Some samples used in hip hop songs are brilliant. Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” is an excellent example. The full version of the song begins with a ham-handed sample of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” There’s little creativity on that point but you have to give it up for the use of an almost-hiccuping voice — a snippet of less than a second — repeated throughout the song. The first instance of the sample is at 20 seconds in on the YouTube link above. Such a small part of the song that, for me, gives a big payoff.
The sample is from Sylvia Striplin’s “You Can’t Turn Me Away.” The song was the B-side of a record from a somewhat obscure R&B/jazz artist. This begs the question as to why some producer thought a snippet of this obscure song could add something special to an otherwise infectious hip hop anthem. I don’t think there is an explanation; however, remove the sample and “Hip Hop Hooray” loses its vibe.
The sample in the Naughty By Nature song is sounds even more brilliant when compared to the ham-handed use of the Striplin song in Notorious B.I.G/Junior M.A.F.I.A. hit, “Get Money.” [NSFW] The difference between “Hip Hop Hooray” and “Get Money” isn’t subtle. The former demonstrates artistry and the latter seems almost as an attempt to ride the coattails of a well-crafted Naughty By Nature anthem. So throw your hands up for Ms. Sylvia Striplin and wave them side-to-side for Naughty By Nature’s creative use of her vocal.
DNA: Bon Scott vocals and lyrics like Tori Amos and Roger Waters
You’re not going to casually listen to Alabama Shakes, no sir. You’re going to be taken on a wild ride of emotion and be left sweating at the end of this album. Sound & Color is raw emotion bottled for your consumption.
Critics point to Janis Joplin as an easy comparison to Brittany Howard’s vocals. That comparison is insufficient. Howard lists AC/DC’s Bon Scott and David Bowie as her influences, and that gives you a more accurate description. Her vocals and lyrics are the big draw for this band; however, the other musicians are stellar without stepping on Howard’s ever-changing vocal approaches to the songs.
The album’s first song, “Sound and Color“, is a nice introduction to the musical mayhem awaiting the listener. It blends bluesy vocals with almost a lounge-sound backdrop. Alabama Shakes doesn’t waste any time thereafter, throwing you right into “Don’t Wanna Fight.” Listening to the song evokes the times when you overheard your parents fighting in the house. The hardest hitting song on this album is “Gimme All Your Love“; the vocals leave you speechless.
The lyrics are honest, brutally honest. “Over My Head” is one example of Howard’s confessions. The song structures differ throughout the album, as well. These aren’t formulaic blues or rock songs. “The Greatest” is a driving and hard-hitting song. “Shoegaze” borrows from The Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers era) and T. Rex.
I recommend that you listen to both Alabama Shakes’ albums: “Boys & Girls” and “Sound & Color.” They are both solid albums. I also recommend that you read the band’s story and rise to fame; it’s a great story (here and here). Also, take a look at Brittany holding her own with Paul McCartney (here).
On a scale of Mel Sharples (“Forget It”) to Jean “Flo” Castleberry (“Get), both “Sound & Color” is a Flo 10.