Aaliyah – Biography

Aaliyah

b. Aaliyah Dana Haughton, 16 January 1979, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, d. 25 August 2001, Marsh Harbour, Abaco Island, Bahamas, West Indies. Although she grew up in Detroit, Michigan, Aaliyah pronounced Ah-Lee-Yah (“highest, most exalted one” in Swahili), initially came to attention as part of the “new jill swing’ movement in the mid-90s. Her early career was fostered by R. Kelly (although rumours of a personal relationship were never substantiated), and 1994″s debut Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number included the US Top 10 singles “Back & Forth” and “At Your Best (You Are Love)”. She travelled to Kelly’s home in Chicago for the sessions while she was still a student at the Detroit High School of the Performing Arts. She remained a “straight A’s’ student throughout the first stage of her recording career, persevering with her education despite commercial success. After breaking her partnership with Kelly, Aaliyah released 1996″s superior follow-up, One In A Million, on which she worked with hotshot producer Timbaland. Soundtrack work followed, with contributions to Anastasia (“Journey To The Past”) and Dr. Dolittle (“Are You That Somebody?”). Aaliyah also began filming on her screen debut in Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Romeo Must Die. “Try Again”, taken from the movie soundtrack, went to the top of the US singles chart in June 2000. The following year’s self-titled third album demonstrated a new maturity and confidence, with Aaliyah publically bidding farewell to her teenage years and fashioning a bold new sound with collaborator Timbaland. Tragedy struck in August 2001 when, after filming a video in the Bahamas, Aaliyah and various members of her record company attempted to fly home. The small light aircraft crashed killing Aaliyah and her entourage. Her third album posthumously climbed to the number 1 position in America, while in the UK “More Than A Woman” reached the top of the singles chart in January 2002.

She’s true to style. Ever since defining the look and sound of street-but-sweet over two years ago, Aaliyah has personified originality with her enigmatic, smooth vocal delivery, sophisticated musical sensibilities, and a masterful sense of independence. The New York-born singer’s 1994 debut album, “AGE AIN’T NOTHING BUT A NUMBER,” went platinum and spawned a pair of gold singles: “Back & Forth” and “At Your Best (You Are Love)”. “I still remember how nervous I was right before ‘Back & Forth’ came out,” says the charismatic vocalist, who recorded her debut album at age fourteen. “It was my first single, and I kept wondering if people would accept it. When it went gold, I had my answer, and it was just such an incredibly satisfying feeling.” She spent much of a whirlwind ’94-’95 on the road, with tours that took her across Europe, Japan, and as far as South Africa.

The release of “ONE IN A MILLION,” her second album (and her first for Atlantic), comes just as Aaliyah begins her senior year as a student at Detroit’s Performing Arts High School. “School is a big priority for me,” says the dance major. “My principal hasreally been there to help me keep my goals as a student in hand as I work to grow as an artist.”

Aaliyah began performing at a young age, and by the time she was eleven, she was singing on stage in Las Vegas for a five-night stand with Gladys Knight’s troupe. From there, the dedicated singer would emerge from a non-stop vocal training regimen with a sound and vision completely her own. “It came out of nowhere, yet it felt totally natural,” recalls Aaliyah. “I was tripped out. As that first album was coming to a finish, I waslistening back to the tracks thinking, ‘Wow, that’s really me. This is how I am and how Isound.'”

RELEASE TITLE: One In A Million
RELEASE BLURB: On Aaliyah’s new album, “ONE IN A MILLION,” the now seventeen-year-old artist steps out into “the new world of funk,” delivering a fresh set of soulful romantic ballads and dope up-tempo tracks. She offers a solid nod to hip-hop inspiration in duet fashion, with the help of mic rockers Treach on “A Girl Like You” and Slick Rick on a playfully bad house party take on Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.”

A1 – Biography

a1

One of the most genuinely talented groups to emerge from the UK music scene in recent years, a1 is geared up with the musical goods to break big in 2002. In an era of prefabricated manufactured pop music, a1 is the real thing: four talented young men–Ben Adams (vocals, keyboards), Christian Ingebrigtsen (guitar, vocals, bass), Paul Marazzi (vocals, percussion, bass) and Mark Read (vocals, keyboards, drums)–who write and perform their own music with verve, style and substance. American fans, who got their first taste of a1 with the release of the group’s “Caught In The Middle” single in April 2002, can now feast on a mini-album of specially selected highlights from all three of the a1’s UK albums–Here We Come, The A-List, and Make It Good. Simply titled “a1,” this new seven-song collection is an ideal introductory showcase of group’s versatile songwriting and performing abilities.

The mini-album opens with “Caught In The Middle,” the group’s latest UK chart-topper. Written by Ben Adams and Paul Marazzi, the infectious “Caught in the Middle” was released in the UK in January 2002 and entered the charts at #2. The track stayed in both the UK radio and sales Top 10 for four weeks, peaking at #3 in the airplay chart, making it a1’s biggest UK radio hit to date. It has since gone on to achieve Top 3 success in Scandinavia and all over Asia, with equally strong upward results felt in Germany, Holland, Australia and Spain. The video for “Caught in the Middle” was filmed near Helsinki, Finland in November 2001 by Miika Lommi (Bomfunk MC’s “Freestyler”). “It’s just a great song,” says Ben. “There are a lot of heavy-rock acts out there and a lot of heavy R&B acts, but I don’t think there’s an in-between and that’s what we’re bringing.”

Other tracks on “a1” include “Make It Good,” “When I’m Missing You,” “Everytime” (Album Version from 1999’s Here We Come), “If I Can’t Have You,” “One More Try,” and “Same Old Brand New You.” “a1” is produced by Mike Hedges (Travis, U2, Manic Street Preachers, the Cure) with the exception of “Everytime” (produced and mixed by Metro), “One More Try” (produced and engineered by Chris Porter) and “Same Old Brand New You” (the #1 pop UK single produced and engineered by Eric Foster White, who’s worked with Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and others). With the exception of “Everytime,” all the tracks on “a1” were mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, whose rsum includes Eric Clapton, Green Day, Chris Isaak, B.B. King, Dave Matthews, Savage Garden and more.

a1 has won international MTV Awards, two “Best Video” awards (TV Hits & Smash Hits) and the prestigious Brit Award (the UK “Grammy”) for Best British Newcomer in February 2001, establishing themselves in the front ranks of original and creative pop music.

The guys in a1 have been making music since they hummed their first notes as toddlers. Ben was one of the UK’s top choristers, based at Westminster Abbey and regularly performed for royalty. Paul’s inspiration came from his music-addict dad’s extensive record collection and many nights (mis-)spent in karaoke establishments.

Christian learned his skills accompanying his father who was an enormous seventies pop star in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Both Mark’s parents are musicians and, at the age of 12, he joined their touring band, playing clubs and cruises across the globe. “We all met while pursuing our own careers in the London music scene about four years ago,” Ben remembers. “Christian was studying music at the Paul McCartney Fame School, Mark was doing a lot of gigs with his parents band. Paul had just moved over from Spain–he was doing a lot of karaoke bars over there and he wanted to come to England. And I was actually head chorister of one of the biggest choirs in the U.K., called St. Margaret’s at Westminster Abbey. We were introduced through friends–none of us were really thinking about being in a band at first–but we started writing songs together and it went really well.”

Coming together as a group in 1997, they wrote their first song within 30 minutes and never looked back. With eight UK Top 10 singles, including two # 1’s, consistent Top 3 entries all over the Far East and Scandinavia, numerous gold and platinum awards and nearly two million album sales behind them, a1 has only just begun. Having found success in the UK, Europe and Asia, the group is psyched about bringing a1’s music to American audiences. “America is one of the places we’ve never actually been to,” says Ben. “It’s going to be really, really exciting for us to come over and introduce ourselves all over again to a whole new audience. The most exciting thing for us is to come out there to play live gigs, meet the people, and enjoy the American way of life. We’ve never made it until we’re the best we can possibly be. And we’re always growing, we’re always learning, we’re always trying to get better. But, fingers crossed, everything will go great.”

Ali

ali

I’m the first to swing/Home run with that ‘Gimme What You Got’ thing.

“Batter Up”

As the unofficial leader of the platinum-plus selling unit St. Lunatics (which includes the 9x platinum solo rapper Nelly), ALI is somewhat of a soothsayer. In the mid-90’s the St. Louis native conceived the group, pulled the group together and went so far as to predict that the crew’s 1996 independently-released single, “Gimme What You Got” would be a regional hit, spending weeks at #1 in St. Louis. Soon after achieving local success, the St. Lunatics joined the Universal Records roster – both as a group and solo artists.

In early 2000, when his dirty Nelly finished recording his award-winning debut Country Grammar, ALI (aka Big Lee) made another prediction. “I said out of the gate that we were gon’ sell 7 million records,” he recalls. Part of the reason was that he believed in Nelly. Part of it was that, well, he just knew, “When we first started, I had everyone listen to everything from gang-banging, DJ Quik music to De La Soul,” he says. “I said, ‘Ain’t nothing we can talk about that everybody ain’t talking about. It’s just how you say it.’ So I knew we had to keep our Southern slang; ‘we gon’ keep the hurrs and thurrs.’ It took a long time, but we got it together.”

What ALI is not willing to predict is the success of his debut solo project, HEAVY STARCH. Coming on the heels of the St. Lunatics’ platinum-certified Free City, HEAVY STARCH marks a bit of a departure for the crew. Mostly produced by Jason “Jay E” Epperson, the track maven responsible for Country Grammar and Free City, HEAVY STARCH still contains the heavy bass knocks, rollicking grooves and free-floating instrumentation that have come to signify the new face of St. Louis. The first single, “Boughetto” (featuring fellow Lunatic Murphy Lee) is signature Lunatic music- fun and funny, a party waiting to happen. Produced by Wally (who also produced Nelly’s smash hit “#1”), “Boughetto” – a blend of bourgeois and ghetto- takes an amusing look at what happens when financial security intersects with a street mentality. Speaking on a boughetto princess, ALI observes, “She bourgie ’cause her shoes alone cost a grand/She ghetto ’cause she cuss too much and talk with her hands.”

But HEAVY STARCH travels deeper into lyrical content than any Lunatic-affiliated project to date. “We kinda set things up like that,” says ALI. “We knew that after Nelly people would have stuff to say about our skills, so I knew I had to step up next.” On “I Got This,” things swirl, noises repeat, bass thumps and ALI lets off a fusillade of wordplay. Likewise, “No” is a smorgasbord of throbs, pulses and stutters where ALI and Murphy Lee take on challengers and haters with ease.

I ain’t a thug, so n*gga I ain’t gonna start that now.

“Ore Ore”

ALI was born and raised in St. Louis to a Muslim father and a Catholic mother. A self-described Renaissance man, ALI had written his first rap at 8 years old. It started: “I’m a rhyming technician/def musician/to be like Ali, you keep on wishin’.” “I had the hood on lock with them bars,” he laughs. “I’ve always been a hip-hop student extraordinaire,” says the tall, handsome rapper who DJ’s his own 4-hour radio show every Sunday on St. Louis’ WFUN. He’s first and foremost a die-hard hip-hop fan with an encyclopedic knowledge: who ghost wrote songs for whom, what artist used what sample, and so on. In 1993, ALI went to a catholic prep school in St. Louis on a basketball scholarship. After school, he would shed his shirt and tie, press in his removable gold tooth and hang in the streets ’til sundown. “I was on the street hustling, but I was always in school,” he recalls. He stopped being in the streets after one of his friends died behind the life.

Another major change in ALI’s life came when he attended Morris Brown college in Atlanta through a scholarship obtained through his mom’s job. In college, ALI’s dreadlock wearing, blunt-smoking roommate from New York introduced him to influential albums like De La Soul’s De La Soul Is Dead and A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory. Returning home to St. Louis, ALI spread his exposure to underground East Coast hip-hop to his crew. He gathered his friends, Nelly and Kyjuan, who used to rearrange lyrics to popular rap songs to fit their needs, along with Slo-Down, Nelly’s brother City Spud and a young rapscallion named Murphy Lee and suggested that they form a rap crew. The rest as they say is history, and HEAVY STARCH is the latest chapter in the ongoing success story.

HEAVY STARCH is replete with the catchy hooks and party anthems that St. Louis’ favorite sons are known for. Like Country Grammar, the title of ALI’s album is a subtle reference to mid-western style of wearing starched, pressed jeans. The album title also alludes to ALI’s flow- crisp and deliberate- demonstrated throughout the lyrically diverse set. The hypnotic “360” takes listeners on a journey of self-knowledge. “Collection Plate,” is a clever parody that points a critical eye at preachers who fleece their flock. The pimped out “Crucial” is mid-tempo riding music cautioning against casual sex. And on “Walk Away,” the beauty of the female figure is revered.

Finally, there’s traditional party music with a twist- the chant heavy “Ore Ore,” comes off like a dark cousin to Nelly’s “E.I.” On the sinewy “Drop Top,” ALI actually re-works Nelly’s opening verse from “E.I.” “I took his lyrics but did it with my style, like my tribute to my dirty,” ALI says. “Even though I taught him how to do this, I ain’t sold 8 million records.” Nelly himself also shows up to drop a hook on the dance floor assaulting “Wiggle, Wiggle” and the Lunatic-laden “Car Don’t Smell.” “I made a conscious effort not to overuse my dirty,” says ALI. “I just want to see if I can stand on my own. If not, I’ll continue to be a St. Lunatic. I’ll always be a Tic anyway, but for the album I just wanted to do me all the way.”

HEAVY STARCH is ALI all the way. And it’s sure to be a hip-hop album to beat in 2002. The cautious lyricist just won’t see it. Yet.

Louise Goffin – Sometimes A Circle

Louise Goffin
Artist: Louise Goffin
Title: Sometimes A Circle
Label: Dreamworks
Rating: 8/10

Louise Goffin has one hell of a pedigree. Her mom is the world-renowned Carole King and her father, Gerry Goffin, co-wrote many of her hits. Sometimes A Circle comes out with a lot to live up to.

After a few listens Sometimes A Circle really wears into you. With her Rickie Lee Jones flavor, Goffin doesn’t sound like her mother at all, and believe me it’s not a bad thing. Goffin’s voice is cut like sand paper but worn worth. “Instant Photo” has the feeling of old velour as Goffin strides through jutting licks of a tinny guitar. There are more than a handful of tracks that are nothing if not thoroughly enjoyable “Just Bone And Breath” and “Clicking To The Next Slide”.

For every surefire song like “Sometimes A Circle”, a take on materialism, there is the deeply comforting “I Can’t Remember Why”, a true cut above. These heart-on-a-sleeve tracks will have you looking to toss an arm around Goffin and comfort her as with “What If I Were Talkin’ To Me”.

There is much more depth to this album. “Sleep With Me Instead” isn’t the typically lovers song. It’s seemingly complicated however the message comes down to being happy. The message stays its course with “Only Water”. “Light In Your Eyes” breeds more luster about seeing everything for what its worth.

Under all the pressure Goffin didn’t give in. She strove; she crafted and carved out what amount to great songs. Sometimes A Circle does more than just spin its wheels. The great thing about Sometimes A Circle is that there isn’t a ton to absorb yet there is much to enjoy.

+ charlie craine

Montell Jordan – Montell Jordan

Montell Jordan
Artist: Montell Jordan
Title: Montell Jordan
Label: Def Soul
Rating: 5/10

Montell Jordan opens with a montage called “MJ V Intro” a pledge to God with a few drops of rhyme that fall far below.

On “MJ’s Anthem” Montell gives himself props about doing it for seven years and giving the world five albums. He tells everyone that the “music industry has gotten out of control” and that he is going to “even the score”. I just wonder what the score is right now. “Tasty” is almost up to speed however it suffers from a monotonous dragging along.

There are many ballads to choose from, unfortunately they all sound too similar. The cream of a seemingly limitless crop is “You’re The Right One” and “You Must Have Been”. “Top Or Bottom” isn’t suffering too badly. It’s charming but not great.

Montell Jordan has five albums behind him yet this one suffers from being to personal and too slow. You’d expect Montell’s life to be a bit more exciting, a bit more live.

+ cc morris

Abandoned Pools

abandoned pools

Abandoned Pools may well be the ideal way to describe Tommy Walter’s escape from a seemingly idyllic upbringing in the affluent L.A. community of Westlake Village. He might have “ruined his life,” to paraphrase one of his song titles, but Walter has most definitely spurned a predestined future of the perfect family, a manicured backyard, a two-car garage and the pacifying comforts of the TV in the living room for something far less certain.

On his Extasy Records International debut, Humanistic, Walter takes matters into his own hands, casting a knowing eye on society’s hypocrisies and deceits with a musical palette that combines some of his own unique influences. His first musical obsession was the “Star Wars” soundtrack (his publishing company is Boba Fettish Music). He also had a childhood fascination with Prince, and later on, an admiration for ’80s U.K. new wave bands, indie-guitar rock and cutting-edge, sample-based electronic music.

“I wanted the listener not to know what’s coming next,” he says. “So that just when you think it’s going in one direction, it goes in another.”

Produced by the Boston-based team of Paul Q. Kolderie and Sean Slade (the duo behind both Hole’s Live Through This and Radiohead’s Pablo Honey), and mixed by Chris Lord -Alge (Green Day, Replacements), Humanistic is Walter’s first work since leaving the influential band eels, with whom he recorded the acclaimed Beautiful Freak, the first record ever released by DreamWorks. The new album, coincidentally, the first for impressive start-up Extasy Records International, incorporates both the sturm und grind of the first single, “Mercy Kiss,” which revisits adolescent humiliation with the hindsight of experience and the feverish rush of the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way,” and the wall of sound surrounding “The Remedy, ” a song which tweaks his former band’s alternative radio hit with its playful refrain, “I could use a shot/ your Novocain.”

There’s also a kinder, gentler side to Walter, as shown on the acoustic guitar and single piano notes of “Never,” from the very first demo he recorded, with the original basic tracks and vocal remaining intact. “My producers told me I wasn’t naïve enough to sing it that way anymore,” he laughs. The multi-talented musician co-produced the album and played the majority of instruments. Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, The Vandals) played drums while an assortment of instruments bits including bass clarinet, piano, clavinet and guitar were added by both Slade and Kolderie.

Walter uses the industrial metal blasts of “Monster” and “Seed” to cast a jaundiced eye on the world of rock stardom, while the sweetly nostalgic “Suburban Muse” and the sprightly, tongue-in-cheek “Sunny Day” perfectly express Walter’s ambivalence about his upbringing. The sampled drum loops of “Start Over” and the soulful, Prince-like falsetto vocals in “Ruin Your Life” (courtesy of Walter and Frente’s Angie Hart, who sings back-up on three other tracks) are the silver linings to what he views as the dark cloud of conforming to others’ expectations. It’s something Walter has tried to avoid his whole life.

He grew up the son of a former World War II bomber pilot for the Canadian Air Force (who was 50 years of age when Tommy was born) and a mother who was a stewardess 20 years his father’s junior. The sinister “Blood” describes his ambivalent feelings about growing up inside this “happy” family: “I see the happy family tree/It sways so easily/We’re smiling all the time/This world just isn’t mine.”

Tommy learned to play electric bass in grade school, and then was classically trained on the French horn (shades of the Who’s John Entwhistle) soon after high school. He majored in the instrument at USC before switching to composition after learning the hard way the role of departmental politics. You can hear him play French horn on “Ruin Your Life” as well as eels’ “Beautiful Freak.”

While at Southern Cal, he played “Tusk” one too many times on the mellophone as a member of the university’s famed marching band. After graduation, he enrolled at University of Pacific in Stockton, CA, where he studied and taught a class in musical theory-hence his eels nickname “The Professor.” While there, he specialized in early 20th century, 12-tone and modal composers like Schoenberg, Bartok and Stravinsky, traces of which can be heard in the “discordant, non-tonal” musique concrete of tracks like “Blood,” “The Remedy” and the “I Am The Walrus”-style pastiche of “Fluorescein.”

Disillusioned with academia, Walter tried to find like-minded collaborators in the local L.A. pop-rock community.

“At this point, I’d played in more symphonic orchestras than garage bands,” he admitted, developing a melodic style of bass-playing and back-up singing in one local group, Mrs. God. At an open mic night at L.A. club The Mint, he met singer/songwriter E, who was impressed enough to invite Walter, along with drummer Butch Norton, to join the original trio which would eventually form eels. The group quickly attracted the interest of DreamWorks Records.

And while the group quickly attracted the interest of fans and critical praise, Walter’s goals were not your usual rock dreams.

“I’m not the type of musician who started out playing guitar just to get laid,” he says ruefully, though he was exposed to all manner of abusive behavior (“including my own”) as a member of the group, touring around the world to great acclaim. As he complains in “Sunny Day”: “All this talk of rock stars really makes me sick.”

He left the band after one album, citing as a reason his desire, once again, not to lock himself into an inevitable future. “Everyone’s a genius/Brushing up on irony,” he sings in “Monster,” putting down the prevailing attitude of the cooler-than-thou music snob circles he ultimately fled from.

“At first, it was a band,” he says, “but when the ink dried, it was a different story. But that’s just my naiveté. It was a good lesson. I learned to trust my own instincts. I thought the three of us were great live and worked well together. We had some fun times. But once you get a fancy tour bus and the crowds get bigger, everything goes to hell.”

Wood-shedding in his South Pasadena apartment, Walter set out to “reinvent himself,” writing and recording on his home eight-track system with a goal. “I tried to balance two things-what made me happy as a songwriter and what could speak to fans,” he says. “It’s a good challenge. I want people to hear my music.”

Transferring the songs from eight-track to Pro Tools, he took the demos up to Boston’s Q Division studio, where he finished up the album with Kolderie and Slade.

“The songs are about what it’s like to be human,” he says. “Everything doesn’t have to be so bottom-line, profit-based, black and white. You can do things for the right reasons.”

The final track of the album, “Fluorescein,” revisits Walter’s relationship with his father, who died last year. If you listen carefully, after the final note, his father can be heard describing matter-of-factly how he jumped out of a plane moments before it blew up as a 21-year-old fighter pilot. It is a chilling conclusion, symbolizing his son’s own tendency to shift gears just before the proverbial shit hits the fan. “It was hard for me to express who I was or what I was all about.” he says before admitting he’s finally coming to terms with the relationship.

As for his own ambitions, Walter insists: “I wouldn’t say I don’t want to be a rock star. I just want to make records that mean something to people, that have an impact on them Of course, I say now I won’t get caught up in the trappings, but I know I will.”

He laughs. After all, Tommy Walter, the man behind Abandoned Pools, is only human.

Afroman

afroman

It’s 4:20 somewhere. Or at least that’s the way AFROMAN sees the world through his green tinted shades. If you took a musical bong hit concocted out of equal parts Biz Markie, Cypress Hill, Beck, Beastie Boys, and James Brown, the ensuing head rush might be comparable to AFROMAN’s unique sound. His Universal debut, The Good Times, is the funniest feel good album of the year, as songs like “Because I Got High,” “Let’s All Get Drunk,” and “Tall Cans,” raise the roof even higher. It’s all about having the best time possible and living life to the fullest.

Born Joseph Foreman, he officially became AFROMAN after being taunted during his aspiring artist days. “I was gonna name myself all sorts of different imaginations — Heavenly Henry and all this shit,” he explains. “And I was thinkin’ that no matter the name I thought up, it never sounded right. I just wanted to be a realistic fool. I thought, I’m not Denzel Washington, I’m gonna let reality name me. And then this XL chick called me AFROMAN back when I was broke. So I said ‘Okay, that’s my name. I’m AFROMAN.'”

Foreman laid his first tune to tape back in the days of Junior High, when he wrote an amusing ditty about the diminutive size of his teacher’s breasts after he had been expelled. He started out playing drums at church, but later graduated to the guitar, because of one simple factor. “Everyone and their mom played the drums and I wanted more attention,” he laughingly admits. “I noticed how less people played guitar – the more complicated the instrument, the less competition you had. So, I started to play the guitar to try and get more respect, because I was a little punk and wanted the spotlight.” Growing up in East Palmdale, Los Angeles, he began by playing sidewalks, parties, rap contests, and anywhere else that would allow him time on the mic. In November, 1999, he self-released his first proper album Sell Your Dope, a collection that lyrically reflected his childhood influences. “I grew up on Too $hort and 2 Live Crew and I was trying to top them, so you can guess what I was rappin’ about,” laughs the now older-and-wiser singer/songwriter.

After becoming disillusioned with the negativity of Los Angeles, he moved on to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he continued to gig and decided to expand his live show beyond himself and a backing tape. Now backed up by a drummer and a bassist/keyboardist, he handles the vocals and plays the double-necked guitar, which he is still hesitant to say that he has mastered. “There’s a lot of guys who have better technique than me,” he admits. “But as long as I stay in my own lane and my own zone, I’m really good. I’m like a shark, when you throw me in the water, I’m in my own element, I can do my thang. But if you throw a shark up on the sidewalk, me and you can both kick his ass.” Despite any misgivings about his ability on the six string, he knows he’s hit a sweet spot with his live performances. “After the shows, they want the shirt, the hat, the bumpersticker – they’re in the street screamin’ my name. So I think they’re likin’ it,” he jokingly offers. When asked to describe the show, he is somewhat at a loss for words; “It has the longevity of a jam band, the bass of a old school Too $hort joint, the flow of a crazy ass fool…Everybody really gets what they want. I’m tryin’ to sing, I’m tryin’ to rap, I’m tryin’ to crack jokes, I’m dancin’ my ass off, I don’t know how to describe it…It’s wild.”

In spring of 2000 AFROMAN laid down his next project, Because I Got High, in just three weeks. Working with local producer Tim Ramenofsky, AFROMAN handled all the singing and playing, as well as co-producing the effort. The funky title track quickly became a party anthem on the fraternity party circuit in the South, “It’s about taking life’s heavy blows with a smile,” explains AFROMAN. “It’s like, ‘The plane’s wreckin’, let’s have a drink before we crash.'” As for the origins of the tune? “I used to smoke when I was depressed, I didn’t have no money and I couldn’t really speed life up, so I had to just enjoy it in the present tense,” he says grinning. “And that’s when I met marijuana and she was nice to me.” Universal Records picked up on the buzz and was able to do what other labels that had approached AFROMAN had not been able to do – sign a deal. “People would try and make me into the Hot Boys or Vanilla Ice or whoever else was hot at the time and wouldn’t take me for who I was,” explains a frustrated AFROMAN. “That’s when I realized I needed to blaze my own trail. And Universal didn’t want to screw with me, they liked it like it was, and that was cool with me.”

If you’re looking for the perfect soundtrack for life’s biggest party, look no further, AFROMAN is what you need. So have a smoke and enjoy, The Good Times are here to stay.

Brooke Allison

brooke allison

Much of the music industry is anticipating that 14 year old Brooke Allison’s forthcoming recording will be one of the hottest releases of 2001. Her debut, slated for release May of 2001, is garnering attention from music executives, as well as many of the country’s most prominent radio program directors for whom she has already performed.

A story that has the year 2000 written all over it, Brooke was discovered on the internet, receives her schooling on the internet, and will have a song on her album about the internet. A native of Odessa, Texas, Brooke Allison, born Brooke Allison Adams on September 26, 1986, began singing at age three. Her parents, David and Robbie Adams, instantly knew their daughter was born to entertain. They entered her in pageants and her singing and dancing skills catapulted Brooke to the top spot competition after competition.

Brooke’s interest in the guitar and clarinet soon developed into writing, and at age 10, she co-wrote a song for the DARE program, aptly titled “The DARE Song.” Brooke then began singing at DARE rallies all over Texas, and was a youth sponsor and spokesperson for the DARE program, advising kids to stay off drugs.

Brooke’s powerful vocal abilities and stage presence soon led her to the World Championships of Performing Arts, where in 1997, she won four gold medals – in every category that she entered – Gospel, Country, Broadway and Adult Contemporary. With 500 hopefuls represented by 20 countries across the world, Brooke’s massive win at the Championships led her to appearances on the Jenny Jones and Maury Povich shows, with both audiences giving her standing ovations.

In January 2000, Brooke’s friend created a webpage and placed her music on the MP3 site. Producer Michael Blakey, President, Record Division of 2KSounds, happened to scout the website for new, unsigned talent. Going through thousands of samples, Michael stopped in his tracks when he heard Brooke’s powerful, unique style and immediately sent her an e-mail. At first Brooke didn’t take it seriously. “I thought the email wasn’t important, so I deleted it,” says Brooke. She adds, “But my friend Amber replied, and they started talking. I soon found myself at the label, singing Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart”. Then they started writing up the contract.”

Michael immediately assembled a team of the best names in the industry, and everyone who came through the label’s doors to hear Brooke’s demo was blown away. Jaws dropped, eyes grew wide, and superlatives flowed. Brooke soon entered the recording studio with a huge set list of hit material, from songwriters all over the industry.

The album will include songs that fit Brooke’s versatile vocal style. “It’s so crazy – in a good way – because the album has so many musical styles,” says Brooke. ” I mean, we’ve got some pop, R&B and ballads, but my main style is probably pop Top 40.”

On the album, AOL has given Brooke permission to use their likeness in a song she recorded about the internet. ” I love it, because I’m a total AOL and internet freak. I think the song is really unique and special, and has a great hook – it’s very 2000.”

While the recording industry is looking forward to her anticipated debut, Brooke is probably the most excited because she anxiously anticipates getting out on stage and performing. “The thing about myself is that I totally change when I get on stage – when I’m performing, you have no idea what I’ll do. I like to be spontaneous and unpredictable with my performances.”

Oldeander – Interview

Oldeander

Caught in the snow after the so-called Nor’easter, Oleander bassist Doug Eldridge called me and we discussed all things Oleander, including the new album, life on the road, and being a dad.

You got caught.

Yeah, in the (sarcasm) Nor’easter of the decade. (laughs) But I’m glad we took our time coming into the city because we passed like a turned over tractor-trailer and stuff. We don’t need to be Metallica and get into a wreck.

I never really thought about it, but do you worry about this every time you get on the bus?

You know, you put your life in the bus driver’s hands every night. You just get the best bus driver you can. You have faith in the personality in the guy behind the wheel. This tour we have a great bus driver, last tour we had a great bus driver. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, you send them packing.

I’ve been on a few buses and never once have I thought about the bus driver.

My family are the ones who are mostly concerned about that. Our bus driver is a really cool guy and really responsible. Nobody is perfect and things can happen. You just get a bus driver that doesn’t like to party.

One that sleeps while you guys are doing your thing.

Yep. He should get all the sleep he needs.

I was reading the bio like a good writer should do. (laughs) Well, I try, because these things are so glamorized that I can’t figure out where the BS is.

I know. I have yet to read our new bio.

I’m curious about the early days and how the band got together.

Well, Thomas (Flowers, singer) and I have been friends for a long time. ’92 is when the band formed. Thomas had been in bands for years prior to that. The way we put it is that we put a band together and that band didn’t work out. Then we picked up Ric (Ivanisevich, guitar) and a drummer and that didn’t work, and then we picked up Scott (Devaurs, drums) and started working on demos and here we are.

Was it weird with the last album and people treating you like you were new at the game?

Yeah. We are pretty much new to the country, they never heard of us. Nobody accused us of being an overnight success. Even now people are hyper-aware that we worked our asses off on the last record. We toured a lot and spent a lot of time away from home. So we made it happen. We didn’t give up and kept going forward and that is why I think we got our gold record.

With so much touring, how did you find time to do the new record?

We toured all of ’99, and the beginning of 2000 we toured Europe with Filter. Then early 2000 we got into writing mode and went into our stage manager Kelly’s living room and brought in a bunch of recording equipment and wrote every day. We did as much as we could. We wanted to have a record out by Christmas. We did realize at one point that that was an unrealistic goal and that we needed to take our time and make a record we are going to be proud of. We didn’t want just three good songs and the rest filler. So we took four months writing and went right into pre-production and then spent seven or eight weeks in the studio and then went right to New York and mixed with Andy Wallace. So we spent basically the whole year since February working on the new album. I think we finished it in November.

Is songwriting done by committee?

There are all sorts of ways that songs can come to this band, but Thomas writes a majority of the songs. Sometimes he brings complete songs or maybe a song nugget or maybe it’s just a riff or melody and we really hammer it out. Both Ric and I bring songs to the band, not as much, but we work as a collaboration and we put a bit of everyone in the song. We try to always agree, but sometimes we have to bring a producer in and get some outside input. Sometimes you get really close to the songs and you don’t always see what is best for the song. You have to nurture these songs, and playing what is best for the song, not for myself, not what makes me sound like a cool bass player.

Are there any songs that start out one way and end up completely different?

Every one of them has gone through a change. The process goes like this. We had songwriting demos and some we had eight versions, and the producer came in and looked at these songs and then we put together a pre-production demo with some changes. Then we took the pre-production demo and made it sound better in the studio. Sometimes the songs changed from pre-production to the final song. But mostly that was a guideline.

I always think of the Beatles Anthology with the rough demos where they went from zero to a hundred.

Some of our original demos are really, really rough, for a couple of reasons. As a democracy, we labored over the songs. It wasn’t about getting the best take; it was about getting a take on of it so we could get the idea down. Also as a democracy there are sticking points where we couldn’t agree. We did what we had to and made some notations. You have to have the trust with the outside party coming into this relationship. We had to have faith in our producer.

After a band makes an album sometimes they say the reason the last album didn’t sound as good as we would have liked is because of the producer. Can’t you fire them?

Well, once that ball is in progress you are kind of stuck. You hire a producer and sign a contract. You do all of this on a leap of faith. Someone claims the job and you have faith in them on their previous work. They come into the session, and if you don’t like what they do you are kind of stuck. You will still owe them all the money and find a new producer, but the more money you spend on the album the bigger the liability you are to the record label.

That is sort of scary, because you know their work, but not their personality.

Right. We have worked with Rich Mouser on our first independent demo. We wanted to work with him on our first record, but he was unavailable at the time. The second time around we got Rich Mouser and we applied all we learned from the first album and brought it here. I think sonically this record is better.

When you wrap up songs, do you bring them to friends and family?

Absolutely. I play them for my wife, my brother, and a lot of people. I like to see how people respond to the songs.

The album needs more than one listen to get hooked. Which if I want to go back and give it a chance again, for me, that is a good thing.

There is something to be said for that. I mean, like “Flag Pole Sitta” from Harvey Danger. The first time I heard it I could remember it, but I don’t know any of their other songs and I probably never will. I think what we set out to do isn’t to get someone to just jump right on the bandwagon. It took people a while to warm up to us. The more they listened to the record and they liked it. The song was number one and it stayed there, so there is something to be said about that. I mean, I would love to sell millions of records in two weeks, but…

…you want people to latch onto you like football fans do for their hometown team.

Yeah. It’s not a fickle thing. It’s not the flavor of the day.

The funny thing is there are albums out there that I absolutely didn’t care for the first time or even the second time I heard them, like Travis. I hated that album at first, and now it’s one of my favorite albums.

Exactly. And we kept hearing from fans that the cd hit their cd player and it stayed there for a year.

There are a lot of different types of songs on Unwind. Was that conscious?

You want to take a listener on a journey and there are a lot of elements of Oleander we want to explore. So we had to explore different sounds. We didn’t want the album to get stagnant. We didn’t set out to make another February Son. Now we need to grow from there and make something that will keep people interested, but at the same time not so far removed from the past that they are shocked. On February Son we had songs like “How Can I” that gave us the room to make songs like “Halo” on this one. On February Son we had songs like “Stupid” and “Lost Cause” that allowed us the room to make “Are You There”. We tried to take February Son and take it to the nth degree in all directions.

I mean, the one song that threw me was “Jimmy Shaker Day”, but what is cool is that every song isn’t like that one.

It’s not all in your face and the album has dynamics. That is what I like about this album. Some people may love the “Jimmy Shaker Day” or “Champion” but I hope fans will get into all aspects.

I liked “Benign”. It seemed like it could have been two songs.

Yeah. (Doug begins to sing the pre-chorus). You get the left and the right. The pre-chorus is great. It’s also the post-chorus too where it goes “all of this time it’s been benign.”

And then it explodes.

Into this bigger beast.

Right. “She’s Up, She’s Down” is bigger and…

…I know exactly what you mean. There are tons and tons of counter melodies in that song. That is one of the songs I’m most proud of playing. I really like that song because of all the melody going on. There is guitar, bass, and vocal melodies going on at once. I dig that song a lot too.

If I said that this album sounds like a mature extension over February Son, how would you react?

Every time you step into the studio, you learn something. Until we actually hit the road we were working other jobs and raising kids, I have two children, and didn’t really invest the time into becoming more of a prolific a songwriter. On the road, take the February Son tour, we all commanded a better respect for our instrument. When we went in for the next album, our growth came from doing it every day.

Speaking of touring, it has to be hard being away from your wife and kids.

Absolutely. It is very tough. But that is what I signed up for. I have no room to complain.

What is the best advice you’ve ever got?

Hmmm. Let me come back to that. I can’t think of anything.

Do you find you are in the position of giving advice a lot now?

Absolutely. I have kids coming up to me asking for advice. They ask how I did it, but there is no formula. You just have to work hard. I do know almost no one makes it without working hard. You have to work on songwriting and getting a good representation of that. We were fortunate enough to get in the studio and recorded a really good demo record. It was sonically good enough to stand up against music on the radio. Fortunately, a radio programmer in Sacramento liked the songs and felt it was hooky and would stand up against other records on the radio and took that chance. That ultimately got us a record deal. You have to be a businessman, too.

Who is your favorite group?

I’m not a favorite kind of guy, but I like bands like Buffalo Tom, Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Buckley. But I usually just listen to what I’m in the mood for. I like all sorts of stuff.

I can see the Black Crowes and Zeppelin thing in the music.

Totally. ’70’s rock and its guitar tones are what we were after. We went for it. We weren’t afraid of it. We took ’70’s tones and shoved them into a year 2000 light.

If you could be one person for a day, is there anyone you would want to be?

Who would I want to learn something from? Hmmm. This is going to sound odd, but it’s going to be my wife. I’d like to see through her eyes because I can’t understand what it has to be like to have me doing this and her home taking care of two kids. I don’t mean to sound cheesy.

It’s not cheesy, it’s life.

I know.

If you had the time to learn anything, what would it be?

Piano. It would actually be a toss up of piano and drums. I am the worst drummer. I try so hard and it’s frustrating. Piano is the base of all instruments. If I had time I’d learn it. I had a piano once, but no time. So maybe we can sell a zillion albums and I can sit around and take piano lessons. Maybe I’ll make so much money that I can hire Elton John to teach me. Actually, you know, I wouldn’t mind seeing what that guy is like. I wouldn’t mind being in his head for a day. I would love to know what he knows.

Lastly, how do you unwind?

I spend time at home. You can’t pull me away from home. I love being with my family. Family is important to me so when I’m home I like to kick it with my kids and my wife and spend quality.

After a few moments of conversation about nothing except our hometowns and family, we got on the subject of Buffalo and the Goo Goo Dolls. I don’t know if anyone else will find this funny, but we decided to add it anyway since it made a few of us here crack up.

Doug asks, “So you are from the home of the Goo Goo Dolls?” A little embarrassed, I decided to come back with, “Well, I like to say home of Ani Difranco.” So we discuss that for a moment, but it’s when Doug drops a little true story on me that I couldn’t help but leave him with a lot of laughter. Here is the story.

Doug continues. “Thomas met Johnny Rzeznik at a BMI awards ceremony. So anyhow, the Goo Goo Dolls are massively famous and of course we aren’t. But he went up to Johnny and goes, ‘Hi, I’m Tom from Oleander.’ And Johnny goes, ‘You’re from Oleander, New York?’ (we both start laughing out of control) That was pretty funny man.”

I won’t explain it, because I’m not sure if you had to be there or not. But just so you know, it’s Olean, New York!

+ charlie craine

Aerosmith

aerosmith

Aerosmith was one of the most popular hard-rock bands of the ’70s, setting the style and sound of hard rock and heavy metal for the next two decades with their raunchy, bluesy swagger. The Boston-based quintet found the middle ground between the menace of the Rolling Stones and the campy, sleazy flamboyance of the New York Dolls, developing a lean, dirty riff-oriented boogie that was loose and swinging and as hard as a diamond.

In the meantime, they developed a prototype for power-ballads with “Dream On,” a piano ballad that was orchestrated with strings and distorted guitars. Aerosmith’s ability to pull off both ballads and rock & roll made them extremely popular during the mid-’70s, when they had a string of gold and platinum albums. By the early ’80s, the group’s audience had declined as the band fell prey to drug and alcohol abuse. However, their career was far from over — in the late ’80s, Aerosmith pulled off one of the most remarkable comebacks in rock history, returning to the top of the charts with a group of albums that equalled, if not surpassed, the popularity of their ’70s albums.

In 1970, the first incarnation of Aerosmith formed when vocalist Steven Tyler met guitarist Joe Perry while working at a Sunapee, NH, ice cream parlor. Tyler, who originally was a drummer, and Perry decided to form a power trio with bassist Tom Hamilton. The group soon expanded to a quartet, adding a second guitarist called Ray Tabano; he was quickly replaced by Brad Whitford, a former member of Earth Inc. With the addition of drummer Joey Kramer, Tyler became the full-time lead singer by the end of year. Aerosmith relocated to Boston at the end of 1970.

After playing clubs in the Massachusetts and New York areas for two years, the group landed a record contract with Columbia Records in 1972. Aerosmith’s self-titled debut album was released in the fall of 1973, climbing to number 166. “Dream On” was released as the first single and it was a minor hit, reaching number 59. For the next year, the band built a fan base by touring America, supporting groups as diverse as the Kinks, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Sha Na Na, and Mott the Hoople. The performance of Get Your Wings (1974), the group’s second album and the first produced by Jack Douglas, benefitted from their constant touring, spending a total of 86 weeks on the chart.

Aerosmith’s third record, 1975’s Toys in the Attic, was their breakthrough album both commercially and artistically. By the time it was recorded, the band’s sound had developed into a sleek, hard-driving hard rock powered by simple, almost brutal, blues-based riffs. Many critics at the time labelled the group as punk rockers, and it’s easy to see why — instead of adhering to the world-music pretentions of Led Zeppelin or the prolonged gloomy mysticism of Black Sabbath, Aerosmith stripped heavy metal to its basic core, spitting out spare riffs that not only rocked, but rolled. Steven Tyler’s lyrics were filled with double entendres and clever jokes and the entire band had a streetwise charisma that separated them from the heavy, lumbering arena rockers of the era. Toys in the Attic captured the essence of the newly invigorated Aerosmith. “Sweet Emotion,” the first single from Toys in the Attic, broke into the Top 40 in the summer of 1975, with the album reaching number 11 shortly afterward. Its success prompted the re-release of the power ballad “Dream On,” which shot into the Top Ten in early 1976. Both Aerosmith and Get Your Wings climbed back up the charts in the wake of Toys in the Attic. “Walk This Way,” the final single from Toys in the Attic, was released around the time of the group’s new 1976 album, Rocks. Although it didn’t feature a Top Ten hit like “Walk This Way,” Rocks went platinum quickly, peaking at number three.

In early 1977, Aerosmith took a break and prepared material for their fifth album. Released late in 1977, Draw the Line was another hit, climbing to number 11 on the U.S. charts, but it showed signs of exhaustion. In addition to another tour in 1978, the band appeared in the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, performing “Come Together,” which eventually became a number 23 hit. Live! Bootleg appeared late in 1978 and became another success, reaching number 13. Aerosmith recorded Night in the Ruts in 1979, releasing the record at the end of the year. By the time of its release, Joe Perry had left the band to form the Joe Perry Project. Night in the Ruts performed respectably, climbing to number 14 and going gold, yet it was the least successful Aerosmith record to date. Brad Whitford left the group in early 1980, forming the Whitsford-St. Holmes Band with former Ted Nugent guitarist Derek St. Holmes.

As Aerosmith regrouped with new guitarists Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay, the band released Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits in late 1980; the record would eventually sell over six million copies. The new lineup of Aerosmith released Rock in a Hard Place in 1982. Peaking at number 32, it failed to match the performance of Night in the Ruts. Perry and Whitford returned to the band in 1984 and the group began a reunion tour dubbed “Back in the Saddle.” Early in the tour, Tyler collapsed on stage, offering proof that the band hadn’t conquered their notorious drug and alcohol addictions. The following year, Aerosmith released Done with Mirrors, the original lineup’s first record since 1979 and their first for Geffen Records. Although it didn’t perform as well as Rock in a Hard Place, the album showed that the band was revitalized.

After the release of Done with Mirrors, Tyler and Perry completed rehabilitation programs. In 1986, the pair appeared on Run D.M.C.’s cover of “Walk This Way,” along with appearing in the video. “Walk This Way” became a hit, reaching number four and receiving saturation airplay on MTV. “Walk This Way” set the stage for the band’s full-scale comeback effort, the Bruce Fairburn-produced Permanent Vacation (1987). Tyler and Perry collaborated with professional hard-rock songwriters like Holly Knight and Desmond Child, resulting in the hits “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” “Rag Doll” and “Angel.” Permanent Vacation peaked at number 11 and sold over three million copies.

Pump, released in 1989, continued the band’s winning streak, reaching number five, selling over four million copies, and spawning the Top Ten singles “Love in an Elevator,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” and “What It Takes.” Aerosmith released Get a Grip in 1993. Like Permanent Vacation and Pump, Get a Grip was produced by Bruce Fairburn and featured significant contributions by professional songwriters. The album was as successful as the band’s previous two records, featuring the hit singles “Livin’ on the Edge,” “Cryin’,” and “Amazing.” In 1994, Aerosmith released Big Ones, a compilation of hits from their Geffen years which fulfilled their contract with the label; it went double platinum shortly after its release.

While Aerosmith was at the height of its revitalized popularity in the early ’90s, the group signed a lucrative multi-million dollar contract with Columbia Records, even though they were still owed Geffen two albums. It wasn’t until 1995 that the band was able to begin working on their first record under the new contract — nearly five years after the contract was signed. The making of Aerosmith albums usually had been difficult affairs, but the recording of Nine Lives was plagued with bad luck. The band went through a number of producers and songwriters before settling on Kevin Shirley in 1996. More damaging, however, was the dismissal of the band’s manager Tim Collins, who had been responsible for bringing the band from the brink of addiction. Upon his firing, Collins insinuated that Steven Tyler was using hard drugs again, an allegation that Aerosmith adamently denied. Under such circumstances, recording became quite difficult, and when Nine Lives finally appeared in the spring of 1997, it was greeted with great anticipation, yet the initial reviews were mixed and even though album debuted at number one, it quickly fell down the charts. The live A Little South of Sanity followed in 1998.

Aerosmith Unleash “Just Push Play”
With Aerosmith being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 19, Columbia Records is releasing “Just Push Play,” the eagerly-anticipated new album from America’s premier rock & roll band. The group’s first full-length studio venture since 1997’s multi-platinum best-selling “Nine Lives,” “Just Push Play” is the first Aerosmith album to be produced by band members Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (along with Mark Hudson and Marti Frederiksen). Jam-packed with the unforgettable pop melodies and bone-crunching butt-shaking rock riffs that are the trademarks of Aerosmith, “Just Push Play”