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  • 2 Chris Jasper's Journey from The Isley Brothers to Invincible

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/30/2007

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Chris Jasper was an important member of the expanded Isley Brothers. Chris, along with Marvin and Ernie Isley, joined original members Ronald, Rudolph, and O'Kelly Isley in 1973. After 13 years with the Isley Brothers, Chris, Marvin, and Ernie formed Isley/Jasper/Isley in 1984, delivering the number one 1985 hit, "Caravan of Love," featuring Chris on lead vocal. After moving on from Isley/Jasper/Isley in 1988, Chris formed the independent label Gold City Records. While with Gold City Records, Chris Jasper has performed and written music for other artists. Invincible, is his new 2007 release, featuring these tracks: "Invincible" "Keep Reaching Higher" "I Know That You Love Me" "Without Love" "Let God's Will Be Done" "Thank You Lord" "A New Life In Christ" "He's The Judge" "Do You Believe" "Come On and Testify" Invincible is very much a producer project. Jasper writes, produces, and performs all of the tracks. He sings lead and background vocals. Each original song is based on a particular scripture from the Bible, (listed in the CD credits). Jasper projects a clear, inspirational, positive message, skillfully weaving divine themes into these 10 "songs of praise." Chris doesn't deviate from the melodic rhythms of his past success. This CD presents familiar Isley styled instrumentation that should easily appeal to progressive R&B fans. When an artist conceives and implements an entire project by themselves, there's a danger that the final result becomes an expression of perceived perfection. One point of view controls every aspect of the creative process. There's a formula to how the lyrics are integrated into these songs, and the lyrics are the focus. I suppose I was expecting more musical virtuosity highlighting Jaspers' skill as a musician with more instrumental soloing. I wonder if the spiritual message of some of these poetic praises might have been better presented in a more traditional way with more gospel, and less R&B. However, it's clear that the aim of this release is to appeal to both R&B and sacred fans, and C.J.'s goal for the most part has been accomplished. I found Jasper at his best on "Without Love," and "A New Life in Christ." Vocally, "Without Love" recalls the classic harmonies of The Impressions with Curtis Mayfield. Compared to the first 7 songs, the last 3 tracks, "He's The Judge," "Do You Believe," and "Come On and Testify" embrace the Isley/Jasper/Isley-Isley Brothers style more openly with slightly more funk to the bottom beat. "Come On and Testify" has a nice guitar riff that hints respectfully to "Move On Up," the solo track by Curtis Mayfield. Tailor-made for the lovers of inspirational music, Invincible may attract an expanded base of R&B lovers too, as Chris Jasper has fused a sound he pioneered together with the reverent message of God on this accessible release. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 2 Thelma Houston Celebrates Her New CD: A Woman's Touch

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/06/2007

    Scheduled for a Tuesday, August 14, 2007 release, Thelma Houston is back with her first album in 17 years: A Woman's Touch. Every song is a winner. There's not a weak track. She's put together a great collection of songs based upon her favorite melodies from some gallant hit making gentlemen you know. In the tradition of Lou Rawls, Isaac Hayes, and Barry White, Thelma launches a few selections with a quick monologue talking directly to us about her personal observations. It's a nice touch serving to reinforce the themes of the songs. She calls these brief introductions "preludes." Peitor Angell has contributed to writing three of them, while Thelma has co-written one. The "Don't Leave Me This Way" diva sounds as good as ever. She's crafted a solid CD, featuring a strong supporting cast of musicians. Valerie Pinkerton, Myrna Smith, Portia Griffin, Pat Hodges and Denita James are the talented background singers supporting Ms. Houston. (Hodges & James were formerly of the girl group Hodges, James & Smith). The CD starts off with a chant to introduce a perky version of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes "Wake Up Everybody." Luther Vandross' anthem, "Never Too Much," is the 2nd track, which really gets my attention. "Never Too Much" showcases Houston's strong voice inside of a skillfully crafted, well arranged, dance track. Here are the songs: "Wake Up Everybody" "Never Too Much" "Brand New Day" "Ain't That Peculiar" "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" "Distant Lover" "Love and Happiness" "Dance (Disco Heat) / You Make Be Feel (Mighty Real)" "That's The Way of the World" "Please Send Me Someone To Love" "Brand New Day" from Sting gets an uptempo bluesy, gospel, revival. Thelma testifies with a touch of praise. Terrific. You may not recognize Smokey Robinson's "Ain't That Peculiar" at first listen. The Marvin Gaye hit has been turned into a compelling torch song with some big band embellishments. Thelma captures an enjoyable reading of "By the Time I Get To Phoenix," songwriter Jim Webb's classic, a hit for both Isaac Hayes and Glen Campbell. Marvin Gaye's "Distant Lover" is produced with a real retro 1950's - 1960's feel. This one is also tastefully done. Al Green's original phrasing on "Love and Happiness" is quite unique. Thelma Houston throws her soul into this one too, and the results are very satisfying. The Sylvester hits "Disco Heat" and "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real" get real clever arrangements, freshening up these songs, driven along by Houston's powerful and clear voice. "That's The Way of the World" keeps the Earth, Wind, & Fire spirit alive as Thelma captures the fulfilling essence of this song. She throws her soul into Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone To Love," closing out the CD with a nice bluesy vamp. A Woman's Touch by Thelma Houston offers powerful classic soul favorites, sung with inspiration, creativity, and energy. She?s having fun, and you can hear it. Her band is excellent too. Technically, the CD is well produced and mixed, with Thelma's voice positioned just right so you can clearly hear and appreciate all of the words. Thelma Houston's biography has more about her Grammy winning history. Discover more Thelma Houston highlights at her official website. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Stax Records Story Salutes Memphis Soulsville

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/04/2007

    The two hour television special Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story is excellent. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the story captures the saga of Stax in Memphis in the late 1960's through early 1970's. Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, and Mavis Staples highlight the video story about the rise and fall of the legendary Memphis music making machine. Updates about the story run through late 2006, so the very latest elements of Stax history are included. This is "don't miss" classic soul entertainment. The focus is on the biographical chain of events that lead to phenomenal success for the record label. Some amazing rare video is included of Sam & Dave, The Bar-Kays, Otis Redding, Mel & Tim, The Staple Singers, and others. Congratulations to PBS for putting this on public television. Watch for replays. Here are 6 number one R&B songs from the Stax family of artists... "Green Onions" Booker T. & the M.G.'s - 1962 "Knock On Wood" Eddie Floyd - 1966 "Hold On I'm Comin'" Sam & Dave - 1966 "Soul Man" Sam & Dave - 1967 "Who's Making Love" Johnnie Taylor - 1968 "I'll Take You There" Staple Singers - 1972 Final word (trivia tidbit)...M.G.'s stands for "Memphis Group." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Diana Ross Challenges Gen X'ers on the 2007 BET Awards

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/28/2007

    Not only did Diana Ross throw out a peace offering olive branch to former Supreme Mary Wilson, but the "boss" used her microphone during the Tuesday, June 26, 2007 BET Awards to suggest to younger artists that long careers are possible without relying on gimmicky vulgar language. Ms. Ross also suggested to the hip hop crowd that it is possible to be classy, contemporary, and cool without diving into the salacious behavior used in many videos/live performances. The lifetime achievement award presented to Diana Ross was one of the 4 big highlights of the BET Awards. In the Ms. Ross tribute, Stevie Wonder performed "Upside Down," Chaka Khan sang "I'm Comin' Out," and Erykah Badu styled and profiled on "Love Hangover." Gerald Levert and James Brown received posthumous tributes. Public Enemy and Bootsy Collins performed a medley of James Brown hits. Jennifer Holliday & Jennifer Hudson opened the show with a blockbuster semi-duet performance of "And I am Telling You" from Dreamgirls. In 3 hours plus, America heard a year's worth of howling from "charm school" headmaster Mo'Nique, the evening's host. Enough said. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Stax 50 delivers Classic Soul Grand Slam Hits

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 03/20/2007

    Here is Rufus Thomas, catching a nap, after "Walking the Dog" during a show stopping performance. The Thomas classic, and 49 others songs from the Stax stable, are featured on the new Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration. This is a magnificent two disc set, profiling the best of the Memphis sound. Congratulations to the Concord Music Group for bringing the Stax label back into the public spotlight. Each track deserves to be a part of this collection. Some of the artists are not household names, however classic soul fans will remember these troubadours for their contributions to the Stax legacy. My title, "Stax 50 delivers Classic Soul Grand Slam Hits," may be taking artistic license, as some of the songs were more commercially successfully than others. As an example, "So I Can Love You," the 1969 seminal hit by the Emotions, (pictured here), though not a monster smash, adds depth to this compilation. Sheila, Wanda, and Jeanette Hutchinson, (the Emotions), would later obtain their biggest success with Columbia Records under the tutelage of Earth Wind & Fire's Maurice White. Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, and Johnnie Taylor get several tracks, as do Isaac Hayes and Sam & Dave. Sam Moore, on the right in this photo, with his partner Dave Prater, are represented with "Soul Man," "You Don't Know Like I Know," and "Hold on I'm Comin'." We are also treated to some gems by Shirley Brown, the Soul Children, Mel & Tim, Jean Knight, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, the Mad Lads, the Astors, and the Temprees. The 51 page CD booklet has a wonderful history of Stax, along with some great photos, including the three you see here. Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration is an outstanding double CD capturing the essence of the best of Memphis soul: "Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)" - Carla Thomas "Last Night" - The Mar-Keys "You Don't Miss Your Water" - William Bell "Green Onions" - Booker T. & The MGs "Walking the Dog" - Rufus Thomas "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" - Otis Redding "Candy" - The Astors "Respect" - Otis Redding "You Don't Know Like I Know" - Sam & Dave "I Want Someone" - The Mad Lads " Hold On I'm Comin'" - Sam & Dave "Let Me Be Good To You" - Carla Thomas "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)" - Mable John "Knock on Wood" - Eddie Floyd "B-A-B-Y" - Carla Thomas "Tramp" - Otis Redding & Carla Thomas "Soul Finder" - The Bar-Kays "Born Under a Bad Sign" - Albert King "Soul Man" - Sam & Dave "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" - Otis Redding "I Got a Sure Thing" - Ollie & The Nightingales "Soul Limbo" - Booker T. & The MGs "I've Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)" - Eddie Floyd "What A Man" - Linda Lyndell "Private Number" - William Bell & Judy Clay "Who's Making Love" - Johnnie Taylor "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" - William Bell "I Like What You're Doing (To Me)" - Carla Thomas "Time is Tight" - Booker T. & The MGs "So I Can Love You" - The Emotions "Walk on By" - Isaac Hayes "Do the Funky Chicken" - Rufus Thomas "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" - Johnnie Taylor "Mr. Big Stuff" - Jean Knight "Never Can Say Goodbye" - Isaac Hayes "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" - The Dramatics "Respect Yourself" - The Staple Singers "Theme From Shaft" - Isaac Hayes "Son of Shaft" - The Bar-Kays "That's What Love Will Make You Do" - Little Milton "I've Been Lonely For So Long" - Frederick Knight "Hearsay" - Soul Children "In The Rain" - Dramatics "I'll Take You There" - The Staple Singers "Starting All Over Again" - Mel & Tim "Dedicated to The One I Love" - The Temprees "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" - The Staple Singers "Cheaper to Keep Her" - Johnnie Taylor "I'll Be The Other Woman" - Soul Children "Woman to Woman" - Shirley Brown Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 New Diana Ross Covers Old Hit Parade

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 01/23/2007

    Diana Ross steps back on stage this March to kick off a new world tour. Until then, she'll have a great promotional opportunity as a mentor on Fox TV's American Idol. We've been playing 5 tracks on Powerhouse Radio from her new release, I Love You, (since the CD was released on January 16). Listeners have the ability to vote on the tracks, and based on your rating numbers, you generally like Diana's take on these 5 songs from among the dozen old classics she tackles. Here's the scorecard up until today (based on a scale of poor to excellent): "Lovely Day" - good "More Today Than Yesterday" - good "The Look of Love" - good "Only You" - good "I Want You" - so so Here's a list of all of the Diana Ross I Love You tracks. More on I Love You in the January 24, 2007 Powerhouse Radio Newsletter. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 5 Classic R&B CD Gift Picks for 2006

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 11/30/2006

    Here are my 5 new classic R&B CD gift picks for the holiday season. These albums were all released within the past 12 to 14 months. I've ranked them in order. Even though the music is mostly new, the classic soul lover on your gift list will enjoy these... Luther Vandross - The Ultimate Luther Vandross Natalie Cole - Leavin' Jeffrey Osborne -From The Soul Earth, Wind & Fire - Illumination Lionel Richie - Comin' Home I've previously reviewed the Vandross, Cole, and Richie releases. Click on the links to read the reviews. All of the tracks are familiar songs on Jeffrey Osborne's From The Soul. He's had his share of solo hits in addition to memorable chart toppers with L.T.D. On From The Soul, he makes the most of his powerful mellow voice by interpreting ten classic hits made famous by other artists. Jeffrey does a great job too! Close The Door Until You Come Back To Me Yes I'm Ready For What It's Worth People Get Ready First Time Ever I Saw Your Face Knocks Me Off My Feet Every Little Bit Hurts All At Once Hey Girl Finally, Earth, Wind & Fire's Illumination is a very good combination of new and old styles fused together. Brian McKnight, Floetry, Kenny G, Kelly Rowland, and others join the party along with Maurice White, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire. Illumination is well balanced between the vintage sound you expect from the group, and a fresh contemporary edge that the younger participants add. This is the best Earth, Wind & Fire album in years, so treat yourself, or that special classic soul lover on your gift list, to a top notch mix from the provocative "elements of the universe." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Christmas Favorites with an African Beat

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 11/22/2006

    Some of South Africa's best talents are featured in a new collection of Christmas songs called, "African Christmas." You'll easily recognize the melodies on this 2006 release. Traditional Christmas carols are sung with melodic African voices in a variety of tempos. Stylistically, "African Christmas" reminds me of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, and other South African artists who have exported their culture to the world. "Christmas Favorites with An African Beat," (the CD's subtitle), kicks into high gear with Bongani Masuku, Mandisa Dlanga, Max Mthambo, Vernon Abdul, and other personnel. Zulu-flavored renditions of the following classics are featured: Oh Come All Ye Faithful Away in a Manger Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Joy to The World Little Drummer Boy When A Child is Born Silent Night We Wish You a Merry Christmas Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer Jingle Bell Rock The Sun Shines Down (on A Christmas Day) White Christmas Jingle Bells African Christmas (Acapella) This is a good CD. We'll definitely be playing a few tracks from it on Powerhouse Radio in the weeks ahead as we get closer to Christmas. Check out the Powerhouse Radio Christmas song playlist, and share it with your friends. Previous Post | Next Post  

  • 0 Before us again: Song Stylist Gladys Knight

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 10/04/2006

    Gladys Knight has been underrated for years. She's one of the great R&B singers. Showing even more range, Gladys has jumped on the "standards" bandwagon with her brand new CD, "Before Me." Yes, you've heard these jazzy classics before: Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me The Man I Love Good Morning Heartache Since I Fell For You God Bless The Child This Bitter Earth I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) Someone To Watch Over Me But Not For Me I'll Be Seeing You Stormy Weather Come Sunday They are the great songs of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald, among others. "Before Me" is the kind of collection you spin to set the perfect mood for a special evening. Gladys is in perfect form. The songs resonate personality with her warm and earthy phrasing. Song stylist for the ages...absolutely. Every Gladys Knight fan should love, "Before Me." The collection reveals another facet of a vocal legend - a strand of jazz that's good for the soul. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 A Relaxing Romantic Return for the Whispers

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 09/21/2006

    Fans all over the world are applauding the Whispers, "For Your Ears Only," their first new CD release in nine years. Sample the songs, and you'll hear the velvety smooth Whispers - very reminiscent of their best all-time classic R&B. These guys conduct a master class in "harmony school" by singing up a gentle "quiet storm." After listening to the tracks, I give "For Your Ears Only" two thumbs up. "Love Won't Let Me Wait," the Major Harris hit, gets a fresh uptempo face lift. Diving into the CD, you discover that the beckoning ballads deliver. The medium-tempo tracks are right on target, and the fourteen songs work together to form a very satisfying collection. This new CD is far from just nostalgia. Teena Marie, Ali Ollie Woodson, Robert Brookins, Grady Wilkins, and Nicholas Caldwell (of the Whispers) contribute some great new songs to showcase the emotional intimacy of the group. I've seen the Whispers several different times, and have never been disappointed with their well tuned voices or their lively polished showmanship. Classic soul lovers haven't forgotten the Whispers either. Fan reviews of the new "For Your Ears Only" are unanimously positive. Between 1969 - 1997, The Whispers had 49 R&B chart hits, including "Olivia," "Lady," and "Rock Steady." The Los Angeles, California group continues to tour and perform. Check out the official Solar Records Whispers biography at PowerhouseRadio.com. Take note of the most recent Whispers biography, including some great group photographs, at the official Whispers web site. Previous Post | Next Post

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