Search Results for ‘Otis Taylor ’

Otis Taylor – Fantasizing About Being Black

Otis Taylor
Title: Fantasizing About Being Black

Artist: Otis Taylor

Label: Trance Blues Festival Records

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: February 17, 2017

 

Building upon 20 years of recording and 15 albums, Otis Taylor presents his latest project, Fantasizing About Being Black, a historical retrospective on the African American experience. In a Conqueroo press release, Taylor says this album summons conversations about “the different levels of racism in the African American experience that are unfortunately still with us today. The history of African Americans is the history of America.”

Describing his music as “trance blues,” Taylor aims to transport the listener to an earlier era by incorporating instruments that were once played by enslaved people. The album opens with “Twelve String Mile,” a contemplative song about the social invisibility of the black man in the 1930s. This leads into “Walk on Water,” a song about the separation of an interracial couple and the pursuit of love. Taylor’s raspy, yet solemn vocals are accompanied by violinist Anne Harris, drummer Larry Thompson, bassist Todd Edmunds, Jerry Douglas on koa wood lap guitar, cornetist Ron Miles, and lead guitar player Brandon Niederauer. While much of this meditative album is acoustically composed, Taylor also includes electrifying spiritual songs such as “Tripping on This” and “Hands On Your Stomach”:

Taylor addresses the Civil Rights Movement, interracial relationships, the desire for freedom, and enslavement experiences in Fantasizing About Being Black. Each song reimagines what life was like for black men and women throughout different stages in America’s history. Taylor also uses this platform to call attention to pervasive racism and the need for empathy for people of color who continue their struggle today. Taylor’s last album, Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat, is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture—a clear indication that his message is reaching a wide audience. Fantasizing About Being Black clearly continues Taylor’s commitment to social justice, and is an excellent contribution to this year’s Black History Month.

Reviewed by Jennie Williams

View review February 1st, 2017

Otis Taylor – Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat

OtisTaylor

Title: Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat

Artist: Otis Taylor

Label: Trance Blues Festival Records

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: May 5, 2015

 

Visionary roots music songwriter and “trance blues” originator Otis Taylor has released a string of albums in the last decade, typically focusing on “unflinching tales about racism, struggle and heritage.” His latest project, Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat, is a concept album peppered with blues, folk, jazz and rock. Considered a suite in 10 parts, Taylor uses “Hey Joe,” the song made famous by Jimi Hendrix, as a leitmotif providing the overarching theme “about decisions and their consequences”—in this case the murder of a cheating lover. The other recurring thematic element is provided by his original song “Sunday Morning,” featured in three different renditions.  If this sounds redundant, rest assured that each interpretation is highly improvisatory, uses different instrumentation, and bears little resemblance other than title.

The album opens with version A of “Hey Joe,” which features the atmospheric psychedelic guitar of Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers), with nice contrasts in timbre provided by violinist Anne Harris and a punchy cornet solo by Ron Miles. Following is a lengthy instrumental version of “Sunday Morning,” which melds into the lament “The Heart is a Muscle (Used for the Blues),” reinforcing the theme of “love that could drive a person crazy.”  “Red Meat,” used as the album’s subtitle, is a sparse arrangement featuring Taylor on acoustic guitar and vocals, singing “sometimes you win in love and sometimes you lose.” Drawing upon contemporary themes, “Peggy Lee” is an original song about a man named Lee who transitions to a woman called Peggy. This song has all the makings of a classic folk ballad, reinforced by the contributions of David Moore on banjo.  Another original song, “They Wore Blue,” draws harmonically from “Hey Joe” and signals the mid-point of the album. Arranged as a trio with Taylor on electric guitar, Todd Edmunds on bass, and Ron Miles on cornet, this instrumental features extensive overdubbed horn sections.

The second part of the suite begins with “Hey Joe (B),” featuring Daniel Sproul and Taylor Scott on guitar, David Moore on banjo, Anne Harris on violin, Langhorne Slim on backing vocals and acoustic guitar, Steve Vindaic on organ, and Gus Skinas on Moog. This version offers many interesting contrasts as sections switch between psychedelic guitars, folksy strings, and synthesizer. Following is another instrumental version of “Sunday Morning,” which flows into “Cold at Midnight” with Taylor riffing on the possible reasons why his lover has not returned home. Closing with “Sunday Morning (C),” Taylor and Scott keep the reverb pedal to the metal for a rousing finish to this stellar album.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2015

Otis Taylor – My World is Gone

Title: My World Is Gone

Artist: Otis Taylor

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Telarc

Release date: February 12, 2013

 

 

 

As a young man, Otis Taylor mastered the banjo, harmonica and guitar; he also performed with guitar virtuoso Tommy Bolin (as T&O Short Line) and once jammed with Jimi Hendrix. This initiation birthed Taylor into the music world, and from 1974-1976 he played with the rock band Zephyr. After taking a long hiatus in 1977, he bounced back in the 1990s, releasing a steady stream of blues albums that featured “unflinching tales about racism, struggle and heritage.”   Taylor asserts, “… music can help people communicate and break down barriers, and start to really see each other for who they are.”

This philosophy is taken to heart on his latest release, My World is Gone, collaboration with Mato Nanji, singer-guitarist for the Native American blues-rock group Indigenous. The album’s title references a statement made by Nanji about his people, the Nakota Nation, which inspired songs such as “Never Been to the Reservation” and “Sand Creek Massacre Mourning” that are commentaries on the vanishing Native American way of life. “I’ve learnt that if you write about things that are important, people will listen,” remarks Taylor, and these strong words are reflected in the songs that he composed for the album. Tales of struggle, freedom, desire, conflict and of course love are the sizzling themes characterized by the sterling guitar sounds (acoustic six-string) and fantastic voice of Taylor. Also featured is Anne Harris on fiddle and Shawn Starski and Nanji on guitar.

Following is the official music video for the song “Blue Rain in Africa,” which features both Nanji and Harris:

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Impeccable rhythms and haunting melodies make My World is Gone one of the best blues albums of the past year. It’s a different sound, and definitely a must have.

Reviewed by Nana Amoah

 

View review May 1st, 2013

Otis Taylor’s Contraband

Title: Otis Taylor’s Contraband

Artist: Otis Taylor

Label: Telarc

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: February 14, 2012

 

 

With a seamless mix of jazz and blues, along with a complementary helping of folk, Otis Taylor continues to showcase his award-winning talents on Contraband. Over the course of the album, the aforementioned genres blend as organically as the themes he sings about: race, persecution and love, among others.

One of the standout songs on the album, “Blind Piano Teacher,” offsets simple, folksy chords with trumpet and violin, which periodically fade in and out. Painting a romantic picture of a white, blind piano teacher and his black wife, the track contains a compelling message of racial unity and acceptance. On the more blues-rock side of things, “The Devil’s Gonna Lie” balances the hard-hitting sounds of an organ and distorted guitars with the cleaner, crisper sound of a cornet. Several songs throughout the album feature Taylor’s signature-style of banjo playing, the best of which is heard on “Banjo Boogie Blues.” The dueling banjo and steel guitar, in combination with the female back-up singers, results in a very energetic creation.

Reviewed by Ian Hallagan

View review September 4th, 2012

Cassie Taylor – Blue

Title: Blue

Artist: Cassie Taylor

Label: PID

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date:  April 12, 2011

 

 

Like father, like daughter may not be a commonly used phrase, but in the case of Cassie Taylor, daughter of musician Otis Taylor, it’s applicable. Cassie regularly tours, performs, and records with her father, and plays bass on his new album, Contraband. She is also featured on the Girls with Guitars compilation with fellow singer/songwriters Samantha Fish and Dani Wilde, and is currently touring with her neo-blues power trio Cassie Taylor & the Soul Cavalry.

Blue, Cassie’s solo debut, indeed keeps blues at the core. While at times the album may suffer from weak instrumentation, Taylor utilizes a nice helping of pop to keep things interesting. The combination is most successful on tunes like “Black Coffee” and “Goodbye,” where blues and pop complement each other nicely. For the remainder of the album, Blue teeters between decent and good, as either pop vocals support the weak blues instrumentation or both flounder. But with Taylor’s vocal talent, Blue proves to be a good start for a promising career that may someday rival that of her father.

Following is a video of the live performance of “Black Coffee”:

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Reviewed by Ian Hallagan

View review September 4th, 2012

Welcome to the May 2013 Issue

Welcome to the May 2013 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture. This May Day we celebrate the school semester wrapping up with sizzlin’ new rap releases including 12 Reasons to Die, the Spaghetti gangster-western album from sharp-shooting duo Ghostface Killah & Adrian Young, as well as LongLiveA$AP from mix master A$AP Rocky, We Don’t Even Live Here from underground hip hop artist P.O.S., and Talented 10th from gospel rapper Sho Baraka.

We also get mellow with new and golden-age soul and R&B, including newly remastered collections from Stax artists Otis Redding and Albert King, the live concert DVD Al Green: Let’s Stay Together, DVDs of Motown’s Jackson 5ive: The Complete Animated Series as well as a compilation featuring its star songwriter Eddie Holland: It Moves Me, Complete Recordings 1958-1964. Contemporary R&B releases include Music at the Speed of Life by Mint Condition, Lover 4 Life by Regina Troupe, Trilogy by The Weeknd, and Terius Nash 1977 by The Dream.

We also cruise along to music from other shores including Wulu Wulu by Nigerian pop artists Bongos Ikwue and Double X, Heritage by Cuban artist Angel D-Cuba, and Planet Earth & Planet Mars Dub, from reggae veterans the Mighty Diamonds.

And last but certainly not least, My World is Gone, a collaboration between blues guitarist Otis Taylor and Native American blues-rocker Mato Nanji, and The Emancipation, Part One by genre-bending rock collective Aabaraki, round out this month’s review playlist.

View review May 1st, 2013

Welcome to the March Issue

This month we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the world’s biggest selling album of all time, by featuring Legacy’s CD/DVD compilation Thriller 25. We’re also taking a look at the history of the banjo through the new Otis Taylor release Recapturing the Banjo and Smithsonian Folkways’ Black Banjo Songsters. Our ongoing focus on Black rock continues with reviews of the latest albums from Ben Harper and Lenny Kravitz. Jazz releases include the Marsalis Music tribute to New Orleans’ great clarinetist and educator Alvin Batiste, as well as Horace Silver’s Live at Newport ’58, produced from a recently discovered recording at the Library of Congress. We’re examining the role of hip hop in films with Ice Cube: In the Movies, and also taking a look at the debut album from young Philly native Kevin Michael and the new solo release from Zimbabwean superstar Oliver Mtukudzi. Wrapping up this issue is a review of Follow Your Heart: Moving with the Giants of Jazz, Swing, and Rhythm and Blues, the autobiography of Joe Evans (saxophonist, music executive, and founder of Carnival Records).

View review March 7th, 2008

Stax 60th Anniversary Releases

Stax

Just in time for Black Music Month, Concord Music Group announces its Stax Records 60th Anniversary celebration.  The year long celebration will include new hits compiliations as well as remastered vinyl offerings and brand new box sets with rare deep cuts from the Stax catalog.  Great tracks from artists like Isaac Hayes, Johnnie Taylor, The Staple Singer, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & The MGs and of course Otis Redding will be revisited during the year.

For those of us who are well steeped in the most popular output of the record label, Stax 60th also promises some surprises: a re-release of the soundtrack to Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song which features music by Earth, Wind & Fire in their pre-That’s The Way Of the World orientation; a box set spanning Isaac Hayes’ catalog from 1962-1976; and a new fourth volume of their acclaimed Complete Stax Singles box sets. This new box set will include lots of music from Stax’s subsidiary labels like Volt, Enterprise, Hip, Chalice and others.  While much of this music is being kept alive and well in Memphis at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and Stax Music Academy, it’s a great time to make sure the whole world remembers what made the music from Stax Records so special. We’ll be reviewing these new releases in the near future.

Levon Williams

View review June 2nd, 2017

May 2017 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during May 2017—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Harrison Kennedy: Who U Tellin’? (Electro-Fi)
Lindsay Alexander: Two Cats (Delmark)
Tony Jackson: S/T (DDS Ent.)
Various: Rough Guide to Jug Band Blues (World Music Network)
Various: American Epic: The Collection (Box Set) (Legacy)

Comedy, Spoken Word
Clayton English: All the Same (Comedy Dynamics)
Flip Wilson: Cowboys & Colored People (Wounded Bird)
Flip Wilson: You Devil You   (Wounded Bird)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Bobby Saint: Unholy EP (Shoot To Kill Music)
Chastity Brown: Silhouette of Sirens (Red House)
Mtume: Prime Time: The Epic Anthology (SoulMusic)
The New Respects: Here Comes Trouble (Credential)
Ziggy Funk: Boxer’s Fracture (BBE)

Gospel, Contemporary Christian
Alice Coltrane: World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop)
Ben Tankard:  Full Tank 3: Cantankerous (Ben-Jammin Universal)
Como Mamas: Move Upstairs (Daptone)
Jermaine Dolly: Dolly Express (By Any Means Necessary)
LaVarnga Hubbard: Better Is Coming (eOne)
Mandisa: Out of the Dark (Sparrow/Capitol)
Sherwin Gardner: Greater (Tyscot)

Jazz
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones: UFO Tofu (Warner Bros.)
Camille Thurman: Inside the Moment (Chesky )
Charnett Moffett: Music From Our Soul (Motéma Music)
Christian Sands: Live From Jazz at the Bistro (Mack Avenue)
Eclectik Percussions Orchestra & Olive Lake: Traces De Vie (Passin’ Thru)
Heliocentrics:  A World of Masks (Soundway)
Jaco Pastorius: Truth, Liberty & Soul – Live in NYC (Resonance)
Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die (International Anthem)
Julian Vaughn: Bona Fide (Trippin’ & Rhythm)
Lionel Loueke: The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke   (Earshift)
Louis Hayes: Serenade For Horace (Blue Note)
Matthew Shipp, Mat Walerian, William Parker: This Is Beautiful Because We Are
Beautiful People (ESP Disk)
Naturally 7: Both Sides Now (Warner)
Oliver Lake & Joseph Bowie: Live At “A Space” 1976 (Sackville)
Patti LaBelle: Bel Hommage (GPE)
Pieces of a Dream: Just Funkin’ Around (Shanachie)
Richard Dowling: Complete Piano Works of Scott Joplin (3CD set) (Rivermont)
Sean Jones: Live from Jazz at the Bistro (Mack Avenue)
Skinny Hightower: Emotions (Trippin & Rhythm)
Teodross Avery: Post Modern Trap Music (Katalyst Ent.)
Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (OST) (Sam Records/Saga)
Theo Hill: Promethean (Posi-Tone)
Various: Jazz Ladies 1924-1962 (Naxos)
Various: Savory Collection Vol. 3, Honeysuckle Rose: Fats Waller and Friends
(National Jazz Museum in Harlem )
William Appling: Scott Joplin: The Complete Rags, Waltzes & Marches (W.A.S.O.)
Ragan Whiteside: Treblemaker (Randis Music)

R&B, Soul
Albert King: Stax Classics (Stax/Concord)
Bob Holmes: Nashville Soul   (Ace/Kent)
Booker T. & The MG’s: Stax Classics (Stax/Concord)
Carla Thomas: Stax Classics  (Stax/Concord)
Clarence Daniels Orchestra: Hard Workin: West Coast Big Band R&B Grooves (Ace/Kent)
Darien Dean: Departures (My Mouth Music)
Dramatics: Stax Classics (Stax/Concord)
Don Bryant: Don’t Give Up on Love (Fat Possum)
Eric Roberson: Earth (Blue Erro Soul)
Freddie North: What Are You Doing To Me – Complete A-Bet Recordings (Kent)
Goapele: Dreamseeker EP (Skyblaze)
Isaac Hayes: Stax Classics (Stax/Concord)
Jeanette Jones: Dreams All Come True (Playback)
Johnnie Taylor: Stax Classics  (Stax/Concord)
LeToya Luckett: Back 2 Life (eOne)
Maysa: Love is a Battlefield (Shanachie)
Otis Redding: Stax Classics (Stax/Concord)
Ruth B: Safe Haven (Columbia)
Sam & Dave: Stax Classics (Stax/Concord)
Staple Singers: Stax Classics  (Stax/Concord)
Various: Shrine – Rarest Soul Label Vol. 2 (Kent)
Various: The Big Beat: Dave Bartholomew Songbook (Ace/Kent)
Various: Dreamgirls (Original London Cast Recording) (Sony Classical)
Various: Virtue Recording Studio (Tramp)
Various: Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song OST (Stax/Concord)
William Bell: Stax Classics (Stax/Concord)

Rap
Azizi Gibson: Memoirs of the Reaper (Prehistoric)
B.O.B.: Ether (Empire)
Big L: The Big Picture (reissue) (RPG)
Brother Ali: All the Beauty in This Whole Life (Rhymesayers)
Buddy & Kaytranada: Ocean & Montana EP (Cool Lil Company)
Daylyt & Willie B: Let There B Lyt (Champions Only 98)
David Banner: The God Box (Banner Vision)
Dr. Octagon: Dr. Octagonecologyst (Vinyl box reissue) (Get On Down)
Endemic Emerald & Skanks The Rap Martyr: Rapsploitation (No Cure)
Faith Evans and the Notorious B.I.G.: The King & I (Rhino)
Gucci Mane: Droptopwop (Atlantic)
Insight The Truncator: Ears Hear Spears (Redefinition)
Jus-P: Supafriendz 2 (Chambermusik)
K.A.A.N. & Klaus Layer: Abstractions (Redefinition)
Kid Ink: 7 Series (RCA)
Lil Darrion: Blame the Streets (Black Market)
Lil Yachty: Teenage Emotions (Quality Control Music)
Logic:  Everybody (Def Jam)
Molecules & Showbiz: A Bronx Tale (Legion)
Montana of 300: Don’t Doubt the God (eOne)
Nef the Pharaoh: The Chang Project  (Sick Wid It)
Philthy Rich: Loyalty B4 Royalty 4 (Black Market)
Quelle Chris: Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often (Mello Music)
Snoop Dogg: Neva Left (Empire)
Stik Figa: Central Standard Time (Mello Music)
The Underachievers: Renaissance (RPM Music)

Reggae, Dancehall
Cornell Campbell: Ropin’ (Radiation Roots)
King Tubby: Shalom Dub (Radiation Roots)
Morgan Heritage: Avrakedabra  (CTBC)
Techniques & Friends: Winston Riley’s Rock Steady & Early Reggae 1968-1969 (Dubstore)

World, Latin
Erik Aliana & Pickett: Just My Soul   (Buda Musique)
Kanazoe Orkestra: Miriya (Buda Musique)
Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu of Ethiopia (Strut)
Oumou Sangaré: Mogoya (No Format!)
Quantic/Nidia Gongora: Curao (Tru Thoughts)
Timbila & Chartwell Dutiro :  Sadza With the Head of A Mouse (Lion Songs)
Various: Afro Rap: L’Album  (Wagram Music)
Various: Putumayo Presents Cuba! Cuba! (Putumayo)

View review June 1st, 2017

Welcome to the February 2017 Black History Month Issue

Welcome to the February 2017 edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re not only celebrating Black History Month, but also our 10th anniversary and 2000th post! Many thanks to our supporters – including our reviewers and readers as well as the artists, publicists, promoters and record labels who make Black Grooves possible.

Our feature projects coalesce around themes related to the Black American experience: Otis Taylor’s Fantasizing About Being Black, Miles Mosley’s debut album Uprising (with the West Coast Get Down), Noah Preminger’s Meditations on Freedom, Atlanta rapper T.I.’s Us or Else: Letter to the System, Randy Weston’s The African Nubian Suite, Nate Smith’s debut album KINFOLK: Postcards from Everywhere, and Afro-punk trio BLXPLTN’s provocative New York Fascist Week.

We’re also featuring new releases from groups fronted by women, including Black Rose by Shirley Davis & the Silverbacks, Southern Avenue’s self-titled debut on Stax, Meditations of a G by the violin-viola duo Chargaux, Long Live the Angels by Scottish singer-songwriter Emile Sande, and Late Nights & Heartbreak by British soul singer Hannah Williams & The Affirmations.

On a Valentine’s Day theme, there’s Nobody’s Gonna Love You Better from jazz vocalist Allan Harris, and for Mardi Gras celebrations there’s Viral by the Jefferson St. Parade Band and Lapeitah from New Orleans funk musician Corey Henry.

Other new releases include Got Soul by Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Hot Coffey in the D celebrating side projects of Funk Brother Dennis Coffey, Devil is Fine by the black metal musician known as Zeal & Ardor, counterbalanced by the Miami Mass Choir Live at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

Wrapping us this issue is the world music compilation Synthesize the Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica from the Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988, a DVD of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent production of Hamlet featuring a black cast and composer, and our compilation of January 2017 Releases of Note.

View review February 1st, 2017

Melissa Etheridge – Memphis Rock and Soul

melissa-ethridge
Title: Memphis Rock and Soul

Artist: Melissa Etheridge

Label: Stax

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: October 7, 2016

 

I love Stax Records. When I see that distinctive logo, you know, the one with the finger snapping, I never hide my love. To quote the great singer Rufus Thomas, “Motown was cute, but Stax was souuul.” So when I heard that Melissa Etheridge was releasing a tribute album on the legendary label, two thoughts ran through my mind: (1) Shock and (2) No way (now if it was Bonnie Raitt, those two thoughts would have never entered my mind). Etheridge did what any true artist should do when you want recreate the magic and aura of Stax—she recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, where some of the original songs on Memphis Rock and Soul were recorded. Al Green, Ann Peebles, and believe it or not Bruno Mars have all recorded there over the years.

On “Respect Yourself” Etheridge tries not to outdo Mavis Staples, which is smart. The opening guitar on this remake is similar to the Staple Singers’ version. On the Johnny Taylor cover “Who’s Making Love,” Etheridge slows the pace way down and changes the words to “Who’s Making Love To Your Sweet Lady.” If you know the original, it is much faster and has the kicking guitar along with Taylor’s soulful delivery on “Who’s Making Love To Your Ol Lady.”

Of course if you are going to cover Stax, you have to include Sam & Dave. Etheridge plays both Sam & Dave on the vocals to “Hold On, I’m Coming” and yes, I personally wanted to hear the horns just like original, and my wish was granted.

Stax’ biggest act, no question, was Otis Redding, who is covered on two tracks. The first, “I’ve Been Loving You,” is very underrated. Etheridge stays true to the original—no words changing here—and her vocal delivery is perfect. The second, “I’ve Got Dreams,” is again nothing fancy, with Etheridge showing respect for the original.

No doubt, it must have been a dream for Melissa Etheridge to record this album and pay respect to perhaps the greatest American record label ever.

Eddie Bowman

View review November 1st, 2016

July 2016 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during July 2016—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Big Maybelle: Complete King, Okeh And Savoy Releases 1947-59 (Acrobat)
Charles Wilson: Troubled Child (Severn)
Chicago Beau: Black Names Ringing (Katalyst Ent.)
Junior Wells: Blues Hit Big Town (reissue) (Delmark)
Kenny Neal: Bloodline (Cleopatra Blues)
Lou Pride: Keep On Believing (Severn)
Nora Jean Bruso: Going Back to Mississippi  (Severn)
Omar Coleman: Live (Delmark)
Otis Clay: Live In Switzerland 2006 (Rockbeat)
Roy Gaines: New Frontier Lover (Severn)
Son House: Special Rider Blues: The 1930-1942 Mississippi and Wisconsin Recordings (Soul Jam)
Ursula Ricks: My Street (Severn)
Various: Putumayo Presents Blues Party (Putumayo)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Billy Cobham: Live at Montreux Switzerland 1978 (U.S. Dist.)
Chassol:  Ultrascores II (digital) (Tricatel)
Death Grips: Bottomless Pit (Harvest)
Eric Gales: A Night on Sunset Strip (CD + DVD) (Cleopatra Blues)
GAWVI: Lost in Hue EP (Reach)
Nao: For All We Know (RCA)
Ravyn Lenae: Moon Shoes (Digital)
Steven Julien: Fallen (Apron)
Unlocking The Truth: Chaos (Tunecore)

Gospel, Gospel Rap
Candi Staton: It’s Time to Be Free (MRI)
Dayna Caddell: Push (eOne)
Half Mile Home: Don’t Judge Me (Wideawake Ent. Group)
Hezekiah Walker: Better – Azusa The Next Generation 2 (eOne)
Nate Bean & 4Given: Hymns and Devotionals Unplugged (Dream Gospel)
Roy Tyler: Three Way Calling (Severn)
Sue “Momma Sue” Roseberry: Magnificent God (New Day dist.)
Various: Holy South: Revolt (Holy South)
William Murphy: Demonstrate (CD/DVD) (RCA Inspiration)

Jazz
Black Art Jazz Collective: S/T (Sunnyside)
Bob Baldwin: The Brazilian-American Soundtrack (Red River Entertainment)
Brother Ah & The Musical Sound Awareness Ensemble: Sound Awareness (reissue) (Manufactured)
Brother Ah & The Musical Sound Awareness Ensemble: Move Ever Onward (reissue) (Manufactured)
Brother Ah & The Musical Sound Awareness Ensemble: Key to Nowhere (reissue) (Manufactured)
Charlie Parker: Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes (Verve)
Clark Terry: Complete Albums Collection: 1961-1963 (Chrome Dreams)
Clark Terry: Complete Albums Collection: 1954-1960 (Chrome Dreams)
Davell Crawford: Piano in the Vaults, No. 1 (Basin Street)
Denny Zeitlin: Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter Compositions (Sunnyside)
Doug Ward: Touch My Beloved’s Thought (Greenleaf)
Elan Trotman’s Tropicality: Double Take (Island Muzik)
Greg Ward and 10 Tongues: Touch My Beloved’s Thought (Greenleaf Music)
Kenny Garrett: Do Your Dance (Mack Avenue)
Milton Marsh: Monism (1st time on CD) (Manufactured)
Nina Simone: The Philips Years [7 LP Box Set] (Verve)
Richard Bona & Mandekan Cubano: Heritage (Qwest)
Sam “The Man” Taylor: Plays the Bad & The Beautiful (1st CD release) (Phono)
WPG Trio: Small, Medium, Large (Severn)

R&B, Soul
Clarence Spady: Just Between Us (Severn)
Aaron Neville: Apache (Tell It Records)
Coffee: Slippin’ & Dippin’ (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Eruption: Eruption Featuring Precious Wilson (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Fantasia: Definition Of (RCA)
Frankie & The Spindles: Count to Ten – Complete Singles Collection 1968-77 (Playback)
Hank Ballard & The Midniters: Unwind Yourself – The King Recordings Of 1964-1967 (Kent)
Isley Brothers: Go For Your Guns (expanded ed.) (Iconoclassic)
James Carr: Losing Game: Goldwax Rarities (Kent)
Jason Derulo: Platinum Hits (Warner Bros.)
Johnny Bristol: Modern Soul Classics 1974-1981 (Playback)
Keith Sweat: Dress To Impress  (RAL)
Marc Ribot’s The Young Philadelphians: Live in Tokyo (Yellowbird)
Michael Kiwanuka: Love & Hate (Interscope)
Prince: Reign Of The Prince Of Ages (DVD) (Azure)
Roy Woods: Waking at Dawn (digital) (Warner Bros.)
The Delfonics: 40 Classic Soul Sides (2-CD Set) (Real Gone Music)
Various: Greg Belson’s Devine Disco: American Gospel Disco 1974-1984 (Cultures of Soul)
Various:  DJ Spinna Presents The Wonder of Stevie Vol. 3 (BBE)
Will Downing: Black Pearls (Shanachie)
Wilson Pickett: The Complete Atlantic Singles Vol. One (Real Gone)

Rap, Hip Hop
Awall Aka 2piece: Rock It Like This (Fahrenheit)
Big Hoodoo: Asylum (Psychopathic)
Blaq Poet: The Most Dangerous (digital) (Marvel)
Blu & Nottz: Titans in the Flesh EP (Coalmine Music)
Dillon & Paten Locke: Food Chain  (Full Plate)
DJ Drama: Quality Street Music 2 (eOne)
Don Trip: Head That Wears the Crown (Soh)
Dr. Ama: Split Personali-D (reissue) (ChamberMusik)
Durrty Goodz: Not Been Televised EP (Tru Thoughts)
Enforcers (El Da Sensei & K-Def): Jersey Connection (Slice of Spice)
First Division: Overworked & Underpaid  (Soulspazm)
Flowdan: Disaster Piece (Tru Thoughts)
Gensu Dean & Denmark Vessey: Whole Food (Mello Music Group)
Gucci Mane: Everybody Looking  (Atlantic)
HusMozzy: Hustle God (Mozzy Records)
J Dilla: The Diary Instrumentals (Mass Appeal)
J Stalin: I Shoulda Stayed In School (Black Market)
Kemba: Negus (digital)
Kool Keith: Tashan Dorrsett – The Preacher (Junkadelic)
Lil Durk: 2X (Def Jam)
Lua Proc: Fish Tailing (High End Society)
N.W.A & Eazy E: The Kings of Compton (DVD) (eOne)
Reef The Lost Cauze & Bear-One: Furious Styles (Soulspazm)
Sadat X: Aqua (Tommy Boy Ent.)
ScHoolboy Q: Blank Face (Interscope)
Snoop Dogg: Coolaid (eOne)
The Other Guys: Life in Analog (HiPNOTT)
The Team: Hell of a Night 2 (Moe Dee Ent.)
Wale: Summer on Sunset mixtape (digital) (Rap)
Z-Ro: Drankin’ & Drivin’ (1 Deep Ent)

Reggae, Dancehall
Linval Thompson: Linval Presents: Encounters Pac Man (Greensleeves)
Mykal Rose: Rasta State (VP)
Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno: 1000 Watts (Tru Thoughts)
Stephen Marley: Revelation Part II,The Fruit of Life (Ghetto Youths Int.)
Various: Coxone’s Music 2: The Sound of Young Jamaica (Souljazz)

World
Alma Afrobeat Ensemble: It’s Time (Slow Walk Music)
People Rock Outfit (P.R.O.): Blacky Joe (Soundway)
Various: Nigeria Freedom Sounds! Calypso, Highlife, Juju & Apala: Popular Music and the Birth of Independent Nigeria 1960-63 (Soul Jazz)

View review August 1st, 2016

Welcome to the August 2015 Issue

Welcome to the August 2015 “summer rocks” issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

As a tie-in to the annual AfroPunk Festival, we’re focusing on rock-oriented releases from bands across the continent. In the category of funk/rock bands fronted by black singers, there’s Vintage Trouble’s 1 Hopeful Road, Orgone’s Beyond the Sun, Sonny Knight and the Lakers’ Do It Live, Speedometer’s No Turning Back (ft. James Junior), Leon Bridges’ Coming Home, Saun & Starr’s Look Closer (ft. the Daptones), Black Diet’s The Good One, and SugarBad’s Up in the CloudsOther funk/blues-rock/jazz fusion releases include Otis Taylor’s Hey Joe Opus, Galactic’s Into the Deep, Bluey’s Life Between the Notes, Push Up’s The Day After, James Brandon Lewis’s Days of Freeman, Mem Nahadr’s Femme Fractale: An Opera of Reflection, and Sly and the Family Stone’s Live At the Fillmore East 1968.

From the heartland there’s Dark Black Makeup by the Missouri punk band Radkey, N.E.W. by the 1970s-era Detroit rock band Death, The Return of Glory by the Indianapolis based Christian gospel/rock group Judah Band, and Live At Never On Sunday by the Ohio Christian rock group Blessid Union of Souls.

Wrapping up this issue is Bootleg Whiskey by blues musician Grady Champion, and a summary of July 2015 releases of note.

View review August 1st, 2015

July 2015 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
B.B. King: Complete Recordings 1949-1962 (Enlightenment)
Blinddog Smokin’: High Steppin’
Buddy Guy: Born to Play Guitar (RCA)
Freddie King: Going Down at Onkel Po’s (Rockbeat)
Georgia Tom Dorsey & Big Bill Broonzy: Famous Hokum Boys (JSP)
Muddy Waters Blues Band: Live at Ebbets Field
Otis Rush: Double Trouble: Live in Cambridge 1973 (Rockbeat)
Tampa Red: Dynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues (Ace)
Various: Texas Blues: Early Blues Masters from the Lonestar State (JSP)
Various: Muddy Waters 100 (MRI)

Comedy
Redd Foxx: Nasty (Airline)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
American Fangs: Dirty Legs (Best Before)
Benjamin Clementine: At Least For Now (Behind Records / Barclay)
Double Duchess: All Eyes on Me
George Clinton: Chocolate City: London P-Funk Live at Metropolis (Metropolis)
Rock Candy Funk Party: The Groove is King CD + DVD (J&R Adventures)
Felix Da Housecat: Narrative Of Thee Blast Illusion (No Shame)
Kwame Binea Shakedown EP (Pelopos Ent. Group)
Lianne La Havas: Blood (Nonesuch)
P.O.D.: The Awakening (Ume)
ROYAL: Crash EP (Ropeadope)
Sample Answer: Good Boy EP (ACP)
Various: The Sam Records Anthology (Harmless)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Anthony Brown & Group Therapy: Everyday Jesus (Tyscot)
CeCe Winans: The Best of; Millennium Collection (Sparrow)
Israel & New Breed: Covered: Alive in Asia DVD (RCA)
Karen Clark Sheard: Destined to Win (eOne)
Madam Edna Gallmon Cooke: Collection 1949-62 (Acrobat)
Mandisa: 3CD Collection (Sparrow)
Mighty Clouds of Joy: Classic 3 (eOne)
Sue Neil: Through the Fire (Rebel Hill Music)
Violinaires: Groovin’ With Jesus (Safety Zone)
Violinaires: You Can All Join In (Safety Zone)

Jazz
Clarence Williams: Senegalese Stomp (Frog UK)
Curtis Haywood: Smooth Ingredients (Megawave)
Dexter Gordon: 12 Classic Albums: 1947-1962 (box set)
Heads of State: Search for Peace (Smoke Sessions)
Horace Silver: Live at the Half Note (Hi Hat)
Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp: Callas (Leo)
James P Johnson: Collection, 1921-1949 (Fabulous)
John Coltrane: Live at Penn State ’63
Lebron: New Era (Trippin & Rhythm)
Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy)
Mina Agossi: Fresh (Proper Music)
Robert Cunningham Jr.: Deep Within (Pacific Coast Jazz)
Sangoma Everett Trio: Debi (Naïve)
Sun Ra Arkestra: Babylon Live (In + Out)
Xanadu All-Stars: Xanadu In Africa / Night Flight From Dakar (Elemental Music)
Laura Karpman/Langston Hughes: Ask Your Mama (Avie Records)
Various: Nina Revisited: A Tribute To Nina Simone (RCA)

R&B, Soul
Aaron Parnell Brown: The Tin Man (Expansion)
All-4-One: Twenty+ (AFO Ltd.)
Cadets & Jacks: The Complete Releases 1955-57 (Acrobat)
Crown Heights Affair: Dreaming a Dream: The Best Of (Sanctuary)
James Brown: Tell Me What You’re Gonna Do (Rumble)
Jill Scott: Woman (Atlantic)
Joe Tex: Yum Yum Yum – The Early Years 1955-1962 (Jasmine)
Julian King: Sing for You EP
Marvin Gaye: Recorded Live on Stage (Rumble)
Marvin Gaye: The Concert Anthology (Goldenlane)
Ricky White: Love Zone (Music Access Inc)
Ronnie Jones: Satisfy My Soul: Complete Recordings 1964-1968 (RPM)
Sly & the Family Stone: Live at the Fillmore East October 4th& 5th 1968 (Sony Legacy)
Speedometer: No Turning Back (Freestyle)
Stacy Barthe: Becoming (Motown)
Stephen Bradley: Runaways EP
The Fantastic Four: The Lost Motown Album (Kent)
Tommy Ridgley & Bobby Mitchell: In The Same Old Way (Ace)
Tyrese: The Black Rose (Voltron Recordz)
Various: Dore: L.A. Soul Sides 2 (Kent)
Various: Groove With a Feeling: Sounds of Memphis 1975-1985 (BGP)
Various: The Super Rare Doo Wop Box (Rockbeat)
With Lions: Fast Luck

Rap, Hip Hop
Gunplay: Living Legend (Def Jam)
Kutt Calhoun: Kuttin Loose EP (Black Gold Ent.)
Solomon Childs: Monsters in My Room (Chambermusik)
Capone-N-Noreaga: Lessons (Penalty Ent.)
C-Bo: The Mobfather II (RBC)
Chinx: Welcome To JFK (eOne)
Citizen Kay: Demokracy (Asphalt)
Flo Rida: My House
Ghost Writerz: GWZ All The Way (Tru Thoughts)
Ghostface Killah: Adrian Younge Presents Twelve Reasons To Die II (Linear Labs)
Hopsin: Pound Syndrome (Funk Volume)
Juju Rogers: From the Life of Good-For-Nothing (Jakarta)
Kankick vs DJ Choku: Beat Life (Octave)
Kid Ink: Coast 2 Coast 261 (Ontrack Ent.)
Krept & Konan: The Long Way Home (Def Jam)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic 14 (Oarfin)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic 15 (Oarfin)
L’Orange & Kool Keith: Time? Astonishing! (Mello Music)
Migos: Yung Rich Nation (300 Entertainment)
Motive: D.N.A. (Dopest Nigga Alive) (Dirty Version)
Mr. Criminal: Evolution of a G (Hi Power Ent.)
Noveliss: Toonami Tsunamis EP (Clear Soul Forces)
Papoose: You Can’t Stop Destiny (Honorable)
Public Enemy: Man Plans God Laughs (Spit)
Raz Fresco: Pablo Frescobar (Duck Down)
Slim Thug : Hogg Life: 2 Still Surviving (Hogglife Ent.)
ST 2 Lettaz: Good Day in the Ghetto: Season One (Mishka)
The Pharcyde: Bizare Ride II: The Singles Collection (45 box)
Trae Tha Truth: Tha Truth (ABN)
Various: Hydra: Underground’s Finest (Octave)
Vitamin D: Uninterrupted (Cold Busted)
Young Jeezy: Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (Def Jam)
SICC ILL: Vicdemic 1234 (Fahrenheit)
TT the Artist: Gimme Yo Love EP (Nina Pop)
Seven Davis Jr: Universes (Ninja Tune)
Various: Jamaica Hip-Hop (Movie Time Dist.)

Reggae, Dancehall
Bunny Striker Lee: Next Cut! (Pressure Sounds)
Jah Cure: The Cure (VP)
King Jammy: Roots Reality & Sleng Teng (VP)
Tanto Metro & Devonte: Sly & Robbie Present (Taxi Records/Zojak World Wide)
Tyrone Taylor: Totally Tyrone (Tuff Gong)
Various: Feel So Fine: Birth of Jamaican Ska (Future Noise)
Various: Nyacoustic Chants (Zion High)
Various: Don Letts: Dread Meets Punk Rockers Downtown, Vol. 2 (Island)

World, Latin
Ramon Goose and Modou Touré: West African Blues Project
Polyversal Souls: Invisible Joy (Philophon)
Nation Beat & Cha Wa: Carnival Caravan EP (Nation Beat Music)
Toto La Momposina: Tambolero (Real World)

 

View review August 1st, 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

March Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
Blind Boy Fuller: Rough Guide To Blind Boy Fuller (World Music Network)
Buster Brown: I’m Going But I’ll Be Back 1959-1962 (Jasmine)
Corey Harris: Live from Turtle Island (Blues Boulevard)
Darius Rucker: Southern Style (Capitol Nashville)
Earl King & Roomfull of Blues: New Orleans Party Classic (Rockbeat)
J.B. Hutto: Bluesmaster – The Lost Tapes (JSP)
Jackie Payne: I Saw The Blues (Blue Dot)
Leo ‘Bud’ Welch: I Don’t Prefer No Blues (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum)
Muddy Waters: Chess Singles Collection (Not Now)
Otis Taylor: Hey Joe Opus Red Meat (In-Akustik)
Slim Harpo: I’m A King Bee 1957-1961 (Jasmine)
T-Bone Walker: Get These Blues Off Me – As & Bs 1950-1955 (Jasmine)
Various: We’re Sisters Under the Skin-Female Blues & Boogie Woogie 1944-49 (Document)
Various: I’m Pretty Good at It-Country Blues Guitar (Document)
Various: Rough Guide To Unsung Heroes Of Country Blues (World Music Network)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Screamin Jay Hawkins & The Fuzztones : Live 1985 (Cleopatra)
Benjamin Clementine: At Least For Now (Behind Records/Barclay)
Death Grips: The Powers That B (CMG/Harvest/Third World)
O.T. Genasis: CoCo: The Global Remixes (Atlantic)
The Coasters: Magical Favorites (Stardust Records)
Twin Shadow: Eclipse (Warner)
Various: D.C. Go-Go – Sonic Funk from the Chocolate City (Perpetual)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
21:03: Outsiders (PMG)
Chris Cobbins: August Season (Save the City)
Damien Sneed: Broken To Minister (LeChateau Earl)
Derrick McDuffey: Release The Sound (DMKS Music)
Eshon Burgundy: The Fear of God (Humble Beast)
Fairfield Four: Still Rockin’ My Soul (Fairfield Four Records)
J. Shep: Potential 2 Purpose (Dream Gospel)
Jor’Dan Armstrong: 52 Weeks of Summer (Good Guys Music)
Json: No Filter (Lamp Mode)
Kenny Lewis & One Voice: Way of Escape (eOne)
Kirk Whalum: “Gospel According to Jazz Chapter IV” (Rendezvous)
Marvin Sapp: You Shall Live (RCA Inspiration)
Mccrary Sisters: Let’s Go (MCC)
Mike Real: Mind of Hollis (Clear Sight Music)
Sean C Johnson: Circa 1993 (Fresh Fruits Ent.)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Eight Classic Albums (Real Time)
Theory Hazit: The Fall Of Light (Soulspazm Inc.)
First Cathedral Mass Choir: Gospel Music Extravaganza, Vol. 1 (World Class Gospel)
Various: Stellar Awards 30th Anniversary Collection  (Habakkuk Music)

Jazz
Courtney Pine: Song (The Ballad Book) (Destin-E)
Albert Tootie Heath: Philadelphia Beat (Sunnyside)
Billie Holiday: The Centennial Collection (Legacy)
Candido: Afro Cuban Jazz Sound of Candido (Not Now)
Fats Waller: The Amazing Fats Waller – Then You’ll Remember Me (Solo Art)
Jack DeJohnette: Made in Chicago (ECM)
James Lloyd: Here We Go (Shanachie)
John Coltrane Quintet: So Many Things: European Tour 1961 (Acrobat)
Kevin Eubanks & Stanley Jordan: Duets (Mack Ave.)
Les McCann: Invitation To Openness (expanded ed.) (Omnivore)
Marc Cary: Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 (Motema Music)
Marcus Miller: Afrodeezia (Blue Note)
Omar Sosa: ilé (Ota)
Ornette Coleman: Beauty Is A Rare Thing (Atlantic)
Rebecca Ferguson: Lady Sings the Blues (Capitol)
Steve Cromity: All My Tomorrows (Cromcake Records)
Steve Turre: Spirit Man (Smoke Sessions)
Uptown Jazz Quartet: Vocal Madness (HouseKat)
Various: Spiritual Jazz Vol. 6 (Jazzman)

R&B, Soul
Big Popp G: I Believe (Pyramid City)
Bigg Robb: Showtime (Music Access Inc.)
Case: Heaven’s Door (eOne Music)
Fats Domino: Blues Biography (InGrooves)
George Benson: Ultimate Collection (Rhino)
Hank Ballard: Let’s Go Again! – Singles Collection 1960-1962 (Jasmine)
Jagged Edge: Greatest Hits (Cleopatra)
James Brown: I’m Real (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Jeff Bradshaw: Home: One Special Night At The Kimmel Center (Shanachie)
Jodeci: The Past, The Present, The Future (Epic)
Johnny Adams: I Won’t Cry: Complete Ric & Ron Singles 1959-1964 (Ace)
Jonathan Butler: Surrender
Kenya: My Own Skin (Expansion)
King Curtis: Soul Twist: The Best of the Early Sixties (Airline)
Lil Jimmie: She Was Twerking (Music Access Inc)
Main Ingrediant: L.T.D./Black Seeds (Real Gone)
My Midnight Heart: Break EP ; Drown EP (digital)
Notations: Still Here, 1967 – 1973 (Numero)
PJ: Walking Around Pools EP (digital)
Rayven Justice: I Have A Dream (Empire Dist.)
Roy Brown: Payday Jump: The 1949-51 Sessions (Ace)
Sons of Serendip: Sons of Serendip (NIA)
Stephanie Pickett: Greatest Hits (Music Access Inc)
Tyrone Davis: Lets Be Closer Together (expanded edition) (Funky Town Grooves)
Various: Los Angeles Soul: Kent-Modern’s Black Music Legacy (Kent)
Various: Ultra-High Frequencies: The Chicago Party (Numero)
Various: Blaxploitation—6 Classic Funk Soundtracks (UMC)
Various: Empire – Original Soundtrack from Season 1 (Columbia)
Various: All in mind – The Wand Records Story (One Day)
Various: Loose the Funk: Rarities From the Jewel/Paula Vaults (Airline)
Various: Fire/Fury Records Story – Doo Wop Collection (Airline)
Various: The One-derful! Collection: The M-Pac! Label (Secret Stash)
Will Downing: Chocolate Drops (WDP)

Rap, Hip Hop
Big Shug: Triple Ogzus (Brick)
Heems: Eat Pray Thug (Megaforce)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic, Vol. 12 (Oarfin)
Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste (Prospect Park)
Berner: 20 Lights (Bern One Ent.)
Cannibal Ox: Blade of the Ronin (Ihiphop Dist.)
Chief Keef : Feed the Streets (Black Market)
Da Mafia 6ix: Watch What U Wish . . . (101 Dist.)
Da ‘Unda ‘Dogg: In With The Old Out With The New (Pushin Dope Productions)
Diamond District: March On Washington Redux (Mello Music)
DJ Clent: Last Bus to Lake Park (Duck N Cover)
Freddie Gibbs: Pronto EP (ESGN)
Ghostpoet: Shedding Skin (Play It Again Sam)
G-Unit: The Beast Is G-Unit EP (G-Unit)
J-Diggs & Jacka: Mobb Nation (Thizz Nation/Romp’t Out)
J-Live: His Own Self (Mortier Music)
Juicy J: Coast 2 Coast 250 (Ontrack Ent.)
Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope)
Ludacris: Ludaversal (Def Jam)
Malik B And Mr. Green: Unpredictable (Enemy Soil)
Mark Battles & Dizzy Wright: Lost in Reality (Empire Dist.)
Mooch Da Player: The Ghetto Storyboard (Fo’ Way Entertainment)
Nengo Flow: Los Reyes Del Rap (Real G 4 Life)
Pooca Leroy: Mobb Sauce (Music Access Inc)
Priceless Da Roc: Forever California (Empire Dist.)
Project Pat: Mista Don’t Play 2: Everythangs Money (eOne Music)
Rapper Big Pooh: Words Paint Pictures (Mello Music Group)
Rorschack & T.O.N.E-z: Handcuffs (MalLabel)
Skizzy Mars: Red Balloom Project (Artist Partner Group)
Substantial & The Other Guys: The Past EP (HiPNOTT)
Swave Sevah: Son of a One Armed Man (Creative Juices)
The Regiment & Sinitus Tempo: S.O.U.L. (Sound of Us Living) (HiPNOTT)
Various: Mello Music Group Persona (Mello Music)
Various: Lowrider Freedom 2015 (Thump)
Wale: The Album About Nothing (Atlantic Urban)
Webbie: Money Good (Empire Dist.)

Reggae, Dancehall, Calypso
Black Symbol: Black Symbol (Reggae Archive Records)
Blues Busters: The Wonder and Glory of the Blues Busters (Sunrise)
Capital Letters: Wolverhampton (Sugar Shack Records)
Carlene Davis: Dripping Blood (V.P.)
Jimmy Riley: Live It to Know It (Pressure Sounds)
Micah Shemiaiah: Original Dread (Descendant Music)
Rocky Duwani: Branches of the Same Tree  (Cumbancha)
Toian: Retrospect EP (Class One Music)
Various: Ska From the Vaults of Wirl Records (Kingston Sounds)
Various: It’s Jamaica Jump Blues Time: Jamaican Sound System (Fantastic Voyage)

World, Latin
Baba Commandant & the Mandingo Band: Juguya (Sublime Frequencies)
Angelique Kidjo: Sings (429 Records)
Ata Kak: Obaa Sima (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
BKO Quintet: Bamako Today – BKO On Air (Buda Musique)
Carlou D: A New Day (World Village)
Rebel Tumbao:Rebel Tumbao (Sacred Rhythm Music)
Songhoy Blues: Music in Exile (Transgressive)
Studio One Jump Up:Birth of a Sound: Jump-Up Jamaican R&B, Jazz & Early Ska (Soul Jazz)
Various: Next Stop Soweto 4: Zulu Rock, Afro-disco & Mbaqanga 1975-1985 (Strut)
Various: Highlife on the Move (Soundway)
Xavier Rudd & The United Nations: Nanna (Nettwerk)

View review April 1st, 2015

Reverend Robert Wilkins – Prodigal Son

Reverend-Robert-Wilkins-Prodigal-Son

Title: Prodigal Son

Artist: Reverend Robert Wilkins

Label: Bear Family Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 23, 2014

 

 

The prodigal son left home by himself…

An unseen light source illuminates the yellowing walls and rusting porcelain. A dirty pipe runs up the wall past messages scrawled in pencil. It’s a nasty bathroom. The oppressive stall conjures up feelings of loneliness, of desperate men. But the graffiti that covers the wall—“Heavenly King,” “Thank-U-Jesus,” ”Old Time Religion”—is oddly uplifted. In the midst of the decay, declarations of faith shine through, and it is with this dissonance that Bear Family Records sets the stage for their newest musical portrait.

By the start of the 1960s, American fervor had begun building around the crackly collections of Harry Smith and the Lomax family. The reignited interest in acoustic blues sent young white music enthusiasts scurrying, eager to find living sources of the haunting records emanating from America’s south. The early half of the decade led to the unearthing of titans. Tom Hoskins searched out the gentle plucking of Avalon’s Mississippi John Hurt, finding him alive and well. John Fahey rediscovered the lonesome howl of Skip James and the pounding rhythms of Bukka White. Mance Lipscomb, Fred McDowell, Reverend Gary Davis and Son House were all among those artists whose careers had peaked in the ‘20s-40s, only to find a voracious new audience waiting for them in the form of the folk revival.  A contingent of old timers from the Memphis scene also saw resurgence, including jug-stomping Gus Cannon and blues luminary Furry Lewis. Some of these quests for old bluesmen were tortuous, winding across years of obstacles and often facing hostility.  But fittingly, in 1964 when ethnomusicologist Dick Spottswood caught rumor that another Memphis musician, Robert Wilkins, was still alive, the path to finding him was straightforward and elegant. Spottswood sought out a Memphis directory from his local library and, upon finding two Robert Wilkins listed, he composed two identical letters, mailing them to both addresses. Remarkably, the only Robert Wilkins that responded was the musician in question, and a meeting was arranged. Wilkins, who had cut a small batch of 78s from 1928-1935, was known solely as a bluesman, and a damn fine one. His no frills guitar accompanied confident vocals, fusing Mississippi flavor with Memphis-borne style. Yet to his surprise, when Spottswood found Wilkins he did not find a veteran bluesman, but rather a proud man of God.

Born in the late 1890s, Robert Wilkins grew up in a poor family near Hernando, Mississippi on the storied Highway 51 just south of Memphis. He never knew his real father, a small-scale farmer named George Wilkins, who had been forced to escape the law after striking a white man during a gambling-related altercation. Instead, Wilkins grew up with a cantankerous, alcoholic stepfather named Sam Oliver. Oliver’s short fuse and drinking caused strain for the household, as drunken rage would regularly turn into violence directed at Robert’s mother, Julia. Wilkins went to school through fourth grade before picking up the family trade full time. At sixteen he received his first guitar and at year’s end he was playing like a pro. A man named Buddy Taylor taught Wilkins his first few tunes, classic repertoire like “Frisco Train” and “Casey Jones.” In 1915, after cutting his teeth at dances and fish fries, Wilkins headed for Memphis to pursue a career as a performing musician. The dream of finding that success was soon tempered due to the competitiveness of the industry, and Wilkins sometimes had to find work in other non-musical endeavors. He served in the army, returned to farming, spent three years as a Pullman porter and would occasionally work for a bakery and candy maker.

Wilkins had a stint as a recording artist, but it was a run marred by bad luck and injustice. He claimed that his rendition of “Kansas City Blues” was lifted by fellow guitarist Jim Jackson, whose rendition scored a best-selling record in 1927. The song has since become a blues standard, with Wilkins’ name far from credited (on the contrary, Jim Jackson’s rendition was entitled “Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues”). A year later, Wilkins got a shot to record with Victor records, but the session was far from ideal. He was given a damaged guitar whose strings had been tuned down to an uncomfortably lower key. Wilkins did find some recording success with his 1926 release “Rolling Stone,” carving out solid local sales in the Memphis market. The popularity of his song brought about a historic invitation to be the first black performer on Memphis radio, appearing on WHBQ. Wilkins had prepared a diverse set list for his on-air performance and would finally reach a larger audience with his versatility and rock solid fundamental blues. Unfortunately, another cruel twist of fate intervened. The public loved his performance of “Rolling Stone”…too much. Listener calls poured into the studio demanding encores, and Wilkins was made to repeat the song over and over for the entire remainder of the performance.

Despite the bad luck and mostly poor record sales in the wake of The Depression, Wilkins remained in good spirits, finding happiness in studying medicinal herbs and in his new wife, Ida Mae. The married couple struggled to make ends meet with a rapidly expanding family, and upon the birth of their eighth child, Ida Mae fell gravely ill. When the doctors said his wife was beyond medical help, Wilkins appealed to the heavens, pleading that he would take his wife’s health in exchange for one of the few things in his possession—his blues songs. Miraculously, Ida Mae made a full recovery, and true to his word Robert Wilkins never sang blues again. Instead, he devoted himself to religion, bringing with him the same muscular guitar work and earnest singing. He found a place in the Church of God in Christ movement, and was ordained as a minister in 1950. Wilkins continued on his path of righteousness through a decade and a half before Dick Spottswood made contact in 1964. Spottswood convinced Wilkins to hop on the surging folk revival, but again it would seem the reverend’s talents went largely underappreciated. Gospel music did not resonate with the youthful audience as much as blues would have, and his live appearance at the Newport Folk Festival that year was received with tepid enthusiasm; more unfairness for a man so deserving of a good break. It would be more than understandable if Wilkins became jaded and angry. He was good enough. He deserved better than he got. But Wilkins, forever patient and graceful, dealt with all in signature poise. He recorded a gospel LP for Spottswood’s Piedmont label (this time with a working guitar), but the release sold poorly and was quickly passed by. Wilkins quietly returned home to Memphis, living out the rest of his days in support of a loving family and adoring congregation until his passing in 1987. This new compilation from Spottswood and Bear Family Records contains the recordings from the 1964 LP in addition to four other uncollected hymns.

There is no shortage of country gospel available to us, but Wilkins unorthodox arrangements of standards and clever originals make this album essential listening. The collection opens with a four-note introduction, tumbling and descending before landing at the start of the classic “Jesus Will Fix It All Right.” Here, Wilkins grooves wonderfully as a solo performer. His alternating thumbed bass line and strumming on the offbeat create the uncanny illusion of multiple instruments. But unlike so many blues virtuosos of the time, the guitar work is utilitarian, providing only what is needed to make a bed for Wilkins powerful vocals. The proclamation that “Jesus will fix it all right” is not sung with the desperate fire of a Gary Davis, but rather a matter-of-fact confidence. It’s the confidence of a man who has experienced first hand the powers of faith in his own life. The lyrics consist of no more than the title repeated, and that’s plenty. Fitting perhaps, that for a performer like Wilkins, a declaration of faith in his lord is all that’s needed.

Wilkins’ reserved playing on the opener wastes no time in giving way to a more acrobatic style in the instrumental piece “Thank You Jesus.” The song struts and gallops, demonstrating an arsenal of various guitar licks. Wilkins’ slide guitar makes for thrilling listening as he growls up the bottom string for an ascending walk up before ducking back into a musical refrain. He then shoots up the fret board and if you listen closely, you can hear the four-syllable song title articulated brilliantly in musical notes. It’s a clinic in tension and release, with passages of dissonance giving way to welcome resolution.

“Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” while not ever credited with an original author, has largely remained constant in its arrangement and chord structures. Listeners at all familiar with religious music will know that “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” is one of the most oft-performed gospel tunes in history. You pretty much know what you’re going to get when it’s on the track list. Wilkins, however, delivers a wholly different take on the song, providing a completely different vocal melody and progression than expected. His rendition trots with a sense of adventure, like a traveler hitting the open road, equipped with little more than a guitar and an unwavering faith in God. This totally left-field take is a really fresh update to a pleasant but perhaps safe standard. The song leads nicely into a more up-tempo (but more stylistically conservative) “Do Lord Remember Me.” With a familiar southern folk melody, Wilkins acts as rough and tumble as Elizabeth Cotten, plucking out the vocal melody on guitar between vocal segments.

Wilkins continues with well-worn melodies on “Here Am I, Send Me.” “If you can’t sing like angels/if you can’t preach like Paul,” he crows “oh you can tell the love of Jesus/you can say he died for us all.” You can hear in his voice how much he buys into the song’s message. Luckily, Wilkins has the ‘sing like angels’ thing covered but for those in his congregation who couldn’t, Wilkins undoubtedly used this number to make a point— anyone can take onus and be proactive in their religious endeavors.

As the album crosses its halfway point, Spottswood makes it clear that we’ve arrived at the crown jewel: the 10-minute winding tale of “The Prodigal Son.” In 1929, Robert Wilkins penned the fantastic “That’s No Way to Get Along,” but upon pursuing religion, found the lyrical content to be inappropriate. As a solution, Wilkins kept the song structure but replaced the lyrics to make it a cautionary tale about a boy who demands that his father give him his inheritance so that he may leave home for a life of independence. Broke after quickly squandering his inheritance, the boy is forced to find work feeding swine as a famine descends on the land. Hating his menial work, the wasteful son tearfully returns to his home, praying that he’s forgiven for his actions. The father, remarkably, welcomes his son back, gathering the rest of the family to mark the joyous occasion of a family reunited. The song did not appear in Wilkins’ church services, as it was deemed not exciting enough for his congregants. Instead, the piece was reserved as a late-night solo, played for small audiences in the comfort of his living room. The quiet picking, repetitious bass note run and Wilkins contemplative drawl make for a hypnotic mix and the quickest 10-minute song I’ve ever encountered. The open tuning allows for a richer low end and frees Wilkins left hand to speak easily with his slide. This song may sound familiar to classic rock fans. Indeed, rock and roll bad boys The Rolling Stones adapted this song for their own interpretation of “The Prodigal Son,” appearing on their acclaimed album “Beggars Banquet.” Initially, it appeared this would be yet another slap in the face for Wilkins, as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards credited themselves with authorship. Luckily, on later pressings the wrong was righted and Wilkins’ name appeared in the byline. The album became one of the bands most beloved releases and the royalties generated by the sales created a solid supplementary income for Wilkins and his family in the reverend’s later years. The dilapidated bathroom featured on the cover of this compilation is actually a clever spoof of the cover for “Beggars Banquet.” It is never clarified through the liner notes if this was intended as a friendly nod or perhaps a small slice of ribbing—for once young white musicians on the other end of appropriated art.

The cavalcade of gospel continues on with “Jesus Said If You Go” and “I’m Going Home to My Heavenly King.” The former employs a technique often found in congregational gospel music, staying on the root chord while the song leader half sings, half preaches before ripping once again into the chorus. The latter is what can only be described as a powerhouse rag—a two and a half minute onslaught that starts out quaint enough before diving into a ragtime prance conjuring up echoes of Charley Patton. The tune screams for joy with its unrelenting drive and must have been such a rush for audiences to experience live.

The listener is given a short breather on “Old Time Religion.” In this song more than any other, you can hear the age in Wilkins’ voice. His timbre quavers but remains resolute as the reverend yearns for the simplicity and timeless appeal of traditional Christian living. It was good enough for his mother, it’ll be good when he’s dying, and it’s good enough for him.

“I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down” stands as the first song Wilkins learned on guitar, and he plays it with a sure-handedness that comes from living with a song for many, many decades. A similar ease is found in his rendition of “It Just Suits Me.” It’s a sweet tune, gently pushing forward with alternating bass line and fervent singing. In classic Delta blues technique, the vocals and slide guitar find parity, with the strings sometimes finishing a line sung by Wilkins.

The final tune is “The Gambling Man,” which finds Wilkins warning against the dangers of a sinful lifestyle, embodied by a habitual gambler. The guitar drones on as the reverend paints a picture of hardship for sinners and deep sorrow for their families. Perhaps it serves as much as a reminder for himself as for his congregants. Without religion, Wilkins could have easily found himself living as an unfortunate character from his own songs, rather than working in service of the lord.

Prodigal Son is 56 minutes of some of the finest gospel music available, and it is presented with a dignity and sophistication that would have made Reverend Wilkins proud. The man who endured so many slights over the course of his career finally gets the attention and treatment his work has always warranted. Spottswood handles this collection with care—the CD booklet includes 28 pages of documentation. Over a fruitful career in ethnomusicology, Spottswood has perfected the delicate art of compilation, guiding the listener through long forgotten material, but always careful to let the performer and his work take center stage. It’s a wonderful addition to the shelves of both serious archives and the casual listener. He may have left home by himself, but at long last the Prodigal Son returns home to find music fans the world over awaiting him with open arms.

Reviewed by Aaron Frazer

View review July 1st, 2014

June 2014 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during June 2014—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues

Andy T – Nick Nixon Band: Livin’ It Up (Delta Grooves)
Joe Louis Walker: The Best of the Stony Plain Years (Stony Plain Music)
John Primer: You Can Make It If You Try (Wolf)
Lucky Peterson: Son of a Bluesman (Jazz Village)
Mannish Boys: Wrapped Up And Ready (Delta Grooves)
Otis Clay: Truth Is (Oarfin)
Pee Wee Crayton: Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles, The Modern Music Sessions 1948-1951 (Ace)
Selwyn Birchwood: Don’t Call No Ambulance (Alligator)
Smoky Babe: Way Back in the Country Blues (Arhoolie)
Travis Haddix: Love Coupons (Benevolent)
Vaneese Thomas: Blues for My Father (Segue)
Variou artists: Essential Chicago Blues Rarities Collection (Varese Sarabande)

Country

Linda Martell: Color Me Country (Real Gone)
Millie Jackson: Loving Arms: The Soul Country Collection (Kent)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM

Andrea McClurkin-Mellini: Higher (Camdon Music)
Anita Wilson: Vintage Workship (Motown Gospel)
Bryan Andrew Wilson: The One Percent (Echo Park)
Chanel Haynes: Trin-I-Tee 5:7 According to Chanel (Obsidian)
George Dean & G4: Back to the Basics Again (Ecko)
Lee Williams & Spiritual QC’s: Tell the Angels (MCG)
Mississippi Mass Choir: Declaration of Dependence  (Malaco)
Ricky Dillard & New G: Amazing (eOne)
Tirvarrus & God’s Project: I’m Trying To Be (New Vision)
Uncle Reece: Bold (Bed Music Group)
Viktory R4:  Volume 2 (Viktorious Music Group)

Jazz

Anthony Braxton: 12 Duets (box set) (New Braxton House Records)
Anthony Braxton: Trio (New Haven) 2013 (New Braxton House Records)
Barbara Morrison: I Love You, Yes I Do (Savant)
Billie Holiday: At the Stratford Shakespearean Festival 1957 (Solar)
Clifford Brown: Brownie Speaks- Complete Blue Note Recordings (Blue Note)
Coleman Hawkins: Lost 1950 Munich Concert (Solar)
Darren Barrett: Energy in Motion- Music of the Bee Gees (DB Productions)
Darren Barrett & dB Quintet: Live and Direct 2014 (DB Productions)
Duke Ellington: Original Recordings That Inspired the Broadway Hit “After Midnight” (Legacy)
Elio Villafranca & His Jass Syncopators: Caribbean Tinge- Live From Dizzys (Motema)
Jaki Byard: The Late Show (HighNote)
Jimmy Cobb: The Original Mob (Smoke Sessions)
Johnathan Blake: Gone But Not Forgotten (Chris Cross)
Joshua Redman Trio: Live (Nonesuch)
Kate Ross: People Make the World Go Round (KimCourt Productions)
Lil John Roberts: The Heartbeat (Purpose Music Group/Nia)
Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses: Blow (Warrior)
Nat King Cole: Extraordinary (CMG)
Ralph Peterson: ALIVE at Firehouse 12, Vol. 2 – Fo’ n Mo’ (Onyx)
Sam Rucker: Tell You Something (Favor Productions)
Sharon Marie Cline: This Is Where I Wanna Be (CD Baby)

Rock, Pop, Funk, Electronic

Body Count: Manslaughter (Sumerian)
Devonté Hynes et al: Palo Alto – Music From The Motion Picture (Domino)
Jaded Incorporated: The Big Knock (digital)(Casablanca)
Kai Exos: Telegraph (VMP)
Miniature Tigers: Cruel Runnings (Yebo Music)
Nightmare on Wax: N.O.W. Is The Time (Warp)
Phox: Phox (Partisan)
Taylor Mcferrin: Early Riser (Brainfeeder)

R&B, Soul

5th Dimension: Earthbound (1st CD ed.)(Real Gone)
Ann Nesby: Living My Life (Arrow)
Carl Sims: Best of Carl Sims (Ecko)
Chanson: Chanson (expanded, 1st CD ed.)(Funky Town Grooves)
Chanson: Together We Stand (expanded, 1st CD ed.)(Funky Town Grooves)
Charles Jones: Portrait of a Balladeer (Endzone Ent.)
Denise Pearson: Imprint (Baronet Ent.)
Faith Hope & Charity: Faith Hope & Charity (expanded ed.)(Real Gone)
Jeremy Riley: Xcellent (7us Media Group)
Joe: Bridges (BMG)
Jonathan Butler: Living My Dream (Artistry Music)
José James: While You Were Sleeping (Blue Note)
Kelly Price: Sing Pray Love, Vol 1. (eOne)
Lee Fields & the Expressions: Emma Jean (Redeye)
Mali Music: Mali Is (RCA)
Mary J. Blige: Think Like A Man Too – Music From & Inspired by the Film (Epic)
Meshell Ndegeocello: Comet, Come To Me (Naïve)
Mingo Fishtrap: On Time (Blue Corn)
Salaam Remi: One- In the Chamber (Sony Masterworks)
Sebastian Mikael: Speechless (Slip N Slide/Universal)
Sweet Inspirations: Complete Atlantic Singles Plus (Real Gone)
Various artists: Chicago Hit Factory- Vee-Jay Story (10CD box set)(Charly)
Various artists: Eccentric Soul – The Way-Out Label (Numero)
Various artists: Eccentric Soul – Capital City Soul  (Numero)
Various artists: Ronn Records Story (Varese Sarabande)
Wheedle’s Groove: Seattle Funk, Modern Soul & Boogie Vol. II (Light in the Attic)

Rap and Hip Hop

¡Mayday! & Murs: Mursday (Strange Music)
50 Cent: Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win (G-Unit)
Ab-Soul: These Days… (Top Dawg)
Amadeus the Stampede: Spilling Blood on the Dance Floor (Stampede Media)
Apathy: Connecticut Casual (Dirty Version)
Big Freedia: Just Be Free  (Queen Diva)
Big Mucci: Shuffle Step Slide – Line Dance Movement (71 North Ent.)
Buckshot & P-Money:  BackPack Travels (Duckdown)
Canibus: Fait Accompli (RBC)
Cash: Let’s Get It (eOne)
Cerebral Ballzy: Jaded & Faded (Cult)
CLPPNG: CLPPNG (Sub Pop)
C-Murder: Community Serive 3 (Oarfin)
Damani Nkosi: Thoughtful King (digital) (Damani Music)
DJ Fresh & J. Stalin: The Real World Trilogy (Box set)(Fresh in the Flesh)
Freres D’Or: Parole D’Honneur (Explicit)
Futuristic: Traveling Local (R Music Group)
Ghostface Killah & Badbadnotgood: Six Degrees (Lex)
Gucci Mane & Migos: The Green Album (digital) (101 Distribution)
Gucci Mane & Young Thug: The Purple Album (digital) (101 Distribution)
Gucci Mane &PeeWee Longway: The White Album (digital) (101 Distribution)
J. Rawls: The Legacy (digital) (Polar Ent.)
Jeru The Damaja: The Hammer EP (digital) (Hedspinn)
Madlib: Pinata Beats (Madlib Invasion)
Open Mike Eagle: Dark Comedy (Mello Music Group)
P.SO the Earth Tone King: Gateway To Greatness / Constellations (HiPNOTT)
Riff Raff: Neon Icon (WEA)
Skanks: Shinigamie Flowfessional (Modulor / Shinigamie)
Swollen Members: Brand New Day (Battle Axe)
The Jacka & Mdot 80: Risk Game (Double F)
The Red Gold & Green Machine: Planet Africa (digital)(Water The Plants)
Young Liifez & The World’s Freshest: The Morning Show (Sac Music Group)
Z-Ro: The Crown (Rap-a-Lot)

Reggae, Dancehall, Calypso

Alborosie: Alborosie & Friends (V.P.)
Damian Marley: Bonnaroo Live 06 (Bonnaroo Music)
Dub Club: This Generation in Dub (Stones Throw)
Hollie Cook: Twice (Mr. Bongo)
Junior Cony & Shanti D: The End (Hammerbass)
King Jammy: Dub Kings- King Jammy at King Tubby’s (Jamaican Recordings)
Popcaan: Where We Come From (Mixpak)
Roland Alphonso: Singles Collection & More (Not Bad)
Third World: Under the Magic Sun (Cleopatra)
Toots & The Maytals: Pressure Drop – The Golden Tracks (Cleopatra)
Various artists: Calypso- Musical Poetry in the Caribbean, 1955-69 (Soul Jazz)
Various artists: Natty Will Fly Again (Groundation)

World

Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star de Dakar: Live a Letoile (Teranga Beat)
Kasai Allstars: Beware the Fetish (Crammed Discs)
Optimo: Amor de Guerra (Sony Music Latin)
Paula Lima: O Samba E Do Bem (Tupiniquim)

View review July 1st, 2014

Plug It In! Turn It Up! Electric Blues, 1939-2005

Title:  Plug It In! Turn It Up! Electric Blues, 1939-2005: The Definitive Collection

Artists:  Various

Label: Bear Family

Format:  CD box set (4 volumes, issued separately)

Release date: 2011 (2012 U.S.)

 
There are many, many blues compilations, but what sets this outstanding collection apart from the rest are the definitive liner notes that accompany Bear Family’s collection of electric blues.  Bill Dahl, the producer of the compilation, also wrote the notes for all four volumes and each of these well-illustrated booklets runs over 150 pages.  Each volume also includes 3 CDs, for a total of 12 CDs if you purchase the entire series.

Dahl aptly sums up the collection in the introduction to part one: “Before this series of three-CD sets concludes, the listener will be guided through all the permutations of electric blues: Swinging jump numbers, lowdown slow grinders, ‘50s rock ‘n’ rollers, the hard-charging British and American blues-rock of the ‘60s and beyond, soul-blues of the ‘70s, and right on up to the contemporary blues of today, where the electric guitar continues to reign as almighty king.”  He goes on to apologize, somewhat, for the selection process: “There’s no way to include every deserving landmark of the genre on this series―that would require a virtual mountain of discs and an accompanying avalanche of words―but by the time you listen to the dozen jam-packed CDs that comprise this series, you’ll have a pretty fair idea of how electric-blues progressed, and who the important players were (not to mention a raft of unsung heroes).”    So essentially, you’re getting a course on the history of electric blues, courtesy of “Professor”  Dahl. Can’t get any better than that!

Part one takes us from the beginnings in 1939 through 1954. The honor of the first example of electric blues guitar on record goes to Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy for “Floyd Guitar Blues,” recorded March 16, 1939 (Decca 2483). Close on their heels was T-Bone Walker, universally considered the “father” of electric blues, with his “Mean Old World” from July 1942. Over the course of this volume are more examples from Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, Louis Jordan, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and many other luminaries, as well as regional phenoms such as Louisiana’s “Bon Ton” Clarence Garlow, and blues women including Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, and Memphis Minnie.  For many blues enthusiasts, or those eager to learn about the roots of electric blues and rock, this volume will likely be a favorite.

Part two, featuring post-war recordings from 1954-1967, covers an era when blues had become “electric, loud, and in-your-face” while “lonesome southern bluesmen stroking acoustic axes” were a dying breed.  This era also saw the rise in manufacturing of electric guitars, the amplification of harmonicas, and of course the dominance of rock ‘n’ roll.  Dahl refers to this period as the “golden age,” with blues recordings emanating from all corners of the country.  Major figures included in this set are B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jackie Brenston, Hank Ballard, Jimmy Reed, Little Milton, Earl Hooker, Memphis Slim, Ike Turner, Albert Collins, plus many more.

Part three covers 1960-1969, notable for the “concept of the blues guitar hero” and the emergence of a new generation of bluesmen and women, including British groups who pioneered a new form of blues-rock.  Dahl attempts to showcase “that tumultuous decade’s electric blues highlights” over the course of the next three CDs in the series. Featured musicians on the first two discs include Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Junior Wells, Elmore James, Aretha Franklin, Mable John, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Albert King and Taj Mahal, while disc three is devoted to blues-rock with Johnny Winter, The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, among others.

Part four features recordings from 1970-2005. According to Dahl, blues music was at a crossroads by 1970, a victim of the natural ebb and flow of musical tastes.  Likewise, out of the four volumes, this one is the most likely to cause enthusiasts to quibble over the content.  The first two discs span the 1970s, beginning with Ted Taylor, Al Green, B.B. King, Otis Rush, and Hound Dog Taylor, and slowly branching out to explore various permutations of folk-blues, blues-rock, and R&B through artists such as Ann Peebles, Denise LaSalle, Syl Johnson, Betty Lavette, ZZ Top, and Bonnie Rait. The final disc covers the ‘80s and early ‘90s through performers such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lonnie Brooks, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy. The final track fast forwards to a 2005 recording by Nick Moss, who Dahl hails as “a savior of traditional Chicago blues,” fully conversant on guitar, harmonica and bass, and capable of changing up his sound at regular intervals to keep things interesting, and to keep the blues alive for another generation.

Regrettably, this magnum opus is an import and thus will set you back about $60 per volume.  However, there aren’t many really authoritative sets being manufactured these days, and an education does not come cheap.  Since the volumes are issued separately, you can take your pick if your budget is limited.  This set is highly recommended for college and conservatory libraries, and would serve as a fine resource for courses on the blues.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 1st, 2013

Welcome to the September 2012 Issue

Welcome to the September 2012 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture (follow the AAAMC on Facebook for up-to-date information on new releases and give-away contests).

This month we’re continuing our “Women of the World” series with a review of Fatou by Malian artist Fatoumata Diawara, who will be featured at the upcoming Lotus World Music & Arts Festival in Bloomington, Indiana. Other world music releases include new projects from the Israeli reggae band Zvuloon Dub System, Brooklyn’s Afrobeat-centered band Antibalas, and the Los Angeles-based Chicano band Quetzal, plus the reissue of Paul Ngozi’s 1976 classic Zambian rock album The Ghetto.

A two-disc reissue of the 1965 live album The Supremes at the Copa is reviewed, as well as the newly released DVD Diana Ross Live in Central Park from a 1983 performance. Other new DVDs include Jimi Plays Berkeley documenting Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 concert at the Berkeley Community Theatre, and Cook With the Hook Live in 1974 featuring a festival performance by blues guitarist John Lee Hooker. Additional blues CDs in this issue include Otis Taylor’s Contraband, his daughter Cassie Taylor’s debut album Blue, Lurie Bell’s gospel blues release The Devil Ain’t Got No Music, and Detroit blues legend Johnnie Bassett’s final album I Can Make That Happen.

Wrapping up this issue is a look at jazz albums by Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio, the Jeff Parker Trio, and the  David White Jazz Orchestra; the compilation Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, and the Visioneers’ jazz/rap mixtape Hipology.

View review September 4th, 2012

Miracles & Demons


Title: Miracles & Demons

Artist: Eddie Turner

Label: NorthernBlues Music

Catalog No.: NBM0057

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: July 13, 2010

If Jimi Hendrix were alive today, what sort of music would he be making?  While it’s a stretch to call anyone “heir” to Hendrix, his and Eddie Turner’s muses seem to travel on the same winds.  Turner’s new album, his third, brings together blues, Afro-Cuban and rock elements into a guitar-heavy stew that could be served and enjoyed in Hendrix’s kitchen.

This is not to say that Turner is a copycat.  His sound is thoroughly modern, and it’s a disservice to pigeonhole him as a “bluesman.”  His music is wider than one genre, although his guitar playing is definitely blues-based.  The big move beyond the limiting concept of “bluesman” is in Turner’s songwriting and chord structures. His songs can be heavy (“Ride a Painted Pony,” “Booty Bumpin'”) or dreamy (“Say,” “Miracles and Demons,” parts 1 and 2) or jazzy (“In The Morning”) or funky (“Monkey See, Monkey Do,” “Miss Carrie”), or just plain bluesy (“I’m A Good Man,” “Blues Fall Down Like Rain”).

Turner is also at home applying various effects to his guitar, including wah-wah, chorus, tremolo and of course the layers of distortion and overdrive you’d expect from electric blues music. But his playing doesn’t seem overly heavy, he is quick and precise and knows how to vary up his solos.  Overall, he is confident and somewhat flashy, but never stereotypical. A guitar-slinger in the best sense.

So who is this guy?  Eddie Turner was born in Cuba and raised in Chicago, picking up musical influences from both places.  His music career started in the mid-70’s, playing with future Grammy winner Tracy Nelson.  He also spent time in the Colorado bands Zephyr and the Legendary 4-nikators; in those party-bar bands, he was known as an able Hendrix imitator. Then he spent several years playing with “trance-blues” pioneer Otis Taylor.  Turner’s first solo CD, “Rise”, was released in 2005, followed by “The Turner Diaries” in 2007.  In short, he traveled many musical roads to end up at “Miracles & Demons.”

Following is a clip of Eddie Turner performing the title track to his first album “Rise” live in Vienna:

YouTube Preview Image

The only negative mark against this album is the super-compressed mastering job.  Why must an indie-blues label succumb to the “make it louder, louder, louder” ethic that is destroying sound quality today? This music would be all the more exciting if it had some room to breath and let the dynamics stretch out. But it does sound just as loud as a heavy metal album over earbuds in a subway train, if that’s a plus.

Surprisingly, Turner’s two previous CD’s for NorthernBlues have only sold 1540 and 1114 units, respectively (according to NorthernBlues).  That’s a damn shame.  Hopefully this fine new effort will be Turner’s breakthrough release.  While this is a distant relative of the traditional notion of “blues,” it is a compelling collection of interesting songs that are played by a musical expert.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review September 1st, 2010

Welcome to the January 2010 Issue


This month we’re cleaning house and taking a look at some worthy albums from 2009 that we didn’t have a chance to feature in earlier issues. In addition to three full length reviews—Rev. Timothy Wright’s The Godfather of Gospel, Wu-Tang Chamber Music, and Will Downing’s Classique—we’ve picked over 40 jazz, blues, hip hop, soul, rock, funk and world music albums that we think deserve more attention. Featured artists include Ray Charles, Calvin Richardson, K’Naan, Willie Isz, Tanya Morgan, T-K.A.S.H., Mos Def, Dead Prez, Fashawn, Fela, Alex Cuba, Ricardo Lemvo, Rokia Traore, Mulatu Astatke, Jahdan Blakkamore, Little Walter, Koko Taylor, Shemekia Copeland, Cyril Neville, Otis Taylor, Red Halloway, Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Strings, and more.

There are some other great albums released in late 2009 that we still hope to cover in the coming months, so stay tuned.

View review January 12th, 2010

Chicago Blues


Title: Complete Chess Masters (1950-1957)

Artist:  Little Walter

Label:  Hip-O Select

Format: CD Box Set

Release date: March 10, 2009

The king of Chicago blues harpists is celebrated in this five CD box set, featuring all of Little Walter’s solo studio recordings for Chess. Also included are previously unreleased and alternate takes for “Goin’ Down Slow,” “Mean Old Frisco,” and many other classics. Extensive liner notes are by Tony Glover, Scott Dirks and Ward Gaines- the authors of Blues With a Feeling: The Little Walter Story.  This is a must for all blues harmonica fans, and since Hip-O’s limited editions never stay in print for long, don’t delay.

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Title: What It Takes: The Chess Years (expanded edition)

Artist: Koko Taylor

Label: Hip-O Select

Format:  CD

Release date: November 10, 2009


The world lost the Queen of Chicago Blues earlier this year, and Hip-O Select has paid tribute by remastering this great 1977 compilation featuring Koko Taylor’s early Chess sides, produced by Willie Dixon. This is as good and raw as it gets if you’re a fan of female blues belters, which certainly sums up Taylor, whose style harkens back to Memphis Minnie and Big Mama Thornton. If you’ve only got Taylor’s later Alligator recordings, you owe it to yourself to check out this compilation. From her hit song “Wang Dang Doodle” to “Don’t Mess With the Messer,” the 24 tracks are a fine overview of her early career.

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Title:  Never Going Back

Artist:  Shemekia Copeland

Label:  Telarc

Format:  CD, MP3

Release date:  February 24, 2009


Shemekia Copeland, the Harlem-born Chicago-based daughter of Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, is arguably the current leader among the younger generation of female blues singers, and she hits a home run with her first release on the Telarc label. The title reflects her attempt to stay true to her blues roots while seeking innovative ways to contemporize the genre, which often leads to the merging of old style Chicago blues with R&B, soul, and even a few rock licks. The album features some unusual covers, such as Joni Mitchell’s “Black Crow” and Percy Mayfield’s “River’s Invitation,” which are balanced by more traditional fare such as “Sounds Like the Devil” and “Circumstances,” a song composed by her father. Accompanists include Oliver Wood (who also produced the album) and Marc Ribot on guitar, and John Medeski and Kofi Burbridge on keyboards.

Here is a live performance of Shemekia Copeland performing “Never Going Back to Memphis” in Boston on Nov.21, 2008, which is featured on the CD  Never Going Back (courtesy of Telarc):

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Title: Blues Attack

Artist:  Shirley Johnson

Label:  Delmark

Format:  CD

Release date: March 10, 2009

Shirley Johnson, a fixture on the Chicago blues scene, offers up a rollicking good time on her latest album for Delmark. With backing by the Chicago Horns, guitarists Herb Walker and Luke Pytel, and Roosevelt Purifoy on keyboards, Johnson has the ammunition she needs to convincingly deliver hard hitting blues, southern soul standards (“634-5789” and “Unchain My Heart”), and then funk it up on tracks such as Purifoy’s “My Baby Played Me for a Fool” and Johnson’s own “Blues Attack.”  A very enjoyable album that makes you think about reserving a spot at the Grant Park bandshell for the next Chicago Blues Fest.

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Title: Tear This World Up

Artist:  Eddie C. Campbell

Label:  Delmark

Format:  CD, MP3

Release date:  May 19, 2009

Chicago’s Eddie C. Campbell, known as “The King of the West Side Funk Blues,” made his Delmark debut this year, his first release in over a decade.  One of the originator’s of the West Side sound—along with Jimmy Dawkins, Eddy Clearwater, and Buddy Guy—Campbell is known for his reverb-drenched guitar, powerful vocals, and a unique songwriting style, which is amply demonstrated on original songs such as “Makin’ Popcorn,” “Big World,” and “Voodoo.”  He pulls out all the stops on a rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and pays tribute to Magic Sam on covers of “Easy Baby” and “Love Me With a Feeling.”  Listening to this CD is the next best thing to sitting in a Chicago blues club on a Saturday night.

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Title: Chicago Blues: A Living History

Artists:  Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell

Label:  Raisin’ Music

Format:  CD, MP3

Release date:  April 21, 2009

This two-CD set features four “inheritors of the Chicago Blues tradition” paying tribute to the evolution of the genre from its earliest days through the present. Many of the city’s past blues masters are covered, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Bill Broonzy, Big Maceo, Elmore James, B.B. King, Memphis Slim, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Junior Wells, Earl Hooker, Magic Sam and John Lee Hooker, among others.  The first disc, recorded in analog to create a period feel, covers 1940-1955, while the second disc covers  1955 to the present.  A 36 page illustrated booklet rich in historical detail completes the set.

Here is a clip of a performance courtesy of Raisin Music:

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Title:  Chicago Blues Harmonica Project: More Rare Gems

Artists: Various

Format: CD

Label:  Severn Records

Release date:  May 19, 2009


This follow-up to 2005’s Diamonds in the Rough features five more contemporary Chicago blues harpists– Reginald Cooper, Russ Green, Harmonica Hinds, Charlie Love and Jeff Taylor, as well as the late Little Arthur Duncan.  The back-up band, dubbed the Chicago Bluesmasters, includes Illinois Slim and Rick Kreher on guitar, Mark Brumbach on piano, and E.G. McDaniel and Twist Turner on bass and drums.  Selections include classics such as Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ooh Baby, Hold Me” and Johnny Guitar Watson’s “Gangster Of Love,” as well as newer compositions.  Severn must be congratulated for their efforts to document and preserve the classic postwar style of blues harp through performances by lesser-known Chicago bearers of the tradition.
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Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 12th, 2010

More Contemporary Blues


Title: Brand New Blues

Artist: Cyril Neville

Label: M.C. Records

Format:  CD, MP3

Release date:  April 2009


Chicago is not the only home to funkified, soulful blues, as is proven by New Orleans native Cyril Neville.  The youngest member of the famous Neville family of musicians and a founding member of the Meters, Cyril’s new solo effort is full of original material drawing upon his work as a human-rights advocate and preservationist, and frequently references the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Guest appearances include brother and fellow Meter Art Neville (organ), Ivan Neville (organ), Ian Neville (guitar), Tab Benoit (guitar), Waylon Thibodeaux (washboard) and Jumpin Johnny Sansone (harmonica). This is one of my favorite blues albums on the list, perhaps because I took a couple of trips to New Orleans last year and am still upset that I was a week too early to catch Cyril’s live performance.

Here’s the title track from the album:

Brand New Blues – Cyril Nevill…

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Title: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs

Artist:  Otis Taylor

Label:  Telarc

Format:  CD, MP3

Release date: June 23, 2009

Taylor explores new territory with his acoustic styled “trance blues,” not only musically but thematically, taking on love songs but still throwing in the requisite tragic spin.  Guests include Irish blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore, jazz pianist Jason Moran, and Ron Miles on cornet, while daughter Cassie Taylor contributes lead vocals on several songs. The tracks alternate between smoky jazz-based blues, folk blues, and more straight ahead acoustic blues.  If you’re into electric Chicago-style blues this album is probably not for you, but if you’re willing to indulge Taylor as he stretches the boundaries of contemporary blues, there is much to satisfy.

Check out “I’m Not Mysterious” from the album:

I’m Not Mysterious – Otis Tayl…

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Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 12th, 2010

Take Me to the River: A Southern Soul Story

Title: Take Me to the River: A Southern Soul Story, 1961-1977
Artists: Various
Label: Ace/Kent
Catalog No.: Kentbox 10
Date: 2008

Take Me to the River is the best soul music box set of 2008, with a selection of 75 songs on 3 CDs, packaged with a lavishly illustrated and annotated 72 p. hardcover booklet. The goal of the compilers, Tony Rounce and Dean Rutland, was to set out in chronological order a selection of some of the best Southern soul music, noted for its “rich blend of blues and gospel, with a dash of soulful country added to the mix.”  Included are chart topping hits, such as “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge and Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” (the previously unreleased first take), interspersed with “hideously obscure 45s that often didn’t get far beyond the limits of the cities in which they were recorded.”

In terms of defining Southern soul, the compilers set strict guidelines- “recordings made below the Mason-Dixon Line and, mostly, in the studios whose names are synonymous with the sound: Broadway Sound/Quinvy, Royal, Stax, Muscle Shoals Sound, Criteria, Fame, etc.” That is, studios located in Tennessee (Nashville, Memphis), Alabama (Muscle Shoals), Florida, Louisiana (Shreveport, but NOT New Orleans), Mississippi, and Georgia. Furthermore, they limited their selections to artists who either hailed from the South, or who recorded some of their most significant work there. Using the latter criteria, they were able to slip in Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which were both recorded at Muscle Shoals in order to inject an “authentic” southern soul sound.

The three CDs each bear their own title. Disc One, “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” begins with William Bell’s 1961 version of that song and takes us through Oscar Toney Jr.’s “Without Love (There Is Nothing),” recorded in 1967. Other featured artists include Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Jarvis Jackson, Eddie Floyd, Charlie Rich, Toussaint McCall, June Edwards, Laura Lee, and Etta James. Disc Two, “The Rainbow Road” (as sung by Bill Brandon on track 3), begins in 1968 with Maurice & Mac’s “You Left the Water Running” and concludes with Gwen McCrae’s “You Lead Me On” (1970). Along the way are selections by Don Bryant, Shirley Walton, Ollie & the Nightingales, William Bell, Spencer Wiggins, Clarence Carter, Candi Staton, Joe Tex, Doris Duke, ZZ Hill, and Johnnie Taylor, among others. Disc Three, “The River,” sets off in 1971 with Marcell Strong’s “Mumble in My Ear” and concludes in 1976 with Geater Davis’s “I’ll Play the Blues for You.” This 1970s compilation also features Denise LaSalle, King Floyd, Al Green, Sam Dees, Ann Peebles, Bobby Womack, Millie Jackson, the Soul Children, Chet Davenport, Luther Ingram, and more.

If you already have a large soul music collection, this box set may not offer any new material. However, it is such a wonderful overview of southern soul music, thoughtfully programmed and expertly annotated, that both the novice and the soul music aficionado will reap the benefits. And, let’s face it- there just aren’t that many great compilations being produced anymore. This is a set that you’ll want to buy and hold on to for the long term.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review December 12th, 2008

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