Saturday, November 30, 2013

NEW SOUNDS

VALERIE JUNE


The fact is that the number of African-Americans who have professionally performed country music can be easily counted on one hand. Although Valerie June may not necessarily be considered a country artist but there is a certain amount of twang to her sound.

The music that first inspired this Tennessee native was gospel and soul music as a child. She moved to Memphis as a teenager where she was exposed to bluegrass and folk. During this time, Valerie June learned to play many instruments including the banjo and ukulele. She began performing with her husband, Michael Joyner as Bella Sun and they recorded an album, "No Crystal Stair" in 2004.

After later separating from Joyner, Valerie June began to work as a solo artist where she first stared to combine country and the blues to her music. The artist recorded three self-released albums that brought her plenty of buzz and the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. The musician co-wrote and produced her first album on a major label, "Pushin' Against A Stone". Valerie June is an amazing, unique artist who offers music that defies categories.  Have a listen to one of my favorite songs:

"Wanna Be On Your Mind" - Valerie June

FEFE DOBSON


Fefe Dobson has never wanted to follow any preconceived ideas of what type of music she should perform simply because of her race. This artist's style is more rock and punk and she's determined to follow what inspired her.

Born Felicia Dobson outside of Toronto in 1985, she began actively pursuing a professional music career at the age of eleven. At thirteen, Dobson learned piano and wrote songs which lead to serious interest from record labels. However, the labels only wanted to mold her in to a pop or r&b artist and Dobson wanted to rock. She rejected the offers and sought out the help of Chris Smith, the manager of fellow Canadian musician, Nelly Furtado. He managed to get her signed to a recording contract on her terms. The self-titled debut was released in 2003 and was a modest success with the single, "Everything" receiving the most attention.

Dobson has recently dropped a new single, "Legacy" that should be a part of her fourth album due sometime next year. Here is a great video that has been made for the tune:



JANELLE MONAE


Much like her musical idol, Prince, Janelle Monáe adds elements of rock and eccentricity to her funky sound. Originally from Kansas City, Monáe knew what she wanted to do since she was a child. She attended performing arts schools in New York and Philadelphia before heading out to Atlanta. While there, Monáe meet Big Boi of the hip-hop outfit, Outkast and formed the Wonderland Arts Society which was a safe haven for unconventional artists. She self-released an EP, "The Audition" in 2003 and although it didn't sell much, it did properly announce a fresh new voice in music. With her towering pompadour, skinny suits and ties, Janelle Monáe offers a unique look that is the polar opposite of the more common scantily clad female performers these days as well as delivering a refreshing prospective to r&b and pop.

Big Boi brought Monáe to the attention of Sean ("Puffy", "P. Diddy", whatever) Combs and quickly signed her to his label, Bad Boy Records. The album, "Metropolis" was the first part or "suite" of a series of seven concept records. The second suite, "The ArchAndroid" was released in 2010 and now the third and fourth, "The Electric Lady" is now out. This project is the most ambitious to date as it incorporates assistance from a wide range of fellow iconoclastic musicians such as Miguel, Solange, Esperanza Spalding, Erykah Badu and making a rare appearance, "the Purple One", Prince.

Here is a sample with the title track:

"The Electric Lady" - Janelle Monáe featuring Solange

Monday, November 18, 2013

60 GREAT ALBUMS YOU PROBABLY HAVEN'T HEARD


New York Magazine has compiled a list of sixty albums starting from the 1950's to today that many people haven't heard but should. To be honest, I don't know much about most of these artists here which explains why they are little heard but I always love to discover new interesting music.

Click below to see the complete list:

60 Great Albums You Probably Haven’t Heard

Monday, November 11, 2013

TAKE TWO: KENNY LOGGINS


Kenny Loggins was a very popular and prolific artist in his day as he went from rock stardom throughout the seventies as part of a group and solo act to becoming known as "The King of The Movie Soundtrack" in the eighties.

Loggins first began his music career as part of a soft-rock duo with Jim Messina who had played with the bands, Poco and Buffalo Springfield. The team came together by accident as Messina had originally come on board to just produce the first album by the newly-signed Kenny Loggins on Columbia Records but he had contributed so much more with co-writing and vocals that the album was released as "Kenny Loggins With Jim Messina Sittin' In" in 1972. Although not a big commercial hit but the two received plenty of buzz while hitting the road touring college campuses. Due to this potential opportunity, Clive Davis (president of the label at the time) talked them in to becoming an act together.

Loggins & Messina would go on to record a total of six albums together which would sell a total of sixteen million copies as well as write songs for other artists, most notably for Anne Murray who reached the top ten on the pop chart in 1973 with their song, "Danny's Song". By 1976, Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina mutually agreed to end their musical partnership and pursue solo careers.

The official first solo album by Kenny Loggins was "Celebrate Me Home" in 1977. The album was not a major success and the title track didn't burn up the charts however the song would later become a popular holiday classic (and one of my favorite songs). The follow-up release, "Nightwatch" in 1978 would be Loggins' breakthrough as a solo artist. The first single, "Whenever I Call You Friend", a duet with Stevie Nicks (who was just at the beginning of mega-stardom as part of Fleetwood Mac) reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album is also noted for the first recording of "What A Fool Believes" which was co-written with Michael McDonald who would later make it a top-ten smash with his band, The Doobie Brothers. Many more hits followed for Loggins, particularly with songs he provided for motion pictures such as "I'm Alright" ("Caddyshack"), "Danger Zone" ("Top Gun") and the title track from the hit film, "Footloose".

By the 1990's Kenny Loggins wasn't getting as much radio play but he has remained quite actively involved in music. He has just recently became a member of a country band, Blue Sky Riders and they have released their debut album, "Finally Home" earlier this year.

It was hard to just pick two of my favorites but these are the songs that are timeless and can still be heard today:

"Whenever I Call You Friend" - Kenny Loggins featuring Stevie Nicks (1978)

"This Is It" - Kenny Loggins (1979)

As a bonus, here is Loggins & Messina performing live on "The Midnight Special" one of their biggest hits, "Your Mama Don't Dance":

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, &...