Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Zombi and Tanakh.
Listed: Zombi + Tanakh
While Pittsburgh duo Zombi may not exactly fall right into place alongside many of their labelmates on Relapse, one could certainly make the case that they are one of the heaviest groups on the label. Their music calls to mind some of the great horror and sci-fi soundtracks of the 70s and 80s (as does their Listed feature!), melding sirening keyboards with ominous drums and, well, ominous everything! While their recorded product is an exercize in suspense and excitement, their live show add the additional element of jaw-dropping chops. Few duos this side of Euphone can pull off the two-man one-man band show quite like Zombi. Their new album, Surface to Air, is out now.
1. Miami Vice (Television Series) - Jan Hammer
Back in the day, Sonny and Rico were the coolest dudes ever and, by association, this music was the coolest music ever. I played this tape until it wore thin and snapped (right in the middle of "Chase," which was my jam). And that was that. History became legend, legend became myth, and I completely forgot about Miami Vice -until less than a year ago when I heard the soundtrack for the first time in at least 15 years. I was blown away -this music sounds just as amazing and relevant today as it did back in the 80's.
2. Scanners - Howard Shore
Amazing blend of synth programming and full orchestration. Lush string arrangements. Bizarre, de-tuned synthesizer arpeggios and sparkling pads. Brass voicings layered seamlessly over cross-modulated synthesizer drones. Really progressive stuff.
3. Star Wars - John Williams
This movie would not have been the phenomenon it was without Williams' score. It is indispensable. The soundtrack to my childhood (at least until Jan Hammer and Michael Jackson came along).
4. Koyaanisqatsi - Philip Glass
Even if you aren't a fan of his style, you have to give Glass credit for creating a score that so perfectly captures the energy of this film. I really enjoy Glass' music, and find this to be some of his strongest material. It's an acquired taste for sure, but a very rewarding listen.
5. The Omen - Jerry Goldsmith
The original, not the remake. This score is completely awe-inspiring. Sweet, poignant string melodies giving way to unstable major/minor tonalities leave the listener emotionally confused, with a sense of both loss and hope; of sorrow and apprehension. Perhaps the darkest, most powerful theme of any movie. Ever. I can't imagine the burden it must have been to create something so moving.
1. Blade Runner - Vangelis
I watched this film for the first time in S.C.O.P.E. Not sure what that stands for, but it was an accelerated learning class for "gifted" students that I was part of in my early teen years. I think I tested around 130 on my IQ test. Anyhow, the soaring intro sequence over 2019 era L.A. left an impression above anything else I had ever seen at the time. Ditto for the end credits. I've been a big Vangelis fan since then.
2. Dawn of the Dead - Goblin
Can't help it. Another film I saw in my early teens that inspired me beyond awareness. The synths. The mellotrons. The wanky guitars. La Caccia and L'Alba Dei Morti Viventi are the standouts for me. Very well orchestrated, tense, and dark without being to overly "creepy".
3. Twin Peaks - Angelo Badalamenti
I love all of the music for the series, but Laura Palmer's Theme is what turns me on. I don't know if I've ever heard music so dark and disturbingly beautiful.
4. Scarface - Giorgio Moroder
Very gritty and slick, Moroder style. I'm specifically thinking of "Tony's Theme", as most of the other music sounds incredibly dated. As a total sucker for dark, lush, brass-synth pads, "Tony's Theme" brings it home, and is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the film. That and the skimpy little blue dress Michelle Pfieffer wears in one of her more memorable scenes.
5. The Thing (1982) - Ennio Morricone
Thought John Carpenter scored The Thing? Yeah, me too, for many years. A very cold, disengaged, minimalist score that is brilliant in its simplicity - something only Morricone could pull off.
"It's all about the sexy"
When we were in-studio recording Tanakh - Ardent Fevers and the yet to be released Tanakh - Poulos record, the deciding factor of which track to use, which guitar, which vocal, etc. was never one of the best executed or most perfect, it was always about "the sexy". Our saxophonist Darius Jones, who is a monster of a player in every style he plays be it jazz, noise, or Tanakh, just mantraed day in day out "it's all about the sexy", till it became a buzz word in the studio, this one's sexy and that one's not, and so on. We would make a decision on a track, a tone, a twist, never based on intellect but just the feel. Everyone would nod in accordance, yeah that's the one, that one feels good, it might be wrong, but it feels right, it feels "sexy". It seems a bit silly in retrospect, but it is the truth, "it's all about the sexy". Not in drippy lips on mic or druggy strip-tease beats, but in its ability to move your head, for you to feel it on your skin. Take a look at the deference between Zeppelin's "Whole Lotto Love" and Ike and Tina's version. Same song, both are amazing, who could cast a stone at Zeppelin, but Ike and Tina just made it sexy.
From drunken midnight Marvin Gaye covers to endless mix tapes made and remade with every unearthing of another soul gem, I have had a growing obsession with soul music. Isaac Hayes, the Dramatics, Sly and the family Stone, the Jackson 5, Otis, Al Green, Ike and Tina, Prince, Booker T, The Temptations, Freda Payne, Bill Withers, Charles Wright, Etta James, Funkadelic, King Floyd, War, Marvin Gaye, The Meters, Sam Cooke, Shuggie Otis, Solomon Burke, The Spinners, Stevie, Wilson Picket, Curtis Mayfield, Smokey, etc. I wish I could explain it in some erudite way and then exegesis some sort of reason why I just loose it over this kind of music day in day out. But I guess it just comes down to "the sexy", "it's all about the sexy".
These songs are great examples of people who knew exactly what I mean:
1. Ike and Tina - "Whole Lotta Love" - Acid Queen
Maybe it was learning music on the piano that gave Mr. Izear Luster Turner his unmistakable gift for such rhythmic playing but what ever it was he could kick it and (too often hit it), but it helped shape rock and soul into what they has become. Both he and Anna Mae tip–top Tina slayed the charts with, what is to me, the embodiment of rock and soul, which in my opinion should be just one term altogether, it is in that mix I find myself most obsessed, head swaying back and forth like it is too heavy for your poor neck to support. They were so much more than great legs and abuse; they were the groove and the power of expression. Man, Jon Bonham and company must have shit themselves with glee tinged jealousy when they heard "Whole Lotta Love" grooving out of their hi-fi thicker than mud and badder than backstreet beat downs. What they stole from Wille Dixon, Ike and Tina had stolen back, and in this tug of war; the song arrives at its own place, that is just transcendental. What kills me over and over in this song is of course Tina's amazing delivery and strength and the rhythm, but even more the arrangement, so confident and powerful, be it the influence of Phil Spector or just that as so often when you take something across a genre or even from one songwriter to another it goes through this alchemistical transformation where the song becomes what it was meant to be. However it doesn't matter the formula, the product is what it is: amazing. And this song is just what it always wanted to be in the hands of Ike and Tina, slow, sexy, groovy, powerful and when she says "every inch of my love" you know she means every sweet inch.
2. The Isley Brothers - "Summer Breeze" - 3+3
Besides being some of the best dressed men of soul, these guys cranked out quality year after year from "It's Your Thing" to "That Lady" to even their new record with the humorous but amazing executed "Busted" over a period of fifty years which isn't too easy to do, just look at the Stones. Man, first of all, the main rhythm is on a banjo (or at least a keyboard banjo sound) that is enough to get you hooked, then the amazing harmonies, followed by the jaw dropping work of Ernie Isley who had just joined the band starting with this record. Imagine needing a guitarist and just getting your kid brother to play and your brother being Ernie Isley; if only. Ernie's playing on this track is the kind of awe inspiring guitar work that is so often over looked in soul when people talk of guitar gods, sure Hendrix and the lot were great but what about Ernie?!?!?! And Eddie Hazel's mind warpingly beautiful work on Maggot Brain's Maggot Brain, or even Prince for that matter, shit Prince can play guitar better than most "guitar gods" you see appearing and reappearing on the pages of guitar mags.
3. Al Green - "Belle" - The Belle Album
What Al Green song isn't great? It's like you don't even want to mention him or Otis, or Marvin, or Solomon, because then you have to split hairs over which tracks not to include, but not only is Belle one of my favorite songs, I think it is a testament to the power of the man's music and deep rooted soul. This was a cross over record, a type of record that is almost impossible to make, almost as hard as "past their prime" records, but yet there is always someone there to thankfully prove you wrong, like Smokey Robinson's Quiet Storm record. So a straight up religious record, nothing against religion, I find religion in all it's forms terribly interesting (and sometimes just terrible when you look at the result of its misuse), but it is the sort of trial by fire that makes good song writers go bad (look at Cat Stevens. Mark Farner, or even Dylan's saved period is a bit questionable). Of course it is a bit hard to completely take religion out of soul, it is in great part founded on it, but this was a straight up I love god kind of record and "Belle" is still one of the sexiest love songs ever made. Think of it as a three-way, him, her and the great other.
4. Ann Peebles - "I Can't Stand the Rain" – I Can't Stand the Rain
A guitar riff that is so distinct and ahead of it's time that you could trick first time listeners into believing it was added by Aphex Twin last year. Then Ann hits you with the sexiest pronunciation of "rain" in the history of man, add the beat and sweet sweet punctuation of the B-3 and a horn section that takes flight on the wings of her voice. This has been in obsessive high rotation at my house for the last two years or so and I still die every time I hear it.
5. Garnet Mimms - "Cry Baby" - Cry Baby
Sure this song has been cover by some of the best around, but no one, I mean no one, holds a tear stained candle to Mimms proto-soul gospel tinged 1963 version, of course he wrote it and by most formulas somebody else should have come along and done it better, but how could you? It is so hot and wholly heart breaking, there is no fooling around in his voice and of course you just have to fall for the lyrics cause they're so honest and strong in what today in our over analyzed therapy drenched world we would deem weak, self-depreciating, and dependant. Man I love it, people are gonna do what people are gonna do, whether the doctor says its good for you or not, like Antony and The Johnsons "Fistful of Love", which I can never get enough of, it is just down right honest and beautiful and the way love really is, the dirty wet side that has worms clinging to it when you pick it up kind of love. "So go on and cry baby" its so pretty when you do.
6. Shuggie Otis - "Sweet Thang" - Inspiration Information
The amazing talented son of band leader Johnny Otis who, as I once heard, took Shuggie to Quincy Jones to learn how to write songs and Quincy sent him back saying the boy knew everything you could need to know before he even got there, whether the story is true or not, he certainly knew how to make some of the sweetest soul and amazingly played all the instruments on this record with a virtuosity and cohesiveness you don't find in most virtuosos or songs built by overdubbing. All of the tracks are great laid back lazy ol'sun kind of soul that you don't hear enough of and unfortunately there was never enough of Shuggie committed to tape, but thanks to David Byrne and his own blue-eyed soul (although I think he has brown eyes if I remember right) we have this record available on cd and with its success the others quickly followed. If only there was more.
7. Marlena Shaw - "California Soul" – Spice of Life
Speaking of the west coast and its own sun bleached version of soul, Marlena Shaw is another overlooked wonder, with a voice that is sweeter than taffy and just as sticky the way it bends and melts around every note. Complete with a full string symphony, horn section, and an infectious beat, this song knows no bounds and is impossible to not make the sun burn brighter through the windows of even the dankest of flats.
8. Tim Buckley - "Look at the Fool" - Look at the Fool
Getting back to brown-eyed masters of Blue-eyed soul, there is Tim (even Jeff blessed us with one kick-ass soul track "everybody here wants you"). After his amazing, yet at-the-time misunderstood opus Starsailor which brought about his musical hiatus and landed him earning his keep as a taxi driver and chauffeur before contractual pressure brought him back to playing/recording; he was just like, "you want a record?" blam! Here is a funk-soul-rock record (Greetings From L.A.) or blam! Here is a soul record (Look at the Fool) and the amazing thing is that they were every bit as good as anything else going and in most cases much much better. Look at the Fool has one of the coolest chord structures and amazing use of the male voice in soul music, and is every bit as good as an Al Green track but all Tim's own style.
9. Joe Cocker - "Woman to Woman" - Say Something
Losing yourself giving your all be it for one or a stadium of 100,000 is what music is all about for me, and it is almost shameful to stand before this song, and at the same time when you hear it all you want to do is start a big ol' soul band and just let it all go as hard as you can. Joe Cocker didn't care that he didn't have a "beautiful" voice, that he wasn't black, that John Belushi made fun of him every Saturday night, that he covered more songs than he wrote, or even that he did some bad songs now and then, he just did it, and did as hard as he could and that is why he is the motherfucker and this song is the unyielding testament to it. This song is so mind-numbingly rhythmic and his vocals just rip through like gravel on your palms when you fall off your bike skid down the dirty pavement. Man it is so good it stings!
10. Rotary Connection - "Sunshine of Your Love" - Songs
Songs is a great collection of spacious groves, which were undoubtedly as soul as soul can be, but with huge lilting strings and a 70's rock approach ("Respect" being another great track). Just to mention that Minnie Riperton was the "back-up" singer is a bit hard to imagine. This cover is hands down my favorite track they did, it is the song Cream only wished they had recorded, not that their version wasn't great but the smooth slow groove, the flute, the strings, the druggy velvet voice of Sidney Barnes, you just have to say yeah this is what this song was meant to be and then…. oh my god then…there is Minnie, with her five octave range squealing the most angelic reverb to Sidney's "love". It is the sort of thing you interrupt a conversation to point out, an eyes-rolled back sound of purest beauty, it IS the turn around; there is no need for music, just Minnie. And did I mention the guitar? Beautiful all the way around, someone send me 100 more songs like this and I'll never buy a record again, it is really to bad they turned down their slot for Woodstock, because the world would be a better place now if they had gained the success and influence other Woodstock bands garnished after the festival.
11. King Crimson - "Earthbound" - Earthbound
I remember in the 9th grade my dad turned me on to "In the Court of the Crimson King" claiming that "21st Century Schizoid Man" was the coolest songs ever, but I was one of those weepy kids and only really dug "I talk to the wind" (which we later recorded as a b-side to Dieu Deuil), but more than the record I loved the record cover, I drew that nostril flared face on all my note books, painted it for art class hung, it in my locker, it was all over everything, if I had only heard "Earthbound" instead, my life would have been so different, but unfortunately only a few ever heard this till it was re-released in 2002, but man it is soul soul soul, and you know it as soon Wallace kicks that first beat you just have to say, "ah shit here comes the soul" then Boz Burrell's bass and scratchy scatting, Mel Collins punctuated sax, and Fripp is just Fripp as always. One blistering funk-rock-soul jam start to finish. Maybe if my dad had turned me onto this Crimson record I would have been picking out a Paik style fro for my senior pictures, instead of some stupid skater swoop.
12. Detroit Emeralds - "Baby Let me Take You (in my Arms)" - You Want It, You Got It
These guys had a smattering of low on the radar hits but this one is just sexy, there's not much to say, it's just sexy, and like I said "it's all about the sexy". Just put it on for the quiet storm, put it on for the evening drive, or just for your own singing into the spatula Saturday solo gig live from your kitchen, and follow it up with Syl Johnson's "Is It Because I'm Black" whether your pasty, Polynesian, or dark red, let it all go and sing your soul cause like Syl says, everybody wants to be somebody it doesn't matter if you're white, yellow, or brown, we're all Black, there trying to hold us, but we just can't stop trying. Bring the sexy.
By Dusted Magazine