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  • 0 Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading: June Jewels with Guitars

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/09/2006

    Cleveland, Ohio's Tracy Chapman was the most successful folk based artist to emerge in the 1980's (left photo). Do you remember this Tufts University graduate's biggest hit, "Fast Car"? She won three Grammy Awards in 1988, including Best New Artist. ---------- Joan Armatrading hails from St. Kitts in the West Indies (right photo). She eventually relocated to England, where she's found most of her success. Three of her albums in the 1980's made the top 10 in the UK. Her 1977 song, "Show Some Emotion," received considerable exposure in America, however Joan never had a single appear on the USA R&B charts. Tracy and Joan are still touring, making music, and strumming up a storm using their fabulous guitars. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Billy Preston's Signature Song

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/08/2006

    With the passing of Billy Preston at age 59, today we look back on his impact on popular music. We detailed Billy Preston's health problems, and some highlights of his career, back in April, 2006. Musicians like Preston who lived in different musical cultures are unique. Billy Preston was playing keyboards with gospel giant Mahalia Jackson when he was ten years old. He was featured as young musician W.C. Handy in the Hollywood movie, St. Louis Blues, when he was only twelve years old. As the organist on the Beatles album, Let It Be, he picked up the nickname, "the fifth Beatle," a title that stuck, but one that does not accurately reflect his broad contribution to music. These are just three examples of Preston's amazing range: gospel, blues, and pop. His classic soul/pop hits are almost an after thought: "Will it Go Round in Circles," "Nothing from Nothing," "Outa-Space," and "You Are So Beautiful." Billy Preston toured with Little Richard, was a regular on the 60's TV show Shindig, jammed with King Curtis on the classic R&B live track "Memphis Soul Stew," and was the ultimate musician everyone wanted on their session. Always at the core of Billy's musical spirit was his gospel roots. That leads me to the song I think of as Billy Preston's signature: "That's the Way God Planned it." I recently played one of the live versions of this song on my Saturday 4pm Eastern 1pm Pacific radio program, (ironically, just a few days before Preston would lose his long battle with complications from kidney disease). "That's the Way God Planned it" really captures the strength of Billy Preston. It's a showcase for his church roots, his soul style, and his pop mastery. The song starts slowly, then builds in speed and rhythmic intensity, until it ends in a powerful vocal climax. He recorded several versions of this song. One of the best is the live version included in his "best of" millennium CD. This version moves the song closer to a soulful prayer meeting, probably what he originally intended when he wrote it. Billy Preston did it all, and that's the way God planned it. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 1 Toni Braxton Revealed in Vegas

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/07/2006

    Toni Braxton is following in the footsteps of the legendary Gladys Knight, with an extended trailblazing engagement at the world famous Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, beginning August 3rd. From February 2002 until November 2005, Knight, headlined her own show there several nights a week. Gladys lives in Las Vegas. Toni Braxton will be booked in Vegas for several months, giving her fans plenty of opportunities to catch her act. Toni hit the music scene big time in 1992 when she was featured in the soundtrack from the movie Boomerang, starring Eddie Murphy, Robin Givens, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, and Grace Jones, among others. Her first CD was released in 1993 and it was an across the board chart topper. Braxton has two Grammy and two Soul Train Music Awards in her trophy case. It wasn't "Just Another Sad Love Song" for Toni either when she received an Echo Award in Hamburg Germany in 1998 for Best International Female Artist. Miss Toni got her first shot acting in feature films in 2001 along side of LL Cool J in Kingdom Come. She also appeared in Play'd, a VH1 vehicle in 2002. Good luck to Toni Braxton Revealed in Las Vegas. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Get Closer to Maxi Priest

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/06/2006

    This article recently appeared in the Jamaica Observer. Various reporters contributed to the story. Reggae Sunsplash 2006 is coming to Jamaica in August. ---------- "Reggae crooner Maxi Priest says he eagerly awaits a return to the Reggae Sunsplash stage. According to the Grammy Award winning singer, the original reggae festival holds a special place in his heart. "It made me truly sad and disheartened that Reggae Sunsplash ever went away. It is a foundation type of thing," Priest told Splash as he relaxed at the Norman Manley International Airport before taking a flight to Miami earlier this week. Priest, who is known for his silky voice and soulful melodies is set to perform in Scotland and Manchester in England before embarking on a six-week United States tour with internationally acclaimed Reggae Band, UB40 and veteran entertainer, Toots, who are also featured on the festival. But his mind will not allow him to forget the first time he performed on a Reggae Sunsplash stage. "Oh my gosh, it was my first time performing in Jamaica. The reception I received was mind-blowing," said Priest, "I felt at the time that I had delivered something". According to Priest, this year he will be going all out to please the thousands who are expected to turn out at the large expanse of Richmond Estate where Reggae Sunsplash will be held this year." ---------- Richmond Estate is a sprawling 200 acre property on the edge of the Caribbean, with Jamaica?s Blue Mountains as its backdrop. The large area is located in Priory, in the garden parish of St. Ann, home of the world famous Dunn?s River Falls and the birth place of both Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley. ---------- Priest continues..."I intend to make this year a very special one for the fans at Reggae Sunsplash. This is a world-class festival which deserves a world-class performance from any artist who is billed to perform. I have a few aces up my sleeve," he said. Reggae Sunsplash will be held from August 3-6 and will feature over 100 acts performing for over 56 hours. At present the singer says he is putting the finishing touches on his latest album. Already, a single has been released and its causing a stir in entertainment circles. The song, entitled "Makes Me Wanna Hollah," is a soulful effort which should go a far way in signaling the return of the British-based singer to the top echelon in the competitive entertainment field. Maxi Priest is the eighth of nine children. When he was a child, his parents moved to England from Jamaica where his father was employed as a steelworker in a factory, while his mother was a missionary at a Pentecostal Church and lead singer for the church choir.His formative years in music were dominated by gospel, reggae, R&B and pop music. He worked as a carpenter building speaker boxes for sound-systems, while using his nights to sing at live dancehall sessions. In 1984 Maxi combined with Paul 'Barry Boom' Robinson to produce Philip Levi's "Mi God Mi King," the first UK reggae tune to reach number one status in Jamaica. Since then he has produced 10 solo albums. The first effort, Maxi, was recorded in Jamaica by Virgin Records who garnered the services of musicians Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, and Willie Londo. Maxi scored with singles like "Some Guys Have All the Luck," a cover of Cat Steven's classic Wild World and a duet with Beres Hammond, "How Can We Ease The Pain." The album propelled him into the international spotlight and in 1990 the album, Bonafide, sold gold, and the single "Close To You" hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and number two on the Hot R&B Singles chart. He also had collaborations with Roberta Flack, "Set The Night To Music," and with Shabba Ranks, "Housecall," the latter being part of the gravel-toned DJ's Grammy-winning album. But with all his achievements, Maxi Priest remains humble and is focused on the road ahead. "The hype has never gotten to my head. Right now, I am just focusing on doing what I do best," said Maxi Priest." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 More Square Biz from Teena Marie

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/11/2006

    Teena Marie, the diminutive classic soul star, has a new gem to add to her collection of jewels. "Sapphire," is "Lady T.'s" new release, featuring several songs inspired by her friendship with the late Rick James. In the past, James and Marie collaborated on many tunes, including the electrifying classic, "Fire and Desire." Smokey Robinson, George Duke, and Teena's 14 year-old daughter, Alia Rose, are special guests on this new release. I saw Teena Marie once, headlining a show at The Spectrum arena in Philadelphia. In this kind of setting, it's sometimes hard for an artist to connect with their audience, but Teena was equal to the task. This Summertime show was a party jam, a performance in which Lady T. gave it her all. Coming soon, you'll be able to see Teena Marie live in her home town of Los Angeles, and in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City, as she prepares a tour to promote her new album. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Jammin' with Damian Marley

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

    Damian Marley, also known as "Junior Gong," has picked up six honors at the recently held International Reggae and World Music Awards. Damian was the center of attention at the 25th anniversary of this awards spectacular held in New York City at the world famous Apollo Theater. He's the youngest son of Reggae legend Bob Marley. Mr. Damian Marley walked away with prizes for: entertainer of the year recording artist of the year best song: "Welcome to Jamrock" best album: "Welcome to Jamrock" best music video: "Welcome to Jamrock" best songwriting award (with his brother Stephen Marley) Earlier this year, Damian became the first reggae artist to win a Grammy Award outside of the Reggae category for his Best Urban/Alternative performance: "Welcome to Jamrock" single. The 2005 CD also won a best reggae album Grammy. Marley is slated to appear at the four day Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, on June 16. He'll tour with Ben Harper, appearing August 10th in Phoenix, Arizona, and September 14th at World's Fair Park in Knoxville, Tennessee. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The Hardest Battle for Billy Preston

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 04/27/2006

    Billy Preston is seriously ill in an Arizona hospital. Heart disease is among the latest of his medical problems. He's had several recent complicated surgical procedures. The legendary "fifth Beatle," who played organ on several Beatles hits, is also involved in a legal battle over his estate. Rodena Preston, Billy's sister, has petitioned Los Angeles Superior Court for control of the Preston estate. She contends that Billy's affairs are in a state of limbo due to the actions of his business manager, Joyce Moore. Over the past five years, Preston has had a series of health problems. In 2001 he suffered chronic kidney failure as a result of uncontrolled high blood pressure. A kidney transplant in 2002 ultimately failed, requiring several weekly dialysis treatments for the 59 year old keyboard legend. Why is Billy Preston important musically? Organs had been used in jazz and R&B music for years. Billy Preston pushed the envelope for both organs and synthesizers in pop music, using them creatively in his hits "Outa-Space," "Will it Go Round in Circles," "Struttin'," and "Nothing from Nothing." Billy isn't just keyboard flash and style alone. His ballad "You Are So Beautiful," written by Preston, (also recorded by Joe Cocker), features a nice sentimental vocal with Billy at the piano. He goes to church, kickin' out the gospel organ on "That's the Way God Planned It," one of his best "b" side tracks. Billy Preston has had more than a great solo career. He's also played with King Curtis, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland, Sammy Davis Jr., The Rolling Stones, and more musicians than we can mention. Say a prayer for Billy Preston. He's fighting the battle of his life. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Motown Philly back again: A Soulful Tale of Two Cities

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 04/27/2006

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In the recording industry, it doesn't matter...what time. When recycling "solid gold," everything's on the table. Things run in cycles in the music business. About once every decade, there's the golden opportunity to revive songs from our distant past. Whether it's Patrice Rushen being sampled by Kirk Franklin, or another hit version of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," (think Gladys Knight & the Pips, Marvin Gaye, Creedence Clearwater Revival, then Michael McDonald), old hits never fade away, they keep coming back for more. Coming June 6, 2006, Philadelphia producer Phil Hurt, who has 11 gold and platinum records in his trophy case, is releasing "A Soulful Tale of Two Cities." The concept is simple. Let the Motown stars record the Philadelphia classic soul jams. Have the troops from the Philadelphia International school record some Motor City magic. Phil Hurt's ingenious project will be released on his new label: Soul Renaissance Records. So how will Philly artists, songwriters, and producers perform songs from Detroit's Motown era? How will the Motown artists re-create The Sound of Philadelphia? Here's just a sample of what we can expect on the CD from the Philly artists: Jean Carn sings Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" Blue Magic's Ted Mills sings the Miracles ?Shop Around? The Delfonics' William Hart sings the Four Tops "Just Ask the Lonely" Writer, producer, artist Bunny Sigler sings Marvin & Tammi's "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" And from our Motown friends: Freda Payne, (remember her), does the Stylistics "Betcha by Golly Wow" Bobby Taylor of the Vancouvers sings "If You Don't Know me By Now" of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes fame Lamont Dozier croons ?Me and Mrs. Jones? from the Billy Paul song book In on the project is Detroit native George Clinton, who tackles ?Love Won?t Let Me Wait? (no, it's not a funk version!). Major Harris will be proud. Clinton also covers ?Expressway to Your Heart,? the big Philly hit by the Soul Survivors. Speaking of funk, Motown's legendary house band, The Funk Brothers, play on the tracks recorded by the Detroit Legends. MFSB plays on the tracks recorded by the Philly artists. The Motown folks are recording the Philly songs in Detroit, and the Philly International crew are cutting their Motown songs in the city of brotherly love. If this CD release is successful, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be, look for a possible tour to promote "A Soulful Tale of Two Cities". The best of times indeed. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Michael Jackson's Bahrain Boogie

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 04/26/2006

    On the little island(s) of Bahrain, off the coast of Saudi Arabia, nestled in the Persian Gulf, opposite Iran, Michael Jackson is planning to make music again from his new home base. Having a world famous pop star generate domestic income is good for Bahrain, since the economy of these islands has been based entirely on petroleum exports since 1932. Don't hold your breath, but Jackson's "new" CD is being hyped for a 2007 release on "2 Seas Records," owned by Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of Bahrain's King. The world has yet to see Jackson's long promised Hurricane katrina benefit single, also to be released on 2 Seas Records, so we'll believe the new CD when we see it. M-J is obviously looking for some cash flow in light of his recent financial problems, employee lay-offs at his Neverland Ranch in California, and less than spectacular CD sales since 2001. You can't spend forever, no matter how much money you make. Billionaire Oprah Winfrey recently stated that she spends $1 million dollars a week, (no...not on frivolous things, but on all of her expenses). Regardless, I think Oprah is a little craftier than the very shrewd Michael Jackson. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Roberta Flack Replay

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 04/25/2006

    Roberta Flack is back, in a manner of speaking. The lady with the golden voice never did actually leave, or stop touring. For the latest Roberta Flack tour (link removed - no longer available), follow her link on our R&B music artists page (link removed - discontinued). Roberta's come a long way, from an early job as a 19 year old twelfth grade English teacher in North Carolina, to an instructor in the art of making international hit music. The "Killing me softly with his song" queen has a new best of CD out, I think. Compare the songs on "The Very Best Of Roberta Flack," (2006), with "Softly With These Songs: The Best Of Roberta Flack" (1993)... The Very Best Of Roberta Flack (2006) Killing Me Softly With His Song Where Is The Love - (with Donny Hathaway) Feel Like Makin' Love First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, The And So It Goes Tonight, I Celebrate My Love - (with Peabo Bryson) Closer I Get To You, The - (with Donny Hathaway) 'Til The Morning Comes Back Together Again - (with Donny Hathaway) Making Love Only Heaven Can Wait (For Love) Set The Night To Music - (with Maxi Priest) You Are My Heaven - (with Donny Hathaway) Oasis Don't Make Me Wait Too Long - (with Donny Hathaway) And So It Goes (Reprise) Trade Winds Softly With These Songs: The Best Of Roberta Flack (1993) First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, The Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow Where Is The Love - (with Donny Hathaway) Killing Me Softly With His Song Feel Like Makin' Love Closer I Get To You, The More Than Everything Only Heaven Can Wait (For Love) Back Together Again - (with Donny Hathaway) Making Love Tonight, I Celebrate My Love - (with Peabo Bryson) Oasis And So It Goes You Know What It's Like Set The Night To Music - (with Maxi Priest) My Foolish Heart Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) - (Steve Hurley's House mix) According to King's math, 12 of the tracks are identical, with the exception of five on the 2006 CD: "'Till The Morning Comes" "You Are My Heaven" "Don't Make Me Wait Too Long" "And So It Goes (Reprise)" "Trade Winds." Exclusive to the 1993 release are: "More Than Everything" "You Know What It's Like" "My Foolish Heart" "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" "Uh-Uh Oooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) - Steve Hurley's House" Well, if you are a collector, or a super Roberta Flack fan, I suppose you'll like the newer update "best of" too (if you already have the 1993 collection). In a recent radio interview, Roberta says she's "looking for a man," and is making plans to build a school in New York City. Let's hope she slam dunks both projects. Previous Post | Next Post

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