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Alfred Soto & Tal Rosenberg: Risottoberg

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When J-Brad announced that he was organizing this year’s go-round of the “Summer Jamz” series, I specifically asked Alfred if he wanted to collaborate. The reason is obvious: Alfred descends from the ancient and much hallowed Sotosyn Tribe, an off branch of the Satahsing Tribe in the northwest vector of the Cromtibular Galaxy. I, as many readers likely know, descend from the Rosenbergs, a wide swath of members of the Jewish religion with my specific lineage dating as far back as the village of Lodz, Poland. When the Rosenberg family of this particular Lodz branch merges with the Sotosyn tribe, it forms Risottoberg, a newfound mind-meld that has the creamy, mealy texture of risotto and the cool, glacial pace of an iceberg. Also, we have a predilection for R&B and Shep Pettibone 12” mixes, and using tabletops as percussion.

-Tal Rosenberg

Disc 1:

1. Amadou & Mariam – “Sabali”

2. Janet Jackson – “The Pleasure Principle (The Shep Pettibone Long Vocal Remix)”

3. Grace Jones – “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)”

4. Chic- “When You Love Someone”

5. Earth Wind & Fire – “Serpentine Fire”

6. Junior Murvin – “Cool Out Son”

7. Just-Ice – “Cold Gettin’ Dumb”

8. George Clinton – “Last Dance”

9. Madonna – “Where’s the Party? (Shep Pettibone Extended Mix)”

10. Pet Shop Boys – “I’m Not Scared”

11. Tina Turner – “Let’s Stay Together”

Disc 2:

1. LL Cool J – “I’m Bad”

2. Run-D.M.C. “Can You Rock It Like This?”

3. Alexander O’ Neal – “Criticize”

4. Marvin Gaye – “Ego Tripping Out”

5. James Brown – “It’s Too Funky In Here”

6. Fleetwood Mac – “Big Love (Arthur Baker House Upon the Hill Mix)”

7. Slick Rick – “Street Talkin’ (ft. Big Boi)”

8. Poly Styrene – “Sky Diver”

9. Loose Joints – “Tell You Today”

10. The KLF – “3 AM Eternal (Live At the SSL Extended Mix)”

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Disc 1:

Amadou & Mariam – Sabali

Alfred: Admirers of Mirwais, Daft Punk, Air, and other European purveyors of synth whisper-pop may feel a kinship with this track. I say this contains more harmonic surprises than their programmers ever dreamed.

Janet Jackson – The Pleasure Principle

Alfred: Stretched so confidently that the words “breaking point” don’t even come up, this Shep Pettibone mix of Control‘s last single is as brittle and mechanistic as anything Gary Numan programmed with the same name. The apotheosis of what my sister would call The Eighties Sound.

Chic – When You Love Someone

Alfred: Form and content join hands and buss. For almost three minutes piano, guitar, and vocals are content to remain banal, until the tempo and rhythm change show us what euphoria sounds like.

Grace Jones – I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect For You)

Alfred: As monolithic as ever, Grace sits atop this clattering dance track, hectoring Nile Rodgers into strumming his rhythm guitar like she’s going to sit on his face.

Earth, Wind, and Fire – Serpentine Fire

Alfred: Wound so tight that the serpent can barely show its forked tongue.

Junior Murvin – “Cool Out Soon”

Tal: The thud of the kick drum can’t possibly sink Junior Murvin’s buoyant vocal. The juxtaposition of the har-dee-hard percussion and spectral organ against Murvin’s falsetto is like a water pistol.

Just-Ice – “Cold Getting’ Dumb”

Tal: A punk-club bouncer with a spit-spraying flow, Just-Ice is encaged in Mantronix’s cowbell chamber, trying to box his way out.

George Clinton – “Last Dance”

Tal: In which George actually sings his neon-dreaded booty off and asks the immortal question, “Are you some kind of psychedelic wallflower?” Then a bunch of helium-voiced Muppets ooh-la-la their way to Just Blaze’s tape recorder.

Madonna – “Where’s The Party [Extended Remix]”

Tal: Our second Shep remix, and with good reason: This could well be the best Madonna song. I’ll take the hair-flipping party girl, thanks, and I’ll have undulating keyboards too, please. Pass the slap bracelets, would you?

Pet Shop Boys – “I’m Not Scared”

Tal: Neil Tennant says he’s not scared, but he’s lying. His forlorn vocal and the song’s minor-key melody impart unconvincing defense. But that defensiveness is touching, truly, and the uplift of the chorus is properly followed by the string-laden melancholy that leads it into menacing synth-bass, only to tumble gracefully into a fragile fade.

Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together

Alfred: Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. I say both. If Turner’s vocals exhibit too much Las Vegas pyrotechnics, the British Electronic Foundation’s electronic bed are pure ice-pack-on-the-forehead. Glenn Gregory deserves some kind of medal for self-effacement, or at least a sip from Tina’s dressing room bottle of champagne.

Disc 2:

LL Cool J – “I’m Bad”

Tal: Tougher than “Mama Said Knock You Out.” LL takes a muscle-bound man and puts his face in the sand. I ain’t met a motherfucker who can do that yet.

Run-DMC – Can You Rock It Like This?

Alfred: Answer: Not many have tried.

Alexander O’Neal – Criticize

Alfred: See Janet Jackson, only add ten times the grit.

Marvin Gaye – Ego Trippin’ Out

Alfred: Gaye lets his ego trip him out for seven minutes, and what a trip: a vocal infatuated with its humor and sinuousness, well-timed horns, and a rhythm guitar recorded exactly the way it should.

James Brown – “It’s Too Funky In Here”

Tal: The only place that’s too funky is this song. Even the odor of my Adidas can’t compare.

Fleetwood Mac – “Big Love (Arthur Baker House On the Hill Mix)”

Tal: Arthur Baker rubs enough echo on the piano and fur on the drums to make Lindsey Buckingham sound even more despairing and priggish than he does on Fleetwood Mac songs, a significant accomplishment. Kim Carnes wishes she had the descending synth line at the 4:15 mark.

Slick Rick – “Street Talkin’ (ft. Big Boi)”

Tal: Along with “The Show” and “All Alone (No One to Be With),” Slick Rick’s best song. The beat has enough instrumental variation within a measure to rival The Neptunes in their ’01-’02 period (think “I’m a Slave 4 U” or “U Don’t Have to Call”), but over a boom-bap drum pattern it becomes deceptively straightforward. Big Boi’s verse is just another instrument, soloing. Spectacularly.

Poly Styrene – “Sky Diver”

Tal: Ex-X-Ray Spec mewls her way over jazzbo-calypso backdrop; and if that sax solo isn’t the best G.E. Smith impression on record then I’ll jump out of an airplane, parachute included.

Loose Joints – “Tell You Today”

Tal: Possibly the only instance where this Arthur Russell-helmed group lives up to its name, the rubbery disco bouncing and bumping while the horns squawk like toucans and hyenas. Then there’s the second half, where a whistle is a walk-skip on the sunny pavement. Everyone joins together in song. And smiles.

The KLF – 3 AM Eternal (Live at the SSL)

Alfred: The only American top ten hit for these British troublemakers competed for radio play with DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s magisterial “Summertime” in August ’91, and this is the one I’m fondest of these days. At seventeen, we think time is eternal, or at least 3 am. Not that I was ever allowed to stay out that late.