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Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Blues Hall of Fame

What’s your best source for information about the blues?  Don’t have one?

Try the Blues Hall of Fame. It’s an excellent resource.

Dave Bartholomew, Dr. John, Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe are the 2007 Blues Hall of Fame inductees.

The curator of the hall is The Blues Foundation, located in Memphis, Tennessee.  The foundation has selected a new group of inductees every year since 1980.

Members are inducted in five categories:

  • Performers
  • Non-Performers
  • Classics of Blues Literature
  • Classics of Blues Recordings (songs...single or album track)
  • Classics of Blues Recordings (albums)

Everything you may ever need to know about individuals, recordings and blues literature can be searched at the Blues Hall of Fame.

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Posted by King on 03/29 at 01:01 AM
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rebirth of the Blues Flashback

We’ve been featuring interesting magazine covers from my personal magazine archive on recent consecutive Wednesdays.

Today is the 2nd of a 5 part series with another 1969 cover in the spotlight.

The blues has never gone away, but according to Peter Barnes and Paul D. Zimmerman of Newsweek in this May 26th edition, the art form was experiencing a surprising rebirth during the year of Woodstock.

You were more likely to hear the blues revival on progressive rock radio, rather than on the soul stations of the day, as R&B radio was delivering the slick contemporary sounds of Motown and Philly.

A similar parallel exists today, as R&B maintains a diminished foothold next to the advancing forces of hip-hop.

B.B. King, Big Mama Thornton, Muddy Waters, and Albert King are mentioned as a few of the authentic purveyors carrying the blues flag forward.

The authors acknowledge Canned Heat, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, and even Blood Sweat & Tears for plugging in new audiences to the expanding blues universe.

The cover darling of this article was Janis Joplin.  She would live only 16 more months after this feature was published.

I can tell you from the one Janis Joplin concert I attended at the Singer Bowl in New York City, she sang hard, drank hard, and put her all into her performance.  Yes, she did have a bottle with her on stage, and I don’t mean water.

In the context of the times, the Port Arthur, Texas native offered her concept of the blues through a rock edged lens.

You can debate the authenticity of this approach, but her emotion leaped out from deep inside, projected by a memorable voice oozing peppered passion, in convincing fashion from the soul.

So, two years shy of the 40th anniversary of “The Rebirth of the Blues,” we salute the bluesmen and women past and present, who sing the reality stories of sadness, joy, and everyday experiences.

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Posted by King on 03/28 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

TLC Cops CrazySexyCool Crown

When Atlanta, Georgia based TLC first hit the music scene in 1992 with their spirited “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” the track sampled Kool & the Gang, James Brown, Bob James, AWB, and Silver Convention.

Despite the generous “borrowing” on their debut, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas went on to become the dominant female R&B/hip-hop trio in the 1990s.

1995’s “Waterfalls” topped the pop charts at #1 for seven weeks.  Even though the album Waterfalls sold over nine million copies, TLC still ended up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of legal and financial problems.

In 2002, at the age of 30, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez was killed in an automobile accident.

Salt ‘N Pepa passed the baton to TLC, (who handed it off to Destiny’s Child).

Each trio in the timeline redefined new benchmarks for success, eventually surpassing their predecessor.

Forty years after the Supremes, strong, powerful, sexy, and independent women continue to capture the imagination of music fans.

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Posted by King on 03/27 at 08:00 PM
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Maze fans Joyful with Happy Feelings for Frankie Beverly

After more than a quarter of a century, fans just can’t get enough of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.

Since 1996, the online Maze Community Guestbook has been connecting enthusiastic fans to one another as well as to the members of the band.

Back in 1976, Philadelphia’s Frankie Beverly combined classic soul “street corner harmony” with his posse of exceptional musicians to introduce Maze to the world.

Here is a group that delivers an exciting live show that’s 2nd to none.  Even though they’ve released some satisfying studio albums, I’ve always thought that the early releases could have been amp’d up a notch.

1981’s Live in New Orleans, one of the best Maze featuring Frankie Beverly albums ever, truly captured the missing dynamic absent from some of their early studio sets.

Feeding off of live fans always brings out the best in performers.

Here are some upcoming concert dates for Maze featuring Frankie Beverly:

  • Saturday, April 7, 2007 - Jacksonville, Florida
  • Saturday, April 14, 2007 - Buffalo, New York
  • Sunday, April 15, 2007 - Syracuse, New York
  • Sunday, June 24, 2007 - Hampton, Virginia
  • Saturday, July 7, 2007 - New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Saturday, July 28, 2007 - Cincinnati, Ohio

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Posted by King on 03/22 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Black Music Review Flashback

For the next 5 Wednesdays we’ll be featuring five interesting magazine covers from my personal magazine archive.  The last cover will be the focus of a contest you can participate in.

We kick it off with a real collector’s item from 1969.  Issue Vol. 1, No.1, of Black Music Review.

Editor Richard Robinson brought this project to life, along with feature writers Lillian Barlow, Margaret Robin, and Lisa Mehlman.

Issue Vol. 1 contained great articles on Joe Simon, The Impressions, Eddie Floyd, Sly & the Family Stone, Albert King, and Booker T. & the MG’s members Donald “Duck” Dunn, Steve Cropper, and Al Jackson Jr.

Lillian Barlow wrote a great piece, “Soul Women of America,” featuring spotlights on Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Maxine Brown, and The Sweet Inspirations.

Broad in it’s survey of diverse “black music,” you won’t find this kind of magazine (or approach) around today.

Black Music Review is long gone, but fondly remembered.  Vol. 1 No. 1 critiqued the amazing influence of Jimi Hendrix in a series of headline articles and features.

Sam & Dave and Johnnie (as Johnny) Taylor are both mentioned on the cover, but are no where to be found in the premier issue!

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Posted by King on 03/21 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Stax 50 delivers Classic Soul Grand Slam Hits

Here is Rufus Thomas, catching a nap, after “Walking the Dog” during a show stopping performance.

The Thomas classic, and 49 others songs from the Stax stable, are featured on the new Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration.

This is a magnificent two disc set, profiling the best of the Memphis sound.  Congratulations to the Concord Music Group for bringing the Stax label back into the public spotlight.

Each track deserves to be a part of this collection.  Some of the artists are not household names, however classic soul fans will remember these troubadours for their contributions to the Stax legacy.

My title, “Stax 50 delivers Classic Soul Grand Slam Hits,” may be taking artistic license, as some of the songs were more commercially successfully than others.

As an example, “So I Can Love You,” the 1969 seminal hit by the Emotions, (pictured here), though not a monster smash, adds depth to this compilation.

Sheila, Wanda, and Jeanette Hutchinson, (the Emotions), would later obtain their biggest success with Columbia Records under the tutelage of Earth Wind & Fire’s Maurice White.

Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, and Johnnie Taylor get several tracks, as do Isaac Hayes and Sam & Dave.

Sam Moore, on the right in this photo, with his partner Dave Prater, are represented with “Soul Man,” “You Don’t Know Like I Know,” and “Hold on I’m Comin’."

We are also treated to some gems by Shirley Brown, the Soul Children, Mel & Tim, Jean Knight, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, the Mad Lads, the Astors, and the Temprees.

The 51 page CD booklet has a wonderful history of Stax, along with some great photos, including the three you see here.

Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration is an outstanding double CD capturing the essence of the best of Memphis soul:

  1. “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)” - Carla Thomas
  2. “Last Night” - The Mar-Keys
  3. “You Don’t Miss Your Water” - William Bell
  4. “Green Onions” - Booker T. & The MGs
  5. “Walking the Dog” - Rufus Thomas
  6. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” - Otis Redding
  7. “Candy” - The Astors
  8. “Respect” - Otis Redding
  9. “You Don’t Know Like I Know” - Sam & Dave
  10. “I Want Someone” - The Mad Lads
  11. “ Hold On I’m Comin’” - Sam & Dave
  12. “Let Me Be Good To You” - Carla Thomas
  13. “Your Good Thing (Is About to End)” - Mable John
  14. “Knock on Wood” - Eddie Floyd
  15. “B-A-B-Y” - Carla Thomas
  16. “Tramp” - Otis Redding & Carla Thomas
  17. “Soul Finder” - The Bar-Kays
  18. “Born Under a Bad Sign” - Albert King
  19. “Soul Man” - Sam & Dave
  20. “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” - Otis Redding
  21. “I Got a Sure Thing” - Ollie & The Nightingales
  22. “Soul Limbo” - Booker T. & The MGs
  23. “I’ve Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)” - Eddie Floyd
  24. “What A Man” - Linda Lyndell
  25. “Private Number” - William Bell & Judy Clay
  26. “Who’s Making Love” - Johnnie Taylor
  27. “I Forgot to Be Your Lover” - William Bell
  28. “I Like What You’re Doing (To Me)” - Carla Thomas
  29. “Time is Tight” - Booker T. & The MGs
  30. “So I Can Love You” - The Emotions
  31. “Walk on By” - Isaac Hayes
  32. “Do the Funky Chicken” - Rufus Thomas
  33. “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone” - Johnnie Taylor
  34. “Mr. Big Stuff” - Jean Knight
  35. “Never Can Say Goodbye” - Isaac Hayes
  36. “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” - The Dramatics
  37. “Respect Yourself” - The Staple Singers
  38. “Theme From Shaft” - Isaac Hayes
  39. “Son of Shaft” - The Bar-Kays
  40. “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” - Little Milton
  41. “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long” - Frederick Knight
  42. “Hearsay” - Soul Children
  43. “In The Rain” - Dramatics
  44. “I’ll Take You There” - The Staple Singers
  45. “Starting All Over Again” - Mel & Tim
  46. “Dedicated to The One I Love” - The Temprees
  47. “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” - The Staple Singers
  48. “Cheaper to Keep Her” - Johnnie Taylor
  49. “I’ll Be The Other Woman” - Soul Children
  50. “Woman to Woman” - Shirley Brown

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Posted by King on 03/20 at 09:30 AM
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Monday, March 19, 2007

Phil Spector Faces the Music

What do several pioneering hit songs from the Crystals, Ronettes, Darlene Love, Righteous Brothers, and Ike & Tina Turner have in common?

If you guessed the mark of Phil Spector, the musical mastermind behind the famous “wall of sound” production technique, you would be right.

From “River Deep Mountain High” by Ike & Tina, to “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers, Spector created a live, dramatic, layered, sonic studio sound in an era way before multi-track dubbing that was innovative and unique.

Others have copied the “wall of sound” concept, including Phil Collins in the late 1980’s.

Spector is currently receiving attention as a defendant in his criminal trial in Los Angeles.

Here is Phil Spector as “Bad Santa,” with “back to mono” buttons and all, from the cover of the vinyl version of his spectacular classic, Phil Spector’s Christmas Album.  My copy of the album is a reissue on Apple Records from 1972.

Don’t look for this disguise in court.

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Posted by King on 03/19 at 02:02 AM
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Big Time for Macy Gray

Can collaboration partners Natalie Cole, Justin Timberlake, Fergie, Nas, and will.i.am (of Black Eyed Peas) fame help reinvent the Macy Gray groove?

Only time will tell, when Macy’s Big drops on Tuesday, March 27 (scheduled release date).

Big is the first Macy Gray album in four years.  She’s remained active with film soundtracks, (Spiderman), and other projects.

Macy’s unique voice hasn’t captured strong commercial success since her 1999 breakthrough, On How Life Is.

It’s her appealing graceful growl that made “I Try,” a hit from On How Life Is.

Versatility is a double-edged sword.  Macy Gray has it.  Unfortunately, the music industry has difficulty promoting artists who don’t fall into neat categories.

Macy’s fans will ultimately decide whether Big gets over.

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Posted by King on 03/15 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sly Stone takes you Higher with Reissues

Over the next few months, several classic Sly & the Family Stone albums will be reissued on CD.

Teenage prodigy, producer, radio deejay, and musical powerhouse Sylvester Stewart also known as Sly Stone was a trend setter during the dawn of funk laced classic soul in the late 1960’s.

Here are four Sly albums now back in the spotlight:

A Whole New Thing - Original release, 1967.  No hits on this one, but it was his first collection.  Out of the box, Sly & the Family Stone took a different approach fusing pop, rock, and soul.

Dance to the Music - Original release, 1967.  One of the best creative albums released in 1967, featuring “Dance to the Music,” “Dance to the Medley,” and the original version of “Higher."

The track, “Are You Ready,” hammers home the idea of ethnic tolerance, a reoccurring theme in several Sly Stone songs.

Life - Original release, 1968.  Not as consistent as “Dance to the Music,” but moving the Family Stone formula forward, with “M’Lady,” “Love City,” and more Sly enhanced fun.

Stand - Original release, 1969.  Clearly, the best Sly & the Family Stone album.  All 8 tracks sparkle with creative energy:

  1. “Stand!”
  2. “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”
  3. “I Want To Take You Higher”
  4. “Somebody’s Watching You”
  5. “Sing A Simple Song”
  6. “Everyday People”
  7. “Sex Machine”
  8. You Can Make It If You Try”

These four albums, along with several other Sly & the Family Stone collections, are scheduled for reissue in March, April, and May 2007.

What’s a reissue without some previously unreleased tracks?  To sweeten the pot, several bonus cuts will seed these legendary albums.  Is that really necessary?  Not really.  The music is so good, new fans can easily turn on to the Sly & the Family Stone experience (without the bribes).

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Posted by King on 03/14 at 10:15 AM
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Carla Thomas Leads Stax Revival

Carla Thomas, the daughter of Memphis Legend Rufus Thomas, remains a “southern soul sweetheart” of iconic stature.

Next week, Carla Thomas’ The Queen Alone will be reissued (on Stax) in what’s being called a deluxe expanded edition.

Carla had a nice run on Stax, with “Gee Whiz,” “B-a-b-y,” “Let Me Be Good To You,” and “Tramp” (a duet with Otis Redding).

The 11 songs on the original 1969 album will be complemented by five bonus tracks that were omitted from the original vinyl release:

  • “Me and My Clock”
  • “Same Thing”
  • “Your Love Indeed (Alternate Take)”
  • “I Want To Know (Take 2)”
  • “I Wonder About Love”

The Queen Alone will be reissued on the reactivated Stax Records through Concord Music Group as part of the label’s yearlong series of 50th Anniversary events.

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Posted by King on 03/14 at 09:28 AM
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vanessa Williams Hits the High Notes

When Vanessa Williams pulls a rabbit out of her talented hat, the emerging bunny is no one trick pony.

The former Miss America has topped the music charts, scored on Broadway, excelled in television, excited in movies, and mesmerized magnificently in music videos.

Her official biography emphasizes what an important role music played in her early years...

"Both her parents are music teachers who recognized her musical gifts early on and encouraged her to pursue her love of the arts.  When she was young, she acted, danced, played piano and French horn in her high school orchestra, concert band and marching band, concert choir, and chorus."

"Her early interest in performing led to a passion for musical theatre, which began in school and continued as she went on to star in numerous community theatre productions."

"Vanessa won a Presidential Scholarship in Drama and chose to continue her education at Syracuse University, where she majored in musical theatre.  While at college in 1983, Vanessa was sought after by local talent scouts who invited her to participate in the Miss Greater Syracuse Pageant."

"Three months later, Vanessa won the 1983 Miss America title and a $30,000 scholarship that accompanied it.  The controversy that followed only left Vanessa stronger and more empowered in her commitment to a career in the world of entertainment."

Playboy and Penthouse magazines both published some unflattering pictures of Ms. Williams in 1984, (that were shot a few years earlier), featuring her and a female friend doing some really raunchy “girls gone wild” posing.

She was stripped of her Miss America title when the photos were published.

Four years after she won and lost her crown, Vanessa was signed to a recording contract, thanks to some efficient back-up-vocal work on a George Clinton track, “Do Fries Go with that Shake."

In 1988, her first album, The Right Stuff was released.  Here are some of Vanessa Williams’ most memorable tracks:

  • “Dreamin’”
  • “Running Back to You”
  • “The Right Stuff”
  • “Save the Best for Last”
  • “Love Is” (with Brian McKnight)

"Save the Best For Last” was a #1 song in the USA, Australia, Holland and Canada, (and top five in England and Japan).

In 1996, Vanessa recorded her first solo Christmas album - the critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated “Star Bright."

There’s much more magic to come from Vanessa Williams.

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Posted by King on 03/13 at 02:02 AM
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Wild World of Grace Jones

Model, actress, and song bird Grace Jones knows how to liven up a party.

One of her fans recalls: “the Grace Jones Show will often devolve into mayhem.  She’ll throw champagne bottles at the audience, drag fans onto the stage by their hair...she once jumped at me stilettos first."

"Pull up to the Bumper,” “Slave to the Rhythm,” “I’m not Perfect,” and other punchy dance tracks from R&B glory days capture the Grace Jones audio style.

Back in the day, her visual image dominated her portfolio of talent, although Grace was always serious about her musical and acting career.

She appeared in several popcorn flicks, including among others:

  • Conan the Destroyer with Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • A View to a Kill with Roger “James Bond” Moore
  • Boomerang with Eddie Murphy

I wandered through the wild world of Grace Jones searching to find her spiritual purpose, but alas, after clicking on an endless series of flirty photographs with catchy captions, Ms. Jones as well as her eclectic website remain an entertaining mystery.

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Posted by King on 03/08 at 06:59 PM
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reflections of Lamont Dozier

Lamont Dozier, the “D” in Holland - Dozier - Holland, wrote lots of memorable classics with his partners Brian and Eddie:

  • “Stop! In the Name of Love”
  • “Reach Out I’ll Be There”
  • “How Sweet It Is (to be Loved by You)”
  • “Nowhere to Run”
  • “This Old Heart of Mine”
  • “You Can’t Hurry Love”

Before his success with the H-D-H writing team, Lamont sung with the Romeos and the Voicemasters, Detroit groups that would eventually spawn David Ruffin (of the Temptations) and several members of the Originals.

Holland, Dozier, and Holland wrote some of the greatest Motown hits from 1962 - 1969.  At the end of the 60’s, H-D-H created Invictus, the label home of the Chairmen of the Board, Freda Payne, and the 8th Day.

In 1973, Lamont would start a solo career as a singer, recording at least 8 albums, including Out Here on my Own, and Black Bach.

He had some modest hits: “Don’t’ Leave Me,” “Fish Ain’t Bitin’,” and his biggest, “Why Can’t We Be Lovers."

We’ve only scratched the surface, so catch the complete Lamont Dozier story at his official website.

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Posted by King on 03/07 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

O'Jay vs. O'Jays Royalty Rumble

Former O’Jay Sammy Strain is claiming in a $15 million dollar civil lawsuit that he never received any royalties from his 16 years with the O’Jays.

Here’s another strange story from the world of classic soul.

Sixteen years is a long time to overlook (by both parties) a possible contractual obligation for payment of royalties.

Strain’s lawyer, Charles A. Whittier, says “my client has been stabbed in the back for the love of money.”

The lawsuit, filed recently in Philadelphia, alleges that O’Jays founders Eddie Levert and Walter Williams conspired to deny Strain of his share of royalties.

Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, producers, and owners of the Philadelphia International label are also named as defendants.

Strain replaced original member William Powell in 1976, and remained with the group until 1992, according to the lawsuit.  Sammy recorded 11 albums with the O’Jays.

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Posted by King on 03/06 at 01:02 AM
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