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  • 0 Jody Watley Banks on Makeover

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/16/2006

    Jody Watley, formerly of the group Shalamar, has a creative new release, "The Makeover." The CD title implies a rebirth, and that's exactly what Jody does with songs you'll instantly recognize. Madonna's "Borderline," Diana Ross' "Love Hangover," Chic's "I Want Your Love," and Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain" are some of the songs Watley re-energizes. Both "I Want Your Love" and "Waiting in Vain" offer danceable interpretations that expand the scope of the original Chic and Marley tunes. "Makeover" has twelve tracks, offering lots of variety, including several new songs. Jody tackles a medley of Carpenters hits, "Close to You," "Superstar," and "We've Only Just Begun." Her approach is quite different from Luther Vandross' mellow take on the hit song "Superstar." "The Makeover" is Jody's ninth solo album. She sings on this one with gusto. Her fans new and old will enjoy it. Pick up on her good times with Howard Hewitt and Jeffery Daniels by checking out Shalamar's official biography. Jody Watley is the god-daughter of the late classic soul legend Jackie Wilson. She has a great blog, so read about her latest adventures at Jody Watley dot net. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The Raydio Evolution of Ray Parker Jr.

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/10/2006

    Ray Parker Jr. learned his craft well. With tons of experience to guide him, he made the successful leap from session musician to Raydio hit maker. During his Raydio era, the air waves percolated with the charm of his group's catchy songs, sincere lyrics, and memorable melodies. Ray has just released a new solo album, "I'm Free," and he still knows how to tell great stories and handle tight harmonies through his songs. One thing that distinguishes Ray's style is the ease at which he effortlessly sings. You can understand all of the words as his voice cuts through (out front in the mix). With 11 songs, I found the first 9 tracks of "I'm Free," the most appealing. The title cut is a bluesy number done Texas style with a guitar lick reminiscent of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Sounds like Mr. Parker has been spending time on the beach too. There's a festive bounce in the air. "Rum Punch" is a lot of fun, as Ray and his party posse sing "pour me another and let's get drunk." You'll also find a few well done instrumentals, featuring Ray Parker's subtle guitar. A surprise song is his interpretation of a pop classic, "The Guitar Man," originally a hit for David Gates (with the group Bread). Overall, "I'm Free" offers you a pleasant sounding Ray Parker Jr., serving up some spicy new soulful songs. Honest and straightforward lyrics keep you interested throughout both the fun, and the despair illuminated in his songs. Here are some Ray Parker Jr. tour dates for the rest of 2006: August 26, Washington DC, Carter Barron Amphitheater (Rock Creek Park) September 9, Huntington Beach, CA September 30, Mesa, AZ, Ikeda Theater October 1, Santa Barbara, CA, Santa Barbara Zoo October 7, Catalina Island, CA, Catalina Jazz Festival October 13, Jacksonville, FL, The Florida Theatre October 14, Sarasota, FL, Van Weizel Performing Arts October 15, Melbourne, FL, King Center Ray's Official Biography begins..."singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer Ray Parker Jr. had hits as: Raydio (the million-selling Jack and Jill, You Can't Change That) Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio (Two Places at the Same Time, A Woman Needs Love Just Like You Do) Ray Parker Jr. (the number one R&B and pop gold single "Ghostbusters") Co-writer of hit songs for Rufus and Chaka Khan (the number one "You Got the Love" from Fall 1974) and Barry White's ("You See the Trouble With Me" from Spring 1976)." "Born May 1, 1954, in Detroit, Michigan, Parker started out as a teenage session guitarist playing on dates recorded for Holland-Dozier-Holland's Hot Wax and Invictus Records (whose roster included): Freda Payne Honey Cone Chairman of the Board 100 Proof Aged in Soul Laura Lee 8th Day Ray also played behind the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, the Spinners, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and other Motown acts when they appeared at the Twenty Grand Club." "In 1972, Wonder called Parker to ask him to play behind him on a tour that he was doing with the Rolling Stones. Parker thought it was a crank call and hung up the phone. Wonder called back and convinced Parker that he was the real deal by singing "Superstition" to him." See what he's up to now at the Ray Parker Jr. official website. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Rediscovering Lionel Richie

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/01/2006

    Two years ago, reviewing Lionel Richie's 2004 CD "Just for You," (link to be updated) I wrote that his collection of new songs did "not quite capture the style of his older hits, or the R&B sound of today." I was not alone. If you search through the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) gold and platinum records database, among the 27 citations for Lionel Richie, "Just for You" is missing in action. Gold and platinum releases represent success. Gold releases have sold 500,000 units, and platinum hits have topped 1 million units. "Just for You" sold only 204,000 copies in the USA. Compared to his string of 15 consecutive top 10 R&B hits between 1981 - 1992, (five peaked at #1), the material on "Just for You" was disappointing. Let's remember, here was a guy who is the consummate successful songwriter. An entertainer who: performed "All Night Long" during the XXIII Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, with 200 dancers, and a worldwide television audience of over 2 billion people. Won 5 Grammy Awards. Won an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for "Say You, Say Me." Given my thoughts about "Just for You," I was pleasantly surprised while auditioning his brand new 2006 release, "I Call It Love," a song that will be included in his new CD, "Coming Home," scheduled for a September 12 release. Opening and closing with what sounds like either a mandolin, or a solo harp and acoustic guitar combination, the melodic song drifts effortlessly into a contemporary mid-tempo beat, accented by background harmonies, reminiscent of Usher's style. "I Call It Love" is well constructed, with a nice tight hook..."they call it - we call it - you call it - I call it love." Joining the hook to reset the song back to its main rhythm is a distinctive bridge (that all good pop songs contain). Listen closely, and you'll hear some understated synthesizer, a tip of the hat to Lionel's sound with The Commodores. His voice sounds clear and distinctive on this new song. He's feeling the song, and enjoying it. Lionel Richie fans, "I Call It Love" is not "Truly" or "Oh No," its closer to The Commodores "Sweet Love" (in tempo), with a more consistent pulsating beat. The young dynamic duo of Stargate and Taj have written and produced this gem for Lionel. Check out "I Call It Love," new to our playlist this week on Powerhouse Radio, The #1 Total R&B Experience. Richie's "Coming Home" CD includes other collaborations with a new generation of hitmakers, including Jermaine Dupri, Raphael Saadiq, Dallas Austin, Sean Garrett, Chuckii Booker, and others. Give "I Call It Love" a listen. I think you'll like it. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Patti Labelle: Miami Vice Siren

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/27/2006

    On Friday, July 28th, Miami Vice drops into movie theaters across the USA. Based on the legendary television series, detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs rise again, like the phoenix, in this 2006 update. Jamie Foxx stretches out in the role of Tubbs, originally played by Phillip Michael Thomas. Colin Farrell jumps into the Crockett role, made famous by Don Johnson. Although Patti Labelle, Nina Simone, and India Arie add some pizzazz to the new soundtrack, overall the complete collection as a body of work fails to live up to the 1985 Miami Vice CD. The original 1985 release featured Chaka Khan, Phil Collins, Melle Mel, Tina Turner, Glenn Frey, and Jan Hammer. Musically, these artists were a snapshot of the best of the 80's. As I listened to the 2006 soundtrack, I was struck by how uneven it is. Moby and Patti Labelle collaborate for a pleasing song, "One of These Mornings." "Sinnerman" by the late Nina Simone is remixed by 'Felix Da Housecat' for a robotic techno ride. India Arie offers a charming and melodic ballad, "Ready For Love." The rest of the tracks lack the star power commanded by today's most successful music artists, who are conspicuous by their absence. Additional songs run the gamut from salsa to modern rock, and include other non-descript offerings...guaranteed not to distract while munching popcorn to the pyrotechnic beat of the cop cavalcade on the silver screen. I suppose this soundtrack will play well in trendy South Beach, the section of Miami known for it's expensive restaurants, nightclubs, and upscale fashion. We'll know soon enough if the music in the 2006 Miami Vice soundtrack is trendy, or has staying power, like it's 1985 soul mate. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks Live Aid

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/13/2006

    On July 13, 1985, the American half of the concert to benefit African famine relief known as Live Aid took place at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, PA. Teddy Pendergrass performed for the first time since a paralyzing automobile accident curtailed his career in 1982. Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, B.B. King, Patti Labelle, and The Four Tops also performed from the classic soul, blues, and pop world. The memorable Live Aid moment for me on that hot afternoon in the JFK Stadium stands was the performance by ex-Temptations David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, along with Philly guys Daryl Hall & John Oates. Motown was the focus of their set, featuring soulful guitar edged versions of several Temptations hits. The foursome also recorded an excellent live album at the world famous Apollo Theater in New York City. Unique artist collaborations are sometimes hit or miss. Ruffin, Kendricks, Hall, and Oates were right in the pocket. These two Motown greats, no longer with us, through Live Aid on a hot Summer day in July put the cause of world hunger in front of millions, and yes, presented their musical legacy to a brand new generation of fans. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Gwen McCrae's New Look at TK Hits

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/29/2006

    This review is from Frost Illustrated - Fort Wayne, Indiana, "Gwen McCrae's New Look at TK Hits..." "There's an old saying cautioning that you can't capture lightning in a bottle. But, sometimes-especially when you're a premier talent-you can come awfully close. That's the impetus behind legendary TK Records founder Henry Stone's latest project, "Gwen McCrae Sings TK" by Gwen McCrae (HSM 6001-2/Phat Sound Promotions). If you were alive and kicking during the '70s, TK has got to be implanted on your soul somewhere. With Stone at the helm, the company produced an astonishing 32 gold and platinum hits-particularly in the disco genre leaning toward the soul side. Stone assembled an impressive stable of energetic artists, who later became industry icons, including Latimore, KC & the Sunshine Band, George McCrae, Bobby Caldwell, David Hudson and Timmy Thomas to name a few. Writers such as Clarence Reid and musicians guitarist Little Beaver and bassist George "Chocolate" Perry helped to create the sound that brought joy to America and the world during a time when Vietnam was still on the minds of the nation. Among that musical royalty was a queen-singer Gwen McCrae, who arguably had-and still has-one of the most soulful and alluring voices in the business. McCrae scored big in 1975 with the Grammy-nominated "Rockin' Chair," further solidifying TK's reputation as a formidable force on the scene. Stone and McCrae have chosen 14 of the label's best blasts from the past to breathe new life into. Plus, there's a funky new Reid composition performed by McCrae and special guest, Harry Wayne Casey-better known as KC of KC & the Sunshine Band. There's no need to say much else about this record other than it's great. After all, it's great material in the hands of a great singer. What else could you ask for? Well, maybe a little more needs to be said, because McCrae and company don't just repeat the past. There are some nice new nuances here, such as Latimore's duet with her on his classic TK hit "Let's Straighten It Out." To spice up McCrae's new version of her hit "Rockin' Chair," Timmy Thomas shows up to let you know he's still got it on the deepest groove ever heard and all too relevant today too -"Why Can't We Live Together." David Hudson joins McCrae to revisit his tour de force "Honey, Honey" while KC shows up again to remind us to "Keep It Comin' Love." There are plenty of others here you'll remember including "Misty Blue," a song that would be a dangerous attempt for an ordinary singer after Dorothy Moore nailed it so tight back in the day. McCrae is no ordinary singer and does her own brand of justice. She also accomplishes on "What You Won't Do For Love," a tune that has been mercilessly butchered by a host of lightweight Bobby Caldwell wannabes. McCrae has got the voice, the chops and the heart to make you believe it was hers from the beginning. She's marvelously smooth on ex-beau George McCrae's seminal "Rock Your Baby." Oh yeah, the fellas, including Little Beaver and Chocolate Perry ain't too bad reproducing some the classic licks of the time on tunes like the instrumental-hook-laden "Clean Up Woman," and other tunes. Maybe you can't capture lightning in a bottle, but "Gwen McCrae Sings TK" comes pretty close 30 years after the first strike, and that's pretty good shooting." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Ann Peebles - Brand New Classics

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/22/2006

    One of my favorite ladies from the "school of Southern soul," Ann Peebles, is about to release her first album in over a decade. In a biography about the St. Louis, Missouri native, Christine Ohlman and Ron Wynn write that Ann Peebles "was the queen of Willie Mitchell's Memphis based Hi Records roster during the 1970's, when Al Green was its undisputed king." Her masterpiece, "I Can't Stand the Rain," has been covered by everyone from Tina Turner on one end of the spectrum to a version by Larry Graham's Graham Central Station on the other end. Peebles original of "Rain" was one of the favorite songs of the late Beatle John Lennon. Track Records, based in the UK, is releasing Ann's "Brand New Classics" on June 12, 2006. In summarizing Peebles brilliant career, Track Records says "She co-wrote a generous share of her own material with husband Don Bryant, and while she cut plenty of love and heartbreak tunes, her persona was built on the grit and resilient strength she displayed on songs like "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down" (a number one single for Paul Young in the UK)." "Her best recordings hold up among the greatest of their era. Her songs have been covered by Humble Pie, Bette Midler, Booker T & M.G.'s, and Missy Elliot." Here's an advance review of "Brand New Classics," written by Ed Bumgardner, that appeared in Winston-Salem, North Carolina's Relish publication... "In recent years, a handful of savvy producers have taken it upon themselves to rediscover and record many of the forgotten soul and R&B singers, most of whom, despite getting on in years, remain in fine (and refined) voice. The latest such project is Brand New Classics, a new album by Ann Peebles, one of the finest of the Memphis soul singers of the 1970s (her distinctive phrasing was an influence on Al Green). This disc will thrill older soul-music fans even as it effectively introduces Peebles to a new generation. Live re-toolings of many of her greatest songs ("I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," "I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home") - and a soaring adaptation of Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is" - are smartly navigated by a full band in semi-acoustic arrangements. The dynamic inflections and emotional power of Peebles' delivery remain captivating, so much so that five bonus studio tracks merely cap an organic, contemporary-sounding album that goes for the heart and ends up a classic soul celebration." ---------- Ann is an artist who never "crossed-over" to mainstream success, but she is highly respected by her music peers. She is a "must play" artist when presenting a serious collection of classic R&B and classic Soul tunes. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Bobby Bland - Blues Master

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/23/2006

    Imagine sitting in a large club, with just a handful of music fans, soaking up a soulful performance by a legendary blues master. I don't recall the reason why, but on this particular weeknight, only about 30 people came out to hear Bobby Bland. It was the last set of two shows for the evening. The stage was the Club Harlem in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The decade: mid 1970's. I learned that night how a professional singer delivers a performance that rises to fan expectations, regardless of whether 30, or 3,000, or 3 million people are watching. Bobby "Blue" Bland hails from Rosemont, Tennessee. He did his first recording in Memphis, Tennessee in 1951. During the early years, he worked with B.B. King, Junior Parker, and Johnny Ace. Bobby earned the nickname "blue" from his energy and enthusiasm. The Bobby Bland style is a fusion of gospel, R&B, and blues. This mix has worked well for him through the decades. One of his biggest classic R&B hits is "Turn on Your Love Light," a number two soul hit in 1961 - a song that's been covered by everyone from Solomon Burke to Tom Jones. With an incredible string of successes through 1985, Bland had 63 different songs make the R&B charts. Early in his career, he and his band did over 300 live shows a year. Bobby's most recent release was in 2003. He's recorded lots of music in every decade since the 1950's. In 2004's Elwood's Blues, Interviews with the Blues Legends and Stars, (by Dan Aykroyd and Ben Manilla), Bland is asked how he keeps finding fresh material... "You have a lot of help in that area, because people get kind of attached to you as you grow. They know the type of material that you've been good at, that you've been fortunate to sell, and they know the type of story that you'd like to tell." Bland explains that the signature growl in his voice happened after his tonsils were removed. He went from a high falsetto to a low baritone. The growl was refined with the help of a sermon by Rev. C. L. Franklin, "The Eagle Stirred His Nest." Bland continues... "I listened to this particular part over and over and I said, "It looks like I could use this for something." So I started to practice the different squalls that he was doing - I stole the squall thing from him." "C. L. Franklin was one of my favorite preachers. I always liked his daughter too - my favorite singer, Aretha." In the interview, Elwood Blues asks Bobby Bland if the thread of sadness that most blues songs are based on makes young people less interested in the blues. Bland says that "blues is a downer to younger black people, mainly because our history carries a lot of guilt and disappointment." "Blues basically was done by being sad, being out in the country and not allowed to do certain things. So young black people, some of them don't want to look back on that era." "They want to look ahead the way Dr. King has brought them up to now. There's no looking back, we got to go forward. But the blues will always be here." Bobby Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, along with Sam & Dave, Booker T. & The M.G.'s, Elmore James, and Jimi Hendrix. Anything but bland, Bobby is a "Blue" giant among legendary company. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Baby Makin' Isley Brothers

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

    "Baby Makin' Music," scheduled for release today, marks the 36th album, (not counting compilations), featuring the remarkable sound of the Isley Brothers. 1959's "Shout" was their first collection. Ronald and Ernie carry the torch forward with this fourth Isley Brothers CD of the new millennium. "Blast Off," featuring guest R. Kelly, is the first single from "Baby Makin' Music." "Blast Off" is one of the better slow tracks, and there are a lot of them. Out of 11 tracks, "Pretty Woman" can be called uptempo, three songs can be tagged as medium tempo - and the rest are smooth waves pushing the mellow "quiet storm" Baby Makin' ship. You're My Star Blast Off (featuring R. Kelly) Just Came Here To Chill Gotta Be With You Pretty Woman Forever Mackin Show Me Give It To You Beautiful Heaven Hooked Us Up You Helped Me Write This Song Ronald "Mr. Biggs" Isley can still croon with the best of them. His falsetto still has enough silk to compensate for some loss of shine in his velvet voice. "Gotta Be With You," serving up Ernie Isleys' understated signature guitar, brings to mind the rhythm of 2001's "Contagious." Seal has written a couple of songs, rounding out the softer sound of "Baby Makin' Music." For longevity alone, the Isley Brothers deserve praise. Decade after decade, they've stayed current with the trends, without abandoning their unique style or voice. ---------- Here's an Isley Brothers mini concert review I wrote back in 2004: The Isley Brothers, lead by Ronald and Ernie, on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, Philadelphia PA, performed in front of just slightly under 1 million people on July 4, 2004. So what's a 2004 Isley Brothers Concert like? Here's their musical set, in order of performance: Between the Sheets Footsteps in the Dark Who's That Lady It's Your Thing Twist and Shout This Old Heart of Mine For The Love of You Busted Voyage to Atlantis Summer Breeze Keep it on the Down Low Contagious Shout 45 minutes of hits. Compared to an Isley Brothers/Graham Central Station concert I saw back in the day, this show was better, because Ron Isley, like a fine wine, only gets better with age. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 'Peace Out' from War on Cinco De Mayo Day

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/05/2006

    I've spent two memorable Cinco De Mayo days having a funky good time. One in San Antonio, Texas, the other in Seattle, Washington. Great music was at the centerpiece of both lively celebrations. According to Mexonline.com, an online guide to Mexico, The holiday of Cinco De Mayo, May 5th, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. It's primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla, and throughout the state of Puebla. The holiday is recognized in other parts of Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities (with significant Mexican populations). Cinco De Mayo day is not, as many people think, Mexico's Independence Day, (which is September 16). Cinco De Mayo day offers us the opportunity to think about groups and individuals who have effectively blended elements of Latin, soul, rock, and R&B. Santana, Malo, Joe Cuba, Tito Puente, Coke Escovedo, and Shelia E., (Coke's daughter), all have had success expressing their music through strong Latin roots. Perhaps the most successful R&B, soul, rock, and Latin fusion blend, with a touch of jazz, comes from the hit making ensemble: War. Bill Dahl, in a Billboard review, writes about the story of War: "Freewheeling War mixed rock, jazz, and soul influences into a spicy stew throughout the 1970's, resulting in a series of R&B and pop hits sporting funky melodies and politically aware messages. Born in Long Beach, California, in 1969, the large combo initially served as rocker Eric Burdon's group, backing the ex-Animal on his 1970 million-seller "Spill the Wine." The band signed with United Artists in 1971 and enjoyed its first smash the next year with "Slippin' into Darkness." Tapping into a sizzling, horn-fueled rock/soul synthesis, "The World Is a Ghetto," "The Cisco Kid," and "Why Can't We be Friends?" all went gold during the mid 1970's. Despite numerous personnel and label changes, War remained popular throughout the 1980's. In the early 1990's, War experienced a revival, partially due to the fact that all of their albums were reissued. The group was also acknowledged as a primary influence on contemporary R&B and hip hop. War released a new album in 1994 to capitalize on their new found popularity." ---------- War is still touring and performing. Here's their intense 2006 schedule: Friday, May 5, 2006 Victorville, CA San Bernardino Co. Fair Saturday, May 6, 2006 Coarsegold, CA Half Dome Chukchansi Casino Saturday, May 13, 2006 Mountain View, CA Shoreline Amphitheatre Thursday, May 25, 2006 Solana Beach, CA Belly Up Tavern Saturday, May 27, 2006 Los Angeles, CA Greek Theatre Sunday, May 28, 2006 Avila Beach, CA Avila Beach Resort Saturday, June 3, 2006 El Paso, TX Custom Car & Chopper Festival Sunday, June 4, 2006 Beaumont, CA Cherry Festival Sunday, June 11, 2006 Santa Rosa, CA Sonoma Co. Fairgrounds Saturday, June 24, 2006 Sacramento, CA Meadowview Jazz & Cultural Festival Sunday, June 25, 2006 Philadelphia, PA West Oak Lane Festival Friday, July 28, 2006 Canal Fulton, OH Rock & Roll Resort Fest Friday, August 4, 2006 Columbus, OH Ohio State Fair Tuesday, August 8, 2006 Camden, NJ Wiggins Park Saturday, August 12, 2006 Camp Verde, AZ Cliff Castle Casino Saturday, August 26, 2006 Albany, OR Art & Air Festival Sunday, August 27, 2006 Palmer, AK Alaska State Fair Thursday, August 31, 2006 Sparks, NV John Ascuaga's Nugget Saturday, September 2, 2006 Long Beach, CA Blues Festival Sunday, September 3, 2006 Virginia Beach, VA American Music Fest Wednesday, September 20, 2006 Marysville, WA Tulalip Casino Saturday, October 21, 2006 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage Sunday, October 22, 2006 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage Thursday, November 2, 2006 Highland, CA San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino War's unique sound comes from a talented mix of musicians, including keyboard specialist Lonnie Jordan, and Danish-born harmonica player Lee Oskar. "The Cisco Kid" is the song that gained war a strong following in the Latino community. Previous Post | Next Post

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