Thundercat – It Is What It Is

 

Title: It Is What It Is   
Artist: Thundercat  
Label: Brainfeeder  
Formats: CD, LP, Digital  
Release Date: April 3, 2020  

 

Electric bassist and singer/songwriter Thundercat, aka Stephen Lee Bruner, has released his fourth studio album, It Is What It Is. Executively produced by Bruner and Flying Lotus, the project features collaborations from artists such as Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, Ty Dolla $ign, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, and comedian/rapper Zack Fox. The new album is the follow-up to Thundercat’s ambitious Drunk (2017), which cemented his genre-defying reputation and provided an evolutional framework for It Is What It Is, which continues the versatile artist’s experimentation with sound and compositional technique. 

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The Meters – Gettin’ Funkier All The Time

 

Title: Gettin’ Funkier All The Time: Complete Josie/Reprise & Warner Recordings 1968-1977
Artist: The Meters
Label: SoulMusic/Cherry Red
Formats: 6-CD Box Set
Release date: January 24, 2020

 

Released just in time for Mardi Gras, this new box set celebrates the kings of New Orleans funk, otherwise known as The Meters. Featuring guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter, Jr., keyboardist/vocalist Art Neville, and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, The Meters combined street rhythms with second line vibe and fatback drums to create their own unique, laidback style. Compared to James Brown’s hard driving, frenetic performances, The Meters just let the good times roll through the Big Easy accompanied by a funky backbeat. Produced by SoulMusic’s David Nathan, Gettin’ Funkier All The Time takes listeners on a journey through The Meter’s eight studio albums recorded between 1968-1977, their non-album singles and  bonus tracks issued on previous compilations, plus a few surprises thrown in like beads along the parade route.  In other words, this set has it all.

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LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown, 1969-1972

 

Title: LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown, 1969-1972
Artist: Various
Label: Now-Again
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 2, 2019

 

For those of you who aren’t from the Midwest, “Naptown” is a nickname created by local jazz musicians back in the day to describe the sometimes sleepy city of Indianapolis. Bringing some old Naptown soul and funk to light, the new anthology LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown offers an overview of the city’s fabled record label, little known outside of hardcore soul collectors. Now, current and former Indianapolis natives can reminisce while the rest of the world can finally hear the soulful sounds that sprung from Naptown during the years 1969-1972. The liner notes for this release, researched and written over a twenty year span by Eothen Alapatt, Jeff Kollath, Jason Yoder and Kyle Long, read like a book as these four experts uncover the history of the LAMP label and Naptown’s music scene. Continue reading

Prince – 1999 Super Deluxe Edition

Title: 1999 Super Deluxe Edition
Artist: Prince
Label: Warner Bros.
Formats: 5CD or 10LP + DVD box set
Release date: November 29, 2019

 

This new box set is the latest release from the Prince Estate and Warner Brothers. On the plus side, there’s the first remastered edition of Prince’s 1982 breakthrough album, 1999, in addition to a CD of remastered promo mixes and B-sides, plus a CD/DVD of a previously unreleased live concert performance in Detroit on November 30, 1982 (which allegedly will not be released separately). Somewhat more controversial are the two additional CDs of tracks culled from the vast vault at Paisley Park. While some hardcore fans will welcome this glimpse into the inner workings of Prince’s compositional process, others may consider it a travesty that the estate is releasing material that the artist would have keep private.

James Brown – Live at Home with His Bad Self

 

Title: Live at Home with His Bad Self
Artist: James Brown
Label: Polydor/Republic
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 25, 2019

 

This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of James Brown’s homecoming concert in Augusta, Georgia’s Bell Auditorium on October 1, 1969. Live at Home with His Bad Self captures this historic performance by the legendary Soul Brother No. 1 and the James Brown Orchestra with occasional dialogue by Brown and emcee Maceo Parker. Intended to “attract notoriety” to his hometown, Brown “decided to record this local concert and commemorate it with a live album” for release during the Christmas season of 1969. Unfortunately, the two-disc album was shelved for various reasons. While some selections were issued on previous compilations, Live at Home with His Bad Self finally includes the concert in its entirety from start to finish, just in time for the 2019 holiday season. Continue reading

London Afrobeat Collective – Humans

 

Title: Humans
Artist: London Afrobeat Collective
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Label: London Afrobeat Productions
Release Date: October 25, 2019

 

Following their popular 2015 release Food Chain that earned them glowing reviews and widespread radio support, London Afrobeat Collective has released their newest album, Humans. The collective is formed of nine members who hail from England, Congo, Italy, France, Argentina, and New Zealand, and their music reflects the varied cultural backgrounds of their members. LAC is known for their eclectic sound that draws on funk, jazz, rock, and dub paired with socially conscious lyricism and their latest project is no departure from this. Continue reading

November 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during November 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading

The Hornē Electric Band’s Self-Titled Debut

 

Title: Hornē Electric Band
Artist: Hornē Electric Band
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: September 27th, 2019

 

Hailing from New York City, The Hornē Electric Band is a modern funk group that combines funk, jazz, and soul with modern music technology. According to their website bio, they “integrate current electronics soundscapes with horn-section-centric arrangements.” Their self-titled debut album is full of witty band humor and, like with all great funk albums, a groove that lives around “the one.” The rhythm section features bassist/producer Massimo Biolcati, drummer Corey Rawls, and vibraphonist/malletkat Tyler Blanton, who also provides midi electronics. Heading up the horn section is Wayne Tucker on trumpet and Yacine Boulares on tenor sax, as well as the Snarky Puppy team of Mike Maher (trumpet) and Chris Bullock (tenor sax). Continue reading

October 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during October 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading

Welcome to the October 2019 Issue

Welcome to the October 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

Our featured project this month is the new three disc compilation, Protobilly: Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music 1892-2017, produced and/or annotated by Dom Flemons, Dick Spottswood, Henry Sapoznik, and David Giovannoni.

Also highlighted are two classical recordings: Richard Thompson’s The Mask in the Mirror – A Chamber Opera and Jamaican-born composer Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartets Nos. 1-3, performed by Ensemble Arcadiana.

This month’s jazz selections include Ramsey Lewis & the Urban Knights seventh album VII, the Chick Corea Trio’s Trilogy 2, and the Louisiana-based Lilli Lewis Project’s multi-genre album We Belong. Gospel releases include John P. Kee’s I Made It Out and a new compilation, Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels in the Band, featuring a 1950s gospel girl group that included a teenage Candi Staton.

Other new releases include rising Chicago blues musician Toronzo Cannon’s The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp, spoken word artist/poet Tenesha The Wordsmith’s Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts, the Brooklyn Funk Essentials’s Stay Good, and Vaneese Thomas’s Down Yonder. Wrapping up this issue is our list of September Black Music Releases of Note.

Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Stay Good

 

Title: Stay Good
Artist: Brooklyn Funk Essentials
Label: Dorado
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 20, 2019

 

Brooklyn Funk Essentials may not be based in Brooklyn anymore, but they sure haven’t given up on the funk. Founded over twenty years ago by Lars “Lati” Kronlund, BFE and its lineup have gone through many shifts over the years. Just before forming the band, Lati released the club anthem “Where Love Lives” with Alison Limerick. Now, for the band’s latest album, the creative relationship between Lati and Alison has been rekindled—with the addition of four other musicians—and BFE has given new life to the projects the duo was working on in the 90s. Continue reading

September 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during September 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.  Continue reading

The House Guests – My Mind Set Me Free

 

Title: My Mind Set Me Free
Artist: The House Guests
Label: Shake It
Formats: LP, Digital
Release date: August 23, 2019

 

The new compilation from Cincinnati’s Shake It Records, My Mind Set Me Free: The House Guests Meet the Complete Strangers & Bootsy, Phelps & Gary, features nine tracks from a collective of rhythm section instrumentalists and artists who briefly performed together as the House Guests in 1971, but are best known by other names. Initially formed as the Cincinnati-based R&B band, the Pacemakers, when performing with James Brown they became the Original JB’s. After they left Brown, the group toured as the House Guests until they were persuaded by George Clinton to form the new rhythm section for Funkadelic in 1972. Under Clinton, they helped lay the foundation for P-funk, fusing the music with “dimensions from cosmic jazz, fusion [and] acid rock.” Another side project included the group Complete Strangers, and a few years later, Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Collectively, the House Guests/Complete Strangers are considered some of pioneers and progenitors of the airtight polyrhythmic sound that is funk. Continue reading