The Stanley Clarke Band – The Message

The Stanley Clarke Band

 

Title: The Message

Artist: The Stanley Clarke Band

Label: Mack Avenue

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: June 29, 2018

 

The release of Stanley Clarke’s latest album, The Message, comprises magnetic compositions that incorporate various elements of funk, jazz-fusion, and breakbeats. The band’s members—Beka Gochiashvili (pianist), Cameron Graves (keyboardist), and Mike Mitchell (drummer)—come together with featured artists such as Doug E. Fresh, Salar Nadar, Skyeler Kole, Trevor Wesley, and voice actor Steve Blum to cut this eclectic offering of hope, love and compassion.

Group frontman Stanley Clarke has always been a prominent artist in the music industry with his funky bass lines, virtuoso technique, and versatility as a musician. He has maintained a successful career spanning over five decades, and in the past has collaborated with artists such as Chick Corea, Lenny White, Herbie Hancock, Béla Fleck, Jean-Luc Ponty, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, and Dee Dee Bridgewater, among others. Clarke also produced film scores for major movies such as Boyz n the Hood, Passenger 57, and What’s Love Got to Do with It.

The inspiration of The Message stems from the band’s experience during a 2015 terrorist attack in Tunisia, which halted their tour in that country. During that time, the members of Clarke’s band composed new material, which they later recorded at the ICP studios in Belgium, laying the foundation for this album.

The Message opens with a dialogue between Clarke and Fresh, paying homage to music legends Al Jarreau, Leon “NDUGU” Chancler, George Duke, Tom Petty, Chuck Berry, Larry Coryell, and Darryl Brown as Clarke sings, “And Ya Know We Missing You” along with Fresh providing the underlying vocal percussion. The next track, a stirring rendition of “After the Cosmic Rain/Dance of the Planetary Prince,” is based on a composition written by Clarke in the 1970s, and features a melodious synthesizer solo by Graves. The title track, “The Message,” begins with celestial pads evoking a cosmic atmosphere, followed by an expressive electric bass solo that serves as a counterpart to Clarke’s profound solo performance of Bach’s “Cello Suite, No. 1” on acoustic bass. “Alternative Fact” switches gears to an up-tempo swing groove, displaying both Gochiashvili’s impeccable piano technique and Mitchell’s explosive light touch on the drums. Finally, Clarke takes us out with a funky groove on “To Be Alive,” a song filled with rich horn backgrounds, percussive breaks, and Fresh’s rhythmic flow and tight lyrics.

The Message is certainly a testament to Clarke’s creativity and longevity as a music artist. From beginning to end, the listener is taken on journey filled with sonic qualities that excite the spirit, satisfy the ear, and calm the soul.

Reviewed by Jamaal Baptiste

Best of Chess: Original Versions of Songs in Cadillac Records

Title: Best of Chess: Original Versions of Songs in Cadillac Records
Artists: Various
Label: Chess/MCA/UMe
Catalog No.: 001241802
Release Date: Dec. 2, 2008

I haven’t yet had an opportunity to see Cadillac Records, the new biopic about Chicago’s legendary Chess Records, but I’ve already read numerous stories about the many liberties which were taken with the story, as one might expect from a major Hollywood feature film. Nevertheless, I plan to make a pilgrimage to the local theater the minute the movie opens, and I can’t wait to see Beyoncé’s portrayal of Etta James. Here is the official trailer:

A soundtrack from Cadillac Records was released last month, but if you want to hear the original hits in their full glory, check out the new compilation- The Best of Chess Records: The Original Versions of Songs in the Film “Cadillac Records.” This would be a great way to introduce your kids (or students) to blues, R&B, soul, and the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, all in one package. If you have a teenager that’s anything like mine, and they turn their noses up at music that’s not “contemporary,” i.e. familiar, maybe the movie tie-in will peak their interest.  

The CD includes 15 classic Chess tracks, recorded between 1948-1967, that are covered in the movie by Beyoncé (as Etta James), Jeffrey Wright (as Muddy Waters), Eamonn Walker (as Howlin’ Wolf), Cedric the Entertainer (as Willie Dixon), Columbus Short (as Little Walter), and Mos Def (as Chuck Berry).  The bulk of the CD is devoted to Chuck Berry and Etta James, with four tracks each. Berry’s “Maybellene” is certainly one of the highlights- this was his first big hit for Chess in 1955, and is considered one of the seminal early rock ‘n’ roll singles- it quickly topped the rhythm and blues charts, and then crossed over to the pop charts. Muddy Waters and Little Walter are each represented on three tracks, while the great Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf only get one track each.

The complete track listing follows:

1. “No Particular Place to Go” – Chuck Berry
2. “At Last” – Etta James
3. “My Babe” – Little Walter
4. “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man” – Muddy Waters
5. “I’d Rather Go Blind” – Etta James
6. “I’m a Man” – Bo Diddley
7. “Smokestack Lightnin” – Howlin’ Wolf
8. “Forty Days and Forty Nights” – Muddy Waters
9. “Juke” – Little Walter
10. “All I Could Do Is Cry” – Etta James
11. “Maybellene” – Chuck Berry
12. “I Can’t Be Satisfied” – Muddy Waters
13. “Last Night” – Little Walter
14. “Nadine” – Chuck Berry
15. “Trust in Me” – Etta James
16. “Promised Land” – Chuck Berry

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones

Title: The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones
Artists: Various Artists
Label: Snapper Music
Catalog No.: SBLUECD047
Release date: March 10, 2008

“We got heavily into the blues – Chicago blues particularly because every major, modern blues artist was coming out of Chicago. . . we weren’t writing our own songs then. We were just playing mostly blues & rock ‘n roll-Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters stuff.” – Keith Richards

“We used to watch Chuck Berry films over and over and over to see how he would play certain licks. Keith [Richards] and I would go to the cinema like 6 or 9 times just to see the Chuck Berry section. . . to see how he put his hands on the guitar, and how he played this part and this solo.” – Mick Jagger

The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones is Michael Hendon’s valiant effort to bring together the most formative blues and rock influences on the members of this seminal rock band onto a single disk for Snapper Music’s Complete Blues series. Included among them are, of course, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, and Bo Diddley, but also Buddy Holly, Slim Harpo, B.B. King, Blind Boy Fuller, Robert Johnson, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, and Robert Wilkins.

Far from a smattering of well-known singles from these (mostly) heavily-compiled artists, Hendon’s liner notes make clear that the songs selected for this compilation were chosen carefully. Throughout, Hendon expends great effort to explicitly connect each song to the Stones and thus support the reason for its inclusion – usually either because the Stones frequently performed and/or recorded the song or because it is emblematic of the sound of a particular artist that was an important influence on the band.

Appropriately enough, the disk opens with Muddy Waters’ “Rolling Stone” and closes with another of his classics – “I Want to be Loved” (a version of which appeared as the B side of the Stones’ first single). The songs of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley formed over half of the Stones’ early set lists, and Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” was also featured on their third album (The Rolling Stones, Now!, 1965). Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” was featured on the Stones’ first album (England’s Newest Hit Makers, 1964) as was Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do.” In addition to this more urban-centered blues/rock spread, I especially like the attention paid on this compilation to the Delta/country blues influence on the Stones’ sound. One of the highlights in that regard is Robert Wilkins’ crackling 1928 recording “Rolling Stone – Part 1.”

Though Stones enthusiasts will undoubtedly notice omissions on The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones, I think it is a perfect starting point for those who wish to trace the British blues explosion of the early 1960s back to the sounds that inspired it.

Posted by Anthony Guest-Scott