808 State is an English electronic group that formed in 1987, and take their name from the Roland TR-808 drum machine and their shared state of mind. As a trio, they produced their iconic track, Pacific, which fused influences of house music, jazz fusion and exotica. The group changed membership a bit over the years, but one way or another 808 State have released six albums* to date, and a number of singles, EPs, and promotional discs. 808state.com has a ton of information, including an extensive visual discography, a list of other productions and remixes, and over a gig of demos, live tracks, and other non-album audio to download. Given the group's 27 year-long history, there's a lot more to see and hear. [more inside]
Later this year will mark the 45th anniversary of Bill Cosby's first self-titled sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show. Ten years ago, the original jam sessions were released, which are notable for the "various collection of notables who steal the show with contributions at various points." Pianist Les McCann, sax man Ernie Watts, and guitarist Arthur Adams get things going on "Groovy Gravy," Tom Scott shows some legit chops on "Toe Jam," while Jimmy Smith offers sampling of his Hammond B3 on the interlude "Jimmy Cookin' On Top." If seeing Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby get top billing confused you, the album credits reference their roles, which are not front-and-center, except for some vocal improv by Cosby on "Hikky-Burr." You can hear more tracks on Grooveshark, and if you're into more of that modern dance remixery, you might (also) enjoy The New Mixes, Vol. 1, which can also be sampled on Grooveshark.
28 years ago this summer, Leo Arnaud's "Bugler's Dream" suddenly found it had competition for the title of The Olympic Theme. Composer John Williams was commissioned to create a new fanfare, and "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" was the result, with the Fanfare portion being played at every medal ceremony in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. But that wasn't the only music created for those Olympic Games... [more inside]
Quincy Jones sat in the Tenafly, New Jersey den of 16-year-old vocal student Lesley Gore, playing demo after demo, looking for the right song to cut for her first record. Out of over 200 tapes, Jones and Gore had moved only one to the "maybe" pile, and so that song, It's My Party, was recorded on March 30, 1963 in a Manhattan studio. After the session Mercury president Irving Green warned Gore not to get her hopes up, but Gore gratefully told him that it had been a great experience anyway, and it was okay if he didn't want to release it. However, later that evening Jones learned that Phil Spector had just recorded "It's My Party" for The Crystals, so Jones rushed back to the studio to press 100 test copies of the single and immediately mailed them to key radio stations across the country. [more inside]
I always loved the Quincy Jones-composed theme song to 70s sitcom Sanford and Son, but up until a few minutes ago I'd never heard the entire piece: three minutes and six seconds of delightfully infectious, playfully bright instrumental pop-funk. It's called The Streetbeater, and its creative and ever-changing arrangement includes snippets of the rarely heard bass harmonica. The piece is just a hella lotta fun. [more inside]
Michael Jackson penned and recorded lots of songs, many of which remain unreleased. Perhaps the most infamous, and rarest recording, is his version of Behind the Mask. Legend has it that upon hearing Yellow Magic Orchestra's original track, somewhen around 1979, Quincy Jones fell in love with the track, and he and Michael worked together on their own version. Jackson wrote new lyrics for it - adding to those of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Chris Mosdell - and eventually recorded it during his Off The Wall sessions. For unknown reasons the track never made the final cut of, arguably, Jones' and Jackson's greatest work. Not long afterwards Greg Phillinganes, Jackson's keyboard player, released his own version of the song, which was later taken up and re-recorded by Eric Clapton for his 1986, Phil Collins produced album, August. The track has since been recorded/remixed by Human League, Senor Coconut, Orbital and others. Does an original Jones/Jackson recording of the song even exist? Perhaps, as the world continues to mourn the star's sad death, someone will finally allow us a listen.