PLEDGE DRIVE: The time to help in keeping ThisIsBooksMusic.com alive

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It is that time of the year where I have to bring this upbut it is that time that I have to renew my web domain once more, and I am asking for your help.

Before I talk about putting up the digital “tip cup”, let me just say that I enjoy doing what I do on my website, being able to do music and video reviews, news items of interest, and music reviews. My website has never been a means for outside advertising, although had I done that, I almost think those other links would get more hits than my actual website. I don’t post links to an older woman who looks like she smokes 40 packs of cigarettes a day and ooh, look how beautiful she appears today. I don’t offer celebrity rumors to you for the fact that I don’t care for them, and you probably know more than enoughts sites or blogs to read that kind of ephemera. If you have come to my website to find out about music or some of the food-related things I post, I am thankful you continue to make this place a regular stop of your internet travels. I would like to do this for one more year and come summer of 2016, we will see. A part of me wants to try something new and no, I’m not going to try knitting or macrame, I don’t have those type of skills. Trying something new means perhaps a new method of what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years as a writer, and that may mean to try it in a new forum, to do something in a new way. I have a year to decide but I’m leaning towards wanting to try something else other than my “norm”. Thus, let me speak about the “tip cup” for my site.

What I am placing is a “tip cup” of sorts. If you enjoy the type of coverage that I feature here at ThisIsBooksMusic.com and would like for it to continue, I am looking for your donation to continue the website for another year. If you are able to “give a tip” to ThisIsBooksMusic.com, you can do so via PayPal by clicking here. Your private information is secure when you donate via PayPal, and you are also able to make a donation even if you are not a PayPal member. The deadline is September 30th.

While it would be nice for me to run advertising on my website, ThisIsBooksMusic.com is ad-free for a reason, and I’d like to keep it that way. The music I cover is the music I would like for you to listen to and discover for yourself, and pass the information along to those who you think would be interested. This website is about the music I like, support, and listen to on a regular basis, within as many genres as possible. I don’t pick and choose just to make random choices, these are my musical habits, and I share that on a regular basis. If the website is unable to be renewed, all donations will be refunded, no questions asked. If you are able to make a donation, I would be very appreciative.

VIDEO: Klassik’s “Hi Klass”

Hi Klass (Official Video) from Klass Act Production LLC on Vimeo.

Klassik’s new release is called Seasons and if you have it and found a liking to it, you may find this new video to be a treat. It’s the second single from it and it’s called “Hi Klass”, which could be read as something/someone who is “high class” or merely someone saying “hello, Klass”. Of course, if you don’t know which is the correct answer, go ahead and press play on the video. It will do you no harm.

SOME STUFFS: Gaytheist and ᴚABBITS split album to be released in just under three weeks

Gaythiest/ᴚABBITS photo GAYBITS_cover_zpsvnor6vyl.jpg
As reported two months ago, the gents in Gaytheist and ᴚABBITS will be releasing a split album on Good To Die Records and we’re now closer to that moment, August 21st to be exact. The album will be called GAY*BITS and everyone involved has decided to share a track. ᴚABBITS offer their song called “Ready To Right”, which you can listen to by going to RevolverMag.com while Gaytheist tell you why you should “Run To Away From Home”, which you can hear over at GearGods.net.

REVIEW: Tom Dyer’s New Pagan Gods’ “History Of Northwest Rock Vol. 1 (1959-1968)”

Tom Dyer photo TomDyer_cover_zpsccugrsdl.jpg For Tom Dyer’s new album, he has gathered a few musicians, called them the New Pagan Gods and paid tribute to the old Pagan Gods, specifically the Gods of Seattle rock’n’roll at the dawn of the music up here in the Pacific Northwest.

If you are a longtime resident of the Northwest, you have no doubt heard many of these songs Dyer and friend have chosen to cover on History Of Northwest Rock Vol. 1 (1959-1968), and there may even be a few that you didn’t know had a connection to the Pacific Northwest. He begins the album with a nice version of The Sonics’ “The Witch”, which was also covered nicely by The Mummies. You might see the title “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and think “wait, Ringo wasn’t from the city of Bremerton” but instead, this rare song was originally performed b Tiny Tony & The Statics on an obscure 45 many collectors continue to hunt for. “Dirty Robber” is attacked quite nicely and fans of The Mummies will also recognize this song too. Here, Dyer pays tribute to Tacoma and the group who made it first, The Wailers. They are given a double tribute with a rendition of the beastly “Out Of Our Tree”, also covered nicely by The Mummies.

The album ends with an awesome version of The Dimensions’ “She’s Boss” but by going through these songs, it’s a way to hear what the Pacific Norhtwest music scene was as it managed to keep itself within semi-obscurity for a few decades as it recorded some of the best songs by some of the best people around. Dyer gets a chance to honor those who came before in the hopes younger audiences will continue on with their new spirit for the future. The album is not only a celebration of incredible garage rock, but rock’n’roll in general, pre-B.S.

REVIEW: Jimm McIver’s “Sunlight Reaches”

 photo JimmMcIver_cover_zpsc1varpwl.jpg Jimm McIvey has finally released his new album called Sunlight Reaches (Green Monkey) and while I was given a few hints for what he was coming up with, this one is a bit eased up than I expected, but that’s a good thing.

It has been a decade since McIvey released his last album but Sunlight Reaches merely sounds like the kind of music that had been there waiting to be brewed and surfaced, and it’s here. It’s the kind of well written songs with a nice rock and pop blend that comes from someone who truly has a love for the music and the craft in putting it together. It doesn’t have an eclectic side that Todd Rundgren is known for but they both share some of the clever characteristics that you can also hear in music by Marshall Crenshaw and Let’s Active. The songs tell everything about love found, love seeking, life stretching and life living, you could easily imagine someone like Paul McCartney wanting to come over to his house and say “I really enjoy what you’re doing, mate.” Whatever sunlight McIver hopes to reach, the walk towards feeling the warmth is what makes this work very well.

REVIEW: Tunto’s “Huvi”

Tunto photo Tunto_cover_zpszp43nixo.jpg While one website I spotted this album on called Huvi (Aani) weird jazz, I call the music by Tunto exploratory jazz, for this is nothing close to what I would call weird. Adventurous? Yes it is.

If it is indeed different, it has to do with the type of instruments played. You will hear the charango, a balalaika, and a baglama along with an ‘ukulele, clarinets, mandolins, and guitars, a nice blend of the traditional and the atypical. It comes off like a bunch of guys walking to a folk festival, wanting to sit around and jam and no one knows what they’re about to do. What they do is make music that sounds festive and filled with elements that are true to the standards of jazz while being culture as well, showing their Finnish origins. You might wonder what it would sound like to dig your head full of ukus but you get to enjoy the possibilities with “Lice Picking Music”, or enjoy what it means to get down with “King Kong Music” or “Couscous Music”. The titles are just as unpredictable as the music itself and while it may make you question of its origins, you just take it in, consume, and relax into things. The next time you hear from Tunto, they may end up doing something completely opposite, whatever the opposite of anything is.

REVIEW: Craig Marshall’s “After All”

Craig Marshall photo CraigMarshall_cover_zpsggtbe8o2.jpg Austin, Texas musician Craig Marshall has released his new album (his sixth) called After All (Big Ticket) and if you are someone who likes their brand of music on the down home side with hints of country, folk, and an acoustic spirit, you’ll really like this.

What I like about this is it reminds me immediately of music I am familiar with and enjoy, be it Neil Young, Wilco, Little Feat, and Wilco, and it leans very much on the country side of things, or what many will call Americana, an old school spirit. These are songs that are well written and produced, and they tell the kind of stories that you want to believe not only to hear it from Marshall, but because they feel like something you can relate to it because they’re a part of your story too. He cites Bucks Owens and Merle Haggard as influences and as someone who is a huge Owens fan, I can hear it in songs like “The Only Sound” and “In Can’t Begin To Know”, where the adventures told are part of the experience, the other is to hear how the stories are explained. The songs that I got into are those featuring harmony vocals from Betty Soo, those stood out beautifully well (including the opening cut, “Standing Still”) but you’ll also hear Marshall joined with Jason Garcia, Shane Cooley and Noëlle Hampton throughout.

As the bio for the album states, this is song-driven music, for those who still believe in the power of a song that moves you. After All will become the album you’ve been searching for for awhile.

(After All will be released on August 7th.)

REVIEW: Snow In Mexico’s “Juno Beach” (EP)

Snow In Mexico photo SnowInMexico_cover_zps1crvyve7.jpg The music on a new EP by electronic duo Sonw In Mexico sounds like a mixture of early New Order with Giorgio Moroder, easily dancefloor friendly will being something that has the potential of being used in motion pictures. That’s what makes up the songs on Juno Bleach (Saint Marie), where things can be considered luxuriously haunting or eerily beautiful. Most of the vocals are a bit distant, they are clear but they are not upfront or always obvious. It’s packed with echo and reverb so it’s deliberately away but you bring in the songs to know what they’re saying. I’m not sure what they plan on doing in the future but I’ll be here to find out where they go to next.

(The Juno Beach EP can be ordered in a number of formats directly from Saint Marie Records)

DUST IT OFF: Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” 20 years later

Before I begin to talk about an album that celebrates its 20th anniversary today, we have to go back a year before August 1, 1995.

  • In July 1994, The RZA showed he was much more than just being Prince Rakeem when he presented himself as The Rzarecta as a member of the Gravediggaz with Prince Paul, Frukwan, and Too Poetic. They released their debut album called 6 Feet Deep (countries outside of the U.S. called it Niggamortis) and some thought it was interesting The RZA was able to get himself on two albums, sounding distinctively different within both groups. The album was released early in some parts of the U.S., I found my copy at Tower Records in Portland, Oregon on 82nd, apparently a week or two before the rest of the country. We didn’t quite know what was to come but then the news surfaced.
  • As fans were beginning to absorb Gravediggaz’s album, LOUD/RCA Records released the soundtrack to Fresh, which featured solo songs from The Genius, Raekwon, and a remix of “Can It Be All So Simple”. The idea that The Genius had his own song seemed amazing, but then to hear Raekwon & Ghostface with their own track too? What was going on? On top of that, Raekwon and Ghost doubled up with a new version of what was one of the biggest hits of 1994, which got its share of airplay and mixtape circulation. I remember thinking “if The Genius has this song, his first new song since his failed debut, is there going to be more?” Also, how about Raekwon, will be be coming out with something?
  • When word came out that Method Man was signed to Def Jam to release his debut album, that’s when the first plans for the group were made known. In 1995, there would be three solo albums from the group, and each of them would be signed to their own label. Wu-Tang Clan were signed to LOUD/RCA. In rock circles, when a group splintered into making their own solo albums, they generally stayed within the same label: David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash all stayed on Atlantic (for the time being) while Neil Young was already signed to Reprise. When Kiss dropped their solo albums on the same day in 1978, it was on Casablanca Records. Three different labels? No one in hip-hop had ever done that successfully but the Wu-Tang were make it out that every album would be a banger, every release would be a hit. X-Clan had Isis (Linque) and Professor X release albums on 4th & B’Way, while Digital Underground had Raw Fusion on HollywoodBASIC, Gold Money on Tommy Boy, and 2Pac on Interscope. Back then, 2Pac was just that guy who rapped in “Same Song” but by 1993, he already had a massive hit with “I Get Around”. 2Pac was not just that dancer from Digital Underground, he was 2Pac.

    Did the Wu-Tang really know all of their solo albums would become a success? With the success of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), it proved to them that fans would be willing to buy their music separately from the group, for if they were willing to buy one, maybe they were willing to get another, if not all. We would find out in 1995.

  • In March 1995, Elektra Records released Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return To The 36 Chambers, which came out with the incredible “Brooklyn Zoo” a month before. “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” seemed to have more appeal with the single version and later in the year, “Rawhide” was released as a single. As we moved closer to the summer, word had it that Raekwon’s solo album would be out soon, and he stayed home and was signed to LOUD/RCA as a solo artist. On June 27th, the label released “Criminology”/”Glaciers Of Ice” as a single, with the latter getting a video with massive airplay on BET. The song seemed quite complex and noisy, showing a style of production from The RZA that was more active than anything he had done in the past. It wasn’t as noisy as the words of The Bomb Squad but it was full and lush, if that’s a good way to describe it.


    Soon after, a video for “Criminology” was released, showing Raekwon, Ghostface, The RZA, and U-God up by a waterfall and in kung fu gear, showing them incognito in a way they had never been seen before. For me, “Criminology” was the preferred song, incredibly funky and full of those string samples that were becoming very RZA at the time (a sound that Mobb Deep were also using with the orchestral samples). Around this time, LOUD/RCA released promotional commercials for Raekwon’s album showing segments of his videos and a man who did a voice-over that said “a chain is as strong as its weakest link”. The world would have to prepare for what was to come, whether they liked it or not.

    Raekwon photo Raekwon_cover_zpsrx2oakwy.jpg

  • The actual title for the album is Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Niggaz but it was shortened to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, with the “…” to let people know something else was supposed to follow. At the time, I found myself wanting more CD’s than cassettes but for this album, I first heard it on cassette, the purple tape. What made this album distinctive was while Ghostface was already making himself (and his face) known in music videos, he was still hidden on the cover of this record, and he was “guest starring” so in many ways, it was a Raekwon and Ghostface album. However, upon first listens, it seemed like with various members heard throughout, it came off more like a group album than just a solo album and it was. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… was originally planned as the follow-up to Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) but during the recording sessions, when it was realized it would be more feasible to exploit the solo route, it became Raekwon’s debut.
  • One thing about the album should be known from the start. While it remains one of the best hip-hop albums of 1995, if not the entire decade of the 1990’s, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is not a concept album, far from it. There are loose streams of continuity here and there but it holds up primarily because it is a solid collection of incredible songs, and even those that are “weak links” still hold up. If there’s continuity throughout, one of the solid links is the production style and samples. You listen to Ol’ Dirty’s Return To The 36 Chambers and it sounds like a basement album. You listen to Method Man’s album and it sounds like a different type of basement album, one that allows itself to open the bedroom window for a breath of fresh air. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… sounds like an album of not only fresh air, but an imagination into another world, if not a dream state of what one could obtain and achieve. The idea of someone boiling up drugs on the oven to become a neighborhood chef could be considered but for me, that string of continuity came from the dialogue between songs and not the songs themselves.
  • If there’s a moment in the album where I felt things were about to pick up and stay there (or go higher), it would be when “Criminology” comes on. Or if that’s the point where the album moved into second gear, then I heard it, they were ready to go faster.

  • “Incarcerated Scarfaces” was a great song too, and it was released as a double A-sided single along with “Ice Cream” so if “Ice Cream” seemd too much (or perhaps too vulgar in tone) to some, they could tone down with the vibe of this one.
  • I was blown away by the vibe of “Rainy Dayz” and I am sure that a big part of it had to do with the vocals of Blue Raspberry. With her singing on Method Man’s debut, it seemed fitting that she would bless the tracks on Raekwon’s albums as well. Could she have been on Ol’ Dirty’s album? Sure, but I think ODB would’ve preferred his mom on the album. (He originally said he hoped to produce a single for his mom but that never materialized.) The funky, slightly sloppy drum samples, the strings in the background, and Ghostface talking about the cheese line while one of his lines seems removed from the song.
  • The album moves up with “Guillotine (Swordz)”, which sounded like something straight off of Method Man’s debut album due to the use of the same string sample. What I loved about this song is the movie sample, taken from Shaolin Vs. Lama, and the fact that the team of Raekwon, Ghostface, Inspectah Deck, and The Genius was perfect. Throughout the album, there would be certain groups of Wu members where I wish they would’ve made their own albums. That was fairly common throughout 1993-1997 so if we heard “Meth Vs. Chef”, we all wanted a full album of Meth and Raekwon battles. I wanted “Guillotine (Swordz)” forever.
  • The remix of “Can It Be All So Simple” originally released on the Fresh soundtrack found its way onto the album, but what made the album go to the next level was “Shark Niggas (Biters)”, which felt like the Sunz Of Man appearance that didn’t happen, or a song that could’ve found its way onto a Sunz Of Man album in between “Soldies Of Darkness” and “No Love Without Hate”. “Ice Water” was moving but while “Glaciers of Ice” was not as good to me as “Criminology” was as a single, it definitely fits in perfectly within the album.


    Same for “Verbal Intercourse”. While a lot of fans often talk about Nas’ spot on the album was the best part of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, I was never huge on Nas’ royalty status but I always liked what he did, for he was the only outsider on the album.

    Also, the best part of the song was not Nas’ verse but The Emotions’ sample of “If You Think It (You May As Well Do It)”. It seems like an awkward sample at first, because the vocal in the song is heard during the verses but that interruption in the song would become one of Ghostface’s production trademarks, where he would just rap over something else because he knew you were there to listen to him, not the damn sample. The RZA would often explore the Stax/Volt catalog throughout his career and what I liked too was that while the pop world would generally know The Emotions as a one hit wonder (“Best Of My Love”), he and others knew the group as having two solid albums before they made it bigger. It is those two albums that have become the source of a number of samples in hip-hop over the years. This song was just part of the contination of Emotions appreciation.

  • If the other songs earlier on the album didn’t prove it, “Wisdom Body” definitely made it clear that Ghostface was more than ready to not only release his own album but to have his own career. Not bad for someone who covered himself up in videos for “Method Man and “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'”, to be on that “now you see me, now you don’t” before evolving into something you could always recognize. The song would become an underground down tempo groove that made you want to turn up, nod your head and just go “damn”.

  • “Spot Rusherz” was another great song because it’s one of the few spots where the group offered a way to hear the group’s St. Ides’ radio spot/commercial. I know I was someone who wished that St. Ides track was two to three minutes longer, but what makes “Spot Rusherz” works was how everything just sounds off, from the warped piano/keyboard sample to drums that are unsure of where it needs to place itself. If anything, the group showed they could be self-promotional, not only delivering verses that also worked as resume tapes but hey, we want you to drink a malt liquor, go grab a 40 ounce if you can and have a good night.

  • One of the best songs on the album found itself way on the 4th quarter, the almighty “Ice Cream”. When I first heard it, I loved it immediately for I used to think that addictive and repetitive piano sample was beautiful. I couldn’t figure it out and nor did most of the people who heard the song. Not only was that sample Wu-Tang’s equivalent of “Mass Appeal” but it too became the holy grail of samples, leading many into countless dead ends. 17 after its release, someone revealed the source as being a light jazz instrumental, slowed down and I discovered that what I was hearing was not a piano but an acoustic guitar. We may have hated Earl Klugh’s music but we all know someone’s parents or uncle and auntie who had one of his records.

    It easily became one of The RZA’s finest moments, especially with his use of Blue Raspberry’s vocals also being chopped. For me, I also feel her vocals were one of the saddest, most sorrowful moments in the Wu-Tang’s entire discography. While the group was celebrating the wonders of women in a flavorful manner, Blue Raspberry was showing that not everything in life is whipped cream with a cherry on top or a banana split. There’s melancholy in her vocals and it was a way of saying, in some way, “things in life aren’t always what they seem or what you want them to be.”

  • The album formally ends with “Wu-Gambinos”, which was not only the beginning of the next phase of the Wu-Tang, but it also helped spark a wave in hip-hop where it seemed everyone wanted to validate themselves by being a gambino, everyone wanted to have two or three pseudonyms. The song also brought in Ghostface, The RZA, Method Man, and the one and only Noodles, a/k/a Masta Killa. One thing I considered while listening to this song was something Method Man said in Ol’ Dirty’s “Rawhide”. His first line was “Coming soon to a theater near you, it be the Wu”, and I was hoping that there would be a Wu-Tang Clan movie that summer, if not the end of the year. This album sounded like it could be the theme song to an incredible film, regardless if it was a concern film or them portraying themselves in gambino form. Not only that, but The RZA’s verse was arguably the best thing he had ever done, far better than what he dropped as a Gravedigga and people would instantly hope that he too would drop his own solo album soon. That would come in time.
  • While I feel “Wu-Gambinos” ends the album in a nice way. the actual album has one or two more songs, depending what format you purchased. I never felt “Heaven & Hell” was a good way to end an album but for many who bought the cassette, it was the conclusion to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…. On top of that, Blue Raspberry’s sung “RZA and Raekwon and Ghost” came off a bit self-promotional and corny, even though what she sings is one of the best moments on the album too. If you purchased the CD, you got to hear a song that could be considered a fitting conclusion called “North Star (Jewels)”, featuring Poppa (Popa) Wu talking to the group with a bit of wisdom, to let them know about what they (and the listeners) experienced and what to prepare for in their next adventure, as well as life.

  • Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… did sell 130,000 during its first week according to Wikipedia and was eventually certified gold (500,000). While Wikipedia states Soundscan claims the album eventually sold over a million, he did not receive a platinum award for it (Method Man’s Tical did receive a platinum award from Def Jam.) Raekwon’s album holds up solidly and remains an album that every hip-hop artist would have to refer to and use an example of how to create a solid album from start to finish. It remains not only one of the best hip-hop albums of 1995, but one of the best Wu-Tang solo albums. It remains the Wu-Tang solo album that could’ve (and arguably should’ve) been Wu-Tang Clan’s second group album. Because of that, it is one of the best hip-hop albums of the entire decade. You know what hip-hop was like before Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… but you couldn’t hide from its influence after August 1, 1995.