New York City's Indie powerhouse ropeadope records just turned it up a few notches - within the next four weeks rad (ropeadope) will release a slew of albums that will make you DANCE (Spanish Harlem Orchestra) let you DREAM (Tin Hat Trio) take you to CHURCH (None But The Righteous - the masters of sacred steel) and will let you FREAK (Yohimbe Brothers featuring DJ Logic and Vernon Reid). Simply put - there's no other label on the planet (big or small) that's consistently releasing five-star, label-bending music, each recording being the best in it's given genre.
I am fortunate enough to be on the ropeadope tastemaker list and got a FAT package at my door on Tuesday that contained rad's fall releases (even had a tight-ass t-shirt). I loaded them all in my ipod (but learn not to burn, rad makes cds for real fans - each package is a true collectible with exquisite detail) and waited until Sunday to listen to all of them. Here's how it went.
Phase 1: 9:45am
As today is Sunday; I decided to start my listening experience with a trip to church. ropeadope's None But The Righteous (the masters of sacred steel) will make even the coldest heart feel the warmth of a higher power. To everyone out there in jam-land that thinks Robert Randolph invented the pedal steel guitar, you need to learn your history and find out where he got most of his licks. NBTR is the most comprehensive collection of the greatest sacred steel players in the world including The Campbell Brothers, Glenn Lee, Sonny Treadway, Ted Beard, Aubrey Ghent, Calvin Cooke, and Willie Eason - all of whom (no disrespect Mr. Randolph) could run circles around the young boy from New Jersey. Curated by ropeadope partner John Medeski, it features both the elder originators of this style and spectacular up-and-coming innovators, this collection is the must-have introduction to what has been called "the last true new musical treasure." This collection jams, sings, shreds, burns and will easily help you see the light and put you in the right mood. Play it from beginning to end and you'll wish it never ends.
Phase 2: 11:30am
With my spirits HIGH I was ready to fly. Put on the roller blades and got down to the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. No hablo mucho salsa, in fact, I don't even think I ever really paid attention to this kind of music before but DAMMMMN this record got me moving in directions I never knew I was capable of going! I would put this 12-piece band toe-to-toe with any band on the scene today. And can you say JAM? These cats rip it up and down and all around the coast that is salsa. This is Spanish Harlem's answer to the Buena Vista Social Club. Led by world-famous pianist and arranger Oscar Hernandez (Paul Simon, Rubén Blades), Un Gran Día En El Barrio (A Great Day In The Neighborhood) enlists some of the most respected players in modern salsa, including outstanding performances by legends Jimmy Sabater, Ray Vega, Ruben Rodriguez, Bobby Allende, Ray de la Paz, and Herman Olivera. The 12-piece all-star band gives us a glimpse inside the secret history of the Nuyorican experience, turning out fiery dance music, rhythmic passion, and Latino soul. The only salsa album you'll ever need.
Phase 3: 12:45pm
Took off the blades, fixed myself a beat-carrot-apple juice, indulged in the spirits and waited for my roommates to leave so that I could blast the next platter d'jour: The Yohimbe Brothers - Front End Lifter. I knew this was gonna be dope from the get-get-getttty-up. I mean pleeeease - DJ Logic and Vernon Reid locked into a recording studio for three weeks with guests including Slick Rick, Prince Paul and ALL of Living Colour? The bulk of the cd is devoted to engaging aural collages, with Reid's quicksilver guitar slithering through Logic's slice-and-dice sound scapes, as the beats morph from reggae to drum & bass to hillbilly hoedown. It's full of surprises, beats and life. So Mr. Reid's first record in ten years shows that he's been putting his time to good use. And for those not in the know, yohimbe is a natural viagra of sorts (you can buy it at any health food store) and somehow the sexuality is all over this record. Feeling extremely excited by the music, I called up a lady friend and played the whole cd again, this time with no clothes on. I strongly recommend it.
Phase 4: 5:55pm
Wiped out from my ropeadope day of listening (and the Yohimbe passion), I took a nap under a palm tree and dreamed of blue turtles, purple stars and green clovers. Woke hungry but rested. Biked to the Mexican spot and got me one HELL of a breakfast burrito. I pedaled over to the lake to watch the sun set and started on my fourth ropeadope cd of the day. And in the weirdest way, this had become my most favorite record of the year. How the hell to describe this music of the gods? Let us start with the instrumentation: Rob Burger on piano, accordion, bass harmonica; Carla Kihlstedt on the violin, and Mark Orton on guitars and banjo. Add in special guests Jonathan Fishman (Phish); Billy Martin (MMW) and Willie Nelson and it will instantly open your heart to the soundtrack of your life. Folk-jazz-country-classical-jam-tango-blues. Unlike anything you've ever experienced, and just like everything you ever dreamed of. WOW.
SOOOOOOO, what do you know? Is this ropeadope thing for real or for show? In one writer's humble opinion, this is easily the best thing that's ever happened to the music industry since Blue Note lost the rare grooves three decades ago. I can't even begin to imagine what's gonna come out next, with a roster that also includes King Britt, Jazzanova, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Word, The Philadelphia Experiment (soon to be followed by the Detroit and Chicago Experiments), Kid Koala's Bullfrog and more...I'll be waiting at my door for some more. Check for yourself at ropeadope.com, it doesn't get any better.
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