Jul 31, 2010

THIS is how Democrats need to treat Republicans!

After the Republicans continued to play their games in voting no for health care for the 9/11 1st responders, who got sick and have serious health issues after they volunteered to help after the terrorist attacks, Rep. Anthony Weiner from New York lit into the Republicans with a fire and a zeal that is sorely lacking.  If all Democrats acted like this, and publically shamed the Republicans into doing the right thing, we'd be better off.

VIDEOS AFTER THE JUMP

Jul 29, 2010

Review: Wyclef Jean - The Carnival



  RATING: 10/10 CHET BAKERS 

I first heard this album several years after it dropped, and it has stayed with me ever since. Wyclef first came to fame in the legendary hip hop group The Fugees (with Pras and Lauryn Hill), and The Carnival is his first solo effort.

Often when you have someone who's known as being part of a group, when they branch out on their own, they just don't seem to have the same quality of music when it's just them. The same can be said for some artists who are known as "guest appearance" type of rappers or singers, such as Nate Dogg. Nate Dogg is a fantastic singer, and has been on some classic west coast tracks. I'm a huge fan of Nate Dogg as well, but facts are facts, and his albums are not very good, save for a few tracks on each.

That's not the case with Wyclef Jean's debut solo album "The Carnival". This album is full of colorful tales of women, music and the culture of his native Haiti. While there are many interludes on here, they never really feel like "filler" which is not able to be said about many hip hop albums.

It helps that in many of the interludes, there is the comedian "Talent", who you may recall as the wise cracking Butters from the 90's basketball comedy "Sunset Park", as the prosecuting attorney going after Wyclef.

The entire album is a concept album, in which Wyclef is on trial for being "a Player" and an all around nuisance to women, children and the easily offended.



Standout tracks include the singles "Gone til November", about a man singing a song to his girlfriend about him having to do time, and that he'll be away from her for awhile, "Sang Fezi" which Wyclef raps in his native language, and Lauryn Hill guests with a short on point chorus:

Then you should know
That one day we are gone
So keep your head to the sky
See the path we refuse is the path we should choose
They wont take the world when you die

And the powerful song "Gunpowder" which has Wyclef singing lyrics such as:

I asked my mother why do you cry
She said your brother he just died
Well I told him not to go outside
He said he had to fight for his country's right
But don't you know that mother
Don't you know that we can't stop the violence, no
Because the war is not over
Until you can feel love, peace, and hear silence
But I smell gunpowder

The interludes are often very funny, whether it's bringing back "Down Lo Ho" from the Fugee's "The Score" album as he demonstrates his "Dragon Style" in court, or the brilliant "Killer MC" in which Wyclef interviews a rapper who claims to have killed an incredible amount of people, but when pressed on the details, he just has "um..." and "you know..." to which Wyclef brilliantly sums up, "Exactly. Don't believe the hype", punching out at the rappers that build up their careers and images based on supposed violent pasts, when often they are just fabrications.

All in all, this is a brilliant album, and Chris Rock listed it as #16 on his Top 25 Hip Hop Albums of All Time.

Word of advice though, Skip Carnival II. The one with "Sweetest Girl". It's 90% trash. It's a complete 180 degrees from the intelligent music found in this album, and seemed to embrace the Lil Wayne/Akon type of hip hop music, rather than what made this album so great.

This album, however, gets a perfect 10 rating from me. Perfect in every way. A certified classic album!

Jul 28, 2010

Review: Christian Kane - EP (2010)



RATING: 4 CHET BAKERS

UPDATE: Thank you to Jane in the comments for letting me know you can buy Kane's "Live in London" on his website.  The link has been added.

UPDATE II: Thank you to "depoetic" in the comments for letting me know that the Live in London is no longer available at Kane's site, but is available elsewhere.

Christian Kane is an anomaly to me. While I pride myself on enjoying and finding pleasure in all types of music, whether it's hip hop, classical, jazz, rock, new age, electronic or whatever, the one genre that more times than not I just can't get with is country music. I'm not sure why, either.

At first I thought maybe it's because all the country music I've heard (which admittedly isn't that much) is fairly slow paced. However that is not quite it, because much of my favorite music by bands like Pearl Jam, Counting Crows and Stone Temple Pilots are their more mellow tracks.

For whatever the reason, I never really got into country music, although there were a sprinkling of songs here and there that I liked. I always dug "The Dance" and "Thunder Rolls" by Garth Brooks, for instance.

Then I discovered Christian Kane's music and was taken by surprise. It's, as is described on a live recording of Kane that I have, "A little bit of country, a little bit of rock n' roll but it's all soul". And that's a very good description of it.

Most people probably know Christian Kane through his acting roles. He played lawyer Lindsey McDonald on the television series "Angel" (as one of only two actors to be in the first and last episode of the show), and his current role as Elliot on "Leverage" where he plays the hitter, or muscle of the group.

I had never watched Angel but got into the show Leverage, as I've always liked shows like this, such as the BBC series "Hustle" which has a similar idea, only in Leverage there is a moral reason for what the group does. In Hustle they steal money from the greedy and powerful, but not for any sense of right or wrong, but just because it's there.

In Leverage they protect and represent those who have no voice. Unfortunately in this day and age there are no shortage of storylines of the poor and defenseless being taken advantage of by those in power.





So after watching the show I was looking up info on the actors as I had never seen any of them in other things with the exception of Timothy Hutton who plays the leader of the band of merry men. That's when I realized that Kane was a singer.

This is around the time that Kane released his EP on Amazon and Itunes of five songs from his forthcoming album.

As I said before I'm not a Country music fan, but I thought he was a cool guy in the interviews I've seen and I enjoyed the show so I figured what the hell? I bought his EP on Amazon's MP3 service and was shocked because I really enjoyed it.


Kane's music is definitely country but it has a strong rock influence to it and a surprising amount of soul to it. And I don't necessarily mean "soul" as in soul music, but more of the integrity and soul of the music. When you listen to it it has a meaning. You are listening to the lyrics and imagining that this isn't just a song someone wrote, but the words have a strong connection to the person singing.



The EP, while short at about 15-20 minutes was a good taste of his style with the rockin' first single "House Rules", "Whiskey in Mind" and "American Made" and the more somber and serious "Making Circles" and "Let me Go".

My favorite track is "Making Circles" which I think so many people can relate to. We've all had those relationships where it seemed to be doomed. You both got to that point where things are only going down hill and you end up going round and round, trying to hurt each other, despite the love you both have for each other.

After hearing the EP I went searching for more of his music, but unfortunately it's almost all out of print. I lucked into finding some of his older stuff online, and they are very interesting to listen to. One of them, which is a live recording of them in London was a very fun listen. It seemed to be in a small club and it was this recording which had, what I think is, Christian Kane's best song he's done, called "Spirit Boy".

Kane, who is of Native American ancestry, tells a fantastically entertaining story of a Cherokee who falls in love with a girl in town, much to her father's chagrin. Things don't go well, and he ends up on the run with her with the law on his trail. This is a great example of the "Soul" that permeates throughout Kane's music.

There's a heart and a soul to his music, and as I said when you listen you feel that there's a serious connection between himself and the words he's singing. In this day and age of people not writing their own lyrics, that's a shining example of his appeal.

The "Live in London" release, which is out of print,  which is available by visiting Christian's website Tourhut and purchasing it HERE,  is a "VH1 Storytellers" type of performance, where he talks about writing the songs, or talking to the audience about the proper pronunciation of "garage", and a hilarious note before "Mary will you come outside" where he talks about a girl who lived next door and would get beaten up by the guy she was with. And he explains to the audience how he "went over and politely knocked on the door and then politely beat the shit out of him", to enthusiastic applause from the crowd. He explains that she never talked to him again, but he didn't care because she broke up with the guy soon after that.

It's little things like that that ingratiates an artist with the crowd and makes them feel that he's one of them. And the huge appeal to Kane is that he IS one of the crowd. In a world of artists and athletes and actors who come off as assholes, or they come off with that fake "I'm just a regular guy" type of spiel, Kane actually does seem to embody that real aspect of being a local guy who happened to hit it big with a career in movies and music.

If you can find any Christian Kane music, I recommend you do so. You can go to Amazon and get his EP by clicking HERE or you can scour the internet for his older releases that may still be for sale somewhere, but watch out because there is apparantly another band named "Kane" which has nothing to do with Christian, despite the identical band name.

I may end up posting my copies of the out of print stuff, if I can figure out whether or not that would be allowed. Don't wanna step on anyone's toes, despite it being impossible to find now.

Here's some clips below of his music, and some of him on Leverage.


 

Jul 27, 2010

Why I'm Against the Death Penalty

NOTE: originally posted on August 31st 2009





The Death Penalty is one of those issues, along with Abortion and Gay Rights that sets people on edge. It's an issue that divides people sharply and both sides are adamant that THEY are correct.

There are those who point to the Bible that says that "An Eye for an Eye" is the only way to do things. I could point to many things in the Bible that we don't practice anymore to say that quoting the Bible as giving you permission for something isn't the most logical thing.

I could also point to in the Bible where Jesus said the exact opposite.

Via the NIV translation of the Bible:


17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”d says the Lord.


However this is still an issue that probably won't go away anytime soon, and both sides will dig in their heels and insist that they are correct in how they view things.

And to those who are FOR Capital Punishment, I just have to say that I get it. I understand COMPLETELY how you feel. There are those I see in this world that just have absolutely no place here. Have no reason to be living due to the heinous things they've done.

There are people who embody the idea of pure evil, and if given the chance would gladly repeat their vicious and despicable crimes against society.

Recently there's more rage on the part of the Pro-Death Penalty side in the wake of the Channon Christian & Christopher Newsom murders. Despite there possibly being some fabrications being forwarded in emails concerning the details of their deaths (concerning their bodies being supposedly mutilated and other types of unmentionable things happening), the main factors are true. These two people were viciously murdered by strangers.

Now there are those who are angry at the idea that they would get anything less than the Death Penalty.

"An Eye for an Eye" many people are saying. And as I pointed out above, I understand. COMPLETELY. I absolutely know what it's like to have someone you love taken from you, and you wanting vengeance.

But I just can't get behind that idea, and bear with me as I explain why.

In history there have been 310 people convicted of SERIOUS crimes, that have been exonerated by DNA. These are people who have spent years and sometimes decades in prison for things they didn't do.  In some cases, there were some that were on Death Row waiting to die for something they never did.

These are people who in some of their cases, were months/weeks/days away from being executed before they were released because there was no way they could have done the crime they were convicted of.

In many of those cases it involved witnesses that lied, were paid off by the police, or there were racial bias involved. John Grisham's non-fiction book "The Innocent Man" detailed just such a case in which the police in a small town, were so gung ho to pin a couple murders on two men that they lied and did everything in their power to make sure they were put on death row and executed. And the two men were completely innocent.

Just in New Jersey, there was a study released that showed African Americans who kill white people are more likely to get the death penalty.


New Jersey Supreme Court Report Finds Disturbing Evidence Regarding Race and the Death Penalty - A report released by the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the state's death penalty law is more likely to proceed against defendants who kill white victims. "There is unsettling statistical evidence indicating that cases involving killers of white victims are more likely to progress to a penalty phase than cases involving killers of African-American victims," the report states. Appellate Division Judge David S. Baime, who conducted the study, said that the findings that more capital cases are considered in white, suburban neighborhoods should be examined by the attorney general's office. (Asbury Park Press, 8/13/01)


This can't all be due to an outdated stereotype that "Blacks are criminals" or that "They" do all the crime. It's been well established that many of our laws (drug laws particularly) are used to bring the hammer down on African Americans. That's not even up for debate. It's just a fact.



In fact, just recently it was made known that the state of Texas executed an innocent man, for a crime he didn't commit. There are no details or info on how many people are executed each year that turns out to be innocent, unfortunately. I'm sure a lot of people would rather not know. They'd rather turn a blind eye to the fact that our system is seriously flawed.

And as a result, if they cannot guarantee me beyond a shadow of a doubt that no innocent men or women will be executed for crimes they didn't commit, I can't support the Death Penalty.

Nothing in this life is perfect. I am aware of that. However THIS? THIS should be perfect. This is not something that you can put out there and say "Well we're mostly right on the money here but every now and then...."

That's outrageous and should not be stood for by a civilized society.

I'm not debating that there are truly evil people in this world that we would all be better off if they were not living anymore. However if you can't tell me that innocent people won't be executed due to shoddy police work, racial bias, or just flat out lies, then how can any person with a conscience support it?

If you do, you're essentially saying "It's worth it." That it is worth killing potentially innocent people, as long as you take out the ones who TRULY deserve it.

Tell that to the family of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was wrongfully executed in Texas for a crime he didn't commit.

Tell his family that he was "collateral damage" and was just a necessary sacrifice.

You'll have to do it because I could never sacrifice my morals and ethics to do something like that. Never.

 

Jul 24, 2010

Dexter Season 5 First look! Comic-Con Trailer + More

The first trailers for Dexter Season 5 have appeared online at Showtime's official site and they're great!

This season is going to be good I can already tell, with guest stars Peter Weller (Robocop), Julia Stiles (The Bourne Identity) and Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone) among others.

VIDEOS AFTER THE JUMP

Jul 23, 2010

Review: Yes We Can! Voices of a Grassroots Movement


RATING: 3 CHET BAKERS


While this was released back in November of 2008, I never got around to listening to it.   Not sure why, but it just never happened.   So I received a copy of this in the mail today and after ripping it to my Ipod, I put on the headphones and gave it a listen.

Now, with a project like this that is so absolutely entwined with a specific historical event, it's impossible to review it without giving it larger context.   And while most reviews would focus on the music exclusively, I don't see how it's possible for THIS music, because it's tied into the Obama campaign and the emotions that many people felt when he was elected.

As I posted before in another blog post (click here for that) I explained that the day I voted for Obama was the first time I had voted.  I had started following politics a lot more than I had in the past in the year or so before Obama came onto the scene, and so with my having voted for the 1st time I was kinda thrilled by the whole election process, although deeply disturbed and bothered by a lot of the racism and bigotry that permeated through the entire process.

The election of Barack Obama was seen by many as a turning point in our society.  In our country's history.   And to a degree it was.   For the first time in our history, a president was elected that was not white.   That was a big deal.

However, where many went wrong is that they felt that it was a turning point in how we deal with race, when if the last year and a half have shown us anything, it's that that did not turn out to be true.   While much of the attacks Obama has suffered from his critics have been purely based in ideology, and whether it was Clinton, or Kerry or Edwards or whoever else who had won the presidency they would have been attacked as well, much of it was also steeped in racist and bigotry.

Jul 20, 2010

Andrew Breitbart and the Case of the Amazing Racists



I believe that one of the worst things that you can be considered is a racist.  I also believe that unfortunately the accusation of "racist" is thrown around a bit more than perhaps it should.   There are many people out there who are absolutely racist and need to be spotlighted, however.

One of those people, in my opinion, is Andrew Breitbart, creator of the website Big Government, which is a right wing site that covers various topics, particularly those of a political nature.   Now what I'm going to do here is illustrate three reasons that I have throw out this accusation against Breitbart and attempt to do so with as little bias as possible, so as to give you a straightforward view of the facts of each of these cases.   Then afterwards, I'll give my thoughts on this.

And by the way I harbor no illusions of Breitbart giving a damn whether or not I like him or think he's racist or anything.   He doesn't even know who I am and more than likely won't even read this.  I also realize due to the cognitive dissonance aspect, most people who read this will already have made up their minds on the matter.  If you like Breitbart, nothing I say, no facts will persuade you otherwise.  If you don't like Breitbart, you probably won't need much if any convincing that the guy has some issues when it comes to race.  However I do feel the need to speak up on this just because it's gotten me so angry today.  Which if he IS reading this, just smiled.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP


REVIEW: David Garrett - Rock Symphonies




RATING: 4 CHET BAKERS



Every day I check Amazon.com's MP3 page because each night at midnight they post up a different album for a heavily discounted price, usually around the $3.99 range for a full album.  Every now and again there'll be something for $1.99 or even $0.99 and sometimes it's as high as $6.99 but about four bucks is the average.

Most of the time it's nothing I'm interested in, but occasionally there will be something there that I'm very interested in.

My musical interests fall all over the spectrum from hip hop to rock to classical to jazz to a small amount of country to new age and beyond.

Today their offering is a guy named David Garrett who is a violinist who has released an album called "Rock Symphonies" in which he plays a variety of rock n' roll classics on his violin.  

And let me tell you that it's fantastic.   I've always been a fan of music that crosses genres.  Artists like Mike Phillips who mixes hip hop and jazz so well, or the Finnish band "Apocalyptica" who play heavy metal on Cellos.

And of course the "Hip Hop Violinist" herself, Miri Ben Ari who has been featured with such hip hop artists as Kanye West, Scarface, Talib Kweli, Akon, Styles P and others.

I first listened to the snippets of the album, because as much as I love this kind of thing, it's often very hit or miss.  For every Miri Ben Ari or Apocalyptica there's a whole slew of others that make you want to burn your ears off.

After listening to three snippets, I immediately bought it.  Even if it had been 10 dollars I would have gotten it, because this is really good music.

He covers a wide range of Rock music from Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit) and Guns N'Roses (November Rain) back to Aerosmith (Walk this way) and Led Zeppelin (Kashmir), and also throws in some classical classics such as Beethoven's 5th and Toccata.

I remember the first time I heard Apocalyptica was while viewing the film "Your Friends and Neighbors" in the theater while living in Charlottesville Virginia.  I heard them playing Metallica songs on Cellos during the opening and closing credits and was amazed.  I had never heard anything like that before. 

I felt that again while listening to Garrett's album because I think even though I've heard this type of thing before, it's still something that takes me aback.  It's not something you hear every day.  You don't turn on the radio and hear this.  You tend to hear the same 10-25 songs a day (several times a day) and there's very little exposure to true artists like Garrett.

One of the definite highlights of this album has to be, hands down, his track "Vivaldi vs. Vertigo" in which he  brilliantly mashes up the classical Vivaldi with U2's "Vertigo".  I actually listened to this several times and just marveled at how great it worked together.

Also his performance of Aerosmith's Walk this way was a powerhouse due to Garrett's fiery violin playing, and the guitars of Orianthi, who was featured in Michael Jackson's "This is It" movie).

Garrett, who studied at Julliard under the legendary wings of Itzhak Perlman, shines brightly on this album, and I imagine that he's got a great career ahead of him.   

He's already been featured on numerous television programs such as The Oprah Winfrey show, Good Morning America, and his own PBS "Live in Berlin" special, as well as setting the world record this year for his performance of "Flight of the Bumblebee" in which he was registered as the fastest ever performance at 66 seconds. 


His first album debuted at the top of the Billboard Classical Crossover charts and was in the top 10 for 40 straight weeks, nine of those at number one.

If you enjoy creative and highly enjoyable music, then this album is for you.   The great thing about this album, and others like it, is it really shows you that there's no more lines in music.  There's nowhere you can't go.  

There are no more limits. The only limitation is your imagination and your creativity and your abilities.  As the famous quote says, "If you can dream it, you can achieve it".

And no better example of that lies at the heart of this album.

TO BUY THIS ALBUM ON AMAZON.COM Click HERE.   

Jul 15, 2010

Tucker Carlson buys "KeithOlbermann.com" and redirects to Daily Caller



When I saw this story today I had a few immediate thoughts ranging from the "wow that's odd" to "that's kinda funny, I admit", but over all of those my predominate thought was: Good.  It serves Olbermann right.

And my saying that has nothing at all to do with his politics, his opinions, or anything at all about the man.  It has nothing to do with Tucker Carlson either, who I think is an idiot for so many reasons that don't even include this.  No, my reasons for saying "Good" and that it serves Olbermann right, is that he was too stupid to register his own domain name. 

Seriously?  You're arguably one of the top 5 most visible people on the left who aren't in elected office, you piss people on the right off all the time, and yet you never bothered to register KeithOlbermann.com, .net and .org at the very least? 

Serves him right.  Because he's too stupid to think in advance to get them.    There's a ton of history involving cybersquatters, and I'm sure Olbermann has read a story or two about them in his life.   The fact that he never imagined this would happen to him is astounding and is only surpassed by the arrogance that would have to be required if his attitudes was instead one of apathy.

If he simply said "I don't care if the people I attack on the regular go out and steal the domain name that I should have had the common damn sense to register on my own, and use it against me".

Jul 13, 2010

Review: Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 7: Back to Basics



 RATING: 4 CHET BAKERS

Ever since Hidden Beach landed on the scene with their Unwrapped series there have been many that have tried to duplicate their success, and failed. Whether it's the "Streetwize" albums or whatever, there is only one Unwrapped.

Over the past week I've been reviewing all the previous releases, and it's been leading up to this moment. I finally got my hands on Unwrapped Volume 7 last night, and have been listening to it almost non-stop.

Over the last several months I had heard rumors about a seventh release, but didn't know anything about it such as track listing or anything. Then one day I found out a friend of mine, Farnell Newton, was going to be featured on two songs, so that made the anticipation even greater.

I didn't know the tracklisting of this, but knew I was gonna buy it day one, so I just figured if it was more of the last two albums, I'd still get it, still enjoy it, even if it wasn't on the level of their first four.

Then the sampler was released by Hidden Beach and I got to hear snippets from the entire tracklist, and WOW! If ever there was a more apt title, I haven't seen it.

Hidden Beach Unwrapped volume 7: Back to Basics.

Jul 12, 2010

So...these "Obama Condoms"

Someone gave me an "Obama Condom" the other day as a sort of gag gift or whatever. I thought it was kinda funny, and said thanks and put it in a box and didn't think about it. Then the other day I got it out and was looking at it. Reading the fine print on it and whatnot. Hey, I was bored, alright?

So I opened it up and ...well I was a bit surprised by what was inside. Sure, it was a condom, but take a look at these pictures...


Now while this didn't "offend my liberal sensibilities" or anything like that, I found it slightly humorous that the "Obama Condoms" were black. I'm not even sure whether that it is offensive or just tacky or clever.

I just stared at it for awhile, and surprised someone didn't stop by at that moment, see me staring at it quizzically and ask if I was wondering how to use them.

We've seen many Obama related items over the past few years that are teeming with racist stereotypes and jokes such as the Obama Waffles which features a caricature of Obama, and the Obama Bucks with the images of ribs and watermelon and Kool-aid on it. This doesn't quite reach that level, and as I said I'm not offended by it but just thought it was interesting.

Not sure if I should be like "how outrageous?!?!" or "well..I suppose it makes sense". lol.

The person who gave it to me said they didn't even open it so they weren't aware it was a black condom, and they just kinda chuckled and was like "really?".

Ahhhh, ain't life grand?

Review: Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 6: Give The Drummer Some

NOTE: On July 13th 2010 Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 7: Back to Basics will be released. In the lead up to the new release, I will be posting a review every day of the previous six releases. You can read the reviews as they are posted by clicking on the links on the right side under the "Album Reviews" widget.



RATING: 3 CHET BAKERS

After the slight letdown that was Unwrapped Volume 5, I was interested in seeing what Hidden Beach would bounce back with. So when I bought Hidden Beach Unwrapped volume 6: Give The Drummer Some this back this past November I was intrigued because, much like Hidden Beach did with Volume 5, they partnered up with someone outside the Hidden Beach Family.

In Volume 5 they partnered up with hip hop producer Mr. Collipark, known for such artists as the Yin Yang Twins. In this volume they partnered up with drummer Tony Royster Jr who has played with artists such as Imajin, Envogue and has toured with Jay Z as his official drummer.

TONY WITH JAY Z

Much like the previous iteration of Unwrapped they mined track choices from the more recent hip hop hits rather than the older more established tracks.

And you know what? I'm cool with that. Whether it's because it works better with Royster drumming, or perhaps the song selection I don't know, but my feelings towards this volume is a lot warmer than it was against the fifth one.

Now that said, this still isn't my favorite track listing of Hidden Beach, but that said it's not that bad, even if I want to stab my ears everytime I hear Beyonce's "Single Ladies" song. Tony Royster actually makes it bearable for me, but I think I've heard that song so many times since it's come out that it drives me insane and I can't stand it.



Other songs on here are almost entirely new to me. When I got this and first listened to it, the only songs on here that I had heard before were Single Ladies, and the two classic tracks "Me, Myself and I" and "Flava in your Ear". This is due to me not listening to music radio, so unless I hear them online I most likely won't hear them.

So out of the 10 tracks, 7 of them I had never heard before aside from snippets here and there, despite them being fairly big to massive hits on the radio. So I actually had to look up who did the original songs.

And despite my having tempered expectations once I saw who originally did the songs, I was pleasantly surprised. Highlights have to include "Blame It", "Live Your Life" and "Every Girl", and of COURSE the classic "Flava in ya Ear".

While I was disappointed that many of the Hidden Beach musicians such as Mike Phillips and Karen Briggs were not gracing the album, there were a few that made apearances, namely Jeff Lorber on Keys and Johnny Britt on Trumpet and Flugelhorn.

This was wholly original of Hidden Beach to bring on Royster and I thought that he was dynamite. I don't think I've ever really paid attention to drummers that much, and as a result I wasn't sure what to expect with this. Count me immensely surprised and excited enough that I've listened to this many many times since I got it eight months ago.

The only real complaint that I have (aside from Single Ladies, of course lol) is really the one complaint that I've had over the course of the series but I didn't really address it: The synths. For a compilation that features live musicians actually playing, there's a lot of computer synth sounds. This can pull you out of the listening experience when you're listening to live music, and suddenly you hear that little computerized sounds.




It's not a bad sound, but as I said it kind of draws you out, or at least it does me. Not enough to ruin the experience, but it's something that when wearing headphones it becomes very noticeable.

I'd love in the future if they eliminated that and went 100% live and sans the computerized aspect, but I think that the series has succeeded just fine so far, so perhaps that adds to it for some people. It certainly doesn't take away from it enough to detract from the rating, so take that for what you will.

Below is the snippets and link to buy the album from Hidden Beach's website. Tomorrow I will have the Unwrapped Volume 7 review up, as soon as I have finished listening to it several times. Stay on the lookout!


Hidden Beach Presents UNWRAPPED Vol. 6 - Give The Drummer Some! featuring Tony Royster Jr. by hiddenbeach

Jul 9, 2010

In the End, "King James" Is All About Himself



For many athletes and celebrities there is a day that stands out among all others.  The day when their perfect image took a devastating blow.

For Kobe Bryant it was July 4th 2003, when an arrest warrant was served for him due to rape allegations that exposed Bryant's previously squeaky clean image as a sham.  While he was acquitted of the rape charges, he admitted to cheating on his wife, and he lost many endorsements and his image as the Golden Boy of the NBA.

For Mark McGwire it was August 21st 1998 when an article was published by a reporter who had noticed a bottle of Androstendione in McGwire's locker.  This eventually led to the allegations of steroid use among many of the home run sluggers in the game including McGwire and Sammy Sosa, two who were heralded as the saviors of baseball post strike.   After this, everything McGwire had accomplished was called into question, and finally in 2009, McGwire came clean and admitted what everyone had suspected for years: McGwire took steroids.

For LeBron James that date is July 8th 2010, and it will forever be imprinted into the legacy of LeBron James. That was the day that LeBron made, what I believe to be, the worst mistake of his life in choosing to chase after a title by joining up with Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat. Years from now when we look back on the life and career of LeBron James, July 8th 2010 will be an important date, for that is when his public image was irreparably damaged.

Now let me be clear, what LeBron did was not on par with what Kobe and McGwire did, however it was image damaging to the point that he can never come back from.  He can never be looked at like he once was.  He exposed himself that night for the self centered egotist that he is.

Up til then, LeBron had the world on a string. He openly spoke of one day being a billionaire. Bypassing college and jumping straight to the NBA, James was drafted by his in-state team, The Cleveland Cavaliers. James was the proverbial Man in Ohio, and the dreams of championships danced through the heads of all the Cavalier fans. For six years he did virtually everything except win a championship. He won MVP's, went to all-star games and took his team to the NBA finals, however fell short of his ultimate goal.


He was generally looked at as one of, if not THE, best player in the NBA, and the talk was when, not if, he would win his first of many championship rings. As I said the world was his. He was making untold millions of dollars through salary and endorsements. His first Nike contract was 90 million dollars, before he even stepped onto an NBA court.

However he stumbled. He managed to trip over his giant ego, and as a result his image has been damaged beyond repair. On July 8th 2010 LeBron made the mistake of choosing to piggyback his way to a ring, rather than lead his own team to one. He'd rather be one of three instead of being the one.

He pulled a sham on all of us. I read on a message board last night a great point about LeBron. LeBron talks about wanting a challenge, and yet he took the easiest route to try to get a ring. And that's right. How can you even argue that? I mean, he could have gone to Chicago that had some solid young players, but he would unquestionably be the #1 guy. They would have been a solid bet for the Eastern Conference finals.

He could have gone to perhaps the Nets where he'd have a few young solid player such as Devin Harris and Brook Lopez that would provide a very solid supporting cast. Most importantly the Nets would still have money to add quality players.

Instead he went to the Miami Heat where there's already two superstar players, and NOBODY ELSE. The team has made a 5 year 30 million dollar offer to Mike Miller, but other than that they're going to have to surround these guys with minimum salary players. If Lebron, Wade or Bosh get injured any extended length of time, God forbid more than one, the team is done, and will struggle to make the playoffs, much less win a title.

There are those defending LeBron and saying that Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan all had superstars on their team, and nobody questions THEIR titles, so no one should question LeBron's. However this is missing a huge point: Jordan, Magic and Bird all were on their original teams when they won. Those superstars were either there when they joined the team as a rookie, or they were added later. They didn't run to another team to join up with other superstars in order to win a title.

Sports Illustrated has a great article about this where Michael Rosenberg of SI wrote:

GREENWICH, Conn., July 8, 1990 -- Michael Jordan announced on national television he's leaving Chicago to join the Detroit Pistons. Jordan said it was tough to bolt Chicago, where he was the most popular athlete in many years, because he thinks he has a better chance to win a championship if he plays with Pistons star Isiah Thomas. Jordan said by playing together, he and Thomas "won't have the pressure of going out and scoring 30 every night."

That would have sounded absurd, right? Well, it is no more absurd than what LeBron James is doing.

Jordan was 27 years old in 1990, slightly older than James is now. He had never been to the NBA Finals. He had been beaten up by the Celtics and Pistons for years. He doubted his supporting cast was good enough.

But he never doubted himself.

And it became very clear Thursday night that LeBron James does doubt himself. James will be a champion in Miami -- if not next year, then sometime after that. If you put James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together and give Pat Riley five years to find the complementary pieces, that team will win a championship.

But James does not have the heart of a champion. He does not have the competitive fire of Jordan, the bull-headed determination of Kobe Bryant, the quiet self-confidence of Tim Duncan, the willful defiance of Isiah or the winning-is-everything hunger of Magic Johnson.

He is an extremely gifted player who wants the easy way out.

And I haven't even gotten into the arrogance and disrespect he showed his home state of Ohio. Look, I realize that he has a right to go wherever he wants. He was an employee of the Cavaliers and he has a right to leave and go play for another team. That's within his rights. However, it's the way he went about it. He has some big extravaganza on ESPN in prime-time, putting all the focus on him so he can stab his city in the heart live on television. A city who's fans live and die by the Cavaliers.

It was disrespectful how he did it. He should have been a man and told the Cavs that he was not coming back. Instead he ducked and dodged the Cavs calls and made them sit and watch as he publically rejected them in the most humiliating way possible: Live in front of a global audience. Contrast that with how Kevin Durant one of the top five players in the league right now signed his extension.

Durant signed the extension, and then sent out a twitter message telling his followers. That's it. No press conference, no dragging it out and practically screaming "look at me! look at me!"

Think of the raging ego that someone has to have to essentially make all the teams come to him. He sits back at his palatial estate and has everyone come crawling to Ohio to kiss his ring and beg him to come to their teams. Now, those teams bear some responsibility, as does ESPN and the rest of the media that has hyped this up and allowed LeBron to get it to this level, however the majority of the onus rests on LeBron.

In the aftermath of the "Decision", Cleveland erupted. There's video online of everyone in a bar gathered around hoping beyond hope that he'd stick around and help Cleveland build a championship team. When he announces Miami, they let out a chorus of gasps and boos.




People burned LeBron jerseys in the streets, and the Cavaliers owner came out and blasted LeBron's "arrogance" and called him a coward in a letter to the fans.

I'm not a Cavaliers fan. I'm also not a fan of any team that had a legit shot at signing LeBron, so this isn't a case of me being a bitter fan, mad that LeBron didn't come to my favorite team. And I have always had an ambivalent attitude towards James. I recognized his freakishly talented abilities and watched in awe at some of his highlights, however I've never been a fan or a non-fan of LeBron.

However this is crazy. I struggle to find another example of something like this. Some are comparing it to Brett Favre, but in my opinion Favre hasn't even approached the level of narcissism that James has exhibited. Favre has waffled on coming back or retiring many times over the years, however he (to my knowledge) didn't call a prime time press conference and stab Green Bay in the back by choosing to go to the New York Jets. Favre loves the limelight and attention, but at least he never had the brass balls to disrespect his home team like that.

Although if you think about it, as someone pointed out on a radio show I was listening to, Cleveland was NEVER James' home. His home was Akron Ohio. Everything he's done has shown that he has love for his home town, but Cleveland was just a place of employment. He openly rooted for the Dallas Cowboys, not the Cleveland Browns. He openly rooted for the New York Yankees, not the Cleveland Indians. So I suppose it's not that surprising that he would destroy the hopes of many in Cleveland with such pomp and circumstance.

And to be clear, LeBron didn't OWE the city of Cleveland anything in the sense of him feeling obligated to staying. He owed them the common courtesy of letting them know that he was not coming back. He owed them the common decency of not keeping them on edge while having to watch in front of the world as he publically rejected them.

Then again, LeBron's whole life has played out like a reality show, so there shouldn't be a shock that he treated the Cavaliers like the runner up on The Bachelor. Only LeBron didn't give them a hug or a kiss goodbye, he just turned his back on them, and left them standing on the stage, humiliated.

A Moment in Time of Great Hip Hop Music

A friend of mine in New York, DJ Mike Nice (Check out his blog here)  is moving and asked me if I wanted to take some classic mixtapes off his hands.  This is a guy that's got EVERYTHING it seems, and if he's got a collection of mixtapes, rest assured there's some real gems in there.   So I naturally said of course.   So we worked out an arrangement, and he shipped them off to me.  They got here today and WOW!

See folks, I love hip hop music.  I love the 90's era of hip hop.  This is back when hip hop was real.  When it felt pure.   Now everything's all watered down and you have so many who are doing it for the wrong reasons.

And back when I first discovered mixtapes it was awesome.  They weren't on CDS, they were on actual cassettes.  Back then it didn't matter what your cover looked like, it mattered what was on the tapes.  The substance.   It was about the Quality of your product not the quality of your art work.

This is back before the internet killed the feeling you got when you discovered new music in a store or on the corner.

Thanks again to DJ Mike Nice, and everyone check it out and reflect back when hip hop was at it's most fun.

Review: Hidden Beach Unwrapped 5.0: The Collipark Cafe Sessions

NOTE: On July 13th 2010 Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 7: Back to Basics will be released. In the lead up to the new release, I will be posting a review every day of the previous six releases. You can read the reviews as they are posted by clicking on the links on the right side under the "Album Reviews" widget.



RATING: 2 CHET BAKERS

Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 5: the Collipark Cafe Sessions takes a departure from the previous four in that there's no classic hip hop tracks on here.  It's more of the current down south type of music from the likes of The Yin Yang Twins, Soulja Boy, Lil Jon, Hurricane Chris and Akon.

As I've been writing up these reviews for this week, I've both been anticipating and dreading writing this specific review.

I've been anticipating it and dreading it for pretty much the same reason:  I really didn't like this one.  I was kind of disappointed in the song selection for this as I'm not a fan of any of the artists whose song were chosen for this. 

I still bought it the day it came out, because I support independent music, and Hidden Beach definitely deserves to be supported.   That said, I wasn't as thrilled about this and going into it I was not filled with the eager anticipation that I had going into the others. 

That feeling when you look at the back of the CD and are thinking "wow, they did THAT song? Man I can't wait to hear that!" it fills you with this ecstatic feeling.

Of course this is also a feeling that is experienced less and less with the advent of the internet age, and the demise of the brick and mortar stores, but that's another conversation for another day.

So when I was deciding to write up these reviews, I was anticipating this because I didn't like it as much, and I realized it would be a break from writing the other four reviews.  See it becomes difficult to keep writing great reviews for the first four because I tend to repeat myself over and over.  

With this one, I could at least break out of the repetition of praising something over and over, and focus on the less praise-worthy.  And yet there's the rub.  There's the "dreading" that I mentioned, because it doesn't thrill me to say that. 

I'm not like some reviewers who seem to get off on trashing artists and albums.  To be honest I don't consider myself a "reviewer" at all, just someone that likes music and movies, and enjoys letting people know my thoughts, however insignificant they may be.


I've had a while to think about this, as the album came out in 2008, and I found myself frustrated because I felt like Hidden Beach really dropped the ball with this volume.  I feel like they lost sight of who their audience was.   Now, I understand the desire to branch out.  To bring in new audiences and perhaps introduce some younger people to the beauty that is jazz in a medium that they will embrace it, or at least be open to listening to it.

However over the course of the first four albums you've maintained a steady model there.  You've covered the classic hip hop tracks by the legends in the game such as Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Run DMC, Big Pun, Dr. Dre, as well as other solid hip hop artists of the last ten or twenty years.   That's what your audience has come to expect.  That's what we've come to love, and yet with this volume that model was abandoned completely for what is, I can only describe as, ringtone rap. 

I try not to be an elitist snob when it comes to hip hop, although I find myself falling into that trap from time to time.  However it is a bit jarring to go from Common and Tribe Called Quest to Soulja Boy and Hurricane Chris.   And I've talked with others about this and while I wouldn't go the extreme route of calling this a "sellout move" as I've heard, I understand why someone would feel that way.

So anyway, I just put this album back on and am listening to it as I type.  There are some highlights on this though.  It's a credit to the Hidden Beach musicians that they are able to take songs that I didn't like at all, and made them not only listenable, but in some cases, really good.

Michael Burton (Alto-Sax) is a flat out beast on Ay Bay Bay. It's rare to hear someone that just attacks a piece like he did and I found myself actually hitting repeat several times, and even rewinding little bits and pieces throughout thinking, "DAMN that was hot!".

On every Hidden Beach Unwrapped I look for two musicians.  Karen Briggs (Violin) and Mike Phillips (Sax).  I know they are solid and always bring it.  On the first two albums their tracks, for me, were always the best and their version of "You Got Me" on Volume 1 remains the best track of the entire series (even up through six which I'll be reviewing Monday). 

I was pleased to see that they had teamed up with the outstanding Jeff Lorber (keys) on Soulja Boy's Crank Dat, and as usual they did not disappoint. 

They also teamed up for "Shawty" and this was one of the strongest pieces on the album.



As I said I'm not a fan of the original songs, so that impacted my enjoyment, although listening to it again it is a decent offering.  Not nearly as strong as the first two, and not quite as good as the third or fourth.  The album is entirely listenable, which is a testament to the talents of Phillips, Briggs, Lorber, Bradshaw, et al.  And it's definitely leaps and bounds over the original versions, for what that's worth.

Hidden Beach Unwrapped always strives to move in creative ways, to continue to up the ante, and I think that's what they were doing here, which you have to give them credit for.  Too many artists and labels just play it safe and do what they've always done, and in the process get stale and safe.   So I give Hidden Beach credit for trying to think outside the box, and while I didn't care for this one as much as the others, perhaps I am in the minority and others flat out loved it.  And I'm sure it brought some new listeners into the fold.

Hopefully that is the case.   As always, below is the snippets and a link to purchase this at Hidden Beach's website.   Listen to the videos above and the snippets below, and make your decision.  If you think I'm crazy, then feel free to leave a comment and let me know.  Be nice though. lol.


Jul 8, 2010

Review: Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 4

NOTE: On July 13th 2010 Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 7: Back to Basics will be released. In the lead up to the new release, I will be posting a review every day of the previous six releases. You can read the reviews as they are posted by clicking on the links on the right side under the "Album Reviews" widget.



RATING:  3 CHET BAKERS

Unwrapped Volume 4 was released in 2005 marking four straight years of Hidden Beach's Jazzy hip hop project.   The first three were very strong and consistent throughout and the fourth entry is no different.

Once again they've highlighted some classic hip hop tracks from the 90's (Hip Hop Hooray, Put your Hands where my Eyes can See, Treat em Right) and the 2000's (21 Questions, All Falls Down, Lean Back, Hate it or Love it).  However this time they went back a little farther and mined some gold from the 80's such as Children's Story and Rollin' with Kid N' Play.

This is another solid release, although it doesn't really have the same impact that the first two did on me.  The first two albums were dynamite and were near perfect.  The third one was very good in it's own right.

This one is good as well, but you sense a decline over the course of the four.  Whether that's just a situation of perhaps running out of solid songs to choose from or what, I don't know.   Out of the first four, while I enjoy this one a lot, it's not the one I listen to the most.  That's the first one.

Not to say this isn't a worthy listen or buy, because it is.  Children's story is a lively and wholly entertaining track, with Mike Logan's piano solo and Richard Patterson's Bass solo being highlights.

Candy Shop has a nice little scattting and piano solo by Richard Turner Jr. that's a definite plus as it's certainly not something you hear everyday in today's music.

The always reliable Karen Briggs (Violin) pairs up with Donald Hayes (Sax) for a fantastic rendition of Hate it or Love it.



As always, Hidden Beach Unwrapped comes correct with some smoothed out jazz versions of your favorite hip hop songs.  This isn't something that you can really go wrong with, and their collections are pretty much good for any type of party you may be throwing.   As always, below is the snippet sampler.  If you like what you hear, I encourage you to click the link that takes you to Hidden Beach's website and you can buy any of the Unwrapped's, as well as some of their other albums by artists like Jill Scott, Mike Phillips or Kindred The Family Soul.




Jul 7, 2010

Review: Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 3

NOTE: On July 13th 2010 Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 7: Back to Basics will be released. In the lead up to the new release, I will be posting a review every day of the previous six releases. You can read the reviews as they are posted by clicking on the links on the right side under the "Album Reviews" widget.




RATING: 3 CHET BAKERS


Hidden Beach Unwrapped is back with more jazzy hip hop goodness.  The musicians that stood out on the first two volumes are back as well and show no sign of slowing.  Musicians such as Mike Phillips (Sax), Jeff Lorber (Pianos), Karen Briggs (Violin) and Jeff Bradshaw (Trombone) among many others are back once again giving you what you've grown accustomed to hearing.

On the third volume of Unwrapped, we have some of the same things that make this series great, and also they introduce a new twist in having some tribute medleys of some of our fallen stars in hip hop.

Jeff Lorber and Karen Briggs pay homage to the late Tupac Shakur with a medley of some of his tracks such as "Keep Your Head Up", "I Ain't Mad Atcha" and "How Do You Want It", while Andrew Gouche, Dennis Nelson and Larry Dunn show respect to the late Christopher Wallace (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) with the songs "Juicy", "Big Poppa" and "Hypnotize".

And the final tribute, at the tail end of the album, is the tribute to the late Jam Master Jay, in which Peter Black and Andrew Gouche take on "Walk this Way", "King of Rock" and "Sucker M.C's".

When the Hidden Beach gang aren't paying homage to the fallen stars of the hip hop genre, they are showing their talents by performing some of the hip hop tracks we've all come to love over the past decade or two.

The great thing about this Unwrapped series is that they read as a veritable who's who of hip hop.  Songs like "Doo Wop (That Thing)", "The Way You Move", "Check the Rhime" and "Tainted" are all here and done in a jazzy way that I'm sure you've never heard before.

Standout tracks include Bradshaw and Nelson's jamming on Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful", Mike Phillips going in on Outkast's "The Way you Move", and Jeff Lorber' on 50's "P.I.M.P."

While the album as a whole wasn't as strong as Volume 1, which is probably the best out of all of the ones they have done, this is still a very solid output and stays consistent with what they've been doing.

As always, below you can check out snippets from the album and click to buy if you feel moved to do so.   Once again, you can't really go wrong with Unwrapped.  Respectfully done jazz versions of your favorite hip hop tracks.  What's not to like?

The Extreme Arrogance of "King James"


UPDATE: 7/7/10

TMZ IS REPORTING THAT LEBRON JAMES WILL SIGN WITH THE NEW YORK KNICKS.

Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley is the former teammate Ama’re Stoudamire, who just joined the Knicks on Tuesday.

Dudley told TMZ in a phone interview that James, 25, will join Stoudamire on the Knicks when James holds court on ESPN on Thursday night.

Dudley said that James has told the Knicks about his decision.

James will also reportedly announce his decision at a Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich , Conn., which is close to ESPN’s studios and to Manhattan.
 ===================

So the "Lebronathon" has almost come to an end.  We're less than 48 hours away from finding out where LeBron James is going to be playing basketball next year.  Whether he'll be playing for the Chicago Bulls, the New Jersey Nets, the New York Knicks, the Miami Heat or perhaps going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the only team he's played for in his professional career.

However, I think we've been had.  I've begun to feel that this whole thing has been one massive ego stroke, and that he's never planned on leaving Cleveland.   That for whatever reason, whether it's because he never had a College Signing Day, due to him leaving high school directly for the pros, or something else, he's wanted this whole summer to be about HIM.  The Summer of LeBron as ESPN has dubbed it.

I don't think he was ever going to leave, he just wanted all the attention on him.  He wanted to be repeatedly catered to.  Have every team sending people to his house, to lobby him.  LeBron's not going to you, YOU have got to come to HIM. 

Now the arrogance has been elevated to another plateau, as LeBron's people have contacted ESPN and said they wanted an hour long special on their network to give his decision.   Are you kidding me?   How narccisistic can you be?   So for LeBron James, a simple press conference isn't enough?  He can't call ESPN and say "I'm going to have a press conference at 6 and you can all come out and hear what I have to say", that's not enough for him.

He needs to have everyone stroke his massive ego and kiss his ass for an hour.   They're going to be selling advertising, and in the only non-selfish act in this entire circus of a summer, they're giving all the money to the Boys & Girls Club.

I have a feeling that the only reason they're doing THAT is to help stave off the criticism that is naturally coming his way.   However, ESPN aren't exactly lacking in the "attention whore" department themselves.   They have a long and storied history of propping themselves up and slapping themselves on the back at every chance possible.

This is a marriage in arrogance that is unsurpassed by anything in recent years.    If ESPN had any self respect and integrity they'd tell LeBron to shove his circle jerk of a special up his ass and do a press conference like everyone else.

But we know that's not going to happen.  They'll use this as their way of showing everyone how special they are, and maybe they'll even broadcast it on ESPNOCHO.

Jul 6, 2010

Review: Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 2

NOTE: On July 13th 2010 Hidden Beach Unwrapped Volume 7: Back to Basics will be released. In the lead up to the new release, I will be posting a review every day of the previous six releases. You can read the reviews as they are posted by clicking on the links on the right side under the "Album Reviews" widget.



RATING: 4 CHET BAKERS

In review yesterday of Volume 1, I mentioned that the Unwrapped series represents a perfect melding of jazz, hip hop and R&B.   However, as Atlanta DJ Frank Ski points out on the intro and outro of this new Volume, it shouldn't be a shock.  

We seem to have grown up looking at Jazz music as "old" music.  When we think of Jazz, often people, particularly younger people, view jazz as music from decades past.  They don't understand that the thin line between jazz and hip hop and R&B is thinner than they may realize.

Numerous hip hop artists have sampled jazz musicians, whether it's Jay Z, DMX, Nas, Common or Kanye West.   In fact, there's very little music out there that hasn't been sampled by one of your favorite hip hop artists.

Nas and Jay Z have sampled classical music, so why should it be "out there" for hip hop and Jazz to have a close connection?

The Unwrapped series brilliantly shines a light on this, and illustrates just the sentiments that Frank Ski speaks of on Volume 2:  It's all the same music.

Volume two kicks off with "Always on Time" with Patrice Rushen taking over for Ja Rule/Ashanti, and doesn't really let up.   As with volume 1 there's so many strong tracks here, that it's difficult to narrow it down to a handful that should be pointed out and featured.

Jeff Lorber shines on "Electric Relaxation", doing a good job of faithfully recreating that "Tribe Vibe" while putting his own touches on a hip hop classic.   Mike Phillips and Jeff Bradshaw are dynamite on "Music", originally by Erick Sermon (sampling Marvin Gaye), and Lorber and Phillips perfectly take on Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince's "Summertime".

However, the two standout tracks are hands down Karen Briggs' "Gangsta's Paradise" and Lou Taylor and Jeff Bradshaw's "Bouncin Back (Bumpin' Me Against The Wall)".

Briggs is flat out on fire on Gangsta's Paradise, and when I first got the CD, I didn't actually finish the whole CD for two days because I kept rewinding this song.  Briggs' violin playing was just on another level, and she, once again, does her part to nearly steal the album, as she did on Volume 1 with "You Got Me" (with Mike Phillips).

On the terms of sheer creativity, however, the top prize goes to Bradshaw and Taylor's interesting take on Mystikal's "Bouncin' Back" which reinterprets it as something you would hear back in the heyday of Harlem Renaissance Era of Jazz music.   You can check out the official video for that track below:



All in all another solid release by the Hidden Beach family, and another great summertime BBQ music choice.  As with the other reviews, below is the sampler they released, which you can listen to snippets of all the tracks, and then click the link to buy it from Hidden Beach's website.   You can't go wrong here.