Valvin “V” Roane – Image a Nation

 

Title: Image a Nation
Artist: Valvin “V” Roane
Label: BBE Music
Format: Digital  
Release date: October 2, 2020

 

Philadelphia R&B/soul singer, songwriter and producer Valvin “V” Roane is making his return with Image a Nation, his first full-length project with Barely Breaking Even (BBE Music) in 15 years. In collaboration with production partners Jontae Slade, Andre Capers and Yameen Allworld, V creates an album that colorfully illustrates the changes in the world around us through both the lyrical and melodic structures within the project.

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The Staple Singers – Let’s Do It Again

 

Title: Let’s Do It Again
Artist: The Staple Singers
Label: Omnivore
Formats: CD
Release date: June 5, 2020

 

In June, the reissue label Omnivore released four expanded editions of classic albums by the Staple Singers, including Family Tree (1977), produced by former Chi-lite Eugene Record; Unlock Your Mind (1978), produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett at Muscle Shoals; and Pass It On (1976), produced by Curtis Mayfield. The fourth release was another Curtis Mayfield production—the soundtrack to the 1975 film, Let’s Do It Again, which featured an all-star cast led by Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Ossie Davis and Jimmie Walker. Recorded three years after Mayfield’s critically acclaimed soundtrack for Superfly, Let’s Do It Again used many of the same personnel from his Curtom house band: Mayfield on lead guitar, Joseph “Lucky” Scott on bass, and Master Henry Gibson laying down the funky conga and bongo parts. The album represented the Staple Singers’ first post-Stax Records release, and features five songs and three instrumentals that Mayfield composed for the film.

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Maceo Parker – Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo

 

Title: Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo
Artist: Maceo Parker
Label: The Funk Garage
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 10, 2020

 

Saxophone legend Maceo Parker returns with his first album in eight years, Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo. Parker is best known for his work with the James Brown band and later with Parliament/Funkadelic. Although his solo recordings date back to the 1960s and 1970s, his current solo career really begins with the release of the Roots Revisited album in 1990.

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Chris Jasper – For the Love of You

 

Title: For the Love of You  
Artist: Chris Jasper 
Label: Gold City 
Formats: CD, MP3 
Release date: June 1, 2020 

 

Keyboardist, songwriter, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Chris Jasper has had a very extensive and successful career, recording 12 albums as a member of the Isley Brothers, in addition to 16 self-produced solo albums. Jasper has now taken a step back to reflect on some of the greatest compositions he wrote for the Isley Brothers from 1973-1983 in his most recent solo album, For the Love of You. This project is comprised of some of the group’s biggest hits, such as “I Once Had Your Love,” “Go For What You Know,” and the title track “For the Love of You,” a smooth and romantic rendition of the original mid-tempo track. The album also contains covers of R&B and pop classics including Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Can Change This Love,” Marvin Gaye’s “God Is Love,” Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately,” Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful,” and Diane Warren’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”  

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Summer 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during June, July and August 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

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Mourning [A] BLKstar – The Cycle

 

Title: The Cycle 
Artist: Mourning [A] BLKstar 
Label: Don Giovanni 
Formats: Limited ed. CD, LP, Digital 
Release date: May 5, 2020 

 

The Cleveland, Ohio-based funk and soul collective 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.” Boldly confronting themes of racism, oppression, and injustice, the group’s albums reflect the reality of living in a world that is all too frequently hostile to people of color. Their previous release, The Garner Poems (2018)was a eulogy to Eric Garner and the many other victims of police brutality past and present. M[A]B’s new double album, The Cycle, is yet another epic and thought-provoking addition to the group’s catalog. Set as an 18 movement song cycle featuring vocalists James Longs, Kyle Kidd and LaToya Kent, the group envisions the work as “a humble addition to the long legacy of James Baldwin’s adage of the artist as witness.” 

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May 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during May 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.  

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José James – No Beginning No End 2

 

Title: No Beginning No End 2  
Artist: José James  
Label: Rainbow Blonde  
Formats: CD, LP, Digital 
Release date: March 6, 2020  

 

José James’ No Beginning No End 2, a sequel to his 2013 Blue Note debut album, resurrects the eclecticism audiences first fell in love with. Back then, the singer-songwriter was transitioning from Verve Records to Blue Note, and the new release finds James shifting to his own Rainbow Blonde label. ”There’s this beautiful cycle that’s happening again,” James explains. “This essence of it is what I wanted to get back — the idea of courage, freedom, real quality music that’s made without boundaries but still had a cohesive quality. That’s what I did on the first (No Beginning No End), and this one feels the same way.” With No Beginning No End 2, James pays homage to a multitude of musicians who inspired him.   

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Omar – The Anthology

 

Title: The Anthology 
Artist: Omar 
Label: Freestyle 
Format: CD, Digital 
Release date: January 31, 2020 

 

London-born neo-soul singer Omar Lye-Fook MBE, known as the “Godfather of UK Soul,” has now been recording for 35 years. A musical prodigy, by the age of five he was learning to play the drums from his studio musician father and went on to study other percussion instruments as well as piano, trumpet and bass guitar, eventually matriculating at the Guildhall School of Music. Omar’s debut single, “Mr. Postman,” was released on his father’s Kongo label in 1985, and his debut album, There’s Nothing Like This, followed in 1990. From that point forward Omar’s career took off, and before long he was recognized not only as a uniquely talented singer and multi-instrumentalist fluent in multiple genres, but also as a composer, arranger, and producer. All of Omar’s talents are showcased on his new two-disc set, The Anthology, which includes hits from the past three decades along with a few lesser known and previously unreleased tracks. 

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Syleena Johnson – Woman

 

Title: Woman
Artist: Syleena Johnson
Label: eOne Music
Formats: Digital
Release Date: January 31, 2020

 

Singer-songwriter Syleena Johnson’s new album, Woman, is a timely, soulful ode to womanhood as well as a call to action wrapped in deep reflection. Opening with “Woman (intro),” Johnson positions this brief spoken introduction as a centering track that grounds listeners in the journey of empowerment they are about to embark on. Additionally, she guides us through each track with lyrics that illuminate the common threads of strength, resilience, and healing that tie women together.

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Various Artists – You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me (A Valentine’s Day Kiss Off)

 

Title: You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me (A Valentine’s Day Kiss Off)
Artist: Various
Label: Perpetual / EMG
Format: Digital
Release date: January 31, 2020

 

Not feeling the love this Valentine’s Day? Are you experiencing a relationship that has gone sour? Let the sisters set you free! You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me was compiled “to empower women to kiss off those men that don’t treat them with the utmost respect they deserve.” Featuring 15 classic soul tracks “performed by powerful women with powerful voices delivering a powerful message,” this album “serves as a scathing anti-Valentine’s Day card.” Included are songs such as ‘You’re the Dog (I Do the Barking Myself)” by Irma Thomas, “Lot More of Me Leaving (Less of Me Coming Home)” by Ruth Brown, and “Divorce Decree” by Doris Duke, plus gems by lesser known artists like “I’m Moving On” by Chyvonne Scott and “Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over)” by Ruby Andrews. All tracks have been newly re-mastered for this release.

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Devon Gilfillian – Black Hole Rainbow

 

Title: Black Hole Rainbow
Artist: Devon Gilfillian
Label: Capitol
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: January 10, 2020

 

A Philly-born musician who was weaned on his father’s vintage soul records, Devon Gilfillian is now a Nashville-based singer-songwriter and bandleader who is currently making waves on the touring circuit. Recently signed to Capitol Records, Gilfillian kicks off the New Year with the release of his debut album, Black Hole Rainbow. With inspirations from the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., and Wu-Tang Clan, Devon has created his own distillation of the soul sound, forming a collection of incredibly powerful and stirring tracks. Produced by Grammy award winner Shawn Everett, the album dissects the multiple levels of love and its effects on all parties involved. “The theme of the record is pulling yourself out of a dark place and learning how to love yourself, and getting back up and learning from your mistakes,” Gilfillian says. “It’s about falling in love, falling out of love, and then learning how to love yourself; picking yourself up and really figuring out what matters in your life, and to never stop hustling.” The tracks were recorded with a wide variety of gear, including vintage equipment and analog boards, resulting in an album with a daring collision of eras, styles, and genres. Continue reading

Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection

 

Title: Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection
Artist: Various
Label: Earwig
Formats: 4 CD Box Set
Release date: August 9, 2019

 

Produced by Earwig Music Company’s Michael Robert Frank, Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection is hands down one of the best box sets of the year. The beautifully produced hard cover book includes four CDs inserted into the front and back covers, while the lavishly illustrated inner pages tell the story of the Chicago based independent record company owned by Narvel Eatmon, a colorful character better known on the South Side as “Cadillac Baby.” Frank began this labor of love in 2006 when he purchased the entire catalog and archive of the Bea & Baby label, with the goal of sharing Cadillac Baby’s musical legacy with the rest of the world.  The result is this comprehensive anthology which includes all released and unreleased tracks (with a couple of exceptions), ranging from urban and country blues, gospel, doo-wop, soul, and comedy, to rap. Along the way, Cadillac narrates his own story through six spoken word tracks interspersed throughout the collection. Other “expert witnesses” from Chicago include Jim O’Neal (Living Blues magazine), Bill Dahl, and Robert M. Marovich (Journal of Gospel Music), who all contributed to the informative liner notes. Continue reading