Archive for November, 2013

Welcome to the November 2013 Issue

Welcome to the November 2013 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Norman Granz’s iconic jazz label Pablo Records with a review of the first Pablo reissues via Concord’s Original Jazz Classics Remasters series. Also featured is the new jazz album Out Here from the Christian McBride Trio.

New rock releases include Lickety Split by Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Electric Slave by the Austin band Black Joe Lewis, the Dirtbombs’ ode to bubblegum rock Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey, the latest release in Bear Family’s “Rock” series devoted to the Drifters, and the self-titled release from lo-fi punk/hip hop artist Vex Ruffin.

There’s also plenty of R&B, including Sandra St. Victor’s Oya’s Daughter, Marques Houston’s Famous, the Musiq Soulchild and Syleena Johnson collaboration 9ine, and the Marvin Gaye compilation A Stubborn Kind of Fellow: From the Beginning 1957-1962.

Under the categories of blues, gospel and roots music is Juba Dance by Guy Davis, the Giddens Sisters self-titled release, the survey of rural black religious music Sorrow Come Pass Me Around, Earnest Pugh’s live recording The W.I.N. (Worship in Nassau) Experience, and the “psychedelic gospel” of The Relatives on The Electric Word.

Wrapping up this issue is the Bombay Dub Orchestra’s East meets West techno-dub experiment Tales from the Grand Bazaar, and the compilation Harafinso: Bollywood Inspired Film Music from Hausa Nigeria.

View review November 1st, 2013

The Original Jazz Classics/Pablo Records Remasters: Something For Most Jazz Fans

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Title: Solo Masterpieces, Volume One

Artist: Art Tatum

Label: OJC/Concord Music Group

Catalog No.: OJC-34620-02

Format: CD

Release Date: 8/20/13

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john coltrane afro blue

Title: Afro Blue Impressions

Artist: John Coltrane

Label: Pablo/Concord Music Group

Catalog No.: PAB-34605-02

Format: 2CD

Release Date: 8/20/13 —————————————————————————————————————————-

The Ellington Suites

Title: The Ellington Suites

Artist: Duke Ellington

Label: OJC/Concord Music Group

Catalog No.: OJC-34614-02

Format: CD

Release Date: 8/20/13

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albumcoverDizzyGillespie-DizzysBig4

Title: Dizzy’s Big 4

Artist: Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown and Mickey Roker

Label: OJC/Concord Music Group

Catalog No.: OJC-34611-02

Format: CD

Release Date: 8/20/13

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zoot

Title: Zoot Sims & The Gershwin Brothers

Artist: Zoot Sims

Label: OJC/Concord Music Group

Catalog No.: OJC-34623-02

Format: CD

Release Date: 8/20/13

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Oscar Peterson - Skol

Title: Skol

Artist: Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli

Label: OJC/Concord Music Group

Catalog No.: OJC-34617-02

Format: CD

Release Date: 8/20/13

 

For fellow jazz fans who came of age during the ‘70s and ‘80s, Pablo Records is probably a familiar name in your record collection, or the stacks of a friend.  In 1973, jazz impresario and civil rights crusader Norman Granz returned to the record business.  The founder of Jazz at the Philharmonic and Verve Records, who had sold the record label to MGM in 1962, named his new label after his friend Pablo Picasso. The distinctive black covers, with only black and white photos and white-on-black text in the early years, held recordings from Granz’s vault as well as new sessions from an impressive array of jazz veterans.

When he started Pablo Records, Granz immediately signed the three top artists he managed— Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass.  He quickly followed by attracting to his label the likes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Turner, Zoot Sims, Louis Bellson, Milt Jackson, Herb Ellis, Jon Faddis, Freddie Hubbard, J. J. Johnson, etc., etc., etc. In short, Pablo soon became an all-star showcase for older but still vital jazz artists who played a style that mostly harkened back to bebop and the big band era.  This was not a home for free-jazz rambling or fusion jazz-rock.  Granz stuck with the styles, and many of the artists, who had worked well for him at Verve.  It’s worth noting that many of these artists had been without recording contracts, as major labels moved away from more melodic and acoustic styles of jazz.

Granz knew what he liked, but he was far from a fuddy-duddy. In his vaults were ground-breaking live recordings he had personally financed including John Coltrane’s early 1960s quartet, and dozens of hours of solo and small-group recordings by piano legend Art Tatum. These pre-Pablo recordings were released alongside new studio sessions and, starting in 1975, frequent live-recording trips to the Montreux Jazz Festival near Granz’s home in Switzerland.

Concord Music Group acquired the Pablo label as part of Fantasy Group (also home to the Riverside, Fantasy and Prestige jazz labels). In recent years, Concord has launched several reissue series, freshening up their CD catalog with new, high quality remasters.  Their Stax Remasters series has been reviewed favorably here and elsewhere.  The same philosophies and the same mastering engineer, Joe Tarantino, were applied to the Pablo catalog.

This first series of Pablo Remasters includes: a fast and furious solo piano album by Tatum recorded in 1953 and 1955; two CDs of live Coltrane from October and November, 1963; Duke Ellington “suites” song-groups from 1959, 1971 and 1972; a Dizzy Gillespie led small group outing from 1974; Zoot Sims diving into the Gershwin songbook, with Joe Pass and Oscar Peterson along for the ride, in 1975; and a 1979 live tet-a-tet between Peterson and French jazz violinist (and pioneering partner to Django Reinhardt) Stephane Grappelli.

The most daring material here is the older recordings.  Granz’s work documenting Tatum’s skill and unique style at the piano was legendary in its day.  Those not accustomed to a “busy” solo pianist may find the extra-long CD a bit fatiguing, but piano players and fans will likely sit in awe of Tatum in his element.  Coltrane is also a polarizing artist. In these recordings, from his 1963 European tour, ‘Trane and his fellow travelers—McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums— are pushing the definitions and contours of jazz outwards, heading toward what would later be called “free jazz,” but often returning to familiar structures like melodies and steady tempo. The main thing Coltrane is doing differently at that time was throwing long showers of notes and riffs over a somewhat minimalist background. He runs up and down the sax, squeaks and squeals, varies his timing and intensity and otherwise conducts a revolt against more traditional jazz styles.  As in Coltrane’s time, this will have great appeal to some and sound like irritating noise to others.

Few would call Duke Ellington’s clever arranging and creative composing mere noise.  In his three suites—”The Queen’s Suite” from 1959, “The Goutelas Suite” from 1971 and “The Uwis Suite” from 1972—Ellington paints pictures and draws his sounds from nature and human activities.  It’s very far from jam-session jazz but it swings and avoids concert hall stuffiness.  Ellington’s music has a timeless, universal feel to it without feeling heavy and humorless.

By 1974, Dizzy Gillespie was comfortably established as a bebop pioneer and an ace jazzman, in demand on the concert stage and still in prime playing condition.  The small-group jam-album captured by Granz is a classic example of the sum exceeding the parts.  Dizzy and bassist Ray Brown were a generation older than guitarist Pass and drummer Mickey Roker, and each player brought their strong suits to the table.  The gumbo they created is somewhere between bebop and acid-jazz. There are funky basslines and beats under classic Dizzy runs and riffs on “Frelimo.”  And Dizzy reprises the classic “Be Bop,” after which was named a whole style of jazz, with Pass filling in for the late Charlie Parker, Dizzy’s original partner in bop. Perhaps most surprising is the closer, a funky yet restrained version of Fats Waller’s classic “Jitterbug Waltz.”

A “Gershwin Songbook” outing can be tame and dull or it can be original and engaging.  Zoot Sims took the latter tack, with Peterson and Pass in lock-step.  The tunes are familiar but the interpretations are unique, and everyone has turns at master-class level solos.  Sims made a series excellent albums for Pablo, and here’s hoping the rest of them get this kind of remaster treatment.

The album with the latest recording date in this first series of reissues—Peterson and Grappelli’s July 6, 1979 concert at Copenhagen’s Tivoli Concert Hall—is the most surprising.  One doesn’t usually think of Oscar Peterson playing with a pioneer of European hot-jazz, or a violinist for that matter.  But there they were, with Pass doing his best Reinhardt imitation and with rock-solid backing from Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass and Roker on drums.  Every minute of this CD is special, and the recording is superb. Only Roker is still living.  This recording stands as a tribute to the musical gifts all of these men shared with audiences around the world. The music and the playing are timeless.

As is the case with other Concord reissue series, bonus tracks were included on these discs.  Their value varies. On the live album, the extra tracks from the same concerts are welcome and stand well with the original sequences.  The Dizzy disc includes a couple of alternate takes that were clearly rejected from the LP for good reason (sloppy playing).  The Ellington disc contains a previously-unreleased song, “The Kiss”, also recorded at the 1972 session. It’s a swinging little ditty, like the band and Ellington let off some steam after the tight suite arrangements. The extra Zoot Sims tracks are a mixed bag:  one additional Gershwin tune not on the LP and two mediocre alternate takes.

Concord should keep a steady stream of Pablo Remasters coming.  Producer Nick Phillips made some creative and unexpected choices in this first batch, encompassing a wide range of styles and a long timeline.  But there are so many other gems in the Pablo catalog.  Hopefully, the Basie Jams series, the outstanding Montreux 1977 live recordings and the many great vocal recordings by Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn are in the queue for reissue. Not to mention all the great Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass albums. Heck, hopefully the whole Pablo catalog will get the deluxe reissue treatment!

For a free download of a compilation featuring tracks from Concord’s Original Jazz Classics Remasters series go to: http://www.ojcremasters.com.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review November 1st, 2013

Christian McBride Trio – Out Here

Christian-McBride-Trio--Out-Here-album-cover

Title: Out Here

Artist: Christian McBride Trio

Label: Mack Avenue Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 6, 2013

 

 

Christian McBride’s 11th release as a leader is an exercise in a well-known, fundamental jazz format—the trio. On Out Here, McBride eschews the larger bands and famous guest musicians that characterize much of his output as a leader in favor of a smaller group consisting of McBride, drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., and pianist Christian Sands.  Owens and Sands are both young musicians who bring their own prolific outputs to the table—Owens has appeared on a number of recording dates with various leaders, including being a recent regular in some of McBride’s larger bands, and Sands, an 18-year-old piano wizard who has studied with Dr. Billy Taylor and has shared the stage with a number of jazz luminaries.

For all of the youth in this trio, on this record McBride and company explore a classic jazz format.  It is difficult not to compare McBride’s work here to his kindred spirit and Superbass collaborator Ray Brown, who famously was a staple of the Oscar Peterson Trio.  The piano-bass-drum group that McBride presents on this record hearkens to the sounds of the Peterson Trio and incorporates a higher percentage of standard literature than many listeners have come to associate with McBride. While the album includes original compositions, this record includes several standards and even includes one of Peterson’s compositions, further strengthening comparisons between the two trios.  Here’s the first installment in a 3-part interview with the group about the album:

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The return to a more traditional format and repertoire does not stifle McBride’s hallmark creativity, however.  Rather, this serves as an opportunity to hear the eclectic bassist do yet another thing he does well—swing hard in a mostly straight-ahead format.  “East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)” allows the group to play at a leisurely tempo, providing opportunities for McBride and company to find the pocket and stay within it.  “I Have Dreamed” (from The King and I) is delivered with tenderness, with McBride bowing a gorgeous rendition of the tune’s melody.  In addition to these fairly conventional approaches, the group also takes some liberties with the standard repertoire featured on this album: “Cherokee” alternates between  frenetically fast bebop and half-time jazz waltz, while “My Favorite Things” is played in an unconventional swinging 5/4 meter.  McBride’s re-recording of his own composition “I Guess I’ll Have to Forget” is played here with a slower Latin feel than the original, allowing the group to let the tune breathe easily.

As would be expected from a McBride group, there is no shortage of groove-based tunes on Out Here.  McBride’s original opening blues number “Ham Hocks and Cabbage” and the group’s rendition of Dr. Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker” both showcase this trio’s ability to play deep within the pocket on bluesy and soulful tunes. The group’s soulful treatment of Peterson’s “Hallelujah Time” allows Sands to showcase both his soulful gospel and mind-boggling bebop chops in an a la Peterson style.  The album’s final number, “Who’s Making Love,” is a cover of Johnny Taylor’s 1968 R&B hit that allows the trio to cut loose on this funky groove tune, with McBride playfully inserting a prolonged quote from The Gap Band.

McBride’s interpretation of the conventional jazz trio format with the younger musicians he selected for this record allows listeners to experience another facet of the eclectic McBride, who is an unequivocal staple of the contemporary jazz scene.  Out Here is a fascinating chance to hear McBride lead a trio and this album consistently serves to showcase the group’s wide range of ability as they deftly move through groove, blues, and standard tunes.  This is yet another in a long line of solid releases from McBride and Mack Avenue Records.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

View review November 1st, 2013

Robert Randolph & the Family Band – Lickety Split

robert-randolph-lickety-split-cover

Title: Lickety Split

Artist: Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Label: Dare / Blue Note Records

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release Date:  July 16, 2013

 

 

Lickety Split is Robert Randolph & the Family Band’s first release on the Blue Note label and the group’s first studio release since 2010’s We Will Walk This Road, an effort produced in conjunction with T Bone Burnett on Warner Bros. Records.

Randolph’s transition from large major label to the famed jazz imprint is barely noticeable, given this album’s fresh batch of pop-friendly songs and the inclusion of superstar guest artists that have been characteristic of most of the group’s output thus far. The self-produced Lickety Split includes a number of barnburners in the group’s well-developed musical idiom that blends sacred steel, funk, and rock influences, as well as including one or two examples of their signature approach to gospel-tinged power ballads.  The band grooves in top form throughout, effectively translating their signature live performance energy into what could be a potentially—confining studio situation on many numbers—the group’s virtuosity is well on display here and Randolph’s steel guitar improvisations are every bit as energetic as longtime listeners have yet heard from him.

Some of the album’s highlights include the energetic party anthem “Amped Up,” the New Orleans-inspired funk of “Take the Party” featuring an ever-tasteful Trombone Shorty grooving along with the Family Band’s convincing second-line, and the infectious funk of “Brand New Wayo” featuring Randolph and Carlos Santana playfully trading solos, with Santana executing a convincing B.B. King impression at Randolph’s request.  The group also demonstrates their unique approach to slower numbers on the album, with a highlight being “New Orleans” that’s part warbling gospel ballad and part hard-grooving second-line funk, transitioning naturally between its two grooves.

The second half of the album is far less consistent than the first, with a number of tracks that do not quite meet the high bar set by the group at the beginning of Lickety Split. For example, while featuring evocative guitar playing by Randolph and Santana, the musical and lyrical development of “Blacky Joe” seem nearly inchoate at times.  “All American” reads as a kind of free-associative portrait that relies on a number of seemingly disconnected patriotic tropes and “Welcome Home” expresses similar sentiments, reading as a letter to a military veteran. The usually apolitical Family Band demonstrates why their songwriting tends not to move in this direction, as these numbers have little musical or lyrical distinction to merit their inclusion on this disc.  The album ends with a cover of “Good Lovin’,” a number one hit for The Young Rascals in 1966, which is a fun song, even if it does feel like an afterthought in the context of the album.

While not as consistent as 2002’s Unclassified or as eclectic as 2010’s We Will Walk This Road, this album ultimately serves to demonstrate the group at their best: as a consummately funky jam band.  While Lickety Split is uneven at times, ultimately the fiery improvisations and infectious grooves that have garnered Robert Randolph & the Family Band a national and international reputation are on display here in their full form—a few inconsistencies can be forgiven for a band that grooves like this one does.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

View review November 1st, 2013

Black Joe Lewis – Electric Slave

blackjoelewis-albumcover

Title: Electric Slave

Artist: Black Joe Lewis

Label:  Vagrant

Formats:  CD, LP, MP3

Release date:  August 27, 2013

 

 

The Austin, Texas rock band known as Black Joe Lewis (led by Joe Lewis on lead vocals and guitar), is charting a different direction on their latest album.  Dropping the band moniker “Honeybears” along with the cuddly image, Electric Slave might be described as a Django-on-acid soundtrack. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the opening track “Skulldiggin,” which opens with a massive attack of psychedelic distortion and raw-as-punk vocals:

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But like a film soundtrack, the mood of the album changes constantly, with subtle but complex references to soul, R&B and funk entering the mix.  “Young Girls” is more garage rock, propelled by a guitar riff that calls to mind Chuck Berry, while “Dar es Salaam” is a perfect storm of dueling guitars and blasting (but right on the money) horns.  Other album highlights include the Hendrix-esque “My Blood Ain’t Runnin’ Right,” the funky disco “Come to My Party” featuring a Nile Rogers-style chunking guitar riff, the nearly 7 minute bluesy rock masterpiece “Vampire” complete with wolf calls and a sinister honking  sax, and the closing track “Mammas Queen” which will leave your chair vibrating for at least 30 seconds after the music stops.

Though many of the songs have ghoulish titles and lyrics, Lewis claims the album title refers to the masses who are slaves to their iPhones, as well as his fear that hardwiring electronics into our brains is the next step.  Either way, Electric Slave is a killer album, sure to hold you in thrall. The band is currently touring the U.S. in support of the album, and if you’re lucky enough to live in Chicago, they’ll be giving a New Years Eve show at the Metro.

Bonus video: since we’re also featuring the gospel funk quartet The Relatives in this issue, check out their back-up vocals for Black Joe Lewis in this live performance of “You Been Lyin’”—what a righteous combination!

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review November 1st, 2013

The Relatives – The Electric Word

relatives-electric-world

Title: The Electric Word

Artist: The Relatives

Label: Yep Roc Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: February 19, 2013

 

 

While second chances are a common theme in gospel and Christian music lyrics, within the music industry, second chances are harder to come by. Thankfully, for a select few artists like the Relatives, opportunities for success are twice in coming. Over forty years after they first formed, this quartet styled gospel group is making waves with the release of their first full length album The Electric Word.  Though their primarily funk, R&B, and rock inspired “secular” style often received a cool reception among older church-going crowds during their formative years, in the midst of today’s contemporary gospel scene the Relative’s music is situated a bit more comfortably. Their sound reminds listeners of both the music of the past and the possibilities of the future.

While heavily drawing on “old school” (1960s-1970s) R&B and funk, the music of The Electric Word has been updated with contemporary melodic “riffs” in the instrumental accompaniment. Even so, much of the Relative’s sound calls to mind the music of James Brown and even popular gospel groups like the Mighty Clouds of Joy. “Let Your Light Shine” and “It’s Coming Up Again” are the most indicative of these styles with heavy, rhythmic baselines, punctuating lead guitar, and spirited call and response between the lead and background vocals. The latter song even features the crackled yet powerful voice lead singer Rev. Gean West belting out “Say it loud!” in a manner that channels Brown’s classic hit “Say it Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).”

Electric is as much social commentary as it is the “good news.” For instance, the song “Speak to Me (What’s Wrong with America?)” laments the struggles of living as a black man in the United States. With a slow introduction featuring electric guitar, organ, and bass, this ballad is a conversation with God asking Him for explanations for earthly injustices. Similarly, the track “Bad Trip” hales back to the group’s early years in the 1970s in both its message and its sound. This song characterizes using “dope” and “doing wrong everyday” as a “bad trip” in the musical style known as psychedelic rock. Originally associated with drug use, psychedelic rock is rarely heard in association with gospel music, perhaps making its inclusion here one of the Relatives’ most unique features:

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Lastly, the album includes two traditional gospel songs, “Trouble in My Way” and “I Will Trust in the Lord,” both performed with stripped down accompaniment featuring only quiet rhythmic snaps in the distant background. A simpler musical treatment sets these selections apart from the other heavy charged pieces on this album by paying homage to the gospel songs and particularly the quartet styling of the past. In this way, The Electric Word is a testament to the enduring importance and the versatility of the gospel quartet tradition. With music ranging from “down home” to uncommon, the Relatives remind us to consider the past, innovate in the present, and that it’s never too late for a second chance.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

Editor’s note: In 2009 Yep Roc Records also reissued The Relatives early 1970s gospel-funk masterpiece Don’t Let Me Fall on vinyl, which includes the amazing James Brown styled song “Rap On.”

View review November 1st, 2013

The Dirtbombs – Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!

The-Dirtbombs-Ooey-Gooey-Chewy-Ka-Blooey-608x608

Title: Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!

Artist: The Dirtbombs

Label: In the Red

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: September 17, 2013

 

 

If you have a craving for something sweet, the bubblegum rock of The Dirtbombs is the perfect treat for you.  Straight from Detroit, singer and guitarist Mick Collins of The Gories has brought together a variety of group members who now include Ko Melina (of Ko & The Knockouts) on baritone and bass guitar, and Pat Pantano (of the Come Ons) with Ben Blackwell (employee of Jack White) on drums.  With two drummers in one band, The Dirtbombs create a new balance of instrumentals that hit listeners with a retro vibe and a fresh desire to twist and shout.

The Dirtbombs’ new album, Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey! playfully experiments with the ideas of the bubblegum rock genre.  Each original song fills the speakers with funny lyrics that are equally as sugary as the album’s title.  From the romantic lines of “Crazy For You” (“I may be crazy but it’s only ‘cause I’m crazy for you”), to the charming rhymes of “Hot Sour Salty Sweet” (“Apples, peaches, pears, and plums—Can’t wait ‘til the evening comes”), to the not-so-sublime confection “Sugar on Top” (“baby’s got the love with the sugar on top”), the words are bound to satisfy any sweet-tooth.  These lyrics are definitely simple but also memorable—perfect for singing along.  Meanwhile, the double drums bounce off of one another in a conversation that mixes with retro vibes.  The Dirtbombs’ Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey! revives the spirit of The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar,” and adds a vibrant new spin of baritone guitar with dueling drums.

Reviewed by Cara M. M. Rogers

View review November 1st, 2013

The Drifters – Rock

drifters rock

Title: Rock

Artist: The Drifters

Label: Bear Family

Format: CD

Release date:  July 16, 2013

 

 

The latest release in Bear Family’s “Rock” series highlights the Drifters, “the most important R&B vocal group of two different and distinct eras.” The legendary Clyde McPhatter led the Drifters from 1953 through early1955 during the group’s initial chart topping streak and the rise of rock ‘n’ roll. Their first sessions produced several hit songs (included here) that would have an impact on the development of rock, such as the uptempo “Money Honey” famously covered three years later by Elvis Presley; the sexual innuendo laden “Such a Night” which spawned several watered-down versions by white artists (including Elvis); the even more explicit songs “Bim Bam” and “Honey Love” which white artists wouldn’t dare cover; and the gospel inspired “What‘cha Gonna Do” penned by Ahmet Ertegun.

After McPhatter embarked on a solo career, the group went through a string of lead tenors, each represented on this compilation.  Bill Pinkney is featured on “No Sweet Lovin’” and “I Gotta Get Myself a Woman” (with Johnny Moore), plus two sides he recorded with The Turks immediately following his initial dismissal from the Drifters. Johnny Moore took over as lead in 1955 and is included on eight tracks highlighted by the rocking “Ruby Baby” (by Leiber and Stoller) and “Sadie My Lady.”  Bobby Hendricks gets his share of the spotlight on “Drip Drop” and “Suddenly There’s a Valley,” neither of which received much attention at the time, undeservedly so.

After a fateful gig at the Apollo led to a firing of the group en masse by manager George Treadwill, he formed the “new” Drifters out of the Five Crowns, which just happened to feature a young Ben E. King who sang lead on the Latin-based “Hey Senorita” in 1959. Though King soon departed for fame and glory, his influence propelled the group’s second rise to fame during the birth of pop-oriented uptown soul in the 1960s through songs such as “I Feel Good All Over” and “Baltimore” (featuring Charlie Thomas on lead tenor, Elsbeary Hobbs on lead bass and King Curtis on sax), as well as “If You Don’t Come Back” which heralded the return of Johnny Moore. The disc concludes in 1963, prior to the British invasion, after which rock gradually lost its roll.

Though there are countless Drifters compilations, you can’t go wrong with this expertly mastered set if you wish to explore the R&B foundations of rock and roll. The accompanying 50 page illustrated booklet includes extensive liner notes by Bill Dahl, along with complete session details for the 32 tracks.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review November 1st, 2013

Vex Ruffin – Vex Ruffin

vex-ruffin

Title: Vex Ruffin

Artist: Vex Ruffin

Label: Stones Throw

Format: CD, MP3

Release Date: November 12, 2013

 

 

It’s not every day that an unsolicited demo lands you an album deal with the likes of Stones Throw. But for Vex Ruffin, the phone number listed on the back of a cassette demo led to a phone call from Peanut Butter Wolf (Stones Throw’s founder), resulting in the release of Ruffin’s  self-titled album. Powered mainly by a SP 303 sampler and bass, the toned-down, minimalist aspect of the project is far from what one would expect from Stones Throw, but it’s still a strong, if somewhat shaky release.

Getting fully into Vex Ruffin takes time. The first song and the album’s first single, “Living for the Future,” drags on too long both musically and lyrically. Upon reaching “It Will Come,” there’s a definite mood change resulting from a mix of melancholy psychedelia and some heavily hip hop-oriented drums.

Following is the video for “Living For The Future”:

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This toned-down simplistic sound proves to be a commanding force that drives the rest of the album. “Hard on Myself” is practically all bass; the SP 303 is set to an extremely simplistic beat while the bass is played as hard as possible, creating a trebly, distorted sound over which  Ruffin lets words fall practically out of his mouth in his characteristically apathetic delivery. The last four songs are probably the most varied, the sound ranging from something out of Southeast Asia on “This Time” before immediately switching to a poppier, relatively upbeat track on “Forget It.”  The end track, “Ruined,” is as somber as the name implies, incorporating heavy reverb with jazzy guitar warped in pitch and speed. Ruffin’s repetitive line “I’m ruined” permeates the slow, lazy track and provides a perfect ending.

Despite a rather slow start, Vex Ruffin quickly recovers, continuously improving until reaching a highly experimental, yet solid and well-connected finish. While the typical hip-hop fan may not fully accept Stones Throw’s shift in signing artists outside the genre, Vex Ruffin proves that, not belonging to the common sway of things is an advantage, one that may lead  to an appreciation of unconventional choices.

Reviewed by Ian Hallagan

View review November 1st, 2013

Sandra St. Victor – Oya’s Daughter

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Title: Oya’s Daughter

Artist: Sandra St. Victor

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: September 24, 2013

 

 

Sandra St. Victor, The Mack Diva, released her third solo album, Oya’s Daughter, last month and the mix of styles catches your ear immediately. From production to vocals to lyrics, not to mention the title of the album itself, this Dallas born but Holland based artist showcases the depth of her intention as an artist. This is not just music. This is social consciousness and spirituality wrapped up in a powerful personality with powerhouse vocals.

St. Victor is not new to the industry, though she may be a new face and sound to some. Known primarily as the energetic lead singer of The Family Stand, St. Victor is an esteemed singer and songwriter who has also performed with and/or had her songs performed by many heralded artists such as Chaka Khan, Prince and Roy Ayers, among others. She also performed the duet “I Believe In You” with Curtis Mayfield on his 1996 release New World Order.

St. Victor brings her own brand of originality to Oya’s Daughter. For starters, the title is in reference to a spirit or deity in the Yoruba faith. Oya represents wings of change and themes of transformation that are threaded throughout the album. Even a quick glance at the titles of the tracks ignites a notion of change or at least a passage of time: “Stuff Momma Used To Say,” “Sugarfoot is Dead,” “Awakenings,” “What Have We Learned,” and “Coming Around.”

There are several highlights including the opening track “Is This Thing On?”, a song that is not likely her way of encouraging the listener to truly listen. Another standout track is “Sugarfoot Is Dead.” While the other songs on the album are arranged to feel like poetry sung to music, “Sugarfoot Is Dead” is more of a spoken word piece in remembrance of Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner of The Ohio Players. Towards the end she rolls off a list of other influential people, mostly musicians, who passed away recently including Whitney Houston, Etta James, Fontella Bass, Michael Jackson, Chuck Brown, and Donna Summer, among others. On the closing track, “Coming Around,” The Mack Diva flaunts her R&B flare in a love song that has all the style of the earlier music on the album, but with melodies that truly showcase her voice:

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Overall, Oya’s Daughter is a treat to listen to and clearly showcases St. Victor as a skillful singer and established songwriter. Her music embodies all of the richness of the musicians she has been connected with throughout her career, while bringing her own unique style, personality, and perspective to bear.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review November 1st, 2013

Marques Houston – Famous

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Title: Famous

Artist: Marques Houston

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 27, 2013

 

 

After three years, Marques Houston is back with a solid R&B album with smooth, heartbreaking and heartwarming vocals obviously influenced by the masters—Marvin Gaye, Prince, and the even more contemporary D’Angelo. Famous doesn’t stray too far away from the R&B crooner we’ve known since Houston’s debut as a solo artist in 2003, but has a slightly more mature flavor.

Famous was produced largely by Houston in collaboration with songwriter/producer Immanuel Jordan Rich, who also penned the majority of the songs on the album. Also present is Eric “Cire” Crawford (one of the producers on Houston’s 2010 release Mattress Music) who wrote and produced two of the songs—“The Way Love Is” and “See You.”

The first track points directly to one of the aforementioned influences—Marvin Gaye. “Only You” can only be described as an attempt to pay homage to the late, great Marvin Gaye since the imprint of his 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On” is undeniable—there’s not even a tempo or key change.  Houston even borrows some of Gaye’s vocal ornaments in his reimagining of this memorable song. The only true differences, aside from obvious production elements, is the new melodic and lyric material, though Houston does include quotes from Gaye’s song such as “We are all sensitive people, ” “I’ve been really tryin’ baby,” “There’s nothing wrong with me lovin’ you” and  “Let’s get it on” sprinkled throughout.

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Other highlights on the album include the mid-tempo “Give Your Love A Try,” which is also the first single; “Take Your Love Away,” reminiscent of the harmonies and vocal “swag” of D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar;” and “Speechless” which is similar in concept to Brandy’s “Something Is Missing.”

On Famous, Marques Houston flaunts his vocal skills and takes command of the undeniable R&B foundation of the songs on this album.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review November 1st, 2013

Musiq Soulchild & Syleena Johnson – 9ine

9ine

Title: 9ine

Artist: Musiq Soulchild & Syleena Johnson

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: September 24, 2013

 

 

Mixing soulful vocals with their own interpretation of reggae, R&B greats Musiq Soulchild and Syleena Johnson unite for an album of soulful music. Taking a more pop-oriented route, 9ine contains infectious beats and enchanting lyrics that are sure to keep you humming a song for the rest of the day. Take a listen to the first single off the album, “Feel the Fire,” and hear for yourself:

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Reviewed by Ian Hallagan

View review November 1st, 2013

Guy Davis – Juba Dance

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Title:  Juba Dance

Artist: Guy Davis

Label: M.C. Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date:  September 10, 2013

 

 

The multi-talented Guy Davis has segued between music and acting throughout his life, not surprising since he’s the son of Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis.  His folksy style also reflects his early exposure to roots music at a summer camp run by the Seeger family, where he first learned to play the banjo.  On his latest release, Juba Dance, Davis continues to weave together these influences, presenting some mighty fine storytelling, banjo picking, old-timey hoedowns and down home country blues.  Here’s the official album trailer, featuring the track “Love Looks Good On You”:

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Featured guest Fabrizio Poggi, an Italian harmonica virtuoso, contributes to the majority of the tracks and is especially effective on Muddy Waters’ “My Eyes Keep Me In Trouble” and Josh White’s “Prodigal Son,” and delightfully adds the cream to “Black Coffee,” a homage to Delta blues master John Lee Hooker.  On “Some Cold Rainy Day,” a song popularized by Georgia Tom (aka Thomas A. Dorsey) and Bertha “Chippie” Hill, Davis is joined by “blues & gospel empress” Lea Gilmore and they clearly relish their role in re-creating this classic.

One of the highlights of the album is a rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” with the Blind Boys of Alabama singing back-up over Davis’s lead vocals and 5-string banjo.  Another is “Dance Juba Dance,” an original song composed in the style of a folk ballad that references the 19th century African American dance, complete with claw-hammer banjo and spoons in a “butt shaking rhythm.” Children will be enthralled by “Did You See My Baby” as Davis turns into a one-man band, playing 6-string guitar while employing harmonica for call and response in this foot-stomping romp through an “Old MacDonald’s Farm” style tale.

The album closes with Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” to which Davis admits adding “some Motown chords” to support the story, but it’s done with subtlety in a manner that bridges traditional blues with a little dash of soul.  That approach sums up the album—reinterpreting and reinvigorating the classics while adding new songs to the repertoire that will satisfy traditionalists and with any luck, engage a new generation.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review November 1st, 2013

The Giddens Sisters – I Know I’ve Been Changed

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Title: I Know I’ve Been Changed

Artist: The Giddens Sisters

Label: Music Maker Relief Foundation

Format: CD

Release date: April 30, 2013

 

 

North Carolina’s Music Maker Relief Foundation’s mission is to preserve the musical traditions of the South by supporting the musicians who make it, and their limited edition CDs help achieve these goals. The Giddens Sisters recently contributed to this effort by releasing a CD through the Foundation.

I Know Ive Been Changed opens with the title track, a powerful a cappella gospel song allowing the lesser known sister, Lalenja, to lead the show, which she does with tremendous power and taste. Rhiannon (the better known Grammy winning sister, and founding member of The Carolina Chocolate Drops) supplies strong harmonies and the two sound wonderful together, one low register, one high, perfectly matched and complimentary. Sibling singers are common in vernacular forms of music like bluegrass, gospel, and country, and whether or not the power of these two voices comes from a familiar bond or not, the result is beautiful. Their strong a cappella duets include “That I Should Know Your Face,” “One More Day,” “Another Man Done Gone,” and one of the stand-out tracks of the album, “I’m a Soldier of the Lord.”

This great sibling singing, however, only comprises slightly more than a third of the tracks on the record. The other two thirds are split between the sisters’ solo efforts. The stronger portion is Rhiannon’s Appalachian contributions, like those found on Chocolate Drop records, including “I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again,” “Going to Write Me a Letter,” “Cripple Creek,” and the remarkable “Do You Remember.”

The weakest third of I Know Ive Been Changed are Lalenja’s SLAM poetry tracks, which break up the energy, and bring a pretentious weight to a record where vocal duets have already supplied plenty of heft. The poems include “When Billie Sings,” “Mamma,” “Michelin Man,” and the song/poem “Pretty Bird/Sethe’s Song.” The problem isn’t really the poems themselves, but the placement, as they serve to make you want to skips tracks more than dig in. Perhaps in the age of downloads and iTunes this isn’t a concern, but sequencing is still important in this reviewer’s ears.

Lalenja should not be dismissed as a writer though. “Andi’s Song,” also a Lalenja original, is a wonderful tune about female strife and resilience that capitalizes on the duet strength of the two sisters’ voices. The strength of tunes like this make one wish the whole record contained such beauty, unforced emotion, and grace.

Reviewed by Thomas Grant Richardson

View review November 1st, 2013

Earnest Pugh – The W.I.N. (Worship in Nassau) Experience

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Title: The W.I.N. (Worship in Nassau) Experience

Artist: Earnest Pugh

Label: P-Mann Music/Central South

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: September 17, 2013

 

 

To those of us who were inattentive, it seemed as though gospel powerhouse Earnest Pugh appeared from thin air. However, prior to debuting as a solo artist in the late 1990s, Pugh developed his talent under gospel choir legend O’Landa Draper. Today, Pugh is a voice to be reckoned with, having released several chart toppers since 2009. In commemoration of his twenty years in ministry and fifteen years in the music industry, he released his latest project, The W.I.N. (Worship in Nassau) Experience, which was recorded live in Nassau, Bahamas.

One of Pugh’s greatest talents is his ability to easily transverse an array of styles from the more traditional to the exceptionally contemporary. W.I.N. opens with praise songs like “I Praise Your Name.” Highly spirited, the song features a catchy call and response declaring that “when praises go up, blessings come down.” Similarly, Pugh excitedly encourages worshippers to “stomp on the devil” in the dance infused, calypso inspired song “We Praise You.”  The next collection of songs is more reverent in tone, focusing on “worship” and establishing a deeper relationship with God. Particularly noteworthy is the single “More of You” which begins with a simple yet affective melody sung in unison by the background group. As the song progresses, the music articulates the escalating desire for “more of God” as the background voices transition to singing harmony at a louder dynamic level, while Pugh showcases his impressive range ascending to incredible heights in his petition for a divine experience.

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The second half of the album features several gospel legends as well as a tribute medley dedicated to Pugh’s late mentor, Draper. The uplifting piece “All Things Through Christ,” featuring Rance Allen, is a cover of a song written by Elbertina “Twinkie” Clark in the early 1980s. However, Pugh’s version was inspired by D’Angelo’s hit “Untitled (How Does it Feel).” While I admit that I was initially skeptical of such a project, the creativity and musicality of Pugh and his group transformed this song into a work that is both sonically and spiritually engaging.

The Draper tribute medley features some of his most memorable songs including “He Touched Me,” “My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord,” and “Never Stop Praising Him,” featuring Shirley Caesar. Long-time gospel enthusiasts will joyfully recall the gospel choir sounds of the ‘90s as Pugh’s singers, along with special guest Vincent Tharpe and Kenosis, bring show stopping swoops, shouts, and praises of Draper’s music.

In this regard, this project is undoubtedly a W.I.N as it leaves space for both history and innovation. As Pugh continues to refine and expand his own space as an artist, I believe listeners will continue to find by exciting sounds and substance in his music.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review November 1st, 2013

Sorrow Come Pass Me Around: A Survey of Rural Black Religious Music

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Title: Sorrow Come Pass Me Around: A Survey of Rural Black Religious Music

Artists: Various

Label: Dust to Digital

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: October 1, 2013

 

Sorrow Come Pass Me Around is a compilation of field recordings made between 1965 and 1973 documenting rural black religious music. Included are the liner notes, penned by researcher David Evans, that accompanied the original 1975 release of this project and which provide some context for the performance of these songs. Captured by several different folklorists and researchers most often in search of the rural blues, these recordings feature gospel music and spirituals sung by local artists and lay churchgoers performing in spaces outside church walls. Similar to rural blues, much of the music heard here is performed by soloist accompanied on guitar. For average gospel music listeners or even individuals well-versed in southern black church worship, many of the songs featured on this album will be quite familiar. For instance, songs like “Glory, Glory Hallelujah,” “A Little Talk with Jesus Makes it Right,” and “I Shall Not Be Moved” are still performed and re-imagined by gospel singers across the nation (for example, Donnie McClurkin’s “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” from1996). In this regard, Sorrow Come Pass serves more as a historical document highlighting the sounds and textures of black religious music as a part of the “everyday” experiences of rural believers than as an homage to the rare, less familiar music of this time period.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review November 1st, 2013

Marvin Gaye – A Stubborn Kind of Fellow, From the Beginning 1957-1962

stubborn

Title: A Stubborn Kind of Fellow, From the Beginning 1957-1962

Artist: Marvin Gaye

Label: Jasmine

Format: CD

Release date: May 10, 2013

 

 

This new 28-track compilation from London’s Jasmine label collects some of the earliest recordings of Marvin Gaye, beginning with his forays into the Washington, D.C. doo-wop scene.  Gaye was singing with the Marquees in the 1950s when the group came to the attention of Bo Diddley, who along with local performer Billy Stewart, got them signed to the Okeh label. A Stubborn Kind of Fellow opens with the Marquees first singles:  as Stewart’s back-up singers on “Baby You’re My Only Love” and “Billy’s Heartache” (Okeh 7095), and their own disc featuring “Hey Little Schoolgirl” with “Wyatt Earp” on the flip side (Okeh 7096), all produced by Diddley and released in November, 1957.

The next five tracks pick up with Harvey & The Moonglows on the Chess label in 1959. Harvey Fuqua had just disbanded his original line-up and formed the “new” Moonglows using members of the Marquees plus Charles Barksdale from the Dells. Included are two Chuck Berry singles backed by the Moonglows, “Almost Grown” and “Back in the U.S.A.,” plus three Moonglows selections. On these songs Gaye is occasionally given a share of the spotlight, and in “Mama Loochie” he takes over the lead for the first time.

The bulk of the compilation is a reissue of Gaye’s first album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, released by Motown in 1961 and produced by Berry Gordy. Despite the album’s title, Gaye elected to fill the album with standards such as “My Funny Valentine” and “Love For Sale.”  His “soulful moods” only surface on the Gordy penned “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide,” and the Gordy-Fuqua song “Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop),” a Little Richard knock-off (though not as maniacal).

The final eight tracks of “Bonus Singles” are drawn primarily from Gaye’s second Motown album That Stubborn Kinda Fellow (1963), a mix of doo-wop, pop, and R&B.  The uptempo title track became Gaye’s first break out hit single, followed by “Hitch Hike,” which finally set him on the path to soul superstardom.  Overall, this is an enlightening compilation for those desiring an exploration of Marvin Gaye’s formative years, including his hits and misses.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review November 1st, 2013

Bombay Dub Orchestra – Tales From The Grand Bazaar

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Title: Tales From the Grand Bazaar

Artist: Bombay Dub Orchestra

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Six Degrees Records

Release date: October 8, 2013

 

The ambient, East-Meets-West mix of instrumentation and electronics has proven to be a potent formula for Bombay Dub Orchestra. Formed almost a decade ago, the band continues their success on their newest release, Tales From The Grand Bazaar. Bringing in musicians from across the globe— including India, Turkey, the United States, the UK and Jamaica—the years-long project has ultimately culminated into a solid, yet very creative techno-dub release.  With the addition of traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation, the trance-like feel put out by the electronic instrumentation is complimented by the likes of the ud and qanun. Coupled with the dark, heavy bass and drums by famous Jamaican session musicians Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, the continuous groove at the outset blends into a ceaseless stream that blends into one, uninterruptible creation. From start to finish, Tales From the Grand Bazaar flirts with a host of unique sounds and instruments that blends the electronic with the traditional, and is effortlessly combined and mixed in such a way that is extremely listenable, and easily enjoyable.

Reviewed by Ian Hallagan

View review November 1st, 2013

Harafinso – Bollywood Inspired Film Music From Hausa Nigeria

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Title: Harafinso – Bollywood Inspired Film Music From Hausa Nigeria

Artists:  Various

Label: Mississippi/Little Axe

Formats: Limited Ed. LP, MP3

Release date: May 7, 2013

 

 

Harafinso is a compilation album of songs used in Bollywood inspired Nigerian films.  If you left auto-tune behind some years ago, this might not be the album for you because the reliance on auto-tuned vocals can be a bit overwhelming.  Also since these are songs used in films for musical interludes and dance scenes, the tracks can go as long as six minutes.  These critiques aside, Harafinso is a great album to listen to and even have on a workout or party playlist because of the repetitive drum and kicks as well as the layered vocals on many of the choruses.

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One of my favorite tracks on this album is Karamin Lilisco’s ambitious epic “Fashion”; Lilisco properly balances the auto-tune, drum, and synth effects on this standout and concludes with an inspired cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”  Abubacar Sani’s “Arafin So” and “Tofi” are two of the album’s more mellow tracks with the latter featuring additional vocals from Fati Niger. Harafinso is a great album to zone out to as well as a nice introduction to Nigerian actors and musicians who are featured prominently in films produced there.

Reviewed by Landon Jones

View review November 1st, 2013

October 2013 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released on physical media during October 2013 that are on our hot list — some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

 

Blues/Folk/Rock
Amos Lee: Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song (Blue Note)

Birdlegg: Birdlegg (1-2-3-4 GO)

Bloc Party: Tapes (Retrofit /!K7)

Delmark: 60 Years Of Blues (Delmark)

Harmonica Shah: Havin’ Nothin’ Don’t Bother Me (Electro-Fi)

Harrison Kennedy: Soulscape (Electro-Fi)

James Booker: Classified (Rounder)

John & Sylvia Embry:  Troubles (reissue) (Delmark)

Morcheeba: Head Up High (PIAS)

Neurotic Novembers: Anunnaki (Victory Records)

Thriller:  A Metal Tribute To Michael Jackson (Cleopatra)

Ursula Ricks: My Street (Severn)

Willie Mabon: I’m the Fixer, Best of U.S.A. Sessions (Varese Sarabande)

 

Gospel/CCM

Blind Boys of Alabama: I’ll Find a Way (Sony)

John P. Kee & New Life:  Life and Favor (Kee Music Group)

Joshua Rogers: Unconditional (Music World)

Kevin Vasser: Only You Can Deliver (Malaco)

Lynda Randle: Ageless Hymns (Gaither Music Group)

Marica Chisolm: Simply Worship (Tyscot)

Norman Hutchins: Hosanna (IR Music Group)

Paul Porter: F.R.E.E. (Motown Gospel)

Twinkie Clark: Live & Unplugged (Larry Clark Gospel)

Royal Tailor: Royal Tailor (Provident)

Sojourners: Sing and Never Get Tired (Little Pig Records)

Marvin Sapp: Christmas Card (Verve)

 

Jazz

Ari Brown: Groove Awakening (Delmark)

Delmark: 60 Years of Jazz (Delmark)

Dr. Lonnie Smith Octet: In the Beginning (Megaforce)

Ellis Marsalis: On the First Occasion (Elm)

Eric Reed: Reflections of a Grateful Heart (WJ3 Records)

Houston Person: Nice ‘n’ Easy (HighNote)

Jon Batiste & Stay Human: Social Music (Razor & Tie)

Najee: Morning After (Shanachie)

Ronnie Burrage: Just Natural (West Wind)

Wynton Marsalis: Spiritual Side of Wynton Marsalis (Legacy)

 

R&B/Soul/Funk

Aretha Franklin: Who’s Zoomin Who (expanded)(Funky Town Grooves)

Ceelo Green: Loberace – Live In Vegas (DVD) (Eagle Rock)

Donna Summer: Love To Love You Donna (remix)(Verve)

Funky Christmas (reissue)(Real Gone)

Gladys Knight & The Pips: Life (expanded) (Funky Town Grooves)

Gladys Knight & the Pips: Classic Christmas Album (Legacy)

Glenn Lewis: Moment of Truth (10 Spot)

Harleighblu: Forget Me Not (Tru Thoughts)

Ike & Tina Turner: On the Road (LP+DVD) (MVD)

Johnny Mathis: Sending You a Little Christmas (Columbia)

La La: La La (expanded)(Funky Town Grooves)

Lou Pride: Ain’t No More Love In This House (Severn)

Lyfe Jennings: Lucid (10 Spot)

Mary Blige: A Mary Christmas (Verve)

Mind & Matter: 1514 Oliver Avenue (Numero)

Ponderosa Twins: 2+2+1 (reissue)(Real Gone)

Robert Glasper: Black Radio Vol. 2 (Blue Note)

Steve Arrington & Dam-Funk: Higher (Stones Throw)

Tamara & Lucky Peterson Band: Whatever You Say (JSP)

TLC: 20 (Epic)

VV Brown: Samson & Delilah (Yoy)

 

Rap/Hip hip/Electronica/Gospel Rap

3:33: Bicameral Brain (Parallel Thought Ltd)

Alterbeats:  Class Struggle (Alterprod)

Armand Hammer: Race Music (Backwoodz Studioz)

Black Milk: No Poison No Paradise (Fat Beats)

Blu & Nottz: Gods in the Spirit EP (Coalmine)

Boldy James : My 1st Chemistry Set (Decon)

Cage:  Kill the Architect (Eastern Conference)

Cory Mo: Take It or Leave It (Empire Distribution)

Danny Brown: Old (Fool’s Gold)

Deltron 3030: Event II (Universal)

Devin the Dude: One for the Road (E1)

DJ Khaled: Suffering from Success (Cash Money)

Dom Kennedy: Get Home Safely (Other People’s Money)

Dynasty: A Star in Life’s Clothing (Jakarta)

Jacka & DJ Fresh: Tonite Show (Fresh in the Flesh)

Knxwledge: Kauliflowr  ( All City Dublin)

Lizzo: Lizzobangers (Totally Gross National Product)

L’Orange & Stik Figa: City under the City (Mello Music)

Mac Dre: Musical Life 2 (Young Black Brotha)

Oddisee: Beauty in All (Mello Music Group)

Ohmega Watts: Pieces of a Dream (Mellow Orange)

Pusha T: My Name Is My Name (Def Jam)

Shad: Flying Colours (Black Box)

Termanology:  G.o.y.a. (Brick)

T-Nutty Sac It Up & Serve It: Gas Chamber, Vol. 2.4 (E1)

Trae ThaTruth: 48 Hours (Oarfin)

Work Dirty & Beeda Weeda: The Code (Pushin Dope)

Wu-Tang Clan: Essential Wu-Tang Clan (Legacy)

Yancey Boys: Sunset Blvd (Delicious Vinyl)

Yo Gotti: Coast 2 Coast 225 (Oarfin)

Young Dro: High Times (Grand Hustle/E1)

Flame: Royal Flush (Clear Sight)

Quelle Chris: Ghost at the Finish Line (Mello Music Group)

 

Reggae/Ska

Gyptian  : Sex Love & Reggae (V.P.)

Lloyd Brown: Rootical (Zion High Productions)

Studio One Ska Fever- More Ska Sounds (Soul Jazz)

Tommy McCook: Reggae in Jazz (Pressure Sounds)

 

World

Africando: Viva Africando (Sterns Africa)

Canadafrica: Where’s the One (Borealis)

Joseph Kabasele: Le Grand Kallé (Sterns Africa)

Kaaris: Or Noir (Therapy Music)

National Wake: Walk in Africa (reissue)  (Light in the Attic)

Red Hot + Fela   (Knitting Factory)

Semi-Colon: Ndia Egbuo Ndia (reissue) (Comb & Razor)

William Onyeabor: Who Is William Onyeabor? (Luaka Bop)

View review November 1st, 2013

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