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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Mizell Brothers
Blue Note

Rating: 9/10 ?

March 10, 2006
When it comes to a good pop song, there's really no such thing as a no-brainer anymore. Dive into the past of the Mizell Brothers and everywhere you look you'll find chart toppers that are actually exceptional tunes too.

2005 release Mizell is a collection of the works of Larry and Fonce Mizell, one of music's all-time great songwriting teams. Commonly referred to as the Mizell Brothers, Larry and Fonce (full name Alphonso) produced for soul, jazz, and R&B legends Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, The Blackbyrds, Donald Byrd, and Bobbi Humphrey, among others. Unlike many of the subjects they composed for, the Mizell Brothers remained mostly quiet and behind-the-scenes, notorious for their involvement in the lauded Motown "Corporation" writing team and at Blue Note for their production behind such musicians as Byrd, and ultimately for establishing their own label, Sky High Production.

Mizell brings together some of the pair's finer production moments from the 1970s (and a few of more recent years) at Blue Note with some different musicians. Of the compiled 11 tracks, six are works with Donald Byrd, two with Bobbi Humphrey, and one each with Rance Allen, Gary Bartz, and as Mizellstory. Regardless of the name that is credited at the front of all these songs, their general structure is unique and retro-impressive.

Key to the featured tracks is a tight, clean soul/funk/jazz sound that pervaded and will continue to pervade eras and individual styles. It is simply good songwriting - tight-chopped yet slick drumbeats that settle on the back end of the beat, edge-on rhythmically perfect bass lines, gorgeous full string arrangements, background vocals, and drawn-out but not boastful horn solos. Between all these instrumental elements there is a sophisticated character and a dynamic of danceability, two columns that stabilize the form for many of today's stepper jams.

But Mizell isn't considered stepper material. Instead the style of the pair has come off as a hip-hop influencer, and a retro soul-funk classic. Recent hip-hop innovators Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest, and Madlib have taken influence (if not straight samples) from Mizell content and been praised for their stylistic choices.

Whatever the feel for the song is - could be Rance Allen's growling ballad "Reason to Survive" or Donald Byrd's soulful melancholic dancer "(Fallin' Like) Dominoes" - the technical makeup is just as airtight as the structural creativity is progressive for that era.

A few of the tracks ("Funked Up", "Think Twice", and "N R Time") have even been newly remastered from their original analog recording, showing that a certain skill level remains even today. Sometimes it's not about the time period that music was made in, but the players who are doing the work. Certainly, Larry and Fonce show that even though the '70s are long gone, it is still possible to make a jazz-funk tune simultaneously exceptional and pop-felt. Everyone else, listen up.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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