CLASSIFIED - BOY-COTT-IN THE INDUSTRY

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Album: Boy-Cott-In The Industry
Artist: Classified
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If you've read herohill before and don't know I'm from Halifax (we're all from Halifax actually) then you haven't been paying attention. I'm proud of my hometown and because of that I'm always interested in hearing the music that's coming out of Haltown. I also enjoy the hip hop, but I don't get a chance to check out much Halifax hip hop. I can count the Halifax hip hop artists whose albums I own on one hand: MCJ & Cool G (on Cassette, and don't front, So Listen put Hali hip hop on the map), Buck 65 (I have them all and we'll still consider him hip hop for arguments sake), The Goods, Universal Soul, and now Classified. I will admit I'm late getting on the Classified bandwagon. I liked some of the jams I heard from his last album, Union Dues, and meant to pick it up, but didn't. I did buy his latest, Boy-Cott-In The Industry, and I'm glad I did as it's a great album.

"Diggin & creating, that's all a kid got, that's why 3/4 of my tracks are about hip hop". Classified is all about hip hop and that's why he makes songs about it. Almost refreshing to hear an MC admit that. But that's one thing you get with Clas, honesty. He's just trying to let people what he's about with no fronting. F.A.D.S. is a good example of this. He breaks down trends people follow and admits he's been involved in his fair share. Even the irony of doing a song about fads that uses sped up vocal samples isn't lost on him, he admits he didn't want to use it but it sounds too good to leave out.

If you're an old school hip hop type, Classified's honesty will pay off for you. These days a traditional hip hop album with the boom bap beats, samples, scratching, and quality MC-ing is an exception, not the rule. That's what Boy-Cott-In The Industry is, but more than that, it's a solid hip hop album with very little filler. The polish of the beats and rhymes on this album is almost shocking. The fact that the album is produced and performed by a dude from Enfield, Nova Scotia makes it that much more impressive. Some of the better beats on here compare favourably to any good hip hop you'll find these days. It's Just My Opinion hits with some steady drums, strings and horns. No Mistakes uses a great guitar to create a wisful track looking back at Clas' career (more honesty, admits his music wasn't good until his forth album and that he smokes too much weed). The lead single 5th Element has horns that give it a classic hip hop sound and Unexplainable Hunger is a great track for Classified to rip with his guests Choclair and Royce 5'9 (Royce loves the Canada, must be leading the league in cameos with Canadian MC's). The triangle or whatever that kicks in before the chorus and the Big Pun sample in the chorus is awesome, this is a great song. Classified throws in a curveball too, with the upbeat Listen using live guitars and violins to create a song different from the rest of the album.

The production is perhaps the star of this album, but Classified is a talented MC as well. His subject matter is somewhat limited (as he himself admits) to the making of hip hop, his place in the biz, and the smashing of wack MC's, but he is good at it, so I don't mind much. He also spends a bit of time talking about his hometown and his current residence. High School Behaviour is kind of an odd song where Clas talks about things people do in high school to be down and he also discusses lsoing his virginity in a cemetery. Not my favorite song, but the beat is cool. A song I was somewhat surprised to enjoy is The Maritimes, an accordian laced ode to the region of his birth and mine. A rap jam about the Maritimes that has an accordian in the beat has huge potential for corniness, but Clas avoids that. He talks about all the things that make the Maritimes great and tries to dissplell the farmer & fisherman stereotypes everyone has about the Maritimes. If you aren't from out east, you aren't going to care about this song anywhere near as much I do. But he mentions Donairs in a rap song, and that almost brings a tear to my eye.

"I'd still be back at Sobey's stacking your shelf with groceries". I used to work at Sobey's! And that's kind of the point, I'm biased. If you put out a good hip hop album and you're from Halifax, you're getting a solid review from I. But that's really beside the point, I recommend this album to anyone who enjoys the quality hip hop. I also highly recommend Donairs.


VARIOUS - MOTOWN REMIXED

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Album: Motown Remixed
Artist: Various
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Motown makes you feel good. The name alone gives you good vibes and the music itself seals the deal. Even songs with a depressing subject, like Heard It Through The Grapevine or War, make you feel good. So if you're going to remix classic Motown songs, you'd better not lose that feeling. I think the all-star cast of producers assembled by Universal for Motown Remixed pretty much got it right. With a couple minor exceptions, most of the songs retain the original vibe of the song, but funk them up to the year 2005.

There are some heavyweight producers on this album from world of hip hop, R&B;, and dance. Which makes sense, if you're going to tackle songs like I Want You Back, Let's get It On, Signed Sealed Delivered, Just My Imagination, and Tears Of A Clown, you'd better bring your A team. Well perhaps only B.A., Murdock, and Hannibal - Faceman was kind of wack. And a production A-Team it is: Z-Trip, The Randy Watson Experience (Questlove and james Poyser), DJ Jazzy Jeff, Easy Mo Bee, King Britt, Salaam Remi, and even Bomb Squad legend Hank Shocklee contribute remixes to this album.

It is impressive how well these classic songs stand up to a modern makeover. That probably has a lot to do with the vocal talent we're dealing with here. Z-Trip's minimalist guitar and drums take on the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" is fantastic. I could listen to this song over and over and over; I think we'd all like to have this Michael back. Hard to believe the kid singing here became the freaky house of wax looking mofo that we just saw skate from a second round of the child molesting charges. I wasn't too familiar with the Gladys Knight version of Heard It Through The Grapevine, but Questlove hooks it up with a drum, tambourine, and organ track that sounds classic and modern all at once. If you can listen to Da Producers Soul II Soul-esque "Groove Mix" without instantly feeling %50 better, then you should call a doctor because you are probably clinically dead. Seriously, this is a great remix of a great song, perhaps my favorite on the album.

Mocean Worker's funky rock tinged remix of Rare Earth's I Just Want To Celebrate, was surprisingly another one of my favorite tracks. The guitar and Public Enemy samples seem to fit the song perfectly. I wasn't surprised by the soulful sound of Easy Moe Bee's remix for The Temptations "Just My Imagination". Moe Bee is for sure one of hip hop's most underrated producers and the man responsible for one of my top five favorite beats, Craig Mack's Flavour In Your Ear. Moe Bee's understated remix has strings and drums that match the song perfectly, it's more like a re-working of the song, not a remix. Hank Socklee even re-appears to do some fine work for Undisputed Truth's Smiling Faces Sometimes. Not sure why Hank and the rest of the Bomb Squad haven't been producing steadily since the PE days. Seriously, they revolutionized the production of hip hop music, thay should've been eating off that alone for 20 years, but I digress.

The disappointments weren't many on this album, but there were a few. In some cases I think it was simply that I found the original songs kind of plain, so the remixes, although well done, are kind of forgettable. The Tranzition remix of Diana Ross & The Supremes My World Is Empty Without You and the DJ Spinna remix of Eddie Kendricks' Keep On Truckin' fit that bill I think. One remix I just flat out didn't like was the Salaam Remi Crunk-A-Delic remix of the Jackson 5's ABC. He's got some Lil' Jon big bottom drums kicking, but he puts some crazy harpsichord type mess over top of that. I can see what he was trying to do, but it didn't work for me.

I really can't see anyone being unhappy with this album. The remixes were done in a respectful way, with nothing being too freaked or over the top, so old-school Motown fans should be happy. And there's enough modern elements to the sound that new jacks should be pleased as well. Plus, it's Herohill approved, and really you don't need any more than that to check out Motown Remixed for yourself.


VERVE - REMIXED V. 3

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Album: Remixed - Volume 3
Artist: Verve
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This album is going to be taken one of two ways:

1. People who are interested in seeing how today’s hottest producers remix classic jazz using hip hop and electronica-fused beats.
2. People who love the original and believe remixing Nina Simone, Jimmy Smith and Billie Holiday is the worst ideas since “Nuts ‘N Gum”.

This concept is not new. This is the third installment of the Verve Remixed series, and Blue Note has tried the same deal as well (MadLib’s Shades of Blue, Blue Note Revisited and the list goes on). Personally I like the concept, and was very excited to see how people like Danger Mouse, Postal Service, the Album Leaf, Groove Armada and Junior Boys interpret these classic tracks.

That being said, obviously, some tracks are fantastic, while others left me flat. Some would say that when it comes to Nina Simone, the best remix is to just get out of the way and let her do her thing, but the Album Leaf’s version of Lilac Wine is perfect. The understated electronic beat and sound effects accompany the vocal track seamlessly. Postal Service’s version of Little Girl Blue, unfortunately, does not. Usually, Jimmy T is not afraid to take chances (the Neptune’s style beat he drops on against all odds shows this), but this track feels like he kind of mailed it in.

The album however, does feature some great tracks that take the risks and turn the classics into dance floor bangers. Adam Freeland’s remix of Sarah Vaughn’s Fever is my favorite track. The kick drum and cowbell spanks a beat that would get even the most beret-wearing jazz purist snapping fingers and chinning along. The Lyrics born remix of Jimmy Smith’s classic Stay Loose takes a funky jam, and actually makes it funkier. The Carl Craig remix of The Boys Doin’ It reminds me of a beat Nelly or Pdiddle (or puff master or whatever Sean Combs is going by now) would rip off and rap over (except they’d be talking about shoes, money, Jamie Foxx and liquor). R2DJ creates a sweet hip hop influenced beat to accompany (not overpower) Astrud Gilberto’s The Gentle Rain. Canadian artists, the Junior Boys deliver a great (albeit, too short) version of Billie Holiday’s Yesterdays. Last but not least, the Brazilian Girls have created a club cut out of Just One of Those Things that will be played by club DJs and Civic owners all summer.

It wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t mention the songs that I think should have been left off the album. Danger Mouse! After the hype of the Grey Album, and his production for Jemini, his recent efforts have left me wondering if the hype on him is just that… hype. His effort on Baby, Did You Hear is bland and after his creativity on other works, I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t take the same risks (don’t even get me started on his efforts to the new Gorillaz – DAMON, BRING BACK DAN).

This album is worth picking up. It has some great tracks, and adds some fresh twists to classic songs that everyone loves. You will hear lots of the jams in clubs and stores this summer, so buy the album and Act Like Ya Know.


MARK DE CLIVE-LOWE - TIDES ARISING

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Album: Tide's Arising
Artist: Mark de Clive-Lowe
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Before getting my hands on his new album, Tide's Arising, I knew nothing about Mark De Clive-Lowe. Here's what I know now: he's half Japanese, half New Zealander, lives in West London, has classical piano training, released his debut album Six Degrees in 2000, and is a respected producer/musician in the dance/DJ/beats type music scene. Or more precisely, he's well respected on the nu-jazz, nu-house, future-jazz, or nu-skool jazz music scenes as all these terms are mentioned in his bio. But I don't really know much (anything) about those musical genres so I'll start out by saying musically, the album reminds me of Jamiroquai or perhaps a more electro Brand New Heavies. Not sure if other people would agree with those comparisons, just my opinion.

I should say I was pleasantly surprised by Tide's Arising. Not knowing anything about him, and with a name like Mark de Clive-Lowe, I sort of expected him to be some kind of French trance DJ. I was prepared to put on some enormous pants and break a glow stick to listen to the album, but thankfully that wasn't necessary. This album is much funkier then I expected and I'm not sure I'd call it dance music, even though that's probably where it would commonly be classified. It's certainly drum or beat centric, but more in a soul or jazz way than on the dance/trance tip.

Musically, this album is pretty diverse, not just uptempo house sounding tracks, so that's why I'd hesitate to call it dance music. Traveling and State Of The Mental are uptempo, almost house sounding but Quintessential and Heaven are more laid back soul songs. Quintessential is a cool song, with its rolling bass line that sounds like it was pulled from an old MC Breed song, on top of some choppy drums, and some Spanish sounding guitar. Pino + Mashi features an organ that makes it sound like an instrumental track off a Beastie Boys album. For fans of the bongos there's 4 Y U, which has solid bongo action and some quality flute.

I can't say I'm familiar with the vocal talent De Clive-Lowe has assembled for this album, but they certainly do a good job. London "future jazz" (seriously they need a better name for that) songstress is the most frequent guest, appearing on four songs. She shows off her versatility as well, singing at light speed for State of The Mental and slowing it down for Heaven (one of my favorites). Abdul Shyllon appears on three songs and could hold his own with any American neo-soul singer you could think of.

So there you have it, Mark De Clive-Lowe's Tide's Arising is definitely worth a listen. Don't be scared off by his French trance DJ sounding name, I've learned my lesson. If you're into beat oriented music at all, you should seek this out. It's a great record for the summer too, should put you in the mood to get out and enjoy the sunshine.



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