Category Archives: Street Musicians

Andre’s Amazon Archive for June 14th,2014: ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’

lauryn_hill-the_miseducation_of_lauryn_hill

During the time this was released,as another review pointed out,this kind of music was being thrown in everyone’s face whether they wanted to hear it or not.I must admit in the late 90’s I was far more energized by the music of Prince,Stevie Wonder,P-Funk and they like and not the various hip-hop music’s they were inspiring at the time. I wanted the “real thing”. To my way of thinking the whole hip-hop/R&B genre in general seemed to be exploiting R&B’s past just to promote cut-and-paste music based on samples and such. It was hard to not that in the midst of all that original new hybrids like this were being created.Yes it was heavily hyped,yes it was deemed a classic before by the time it was a year old or so. But all the saturation aside I wanted to listen to this after it’d had some time to influence people. Well it turned out,as I said to be just over a decade. And after listening to this project as a whole at this point I get it.This is THE album that inspired the thoughtful,conscious solo female neo soul genre out of which has come Macy Gray,Angie Stone,India.Arie,Alicia Keys and more recently Solange Knowles.But it all started here.

The music on this album still has close links to hip-hop.Songs such as “Lost Ones”,”Forgive Them Father” and even the hugely popular “Doo Wop (That Thing)” have Lauryn rapping quite a bit along with singing.It’s to her credit she has such broad talent in both.Lauryn’s rapping style has always been assertive,direct and too the point and her deep,gritty and rangy voice-with it’s strong pathos and emotion is quite the spectacle to behold. The emotional and spiritual breadth of songs such as “To Zion” and “Forgive Them Father” is unbelievable. Through her spiritual quests Lauryn revolves her own issues with femaninity and the male players in her life in a surprisingly broad scope.”Superstar” actually finds Lauryn illustrating a pointed sense of humor to address what she saw as a serious issues;the hype many mediocre or plain “wack” rappers were receiving at that time,and in every way the message behind the tune resonates all the more today.

The first five songs actually containing interwoven interludes (tastefully done and integrated into the actual songs unlike usual) that illustrate how the album title is part of a certain concept;a group of women,one voiced by Mary J Blige in a classroom discussing different,mature points of view on love from songs,actual relationships,etc.In the midst of all this is “Ex-Factor”,possibly one of the greatest songs Lauryn ever did-very much in the Aretha/Etta James spirit with it’s scarred outlook on love and strong gospel overtones,from organ swirls to the horn blasts. The tone of that song is repeated on the title song which extends on the same theme of rediscovering self truths at reaching physical and emotional maturity. Along the way there is even time for warm nostalgic reflection on “Every Ghetto,Every City”,a wah-wah drenched 70’s style funk fest which is right up my alley and the lyrics are right on time too.

There are two tracks,which are listed here but not on the album jacket.One is a beautifully soulful rendition of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” that utterly transforms the song from teen romance into intense passion.A live version of the song “Tell Me” is also included.Taken together this quirky artist with her uniquely self reliant outlook and terrific lyrical ability only seems to have released one full length studio album so far.And if this is her first and only release it would sure be a good thing to stand on because,given a full decade to gestate it really has had an influence on an entire sub genre that has grown to mammoth proportions ever since.And all the while this done now indeed stand alone as a modern classic.

Originally Written On March 5th,2009

*Link To My Original Amazon Review:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R36P7MAW2I5UGW/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00000ADG2

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Filed under Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Prince, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Solange', Stevie Wonder, Street Musicians

Move Over Buskers Of Bangor…It Is Illegal,Yet.

scan0074                     During my travels to Boston,Manhattan, Austin Texas and even the Canadian city of Montreal one of the things that always fascinated me was being stopped in whatever tracks I was in by the sounds,sights and often both at once of street performers,or buskers. Even in the city of Portland,the largest in the state of Maine,they can be found. That is where the photo of the Gypsy violinist seen here was taken nearly a decade ago in front of a movie theater complex in the downtown area of the city during that summers Pride festival-if I recall.  Of course the very essence of life itself represents a musical event. That’s something a lot of us learn as children. The tapping of our feet as we stroll the sidewalk,trains rolling down the tracks and of course the birds and insects singing and humming create a unique symphony of melodic and rhythmic cadences almost everyone one travels to. When I walk along the streets of Bangor,its difficult to me to hear the train the runs through town through its own silencers. The sound of the the cars and motorbikes in traffic,along with their horns create such a cacophony its hard to hear the birds singing. And walking from street to street on the average day? No guitars,no pianos,not even the sound of a young person playing two metal garbage cans with drumsticks. Bangor Maine is one of the many towns and cities across the United States Of America-with the first amendment of its constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech,that long ago outlawed busking/street musicians of any sort in its downtown area.

 

 

 

Of course Bangor is not a non musical city. There have always been the Bangor Civil Center where many concerts have been held. And within the past decade or so Bangor has hosted both the American (originally International) Folk Festival on the last weekend of August -as well as a special summer concert series that has already attracted rock acts such as Pat Benatar,Sting and this coming year Arcade Fire. And along with the here today,gone tomorrow bars and grills that on occasion feature live local musical performers?  The musical scene of the area I live in is very low and comparatively spotty at best. It might have something to do with local economy,culture and a mild level of denial. A local culture clash in the state of Maine has resulted in Bangor being often considered the capital of a rather desolate and wilderness oriented northern area of the state-whose farthest regions contain villages that are given numbers instead of formal names. Being something of a last outpost,Bangor shares much of this regions pride in self reliance and traditional values. In all honesty they tend to appreciate perspiration over inspiration. And as I’ve grown up,its become apparent that only a minute segment of the local population view the whole idea of street musicians with anything close to a high regard.

One thing that such an environment can provide,especially for a young person growing up,is space to develop a vast imagination. Entering into adolescence during the mid 1990’s,that time where many psychoanalyst’s say many people’s strong interest in music begins,the internet was very much an internal networking device. And only available in segments of the state of Maine. Therefore ones perceptions of music either came from what tiny degree of written musical press could be found or,if you were as lucky as my family were to be able to travel to areas such as Waterville,Portland or even close  by at the University Of Maine where,every so often the occasional jazz soul and in an extremely rare case (such as Queen Latifah’s 1991 show on the UMO campus) hip-hop concerts.  That all declined as the most 9/11 economy hit the local area with particular strength. And both the Folk Festival and the Bangor Concert Series of recent years tend to be met with the same attitude as buskers-often frowned upon for their perceived noise and crowding. So in between all this,I became inclined towards finding friends with even the smallest musical inclination-either as listeners or being musicians themselves. Yet somehow never getting up the courage to tell them my own personal dreams of a musical Bangor. Which of course all came to a head when I was 19 years old and went to see a movie with my family at the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.

Bjork

The film in question was Dancer In The Dark,a Danish picture starring Islandic singer/songwriter Bjork with American actor David Morse,who co-starred in a Stephen King television movie my mother and I were extras in called The Langoliers. This was the story of an immigrant factory worker ending up in the middle of a financial conspiracy resulting in her committing a murder-and by films end receiving the death penalty for her crime. It was an abstract yet deeply disturbing contemporary movie musical-using the medium to create uneasiness as opposed to the usual unrestrained joy associated with the genre. One scene in the film which seemed to reflect how I viewed my future involved a number called “Cvalda”,in which Bjork’s character in the film imagines the monotonous industrial back round of her job as some steam punk styled Broadway production number-complete with harmonious chorus lines.

This idea of music being something isolated inside a building,or even inside merely ones imagination itself strongly shaped the person that I’ve become. In some ways,some creative constructs such as photography and paintings have come from that which contain their share of beauty here and there.  On the other hand,I’ve always had a somewhat secret sadness within me that,even for someone who wears their heart on their sleeve,I have trouble verbally articulating. I’ve come to live with the notion that I’m in a community that isn’t of course lacking in music,but has little music from anywhere particularly deep within its soul. And frankly? The lack of buskers-whether it be street musicians,mimes and jugglers create a general sense of dreariness on occasion. And that’s not something one desires where the winters are so long and icy. If someone were ever to ask me to paint the streets of the town in which I’ve spent the majority of my life,in fact? One would see within the completed painting an impression of the same streets filled with street performers of all kinds-delighting people of all ages with their talents and the sounds they create. In the end what is uppermost in my mind is that even if music is played there,a city without its own music is hardly a city at all.

 

 

 

 

 

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