Thursday, August 17, 2017

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK


I can't believe it but it's been forty years since "Best of My Love" by The Emotions landed at number one on the pop chart during this week. This enduring classic, written by Maurice White and Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire, spent five weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, won the group a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group and the single would sell over a million copies.

The Emotions, made up of the Hutchinson sisters, Jeanette, Sheila and Wanda, hail from Chicago and began singing together professionally in 1962 as teens. Their first taste of success came when their single, "So I Can Love You" reached the soul chart in 1969. After their record label, Volt folded in 1975, the trio met Maurice White and he took an interest in the group. He got them signed to his label, Columbia and began work on an album. Their first project together, "Flowers" was released in 1976 and the singles, "I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love" and the title track, became big hits on the soul chart. But it was the follow-up album, "Rejoice" that gave the Emotions' the biggest smash of their careers. Their last major chart appearance would be providing backing vocals on Earth, Wind & Fire's 1979 top-ten hit, "Boogie Wonderland".

The Emotions still occasionally perform together, with younger sister, Pamela filling in for Jeanette. Enjoy this rare live appearance of the group performing their hit on "The Midnight Special" show back in 1977:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

PINK ASKS "WHAT ABOUT US?"


The last time we heard from Pink it was with her musical contribution to Disney's 2016 "Alice in Wonderland" sequel, "Alice Through The Looking Glass" and the top-ten hit, "Just Like Fire" (which was probably the best thing about that movie).

Now the thirty-seven year old singer is officially back with a song from her upcoming seventh album, "Beautiful Trauma" due out in October. "What About Us" (co-written with Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac who also produced the track) seems to be about bringing attention back to all the people that have been forgotten during this current volatile political climate. This low-key, uptempo ballad is a bit of a surprise and even a little underwhelming as a lead single but it's message is important and right on time. Have a listen:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

GLEN CAMPBELL (1936 - 2017)


Glen Campbell, who was a popular entertainer in the '60's and '70's on the country and pop charts, has passed away on August 8th after a valiant battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was officially diagnosed with this in 2011 and soon embarked on a final tour the following year. He made his final television appearance on the 2012 Grammy Awards where he did a thrilling performance of one of his biggest hits, "Rhinestone Cowboy" with this song reaching number one on the country and pop charts back in 1975. Campbell also did his last recordings in 2012 and 2013 which would become his sixty-fourth studio album, "Adiós" and was just released this year in June.

Born the seventh of twelve children to Wesley and Carrie Campbell in Billstown, Arkansas, Glen was given a guitar as a child and learned to play from his Uncle Dick Bills who was a professional musician with his band, the Sandia Mountain Boys. Campbell dropped out of high school and later went to join his uncle's band in 1956 and stayed with the group until he started his own band in 1958.

Campbell decided to head to California to try and become a solo artist in 1960. He did manage to get a recording contract with Capitol Records but his singles were not successful. However Campbell did become a very popular studio guitarist and was part of the famous "Wrecking Crew" session musicians who backed everyone from Elvis Presley to Frank Sinatra.

Campbell did not give up on his dream to become a recording artist of his own and finally had a breakthrough in 1967 with "Gentle On My Mind" which hit the Billboard Top 40 and earned Campbell two 1968 Grammy Awards for Best Country Male Vocalist and Best Contemporary Male Vocalist. The hits continued for the singer with "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Wichita Lineman", "Galveston" and "Southern Nights" to name a few. Campbell became so popular that television came calling with him first making appearances on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" before getting his own variety show, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" which ran from 1969 through 1971. Campbell even made a few movies with the most notable being the 1969 John Wayne film, "True Grit".

A documentary, "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me" was released in 2014 and covers his struggles with Alzheimer's and the farewell tour. A song from the film, "I’m Not Gonna Miss You", written by Campbell and Julian Raymond, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song. In tribute, here are a few clips of the talented Glen Campbell performing some of his best known songs:







Friday, July 28, 2017

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


This tune is a song I have heard many times and my reaction is the same every time I hear it. So this time I want to make a comment on this.

"Woman To Woman" was a number one soul hit in 1974 for Shirley Brown and even crossed over to the pop chart, reaching number twenty-two. She was an artist on Stax Records with this single selling over a million copies and was one of the last big records for the legendary label.

If you are not familiar with this tune, let me fill you in; the song starts off in spoken word with Shirley finding the phone number of her man's mistress, Barbara in his pockets and decides to call her. Now I can understand someone wanting to confront a person messing with their spouse and setting them straight but Shirley lost me completely when she rattles off her reasons why Barbara should back off. She proceeds to boast that she pays for her man's clothes, car and "every piece of food he eats" and will do anything to keep him. It just seems sad to me that this woman so desperately wants to hang on to her cheating man who clearly doesn't respect her nor appreciate everything she has done for him. I know I may be betraying my gender but I think she deserves better than this. Have a listen to the song and judge for yourself:

"Woman To Woman" - Shirley Brown (1974) mp3

The following year, Barbara Mason (best known for her 1965 hit, "Yes, I'm Ready") came out with an answer song to Shirley Brown's tune. After a lengthy musical intro and a snippet of Brown's opening line "Barbara, this is Shirley", "From His Woman To You" tells Barbara's side of this affair. What I find humorous is that the man in the middle of all this drama between these women remained silent. Now that's an answer song I would have liked to have heard. Here's a bonus of Barbara Mason's song:

"From His Woman To You" - Barbara Mason (1975) mp3

Monday, July 24, 2017

KOOL & THE GANG 2017 TOUR


Just as much as audiences love new music, they also enjoy looking back at their old-school favorites. Those concert packages that puts together several vintage bands of the past are a rite of the summer and the latest features the slightly odd combo of Village People, Morris Day and The Time and the headliners, Kool & The Gang. I caught them on the first day of a two-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl on July 21st.

The Village People kicked off the night with a surprisingly brief twenty minute set although in hindsight it was plenty of time as it soon began to feel like they were doing slight variations of the same song. It's not really unexpected that most of the original members of these acts have departed in one form or another but this disco novelty act of gay male fantasy types features the most of their founding members. With the Indian (Felipe Rose), the GI (Alex Briley) and lead vocalist, the cop (Ray Simpson who replaced Victor Willis in their heyday) still around, the People did a fun, high-energy show that featured them doing their signature butch-dance moves while performing their greatest hits like "Macho Man", "In The Navy" and the enduring smash, "Y.M.C.A" which they did a detailed demonstration before the song on how to properly do the hand movements.

Before The Time came out, a tribute to Prince, who they were closely associated with, played on the video screens that featured his music and early pictures of him with Morris Day. Then the band arrived on stage to the sound of the Purple One's "1999" with Day checking out his look in a mirror carried by his "valet", Jerome Benton before launching in to their first hit, "Get It Up". They sounded great but seemed to have a hard time getting this crowd engaged. I think it may be for a lack of recognizable hits as The Time didn't have a major impact on the pop charts in their day as Prince did. The group fared better when they touched on his music with them doing a cover of "D.M.S.R". During the sentimental ballad, "Gigolos Get Lonely, Too", Day had his son, Derran come on stage to belt out a verse. While he has an impressive voice, it still came across like a shameless plug with the proud father advising the audience to find him on social media afterwards.

By the time Kool & The Gang arrived to close out the show, the crowd was warmed up and ready to party. Bass player and the namesake of this popular band, Robert "Kool" Bell (who is still on hand) started this group as a funk band in the late sixties before moving towards r&b and pop with the arrival of James "J.T." Taylor as lead singer in 1979. They got everybody on their feet with solid versions of their hits "Hollywood Swinging", "Ladies' Night", "Jungle Boogie" and "Get Down On It" enhanced by a fantastic horn section that features a couple of original players. Taylor has been long gone from the group but Lavell Evans does a serviceable job of filling in for the former vocalist yet not completely escaping moments that made them sound like a wedding band. Kool and company wanted everybody to know they are still in the game as they performed a new song, "Sexy (Where'd You Get Yours)". While it was perfectly keeping with their funky spirit, it was hardly anything noteworthy and just gave people a chance to head out for a beer run. With the sound of Kool & The Gang's biggest hit, "Celebration" signaling that the night is coming to a close, it was an enjoyable evening of music and memories.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

TAKE TWO: TEDDY PENDERGRASS


Back in the '70's, if you wanted to create a sexy mood, all you had to do was turn down the lights, pop open a bottle of wine and put on a Teddy Pendergrass record. Shifting effortlessly from a seductive whisper to a libidinous growl, this undeniable sex symbol used his robust voice to create songs filled with longing and carnal desires and there was no shame in his game. His live concerts were known to be sensual and sweaty affairs that left his largely female audiences extremely hot and bothered.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pendergrass would develop his singing style, not surprisingly, in the church. While it's rumored that he was ordained as a minister at the age of ten, it's factual that he did perform at services as a singer and drummer. As a young man, Pendergrass would join several soul groups playing the drums and providing the occasional vocal. It was during his time with the Cadillacs that would change the course of his musical career.

Harold Melvin, who had his own group The Blue Notes, caught the Cadillacs in concert when Pendergrass took a turn singing at the mike. Thoroughly impressed with his voice, Melvin quickly offered him the chance to be the lead vocalist of The Blue Notes and Pendergrass seized the opportunity. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, who hadn't had much commercial success, signed to a new label, Philadelphia International Records in 1971.

With the label's founders, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff taking a special interest in guiding their new artists, the group had their breakthrough hit the following year with a song written and produced by Gamble & Huff, "If You Don't Know Me By Now" which reached the top of the r&b chart and the top-ten of the pop chart. Other hits soon followed like "Bad Luck", "The Love I Lost" and "Wake Up Everybody" but with big success came bigger problems within the group. Resenting continuously being mistaken for "Harold Melvin", Pendergrass felt his name should be part of the band's title while also unhappy with his financial arrangement with Melvin. In 1975, he decided to leave the group to go solo while Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, who never found a suitable replacement for Pendergrass, eventually faded in to obscurity.

Teddy Pendergrass released his self-titled debut album in 1977 with it receiving a lot of attention on the soul chart with the help of the singles, "I Don't Love You Anymore" and "The Whole Town's Laughing at Me". With his subsequent albums, he began to chart his path as a sexy balladeer with such seductive bedroom jams as "Close The Door", "Come Go With Me", "Turn Off The Lights" and "Love T.K.O.". When Shep Gordon, Pendergrass' manager,  realized his audiences where largely made up of excited women of all races, he created "women only" concerts that proved to be a very popular gimmick.

By 1982, Pendergrass was at the height of his fame as one of the biggest artists in soul music when tragedy struck the singer in March of that year. He was involved in a terrible car accident that left his passenger with minor injuries but he suffered a spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. After spending several years in rehabilitation, Pendergrass triumphantly returned to music in 1984 with the album, "Love Language" and found himself back on the pop charts with "Hold Me", a duet with then-new artist, Whitney Houston. He would later find himself back at number one on the r&b chart with "Joy" in 1988.

After being treated for colon cancer, he later developed severe complications causing respiratory issues and Teddy Pendergrass passed away on January 10th 2010 at the age of fifty-nine. He left behind an powerful body of music that is still able to get people in an amorous mood. Here are two of my favorite songs from the great Teddy Pendergrass:

"When Somebody Loves You Back" - Teddy Pendergrass (1978) mp3

"Come Go With Me" - Teddy Pendergrass (1979) mp3

As a bonus, here is a live version of the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' timely hit, "Wake Up Everybody" performed on "Soul Train":



Finally, I couldn't resist giving you the love ballad, "Hold Me" by Mr. Prendergrass and Whitney Houston:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"PRAYING" FOR KESHA


After being forced to put her career on hold, Kesha is finally able to return to music. She had been embroiled in a nasty legal battle with her former producer, Dr. Luke over contractual and personal issues during the last five years and the thirty year old's first single, "Praying" seems to be directly about all of the emotional turmoil she has been through.

Kesha reveals in this moving piano-driven ballad, co-written and produced by Ryan Lewis (of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), that despite all of the pain and abuse one can go through, you can survive and heal. What I found most surprising about this track is that it shows what a full-bodied voice the singer actually has which was never properly put on display on any of her hit singles like "Tik Tok" and "We R Who We R". This is a dramatic and uplifting moment for the singer and will certainly have people anticipating her upcoming third album, "Rainbow" which is due out in August.

Take a look at the striking music video for "Praying", directed by Jonas Åkerlund, which shows that Kesha has lost none of her colorful, eccentric style:

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK

I can't believe it but it's been forty years since " Best of My Love " by The Emotions landed at number one on the pop...