Archive for August, 2011

Marvin Gaye- What’s Going On: 40th Anniversary

Title: What’s Going On: 40th Anniversary

Artist: Marvin Gaye

Label: Motown/Universal

Catalog No.: B0015552-02

Format:  LP/2CD Super Deluxe Edition

Release Date: June 7, 2011



Marvin Gaye wrote and produced the suite of songs that make up What’s Going On out of what he called a religious motivation to speak truth to troubled people in a troubled time.  That was back in 1971.  Men were coming home from an unpopular war, their bodies and souls in tatters, and they couldn’t find jobs. The natural environment was threatened.  Hopelessness, drug addiction and violence dominated life in the inner cities.  It’s a sad commentary on American society that so many of these beautiful and deeply disturbing songs still ring as true in 2011 as they did in 1971.

Despite that depressing perspective, this deluxe reissue (a gatefold LP with 2 CDs inserted in the back cover) is a joyous occasion for fans of great soul music. Universal Music Group has remastered the original album (CD 1), with resulting punchier sound.  Also included on the first CD are the original mono single versions of several songs plus some unreleased demos and mixes.

CD 2, called “The Detroit Instrumental Sessions and More” is, first of all, a sampler’s delight as well as college-level schooling on how great funk beats and hooks are laid into coherent grooves.  The tracks also provide a window into Gaye’s creative process right after What’s Going On exploded on the scene and raced up the charts, showing what sorts of musical ideas he contemplated exploring and exploiting.  Judging from many of the hard-funk grooves, he was headed where Jimi Hendrix had gone in the last year of his life, toward a meeting of rock and soul with a funk beat that included layers of rock-style distorted guitars and heavy electric bass.

The main feature of the set is an LP of the original “Detroit” mix from April 1971.  What was actually issued as Tamla TS 310 in May 1971 was a remix and revision done in Los Angeles, just weeks before the final release date (the new LP was not previewed for this review).

What’s Going On represented a new direction at Motown.  With this album, Marvin Gaye moved Motown into the ‘70s and moved his music into a new, serious and thoughtful, realm. But it was a struggle to get it released. According to the liner notes, Gaye put his career on the line with Motown founder Berry Gordy, who was also his brother-in-law.  After Gordy delayed putting out the single of “What’s Going On,” Gaye threatened to “never record for (Gordy) again.”  In a recent interview with Marc Myers, published in the Wall Street Journal and also on Myers’ Jazzwax blog, Gordy denied there was that much drama but admitted that he had strong reservations about an album he considered commercially questionable and potentially very controversial and divisive.  The album did succeed in the marketplace and its prominence grew with time, causing Gordy to later admit that “Marvin was right.”

According to Ben Edmonds’ liner notes, the album was produced and overseen by Gaye, but many others played key parts.  The title track was conceived by Obie Benson (of the Four Tops) and Al Cleveland, and then embraced, altered and re-worked by Gaye and the “Funk Brothers” (Motown’s studio musicians).  Gaye’s wife, Anna Gordy Gaye, helped with lyrics to “Flying High.”  Motown elevator operator James Nyx came up with the lyrics used in “What’s Happening Brother,” “God Is Love,” and “Inner City Blues.”  Gaye was solely responsible for “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology).” Gaye also added outside musicians, including jazz drummer Chet Forest and saxman Wild Bill Moore, plus lush instrumentations by David Van DePitte (who was given a credit on the front cover of the LP).

Following is a clip from the DVD Marvin Gaye: Real Thing: In Performance 1964-1981:

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What’s Going On was also the last major Motown album recorded and produced in Detroit; the company completed its move to Los Angeles while the album was still on the Billboard charts.  The new, complex and mature music style that Gaye pioneered was immediately embraced by Stevie Wonder and other Motown artists, and the days of “hit factory machine” pop ditties were over. In that same era, Motown had success with Rare Earth, an all-white rock band.

Marvin Gaye went on to other great successes, but What’s Going On will always stand as his deepest and broadest statement, a suite of music that was very bold and new in its time and still sounds fresh and relevant today.  The facts of Gaye’s later life and death, and the fact that his songs still ring true 40 years later, add a poignancy to this new reissue.  In the tradition of well-done deluxe reissues, this set augments the great album at its core with good liner notes and artwork, related musical perspective and something new and collectable with the alternate-mix LP.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review August 1st, 2011

All 6′s & 7′s

Title: All 6’s & 7’s

Artist: Tech N9ne

Label: Strange Music

Formats: CD, MP3

Catalog No.: B004R8XG9S

Release Date: June 7, 2011


For most of his career, Tech N9ne has maintained a devoted underground hip hop following. Ironically, his 13th release boasts his luckiest debut, landing at #4 on the Billboard charts. With an array of material and featured guests, All 6’s & 7’s is easily one of the biggest surprises of the year.

Opening with an intro reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation creed, Tech and his band of “Technicians” embark to recruit listeners to their cause.  Unfamiliarity to Tech’s catalog could startle the casual hip hop listener, but open minds and ears will discover an innovative piece of work. The album’s strength is its presentation. Dark production and an intricate concept keeps the listener alert, anxiously awaiting what comes next.

Tech plays on his mainstream label of being far left throughout the album. His distinct image has spurred rumors of an occult-like following. As Jay-Z did with Illuminati talks, Tech baits haters with sarcasm on tracks like “Am I a Pyscho” and the bass heavy “He’s a Mental Giant.” Things get scary as “The Boogieman” creeks with a hauntingly good bump, and “Cult Leader” directly addresses the public’s comparisons to Jim Jones with some devilishly awesome theatrics.

Following is the official music video for “He’s a Mental Giant” (courtesy of Strange Music):

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One of the strengths of the album is Tech’s own versatility. As far left as he’s perceived to be, he can also deliver equally-sufficient mainstream cuts. The funky feel-good “I Love Music” and the feature-heavy posse anthem “Worldwide Choppers” are just a few of the more traditional hip hop offerings. He could also have a top-ten hit with the lady friendly “Overtime.” He gets raunchy with Snoop, E-40 and Krizz Kaliko on the booty-bouncing “Pornographic,” and he borrows from Limp Bizkit for the “New Jack City”-inspired “You Owe Like Pookie.”

Tech closes the album introspectively. “Delusional” questions his artistic stance amongst the criticism. “So Lonely” views the somewhat solitary rise to fame featuring the upcoming lyricist of 106 & Park fame, Blind Fury. He pens an ode to his mother and hometown of Kansas City on “Mama Nem,” and he departs with “Promiseland,” a testament to his journey and his quite apparent arrival.

6’s & 7’s is a multicolored onion; strip away layers and layers of peeling and an excellently executed project is revealed. Substance, individuality and style combine to create a well-rounded album for his past, current and hopefully future fans.

Reviewed by Lorin Williams

View review August 1st, 2011

Kelly Price- Kelly

Title: Kelly

Artist: Kelly Price

Formats: CD, MP3

Label:  My Block

Release date:  May 3, 2011




It has been awhile since we’ve had the pleasure of hearing one of R&B’s strongest voices; almost a decade to be exact. Fortunately, powerhouse vocalist Kelly Price has now returned with her self-titled LP. While R&B experiences its nadir period, Kelly is a reminder of the soul music that is still very much intact.

The twelve-track album delves into love, self-love and the relationships that affect both.  The album is a mix of up-tempo and mid-tempo tracks and well-written ballads. The first track and single is the grand “Tired,” an all-out war cry for a woman who is fed up with the facades in life. Price’s presence in this song alone shades 95% of what the radio is parading today. Next she effortlessly takes us back to the early ‘80s with the party-starting, self-motivating “And You Don’t Stop,” which shines with a disco flow.

The second single features 1990’s vet Stokley (Mint Condition) and Kelly trading views on their relationship in “Not My Daddy.” On “Himaholic” Price laments about her dependency to a man, while “I’m Sorry” is a remorseful letter of apology for loving someone over one’s self.

The album closes with one of the best tracks, the old soul swan song “Get Right or Get Left.” Kelly expunges her church upbringing in this masterful goodbye to an unworthy companion.

Kelly is a beacon of light in the dark daze of rhythm & blues. Not confused about what it is, or what it isn’t, the album delivers strong, pure R&B.

Reviewed by Lorin Williams

View review August 1st, 2011

Killer Mike- Pl3dge

Title: Pl3dge

Artist: Killer Mike

Label: Grind Time/ SMC Recordings

Formats: CD, MP3

Catalog No.:  SMC-341

Release Date: May 17, 2011



Killer Mike delivers the third installment of his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind series, and continues his truth talk.  As promised on the first single, the “weak shit” is nowhere to be found on this hard-hitting mixture of street anthems and social commentary.

The Atlanta native keeps his gangsta holstered at all times, setting a pace for the album that is upbeat and aggressive. “Ric Flair” rolls on a soulful sample as he reminisces on his hustling days.  A tour of his city on the cruise-worthy “Go Out on the Town” features a recently scarce Young Jeezy. Any party is started on the club banger “Animal” with Gucci Mane, and he recruits former Purple Ribbon All-star label mate Big Boi for the great remix to the single “Ready, Set, Go”:

The intensity only grows as he flexes his lyrical prowess on the socially-charged tracks. Everything from politics to religion is up for scrutiny on “That’s Life II,” as he questions why Cosby, Obama & Oprah seemed mute when Oscar Grant died. Grant’s name is revisited, along with politicking preachers, on the ragingly honest “Burn.” “God in the Building II” hums with Smallwood’s “Total Praise” as Mike Bigga takes us to church, proclaiming how God is “still with me.” And “American Dream” exposes how we are all fueled by “American schemes.”

The album boasts a well-balanced amount of style and substance and is a testament to Killer Mike’s underrated skills as one of the South’s best rappers.

Reviewed by Lorin Williams

View review August 1st, 2011

Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone

Title:   Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone

Artist:  Amédé Ardoin

Label:  Tompkins Square

Catalog No.:  TSQ 2554

Format:  2 CD set

Release date:  March 1, 2011


Tompkins Square recently launched its “Long Gone Sound” series with Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone: The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934. This reissue project was obviously a labor of love for producer Christopher King, who also penned the liner notes and remastered directly from the original 78s, many from his own collection. The goal was to “represent, for the first time, every surviving recorded instance of Ardoin’s singing and playing.”

Amédé Ardoin, a rural black French-speaking Creole, became one of the most revered Cajun musicians in Louisiana. Rising to fame in the 1920s, he performed at dances and house parties for both black and white audiences throughout the bayou region and west into Texas.  His syncopated Afro-Creole accordion style and spirited vocals influenced everyone from first cousin Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin to later musicians such as Conray Fontenot and Iry LeJeune (who re-interpreted and popularized many of Ardoin’s songs in the1950s).  Ardoin frequently partnered with Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee, and the pair made some of the earliest recordings of Cajun and Creole songs, ranging from one-steps, two-steps, waltzes, blues narratives, and love songs.

Though the majority of Ardoin’s output was previously released by Arhoolie on the CD I’m Never Comin’ Back (1995), the two-disc  Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone offers eight additional tracks featuring Ardoin and McGee.  These include rare recordings from their very first sessions in 1929: “Taunt Aline,”  “La Valse Ah Abe,” “Madam Atchen,” “Two Step De Mama,” “Two Step de Eunice,” and “Two Step de Prairie Solieau”—plus two tracks from their final 1934 session:  “Sunset” and “Tout Que Rest C’est Mon Linge.”

Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone is highly recommended. Anyone interested in Cajun music, the roots of Zydeco, or early fiddle and accordion styles will greatly appreciate this compilation.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2011


Title:   Medicine

Artist:  Tab Benoit

Label:  Telarc

Catalog No.:  Tel-32823-02

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date:  April 26, 2011



Contemporary Cajun guitarist, singer-songwriter Tab Benoit may be best known as a master of the blues (he won the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2007), but he “continues to explore the bayou backbeat,” drawing on the best Cajun, swamp pop, R&B, country, and rock talent in Louisiana to extend the boundaries of his palette.  On his latest album, Medicine, he enlists keyboardist Ivan Neville and drummer Brady Blade to anchor the rhythm section, with additional guests Corey Duplechin on bass, and BeauSoleil’s Michael Doucet adding fiddle and vocals on three tracks. Co-producer Anders Osborne, who also co-wrote seven of the songs, joins Benoit on vocals and guitar, performing half the album using B.B. King’s famous guitar “Lucille.”

Recorded at Louisiana’s famous Dockside Studio in the heart of Cajun country, the album primarily features live first takes, free of the excessive editing found on most contemporary projects. When asked about the title, Benoit responded “Let music be the medicine – like John Lee Hooker once said, ‘Blues is the healer.”  The title track riffs on this theme: “I need my medicine, baby” punctuated by extended sections showcasing the blazing guitar work of Benoit and Osborne.

Of the 11 tracks on the album, one of the standouts is “A Whole Lotta Soul,” featuring Ivan Neville on the Hammond B-3 with Benoit reflecting upon recent the tribulations and triumphs of the delta region (used as the soundtrack to the official album video):

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These regional themes play out again on the haunting ballad “Long Lonely Bayou,” featuring a delicate interplay between Doucet’s fiddle and Benoit’s soulful vocals, while the rocking “In It to Win It” references sugar cane fields, snakes and gators (it should come as no surprise that Benoit has worked diligently to save the wetlands that he so obviously reveres).

Overall, this is a great album to accompany summer evenings hanging out on the back porch while eating some pulled pork or fried catfish, drinking ice cold libations, and dancing the night away.  The hard rocking blues punctuated by Cajun fiddling definitely create a gumbo unique to Benoit and his delta roots.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2011

Blind Boys of Alabama- Take The High Road

Title: Take the High Road

Artist: Blind Boys of Alabama

Label: Saguaro Road Records

Formats: CD, Mp3

Catalog No.: 26393-D

Release Date: May 3, 2011



The Blind Boys of Alabama are a world renowned gospel quartet group that has graced churches and stages across the globe. In 2010, they were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. During the induction ceremony, they performed a number with up-and-coming country music star Jamey Johnson, which was such a success they were motivated to release an entire album of country music. The result is Take the High Road, a pleasant fusion of the BBA’s classic gospel quartet sounds with those more closely associated with country music.  Whether one is a fan of quartet, gospel, or country music, this album is sure to offer something to that will both delight and inspire.

This sacred music project draws on country music influences from several sources; through the musical content itself, the production capabilities of Jamey Johnson and also through the notable guest country artists that are featured.  The title track, “Take the High Road,” features the voices of fellow quartet The Oak Ridge Boys. This pairing occurs seamlessly as the voices of both groups create a powerful ensemble. In true tag-team fashion, members of both groups alternate leading this up-tempo piece. “Take the High Road” truly sets the tone for this album as a jubilant admonishment to keep the faith and persevere. More somber subjects are also explored, as seen in the selection “I Was Burden.” Featuring Lee Ann Womack, this piece discusses the redemptive power of a spiritual encounter stating, “I was a burden ‘til the Lord laid His hands on me.”

Following is the official music video for “Take the High Road”:

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The collection of songs covered in this album range from classic country and gospel tunes to popular hymns. One memorable selection is a song penned by popular bluesman McKinley Morganfield, also known as Muddy Waters, titled “Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You.” Its simplicity and straightforward message has made for easy adaptation to many church services over the years. Another notable selection is the hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” featuring Jamey Johnson. Notions of country music are immediately invoked in the introduction of the song with the inclusion of steady acoustic guitar strum. Likewise, Johnson’s mellow, soothing “drawl” provides a distinct yet pleasant contrast to BBA’s harmonization of the chorus.

Take the High Road serves as the ultimate reminder of the connectedness of musical expressions of the United States. The manner in which quartet gospel, country, and blues influences are fused throughout this album showcase not only the talents of these musicians but is also indicative of their common ancestry. I would suggest that one would be hard-pressed to strictly delineate where the “country” begins and the “gospel” ends as they share similar roots in early African American expressions. These sonic and expressive ties are highlighted and crafted throughout the album, which makes this musical collaboration a most excellent listening experience.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review August 1st, 2011

The Mighty Clouds of Joy- 50 Year Celebration

Title: 50 Year Celebration

Artist: The Mighty Clouds of Joy

Label: EMI Gospel

Formats: CD, Mp3

Catalog No.: 5099930614826

Release Date: March 8, 2011


The Mighty Clouds of Joy, whose members had roots from across the U.S., was formed in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s.  Soon thereafter, they were signed to the Peacock record label on which they would release their first single, “Steal Away to Jesus.” Since that time, the Clouds have become synonymous with gospel quartet music and are still going strong. 50 Year Celebration is a compilation album featuring some of their best-known and well-loved gospel hits. Lead singer Joe Ligon’s powerful and soul stirring voice can be easily recognized throughout several of the group’s signature pieces, including “Mighty High” and “I Made a Step.”

Following is the official music video for “I Made a Step” (courtesy of EMI):

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While this group has been celebrated for its innovation and contemporary approaches to gospel music, their repertoire has also involved the adaptation of African American folk spirituals to their specific harmonic approach and style as heard in “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Similarly, the Clouds have not hesitated to impart their signature style on a number of traditional and contemporary gospel music classics which are showcased on the compilation. For instance, track 14 features one of the more popular renditions of “Walk Around Heaven,” penned by former Caravans members James Cleveland and Cassietta George. This particular piece showcases firsthand the vocal dexterity of the late Mike Cook.  The Clouds also lend their voices to one of the popular GMWA Women of Worship choir songs, “Order My Steps.” Their male quartet-styled approach provides a fresh interpretation of a song that has touched the ears and hearts of many congregations across America.

Spanning several decades, 50 Year Celebration highlights the multiple styles in which the Clouds have been able to garner success.  From the disco-inspired sounds of “Mighty High” to the contemporary gospel musings of “Something to Thank God For,” the anniversary compilation commemorates the diversity and longevity of gospel music as well as great inspiring artists like the Mighty Clouds of Joy.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review August 1st, 2011

Mint Condition- 7

Title: 7…

Artist: Mint Condition

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, CD Deluxe Ed. (5 bonus tracks), MP3

Catalog No.: Shanachie 5787

Release Date: April 5, 2011


Mint Condition’s aptly named seventh studio release, 7…, showcases the groups growth and acknowledges current developments in R&B music, but does not stray very far from the Mint Condition formula developed over the span of their twenty year career. Built for live performance, the album acknowledges the members’ musicianship focusing on instrumental sound, rather than overly effected production. Lyrically, Mint Condition stays true to their history, continuing to tell relevant stories about love and life.

7… opens with the bass-driven “Can’t Get Away” and continues incorporating bass-driven, funk-influenced music with danceable tunes such as “I Want It,” as well as soul and R&B centered songs such as “Ease The Pain.” The only true ballad on the record, “Unsung,” showcases lead singer Stockley’s vocal ability accompanied by a very present piano performance accented by a climactic guitar solo. “Not My Daddy” follows with a surprising feature— Kelly Price in a mid-tempo, funky, seamless, and well-executed duet expressing a need for change and redirection in a relationship.

Following is a live performance of “Caught My Eye,” the first single from the album:

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Overall, 7… does its job, making it clear that Mint Condition is still willing and able to make good music their way.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review August 1st, 2011

How I Got Over… Songs That Carried Us

Title: How I Got Over…Songs That Carried Us

Artist: Smokie Norful

Label: EMI Gospel

Formats: CD, MP3

Catalog No.: 5099930615229

Release Date: March 29, 2011


Smokie Norful pays homage to his African Methodist Episcopal roots in his fifth album release, How I Got Over…Songs That Carried Us. The title itself refers to gospel great Mahalia Jackson and a far-reaching history of gospel song. Recorded live at the A.M.E.’s 12th Episcopal District Conference, the album is star studded, with features from well-known gospel artists including Myron Butler, Melvin Williams, and Vanessa Bell Armstrong, among others. The 12th District AME Church Choir also serves as the supporting choir for every performance.

From beginning to end, How I Got Over tells a story—a story of songs within the A.M.E. Church, as well as the story of Grammy Award winning artist Smokie Norful, including his vocal training and upbringing within the A.M.E. Church. In “Intro to Amazing Grace,” Smokie recounts his experiences as the pastor’s son, detailing his many roles within the church as minister of music and traveling psalmist, among other things. This particular song also serves as an introduction to his father, Pastor W. R. Norful, Sr., who is featured on several of the following tracks.

How I Got Over opens the door to Smokie Norful’s life and love for God, the church and his family. Overall, it is a collection of songs and stories presented as a reminder in 2011 of gospel music and its illustrious history.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review August 1st, 2011

Garland Jeffreys- King of In Between

Title:  The King of In Between

Artist:  Garland Jeffreys

Label:  Luna Park

Formats: CD, MP3

Catalog No.: LPR-001

Release Date: June 7, 2011


Think Bob Dylan’s visual lyricism meets Lou Reed’s stern delivery—this is the perfect description of Garland Jeffreys’ aesthetic.  Remember his 1973 hit, “Wild in the Streets”?  Well, Jeffreys is back to remind everyone that, after a 13 year hiatus (his last album, Wildlife Dictionary, was released back in 1997), there is more where that came from. The King of In Between is a strong comeback, holding the same New York grit and insightful songwriting that permeates all of his previous releases (those not familiar with Jeffreys should check out his 1992 masterpiece, Don’t Call Me Buckwheat).

The album opens with “Coney Island Winter,” one of the many songs that references New York. It begins with a guitar riff drenched in distortion that alludes to the dirty alleys, the heavy air, and the ardent traffic of The City—a constant motif found throughout the album.  Jeffreys’ narrative songwriting style is strong on this opening track, as on the rest of the album. Lyrics like “Woman walks down the street/ tears come rolling down her face/ frozen on her cheeks” exhibit the lyricism the veteran songwriter is known and loved for.

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Jeffreys,  now in his late 60s, is beginning to reflect on fatherhood, and many of the lyrics on The King of In Between focus on his children. In the song, “The Beautiful Truth,” he states it clearly—“That’s what I tell my kids” —while the track “Streetwise” is a father’s words of advice to his child on the perils of the city. He even has his teenage daughter, Savannah Jeffreys, providing back-up vocals on “The Contortionist,” along with his longtime friend Lou Reed. Other notable collaborations include the reggae guitar work of Junior Marvin (Bob Marley & the Wailers).

The album is steeped in a wide range of musical styles which keep you listening with anticipation. Whereas “Streetwise” employs a funky Curtis Mayfield-esque vibe- circa the album Super Fly, “‘Till John Lee Hooker Calls Me,” “Love Is Not a Cliché,” andIn God’s Waiting Room” play with the old Blues sound, and “Roller Coaster Town” incorporates characteristics of ska and reggae. Other surprises include a hidden bonus track—a cover of David Essex’s 1973 hit “Rock On.”  The rhyme or reason for this extra track is unclear (it’s almost identical to the original), but since Jeffreys has been doing this music thing longer than many of us have been alive, he’s reserved the right to have some fun.

The King of In Between is an enjoyable listen—a holistic meditation on life in New York City, as well as an impressive release for an artist this late in his career. Despite the cold weather, the dangers of the streets, and the difficulty that come with raising a family in a large urban environment, Jeffreys’ says it best in “Roller Coaster Town” — “Yes, New York’s my home.”

Reviewed by Sebastian Ramirez

View review August 1st, 2011

La Belle Epoque

Title:   La Belle Epoque

Artist:  California King

Formats: MP3, FLAC, etc.

Release date:  December 14, 2010





California King is a band that originally came to our attention via the Black Rock Coalition and the Afro-Punk websites. Currently residing in Brooklyn, the alternative power rock trio is led by Virginia native Michael Mills on vocals and guitar, along with veteran NYC drummer Howard Alper and bass player Yohann Politico, who originally hails from Normandy, France.

Following on the heels of their 2008 debut, The Adoration of the Boogie Bear, the band recently released their sophomore album, La Belle Epoque, available in multiple digital formats via Bandcamp.

Eschewing standard genre labels, CK aims to “bridge the gap between distant rock & soul icons Prince and Hendrix and more modern indie rock pioneers such as Radiohead and TV on The Radio.”  Other influences listed by the band include De La Soul, Funkadelic, and  N.E.R.D. along with more obvious choices from the black rock pantheon such as Fishbone and Bad Brains. Consequently, you can also expect a dash of hip hop stylings and heavy funk thrown into their melting pot.

Standout tracks on the album include the hard rocking “Bobby Burns,” featuring Jeffrey Smith on sax; the opening track “Solar Nights,” which would heat up any dance floor; and the trashing “Come To Me and Stay.”  However, I almost prefer the slower, introspective songs which allow more room for experimentation, such as the cosmically melodious “Higher Plane” and the fuzzed up, slightly psychedelic “Soft and Warm.” Following is a live performance of the closing track “The Reins” from the band’s Youtube channel:

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La Belle Epoque may well represent the “golden age” for California King, and is worth checking out. Though the self-produced and recorded album could have benefited from additional resources, it’s a fine addition to our growing body of contemporary black rock music.


Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2011

Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix

Title:  Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix

Artists:  Various

Label:  Experience Hendrix/ Legacy Recordings

Catalog No.: 88687-87508-2

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date:  April 12, 2011


Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, originally released in 2004, was recently reissued by Experience Hendrix/ Legacy Recordings as part of their Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project. The album features original tributes by Prince, Bootsy Collins, Lenny Kravitz, Chaka Khan, Musiq Soulchild, and more. Anticipating the reissue of the full project, a special Record Store Day CD single was also released and included three tracks from the album featuring Cee-Lo Green, Carlos Santana, and Robert Randolph & the Family Band.

Cee-Lo Green infuses “Foxey Lady” with his own unique brand of soul. “Spanish Castle Magic” is excellently reinterpreted by an all-star lineup headlined by Carlos Santana, but also featuring Living Colour’s Corey Glover on vocals, the legendary Stanley Clarke on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. Also on the single is a previously unreleased and incredibly funky live version of “Purple Haze” by Robert Randolph and the Slide Brothers.  If the other album cuts match the quality of those on this single, Power and Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix is a must have for anyone, Hendrix fan or not.

If you still need another reason to purchase the album, royalties will be donated to the Jimi Hendrix Scholarship Fund that was established through the United Negro College Fund in 1993. The Jimi Hendrix Scholarship Fund continues to provide college tuition funds to aspiring students at HBCU’s across America.

Reviewed by Langston Collin Wilkins

View review August 1st, 2011

Hive Mind EP

Title: Hive Mind EP

Artist: Black Party Politics

Label: Nine 12 Records

Formats:  MP3

Release Date:  March 11, 2011


Black Party Politics, a band that hails from Los Angeles, offers an unmistakable brand of L.A. alternative/heavy rock that “converges all the colors and hues of their respective influences into a dense unmistakable and inescapable Black.”   At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the band for run-of-the-mill gilded butterflies looking for nothing but radio singles—they have more glamour shots of themselves online than they have songs. But don’t give up on BPP just yet.  Give their Hive Mind EP a close listen and you might find yourself entertained. The EP features 3 songs and 2 radio-edits. The band offers a mix of heavily distorted guitar riffs and hip-hop influenced drum rhythms combined with soulful vocals. By far, the track “MK Ultra” is one of the better songs, featuring a strong vocal performance by lead singer Eddie Henry. The following live performance of “MK Ultra” shows how tight and well-rehearsed the band is, and the drummer plays with some serious gusto:

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Black Party Politics’ full length album is scheduled for release in October, with a CD release party planned for L.A. in addition to a Southwest tour.  Assuming they continue to fine-tune their rock/soul sound for the album, I’m sure it will be a hit amongst the alternative rock and Afro-Punk crowds. Let’s hope the rest of the country will finally have an opportunity to experience this up and coming band.

Reviewed by Sebastian Ramirez

View review August 1st, 2011

Welcome to the August 2011 Issue

This month’s feature review takes a look at the 40th anniversary super deluxe edition (LP/2CD) of Marvin Gaye’s classic album, What’s Going On.  Also in the R&B/soul department is Kelly Price’s Kelly and the album 7… by Mint Condition.  Early Cajun fiddle and accordion music is the highlight of Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone: The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, while modern Louisiana blues is the focus of Tab Benoit’s Medicine. Under the rock/pop umbrella there are three new releases—La Belle Epoque by California Kings, the Hive Mind EP by the up-and-coming L.A. band Black Party Politics, and the long awaited Garland Jeffreys come-back album, King of In Between—plus a reissue of The Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.  Hip hop releases include Tech N9ne’s 6’s & 7’s and Killer Mike’s Pl3dge, while new gospel albums include The Mighty Clouds of Joy’s 50 Year Celebration, Smokie Norful’s How I Got Over… Songs That Carried Us, and The Blind Boys of Alabama’s first country-gospel collaboration, Take the High Road.

View review August 1st, 2011

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