunnel to use when traveling from Richmond to Norfolk is one. Choosing non-mealy apples at the grocery store is another. And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I consider myself the Michael Jordan of choosing the wrong checkout lane at Costco. Soul music, however, is not one of my (apologies to John Hodgman) areas of expertise. Soul is such an influential, historically rich and culturally significant force that I’ve always approached it with a sense of cautious reverence. And while I’m somewhat familiar with greats like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and Mavis Staples, it’s always seemed like a broader understanding of the genre’s history and icons is just too steep a hill to climb, and that I’m destined to remain on the outside looking in. Lately though, a number of bands that have caught my attention are making it more and more difficult to stay on the soul music sidelines. Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing one of these bands in person, a group called Alabama Shakes. I’d been hearing this 5-piece outfit’s name everywhere, often lumped in with the present wave of so-called soul revivalists, so I came to the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA prepared to find out firsthand where they stood within this movement. But as they worked their way through a powerful, confident and wildly entertaining set, it became clear that they weren’t reviving anything. What I saw felt like an authentic act of creation, not one of imitation or recreation. It felt like something totally new. Maybe I’m inclined to think this way because I lack the baseline of knowledge to make proper comparisons, but to say that frontwoman-extraoridnairre Brittany Howard has pipes like Aretha, or a 5th gear like Janis Joplin, or moo-oo-oo-OO-OO-ooves like Jagger (sorry, I really tried to stop myself from typing that) would, as accurate and complimentary as those comparisons might be, situate Alabama Shakes in the past, which is not where they belong. Sure, you can call them neo-soul, or something like that, but it really doesn’t matter, because you don’t need to be a soul savant, or an expert in musical taxonomy, to enjoy Alabama Shakes. And the proof was standing all around me last night. The crowd was as diverse as I’ve seen — black, white, young, old, hip, unhip — and while that could be a side effect of being relatively new and not having been pigeonholed yet, I’d like to think it’s because there’s so much to enjoy in their music that almost everyone can connect with it. See what I mean by listening below to “Hold On,” the first track off their eponymous EP, which you can snag here.

Alabama Shakes — “Hold On

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