Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Top 20 (In No Particular Order) - Part Deux

Alright, we go.

3) Purple Rain:
-What can I say about this album that has not been said before. Released when I was only two years old, Purple Rain remains the definitive album from the most important musical artist of my lifetime. My method for judging an album's importance in my eyes has many factors, but, perhaps, the most important criteria is my ability & desire to listen from end to end. Purple Rain is one of those few recordings.
Thinking back tho how this album affected me, I can't help but to think of it as an album that no one, no matter what race, creed, sex, or age could deny. Throughout my life, times would arise where I would return to music of Purple Rain and revel in new discoveries that were only possible thru my physical and musical maturation.
I mean, when my dad and older sister would jam it, there were certain songs that would be off limits to my ears. "Darling Nikki" crosses that line of what is and what is not suitable for younger children, but it's still perhaps one of the illest tunes ever (madd props to Dave Grohl for an awesome rendition of that song). I still get intresting thoughts anytime I meet a girl named Nikki. I can't help it, I'm imaginative.
Another odd realization that I had while writing this is that I've only owned this album on vinyl. Perhaps my purchase it was a subconscious decision in order to connect to an earlier time, back home. A small way to relive digging thru my pop's record collection. Either way I bought it, still own it, & if it wasn't for having Purple Rain on vinyl, I wouldn't have discovered what lies within the secret backwards track at the end of the album. My Numark TT200's reverse button made that investigation short yet oh so sweet.
I truly do thank God for artists such as Prince. As a young blaxican in America, I became aware at an early age that there are many forces at work to keep everyone in neat little boxes. Being bi-racial, at times, was rough. Ridiculous arguments of whether one inherits their race/culture from their mother or father ensued between myself and everyone who had an opinon, but I viewed it all as a part of the program. For, when limitations on what's marketable, accessible, and possible for individuals are made, it becomes far more simple to disseminate ideas and goods to the masses.
My parents made sure not to allow me to fall into that trap, raising me to be culturally aware but not stereotypical, and Prince was the first artist I learned of that supported that ideal. The first brotha since Jimi to get down on a guitar and just ROCK! Prince turned music, fashion, and the entire world on its ear with Purple Rain, including a two year old from Houston, TX. And for that...I'll always be grateful.

4) Chronic/Chronic 2001:
-YES! These albums occupy a long chapter in my life that spans from 5th grade until today, for Dr. Dre held my fascination from an early age. When I was around 7 or so, my family ventured out west to visit family in California. Legend has it, while sightseeing in San Francisco, we stopped by a boutique record shop that just so happened to have some b-boys getting down on some cardboard in front of the shop.
I felt compelled to represent the great state of Texas, so at the right moment I worked my way onto the floor and began to pop-lock, floor rock, and backspin my way into the good graces of the store owner. Impressed by such a young b-boy with ill skills, the store owner rewarded me with a LP entitled L.A. Beats. It was a compilation album that contained my introduction to the good doctor, who was then dj and premier songwriter/producer for the World Class Wreckin' Crew.
There were two cuts by the crew on the album, but one in particular made a connection; it was entitled "Surgery." Containing a refrain that consisted of a simple repeat of, "Dr. Dre....Dr. Dre....Dr. Dre....Dr. Dre, Dre, Dre, Dre, etc." "Surgery" stuck in my head and made it Eazy for me to make the connection the next time I came across the good doctor.
Around the time I was in third or fourth grade, a healthy consumption of "YO! Mtv Raps" and sneak peeks into my sister's cassette collection made me aware of the most dangerous musical group at the time, N.W.A. Dre was a founding member, premier producer, and featured MC within their ranks, droppin' knowledge and ill sounds with songs like, "Express Yourself" (the video is INSANE).
Now, fast forward a year later. I'm in the 5th grade with my own bootleg cassette copy of the Chronic that I purchased from the Conoco corner store on Aldine Mail Route. I don't support bootlegging or piracy, but I knew that a solo album from the central player in shaping N.W.A's sound was an album I had to own (I made my own legit purchase later in life to support the cause). My friend Albert and I used to finish our school work early just so we could jam the Chronic in class. A simple covering of the parental advisory label with my thumb afforded us the opportunity to listen, quietly, with headphones @ one of our media stations.
I can still recall one of my most favorite things to do would be to wait until my teacher, Ms. Coulston, would leave the classroom for a brief moment, then fast forward to Warren G on the phone asking some unaware female, "Did what's their name give that to you the other day?" then pull the headphones and put the tape player's speaker on full blast for, "Deeez Nuts!" That drove the class wild, and I enjoyed connecting with my classmates thru laughter.
the Chronic was much more than just adolescent hi-jinks for me. That next phase for Dr. Dre was another phase for me as well. The "G-Funk Era" held so much classic material in my book. There was no doubt that the West had a stranglehold on the game, and the Chronic seemed not only to be the definitive album of that era, but the catalyst for the entire West Coast takeover that would follow in its wake.
2001 was perhaps the greatest follow-up album ever created. I can't recall the exact moment that I discovered it. Perhaps it was the video for the next episode and the slow-mo scene where one of my favorite Latina models of all time (I don't really know her name...I just remember her on the covers of Lowrider Magazine and as a Juggy on the ORIGINAL Man Show) was in pristine form on a stripper pole, in a perfect orbit right before the beat dropped. It was a perfect visual, and set off another chapter of aural domination for the good doctor. By far the cast of characters within this installment trumped the previous release. Return appearances from Snoop and the Dogg Pound were more than welcome, but introductions to Hittman and appearances by Eminem, Xzibit & one of Houston's finest, Devin the Dude, were absolutely ridiculous.
There's cuts off of both of these albums that stand alone as undeniable classics, but there still remains a high replay value from front to back if you're in the mood for musical motion pictures. I highly anticipate the third installment in the trilogy, but it's strange when I look back realize that an album from '93 and a follow up from '99 still remains on my iPod, is enjoyed thoroughly by the crowd and myself when I perform certain selections @ various shows, and will perhaps carry on in later years as a hands down banga without ever sounding dated at all! I could be wrong...but I doubt it. These two albums can stand alone, each in its own right, but feel complete when combined. Despite six years between them they compliment each other beautifully, and that astounds me. They are, musically, what Batman Begins & the Dark Knight or Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 are visually, and to me, they are the soundtrack to my adolescence, yet vital and relevant works today. In other words, the Chronic/2001 is...timeless.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Top 20 (In No Particular Order)

1) Innervisions/Songs in the Key of Life:
-If someone asks you, "What's your favorite Stevie Wonder album?" don't kill yourself trying to decide. It's a trick question. I had to allow room for both of these albums on my list for many reasons that merit equal adulation to each, but make it very difficult to choose one over the other. Innervisions affected me perhaps like no other album in my life.
The night that I bought it I lied on my top bunk in my freshman dorm room and listened to it, front to back, for hours on end. A story formulated in my mind drawing its narrative directly from the music on the album. SOBER...I swear. I even started what was my first failed novel based directly on characters and scenarios from the album. Then, after a light case of writer's block & hesitation from securing rights to Stevie's intellectual property, I abandoned the novel. The most fascinating thing about Innervisions to me is that whether or not it is seen as a concept album, I'll always view it as one. There's a message in the music...a connection between the songs on it...a clear concept that presented itself to me...& I'll always love it because of that.
Songs in the Key of Life placed a far more different spell upon me. Following Innervisions I began a string of Stevie Wonder discovery. I mean, I knew Stevie before this moment. A few Sesame Street mash-ups & Cosby Show cameos (JAMMIN' ON THE ONE....words to live by), but it was at this time that I began to KNOW the Wonderment of Stevie. My research not only afforded me a far deeper appreciation of Innervisions (LISTEN to "Higher Ground"), but it also introduced me to Songs in the Key of Life. In high school, I learned the lay out of the piano and chord structure in order to figure out songs that were hittin' on the radio so I could arrange them for my marching band to rock the stands during football games, but "As" was the first song that I taught myself to play. The entire album was a journey, and as I get older, it's almost as if I bear witness to everyone living it...including myself. Songs in the Key of Life is to me, as the Neverending Story was to Bastian...if you catch my drift.

2) Kind of Blue:
-Miles's all there. I recall learning of how this album marked a seminal shift in tonality, arrangement, and composition in Jazz. Modality as a concept was presented in high definition throughout this work. Looking back, I think this also was another moment where I was perplexed by the difficulty in imagining a time where sounds I've grown up with were foreign ideals. I thought, "Two chords...thirty-two bar form, pretty simple," and then in hearing how folks at that time were like, "Where's the top of the form...I'm getting lost over here ?!?!?!?" helped me to realize that these jazz giants were human beings. Geniuses? Yes, but human nonetheless. Nevermind that. All that is necessary to understand and recognize is Kind of Blue, the entire album, is beautiful...classicaly beautiful...timeless. It doesn't hurt that the entire group is like a dream team of jazz music masters as well. Miles, John, Cannonball, Jimmy, Paul, Bill/Wynton. I need to put that on a t-shirt.

2 down....18 to go???


Thursday, April 2, 2009


HELLO YOUNG WORLD!  Welcome to the first of what will be many accounts of the way I see it.  "Who am I?" you might be asking.  Believe me, I was thinking the same thing.  Excuse me for not introducing myself.  My name is Daniel J. Hardaway.  Born and raised in beautiful Houston, Texas, now living in the wonderful city of Dallas.  Those from Texas may view the vibe of these two cities as night and day, but I find a way.  Throughout this journey, for that is essentially what this "blog" is, you may find amusing commentary, random reflections, bold declarations, and hopefully, I'll find...myself. 
Isn't that the point?  You live, you learn, and thoughts form within your mind.  Too many can drive a man insane, so it helps to have a means by which to release and reflect, but I don't want to bore you with the "heavy" stuff.  Right now, I'm caught in a moment that will be most definitely etched in my memory.  I'm currently writing this from my friend and musical brother, Evan's house.  We're in a band called the Boss Level, and tonight we perform @ none other than one of my many favorite musical sanctuaries, the House of Blues.
This Houston location is fairly new, but being able to rock the stage tonight is still somewhat surreal.  I'm sure it will hit me onstage, and now is not the time to dig into the origin of the Boss Level.  All that's necessary to know is we're a fairly young band & this is a big opportunity.  So glad we've made it, but now's the time to make it and own it.  All in all, it just does this music lover's heart some real intense good to be able to share my love with my friends and family all where everything began for me...CLUTCH CITY BABY !!!
It seemed appropriate to start something new on such an occasion, so here's a toast to coming home.  Damn, it feels good.

I'll leave you with a few recent random thoughts...

  -Luling City Market is the best smoked sausage in the world.  If you know that, you know me.

  -"Loop, Swoop, & Pull" is not only the most effective shoe tying method, but possibly the next D-Town Boogie craze.  "Bunny Ears" method is simply a cute ploy to teach kids who suffer from ADD. 

  -I love the Rockets, but I don't know if I can stomach another first round playoff match up against the Utah Jazz.  I love jazz, but not the Utah Jazz.  There isn't even Jazz in Utah, and if there is...then I'm sure it sucks!

  -Music is oh so amazing.  (This thought isn't that random.  It appears frequently in my mind.  Stay tuned for my top 20 albums of all time list!)