Results for reggae

interviews

Jimmy Cliff

Singer-songwriter Jimmy Cliff walked away with his second "Best Reggae Album" Grammy last week. Rebirth is Cliff's 30th reggae record in a career that spans the history of the genre. Talking to Jim and Greg, he traces the evolution of reggae from party music celebrating Jamaican independence, to a more introspective music about roots, spirituality, and identity. While he may not be as famous as countryman Bob Marley, Cliff was instrumental in breaking reggae in the U.S. As the starring actor and songwriter for the cult film The Harder They Come, he introduced Americans to Rastafarian culture, dancehall music, and his own hits "You Can Get It If You Really Want" and "The Harder They Come." Cliff might be a reggae founding father, but he's no purist. He talks approvingly of punk's adoption of reggae sounds and even returns the compliment: Rebirth features a cover of The Clash's "Guns of Brixton," a song originally inspired by The Harder They Come.

Go to episode 377

Debbie Harry

Even now, 31 years after the release of "Rapture," one is impressed by how cool a rapping Debbie Harry sounds. The Blondie lead singer was always ahead of the curve sonically, incorporating R&B, reggae, and, gasp, disco into her songs. During her visit to the show, Debbie talks to Jim and Greg about these varied influences, and what the scene was like in downtown New York in the '70s and '80s. We certainly have Blondie to thank for bringing a little dance back to the punk mix. And the up-tempo sounds continue on the band's latest release Panic of Girls.

Go to episode 322

Lily Allen

British import Lily Allen is Jim and Greg's guest this week. The hosts have been fans of the 21-year-old for over a year, however her album Alright, Still, was just released in the U.S. While Lily is now launching a full-blown American invasion with major label backing and major press and appearances, she started with more humble means. The singer/songwriter initially drew buzz after posting some songs on her MySpace.com page.

While her career is grassroots, Lily's upbringing still has star power. Her father is British comedian and personality Keith Allen, and she spent many of her family vacations with Uncle Joe. (That's Joe Strummer to you and me). In fact, the singer can boast that she has performed at Wembley with The Clash before she was old enough to buy herself a pint.

Jim and Greg are drawn to Lily's sound, which is a pastiche of pop, reggae, ska and even a bit of '60s“space-age bachelor pad”music. But, it's her lyrics that really“slay”them. Lily writes about everything from an average life in London to a failed relationship with a great deal of honesty, humor, and most of all, attitude. Listen to her performances of hits "LDN" and "Smile," and check out these exclusive bonus tracks.

Go to episode 65

Powerhouse Sound

This week Jim and Greg welcomed Powerhouse Sound, a veritable who's who of avant garde jazz and rock musicians. Ken Vandermark, world-renowned reeds player and MacArthur Genius grant winner, assembled this bi-coastal motley crew to experiment with fusing jazz, rock, funk, blues and reggae. With him on the U.S. side of this project is bass player Nate McBride, as well as drummer John Herndon and guitarist Jeff Parker of the group Tortoise. The group has a new album out comprised of recordings done both here and in Norway entitled Oslo/Chicago Breaks.

Ken explains to Jim and Greg that the idea for Powerhouse Sound was inspired by Miles Davis' experiments with blending jazz and popular music. In the 1970s, Davis began working with a diverse group of musicians to create an improvisational sound that is as much funk as it is jazz. Greg notes that this was a heavily controversial period for Davis; jazz purists saw it as a commercial sell out. But, like Davis, the members of Powerhouse Sound are not interested in boundaries and musical dogma. The sound is the key. You can hear this freedom in their performance of "Shocklee/Broken Numbers." Check out the piece in its entirety here.

Go to episode 114
classic album dissections
London CallingLondon Calling available on iTunes

The Clash London Calling

Next up is a patented Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection – this time of one of the greatest double albums of rock history: London Calling by The Clash, which recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of its US release. London Calling represented a huge leap forward for the English band. All four members seemed to be at their peak during writing and recording: Joe Strummer on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mick Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Paul Simonon on bass and Nicky“Topper”Headon on drums. They were paired with the unconventional Guy Stevens and engineer Bill Price and were able to draw from a variety of influences – reggae, ska, rockabilly, and jazz – all layered on their particular brand of punk rock. The songwriting partnership of Strummer and Jones was at its high point. Jim and Greg are both moved by Strummer's lyrics, which demonstrate a very sophisticated worldview. To demonstrate the greatness of London Calling, they play two standout tracks: "Spanish Bombs" and "Clampdown."

Go to episode 514
London CallingLondon Calling available on iTunes

The Clash London Calling

Next up is a patented Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection-this time of one of the greatest double albums of rock history: London Calling by The Clash. London Calling recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and it was a huge leap forward for the English band. All four members seemed to be at their peak during writing and recording: Joe Strummer on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mick Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Paul Simonon on bass and Nicky“Topper”Headon on drums. They were paired with the unconventional Guy Stevens and engineer Bill Price and were able to draw from a ton of new influences-reggae, ska, rockabilly, jazz and rock. Also, the songwriting team of Strummer and Jones was at a high point. Jim and Greg are both moved by Strummer's lyrics, which demonstrate a sophisticated worldview, and play two standout tracks: "Spanish Bombs" and "The Clampdown."

Go to episode 228
reviews
Yell Fire!Yell Fire! available on iTunes

Michael Franti and Spearhead Yell Fire!

Politicially charged group Michael Franti and Spearhead has a new album out this week. Michael Franti's songwriting has ranged from R&B to funk to hip hop, and he's been a part of numerous groups including The Beatnigs and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. On this effort he expands his sound with the help of reggae greats Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Much of Yell Fire! was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica with the seminal Jamaican producers. While the album's sound is slightly different, the message is no less socially conscious. Franti recorded it after a trip to the Middle East in 2004, and has also released a documentary film based on his travels. Jim respects Franti's message, and strongly recommends people see the movie — but he thinks that the lyrics are weak and wishes Franti didn't sound like he was trying so hard with the reggae sound. His rating is on the cusp between Burn It and Trash It. Greg disagrees, and thinks the production and the dancehall beats were done well, but he has to agree with his co-host about many of the cheesier, U2-style ballads. It's a Burn It for Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 34
I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss (Deluxe Version)I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss available on iTunes

Sinead O'Connor I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss

Despite assertions that she wouldn't be making more music, Irish iconoclast Sinead O'Connor up and did it anyway. Her 10th studio album I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss is out this month, and Jim and Greg aren't terribly surprised by the move as the singer-songwriter has a history of marching to the beat of her own drum. She's ventured unexpected territory before with her reggae album and a release of“sexed up”Irish folksongs. And Jim is enthusiastic about this latest pop experiment because underneath the fun rhythms and catchy hooks is the same old Sinead—unapologetically opinionated. I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss is a Buy It for Jim. Greg finds less to love about this latest laissez-faire output from O'Connor. The first half of the album puzzled him as it lacks her usual feistiness. The second half picks up steam with songs like "Harbour" and "The Voice of My Doctor," which put O‘Connor’s attitude ahead of the "adult pop" production, so Greg can say Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 456
My LivesMy Lives available on iTunes

Billy Joel My Lives

Finally, something Jim and Greg can agree on: Billy Joel is a hack. The cover of My Lives, painted by Joel's daughter, actually makes him look worse than normal, according to Jim. The reason this box set is so skippable, according to Greg, is that it is comprised entirely of outtakes. The boys play "Only the Good Die Young," and as if that wasn‘t bad enough, it’s the reggae version. Both Jim and Greg give the box set a "Trash It" rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 3
TroubadourTroubadour available on iTunes

K'Naan Troubadour

Next up Jim and Greg review the second album from rapper K'Naan. In his songs K'Naan describes the tough streets he grew up on. And we believe him. Before settling in Ontario, K'Naan lived in Mogadishu. You can hear his African roots in the music, along with reggae and hip hop beats. Greg finds this hybrid really fresh. But, the record falls down when he tries to be too diverse. Greg gives Troubadour a Try It. Jim wonders if he's just in a better mood today. He agrees that some of the diverse cameos like Adam Levine and Kirk Hammett are totally unnecessary. But K'Naan has a strong voice and his songs have a strong sense of melody. The record gets a Buy It rating from Jim.

JimGreg
Go to episode 171
Living With the LivingLiving With the Living available on iTunes

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Living With the Living

Next up is a review of Living With the Living by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. This is the band's fifth album, but first to be released by Touch and Go Records. Greg thinks Leo is full of energy and enthusiasm, but explains that the singer/songwriter wears his musical influences on his sleeve. It's not difficult to hear the reference points of The Clash, The Kinks and The Jam. Jim agrees, and explains that where the music falls short is when it goes the reggae route. He doesn't think Leo and the band are very good at that style, but adds that The Clash weren't that great at it either. Neither Jim nor Greg can recommend Living With the Living as a whole, but both critics say that Leo and the band give a great live show. The album gets two Burn Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
DevotionDevotion available on iTunes

Jessie Ware Devotion

UK singer Jessie Ware has slowly been making her way stateside, first with buzz from tracks like "Wildest Moments" and then with a U.S. tour. Now her album Devotion is getting a proper American release with bonus tracks. Greg loves the shadow play of her vocals and chiming keyboards and hears a little reggae in the mix. But for him the key is restraint, with Jessie demonstrating that it's a choice, not a limitation. She can belt it when needed, but overall it's a beautiful, subtle record. Jim loves the new R&B palette and is excited by this trend that also includes The Weeknd and Rhye. Devotion gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 388
Alright, StillAlright, Still available on iTunes

Lily Allen Alright, Still

This week, Jim and Greg wanted to review a whole bunch of new fall releases. The first is by British songstress Lily Allen. While her album Alright, Still is not yet out in the States, Allen is already receiving a lot of acclaim. Her grassroots success can be mostly attributed to her MySpace page, which allowed curious music fans to give her music a listen for free. So, while you cannot purchase Alright, Still in the States, Jim and Greg felt it deserved a proper review. Both critics highly recommend this album for its clever lyrics and unique reggae sound, but mostly for Allen's biting humor and breezy attitude. As Jim explains, it's hard not to smile when you listen to a song like "Smile." This set of reviews gets kicked off with a double Buy It for Lily Allen.

JimGreg
Go to episode 46
99 Cents99¢ available on iTunes

Santigold 99¢

Santigold was known as Santogold when she released her debut album in 2008, a combo of reggae and new wave that established her as an artist. On her third and most recent album, 99¢, she worked with TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, Cathy Dennis, and Patrik Berger. Santigold named the album 99¢ because that's how much she thinks it's worth, and Jim concedes he would pay at least double that for it. But it's not a stellar album from start to finish. The middle of the album is weighed down by a few sluggish tracks, especially the duet with ILoveMakonnen, but combine that with the handful of fun dance pop punk songs, and it's a Try It album for Jim. Greg has always loved Santigold's ability to put smart lyrics inside catchy packages. And on this album, there are a few tracks that do just that. Banshee is one of Greg's favorites. It juxtaposes the darkness of drug addiction against an up-tempo, celebratory sound. Not every track is as successful though, and Greg is ultimately a little let down. 99¢ is a Try It for Greg as well.

JimGreg
Go to episode 536
dijs

Greg

“Vietman”Jimmy Cliff

For his DIJ pick, Greg goes with Reggae all-star Jimmy Cliff's anti-war song "Vietman." While Cliff's legacy is sometimes overshadowed by those of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Greg says Cliff was instrumental in popularizing reggae in America. Not only did he star in The Harder They Come and pen that movie's most enduring tracks, he also wrote“Vietnam,”a tune which none other than Bob Dylan called the best protest song ever written.“Vietnam”tells the story of a soldier's death in two letters home. For Greg, it's the song that proved once and for all that Reggae was much more than just a fad and a rhythm. This genre was here to stay.

Go to episode 344

Greg

“Children Crying”The Congos

Greg recently received the 2017 reissue of Heart of the Congos, the debut album by reggae group The Congos. Initially released in 1977, the album was recorded by legendary Jamaican producer Lee“Scratch”Perry. Regarded by Greg as“the perfect summer record, and one of the greatest reggae albums ever made,”it's no wonder that Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick is "Children Crying." He loves the song's restraint, as it focuses on the singers more than the studio effects typically applied by Perry, who Jim describes as“the king of triple layered reverb.”Perry creates a rural, lo-fi sound by having baritone Watty Burnett bellow into a cardboard tube to mimic the sound of a cow mooing. According to Greg, this psychedelic scenario, combined with the beautiful lead vocals, make it a masterpiece.

Go to episode 605

Greg

“Mala Vida”Mano Negra

With France in the air this episode, Greg thinks back to one of his favorite French rock acts: Mano Negra. Co-founded by musician Manu Chao, the band deftly combined rock, reggae, afropop, punk and ska. Their track "Mala Vida," from their 1989 release Puta's Fever truly gives new meaning to the term“world music,”and it's a song Greg wants to groove to on the desert island.

Go to episode 235

Greg

“Hole in the Bucket”Spearhead

After listening to K'Naan discuss the challenge of fitting into the record industry's boxes, Greg is reminded of another hard-to-define act-Michael Franti and Spearhead. They combined hip hop, funk and reggae in their 1994 debut Home. To Greg, Franti is one of the great political singers of all time, and he chooses to add the song "Hole in the Bucket," from Home to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 231

Greg

“Emma”Hot Chocolate

Maxwell got Greg in the mood for some of that great soul music from the late '70s era. For him the British group Hot Chocolate stands out from the rest. They had a big hit with "You Sexy Thing," but that track doesn't do them justice. Hot Chocolate came out of the ska and reggae tradition that emphasized great storytelling. You can hear this on the song "Emma," Greg's Desert Island Jukebox addition for this week.

Go to episode 189
features

Instrumental: The Wah-Wah Pedal

Wah-Wah It's time for the next installment of our Instrumental series, where we trace the history of an iconic piece of musical gear. Next up: the wah-wah pedal. The wah has a distinctive sound that became a building block for psychedelic rock, funk, and even reggae – but its creation back in the mid 1960s was the product of a technological glitch. Daniel Escauriza and Shelby Pollard of Chicago Music Exchange join us to break down the history of the wah and unpack the science behind the pedal and demonstrate what it adds sonically to iconic riffs.

Jim and Greg explore how legendary musicians from Eric Clapton and Earl Hooker to Melvin“Wah-Wah”Ragin and Mikey Chung used the pedal. They ultimately note that, despite getting a bad rap for being gimmicky, the wah-wah pedal plays a critical role in a number of genres of music.

Go to episode 610
news

Music News

A story out of the British press tickled Jim and Greg's fancy this week. England's Essex FM decided to launch a boycott of recent pop phenomenon James Blunt. Blunt, apparently peeved by critics bashing him, instructed the haters to just stop playing his music. Essex FM gladly took the challenge and banned both of his hit singles from their airwaves. Sound Opinions would like to encourage all radio programmers to take Blunt up on his challenge. And while we are at it, there are a few other overplayed radio hits we'd like to discuss…

Finland loves its masked death metal bands. Finnish band Lordi, who recently won the Eurovision prize, became the source of a recent uproar when the lead singer was“unmasked”by two tabloid newspapers. Fans of the masked rockers were so upset by this disrespectful move that over 200,000 of them have signed a petition forcing one of the tabloids to apologize. Sound Opinions fans need not fear however: The true identities of Jim and Greg will never be revealed.

In some sad news, Desmond Dekker died this week at the age of 63. Dekker is credited with bringing the ska and reggae sounds of Jamaica to the West, most notably with the hit "Israelites." Dekker influenced fellow countryman Bob Marley, but his impact in the U.S. and England was most notable in the ska scene. You can still hear Dekker's sound in the music of bands like The Clash, the Sex Pistols and more recently, No Doubt and Less than Jake.

Go to episode 27

Music News

In the news this week was Three Six Mafia's historic win for “Best Song” at the Academy Awards. Jordan "Juicy J" Houston and Paul "DJ Paul" Beauregard won for their song, "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp," from the movie Hustle and Flow, beating out songs from Crash and Transamerica. Three Six Mafia easily gave the most enthusiastic Oscar speech and reigned in the song's not-for-primetime lyrics for their live performance. While the song nicely follows last year's winner,“Lose Yourself”from 8 Mile, it's a far cry from the first original song winner:“The Continental”from The Gay Divorcee. (No Brokeback Mountain jokes, please.)

Next up is a discussion of a musical phenomenon even Jim and Greg can't explain: the recent success of Matisyahu. The Hasidic reggae performer is climbing the Billboard charts and selling out shows across the country, and he certainly doesn't follow any pop formula of which our hosts are aware. Born Matthew Miller in White Plains, NY, the singer started out as an average jam band follower before joining a Hasidic community in Brooklyn. His music, which infuses Jewish imagery and prayers with reggae beats and hip-hop rhymes, has attracted a cross-section of people. To get a better perspective on why Matisyahu is achieving such success, Jim and Greg speak to two fans—a Jewish community leader who appreciates the singer's faith and a non-Jewish reggae fan who was turned on to the music by his teenage son.

Go to episode 15
world tours

New Zealand

The Clean

Lorde is just the biggest name in a long line of important musicians coming out of New Zealand. So this week, Jim and Greg fire up the jet to take the Sound Opinions World Tour to the other side of the world. As a guide, they're joined by Wellington-based critic Nick Bollinger, host of The Sampler on Radio New Zealand and author of several books including the recent memoir Goneville.

They focus on an influential era in kiwi rock emerging in the early 1980s known as the Dunedin Sound that's closely associated with the legendary New Zealand indie label Flying Nun Records. Based around the southern university city Dunedin, the Flying Nun bands drew upon early psychedelia, American garage rock, and The Velvet Underground to create a distinctive jangly guitar-based sound, much of it released on lo-fi 4-track recordings. But while the key bands like The Clean, The Chills, and The Verlaines shared an aesthetic, Nick argues that their musical approaches actually were varied. By the late ‘80s and early ’90s, the Dunedin Sound had fully evolved to incorporate the shoegaze of Bailter Space and even the dance beats of Headless Chickens.

A key part of New Zealand's culture is its indigenous population. Maori, Samoan, and other indigenous groups make up nearly 20% of the population and have had a major impact on the island nation's pop music. Nick traces the history of Maori music from the Hendrix-esque guitar styling of The Human Instinct to the reggae boom of the '70s to the embrace of hip-hop. He also makes recommendations for great contemporary kiwi artists, including singer-songwriter Aldous Harding, power-poppers Kane Strang, electro-soul artist Electric Wire Hustle, and the eclectic producer Lord Echo.

Go to episode 605