Posts filed under 'African American Media, Publications'
Title: Jackson Five: The Completed Animated Series BD/Combo [Blu-ray]
Artist: Jackson 5
Formats: 2 disc set, DVD or Blu-Ray (506 min.)
Label: Classic Media
Release date: January 15, 2013
To offer some background, I enjoy collecting Jackson 5 memorabilia, so when it was announced that the complete animated series would be released on DVD, I knew my days of watching episodes of this cartoon on Youtube were over. When it was released in stores I rushed over to Target to purchase a copy, assuming there would be one available for me. You would think a DVD collection like this would be the last item to sell out in a Target on the north side of Indianapolis, but it had! I was in possession of the last copy available that evening, and a portion of my childhood was restored that night. Anyone who was a Jackson Family fan growing up in the ‘90s may have come across reruns of this cartoon on VH-1. Catching these episodes (if you woke up early enough) on a weekend morning was a treat because they featured five black boys going on adventures and randomly performing songs with lyrics that are easier to remember than to forget.
Jackson 5ive: The Complete Animated Series is the perfect time capsule for those of us not alive when the cartoon series original aired in the early 1970s. Whereas conversations today are about global warming and drones in the Middle East, Jackson 5ive documents a time when people debated the preservation of our forests and young men drafted into the military (e.g., Pinestock U.S.A. and Drafted). The first five (no pun intended) episodes did a fine job of including all of the brothers in the storylines equally; however, across all 23 episodes more favor Michael as the main character and place his brothers in supporting roles, especially in fantasy themed episodes inspired by Cinderella (Cinderjackson), Alice in Wonderland (Michael in Wonderland) and The Wizard of Oz (The Wizard of Soul). Unfortunately, the episodes become redundant over time with cheesy villains who are driven by greed (ironic considering this show was created to further capitalize on the Jackson family), as well as lazy plots that benefitted largely from the hipness of the brothers in strong contrast to the more conservative nature of the adults portrayed in the cartoons.
Following is a trailer for the DVD:
To their credit, directors Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, along with Motown, did their best to appeal to the masses by giving fans a cartoon show about one of the biggest bands post-Beatlemania. The animation is not top notch and it doesn’t take long to discover this is a problem with the series; it should also be noted that the Jackson 5 did not provide the voices of their animated counterparts. Whether or not you enjoy the cartoons, stay for the musical interludes featuring 46 songs from the albums Diana Ross Presents the Jackson Five, ABC, Third Album, and Michael’s solo albums Got to Be There and Ben. If you have a parent or relative who grew up with the cartoon series, this DVD is the perfect piece of nostalgia that can be shared with them, because the Jackson 5 and their music are timeless. For many of us, these were the first songs we learned to sing by heart.
Reviewed by Landon Jones
May 1st, 2013
Title: What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal
Author: Laina Dawes
Publisher: Bazillion Points
Formats: Paperback (224 p.), eBook
Release date: December 10, 2012
In What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal, Laina Dawes gives a personal account and survey of what it’s like to participate as a Black woman in predominately white rock’n’roll scenes: metal, hardcore, and punk. Despite living in what she calls the postracial society of Barack Obama, with more than hint of irony, Dawes describes the racial barriers and segregationist practices that still exist today within rock, music that derives from Black R&B and celebrates nonconformity, but which caters almost exclusively to white male audiences.
Dawes picks up where James Spooner’s film Afro-Punk: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger Experience and Kandia Crazy Horse’s book Rip it Up: the Black Experience in Rock ‘n’ Roll leave off, focusing specifically on Black female identities within metal, a subculture that celebrates male machismo and white pride and yet has many musical and thematic qualities that appeal to her as a Black woman. Dawes explains the music’s emotional resonance with her once-teenage self: “The lure in listening to metal is to feel free, to escape from reality, even just for the length of a four-minute song.” She also relates her feelings of isolation at metal concerts and her unfortunate treatment by other metal fans that question her credibility and resent her tastes, sometimes violently, because of her sex and skin color. And in relating her struggle to find her place within underground rock as a member of a truly underground population, Dawes discovers others Black females who know all too well the “only one syndrome”—a shared experience involving a shared interest that provides a sense of community where none existed before.
Rock ‘n’ roll is a music defined by rebellion, if nothing else. Quoting Lester Bangs, Dawes describes punk as “a bunch of people finally freed by the collapse of all values to reinvent themselves, to make art statements of their whole lives.” This book, honoring that tradition, is about the struggle of women and African Americans and especially African American women who push back against rock’s restricted access, to play and listen to music and to dress and define themselves as they damn well please.
Reviewed by Betsy Shepherd
Editor’s note: Both James Spooner and Kandia Crazy Horse participated in the AAAMC’s 2009 conference, Reclaiming the Right to Rock: Black Experiences in Rock Music. In addition, the AAAMC holds the James Spooner Collection, which includes footage and other materials related to his films Afro-Punk and White Lies, Black Sheep.
March 1st, 2013
Title: When African Americans Came to Paris
Producer: Joanne Burke
Label: Blue Lion Films Inc.
Release date: 2012
From the innovative movements of Josephine Baker, to the illustrious writings of James Baldwin, the city of Paris has always been a field of venture for African Americans of the Diaspora to conquer. Known for many award-winning documentaries such as Tom Spain’s Any Place But Here, and her series on groundbreaking women from the countries of Zimbabwe, Thailand, and Guatemala called New Directions, film and video documentarian Joanne Burke decided to highlight the history of African Americans in Paris. Through six 4-7 minute shorts packed with original visual and audio footage and interviews with such contributors as Richard Powell, Tyler Stovall, and Barbara Chase-Riboud, she sheds light on how France, specifically the City of Paris, became a pillar to the artistic and scholastic endeavors of African Americans who traveled there. A 66-page K-12 Teacher’s Guide to When African Americans Came to Paris can be ordered separately, and a post-secondary guide is in the works.
Following is the official trailer:
Commencing her journey through time with “W.E.B. Du Bois and the 1900 Paris Exposition,” Burke draws on vivid imagery and original footage detailing the exposition, where 50 million came to marvel at the achievements of yesteryear and envision the future. One of the individuals chosen to present an exhibition was Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, then a research sociologist from Atlanta University. His travels and studies done on the continent of Europe, specifically in Paris, made him a logical choice to produce a retrospective centered on African American life. Du Bois and his research team created “The Exhibit of the American Negro,” and his pioneering use of photography resonated greatly with fair goers. Through hundreds of photos, he revealed stories and aspects of African American life few were exposed to: urbanized, educated African Americans in the South. One of the interlocutors, Terri Francis of Yale University, believed that the idea of the exhibition was to highlight progress within the African American community, and the development of modernity within African American society after the abolition of slavery. The exhibition won 15 awards (as well as a Gold Medal) due to Du Bois’ work, but not a word was printed in the mainstream American press about its content.
In the next video in her series, “Henry Ossawa Tanner: An Artist in Exile,” Burke recounts the story of one of the first African Americans to achieve international acclaim as an artist, and accompanies her narrative with beautiful displays of Tanner’s works. Burke and other interlocutors discuss in depth how obstacles troubled his advancement in America, namely because of his race. Raised in Philadelphia, Tanner studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the first African American to do so. Because of the racism at the time, Tanner faced a hard time when attempting to sell and exhibit his works, which led him to go to Paris. At age 32 he enrolled at the Académie Julian, where he found more freedom as an artist and a person of color. His paintings, “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” and “The Resurrection of Lazarus” made him an international commodity, which prompted many other African American artists such as Hale Woodruff and Augusta Savage to pilgrimage to Paris in the 1920s in order to meet Tanner. Tanner was one of the first to show that talent could definitely be acknowledged as well as transcend prejudiced ideologies.
The third video, “The Harlem Hellfighters,” gives the history of New York’s all black 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed “The Harlem Hellfighters” by the Germans because of how fiercely they battled. When the U.S. joined WWI in 1917, many African Americans who were called to duty were optimistic and saw it as a great experience not only to travel overseas away from their small towns and the South, but also to serve and prove themselves worthy and accepted citizens of the U.S. However, they were subjected to treatment not unlike that of the manual labor they faced during slavery times. The U.S. forbade them to fight the Germans in an effort to maintain racial hierarchy within the military. When it came time for France to recruit, they called on 150,000 troupes from West African colonies. Unlike the soldiers from the U.S., these soldiers did the same work as Whites with no discrimination because of their race. In 1918, when the French were in need of more soldiers, the U.S. let them “borrow” the Harlem Hellfighters. The soldiers were amazed at the positive treatment they received, due to France’s colorblind nation policy. They spent 191 days on the front, more than any other American outfit in the War, resulting in many accolades, including France’s “Croix de Guerre” military decoration. Although the Harlem Hellfighters were celebrated in February of 1919 with parade through New York City, race riots broke out a few months later during “The Red Summer,” named for strategic attacks by Whites on Black communities. Black soldiers were targeted by lynching parties and tortured in order to enforce color lines, in an effort by Whites to demonstrate racial superiority and show Blacks that they were not equal regardless of their valiant efforts in the War.
Burke keeps her momentum into the fourth video by discussing “James Reese Europe: Warrior and Musician”. Lt. Europe, the first African American officer to lead troupes into combat and war, was also a leading black orchestra conductor who performed at Carnegie Hall regularly with his 125-member Clef Club Orchestra. While serving as a lieutenant with the Harlem Hellfighters, Europe went on to direct the regimental band as well, travelling over 2,000 miles playing various shows in France. Many onlookers were amazed at the quality of sound that came from these African American musicians. Whilst performing for both European and American military audiences and citizens, Europe came to the conclusion that for African Americans, constructing their own music would be much more influential than imitating their White counterparts. By doing so, African Americans as a whole could develop richly as a society and culture. The fifth video continues this theme. With “Jazz Comes to Paris,” Burke tells how jazz exploded onto the scene in France after WWI, specifically along the Rue Fontaine in Paris where a lively black population dwelled. Interlocutors, such as Brent Hayes Edwards of Columbia University, discussed the French’s fascination with the “other,” in this instance, the African American musician seen as the ‘colonial other’ on the Paris stage. Jazz roots are discussed from two viewpoints: one as originating from “jungle music” produced by savages and Africans; the other as a vision of modernity, with African Americans as the originators of jazz. Racial ties also became less strict and interracial relationships began to surface during this time, which made forms of racial equality seem more within reach. Eugene Bullard, Bricktop, and Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes are shown avid appreciation for their experiences working at France’s thriving nightclubs catering to the jazz sound.
In the final video of the series, “Three Women Artists in Paris,” experiences of three remarkable artists are highlighted during the 1920s-30s: sculptors Augusta Savage and Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, and the painter Lois Mailou Jones. In spite of gaining racial equality, if one was void of financial resources, one would be bound to struggle, as was the case of Nancy Elizabeth Prophet. She detailed her hardships in many of her works, such as “Silence” and “Poverty.” Nonetheless, Prophet was able to finish many works and exhibit them in Paris when virtually no galleries in the U.S. would accept them due to her race. Augusta Savage faced similar issues, when an American art program rescinded her admission upon finding out she was Black. Artist Lois Mailou Jones came to Paris during a sabbatical from Howard University, and remarks that she received her first feelings of absolute freedom while in France. Once these artists returned to the U.S. after gaining fame in France, they found it difficult to construct art on their own terms because of the prevailing racial climate.
What each of the segments in this series does rather well is explore African American experiences that might otherwise be left untouched in both American as well as European histories. Although very short in length, each chapter provides a vital critique of the time and struggles faced by many African Americans while living in America and the solace they found in Paris. This is an integral piece to use in a curriculum catering to History, African American studies, European Studies, and various forms of Art and Music History.
Reviewed by Floyd Daniel Hobson III
February 1st, 2013
Harry Belafonte was not only one of the most popular entertainers of his era, he also had an integral role in the Civil Rights Movements and led many other humanitarian efforts over the course of his career. These are detailed in three products released in 2011-2012.
Title: My Song: A Memoir
Author: Harry Belafonte, with Michael Shnayerson
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
Release date: October 2011 (1st ed.)
The subtitle of the 2012 paperback edition aptly sums up Harry Belafonte’s autobiography: a memoir of art, race, and defiance. Over the past few years, Belafonte, who is now 85, has worked tirelessly to cement his considerable legacy—one that goes far beyond his “King of Calypso” moniker. Though this may sound somewhat self-serving, readers will benefit greatly from Belafonte’s first-hand account as told to Michael Shnayerson through a series of in-depth interviews. Of course ample space is given to Belafonte’s early years in the Caribbean and New York, as well as his acting career and musical triumphs. His work as a political activist, however, is the most captivating aspect of the memoir. After a number of humiliating episodes on the entertainment circuit, particularly in Las Vegas, Belafonte dedicated his life to fighting racism, both in the U.S. and abroad. This led to a close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., who turned to Belafonte to marshall the forces of the entertainment industry in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Not only did Belafonte bankroll much of King’s work, but he was also a key negotiator with both Robert Kennedy during his term as U.S. Attorney General, and with John F. Kennedy, in efforts to move the civil rights bill forward. Episodes related during this period will certainly enlighten and inspire many readers, as will those related to his later efforts to battle apartheid in South Africa and free Nelson Mandela.
Overall, this is a thoroughly engaging book with a great deal more substance than the typical entertainer biography—but then Belafonte was no typical entertainer. He’s led an extraordinary life that few can equal.
Title: Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song; The Music, Hope and Vision of a Man and an Era
Director: Susanne Rostock
Publisher: Docurama Films; distributed by New Video Group
Format: DVD (104 min., NTSC, Region 1)
Release date: May 29, 2012
Belafonte worked with his production company, Belafonte Enterprises, and director Susanne Rostock on this biopic companion to his autobiography. Though something of a “Cliff Notes” version of the book, the DVD does capture the key biographical elements, frequently making use of the same first-person interviews with Belafonte that were transcribed in My Song. These interviews often come across as a bit stilted, but there are plenty of other commentators that weigh in and add gravitas. What’s really captivating, however, is the archival footage from Belafonte’s ground- breaking television shows from the late 1950s-1960s and from various concerts speeches as shown in the following trailer:
Many will be seeing this footage for the first time, and it’s definitely worth the price of the DVD just to have access to Belafonte’s early television specials. Educators at all levels should also find the documentary to be an extremely useful and engaging device for teaching various facets of Black history.
Title: Playlist: The Very Best of Harry Belafonte
Publisher: Sony Legacy
Release date: May 29, 2012
Released on the same day as Sing Your Song, this short 14-track compilation offers a brief overview of Belafonte’s recording career, including the calypso “Matilda” and two other folk songs from his groundbreaking album Belafonte (1956), “Jamaica Farewell” from Calypso (1956), “Man Smart (Woman Smarter), “Mama Look a Boo Boo” and (of course) “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” from Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (1959), the “My Angel” duet with Miriam Makeba from An Evening with Befonte/Makeba, and several additional songs, primarily drawn from the 1950s-1960s. If you’re looking for a single disc overview of Belafonte’s career, this is a start. Let’s hope that Legacy will soon devote a complete box set to Harry Belafonte.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss
February 1st, 2013
Title: Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920′s
Format: Calendar + CD
Publisher: Blues Images
Release date: August 2012
John Tefteller’s annual Classic Blues calendar for 2013 features more amazing artwork from the 1920s, some of which rivals R. Crumb in originality. Each month of the calendar is also illustrated with rare photographs of blues musicians, birth and death dates, brief biographies, and sample song lyrics.
The accompanying CD includes the songs that are featured in the January to December artwork, plus 7 bonus tracks. Personal favorites include Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was The Ground,” Blind Blake’s “Police Dog Blues,” and Hi Henry Brown’s “Titanic Blues.” All of the selections on the CD were transferred from the original 78 rpm records and remastered by Richard Nevins. Between the calendar and the CD, you have two products that will satisfy any blues fan on your holiday shopping list.
Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, Vol. 10 is available at select music and book stores, from Blues Images, or Amazon.
Reviewed by Ian Hallagan
December 1st, 2012
Title: Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans
Author: Ben Sandmel
Publisher: Historic New Orleans Collection
Format: Book (hardcover, 304 p.)
Release date: May 2012
Ben Sandmel’s pictorial tome to Ernie K-Doe is befitting the iconic New Orleans R&B singer, which is a mighty feat given K-Doe’s grandiose self-mythologizing. The “Emperor of the Universe,” as K-Doe often referred to himself, began his reign in 1961 when “Mother-in-Law” topped black and white radio charts, and years after his passing, continues as a leading figure of New Orleans’ nightlife—a life-sized effigy of K-Doe frequents all the town’s biggest happenings, as fancifully dressed as its irascible namesake, though decidedly much quieter.
Sandmel chronicles Ernie K-Doe’s rise to fame, positions him within New Orleans’ legendary R&B scene that includes the likes of Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, Earl King, Chris Kenner, Allen Toussaint, Eddie Bo, Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Guitar Slim, and recounts how K-Doe’s affable showboating and flamboyant idiosyncrasies grew even as, and especially when, his star began to fade.
The singer turned cult radio personality turned scenester nightclub owner was his own biggest publicist. “There have only been five great singers of rhythm and blues—Ernie K-Doe, James Brown, and Ernie K-Doe,” he reveled with egomaniacal zaniness. In 1962, Ernie K-Doe challenged the Godfather of Soul himself to a Battle of the Blues, and despite wide claims to the contrary, K-Doe proclaimed himself the victor. His legend was also spread with an equal measure of bad publicity, as his big personality came with many downsides like excessive drinking and spending, vainglory, opportunism, and paranoia. And yet he joked, perhaps obliviously, through many career and personal defeats.
The following tribute to Ernie K-Doe, compiled by the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, opens with a 1980s performance and closes with the K-Does dancing in the Mother-In-Law Lounge:
Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans has all the hallmarks of the best music biographies. K-Doe’s tirelessly entertaining personality offers a lot in the way of content. But Sandmel’s account improves on the tales K-Doe spun, perfectly framing the musician’s offbeat jive talk with a skillfully understated yet probing and witty literary voice, telling of New Orleans’ local treasure while casting him within universal themes. And Sandmel’s writing paints the details with a precision en par with the book’s amazing collection of archival photos. He sets the scene of K-Doe’s famous Mother-in-Law Lounge thusly:
“Close by New Orleans’s French Quarter, an elevated highway casts shadows upon north Claiborne Avenue. Old men play checkers in the gloom below, seated on milk crates and abandoned car seats. Steely-eyed teens cruise restlessly on children’s bicycles three sizes too small, their knees pumping high above the handlebars. People flinch at sudden loud noises, fearing they may be gunshots, which are not infrequent.”
Sandmel honors K-Doe’s memory without ever idealizing him and humors K-Doe without ever patronizing him. Without a doubt, Ernie K-Doe was a larger-than-life character. Sandmel gives him the story he deserves.
Reviewed by Betsy Shepherd
December 1st, 2012
Title: When I Left Home: My Story
Author: Buddy Guy with David Ritz
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Formats: Hardcover (320 pgs.), eBook, Audiobook
Release Date: May 8th, 2012
“Baby,” Lightnin’ told me, “I look out there into a sea of white cotton. Only it ain’t cotton- it’s college kids paying to hear the same sh*t I been playing down in Houston for years.”
This excerpt of a conversation with Lightnin’ Hopkins is a perfect example of why the new Buddy Guy autobiography is a great choice for any fan of the blues looking for a casual, fun and still informative read.
When I Left Home is an “as told to” style autobiography, but in this case it works well. The book reads as though you yourself have managed to get Guy to sit down over a cool drink and tell you about his life. Sometimes there are tangents about a crazy night in a Chicago nightclub or a pretty lady who ran him ragged, and sometimes it’s just a personal tour through the commercial evolution of the blues.
Starting with his earliest days living as a Southern sharecropper entranced enough with the sound of his neighbors two-string to jerry-rig his own guitars from cans and screen-door wires, and continuing through Guy’s current role as a laidback and respected elder statesmen of the blues, When I Left Home leaves you feeling as though you know the musician. The conversational tone of this book is so strong that when, on the last page, Guy invites the reader to Legends, his Chicago Club, you feel as though you could show up, slap him on the back and be instant friends.
Now with all this praise, it still must be said that this is not necessarily the clearest written book, and if you want to read a peer-reviewed educational resource on the history of Chicago blues, you probably have better options. This is an autobiography, however, and Guy seems to have made a lot of friends wherever he went, so if you want some insight into his peers, the street’s opinion on, say, Howling Wolf’s temper, Muddy Waters’ relationships with women, Lightnin’ Hopkins’ financial savvy, or a whole mess of bluesmen’s best dirty jokes, When I Left Home is the perfect choice for a light vacation read.
Reviewed by Dorothy Berry
December 1st, 2012
Title: Hendrix on Hendrix: Interviews and Encounters with Jimi Hendrix
Editor: Steven Roby
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Formats: Book (hardcover, 362 p.), eBook
Release date: October 2012
Steven Roby, noted Hendrix historian and author of Becoming Jimi Hendrix (2010) and Black Gold: The Lost Archives of Jimi Hendrix (2002), now entices fans with a new volume that “assembles the most important Hendrix interviews” from print, radio and TV sources, even previously unpublished court transcripts. Over 50 interviews are included and presented in chronological order, beginning in December 1966 and concluding with “The Last Hendrix Interview” conducted in London on September 11, 1970 (a week prior to his death), by Keith Altham from the Record Mirror.
While many of these interviews, particularly those from mainstream U.S. publications, have been readily available, Roby has translated reviews from the foreign press, transcribed BBC radio interviews, and dug through counter culture newspapers in order to deliver the most significant extant sources. As editor, he also provides context for each interview, weaving together a story line that’s especially helpful for readers not as familiar with the arc of Hendrix’s career.
Roby concludes the book with a compilation of quotes by and about Hendrix, followed by an appendix with an extensive 1995 interview he conducted with Eric Burdon, who first “crossed paths with Hendrix in 1965” while Hendrix was touring with Little Richard. Burdon reminisces about Hendrix’s “psychedelic sacrifices,” their final jam session together, and events directly before and after Hendrix’ death.
For Hendrix fans as well as those studying 1960s rock music, race relations, drugs and the counter culture, this new book ties together many different threads. But most of all, Roby attempts to let Hendrix tell the story in his own words—“what was on the man’s mind and what he had to endure as one of the highest-paid rock acts of the late 1960s.” And what ultimately led to his death.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss
December 1st, 2012
Welcome to the July 2012 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture.
This month we’re featuring albums to spice up your Fourth of July celebrations, from Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours (complete with recipes) to BeBe Winans’ patriotic offering America America to the party igniting Twenty Dozen by NOLA’s Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Among the reissues covered this month are Paul Simon’s Graceland 25th Anniversary box set, Time Will Reveal: The Complete Motown Albums of Debarge, and two Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry produced albums—Super Eight by George Faith and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry presents Candy McKenzie.
Other jazz and world music offerings include David Murray Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole En Español, the compilation The Bariba Sound 1970-1976 by Benin’s Orchestre Super Borgou de Parakou, and the self-titled debut album Konkoma from the London-based Afro-funk band.
Hip hop releases range from the environmentally conscious rap of Tem Blessed & The Blest Energy Band on Re-Energized to Del The Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought’s old-school Attractive Sin to the witty and humorous Beaus$Eros by the hyper-literate L.A. rapper known as Busdriver.
Wrapping up this issue is the electro-pop album Coastal Grooves by Blood Orange (the artist formerly known as Lightspeed Champion), Ruben Studdard’s relationship testimony Letters From Birmingham, Anita Wilson’s soul-gospel fusion Worship Soul, Betty Wright’s partnership with The Roots on Betty Wright: The Movie, emerging Brooklyn soul/reggae/rock artist Cole Williams’ double EP Out of the Basement, Out of the Box, and the DVD Musical Threads: Expressions of a People featuring Indiana University’s Tyron Cooper and Marietta Simpson.
July 2nd, 2012
In order to pay tribute to the many indie labels issuing black music, we’ve decided to profile one or more of these companies each month. For the July issue we’ve chosen the Tuff City Music Group out of New York City, primarily because we recently discovered them ourselves and want to spread the word about their great catalog. Though there are any number of boutique labels in the UK that reissue black music, especially soul and gospel, there are far fewer in the U.S., in part due to lengthier copyright terms. For this reason, we are especially grateful for Tuff City’s longtime commitment to the discovery and release of rare recordings. Vinyl lovers take note─many titles are issued on both LP and CD.
Founded 22 years ago by Aaron Fuchs, a former editor for Cash Box, Tuff City Records began as a hip hop label, issuing material by such notable artists as The 45 King, Cold Crush Brothers, Davy DMX, Lakim Shabazz, Ghetto Philharmonic, and Spoonie Gee, among others. Fuch’s underground record company eventually transitioned to a reissue label and has since “rescued hundreds of blues, jazz, funk, soul and R&B treasures from obscurity,” with a special emphasis on New Orleans funk and soul. Concurrent with the new focus on previously unreleased material came the launch of several subsidiary labels. The Tuff City Music Group now includes:
Ol’ Skool Flava, “the label on which the most popular of Tuff City’s original old school hip hop releases are once again pressed.” New releases include: Captain Rock to the Future Shock: Rare Hip Hop and Electro 1982-1985 (Ol’ Skool Flava CD 4032).
Night Train International issues “obscure blues, jazz, and R&B by such artists as Ray Charles, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Johnny Otis, Charles Brown, Jay McShann, and Joe Liggins.” New releases include: Unreleased,by Ray Charles (reviewed in this issue); You Ain’t Nothing but a Teenager, by King Solomon; Searching for a Joy Ride, by George Porter’s Joy Ride (Night Train International CD 7151); and New Orleans Will Rise Again, an anthology featuring songs apropos to the yearnings and hopes of the current state of New Orleans’ mind, with all proceeds donated to the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.
Funky Delicacies issues “should-have-been-classic funk that collectors salivate over, featuring artists like Ike Turner, Andre Williams, Trouble Funk and dozens and dozens of others.” New releases include: Funky Funky New York: Rare & Unreissued NY Funk 1969–1976 (DEL CD 0073); Its Hard Times, by Black Nasty & A.D.C. Band (DEL LP 0076); Funky Funky Soul Folks (DEL LP 0074); and Funky Funky New Orleans 5 (DEL CD 0072).
Soul-Tay-Shus “has brought forth powerful soul from Andre Williams, Lee Rogers, Joe Hunter and others.” New releases include Northern Souljers Meet Hi Rhythm: Rare & Unreleased Jams by Detroit Indies Recorded in Memphis 1965-1968 (Soul-Tay-Shus CD 6357); Detroit, Michigan!: Rare Northern Soul 1965–1968, by The Fabulous Peps (Soul-Tay-Shus CD 6348); and Red Beans & Biscuits, by Andre Williams (Soul-Tay-Shus CD 6361).
Tuff City, the original label, reissues many of the original titles on vinyl and CD. New releases include The Best of YZ (reviewed in this issue) and Grooves For A Quiet Storm by The 45 King (Tuff City CD 3010).
Read the entire Tuff City story and download their July catalog. We’ll review more Tuff City releases in future issues of Black Grooves.
Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss
July 7th, 2006
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