Archive for June, 2015

Welcome to the June 2015 Issue

Welcome to the June 2015 Black Music Month edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

For your summertime reading, we’re featuring three new books by our research associates and colleagues: African American Music: An Introduction (2nd edition), edited by Mellonee V. Burnim and Portia K. Maultsby; Rap and Hip Hop Culture by Fernando Orejuela; and A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music by Robert M. Marovich.

Jazz and blues selections include The Epic, a 3-disc debut album from saxophonist Kamasi Washington; So Many Things: The European Tour, 1961 by the John Coltrane Quintet featuring Eric Dolphy; On a Turquoise Cloud by Candice Hoyes, featuring Ellington songs for soprano; Bessie – Music from The HBO Film with Queen Latifah; and Blues Shock by Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues.

Under the R&B/soul/funk/rock umbrella is More Than Love, the first ConFunkShun album in 20 years; Didactic Interstice: Equilibria Vol. 1 from the Charlotte, North Carolina band Soulganic; Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes; the Mavis Staples EP Your Good Fortune; and the Billy Ward and his Dominoes compilation The Complete Federal/King Singles.

Gospel selections include the new release #Getitdone by Lonnie Hunter, and the Numero Group  compilation Saved and Sanctified: Songs of the Jade Label. Also featured in this issue is Sin Fronteras by the world music collective Brooklyn Gypsies; Soul Veggies by the Philly emcees Mega Ran & Storyville; and An Enlightened Contagion by the hip-hop/R&B duo Redland.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of May 2015 releases of note.

 

View review June 2nd, 2015

Robert M. Marovich – A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music

BobMarovich

Title: A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music

Author: Robert M. Marovich

Publisher: University of Illinois Press (Music in American Life series)

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Release date: March 3, 2015

 

Gospel music has had immeasurable impact on the African American church and on the sound and performance of American popular music. As we look forward to gospel’s new frontiers—international gospel choirs and conferences, nationally televised competitions, and proliferation on radio and digital media—it is also prudent to look back and remember, reflect, and record the history of this important cultural expression. In his monumental text, A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music, gospel music historian and radio personality Robert Marovich explores one of the most important and contested discussions on gospel music—its origins. Using extensive interviews, archival research including materials at Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC), articles from the Chicago Defender, and numerous secondary sources, he outlines why Chicago, Illinois is THE uncontested birthplace of gospel music. Moreover, he highlights the major artists and musicians, churches, choirs, quartets, publishers, radio and television broadcasts, and record labels that were instrumental in the development and dissemination of this art form.

A City Called Heaven is divided into two sections: “Roots” which spans from the 1920s to the late 1930s, and “Branches” which examines gospel’s evolution from the 1940s to 1970. In a candid, yet straightforward tone, Marovich crafts a narrative about this Christian community of musicians who would transform their ordinary circumstances into an extraordinary expression of faith. The substance of the text rests on five main arguments: 1) Gospel music was a means for African American migrants to establish their place within Chicago’s African American church and social communities because it allowed them to combine their southern worship styles with urban musics and sensibilities; 2) Gospel music transcended denominational boundaries while also being influenced by unique denominational styles; 3) The gospel music industry was birthed from the entrepreneurial ingenuity of often fiscally oppressed African American migrants; 4) Gospel music would be periodically altered by younger artists; and 5) There were six historic “tipping points” or events that helped establish gospel music including Thomas A. Dorsey’s founding of the first modern gospel chorus at Ebenezer Baptist church and the founding of (Sallie) Martin & (Kenneth) Morris Music Studio, the largest African American owned gospel publishing enterprise.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this work is the sheer breadth of information that is presented. Great care is given to move beyond simple biographical sketches of more well-known innovators like Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, Theodore Frye, Roberta Martin and Sallie Martin to ground the story in the sights, sounds, language and community of Black Chicago.  Marovich gives ample space to the distinctive worship styles and contributions of clergy and churches that performed and transformed gospel music like Pilgrim Baptist Church, First Church of Deliverance, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, and the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer. Likewise, the stories of many of lesser known artists like Magnolia N. Lewis Butts (whose work helped the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Chorus become a mobilizing force for gospel music industry) are celebrated. Marovich’s extensive background in traditional gospel recordings is particularly suited to this text as he offers specific evidence (and educational speculation) for the musical innovations and influence of gospel artists like Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke, and the Highway QCs.

Marovich passionately supports his main arguments as he illustrates how Chicago became the first gospel center and an integral part of a national network of gospel communities. Because of the large number of singers, groups, and recordings that are mentioned, certain discussions are rather encyclopedic. Undoubtedly, a lack of available resources and space limitations necessitated that some histories be abbreviated in the text. Nevertheless, A City Called Heaven is a valuable resource that points to the many voices that were important to the success of gospel music. With his text, Marovich extends an invitation to readers and gospel music lovers to celebrate the beautiful and spirit-filled contributions of those who paved the gospel highway from Chicago to heaven and back.

Bob Marovich has partnered with the AAAMC to digitize and preserve the audiotapes of interviews conducted for this book. The original tapes and transcripts will become a permanent part of the Robert Marovich Collection available at the AAAMC.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review June 2nd, 2015

Fernando Orejuela – Rap and Hip Hop Culture

Orejuela

Title: Rap and Hip Hop Culture

Author: Fernando Orejuela

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Format: Paperback (272 p.)

Release date: August 2014

 

Dr. Fernando Orejuela, a senior lecturer in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, is an expert in rap and hip hop. His new textbook, Rap and Hip Hop Culture, stands as a condensed articulation of many years of teaching and research experience ranging from popular music and body art to youth cultures and subculture studies.

Orejuela’s book “traces the ideological, social, historical, and cultural influences on a musical genre that first came to prominence in the mid-1970s in one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods, the South Bronx.” Rap and Hip Hop Culture is therefore not just another book about contemporary youth musical art but one that throws light on “key performers, producers, and voices in the rap and hip hop movements, using their stories to illuminate the underlying issues of racism, poverty, prejudice, and artistic freedom that are part of rap and hip hop’s ongoing legacy.”

While there is often a tendency to dismiss rap and hip hop music because of its overt affirmation of or reference to violence, sexism, and racial stereotyping, Orejuela’s text is based on rigorous field research and delivers the important message that hip hop culture cannot just merely be ignored but demands a systematic and scientific investigation as a key to profound understanding of the attitudes and proclivities of modern youth. A companion website available via Oxford University Press offers additional resources for both students and instructors, including playlists and videos.

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

View review June 2nd, 2015

Mellonee V. Burnim, Portia K. Maultsby – African American Music: An Introduction (2nd edition)

AAMusic

Title: African American Music: An Introduction (2nd edition)

Editors: Mellonee V. Burnim, Portia K. Maultsby

Publisher: Routledge

Formats: Paperback (466 p.), Hardcover, eBook

Publication date: 2015

 

The second edition of African American Music: An Introduction, edited by Mellonee V. Burnim* (Professor of Ethnomusicology in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University) and Portia K. Maultsby* (Laura Boulton Professor Emerita of Ethnomusicology in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University) was recently published by Routledge. The collection of seventeen essays presents a survey of major African American musical genres, both sacred and secular, from slavery to the present, and is divided into four sections: Antebellum Formations and Manifestations (1600s-); Post Bellum: Music in Transition (late 1800s-); Music in Migration: Urban Voices (1900s-); Post Civil Rights and Beyond (1960s-).

To better serve introductory courses in African American Music or African American History, the text of this edition has been substantially revised and updated. Included are new essays on African and African American musical continuities, African-derived instrument construction and performance practice, techno, and vocal quartet traditions. Contributions are by leading scholars in the field who bring together various analyses of African American music based on ethnographic fieldwork, which privileges the voices of the music-makers themselves, woven into a richly textured mosaic of history and culture. At the same time, the book incorporates musical treatments that bring clarity to the structural, melodic, and rhythmic characteristics that both distinguish and unify African American music. Musical transcriptions, photographs, illustrations, a discography and videography, and a new accompanying audio CD bring the music to life.

Burnim and Maultsby are currently at work on Volume 2, of the second edition, Issues in African American Music, which is slated for publication in 2016.

* Dr. Mellonee V. Burnim is the current director of the Archives of African American Music and Culture, while Dr. Portia K. Maultsby is the Archives’ former director and founder.

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

View review June 2nd, 2015

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

KamasiWashington

Title: The Epic

Artist: Kamasi Washington

Label: Brainfeeder

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: May 5, 2015

 

Saxophonist Kamasi Washington brings an extensive resume to his debut album The Epic, having worked as a sideman with a wide variety of superstars, from Snoop Dogg to Wayne Shorter and most recently appearing in the studio band on Kendrick Lamar’s monumental 2015 release To Pimp a Butterfly. The Epic, however, is quite different from Washington’s work with many of the leading pop and jazz musicians working in the business—when allowed the opportunity to take creative control, he presents a cohesive and compelling vision of jazz to come.

It is difficult to thoroughly appraise a debut album that is truly this, well, epic in scope.  Rarely do any artists, let alone jazz artists, release a 3-disc album containing nearly three hours of music, complete with an 32-piece orchestra, 20 member choir, vocal, and dectet numbers, all blended together in a surprisingly cohesive mixture that still allows the individual flavors of each of these tunes to come through.  It may be best to sum up the album in these terms, then: Washington offers a masterclass in post-bop styles, often situated in the context of lush orchestral arrangements.  The playing of his foundational dectet (augmented with orchestra and choir) provides a solid foundation for Washington’s exploration of jazz styles from 60s-flavored avant garde (“Seven Prayers”) to contemporary R&B (“The Rhythm Changes”) and smooth jazz (“Henrietta our Hero” – as seen below).

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The Epic has been compared to a jazz manifesto in the unusually loud buzz surrounding the release of the jazz artist’s debut record, with Washington even being named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “10 New Artists You Need to Know.” This album has many of the qualities that one would expect from a manifesto, and the ambiguous qualities that one may expect from an album generating such an unusual amount of ink: it is ambitious, fresh, and a bit confused at times, but maintains what feels (if not sounds) like revolution throughout. Perhaps it is Washington’s hip-hop cred from being a star sideman that has led to this buzz, but that does not negate the fact that it is worthwhile to pay attention to a musician who may have the capability to make jazz fresh to listeners who generally tend to ignore the genre.  What is particularly interesting about Washington’s approach is his musical omnivorousness—from the murky organ jazz of “Isabelle” to the grandiose “Askim” to Washington’s interpretation of the bop standard “Cherokee” that feels more like the Jackson 5 than Milt Jackson and his rolling treatment of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.” The Epic is full of stylistic surprises—a feat in itself when many contemporary jazzers value consistency over freshness. Washington shows range, developing both short-term ideas as well as longer-range motives, as is evidenced by “Re Run” and “Re Run Home,” appearing on the second and third discs, respectively.

As innovative as Washington’s arrangements and compositions may be, it is ultimately his playing and that of his Dectet that drive The Epic—Washington has thoroughly absorbed Coltrane and Albert Ayler and demonstrates such, with impressive bop runs, sheets of sound, and free-jazz freakouts.  However, he is not content to stop with the innovations of the 1960s as the limits of common-practice jazz improvisation. Rather, Washington also thoroughly incorporates the smoother sounds of post-1980s saxophonists who may be dismissed as “not so serious” jazz musicians.  His band is capable of similar virtuosic shape shifting—the rhythm section (including two bassists and drummers) provide chameleon-like color changes to suit the variety of tunes that Washington has included on this set.

As are most manifestos, The Epic is a bit confusing at times.  Despite “Malcolm’s Theme” and “The Message,” tracks that would seem to have a bit of a philosophical bent, it is ultimately difficult to uncover exactly what Washington is exactly trying to tell his listeners.  While there may not be a clear moral to The Epic, there is a cinematic grandiosity that truly makes the album’s title apt. Only time will tell if Washington’s latest release will live up to those of the great musicians whose legacies he has drawn upon, but this album is absolutely essential listening for anyone interested in the past or future of jazz, while having something jazz releases often lack—sheer listenability—for those who may need somewhere to start listening to the genre.

Reviewed by Matt Alley

View review June 2nd, 2015

Candice Hoyes – On a Turquoise Cloud

CandiceHoyes

Title: On a Turquoise Cloud

Artist: Candice Hoyes

Label: UOJ Productions/OnaTurquoiseCloud.com

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 23, 2015

 

Subtitled “Rare Ellington Songs for Soprano & Octet,” On a Turquoise Cloud features 13 songs penned primarily by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, culled by soprano Candice Hoyes after a year researching the Duke Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History Archives Center. Working with producer Ulysses Owens Jr., she was able to transform this research into a concept album that highlights some of the lesser-known (and many well-known)  songs in the Ellington oeuvre written specifically for sopranos such as Adelaide Hall, Alice Babs and Kay Davis. In fact, the title “On a Turquoise Cloud references the wordless song written by Ellington specifically for Kay Davis, the classically trained coloratura who performed with the Ellington orchestra from 1944 to 1950.

Accompanying Hoyes is a world-class jazz band comprised of New York musicians, most of whom are affiliated with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, including: Ted Nash, Ron Blake, and Carl Maraghi on woodwinds, Marcus Printup on trumpet, Vincent Gardner on trombone, Adam Birnbaum on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Ulysses Owens Jr. on drums and percussion. Nash and Owens are also responsible for many of these terrific new arrangements, along with Wycliffe Gordon, Vincent Gardner, Kenny Rampton, and Adam Birnbaum.

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Though Hoyes is classically trained and performs regularly in both classical and jazz genres, she sometimes fails to convince in songs that require a swinging jazz interpretation or gravelly mezzo (for example, “Blues I Love to Sing”), and her bending of notes occasionally lacks finesse. Hoyes is at her best in songs such as the title track and “Far Away Star,” which feature a high descant for which her voice is well-suited. Another highlight is “Almighty God” from Ellington’s Second Sacred Concert, in a fantastic arrangement by Gordon that begins with an extended trombone solo. Hoyes wrote lyrics for the popular instrumentals “Creole Love Call” and “Single Petal of a Rose” which work quite well, the latter featuring Joe Temperley, a former member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, on bass clarinet. The album closes with Strayhorn’s “Thank You for Everything” in an arrangement by Nash which allows both Hoyes and pianist Adam Birnbaum to shine.

On a Turquoise Cloud features an outstanding band and wonderful new arrangements of these classic Ellington songs for soprano, which Candice Hoyes brings back to life with aplomb.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review June 2nd, 2015

Bessie – Music from The HBO Film

Bessie

Title: Bessie – Music from The HBO Film

Artist: Various

Label: Legacy

Format: CD, MP3

Release Date: May 15, 2015

 

“Bessie,” currently showing on HBO, is a dramatization of the life of pioneering blues singer Bessie Smith.  The film stars Queen Latifah (Dana Elaine Owens) who also executive produced this CD and sings on the majority of tracks.

HBO produced this YouTube mini-doc describing the music in the film, which also applies to the soundtrack CD:

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Using what are described as “exact transcriptions” of the music parts, Latifah and a superb studio band re-created in a high-fidelity setting what Bessie Smith fans are used to hearing as low-fidelity acoustic recordings from the early 1920’s.  In some cases, such as “Preachin’ The Blues,” horns and drums are added to the new recordings, simulating how the song might have been performed live (the original 78 includes just a piano backing Smith).

Also on the soundtrack album are selections by Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, plus vintage 78-era recordings by Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller and Sippy Wallace, and a 1950’s recording of Kid Ory.

The album closes with a “2015 Remix” of the Bessie Smith tune “Gimme A Pigfoot And A Bottle of Beer,” with the original electrical-disk recording mixed behind a an expanded modern arrangement with extra horns and drums, plus Latifah sharing singing duties with Smith. For reference, here’s the original 78:

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Comparing Latifah’s remakes with the original Bessie Smith sides, I noted slower tempos were sometimes employed in the remakes, and Latifah’s voice lacked some of the grit that Smith displayed. However, Latifah clearly listened carefully and has a thorough understanding of blues phrasing and delivery. On-screen in movie, she left behind her more familiar roles as talk-show host, contemporary actress and, in her younger years, hip-hop artist, and convincingly became Bessie Smith in the 1920’s.

If the HBO film catches your fancy, this soundtrack CD makes a fine supplement to what you likely enjoyed in the movie.  It also may be of interest to fans of Bessie Smith and old-style blues and jazz because of the blend of original recordings and new interpretations by excellent musicians.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review June 2nd, 2015

ConFunkShun – More Than Love

CunFunkShun

Title: More Than Love

Artist: ConFunkShun

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: April 28, 2015

 

One of the most successful R&B funk bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s, ConFunkShun scored a string of hit songs such as “Ffun” and “Electric Lady” before splitting up in 1987. After more than two decades apart, the band recently reunited under lead vocalists/songwriters Michael Cooper and Felton Pilate, whose voices still sound fresh and supple. Backing the vocalists is veteran ConFunkShun trumpeter Rev. Karl E. Fuller (trumpets), along with new band members Kirt “KC” Clayton (keys) Eric “EQ” Young (bass), Ronald G. Moton (sax), Brian Collier (drums), Dale Edward Chung (percussion), and Ellis Gino Blacknell (keys, bass).

More Than Love is the band’s first release since 1986 and features original material written primarily by members of the new collective. According to Pilate, their goal was for fans “to experience a sense of familiarity but at the same time we want to deliver to them a dose of refreshing newness.” Though the overall format is predominantly quiet storm with a dash of urban contemporary, the band segues into other genres. For example, “Say Yo” has a Caribbean lilt with steel drums and a reggae style groove. On the album’s only cover song, Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” the band turns to Louisiana for inspiration, blending Zydeco with a formidable horn section to offer a danceable groove without diminishing the socially conscious lyrics.

As the title suggests, the bulk of the album is devoted to sexy and sultry ballads. Highlights include “Taboo” which pays tribute The Whispers and features Pilates’ smooth vocals, as well as the album’s first single, “I Miss You”:

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The album closes with “Nite-Liters,” a tribute to Harvey Fuqua and the Nite-Liters, who once released a song titled “ConFunkShun” from which the band drew its name. Unlike any other track on the album, “Nite-Liters” is a furiously paced, Latin jazz-tinged romp that showcases the band, especially the wailing sax of Ron Moton.

More Than Love is grounded in solid musicianship, sensual vocal harmonies, and funk driven horn sections. Though the production includes more programming and electronic effects than I personally prefer, including the use of a rather annoying electronic high hat, no doubt ConFunkShun’s updated sound will draw many new fans.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review June 2nd, 2015

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

AlabamaShakes

Title: Sound & Color

Artist: Alabama Shakes

Label: ATO

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: April 21, 2015

 

Following in the footsteps of a number of great musicians to come out of the “the Heart of Dixie” (e.g. Hank Williams, Sr., Dorothy Love Coates, Lionel Richie, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section), the Athens, Alabama group Alabama Shakes has taken the music world by storm. Lead vocalist and guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, drummer Steve Johnson, and touring keyboard players Ben Tanner and Paul Horton are a celebrated live act punctuated by Howard’s vocal expressiveness and power.  A creative fusion of soul, blues, and southern rock, the group formed in 2009 and by 2012 garnered three Grammy Award nominations for their debut album Boys and Girls.

Their sophomore project, Sound & Color, moves away from a blues-infused rock sound as these artists experiment with a colorful palette of futuristic electronic sounds, dissonance, and volatile tempo changes. “Future People” and “Gemini” are perhaps two of the most unique songs as they evoke psychedelic funk and dreamscapes with complex chords and languid bending notes on guitar, coupled with Howard’s voice echoing emotional refrains about freedom and love. Fans of the first project will undoubtedly appreciate the funky soul song “Don’t Wanna Fight,” as the Shakes pair grit and energy with falsetto background vocals in the vein of the Bee Gees:

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Similarly, “Gimmie All Your Love” is a heavy hitting R&B song that features a fun musical interlude that alters the rhythm and tempo, creating a danceable, almost “cheerful” version the song. “The Greatest” is an up-tempo rollercoaster ride that begins as a hyper punk rock song, briefly cools, and then ramps up to a feverish plea for love from a would-be lover. Rounding out Sound & Color are calmer, thoughtful songs like “This Feeling”—a feel-good piece that features some acoustic accompaniment with an easy rhythm and melody.

With Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes makes it clear that they refuse to be pigeonholed into one genre or style. Blending and exploring a range of musical styles, the Alabama Shakes confidently craft a style and approach all their own with sensitivity and musicianship that any listener would appreciate.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review June 2nd, 2015

Soulganic – Didactic Interstice: Equilibria Vol. 1

Soulganic

Title: Didactic Interstice: Equilibria Vol. 1

Artist: Soulganic

Label: Soulganic

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: November 4, 2014

 

Soulganic has continued to thrive and develop their “Funky Indie Soul” sound since we reviewed their 2007 debut album All Directions Forward. This soulful quartet based in Charlotte, North Carolina, isn’t afraid to experiment with different concepts, as is seen in their latest release Didactic Interstice: Equilibria Vol.1, which is “built upon the concept of space.” In the liner notes, Soulganic describes it as a process of learning about themselves and the universe in order to “discover and live with the various forms of our balance and harmony.”

This abstract idea translates well into Soulganic’s music, which is a mixture of many genres with a consistently tight center. The album flows from one song to the next, with many instrumental intros and breaks in between songs with vocals. The first track, “Spaces Between / In Time,” morphs beautifully into “We Will Rise,” which is one of the standout tracks on the album. It is soulful and uplifting and highlights Anthony Rodriguez’s superb voice. The music is easy going and is supplemented by additional vocals from Myra Ferrell:

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Rodriguez’s voice continues to shine throughout the album in tracks like the stripped down “Wildlife” and passionate song “This Gift.” His voice has the range of Michael Jackson, and his falsetto never fails to impress. This is not to say that the music is merely background—the musicianship is just as impressive, and is done so well that every track feels effortless.

Though this album has an overall soulful tone, Soulganic takes their usual approach in trying their hand at a variety of genres. “On Again (Off Again)” has a country rock vibe that will leave you tapping your foot and the instrumental “Barbara Amarillo” has flavorful Latin instrumentation and rhythm. “Red Eye” is one minute of deeply soulful “oohs” reminiscent of African American work songs. This base rhythm continues into “Video,” a deeply soulful track that is full of sass and blues guitar.

Didactic Interstice: Equilibria Vol.1 proved to be as interesting as its title suggested, and showed the introspective side of Soulganic. One can only guess what gems and genres Volume 2 will provide.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review June 2nd, 2015

Brooklyn Gypsies – Sin Fronteras

BrooklynGypsies

Title: Sin Fronteras

Artist: Brooklyn Gypsies

Label: Wonderwheel Recordings

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: May 5, 2015

 

It’s not often that you hear a song described as a mix of “reggae blues and Russian inspired folk melodies,” but Brooklyn Gypsies isn’t like anything you’ve ever heard before. Formed in Brooklyn in 2012, this group truly represents world music, as the members represent five different countries (Spain, Japan, Russia, Italy, and the United States) and draw from the influence of many more. Their music is so hard to describe that even officially they call it “an infusion of Mediterranean, North African, Arabic themes with Electronic, Dancehall and Dub Reggae.” Somehow, Brooklyn Gypsies make all these traditions work together to create something new, something “without borders,” which is the Spanish translation of their debut album Sin Fronteras.

Despite the variety of influences, this album is connected by the band’s aim to take the listener on “a sci-fi desert journey through the Middle East and North African Sahara.” The trumpet and saxophone really emphasize this element through their Middle Eastern rifts that are easily recognizable as traditional gypsy music. But all the musicians lend a hand and have a multitude of talent. Individually, they have performed with a variety of artists such as Quincy Jones, Wax Poetic, the Roots, and Matisyahu.

The two women of the group, Tina Kristina and Carmen Estevez, have unique styles but are equally strong in their vocals. Tina sings on “Desert Moon,” which has the aforementioned inspirations from reggae, blues, and Russian folk melodies that she learned while playing in her family’s Russian/Indian gypsy band. In “Supercore,” Carmen Estevez takes the lead, demonstrating her flamenco freestyle skills in a song with an especially strong Middle Eastern theme woven throughout.

Many songs have a hip-hop and electronic feel to them, such as “Dream Snake,” which has a strong and heavy beat. “Zeina” also has a mind-blowing breakdown that takes you by surprise two minutes in, and transforms into a second, more alluring part of the track. There is also a strong EDM influence in the song “BK Gypsy Dancehall,” which features Bajah of Dry Eye Crew, the legendary hip-hop group from Sierra Leone.

Sin Fronteras is an impressive debut album, with excellent production, flawless musicianship, and a blend of many traditions and cultures. Each song takes its time and offers a new surprise, leaving the listener wanting more. Brooklyn Gypsies has shown that they have a lot to offer and hopefully they will continue bending and breaking musical boundaries as they create a new global sound.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review June 2nd, 2015

Mega Ran & Storyville – Soul Veggies

SoulVeggies

Title: Soul Veggies

Artist: Mega Ran & Storyville

Label: Brick Records

Format: CD, MP3

Release date: February 17, 2015

 

Random, now known as Mega Ran, and Storyville met as two young emcees in Philadelphia in 2004.They immediately hit it off, but they both moved to different cities and did not meet again until 2008, when they were both finalists at the Scribble Jam Rap Battle in Cincinnati. At the time, Ran was living in Phoenix and Storyville in New York City. Since that second meeting, Storyville has been involved in some way on nearly every Mega Ran record.

Mega Ran became popular as a “video game rapper,” pioneering what he calls “chip-hop.” He got his name from the Capcom video game character Mega Man, and was even licensed by Capcom. Though Storyville started out busting rhymes at rap battles, he found his major success at recording and mixing, and has even engineered for the legendary George Clinton.

After years of friendship and helping each other out in bits and pieces, Soul Veggies is the first album from the duo. Though Storyville produced many of the tracks, he also got back to his emceeing roots and both rappers share the stage throughout the album. While neither take themselves too seriously and the album is laced with funny quips and nerdy rhymes, their music is no joke.

Refreshingly, Storyville and Mega Ran don’t feel the need to have a catchy pop chorus in every song, but let their beats and clever lyrics speak for themselves. “Artillery” is a prime example of this, as Storyville and Mega Ran rap over an unchanging snare beat, soulful horns, and occasional piano. The simplicity and relaxed vibe of the beat lets their rapping shine. The music video displays their nerdy sides, as it inspired by old video games and even includes the DeLorean from Back to the Future:

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Soul Veggies includes commentary on a number of topics, from the state of hip-hop to the NSA. “Rappin’ About Rappin’” is Mega Ran and Storyville’s parody of today’s popular rap songs. As Mega Ran says in the song, “They say ‘Ran you should start writing raps about nothing / My homies crew did it now them cats is all buzzin.” It is filled with cunning lines such as “I’m so SWAG it don’t make sense / hashtag SWAG twitter feed don’t make sense.” It even includes a fast rap section by Storyville akin to Busta Rhyme’s in “Look At Me Now.”

“Eye in the Sky” tackles the ethical dilemmas involved in government surveillance. Lyrics contrast the invasion of privacy in spying on citizens with the possibility of protection of the general public from terrorism attacks and violence. The chorus in the song, sung by Russel Tate, has a James Bond feel similar to Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” or Adele’s “Skyfall.” With references to Edward Snowden and Sandy Hook, the issue is examined from many sides and leaves the listener to make their own conclusions.

Mega Ran and Storyville explained the meaning of the album title as “like vegetables for your soul…with headphones.” They certainly included soul music, as can be seen in the songs “’Til Morning Comes” and “React.” “’Til Morning Comes” has a deeply soulful hook that is a sample of “Drive” by contemporary blues group Downtown Shimmy. It is one of the most melodic songs on Soul Veggies. “React” starts with a standup bass part that turns into the driving force (and beat) of the song.

Soul Veggies is a diverse album that showcases the endless possibilities that ensue when Mega Ran and Storyville join forces. They have a distinct style that comes through every song, which eminates from their unique approach to hip-hop: a defiant combination of comedy, pop culture commentary, and, of course, video game nerdiness.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review June 2nd, 2015

The Redland – An Enlightened Contagion

TheRedland

Title: An Enlightened Contagion

Artist: The Redland

Label: Redland Entertainment

Formats: CD (deluxe edition), MP3

Release date: April 28, 2015

With a mix of many different genres ranging from rap to R&B to pop rock, The Redland represent the versatility of many modern musicians who can’t be put into a box. Earvin Rodney and Robert Nkosi Evans, or Earv and Kose, met as students at Morehouse College, and eventually ended up leaving school early to pursue music as a hip-hop/R&B duo. They cite a variety of influences for their particular style of music, including Tupac, John Lennon, and Bob Dylan. While they hit success in 2011 with their single “So Far” in the video game NBA 2K11 and have released two EPs, An Enlightened Contagion is their first full album, released with the help of eOne.

Written entirely by Earv and Kose, with every track produced by Kose, the album draws from the language of their manifesto, which is full of passionate, poetic declarations about their goals and viewpoint: “We have been enlightened; enlightened by a new song, a new slang, a fresh beat, a dope groove, a killer riff, a fly tune and a good love.”

The single “Survive,” a soulful song about hope persevering through dark times, particularly in a relationship, includes both R&B and hip-hop elements, though the R&B chorus is what stands out. Kose’s voice is smooth and full of emotion, and the single rap verse has a sound reminiscent of the Roots, with a similar energy and cadence. The video was inspired by The Walking Dead and features the Redland dramatically fighting with zombies to reach one of their wives:

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On “In the Rain,” the Redland get serious, talking about people’s reluctance to help others in tough situations, such as people affected by a hurricane or those in poverty. The lyrics call out people for “flipping the channel” and ignoring those who are different because of race or socioeconomic standing. The song’s chorus, “I’d love to see you in the rain,” asks what would happen if the situation was reversed.

Just because they strive to make music with a deeper meaning doesn’t mean the Redland shy away from party music. “Love Thief” is a pop rock hit, with a music video full of partying and social media stalking of exes.  “No Sleep” is an electronic song with heavy beats and lyrics such as “Told her chill, she could have her fill / I could flip the bill / Her face looks like she’s from the states, her body like Brazil.” Aside from the remixes included on the deluxe version, it is the most EDM-oriented song on the album.

Many of the tracks, such as “On Me” and “All the Same,” sound like classic R&B songs about love and the struggles of relationships. An exception is “Step Into My Room,” in which the beat drops dramatically after an a capella intro and amps the song up a notch. The lyrics address honesty and the lies people tell each other, and it has a much grittier feel in both the music and the tone of the vocals.

The Redland’s debut album An Enlightened Contagion shows there’s a new rap force in Atlanta to be reckoned with. Their versatility doesn’t detract from the development of an individualized sound, which is hard to define in words but easily detected in their songs. An Enlightened Contagion is a solid hip-hop album, and I expect the Redland will only get better from here.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review June 2nd, 2015

Lonnie Hunter – #Getitdone

LonnieHunter

Title: #Getitdone

Artist: Lonnie Hunter, feat. Structure

Label: Tyscot Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: May 19, 2015

 

A soloist!  A celebrated gospel choir conductor! A radio personality! A worship pastor! All these epithets aptly refer to a Chicago-born gospel music star, Lonnie Hunter—an accomplished Stellar Award winning recording artist, who just recently released his fifth album #Getitdone.

Hunter’s new album is a mélange of styles ranging “from full-fledged Gospel choral pieces to smooth R&B Christian jams to more contemporary soul-accentuated pop offerings.”

Nevertheless, each of the tracks is a unique and accomplished piece in itself. The opening track “He’s Worthy” is an upbeat praise song, outstanding for its “roof-piercing” soprano refraining of the title. This fiery intro is followed by the gentle-sounding “Forever I Will,” whose cool and meditative prelude accentuates its worship mien. “Devotion” is mellifluous in its choral harmony and deeply moving in its swing-like fast waltz rhythm, and the dance music returns with “He’s Been Good.” But caveat! It is a dance based on meditative reminiscence of what God has done:

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The basic alternation of gentle and upbeat rhythmic structure is followed in the remaining seven tracks. Thus in tracks 5, 6, 8 and 10 respectively—“Yes,” “Here In Your Presence,” “You’re My God,” and “My Tribute”—one finds a gentle and meditative musical mood that is characteristic of worship music, while the upbeat tracks 7, 9 and 11—“What He’s Done,” “#Getitdone” and “In Your Face (The Wedding Song)”—are more fitting for lively praise sessions.

But why “Get it done;” what has gotten to be done? Timothy Yap underscores that #Getitdone “is an album of songs with messages that point both vertically and horizontally. Not only does Hunter push us not to procrastinate in the giving of our worship to God, but this album also brims with lots of wizened practical nuggets of how to live lives as God’s kingdom builders.” The religious trajectory of the album is certainly fait accompli!

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

View review June 2nd, 2015

Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues – Blues Shock

BillyBranch

Title: Blues Shock

Artist: Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues

Label: Blind Pig

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: January 21, 2014

 

Billy Branch is a three time Grammy nominee who was discovered by blues legend Willie Dixon while attending undergraduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Upon graduating, he pursued a career in blues, becoming recognized as a leading figure in a new (1970s) generation of blues performers. A singer, songwriter, and harmonica player, Branch and his band Sons of Blues have released their first album in fifteen years, Blues Shock. It features primarily newly composed songs alongside a few standards like Dixon’s “Crazy Mixed Up World” and an energetic cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” The title track, “Blues Shock,” is an up-tempo, funk inspired song about “that moment when you find yourself with a sudden insatiable appetite for the blues.”

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Similarly, a cover of Shorty Long’s “Function at the Junction” features a danceable grove with animated call and response between Branch and background vocalists.  Branch’s delightful sense of humor is showcased in the selections “Dog House” and “Slow Moe.” In the former (sung with Ronnie Baker Brooks), he laments an ongoing dispute with his lover and commiserates with a friend about his lover’s new nick name for him, “bow wow.”  Conversely, “Slow Moe” is a slow paced blues in which singer Mose Rutues Jr. playfully portrays a character who’s frequently insulted because of he refuses perform any task quickly.

Branch is a longtime blues ambassador touring internationally as well as promoting blues education in public schools. His celebration of Chicago blues is perhaps most evident in the composition, “Going to See Miss Gerri One More Time,” in which he chronicles the influence of Gerri Oliver and her 47th Street Palm Tavern that served as a landmark for Bronzeville nightlife until it was removed by City Hall.  An all-around “feel good” album, Blues Shock is sure to impress blues enthusiasts and new comers alike.

Editor’s note: Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues will be performing a set on June 14, 2015, at the Chicago Blues Fest, and later that same day Branch will be producing the Willie Dixon Centennial Tribute.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review June 2nd, 2015

John Coltrane Quintet – So Many Things: The European Tour, 1961

JohnColtrane

Title: So Many Things: The European Tour, 1961

Artist: John Coltrane Quintet featuring Eric Dolphy

Label: Acrobat

Format:  CD

Release date: March 10, 2015

 

So Many Things: The European Tour, 1961, the new live release from the John Coltrane Quintet, features a set of recordings made during Coltrane’s 1961 European tour.  The band consists of Coltrane on saxophone, Eric Dolphy sax and flute, McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Reggie Workman on bass.  This is a fascinating document of a group of excellent musicians during a transitional period, working things out on stage as they negotiated between the sheets of sound that made Coltrane famous and the freer style he would adopt later in his career.

This set, with its combined 4 discs approaching 5 hours in length, contains only 7 unique tunes among its 23 tracks.  Included are several versions of a few numbers quite familiar to listeners familiar with the Coltrane songbook: “My Favorite Things,” “Blue Train,” and “Impressions” chief among them, with each version of “My Favorite Things” (listed as “My Favourite Things”) lasting more than 20 minutes.  There is a wealth of music to process, with lengthy solo improvisations on each tune from the two horn players and substantial contributions from the rhythm section.  While the playing is (as would be expected from the acknowledged jazz masters on these recordings) masterful, there are not any cuts that particularly stand out as being quintessential moments.  Rather, this album feels like a work-in-progress, with some takes of some numbers being couched in fairly conventional arrangements (“I Want to Talk About You”), while others take unexpected twists and turns, as when the band really takes advantage of opportunities to stretch out on “My Favorite Things” and “Blue Train.”

Despite the fact that these recordings have been remastered, they are still live recordings that were originally recorded with what sounds like less-than-optimal equipment, a feature of this set that has both advantages and disadvantages.  For careful listeners and jazz fans who are deeply enmeshed in the improvisations of their favorite soloists, this set provides a fresh set of solos to enjoy and study on well-known and important compositions.  As is usual with releases like this, many practicing jazz musicians will scramble for their blank staff paper to attempt transcribing these excellent solos. However, this set of bootleg-quality recordings also has some problems—many of the tracks are very shrill, since the recording equipment used to document these concerts was incapable of capturing the nuance of an acoustic quintet.  The horns are often shrill, the bass in-and-out at times, Tyner’s beautiful chord voicings and Jones’s subtle cymbal work and fiery bombs are often obscured by the lead instruments out front in the mix.  Furthermore, if one is listening at an adequate volume to hear these instruments, Dolphy’s piercing flute causes a sudden volume jump and provides more of a shock to the ears that necessitates turning down the stereo.  This is a problem typical of bootleg recordings, and is something that really detracts from the casual listening potential of this set.

Ultimately, So Many Things: The European Tour is full of captivating renditions of familiar tunes by a band full of crack musicians.  It is fascinating to study how this group is working things out, transitioning from the sheets of sound found on Giant Steps into the freer playing and extended improvisations that have made Coltrane’s A Love Supreme so essential.  However, the poor recording quality to be found on these discs ultimately makes this release better for careful study than casual listening.

Reviewed by Matt Alley

View review June 2nd, 2015

Mavis Staples – Your Good Fortune EP

MavisStaples

Title: Your Good Fortune EP

Artist: Mavis Staples

Label: Anti

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: April 21, 2015

 

Mavis Staples certainly has a voice that has stood the test of time. While performing with her father and siblings in the group The Staple Singers, she commenced her solo pursuits—first on the song “Crying in the Chapel,” released by the Staple Singers, and then with her solo debut album Mavis Staples in 1969. Although The Staple Singers released their final album in 1984, Mavis Staples continued to perform and record, releasing a total of 14 albums and receiving a Grammy for her 2010 album You Are Not Alone.  Two years after the release of her last album, One True Vine, and on the heels of a SXSW World Premiere of the feature documentary Mavis!, she has now released Your Good Fortune. This four-track EP, produced by Son Little, introduces two new songs—the aching title track “Your Good Fortune” and the rhythmic and socially conscious “Fight.” Mavis also revamps “See That My Grave is Kept Clean,” a cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s song released by The Staple Singers in 1962 as “A Dying Man’s Plea.” In addition, she reintroduces a Pops Staples original, “Wish I Had Answered,” released by The Staple Singers in 1963 (video below). Your Good Fortune reminds listeners just how important Mavis Staples’ voice has been and continues to be, across several generations.

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Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review June 2nd, 2015

Saved & Sanctified: Songs of the Jade Label

JadeLabel

Title: Saved & Sanctified: Songs of the Jade Label

Artist: Various

Label: Numero

Formats: LP, FLAC, MP3

Release date: May 27, 2015

 

The phrase Saved and Sanctified is one well known in Pentecostal and Holiness Movement circles. An online source defines salvation as being “brought into an intimate, fellowship and relationship with the Lord [Jesus] through the new birth” while sanctification “is an ongoing process in the believer’s life that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit within, separating the believer from sin.” Numero adopts Saved and Sanctified as the title of a compilation of traditional gospel tunes released as singles in the 1960s they describe as “the rawest, DIY gospel ever resurrected.”

The setting for the Songs of the Jade Label is Chicago, where Gene Autry Cash came with his Old Dominion musical squad in a bid to procure a lasting recording of “their fiery, unadorned sounds.”  Cash soon had a huge following as his recording firm attracted simple devout folks, “those God-fearing artists,” who wanted to have their gospel singles “cut… indelibly to plastics.” The present album is therefore not a selection of songs released by professional and huge money-making gospel music stars but features even “family bands with wailing kids” as well as “barely amateur groups sourced from local parishes, infused with reverberations of country and western and deep soul.”

Released in LP and digital formats, the compilation includes 13 tracks and 11 different musical ensembles:
Side A

  1. “Didn’t It Rain” – Rev. Solomon King and the Glory Bound Singers
  2. “Got to Make a Hundred” – Harmony Four
  3. “I Want To Be More Like Him” – The Gospel Song Birds
  4. “Soul Couldn’t Be Contented” – The Inspirational Souls
  5. “Saved and Sanctified” – Brother Hayes and the Farmer Singers
  6. “My Shoes” – Flying Eagle Gospel Singers

Side B

  1. “Why is the Blood Running Warm?” – The Mighty Messiahs
  2. “Never Alone” – The Gospel Clouds
  3. “I Love the Lord” – The Mountavie Gospel Singers
  4. “Satisfied Mind” – Reverend Jennings
  5. “God Won’t Let You Down” – Southern Faith Singers
  6. “Family Prayer” – Flying Eagle Gospel Singers
  7. “Wake Up Country” – Sons of Christ

Saved and Sanctified is a collection of songs performed by artists whose sole purpose was to declare the gospel message as it is and feels, without exaggerated concern for musical finesse or pointless perfectionism geared to marketability. As stated in the press release, “glinting authenticity shines from every track like a diamond in the unpolished rough—each group completely convinced that salvation comes through song.” What could be more wonderful!

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

View review June 2nd, 2015

Billy Ward and his Dominoes – The Complete Federal/King Singles

BillyWard

Title: The Complete Federal/King Singles

Artist: Billy Ward and his Dominoes

Label: Real Gone Music

Formats: 2-CD set, MP3

Release date: May 4, 2015

 

The Dominoes’ first release with Federal records was the single “Do Something For Me” with the song “Chicken Blues” on the flipside. Though they had only entered the studio on November of 1950, by early 1951 “Do Something For Me” had reached #6 on Billboard’s R&B “Best Seller” list. Originally known as The Ques, Billy Ward, founder of the group as well as pianist, vocal coach, and bandleader, led his four additional members—Clyde McPhatter, Charlie White, Bill Brown and Joe Lamont—to win Apollo’s amateur show in October of 1950. Quickly they were introduced to Syd Nathan, head of King Records, who sent the newly named Dominoes to his subsidiary, Federal Records. Only a few months later, The Dominoes had a hit on their hands and the hits just kept coming. Now, Real Gone Music has released a comprehensive collection of recordings from this group that would eventually launch the careers of both Jackie Wilson and Clyde McPhatter. These 58 songs, tracked in order of release, and the accompanying essay by vocal group expert Bill Dahl, illuminate the Dominoes’ body of work, including well-known tracks like “Sixty Minute Man,” “Have Mercy Baby,” “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” and “Rags to Riches.” This collection also documents the changes in membership, including the addition of a former boxer from Detroit, Jackie Wilson, in 1953. By bringing together all of the Dominoes’ recording from their time at Federal and King Records, we’re offered a snapshot into one of the greatest and most influential R&B groups of the 1950s.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review June 2nd, 2015

May Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during May 2015—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Earl Duke: Keep the Faith (Music Access Inc.)
Gangstagrass:  American Music (Rench Audio)
Junior Wells: Blues Is Alright (Rockbeat)
Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear: Skeleton Crew (Glassnote)
Mr. Sipp: The Mississippi Blues Child (compilation) Malaco
Otis Taylor: Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat (Trance Blues Festival )
Sugaray Rayford: Southside (Nimoy Sue)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Actress: DJ-Kicks (!K7)
Charm Taylor: The Road Within EP
The Monkey Nuts: Boombap Idiophonics (digital) (BBE)
Tyondai Braxton: Hive 1 (Nonesuch)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Brandon Estelle: Star LP (Pando)
Commissioned: Classic 3 (eOne)
James Grear & Co: It’s My Season (EchoPark/ JDI)
Mechelle Johnson: Urgent (Al-Go-Rhythm)
Patrick Hollis & United: New Season (Ecko)
Tina Campbell: It’s Personal (GeeTree Creative)
Various: The One-derful! Collection: The Halo Label (Secret Stash)
Zie’l: Zie’l (Dream)

Jazz
Branford Marsalis Quartet: Coltrane’s A Love Supreme: Live In Amsterdam (Okeh)
Cannonball Adderley: Live in Cologne, 1961 (Delta)
Charlie Parker: Long Lost Bird Live Afro-Cubop Recordings (Rockbeat)
Clark Terry: Carnegie Blues, Music of Duke Ellington (Squatty Roo)
Curtis Fuller: The Opener (reissue) (Blue Note)
Henry Threadgill & Zooid: In a Penny for a Pound (PI Recordings)
Herbie Hancock & Headhunters: Omaha Civic Auditorium, 17th Nov. 1975 (Hi Hat)
JD Allen: Graffiti (Savant)
Lin Rountree: SoulFunky (Trippin’ & Rhythm)
Roberto Fonseco & Fatoumata Diawara: At Home – Live in Marciac (Jazz Village)
Sidney Bechet: French Movies (Moochin About)
Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest: Sylva (Impulse!/Universal)
Sun Ra: Duke Ellington’s Sound of Space (Squatty Roo)
Terence Blanchard: Breathless (Blue Note)
The Bad Plus & Joshua Redman: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch)
Thelonius Monk: Complete Riverside Recordings (15 CD box)(Riverside)
Vincent Herring: Night and Day (Smoke Sessions)

R&B, Soul
Andreya Triana: Giants (Counter)
Billy Price and Otis Clay: This Time For Real (Bonedog)
Billy Stewart: Essential (Rockbeat)
Bunny Sigler: Bundino (Miles High Production)
Ciara: Jackie (Epic)
Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry: Baby Ain’t That Love: Texas & Tennessee, 1964-74 (Ace)
Conya Doss: VII (Seven) (Conya Doss Songs)
Fats Domino: Imperial Singles Collection (Not Now)
Jamie Foxx: Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses (RCA)
L. Young: Re Verb (Topnotch)
Labelle: Nightbirds (Audio Fidelity)
Maysa: Back 2 Love (Shanachie)
Richard Marks: Never Satisfied: Complete Works 1968-1983 (Now Again)
Saun & Starr: Look Closer (Daptone)
The Suffers: Make Some Room EP (Rhyme and Reason)
Trey Songz: Intermission I & II (Atlantic)

Rap, Hip Hop
Lil C: H-Town Chronic, Vol. 13 (Oarfin)
A$AP Rocky: At.Long.Last.A$AP (RCA)
Alchemist: Israeli Salad (ALC)
Bishop Nehru: Nehruvia: The Nehruvian EP  (Mass Appeal)
Boosie Badazz: Touch Down 2 Cause Hell (Atlantic)
Camp Lo: Ragtime Highlights (Nature Sounds)
Canibus: Time Flys, Life Dies… (Phoenix Rise)
Chief Keef: Feed the Streets (Black Market)
Dizzy Wright: The Growing Process  (Funk Volume)
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: Surf (digital)
eMC: The Tonight Show ( Penalty Ent.)
Frank Nitt: Frankie Rothstein (Fat Beats)
Gemstones: Blind Elephant (Xist)
Georgia Anne Muldrow: Thoughtiverse Unmarred (Mello Music Group)
Hodgie: American Dreamin (digital)  (Seventeen Hundred Ent.)
Hollow Tip: Bosses & Gangstas (Mercenary Ent.)
Joe Moses: Brakin (digital) (All Out Bosses Ent.)
Jsoul: The Purple Symphony (HiPNOTT)
Kool Keith: Total Orgasm (Junkadelic)
Krayzie Bone: Chasing the Devil (RBC)
Latrell James: Twelve (digital)
Murs: Have a Nice Life (Strange Music)
Oddisee: The Good Fight (Mello Music Group)
Rico Love: Turn the Lights On (Division1/Interscope)
Shamir: Rachet ( XL)
Snoop Dogg: Bush (Columbia)
STS x RJD2: STS x RJD2 ( RJ’s Electrical Connections)
Tech N9ne: Special Effects (Strange Music)
Troy Ave: Major Without a Deal (Empire)
Vursatyl: Crooked Straights (BBE)
William Cooper: God’s Will (Gemstarr Regime)

Reggae, Dancehall
Barrington Levy: Acousticalevy (Tafarai)
Linval Thompson: Strong Like Sampson (Hot Milk)
Santrofie: African Girls (YMR NIG)

World, Latin
Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba: Ba Power (Glitterbeat)
ChocQuibTown: El Mismo (Sony U.S. Latin)
Dele Sosimi: You No Fit Touch Am  (Wah Wah)
Flavia Coelho: Mundo Meu (Mr Bongo)
Jumping Back Slash: Kanganga (Enchufada)
Mbongwana Star: From Kinshasa (Nonesuch)
Monoswezi: Monoswezi Yanga (Riverboat)
Nneka: My Favourite Fairy Tales (Bushqueen)
Thalles Roberto: Dios Me Ama (Universal/Motown Gospel)
Thomas Mapfumo: Lion Songs: Essential Tracks in the Making of Zimbabwe (Lion Songs)
Tribo Massahi: Estrelando Embaixandor (Goma Gringa)
Various: Putumayo Presents Afro-Caribbean Party (Putumayo)

View review June 2nd, 2015

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