Monday, December 20, 2004

Song du Jour

Heavy Rotation on iTunes: Give it Up
Artist: Eminence featuring Kathy Brown

There's a little spot in Bed-Stuy called Starlight. You could miss it if you blinked twice while walking or driving by. The bar is on Nostrand Avenue, just a few blocks south of the LIRR and the A/C train at Fulton Street. And like many other holes in the wall, the drinks are strong, the characters hilarious, and the neighborhood trade are more than enough reason to stop by.

Also: like many other similar spots I’ve been to—the old Palace or the Marquette in Atlanta, Stop and Drink in Chicago, Bachelor’s Mill in DC—the music is consistently offdachain. I guess there is an unwritten rule that dive spots for the brothas must feature the best DJs. Even though I discovered Starlight when I lived in downtown Brooklyn, I continued to hit the joint when I moved to other boroughs—first Rosedale, Queens, then, finally, to Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

One of those nights when I lived in Queens—this would be mid 2001, because I moved downtown right before September 11—I discovered Kathy Brown and Give it Up.

Have you heard it? Well, I’m all about sharing. This Eddie Boom mix opens on Windows Media Player, and it’s available on dial-up or broadband. [Eddie Boom mix]

From the first bars, it’s obvious this track will be killer. The bass is deep and layered, not unlike a Gamble and Huff arrangement. Not one, but two string movements, violin and bass. And the percussion buildup is slow and gradual, almost like a tease. It starts off with piano, then moves on to a light synthesizer, then heavy cymbals.

Kathy Brown’s voice is pure seventies funk. Listening to her, you immediately think of you’re listening to Sylvia’s Pillow Talk, or something else from that ‘72-‘75 pre-disco era. A young Phyllis Hyman comes to mind. Their range is similar, and like Phyllis, Kathy alternates between alto and soprano with total ease.

But if all that doesn’t make you fall in love, listen to the bridge. It’s a sweet arrangement: part strings, part percussion, all funk. The bridge vocals feature a crisp reverb, and parts are mixed with that “telephone” effect—a la’ Timbaland—for a hollow sound. Just imagine hearing her hitting that high C at 7am on the dance floor. Seven in the morning? No typo, there. A few times, I heard Junior Vasquez bumping the accapella and the Cleptomaniac Dub in the early morn at Twilo.

I’m still living for the strings. The build up is so unexpected, it’s full and evocative, very Love Unlimited Orchestra.

You know I’ve been in love before
But you’ve given me so much more
Going deeper than I’ve ever known
Your love is so strong

You give me love all night (All night)
You make me feel so right (So right)
And when you hold me tight
We make it last all night

You give me love all night (All night)
You make me feel so right (So right)
I’m feeling right ….
We’ll make love all night

Give it up, ‘cause I want your love (I want it)
Give it up, ‘cause I need your love (I need it)
I want it … Your love
And I need it … Your love
I want it, got to have it, your looooove