Iâ€™m personally sick battling some nasty flu bug but in the spirit of music wanted to share some of my top picks for the past year in no particular order:
Much like the dancefloor anthem Aretha Franklin hit â€śPride (A Deeper Love)â€ť singer-songwriter Chris Willisâ€™ â€śMy Freedomâ€ť should be bumping the queerlings and disco bunnies if there is any justice in the world. With pimped-out RnB hooks and his passionate soaring diva-esque vocals you will feel the freedom sweeping over you from the Gospel-influenced and pop-loving performer. With break-out mixes by DJ Craig and frequent collaborator French electro-house DJ/producer David Guetta I hope to see this inspirational artistâ€™ work added to the Pride circuit soon. More recently he was a featured performer on the World Music Awards which seemed to be aired almost weekly thanks to the writerâ€™s strike and Iâ€™m sure his soaring vocals will be elsewhere soon.
DJs tend to get all moist, hot and bothered when the word â€śremixâ€ť is brought up and for good reasons. The songs that we love or want to love have the potential for a make-over, to re-emerge as a fierce diva or dom daddy or extra flowery blossom â€“ whatever it is utilizes the best parts of a track and builds on it for a new audience. MIDIval PunditZ is the first Indian electronica band to hit the international stage and the New Delhi based duoâ€™s modern ragas and bhangra grooves have entranced fans around the world and now are poised to win their hips as well. With guest producers the music now reaches into house, downtempo, breaks and trance domains with the bedroom and dungeon well covered with the hypnotic Eastern rhythms and floaty vocals dancing atop the infectiously funky beats. My picks: â€śAli (Tapanâ€™s Deep Blue Mix),â€ť â€śRaanjhan (Jalebee Bass For Breakfast Mix),â€ť â€śRaanjhan (Son Kite Remix),â€ť â€śDark Age (Karsh Kale Remix)â€ť and â€ś136 (Gautamâ€™s Downtempo Mix).â€ť
Loveâ€™s The Only Drug
House and dance diva Ultra NatĂ© is not the typical singer-songwriter performer as she started on a major label then fled to the indies for creative control. Her latest dance single â€śLoveâ€™s The Only Drugâ€ť is beyond sexy and further establishes her as one of the next generation of dance divas to bridge her RnB sensibilities and glam aesthetics to modern dance club culture with its many genres. My picks: â€śLoveâ€™s The Only Drug (Morgan Page Mix),â€ť â€śLoveâ€™s The Only Drug (Muzzaik Mix),â€ť â€śLoveâ€™s The Only Drug (Original Mix),â€™ â€śLoveâ€™s The Only Drug (Splashfunk & Funky Junction Gryphon Mix)â€ť and â€śLoveâ€™s The Only Drug (Adam Rios Shelter Mix).â€ť
Harajuku Lovers Live
Sheâ€™s a fashion icon, a blond threat and visionary artist with the chops to match. Gwen serves up delicious dance and pop insta-classics with daring artistry and inspired collaborations. Her new DVD Harajuku Lovers Live gives a wet-dream to any Gwen fan showing not only the concert itself but also the genesis and organic development which is also fascinating for anyone interested in how massive stadium tours develop. She also shares how she works her strengths and creates a team to go on a world tour. That she was that spunky spit-fire blondie who fronted the cross-over ska-rock group No Doubt is hardly lost on her home crowd in Orange county.
Real To Reel
Europeâ€™s well-kept secret Noiseshaper bursts into the open with classic dub/reggae and downbeats chilled and remixed into the 21st century with the stunning Real To Reel release reclaiming a full compliment of the bandsâ€™ past hits plus plenty of new tracks with standout guest vocalists and all overdubbed and mixed by Londonâ€™s dub legend Adrian Sherwood. If youâ€™re not yet a fan of dub chill this would almost be too good of an introduction with infectiously funky grooves and sun-kissed dancefloor hip-movers. My picks: â€śSly&Robbie - Vice Vanityâ€ť featuring Beans & Hawkman, â€śYou Take Controlâ€ť featuring Jackie Deane, â€śMoving Togetherâ€ť featuring Wayne Martin, â€śBushmaster (Kid Kenobi Session RMX)â€ť featuring MC Shureshock, â€śWalls Of Silence (TVS remix)â€ť, â€śFire Fi Me Roots (Automatic Real to Reel Edit),â€ť â€śWake Upâ€ť featuring Jahcoustix and â€śRough Out There.â€ť
Madman of God:
Divine Love Songs
Of The Persian Sufi Masters
Once again confounding the religious right can be deeply gratifying when the passionately spiritual awakens the core sensuality and confronts all who dare to see sex as anything but divinely inspired and sacred. Classic melodies that were composed around the poetry of 11th to 19th century Sufi writers Rumi, Saadi, & Djamis are breathtakingly lifted by experimental diva Sussan Deyhim. â€śLiving the sacred poems of ultimate love, pain, compassion, wisdom and the Sufi gaze â€¦ traveling through time, in cosmic spaceâ€¦â€ť These modern interpretations of Persian torch songs are hypnotically transcendent and are not only deeply erotic but poetic deep breathes of time. My picks: The Candle And The Moth,â€ť â€śDaylaman (Inextricable),â€ť â€śMeykhaneh (Wine Cave),â€ť â€śBade Saba (The Wind Of Saba)â€ť and â€śNegara (Mesmerized Mirror).â€ť
Another stellar continuous-mix compilation from San Franciscoâ€™s own chill masters at Om Records perfect for medicating the masses with dubby delicious chill love and funky underflows. Prepare to wrap yourself in feel-good lushness while your senses are bathed in understated blissed-out groovers perfect for cuddling, spooning and generally retreating from lifeâ€™s daily grind. My picks: Jimpsterâ€™s â€śLeft & Rightâ€ť featuring Capitol, Tarantulazâ€™s â€śThey Forgot It (King Koobaâ€™s Broken Mix)â€ť featuring Monique Bingham, Crystal Staffordâ€™s â€śBreathe (PC Synergyâ€™s Mellifious Mix),â€ť Gil Tamazyanâ€™s â€śPlantenâ€™s Cove,â€ť Michael Telloâ€™s â€śBlack Thought,â€ť Bassnectarâ€™s â€śSo Butterfly (InstruMENTAL)â€ť and John Beltranâ€™s â€śIt Was All Beautiful.â€ť
Representing the 813 is Tampa, Floridaâ€™s thug mistress and queen of the South Khia (pronounced KI-ah) throwing down for a post-modern feminist gangsta vibe ordering her men to respect and service her needs. Her latest volley into the hip-hop world Gangstress is a 2-disc treat with plenty for anyone to be offended by with a bonus disc DVD with live performances, interviews and behind the scenes footage of real life scenes from this fascinating writer/ performer/ producer. She is the real deal demanding respect and helping sort out class distinctions for a clueless world â€“ â€śIâ€™d rather be called a bitch than a ho.â€ť Singing about the hardcore realities of Southern living and utilizing her rap, RnB and gospel backgrounds , she crafts original tracks that stick to your soul and plenty of nasty songs that will stick elsewhere. My picks: â€śSnatch The Cat Back,â€ť â€śF**king Me Tonightâ€ť and â€śRespect Me.â€ť
Mary J. Blige
Reflections: A Retrospective
The queen of hip-hop soul Mary J. Blige has turned into a mature and world-wise seer and sage not only spewing pleads for peace but also heartfelt steps of liberating prose for a nation that has been burnt by mis-steps and misdeeds. Since her RnB debut in 1992 she has wowed audiences and critics alike with authentic life lived through her music and earned three Grammys and seven multi-platinum albums in the process. On this retrospective you can catch up and no one needs to know you missed any of the last decade-plus of the queen whose songs can move from liberating sorrow to near testifying praise. My picks: â€śReflections (I Remember),â€ť â€śNo More Drama,â€ť â€śFamily Affair,â€ť â€śBe Without You,â€ť â€śIâ€™m Goinâ€™ Downâ€ť and â€śIâ€™ll Be There For You/Youâ€™re All I Need To Get Byâ€ť featuring Method Man.
Get Into It
â€śThat hotel was so cheap I should have brought my own sheetsâ€ť and other poetic gems from NYC underground singer-songwriter, party-boi and rapper MC Cazwell will have you laughing and dancing at the same time. From his breakout single â€śAll Over Your Faceâ€ť (see the video on Youtube.com) he launches seven remixes and even throws in a bonus DVD of three videos as well as the seven songs that make up his latest release with guests Amanda LaPore and Avenue D. Expect to feel dirty then liberated. My top picks: â€śThe Sex That I Needâ€ť featuring Avenue D, â€śAll Over Your Face,â€ť â€śDo You Wanna Break Up?,â€ť â€śAll Over Your Face (Gomiâ€™s West 22nd Street Mix),â€ť â€śAll Over Your Face (Funky Junction & Anthony Reale Subliminal Reprise Twisted Dub Mix)â€ť and â€śAll Over Your Face (Original Extended Disco Instrumental).â€ť
Magnetic and sassy everyguy singer-songwriter Robbie Williamsâ€™ latest release Rudebox hopes to inroad to various US markets and pockets of music lovers with a buffet of pop-dance treats including campy ballads, country hybrids and funky hip-thrusters with nasty undertones. With a host of British and Brit-friendly crossover artists including Madonna (or Marsha Thomason if you believe the liner notes) or her sound-a-like who should be hired by Madonna, Lily Allen and the Pet Shop Boys, Robbie has found genuine popster delicacies full of flavor, optimism and infectiously sing-able lyrics . On behalf of DJs and disco bunny dancers everywhere I say bring on the remixes and take over the dancefloor. My Picks: â€śRudebox,â€ť â€śViva Life On Mars,â€ť â€śThe Actor,â€ť â€śBongo Bong And Je Ne Tâ€™aime Plus,â€ť â€śSheâ€™s Madonna,â€ť â€śNever Touch That Switchâ€ť and â€śKiss Me.â€ť
Notes From The Underworld
Fronted by Russian singer/songwriter Angelina Moysov the Californian quartet has utilized her unique upbringing in the Caucasus region in southern Russia with itsâ€™ multi-ethnic vibes of Russian, Slavic, Gypsy, Armenian, Georgian, Greek and Turkish music and spun it all into post-modern rock with a decidedly feminist pop twist. Her brother would send home underground punk and rock music and those influences seep into the disarmingly upbeat and hypnotically funky songs and melodies. Their debut major release Notes From The Underworld is well worth it not only for the rich international undertones but also the post-modern surf-rock vibe that seems to flow from California. My picks: â€śClimbing,â€ť â€śCity Of Love,â€ť â€śNice Day,â€ť â€śMuzika Dlya Filâ€™ma,â€ť â€śPaper Plane,â€ť Queenâ€™s Night Outâ€ť and â€śHome.â€ť