Welcome to the December 2018 Issue

Welcome to the December 2018 Holiday Edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

In keeping with the season, we’re starting off with our list of the Best New Holiday Albums, featuring releases from PJ Morton, Cece Winans, John Legend, Aloe Blacc, After 7, and Motown Gospel artists.

Special editions and box sets include Stax ’68: A Memphis Story (5 CDs), The Jimi Hendrix Experience’ Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Deluxe Reissue (2 CDs + Bluray), John Tefteller’s 2019 Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol. 16 (calendar + CD), Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris (3 CDs + DVD) and companion DVD The Early Films. Other sets reviewed in brief include The Chic Organization 1977-1979 (5 CDs), The Staple Singers’ For What It’s Worth, Complete Epic Recordings 1964-1968 (3 CDs), Art Ensemble of Chicago/Associated Ensembles (21 CDs), Complete Cuban Jam Sessions (5 CDs), and Al Green’s The Hi Records Singles Collection (3 CDs).

For the vinyl lover on your list, there’s Eccentric Soul: The Saru Label (2 LPs), gospel singer Theotis Taylor’s long lost debut album Something Within Me, the first ever reissue of It’s Nation Time – African Visionary Music on Motown’s Black Forum imprint, plus Maxwell’s Embrya 20th Anniversary Edition, and Jermaine Dupree Presents So So Def 25. Other new releases include The Garner Poems from Ohio group Mourning [A] Blkstar, Broken Politics from the eclectic Neneh Cherry, and two jazz albums— Flight by James Francies, and Lebroba from the trio Andrew Cyrille/Wadada Leo Smith/Bill Frisell.

If you’re looking for books to gift, we’re featuring three volumes of photography—Bruce W. Talamon’s Soul R&B Funk Photographs 1972-1982, Vikki Tobak’s Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, and Meredith Ochs’ Aretha: The Queen of Soul―A Life in Photographs. Or, if you prefer an inspirational autobiography, Tina Turner’s My Love Story.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of November 2018 Black Music Releases of Note.

New Holiday Albums: The Best of 2018

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without good music to really get you in the spirit! We’re featuring brief reviews of our favorite new holiday releases from PJ Morton, John Legend, Cece Winans, Aloe Blacc, Motown Gospel, and After 7. Our specially curated Black Grooves Christmas Spotify playlist features our favorite songs from these artists and more, providing the perfect soundtrack as you get together with friends and family to celebrate the holidays. Continue reading

Stax Records’ Year of Crisis and Grit

 

Title: Stax ’68 – A Memphis Story
Artist: Various
Label: Stax/Craft Recordings
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 19, 2018

 

1968 was a year that tested Stax Records, the wellspring of Memphis Soul, to its soul. The label emerged victorious, but the story of its three-pronged existential crisis and how the company and its key personnel responded is an epic chapter in music-industry history. Continue reading

The Full-On Electric Ladyland Experience

 

Title: Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Deluxe Reissue
Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Label: Legacy
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: November 9, 2018

 

Perhaps demonstrating, emphatically, that rock music is long in the teeth, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of several historic albums. At the top of the list is Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, a muddy, blues-infused psychedelic mashup originally released on 2 vinyl platters. Sony’s Legacy label celebrates the half-century with a deluxe 3-CD/1-BluRay set also released in a 6-LP/1-BluRay edition. Continue reading

Dust-to-Digital Releases Voices of Mississippi & Early Films of William Ferris


Title: Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris
Format: Box set (book, 3 CDs, DVD)
Release date: June 1, 2018

Title: The Early Films of William Ferris, 1968-1975
Format: DVD
Release date: November 2, 2018

 

Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris is an important addition to the documentation of Southern folklife, culture, and history. The box set includes a CD of blues field recordings, another CD of gospel field recordings, a disc of interviews and oral histories, a DVD with seven short documentary films (1972-1980), and a 120-page hardcover book edited by Ferris that includes transcriptions and annotations for all of the film and album recordings.  A recently released companion DVD, The Early Films of William Ferris, 1968-1975, features rare footage of B.B. King and James “Son” Thomas. Both were produced by Dust-to-Digital in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, which holds the William R. Ferris Collection. Continue reading

Various Artists – 23 Classic Blues Songs from the 1920’s, Vol. 16

 

Title: 23 Classic Blues Songs from the 1920’s, Vol. 16
Artist: Various
Label: Blues Images
Format: CD + Calendar
Release date: September 25, 2018

 

The 16th annual Blues Images calendar and CD reproduces classic, rare, and recently rediscovered artwork and recordings of pre and post-war blues songs from blues masters such as Charley Patton, Memphis Minnie, Leola B. Wilson, William Harris, Papa George Lightfoot, and others. While a copy of Papa George Lightfoot’s debut disc on Sultan Records (“Winding Ball Mama” / “Snake Hipping Daddy”) has been rumored to exist for decades, it recently surfaced and came to the attention of John Tefteller and his Blues Images team. The disc has been remastered and is included on this compilation along with other rare tracks such as William Harris’ “I’m a Roamin’ Gambler” / “I Was Born in the Country—Raised In The Town.” Continue reading

Mourning [A] Blkstar – The Garner Poems

 

Title: The Garner Poems
Artist: Mourning [A] Blkstar
Label: Electric Cowbell
Formats: Limited ed. CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 26, 2018

 

Ohio band Mourning [A] Blkstar is a “multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.” They define the sound of their sophomore album, The Garner Poems, as “Afro futurist soul music, balancing hip hop production techniques with lo fi experimentation to create a sonic suite that eulogizes victims of police brutality.” These eulogies, or poems, serve as both a force of light and a schematic for hope, survival and independence.  Continue reading

Andrew Cyrille, Wadada Leo Smith, and Bill Frisell – Lebroba

 

Title: Lebroba
Artists: Andrew Cyrille, Wadada Leo Smith, and Bill Frisell
Label: ECM
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: November 2, 2018

 

November brought a new collaboration from three of the all-time greatest avant-garde jazz musicians: Andrew Cyrille (drums), Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet) and Bill Frisell (guitar). The trio’s album, Lebroba, takes its title from a contraction of the three musicians’ birthplaces: Leland (Mississippi), Brooklyn, and Baltimore. This is certainly a fitting title for a record featuring a fusion of three musicians’ unmistakable styles. It’s also fitting that the album was released on the ECM label, which has long been a flagship of progressive jazz and which has issued landmark recordings featuring each member of this trio.  Continue reading

James Francies – Flight

 

Title: Flight
Artist: James Francies
Label: Blue Note
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: October 19, 2018

 

Though only 23-years-old, pianist and composer James Francies has been very active on the music scene, performing with prominent jazz artists like Stefon Harris, Pat Metheny, and Eric Harland, as well as hip-hop and R&B artists Common, Lauryn Hill, The Roots, and Bilal, among others. His new 11 track Blue Note debut album, Flight, provides an array of orchestrations drawing on elements of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and electronic-sounding qualities. With a supportive cast of first-rate musicians—saxophonist Chris Potter, guitarist Mike Moreno, vibraphonist Joel Ross, bassist Burniss Travis II, drummers Jeremy Dutton and Mike Mitchell, and vocalists YEBBA, Kate Kelsey-Sugg and Chris Turner—Francies takes the listener on a musical journey filled with vibrant grooves intermixed with lush harmonic textures. Continue reading

Neneh Cherry – Broken Politics

 

Title: Broken Politics
Artist: Neneh Cherry
Label: Smalltown Supersound
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: October 19, 2018

 

It’s hard to believe it was thirty years ago that Neneh Cherry burst onto the scene with the international hit single “Buffalo Stance” from her debut album, Raw Like Sushi, (1988).  Garnering lots of MTV and BET love, Cherry was perhaps on her way to becoming huge, but as the ‘90s rolled in, Cherry did an exit stage left. After releasing Homebrew (1992) and Man (1996), she went UG—as in underground. Cherry’s whereabouts became a topic of interest for her fans. It takes a great deal of confidence and know-thy-self to just up and walk away from the commercial trappings of the game. But Cherry comes across as one who was never impressed by that. Continue reading