Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chuck Brown Still Cranking at 74

What do you know about go-go? Well, if you hail from the DMV - that's D.C., Maryland or Virginia - then you know as much about it as you know about crabs, cherry blossoms and Ben’s Chili Bowl.  

One of its greatest practitioners is the legendary Chuck Brown, who’s been the leader of the go-go scene for several decades.  I just got my copy of Chuck Brown‘s new CD We Got This and it confirms what we already knew. Washington. D.C.’s Godfather of Go-Go shows no signs of slowing down at 74 years old. He invented this music almost 40 years ago and hasn’t stopped playing it since.

The package includes three discs: a 5-song EP of new songs from the studio, a concert recording from Chuck’s birthday show at the 9:30 Club, and a DVD video recording of the same concert (you get everything but the video with a digital download). Like his last album We’re About the Business, the studio material was produced by Chucky Thompson, who plays multiple instruments on every track. So it’s not surprising that these five songs feel like an extension ofWe’re About the Business. The biggest difference being the guest stars Thompson brought in from outside the D.C. area to help out on the new EP.

All For You features Marcus Miller who’s been mixing jazz, with funk and r&b for decades. He’s no stranger to go-go either. When he was leading Miles Davis’ band in the 80s and they were looking for a drummer to supply that funky go-go sound, Miles and Marcus pulled Ricky Wellman from Chuck’s band. He also wrote E.U.’s monster hit Da Butt for the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s School Daze. His bass parts here are way up in the mix and appropriately funky for a song about playing music and living a party lifestyle.

Funky Stuff is a mid-tempo duet with Ledisi that features her jazzy sound over a light go-go beat.  Jingle Jangle features the call and response sound that works so great live at the go-go, but sounds a little forced on a studio recording. Love features Jill Scott. It’s a kinda sequel to her hit It’s Love which prominently used a go-go beat. If any song here become a hit locally or beyond, this is likely the one. Marcus Miller is on this one too. Seniorita has a nice Latin groove that goes back to Chuck’s days playing with Los Latinos band and also reminds me of Berro E Sombaro from the Bustin’ Loose album. I hope this one become a part of Chuck’s regular live set.

“Love” is the first single from “We Got This!”

</object><span>Love by Shore Fire</span>

While the new studio material is enjoyable, the main reason to acquire We Got This is the live show — which certainly cannot be accused of lacking variety. At the 9:30 Club, Brown's rock-solid band performs everything from Beyoncé Knowles' "Single Ladies" to Kool Moe Dee's "Do You Know What Time It Is" to some jazz standards, including Earle Hagen's "Harlem Nocturne," Lionel Hampton's "Midnight Sun," Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing," and "Moody's Mood for Love" (the King Pleasure/Eddie Jefferson-associated vocalese response to saxophonist James Moody's 1949 recording of Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields' "I'm in the Mood for Love"). But the fact that Brown's festive 9:30 Club gig incorporates jazz, blues, and hip-hop and includes songs from different musical eras doesn't mean that the go-go aesthetic is compromised; go-go is always the main ingredient, and Brown and his colleagues sound quite focused no matter how much they keep the audience guessing. Surprisingly, the only disappointing part of the 9:30 Club set is a two-minute performance of "Bustin' Loose" that is too brief for its own good; Brown's best-known song should have been savored, not rushed through and treated like an afterthought. But all things considered, We Got This is a release that die-hard go-go enthusiasts will be happy to add to their collections.

Track list:

Studio Album:
1.      All for You featuring Marcus Miller
2.      Funky Stuff featuring Ledisi
3.      Jingle Jangle
4.      LOVE featuring Jill Scott with Marcus Miller
5.      Senorita

Live Concert DVD and Live Concert CD:
1.      Wind Me Up!
2.      Rappaz R. N. Dainja (instrumental)
3.      We the People
4.      Funky Beat
5.      I’m Your Man
6.      It Don’t Mean A Thing
7.      Midnight Sun
8.      Moody’s Mood for Love
9.      Woody Woodpecker
10.     Give the Bass Player Some
11.     Harlem Nocturne
12.     Ego featuring Cherie Mitchell
13.     Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) featuring Cherie Mitchell
14.     Run Joe
15.     Give It Up For Little Benny
16.     Do You Know What Time It Is? Featuring Whiteboy and Little Benny
17.     Cat in the Hat featuring Little Benny
18.     Freak-A-Deek
19.     One on One featuring Little Benny
20.     Lock It featuring Little Benny
21.     Chuck Baby featuring KK
22.     Bustin’ Loose

Bonus Music Videos:
Block Party, The Party Roll


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