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Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:22 pm
by Ian M
I think this an apples and pears thing - there is not a lot of point in planting your flag in one or either of Cee Lo's or John Legend's camp, as if they were competing over the same ground. What seems to have started it is the reference to Cee Lo as retro-soul, but I think that is a bit misleading. For sure, he references soul, as he does pop and funk but to me in a completely different way to JL. Cee Lo is closer to Outkast than someone like JL. It is a very knowing and playful take on black and white pop music, and no surprise that he got on famously with Danger Mouse who has a similar love of all forms of music, as well as a very modern way of re-engineering it - much closer to the patchwork sampling of hiphop than classic forms of songwriting.
One thing I would say is go and see Cee Lo if you get the chance - there is whole other dimension (literally) to him that you just don't get on record. Larger than life just doesn't do it justice. This is a demented kind of opera, in the best possible way of course, a voice which could take the roof off, and a man who absolutely loves to let it rip.
While I absolutely respect what John Legend has done, it is completely different. Cee Lo for me is joyful and inspiring and funny, but in no way a retro act.
So let's not set them up as competitors for the same ground.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 8:26 pm
by howard male
As ever you are the voice or reason, Ian.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:05 pm
by Nigel w
Good post, Ian, and I suspect that you are right that the use of the word ''retro'' was slightly misleading.

Your reference to the Outkast influence on him is interesting.

Although wasn't that a similar aesthetic that Legend was after in working with the Roots? Their presence all over his album probably makles it just as inappropriate tothink of his Wake Up! album as straightforward ''retro-soul'' , just as the description doesn't quite fit Cee Lo's Lady Killer, either.

But even if it is not a perfect fit in either case, compared to other American black music releases of 2010, both albums are clearly more 'retro-soul' than anything else and that makes it inevitable they will be compared.

Perhaps we should switch to talking about Kanye West's new album which got an almost unprecedented 10/10 on Pitchfork, has been calld ''black music's Sgt Pepper'' by a famous critic who ought to know better and I think has registered the highest ever recorded mark on Meta-Critic (which averages the marks given by every significant music critic in the UK and US). Has anybody on here properly listened to it, because I confess that I haven't....

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:39 pm
by Jonathan E.
Well, now I have something to do on Sunday besides take a walk in the woods — and that's to listen to this John Legend and the Roots release on the information superhighway, which around here is called Mog. I'm always surprised how much I like his voice, given that I'm rather put off (in a superficial way, I suppose) by his over-the-top name, which I'm glad to see is indeed a stage name and so I'm not slagging him off in an entirely stupid way.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:54 am
by Jonathan E.
A quick note: I referred to Cee Lo as semi-retro soul, partially based on Howard's "Stax and Motown" reference. Personally, I think it borrows more from Hi.*

I'm near through an audition of Wake Up!, the John Legend and Roots album in question, and there's little question in my mind that Ian's dead right with "apples and pears" and his other general comments.

I'm gonna listen to The Lady Killer again and the Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — aka ''black music's Sgt Pepper'', really? I expect I'll find out I have nothing much to say beyond "contemporary culture doesn't suit me much." And then I'll pull out one of my vintage Memphis collections and suck my thumb happily.

Oh, my wife asked if Wake Up! was an old recording. That should tell you something. But, on the one listen, Andy's "Legend seems staid and almost academic" comment rings pretty true with me.

* That was a bit of a joke, alright? No knickers in a twist now!

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:44 am
by Jonathan E.
Nigel w wrote: [ . . . ]
Perhaps we should switch to talking about Kanye West's new album which got an almost unprecedented 10/10 on Pitchfork, has been calld ''black music's Sgt Pepper'' by a famous critic who ought to know better and I think has registered the highest ever recorded mark on Meta-Critic (which averages the marks given by every significant music critic in the UK and US). Has anybody on here properly listened to it, because I confess that I haven't....

I gave it a shot — but couldn't get through it. The first two tracks were enough for me to bail out on it. So I propose that it's not ''black music's Sgt Pepper'', but black music's Five Leaves Left, another much heralded album I've never been able to listen to. (Edit: OK, maybe it could also be black music's Their Satanic Majesties Request if you want to keep the crap psychedelia theme.)

Anyway, this whole ''black music's Sgt Pepper'' is such a crock. Firstly, the very concept is plain flat out racist. What? Black music has had to wait 43 years to produce something equivalent to Sgt. Pepper's? Secondly, I already nominated something as ''black music's Sgt Pepper'' way back in the deep mists of time. Honestly, my memory is now so hazy I'm not 100% sure what it was and I can't be bothered to go back through my clippings, but I'm fairly certain it was Public Enemy's Fear of A Black Planet — so I was a bit late myself, but still only 20 years after Sgt. Pepper's, not 43.

I'm listening to Marvin Gaye. Up in the permanent pantheon. You think Cee Lo Green will get there? I say, "maybe, not impossible anyway." Pretty sure neither Kanye West nor John Legend will get there. Note that's the permanent pantheon, not this decade's trends.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:02 pm
by Con Murphy
A Sgt Pepper? Let's see:-

Overblown - check
Over-ambitious - check
Self-indulgent - check
Overrated - check
But with moments of genius - check

Seems a valid comparison to me.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 5:05 pm
by AndyM
But I bet there's nothing as good as 'Gold Digger' on it.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:22 pm
by Jonathan E.
Con Murphy wrote:A Sgt Pepper? Let's see:-

Overblown - check
Over-ambitious - check
Self-indulgent - check
Overrated - check
But with moments of genius - check

Seems a valid comparison to me.

But it's not "A" Sgt. Pepper, it's "The" Sgt. Pepper, which despite the debatable qualities you ascribe to it has a particular moment, and meaning, in time. Without that temporal positioning, the comparison becomes essentially meaningless. But what do you expect from someone who writes about rap in The Daily Telegraph? And, believe me, after all these years away I was rather astonished to learn that the Telegraph pays any attention to rap at all. Times have changed.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:47 am
by Martin Owen
THE black Sgt Pepper was the 1970's work of Stevie Wonder.... and it was all about the rhythm. In particular Howard Goodall (see Youtube ref below) notes the ways in which Wonder is the master of modern syncopation and keeping the beat and the melody behind by half a beat (or so)

I commend listening to the brilliant explanation by Howard Goodall's "How Music works: rhythm"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb0rbf5kxww&feature=fvw

Cee Lo is Stevie's direct descendant in this. He also goes some way to explain why Cee Lo + Danger Mouse actually achieve a development from Stevie's work. Cee Lo has an unusual syncopation which is just a fraction before the beat. Innovative. This is most noticeable in Crazy - a truly great pop record by any standards.

btw worth listening to Goodall's explanation of the bass line of "Heard it through the grapevine" in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKtAXHph ... re=related

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:19 pm
by Jonathan E.
Martin Owen wrote:THE black Sgt Pepper was the 1970's work of Stevie Wonder....

I think I could sign up to that theory.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 7:40 pm
by matt m
Whenever I listen to Prince's "Parade" album, I always think it's like a funk/soul equivalent of Sgt Pepper: a concept album full of invented characters, lots of musical interludes, instrumentation that changes from track to track, and all sorts of wonderful innovative details and noises.

(We'll overlook the fact that it was a soundtrack to a godawful vanity project of a movie.)

At any rate, certainly the closest the 1980s got to a Sgt Pepper.

If we're talking retro soul, nu-soul or whatever you want to call it, the best thing I've heard in aaaaaages is the double album "Nuclear Evolution" by Sa-Ra Creative Partners. It came out a couple of years ago. Further out-there than Cee-Lo or Jeanelle Morae. Possibly even more so than Outkast.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:19 pm
by Jonathan E.
I might reconsider my agreement to the Stevie Wonder theory and claim that Miles Davis' Bitches Brew is THE black Sgt. Pepper's.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:27 am
by Martin Owen
I love Bitches Brew... and it did sell more than a half million. Using rock instrumentation and rhythms it did undoubtedly change Jazz. I also think that it undoubtedly influenced the subsequent work of Stevie Wonder. I would also say that the earlier work of the Mowtown and Stax labels influenced Miles Davies in the making of Bitches Brew. But it was Jazz it changed. It is a milestone album within a genre. It was Jazz's Liege and Lief.

Re: Cee Lo Green

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:53 pm
by Jonathan E.
Can Bitches Brew be both jazz's Liege and Leaf and black music's Sergeant Pepper's at the same time? Or is that a silly question? I do like the idea of "jazz's Liege and Leaf"; it's really quite appealing in a peculiar way.

I suppose I thought of Bitches Brew as THE Sergeant Pepper's of black music because it was unlike anything that came before (at least that I can recall), is as psychedelic as a dark night of wild abandon (although a different area of psychedelia to Sergeant Pepper's, was extremely influential — but most of all because it employed new production techniques. And its time period seems more appropriate than something released this past year (I still can't believe of the idiocy of that reviewer! Does he get paid?), although clearly there are several other timely contenders for THE black Sergeant Pepper's from back in the day. It's also one of those albums that I have to listen to every so often, nothing else will do.