Looking for a positive message? Miss that old-school hip hop? Daptone has found the answer in The 3 Titans, Brooklyn’s youngest rapping sensation. Their single “College” backed with “Life Of A Scholar” is sure to inspire your kids to study (well, at least it’s worth a try!). The new 12″ single version also includes instrumentals and a cappella versions so the kids can sing/play along.
Buckwheat’s 1994 children’s album Choo Choo Boogaloo was an award winning classic, and a big hit in our house. Now, just in time for a new generation, Music for Little People has released Buckwheat Zydeco’s Bayou Boogie, described as “a family dance party collection from the Bayou country of southwest Louisiana that pulls out all the stops… Smokin’ accordion, rockin’ Hammond B3 organ, rollicking rub-board and tasty guitar licks join together to create a musical gumbo of Creole culture that can almost be smelled and tasted.” This is sure to get the kids up off the floor.
This seems to be the holiday for multiple Jimi Hendrix releases, and what could be better for the hardcore fan than a book that can be shared with the kids. Author Gary Golio, an artist who now works with children as a clinical social worker, has teamed up with illustrator Javaka Steptoe to bring the story of Jimi’s childhood to life. Golio’s lyrical and non-linear prose and Steptoe’s wonderfully creative collages will be appreciated by young and old alike. I can just picture the kids digging out the paints and scissors, happily creating art while singing along to “Purple Haze” (this assumes they’re too young for Guitar Hero!). Golio was recently interviewed on WCBS about introducing a new generation to Hendrix—you can listen here.
Over thirty years old, hip hop music now stands solidly in adulthood. Naturally, like any other music, it is increasingly becoming a notable subject of academic analysis. While prior scholastic focus has been on the music’s socio-cultural elements, current rap scholarship is moving toward examination of its lyrical and sonic artistry. Yale University Press’ The Anthology of Rap (2010), edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois, is the first anthology of hip hop lyrics and a clear sign that hip hop music is reaching new heights of acceptance, legitimacy, and appreciation. The book even has it’s own trailer:
The anthology’s editors are not cultural studies scholars or musicologists, but literary specialists who accepted the responsibility of legitimizing rap poetics to a dynamic scholastic audience. Adam Bradley is an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado and the author of Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop. Andrew DuBois is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Toronto at Scarborough. According to the editors, the purpose of this anthology is: “(1) to distill, convey, and preserve rap’s poetic tradition within the context of African American oral culture and the Western poetic heritage; (2) to establish a wide and inclusive cultural history of rap on the grounds of its fundamental literary and artistic nature; and (3) to provide tools with which to read rap lyrics with close attention” (xxix) To achieve this, the editors present the lyrics to more than three hundred songs recorded over a span of thirty years.
The Anthology of Rap is divided into four sections. Part 1: 1978-1984 – the Old School covers the early years of recorded rap music and features artists such as Kurtis Blow, Cold Crush Brothers, and the Sugar Hill Gang. Part II: 1985-1992 – The Golden Age surveys what is arguably raps most fertile period and includes New School stars LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and NWA. Part III: 1993-1999 – Rap Goes Mainstream features lyrics by Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, 2Pac and others that helped trigger hip hop’s commercial boom in the 1990s. Part IV: 2000-2010 – New Millennium Rap is comprised of lyrics by Eminem, Lupe Fiasco, Atmosphere and others that continue to push rap forward. The final section, “Lyrics for Further Study” includes lyrics by artists not featured in the previous four sections. Each part opens with a basic overview of hip hop music and culture during each particular period. Each artist has a brief biographic and stylistic sketch prior to his or her featured lyrics.
The strength of this anthology is the breadth of its lyrical survey. It appears that the editors paid careful attention to the hip hop landscape and included well respected artists who often fail to appear in academic hip hop discourse. Lyrics from regional and underground stars such as UGK, the Hieroglyphics, and Jean Grae are featured alongside superstars like 50 Cent, the Notorious B.I.G., and Ice Cube. Secondly, the editors did a solid job of choosing the most appropriate, engaging, and relevant lyrics for each artist.
While the editors claim to offer tools with which to understand hip hop lyrics, they fall short in doing so. Save for the relatively elementary lyrical analysis included in the brief artist introductions, the lyrics are presented in a de-contextualized manner. Understanding these often hyper-nuanced hip hop lyrics requires more critical analysis then what the editors provide. In addition, hip hop lyrics are not made to be read, but heard. Because of this, each lyric is naturally inscribed with vocal and instrumental elements that are not accounted for in the anthology. The result of this lack of attention to performance is that many lyrics appear to be, in short, simple, lacking any value whatsoever. Ultimately, the editors have presented a volume of hip hop lyrics without their social, linguistic, and performative contexts which calls its utility into question.
The Anthology of Rap is an acceptable compilation of thirty-plus years of hip hop lyrics. It features a wide range of artists and important songs. Unfortunately, the lack of critical investigation damages the work’s credibility as a functional academic resource. That being said, The Anthology of Rap should appeal to fans of hip hop and scholars who desire a comprehensive assemblage of rap lyrics.
Revolutions Per Minute is the second studio album from Reflection Eternal, a group consisting of Brooklyn MC Talib Kweli and Cincinnati DJ/Producer Hi-Tek. The group dropped their first album, the legendary Train of Thought, during the underground renaissance of the late 1990s/early 2000s. After working on separate projects throughout the rest of the 2000s, Revolutions Per Minute is their attempt to rekindle past magic and produce music relatable to this current generation of hip hop listeners.
The album has a number of standout tracks. On “City Playgrounds,” Talib uses a mellow Hi-Tek track to flex his skills and set the mood for the rest of the album. Bun-B and Talib Kweli drop another hot collaboration on the up-tempo “Strangers (Paranoid).” “Lifting Off” is a classic Reflection Eternal track as it features a Talib doing his thing over a majestic, vocal sample driven beat. “Just Begun” is a quintessential posse song featuring Talib’s old partner Mos Def and newcomers J. Cole and Jay Electronica. Other standouts include “Got Work,” “Lifting Off,” and “Long Hot Summer.” “Ballad of the Black Gold” is why people revere Reflection Eternal. On the track, Talib Kweli drops jewels about the oil industry and governmental corruption over an excellent, horn driven Hi-Tek composition:
Revolutions Per Minute is a great comeback from one of the most important underground groups from the early 2000s. Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek managed to produce an album that was both substantive and accessible, something that many underground acts struggle with. Reflection Eternal’s Revolutions Per Minute is a must have for anyone looking for highly intelligent and extremely entertaining music.
Formats: CD (also Clean Ed. and Chopped & Screwed Ed.), Deluxe CD + DVD ed., MP3
Release Date: August 3, 2010
The third in Bun B’s Trill album series, Trill O.G. has been cited by several media outlets as one of the best hip hop albums of 2010. Pimp C, the other half of UGK, passed away in 2007, yet Bun B has maintained the UGK sound that fans have been used to since the group’s debut in 1992. Although he has had some help from well-known producers and popular MCs, Bun B has become one of the most famous southern hip hop artists in the past decade. With Trill O.G., Bun B maintains his success and popularity with quality music from start to finish. The album has achieved widespread critical acclaim, including The Source magazine’s first 5-mic rating in five years, which is quite the accomplishment in the hip hop world.
Although Trill O.G. continues the common formula of pairing the main rapper with many of today’s popular hip hop stars, Bun B’s lyrical skills and flow are strong enough to carry the album without those collaborations. There are tracks where Bun B takes a back seat to guest artists such as “Right Now,” which features posthumous verses by 2Pac, Pimp C, and a strong hook by R&B artist Trey Songz. However, most of the tracks are carried by Bun B and are only enhanced by the contributing artists. The CD’s singles—“Trillionaire” featuring T-Pain and “Just Like That” with Young Jeezy—are two great examples of Bun B’s rapping prowess and ability to adapt to different styles. Although these two tracks were clearly made for radio airplay, Bun B sticks to his southern gangster roots while somehow sounding mainstream at the same time, something very few artists in his rap subset accomplish.
Following is the official video for “Trillionaire” ((C) 2010 Rap-A-Lot):
Much of the content of the album discusses the typical topics of money, women, and ghetto life, but Bun B approaches the subject matter in a different style that forces the listener to actually think about his life journey without sacrificing technique. The one track that best reflects this ideal is “All a Dream,” which features a sample of the Notorious B.I.G. song “Juicy.” Both introspective and inspirational, Bun B discusses his dream to become a major hip hop star and his path toward finding that acclaim. While some artists would come off as insincere with a track like this, Bun B’s nearly 20 year journey from underground southern rapper to mainstream star makes him seem truly genuine and appreciative.
Trill O.G. is a high quality album with great production, sound quality, and style. Bun B has a continuous strong message from the starting introduction to the concluding track, “It’s Been a Pleasure,” which serves as both a strong outro and a genuine thank you to all of his fans. The album does a great job of touching on a variety of subjects while keeping an exceptional sound throughout. This is one of the many reasons it has been dubbed one of the top hip hop albums of the year.
Since the release of the album Life in 2004, the names Tye Tribbett and Greater Anointing (GA) have become synonymous with a certain sound. Powerful yet complex choral vocals, an impressive band, and an outspoken, energetic lead that have come together to create such contemporary gospel songs as “Victory” and “Stand Out.” However, after “indiscretions” tore through the group last fall, Tribbett disbanded GA and after a brief sabbatical is now embarking on a solo career. His first solo project Fresh is clearly indicative of this new chapter in his career as this album explores sonic dimensions new to Tribbett’s repertoire such as strong rock and pop music influences. While Tribbett performs the majority of the background vocals, several tracks feature other artists such as Mali Music, Lowell Pye, and Israel Houghton.
The title track “Fresh” opens the album as a type of quick tempo declaration that this project is definitively different from his other musical endeavors. Featuring a significant use of synthesizers and Auto-Tune (unlike much of his earlier work), “Fresh” petitions God for something new, bold, and supernatural. However, the following track “Good” is a glimpse of the highly rhythmic, energetic, and danceable songs for which Tribbett is known. The presence of rock inspired electric guitar gives this song an edge while complementing the driving rhythms articulated by the drums.
In a different vein, “Eulogy” is one of the most contemplative and biblically metaphorical selections on the album. With a guest appearance by Mali Music, the song reflects one of the two major recurring themes that appear on this album. Here, Tribbett espouses the necessity of transformation (i.e., death to the old self and the birth of the new) as expressed by Paul in Ephesians 4:22. Following is a brief clip where Tribbett discusses his inspiration for the song:
The song “Champion” presents the second major theme: victory and freedom can be accessed through God. Featuring Israel Houghton, “Champion” is a praise and worship song that effectively compliments the musical styles of the two artists using simple call and response between the leaders and the ensemble.
Expressing a range of emotions and musical styles, Fresh is in some ways a response to the difficulties Tribbett has faced over the last year. With messages of new beginnings as well as explorations into new aural pallets, this album appears to be the expressions of someone who is seeking forgiveness and looking to start anew. Initially, I approached this project with expectations based on Tribbett’s previous works with GA. However, I soon realized that it was not a just treatment to listen to this project with the expectations that Tribbett as a solo artist would in some ways “replicate” the work he did with GA. Fresh does not attempt to recreate that chemistry or the sound of GA, but rather presents the inspirational and thoughtful exploration of an artist who is embarking on a new chapter in his career.
Formats: CD (also available in Clean ed. and International ed.), MP3
Release date: November 9, 2010
His sound is rooted in soul, blooms bandstand era pop, and produces hip hop pollen. His voice may not be traditional, but just like any instrument, he fine tunes it to fit his canvass of work. He’s this generation’s Isaac Hayes deploying versatility from funk, to rock, to standards. I’ve been a fan of his since “Closet Freak” and admire his ability to sport his freak flag with the utmost confidence and ease.
Cee-Lo Green’s latest album finds him as the debonair killer of ladies with an intro only James Bond & Billy D. Williams could even attempt to replicate. There’s never a dull moment as everything swells with a signature ‘60s soul sound. The gigantic “Bright Lights, Bigger City” is the perfect soundtrack for any Saturday night escapade:
Next is the stellar tongue-in-cheek first single “F*** You,” which definitely loses its essence on the radio. Green brings out the sexy with the creepy good “Bodies,” a sensual tribute to the morning after. And if that is afterglow, the robust “Love Gun,” a duet with Lauren Bennett, is the night before, full of the chase, foreplay and target practice.
The other feature on the album is backing vocals from EW&F’s Philip Bailey on the funky-paced “Fool for You.” Green produces the last gem—his one mic, big stage ballad “Old Fashioned“—by channeling the likes of recent throwback sounds from Maxwell and (sadly) R. Kelly.
The Lady Killer is a definite buy that can be enjoyed over and over again.
This is the question posed to listeners seconds into Kanye West’s newest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Six years after spitting rhymes literally “Through the Wire,” West’s public life and art has tipped on a tightrope, vehemently swayed by ego-tripping tantrums, blunt word vomit and familial tragedy. His latest fall off the high wire: last year’s necessary interruption during the gradually boring MTV Video Music Awards. The media blackballed him so he became a recluse in Hawaii, where he recollected his psyche the best way he knew how: through his music.
After months of speculation, “the mothef***er we love to hate” reemerged weeks before the BET Awards with the mountainous single “Power.” The night of the event a Lucifer-red suited Kanye, sporting the bust of Horus around his neck, spit his heart to an eager audience. “I don’t need your pussy/I’m on my own dick.” Boastful. Obnoxious. Big. Kanye.
It seemed “Yeezy” was on the road back to his throne as hip-hop‘s pop’s most beloved anti-hero. He tapped into the social mecca of Twitter, pulling fans’ allegiance immediately after his first tweet. He captivated our attention with the release of the future-forward ‘moving portrait’ for “Power.” But his most provocative stunt to date would come with the release of his second single.
In a matter of months, West had gone from exiled bully to revered genius. Again, could he get much higher?
They say your attitude determines your latitude I’m high as a motherfucker – fly as a motherfucker
MBDTF is West’s tour de force. Nothing this year feels, moves, sounds, screams, creeps, bumps, screeches, rocks, hips, hops, pops, or explodes like this 13-track journey to being Kanye West. A year spent on this project has produced one of the most innovative albums of his career. And being that he’s one of the most forward-thinking minds in music today, that’s f***ing ridiculous.
For those still upset that Ye traded his backpack for a Gucci satchel, let it go. As an artist—embodying production, lyrics and musicality—West is at his peak. Everything encompasses you audibly, where no one listen of the album is like the previous. “Dark Fantasy” grinds with a swagger so hood, so gutter, yet refined. And “Gorgeous,” featuring Kid Cudi, glides on an eerie guitar riff as West claims he wants his folks to get cash like the government “want niggas to get AIDS.” A prime example of the tongue-in-cheek consciousness West always keeps packed tight.
The previously released tracks; singles “Power” and “Runaway;” and the few G.O.O.D. Friday tracks remain intact, surprisingly not losing their appeal despite the fact that fans have had the songs for months. “Devil In a New Dress” is extended with a Rick Ross feature, actually longer than his forgettable “Monster” appearance.
The album soars the highest on two tracks. First, the illustrious “All of the Lights” which boasts features from Rihanna, Fergie, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi and even Elton John. The interlude sings serenely as the calm before the storm. A perfect storm. “Lights” erupts with such force and drive you can feel it in your heart. Emotions are carried with every encore of Rihanna’s stirring chorus on top of rapidly reverberating drums. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to getting teary-eyed listening to both tracks in their entirety.
Second, the tragically personal “Blame Game” featuring John Legend. A bitter break up song that makes “Heartless” look jovial, West pours out heart-ached regret. A love both partners knew was doomed comes to an abrupt and unfortunate end. The hitter though is heard at the end with a hilariously crude skit by Chris Rock as the other man, and an unidentified woman who only knows that “Yeezy taught me.”
Reviews across the board, USAToday, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, XXL, The Source—to name a few— have awarded West with nothing less than a perfect score. It’s without a doubt THE album of 2010. Breaking all conventions of what hip-hop can be, West has proven his staying power as one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
How high is that?
For the day I die. I’m gon Touch the Sky
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is available in stores and online. A deluxe edition with DVD and interchangeable covers is also available.
Recordings from the African Diaspora includes two works composed by the noted African American composers Mary D. Watkins and Olly W. Wilson, performed by the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble. Both were commissioned—Five Movements in Color in 1993 by the Camellia Symphony Orchestra and Of Visions and Truth: A Song Cycle in 1989 by the Center for Black Music Research for the Black Music Repertory Ensemble—and are modern representations of African Diasporic musical elements presented within a sonically orchestral musical setting.
Five Movements in Color, by Mary D. Watkins, is an instrumental piece consisting of individual movements that create slightly different sonic atmospheres utilizing strings, mixed percussion, xylophone, woodwinds, piano and brass. One of the most common musical elements within this particular work is the introduction of small gestures in a fashion that creates conversations between instruments within the piece. The first movement, “Once Upon a Time” specifically quotes African musical elements through the use of African drums and polyrhythmic layering within the mixed percussion. “Soul of Remembrance” sheds light on a different aspect, creating a sonic image of a march that could be attributed to civil disobedience marches or simply to the struggle of African Americans within America. This element is created through a slower paced presentation, where strings serve as the dominant instrument supported mainly in climax by brass instruments. This climax immediately fades into a more solemn atmosphere initially introduced in the beginning of the movement. The third movement, as indicated by its title “Playful Jazzy”, showcases jazz influences most obviously through jazz founded rhythmic combinations as well as what can be perceived as improvised trumpet solos. “Slow Burn” returns to a slower paced representation with the reintroduction of the African drum. It is in this particular movement that the instrument palette is enhanced with the introduction of flugelhorn, piano, and harp creating a sonic environment that can not only be perceived as African influenced, but can also make connections to other cultures as well. The last movement, “Drive By Runner,” reintroduces the strings as a prominent instrument with other woodwinds entering in a supportive manner. The element of gestural, musical conversation between instruments, returns here as a more obvious and prominent compositional decision, specifically as a tool to generate climax within the piece.
In contrast to Watkin’s composition, Olly Wilson’s Of Visions and Truth: A Song Cycle is primarily vocally driven. This work consists of four songs—“I’ve Been ‘Buked,” “Mama’s Little Brown Baby,” “Ikef” (a setting of Henry Dumas’ poem of the same name), and “If We Must Die”—separated by two instrumental interludes. Interlude I is more striking, utilizing horns, strings, and percussion in order to emphasize attacks and rhythmic pulses while Interlude II is slower with an elongated melody. The first movement of the piece is a contemporary setting of the spiritual “I’ve Been ‘Buked,” featuring an elongation of the melodic contour of the original spiritual as well as the placement and displacement of pieces of the melody and verses of the song amongst instrumental accompaniment. “Lullaby” makes use of non-lexical vocables followed by the singing of the lullaby “Mama’s Little Brown Baby,” evolving over sparse instrumental accompaniment. “Ikef,” like Watkins’ “Playful Jazzy,” incorporates some jazz influenced rhythmic elements presented alongside the quotation of the plantation song “Shortenin’ Bread.” The voice is the driving force of this movement, placed in a manner that allows for the perception of the voice leading the instrumental accompaniment. Following “Interlude II” is the final movement, “If We Must Die,” which incorporates the conversational element between instrumentals with accents by piano and strings. This movement is metrically flexible with sharp and instrumental entrances leading to the climactic moment in which the vocals layer the last two lines of the piece in two different vocal registers, presented with two different rhythmic patterns. This climactic point is reached with the settling of these two vocal registers in harmony, followed by the proclamation “If We Must Die,” and concluding with a horn and percussion attack.
Recorded Music of the African Diaspora brings together two representations of musical elements influenced and presented in an orchestral medium, composed by two African American composers. Bringing together African, African American as well as European musical elements is successfully executed in this representation of recorded music of the African Diaspora.
Need the perfect gift for your parents? This box set is so new we don’t even copy a copy yet, so the following description was excerpted from Amazon:
Dinah Washington was the undisputed Queen of the Jukeboxes in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the pre-LP, pre-45s era when that title meant everything. The Fabulous Miss D! chronicles the first 10 years of her extraordinary short-lived career. The 4-CD box set includes 107 tracks: 102 of them formerly issued as 78-rpm singles from the Mercury label, the rest are her previous singles for Keynote (later reissued on Mercury) and her one-off release for Decca as lead vocalist of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, where she got her start. This is the first time all of these original, pre-LP-era singles have been available in one package. Highlights include Washington’s biggest chart hits, including “Evil Gal Blues,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “West Side Baby,” “Am I Asking Too Much” (her first R&B chart No. 1), the two-sided smash “Baby Get Lost”/”Long John Blues,” “Trouble In Mind,” and many more. She was backed by the leading lights of the studio jazz musicians in New York and Chicago, including Ray Brown, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb, Keter Betts and others. All of the songs have been significantly restored and remastered, making Dinah’s voice–one moment surging with sincerity and the next snapping like a whip–sound better than ever.
Think it’s time for a disco revival? Nile Rodgers is one of the great music producers and session musicians. Chic was disco’s greatest band. How can you go wrong? This new box set is the first installment of the work of guitarist Nile Rodgers and the late bassist Bernard Edwards, who together shot a whole lotta funk and jazz into disco to create the Chic Organization LTD in 1977. Their first experimental recording, featuring a young Luther Vandross on vocals, became the break-out smash hit “Everybody Dance.”
Over a ten year period, Rodgers tracked down every last master tape, including many thought to have been lost. He then collaborated with the famous French DJ, known as Dmitri from Paris, on remixes of selected songs. Rodgers refers to this box set as “snapshots” of his and Edward’s career, starting from the first known Chic recordings to the present. All songs on the set were written, arranged and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards for the Chic Organization LTD. It’s not clear how many more volumes might be reissued – Nile states in the liner notes that “this project will likely take the rest of my life.”
About half of the tracks on the set are performed by the band Chic and include the hits “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “Le Freak” (sampled on Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight”), “Everybody Dance,” and “Good Times.” The remainder of the tracks represent other artists produced by Rodgers and Edwards, including Sister Sledge, Norma Jean, Diana Ross, Debbie Harry (“Backfired”), Carly Simon (“Why”), and Teddy Pendergrass (“Dreamgirl”), plus four previously unreleased songs recorded by Johnny Mathis.
Following is a performance of “Le Freak” taken from the full length concert DVD Live at Montruex 2004 available from Eagle Vision:
Also included in the set are liner notes written by Rodgers, along with many online extras available via Opendisc, which is accessed by inserting CD1 into your computer (this involves a free subscription, but no software installation). According to Rodger’s website, we can also hope that 2011 finally brings the publication of his biography, plus more touring and live events with the reconstituted Chic Organization.
Folklorist, musician and producer Rob Stone has single-handedly brought the history of the sacred steel tradition to a mainstream audience. Rooted in the African American Pentecostal “Holiness” tradition, this style of pedal-steel guitar playing has long been a unique feature in both the House of God and Church of the Living God worship services. The most famous practitioner of the style is Robert Randolph, a New Jersey prodigy who grew up performing in the House of God church before his discovery by the secular community, and his subsequent formation of Robert Randolph & the Family Band.
Over the course of two decades Stone conducted field research and interviews, culminating not only in this book but the 2003 Sacred Steel documentary and several CDs, all released on the Arhoolie label. Anyone interested in gospel music, African American religious traditions, steel guitar music, or the roots and evolution of the sacred steel tradition will be well-served by Stone’s book. Also useful is Chapter 4, “The Steel Guitar,” which explains the differences between the various instruments (steel, slide, lap-steel, Hawaiian, pedal, etc.), and the discography, bibliography, and videography. Another fine installment in the University of Illinois Press’ Music in American Life series.
If you’re in need of a gift for a jazz aficionado, you can’t go wrong with Cabaret Echoes, a joint project from master restoration engineer Doug Benson and jazz historian David Sager. The 2 CD set features 40 of the earliest and rarest recordings by New Orleans groups, including the six surviving sides by Kid Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra, the first African American New Orleans jazz band to record. Not only have the selections been meticulously transferred using the best possible source material, but many of the tracks include spoken introductions by the musicians, culled from oral histories held by Tulane University’s Hogan Jazz Archive.
The packaging includes a 60 page booklet lavishly illustrated with photographs of the musicians, early advertisements, rare record labels, and sheet music covers. David Sager, a jazz musician and former resident of New Orleans, authored the wonderful liner notes which will likely garner him another Grammy nomination (he was previously recognized for King Oliver: Off the Record). This is another jewel in the crown for Archeophone, one of the few American-based reissue labels that consistently produces CDs that are not only of great historic interest, but expertly mastered and packaged.
If you want to immerse yourself in some of that old time religion for the holidays, look no further than The Hurricane That Hit Atlanta. To compile this new package, Dust-to-Digital worked directly with the Rev. Johnny L. “Hurricane” Jones, whose personal archive includes more than 1,000 audio tapes going all the way back to 1957. As DTD states in their press release, “the quality is raw and often distorted, yet the sounds are nothing short of heavenly.” Amen to that. And you’ll soon discover that Rev. Jones was named “The Mighty Hurricane” for good reason, because this stuff can really blow down the house.
Born in 1936 in Marion, Alabama, Johnny Lee Jones eventually made his way to Atlanta, where he has been a preacher at the Second Mount Olive Baptist Church for nearly six decades. Early on in his career he started a gospel radio show, and is still featured every first and third Saturday of the month WYZE. According to DTD, many of the recordings in Jones’ collection were made to assist with his radio ministry. We particularly like the way DTD has maintained the feel of the radio program, interspersing songs (“I Know I’ve Been Changed,” “I Got Drunk For the Lord,” “I Feel Alright”) with sermons (“You Can’t Outpreach Daddy”), radio airchecks, and even some original commercials in order to retain the authenticity.
Due to the varying sound quality, this collection will be of most interest to gospel music historians, but fans of classic gospel will also surely appreciate the “Mighty Hurricane.”
With the 40th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death come a number of releases that aim at keeping his music alive and relevant. West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology is a 5 disc retrospective containing over four hours of rare Hendrix music. The box sets spans Hendrix’s entire career from his beginnings as a sideman on the chitin’ circuit to his position as a well-respected musician and cultural icon. Released through collaboration between Legacy Recordings and Experience Hendrix LLC, this anthology celebrates Hendrix’s life by bringing fans a significant amount of fresh material.
Disc One of West Coast Boy covers Hendrix’s early career and features his performances on tracks from the likes of the Isley Brothers and Little Richard. Disc Two spans two years (1967-1968) and includes alternating recordings of Hendrix early classics such as “Fire,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “1983 (A Merman I Shall Turn to Be).” Disc Three covers two of the most important years in Hendrix’s career 1968-1969 and features an unreleased original mix of the Star Spangled Banner. Disc Four covers the final years of Hendrix’s life (1969-1970) and includes much unreleased material planned for future projects.
The final disc is a DVD, Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child, a 90 minute documentary directed by Bob Smeaton. The film features an autobiographical story read by the legendary Bootsy Collins while also incorporating interviews, letters, photos, and recordings. Also noteworthy is the inclusion of many important performances, song drafts, lyrics, and sketches. Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child is an in-depth look into the life and work of an American icon.
West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology is a welcome contribution to the artist’s catalog and features a wealth of unreleased material that should appeal to die-hard Hendrix fans (those not interested in owning every alternate take may wish to pass, however). This box set is part of a larger Legacy Records Hendrix project and ensures that the artist’s legacy will continue to live on.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year is the rerelease of a single featuring a Christmas medley (Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne) and “Three Little Bears.” The Christmas Medley was playfully recorded by the Band of Gypsys practicing for their upcoming appearance at the Fillmore East. “Three Little Bears” was recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience during the sessions for Electric Ladyland. This single is a special treat for Hendrix fans as it is both a musical artifact and a peek at the artist having fun at work. A great stocking stuffer for the holidays!
Freddie King is truly one of the greatest electric blues guitar men; an innovative and influential picker unlike any other (though influenced by B.B. King) and with a commanding voice to match. Last year Bear Family released a 7-CD box set covering King’s career from 1956-1973, to much acclaim, and they have now issued the follow-up box set, Texas Flyer: 1974-1976, chronicling the final three years of recorded output from the guitar icon.
By the late 1960s King was touring with several prominent rock bands and playing for mainly young white audiences. In 1974 King signed on with Robert Stigwood’s new RSO label (becoming label mates with his devoted fan and disciple Eric Clapton) and his producer Mike Vernon aimed to reintroduce King to a black audience. To do so, the RSO recordings were given more of a soul slant than his early blues rock sides, bordering on R&B at times, and several funk tracks were featured as well. The end result is more than six hours of soulful, blistering blues guitar and gravelly, at times growling, vocals reminiscent of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland.
For fans of blues guitar, this set is absolutely essential. In addition to one and half CDs worth of RSO studio recordings (including the acclaimed Burglar LP), Bear Family has tracked down three and half CDs worth of brilliantly recorded, previously unreleased live performances of King from the same time period. Clapton, who named King as the most influential guitar player in his career, and his band are featured on one recording session and appear on one live performance as well. Tragically, King passed away in 1976 at age 42, just a month and half after the last concert footage heard here.
In addition to the five CDs is an 80-page hardcover book beautifully illustrated with rare photos, liner notes by Bill Dahl, and a full discography, as well as a touching essay from longtime band mate David Maxwell. This box set, in conjunction with Bear Family’s earlier release Taking Care of Business: 1956-1973, goes a long way toward preserving King’s legacy with stunning audio quality and meticulously detailed liner notes.
Following is a 1966 clip of King performing on the TV show The Beat, available on DVD (Bear Family also offers a six volume DVD series devoted to The Beat) :
The known number of African Americans playing country music prior to Charley Pride’s emergence in the mid 1960s is small. Most famous would be harpist Deford Bailey, founding member of the Grand Ole Opry, then maybe the Louis Armstrong-backed Jimmie Rodgers sessions, and there were of course several integrated string bands recording in the 1920s. But how many were vocalists? And how many were sharing a microphone while singing close harmony brother-style duets with a white man?
German reissue specialists Bear Family Records presents us with at least one: Allerton and Alton, known as the Cumberland Ridge Runners, performed in the Portland, ME area in the late 1940s and early 1950s until the Korean War called them both men into duty. Though no formal recordings were ever made for any label, several radio shows, demos, and home recordings were preserved and Bear Family has now released them to the public for the first time ever. In typical Bear Family style, the CD is nearly 80 minutes long and the booklet and liner notes are well written and lavishly illustrated. The story of how these men met, the nonchalant way in which they addressed the race issue, and how the segregated army forever changed their lives is a fascinating snapshot of mid-century American culture, the roots of bluegrass music, the devastating effects of war, and the power of music to transcend racial stereotypes and prejudices.
Consisting of three 15-minute radio programs, complete with introductions and banter between songs, the CD features the two Al’s carrying on the country music brother duet tradition (i.e. the Monroe Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys, Bailes Brothers, etc.) while hamming up their put-on southern accents. The radio announcer introduces their style of music as “hillbilly and folk music with mandolin and guitar.” Allerton himself calls their music “old-time picking and singing.” Liner notes author Hank Davis describes their style as “mountain music,” or “the roots of bluegrass.” However it is worded, the listener is treated to close harmony duet singing, blistering mandolin solos at break-neck speed, and Charlie Monroe-styled guitar runs on the acoustic guitar. Though the CD may garner much attention as the first issued recordings of country music’s first interracial duo, or even possibly as a prime example of 1940s and ‘50s hillbilly music from the Northeast, the music is flat-out entertaining for all country music fans and a special treat for anybody who enjoyed listening to the old-fashioned barn dance radio shows popular on WSM, WWVA, WLS, and the like.
Following is the promotional video:
The liner notes benefit from extensive interviews with Al Hawkes (Allerton), who preserved the photos and recordings, as well as the family of Alton Meyers. Hawkes went on to found Event Records (recording a legacy of Northeast bluegrass, rockabilly, and country music) and has been acknowledged by several organizations as a pioneer in the bluegrass genre. This CD brings long-awaited attention to the early bluegrass contributions of Alton Meyers and adds yet another chapter to Hawkes’ legacy. Highly recommended!
The King of Pop’s legacy lives on in Michael Jackson’s Vision, a comprehensive collection of Michael Jackson produced short films that span his entire solo career. Breaker of the MTV color barrier as recently as 1983, the collection reminds audiences that Jackson’s musical genius was paired with an equal genius for the screen; Michael Jackson turned “music video” into art. The deluxe box set consists of 3 DVDs packed with over 40 videos boasting newly restored color and remastered audio. Films from such renowned directors as Spike Lee, John Landis, John Singleton and Martin Scorsese are included, plus 10 never-before-seen short films, the highlight of which is the video for the R. Kelly song “One More Chance.” Reflecting Jackson’s passion for music and its visual complement, this beautifully packaged box set features hundreds of vivid photographs and a mesmerizing holograph cover, where tiny MJs demonstrate quintessential moments in the star’s career. This is a terrific collectible for film lovers and Michael Jackson fans alike.
I always anxiously await John Tefteller’s annual Classic Blues calendar, and for 2011 I’m happy to say that he’s in no danger of exhausting his amazing supply of vintage advertisements and artwork. Since 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit, what could be more appropriate for the cover than Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Rabbit Foot Blues.” The accompanying CD includes the songs that are featured in the January to December artwork: Sissy Man Blues (Kokomo Arnold); Pea Vine Blues (Charley Patton); Billy Lyons And Stack O’Lee (Furry Lewis); Rabbit Foot Blues (Blind Lemon Jefferson); Labor Blues (Tom Dickson); Dentist Chair Blues (Hattie McDaniel & Charlie Jackson); Cherry Ball Blues (Skip James); Hey! Lawdy Mama – The France Blues (Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed: The Down Home Boys); I’ll Be Gone, Long Gone (Mississippi Sheiks); Black Cat Hoot Owl Blues (Ma Rainey); Ko Ko Mo Blues (Jabo Williams); Will The Coffin Be Your Santa Claus? (Rev. J. M. Gates); plus 6 more bonus tracks.
Let’s hope this rabbit foot brings luck for the New Year- we’ve had enough blues already! The calendar is available at select music and book stores, from Blues Images, or Amazon.
This holiday season Tina Turner has presented us with a spiritual offering. Raised in the Baptist faith, Turner was first introduced to Buddhism in the early 1970s. Three years later she converted and has since become one of the most high-profile practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, a Japanese branch of the religion which focuses on building a better and more peaceful world. Her new album, Beyond, “explores the oneness of religions through music with Buddhist and Christian prayers.”
Collaborating with Turner on the album are Dechen Shak-Dagsay (a native of Tibet and daughter of the spiritual leader Dagsay Rinpoche), who composed the music for the Buddhist prayers, and Regula Curti, who contributed original compositions for Christian prayers. Readings and chants are provided by Turner, who leaves the singing to her two collaborators.
In the official press release, Turner provides a fuller description of the project. “I’m very happy to be a part of the BEYONDProject that was initiated by Regula Curti and Dechen Shak-Dagsay, both amazing singers, individuals and philanthropists from two different cultures—Christian and Tibetan. This project has taken on a life of its own and has expanded and attracted other artists of various faiths who will be involved with us in subsequent albums as this continues to grow. As a collaborator I’d like to make very clear that the Project is not about me or Tina Turner the rock star. It’s about being part of and supporting a movement for the awareness and acceptance of different religions and spiritual paths to awaken the truth of ultimate oneness within us all. This is a movement that goes beyond the three of us and has already been embraced by many people, including the Dalai Lama, the Abbott Martin Werlen Osb, and Deepak Chopra. The BEYOND Project is an invitation to open up a space where it is possible to include each individual to contribute to this vision. We are all the same, looking to find our way back to the source.”
In addition to the timely spiritual messages, the beautiful, meditative songs and music provide a welcome respite from the stress of everyday life and will surely help listeners achieve inner peace. Furthermore, all artist proceeds from the recording will go towards supporting their own non-profit organizations that focus on the welfare of children: The Dewa Che Foundation, The Seeschau Foundation and The Tina Foundation.
Following is the official promo video (courtesy of New Earth Records):
The folks at Hip-O Select have released a 2-CD set marking the first time that all three of JB’s original Christmas albums— Christmas Songs (1966), A Soulful Christmas (1968) and Hey America (1970) —have been available together in their entirety on CD. Selections include cult faves such as “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” “Santa Claus Is Definitely Here To Stay,” and “Believers Shall Enjoy (Non Believers Shall Suffer).” Also included are rare bonus singles such as “It’s Christmas Time,” “You Know It,” and a sing-along version of “Hey America,” all featured in stereo for the first time.
Only the late, great James Brown could combine the joy and pathos of the season in this soulful manner, while still offering plenty of hope, wisdom and inspiration. Though this set doesn’t appear to be a limited addition, Hip-O Select compilations often sell out quickly so consider yourself forewarned.
Barbara Hendricks, the American-born soprano who is now a citizen of Sweden, just released her second holiday album, Shout for Joy: Spiritual Christmas, on her own Arte Verum label (EMI released Barbara Hendricks Sings ChristmasFavourites in 1995). On standards such as “Joy to the World,” “Stille Nacht,” and “Ave Maria” she is accompanied variously by the Drottningholm Quartet and the Drottningholm Barockensemble. Other featured musicians include guitarist Mats Bergstöm, organist Björn Gäfvert, and Harald Pettersson, who specializes in Swedish folk instruments and provides interesting accompaniments to “What Child Is This?,” “Coventry Carol,” and “Sussex Carol.” Hendricks also performs a selection of spirituals including “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow,” “Shout for Joy,” and “Oh Jerusalem.” Overall, Shout for Joy contains an eclectic blend of classical and traditional holiday music.
It’s hard to believe that the a capella group Take 6 has been making music for 25 years and is still going strong. Founded in the 1980s by classmates from Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, Take 6 has made an indelible mark in music. Performing in several genres including gospel, jazz, rhythm & blues and doo-wop, it appears there is no style Take 6 can’t handle, including the holiday music featured in their latest project. “The primary objective in the making of the album was to create a sense of familiarity,” says group member Claude McKnight III; I must concur. This project is very accessible, while harmonic arrangements from the identifiable Take 6 make this a new standard for Christmas/Holiday music. Some of the songs covered are “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Jingle Bells.” My personal favorite, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” is a playful Dr. Seuss inspired tune that will humor both young and old. Though cliché, audiences of all ages will enjoy this heartwarming collection of Christmas favorites. I can already smell the chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
I was prepared not to like this album, thinking it would be the usual holiday knock-off, but was pleasantly surprised by the tasteful jazzy arrangements and restrained vocals. The R&B crooner known simply as Joe (aka Joe Lewis Thomas) has produced a number of top ten charting albums over the past decade, but this appears to be his first holiday CD. Actually, the majority of the selections were released last year on the 6 track EP Make Sure You’re Home for Christmas which received limited distribution. Now repackaged as Home is the Essence of Christmas, four new songs have been tacked on to complete the disc, including the newly composed “Christmas in New York” (by Joshua Thompson), “Christmas Time Is Here,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and the closing instrumental “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with a sax taking over the solo. Also included are two original songs by Joe, “It Ain’t Christmas” and “Make Sure You’re Home,” which are straight ahead R&B arrangements. If you’re looking to set a romantic atmosphere for the holiday, this CD delivers.
It’s not a holiday without a whole lotta soul, and this eclectic new compilation from Charly certainly delivers. Selections include such classics as Chuck Berry’s “Merry Christmas, Baby,” The Drifters “White Christmas,” The Cadillacs’ version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Jerry Butler’s “ Oh, Holy Night” and “Silent Night,” plus a dash of gospel-soul with the Caravans’ “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and the Staple Singers’ “Born In Bethlehem.” If you don’t already have some of these Christmas classics in your collection, this CD should be considered an essential ingredient that will surely spice up holiday parties.
This month we’re starting off with new holiday albums from Joe, Take 6, and Barbara Hendricks; a couple of “soulful” compilations including The Complete James Brown Christmas; Buddhist chants from Tina Turner; and the annual Classic Blues calendar/CD. Next up we’re featuring 8 box sets/deluxe editions that should make perfect gifts for your music loving friends: Michael Jackson’s complete videos/short films; early New Orleans jazz; Allerton & Alton – the first multi-racial bluegrass duo; electric blues guitarist Freddie King; two new Jimi Hendrix releases; The Chic Organization Vol. 1; Dinah Washington – The Fabulous Miss D; and a great vintage gospel compilation featuring the “Mighty Hurricane” Rev. Johnny L. Jones. For hip hop fans we have reviews of hot new releases from Kanye West, Cee-Lo Green, Bun B, and Reflection Eternal (aka Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek), plus the 867 page Anthology of Rap from Yale University Press. Also featured is the new album from contemporary gospel artist Tye Tribbet, the New Black Repertory Ensemble’s Recorded Music of the African Diaspora (works by Olly Wilson and Mary D. Watkins), and the book Sacred Steel by Robert L. Stone. Wrapping up this issue are three selections for the children on your shopping list: Buckwheat Zydeco’s Bayou Boogie, Daptone’s reissue of an inspiring single from the youthful hip hop group 3 Titans, and the new children’s book JIMI: Sounds Like A Rainbow – A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, by Gary Golio.