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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cheryl Lynn Star Love

A burst of energy best describes the powerhouse punch of Cheryl Lynn’s belting voice.

I caught her hot show in Houston, Texas, when her hit “Shake it Up Tonight,” produced and arranged by Ray Parker Jr., was moving up the charts.

Cheryl was born in Los Angeles, California on March 11, 1957.  Her official biography notes that she harmonized her way through tiny tots choir in church all the way to the adult chorus years later.

She traveled the circuit with gospel great James Cleveland in those early years.

When Cheryl was 21 years old, she appeared on Hollywood’s “The Gong Show,” (television’s original American Idol), getting a perfect score singing Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful."

She signed with Columbia Records, and collaborated with Toto’s David Paich, who co-wrote, arranged, and produced her first big hit, “Got To Be Real.” The two also teamed up for Toto’s hit, “Georgy Porgy,” featuring Cheryl as the female lead.

Additional projects with Luther Vandross, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, produced the hits “If this World Were Mine,” and “Encore."

Notable Number One Cheryl Lynn R&B hits:

  • Got to Be Real
  • Encore

A personal favorite of mine - seven minutes and 23 seconds of “Star Love,” another song arranged and produced by David Paich.  “Star Love” showcases the amazing vocal range and ability of Cheryl Lynn.

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Posted by King on 08/31 at 11:41 AM
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Earth Wind & Fire Heat up Summer

Earth Wind & Fire wrap up a full Summer of touring this Labor Day Weekend in Florida.

Look for them in Tampa, and West Palm, weather permitting.

Here are group members Verdine White, Philip Bailey, and Ralph Johnson (left to right).

Relive our highlights of the Earth Wind & Fire, Rufus and Chaka Khan 30th anniversary concert, 5 years ago this weekend, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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Posted by King on 08/30 at 02:16 PM
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Five Fine Phyllis Hyman Favorites

Phyllis Hyman was a remarkable talent.

I was lucky enough to be the master of ceremonies for a concert she performed in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at Convention Hall on the boardwalk in the early 1980’s.

This shot was taken of us after the concert.  The very statuesque Phyllis, resting after a dynamite show, is sitting on a small chair.

She seemed pretty happy during this period of her life, as she was starting to get more well deserved recognition.

The following five songs give you a nice snapshot of Phyllis Hyman the singer:

  1. Old Friend
  2. Betcha By Golly Wow
  3. Somewhere in My Lifetime
  4. You Know how to Love Me
  5. Kiss You All Over

"Old Friend” is a wonderfully sung romantic salute to a special person just returning from a long absence who is the focus of some glowing unconditional love.

Phyllis communicates with soul wrenching emotion inside of Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s “Betcha By Golly Wow,” recorded with Norman Connors.

You might argue that there’s too much production behind “Somewhere in My Lifetime,” an elaborately arranged pop excursion produced by Barry Manilow.  It’s still a marvelous song that holds up well today.  Phyllis makes it work.

”You Know how to Love Me” is a danceable classic, shared by many as a Phyllis Hyman favorite.

The Exile hit “Kiss You All Over” is much sexier the way Ms. Hyman takes on the tune.

I have nothing but great memories of Phyllis Hyman the person.  Her strength as a singer speaks for itself.

Tragically, she took her own life in 1995.  Though her soul is at rest and her spirit is silenced, we have her songs to treasure forever .

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Posted by King on 08/29 at 05:22 PM
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Fall and Rise of R&B Legend Ruth Brown

written by Paul de Barros (Seattle Times jazz critic)...


Few popular music stars survive more than one trend.

Against relentless odds, and with more bad luck than any one person deserves, Ruth Brown has managed to do just that.

Known as “the girl with the tear in her voice,” Brown virtually defined female R&B singing in the ‘50s, with sexy, fun hits for Atlantic Records like “Teardrops From My Eyes,” “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean” and “5-10-15 Hours."

But after R&B was re-marketed to white teenagers as “rock ‘n’ roll,” Brown couldn’t raise a dime. For nearly two decades, she worked as a domestic and a school-bus driver.

Then, in 1977, the comedian Redd Foxx offered her walk-on parts on his TV show, “Sanford and Son,” and a new theatrical talent was born.

In 1989, Brown won a Tony Award for her role in the Broadway show “Black and Blue.” (She also won a Grammy that year for her album “Blues On Broadway.") Along the way, she starred in Allen Toussaint’s Off-Broadway gem, “Staggerlee” and played the white-wigged Motormouth Maybelle in the John Waters’ film “Hairspray."

Reached by telephone earlier this week at her home in Las Vegas, Brown was reading the script for the new John Sayles movie, “The Honeydripper,” in which she’ll play the part of a blues singer named Bertha.

"I’m excited,” she said in a voice still rich and vibrant, though congested from a recent hospital stay for fluid in her lungs. “Bertha has been singing the blues many, many, many years and she knows the history. Unfortunately, my character dies in the end of the story, but it’s all right - I’ve got five songs in there."

Brown is also proud of her new Hummer commercial, featuring the Bobby Darin classic “This Little Girl’s Gone Rockin.’ “

Brown’s career is unusual, in that she jumped the subtle but real class barrier between R&B and jazz.

"There was a time they didn’t want to say they knew Ruth Brown because she was an R&B singer,” said the 78-year-old survivor. “They didn’t respect you at all. Dinah [Washington] tried to insult me because of that."

The great Billie Holiday, after hearing Brown imitate her at Café Society, “walked into the dressing room and read me out good,” said Brown. “She said, ‘You’re pretty good, but there’s only one Lady Day, and I’m it. If you want to steal my stuff, do it your own way.’ “

That’s exactly what Brown’s been doing all these years. The delicious, tongue-in-cheek twinkle of those ‘50s R&B songs matured into the sophisticated, theatrical sass of her “Black and Blue” showstopper, “If I Can’t Sell It (I’m Going to Sit On It)."

Brown has been beset by mishaps during her long career. Raised in Portsmouth, Virginia,(where a street and a new blues festival were named for her this year), Brown got into a severe car accident on the way to her first recording session in New York. After recovering from knee surgery, she had a stroke in 2000.

Brown made a triumphant comeback in 2003, at Bumbershoot as well as an extended appearance at the Manhattan supper club Le Jazz Au Bar.

Brown sings seated on her “throne” now, but there’s no dearth of spirit coming from that voice. She does the old hits but also tunes from “Black and Blue” and from her excellent 1999 album, “A Good Day for the Blues” (Bullseye).

"If I can’t sell it, I’m going to sit down on it,” she said, with a laugh. “Life turns around, and the truth comes down. It’s amazing how many times I sang that song on Broadway. Now I have to sit down, anyway."

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Posted by King on 08/24 at 07:45 AM
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Timeless Love from Smokey Robinson

Motown legend Smokey Robinson croons into the pop standard world on his new CD, “Timeless Love."

Queen Latifah, Ronald Isley, and Chaka Khan have also put together similar vintage song collections that spotlight the pre-R&B era.

Smokey sticks closely to the formula and presents classic standards featuring great writers of unforgettable tunes. He takes on Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, and other famous composers in this soulful salute to “Timeless Love.”

The tracks include:

  1. You Go to My Head
  2. I’m in the Mood for Love/Moody’s Mood for Love
  3. Our Love Is Here to Stay
  4. Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)
  5. Night and Day
  6. I’m Glad There Is You
  7. More Than You Know
  8. Speak Low
  9. Time After Time
  10. I Can’t Get You Anything But Love (Baby)
  11. I Love Your Face
  12. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
  13. Tea for Two

Sarah Vaughan, King Pleasure, and Ella Fitzgerald may have made some these songs famous, but Smokey delivers the goods ‘Crusin’ the melodies in a style all his own.

Robinson is one of the best song writers of his generation.  “Timeless Love” is a classy salute to an earlier group of innovators who crafted words into amazing songs that just may last forever.

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Posted by King on 08/23 at 07:45 AM
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Music Critics Mild about OutKast Idlewild

Today is the scheduled release date for the much anticipated soundtrack “Idlewild,” by OutKast.

The movie of the same name, starring OutKast pair Big Boi and Andre Benjamin, opens this Friday, August 25th.

As described by IMDb, Idlewild is “a musical set in the Prohibition-era American South, where a speakeasy performer and club manager Rooster (Big Boi) must contend with gangsters who have their eyes on the club..."

"His piano player and partner Percival (André Benjamin) must choose between his love, Angel (Paula Patton) or his obligations to his father (Ben Vereen)."

Ever since OutKast busted out with their huge cross-over hits “The Way You Move,” and “Hey Ya!,” the bar has been raised pretty high for their follow-up material.

Soundtracks and movies can often be judged independently, especially when the music becomes a cultural phenomenon on its own, (think Saturday Night Fever, or even Purple Rain).

On the other hand, soundtracks must work with the images on the screen, as music and other audio effects are always added after the filming is completed.

In some ways, it’s unfair to judge soundtracks and non-film related music CD’s the same way, but everybody does.

For Idlewild, the music critics are stirring up debate over how the release stands up independently of the film.  Here are some comments...


New Musical Express:

“If the only charge you can level at ‘Idlewild’ is that it’s a bit long and uneven and self-indulgent… well hello, this is their (OutKast) jazz album! That’s what jazz is like!"

"You still couldn’t name another artist on the planet who could set themselves such a ridiculous challenge and pull it off with this much pizzazz."

"In any other hands this would have been a total disaster, but yes, things are never quite that simple with these two. The other thing about OutKast is that even when they make no sense whatsoever, they’re rarely anything less than brilliant."

All Music Guide:

“Even its highlights fall short of OutKast’s past and fail to transcend its assortment of inspirations. Little of it sticks."

"The music of the ‘30s seeps through a handful of tracks, the best of which is led by Big Boi protégé Janelle Monaé, a young vocalist who stomps and sways through her time in the spotlight."

Entertainment Weekly:

“OutKast’s seventh album, Idlewild, doesn’t do much to suggest the group has a bright future. Instead, it finds the duo still going their own ways as they face a dubious challenge: how to wedge rap vocals into Depression-era swing, blues, and vaudeville arrangements."

"It all plays out in the soundtrack to a movie musical set in the mythical 1930s Georgia town of Idlewild."

"If this is the multimedia spectacle the OutKast brain trust has selected to punctuate their transition from Dirty South musical pioneers into pop megadandies, it’s a bust."

Rolling Stone:

“Idlewild mixes up swing, blues, hip-hop and R&B without losing a step..."


“Film-specific songs like “Make No Sense at All” and “Call the Law” fall flat out of context."


These are five broad opinions about the music of Idlewild.  We’ll see how well both the soundtrack and the movie are accepted.

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Posted by King on 08/22 at 07:44 AM
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Moments of Harmony for Ray, Goodman, & Brown

Ray, Goodman, & Brown, formerly known as The Moments, recorded many classic R&B hits.

1969’s “Love on a Two Way Street” was a #1 chart topper.  In 1981, Stacy Lattisaw served up the song with youthful emotion to brand new audiences.

Other memorable Moments hits include:

  • “Look at Me I’m In Love”
  • “With You”
  • “Happy Anniversary”
  • “If I Didn’t Care”
  • “Not on the Outside but Inside Strong”
  • “Girls” (with The Whatnauts)

The Moments changed their name in 1978 to Ray, Goodman, & Brown. Their 1979 tribute honoring the divine “Special Lady” was a #1 R&B, and #5 pop hit.

Billy Brown sang lead on “Love on a Two Way Street,” “Sunday,” “Lovely Way She Loves,” “Lucky Me,” “I Do,” “Inside of You,” and “All I Have.” Before The Moments, Billy was with a group called the Broadways.

Al Goodman started his career with the Corvettes and the Vipers. After joining the Moments, Al produced and wrote songs for the future Ray, Goodman, and Brown. He’s done the same for other artists.

"Look At Me I’m In Love,” “Sexy Mama,” “Inside Of You,” and “Happy Anniversary,” are a few of the songs Al Goodman wrote and produced.

Harry Ray was with the group for 25 years, except for a brief period in 1982 when he pursued a solo career.

Kevin Owens temporarily replaced Ray.  Owens would permanently join “Ray, Goodman, & Brown” after Ray’s untimely passing.

Today, Al Goodman and Billy Brown own the name “Ray, Goodman, & Brown.” They continue the tradition of charming crowds with sweet n’ soulful vocal harmonies.

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Posted by King on 08/17 at 01:01 AM
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jody Watley Banks on Makeover

Jody Watley, formerly of the group Shalamar, has a creative new release, “The Makeover.” The CD title implies a rebirth, and that’s exactly what Jody does with songs you’ll instantly recognize.

Madonna’s “Borderline,” Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover,” Chic’s “I Want Your Love,” and Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” are some of the songs Watley re-energizes.

Both “I Want Your Love” and “Waiting in Vain” offer danceable interpretations that expand the scope of the original Chic and Marley tunes.

“Makeover" has twelve tracks, offering lots of variety, including several new songs.

Jody tackles a medley of Carpenters hits, “Close to You,” “Superstar,” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Her approach is quite different from Luther Vandross’ mellow take on the hit song “Superstar."

"The Makeover” is Jody’s ninth solo album.  She sings on this one with gusto.  Her fans new and old will enjoy it.

Pick up on her good times with Howard Hewitt and Jeffery Daniels by checking out Shalamar’s official biography.

Jody Watley is the god-daughter of the late classic soul legend Jackie Wilson.  She has a great blog, so read about her latest adventures at Jody Watley dot net.

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Posted by King on 08/16 at 07:46 AM
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dramatic August Debut for Mary J. Blige

When she was 21 years old, Mary J. Blige was crowned the queen of hip hop R&B soul.

On August 15, 1992, her first single, “You Remind Me,” climbed to #1 R&B and #29 pop.

Who says karaoke doesn’t pay?  Mary J. recorded Anita Baker’s “Rapture” as a demo at a suburban New York City shopping mall on a karaoke machine.

Like so many artists, a church choir was her calling while living in Savannah, Georgia.

Between 1992 - 1997, three of Mary’s five albums reached #1 R&B ("What’s the 411,” “My Life,” “Share My World").

Her latest release is the well received “The Breakthrough.” At peace with herself, there’s no more drama for Mary J. Blige.

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Posted by King on 08/15 at 07:45 AM
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Raydio Evolution of Ray Parker Jr.

Ray Parker Jr. learned his craft well.

With tons of experience to guide him, he made the successful leap from session musician to Raydio hit maker.

During his Raydio era, the air waves percolated with the charm of his group’s catchy songs, sincere lyrics, and memorable melodies. Ray has just released a new solo album, “I’m Free,” and he still knows how to tell great stories and handle tight harmonies through his songs.

One thing that distinguishes Ray’s style is the ease at which he effortlessly sings.  You can understand all of the words as his voice cuts through (out front in the mix).

With 11 songs, I found the first 9 tracks of “I’m Free,” the most appealing.  The title cut is a bluesy number done Texas style with a guitar lick reminiscent of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Sounds like Mr. Parker has been spending time on the beach too.  There’s a festive bounce in the air.  “Rum Punch” is a lot of fun, as Ray and his party posse sing “pour me another and let’s get drunk."

You’ll also find a few well done instrumentals, featuring Ray Parker’s subtle guitar.

A surprise song is his interpretation of a pop classic, “The Guitar Man,” originally a hit for David Gates (with the group Bread).

Overall, “I’m Free” offers you a pleasant sounding Ray Parker Jr., serving up some spicy new soulful songs.  Honest and straightforward lyrics keep you interested throughout both the fun, and the despair illuminated in his songs.

Here are some Ray Parker Jr. tour dates for the rest of 2006:

  • August 26, Washington DC, Carter Barron Amphitheater (Rock Creek Park)
  • September 9, Huntington Beach, CA
  • September 30, Mesa, AZ, Ikeda Theater
  • October 1, Santa Barbara, CA, Santa Barbara Zoo
  • October 7, Catalina Island, CA, Catalina Jazz Festival
  • October 13, Jacksonville, FL, The Florida Theatre
  • October 14, Sarasota, FL, Van Weizel Performing Arts
  • October 15, Melbourne, FL, King Center

Ray’s Official Biography begins..."singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer Ray Parker Jr. had hits as:

  • Raydio (the million-selling Jack and Jill, You Can’t Change That)
  • Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio (Two Places at the Same Time, A Woman Needs Love Just Like You Do)
  • Ray Parker Jr. (the number one R&B and pop gold single “Ghostbusters")
  • Co-writer of hit songs for Rufus and Chaka Khan (the number one “You Got the Love” from Fall 1974) and Barry White’s ("You See the Trouble With Me” from Spring 1976)."

"Born May 1, 1954, in Detroit, Michigan, Parker started out as a teenage session guitarist playing on dates recorded for Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Hot Wax and Invictus Records (whose roster included):

  • Freda Payne
  • Honey Cone
  • Chairman of the Board
  • 100 Proof Aged in Soul
  • Laura Lee
  • 8th Day

Ray also played behind the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, the Spinners, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and other Motown acts when they appeared at the Twenty Grand Club."

"In 1972, Wonder called Parker to ask him to play behind him on a tour that he was doing with the Rolling Stones. Parker thought it was a crank call and hung up the phone. Wonder called back and convinced Parker that he was the real deal by singing “Superstition” to him."

Read the rest of the fascinating Ray Parker Jr. story at his official web site.

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Posted by King on 08/10 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Usher on Broadway to Shakeup Chicago

2006 marks the 10th anniversary of the musical Chicago on Broadway.  Grammy Award winner Usher is the latest star to cast his large shadow on the New York City stage.

Chicago has made big box office bucks.  In 2002, Queen Latifah was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the film adaptation.  The movie went on to win six Academy Awards.  The Broadway production won six Tony Awards in 1997.

Usher will jump into the role of Billy Flynn.  The flamboyant Roaring 20’s musical offers plenty of jazz-based heat to keep the action hot for the 27 year-old Usher.

"This is a very exciting time in my career,” says Usher. “I have always admired Broadway actors for their showmanship, dedication and focus that goes into performing live on stage every night."

"Being on Broadway allows you to connect to audiences in a whole new way that’s different from music and movies. When they asked me to play Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” I jumped at the chance to be a part of such an amazing production."

Usher’s acting resume is pretty impressive.  He’s appeared in the movies “She’s All That,” “The Faculty,” “Light it Up,” “Geppetto,” “Texas Rangers,” and “In the Mix”.

His television credits include “The Twilight Zone,” “7th Heaven,” “Moesha,” and Dick Clark’s “American Dreams” (portraying Marvin Gaye).

Usher’s 5th album, “Confessions” released in 2004, dominated the album charts and broke numerous records. “Confessions” sold over 15 million copies and spun off four phenomenal #1 Pop and #1 R&B hit singles.

Usher has earned countless awards including 5 Grammy Awards, several American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards, and Billboard Awards.

You get the feeling he’ll be a hit on Broadway too. Usher joins the cast of Chicago at New York’s Ambassador Theatre on August 22nd, and continues to shine through October 1, 2006.

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Posted by King on 08/09 at 07:45 AM
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Queen Latifah Leads Girl Power Tour

On Sunday, August 13, the final leg of this year’s steamy 2006 Sugar Water Festival tour heads to the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.

Kicking off at 6:30pm, headliners Queen Latifah, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Mo’ Nique, and Kelis take the stage to perform their magic.

Look for lots of curves, milkshakes, and “boys in the yard,” checking out this sizzling summer show.  Oh yes, the ladies will be there too.

If you’ve seen this tour over the past year, (in either 2005 or 2006), let us know what you liked best.

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Posted by King on 08/08 at 07:45 AM
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

King of Sax Rocks Queen of Soul

Atlantic Records is at it again.  Hot on the heels of two new vintage CD releases: “Soul Sisters” and “ Soul Brothers,” the label is releasing expanded versions of live classic R&B albums from Aretha Franklin, and King Curtis.

Aretha’s “Live at Fillmore West,” recorded in 1971, will now have 13 additional tracks added to the amazing album (with new songs hand picked from various sets Aretha recorded at the historic venue).

Her duet with Ray Charles, “Spirit in the Dark,” is the show stopper on “Live at Fillmore West."

King Curtis, who opened for Aretha at the legendary concert palace, gets featured with his own “Live at the Fillmore.” The late “Memphis Soul Stew” saxophone guy churns up some lively instrumental versions of many hit songs from back in the day.

There seems to be no end to the terrific classic soul material sitting inside of record company tape and vinyl vaults.

The tracks are just waiting to sonically re-emerge on our own personal digital listening devices.

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Posted by King on 08/03 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mavis Staples Steps Up

You’ll find lots of food for thought in this conversation with Mavis Staples by writer Robert Morast.  What do you think?

After the article, my postscript fills you in on current Mavis activities.


Mavis Staples: Big voice, Lots of Soul

by Robert Morast of the Sioux Falls Argust Leader

"Mavis Staples says she doesn’t know what key she’s in while singing.

But the soul legend who moaned and bellowed some classic R&B songs while part of The Staple Singers does know that she’s not a fan of today’s R&B music because so much of it disses women.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, one of Staples’ most memorable vocal moments was in The Staple Singers’ song “Respect Yourself,” a tune that admonishes the acts of ignorant men.

After Pops Staples introduced the funky church-tinged song, Mavis took over the second verse issuing a soulful criticism of men by singing, “You curse around women but you don’t even know their names/then you’re dumb enough to think it’ll make you a big ol’ man."

Sound like any hip hoppers or R&B singers you know? 50 Cent? R. Kelly, perhaps?

Staples doesn’t name names, but she’s not afraid to call out the machismo-soaked lot 30 years after “Respect Yourself” dogged the men of its time.

"The songs today ... it’s actually garbage to me, because you’re disrespecting the ladies,” Staples says from her home in Chicago.

She then steps back in time to cite the material of R&B patriarchs such as Curtis Mayfield or The Temptations as more appropriate examples of how to sing about women.

"These songs could make you feel like you were falling in love,” Staples says.

After singing a quick, syrupy sweet line from The Temptations’ “My Girl,” Staples says, “You would actually swoon when you heard these guys sing."

Somewhere, there are probably women swooning over Fiddy’s mush-mouthed “In the Club."

But it remains to be seen if this style of R&B can transcend the moment and live on through time, like “My Girl” or “Respect Yourself."

"I’ll never forget hearing ‘Respect Yourself’ for the first time,” says Shemekia Copeland, a young blues singer. “It’s hard to explain. (Mavis) just comes in and you know she’s there. It’s like a tornado hit."

Too much bling nowadays ...

Another natural disaster reminded Staples of some other things plaguing today’s R&B materialism and the lack of a cultural leader.

After seeing how Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Staples says she wished more musicians were taking stands on the neglect that surrounded the Katrina evacuees.

"I feel that these kids should get on board and forget about the bling-bling for a while and check out what’s going on around them,” Staples says. “But it’s hard for them to see that. They came out and became big stars. They didn’t struggle coming up like we did."

And she says they don’t have anyone to guide them.

"We don’t have a black leader today,” Staples says. “Maybe that would show them that they should start putting some positive messages in their music about the world today."

As a former convert, she knows. The Staple Singers were pushing their gospel soul sounds when Martin Luther King Jr. managed to convince the group to start singing about civil rights - like its song “Long Walk to D.C.,” which implores people to take their opinions to the nation’s capitol.

"But I don’t see anyone being a leader,” Staples says. “I think somebody like Queen Latifah (could) ... not totally, but she could be instrumental in getting it together.

"But we need a white leader, too. We need to start thinking about everyone together."

Hmmm, sounds like a new song."


Catch Mavis Staples on tour this Summer and Fall making appearances with B.B. King, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and others.

In June, Mavis was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowship. The Fellowship is the USA’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

Mavis’s father Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples received a Heritage Fellowship in 1998, and 2006 marks the first time that a daughter and father have been honored individually with a fellowship.

Awarded since 1982, other past recipients of the Heritage Fellowship include B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Michael Doucet, Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker, Doc Watson, and Bill Monroe.

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Posted by King on 08/02 at 07:56 AM
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rediscovering Lionel Richie

Two years ago, reviewing Lionel Richie’s 2004 CD “Just for You,” I wrote that his collection of new songs did “not quite capture the style of his older hits, or the R&B sound of today."

I was not alone.  If you search through the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) gold and platinum records database, among the 27 citations for Lionel Richie, “Just for You” is missing in action.

Gold and platinum releases represent success.  Gold releases have sold 500,000 units, and platinum hits have topped 1 million units.

"Just for You” sold only 204,000 copies in the USA.

Compared to his string of 15 consecutive top 10 R&B hits between 1981 - 1992, (five peaked at #1), the material on “Just for You” was disappointing.

Let’s remember, here was a guy who is the consummate successful songwriter.  An entertainer who:

  • performed “All Night Long” during the XXIII Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, with 200 dancers, and a worldwide television audience of over 2 billion people.
  • Won 5 Grammy Awards.
  • Won an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for “Say You, Say Me."

Given my thoughts about “Just for You,” I was pleasantly surprised while auditioning his brand new 2006 release, “I Call It Love,” a song that will be included in his new CD, “Coming Home,” scheduled for a September 12 release.

Opening and closing with what sounds like either a mandolin, or a solo harp and acoustic guitar combination, the melodic song drifts effortlessly into a contemporary mid-tempo beat, accented by background harmonies, reminiscent of Usher’s style.

"I Call It Love” is well constructed, with a nice tight hook..."they call it - we call it - you call it - I call it love.” Joining the hook to reset the song back to its main rhythm is a distinctive bridge (that all good pop songs contain).

Listen closely, and you’ll hear some understated synthesizer, a tip of the hat to Lionel’s sound with The Commodores.

His voice sounds clear and distinctive on this new song.  He’s feeling the song, and enjoying it.

Lionel Richie fans, “I Call It Love” is not “Truly” or “Oh No,” its closer to The Commodores “Sweet Love” (in tempo), with a more consistent pulsating beat.

The young dynamic duo of Stargate and Taj have written and produced this gem for Lionel. Check out “I Call It Love,” new to our playlist this week on Powerhouse Radio, The #1 Total R&B Experience.

Richie’s “Coming Home” CD includes other collaborations with a new generation of hitmakers, including Jermaine Dupri, Raphael Saadiq, Dallas Austin, Sean Garrett, Chuckii Booker, and others.

Give “I Call It Love” a listen.  I think you’ll like it.

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Posted by King on 08/01 at 01:02 AM
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