Friday, February 10, 2017

Leon Michels Unveils Newly-reformed El Michels Affair with Lee Fields, Lady Wray & The Shacks Songstress Shannon Wise for Return to The 37th Chamber (Big Crown Records)



"I don't know how y'all see it, but when it comes to the children... Wu-Tang is for the children! We teach the children! You know what I mean? Puffy is good, but WU-TANG IS THE BEST!" sharp-tongued Shaolin prince Ol' Dirty Bastard (ODB) once proclaimed during an impromptu 1998 GRAMMY's acceptance "speech" during Shawn Colvin & John Leventhal's "Sunny Came Home" Song of The Year win. It also appears that Wu-Tang is for aging 40-something suburban Hip-Hop heads that can still hang; as is the case with El Michels Affair's forthcoming Jazz/Funk/Soul-tinged Wu-Tang Clan covers collection, Return to The 37th Chamber—otherwise known as the pseudo-follow-up to their critically-acclaimed Enter: The 37th Chamber (2009). El Michels Affair is fronted by multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, founder of newly-formed Big Crown Records, and former alumni of Soul Fire, Misty/Daptone Records, and now-defunct Truth & Soul, Leon Michels. El Michels Affair's past members and players have included Homer Steinweiss, Michael Leonhart, Nick Movshon, Sean Solomon, Thomas Brenneck, Todd Simon, Toby Pazner, and Aaron Johnson. However, it's currently unclear who exactly plays on Return to The 37th Chamber, in addition to Leon Michels himself. Michels and his assorted band mates have previously played and recorded along with Action Bronson, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Amy Winehouse, Ghostface Killah, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Lily Allen, Aloe Blacc, Jay Z, Steely Dan, Dr. John, Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach's The Arcs, Bruno Mars, Eric Clapton, and Michael BublĂ©.


This time around, Big Crown founder and bandleader Leon Michels decided to recruit a few vocal assists from within the label's roster: frequent collaborator Lee Fields, Lady Wray, and The Shacks songstress Shannon Wise, who previously performed on El Michels Affair's 2016 "Strange Boy" 45. Following El Michels Affair's April 2016 7-inch release of "4th Chamber / Snakes," as recently as March 3rd, the Wu-Tang-loving Soul-Funk collective unleashed Lee Fields & The Shacks-assisted "Tearz" backed with a jarring re-interpretation of Raekwon's "Verbal Intercourse" on a funky fresh slice of 7-inch wax. "Producer and bandleader Leon Michels recorded the album completely analog, sometimes hitting six generations of tape before it was ready for mixing, giving Return to The 37th Chamber it's own hazy sound. Adding to the unique fidelity, the record is laced with Psychedelic flourishes, "John Carpenter" synths, Heavy Metal guitars, triumphant horns, and traditional Chinese instruments that make up for the lack of the Wu's superlative vocals. From start to finish, it’s a dark trip that walks the line between RZA's timeless Hip-Hop aesthetic, and the Cinematic Soul [El Michels Affair] has become known for," reads a fragmented chunk of BIG CROWN's latest press release.


Return to The 37th Chamber's vinyl version not only features optional standard black wax or translucent yellow vinyl, Big Crown Records are offering four exclusive hand-painted covers limited to 100 copies/cover and are only available at their BCR Web-store; "the originals were painted on two sewn-together flour sacks in Accra, Ghana by Heavy J & Stoger, two artists who are legends in the Ghanaian Mobile Cinema scene and regular contributors to The Deadly Prey Gallery's collection in Chicago." Return to The 37th Chamber is currently available for pre-order from Big Crown in either standard LP, colored vinyl, or CD formats and are all expected to ship by or before April 3rd, ahead of the album's April 14th wide release. "Tearz / Verbal Intercourse," "4th Chamber / Snakes," and The Shacks-assisted "Strange Boy" 45's are all currently available from Big Crown Records, as well, for the wax-loving completest. I don't want to reveal too much, as it's still in the earliest stages of development... but I've recently been speaking with Leon Michels himself and a few of his Big Crown Records associates about setting up a potential emailed interview to be ultimately, be published coinciding with Return to The 37th Chamber's April release. I would assume that's something someone like you might be into, so stay tuned for further details!

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