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Lady Wray

Piece Of Me

    Big Crown Records is proud to present Piece of Me, the sophomore full length offering from Lady Wray. This is something of a homecoming for Nicole. Where her 2016 solo debut Queen Alone leaned more towards Soul and R&B with tinges of hip-hop, this record changes the mixture. It's still R&B with the textures of analog Soul, but there is a heavy Hip Hop in­uence that brings the sum of Nicole's career together in a new sound that will de‑ne her future.

    Boom-bap drums and chunky bass lines are front-and-center creating a perfect head-nodding backdrop for Lady Wray to take on the good, the bad, the difficult, and the joyful on her most personal collection of songs to date. The title track, "Piece of Me," which has already become a classic since it's 2019 release is about the people in your life who need more than you are willing to give. This tune and the B side of the 7” “Come On In” were the first songs put to tape for this album and they were recorded with Nicole sitting in a chair 8 months pregnant with her daughter. Her voice is so powerful, so raw, so thorough on these initial songs—it's wild to think that they were recorded this way. And even wilder to know that she knocked them all out in one take. Long time collaborator and producer Leon Michels keeps the musical backing restrained and expertly executed, setting up Lady Wray for the full spotlight and setting the tone for the rest of the album.

    While the upbeat energies of “Under The Sun” and “Through It All” are sure to become hits that reconnect Lady Wray with her 90s R&B fanbase, “Where Were You” offers a behind the scenes look at what those days of stardom in her youth were really like. Nicole takes on the racial tension in America with her poetic and powerful “Beauty In The Fire” and leans heavy into her faith and church upbringing on the showstopper, “Thank You”. She gushes about the profound love she’s come to know for her daughter on “Melody” and celebrates life’s ups and downs on “Joy & Pain”. In 2021 it is rare to hear a varied yet cohesive album with no “skippers”, but that is what you have here in spades. The tried and true chemistry between Lady Wray and Leon Michels has undeniably found a higher level and this album stands as a testament to conviction and dedication for all of us to enjoy and be inspired by.

    With this in mind, when talking about this record, for Lady Wray, it's about a larger purpose. "My goal is always to help and to heal people with singing," she explains. "Part of that is to try and bring back real music, real singing, so people can feel something again." Now, she's not dissing anyone here, to be clear. It's just that Lady Wray cannot sing without tapping into something deeper, searching for that shared compassion between all of us. Perhaps it comes from her church upbringing, or maybe from her years of trials and tribulations in the music industry. Either way, Lady Wray is looking to bring that "Good Sound" back and the good feelings that come with it. She calls it "those inner hands," and she always means to stir them up, grabbing your attention from within.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A:
    1. I Do
    2. Through It All
    3. Piece Of Me
    4. Come On In
    5. Under The Sun
    6. Where Were You
    SIDE B:
    1. Beauty In The Fire
    2. Games People Play
    3. Melody
    4. Thank You
    5. Joy & Pain
    6. Storms

    Holy Hive

    Holy Hive

      Featuring musical contributions from Mary Lattimore, Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), Anant Pradhan, Nick Movshon, Leon Michels (El Michels Affair), Shannon Wise (The Shacks), Dave Guy (The Roots), and Elliot Skinner.

      In 2020 Brooklyn's Holy Hive introduced us all to something we didn't know we needed. Homer Steinweiss' thickly pocketed drumming paired with Paul Spring's ­oaty falsetto vocal produces a sound that's like a salve. It's been dubbed Folk Soul and Holy Hive not only expertly overlay the more apparent musical aspects of folk and soul but they also draw from the more profound: being able to pull traditions from the past and make them their own. When Homer wasn't playing drums for Lady Gaga or Adele or Bruno Mars, he'd produce Paul's solo folk records. Along with original bassist and frequent collaborator Joe Harrison, these sessions proved to be Holy Hive's foundation. And their ‑rst record, Float Back to You, expertly combined what each musician does best: Paul's heady, re­ective approach to folk with Homer's universal classic soul sound.

      With their new record released on Big Crown, Holy Hive's beautifully simple-and-sparse Folk Soul sound is back but updated. With new in­uences and the challenge of creating and capturing music during a global pandemic, this new self-titled album, is more personal, more re­ective.

      The first single off of Holy Hive, "I Don't Envy Yesterdays," picks up right where Homer and Paul left off. The song weighs the question of time and the human condition a deeply thoughtful and typically tricky subject but in a light, almost easy-breezy way. Homer's drumming provides the song a space, a kind of breathing room. Written in the Yucca Valley desert before the world broke in 2020, it's no wonder Paul's voice drifts and darts on top of it all like a heat shimmer.

      They describe three distinct phases when piecing together Holy Hive: this first stage was pre-pandemic in California while traveling as a group, then like the rest of us they were separated, creating together but apart, and lastly an explosion of output once they reunited in New York.

      There is a natural but subtle evolution for Holy Hive on this record. Homer and Paul drew from new and maybe more obscure-yet-honest in­uences. It's still very much Folk Soul how could it not be. But, like all artists, they've taken in what they've made and how they've made it, only to push it into new places.

      We know of Holy Hive's ability to lyrically convey the abstract and complex in poetic and palatable ways. But where the ‑rst record was soulfully silver-tongued with chill songs about love and affection, Holy Hive widens the lens with these novel in­uences, re­ecting the points both Homer and Paul are in their own lives. "We put the utmost importance on having lyrics that mean something to us," Homer explains. "A lot of the songs on the ‑rst record were fun, but could be kind of surface. On this record, we wanted to be more personal—we wanted to write more about life."

      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE A:
      1. Color It Easy
      2. Story Of My Life
      3. Golden Crown
      4. Aint That The Way
      5. Runaways
      6. Deadly Valentine
      7. I Don’t Envy Yesterdays

      SIDE B:
      1. A Wind Rose
      2. All I’d Be Is Where You Are
      3. Great Chains
      4. Cynthia’s Meditation
      5. Brooklyn Ferry
      6. Circling The Surface
      7. Starless
      8. Star Crossed

      Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band

      Raise It Up B/w Space

      Hamburg-based Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band offer up another 7” double header on the amazing Big Crown label. On side A they take on J Dilla’s “Raise It Up”, earnestly reconstructing the track with live brass, guitars & glockenspiels and hitting the MAXIMUM NOD setting on the drummer’s program set. Not only is this a great twist on the Dilla instrumental for creative rappers to freestyle over; it’s a head-turning alt version to populate your next mixtape or club session with.

      On side B Galt MacDermot’s “Space” gets reworked by the band. Made famous by the Busta Rhymes track “Woohah Got You All In Check” it’s another instant crowd pleaser with nice, chilled, laid back mood that’ll surely be the staple in countless DJ sets over the next few months. TIP! 


      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE A: Raise It Up
      SIDE B: Space

      There has always been a Reggae in­uence in the music of El Michels Affair. From their cover of “Hung Up On My Baby” done in a Reggae style, to the general sound and approach that permeates Leon’s production style. While recording Bailey’s 2020 Ekundayo album, they did some straight forward reggae tunes inspired by different eras alongside some modern R&B tracks that would sit more comfortably next to Frank Ocean than Jacob Miller. It is this same notion that old and new can live so comfortably together that birthed the idea of Ekundayo Inversions.

      Traditional dub came out of reggae in the late 60s and early 70s when pioneers like King Tubby and Lee Perry started taking the multi track recordings of songs and running them back through the board adding effects and additional instrumentation. These recordings are called “dubs” or “versions” and are typically instrumentals with ­ourishes of vocals from the original tracks.

      El Michels decided to use the blueprints left behind and make something using the in­uences of today. He wound up straying so far from the traditional format that it didn’t seem right to use the word ‘Dub’, hence Ekundayo Inversions. All the songs are tied together by WhatsApp messages between Leon and Liam that perfectly narrate the story of this record and their working relationship.

      One of the highlights on Ekundayo Inversions is a guest appearance from the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry on the “Ugly Truth” version. L$P switches between singing and talking, proclaiming his powers one minute and playing with the track’s title the next. On “Awkward take. 2” Leon takes one of the most experimental songs from Ekundayo and actually straightens it out. A track that once seemed to be ­oating in space has now been anchored by the addition of drums and bass. “Faded”, a version of “Paper Tiger”, is given the full EMA treatment with the addition of emotive horns over an uncomfortably sparse rhythm track peppered with Liam’s voice drenched in delay and echo.

      “Champions” features a verse from Black Thought of The Roots and halfway through, El Michels sends the rhythm section 50 years back. At the end of the day, Ekundayo Inversions is a testament to how strong the original songs are. Whether they’re in a R&B style, reggae style, stripped down to their bare bones, or loaded with production, the songs will move you.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: What a truly stunning set of songs this is, swimming in dubby atmospherics while still retaining the groove and soul of the originals. Some of the pieces are a little bit more in the downbeat realm, before we get the smooth as silk R&B and dubby cuts that bring things back to the (decidedly relaxed) dancefloor. A superb selection of versions, perfectly at home with the orignals, while remaining resolutely distinct from them.

      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE A:
      1. Conquer & Divide
      Feat. Black Thought
      2. Amazing Woman
      3. Angel Face
      4. Walk With Me
      5. No One Else
      6. King

      SIDE B:
      1. Ugly Truths Feat. Lee Scratch Perry
      2. I Love NY
      3. Superstar
      4. Awkward (Take 2)
      5. Lucky Man
      6. Faded

      Steel Drum Covers of Grace Jones, Galt MacDermot, Slum Village, Minnie Riperton, Jay Z, Ike Turner, and more.

      Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, the mysterious steel pan out­t hailing from Hamburg, Germany have amassed a cult following around the globe. With a slew of classic 7”s and two critically acclaimed full length albums, they set a high bar for themselves, one they clearly intend on pushing even higher with this new offering. On their third album, aptly titled Expansions, BRSB are back with more of the same, but more of the same with them is inherently different. Covering songs that span genres and range from mega hits to album cuts, they make them their own with their unique approach to the traditional steel pans of Trinidad and Tobago.

      Part of the allure of a new record from Bacao is ­nding out what covers they chose. However, die hard fans are also waiting to hear the original numbers like the stellar album opener “Tough Victory”. Its airtight rhythm section, brass arrangements, and layers of steel pan melodies make the term “cover band” a shoe that could never ­t Bacao. Within the next three songs they go from Jazz (Galt MacDermot), to Hip Hop (Slum Village / J Dilla), to a dance ‑oor classic (Grace Jones) taking them all on with their signature style, expanding on the originals. An easy crowd favorite is their gritty, gully, and neck snapping cover of the Timbaland produced Jay-Z club hit “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”. The infamous crushing Bacao drums start the show and the moment they start playing the top line on the pans, all bets are off. Sure to become a dance ‑oor ­ller is their bottom heavy, four on the ‑oor version of Sylvester’s classic “I Need Somebody To Love Tonight”. They venture into some gutbucket funk with Ike Turner’s “Getting Nasty” and bring the steel pans to Minnie Riperton’s Jazz classic “Les Fleurs”. Digging deeper in the modern canon and paying tribute to a tribute, they cover Erykah Badu’s homage to the late great J Dilla, “The Healer”. This is the type of thing to make Spice Adams jump on his kitchen counter and scream. From the second the beat drops they give the original Madlib production a run for its money, shaking subwoofers with the eerie tremolo bass while the pans play E. Badu’s vocal melodies.

      By the time the album is through Bacao has taken the listener on a journey that spans a myriad of energies, tempos, and moods while somehow managing to keep it all under one umbrella. For all that, these songs are alive, and they will be taken out of the context of this album and sewn into the fabric of DJ sets around the globe for many years to come. Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band is breathing renewed life into the originals and continuing to push the boundaries of steel pan music, or, as the title suggests, expanding on it.

      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE A:
      1. Tough Victory
      2. Space
      3. Raise It Up
      4. My Jamaican Dub
      5. I Need Somebody To Love Tonight
      6. Dirt Off Your Shoulder

      SIDE B:
      1. Getting Nasty
      2. Blow Your Cover
      3. Represent
      4. The Healer
      5. Les Fleur
      6. Squaring The Circles

      CD Has Three Bonus Tracks:
      Juicy
      Look Out Baby (Here I Come)
      Kaiser Noir

      Recorded during the thick of the Covid lockdown, Kevin, Tony, & Eric hunkered down in their studio and turned their energy inward. With all live shows and future tours canceled, Brainstory had no other outlet besides their rehearsal space which had been converted into a makeshift studio. Stepping up to the obstacles of the moment, they recorded and produced an EP of brand new music. They were already highly skilled musicians two years ago, but time in the studio with Leon Michels producing Buck and playing alongside bands like Holy Hive and Chicano Batman had a profound effect on them. Their ears have developed, their ethos and their drive has matured, their musicianship is full-blown; hence the name of the EP, Ripe. Ripe is a seven song journey into who Brainstory are as people and as a band. They are lighthearted and fun but never anything less than dead serious about their artistry. In choosing to record a mostly instrumental record, they have departed from their 2019 debut Buck and are showing more of their Jazz roots.

      Ripe pulls from Jazz, Hip Hop, 70s Funk, 60s Soul, and life in Southern California in the year 2021. Kev’s intro to the EP is a testament to their thing, his goofy and charming “let’s go baby….less go baby” is welcoming and fun and then “Scissors” drops--serious as can be. The first vocal number we hear is “Seasons”, a song about maintaining through the challenges of 2020 that would make Roy Ayers proud. “Long Day” and “Rogers” are drenched in reefer and psychedelia and promise a moment away from reality if listened to in headphones. “Bye Bye” is another stone cold ballad from the group that is destined to be a staple in sweet soul sets around the globe. Ripe is a welcome ray of sunshine as we all shake off the darkness of 2020 and will hold fans over while they finish recording their full length sophomore album due out in 2022

      TRACK LISTING

      A.

      1. Scissors
      2. Seasons
      3. Long Day.

      B.

      1. Rogers
      2. Bye Bye
      3. Long Day (Reprise)
      4. Vortex

      Lee Fields & The Expressions

      Big Crown Vaults Vol. 1

        Unreleased recordings from the Special Night & It Rains Love sessions. Produced by Leon Michels. We are always sitting on a handful of unreleased songs that didn’t make their way to albums. Listening back to these gems we decided to launch a new series entitled Big Crown Vaults and the first volume features the music of Lee Fields & the Expressions. These tunes were cut during the Special Night & It Rains Love sessions. Listening to these tracks you can imagine how difficult some of these decisions were in the first place to leave them off the albums. An absolute standout is “Regenerate,” a song that finds Lee in the country soul realm, a style that Mr Fields, a North Carolina native, flourishes in. A drum break starts the song and then drops into a chorus where El Michels, Paul & Big Bill Schalda belt out the earworm chorus. Lee sings an encouraging tune about finding your way out of a low point in a relationship while The Expressions lay down an airtight groove. “Thinking About You” takes it back to the dance floors with what will surely be a hit at Soul parties around the globe. An uptempo drum break opens the song and Lee launches into a tale about the unbreakable bond with his significant other and how they keep each strong through moments of hardship and pain.

        People who have seen Lee perform live in the last decade might have been lucky enough to hear his rendition of Little Carl Carlton’s “Two Timer”. For those of you who haven’t heard it, Big Crown Vaults has got you covered. A faithful version of the song showcases Lee’s gorgeous voice and the Expression's unwavering groove. Another treat on here is the fuzzed out funk banger “Do You Know” where Fields uses his platform to address some of our societal woes in a “Make The World” style. A deeper from the vaults number is “Out To Get You”, an instrumental that Lee never laid down vocals to. Even as just a rhythm track it stands as a testament to The Expressions musical prowess, the band that created 5 studio albums with Lee Fields which will go down in history as stone classics. Oil Painting of Lee Fields on the cover... 

        TRACK LISTING

        SIDE A:

        1. Two Timer
        2. Regenerate
        3. Do You Know ?
        4. Time
        5. Thinking About You
        6. Don’t Give Up

        SIDE B:

        1. Out To Get You
        2. Two Timer (Instrumental)
        3. Regenerate (Instrumental)
        4. Do You Know ? (Instrumental)
        5. Thinking About You (Instrumental)
        6. Don’t Give Up (Instrumental)

        Liam Bailey

        White Light / Cold & Clear

        "White Light," an instant-classic, dancefloor filler. The rough and tough drum break intro catches you from the first beat before the track gives way to an infectious and uplifting reggae-dis- co number. Liam's instantly recognizable voice showers his muse with praise over deep round bass lines and a four on the floor beat. The combination of Leon Michels' crushing production and Bailey's lyrics like "You love yourself, you're so exciting, like no one else"... is sure to make this a staple in dj sets around the globe. The B side "Cold & Clear" is a proper lighters in the air, slap the wall, top ranking tune. The track struts in the door with a natural and undeniable confidence. Liam weaves a heavy metacognitive story over the one drop drums, perfect basslines, and organ stabs that will have people stepping in rhythm. The lo-fi production weaves elements from the finest early rocksteady era with touches from the late 70s / early 80s digital era and takes the entire vibe into the present with unorthodox arrangements and vocal treatments. Bailey has a tune here that will hold up next to the classics in the dancehalls from the yards of Jamaica to the discotheques in his homeland of England. 

        TRACK LISTING

        A. White Light
        B. Cold & Clear

        El Michels Affair Featuring The Shacks

        Dhuaan / Sha Na Na

          Produced by Leon Michels. Features vocals by Shannon Wise of The Shacks & Piya Malik. Picture sleeve art by Ghanian legend Mr Brew. Last year El Michels Affair released "Unathi" and "Zaharlia". It was EMA's first foray into the world of psychedelic, Turkish-inspired, Bollywood Funk. The enjoyment it brought El Michels Affair and their fans was mutual, so much so, that they recorded an entire record in this unique style entitled, Yeti Season due out later this year. The A side "Dhuaan", features the enchanting vocals of Piya Malik. It starts with a barrage of white noise and launches into an unrelenting groove laced with fuzz guitar, crushing drums, and a hypnotic 12 string guitar keeping the whole thing from falling off the rails. Piya's ethereal voice floats atop it all as she sings in Hindi about when a love interest is so powerful, it consumes your every thought. Side B, Sha Na Na, is a more mellow turn and mostly instrumental except for Shannon Wise of The Shacks repetitive hook "sha na na" that adds to the hypnotic effect of the song..

          Bobby Oroza

          Strange Girl / Down On My Knees

          In the wake of his instant classic album "This Love", Bobby Oroza drops a new tune they cut during some downtime between tours. This is something of a Big Crown family affair as they cover The Shacks tune "Strange Boy" giving it that signature Bobby sound and flipping the title to "Strange Girl." Once again the winning combo of Bobby and Cold Diamond & Mink come out swinging, and to add to the family affair we enlisted our very own Leon Michels to do horns on the track. Side B is one of the killer ballads pulled from the album, "Down On My Knees" is already a hit with the slowie crowd and pressing it to this 7" is sure to make a bunch of the sweet soul collectors very happy.

          TRACK LISTING

          A. Strange Girl
          B. Down On My Knees

          Paul & The Tall Trees

          So Long

            Paul Schalda is a poet, perhaps a bit of a tortured soul, a hopeless romantic, and a guy from Staten Island. That last bit might not make sense to people who aren't from New York. Let's say that it puts the blue in his collar and sticks his feet to the ground. Paul's music seems to embody the unexpected overlap of The Band's Americana, Ian MacKaye's unhinged emotion, Otis Redding's raw soul, and the doo-wop melodies his father, Bill Schalda Sr. (a member of Brooklyn vocal group, The Montereys) raised him on. His sophomore album is produced by long time collaborator and old friend Tommy Brenneck and Big Crown's own Leon Michels.

            For the people who are already fans of Paul's debut Our Love In Light, the growth and maturity will be impossible to miss. So Long reads and feels like you snuck in his room and read his journal. Deeply personal and heartfelt, he takes on a variety of topics in the songs, the common thread being the vulnerability and passion he delivers them with. The opener "Although We Cry" is perhaps a perfect example what makes Paul's music so unique. He finds a way to cut right to the bone, entirely emotional and simultaneously emotionless. "Although we cry, we are not meant to be". The title track "Then We'll Wave (So Long)" puts Paul amongst the great storytellers of song; tension, misdirection, and irony all play a part in taking one of the most sung about topics in life; love, and putting a brand new twist on it. Paul spent some years out on the road playing guitar in The Extraordinaires backing the late great Charles Bradley where they became close friends.

            During that time he penned a few songs for Charles, one of which he wound up recording himself. That song, "Beware" showcases another side of P&TTT's range, a gritty, driving, warning tune where the band has a chance to get funky. 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." 

            TRACK LISTING

            SIDE A:

            1. Although We Cry
            2. Then We’ll Wave (So Long)
            3. Shining
            4. Someone To Someone
            5. Over The Echoes

            SIDE B:

            1. Beware
            2. I Remember 98’ (My God)
            3. Ask Me
            4. Patiently Awaiting
            5. Numerous Times

            Lee Fields & The Expressions

            Wake Up / You're What's Needed In My Life

            Following up on the massive success of Lee Fields recently released full length "It Rains Love" we drop another 45 for the DJs and collectors. This time showing off two different sides of Lee & The Expressions range. The A side "Wake Up" is Lee's heavy duty, drum driven, anthemic tune for the times. Fields calls out the highly over-used and abused term of the current presidency "fake news." Over a hard as nails sound bed courtesy of The Expressions he goes on asking people to wake up and not let this propaganda sway them from knowing what is right and wrong.

            The B side "You're What's Needed In My Life" is a gushing testament to the beauty of love. Solidifying his title as the Professor of Love it's almost like he's writing your girl's valentine for you. Going beyond how happy the woman he is singing to makes him and telling of how she makes everyone she meets happier. This two-sider is about as classic as possible, a heavy duty funk banger on the A side, and nothing but love on the ballad B side. Another classic and timeless offering from the one and only Lee Fields. 

            TRACK LISTING

            A1. Wake Up
            B1. You're What's Needed In My Life


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