Friday, May 31, 2013

IN MEMORIAM

It is a sad loss in music this week as Clarence Burke Jr., the lead vocalist of The Five Stairsteps and Marvin Junior, the singer of The Dells passed away this week.

Burke Jr., who died the day after his 64th birthday on May 26th, was the voice behind his group's biggest hit, "O-o-h Child" which went to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970. The Five Stairsteps was formed in Chicago in 1965 and made up of Burke's three brothers (James, Dennis and Keni) and sister (Alohe)who were all teenagers at the time. They were given the group's name by their mother as her children's descending heights reminded her of stairs After winning a talent contest, they met Curtis Mayfield of The Impressions and The Five Stairsteps were signed to his record label. The group first hit the r&b chart with "You Waited Too Long" that reached number sixteen in 1966. Other recordings followed and The Five Stairsteps became a popular live act. Although "O-o-h Child" would go on to sell well over a million copies, the group was never able to duplicate that huge success and disbanded in 1976.

"O-o-h Child" - The Five Stairsteps (1970)


Marvin Junior who was a founding member and lead vocalist of The Dells passed away on May 29th. Junior, Verne Allison, Johnny Funches Chuck Barksdale and Mickey and Lucius McGill were high school buddies who began singing together as a doo-wop act called The El-Rays in 1952. By 1955, they renamed themselves The Dells and were signed to Vee-Jay Records. They had their first charting song with "Oh What A Night" in 1956 which reached number five on the r&b chart and sold a million copies. After a tragic car accident that left McGill severely injured in 1958, The Dells decided to temporarily disband to allow him to time recover. By 1961, The Dells were back together and more hits followed with such songs as "Always Together", "Stay In My Corner" and a re-recorded version of "Oh What A Night" in 1969 that this time went straight to the top of the r&b chart and sold another million copies.

"Always Together" - The Dells (1968)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

NEW SOUNDS

BEYONCE


The world has been made aware that new music from pop diva, Beyoncé is on the horizon but the real question is when? Recently, another complete song has leaked and it's entitled, "Grown Woman" which a snippet was originally featured in her Pepsi commercial. This tune seems more likely to be a part of the Queen B's next album than the first song that blew up on the Internet earlier this year, "Bow Down/ I Been On".

While I most certainly luv me some Beyoncé but I can't say that I'm really feeling any these new songs and that includes her contribution to "The Great Gatsby" soundtrack, "Back To Black" which she teamed-up with Andre 3000 on a remake of the Amy Winehouse classic. While her attempt to shake-up the tired routine that's happening in pop music right now is greatly appreciated however, the results have been interesting but lackluster. I remain optimistic that Mrs. Carter has some more tricks up her sleeve that will surely make me stand-up and take notice.

Listen to the track and let me know what you think:

"Grown Woman" - Beyoncé (2013)

Here is the commercial for Beyoncé's line of swimwear for H&M that features a bit of another new song, "Standing On The Sun":




DAFT PUNK


One of my favorite songs out right now is "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk that features Pharrell Williams on vocals and guitar work by Nile Rodgers. This hot jam takes the shimmering disco of Rodgers's group Chic and perfectly merges it with Daft Punk's electro grooves. "Get Lucky" has quickly taken the world by storm and has topped the charts in several countries.

The French EDM duo, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (who conceal their identities by wearing elaborate robot costumes) have decided to overhaul their music by adding live instruments and with great effect on their impressive fourth studio album, "Random Access Memories". Daft Punk have also enlisted an eclectic group of contributors including Panda Bear, Chilly Gonzales, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Oscar-winning composer, Paul Williams and the man who is considered "the godfather of electronic music", Giorgio Moroder who is paid tribute to on the track, "Giorgio by Moroder" in which the legendary producer discusses his life and career over a throbbing beat. This album is a funky, chaotic, jumble of sounds and textures that will serve as the perfect background to all your summer activities.

Enjoy this slick clip of "Get Lucky":



Here is another great song from the new release that features Panda Bear, "Doin' It Right":

"Doin' It Right" - Daft Punk featuring Panda Bear (2013)

JESSICA SANCHEZ


I had checked out of "American Idol" a couple years ago as the reality show had become far too predictable and I really had no interest in watching the antics of some of the train wrecks that made-up the judging panels. However, I did catch part of an episode from season eleven that featured Jessica Sanchez performing. I have no real recollection of what she sang but I do remember being quite impressed by the talent of this young singer.

Ms Sanchez didn't go on to take home the top prize but did place as runner-up and earned a recording contract. The now seventeen year-old has just released her debut, "Me, You & The Music". The first single, "Tonight" is a sizzling duet with Ne-Yo who also co-wrote the tune. While it's pretty much like the rest of the standard r&b/pop songs that is populating the airwaves these days but Ms Sanchez elevates this material with her soaring vocals. This is a nice introduction and just a tiny taste of what Jessica Sanchez is capable of delivering in the future.

Take a look at the music video for "Tonight" (maybe it's just me but she keeps making me think of Brandy when I watch her in this):



I'm sure there are plenty of great remixes of "Tonight" out there but here is one that I like by DJ Craig Welsh:

"Tonight (DJ Craig Welsh pop bootleg remix)" - Jessica Sanchez Featuring Ne-Yo (2013)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


Back in the 70's, musical family acts were the rage because of the major success of The Jackson 5 and The Osmonds. There was another group of siblings that achieved some chart-topping hits. The Sylvers were originally from Memphis, TN and made up of four sisters (Olympia, Charmaine, Angie and Pat) and five brothers (Leon, James, Edmund, Ricky and Foster) who sang and played multiple instruments. The family had their first top ten r&b hit with "Wish That I Could Talk To You" in 1972 with their biggest hit being "Boogie Fever" which went to number one on the pop and soul charts in 1975.

Just like those other popular singing groups, The Sylvers had a prepubescent male vocalist who became a teen heartthrob. That is what leads us to today's tune of the day as Foster Sylvers, the youngest member of the act, released his first solo album in 1973. The single, "Misdemeanor" (written by brother, Leon) became a big hit, making it to number seven on the r&b chart. Despite being sung by an eleven year-old boy, the song remains an appealing slice of bubble-gum soul.

After the family's popularity began to wane by the mid-1980's, Foster went on to record a few other solo albums that went largely unnoticed as well as writing and producing for other artists such as Evelyn "Champagne" King and Janet Jackson. Recently, things have not being going well for Foster as he's currently in prison on drug charges.

Let's go back to a simpler time for Foster Sylvers with his hit single:

"Misdemeanor" - Foster Sylvers (1973)

Here is most of the family performing their biggest hit song, "Boogie Fever" on Soul Train:

Monday, May 13, 2013

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

"HEARTTHROB" - TEGAN & SARA



After over ten years of making music, Canadian alt-rock outfit, Tegan & Sara have decided they want to be pop stars. With their seventh studio album, the identical twin lesbian sisters approached producers Greg Kurstin (Pink, Kelly Clarkson) and Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple) to help guide them to a wider audience. It has seemed to have paid off as their album, "Heartthrob" debuted on the Billboard Album Chart at number three with a remix of the first single, "Closer" reaching number one of the dance chart.

To be perfectly honest, the Quin sisters haven't really altered their sound too radically as the only major difference is that the music has a smoother quality. Regardless, no one is ever going to confuse them with Britney Spears as these ladies certainly continue to rock.

"I'm Not Your Hero" - Tegan & Sara (2013)

"WOMAN" - RHYE



Rhye is the side project of two musicians who each had long careers working with their own bands. Mike Milosh is from Canada and has performed with his electronic outfit, Milosh while Robin Hannibal is a Danish musician who is part of the duo, Quadron.  These two artists came together as both just happened to share the same record label and after each had just moved to Los Angeles.

After collaborating for a week, Rhye was formed which lead to their debut, "Woman". Together they crafted a collection that is sensual and soulful which has prompted comparisons to Sade and Spandau Ballet but bring their own special touch with Milosh providing androgynous vocals. The duo also share a low-key approach to their music with little fan-fare as Rhye has done relatively very few live performances to date.

"Open" - Rhye (2013)

"SING TO THE MOON" - LAURA MVULA


British songstress, Laura Mvula has already taken much of the world by storm but she hasn't gotten nearly enough attention here in America. This twenty-five year old Birmingham native was working as a receptionist before sending her demos out and getting quickly signed to RCA Records. Her debut, "Sing To The Moon" features beautifully rendered songs written by the artist and producer, Steve Brown which combines elements of soul, jazz and African rhythms. I really dig her sultry sound and predict a very big future for this very talented young woman.

"Green Garden" - Laura Mvula (2013)

Here is the beautiful video for Laura Mvula's very first release, "She":



"EXTENDED PLAY" - FLEETWOOD MAC


The reunited Fleetwood Mac is about ready to embark on a new world tour and have just released an EP with new material appropriately entitled, "Extended Play".  The four songs featured are "Sad Angel", "It Takes Time" and "Miss Fantasy", written and produced by Lindsey Buckingham and a re-recorded version of "Without You", a recently discovered demo written by Stevie Nicks back during her days in Buckingham/Nicks. These are the first new recordings by the band in ten years with bassist, John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood ready to perform these tracks (along with their well-known hits) live across the globe.

"Sad Angel" - Fleetwood Mac (2013)

"DELTA MACHINE" - DEPECHE MODE


Depeche Mode, considered one of the most popular EDM bands in the world, has just released their thirteenth full-length recording, "Delta Machine". The British band, currently a trio with Andy Fletcher on keyboards, Martin L. Gore providing guitar, keyboards, vocals and lead songwriter along with Dave Gahan on lead vocals, has gone from a lighter synth-pop sound from their early days in the eighties to the much darker and moody techno-beats that they currently perform today. There are no real surprises on their latest effort but it's still quite engaging. Look for Depeche Mode in your city soon as they have begun the Delta Machine Tour in Europe and will hit North America in August.

"Secret To The End" - Depeche Mode (2013)

The music video for the title track from David Bowie's latest album is considered quite controversial and has even upset the Catholic League. This surreal clip of "The Next Day" displays religious imagery along with priests consorting with scantily-clad women in a club where Bowie, as a Christ-like figure, performs. Like his last video, this is directed by Floria Sigismondi and star-studded, featuring actors, Gary Oldman and Oscar-winner, Marion Cotillard.



Janelle Monáe is finally back and she's delivered a very tasty bit of funk. This dynamic performer has just released "Q.U.E.E.N.", the first single off of her forthcoming record, "The Electric Lady". The music video features her high-style, quirky visuals and slick moves as well as an appearance by the equally fabulous eccentric, Erykah Badu who adds her voice to the track.



Finally, here is the video by Lana Del Rey of her haunting song, "Young & Beautiful" for the film, "The Great Gatsby":

Thursday, May 2, 2013

TAKE TWO: PATRICE RUSHEN


After the parents of Los Angeles native, Patrice Rushen discovered that their baby girl was gifted at the piano, they enrolled her in music classes at USC at the age of three. Winning a competition at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1972 lead to Rushen being signed to Prestige Records as a teenager. She recorded several jazz albums and became an in-demand session player before moving on to a major-label, Elektra Records.

It was during this time that Rushen started to blend r&b and funk in to her sound and found commercial success. "Haven't You Heard", "Remind Me" and "Feels So Real (Won't Let Go)" found their way on the pop and r&b charts with "Forget Me Nots" becoming her biggest hit, reaching number twenty-three on the pop chart and number four on the r&b in 1982. This song is now best known for being sampled by Will Smith for the theme song of his film "Men In Black" in 1997.

Patrice Rushen is still very much involved in music but now more behind the scenes. She became the first female musical director for The Grammy Awards, The Emmy Awards, The NAACP Image Awards and The People's Choice Awards.  She also served as the musical director for Janet Jackson's 1993 world tour and has recently traveled as part of the touring band for such jazz artists as Lee Ritenour and Wayne Shorter.

Have a listen to two of my favorite tunes by Ms Rushen:

"Haven't You Heard" - Patrice Rushen (1980)

"Forget Me Nots" - Patrice Rushen (1982)

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...