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  • 0 Ode To Hip Hop 50 Albums That Define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 09/06/2023

    Ya gotta hear some hip-hop tunes before reading further about Kiana Fitzgerald's marvelous book Ode To Hip-Hop: 50 Albums that define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music. Here are two quick audio snapshots from songs you might know. "Empire State of Mind" from Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys (2009), and "I'll Be Missing You," a number one song in 1997 by Sean "Puff Daddy / P. Diddy" Combs and Faith Evans. Your browser does not support the audio element. 2023 was the year of 50 years of hip-hop tributes Many people jumped on the nostalgia tribute bandwagon this year commemorating a musical genre most thought would disappear faster than a disco cover song. By September, 2023 it became quite easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. The great projects stood out from the duds. I was extremely happy to add Kiana Fitzgerald's fresh hardcover book to my library. Ode To Hip-Hop: 50 Albums that define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music is an A+ project.  Kiana picks hip-hop artists and songs representing these decades: The 1970s The 1980s The 1990s The 2000s The 2010s The 2020s Wow! What an ambitious project. The meticulous nature of the research, storytelling, and wonderful prose is peppered in the pages with colorful illustrations by illustrator Yay Abe. The book that needed to be written My music anthropology captures real life experiences primarily with R&B, soul, rock, pop, disco, and jazz. Those are my strengths. Ode To Hip-Hop fills in lots of missing pieces absent from my own personal familiarity. Don't get me wrong. I have some of the records, and have seen live in concert Whodini, Beastie Boys, RUN-D.M.C., Salt-N-Pepa, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Busta Rymes, Ludacris, DMX, and many others. If your love affair with hip-hop has been platonic or hardcore, you will gain wisdom through the well vetted facts Kiana Fitzgerald presents in this book. Her music centric story begins in the early 1970s examining the explosion of a new underground trend flying under the radar in the Bronx, New York. The vision of Sugar Hill Records cofounder and CEO Sylvia Robinson is illuminated as a highlight of this decade. Kurtis Blow, RUN-D.M.C., Salt-N-Pepa, Eric B. & Rakim, N.W.A., plus other artists jump from the pages as you learn more about the 1980s. As we move on through the decades, virtually every year within the 50 year span receives a well written summary focusing on one or more artist. The introduction to Ode To Hip-Hop: 50 Albums that define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music should not be overlooked. Fitzgerald digs deep into her rationale for creating this outstanding, well written, carefully researched and colorfully crafted resource. The book has both visual and cerebral appeal. In her conclusion on page 178, Kiana says "from selecting albums to research to writing, working on this book has been the adventure of a lifetime." She continues "there has never been a culture-shifting, trendsetting invention such as hip-hop." I agree. Hip-hop is truly an American art form that has planted roots, blossomed rhymes, and bloomed beats as a bright rose of popular modern music, performing its lingo in different languages all over the world. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 When do you and ChatGPT cross the Milli Vanilli Line?

    • Commentary
    • by Mark Schaefer - guest author
    • 08/15/2023

    I recently engaged in an energized LinkedIn discussion with Frank Prendergast and Jason Ranalli. We were trying to discern the "Milli Vanilli Line" when it comes to personal disclosure and AI. Never heard of it? It's probably going to impact you soon, so let's dive into it ... How much authenticity can we lose? The debate began with Frank's comment on my recent blog post (Where humans thrive in the hierarchy of AI content): "If I read a blog post from someone on the assumption it's written by them, and I find out it was actually AI, I'll feel cheated," Frank said, "like I've been a victim of the old bait-and-switch. "But where's my line? Is 20% AI OK? 40%? 60? I have no idea. And how would it even be measured? "Will that question be a thing of the past when AI is ubiquitous?" How much authenticity are we willing to lose? ChatGPT makes everyone a competent writer, just like the calculator made everyone competent at math in the 1980s. We don’t feel compelled to declare to the world that we use a calculator to do our taxes or run a business. When does AI simply become … life? The Milli Vanilli Line Now let's get to the Milli Vanilli part. In 1989, Milli Vanilli rose from obscurity to superstardom almost overnight. Their debut album sold over 8 million copies and spawned three Number One singles. All of that was swept into the dustbin of pop history by disgrace. By the time Milli Vanilli accepted their Grammy award for Best New Artist in 1990, many in the music business had suspected something was wrong with this duo. It was soon revealed the two singers -- Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan -- never sang on any of their recordings and lip-synced live performances. The ruse torpedoed the act – radio stations stopped playing their songs, fans destroyed their records, and the Grammys rescinded their award for the only time in history. Milli Vanilli became cultural shorthand for hubris and deceit. Jason Ranalli provided his observation: "Anyone remember Milli Vanilli back in the 80s? BIG scandal because we all felt cheated that they didn't actually sing the songs themselves -- they had zero part in the production other than lip-syncing and dancing. "How did the world react? We rejected them entirely and stripped them of their Grammy. "What are we doing now with AI content? Well, the line is somewhere between singing yourself and a TON of auto-tune/effects. "Perhaps AI ends up drawing the same muddy lines of authenticity." The fellas in Milli Vanilli were clear-cut cheats. An absolute. But how do we interpret "cheating" in a world where everyone can get an AI-assist on their writing, their voice, their music, and even a LinkedIn headshot? Let's look at a couple of scenarios. Crossing the Milli Vanilli Line Weeks after ChatGPT entered the scene, a friend asked me to help promote his new book, which I discovered was entirely written by ChatGPT. Literally, he had just cut and pasted responses to prompts into a manuscript. There was no human commentary, editing, or insight whatsoever. Although he was transparent about the AI assist, he put his name on the book as the author. I told him I would not promote the book and observed that this was the very worst use of ChatGPT imaginable. In essence, he was lip-synching his book. He crossed the Milli Vanilli Line. Example two: I have a friend who, by her own admission, is a terrible writer. Once she discovered ChatGPT, she told me that she could put her ideas into this machine and create serviceable content for the first time in her life. "I can blog every day," she exclaimed, "I could even write a book!" This is the beauty of AI -- unleashing a new creative power in a person with a creative deficit. She's not lip-synching. She's the author of her work with a little auto-tune to keep her on key! In between these two extremes, we face nuanced ethical decisions about ownership, authorship, and authenticity. We face these decisions now Today, or in the near future, every one of us will have an opportunity to cross the Milli Vanilli Line. What percent of AI work can we still claim as ours, as "authentic?" I haven't used AI in any of my writing. My blog posts are my stories and observations and insights about our marketing world. It's faster and easier just to be "me" than try to prompt a bot into it! Could AI have written this post? No, at least not as effortlessly as me pecking on a keyboard for an hour. I am uniquely connecting dots, creating something unique, insightful, and connected to my own life experience. But what about my next book? Could I edge towards the Milli Vanilli Line? My last book, Belonging to the Brand was finished about a month before ChatGPT was unleashed. One of my first AI experiments was to ask ChatGPT to write an essay based on an idea from the book, in the voice of Mark Schaefer, with academic references. It did it. It did it well ... and in five seconds. It would have taken me a day to write that essay. So in the future, I'd feel stupid not to use AI to some degree and save days, or even weeks, of my life! But another choice might be ... to be stupid and keep doing it the hard way. Or, maybe it's the right way -- to just always be me. Perhaps my reward is in the toil that comes with authenticity. I never want to explain to somebody how close I am to the Milli Vanilli Line.     Kingsley's thoughts (Kingsley H. Smith): Mark Schaefer is a speaker, author and marketing expert. His Milli Vanilli analogy is spot on! This picture was posted on my personal Facebook page in 2019 with me and the four Schaefer books in my library that I've read. Mark's article, originally written on August 8, 2023 is reproduced here with permission. From my perspective, I like his quote "I haven't used AI in any of my writing." My position is the same, as I haven't used AI in ANY of my writing either. I do have audio software that generates scores of AI voices from a text script that I have to write. I've used it less than an handful of times to add a few spoken words to a couple of my YouTube video voice tracks that I or a paid voice actor reads. I also own a license to use AI software that creates real-life-like-looking humans who appear on screen and speak in videos, but I haven't used it yet. My first book, Powerhouse Radio: Rough Roads, Radiance and Rebirth will begin shipping in January, 2024. You can trust that I wrote it myself, word by word! If you've never heard Milli Vanilli, here's a quick sample of "Baby Don't Forget my Number," from my personal song collection. Milli Vanilli is Turkish for 'positive energy.' Fabricators Rob Pilatus (from Germany) on the left, and Fabrice Morvan (from France) had 4 R&B hits in 1989. The real singers in the recording studio were Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howe, according to Joel Whitburn in his 2006 book The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits. Your browser does not support the audio element. Milli Vanilli's 1989 hits ranked in order of popularity according to Joel Whitburn: "Girl You Know It's True" "Baby Don't Forget my Number" "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" "Blame It On the Rain" Read more of my thoughts about AI on my software blog... Will AI Create Your Next App?  Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Writing Powerhouse Radio Step By Step To The Finish Line With Bonus Interview

    In January, 2023 I offered an update about writing my radio memoir: Powerhouse Radio. This book project was completed June 27! On March 4, I displayed the book cover, (not the version below), on one of my social media channels. Once the cover was out there, the incentive to finish writing went into overdrive! Sixteen thousand words were written in the first two years of the project (2021 - 2022) while I was still working full-time in my app business. That business is still rolling along. Since January of this year, I wrote another twenty thousand words in 5 months. The final unofficial word count is 36,741, or approximately 172 paperback pages. Many people I talked to said that 150 pages was the perfect length that they wanted to read. Using the iOS Books app for the e-book, there are 231 pages on an iPhone, and 118 pages on an iPad. The Kindle Previewer software app doesn't give a declarative real world page number total I would want to quote. You can't use the regular Kindle app that is on Android phones and Fire Tablets to test e-book design formatting. Once the audiobook is finished, I'll let you know how many hours it is. I've been promised a mid-August 2023 completion date. Frankly, while writing Powerhouse Radio: Rough Roads, Radiance, and Rebirth; My True AM - FM - Satellite - and Audio Streaming Survival Story, I focused on writing for the page. Nothing is the matter with that, except presenting the same story in an e-book or audiobook requires some changes! With your e-book, these elements may flow differently on screen: Text Wrapping Fonts Drop Caps (fancy styles for first letters of a paragraph) Justification Image Captions Individual devices, (your e-reader), will dictate how each of these elements are handled. Note that print book back covers are not included in e-books. For your audiobook, I had to lightly re-write certain references of the paperback text. "You'll read in the next chapter" changed in the audiobook to "you'll learn in the next chapter." There are other similar examples. My grammar, spelling, and syntax is pretty good so I didn't use a line-by-line professional editor to review the manuscript. However, it was money well spent to use a professional copy editor to go through the manuscript and catch a relatively small number of errors. The copy editor also encouraged me to further explain a few sections that could use more clarification. Lastly, I also used a professional proof reader to go through the book as the final step. In broadcasting jobs, I was used to the AP style, which is the Associated Press guide for grammar and citations. My proof reader was a Chicago Manual of Style expert. Really good. This person was more valuable in suggesting grammar changes than the copy editor! Publishers dictate what style you need to use when writing a hardcover or paperback book. My hardcover Chicago Manual of Style Seventeenth Edition is a massive brick weighing 4 pounds with 1,152 pages. It's very difficult to find what you are looking for in this reference! I would not write a book without using a professional copy editor AND a professional proof reader. You want to select someone who does this work full-time. My publisher selected both for me. KingsleyHSmith.com has more info about the book including some of the retailers you can preorder it from: Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Books-A-Million, Walmart, and BookBaby. Note that the eBook and paperback are available right now from BookBaby. Official launch dates are January 3, 2024 for the eBook, and January 10 for the paperback. You can preorder Powerhouse Radio right now. Follow the links above. Audiobook availability date is to be determined. It might come sooner than the e-book and paperback. I could have gone with an almost human sounding AI 'robot voice' to read the audiobook, but I feel this would have been a cheap mistake and a disaster. An audiobook that is about general broadcasting  - performing arts - and is additionally slotted as a 'Black and African American memoir' needs to be read by an authentic human being. You'll love the guy I selected to read the audiobook. I could have read it myself, but I wanted to give a younger 'voice actor' a chance to shine the way I was given opportunities when launching my career many years ago.  A special bonus for you! Here's my very first interview recorded on the enclosed front porch of radio station WWRL AM in Queens, New York City with DJ Gary Byrd when I was a student at NYU. I've freshened it up with some new millennium visual appeal. Discover how this New York Radio legend writes his prose. You'll learn his secret. I also re-recorded my questions in a studio for better audio quality. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Melba Moore: She Hangs On, Tougher Than Nails

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/28/2023

    There's a long history of Melba Moore appearing with the song writing and performing duo Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Melba has released "It Seems To Hang On," a single off of her 2022 album "Imagine" recorded on her daughter's record label. Watch the video. Close to the top, Melba thanks you, and Ashford and Simpson for opening doors for her when all of them first started in the music industry. Melba's take on "It Seems To Hang On" is quite different from the dance driven Ashford and Simpson original. This new version, propelled by a strong bass line and accompanying synthesizers, is slower than the original and puts the focus on Melba's unique, charming, evocative voice. It's a modern arrangement and approach to the song. Here are Melba Moore's top 5 R&B hits in order: "This Is It" (Buddah Records) "Lean On Me" (Buddah) "You Stepped Into My Life" (Epic) "Take My Love" (EMI America) "Love's Comin’ At Ya" (EMI America) One of my personal favorites, not in the top 5, was her 1986 hit song "Falling." She was born in Harlem, New York. Melba Moore appeared in the Broadway and movie productions of Hair and in the musical Purlie. You may have caught her in the movies Def By Temptation and The Fighting Temptations. For more about Melba Moore and Ashford and Simpson: Ashford & Simpson Bring Classic Soul Back To The Apollo Hair Raising Melba Moore is Still Here Ashford & Simpson Send It Ashford and Simpson High Rise Ashford and Simpson Cook Up Haute Hit Cuisine Over a decade ago, Nicholas Ashford passed away (2011). I enjoyed a great dinner with live entertainment (not by Nick and Val) at their Manhattan, New York City restaurant Sugar Bar on 72nd Street. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Tina Turner and Her Black Sister Diamond Queens

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/31/2023

    Very well written, investigative narratives pop out from the detailed pages of "Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll." Published in 2020, author Maureen Mahon does an exceptional job chronicling a history of Black women's influence on the rock genre. During the COVID pandemic, I attended a live Zoom presentation where Mahon talked about her book. I recently finished reading Black Diamond Queens. My favorite two chapters are "Tina Turner’s Turn To Rock" and "The Revolutionary Sisterhood of Labelle." First, watch my video tribute to Tina Turner (1939 – 2023) honoring her legacy:  I reference in the video a quote by Maureen Mahon about how Tina Turner was able to make the transition from R&B / soul to rock. Maureen states that "The book's title lifts a lyric from "Steppin in Her I. Miller Shoes," a song Betty Davis wrote in honor of her friend Devon Wilson, a black rock and roll woman who was, she sings, "a black diamond queen, a woman who loved and lived rock and roll." Before getting into the substance of the book, I'm going to address the style of Mahon's writing. Black Diamond Queens is written by a woman who is a trained cultural anthropologist. Maureen also teaches in an "ethnomusicology program in a music department." Often there are very long sentences. The prose is scholarly, and sometimes pedantic. However, after the first 30 pages, the soul of the stories come to life written, with more informality to make the chapters very accessible and readable. Mahon presents short interview dialogue in the chapters with her and others questioning the artists. The author thanks Merry Clayton, Sarah Dash, Betty Davis, Gloria Jones, and Beverly Lee for speaking to her "about their experiences in rock and roll." I won't go through every chapter, but will highlight many of them for you. Use Black Diamond Queens as a reference, or as an exhaustive read, written with rigor. There was always recorded music playing on turntables in Maureen Mahon’s home during her younger years. She listened to rock radio as a teenager. At Northwestern University just outside of Chicago, she played jazz on the student radio station, WNUR-FM performing DJ duties. Mahon talks about how she and friends would take public transportation from Evanston to Chicago to see local concerts featuring nationally touring acts. Despite her eclectic tastes ranging from Joan Armatrading to the Clash to the English Beat, the author says that "in high school and college, I learned that my interest in what was understood as "white music" was not what people, Black or white, expected." The racial dynamic is thoroughly addressed throughout the book as a counterpoint to the predominant white, male image of rock and roll. You'll learn about the progression of 'race music' to 'pop music' to 'rock and roll' and then to 'rock.' The chronology of "Black Diamond Queens" begins with a nice chapter about Big Mama Thornton. Mahon says that Thornton is a "bridge figure between the blues women of the 1920s and the rhythm and blues women of the rock and roll era." There's an acknowledgment on a few pages in the book about Sister Rosetta Tharpe. I would also recommend Gayle E. Wald's book "Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe" to learn more. Tharpe was another rockin' Black female original during the same time period as Thornton. Mahon says that Big Mama Thornton's "arrangement of her 1953 hit single "Hound Dog" anticipates the sound of rock that departed from the horn-centered style of rhythm and blues…" Another Thornton song “Ball and Chain” is referenced. We learn that 10 covers of the Thornton "Hound Dog" (she had the original version) preceded the version by Elvis Presley in 1956. I did not know that 1953's "Bear Cat" by Memphis DJ Rufus Thomas was an answer to "Hound Dog" and the battling covers! The author reveals in a few Thornton quotes that Elvis never gave Thornton anything for "Hound Dog." Thornton also says that Elvis refused to play with her when he got famous. As the book moves along, Lavern Baker's story is detailed next. By the time we enter the 1960's, although I was only 8 years old, I do remember hearing Passaic, New Jersey's the Shirelles, and many of their hits on the radio. The Shirelles were the first all-female vocal group to have a number one pop hit in the rock and roll era. Crossover appeal elevated this group into the mainstream. I often wondered in the early 1970s why many of the rock and roll bands all toured with Black female background vocalists. There is a great picture of the English band Humble Pie in chapter four of the book: "Call and Response" with the Blackberries, an African American female vocal trio. The Blackberries sang with Humble Pie on tour and on record. "Call and Response" is a great chapter. Maureen Mahon has a thing about the Rolling Stones song "Brown Sugar." She goes into a lot of detail in chapter five: "Negotiating 'Brown Sugar.'" Earlier in the book she explains why she never liked the song. "Negotiating Brown Sugar" expands on the implied sexuality and social messages Maureen feels were telegraphed by this song. Chapter Six: "The Revolutionary Sisterhood of Labelle" is fascinating. We learn what Patti LaBelle really thought about the group's transformation from Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles to Labelle. There's much more in Black Diamond Queens including the important chapters on Betty Davis and Tina Turner. Clocking in at 282 pages, there's an additional 100 plus pages with end notes and an index. What I like most about the book is the meticulous research and the fact based detail reflected in all of the stories. If you want to discover more about African American Women and rock and roll, this is your definitive resource. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Harry Belafonte's Carnegie Hall Activism

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 04/27/2023

    Major League Baseball lovers may or may not know that it's Harry Belafonte's sonic shout-out that occasionally serenades home town stadium attendees. The audio blast is used to generate fan excitement for the home town team. Among my late mother's Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Dick Gregory, Aretha, and Sinatra records is this two-disc Harry Belafonte gem recorded at Carnegie Hall, New York City on April 19 and 20, 1959. RCA released the double album in 1959. Here's 14 seconds of Mr. Belafonte's "Day-O" anthem from the evening's performance.  Your browser does not support the audio element. That night Harry sang with a single guitar accompanied by bongos. He also festively crooned along with a 47-piece symphony orchestra. Always the activist and philanthropist, Harry Belafonte donated $58,000 from one night of this two-night gig to the Wiltwyck School. Wiltwyck School worked with boys experiencing emotional disabilities. Harry Belafonte, R.I.P. (1927 -2023). The decade you were born in usually defines your musical affinities. Sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties... if you were in high school in one of those decades, your favorite music probably comes from that era. As I write in my book Powerhouse Radio: Rough Roads, Radiance, and Rebirth "My love of radio's pulsating magnetic sound track in the 1960s was a strong attraction as I entered my preteen years. Sadly, middle-of-the-road crooners Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald were not my personal soundtrack. "These were the singers my mother listened to on the 'standards' music station WNEW AM in New York City. 'Standards' were calm, pre-rock-era vocals. My appreciation for the Cole–Fitzgerald song era would blossom later with maturity." So here's a well honored toast to maturity, and a "Day-O" salute to Harry Belafonte, the activist, philanthropist, actor, and music man who left his lyrical mark on popular culture. Watch and listen to Harry in this 64 second video talking about his 2011 book Harry Belafonte My Song: A Memoir? I posted the video in 2011 as part of my review of his book for my Black History website. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Rufus Thomas and WattsStax

    • Concerts
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 03/29/2023

    Folks were flocking into the record store. I was excited to see scores of music lovers throwing down their dollar bills. Forty-five-RPM-fans were even rewarded (by getting some change back) for grabbing vinyl singles. One particular song you are about to discover was very popular! I was eighteen years old working part-time at Triboro Records in Jamaica, Queens, New York City. Singer - songwriter Rufus Thomas was in the spotlight. Thomas had a two-year run with a lot of hits during my tenure selling musical delights at the store. Thomas was no stranger to the record game. His first charted R&B hit was "Bear Cat" in 1953. Ten years later he dropped "The Dog" and "Walking The Dog" into the marketplace. After another seven year lull, Rufus, the father of singers Carla and Vaneese Thomas was back with a vengeance. With the exception of "Bear Cat," all of the Rufus Thomas hits were recorded by Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. Thomas had a solid history in the town. He was a WDIA AM Memphis radio DJ from 1953 - 1974. For a deeper Stax background, see these two updates: Stax 50 Delivers Classic Soul Grand Slam Hits and The 20 Best Stax Records Songs  Stax should get as much reverence as Motown or Philadelphia International Records receives. Often, because of the bluesy core of their music, Stax doesn't. Then again, number one Stax pop crossover hits weren’t poppin' as much as their Philly and their Detroit brethren. The very popular Rufus Thomas song I alluded too is “(Do The) Push And Pull Part 1.” It spent fifteen weeks on the R&B charts and was a number one song for two weeks in December, 1970. Songs with suggestive titles always do well. The double entendre goes into overdrive. "My Ding-a-Ling,” Chuck Berry’s number one pop hit cover," and “Milkshake” by Kelis, a number four R&B hit are two additional examples. When a song connected with an audience, I could tell. Streams of fans would come to the record store and pay money to pick up and take home discs. While I worked at Triboro Records, "(Do The) Push And Pull Part 1" was a big Rufus Thomas favorite. "Woman To Woman" by Shirley Brown, a number one R&B song in 1974 was another chart topper that I distinctly remember generating an avalanche of sales at the record store. The back cover of my Mom's Rufus Thomas "Walking The Dog" album from 1963. Back to Stax. 2023 is the 50th Anniversary of the WattStax music festival held at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1972. The plan is to re-release recordings and some video of the L-A event. Here's a terrific look back at WattStax on its 50th Anniversary by NPR. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Whitney Houston: I Go To The Rock Gospel

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 03/24/2023

    I wasn't expecting much, but boy I certainly was not disappointed. Posthumous song collections dropped into the marketplace after a superstar passes away always create a nagging suspicion about performance quality. Is it sustained? Is the material as good as the other old chestnuts by the artist in their prime? A pop music albatross weighs down Whitney Houston's musical glow for this project. That might leave gospel purists to seek out a higher calling from a more glorious angel to sing this music. If you are not necessarily a gospel music fan, the attraction of Whitney's name might draw you to these songs. Just released for 2023, here is "I Go To The Rock: The Gospel Music of Whitney Houston." It is delightful, but not perfect. Many gospel styles echo from the fourteen tracks. I rate 11 of the 14 tracks at "B" or above, an eighty percent positive rating. By far the best track is the first, the contemporary "I Go To The Rock." The Georgia Mass Choir soars through a magnificent crescendo with Whitney before the pair takes off in an up-tempo call and response exchange. "I Go To The Rock." Definitely an 'A.' Note that I have a CD. You may want to download the MP3 tracks and listen in any order.   "I Go to the Rock" (with The Georgia Mass Choir) "Jesus Loves Me" "He Can Use Me" (Previously Unreleased) "Joy to the World" (with The Georgia Mass Choir) "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (Live VH1 Honors) (Previously Unreleased) "Testimony" (Previously Unreleased) "I Look To You" "His Eye is on the Sparrow" "Hold On, Help is On The Way" (with the Georgia Mass Choir) "This Day" (Live VH1 Honors) (Previously Unreleased) "I Found a Wonderful Way" (Previously Unreleased) "Joy" (with The Georgia Mass Choir) "I Love the Lord" (with The Georgia Mass Choir) "He / I Believe" (Live at Yokohama Arena, Japan) (Previously Unreleased)   Six of the tracks are previously unreleased. You might be motivated to grab the songs just to hear for yourself how they sound. "He Can Use Me," one of the previously unreleased songs, is a torch light 'holy ghost' ballad exploding with emotion. At three minutes, thirty seconds into the song, 'Whitney goes off' for the last minute belting out a lot of vamping. Her testimony detracts from the composure of the song. Houston offers "Joy To The World," with the Georgia Mass Choir, previously released on Whitney's "One Wish, The Holiday Album." I've always felt that her version is good, but overproduced and not at the 'A+' level of either the gritty Aretha Franklin version, or Mariah Carey's bouncy fun romp through the classic. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with CeCe Winans gets an 'A-.' The previously unreleased song was recorded live on the VH1 Honors show in 1995. Looking for the best R&B / soul version of the iconic Paul Simon penned hit? Look for the version by Aretha Franklin. An 'A' track is "His Eye is on The Sparrow." This traditional-public domain song captures the delicate nuances of Whitney's voice. She's accompanied by just a piano and organ. A choir does punctuate her vocal acuity within the last minute of the song. On the older CD format, I would have stacked the songs in a different order. One track that was correctly placed last is "He / I Believe," recorded live at Yokohama Arena in Japan. This sounds too "Bodyguard." The arrangement includes a glowing saxophone staccato statement. She starts the song by proclaiming, "This starts our gospel segment. Do you like gospel music?" She receives just a soft murmur from the crowd. Perhaps it was her English, a possible barrier to some of the Japanese speakers in the audience. You will find some surprises among these songs. "I Love The Lord," with the Georgia Mass Choir is a 'B+.' Whitney tackles the slower ballad with gusto. This song gets a '+' for the long 'in the clear' string arrangement closing the track. Overall, I would recommend "I Go To The Rock: The Gospel Music of Whitney Houston." Yes, she can sing gospel music. Her pop style does infiltrate many of the songs, but she has the pipes, finesse and vocal range to be taken seriously singing this music. Whitney Houston is not Shirley Caesar, or Mahalia Jackson, so a pure hardcore gospel style is not what I expected when I learned about the "I Go To The Rock" project. I never thought of "I Look To You" as a gospel song. To me, it was Whitney Houston pop. Clearly there is some genre bending going on across these songs. Many of her fans will appreciate hearing the artist packaged within the context of gospel. I did, perhaps you will too. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Powerhouse Radio Book

    How do you write a book in reverse order? Follow along as I sketch out what's been happening for this memoir of mine since early 2021. The first thing I did was to recreate the Powerhouse Radio website that was using older technology. Read why we were forced to shutdown the website in 2016 and take it out of service  when Live365 stopped their streaming service. After five months of work in 2021 the website was ready to resurface in September, with several new features, including an aircheck section. Then the serious writing began in the fall. Here are the 15 chapters in the book: Preface College Radio Craft: WNYU and More Orange County Giant: WALL From Trailer to Motel: WUSS The Rhythm of South Jersey: WAYV On the Road Again: WKQV and WSSJ Drama in the Big City: WIFI Passion for the Public: WHYY Commercial Radio Fast Lane: WSNI, WZGO, WUSL Creating My Own Space: Powerhouse Radio Online Satellite Radio and NPR, Washington, DC NPR Berlin, Germany Battle of the Radio Conferences New Horizons and Radio Today The Power in the Powerhouse Dirty Deeds and Risky Business A Hard Habit to Break How Is Radio Doing? Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Bring On the Noise What It Takes to Move Ahead Recommended Reading and Acknowledgments Booked and Hooked on 5-Star Artists Notes Index   Yes, I worked for all of those radio stations and network. The book cover you see is for the audiobook and e-Book and shares the same style as the paperback cover. Digital versions will come first, the paperback last. My hope is that the digital versions will be available by late summer 2023. Early January, 2024 is the target date for the paperback book. Obviously, it's the same book regardless of the media framework, so the complete book must be finished first! I'm not really writing the book backwards, but I thought to tell the story efficiently, a solid digital foundation was needed first to represent various elements in the book. This website work helped craft an effective book outline. Note I did not want the website added as a last minute after thought. So how am I doing? Sixteen thousand words have been written to date. That's not a lot. Much work is ahead. My target word count is forty thousand words. About 80 percent of the book has been written at home, 20 percent in my local regional public library using a laptop and headphones (no music) to block out noisy people. Everyone has a favorite place to write. I know one author who wrote her book sitting on a park bench close to her home using a laptop. Follow the updates as I occasionally keep you posted on book writing progress heading toward the goal of completing the manuscript on time! August 22, 2023 Update KingsleyHSmith.com has more info about the book including some of the retailers you can preorder it from: Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Books-A-Million, Walmart, and BookBaby. Note that the eBook and paperback are available right now from BookBaby. Audiobook date to be announced. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 8 Christmas Rebound Memories

    We've shared so much about Christmas music and the artists. How about taking a look back at the abundance of yuletide riches. So far, there are thirty-five Christmas updates in the archive. Here are 8 that you can enjoy again. To see all 35, touch "Categories" next to the little house, then select "Christmas!" Christmas Classic Soul Crooners Merry Christmas II You is New from Mariah Carey James Brown Christmas The Flamingos Flock to the Christmas Song (plus interview) Candy Cane Christmas from Darius Rucker Howard Hewett Christmas Wynton Marsalis Christmas Jazz Jam a Gem Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas   Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas is my short review of this book. Previous Post | Next Post

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