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Brainstory

Buck

    Produced by Leon Michels. Toured with Chicano Batman. Planned touring with Lee Fields & The Expressions. What is Buck? Buck is a state of mind, a way of life, a demeanor that gets you through the good times and the bad. If you ask Brainstory, It is also the energy that permeates their debut album. Kevin, Tony, and Eric are a trio of brothers bounded by blood, fate, and a small town with nothing to do. Their story begins in the long lost lands of the San Bernardino Valley, in the twilight zone known as Rialto, California: An arid wasteland of boredom and empty lots. Through punk rock and skateboarding they found temporary liberation from the local monotony.

    However, it wouldn’t be long before a hunger for more led them to explore musical realms beyond that of the hardcore punk they admired. After stints at music school and steady disappointment trying to navigate their local jazz scene they moved to Los Angeles and Brainstory was born. Through a introduction from Chicano Batman’s bassist, Brainstory caught the ears of Big Crown head honchos Danny Akalepse and Leon Michels. Shortly thereafter they were on their way to Queens, to record at The Legendary Diamond Mine with Michels at the helm. An instant chemistry yielded 10 songs in 10 days and now Brainstory has gifted the world with one hell of an introduction to all things Buck. Highlights include the sublime slow burner, “Dead End” which was the A-side to their first 45 on Big Crown that sold out in a matter of days. With Kevin’s sublime falsetto floating atop Tony and Eric’s unflappable and unmistakable backbeat, this tune has become a favorite with the ballad heads, the low-riders, and the slowie collectors. “Breathe” showcases another side of their sound taking a page out of the Shuggie Otis playbook and flipping the script with some stoned out west coast swag. Kev and Tony’s father, Big Tone, an accomplished performer himself, steps in on “Peter Pan” to sing lead vocals over a chorus of friends and family. Bassist extraordinaire, Tony, takes over lead vocal duties on “Sorry”, a smoked out, G Funk groove that is just waiting to be sampled. These guys have come a long way from their self released EPs and opening tours with Chicano Batman. Their musical growth is undeniable, and taking their California sunshine vibes and mixing them with Michels’ NYC aesthetic has proven to be an amazing combination. It’s a debut record that pulls influences from so many genres seamlessly it’s hard to nail down. Call it Funk, call it Rock, call it Soul, but over here at Big Crown HQ, we’ve decided to call it BUCK. 

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Clear w/ translucent purple and yellow splatter vinyl

    Liam Bailey

    Champion / Please Love Me (Acoustic)

    Big Crown records is proud to present the first 45 from the label's newest signing, Liam Bailey. Liam is an English singer and songwriter from Nottingham with Jamaican roots but a style and sound completely his own. The first 7" is taken from his upcoming album and was produced by long time collaborator, Leon Michels. The pair first worked together 10 years ago on the song, "When Will They Learn" which has since become a club favorite at reggae nights around the globe. Side A, "Champion", is a song that is in a class all by itself and certainly a slight departure for Liam and Leon. Thumping Juno bass and drums fortified with an 808, this reggae tinged banger is designed to bust up woofers and blow out dancefloors. While Liam waxes poetic about a type of girl that is as prodigious as she is pulchritudinous, the rhythm is a hypnotic groove that begs to be played over and over again. Side B, "Please Love Me Again", finds Liam in a place that most people might know him for. A beautiful written song with nothing more than stunning vocals and acoustic guitar. Liam's performance on this one that will move anybody with a pulse.

    The instrumental version of Bobby's instant classic debut album. Pressed up on translucent red colored vinyl with a free poster inside packed into a chipboard cover that tips it's hat to the very first Bobby Oroza 45 jacket; where it all started... When Bobby Oroza and the Cold Diamond & Mink production duo first got together in the studio they cut "This Love". That turned out to be a hell of a start. Since they originally released it in 2016 the tune has become somewhat of an underground hit. From the heavy air play at car shows and swap meets in the South West to being featured in numerous movies and tv shows, it even made it's way to an Earl Sweatshirt mixtape. All of this has lead to a lot anticipation for Bobby Oroza's debut full length which is appropriately named after the tune that started it all. Big Crown Records is proud to present the debut full length from Bobby Oroza, This Love. Bobby was born in Helsinki, Finland into a family of musicians and artists where he would be exposed to a wide range of music early on. Frequent family parties at Bobby's were thrown to the sounds of his grandfather playing Latin and Cuban classics on his guitar or to his parents record collection which was full of early jazz and blues, Motown, gospel hits, and doo-wops. The Soul records were balanced out by Brazilian, African, North and South American folk songs, and Nuyorican Salsa albums. All of these influences make appearances in Bobby's music. Bobby pushes the borders of soul and rock balladry and creates a sound distinctly his own.

    Cold Diamond & Mink provide a pitch perfect collection of lo-fi, low-key classics on which Bobby's smokey tenor floats atop, breaking hearts on some tunes and melting them on others. Maintaining the band's signature dark and intimate aesthetic, they run the gamut of tempos, breaking hearts on some tunes and mending them on others. The group's second single "Your Love Is Too Cold" is a stomper that blends the groovy soul drumming of early Motown records with guitar that could have been lifted from a James Bond score and has been getting heavy spins across the globe at soul parties and on radio shows. Bobby takes care of the dancers with a few up numbers, ranging from the northern soul nods on "Lonely Girl" & "Falling in Love" to the 70s jazz funk nod on "Keep On Believing". However, the ballad lovers with the uncontrollable urge to two-step late into the night will be the real winners with "This Love". Bobby thrives on the bed of dark and intimate sensuality found on tracks like "Alone Again", "Down On My Knees", and "Deja Vu". 

    Synthia

    Tonight You Might / Dissolve

    Big Crown records is proud to present their first foray into the exciting and moving world of boogie-informed synth-pop with a Big Crown super group of sorts, aptly named Synthia. Side A, "Tonight You Might", finds Lady Wray on vocals while production is handled by Leon & Homer. The song starts with drums that could seamlessly mix in with Juicy Fruit or Juicy, whichever is your preferred flavor. As promising as the song starts, Nicole's entrance on vocals guarantees that you've just put the needle on a Certified Banger. Side B, "Dissolve" is an instrumental designed for peak hour dancefloor play. With swinging flutes and sexy sax provided by El Michels himself, and drumming programmed by the best actual drummer in the land, Homer Steinweiss, Dissolve is just a good ol' time from start to finish. Big Crown records has been sitting on a grenade and were ready to set her off baby!

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Matt says: Deee-licious soul musica here from a unique voice and bolstered with some incredible muscianship. Two tracks for rainy days, sunny days, lonesome nights and loved up evenings.

    Various Artists

    Youth In Action Talent Hunt Winners

    Youth in Action, Inc. (YIA) was formed in 1963 when the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council received a grant to develop a youth services program in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community. It was originally organized to identify and address the social problems that were leading to the high crime rate in Bed-Stuy. Recently the Smithsonian Museum of African American History released an archive of footage filmed by a community activist, which shows the real-world effects of the group's efforts: young people engaged in sports, the arts, and other activities to better themselves and their world. The appearances by Jackie and Bobby Kennedy point to the group's relationship to the Great Society programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson. What there is no mention of in either the NMAAHC's collection of YIA materials nor in the Brooklyn Public Library's also extensive collection is this talent show and the record that came to be because of it.

    Local vocal groups chose tunes to cover from the era (1964 - 1968) ranging from The Rascals to The Intruders, from The O'Jays to Billy Stewart. All of these groups were backed by a local act called The Thrillers Band. The winners of the talent contest were then invited into the studio to record their versions which would be pressed up on this record and given away to local radio and TV stations. The hope of the whole thing was that this would help the young groups get discovered by producers and record labels and start their professional music careers. The intro to the album is Reverend Horace Tyler congratulating the winners and asking them "to just remember, when you reach the top and become our big stars of tomorrow, don't forget YIA". What this album may lack in fidelity and production it more than makes up for in charm. The engineers at the recording sessions pump in pre-recorded applause and screaming to give the it the feel of the day of the contest while the young groups sing their hearts out, clearly giving their all. From today's perspective, soul music fans will lose it over the choices of covers on this record and the killer, raw, innocent performances of them by these local Brooklyn groups. 


    First time ever on 7”. Extremely rare local Brooklyn record. Two tunes pulled from one of Brooklyn's most sought after holy grail soul records, YIA's "Talent Hunt Winners". Youth in Action, Inc. (YIA) was formed in 1963 when the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council received a grant to develop a youth services program in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community. At one point they threw a local talent show and the winners of the talent show were invited into the studio to record some of their tunes.

    The "Talent Show Winners" album is the top five amateur vocal groups backed by a local band known as The Thrillers Band, recorded sometime around 1968. This 45 will quick become a favorite amongst soul collectors, this is a truly rare record, and a awesome piece of New York History. The A Side is The Channels cover of the Billy Stewart classic "Cross My Heart". There's an unduplicatable charm on these recordings coming from the lo fi studio set up of the time, the fervor that the youths on these records are performing, and the pumped in audience applause they went with to make it seem like the recordings were from the actual talent show. This is lo-fi gold. The B Side is Carla & The Carlettes killer cover of The Rascals' "Groovin". The take the popular tune of the time which came out of the borough of Queens and give it a proper Kings county soul treatment. Again, this is lo-fi gold. 


    Bobby Oroza

    Lonely Girl / Alone Again

    Big Crown dig some more Bobby Oroza for our listening pleasure after the rapturous response of LP "This Love".

    The A side "Lonely Girl" is a uptempo dancer sure to fill the floor at soul parties around the world. Bobby finds a kindred spirit in an introverted young lady and puts his best foot forward to persuade her to take a chance on him. The Cold Diamond & Mink production puts this one over the top with their signature tough drums and lush instrumentation laying down the perfect paper for Bobby's poetry to be inked on. The B side is another one of the crushing ballads that made Bobby famous in the first place. An early favorite at the label's HQ when they turned in the demos, "Alone Again" fits perfectly in both the warmest sunny day in California and the coldest darkest winter night in Helsinki. It is undeniable that Bobby and Cold Diamond & Mink are a match made in heaven and have come up with a sound that is entirely their own. Here's another two-sider showcasing two different variations on that sound. 


    Sunny & The Sunliners

    Smile Now, Cry Later / I Only Have Eyes For You

    When it comes to Chicano / Lowrider Soul there are a few people who are credited as the founders of the genre, Sunny & The Sunliners are one of them, if not number one on that list. Similarly, when it comes to the tunes that define the genre, Smile Now, Cry Later is undoubtedly the anthem. The A side "Smile Now, Cry Later", is a tune written by Sunny about his girlfriend at the time's amazement of the difference between the man on stage and off.

    However, it went on to become a one-liner and a symbol of the Lowrider Soul culture. An absolute classic tune amongst Sweet Soul lovers, and also something of a slogan of the Lowrider Soul community which is tattooed on thousands and thousands of people along with the theater mask artwork from the LP cover. The B side, Sunny's cover of The Flamingos "I Only Have Eyes For You" is a must have for the Slowie fans. Having never been pressed on 45, it rounds out this record amazingly. The plugside a big tune for Sunny that has seen pressings on at least four different label variations and the B side something that even the deepest collectors of the genre will have to pick up so they can spin. 

    Holy Hive

    Oh I Miss Her So / If I Could See Her Now

    Holy Hive, the group that coined the genre Folk/Soul, comes out swinging with this monster of a two-sider. The A side "Oh I Miss Her So" is pulled from their recently released Harping EP: a drop dead gorgeous tune of love and longing, featuring the harping of Mary Lattimore. The tune serves as a testament to The Hive's gift for songwriting and arrangement, taking the listener on a ride from the first notes of Paul's falsetto to the outro featuring Dave Guy's (The Roots) gorgeous trumpet solo. The B Side is The Hive's crushing cover of Sunny & The Sunliners' classic "If I Could See You Now". Homer's world renown drumming provides an instant dance floor backbone to the tune while Paul's signature vocals add a welcome twist giving the original version a proper run for its money. This cover is pulled from the forthcoming Big Crown Records label compilation "Dear Sunny" a collection of Sunny covers done by the roster of Big Crown artists. 

    Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band

    Great To Be Here / All For Tha Cash

    "By popular demand, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band is back with another must have of a two sider. Two tracks finding their way to vinyl for the first time that were cut during The Serpents Mouth sessions but only made it to the cd and digital release. A lot of people wrote us asking for it, and here it is, a 7 inch release that lives at the intersection of Funk, Soul, and Hip Hop. The A side is Bacao's crushing cover of the Jackson 5's B-Boy classic "Great To Be Here". A tune that a lot of people probably thought had steel pans on the original version, a misconception that lead to BRSB choosing it for their inimitable treatment. They open the tune with a chunky open drum break that gives way to the steel pan work banging out the infectious and instantly recognizable guitar lines from the J5's version. The B side finds Bacao diggin deeper into the hip hop crates again and coming up with a monster of a Gang Starr track to cover. Taking on their underground street a nthem they cut for their Full Clip compilation, "All 4 Tha Ca$h". BRSB tease the tune in with the two top notes of the riff for the first 8 bars catching listeners ears and giving the DJs a record to work with. When the whole riff drops and they give away what the tune is they are covering awww shits & ooooooohs are sure to be heard out in the crowd." 

    When Bobby Oroza and the Cold Diamond & Mink production duo first got together in the studio they cut "This Love". That turned out to be a hell of a start. Since they originally released it in 2016 the tune has become somewhat of an underground hit. From the heavy air play at car shows and swap meets in the South West to being featured in numerous movies and tv shows, it even made its way to an Earl Sweatshirt mixtape. All of this has lead to a lot anticipation for Bobby Oroza's debut full length which is appropriately named after the tune that started it all.

    Big Crown Records is proud to present the debut full length from Bobby Oroza, This Love. Bobby pushes the borders of soul and rock balladry and creates a sound distinctly his own. Cold Diamond & Mink provide a pitch perfect collection of lo-fi, low-key classics on which Bobby's smokey tenor floats atop, breaking hearts on some tunes and melting them on others. Maintaining the band's signature dark and intimate aesthetic, they run the gamut of tempos, breaking hearts on some tunes and mending them on others. The group's second single "Your Love Is Too Cold" is a stomper that blends the groovy soul drumming of early Motown records with guitar that could have been lifted from a James Bond score and has been getting heavy spins across the globe at soul parties and on radio shows.

    Bobby takes care of the dancers with a few up numbers, ranging from the northern soul nods on "Lonely Girl" & "Falling in Love" to the 70s jazz funk nod on "Keep On Believing". However, the ballad lovers with the uncontrollable urge to two-step late into the night will be the real winners with "This Love". Bobby thrives on the bed of dark and intimate sensuality found on tracks like "Alone Again", "Down On My Knees", and "Deja Vu". The world is about bear witness, and surely be taken back by this strange and unique shade of Soul born in Finland but made for the whole world to enjoy. 


    Lady Wray

    Piece Of Me / Come On In

    Last year, a month before Nicole gave birth to her first child, she visited Leon Michels in upstate NY and cooked up two of the toughest and most moving songs we've heard from her to date. We've been patiently sitting on this release for a few months now, and it is an understatement to say Big Crown is proud to present the newest 45 from Lady Wray. Side A, Piece Of Me , sounds like a lost Dilla beat that sampled a lost David Porter song. Guaranteed to have heads nodding from the first snare crack, Nicole sings a tune about the difficulties of dealing with family and friends who need more than you can provide. The chorus says it all, I'll let you take a piece of me, I hope you get the piece you need and if that's not enough I'll let you go peacefully” - From the jump, Nicole's voice takes the listener into a world where you have no choice but to feel something in the pit of your stomach. Side B Come On In finds Lady Wray tapping into her early years singing in church. With only three instruments and Nicole's voice, Come On In is a masterclass in the craft of singing, the sound of soul, and the power of restraint. 

    At the corner of Living Legend St. and OG Ave. you will find Lee Fields’ house. A home that was built with blood, sweat, and tears, and stands on the unshakable foundation of his god given talent. Lee has been singing for 50 plus years and is undeniably, yet amazingly, at the top of his game. Those who have paid attention know that Lee is part of the class that is directly responsible for the revival of old school funk and soul. He has inspired many of today’s younger artists who are doing their best to carry the torch. As long as the road has been, and heavy as the crown may be, Fields is proving yet again that he’s “still got it”. His latest offering is sure to be a warmly received instant classic.

    It Rains Love is the 2nd album by Lee Fields & The Expressions on Brooklyn’s Big Crown Records and gives us yet another masterclass in soul. Teaming up again with frequent collaborator and producer Leon Michels and his devoted band, The Expressions, they have managed again to take a classic approach and update it. Traditional soul sensibilities are mixed with a hip-hop tinged, sample ready sound that is as much an homage to the old as to the new. Some of the songs sound like they could belong to any of the last 4 decades without it feeling like a throwback, while others are 60’s soul through and through. Lyrically, Lee runs the gamut from gushing admonishments of love to politically charged calls to action, from proclamations of God’s existence to love letters written to his wife. This record marks the fifth studio album from Lee Fields & the Expressions and we are very proud to add it to the already impeccable catalog they have created together. Another strong offering by a man many people consider to be a national treasure, the professor of love himself, Mr Lee Fields. It’s all love baby! 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Lee Field’s is on top form and dominating the soul genre with his distinctive and bold vocals. It Rains Love is a monumental album which sets him apart as a pure talent, taking all things soul and putting his own stamp on it.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Limited translucent red vinyl.

    Lee Fields & The Expressions

    It Rains Love / Will I Get Off Easy

    Big Crown Records drop the debut single from the forthcoming Lee Fields & The Expressions album, “It Rains Love”. The new soul poster boy is back with another instant classic sure to wrap the world up in love and soul. The A side, “It Rains Love”, is the amuse-bouche in the listening experience for Lee’s 5th studio album backed by The Expressions. With a rhythm track that sounds like it could belong to any of the last 4 decades, Lee floats on top with his raw yet honeyed vocals and imparts simple but thoughtful wisdom the way only Lee can. The B side, “Will I Get Off Easy”, is a mid tempo ballad that stays true to the music that has made Lee a household name in the soul community. Hard-hitting drums, pretty chords, sweet group backgrounds, and Lee’s tough as nails vocals create a perfect storm that will satisfy any soul junkie looking for a fix. The full length is produced entirely by Leon Michels and due out in April of 2019.

    El Michels Affair Feat Lee Fields

    Never Be Another You (Reggae Version)

    For years, Lee Fields has been asking for and patiently waiting on a reggae rhythm to sing over. To bring this dream to fruition, EMA teamed up with frequent collaborator and reggae enthusiast, Nick Movshon, and busted out this version of the Lee Fields & The Expressions' instant classic, Never be Another You. The A side is the vocal version of the tune; EMA cut a killer interpolation of the original and had Lee lay down the vocals like only he can. The result is right on time for summer, a feel good side that can hold court right next to the classics. The B side finds Michels manning the boards for a proper version of the tune. Echoes, drop outs, and reverb flourishes all dancing through the mix in proper reggae style. 

    Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band

    1 Thing / Hoola Hoop

    Following up on the massive success of their sophomore full length “The Serpent’s Mouth”, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band is back with another dance floor classic. Side A is their already infamous cover of Amerie’s smash hit “1 Thing”. Done up in what is now their signature fashion, they take on the break originally lifted from The Meters, and believe it or not….step it up a notch. Steel pans play her infectious vocal melody lines over the raucous and crushing drum track. This will have the dance floor turning to the booth in amazement and wonder as soon as the pans come in. An absolute essential for DJs across the globe. The B Side, “Hoola Hoop” is a BRSB original tune, the stuff that B Boys dream about…Setting it off with a killer breakbeat intro that drops into pan hits and flute flourishes, never losing the groove and full of energy. They trade off leads from flute to steel pans while running through turnarounds and drum fills building more energy the whole time like a snowball rolling down a mountain headed right for the speakers.


    Attempting to pigeonhole 79.5 into something as narrow as a single genre would be an ill advised, if not impossible task. The New York City band sounds like someone spinning a radio dial with such passionate intensity that all the stations blend together into a single, transcendent, almost spiritual force. It’s disco to the beat of modern house; it’s a Supremes cover of a Cardi B banger; it’s Roland Kirk playing jazz through one saxophone, funk through another, and the most earwormy pop tune the 1970’s could muster through a third.

    It’s an experienceone so effecting that with only a self-released 12” single in circulation, 79.5 had been written up twice in The New Yorker on the merit of their live sets alone. Their debut album Predictions is produced by Leon Michels and was recorded at The Diamond Mine in Queens the old school way, with the whole band playing the songs in one take and captured to analog tape. They released their now classic Terrorize My Heart 45 in 2016 on Big Crown Records and it solidified all the hype surrounding them. The 7” sold through the first pressing in just a few weeks and became a staple in DJ sets around the world getting spins from the likes of Gilles Peterson, Q Tip, Kenny Dope, DJ Spinna, and Just Blaze to name a few.

    They announced their debut album via Billboard’s premiere of their newest single "Boy Don’t Be Afraid" which was accurately described as 'energetic and infectious...a unique, yet easy to listen to experience'. Already getting heavy spins at radio and finding it’s way into the hearts of all the listeners, the instant classic "Boy Don’t Be Afraid" is as bandleader Kate Mattison describes, 'a sweet little song about being. Being hopeful, being romantic, being brave. A romantic stance and a declaration of love through melody, in honest girl-group fashion.' 

    In a world where chaos seems to be in control more often than not, music can occasionally be a temporary respite; and at best, a form of salvation. This is the transcendent realm of Okonkolo: Yoruban Santeria music like you have never heard before. The group is the life’s work of New York-born percussionist and Yoruba Chango priest Abraham “Aby” Rodriguez. His group quietly released "Rezos", a gorgeous 10” EP in 2016 on Brooklyn’s Big Crown, and has now returned to give the world even more hypnotic incantations on their debut full length. Featuring nine songs, each of the group’s religious epiphanies on "Cantos" follow a similar path, with transcendently hypnotic results.

    As with all Santeria ritual musical accompaniment, drums are at the center of all offerings – namely, the Bata and Coro. In "Okonkolo", they are played by Rodriguez, Gene Golden and Xavier Rivera. Building on these rhythms, vocals play an equally important role in the proceedings, sung in Yoruba, contributed by Aby and the powerful female voices of Amma McKen and Jadele McPherson. Although not necessarily musically comparable, conceptually "Cantos" clearly reminds listeners of artists and albums that effortlessly straddle the line between the sacred and the secularly sublime: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s finest work; Ravi Shankar; Alice Coltrane’s "Journey In Satchidananda"; and many more classics released over the past half century. Along the "Cantos" journey, strains of music from around the world can be heard – Africa, South America, the Caribbean and even New York City. Beyond the drums and vocals featured at any traditional Yoruba / Santeria ceremony, with this album there are additional layers that add to the musical beauty: overlaid on top of traditional elements are jazz-associated instrumentation, including horns, bass, guitar and even lush string arrangements.


    The Shacks

    My Name Is... / Sand Song

    Big Crown Records drop another top single from The Shacks' fine debut album Haze. The A side “My Name Is…” is one of the first songs The Shacks wrote shortly after they met. Producer Leon Michels had the track and the title for it and sent it on to The Shacks to pen the lyrics. Max Shrager says of writing the lyrics “this song is about setting a time and place to meet up, wandering around like ghosts until we spotted each other in a crowd of strangers. It is inspired by "I Only Have Eyes For You" by The Flamingos”.

    Musically, it has the infectious attraction that all of El Michels productions do. A poppy melody balanced out by the rough and tough rhythm section made this the perfect match for Shannon’s subtle and sweet vocals. The B side, “Sand Song” is a beautiful tune about an ugly subject; global warming. The hauntingly beautiful guitar melody that the Shrager produced track begins with is met with the equally somber vocals from Shannon. Reverb drenched background vocals and organ flourishes follow suit with the arrangement showcasing The Shacks razor sharp musicianship. A stand out tune from the album and the embodiment of what made iD magazine call The Shacks “classic American sounds…simultaneously recalling Sesame Street and David Lynch’s nocturnal crooners”.

    Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band

    Burn / Xxxplosive

    Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band return with another instantly classic 45 guaranteed to be all over DJs set lists. With their sophomore full length coming in September, they treat us to another bomb of a two sider. Side A is a cover of the Dr Dre hit “XXplosive” done up in proper BRSB fashion, smashing drums and steel pans playing the lead and bass lines. They take this one into new territory by adding synth parts and dubbed out horn lines playing Nate Dogg’s infamous vocal hook melodies. Side B takes on one of NYCity’s grimiest Hip Hop club anthems, Mobb Deep’s “Burn”. We decided to do this tune and demoed it out long before the unfortunate passing of Prodigy.

    Unfortunately, he will never get to hear this cover, and that has been one of the nicest things in covering some of these more current Hip Hop tunes. Rest In Peace P. BRSB manages to do it again…..a version equally as raw and punchy as the original. Pans bang out the iconic riff from the original, theremin ushers in the changes, and the low rubble of the synth bass is sure to crush the subwoofers.

    El Michels Affair

    Unathi/Zaharila

    El Michels Affair returns with a new 45 that is simultaneously a new direction and the signature sound he is known for. This time EMA dips their toes into the world of Bollywood Funk and recruits Piya Malik of 79.5 for vocal duties. He has crafted yet another two sider of heavy duty shit. It also comes in a gorgeous picture sleeve courtesy of Chicago’s Deadly Prey gallery. From the start of side A, Unathi reels the listener in and keeps them through a journey of psychedelic arrangements, unexpected detours, and relentless rhythm.

    El Michels again showing the performance and production prowess that has spawned not only bands, but also some independent record labels. Lyrically, Unathi is a song about progress, a vociferous call to arms urging people to come together and work collectively to achieve it. Side B, Zaharila, is cinematic, dynamic, and an almost visual number as if it were the score to a film that’s never existed. Bent guitar notes and blaring horn stabs ride the peaks and valleys of this epic tale about poisonous whispers that destroy a beautiful love affair. Starting slow and calm with Piya’s ethereal melodies floating atop, the song eventually becomes poisoned, panicked, and frantic by the final note. 

    Thee Lakesiders

    Si Me Faltaras Tu / Parachute

      Thee Lakesiders are a duo out of Los Angeles comprised of Marie and Necalli who we were introduced to by our friend El Oms. He thought it would be great to get them out here to NY and into the the studio with El Michels. Turns out, he was very right. They spent two days in The Diamond Mine with The Shacks as their backing band and Leon producing and writing with them and cut three songs. Two of which are here on this nice two sider of a 45. Side A “Si Me Faltaras Tu” is worked up into something of a Latin Psych number, it’s a cover of Los Terricolas’s tune they cut in 1973 redone with some more muscle. Ben’s driving beat and Max’s guitar work set the stage for Marie to showcase the powerful side of her voice. Side B “Parachute” finds them in one of their favorite styles, a dreamy ballad that floats over guitar chanks, brush hits, and vibraphone rolls. This time Marie shows us a different side of her range, her beautiful and lush vocals ride perfectly in the pocket making for a gorgeous b side that can ride right alongside the oldies. 

      The Shacks

      Haze

        Fronted by 19-year-old singer/bassist Shannon Wise and 21-year-old guitarist/producer Max Shrager, The Shacks are already well on their way to becoming one of the year’s big breakouts, and their remarkable debut album, ‘Haze,’ solidifies their status as a band with ability to deliver on the well-deserved buzz. When Max and Shannon met in high school, a bond was created that has permeated their music since the Shacks first incarnation four years ago. That chemistry lies at the heart of ‘Haze,’ a record so hypnotic and seductive that it feels more like a whispered late-night secret than a young band’s debut.

        Produced together by Shrager and Big Crown co-founder Leon Michels (who’s played with Bradley, Sharon Jones, and Fields in addition to working with The Arcs, Lana Del Rey, and countless others), the album was recorded in bits and pieces between Shrager’s basement and Michels’ Diamond Mine studio, which the Observer dubbed “the Shangri La of Soul.” ‘Haze’ opens with the title track, which is, appropriately enough, the first song Shrager and Wise ever wrote together. It’s a spare, smoky tune that shimmers and sparkles as it shifts in and out of focus, and it’s an ideal gateway into the immersive world of The Shacks.

        On the breezy “Follow Me,” they channel the infectious charm of a 60’s girl group, while the soulful “My Name Is” grooves its way through a mesmerizing take on 70’s funk. Much like a dream, the songs often merge the familiar and the unfamiliar, constructing their own psychedelic reality full of beauty and yearning, all fueled by Wise’s breathy vocals and the unmistakable electricity of a wildly creative band truly inhabiting their music. “Birds” makes brilliant use of Daptone drum hero Homer Steinwess’s impeccable feel behind the kit, while the 50’s ballad-meets-baroque pop of “Cryin’” tips its cap to Roy Orbison and John Lennon as Shrager takes over lead vocals, and the soulful shuffle of “Texas” belies a dark and violent undercurrent ripped from the headlines.

        Through it all permeates an unshakable sense that this is a group performing just for you. “Nobody” finds the Shacks re-interpreting Phil Spector’s Wagnerian approach to rock & roll, complete with sweeping strings and darkly innocent lyrics. The 13 songs featured on Haze plays out like the soundtrack to some long lost 16mm film, beckoning you into their grainy, saturated world of analog beauty. In the short time that they’ve been together, The Shacks have already made an impressive mark. 

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        2xCD Info: CD Features A Second Bonus disc with The Shacks Self-Titled EP, Selections Previously Issued Only On 7” Vinyl And Complete Instrumentals From “Haze”.

        Before the release of their debut album, we are dropping one more 45 with a newly recorded version of “Audrey Hepburn," a tune off their self titled EP from 2016 and “Fly Fishing", a B side exclusive to this single. For most of 2017, The Shacks have been honing their skills as a live band playing in and around NYC as well as opening for bands like Chicano Batman and Khurangbin. Some of their studio creations which favor the soft, dream pop side of their repitoire, have been reworked for the live show setting. Audrey Hepburn (Spending All My Time) is an example of that. When we first heard their reworked version at a gig in Brooklyn, we called them the next day and asked them to cut to tape the way they had switched it up for the live set.

        The result is this catchy single, so strong we had to press a 45 for it. The B Side, “Fly Fishing” is one of many tracks The Shacks have sitting in the vault. Constantly writing and recording, the group has amassed a huge catalog of music. Fly Fishing starts out with a raucous syncopated intro dropping into a floaty groove The Shacks are know for. It's also their drummer's grandma's favorite song. 

        Lee Fields & The Expressions

        Special Night Instrumentals

        The instrumental version of the instant classic "Special Night" by Lee Fields & The Expressions. There are a few terms that get thrown around loosely, two of which are legend and retro-soul. One of these fits Lee Fields hand and glove, one of these doesn’t fit at all. Very few people in music have both earned the status of legendary and continue to solidify it. 50 years in the game and only getting better, gaining more fans, and evolving his sound on each album, Lee is in fact a Living Legend. This brings us to the misuse of the term "retro-soul" when talking about Mr. Fields. You don’t have to look far to find a younger generation emulating the essence and styles of an era the’ve only experienced through music and movies. It seems unfair to tag Lee with a term that implies imitation when he is part of the generation that actually defined the genre. Plain and simple, this is not that. "Special Night" is a masterclass in soul music past and present. “I feel that every human being’s purpose is to do what their inner voice says to do,” says Lee Fields. “And my inner voice, my driving force, wants me to put out music and keeping making better records.” Special Night is also the first record in the Expressions catalogue in which every song was written jointly by Lee Fields and The Expressions.

        “When I record, I make every song like I actually mean it. I mean every word I say. On Special Night I’m talking to my lady — literally, expressing the way I feel.” says Lee Fields. “You can tell if a song is real or not, and every moment I’m recording, those moments are real, this is a record about what people do in real life”. For one example, he cites the song “Work to Do,” which tells the story of “a guy going to counseling, drinking too much, apologizing to the old lady and trying to keep family together, doing the manly thing.” On “Make This World”, Lee makes a nod back to his early funk roots with a cautionary tale about the health of the planet. The world was designed to last indefinitely,” says Fields. “We’re the only living species on Earth who can alter that process. I’m hoping that song has a chain reaction, helps somebody put into action whatever contribution they can to change what the world is going through.” As always, sticking to the formula but pushing the boundaries “Never Be Another You” from the first note doesn’t sound like something you would hear on a Lee record, that is until he starts singing anyhow. A low tempo ballad with a head nodding drum track, sparse piano lines, and all the space Lee needs to lay down what is sure to be one of the flyest love songs of 2017.

        El Michels Affair

        Return To The 37th Chamber

        The wait is over, Return To The 37th Chamber is El Michels Affair’s highly anticipated follow up to 2009's underground cult classic Enter the 37th Chamber. Churning out classic records since then for the likes of Lee Fields, The Arcs, The Shacks, and tons more, it is clear that EMA's signature sound is stronger & sharper than ever. This time, in addition to re-interpreting the Wu compositions for a live band, EMA pays homage to the production and sonic fog that makes a RZA beat so recognizable. Producer and bandleader Leon Michels recorded the album completely analog, sometimes hitting 6 generations of tape before it was ready for mixing, giving the Return to The 37th Chamber it’s own hazy sound.

        Adding to the unique fidelity, the record is laced with psychedelic flourishes, “John Carpenter” synths, heavy metal guitars, triumphant horns, and traditional Chinese instruments that make up for the lack of the Wu’s superlative vocals. From start to finish it’s a dark trip that walks the line between RZA’s timeless hip-hop aesthetic and the cinematic soul EMA has become known for. El Michels Affair tackles some classics like 4th Chamber and Wu Tang Aint Nuthin to Fuck Wit, as well as some deeper cuts like Ol Dirty Bastard’s Snakes, Raekwon’s Verbal Intercourse, and Shaolin Brew, Wu-Tang’s contribution to the St. Ide’s Hip Hop endorsement campaign from 1994. This time El Michels brings some of the Big Crown family along for the ride. Lee Fields handles vocal duties on Snakes and is joined by Shannon Wise of The Shacks for their version of Tearz, which pays as much homage to the Wendy Rene sample as it does to the Wu-Tang Clan. Lady Wray makes an appearance on the cover of Method Man’s hit, All I Need, lending her vocal prowess to what gave the Wu one of their biggest hits of all time. 

        Paul & The Tall Trees

        Our Love In The Light

         Paul Schalda, the bandleader, singer and songwriter of Paul & The Tall Trees is from Staten Island. One part of a crazily talented musical family, Paul’s music seems to embody the unexpected overlap of The Band’s Americana, Ian MacKaye's unhinged emotion, Otis Redding’s raw, warm soul, and the doo-wop melodies his father, Bill Schalda Sr. (a member of Brooklyn vocal group, The Montereys) raised him on. On Paul & The Tall Trees' debut album “Our Love In The Light” you hear the sum of his experiences. This singular sound is helped by the fact that his father, William Schalda, Sr., and brother, Will Schalda Jr., play on and inspire the record.

        The album was written entirely by Paul, and produced by another Staten Island native, Thomas Brenneck of Charles Bradley, Menahan Street Band, and Budos Band fame. The combination of the two gives the record an amazing sonic range, from the powerhouse rocker “Crack Of Down” to the ethereal western vibes of “She Comes Around”. Paul pens a tune about the forever changing conviction of a man in love on “Once In A While”, and ironically “The Little Bit Of Sunshine”, is a story about Paul giving up on a career in music. One thing you hear in Schalda’s music, no matter which song, is that the road hasn’t been easy.

        His voice can be hauntingly harsh, yet hopeful and tender, raucous and gravelly one moment, smooth and intimate the next. Even though he is being compared to the famous groups and musicians mentioned above, he can only call it Rock and Roll and be humbled. “I’m very lucky to be able to do this,” Schalda says. “And I’m extremely happy. Especially for my father. He worked hard for his sons and this record.”


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