Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Shuffle serendipity

When you have a large record music collection like mine - checking my library in Winamp, I note that I have 8706 songs taking up 60GB on my hard drive - and this is just the songs I like, I didn't bothered to rip the occasional filler on some of the albums I possess - you often just put it on shuffle instead of relying on playlists. Oftentimes the shuffling will juxtapose songs that just seem to fit together. There's even software that attempts to analyze your listening patterns, figure out what you like, and when and how you like it. Other programs use some collaborative filtering based on user ratings to figure out what would make a good mix. I haven't tried to use these, preferring randomness to prevail.

In any case, I just had a case of 'thematic' serendipity. 3 of the last 4 songs that just played were basically about remembering the good old days:

Mavis Staples - The Old Songs from Time waits for no one (Paisley Park 1989)

"turn the radio on / they're playing the old songs / how to bring back memories / of the way love used to be / backtrack along with me / to that old sweet melody"

Prince - Musicology (2004)

"don't you miss the feeling music gave ya back in the day / Let's Groove, September: Earth, Wind and Fire / Hot pants by James / Sly's gonna take U higher"

Beres Hammond - Rockaway (2001)

"those were the days/ oh I miss those days / I miss those days / remember the songs that make you rockaway / those were the days / when love used to reign / we danced all night to the songs they played / we can came again / do it just the same"

These are very different songs: Mavis's is just an old school soul jam reminiscing of her time with the Staple Singers, Pops and all - it even quotes the melody from Ben E. King's Stand by me. Prince's cut is just a funk groove in the vain of James Brown. Beres's is pure Lovers Rock. And yet, like the liner notes for Beres' album say, they are all "waxing nostalgic for a bygone era... evoking a time when great singers like Patti Labelle, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin were in the prime".

Intermixed amongst these songs was Ronnie Foster's Mystic Brew - the classic jazz funk instrumental that was sampled to perfection by A Tribe Called Quest in Electric Relaxation which from the first seconds it played took me back to November 1993 driving down to Yale for the Harvard/Yale game with the rest of the African students from HASA and the various parties we attended at which this was the jam. There is still the controversy about what the chorus is - whether it's: Relax yourself girl, "please set-tle down", "peace-out Premier", "be so clear", ""preset plan" or some other variant. I guess this song also fit the mood of reminiscing.

Other rare shuffle juxtapositions are old soul classics to be followed by the hip-hop records that sample them - perfect fodder for a crate digger like me.

Shuffle Serendipity, a playlist

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