‘Tearing At The Seams’ Is A Positive Sign For Rateliff & Co.’s Future

Courtesy: Stax Records

Three years ago when Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats released its self-titled debut album, that opening effort – released via Stax/Concord – from the Denver-based outfit was received to rather positive reaction.  It reached the top spot on Billboard’s folk charts and peaked at number four on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart. Critics likened the group’s sound to legends the likes of Otis Redding, Van Morrison and others while having plenty of positives to write of the album.  It wasn’t the band’s full-on proverbial A-game.  Even this critic will agree to that, but in the same breath, it was still a strong first effort from the group.  That means expectations were high for the group’s sophomore album.  Enter that album, Tearing at the Seams.  Released early just this past March, Tearing at the Seams lives up to those expectations.  It takes the positives of the group’s debut and builds on them even more to create the end result presented here.  That is evident in part through the songs’ arrangements and the album’s production, which will be discussed shortly.  The songs’ lyrical themes do just as much to make that evident.  They will be discussed a little bit later.  The album’s sequencing also serves to make that evident.  Each element is obviously important in its own right to the whole of this record.  All things considered, they make Tearing at the Seams a solid follow-up to Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats that shows even more promise for this group’s future.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats’ sophomore album Tearing at the Seams is an impressive new effort that is anything but a sophomore slump.  Released March 9 via Stax Records, this 12-song, 47-minute album shows notable growth from the band’s self-titled debut in so many ways, not the least of which is its collective arrangements and production thereof.  The arrangements presented here are works that take listeners back in time once again like opening a musical time capsule left long untouched.  What’s more, they don’t stick to just one influence in their presentation.  Right from the album’s outset, listeners are treated to an arrangement in ‘Shoe Boot’ that are reminiscent of so many great classic soul tunes.  That is thanks to the use of the horns, keyboards and percussion.  They keyboards, guitar and percussion at the center of ‘A Little Honey’ instantly conjures thoughts of Elton John’s classic ‘Benny & The Jets.’  That is meant in the most complimentary fashion possible.  The Otis Redding comparison is there again, too late in the album’s run in ‘Still Out There Running.’  One could even liken the arrangement at the center of ‘Intro’ to great works from James Brown and other similar acts.  At this point, it should be clear how this album’s collective arrangements make evident how this album builds on its predecessor and impresses even more than that record.  In the same vein, the production of the album’s songs does so much to help generate that sound of a musical time capsule being opened for the first time in decades.

The production work behind this album is so notable because of its role in the album’s general effect.  Producer Richard Swift (The Shins, Foxygen) – who also worked with the band on its 2015 self-titled debut – is to be applauded for his work behind the glass once again.  Thanks to his efforts, and those of the band, the arrangements get a sound that is just like something right out of the 1960s and ‘70s.  That is evident in the static/fuzz style touch on so many of the arrangements.  Even in the album’s more rock-oriented arrangements, such as that of ‘A Little Honey,’ ‘Hey Mama’ and the album’s lead single, ‘You Worry Me,’ there’s still a certain sound and feel that makes such works sound like they were lifted from days long gone.  It’s a nice touch to the album’s general effect, and ensures even more listeners’ engagement from start to end.  It’s just one more element that shows how much this album has built on its predecessor, and in turn made it that much more enjoyable than that album.  The songs’ lyrical themes are important to note in their own right, too.

The lyrical themes presented throughout TATS show growth from the band this time out just as much as the album’s arrangements and production because of the topics that are presented and the fashion in which they are presented.  Obviously the standard theme of romantic relationships is there and tackled in various different lyrical fashions.  It is not the only theme presented here, though.  ‘Hey Mama’ seems to delve into personal experiences from one of the band members as it notes, “Hey mama/Why it’s me/Say you better wait, child/Said you’ve been a long time running/Saving a long time money/Hey mama/Answer me/baby boy, you better sit down/Can’t listen when the sun’s out/My only son, this’ll be so hard to hear.”  From here, the song’s subject – seeming to be a parent talking to a child – seems to be telling the other that there is a lot more to learn in life and a lot more to experience than already has been.  This is inferred as the primary subject sings, “You ain’t gone far enough to say/At least I tried/You ain’t worked hard enough to say/Well I’ve done mine/You ain’t run far enough to say/My legs have failed.”  This is a strong statement, especially considering the song’s main subject before launching into this lecture, “She said son, let me reason with you/You think you carry such a weight/I know I never beat you, boy/Better start acting like this here’s a race.”  Simply put, this song comes across lyrically as a parent trying to talk some sense into a child.  It’s a nice change of pace from the more overly familiar material presented here.

The lyrical theme of the album’s title track is another one that seems to break from that standard mold of personal relationships.  What’s interesting here is the manner in which Rateliff has laid out the song, lyrically speaking.  It obviously is not about a romantic relationship.  At the same time, one could argue it comes across as a social commentary of sorts.  This is the case as Rateliff sings, “Wait/Is this a game or am I walking into a snare/Now these lies will spread until we are choking on the innocent/They have half of us tied and half of us in chains/We’re all covering our eyes/And covering our mouths just the same.”  He even notes in the song’s lead verse, “There’s a liar/A liar on the stage with a young child’s eyes/And it happens all wrong/And only half of it’s seen from here.”  He asks in the song’s chorus, “Where’s all the time gone/In separate ways it runs long/A hundred miles built upon us/It’s tearing at the seams of all that’s been/They’re gonna have to drag us away.”  One could argue the mention of the “liar…with a young child’s eyes” could easily be likened a mention of America’s current top politician.  The note of something “tearing at the seams of all that’s been” and “half of us” being “tied and half of us in chains” could just as easily be considered a social commentary of sorts.  This is, of course, only this critic’s take on the song.  It could be entirely incorrect.  Hopefully it is close to being correct.  Either way, the execution of the song’s lyrics itself is certain to have plenty of people talking.  Keeping this in mind, it is just one more way in which the song’s lyrical themes show this album’s growth from the band’s debut.  When it – and the other noted songs – are considered along with the rest of the album’s songs, they show even more how much this album shows the band’s continued growth.  It still is not the last way in which this album shows the band’s growth.  The album’s sequencing also serves to exhibit that growth.

From start to finish, TATS’ sequencing exhibits growth from the band because of its ability to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  The album’s first trio of songs is a group of solid, mid-tempo soulful opuses that vary little in their musical energies.  Even as the album progresses into ‘Say It Louder’ and slows, that pull back is minute at best, ensuring just as much, listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  It isn’t until the album nears its midway point in ‘Hey Mama’ that it really noticeably slows.  That reserved energy couples quite well with its lyrical content, too, ensuring even more that maintained engagement.  Listeners get one more reserved arrangement in ‘Babe I Know’ at the album’s midway point before things finally start to pick back up.  What’s really interesting in this arrangement is that to a point, it easily lends itself to comparisons to works from Bob Dylan thanks to the vocal delivery.  Musically, it sounds like a piece from the late 1950s/early 1960s, which is another change of pace for the band here, and a welcome one at that.  The album’s energy gradually grows again over the course of its next four songs before starting to pull back again to finish off in its last two compositions.  The bigger picture here is that of a record that rises and falls in all of the right places, musically.  That shows great time and thought was put into the album’s sequencing.  That time and thought paid off just as much as the work put into the songs and their arrangements, and of course their lyrical themes.  Keeping that in mind, all three elements show in their own way how much this record has built on the success of the group’s debut to make this one its own success.  All things considered, they make Tearing at the Scenes yet more promise for the future of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ sophomore album Tearing at the Scenes, is another successful offering from the Denver-based group.  That is because over the course of its 12-song, 47-minute run, it shows in so many ways that the band has taken the success of its self-titled debut and built on it so much in this presentation.  This is evident immediately through the album’s songs and their production.  Collectively, these two elements make this album sound like a musical time capsule that has miraculously been delivered to the present from one of music’s greatest eras without ever having been touched.  The lyrical themes presented throughout the record show growth, too, as the band is once again not afraid to stretch its creative wings beyond the standard songs of love gained and lost.  The time and though put into the album’s sequencing shows plenty of growth, too.  That’s because from start to end, the album ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment without worry of listeners skipping any tracks.  Keeping all of this in mind, it is clear that Rateliff and company have grown a lot since releasing the group’s debut three years ago.  The result of that growth is a record that, once again, shows plenty of promise for the band’s future.  Tearing at the Seams is available now in stores and online.  More information on Tearing at the Seams is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

 

 

Website: http://www.nathanielrateliff.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nathanielrateliff

Twitter: http://twitter.com/NRateliff

 

 

 

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‘You Worry Me’ Gives Audiences More Hope Than “Worry” About Rateliff & Co.’s Next Album

Courtesy: Stax Records

Indie rock outfit Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats return this spring with its latest album Tearing at the Seams. In anticipation of its release, the band this week released the album’s lead single ‘You Worry Me,’ This first taste of the group’s upcoming album is a good start for the album’s promotion. That is due in no small part to the song’s musical arrangement, which will be discussed shortly. Its lyrical theme is just as important to its presentation as its musical arrangement, and will be discussed later. Its production rounds out its most important elements, and will also be discussed later. Each element is important in its own right to the song’s whole. All things considered, they make ‘You Worry Me’ a song that gives audiences more hope than worry about Tearing at the Seams.

‘You Worry Me,’ the lead single from Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats’ sophomore full-length studio recording, is a work that gives audiences more hope than worry about the group’s upcoming album. That is due in no small part to the record’s musical arrangement. The song’s musical arrangement is a simple yet catchy and infectious composition that will easily appeal just as much to funk and soul fans as it will to rock fans. A close listen to the song reveals it is driven largely by the group’s rhythm section while Rateliff’s vocal’s and the song’s guitar line rest easily on that foundation to form a composition that will get stuck in any listener’s head. It is just one part of what makes the song such an enjoyable first effort from this album. Its lyrical content is just as important as its musical arrangement.

The lyrical content presented in ‘You Worry Me’ is so interesting because of the discussion that it is certain to generate. Rateliff sings in the song’s lead verse, “I’m alright today/You gonna find a way to cross/And you gonna get there/And I’m on fire today/Ain’t no water here to calm or even put me out/I’ll find a better way/Am I crazy or the wind is gonna blow me down/I’m gonna leave it all out there to dry/I’m gonna leave it all out there/I’m gonna leave it all out there to dry up/I’m gonna leave it all out there.” On the one hand, this verse comes across as the song’s subject saying to another person that said person will be fine despite a given situation. The subject saying, “I’m on fire today/Ain’t no water here to calm or even put me out/I’ll find a better way,” is really left up to interpretation. It could be argued that this is the song’s subject saying, “I’ll find a way to be okay.” That would seem to work in partner with the song’s title. The song’s second verse seems to put some credence in the song’s lead verse as Rateliff sings, “You seem tired today/Were you up all night/Afraid of what the future might bring/I feel fine today/I had dreams of you in places I’ve not seen before/You get so carried away/Like lovers new to bodies first to touch you here/This ain’t a getaway/You build walls around your heart to lock it in/I’m gonna leave it all out there to dry.” Even more here, it seems as though the song’s subject is addressing someone, saying that person is making too much of a given situation or given situations. Yet again, that would seem to work with the song’s title, especially as the song’s subject says to that unnamed person, “I feel fine today/I had dreams of you in places I’ve not seen before.” It’s as if the song’s subject is saying to that person he/she knows that said person will be just fine. What’s interesting about all of this is that when it is set against the backdrop of the song’s musical arrangement, the whole of the two elements wouldn’t seem to work together, but somehow it does. The energy in the song’s musical arrangement seems to send a message along with the lyrics of someone who is just fed up with that other person’s constant worries and woes, throwing up his or her hands in the process. That juxtaposition makes the song stand out even more, showing that much more why it is such a strong first effort from the group’s new album. It still is not the last of the song’s most important elements. The song’s production rounds out its most important elements.

The song’s production stands out because of the subtlety in each of the song’s lines. From the foundation forming keyboards, bass and drums to Rateliff’s vocal delivery and the song’s guitar line, each piece of the whole is expertly balanced with the others. At no point do any of the song’s parts cover the others. The end result is that each line stands out just as well as the others, adding so much more to the song’s impact. That’s the case even in the song’s chorus, which is stronger than the verses in regards to the arrangements. What’s more, the juxtaposition of that musical (and lyrical) declaration to the more subtle vibe in the verses makes the song’s production even stronger. All things considered here, the song’s production allows every member of the band to shine here, showing even more in turn why this song is such a strong first effort from Tearing at the Seams. When it is joined with the song’s musical arrangement and its lyrical content, the whole of those elements shows in full why ‘You Worry Me’ gives audiences more hope than worry about Tearing at the Seams.

‘You Worry Me,’ the lead single from Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ forthcoming sophomore album Tearing at the Seams, is a work that gives audiences more hope than worry about the album. That is thanks to the partnering of its expertly balanced musical arrangement with its equally relatable lyrical theme. The song’s musical arrangement deserves its own credit both for its content and for its production. When the song’s lyrical theme is coupled with that production and the arrangement itself, the whole of the elements makes this song a strong first effort from the band’s new album. It gives audiences, once more, more hope than worry about the album as its release nears. More information on ‘You Worry Me’ is available online along with the latest news about Tearing at the Seams and more at:

Website: http://www.nathanielrateliff.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nathanielrateliff

Twitter: http://twitter.com/NRateliff

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Craft Recordings Announces New Isaac Hayes’ Retrospective Release Date, Specs

Courtesy: Craft Recordings/Concord Music Group/Rhino Entertainment

Craft Recordings, a division of Concord Music Group, is paying tribute to music legend Isaac Hayes with a brand new box set.

The company announced this week that it will release The Spirit of Memphis (1962 – 1976) on Sept. 22.  The four-CD collection presents a number of the songs that made Hayes so popular from his early days up to his days as an international superstar.  Those songs include a number of previously unreleased compositions.

The first of the set’s four discs features a number of Hayes’ most well-known and beloved songs crafted with David Porter while Hayes was a producer and songwriter.  Those songs include Carla Thomas’ ‘B-A-B-Y,’ which was recently featured in the blockbuster movie Baby Driver, and Sam & Dave’s ‘Soul Man,’ which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The set’s second disc focuses on Hayes’ work as a solo artist and includes songs such as ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix,’ ‘Never Can Say Goodbye,’ ‘Do Your Thing’ and the title track from the Shaft soundtrack.

The collection’s third disc is entitled Cover Man and, as it hints, is a collection of some of Hayes’ greatest covers.  Its set list includes Hayes’ take on ‘Windows of the World,’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ ‘I Stand Accused,’ ‘The Ten Commandments of Love’ and other songs.

Jam Master, the fourth of the set’s primary discs, features extended takes and demos of songs from his classic albums.  The most notable of the disc’s jams is a 33-minute take on ‘Do Your Thing’ while the demos include takes on ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and the previously unreleased Shaft soundtrack composition ‘Black Militant’s Place.’

Along with its primary four-disc presentation, the forthcoming box set will also feature a replica 7” vinyl single of Hayes’ very first recordings and a hardcover 60-page book.  The book, which is its own retrospective on Hayes’ career, features pictures from that career and an essay titled Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion by author Robert Gordon.

The book also features interviews with well-known Stax figures Deanie Parker and Jim Stewart and contributions from Floyd Newman, Mickey Gregory, Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame), and compilation producer Joe McEwan.

The Spirit of Memphis (1962 – 1976) is a collaborative effort between Concord Music Group and Rhino Entertainment, and is part of a year-long celebration by Stax Records to celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary.  Pre-orders are open now via Amazon.

The full track listing for The Spirit of Memphis (1962 – 1976) is noted below.

TRACK LISTING:
*Denotes previously unreleased material
DISC ONE
Soul Songwriter, Soul Producer
1. Floyd Newman – Sassy
2. David Porter – Can’t See You When I Want To
3. Carla Thomas – How Do You Quit (Someone You Love)
4. Booker T and the MGs – Boot-leg
5. The Astors – Candy
6. Danny White – Can’t Do Nothing Without You
7. Johnnie Taylor – I Had A Dream
8. Sam & Dave – Hold On! I’m A Comin’
9. Ruby Johnson – I’ll Run Your Hurt Away
10. Carla Thomas – Let Me Be Good To You
11. Mable John – Your Good Thing (Is About To End)
12. Homer Banks – Fighting To Win
13. Carla Thomas – B-A-B-Y
14. William Bell – Never Like This Before
15. The Mad Lads – Patch My Heart
16. Johnnie Taylor – Little Bluebird
17. Charlie Rich – When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
18. Charlie Rich – Love Is After Me
19. Judy Clay – You Can’t Run Away From Your Heart
20. Sam & Dave – Soul Man
21. The Charmels – As Long As I’ve Got You
22. Sam & Dave – I Thank You
23. The Soul Children – The Sweeter He Is (Parts I & II)
24. Billy Eckstine – Stormy
25. David Porter – Can’t See You When I Want To
26. The Emotions – Show Me How
 
DISC TWO
Volt & Enterprise Singles
1. Sir Isaac and The Do-Dads – The Big Dipper
2. Sir Isaac and The Do-Dads – Blue Groove
3. Isaac Hayes – Precious, Precious
4. Isaac Hayes – By The Time I Get To Phoenix
5. Isaac Hayes – The Mistletoe & Me
6. Isaac Hayes – Winter Snow
7. Isaac Hayes – I Stand Accused
8. Isaac Hayes – The Look Of Love
9. Isaac Hayes – Never Can Say Goodbye
10. Isaac Hayes – Theme From “Shaft”
11. Isaac Hayes – Do Your Thing
12. Isaac Hayes – Let’s Stay Together
13. Isaac Hayes and David Porter – Ain’t That Loving You
(For More Reasons Than One)
14. Isaac Hayes and David Porter – Baby I’m-A Want You
15. Isaac Hayes – Theme From “The Men”
16. Isaac Hayes – Rolling Down A Mountainside
17. Isaac Hayes – Joy (Part 1)
18. Isaac Hayes – Wonderful
19. Isaac Hayes – Someone Made You For Me
20. Isaac Hayes – Title Theme (From “Three Tough Guys”)
21. Radio Spot – “You Gotta Have It To Really Be In”
22. Radio Spot – “The Rapper Is Back”
DISC THREE
Cover Man
1. Isaac Hayes – When I Fall In Love
2. Isaac Hayes – Walk On By
3. Isaac Hayes – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
4. Isaac Hayes – Man’s Temptation
5. Isaac Hayes – Never Gonna Give You Up
6. Isaac Hayes – Windows Of The World*
Recorded Live at Operation PUSH Black Expo,
International Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL – October 1, 1972:
7. Isaac Hayes – The Ten Commandments of Love*
8. Isaac Hayes – Just Want To Make Love To You / Rock Me Baby*
9. Isaac Hayes – Stormy Monday*
10. Isaac Hayes – I Stand Accused*
11. Isaac Hayes – If Loving You Is Wrong
12. Isaac Hayes – His Eye Is On The Sparrow
DISC FOUR
Jam Master
1. Isaac Hayes – Ike’s Mood I
2. Isaac Hayes – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy*
3. Isaac Hayes – Black Militant’s Place*
4. Isaac Hayes – Ain’t No Sunshine*
5. Isaac Hayes – Hung Up On My Baby* (Extended Jam)
6. Isaac Hayes – Groove-A-Thon* (Extended Jam)
7. Isaac Hayes – Do Your Thing (Extended Jam)
7″ Single
SIDE A
Laura, We’re On Our Last Go-Round
SIDE B
C.C. Rider

More information on The Spirit of Memphis (1962 – 1976) and other titles from Concord Music Group and Craft Recordings is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/labels/craft-recordings

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ConcordMusicGroup

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ConcordRecords

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Stax Records Re-Issues A Dozen Classic Hayes Albums

Stax Records has reintroduced audiences to the work of one of the music industry’s masters.

The famed label re-issued on Friday 12 classic Isaac Hayes recordings. The records span Hayes’ career from 1969 – 1976.  The albums, including albums, soundtracks and live recordings, were re-mastered entirely from their original analog recordings.  The albums featured in the re-mastered catalogue include: Shaft, Black Moses and Hot buttered Soul.  They area available now in 19/24 and 96/24 hi resolution audio formats.

All 12 re-mastered recordings have been mastered for iTunes and can be found now via Hayes’ new iTunes artist page. Hi-res formats will be available on HD Tracks.

Courtesy: Stax Records

Courtesy: Stax Records

The task of restoring Hayes’ classic recordings was headed by award-winning engineer Dave Cooley (M83, J-Dilla, Madlib) at his Los Angeles, CA-based Elysian Masters studio.  Colley explained what makes the newly restored recordings stand out in a recent interview, saying differences can be heard both on a micro and macro scale.

“Every effort was undertaken to retain both the original production team’s intent, and the most natural and truthful spatial imaging of Isaac’s voice and instrumentation,” Cooley said. “For the first time you can plainly hear details as small as the subtle coloration of variations between the studio original studio setups and tape formulations from album to album. There’s renewed resolution around instruments.  But you can also dive into the zoned-out atmospherics, and listen comfortably for hours as an entire body of work.

The importance of re-working Haye’s songs was not lost on Cooley.  He said he was dedicated to getting each recording right so the next generation of Hayes fans would best be able to understand the importance of Hayes’ work and appreciate his work, too.

“There was an immense pressure to get it right,” Cooley said.  “Having grown up transcribing the very piano licks and grooves that were sampled by such hip hop luminaries as Public Enemy and others, I was well acquainted with Isaac’s legacy as a revolutionary enigma spanning multiple generations.  Remastering the catalog was a call to re-ignite that with even more transparency and a deeper pulse for the next group of listeners.”

Hayes began his career at Stax Records, working with partner David Poter on hits such as Sam & Dave’s ‘Soul Man’ and ‘Hold On! I’m Coming.’  Hayes released his debut solo album, the aptly titled Presenting Isaac Hayes.  Its follow-up, Hot Buttered Soul (1971) was the record that turned him into a star.  Later that same year he released another of his hit albums Black Moses.  He would continue to write and record songs and albums throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.  He also voiced the beloved character Chef for Comedy Central’s hit animated series South Park.

Along with the new digital re-issues of Hayes’ classic albums, Stax is also planning a year-long schedule of re-issues including vinyl re-issues of the same albums and a complete retrospective box set.  More information on Stax Records’ upcoming Isaac Hayes will be announced early in the new year.  The albums schedule for re-issue are noted below.

 

Hot Buttered Soul, 1969

The Isaac Hayes Movement, 1970

…To Be Continued, 1970

Black Moses, 1971

Shaft (Music From The Soundtrack), 1971

Joy, 1973

Live At The Sahara Tahoe,1973

Truck Turner (Original Soundtrack), 1974

Tough Guys (Original Soundtrack), 1974 (already available)

Chocolate Chip, 1975

Groove-A-Thon, 1976

Juicy Fruit (Disco Freak), 1976*only available in MFiT

 

More information on Hayes’ re-issues is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://isaachayes.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IsaacHayes

Twitter: http://twitter.com/IsaacHayes

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Take Me To The River Hits All Of The Right Notes At All Of The Right Times

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Music, it is often said, is the universal language. It is a language that bridges cultures and transcends generations. Even with audiences’ varying tastes music still does more to bring together the world’s people than any politician could ever do. That includes not just American politicians but politicians in general. That has been proven time and again throughout the music industry’s rich history. It has helped make some of America’s best moments even better. It has also helped the country get through some of its most trying times. That ability to get America through its best and worst times shows its immense power. In 2014 director Martin Shore presented audiences with just one example of that power in the documentary Take Me To The River. The roughly hour and a half documentary follows the collaboration of a number of legendary Memphis musicians and modern artists in the creation of a new album that resurrects the songs of said legends. While that presentation lies at the heart of the documentary it is just one aspect of the program’s story. There is far more to the documentary than that process. And thanks to Shout! Factory, audiences will get to see just how much more there is to the story when Take Me To The River will finally be released in stores and online next week. That story is just one part of what makes the documentary worth the watch, too. The music that audiences get to hear throughout the course of the documentary is just as important to the program as its multi-faceted main presentation. Rounding out the documentary’s presentation is its bonus interviews and recording session featuring the recording of ‘Be Like Me’ with The Bar-Kays and rap duo 8Ball and MJG. Each element plays its own important role in the whole of Take Me To The River. Altogether, they make it a documentary that even not being new per se, still hits all the right notes at all the right times from beginning to end even almost two years after its original debut.

Nearly two years after its theatrical debut, director Martin Shore’s music documentary Take Me To The River is finally coming home. Why it took so long for it to finally be released on DVD and Blu-ray is anybody’s guess. Regardless of why it took so long, it can still be said that it is a welcome “new” release for music lovers even if audiences were not lucky enough to see it in its original theatrical release. This is proven primarily through the program’s multi-faceted main story. At the heart of that story is the recording process for an album that was meant to celebrate the relationship between some of Memphis’ most legendary performers and the artists who were influenced by those legends. Audiences will be interested to see the broad spectrum of acts that were influenced by the Memphis music scene of days gone by. On a related note, the respect shared between the two groups exhibited in the recording process is just as impressive. Of course that portion of the program’s main story is just one part of its whole. Along with that story Shore also presents the story of Stax Record, which was based in Memphis and its role in not just the Memphis music scene but in the nation’s history in whole. That story is the real story. Viewers learn about the founding of Stax and how its founding was influenced by the racial tensions of the day. Despite said tensions, it became a refuge of sorts; a place where artists white and black alike could record their music together. And as is revealed in the extended interview with Snoop Dogg and William Bell, it was much more than that. It played just as much of a role in the music industry at the time as it did in the nation’s culture and history. There is even a lesson on the artists that made Stax so great then and still does today as the recording process for the album proceeds. Audiences get to learn about William Bell, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Booker T, Charlie Musselwhite, and a number of other legends of the Memphis music scene. The combined music history lessons and recording documentary that are presented within the main presentation of Take Me To The River show clearly together why the program’s central story is key to its overall presentation.

The multi-faceted story that lies at the center of Take Me To The River shows in itself quite clearly how this documentary hits all the right notes at all the right times. Of course it is just one element within the program’s presentation that proves this argument. The songs that are featured throughout the recording process are just as important to note as the story of the process of their recording. The songs–twelve in all–are classic pieces that have been re-worked with a modern touch. One of the best of the featured songs is ‘Ain’t No Sunshine.’ The song featured Memphis legend Bobby “Blue” Bland teaming up with rapper Yo Gotti for a piece that is one of the recording’s best numbers. Bland’s gentle chorus works with Yo Gotti’s verses and the song’s solid, infectious hip-hop style backbeat to make it a song that gives the classic tune a welcome update. ‘Wish I Had Answered’ is another great number. Audiences will find themselves tapping their feet in time as legendary singer Mavis Staples and North Mississippi All Stars work their magic in this bluesy/gospel hybrid. ‘If I Should Have Bad Luck’ is another impressive and enjoyable song that audiences get to see come to life. Charlie Musselwhite’s vocal delivery and harmonica work are the song’s magic elements. It’s just one more example of how the songs featured in the documentary make it more enjoyable in whole. It’s not the last example of the song’s importance to the documentary either. Any of the recording’s dozen tracks could just as easily be cited as examples of what makes th songs their own important element of the documentary. The songs, when coupled with the documentary’s central story, make even clearer why Take Me To The River hits all the right notes. They still are only a portion of what makes the program such a worthwhile watch. The bonus interviews that are included with the program give it even more interest.

The story at the center of Take Me To The River and the program’s featured songs are both equally important elements in its success. That is because together they tell a deep and engaging story that any music history buff will enjoy. For all of the importance of the program’s story and its featured songs those elements are but a portion of what makes it worth the watch. The bonus interviews that are included with the presentation round out the documentary. Audiences will be interested to learn how Al Bell came to write the hit song ‘I’ll Take You There.’ Even as Mr. Bell doesn’t allow himself to become choked up in telling the story, the same cant’ be said of audiences. That is especially the case as he notes that he “didn’t write the song, but that it wrote through him.” He explains in full depth to narrator/interviewer Terrance Howard (Hustle & Flow, Iron Man, Red Tails) how the violence of the era played a direct role in the song’s creation. That is the extent of what will be told here so as to not ruin the story for others. Needless to say th full story is truly moving and enlightening. On a related note, the interview with Snoop Dogg and William Bell is just as interesting. The pair’s discussion runs th gamut from the serious to the silly throughout. One of the most interesting discussions shared in this interview is the comparison of Stax Records to Motown. Snoop, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, and Bell discuss how Motown wrote songs more for the masses while acts signed to Stax made music more for the people so to speak. They weren’t trying to make money in other words. They just wanted to get their songs out there and share the struggles that everyone felt through their songs. Snoop Dogg’s affirmation of the importance of Stax both to itself and the culture in which it was founded and to the modern hip-hop industry is believable. He really sounds serious about its importance. At a later point in the interview, Bell and Broadus change gears and start talking about DJs and Soul Train of all things. It was completely off th topic. But it was also so natural in the bigger picture of things. And it is hardly the last of th discussions shared between th pair in its interview. There is far more for audiences to take in here. And audiences that purchase the program for themselves will discover just how entertaining and informative those other noted topics are. They will also agree in discovering this that the bonus interviews included alongside the central story of Take Me To The River and its featured songs round out the presentation, making it a presentation in whole that once again hits all the right notes at all of the right times.

Shout! Factory’s new home release of Take Me To The River is a presentation that hits all of the right notes at all of the right times. This is the case even with the documentary having originally debuted in theaters nearly two years ago. That is thanks in large part to its multi-faceted story. The program’s featured songs present their own interesting music history lesson. That lesson and the lesson taught in the program’s central story double up to show clearly why Take Me To The River hits all of the right notes at the right times. The bonus interviews included as part of the documentary’s home release round out the program. The background and bonus information that thy share rounds out the program and shows once and for all that while this documentary may not be new per se, it is still a piece that hits all of the right notes at all of the right times. Take Me To The River will be available next Tuesday, February 5th in stores and online. It can be re-ordered online now direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/documentary/take-me-to-the-river. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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Nathaniel Rateliff And The Nightsweats Surprise In A Big Way With Their Debut LP

Courtesy:  Stax Records

Courtesy: Stax Records

The self-titled debut record from Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats is one of the most intriguing albums to be released so far this year. The Denver-based band’s eleven-song set mixes classic soul and R&B sounds with modern lyrics to make an album that will grow on audiences increasingly with each listen. And with each respective listen, audiences will increasingly agree that this album is in its own way one of the best new albums of 2015. One song that proves that argument is the album’s lead single ‘S.O.B.’ This infectious, up-tempo piece was a perfect choice for a first impression for the band and if the band lives on past its debut album, will most certainly go on to be a fan favorite years down the road. That is the case thanks to both its musical and lyrical content. The album’s opener ‘I Need Never Get Old’ is just as enjoyable of an example of how much this album has to offer listeners. It does so in exactly the same way as the album’s lead single, too. The same can be said of ‘Look It Here.’ The song’s steady 4/4 tempo and its pleading lyrics stand out against so many songs of lost love that one can’t help but note its enjoyment. It’s just one more example of what makes the self-titled debut LP from Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats a solid start for the band. That is not to discount the album’s other songs by any means. Any one of the songs included in this record could be used as examples in their own right. It just so happened that these three are the ones that this critic found served as the album’s best trio of representative tracks. Collectively speaking, all eleven songs (S.O.B. is actually included both in a “clean” version and a regular version making for twelve tracks but eleven songs) come together to complete an album that is one of the year’s best new overall albums.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ self-titled debut album is one of the year’s best new overall albums and one of its most intriguing to be released so far. That is thanks to the mix of soul and r&B influences that flow throughout the record’s eleven songs. Given the Denver-based band is not the first to exhibit such influences in its music. But there is something about the combined talents of the band’s members–Nathaniel Rateliff, Joseph Pope III, Patrick Mese, Luke Mossman, Mark Shusterman, Wesley Watkins, and Andy Wild–and those of the album’s production that make this record feel like it was sent through time direct from music’s golden era. That is made clear in the album’s lead single, ‘S.O.B.’ The infectious, up-tempo pieces instantly conjures thoughts of Little Willie John, The Temptations, and so many others from that era right from the song’s outset. The steady humming and clapping will have listeners do the same along with Rateliffe and company while happily tapping their feet in time, too. Rateliff’s gravelly vocal style makes the song even more enjoyable as he sings, “I’m gonna need someone to help me/I’m gonna need somebody’s hand/I’m gonna need someone to hold me down/I’m gonna need someone to care/I’m gonna writhe and shake my body/I’ll start pulling out my hair/I’m going to cover myself with the ashes of you and nobody’s gonna give a damn.” When one really takes the time to examine this verse (and the song’s second verse) the song really takes on a whole new identity. That is especially considering the driving energy exuded in the song’s verses and even more frantic energy released in the chorus. The combination of that varied energy and the song’s lyrical content leads one to interpret this song less as just an upbeat, radio ready single but something much deeper. Rather, the combination of said elements presents the song as one that presents a subject at the point of revelation, realizing that he (or she) has a problem. It is inferred that said problem is addiction via the song’s chorus in which Rateliff sings “Son of a b****/Give me a drink/Won’t more night/This can’t be me/Son of a b****/If I can’t get clean/I’m gonna drink my life away.” If this is indeed the case–that the song is centered on a person that is battling some personal demons–then the musical content set against such lyrics is an original approach to such a topic. One can almost see this person on the verge of going through withdrawal as he or she sings the noted lyrics. Of course this is all just the interpretation of this critic. Other listeners could easily make their own conclusions in hearing it for themselves. Speaking of which, audiences can hear it for themselves online now via the band’s official website http://www.nathanielrateliff.com. Regardless of the song’s true meaning it can be said that its ability to catch listeners’ ears, hold them from start to finish, and generate so much discussion around its mix of musical and lyrical content shows exactly why it is such a solid first taste of this record and an equally solid example of why the record in whole is one of the year’s best new albums overall.

‘S.O.B.’ shows via its combination of musical and lyrical content why it is such a solid example of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ debut LP has to offer audiences. It is just one example, too. The album’s opener ‘I Need Never Get Old’ is another clear example of what the band’s new album has to offer. That is because even with its equally clear old school soul and r&B influences, it still stands out both musically and lyrically from ‘S.O.B.’ and the rest of the album’s remaining tracks. The use of the horns and drums set against the song’s guitar line harken back to legends such as The Temptations, Ray Charles, and The Four Tops just to name a few. Just as impressive is the fact that Rateliff shows he isn’t just a one trick pony in regards to his vocal style. His delivery here is much smoother yet still has just as much strength as is exhibited in ‘S.O.B.’ All things considered here, the musical content presented in this song shows even more the breadth of the band members’ collective talents and in turn shows even more just how much the band (and the album in whole) has to offer audiences. It’s just one part of the song that makes it so impressive, too. The song’s lyrical content must not be ignored. In regards to its lyrical content, the song comes across as something of an introspective piece that looks back in an almost celebratory fashion of a one-time love. That can be argued as Rateliff sings in the song’s lead verse, “Can we be there/Oh, just think of the time/Thought of love so strange/Said you never knew/While I try my best/To cover our eyes/It’s a common way to blame and hide the truth.” The song’s second verse serves that argument even more as he sings, “Taking our time/ah/Just standing in the rain/Meaning what you said/ah/And mean it to me/All of these lies/oh/And never again/Come on say it now/It’s a game.” It’s as if Rateliff (or his subject) is looking back on a past relationship and rather than being sad about what was, the subject opted to look back with a more positive outlook. That is driven home as he sings in the song’s verse, “I know that some will say it matters but little, babe/But come on and mean it to me/I need it so bad/I needed to try/I need to fail/I needed your love/I’m burning away/I need never get old.” It could be the wrong take but it seems almost like Rateliff’s subject is telling the other person that she(?) kept him young and how much she both meant and means to him. Yet again, this could be wholly off the mark. Though, it can be hoped that it is at least somewhere in the ballpark. If it is at least close, then it can be said that it is a rarely taken approach to such a subject. And in turn such approach makes the song all the more enjoyable and that much more of an example as to what Rateliff and company have to offer listeners on their new album. It is not the last example of how much this record has to offer audiences, either. ‘Look It Here,’ which comes late in the album’s sequence is one more strong example of how much this record has to offer audiences.

Both ‘S.O.B.’ and ‘I Need Never Get Old’ are clear examples of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats have to offer audiences on their debut full-length studio recording. While both songs are clear, solid examples of how much it has to offer, there is still at least one more example that can be cited. That example comes late in the album’s sequence in the form of ‘Look It Here.’ This song boasts just as much classic soul and r&b influence as any of the album’s other songs including those previously noted here. What’s really interesting though, is that even with its old school influences, it also boasts a more modern style sound throughout its verses while that old school influence is more evident in the song’s chorus. The song’s steady 4/4 tempo and its pleading lyrics in which Rateliff’s subject sings, “Look it here baby I’m coming out/On my knees begging please/Look it here baby I’m calling out/Crying now hear me, hear me plead” is completely unlike other songs today of its kind, lyrically speaking. It isn’t one of those run-of-the-mill, oh-woe-is-me songs about lost love. Rather the band’s approach here brings about thoughts of James Brown. That is made even more clear as Rateliff sings in the song’s main verse, “I got a love so hard I can’t stand it/And with a heart so weak and abandoned/You’ll have to bury this man/And if that’s what it takes for a love that must be proved/Look it here baby I’m coming out/On my knees beggin’ please yea/Look it here baby there’s no one else/Come on now hear me out.” It would have been so easy for Rateliff and his band mates to take that easy route and make a standard song about lost love. Being that they didn’t, it makes this song stand out proudly as yet another example of what makes the band’s self-titled debut such a strong first effort. Audiences can hear the song for themselves online now via the band’s official website along with ‘S.O.B.’ at http://www.nathanielrateliff.com.

‘S.O.B., ‘I Need Never Get Old,’ and ‘Look It Here’ are all clear and solid examples of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ self-titled debut record has to offer audiences. They are not the only songs included in the record that could be chosen as representatives for the record, either. Any one (or more) of the tracks included in this record could just as easily be used to exemplify just how enjoyable this collection of songs is from start to finish. That being the case, it can be said of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats that this album is one of the year’s most intriguing albums released so far this year as well as one of the year’s best new albums overall. It is available now in stores and online. Rateliff and company are currently touring in support of their new album and have a pair of dates scheduled in North Carolina on Tuesday and Wednesday November 10th and 11th in Carrboro and Asheville respectively. More information on the band’s debut album is available online now along with its current tour schedule and all of its latest news at:

Website: http://www.nathanielrateliff.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nathanielrateliff

Twitter: http://twitter.com/NRateliff

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Harpers’ New LP Will Take Listeners Back To Their Own Childhood Home

Courtesy:  Stax/Concord Music Group/Prestige Folklore

Courtesy: Stax/Concord Music Group/Prestige Folklore

Childhood Home, the new album from Grammy award-winning musician Ben Harper and his mother Ellen, has easily made a place for itself on this critic’s list of the year’s best new albums. The ten track album is comprised of entirely new material written by both the elder and younger Harper. And being that it was released only days before Mother’s Day only serves to make it an even more touching album. The album speaks volumes of the lives of both Ben and his mother, both of whose music is rooted deeply in the world of folk and roots music. Harper has shown those roots numerous times over the course of his career. However, nowhere have those roots been so clear than on this beautiful collection of songs. The album proves its value right off the top with the Harpers singing of what really makes a home in the aptly titled ‘A House is a Home.’ The elder Harper, who wrote four of the album’s songs offers another of the album’s best moments in the lightly bluegrass influenced ‘Farmer’s Daughter.’ The whole thing closes with what is one of the most powerful and moving pieces in ‘How Could We Not Believe.’ The depth of the piece is certain to leave not a single eye dry after hearing it. Having heard it along with the album’s other songs, any listener will agree that Childhood Home more than deserves to have a place on any critic’s list of the year’s best new albums.

Ben and Ellen Harper open their stunning new collection of songs with an opus that is just as certain to leave listeners teary-eyed as the album’s closer. That song is the gentle ‘A House is a Home.’ The song emphasizes that no matter what a person’s house looks like, a house is still a home. It is a home because of the memories that it creates. The duo makes this clear as it sings, “A house is a home/Even when there’s ghosts/Even when you gotta run/From the ones you love the most/Screen door’s broken/Paint’s peelin’ from the wood/Locals whisper/When they gonna leave the neighborhood?/A house is a home/even when we’ve up and gone/Even when you’re there alone/A house/A house/Is a home.” The mother and son duo continue crafting such a vivid picture to which so many listeners can relate singing of chores left undone, life getting in the way as families are built, etc. They emphasize that through it all, a house is still a home. It is made a home through everything noted. The gentle strains of the guitar set against the even gentler backing percussion, and the Harpers’ vocal harmonies come together to paint a picture that will leave smiles on any listeners’ faces and tears in their eyes. Not tears of sadness, but of joy at remembering their own childhood homes. It is the perfect opener for this album. And the perfection continues throughout the album, too. This is evident even halfway through the album in what had to have been one of the pieces penned by Ellen Harper, ‘Farmer’s Daughter.’

‘Farmer’s Daughter’ is another example of what makes Childhood Home such a stunning work from Ben and Ellen Harper. It is such a wonderful example of what makes this album great because it shows the album’s versatility. Where the album’s opener was full on folk, this song is more rooted in an Appalachian/Bluegrass vibe. Ellen sings about growing up on a farm as a girl and the pain of her family losing the farm. Considering the song’s lyrical content, one would have thought the song to have a more subdued musical sound. But that’s not the case, interestingly enough. Mrs. Harper recalls in her song, “My daddy is a father/That makes me a farmer’s daughter/It’s no joke/We’re always broke/We live on dirt and water/We can’t live on dirt and water.” She goes on to sing about her family’s farm not even belonging to them and how the bank eventually forecloses on the farm. She sings, “Jesse James/He robbed the banks/Shot that boy to death/Now the banks are robbing us/We got nothing left.”   Along the way, she sings about the impact that these stresses had on her family. One of her sisters even left to strike out on her own. The song itself is quite the powerful statement. Again, the more powerful statement is the song’s less than stereotypical musical backing to those words. There is a certain tension in the music that heightens the emotion in Mrs. Harper’s lyrics. And it definitely helps translate the message to listeners. It is a far better choice for the song than what could have been used. It’s one more example of what makes this record such a joy, whether or not one is familiar with the work of Ben Harper or even his mother.

Ben and Ellen Harper present a vast sea of emotional depth throughout the course of the songs on Childhood Home. That depth comes courtesy of both the songs’ lyrics and music together. The album’s closer is the finishing touch on that exhibition. As with the nine songs that precede this song, the very first thing that will pull in listeners on this song is its simplicity. It is just the Harpers singing. Their vocals are backed by an equally simple percussion section. There is a shaker and what sounds like a Cajon Drum. The younger Harper and his mother sing about what would seem to be their religious beliefs. They sing, “So beautiful we had to stand aside/So beautiful we had to stand aside/We had to stand aside/With our arms open wide/So beautiful we had to stand aside/So beautiful we had to close our eyes/So beautiful we had to close our eyes/And listen to those sounds/It could be heard miles around/So beautiful we had to close our eyes.” Ben Harper alone has always had a knack for crafting songs that could tug at the deepest depths of the human soul. Alongside his mother, the duo’s harmonies in this song will tug at those depths like never before. When taken in as part of the whole that is Childhood Home, this song will most certainly leave not a single dry eye among listeners. Any listener not left even slightly teary-eyed after taking in this closer simply isn’t human. For that matter, anyone not left moved after hearing this song and the songs that precede it isn’t human. It is a beautiful work that boasts so much depth both musically and lyrically. That depth from the songs’ music and lyrics together makes Childhood Home one of this critic’s favorite new albums overall of 2014.

Childhood Home is available now in stores and online. Ben Harper is currently touring in support of Childhood Home. He is currently winding down the European leg of his tour in support of the album and will kick off the North American leg of his tour May 31st in Claremont, California. Fans can find out when Ben Harper will come to their town and keep up with the latest news from Ben Harper online now at http://www.facebook.com/benharper and http://www.benharper.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.