Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Ashford and Simpson Rise High
Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson have written some of the best classic soul songs of all time.
"Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” may be their best.
I’m still holding out hope that I’ll eventually get to see them perform live.
Ashford & Simpson have had a strong solo career as performers. Valerie Simpson has also released her own albums.
This is the front and back cover of their 1983 vinyl album, High-Rise
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Thursday, September 25, 2008
Cymande Rhythms from the Caribbean
Cymande has to be included in a long list of Caribbean music makers who have had their brief 15 minutes of fame.
Some of the others include T-Connection “At Midnight,” Beginning of the End “Funky Nassau,” and Dave & Ansel Collins “Double Barrel."
These groups hit the scene in the 1970’s, but were never able to break through in a big way in the USA.
Cymande, like Osibisa, does a good job of weaving Afro-Caribbean rhythms with jazz and R&B.
This picture of Cymande is from their Second Time Round album. The guys in the band hail from such diverse ports of call as St. Vincent, Guyana, and Jamaica.
Listen to 75 seconds of “Bra” from Cymande’s debut album, Cymande.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Osibisa Rhythms from Africa
Long before the term “World Music” became popular, a band from Africa, Osibisa, carved out a slice of classic soul history by mixing Ghanaian rhythms, R&B, jazz, and rock.
Since 1971, and over 20 albums later, Osibisa continues to please their international audience of fans.
Listen to 2 minutes 13 seconds of “Sweet America,” from Osibisa’s 3rd release, Heads (this is the cover photo from the album in my collection).
You’ll hear Osibisa span the melodic bridge from Mandrill to Jethro Tull.
Next time, we’ll be check out Cymande, another band chock full of Afro-Caribbean rhythms.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008
Labelle is Back to Now with Roll Out
Sarah Dash, Nona Hendryx, and Patti LaBelle (left to right) are back in the game with Back To Now, a new Labelle album to be released on October 21, 2008.
Lenny Kravitz, Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, and Wyclef Jean share producing chores for the reunited songbirds.
Nona notes that “working with both Lenny and Kenny & Leon was meant to be. I really think the music led us to the people who would understand the new Labelle credo ‘back to now’."
This new chapter of the Labelle story promises to deliver more of what the group is famous for: strong voices, provocative songs, and feminist themes.
Nona adds “our new album is like going home and eating your Mom’s cooking, if your Mom was a good cook, that is!"
Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real,” also reincarnated on Thelma Houston’s A Woman’s Touch from 2007, is back one more time featuring the mark of LaBelle. Sarah says “It ain’t nothin’ but a jam. It’s gonna make you dance like a fool."
Back to Now also features the Gamble & Huff ‘message in the music’ inspired “Tears For The World,” of which Patti LaBelle says “it talks about all the things we want to change."
It looks like the return of this pioneering trio will be a definite hit.
Listen to 30 seconds of “Roll Out,” the Wyclef Jean produced first single from Back To Now.
Please cast your vote from a low of 1 to a high of 5 (no page reload is necessary) and/or leave a comment with your thoughts about the track.
I’ll let you know what I think when I review the entire album.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Brass Construction Skyy Connection
Many of the 1970’s era classic soul bands were bulging with bodies, and the 9 man ensemble of Brass Construction is no exception.
Keyboard, flute, timbale, percussion, and vocalist group member Randy Muller arranged the songs on their 1975 debut album, Brass Construction.
Horns dominated much of soul during the golden age of R&B. Brass Construction is a great example of power funk blending guitars, brass, and percussion.
“Movin‘“ and “Changin’” are perhaps the best Brass Construction tracks ever, both from their very first release.
Brooklyn, New York’s B.T. Express was influential in inspiring the sound of their New York City Borough brethren, Brass Construction.
When the 1980’s rolled around, Randy Muller continued to influence the sound of the new decade, producing and arranging several tracks for Skyy, (shown here), including their 1983 album, SkyyLight.
Skyy’s biggest hit was 1981’s, “Call Me."
Listen to 90 seconds plus of Brass Construction’s “Peekin’,” followed by “Show Me The Way” from Skyy.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008
Beyonce' Is Queen of Chess Movie & New Album
Contemporary audiences know that Motown, Stax, Atlantic, and Philadelphia International Records provided a promotional gateway for what would later become the broad social acceptance of the beat of rhythm and blues.
Take the R out of R&B, and the beaming B becomes a beacon for the relatively unknown shadowy story of the business of blues record labels.
Leonard Chess was an entrepreneur who was in the right place at the right time during the day when blues was king. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, his Chicago based Chess Records is credited with launching the electrified careers of many blues artists.
Etta James is one of them, and Beyonce’ will star as Etta in Cadillac Records, a new movie coming soon about how Chess Records ruled the sound of electrified blues.
Other notables in this flick include Mos Def, who plays Chuck Berry, and Cedric the Entertainer, who will portray bluesman Willie Dixon.
1968’s Electric Mud, by blues icon Muddy Waters, is the sole Chess album in my personal collection.
Muddy was cast in an unusual role on this record performing trendy psychedelic blues ditties.
Although I enjoyed it, the album was universally panned, but it’s a good example of how Chess Records tried to keep in step with the changing music tastes of the time.
Beyonce’ is one of the biggest stars in Cadillac Records. Her presence should drive interest into this historic record company (Chess).
Jumping from the past to the present: on October 7, 2008, two new songs, “If I Were A Boy,” and “Single Ladies” will be available to radio from Beyonce’s forth coming third studio album, which will not be released by Music World Music/Columbia Records until Tuesday, November 18th.
Beyonce’ has co-written and co-produced all of the tracks on (as of this date) the untitled new album.
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Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia
Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia, is the most ambitious CD collection to date chronicling the amazing classic soul journey of R&B music innovators Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff.
71 songs are featured on the new 4 disk set, due for release at physical and digital retail outlets on Tuesday, October 21, 2008, via a partnership between Legacy Recordings and Philadelphia International Records.
How is this anthology different from The Sound of Philadelphia: Gamble & Huff’s Greatest Hits or Conquer the World: The Lost Soul of Philadelphia International Records, both released earlier this year?
33% of the tracks on this new record were never released on Philadelphia International Records! However, either Gamble & Huff, or their creative musical collaborators, are responsible for prominently injecting the Philly sound into the production of these expatriate non-P-I-R tracks.
- “Expressway (To Your Heart)” Soul Survivors
- “La-La Means I Love You” Delfonics
- “Cowboys To Girls” Intruders
- “Hey, Western Union Man” Jerry Butler
- “Ready Or Not Here I Come” Delfonics
- “Only The Strong Survive” Jerry Butler
- “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” Delfonics
- “Brand New Me” Dusty Springfield
- “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You” Wilson Pickett
- “You’re The Reason Why” Ebonys
- “Drowning In The Sea of Love” Joe Simon
- “I’m Stone In Love With You” Stylistics
- “I Miss You” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
- “Back Stabbers” O’Jays
- “Sunshine” O’Jays
- “I’ll Be Around” Spinners
- “Slow Motion (pt. 1)” Johnny Williams
- “Me & Mrs. Jones” Billy Paul
- “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
- “Love Is Here” Futures
- “Love Train” O’Jays
- “Break Up To Make Up” Stylistics
- “Family Affair” MFSB
- “It’s Forever” Ebonys
- “Time To Get Down” O’Jays
- “There’s No Me Without You” Manhattans
- “I’ll Always Love My Mama” Intruders
- “The Love I Lost” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
- “I Wanna Know Your Name” Intruders
- “Dirty Ol’ Man” Three Degrees
- “Put Your Hands Together” O’Jays
- “Thanks For Saving My Life” Billy Paul
- “Mighty Love” Spinners
- “Be Thankful For What You Got (Pt. 1)” William DeVaughn
- “For The Love Of Money” O’Jays
- “Where Do We Go From Here” Trammps
- “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)” MFSB (featuring the Three Degrees)
- “Then Came You” Spinners with Dionne Warwick
- “Love Is The Message” MFSB (featuring the Three Degrees)
- “When Will I See You Again” Three Degrees
- “Where Are All My Friends” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
- “Picture Us” Bunny Sigler
- “Bad Luck” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
- “Give The People What They Want” O’Jays
- “Billy’s Back Home” Billy Paul
- “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (featuring Sharon Paige)
- “Do It Any Way You Wanna” People’s Choice
- “The Big Hurt” People’s Choice
- “Let Me Make Love To You” O’Jays
- “Wake Up Everybody” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
- “I Love Music” O’Jays
- “Don’t Leave Me This Way” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
- “Let’s Groove” Archie Bell & The Drells
- “Livin’ For The Weekend” O’Jays
- “Kiss and Say Goodbye” Manhattans
- “I’m Not In Love” Dee Dee Sharp
- “You’ll Never Find Another Love” Lou Rawls
- “The Rubberband Man” Spinners
- “Enjoy Yourself” Jacksons
- “Free Love” Jean Carn
- “I Don’t Love You Anymore” Teddy Pendergrass
- “See You When I Get There” Lou Rawls
- “Use Ta Be My Girl” O’Jays
- “Close The Door” Teddy Pendergrass
- “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” McFadden & Whitehead
- “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else” Jones Girls
- “Hurry Up This Way Again” Stylistics
- “Love T.K.O.” Teddy Pendergrass
- “I Ain’t Jivin’, I’m Jammin’” Leon Huff
- “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle” Deniece Williams
- “If Only You Knew” Patti LaBelle
Deniece Williams, William DeVaughn, Joe Simon, The Trammps, Dusty Springfield, The Spinners, The Delfonics, The Stylistics, The Manhattans, Jerry Butler, and Wilson Pickett did not record for Philadelphia International Records.
Including these performers does reveal how the Philly production sound touched a broad variety of individual styles. For instance, you’ll see in the video below the album cover featuring the spirited vocalist who went straight from Memphis to Philadelphia to capture some Philly magic.
Most of the tracks on Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia are full-length original album versions. Unlike Philadelphia Classics, the double LP set from 1977 (released on CD in 2002), which featured spectacular extended versions of “Don’t Leave Me This Way, “Love Is The Message,” and others, there are no super extended versions in this 4 CD release.
Instead of the short versions of “Be Thankful for What You Got (pt. 1)” by William DeVaughn, and “Let’s Groove” by Archie Bell & The Drells (only 3 minutes here), I would have included the longer original album versions.
My favorite lost track in this collection is “I’m Not In Love,” Dee Dee Sharp’s sexy cover of the 1975 10CC hit. I used to play Dee Dee’s version on the radio back in the day. Glad it is here, although on my pre-release copy of this box set, Dee Dee Sharp’s name is missing from the performer list on the back CD jacket!
If you treat yourself to this excellent collection, the CD bonuses include:
- A booklet with unpublished photos
- Philadelphia International Records Timeline
- Historical essays by Felix Hernandez, Lynell George, Gerald Early, Joe McEwen, and James Miller
- Conversations with Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and producer Thom Bell
This is hot stuff! A one-hour television special, Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia will blast off on PBS in November, 2008 with repeats through 2009.
Enjoy the 1 minute video tribute that I’ve produced and narrated in honor of Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia.
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Thursday, September 04, 2008
Rhythm & Blues Foundation Hosts Pioneer Awards Party
Dionne Warwick, Jerry Butler, and Bonnie Raitt will co-host the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s 20th Anniversary Pioneer Awards gala in Philadelphia, Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Chaka Khan will be honored with the Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bill Withers, Teena Marie, and singer-songwriter Sugar Pie DeSanto will receive the Foundation’s Individual Artist Award.
The Whispers and Kool & the Gang will receive the Foundation’s Group Artists Award.
Motown’s fabulous musicians, the Funk Brothers, will receive the Foundation’s Sidemen Award.
Donny Hathaway will posthumously receive a Legacy Award in recognition of his classic soul excellence from the 1970s.
Al Bell, former president of Stax Records and Motown Records, will receive the Ahmet Ertegun Leadership Award.
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Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Natalie Cole: Still Unforgettable
On Tuesday, September 9, 2008, Natalie Cole is set to release Still Unforgettable, a new collection of songs she’s compiled from “the great American song book."
Natalie recorded Unforgettable...with Love in 1991 featuring the title track duet with her late father, Nat King Cole.
The album Unforgettable...with Love sold over 14 million copies.
Still Unforgettable promises 14 more memorable melodies from the world of pop standards, including one more duet with her late father: “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home."
Other CD highlights:
- “The Best Is Yet To Come”
- “Until The Real Thing Comes Along”
- “It’s All Right With Me”
- “Nice N’ Easy”
- “Something’s Gotta Give”
- “But Beautiful”
Still Unforgettable will be distributed by Rhino/WEA on the DMI label.
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