Everybody Loves Free Stuff

Okay, with my eulogy for Etta James now on record, let me move to a couple of items I meant to take care of last week. I have stumbled across a new band or two I think it’s worth introducing you to, and, most importantly, there are free tracks associated with these discoveries for you to hear. I mean…..FREE MUSIC. That’s what it’s all about nowadays, right?

(Insert semi-disappointed look on my face, related to the devaluation of a musician’s time and talent in today’s industry, where everyone wants their music for free and therefore lots of great artists go unpaid for the fruits of their labor.  Then insert a knowing sigh, realizing that the way the game works nowadays is that you have to get your music out there to be heard by as many people as possible by any means necessary, which, unfortunately, involves giving some – or all – of it away. Wipes away tear…)

James JamersonBut before I continue down that road, as a bassist and a lover of all things Motown, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today was the birthday of Mr. James Jamerson, one of the most influential players in the history of the instrument. While I could take a whole blog entry just talking about Jamerson and his life and music (and I probably should at some point), I will just tell a short story instead, which is the one I always think about (for better or worse) when his name is mentioned.

In 1970, Marvin Gaye was working on his “What’s Going On” album, which was to be an influential and groundbreaking record in its own right. Getting the Motown house band, The Funk Brothers, on the recording was essential for Marvin, but when the sessions started, Jamerson was missing. Desperate to have this masterful player on his record, Marvin went looking for him, and found him drunk at a bar. (Jamerson had long been troubled by alcoholism, and it would ultimately result in his premature death. But that’s another tale for another time….) Nevertheless, he got Jamerson back to the studio and, bass in hand, they tried recording. No dice. Jamerson kept falling off the stool they put him on, too inebriated to retain his balance.

Solution? They laid him flat on his back on the floor, and he played on the track. You can hear the results here.

A classic track. A classic bass part. An irreplaceable talent. James Jamerson, you are missed.

Now on to the freebies….

Sex & Sound EPThe Violet Lights are a rock duo based out of Los Angeles, California, but hailing from Green Bay, Wisconsin (the one town, if any, in the whole country right now whose citizens are saying, “BUT….WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!”). Joel Nass and Amber Garvey have created something pretty great here, in my humble opinion. I’ve seen the phrase “Britpop” used a time or two in description of The Violet Lights, and I think that’s probably a pretty accurate evaluation. Perhaps, though, you should take a listen to the lead track off their debut EP “Sex & Sounds” for yourself?

When you do, notice the intro….the chiming guitars, the climbing bass line, the little Wurlitzer sound in the break pre-chorus. Even the melody reminds me of something I could hear Liam Gallagher singing, or maybe a tune for The Redwalls (who, although not a British band, were heavily influenced by the genre…..which I’m sure you can plainly tell by listening). Anyway, I think it’s an admirable first effort, worthy of being listened to and shared….it got my attention, anyway. But for the love of God, if you really like it, support them by plunking down the measly five bucks to get their little EP, okay? Thanks!

Lightyears EPAlso on the download-some-freebies docket are some tunes from a group called Mansions On The Moon. (These you’ll have to give up an e-mail address for, but I think it’s quite worth the trouble. If your e-mail address is sacred to you, however, or if you just can’t give them some crappy one that you send all your junk mail to, and you still really want to sample some of the tracks, go to their MySpace page. And then, after that, go straight to Hotmail or Gmail and create an account you can use for situations where you don’t want to give up your real e-mail address to strangers in exchange for free stuff, okay? Geez….)

This trio of Los Angeles artists and songwriters is getting ready to release their latest EP entitled “Lightyears”, produced by artist/rapper/producer Pharrell Williams (who you may know as a member of the insanely successful production duo The Neptunes. Or not.). They are also in the process of working on their debut album, and already have a slot reserved for them at this year’s SXSW Music Festival. Their sound is less rock and guitars, more synthesizers and drum beats…but I think the technology serves them well. “Athens” in particular has a cool little laid-back vibe to it, and the multi-tracked vocal effect they utilize serves to give their songs a little space and atmosphere. You could do worse than giving up that e-mail address and adding these four tracks to your iTunes rotation…..

Okay, that’s enough from me…..we’ll keep it short today. I’ll be back, however, in just about a week’s time with my review of the new Van Halen record, which I believe, if my math is correct, I’ve been waiting about 28 years for. And that, my friends, is a long time in dog years.

Even human ones, unfortunately.


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