Aaron Whitby – Cousin From Another Planet

 

Title: Cousin From Another Planet
Artist: Aaron Whitby
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 21, 2019

 

British producer, composer, songwriter, and keyboardist Aaron Whitby has worked with many legendary rock and funk musicians, including the late Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison (Ohio Players), George Clinton (Parliament Funkadelic) and Vernon Reid (Living Colour). On his debut solo album, Cousin From Another Planet, Whitby crash lands on Earth to create a masterful fusion of jazz, rock and funk brewed in the cosmos of the 1970s. Assisting with the creation of his “percolating, stimulating and motor-booty activatin’” music (as described by Greg Tate in the liner notes), is Charlie Burnham (violin), Keith Loftis (tenor sax), Fred Cash (electric bass), Gary Fritz (percussion), and Rodney Homes (drums). Other denizens of this universe include three goddesses of rock, punk, and soul: singers Lisa Fischer, Tamar Kali, and Whitby’s longtime collaborator Martha Redbone. Continue reading

Mavis Staples – We Get By

 

Title: We Get By
Artist: Mavis Staples
Label: ANTI
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 24, 2019

 

Living legend and vocal powerhouse Mavis Staples’ twelfth studio album, We Get By, features eleven tracks written and produced by Ben Harper. Harper was able to capture the voice and the spirit of Staples by creating pieces that speak to who she is now and has always been—an advocate for change and for humanity. Continue reading

Jamila Woods – Legacy! Legacy!

 

Title: Legacy! Legacy!
Artist: Jamila Woods
Label: Jagjaguwar
Formats: CD, LP, Cassette, Digital
Release date: May 10, 2019

 

Chicago native and Brown University graduate Jamila Woods has released yet another impactful album that both celebrates Black culture and humanity. Legacy! Legacy! “highlights legendary artists of color, spanning disciplines, genres, and decades—[including] Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Miles Davis, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.” Woods honors each of these artist as ancestors, giving praise to them for being examples of how to unapologetically navigate life as a person of color. She also uses their lives and works as a way to discuss black life with an emphasis on Black feminism, Black identity, Black relationships, Black Rage, self-love and other sociopolitical issues found in Black communities. Continue reading

The Last Poets – Transcending Toxic Times

 

Title: Transcending Toxic Times
Artist: The Last Poets
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: May 10, 2019

 

The Last Poets are at it again with their latest album, Transcending Toxic Times. Released just a year after their 50th anniversary album, Understand What Black Is (2018), and a few months after Understanding What Dub Is (2019), this funk oriented album is fused with elements of jazz, R&B, rock and percussive rhythmic grooves. As with previous efforts, there are also socio-cultural messages that comment on the conditions of African American lived experiences. The album brings together the original members—Baba Donn Babatunde, Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassanall—along with producer and bass guitarist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, for what is likely the “definitive Last Poets album.” Continue reading

Rahsaan Patterson – Heroes & Gods

 

Title: Heroes & Gods
Artist: Rahsaan Patterson
Label: Shanachie
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 17, 2019

 

Since releasing his self-titled album in 1997, singer/songwriter Rahsaan Patterson has been a steady presence on the R&B scene, exuding more than enough talent, charisma, and vocal prowess to gain legions of fans. On his new release, Heroes & Gods, Patterson offers 13 songs ranging from old-school R&B to uptempo dance tracks tinged with jazz and rock. The album’s first single, “Sent From Heaven,” is a throwback featuring lush orchestrations, sexy vocals and a jazzy horn interlude. Relationship songs, another important aspect of classic R&B, include “Catch Me When I Fall,” the slow ballad “Sweet Memories,” and a cover of Luther Vandross’s “Don’t You Know That.” The remainder of the album reflects Patterson’s love of house and electronic dance music, including the midtempo funk groove “Silly, Love, Fool,” the seductive party jam “Rock and Roll” featuring Trina Broussard and LaTonya Williams, the pulsing title track with drum programming by Jamey Jaz, and “Wide Awake,” which morphs between classic R&B and hip hop. Continue reading

Dionne Warwick – She’s Back

 

Title: She’s Back
Artist: Dionne Warwick
Label: eOne
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 7, 2019

 

The great Dionne Warwick has had one of the longest careers in the music industry and at 78-years-old she is far from finished. Warwick returns to her roots on her latest album, She’s Back, produced by her son, Damon Elliott. Though she is still perfectly capable of carrying a song, the tracks that really soar pair Warwick with other artists, and she has chosen some of the best. Highlights include the ballads “Am I Dreaming” featuring Musiq Soulchild, whose dulcet tones blend well with Warwick’s throatier voice, and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” with After 7’s Kevon Edmonds, which is nothing short of a life-affirming statement of purpose. Some of the more contemporary efforts, such as “Déjà Vu” with Krayzie Bone, fail to gel, but the album picks up steam again with uptempo songs such as “Life is Waiting” and Ashford and Simpson’s “We Need to Go Back.”  Despite billing the album as Warwick’s first R&B/soul release in fifty years, she really soars on two Burt Bacharach pop classics—the uplifting “If I Want To” and “What the World Needs Now”—concluding the album with a positive message song.  The two-CD set also includes a remastered edition of her 1998 album, Dionne Sings Dionne, which features her greatest hits, remastered for this edition. Continue reading

The O’Jays – The Last Word

 

Title: The Last Word
Artist: The O’Jays
Label: S-Curve
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

The O’Jays are back with their new project, The Last Word, and it’s like they never left.  Fans once again can experience the classic Philadelphia soul sound of Eddie Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant (who joined the group in 1995), whose smooth, rich harmonies are backed by elaborate arrangements and lush strings. The new release is the O’Jays’ first studio album in 15 years and regrettably is said to be their final album. Grammy nominated producers Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini and R&B legend Betty Wright assisted with the production. Continue reading

Durand Jones & the Indications – American Love Call

 

Title: American Love Call
Artist: Durand Jones & the Indications
Label: Dead Oceans/Colemine
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 1st, 2019

 

America’s new favorite soul band, Durand Jones & the Indications, have released yet another electrifying album packed full of love ballads, message songs and that live studio band sound that has listeners wanting to dust off their old record players. The group’s sophomore album, American Love Call, has gained much success since its release in March. Rolling Stone magazine wrote, “While the messages on American Love Call can be more pointed, the sound is more honeyed.” This “honeyed” sound is the doo wop vocals on ballads such as “Court of Love,” featuring drummer Aaron Frazer’s fine falsetto, and the smooth rhythm and blues vocal harmonies on “What I Know About You.”  The group’s grittier soulful side is demonstrated by Jones on the ‘60s inspired message song, “Morning in America.” Continue reading

Southern Avenue – Keep On

 

Title: Keep On
Artist: Southern Avenue
Label: Concord Records
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: May 10, 2019

 

Southern Avenue was the talk of Memphis when they released their self-titled debut album in 2017, which hit #6 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums Chart. Listeners loved the group’s effortless soul, blues, and R&B fusion and the band went on to perform in high-profile festivals as well as reach the finals of the International Blues Challenge. After two years of touring and working tirelessly on their music, Southern Avenue is releasing their much-anticipated sophomore album, Keep On. Continue reading

Ayanna Witter-Johnson – Road Runner

 

Title: Road Runner
Artist: Ayanna Witter-Johnson
Label: Hill and Gully Records
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 26, 2019

 

A singer, songwriter, and cellist in a class all her own, Ayanna Witter-Johnson has taken a classic R&B sound and turned it on its head. Born in the UK, Ayanna has been honing her craft for quite some time now, earning music degrees from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Manhattan School of Music. She has worked as a composer and arranger with both Hugh Masekela and the London Symphony Orchestra as well as the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Ayanna has released several EPs—Truthfully Still (2011), Black Panther (2015) and Ella, Reuben & Ay (2018)and now offers her full-length debut album Road Runner. Continue reading

Tanika Charles – The Gumption

 

Title: The Gumption
Artist: Tanika Charles
Label: Record Kicks
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: May 10, 2019

 

Canadian soul star Tanika Charles’ newest release, The Gumption, picks up where her debut album left off, modernizing traditional soul with contemporary production styles. The 12-track album opens with Charles asking, “what gave you the gumption?”—a strong statement that sets the tone for the tracks to come. Continue reading

Marvin Gaye – You’re the Man

 

Title: You’re The Man
Artist: Marvin Gaye
Label: Motown/UMe
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 31 (LP), April 26, 2019 (CD)

 

Today, Motown is celebrating the birth and the legacy of singer and instrumentalist Marvin Gaye by issuing his never released You’re The Man album. In 1972, Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”—singles from his universally acclaimed album What’s Going On—had each hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles chart. Gaye was quoted as saying, “For most people that would be a blessing. But for me the thought was heavy. They said I’d reached the top, and that scared me because Mother used to say, ‘First ripe, first rotten.’ When you’re at the top there’s nowhere to go but down. No, I needed to keep going up – raising my consciousness – or I’d fall back on my behind. When would the war stop? That’s what I wanted to know – the war inside my soul.” Continue reading

Anu Sun – Sanguine Regum

 

Title: Sanguine Regum
Artist: Anu Sun
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: February 8, 2019

 

Music is in a constant state of evolution, enlightening our soundscapes with its ingenious performers who move themselves and their creations beyond the norm.  Producer, songwriter and engineer Anu Sun, affectionately known industry-wide as “Anu The Giant,” is one such artist. A staple in New York City’s live music scene, Sun’s recent credits include work on the Grammy Award winning motion picture soundtrack Miles Ahead, production partner Robert Glasper’s Grammy nominated Black Radio 2, his collaborations with jazz and R&B staples like Bilal, Ledisi, Laura Mvula and his credits with legends like Johnny Cash and Miles Davis. With the release of his own album, Sanguine Regum, Sun has positioned himself as a prominent, provocative renaissance musician alongside his peers in the business. But his music goes deeper than that. Continue reading

Nubiyan Twist – Jungle Run

 

Title: Jungle Run
Artist: Nubiyan Twist
Label: Strut Records
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: February 15, 2019

 

The 12-piece collective Nubiyan Twist, named after frontwoman Nubiya Brandon, just released their newest studio album, Jungle Run. Formed in 2015 at Leeds College of Music and influenced by the diverse music scene in Leeds, Nubiyan Twist and their unique sound can only be described as versatile, fluid, and all-around captivating. Continue reading

Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness

 

Title: Hello Happiness
Artist: Chaka Khan
Label: Island
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: February 15, 2019

 

Chaka Khan’s new album, Hello Happiness, is a short, seven-track release that is somewhat of a departure from her previous work. Many listeners will associate Khan with her classic hits such as “I’m Every Woman,” which would lead them to expect a strong vocal showing. However, one might find this newest release more barren of Khan’s vocal prowess than anticipated. But before a decision is made to not give this album a chance, understand that the lessened presence of Khan is more attributed to a difference in production than a diminishing of her abilities. Chaka Khan’s powerful voice is used to complement contemporary production practices that are at times ambient in nature. Continue reading

Beldina – Black & Blond

 

Title: Black & Blond
Artist: Beldina
Label: Self-released
Formats: Digital
Release date: February 8, 2019

 

Born in Stockholm with ancestral ties to Kenya, Scandinavian R&B artist Beldina Malaika pays homage to her heritage through her autobiographical album title, Black & Blond. An aspiring artist from an early age, Beldina was accepted to one of Sweden’s most prestigious performing arts schools at age 10. Soon after, she was releasing her own music and performing with some of Sweden’s top acts in the country’s most iconic venues. Her work with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams and Childish Gambino further enhanced her legendary status, and with the release of her newest EP, Beldina is emerging as a free, independent artist. Continue reading

Roscoe Robinson – Turn Right and Go Straight

 

Title: Turn Right and Go Straight
Artist: Roscoe Robinson
Label: Abkco
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 29, 2018

 

Born in 1928, singer-songwriter Roscoe Robinson recently cut two new tracks in celebration of his 90th birthday. The longtime resident of Birmingham, Alabama, has performed with several significant gospel groups, including the Highway QC’s back when Sam Cooke was a member, as well as the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Blind Boys of Mississippi. Like Cooke, Robinson also crossed over into secular music, gaining recognition as a soul singer in the 1960s with several charting hits, and later releasing recordings on the Atlantic, Fame, Paula, and Sound Stage 7 labels. Continue reading

Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler ft. Dames Brown – The One

 

Title: The One
Artist: Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler, featuring Dames Brown
Label: Session Sound
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: October 26, 2018

 

Detroit-based group Will Sessions has made a name for themselves in the motor city. From their early beginnings, the octet released several albums influenced by R&B, hip-hop, funk, and jazz. In 2017, the group began collaborating with legendary funk singer and keyboardist Amp Fiddler, first on their Deluxe album track “In The Ride,” and later that year on their live recording Kindred. Like their previous releases The One includes Fiddler on lead vocals, along with the soulful and dynamic voices of vocal trio Dames Brown. Continue reading

New Holiday Albums: The Best of 2018

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

Stax Records’ Year of Crisis and Grit

 

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

 

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

Mourning [A] Blkstar – The Garner Poems

 

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

 

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

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: The Saru Label

 

Title: Eccentric Soul: The Saru Label
Artist: Various
Label: Numero Group
Formats: CD, 2-LP, Digital
Release date: March 23, 2018

 

This exploration of Cleveland’s Saru label, released earlier this year, is another fine addition to Numero’s Eccentric Soul series featuring lost gems from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Due to its fascinating connections to Ohio funk, the Saru compilation is also one of our favorites. Label owner Chuck Brown set up a management team that included Bobby Massey, one of the original members of the O’Jays, and Calvin Simon, an original member of the Parliaments with George Clinton, and later the Parliament-Funkadelic collective. These two influential staff members assembled talent for the backing bands and also produced and performed on many of the sessions. Continue reading

Maxwell – Embrya 20th Anniversary Reissue

 

Title: Embrya 20th Anniversary Reissue
Artist: Maxwell
Label: Sony Music
Formats: 2-LP
Release Date: September 28, 2018

 

Maxwell’s sophomore album, Embrya, was released in 1988 at the peak of the neo-soul movement and changed the course of the singer’s career. The seductive ballads and slow grooves of tracks such as “Matrimony: Maybe You” resonated with his female fan base, who propelled the album to #2 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart and earned Maxwell a Grammy Award nomination for best R&B album. Continue reading

Chic – The Chic Organization 1977-1979

 

Title: The Chic Organization 1977-1979
Artist: Chic
Label: Atlantic/Rhino
Formats: 5-CD, 6-LP box set
Release date: November 23, 2018

 

There’s no better way to experience the late ‘70s disco era than this new box set celebrating the music of Chic and its co-founders, Nile Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards. Included are the group’s first three albums—Chic (1978), C’est Chic (1978) and Risqué (1978)—plus Sister Sledge’s iconic album We Are Family (1979), the first project Rodgers and Edwards wrote and produced for another artist. The final disc in the set features singles, including the 7” and 12” releases of Chic’s chart topping hits such as “Le Freak,” which was recently added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry, and “Good Times,” one of the most-sampled songs in music history (used in Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”) All tracks have been newly remastered from the original Atlantic stereo tapes by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios. The accompanying booklets includes essays by Toure and Paul Morley; however, the vinyl edition features more extensive liner notes. Continue reading

Al Green – The Hi Records Singles Collection

 

Title: The Hi Records Singles Collection
Artist: Al Green
Label: Fat Possum
Format: 3-CD set
Release date: November 9, 2018

 

In 1969, budding soul singer Al Green met Memphis record producer Willie Mitchell, and the rest, as they say, is history. Mitchell signed Green to his Hi Records label, and over the next decade he released a dozen albums, half of which topped the charts. Continue reading

Book – Soul R&B Funk Photographs, 1972-1982

 

Title: Soul R&B Funk Photographs, 1972-1982
Author: Bruce W. Talamon
Publisher: Taschen
Format: Hardcover, 375 pages
Release date: October 2018

 

The coffee table book of the year for soul and funk music fans is without a doubt this oversize, hardcover volume featuring the early photographs of Bruce W. Talamon. Those who are familiar with SOUL newspaper will recognize some of these images. Started in L.A. in 1968 by Ken Jones and Regina Jones, SOUL was the first black-owned paper dedicated to R&B, soul and funk musicians. Talamon was hired in 1972 by Regina, who gave the young photographer his first steady gig, and before long he was shooting for national publications. From 1972-1982, Talamon captured R&B royalty in stunning detail—working up a sweat in concert, dancing on the stage of Soul Train, striking a pose during formal photo shoots, and enjoying quieter moments backstage and on the road. Continue reading

Book – Aretha: The Queen of Soul―A Life in Photographs

 

Title: Aretha: The Queen of Soul―A Life in Photographs
Author: Meredith Ochs
Publisher: Sterling
Format: Book (hardcover (144 pages), Kindle)
Release date: December 11, 2018

 

In one of the first posthumous books on Aretha Franklin, radio personality and author Meredith Ochs “explores the diva’s life, from her formative years growing up in Detroit, to her singing and recording career from the 1950s until her untimely death in 2018, to her numerous honors, awards, and causes, including her advocacy for civil rights and the arts.” Though Aretha fans will likely find nothing new in this biography, Ochs writes with an engaging style and covers all of the high points of Franklin’s career. But the main selling points of this volume are the photos. With over 85 illustrations, more than half of the pages are filled with glorious images of Aretha, making this a fine commemorative volume for libraries and for those seeking a brief introduction to the Queen of Soul. Continue reading

Book – Tina Turner: My Love Story

 

Title: My Love Story
Author: Tina Turner
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Book (hardcover, paperback, kindle, audiobook)
Release date: October 16, 2018

 

Though Tina Turner published the autobiography I, Tina: My Life Story in 1986, she had a whole lot more living to do! In My Love Story, Turner discusses her “whole second life;” that is, the 42 post-Ike years “filled with adventures, accomplishments, and love beyond my wildest dreams.” But these years have also had a darker side, including the loss of her son, and her own recent life-and-death health challenges. Turner’s positive outlook shines through on each page of her inspirational story, reflecting her Buddhist faith as well as the unfailing support of her second husband, Erwin Bach. “Good came out of bad. Joy came out of pain.” A good read for the holiday season. Continue reading

Anthony David – Hello Like Before – The Songs of Bill Withers

 

Title: Hello Like Before – The Songs of Bill Withers
Artist: Anthony David
Label: Shanachie
Formats: CD, Digital Release
Date: September 21, 2018

 

God bless you, Anthony David.  Not only are you paying tribute to perhaps my favorite male artist of all time, Bill Withers, but you titled the project Hello Like Before, my favorite Withers song hands down—and that, my friend, is saying something. When one artist pays tribute to another, especially a legendary artist, it can either go one of two ways. But Anthony David delivers in a huge way! When the Savannah, Georgia native emerged on the scene in 2004 with his album Three Chords & the Truth, some compared him to Bill Withers and guess what? They were spot on. Like Withers, David ain’t flashy, just straight forward. Continue reading

Zapp – Zapp VII Roger and Friends

 

Title: Zapp VII Roger and Friends
Artist: Zapp
Label: Leopard
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 26, 2018

 

Zapp & Roger, an important funk band that emerged from Dayton, Ohio in 1977, brought the world hits like “More Bounce to the Ounce,” “Computer Love,” “Do Wa Ditty,” “So Ruff So Tuff” and a couple decades more of electrifying funk. The Zapp sound was iconic for the use of moog bass and synthesizers that provided multiple timbres, textures, patterns and hits; deep bass drum and hard hitting claps with just enough reverb to shake a stadium and keep the party going; and the unforgettable and legendary use of the talk box. The late funkateer Roger Troutmen, lead vocalist of Zapp & Roger, used a custom-made talk box—the Electro Harmonix “Golden Throat,” as well as a Moog “Minimoog” and, later in his career, a Yamaha DX100 FM synthesizer. Roger said, “Every time I would use the voice box, people would be dancing, until I use it and people would look up, and it seemed to [be] hypnotizing them in a way.” This funk all-star group consisted of Lester Troutman, Sr. (drums), Terry “Zapp” Troutman (talkbox, keyboards, bass), Bart Thomas (talkbox, vocals, keyboards, bass), Dale DeGroat (musical direction, keyboards, vocals), Thomas Troutman (keyboards, vocals), Riccardo Bray (guitar) and Anthony Arrington (sax). Continue reading