THIS UP at LA Weekly earlier this week. The Long Beach record store that was the laboratory for various West Coast rap/gangsta rap acts.

Record stores have been shuttering all over the country, but the fall of V.I.P. is particularly dispiriting. After all, “World Famous” isn’t an affectation; V.I.P. is iconic in the annals of West Coast gangsta rap. It housed the studio where Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg — then a trio known as 213 — recorded the demo that led to their big breaks. The rooftop sign has been the backdrop for videos including Snoop’s “Who Am I (What’s My Name)” and Jermaine Dupri’s “Welcome to Atlanta” remix.

But before all of that, I knew it as a hangout; a place people went just to plug in and find out what was on the air, but in the wind:

Another pullquote from the Weekly post:

Fhe store also has played a key role in breaking urban artists, even those who never stepped through its doors. It once served as a tastemaker for the neighborhood and even for Los Angeles as a whole.

At one point, the V.I.P. name was attached to a dozen outposts in Southern California. The chain’s original location in South Central was founded by Anderson’s older brother Cletus in the late 1960s; it specialized in gospel, Motown and R&B.

Rest of the Weekly blogpost here….

So sorry to hear of yet another record store going and with it, yet another brick-and-mortar laboratory where serendipity intervenes and ideas intersect, shape-shift and then become something brand new.

image by johnwilliamsphd via flickr


Cesária Évora, 70

This in from the folks, Rock Paper Scissors, who first began sending her music my way:

Cesaria Evora, the Cape Verdean singer, also known as “the barefoot diva,” passed away on Saturday, December 17th (at 11:45 am local time) at Baptista de Sousa hospital in Mindelo Cape Verde, as announced by Cape Verdean minister of culture Mario Lucio Sousa.

The world famous singer died at 70 on her native island of Sao Vicente about three months after retiring from the stage. She had been suffering health issues for a while and had had a few surgeries over the past few years, including an open-heart operation in May 2010.

“I don’t have the strength, the energy anymore. I want you to tell my fans that I’m sorry but I have to rest now. I am sorry I have to retire because of health issues. I wish I could have given pleasure to those who follow me for much more time” she had told French newspaper Le Monde when she announced her retirement last September 23rd.

She was in good shape on stage at the Parisian venue Grand Rex in April 2011 but her unhealthy heart, which had failed several times, forced her to give up her main addiction, which was touring.

“Life goes on. I came to you, I tried my best and I had a career that many would dream of,” she had told Véronique Mortaigne from Le Monde.

The Cape Verdean government declared 48 hours of national mourning to the singer. President Jorge Carlos Fonseca said she was “one of the main references of Cape Verdean culture.” Cesaria Evora will be buried Tuesday in Mindelo.

(image via euronews)

What do Stevie Winwood, Bob Marley and U2 have in common?

Just shook off the rain and settled in to listen to Scott Simon’s Weekend Edition Saturday interview with Island Record’s founder, Chris Blackwell. It’s here.. He’s in the States touring behind the publication of his new book about the history of Island at 50. 50!
Whether you think he’s a genuis, madman, vampire, it’s pretty ear-popping to hear the collection of artists back-to-back that Island hosted.

Peg Leg ~ Wilhelm: from The Black Rider

TOM WAITS will be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or so it was announced earlier this week. So that’s sent me digging for something purely idiosyncratic Waits — and that exercise nudged me here.

I had forgotten how moody, off-kilter and compelling this production was. I ended up seeing The Black Rider, twice when it was here downtown at the Music Center. The piece is a collaboration: Tom Waits, Robert Wilson with the ghost of William Burroughs hovering close by — even in the singers’ cadences and intonation.

This is a German production, but there is a fair amount of English throughout this video sketchbook. The actor playing “Peg Leg” is good, but I remember the performer here in L.A. as being incantatory. Just the way he moved on his peg leg — his limp didn’t make him appear at a disadvantage at all, rather it was powerful.

Based on a German folktale, the piece blends myth and lore with threads of fact (allusions to Burroughs’ infamous accidental shooting of his wife during a William Tell-like stunt.) The music is pure, classic Waits, clanging, bawdy and spanning several eras while crossing genres. It’s thoroughly haunting.
What also sticks with me about those evenings was the audience. When the season ticket holders fled the orchestra seats, a pack of erstwhile punks (and post punks) filled the empty seats ~ a little more posh than a mosh pit, I’d say. But theater too nonetheless.

Still waiting for this to be released as a cast album, right now there’s just Waits’ rendition of the song cycle on a CD. Not bad, of course, but even with his inventiveness and ability to stretch, you don’t get the stunning cacophony of voices.
So in honor of Mr. Waits’ nod, let’s hear him at his most elastic…

NPR’s 50 Great Voices

I’VE BEEN listening this NPR series catch-as-catch can. I really love the concept of it: A reported essay, if you will, that attempts to get to the heart of why a voice does what it does — the emotional hold it has over us. Yesterday morning’s voice was Billie Holiday. Not a morning voice for me. Or should I say, not a sun-up morning voice, but rather a 2 or 3 AM-voice. The piece underscores the connection between Holiday and Louis Armstrong — the singing and swinging that mark their work.

Says Phil Schapp, curator of Jazz (I love that title) at the Lincoln Center:

[Holiday] speaks to your heart. She catches your ear. She reaches your mind, and she does this with an emotional power that, of course, is genius and is beyond words.”

Full transcript here:

Wraparound Sound

I WISH I could remember the first cassette I slipped into my brother’s Sony Walkman with the bright orange earphones. Most likely, it was one of his. Something with lots of past-the-speed-limit guitars, some liquid bass. What I was most struck by was just how “inside” sound one could get. It was different from listening on the floor, head near the speakers, feeling the bass quake. That was a way to let music enter your body, but it wasn’t like this. Really, the Walkman let you live inside it.

This past week, Sony announced that it would stop making the cassette Walkman in Japan, there are plans to continue manufacturing them in the States, but for how long, it is uncertain. That’s made me pause.

My brother, now a musician, was/is an early adapter. He’s always quick to pick up the new electronic passkey. CD player, iPod, etc. would follow. But the Walkman is significant in that it did change our relationship — not just his and mine, but the world’s really — to listening to music — in that it became more private than you could have ever imagined. There have been a flood of studies, articles, essays written about the effects of all of this: how the Walkman has damaged our ears; made us anti-social; has shifted the way we communicate in public. All true. But there is something about dropping into a deep pool of sound, where you could for the first time hear sighs, whispers, chuckles along that bass-line quake.Erroll Garner growling with his piano, Glenn Gould’s half moans, the back-and-forths between musicians on Stevie Wonder opuses. Like you were in the room with them. It was a different way to *hear* music, the notes, the pauses and the interaction — a different sort of socializing, as it were. You could carry your world with you and not have to impose your mixtape tastes — or rather obsessions — on others. But mostly, it brought new meaning to floating on a song.