Welcome to the August 2015 “summer rocks” issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

As a tie-in to the annual AfroPunk Festival, we’re focusing on rock-oriented releases from bands across the continent. In the category of funk/rock bands fronted by black singers, there’s Vintage Trouble’s 1 Hopeful Road, Orgone’s Beyond the Sun, Sonny Knight and the Lakers’ Do It Live, Speedometer’s No Turning Back (ft. James Junior), Leon Bridges’ Coming Home, Saun & Starr’s Look Closer (ft. the Daptones), Black Diet’s The Good One, and SugarBad’s Up in the CloudsOther funk/blues-rock/jazz fusion releases include Otis Taylor’s Hey Joe Opus, Galactic’s Into the Deep, Bluey’s Life Between the Notes, Push Up’s The Day After, James Brandon Lewis’s Days of Freeman, Mem Nahadr’s Femme Fractale: An Opera of Reflection, and Sly and the Family Stone’s Live At the Fillmore East 1968.

From the heartland there’s Dark Black Makeup by the Missouri punk band Radkey, N.E.W. by the 1970s-era Detroit rock band Death, The Return of Glory by the Indianapolis based Christian gospel/rock group Judah Band, and Live At Never On Sunday by the Ohio Christian rock group Blessid Union of Souls.

Wrapping up this issue is Bootleg Whiskey by blues musician Grady Champion, and a summary of July 2015 releases of note.

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View review August 1st, 2015

VintageTrouble

Title: 1 Hopeful Rd.

Artist: Vintage Trouble

Label: Blue Note

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 14, 2015



Los Angeles-based rock band Vintage Trouble has developed a huge fan base (known as Troublemakers) since their formation in 2010, thanks in large part to the incredible energy of soulful frontman Ty Taylor. After a performance on the “Later With Jools Holland” show blew up Twitter in 2011, the band was invited to open for Brian May’s Anthems tour and support the likes of Bon Jovi, the Who, and the Rolling Stones. Vintage Trouble’s meteoric rise to fame was chronicled in the documentary 80 Shows in 100 Days, and for the past two years they’ve been touring worldwide and selling out their own stadium shows. They’ve also released a number of compelling videos, such as “Pelvis Pusher,” that showcase Taylor’s high octane performance style backed by the dapper power rock trio of Nalle Colt (guitar), Rick Barrio Dill (bass), and Richard Danielson (drums).

Last year Vintage Trouble was signed to Blue Note and their first major label project, 1 Hopeful Rd., releases this month:

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The album opens with “Run Like the River,” a blues rock song with an insanely propelling beat that’s been known to incite a sweat-dripping frenzy among stadium crowds.  But instead of bringing us down gradually, the mood immediately switches up for the next two tracks. On the old-school style ballad “From My Arms,” Taylor has an opportunity to flex his vocal chops, morphing from smooth crooner to pleading soul singer, and “Doin What You Were Doin” follows in a similar, though slightly less compelling vein.

Vintage Trouble shifts to a countrified bluesy rock for “Angel City, California” which, though well performed, is not particularly memorable. Digging deep on the slow burner “Shows What You Know,” Taylor uses his full range of gospel, soul and jazz inflected vocalizations over a sparse accompaniment—a formula continued to good effect on “Another Man’s Words.” The band finally returns to their signature, frenetic style with “Strike Your Light,” a longtime favorite from their live shows that’s ideally suited for Taylor’s James Brown inspired dance moves. Following is another bluesy mid-tempo song, “Before the Tear Drops,” featuring some fine guitar solos and an especially gritty delivery from Taylor. The intensity increases on the Southern soul styled ballad, “If You Loved Me,” which is sung convincingly but makes me wish Taylor would slow it down even more to wring every last bit of emotion from the song. The album closes with another dynamic rock song, “Another Baby,” about dumping the one you’re with, followed by the acoustic, introspective track, “Soul Serenity.”

I’ve been a huge fan of Vintage Trouble for the last two years, but my exposure has been limited to their videos. Though 1 Hopeful Rd. is a well-paced album showcasing both new songs and fan favorites, it also demonstrates the obvious pitfalls of a studio recording: there’s just no possible way to capture the extraordinary charisma and dazzling energy of Vintage Trouble’s live shows. Regardless, this album provides a large quantity of tasty fare for the legions of “Troublemakers” anxiously anticipating the band’s fall U.S. tour.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2015

Sonny

Title: Do It Live

Artist: Sonny Knight and the Lakers

Label: Secret Stash

Formats: CD, LP

Release date: June 23, 2015

 

 

Recorded live last December at the Dakota Jazz Club in their hometown of Minneapolis, Sonny Knight and the Lakers’ new album Do It Live captures the hard funk and soul grooves of a band at the top of their game, honed to a fine edge from a year of steady touring. Like Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones who front bands for the Daptone label, Sonny Knight is the real deal—a Mississippi-born hard-soul singer who had half a century of performing under his belt when he was rediscovered by the Secret Stash label several years ago. Now 67, Knight secretes Southern soul from his very pores with a voice that reflects his life history, from church bred gospel singer to Vietnam vet to a semi-truck driver who always found time to gig on the side. His obvious joy in his newfound fame infuses his music and clearly keeps the band on their toes and the audience on their feet. Here’s the album promo:

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From the moment the Hammond B3 kicks in on the opening track, you’re transported back to the Stax studio, with the Lakers offering an updated version of Booker T & the MGs.  They proceed with the hard grooving “Lion of Lyndale,” offering plenty of horn flourishes and drum attacks as the MC works the crowd. By the time Knight swaggers onto the stage, everyone is primed and ready as the soul train leaves the station. Over the course of 16 tracks they crank up the energy with dance ready, raucous funk.  When they finally come up for air, Knight lays it on thick with the five minute slow burner “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” which will literally raise the hair on your arms. From there they roll directly into the next three songs: a cover of “Day Tripper” which is indeed trippy and plenty gritty, “Baby, Baby, Baby” which might be short on lyrics but the funk is stratospheric, and then dialing it down for the gut wrenching “When You’re Gone”—soul in the 21st century just doesn’t get any better than this. Also included are a couple of songs from their 2014 studio album I’m Still Here, including “Juicy Lucy” and “Get Up and Dance.”

Capturing the raw energy of their shows was not an easy task. Band members immersed themselves in live albums from their favorite artists, then selected Sam Cooke Live at Harlem Square as their ultimate goal—a recording that enhances audience interaction and offers a dramatically different perspective from studio sessions.  Do It Live, drawn from four performances over two nights, was mixed live and recorded to 2-track tape by Secret Stash engineer/producer John Miller, with no overdubbing or remixing. His goal was to “reconstruct the ephemeral experience of a live concert and earn a permanent place on your record shelf.” I’d say it’s a resounding success!

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2015

Orgone

Title: Beyond the Sun

Artist: Orgone

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: April 28, 2015

 

After flirting with Afro-funk and extensive soul songs on their 2007 album The Killion Floor, then turning more towards Afrobeat and even few disco songs, Orgone’s new release Beyond the Sun is definitely a far more eclectic album. Melodic lines meet raw funk and tight rhythms through a bunch of explosive arrangements. Beyond the Sun also marks the end of Orgone’s collaboration with Ubiquity Records and their debut on Shanachie, which brings a more modern approach to sound mixing as well as the addition of a stunning new vocalist, Adryon de León. Though the sound mixing is sometimes a bit muddy, which conceals the precision and tightness of the instrumentation, this seems to be an aesthetic position which definitely becomes apparent after listening to the overall sound throughout the album.

Orgone seems to have been strongly influenced by a wide range of funk and soul acts, and their formula is now very complex. “Meat Machine” recalls the proto-fusion between funk grooves, strong fuzzy guitars and horns riffs. The song takes you back to the days when Blaxploitation style began to exploit the power of the sound—for example, the music of Willie Hutch or Roy Ayers. Added to this is the unexpected range of vocal parts that extends from “I’m a Woman” to “Don’t Push Your Luck” (seen in the video below). The latter sounds a bit like Betty Davis’s raw funk, but de León possesses a more well-balanced voice—smoother, more powerful, and more melodic, especially when the hybrid bridge shifts towards a Parliament “Come Out of the Rain” mood. Finally, consider the intensity of the arrangements, which displace the funk to more mellow and intriguing atmospheres, while highlighting the crazy and oh-so-funky cohesion between guitar and synthesizer. Now you have a brief panorama of Orgone’s potential.

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But most surprising, there’s no need to go back 50 years to reference Orgone’s style and to express the freshness provided by their diversity. The melodic aspect of the bridges, and the elaborate and polished chord changes push them towards a very contemporary and personal style. Their music is not backward-looking, not about the history of funk, but is instead a sincere exploration of new grooves that define how the style might be revived. This push towards modern interpretations and the search for new textures is very evident in songs such as “No Pain.” According to Shanachie’s Randall Grass, since Orgone has collaborated or performed with bands like the Roots, Al Green, Gil Scott Heron, Breakestra and Monophonics, “they have grown to the point that they are poised to break out,” and I would agree. Through the diversity that infuses both the singers and the instrumentation, Beyond the Sun explores a large variety of possibilities for a re-shaping of funk for 21st century ears.

Reviewed by Guillaume Dupetit

View review August 1st, 2015

Freeman

Title: Days of FreeMan

Artist: James Brandon Lewis

Label:  Masterworks/Okeh Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: July 24, 2015

 

 

James Brandon Lewis is an accomplished tenor saxophone player who has a firm grasp of both his instrument and his influences.  While much of Lewis’s previous work is heavily influenced by contemporary jazz and gospel, Days of FreeMan pulls from an even more eclectic bag of influences, self-consciously invoking the hip hop that Lewis grew up hearing in Buffalo, NY.  Lewis’s invocation of this music feels genuine, even if his choice of hip hop influences speaks volumes about his particular vision of classic rap music—the groups that Lewis invokes on Days of FreeMan are the likes of Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest rather than the gangsta rap that took a strong foothold in the music industry at the same time.  Following is the album trailer:

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Regardless, Lewis pulls some of the key elements from his vision of ‘90s hip hop as a template for his work on Days of FreeMan, sampling his grandmother’s voice from interviews he conducted with her, including brief interludes labeled as “breaks,” which often have hooks that could have come directly from a De La Soul cut, and utilizing his band to create what is a more groove-based record than listeners familiar with Lewis’s other work might expect. He pays tribute to key sounds that have application in both rap music and his own jazz idiom, incorporating elements of James Brown-style funk into “Brother 1976,” and nodding to a key hip hop sound on “Boom Bap Bop,” a cut on which Lewis juxtaposes the jazzy-funky grooves made popular by groups like A Tribe Called Quest with bebop breaks. With the exception of a few tracks, Lewis’s playing is mostly riff-based on this record, with even his solos being more driven by motivic transformation than by exploring all that his horn and a particular set of changes have to offer (listen to “Wilson” and “Able Souls Dig Planets”).  Lewis also draws fairly obvious parallels between his horn and the voices of MCs on rap records—the title track “Days of FreeMan” relies upon this juxtaposition for most of its musical development.

To allow his groove-oriented compositions to settle into the pocket, Lewis has employed two musicians with stellar resumes—Rudy Royston on drums and Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass—working with a piano-less trio that locks into the pocket (“Able Souls Dig Planets”), but is also perfectly confident with more rhythmically and harmonically intricate fare such as “Black Ark.”

For those who may question what seems like a fundamentally nostalgic project, let them rest assured that Lewis fashions two well-worn musical idioms (’90s hip hop and contemporary jazz) into a new, relevant package.  Lewis even uses his music to comment on current events, unleashing a furious torrent of horns, bass, and drums on “Unarmed with a Mic,” a nod to the ongoing questions about race that are currently a key part of political discourse in the United States.  With any intentionally inter-generic experiment, there are bound to be instances in which a given artist’s particular blend is uncomfortable—these moments certainly appear on Days of FreeMan, but this project is ultimately a fresh, and at times even daring, effort from a trio of excellent musicians.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

View review August 1st, 2015

Leon

 

Title: Coming Home

Artist: Leon Bridges

Label: Columbia

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: June 23, 2015

 

Expect new songs, old soul on Leon Bridges’ Coming Home. Following is the title track video:

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As Tyrese campaigned to revive R&B all the while debuting atop the Billboard charts, newcomer Leon Bridges crooned himself a spot, reminding purists and detractors that rhythm and blues is very much alive. In a time when it seems the identity of R&B looks less and less black and bluesy, Bridges’ channeling of early ‘50s soul and Cadillac Records is a timely and refreshing reminder of the Southern-soaked melodies that are authentically a part of the African American experience.

The 25-year-old Texas native’s vocals easily ride live instrumentation, singing tales of love lost and found. At ten tracks he keeps it simple and to the point.  “Better Man” finds him swimming the “Mississippi river” to get back in his girl’s good standings. And “Brown Skin Girl” recreates a time where men courted ladies at the local day-grocer/night juke joint. “Smooth Sailin’” is easily an album standout, and with the most crossover appeal, although I’m sure Bridges isn’t looking to earn pop credit.

Two other standouts include the beautifully-written narrative of “Lisa Sawyer.” Like a Frank Ocean from the past, he details the life of Ms. Sawyer with ease, painting a picture for the listener. Bridges closes with the sanctified “River,” a Baptist-soaked hymn of spiritual noir.

Leon Bridges has crafted an amazing debut for those seeking something new, yet familiar. For those who may just need a little southern comfort. For anyone who is longing to come home.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Lorin Williams

View review August 1st, 2015

BlackDiet

Title: The Good One

Artist: Black Diet

Label: Piñata Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: July 21, 2015

 

In their own words, the Minneapolis-based Black Diet is a “garage/indie/soul band with a sartorial flair.” The genre-bending, six member band met mostly through Craigslist and their own personal connections in 2011 and released their first album, Find Your Tambourine, in April 2014. They are quickly back with a sophomore album, The Good One, out July 21 on Piñata Records. The band’s unique sound is refined on this album, reflecting their increased experience playing together as they’ve gained a larger audience.

Black Diet, and The Good One, is powered by lead singer Jonathan Tolliver, who’s incredibly soulful voice never runs out of passion. It has been compared to Al Green and Otis Redding, capable of both smooth rifts that glide over melodies and guttural grit that adds a whole new dimension. For example, “Do A Little Wrong,” in which Tolliver begs, “Just do a little wrong for me,” displays his soulful voice and even a few falsettos. He is backed by Mugsy, whose voice is reminiscent of ‘60s girl groups and offers great contrast to Tolliver. Their live performance is exceptional, especially with this homegrown indie band’s choice of venue: a Minneapolis hair salon.

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All of the songs on The Good One follow themes of “love, loss, retribution and regret.” Black Diet plays with and performs these ideas through many genres.  “Fever,” for instance, is an indie pop song with a catchy melody on guitar that is sure to get stuck in your head for days, while “Brother” is a more classic R&B ballad with keyboard that sounds like a church organ. “I Used To Be In Love” is similar to the second style, pulling inspiration from ‘60s soul and vocal harmonies.

“Find A New Love” has a much heavier rock vibe, and Tolliver’s vocals are so staccato at points that they are less like comprehensible lyrics and more like added musical notes. Near the end of the song, instruments clash and the vocalists scream, definitely displaying the garage band side of Black Diet.

“Puddle Jumpers” has a darker soul vibe, as Tolliver explores his low range and a haunting organ joins in to create something reminiscent of the Animal’s hit “House of the Rising Sun.” The final song of the album, “Calls,” is only an electric guitar and Tolliver’s vocals. The simplicity allows the talent of both musician and vocalist to rise to the surface.

The Good One has an indie rock soul vibe that connects all ten tracks, constantly keeping things fresh and exciting. A good mix of slow ballads with contemporary alternative rock, Black Diet brings elements of the past into the present with ease. Tolliver’s emotional vocals combined with the sweetness of Mugsy’s voice and the rest of the band’s musical talent creates a strong, dynamic second album from this Twin Cities group.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review August 1st, 2015

Speedometer

Title: No Turning Back

Artist: Speedometer featuring James Junior

Label: Freestyle

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: July 24, 2015



For the past 10 years, the funk combo Speedometer, led by Leigh Gracie, has “spearheaded the resurgence in deep, gritty funk and soul” in the UK.  Similar to the Dap-Tones, Speedometer specializes in classic funk by artists such as the Meters and the JB’s. They’ve also collaborated with a number of soul singers including Sharon Jones, Eddie Bo, and Marva Whitney. On their last album, Soul Overdue, Martha High (The Jewels/James Brown) joined the band as principal vocalist. For their new release, No Turning Back, they turn over the vocal tracks to James Junior, an in-demand session vocalist and arranger on the UK’s gospel and soul scene. Junior is certainly up to the task, having been weaned on classic soul and Motown, which is clearly demonstrated in his smooth phrasing and agile falsetto, though he’s not as gritty as his predecessors.

The album opens with “Don’t Fool Yourself,” one of Junior’s most compelling tracks with traces of a young Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield. Following up with “Bad Note,” the band lays down a deep funk groove punctuated by the requisite tight horns. For the title track, they shift into a Latin mood, with a bossa nova rhythm and film noir style that still has a contemporary edge:

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There are several instrumental highlights, including “Orisha’s Party,” an up-tempo Latin dance number with a party atmosphere. In contrast, the band offers an improvisatory soul-jazz take on the ubiquitous Pharrell William’s tune “Happy,” situating the song in a ‘70s time warp.

Junior returns on “Troubled Land” (slightly reminiscent of “Trouble Man”), but here, as well as on “I Showed Them (The Ghetto),” he lacks the searing soulful angst of a Donny Hathaway or Marvin Gaye (granted, that’s a pretty high bar). Taking on a jazzier, more contemporary sound, “Middle of the Night” is a fun romp which finds Junior’s vocals blending perfectly with the combo. Concluding with the short “Good Note (Bad Note Pt. 2),” Junior and Speedometer mimic the feel good songs of the ‘70s, promising a new beginning reinforced by the uplifting “ooh ooh oohs” of the back-up singers.

No Turning Back is a satisfying album that will appeal to funk, soul-jazz, and Latin jazz fans who enjoy a trip in the wayback machine.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2015

Saun&Starr

Title: Look Closer

Artist: Saun & Starr

Label: Daptone

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: May 19, 2015





Though Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan Lowe grew up a few blocks from each other in the Bronx, they didn’t meet until the 1980s at an open mic night in Harlem. Though they appreciated each other’s talent, they didn’t reconnect until the 1990s when they both auditioned and got hired for a New York wedding band led by Sharon Jones. They have separately released albums, performed on Broadway, and toured, but Look Closer is the first album by the duo known as Saun & Starr. Produced by Daptone’s Gabriel Roth, the project features ten original tracks of timeless soul music that showcase the smooth, experienced vocals of these two talented women.

It is impossible to separate Saun & Starr’s vibrant personalities from their music. Their energy and passion comes through on songs such as “Big Wheel,” which advises a woman to “leave ‘Big Wheel’ behind”—a slang term referencing a man who is self-important, loud, and flirtatious. The music is upbeat with a catchy melody, featuring background horns and funky guitar by the Dap-Kings. The video is simple, fun, and not at all commercial, with Saun & Starr singing in a swimming pool, then riding on train and carousel at a fair:

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This dynamic duo uses styles and melodies from ‘60s R&B, soul, and vocal harmony groups while remaining modern in songs such as the title track, “Look Closer (Can’t You See the Signs?),” a warning to a young boy about paying attention to where he’s going in life. Focusing more on R&B, “If Only” and “In the Night” have the feel of classic love ballads with slow tempos, choruses of horns, and heartbroken lyrics.

Look Closer also features Saun & Starr’s 2014 breakout single “Hot Shot,” which is the biggest selling Daptone 45 ever. The duo’s powerhouse vocals soar, but the song also highlights the impeccable skills of the Dap-Kings, the backing band for the entire album.

The closing track, “Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah,” perfectly sums up the fun, carefree, woman-empowering attitude of Look Closer. The song is upbeat yet chill, with alternating vocals between Saun and Starr, who then come together on the chorus in perfect harmony. Throughout the entire album, Saun & Starr showcase their incredible sets of pipes and an ability to perform classic soul music that transcends age.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review August 1st, 2015

Galactic

Title: Into the Deep

Artist: Galactic

Label: Mascot Records

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: July 17, 2015

 

The New Orleans funk band Galactic has been playing for twenty years. They’ve played at Mardi Gras, made conceptual albums about the culture of New Orleans, and now are combining all those experiences with their connections in the music world for their eleventh studio album Into the Deep. Produced and arranged by band members Ben Ellman and Robert Mercurio, the album includes appearances by artists such as Macy Gray, Mavis Staples, JJ Grey, Ryan Montbleau, Maggie Koerner, and Brushy One String:

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While Galactic plays on elements of various genres, they are undeniably foremost a funk band.  The opening song “Sugar Doosie” and later “Right On,” which has a lot of spunk provided by vocalist Charm Taylor, are both full-bodied dance tracks featuring robust horns, background shouts, and energetic percussion. The instrumental track “Long Live the Borgne” adds some lively cowbell to the funk while “Buck 77” focuses more on the role of electric guitar.

Featuring the Revivalists’ singer and rhythm guitarist David Shaw, “Dolla Diva” brings in some elements of hip-hop such as a heavier bass and talk-singing with a rap-like rhythm. Blues-inspired tracks “Chicken in the Corn” and “Today’s Blues” both take different approaches to funky blues.  “Chicken in the Corn” is a an upbeat, fun jam featuring Jamaican bluesman Brushy One String while “Today’s Blues” ends the album with a smooth, relaxed vibe.

The title track “Into the Deep” takes on a slower tempo and is heightened by the voice of Macy Gray. The ballad-like verses turn into an uplifting indie-pop chorus with multiple voices singing in unison. Similarly, “Does It Really Make a Difference” is the slow, smooth single featuring Mavis Staples that asks whether building everything bigger makes any difference, and encourages people to look past competition and comparison. The layers of horns and warm guitars compliment Staples’ throaty vocals.

Into the Deep proves that after twenty years, Galactic still has an indisputable funk sensibility that allows them to create equally excellent ballads, party songs, and instrumental jams all while representing their unique New Orleans sound.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review August 1st, 2015

OtisTaylor

Title: Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat

Artist: Otis Taylor

Label: Trance Blues Festival Records

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: May 5, 2015

 

Visionary roots music songwriter and “trance blues” originator Otis Taylor has released a string of albums in the last decade, typically focusing on “unflinching tales about racism, struggle and heritage.” His latest project, Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat, is a concept album peppered with blues, folk, jazz and rock. Considered a suite in 10 parts, Taylor uses “Hey Joe,” the song made famous by Jimi Hendrix, as a leitmotif providing the overarching theme “about decisions and their consequences”—in this case the murder of a cheating lover. The other recurring thematic element is provided by his original song “Sunday Morning,” featured in three different renditions.  If this sounds redundant, rest assured that each interpretation is highly improvisatory, uses different instrumentation, and bears little resemblance other than title.

The album opens with version A of “Hey Joe,” which features the atmospheric psychedelic guitar of Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers), with nice contrasts in timbre provided by violinist Anne Harris and a punchy cornet solo by Ron Miles. Following is a lengthy instrumental version of “Sunday Morning,” which melds into the lament “The Heart is a Muscle (Used for the Blues),” reinforcing the theme of “love that could drive a person crazy.”  “Red Meat,” used as the album’s subtitle, is a sparse arrangement featuring Taylor on acoustic guitar and vocals, singing “sometimes you win in love and sometimes you lose.” Drawing upon contemporary themes, “Peggy Lee” is an original song about a man named Lee who transitions to a woman called Peggy. This song has all the makings of a classic folk ballad, reinforced by the contributions of David Moore on banjo.  Another original song, “They Wore Blue,” draws harmonically from “Hey Joe” and signals the mid-point of the album. Arranged as a trio with Taylor on electric guitar, Todd Edmunds on bass, and Ron Miles on cornet, this instrumental features extensive overdubbed horn sections.

The second part of the suite begins with “Hey Joe (B),” featuring Daniel Sproul and Taylor Scott on guitar, David Moore on banjo, Anne Harris on violin, Langhorne Slim on backing vocals and acoustic guitar, Steve Vindaic on organ, and Gus Skinas on Moog. This version offers many interesting contrasts as sections switch between psychedelic guitars, folksy strings, and synthesizer. Following is another instrumental version of “Sunday Morning,” which flows into “Cold at Midnight” with Taylor riffing on the possible reasons why his lover has not returned home. Closing with “Sunday Morning (C),” Taylor and Scott keep the reverb pedal to the metal for a rousing finish to this stellar album.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2015

Push Up

Title: The Day After

Artist: Push Up

Label: Harmonia Mundi/En Mȇme Temps

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: April 14, 2015

 

Push Up is a French group that transforms ‘70s soul and rock music into detailed stories about Quincy Brown, the fictional “forgotten cousin of Quincy Jones and James Brown.” Push Up played live shows for many years as a collective before recording their first album, The Grand Day of Quincy Brown, in 2010. Their “hypnotic, colorful sound that simultaneously channels Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley and Funkadelic” creates a unique form of musical storytelling that defies any single genre.

Push Up’s  sophomore effort, The Day After, features jazz diva Sandra Nkaké, vocalist Karl Leury, and slam poet Allonymous, with Jean-Phi Dary on keyboards and Jî Drû on flute. In a mix of soul, funk, R&B, rock, jazz, and spoken word poetry, The Day After continues the story of Quincy Brown, a man searching for the meaning of life while facing his own doubts and demons.

Easily the most rock-oriented song on the album, “Turn It Off” is a commentary on how much time people spend watching television, as Quincy falls asleep with the TV on and imagines it entering his brain and talking to him. Matthieu “uddhava” Ouaki (electric guitar) and Toskano Jeanniard (bass) steal the show by creating an irresistible melody, while Karl Leury’s dynamic voice has an urgent punk edge that helps drive this track. The video features the band in white face masks surrounded by CRT TVs that they smash at the end:

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The other single from The Day After also has prominent rock tones. “Kiss From the Devil” features Sandra Nkaké as the main vocalist supported by a chorus of “oohs” that are akin to ghost sounds at a haunted house. Their ‘70s influence is more apparent in this song, as well as in the tracks “The Same” and “The Day After.”

“I Try” and “Quincy’s Interlude” feature Allonymous and focus on the storytelling. The spoken word narrative is accompanied by soft music and occasional sound effects, letting the depth and richness of his voice stand out. Other standout tracks include the classic R&B ballad “You Never Got a Smile” and the reggae-influenced final track “A Dreamer,” which ultimately ends this chapter of Quincy Brown’s story on a hopeful note.

On The Day After, Push Up matches the complexity of Quincy Brown’s storyline with equally intricate and inventive music that pulls from a variety of styles and emotions. This fascinating project pulls the listener in with enjoyable music and thought-provoking dialogue about the struggles and triumphs of searching for meaning in everyday life.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review August 1st, 2015

Sugarbad

 

Title: Up in the Clouds

Artist: Sugarbad

Label: Self-Released

Formats: CD, MP3, FLACC

Release date: January 27, 2015

 

A little more down in the dirt than ‘70s era Betty Wright, but not so gritty as Betty Davis, singer Lisa Ramey’s vocals bloom from down deep. On the title track of Sugarbad’s EP Up in the Clouds, her resonant vocals hold you, even as she sings about how the object of her affection holds her. The musicians in Sugarbad, who earned their funk and soul chops as the house band at the 169 Bar in Manhattan, provide her a bed of slightly distorted guitars, rich bass and rim-shots before busting into a horn blasted groove that only reinforces her passion, so that you are fractured when she sings, “He really holds me, breathing in, my head really spins.”

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Songs like “Teacher” and “Just Can’t Stop” are crazy infectious funk and “In Case” showcases Ramey’s skills, her vocals bouncing across the solid grooves in a time that would please Nancy Wilson. Nicholas Myers, Aaron Rockers, Frank Cogliano, David Mainella, Isaac Jaffe, and Ryan Ramirez work together, bending and breaking as a tight unit, always supporting and playing off of Ramey’s sound, propelling the songs forward with propulsive Maceo-style horn lines. If I saw them live, I would want to raise my hands but after being taught by Ms. Ramey, I better just sit down, sit down.

Reviewd by Nestor A. Cordova

View review August 1st, 2015

Radkey

Title: Dark Black Makeup

Artist: Radkey

Label: Little Man

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: August 21, 2015

 

In just 5 years, Radkey has gone from being a group of homeschooled brothers rocking out in their Midwest bedrooms to a punk band touring internationally and performing at festivals such as Coachella and Riot Fest. They have released 2 EPs, Cat and Mouse and Devil Fruit, but they are releasing their first full album on August 21: Dark Black Makeup.  They recorded most of the songs in the U.K. with producer Ross Orton, who has worked with big name rock groups such as Arctic Monkeys, The Fall, and Jarvis Cocker. Orton’s production is evident in their more polished sound and heightened songwriting, yet Radkey keeps their authentic garage punk sound.

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On Dark Black Makeup, Isaiah (bass), Solomon (drums), and Dee (vocals/guitar) Radke mess around with punk, rock, and pop while exploring teenage themes such as girl problems, anger, and boredom. They also take opportunities to expound on more complex ideas, such as in the title track “Dark Black Makeup.” The song is a “high-decibel wake up call for young people” about the dangers of worrying too much what others think, wasting time partying, and “wanting it all.” This is a pretty strong message coming from a band whose youngest member, Solomon, is just 17, but their experiences touring and playing for larger audiences seem to have created a maturity in both music and lyrics.

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The brothers have no problem experimenting with different genres and sounds, saying “Radkey does whatever they want, and that’s what rock and roll is all about.” They reveal their surprising pop sensibility in songs such as “Love Spills” and “Evil Doer.” A story about an evil villain who dreams of terrorizing the city that he loves, “Love Spills” has a melting guitar solo, pounding bass, loud drums, and a catchy hook. “Evil Doer” has a chorus full of backup “oohs” from Solomon and Isaiah and includes multiple sections with harmonies.

Dark Black Makeup also includes popular tracks from the previously released EPs, including “Romance Dawn” and “Parade It.” The deep vocals singing “Hey, hey now” that start “Romance Dawn” make it a personal favorite, an undeniable rock power anthem.

Radkey feels like an old school rock band, with Dee’s deep voice, the pulsing guitar and clashing drums making every song feel urgent and important. Their latest album expands the definition of punk, with mosh-pit songs like “Song of Solomon” and “Glore” standing alongside tracks such as “Hunger Pain,” a slower and (comparatively) quiet song where the vocals stand out with a focus on melody and harmony. Radkey makes this work, and their relentless energy comes through the recorded album, which, despite the enhanced production, still has the feel of a raw punk jam session between extremely talented brothers.

Listen on Spotify  here.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review August 1st, 2015

Death
Title: N.E.W.

Artist: Death

Label: Drag City

Formats: CD, LP, Cassette, MP3, FLACC

Release date: April 21, 2015

 

 

Between the kicked-out rhythm and blues of MC5, life-lusting jams of Iggy and the Stooges and the 4/4 blitzkrieg of the Ramones, was Death. While the scope of their influence on their contemporaries is uncertain, the 2013 documentary A Band Called Death demonstrates clearly that the 1970s-era Detroit rock band Death basically worked out and recorded a style of music that would later be called punk rock. Thinking of David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney, the original line-up of Death, it is difficult not to consider a series of what-if questions. What if their recordings had made it to New York or London? What if they had found a producer that recognized the band’s musical innovations and wanted to take a chance? What if the music industry had not been segregated?

These and other musings immediately disappear when the first track of Death’s latest album N.E.W. hits your speakers. The current line-up of Bobby and Dannis Hackney and Bobbie Duncan bust down the door and get the album moving with a heavy burner called “Relief”:

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Starting as a thick bass walking in the park, “Look At Your Life” keeps the rock lava flowing with its thudding stops that eventually release into a pounding chorus. “At the Station” achieves the feat of being both about the urban experience of taking the train, and suggesting a spiritual journey through the stations of the cross. “Who Am I?” could be the anthem to your next music fest. I could see a festival goer thinking to themselves, “Who am I? Where am I? And how did I get here? Somehow I’ve lost direction. I can’t make no connection,” as they wander through the crowd listening to the three or four note phrase playing plaintively over the steady-rockin’ beat.

The two songs that I found myself consistently skipping over aren’t bad, but just didn’t seem to fit in with the tone of the rest of the album. “Playtime” was too poppy and the single-acoustic-guitar ballad “Story of the World” just seemed to be a part of one of the musicians’ other projects. While definitely still important for music historians, Death’s legacy in the narrative of punk rock becomes less important to the listener jammin’ out with this new album, because, as they sing on the first track: “In nineteen seconds we’ll be jumpin’ up and down this place, everybody needs a party every now and then.” And with this collection of songs, Death delivers that conscious party.

Reviewed by Nestor A. Cordova

View review August 1st, 2015

JudahBand

Title: TROG: The Return of Glory

Artist: Judah Band

Label: Xist Music/Malaco

Formats: Limited edition CD + DVD, MP3

Release date: March 31, 2015

 

 

The Indianapolis, Indiana based group Judah Band is bringing funky grooves and an edgy style to gospel music lovers throughout the U.S. Founded by lead vocalist and songwriter G. Randy Weston, the group is comprised of five men and three women, several with ties to Indiana University’s IU Soul Revue including vocalist Chauneesha “Neesha” Lester and keyboardist and producer, Terrance “T Denn” Dennie. In March of this year they released their debut album TROG: The Return of Glory, a high charged collection of songs meant to inspire listeners to praise and trust God.  While rooted in gospel and praise and worship music, this project is heavily influenced by the hard hitting electric guitar and drums licks of rock as well as the colorful electronic manipulated vocals prominent in contemporary pop music. This CD + DVD edition features songs from their live recording session at The Caring Place Church in Indianapolis. Using a decidedly futuristic, “secret agent” influenced style, the Judah Band outlines their mission as “restoring the reputation of God” by encouraging believers to broaden their view of the divinity of God and to worship Him in their own unique ways.

The album opens with a declaration of their purpose and segues into the explosive track, “Get Up!” which features an exciting call and response led by Weston. While lyrically simple, the track features musical complexity with unpredictable rhythmic changes and unexpected, even disjointed harmonies. The songs on the first half of this project such as “Praise Your Name,” “Hallelujah,” and “God Can,”  follow a general congregational praise and worship format with simple melodies, repeated text, call and response, and frequent modulations heightening the worship experience.

Interestingly, several of the tracks on the second half of the album feature a fun stylistic flair that is upbeat and danceable. The song “Up N’ Praise Him,” is heavily influenced by the swing era jazz piece “Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing),” by Louis Prima. In the live recording, singers with expandable fans in hand dance in ways reminiscent of African American church “shouting” (holy dancing) of the mid-20th century. The music video for this song also pays homage to this time period with dress and choreography drawn directly from the swing era:

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Judah Band continues this walk down musical memory lane with “Free to Be Me,” which borrows from the 1950s dance craze popularized by Johnny Otis’s “Willie and the Hand Jive.” True to form, the singers perform the popular choreography and teach it to their energetic crowd during the musical interjections.

TROG also features two rather introspective pieces: “Just Hold On” and “Sing With Me.” The former is aimed at encouraging listeners to persevere in the midst of great despair. The latter is a prayerful daydream about making music so captivating and powerful that God would be compelled to sing along with His worshipers. With a descending melody, the vamp sweetly beckons, “Lord, please sing with me.”

A rather enthusiastic project, TROG is an impressive debut for this local group. Their infectious energy and playful style is likely to appeal to the young and the young at heart. Moreover, their willingness to fuse older musical standards with fresh energy and sounds make them a group to listen for in years to come.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review August 1st, 2015

BlessidUnionOfSouls

Title: Live at Never on Sunday

Artist: Blessid Union of Souls

Label: Goldenlane

Formats: CD+DVD, MP3

Release date: June 23, 2015

 

 

While few bands have longevity that spans decades, Ohio’s Blessid Union of Souls has been bringing their fans alternative rock inspirational music for over twenty years. This year they released their first live album and DVD, Live at Never on Sunday, featuring their top songs from over the years. Lead singer Eliot Sloan is backed by solid yet energetic band members including Brian Lovely on guitars and vocals, Chris Arduser on drums and vocals, Dave Ramos on bass and vocals, and David Lessing on keyboards and vocals. Here, they deliver emotionally charged renditions of their biggest hits like “I Believe,” which hales from their debut album Home (1995). Equally as relevant and resonant as it was twenty years ago, “I Believe” encourages listeners that no matter the obstacle, “love will find a way.”

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Blessid’s thoughtful musical reflections on love and friendships have made them popular not only in radio airplay, but also with television and film. They have penned songs for film including “Brother My Brother,” written for Pokémon: The First Movie and “Standing at the Edge of the Earth,” written for Armageddon (although it was not used in the film), which they perform at this concert with conviction and sensitivity. Paying homage to their largely Christian backgrounds, Blessid sings an up-tempo song, “Higher Calling,” which suggests that each person must make a choice to fulfill their greatest potential. Live at Never on Sunday is rounded out with songs that capture the excitement and beauty of romantic love such as “I Wanna Be There,” “That’s the Girl I’ve Been Telling You About,” and “Hey Leonardo (She Like Me For Me).” Music lovers interested in an uplifting, live musical experience will undoubtedly find this project well worth the listen.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review August 1st, 2015

Bluey

Title: Life Between the Notes

Artist: Bluey

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: April 28, 2015

 

 

If you like acid jazz and you have never heard of “Bluey,” then allow me to also mention that he was the band leader of Incognito—one of the best known jazz bands in England.  Incognito has released some fifteen albums.  And Bluey, or should I call him Jean-Paul Maunick, has been one of the major pioneers in the acid jazz genre.  He has also collaborated on productions of such greats as Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Maxi Priest, R. Kelly, George Benson, George Duke, Phillip Bailey, and Steve Gadd just to name a few.

“Life Between the Notes” is Bluey’s second solo album.  Listening to his new album while I was driving, I can honestly say that this is the best driving music I have ever experienced.  This album is a cross of funk, jazz, soul, and dance music.  There is such a great groove from the beginning to the end, you will not be able to sit still.  Usually when you listen to a new album you might find a few pieces that did not do anything for you.  This is the first album I’ve heard in a long time where I loved all thirteen tracks.

The opening track, “Dance to My Drum,” sets the tone for the whole album.  It starts off with an infectious drum beat that will get you to tap your foot and then you will realize you are moving other parts of your body.  If you do not move something, you are officially dead.  Then the bass guitar comes in played by Bluey.  Then the vocals come in and you are off and running.  Now, the song is only 1:30, which is an ingenious way to start off your sophomore album.

The title track, “Life Between the Notes” (below) begins with Bluey singing and playing all the guitars.  Listening to this song made me realize that Bluey is the jazz version of Prince.  He is a multi-talented musician. “Hold On” starts off with a great bass groove, then the vocals come in and the back beat drives this song all the way to the end.  Here again, if you are just sitting and not moving you better check your pulse. “Saints and Sinners” opens with a very smooth piano groove.  This is where I would like to mention that you really should listen to the words of this song.  In fact, all of the songs have a great message.  This is Bluey coming of age.  He has a lot to say and hopefully everyone will listen.

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In music today we all have so many choices.  Some music can get hidden.  If you have been an Incognito fan for a long time you will appreciate and enjoy this album.  Don’t let this album get hidden by some of the noise that is out there.  You should always go into new music with an open mind.  If you do this with Life Between the Notes you will be rewarded with some of the best music you will hear all summer.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Patrick Byrket

View review August 1st, 2015

FemmeFractale

Title: Femme Fractale: An Opera of Reflection

Artist: Mem Nahadr

Label: Mem Nahadr Music

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: July 21, 2015

 

New York-based artist  Mem Nahadr has composed music for multiple films (and a Japanese anime show), created an off-Broadway show, made the top 10 albums on the BBC soul chart, and been photographed for National Geographic and the Smithsonian. She is not afraid to take risks and follow wherever her passion takes her. Her latest project, Femme Fractale: An Opera of Reflection, comes in the form of an 18 track “opera with a beat” that is “the evanescence of all boundaries and lines placed on women.”  More of a performance artist than just a musician or composer, Mem has been said to be on the cutting edge of soul, and Femme Fractale certainly reflects that. The album flows between ethereal instrumental tracks and beat-heavy soul jams, and Mem’s voice takes the center stage on a number of arias. Her lyrics tend to be symbolic, focusing more on emotion and overall sound than clarity. It is a complex album filled with intricacies, guaranteeing that every listen will reveal something new you didn’t hear before.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review August 1st, 2015

SlyAndTheFamilyStone

Title: Live at the Fillmore East, October 4th & 5th, 1968

Artist: Sly & The Family Stone

Label: Epic/Legacy

Format: 4CD set, LP

Release date: July 17, 2015

 

At the time of these performances, Sly & The Family Stone were looking to get their groove back.  Recently returned from their first U.K. tour, which had been plagued by a lousy sound system and a marijuana bust, the band sought to get on track at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, and get back to riding the success of their latest single, “Dance to the Music.”  They were still an up and coming sensation, hoping to build momentum in 1969.

The band’s label, Epic Records, took advantage of the excellent acoustics and sound system at the Fillmore East, plus the close proximity to parent company Columbia Records’ New York studios, and taped the four shows (two each on October 4th and 5th, 1968).  Planned to be compiled into a live album, the recordings were shelved a few months later, after the band released their massive breakthrough #1 hit, “Everyday People.” Then, later in 1969, the band blew open the doors with their Woodstock performance and became a legitimate crossover pop phenomenon.  These recordings were considered out-dated, as Sly Stone kept moving his band in different musical directions.

In today’s reissue business, nothing stays shelved forever.  Rather than stick with the original intent to edit together a live compilation of the best parts of the best-performed songs, Sony/Legacy (current owners of the catalog) opted to release the unedited shows, one per CD.  The result is a somewhat uneven series of concerts, with several songs repeated four times, to varying degrees of success. There were also recording equipment problems during parts of the first show.

The super-hardcore Sly & The Family Stone fan may want to listen to 3 1/2 hours of decent to excellent performances, with most songs repeated at least twice and several played four times. But most listeners will probably want to digest these shows one at a time. My favorite was the second show of the first night (CD 2). The band seemed most focused and in sync during that set.  The second show of the second night (CD 4) is also quite good. The early shows seem more scattered, maybe because everyone wasn’t at the same energy level, or maybe because most of the songs played better a second time (there is much tune overlap between the first and second shows each night).

When the band was on, they were very good, putting out a heavy blend of funk, rock and pop, with layers of electric guitar, organ, horns and rock-solid rhythm.  But they weren’t on for every song in every show, and that’s why the idea of an edited/compiled live album is appealing.  Something approaching that was released as a 2-LP set on Record Store Day (April 18, 2015), produced by “Captain” Kirk Douglas, guitarist of The Roots.  It’s not clear from Sony’s description of the 2-LP set if Douglas gathered what he considered the best complete takes or edited together the best parts of songs, as was the “old school” style of making live albums at the time of these recordings.

The Sly & The Family Stone devotee, or the completist collector, will appreciate the 4-CD set. For everyone else, seek out the 2-LP set, or borrow CD 2 from your friend’s 4-CD box.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review August 1st, 2015

GradyChampion

Title: Bootleg Whiskey                          

Artist: Grady Champion

Label: Malaco

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: September 2, 2014

 

Grady Champion’s Bootleg Whiskey (2014) is the Mississippi bluesman’s first album on the Malaco Records label. Champion, originally from rural Canton, MS, has a smoky voice and driving harmonica style. By combining his blues roots with a backing band (electric organ and horns) typical of Memphis soul, Bootleg Whiskey appeals to fans of both electric blues and soul-blues.

The album’s title track is a fun, up-beat soul song that carries on the Deep South blues tradition of celebrating the virtues of cheap whiskey and ugly women. The fourth track on the album, “Home Alone,” allows Champion to show off his harmonica chops. It is the harmonica solo and the dialogue between harmonica and horn section that make this one of the album’s standout selections. The track also prominently features a bass that is reverential of the Memphis “big bottom” sound. “South Side,” the album’s featured single, was written by the late George Jackson and is easily the most soulful of the tracks on the album. With a laid-back groove, lush chords on the electric organ, and a catchy chorus, “South Side” is perfect for slow dancing. “Here We Go, Ya’ll” is fast-paced and high energy. The hard-hitting harmonica riffs, the steady rhythms on the drums, the staccato chords on the electric organ, and the gritty and distorted electric guitar give the song an edgy attitude that suits its “party hard” theme. This is a song that is sure to get a crowd at any late-night club or juke on their feet.

The surprise of the album is its closing track. “White Boy with the Blues” is a gospel song that includes a sermon about a poor white boy that meets an untimely death after being turned away by an African American family. The song begins with an African American vocal quartet singing “Amazing Grace.” The quartet, like many of the great Memphis vocal quartets who recorded in the 1980s and 1990s, is accompanied by a gospel band (electric organ, electric piano, electric guitar, and drums). The heavy emotional weight of the lyrics are made all the more impactful by the vocal quartets rendition of “Precious Memories” at the end of the song:

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Champion, who considers himself a torch-bearer in a long line of Mississippi bluesmen, has been drawing crowds since the late 1990s. He has performed throughout North America and has participated in the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. He is also the 2010 winner of the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge and he has received multiple nominations for a Blues Music Award. In August, 2014, Champion was featured on the cover of Living Blues Magazine. Champion is currently on tour across Alberta, Canada and throughout the South, with stops including Memphis, TN, Jackson, MS, Shreveport, LA, and Tallahassee, FL.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Tyler Fritts

View review August 1st, 2015

Following are additional albums released during July 2015—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
B.B. King: Complete Recordings 1949-1962 (Enlightenment)
Blinddog Smokin’: High Steppin’
Buddy Guy: Born to Play Guitar (RCA)
Freddie King: Going Down at Onkel Po’s (Rockbeat)
Georgia Tom Dorsey & Big Bill Broonzy: Famous Hokum Boys (JSP)
Muddy Waters Blues Band: Live at Ebbets Field
Otis Rush: Double Trouble: Live in Cambridge 1973 (Rockbeat)
Tampa Red: Dynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues (Ace)
Various: Texas Blues: Early Blues Masters from the Lonestar State (JSP)
Various: Muddy Waters 100 (MRI)

Comedy
Redd Foxx: Nasty (Airline)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
American Fangs: Dirty Legs (Best Before)
Benjamin Clementine: At Least For Now (Behind Records / Barclay)
Double Duchess: All Eyes on Me
George Clinton: Chocolate City: London P-Funk Live at Metropolis (Metropolis)
Rock Candy Funk Party: The Groove is King CD + DVD (J&R Adventures)
Felix Da Housecat: Narrative Of Thee Blast Illusion (No Shame)
Kwame Binea Shakedown EP (Pelopos Ent. Group)
Lianne La Havas: Blood (Nonesuch)
P.O.D.: The Awakening (Ume)
ROYAL: Crash EP (Ropeadope)
Sample Answer: Good Boy EP (ACP)
Various: The Sam Records Anthology (Harmless)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Anthony Brown & Group Therapy: Everyday Jesus (Tyscot)
CeCe Winans: The Best of; Millennium Collection (Sparrow)
Israel & New Breed: Covered: Alive in Asia DVD (RCA)
Karen Clark Sheard: Destined to Win (eOne)
Madam Edna Gallmon Cooke: Collection 1949-62 (Acrobat)
Mandisa: 3CD Collection (Sparrow)
Mighty Clouds of Joy: Classic 3 (eOne)
Sue Neil: Through the Fire (Rebel Hill Music)
Violinaires: Groovin’ With Jesus (Safety Zone)
Violinaires: You Can All Join In (Safety Zone)

Jazz
Clarence Williams: Senegalese Stomp (Frog UK)
Curtis Haywood: Smooth Ingredients (Megawave)
Dexter Gordon: 12 Classic Albums: 1947-1962 (box set)
Heads of State: Search for Peace (Smoke Sessions)
Horace Silver: Live at the Half Note (Hi Hat)
Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp: Callas (Leo)
James P Johnson: Collection, 1921-1949 (Fabulous)
John Coltrane: Live at Penn State ’63
Lebron: New Era (Trippin & Rhythm)
Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy)
Mina Agossi: Fresh (Proper Music)
Robert Cunningham Jr.: Deep Within (Pacific Coast Jazz)
Sangoma Everett Trio: Debi (Naïve)
Sun Ra Arkestra: Babylon Live (In + Out)
Xanadu All-Stars: Xanadu In Africa / Night Flight From Dakar (Elemental Music)
Laura Karpman/Langston Hughes: Ask Your Mama (Avie Records)
Various: Nina Revisited: A Tribute To Nina Simone (RCA)

R&B, Soul
Aaron Parnell Brown: The Tin Man (Expansion)
All-4-One: Twenty+ (AFO Ltd.)
Cadets & Jacks: The Complete Releases 1955-57 (Acrobat)
Crown Heights Affair: Dreaming a Dream: The Best Of (Sanctuary)
James Brown: Tell Me What You’re Gonna Do (Rumble)
Jill Scott: Woman (Atlantic)
Joe Tex: Yum Yum Yum – The Early Years 1955-1962 (Jasmine)
Julian King: Sing for You EP
Marvin Gaye: Recorded Live on Stage (Rumble)
Marvin Gaye: The Concert Anthology (Goldenlane)
Ricky White: Love Zone (Music Access Inc)
Ronnie Jones: Satisfy My Soul: Complete Recordings 1964-1968 (RPM)
Sly & the Family Stone: Live at the Fillmore East October 4th& 5th 1968 (Sony Legacy)
Speedometer: No Turning Back (Freestyle)
Stacy Barthe: Becoming (Motown)
Stephen Bradley: Runaways EP
The Fantastic Four: The Lost Motown Album (Kent)
Tommy Ridgley & Bobby Mitchell: In The Same Old Way (Ace)
Tyrese: The Black Rose (Voltron Recordz)
Various: Dore: L.A. Soul Sides 2 (Kent)
Various: Groove With a Feeling: Sounds of Memphis 1975-1985 (BGP)
Various: The Super Rare Doo Wop Box (Rockbeat)
With Lions: Fast Luck

Rap, Hip Hop
Gunplay: Living Legend (Def Jam)
Kutt Calhoun: Kuttin Loose EP (Black Gold Ent.)
Solomon Childs: Monsters in My Room (Chambermusik)
Capone-N-Noreaga: Lessons (Penalty Ent.)
C-Bo: The Mobfather II (RBC)
Chinx: Welcome To JFK (eOne)
Citizen Kay: Demokracy (Asphalt)
Flo Rida: My House
Ghost Writerz: GWZ All The Way (Tru Thoughts)
Ghostface Killah: Adrian Younge Presents Twelve Reasons To Die II (Linear Labs)
Hopsin: Pound Syndrome (Funk Volume)
Juju Rogers: From the Life of Good-For-Nothing (Jakarta)
Kankick vs DJ Choku: Beat Life (Octave)
Kid Ink: Coast 2 Coast 261 (Ontrack Ent.)
Krept & Konan: The Long Way Home (Def Jam)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic 14 (Oarfin)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic 15 (Oarfin)
L’Orange & Kool Keith: Time? Astonishing! (Mello Music)
Migos: Yung Rich Nation (300 Entertainment)
Motive: D.N.A. (Dopest Nigga Alive) (Dirty Version)
Mr. Criminal: Evolution of a G (Hi Power Ent.)
Noveliss: Toonami Tsunamis EP (Clear Soul Forces)
Papoose: You Can’t Stop Destiny (Honorable)
Public Enemy: Man Plans God Laughs (Spit)
Raz Fresco: Pablo Frescobar (Duck Down)
Slim Thug : Hogg Life: 2 Still Surviving (Hogglife Ent.)
ST 2 Lettaz: Good Day in the Ghetto: Season One (Mishka)
The Pharcyde: Bizare Ride II: The Singles Collection (45 box)
Trae Tha Truth: Tha Truth (ABN)
Various: Hydra: Underground’s Finest (Octave)
Vitamin D: Uninterrupted (Cold Busted)
Young Jeezy: Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (Def Jam)
SICC ILL: Vicdemic 1234 (Fahrenheit)
TT the Artist: Gimme Yo Love EP (Nina Pop)
Seven Davis Jr: Universes (Ninja Tune)
Various: Jamaica Hip-Hop (Movie Time Dist.)

Reggae, Dancehall
Bunny Striker Lee: Next Cut! (Pressure Sounds)
Jah Cure: The Cure (VP)
King Jammy: Roots Reality & Sleng Teng (VP)
Tanto Metro & Devonte: Sly & Robbie Present (Taxi Records/Zojak World Wide)
Tyrone Taylor: Totally Tyrone (Tuff Gong)
Various: Feel So Fine: Birth of Jamaican Ska (Future Noise)
Various: Nyacoustic Chants (Zion High)
Various: Don Letts: Dread Meets Punk Rockers Downtown, Vol. 2 (Island)

World, Latin
Ramon Goose and Modou Touré: West African Blues Project
Polyversal Souls: Invisible Joy (Philophon)
Nation Beat & Cha Wa: Carnival Caravan EP (Nation Beat Music)
Toto La Momposina: Tambolero (Real World)

 

View review August 1st, 2015

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