Shall we upload albums as bittorrents?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Connie Price & the Keystones

Though the name connotes a female lead, Connie Price & the Keystones is in fact a project helmed by Los Angeles-based guitarist/producer/multi-instrumentalist Dan Ubick (of Breakestra fame) and his friend trumpeter/arranger Todd M. Simon. Ubick, who played most of the instruments for the "group" in the studio, simply wanted an alias for his drum-playing self, and decided to go with the name Connie Price for the funk-throwback group. In 2004 the Keystones put out an EP, Blood's Haul, on the Stones Throw imprint Now Again, and that same year the instrumental Wildflowers was released. Another EP, Sticks & Stones, hit shelves in 2005, and three years later the band -- Ubick and Simon with the usual bevy of fellow Angeleno musicians, and now on Ubiquity Records -- issued Tell Me Something, which featured guest appearances from MCs like Percee P and Big Daddy Kane (for both of whom the Keystones recorded a separate 12" on Scion), Ohmega Watts, and Freestyle Fellowship's Myka Nyne, among others.

Wildflowers (Now Again 2004)

Those seeking an un-ironic return to the classic days of jazz and funk, played by a group of live musicians who swing and churn with the best of the old-school need look no further than this album by Los Angeles-based Connie Price & the Keystones. Produced (in the traditional sense) by Dan Ubick for Stones Throw's equally old-fashioned off-shoot, Now Again, Ubick assembled almost 30 highly skilled musicians from contemporary funk units Antibalas, Poets of Rhythm, and the Soul Destroyers, as well as the highly popular Dap-Kings, proving that this is a growing scene in the best sense of the word, where musicians still jam together and follow the groove (and work) wherever it may lead. Bandleader and drummer Dan Ubick (aka Connie Price) leads this gang of players through a score of horn-filled, groove-heavy originals that easily sound like they could have been laid to tape 50 years ago, with Ubick's jazz-infused boom-bap offering a contemporary swing gleaned from hip-hop as well as classic soul. Muted horn riffs fuse with loose jazz guitar and an ass-swaying drum break on "Tall Day Grass" that was made for smoking filterless cigarettes on the front porch, while opener "Sticks & Stones" incorporates a reggae-tinted groove, with dub-worthy bass, ska horn punches, and vibraphone hits that chime through the low-end swell. The title track and lead single offers one of the only vocals, with a lead vox by vintage singer Lester Abrams who sounds like Curtis Mayfield's long lost half-brother. The last time young men made music your parents would like, it resulted in the swing dance revival. Here's hoping this dirtier time in musical history brings with it all of the nasty funk that accompanied it the first time around.

1. Sticks & Stones
2. Sucker Punch
3. Western Champion feat.Bobby Watley
4. The Buzzard
5. Tall Dry Grass
6. The Shadows of Leaves
7. Fuzz and Them feat.Jan Weissenfeldt
8. Double Dutch feat.Malcolm Catto
9. Wildflowers feat.L.A. Carnival
10. Get Thy Bearings
found on :

Tell Me Something (Ubiquity 2008)

On their second record, funk and soul revivalists Connie Price & the Keystones (aka Dan Ubick and a bunch of friends) decide to branch out from the pure instrumental music they had displayed on their debut, Wildflowers and add the talent of top West Coast MCs (an exception being the Bronxite Percee P, but as he's signed to Stones Throw, an imprint of which released Wildflowers, and whose founder Peanut Butter Wolf appears here on background vocals, the reasoning is clear). What results, Tell Me Something, is an excellent album that bridges the (small) jump from funk to hip-hop, how the urban blaxploitation soundtracks from Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield tie in so seamlessly to rap. During the tracks that feature vocalists, the band lays off on heavy horn riffs and B-3 chords, approaching the pieces from a more hip-hop perspective, where drums and bass are most important, the rest of the instruments only coming in as accents or to fill out the hook. This careful arrangement then allows the songs that feature both more melodically driven MCs (Blood of Abraham, Mikah 9 from Freestyle Fellowship) -- or the singer Aloe Blacc -- and the more rhythm-oriented rappers to sound equally good. Percee P, who shows up on three tracks, steals the show, flaunting his complex internal rhyme and storytelling skills with good nature and ease. Ubiquity labelmate Ohmega Watts, too, is impressive on "Master at Work," which fluidly compares a rapper both to a boxer and a warrior ("I'm punching a wooden man, blast though bottles of glass or bricks with bloody hands" and "I read scrolls and demonstrate excellence through discipline, taking the weight") as smooth keyboard lines play out eerily underneath. The band is finally allowed to show off their skills during the lone (disregarding the dark, sparse bonus cut) instrumental track on Tell Me Something, "Hoagies Revenge," which gives the trumpets and guitar space to really explore the groove without the worry of overpowering the vocalist. But it is that, their very ability to accompany lyrics while still retaining their own sense of self, that makes Connie Price & the Keystones a great group, and what makes Tell Me Something a great record.

01. Across da Board Ft. Big Daddy Kane
02. Put Your Weight Ft. Soup Of Jurassic 5
03. Highlife Ft. Mykah 9
04. Tell Me Ft. Aloe Blacc
05. Hoagies Revenge
06. Pirates Ft. Blood Of Abraham
07. Master At Work Ft. Ohmega Watts
08. Thundersounds Ft. Percee P
09. Catatonia Ft. Percee P & Wildchild

found on :


Vinyl4Giants said...

I love Connie Price & the Keystones so much, I've never heard this album. what a jerk. thanks for this. great blog btw. can't to be all over it as soon as I can. steady stealing Internet time @ work. stay up. peace!

Noles said...

Thanks for the older album, I recently grabbed the newer one & am digging into it now.I have been listening to a lot of main stream stuff (Jay-Z etc.)& this is something fresh & new to me.

I make music as well & it inspires me to go with a different sound, to be a leader...instead of a follower.

Noles said...