Friday, October 19, 2012

Natural Elements Demos Unreleased No More!

It's time to get excited, Natural Elements fans!  ...Again.  Because Chopped Herring Records has just (finally) come out with their follow-up to last year's amazing Lost Demos EP, called Lost Demos and Instrumentals.

So, the title pretty much lays it out for ya. It's another six-song EP, but this time it's half unreleased demo joints and half instrumentals. Instrumentals, that is, of three of the unreleased demo joints from their previous EP, which, frankly, I never imagined we'd ever see. I mean, it's (painfully) rare enough when great, unreleased demo tracks get unearthed and pressed on wax. How often do the instrumental versions of such unreleased demos get unearthed and released on wax? Pretty much never! So, I'm sure I'm not alone in being less excited by the instrumentals as by the full demo tracks; but it's damn impressive, and I'm sure there are instrumental heads who are very excited to see these on wax. ...And, it's also important to note that Chopped Herring is only charging half their usual price for this EP, exactly because it's half full of instrumental-only tracks.  They deserve a lot of credit for that!

So, I won't say much more about the instrumentals... You can already read about the full songs in my post on the Lost Demos EP.  I'll just clarify that the instrumental version of "Life Ain't Fair" is the harder version from the Lost Demos EP, and not the R&B-ish one I wrote about for Hip-Hop Connection.

So, should I stop wasting time and get to the tracks we're all really curious about? Okay! First up are two L-Swift solo tracks, "Relax" and "Don't Sleep." Actually, Mr. Voodoo seems to be lending his voice to "Relax," too, but he never kicks a verse, so it's essentially a Swigga solo. And they're great, vintage songs, both recorded in 1993 and recorded by the only producer whose name should be on this project: Charlemagne.

By the way, both of these are specifically noted as being the "Demo Tape Versions" on the label here, just like "Puttin In Work" on Herring's last record. I asked the question in my last blog if that means there are alternate, Non-Demo Tape Versions still waiting to be released. But I suspect this is just CH's way of confessing that these particular tracks have been ripped from a cassette, when they usually work with the original master recordings for optimal sound quality.

Well, I recall saying that "Puttin In Work," "seems like it may've been sourced from an actual cassette; but it still sounds surprisingly good." But apparently that wasn't enough for Chopped Herring, who explain on their website that, "Now we have had the cassette joints re-mastered at a different facility than the last EP we did (always thought Puttin in Work couldve been better) and now we can proudly present 2 other tracks from that tape." And I do agree that these tracks do sound even a bit better than "Puttin In Work." It's just a teensy bit tinnier than a nice master would be, but it's beyond just "acceptable." And Chopped Herring are apparently very convinced nothing better will ever surface, saying, "We can assure you that NO OTHER BETTER VERSIONS will ever come out on vinyl - the originals are LOST and all that remains is the demo tape, so if you hear the odd bit of vocal distortion sorry cats, but its the only surviving source!" I mean, you can't argue with that; they used Caps Lock. And seriously, I'm quite happy with what we've got here.

Finally, then, we have "Yes Yes Y'all," a 1994 radio promo recorded for DJ Mayhem's radio show. To be clear, this is no quickie on-air freestyle. Mr. Voodoo and especially L Swift kill it here; kicking all original verses over a perfect, indie NY track. And it all sounds recorded like a professional song, with a nice scratch hook. This is labeled as the Radio Version, but there are no censored curse words or anything. I guess that's just CH's way of identifying its radio promo origins?

If you're a Natural Elements fan (and if you're not, are you sure you're in the right genre? This is hip-hop, son), you know what this is: e-fucking-ssential. And Chopped Herring have again brought this to us with first class treatment. It comes in a sticker cover, as you can see above, and they've really got the material sounding as good as it can, considering the limitations of the source. This is limited to 350 copies, 75 of which are pressed on mixed black and silver (silver) wax, 75 on turquoise (turquoise), and the rest on your traditional black. This can be ordered direct from choppedherring.com; and remember, the price is right on this one, too!

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