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  • 0 Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/31/2011

    While it's been a long road since her hits "Fame" and "Flashdance," Irene Cara continues to make enjoyable music driven by her wonderful voice. Her 2011 release, Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel, introduces 5 talented young ladies who excel in instrumental virtuosity. Irene sings lead, co-writes, and produces many of the tracks featuring Hot Caramel, however, the sweet ladies, including Audrey Martells, get their chance to shine in both lead and background vocals. Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel is a double CD release. CD volume 1 has a distinctly different personality from CD volume 2. CD 1 has a clear rock edge, although hip hop elements keep the sound contemporary. The songs on CD 1 aren't especially memorable or distinctive enough to be placed in the unique category, but they are competent and well performed. "Life in the Fast Lane," a track popularized by the Eagles, is a strong cover, but doesn't really showcase the strength of this album, which is found on CD volume 2. The 2nd CD has much better tracks, with the emphasis on R&B, both traditional and contemporary. To really hear these ladies play, you have to check out "The Best," a mostly instrumental power track that echoes jazz, rock, and soul. What I like the most about Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel is that it's different from today's predictable formulaic R&B releases. This release is a throwback to an era that specialized in great singing and solid musicianship. This double album would be better served if the promotional emphasis was directed to the stronger tracks on CD 2, including "Forgive Me," and "Soul Beat." Visit Irene Cara's site, and listen to 60 seconds of "Forgive Me" in a previous post. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Soul Train Video Classics are back on Track

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/15/2010

    It's the 40th anniversary of a biggin' everyone's sure nuff diggin' as Don Cornelius and Time-Life dispatch a new silver streak collection of TV Soul Train video classics. Read Mickie's nice overview of "The Best of Soul Train," a 9-DVD 2010 release in honor of Mr. Cornelius' long-lasting television enterprise. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Your Super Soul Revival is Back for 2010

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/20/2010

    Who says there's nothing new or compelling under the sun from straight ahead rhythm & blues! Have you picked up on some of today's fresh contemporary jams? Yes, the golden age of classic soul is long gone, but? Rather than lament about today's music as 2nd best, one has to dig a little bit deeper. Since the beginning of Powerhouse Radio online in 2001, we've always included a handful of carefully selected new tracks fitting the style of the vintage classic soul that you love. We received a 2010 promotional copy of Soul Revival, part of the Discover Songs series curated by NPR with help from Shout Factory. This is an example of digging deep. Soul Revival includes several great tracks that we already play. I can't imagine anyone not liking this compilation. Ryan Shaw kicks things off with "Do The 45," a tip of the hat to Jr. Walker & the All-Stars that really cooks. Contributions from Raphael Saadiq, Ann Peebles, Candi Staton, Bettye Lavette, Thelma Houston, and others all complement the old school theme of this mostly new or recent music collection. Check this one out. You'll be glad you did. "Do The 45" - Ryan Shaw "Am I Wasting My time?" - Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Lovers "100 Yard Dash" - Raphael Saadiq "Disrespectful" - Chaka Khan with Mary J. Blige "100 Days, 100 Nights" - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings "No Smoke Without Fire" - James Hunter "Love and Happiness" - Thelma Houston "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" - Ann Peebles "Love Comes and Goes" - Lee Fields & The Expressions "I Still Want To Be Your Baby" - Bettye Lavette "If It Wasn't For Loving You" - Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere "How Do I Tell Him" - The Revelations featuring Tre Williams "His Hands" - Candi Staton Your browser does not support the audio element. Listen to 30 seconds of "Do The 45" by Ryan Shaw. He also does a great version of the much recorded classic "Memphis Train" as featured on the Soul Men movie soundtrack. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Stevie Wonder Celebrates 60

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/13/2010

    Just in time for the celebration of Stevie Wonder's 60th birthday on May 13, 2010, pop culture writer Mark Ribowsky has put the Motown legend under the literary microscope in a new book. Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder meticulously chronicles his compelling story from child prodigy to international super star. Ribowsky doesn't sweep some of the negative parts of the Wonder odyssey under the rug. He keeps the story real by taking an honest look at how Stevie grew up within the Motown family driven by his positive inner talent (accompanied by some external negative demons along for the ride). Through the pen of the author, this is an entertaining, fun story, which in many was reflects the zany personality of Stevie Wonder. The details in Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder are thoroughly intense. Ribowsky is gifted in documenting the elaborate minutiae of Stevie's story in a way that sometimes reads more like a novel than a biography. After the first third of the book you'll discover how dysfunctional elements of Wonder's family influenced relocation to Detroit, Michigan. Mark Ribowsky uses many quick anecdotes from supporting Wonder sources including quotes from books by Supreme Mary Wilson, music critic Nelson George, and Stevie's mother, Lula Mae Wright (Hardaway). If you have always been confused about what Stevie Wonder's real name is, here is a brief excerpt from Signed, Sealed, and Delivered that explores this topic: There's so much in this story that I haven't even scratched the surface, so next time, we'll get to Ribowsky's narration about Stevie Wonder's wild days at Motown when he began producing memorable music. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 02/25/2010

    As Black History Month 2010 comes to a close, here's a great review from BlackHistoryPeople.com of Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Alicia Keys Uses Elements of Freedom for New Independence

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 01/07/2010

    Released in December 2009, Alicia Keys' latest album Elements of Freedom takes her in some clearly new and adventurous directions. Some of the sounds on her last album As I Am foreshadowed the artistic growth we get on Elements of Freedom. You could argue that on many of these songs, Alicia Keys travels down an independent road, away from her successful hit making formulas of the past. There's more Brenda Russell and India.Arie here and less Aretha and Beyonce'. The Beatle-ish "Distance and Time" with it's intro nod to "Let It Be" is an example of how Alicia feels quite at ease making music her way. Her singing and keyboard playing are very strong. For most fans, that's all this album needs to please. 14 tracks (including a short :13 second intro) make up Elements of Freedom. The songs are all enjoyable, although on the first few listening sessions, nothing exceptional grabbed my ears. There's the stylish "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down," the kind of song Carole King might have written and performed a few moons ago. Jay-Z is not on this version. Overall, I can sum up Elements of Freedom as a worthy singer-songwriter indulgence that could push the Alicia Keys phenomenon to an even broader audience. Does she succeed? I like it, but you can be the judge for yourself. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Mary J Blige is Stronger with each Tear

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 01/04/2010

    Why does Mary J. Blige stands out from other contemporary ladies of song including Beyonce', Alicia Keys, and Rihanna? Well, Mary J. is... Mary J. Miss Blige has forged a solid track record since 1992 building on an authentic R&B hip hop fusion that she continues to refine with intricate skill. Her new album Stronger with Each Tear, released at the tail end of 2009, features spirited, lively, and well produced commercially festive tracks. The songs reflect positive emotions. Mary J. belts out the lyrics with expressive conviction. You know she's been around the block and communicates her experience through the stories these songs tell. Despite the slick, catchy hooks in these crafty and memorable numbers, there's just enough raw grit to keep Mary J. real, relevant, and believable. With the exception of the very different "I Can See In Color," a bluesy final track, Stronger with Each Tear, is consistently good. You've read my opinion, now here are 3 others... Los Angeles Times - "The compositions belie their complexity with expansive hip-hop beats, delicate piano and lush strings. Producers such as Ne-Yo know how to primp and pamper without hitting overload, and guests Drake, T.I. and Trey Songz all deliver strong turns." "Yet some of the best moments are stripped down: the Raphael Saadiq-produced "I Can See in Color," also featured on the Precious soundtrack, is a profession of self-worth that's at once silky and dirge-like." New York Times - "The standout on Mary J. Blige's ninth studio album, Stronger with Each Tear, is its final song, "I Can See in Color," from the soundtrack of Precious." "It restates Ms. Blige's favorite message that tribulation is the beginning of redemption in an emphatically unadorned minor-key soul setting." Boston Globe - "The queen of hip-hop soul splits her loyalty between three masters with the agility of a gymnast, but she manages to hold a mood with seamless transitions between each." "Deliberate, midtempo pop-soul songs help you catch your breath, which is all the better to sing along." "The highlights include the current single, "I Am," another slice of melodic joy from the golden production team Stargate, and the purposeful "Each Tear," which sounds like a combination of Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin." "The album closes with a one-two punch of simmering, old-school soul tracks "In the Morning" and "I Can See in Color." "The latter, from the Precious soundtrack, is produced to raw perfection by Raphael Saadiq. It's a reminder that Blige gets stronger with each album." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 3 Tru Is True To New Classic Soul

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/11/2009

    The headline on the flip side of their new 2009 With Tru Love CD says, "Keeping The Music Alive." After a quick listen to this 10 track collection, it's clear that Tru, a vocal ensemble in the best tradition of the Stylistics, Ray, Goodman, & Brown, and Blue Magic, keep the harmonic essence of classic soul alive today. The ballad "If I Told You" stands out as one of the strongest original songs. Tru tackles just a couple of covers: the Impressions "Keep On Pushin'," and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Other original gems include "You're All I Want You To Be," "With This Ring," and "Can I." According to their official biography, Tru has opened concerts for Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Little Anthony & The Imperials, and others. They also have made quite a name for themselves on the Atlantic City casino circuit. Tru is: 1) James "Jimi" Williams, 2) Primo Wansley, and 3) LaVon "Donnie" Tatem. These guys have all been singing since they were very young. Tru's album was recorded at Polygon Studios in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. With True Love appears on Sounds of Philly Records, Brigantine, NJ. Your browser does not support the audio element. Listen to 39 seconds of "If I Told You" by Tru. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Earth, Wind & Fire Reactivates The Promise

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 02/26/2009

    Earth, Wind & Fire captured a prime spot at The White House on Sunday, February 22, 2009, as they performed for President Barack Obama, the first lady, and an assembly of U.S. governors. The dinner event welcomed the National Governors Association gathering to Washington, DC. Just two days later on Tuesday, February 24th, Earth, Wind & Fire re-released The Promise. This CD, originally offered in 2003, features the lively "All In The Way." Read my 2003 review of Earth, Wind & Fire's The Promise. 2005 brought an even stronger EWF release, Illumination, featuring strong collaborations with Brian McKnight, Will.I.Am, and others. Here's the Earth, Wind & Fire, April, 2009 Tour Calendar: Thursday, April 23, Tunica Resorts, MS - Harrah's Casino Tunica Event Center Sunday, April 26, New Orleans, LA - New Orleans Fair Grounds (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Chess Soul Drives Cadillac Records to the Bank

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 01/08/2009

    Chicago is one of the great American cities famous for creating musical history. The 'Windy City' has nurtured great artists, great music, and great radio. Curtis Mayfield, the Chi-Lites, Walter Jackson, the Lost Generation, and Ramsey Lewis are just a few of the 2nd generation Chi-Town classic soul sensations. One of the best first generation compilations featuring a treasure trove of Chicago goodies is the double CD Chess Soul: A Decade of Chicago's Finest. 2008's Cadillac Records movie featuring Beyonce' as Etta James is a semi-fictional account of the story of Chicago's Chess Records, and it's founder, Leonard Chess. After the blues era peaked, Chess, notable for recording the blues masters, turned his attention to the emerging R&B scene. Chess Soul: A Decade of Chicago's Finest, showcases recordings made between 1961 - 1971. What makes the Chess soul sound so distinctive is the close lineage the music has to the blues. Many of the 45 songs featured in this collection were regional rather than national or international hits. All the more reason to take a closer look at the tone and texture that makes these songs stand out. It doesn't get any better than the vintage classic soul sound of Gene Chandler, Fontella Bass, Etta James, and Billy Stewart. Chess Soul: A Decade of Chicago's Finest was first issued in 1997, to mark the 50th anniversary of the record label. There's an authentic raw edge to most of these songs. Singing with emotion is the audience pleasing formula used by these artists. You won't find as much of the slick uptown production style that marked the later sophisticated soul of Motown, Stax, Atlantic, and Philadelphia International Records. Regardless, Chess Soul: A Decade of Chicago's Finest is an excellent anthology revealing why the Windy City is so important in the history of R&B. Take a look through the track list. These songs will bring back great memories. CD 1 "Mama Didn't Lie" - Jan Bradley "Strange Feeling" - Billy Stewart "I've Been So Lonely" - Cookie & The Cupcakes "Soulful Dress" - Sugar Pie DeSanto "Love Ain't Nothin' (But A Monkey On Your Back) - Johnny Nash "Who's That Guy?" - The Kolettes "Ain't Love Good, Ain't Love Proud" - Tony Clarke "I Had A Talk with My Man" - Mitty Collier "I Can't Help Myself" - The Gems "Don't Mess Up A Good Thing" - Fontella Bass & Bobby McClure "Voice Your Choice" - The Radiants "Selfish One" - Jackie Ross "The Entertainer" - Tony Clarke "I Do Love You" - Billy Stewart "Love Is A Five Letter Word" - James Phelps "The Soul of A Man" - Fontella Bass "Temptation Bout To Get Me" - The Knight Brothers "Do I Make Myself Clear?" - Etta James & Sugar Pie DeSanto "Take Me For A Little While" - Jackie Ross "What About Me?" - The Valentinos "I'm Satisfied" - Mitty Collier "Searching For My Love" - Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces "Only Time Will Tell" - Etta James CD 2 "Rescue Me" - Fontella Bass "I'm Not Ashamed" - Bobby McClure "Stay By My Side" - Jo Ann Garrett "Have Pity On Me" - Billy Young "Wade In The Water" - Ramsey Lewis "I Fooled You This Time" - Gene Chandler "Don't Pass Me By" - Big Maybelle "Lonely Girl" - Andrea Davis "To Be A Lover" - Gene Chandler "Don't Knock Love" - Barbara Carr "I Believe She Will" - Eddie & Ernie "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" - Marlena Shaw "A Love Reputation" - Denise LaSalle "Dirty Man" - Laura Lee "I Can't Make It Without You" - Fred Hughes "Hold On" - The Radiants "Good To Me" - Irma Thomas "You Left The Water Running" - Maurice & Mac "Oh What A Day" - The Dells "Baby, I Love You" - Little Milton "Losers Weepers" - Etta James "Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation" - The Dells Chess Soul: A Decade of Chicago's Finest Previous Post | Next Post

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