This Album Could Spark a Revolution
Members choose #benpirani to receive the VNYL Exclusive Mystery Color Edition of his new album “How Do I Talk To My Brother?”
Who Is Ben Pirani?
When people ask me what kind of music I like, I tell them anything with some soul. To me, soul is what makes American music great. Our history of gospel, blues, and soul has found its way into all our music no matter the genre: from Elvis’ country tunes, to Led Zeppelin’s bluesy rock ‘n roll, to Chance The Rappers’ hip-hop. For Ben Pirani soul is not just how it sounds. It’s about where it comes from. “The music has a message. If you listen for it, it’s there. I think that’s important because soul music without a message isn’t soul music.” Pirani says. “Soul music is political, art is political, and it should be. If your music doesn’t come with some level of cultural understanding, then it’s just pastiche, and that’s corny.”
Raised in the predominantly black Maywood neighborhood of Chicago, Pirani was raised by a jazz musician father and a conservatory-trained singer mother. They were the church’s music directors. As a teenager he got into punk music, dropped out of high school, and hit the road as a drummer in various Chicago bands. Eventually he found his way back to the soul music he grew up on, releasing his massive 7” single “Light of My Life” that put him on every soul DJ’s radar. Joining up with fantastic Ohio-based soul label Colemine Records, he’s finally releasing his full album How Do I Talk To My Brother?
You’ll Like This If You Enjoy
- The Temptations
- Leon Bridges
- Marvin Gaye
- Charles Bradley
- St. Paul And The Broken Bones
- Durand Jones & The Indications
Like many soul singers, Ben Pirani sings a lot about love and his exes. With lines like “my baby makes me feel right” on “Light Up My Life,” and “your voice in my ear, but I’m far from home, wish you were near” on “Dreaming’s For Free,” or The Temptations like vocal hook on “Try Love,” I can imagine him step-touching and hamming it up to an audience on the Ed Sullivan show. Songs like “Can’t Get Out Your Own Way” and “Art School Girl” nail the funky drum beats of Motown and reverb heavy sound of 60’s pop hits. Ben Pirani sounds right at home with artists like Marvin Gaye and The Supremes and contemporaries like Leon Bridges and Charles Bradley.
But this record is about more than revisiting an old sound. The thing I appreciate most about Ben Pirani is his respect to the genre. “I feel really strongly that soul music is precious and must be treated with care and respect,” he says. “Anything less is colonizing the funk.” ANYTHING LESS IS COLONIZING THE FUNK.
On the title track he sadly sings about struggling to connect with his brother. It sounds to me like he might be literally talking about his brother, but the message of connecting with our brothers in the colloquial use makes sense on this album. On “Can’t Get Out Of Your Own Way” he tells a story of a character who means well but they keep self sabotaging their own life. On “It’s Understanding” he preaches the importances of empathy, singing my favorite sassy line on the album: “there’s people out in the street, just doing all they can do… don’t need your opinion, what would they want to get from you.” Lastly, on maybe the most fun track on the album “Not One More Tear” he celebrates pushing through the struggles of life and finally reaching happiness. To me, these songs about the struggles of life and the joyous celebrations when things go well are what makes this album true soul music.
Art School Girl
The lead single from the album is a hauntingly beautiful doo-wop song reminiscent of The Flamingos’ 1959 hit rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Backed by a slow Motown beat, earnest oohs and ahhs, and a bright happy piano, he sings about a girl. It sounds like falling in love in slow motion.
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