Thursday, September 28, 2006
London Calls John Legend for Live Online Gig
John Legend, who won a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B vocal performance for 2005’s “Ordinary People,” kicks off a free live online MSN concert series on Monday, October 2.
Legend lands in London’s Royal Albert Hall for a 9pm performance (1pm Pacific, 4pm Eastern).
John also won 2005’s Best R&B album Grammy: “Get Lifted."
Microsoft’s video site, MSN Video, will stream the concert live to the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the U.K.
Legend’s MSN concert will be the first of 36 scheduled live online performances by various artists over several years.
You’ll find John Legend live (when the performance takes place) at http://music.msn.com/JohnLegend.
Technorati tags: John Legend
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Leaving New Day Dreaming to Natalie Cole
Aretha Franklin‘s number one song, “Day Dreaming,” gets a contemporary spin as one of the highlighted tracks on Natalie Cole‘s new CD, “Leavin’."
Scheduled for release yesterday, (September 26), “Leavin’” is Natalie’s 20th studio album, and her first in four years.
Versatility is Ms. Cole’s middle name. She chooses a wide selection of material on the collection, including songs by The Isley Brothers, Fiona Apple, Neil Young, Kate Bush, and Sting:
- Old Man
- Day Dreaming
- The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done To Me)
- Lovin’ Arms
- Love Letter
- The Man With A Child In His Eyes
- 5 Minutes Away
- Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time For Love)
- You Gotta Be
- If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
She handles “Day Dreaming” quite well, giving it a very modern touch.
Natalie Cole trivia...her first hit, “This Will Be,” reached #6 pop in 1975. How many hits did she have through 1997?
What’s a new CD without a tour to support the release? Catch Natalie on the following October and November 2006 dates:
- October 12: Casino Rama Orillia, Ontario, Canada
- October 14: Caesar’s Palace, Atlantic City, New Jersey
- October 16: World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- October 18: Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, Georgia
- October 21: Norton Center for the Arts, Danville, Kentucky
- October 24: Count Basie Theater, Red Bank, New Jersey
- October 25: Music Center at Strathmore, Bethesda, Maryland
- October 28: Fine Arts Theatre, Detroit, Michigan
- October 29: Fine Arts Theatre, Detroit, Michigan
- November 1: Park West, Chicago, Illinois
- November 2: Park West, Chicago, Illinois
- November 7: Potawatomi Casino-Northern Lights Theatre, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- November 12: Jackson Rancheria Casino, Jackson, California
Here’s the complete list for even more Natalie Cole tour dates.
The answer to the trivia question: Natalie Cole had 18 charted “hits” between 1975 - 1997.
Technorati tags: Natalie Cole
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The New Electronic Frontier for Classic Soul
Take a look at the new music releases, and you’ll find lots of old friends attempting to re-enter the spotlight.
According to the RIAA, (Recording Industry Association of America), these were the top five genres (in order) based on shipments from record companies:
- Rap/Hip Hop
- Rap/Hip Hop
Overall during the past 10 years, the top five genres remain the same. R&B/Urban hangs in at number 4. Rap/Hip Hop is the biggest gainer - but there’s more behind the numbers.
In 1996, RIAA research of record buyers concluded that 15-19 year olds represented the largest segment, 17.2 percent. 45 year olds and above represented 15.1 percent of the buyers.
Fast forward to 2005. 15-19 year olds have dropped to 11.9%, while 45+ is now the largest buying segment, commanding 25.5% of the market. 20-24 year olds are in 2nd place, with only 12.7%.
How we obtain music reflects another interesting change…
- Record Store: 49.9%
- Record Club: 14.3%
- Internet: (not applicable)
- Digital Download (not applicable)
- Concert (not applicable)
- Record Store: 39.4%
- Record Club: 8.5%
- Internet: 8.2%
- Digital Download: 6.0%
- Concert: 2.7%
The RIAA numbers show that the gender split between men and women has remained even, about 50 - 50, since 1996. In 2005, it was 48.2% female, and 51.8% male.
So when you read about new releases from Lionel Richie, Janet Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame), The Whispers, and countless others, the numbers back up the fact that the market for these artists is still very strong.
Classic Soul is still in the game. Though not the focus of this article, jazz and classical genres have taken the biggest hit over the past 10 years, each losing about 35% of market share with music buyers.
Not even considering online radio, in 2005, 14% of music consumers purchased music through the Web.
As more music fans become comfortable with commerce in an iTunes world, look for more legacy artists to take advantage of electronic distribution opportunities direct to you and me.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
A Relaxing Romantic Return for the Whispers
Fans all over the world are applauding the Whispers, “For Your Ears Only,” their first new CD release in nine years.
Sample the songs, and you’ll hear the velvety smooth Whispers - very reminiscent of their best all-time classic R&B.
These guys conduct a master class in “harmony school” by singing up a gentle “quiet storm.” After listening to the tracks, I give “For Your Ears Only” two thumbs up.
"Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” the Major Harris hit, gets a fresh uptempo face lift.
Diving into the CD, you discover that the beckoning ballads deliver. The medium-tempo tracks are right on target, and the fourteen songs work together to form a very satisfying collection.
This new CD is far from just nostalgia. Teena Marie, Ali Ollie Woodson, Robert Brookins, Grady Wilkins, and Nicholas Caldwell (of the Whispers) contribute some great new songs to showcase the emotional intimacy of the group.
I’ve seen the Whispers several different times, and have never been disappointed with their well tuned voices or their lively polished showmanship.
Classic soul lovers haven’t forgotten the Whispers either. Fan reviews of the new “For Your Ears Only” are unanimously positive.
Between 1969 - 1997, The Whispers had 49 R&B chart hits, including “Olivia,” “Lady,” and “Rock Steady."
The Los Angeles, California group continues to tour and perform.
Check out the official Solar Records Whispers biography at PowerhouseRadio.com.
Take note of the most recent Whispers biography, including some great group photographs, at the official Whispers web site.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Disappearing 2006 American Music Award Ladies
In 1973, Roberta Flack won the first American Music Award.
Take a look at the 2006 nominees, and you’ll find one genre surprisingly missing.
While the female Soul/R&B category remains strong, I took notice that the “female hip hop/rap artist” category has been eliminated. Less than five artists qualified for this category in 2006.
In 2003, Missy Elliott, Eve, and Lil’ Kim were nominated in the category. Missy Elliot won. In 2004, no ladies were nominated. In 2005, Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim, and Trina were nominated. Missy Elliott won.
There are lots of reasons why the AMA female hip hop/rap category is not a part of the ceremony this year.
The versatile women who have dominated the AMA soul/R&B category in recent years: Alicia Keys, Beyonce’, Janet Jackson, and Mariah Carey, all incorporate important elements of hip hop into their repertoire.
Fewer ladies currently enjoying commercial success focus exclusively on hip hop for their music careers.
Record buyers, legal digital downloaders, and music file sharers also have an impact on the AMA categories because...
Dick Clark created the American Music Awards strictly as a popularity contest among music fans. 20,000 record buyers vote each year for their favorite personal artists.
If smaller niche music genres are less represented in the 20,000 yearly sample, a more democratic selection process of winners emerges.
Remember, the AMA is a populist alternative to the Grammy Awards.
So where are the “hip hop ladies?” We had Sugar Hill’s Sequence and Salt-N-Pepa in the 80’s, TLC in the 90’s, and I’d include Destiny’s Child in the early 2000’s, as dominant stand-outs.
Today, groups like Floetry mix lots of different contemporary elements to offer broad appeal beyond strictly hip hop.
As the music industry continues to change, I wonder if the AMA “female hip hop/rap” category will be permanently discontinued, or will it be able to make a comeback in 2007?
Discover more about The American Music Awards and the history of the television production, scheduled to be presented this Fall on November 21 as a three hour ABC special event.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Marvin Gaye DVD has Rare Concert Footage
In 1981, Marvin Gaye was featured in an hour-long television special broadcast in Ostende, Belgium. The concert was recorded and filmed that year on July 4th, but was never released in the USA.
Out this past Tuesday, September 12th for the first time ever, Marvin’s concert performance on DVD features these 10 hits:
- Got To Give It Up
- Come Get To This
- Let’s Get It On
- After The Dance
- If This World Were Minei
- Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing
- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
- How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
- I Want You
- Inner City Blues (Make Me Want To Holler)
What’s a good DVD without the bonus features? “Marvin Gaye - Live In Belgium 1981” includes several.
There’s footage of a candid Marvin Gaye interview along with two rare lip-synch performances of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Heavy Love Affair” from a local Belgian TV show.
Both videos were shot weeks before the TV concert to promote the show.
Additional features inlcude the original a cappella vocal track for “I Heard It Through The Grapevine."
Several live Marvin Gaye albums/CD’s have been previously released, including these 4:
- Marvin Gaye Live (1974)
- Marvin Gaye Live in Montreux 1980 (2003)
- Live in Miami (2003)
- Legend, Live, and Forever (2006)
Legend, Live, and Forever, released earlier this year, includes recordings from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s from Japan and Europe.
Some of the recordings used equipment of questionable quality during some of the dates. You’ll probably want to pass on Legend, Live, and Forever.
Technorati tags: Marvin Gaye
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Howard Hewett Heads back to the Spotlight
Former Shalamar member Howard Hewett has been what he calls a “weekend warrior” these past few years, performing over 120 live shows annually for fans.
His history of hitmaking includes “I’m For Real,” his first #1 hit in 1986, “Stay,” “I Commit To Love,” “Strange Relationship,” “Once, Twice, Three Times,” and “Show Me."
Hewett’s fans also can’t get enough of his original modern gospel classic “Say Amen."
He released the inspirational album The Journey in 2003, and has recorded over the years with Babyface, George Duke, Brian Culbertson, Joe Sample, and The Rippingtons.
Hewett is cool with the term “comeback” to describe the new project he’s currently writing and recording for Groove Records.
Howard is co-executive producing the as yet untitled album, his first strictly R&B/pop recording since 1994’s It’s Time, with Ralph Johnson, the Grammy winning Hall of Famer and founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Southern Soul Sweetheart Candi Staton
Highlights from Candi Staton’s official biography...
There are southern soul voices and there are southern soul voices. Raw and ravaged, Candi Staton’s is one of the signature sounds of the genre.
It’s a voice with a tear in it, the cry of a woman wounded by life, by men, by woes turned inward.
Born Canzetta Maria Staton in Hanceville, Alabama, Candi was from a farming family. When they weren’t harvesting crops or picking cotton, they were in church.
As a child, Staton sang in the choir. “The crowds would get very emotional,” she recalls. “At the time I didn’t really know why they were crying so much...once I remember, the audience got so emotional, throwing their pocket books at my feet and so on, that I got really scared and ran off to my mother."
Her brother dared her to sing on amateur night at the 27/28 Club in Birmingham, Alabama. She went up and sang “Do Right Woman” and won a booking to open for Clarence Carter, her future husband. He liked her and asked her to open for him on the road.
After hooking up with Clarence, Candi enjoyed smash Top 10 classic soul R&B hits such as:
- I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than To Be A Young Man’s Fool)
- Sweet Feeling
- Stand By Your Man
- He Called Me Baby
- Mr. & Mrs. Untrue
- Too Hurt To Cry
- In The Ghetto (which won a Grammy nomination)
After 1976, Candi became a princess of disco with “Young Hearts Run Free,” “Victim,” “Nights On Broadway,” and “When You Wake Up Tomorrow."
Following producer Dave Crawford out to California, she made her third marriage - to Tyrone Davis‘ former promoter, and commenced a period of domestic misery and abuse (not her first).
Crawford’s song ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ was inspired by the painful stories that Candi told him.
"We would sit down and I would tell him the horrors I was going through in the marriage I was trying to get out of,” Staton remembers. “I would bring David incidents, and little did I know he was making mental notes and writing all that stuff down."
A masterpiece of marital grief - “You count up the years/and they will be filled with tears” - ‘Young Hearts’ also placed Staton in the middle of the 1976 dance music revolution.
In 1977, she recorded the Bee Gees ‘Nights on Broadway.’
By the early 80’s Staton was in limbo, and drinking heavily. “I had such low self-esteem when I started in the entertainment world,” she says.
"I had no one in my family to show me any confidence. Alcohol enabled me to get out there in front of all those people and sing. I couldn’t even think of going onstage without being at least a third drunk."
She was also coming to terms with the patterns of abuse and subjugation in her life, tracing them back to the experience of growing up with an alcoholic father.
"Your real role model is not an artist or an entertainer, it’s your parents,” she reflects. “And what you see them do, usually it comes down through the generations.”
”I saw how my father would drink and abuse my mother and they would fight all the time. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t right, but you pick those same kind of men.”
”I’ve married the same man over and over again. He just looked different and wore different clothes.”
In 1982 Staton saw the light, and knew she had to quit drinking. “I had allowed alcohol to take my life over,” she says. “I was destroying everything in my body.”
”One day I just went cold turkey and said, ‘I’m not gonna do this anymore’.” Instead she returned to the church of her childhood, forsaking soul music for the gospel of her formative years.
In time she established her own ministry and television show. How, one wonders, will the gospel faithful view her reconciliation with secular music on His Hands?
"There will be some religious folk that will come against me, and even maybe some DJs,” Staton says. “They’ll be disappointed maybe that I’m singing love songs. But I call them life songs. Just because you go to church you’re not alienated from life."
A third wind in Staton’s secular career came in 1991 when club act The Source sampled a gospel track she had recorded for comedian Dick Gregory. ‘You Got The Love’ has twice been a UK hit for Staton, giving her a whole new profile.
"When the song didn’t happen in America, I thought, ‘Oh well, another one bites the dust’,” she admits. “And then I got a call from London saying the song was on the charts. The good thing was, they couldn’t pay me so they gave me half the publishing!"
"You Got The Love” was remixed and became a Top Ten British hit and sold two million copies.
The song was reissued in both 1997 and 2006 and charted in the British Top Ten again each time.
After witnessing so many divorces in the church, Staton decided to go into the studio and record a relationship music CD entitled “His Hands” (Astralwerks/Honest Jons) that was released in Spring 2006.
"In the church we sometimes focus so much on the spiritual things that we neglect the natural things,” Staton says.
"That’s not balance. While we’re on earth, we have to take care of our spouses and our kids and be there for them.
We can’t be in worship all day or we won’t be doing what God has called us to do, so that project talks about issues that everyone goes through - including Christians.
The songs point to things that you should see as signs of a problem in your relationships. I know some in the church still won’t understand it, but I have Biblical scriptures to back me up and if they want to argue with scriptures, that’s their choice."
The Candi Staton Discography on her website lists all of her wonderful songs.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Classic Soul Summit Summons Gordy, Gamble, Huff & Bell
Condensed From Frost Illustrated, Fort Wayne, Indiana...
"Philadelphia International Records recently released editorial sound bites and photos of an extraordinary forum that brought together for the first time the four men collectively responsible for the rise of the R&B/classic soul genre...
The hit making machine braintrust are Motown founder Berry Gordy, Philadelphia International Records founders Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and Stax Records founder Al Bell.
The historic question and answer session held at the landmark Gamble-Huff recording studio in Philadelphia, provided an intimate setting for industry trailblazers Gordy, Gamble, Huff and Bell to collectively reflect on their musical genius.
"To have the four architects of classic R&B/soul together in one room, under one roof at the same is beyond belief,” said Philadelphia International Records Executive Vice President Chuck Gamble, who orchestrated the forum as one of several special events taking place in 2006 to celebrate The Sound of Philadelphia’s 35th anniversary. “We are still digesting it."
That’s because Gordy, Gamble, Huff and Bell are responsible for countless hits recorded by many of the world’s top artists including Motown’s:
- Stevie Wonder
- Smokey Robinson
- Marvin Gaye
Philadelphia International Records:
- Patti LaBelle
- Teddy Pendergrass
- Lou Rawls
- Billy Paul
- Issac Hayes
- Al Green
- Otis Redding
- The Staple Singers.
The rare gathering of these pioneers was videotaped in front a live audience that included Motown R&B songwriting veterans Brian and Eddie Holland; Claudette Robinson of the Miracles; Chubby Checker; Bunny Sigler; Chuck Jackson; and William “Poogie” Hart of the Delfonics.
Also present was actor Clifton Davis who wrote the 1971 Motown hit single “Never Can Say Goodbye” recorded by the Jackson 5, and some of the young R&B hitmakers of today including:
- Andre Harris and Vidal Davis (Dre and Vidal) who have created music for Usher, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige and Will Smith.
- Carvin Haggins and Ivan Barias who have produced songs for Musiq and Faith Evans.
Prolific songwriter and renowned Motown artist Smokey Robinson made a surprise appearance at the gathering and immediately joined Gordy, Gamble, Huff and Bell in the discussion.
Audience members watched as the men who brought classic soul music into their lives humbly and eloquently took turns reflecting on their unmatched successes, thousands of songs created, countless artists recorded, and friendly behind-the-scenes label rivalries.
"Gamble and Huff would come out with these songs that would amaze us and we’d say man, how did they get that,” said Gordy as he called the Motown-Philly relationship a “loving competition."
Moderated by veteran Philadelphia radio personality Dyana Williams, the three-hour discussion was lighthearted in terms of content but passionate as it related to the many reflections shared.
R&B crooner Gerald Levert encouraged today’s songwriters, producers and artists to “bring back to the industry the camaraderie” that Gordy, Gamble, Huff and Bell exhibited at the forum.
Levert noted that although the four icons were steering three separate record labels at one time and were in essence competing for music sales, “they still shared a bond with one another at the end of the day."
"Who knows?” said Chuck Gamble, when asked what happens next. “Maybe next time, we’ll go to the world-renowned Motown Hitsville studios in Detroit or to the venerated Stax museum in Memphis. We can’t let this die. We have to keep it going."
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Roy Ayers Good Vibrations
Roy Ayers puts on a killer live show.
He’s a unique musician who plays a unique instrument. I’ve partied to the “Roy Ayers Ubiquity” sound at an unusal show place: the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Ayers hasn’t slowed down. Kevin Johnson tells us what R-A’s been up to...
"New Generation of Artists Drives Rebirth of Roy Ayers"
written by Kevin C. Johnson - STLtoday.com (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
"Jazz and R&B music lovers have been digging Roy Ayers’ vibe - make that vibes - ever since he came into the music world in the ‘60s. Still, for some, it’s like he’s just getting started.
The Los Angeles-bred artist, scheduled to perform as part of the 2006 Missouri Black Expo, is one of music’s most popular, respected and sampled vibraphonist players - despite the surprising fact he’s never won a Grammy or had a gold record.
His ‘70s heyday included a fruitful period of collaboration with flautist Herbie Mann; fronting his own band, Ubiquity; and hits such as “Running Away,” “Searching” and “You Send Me."
There was also his seminal 1976 album, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” featuring a memorably bright yellow cover. In a phone interview from London, Ayers said: “I think my greatest achievement was with that song."
Ayers was also among the special breed of 1970s soul artists, including Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes, who created classic soundtracks for popular “blaxploitation” flicks of that era.
He was behind Pam Grier’s “Coffy."
"They called and asked me if I could do a soundtrack, and I’d never done one - though I said, ‘Of course,’ like I had done one, because I wanted to do one,” he said.
"When ‘Jackie Brown’ came out, Quentin Tarantino used some of my music from ‘Coffy,’ and I didn’t know it. If they hadn’t put my name on it at the end, I would have sued."
Still, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” and “Coffy” were three decades ago, several lifetimes in the music industry. Ayers has made much music since then, including his 2004 album “Mahogany Vibe."
But his classic material is what’s driving the career rebirth.
A new generation of R&B performers and hip-hoppers, including Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, Common and 2Pac, have discovered his music and made him an icon all over again.
"They all find a degree of spirituality to my music, a spiritual essence, and it doesn’t have to be about God. But it is about the things that God has produced, like the sunshine,” Ayers said.
Blige probably made the best use of Ayers’ music when she liberally incorporated portions of “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” as the backdrop to her signature song and CD, “My Life.” Blige also used Ayers’ “Searching” in her song of the same name.
"I was very thrilled about that,"Ayers said. “She’s a very talented artist."
The renewed attention has led to him being conferred with titles such as “Godfather of Neo Soul” and “Godfather of Acid Jazz.” And he said he’s fine with that.
"It doesn’t matter,” he said. “All of them are positive."
Ayers’ rebirth also is providing an outlet for music he recorded decades ago but never released. Labels have come to him with deals to distribute the music, and there’s plenty to choose from; he has hundreds of unreleased recordings.
"I was obsessed with recording. I recorded so much music on myself and on other artists it was amazing,” Ayers said.
"I had a contract with PolyGram and had to do two albums a year, so I did all those recordings and would pick out the best and they would use it.
"I forgot about the rest. I never thought that music would see the light of day, or that I would ever do anything with it."
Roy Ayers on...
How the vibes hooked him:
“I was always fascinated with the sound of that instrument, being from a family that loved Lionel Hampton... you could feel his rhythm and intensity and joy and happiness, and I still applaud his greatness. He’s the main reason why I do this, as well as my mother, who inspired me all my life."
Herbie Mann’s influence:
“He taught me how to be a leader. I didn’t want to play in too many groups. It was always my objective to be a leader, not to put anybody down, but I had that installed in me."
Vibe players today:
“A lot of the young vibe players pattern themselves after Bobby Hutcherson. They sound like him, and I’m glad they sound good. But I want to hear the new vibe players get their own sounds."
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Keith Sweat makes it last Forever
A friend has been recently raving about how great it was to experience a live Keith Sweat concert.
Keith was born in New York City in 1961. He worked as a Wall Street brokerage assistant before settling into the soulful pulse of classic R&B music.
Sweat, one of the first R&B “new jack swing” artists, hit the scene with his debut release in 1987, “Make it Last Forever."
The album sold over 3 million copies, and featured 4 top ten R&B hits, including the #1 winner, “I Want Her.” Keith says “fans come up to me every day and tell me how much ‘Make It Last Forever’ meant to them.”
“LSG," the 2003 collaboration CD with Gerald Levert and Johnny Gill, proved that Sweat has staying power.
Keith’s official biography emphasizes his dominance as an important music industry player in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s constructed his own recording studio, discovered new talent, and has become a sought after mentor in the ATL.
His philosophy says it all, “I look at the entire Atlanta music scene as an extension of New York now."
"With technology the way it is, and the growth of Atlanta, it’s really part of the mainstream now. You can make music anywhere you want, which is a great thing."
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Soulful Cover Girls Challenge Mr. Richie
Here are three very anticipated major releases coming your way this month…
- Beyonce’ – “B’ Day” (Tuesday, September 5)
- Lionel Richie – “Coming Home” (Tuesday, September 12)
- Janet Jackson – “20 Years Old” (Tuesday, September 26)
Look for all three artists to get their promotion machines in high gear. Lionel Richie’s been getting strong television exposure. Beyonce’ and Janet Jackson have been recent cover girls for Essence and Vibe magazines respectively.
I’m guessing Beyonce’s release will be the most popular of the three. Both Janet and Lionel need strong comebacks. Can they do it?