Music

Best Music of 2002: Maurice Bottomley

Maurice Bottomley

1. Olajope, Batidos (Six Degrees)
Olajope are Ron Trent and Jay Roderiguez. Ron Trent is the legendary Chicago deep house producer who surprised a lot of people with his soulful eclecticism when he took up residence at New York's Giant Step nights. Multi-instrumentalist Jay Roderiguez is a Columbian New Yorker. Together they made this album which, as the sleevenotes say, is all about "Africa connecting all of the Americas through the language of sound". Batidos has been my constant companion throughout the year and I am still fascinated by its magical interplay of soul, jazz, Columbian song and Latino and house rhythms. Roderiguez on sax is a revelation, Trent adds that unhurried landscaping at which he excels and guests of the caliber of Chucho Valdes pitch in to make this the most exquisite fusion imaginable. "Urban Groove" takes on a new meaning in the hands of these musicians. Syncretic funk of the first order.

2. Jaheim, Still Ghetto (Warner Bros.)
A refreshingly good year for male vocalists. Dave Hollister, Gerald Levert, Rance Allen and (can we mention him?) R.Kelly all served notice on the juvenile and more nasal that have dominated of late. But it was Jaheim, the youngest and most contemporary sounding, who outshone them all. Still Ghetto is the finest downtempo R&B album for years and Let's Talk About and Fabulous can already take their place among the great soul performances of all time.

3. Angela Johnson, They Don't Know (Dome, UK)
Why New York's Angela Johnson debut album was released on a small English label is a question Americans will have to ask themselves. The Cooly's Hot Box vocalist is a gifted keyboard player, has a fine voice, writes intelligent lyrics and combines a knowledge of '70s arrangements with an indepedent modern persona. Only the lack of an absolute killer track stopped this being my pick of the year, but for craft and consistency it had no rivals in the soul/R&B field. "They" may not know now but talent like this will find its rightful audience one day.

4. Blaze, Spiritually Speakin' (Slip'n'Slide)
OK, so the lyrics are a bit corny,the "poetry" irritating and the whole thing sounds a little too Earth, Wind and Fire for 2002 but you have to love Josh Milan and Kevin Hedge. The "soul" of New Jersey house and one of the few that can sustain an album's worth of material, this is as good as anything they've ever done and I actually prefer it to their much vaunted Motown debut all those years ago. As long as Blaze are with us, dancefloors will never be devoid of feeling and emotion. Vocally, "Breathe" and "One World" scooped the honours but check out the more experimental and free-flowing instrumental tracks. Superb.

5. Kevin Yost, Hypnotic Progression (i records)
Along with KY Funk and Stuff (Distance), Hypnotic Progressions served as a reminder that as far as deep, jazzy house goes Kevin Yost remains the most inventive and exploratory worker in that (lately rather crowded) field. Unlike most practitioners, Yost's music becomes more intriguing the more you play it. His sense of space, harmonics and rhythm is unique and though there is an easy, minimalist ambience that gets him classed as simple chill-out fare there is something much more intense and demanding going on. Introspective certainly, but engaging and wrought with a classicist perfectionism that always impresses.

6. Juba Collective, Juba Collective (Premonition)
Afrocentric,avant-garde house and jazz with a little poetry and rap. Master drummer Kahil El Zabar and the Collective created an album that bristled with energy, ambition and sheer exuberance. "Papa's Bounce" should have got club plays as it was the most infectious of tunes, but the whole set sparkled with wit and passion. Too leftfield to fit into any one category, this is an album that will be much sought after in a few years time.

7. Miguel Migs, Colorful You (Naked)
With this and the Aquanote set (Omega Brown's "One Wish" especially) the Naked Music banner was raised aloft once more. Detractors may sneer at the smoothness of the West Coast beats but as long as tracks like "The One" (with Lisa Shaw's serene yet aching vocals) are in circulation the club world will have a sophistication and depth it doesn't always deserve. Good to see this championed by the UK modern soul scene because that is what this is . . . exquisite modern soul.

8. Syleena Johnson, The Voice/Chapter 2 (Jive)
Plenty of strong female sets this year (Conya Doss, Heather Headley, Vivian Green, etc.) but the bluesy anguish of Syl's daughter just about gives this the edge. Lacked some of the highpoints of her previous two outings but more sustained and generally satisfying than those creditable offerings. I still suspect she can do even better though.

9. Various Artists, Las Palmas Collectives (Vu Deja)
The first CD from a fascinating LA label. Superior Latin-flavoured house from the likes of Aztec Sol, Jesse Outlaw and Yuka Matsuda (no, they don't mean much to me either). Percussive and persuasive, a little rough and gauche but none the worse for that. A label and lots of acts to look out for in the future. Their club nights must be something else. Advertised as one of LA's best kept secrets, dance and jazz-funk aficionados should do their utmost to spread the word. Something hot is happening in the City of Angels.

10. Earl Bostic, Flamingo (Proper)
I could have chosen Amos Milburn, T-Bone Walker, Tiny Bradshaw, Lucky Millinder, The Dawn of Doo Wop or any one of the incredible, re-issued jazz and R&B items that Proper have churned out this year. Box sets and double packs, ridiculously cheap but well-annotated and with wonderful historical essays, this series gives an essential insight into the music of 1940s Black America. Dynamic in each case, listened to together they break down all sorts of artificial barriers between genres. When John Coltrane joined Earl Bostic he wasn't slumming but serving an apprenticeship with a true master of the saxophone. Unmissable.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image