Grateful Dead – Hard To Handle (1971)

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As any true Head will tell you, 1971 was a year of transition for the Dead. Though other eras in the band’s 30-year run lend themselves to categorization–the “primal Dead” period from ’67-’70, the tight, spacey jams of ’72-’74, the funk-infused rebound from ’76-’78– 1971 is something of an outlier.

While other famous acts from the 60s had faded away by late ’71 , the Dead culminated a shift in their sound that began in ’69 and accelerated through the acoustic sets of ’70. The frenetic jams of the Acid Test days would never entirely disappear, but by ’71 the band had infused its sets with newer compositions and covers. These tunes often gave way to bluesy meanderings as powerful as they were inchoate.

The band debuted Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” in ’69, kept it in the repertoire through ’71, and revived it on only a few occasions thereafter.

In this version from August 6, 1971, vocalist and former frontman Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s stertorous howling dominates the early minutes of the track. This show would prove to be Pig’s swan song before years of heavy drinking finally caught up to him, forcing him out of the band by mid-’72.

The real highlight of this track, however, is Jerry’s smoldering solo from the 3-minute mark onwards.
Enjoy!

-Tony Baker

D’Angelo – Sugah Daddy (2014)

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Santa may be real after all.

In Questlove’s autobiography, D’Angelo tells Quest that he’s “going dirty,” after the making of Voodoo. D’Angelo took his sweet time, but he got there. He got dirty. You can hear that “drunk” feel in D’Angelo’s guitar playing, which is all over this record. D’angelo is the master of the late J-Dilla’s “quantize-off,” or “drunker than that,” philosophy, which J-Dilla pioneered while programming drums. D’Angelo brought this philosophy to Questlove, and they used it to create that feel for Voodoo, one of the great soul records. On Black Messiah, he brings that feel to the land of Maggot Brain, What’s Going On?, and There’s a Riot Goin On. His guitar lines are perfectly imperfect, rhythmically, just like Questlove’s drumming on Voodoo. He also brings that philosophy to the harmony on the record. The results are beautiful. In a world of programmed drums, guitars, and autotuned vocals, we are lucky to have artists like D’Angelo to re-humanize music. This is part of what made Voodoo so accessible and emotional. The human accessibility is there on Black Messiah, but it’s a little rougher around the edges- more Hendrix than Marvin Gaye. Like his older brother, Voodoo, Black Messiah gets you there. There is in the cracks of the music- the chromaticism of Coltrane, the soundscapes of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the orchestral crescendo in A Day in the Life. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it’s a reason why we love those records and artists. The J-Dilla, human feel is just one subconscious reason why you may love this album. It doesn’t even scratch the surface.

- J. Morrison


Here’s a story of one Clam member’s experience seeing D’Angelo at Bonnaroo ’12. He was a surprise member of Questlove’s Superjam….

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Naughty Professor – Chef’s Revenge (2014)

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“Not sure how this clam slipped through the cracks but check it out. Also, check out their song Chef’s Special – the drummer is insane”
-Ethan Kline

Much like their name, Naughty Professor’s grooves are fat, constantly changing, and sometimes downright funny. The band is anchored in New Orleans and have played on the same stage as band like Galactic, Snarky Puppy, Rebirth Brass Band, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Papadosio, George Porter Jr., The Soul Rebels, and many more. But these guys are not your normal NOLA funk band… you gotta listen carefully for their on-the-dime tempo changes and jolting horn lines. Enjoy.

Listening to Ferguson

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Last week, Questlove of the legendary Roots crew posted a plea on his Instagram page: “I urge and challenge musicians and artists alike to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in…We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones. New De La Roachas. New ideas!”

The events of the past five months, beginning with the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers in Ferguson and Staten Island, have sparked a new era of nation-wide protests against racial inequality. Just as the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s had a soundtrack to accompany it and sustain it, so too does this new movement need chants and anthems befitting its unique circumstances.

Thankfully, many artists have already begun answering Questlove’s call. Starting in August shortly after Michael Brown was killed, new music inspired by the movement has been appearing with increasing frequency. In the few days after Questlove’s post, new songs by major artists—including De La Soul and Chuck D, Killer Mike, Wu-Tang Clan, Alicia Keys, and Common and John Legend, arrived on the Internet. Befitting their creative genius, these artists’ responses have differed in tone and content.  Wu-Tang Clan used clips from protests around the country in its video for “A Better Tomorrow.” Keys, who despite being nine months pregnant has said she would be out in the streets protesting, released a spare, contemplative arrangement entitled “We Gotta Pray.”

Common and John Legend, collaborating for the soundtrack of the upcoming Martin Luther King biopic Selma, produced the anthem “Glory,” with the backing of a full gospel choir. For anyone who disputes the connection between Dr. King’s struggle against Jim Crow and the newly-christened Black Lives Matter movement, Common makes the case frankly and boldly: “That’s why Rosa sat on the bus/That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up.” Selma and Ferguson are not isolated, unconnected events; they are coordinated cries for justice separated by a half-century of toil and struggle.

While the musical response has been particularly strong in the wake of the non-indictments of Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s killers, there were also artists who made artistic and political statements far earlier. Tef Poe, a local St. Louis rapper, has been one of the main protest organizers while also releasing topical music. Talib Kweli came to St. Louis in October to do a fundraiser concert for Ferguson protest efforts. And J. Cole, who came to Ferguson in the earliest days of the protests, released the Ferguson-focused “Be Free” on his new album, Forest Hills Drive.

A true movement must mobilize all available media to further its cause, and music can be influential in ways that traditional street protests or government commissions cannot be. #Ferguson has spread to cities around the nation and the world. Musicians have an audience that is already listening, eager for a nourishing, inspiring rallying cry. With a little more cajoling from Questlove, they just might rise to the occasion.

-Gabe Rubin

BADBADNOTGOOD – Seasons (Waiting On You) [2014]

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   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Canadian Trip-Hop Jazz trio, BadBadNotGood are at it again. This time they covered Future Islands single, “Seasons ( Waiting On You). BBNG take you back to the 70’s with their warm production, clunky rhythm guitar, smooth bass line and spacey organ. I was pleasantly surprised with how soulful this re-interpretation was, since most of their tracks have more of a Trip-Hop feel. This may be an experiment with them tinkering in soul, or a step forward. Either way, they served this track justice and may have even given Future Islands a run for their money.

-Adam Kurgatnikov

Jurassic 5 – Sum of Us (2002)

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This song gives me enough adrenaline to outrun a cheetah.

“Are the lyrics really that good” you may think…
The answer is yes.

“is Chali 2na’s flow really that awesome?”
Another yes.

But realistically, they all have insurmountable flow; and then there is the production which starts out with ridiculous drum patterns, and then it pulls you in twenty seconds in. Then you’re left with a minute and fifty seconds of a simple and captivating rhythm, followed by a climax with a loud bang! Then you’re right back where you were getting lost in the lyrics with a couple of perfectly added sounds along the way. This song embodies what I think hip-hop should be, so I hope you all find it fresh and refreshing.

-Ross Pollack

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra – Pan Grass (2012)

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“The way this kid uses the steel drums as a piano / lead instrument is wonderful. picked bass solo is rather unreal. The pause at 3:05 is when i knew i need to post.”

-Greg Stearns

These guys are amazing. They are on Ropeadope music, one of the impressive labels on Snarky Puppy’s resume. Their most recent album called Mixtape Symphony flows as one song with 6 movements and an encore. Definitely worth a go.

Bassist Cody Wright is especially exciting to watch. He is an absolute beast, and since this video, he has developed at a scary pace.  He is currently attempting to fund his first solo album via crowd-sourcing. I really hope he hits his goal–there are few musicians more deserving than him at the moment. Toss him a quick donation if you dig these sounds.