• 0 Classic Soul Summit Summons Gordy, Gamble, Huff & Bell

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 09/12/2006

    Condensed From Frost Illustrated, Fort Wayne, Indiana... "Philadelphia International Records recently released editorial sound bites and photos of an extraordinary forum that brought together for the first time the four men collectively responsible for the rise of the R&B/classic soul genre... The hit making machine brain-trust are Motown founder Berry Gordy, Philadelphia International Records founders Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and Stax Records founder Al Bell. The historic question and answer session held at the landmark Gamble-Huff recording studio in Philadelphia, provided an intimate setting for industry trailblazers Gordy, Gamble, Huff and Bell to collectively reflect on their musical genius. "To have the four architects of classic R&B/soul together in one room, under one roof at the same is beyond belief," said Philadelphia International Records Executive Vice President Chuck Gamble, who orchestrated the forum as one of several special events taking place in 2006 to celebrate The Sound of Philadelphia's 35th anniversary. "We are still digesting it." That's because Gordy, Gamble, Huff and Bell are responsible for countless hits recorded by many of the world's top artists including Motown's: Temptations Supremes Stevie Wonder Smokey Robinson Marvin Gaye Philadelphia International Records: O'Jays Patti LaBelle Teddy Pendergrass Lou Rawls Billy Paul Stax Records: Issac Hayes Al Green Otis Redding The Staple Singers . The rare gathering of these pioneers was videotaped in front a live audience that included Motown R&B songwriting veterans Brian and Eddie Holland; Claudette Robinson of the Miracles; Chubby Checker; Bunny Sigler; Chuck Jackson; and William "Poogie" Hart of the Delfonics. Also present was actor Clifton Davis who wrote the 1971 Motown hit single "Never Can Say Goodbye" recorded by the Jackson 5, and some of the young R&B hitmakers of today including: Andre Harris and Vidal Davis (Dre and Vidal) who have created music for Usher, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige and Will Smith. Carvin Haggins and Ivan Barias who have produced songs for Musiq and Faith Evans. Prolific songwriter and renowned Motown artist Smokey Robinson made a surprise appearance at the gathering and immediately joined Gordy, Gamble, Huff and Bell in the discussion. Audience members watched as the men who brought classic soul music into their lives humbly and eloquently took turns reflecting on their unmatched successes, thousands of songs created, countless artists recorded, and friendly behind-the-scenes label rivalries. "Gamble and Huff would come out with these songs that would amaze us and we'd say man, how did they get that," said Gordy as he called the Motown-Philly relationship a "loving competition." Moderated by veteran Philadelphia radio personality Dyana Williams, the three-hour discussion was lighthearted in terms of content but passionate as it related to the many reflections shared. R&B crooner Gerald Levert encouraged today's songwriters, producers and artists to "bring back to the industry the camaraderie" that Gordy, Gamble, Huff and Bell exhibited at the forum. Levert noted that although the four icons were steering three separate record labels at one time and were in essence competing for music sales, "they still shared a bond with one another at the end of the day." "Who knows?" said Chuck Gamble, when asked what happens next. "Maybe next time, we'll go to the world-renowned Motown Hitsville studios in Detroit or to the venerated Stax museum in Memphis. We can't let this die. We have to keep it going."

  • 0 Roy Ayers Good Vibrations

    Roy Ayers puts on a killer live show. He's a unique musician who plays a unique instrument. I've partied to the "Roy Ayers Ubiquity" sound at an unusual show place: the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Ayers hasn't slowed down. Kevin Johnson tells us what R-A's been up to... "New Generation of Artists Drives Rebirth of Roy Ayers" written by Kevin C. Johnson - STLtoday.com (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) ---------- "Jazz and R&B music lovers have been digging Roy Ayers' vibe - make that vibes - ever since he came into the music world in the '60s. Still, for some, it's like he's just getting started. The Los Angeles-bred artist, scheduled to perform as part of the 2006 Missouri Black Expo, is one of music's most popular, respected and sampled vibraphonist players - despite the surprising fact he's never won a Grammy or had a gold record. His '70s heyday included a fruitful period of collaboration with flautist Herbie Mann; fronting his own band, Ubiquity; and hits such as "Running Away," "Searching" and "You Send Me." There was also his seminal 1976 album, "Everybody Loves the Sunshine," featuring a memorably bright yellow cover. In a phone interview from London, Ayers said: "I think my greatest achievement was with that song." Ayers was also among the special breed of 1970s soul artists, including Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes, who created classic soundtracks for popular "blaxploitation" flicks of that era. He was behind Pam Grier's "Coffy." "They called and asked me if I could do a soundtrack, and I'd never done one - though I said, 'Of course,' like I had done one, because I wanted to do one," he said. "When 'Jackie Brown' came out, Quentin Tarantino used some of my music from 'Coffy,' and I didn't know it. If they hadn't put my name on it at the end, I would have sued." Still, "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and "Coffy" were three decades ago, several lifetimes in the music industry. Ayers has made much music since then, including his 2004 album "Mahogany Vibe." But his classic material is what's driving the career rebirth. A new generation of R&B performers and hip-hoppers, including Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, Common and 2Pac, have discovered his music and made him an icon all over again. "They all find a degree of spirituality to my music, a spiritual essence, and it doesn't have to be about God. But it is about the things that God has produced, like the sunshine," Ayers said. Blige probably made the best use of Ayers' music when she liberally incorporated portions of "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" as the backdrop to her signature song and CD, "My Life." Blige also used Ayers' "Searching" in her song of the same name. "I was very thrilled about that," Ayers said. "She's a very talented artist." The renewed attention has led to him being conferred with titles such as "Godfather of Neo Soul" and "Godfather of Acid Jazz." And he said he's fine with that. "It doesn't matter," he said. "All of them are positive." Ayers' rebirth also is providing an outlet for music he recorded decades ago but never released. Labels have come to him with deals to distribute the music, and there's plenty to choose from; he has hundreds of unreleased recordings. "I was obsessed with recording. I recorded so much music on myself and on other artists it was amazing," Ayers said. "I had a contract with PolyGram and had to do two albums a year, so I did all those recordings and would pick out the best and they would use it. "I forgot about the rest. I never thought that music would see the light of day, or that I would ever do anything with it." Roy Ayers on... How the vibes hooked him: "I was always fascinated with the sound of that instrument, being from a family that loved Lionel Hampton... you could feel his rhythm and intensity and joy and happiness, and I still applaud his greatness. He's the main reason why I do this, as well as my mother, who inspired me all my life." Herbie Mann's influence: "He taught me how to be a leader. I didn't want to play in too many groups. It was always my objective to be a leader, not to put anybody down, but I had that installed in me." Vibe players today: "A lot of the young vibe players pattern themselves after Bobby Hutcherson. They sound like him, and I'm glad they sound good. But I want to hear the new vibe players get their own sounds." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Keith Sweat makes it last Forever

    A friend has been recently raving about how great it was to experience a live Keith Sweat concert. Keith was born in New York City in 1961. He worked as a Wall Street brokerage assistant before settling into the soulful pulse of classic R&B music. Sweat, one of the first R&B "new jack swing" artists, hit the scene with his debut release in 1987, "Make it Last Forever." The album sold over 3 million copies, and featured 4 top ten R&B hits, including the #1 winner, "I Want Her." Keith says "fans come up to me every day and tell me how much 'Make It Last Forever' meant to them." "LSG," the 2003 collaboration CD with Gerald Levert and Johnny Gill, proved that Sweat has staying power. Keith's official biography emphasizes his dominance as an important music industry player in Atlanta, Georgia. He's constructed his own recording studio, discovered new talent, and has become a sought after mentor in the ATL. His philosophy says it all, "I look at the entire Atlanta music scene as an extension of New York now." "With technology the way it is, and the growth of Atlanta, it's really part of the mainstream now. You can make music anywhere you want, which is a great thing." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Soulful Cover Girls Challenge Mr. Richie

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 09/05/2006

    Here are three very anticipated major releases coming your way this month? Beyonce' "B Day" (Tuesday, September 5) Lionel Richie "Coming Home" (Tuesday, September 12) Janet Jackson "20 Years Old" (Tuesday, September 26) Look for all three artists to get their promotion machines in high gear. Lionel Richie's been getting strong television exposure. Beyonce' and Janet Jackson have been recent cover girls for Essence and Vibe magazines respectively. I'm guessing Beyonce's release will be the most popular of the three. Both Janet and Lionel need strong comebacks. Can they do it? Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Cheryl Lynn Star Love

    A burst of energy best describes the powerhouse punch of Cheryl Lynn's belting voice. I caught her hot show in Houston, Texas, when her hit "Shake it Up Tonight," produced and arranged by Ray Parker Jr., was moving up the charts. Cheryl was born in Los Angeles, California on March 11, 1957. Her official biography notes that she harmonized her way through tiny tots choir in church all the way to the adult chorus years later. She traveled the circuit with gospel great James Cleveland in those early years. When Cheryl was 21 years old, she appeared on Hollywood's "The Gong Show," (television's original American Idol), getting a perfect score singing Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful." She signed with Columbia Records, and collaborated with Toto's David Paich, who co-wrote, arranged, and produced her first big hit, "Got To Be Real." The two also teamed up for Toto's hit, "Georgy Porgy," featuring Cheryl as the female lead. Additional projects with Luther Vandross, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, produced the hits "If this World Were Mine," and "Encore." Notable Number One Cheryl Lynn R&B hits: Got to Be Real Encore A personal favorite of mine - seven minutes and 23 seconds of "Star Love," another song arranged and produced by David Paich. "Star Love" showcases the amazing vocal range and ability of Cheryl Lynn. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Earth, Wind & Fire Heat up Summer

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/30/2006

    Earth, Wind & Fire wrap up a full Summer of touring this Labor Day Weekend in Florida. Look for them in Tampa, and West Palm, weather permitting.   Here are group members Verdine White, Philip Bailey, and Ralph Johnson (left to right). Relive our highlights of the Earth, Wind & Fire, Rufus and Chaka Khan 30th anniversary concert, 5 years ago this weekend, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Five Fine Phyllis Hyman Favorites

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/29/2006

    Phyllis Hyman was a remarkable talent. I was lucky enough to be the master of ceremonies for a concert she performed in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at Convention Hall on the boardwalk in the early 1980's. This shot was taken of us after the concert. The very statuesque Phyllis, resting after a dynamite show, is sitting on a small chair. She seemed pretty happy during this period of her life, as she was starting to get more well deserved recognition. The following five songs give you a nice snapshot of Phyllis Hyman the singer: Old Friend Betcha By Golly Wow Somewhere in My Lifetime You Know how to Love Me Kiss You All Over "Old Friend" is a wonderfully sung romantic salute to a special person just returning from a long absence who is the focus of some glowing unconditional love. Phyllis communicates with soul wrenching emotion inside of Thom Bell and Linda Creed's "Betcha By Golly Wow," recorded with Norman Connors. You might argue that there's too much production behind ?Somewhere in My Lifetime,? an elaborately arranged pop excursion produced by Barry Manilow. It's still a marvelous song that holds up well today. Phyllis makes it work. ?You Know how to Love Me? is a danceable classic, shared by many as a Phyllis Hyman favorite. The Exile hit "Kiss You All Over" is much sexier the way Ms. Hyman takes on the tune. I have nothing but great memories of Phyllis Hyman the person. Her strength as a singer speaks for itself. Tragically, she took her own life in 1995. Though her soul is at rest and her spirit is silenced, we have her songs to treasure forever . Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The Fall and Rise of R&B Legend Ruth Brown

    written by Paul de Barros (Seattle Times jazz critic)... ---------- Few popular music stars survive more than one trend. Against relentless odds, and with more bad luck than any one person deserves, Ruth Brown has managed to do just that. Known as "the girl with the tear in her voice," Brown virtually defined female R&B singing in the '50s, with sexy, fun hits for Atlantic Records like "Teardrops From My Eyes," "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and "5-10-15 Hours." But after R&B was re-marketed to white teenagers as "rock 'n' roll," Brown couldn't raise a dime. For nearly two decades, she worked as a domestic and a school-bus driver. Then, in 1977, the comedian Redd Foxx offered her walk-on parts on his TV show, "Sanford and Son," and a new theatrical talent was born. In 1989, Brown won a Tony Award for her role in the Broadway show "Black and Blue." (She also won a Grammy that year for her album "Blues On Broadway.") Along the way, she starred in Allen Toussaint's Off-Broadway gem, "Staggerlee" and played the white-wigged Motormouth Maybelle in the John Waters' film "Hairspray." Reached by telephone earlier this week at her home in Las Vegas, Brown was reading the script for the new John Sayles movie, "The Honeydripper," in which she'll play the part of a blues singer named Bertha. "I'm excited," she said in a voice still rich and vibrant, though congested from a recent hospital stay for fluid in her lungs. "Bertha has been singing the blues many, many, many years and she knows the history. Unfortunately, my character dies in the end of the story, but it's all right - I've got five songs in there." Brown is also proud of her new Hummer commercial, featuring the Bobby Darin classic "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'. " Brown's career is unusual, in that she jumped the subtle but real class barrier between R&B and jazz. "There was a time they didn't want to say they knew Ruth Brown because she was an R&B singer," said the 78-year-old survivor. "They didn't respect you at all. Dinah [Washington] tried to insult me because of that." The great Billie Holiday, after hearing Brown imitate her at Cafe Society, "walked into the dressing room and read me out good," said Brown. "She said, 'You're pretty good, but there's only one Lady Day, and I'm it. If you want to steal my stuff, do it your own way.' " That's exactly what Brown's been doing all these years. The delicious, tongue-in-cheek twinkle of those '50s R&B songs matured into the sophisticated, theatrical sass of her "Black and Blue" showstopper, "If I Can't Sell It (I'm Going to Sit On It)." Brown has been beset by mishaps during her long career. Raised in Portsmouth, Virginia,(where a street and a new blues festival were named for her this year), Brown got into a severe car accident on the way to her first recording session in New York. After recovering from knee surgery, she had a stroke in 2000. Brown made a triumphant comeback in 2003, at Bumbershoot as well as an extended appearance at the Manhattan supper club Le Jazz Au Bar. Brown sings seated on her "throne" now, but there's no dearth of spirit coming from that voice. She does the old hits but also tunes from "Black and Blue" and from her excellent 1999 album, "A Good Day for the Blues" (Bullseye). "If I can't sell it, I'm going to sit down on it," she said, with a laugh. "Life turns around, and the truth comes down. It's amazing how many times I sang that song on Broadway. Now I have to sit down, anyway." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Timeless Love from Smokey Robinson

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/23/2006

    Motown legend Smokey Robinson croons into the pop standard world on his new CD, "Timeless Love." Queen Latifah, Ronald Isley, and Chaka Khan have also put together similar vintage song collections that spotlight the pre-R&B era. Smokey sticks closely to the formula and presents classic standards featuring great writers of unforgettable tunes. He takes on Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, and other famous composers in this soulful salute to "Timeless Love." The tracks include: You Go to My Head I'm in the Mood for Love/Moody's Mood for Love Our Love Is Here to Stay Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words) Night and Day I'm Glad There Is You More Than You Know Speak Low Time After Time I Can't Get You Anything But Love (Baby) I Love Your Face I've Got You Under My Skin Tea for Two Sarah Vaughan, King Pleasure, and Ella Fitzgerald may have made some these songs famous, but Smokey delivers the goods 'Crusin' the melodies in a style all his own. Robinson is one of the best song writers of his generation. "Timeless Love" is a classy salute to an earlier group of innovators who crafted words into amazing songs that just may last forever. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Music Critics Mild about OutKast Idlewild

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/22/2006

    Today is the scheduled release date for the much anticipated soundtrack "Idlewild," by OutKast. The movie of the same name, starring OutKast pair Big Boi and Andre Benjamin, opens this Friday, August 25th. As described by IMDb, Idlewild is "a musical set in the Prohibition-era American South, where a speakeasy performer and club manager Rooster (Big Boi) must contend with gangsters who have their eyes on the club..." "His piano player and partner Percival (Andre Benjamin) must choose between his love, Angel (Paula Patton) or his obligations to his father (Ben Vereen)." Ever since OutKast busted out with their huge cross-over hits "The Way You Move," and "Hey Ya!," the bar has been raised pretty high for their follow-up material. Soundtracks and movies can often be judged independently, especially when the music becomes a cultural phenomenon on its own, (think Saturday Night Fever, or even Purple Rain). On the other hand, soundtracks must work with the images on the screen, as music and other audio effects are always added after the filming is completed. In some ways, it's unfair to judge soundtracks and non-film related music CD's the same way, but everybody does. For Idlewild, the music critics are stirring up debate over how the release stands up independently of the film. Here are some comments... ---------- New Musical Express: "If the only charge you can level at 'Idlewild' is that it's a bit long and uneven and self-indulgent... well hello, this is their (OutKast) jazz album! That's what jazz is like!" "You still couldn't name another artist on the planet who could set themselves such a ridiculous challenge and pull it off with this much pizzazz." "In any other hands this would have been a total disaster, but yes, things are never quite that simple with these two. The other thing about OutKast is that even when they make no sense whatsoever, they're rarely anything less than brilliant."   All Music Guide: "Even its highlights fall short of OutKast's past and fail to transcend its assortment of inspirations. Little of it sticks." "The music of the '30s seeps through a handful of tracks, the best of which is led by Big Boi protege Janelle Monae, a young vocalist who stomps and sways through her time in the spotlight."   Entertainment Weekly: "OutKast's seventh album, Idlewild, doesn't do much to suggest the group has a bright future. Instead, it finds the duo still going their own ways as they face a dubious challenge: how to wedge rap vocals into Depression-era swing, blues, and vaudeville arrangements." "It all plays out in the soundtrack to a movie musical set in the mythical 1930s Georgia town of Idlewild." "If this is the multimedia spectacle the OutKast brain trust has selected to punctuate their transition from Dirty South musical pioneers into pop megadandies, it's a bust."   Rolling Stone: "Idlewild mixes up swing, blues, hip-hop and R&B without losing a step..."   Billboard: "Film-specific songs like "Make No Sense at All" and "Call the Law" fall flat out of context." ---------- These are five broad opinions about the music of Idlewild. We'll see how well both the soundtrack and the movie are accepted. Previous Post | Next Post

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