Archive for December, 2011

New T-Bone Walker Definitive Collection

Title: You’re My Best Poker Hand

Artist: T-Bone Walker

Label: Fantastic Voyage

Catalog No.: FVTD099

Format: 3-CD Set

Release Date: March 21, 2011



Aaron Thibeault “T-Bone” Walker grew up steeped in music. His mother, Movelia, sang the blues to him in his crib. His step-father was a bass player in the Dallas String Band. A frequent visitor to the house, and a mentor in Walker’s youth, was Blind Lemon Jefferson. Music was his natural course. By integrating the electric guitar into the blues, he revolutionized the genre. He further advanced it by adopting the jumping rhythms of rock and roll, keeping the blues relevant to a new generation of fans.

This super-low-priced 3-CD collection (street price $17-24, also available on iTunes), from the Fantastic Voyage imprint of UK-based Future Noise Music, encompasses all of the master takes included in the long out-of-print Mosaic Records compilation covering sides waxed for Capitol, Mercury, Black & White and Imperial; plus Walker’s Atlantic recordings from 1955-57. The set’s contents are apparently public-domain in the U.K., and the material overlapping the Mosaic collection sounds similar, so it’s likely that the same sources were used (or the Mosaic CD’s were ripped and slightly re-processed).

The booklet’s excellent essay by Neil Slaven and detailed discography belie the budget price.  The music is well worth notice, tracing Walker’s evolution from guitar-centric displays to a guitar-sax balanced blues where lyrics and singing become more important as the ‘50s dawn. The back and forth between Walker and sax-man Jack McVea was a roadmap to early rock and 1950’s R&B arranging. Most blues fans know Walker’s “Stormy Monday,” but there is much more here. Musically, this collection is top notch, and Walker was no slouch at singing and writing lyrics either.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review December 2nd, 2011

Songs in A Minor – 10th Anniversary Edition

Title: Songs in A Minor – 10th Anniversary Edition

Artist: Alicia Keys

Label:  Sony Legacy

Formats:  2 CD + 1 DVD Collector’s Ed.; 2-LP; Enhanced CD Dlx. Ed.; MP3

Release date:  June 28, 2011

In 2001 a precocious, 20-something prodigy won critics, fans, and Clive Davis over with her culturally-defining debut album. Ten years later, Alicia Keys lets us revisit the 5-time Grammy Award winning classic, songs in A minor with a 10th anniversary edition. All the original songs plus a few extra are compiled on this special keepsake for Keys’ fans.

Keys’ debut was a mixture of R&B and soul laced with a hint of hip hop, probably reflecting her New York roots. The opening track, “Girlfriend,” displays these variables working together. Keys’ cover of Prince’s “How Come You Don’t Call Me” stretches her soulful chops, proving her musical knowledge as an artist and fan. It is also one of the few tracks on the album that was not written by Keys herself.

Tracks composed by Keys include the epic debut single, “Fallin’.” The moment “Fallin’” entered our collective consciousness, everyone took notice. At a time when hip hop had formulated the equation to crossover to mega pop success, Keys’ heartfelt ballad was piercing, genuine and refreshing. From the a capella intro to the haunting backing vocals, “Fallin’” remains as strong now as it was at the beginning of the millennium.

Keys’ songwriting continued strong throughout the album. “Troubles” is a beautifully wrought cry for help, while “Rock Wit You” is a throwback groove to the disco sounds of the ‘70s. “A Woman’s Worth” was the second single, and its message of female adoration in a relationship is still true. The standout song is still the piano-laden “Butterflyz,” which is perfectly segued with the tender “Never Felt This Way (Interlude).”  Much like SWV’s “Weak,” “Butterflyz” captures the essence of new love.

As for the twelve additional tracks on the Collector’s Edition, some are old, others new. Three are remixes or different versions of original A minor songs, including the Nas-assisted remix of “A Woman’s Worth.” One of the brightest moments is the inclusion of “Juciest,” a song that appeared on a mixtape a few years back. Keys’ sampling of the Mtume staple is perfect as she moves on from a broken heart and ungrateful suitor. The newest edition is “Typewriter,” a tantalizing tease. The accompanying DVD includes a mini documentary created for this edition featuring interviews with Keys and her collaborators, plus several music videos.

Overall, the deluxe edition of Alicia’s re-release is as satisfying as the first time around. A great piece to add to your Keys collection.

Reviewed by Lorin Williams

View review December 2nd, 2011

More Bricks in the Wall of Sound

Title: The Essential Phil Spector

Artists: Various

Label: Phil Spector Records/Sony Legacy

Catalog No.: 88697 86422-2

Format: 2-CD set

Release Date: October 18, 2011



Title: Phil Spector Presents The Philles Album Collection

Label: Phil Spector Records/Sony Legacy

Catalog No.: 88697 92782-2

Format: 7-CD box set

Release Date: October 24, 2011




There is much overlap between these two new Phil Spector anthologies, and still more overlap with the earlier Sony reissues covering The Crystals, The Ronettes and Darlene Love (see my previous review). The new releases will still appeal to hardcore fans and collectors, but casual listeners are probably already set with all of the Wall of Sound they need.

The earlier single-CD Phil Spector retrospective (Wall Of Sound: The Very Best of Phil Spector 1961-1966) is completely covered in the new Essential 2CD set, but Essential adds more material not released on Philles Records including early career productions by The Teddy Bears, Ray Peterson, Ben E. King (“Spanish Harlem”), Gene Pitney and the Paris Sisters. Also included are more Righteous Brothers tunes from their one Philles album. And Essential extends the time period to 1969 (the single-CD closed in 1966) with the A&M single “Black Pearl” by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates LTD. As in the previous Spector-centric retrospective, the focus is as much on production as the actual songs and musicians, and this time we get a wider arc of the evolution of Spector’s aesthetic. Even more clearly than the single CD, Essential demonstrates how the “Wall of Sound” evolved from a big beat and clear, cutting vocals, to an echo-laden swamp of swirling background with vocals still mixed above everything else. This new Essential compilation includes a booklet essay by writer Domenic Priore and enough additional, good material that I definitely recommend it to the listener wanting an introduction to the Spector world, in lieu of the earlier single-CD release.

The new Philles Album Collection box set was produced for deep-interest collectors. It supercedes and expands on the old ABKCO set Back to Mono. There is much overlap between the discs, with about 40% of the content repeated over multiple discs (some Crystals songs appear on 4 different discs). However, the collector will like the original album sequences, the obscure album-only tunes scattered here and there, and the album cover art. The deluxe packaging includes a booklet with recording details and an essay by UK-based producer/music writer Mick Patrick. The gem of the box set is the bonus disc, which is a peek inside the Wall of Sound technique, mostly courtesy of the L.A.-based Wrecking Crew studio band. Many of these tunes stand well among the best soul instrumental classics.

Contents of the 7-disc Philles Album Collection:

The Crystals Twist Uptown, originally issued 1962

He’s A Rebel – The Crystals, 1963

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah – Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, 1963

The Crystals Sing The Greatest Hits, Volume 1, 1963

Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits – various artists, 1963

Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, 1964

Phil’s Flipsides (bonus disc of instrumental B-sides)

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review December 2nd, 2011

Motown Gold from the Ed Sullivan Show

Title: Motown Gold from the Ed Sullivan Show

Artists: Various

Format: DVD 2-disc set (140:00 min.; color and B&W; NTSC)

Label: SOFA Entertainment/Universal/Hip-O

Catalog no.:  B0015670-09

Release date:  September 13, 2011


With Motown Gold from the Ed Sullivan Show, how could you go wrong? While this video suffers from organizational issues with sequencing, it more than makes up for those problems with its wealth of Motown television appearance gems. The live performances on this DVD date from 1964 to 1971 and watching them transports you back to a much groovier time. A time of coordinated outfits, psychedelic backdrops, well-rehearsed backup dancing and, most importantly, a time of solid hit records.

Following is the official promo video:

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This two-disc DVD set features all the big stars you may feel nostalgic for in one, easily accessible place, with outstanding performances ranging from a very young Jackson 5 singing a medley of their hits, to Smokey Robinson & the Miracles performing “I Second That Emotion,” to an amazing performance by Gladys Knight & the Pips singing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” filmed live in a ward at a veterans hospital for some sort of television special.

The vagueness of that last sentence is a giveaway to the one flaw of this collection. There are no air-dates given and the performances are ordered in an inscrutable manner that is neither grouped by artist or chronological. These problems detract from the collection as a tool for research, but that certainly doesn’t stop it from being a fun to watch when you’re in the mood for reminiscing.

Reviewed by Dorothy Berry

View review December 2nd, 2011

Swinging into the 21st

Title: Swinging Into the 21st

Artist: Wynton Marsalis

Label: Columbia/Legacy

Catalog No.: 88697 96920-2

Format: 11-CD Box Set

Release Date: October 18, 2011



Title: Selections From Swinging into the 21st

Artist: Wynton Marsalis

Label: Columbia/Legacy

Catalog No.: 88697 93036-2

Format:  CD

Release Date:  October 18, 2011


This deluxe box set, released in honor of and on the date of Wynton Marsalis’s 50th birthday, collects the nine albums he recorded in 1998-99 meant to mark the new millennium. Also included is the album All Rise, recorded three days after September 11, 2001.  The included albums range in style from jazz tributes to Jelly Roll Morton and Thelonious Monk to classical-influenced suites to a CD of selections from Marsalis’s Village Vanguard Box live recording.  “All Rise” is a quasi-classical piece commissioned by the New York Philharmonic in 1999.  The 2001 recording was made live with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

For those wanting just a taste of the massive box set, the single CD offers a sampling of everything placed in a listenable sequence.


Reviewed by Tom Fine


View review December 2nd, 2011

Deep Sounds From the Left of Stax

Title: True Soul: Deep Sounds from the Left of Stax, vol. 1

Artists: Various

Label: Now-Again

Formats: CD + DVD set; MP3; 4-LP set

Release date: June 21, 2011


Title: True Soul: Deep Sounds from the Left of Stax, vol. 2

Artists: Various

Label: Now-Again

Formats: CD + DVD set; MP3; 4-LP set

Release date: July 26, 2011




The two volume True Soul releases are the fruits of a classic record-junky’s labor— his youthful quest for the mother lode from a storied label. The tale begins when twenty-year-old Eothen Alapatt (a.k.a Egon) set out from Nashville to Little Rock, Arkansas in search of Lee Anthony, founder of the True Soul label. Going off rumor and a drawing of a shot-gun style house used in the company’s logo, Alapatt searched around Little Rock, asking for direction and receiving only kind vagaries. Eventually he stumbled on the doorstep of Lee Anthony, an amazing man who shaped the Black music scene in Little Rock in the 1960s and ‘70s, and who also shaped this collection by introducing Alapatt to the music and taking him under his wing as a true friend.

The liner notes for these volumes (they are the same in both, excepting the actual CD track listings) offer Alapatt’s personal recollections of his first meeting with Anthony. Also included is a biographical interview with Anthony covering his childhood, his opening of Soul Brother’s Records (which was, until 1999, the oldest Black-owned record store in Arkansas), and the 1968 founding of True Soul Records. It is a fascinating read and an amazing immersion into a 1970s-era microcosm of Black music .

These compilations are not exhaustive or meant to be complete label discographies, but are instead intended to offer a glimpse into the sound-world Lee Anthony created with his one-man music industry. This carefully curated guide to his musical empire is full of funk hits perfect for any dance party. Definite deep cuts any funk fan should be sure to check out in the first volume include “Come Together” (an instrumental version of The Beatles’ classic), and both “Funky Football” and “Psychedelic Hot Pants”—two tracks from York Wilborn’s Psychedelic Six that are sure to set you dancing. The second volume has great selections as well, my favorite being the soulful ballad “You For Me and Me For You” by The Right Track, sounding like an outsider Marvin Gaye.

Another, final, great feature of this set is the accompanying DVD with excerpts from The True Soul Revue television program, a 1973 series that showcased local performers (the same DVD is included in both CD sets). There is a definite cable-access feel to the show, and some of the performances are shockingly raw. For fans of the obscure, True Soul: Deep Sounds from the Left of Stax is the perfect gift, illustrating the amazing treasures that can come from a record collecting obsession.

Reviewed by Dorothy Berry

View review December 2nd, 2011

Final Volume in James Brown Singles Series

Title: The Singles Volume 11: 1979-1981

Artist:  James Brown

Label: Hip-O Select

Formats: 2-CD set, MP3

Catalog No.: B0016037-02

Release date: October 11, 2011

The final chapter of Hip-O’s James Brown―The Singles series has arrived just in time for the holidays.  You can fashion your own box set by picking up the ten previous volumes covering 1956-1979, but don’t delay. These limited edition pressings will likely go out of print soon, sending prices into the stratosphere on the resale market.

Volume 11 includes singles released on the Polydor and TK labels, and kicks off at the tail end of the disco era with “Star Generation” and “The Original Disco Man.”  Thankfully, by track 5 the disc returns to funkier territory.  Included are live versions of “Get Up Offa That Thing” and “It’s Too Funky” from the album Hot On the One, plus “Rapp Payback” in both the original single and extended jam versions. The second disc of the set is a compilation of the 12-inch versions of 9 of the 19 tracks featured on Disc 1.

As with the previous sets in the series, liner notes were written by noted James Brown expert and former employee Alan Leeds and include detailed discographical information along with many rare photographs.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review December 2nd, 2011

Raw African-American Gospel on 45s

Title: This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45RPM, 1957-1982

Artists: Various

Label: Tompkins Square

Formats: 3-CD set

Release date: September 20, 2011



Following in the steps of Tompkins Square’s 2009 release Fire In My Bones: Raw + Rare + Otherworldly African-American Gospel (1944-2007), This May Be My Last Time Singing is another amazing release of rare gospel from the collection of Mike McGonigal, who also selected the tracks for this compilation. Drawing from his vast collection of 45s, most of which were self-released or from small regional record labels, McGonigal states in the liner notes that, “because of their democratic/DIY nature; almost anyone could raise enough money to release a seven-inch single.”

The compilation includes three discs, each of which is studded with obscure gems. The tracks were picked not for their historical importance or regional significance, but instead selected solely on the basis of how the songs gripped the compiler. Luckily, McGonigal has an amazing ear. I can’t recommend this collection enough, and the nature and rarity of the selections makes it hard to pick individual tracks, as each one exists in a sort of world unto itself.

The first track of the collection, “He Will Fix It,” has a simple, warm, melodic guitar line that gracefully underlies the comforting lyrics, soulfully sung by Sam Wilson with a female backing choir singing the unaffected lyrics “He will fix it alright/I know, I know Jesus will fix it up alright.” Another standout is the rollicking, danceable version of “I’ll Fly Away,” recorded by The Traveling Alstars.” The second CD features the title track “May Be My Last Time,” a stirring, sanctified duet by Jerry and Naomi Jerkins, where Jerry testifies to his experience over a rolling, bluesy piano. “I Got To Make It,” a solo piece for voice and electric guitar sung by Ethel Profit, is equally striking. Her strong, rough vocals make you really believe her when she tells herself she has to make it! “I’ve Got A Good Feeling” by The Spiritual Harmonizers of Little Rock starts off with a drum roll and harmonizing intro that sounds like a funky gospel Beach Boys and takes off from there.

Almost every track in this collection deserves its own spotlight in this review. Suffice it to say, if you love the creative spirit of African American religious music, this collection will move you to dance at times, and to tears at others.

Reviewed by Dorothy Berry

View review December 2nd, 2011

Heart & Soul: A Retrospective

Title: Heart & Soul: A Retrospective

Artist: Etta James

Label: Hip-O Select

Formats: 4-CD Box Set; MP3

Release date: October 18, 2011




The first thing to say about this 4-disc Etta James retrospective, is that it is beautifully packaged and designed.  The tan, cloth-bound casing embossed with Etta James in retro script contains the most thoroughly arranged collection of her recordings to date. The lovingly crafted 40 page biography by Bill Dahl that prefaces the discs is filled with rare photographs spanning James’ life, from a shot of her at age 13 with her mother, to the photos taken during a 1963 live performance for her Etta Rocks the House album, to more contemporary images of James with her now grown sons.  Any Etta James fan would be proud to see her honored with such a finely produced collection.

But don’t worry—Heart & Soul is more than just pretty packaging. The music is, of course, paramount and in rich supply.  The four discs span from 1954-1962, 1962-1969, 1969-1987 and 1987-2007 respectively, covering her earliest hits as well as her more recent recordings. Included are three previously unreleased tracks, live recordings, a duet with B.B. King, and a 2005 cover of the R. Kelly classic, “I Believe I Can Fly.” It is fantastic to have all of these recordings in one place, and the liner notes make this collection even more edifying by including not only the recording dates, but also reissue dates and Billboard chart listings. The chronology provided by this anthology shows the changes in popular music trends over the last 50 years, but it also shows that some things, like James’ tenacity and strong vocal delivery style, never change.

Reviewed by Dorothy Berry

View review December 2nd, 2011

Funkiest High School Stage Band in the Nation

Title: Texas Thunder Soul, 1968-1974

Artist: Kashmere Stage Band

Label: Now-Again

Format: 2 CD+DVD Deluxe Ed.

Release Date: September 27, 2011



“Kashmere High School . . . spawned a sensation that’s still drawing listeners, some 40 years later. . . not only the nation’s best stage band, but one of the best funk bands—period.”—NPR (from CD package)

First released as a two-CD set in 2006, Now-Again Records has produced an expanded deluxe edition of Texas Thunder Soul to coincide with the Jamie Foxx-produced, award-winning documentary Thunder Soul: The True Story of Conrad Johnson and the Kashmere Stage Band about the band’s 35-year reunion. Following is the official movie trailer:

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Texas Thunder Soul is compiled from commercial recordings released by the Kashmere High School’s stage band between 1968-1974, in addition to live recordings and previously unreleased alternate takes. Also included is a bonus DVD with three features: Texas Jewels: The Making of Texas Thunder Soul;  Kashmere Stage Band on Bubbha Thomas’s “ Jazz Alive and Kicking in Houston” (1972); and Prof. and His Band, a documentary by Charles Porter. The liner notes have also been updated and expanded to a 40 page booklet, illustrated with historical photographs and featuring an interview with bandleader Conrad O. Johnson by producer Eothen “Egon” Alapatt.

This new deluxe edition serves as a fine tribute to “Prof” Johnson, who passed away in 2008 at the age of ninety-two.  If you’ve ever played in a high school ensemble, or your children or grandchildren are members of an ensemble, you’ll appreciate the funk mastery of the Kashmere Stage Band and the inspiration provided by Prof. Johnson. One listen will be enough to convince you that the band’s 1972 award for “Best High School Stage Band in the Nation” was well-deserved.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review December 2nd, 2011

Two New Releases in Bear Family’s “Rock” Series

Title: Rocks

Artist: Chuck Berry

Label: Bear Family

Format: CD

Catalog No.: BCD 17139

Release date: November 15, 2011


Without Chuck Berry, there is no rock ‘n’ roll. Chuck Berry taught us how rock guitar is supposed to sound and established teenage rebellion as the thematic thrust of the genre.  In 1955 at the age of 30, his debut single “Maybellene” established him in the American psyche as a bona fide star and a star he would remain. Releasing hit after hit on Chess Records, all of which he wrote himself, he shocked audiences with his fantastic stage-moves, including thrusts, splits and the famous Duckwalk. This collection covers his output from “Maybellene” to 1964’s “Dear Dad,” one of his last Chess recordings.  Producers represented in the collection include Leonard Chess, Phil Chess and Chuck Berry. The 52-page booklet features liner notes by the highly regarded R&B historian Bill Dahl.

The compilation includes 32 tracks recorded between 1955 and 1965:

Maybellene, Thirty days (To Come Back Home), You Can’t Catch Me, No Money Down, Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Roll Over Beethoven, Too Much Monkey Business, School Day (Ring! Goes the Bell), Rock And Roll Music, Oh Baby Doll, Sweet Little Sixteen, Reelin’ and Rocking, Johnny B. Goode, Around & Around, Beautiful Delilah, Carol, Memphis, Tennessee, Sweet Little Rock And Roller, Run Rudolph Run, Little Queenie, Almost Grown, Back In The U.S.A., Betty Jean, Let It Rock, Bye Bye Johnny, Jaguar and Thunderbird, Go-Go-Go, Nadine (Is It You?), You Never Can Tell, Promised Land, No Particular Place To Go, and Dear Dad.


Title: Rocks

Artist: Slim Harpo

Label: Bear Family

Format: CD

Catalog No.: BCD 17129

Release date: November 15, 2011


Slim Harpo’s raw, Louisiana swamp style was illustrated most famously in his blues recordings, but this collection is set up to remind listeners that Harpo could also rock ‘n’ roll and even produce pop hits, like his chart toppers “Rainin’ in My Heart” and “Baby Scratch My Back.” Inspired by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Little Walter, Slim Harpo had a classic blues schooling.  I’m A King Bee, perhaps Harpo’s most well-known recording, was covered to great acclaim by the Rolling Stones and also by his childhood hero Muddy Waters. The song is presented here in its single form and in alternate takes, a unique opportunity from a time when most artists could only afford a single take. Most of the tracks in the collection are probably unknown to the casual listener, making this a great introduction to the works of Slim Harpo.  Producers represented in the collection include Jay Miller, Dave Bartholomew, Robert Holmes and James Moore. The 32-page booklet features liner notes by Jeff Hannusch.

The compilation includes 31 tracks recorded between 1957 and 1969:

Wild About My Baby, I Got Love If You Want It, I’m A King Bee, You’ll Be Sorry One Day, That Ain’t Your Business, Buzz Me Babe, My Little Queen Bee (Got A Brand New King) I’m Waiting On You Baby, Something Inside Me, Bobby-Sox Baby, I Need Money (Keep Your Alibis), Yeah Yeah Baby, Shake Your Hips, Harpo’s Blues, Don’t Start Cryin’ Now, Boogie Chillun, Baby, Scratch My Back, Buzzin’, Hey Little Lee, The Music’s Hot, Wondering And Worryin’, Late Last Night, That’s Alright (aka You’ll Be Sorry One Day), That’s Alright Baby (aka Don’t Start Crying Now), Cigarettes, Buzz Me Babe, I’m A King Bee, You Ain’t Never Had To Cry, I Got Love If You Want It, Wondering and Worryin’, Rainin’ in My Heart


Reviewed by Dorothy Berry

View review December 2nd, 2011

Made in Stoke 24/7/11

Title: Made in Stoke 24/7/11

Artist: Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy

Label: Armoury / Eagle Rock Entertainment

Format: 2 CD+DVD set

Catalog No.: ARM250632

Release Date: November 15, 2011


“This was a special night – it was the first time I’d been back to Stoke since I was a little boy. . . The energy was up, the crowd was intense, to say the least.  Hopefully some of that is captured on this CD.”

The smoky, Jack Daniels drinking, rock guitar icon is back to what he does best with his new solo live album Made in Stoke 24/7/11. That’s right, we’re talking about Grammy Award winning Slash; the string slayer of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver.  Slash made a special stop during the tail end of his tour to his hometown of Stoke-on-Trent, England (though born in London to an African American fashion designer and British artist, he spent the first few years of his life in Stoke).  During this visit he played to an eager crowd at Stoke’s historic Victoria Hall as part of his intensive world tour.  What came out of this performance, besides thousands of sweaty satisfied fans, was this new live album.

Following is the official promo video (courtesy of Eagle Rock Ent.):

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It’s surprising to find that this is Slash’s first solo live album, and fans won’t be disappointed since he offers a unique set performed “just the once” to make this occasion truly memorable.  Slash is joined by Myles Kennedy on vocals, who does an excellent job on Slash’s solo songs, as well as some classics from Slash’s extensive repertoire.  Yes, you guessed it….they do perform “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and yes, the crowd goes wild!  Slash’s songwriting is full of the intensely melodic guitar solos that he is well known for and with Kennedy’s vocals, they make perfect musical sense.

The DVD is comprised of excellent performance footage as well as commentary and interviews with Slash himself.  Made in Stoke 24/7/11 is a true, highly polished live album that encompasses the mastery of rock and roll performance!


Reviewed by Jason Cyrus Rubino

View review December 2nd, 2011

Beat Generation 10th Anniversary

Title: The Beat Generation 10th Anniversary Collection

Artists: Various

Label: BBE (Barely Breaking Even)

Formats: 2 CD set, LP, MP3

Release Date: March 29, 2011




This two-disc compilation draws from the best tracks of BBE’s producer-led Beat Generation series—nine albums celebrated for their “hands-off” approach that allowed artists and producers the creative freedom to do their own thing. The two discs offer a fantastic overview of these “diverse albums from some of the world’s most capable hip-hop architects.” Artists represented in the compilation include Marley Marl, Jazzy Jeff,, Jay Dee, plus DJ/producers the likes of King Britt, Madlib, and Pete Rock.

Disc One was compiled and mixed by the one and only American hip hop artist/producer DJ Spinna, while Disc Two was compiled and mixed by British producer Mr. Thing. Some songs are featured on both CDs, allowing listeners to compare and contrast the different approaches representing both sides of the Atlantic. Tracks include DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “My Peoples” featuring Raheem DeVaughn and “We Live In Philly” featuring Jill Scott; DJ Spinna’s “Galactic Soul” and “Rock (Unplugged)”;’s “Lost Change in D Minor” (included on both discs); and King Britt’s “Cobbs Creek” featuring De La Soul.

Following is a 2009 interview with DJ Spinna, discussing production techniques inside his  Thingamajig Lab:

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Overall, this is a stellar collection from the London-based BBE label, known for producing deep funk and seminal hip hop albums.


Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss


View review December 2nd, 2011

Complete Aretha on Columbia

Title: Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia

Artist: Aretha Franklin

Label: Sony Legacy

Format: 12-CD Box Set

Release date: March 22, 2011




Before she was the “Queen of Soul” churning out hits at Atlantic Records, Aretha Franklin was an up and coming artist recording jazz standards and pop songs for Columbia. From 1960 to 1965 she recorded seven albums for Columbia, compiled here in an eleven CD set, complete with a DVD of her 1964 appearances on the Steve Allen show, a bonus CD of rarities, and two additional CDs of her collaborations with producers Bobby Scott (in 1963) and Clyde Otis (in 1964). The lavishly illustrated booklet includes an article by Princeton University professor Daphne A. Brooks outlining the beginning of Franklin’s career. While her years at Columbia are often ignored or at the very least unappreciated, early glimpses of the power and finesse that would come to define her career can be found in this collection.

Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington is one of the particularly noteworthy albums of this set, featuring moving renditions of “Unforgettable” and “This Bitter Earth” in which Aretha echoes the emotion and clarity of Washington while distinctly making it her own. The gospel choir-cultivated warmth and control that shines on tunes like “Soulville” are also present in her earliest recordings. Franklin’s Columbia debut Aretha: with the Ray Bryant Combo showcases a very young Franklin intelligently performing “Are You Sure” and “Love is the Only Thing,” effectively embracing stylistic nuances in the music while always retaining her matchless sound.

Following is the official promo video:

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No matter the song or genre, Aretha is always Aretha. Take a Look presents a lesser-known yet sparkling facet of this timeless artist.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review December 2nd, 2011

Gospel music documentary now out on DVD

Title: Rejoice and Shout (Documentary)

Artists:  Various

Label: Magnolia Home Entertainment

Format: DVD (NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen, Region 1)

Release date: November 1, 2011


Rejoice and Shout is a documentary film directed by Don McGlynn that explores the history of gospel music. Rare video footage alongside interviews of gospel icons and scholars are used to outline the dynamic growth and development of gospel beginning in the early 20th century. Rejoice linearly unfolds highlighting key musicians while also providing some historical context for expansions in the music. Several seminal artists are featured in interviews including Andrae Crouch, Willa Ward of the Clara Ward Singers, and Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds. This film also offers excellent early footage of the Caravans, Mahalia Jackson, and the Staples Singers.

Rejoice devotes the most time to highlighting the lives of some of the biggest names in gospel from 1930s up to the 1970s. A few of the surviving pioneers and performers of the music during these important years are allowed to recount their own stories. For example, the late singer Marie Knight shares her experiences performing and touring with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, while Willa Ward describes her mother’s heavy influence over her and Clara’s career. Rejoice also works to emphasize the ways in which social climate and historical events (such as the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement) affected and influenced these African American musicians.

Perhaps the strongest feature of Rejoice is its collection of gospel music performances and early twentieth century church services. This incredible footage spans several decades and chronicles not only the sound but also the appearance and performance styles gospel artists.

Following is the official trailer:

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Conversely, one of the greatest strengths of Rejoice may also be a weakness as usage and placement of the performance footage occasionally detracts from greater purpose of the film. In an interview about the documentary, McGlynn states that he wanted to allow more space for the music clips. While this tactic works for some performances, at times the clips lose momentum and feel too lengthy or awkward. Greater caution with the footage would have allowed space for more thorough discussions of the importance of gospel music organizations such as the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Chorus (NCGCC) and the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA), and how they influenced the growth and dissemination of gospel music. In a similar light, the film wavers on its claim to cover a “200 year musical history;” the significance of the gospel choir as well as gospel music’s development in the past forty years (1970-2010) is only given a surface treatment.

Gospel music is an incredible treasure that continues to touch the lives people across American and the world.  Rejoice and Shout is a stirring endeavor to capture the multifaceted and dynamic history of this African American Christian musical expression. Live performance recordings and valuable interviews make this film a worthwhile exploration. While there is some room for expansion in this film, the power and importance of gospel music still boldly shines through.


Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review December 2nd, 2011

Fever: Little Willie John: A Fast Life, Mysterious Death and the Birth of Soul

Title: Fever: Little Willie John: A Fast Life, Mysterious Death and the Birth of Soul

Author: Susan Whitall, with Kevin John

Publisher: Titan Books

Formats:  Hardcover (214 p.); Kindle ed.

Release date:  June 21, 2011





“Willie John was one of the most brilliant singers you would ever want to come across, bar none. There are things that were great, there are things that were good.  Willie John was past great.”―Sam Moore (quote from the dust jacket)

Detroit native Susan Whitall, former editor of Creem magazine and author of Women of Motown (1998), has done a great service to rhythm and blues scholarship with her new biography of Little Willie John.  By collaborating with Willie’s son, Kevin John, Whitall had unfettered access to family photos and archives and was also able to interview various members of the John family, including Willie’s sister Mable John, a former Motown recording artist and Raelette (Ray Charles’ backup group).  Other musicians interviewed for the book include B.B. King, Bettye LaVette, Gladys Knight, Little Jimmy Scott, Sam Moore, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, and Little Richard’s original drummer Charles Connor (whose unpublished memoir at the Archives of African American Music and Culture was used as a primary source for the book).

Willie John was born in Arkansas in 1937 but spent his formative years in a project on the north side of Detroit dubbed “Cardboard Valley,” where the John siblings attended several Holiness churches and formed a successful gospel troupe known as the United Five. The gregarious Willie had a natural talent, possessing even at a young age “a sensuous eerily mature voice full of depth and nuance . . . that came bursting out of his skinny chest” and could inspire “riotous behavior in church ladies.” By the time he was twelve Willie had drifted over to the secular side, utilizing his considerable charisma singing the blues and jazz at local clubs, then sneaking back home before his father’s midnight bed check. At fifteen, the five-foot four-inch singer was already becoming a hot commodity, attracting the likes of Count Basie and Lionel Hampton, who both wanted to take Willie on the road.  His parents declined, but allowed Willie to sign with local manager Harry Balk, and the rest is history.

Over the next decade, Little Willie John became a singing sensation, producing his first top 10 R&B hit “All Around the World” at the age of twenty, followed a year later by his signature song “Fever” which crossed over to the pop charts. His high-voltage stage show was legendary, made even more powerful in 1957 when he “inherited” the Upsetters from Little Richard, after Richard’s return to gospel music. When sharing the Apollo Theater stage with his male contemporaries, Willie was known to “practically self-immolate” in his attempts to come out on top. According to Whitall, at his peak Willie “was one of the four most powerful black male entertainers in the business, along with Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, and James Brown.” He’d sold “over seven million records for King and pulled in 100,000 dollars a year.”

Willie’s career began to falter, however, by the early 1960s. Drugs, excessive drinking, and the onslaught of the “British invasion” all factored into his downfall, which culminated in 1965 with a four year prison sentence in Washington State on a trumped up manslaughter charge. He was granted a brief parole in 1966 to make a final recording for producer H.B. Barnum (see review), but died two years later in the Washington State Penitentiary under mysterious circumstances (allegedly from pneumonia, though there is no record of treatment). He was only thirty years old.

Following is a book promo clip for Fever produced by W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio:

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Joe Hunter remarked that there was “a direct line from Willie John―the energy, the soul, the dance moves―to James Brown and later, Michael Jackson.”  But sadly, due to his untimely death and a dearth of live performance footage, Little Willie John does not hold a similar place in the collective consciousness.  At least his story has finally been told, and Whitall and Kevin John do the telling with great clarity and insight, from the streets of Detroit to the King Records studio in Cincinnati to the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Any fan of rhythm and blues, or the roots of rock and soul, or black popular music will thoroughly enjoy this biography of the late, great Little Willie John.


Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review December 2nd, 2011

Four Hendrix Reissues for the Holidays

Title: Winterland

Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Label: Experience Hendrix / Legacy Records

Formats: 4-CD Box Set; 8-LP + 1CD Box Set

Release Date: September 13, 2011



This 4-disc deluxe box set is a collection of live recordings from six unforgettable shows at San Francisco’s historic Winterland Ballroom.  These six shows were recorded over a three day period in October 1968.  The first thing one must take note of when dropping the needle on the first of eight LP’s is the brilliantly well executed sound restoration process of these recordings.  They sound so pristine and live, with this humble raw feel, yet they still exemplify the sound of the era.  Hendrix’s cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” was the high point of the album for me, and I especially enjoyed the rare 20 minute interview that they decided to include in the collection.  The interview is awkwardly interesting as the journalist is asking Jimi about his perceptions on playing and his style, and also telling Jimi about some criticism of his style from other musicians of the era.  The deluxe edition also features a 36 page book teeming with unpublished images of Jimi Hendrix, as well as an essay by Rolling Stone writer, David Fricke. Winterland is a must have for any Hendrix fan, and it’s also a good place to start for someone just now discovering the Hendrix legacy.  The album is available in an 8LP collector’s edition for all you audiophiles out there.

Note: apparently Amazon is selling an “exclusive version” (available for a limited time only) which includes a fifth disc featuring “Killing Floor,” “Red House,” “Catfish Blues,” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy (parts 1-2).”


Title: Hendrix in the West

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Label: Experience Hendrix / Legacy Records

Formats: CD, 2-LP, MP3

Release Date: September 13, 2011




Here we have another phenomenal collection of Jimi’s live performances, recorded from 1969-1970 during a time when he was heading in new musical directions, right before his death later that year.  The compilation takes stellar tracks from performances at the Berkley Community Theatre, San Diego Sports Arena, and the Isle of Wight Festival.  Notable performances on the album include the more straight forward blues tune, “Red House,” as well as the outrageousness improvisation and guitar soloing in “Spanish Castle Magic.”  The last time this collection was in print was 1974, so anyone who overplayed their LP until the grooves ran dull, now is your chance to pick up the CD or deluxe 180 gram double LP release.


Title: Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Label: Experience Hendrix / Legacy Records

Format: DVD, Color, NTSC, Region 1

Release Date: September 13, 2011




This film is a special reissue of Jimi’s performance in front of 600,000 screaming fans at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.  Roughly, the first 30 minutes of the film were edited like a documentary and host some great interviews with Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, and recording engineers from Electric Ladyland Studios.  The documentary portion of the film builds an excellent tension and anxiousness leading up to the moment when Jimi takes the stage, says “hello” to the crowd, awkwardly tunes his guitar, and eases into the first tune, “God Save the Queen,” with a swelling wall of noise.  The performance itself was shot from multiple camera angles, and with this special reissue the viewer actually has the power to control which angle to watch it from.  The 180 minute film makes you feel like you have a long expired press pass to a historical moment in rock and roll history.



Title: Jimi Hendrix: The Dick Cavett Show

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Label: Experience Hendrix / Legacy Records

Formats: DVD, Color, NTSC, Region 1

Release Date: September 13, 2011

A documentary focused around the evening talk show in which Jimi Hendrix made his first and several other television appearances on?  Yes please!  Hendrix on the Dick Cavett show gives a rare glimpse into an intriguing side of Jimi Hendrix.  Obviously out of his element in the majority of these interviews, Hendrix speaks softly about his perceptions of what music means, its importance as a new language of communication, and his opinion of those who criticized his rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”  Jimi does this with a humble grace while providing profound answers.  The crowd seems confused, and Mr. Cavett seems confused at times, but that’s what makes it all so spectacular.  The documentary aspect of the DVD is excellent as well, because it not only documents Hendrix and the Experience, but it also delves into the Dick Cavett Show’s history.  See, I haven’t even gotten to the music yet and you’re already excited!  The performances are superb.  “Machine Gun” was brilliant, and the context of Hendrix on a small studio stage is such a different experience from watching him playing to hundreds of thousands during those festival performances that made him famous.  “Hear My Train Coming” is by far my favorite performance, simply because it’s Jimi, on stage alone, with an old Ampeg amplifier. He just starts into this tune, and all of a sudden Bobby Rosengarden (Dick Cavett’s band leader) and the house band jump in with the accompaniment. Seeing Jimi with a certain vulnerability makes for a beautiful performance.

Following is the official trailer:

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Jimi Hendrix: The Dick Cavett Show is more than just Jimi—it’s a piece of musical and television history, a time capsule of sorts that is ripe for opening.

Reviewed by Jason Cyrus Rubino

View review December 2nd, 2011

Crazy Glue

Title: Crazy Glue

Artist: Fishbone

Label: DC-Jam Records

Format: CD, Mp3

Catalog Number: CD5051

Release Date: October 11, 2011



Crazy Glue is the latest release from LA based ska/punk/funk pioneers, Fishbone.  The seven song EP is their 15th release in the band’s 25 year career.   Throughout their journey, Fishbone has been challenging racial stereotypes and political order with their energetic, unabashed, social commentary and insanely wild live shows. Crazy Glue also marks the return of Dirty Walt Kibby, one of the founding members, who has been absent for the past few years and deeply missed by die-hard fans.  With three of the original founding members, and help from some talented new blood, Crazy Glue comes as a breath of fresh air in the punk scene.  They effortlessly traverse multiple genres in the new EP, creating seamless transitions in which the verse may be this fast and thrashing punk progression, but the chorus is some mind boggling, horn heavy, dub or funk progression!

Take a look and a listen to the video for “Crazy Glue” courtesy of DC-Jam and BlankTV:

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The EP truly feels like an adventure in music, making it rather impossible to sit still.  The album exudes an energy that makes it easy to understand their reputation of being one of the best live bands on the planet.  What it all really boils down to, is the album is just flat out fun to listen to, and after 25 years making music, the band isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.  Thank goodness for that.

Editor’s note:  Fishbone is currently on tour, and the acclaimed new documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone is also playing at select venues around the country.

Reviewed by Jason Cyrus Rubino




View review December 2nd, 2011

Ghetto Hymns

Title:  Ghetto Hymns

Artist: Winstrong

Label:  M9 Entertainment

Formats:  CD, MP3

Release date:  October 25, 2011



Ghetto Hymns—the latest release by Surinamese hip-hop/dancehall crossover artist Winstrong—is above all a celebration of the profound and intricate interconnectedness of Jamaican reggae/dancehall and U.S. hip-hop/rap, as well as of the transnational flows of people and musical styles which make such interconnections possible. This is largely a function of the fact that Winstrong is himself a product of these flows; while he grew up on the outer fringe of the Anglophone Caribbean in Paramaribo, Suriname, and still maintains a strong cultural and spiritual link to that region—and to Jamaica in particular—as a longtime dancehall artist and devout Rastafarian, he has lived in the United States since the mid-1990s and has thus had a great deal of exposure to U.S. hip-hop culture as well.

This transnational musical identity is perhaps best reflected in Winstrong’s vocal delivery, which blends his distinct Caribbean accent and his mastery of Jamaican dancehall sensibilities with some of the most iconic contemporary U.S. hip-hop vocal techniques and aesthetics. Indeed, as a ‘singjay’—the Jamaican term for a combination singer and ‘deejay’ (as rappers are called in Jamaica)—Winstrong is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the most popular and characteristic features of modern dancehall and hip-hop alike, juxtaposing hardcore dancehall-style rapped verses with infectiously melodious, R&B-inflected, and often autotuned hip-hop choruses, especially prominent tracks such as “Would you Love Me?” and “Forever.” His lyrics follow suit, oscillating between the club anthems of love, sex, and hedonism and the more socially conscious tales of urban struggle and survival that are each prevalent in both hip-hop and reggae/dancehall culture.

Similarly, the album’s musical production team has done a masterful job of composing tracks and riddims that match Winstrong’s transnational, genre-bending aesthetic. While the dominant musical influences are certainly drawn more from the styles that are popular in contemporary American DJ/dance music culture—from cutting-edge mainstream hip-hop to techno and even dubstep—than they are from Jamaican sources, certain songs such as “Rude Boy” play up Winstrong’s Caribbean heritage by mapping a characteristic reggae skank onto the more identifiably hip-hop-based grooves of the percussion tracks.

Following is the official music video for “Rude Boy” (courtesy of WinstrongTV):

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Musically and conceptually, then, Ghetto Hymns is a major departure from the much more dancehall and reggae-centered aesthetics of Winstrong’s earlier releases, and demonstrates that the artist has fully embraced the hip-hop culture in which he has been immersed for so many years. In other words, this album represents a transition away from his previous hip-hop-influenced dancehall productions and into what would more rightly be considered dancehall-inflected Caribbean hip-hop, much in the vein of Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley; it is thus a skillful and innovative foray into relatively new and unexplored sonic and stylistic territory, and certainly has much to offer for fans of reggae/dancehall and hip-hop alike.


Reviewed by Eric Bindler

View review December 2nd, 2011

Ray Charles’ Complete ABC Singles

Title: Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles

Artist:  Ray Charles

Formats:  5-CD Box Set; MP3

Label:  Concord Records

Release date:  November 15, 2011




There have been many, many Ray Charles reissues and compilations over the years, and in this new deluxe box set from Concord we’re treated to his complete ABC-Paramount singles.  Charles left Atlantic at the close of the 1950s, just after scoring his first Top 10 pop hit with “What’d I Say” and charting new territory that came to be known as soul. His tenure at ABC lasted from 1960-1972, and this collection features 106 songs representing both the A and B sides from 53 of his 45 rpm singles. According to the press release, “21 of the songs are making their digital debut, and 30 have never previously been available on CD.”

Musically, the selections in this set represent an important transition by Charles, who was given free creative reign by ABC-Paramount (plus many financial incentives) in their attempt to lure black talent away from Atlantic. His tight eight-piece R&B band gave way to slicker orchestral accompaniments―still firmly rooted in pop, blues, R&B, country and jazz―and of course still featuring Ray’s achingly soulful vocals.  The tracks on the set, arranged in chronological order, include such megahits as the Percy Mayfield penned “Hit the Road Jack,” Frank Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” from the Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music album, a cover of the Buck Owens’ song “Crying Time,” and Ray’s iconic version of “America the Beautiful.”

All selections have been digitally remastered by Paul Blakemore, and the 48 page booklet features an essay by recording artist and music historian Billy Vera along with rare photographs supplied by the Ray Charles Foundation, personnel lists, and discographical information for each track. As summed up by Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, “The ABC singles comprise an epoch of essential Ray Charles music and a window into how his genius evolved.”

This box set makes an excellent pairing with the DVD Ray Charles: Live in France 1961, featuring a performance from the same era. Fans of Ray Charles will be rejoicing this holiday season.


Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review December 2nd, 2011

Ray Charles: Live in France 1961


Title:  Ray Charles: Live in France 1961

Label:  Eagle Rock Ent.

Format:  DVD, NTSC (111 min.)

Release Date:  October 24, 2011




Ray Charles: Live in France 1961, the newly discovered film of Ray and his ten-piece band rocking and socking a delirious French audience at Antibes, France, in July 1961, is a masterpiece, a must-have DVD treasure for any dedicated fan of the Genius. Film of Ray in performance before the mid-60s is rare, and this footage of Ray and the gang making their international debut gives us a superb document of what Ray looked and sounded like at the height of his powers—he was then only 31!

The richness of the DVD lies, of course, in the hundred-plus minutes of music, including a goodly number of Ray’s all-time biggest hits: “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” “What’d I Say,” and “Georgia on My Mind.” Ray is in fine voice, and the nine-piece band, featuring long-time Ray stalwarts, Fathead Newman, Leroy Cooper, Hank Crawford, and Wallace Davenport, is red hot, both when playing muted backgrounds for the vocals or when playing all out through orgasmic codas. The DVD fills a long-empty hole in the history of Ray’s musical development: now we know how he sounded in the early ‘60s when he was growing out of his little seven-piece band and into the big band to come.

Yet sight is as important as sound on this Antibes DVD. The stage lighting is perfect, and the black-and-white images have an old-fashioned simplicity. The finished film blends the footage of at least four cameras, so we get to see Ray and the band from numerous angles, wide shots and close ups, but—and this is important—we stay with each point of view for a minute or more at a time. So, instead of confusing cuts leaping from player to player, we stay, for instance, with Fathead through a whole solo, with Leroy as he poots away on his baritone sax, and with Ray through dazzling chorus after chorus of the driving piano blues. This slow cutting gives the film a documentary quality: we can see, plain as day, just how Ray’s band worked, how the music got made. Funny detail: no one prepared music stands for the band, and they strain to read charts lying tangled on chairs before them.

Following is the official trailer:

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Throughout, Ray appears totally focused on the music. He’s never, chatting, smiling, or hamming for the crowd. Instead he’s listening, listening, listening, making sure the music is played just the way he wants it played. And on these glorious days in July, the music came out just fine. Ray was such a hit at Antibes that a few months later he and big band came to Paris; those back-to-back gigs kicked off Ray’s three-decade international career.

Ray Charles: Live in France 1961, the DVD: get one today. You’ll be glad you did.

Reviewed by Michael Lydon (author of Ray Charles: Man and Music)

View review December 2nd, 2011

Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920′s, vol. 9

Title: Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol.9

Format: Calendar + CD

Publisher: Blues Images

Release date: August 2011




John Tefteller’s annual Classic Blues calendar for 2012 features more amazing artwork from the 1920s, some of which rivals R. Crumb in originality. Each month of the calendar is also illustrated with rare photographs of blues musicians, birth and death dates, brief biographies, and sample song lyrics.

The accompanying CD includes the songs that are featured in the January to December artwork, plus 7 bonus tracks. Personal favorites include Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Fence Break’n Yellin’ Blues,” Charley Patton’s “Jesus Is a Dying Bed Maker,” and Tampa Red and Georgia Tom (a.k.a. Thomas A. Dorsey) performing “Mama Don’t Allow No Easy Riders Here” (a great double entendre gem from Dorsey’s secular days).  And in an interesting juxtaposition, blues guitar evangelist Blind Joe Taggert performs Dorsey’s “Precious Lord.” All of the selections on the CD were transferred from the original 78 rpm records and remastered by Richard Nevins. Between the calendar and the CD, you have two products that will satisfy any blues fan on your holiday shopping list.

Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol. 9 is available at select music and book stores, from Blues Images, or Amazon.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review December 2nd, 2011

Xmas done got funky!

Title: Santa’s Funk & Soul Christmas Party

Artists: Various

Label: Tramp Records

Formats:  LP gatefold, CD, MP3

Release date:  November 21, 2011




This compilation is so new we haven’t had time to score a copy, but based on the samples it wins hands down as the funkiest holiday CD of 2011. Compilers Jan Kohlmeyer and Tobias Kirmayer set out to find rare grooves from the 1960s and `70s.  Their top 50 candidates were eventually culled down to 13 tracks representing “top-end rarities, even for the advanced record collector.”   Artists include Lee Rogers, Gary Walker, Vernon Garrett with Sir Stan & the Counts, Count Sidney & His Dukes, Rose Graham, Binky Griptite (Daptones), Fat Daddy, Jimmy Reed, Buchanan & Goodman with Paul Sherman, and – our personal favorite – Jimmy Jules & Nuclear Soul System performing “Xmas Done Got Funky.”

The CD booklet and LP sleeve contain scans of all the 45rpm labels featured in this project, as well as liner notes to each song.  The LP comes with a gatefold cover and is limited to 500 copies.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review December 2nd, 2011

Welcome to the December 2011 Issue

Welcome to the December holiday issue of Black Grooves.  This month’s focus is on box sets, books and DVDs that any Black Grooves fan would be delighted to receive, with a couple of new releases thrown in for good measure.  Featured artists include Fishbone, Winstrong, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Alicia Keys, Little Willie John, Chuck Berry, Slim Harpo, Etta James, Slash, Wynton Marsalis, James Brown, Phil Spector, T-Bone Walker, Aretha Franklin, and the Kashmere Stage Band.  Also included is the 2012 Classic Blues Calendar, a funky Christmas CD compilation, a DVD featuring Motown artists on the Ed Sullivan Show, the London-based BBE label’s Beat Generation 10th Anniversary Compilation, a new gospel music documentary, and two crate-digger collections—one focusing on Arkansas’ True Soul label and another on raw African-American gospel from rare 45 rpm records.

Happy Holidays to all from the Black Grooves staff!

View review December 2nd, 2011

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