• 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

  • 0 Time Plays it Cool for New Year's Eve

    That's Morris Day out in front on the cover of the Time's 1981 album, The Time. As was normal back in the day, record label Warner Brothers stamped a "loaned for promotion only" sticker on the upper right side of my deejay copy (of the vinyl disc). Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam, Monte Moir, Jellybean Johnson, Jesse Johnson, and Morris Day were the Minneapolis, Minnesota Time. They'll be represented during the 16 hour plus Powerhouse Radio New Year's Eve Special beginning at 9 am Eastern. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Millie Jackson gets Naughty again

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 12/29/2009

    One of the best live Millie Jackson tracks you'll ever want to hear is her lustful version of "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want To Be Right)." Millie takes the Luther Ingram hit and jazzes it up with one of her classic soul old school razor tongued raps. If you've never heard it, listen Thursday morning December 31, (Eastern time) during the Powerhouse Radio New Year's Eve special (9 am - midnight +). Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 James Brown Christmas

    This December 25th marks the 3rd year since the passing of James Brown on Christmas Day, 2006. The Godfather of Soul believed in the spirit of the holiday. In 1966, he released the album: James Brown & His Fabulous Flames Sing Christmas Songs. Another Christmas collection, A Soulful Christmas, was distributed in 1968. 1994 saw the compilation James Brown Christmas. In 1999, another much weaker collection was released: The Merry Christmas Album. Without compromise, James Brown stuck to his own style on holiday tunes. Here is one interesting exception. Listen to 50 seconds of "The Christmas Song" from James Brown Christmas. You'll have a chuckle at the string arrangements which are out of character for Soul Brother #1. Your browser does not support the audio element. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Kool & the Gang Celebrate to Cheering Cuban Fans in Havana

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 12/22/2009

    Kool & the Gang are in the middle of a 4 day tour of Havana, Cuba, treating Cubans to American classic soul at it's best. Their Saturday, December 19 - Tuesday, December 22, 2009 shows have been authorized by the US government according to Robert "Kool" Bell, despite general travel restrictions by Washington to the communist island. This is a rare appearance for an American group. The last one was by Los Angeles band Audioslave in 2005. The next stop on the current is a two-day gig at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida in early January, 2010. Since many Cuban-Americans in Miami do not like the Cuban government, it will be interesting to see if there is any negative reaction to Kool & the Gang's Florida appearances. Robert "Kool" Bell says of Kool & the Gang's Cuban trip: "our message is love, understanding and unity. We don't come as politicians, we come as musicians." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Earth, Wind & Fire Cleveland Christmas Karaoke

    "Get Your Hump on this Christmas," a new 2009 'Stoolbend Virginia' holiday hit, features Fox TV cartoon character Cleveland Brown. Cleveland sings the track along with the dynamic instrumental and harmonic backing of Earth, Wind & Fire. "Get Your Hump on this Christmas" is funky, proving once again that if you can dance to it, good taste gets kicked right out of the lyric window. Who listens to the words anymore anyway? You can add this song to other infamous novelty holiday fare. At least Earth, Wind & Fire can proudly boast that they share the billing on this fun Christmas song (but will they want to)? Here are some group members, along with Cleveland. The mp3 single is available at iTunes. Powerhouse Radio's holiday music special begins Thursday, December 17 and will continue through Saturday, December 26. Yes, we'll play this one too, along with many of your favorite holiday classics. Your browser does not support the audio element. Listen to 30 seconds of "Get Your Hump on this Christmas." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The Christmas Song Video Treat

    As mentioned a week ago when we featured just The Christmas Song audio, "The Christmas Song" by the legendary Flamingos featuring Terry Johnson is a delightful new treat. Read my 2006 interview on via the "Flamingos featuring Terry Johnson" link above. Enjoy 90 seconds plus of the promotional video below. Thank you Terry Johnson and company! In the video Terry is wearing the white shirt. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 5 Soulful Favorites Touch 2009

    Although the sun has set on the golden age of classic soul, the sprit of the music continues to live on with new tracks that embrace the tradition. Every year, there are always great examples of very good new music. In order, here are my 5 soulful 2009 favorites: Beyonce' - "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" - This could have been a Destiny's Child track. Simple rhythms, a fabulous hook, and a razor sharp contemporary message. It's brilliant pop music that grows on you. Michael Jackson - "This Is It" - Somewhat ignored by radio, this track is delightful, reminding us that we've lost an amazing prodigy. Mariah Carey - "I Want To Know What Love Is" - A talent takes a good song and makes it great. This Foreigner classic has been given a memorable dramatic reading as well as a breath of fresh air. Lionel Richie - "Just Go" - He didn't write most of the songs this time around on his latest album, however , Lionel Richie maintains his mass appeal star power with this strong performance. Whitney Houston - "I Look To You" - Last, but not least, two thumbs up for Whitney Houston, who has come back from despair to share her soul through this charming, but somewhat formulaic, new and appealing ballad. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The Flamingos Flock to the Christmas Song

    The Flamingos featuring Terry Johnson have just released a classy 2009 rendering of "The Christmas Song." You'll like this 'retro harmony' version from these doo wop legends who are in both the Vocal Group and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's been a long time since their iconic smash, "I Only Have Eyes for You," hit the charts in the late 1950s. "The Christmas Song" is Terry Johnson's first Flamingos release since 1962 and is The Flamingos' first-ever holiday recording. Your browser does not support the audio element. Listen to 30 seconds of "The Christmas Song," and visit Terry Johnson's website featuring: The Flamingos. Bonus: Don't miss my 2006 interview: "Baltimore Flamingo Terry Johnson Soars to the Sky." Previous Post | Next Post

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