Gnarls Barkley and a Soulful Predecessor All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen hears something special in the new album from the innovative neo-soul duo Gnarls Barkley. It reminds him of a different groundbreaking soul artist who died more than 40 years ago: Otis Redding.
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Gnarls Barkley and a Soulful Predecessor

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Gnarls Barkley and a Soulful Predecessor

Gnarls Barkley and a Soulful Predecessor

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Bob Boilen is the host of NPR's online music show, ALL SONGS CONSIDERED, and he joins us on occasion to talk with us about what music he's listening to, new cuts. Bob has stumbled upon two albums recorded more than 40 years apart. But he says there is a relationship between them. And he joins us now here in the studio. Hello, Bob.

BOB BOILEN: Hi, Michele. Good to see you again.

NORRIS: So tell me about these recordings.

BOILEN: Well, first I started listening, like so many people, to the new Gnarls Barkley, which is this wonderful, crazy twosome. In fact, they called the album, "The Odd Couple." It's two guys: Cee-Lo Green, who's the singer, and then this other fellow who goes by the name of Danger Mouse. And Danger Mouse is sort of the producer and does all these interesting sounds.

And I love them because it's great soul music, but it's very much updated. There's lots of stuff going on. There are samples and all sorts of stuff going on. And I'm just loving this record by Gnarls Barkley. And the one song that really got me was this ballad, soulful ballad, it's called, "Who's Gonna Save My Soul."


CEE: (Singing) Got some bad news this morning, which in turn made my day. When this someone spoke I listened. All of sudden has less and less to say. Oh, how could this be? All this time, I lived vicariously. Who's gonna save my soul now? Who's gonna save my soul now?

NORRIS: Sounds like something you'll hear on an old 45.

BOILEN: Yeah. But, could you imagine the words, I got some bad news this morning that made my day...

NORRIS: Ultimately made my day.


BOILEN: They don't - they'd never say that in 1965 or however. And then, the writing credit is the folks from Gnarls Barkley. But then, also, along with that is some Italian film composer. So there's some sort of spaghetti-western sample going on there that (unintelligible) puts this very dark - lot of tension going on in the music, and yet it's a soul ballad.


GREEN: (Singing) Who's gonna save my soul now? Who's gonna save my soul now?

BOILEN: And then, across the desk from where I work is this fellow, Lars Gotrich, and we talked music a bunch. And he said to me, have you heard the Ottis Redding reissue that was coming out? And I said, no, I hadn't. And, you know, frankly, when I listen to Ottis Redding records - albums when they came out in the day, they weren't all the great. They were filled with a lot of filler stuff and there was always a handful of good songs on it and I say - he said, no, no, you really ought to listen to it.

So I put it on, and oh boy. I mean, this guy died at 26 - Ottis Redding did, and what a shame, because when you hear his voice on this, I didn't appreciate well enough as a kid. And listen to the song "I've Been Loving You Too Long" which we've all heard. And then (unintelligible) Gnarls Barkley and the solo that's in that, and let's see if you put some connections together like I did.


OTIS REDDING: (Singing) I've been loving you too long to stop now. There were time and you want to be free. My love is growing stronger, as you become a habit to me.

NORRIS: Well, Bob, before we continue, let me get on my hanky.


REDDING: (Singing) Oh, I've been loving you a little too long. I don't wanna stop now, oh.

NORRIS: You know, in these CDs, even when you listen to them on 45s with the, you know, the awful sound quality and the crackle, the performance comes through because it's all about emotion.

BOILEN: Absolutely. And you hear, you know, some of that emotion in the Amy Winehouses as of today, you hear that in the Sharon Jones and Dap-Kings records - good talented singers, good materials as well, but they feel a little like drawbacks compared to what I hear when I listen to the Gnarls Barkley. There's a lot of invention going on in Gnarls Barkley and, you know, that's what I love about music, is when one piece of music advances the next and its growing and its changing and refers back but then it pushes it forward. And so, that's what I find in the Gnarls Barkley record that I love so much.

NORRIS: Bob Boilen is the host of ALL SONGS CONSIDERED. Bob, it is always good to talk music with you. Please come back soon.

BOILEN: I'm going to find some more stuff and bring it to you.

NORRIS: And you can listen to the songs Bob talked about and check out his show, ALL SONGS CONSIDERED, at our music Web site. That's


NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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