Mervin Malone
This is a place — a BLOG, if you will — about music, film, culture, the arts and whatever else co-exists and generates popular culture. Enjoy!

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Sunday, May 14, 2006
Review: Amel Larrieux Morning

Singer/songwriter Amel Larrieux returns with another winning collection of jazzy and spiritually affecting songs. The third release from the artsy songbird, Morning continues Larrieux's spontaneous impulses. As devoted fans of Amel Larrieux can attest to (based largely on her previous full-lengths, Infinite Possibilities and Bravebird) she is like the proverbial bolt of lightning – she never strikes twice in the same place. Sure, there are certain ever-present characteristics to Larrieux's music: hypnotic vocals; complex (but accessible) songwriting; jazzy sonic textures; brilliant multi-tracking technics — it's Larrieux's approach album-making that sets her above her peers (which are rarely on par with her aesthetically). Morning continues Larrieux's brilliant track record.

The album opens with the uptempo "Trouble", followed by the deep, loungy "Unanswered Question". The atmospheric vibe continues thoughout with songs like "Gills and Tails", "Earn My Affections" and "Mountain of When". A diverse album, Morning offsets uptempo jazz tunes  like  "Weary" and "Magic" with ambient soul tracks like "No One Else" and the title track. Morning is a definite must for fans of soul, progressive soul, experimental jazz and nu jazz.


Posted at 04:29 pm by Mervin Malone
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Mervin's 13 Questions with Craig Christensen, aka Craig C.!

Aria is pleased to welcome house music and dance culture icon, Craig C.

 

Well, let's start with you…

 

You were born in Denver, Colorado and musically tempered on everything from Motown to disco to jazz to Rock.

 

1. Was dance music a natural progression and/or arrival for you?

 

I've always been into music. When I was a little kid, I would sit on my mom's lap in front of the record player and we would sing along to everything, from rock to disco records. As I got older, I started to buy my own albums; I remember getting the first Wham album and playing "Club Tropicana" and "Wham Rap" over and over. After that I started getting 12" singles and at about 14, I would go over to my friend Rich's house where he started to show me how to DJ. So I guess you could say it was going to happen even from the beginning. 

 

Continuing in that vein (and since your influences are so varied)….

 

2. What full-length recordings – of any genre – did you regard as fundamental to your musical growth?

 

This is going to sound like a cop out, but there really are so many. Everything from classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Steely Dan – newer bands like the Refused and the Infadels; Motown for sure; classic soul like Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, and Al Wilson and new artists like Heather Headley, Me'Shell NdegιOcello and Mary J.; Pop artists like Depeche Mode and Kylie Minogue to Riton and the Sugar Babes. Jazz artists from Miles and Duke to the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra and Kenny Garrett. There are tons!!! It's amazing how much good stuff is out there!

 

3. What dance recording(s) – album or single – do you regard as absolutely essential to this day?

 

Holy crap! This bit could go on forever. All I can say is that from the '60s to now, there are so many friggin' good dance records! I want to try and narrow it down but I couldn't even begin to say what my top five, ten, twenty – are! Looking at what I've been listening to lately though, I'll have to say the top 5 at the moment are – in no particular order:

 
1. The Nolans - "Chemistry"
2. X-Press 2 - "Music Express"
3. The Reynolds Girls - I'd Rather Jack"
4. Gladys Knight - "Love Is Always On My Mind" 
5. Ann Consuelo - "See the Day"

 

But like I said – that doesn't even put a dent in the dance records that are essential!

 

Your groundbreaking musical partnership with DJ Dealer – the much-revered Pound Boys production and remixing team – yielded very superb remix work. Most impressive was the grasp of soul demonstrated by the two of you on remixes for Musiq's  "Don't Change", Mary J. Blige's "Your Child"  and – most significantly – Angie Stone's "Wish I Didn't Miss You".

 

4.  What are some of your favorite remixes from the Pound Boys' time period?

 

I'll pick 3 but there are a few of these:

 

The mix of "Against all odds" for Mariah is one of my faves; for some reason the simple musical changes on that one really work for me.

 

Angie Stone's "Wish I didn't..." is another one – I think that's because I went to her concert that night and when she did that song the whole place went mad! The inspiration for the hook came from her show. At the point where she says "...All You  Wanna do is smoke chronic...", the band dropped out and the entire crowd sang that bit with her. It stuck in my head and I went back to the studio; 4 hours later, the mix was done.

 

The third is Tamia's "Stranger In My House"; the vocal on that is a drag moment no one can resist! Her vocal is perfect, so when it came time to do the music, it all fell into place. Still, when I listen to the mix and it gets to the point where it goes up a half step, I think... ya, that one came out right!

 

While we're on the Pound Boys – something to always be pondered when interviewing a great musician like you is the notion of unreleased work. Every great musician in the history of music – both popular and otherwise – has had unreleased works some of which have went on to be widely bootlegged (a la Nina Simone)…

 

There are a few unreleased things out there. The Angie Stone was a bootleg first and there was a mix of "Bourgie Bourgie" by Gladys Knight that never got an official release. There was a point where even things we were doing for small/indie labels were getting released before the label had a chance to put them out, but if you don't have the Angie Stone or the Gladys Knight – those are the two I'd say to look for.

 

5. Are there anymore remixes you made as part of the Pound Boys that weren't officially released that you feel are worth searching for?

 

Looks like I jumped ahead of myself there. The Angie and the Gladys, as I said, are two worth looking for but there are a couple of others. A thing that was supposed to come out on Yelloworange called "Happy" – Yvonne Brown has got some pipes on her! The other one I'd suggest is Don Ray's "Standing in the Rain" – that song is perfect anyway, but we beefed it up a little bit and did an edit on it.

 

You recently completed a single with Jimmy Sommerville – "Born This Way" – a cover of the seminal Carl Bean single – for an upcoming film, "Another Gay Movie". Sommerville is electro-pop royalty.

 

6. What was it like working with the venerable Sommerville?

 

Jimmy is one of the coolest guys you'll ever meet. When the option to record "Born This Way" came up and I was asked if I thought Jimmy could be sorted out for the project, I couldn't think of a better man for the job. I was a little starstruck when I first talked to him on the phone and I was thrilled when he agreed to do it! When I finally met him, he was so cool and laid back, but he's got the greatest sense of humor! When we got to the session, I had 5 hours scheduled for recording; he had it done – background vocals and all – in an hour. If you ever get the chance to work or hang out with Jimmy, do it!

 

7. Who would you like to work with in the future?

 

Oh geez, this is another one of those million answer questions. There are, again, so many people that I want to work with still. Erm...egh...the first person that comes to mind is Siouxsie Sioux – from "Love In a Void" to "Peek-A-Boo", she's got it goin' on!

 

Your production work is every bit as stunning as your remixes.

 

Thank you.

 

8. Do you have any plans to record a full-length album of your own material sometime in the future?

 

Ya, just started work on it. I think it will be more broad than just dance, but there will be some four-to-the-floor for sure.

 

You're really in-demand these days. You've done popular remixes for Ultra Natι ("Free"), Jody Watley ("Looking For a New Love 05") – your remix of Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" is immensely popular.  Further showcasing your brilliance are upcoming remixes for the likes Diana Ross and N'Dea Davenport.

 

This is a relative question and measured in many different ways….

 

9. In terms of achievement – would you say that you've arrived as a musician?

 

I'll say that I think my work gets better with time. I've done things I'm really proud of and some others that I think I missed the plot on a bit. I think it's a work in progress. I guess as long as I like what I'm doing and I feel good about what I'm putting out then that's good for me.

 

I may be behind the grain on this one, but…

 

10. Is your remix of Madonna's "Jump" going to be released commercially? 

 

We'll see. I did the mix of the song because when I heard "Jump" on the album, it got me instantly. Her people have it, so...

 

You produced a single for Ultra Natι titled, "Spinning", which is to be featured on her upcoming album.

 

11. Do you produce anymore tracks for the album?

 

This is the only song I'm doing with her for the album. I'm really glad I got to do it. The song, "Spinning" is a little edgier than some of the other stuff I've done so I was happy when she was into it. I can't wait to work with her some more. Ultra, if you're out there, let's do something again!

12. What are you listening to these days?

I sound like a broken record but again, there is a ton of good s#*t out there!!! The one album I'll have to say that has – and still – blows my mind is Homies and Homos by Riton; it's the perfect blend of electronic, rock and pop. This one is a must have!

 

13. What's next for Craig C.?

There are some new singles coming – a single and a remix for an artist, Chris Willis; a new Crystal Waters; NYC's own Dazzle Dancers; Rashaan Houston – Siobhan Fahey; Jody Watley and maybe – just maybe – Sioxsie Sioux.

Big ups to Peace Bisquit!!

You can visit Craig Christensen at his official site,  www.craigcmusic.com, or on MySpace at www.myspace.com/craigcmusic.


Posted at 12:43 pm by Mervin Malone
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