Big Crown is proud to present the debut single from 79.5 “Terrorize My Heart”. Hard to categorize, easy to love, 79.5 has been making tons of noise around New York City for the past year. With three lead vocalists, Kate, Nya, and Piya and a band that pulls influence from every corner of a record store, it’s no wonder they are already taking the scene by storm. They are an act that gets put on as an opener and shortly there after is asked by the venue to do a month long residency. That residency leads them to a full page write up in The New Yorker before they even have a single out. The long and short of it is that 79.5 wins over the listeners wherever they play with an infectious energy. Between the arrangements of bandleader Kate Mattison and the prowess of all the players, their sets run a gamut of energies and tempos, whether breaking it down to a capella, turning it up to disco, or mastering the middle, they run the groove, and the crowd follows suit. Take all of that and put it in the studio with Big Crown’s own Leon Michels on production duties and you get a record we can’t wait to put out in the world, a record on which every song was recorded live to tape in one take. “Terrorize My Heart”, a tune leaving no room for gray, finds the ladies of 79.5 walking the line between vulnerability and forthrightness. Setting out with admonishments of love and infatuation that are checked by the bluntness of women who’ve lived in the Big Apple for years, “is it her or is it me, that’s how it’s gotta be”. A smashing rhythm section covered in punching rhodes chops, flute parts, and dubbed out reggae rhythm guitar sets the perfect vibe for the ladies to trade off leads and come back together in three part harmonies: All the while taking the whole tune from half time to double time. The B side, coined the Disco Dub mixed by Jens Jungkurth, finds Michels’ production taking “Terrorize My Heart” from the change where it goes to four on the floor and lacing it with drums and a clap track that absolutely pushes this tune over the edge into the realm of dancefloor banger. Tombstones fall over, the earth cracks open, and dead people get up and dance when this comes on...
Big Crown Records is proud to present Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band’s new 45, “Scorpio” b/w “8th Wonder”. Coming after the smashing success of their debut full length “55” they drop 2 B-Boy classics back to back on this tough two sider that comes in a beautifully illustrated picture sleeve. The A side “Scorpio” is a killer cover of the Dennis Coffey breakbeat staple. BRSB turn up the tempo a touch on the original doing the tune justice with crushing drums they have become known for. This is sure to be in every breakbeat enthusiasts box. The B side features the non album cut, BRSB’s cover of The Sugarhill Gang’s 8th Wonder, a tune that lends itself to pans like it was written for them. Another dance floor winner sure to be in DJs sets the world over shortly.
Shrouded in mystery, hailing from Hamburg, Germany, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band (BRSB) releases their long awaited debut “55” on Brooklyn’s own Big Crown Records. Long time multi instrumentalist and band leader Bjorn Wagner spent a few months in Trindad & Tobago where he became fascinated with Steel Drums. His initial intrigue with local steel pan music culture led him to learning the instrument both through help of local players and on his own. After he became proficient on the pans Bjorn had his own instrument built from a used oil barrel by legendary pan man Louis C. Smith. Upon returning home to Germany, Bjorn set out to blend the Tropical Steel into his already sharply honed Funk, Soul, and Hip Hop sensibilities. The outcome is an updated take on a classic format, a truly unique sound. Their first two recordings were covers of The Meters “Look A-Py-Py” & “Ease Back” which they self released on a 45. Looking back on these two sides you can tell they were just getting their chops up for what was to come next. This is evidenced by how all hell broke loose when they went on to cover 50 Cent’s hit PIMP taking the DJ and vinyl collecting communities by storm. Many people thought the recording was the original sample and probably still do to this day when it is played. The original Mocambo pressing sold out quickly and is now a collector’s item fetching heavy prices when it changes hands. It was this tune that made the introduction between Bjorn and Danny Akalepse of Big Crown. They immediately hit it off and starting making plans to do a full length project with the band. Keeping in the tradition of Steel Drum records, 55 is a journey through re-interpolations and covers with an updated approach, pushing Steel Pan music to uncharted territory. Flawlessly bringing previously untouched genres into the steel pan cannon ranging from Underground Hip Hop tunes to staple Funk tracks and some of all that falls in between. From the smoothed out Reggae cover of John Holt’s “Police In Helicopter” to the DJ sure shot cover of Faith Evans' “Love Like This” BRSB’s 55 is reinvigorating tunes both well known and helping to shed some light on tunes still largely undiscovered. However, some of the strongest tunes on the album are original compositions, from spaced out Disco vibes on “Beetham Highway Ride” and “Port Of Spain Hustle” to the ugly face inspiring drums of “Laventille Road March”. Recorded to analog 8 track tape at The Mocambo Studios in Hamburg, 55 is a gritty, punchy journey in sound drawing on music from around the world, using production aesthetics from across both eras and genres, all coming together seamlessly. If the 45s that have already come out on Mocambo, Plane Jane, and Truth & Soul are an indication, this full length is going to be a staple to both casual listeneners and Disc Jockeys alike. Catch BRSB live in Fall as they tour the world with the mysterious heavy sound that is in fact, all their own.
With their debut album "55" taking the vinyl world by storm, we wanted to give fans another 7 they couldn't leave home without. Their cover of The Chakacha's classic, "Jungle Fever" has been burning up dancefloors since it's first pressing on Plane Jane Records. BRSB puts the punch in the drums and the one drop in the arrangements, taking the original tune and updating it into something DJs and their audiences are going crazy for. "Tender Trap", the flip side, starts out with a syncopated intro that will catch the ear of any hip hop fan for a number of reasons, then the tune turns into an all out funk burner, steel pans and guitars taking turns over the driving drums. Another BRSB sureshot.
With their highly anticipated debut full length “55” hitting in early May, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band hits us with another killer two sider 7” sure to be in every DJ’s box. The A side is an incredibly catchy cover of Faith Evans' smash hit “Love Like This”. Instantly recognizable from the first note they work their way through the tune in proper BRSB fashion. Advance “Test Press” copies were sent to tastemaker DJs across the globe, the results have all been the same. This one is a dance floor killer and has crowds captivated and curious. The B side is a gritty punchy interpretation of the classic Cat Stevens tune “Was Dog A Doughnut”. BRSB really pushing the genre envelope with this one, using steel pans on an otherwise dark electro backdrop sprinkled with killer open drum breaks.
Big Crown Records is proud to present the Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band’s smashing cover of P.I.M.P. on our imprint. Following up on the smashing success of their debut album “55” and a string of essential 45s, we are the third label to press this staple tune. Three labels, three times, three different B sides. Back in 2008 BRSB released it's smashing cover of 50 Cent's P.I.M.P. which was long thought to be the original sample for the tune. The Mocambo pressing already hard to come by and fetching top dollar on the internet has become an underground classic. BRSB treat the tune to their signature smashing drums and bass heavy production, taking the original loop and turning it into a full composition. Brass and steel pan parts putting it somewhere between reggae, steel funk, and the Superfly Soundtrack. Side B is the proper reggae offering from BRSB, a cover of the legendary John Holt’s classic “Police In Helicopter”. Another must have two sider, another Big Crown sureshot.
Big Crown Records is proud to present the first single from El Michels Affair's forthcoming Full length Return To The 37th Chamber. The wait is over, El Michels Affair is back with the follow up to 2009's underground cult classic Enter the 37th Chamber. The first single 4th Chamber, a cover of one of the toughest GZA tunes from Liquid Swords finds EMA's signature sound stronger than ever. Fuzz guitar and synths reminiscent of Morricone scoring Scarface dance over absolutely crushing drums giving the original RZA production a proper run for it's money. The lush production and choices of instrumentation take a Hip Hop classic, and bring almost a Heavy Metal influence to it while never losing the groove. The B side is something of a Big Crown family affair, El Michels inviting the one and only Lee Fields to the track to sing the vocal part over from Ol Dirty Bastard's rawer than raw album cut Snakes. The tune starts with a sweet stripped down vocal performance from Lee then quickly turns dark and tests the durability of your speakers. EMA taking a small bit of the sample track and turning it into a thing of it's own, once again the tried and true pairing of producer and singer bring us yet another timeless classic. Seven years later it is safe to say, El Michels Affair is sharper than ever.
Over 10 years ago, Leon Michels released his first full length record, Sounding Out The City. It was Michels' first full length record under the moniker El Michels Affair. At the time, the budding retro soul scene consisted of mostly organ quartets a la The Meters and of course, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings were in the early days of their ascent to world domination. Leon Michels, who was 18 when recording Sounding Out The City began, had just released Thunder Chicken, the first record by his high school band The Mighty Imperials. At the time of SOTC, Michels was just discovering early rocksteady, afrobeat, and 60's garage rock, which inevitably crept its way into the songwriting. He purchased a Tascam 388, an 80's 1/4" reel to reel 8 track intended for home recordings, and began recording music in a 10x10 box with no windows that also doubled as his childhood bedroom. Along with fellow Mighty Imperials Nick Movshon, Homer Steinweiss, and Sean Solomon, and Michael Leonhart, Thomas Brenneck, and some of the musicians from The Dap Kings, Michels recorded the LP over a two year period. Upon it's release, it received some rave reviews and the small deep funk community ate it up, but due to the lack luster promotion and distribution the rest of the world was slow to catch on to the instrumental gems featured on SOTC, which Michels appropriately labeled as "cinematic soul". However, in 2005 it found it's way into the hands of the people who were organizing a series of concerts for Scion that paired bands with MC's. El Michels Affair was contacted about playing one show with Raekwon The Chef of Wu Tang Clan fame. The show was such a success it led to a tour, and then to another set of concerts that featured multiple members of the Wu-Tang Clan. This eventually led to the release of El Michels Affair's second record, "Enter the 37th Chamber" which introduced them to a much larger audience and has been their most successful release to date. Michels has since gone on to produce and co-produce numerous records for powerhouse soul artists like Lee Fields. He shares songwriting credits with Adele, Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah, Aloe Blacc, and has played on records by Ray LaMontagne, Lana Del Rey, The Black Keys and Dr. John.
El Michels Affair are back with a 45 of original material that features a new NYC band called The Shacks. The Shacks are made up of the enigmatic Shannon Wise, and studio wunderkind, Max Shrager. Their dreamy, voyeuristic sound was born in Michels' Queens, NY studio in 2015. And while they describe themselves as a rock band, don't expect the conventional kind. Side A 'Strange Boy', sounds like the Five keys met Neil Young and cut a record with Jane Birkin - but in English. A fuzzed out, heavy backing track with doo-wop background vocals create a peculiar, but perfect bed for Shannon's dead pan celebration of her 'Strange Boy', of whom she would gladly 'drink the kool aid from his cup'. Side B, 'No Surprise', is a perfect blend of El Michels Affair's hazy, cinematic soul and 60's pop ala Sonny and Cher.
Virginia-born singer/songwriter Nicole Wray has everything you’d want in a singer: an infectious Jackson-5-family-member flare, a range like Aretha’s, and a church upbringing that’s brought a pure, healing texture to her voice. But the struggle she’s been through has made her more than a singer. Nicole Wray is an artist. When talking about Queen Alone, her first solo album in some time, Nicole explains, “It’s a reflection of my soul. It’s who I am today.” And aptly so. Released on Brooklyn’s Big Crown Records, Nicole is writing and singing songs about her life. And yet to even start to know her soul, you have to go back to the beginning. Growing up in Portsmouth was tough at times for Nicole. However, at the age of fifteen, life opened up quickly when Missy Elliot paid a visit to Nicole’s family home to audition her on the spot. Missy was there on the rumored strength and quality of her voice. Instantly blowing her away, she signed and left with Missy that night. Two years later, at age 17, she had a hit gold single off a solid debut album (Make It Hot). Suddenly she was part of a team that included late ‘90s R&B and rap royalty: Missy, Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Playa, Timbaland and Magoo. She made it, and fast. However, as rapidly as she achieved success, Nicole then found herself needing to re-make it. By late 2001, her time with Missy and company had run its course. They amicably parted ways and Nicole, once on top of the R&B world, was unsure of what was next. It was a very low, but important, point in her life. While her passion and talent propelled her forward–friends disappeared and her purpose seemed unclear. While neck-deep in this struggle, Damon Dash and Roc-A-Fella Records called. They signed an album deal and by 2004, in what was starting to be a pattern, just as things were looking up Roc-A-Fella suddenly (famously) split. Once again, industry factors beyond her control took charge. Like a recurring dream, Nicole found herself in a familiar situation. Having just been in the spotlight, and then again back living the “real life.” In 2013, Nicole paired up with London vocalist Terri Walker and released the album Lady. Once again, Nicole was tested. Terri parted ways with the group to pursue her own projects shortly after the album’s release–despite rave reviews and upcoming travel dates. Fast forward to now–the transformation from singer-for-hire to pure artist is evident in this new full-length solo release, Queen Alone. The record was written and recorded in 10 days at the legendary Diamond Mine Studios, in Queens NY with Leon Michels and Tom Brenneck handling production. Nicole says she is “Singing out loud now–singing from the stomach.” Back in 1998 she was coached how to sing, and told to stay in a pocket that never let her show her range, power, and passion. Today, after stutter-stepping in and out of the industry, there is a new soul and substance to her songs–all of it from her life. “They Don't Hang Around"", tells the story of her post Roc-a-Fella days, “Guilty"", is about her brother’s incarceration, “Make Me Over"" tells the relatable story of being broke with expensive taste, and ‘Let It Go”, a perfect way to end the record, is about the simple act of letting go and moving on. Almost echoing her new record, Nicole says, “You have to go through something for it to be real.” She has been living with one foot in fame and the other in real life. The result is clear: she’s feeling something real in her music again. And it’s hard for us as listeners not to follow suit.
Big Crown Records is proud to present the second single from Lady Wray’s Queen Alone album “Smiling”. An instant feel good anthem, Smiling finds Lady Wray reminding us to keep our heads up and keep a smile on our faces through whatever life deals us. With production from Leon Michels & Thomas Brenneck that rides the line between bubblegum pop and lo fi tough grit, Nicole lays out with a voice as encouraging as the lyrics she is singing. Listeners will be hard pressed not to find themselves singing along after the first listen. A proper good vibe tune guaranteed to move dance floors the world over. The B side “Make Me Over” is a lushly scored tale of letting your guard down and letting the one who loves you take care of you when you are down and out. A relatable tale of having expensive taste and empty pockets, Nicole finds herself asking for a little help so she can get a break from being strapped for cash promising to take care of her man as soon as her check comes in.
Limited Pressing On Translucent Red Vinyl! There are a few terms that get thrown around loosely, two of which are legend and retro-soul. One of these fits Lee Fields hand and glove, one of these doesn’t fit at all. Very few people in music have both earned the status of legendary and continue to solidify it. 50 years in the game and only getting better, gaining more fans, and evolving his sound on each album, Lee is in fact a Living Legend. This brings us to the misuse of the term ""retro-soul"" when talking about Mr. Fields. You don’t have to look far to find a younger generation emulating the essence and styles of an era the’ve only experienced through music and movies. It seems unfair to tag Lee with a term that implies imitation when he is part of the generation that actually defined the genre. Plain and simple, this is not that. ""Special Night"" is a masterclass in soul music past and present. “I feel that every human being’s purpose is to do what their inner voice says to do,” says Lee Fields. “And my inner voice, my driving force, wants me to put out music and keeping making better records.” Produced by Leon Michels and Thomas Brenneck, and brilliantly performed by the Expressions, Special Night was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered entirely to tape in three weeks at the legendary Diamond Mine Studios in Queens, NY. A sense of urgency, equal parts fun and inspiration, and a decent amount of beer and Jack Daniels were the driving forces during the sessions that produced Lee Fields & The Expressions latest offering. Special Night is also the first record in the Expressions catalogue in which every song was written jointly by Lee Fields and The Expressions. “When I record, I make every song like I actually mean it. I mean every word I say. On Special Night I’m talking to my lady — literally, expressing the way I feel.” says Lee Fields. “You can tell if a song is real or not, and every moment I’m recording, those moments are real, this is a record about what people do in real life”. For one example, he cites the song “Work to Do,” which tells the story of “a guy going to counseling, drinking too much, apologizing to the old lady and trying to keep family together, doing the manly thing.” On “Make This World”, Lee makes a nod back to his early funk roots with a cautionary tale about the health of the planet. The world was designed to last indefinitely,” says Fields. “We’re the only living species on Earth who can alter that process. I’m hoping that song has a chain reaction, helps somebody put into action whatever contribution they can to change what the world is going through.” As always, sticking to the formula but pushing the boundaries “Never Be Another You” from the first note doesn’t sound like something you would hear on a Lee record, that is until he starts singing anyhow. A low tempo ballad with a head nodding drum track, sparse piano lines, and all the space Lee needs to lay down what is sure to be one of the flyest love songs of 2017. Whether tackling a tune about love lost, found, or broader topics like the state of humanity, Lee has a very unique and honest perspective that is on display with each unforgettable performance. Also, The Expressions have never been sharper, they, along with Lee, have created a collection of music on Special Night which holds court with pretty much any soul music that came before it.
Class is in session and all the youngins out there shaking a tail feather and playing dress up are about to be schooled by the ageless, timeless, and always present, Mr. Lee Fields. Special Night is the latest offering from a man whose career has spanned 50 years and as Oliver Wang of NPR once said, “In a curious case of musical evolution, the older Fields becomes, the closer he gets to perfecting the sound of soul that he grew up with as a young man”. Special Night is no exception. An epic 6 minute jam split into parts one and two on the 7", Special Night is a story of love and loneliness told from the perspective of a man with extreme life experience and deep wisdom. The tune is the perfect storm of production duties handled by Leon Michels and Thomas Brenneck alongside the inimitable musicianship of The Expressions, and recorded at the legendary Diamond Mine, Special Night is in the humble opinion of the Big Crown team, one of the greatest pieces of soul music Lee has put to record thus far.
Before Mickey and the Soul Generation there was Mickey and The Fabulous Five. As members of a Latin Soul band called The Royal Tokens, Mickey Foster and Emil Carter developed their chops playing in front of San Antonio teens at Sunday night Battle of the Bands shows. Mickey’s own band, The Fabulous Four, soon became The Fabulous Five with the addition of Gilbert Rivera on bass. In the late summer of 1967, local music entrepreneur E.J. Henke took the Fabulous Five into Jeff Smith’s Texas Sound Studio to record two sessions of funky New Breed Soul instrumentals as well as a backing session for Charles Russell’s group, The Three Dudes (BC014-45). Still a teenager, Mickey and his father both signed Henke’s recording contract. While their recordings with The Three Dudes were released as a single on Henke’s Satin Records, the superb instrumentals The Fabulous Five cut during the summer of ‘67 remained unreleased until now. Relying heavily on the rhythm section, this set of recordings captures the young band crystallizing what would become their signature sound. By 1969, The Fabulous Five had changed their name to Mickey and The Soul Generation and had begun recording their now legendary sessions with Manny Guerra’s GC Productions. These early sessions stand alone as a key chapter in the development of one of the greatest, heaviest exponents of Funk.
Big Crown Records is proud to present a reissue of the highly sought-after, very rare, and only release by Texas funk band, The Soul Explosives. Active in 1971 and 72, The Soul Explosives were a high school group from Kingsville, TX led by high school senior Skip Frazier. Their main goal was to play a neighborhood known as the"The Cut" in nearby Corpus Christ, where there were a number of Soul & R&B clubs. They paid for the recording and pressing of the 45 which was done by a tiny local Tejano studio/label, Bormeh. Copies of the record were given to friends and sold at shows. In '72 Skip decided to leave the group to pursue his college studies and they disbanded not long after. The A Side “Tryin To Get Down” is a lo-fi funk gem with all the makings of an underground classic. Driving drums and blown out vocals somewhere between encouraging and liberating are sure to peak funk fans ears. The B Side, a absolutely smashing cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine”, is nothing short of a must have. The Soul Explosives nearly instrumental cover might just be the toughest version on a 45. Another Big Crown sureshot.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
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