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  • 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 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

  • 0 Dramatic August Debut for Mary J. Blige

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/15/2006

    When she was 21 years old, Mary J. Blige was crowned the queen of hip hop R&B soul. On August 15, 1992, her first single, "You Remind Me," climbed to #1 R&B and #29 pop. Who says karaoke doesn't pay? Mary J. recorded Anita Baker's "Rapture" as a demo at a suburban New York City shopping mall on a karaoke machine. Like so many artists, a church choir was her calling while living in Savannah, Georgia. Between 1992 - 1997, three of Mary's five albums reached #1 R&B ("What's the 411," "My Life," "Share My World"). Her latest release is the well received "The Breakthrough." At peace with herself, there's no more drama for Mary J. Blige. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Usher on Broadway to Shakeup Chicago

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/09/2006

    2006 marks the 10th anniversary of the musical Chicago on Broadway. Grammy Award winner Usher is the latest star to cast his large shadow on the New York City stage. Chicago has made big box office bucks. In 2002, Queen Latifah was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the film adaptation. The movie went on to win six Academy Awards. The Broadway production won six Tony Awards in 1997. Usher will jump into the role of Billy Flynn. The flamboyant Roaring 20's musical offers plenty of jazz-based heat to keep the action hot for the 27 year-old Usher. "This is a very exciting time in my career," says Usher. "I have always admired Broadway actors for their showmanship, dedication and focus that goes into performing live on stage every night." "Being on Broadway allows you to connect to audiences in a whole new way that's different from music and movies. When they asked me to play Billy Flynn in "Chicago," I jumped at the chance to be a part of such an amazing production." Usher's acting resume is pretty impressive. He's appeared in the movies "She's All That," "The Faculty," "Light it Up," "Geppetto," "Texas Rangers," and "In the Mix". His television credits include "The Twilight Zone," "7th Heaven," "Moesha," and Dick Clark's "American Dreams" (portraying Marvin Gaye). Usher's 5th album, "Confessions" released in 2004, dominated the album charts and broke numerous records. "Confessions" sold over 15 million copies and spun off four phenomenal #1 Pop and #1 R&B hit singles. Usher has earned countless awards including 5 Grammy Awards, several American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards, and Billboard Awards. You get the feeling he'll be a hit on Broadway too. Usher joins the cast of Chicago at New York's Ambassador Theatre on August 22nd, and continues to shine through October 1, 2006. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Queen Latifah Leads Girl Power Tour

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

    On Sunday, August 13, the final leg of this year's steamy 2006 Sugar Water Festival tour heads to the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Kicking off at 6:30pm, headliners Queen Latifah, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Mo' Nique, and Kelis take the stage to perform their magic. Look for lots of curves, milkshakes, and "boys in the yard," checking out this sizzling summer show. Oh yes, the ladies will be there too. If you've seen this tour over the past year, (in either 2005 or 2006), let us know what you liked best. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 King of Sax Rocks Queen of Soul

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/03/2006

    Atlantic Records is at it again. Hot on the heels of two new vintage CD releases: "Soul Sisters" and " Soul Brothers," the label is releasing expanded versions of live classic R&B albums from Aretha Franklin, and King Curtis. Aretha's "Live at Fillmore West," recorded in 1971, will now have 13 additional tracks added to the amazing album (with new songs hand picked from various sets Aretha recorded at the historic venue). Her duet with Ray Charles, "Spirit in the Dark," is the show stopper on "Live at Fillmore West." King Curtis, who opened for Aretha at the legendary concert palace, gets featured with his own "Live at the Fillmore." The late "Memphis Soul Stew" saxophone guy churns up some lively instrumental versions of many hit songs from back in the day. There seems to be no end to the terrific classic soul material sitting inside of record company tape and vinyl vaults. The tracks are just waiting to sonically re-emerge on our own personal digital listening devices. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Mavis Staples Steps Up

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/02/2006

    You'll find lots of food for thought in this conversation with Mavis Staples by writer Robert Morast. What do you think? After the article, my postscript fills you in on current Mavis activities. ---------- Mavis Staples: Big voice, Lots of Soul by Robert Morast of the Sioux Falls Argust Leader "Mavis Staples says she doesn't know what key she's in while singing. But the soul legend who moaned and bellowed some classic R&B songs while part of The Staple Singers does know that she's not a fan of today's R&B music because so much of it disses women. That shouldn't be a surprise. After all, one of Staples' most memorable vocal moments was in The Staple Singers' song "Respect Yourself," a tune that admonishes the acts of ignorant men. After Pops Staples introduced the funky church-tinged song, Mavis took over the second verse issuing a soulful criticism of men by singing, "You curse around women but you don't even know their names/then you're dumb enough to think it'll make you a big ol' man." Sound like any hip hoppers or R&B singers you know? 50 Cent? R. Kelly, perhaps? Staples doesn't name names, but she's not afraid to call out the machismo-soaked lot 30 years after "Respect Yourself" dogged the men of its time. "The songs today ... it's actually garbage to me, because you're disrespecting the ladies," Staples says from her home in Chicago. She then steps back in time to cite the material of R&B patriarchs such as Curtis Mayfield or The Temptations as more appropriate examples of how to sing about women. "These songs could make you feel like you were falling in love," Staples says. After singing a quick, syrupy sweet line from The Temptations' "My Girl," Staples says, "You would actually swoon when you heard these guys sing." Somewhere, there are probably women swooning over Fiddy's mush-mouthed "In the Club." But it remains to be seen if this style of R&B can transcend the moment and live on through time, like "My Girl" or "Respect Yourself." "I'll never forget hearing 'Respect Yourself' for the first time," says Shemekia Copeland, a young blues singer. "It's hard to explain. (Mavis) just comes in and you know she's there. It's like a tornado hit." Too much bling nowadays ... Another natural disaster reminded Staples of some other things plaguing today's R&B materialism and the lack of a cultural leader. After seeing how Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Staples says she wished more musicians were taking stands on the neglect that surrounded the Katrina evacuees. "I feel that these kids should get on board and forget about the bling-bling for a while and check out what's going on around them," Staples says. "But it's hard for them to see that. They came out and became big stars. They didn't struggle coming up like we did." And she says they don't have anyone to guide them. "We don't have a black leader today," Staples says. "Maybe that would show them that they should start putting some positive messages in their music about the world today." As a former convert, she knows. The Staple Singers were pushing their gospel soul sounds when Martin Luther King Jr. managed to convince the group to start singing about civil rights - like its song "Long Walk to D.C.," which implores people to take their opinions to the nation's capitol. "But I don't see anyone being a leader," Staples says. "I think somebody like Queen Latifah (could) ... not totally, but she could be instrumental in getting it together. "But we need a white leader, too. We need to start thinking about everyone together." Hmmm, sounds like a new song." ---------- Catch Mavis Staples on tour this Summer and Fall making appearances with B.B. King, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and others. In June, Mavis was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowship. The Fellowship is the USA's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Mavis's father Roebuck 'Pops' Staples received a Heritage Fellowship in 1998, and 2006 marks the first time that a daughter and father have been honored individually with a fellowship. Awarded since 1982, other past recipients of the Heritage Fellowship include B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Michael Doucet, Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker, Doc Watson, and Bill Monroe. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Classic Soul in the Bermuda Sun

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/26/2006

    You may have noticed in our previous article that India Arie is scheduled to appear in Bermuda in early October. Bermuda is always a hot vacation destination. The string of islands, linked by causeways and bridges, offers plenty of fun in the sun. October 4 - 7, the 2006 Bermuda Music Festival kicks into high gear, offering a strong line-up of sensational classic soul and classic R&B. Gladys Knight, Teena Marie, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Harold Melvin's Blue Notes, and The Manhattans featuring Blue Lovett and Gerald Alston are just a few of the artists scheduled to perform. Island hop till you drop, soak in some sunshine, and tune into the soulful music. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 India Arie makes Positive Contact

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/25/2006

    Here I am, visiting with India Arie, right after her live nationwide NPR studio concert, in Washington, DC, on Thursday, July 20. She's currently on tour to support her number one CD, "Testimony: vol. 1, Life & Relationship." This release is India's best to date. The standout tracks are: Good Morning There's Hope India's Song Summer Better People I Am Not My Hair featuring Akon Here's India's remaining 2006 tour schedule... July 29, Chastain Park - Atlanta, GA July 30, Orpheum Theater - Memphis, TN August 5, Aronoff Center - Cincinnati, OH August 6, Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, TN August 10 Tampa Performing Arts Center - Tampa, FL August 11, Orange County Convention Center - Orlando, FL August 12, BJCC Arena - Birmingham, AL September 16, Cascade Theater - Redding, CA September 17, Black Oak Ranch - Laytonville, CA October 6, Royal Naval Dockyard - Bermuda Previous Post | Next Post

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