Currently Listening: HOLY by Jamila Woods

Thanks to Kim Selling of Seattle’s THE STRANGER website for putting Chicago Native, Jamila Woods on my radar. In a decade where we have lost so many great voices, it is nice to know new great voices rise to fill the vacuum.

Jamila Woods is one of those voices. You can sample her singles, HOLY and BLK GIRL SOLDIER courtesy of Spotify; and if you like it as much as I do, listen to her whole 2016 album HEAVN (if you can find it).

‘Jamila Woods made one of my favorite albums of 2016, HEAVN.Intricately arranged and weeping with the weight of its own gifts, each track of that album ripped through topics like police brutalty and raising a community as a Black woman with grace and fury and light.’
-Kim Selling, THESTRANGER

Currently listening to ODDISEE and RISING TIED by Mike Shinoda’s FORT MINER

In an age of Mp3s and Itunes what this week is worth owning in CD form?

The following… in a world of fatherless children screaming their ignorance into a mic, are this age’s true geniuses of rap:

ODDISEE – not only a prolific Washington DC producer and rapper, but arguably in a world that has overlooked him in favor of those aforementioned terrible infants, ODDISEE having both the delivery,beats, rhymes, and social consciousness is the total package, and one of the world’s best rappers. Get every single album with his name… he’s that good.

But if you need to start with one, start here:
The Good Fight

Mike Shinoda’s FORT MINER – Has wonderful writing, great mostly positive messages and great beats. The only weakness is that many songs lack someone who has a smooth, compelling voice. When they have someone like Common delivering the lines, as in BACK HOME, it shines. But when Mike or his usual suspects take center stage it is good but not great. But that aside, still a must own album:

Rising Tied

Currently Listening to E FOR EVERYONE by Kirby Krackle

If you are only going to get one Kirby Krackle album, my money is on this one… E IS FOR EVERYONE. you get the aforementioned ROLL OVER, HENCHMAN, as well as RING CAPACITY; and in addition you get ON AND ON ( A song about how hard it is to be an undying mutant, and what should be a patently ridiculous premise, is delivered with a bittersweet tone… not unlike pathos. If you liked the LOGAN movie, you’ll like ON AND ON).

Get the CD here:

 

E For Everyone

Currently Listening to : KIRBY KRACKLE GEEKIEST HITS: VOL 1

Geekiest Hits: Vol. 1

Overall just a fun album of catchy pop and comic tinged tunes. With a few that transcend niche kitschiness to be just great songs. The most obvious of these being the ridiculously addictive RING CAPACITY, followed by the simply fun ROLLOVER and HENCHMAN (if like me you are in the ignored few who loved the POWERLESS sitcom, and before that the equally hilarious BETTER OFF TED, you’ll love HENCHMAN).

Use the link above and enjoy!

MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 2 of 2

The 2nd must listen audio book for Black History Month or any month is the mind breaking MUMBO JUMBO by the great Ishmael Reed.

Ishmael Reed, who was honored with the MacArthur “genius” award, is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and two-time nominee for the National Book Award. Mumbo Jumbo, a literary masterpiece, is an ironic and unconventional detectivestory infused with African-American cultural heritage. A strange psychic epidemic called “Jes Grew” is spreading through the country, affecting millions. PaPa LaBas, a HooDoo detective, is trying to find the origins of the JesGrew – not because he wants to cure it, but because he’s ready for a new kind of society.

mumbojumbo

Composed of the memorable personalities and the little remembered tragedies and triumphs of the roaring 20s, MUMBO JUMBO weaves these truths into an overarching fictional narrative that goes from the beginning of civilization to the fall of man.

But the fiction is so peppered with essential truths, like the best of all fiction, that it will change fundamentally how you look at everything, from museums to curse words to bull fights. If MIDDLE PASSAGE is my favorite audio book, MUMBO JUMBO  I think , in opposition to its name, is the most enlightening and powerful audio book I’ve ever listened to, for the  way it opened up my mind to… broader definitions of history and broader definitions of ourselves. Magnificent.

Version:

Unabridged
Author: Ishmael Reed
Narrator: J. D. Jackson
Genres: Fiction & Literature
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published In: July 2005
# of Units: 8 CDs
Length: 8 hours, 30 minutes

Get your copy here:

 

Mumbo Jumbo

MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 1 of 2

I first became familiar with these two novels, both by master writers, as novels proper. And both blew my mind in ways both stunning and lasting. Later I listened to the Audio Books. Audio Books, if you get the right reader, for the right work, can be rewarding experiences, even to lovers of the novel.

I love me some Walter Moseley EASY RAWLINS mysteries, I’ve read just about everyone of them, and I have to tell you the pairing of Moseley’s iconic words with a formidable actor such as Michael Boatman, is to have those works enriched, and nuances discovered that may have been skimmed over by even the most loving reader.

A great Adaptation, a great marriage of words and performance can do that, can alchemize into something more than the sum of its parts. Something magical. And an audio book avoids the constraints of time and budget and indeed visuals, that a film or TV show runs into. An audio book has the biggest theater of the world, and the biggest budget, in which to breathe life into the writers words,… the theater of the mind.

So Audio Books when they get that mixture right, become part of a sacred line of story and storytelling, going back to the cradle of not just Black History, but all history.

 

This 2 part post, honors two of the best, that should be loved and listened to and cherished by everyone.

They are:

Charles Johnson’s seminal and National Book Award winning novel, MIDDLE PASSAGE. It is an American epic, a rousing seafaring saga, blisteringly funny at times, deeply harrowing at others, both poetic, prosaic, and magical all at the same time. As someone who has read Melville, and Dickens, and Hemingway, and Crane and Poe and Bradbury and King and Baldwin, all the quintessential American masters, this is the novel I would save when everything else is burning.

 

middlepassge

 

I give the hardcover out as presents. I consider it, in an imperfect world, an arrow toward a more perfect union. So having it on a pedestal that high the audio book has to bring it. It was made into an audio book twice, the first was an abridged and hence flawed cassette version, but read by the author himself, I quite liked it. He brought something… wonderful to it.

The 2nd time was on CD, unabridged thankfully. The performer Dion Graham, gives a different performance than Charles Johnson, that I slowly warmed to. And as the story drew you deeper so did his voice. It’s a wonderful way to be introduced to this great novel.

I would say both audio book versions are indispensable. Start with the unabridged CD version, and then follow up by listening to the Abridged version. And have a copy of the paperback or hardcover, to read over especially loved passages.

In an America where folly holds sway, the words of men who both remember history and learn from it, is of the highest value.

Check them out at the links below:

Middle Passage Cassette Audio Book read by the Author!

Middle Passage Audio CD Unabridged!

By Charles Richard Johnson Middle Passage (Reprint) [Mass Market Paperback]

 

If you like this blog please support it by using the links above and by leaving comments! And come back for the 2nd part where we discuss the 2nd, must own, Black History Month (and other months) Audio book!

Best Singer of the Day (And beyond): Mary Afi Usuah

I was on a spaghetti western kick today, looking for recommendation of the best Western and Spaghetti Western soundtracks, and by fits and starts I found myself getting completely sidetracked. I followed one of those offshoots to an album called 20 BEST CLASSICS EVER : FEMALE VOICES IN ITALIAN SOUNDTRACKS.

It was okay, peppered with songs from a varied assortment, from Sophia Loren to Grace Jones. I found it largely unexceptional save for one song called COWARD by a singer I had never heard of before.

The arrangement was exciting and unconventional, and her voice, sultry, supple, and seminal. Full of power, and gradiations, and range, and the breadth of the human experience. I found the lyrics wanting, but her voice,… she sang like a star looking to tell you what beauty it had seen, before exploding.

This unknown singer’s name was Mary Afi Usuah, a Nigerian sonstress rising out of that tumultuous age of civil and colonial revolutions. Musicians of the age knew her, knew her power of voice and spirit, and she backed up some of the best of the period from Led Zeppelin to Duke Ellington, however larger public recognition eluded her as the Nigerian/London/Rome and Naples trained Usuah, released only two album’s during her 13 year touring career.

I’m listening to that 1975 debut Album now, EKPENYONG ABASI. Largely in Nigerian, there are also songs in English. The album, beyond her beautiful voice, has some masterful playing/rhythms.

The debut is followed up by her 1978 album AFRICAN WOMAN. Both have thankully finally been reissued in CD and Vinyl after having been forgotten for decades. The great Mary Afi Usuah died before seeing these re-releases, but thankfully her music and her name is out there for a new generation to love and be inspired by. Snap these up while available.

Highly Recommended!!

Ekpenyong Abasi CD

African Woman

Beyond these two albums Ms Usuah has some fantastic singles sung in italian. She is only listed as Mary Afi for these releases. Well worth hunting them up on Amazon Music or Spotify.