Stuff to Sample

I’m not quite ready to endorse sampling as a legitimate art form. I’m glad that the original songwriters get credit when a sample of their work is used in somebody else’s recording, but I don’t necessarily believe that building a song around a sample is quite as profound a creative act as creating a song from scratch. That said, however, there are a couple of sample-based songs I really like, and one of them popped up at random the other day.

The sample is “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago, of course; “Cinnamon Park” is from Jill Sobule’s 2004 album Underdog Victorious. This was my introduction to Sobule, who’s probably most famous for the 1995 single “I Kissed a Girl.” Her chirpy delivery probably ain’t for everybody, and some of her lyrics are too precious, but in the case of “Cinnamon Park,” the sample on which it’s based sweeps everything before it and you can’t do anything but dig it.

Another sample-based song I like is a version of the Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” by Simply Red, which is built, oddly enough, around a bit of John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane.” It’s one of two versions of the song on the group’s 1998 album Blue, officially listed as a reprise, but I prefer it to the other version by a mile.

If you’ve got a favorite song built around a sample, share it with the whole class, please. And since I’m in the mood for samples, here’s some blog content lifted from other places, which means you needn’t consider this a legitimate post if you don’t want to.

Jump Back Again: In April of last year, I wrote about Brooklyn Hustle/Memphis Muscle, the debut album by Jump Back Jake, a six-piece band devoted to updating the classic Stax sound for the 21st century. The band is back with a new five-song EP, Call Me Your Man. It didn’t blow my mind like the debut album did—it sounds a lot less Stax-y—but it’s nevertheless great to hear new music that communes with a past deeper than five minutes ago. It’s a concept radical enough to be cutting-edge. You can stream the EP at the band’s website, and read a most unusual interview with the band’s Jake Rabinbach at the Vinyl District.

Are You Kidding Me?: Jerry Del Colliano’s latest column at Inside Music Media talks about the viral success of something called “The Bed Intruder Song,” but also about a singer named Arika Kane, who can’t get her latest song on the Sirius/XM Heart and Soul urban channel because its program director, B. J. Stone, believes “a white artist should not be singing an urban song.” Apparently there’s no such thing as blue-eyed soul anymore. Also, Jerry wins Quote of the Day for this line in the piece, talking about the growing anachronism of tight radio playlists in an iPod world: “We keep talking about the day the music died, but the music hasn’t died. It just keeps getting repeated.”

Back Home Again: Mostly Upper Midwest Airchecks continues to collect amazing radio airchecks from out of my personal past. Here’s one from WFRL in Freeport, Illinois, from the summer of 1977, proving again that even small towns (population about 20,000) could have decent rock stations in the 70s. It’s great to hear some of those familiar voices again, including that of Harv Blain, who’s a big-time consultant now. In 1980, WFRL-FM would become WXXQ, where I’d spend that summer rockin’ the night shift.

5 responses

  1. There is one DJ out there who has made an art form of sampling different music, he goes by Girltalk. He often mixes several songs into one to create new songs altogether. All he does is sample. And normally I tend to agree with you but Girltalk has elevated sampling to an art form. All others are mere pretenders, imho. Part of the enjoyment of his music is trying to place all of the material he is sampling. It’s a drinking game just waiting for a couple of college frat boys with too much time on their hands to dream up!

    As for songs that sample that I’ve heard and enjoy– The Bucketheads in 1995 sampled Chicago’s ill-fated Maynard Ferguson tinged attempt at disco, Street Player. They made hay out of an otherwise forgotten ditty from Chicago’s oevure.

    The WORST songs I’ve ever heard that sample other songs– and I LOATHE both of these songs with an intense passion genuinely only held for serial rapists/murderers… Kid Rock’s All Summer Long (it’s sacrelige to sample both Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London and Skynnyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama) and P Diddy’s I’ll Be Missing You. I much prefer the creepy stalker-ish vibe of the Police original over the overly twee and sentimental homage to the late Notorious B.I.G.

  2. Best “Saturday In The Park” sample ever: De La Soul’s “A Roller Skating Jam Called ‘Saturdays.’ ”
    It’s not the entire hook — it just kinda shows up, kind of ghostly and phased, completely out of nowhere.
    In this version (which might be a foreshortened mix) it shows up at about 3:25:

  3. my teen-aged kids hipped me to the “Bed Intruder” which is a brilliant piece of work. The subject (rape) is not a laughing matter. But the girl’s brother has an almost Barney Fife-like eagerness to over-emote when a news camera is stuck is his face. The good news is that he receives a cut from iTunes.

    I get a charge out of how indignant Jerry Del Colliano is (they did it all without radio, publicity, promotion etc). He really looks like a dinosaur when he takes that stance. This is the future, Jer. Get on board.

  4. I think my favorite may be Angie Stone’s “Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” which is built around a sample from the O’Jays’ “Backstabbers.” But then I like Angie’s work a lot, and she likes her samples: “No More Rain (in This Cloud),” another favorite of mine, is built around a sample from Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Neither One of Us.”

  5. Another good one is Robin Thicke’s When I Get You Alone which heavily samples Walter Murphy’s A Fifth of Beethoven.

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