Archive for July, 2010

Rising Female Artists

Title: Lives Upstairs

Artist: Ranee Lee

Label: Justin Time

Release date: May 11, 2010

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Paying homage to Upstairs–Canada’s most well-respected jazz club—Ranee Lee presents “Lives Upstairs,” an award-winning vocal jazz album.

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Title: Travelling Like the Light

Artist: V.V. Brown

Label: Capitol

Release Date:  March 30, 2010

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Travelling Like the Light reveals a refreshing burst of creativity. British singer-songwriter VV Brown does justice to a long tradition of strong, individual female voices that have had the power to define their times—Alicia Keys and Amy Winehouse, prominent among VV’s immediate inspirations.

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Title: Who Knew?

Artist: Keke Wyatt

Label: Shanachie

Release Date: February 23, 2010

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With the release of her fourth studio album, Who Knew, on her fourth record label (she recently left major labels in pursuit of more artistic freedom), Indianapolis native Keke Wyatt is finally back on track.  Reflecting on life and love, she picks up where she left off with her promising 2002 debut Soul Sista. Two singles have been climbing the charts including the title track and “Daydreaming,” penned by Wyatt.

View review July 2nd, 2010

Recent Gospel Releases


Title: Urgent Messages

Artist: Jevon D. Brock & Restoration

Label: Brock Music Group/Central South Distribution

Release Date: April 13, 2010

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In their fourth album, Brock & Restoration relay the urgency of getting right with God through high spirited praise with energetic songs such as “Jesus Is Coming Back.”

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Title: Psalms, Hymns, & Spiritual Songs: Volume 3 Favor

Artist: David Frazier

Label: David Frazier Music/God’s Music Inc.

Release Date: December 15, 2009
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A composer, arranger, and keyboardist, Frazier has penned over 25 songs for Hezekiah Walker’s The Love Fellowship Choir. In this uplifting and refreshing solo project, Frazier shares of the liberty and favor that he has found in Christ.

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Title: Revealed – Live in Dallas

Artist: Myron Butler & Levi

Label: EMI Gospel

Release Date: March 30, 2010

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The contemporary gospel group, under the direction of Butler, continues in their legacy of ministering music which is lyrically thoughtful, harmonically fulfilling, and dense with heartfelt exhortation to the Lord!

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Title: Gospel According to Jazz – Chapter 3

Artist: Kirk Whalum

Label: Rendezvous

Formats: 2 CD set, MP3

Release Date: March 16, 2010

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Whalum continues to tell the “Gospel According to Jazz” with his latest release in the series, featuring the lovely Lalah Hathaway and the Whalum brothers.  This project was begun in 1998 with Chapter 1, followed by Chapter 2 in 2002.

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Title: Here I Am (Live)

Artist: Marvin Sapp

Label: Verity Records

Release Date: March 16, 2010

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Recent winner of the 2010 BET Best Gospel award, Sapp continues his record breaking streak with Here I Am—now the  highest charting album ever by a gospel artist.  On this live recording, Sapp blesses his audiences with a worship experience thick with ballads including his lead single “The Best In Me.”

View review July 2nd, 2010

Points on a Space Age


Title: Points on a Space Age

Artist: Sun Ra Arkestra

Format: DVD (Color, NTSC, all regions)

Label:  MVD Visual

Catalog No.: MVDV4774

Release date: 2009
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After Sun Ra “left planet Earth” in 1993, Marshall Allen took over the direction of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Devoid of its creator, the band, now composed of nineteen musicians, still continues to evolve in the same direction—“Outer Space.” Searching new spaces virtual as well as aural, the Arkestra always attempts to offer new possibilities and new reflections to its listeners, chasing a mystical quest, according to Sun Ra’s impulse since the mid-1950s—the search of an “Other.”

Points on a Space Age follows the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen, interweaving interviews, archival images of the first steps on the moon and of the space conquest, and videos from concerts. This 33min. documentary (erroneously advertised as 60 min.), directed by Ephraim Asili, can be viewed as an exploration of the current work of these musicians, both former and new members of the Arkestra, who define themselves as an “art-for-its-own-sake scholarly band.”  Asili discovered the band for the first time in 1998 during a festival where the Arkestra started, according to him, “some sort of procession through the park under the rain.”  Making contact first with Tyrone Hill (long time trombone player from the Arkestra, and a close friend of Sun Ra), Asili eventually caught up to the rest of the band. While the film was originally released in 2007, it did not become available on DVD until 2009.

No explanations are given about Sun Ra’s philosophy, but it’s undeniable throughout this documentary that his disciples are walking the same path. Still wearing their celestial hats and their Egyptian abayas, the Sun Ra Arkestra projects its crowd into distant and deep spheres, celebrating ancient Egypt as a technologically advanced civilization deeply rooted in “Outer Space.”  The exploration of new sounds, the core of the band research, is made possible by the appropriation and mastery of new technologies. These are the quintessential aspects of the afro-futurist discourse in the eyes of each member. The Sun Ra Arkestra attempts to integrate its public in its sphere, and encourages active participation both in its music and in its universe, the Omniverse.  As Sun Ra said, “Omniverse is the totality of all the universes and you are welcome to be citizen of the Omniverse”.

“Space-Age Jazz” was born more than 50 years ago and continues to live today. Quoting a line from the video, “the final chapter is being written right now,” and according to Ephraim Asili, Points on a Space Age is a “glimpse into this final chapter.”

Reviewed by Guillaume Dupetit

View review July 2nd, 2010

The Essential Cyril Neville 1994-2007


Title: The Essential Cyril Neville 1994-2007

Artist: Cyril Neville

Label: M.C. Records

Formats: MP3, CD

Release Date: May 4, 2010

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Cyril Neville’s roots run deep.  As a member of both The Meters and The Neville Brothers, he helped define the sound known as New Orleans Funk.  During his 40 some odd years in the music business, he has absorbed New Orleans’ rich musical culture and been privy to its changing musical landscape.   In many ways Neville serves as a bridge between Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Master P and Lil’ Wayne.  This is an idea that is supported by the selections chosen for The Essential Cyril Neville 1994-2007.

The compilation begins with “The Blues Is Here To Stay,” which serves as a brief history of Black popular music for the listener.  In the song Neville speaks on the importance of the blues and it’s legacy, and also shouts out several of his influences. While it is easy to see his vision in this song, his connection to the music is better illustrated by some of the album’s later tracks.

The compilation kicks into high gear as Neville covers Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” and infuses it with a healthy helping of New Orleans funk.  Calypso rhythms and funky guitar licks play throughout the song, anchored by Neville’s soulful voice which is still in great form.

Neville acknowledges his own New Orleans influences with a spirited cover of “Tipitina” (originally recorded by Professor Longhair) and a live version of “Fortune Teller” (written by Allen Toussaint).  While the original version of “Fortune Teller” was an upbeat vehicle for Benny Spellman, Neville slows it down into a slow yearning blues.  Toussaint makes a guest appearance on the track, showcasing the piano skills that have made him a living legend during his career.

Between the time Cyril Neville joined The Meters and the formation of The Neville Brothers, he participated in an album by The Wild Tchoupitolas with The Meters and his uncle George Laundry, which was steeped in the New Orleans’ unique Mardi Gras Indian tradition.  Neville acknowledges this influence on “Indians Got That Fire,” which grooves and pops with so much energy it is hard not to get caught up in the call and response refrain.

Neville also takes time to look forward into New Orleans’ musical culture with a couple of rap-influenced tracks that yield mixed results.  “The Projects” is the stronger of the two and serves to uplift young people and remind them of the great artists that have come from the very projects in which they may now reside.

All in all, this compilation serves as a love letter to New Orleans from one its most famous sons.  By paying tribute to his “heroes and sheroes” (as noted on “Fortune Teller”), Neville reminds us of how important New Orleans’ musical legacy is to popular culture.  And just as Neville was influenced, he has influenced others through his work with The Meters, The Neville Brothers and his own solo offerings. The Essential Cyril Neville, while only showcasing a short period in his career, is still a testament to his immense talent and his respect and reverence for those who came before him.

Reviewed by Levon Williams

View review July 2nd, 2010

Nothing’s Impossible


Title:  Nothing’s Impossible

Artist:  Solomon Burke

Label:  E1 Entertainment

Formats:  CD,  MP3

Catalog No.:  E1E-CD-2086

Release date:  April 6, 2010

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For more than three decades, Solomon Burke had wanted to work with Willie Mitchell, protégé to other southern R&B legends, including Al Green and Ann Peebles. Thankfully for Burke and for us, the “King of Rock and Soul” finally met Mitchell in 2008 and they overcame professional obstacles to record together.  Their resulting collaboration, Nothing’s Impossible, is a wonderful, although occasionally uneven, tribute to Mitchell, who died in January. This likely was his final studio project.

In recent years, Burke has benefited from working with top producers Joe Henry and Buddy Miller and material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello and Patty Griffin. But working and writing with Mitchell was something of a homecoming for Burke, whose early career was based on the Southern soul-stirring sounds which permeate Nothing’s Impossible.  Unlike other recent recordings, Burke is not reinterpreting songs of other genres—it’s just good Memphis rhythm and blues.

At age 79, Mitchell continued to have the ear that defined the Hi Records sound. He was the primary producer, arranger, and co-writer for much of the material here (he has writing credit on nine of the album’s 12 tracks). His arrangements are perfectly matched to Burke’s powerful, soul-stirring baritone. Mitchell brought in musicians who appeared on many of his Hi Records classics, particularly guitarist Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, who hasn’t lost a lick, and the New Memphis Strings.

At age 70, Burke also still has the goods (he wrote or co-wrote three songs). His singing has been described as a “force of nature, equal parts sexual and spiritual, a power that can never be tamed but might somehow be harnessed.”  For the most part, that is again the case on Nothing’s Impossible, particularly on Mitchell’s “It Must Be Love,” a tribute to young love, and “Say You  Love Me Too,” which speaks to the yearnings that naturally follow.

Following is the official promo video from Koch, where Burke speaks poignantly about working with the late Willie Mitchell:

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This isn’t to say that sometimes Nothing’s Impossible isn’t marred by clichés, as evidenced by “When You’re Not Here,” but Burke brings out emotions that most vocalists would be unable to muster. When the songs are worthy of Burke’s grittiness, as on the melancholy “Dreams” and “The Error of My Ways,” the album soars.

According to the liner notes, when Burke and Mitchell first got together in October 2008 for an informal session, they covered Anne Murray’s 1978 pop hit “You Needed Me.” While it must have been fun for these two venerable musical legends—the notes say they “clowned around like kids on a playground”—it would have been best if this recording had remained unearthed.

Overall, Nothing’s Impossible is a fitting finale to Mitchell. We hope not the same for Burke, as he continues to carry the torch for an old school of earnest vocalists who are getting harder to find.

Reviewed by George Vlahakis

View review July 2nd, 2010

Lover Please


Title: Lover Please / The Complete MGM & Mercury Singles

Artist: Clyde McPhatter

Label: Hip-O Select

Catalog No.: B0014233-02

Format: 2 CD set

Release Date: May 21, 2010
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Clyde McPhatter was a soul pioneer with a uniquely beautiful voice.  He sang in the upper range of a man, but not in a freakishly high register.  His gospel-trained technique was powerful yet sweet, and he could sing the full range from ballads to soul cookers.  Already a veteran of  the Dominoes and the Drifters when MGM signed him as a solo artist in 1959, McPhatter’s singles for MGM and then Mercury are collected in this 2-CD set.  The greatest commercial success included is the title track, “Lover Please,” recorded for Mercury in early 1962, which reached #7 on the Billboard pop charts.

Bill Dahl’s excellent booklet notes claim that McPhatter’s vocals on the Dominoes 1952 hit “Have Mercy Baby” are the birth of soul singing.  The booklet goes on to chronicle McPhatter’s success with Billy Ward’s Dominoes and then leading the Drifters, recording for Atlantic and being signed away to MGM.  At MGM, McPhatter failed to generate big hits; 1959′s “Let’s Try Again” was #13 on the R&B chart and #48 on the pop chart and no other MGM singles did as well.

At Mercury, producer Clyde Otis applied the same string-heavy technique that had worked with Brook Benton and Dinah Washington and McPhatter’s singles hit higher in the charts with “Ta-Ta” (#7 R&B, #23 pop) from his first Mercury session.  But it was under the production hand of Shelby Singleton and with a pared-down backing band that his biggest Mercury hits happened.  “Lover Please” was a pure soul tune, up-tempo but contemporary to the early ’60s, not the doo-wop ’50s.

McPhatter also charted with his version of “Little Bitty Pretty One” and several other Mercury singles.  In the mid-‘60s, he took on socially-conscious themes in such songs as “Deep In the Heart of Harlem,” “Second Window, Second Floor” and “In My Tenement.” He also recorded a live album at the Apollo Theater.

The most striking thing about this collection is the range of music McPhatter was comfortable singing.  He did old-school R&B, more contemporary soul and plenty of pop.  The pop tunes run the range from gimmicky to syrupy to catchy and finger-snapping.  In all cases, both McPhatter’s vocals and the backing musicians are locked in reliable and proficient grooves—these were real pros doing their thing.

To my ears, the string-heaviest material sounds dated and somewhat dull today, while the up-tempo soulful tunes, especially on the second disc, still sound fresh and modern.  Some of the MGM sides with minimal instrumentation also jump right out of the speakers.  Net-net, I very much liked more than half of the tunes and would probably not choose to listen to the most-string-heavy quarter of the set. For a wide-ranging compilation like this, that’s pretty good.  Someone old enough to have been a teenager when these songs were new and heard on the radio might have very different favorites.

Hip-O Select’s website says only 5000 copies of this collection will be sold.  The excellent booklet by Bill Dahl, plus the high-quality remastering and nice colorful packaging justify the $30 price, when combined with the mostly good to excellent music. Much of this material was long out of print, so once these CDs sell out, it will probably again languish in the Universal Music Group vaults.

The booklet essay makes a convincing case that McPhatter is an unfairly-forgotten soul pioneer and that he was still making relevant and popular music in the 1960s.  The discs contain the musical evidence to back up Dahl’s argument, and provide a fun return to the soul music of yesteryear, via a road less traveled by the current audience.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review July 2nd, 2010

Walk Alone


Title:  Walk Alone

Artist:  PJ Morton

Label:  Indieblue Music

Formats: CD, MP3

Catalog No.: 7764

Release date:  April 6, 2010

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“In the state of the world I feel alone because of the way I choose to do music with true instrumentation. Creating stories and lyrics with meaning feels like a minority not a majority.”―PJ Morton

There is very little semblance of live instrumentation in much of today’s mainstream music, where it is replaced by beats, manufactured samples of instrument sounds and the beloved auto-tune.  One artist, PJ Morton, has made it his goal to jumpstart the return of live music. His name is one that many in the gospel music industry may be familiar with, his father being Bishop Paul S. Morton, founder of The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship in New Orleans.

As the son of a Bishop, expectations for PJ’s musical direction have been centered on his religious beliefs. PJ, however, has other plans. His response to these expectations is housed in a book released in July 2009 entitled Why Can’t I Sing About Love and that is simply what PJ has done. His latest and fifth studio album to date, Walk Alone, brilliantly addresses his personal struggles as a musician advocating for change in the music industry, as well as his desire to “sing about love.”

The personal effects of a musician with a purpose are evident in the opening title track, “Walk Alone.”  Established by the quote above taken from PJ Morton’s website, this album, along with it’s title track, is meant to be a statement of Morton’s reality―a personal, musical account.  This sentiment is continued as he takes us on a journey through the complications of love in “Girlfriend,” longing for love in “Don’t Ever Leave,” love lost in “She’s Gone,” finding true love in “The One,” the quest to retrieve love in “I Need Your Love,” and love’s emotional rollercoaster in “Love You More.”

One of the most personal tracks on the album is “Son of a Preacherman.”  Instead of singing, Morton chooses to speak directly from his life story―a story of faith, family, and the struggle to be the musician he feels he was purposed to be.  The heart of the meaning of this song rings through the hook “No matter where I stand/no matter who I am/some people will only ever see the son of a preacherman.” As much as the song is an opportunity for understanding, it is also a testament of faith and a proclamation―that who Morton is as a musician and person will be represented through his music.

Following is a trailer for Morton’s documentary, “Son of a Preacherman:”

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“Mountains and Molehills” continues with a statement of encouragement to all who hope to achieve their dreams. The message is simple: “you won’t know unless you try.”  “Forever” takes the listener back to Morton’s foundational concept―love. This song speaks of the joy and appreciation of true love: “Never in my life/has it felt so right/and I believe this time will last forever/not in my wildest dreams/did I ever believe/that this could really be forever.”

The last track, “Let Go,” is probably the most important in terms of understanding Morton as an artist and individual. Sung as a duet with his father, Bishop Paul S. Morton, the song was previously released by gospel singer DeWayne Woods. The message is simple: regardless of what direction and which avenues Morton takes as a musician, his faith is never far behind.

In all, Walk Alone introduces the listener to the true PJ Morton. Brilliantly composed, musically and lyrically inspiring, this album represents an artist who appreciates the art of creating timeless music that not only reaches, but remains with any who encounter it. Amidst the assumptions and the expectations, PJ Morton utilizes his talents as a pianist, singer, songwriter, and producer to make a statement of his own―standing strong on his faith and belief that the path he is on is one purposed for him.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review July 2nd, 2010

Hymns for the Rebel Soul




Title:  Hymns for the Rebel Soul

Artist:  Rocky Dawuni

Label:  Aquarian Records

Formats:  CD, MP3

Release date:  June 15, 2010

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Ghanaian artist Rocky Dawuni combines reggae with various world music influences on this rich collection centered around conscious lyrics and diverse arrangements. Still a bit under the mainstream cultural radar (Wikipedia, for example, has no Rocky Dawuni article—yet), Dawuni’s deft touch and expressive voice constitute a modern reggae treasure as his work reflects roots reggae influences in an updated cosmopolitan style.

Following the opening track, “Download the Revolution,” is Dawuni’s “African Reggae Fever,” a call to the faithful of Rastafari to unite across the diaspora and embrace the all-encompassing love of all humanity that Bob Marley promoted. It’s an upbeat, infectious song of joy and Duwani’s acrobatic skanking in the video for the song creates an entirely entertaining experience:

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“Jerusalem” is a more serious but no less enjoyable musical excursion in a mid-tempo reggae arrangement in which hints of Marley again shine through. But other influences are no less noticeable and enjoyable. The instrumentation on “Jerusalem” combines Middle Eastern influences―notably Dumbek rhythms that are reminiscent of, but distinct from the Nyabinghi drums that accent much Jamaican roots reggae―with shimmering layers of disparate influences. One hears pronounced hints of Scandinavian music, which is no real surprise given that Dawuni has toured with Finnish musicians and employs a Finnish folk flute to good effect in his band.

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This is truly world music at its best in that the resulting songs are seamlessly rendered and the whole of the album creates a consistent musical feel in support of Dawuni’s socially conscious lyrics. The artist is well known for his willingness to address issues like the effects of poverty in Africa and the spread of AIDS―not, unfortunately, a universal attribute of pop musicians. Dawuni is a musician of extraordinary reach and wide vision as witnessed in his version of John Lennon’s “Well, Well, Well” on the Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur album.

The rest of the songs on this set (“Extraordinary Woman,” “Walls Tumblin’ Down,” “Master Plan,” “Road To Destiny,” “Freefall,” “Walk the Talk,” “Heads Up High,” and “Take It Slow (Love, Love, Love)”) are equally well-realized and mark this album as a must-have item for reggae collections and world music fans.

Reviewed by Mike Tribby

View review July 2nd, 2010

We Walk This Road

Title: We Walk This Road

Artist: Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Label: Warner Bros.

Formats: MP3, CD

Release Date: June 22, 2010

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In the liner notes to We Walk This Road, Robert Randolph states, “This record is a celebration of African-American music over the past one hundred years and its social messages from the last thirty. Although we cover a whole timeline of different eras on We Walk This Road, what ties these songs together remains their message of hope, their ability to uplift.”  A more astute assessment of this album could not be made.   Robert Randolph and the Family Band have come full circle on We Walk This Road, combining their gospel, blues and soul roots into one very cohesive whole.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s previous recordings have relied heavily on an attempt to capture their dynamite live performances and jam band leanings.  However, We Walk This Road is a far more focused effort, which reflects the input of T-Bone Burnett whom the band tapped to produce this album.  Burnett’s most famous production work to date is likely the soundtrack for Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?, and his knowledge of traditional music (such as the selections on from that soundtrack) made him a good choice for the direction Randolph was headed.

Following is the official promo video:

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The album starts strong with “Travelling Shoes,” an interpretation of a spiritual most notably recorded by Mitchell’s Christian Singers in the 1930s. RR&TFB give it an update without losing any of the songs’ reverence.  This track also showcases their strength as a unit―all of the band members make a strong offering, resulting in one of the best songs on the album.

While Randolph’s pedal steel guitar work is undoubtedly the star of the band, one area in which the band’s previous efforts have suffered is in the vocals.  Randolph himself is not a great singer (although he certainly manages), but on “We Walk This Road” bandmates Daniel Morgan and Lenesha Randolph (Robert’s sister) step up vocally in a much stronger way than they have in the past.  Their presence on the wonderful “I’m Not Listening” and the politically tinged “I Don’t Want to Be A Solider Mama” truly enhance the power of each.

Ben Harper, a musician who’s own output has become more steeped in traditional gospel and roots music over the course of his career, lends his slide guitar work and vocals to another of the album’s stand out tracks, “If I Had My Way.”  Based on a traditional song by Blind Willie Johnson, this new rendition is a soul-stirring, church-shaking, monster than one can’t help but “get happy” to while listening.

We Walk This Road also includes a couple of modern covers. Prince’s “Walk Don’t Walk” from his Diamonds and Pearls album and the title track from Bob Dylan’s Shot of Love album get the Family Band treatment―both yielding excellent results.  Randolph’s pedal steel guitar work on “Walk Don’t Walk” should make His Royal Badness proud.

Overall, We Walk This Road does a masterful job at what it sets out to do.  It makes the connection of all black music apparent by modernizing the sound of traditional songs and interweaving them with contemporary covers, without losing one shred of the originals’ authenticity or losing their own identity as a band.  The Family Band’s respect for the songs as well as the artists who created them could not be more apparent.  They, with the help of T-Bone Burnett, have created a very solid release. We can only hope that Robert Randolph and the Family Band continue in this direction as their careers continue to blossom.

Reviewed by Levon Williams

View review July 2nd, 2010

El Che

Title: El Che

Artist: Rhymefest

Label: dN|Be Entertainment

Format: CD, MP3

Release date:  June 8, 2010

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Four years is an eternity in the music game, and that’s the last time we had an album from the “Chicago-Rilla” known as Rhymefest (aka Che Smith). Many also know him as the “Brand New” lyricist who co-wrote Kanye West’s Grammy-winning “Jesus Walks.” But a lot has changed since Rhymefest’s 2006 debut Blue Collar. For starters, he parted from J Records, citing creative differences over his sophomore album.  He eventually decided to leave major labels behind, opting to go indie, and now resides with dangerousNegro’s own dN|Be Entertainment. What else has transpired since 2006? Just push play, and Rhymefest will be glad to tell you.

El Che is the album the industry didn’t want Rhymefest to make. Loosely structured around the identity and purpose of the Argentinean revolutionary Che Guevara,  El Che is packed with social rhetoric on everything from the business, to the streets, to the church. The album is designed as if Rhymefest himself is a covert rebel for an underground revolution. The masses are unaware of the battle that will soon commence. Our only hope is Che and his lyrical revolution.

‘Fest kicks in the door with the bombastic “Talk My S**t,” which ironically samples West’s “Swagga Like Us” verse. With “Truth on You,” he takes out the middleman to address any rumors surrounding his hiatus, his current relationship with the Louis Vuitton Don, and anything in between.  And in “Chicago” he relentlessly targets the artistic lows of today’s hip hop.

He transfers his assault towards television evangelists on “Prosperity”―one of the standout tracks.  A far cry from the emotional spiritual he penned with West, this painfully honest song speaks to why he walks with Christ and not with men of the cloth. He then switches it up with the sincere vulnerability in “City Is Falling,” a stirring song over a lost relationship.

Here is the official video for “Prosperity” (directed by Konee Rok):

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Featured guests on the album include Phonte on the relationship therapy “Say Whassup,” and a very impressive Saigon and Adad on the frantic “Give It to Me.”  El Che is suited for the hip hop die hard that enjoys well-written storytelling and raw lyricism. If this doesn’t motivate a purchase, maybe his plan to do a video for every track will eventually get you to join the movement.

On the following video, Rhymefest discusses his new album with reporters in Hong Kong (directed by Konee Rok):

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Reviewed by Lorin Williams

View review July 2nd, 2010

How I Got Over


Title: How I Got Over

Artist: The Roots

Label: Def Jam

Catalog No.:  B0013085-02

Formats:  CD, MP3

Release date:  June 22, 2010

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Black Thought croons his way over Dice Raw’s choruses of the title cut, switching effortlessly to rap in the verses. It’s a microcosm for the whole record.  On their 9th studio release, The Roots once again position themselves as the simultaneous misfits and masters of hip hop. Unlike their previous few releases, however, How I Got Over has appeal for a broader audience than most of their records, and I daresay some serious danceability. The live version of this title track from the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon is five minutes of pure joy that would have made the Godfather of Soul proud.

The collaborators are not the usual suspects for The Roots, but they are consistent with the band’s recent turn toward different audiences and festival performances.  The Monsters of Folk play a tender intro to “Dear God 2.0” that is more My Morning Jacket than hip hop.  Patty Crash and Joanna Newsome sing melancholy choruses on “The Day” and “Right On,” respectively. Black Thought’s verses and ?uestlove’s hard-hitting grooves drive John Legend’s sound on “Doin’ It Again” and “The Fire,” the latter of which is the most convincing pop-appeal collaboration on the record. With every Roots album, we always wonder how they will continue such quality content, no matter which direction they go. They do it again on this record, and the lyric “Dear diary, the fans still swear by me” says they know exactly what they’re doing.

Still, the tastiest tracks here are pretty much straight up Roots Crew material. Dice Raw sings groovy, almost Marvin Gaye-like choruses on “Walk Alone,” “Radio Daze,” and “How I Got Over.” Most hip hop groups could never get away with becoming a house band on a network late night show without being seen as total sellouts, but The Roots seem to have made the transition gracefully. They still put out the most thoughtful hip hop on the market, and now they do it with even more live swagger than ever before.

Following is a video of the single, How I Got Over ((C) 2009 The Island Def Jam Music Group):

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Reviewed by Peter Hoesing

View review July 2nd, 2010

July 2010 Issue

Welcome to the July 2010 issue of Black Grooves.  New releases featured this month include the Roots’ How I Got Over, Chicago rap artist Rhymefest’s El Che, Robert Randolph & The Family Bands’ We Walk This Road (produced by T-Bone Burnett), PJ Morton’s Walk Alone, Solomon Burke’s Nothing’s Impossible (produced by the late great Willie Mitchell), and reggae artist Rocky Dawuni’s  Hymns for the Rebel Soul.  Compilations include The Essential Cyril Neville, 1994-2007, and Clyde McPhatter : Lover Please: The Complete MGM & Mercury Singles. Also featured is the DVD Points on a Space Age chronicling the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen.  Wrapping up this issue is a brief run down on releases by rising female artists VV Brown, Ranee Lee, and Indianapolis native Keke Wyatt, plus gospel artists Marvin Sapp, Kirk Whalum, Myron Butler, David Frazier, and Jevon Brock & Restoration.

Black Grooves is published by the Archives of African American Music and Culture.  Follow us on Facebook

View review July 2nd, 2010

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