Album Review: All People – Self Titled

All People are led by Greg Rodrigue and Daniel “D-Ray” Ray. I met Greg last winter at a café he co-runs in New Orleans. I was buying a Woozy record, and we talked a bit. He also co-runs Community Records with Ray, home of bands like Woozy, Caddywhompus, and Pope.

Rodrigue and Ray trade lead and backup vocal duties throughout their self-titled album, as the band takes a step forward from 2015’s Learn Forget Repeat, helped by the addition of guitarist Josh Campbell. Rodrigue emphasizes each word, bringing a haunted energy at points. “Now I’m in the ground, do you miss me now?” he sings in “Naught”, the existential lead single. Side 1 ends with “Moonsteps”, a groovy jam that brings together some of the best parts of the band – it kicks off Ray’s energetic keyboards, followed by a killer baseline from Rodrigue, before settling into a smooth rhythm.

“Moon Steps” is the album’s centerpiece, a shot of light before the band winds down. Side 2 is much calmer than Side 1, and “Balloon” is nearly a ballad. Ray’s trombone plays a prominent role, taking the lead on “New Rain”, the penultimate track and a thoughtful instrumental. “Of You” caps off All People, peacefully fading away as the trombone wonders on. As far as punk albums go, All People is one of 2016’s most unique, and Ray and Rodrigue work well to create a cohesive, emotional effort.

All People is out May 20th on Community Records.

Concert Preview: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down at Underground Arts on Saturday, April 16th

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down bring their sunny, folk-tinged pop to Underground Arts on Saturday, April 16th, headlining a great bill that includes Saintseneca and Little Scream. They recently released what may be their best album yet, A Man Alive. The album was produced by Merril Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, and it bubbles over with positive energy. While it’s hard not to snap along to the rhythm of songs like “The Evening” and lead single “Nobody Dies”, Thao and the gang maintains their unique idiosyncrasies. Even the slower songs keep you looking up, as Thao Nguyen’s voice and songwriting shine.  A Man Alive is a perfect album to welcome in spring. Continue reading “Concert Preview: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down at Underground Arts on Saturday, April 16th”

The Black Experience, Part 2: A Few More Finds

By Esmail Hamidi

One of the most fun parts of this project is the alumni of WKDU I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. In gathering information, they’ve been invaluable. So first thing, I’d like to thank everyone I’ve spoken with so far: Kevin Brown, Johnpaul Golaski, Mel “Average Guy” Holmes, and Al Knight.

Today’s find was by way of Facebook. The alumni of WKDU have a group where they keep in touch and post the artifacts of those days. Browsing some shots from the 1974 Lexerd (Drexel’s yearbook) yielded this:

Continue reading “The Black Experience, Part 2: A Few More Finds”

Album Review: Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital Wedding Album

 

 

In March of 2014, I saw Radiator Hospital play for the first time. It was at a coffee shop in University City, and free donuts were given out for someone’s birthday. Try the Pie played one of her first shows, Crabapple played one of their last, and Sam Cook-Parrot’s band Radiator Hospital closed out the night. Stupid Bag Records honcho & RH drummer Jeff Bolt was selling tapes, so I picked up a copy of Great Thunder’s Strange Kicks EP, the only tape I ever bought.

I listened to Strange Kicks a lot after that. It even included a Mazzy Star cover. Great Thunder was Keith Spencer (of Swearin’) and Katie Crutchfield (of Waxahatchee), often noted as KS and KC. With Waxahatchee taking off and the years passing by, the lineup of Great Thunder has become a little less clear; one bio simply says “K and an ever changing line-up of incredibly talented people.”  Naturally, Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital have been tied ever since. Imagine my excitement when Stupid Bag, back in May of 2015, noted that a Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital split LP was on its way. I’d been waiting ever since, unsure of what to expect.

A few weeks ago, The Wedding Album finally arrived. There were some updated old songs, new songs, covers, and collaborations. Great Thunder’s side came first, and started off with a couple of originals. KS & KC were both singing – the GT I knew. “I Was Fine Before” originally appeared on Sounds of Great Thunder, but is revamped three times the length. “I Can’t See the Sun” is the catchiest song of the year, and in a surprising twist, the light-hearted RH song “Big Cloud” is covered with professional production. The next song eventually revealed itself as a dark, sludgy version of RH’s “Sleeping House”. The sounds of Great Thunder embody many different textures, after all.

Radiator Hospital kicks off Side B with “Parting Glances”, from his split with Fred Thomas. It has much more percussion than typical RH songs and the whole side has a softer touch to it. Cook-Parrot’s regular bandmates are absent from this recording, so the quick pace of Torch Song falls away as well. “Old Me” is a new song, with a vocal cameo by KS, followed by KC helping out on “Waiting for You to Come Around”, a Strange Kicks highlight. “Singer’s No Star” is one of GT’s best songs, and Crutchfield join’s Cook-Parrot in a beautiful rendition. The Wedding Album closes with the devastating “Absent Year”. Cook-Parrot reminds us that he writes the best ballads, and Crutchfield has a wonderful verse, before he tears the song back. “And I’ve been waiting for so long / Oh I don’t want you to be gone / If you wanted me to dance / Why didn’t you say so?”

The Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital Wedding Album is one of the best of 2016; a truly special collaboration between three of Philadelphia finest musicians.  Projects like this are often done for fun, but this is a fully realized piece of art. It was recorded in 2014, and while the wait was long, it was more than worth it. Listen to the album, and trace its roots for an even deeper experience.

The Black Experience on WKDU, Part 1: A Teaser from the Archives

 

A few months ago, I discovered a long-overlooked box of reel-to-reel tapes in the studio. After blowing my nose and clearing the dust, I grabbed a few and headed over to a friend’s place to hear them. Thank heavens for friends with reel-to-reel decks.

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low noise? yeah right…

Every other tape we tried had already completely disintegrated into a pile of dust and polymer goo. When tapes are old and dying and you play them, they squeal in pain. The dried out oxides that make up the tape scrape across all the parts of the tape machine, peeling and crumbling everywhere. It’s pretty much the worst thing ever.

But after wading through tape after tape of hiss and warble, I found some true gold. And it was in pretty nice shape, too.

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“Absolute Touchlessness to Be Observed”

This is a portion of a live tape recorded at the Kim Graves nightclub on December 29th, 1978. The Black Experience crew was there to record a band called The Production, a local group headed by Curt Campbell. The show was to be aired later on Kevin Rice’s show. They hit record when the house band was warming up….

It’s an amazing listen, with tight funk and hilarious crowd banter. The band finishes up with a cover of Expansions by Lonnie Liston Smith, which rules. WKDU alumnus Kevin Brown was present for the recording. Here’s what he has to say about it:

“This is a very interesting piece here because you have major stars in the Philadelphia music and sports scene in attendance. The host is Dr. Perri Johnson one of the top [personalities] on WDAS-FM  whose music sometimes overlapped with what we were playing on the Black Experience in Music. Also Kenny Gamble one of the founders of Philadelphia International Records. Darryl Dawkins [of the 76ers] was also one of the judges of the show. The hilarious comedian was “May West” a black male comedian in drag doing a spoof on the real Mae West.”

Now, the plot thickens: Since hearing this tape, I’ve determined that The Black Experience on WKDU was the catch-all name for a group of DJs that ruled the weekend airwaves from around 1972-1981. Jazz, funk, disco, and other smooth styles were the focus. Little information has survived from that era, but as I talked to alumni and others, it’s clear that there was a lot of cool stuff going on. Patience, college radio historians:  I promise there’ll be more on this in the near future.

Kevin Brown was nice enough to send me another reel full of station IDs, promos, and other cool stuff. Here’s a station ID that’ll flip your lid like it flipped mine:

 

 

 

 

 

INTERVIEW: Pell – Soulful Rapper Talks New Album

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photo by Nolan Feldpausch

– Ryan Stone – Pell Interview 2/9/16

In the frigid hours before a flurry of snow would settle once again on the city, New Orleans rapper Pell stood in a small circle of his fellow tour folk in the dimly lit main area of The Barbary in Northern Liberties. The rapper would be on stage at 8 p.m. — later than expected due to delays at the venue. Nevertheless, Pell was cool, calm, and collected. After a brief introduction and my hints of praise (as I am a fan of the man’s work), we took a seat in the far corner of the venue by the merchandise table to discuss the rapper’s music. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about his new album, Limbo, which released in the fourth quarter of last year. Slightly pressed for time, I asked Pell some bigger questions to gain more knowledge about the man behind the music before he had to break before the show to eat and rest. Below is our conversation, and I encourage you to check out Pell’s music at pellyeah.com after reading. Pell is on tour until the end of March. Tour dates and locations can be found here. He will then hit the stage at both Hangout Music Fest and Firefly Music Festival. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Continue reading “INTERVIEW: Pell – Soulful Rapper Talks New Album”