Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reggae Merengue

Song: Reggae Merengue
Artist: Tommy McCook & the Supersonics
Album: Trojan Calypso Box Set

I must admit, this disappointed me a little…

I found this great blog called Palms Out Sounds that specializes in remixes and various underground dance music. On Sunday they post MP3’s of remixes of all kinds of music, and every once in a while on Wednesdays (which they call “Sample Wednesdays”) they post songs that were sampled by a particular artist. They have highlighted Missy Elliot, Daft Punk, and M.I.A. The first I looked into was for Lily Allen, whose debut “Alright Still” was one of my favorite records from early this year.

Unfortunately, a listen to the “samples” Lily used for what I thought was her wildly original debut prove that basically… she found a great beat and stole it. This isn’t new, and a lot of bigger artists have done the same, and more so. But I’ve been such a Lily fan and supporter, it made the whole affair just a little LESS to me. Take a look at the post and listen to her samples, you’ll be pretty surprised, if you are familiar with her record, how much the samples are used pretty straight-forwardly. This isn’t the case of a sample that is cut up and fooled with to sound different… this is a complete lifting of the hook.

One of my favorite cuts off “Alright Still” is the calypso bounce of “LDN.” That song, which relies on a Caribbean horn hook, was taken from the song “Reggae Merengue” by Tommy McCook & the Supersonics. If you are familiar with the song (“LDN”) you’ll be pretty shocked. While the hooks from her hits were jacked from the Soul Brothers, Professor Longhair, and Pierre Bachelet & Herve Roy, take a listen to Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet On A String” which is basically “Alfie” with different words. When is stealing not stealing when you just pay the rights?

Also a disappointment were two of my favorite beat makers, Daft Punk and M.I.A. Their samples (link provided) were also shocking because they have positioned themselves as true originals. M.I.A.’s “Kala” is getting some of the best reviews of the year and yet it seems like she just went shopping for killer hooks and kooky sounds. Same with Daft.

Don’t get me wrong… the things that M.I.A. and Lily did with these samples, putting their original thought and spin on these is not “easy,” but it does mar them a tad. I love both records and agree that “Kala” is one of the more important records of the year… but when I hear the open of “Paper Planes” (one of the best tracks on the record) and realize it’s really just the open of the Clash’s “Straight to Hell,” you begin to seriously think… has it all been done?


A little Tommy McCook live:

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