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  • 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

  • 4 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

  • 0 Al Green's Red White & Blue Fourth

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/14/2006

    Al Green headlines a free Independence Day evening bash in downtown Newport News, Virginia at Superblock and Victory Landing Park on Tuesday, July 4. Reverend Al has navigated between the worlds of classic soul and gospel music since delivering his string of consecutive number one hits in the early 1970's. In 1974, he was ordained minister at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Lucky for his R&B fans, Green has recently returned to performing his trademark soul hits. New albums from 2003 and 2005 feature the vintage Al Green sound. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 R&B, Blues, Gospel, and Jazz Stars added to the National Recording Registry

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/13/2006

    50 classic recordings have been selected by the Librarian of Congress to be added to the USA's National Recording Registry. The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and the world's largest library with more than 132 million items, including nearly 2.8 million sound recordings. Did you know that the Library's recorded sound section holds the largest number of radio broadcasts in the United States - more than 500,000. Recordings selected for the National Recording Registry are those that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States. Anyone can nominate a song using an online form provided by the Library. We'll give you the address for 2006 nominations after you check out the 2005 inductees. The full list of 50 performers from 2005 is quite impressive. Songs/albums are compiled in chronological order, so there's no meaning to the song number designation. Song number one is from 1903, song fifty is from 1988. Here are the folks from the world of R&B, blues, gospel, and jazz who now have their songs in the National Recording Registry. These are the official descriptions provided by the Library of Congress... 23. "Straighten up and Fly Right," Nat "King " Cole (1943) The King Cole Trio, featuring Nat "King" Cole on piano and vocals, is one of most respected small-group ensembles in jazz history. Cole's astonishing technical command of the piano, featuring a deceptively light touch, influenced many of the greatest piano virtuosos who followed him, including Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, and Bill Evans. His vocal solo on this recording introduced audiences to his beautifully smooth singing, immaculate diction and liquid style, launching his career as one of the most popular singers of the mid-20th century. 27. "Move on up a Little Higher," Mahalia Jackson (1948) ) This recording was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson's breakthrough disc, a best-seller that appealed equally to black and white audiences and reputedly became the best-selling gospel release to date. Jackson blends the vocal styles of blues singers, such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, with the heartfelt emotion and commitment common to traditional gospel singing. She helped to make gospel music popular with racially diverse audiences of all religions. 31. "Blueberry Hill," Fats Domino (1956) Domino's relaxed-tempo, R&B version of "Blueberry Hill" was inspired by Louis Armstrong's rendition of the 1940 composition. The singer's New Orleans roots are evident in the Creole inflected cadences that add richness and depth to the performance. Recorded in Los Angeles for Imperial records, Domino insisted on performing the song despite the reservations of the producer of the session. The wisdom of this choice is borne out by the enduring association of the song with Domino, despite a number other popular renditions. 39. "Dancing in the Street," Martha and the Vandellas (1964) This rousing dance hit has been cited as one of the first examples of what would come to be known as the Motown sound. Written by Marvin Gaye, William Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter, the song was turned down by another Motown act before Martha and the Vandellas performed it in the Motown studios. The group, which consisted of Martha Reeves, Rosalyn Ashford, and Annette Beard, had alternated between singing backup for other Motown acts and working on their own material, but, after the success of this song, their career as a backup group ended. The African American community would come to infuse the tune with political sentiments. 40. "Live at the Regal," B.B. King (1965) Bluesman B.B. King recorded this album at the Regal Theater in Chicago in 1964. The recording showcases King's inventive and emotional guitar style, which blends Delta blues with a rhythm and blues beat, spiking the combination with his "sliding note" style. The album, one of the first of an in-concert blues performance, documents King's intimate relationship with his audience. King, who has been called "The King of the Blues" and the "best blues artist of his generation," has been a primary influence on a number of artists, including Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield. 41. "Are You Experienced?" Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967) This 1967 release remains not only one of the quintessential statements of psychedelic rock but also has proved to be one of the most groundbreaking guitar albums of the rock era. Hendrix's playing, while strongly rooted in the blues, also incorporated a variety of jazz influences and a uniquely personal vocabulary of emotive guitar feedback and extended solos. Including such classics as "Purple Haze," "Hey Joe," and "The Wind Cries Mary," the album featured the able rhythm section of Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. It is difficult to overstate the enormous influence that Hendrix's recordings have had on subsequent guitarists. 44. "Oh Happy Day," Edwin Hawkins Singers (1969) Regarded as the springboard for the development of contemporary gospel music, "Oh Happy Day" was based on a 19th century white hymn. Its popular music and jazz-influenced harmonies, infectious rhythms and use of instruments not often found on earlier gospel recordings have made the recording enduringly popular and influential. Originally recorded on a long-playing album, "Let Us Go into the House of the Lord," as a fund-raising effort for the Northern California State Youth Choir by director Edwin Hawkins, its compelling, exhilarating sound found its way onto radio playlists in San Francisco. Re-recorded under the name "Edwin Hawkins Singers," the song became an international crossover hit. 46. "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," Gil Scott-Heron (1970) This poem, first released on Gil Scott-Heron's first album, "Small Talk at 125th and Lenox," served as a rallying cry to black America and proved a foreshadowing of the more politically active strains of rap music. Having published a novel before he switched to a career as a recording artist, Scott-Heron's street poetry proved uncompromising in its vision. Flutist Hubert Laws accompanied Scott-Heron's spoken and sung pieces. 49. "Songs in the Key of Life," Stevie Wonder (1976) In addition to Stevie Wonder's impeccable musicianship, this album features contributions from Nathan Watts (bass), Raymond Pounds (drums), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards), Ben Bridges and Mike Sembello (guitar) and a guest appearance by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. To produce the album, Wonder and the group worked in the studio relentlessly for two years, occasionally logging sessions of 48 hours straight. These efforts paid off with a number of excellent jazz, blues and gospel-influenced songs, including "I Wish" and "Pastime Paradise." The album also includes the Duke Ellington tribute "Sir Duke," in which Wonder acknowledges his debt to the African American musical tradition. ---------- If you'd like to view the National Recording Registry master list, or nominate a song for the 2006 National Recording Registry, the deadline is July 6, 2006. I'm nominating a song. If it's accepted, I'll let you know! Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading: June Jewels with Guitars

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/09/2006

    Cleveland, Ohio's Tracy Chapman was the most successful folk based artist to emerge in the 1980's (left photo). Do you remember this Tufts University graduate's biggest hit, "Fast Car"? She won three Grammy Awards in 1988, including Best New Artist. ---------- Joan Armatrading hails from St. Kitts in the West Indies (right photo). She eventually relocated to England, where she's found most of her success. Three of her albums in the 1980's made the top 10 in the UK. Her 1977 song, "Show Some Emotion," received considerable exposure in America, however Joan never had a single appear on the USA R&B charts. Tracy and Joan are still touring, making music, and strumming up a storm using their fabulous guitars. Previous Post | Next Post

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