• 0 Soulful Cover Girls Challenge Mr. Richie

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

    Here are three very anticipated major releases coming your way this month? Beyonce' "B Day" (Tuesday, September 5) Lionel Richie "Coming Home" (Tuesday, September 12) Janet Jackson "20 Years Old" (Tuesday, September 26) Look for all three artists to get their promotion machines in high gear. Lionel Richie's been getting strong television exposure. Beyonce' and Janet Jackson have been recent cover girls for Essence and Vibe magazines respectively. I'm guessing Beyonce's release will be the most popular of the three. Both Janet and Lionel need strong comebacks. Can they do it? Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Cheryl Lynn Star Love

    A burst of energy best describes the powerhouse punch of Cheryl Lynn's belting voice. I caught her hot show in Houston, Texas, when her hit "Shake it Up Tonight," produced and arranged by Ray Parker Jr., was moving up the charts. Cheryl was born in Los Angeles, California on March 11, 1957. Her official biography notes that she harmonized her way through tiny tots choir in church all the way to the adult chorus years later. She traveled the circuit with gospel great James Cleveland in those early years. When Cheryl was 21 years old, she appeared on Hollywood's "The Gong Show," (television's original American Idol), getting a perfect score singing Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful." She signed with Columbia Records, and collaborated with Toto's David Paich, who co-wrote, arranged, and produced her first big hit, "Got To Be Real." The two also teamed up for Toto's hit, "Georgy Porgy," featuring Cheryl as the female lead. Additional projects with Luther Vandross, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, produced the hits "If this World Were Mine," and "Encore." Notable Number One Cheryl Lynn R&B hits: Got to Be Real Encore A personal favorite of mine - seven minutes and 23 seconds of "Star Love," another song arranged and produced by David Paich. "Star Love" showcases the amazing vocal range and ability of Cheryl Lynn. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Earth, Wind & Fire Heat up Summer

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/30/2006

    Earth, Wind & Fire wrap up a full Summer of touring this Labor Day Weekend in Florida. Look for them in Tampa, and West Palm, weather permitting.   Here are group members Verdine White, Philip Bailey, and Ralph Johnson (left to right). Relive our highlights of the Earth, Wind & Fire, Rufus and Chaka Khan 30th anniversary concert, 5 years ago this weekend, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Five Fine Phyllis Hyman Favorites

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/29/2006

    Phyllis Hyman was a remarkable talent. I was lucky enough to be the master of ceremonies for a concert she performed in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at Convention Hall on the boardwalk in the early 1980's. This shot was taken of us after the concert. The very statuesque Phyllis, resting after a dynamite show, is sitting on a small chair. She seemed pretty happy during this period of her life, as she was starting to get more well deserved recognition. The following five songs give you a nice snapshot of Phyllis Hyman the singer: Old Friend Betcha By Golly Wow Somewhere in My Lifetime You Know how to Love Me Kiss You All Over "Old Friend" is a wonderfully sung romantic salute to a special person just returning from a long absence who is the focus of some glowing unconditional love. Phyllis communicates with soul wrenching emotion inside of Thom Bell and Linda Creed's "Betcha By Golly Wow," recorded with Norman Connors. You might argue that there's too much production behind ?Somewhere in My Lifetime,? an elaborately arranged pop excursion produced by Barry Manilow. It's still a marvelous song that holds up well today. Phyllis makes it work. ?You Know how to Love Me? is a danceable classic, shared by many as a Phyllis Hyman favorite. The Exile hit "Kiss You All Over" is much sexier the way Ms. Hyman takes on the tune. I have nothing but great memories of Phyllis Hyman the person. Her strength as a singer speaks for itself. Tragically, she took her own life in 1995. Though her soul is at rest and her spirit is silenced, we have her songs to treasure forever . Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The Fall and Rise of R&B Legend Ruth Brown

    written by Paul de Barros (Seattle Times jazz critic)... ---------- Few popular music stars survive more than one trend. Against relentless odds, and with more bad luck than any one person deserves, Ruth Brown has managed to do just that. Known as "the girl with the tear in her voice," Brown virtually defined female R&B singing in the '50s, with sexy, fun hits for Atlantic Records like "Teardrops From My Eyes," "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and "5-10-15 Hours." But after R&B was re-marketed to white teenagers as "rock 'n' roll," Brown couldn't raise a dime. For nearly two decades, she worked as a domestic and a school-bus driver. Then, in 1977, the comedian Redd Foxx offered her walk-on parts on his TV show, "Sanford and Son," and a new theatrical talent was born. In 1989, Brown won a Tony Award for her role in the Broadway show "Black and Blue." (She also won a Grammy that year for her album "Blues On Broadway.") Along the way, she starred in Allen Toussaint's Off-Broadway gem, "Staggerlee" and played the white-wigged Motormouth Maybelle in the John Waters' film "Hairspray." Reached by telephone earlier this week at her home in Las Vegas, Brown was reading the script for the new John Sayles movie, "The Honeydripper," in which she'll play the part of a blues singer named Bertha. "I'm excited," she said in a voice still rich and vibrant, though congested from a recent hospital stay for fluid in her lungs. "Bertha has been singing the blues many, many, many years and she knows the history. Unfortunately, my character dies in the end of the story, but it's all right - I've got five songs in there." Brown is also proud of her new Hummer commercial, featuring the Bobby Darin classic "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'. " Brown's career is unusual, in that she jumped the subtle but real class barrier between R&B and jazz. "There was a time they didn't want to say they knew Ruth Brown because she was an R&B singer," said the 78-year-old survivor. "They didn't respect you at all. Dinah [Washington] tried to insult me because of that." The great Billie Holiday, after hearing Brown imitate her at Cafe Society, "walked into the dressing room and read me out good," said Brown. "She said, 'You're pretty good, but there's only one Lady Day, and I'm it. If you want to steal my stuff, do it your own way.' " That's exactly what Brown's been doing all these years. The delicious, tongue-in-cheek twinkle of those '50s R&B songs matured into the sophisticated, theatrical sass of her "Black and Blue" showstopper, "If I Can't Sell It (I'm Going to Sit On It)." Brown has been beset by mishaps during her long career. Raised in Portsmouth, Virginia,(where a street and a new blues festival were named for her this year), Brown got into a severe car accident on the way to her first recording session in New York. After recovering from knee surgery, she had a stroke in 2000. Brown made a triumphant comeback in 2003, at Bumbershoot as well as an extended appearance at the Manhattan supper club Le Jazz Au Bar. Brown sings seated on her "throne" now, but there's no dearth of spirit coming from that voice. She does the old hits but also tunes from "Black and Blue" and from her excellent 1999 album, "A Good Day for the Blues" (Bullseye). "If I can't sell it, I'm going to sit down on it," she said, with a laugh. "Life turns around, and the truth comes down. It's amazing how many times I sang that song on Broadway. Now I have to sit down, anyway." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Timeless Love from Smokey Robinson

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/23/2006

    Motown legend Smokey Robinson croons into the pop standard world on his new CD, "Timeless Love." Queen Latifah, Ronald Isley, and Chaka Khan have also put together similar vintage song collections that spotlight the pre-R&B era. Smokey sticks closely to the formula and presents classic standards featuring great writers of unforgettable tunes. He takes on Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, and other famous composers in this soulful salute to "Timeless Love." The tracks include: You Go to My Head I'm in the Mood for Love/Moody's Mood for Love Our Love Is Here to Stay Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words) Night and Day I'm Glad There Is You More Than You Know Speak Low Time After Time I Can't Get You Anything But Love (Baby) I Love Your Face I've Got You Under My Skin Tea for Two Sarah Vaughan, King Pleasure, and Ella Fitzgerald may have made some these songs famous, but Smokey delivers the goods 'Crusin' the melodies in a style all his own. Robinson is one of the best song writers of his generation. "Timeless Love" is a classy salute to an earlier group of innovators who crafted words into amazing songs that just may last forever. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Music Critics Mild about OutKast Idlewild

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/22/2006

    Today is the scheduled release date for the much anticipated soundtrack "Idlewild," by OutKast. The movie of the same name, starring OutKast pair Big Boi and Andre Benjamin, opens this Friday, August 25th. As described by IMDb, Idlewild is "a musical set in the Prohibition-era American South, where a speakeasy performer and club manager Rooster (Big Boi) must contend with gangsters who have their eyes on the club..." "His piano player and partner Percival (Andre Benjamin) must choose between his love, Angel (Paula Patton) or his obligations to his father (Ben Vereen)." Ever since OutKast busted out with their huge cross-over hits "The Way You Move," and "Hey Ya!," the bar has been raised pretty high for their follow-up material. Soundtracks and movies can often be judged independently, especially when the music becomes a cultural phenomenon on its own, (think Saturday Night Fever, or even Purple Rain). On the other hand, soundtracks must work with the images on the screen, as music and other audio effects are always added after the filming is completed. In some ways, it's unfair to judge soundtracks and non-film related music CD's the same way, but everybody does. For Idlewild, the music critics are stirring up debate over how the release stands up independently of the film. Here are some comments... ---------- New Musical Express: "If the only charge you can level at 'Idlewild' is that it's a bit long and uneven and self-indulgent... well hello, this is their (OutKast) jazz album! That's what jazz is like!" "You still couldn't name another artist on the planet who could set themselves such a ridiculous challenge and pull it off with this much pizzazz." "In any other hands this would have been a total disaster, but yes, things are never quite that simple with these two. The other thing about OutKast is that even when they make no sense whatsoever, they're rarely anything less than brilliant."   All Music Guide: "Even its highlights fall short of OutKast's past and fail to transcend its assortment of inspirations. Little of it sticks." "The music of the '30s seeps through a handful of tracks, the best of which is led by Big Boi protege Janelle Monae, a young vocalist who stomps and sways through her time in the spotlight."   Entertainment Weekly: "OutKast's seventh album, Idlewild, doesn't do much to suggest the group has a bright future. Instead, it finds the duo still going their own ways as they face a dubious challenge: how to wedge rap vocals into Depression-era swing, blues, and vaudeville arrangements." "It all plays out in the soundtrack to a movie musical set in the mythical 1930s Georgia town of Idlewild." "If this is the multimedia spectacle the OutKast brain trust has selected to punctuate their transition from Dirty South musical pioneers into pop megadandies, it's a bust."   Rolling Stone: "Idlewild mixes up swing, blues, hip-hop and R&B without losing a step..."   Billboard: "Film-specific songs like "Make No Sense at All" and "Call the Law" fall flat out of context." ---------- These are five broad opinions about the music of Idlewild. We'll see how well both the soundtrack and the movie are accepted. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Moments of Harmony for Ray, Goodman, & Brown

    Ray, Goodman, & Brown, formerly known as The Moments, recorded many classic R&B hits. 1969's "Love on a Two Way Street" was a #1 chart topper. In 1981, Stacy Lattisaw served up the song with youthful emotion to brand new audiences. Other memorable Moments hits include: "Look at Me I'm In Love" "With You" "Happy Anniversary" "If I Didn't Care" "Not on the Outside but Inside Strong" "Girls" (with The Whatnauts) The Moments changed their name in 1978 to Ray, Goodman, & Brown. Their 1979 tribute honoring the divine "Special Lady" was a #1 R&B, and #5 pop hit. Billy Brown sang lead on "Love on a Two Way Street," "Sunday," "Lovely Way She Loves," "Lucky Me," "I Do," "Inside of You," and "All I Have." Before The Moments, Billy was with a group called the Broadways. Al Goodman started his career with the Corvettes and the Vipers. After joining the Moments, Al produced and wrote songs for the future Ray, Goodman, and Brown. He's done the same for other artists. "Look At Me I'm In Love," "Sexy Mama," "Inside Of You," and "Happy Anniversary," are a few of the songs Al Goodman wrote and produced. Harry Ray was with the group for 25 years, except for a brief period in 1982 when he pursued a solo career. Kevin Owens temporarily replaced Ray. Owens would permanently join "Ray, Goodman, & Brown" after Ray's untimely passing. Today, Al Goodman and Billy Brown own the name "Ray, Goodman, & Brown." They continue the tradition of charming crowds with sweet n' soulful vocal harmonies. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 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 Dramatic August Debut for Mary J. Blige

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 08/15/2006

    When she was 21 years old, Mary J. Blige was crowned the queen of hip hop R&B soul. On August 15, 1992, her first single, "You Remind Me," climbed to #1 R&B and #29 pop. Who says karaoke doesn't pay? Mary J. recorded Anita Baker's "Rapture" as a demo at a suburban New York City shopping mall on a karaoke machine. Like so many artists, a church choir was her calling while living in Savannah, Georgia. Between 1992 - 1997, three of Mary's five albums reached #1 R&B ("What's the 411," "My Life," "Share My World"). Her latest release is the well received "The Breakthrough." At peace with herself, there's no more drama for Mary J. Blige. Previous Post | Next Post

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