Tommy is an international sensation that would propel the British rock band, The Who into unknown ages of fame where their music would become a household name. The story that would grip audiences without their knowledge was the story of Tommy, a loose adaptation on a deaf, dumb, and blind boy who would become the catalyst for The Who’s strange, but prolific journey. Tommy was a record that stood out for its ability to take on the serious topics of molestation, drug abuse, and religion in a subtle manner that is entertaining, but also taps into an emotional chord as well.
There is an aura behind Tommy that The Who uses as an inviting shine with the immaculate production and instrumentation behind the record, that has this glossed feel behind it. There is however, a large amount of grime underneath the surface of Tommy that is incredibly personal. It begins with the sullen, but iconic “Overture” that uses Roger Daltrey to explain the synopsis and origins of the character Tommy, “Captain Walker didn’t come home, his unborn child will never know him. Believe him missing with a number of men, don’t expect to see him again”. It sets a tone behind the fluttering guitar that Pete Townshend plays masterfully, but also John Entwistle on the bass and French horn is simply stunning at points of Tommy. Then of course there is Keith Moon who plays the percussion like a lead guitar and does a beautiful job of never overpowering the music, but creating these fills and rhythm sections where the percussion is a magnificent display of the adaptability behind Keith Moon.
Tommy does best as a visual album that is listened to as a sensory adventure that takes the entirety of the sound into account. The tracks that create these moments are “Amazing Journey”, “Sparks”, or “1921” that throws these vivid images of the the near angelic instrumentation that works incredibly well for The Who as they take these leaps and bounds into territory of a “Rock Opera”. The band is seemingly without fear though, as Tommy is an overall striking album that displays adversity through sound and can create these moments of bliss behind the music. Especially as the second act of the double record brings itself to the foreground where tracks like, “Pinball Wizard”, “Go To The Mirror!”, or even “Sally Simpson” that can capture the raw emotional attachment that The Who had throughout the recording of Tommy.
The Who showed a new potential with Tommy that was able to illustrate a sense of real story behind their music. This was the first album that catapulted them into certified double platinum in America, there was also for the most part, positive critical reception to the album. The Who looked like it had finally been able to find a profound success and voice of their own that stood them among the greats for sound and production. There are moments in Tommy that outshine for the way that it can bury itself deep in the emotional pull of the listener and create an atmosphere where creativity can flow perfectly.
The final moments of Tommy are just as intriguing as the opening; it never feels like it is forced or overpowering. The emotion of the album washes over the listener and stands tall for the way it can combine incredible sound with the storyboard. The Who’s Tommy still holds up today and is a piece of history with a backstory.
He really is a nice guy in person // Listen/Watch Here – Youtube
Directed : William Child
Produced: Ethereal Original
Executive Produced: Stevie B
Another artist from Pittsburgh that is a bit out of my own personal taste, but shows the makings of a profound artist.
BandCamp pulls through // Listen Here – BandCamp
A fairly mixed bag of instruments that resemble something from the late 80’s where synth experimentation was at a peak. But it can be noisy too…
I kind of dig it // Listen Here – BandCamp
Two tracks from a local Pittsburgh beat maker that specializes in creating a step back in time with “Stay Fly Forever”, and “Chronic Dreams”.
Fly // Listen Here – BandCamp
For the faint of heart, Gendo Ikari is a speed demon fueled by rage and pent-up aggression that is released through a series of quick, seven tracks that illustrate how death can be transpired through sound.
It is like the mighty tiger as Gendo Ikari takes their striking position and pounces from the first, grim-stricken seconds of Unit 1, the band’s 2016 release that is no longer than ten-minutes. The impervious nature of the record is unaffected by what surrounds Gendo Ikari, as they are wrapped tightly in a veil of fire that is set ablaze by the unfiltered instrumentation and vocals. It takes on the spirit of vengeance as Gendo Ikari becomes the embodiment of anguish through, “Assistance”, the first deep-cut off of Unit 1 that hits and delivers heavily on the frantic nature of noise. Gendo Ikari is almost agonizing to listen to in long-term and each track feels more weighted than the last. It is the sudden burst of energy that kicks the listener down and becomes an atrocity exhibition of rampaging walls of sound, that just continue to constrict and constrict.
Gendo Ikari is a different breed of animal that shows very little remorse when it comes to break-downs and the second track of Unit 1, “Categorised” is another simple account of assault on the listener but follows moments of rhythm where the band lets the instruments become less like a hammer coming down, and more like a train that focuses on a continuation of one, unified sound. It is not until the bitter bass lines of “Epitome” is there a slowed approach to the madness. It is the closest thing to having a break from the almost devastating and pulverizing crushes that Gendo Ikari calls the tracks. Unit 1 is best listened to as a single, long, drawn-out journey of tracks that are put together as a single collection.
From start to finish, Gendo Ikari creates a hellish dive into the deep end of gasoline and lighter fluid where the band just continues to hammer away through punishing instrumentation. The final track, “Politics” is a send-off into the deepest sections where Gendo Ikari acts as the executioner, first beginning with a uprising. The beginning is by no means gentle, but the drum and bass that floods the track is brilliant as it suddenly shifts into second-gear where the growls and howling of the guitars and vocals can appear in a drowned fashion. Then at the midpoint of “Politics”, Gendo Ikari resorts back to their usual style of introducing absolute terror as the track becomes a shouting match from the instrumentalists that fades into the incredibly distant silence.
Unit 1 is a quick disaster that shows itself and disappears in the same short timeframe. It is the sudden punches that make Gendo Ikari a deadly weapon of criminal insult that can not only offend, but can illustrate a sense of real death behind their style.
Soul in music is as essential as a tempo, and Jackie Shane has more than enough soul to go around for the massive, twenty-five track re-issue of her cult classic Any Other Way. The woman was a visionary in music for her immaculate vocal range and impressive stage performances, but also for being one of the pioneers for transgender artists everywhere. Shane could transform a room into a lightshow of frantic dancing and movement-inducing rock, but then take the sound to a halter and illustrate a true sense of craftsmanship.
From the sudden count off on “Sticks and Stones”, the opening sending anthem from Jackie Shane that is as rambunctious as it is tight musically. The band that jams behind her is smooth, mixed with her impressive voice creates a recipe for perfection. The two entities work together to create instrumental sections of horns that cast large shadows, but never large enough to overpower Shane as she uses her own attitude to fuel the vocal aspect of Any Other Way. It is the sudden jump into the deep end that floods the listener with images of dance halls being grooved to the sound of Shane as she would dress like royalty and deliver a show like no other performer at the time. The rhythm transposes Shane to new heights and through Any Other Way, there is a sense of immense growth throughout the record. It is constantly twisting and turning to become something fresh and interesting at every turn.
The transitions featured on Any Other Way are displays of Shane’s sense of adaptability, as the following self-titled track, “Any Other Way” starts to subtle shuffle into frame, Shane is soft-spoken and acts as a gem in this whirlwind of rainy day sound. The horns are well proclaimed and the percussion takes a step back, letting Shane’s vocals be the centerfold of the track and this is the catalyst for the record to gain its wings and soar. Jackie Shane is such an interesting character both on and off the record, and her mystique is also present in her lyrical style as she explains through sometimes double, or triple-meanings for a glance into her own personal journey.
Her lyrics tell a story, and the instrumentation is so memorable that even after just a single listen, tracks like “In My Tenement”, “Comin’ Down”, “Walking The Dog”, or even “Money (That’s What I Want)”, have incredible catchiness to them. Especially on “In My Tenement” where the grooving instruments are suddenly shining through the darkness of the lyrical themes, but then shifts to showcase a focus on just how Jackie Shane can illustrate a sense of duality in her sound. It can be both depressed, but also full of life and Any Other Way, while being a double album, never shows a sense of acted as too long. The tracks flow well into each other and the new light that is placed on Jackie Shane is well-deserved.
Any Other Way is a delightful showcase of emotional prowess that is transfused into the heart and soul of music. Jackie Shane gives her rhythm a backbone and illustrates a sense of power behind her voice, standing tall among the greats while never casting a large shadow. A cult favorite that shows years after recording Initially, that Jackie Shane can still groove with the heavyweights of music.
Band Submission // Listen Here – Soundcloud
DJ Subroc and Zev Love X were members of the rough cut crew, Kausing Much Damage, or better known formally as KMD. The group was prevalent in the 1990s for their abrasive style of taking their African-American backgrounds and putting them as the foregrounds of their music. It is the reasoning behind their styling’s that led to the shelving of their second studio record, Black Bastards. With the lynched “Sambo” on the front and the depiction of the “BL_CK B_ST_RDS” being labeled underneath in a hangman style, there was enough to shock the record label, along with the heavily sampled use of race-focused clips of movies that explain the modern use of the word nigger, it was hidden from public eye.
Subroc and X made a killer combination that had few ups-and-downs through the recording process and illustrated a real sense of talent behind their craft. They were able to seamlessly blend the lines of harsh and ugly racism with banging hip-hop beats and rhymes that reflected like a mirror on the wall of America and the systematic racism that both parties faced. It is truly where the racism is showcased as where KMD shows their blades and can capitalize on the real awareness of the past. The first track, “Garbage Day #3” is a skit that displays multiple samples that explain how destructive KMD was at the time, and how ominous they were, “Hey you guys should let the cops handle it, if you fight these guys, you’re gonna up in jail,” the instrumental then shifts suddenly into a prejudice territory, “’You black bastards,’…’alright blackie you win,’…’Fuck you nigger’…” it continues to showcase just how ugly the word is and the act of racism that separates and cuts through the instrumental, as a point of explaining just how jarring the systematic and cultural normality’s were at the time and still are. The sampling is perfect however, and X explained that “Sub(roc) did the beat and all the vocal samples. He just happened to stay up all night one time and recorded most of those movie things on there”.
It would be the sampling that would carry the instrumentation and storytelling to new heights with a focus on demonstration through sound. It is a perfect arrangement of just how KMD was an underground hip-hop group that flew under the radar, but made waves with the creation of a sense of healing, but also destruction through wordplay. It is on the following track, “What a Niggy Know?” that has KMD sampling Gylan Kain as he exclaims, “He was a nigger yesterday, he’s a nigger today, and he’s gonna be a nigger tomorrow”. Even as it strikes into a self-aware nerve, Zen Love X describes over a boom-bap styled instrumental, “Finna flip the script like round off summy, yummy to the tooth, bitter to the tummy. Helps keep that monkey shit constipated for me jimmy jimmy rummy”. X then passes the microphone as Subroc slides into frame and spits, “No curls, no braids but steel wood, with my ill style mad G’s I pull. I lay lower than a limbo stick, follow me quick or leave alone a jimbo stick”. It is a courageous nature that stands KMD as a monument in hip-hop history and that beings their work into the foreground with funky instrumentals, but a conscious message to what was happening around them as a social commentary.
It is shown well on the much later-track, “Plumskinnz (Oh No I Don’t Believe It)” where the cheerful instrumental could be used on an episode of something along the lines of Sesame Street, but the sudden bumping percussion that is featured behind the cascading pianos makes for a conflicting way of beauty behind the track. Zev Love X then comes in shortly and explains, “With the innocent fuzz from the peaches says the streets, down low on the down low. I know the right juice from the darkest fruits got roots, mind wandering, mind playin’ tricks”. The use of saxophone and different horns also adds an additional stylish grouping of sound behind KMD as they act as commanders of sound. It relies on the artistic extension of KMD’s DJ Subroc and Zev Love X as the two move like young leaders in the genre.
The unfortunate history of Black Bastards and dark past associated with the record let it never be released on a major label, but hip-hop’s master rhymer MF DOOM picked up the master tapes and eventually released the record years later. DOOM had involvement with the group as Zev Love X and his lyrical style can be showcased as it began to fly into fruition over the years of mastering the craft. DJ Subroc was unfortunately struck by a car back in 1993 where he was killed at the age of nineteen. This marked the end of KMD, but the beginning of hip-hop’s Supervillain.