• 0 Living in America - James Brown Style

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/04/2006

    James Brown's "Living in America," was his second biggest pop hit, peaking at number 4 in March, 1986 on Billboard. This classic R&B jam marked the 98th time The Godfather of Soul appeared on the pop charts. It's a baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet tribute to the USA's red, white, and blue. With topics ranging from super highways to all night diners, Soul Brother number one slam-dunks the tune and dishes out the funk. Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight wrote the anthem, which Brown performs in the movie Rocky IV, serving as background for boxer Apollo Creed, also known as actor Carl Weathers, to strut his stuff. "Living in America" won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance, male, in 1986. 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 Bush and B.B. Sing King's Blues

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/28/2006

    B.B. King, Patti Austin, and Irvin Mayfield performed at the White House Monday, June 26, as President Bush acknowledged the celebration of "Black Music Month." Back in 2001, George W. Bush proclaimed June as Black Music Month. In the first year, Regina Belle and Take 6 performed in the East Room of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, while Lionel Hampton was honored for a lifetime of achievement. While it's nice that the President is giving some exposure to "the great contributions that black music has made to our nation," this choice of artists is too safe, and too conservative. These artists represent a 25 to 50 year gap between the popular reality of black music today, and nostalgia. Don't get me wrong, I'm the biggest B.B. King and Patti Austin fan, but there's a lot more happening in the 2006 iteration of black music than just jazz, and the blues. Irvin Mayfield is only 28. He's Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, but he represents a genre of music that has been honored repeatedly at the White House. In fairness, this year's Black Music Month celebrates indigenous sounds of the USA's Gulf Coast, specifically soul, blues, and jazz. Patti Austin has sung at the White House for every President since Ronald Reagan, so she doesn't need the exposure (or the work there). Maybe next year, when Black Music Month is celebrated at the Bush White House for the next to last time, we'll have much more flava in the mix. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Kool & the Gang Spirit Rests

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/28/2006

    The Kool & the Gang message board is alive with messages of condolence over the recent loss of guitarist and co-founder Claydes Smith. Claydes was an integral part of Kool's funky rhythm section. Discover more at the Kool & the Gang website. Don't miss the "history" link either. You'll find an excellent timeline documenting the band through the decades. I've been a fan of the group since day one, and still have all of their vinyl albums from the "pre-CD era," including their first, 1969's "Kool & the Gang," recorded when they were still teenagers (weren't we all back then). Kool & the Gang are in my personal top 10 list of the best R&B groups of all time. I've seen them live twice, and have never been disappointed. Although I lean towards their pre-1979 "Ladies Night" releases, their entire body of work, (including 2004's compelling "The Hits: Reloaded" CD), reflects classic soul, funk, and pop music at it's best. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The Truth about Whitney Houston

    For years, Whitney Houston has been hammered mercilessly in the tabloid press. 2006 is worse than ever, as questionable stories pile up from dubious sources. You may have read the most recent allegations about Whitney's health. Here is the word from Whitney, direct from her official website, posted on May 12, 2006? "False Reports Regarding Whitney's Health" "Please note that reports on Whitney's health circulating in the media at present are not true and totally unfounded." I'm amazed at how fast people will "drop a dime" on the press for a few quick bucks, to sell their "insider stories" to the media. Celebrities put their faith and trust in colleagues, friends, and family members to do the right thing. Unfortunately, loyalty goes out the window when close associates sell their "insider secrets" for a big payday. As a classic soul and pop diva, Whitney Houston is without question, a huge success. She's sold over 120 million albums, and 50 million singles worldwide. The wild side of her lifestyle has been well documented, so the media is not totally to blame when they exploit her legacy. You may have purchased a tabloid just to read a cover story about Whitney. Were you manipulated? Being Bobby Brown, the recent reality television show about her husband and family, got big ratings because of Whitney's presence in the program. The TV show just added to the media frenzy surrounding a well known couple, struggling to remain in the spotlight, and attempting to climb back into the celebrity "A" list. Whitney Houston is a unique talent, who may have foolishly lost her focus, due to demons that she can't control. I'm not going to cast the first stone, but she hasn't received fair press, even if all of the so called allegations are true. 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 Marvin Gaye, Grapevine, & Friends

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

    In my article Motown Philly back again - a Soulful Tale of Two Cities, I talk about "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," a song that's had a life of it's own. Grapevine would become Marvin Gaye's biggest pop hit, a number one song on both the R&B and pop charts for seven weeks in 1968. This song entered the hot 100 at number 34 on November 23, and hit number one just three weeks later. Gladys Knight's version peaked at number two in December 1967. Motown took a chance by releasing Marvin's version less than a year later. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were the first Motown group to record "I Heard it Through the Grapevine. The Isley Brothers put their special touch on the song after Smokey. These two classic soul versions of Grapevine are extremely rare. More "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" tidbits: The song has been on the Billboard Hot 100 list six different times King Curtis' instrumental version peaked at number 83 (1968) Creedence Clearwater Revival's interpretation went to number 43 (1976) Roger (Zapp) Troutman's version hit number 79 (1981) Buddy Miles' version (The California Raisins) topped out at 84 (1988) The Temptations, Undisputed Truth, Ike and Tina Turner, Elton John, and many others have sung songwriter Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong's salute to underground communication. We all know the lyrics, but what was Marvin Gaye really feeling when he belted out the tune? Here's a tongue-n-cheek interpretation of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," by satirist John Moe, who tells us what Marvin was really thinking... ---------- "Marvin Gaye explains what he heard through the grapevine" "Baby," "By now you've returned home to discover all my clothing, housewares, and other worldly possessions gone forever. And also me. But you've found this note and are reading it. You are probably surprised to find me not here (or "there" in my case, because at the moment I am not where you and the note both are). You are surprised, I bet, because you didn't think I knew about your plans to break up with me. How, you're thinking, did Marvin learn of my plans to make him blue? I'll tell you how: I talked to the grapes. This surprises you, I know, that I have such a power. And believe me, it surprised me when I first discovered it. It all started about six months ago when I bought a sack of grapes from an old man on La Cienega. I think he might have been an Indian shaman or a Spanish guy or what have you. But he said that these were magical grapes and worth a hundred dollars and I figured why would someone lie about something like that to me when I'm Marvin Gaye? So I paid him, took the grapes home, put them on the table (in that Navajo bowl from your mother) (still there) and stayed up for 36 hours waiting. And just when I was about to give up, the grapes started talking. Telling me about where they grew, how they were picked and sold and then resold a few times. It wasn't very interesting, really, because they were only two weeks old so what did they know? But still, hell, talking grapes. In the brief time I spent with them, they taught me the language of grapes, how to listen and how to talk it. A few days later I heard their tiny gasping yelps as they died of natural causes and began to rot. It was remarkable. I buried them in the front yard. You weren't there, baby. You were probably, even then, spending time with the guy you knew before. After that, every stroll through a supermarket produce section was like a damn Christmas party, thousands of little conversations everywhere. Stupid stuff, gossip mostly and primitive grape songs, but still remarkable. I would buy a few bunches and take them home, trying to entertain them as best I could with some songs and jokes until, within a few days, they all died. Before long, I had become a legendary figure in grape folklore, a demigod who could provide enlightenment in the too-brief life of a grape. Well, when you're a demigod like me you grow kind of distant from mere mortals like you. That's why I never told you about this ability and instead grabbed the fruit bowl and ran to the basement whenever you came home. Still, I thought we had a stable relationship that could withstand a few ups and downs. The grapes, on the other hand, had their doubts, constantly telling me they thought you were up to something. "No! We love each other and everything's OK!" I shouted. "Quit trying to drive us apart, grapes!" Finally, I gave them a chance to prove their assertions. I left for a day and instructed one of the grapevines (a particularly observant bunch) to report back to me. It took me by surprise, I must say, when I found out yesterday what was really happening. You plotting to let me go and take up with that other guy you knew before, never realizing that the fruit bowl was filled with dozens of spies. You even ate Diane R. Weinstein, Jamal Jackson, Evelyn Matthews, and Dave Griffin (all grapes). You could have told me yourself that you found someone else. But instead I had to hear it from my friends. Now I know you're supposed to believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. But why would the grapes lie to me? What would be in it for them? Turns out they're the only friends I got. So this is goodbye. I hope you and the guy you knew before (sorry, I can never remember his name) are happy together. I will dedicate my life to the grapes now and to promoting better understanding between our two species. I'm just about to lose my mind." Marvin ---------- In the archive of Misheard Lyrics at amiright.com, most people seem to miss the words to versions by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and this Marvin Gaye misinterpretation... Misheard Lyrics: "People say be planned for what you hear Some and nun of what you hear." Original Lyrics: "People say believe half of what you see Son, and none of what you hear." And that's the final word for now on "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 More Good Times from Chic

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/21/2006

    Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers is keeping the legacy of his group alive. Despite the loss of bassist Bernard Edwards to pneumonia in Tokyo, Japan in 1996, Rodgers continues today as "Chic & Nile Rodgers." Best known as a founding member of the group, He co-wrote "Le Freak" and "Good Times," and has successfully produced hits for Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Duran Duran, Madonna, and David Bowie. Chic & Nile Rodgers will appear at the 40th Annual Montreux Jazz Festival, along with Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, George Duke, and the Atlantic Soul All Stars featuring Les McCann and Cornell Dupree: June 30, 2006: Montreux, Switzerland, Montreux Jazz Festival July 3, 2006 Brussels, Belgium, Place de Brouckere August 19, 2006: Los Angeles, CA, USA Greek Theatre In addition to touring, Nile is staying very busy with different projects. He tells Computer Music Magazine in the June 2006 issue that he's heavily involved in producing music for many new video game soundtracks. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Beyonce? Punk'd by PETA

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/20/2006

    Guest who came to dinner with Beyonce'? PETA, - the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals group. PETA recently placed an anonymous winning bid in an eBay auction for the chance to dine with Beyonce'. When Miss Knowles showed up for the dinner engagement, PETA confronted her about fur in her wardrobe and in her clothing line. Maybe PETA will be happy with this Destiny's Child shot (left to right) of Kelly Rowland, Beyonce', and Michelle Williams, as it features "faux-croc" leather (designed by B's mother, Tina Knowles). This is one of the silliest stories of the year. If PETA has issues with Beyonce', they should have gone through the proper channels with her management, rather than stealing a "fantasy" dinner away from one of Beyonce's fans. A couple of years ago when PETA took on fast food chicken giant KFC, PETA posted some troubling videos on their website taken by some of their undercover operatives at chicken processing plants. Stealth confrontation by Peta is nothing new. The animal rights group said it had previously attempted to reach Beyonce' through faxes, letters, and at rallies outside of her concerts. Clearly, PETA used shrewd theatrics to get some cheap publicity for their cause with this dinner stunt. You cross a fine line when you use manipulative tactics to take advantage of the goodwill of others. PETA's cause may be a noble one, but some of their sympathizers are turned off when the organization exploits others just for it's own gain. As of this writing, Beyonce' has had no comment on this incident. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 India.Arie, Janet Jackson, and Beyonce'

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/15/2006

    India.Arie, Janet Jackson, and Beyonce' all have new releases rolling out in the coming months. India's, "Testimony: Volume. 1, Life & Relationship," due June 27th, is her third studio album, and her first since 2002?s acclaimed "Voyage To India" (winner of two Grammy Awards). Miss Janet will be releasing "20 Years Old," September 26th. The title is a reference to the staying power of the youngest Jackson sibling. Her Control album was released in 1986. 2004's Damita Jo wasn't as well received as 2001's "All For You," so Janet Jackson will have to set the bar high for "20 Years Old." It's Beyonce' who's on the hot streak. Her "B'Day" CD is scheduled for release on September 5th, to coincide with her 25th birthday. The tease promotion for "B'Day" on Beyonce's website is a little over the top, with a bee repeatedly flying around the computer screen across her larger than life logo (to the beat of Beyonce's music). These three highly anticipated releases will certainly be in the race for 2007 Grammy Awards. Previous Post | Next Post

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