Saturday, September 18, 2010

Music You Probably Never Heard -- L.A. Style

Hey y'all! I'm here again with the first of my music reviews, bringing you music you have probably never heard.

For my first presentation, I will bring you L.A. Style's first album, self-titled. It is a classic cd that came out, oh, 1991 or 92. It's a great album that really personifies early nineties rave: happy, funky, but not without it's dark side. This album, and indeed this group, is best known for its most popular song, James Brown is Dead. I'll get more into this song later, but for now I'll get the others done first. I'll post a youtube link to those that have them, but not all of them will. I bought this cd on ebay, so possibly you'll be able to find more of them there.

Okay, so the second track is called Balloony, and it's a short, fun track. It's quirky, but odd. It's not as fun as the other tracks on the album, but for the common techno raver it's a solid piece.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ9r605Sv2E

Third up is my favorite piece of the album, Jesus on Channel Four. I'm really sad that this doesn't have a link on youtube, because this is a really great song. It has a couple verses of rap, which are okay, but the real delight to this piece is the gospel background singers, which accompany the background music perfectly. It's very hypnotic, and the funnest track of the bunch.

Track four is I'm Raving, the second most popular song on the album. And it does have a link on youtube [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5Y995RA1Ys]. This song has some silly lyrics about raving (this is indeed a nineties album), and it's a lot of fun. This is the quintessential party techno song.

Five is It's Your Life, Baby, and despite the generic title, it's actually a very hyperactive and fun track. It pulses with energy, but here, listen for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lIcaT5Qvvw. It's my second favorite on the album.

L. A. Style Theme, the sixth track, is a lyricless piece that drives like a train. It borrows a bit of the background techniques from James Brown is Dead, but not as a rip off, more like taking a sort of similar theme. It's harsh, hardcore, and lots of fun.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0m5sUYGtqc

Twilight Zone blaringly declares "This is a trip to the Twilight Zone!", with some crazy reworking of the TV show's theme song and some organ stuff going on. Very nineties, but completely fun and perfect to work out to.

Number eight is Toys (Use It), and this is honestly the song I really don't like on this album. It has a really cheesy background, but for me it was the lyrics that threw me off. It's bubble gum pop with inane lyrics, and it would have been better as just an instrumental. Still cheesy, but better.

Next is Everybody Dance, a fairly generic "hey guys lets all come out onto the dance floor" track. You know the ones. They're fun, but not that original. I still like this track, but it's not as fun as the other songs on this album.

The last track, lucky number ten, is the moderately creepy American Dream. This track completely contradicts the rest on this album. It's not a party track, but a calm, solemn piece with a former president (it sounds like Richard Nixon to me) saying "the American dream does not come to those that fall asleep". I love it for being so dang weird. It's like L.A. Style was having a party and suddenly decided that they were going to get serious.

I'm pretty sad that I don't have links to all the songs on this album, but I managed to find a mix of several tracks, including bits of Twilight Zone, Toys (Use It), and others. Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg0hTGnaTqs. Sadly, this does not include Jesus on Channel Four.

Okay, now back to track one, James Brown is Dead. In my opinion, this is the greatest rave song of all time. Nothing really stands up to it. It was written back in 1991 when James Brown got into a plane wreck and people thought he was dead. I read Brown's memoirs, and was disappointed to find out that he barely mentioned the accident that resulted in this song. In any case, the rap version of this song pretty much tells the story, including the part where Brown is actually alive.
Original song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfYUDKJs_ng
Original instrumental:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ9HqCtjrpc

And yet despite the fact that the lyrics clearly say "don't be misled 'cause the newsman said James Brown is dead", this spawned remixes galore. One of the immediate responses was James Brown is Still Alive by Holy Noise. There is a rap version to this song, but it's not great. The instrumental is really good enough for me. It's not as catchy as JBID, but it's not bad at all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ9HqCtjrpc

Like I said, there are forty bajillion remixes of this song. You can go all over youtube and find them. The reason I mention it as something you've probably never heard is because nobody now seems to know about it. But there are all sorts of mixes, most of them meh but a few that actually rock. The "deadly mix" is just a lame rearrangement, and there are many mixes that are just irritating. I'll post links to the better remixes so that you can check them out.

First is Void's mix. It has the most epic opening bit ever, but after that it gets all goa psy trance, really letting down the hardcore intro. Still, it's an enjoyable track, and one of the best remixes there are:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwkrPY2QxnY

There are two mixes of James Brown is Dead or Alive that I found on youtube, and both are a lot of fun. The rave mix is definitely the more crazy of the two [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwkrPY2QxnY] and features aspects of both JBID and JBISA. The original mix is the more "horror" version, and a more settled mix for easier listening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzsLK-_yYKI. Er, slightly easier.

Believe it or not, there's actually a soothing remix of it, or rather a re-remix, so it calls itself [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1OPVcts4-M&]. It's actually pretty interesting. It's wonky, but not all that bad.

Sadly, the best versions of this song are only on iTunes. N.Y. Style (what a gimmicky name) made two mixes, both of which are fun and not as irritating as others (stay away from Tigran Oganezov). One version is a horror remix going for a scare, and the second is the dub version, which calls to mind images of a dj performing for a massive crowd of people. It's more about fun than horror.

But the absolute best remix of all came out in 2007, and I imagine it was made for James Brown's actual death, which was Christmas 2006. This is Rave Style and DJ Generic's James Brown is Dead (2007 La Techno Classique Edit). This is the best version because it doesn't rip off any direct sounds from the original, but creates its own different sound and feel without acting like it's a different song. It's easily the most enjoyable, especially after spending a long period of time listening to the other remixes. This one has skill.

The final response I'll post to this song is the song done by animoto.com: James Brown is Not Dead. Unlike the others, it's not a remix, or even techno at all. It's samples of James Brown himself singing to a funk house beat. It's a great tribute, and a perfect denoument to the story of the remixes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6PPwIjLjVw

Okay, so one last L.A. Style song. Got to Move is a fun, cheesy song that's great for exercise. Here ya go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23KVaa91UwM
 

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