Mumford and Sons are barely 5 years old and it wasn’t that long ago they were still a pub band in the UK. Fast forward to now however, and they are headlining every major music festival, selling out arenas all over the world, have performed on the Grammy’s with Bob Dylan, and just performed the State Dinner at the White House. Not too shabby right? As you know, I am a big fan of this band, I dig the music, but what is truly incredible is how fast their star has risen. They are all relatively young dudes in their early twenties who have accomplished more than most bands have after 15 years in the business, and all on the strength of 1 album! I’ll talk about the ups and downs of that quick fame with Mumford & Sons: In Sixty, Thursday March 29th, 9pm ET.
Picture being in a folk/rock band and in your early 20’s; things have been going extremely well and in a short amount of time you have become so successful that you are nominated for a couple Grammy awards, and find out you have been invited to perform on the big show. In all that excitement, the only thing you have been told is that you will be performing with a “music legend” and are left to simmer on that for a little while. Then a week before the show you, and your folk/rock band, are told the music legend you are performing with is one of your musical heroes. This is the life of Mumford and Sons, this is the music legend they performed with. Listen to Mumford & Sons relive their Bob Dylan Grammy moment when I chat with them In Sixty, March 29th, 9pm ET.
Over their 25 year career, The Roots have released 14 albums, have always been critically acclaimed, musicians love them, and from the beginning were considered by most as a great live act. But Questlove says it took getting the gig as house band for Jimmy Fallon in 2009 for them to really start functioning like a band. Up until getting that gig, The Roots NEVER rehearsed, and the Fallon job forced them to practice together everyday. Questlove says at first, the 8 members were stuck in a tiny room and forced to practice, he said it was completely awkward and almost felt like they didn’t know how to be a band. Imagine what they could’ve accomplished if only they had practiced…..
In 1977 the landscape of R&B was defined by some of the biggest names in music: Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Commodores, Barry White, Stevie Wonder. But one of the biggest R&B hits from that year came from a group you may not have heard of called the Floaters. The tune Float On spent 6 weeks at #1 in the US and it also hit # 1 in the UK. For all the Fresh Prince of Bell Air geeks out there (or am I the only one?) in the episode when Jazz gets married to Jewel, this is the song that played them down the aisle. Remember??? Anyone?
Most successful bands eventually find themselves wanting to get back to the feeling of what it was like to make music as a new band, when the only thing that mattered was making music. Ironically, it’s the fame and success that musicians seek that often times becomes their musical crutch. Some of the best music out there, is by those bands who are new, and are not so far away from their beginnings to remember why they started making music in the first place. That being said let me please introduce you to: Poor Young Things. This is a great tune.
Philadelphia hip-hop legends The Roots are widely known for being one of the most entertaining live acts around. From elaborate, 20 minute-long extended renditions of their biggest hits like You Got Me and The Seed 2.0 to their playful back-and-forth antics with the audience (and each other) on stage, no two concerts from The Roots are quite the same. They set a ridiculous precedent of high-voltage energy at the beginning of every show that seems impossible to maintain, let alone exceed, but that is exactly what the crew manages to do. Their recent set at the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest was no exception.
Despite the exhausting summer heat, the seemingly endless travel between tour stops and the stress of performing live night after night, Questlove seemed to be anything but tired as The Legendary Roots Crew wrapped up their set, which included tributes to Fela Kuti, Guns and Roses, Ozzy Osbourne and more. We were chatting with guitarist Captain Kirk when the iconic percussionist popped up behind us and took over the show (and our microphone):
Then he tried to put Matt Wells in a porta-potty (a women’s one, in fact):
Then he gave us some amazing insight into what led the band to first sign with Geffen Records, how the hip-hop landscape has evolved over time and how they have progressed as a band thanks to their role on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Quest told us that getting the gig as the house band on Late Night forced them to do something they hadn’t really done before: practice. Yeah. You read that right. They’ve been this good for that long without really practicing. Because that’s normal.
Watch for our summer festival special coming soon to see footage from our chat with Questlove and more. But for now, catch The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon weekdays at 10ET/7PT on MuchMore and indulge your tympanic membranes (that’s a fancy word for ear drums, use it to sound smart at parties) with one of their most classic tracks with The Seed.
By Sarah Dawley
No Mercy-The Stranglers (1984)
The Stranglers became part of the emerging 1970’s UK punk scene but they were never really strictly a punk band. As the years since punk hit the masses it has been defined a million times over and become part of the corporate landscape so much so that the original vibe of that music/time/feeling/climate has long been forgotten, however, in simple terms, when it first started to make noise all it really had to do in order to spit at people and be considered punk was: be loud, angry, fighting against something and all you really needed was to know how to play 3 chords…..so in those simple requirements, The Stranglers really didn’t fit because they were musical and all could play the shit out of their instruments. However, part of the punk scene they were lumped nonetheless and even played the first Ramones London gig in 1976. There was no doubt that their behavior fit with the punk scene as they gained a reputation for trashing dressing rooms and telling off audiences but one of my favorite Stranglers stories is when the BBC reluctantly booked them for Top of the Pops and instead of trashing the dressing room the band rounded up cleaning supplies and a vacuum and left the place cleaner than when they had arrived. Never quite a household name in North America, however, over the past 30 years the band has scored more that 20 top 40 UK hits and I’m pretty sure you’d recognize their tune “Golden Brown” that was used in the movie Snatch. One of my favorite Stranglers tracks is from their 1985 album “Aural Sculpture”: No Mercy.
9th Wonder-Digable Planets (1995)
Before The Digable Planets had a hit with the track “Rebirth of Slick” from their debut album “Reachin” in 1993, they were literally broke. Having to take the dollar bus from The Port Authority in NY to New Jersey everyday to hit the studio while at the same time apply for any job they could find to keep food on the table; the group makes a pretty strong case for the old music biz theory that “it only takes one song”. “Rebirth of Slick” was “that one” of many excellent tracks from the first album but “that one” managed to break the band fast and before they knew it, the Digable Planets went from not knowing how to pay their rent to being flown out to LA to do the show “In Living Color” which snowballed into a top 20 hit and a Grammy for best New Group. “Rebirth of Slick” is one of those songs that everyone has heard, if not back in the day then in a movie or most recently in Tide commercial. However, the success that caught the 3 members of The Digable Plants so off guard also led to their early dismantling when their 2nd album didn’t have the same mainstream success which directly led to the typical lack of support from a label who now had invested money into a group (who just had a huge hit) and that group wasn’t recouping the label’s investment fast enough. The pressure and tension of the business led to personal pressure and tension which led to the end of the band. The quick emergence and just as fast exit of this group, with the exception of “that one song” has kept them still a very much underground loved hip hop band on the topic of their records which haven’t gotten their due in the shadow of a Gold single and quick breakup. That 2nd album, Blowout Comb, was and still is one of my favorites and was the last we heard of The Digbale Planets until they made a lot of people happy in 2005 when they reunited for a world tour.
You Got Me-The Roots f/ Erykah Badu and Eve (1999)
Your homework this week, go listen to the Roots. What else can I possibly say?
Here’s an interesting story behind their Grammy winning duet “You Got Me” with Erykah Badu which was co written by Grammy award winning poet, singer and songwriter Jill Scott. Jill actually sang on the original version of the tune and this was the version that was supposed to appear on the 1999 Roots album “Things Fall Apart” but the Roots record company at the time (MCA Records) insisted they needed a higher profile name for the lead off single…… Erykah Badu got the call. Don’t get me wrong, Erykah Badu is wonder woman and a duet between her and The Roots is music worth drooling over but it does suck more than a little bit that an artist like Jill Scott couldn’t get the exposure she most certainly deserves because of a marketing decision. You can however check out the Roots performing “You Got Me” with both women in the film “Dave Chappell’s Block Party”. Another side note, Eve appears in the 2nd verse of this tune but because she’s not in the video she generally doesn’t get credited with the appearance.
A Little Love-Meaghan Smith (2008)
Sometimes the soundtrack of a movie is so good that it helps the movie and this is exactly what happened with the 2009 flick “500 Days of Summer”. The track listing was stacked with tunes from Simon and Garfunkel, The Smiths, Black Lips, Wolfmother, Feist, Hall and Oates and Regina Spektor; all names that you have heard of before I’m sure. There is one name that sticks out on the list however and that is of a Halifax singer Songwriter named Meaghan Smith who covered the Pixies tune “Here Comes your Man” (youtube it because she did a kick ass job). But let’s talk about her own original creations; she has just been nominated for best new artist at the Juno’s for her music, you can admire the animation she helps create in her music videos or check out her website and see some of her paintings that have been selling faster than Justin Bieber calendars. www.meaghansmith.com
Breaking the Chains of Love- Fitz & The Tantrums (2010)
I am a Paul Simon junkie, happy to admit as much, and up to this point he has appeared twice in the short life of Matt Tracks (“One Trick Pony” and “Getting Ready for Christmas Day”); the ONLY music to appear more than once….until now. LA based soul and funk band Fitz and the Tantrums has become the only other music that has tickled my ears so much that I had to have them back. Go check out their album “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” to cure what ails you.
Thanks for listening,
Posted: February 14th, 2011 | Category: Matt Tracks, Uncategorized | Comments: No Comments
Tags: Digable Planets, Erykah Badu, Eve, Fitz and the Tantrums, Meaghan Smith, The Pixies, the roots, The Stranglers
Mean Machine - Sugar Ray (1995)
I have a strange relationship with Sugar Ray. In 1997 they released the album “Floored” which contained a song called “Fly” that turned them into instant radio stars. None of the other songs on that album sounded remotely close to “Fly” so there were no other radio hits, but in 1999 they released an album with the cheeky title “14:59” which not only was a clever poke at their 15 minutes of fame not quite being up, it also gave them four more radio hits. Since that time however, they have not had anywhere near the same success and we have mostly only heard about singer Mark McGrath who did a God awful duet with Shania Twain called “Party for Two”,and has become a well known TV guy on shows like Extra and now Don’t Forget the Lyrics (a singer in a band turned TV host-how lame!). Here’s my strange relationship with them; I LOVE their first album Lemonade and Brownies which came out in 1995, and my old band used to cover the song “Mean Machine”. We couldn’t believe we were hearing them all over the radio with “Fly”. L&B is a different Sugar Ray, same guys but not the radio Sugar Ray you might remember, and the song Mean Machine is BADASS! We played the shit out of that song and continued to play it well into the Sugar Ray radio era, it became a set list staple for us and I will never forget the day in St. John’s (pre-Fly) that a record store clerk told me that he had to order a batch of the Lemonade and Brownies album because kids were coming in looking for THAT song. Mean Machine is so good that I stand by Sugar Ray, I stand by them despite their style change to appease the radio success, I stand by them despite the Shania Twain duet and the cover of Abracadabra.
“Elvis had fifty but this one’s mine.”-Mean Machine
Brandi Carlile -Turpentine (2007)
TV has become the new radio. It’s not a new revelation, I’m just sayin’. How many artists can we count in the past five years who have been thrust into mainstream consciousness by TV? Apple commercials alone have changed the lives of Feist, Jet, The Fratellis and the The Ting Tings. As for TV shows we don’t have to look far to see what Glee has managed to do, but before that, Dawson’s Creek was an amazing way for Tom Cruise to find a wife and for hungry music fans to find out about new bands. More recently Grey’s Anatomy has become a hit making machine. First Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol was unleashed by Dr. Mcdreamy and back in 2007 Brandi Carlile’s song “The Story” was featured on the show and it BLEW UP, and because of that attention her sales got a push, she made her way to Canada, was interviewed by yours truly and I haven’t stopped listening to her since. When Brandi’s album “The Story” was sent to me in preparation for the interview, I liked it so much I walked out of the office and over to HMV to find her first album. Music is a matter of opinion; it touches us in different ways for different reasons, but there is something about her album “The Story” that is abnormally good. Produced by T-Bone Brunette, this album feels right and sounds right; it’s not just the fact that the songs are good but there is something about the vibe they captured in the studio that does it for me, easily a top 3 album for me in the past 10 years. Start with Turpentine and stop digging if you can.
Ma and Pa - Fishbone (1989)
Ask any artist with a hit record what they want the most and usually it’s respect from their peers.Ask any artist who has earned that respect from their peers what they want…is a hit record. Fishbone had the respect but always remained a cult band and never reached the level of success that they should have. They were and still are a legendary and epic live show that I was fortunate enough to experience in Halifax at the Marquee Club in 2004 (or maybe 2003). In the early days they toured with the Beastie Boys and the Chili Peppers and played the main stage of Lollapalooza in 1993 along with Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains and a side stage Tool, but never reached the heights of those other bands. Maybe it was because they were too different than everything else and nobody knew how to market them but as the “Alternative” music scene in the early 90’s exploded Fishbone remained the favorite band of all the other bands who were selling out arenas. John Cusack seems to wear a Fishbone t-shirt in every film he makes. You’ve seen the logo before and I’m sure now it’s time to listen. The album is Truth and Soul, the track is Ma and Pa. You’re welcome.
Wake up Everybody – John Legend and the Roots featuring Common and Melanie Fiona (2010)
In the mid 90’s a young student at the University of Pennsylvania by the name of John Stephans started listening to the Roots and this year he released an album with them. You might recognize his stage name; John Legend. But let’s go back a little further……
In the early 70’s there was a musical movement known as The Philadelphia Sound. It was soul music, it was funk, it had strings and it was effing brilliant. The legacy is strong and for better or worse it laid the groundwork for disco, but don’t let that stop you from exploring. Jackie Wilson, The Delfonics, The O’Jays and Patti LaBelle are just a few of the artists who were associated with The Philly Sound, but perhaps one of the most popular was Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes who at their peak were fronted by Teddy Pendergrass (who I first heard about when I was 10 years old thanks to Eddie Murphy’s impersonation of him-yes I saw Delirious when I was 10.) The Blue Notes have been name dropped and sampled by everyone from Snoop to Kanye and Jay Z and covered countless times, most recently by John Legend and the Roots on their new collaboration together called “Wake Up”. The album is mostly a collection of classic socially charged R&B songs from the 60’s and 70’s, including the track “Wake up Everybody” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. What I love about this album is that not only does it sound great and stand on it’s own as a new take on some classic songs, but it acts as a porthole back to the music that inspired what we listen to today.
Sick of You – Cake (2010)
If for some reason you need convincing to listen to Cake, allow me: since the mid 90’s they have somehow managed to find a place on radio with a unique kind of sound that, let’s be honest, radio is rarely open to. No matter what the trend in music, no matter what has been appealing or murder to our ears via the airways since 1994, Cake have been there to make sure we never get too bored. You know this band. “The Distance”, “Never There” and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”, which also brought the excellent video of random people listening to the song and commenting on it; “not bad not bad, I like this stuff, how much is it? I’ll but two”. Music aside, check this out; they have built a studio in their hometown of Sacramento where they recorded their new album using 100% Solar Energy and currently make more energy than then use. We will have to wait until 2011 for that new album, but the first new Cake single in 6 years is Sick of You.