Archive for May, 2010
LA is amazing for simply cruising in the whip listening to tunes. You can always find a station bumping hotness. And so it was on a recent voyage from Venice Beach back to West Hollywood after some incredible shrimp subs, that the dial happened to hit on Kanye and Twista’s “Slow Jamz”, and it struck me that if ever there was a song that served to sum up the Twelve bar ethos, here was a strong contender. Let’s look at the facts and the components briefly and you may get my meaning. First it is a bonafide rap classic, check. Secondly the flow is ridiculous, a crazy mix of story telling (which of course we like on this blog) from Mr West, and Twista’s insanely good delivery. Remind yourself, his verses kill it. So another check. The video is pure happiness. Production is tight, innovative, and samples Luther’s massive take on Burt Bacharach’s “A House Is Not A Home”. That final tick in itself would be enough to win us over.
But if we go into the lyrics we find the true key to the relevance of this song. Because listed within the flow is a pretty tight a-z of twelvebar inspirations and feelings. Not all represented by any means, but if you this song were a garment it would bare or famed heart. Check the method for yourself; Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Ready for the World, New Edition, Minnie Ripperton, Gladys Knight, Biggie, Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, Evelyn “Champagne” King, the Whispers, the Isley Brothers, Al Green, Freddie Jackson, Ashford & Simpson, Isaac Hayes, the Spinners, and Jodeci. Seriously, this is like a who’s who of a Sunday jam at Twelvebar Towers. So it really is all love, and you know we always set this party off right.
Earlier this week we released five new tees in our online store and over the past few days we have been inundated with emails asking us about the inspiration behind these designs. A couple of weeks ago we broke it down about the Rock & Roller Tee and now, due to popular demand, here’s a little story that must be told about the others.
First off there’s the Davis Tee which came about as a result of our love for the artwork on Betty Davis’ first album. We’ve always had a thing about the typography she used so we decided to re-appropriate it and release a branded tee to pay our respects.
Next up is the Twelve Sins Tee which is a cheeky homage to the genius of Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass Band. Don’t tell us you can resist a beautiful girl dipped in whipped cream on your chest this Summer as nothing could sum up the phrase It’s All Love much better than this image.
Having said that, the Sweet Back Tee also does a pretty good job at conveying the It’s All Love message that we carry throughout everything we do over here at Twelve Bar. A perfect female backside being cupped by a pair of hands to inadvertently create our “Heart” logo. We couldn’t have asked for much more with this design and it’s already almost sold out so, if you end up missing out on it, we may do a re-up later in the year.
Last but definitely not least, there’s the Napoli Tee and if you’re into high fashion you’ll know exactly where the inspiration for this design came from. Our logo tees always fly off the shelves and this is one of our personal favorites which will keep you looking fresh wherever you are this Summer.
We’re just getting started with some amazing new product so make sure you come clean.
I have mentioned somewhere before in the vaults of A Story To Tell that, for me, it takes some getting over the power and expression of Aretha Franklin’s voice. She is probably my favourite female singer, and I could never tire of hearing her belt out soul classics old and new, but then I’m sure that many people would say the same. However, even Aretha cannot hold a torch in some respects to another female vocal giant from the soul, jazz and r’n'b canon, and someone whose depth and variety of work, and musicianship sometimes just astounds me. I am talking, of course, about Nina Simone and as with many subjects discussed through this blog, it is easy to forget just how incredible her output was. I was prompted to dig out some of her work after hearing what is one of my favourite recordings of all time on a recent film I watched. The film is irrelevant, but the tune is far from it, her outstanding 1969 cover of the Bee Gee’s “To Love Somebody” taken from the RCA LP recording of the same name.
Clocking in at a swift 2:42, this record is, in my humble opinion as close to perfect as it gets, and the album that spawned it is no less remarkable. As with a lot of music it is impossible to say why I love it so much. Is it the rumbling gospel tinged drum and piano intro? Is it the uplifting yet plaintive confusion of the love declarations within? Is it that the original tome of the song is melancholy and brooding, while Simone makes it appear so life affirming? The utter magic when the chorus kicks in for the first time at 51 seconds after two verses of teasing brilliance? Probably all of these things, and what is clear is that the Gibb brothers certainly knew how to pen a good song, and my God did Nina Simone know how to arrange and sing one. There are a number of interesting things about this song and album that deserve remark. It was Simone’s second big UK hit, following swiftly on from 1968′s “Ain’t Got No-I Got Life” off the equally stunning “Nuff Said” album, itself a surprise hit and recorded almost completely live at the Westbury Music Fair three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968.
So a pretty charged affair all in all and worth digging out if you are unfamiliar. But what is most significant about “To Love Somebody” as an album is its marking of the beginning of a great period of fusion for jazz music. It features all covers, including a selection of songs by The Beatles, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and as she sang herself, clearly shows that the times they were a-changing. The feeling across the album is of spiritual and social revolution and rejuvenation, and equally of musical change. Simone, a classical and traditional jazz virtuoso, is taking steps into the rock and pop world, underpinned with a blues and soul sensibility, and the affects are quite stunning, and in their own way incredibly important in paving the way for jazz’s increased popularity and diversity in the 1970s.
If you have not really listened to Simone’s late-1960s/early-1970s work outside of the jazz then this is a perfect opportunity. The afore-mentioned “Nuff Said” is brilliant, as is 1970′s live recording “Black Gold” and my other absolute favourite cover album “Here Comes The Sun” from 1971. Nina Simone has a life that truly fascinates for so many reasons, and is a subject that we can return to again and again. But for now, sit back and revel in the splendour of a musical great. Seriously, you really don’t know what it is like until you have tried it.
When it comes to record labels who are defined by their artwork as much as their music, all roads lead to the genius of Reid Miles at Blue Note Records. Not only did the music released on the label provide the soundtrack for a generation but the tinted black and white photography, the use of sans-serif typefaces and the restricted color palettes of the album cover artwork has been a huge influence on graphic designers ever since.
It goes without saying that Blue Note both musically and artistically is a huge source of inspiration for us and here’s a graphic from our tee archive which pays homage to their remarkable legacy.
We have been hard at work over the past few months on new denim washes which will be releasing soon. All the work is being done under the California sun a stones throw from the beach with some of the best guys in the business and the results are going to be pretty damn special we promise. More detailed images will be following in due course but here’s a sneak preview in the meantime. If you don’t know, now you know.
Love what you do and do what you love but make sure you eat healthy. This has been a public service announcement from the good folks at Twelve Bar.
Ever since we first came across Dorothy’s photography in The Fader many moons ago we have been huge fans of her work. Not only is she the most amazing photographer and one of the coolest people you’ll ever meet but she’s also incredibly reliable so we weren’t at all surprised that, when we asked her to send us over a few photographs that she felt represent the phrase “It’s All Love”, she did so within 24 hours. To find out more about her work, which you really should, please check out her website and it always amazes us how “It’s All Love” can mean so many different things to different people. Stay tuned.
Meaningless musical labels generally irk me somewhat, and the label “trip-hop” is one which has always irritated me more than most. Beginning in the early 1990′s the label purports to summarise the British take on US hip-hop, characterised by down-tempo beats, and including elements of dance and electronica, dub and breakbeats, and associated most heavily with the Mo’Wax stable. Godfathers of trip-hop are generally regarded to be Massive Attack, the Bristol DJ and soundsystem collective whose seminal 1991 album Blue Lines is often seen as the year zero for the genre it spawned. But to reduce the album to such an irksome label is to do it a massive injustice, for Blue Lines is simply one of the greatest albums of all time. It is hip-hop pure and simple, not trip-hop, and hip-hop simply done in an original and fresh way, but with a distinct UK twist.
The most famous track is of course the immense Unfinished Sympathy, but start to finish it is just a great piece of work and influential beyond recognition. Certainly it reaches far beyond other well regarded so-called trip-hoppers such as Portishead, one-time member Tricky, DJ Shadow and Coldcut. It regularly features in the higher reaches of critical lists of the greatest UK albums of all time, and is a must for all music fans, not least of all as a reintroduction point to the sweet-voiced genius of reggae legend Horace Andy and a reminder of how good Tricky might have been had he not succumbed to the more paranoid and dark elements of his musical output.Always a joy to hear, if you don’t know it yet, let me tell you, you are sleeping on a classic.
Coachella was a lot of fun but the real secret to enjoying Palm Springs is going to that secret spot when no one else is there. That’s when you can really escape and truly appreciate all that the desert has to offer. It’s amazing what a little peace, quiet and fresh air can do for the creative juices. See you very soon.