VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Valentine’s Day Mixtape”
The last couple of Valentine’s Days, I got my wife chocolates. And I’m not talking about those $6.99 quick-fix deals you get from the ‘Oh Crap, Is Valentine’s Day Really Tomorrow?!’ aisle at your local grocery store. No, I’m talking about artisan shit from a real chocolatier. I’m talking something like a nice heart-shaped white-chocolate confection with a hand-applied cranberry glaze dotted with tiny bits of citrus in the shape of her initials. Yeah, man. I’m talking any flavor or spice you want: melon, cinnamon, honey, rosemary, even something wild like a cayenne or something. I’m talking the kind of joint where you taste everything first and then, once you’ve decided on something, they let you change flavors, colors, boxes, whatever you want. It’s pretty much custom and your lady is guaranteed to love it, but (and there’s always a ‘but’) you better bring your wallet to pay for all that shit ‘cause, trust me, when they’re done hand-crafting that Valentine’s Day masterpiece for you, they’re not going to be asking for just $6.99. Well, guess what? This economy is a bitch. Seems like half the country is on layoff, including me. I’m no longer unemployed, more like under-employed, but either way, I don’t think I’ll be making my annual trek down to the artisan chocolatier this year. So what to do then? Back in the day, when we were still doing the long-distance dating thing – me, here in San Diego; her on the other side of the planet in Japan – I used to make mix CDs and mail them to her along with other things she missed from back home. (Little things like peanut butter, trashy mystery novels and Crest toothpaste. Strange the things you don’t know you need until you can’t find them anymore.) She was always enthusiastic about the mix CDs, but I never realized how much she liked them until she came back home. We moved in together and all of a sudden, I’m hearing these mixes again – things I’d done months before and hadn’t given much thought to since. Even today, a few years later, I’ll come home from work and one of my mixes of love songs will be playing. So in lieu of fancy chocolates or sparkly jewels (which, of course, work even better than chocolate), I’m doing a Valentine’s Day mix CD for my wife. Hopefully, she’ll dig it as much as the ones I used to mail across the Pacific to her, and hopefully, in three or four years, she’ll still be playing it and thinking about me when I’m away. Beth, this one’s for you. I hope everybody else digs it, too. On to the tunes… 01. Zero 7 – “One Arm Break” from EP (Ultimate Dilemma, 2000); Out of print. I always like to start a mix of love songs with a nice instrumental, something Grown ‘n Sexy to let the ladies know what kind of evening it’s going to be. Uh, I meant ‘lady,’ singular. Shit, I’m getting myself in trouble already and I haven’t even started yet. ;-) 02. Ayo – “Sometimes” from Gravity At Last (U-Sonic, 2008) This is one of Kalamu’s favorites. Not much to say except it’s pretty and I dig it. 03. A Race Of Angels – “We” from Broadcast No. 1 (Luv Classics, 2004) “We. Happy. We….” That’s a good sentiment for Valentine’s Day. Or any day, really. 04. Bill Withers – “Let Me Be The One You Need” (Dreamtime Mix) from dreamtimemix.blogspot; Original version from Menagerie (Columbia, 1977) Kalamu posted this one previously. It’s an extended mix of a Bill Withers classic by a dude who calls himself ‘Dreamtime.’ He did the mix by hooking up the original vocal and instrumental versions of “Let Me Be The One.” Nothing fancy – just Bill being Bill. 05. Sheila Hylton – “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” from Sly & Robbie Present: Taxi (Mango/Island, 1981) As far as I know, this was Sheila’s one-and-only hit; but if you’re only going to the damn thing once, you’d better make it count like Sheila did. So here’s the recipe: take a two-year-old track by the British band The Police (which is pretty damn good in its own right), have reggae legends Sly & Robbie pump up the drums and the bass enough to give the record that authentic Jamaican heft, and…. Voila! There it is – a stone-cold classic. 06. Bossacucanova feat. Roberto Menescal & Cris Delanno – “Bom Dia Rio (Posto 6)” from Uma Batida Diferente (Six Degrees, 2004) A slinky little Brazilian groove; a sweet-voiced woman singing in Portuguese; a vibe that puts you somewhere in the sunny outside, on a blanket, under a tree, next to someone you love. Really, what’s not to like? 07. King Britt Presents Sylk 130 – “Incident On A Couch (Pt. 2)” from Re-Members Only (2001) Gooey globs of slow-motion love-funk, instrumental style. The computer effects are running wild, true, but it’s got that certain something I love. Maybe it’s the circa-1989 808 drumkicks. 08. José James – “Blackeyedsusan” from The Dreamer (Brownswood, 2008) A beautiful track from my favorite album of 2008, José James’ The Dreamer. José is the first vocalist I’ve heard who is legitimately of the hip-hop generation, and yet, sings actual, true jazz music. Most of the hip-hop vibe is in the drums (‘real’ drums, by the way, not machine- or computer-derived), but all the rest is pure, lovely, soulful jazz. Right on. 09. Common feat. Mary J. Blige – “Come Close” (Blackbeard's Summer Madness Rework) from Promo Only (White Label, 2003) Five summers ago, the pirate remix crew Blackbeard got hold of Common’s “Come Close” and re-edited it into something magical. 10. Lhasa – “Con Toda Palabra” from The Living Road (Nettwerk, 2004) She’s saying:
I entrust myself to your arms I'm afraid and I'm calm A prayer in my mouth And a prayer in my soul…Yeah, it’s like that. 11. Massive Attack – “Right Way to Hold a Spoon” from Danny The Dog – Soundtrack (Virgin, 2004) Brief interlude. Time enough to refresh your drinks, pardon yourself to the powder room and, uh, maybe slip into something a little more comfortable…. ☺ 12. Optimistics – “You Put Something New Into My Life” from Optimistics (All Platinum, 197x). Loooong out of print. Everything I know about the Optimistics comes from this one paragraph: “They were from Baltimore, they were formed by Billy Butler in the late sixties, and, most importantly, they were produced by George Kerr – the man behind the more well known Whatnauts sound.” That’s courtesy of Junior over at Ear Fuzz, one of our fellow music-blog sites.(See Ear Fuzz for more.) Ear Fuzz’s excitement about the band notwithstanding, you can easily hear why the Optimistics never hit it any bigger than they did. Their harmonies are sloppy, the lead singer ain’t all that lead-worthy and the song – despite being one of their best – isn’t even all that good. What it is though is: #1 – catchy, #2 – apropos, and #3 – sappy as all get out but in a my-girl’s-really-gonna-love-it kinda way. Hell, the record starts off with “I’m in love” and then gets into the whole “you turn my frown into a smile” thing. Valentine’s Day, meet the Optimistics. Optimistics, say hi to Valentine’s Day. 13. Gilberto Gil – “Waiting In Vain” from Kaya N'gan Daya (Warner Music Latina, 2002) Here’s an all-time classic love song as interpreted by on of the musical geniuses of the great country of Brazil, Gilberto Gil. Gil keeps Bob’s lovely melody intact while adding a small-but-effective guitar riff that sounds like an auditory metaphor for the gentle persistence of the narrator. Add in Gil’s gorgeous scatting and his band’s light touch and we’ve been blessed with another romantic winner. 14. Lenine/Suzano – “O Ultimo Por Do Sol” from Olho De Peixe (Mameluco, 1993). Out of print. More Brazilian goodness. Lenine is one of Brazil’s more popular singer-songwriters of the last couple decades and Marcos Suzano is a percussionist who teamed up with with Lenine to record two albums of MPB (Brazilian pop) during the early 90s. This tune, “O Ultimo Por Do Sol,” is probably their best known song in the U.S., primarily due to its appearance in the movie on the soundtrack for Woman On Top. 16. Sade – “I Couldn’t Love You More” from Love Deluxe (Epic, 1992) and 17. John Martyn – “Couldn’t Love You More” from One World (1977) It’s an old sentiment, certainly, but I like the way Sade sings it. But then there’s my man John Martyn – talk about a contrast. Sade is velvet; Martyn is sandpaper. Sade is as smooth as smooth gets – cool, calm and elegant, no matter the circumstance. Martyn is rougher than the roughest. Dude sounds like he’s half-drunk, singing from a gutter somewhere after he got kicked out of a downtown dive for fighting. But he knows how to coax a sweet melody out of that guitar of his and he knows how to get something close to pretty out of that raw voice of his too. And those words. Oh those words…. Check the first verse:
If you kissed the sun right out of the sky for me If you told me all the lies I might deserve If you lay all night in the rain for me I couldn't love you moreAnd if that wasn’t pretty enough, verse two goes like this:
If you loved me ‘til my eyes can no more shine for you If you walked beside me all the long way home If you wasted all of your time on me Well I couldn't love you more….Yeah, yeah, yeah – John, you slick bastard you. First he tells her he couldn’t love her more if she “kissed the sun right out of the sky.” And then he gives her the same line but it’s if she “walked beside [him] all the long way home.” All the way from the heavens high up in the sky to the earth below their feet. Nice. 18. Meshell Ndegeocello – “Elliptical” (Edit) from The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams (Bismillah/Emarcy, 2007) Meshell taking us out the way we came in….
From My Heart To Yours
Laura Izibor. From Dublin (Ireland) with love. Just a little ta-ta that be in the air around my computer from time to time, especially when doing a funky lil set of valentine’s sounds. Want to know about here, see what we wrote here. Not adding it to the mix. Just dropping it in the jukebox. From My Heart To Yours (CD single). Enjoy. I always like checking out Mtume mixtapes because there is going to be something there that I really like and also something there that I scratch the old noggin and straight up ask, WTF? But stretching is good, especially musical stretching. It’s always good to learn what you don’t know and it’s even better to know that you got a lot to learn! In love & struggle, —Kalamu ya Salaam
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