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The Many Lives of Damon Albarn

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Damon Albarn is a true creative. He's not the type that seems to coast, he is not only driven by the need to create, but by the need to create new things. It's a drive that has led to gigs like an opera, movie soundtracks and a consideration to direct the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. But it's never been just about his music output. The latest news out of Camp Albarn is that one of his supergroup projects, Rocket Juice and the Moon, featuring Flea and Tony Allen, are at long last releasing their debut album. For the sake of convenience and keeping it all together, this is a look at all that Albarn has wrought. Blur - At one point, Damon Albarn was just the Blur frontman, and that wasn't so bad. They were a central figure in '90s Britpop as they fought tooth and nail with Oasis over sales dominance. While Americans were getting grungey with Kurt Cobain, Albarn and Blur were creating an especially British sub-genre that didn't cross the ocean until “Song 2,” which some only remember as “woo hoo!” and a consistent presence in action movie trailers/commercials. Gorillaz - Not content to be part of one of the biggest figures in '90s British alternative rock, Albarn worked with cartoonist Jamie Hewlett on Gorillaz, a cartoon band vehicle for Albarn to explore pop and his other genre inclinations. It still stands to this day as his biggest thing ever, which is a tremendous feat coming off of Blur, and you have to wonder if he has an even bigger hit group concept in him. Mali Music - In 2000, Damon Albarn took a trip to Mali and came out with a new band because that's how his mind works. The aptly titled Mali Music is a collaboration with Malian musicians like Afel Bocoum. Anyone that expected something along the lines of world music or folk music was surprised by the electronic ambience and mesmeric style. The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Here's another supergroup that should be right up the alley of any Gorillaz enthusiast. Their music is interesting, eclectic, and often hits on a great beat. Although it features members of The Verve and The Clash, the production by Danger Mouse (another compulsive collaborator) is just as big a feature. Albarn insists that the band has no name, just an album name, but no one's buying into it and just calls them what it says on the sales charts. Rocket Juice and the Moon - The newest thing out of his imagination, Rocket Juice and the Moon haven't even put out an album yet. It's a purely groovy funk outlet that's also made up of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen. If that's not enough overkill, the album is supposed to have a guest spot by Erykah Badu. With that kind of pedigree, working in that genre, the expectations are high.

Listen to "Song 2" as performed by Vitamin String Quartet here.

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Paul McCartney Claims He Liked The Grey Album

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Before Danger Mouse, AKA Brian Burton, became well-known with bands like Broken Bells, Gnarls Barkley, and producing every buzz band that comes along, he was trying to break into the limelight with a 2004 project called The Grey Album. This tribute piece was a mashup between classic Beatles songs and Jay-Z. The album was one of the most infamous of its kind, garnering a lot of attention from both lovers and copyright sheriffs alike. The album would eventually be attacked by EMI, the copyright holder of The Beatles, and told to cease distribution of the album or face consequences. Jay-Z’s label did nothing because the a capella tracks that Danger Mouse used for the album from the rapper had been commercially released for just such purposes. This would lead to a day of electronic civil disobedience, where many websites posted the album for download to counter EMI’s claim that the album wasn’t fair use. Years later, after many such mashups have since been released, The Beatles’ Paul McCartney is now saying he liked The Grey Album. “I didn’t mind when something like that happened with The Grey Album. But the record company minded. They put up a fuss. But it was like, ‘Take it easy guys, it’s a tribute.’” The Beatle went on to say that he felt that his group brought a lot of music out to the masses when they began, and he feels like hip hop does this today. “It was really cool when hip-hop started, you would hear references in lyrics, you always felt honored. It’s exactly what we did in the beginning – introducing black soul music to a mass white audience. It’s come full circle. It’s, well, cool. When you hear a riff similar to your own, your first feeling is ‘rip-off.’ After you’ve got over it you think, ‘Look at that, someone’s noticed that riff.’” In response to extreme fans that found the mash-up to be sacrilege, he explained, "I think there will be people who are purists and want to hear it as it was. And y'know what? It exists as it was. So you know, play your vinyl. Y'know, that is how it was, but obviously by allowing it to happen, we don't have a problem in cleaning (the masters) up. So for the purists, you stick to the pure sound and let other people hear it clean." Be sure to check out: The String Quartet Tribute to the Beatles Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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