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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Grammy Boots Soul to the Curb

In a move designed to downsize the density of awards, the Grammys are streamlining their portfolio of potential winners for 2012.

Categories are being sliced, diced, and reduced to 78 from 109.

Some separate male and female awards will be combined into new categories.

The R&B area was hammered pretty hard.  8 awards have been cut to 4.  A review of the awards category restructuring page at Grammy.org reveals that “Best R&B Performance” will take the place of these 4 eliminated classifications:

  • Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (dropped)
  • Best Male R&B Vocal Performance (dropped)
  • Best R&B Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals (dropped)
  • Best Urban/Alternative Performance (dropped)

As a result of discontinuing the “Best Female R&B vocal performance” and “Best Male R&B vocal performance,” “The Best R&B Performance” now becomes highly competitive.

Hip hop lost only one category dropping from 5 to 4.

A date for the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012 has not been announced.  Look for the show in February.  Hopefully it will be shorter, and more entertaining.

Posted by King on 04/06 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, October 12, 2010

Halloween Dance and Party Music to Die For

Two new wacky party albums packed with danceable delights along with frightening sound effects have just dropped in time for Halloween tricks and treats 2010.

Dance and Party Music to Die For has nice remixes including the “Halloween Theme” by John Carpenter.

Going Gaga for the Lady Zombie by Halloween Music Freaks includes “The Howling” (werewolves transformed by the full moon on the prowl), “Zombie Hospital” (the undead wreaking havoc) and “Wicked Witches Waltzing Around The Cauldron” (freaky witches dancing and laughing as they make mischief).

You can find Dance and Party Music to Die For and Going Gaga for the Lady Zombie at iTunes, and Amazon.com.

Listen to the great remix of the “Halloween Theme."

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Posted by King on 10/12 at 09:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

El DeBarge gets a Second Chance

What has El DeBarge been doing for the past 16 years? A trifecta of occasionally making some music, experiencing some rough times, and rediscovering the magic of songwriting.

In 2008, he teamed up with George Clinton and his Gangsters of Love.

Best known as the lead voice for “Rhythm of the Night,” “Who’s Holding Donna Now,” and other group hits with DeBarge, El’s solo career has charted reasonable success.

Read the complete El DeBarge story at his official website.

He’s scheduled to release Second Chance, a new album of songs on Tuesday, September 28, 2010.

The already released title cut is charming, featuring El DeBarge’s high register vocal trademark.  Watching the video, I’m reminded of Lionel Richie, as “Second Chance” pushes El DeBarge squarely into soulful adult contemporary territory.

Watch the video and see if you like the song.

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Posted by King on 08/18 at 12:30 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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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A New Edition for Bell Biv DeVoe

1986.  Bobby Brown leaves New Edition.  1988.  Three other group members Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell, and Ronnie DeVoe (seen here) team up with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

By 1990, the Bell Biv DeVoe album with the title track “Poison” is released, a 3 million seller.

What are the guys doing today?

Slipping in a few live performance dates to be sure.

This Marquee promotes a Thursday, July 15, 2010 show at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Posted by King on 07/13 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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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

George Clinton to Hangout in Hampton VA

George Clinton will help Hampton, Virginia celebrate it’s 400th anniversary with a funk party on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 8 pm.

200,000 plus attendees are expected to gather at one of the East coast’s largest family-friendly festivals for the weekend.

On the evening of the show, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic will take to the City Hall stage.

It’s the 28th annual Hampton Bay Days weekend, an event founded in 1982 to remind the public about the importance of the Chesapeake Bay in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, and Maryland region.

In other recent George news...

George Clinton and El DeBarge perform a great tongue-n-cheek version of Barry White’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” on George’s 2008 CD, George Clinton and his Gangsters of Love.

Here’s a quick 6 second video of George receiving the 2009 BMI Icon Award (seen with Bootsy Collins).

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Posted by King on 06/22 at 08:30 PM
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oil Spill Worries Won't Stop The Essence Music Festival in New Orleans

The last time I was in New Orleans, I was treated to a trip on one of those paddle wheel riverboat casinos (right out of the Mark Twain era).

Bayous, the mighty Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico keep the aquatic soul of New Orleans hummin’.

Despite the problems from the recent Gulf oil spill, the reliable Essence Music Festival makes it’s annual appearance July 2nd through July 4th, 2010 in the Big Easy.

Pig-out on regional shrimp gumbo at your own risk, although we don’t want to be accused of questioning the safety of the area’s seafood.

You’ll experience some of the best food, and some of the best music found in any USA city right in New Orleans.

The Essence Music Festival main stage headliners keep the tradition alive during the July 4th holiday weekend.

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Posted by King on 06/15 at 08:30 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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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, April 29, 2010

Toni Braxton Returns with a Hot Pulse

Toni Braxton has spread musical joy ever since 1991’s “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” landed in the Boomerang movie soundtrack.

Her 5 Grammy Awards (1993, 1994, 1997, 2000) complement memorable hits including “Another Sad Love Song."

According to her official biography, while studying to become a teacher at Bowie State University in Maryland, Toni was discovered by producers L.A. Reid and Babyface.

She survived a well-publicized bankruptcy in 1997, which she characterizes as “a major learning opportunity for me."

Toni began her first Broadway run in 1998 with a starring role in “Beauty & The Beast."

In 2005, she headlined Toni Braxton: Revealed at the Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.  In 2008, she competed on ABC’s Dancing with Stars and headlined the Dancing with the Stars tour.

Toni Braxton is now signed with Atlantic Records.  Her new album, Pulse, is scheduled for release on Tuesday, May 4, 2010.

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Posted by King on 04/29 at 09:00 PM
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Can Record Store Day Save a Sinking Ship?

Album sales are down 6.1 percent in the first 3 month of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

They add that for the first time, iTunes and CD sales online have passed the traditional big box retailers.

Amazon and their digital brethren now make up the largest distribution channel for music, and for good reason.

Big boxers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have dropped the ball when challenged with stocking a satisfactory variety of the newest music being released.

You’ll always find the A-list performers in their racks, but you are hard pressed to find a deep selection of new music representing a variety of artists from different niche genres.

Jazz, soul, and R&B are frequent victims of this trend.

Bookstores including Encore and Barnes and Noble do a better job stocking tunes, but as with the big box stores, music sales no longer represent a growth area.

The digital music download world is hurting too.

Nielsen SoundScan says that downloads experienced their first year-to-year quarterly sales decline ever, falling about 1 percent between January 1 and April 4.

In the same period in 2009, digital download sales were up 13 percent over 2008.

CD’s will eventually go the way of the horse and buggy, just as electric vehicles will slowly take market share from gas engine cars.

Computers inevitably crash, and unless you back everything up, there’s still a better element of permanency when investing in compact discs.

The CD for many is still an important part of their music collection.

Once upon a time, the best place in town to salivate over new releases and bountiful catalogs was the record store.

I worked in an independent record store for 3 years part-time as a teenager.

Today, only the bigger cities can still support the few independent record emporiums that are left.

In Philadelphia, my favorite is Sound of Market Street (JazSound), surviving in 2010 with an awesome collection of CD’s (and vinyl discs).

A worldwide event has been created to spotlight stores just like Sound of Market (JazSound).

Saturday, April 17 will mark the 3rd annual Record Store Day.

RecordStoreDay.com says that the original idea for this promotion was “conceived by Chris Brown, and was founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally."

The website further amplifies the concept explaining “this is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music."

"Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances."

Record Store Day is now celebrated on the 3rd Saturday every April.

At RecordStoreDay.com, I did a random ‘search by state’ to see what was happening in Texas.  Over 50 independent record stores came up in the Lone Star State, so there still is a heartbeat left in this disappearing institution that’s now on life-support.

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Posted by King on 04/15 at 01:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Angelique Kidjo OYO

Back in 2002 on Powerhouse Radio, I started playing “Iwoya,” an Angelique Kidjo duet with Dave Matthews from her album, Black Ivory Soul, released that year.

Kidjo is a unique artist from West Africa, (Benin), mixing it up with a potpourri of eclectic world rhythms and soulful funky beats.

She’s just released her 9th album, OYO, singing in both traditional and English languages.

James Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” and Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up” (with John Legend & Bono) are a couple of the English language tracks.

Don’t worry about the language barrier, as this is universal music.

Kidjo has unfortunately never received a lot of exposure in the USA.  Perhaps this time around with a new album, things will change.

Her current tour is catering to her European fan base, with these 2010 dates:

  • April 11, Krefield, Germany - Kulturfabrik
  • April 12, Berlin, Germany - Kesselhaus
  • April 13, Hamburg, Germany - Fabrik
  • April 15, Frankfurt, Germany - Botfabrik
  • April 16, Cully, Switzerland - Cully Jazz Festival
  • April 17, Paris, France - La Cigale
  • April 20, Copenhagen, Denmark - Amager Bio
  • April 21, Helsinki, Finland - Savoy Theatre
  • April 22, Oslo, Norway - Cosmopolitan
  • April 24, Stockholm, Sweden - Götakällaren

Watch Angelique Kidjo & Joss Stone perform “Gimme Shelter,” a blast from the past.

Listen to Angelique, John Legend, and Bono sing “Move on Up” (59 seconds) from her new album, OYO.

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Posted by King on 04/06 at 09:00 PM
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Erykah Badu Presents New Amerykah part 2 Return Of Ankh

Dallas, Texas native Erykah Badu is scheduled to release New Amerykah, PT. 2: Return Of Ankh on Tuesday, March 30, 2010.

This is her 9th album.

Badu, a unique singer and songwriter, commands a very loyal fan following.

With vocals that sometimes assault the senses, Erykah is not afraid to put fresh spins on R&B grooves.  It’s this capacity that makes her stand out from the rest of the formulaic female crowd.

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Posted by King on 03/25 at 08:30 AM
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