Search Results for ‘Real Midnight’

Birds of Chicago – Real Midnight

birds of chicago_real midnight

Title: Real Midnight

Artist: Birds of Chicago

Label: Five Head Entertainment

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: February 19, 2016



Birds of Chicago defines its style of music as rock and roll poetry or even as a kind of “secular gospel.” Led by vocalist Allison Russell and her husband, songwriter JT Nero, the group’s folk and country roots are readily apparent. Produced by Joe Henry (who has worked with Solomon Burke, Bettye Lavette, and Emmylou Harris), Birds of Chicago’s second album Real Midnight explores the transformative power of music and the inevitability of death.

The title track ebbs and flows as full, harmonious choruses intermingle as twanging guitar and soft percussion fill in gaps in the vocal lines. The lyrics speak of how limited time is, asking “now what you gonna do with your days left in the sun?” The song is a combination of country and soul, fueled by Russell’s smooth voice and the rasp of backing vocalist Michelle McGrath during the chorus:

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“Sparrow” is both haunting and sorrowful, a sparse song about mortality led by minimalistic banjo. “Color of Love” continues these reflective themes, taking listeners on an emotional journey that retrospectively looks back at life’s important moments. “Dim Star of the Palisades” is a reminder to hold on to what’s important through the hard times in life: “Storm’s coming through, top’s gonna blow. Hold on tight, don’t let your baby go.”

Though most the material is introspective, “Estrella Goodbye” is a fun, upbeat track with a harmonious chorus full of “na na na”s reminiscent of indie folk bands such as The Lumineers and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Nero takes the lead in the verses with his bright vocals, and Rhiannon Giddens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) guest stars in the chorus.

“Pelican” is a beautiful duet between Nero and Russell with acoustic guitar and simple percussion – knocks on the guitar and a few piano notes in the chorus. It approaches the theme of mortality with a gentle hand, singing “you’re not too far gone,” a meditation on the power of love and redemption. This is where Birds of Chicago’s “secular gospel” is most evident. Despite the song’s references God, Nero has said the band does not believe in any one religion but rather in how “words and music together heal and transform like nothing else in this life.”

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review April 1st, 2016

Birds of Chicago – Love in Wartime



Title: Love in Wartime

Artist: Birds of Chicago

Label: Signature Sounds

Formats: CD, LP, Digital

Release date: May 4, 2018


Americana duo Birds of Chicago is a marriage, literally, of singer-songwriters JT Nero and Allison Russell. Formed in 2012, the group has developed a loyal following through their relentless touring schedule. Since their last full-length project, Real Midnight (2016), the Birds have flown from Chicago to Nashville, where they now reside. Their new album, Love in Wartime, co-produced by Luther Dickenson, reflects the sounds of both hometowns as the duo artfully intertwines elements of country, folk, blues and rock.

While Russell’s voice has been prominent on previous albums, Love in Wartime is perhaps more evenly divided between the duo, contrasting Russell’s silky, soulful soprano against Nero’s grittier baritone.  Opening with the intro “Now/Sunlight,” Russell hums a whimsical, folksy tune over plucked banjo chords, then segues into the uptempo roots rock song, “Never Go Back,” with Nero on lead vocals. On the title track, twangy guitars come to the fore as Nero recounts the realities of longterm relationships and parenthood, “we sat there and tried to remember our dreams, no such luck, no such luck.” Life on the road is the subject of the poignant “Travelers,” as Russell sings “there’s no home in this world, got no home in this world.” One of the most effective duets on the album is “Try,” with Russell and Nero trading verses before coming together on the chorus, “Try a little harder, give a little more.”

Other highlights include the uplifting bluesy song “Roll Away” which encourages folks to “roll away the heavy stones, roll away the heavy hours, roll on in the summer moon,” and the banjo accompanied ballad “Superlover.”

Love in Wartime is jam-packed with carefully crafted songs and inspirational lyrics that celebrate life and love despite troubled times and the daily grind.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review June 1st, 2018

Welcome to the April 2016 Issue

Welcome to the April 2016 edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and we have several featured jazz releases including Snarky Puppy’s newest DVD/CD combo Family Dinner Volume 2, drummer Zane Rudolfo’s debut EP Pathways, the “Cuban Cubism” of Aruán Oritz’s Hidden Voices, and Raphael Imbert’s transatlantic collaboration Music is My Home.   We’re also featuring a review of the documentary Killer B3: A Documentary about the Hammond Organ, which focuses on jazz musicians who pioneered the instrument’s use in the genre as well a new release by one of the artists interviewed in the documentary, Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Evolution.

This month’s issue also features Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s hybrid liturgical/jazz CD/DVD project The Abyssinian Mass, which celebrates the relationship between jazz and African American religious life. Other releases with spiritual themes include the Christian rapper Lecrae’s newest mixtape Church Clothes 3,  YouTube gospel sensation Bri’s debut album Keys to My Heart, and the anti-consumerist gospel of Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, on their special Earth Day release The Earth Wants You.

In blues, we have Guy Davis’s Kokomo Kid and Keb Mo’s slick playing and singing on That Hot Pink Blues Album. We have folk rockers Birds of Chicago’s Real Midnight, Mardi Gras rockers Cha Wa’s Funk n’ Feathers and Detroit DJ Moodyman returns with DJ-KicksAlso included are the Haitian folk-fusion group Lakou Mizik’s Wa Di Yo and Silk’s “grown-man sexy” release Quiet Storm.

Finally, this issue features two reissues, a limited edition vinyl of Fred Wesley and the J.B.’s Damn Right I Am Somebody and a CD release of funk group Anglo-Saxon Brown’s 1976 album Songs for Evolution.  Wrapping up this month’s issue is our list of March 2016 Releases of Note.

View review April 1st, 2016

February 2016 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
Albert Collins: Live At Rockpalast CD/DVD (Made in Germany Music)
Birds of Chicago: Real Midnight  (Five Head Ent.)
Buddy Guy: I’ll Play the Blues for You – Live (1992) (Klondike)
Jimmy Rogers: Chicago Bound: Complete Solo Chess Records As & Bs (Jasmine)
Johnny Rawls: Tiger In A Cage (Catfood Records)
Junior Crudup: Sure Love (CD Baby)
Robert Cray Band ft. Stevie Ray Vaughan: Old Jam, New Blood: Redux Club, Dallas 1987 (All Access)
Toronzo Cannon: The Chicago Way (Alligator)

Various: Piano Works by Zenobia Powell Perry (Cambria)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Shirlette Ammons: Language Barrier (Churchkey/SugarQube )
Moodymann: DJ-Kicks (K7)
Rasputin Stash: Devil Made Me Do It (vinyl reissue) ( BBE)
Santigold: 99 Cent (Atlantic)
Soul Inscribed: Soul Inscribed
Space Captain: In Memory EP (Tru Thoughts )

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Bishop Larry D. Trotter and Sweet Holy Spirit Choir : How Far Back Can You Go?-Church Unplugged Vol 2 (Utopia Music Group )
Lecrae: Church Clothes 3 (Reach)
Newsboys: God’s Not Dead – The Greatest Hits of the Newsboys (Inpop)
Pastor Tim Rogers: Churchin’ (Sag Music Group)
T.J. Hooker Taylor: Going Back to Church (Music Access Inc.)
Talley Boyz: Home (Ecko)
The Showers: The Showers (MRI)
Thi’sl: Against All Odds
Virtue: Fearless (Mixed Bag Music Grp.)

Donald Edwards: Prelude To Real Life (Criss Cross)
Ed Cherry: Soul Tree (Posi-Tone)
EMPIRICAL: Connection (Cuneiform)
Freddie Hendrix: Jersey Cat (Sunnyside Communication)
Heliocentrics: Quatermass Sessions: From The Deep (Now-Again)
Herbie Hancock: Live in Chicago 1977 (Hi Hat)
Herlin Riley: New Direction (Mack Ave.)
Laurence Hobgood Trio: Honor Thy Father (Circumstantial)
Logan Richardson: Shift (Blue Note)
Omar Sosa and Joo Kraus: Jog
Raphael Imbert & Co.: Music Is My Home (Jazz Village)
Red Garland: Albums Collection Part One: 1956-1959 (Enlightenment)
Red Garland: Albums Collection Part Three: 1961-1962 (Enlightenment)
Red Garland: Albums Collection Part Two: 1959-1961 (Enlightenment)
Snarky Puppy: Family Dinner Vol. 2 (CD/DVD) (Ground Up)
Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Village Vanguard Recordings (Resonance)
The Stryker / Slagle Band: Routes (Strikezone)
Thelonious Monk: The Complete 1947-1956 Trios (Essential Jazz Classics)
United Vibrations: Myth of the Golden Ratio (Ubiquity)
United Vibrations: The Myth Of the Golden Ratio (Ubiquity)
Various: Jazz Vocalists Sing Cole Porter (3 CD) (W52st Records)
Various: Jazz Vocalists Sing George Gershwin (W52st Records)
Wynton Kelly: Nine Complete Albums: 1951-1961 (Enlightenment)

R&B, Soul
Al Green: The Essential Album Collection (box set) (Fat Possum / Hi Records)
Amos Milburn: Best Of The Aladdin Years 1946-57 (Acrobat)
Ashford & Simpson: I Wanna Be Selfish: Expanded Ed. (BBR)
BJ The Chicago Kid: In My Mind (Motown)
Blowfly: 77 Rusty Trombones (Saustex Media)
Brian McKnight: Better (Kobalt)
Chaka Khan: What Cha Gonna Do for Me: Expanded Ed. (BBR)
Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band: Live From The House Of Soul (DVD) (Daptone)
Charles Wilson: Southern Soul Juke Joint (Music Access)
Clarence Carter: This Is Clarence Carter / The Dynamic Clarence Carter (Kent)
Clarence Carter : This Is Clarence Carter/The Dynamic Clarence Carter (Kent)
Fred Wesley and The JB’s: Damn Right I Am Somebody (limited Ed. vinyl) (Get on Down)
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes: To Be True: Expanded Ed (BBR)
Jerome Brooks: Better
Larry Williams: The Very Best of Larry Williams (One Day)
Mavis Staples: Livin’ on a High Note (Anti/Epitaph)
Michael Jackson: Off the Wall/Spike Lee Documentary (Legacy)
Nigel Hall: Ladies & Gentleman (Feel Records)
Patti Austin: Street of Dreams (compilation) (Water Music)
Rhianna: Anti (Roc Nation)
Sister Sledge: Circle of Love: Special 40th Anniversary Ed. (BBR)
SWV: Still (Mass Appeal Ent./eOne)
Teddy Pendergrass: Joy (expanded ed.) (BBR)
The Suffers: The Suffers (Rhyme And Reason)
Tweet:  Charlene (eOne)
Various: Aloha Got Soul (Strut)
Various: The Other Side Of The Trax – Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968 (Kent)
Killer B3: A Documentary About the Hammond Organ (DVD) (Crooked Soul Productions)

Rap, Hip Hop
Dizzy Wright: Wisdom & Good Vibes EP (Funk Volume)
Amiri: The New Negative ( HiPNOTT Records)
Beneficence: Basement Chemistry ( Ill Adrenaline)
Billionaire Buck: The Black Jew (B&B Ent.)
C-bo: Blocc Movement / Tales From the Crypt (2 CD set) (RBC)
David Banner: The God Box (A Banner Vision)
French Montana: Wave Gods (self-released)
G-Scott: Another Weekend in Los Vegas (3B Entertainment LLC)
J Alvarez: Desde Puerto Rico Live (Sony U.S. Latin)
Kahlil: The Tale of Wod Higgins (Pocket Fixed Mob LLC)
Kanye West: The Life of Pablo (Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music)
Last Poets: This is Madness (expanded ed.) (Snapper)
Lefa: Monsieur Fall ( Jive Epic)
Lil C: H-Town Chronicle 18 (Oarfin)
Lushlife: Ritualize (Western Vinyl)
Mr. Green: The Project ( Live From The Streets )
Nature: Target Practice  (Vodka & Milk)
Philly Fate: #Onelife (Real Life Music)
Rick Rubin: Star Wars Headspace
Statik Selectah & KXNG Crooked: Static KXNG (Penalty Ent.)
The Bad Boy Young Me$$ (aka Messy Marv): The Money in the Bitch Purse, DLK Collabs Vol. 4 (Dlk Enterprise)
T-Nutty: Blue Venom (Nutt Factor)
Trae tha Truth:  Tha Thruth Part 2 (Empire)
Truth: From Ashes to Kingdom Come (Ill Adrenaline)
Vic Spencer & Chris Crack: Who the Fuck Is Chris Spencer?? (Perpetual Rebel)
Yo Gotti: Art of Hustle (Epic)
Young Thug: I’m Up (Atlantic / 300 Ent)

Reggae, Dancehall
Glen Brown: Boat to Progess (VP)
Horace Andy: In the Light (VP)
Jago: Microphones And Sofas (Tru Thoughts )
John Holt: 1000 Volts of Holt (expanded ed.) (Trojan)
Skin, Flesh & Bones: Dub in Blood (reissue) (Pressure Sounds)

Rokia Traoré: Ne So (Nonesuch)
Adama Yalomba: Waati Sera
Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari: Tales Of Mozambique (Soul Jazz)
DJ Katapila: Trotro (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
RAM: RAM 6: Manman m se Ginen
Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights: Quelbe! Music of the U.S. Virgin Islands (Smithsonian Folkways)

View review March 1st, 2016

October 2017 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country

Darius Rucker: When Was the Last Time  (Capitol Records Nashville)
Du-Rites:  Greasy Listening  (Redefinition)
James Armstrong: Blues Been Good to Me (Catfood)
John Lee Hooker:  King of the Boogie  (Craft)
Kim Wilson: Blues and Boogie, Vol. 1 (Severn)
Mighty Mo Rodgers & Baba Sissoko: Griot Blues (One Root Music )
Nico Wayne Toussaint: Plays James Cotton (Dixiefrog)
Original Blues Brothers Band: Last Shade of Blue Before Black (Severn)
Supersonic Blues Machine: Californisoul (Provogue)
Various: Stax Country (Stax/Concord)

Classical, Broadway, Soundtracks
Pretty Yende:  Dreams (Sony)

Fantasia:  Christmas After Midnight  (Concord)
Leslie Odom Jr.:  Simply Christmas  (S-Curve)
Various: Cool Blue Christmas: Mr. Santa’s Boogie (Contrast)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Ayo: S/T  (Believe Direct Limited )
Benjamin Clementine: I Tell A Fly (Virgin)
Bootsy Collins:  World Wide Funk (Mascot)
Crowd Company:  Sun and Stone (VLM)
Ikebe Shakedown: The Way Home (Colemine)
Jimi Hendrix Experience: American Landing Live at Monterey (DVD) (Legacy)
Kele Okereke: Fatherland  (BMG)
Nubiyan Twist: S/T  (  Wormfood )
Phonk Beta: Symplex 3 (digital) (Fahrenheit)
Rock Candy Funk Party: The Groove Cubed  (J&R Adventures)
The Clubs: Funk on the Floor (digital)
Various: Funkadelic Reworked By Detroiters (Ace)

Gospel, Christian Rap, CCM
Ada: Future Now (FreeNation)
Angella Christie: Intimate Conversations (ACSM)
Chad Brawley:  WeWorship Project (digital) (CKBMusik)
Coliér McNair: Intimacy (COGEO Ent. Group)
Deanna Ransom:  The Real Me EP
Earnest Pugh:  Survive  (Black Smoke)
Felton Hodges & The Annointed Voices: Fix It   (Ecko)
Lisa Knowles-Smith & The Brown Singers: Evolution-The Legacy (EvoWorld)
Mission: All of You None of Me (RPSMG)
Optimist & Fresh Yardey: The Mission, Vol. 1 (digital)
Parxx:  Uncharted (RLVNC Music Group)
Tasha Page-Lockhart: The Beautiful Project  (RCA Inspiration)
The Porter’s Gate: Worksongs (Fuel Music)
Troy Sneed: Taking It Back  (Tyscot)
Tye Tribbett: The Bloody Win (Motown Gospel)
Visionz Of Destiny: The Works
Williams Brothers: Timeless  (Blackberry)

Céline Rudolph & Lionel Loueke:  Obsessions
Chantae Cann: Sol Empowered (Ropeadope)
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah:Emancipation Procrastination  (Ropeadope)
Cornell Thigpen: History (Hitman)
Ezra Collective: Juan Pablo: The Philosopher  (Enter The Jungle)
Joey Alexander:  JOEY.MONK.LIVE! (Motema)
Johnny O’Neal: In the Moment (Smoke Sessions)
Sherman Irby: Cerulean Canvas  (Black Warrior)
Sonny Emory: Love Is the Greatest (Universal )
Various:You Need This: Introduction to Black Saint & Soul Note (1975-1985) (BBE)
Virginia Ayers Dawson: Standards of Love  (Ayerplay Music)
Wadada Leo Smith:  Najwa  (TUM)
Wadada Leo Smith:  Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk  (TUM)
Wally Badarou:  Unnamed Trilogy, Vol. 1 (Diskotopia )
Wayne Ellington: Sings ‘Unforgettable (digital)

R&B, Soul
112: Q Mike Slim Daron  (eOne)
Bigg Robb: Born 2 Do This  (Music Access Inc.)
Bobby Byrd: Help For My Brother – Pre-Funk Singles 1963-68 (BGP/Ace)
Boyz II Men:  Under the Streetlight  (Sony Masterworks)
Brik.Liam:  The Ascension (digital) (Cre8Daily)
Chante’ Moore: Rise Of The Phoenix  (CM7)
Charlotte Dos Santos: Cleo (Fresh Selects)
Chuck Jackson: Big NY Soul – Wand Records 1961-66 (Kent/Ace)
Curtis Harding: Face Your Fear (Anti/Epitaph)
Demetria McKinney: Officially Yours (eOne)
Detroit Emeralds: I Think Of You-Westbound Singles 1969-75 (Westbound /Ace)
Deva Mahal: S/T (Motéma Music)
Devvon Terrell:  Weird Nights (digital)
dvsn: Morning After (Warner Bros.)
Eartha Kitt: I Want To Be Evil – The Wicked Eartha Kitt (Jasmine)
Eric Roberson: Fire (Blue Erro Soul)
Jackie Shane: Any Other Way (Numero)
Jamila Woods: Heavn  (Jagjaguwar)
Kelela: Take Me Apart (Warp)
Kenny Latimore: Vulnerable (Sincere Soul)
Keyshia Cole:  11:11 Reset (Epic)
Leroy Hutson: Anthology 1972-1984 (Acid Jazz )
Lyrica Anderson: Adia (Empire)
Marcus Randolph & My Peeples Peeple: Transplant (American Showplace Music)
Mic Lowry: Mood (Island)
Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland (DVD) (Lionsgate)
Mpho Sebina:  Neo (digital)
Nicole Willis & UMO Jazz Orchestra:  My Name Is Nicole Willis (Persephone)
PP Arnold: The Turning Tide  (Kundalini Music)
Rationale: S/T (Warner Bros.)
Rhyon: Pretty Girl (Empire)
Saràyah: Feel the Vibe (Basin Street)
Tom Tripp: Red EP (Prime Sound)
Vivian Green:  VGVI  (Make Noise)

Rap, Hip Hop
Juice Aleem: Voodu Starchild (Gamma Proforma)
Aaron Alexander: Memento Mori  (Ignant Art)
Belly: Mumble Rap (Republic)
Big K.R.I.T.:  4eva Is A Mighty Long Time (BMG)
Blood Before Pride: Mimesis, Catharsis and Imitation of Art in Life (Fatbeats)
Blu & Exile: In The Beginning: Before The Heavens (Fat Beats)
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Outlawz: Thug Brothers 3 (Real Talk Ent)
Chief Keef & Fredo Santana: Turbo Bandana mixtape
Cunninlynguists: Rose Azura Nijano (A Piece of Strange Music)
Da Flyy Hooligan: S.C.U.M.  (Lux Ent.)
Dame D.O.L.L.A.: Confirmed (digital) (Front Page Music)
Earthgang: Robots (digital) (Spillage Village)
Edo.G: FreEDOm (5th & Union)
Future & Young Thug: Super Slimey (mixtape) (Epic)
GhostWryter:  27 Darvin (digital) (Never Basic Assoc.)
Gospel of Rufus: Alternate Path (Alternate Path Music Group)
Hex One:  Words Worth a Thousand Pictures ( Mic-Theory)
Hustle Gang: We Want Smoke (Roc Nation/Grand Hustle)
IDK: Iwasverybad (Commission Music/BMG)
J. Stalin: Gas Nation 2 (Livewire)
Krayzie Bone: E.1999: The LeathaFace Project (Real Talk Ent.)
Krept & Konan:  7 Days & 7 Nights (mixtapes)
Lil Pump: Lil Pump (digital) (Warner Bros.)
Masta Killa: Loyalty Is Royalty ( Nature Sounds)
Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs: Gems from the Equinox (Soul Assassins)
Moneybagg Yo: Federal 3X  (Interscope)
Playboi Carti:  S/T (Interscope)
Rob Stone: Don’t Wait For It (Grove Town)
Sivion: Dark Side of the Cocoon (Illect)
Snoop Dogg: Make America Crip Again (Empire)
Stalley: Another Level (mixtape)
Swissivory: Real Dreams 2 (NoHook!/Rough Trade)
Tech N9ne Collabos: Strange Reign (Strange Music)
TeeCee 4800: Realness Over Millions 2 (digital)
Trippie Redd: A Love Letter to You 2 (mixtape)
Ty Dolla $ign: Beach House 3 (Atlantic)
Vandalyzm: Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (Blue Collar Initiative)
Waka Flocka Flame: Flockavelli 2
Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues (36 Chambers ALC /eOne)
Yo Gotti: I Still Am (Epic)
Young Dolph: Thinking Out Loud (digital) (Paper Route Empire)
Young Dro: Da’ Real Atlanta (Real Talk Ent)
Young RJ: Blaq Royalty (Ne’Astra Music/Slum Village)
Young Spray: Invisible Tears (RTM)

Reggae, Dancehall
Emeterians: The Magic Touch (VP)
Frightnrs: More to Say Versions (Daptone)
Jamaiel Shabaka: Land of the Rising Sun ( Roots Vibration )
Lee Perry & The Upsetters: Trojan Albums Collection, 1971-73 (Trojan)
Prodigal Son: Pure Gold  (Main Street)

World, Latin
Adriano Trindade & Los Quemados: Balançando o Jazz (Loop Publishing)
Da Cruz: Eco do Futuro  (Boom Jah)
Diron Animal: Alone  (Soundway)
Eduardo Sandoval: Caminos Abiertos (Egrem)
Elida Almeida: Kebrada (Lusafrica)
Emo Kid:  Gqomtera EP  (Gqom Oh! )
KOKOKO!: Tongos’a EP (ICI)
Leila Gobi: 2017 (Clermont Music )
Miles From Kinshasa: Limbo (Quality Time)
Orchestre Les Mangelepa:  Last Band Standing (Strut)
Professor Rhythm: Bafana Bafana (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
Thandeka: Thandanani Ma Afrika (Chocs Pro Sound)
Various: Jukebox Mambo Vol. 3 (Jazzman )


View review November 2nd, 2017

February 2017 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk Country
Eddie Bo, Chris Barber: The 1991 Sea-Saint Sessions (Last Music Co.)
Hayes McMullan: Everyday Seem Like Murder Here (LITA)

Classical, Spoken Word, Soundtrack
Grace Bumbry: The Art Of Grace Bumbry (Deutsche Grammophon   )
Jordi Savall: the Routes of Slavery (Alia Vox)
Leontyne Price: Puccini: Tosca (Decca)
Steve Brown: Live at the Atlanta Comedy Theater (ATL Comedy Theater)
Various: The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh OST (Real Gone Music)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears: Backlash (Ingrooves)
Chameleon: Chameleon (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Dawn Richard: Redemption (expanded ed.) (Local Action / Our Dawn Ent.)
Della Reese: Special Delivery (Sepia)
Just Robyn: Mustard Seed (Joziewood)
Pazant Brothers: Skunk Juice: Dirty Funk From the Big Apple (BGP)
Sinkane: Life & Livin’ It (City Slang)
Thievery Corporation: The Temple of I & I (ESL Music)

Gospel, Christian Rap
AnG White: I Am AnG White (C Bazz Ent.)
Anthony Evans: Back to Life (Sherman James Productions)
Antonia Wilson: The Sower and the Seed (Tight Tunes Inc)
Ayiesha Woods: The Runway Project (Original Peace Music Group)
Meachum L. Clarke & True Purpose: The Victory Experience
Minister Antonio Coney & The Voices of Fire: I Been Born Again (Deltone)
Mos Stef: Christian Hip Hop 101 (Victorious Life)
Speez: Let Me Introduce Myself (I’M DOIN’ JESUS)
Tramaine: Clear (Divine Light Media)

Albert Ayler Quartet: The Hilversum Sessions (Modern Silence)
Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince (Mack Avenue)
Carmen Lundy: Code Noir (Afrasia Productions)
Chris McClenney: Portrait in Two EP
Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (ECM)
Curtis Brothers Quartet: Syzygy (Truth Revolution Records)
David Weiss & Point of Departure: Wake Up Call (Raopeadope)
Elijah Rock: Gershwin For My Soul
Harriet Tubman: Araminta (Sunnyside Communications )
Heads of State: Four in One (Smoke Sessions)
Kayla Waters: Apogee (Trippin N Rhythm)
Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (Consolidated Artists Prod)
Nicholas Payton: Afro-Caribbean Mixtape (Paytone-Ropeadope)
Ransom Moreland Jr: Restoration
The Baylor Project: The Journey (Be A Light)
Tiger Trio (with Nicole Miller): Unleased (Rogueart)
Xixel Langa: Inside Me (Modigi)

R&B, Soul
Andy Suzuki & The Method: The Glass Hour (digital)
Aretha Franklin: Aretha (2 CD deluxe ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Brenton Wood: The Very Best Of (Concord)
Charlie Wilson: In It To Win It (RCA)
Chocolate Milk: Chocolate Milk (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Chocolate Milk: We’re All in This Together/Milky Way (Funky Town Grooves)
D.J. Rogers: Love, Music & Life (Funky Town Grooves)
Delegation: Promise of Love: Limited (Clinck )
Divine Brown: Crazy Love Amplified EP
Eddie Kendricks: Something More (Funky Town Grooves)
Emanny: Black Heart (digital)
Gladys Knight & the Pips: 2nd Anniversary (Funky Town Grooves)
Gladys Knight & the Pips: I Feel a Song (Funky Town Grooves)
Gladys Knight & the Pips: The One and Only (Funky Town Grooves)
Jermaine Jackson: Don’t Take It Personal (Funky Town Grooves)
Jermaine Jackson: Precious Moments (Funky Town Grooves)
Jesse Boykins III x Two Fresh: TOKiMONSTA’s Young Art Sound
Jessica Manning: What If I Run
José James: Love in a Time of Madness (Blue Note)
Moonglows: Complete Singles As & Bs 1953-62 (Acrobat)
Oleta Adams: Third Set
Phil Perry: Breathless (Shanachie)
Roy Roberts: Roy Roberts Experience (Perfect Toy)
Sampha: Process (Young Turks)
Sergio Sylvestre: S/T (Sony )
Sir: Her Too EP (digital) (TDE)
Starpoint: Restless/Sensational (reissue) (Cherry Red)
SYD: Fin (Columbia)
Tef Poe: Black Julian (Footklan Music Group)
Tymes: Turning Point (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)

A$AP Mob: Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends
Big Sean: I Decided (G.O.O.D. Music)
Black Moon: Enta Da Stage: The Complete Edition (box set) (Fat Beats)
Ces Cru: Catastrophic Event Specialists (Strange Music)
Christopher Martin: Big Deal (VP)
Dej Loaf and Jacquees: F*ck A Friend Zone (digital)
Denmark Vessey: Martin Lucid Dream ( Street Corner Music)
Fat Joe & Remy Ma: Plata O Plomo (RNG)
Funky DL: Marauding At Midnight: A Tribute To The Sounds of A Tribe Called Quest (Washington Classics)
Future: S/t
Ill Bill: Septagram (Uncle Howie)
Joe Young: Invincible Armour ( YoungLife Music Group)
Karriem Riggins: Headnob Suite (Stone’s Throw)
K-DEF: In the Moment (vinyl) (Redefinition)
Kent Jones: The Luh Tape (digital)
Kirk Knight: Black Noise (digital)
LiKWUiD & 2 Hungry Bros.: Fay Grim ( HiPNOTT)
Lil Reese: Better Days (digital) (RBC)
Lupe Fiasco: DROGAS Light ( 1st & 15th Productions)
Neek The Exotic: The Neek The Exotic Experience ( Still On The Hustle Music)
Nines: One Foot Out (digital) (XL)
Nobigdyl: Canopy (digital) (indie tribe)
Olivier St. Louis: Ever Since the Fall ( Jakarta)
Par-City: The Young, Dope & Gifted II (Par-City)
Paul Nice: Ultimate Block Party Breaks Volumes 3 (Super Break)
Quelle Chris: Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often (Mello Music Group)
Reek Daddy: Fiery Hot Rocks
Shield Enforcers: Crash Course ( ChamberMusik)
“Starlito and Don Trip:”  karate in the Garage (digital)
Steven Malcolm: S/T (digital) (4 AGAINST 5)
Urban Legend Blakboy: Koais Atrd (Mathutie)
Various: New Gen (XL)
Westside Gunn: Riots On Fashion Avenue (Effiscienz)
Young Dolph: Gelato (Paper Route Empire )

Reggae, Dancehall
Lyricson: Revolution Time Again (Undisputed)
Nafrythm: Ocean (RCM)
Neville Staple: Return of Judge Roughneck (Cleopatra)
Samu: My Soul (Maxizamus)
Skatalits: Foundation Ska ( Studio One)

Aurelio: Darandi (Real World)
Black Market Brass: Cheat & Start a Fight (Secret Stash)
Flavia Coelho: Sonho Real (PIASL)
Joe King Kologbo: Sugar Daddy (vinyl) (Strut)
Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita: Transparent Water (Ota)
Saddysa: African Modern Spirituals
Tinariwen: Elwan (Anti/Epitaph)

View review March 1st, 2017

January 2017 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk Country
David “Honeyboy” Edwards: I’m Gonna Tell You Somethin’ That I Know (Omnivore)
Ronnie Baker Brooks: Times Have Changed (Provogue)
Danni Peace: The Odyssey

Kathleen Battle: Complete Sony Recorordings (Sony/Naxos)
Measha Brueggergosman: Songs of Freedom (Outside Music)
Cynthia Haymon/Wilard White: Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s Porgy and Bess (Warner Classics/Parlophone)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Various: Studio One Rocksteady, Vol. 2 (Soul Jazz)
Anonymous Choir: Sings Stax (Mind Rider)
King’s X: Dogman (reissue) (King’s X)
King’s X: Ear Candy (reissue) (King’s X)
King’s X: King’s X (Reissue) (King’s X)
King’s X: Out of the Silent Planet (reissue) (King’s X)

Gospel, Gospel Rap
The Williams Singers: In Real Time (Blackberry)
McIntosh County Shouters: Spirituals & Shout Songs from the Georgia Coast (Smithsonian/Folkways)
Various: WOW Gospel 2017 DVD (RCA Inspiration)
Lyrically Blessed: Freedom (Lyrically Blessed)

Throttle Elevator Music & Kamasi Washington: Retrospective (Wide Hive)
Three Sounds: Groovin’ Hard: Live at the Penthouse (Resonance)
Noah Young: Start the Reactor (Noah Young)
Jeff Siegel/Feya Faku: King of Xhosa (ARC)
Muhammad Ali: The Greastest OST (reissue) (Varese Sarabande)
Vibration Black Finger: Blackism (Enid)
Mark Whitfield: Grace (Marksman Productions)
Mark Lewis: New York Session (Audio Daddio)
Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home (Rough Trade)
Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Song (Thirsty Ear)
Lil Bibby: FC3 the Epilogue (digital)

R&B, Soul
Tony Fletcher: In the Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett (Oxford University Press)
Tina Turner: Windy City Limits: Chicago Broadcast 1984 (FM Concert Broadcasts)
Soul Scratch: Pushing Fire (Colemine)
Sugar Pie DeSanto: A Little Bit of Soul 1957-1962 (Jasmine)
Desiree Jordan: The Principles Present (Rich Life/Zosmooth)
Manhattans: I Kinda Miss You: The Anthology – Columbia Records 1973-1987 (Soul Music)
Nathan East: Reverence (Yamaha Ent.)
Kehlani: SweetSexySavage (Atlantic)
Omar: Love in Beats (Freestyle )
Dawn Richard: Infrared EP (Fade to Mind)
Bell Biv DeVoe: Three Stripes (eOne)
Various: Men in the Glass Booth (BBE)
Chief Keef: Two Zero One Seven (mixtape, digital)

Lil Ross: The Connection
Jefe: The World is Yours (digital)
Jaylib: Championship Sound: The Remix (LP) (Stones Throw)
Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3
Ran Reed: Still Commanding Respect
Tristate x Oh No : 3 Dimensional Prescriptions (Heiroglyphics)
PnB Rock: Gttm: Goin Thru The Motions (Atlantic)
Reek Daddy: Firey Hot Rocks
Prodigy of Mobb Deep: Hegelian Dialectic (The Book Of Revelation) (Vodka & Milk)
Nadio Rose: Highly Flammable
Ras Kass: Intellectual Property (vinyl) (Goon Music)
PartyNextDoor: PartyNextDoor 3 (OVO)
Wyclef Jean: J’ouvert (eOne)
Tinie Tempah: Youth
Damu the Fudgemunk : Vignettes (Redefinition)
Homeboy Sandman: Actual Factual Pterodactyl (Boy Sand Industries)
Denzel Curry: Imperial (Loma Vista)
P.O.S.: Chill, Dummy (Doomtree)
Wiley: Godfather (Wiley)
Elaquent: Worst Case Scenario (vinyl) (Urbnet)
Juelz White: This Sh-T Ain’t Free (Juelz White Music)
Raised By Seuss: Unless: Twenty Years Too Late (Untek)
Loyle Carner: Yesterday’s Gone (Virgin EMI)

Reggae, Dancehall
Lloyd Parks: Time A Go Dread (Pressure Sounds)
Sylford Walker: Lamb’s Bread (Greensleeves)

Jake Sollo: Coming Home (PMG)
Mighty Flames: Metalik Funk Band (PMG)
Black Children Sledge Funk Co. Band: Vol. 3 (PMG)
The Nile Project: Jinja
Various: Calabar-Itu Road: Groovy Sounds From South Eastern Nigeria (1972-1982) (Comb & Razor)
Baba Sissoko: Tchiwara (Good Fellas)
Joe Kemfa: Jungle Juice (reissue) (PMG)
Wells Fargo: Watch Out (Now Again)
Awa Poulo: Poulo Warali (Awesome Tapes From Africa)

View review February 1st, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

Title: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

Artist: A Tribe Called Quest

Label: Epic

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: November 18, 2016



So by now most folks have heard, heard about, or read about the “new” Tribe album.  The zeitgeist that was its arrival has come and gone.  So, the question becomes, why write about it now? Hell, its 2017.  Everyone has already moved on.  Well, I wanted to sit with this one for a bit, to really let the album marinate.  To see if in a world where music has become even more disposable, an album could really make me feel like I used to when I took shrink wrap off the tapes in my bedroom.  I’ll get to the answer to that in a bit.  Assuming you have already heard the album by now, this is my own track by track reflection on We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (interspersed with musings about all things Tribe).

First off, I was late to even hear about Tribe releasing a new record—I was still kinda numb from the passing of Phife months earlier.  (Side note: Phife on Midnight Marauders >>>>> Phife on any other Tribe Record.)  Initially, I was not wholly excited about the news of a new album.  I texted my main man, (former Black Grooves rap reviewer) Langston Wilkins (@StreetFolkLCW), to confirm it was actually true, and we immediately began talking about “what might be” with this new Tribe record. “Is Phife even gonna be on it?” “Would they just try to cash in?” “Will they try to ‘update’ their sound to keep up with the young folks?” “Will anybody other than us even care that Tribe is putting a record out?” Or more importantly, “Is this another one of those things people will pretend to care about then forget about immediately?” (Black Messiah, I’m looking in your direction).  So I think it is fair to say I approached this record with a fair amount of trepidation.  I braced myself for “what might be.”

“The Space Program.” For me this track is all about the triumphant return of Jarobi White…Yeah, I know folks will be like “he never left,” but c’mon yo. The point is he returns on the first track of the album with a fierceness that I do not recall from the last time we really heard him spit.  The other major piece of this song that makes it fantastic is its core concept: “There ain’t no space program for niggas, nah you stuck here nigga.” . . . I mean, how crazy is that metaphor? The idea that everyone else would “move on to the staaaarrrsss” while black and poor will be left behind. Direct yet opaque word play is so very Tribe, but again, this track is still one for the books.  Between the production, Jarobi’s verse, the hook, and song’s metaphoric depth, with one fell swoop my concerns about the album were quelled. I literally went from “cautiously optimistic” to “thank you for this wonderful gift, Tribe!”

“We The People.” This track takes the space program/Afro-futurism metaphor and pulls back the drapes completely. Tip speaks bluntly in his verse but is even more straightforward on the hook, “All you black folks, you must go / all you Mexicans, you must go / all you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways.” Again, damn. Even the slight tongue in cheek nature of the hook doesn’t soften the blow, especially coming so soon after the election of Donald Trump.

“Whateva Will Be.”  So this is kind of a dip for me, but is super notable during the last seconds of the song when Tribe’s “Fifth Beatle”—Consequence—shows up. I can honestly say I’ve never been so excited to hear a Consequence verse. I was so glad he was here.

“Solid Wall of Sound.” Another one of the things Langston I spent a decent amount of time discussing about the album was the apparent guest list for the record. Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Andre 3000, Jack White and Busta Rhymes were all announced before its release. While I actually absolutely LOVE all of these artists in their own right (no seriously EJ is my dude), I couldn’t help but feel like only one of them actually belonged on what I considered a “Tribe record.” Narrow minded much? About Tribe records…Absolutely.

So “Solid Wall of Sound” is the first track with one of these high profile guests.  The sample flips Elton John’s “Bennie & The Jets” and I figured it was one of those “cheat guest spots” like Ray Charles on Kanye’s “Gold Digger.”  In between Tip, Phife and Busta trade hyper verses, the latter two in a patois that sounds great together, Tip really kills it too. Then out of blue (sort of?) for the last 30 seconds Elton John shows up to sing with our man Tip.  So is it a “cheat guest spot”?  I’m not sure, but it somehow works.

Dis Generation.” Really love this track, which sounds like Beats, Rhymes & Life era Tribe (no, that’s not a diss), and really is cool to see “the unit B” (as an impassioned Q-Tip might put it) all in the same hut trading verses like the good ole days. Tip shouts out Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole as “gatekeepers of flow/extensions of instinctual soul” which is extremely cool to me in a “real recognize real” sort of way. The kicker on this track, though, is Busta Rhymes—who vocally sounds like the LONS Busta Rhymes—which is kinda mind blowing to me. I literally did not realize Busta could still make his voice sound like this (I was actually waiting for Charlie, Dinco or Milo to take the mic next).

“Kids.” Okay, let’s get this out of the way. I’m a huge fan of Andre 3000.  Huge (I’m an even bigger fan of Outkast proper, but I’ll save that for another review). However, what I am NOT a fan of is how we have taught ourselves to absolutely lose our minds over every nonsensical, non-linear, throwaway bar Andre throws on so and so’s remix over past 10 years. I’m not saying they are all like that, but seriously folks, we really have a problem when we are all slobbering like Pavlovian dogs at the mere mention of a 3 Stacks bar, let alone a verse. So going into the track on the Tribe album that featured Codename: Benjamin, I was cautious at best. Thankfully this track does not fall prey to any of those issues. It has a pretty solid concept and Dre and Tip trade verses that are worthy of both their overarching legacies. “Kids” would fit well on a Tribe or Outkast record, which is kind of an amazing feat in and of itself. I couldn’t help but wonder how dope the track would have been with a Big Boi verse as well…

“Melatonin.” So I haven’t really spoke on it much thus far, but the production on this record is a real highlight and cannot be understated. Q-Tip shows why, in a lot of ways, he’s a ridiculously underrated producer. I’m sure recognizing that has something to do with why the production credits on this album are credited to “Q-Tip” as opposed to “the Unit B,” like on previous Tribe records. And you know what? I’m extremely pleased about that. Particularly in the wake of the rise of the “Dilla Changed My Life” outlook on what constitutes great rap production in popular culture, I feel like Q-Tip is criminally overlooked in lieu of my man Jay Dee. (Don’t get it twisted, Dilla is one of the best ever—just making a point about how popular culture works sometimes. Rant over.)

“Melatonin” has some of my favorite production, not just in terms of the beat, but also in the way Tip utilizes the voices of guest vocalists Marsha Ambrosius and Abbey Smith to create an almost dreamlike feel during the verses. The song concept also lends itself to the “under the influence” feel, as Tip ruminates on the pluses and minuses of self-medication.

“Enough.” So in the tradition of Tribe joints like “Electric Relaxation,” “Find a Way,” and of course “Bonita Applebum, this track serves as the album’s ladies jam in the way only Tribe can deliver. Jarobi really shines here as the “spirit” or “soul” or “whatever” of A Tribe Called Quest, as he absolutely goes in on his verse to point that someone in the studio (I assume Tip) can’t contain themselves when the verse sets off.  Is there another person who stepped off the mic ala Jarobi and came back like 20 years later twice as fierce? Surely there’s someone, but anyway props to “Jedi” on this one. (Side note, Tip’s production wins again, digging up the Rotary Connection sample he flipped on “Bonita” and flipping it on this song as well.)

“Mobius.” Consequence and Busta absolutely murder this track. I guess for cons, there is really some absence makes the heart grow fonder stuff at play here. I mean, I’m not sure if I ever enjoyed my man this much on the Beats, Rhymes and Life record, but he seriously came to play.  He sets it off ripping over a pretty basic beat for the 45 secs or so, and then the beat switches and turns into a much more menacing and bass heavy loop that I absolutely love. As if that were not enough, the track is then mule kicked into the stratosphere by none other than ’95-era Busta Rhymes (who is seriously putting some miles on his DeLorean for this album), coming through dungeon dragon style (I know thats mixing Busta-eras, but roll with me here) and spazzes out for like a hot 24—and then just like that *Verbal Kent sound effect* he’s gone. And like a mobius strip (Tip is so clever) we are back where we started. Again, Consequence and Busta absolutely murder this track.

“Black Spasmodic.” Tracks like this really, really make Q-Tip’s point from the Beats, Rhymes and Life documentary—that recording all together in the same “hut” makes for better Tribe music. From the outset this track has the feel of the early Tribe offerings, where the love was really there for everyone. I love hearing Phife go ham on this as only he can. When in full Dynomutt mode (see the aforementioned Midnight Marauders for reference), Phife is entertaining as hell to hear spit. However, Tip’s verse on this track might be my favorite on the entire album. The verse begins with Tip explaining how Phife “be speaking to him,” then Tip moves into full on channelling as he continues.  Hear me…Tip spits AS PHIFE, TO HIMSELF in a verse that not only sounds like stuff Phife would (maybe did?) actually say, but also phrased in the way PHIFE would phrase it! The craziness of that cannot be understated in my opinion. On a verse where Tip says that Phife speaks to him from beyond the grave, Tip actually stops sounding like Tip and starts sounding like Phife. As a Tribe fan, that’s seriously just kinda insane.

“The Killing Season.” Kweli comes through for his guest spot, probably to make up for his glaring absence on “Rock Rock Yall” from The Love Movement 18 years back, and sets off another political track for this record. This song serves as Tribe’s take on the violence against Black and Brown folks. Did I mention that Jarobi White did not come to play with yall on this album? Cause he clearly did not. I really love the production here and beat switch makes it even better. As an added bonus, Kanye apparently sings the hook.

“Lost Somebody.” Yo, let me be clear—this is a good song.  However, Tip’s verse on “Black Spasmodic” is such a fitting tribute to Phife Dawg that the impact of this track hit me a little less hard. Jarobi and Tip spit heartfelt verses and Tip, in particular, addresses some of the friction that we saw between Phife and himself during the BR&L documentary.

“Moving Backwards.” Love both the production on this as well as guest vocalist Anderson.Paak’s contribution. Paak does his thing here. “How I’m ‘pposed to know how home feels/I ain’t even on my home field.”  I mean, damn. I feel that. Also, “Oops I’m bout to get kicked outta here/Tell Mama Imma slide through” never ceases to get a chuckle out of me.

“Conrad Tokyo.” Unfortunately, this one doesn’t hit as hard some of the other tracks on the record. Even Kendrick’s verse doesn’t hit like I wanted it, by no fault of his own, as he clearly does his thing. Maybe this just went over my head a bit, but love the synth.

“Ego.” This track is kind of in the style of “What?” from Low End Theory.  The Abstract goes in on the various ways in which our own egos affect every aspect of our lives. He’s also brought along Jack White, who works surprisingly well. Songs like this show why, when he’s in the zone, Tip is a great conceptual rhymer.

“The Donald.” Let me start by saying, based off tracks like “The Space Program,” “We the People,” and the title of this track, I was absolutely “The Donald” was going to be a response to the phenomenon that is Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency. I was more than ready to hear what the Tribe might have to say about our president elect. So I was sorely disappointed, which is weird because who complains about the new Tribe album NOT having a song about Trump? That’s ludicrous.

Turns out it’s actually a dedication to Phife Dawg aka Don Juice (I have to humbly admit that I did not realize this is one of his aliases until now), which is pretty dope in its own right. Phife and Tip spit verses and Busta provides the hook. Again, tracks like this show why Phife’s presence is and will be truly missed. I love the breakdown Tip puts here, where he and Katia Cadet sing “Don Juuuuuiiiicccee” and go back and forth with Busta for the finale.

Couple of parting notes. First, I mentioned how the guest appearances seemed kinda all over the place. They all worked out in the end, but damn if it doesn’t seem like a HUGE missed opportunity to not have some of the Native Tongues appear on this record. I mean, I know I’m fanboying a bit to say it, but where the hell is everybody? De La? JBs? Black Sheep? Latifah? Even extended fam like the Beatnuts? Vinia Mojica? It’s all good because the album is great, but I will spend the rest of my life wondering what could have been.

That said, I am so incredibly thankful for this record y’all. It wasn’t like ripping off the shrink wrap of tapes like I did way back when; it was different, but great. I had literally no idea what A Tribe Called Quest album might sound like in 2016.  I am very happy so say, it sounds exactly like what ATCQ should sound like in 2016!

Maybe there is hope for the Outkast reunion album I’ve been desperately wanting.  We shall see . . .

Reviewed by Levon Williams

View review January 3rd, 2017

Wilson Pickett – Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings

wilson pickett mr magic man

Title: Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings

Artist: Wilson Pickett

Label: Real Gone Music

Formats: 2-CD set, MP3

Release date: September 4, 2015


Alabama-born Wilson Pickett, one of the most famous Southern soul singers of the 1960s, was a mainstay on Atlantic Records, where Jerry Wexler molded Pickett and Aretha Franklin into the label’s biggest selling artists. In 1973, Pickett decided to leave Atlantic after receiving a better offer from RCA. Over the next three years he released four studio albums for RCA, which have now been restored by Real Gone Music and released on the two-CD compilation Mr. Magic Man.

Pickett’s first RCA album was something of a mixed bag, combining Southern soul tracks recorded at Muscle Shoals with slicker Philly soul songs recorded at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia. Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro produced four of these Philly session tracks which were backed by the legendary group of Bobby Eli and Norman Harris (guitars), Ronnie Baker (bass), Earl Young (drums), and Larry Washington (percussion). The resulting album was named after Pickett’s first RCA single, “Mr. Magic Man,” a more pop-oriented song with a glossy string accompaniment that achieved cross-over success. The album showcased Pickett’s versatility as both singer and songwriter, with writing credits on eight of the ten tracks. Though the overdubbed strings are too prominent throughout, the Muscle Shoals tracks, such as “Sin Was the Blame,” hold up extremely well and are pure, classic Pickett.

Following shortly thereafter was the album Miz Lena’s Boy, also released in 1973. Named after Pickett’s mother, who he once described by as “the baddest woman in my book,” the album presents a much harder, funkier side of the artist. Recorded in Nashville, musicians included Detroit “Funk Brother” Dennis Coffey on guitar, Tommy Cogbill on bass, and musicians from Memphis’ American Sound Studio. The highlights of this album are the opening track “Take a Closer Look at the Woman You’re With” (a Blaxploitation-era funk workout that name checks Superfly) and the brassy closing song “Take the Pollution Out of Your Throat.” Alternate mono versions are included for “Take a Closer Look” and the country styled “Soft Soul Boogie Woogie.”

Pickett returned to Muscle Shoals and the Memphis Horns in 1974, producing Pickett in the Pocket, an apt title for the searing soul found on tracks such as “Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It,” by Paul Butterfield and Bobby Charles, and the gospel-inflected slow burner “You’re the One.” Regrettably the album failed to chart, but there are many fine tracks that have held up well over the years. Though it was rumored that Bobby Womack would produce Pickett’s fourth and final RCA album, instead he turned to Yusuf Rahman, who had worked with Charles Wright. Recorded in Los Angeles with tracks arranged and primarily written by Pickett and Rahman, Join Me and Let’s Be Free was released in 1975. Again, the album wasn’t a commercial success, but it’s full of great tracks ranging from the funky gospel of “I’ve Got a Good Friend” to the socially conscious “Higher Consciousness.”

Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings is highly recommended for fans of Wilson Pickett and Southern soul, presenting the first restored and remastered reissues of his lesser known RCA albums, accompanied by a substantial booklet with informative liner notes by Joe Marchese. This set makes a great companion to Rhino’s 6-CD box set, Funky Midnight Mover, which presents his complete Atlantic studio recordings.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss


View review October 1st, 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)

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

Love – Black Beauty


Title: Black Beauty

Artist: Love

Label: High Moon

Formats: CD, LP

Release date:  November 11, 2014


After 40 years in the vaults, Love’s 1973 album Black Beauty was officially released last year on vinyl by High Moon Records.  Even better, they’ve now released a beautifully packaged deluxe CD edition bound with a 62 page booklet offering many archival photos and extremely enlightening liner notes by Ben Edmonds, plus recollections from Diane Lee, actor Max “The Mack” Julien, journalist Steven Rosen, and musicians John Sterling, Joe Blocker, Melvan Whittington, and Matt Devine.

Love was a groundbreaking integrated rock band formed by Arthur Lee in Los Angeles in 1965. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 1966, a full year before Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone burst onto the scene with their own albums, together carving out a space for black rock musicians in the midst of the British invasion. From this fertile delta of guitar driven rock and hippiedom, Love went on to release several more albums, including Forever Changes in 1967, regarded as a masterpiece of early psychedelic rock.

Black Beauty has been designated “the missing chapter in the book of Love,” recorded in 1973 for the obscure Buffalo label which went bankrupt before the album was released. Though the master tapes were never found, the album was recently reconstructed through acetate test pressings. These sessions featured a new lineup (the original group had disbanded), with Lee selecting “cats who can play funky and rock.” Fitting the bill were bassist Robert Rozelle and guitarist Melvan Whittington (both former members of Little Richard’s band), and drummer Joe Blocker who started touring at age 15 with Johnny “Guitar” Watson. Their backgrounds meshed perfectly with that of Memphis-born Arthur Lee, and thus Love morphed into an all-black band that played funk-inflected rock with Black Power era themes.

Not surprisingly, the album’s opening track “Young & Able (Good & Evil)” incorporates one of the band’s favorite Malcolm X quotes about prosperity: “Just because we’re at the table does not mean we’re diners.” In Lee’s lyrics, the phrase becomes “I’m young and able / don’t want to set the table,” sung over crashing guitar chords. “Midnight Sun,” a song scavenged from an aborted 1971 session for Columbia, is the track most obviously reminiscent of Hendrix and psychedelic-era Love. On the achingly beautiful, self-reflective “Can’t Find It,” Lee’s emotional struggles come to the fore as he sings “everytime I cry my heart out / everytime I play the fool / there’s got to be something in this lonely world for me / but I can’t find it / I can’t find it.”

One of the most interesting tracks is “Walk Right In,” a cover of a song first recorded by Gus Cannon in 1929 over which Lee juxtaposes lyrics from an earlier Love song, “Always See Your Face.” The only other song on the album not penned by Lee is “Skid,” contributed by road manager Riley Racer with lyrics by poet Angela Rackley. Again, the style harkens back to the late ‘60s, with plenty of reverb and Whittington’s guitar punctuating the chorus with an “agitated” chord structure. Certainly the most incongruous track is “Beep Beep,” a lilting Caribbean influenced song falling somewhere between calypso and reggae, with Carl McKnight on steel drums and Lee doubling the guitar part on harpsichord. Another throwback is “Stay Away,” written by Lee in 1965 and notable for its “wah-wah bursts of lead guitar.” Closing the album is “Product of the Times,” pulled from a 1970 live recording with different band members and possibly added as a last minute filler.

But there’s plenty more! This deluxe edition offers many notable bonus tracks, beginning with Lee’s folksy title song from the film Thomasine & Bushrod, written by and starring Max Julien (the rest of the film was scored by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson). Next up are excerpts from a 1974 interview with Steven Rosen, recorded one year after the Black Beauty sessions.  Lee talks about his early influences and bands, as well as his work with Jimi Hendrix, including a “lost album” they recorded together in London, and Hendrix’s appearance on the 1964 Arthur Lee penned/produced single “My Diary.”  Also included are three songs recorded live at the Electric Gardens in Glasgow, Scotland in 1974 with the Black Beauty lineup plus John Sterling on guitar. Though not the best audio quality, the tracks were added in order to capture the energy of Love’s live show during this period. The final bonus track, “L.A. Blues,” was recorded in 1996, with a re-integrated backing band known as Ventilator.

And so this chapter in Arthur Lee’s history comes to an end. According to Joe Blocker, after Hendrix’s death, “from a commercial point of view, there were never any more successful black rock bands.” Lee had “slipped in before the door was shut,” but ultimately wasn’t able to sustain the brief fame that came with Forever Changes. In a 2003 interview prior to Lee’s death (he succumbed to leukemia in 2006), he stated: “The only thing that really bothers me is that I have yet to be recognized by my own people. What Martin Luther King was talking about, what he said he might not live to see happen? I was already living it, man. But because I chose to play rock ‘n’ roll, I’m invisible to black people.”  With the release of Black Beauty, the growing popularity and recognition of other recordings by Love and Arthur Lee, and the rise of the Afro-Punk movement, perhaps he will finally get his wish.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review November 3rd, 2014

October 2014 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country     

Clifton Chenier, Rod Bernard: Boogie in Black & White (reissue) (Jin)
Bessie Jones: Get in Union – Recordings by Alan Lomax, 1959-1966 (Tompkins Square)
Billy Boy Arnold: The Blues Soul of (Stony Plain)
Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls: Soul Brothers (Catfood)
Various: We’re Sisters Under the Skin: Female Blues & Boogie Woogie, 1944-49 (Document)
Whosoever South: Come On In (Pit Bull Productions)


Cooly G: Wait ‘Til Night  (Hyperdub)
Kele: Trick (Lilac)
Munk: Chanson 3000 (Gomma)
Seshen: Unravel EP (Tru Thoughts)

Funk, Rock    

Danielia Cotton: The Real Book (Cottontown)
Eric Gales: Good for Sumthin’ (Cleopatra)
Sammy Hagar with Vic Johnson: Lite Roast (Mailboat)
The Bots: Pink Palms (Fader)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM

Antonio Neal: Welcome Home EP (digital) (Madison Line)
Apostle Rosilyn Copeland & One Voice: Living Daddy’s Dream (Lowrush Music)
Dorothy Norwood: An Incredible Journey (Echo Park JDI)
Jekalyn Carr: It’s Gonna Happen (Malaco)
Je’kob:  This Side of the Sky (Save the City)
L. Spenser Smith: Unstoppable (SmithWorx/eOne)
Slim & the Supreme Angels: It Ain’t What You Think (reissue) (New Direction)
Trip Lee: Rise (Reach)


Anthony Hamilton: Home for the Holidays (RCA)
Blind Boys of Alabama & Taj Mahal: Talkin’ Christmas! (Sony Masterworks)
Darius Rucker: Home for the Holidays (Capitol)
Earth, Wind & Fire: Holiday (Legacy)
Marie-Josee Lord: Amazing Grace (ATMA Classique)
Maysa: A Very Maysa Christmas (Shanachie)
Various: Gotta Have Gospel! Christmas O Holy Night (RCA Inspiration)
Various: It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue (Mack Ave.)


Ahmad Jamal: Complete Collection: 1951-1959 (box set)
Billy Strayhorn:  Out of the Shadows (box set) (Storyville )
Branford Marsalis: In My Solitude – Live in Concert at Grace Cathedral (Okeh)
Bud Powell: Live at the Blue Note Café, Paris 1961 (ESP)
Charles Lloyd: Manhattan Stories (Ingrooves)
Clarence Penn & Penn Station: Monk – The Lost Files (Origin)
David Virelles: Mboko (ECM)
Houston Person:  The Melody Lingers On (Highnote)
Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet: The 21st Century Trad Band (Basin Street)
Joey Sommerville: Overnight Sensation (Jay Vox)
Miles Davis Quintet: All of You: The Last Tour, 1960 (box set) (Acrobat)

R&B, Soul  

Charles Earland & Oddysey: The Great Pyramid (1st CD reissue) (Solaris)
Shaun Escoffery: In the Red Room (Dome)
Aretha Franklin: Sings the Great Diva Classics (RCA)
Barbara Lynn: Here Is Barbara Lynn (reissue) (Light in the Attic)
Blind Ricky Mccants: Let’s Get the Party Started (Aviara)
Boyz II Men: Collide (BMG)
D. Edwards: Love Is (10th & Clay)
Dave Hollister: Chicago Winds…The Saga Continues (eOne)
Dionne Warwick: Feels So Good (10 Spot)
Foster Sylvers:  Foster Sylvers (1st CD reissue) (Fever Dream)
Four Tops: On Top (CD deluxe vinyl replica) (LMLR)
Four Tops: Reach Out (CD vinyl replica) (LMLR)
Jagged Edge: Je Heartbreak Too  (So So Def/Hard Case)
James Brown: It’s a Man’s Man’s World (CD vinyl replica)  (LMLR)
Joe Tex: Snapshot (Hickory)
J-Wonn: I Got This Record (Music Access Inc.)
Keyshia Cole: Point of No Return (Interscope)
Lil’ Mo: The Scarlet Letter (Astra/Penalty Ent.)
Macy Gray: The Way (Kobalt/Happy Mel Boopy)
Moniquea: Yes No Maybe (Mofunk)
New Orleans Suspects: Ouroboros (Louisiana Red Hot)
Partynextdoor: Partynextdoor Two (WEA)
Shanaz Dorsett: Mother Tongue EP (digital)
Shuggie Otis: Live In Williamsburg (Cleopatra)
Sinkane: Mean Love (DFA)
Syleena Johnson: Chapter 6: Couples Therapy (Blakbyrd Ent.)
Tinashe: Aquarius (RCA)
Traci Braxton: Crash & Burn (eOne)
Various: The Original Sound of New Orleans Soul, 1960-76 (Soul Jazz)
Various: Ain’t It the Truth – The Ric & Ron Story, Vol. 2 (Ace)
Various: One-derful! (Secret Stash)

Rap, Hip Hop  

Army of the Pharaohs: Heavy Lies the Crown (Enemy Soil)
Big K.R.I.T.: 4eva N A Day (Green Streets Ent.)
Bishop Nehru & MF Doom: NehruvianDOOM (Lex)
Boaz: Intuition (Rostrum)
Cozz: Cozz & Effect (digital) (Interscope)
Diamond District: March on Washington (Mello Music Group)
DJ Quik: Midnight Life (Mad Science)
El-P and Killer Mike: Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal)
Flying Lotus: You’re Dead (Warp)
Frayser Boy: Not No Moe (Phixious)
Logic: Under Pressure (Def Jam)
Meek Mill: Coast 2 Coast 206 (Oarfin)
Pastor Troy: Welcome to the Rap Game  (Madd Society)
Plies: Coast 2 Coast 251 (Oarfin)
Stalley: Ohio (Atlantic)
T.I.: Paperwork (Columbia)
The Game: Blood Moon – Year of the Wolf (eOne)

Reggae, Dancehall, Calypso      

Ali Campbell: Silhouette – The Legendary Voice of UB40 (Cooking Vinyl)
Dub Dynasty: Thundering Mantis
Etana: I Rise (VP)
Groundation: A Miracle (Groundation)
Radio Riddler: Purple Rain (MITA)

Spoken Word, Comedy

Prince: Sound and Vision (CD/DVD)
Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn (Other Music)

World, Latin     

Acholi: Machon Lapwong (IRL)
Batida: Dois (Soundway)
Claude Teta: Blue Tsapiky (Buda Musique)
Hailu Mergia & The Walias: Tche Belew  (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
Julian Bahula: The Spirit of Malombo (Strut)
Pierre Kwender: Le Dernier Empereur (Bantou)
Various: Spirit of Malombo (Strut)
Wasis Diop: Sequences (Imports)

View review November 3rd, 2014

September 2014 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country             

Charley Pride: Christmas In My Home Town (Music City Records/MVD)
Gary Clark Jr.: Live (2 CD set) (Warner Bros.)
Grady Champion: Bootleg Whiskey (Malaco)
Mississippi Heat: Warning Shot  (Delmark)
Otis Clay: Walk a Mile (Oarfin)
T-Bone Walker: Ultimate Collection 1929-57 (Ace)
Various: Louisiana Swamp Blues (JSP)
Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s: 2015 Calendar (+CD)
Various: We Are the Music Makers! (Music Maker Foundation)


Adrian Thaws: Tricky (False Idols/!k7)
Electric Youth: Innerworld (Secretly Canadian)
Red Snapper: Hyena (Lo Recordings)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM

Sallie and Cora Martin: Just A Little Talk With Jesus (Gospel Friend)
3 Winan Brothers: Foreign Land (eOne)
Alabama Gurlz: Gurlz Live (4 Winds)
David Hammond & Chosen Disciples: Live in Columbus, GA (4 Winds)
Deric J Lewis & The Church Choir: Live (EPM Music Group)
Dietrick Haddon: Best of RCA (RCA)
Doc McKenzie & The Hi-Lites: Yet Faithful (Ophir Entertainment/MVD)
Lecrae: Anomaly (Reach Records)
Michelle Williams: Journey To Freedom (Light/eOne)
Nathan Best: Center of My Life  (A Higher Calling)
Paul Porter: F.R.E.E. (Motown Gospel)
The Walls Group: Fast Forward  (RCA Inspiration/FYS)
Various: The Revelation Records Story (City Hall Records)
Zie’l (Dream Gospel)


Afro Bop Alliance: Angel Eyes (Zoho)
Ahmad Jamal & Jusef Lateef: Live at the Olympia – June 27, 2012 (Jazz Village)
Ali Jackson: Amalgamations (Sunnyside Communications)
Billy Childs: Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro (Sony Masterworks)
Bud Powell: I Know That You Know on Stage (reissue) (Fuel 2000)
Carmen Lundy: Soul to Soul (Afrasia Productions)
Charles Lloyd: Manhattan Stories (Resonance)
Chick Corea: Trilogy (Stretch Records/Concord Jazz)
Conrad Herwig:  The Latin Side of Joe Henderson (Half Note)
Dee Daniels: Intimate Conversations (Origin Records)
Donald Byrd: The Definitive Classic Blue Note Collection [Box Set] (Enlightentment)
Eric Reed: Groovewise (Smoke Sessions)
Frank Lacy: Live at Smalls (SmallsLIVE)
Freddy Cole: Singing the Blues (Highnote)
Illinois Jacquet Big Band: Live In Burghausen 1996 (Squatty Roo)
Jane Bunnett: Maqueque (Justin Time)
Jason Moran: All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller (CMG)
John Coltrane: Offering: Live At Temple University (Resonance)
Kandace Springs: Kandace Springs EP (SRP Music Group)
Kenny Werner: Coalition (Half Note)
Kim Waters: Silver Soul (Red River Ent.)
Mack Avenue Superband: Live from the Detroit Jazz Festival 2013 (Mack Ave.)
Matthew Shipp: I’ve Been to Many Places (Thirsty Ear)
Otis Brown III: The Thought of You (Blue Note)
Ranee Lee: What’s Going On (Justin Time)
Rodney Green Quartet: Live at Smalls (SmallsLIVE)
Shailah Edmonds: Moonlight Magic 9 (Shailah Edmonds)
Slim Gaillard: Extrovert Spirit of Slim Gaillard 1945-58 (Avid Jazz)
Stanley Clarke Band: Up (Mack Avenue)
Urban Renewal Project: Local Legend (Lombardy)
Spiritual Jazz Vol. 5: Esoteric, Modal And Deep Jazz (Jazzman)
Wadada Leo Smith: The Great Lakes Suites (TUM Records)
Wadada Leo Smith: Red Hill (Rarenoise)

R&B, Soul                  

Barbara Lynn: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (Real Gone)
Barry White: 5 Classic Albums (Mercury)
Calvin Richardson: I Am Calvin (BMG/Primary Wave)
Chris Brown: X (RCA)
Esther Phillips: Alone Again, Naturally (Real Gone)
Faith Hope & Charity: Life Goes On (Real Gone)
Gladys Knight: Where My Heart Belongs (Shadow Mountain)
JC: The Renaissance (Ecko)
Jennifer Hudson: JHUD (RCA)
Jon Lucien: Believe in Me: The Essential Selection     (Red River)
Luke James: Luke James (Mercury)
Mapei: Hey Hey (Downtown)
Michael Henderson: Take Me I’m Yours: The Essential Collection (Red River)
Myles Sanko: Forever Dreaming (Legere Recordings)
Naturally 7: Hidden In Plain Sight (Hidden Beach)
Norman Connors: Starship: The Essential Collection (Red River)
Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company (Concord)
Ronnie Dyson: Phase 2/Brand New Day (Real Gone)
Sinkane: Mean Love (DFA)
Sly Stone: I’m Just Like You-Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-1970
Steve Arrington: Way Out  (Tummy Touch)
Such: Trial and Error (Arc Sai Publishing)
Uvee Hayes: In the Mood (Mission Park)
Catch Action: The Sophisticated Boogie Funk Of Sheridan House Records (Ubiquity)
Various: Motown Christmas (Motown)
Various: A Shot In The Dark: Nashville Jumps, 1945-1955 (Bear Family)
Willie Hutch: In Tune (Real Gone)
Willie Hutch: Midnight Dancer (Real Gone)
Take Me To The River Soundtrack (Stax)

Funk, Rock                

Slash: World on Fire (Universal)
California King: Sankofa
Lenny Kravitz: Strut (Kobalt)
P.O.D.: The Acoustic Album (Pledge Music)
Prince: Art Official Age (NPG/Warner Bros.)

Rap, Hip Hop            

Diamond D: The Diam Piece (Dymond Mine Records)
Yo Gotti & Young Jeezy: Face Card (Wired Up)
Big L: Harlem’s Finest vols. 1&2 (Corleone Entertainment)
Big L: The Archives (1996-2000) (Corleone Entertainment)
Bishop Nehru & MF Doom: NehruvianDOOM (Lex)
Black Opera: The Great Year (Mello Music Group)
Busdriver: Perfect Hair (Big Dada)
Damu the Fudgemunk & Flex Mathews: Live From Wonka Beats (Redefinition Records)
Diabolic: Fightin’ Words (Warhorse)
Edo.G: After All These Years (5th & Union)
Fredro Starr: Made in the Streets (Goon MuSick)
Freeway & The Jacka: Highway Robbery (Golden Mean)
Gang Starr: Daily Operation (LP reissue) (Virgin)
Homeboy Sandman: Hallways (Stone’s Throw)
Jeezy: Seen It All (Def Jam)
Joell Ortiz: House Slippers (Penalty)
Kankick: Traditional Heritage (LP) (Someothaship Connect)
K-Def & 45 King: Back to the Beat (Redefinition)
Kevin Gates: I Don’t Know What to Call It (Four Glocks Ent.)
Killjoy Club: Reindeer Games (Psychopathic)
Lil Boosie & Kevin Gates: Louisiana Generals (Four Glocks Ent.)
Lil C: H-Town Cronic 10 (Oarfin)
Lil’ KeKe: Screwed Up Click 4 Life (Venom)
Louie V Gutta: New Legend (
Meek Mill: Dreams Worth More Than Money (Atlantic/Q Records)
Method Man: Tical (20th Anniversary Ed.)  (Def Jam)
Milo: A Tooth Paste Suburb (Hellfyre Club)
Nas: Original Album Classics (Legacy)
Nicki Minaj: Anaconda (Four Glocks Ent.)
Octave Minds: Octave Minds (Boysnoize)
Oji & The Ascension Team: Speak ‘n Tones (Fahrenheit)
Opio & Equipto: Red (XX)
Philthy Rich: N.E.R.N.L. 3 (RBC)
Plies: Coast 2 Coast 251 (Oarfin)
Ray West & OC: Ray’s Café (Fat Beats)
Rich Homie Quan: We Been Had Hitz (Lrg Ent)
Saigon  GSNT3: The Troubled Times (Squid Ink Squad)
Slimkid3 & DJ Nu-Mark: Slimkid3 & DJ Nu-Mark (Delicious Vinyl)
Snootie Wild: Go Mode EP (Epic/CMG)
Supa Dave West: Beat Boxing (Redefinition)
T.I. & Killer Mike: About the Money (Four Glocks Ent.)
Various: Road Kill Vol. 4 (Hit+Run)
Yung Gleesh: Cleansides Finest 3 (Yung Gleesh)
Z-Ro and Lil C:Big Bucks & Styrofoam Cups 2 (Oarfin)
Def Jam 30th Anniversary: Greatest Hits [6 LP] (Def Jam)
Sa-Roc Nebuchadnezzar (Empire)

Reggae, Dancehall, Calypso             

10 Ft Ganja Plant: 10 Deadly Shots Vol. III (Roir)
Duane Stephenson: Dangerously Roots: Journey from August Town (VP)
Excelsiors: Control This (BBE)
Gregory Isaacs: Roxy Theater 1982 (Cleopatra)
Jah Vinci: Ghetto Born  (Grillaras Production)
King Jammy: More Jammy’s From the Roots (VP)
Radio Riddler: Purple Reggae (Easy Star)
Rebel Souljahz: Soul Jahz for Life (Blind Man Sound)
Screwdriver: African Music (Upstairs Music)
Taj Weekes & Adowa: Love Herb & Reggae (Jatta)
Willi Williams: Unification: From Channel One to King Tubby’s (Shanachie)

World, Latin              

Vaudou Game: Apiafo (Hot Casa)
Aurelio: Lándini  (Real World)
Les Ambassadeurs: Motel de Bamako (Sterns Africa)
Niasony: Afroplastique (Membran)
Orlando Julius & The Heliocentrics: Jaiyede Afro (Strut)
Sergio Mendes: Magic (Okeh)
Various: Zambush Vol. 2: Zambian Hits from the 60s and 70s (Sharp Wood Records)
William Onyeabor: What (Luaka Bop)
Cecilia Noel: Havana Rocks (Compass Records)

View review October 1st, 2014

July 2014 Releases of Note


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

Blues, Folk

B.B. King: Life of Riley DVD (MVD)
Bukka White & Skip James: Live at the Cafe au Go Go 1965 (Rockbeat)
Don Flemons: Prospect Hill (Music Maker)
Lucky Peterson: I’m Back Again (Blues Boulevard)
Preston Shannon: Dust My Broom (Continental)
Smoky Babe: Way Back in the Country Blues: The Lost Dr. Oster Recordings (Arhoolie)
Various: Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival 1972 (Wounded Bird)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM

Bethany Devine: Daily Confessions (Miralex)
Bishop’s Choir: Be Steadfast (Ducosh Music)
Canton Jones: God City USA (CAJO)
Charles Butler & Trinity: Better (eOne)
Jason Wright & the Master’s Touch: Songs of Declaration (Dream)
KB: 1OO EP (Reach)
Kierra “KiKi” Sheard: Graceland (Motown Gospel)
Mr. Del: Hope Dealer 2 (digital)  (DMG)
Phanatik:  Art of Battle Rap (Cross Movement)
Shekinah Glory Ministry Redux (Kingdom)


Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Offense of the Drum (Motema)
Atlantic Family: Live at Montreux (1st CD reissue) (Wounded Bird)
Audra McDonald: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (P.S. Classics)
Azar Lawrence: The Seeker (Sunnyside)
Cyrus Chestnut: Midnight Melodies (Smoke Sessions)
Dual Drive: Memphis Project (Icehouse)
Freda Payne: Come Back to Me Love (Mack Avenue)
Henri-Pierre Noel: One More Step (reissue) (Wah Wah 45s)
Henry Butler & Steven Bernstein: Viper’s Drag (Blue Note)
John Coltrane: Sideman – Trane’s Blue Note Sessions (Blue Note)
Ragan Whiteside: Quantum Drive (Randis Music)
Sean Jones: = never before seen (Mack Avenue)
Tatham Mensah Lord & Ranks (self-titled) (2000Black)
Toni Lincoln (self-titled) (Nu-Wrinkle)
Various: Jazz Meets Africa (box set) (Not Now)


Pinnick Gales Pridgen: PGP 2 (Magna Carta)

R&B, Soul

9th Creation: Bubble Gum (reissue) (Solaris)
Blue Magic: Welcome Back (reissue) (Funky Town Grooves)
Bobby Marchan: There Is Something on Your Mind: Greatest Hits (Varese Sarabande)
Bobby Patterson: I Got More Soul (Omnivore)
Ca$hflow: Ca$hflow (reissue) (Funky Town Grooves)
Carl Douglas: Crazy Feeling (reissue) (Acid Jazz)
Contours & Dennis Edwards: Just a Little Misunderstanding: Rare & Unissued Motown 1965-68 (Kent)
Dee Dee Warwick: The Complete Atco Recordings (Real Gone)
Dicky Oliver: Dicky Oliver (reissue) (Schema)
Dorothy Moore: Misty Blue (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Eloise Laws: Eloise (expanded ed.)  (Funky Town Grooves)
George Tandy Jr.: The Foundation (Universal Republic)
James Brown: Get On Up – James Brown Story Soundtrack (Ume)
Jimmy James & Vagabonds: Now is the Time (CD + DVD) (Secret)
Kellylee Evans: I Remember When (Motema)
L.C. Cooke: Complete SAR Recordings (Abkco)
Leela James: Fall for You (J&T/BMG)
Lenis Guess: The Story of Lenis Guess (Tramp)
Love Dominique: Love Dominique (Love Sounds)
Marsha Ambrosius: Friends & Lovers (RCA)
Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens: Cold World (Daptone)
New York Community Choir: Make Every Day Count (expanded ed.) (Real Gone)
Paul Laurence: Haven’t You Heard (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Stacy Lattisaw: Take Me All The Way (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Tease: Tease (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Trey Songz: Trigga (Atlantic)
Various: Rhythm & Blues Chronology 1: 1940-41 (Rhythm & Blues)
Various: Rhythm & Blues Chronology 2: 1942-44 (Rhythm & Blues)
Vic Pitts & the Cheaters: The Lost Tapes (Secret Stash)

Rap, Hip Hop

7even Thirty: Problem (Mello Music Group)
Air Dubai: Be Calm (Hopeless )
Akrobatik: Built to Last (Bandcamp)
Blacastan & Stu Bangas: Watson & Holmes (Brutal Music)
Common: Nobody’s Smiling (Def Jam)
Cormega: Mega Philosophy (Slimstyle)
Damu the Fudgemunk: Public Assembly (Redefinition)
Fluent: Supreme Victory (digital) (Diamond Media)
Georgia Anne Muldrow: Ms One (SomeOthaShip)
Has-Lo & Castle: Live Like You’re Dead (digital) (Mello Music Group)
Illa Ghee: Social Graffiti (Imor Ent.)
Josh Baze: Colour Blind (+180 Records)
Lil Keke: Money Don’t Sleep (CD + DVD) (Swisha House)
MarQ Spekt & Blockhead: JustPlayWitIt (HipNott)
Onyx: #Turndafucup (Cleopatra)
Planet Asia and Tzarizm: Via Satellite (Doxside Music)
Quietus Khan: F.O.C.U.S. (Select O Hits)
Quietus Khan & Hustler E: Intelligence & Intimidation (Select O Hits)
Reks & Hazardis Soundz: Eyes Watching God (Brick)
Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty (Sub Pop)
Sir Michael Rocks: Banco (digital) (6 Cell Phones)

Reggae, Dancehall

Maxi Priest: Easy to Love (VP)
Sir Coxsone: Sir Coxsone in the Dance (Soul Jazz)
Various: Gussie Presenting the Right Tracks (VP)
Various: Reggae Loves Africa (VP)
Vybz Kartel: Reggae Love Songs (VP)


Baba Sissoko: Tchiwara (digital) (Good Fellas)
Benyoro: Benyoro  (CD Baby)
Boulpik: Konpa Lakay (Lusafrica)
Fela Kuti: Finding Fela – Soundtrack (Knitting Factory)
Mamadou Diabate & Percussion Mania: Masaba Kan (Jazzhaus)
Noura Mint Seymali: Tzenni (Glitterbeat)
Sia Tolno: African Woman (Lusafrica)
Slim Ali & the Hodi Boys: 70s Soul! (ARC Music)

View review August 4th, 2014

June 2014 Releases of Note

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


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)


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)


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)
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)


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

Herbie Hancock – The Complete Columbia Album Collection, 1972-1988


Title: The Complete Columbia Album Collection, 1972-1988

Artist: Herbie Hancock

Label: Legacy/Columbia

Catalog No.: 88697 724082 9

Format: 34 CDs covering 31 albums

Release Date: November 12, 2013


Herbie Hancock is a keyboard musician so diverse, so productive and so good at everything he tries, that this hefty new box set presents a real dilemma.  Unless you share Hancock’s almost universal taste, there will be CDs in this box, maybe a good portion of them, which you won’t like.  The more wide-ranging your tastes, and the more open-minded you can be while hearing what’s out of your musical sweet spot, the greater the reward with this collection.  In other words, this collection will test your tolerance for diversity at the same time it rocks, sooths, sings and otherwise tickles your musical mind.

The universal glue, which has made Herbie Hancock world famous and extremely influential to other musicians, is what holds this set together:  the man can play anything and make it sound musical, tight and well-planned.  He is equally at home playing an extended solo-piano rendition of his now-standard “Dolphin Dance” from 1965 as he is setting off and driving the electronic cloud-machine of beats and sounds that powered break dancers jumping and spinning to tunes like “Rockit” and “Metal Beat” in the ’80s.  In between, he took fusion-jazz to its funkiest corners, and led an all-star jazz quintet that revitalized straight-ahead acoustic jazz in the mid and late 1970s.

Hancock’s Columbia contract allowed him to explore pretty much any muse entering his world, and he did so with a vengeance.  Legacy has collected Hancock’s recordings made for U.S. Columbia as well as Sony Japan, a total of 31 albums spread over 34 discs (8 of these albums are being issued outside of Japan for the first time).  The box includes a 200-page book with a long historical essay by Bob Belden and detailed commentary on each album by Max Schlueter, as well as a detailed discography for each album assembled by project producer Richard Seidel.

For Hancock and Columbia, things started with a bang.  He scored a mega-hit early, with Head Hunters in 1973.  That album was an electrified, funky shot across the bow of all sleepy corners in the jazz world, and it helped usher in the fusion wave that had started building in the late ’60s (exemplified in this performance of “Chameleon”).  The album went Platinum, a first for a jazz recording. The next July, Hancock made his first album for Sony Japan, a solo effort, one side featuring long acoustic versions of his earlier Blue Note-era songs, and the other side all electronics, including primitive looping and percussion almost a decade ahead of hip-hop.

At the same time Hancock was following up with more electro-funk/fusion recordings for Columbia, he was exploring movie scoring—penning the original soundtrack to Death Wish in 1974 (and later, the award-winning soundtrack to Round Midnight)—and, in 1976, forming the all-star V.S.O.P. quintet, a return to mostly-acoustic jazz and a reunion of old friends from Hancock’s days in the Miles Davis Quintet and as a regular headliner and session player for Blue Note Records.

Although V.S.O.P. stood for “Very Special One-Night Performance,” the quintet—Hancock on keyboards, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on saxes, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams beating the skins—ended up touring extensively around the world from 1976-79, and making 4 live albums and one studio album (for Sony Japan).  This music will appeal directly to fans of Hancock’s work with Davis and at Blue Note, but the quintet also incorporated newer material from all members, and some original tunes were written.  Bottom line, the firepower of these musicians, and the superb empathy they had amongst themselves, made for very powerful shows, several captured here for the ages.

Between V.S.O.P. tours, and two acoustic trio albums recorded in Japan with Carter and Williams, Hancock kept advancing his electronic music, always with an ear to evolving trends in popular music.  Years before auto-tuning and T-Pain became YouTube favorites, Hancock was singing into a Sennheiser Vocoder voice-synthesizer.  Hancock was so tuned in to advancing synthesizer technology that the box set’s booklet includes a glossary of the electronic instruments he used over the years.  He was also known to tinker with his instruments, such as softening the action on his Fender Rhodes keyboards, so he could produce seemingly familiar yet totally unique sounds.  And Hancock had the benefit of working with his manager and producer David Rubinson and ace engineer Fred Catero, mostly at Rubinson’s Automatt studio in San Francisco.  Beyond the music and the ever-expanding universe of electronic instruments and sounds, the studio and the production techniques became part of the end-product music.

All of this culminated in 1983 with Hancock’s second Platinum album, Future Shock. This is probably the most polarizing disc in the collection.  Working with a little-known NYC band called Material (primarily Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn) and pioneering “scratcher” (turntablist) Grand Master D.S.T., Hancock went where no other jazz artist dared tread, into the clubs and streets of the Bronx, where hip-hop was still called breakbeat.  Fusing the funky synthesized R&B/jazz that Hancock was playing in the early ’80s with nascent hip-hop turned out to be very popular with the emerging MTV culture, as “Rockit‘s” place in both the music and music-video pantheon attests. The follow-up album Sound-System, and Perfect Machine, released 5 years later, kept Hancock at the forefront of what would nowadays come down somewhere between hip-hop and electronica, a solid and hard dance beat tempered with excursions into jazz riffs and melodies.  All three albums charted, the latter two not nearly as successful as Future Shock. How well (or not) the music has worn over time is a matter of great debate, but it was very new and very different when it was recorded.  For modern ears, these albums could be a trip down memory lane or an unwelcome reminder of 1980s big hair, boom-boxes and Deloreans.

But wait, there’s more!  Hancock also made mellow, soul-tinged records, some with straight vocals and some with Vocoder-altered vocals.  And an album with Japanese singer Kimiko Kasai, putting lyrics (many written by Hancock’s sister, Jean) to Hancock standards like “Maiden Voyage,” “Harvest Time” and “Butterfly.”  And there’s a live two-acoustic-piano jazz album with fellow ace of the ivories Chick Corea; a quartet album with Wynton Marsalis, Carter and Williams; and a duet album with Gambian kora player and vocalist Foday Musa Suso.

Also worth mentioning is Sony Japan’s use of early digital technology.  Hancock made most of his albums for Sony Japan live in the studio, some direct to LP lacquer disc, some to Sony’s first 2-channel PCM digital recorder, the X-12DTC.  Remastering engineer Mark Wilder of Sony’s Battery Studio, said that Sony had a working digital recorder as early as 1974, and CD-quality digital recorders were used as backups on Hancock’s 1978 direct-to-disc LP sessions.  In an e-mail, Wilder noted: “Herbie was on the bleeding edge of technology at the time, and Sony was more than happy to capture” him with their new PCM digital systems that evolved into “the defacto standard in the early CD era.” To Sony’s and Wilder’s credit, the new remasters of these recordings don’t sound harsh and metallic like many early CDs.  Indeed, the sound quality of this box set is universally excellent.  Some of the US-made albums haven’t had a sonic refresh since the earliest days of the CD.  Wilder said he worked from first-generation master tapes, transferring them at 96kHz/24, except when using the “native” sample rates and bit-depths of the early digital recordings.

So back to the quandary of this set:  with this range of musical styles and settings, most people will love something as much as they hate something else. But, again, the open-minded will be rewarded with new perspectives on a famous and very talented musician.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review December 2nd, 2013

Miles Davis – The Original Mono Recordings


Title: The Original Mono Recordings

Artist: Miles Davis

Label: Legacy

Formats: 9-CD Box Set, MP3 (70 tracks)

Release date: November 11, 2013



If it’s the holiday season, it must be time for another Miles Davis box set and, sure enough, along comes Sony Legacy’s The Original Mono Recordings.  This 9-CD set includes the mono masters (no pesky alternate takes here) from Davis’s 1956-61 Columbia recordings, along with Thelonious Monk’s 1963 set that comprised half of the original Miles & Monk at Newport LP.  The discs are packaged in the by-now standard cost-saving mini-LP jackets (magnifying lens not included), along with a modest booklet note authored by Wall Street Journal and essayist Marc Myers, focusing primarily on Miles’ comeback and signing by Columbia, along with some notes as to exactly why these new/old mono mixes are to be preferred above all others.  The argument is easily anticipated, and boils down to one of “authenticity”: mono was the standard format of the time, stereo was in its infancy and was only marketed to the then cutting-edge audiophile crowd beginning with 1959’s Kind of Blue, producers and engineers of the time thought primarily in terms of mono, etc.

The music itself is familiar enough, so, marketing cynicism aside, the question is: how do the new remasters sound?  Well, you know, they basically sound fine, once modern ears adapt to having all the instruments massed front and center, without the sense of space and separation we are accustomed to hearing today.  I listened to this set alongside a variety of earlier releases, both stereo and mono, and while I usually preferred the stereo versions to the new monos, these new mixes always had something to recommend them.  Kind of Blue benefits from some modest pitch correction, the mono mix puts the horns front and center, and Jimmy Cobbs’s ride cymbal is given a well-defined attack and real timbre when compared to the rather terrible 1987 Columbia Jazz Masterpieces edition (those early CJMs are from the bad old days of digital remastering, and as a rule can be safely jettisoned).  “’Round About Midnight” also sounds excellent here, though not obviously improved over Sony Japan’s 2001 Master Sound version which is also in mono.  I prefer the stereo versions of the Gil Evans collaborations (from the Davis/Evans Columbia/Legacy box) to these monos.  To my ears, the big band benefits greatly from the wider stereo soundstage.  The rarity here is the inclusion of Jazz Track, which features Davis’s Paris recordings for the soundtrack to Louis Malle’s film L’Ascenseur Pour L’Échafaud.  It’s good to have this music back in circulation, although the truly devoted may want to seek out the Fontana reissue from 1988 which, in addition to the music as heard in the film, includes alternate takes that omit the heavy, atmospheric post-production reverb heard in the film and on the Jazz Track release.

It is obvious that great care was taken with these remasters (the comments by remastering engineer Mark Wilder describing the process of trying to recreate the sound as heard on the original mono LPs are especially illuminating), but personally I take George Avakian’s comments about mono being “truer to the studio sound and the original intent” with a grain of salt.  Mono was used because that’s what was available, and once stereo recording techniques became viable, mono was quickly supplanted.  For sure, a good mono remastering is better than a bad stereo remastering any day of the week, but while the limitations of earlier technologies can be revealing, this is a box that will have most appeal to only the dedicated Miles Davis fan.

Review by Terry Simpkins

View review December 2nd, 2013

November 2013 Releases of Note

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


Alabama State Troupers: Road Show (Reissue) (Real Gone)
Eric Bibb: Jericho Road (Stony Plain Music/E1)
Holmes Brothers: Brotherhood (Alligator)
Magic Sam: Live At The Avant Garde, June 22, 1968 (Delmark)
Ms. Jody: It’s All About Me (Ecko Records)


Bishop Lawrence Hancock: Trust in Him (Independent)
Damien Sneed and the Levites: Broken to Minister EP (LeChateau Earl Records)
Lee Williams & the Spiritual QC’s: Soulful Healing (MCG)
Micah Stampley: Love Never Fails (Motown Gospel)
Ruth La’Ontra: So Good (Tyscot)
Temple of Deliverance Women’s Choir: In the Sanctuary (Habakkuk)
William McDowell: Withholding Nothing (E1)
Eric Reed: Reflections Of A Grateful Heart (WJ3 Records)
Veronica Petrucci: Made It Out Alive (Latin Soul Ent.)


Abdullah Ibrahim (a.k.a. Dollar Brand): African Space Program (reissue) (Enja)
Bobby Watson & I Have a Dream Project: Check Cashing Day (Lafiya Music)
Fay Victor Ensemble: Absinthe & Vermouth (Greene Avenue Music)
Randy Weston & Billy Harper: The Roots of the Blues (Sunnyside Communications)
Thelonious Monk: Paris 1969 (Blue Note)
Clarence Johnson III: Watch Him Work (Like Father Like Son Music)
Michael Walker: A Smoother You (Spectra Jazz)


Clarence Carter: The Fame Singles Vol. 2 (Kent)
Donny Hathaway: Never My Love: The Anthology (Rhino)
Lisa Fischer: So Intense (Real Gone)
Robbie Hill’s Family Affair: Gotta Get Back, Unreleased L.A. Sessions (Light in the Attic)
Charlie Singleton: Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained (reissue) (Funky Town Grooves)
Maurice Starr : Spacey Lady (Reissue) (Funky Town Grooves)
New Orleans Funk 3 (Soul-Jazz)
Tower of Power: Hipper Than Hip Live on the Air & in the Studio 1974 (Real Gone)
Bozoo Chavis & His Magic Sounds: Festival Stage 1989 (Valcour Records)

Rap/Hip hip/Electronica

Bun B  Trill Og: the Epilogue (Rap-a-Lot)
Color Me Black: Color Me Black (War Chant)
Denmark Vessey & Scud One: Cult Classic (Dirty Science)
Dice Raw (Roots): Jimmy’s Back (Raw Life Records)
Dudley Perkins: Dr. Stokley (Mello Music Group)
Eminiem: The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Endemic: Terminal Illness Part 2 (No Cure Records)
Freeway & the Jacka: Highway Robbery (Team Early Ent/The Artist Records)
J Diggs: Soul of a Gangster (Thizz Nation)
Jarren Benton: My Grandma’s Basement (Empire Distribution)
Kasim Keto: Long Car Rides (Babygrande)
Kool G Rap & Necro: Once Upon A Crime (RBC)
Latyrx: The Second Album (Latyramid)
Lone Ninja: Trapdoors And Secret Passageways (Holographic Pagoda)
Louis Logic: Look on the Blight Side (Fake Four)
Marco Polo: PA2: The Director’s Cut (Soulspazm)
Messy Marv: Wake’n Dey Cook Game Up (Siccness)
Pitbull  Global Warming: Meltdown   (RCA)
Statik Selektah & Ransom: Ransom (Brick Records)
Trademark Da Skydiver: Flamingo Barnes 2: Mingo Royale (iHipHop)
Trae: Deep in the Heart of Texas 5 (Oarfin)
Webbie: Savage Life Forever (Trill Entertainment)
Ya Boy Rich Rocka: Rich Rocka (Empire Distribution)
Yo Gatti: I Am (Epic)


Eek-A-Mouse: Reggae Anthology (3-CD set) (V.P. Records)
Linval Thompson: Jah Jah Is the Conquerer (Kingston Sounds)


Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe (Domino)
Death Grips: No Love Deep Web (Harvest / Universal Music)
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Miami Pop Festival (Legacy)
The Gories: Shaw Tapes: Live in Detroit 88 (Third Man)
My Midnight Heart: Chest of Hearts EP (MNRCH)

Spoken Word/Comedy

Bill Cosby: Far From Finished (Comedy Central)


Lobi Traore: Bamako Nights: Live at Bar Bozo 1995 (Glitterbeat)
Mar Seck: Vagabonde: From Super Cap-Vert to Number One (Teranga Beat)
Penny Penny: Shaka Bundu (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Over There! Sounds and Images Of Black Europe (Bear Family)
Asheru: Sleepless in Soweto (Guerilla Arts)
Bahru Kegne: The Legendary Bahru Kegne (1929-2000) (Terp)
Leni Stern: Jelell  (Leni Stern Recordings)
Mario “Mayito” Rivera: Alma De Sonero (Connector)
Roberto Santamaria & His Latin Jazz Stars: Fiesta Al Jazz (Connector)
Soneros De Verdad & Mayito Rivera: Un, Dos, Tres Soneros (Connector)
Kheswa & Her Martians: Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz (Xippi)

View review December 2nd, 2013

September 2013 Releases of Note

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

 Rap/Hip Hop:
2 Chainz: Based on a T.R.U. Story 2 (Def Jam)
3sixdy: Rise of the Street Scientist (360 Sound & Vision)
14KT: Nickel & Dimed (Mello Music Group)
Andre Nickatina: Andre Nickatina (Empire Distribution)
B.L.A.C.C.: Heart Lost Tapes (360 Sound & Vision)
Celly Cel: Morphine (Empire Distribution)
CharlieRed: Muse (Tristate Inventory)
Clear Soul Forces: Gold PP7’s (Fat Beat)
Denzel Curry: Nostalgic 64 (L&E x C9)
Dizzee Rascal: The Fifth (Island UK)
DJ Khaled: Suffering From Success (Cash Money)
Drake: Nothing Was the Same (Cash Money)
El-P & Killer Mike: Run the Jewels EP (Fool’s Gold)
Exile: Zip Disks & Floppies (Dirty Science)
Foreign Exchange: Love in Flying Colors (FE Music/Hard Boiled)
Georgia Ann Muldrow: Jyoti: Denderah (Someothaship Connect)
Ghost Poet: Some Say I (Play It Again Sam)
Lil Keke: Awready (Oarfin Records)
Lil Wayne: Dedication 5 (Mixtape)
Live Percenters: The Corners Involved (HiPNOTT)
Meek Mill: Dreamchasers 3 (MMG)
Nelly: M.O. (Republic)
Planet Asia: High End Cloths (Empire Distribution)
Procussions: Procussions (self-release)
Prozak: We All Fall Down (Strange Music)
Radical Something: Ride It Out (Radical Something)
Rizzle Kicks: Roaring 20s (Island UK)
Sean Brown: Whole Foods 2 (Tha Alumni)
Sean Kingston: Back to Life (Epic)
Slim Thug & Z-Ro: A King & A Boss (Venom Entertainment)
Tanya Morgan: Rubber Souls (ImprintOne80)
Trae: Deep in the Heart of Texas (Oarfin Records)
Wordsmith: Blue Collar Recital (NU Revolution)

Andrae Crouch: Live in Los Angeles (Riverphlo)
Cepeda Mckay & No Limits: As One (self-release)
Kevin Lemons & Higher Calling: Declaration (Capitol Christian Music Group)
Deitrick Haddon: R.E.D. (RCA Inspiration)
Donald Lawrence: Best for Last (E1)
Earnest Pugh: The W.I.N. Experience (PMan/Central South)
Lamar Campbell & Spirit of Praise: Open the Sky (Soulstride/Universal)
Newsboys: Restart (Sparrow (Universal)
Sheri Jones-Moffett: Power & Authority (Motown Gospel)
Sorrow Come Pass Me Around: A Survey of Rural Black Religious Music (Dust to Digital)

Allen Toussaint: Songbook (Rounder)
Berry Gordy: It Moves Me: The Songs of Berry Gordy (remastered) (Soul Jam)
Billy Preston: 16-Yr. Old Soul (Real Gone)
Blackbyrds: Walking in Rhythm Essential Selection 1973-1980 (Soul Temple)
Booker T & the MGs: Soul Party (reissue) (Wounded Bird)
Bradd Marquis: Thank You (Nia)
Claudia Lennear: Phew! (1973 album reissue) (Real Gone)
Darrow Fletcher: The Pain Gets A Little Deeper, The Complete Early Years (Kent)
Eccentric Soul the Forte Label (Numero)
Frank Bey with the Anthony Paule Band: Soul for Your Blues (Blue Dot)
Garland Jeffries: Truth Serum (Luna Park)
Glenn Lewis: Moment Of Truth (Ruffhouse)
Jaheim: Appreciation Day (Atlantic)
Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady (Atlantic)
Jason Derulo: Tattoos (Warner Bros / Wea)
Jermaine Jackson: Dynamite (Expanded Ed.)(Funky Town Grooves)
John Legend: Love in the Future (Columbia)
K-Ci & Jojo: My Brothers Keeper (FE Music/Hard Boiled)
Little Axe: Return (Echo Beach)
Mack Wild: New York: A Love Story (Re Mi Fa/Louder Than Life)
Mario: Restoration (RCA)
Musiq Soulchild & Syleena Johnson: 9ine (Shanachie)
Mutiny: Funk Road (Catbone Music)
The Newcomers: Mannish Boys Stax & Volt Recordings 1969-74 (Stax UK)
Pleasure: Glide, Essential Selections 1975–1982 (Soul Temple)
Raheem Devaughn: A Place Called Loveland (Mass Appeal)
Ray Charles: Ray Charles Forever (Concord)
Ray Parker & Raydio: Two Places at the Same Time (Expanded Ed.) (Real Gone)
Sandra St. Victor: Oya’s Daughter (Shanachie)
Tamar Braxton: Love and War (Epic)
Trombone Shorty: Say That to Say This (Verve)
The Weeknd: Kiss Land (Universal Republic)

Blind Blake: Rough Guide to Blind Blake (World Music Network)
Bumble Bee Slim: Back in Town! (reissue) (Cleopatra)
Chuck Berry: San Francisco Dues (1st CD reissue) ( Get On Down)
Cyrille Neville: Magic Honey (Ruf Records)
Dave Riley & Bob Corritore: Hush Your Fuss! (SWMAF/VizzTone)
The Dirtbombs: Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey! (In The Red)
Elvis Costello & The Roots: Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)
Eric Gales Trio: Ghost Notes (Tone Center)
Guy Davis: Juba Dance (M.C. Records)
Jimi Hendrix: Jimi Hendrix- The Guitar Hero (Universal UK)
Lenny Kravitz: Are You Gonna Go My Way (20th Anniversary Ed.) (Virgin/Universal)
Little Joe Washington: Texas Fire Line (Dialtone)
Lonnie Holley: Keeping a Record of It (Dust to Digital)
Love: Da Capo (Mobile Fidelity Koch)
Muscle Shoals Soundtrack (Republic)
Natalia Kills: Trouble (Interscope)
North Mississippi Allstars: World Boogie Is Coming (Songs of the South)
Rise of Black Music in Britain: Calypsos Boogies Rockers Ballads & Bluebeat (AIS)
Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King: Road Dog’s Life (Delta Groove)
Sugaray Rayford: Dangerous (Delta Groove)
Shawn Holt & The Teardrops: Daddy Told Me (Blind Pig)
Willis Earl Beal: Nobody Knows (Hot Charity/XL)

Calvin Keys: Electric Keys (Wide Hive Records)
Dayna Stephens: I’ll Take My Chances (Criss Cross)
Dee Daniels: State of the Art (Criss Cross)
Empirical: Tabula Rosa (Naim)
Geri Allen: Grand River Crossings: Motown and Motor City Inspirations (Motema)
Greg Porter: Liquid Spirit (Blue Note)
Gregory Privat: Tales of Cyparis (Plus Loin Music)
Jeri Brown: Echoes- Live at Catalina Jazz Club (Jongleur)
Kenny Garrett: Pushing the World Away (Mack Avenue)
Lin Rountree: Serendipitous (Cutmore Records)
M1, Brian Jackson & New Midnight Band: Evolutionary Minded (Motema)
Mack Avenue Superband: Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival (Mack Avenue)
Magic Malik: Tranz Denied (Bee Jazz)
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Two- Mississippi Moonchile (Constellation)
Modern Jazz Quartet: Lost Tapes- Germany 1956-1958 (Jazzhaus)
Rebellum: The Darknuss  (Buddha Bug Records)

10 Ft. Ganja Plant: Skycatcher (Roir)
Bitty Mclean/Sly & Robbie: Taxi Sessions (Silent River)
Brinsley Forde: Urban Jungle (Heartbeat)
Joe Higgs: Unity is Power (reissue) (Pressure Sounds)
Unit 3: In the Fields (Born Free)

Afrobeat Airways 2: Return Flight to Ghana (Analog Africa)
Donso: Denfila (Proper Music)
Joan Soriano: Vocales de Amor (Horizon Line)
John Wizards: John Wizards (Planet Mu)
Lala Njava: Malagasy Blues Song (Riverboat)
Mulatu Astatqe: Sketches of Ethiopia (Jazz Village)
Rough Guide to Voodoo (World Music Network)
Sidi Toure: Alafia (Thrill Jockey)

Wow Gospel Christmas (EMI Gospel)
Jonathan Butler: Merry Christmas to You (Artistry Music)



View review October 1st, 2013

July Releases of Note

Post Title: July 2013 Releases of Note

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


The Chicago Blues Box – The MCM Records Story [Box set] (Storyville)
Let Live: Blackest Beautiful (Epitaph)
R.L. Boyce: Ain’t The Man’s Alright (Sutro Park)
The Drifters: Rock (Bear Family)
Doctor Ross: Juke Box Boogie – The Sun Years, Plus (Bear Family)
Lightnin’ Hopkins : Acoustic Years 1959-1960 (4-CD set) (JSP)


Barrett Sisters: The Sweet Sisters of Zion: Delois Barrett Campbell & The Barrett Sisters (Do It All Productions)
Trin-I-Tee 5:7: Hits [2CD set] (10 SPOT)
Jewel Records Gospel Story (Varese Records)
Earnest Pugh: Evolution Project: Live in Nassau Bahamas (Central South)
James Fortune: James Fortune Presents Kingdom Music Vol. 1 (E1)
Derrick Wright & Driven: Live At The Highline (Derrick Wright Music)
Sean Tillery & Changed: The Live Experience (SoulTowne Music Group)
Holy Hip Hop 16 (Holy Hip Hop)


Ahmed Abdul-Malik with Ray Nance and Seldon Powell: Spellbound (reissue) (Real Gone Music)
George Braith: Musart (reissue) (Real Gone Music)
Stan Hunter & Sunny Fortune: Trip on the Strip (reissue) (Real Gone Music)
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble: Fly (1-2-3-4-GO!)
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: That’s it! (Legacy)
Harold Mabern: Live at Smalls (SmallsLIVE)
Oliver Jones: Just For My Lady (Justin Time)
Gino Sitson: Listen (Vocal Deliria II) (Buda Musique)
George Duke: DreamWeaver (Heads Up)
Willie Jones III Sextet : Plays The Max Roach Songbook (WJ3 Records)
John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: Flight For Four (1st CD reissue) (International Phonograph, Inc.)
Robert Randolph and the Family Band: Lickety Split (Blue Note / Universal)
Panama Francis & The Savoy Sultans: Live At Liberty State Park 1993 (Squatty Roo Records)
Anthony Joseph & The Spasm Band: Live in Bremen (Heavenly Sweetness (FR))
Personal Life: Morning Light (Expansion (UK))
Etienne Charles: Creole Soul (MRI)
Ella Fitzgerald: Best of the BBC Vaults CD + DVD (Verve)
Cannonball Adderley & Milt Jackson: Things Are Getting Better [Original recording remastered] (Fantasy)
Wes Montgomery: So Much Guitar! [Original recording remastered] (Fantasy)
Earl Klugh: Hand Picked (Heads Up)


Myron & E with Soul Investigators: Broadway (Stone’s Throw)
King Curtis: Do Your Thing (reissue) (Wounded Bird Records)
Bigg Robb: Think Bigg (Music Access)
Bobby Womack: Everything’s Gonna Be Alright: Singles 67-76 (Snapper UK)
John Ellison: Up From Funk (Jamie/Guyden)
Jahah: Nostalgia Black
Solomon Burke: Live at Montreux 2006 (Eagle Rock)
Thundercat: Apocalypse (Brainfeeder/RedEye Dist.)
Donell Jones: Forever (E-1)
Chic Organisation: Up All Night (compilation) (Warner Bros UK)
Vesta: Seven (posthomous album) (Bronx Bridge Entertainment, Inc.)
James Govan: Wanted: The Fame Recordings (Kent UK)
Candice Glover: Music Speaks (Interscope)
Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups, Vols. 1-8 (Cam Park)
Cliff Beach: Who The Funk Is Cliff Beach? (EP) (Indie)
Varetta Dillard: Mercy Mr Percy (compilation) (Ais)
Mayer Hawthorne: Where Does This Door Go [2 CD][Deluxe] (Universal Republic)
Lou Ragland & Hot Chocolate: Live (DVD) (Capture)
Otis Redding: Complete Stax / Volt Singles  (Shout Factory)
The Sound Stage 7 Soul Story (Varese Records)
Cherrelle: The Woman I Am (expanded edition) (Tabu/1-2-3-4-GO!)
This Old Soul of Mine: Soul Chronology 2, 1951-54 (Redeye)
Lonely Avenue: Soul From New York 1955-62 (Redeye)
Let’s Soul Dance: Black Dance Crazes 1957-62 (Redeye)
Boobie Knight And the Universal Lady: Earth Creature (reissue) (Bethlehem Japan)
Ronald Isley: This Song Is for (E-1)
Dumpstaphunk: Dirty Word (Louisiana Red Hot)
Chante Moore: Moore is More (Shanachie)
Dionne Warwick: The Complete Warner Bros. Singles (Real Gone)
Dionne Warwick: We Need To Go Back – The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters (Real Gone)


Rap/Hip Hop:

Slum Village: The Evolution (Ne’Astra Music Group)
Joey Bada$$: Summer Knights (mixtape – download)
Daz & W: West Coast Gangsta Sh*t (DPG Online / Dub C Online)
Gucci Mane: Trap House III (101 Distribution)
Juicy J: Stay Trippy (Columbia)
Nemo Achida: Midnight Magic
No Malice: Hear Ye Him
REKS: Revolution Cocktail (REKS)
Young Boo: The Laundromat
Young Scooter: Juughou$e
D Boys: Hold Yo Money (Tic Ent.)
Jay-Z Magna: Carta Holy Grail (Roc Nation / Universal)
Freddie Gibbs: ESGN (Evil Seeds Grow Naturally) (ESGN)
Ciara: Ciara (Epic)
Greenhouse (Illogic & Blueprint): Bend But Don’t Break (Weightless)
Rich Quick: Sad Songz (Ben Frank Recordings)
Skee-lo: Fresh Ideas (MRI)
Ka: The Night’s Gambit (Iron Works)
Chaotik Stylz: The Subliminal Substance (Brick Records)
Ace Hood: Trials & Tribulations (Universal Republic)
Chris Brown: X
Pusha T: My Name Is My Name
Hieroglyphics: The Kitchen (Hieroglyphics Imperium)
J. Stalin And The Worlds Freshest: Miracle & Nightmare On 10th Street (2-CD set) (Livewire)
Apollo Brown and Ghostface Killah: Twelve Reasons To Die: The Brown Tape (remix) (Soul Temple)
Mysterme and DJ 20/20: Let Me Explain (reissue remastered) (Comatose Recordingz)
Young Star Gang: YSG (Black Market Records)
Kevin Gates: Stranger Than Fiction (download only)
Pony Bwoy : Pony Bwoy  (Totally Gross National Product)
John Robinson & Kyo Itachi: Path of the Master (Shinigamie/Modulor)
Kool Keith & Big Sche Eastwood: Magnetic Pimp Force Field  (Modulor)
Chamillionaire: Reignfall EP
Rich Gang: Rich Gang: Flashy Lifestyle
U-God: Keynote Speaker
Tech N9ne: Something Else (Strange Music)
Crooked I: Apex Predator (Empire Distribution)
Cory Mo: Take It Or Leave It
Pastor Troy: Streets Need You (Madd Society Records)
Jacka & Dubble-Oo: Futuristic Mob (Empire Distribution)
Varrio Blues [3 CD compilation] (Hi Power Ent.)



Joe Gibbs: Ladies at Joe Gibbs (V.P. Records)
Sly & Robbie: Stepper Takes a Taxi (TAXI)
Story Of Blue Beat: The Best in Ska Vol. 1-3 (Secret Records)
Congo Natty: Jungle Revolution (Big Dada)
Cornell Campbell Meets Soothsayers: Nothing Can Stop Us (Strut)
Wailing Souls: Fire House Rock (V.P.)
Wailing Souls: Inchpinchers (V.P.)
Michael Franti & Spearhead: All People (Capitol)
Alpha Blondy: Mistic Power (Vp Records)
Putomayo Presents World Reggae (Putomayo)

Osunlade: Man With No Past Originating the Future (Defected)
Juan Atkins: Borderland (Tresor)
Cola & Jimmu (aka Nicole Willis and Jimi Tenor): Enigmatic (Herakles Records)


Danny Michel & Garifuna Collective: Ayó (Cumbancha)
Garifuna Collective: Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me (Cumbancha)
Zydeco Flames: Fire Dance (Globe Records)
S.E. Rogie: The Sounds Of S.E. Rogie Vol. 1 (Limited Edition Vinyl) (Mississippi-MRP Records)
Muzart: Muzart (Expansion (UK))
Saoco: Bomba Plena & The Roots of Salsa in Puerto Rico (Vampi Soul)
Samba Touré : Albala (Glitterbeat)
L’Orchestre National De Mauritanie: L’Orchestre National De Mauritanie (Sahelsounds)
Maracatu New York: Baque do Brooklyn (Nation Beat)
Jazz P: In My Heart EP (Kongoloti)
JeConte & the Mali Allstars: Mali Blues (Soul Now Records)
Brazuca! Samba Rock & Brazilian Groove from the Golden Years, 1966-1978 (Kindred Spirits)

View review August 1st, 2013

Nothing But Good

Title: Nothing But Good 1952-1962

Artist: Hank Ballard and the Midnighters

Label: Bear Family (Germany)

Format: 5 CD box set with hardcover book inserted

Catalog No.: 978-3-89916-422-0

Release Date: April 7, 2009

Bear Family Records has done the popular music world a huge service by issuing this five CD box set, Nothing But Good: the King/Federal Labels, 1952-1962, accompanied by a colorfully illustrated 83-page oversized book authored by Bill Dahl. The CDs contain the recordings of the band known variously as the Royals, the Midnighters, and Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, starting with 1953’s “I’m so Blue” and ending with 1962’s “Bring Me Your Love.” The music itself is infectious, reproduced with splendid production values (a Bear Family hallmark), and the package includes alternate takes and previously unreleased tracks.

Significantly, the songs are all ones on which Ballard, not an original Royal, sang lead. In the early going the members shared vocal duties more evenly, but Ballard’s clear, strong voice; faultless phrasing; and songwriting prowess made him the star of the act. As Dahl notes, the Midnighters “were the first Detroit R&B group to transcend their local standing to really make it big on a national basis, and Ballard was their chief source of material.” And as a contemporary of the Midnighters told Dahl, “The Midnighters were the Temptations before the Temptations in Detroit.” [p. 3]

Hank Ballard is probably most often remembered for his role in two incredible pop music phenomena. In 1954 he and the Midnighters recorded a string of records that, despite a near-total lack of mainstream radio airplay, sold in the millions. These were the “Annie” songs: “Work With Me Annie,” “Annie Had a Baby,” “Annie’s Aunt Fannie,” and the thematically linked “Sexy Ways.” Then, in 1958, the Ballard-penned “The Twist” launched a dance craze that lasted a few years (odd for a teen dance craze), transformed how people danced to up-tempo pop music, and inspired dozens of Twist songs by acts as diverse as the Isley Brothers (“Twist and Shout,” “Twistin’ with Linda”), Sam Cooke (“Twistin’ the Night Away”), and Joey Dee and the Starlighters (“The Peppermint Twist”).

Celebrities flocked to Twist clubs like NYC’s Peppermint Lounge to see and be seen twisting. The fad was so pervasive that even TV sitcoms got into the act, with the Dick Van Dyke show, for instance, featuring a rock star creating a teen dance craze with a very Twist-ish “The Twizzle.” The Flintstones got into the act, too, but the less said about “The Twitch” as performed by prehistoric cartoon character Rock Roll, the better. “The Twist” reached number one on the American pop charts twice, in both 1960 and 1962. Unfortunately both times it was the cover version of the song done by Chubby Checker. Ballard’s version had been the B-side of the 1959 release “Teardrops On Your Letter,” when Dick Clark heard it and either arranged for Checker to record it or strongly suggested Philadelphia record label Cameo Parkway have Checker record it. The depth of Clark’s involvement in covering “The Twist” varies according to the source, but he indubitably promoted Checker’s version on his American Bandstand television show, the main source of televised rock music in those pre-MTV days.

In between and after these notable recordings, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters produced a string of solid R&B recordings and inspired and influenced a roster of future pop music stars including a young singer from Georgia named James Brown. After catching Hank and the Midnighters in concert in Greenville, S.C., Brown vowed he’d soon “be onstage doing the very same thing.” [p. 3]

There should be no mistaking the fact that Hank Ballard and the Midnighters were trying to record commercially successful records, as were all of Syd Nathan’s King and Federal label acts. Dahl provides a brief history of the business side of the story. Nathan, arguably the equal of the vaunted Leonard Chess, ran his Cincinnati-based record company as an enthusiastically for-profit business, but he knew his musical stuff. Included on this set is an alternative, more mainstream-friendly version of “Work With Me Annie,” in which the lyric was softened from “Give me all my meat” to “Make it oh so sweet,” but Nathan released the bawdier version anyway even though it meant much less radio exposure. A new book due out this September (Fox, Jon Hartley. King of the Queen City; ISBN: 978025203468; Urbana, Ill. : ­University of Illinois Press) tells Nathan’s story in greater detail and constitutes a valuable reference for this package (and music collections in general).

Perhaps not surprisingly, when other artists tried to record cover versions of the Midnighters’ hits, they strategically changed some of Ballard’s lyrics. Jerry Lee Lewis cut a version of “Sexy Ways” as “Cool, Cool Ways,” but the Killer’s efforts required multiple takes because he kept singing the original lyrics. The bawdy nature of the lyrics in the “Annie” songs and “Sexy Ways” may have inoculated Hank & the Midnighters from a lot of the sales hell inflicted on R&B artists by pop artists covering their works and getting more mainstream airplay and, therefore, sales. It was much more difficult for a Pat Boone, for instance, to convincingly rework lyrics like Ballard’s than to simply cover more innocuous fare (which he did with alacrity). Dahl nicely details these ins and outs of ‘50s airplay and sales strategies and the listening is the better for knowing the context and the risks being taken. Incidentally, Ballard’s toned down self-cover of “Sexy Ways,”—retitled “Cute Little Ways”– is included in this set.

The “Annie” songs inspired a significant reply from Etta James titled “The Wallflower” on the disc, but the chorus revealed its real title as “Roll With Me, Henry.” James’ response was then covered by Georgia Gibbs, whose “Dance With Me Henry” hit the charts in 1955. In turn, the Midnighters answered Etta if not Georgia with “Henry’s Got Flat Feet (Can’t Dance No More),” bringing the Annie cycle to a close. All of Ballard’s Annie songs are included here.

Three versions of “The Twist” are among the 150 tracks included on the set: Ballard’s 1958 demo and the more up-tempo 1959 version, one with an overdubbed buzzing saxophone part and one without. There are also a few “Twist” sequels (“Do You Know How to Twist,” “It’s Twistin’ Time,” “Good Twistin’ Tonight,” and “Miss Twister”) as Ballard, no doubt with encouragement from Nathan, sought to maximize sales while the twist dance craze prevailed. Soon enough, Ballard, with and without the Midnighters, would be recording other dance songs like “The Continental Walk,” “The Float,” “The Coffee Grind,” etc. Dahl wisely devotes a good deal of text to the details of how “The Twist” came into being, but why Nathan never released it as an A-side, despite the song being a big reason he renewed the band’s contract during a time of slow sales in the late-1950s, remains a mystery.

Covering other artists’ hot records was a widespread practice and although Checker’s Dick Clark-endorsed version of “The Twist” arguably cost Ballard a fortune in revenues by outselling it, the Midnighters also indulged in covering other artists’ output from time to time. For instance, they were just one act to cash in on the song “Kansas City.” As Dahl relates in delicious detail, the first Fury Records pressing of “Kansas City” in 1959 credited singer Wilbert Harrison with composing the R&B classic. This was the version of the song that hit #1 on the R&B charts, but Harrison had not composed it, Jerrry Leiber and Mike Stoller had, in 1951; Harrison had simply claimed it as his own. The song bounced from artist to artist and label to label throughout the ‘50s (not unlike dub plates in Jamaica in the 1970s). After Harrison’s version hit big, Little Richard recorded it for Specialty, and King released Ballard and the Midnighters’ version in 1959.

Other hits amongst the set’s 150 tracks include “Look at Little Sister” (which Stevie Ray Vaughan famously reworked), “Daddy’s Little Baby,” “Sugaree,” “Finger Poppin’ Time,” and dozens of other danceable selections, with a very few choice ballads. And two versions of “Santa Claus is Coming” round out this musical gift for all seasons. Overall, this is an exemplary and vital package of first rate 1950s R&B.

Reviewed by Mike Tribby

View review August 27th, 2009

Soulful Healing

soulful healing.gifTitle: Soulful Healing
Artist: Lee Williams and The Spiritual QC’s
Label: MCG Records
Catalog No.: CD 2614
Date: 2006

Like the Dixie Hummingbirds’ Still…Keepin’ It Real, Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s Soulful Healing also represents a shift in the sound of gospel quartet music. The group employs various styles that reflect contemporary transformations of the genre.

Lee Williams was born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi. While growing up, he experienced the music of local gospel quartets and other secular music genres such as the blues. His uncle, a member of the Gospel Stars, was a major influence. At the age of seven, Williams and his older brothers formed their own quartet, known as the Gospel Star Juniors. Later Williams and his brother Willie became members of the first Spiritual QC’s, formed by their uncle. In 1964, the original Spiritual QC’s disbanded and the two brothers reorganized the group, using new members.

After a couple of decades of building a regional reputation through live performances, Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s received their first airplay in the early ’90s when a disc jockey from Memphis, Tennessee played the group’s self-produced cassette tape. This sparked more interest in the group in the southeast, and eventually led to a record deal with MCG in 1996. Soulful Healing, the latest MCG release, is a compilation of nine previously released tracks and two new songs (“Cooling Water” and a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When You Gonna Wake Up”). Similar to the Dixie Hummingbirds, the QC’s employ both traditional and contemporary instrumentation: organ, rhythm section (guitar, bass and drums), and synthesizers that emulate horn riffs and strings. They also adhere to the verse-chorus form; however, in “Bless Me Jesus” (track 4) they shift slightly by employing a short bridge before moving into the vamp section.

Incorporating metaphors based on lyrics that reference both the spiritual and life experiences of the black community, gospel quartets often highlight family members (particularly mamma and grandma). For example, “Cooling Water” (track 2) equates grandma’s cooling water to their spiritual renewal. Although the musical sound of the Mississippi-based QC’s is steeped in the blues tradition, they also incorporate R&B and funk elements such as horn riffs, wah-effect guitar, and low frequencies emphasizing the bass and drums, which provides the foundation for the harmonic and rhythmic drive (i.e., the groove). Most striking is the appropriation of R&B music and lyrics from the Temptations and Wilson Pickett in “Cooling Water” and “In the Midnight Hour” (track 3), respectively.

Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s carefully negotiate the secular and sacred traditions by superimposing biblical quotes (during his narratives) over well-known R&B and soul grooves. This five-member gospel quartet has forged a distinctive voice in the gospel music industry.

Posted by Tyron Cooper

View review December 1st, 2006


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