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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

True Soul Classics from Little Rock Arkansas

In the history of classic soul, the grits n’ grooves city of Memphis in the southwest corner of Tennessee gets much well deserved credit for cultivating the music.

Stax ruled the roost back in the day, with The Soul Children, Isaac Hayes, Booker T & the MG’s, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, and an iconic list of artists.

Hundreds of miles to the west in the neighboring state of Arkansas, Lee Anthony was building a local presence by nurturing True Soul Records out of Little Rock in 1968.

Anthony, who graduated from college with an art history degree, gathered a stable of local Little Rock musicians, groups, and artists partly collaborated through the many relationships he built while in school.

Anthony was the entrepreneur and somewhat self-taught recording engineer who put his record studio dream together.

Early on he would record tracks in his Little Rock Studio, and travel to Memphis to press 45 RPM vinyl records he could sell.

Anthony gleaned inspiration along with ideas during numerous trips to Memphis, hanging out with the Stax crowd, attending their events, and observing recording techniques in their studio.

He reflects within the liner notes of the recently released True Soul CD/DVD’s that “I came back to Little Rock and tried to duplicate the instrumentation Stax had.”

One thing about the 32 tracks featured across the two volumes of True Soul.  The sound is raw, experimental, and adventurous.

Some describe it as southern soul.  These songs sound less like multi-tracked studio creations and more like live slices of real performances from some committed, enthusiastic entertainers.

This multi record set is billed as Deep Sounds from the Left of Stax 60s & 70’s Soul and Funk from Arkansas’s Legendary Independent Label.

You generally wouldn’t call the Stax sound layered and sophisticated in production technique, compared to say Motown, as Stax was closer to the root of basic blues.

The True Soul Records sound even more straightforward than Stax, and are driven by basic uncomplicated instrumental tracks to support the vocals.

Most of these songs were not national or even regional hits.

Reviewing them today captures the essence of how local tastes in American music back in the day could make or break artists.

Today, national and global breakouts are commonplace propelled by satellite networks, computers, YouTube, and iTunes.

I was blown away by the 30 odd pages of photos and liner notes (included in each volume) detailing the interesting history of the True Soul label and it’s place in rhythm and blues history.

I admit this is a story I was not familiar with.

Listen to 90 seconds of “Psychedelic Hot Pants” by York Wilborn’s Psychedelic Six, and learn more about Deep Sounds from the Left of Stax 60s & 70’s Soul and Funk from Arkansas’s Legendary Independent Label True Soul Records.

Posted by King on 10/26 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ohio Players Album Covers

Pain, Pleasure, and Ecstasy.  Album titles with cover art guaranteed to attract even more attention than the funky music inside of the exotic grooves.

Take a Powerhouse Radio slide show trip with the “Fire” and “Skin Tight” Ohio Players from Dayton, Ohio.

Both the album covers, and the players, have a special message for you.  Watch and listen.

Posted by King on 09/28 at 09:00 AM
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Sunday, July 31, 2011

TSOP Soul Radio Salutes Philadelphia

If your passion is nothing but wall-to-wall Gamble & Huff Philly style sounds, you may want to check out TSOP Soul Radio, an online repository of the best of Philadelphia International Records.

You’ll hear a steady diet of O’Jays, Teddy Pendegrass, MFSB, and more.  An appealing element of listening to TSOP Soul Radio is the deep track selection, playing almost everything from the Philadelphia International Records catalogue.

Posted by King on 07/31 at 06:11 PM
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Masters of Funk Tour 2011 Rolls on

Pictured, The Bar-Kays.  The Masters of Funk 2011 World Tour rolls on.  Here’s the transcript of my interview with James JJ Underwood of JEA Right Now Records talking about the tour.

You can also listen to my Masters of Funk Tour 2011 interview that features the Bar-Kays latest release “Return of the Mack."

King: This is King from powerhouseradio.com and I am on the line with James JJ Underwood and JJ is the Office Manager for JEA Right Now Records. How you doing JJ?

James JJ Underwood:  I am doing fine, how about you there?

King: I am hangin’, I am hangin’ in, feeling pretty good today.  We want to talk to you a little bit about the Masters of Funk World Tour, which is featuring some of the great classic soul bands like the Bar-Kays, Con Funk Shun, Sugarfoot’s, Ohio Players.  I see you have a lot of different groups that are actually part of this tour but my understanding is not every group appears at every show. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

James JJ Underwood: Yes, we mix it up a little for every different venue that we go to.  The tours’ actually been going on for two to three years now. but we mix it up and give each city a little different taste of each group; because there are like 20 Bands involved in the tour, out of those 20 Bands like 4, or 5 bands perform at each venue. So we kind of spice it up a little and give the people a little bit of everything as far as the funk and the soul goes.

King: Now I see you guys are going to be in Detroit on April 2nd, 2011, so are you in the middle of the tour for the season. How many more dates do you have coming up in 2011?

James JJ Underwood:  We go to Detroit April 2nd, Chicago April 23rd, we do Memphis in May then we go to St. Louis in June. There is pretty much two dates a month, until the year is out for the Masters of Funk.  People really want to see this, they missed all the soul and funk groups. then, the live music people, are still really interested in the live music so the tour is going really well.

King: Is there any particular group among those that we have mentioned the Bar-Kays, Dazz Band, Sugarfoot’s, Ohio Players, Brick, Klymaxx, Mary Jane Girls, any one of these group at every show, do you have like a foundation group, or is it subject to change every show?

James JJ Underwood: It is subject to change every show it is usually, what the fans usually request.  For Phoenix we had Cherelle, the Dazz Band, Con Funk Shun and it was sell out and that’s what people wanted to see in Phoenix.

King: Where could people go to get the complete schedule of the Masters of Funk Tour?

James JJ Underwood: You can go to www.bar-kays.net.  There is a complete list of all the tour dates.  www.bar-kays.net, a complete list of everything.

King: I am King from powerhouseradio.com, we’re talking with JJ Underwood, he’s with JEA Right Now Records.  JJ you have mentioned that the tour is going through the end of the year, is that right into November and December?

James JJ Underwood:  Yeah, right until November and December.

King: So tell me about this new Bar-Kays song, Return of the Mack, I was just listening to it its pretty good. How did they get involved in putting this one out there?

James JJ Underwood: Mr. Larry Dodson, he likes to stay current with his music, and he is always coming up with something and he came up with this. I think it’s really a hit, it’s real current it still has the funk to it and it really displays the creativeness the Bar-Kays, still have.

King: And tell everybody who Larry Dodson is?

James JJ Underwood: Larry Dodson is the lead singer of the Bar-Kays.

King:  Alright, say JJ I want to thank you very much for talking to us about the Masters of Funk Tour 2011, and you said the tour has been going for a couple of years.  I hope in 2012 that you’re back at it one more time.

James JJ Underwood: Thanks for having me I appreciate it.

The Masters of Funk World Tour - 2011

  • Saturday, April 2, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan featuring: The Dazz Band, The Bar-Kays, Zapp, Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players
  • Saturday, May 7 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin featuring: The Bar-Kays, Con Funk Shun, Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players, Zapp, The Dazz Band
  • Friday, June 3 in St. Louis, Missouri featuring: The Bar-Kays, Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players, The Dazz Band
  • Saturday, June 11 in Louisville, Kentucky, featuring: The Bar-Kays, Slave, The Dazz Band
  • Saturday, July 16 in Nashville, Tennessee featuring:  Slave, The Bar-Kays, The Dazz Band
  • Saturday, August 20 in Kansas City, Missouri Featuring: The Bar-Kays, Slave, The Dazz Band

Posted by King on 03/29 at 08:00 AM
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Monday, January 31, 2011

Chris Jasper Does Everything

Chris Jasper refined the famous Isley Brothers sound in the 1970s and 1980s.

The classically trained musician incorporated his mastery of keyboards and synthesizer to clearly brand the signature Isley guys groove.

I enjoyed the last Jasper solo release in 2007.  You can read my comments in the article Chris Jasper’s Journey from the Isley Brothers to Invincible.

Before Christmas of 2010, I received both his new CD, Everything I Do, plus Addictive, a dance/pop/techno album by his 17 year old son Michael.

Even though I listened to these releases right away, both have been sitting on the shelf for weeks because of personal distractions.

Sick family members and friends, a fire that destroyed our office building, and two computer server moves by the powerhouseradio.com web hosting company really complicated the last 7 weeks.

Life goes on.  One thing on the immediate to do list was to spotlight the new Chris Jasper CD.

This album is stronger than 2007’s Invincible.

You’ll find more funk in the grooves.  Spiritual themes that dominated the songs of Invincible are muted on Everything I Do.

An acknowledgment of a higher spiritual power is still present in many of these new tracks.  The tone of these songs: less preachy and more secular.

  1. “Everything I Do”
  2. “Doing My Thing”
  3. “In Your Face”
  4. “Nobody But My Baby”
  5. “Earthquake”
  6. “Stand Up”
  7. “He’s The Judge”
  8. “One Time Love”
  9. “Don’t Take Your Love Away”
  10. “Superbad”

Isley Brothers fans will be interested in this new Chris Jasper effort.

"He’s the Judge"and “One Time Love” are 2 of my favorites.  Listen to 60 seconds of “He’s the Judge” by Chris Jasper.

Posted by King on 01/31 at 07:30 PM
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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Merry Christmas II You Is New from Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey is in perfect voice for her second Christmas album release and 2010 follow-up to 1994’s Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas II You opens with a short, fully orchestrated instrumental ode to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” segueing directly into the new “Oh Santa."

Bouncy, bubbly, and bold, the album opener “Oh Santa” tips the hat to Toni Basil’s 1981 cheerleader anthem “Mickey” using a catchy hook to drive the song along.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem/Little Drummer Boy Medley” is a great showcase for the melodramatic phrasing of Ms. Mariah, who hits this song-pairing out of the park.  It’s well arranged, creative, and solidly delivered.

"Christmas Time Is In The Air Again” sparkles as a pop standard slow arrangement that you might expect from a Sarah Vaughan or Carmen McCrae.  A Classy impression from Carey that floats on air.

"Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration,” with the help of a bass line inspired by Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” puts a party face on this happy track.

I was blown away by the operatic interlude in “O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus” featuring Patricia Carey.

3 New Mariah Carey Christmas songs are included in this release, as are 8 traditional holiday songs.

The contemporary remix of “Auld Lang Syne” rocks ‘house music style.’

Fans young, old, and new will certainly enjoy this classy collection.

Merry Christmas II You is a rare holiday combination of great songs, top notch arrangements, diverse material, and Mariah Carey, who finally displays her gifted sonic range through nuanced maturity rather than reverting to showy vocal gymnastics as used in the past.

When I saw this album was going to be released, I was skeptical.  Now that I’ve heard it, shame on me!

Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas II You is excellent.

  1. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town Intro”
  2. “Oh Santa”
  3. “O Little Town of Bethlehem/Little Drummer Boy Medley”
  4. “Christmas Time Is In The Air Again”
  5. “The First Noel/Born Is the King Interlude”
  6. “When Christmas Comes”
  7. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration”
  8. “Charlie Brown Christmas”
  9. “O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus”
  10. “O Holy Night”
  11. “One Child”
  12. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” - Extra Festive
  13. “Auld Lang Syne” - The New Year’s Anthem

Listen to 30 seconds of Mariah Carey’s “Auld Lang Syne” - The New Year’s Anthem.

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Posted by King on 11/04 at 08:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time Tested Alexander O'Neal Takes a New Journey

Alexander O’Neal teamed up with Cherrelle in 1986 to score with the hit duet “Saturday Love."

O’Neal, a Minneapolis, Minnesota native now hangs his hat in the UK.  Has Great Britain changed Alexander’s musical approach?

The answer lies in 5 Questions the New Journey, O’Neal’s first new album since 2002.

As an original member of the Time, he parted ways with the band before the group achieved their biggest success.

Listen to 30 seconds of “My House,” and see if Alexander O’Neal is keeping time to a new groove.

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Posted by King on 07/27 at 09:00 PM
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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Michael Jackson Tribute by the Commodores

“Nightshift," the haunting tribute hit by the Commodores memorializing Marvin Gaye, among others, was released in 1984.

The song won a Grammy Award in 1985.

25 years later in 2010, the Commodores have re-recorded “Nightshift” with their original production team (Dennis Lambert & Peter Wolf) as a tribute to Michael Jackson.

They’ve done a nice job updating this classic soul gem.

Listen to 45 seconds of “Nightshift,” a tribute to Michael Jackson.

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Posted by King on 07/08 at 09:30 PM
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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bettye LaVette Sings the Real Deal

Bettye LaVette is the legendary female classic soul lady who’s career is repeatedly described as invisible anonymity.

She’s not a household name.  How can this be?

In 1962, she had a top 10 R&B hit with her very first recording, “My Man-He’s A Lovin’ Man."

Through the years, Bettye has teased the R&B charts, never quite breaking through to big time fame.

Despite this stigma, she’s earned an iconic reputation as one of the most gifted song interpreters you’ll ever hear.

Enter Bettye LaVette’s May, 2010 release Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook.

Classic soul invades the classic rock play book to sprout 13 re-groomed tunes.

The album concept reverses the 1960’s trend of British bands covering the songs of American blues artists.

LaVette recasts the formula weaving rock hits into fresh, mellow, torch songs fueled by soul-to-the-bone emotion.

These chestnuts are not the usual overexposed suspects.

Even If you’ve never heard of the original songs, and don’t know who recorded them, this collection could easily stand on it’s own as a quality introduction to Bettye LaVette.

I have been following the hype about this album for months, and I’m happy to say it delivers.

One personal criticism is LaVette’s choice to sing some of what were original uptempo classics as ballads this time around, however she creates inspired renderings with clear, understood lyrics.

Who says you can’t have a renaissance in the music business after kickin’ it for over 40 years!

Check out Bettye LaVette Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook

  1. “The Word” (Lennon & McCartney)
  2. “No Time To Live” (Capaldi & Winwood)
  3. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (Benny Benjamin)
  4. “All My Love” (John Paul Jones & Robert Plant)
  5. “Isn’t It A Pity” (George Harrison)
  6. “Wish You Were Here” (Roger Waters)
  7. “It Don’t Come Easy” (Richard Starkey)
  8. “Maybe I’m Amazed” (Paul McCartney)
  9. “Salt of the Earth” (Mick Jagger & Keith Richards)
  10. “Nights In White Satin” (Justin Hayward)
  11. “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” (Eric Clapton)
  12. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (Elton John)
  13. “Love Reign O’er Me” (Pete Townshend)

Track 13 is a bonus track recorded live at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, December, 2008.

Listen to 30 seconds of “Isn’t It A Pity” sung by Bettye LaVette.

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Posted by King on 06/03 at 01:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jimmy Castor Bunch Funk Jammin

From underground cool to comedic novelty, Jimmy Castor covers all the bases displaying musical versatility as his calling card.

Will he sing, swing with saxophone, or stomp all night long in the funk?

The New York City native has the expressive multicultural Big Apple as his foundation.

Latin-soul, Afro-Cuban, pop, R&B, funk.  It’s all in The Jimmy Castor Bunch, his showcase group.

This picture is from the cover of his ‘best of’ 2002 CD, The Jimmy Castor Bunch 16 Slabs of Funk.

Released on the BMG label, I wouldn’t say that this is the definitive greatest hits collection, as some good stuff from Castor’s Atlantic Records days are missing.

Track one is an edited version of the funk classic “It’s Just Begun,” a song sampled by numerous hip hop heavies.  The famous 10 second sax solo that opens the song has be cut out.

Novelty tunes “Say Leroy” and “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” are here.

His instrumental saxophone virtuosity shines on Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."

"Tribute to Jimi: Purple Haze/Foxey Lady” introduces Hendrix’s music to Castor’s fan base, but this medley doesn’t soar like the original tracks.

“Bad," an unappreciated short 2-minute message song, has the hook, rhythm, and lyric to make it all work.  Listen to 40 seconds of “Bad” below.

Of the 16 songs on this album, the ones I have mentioned present the essence of Jimmy Castor.

His Atlantic album catalogue has been reissued.  Perhaps there is a definite best of Jimmy Castor in the future.

I would include the excellent full version of “Potential,” and “Soul Travelin’,” a song The Jimmy Castor Bunch recorded with New York City deejay Gary Byrd.

Read his official biography and listen to my 10 minute conversation with Jimmy Castor and Gerry Thomas (from a longer interview I did back in the day).

But first, listen to The Jimmy Castor Bunch get funky with “Bad."

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Posted by King on 05/25 at 09:00 PM
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Your Super Soul Revival is Back for 2010

Who says there’s nothing new or compelling under the sun from straight ahead rhythm & blues!

Have you picked up on some of today’s fresh contemporary jams?

Yes, the golden age of classic soul is long gone, but

Rather than lament about today’s music as 2nd best, one has to dig a little bit deeper.

Since the beginning of Powerhouse Radio online in 2001, we’ve always included a handful of carefully selected new tracks fitting the style of the vintage classic soul that you love.

We received a 2010 promotional copy of Soul Revival, part of the Discover Songs series curated by NPR with help from Shout Factory.

This is an example of digging deep.

Soul Revival includes several great tracks that we already play.

I can’t imagine anyone not liking this compilation.

Ryan Shaw kicks things off with “Do The 45,” a tip of the hat to Jr. Walker & the All-Stars that really cooks.

Contributions from Raphael Saadiq, Ann Peebles, Candi Staton, Bettye Lavette, Thelma Houston, and others all complement the old school theme of this mostly new or recent music collection.

Check this one out.  You’ll be glad you did.

Soul Revival:

  1. “Do The 45” - Ryan Shaw
  2. “Am I Wasting My time?” - Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Lovers
  3. “100 Yard Dash” - Raphael Saadiq
  4. “Disrespectful” - Chaka Khan with Mary J. Blige
  5. “100 Days, 100 Nights” - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
  6. “No Smoke Without Fire” - James Hunter
  7. “Love and Happiness” - Thelma Houston
  8. “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” - Ann Peebles
  9. “Love Comes and Goes” - Lee Fields & The Expressions
  10. “I Still Want To Be Your Baby” - Bettye Lavette
  11. “If It Wasn’t For Loving You” - Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere
  12. “How Do I Tell Him” - The Revelations featuring Tr Williams
  13. “His Hands” - Candi Staton

Listen to 30 seconds of “Do The 45” by Ryan Shaw.  He also does a great version of the much recorded classic “Memphis Train” as featured on the Soul Men movie soundtrack.

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Posted by King on 05/20 at 08:00 PM
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne Leaves a Lasting Legacy of Music

Lena Horne was an all-media superstar who captured hearts on radio, television, movies, records, and Broadway.

Ms. Horne was attracted to show business early as a 16-year-old chorus girl at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club in 1933.

She was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1917, and celebrated her 90th birthday in 2007.

Ms. Horne has just passed away at 92 (on May 10, 2010).

In 1981, Quincy Jones’ Qwest Records released Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music Live on Broadway.

Listen to 60 seconds of Lena Horne singing “If You Believe” from this double album.

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Posted by King on 05/10 at 09:00 PM
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Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Winstons Color Him Father

"Color Him Father” is one of those rare positive message songs that graced the classic soul - pop radio airwaves back in 1969.

Washington, DC’s the Winstons created this song.

Fast forward to 2010, as a new group of Winstons under the direction of trademark owner Joe Phillips continues to keep the sound alive.

Although none of the original members from the 1969 crew are in the current group, the new Winstons have been performing since 1996.

They’ve released a new 4-song EP disc with: “Don’t Blame It On Me,” “Still,” “Good Single Lady,” and “Put Your Hands Up.”

My favorite, “Put Your Hands Up” (for your father), salutes those great dads who take care of business.

“Still" captures the sound of love by staying true to the Commodores original.

"Good Single Lady” gets going with the Johnnie Taylor “Disco Lady” rhythm.

Novelty hooks are great to generate a buzz about a song, and the EP title track “Don’t Blame It On Me” has one.

There’s comical amusement in the serious message scorning those deadbeat dads who refrain : ‘The kid is not my son.’ We’ve heard this before in “Billie Jean."

Listen for yourself to 59 seconds of “Don’t Blame It On Me,” but first...watch the Winstons perform their classic “Color Him Father."

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Posted by King on 05/06 at 01:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

War Serves Up A Spicy Cinco De Mayo Sing-along

On War’s 1982 album Outlaw, you’ll find the lively “Cinco De Mayo,” a festive and funky anthem for Cinco De Mayo Day.

Sing-along with War for 30 seconds.

They have the jazz, rock, Latin, and R&B groove.

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Posted by King on 05/04 at 01:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jeffrey Osborne Goes all the Way with LTD

Jeffrey Osborne has had a marvelous career.

He moved from behind the drum kit to center stage as lead vocalist for L.T.D., Love Togetherness & Devotion.

From 1969 to the present, Osborne has dived into funk, soul, and ballads propelled by powerful pipes pushing his resonant voice forward.

In 2009, Greatest Hits Live! was released, featuring a solid mix of L.T.D. and solo Jeffrey Osborne hits.

It’s a strong showcase of his deep catalog.

Take a look through the track list, then listen to 25 seconds of L.T.D.’s “Holding On” sung live by Jeffrey on this album.

  1. “We’re Going All The Way”
  2. “Don’t Get So Mad / medley I Don’t Need No Light”
  3. “Only Human”
  4. “Party Hearty”
  5. “Stranger”
  6. “Stay With Me”
  7. “Close the Door”
  8. “On the Wings of Love”
  9. “Holding On”
  10. “Concentrate On You”
  11. “We Both Deserve Each Other’s Love”
  12. “Love Ballad”
  13. “You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)”
  14. “Back In Love Again”
  15. “I’ll Be Around”

As of this writing, here are Jeffrey Osborne’s 2010 tour dates through October.

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Posted by King on 04/27 at 09:00 PM
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