Wednesday, May 27, 2015

RANDOM SIGHTS + SOUNDS

First, here is some classic '70's soul to get you up on your feet:

"Band of Gold" - Freda Payne (1970) mp3

"Mr. Big Stuff" - Jean Knight (1971) mp3

"Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" - The Dramatics (1971) mp3

"Treat Her Like a Lady" - Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose (1971) mp3

"I Love Music" - The O'Jays (1975) mp3

Sia contributes a haunting version of "California Dreamin'" for the soundtrack of "San Andreas", the upcoming Dwayne Johnson action flick about "the big one" finally hitting L.A. The singer really brings her signature drama to this melancholy song that makes it truly memorable.

"California Dreamin'" - Sia (2015) mp3

I can't believe the music of the '90's is considered "old-school" but here we are. Kat Graham uses a sample of TLC's "What About Your Friends" and pays tribute with her new single, "1991". The video takes us back to the time of house parties and the cabbage patch:



Country-music sweetheart, Taylor Swift continues to build on her reign as a pop star with a glossy, star-studded, rap-assisted music video for her latest single, "Bad Blood". Directed by Joseph Kahn and featuring Kendrick Lamar, Swift plays a member of a band of tough, sexy agents training for some kind of mission. See how many of the famous faces in the clip you recognize.:



Finally, here's a flashback with Culture Club. The song is "Mistake Number Three" and was off their
1984 album, "Waking Up With The House On Fire". Although it didn't burn up the charts, I liked this single. But what I really love is the music video. Boy George was in full glam mode in this wild, over-the-top spectacle that has to be seen to be believed:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

NEW SOUNDS

ADAM LAMBERT


After recently completing a very successful international tour with Queen, Adam Lambert is ready to release some of his own music. Now on a new record label, "The Original High" is the title of the "American Idol" runner-up's third studio album. With Swedish producers Max Martin and Shellback back on board (they produced tracks on his debut), Lambert is downplaying some of the theatrics of the past and offering some dance-influenced power pop. The first single, "Ghost Town" is a solid track that starts slowly before building to a pulsating beat, perfectly displaying his amazing voice. The album is due out on June 16th in the U.S. so in the meantime, take a look at the great video directed by Hype Williams where Lambert is serving a retro George Michael feel:



GIORGIO MORODER


Excitement is building for the first collection of new music by electronic dance pioneer, Giorgio Moroder in over thirty years. We had already gotten a very tasty taste of the album (now called "Déjà Vu" and due out June 12th) with the Kylie Minogue assisted single but now here comes another scorching track; the title song featuring the publicity-shy, vocal dynamo, Sia. Other artists confirmed to be lending their voices to the project are Kelis, Charli XCX, Mikky Ekko and the one and only Britney Spears. The Spears track is particularly interesting as it's an unlikely cover of the Suzanne Vega classic, "Tom's Diner". The duo give this song a fresh spin and it really works. Listen to the two songs below:

"Déjà Vu" - Giorgio Moroder featuring Sia (2015) mp3

"Tom's Diner" - Giorgio Moroder featuring Britney Spears (2015) mp3

"No Place In Heaven", the fourth album from Euro-pop star Mika won't arrive until June but we have an excellent video for his latest single "Talk About You" to enjoy in the meantime. Looking handsome and quite dapper, we see Mika playfully going through a colorful cardboard cut-out world filled with back-up dancers. It's quite charming and a lot of fun:



You might think this music video is simply the latest by Sia for "Fire Meet Gasoline", a track off her successful album, "1000 Forms of Fear" but you would be wrong. This is actually an ad for Heidi Klum's new line of lingerie and features the super model and actor, Pedro Pascal from "Game of Thrones". It's beautifully strange and sensual, just like you would expect from a commercial but also works to promote the music:




Finally, here is Todrick Hall covering Beyonce's entire musical career in just four minutes. Nothing more to say as this amusing clip impressively speaks for itself:

Friday, May 8, 2015

BRITNEY + IGGY = PRETTY GIRLS

World famous pop star turned Vegas show girl, Britney Spears has returned to her musical roots and she's teamed up with the hottest female rapper that's not Nicki Minaj. The new song is called "Pretty Girls" and features Aussie Iggy Azalea providing her trademark rap. Produced by the hot British production team, The Invisible Men (who are responsible for many of Iggy's hits including her biggest-to-date, "Fancy"), "Girls" is a slick dance-pop track with a great sing-a-long chorus that just might help it become one of the big songs of the summer. The most noticeable (and refreshing) thing about this track is that Brit delivers an inspired, playful vocal and we actually hear her singing with minimal auto-tune.

"Pretty Girls" - Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea (2015) mp3


Monday, May 4, 2015

BEN E. KING (1938 - 2015)



It's another sad loss in the world of music as Ben E. King, who first made the classic song "Stand By Me" a massive hit, passed away on May 1st.

Born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, NC, his family moved to Harlem when he was a young boy. He got caught up in the music scene and joined a doo-wop vocal group called The Five Crowns. George Treadwell, the manager of the popular singing group, The Drifters fired all the members (since he owned the name) and brought in the Five Crowns to become a new version of this group in 1958. They began recording on Atlantic Records and with Nelson as one of the lead singers, The Drifters had several hits including "There Goes My Baby", "This Magic Moment" and "Save The Last Dance For Me". After this success, Nelson asked Treadwell for a raise and a share of the royalties but was refused. The singer decided it was time to strike out on his own and began as a solo artist, taking on the name "Ben E. King".

King had a big hit with his first single "Spanish Harlem" in 1961, reaching the top-twenty on the r&b chart and making it to number ten on the pop but it was the follow-up that would make his career. Written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, "Stand By Me" became a world-wide sensation with the song so popular that it reached the US top-ten twice, first in 1961 and again 1986 following the release of the beloved Rob Reiner film that shared the title. "Stand By Me" has been covered at least four hundred times and in all genres of music with memorable versions by John Lennon, Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire and Mickey Gilley for the "Urban Cowboy" soundtrack. King had other popular songs including "Amor", "I (Who Have Nothing)", "Here Comes The Night" and "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" (like "Spanish Harlem", Aretha Franklin covered the song and made it an even bigger hit).

Ben E. King was inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Drifters in 1988 and honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Listen to King's first hit as a member of the new Drifters (also providing the lead vocal) and the first charting song with him as a solo act:

"There Goes My Baby" - The Drifters (1959) mp3

"Spanish Harlem" - Ben E. King (1961) mp3

Friday, May 1, 2015

TAKE TWO: ANGELA BOFILL


One artist I think is underrated and certainly under appreciated is Angela Bofill. While the Brooklyn born and raised singer had several songs hit the r&b chart throughout the 1980's, Bofill never reached the heights I think she deserved.

Bofill began performing as a teenager and was selected to be a featured vocalist with the Dance Theater of Harlem. She later caught the attention of executives of GRP Records through her friendship with jazz artist, Dave Valentin. Her debut album, "Angie" was released in 1978 and was a perfect blend of jazz and soul. Thanks to the single, "This Time I'll Be Sweeter", the album was one of year's most popular jazz recordings and the 1979 follow-up, "Angel of The Night" did even better.

By this time, Clive Davis became interested and signed Bofill to his Arista label. He teamed her with producer, Narada Michael Walden and they released "Something About You" in 1981. This album was a departure for the artist as it was much more r&b/pop oriented. While the record did do well (with two r&b charting songs), the move did alienate some of her jazz fans.

With Walden back for her fourth album, "Too Tough", Bofill would have one of her biggest successes. The funky title track hit number two on the Dance chart and number five on the r&b and the beautiful ballad, "Tonight, I Give In" would become one of Bofill's signature classics.

Bofill would release three more albums on Arista but sales were disappointing. She later moved to other labels to record, with her final charting single was a remake of Gino Vannelli's song, "I Just Wanna Stop" in 1988 (reaching number eleven on the r&b chart) and Bofill's last studio album was "Love In Slow Motion", released in 1996.

Angela Bofill proved to remain a popular live act and performed in stage productions but in 2006, tragedy befell the singer. She suffered a stroke which left her partially paralyzed. A benefit concert was later organized to help pay for the uninsured Bofill's medical bills. Sadly, she suffered another stroke the following year. Bofill has worked hard to regain some speech and mobility but unfortunately she will be unable to sing again.

To honor this legendary talent, here are two of my favorites songs by the incomparable Angela Bofill:

"This Time I'll Be Sweeter" - Angela Bofill (1979) mp3

"Tonight I Give In" - Angela Bofill (1983) mp3

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...