Monday, June 27, 2011

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

BEYONCE - "4"


Beyonce is back, after a brief hiatus, with her fourth album appropriately entitled, "4". She has assembled the usual suspects of top producers (Babyface, The Dream, Ryan Tedder, Tricky Stewart) to help her put this ambitious project together and it's clear she wanted to challenge and push herself musically but the results are decidedly half-baked.

Although a lot of the new music is what you would typically expect from Beyonce but I'm having difficulty warming up to some of the songs. The first single,"Run The World (Girls), took some time but I have finally begun to appreciate (The rocking music video has certainly contributed to that) but the other songs released, the ballads, "1+1" and "Best Thing I Never Had" have left me unimpressed, but there are definitely some nice cuts on the album such as "Countdown" and "Party" that features Andre 3000. Despite the old-school r&b flavor and the fresh beats, nothing really stands out as it should although you can tell there was much thought and effort put in to this album.

This is a song that I really like:

"Countdown" - Beyonce (2011)


DANGER MOUSE & DANIELE LUPPI - "ROME"


When producer/songwriter, Danger Mouse (best known for his work with Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells) and film composer, Daniele Luppi met, they both realized that they both shared a love of the work of Ennio Morricone, the composer of the classic music scores of the spaghetti westerns of the 60's and '70's.

They have come together to make a loving tribute to that sound with the album, "Rome", named after the city where they did most of the recording. The duo enlisted the help of  Jack White, formerly of  The White Stripes and jazz/pop artist, Norah Jones to provide vocals and lyrics on some of the tracks. The music has a familiar feeling, since they used some of the musicians that actually worked with Morricone when he recorded his scores, yet seems very modern with lush instrumentals and haunting rock guitars.

"Two Against One" Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi featuring Jack White (2011)


THE CARS - "MOVE LIKE THIS"


One of the first commercially successful new-wave rock bands, The Cars had many hit songs such as "Just What I Needed", "Drive", and "You Might Think" but the group broke up in 1988.

The band has now reunited twenty-four years after their last album, "Door To Door" to release their seventh, "Move Like This". All of the original members, Elliot Easton on guitar, keyboardist, Greg Hawkes, drummer, David Robinson and Rik Ocasek, lead vocalist, guitarist and head songwriter, are back together (with the exception of bassist/singer, Benjamin Orr who passed away in 2000).

Produced by Jacknife Lee (who also played bass on the album) and The Cars, this new material retains their classic sound but moves the band in to the present. The Cars have also begun a North American tour to support the album.

Enjoy this track off of the new album:

"Blue Tip" - The Cars (2011)


BON IVER - "BON IVER"


Justin Vernon left his progressive folk band, Deyarmond Edison in North Carolina, retreated to his father's hunting cabin in Wisconsin and eventually created, "Bon Iver". The results became the album, "For Emma, Forever Ago" in 2007 which was a stripped-down affair that involved just a laptop, his voice and guitar.

It caught the attention, of all people, Kanye West who asked Vernon to work with him on his album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [Explicit]". Four songs they collaborated on ended up on the album including my favorite track, "Lost In The World".

Now, Vernon has released his latest self-titled album, "Bon Iver [+Digital Booklet]" where he has seemed to have used his experience with Mr. West to progress his own musical endeavor which has this new work feel sonically larger. The results are eerie and beautiful.

Here is a great track from the album:

"Hinnom, TX" - Bon Iver (2011)


FOSTER THE PEOPLE - " TORCHES"


Foster The People is a LA-based alt-rock band that first came together in 2009.  Originally called "Foster and the People" but it was frequently misheard as "Foster The People" and the name stuck. The members are Cubbie Fink on bass/background vocals, drummer, Mark Pontius and Mark Foster on vocals, keyboards and guitar. Sean Cimino and Isom Innis perform with the band on tour.

The band has just released their first CD, "Torches" after a self-titled EP was put out earlier this year. The album debuted at number eight on the Billboard Top 200 Album Charts and the first single, "Pumped Up Kicks" climbed to number one on the Billboard Alternative Song Chart.

Extensive touring, appearances at music festivals and exposure on music blogs helped Foster The People's quick rise to success.

"Houdini" - Foster The People (2011)


JILL SCOTT - "THE LIGHT OF THE SUN"


Born and raised in Philadelphia, Jill Scott began her performing career as a spoken-word artist which evolved in to singing when she met ?uestlove of the hip-hop group, The Roots. She toured with the band as a background singer and together they wrote the band's hit song that featured Erykah Badu, "You Got Me [Explicit]" in 1999 which led to her debut album,"Who Is Jill Scott? - Words And Sounds, Vol. 1"  the following year.

Ms Scott has now released her fourth CD, "The Light Of The Sun (Deluxe)" and her first under her own label, Blues Babe Records (named after her grandmother) which is distributed by Warner Bros. Records. She was part of the original neo-soul movement in the late 90's that blended together classic soul with hip-hop and her music remains warm, sensual, thoughtful and positive which is very refreshing in today's musical landscape.

Here is a perfect example of her sound:

"Shame" - Jill Scott featuring Eve


This is the new video for Lady Gaga's new single, "The Edge Of Glory". This is the first song off the new album that I really like and this video is great because of it's simplicity. No meat dresses, giant eggs or any other grand theatrics, just Gaga dancing in the city streets, wearing a demure (for her) leather bondage gear. This video is also bittersweet as it also marks the last musical appearance of the late Clarence Clemmons:




This is the music video for Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend" and I LOVE THIS SONG! I just don't understand why it's not getting any proper airplay on US pop radio. This is much better than a lot of the crap that is getting played.

Anyway . .  now, this is an example of simplicity: just Robyn singing and dancing, wearing the latest in Swedish fashion (just kidding, I hope) and it just works.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


I have never watch the latest television music competition/reality show, "The Voice" nor have any real interest but the best thing that seemed to have come from this show is the musical collaboration between judges, Adam Levine (with his band Maroon 5) and Christina Aguilera with the song, "Moves Like Jagger".

I have enjoyed Xtina from time to time but I have never been a fan of Maroon 5, so I am very surprised by how much I really love this song but it's catchy, fun and it's the perfect summer jam.

Have a listen:

"Moves Like Jagger" - Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera (2011)

And here is the man himself, Mick Jagger, getting the crowd on their feet at this year's Grammy Award telecast with a tribute to the late r&b legend, Solomon Burke:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

BLACK MUSIC MONTH


June is Black Music Month.

It began on June 7, 1979, when President Carter announced that this month was designated to celebrate and honor this important American music.

So, here is just a very small selection of some of the great influencial pioneers in Black Music:

"Them There Eyes" - Billie Holiday (1935)

"Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?" - Dinah Washington (1958)

"Try Me" - James Brown (1959)

"A Fool In Love" - Ike & Tina Turner (1960)

"A Change Is Gonna Come" - Sam Cooke (1964)

"I'm So Proud" - The Impressions (1964)

"Since I Lost My Baby" - The Temptations (1965)

"This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)" - The Isley Brothers (1966)

"Oh Happy Day" - Edwin Hawkins Singers (1969)

"Respect Yourself" - The Staple Singers (1971)

"I'm Still In Love With You" - Al Green (1972)

"Love Train" - The O'Jays (1973)

"Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe" - Barry White (1974)

"Wake Up Everybody" - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (1975)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED TO. . .

. . . Helen Reddy?



She was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1941 and at the age of four, Helen joined her family's act where they toured the country singing and dancing.

At seventeen, Helen entered a singing contest on the Australian TV show, "Bandstand" and won. The prize was a trip to New York City to record a single with Mercury Records. However, when she arrived, she discovered that the prize was actually just an opportunity to audition to record a single and her performance on the show was considered the audition and the label passed.

With only a return ticket back to Australia. Helen decided to stay with her three year old daughter, Traci  from a brief marriage, to try and pursue a music career in the US. She had difficulty finding work because she lacked the proper work visa but she would go to Canada for some jobs since it was a commonwealth but her luck would change when she met twenty-two year old, Jeff Wald at a party. They were married three days later which would take care of her immigration issues and he would later become her manager.

Helen struggled for years trying to get noticed and they moved from New York to Chicago before ending up in Los Angeles in 1969. Jeff got a job at Capital Records and he managed artists such as Deep Purple and Tiny Tim but Helen was getting impatient for her husband to secure her a record deal. Jeff finally managed to get the label to allow her to record a one-time single.

The song was "I Don't Know How To Love Him" from the musical, "Jesus Christ Superstar" and it went to number thirteen on the charts in 1971 and Helen was officially offered a recording contract with Capital

"I Am Woman", co-written by Reddy, would become the game-changer for this singer. The song would go to number one on the pop charts in 1972, sold over a million copies, and won her a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Performance. The song also proved timely as it was released during the women's liberation movement and was embraced as an anthem.

Helen Reddy became one of the top female singers in the 1970's with fifteen songs in the top forty of the Billboard Hot 100 chart with three of those reaching number one. By the late seventies, Helen's career began to wane and by 1983, she released what would be her final album,  "Imagination" due to poor sales and a divorce from Jeff Wald who managed to have her effectively blacklisted from her music career. Helen decided to move foward by doing musical theater and performing in such shows as "Anything Goes" and  "Call Me Madam".

Helen published her autobiography in 2006 called, "The Woman I Am" but she has retired from performing due to her suffering from Addison's disease.

Here is a collection of some of Helen Reddy's hit songs:

"I Don't Know How To Love Him" - Helen Reddy (1971)

"I Am Woman" - Helen Reddy (1972)

"Delta Dawn" - Helen Reddy (1973)

"Peaceful" - Helen Reddy (1973)

"Angie Baby" - Helen Reddy (1974)

Here she is performing "You And Me Against The World" as a duet with Kermit the frog:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


One of my favorite TV shows is "RuPaul's Drag Race" and the second season just ended a little while ago (no disrespect to Raja but Manilla Luzon was robbed!) and it reminded me that it has almost been ten years since RuPaul Charles burst on to the scene as a glamorous songstress.

Now, I know Beyonce has said that when she performs she becomes her alter-ego, Sasha Fierce (which is a drag name, if ever I heard one) but I think there is also a little RuPaul in there as well, most especially with the way Ms Knowles looks now, in fact, they could be sisters.

Anyway, "Supermodel (You Better Work) (LP Version)" was RuPaul's biggest hit, just missing the top-ten on the pop charts in 1993 and it is still a fun song. It lists all of the top supermodels of the day (Linda! Cindy! Naomi!), a time when only first names were needed to know exactly who they were. Today, models don't have much cultural impact and they're certainly not that many memorable faces working now as they all tend to look alike.

Let's go back to the time when models had faces then:

"Supermodel (You Better Work)" - RuPaul (1993)

 As a bonus, here is the video for Ru's hilarious song, "Back To My Roots (LP Version)":


And as another bonus, here is the video of the title track from RuPaul new CD, "Glamazon" that uses clips of Ru and the contestants from the tv show working the runway:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

PRINCE AND HIS EXTENDED "FAMILY"

When Prince signed with Warner Bros. Records, he had a clause in contract that allowed him to recruit and produce other artists for the label, so he quickly took advantage of that. He sought out musicians that he knew from his early days or simply people that he met that interested him and he would build an act around.

Since Prince wrote and produced almost all of the music for these artists, despite what was listed on the credits, this allowed him another creative outlet to get more of his music out in to the world. Some of these acts became somewhat successful while most only had a very brief moment in the spotlight.

Here are just a few of the artists that Prince helped introduce:

THE TIME


The Time was one of Prince's first and most successful acts as he assembled together a group of musicians from part of another Minneapolis funk band, Flyte Time that included Terry Lewis on bass, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keyboards and drummer, "Jellybean" Johnson. He added Jesse Johnson on guitar and a childhood friend, Morris Day as the lead vocalist. Jerome Benton, a concert promoter was brought on board as part of a comic routine with Day during concerts.

Produced by Prince, "The Time", the group's self-titled debut was released in 1981 which featured rock-based r&b with a comedic edge and featured the hit songs, "Get It Up (Album Version)" "Girl" and "Cool".

By the second album, "What Time Is It?", due to a tense rivalry with Prince and his band during concert tours, a frustration with a lack of creative input and feeling underpaid for their contribution, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Monte Moir decided to leave The Time. They went on to work together writing and producing for other artists including, most famously, Janet Jackson.

Prince replaced them with Mark Cardenas and Paul Peterson on keyboards and Jerry Hubbard on bass and this new line-up was featured in the film, "Purple Rain" and recorded a third album "Ice Cream Castle" together.

Because of the success of the movie, Morris Day felt it was time to leave the group to pursue a solo career in 1984 and Jesse Johnson soon followed, taking with him Cardenas and Hubbard. This effectively brought an end to The Time and Prince placed the remaining members in to a new group called The Family in 1985.

The original members reassembled in 1990 for Prince's film, "Graffiti Bridge" and recorded another album together, "Pandemonium" but it became a short-lived reunion as The Time broke-up once again due to a clash of egos and in-fighting.

"Get It Up" - The Time

VANITY 6


Prince originally envisioned an all-female singing group that would perform in lingerie and he would call them, "The Hookers". He put together his personal assistant, Jamie Shoop, Brenda Bennett who was the wife of his set designer and Susan Moonsie who was his girlfriend at the time.

The trio recorded a few demos but then Prince met Denise Matthews, a Canadian nude model and B-movie actress. He was so captivated by her that he decided to build the group around her and Shoop was dismissed. Prince wanted to rename Denise, "Vagina" but to be pronounced va-GEE-na. She declined but came up with her own name, "Vanity".

The group became Vanity 6, with the "6" to apparently stand for the number of breasts amongst the ladies, and they released their self-titled album, "Vanity 6" in 1982. The biggest single from the album was "Nasty Girl" but due to the sexual lyrics, the song met resistance from pop radio but it managed to climb to the top ten of the r&b and dance charts.

Vanity was preparing to record the group's next album and do a part written for her in Prince's upcoming film, "Purple Rain" when she decided to leave Vanity 6. She went on to sign with Motown Records as well as perform in some feature films including "Action Jackson" and "The Last Dragon". After years of drug abuse, Vanity got sober, became born-again, renounced her sinful past and is currently a Christian preacher.

"Nasty Girl" - Vanity 6

Here is a music video of the ladies performing the song, "He's So Dull":




APOLLONIA 6


After Vanity abruptly left the singing group, Vanity 6, Prince was in search of a replacement. He found Patricia Kotero, an aspiring singer and actress.  He named her, "Apollonia" and the trio became known as Apollonia 6. She was given a role in the film, "Purple Rain" and sang a duet with Prince for the soundtrack on the song, "Take Me With U".

Apollonia 6  released their only album in 1984 to tie in with the film and the only notable song was "Sex Shooter" which was featured in "Purple Rain". The group soon disbanded with  Apollonia going on to record a solo album in 1988 and appeared on the television show, "Falcon Crest" and some low budget movies.

"Sex Shooter" - Apollonia 6


SHEILA E.


Sheila Escovedo is the daughter of famed percussionist, Pete and has followed in his footsteps but she also plays the tuba and guitar. Sheila met Prince in 1978 during one of her father's concerts and he told her that they should work together one day.

That didn't happen, however, until 1983 during the recording of the "Purple Rain" soundtrack where she added vocals to the song, "Erotic City". That lead to him writing and producing her first solo album, "The Glamorous Life" in 1984. The title song, which was originally intended for the aborted Apollonia 6 follow-up album, became a top ten hit for her and reaching number one on the dance charts. This was her biggest hit although she had a top twenty hit with "A Love Bizarre" from her second album, "Romance 1600" in 1985.

Sheila E. has released six albums to date but she is now best known as one of the best percussionists working today and she has worked with a wide spectrum of musical artists including Diana Ross, Ringo Starr, Gloria Estefan, Marvin Gaye, Carlos Santana and just recently with Marc Anthony on this past season finale of "American Idol".

"The Glamorous Life" - Sheila E.


THE FAMILY


After The Time disbanded, Prince created a new band called The Family. It consisted of former Time members, keyboardist, Paul Peterson who was renamed, St. Paul and became the lead singer, Jerome Benton and Jellybean Johnson still on drums. Prince added Eric Leeds, a member of his band, The Revolution, on saxophone and his girlfriend at the time, Susannah Melvoin, the twin sister of Wendy (of Wendy & Lisa) as a vocalist and keyboardist.

"The Family" was released in 1985 and much like The Time albums, Prince wrote, performed and produced all of the tracks and simply later added the vocals of St. Paul and Susannah. The song, "The Screams of Passion" became a modest hit for the band but the album also featured the first version of the song, "Nothing Compares 2 U" which would later become a worldwide smash for Sinead O'Connor in 1990.

Also like members of The Time, St. Paul left the group to pursue a solo career due to a lack of creative control and Prince lost interest in The Family without a vocalist and simply added them to his band, The Revolution except Jellybean Johnson who went on to work with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

"The Screams Of Passion" - The Family

ABSENT FACES IN POP MUSIC

I had read a interesting article recently in the Los Angeles Times about the difficulties of a new generation of Black female singers being...