Sly & the Family Stone, Oscar Songs and Lydia Loveless

Sly & the Family Stone

Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson of Sly & the Family Stone talk about the band’s funk innovation, radical politics and Sly’s magnetic power. Plus, Jim and Greg roll out the Oscar red carpet and review a new album from the alt-country singer/songwriter Lydia Loveless.

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Former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy has been keeping busy since the group disbanded in 2011. When not scoring Broadway plays and roasting speciality coffee, he’s taking on New York City’s notoriously noisy subway system. Murphy wants to change the soulless beeps made by current subway turnstiles into melodic notes that harmonize and respond to the amount of traffic passing through the station. Murphy first revealed this plan to Jim and Greg last year, but now he’s making his campaign public. So far, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority isn’t particularly warm to the idea, citing the significant cost and time, but Murphy remains undetered.

The good news for costumed rockers Kiss is that they’ll be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. The bad news is that the band won’t be compromising it’s creative integrity (a first, Jim says) by performing at the induction ceremony in its current iteration (which excludes original members Ace Freely and Peter Criss). With bad blood between Freely, Criss, and Gene Simmons, there’s no hope for a make-up in time for the ceremony. But, Jim thinks purist Kiss fans would probably prefer to see no show than a show without the original Spaceman and Catman.

Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini of Sly & the Family Stone

In the 1960’s, Sly & the Family Stone, with its multi-racial, co-ed lineup, broke down barriers of how a band should look and sound. It also bridged rock, funk, R&B, soul and jazz, thanks in large part to its virtuoso musicians: guitarist Freddie Stone, bass player Larry Graham, drummer Greg Errico, keys player Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson and sax player Jerry Martini. Then, of course, you have Sly Stone, one of the most charismatic frontmen in music history. But, once the charming star who stole the show at Woodstock and on Dick Cavett, Sly Stone dropped out of public life in 1975. We’ve had occasional glimpses since then, but for the most part his legend only lives on in recordings. Luckily fans have a new box set called Higher! Upon its release, Jim and Greg spoke with Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini.

Review: Oscar Songs 2014

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When it comes to movies, Jim and Greg defer to the Academy. But, when it comes to music, they aren’t as casual. 2014 has been a banner year for pop music in the movies, with three of this year’s Best Original Song nominees topping the charts. In fact, this kind of crossover hasn’t happened since 1984, when all five nominees hit #1. First, there’s Idina Menzel’s ubiquitous Let It Go, from the animated Disney hit Frozen. Written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez of Book of Mormon fame, it’s a flashy show tune—the Diane Warren power ballad of Greg’s nightmares—that fails to impress our hosts. Not so with The Moon Song, from the film Her. Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who co-wrote the song with director Spike Jonze, has since released a duet with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend. This quiet, intimate tune wins Jim’s statuette, even if it’s too low-key for the Academy.

Greg’s giving his award to Happy from Despicable Me 2. While Mr. Kot admits to living under a rock when it comes to kids’ movies, he considers Pharrell’s single, with its layered vocals and handclaps, a pop masterpiece (despite the mediocre lyrics). Jim isn’t as happy and thinks that Pharrell phoned this one in. Meanwhile, U2 took a break from ending world hunger to record a new song for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. While the film got little attention in the U.S., Ordinary Love has something else working in its favor: the media empire of Harvey Weinstein. His aggressive promotion already won the song a Golden Globe for Best Song, and could similarly sway the Academy...but not our hosts. Despite the noble subject, Jim and Greg just hear standard U2 flag-waving.

Somewhere Else Lydia Loveless

Somewhere Else

At just 23, Lydia Loveless already has three albums worth of romantic troubles, documented with amazing emotion. The latest, Somewhere Else, might be the best yet, according to Jim and Greg. Greg enjoys the way she arranges the songs in a slightly melancholic country style. He was blown away by her last release, Indestructible Machine in 2012 (especially the songs she performed in our studio. But this album is a step above. Greg says Buy It. Jim hears Loveless going all over the pop spectrum, name dropping Tommy Tutone and pulling out a great cover of a song by the underrated ‘90s artist, Kirsty MacColl. And throughout it all she maintains her own identity. He seconds the Buy It.

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