• 0 Billy Preston's Signature Song

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/08/2006

    With the passing of Billy Preston at age 59, today we look back on his impact on popular music. We detailed Billy Preston's health problems, and some highlights of his career, back in April, 2006. Musicians like Preston who lived in different musical cultures are unique. Billy Preston was playing keyboards with gospel giant Mahalia Jackson when he was ten years old. He was featured as young musician W.C. Handy in the Hollywood movie, St. Louis Blues, when he was only twelve years old. As the organist on the Beatles album, Let It Be, he picked up the nickname, "the fifth Beatle," a title that stuck, but one that does not accurately reflect his broad contribution to music. These are just three examples of Preston's amazing range: gospel, blues, and pop. His classic soul/pop hits are almost an after thought: "Will it Go Round in Circles," "Nothing from Nothing," "Outa-Space," and "You Are So Beautiful." Billy Preston toured with Little Richard, was a regular on the 60's TV show Shindig, jammed with King Curtis on the classic R&B live track "Memphis Soul Stew," and was the ultimate musician everyone wanted on their session. Always at the core of Billy's musical spirit was his gospel roots. That leads me to the song I think of as Billy Preston's signature: "That's the Way God Planned it." I recently played one of the live versions of this song on my Saturday 4pm Eastern 1pm Pacific radio program, (ironically, just a few days before Preston would lose his long battle with complications from kidney disease). "That's the Way God Planned it" really captures the strength of Billy Preston. It's a showcase for his church roots, his soul style, and his pop mastery. The song starts slowly, then builds in speed and rhythmic intensity, until it ends in a powerful vocal climax. He recorded several versions of this song. One of the best is the live version included in his "best of" millennium CD. This version moves the song closer to a soulful prayer meeting, probably what he originally intended when he wrote it. Billy Preston did it all, and that's the way God planned it. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 1 Toni Braxton Revealed in Vegas

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

    Toni Braxton is following in the footsteps of the legendary Gladys Knight, with an extended trailblazing engagement at the world famous Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, beginning August 3rd. From February 2002 until November 2005, Knight, headlined her own show there several nights a week. Gladys lives in Las Vegas. Toni Braxton will be booked in Vegas for several months, giving her fans plenty of opportunities to catch her act. Toni hit the music scene big time in 1992 when she was featured in the soundtrack from the movie Boomerang, starring Eddie Murphy, Robin Givens, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, and Grace Jones, among others. Her first CD was released in 1993 and it was an across the board chart topper. Braxton has two Grammy and two Soul Train Music Awards in her trophy case. It wasn't "Just Another Sad Love Song" for Toni either when she received an Echo Award in Hamburg Germany in 1998 for Best International Female Artist. Miss Toni got her first shot acting in feature films in 2001 along side of LL Cool J in Kingdom Come. She also appeared in Play'd, a VH1 vehicle in 2002. Good luck to Toni Braxton Revealed in Las Vegas. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Get Closer to Maxi Priest

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

    This article recently appeared in the Jamaica Observer. Various reporters contributed to the story. Reggae Sunsplash 2006 is coming to Jamaica in August. ---------- "Reggae crooner Maxi Priest says he eagerly awaits a return to the Reggae Sunsplash stage. According to the Grammy Award winning singer, the original reggae festival holds a special place in his heart. "It made me truly sad and disheartened that Reggae Sunsplash ever went away. It is a foundation type of thing," Priest told Splash as he relaxed at the Norman Manley International Airport before taking a flight to Miami earlier this week. Priest, who is known for his silky voice and soulful melodies is set to perform in Scotland and Manchester in England before embarking on a six-week United States tour with internationally acclaimed Reggae Band, UB40 and veteran entertainer, Toots, who are also featured on the festival. But his mind will not allow him to forget the first time he performed on a Reggae Sunsplash stage. "Oh my gosh, it was my first time performing in Jamaica. The reception I received was mind-blowing," said Priest, "I felt at the time that I had delivered something". According to Priest, this year he will be going all out to please the thousands who are expected to turn out at the large expanse of Richmond Estate where Reggae Sunsplash will be held this year." ---------- Richmond Estate is a sprawling 200 acre property on the edge of the Caribbean, with Jamaica?s Blue Mountains as its backdrop. The large area is located in Priory, in the garden parish of St. Ann, home of the world famous Dunn?s River Falls and the birth place of both Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley. ---------- Priest continues..."I intend to make this year a very special one for the fans at Reggae Sunsplash. This is a world-class festival which deserves a world-class performance from any artist who is billed to perform. I have a few aces up my sleeve," he said. Reggae Sunsplash will be held from August 3-6 and will feature over 100 acts performing for over 56 hours. At present the singer says he is putting the finishing touches on his latest album. Already, a single has been released and its causing a stir in entertainment circles. The song, entitled "Makes Me Wanna Hollah," is a soulful effort which should go a far way in signaling the return of the British-based singer to the top echelon in the competitive entertainment field. Maxi Priest is the eighth of nine children. When he was a child, his parents moved to England from Jamaica where his father was employed as a steelworker in a factory, while his mother was a missionary at a Pentecostal Church and lead singer for the church choir.His formative years in music were dominated by gospel, reggae, R&B and pop music. He worked as a carpenter building speaker boxes for sound-systems, while using his nights to sing at live dancehall sessions. In 1984 Maxi combined with Paul 'Barry Boom' Robinson to produce Philip Levi's "Mi God Mi King," the first UK reggae tune to reach number one status in Jamaica. Since then he has produced 10 solo albums. The first effort, Maxi, was recorded in Jamaica by Virgin Records who garnered the services of musicians Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, and Willie Londo. Maxi scored with singles like "Some Guys Have All the Luck," a cover of Cat Steven's classic Wild World and a duet with Beres Hammond, "How Can We Ease The Pain." The album propelled him into the international spotlight and in 1990 the album, Bonafide, sold gold, and the single "Close To You" hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and number two on the Hot R&B Singles chart. He also had collaborations with Roberta Flack, "Set The Night To Music," and with Shabba Ranks, "Housecall," the latter being part of the gravel-toned DJ's Grammy-winning album. But with all his achievements, Maxi Priest remains humble and is focused on the road ahead. "The hype has never gotten to my head. Right now, I am just focusing on doing what I do best," said Maxi Priest." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Prince Pops on the Web

    • Website
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 06/02/2006

    Way before iTunes and MySpace, one guy stood alone in understanding how music and the Internet could play perfectly together. Back in 1997, Prince was the first major artist to release an entire album exclusively on the web, "Crystal Ball." During the "Crystal Ball" era, I recall a BET interview with Prince, Chaka Khan, and Larry Graham, moderated by Tavis Smiley, where Prince talked enthusiastically about how artistic expression was enhanced by the independent distribution of music, (free from the shackles of record company control). Although he's now back with major label CD distribution, the Prince website (site was taken offline) offers seven full-length CD's of music available exclusively through his NPG Music club. For his visionary approach to online music distribution, Prince will receive a lifetime achievement honor in the celebrity/fan category at the Webby Awards in New York City on June 12th. Read our compilation of reviews of Prince's latest 3121 release, and have some fun by following the link to the Prince quiz. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 2 Question Time about Mystery Songs

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/31/2006

    We get more questions about your mystery songs than we have space to answer in our monthly Powerhouse Radio Newsletter (Oct. 2021 - links are being updated), so here's a bunch that have come in recently. From Carl: "Hello, I have been looking for a song by Michael Jackson that I cannot seem to find. I don't know the name of the song either. It was a song that Jeffrey Daniels danced to on Soul Train. All I have is the video of Jeffrey Daniels performing to it. I think part of the lyrics in the song go "Why don't you believe me when I say that I love you? I'm crazy bout you!" That's all that I could hear clearly from the video since the sound wasn't all that great. Here is the link to that video. It's actually the second part of the video where Jeffrey performs" (link removed). King: I wish they were all this easy. Carl it's "Lovely One" by The Jacksons. ---------- From Natalie: "Please the late 80's I heard a song and I don't know who sang it or the name of it but I know every word to goes like this.." "When I walked by I was hoping you were home, you smiled and let me in, I told you that I need a shoulder to cry on, you gave me yours again, You said its gonna be alright and turned off the lights and in the darkness you held me tight"...The Chorus goes on to say "the best of friends can be lovers after all." King: I know this one Natalie (I think). It's on the tip of my tongue (almost)! If you know the answer, please leave it in a comment so we can make Natalie happy. ---------- From Bella: "I am looking for a song by an artist named muzic? the song is about how he's still gonna love her even when her hair is gray and she puts on some weight. Please help me out!" King: I'm stumped, so If you know the answer, pop it in a comment below. ----- From Veronica: "I can't for the life of me figure out what the title of this song is or who sings it. I thought it was the Whispers. Help!? Here are some lyrics from it..." "I got a letter from someone who knows me she said that my loving was better than cookies and wine she told me she's lonely and can't live without me and she would be grateful if only i'd drop her a line don't you know that I would really like to someone tell me who I'm gonna write to cause the letter wasn't signed was it from Mary? Was it from...? Was it from...? Or maybe Sue. Was it from someone I hardly knew? Or baby maybe baby was it from you? King: Help Veronica out if you know the song by leaving the answer in a comment. Thanks! Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Motown Memories from Martha Reeves Part Two

    Here's part two of a great conversation with Martha Reeves, from an article written by David R. Guarino, as published in San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter, Soul survivor, Motown memories with R&B legend Martha Reeves... ---------- David Guarino: "Were you ever presented with a song to record where you listened to it and thought, "I really don't want to record this, I don't even like it? Martha Reeves: Well, that would be "Dancing in the Street!" When I first heard it, I thought, "I don't want to be dancing in the street, I want to be in some fabulous nightclub. I'm not a street singer!" The Vandellas and I never practiced on street corners; we practiced in our living rooms and on the playground at our school. We weren't on the street. But then I listened to the lyrics, and I realized that they were referring to people such as those in Rio de Janeiro, where everybody just parties during carnival times. Or the way they do in New Orleans; people just hanging out, dancing and rejoicing to music. Men wrote most of my songs, so I've had to take them and change them around, make them soft and sweet. They're sung in my spirit, and show my likeness. I rehearse at home, then I take the song to the studio. I have a reputation for being a one or two-take artist. David Guarino: Would you change the way you handled your music career? Martha Reeves: I did as best I could, not having a formal knowledge of show business, and I chose people who might not have been the best for me and my career. I was distracted from professionalism for lack of a stern management. It took a while for me to find honorable people that I could depend on. Because an artist simply cannot do it all. David Guarino: When the special Motown 25, Yesterday, Today and Forever aired in the 1980s, I was outraged by the fact that you, Mary Wells and Junior Walker each had token segments of about 45 seconds each. How did you feel that night? Martha Reeves: I felt great being there, because so often we were called "the others." Being the pioneers of The Motown Sound, we were the most overlooked. They want to make it look as though Michael Jackson was the biggest artist when you had people like Stevie Wonder there as a child, who started it all. Many of the new regimes at Motown refer to us as "the has-beens," but we're the ones who started it all. David Guarino: At one point when your stint at Motown was over, your life began spiraling out of control. What do you credit for your ability to bounce back from that dark place? Martha Reeves: When I said no to drugs. It was one of the influences I was not able to avoid when I was in show business. I had a rebirth in 1977 when I realized that things had to change. David Guarino: What is your take on hip hop and rap? Martha Reeves: I think it's a cheap way of getting around playing good music. Songs that have only two chord changes, sounds that have been technically manufactured, and there's no spirit or soul in the music. People are buying it, but they're also skipping over spirit and soul. David Guarino: What should we be on the lookout for? Martha Reeves: The Vandellas and I recently released a CD, Spellbound, Lost and Found. We just had a Gold album released. The music is 44 years old, but it's still good, and if I do say so myself, it sounds great! I recently produced my own CD, Home to You, on my own label, ITCH. David Guarino: You're seated on the Detroit City Council, working to clean up the gang and drug problems, to help make Detroit a safer place. Martha Reeves: My staff and I are also currently working on a way to commemorate the Motown artists here in the city of Detroit. There should be plaques and statues, and music played at all times, letting people know that this is where the sound originated." ---------- King's wrap-up: In fairness to Martha Reeves, yes, she was second fiddle to Diana Ross, and maybe Gladys Knight, while at Motown. Still, Martha Reeves is one of the few Motown acts not to have a solo hit record once she left Motown. Given her talent, that's pretty amazing! Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Motown Memories from Martha Reeves Part One

    Here's part one of a great conversation with Martha Reeves, from an article written by David R. Guarino, as published in San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter: Soul Survivor, Motown Memories with R&B Legend Martha Reeves... ---------- "Under the careful tutelage of founder Berry Gordy, Jr., Motown Records (and its offshoot labels Gordy, Tamla, Soul, and V.I.P.) provided a home base for some of the biggest names in R&B history, among them Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Stevie Wonder. Part of Motown's indelible impact on modern music was defined by the unforgettable sound and unmistakable talent of a young woman named Martha Rose Reeves, the eldest girl in a family of 11 children, and the driving force behind the legendary group Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. This native of Eufaula, Alabama, rose from poverty-stricken obscurity to worldwide superstardom as the leader of Reeves and the Vandellas, one of Motown's earliest and most consistent hit-makers. They turned out unforgettable hits like "Dancing in the Street," "(Love Is like a) "Heatwave," "Quicksand" and "Come and Get these Memories." Reeves eventually lost the favor of Gordy when she challenged him over finances, dwindling exposure and lack of support in light of The Supremes' (in particular, Diana Ross') ascent to superstardom. Her unwillingness to passively accept Motown's agenda took its toll on her spirit and, ultimately, her career. She and the Vandellas eventually found themselves outside of Motown's protective enclave. Problems with drugs led her to deeper despair and isolation. But her indomitable strength and deep faith won out in the end. Reeves found the courage to triumph over the disappointments and challenges that plagued her for many years. Her natural talent is as vital today as it was 40 years ago. Today, Reeves performs with her sisters and has founded her own record label, ITCH Records. Appearing in Motown revues both here and in the UK, Reeves also appeared in a touring production of the classic musical Ain't Misbehavin'. Reeves has also entered politics, and is now a seated member of the Detroit City Council. David Guarino: Your career with Motown is the stuff of which dreams are made. What was it like starting out as a backup singer for Marvin Gaye? Martha Reeves: When I first went to Motown, Marvin was on the list of drummers. He had been brought there as a singer, but at Motown, everybody waited their turn. Marvin originally played backup drums for Smokey Robinson; he was multi-talented. I was a secretary at Motown, and one day I was asked to call the Andantes to back Marvin on a song, and the Andantes weren't available. I called the girls I had been recording with as the Del Phis and told them we needed to do some backup work. So we stood directly behind Marvin, and he recorded the hit "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" with Rosalyn, Annette, Gloria, and me singing with him. It was great fun. David Guarino: At one point during your tenure with Motown, you confronted Berry Gordy about the fact that you were not receiving all of the money you were entitled to. Martha Reeves: Well, yes. Questions were being raised among the artists about why the record sales money didn't add up. David Guarino: Were the discrepancies part of a deliberate attempt by Motown to take advantage of its artists, or were Gordy and his staff merely bad bookkeepers? Martha Reeves: Berry had hired a staff of people to train us, unlike other recording companies of the time. We had Prof. Maxine Powell, who taught us personal development, which was needed for what we called "The Motown Look." There was a Motown style and there was a Motown grace, and it was all taught. We were taught to move, and that set us apart from other artists. That's where the money went. Berry had to keep these people on salary, and we all had four years of training. So it was all of good accord; Berry just didn't bother to explain. I think that he felt that he didn't have to, because Motown was his company, and we came there with no money, just natural talent that he developed into a professional stage presence. I've had people approach me with feelings of anger towards a man who discovered us and made us famous. And there were times in my career when I was quoted saying things before I knew the truth. And the truth always sets you free." ---------- To be continued in Motown Memories from Martha Reeves part two, coming next time. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Earth, Wind & Fire Flashback

    This official photo, taken five years ago, is from the Earth, Wind & Fire 2001 cool blue tour. Foreground left to right, "Mr. Electricity," Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, and Phillip Bailey. Check out my complete review of Earth Wind & Fire's 30th Anniversary Concert, together with their special guest, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Bobby Bland - Blues Master

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/23/2006

    Imagine sitting in a large club, with just a handful of music fans, soaking up a soulful performance by a legendary blues master. I don't recall the reason why, but on this particular weeknight, only about 30 people came out to hear Bobby Bland. It was the last set of two shows for the evening. The stage was the Club Harlem in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The decade: mid 1970's. I learned that night how a professional singer delivers a performance that rises to fan expectations, regardless of whether 30, or 3,000, or 3 million people are watching. Bobby "Blue" Bland hails from Rosemont, Tennessee. He did his first recording in Memphis, Tennessee in 1951. During the early years, he worked with B.B. King, Junior Parker, and Johnny Ace. Bobby earned the nickname "blue" from his energy and enthusiasm. The Bobby Bland style is a fusion of gospel, R&B, and blues. This mix has worked well for him through the decades. One of his biggest classic R&B hits is "Turn on Your Love Light," a number two soul hit in 1961 - a song that's been covered by everyone from Solomon Burke to Tom Jones. With an incredible string of successes through 1985, Bland had 63 different songs make the R&B charts. Early in his career, he and his band did over 300 live shows a year. Bobby's most recent release was in 2003. He's recorded lots of music in every decade since the 1950's. In 2004's Elwood's Blues, Interviews with the Blues Legends and Stars, (by Dan Aykroyd and Ben Manilla), Bland is asked how he keeps finding fresh material... "You have a lot of help in that area, because people get kind of attached to you as you grow. They know the type of material that you've been good at, that you've been fortunate to sell, and they know the type of story that you'd like to tell." Bland explains that the signature growl in his voice happened after his tonsils were removed. He went from a high falsetto to a low baritone. The growl was refined with the help of a sermon by Rev. C. L. Franklin, "The Eagle Stirred His Nest." Bland continues... "I listened to this particular part over and over and I said, "It looks like I could use this for something." So I started to practice the different squalls that he was doing - I stole the squall thing from him." "C. L. Franklin was one of my favorite preachers. I always liked his daughter too - my favorite singer, Aretha." In the interview, Elwood Blues asks Bobby Bland if the thread of sadness that most blues songs are based on makes young people less interested in the blues. Bland says that "blues is a downer to younger black people, mainly because our history carries a lot of guilt and disappointment." "Blues basically was done by being sad, being out in the country and not allowed to do certain things. So young black people, some of them don't want to look back on that era." "They want to look ahead the way Dr. King has brought them up to now. There's no looking back, we got to go forward. But the blues will always be here." Bobby Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, along with Sam & Dave, Booker T. & The M.G.'s, Elmore James, and Jimi Hendrix. Anything but bland, Bobby is a "Blue" giant among legendary company. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Gloria Gaynor's Boogie Blast

    • Tour
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/22/2006

    Gloria Gaynor is a Survivor. The Newark, New Jersey native continues to boogie up a storm in the 2006 "Boogie Blast Tour." Gloria has teamed up with KC and the Sunshine Band, Tavares, and Sister Sledge (featuring Kathy Sledge). Here's Gloria, (on the left), with Tavares, KC, and Kathy. When Billboard launched their "Disco" chart in 1973, Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye" was the first dance song to reach number one, debuting in the top slot. It's been a long haul since 1979's "I Will Survive," her empowering anthem, recently named VH1's number one dance record of all time. Gloria continues to make her mark. She's been featured on television's "That 70's Show," and "Ally McBeal." Her current tour takes her all over the world through December, 2006. Here are the Gloria Gaynor tour dates (link to tours removed, you'll go to her main website instead). Many of the dates feature her bevy of Boogie Blast Tour friends. Previous Post | Next Post

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