Tales From The Bargain Bin: Jamiroquai, Traveling Without Moving

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Okay, this was a long time coming. Hurdles aside, reviewing this album was actually easier than the others, being that this album has a feel of being composed and produced with a commercial intent, but stays true to the band’s roots in spite of its mainstream aim. As with a lot of Jamiroquai fans, this album was the first one I ever bought, and this album remains the band’s most famous and remembered. This is Traveling Without Moving.

Kicking off the album is the band’s most famous song, “Virtual Insanity”. The song is a smooth commentary about society’s obsession with technological advancement and the side effects that come with it (i.e., isolation, tampering with nature, etc.). Nineteen years after this song debuted, the lyrics are as relevant as ever, and the music is still catchy as ever. It’s no wonder the song and it’s accompanying video won so many accolades in it’s day.

The rest of the album is a must for the years. While “Cosmic Girl” and “Alright” are standard dance fair, “Use The Force” is a catchy, upbeat motivational track, an anthem for believing in yourself. “Everyday” is a slow groove, very reminiscent of The Isley Brothers’ slow jams, from it’s smooth bass lines to the violins in the background.

As the album progresses, Jamiroquai manages to merge their preachy side with their disco side with “High Times”, a narrative of how a disco junkie, both in the dance sense and the drugs sense, is so immersed in the high life that it’s killing her.

One especially catchy track is Jay Kay’s dabbling in reggae with the easy going “Drifting Along”. It’s the perfect song for a lazy afternoon, laying wherever you’re laying. The title track is a brief, but catchy and upbeat groove that stays with you. Something else that stands out with this Jamiroquai album compared to their others is the presence of not one, but two Didgeridoo instrumentals, with “Didjerama” and “Didjital Vibrations”. This can easily solidify the comparison between Jamiroquai’s use of the Didgeridoo, and Earth, Wind, & Fire’s use of the Kalimba, in that both bands are fond of using exotic and traditional instruments to enhance the respective bands’ modern sounds; the didgeridoo originating from Australia’s Aboriginal tribes, and the Kalimba originating from Africa.

Overall, Traveling Without Moving is an album that hasn’t aged one bit since 1996, and is an easy pick for any music lover. Anyone looking to get into Jamiroquai will have no trouble enjoying this album.

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Some High Rise Fun

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During a trip to midtown Manhattan, I stepped out onto 57th Street and 8th Avenue, looking up in awe. I had been away from Manhattan so long, I almost forgot the visual appeal of skyscrapers and high rises. The onlookers must have thought I was a tourist, the way I was in awe as I snapped these photos. I’m just a sucker for good architecture.

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Tales From The Bargain Bin: Jamiroquai, The Return of the Space Cowboy

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The same day I purchased Jamiroquai’s 1993 album, Emergency on Planet Earth, I also had the fortune of purchasing their 1994 follow-up, The Return Of The Space Cowboy. Amazingly, the first time I had heard of Jamiroquai was when this album debuted. I had the fortune of catching the music video of the album’s first single, “Space Cowboy”, on BET when I was 12 years old. Even then, I was hooked on the band’s sound, well before they eventually found massive success with their hit music video, “Virtual Insanity”, from their 1996 album, Traveling Without Moving. And while everyone has heard that album since that year, it can be said that only true Jamiroquai fans can say they’ve traveled with the “Space Cowboy”.

The band’s performance caliber had stepped up quite a bit compared to Emergency on Planet Earth. It could be said that the collective of vocalist/producer Jay Kay, keyboardist Toby Smith, bassist Stuart Zender, Drummer Derrick McKenzie, and Wallis Buchanan on the didgeridoo, had learned and matured  a bit between the two albums. The first single, “Space Cowboy”, an ode to weed (“at the speed of cheeba”), is a smooth, feel-good song to zone out to. The vibe smoothly transitions into a state of self-reflection with the second track, “Stillness in Time”, and revisits that self-reflection with “Light Years”, the latter track offering an uplifting hook to boot. (“Now I’ve got that sunshine in my life.”) Another change compared to Emergency is the presence of more love and relationship-themed songs, such as the broken heart anthem “Half The Man”, which reflects a man feeling that he’s missing his other half of himself after a breakup, and “Mr. Moon,” a lyrical plea to find that special someone, using the moon as a confidante for heartbreak.

The album does have it’s share of preaching, with tracks such as “Scam”, highlighting the common man’s economic struggle and the government’s efforts to tax the working class dry, “Manifest Destiny”, a somber reflection of the plight of the indigenous peoples of the world driven from their homes, and “Just Another Story”, a tale of a young man caught up in the drug game. The last song is as potent as Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City”. Much like Emergency, even the preachy tracks on Space Cowboy are catchy and infectious.

The Return Of The Space Cowboy is a great follow-up to Emergency on Planet Earth, and it’s a must for any true Jamiroquai fan. Of course, the strength of this album was dwarfed by the massive success of its successor, 1996’s Traveling Without Moving. Stay tuned for my review of that album.

Going Semi-Vegan

As of today, it’s been 10 days since I’ve gone semi-vegan. It’s rare to hear someone refer themselves as semi-vegan, because in this day and age, either a person is vegan or they’re not. I use the term semi-vegan because while my diet is mostly plant-based, I’ll allow myself some leeway with animal-based proteins. I estimate that my plant-to-animal ratio is about 9 to 1. That way, I can stay committed to eating fruits, vegetables, and legumes without kicking myself when I eat something like fish or eggs on rare occasions.

My primary protein comes mostly from kidney beans, which I’ve developed a great fondness for. Along with being a great source of protein and fiber, they’re able to fill you up without weighing you down. My favorite method of preparing kidney beans is to simmer them in tomato sauce, then mix them with my favorite veggie pasta. The pasta itself is a rotini made from pureed broccoli and zucchini. It hits the spot every time.

I’ve found that since I had drastically decreased my intake of red meat in favor of legumes and vegetables, my health has improved greatly in only over a week. When I weighed myself four days in, my weight had dropped 3 pounds, from 285 to 282. When I weighed myself today, I dropped another 3 pounds, from 282 to 279. I had lost 6 pounds in 10 days. This is because of a combination of my diet changes, combined with my increased frequency of exercising. I went from relying only on strength training to combining strength training, core workouts, and cardio in the form of kickboxing. I’m recovering a lot faster from my workouts, facing less fatigue, and getting more rest at night. I can honestly say it’s a direct result of my increased consumption of plant-based foods.

After this test run, I’m definitely staying the course. This won’t be a seasonal “beach body” thing like most people adopt. This is a lifestyle change. I’ve felt stronger and healthier in one week than I have the past two years. While I doubt I’ll ever be 100% vegan, I’m happy with the diet and lifestyle changes I’ve made so far. After losing 6 pounds in 10 days naturally, I know I’m on the right track.

Tales From The Bargain Bin: Jamiroquai, Emergency on Planet Earth

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About a month ago, I hit up my favorite thrift shop and managed to purchase not one, but two Jamiroquai CDs, their first album, Emergency on Planet Earth, and their second album, Return of the Space Cowboy, for the low price of $2 per CD. I couldn’t wait to start listening. Of the two albums, Emergency was the one I gravitated to immediately. I was familiar with the album’s pro-environmental stance, and I had glimpsed at the music video for the title track, which was a montage of environmental clips, from oil spills to endangered animals. Preachy, yet catchy.

Songs like “When You Gonna Learn (Digeridoo)”, “Too Young To Die”, and the title track, “Emergency on Planet Earth”, are the prime examples of the album’s preachy side. Even as heavy handed as the messages are, the groove of the music makes it impossible to stop listening. The band borrows influence from everyone from Earth, Wind, & Fire to The Brand New Heavies.

If you feel the need to skip the Captain Planet-caliber environmental and anti-destruction messages, you can always check out tracks such as “Hooked Up”, which offers the track’s music as a sound opiate/anti-depressant, or “If I Like It, I Do It”, a catchy song about anti-conformity. The instrumental piece, “Music of the Mind”, is so peaceful, it can be used for meditation, which I suspect was the purpose of the composition. Getting back on the up-tempo groove, the James Brown-esqe “Whatever It Is, I Just Can’t Stop” is a first-person observation of the struggles of alcoholism and addiction. The music is so catchy, you’ll have to read the lyrics to pick up on the message. Amazingly, with so much funk on this album, there’s only one track that comes close to a love song, the smooth, “Blow Your Mind”, a cross between an Earth, Wind, & Fire ballad and a roller rink jam.

Overall, this debut album is a good place to get your feet wet if you want to check out Jamiroquai. Yes, it’s got “Message” written all over it, but I’d be a fool to ignore how good the music is.

Tales From The Bargain Bin: Jamiroquai (Prologue)

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Looking through my CD collection, I just lately realized how many great and classic albums I have in my possession. Many of these albums, I’ve bought for less than $10, a lot of them I bought for $2 from my favorite thrift shop, and in  one case, one album I bought for 99 cents!  So, amazingly, without having to bleed my wallet, I’ve managed to satisfy my need for good music. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy paying full price for a new album too (Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet was worth the $13.99 I spent on it), but you’d be amazed with the classic albums you can find in the bargain bin. I’ve found everything from Norah Jones to classic Chick Corea. My most prized finds in recent months, however, have been of a beloved U.K. funk/dance band that thrived in the 90’s, during my teen years: Jamiroquai.

In the past 2 1/2 months, with random but regular trips to a local thrift shop, I’ve managed to purchase five Jamiroquai albums, helping me rediscover the band that I heard so much of in high school. These five albums are (in order of release): 1993’s Emergency on Planet Earth, 1995’s Return of the Space Cowboy, 1996’s Traveling Without Moving, 1999’s Synkronized, and 2001’s A Funk Odyssey. These five albums have not only been my biggest treasure from the bargain bin, but they’ve helped me look beyond the band’s biggest hit single, “Virtual Insanity”. As such, I’ll be reviewing these albums in chronological order, and I hope that I’m able to paint a picture for you the appeal of this band. Keep watch for my review of Jamiroquai’s first album for Sony, Emergency on Planet Earth.

Don’t Be Discouraged

Do you have someone in your life who’s a constant naysayer? Someone who shoots your dreams down whenever you share them? I’ve had quite a few people like that in my life, especially in my family.  When I had dreams of becoming a radio DJ, they were shot down. When I wanted to be a professional photographer, they shot those dreams down too.  I remember when I first started writing rap lyrics in high school. My mom went through my stuff and found them.  My father crumpled up and threw out the pieces of paper right before my eyes. Lately, my older cousin had been the cause of my self-doubt, shooting down whatever plans I have for myself in the future. Funny, he tells me “don’t sell yourself short”, but that’s all he ever does.

I watched a clip from The Pursuit of Happyness yesterday that made me think of all the people who have tried to crush my dreams or stand in my way. It was the scene where Will and Jaden were talking about Jaden wanting to be a basketball player. Will starts to tell Jaden that it’s a silly dream, but stops short when he realizes that he had been told the same thing all his life. Then he proceeds to tell Jaden not to let anybody crush his dreams, to go for it, no matter what they say. This spoke to me.

It hurts when the people you grew up with, people in your own family, crush your dreams, thinking they know what’s best for you. I’ve gotten more support and encouragement from people who weren’t related to me by blood than I ever did from my own family. Sometimes, you have to be your own motivator, your own cheerleader.  You have to push on when those close to you call you a fool, even though you know what you’re doing. Believe in yourself, even if the rest of the world doesn’t believe in you.