Sampling Joe Sample: 1977

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Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample (left) and his TSU students, 2013
By 1977, the individual members of the Crusaders were so successful that the pressure to record two albums a year no longer applied. There was no new Crusaders album in 1977, but that doesn't mean the members weren't working, and working hard.

Trombonist Wayne Henderson was trying his hand at producing records, Stix Hooper could play anytime anywhere he wanted to, and Wilton Felder's career was in overdrive as he stepped up his session work with the bass guitar and his saxophone.

Meanwhile, Joe Sample kept on keeping on, working some very high-profile sessions in Los Angeles. While 1977 was not a banner year like 1975 and '76, he would end the year with one of the most significant sessions of his career, playing on Steely Dan's Aja.


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The Brief, Bizarre Wave of Good Synth-Metal Bands

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Photo by Joe Dilworth
Enter Shikari
Earlier this year, I wrote about the wave of dubstep metal that is ruining everything. That might have led some readers to believe that I'm fundamentally against the idea of mixing synthesizers and other electronics into metal, but that is absolutely not true.

The problem with dubstep metal is that it's horribly executed, but the concept itself could be successful. Back in the day, a lot of bands actually used synthesizers to great effect in a brief wave that unfortunately ended way too soon. These five managed to get it right.


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Sampling Joe Sample: 1976

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The Crusaders' album Free as the Wind
If 1975 was a whirlwind year for Joe Sample, the Crusader who passed away last Friday, 1976 was a full-blown hurricane. The newer, funkier Crusaders were increasingly popular, so much so that United Artists began to repackage and reissue some of the early 1960s Jazz Crusaders tracks the group made for the Pacific Jazz label, but titling the reissues The Young Rabbits. There was also another reissue, Best of the Crusaders, a compilation of tracks recorded for Blue Thumb.

The Crusaders themselves issued a live album, Live: Midnight Triangle, and one of their finest studio recordings, Free As the Wind, in 1976. But these efforts aside, Sample worked a string of sessions that kept him on the move both physically and musically. Following are his most notable sessions of 1976.


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Sampling Joe Sample: 1975

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Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample at Texas Southern University in 2013
With the wild, platinum-selling commercial success of Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark in 1974, Joe Sample's studio-session career went into warp drive. Throughout the remainder of the decade, he would sprint from one important project to the next.

Sample's Crusaders dropped Those Southern Nights in early 1975 and Chain Reaction later in the year; before the year was over, they would open for the Rolling Stones. But in between Crusaders gigs and tours, Sample stayed busy with a broad array of sessions with other artists. His part in the success of Mitchell's Court and Spark and its megahit "Help Me" did not go unnoticed by other producers and artists. Following is only a partial list of the credits Sample, who passed away last Friday night at age 75, racked up during 1975 alone.


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Sampling Joe Sample's Album Credits: 1964-75

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Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample being inducted into the Houston Music Hall of Fame, 2013
Anyone who follows jazz or has much sense of Houston's music history knows that Joseph Leslie Sample, who passed away Friday night after a losing battle with lung cancer, is a giant. But Sample was not simply a virtuoso pianist, a prolific composer and one of the inventors of jazz-funk via the Crusaders.

With more than 50 years in the business, Sample amassed credits as a session player that are mind-blowing. While the Crusaders (nee Jazz Crusaders) were his main emphasis, in 1964 he began offering his services on the open market, and by 1968 he'd become a go-to Los Angeles session pro. Below are just some of Sample's most high-profile recordings as a side man from when he first began hiring himself out through 1975. Check back with us soon for more on Sample's stellar career as a session pianist, composer, and arranger.


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Nine Things Playing In Rock and Roll Bands Taught Me

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Photo by Badulake/Wikimedia Commons
You have a long way to climb if you want to reach the "Dio" level of rock stardom.
Most people have entertained the fantasy of becoming a wealthy rock star, and a lot of them buy an instrument to fiddle around with. The majority of them eventually just throw that instrument into a closet after they move to another hobby, while a few become proficient players but never leave their bedrooms. This leaves a small number that actually form bands and take a stab at playing live to real audiences.

So what are some of the lessons that these aspiring rock stars are likely to learn or encounter on their way up (or down) the ladder of live music success? It's not all mountains of cocaine and groupie gang-bangs on the tour bus waterbed, is it?

Let's explore this further.


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On the Run Is Beyonce & Jay Z's Epic Moment

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Photo courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Talking about the On the Run tour without breaking into cliché is difficult.

It goes without saying that any Beyoncé concert in Houston is special. It's, at the very least, a homecoming. When you add in her mega popular husband and set the whole thing in Minute Maid Park, it becomes even more than that: it becomes an event.

And even still, it's more than that.


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The Five Best Reasons to Use SoundCloud

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As streaming services grow to be the norm and more and more people turn to YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp and SoundCloud for their music listening experiences, it might seem overwhelming to bands trying to maintain an online presence. Do you have to use them all? Should you focus more attention on one over another? Which one is even best for your particular brand?

We here at Rocks Off don't particularly have a preference; we'll seek out music wherever we can find it. However, we've been thinking lately that for some bands, SoundCloud might be the best service of any for a variety of reasons.

It's not that we're in SoundCloud's pocket for any reason, but that site offers a few key advantages that might make it more ideal for your band, depending on what you do and what you're looking for.


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Diverse Bands Sound a Grace Note for Homeless Youth

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Photo courtesy of Doomstress Alexis
L-R: Grace Note organizers Rally Terrill, Chase Hamblin and Doomstress Alexis
Mayor Annise Parker declared July 5, 2013 "Doomstress Alexis Day," in honor of the Project Armageddon front woman's dedication to Houston's LGBT community.

"Immediately after, fans, friends and both music and LGBT community supporters were asking what I was planning for 2014," she says. "I truly felt that Doomstress Alexis Day stood for the whole transgender community and the hope of things we could achieve, and not just me."

So, a year to the date, the Doomstress, her band and some of the city's best-known acts from a variety of genres are coming together for Grace Note, a festival-styled concert benefiting the Montrose Grace Place homeless shelter.


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Judas Priest, Nas, Death Cab for Cutie and Girl Talk Top Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 Lineup

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Photo by Marco Torres
Fun Fun Fun Fest is not the biggest festival in the world. It doesn't draw the biggest names. It's not a hub for celebrity activity, although Val Kilmer did show up once.

But true to its name it is fun, and if you ask me (let's pretend that you did) it's the best festival of the year, the shining light at the end of a long festival season.

But hey, enough of the romanticizing- tickets for the 2014 installment of Fun Fun Fun Fest, taking place November 7th to the 9th, go on sale tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10 a.m. Check out this years lineup.

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