Archive for July, 2006

Robbery

B000CELODQ.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgTitle: Robbery
Artist: Teena Marie
Label: Legacy
Year: 2006, 1983
CD#: EK 93817

Teena Marie, whose real name was Christine Marie Brockert, was just another artist in the huge Motown stable of performers waiting in line for a hit record when, after three years of standing in the shadows, she met Rick James and became his protégé. Their first project together was Wild and Peaceful, released by Motown in 1979, which immediately established her as a powerful R&B singer. Teena Marie was anything but typical–she was a white female artist doing funk and R&B so well that everyone assumed she was black. In fact, when Motown released the Wild and Peaceful album, they chose not to put her picture on the jacket so that record buyers wouldn’t know she was white. This “no face on cover” was a practice many record companies also adopted in promoting black artists across racial boundaries.

Robbery, her first release on the Epic label after leaving Motown, is still rooted in the Rick James’ school of funk. If you compare the song “I’m Just a Sucker for Your Love” from Wild and Peaceful to any song on Robbery, you’ll find James’s trademark sound. And even though Teena left Motown she didn’t leave her Motown roots, as demonstrated by the album’s title song. Another track, “Playboy,” is interesting in that it has Teena “rapping” the intro over music similar to that of Barry White or Isaac Hayes, which back in the day was very unusual for a white female artist. Teena Marie has one of the most explosive voices I’ve ever heard and her energy is always at the highest level–she can make you “feel real” with just a sigh. Robbery was written, arranged, and produced by Teena Marie with a whole lot of love and inspiration from our late but very great funk master and friend Rick James.

Posted by Clark D. Whitlow

(Ed. note: Robbery also features AAAMC National Advisory Board member Patrice Rushen on keyboards!)

View review July 7th, 2006

Back Up Train

B0009VNBMY.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgTitle: Back Up Train
Artist: Al Green
Label: Legacy/Arista
Year: 2005, 1972
CD#: 82876695482

Al Green is recognized around the world as one of the premier soul singers. With his distinctive, unmistakable and extraordinary voice, he forged a distinctive style of song interpretation in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Back Up Train reflects the youthful soul style and voice of a 21-year-old Al Green. Though released in 1972, the songs were actually recorded in 1967 in New York by Green with a group called the Soul Mates. When “Tired of Being Alone” hit #1 on the R&B charts in 1970, these tracks were finally dug out of the vaults and issued by Arista.

The album is a collection of songs deeply rooted in the relationships between and a man and a woman—quoting the liner notes, “the message is love.” Green is a somewhat “raw” singer here, but his voice clearly shows the strength and versatility that would soon develop into his recognizable and world famous falsetto. The album produced one chart hit, the title song “Back Up Train,” which is a soulful ballad about a man who left his woman and wants the train to take him back home to his baby. In this song, full of emotional pain, Green sings straight tenor–there is no use of his trademark falsetto. Another track, “Hot Wire,” has a very “James Brown” type of sound. That is to say, the use of a polyrhythm structure along with percussive horns and an up-tempo beat creates a very “danceable” track.

At the time of this recording, Green had not yet forged his relationship with producer Willie Mitchell and the Hi Record Company where he had great success with albums like I’m Still in Love with You” (1972), Let’s Stay Together (1972/1973), Call Me (1972/1973), and Livin’ For You (1973). Still, if you’re a fan of the man and his music, Back Up Train is one to add to your collection—it is the roots to the soul of the man and his sound.

Posted by Clark D. Whitlow

View review July 7th, 2006

Essential O’Jays

g64982wr7xh.jpgTitle: The Essential O’Jays
Artist: The O’Jays
Label: Epic/Legacy
Catalog No.: EK 90632
Date: 2005

The Essential O’Jays is a compilation of 15 songs, released during the groups’ heyday from 1972-1978, that transports the listener on a journey through several genres of black music from R&B, soul, funk and disco to songs inspired by gospel and jazz.      

The liner notes essay, “Ride the Big Horse” by David Ritz, provides a history of the group, thereby offering insight into the foundation of the O’Jays’ diverse musical repertoire. Ritz notes that two of the members, Walter Williams and Eddie Levert, began their music careers as gospel singers when they were teenagers. Eventually they hired a manager, Eddie O’Jay (hence the group name), and along with a third member William Powell, began singing secular music (a fourth member, Bobby Massey, left the group in 1971). In the ‘70s they were signed by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff of Philadelphia International Records, whose production techniques allowed them to retain their gospel roots while incorporating unique sounds through the use of new technology. As a result, the O’Jays (originally from Canton, Ohio) quickly became known as one of the quintessential “Philly soul” groups.  

Several tracks on the CD (“Put Your Hands Together” and “Stairway to Heaven”) display the O’Jays’ gospel roots, with lyrics that combine sacred and secular themes along with gospel-inspired vocal techniques and instrumentation: call and response patterns between the lead and background vocalists; the soloists’ “preaching style” of delivery; and the use of a Hammond organ, hand claps and tambourine. Their funkier side is represented in the album’s message songs, such as “Give the People What They Want” and “Survival,” replete with bass grooves and horns. “Message in Our Music” introduces a disco drum beat and Wah-wah pedal guitar riff, along with scat syllables and jazz vocal arrangements. Other tracks represent more of a cross-cultural aesthetic, combining the previously mentioned characteristics associated with black music genres with more mainstream ideals, including a smoother vocal delivery, lush string orchestrations, and lyrics that represent romantic or brotherly love (“Use Ta Be My Girl” and “I Love Music”).  

Of the 15 songs on the compilation, several achieved “Top 10” status on both the R&B and/or Pop charts: “Back Stabbers” (#1 R&B), “Love Train” (#1 on both), “Put Your Hands Together”, “For The Love of Money”, “I Love Music” (#1 on R&B), and “Use To Be My Girl” (#1 on R&B). A few others songs charted #1 in the R&B category, but ranked much lower on the Pop charts: “Give the People What They Want” (#45 on Pop), “Livin’ For the Weekend” (#20 Pop), “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby” (#72 Pop), and “Message in Our Music” (#49 Pop). 

It is interesting to note that all but one of the R&B chart toppers are message songs, which perhaps had less cross-cultural appeal.The Essential O’Jays is an excellent CD that represents the diversity of the group’s sound and engages the listener in a survey of black popular music styles of the ‘70s as represented by one of the most successful groups of this era─The O’Jays.    Posted by Rhonda Baker        

 

 

 

View review July 7th, 2006

Illumination

B000CZ0PQC.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_V65936763_.jpgTitle: Illumination
Artist: Earth, Wind & Fire
Date: 2005 (2CD+DVD edition)
Label: Sanctuary
Catalog No.: 06076-87513-2; 06076-87548-2; 06076-87548-8

With their latest release, Illumination, Earth, Wind & Fire shed light once again on the musical and social inspiration that current hip-hop and R&B trends have drawn from the funk and soul music of the 1970s. This album features collaborations with rap artists like Will.i.am, Big Boi, and the socially-conscious Floetry, as well as R&B vocalists including Kelly Rowland, Sleepy Brown, and Brian McKnight, and neo-soul singer Raphael Saadiq. Uniting all of these performers with the sound of Earth, Wind & Fire is a message of optimism, community, and spiritual enlightenment that, according to these elder statesmen, has been missing from urban music.

The opening of the album, “Lovely People” (featuring Will.i.am) and “This is How I Feel” (with Big Boi, Kelly Rowland, and Sleepy Brown) are both feel-good invitations to dance and party, a message that harkens back to the first days of funk and disco. An affirmative and supportive attitude towards personal relationships is apparent in songs like “Show Me the Way” (featuring Raphael Saadiq). A similar positive attitude towards improving the African American community and the value of self-respect drives “Pure Gold,” “Work it Out” (written by Saadiq), and “Elevated” (lyrics by Floetry), as well as a spiritual unity that recalls Earth, Wind & Fire’s adoption of African cosmology. In response to the violence of gansta rap and the general negativity that has infiltrated hip hop─because “young brothas’ never listen to what the gown folks say” ─Earth, Wind & Fire issue the call “We gonn’ work it out, let me show you how… let’s slang a revolution.”

The retro style of the packaging and liner notes, the high recording quality, and synergistic collaborations make this album eye-catching and ear-catching. The down-to-earth groove, funky bass, and percussive horn riffs blend highlight the sounds that hip-hop and R&B artists have drawn from the “grown folk” and in their collaboration with younger artists, Earth, Wind and Fire illuminate the way forward.

Posted by Katherine Baber

Editor’s note: This review refers to the 2005 release by Santuary, which includes the title CD (06076-87513-2) packaged with a bonus CD (06076-87548-2) and the DVD “Live at Red Rocks,” filmed in Denver on August 25, 2005 (06076-87548-8).

View review July 7th, 2006

Lost Soul Man

1506.jpgTitle: The Lost Soul Man
Artist: Geater Davis
Label: AIM (Australia)
Catalog No.: AIM 1506 CD
Date: 2005

Its not hard to understand why Geater Davis is something of a cult figure among soul collectors. He’s got a deep, raspy, southern soul sound that’s been aptly compared to Bobby “Blue” Bland and O.V. Wright, and he’s able to move effortlessly between soul and blues, with a little funk thrown in for good measure.Born Vernon Davis near Beaumont, Texas in 1946, Geater was discovered by New Orleans record producer Allen Orange, who issued some of Davis’s first recordings on his House of Orange label. In 1972, Orange brought Davis to the attention of John R (aka John Richbourg, the legendary Nashville WLAC deejay). Lost Soul Man is a two-CD, 25 track compilation of singles recorded in Nashville and Memphis for John R’s Sound Stage 7 record company (on the Luna and Seventy-Seven labels), produced variously by John R. and Allen Orange, and featuring many songs written by Davis.

Approximately three-quarters of these tracks were duplicated on the 1998 Westside/Charly release, Sadder Shades of Blue: The Southern Soul Sessions (the other Sadder Shades of Blue tracks feature selections from the Ace and House of Orange labels). But Lost Soul Man offers up a number of additional songs: “Don’t want to lose you” (accompanied by a Stax-style horn section); “Heavy on my Mind- parts 1 & 2 (reminiscent of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”); two alternative takes for “Hot Buttered Love,” (take 1 sounds like a rough monitor mix, while take 2 nixes the back-up singers); and “Chained and Bound,” a great raw, bluesy ballad that’s one of the best tracks on the set. Also included are alternate takes for “Your Heart is So Cold” (blues vs. soul-blues versions), “Ain’t Worrying about Jody” (an extended version), and “Will It Be Me or Him” (straight ahead soul with female back-up singers vs. up-tempo solo version), none of which were released by Westside.

The sound quality and production is excellent throughout, but the lack of documentation is a bit frustrating. Though the liner notes include a fairly comprehensive biography of Davis by Fred James, there is no discography or mention of the original release dates and labels for each track. Nor is there any information on composers/arrangers (though some of this can be gleaned from the notes accompanying Sadder Shades of Blue).

This set is highly recommended for any fan of old school soul who wants to explore some of the lesser-known southern soul artists of the ‘70s. As an added bonus, those interested in the history and development of black radio can get a glimpse of the recording/producing activities of John Richbourg, one of the country’s most influential R&B deejays of the ‘50s and ‘60s (and be sure to also check out the Sound Stage 7 Story: the Definitive 3 CD History of the Nashville-based Southern Soul Label, issued by Charly).

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review July 7th, 2006

Hallejulah Chicken Run Band

ALU32002.jpgTitle:                 Take One
Artist:               Hallejulah Chicken Run Band
Label:               Alula Records
Series:              Analog Africa No. 2
Catalog No.:     ALU2002
Date:                2006

Take One is the second release in Alula’s Analog Africa Series, and features the Hallejulah Chicken Run Band.  HCR, the original lineup of which featured trumpeter and band leader Daram Karanga, drummer Thomas Mapfumo (who later emerged as lead vocalist), guitarists Joshua Hlomayi Dube and Elijah Josam, and bassist Robert Nekati  was originally formed at the request of the Mangura copper mine, who wanted a band that could entertain their workers.  HCR became known for their use of a kind of proto- “mbira-guitar” style, which consisted of muted notes, double-stops, and strict adherence to traditional, mbira-like melodic lines.  This translation of traditional mbira tunes into the realm of popular music, through the medium of the guitar, had a profound impact on the evolution of Zimbabwean music, as did HCR’s singing of Shona songs (an inherent act of political protest).  In addition to the five founding members of HCR listed above, Take One also features Patrick Kabanda (drums), Wilson Jubane and Abdulah Musa (guitars) Robson Boora (saxophone), Bothwell Nyamondera (percussion), and Lovemore Nyamasvisva, Patrick Mukwamba, Elias Jingo, and C. Rupango (vocals).

Take One is a collection of HCR’s most popular and influential tunes, recorded between 1974 and 1979.  Like The Green Arrows, HCR features beautifully layered guitars, but the bass lines beneath them sound rather sterile, and you might start to wonder if they used a drum machine when recording these tunes if you didn’t know better.  In fact, the entire collection sounds rather sterile—highly contained and regimented parts that are, within themselves interesting, but unchanging—they repeat along with one another in endless and perfect synchronicity with little dynamic arc.  This works beautifully on the mbira, which has a sort of gentle, spiraling quality, but not as well in a pop music band where it is pounded out incessantly.  Take One thus lacks the exploratory push-pull energy and life of the Arrows recording.  The vocals are more fleshed out and center-stage than on the Arrows’ Session recording, however, and the addition of trumpets on many of their tunes is a nice timbral complement to their sound.  There are some standout tunes (like wonderfully spacious “Murembo” and the mellow “Alikulila”) and tunes like “Ngoma Yarira” (with Hlomayi’s mbira-like muted melodic lines) are worth a listen for anyone interested in understanding how a single song can spawn an entire musical style.  Furthermore, HCR is a historically important band, and it is interesting to get a taste of Thomas Mapfumo’s earlier work.  For those of you who speak Shona, there is an added layer (and perhaps most significant component) of the HCR listening experience—the political and social resonance of its content—that I cannot adequately represent here.  The general listener, however, will also miss this element, and the liner notes, though detailed, do not emphasize this aspect of HCR’s music.

Like their first release in the Analog Africa Series, Take One features extensive liner notes—fourteen pages of band history, discography, and colorful photos with an attractive layout.

For further information:

African Music Encyclopedia biography of Thomas Mapfumo and his contributions to the chimurenga musical style.

Turino, Thomas.  2000.  Nationalists, Cosmopolitans, and Popular Music in ZimbabweChicago:  The University of Chicago Press (A detailed historical and musicological study of the nationalist movement in Zimbabwe and the role of music as its driving force.)

Posted by Anthony Guest-Scott

                  

View review July 7th, 2006

The Green Arrows

ALU32001.jpgTitle: 4-Track Recording Session
Artist: The Green Arrows
Label: Alula Records
Series: Analog Africa No. 1
Catalog No.: AACD061
Date: 2006

Analog Africa is a new series put out by Alula Records dedicated to reissues of recordings by musically significant African groups. The first release in the series, 4-Track Recording Session, features The Green Arrows, a widely influential band in Zimbabwe that emerged in the 1970s. The Arrows became famous for their ability to smoothly integrate Zimbabwe’s (then Southern Rhodesia’s) folk and popular musical genres into a new form of musical expression, forcing record companies in the region to exhibit interest in the work of local artists. The group was founded by Manatsa brothers Zexie and Stanley, who began playing rabi (an urban style founded on traditional songs) and South African Kwela together as The Mambo Jazz Band along with several other musicians. They became The Green Arrows in 1968 when they replaced Fanyana Dube on rhythm guitar with Keddias, the youngest Manatsa brother. The lineup on Session includes Zexie Manatsa (bass and lead vocals), Stanley Manatsa (lead guitar), Givas Bernard (rhythm guitar and bass), Fulton Chikwati (rhythm guitar), Raphael Mboweni (drums), and Wilfred Nyoni (guest singer).

Session is actually a set of twenty tracks divided into two parts, the first of which is culled from the Chipo Chiroorwa LP (1974) and features material from 1974 and 1975, and the second of which, called “Waka Waka Selection,” combines singles recorded between 1976 and 1979. Listening to Session, it is not difficult to imagine how the Arrows could start jamming on a Friday afternoon and continue into the early hours of Sunday morning in their live shows—the life and exuberant energy of their music, and of the Arrows’ live sound in particular—has been beautifully captured in this collection, and the warm, brilliant guitars, grooving/popping bass, laid-back vocals, and snapping drums of 1970s African pop have been exquisitely restored in Session. The Arrows are at their finest here, tight and yet free to venture forth and explore the outer dimensions of high-energy, exuberant, and celebratory pop. This sound pervades Session, making it an excellent listen for any occasion, but the endlessly inventive weaving of shimmering chord-inversion arpeggios, sliding and dancing into and away from his melodies, in the lead guitar playing of Stanley Manatsa blends with the seamless rhythm guitar accents of Chikwati and Mboweni to keep Session sounding both fresh and familiar throughout. Add Zexie Manatsa and Bernard’s jubilant bass underpinnings along with the driving and tasteful accenting of Mboweni’s seamless drumming means that Session will let you dance and relax from “Mwana Waenda” to “Wasara Wasara” without needing a break from the sound. The Arrows’ vocals (almost always Zexie Manatsa singing solo or with minimal harmony) are probably the weakest part of their sound on Session (and yet still provide a nice, laid-back musical counterpart to the rest of the instruments) and often seem overshadowed. Nevertheless, In 4-Track Session, the band is always tight, always grooving, and always exploding with colorful improvisation.

Samy Ben Redjeb is the Executive Producer and Editor for the Analog Africa series who wrote the liner notes for Session, which consist of a twenty-two page history of the Arrows, detailed discography, and colorful reprints of photographs from archival material (with full picture credits). The liner notes also direct the reader to the website for song lyrics, but the only thing there at the time of writing this review is a placeholder page. Nevertheless, this new series is an exciting resource for both music enthusiasts and researchers alike, and Alula’s painstaking remastering and sound restoration, along with their extensive liner notes, brings together great music and the means for understanding a bit more about the historical, social, and political context of its creation in one place.

For further information:

Afropop Worldwide (Banning Eyre’s site dedicated to the bewildering and expansive world of (primarily) African popular music).Zindi, Fred. 1990. Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe. Gweru: Mango Press (An updated version of one of the first publications to focus specifically on the music of Zimbabwe).

Posted by Anthony Guest-Scott

View review July 7th, 2006

Best of YZ

B000001L9H.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgTitle: The Best of YZ
Artist: YZ
Label:
Tuff City
Catalog No.: TUF CD 0616
Date: 2006, 1994

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, YZ (aka Anthony Hill) was active in the late 1980s east coast hip hop scene and released his first single, “I’m Bad,” in 1987. Soon after he was signed to Tuff City and became one of their most successful artists, though far from a household name. A full-length album, Sons of the Father, was released by Tuff City in 1990, after which YZ jumped over to Livin’ Large Records and released The Ghetto’s Been Good to Me in 1993. Despite some follow-up exposure on MTV, he soon faded from the scene.

The Best of YZ is actually a reissue of his first album, along with several bonus tracks apparently culled from singles he cut for Tuff City, including the previously unreleased “Maflobi Pimp Strut.” All were produced by Tony D (aka Tony Depula, another Trenton native perhaps better known for his work with the group Poor Righteous Teachers), who was apparently also responsible for introducing elements of jazz-hip hop fusion in several of the tracks. As for the vocals, YZ has been categorized as a socially conscious rapper, and certainly several of the tracks are political and/or afrocentric in nature. In particular, “Thinking of a Master Plan” slams the Reagan era, while “Crocodile Dundee” is filled with hidden messages referencing the Nation of Islam. Though other tracks also contain socially conscious elements, the CD is not without a few more light-hearted raps.    
 
A quote by Aaron Fuchs (Tuff City founder) in the liner notes sums up this compilation, “YZ came and went in a flash of lightening, and this album captures the lightening in a jar.” He may not be remembered today by anyone but the most diehard crate diggers, but YZ’s raps are certainly worth checking out, especially by students seeking old-school-style political raps that are neither oversimplified nor overblown. Too bad the CD doesn’t also include cuts from
The Ghetto’s Been Good to Me. If you really want a complete overview of YZ, you’ll have to do a little crate digging of your own.    

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss      

 

View review July 7th, 2006

Ray Charles: Unreleased

5591.jpgTitle: Unreleased
Artist: Ray Charles
Label: Night Train International
Catalog No.: NTI CD 7154 
Date: 2006 

This isn’t your mama’s Ray Charles. These previously unreleased tracks from the Swing Time label were recorded from 1949-1951, nearly a decade before Charles’s first LP for Atlantic. Here we discover the vocal stylings of a young Ray Charles at the very threshold of his career, covering pop and blues ballads with some jazz piano licks thrown in for good measure. Think Nat King Cole, but with a bluesier edge. Charles never breaks a sweat in this mellow, slow groove set that only hints at the gospel-inflected soul that would soon become his trademark sound.  

Though the packaging runs more to the budget side of things, with scant liner notes by Nick Loss-Eaton offering a very brief history of Charles’s Swing Time recordings, more attention was obviously given to the remastering. Working from metal masters and lacquer discs, engineer Art “Shiffy” Shifrin did a great job in cleaning up the initial tracks on the CD, paying particular attention to maintaining the broad bandwidth of the original masters in an effort to duplicate the sound that the session engineers would have heard in the control room when the grooves were being cut. The remaining tracks were apparently remastered from tape sources by Moses Nagel, who used a much heavier hand in terms of noise reduction. 

Unreleased is actually more of a companion (think vol. 3) to NTI’s earlier double CD set, Ray Charles: The Complete Swing Time/Down Beat Recordings, offering up alternate takes that hadn’t yet been discovered when the latter was released in 2001. Collectors and fans of Ray Charles will want to own all 3 CDs, which together offer a complete set of his earliest, rarest tracks.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review July 7th, 2006

Tuff City Music Group

TCRFrontPage (Small) (WinCE).jpg In order to pay tribute to the many indie labels issuing black music, we’ve decided to profile one or more of these companies each month. For the July issue we’ve chosen the Tuff City Music Group out of New York City, primarily because we recently discovered them ourselves and want to spread the word about their great catalog. Though there are any number of boutique labels in the UK that reissue black music, especially soul and gospel, there are far fewer in the U.S., in part due to lengthier copyright terms. For this reason, we are especially grateful for Tuff City’s longtime commitment to the discovery and release of rare recordings. Vinyl lovers take note─many titles are issued on both LP and CD.

Founded 22 years ago by Aaron Fuchs, a former editor for Cash Box, Tuff City Records began as a hip hop label, issuing material by such notable artists as The 45 King, Cold Crush Brothers, Davy DMX, Lakim Shabazz, Ghetto Philharmonic, and Spoonie Gee, among others. Fuch’s underground record company eventually transitioned to a reissue label and has since “rescued hundreds of blues, jazz, funk, soul and R&B treasures from obscurity,” with a special emphasis on New Orleans funk and soul. Concurrent with the new focus on previously unreleased material came the launch of several subsidiary labels. The Tuff City Music Group now includes:

Ol’ Skool Flava, “the label on which the most popular of Tuff City’s original old school hip hop releases are once again pressed.” New releases include: Captain Rock to the Future Shock: Rare Hip Hop and Electro 1982-1985 (Ol’ Skool Flava CD 4032).

Night Train International issues “obscure blues, jazz, and R&B by such artists as Ray Charles, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Johnny Otis, Charles Brown, Jay McShann, and Joe Liggins.” New releases include: Unreleased,by Ray Charles (reviewed in this issue); You Ain’t Nothing but a Teenager, by King Solomon; Searching for a Joy Ride, by George Porter’s Joy Ride (Night Train International CD 7151); and New Orleans Will Rise Again, an anthology featuring songs apropos to the yearnings and hopes of the current state of New Orleans’ mind, with all proceeds donated to the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.

Funky Delicacies issues “should-have-been-classic funk that collectors salivate over, featuring artists like Ike Turner, Andre Williams, Trouble Funk and dozens and dozens of others.” New releases include: Funky Funky New York: Rare & Unreissued NY Funk 1969–1976 (DEL CD 0073); Its Hard Times, by Black Nasty & A.D.C. Band (DEL LP 0076); Funky Funky Soul Folks (DEL LP 0074); and Funky Funky New Orleans 5 (DEL CD 0072).

Soul-Tay-Shus “has brought forth powerful soul from Andre Williams, Lee Rogers, Joe Hunter and others.” New releases include Northern Souljers Meet Hi Rhythm: Rare & Unreleased Jams by Detroit Indies Recorded in Memphis 1965-1968 (Soul-Tay-Shus CD 6357); Detroit, Michigan!: Rare Northern Soul 1965–1968, by The Fabulous Peps (Soul-Tay-Shus CD 6348); and Red Beans & Biscuits, by Andre Williams (Soul-Tay-Shus CD 6361).

Tuff City, the original label, reissues many of the original titles on vinyl and CD. New releases include The Best of YZ (reviewed in this issue) and Grooves For A Quiet Storm by The 45 King (Tuff City CD 3010).

Read the entire Tuff City story and download their July catalog. We’ll review more Tuff City releases in future issues of Black Grooves.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review July 7th, 2006

Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration

087_2.jpgTitle: Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004): A Celebration
Artists: Paul Freeman, cond.; Chicago Sinfonietta
Label: Cedille
Catalog No.: CDR
90000 087
Date: 2005


Cedille’s “Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration” is the first comprehensive release of any kind relating to the music of Chicago-based classical composer Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004). This one must have been in the planning stages before Perkinson’s death at age 71, as its release follows his passing by a little less than two years. The works included span a time frame of six decades, beginning with his Sinfonietta for Strings (1954), composed when Perkinson was 22, and the Movement for String Trio, literally written by Perkinson as he lay in his deathbed.

The early Sinfonietta is intriguing, as its three movements map out some of his primary influences in contemporary music; namely Hindemith, Barber and Bartók. Yet while the piece may derive, it does not sound derivative as Perkinson has his own ideas about dynamic rhythms, maintains a penchant for melodic lyricism, and utilizes a harmonic profile that reflects the influence of jazz and blues. As the disc unfolds, European influences are gradually more fully digested into the music, although the example of Johann Sebastian Bach is a constant and most strongly felt in the works written towards the end of his life. While harmonic toughness is part of Perkinson’s profile, he does not allow this aspect of his personality to dominate the other elements within the music, which emphasizes transparency of texture and the full working out of ideas.


The performances on “Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration,” by conductor Paul Freeman and others, are all very dedicated; this is music that is familiar sounding in its essence, but little known to most. “Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration” makes clear that Perkinson sought, and achieved, a seamless blend between African-American musical concepts and Western concert music that is serious and not at all “folksy.”

Posted by Uncle Dave Lewis

Editor’s note: Cedille is currently running a Web-Only Sale on American Music through July 16, which applies to this CD in addition to the three volumes issued as part of Cedille’s African Heritage Symphonic Series.

 

View review July 7th, 2006

Maestro

B0009X76ZU.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgTitle: Maestro
Director: Josell Ramos
Date: 2005 (2003)
Format: DVD region 1, NTSC (2 DVD set)
Publisher: Sanctuary
Catalog No.: SAN 35100-9

Considering the history of electronic dance music, cities like New York City, Chicago, and Detroit come to mind. Words like “rave,” “techno,” “house,” “garage,” “dance music,” and “electronica” pop up. It all seems to be loosely related in some blob that we call dance music culture, but how do these words and places come together? How are they all connected?

The film Maestro begins to explore and answer that question. Produced, directed, and written by Josell Ramos, this documentary follows New York City’s underground dance music scene from its early days during the 1970s until 1987 when the renowned dance club, Paradise Garage, closed.  Maestro highlights three prominent, highly influential clubs in New York: Paradise Garage, The Loft, and The Gallery, and legendary DJs at each club: Larry Levan, David Mancuso, and Nicky Siano, respectively.  The film emphasizes the connections that New York’s underground dance scene had to disco, and explores how the DJs of this new dance music created profound, revolutionary sounds. Gay culture and the gay community in New York during the 1970s made up a strong part of this dance music movement.  The Stonewall Riots in 1969 are noted in the film as aiding in the establishment of a number of dance clubs whose clientele was primarily made up of gay men, Paradise Garage being one of them.  African American cultural influences are also emphasized in the film through discussions of the music, DJs, and dancers.

In addition to the hour and seventeen minute documentary, which is full of interviews, and club, DJ, and street footage, there is a bonus disc of extras. This second disc includes footage of Paradise Garage taken during the closing weekend in 1987; an “audiophile look” at sound systems with David Mancuso of The Loft; a look at the making of Maestro; a short documentary on house music in Chicago focusing on Ron Hardy; a piece on Tee Scott, a New York DJ at Paradise Garage; an inspiring segment featuring club dancers; and an interview with Larry Levan’s protégé, Frankie Knuckles.  With the inclusion of these extras, Maestro is an essential for any fan of electronic dance music looking to learn more about its history.

Posted by Denise Dalphond  

View review July 7th, 2006

Disco: Spinning the Story

B0007X1NVU.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgTitle: Disco: Spinning the Story
Director: Mark McLaughlin
Date: 2005
Format: DVD region 1 (80 min.)
Publisher: Passport Video
Catalog no.: DVD-1613

Remembering the days when disco was a mainstream, mass-mediated, popular form of American music, Gloria Gaynor and The Village People are probably the most commonly remembered artists.  Saturday Night Fever, “the hustle,” and the television show, “Disco: Step-by-Step” are also part of the contemporary memory of what disco was.  The documentary titled Disco: Spinning the Story highlights these important elements of disco culture, but also reconstructs a much more detailed and comprehensive history of disco in the context of 1970s urban America.

The film is hosted by Gloria Gaynor and features informative interviews with George Clinton, Randy Jones of The Village People, Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rogers, Kurtis Blow, Tom Moulton, Karen Lynn Gorney from Saturday Night Fever, and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead.  The film recognizes the prominence of African American and Latino culture in the creation of disco music highlighting many of the African American performers in the 1970s, like Donna Summer, Chic, Trammps, Rose Royce, Labelle, Hues Corporation, and others.  The documentary situates disco in the revolutionary atmosphere in many urban centers in the United States during the 1970s.  Gaynor describes the revolutionary philosophies and activities of many involved in civil rights, women’s liberation, and gay liberation, the latter of which played a major role in influencing and defining the new musical style that was disco. 

Disco also traces the history of the music into the previous decade to soul music of the late 1960s, namely that of Motown and the “Philly Sound” of Philadelphia International.  A high point in the film is the discussion by Tom Moulton of his unintentional discovery of the 12-inch record, on which there is only one song on each side.  Pressing a single song onto a 12-inch record made the sound much more vibrant and lively, and it increased the volume.  This had a major impact on sound systems in dance clubs.  The film concludes with a look at the final days of disco, including the racist and homophobic sentiments of the motto: “Disco Sucks!”, and ends appropriately with Gloria Gaynor discussing her performance of “I Will Survive” as one of the last disco songs of that era.  

Posted by Denise Dalphond

View review July 7th, 2006

Welcome to the July/August Issue

Welcome to the July/August “Heatwave” issue of Black Grooves. This month we’re featuring a wide variety of reissues from the ‘60s and ‘70s, perfect for kicking back at the pool or dancing the night away. From New York’s Tuff City label family we’ve discovered previously unreleased recordings by Ray Charles and the best of rapper YZ. Chicago’s Cedille Records, a non-profit label that has devoted several CDs to the music of black composers, recently issued a tribute to Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. The new Alalog Africa series from Alula showcases two great Zimbabwean bands from the ‘70s. And we’ll take a look at the latest soul music offerings, from the famous to the obscure. Finally, if you need a refresher course on the music of the ‘70s, we’ve got two entertaining new documentaries that tell the story of disco and New York City’s underground dance music scene.  

View review July 7th, 2006

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