24 February 2011

Review: Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra 'World Of Funk' and 'Hooked Up Classics'

World Of Funk AND Hooked Up Classics

There are many words reviewers use which are superfluous. That's probably a chief culprit right there.

However, the one I'm picking on introduce this brace of Shawn Lee albums is "prolific".

The LA-based DJ, beat-maker, producer and weed-head Madlib aka Yesterday's New Quintet aka Otis Jackson Jr is prolific, recording quite literally stacks of material for the Stones Throw label, under multiple aliases. Legendary American indie rock-popper Robert Pollard is prolific, churning out something like eight albums a year via his bands Guided By Voices, Boston Spaceships, Circus Devils and too many more to mention here. Brighton-born, Cali, Columbia-resident, producer, DJ and crate-digger Will Holland is prolific, recording as Quantic, Quantic Soul Orchestra, Quantic and His Combo Barbaro and many others besides.

Add American-born, UK-resident Shawn Lee to this list.

This multi-instrumentalist, producer & musicologist is genuinely prolific, having released literally dozens of albums on his own, as the Ping Pong Orchestra and in collaboration with the likes of Money Mark, Tommy Guerrero, Clutchy Hopkins - not to mention in his past life as a session musician for hire, when he worked with everyone from The Dust Brothers & Jeff Buckley to the Spice Girls, while the man has made a mint from providing the musical backing for hugely popular TV shows like Lost, CSI, House, Ugly Betty etc. You could argue he began his career as a "library" music composer and performer when he released the phenomenal Ape Breaks series back in the day.

Under his Shawn Lee and The Ping Pong Orchestra guise, he now presents two more albums of heavily conceptualised library music, each as eminently listenable as his past work.

Following in the footsteps of recent albums Soul In The Hole and Sing A Song, where Lee was joined by a roll-call of guests in albums dedicated to various readings of one musical style, World Of Funk is packed with churning, riveting afro-funk in all its many flavours.

Guests include legendary Egyptian singer Natacha Atlas, multi-instrumentalist Brazilian artist Curumin, Dengue Fever's LA-based Vietnamese singer Chhom Nimol, Truth and Soul recording artist Michael Leonhart, NOMO band-leader Elliot Bergman and others.

While some may rail against Lee ripping off or bastardising these musical styles, the fact remains that this is a labour of love for him. He really does pour himself into these albums, playing many of the instruments himself & wholeheartedly committing himself to an authentic, genuine approach to song-writing, performing and recording the music.

The second of this pair of Ping Pong Orchestra albums is inspired by the Hooked On Classics series of the early '80s (factoid: put together by ELO's Louis Clark) and follows more in the vein of previous Lee albums Hit The Hits and his Christmas album.

Hooked Up Classics sees universally known songs like 1812 Overture, Swan Lake, Dance Of The Sugar P{lum Fairy, Also Spracg Zarathustra and eight others given a right odl dressing down, with Lee taking the essential elements from each piece and reinventing them within entirely new frameworks: 1812 Overture becomes a sweet, sunny, BBQ reggae track; Flight Of The Bumblebee welcomes a freestyle "chorus" over a boom-bap beat; and Hall Of The Mountain King gets twisted into a frenzied surf-guitar stomp.

This is an entirely enjoyable, hilarious and musically unpredictable journey through some of the best known songs ever written. Upon first listen I snorted, more than once, thinking "Sure, this is fun, but how many times am I actually going to listen to this gimmicky record?"

The answer? Prolifically.

World Of Funk: SIX AND A HALF sitars out of TEN
Hooked Up Classics: SEVEN AND A HALF outraged classical music buffs out of TEN

Listen to the Radio Ponsonby Record Review with 90, every Weneri morning around 8.30am, on Murry Sweetpants' Breakfast Show. Thanks To Longroom.

1 comment:

  1. e aí, como se faz para ouvir? Onde está o link???