Welcome to the January 2015 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re featuring albums with a theme of emancipation and freedom: Hannibal Lokumbe’s spiritatorio Can You Hear God Crying?; Keb’ Mo’s Bluesamericana featuring Freedom Rider “Rip” Patton, Jr.; Eric Bibb’s Jericho Road (2013) and Blues People (2014), both influenced by Martin Luther King, Jr.; jazz bassist Rodney Whitaker’s When We Find Ourselves Alone which includes an arrangement of Max Roach’s “Freedom Day;” and the documentary Slave Trade: How Prince Re-Made the Music Business.

Continuing our annual winter blues theme, we’re featuring blues rock guitarist Gary Clark, Jr.’s Live; two Delta blues releases—Terry Harmonica Bean’s Catfish Blues and Smoky Babe’s Way Back in the Country Blues; the posthumous Louisiana Red compilation The Sky is Crying; and two live Chicago blues albums—John Primer & The Teardrops’s You Can Make It If You Try and an expanded reissue of the Junior Wells’ classic Southside Blues Jam.

Additional jazz releases include Stanley Clarke’s new fusion album Up and the box set All of You: The Last Tour 1960 with the Miles Davis Quintet and John Coltrane. R&B compilations include You Got What it Takes, the Marv Johnson Story and Dee Dee Warwick: The Complete ATCO Recordings.

Wrapping up this issue are two recent rap releases: The Game’s Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf and Run the Jewel’s Run the Jewels 2; rock/soul singer guitarist Danielia Cotton’s The Real Book; gospel artist Eddie James’ double album Shift; and December 2014 Releases of Note.

 

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View review January 3rd, 2015

Hannibal
Title: Can You Hear God Crying?

Artist: Hannibal Lokumbe, composer

Label: Naxos

Formats: DVD (71:31 min.; NTSC 16:9, Region 0); Streaming

Release date: November 11, 2014

 

 

In his spiritatorio, Can You Hear God Crying?, composer/trumpeter Hannibal Lokumbe combines the sounds of jazz, gospel, chamber music and West African prayers to create a lyrical retelling of his great-grandfather Silas Burgess’s voyage from West Africa to enslavement in South Carolina, and his subsequent physical emancipation and spiritual awakening. This story as it appears in this live recording is told in ten musical veils—instead of movements—which Lokumbe believes better communicates movement from one level of consciousness to another.  Conducted by Dirk Brossé, the performance features several critically acclaimed musicians including soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme, tenor Rodrick Dixon, Homayun Sakhi on Afghan rubâb, and vocalist Paula Holloway, as well as vibrant contributions from the Celebration choir (composed of members of several local church and community choirs) and the Music Liberation Orchestra alongside The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

Following is a video about the spiritatorio (with different performers from those featured on the DVD):

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The tenor of this project is indicated in the first veil, “Who,” which opens with one of several prayers woven throughout this work. Indeed, much of this story is a result of consistent communication between the major characters—humanity, Silas, and Kunanamui (the designation for God in the Kpelle language of West Africa). Interestingly, the voice of Kunanamui is rendered by Chandler-Eteme’s rich soprano rather than the voice of a male.  Her dynamic performance is one of the most compelling elements of this concert as she colorfully breathes life into her character with finesse, passion, and shimmering reverence. Dixon presents the steady voice of Silas while the choir takes on multiple roles including humanity, ancestor spirits, and on occasion even the voice of God.

Crying is both conceptual and mystical as the story it conveys is not a linear unfolding of events. After Kunanamui’s call to humanity in “Who”, listeners are introduced to two prayers that Silas offered to God on his final day of life in which he referenced his early childhood in Africa. Because of his faithfulness, Silas’s spirit is allowed to travel back in time to look on the faces of his deceased parents. He is also allowed to witness his people as they move through the “door of no return” on the Bunce Island slave castle in Sierra Leone. Other veils like “The Jonah People” and “Hymn for the Living” address the physical, emotional, and spiritual hardships of the transatlantic slave trade experienced people of African descent. The spiritatorio ends with Kunanamui returning Silas’s spirit to his body just as his daughters surround him with song and prepare for his death.

Within this work, the textual and sonic dimensions are equally important to crafting the story. The lyrics for each veil differ as they illuminate new aspects of the Silas’s and more directly Lokumbe’s spiritual awareness. Nevertheless, he prioritizes clear communication as this production includes a booklet that features both the lyrics as well as contextual information for each veil. The music is rather eclectic and layered – perhaps reflecting Lokumbe’s many musical experiences.  Call and response between soloists, chorus, and instruments is featured in almost every veil as the music meanders between moments of abstraction and tangibility. For instance, Lokumbe characterizes the veil “I Have Come for You” as representing the sound of a descending leaf as it features unintuitive and even disjunct melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic movements. Conversely, “I Will Go to the Lord” harkens to the syncopated sounds of his childhood drawing fervently on blues and gospel with a spirted Holloway improvising alongside Lokumbe’s mesmerizing trumpet playing.

Can You Hear God Crying? is a complex musical journey that is meant to be absorbed immediately and savored over time. It is a celebration of the resilience and experiences of not only Silas Burgess but of many individuals who were forced to migrate to the Americas (much like his 1996 work on similar themes, African Portraits). And yet, it is also an expression of growth and healing. Through this music, Lokumbe invites us to share in his joys, pains, and discoveries as he reconciles the past with the present while striving toward a spiritually enlightened future.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review January 3rd, 2015

Keb'Mo'

Title: Bluesamericana

Artist: Keb’ Mo’

Label: Kind of Blue Music

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: April 22, 2014

 

 

Three-time Grammy winner and blues artist Keb’ Mo’ is proof that some things only get better with age. Known for blending the Delta blues of his inspirations Robert Johnson and “Big” Bill Broonzy with other genres, including pop, soul, folk, and rock, Keb’ Mo’ has been a modern blues legend for 20 years now, since his self-titled debut was released in 1994. His latest and twelfth full length album, Bluesamericana, is a testament to his talent, with vibrant and warm music that explores different styles while always keeping blues at the forefront.

According to Keb, the album revolves around the ideas of “love and understanding.” Themes of romance and love are certainly present in many of the songs, such as the upbeat, country music-influenced track “Do It Right,” and the melodic, soulful “I’m Gonna Be Your Man.” Both talk about finding the perfect woman after searching for many years.

While romance may be an overarching theme of Bluesamericana, “The Old Me Better” is the standout track of the album, featuring the band California Feetwarmers, who bring along a barrage of instruments including the banjo, trombone, trumpet, washboard, and tuba. Co-written with John Lewis Parker, this “New Orleans street parade tune” is a new style and feel for Keb. Full of fun and energy, it will take you from toe-tapping to dancing, as seen in the live version:

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Another exploration of different genres, “Somebody Hurt You” is “where the blues meets the church,” according to Keb, with call and response vocals along with some softer horns and organ in the background. The song also features Rip Patton, a Civil Rights era Freedom Rider, on bass vocals. Along with its gospel qualities, the song has a uniquely blues-y feel to it as well, with electric guitar that weaves in and out of the melody and lyrics that talk about pain and protection.

“More for Your Money” is another highlight of Bluesamericana. Sounding like a story your grandpa would tell you, Keb starts the song off by singing, “When I was kid, candy was a nickel.” Keb’s vocals stand out in this track, with his smooth and conversational tones showcasing his narrative power. It’s the kind of song that makes you smile despite its deep, socially conscious lyrics about the most recent economic recession.

Keb’ Mo’ has showed the world once again his remarkable gift for music with Bluesamericana, an album that celebrates love, relationships, and most importantly, the blues.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review January 3rd, 2015

GaryClarkLive

Title: Live

Artist: Gary Clark Jr.

Label: Warner Bros.

Format: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: September 22, 2014

 

Gary Clark Jr. is perhaps best known for his 2010 song “Bright Lights,” from both his 2010 EP of the same title and his first full-length record, Black and Blu; the single has graced television shows, whiskey commercials, and even video games. As his inclusion in Eric Clapton’s 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival would indicate, however, Clark is much more than a one-hit wonder.  Rather, this young gun is a smoking guitarist and singer who also has a flair for writing memorable original songs.  As this live 2-disc set indicates, Clark’s forte is arguably as an improvisational guitarist, something that justifies releasing a live album this early in his recording career.  Gary Clark Jr. Live includes a number of memorable riffs and extended jams, combined with a smattering of blues standards that suggest Clark wishes to push musical boundaries while being firmly aware of his genre’s history.

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With most of the numbers on these discs falling somewhere between blues and rock, Clark carves out memorable space for his guitar playing in each song, often engaging on the kind of guitar odyssey that hearkens more of Allman Brothers-style jam band stretching out than of the kind of call-response relationship between voice and guitar that might be heard on a B.B. King record.  Of course, Clark’s signature song “Bright Lights,” an ode to imagined 20-something grandiosity, is included on this album in an extended jam format, giving him an opportunity to deliver a bit more raw energy to his audience than the by now ubiquitous studio recording of the song does, complete with several guitar solos full of  fuzzed-out wah-wah feedback.  Clark incorporates this loud arena rock soloing style on a number of the songs on this disc, but the most interesting moments are perhaps those in which he departs from this rock-oriented formula, channeling Delta solo guitar playing on “Next Door Neighbor Blues” and imitating his fellow Texas blues guitar hero Stevie Ray Vaughan on “Travis County,” or B.B. King on King’s own “Three O’ Clock Blues.” Not only is Clark an excellent original soloist, but he also wields prodigious command as a guitarist in his ability to imitate acknowledged masters of his genre.

Clark’s playing is perhaps most tasteful on “Please Come Home,” a ‘50s doo-wop style love song that allows him to utilize his smooth falsetto voice and to play what is arguably the most tasteful extended guitar solo on this album, in which a listener may pay attention to his lyrical phrasing without the torrent of distortion, effects pedals, and feedback that pervade much of this record.  Clark’s backing trio, consisting of bassist Johnny Bradley, rhythm guitarist King Zapata, and drummer Johnny Radelat, provides the sonic backdrop for the vocal and guitar explorations that Clark conducts over a smattering of his original material and the hand-selected covers he incorporates into this set.  This rhythm section’s tight feel and responsive playing are key elements that allow Clark’s extended jams to rarely venture into the territory of the monotonous, even if he may reach the climactic moments of his solos a bit prematurely at times.

Like Clark’s studio albums, Gary Clark Jr. Live provides a window into the artistic vision of an artist who has command of the lyrical and musical themes that inform his legacy as a modern blues-oriented guitarist.  This set demands listeners’ attention, perhaps not for Clark’s memorable original songs as much as his ability to interpret both his and others’ material in continually fresh and exciting ways.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

View review January 3rd, 2015

Blues people
Title: Blues People

Artist: Eric Bibb

Label: Stony Plain Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: November 4, 2014

 

 

Eric Bibb is a singer/songwriter and acoustic guitarist classified as a roots music/blues artist.  A better description to use might be blues/folk music based upon the effortless way he combines blues style with folk storytelling in this album. You normally do not think of blues and folk music as being a part of each other, but Eric intertwines these two styles together beautifully.

Bibb grew up in a very musical family.  His father, Leon Bibb, was a folk singer in New York during the 1960s.  His uncle, John Lewis, was a jazz pianist and composer for the Modern Jazz Quartet. At the age of seven, Bibb received his first steel-string acoustic guitar.  In 1970, he moved to Paris and started to craft his playing and writing.  He later moved to Europe permanently and now lives in Finland with his wife and family.

One of Bibb’s heroes was Martin Luther King, Jr.  King’s words focusing on redemption and change form the core message for this album.   A friend of the family while in New York was none other than Bob Dylan.  Bob told Eric, “Keep it simple, forget all that fancy stuff.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Bibb)  This, too, is found in the songs on Bibb’s 36th album, Blues People, which draws its title from the classic book by Amiri Baraka (a.k.a. LeRoi Jones). Following is the album trailer:

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Blues People, produced by Glen Scott, includes 15 songs that will make you get up and dance, but will also make you take a look inside of yourself.  Bibb has an elegant and straightforward way of delivering his music on this album.  His voice draws you into the songs.  For example, in the opening track “Silver Spoon,” you can start to hear the pure honesty in Bibb’s writing.  This song tells the story of how he was accepted as a Black musician in Europe when he was not acknowledged in the United States.  In fact, he says in this song that many Europeans saw him as one born with a “Silver Spoon” and not as one who suffered trials and tribulations in his early times. Popa Chubby, a well-known blues electric guitarist, is also featured on this song.  “Dream Catchers” (featuring Harrison Kennedy and Ruthie Foster), is about dreams of all people.  Bibb notices how some people will try to capture these dreams and others will not.  This is a great example of how the blues can draw you into a song.

Other featured artists include Taj Mahal, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Leyla McCalls, Guy Davis, J. J. Milteau, Linda Tillery, Glen Scott, and Andre De Lange.  Only a few songs are solos of Eric Bibb, but one of the most original is “Turner Station,” about the historic African American community in Maryland associated with the Bethlehem Steel mill.

Blues People represents a great example of the blues/folk style storytelling found in earlier Bibb recordings.  If you take the time and listen to the music—not just hear it—but really listen to these songs, you will undoubtedly end up a fan of Eric Bibb.

Reviewed by Patrick Byrket

View review January 3rd, 2015

EricBibb

Title: Jericho Road

Artist: Eric Bibb

Label: Stony Plain Music

Formats: CD, LP

Release date: November 5, 2013

 

Eric Bibb is a blues guitarist and vocalist who for over four decades has forged his own distinctive performance style that blends blues, gospel, and folk music sounds articulated with a smooth, clear vocal delivery, dynamic rhythmic guitar accompaniment and decidedly inspirational lyrics. His 2013 release, Jericho Road, was motivated by a text* discussing the last campaign of the late civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his encouragement to freedom fighters to follow the example of the “good Samaritan” by helping those in need. This theme is succinctly illustrated in the single, “Have a Heart,” in which Bibb tells a story of a poor family migrating to another country in hopes of a better standard of living, while also critiquing social and economic systems that maintain generational poverty in resource rich locations like those found on the continent of Africa. Moreover, Bibb and producer Glen Scott purposely create a “world music” sound employing West African derived string instruments like the kora and riti as well as intense vocalizations performed by Senegalese artist Mamadou Sene. Bibb explains, “Because Jericho Road is an album that is global in its outlook, I wanted to include music that is representative of many cultures.”

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However, African American “roots” music maintains a dominant presence within this project as heard in the more traditional syncopated blues guitar progression of “Death Row Blues,” as well as in the contemporary blues piece “Good Like You” in which Bibb outlines his personal musical influences to a young child by calling out artists like Mahalia Jackson, Taj Mahal, and Bonnie Raitt to the accompaniment of a guitar, drums, and harmonica. Bibb also takes on issues of spirituality in gospel inspired pieces like “Can’t Please Everybody” and “With My Maker I Am One.” Lastly, Jericho Road is rounded out with pieces that harken to struggles for physical, economic, and spiritual freedom as witnessed by African Americans during American slavery. With sensitivity and conviction Bibb performs “Drinking Gourd” (a folk spiritual), “Freedom Train,” “One Day at a Time,” “Now,” and “Let the Mothers Step Up” (featuring the dynamic voices of Tammi Brown and Linda Tillery). These selections invite listeners to renounce violence and celebrate the value in all human lives.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

*Honey, Michael. 2008. Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

View review January 3rd, 2015

harmonicabean

Title: Catfish Blues

Artist: Terry “Harmonica” Bean

Label: Wolf Records

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: March 25, 2014

 

 

Austrian blues label Wolf Records delves deep into the cradle of American music to feature juke joint boogie from one of Mississippi’s finest living bluesmen. Terry “Harmonica” Bean hails from Pontotoc, MS, and over the course of 56 minutes he puts on a clinic in how to get down, north Mississippi style. Mississippi’s hill country remains one of the few thriving geographic clusters of traditional blues, with hypnotic guitar growling from dance floors across the region. Unlike its Chicago counterpart, hill country blues relies not on virtuosic acrobatics but on unrelenting percussive groove.

Though recorded in a studio setting, Bean plays to the listener as though he was in the same room. “Alright ladies and gentleman, this is Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean,” he prefaces before many songs. The result is delightful, giving the final product a looseness that makes it feel as much like a field recording as a deliberate album. He performs unaccompanied in his signature one-man-band style: electric guitar percolates beneath raspy vocals peppered liberally with harmonica solos. The secret to Bean’s power lies in his thumb, which pounds out the bass line on the low strings and, combined with an audible foot stomping, supplies the real funkiness.

Bean display’s amazing consistency over the course of the album, and swings hard as he tells stories about women, traveling, women . . . okay, lyrically it’s largely about women and the various ways they cause him strife (for example, “I Want to Tell You What the Reason Is“).  But for a shameless charmer like Bean, there’s no doubt he’s gotten himself in plenty of trouble with women over his years of gigging.

The real standout moments happen when Bean strays from his slinking grooves and puts a little more aggression behind his playing. On “I’m Going Back Down South,” Bean bids goodbye to his time spent recording the album in Pennsylvania and completely drops the swing in favor of a straighter drive. It’s a surprise move in an album that relies heavily on drones that can lull the listener at times. On Catfish Blues, Terry “Harmonica” Bean delivers a pitch perfect hill country experience that can be enjoyed from the smoky haze of the barroom to the quiet desks of the archives.

Reviewed by Aaron Frazer

View review January 3rd, 2015

Smoky Babe

 

Title: Way Back in the Country Blues

Artist: Smoky Babe

Label: Arhoolie

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: August 12, 2014

 

 

Sixty-five years ago, LSU folklorist Harry Oster was traveling through Louisiana and Mississippi with a tape recorder, looking to document previously unrecorded rural musicians. He came upon Robert ‘Smoky Babe’ Brown (1927-1975) at a party in Scotlandville, a predominantly Black neighborhood in East Baton Rouge described as “a place of BBQ, church suppers and blues honky tonks.” This fertile ground led to numerous recording sessions, and Oster later issued two Smoky Babe albums on his Folk-Lyric label. The label was later sold to Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records, who reissued the LPs, but many of Oster’s original master tapes remained with his widow and were only recently rediscovered. This compilation represents the best of the unissued tracks, bringing these long lost recordings by a little known Delta blues musician back into the spotlight.

All of the 17 tracks are straight ahead acoustic country blues, featuring Smoky Babe’s finger-picking and strumming guitar style on original songs that tell stories of Southern culture. Highlights include “Chicago Bound,” with its tale of the Great Migration and unique harmonic progressions and dissonances, and “On Mr. Walter’s Farm” which is likely biographical, harkening back to Brown’s early years as a sharecropper in Mississippi “picking cotton” and “pulling corn.” Likewise, on the opening track, “Boss Man Blues,” he sings about “driving my boss man’s tractor all day long” and laments “me and the boss man just don’t get along.”

Many thanks to Arhoolie Records for providing this time capsule of rural life in the Delta, performed by a self-taught musician who apparently never aspired to be a professional, yet left an indelible imprint on the blues.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 3rd, 2015

LARed

Title: The Sky is Crying

Artist: Louisiana Red

Label: Wolf Records International

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 12, 2014

 

 

Iverson Minter, more popularly known as Louisiana Red, has been one of the most celebrated and recorded blues musicians since his shining debut album Low Down Back Porch Blues (1963).* Though Red died in 2012, his spirit is kept alive through this posthumous project, The Sky is Crying, which features a collection of songs mostly composed by Red dating as far back as 1964. While several of these selections have been previously recorded, this compilation is unique in that the majority of the material was captured live in concerts in Greece from 1994-2007.The music varies from parsed down intimate pieces with only solo guitar like “Do You Got Balls” to the rocking Chicago blues styled accompaniment heard in “I Done Woke Up” (on which Red plays the “Mississippi saxophone”).  On the opening track, “Too Poor to Die,” Red spins a comical yet sobering tale about being unable to afford the financial burden of death – even the devil wanted his palm “greased.” Here, he employs his electric guitar as a rhythmic storytelling device by selectively weaving common blues refrains throughout the song but also allowing ample space for his words to shine through. He uses a different approach when singing “Early in the Morning,” as he performs a lively call and response with an acoustic slide guitar.  Conversely, on songs like “What is That She Got” (written by Muddy Waters) and “Champagne and Reefer,” he is joined by a band including drums and piano.

Perhaps one of the most distinctive recordings is Red’s cover of “The Sky is Crying” as it includes several traditional Greek instruments like tsambouna (a Greek folk instrument in the bagpipe family) to create the somber texture of the song. Red’s vocal delivery, electric guitar style, and chord progression clearly mark this as blues piece while the Greek and Eastern European instrumentation give voice to the transnational life of both blues and Red, who had resided in Germany since the 1980s.

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This album is a fine testament to the work of Louisiana Red as a seasoned performer and blues icon whose music has touched the lives and ears of listeners all over the world.

* Read more about Louisiana Red in this informative 1996 article by Alan Balfour, which includes a list of recommended recordings.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review January 3rd, 2015

johnprimer

Title: You Can Make It If You Try

Artist: John Primer & The Teardrops

Label: Wolf Records International

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: June 10, 2014

 

 

Magic Slim & The Teardrops was formed in the late 1960s, revived from another group with a similar name (Mr. Pitiful & The Teardrops). Steeped in the Chicago Blues tradition, the band went on to record many albums. John Primer, formerly the guitarist for the Muddy Waters Band, joined Magic Slim & The Teardrops in 1982. During his 13 years as part of The Teardrops, it had become common for Primer to warm up the crowds for Magic Slim. That is where this new release comes into play. You Can Make It If You Try is a 75-minute collection of live performances from the 1990s with John Prime, Nick Holt, and Earl Howell. This 11-track collection offers the Teardrops “straightforward lump” style on a few tracks by well known blues artists. These include the title’s namesake, “You Can Make It If You Try,” by Otis Rush, Albert King’s “Corinna,” Muddy Waters’ “If I Could Hold You in My Arms,” and Robert Johnson’s “Love In Vain.”

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review January 3rd, 2015

Junior
Title: Southside Blues Jam

Artist: Junior Wells

Label: Delmark

Formats: CD, LP

Release date: November 25, 2014

 

One of the most legendary Chicago blues singers and musicians, Junior Wells became known throughout the blues world for his harmonica playing and soulful voice, later earning the title “the Godfather of the Blues.” Originally released in 1970, Junior Wells’ Southside Blues Jam was the follow up to his successful debut album Hoodoo Man Blues. Both albums brought not only Wells into the spotlight, but also his band members Buddy Guy, Freddy Below, and Otis Spann (who is often called “Muddy Waters’ greatest pianist”). Performing mostly covers that were recorded in two different Delmark sessions in December and January of 1969 and 1970, Wells’ Southside Blues became a classic Chicago blues album that has been called “one of the most important contributions Delmark ever made to the Windy City scene.”

Now, Delmark has re-issued this timeless album in an expanded edition with 7 previously unissued tracks and a 16-page booklet that features never before seen archival photographs and new liner notes by label owner Bob Koester. These new tracks include an unreleased cover of Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me,” in addition to other standouts such as the Al Duncan cover “It’s Too Late Brother,” and the Wells’ originals “Got to Play the Blues” and “Love My Baby,” which feature Buddy Guy’s soulful blues guitar.

True to its name, Southside Blues Jam was more of a jam session than a track by track recording. It reveals both the personality and talent of Junior Wells, as he makes up lyrics to two Amos Blakemore covers on the spot, as well as on some of the newly issued tracks. This new edition allows even more insight into the Chicago blues star Junior Wells, by capturing “what a listener would hear any Monday night at Theresa’s Blues Bar (now defunct) at 48th and Indiana on Chicago’s Southside.”

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review January 3rd, 2015

Whitaker

 

Title: When We Find Ourselves Alone

Artist: Rodney Whitaker

Label: Mack Avenue

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 19, 2014

 

Detroit native Rodney Whitaker, currently the Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass at Michigan State University, offers many delights on When We Find Ourselves Alone, his 8th recording as a leader. With a combo featuring Antonio Hart on sax, Bruce Barth on piano, Gregory Hutchinson on drums, and Whitaker on bass, they blaze their way through five originals and six arrangements in a style Whitaker describes as modern hard bop. Here’s the official album trailer:

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Over the course of the album, Whitaker acknowledges his many mentors and influences. “When You Played With Roy” aims to recapture the joy he experienced during his four year stint with Roy Hargrove’s band, and there’s plenty of joy to go around as the combo trades solos on this bossa nova influenced track. Likewise, “Jamerson’s Lullaby” was written as a tribute to the legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson, as well as a lullaby for Whitaker’s son, and features a beautifully pure tone and legato phrasing from Hart.  On yet another tribute, Whitaker offers a new arrangement of “Invitation,” paying homage to tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, but adding his own polyrhythmic bass line.

Whitaker’s daughter, the up and coming jazz vocalist Rockelle Fortin, also joins the group on several tracks. She gives an expansive reading of “Autumn Leaves,” accompanied only by her father’s riffing bass lines in the intro, which breathes new life back into this chestnut. On “You Go to My Head,” Fortin’s voice doesn’t quite have the maturity or depth in the low register to pull it off with aplomb, but the track still satisfies, especially during her call and response with sax at the conclusion. Fortin is also featured on the Max Roach song “Freedom Day,” originally recorded by Roach in 1960 with Abbey Lincoln on the landmark album We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite. Though the lyrics celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation and end of slavery, Whitaker chose this track because “we’re not free yet, though we think we are. But slavery didn’t just change the black man. It changed us all. We’re not ready to let go of the oppression or the anger in our hearts.” Recent events certainly confirm his statement. Whitaker’s arrangement is especially effective since he bookends the work with vocal sections, rather than waiting until the conclusion to introduce the vocal line, with lyrics by Oscar Brown, Jr.

Another original, “Mother’s Cry,” was composed several years ago for the documentary film Malaria & Malawi: Fighting to Save the Children. Hart expresses this collective grief through the frenetic, mournful wailing of his saxophone, accompanied by fierce bursts of percussion from Hutchinson. The title track stems from a commissioned work on the topic of migration stories, referencing “forbidden love between two people,” with the push and pull between piano and sax representing the forces of opposition.

The album concludes with an uplifting arrangement of gospel luminary Fred Hammond’s “Love in You Again,” expressing spiritual joy and Whitaker’s roots in the Black church.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 3rd, 2015

StanleyClarke

Title: Up

Artist: The Stanley Clarke Band

Label: Mack Avenue Records

Format: MP3, CD

Release Date: Sept 30, 2014

 

The Stanley Clarke Band’s latest release, Up, showcases the veteran bass player’s musical versatility and is full of fresh ideas from one of jazz’s most enduring presences.  Clarke and company have crafted an album full of fascinating, funky, and fresh musical ideas that promise to endure as much as any of the classic recordings that Clarke has produced, and rival his other jazz crossover albums.  Up also marks Clarke’s debut as a leader on Mack Avenue Records, a label that keeps outdoing itself by producing quality jazz releases from both well-established artists like Clarke and up-and-comers in the jazz world.

Clarke has enlisted an all-star cast in his musical ensemble, including former Return to Forever bandmate Chick Corea on piano, with drummer Stewart Copeland (The Police) and guitarist Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic), among others.  This colorful cast of characters lends Clarke’s eclectic brand of fusion an unmatched vitality, as the band careens through funk, smooth jazz, and rock flavors over the course of this album.

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The album’s opener, “Pop Virgil,” is a good-old fashioned funk dance groove. Clarke slaps the bass to periodic funk horns, guitar stabs, and a funky drum break by John Robinson, a studio drummer who has played with top 40 artists from Lionel Ritchie to Daft Punk.  The album’s title track is driven by Copeland and feels like an unreleased Police instrumental cut, relying more upon the song’s feel than Clarke’s usual bass virtuosity.  “Brazilian Love Affair,” dedicated to the late arranger, composer, and musician George Duke, is an emotional number that relies upon sustained rhythmic energy and a pop music sensibility.

In addition to consummately in-the-pocket grooves, Up is also home to some virtuosic playing.  Clarke has released four more installments in his “Bass Folk Song” series on this record, including “#13-Mingus,” an acoustic bass homage to the legendary bassist that is so close to Mingus’s style as to feel as though Clarke is channeling him,  and “#14: Dance of the Giant Hummingbird/#15: Eleuthera Island,” which have rapid 16th note flurries and a “tropical” feel, respectively.  One of the strongest instrumental numbers is “School Days,” a rehash of a song that Clarke previously released in 1976 (on an album of the same name that reached #35 on the Billboard Album Chart).  On this incarnation of “School Days,” Jimmy Herring contributes furiously fast and incredibly articulate soloing over the tune’s boogie-rock groove.

While Up certainly maintains a very pop-oriented sensibility throughout, there is enough variety on this album to impress even the most jaded listener of contemporary jazz.  Strong compositions provide effective vehicles for Clarke and his rotating band’s improvisations throughout the course of this record.  Up is certainly a fresh new vehicle for Clarke and his cohorts.

Reviewed by Matt Alley

View review January 3rd, 2015

Miles

 

Title: All of You: The Last Tour 1960

Artist: Miles Davis Quintet featuring John Coltrane

Label: Trapeze Music/Acrobat

Format: 4-CD set

Release date: December 2, 2014

 

Fans of Miles Davis and John Coltrane will rejoice in this new box set, compiled from rare radio broadcasts and private recordings from Davis’ 1960 tour of Europe. In addition to Davis and Coltrane, the quartet included Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The tour marked the final performances featuring the two jazz titans, “documenting the extraordinary creative alchemy of a legendary partnership about to disintegrate.”

Though most of these recordings have been floating around for years, this is the first time they’ve been assembled, carefully cleaned and remastered, and the overall sound is surprisingly good considering the sources. The set offers six hours of recordings from various performances, and is accompanied by a 36-page booklet by noted author and tenor saxophonist Simon Spillett that provides technical commentary on the performances and solos, as well as insight into the techniques and styles of each musician. Disc 1 also includes an interview with Coltrane by Carl-Eric Lindgren, recorded in Sweden during the tour. Complete track listings can be found here.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 3rd, 2015

Prince

Title: Slave Trade: How Prince Re-Made the Music Business

Director: Elliot Riddle

Label: Pride

Format: DVD (all regions, NTSC, 135 min.)

Release date: July 8, 2014

 

 

From hits like Purple Rain to near disasters following a name change to an unpronounceable symbol, music risk-taker Prince has surprised fans, the music industry, and the entire world with his stunts. Despite heavy setbacks, such as album failures that left him on the verge of bankruptcy and a controlling contract from Warner Bros., Prince never ceased doing what he loved most: making music. Slave Trade: How Prince Re-Made the Music Business is a documentary that takes viewers back to the late ‘70s, highlighting all the twists and turns of Prince’s career through the present day. The film focuses on the artist’s strong disagreement with his record label, Warner Bros., and how his oppression from their contract drove him to lead a revolution of the music business. Along with commentary from former band players from New Power Generation, ex-Warner execs, and music historians (Alan Leeds, Michael B., Sonny T., Jason Draper, Joe Levy, etc.), Slave Trade includes wonderful clips, images, and videos drawn from Prince’s entire career to inform the viewer at the highest capacity.

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Prince has always been a daring character, and the film shows him pushing boundaries at every opportunity. True to his style, Prince recognized that his label, Warner Bros., was paying other artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson more than him, so he demanded change. After expressing how he deserved to have a $100 million contract that exceeded those of his competitors, Warner Bros. took the bait and saw this as a way to trap the artist by requiring him to sell 5 million copies of each of his next four albums. Prince was up to the challenge, releasing the commercial hit Diamonds and Pearls, but unfortunately fell short on his next project, Love Symbols, selling only 1 million units. Still, the artist’s stubborn attitude saved him from disaster as he took matters into his own hands and went on an intimate tour of the U.S. to promote Love Symbols. Little success followed, but still Prince kept producing new music, the crux of his problem.

As the new decade approached and gangster rap dominated the music scene, Prince never faltered and produced yet another album through a side project Gold Nigga, trying to incorporate this new sound. Warner Bros. refused to market the album, claiming the music was bad. Not surprisingly for Prince, he directly violated his contract by promoting the album on his own through telephone calls and booths at his concert. Warner Bros. was furious and in a move of final retaliation, Prince changed his name to the hieroglyph from Love Symbols, severing his ties with Warner Bros. and the “corporate entity” of Prince. Rock bottom was on the horizon, but still “the artist formerly known as Prince” made music, releasing the single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” without any corporate help, just private support. Warner Bros. execs sat back and were ready to laugh at the destruction of his career, but were promptly slapped in the face with surprise when “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” became a worldwide hit. With renewed confidence, the artist pushed the envelope farther than ever before when he proposed the idea of releasing a “Prince” album and a “Love Symbol hieroglyph” album on the same day to see which one fans would buy; the old Prince or the new Prince. In perhaps a wise choice from the label, the idea was shot down and from that point on in 1995, the artist formerly known as Prince began to appear in pubic with the word “slave” scrawled across his face; that is, a slave to the music business.

With tensions at an all-time high between artist and label, The Gold Experience in 1995 became the last album released under the contract. While the album was musically impressive, even more so than Diamonds and Pearls, both Warner Bros. and Prince suffered losses due to the hatred between employee and employer that negatively influenced the public. Finally free from his corporate chains, Prince began to promote himself, reaping all the benefits of his shows with the New Power Generation. Prince really began to turn the tides of the music business when he started selling his latest compilation of songs, Crystal Ball, online and direct to his customers. From then on, he began to favor new industry models, supporting Napster and the like. Prince ebbed away for some years but burst back onto the scene on the 2004 Grammy stage with the queen of R&B herself, Beyoncé. Fans realized how much they missed the eccentric guitarist/vocalist and rushed to purchase Musicology, which sold 85 million copies, marking his best success yet. Three years later he was on another world stage, performing at the Super Bowl and once again becoming a household name. Slave Trade concludes with scenes of Prince working on his project with the up-and-coming girl group, 3rdEyeGirl (Plectrumelectrum, released in September 2014).

Before this documentary, I had no knowledge of Prince or his music. All I knew was that he was a great guitarist, wore makeup, and my mother loved him. So, as a total newcomer to his career, watching Slave Trade was like an atomic bomb of information about this legend. My mouth was continuously dropping open in surprise and disbelief at all the risky moves Prince made, and kept making, even when things were turning sour. I am astounded by his career and his relentless passion for making music that makes him proud, not what will sell. After a career spanning nearly 30 years, Prince clearly hasn’t disappeared from the scene, recently performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, one of the most highly rated talk shows of today. Slave Trade was a wonderful glimpse into the chaotic revolution of music led by Prince. Despite some technical difficulties with the film itself (the synchronization of the commentators was off the entire time), the wealth of information and opinions of this artist’s ballsy career made it extremely worthwhile.  Slave Trade is an informative documentary recommended for avid fans of Prince or total newbies, as well as those studying the music business.

Reviewed by Briana Stewart

View review January 3rd, 2015

Daniela
Title: The Real Book

Artist: Danielia Cotton

Label: Cottontown

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: October 21, 2014

 

 

New Jersey native Danielia Cotton has been recording regularly since she came on the scene in 2004 with her self-titled debut EP. Since then, she has recorded three studio albums and another live EP consisting mostly of material from her second studio album Rare Child, released in 2008. In all of her previous recordings, Cotton held the reins with regard to the songwriting. For her latest release, The Real Book, she’s stepped back from the writing table to offer her interpretation of some well–chosen songs from a varying group of artists including the Rolling Stones, Bill Withers, the Eurythmics, Stevie Wonder, Blind Faith, and Bruno Mars, among others.

While the entire album features covers, there are some standout interpretations.  The first to note is Cotton’s cover of Citizen Cope’s “Sideways,” which she slows to a solemn pace. And while it provides a different feel than the original, it works for her voice and unveils another emotional element to the song’s poignant lyrics. “Hope She’ll Be Happier” in Bill Wither’s original delivery is already an emotionally drenched lamentation, but Cotton enhances the song with the grit and power of her vocal interpretation. She also offers her take on Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” a tune on which she adds her weighted and slightly slower pulse and succeeds.

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On The Real Book, Danielia Cotton offers a particularly intriguing and thoughtful group of covers that any lover of songs and singers can appreciate.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

 

 

View review January 3rd, 2015

The Game

 

Title: Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf

Artist: The Game

Label: Blood Money Entertainment/eOne Music

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: October 14, 2014

 

 

Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf was initially slated to be a compilation showcasing The Game’s Blood Money Entertainment label; to The Game’s detriment, it was released as his tenth solo album.  Given the glut of guest appearances and inconsistent production, it certainly sounds like a poorly-curated compilation.  The Game doesn’t even show up on three of the album’s tracks, but by the time the album’s over, who’s going to complain?

“Bigger Than Me,” Blood Moon’s lead single, exemplifies The Game’s biggest problem as a rapper: he continues attempting to situate himself among hip hop’s royalty through name dropping rather than great lyricism, storytelling, or even personality.  He comes across as desperate at this point, calling himself the “Black Marshall Mathers” while making homophobic references to Frank Ocean again (see “Freedom” on 2012’s Jesus Piece), and it’s clear The Game is trying to stay relevant by adopting 2014’s trends in flows and beats (as heard on “Really”).

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All that said, Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf does have its strong points.  “The Purge” is a powerful indictment on the plagues affecting black communities; “Trouble On My Mind” and “Food For My Stomach” are similarly reflective showcases for Blood Money Entertainment signee Dubb; and Freddie Gibbs and Bobby Shmurda (whose “Shmoney dance” is referenced throughout the album) show up on “Hit Em Hard” for some good-natured gun talk.  Let’s hope The Game saved the goods for The Documentary 2, the sequel to his highly-regarded 2005 debut, slated for release on its 10th anniversary.

Reviewed by Will Chase

View review January 3rd, 2015

Run the Jewels
Title: Run the Jewels 2

Artist: Run the Jewels (Killer Mike & El-P)

Label: Mass Appeal

Formats: 2LP, CD, MP3

Release date: October 27, 2014

 

 

When I first saw Killer Mike and El-P perform, they had just released R.A.P. Music and Cancer for Cure, respectively.  It was the summer of 2012, and Killer Mike was still turning up the crowd with his verse from Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared.”  El-P headlined, bringing Mike back on stage to perform “Tougher Colder Killer,” and I wondered why they didn’t share the stage more.  I didn’t know I would be seeing them perform together again a year later to a new legion of fans as Run the Jewels, but it was clear that these guys brought out the best in each other.

Run the Jewels 2 builds on the fury released on its predecessor, and it’s hard to believe it was made by two veterans pushing 40.  Killer Mike’s pre-roll exclamations from the booth at the beginning of “Jeopardy” are like a thesis statement for the exuberance that follows for the 40 minute duration of Run the Jewels 2.  To be clear, Run the Jewels do not make music for the faint of heart; Jaime and Mike are not spitting sunshine and rainbows, rather they joyously up the ante of cartoonish violence, raunch, politics, and braggadocio from last year’s debut exemplified on the video for “Blockbuster Night Part 1”:

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Once again, El-P’s productions match the unrelenting deluge of lyrical menace by employing his usual arsenal of cloudy synths and thundering drum patterns topped off with some guitar leads, demented smooth jazz sax solos, and percussion.  The guest appearances are inseparable from their respective songs; the beat to “Close Your Eyes” would be incomplete without the vocal loop from Zack de la Rocha, and it would be hard to fully appreciate “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” without hearing Gangsta Boo’s perspective.  You don’t have to read any interviews with Jaime and Mike to understand how much they enjoy working together; their chemistry permeates Run the Jewels 2, and it’s the most fun you’ll have listening to any rap album from 2014.

Reviewed by Will Chase

View review January 3rd, 2015

EddieJames

Title: Shift

Artist: Eddie James

Label: Fresh Wine Records

Format: 2-CD set

Release date: May 2013

 

Eddie James is thoroughly convinced that there is and ought to be a “Shift” in the religious attitude of the younger generation. Some people, while paying inadequate attention to deeper needs and yearnings of the young people of the new millennium, tend to dismiss them as irreligious and ‘ungodded.’ With  Shift, a ground breaking double album published by  Fresh Wine Records, Eddie James’ presents divinely-originated ‘violent love’ to demonstrate that millennials are moving away, that is, shifting from this stereotype and are in fact on fire for God and for Jesus, if only they are given the necessary support. From this conviction comes the title of the first CD, while the second disc is titled “Awakening.”

On “Fire,” the opening track of CD 1, James sings, “I’ve gotta fire burning inside of me.” Its exuberance and upbeat posture bespeaks of fire that becomes the paradigm of the new Shift. This unleashed fire attains great momentum in the rap-interpolated “That Same Spirit.” In the following track, “That Same Spirit Praise Break,” the Holy Ghost enkindled fire erupts into a wild musical flourish, stylistically expressed in the fast tempo that trumps every bodily and mental encumbrance as it incites the listener to react with some form of expressive bodily behavior, including dance. “Joy,” featuring a soprano lead, emphasizes joy as one of the fruits that result when the spiritual fire blazes. Basking in the radiant joy of the fire, one enters into a worship arena created by the responsorial ‘cool’ song, “I Love You.”  Further, love begets spiritual desire—namely, ‘that I may dwell in the house of the Lord’—and this is the theme of the ensuing song, “Your Face.” The rhythmically contrasting final tracks, “He’s Alive” and “Breathes on Me,” create the connection between the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the Pentecost gift of the Holy Spirit.

With CD 2, one enters into a celebration of a new Awakening, an allusion to the historic Great Awakenings in America, as the title track announces ‘awakening is coming to your city … to your land.’ This energetic flair leads to the ecstatic rap filled declaration of “Shift,”  indeed announcing that ‘things won’t look… won’t sound the same.’ Given the declaration of spiritual emergency, James and his musicians invoke the Holy Spirit aggressively on “Rend.” The theme of invocation is also present on “Holy Spirit Come,” but this time arriving with the breeze of gentler rhythms and less heavy music accompaniment. The cool ‘worship-like’ musical breeze continues in “You Reign.” However, a sense of trilogy is created in the last three tracks—“Nazarite Cry,” “Leviticus 6:13,” and “House of Prayer”—with prayer as the key to love being the dominant theme. Notice that the second of the trilogy is a speech with music accompaniment which Eddie concludes with the important line: ‘Faith makes all things possible, Love makes it easy.’

It can be rightly argued that Shift was not merely created simply for musical enjoyment. It is a gospel album with a mission. It is a production with a specific Christian agenda. The dimensional magnitude of the mission of the album is decipherable from this important declaration from the EJM website: “God has placed a burden inside of Eddie James, to minister to those who are hurting and lost, with an extraordinary emphasis on youth and young adults.”

As an added bonus, the lyrics of all the tracks are given in full in the liner notes, probably because James does not want listeners to miss an iota of his fiery spiritual message!

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

View review January 3rd, 2015

Marv Johnson

Title: You Got What It Takes: The Marv Johnson Story 1958-1961

Artist: Marv Johnson

Label: Jasmine Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 14, 2014

 

Detroit R&B and soul songster Marv Johnson began his career in affiliation with the vocal group The Serenades. When he went solo, he had help from a young writer/producer named Berry Gordy, who would go on to build a music industry empire, first at Tamla, then Motown Records. In fact, Marv Johnson was the first artist to be released via the Tamla label. Unfortunately, Gordy was unable to keep up with the record’s success and Johnson released the majority of the remainder of his singles and albums as an artist signed with United Artists. While he eventually did sign with Motown, You Got What It Takes: The Marv Johnson Story 1958-1961 represents mainly music released on United Artists.

You Got What It Takes is a 2-CD set featuring the first three albums Marv Johnson released on United Artists. The compilation also includes thirteen bonus singles, the majority of which were released on United Artists as well. Marv Johnson fans will enjoy this collection as it includes hits such as “Come to Me,” “I Love the Way You Love,” and “You Got What It Takes.” In addition, the third album included in this set is I Believe, Marv Johnson’s only gospel album. Also, while this compilation does not represent Marv Johnson’s Motown work, it does include the first single he released on Tamla in 1959.

Overall, You Got What It Takes represents Marv Johnson’s most successful work in the United States. While he did sign to Motown after he was dropped from United Artists and enjoyed some international success, he never garnered the same success in the United States again after signing to Motown.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review January 3rd, 2015

Dee Dee
Title: The Complete Atco Recordings

Artist: Dee Dee Warwick

Label: Real Gone Music

Formats: 2-CD set, MP3

Release date: July 29, 2014

 

 

Dee Dee Warwick, the younger sister of singer Dionne Warwick, began her career singing with her sister in a gospel group called the Gospelaires. After working as a session singer, Dee Dee launched her solo career, recording “You’re No Good” with Jubilee Records, “Standing By” on Leiber and Stoller’s Tiger label, and a cover of “I (Who Have Nothing)” for Hurd Records. None of these singles, however, garnered any real success. She then moved to Mercury Records where she gained some success on their Blue Rock imprint with her first charted hit, “We’re Doing Fine,” followed by two albums and eleven singles on the main Mercury label, including her biggest Mercury hit, “I Want To Be With You.”

After five charting singles for Mercury, Warwick signed with Atlantic Records. Dee Dee Warwick: The Complete Atco Recordings compiles all of the recordings Warwick recorded during her time on Atlantic’s Atco Records division. These include her one and only full album for Atco, Turning Around, a slew of singles, and a number of previously unreleased tracks from recording sessions that took place in February 1970, the summer of 1971, and January of 1972—her last session while signed to Atco.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review January 3rd, 2015

Following are additional albums released during December 2014—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Big Joe Turner & Eddie Vinson: A Roomful of Blues (reissue)(Rockbeat)
Edwin Buster Pickens: 1959 to 1961 Sessions (Document)
Various: Papa Charlie Done Sung That Song: Celebrating the Music of Papa Charlie Jackson (Document)

Funk, Rock, Pop
Funkadelic: First You Gotta Shake the Gate (The C Kunspyruhzy)
Lenny Kravitz: Strut (Limited Ed. box set) (+180)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Various: When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel, 1926-1936 (Tompkins Square)

Jazz
Mary Lou Williams: Collection 1927-59 (Fabulous)
Miles Davis: Harmon Gymnasium, University of California, Berkeley, CA, April 7, 1967  (Keyhole)
Shirley Bassey: Hello Like Before (RCA)

R&B, Soul
D’Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah (RCA)
Dells: The Early Years Complete Singles,1954-62 (Acrobat)
Dionne Warwick: No Night So Long (Expanded Ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Dionne Warwick: Finder of Lost Loves (Expanded Ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Enchantment: Soft Lights, Sweet Music (Expanded Ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Five Stairsteps: Our Family Portrait/Stairsteps (Expanded Ed.) (Real Gone)
J. Cole: 2014 Forest Hills Drive (Roc Nation/Columbia)
James Booker: Gonzo: James Booker Live 1976 (Rockbeat)
James Brown: Live at the Boston Garden (Extended Ed. DVD) (Shout Factory)
Johnny Gill: Game Changer (10 SPOT)
K. Michelle: Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart? (Atlantic Urban)
Linda Jones: Complete Atco-Loma-Warner Bros. Recordings (Real Gone)
Mary J. Blige:  The London Sessions (Capitol)
Neneh Cherry: Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound)
Nicki Minaj: Pink Print (Cash Money)
Teedra Moses: California Vibes EP (digital)
Various: History of New Orleans R&B, 1955-1962 (Rhythm and Blues)
Various: Speak Easy: The RPM Records Story Vol. 2, 1954-57 (Ace)

Rap, Hip Hop
Black Josh: The Blosh EP (digital)
Boosie Badazz: Life After Deathrow (Empire)
Divine Styler: Def Mask (Gamma Proforma/Forced Exposure)
DJ Connect: Well Connected (Creative Juices)
e-40: Sharp on All 4 Corners 1 & 2 (10 Spot/Heavy on the Grind)
Emay: Sinner, Song-Writer EP (Hi-Scores Recording Library)
Fabolous: The Young OG Project (digital) ( Def Jam)
Fashawn + Alchemist: FASH-Ionably Late (digital)
Fly Anakin: mirrors_episode​.​1 (digital)
Ghostface Killah: 36 Seasons (Salvation Music/Tommy Boy)
Krayzie Bone: Chasing the Devil (RBC)
Lee Bannon: Big Toy Box (Chillectro)
LL Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out (2-CD Dlx.Ed. reissue) (Def Jam)
Matt McGhee: 1920 (digital)
Prhyme (DJ Premier & Royce Da 5′ 9): Prhyme (Prhyme)
SD: Life of a Savage 2 and 3 (Ihiphop Dist.)
Smoovie Baby: Stay True (Empire Dist.)
Thelonious Martin: Wünderkid (digital) (Home Team)
Trademark Da Skydiver: Return of the Super Villain (Ihiphop Dist.)
Tunji Ige: The Love Project (digital)
Various: Wu Trax (Cleopatra)
Various: BMR 3.0 (Black Market)
Wale: Festivus (digital mixtape) (Complex)
Wu-Tang Clan: Better Tomorrow (Warner Bros.)
YG: Blame It on the Streets (Def Jam)

Reggae, Dancehall, Calypso
Bob Marley: The Lost Tapes (DVD, Collector’s Ed.) (BeaLeave Pictures)
Horseman: Dawn of the Dread (Mr. Bongo)
Midnite I Grade: Ride Tru (digital) (I Grade)
Taj Weekes & Adowa: Love Herb & Reggae (Jatta)
Tapper Zukie: Tapper Roots (Kingston Sounds)
Various: Black Solidarity Presents String Up the Sound System (Forced Exposure)

Classical
Angela Brown: Christmas (digital)

World, Latin
Nicky Lars: Musica Negra (Dooinit Music)
Ogoya Nengo and the Dodo Women’s Group: Rang’ala: New Recordings from Siaya County, Kenya (Honest Jon’s)
Various: Jukebox Mambo Vol. 2: Afro-Latin Accents in Rhythm & Blues 1947-61 (Jazzman)
Verckys & Orcheste Vévé: Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 (Analog Africa)

 

 

 

 

 

View review January 3rd, 2015

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