This site launched on November 28, 2014. It was Record Store Day and I had some time to kill after picking up some new albums at Dearborn Music.
I'm too frugal to buy one of those uber expensive turntables, but music has always been, like it is for so many, one of my greatest passions. If you truly love music, it is far more than sound, but a feeling. It can inspire energy, calmness, tranquility, reflection, activism - a memory from high school, a special person, a place.
Sound System Journey Some of my earliest memories of music are of listening to Elvis, the Monkeys, Beach Boys, and the Grease Soundtrack on my parents record player in the late 1970s. Then, like so many, I got caught up in the new music formats and stereo systems. I got one of those large all-in-one stereo systems for a birthday present when I was around 13 years old - the ones that had a dual cassette player, eight-track player, record player and large external speakers. This would have been ditched for the component-based stereo and six CD player system with even bigger speakers around 1988. Funny thing - I'm playing my records now through this receiver and speakers - with a new turntable. I probably packed up and abandoned this receiver and speakers around 2005 and went entirely MP3. Fast forward to the summer of 2014 when a friend of mine re-introduced me to vinyl and I was off the races.
There's so much to love about vinyl. The hunt. Crate-digging. Finding gems and trying new artists and genres often for $0.99. Listeing to an entire album versus one popular song. Discovering a new song or artist you love. Having a legal, physical medium. The sound of vinyl. The album cover art. The vinyl community of fellow music and vinyl lovers. The details to vinyl releases, original pressings, the dead wax details, special editions. But at the heart is the music and the feelings from it.
My taste in music was moderately diverse in the 80s. Among my first and most vivid memories from this period was sitting in front of my all-in-one stereo system every night listening to a Detroit DJ and radio personality legend, The Electrifying Mojo. There's a host of web sites where you can read about Mojo, but basically he was a very creative, maverick, trend-setting DJ and radio personality who was very popular in the Detroit, Southeast Michigan and Ohio, and the Canadian border area from 1977 through the mid-1980s. He was very special, never followed convention, and did what I've always appreciated - introduced people who love music to new and good music they may never have otherwise heard. He put on a show and was about the music and not what just was popular, but what he thought was good. He knew good music and didn't care about race or genres. He introduced traditionally black music to white audiences and traditionally white music to black audiences. He introduced me to funk and artist battles. And by funk, I mean the early electro-boogie, hip-hop funk - Whodini, Twilight 22, Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force’s "Planet Rock, Ice-T's Reckless, Run DMC, etc. If you want to read a more complete description of The Electrifying Mojo, I've written more about him, his show, and influence on Detroit and music here
I also enjoyed popular pop and new wave music from the 1980s: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Expose, Taylor Dayne, Jermaine Stewart, Hall & Oates, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Devo, A Flock of Seagulls, Men at Work, Tears for Fears, Ah-ha, Gloria Estefan, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the forever timeless and classic Holding back the Years by Simply Red, Phil Collins (I Don't Care Anymore), etc. I remember slow dancing to Careless Whisper by Wham at a high school prom. I owned a pair of parachute pants ;-) Those of us in metro Detroit still get to enjoy all these songs live via the popular local band, the Mega-80s that play frequently at festivals and the Magic Bag in Ferndale.
Growing up in the late '70s and '80s and having very diverse taste in music, I loved breakdancing and Soul Train.
The 1980s ended for me really getting into hard rock, hair bands, and classic rock, most notably Ozzy and Black Sabbath, Metallica (only the old stuff - no Black album or after), Zepplin, AC/DC, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Dio, Whitesnake (Still of the Night, Crying in the Rain), Motley Crue, The Scorpions (Still Loving You), Def Leppard (Pyromania), Cinderella, Dokken, Ratt, Rush, (Subdivisions, Tom Sawyer), James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix, Foghat (Fool for the City), and Bad Company (Bad Company).
What a great decade. It was the late 80s and early 1990s when I discovered who would become my favorite musical artist from that day forward through to this day, bar none, not even close - Sade. Sade fans will know what I'm talking about. I remember having a six disc CD changer in my home stereo, another in my car, and another in a boom-box in my work office with copies of her first four CDs in all three locations that I would play for months at a time, never getting bored of them, liking every single song. To me and many, she's one artist that has always been in her own class and genre for that matter with no one like her. Your love, and my love for you, is king ;-)
I remember realizing how amazing Steely Dan is. A perfect fusion of classic rock and jazz. What has also struck me about Steely Dan's music is that it has a sound that seems timeless. Some music clearly has a 20's sound, a 70's sound, or an 80's sound. But Steely Dan's music could have been released in any decade in the past forty years and would sound contemporary. I had a roommate back then who really got me to appreciate The Doors much more than I had - This is the End, Peace Frog, Five to One, When the Music's Over, etc. It's funny how many artists, songs, and new music I've grown to really enjoy because of people who entered and passed through my life.
The mid-90s were also the beginning of my interest in world music. It began with reggae music, specifically, Bob Marley (of course). But, then moved to including Indian music (Ravi Shankar) and Arabic music (Amr Diab - Enta El Waheed). I also enjoyed mood, meditation, and ambient (The Orb) music in the 1990s.
My passion for jazz also began in the 1990s. My first memories are of the jazz joints in Ann Arbor (I think sadly all closed now) - the Bird of Paradise that was on Main Street and the Firefly Club. Mostly classical jazz - trios, quartets, piano-style jazz was played at these places. One of the memorable CDs I owned back then was "The Gentle Side of John Coltraine". I enjoy the slow songs on this album, as I did the entire soundtrack to the movie "Leaving Las Vegas" which included a classic jazz standard performed by Sting, My One and Only Love. If you know the movie, it makes the emotion of the song even stronger.
The first contemporary jazz CDs I recall having were by David Sanborn and Joe Sample.
It was the late 1990s when I discovered the trip-hop genre of music, along with the similar genres of ambient and lounge music, all of which I still really like and listen to a lot today. My favorite artist in this genre is no doubt Esthero. How the song below doesn't get air play, I have no idea. But, I guess that's why I seldom listen to the radio. A lot of my favorite music in this genre is a fusion of slow electronic, jazz, funk, hip-hop, house, and soul. Others I like a lot include: Massive Attack, Portishead, DJ Shadow, Nine Inch Nails, Res, and Tricky. This genre influenced songs by a few pop artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson as well.
However, the most significant influence the 1990s had on me was my deep dive into R&B and Soul music. I spent countless hours, days, months, and years learning about and enjoying R&B music. First, classic R&B from the 60s and 70s - the Isley Brothers (Between the Sheets), James Brown (The Payback), Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield (We People Who Are Darker Than Blue), Roy Ayers (Everybody Loves The Sunshine), Stevie Wonder (Do I Do, Rocket Love), William DeVaughn (Be Thankful For What You Got), War (Slippin into Darkness, Lowrider), Marvin Gaye (Mercy Mercy Me), Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, Billy Paul, Chaka Kahn, The Temptations (Papa Was A Rolling Stone), The Floaters (Float On), Donny Hathaway (I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know), Bill Withers, The Dramatics, Al Green, The O'Jays (For the Love of Money), Lou Rawls, Al Wilson, Sam Cooke (A Change Is Going Come), etc. I think the song "A Song For You" by Donny is in my top 5 of the most amazing, beautiful, heartfelt, soulful songs I've ever heard. Another song that blows me away in the emotion it is sung with is How Long Has This Been Going On?" by Ray Charles performed here in Japan on July 25, 1986 -- wow! To this day, this would be the one genre of music I would chose if I could only listen to one from that day forward.
Then, there's the 80s and 90s R&B that I like equally as well. Luther Vandross (A House Is Not A Home), James Ingram, Michael McDonald, Kool and the Gang (Summertime), Chante Moore (every song on Love Sumpreme album!), Eric Benet, Roger and Zapp, Rahsaan Patterson, Blackstreet (Before I Let You Go), Ev Vogue, R Kelly, Midnight Star, Zhane, Bobby Caldwell (a classic blue eyed soul man), Bobby Brown, Jodeci, Keith Sweat, Anita Baker (Whatever It Takes is my favorite song), Mary J (My Life - always reminds me of Mack Ave on the East Side of Detroit for some reason; and obviously a great sample of Roy Ayers), Debarge (You Were It Well, I Like It), Blackstreet, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, Jody Watley, Pebbles, TLC, Color Me Badd, Lakeside, The Gap Band, Zhane, Janet Jackson, SWV, Toni Braxton, Rick James and the Mary Jane Girls (Moonchild, Fire and Desire, Starship, Mary Jane, Ghetto Life, All Night Long), Teena Marie (Casanova Brown, Portuguese Love), Whitney, Frankie Beverly and Maze (Happy Feelings), George Benson (The Masquerade, Turn Your Love Around), Teddy Pendagrass (Love TKO, Wake Up Everybody, Feel the Fire), James Ingram, Michael McDonald, Cameo, After 7, Dennis Edwards (Don't Look Any Further), Glenn Jones, SOS Band, Prince, Morris Day and The Time, Billy Ocean, Jeffrey Osborne, Sheena Easton, Apollonia, Vanity 6, Cherrelle, etc.
Then, there was the neo-soul revolution, which was awesome! Maxwell, India Arie, Erykah Nadu, Lauryn Hill, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Raphael Saadiq, Musiq, Bilal, Vivian Green, Kindred the Family Soul, Angie Stone, Floetry, Anthony Hamilton, Dwele, Me'shell Ndeg'ecello, Alicia Keys, Amel Larrieux, Les Nubians, Leela James. A lot of this genre is real smoooth, which is why I like it so much.
And then, of course, there was the next evolution of hip-hop and rap. It started for me with the likes of Grand Master Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, the Sugarhill Gang, Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Whodini, Rob Base, and Kool DJ Herc. In the 1990s, I continued to explore old-school rap in addition to picking up some new favorites. Of course, this was the era of 'gangsta rap'. I had albums from Ice-T, Ice-Cube, Erik B and Rakim (Paid in Full), EPMD (Please Listen To My Demo), Notorious BIG, Dre, Tupac, De La Soul, Salt-n-Pepa, Mos Def, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Guru and Gang Starr, Jay-Z, Nate Dog, Warren G, Snoop Dogg, Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill, DMX, Mobb Deep, Lil Kim, MC Lyte, Foxy Brown, Puffy, Digable Planets.
There was another movement in music that I enjoyed a great deal and that was the fusion of hip-hop and jazz. I listened to the Jazzmatazz album by Guru more times than I count driving back and forth living and working in downtown Detroit in the 90s.
I would be remiss if I didn't mentioned the movies in the 1980s and 1990s that had soundtracks that added to my love of music. Vision Quest (Journey, Lunatic Fringe), Valley Girl (A Million Miles Away by the Plimsouls, Eyes of a Stranger by the Payolas, I Melt With You by Modern English, Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant, Love My Way by The Psychedelic Furs), Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Bodyguard, Love and Basketball, Natural Born Killers (Sweet Jane by the Cowboy Junkies, Leonard Cohen), New Jack City (Ice-T, Color Me Badd, Johnny Gill), He Got Game (Chuck D), Above the Rim (Regulate by Nate Dogg and Warren G), Beverly Hills Cop, Do the Right Thing (Fight the Power by Public Enemy), Fame, and of course, Purple Rain!
Honestly, the 2000's aren't as memorable to me as the decades before. New songs and artists I find I like exist, but are far fewer. A few would be: Robin Thicke's Lost Without You, Happy by Pharrell Williams, Amy Winehouse (You Sent Me Flying), The White Stripes (Icky Thump, Jolene), 50 cent (In Da Club), Eminem (Lose Yourself), Jay Z & Alicia Keys (Empire State Of Mind), Mary J (Love No Limit, My Love), Jill Scott (He Loves Me, Golden), Aaliyah (Rock The Boat), Alicia Keys (A Woman’s Worth, Fallin), Vivian Green (Emotional Rollercoaster), Amerie (Why Don’t We Fall In Love), Madonna (Music), Shinedown (Simple Man).
I'd say it was sometime in the 2000s that I came to list more Disco music as well. Disco played an important role in the fusion and evolution of electronic, house, funk, dance, and hip-hop music, as well as DJs and the influence of independent labels. Boogie Oogie Oogie by A Taste of Honey, I Love The Nightlife by Alica Bridges, Copacabana by Barry Manilow, Got To Be Real by Cherly Lynn, Disco Inferno (Burn Baby Burn) by The Tramps, Brickhouse by Commodores, Disco Nights by GQ, Last Night a DJ Saved my Life by Indeep, Good Times and Le Freak by Chic, He's The Greatest Dancer and We Are Family by Sister Sledge, That's The Way I Like It by KC & The Sunshine Band, Dim All the Lights and Love To Love You Baby by Donna Summers, Shadow Dancing, More Than A Woman, How Deep is Your Live, Emotions, I Just Want To Be Your Everything by Bee Gees & Andy Gibbs.
Take Back the Night, released in 2013 by Justin Timberlake is said to be a reinvention of disco with a Michael Jackson influence. Suit & Tie by Justin is another great song.