In It for Love
Homeboy Sandman: The Good Sun (High Water Music '10)
He's a believer‑-once withdrew from a freestyling contest rather than rhyme to a gunshot beat. He's a vegan who forswears cursewords and caffeine although not reefer, brags about how poor he is, and is avowedly "not pop." But he's no ascetic. His songs come equipped with brief melodic hooks, his rapid rhymes brim with delight, and from gravelly to singsong his flow is always ready for whatever comes next. Sandman has heard the insult knuckleheads aim at every rapper who makes them feel guilty: "Maybe you think I'm whinin' like BeBe and CeCe." But he knows he rhymes for love and for the fun of it, and so will you. A MINUS
Homeboy Sandman: Subject: Matter (Stones Throw download)
He says this EP's subjects matter because no other hip-hopper has touched them, and except for the opener about his creative process, he's got a right, as in the one about his material possessions that includes his sock drawer. His beats stick, and even when he's merely rhyming there's a musicality there: "Carpe diem/As a.m. turn to the p.m./The zone I be in/Muy bien." From the grounded erotic obsession of "Unforgettable" to the down-in-the-flood nightmares of "Soap," he's got a vision. And nowhere is his subject matter more materialistic‑-philosophically, and maybe even dialectically‑-than in "Canned Goods": "Other food spoils much quicker/The spoils go to the victors." A MINUS
First, I like "American Wedding" but when "Hotel California" goes on long after I got the point, I don't love it anymore.
They are different songs, are they not?
Maybe my point is just about semantics? - but when the music from Hotel California goes on . . .
Unless, Greg, all you can hear when you listen to "American Wedding" is Don Henley singing, which would be understandable but also a shame. From trashy to classy
They also asked that I release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr. Henleyis despicable, arrogant nonsense for which the offending Mr. Henley should have to answer publicly, and even legally if what's he's asserting as his really belongs to a bandmate or even another musician entirely.
It reminds me of the scene in "A Civil Action" where John Travolta's character asks for such exorbitant damages that even his partners are dismayed. If I were Frank Ocean, I'd do exactly what Robert Duvall did, say, "This is a nice pen. May I keep it?" And then walk out.
Yet one more example of somebody demanding something so fiercely that the reaction causes the opposite of his own wishes.
To me the most appalling thing about the latest struggle for justice by the title personage of my favorite Mojo Nixon song is his insistence that Ocean publicly express his admiration for that personage, whose vanity and amour-propre has always made that of Prince, say, seem like the mere aesthetic strategy it may well be. I know Henley's supposedly a "liberal." But he reminds me a lot of Newt Gingrich.
As another B-SH, I'll just add that Cab Calloway was operating in a really complicated Black-Jewish context--singing many songs at the segregated Cotton Club written by Harold Arlen (son of a cantor) and understanding, as Duke Ellington and Willie the Lion Smith did too, that there were very practical reasons to try to sound cantorial and/or sing Jewish songs. Calloway, of course, insisted that George Gershwin based the musical characterization of Sportin' Life, in Porgy and Bess on his performances at the Cotton Club.
One of the things that drew me into Cab years ago was recognizing the occasional Hebrew Cantorial vocalizations he peppers into his singing. Amongst the stew of vocal influences present in his absolutely genius kinetic multi-octave range, is a definite Jewyness that my semetic ears picked up on even as a kid hearing Minnie the Moocher in a cartoon. Listen to the "oy yoy yoy yoy yoy oy"'s in Minnie, and many other tracks. Compare some of his lamenting wails to the types of schmaltzed up cantorial recordings made for commercial sale in NYC in the teens and 20's by the likes of Yossele Rosenblatt. Like Jimmy Cagney, another idol of mine who was Irish but apparently spoke Yiddish (having worked as a "Shabbos Goy" in his youth), Cab was a product and sonic embodiment of the explosion of sounds, ethnicities, and backsliding morals in the Jazz Age.
Or at least that's my hearing of it. Take it with a grain of salt...I'm a big-schozzed Hebrew who just wants to be Cab so so bad.
I think Henley would lose.
And the "Hotel California" melody is lifted from Jethro Tull's "We Used to Know"
Holy crap, they really do sound alike. Even the guitar solo comes from the Tull song.
He (They) threatened to sue if I perform it again. I think that’s fcukin awesome. I guess if I play it at coachella it’ll cost me a couple hundred racks. If I don’t show up to court, it’ll be a judgement against me & will probably show up on my credit report. Oh well. I try to buy my sh*t cash anyway. They also asked that I release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr. Henley, along with my assistance pulling it off the web as much as possible. Sh*t’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as fcuk? Why sue the new guy? I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.Capital has the last word again.
The best single-disc collection I know of out there is the Jukebox Hits 1930-1950 which does feature the superb first version of "Minnie" and "Blues in the Night" but does miss a lot of his essence which lies in the non-hits.
You wanna get a bit more serious, I'd start with the JSP Cab Calloway and His Orchestra, Vol. 1: The Early Years 1930-1934 and if you dig enough, go on to Vol. 2. Got all the hallucinogenic flipsides like "St. James Infirmary," "The Nightmare," "Trickeration," "The Scat Song," "The Lady with the Fan," "Zaz Zuh Zaz" and more. (Some re-recordings included.)
And here's some Cab guesting in Betty Boop cartoons:
Minnie the Moocher --
St. James Infirmary (Snow White)
The Old Man of the Mountain
Per Milo's recommendation, I checked out the American Masters episode on Cab Calloway. The documentary itself was so-so (too much John Landis, not enough Gary Giddins), but the good parts did their job on making their point. The man was a true original if not a mad genius, even if he did steal everything but the title of "Minnie the Moocher" from his older sister Blanche who got into show biz before him and seems an interesting character in her own right. Familiar with his unorthodox pop hit like most people of my generation (and before) and not much more, I've got lots of listening to do on this guy, who Giddins makes a case for as a brilliant bandleader (leading with the bass to simulate the band being pulled along by propulsion, seemingly messy charts, etc.) and a peerless scat-singer. And he was early too. No one like him doing that stuff, Armstrong excepted. Slim Gaillard? If he warranted a superb comp, there's got to be one for Cab, and I'm gonna start looking for one now.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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