Back To Now

Title: Back to Now
Artist: Labelle
Label: Verve
Catalog No. : 8001151-02
Release Date: October 21, 2008

The music industry seems to be interested in only one demographic,  the 15 to 25-year-old listener. What these listeners may not be aware of, is that singers like Kelis and Pink, and the girl groups TLC and Destiny’s Child, may have never existed if it weren’t for the groundbreaking powerhouse vocal group Labelle.

Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sara Dash began their career in 1961 as the trio Labelle. They have been transformative, starting out as a doo-wop girl group in the sixties and morphing into a psychedelic funk group in the seventies,  before embarking on their own solo projects in the eighties and nineties. Labelle has occasionally reunited for special events, however this new release is a landmark collaboration, and shows that these women can still make an outstanding record (click here for a video preview).

Producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Lenny Kravitz, and Wyclef Jean all lend their talents, showcasing the uniqueness Labelle has managed to maintain, including their ability to sing practically anything effortlessly while addressing issues such as racism, sexism and eroticism. Labelle’s strength has always been their ability to sing varied genres of music and Back to Now is no exception, delving into rock, soul, and funk.  Songs range from slow ballads to classic standards such as “Miss Otis Regrets.”  A stand out track is “Dear Rosa,” produced by Nona Hendryx, which is an ode to the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks.  “Rollout” embodies female empowerment through declarative statements like  ‘I’m not your superwoman,’ while “Superlover” evokes passion and sexual gratification, unashamedly.  “Tears for the World” laments the current state of the world and social neglect, bringing Africa, Asia, and tragedies like Hurricane Katrina into question, and wondering why we don’t answer.

Labelle has picked up from where they left off, creating timely music that empowers women and addresses socially oppressed communities, while retaining an edge in style and maintaining vocal harmonies and musical integrity.  If today’s music executives were truly interested in good music that contains meaningful lyrics, well-produced tracks, and beautifully blended harmonies, they would produce more CDs like this.

Posted by June Evans

Patti Labelle Live in Washington, D.C.

Title: Patti LaBelle Live in Washington, D.C.
Artist: Patti LaBelle
Label: Philadelphia International/Legacy
Catalog No.: 88697 29486 2
Release date: June 10, 2008

Patti LaBelle is a consummate performer who has delighted fans for over five decades with her incredible audible stylings, multi-octave vocal range and dynamic performitivity. This new release, Patti LaBelle Live in Washington, D.C., recorded during a 1982 promotional tour for her albumThe Spirit’s In It, captures her incredible, legendary performance while showcasing her ability to relate emotionally to her audience. The tapes of this concert languished in Gamble & Huff’s vault for nearly three decades, and are now being released for the first time.

LaBelle was first introduced as a member of the Bluebells in 1962. That same year they scored their first Top 40 pop hit with the doo-wop single, “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman.” It wasn’t until 1974 that Patti LaBelle revamped the group by re-naming them Labelle. They began to dress as space, rock, funk goddesses and sang about sex and politics; a feat no other female group had attempted. In 1975 the song “Lady Marmalade hit #1 on the Hot 100, becoming Labelle’s best selling single and putting them on the map. When Patti LaBelle went solo, she followed the same groundbreaking approach.

I have seen Patti LaBelle perform live many times, and she effortlessly connects with her audience through sheer, raw talent that is never presented as pretentious or pompous “grand diva” theatrics. She certainly engages her audience in this concert, performing fresh arrangements of her most well-known classics such as “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Lady Marmalade,” and “You Are My Friend” with storytelling that makes each performance unique and new. Production and musical qualities are exceptional. Unlike other live concert recordings, there are no edits or breaks that negatively affect the performance, which is allowed to flow seamlessly from beginning to end.

Though categorized as a soul/R&B singer, Patti has sung various genres of music, including rock, funk, gospel, and country. She always brings soul and emotion to her songs, and possesses the qualities of performance and showmanship necessary for longevity. Listening to Patti LaBelle Live in Washington D.C. is a wonderful experience. The album provides diehard fans of Patti LaBelle with new arrangements of classics and serves as a great introduction for the novice fan.

Posted by June Evans