• 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

  • 0 What is Southern Soul? Part Two

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/18/2006

    Here are highlights from a much longer article written by Michael F. Patterson: "The Problem with Southern Soul," from Frost Illustrated, Fort Wayne, Indiana. This is part two of Michael's comments... ---------- "Now we get to southern soul. Despite arguments to the contrary, that's a term I've been hearing since the 1960s. I even picked up an album from about 30 years ago recently that had the term in the liner notes. That music sold. The "southern" label didn't keep jocks or hungry customers away. In fact, it probably guided a lot of folks to other music from the region. After all, there was a belief that if it was from Memphis or Muscle Shoals and, later, Jackson, Mississippi., it had to be good stuff, because the people there were producing only the best. Southern soul was something sought by discerning listeners. In recent months, however, I've gotten calls from friends in the business who say the southern soul label is now the kiss of death. Many DJs won't play it, they say, if it's called southern soul. Some radio syndicates say flat out "no" to programming so-called (new) southern soul. Is it the label that's holding the music back? Be honest with yourself. How many of these records would even garner a second hearing when placed next to greats like Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, Joe Simon and others who made "southern soul" a sound of which the community could be proud? There's nothing wrong with the southern soul label. There is something wrong with a lot of the music some folks are trying to pass off today as southern soul. That's the problem." ---------- Michael makes some interesting points. This is not a new debate. I'll offer this - the phenomena of marketing music by region in the USA is pretty much long over, with one exception - hip hop. It's really hard to find regional hits any more in any genre. I don't think the discrimination against "southern soul" exists as much as the tendency of certain people not to embrace certain artists with an R&B style that is closer to the blues than to rhythm-soul. Who are these artists we are talking about? Michael mentioned a few. Others are folks like Bobby Bland, Dorothy Moore, Shirley Brown, Little Milton, and the Z. Z. Hill's of the world. "Southern soul" doesn't have a problem, it's a timeless style, part of the broader spectrum of classic R&B music. Yes, it's different from today's dominant popular style, but when did we ever have an easy time celebrating cross-cultural musical differences? What is Southern Soul Part One Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Number One R&B Songs Rescue May Days

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/18/2006

    With Summer just weeks away, May flowers are the backdrop for some wacky graduations, wonderful weddings, and outdoor activities filled with fun, sunshine, and music. Your May memories surely bring to mind a song or two that drop you into some unforgettable circumstances. Hopefully, none of the following songs remind you of uncomfortable situations. People we?re involved with sometimes have what I call ?baggage relationship songs? that upset them. The ?baggage relationship song? I relate to the most is ?Always and Forever,? as I once had a female friend who demanded that the radio be shut off ?immediately? if the Heatwave song started playing, and she?d turn it off every time! I never asked for the gory details, and she never "spilled the beans." If any of the hits below are your ?baggage relationship songs,? you?d better run for cover. The good news is that all of these 15 hits were #1 songs in the month of May. Can you guess the years? Jot down your guesses. "Boogie Fever" The Sylvers "Candy Girl" New Edition "I Got The Feelin'" James Brown "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More" Barry White "Jimmy Mack" Martha & The Vandellas "Never Can Say Goodbye" Jackson 5 "On My Own" Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald "Reunited" Peaches & Herb "Shining Star" Earth, Wind, & Fire "Sir Duke" Stevie Wonder "Soldier Boy" The Shirelles "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" Roberta Flack "There's Nothing Better Than Love" Luther Vandross "Turn Back The Hands of Time" Tyrone Davis "When A Man Loves A Woman" Percy Sledge The answers are below, but before you peak, six of these songs were #1 pop hits, all of the rest were #1 R&B hits. Which six songs were #1 pop hits? Four hints: One of the groups appeared on American Bandstand to sing "Dedicated to the One I Love," and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." With the feel of the blues, one song is an all time soul classic, #1 pop and #1 R&B One mellow song stayed at #1 for six weeks The music of one artist is currently featured in a Broadway play. Here are the six #1 pop hits: "Soldier Boy" The Shirelles "When A Man Loves A Woman" Percy Sledge "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" Roberta Flack "Shining Star" Earth, Wind, & Fire "Boogie Fever" The Sylvers "Sir Duke" Stevie Wonder If you got three out of six right, you get an "A." Here are the years associated with our #1 songs, in the merry month of May...   1962 "Soldier Boy" The Shirelles 1966 "When A Man Loves A Woman" Percy Sledge 1967 "Jimmy Mack" Martha & The Vandellas 1968 "I Got The Feelin'" James Brown 1970 "Turn Back The Hands of Time" Tyrone Davis 1971 "Never Can Say Goodbye" Jackson 5 1972 "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" Roberta Flack 1973 "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More" Barry White 1975 "Shining Star" Earth, Wind, & Fire 1976 "Boogie Fever" The Sylvers 1977 "Sir Duke" Stevie Wonder 1979 "Reunited" Peaches & Herb 1983 "Candy Girl" New Edition 1986 "On My Own" Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald 1987 "There's Nothing Better Than Love" Luther Vandross   Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Funky Forty for Janet Jackson

    May 16, 1966, 40 years ago, all for you, Janet Jackson took control of her crib, as the last sibling born into the famous Jackson clan. A cherubic child prodigy, sister J. conquered the boob tube at age 10 as an actor on Good Times. She also graced the television screen on the series Different Strokes, and Fame. Sixteen year old "Miss Jackson," (if you're nasty), released her first album in... 1982 - Janet Jackson 1984 - Dream Street 1986 - Control 1987 - Control Remixes 1989 - Rhythm Nation 1814 1993 - Janet 1995 - Janet Remixed 1997 - The Velvet Rope 2001 - All For You 2004 - Damita Jo Control was Janet's first big success, masterminded by producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (formerly of the Time). Jam and Lewis are back, producing Janet's new 2006 release, as she "celebrates 20 years of Control." Look for new songs in May and June. Although I've seen Michael with The Jacksons live once, my only chance so far to attend a Janet concert slipped away after she got ill before a tour scheduled to land in Philadelphia, and I never got to use the tickets. Can J. get her music career back into high gear? If Madonna can re-invent herself, so can Janet. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis did wonders for 2005's Illumination by Earth, Wind, & Fire, so I'd bet on Miss Jackson, and you should too (if you're nasty). Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 What is Southern Soul? Part One

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/12/2006

    Here are highlights from a much longer article, written by Michael F. Patterson: "The Problem with Southern Soul," from Frost Illustrated, Fort Wayne, Indiana... ---------- "For some time, I've heard the debate over the use of the term "southern soul" to classify a particular genre of music. Much of the controversy around the term seems based on the belief that calling this style of music "southern" soul has hurt it with regard to airplay. This occurs particularly in the North where disk jockeys argue about the term and seem to imply that it's not their music - just the music of southern folks. Furthermore, some seem to think the regional classification of music is a relatively recent phenomenon. Truth be told, the regional classification of music is nothing new. There have long been distinctions, even if blurred, for example, between Delta blues and Chicago blues. What became known as the Chicago sound actually grew out of the work of masters from down in the Delta such as Muddy Waters, meaning it can be tricky determining what makes a certain regional style. Still, the music changed in the urban environment and evolved into something undeniably related, yet different. Jazz aficionados can speak for hours about the differences between traditional East coast jazz and West coast jazz, while country fans can tell you the difference between the classic Nashville sound and the Bakersfield sound. No one can deny the very distinct stylistic differences between southern rock, the San Francisco sound, and the blue collar rock of the Midwest. Today, any kid who knows anything about rap can tell you the difference between an East coast rapper, a West coast rapper, and the southern crunk sound. In the '60s, it definitely was easy to tell the difference between soul music from the South, the Motown sound, and the sounds of Philadelphia. Berry Gordy let it be known that what was happening in Detroit was something different from what was happening at Stax and Atlantic. The music of the famed Funk Brothers didn't sound like the classic Muscle Shoals studio wizards. And, Gamble and Huff built an empire based on setting their lushly orchestrated soul apart from everyone else. Records from all three regions burned up the charts all over the country and around the world. No company's records were limited by their widely acknowledged regional origins. Those records sold because they were good records - the best of their genre. As Duke Ellington said, there are two kinds of music, good music, and bad music. Most times, good music sells, bad music doesn't. (Now, that's another subject that gets complicated, but that's a discussion for different day.) Now we get to southern soul..." ---------- To be continued in What is Southern Soul? part two, coming next time. What is Southern Soul Part Two Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 More Square Biz from Teena Marie

    • News
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 05/11/2006

    Teena Marie, the diminutive classic soul star, has a new gem to add to her collection of jewels. "Sapphire," is "Lady T.'s" new release, featuring several songs inspired by her friendship with the late Rick James. In the past, James and Marie collaborated on many tunes, including the electrifying classic, "Fire and Desire." Smokey Robinson, George Duke, and Teena's 14 year-old daughter, Alia Rose, are special guests on this new release. I saw Teena Marie once, headlining a show at The Spectrum arena in Philadelphia. In this kind of setting, it's sometimes hard for an artist to connect with their audience, but Teena was equal to the task. This Summertime show was a party jam, a performance in which Lady T. gave it her all. Coming soon, you'll be able to see Teena Marie live in her home town of Los Angeles, and in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City, as she prepares a tour to promote her new album. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Baby Makin' Isley Brothers

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

    "Baby Makin' Music," scheduled for release today, marks the 36th album, (not counting compilations), featuring the remarkable sound of the Isley Brothers. 1959's "Shout" was their first collection. Ronald and Ernie carry the torch forward with this fourth Isley Brothers CD of the new millennium. "Blast Off," featuring guest R. Kelly, is the first single from "Baby Makin' Music." "Blast Off" is one of the better slow tracks, and there are a lot of them. Out of 11 tracks, "Pretty Woman" can be called uptempo, three songs can be tagged as medium tempo - and the rest are smooth waves pushing the mellow "quiet storm" Baby Makin' ship. You're My Star Blast Off (featuring R. Kelly) Just Came Here To Chill Gotta Be With You Pretty Woman Forever Mackin Show Me Give It To You Beautiful Heaven Hooked Us Up You Helped Me Write This Song Ronald "Mr. Biggs" Isley can still croon with the best of them. His falsetto still has enough silk to compensate for some loss of shine in his velvet voice. "Gotta Be With You," serving up Ernie Isleys' understated signature guitar, brings to mind the rhythm of 2001's "Contagious." Seal has written a couple of songs, rounding out the softer sound of "Baby Makin' Music." For longevity alone, the Isley Brothers deserve praise. Decade after decade, they've stayed current with the trends, without abandoning their unique style or voice. ---------- Here's an Isley Brothers mini concert review I wrote back in 2004: The Isley Brothers, lead by Ronald and Ernie, on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, Philadelphia PA, performed in front of just slightly under 1 million people on July 4, 2004. So what's a 2004 Isley Brothers Concert like? Here's their musical set, in order of performance: Between the Sheets Footsteps in the Dark Who's That Lady It's Your Thing Twist and Shout This Old Heart of Mine For The Love of You Busted Voyage to Atlantis Summer Breeze Keep it on the Down Low Contagious Shout 45 minutes of hits. Compared to an Isley Brothers/Graham Central Station concert I saw back in the day, this show was better, because Ron Isley, like a fine wine, only gets better with age. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Jammin' with Damian Marley

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

    Damian Marley, also known as "Junior Gong," has picked up six honors at the recently held International Reggae and World Music Awards. Damian was the center of attention at the 25th anniversary of this awards spectacular held in New York City at the world famous Apollo Theater. He's the youngest son of Reggae legend Bob Marley. Mr. Damian Marley walked away with prizes for: entertainer of the year recording artist of the year best song: "Welcome to Jamrock" best album: "Welcome to Jamrock" best music video: "Welcome to Jamrock" best songwriting award (with his brother Stephen Marley) Earlier this year, Damian became the first reggae artist to win a Grammy Award outside of the Reggae category for his Best Urban/Alternative performance: "Welcome to Jamrock" single. The 2005 CD also won a best reggae album Grammy. Marley is slated to appear at the four day Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, on June 16. He'll tour with Ben Harper, appearing August 10th in Phoenix, Arizona, and September 14th at World's Fair Park in Knoxville, Tennessee. Previous Post | Next Post

Home | Archive | Blog | Picture Sleeves | Airchecks | Contact | About