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Friday, April 28, 2006

Motown Philly back again – a Soulful Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  In the recording industry, it doesn’t matter...what time. When recycling “solid gold,” eveything’s on the table.

Things run in cycles in the music business.  About once every decade, there’s the golden opportunity to revive songs from our distant past.

Whether it’s Patrice Rushen being sampled by Kirk Franklin, or another hit version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” (think Gladys Knight & the Pips, Marvin Gaye, Creedence Clearwater Revival, then Michael McDonald), old hits never fade away, they keep coming back for more.

Coming June 6, 2006, Philadelphia producer Phil Hurt, who has 11 gold and platinum records in his trophy case, is releasing “A Soulful Tale of Two Cities.”

The concept is simple.  Let the Motown stars record the Philadelphia classic soul jams.  Have the troops from the Philadelphia International school record some Motor City magic.

Phil Hurt’s ingenious project will be released on his new label: Soul Renaissance Records.

So how will Philly artists, songwriters, and producers perform songs from Detroit’s Motown era?  How will the Motown artists re-create The Sound of Philadelphia?

Here’s just a sample of what we can expect on the CD from the Philly artists:

  • Jean Carn sings Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”
  • Blue Magic’s Ted Mills sings the Miracles “Shop Around”
  • The Delfonics’ William Hart sings the Four Tops “Just Ask the Lonely”
  • Writer, producer, artist Bunny Sigler sings Marvin & Tammi’s “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”

And from our Motown friends:

  • Freda Payne, (remember her), does the Stylistics “Betcha by Golly Wow”
  • Bobby Taylor of the Vancouvers sings “If You Don’t Know me By Now” of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes fame
  • Lamont Dozier croons “Me and Mrs. Jones” from the Billy Paul song book

In on the project is Detroit native George Clinton, who tackles “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” (no, it’s not a funk version!).  Major Harris will be proud.

Clinton also covers “Expressway to Your Heart,” the big Philly hit by the Soul Survivors.

Speaking of funk, Motown’s legendary house band, The Funk Brothers, play on the tracks recorded by the Detroit Legends.

MFSB plays on the tracks recorded by the Philly artists.

The Motown folks are recording the Philly songs in Detroit, and the Philly International crew are cutting their Motown songs in the city of brotherly love.

If this CD release is successful, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be, look for a possible tour to promote “A Soulful Tale of Two Cities”.  The best of times indeed.




Posted by King on 04/28 at 01:18 AM
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Hardest Battle for Billy Preston

Billy Preston is seriously ill in an Arizona hospital.  Heart disease is among the latest of his medical problems.  He’s had several recent complicated surgical procedures.

The legendary “fifth Beatle,” who played organ on several Beatles hits, is also involved in a legal battle over his estate.

Rodena Preston, Billy’s sister, has petitioned Los Angeles Superior Court for control of the Preston estate.  She contends that Billy’s affairs are in a state of limbo due to the actions of his business manager, Joyce Moore.

Over the past five years, Preston has had a series of health problems.  In 2001 he suffered chronic kidney failure as a result of uncontrolled high blood pressure.

A kidney transplant in 2002 ultimately failed, requiring several weekly dialysis treatments for the 59 year old keyboard legend.

Why is Billy Preston important musically?

Organs had been used in jazz and R&B music for years.  Billy Preston pushed the envelope for both organs and synthesizers in pop music, using them creatively in his hits “Outa-Space,” “Will it Go Round in Circles,” “Struttin’,” and “Nothing from Nothing."

Billy isn’t just keyboard flash and style alone.  His ballad “You Are So Beautiful,” written by Preston, (also recorded by Joe Cocker), features a nice sentimental vocal with Billy at the piano.

He goes to church, kickin’ out the gospel organ on “That’s the Way God Planned It,” one of his best “b” side tracks.

Billy Preston has had more than a great solo career.  He’s also played with King Curtis, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland, Sammy Davis Jr., The Rolling Stones, and more musicians than we can mention.

Say a prayer for Billy Preston.  He’s fighting the battle of his life.



Posted by King on 04/27 at 09:21 AM
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Michael Jackson's Bahrain Boogie

On the little island(s) of Bahrain, off the coast of Saudi Arabia, nestled in the Persian Gulf, opposite Iran, Michael Jackson is planning to make music again from his new home base.

Having a world famous pop star generate domestic income is good for Bahrain, since the economy of these islands has been based entirely on petroleum exports since 1932.

Don’t hold your breath, but Jackson’s “new” CD is being hyped for a 2007 release on “2 Seas Records,” owned by Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of Bahrain’s King.

The world has yet to see Jackson’s long promised Hurricane katrina benefit single, also to be released on 2 Seas Records, so we’ll believe the new CD when we see it.

M-J is obviously looking for some cash flow in light of his recent financial problems, employee lay-offs at his Neverland Ranch in California, and less than spectacular CD sales since 2001.

You can’t spend forever, no matter how much money you make.  Billionaire Oprah Winfrey recently stated that she spends $1 million dollars a week, (no...not on frivolous things, but on all of her expenses).

Regardless, I think Oprah is a little craftier than the very shrewd Michael Jackson.



Posted by King on 04/26 at 07:37 AM
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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Roberta Flack Replay

Roberta Flack is back, in a manner of speaking.  The lady with the golden voice never did actually leave, or stop touring.

For the latest Roberta Flack tour, follow her link on our R&B music artists page.

Roberta’s come a long way, from an early job as a 19 year old twelfth grade English teacher in North Carolina, to an instructor in the art of making international hit music.

The “Killing me softly with his song” queen has a new best of CD out, I think.  Compare the songs on “The Very Best Of Roberta Flack,” (2006), with “Softly With These Songs: The Best Of Roberta Flack” (1993)...

The Very Best Of Roberta Flack (2006)


  1. Killing Me Softly With His Song
  2. Where Is The Love - (with Donny Hathaway)
  3. Feel Like Makin’ Love
  4. First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, The
  5. And So It Goes
  6. Tonight, I Celebrate My Love - (with Peabo Bryson)
  7. Closer I Get To You, The - (with Donny Hathaway)
  8. ‘Til The Morning Comes
  9. Back Together Again - (with Donny Hathaway)
  10. Making Love
  11. Only Heaven Can Wait (For Love)
  12. Set The Night To Music - (with Maxi Priest)
  13. You Are My Heaven - (with Donny Hathaway)
  14. Oasis
  15. Don’t Make Me Wait Too Long - (with Donny Hathaway)
  16. And So It Goes (Reprise)
  17. Trade Winds

Softly With These Songs: The Best Of Roberta Flack (1993)


  1. First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, The
  2. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
  3. Where Is The Love - (with Donny Hathaway)
  4. Killing Me Softly With His Song
  5. Feel Like Makin’ Love
  6. Closer I Get To You, The
  7. More Than Everything
  8. Only Heaven Can Wait (For Love)
  9. Back Together Again - (with Donny Hathaway)
  10. Making Love
  11. Tonight, I Celebrate My Love - (with Peabo Bryson)
  12. Oasis
  13. And So It Goes
  14. You Know What It’s Like
  15. Set The Night To Music - (with Maxi Priest)
  16. My Foolish Heart
  17. Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) - (Steve Hurley’s House mix)

According to King’s math, 12 of the tracks are identical, with the exception of five on the 2006 CD:

  • “‘Till The Morning Comes”
  • “You Are My Heaven”
  • “Don’t Make Me Wait Too Long”
  • “And So It Goes (Reprise)”
  • “Trade Winds.”

Exclusive to the 1993 release are:

  • “More Than Everything”
  • “You Know What It’s Like”
  • “My Foolish Heart”
  • “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
  • “Uh-Uh Oooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) - Steve Hurley’s House”

Well, if you are a collector, or a super Roberta Flack fan, I suppose you’ll like the newer update “best of” too (if you already have the 1993 collection).

In a recent radio interview, Roberta says she’s “looking for a man,” and is making plans to build a school in New York City.  Let’s hope she slam dunks both projects.



Posted by King on 04/25 at 01:08 AM
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Friday, April 21, 2006

Akeelah and the Bee's A+ Classic Soul

Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett star in the new inspirational movie, Akeelah and the Bee, from Lionsgate films, opening Friday, April 28, 2006.  Keke Palmer plays the gifted young girl, Akeelah.

The Akeelah and the Bee soundtrack features classic R&B from The Jackson 5, The Spinners, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Al Green, The Brothers Johnson, and Aretha Franklin.

You’ll be able to find the CD at approximately 5,000 Starbucks locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.  It’s the first official motion picture soundtrack to be featured in the coffee giant’s music promotion program.

The Akeelah and the Bee soundtrack comes hot on the heels of another Lionsgate studio musical compilation, Madea’s Family Reunion, which reached #2 on the soundtrack charts, re-teaming Lionsgate with Motown Records and director, actor, playwright, Tyler Perry.



Posted by King on 04/21 at 01:16 AM
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

U Can't Touch This - MC Hammer all the Time

There’s nothing like the excitement of a large arena concert, with 18,000 plus fans dancing themselves into delirium.

Such was the case at one of the strongest live shows I attended in the 1990’s: Hammer at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Still known as “MC” back then, his electrifying and costly stage show rocked the big apple with “a cast of thousand” homeboy and homegirl dancers, extras, and hanger-on’s.

He had so many people on stage during his show, it was a visual blizzard keeping up with all the dancing and theatrical action.

For the long haul, the expensive payroll of such a production proved too much to sustain.

Today, Hammer is still showing us all those fancy moves, but now, he’s doing it through the gift of online gab.

If you’re ready for Hammer in the morning, Hammer in the evening, Hammer all the time, then prepare yourself for the non-stop MC Hammer Blog experience.

By the way, the former bat boy for the Oakland A’s is doing his thing for Major League baseball too.  It’s home run Hammer time, slamming the online banter out of the park, faster than a super homeboy from the Oaktown.

Hammer is too legit to quit.



Posted by King on 04/20 at 01:07 AM
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Secret Life of Sly Stone

The first time I saw Sly & The Family Stone was at New York City’s world famous Apollo Theater.  Comedian Red Foxx opened the show.  I was a young teen, not expecting the blue language of Foxx, or the audience disapproval of Sly.

You see, Sly’s concept of interracial funk was loud, in your face, and way ahead of it’s time.  The second time I caught his show, a couple of weeks later, downtown at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, same Sly, but the accepting Greenwich Village audience had big fun...and danced to the music.

Sly Stone, pictured here, performing at the 2006 Grammy Awards, is an icon.  You’ve probably heard all of the Sly Stone urban legends, most of them true, about his legendary shows, his no shows, and his charismatic showmanship.

A big part of the secret life of Sly Stone comes from what he learned as a young genius producer/arranger in San Francisco.  He produced tracks for Grace Slick, The Beau Brummels, and Bobby Freeman.  Sly wrote “The Swim,” a 1964 hit for Freeman.

Prior to the national break out of Sly & The Family Stone, record producer Sylvester Stewart, also known as Sly, hosted a radio show at KSOL in San Francisco.

He used a deeper, mellow speaking voice, especially later in his on-air career.  This voice was a few octaves lower than the familiar sound of his singing.

Always an innovator, Sly pioneered live dedications, and signed off his radio program each night by playing the piano.

According to T. Watts, Sly had a program segment called, “the integration record.” This was an affirmative action slot for “white” rock n’ rollers every night at 11pm.

Watts says for several months during one stretch, Sly’s “integration record” song was “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones.

You may have been lucky enough to hear Sly Stone DJ.  I once caught him in New York City, filling in for the legendary Frankie Crocker at WMCA.

I regret I didn’t record his show, for it was a classic performance.  Sly was an excellent radio DJ.  I’d love to hear him back behind the microphone.

I’m sure he did other fill-in guest appearances in other USA cities, once Sly & The Family Stone became famous.

Here’s more about Sly on the radio from Dave Billeci at reelradio.com.

"He sang in the Saint Beulah Church of God in Christ choir and recorded gospel music at the age of 4, years before attending the Chris Borden School of Broadcasting in San Francisco."

"After graduating in October 1964, Sly was hired by KSOL.  He was eventually placed on the night shift Monday through Saturday."

"He was very popular with the KSOL audience. In early 1967, Sly moved from the night shift to afternoon drive until his departure in June 1967."

By the way, if you want to hear airchecks of the secret life of Sly Stone, (an aircheck is a recording from the radio featuring DJ chatter, with most of the music removed), you can find several places online, including Airchexx.com, with recordings of Sly Stone at KSOL in San Francisco, back in the day.

Dave Billeci continues:

"During those two and a half years at KSOL, Sly gradually made a transition from an imitator to an innovator.”

“He might have been considered the Bay Area’s first “shock jock.” Dave adds that eventually, Sly “wanted to devote his (full) attention to the group he had just formed: The Family Stone."

"In October 1967, Sly decided to get back into radio and was hired by KSOL’s competitor across the bay, KDIA. He only worked there for about two months before signing a recording contract with Columbia records."

The rest, as they say, is history.



Posted by King on 04/19 at 07:45 AM
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Brenda Russell's Class Act

Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Brenda Russell has had a long and varied career.  She sings with the flava of many influences: R&B, jazz, classical, pop, rock, and Latin.

A very unique mix indeed.

Russell’s bag of talent can be compared favorably to Alicia Keys’ portfolio of abilities.  Alicia reminds me very much of a young Brenda Russell.

On both their resumes:

  • Excellent piano playing
  • Well written emotional lyrics
  • Accomplished live performance
  • Memorable musical melodies reflecting contemporary rhythmic styles

Brenda’s first hit was the ballad “So Good So Right,” in 1979.  The echo of her signature piano in that song, refined in the haunting melody of 1988’s “Piano In The Dark,” are both unforgettable.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Brenda grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  She started playing piano while singing as a teenager performing in the Canadian production of the rock musical “Hair” in Toronto.

Russell got her first big record deal after relocating to Los Angeles.

Brenda says “I never write songs that are without hope.  People have to be inspired to another level."

Brenda Russell is a real class act.



Posted by King on 04/18 at 07:48 AM
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Monday, April 17, 2006

Lionel Richie in Libya All Night Long

2005 marked the 20th anniversary of “We Are The World,” the song written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson for the benefit of African famine relief.

Saturday, April 15, 2006, another 20th anniversary was celebrated.  This time, it was a United States raid on Libya, the African nation that denounced terrorism three years ago.  Libya is now under the good graces of the USA.

In a strange mix of politics and music, Lionel Richie was a featured performer among an international collection of stars, Saturday, April 15th, for an audience of nearly one thousand Libyan diplomats in Tripoli.

The last posted tour on Lionel Richie’s website lists 2004 dates promoting his “Just For You” 2004 CD.  Is it possible that it was desirable in the Richie camp to avoid publicity for his new 2006 gig?

When you are in the public eye, it’s hard to fly under the radar screen.

In Marc Taylor’s book, A Touch of Classic Soul, the O’Jays admit “out of ignorance,” they were unprepared for “how devastating it was going to be on our career,” specifically, performing in South Africa in the 1980s.

It’s a new day.  Technically, Apartheid is out of Africa.

A gig is a gig, and gigs put money on the table.  Let’s see if Lionel Richie’s new millennium African performance has any long lasting repercussions, either positive, negative, or both.



Posted by King on 04/17 at 06:36 AM
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Saturday, April 15, 2006

June Pointer's Classic Soul Legacy

Anita, Bonnie, Ruth, and June Pointer are four trail blazing sisters.  The fact that they’ve sustained a long and successful career speaks well for their talent.

I’m personally disappointed that the soulful Pointer Sisters didn’t get as much airplay on traditional black radio as they deserved.

June Pointer passed away from cancer in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 11, at the age of 52.

The official Pointer Sisters website has a nice biography of June Pointer, as well as more significant Pointer Sisters stuff of interest to all fans of great music.

When I’m in a public place that plays pop music, I’m fascinated by how when a Pointer Sisters song comes on, people of all ages and backgrounds start singing along (with the effect of lifting their spirits and mood).

So long June.  Thank you for your music.



Posted by King on 04/15 at 01:01 PM
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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Patti Labelle and Smokey Robinson to host the Pioneer Awards

The City of Philadelphia has rescued the cash strapped Rhythm & Blues Foundation, allowing the organization to revive it’s Pioneer Awards (for soul legends), coming this June to the city of brotherly love.

Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania, and business leaders have provided enough financial incentive for the R&B Foundation to vacate the big apple, New York City, and move to Philly town.

We last heard from the Pioneer Awards in 2003.  This year’s showcase will be held during black music month, on June 29th.

Patti Labelle and Smokey Robinson will host the ceremony.  Chubby Checker, Bettye LaVette, Barbara Mason, The Delfonics, and producer Thom Bell will receive honors.

At this year’s Philadelphia ceremony, Motown founder Berry Gordy will receive a lifetime achievement award.  Otis Redding will receive a posthumous Legacy Tribute Award.

For more information about this organization’s great charitable work, visit the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

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Posted by King on 04/13 at 11:51 PM
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