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  • 0 Rick James Movie is Super Freaky Part Two

    Rick James is the subject of a new biography movie co-produced by his daughter Ty. See part one of our three part series, the "Rick James Movie is Super Freaky." We pick up where we left off in the saga of Rick James. It's 1979. Let's continue with the official Rick James story... ---------- "Bustin' Out Of L Seven was his next album and sent him out on his first US tour. Other artists that accompanied him on his "Fire It Up" tour were the Mary Jane Girls (a group that he created), and a young singer named Prince. It was a big break for Prince and the two artists continued to be compared for a long time (something that both got sick of rapidly). Partly due to Rick James' wildly extroverted style of performance, the tour was a great success and drew not only large enthusiastic audiences, but also wide media attention. Following Garden Of Love, an uncharacteristic ballad album, Rick James released his fifth album, Street Songs. Probably Rick James' definitive album, Street Songs achieved double-platinum status, stayed in the Top 100 Album chart for 54 weeks, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Rick James also received a Grammy nomination for the song "Super Freak." When asked about "Super Freak," Rick James explained, "'Super Freak' came about after Street Songs was complete. I was listening to the tracks, just riffing on my bass, when I hit on this punky-funky sounding line. Reminded me of how punkers look funny when they try to dance. I heard it as a goof and never dreamed it'd take off. The lyrics were silly. The line about 'she's the kind of girl you don't take home to mother' was jive. I could take any girl home to mother. Anyway, the song came together, I had the Temps singing behind me, and next thing I know it's a smash." Although Rick James released seven more albums (six of which were released by Motown) and had several more hits on the charts, none have equaled the popularity that Street Songs received. In 1983 "Cold Blooded" hit #1 on the US R&B charts, and later that year Rick James collaborated with Smokey Robinson on a song: "Ebony Eyes." The Rick James' legacy doesn't only live on through his songs. He created and nurtured young artists and bands including the Mary Jane Girls, Teena Marie, and Eddie Murphy. Rick James broke many cultural taboos by flaunting his extravagant lifestyle. As an icon of drug use and eroticism, Rick James went further than anyone had gone before. But before long, his lifestyle started to catch up with him. "During the Throwin' Down tour I went to see Dizzy Gillespie at the Blue Note in New York. Man, I loved Dizzy. He was a guru, a beautiful man filled with the spirit of compassion, the father I never had. Diz was never judgmental. He used to say I was too serious and warned me not to look at life so black and white. He saw I was wild. 'Rick,' he said, 'you remind me of Bird. Boy, you better slow down.' But even Dizzy, for all his wisdom, couldn't change my reckless ways." James's flamboyant lifestyle took its toll on his health and he was hospitalized several times between 1979 and 1984. He had major hits in 1984 and 1985 with the more relaxed '17' and 'The Glow'. The latter also provided the title for a highly acclaimed album, which reflected James's decision to abandon drugs. He cancelled plans to star in an autobiographical film called The Spice Of Life in the wake of the overwhelming commercial impact of Prince's Purple Rain. After releasing The Flag in 1986, James ran into serious conflict with Motown. James left the label, signing to Reprise Records, where he immediately achieved a soul number 1 with 'Loosey's Rap', a collaboration with Roxanne Shante. Now "clean and loving it," James returned to the music scene with Urban Rapsody, his first new album since 1988's Wonderful. "I thought about doing an acoustic album, to pour out my heart, to get all self-indulgent," he says. "But that would have been too soul-searching. It might have been a downer." After bedding by his count "thousands" of women, James, 50, settled down with dancer Tanya Hijazi, 27 (whom he married in December 1997 after an 11-year relationship), and their 5-year-old son, Tazman. "I'm too old to do crazy things anymore," says James. "Before, I'd just smoke dope and have sex. I never knew if it was day or night. Now I go to bed at 11 and get up at 7. I don't have aluminum foil on my windows anymore." ---------- To be continued in the final segment, Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part three, coming next time. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Rick James Movie is Super Freaky Part One

    Is "party all the time" the main theme of a new biographical movie about the late funk master Rick James? Rick's daughter Ty is the co-producer of the project. Hollywood insiders are buzzing that the Rick James story reveals all about wild all-night parties with Linda Blair, Elisabeth Shue, Tatum O'Neal, and Eddie Murphy. We lost Rick James in August, 2004 when he passed away of natural causes. The biopic won't hit the silver screen for some time, so let's revisit "punk funk," and look at the official Rick James story... ---------- "Rick James entered the world as James Ambrose Johnson Jr. on February 1, 1948 in Buffalo, N.Y., the third oldest child in a family of eight. "It was my mother who raised us," he said. "She was a small elegant woman of great dignity and strength. She always had two jobs. Sometimes she worked as a maid, but her main income came from running numbers for the Italian mob. She raised us as strict Catholics." An early 80s icon rebelling against the establishment, Rick James started early by joining the navy at age fifteen and going AWOL soon after. He fled to Canada, and it was there, in Toronto, that he founded his first group, the Mynah Birds with future Buffalo Springfield members Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, and Goldie McJohn (who later joined Steppenwolf). It was at this point that he became known as Rick James. As the nephew of the Temptations' Melvin Franklin, Rick James was no stranger to Motown, and he and his band were signed to the label in the mid-sixties. Although the group recorded a couple of tracks, nothing was ever released. Probably because Rick James (who had now relocated to Detroit) was in trouble with the military, and because the rest of the band moved to Los Angeles. Not easily deterred, Rick went to London where he formed the blues band "The Main Line." He commuted between London and North America (where he was a staff songwriter for Motown in the late sixties) for the next seven years. In 1977 he finally returned to the US completely, forming a band (the Stone City Band) with which he experimented at mixing rock and funk - creating "funk 'n' roll." "I'm into rock," Rick James said. "I'm trying to change the root of funk, trying to make it more progressive, more melodic, and more lyrically structured...? ?More honest, as opposed to putting riffs together, saying, 'Get up and get down. I feel alright. Oomph! Good God! Get up and boogie' and all that redundant bull." When he approached Berry Gordy in 1978, he had an entire record in hand. Impressed by his tapes, Berry Gordy once again signed Rick James to Motown - this time to the Gordy subsidiary. The album was released later that year as Come Get It and two of its songs immediately hit the charts. "You and I" went gold in September and "Mary Jane," a barely-disguised hymn to marijuana hit US R&B #3 in October." ---------- To be continued in Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part two, coming next time. 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 Bobby Brown's Peppy Prerogative

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/12/2006

    According to the Associated Press, Bobby Brown's recent Essence Music Festival reunion with New Edition in Houston, Texas was an eye opener. It's hard out there being Bobby Brown. Singing solo since leaving New Edition in the 1980's, Mr. Brown has made more news off the musical stage than on it. The 2006 Essence Music Festival New Edition set also featured original members Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, plus Johnny Gill, (who replaced Brown). Not content to stick with slick New Edition choreography, Brown moved around the stage throwing down some wild and raunchy dance moves. By the time Bobby moved into his own solo set, "Don't Be Cruel" morphed into some provocative chatter about his sex life with wife Whitney Houston. Many folks in the Essence Music Festival crowd were getting restless as Brown finished up with "My Prerogative," pretty much screaming for Bobby Brown to get off the stage. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Brunswick Records Releases Classic Soul Legends

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/11/2006

    On Tuesday, July 11, 2006, Brunswick Records is scheduled to release a remastered double CD collection of their 1966-1975 classic soul hits. "Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles" features Jackie Wilson, Tyrone Davis, Young-Holt Trio, Barbara Acklin, The Chi-Lites, The Lost Generation, Gene Chandler, The Artistics, and several other artists. I was excited to see that The Lost Generation's "Sly, Slick, & The Wicked," a song I recently listened to that I have on 45 rpm vinyl, is included on the 2nd CD. This track is an underground R&B classic. Many of the Chi-Lites big hits are featured, including "Are You My Woman," the song Beyonce' sampled and turned into the smash "Crazy in Love." You may also recognize other vintage Brunswick melodies here as a few more have been recently sampled by Joss Stone and Paul Wall. The strength of "Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966 - 1975" is the showcase of "The Chicago Sound," a classic soul R&B signature style from the windy city. Worth its weight in gold are several of the lesser-known tunes sure to thrill many collectors. Check out the complete track listings of "Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966 - 1975. Disc One: Disc Two: Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/06/2006

    Just released, Atlantic Unearthed presents rare and unreleased tracks from the label's biggest classic soul and classic R&B male stars from 1967 - 1973. Can't Stop A Man In Love - Wilson Pickett (previously unreleased) How Does It Feel - Bobby Womack You Left The Water Running - Sam & Dave Rome Wasn't Built In A Day - Arthur Conley (previously unreleased) Book Of Memories - Percy Wiggins That's How It Feels - The Soul Clan I Love You More Than Words Can Say - Otis Redding Baby, Baby, Baby - Percy Sledge (previously unreleased) Hold On - James Carr Pouring Water On A Drowning Man - Otis Clay Lovebones - Mighty Sam Love Of My Woman, The - Darrell Banks Coldest Days Of My Life - Walter Jackson Whiter Shade Of Pale - R.B. Greaves Change With The Seasons - Carl Hall What A Woman Really Means - Donny Hathaway (previously unreleased) Compared to Atlantic's Unearthed Soul Sisters, Unearthed: Soul Brothers contains even more rare tracks. R.B Greaves, Percy Wiggins, and Darrell Banks gain deserved exposure next to well known legends Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, and Donny Hathaway. There are two ways of looking at "previously unreleased" tracks. Were they lost in the music vaults, or did they not make the cut when originally recorded? As a historic reflection of the classic soul era almost forty years later, I suspect Unearthed: Soul Brothers is a little bit of both. However, these artists were so good at their craft, that these adventurous tracks hold their own in 2006 with the best of the genre. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Sisters

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 07/05/2006

    Just released, Atlantic Unearthed presents rare and unreleased tracks from the label's biggest classic soul and classic R&B lady stars from 1964 - 1972. Exceptional tracks from some women who are not household names are included as a big bonus. Soul Sisters offers these wonderful gems: My Way - Aretha Franklin It's Growing - Margie Joseph 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 Count The Days - Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles Please Little Angel - Doris Troy Hands Off My Baby - Mary Wells My Best Friend's Man - Dee Dee Sharp Rescue Me - Dee Dee Warwick What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted - Baby Washington Full Time Woman - Irma Thomas I Got To Love Somebody's Baby - Judy Clay Cheater Man - Esther Phillips What A Man - Laura Lee Ain't Nothing Gonna Change Me - The Sweet Inspirations It Ain't Who You Know - Jackie Moore I Ain't That Easy To Lose - Bettye Swann Thankful For What I Got - Barbara Lewis Dee Dee Warwick, Dionne's younger sister, never received big time promotion from any of her record labels. It's great to see her cover of the Fontella Bass hit included in this great collection. Another interesting track is the Temptations "It's Growing," stylized here by Margie Joseph. Aretha's version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" showcases the song in a completely different light. Atlantic did their homework when they put these songs together. Unearthed Soul Sisters is highly recommended. Released on Rhino Records. Previous Post | Next Post  

  • 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

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