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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ann Peebles - Brand New Classics

One of my favorite ladies from the “school of Southern soul,” Ann Peebles, is about to release her first album in over a decade.

In a biography about the St. Louis, Missouri native, Christine Ohlman and Ron Wynn write that Ann Peebles “was the queen of Willie Mitchell’s Memphis based Hi Records roster during the 1970’s, when Al Green was its undisputed king."

Her masterpiece, “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” has been covered by everyone from Tina Turner on one end of the spectrum to a version by Larry Graham’s Graham Central Station on the other end.

Peebles original of “Rain” was one of the favorite songs of the late Beatle John Lennon.

Track Records, based in the UK, is releasing Ann’s “Brand New Classics” on June 12, 2006.

In summarizing Peebles brilliant career, Track Records says “She co-wrote a generous share of her own material with husband Don Bryant, and while she cut plenty of love and heartbreak tunes, her persona was built on the grit and resilient strength she displayed on songs like “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down” (a number one single for Paul Young in the UK)."

"Her best recordings hold up among the greatest of their era. Her songs have been covered by Humble Pie, Bette Midler, Booker T & M.G.’s, and Missy Elliot."

Here’s an advance review of “Brand New Classics,” written by Ed Bumgardner, that appeared in Winston-Salem, North Carolina’s Relish publication...

"In recent years, a handful of savvy producers have taken it upon themselves to rediscover and record many of the forgotten soul and R&B singers, most of whom, despite getting on in years, remain in fine (and refined) voice.

The latest such project is Brand New Classics, a new album by Ann Peebles, one of the finest of the Memphis soul singers of the 1970s (her distinctive phrasing was an influence on Al Green).

This disc will thrill older soul-music fans even as it effectively introduces Peebles to a new generation. Live retoolings of many of her greatest songs ("I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down,” “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home") - and a soaring adaptation of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” - are smartly navigated by a full band in semi-acoustic arrangements.

The dynamic inflections and emotional power of Peebles’ delivery remain captivating, so much so that five bonus studio tracks merely cap an organic, contemporary-sounding album that goes for the heart and ends up a classic soul celebration."


Ann is an artist who never “crossed-over” to mainstream success, but she is highly respected by her music peers.  She is a “must play” artist when presenting a serious collection of classic R&B and classic Soul tunes.

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Posted by King on 05/31 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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!

Posted by King on 05/30 at 01:08 AM
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Friday, May 26, 2006

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.

Posted by King on 05/26 at 06:26 AM
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

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.

Posted by King on 05/25 at 01:01 AM
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bobby Bland - Blues Master

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.

Posted by King on 05/24 at 01:01 AM
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gloria Gaynor's Boogie Blast

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.  Many of the dates feature her bevy of Boogie Blast Tour friends.

Posted by King on 05/23 at 01:02 AM
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Friday, May 19, 2006

Number One R&B Songs Rescue May Days

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:

  1. “Soldier Boy” The Shirelles
  2. “When A Man Loves A Woman” Percy Sledge
  3. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” Roberta Flack
  4. “Shining Star” Earth, Wind, & Fire
  5. “Boogie Fever” The Sylvers
  6. “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

Posted by King on 05/19 at 01:02 AM
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Truth about Whitney Houston

For years, Whitney Houston has been hammered mercilessly in the tabloid press.  2006 is worse than ever, as questionable stories pile up from dubious sources.

You may have read the most recent allegations about Whitney’s health.  Here is the word from Whitney, direct from her official website, posted on May 12, 2006…

"False Reports Regarding Whitney’s Health"

"Please note that reports on Whitney’s health circulating in the media at present are not true and totally unfounded."

I’m amazed at how fast people will “drop a dime” on the press for a few quick bucks, to sell their “insider stories” to the media.

Celebrities put their faith and trust in colleagues, friends, and family members to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, loyalty goes out the window when close associates sell their “insider secrets” for a big payday.

As a classic soul and pop diva, Whitney Houston is without question, a huge success.  She’s sold over 120 million albums, and 50 million singles worldwide.

The wild side of her lifestyle has been well documented, so the media is not totally to blame when they exploit her legacy.

You may have purchased a tabloid just to read a cover story about Whitney.  Were you manipulated?

Being Bobby Brown, the recent reality television show about her husband and family, got big ratings because of Whitney’s presence in the program.

The TV show just added to the media frenzy surrounding a well known couple, struggling to remain in the spotlight, and attempting to climb back into the celebrity “A” list.

Whitney Houston is a unique talent, who may have foolishly lost her focus, due to demons that she can’t control.  I’m not going to cast the first stone, but she hasn’t received fair press, even if all of the so called allegations are true.

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Posted by King on 05/18 at 01:01 AM
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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).

Posted by King on 05/17 at 07:58 AM
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What is Southern Soul? part two

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?

Posted by King on 05/16 at 07:53 AM
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Friday, May 12, 2006

What is Southern Soul? part one

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.

Posted by King on 05/12 at 08:06 AM
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

More Square Biz from Teena Marie

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.

Posted by King on 05/11 at 07:38 AM
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Jammin' with Damian Marley

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.

Posted by King on 05/10 at 01:01 AM
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Baby Makin' Isley Brothers

"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.

  1. You’re My Star
  2. Blast Off (featuring R. Kelly)
  3. Just Came Here To Chill
  4. Gotta Be With You
  5. Pretty Woman
  6. Forever Mackin
  7. Show Me
  8. Give It To You
  9. Beautiful
  10. Heaven Hooked Us Up
  11. 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:

  1. Between the Sheets
  2. Footsteps in the Dark
  3. Who’s That Lady
  4. It’s Your Thing
  5. Twist and Shout
  6. This Old Heart of Mine
  7. For The Love of You
  8. Busted
  9. Voyage to Atlantis
  10. Summer Breeze
  11. Keep it on the Down Low
  12. Contagious
  13. 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.

Posted by King on 05/09 at 01:03 AM
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Friday, May 05, 2006

"Peace out" from War on Cinco De Mayo Day

I’ve spent two memorable Cinco De Mayo days having a funky good time.  One in San Antonio, Texas, the other in Seattle, Washington.  Great music was at the centerpiece of both lively celebrations.

According to Mexonline.com, an online guide to Mexico, The holiday of Cinco De Mayo, May 5th, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862.

It’s primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla, and throughout the state of Puebla.

The holiday is recognized in other parts of Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities (with significant Mexican populations).

Cinco De Mayo day is not, as many people think, Mexico’s Independence Day, (which is September 16).

Cinco De Mayo day offers us the opportunity to think about groups and individuals who have effectively blended elements of Latin, soul, rock, and R&B.

Santana, Malo, Joe Cuba, Tito Puente, Coke Escovedo, and Shelia E., (Coke’s daughter), all have had success expressing their music through strong Latin roots.

Perhaps the most successful R&B, soul, rock, and Latin fusion blend, with a touch of jazz, comes from the hit making ensemble: War.

Bill Dahl, in a Billboard review, writes about the story of War:

"Freewheeling War mixed rock, jazz, and soul influences into a spicy stew throughout the 1970’s, resulting in a series of R&B and pop hits sporting funky melodies and politically aware messages.

Born in Long Beach, California, in 1969, the large combo initially served as rocker Eric Burdon’s group, backing the ex-Animal on his 1970 million-seller “Spill the Wine.”

The band signed with United Artists in 1971 and enjoyed its first smash the next year with “Slippin’ into Darkness.”

Tapping into a sizzling, horn-fueled rock/soul synthesis, “The World Is a Ghetto,” “The Cisco Kid,” and “Why Can’t We be Friends?” all went gold during the mid 1970’s.

Despite numerous personnel and label changes, War remained popular throughout the 1980’s.

In the early 1990’s, War experienced a revival, partially due to the fact that all of their albums were reissued.  The group was also acknowledged as a primary influence on contemporary R&B and hip hop.

War released a new album in 1994 to capitalize on their new found popularity.”


War is still touring and performing.  Here’s their intense 2006 schedule:

Friday, May 5, 2006 Victorville, CA San Bernardino Co. Fair
Saturday, May 6, 2006 Coarsegold, CA Half Dome Chukchansi Casino
Saturday, May 13, 2006 Mountain View, CA Shoreline Amphitheatre
Thursday, May 25, 2006 Solana Beach, CA Belly Up Tavern
Saturday, May 27, 2006 Los Angeles, CA Greek Theatre
Sunday, May 28, 2006 Avila Beach, CA Avila Beach Resort

Saturday, June 3, 2006 El Paso, TX Custom Car & Chopper Festival
Sunday, June 4, 2006 Beaumont, CA Cherry Festival
Sunday, June 11, 2006 Santa Rosa, CA Sonoma Co. Fairgrounds
Saturday, June 24, 2006 Sacramento, CA Meadowview Jazz & Cultural Festival
Sunday, June 25, 2006 Philadelphia, PA West Oak Lane Festival

Friday, July 28, 2006 Canal Fulton, OH Rock & Roll Resort Fest

Friday, August 4, 2006 Columbus, OH Ohio State Fair
Tuesday, August 8, 2006 Camden, NJ Wiggins Park
Saturday, August 12, 2006 Camp Verde, AZ Cliff Castle Casino
Saturday, August 26, 2006 Albany, OR Art & Air Festival
Sunday, August 27, 2006 Palmer, AK Alaska State Fair
Thursday, August 31, 2006 Sparks, NV John Ascuaga’s Nugget

Saturday, September 2, 2006 Long Beach, CA Blues Festival
Sunday, September 3, 2006 Virginia Beach, VA American Music Fest
Wednesday, September 20, 2006 Marysville, WA Tulalip Casino

Saturday, October 21, 2006 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage
Sunday, October 22, 2006 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage

Thursday, November 2, 2006 Highland, CA San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino

War’s unique sound comes from a talented mix of musicians, including keyboard specialist Lonnie Jordan, and Danish-born harmonica player Lee Oskar.

"The Cisco Kid” is the song that gained war a strong following in the Latino community.

Posted by King on 05/05 at 01:03 AM
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