Monday, August 31, 2015
|The Sensimat cushion|
Song:On The Ocean
Album:I Get Around
R & B singer songwriter Kelvin "K'Jon" Johnson had chart success with his 2009 single On The Ocean and CD I Get Around. Then he had record company problems and he's back to being an independent artist. K'Jon is from Detroit. His 2001 single My Shorty got local airplay. But it was enough for his song Miami to appear on the soundtrack of the 2003 film 2 Fast 2 Furious. He wrote and produced for others including Shareefa whose 2006 CD Point Of No Return was on Ludicris' label Disturbing Tha Peace. K'Jon released the 2007 CD The Ballroom Xplosion independently. It got him a deal with Universal Republic. The CD I Get Around was released in 2009. The single On The Ocean reached #12 on the R & B Singles chart. I Get Around topped the R & B Album chart and reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 200. So K'Jon was off to a good start. He recorded a second album Oxygen but Universal Republic didn't like it. And when the 2011 single Good Morning didn't catch on, they shelved the album and K'Jon was dropped. Since then, K'Jon released the 2012 CD Moving On through Shanachie and then the 2013 CD Man through CD Baby on his own label. So K'Jon is back where he started before his major label deal. He's a talented guy but it could be his future is more as a writer and producer than as a singer. Here's the video for On The Ocean by K'Jon.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
|Kim Ji Yeon, Takayo Hashi|
Song:Walkin' In The Rain With The One I Love
Album:The Best Of Love Unlimited
The girl group Love Unlimited are best known as the backup singers for legendary R & B crooner and maestro Barry White. But they also had chart success especially with this 1972 top 20 hit Walkin' In The Rain With The One I Love. This was a hit before White became famous. Love Unlimited was a family group with sisters Glodean and Linda James and cousin Diane Taylor. Glodean married White after she was introduced to him by a mutual friend. White started working with the girls who had no professional singing experience. Walkin' In The Rain With The One I Love was inspired by White's relationship with Glodean. And that's him on the record on the telephone. It was Barry White's first appearance on record. One of White's friends took the record to UNI Records head Russ Regan and he signed Love Unlimited. UNI was owned by MCA. Walkin' In The Rain With The One I Loved reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #6 on the R & B Singles chart. Not long after, Regan left UNI to become president of 20th Century Records. White's relationship with UNI soured. While trying to get Love Unlimited out of their contract, White recorded a couple of demos and he was convinced to take them to Regan. He signed with 20th Century and the rest is history. Eventually Love Unlimited recorded for 20th Century. The 1974 single I Belong To You topped the R & B Singles chart. Love Unlimited recorded occasionally but mostly they backed up White. You can get all their hits on this budget comp. Love Unlimited's final album was in 1979. And Glodean and White recorded a 1981 album together. Diane Taylor died in 1989. Glodean continued to appear on White's recordings until his 2003 death. Here's Love Unlimited performing Walkin' In The Rain With The One I Love on Soul Train 1972.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Song:The Devil Went Down To Georgia
Album:The Essential Charlie Daniels Band
The Devil Went Down To Georgia was the biggest hit and signature song for Charlie Daniels in 1979. Daniels started out as a session musician and became a solo artist in 1970. He was born Oct. 28, 1936 in Leland, NC. He learned to play the fiddle as a child and played in local bands as a teen. Then he had a an instrumental band called The Jaguars. They recorded a single in 1959 with producer Bob Johnson. A decade later when Johnson became a Columbia Records house producer working with Bob Dylan, Daniels was brought to Nashville to play on Dylan's album Nashville Skyline. He also toured with Leonard Cohen. Daniels first recorded solo in 1970 on Capitol. But then he formed The Charlie Daniels Band heavily influenced by the Southern Rock of The Allman Brothers Band but also heavily influenced by country and bluegrass. Other band members were Don Murray on guitar, Joe DiGregorio on keyboards, Charlie Hayward on bass and James Marshall on drums. They signed with Kama Sutra Records and scored a top ten pop hit with Uneasy Rider in 1973. The 1974 album Fire On The Mountain was certified Platinum. The band moved to Epic Records in 1975. And though they continued to have success as a touring draw and album act, they just couldn't seem to get that big hit single until The Devil Went Down To Georgia in 1979. The song topped the country music chart and it reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album Million Mile Reflections was certified 3XPlatinum. The lyrics are a morality play similar to The Devil and Daniel Webster. The melody is based on an old Vassar Clements song Lonesome Fiddle Blues. Legendary fiddler Clements was a big influence on Daniels. The song was featured in the 1980 film Urban Cowboy. Daniels said to choreographer Patsy Swayze "How fast can you dance it?" and her response was "How fast can you play it?". Though Daniels has never had another big hit, he continues to record and tour regularly. This budget comp is a good intro to his music. He is currently on tour and he released a Bob Dylan tribute CD last year. Here's The Charlie Daniels Band performing The Devil Went Down To Georgia on The Midnight Special 1979.
Friday, August 28, 2015
Song:The Happy Organ
Album:The Cruisin' Story 1959
Dave "Baby" Cortez topped the charts in 1959 with the instrumental classic The Happy Organ. A few of his other songs charted but this was his biggest hit. He was born David Cortez Clowney Aug. 13, 1938 in Detroit. His father played piano and he encouraged Cortez to play. In 1956 he released a single as David Clowney and he was also a member of The Pearls. Then he signed with Clock Records. The story goes that Cortez was supposed to record a vocal track but he lost his voice. So instead he played an organ riff clearly based on the song Shortnin' Bread. They came up with this in the studio and the title of the song came later. Cortez wrote The Happy Organ with James Kriegsmann who was famous for his photographs of black celebrities. But he also wrote a few songs. The guitar solo is by legendary session musician Wild Jimmy Spruill who also played on Wilbert Harrison's Kansas City. The Happy Organ topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. At the time, Cortez was touring with Little Anthony & The Imperials. Clock licensed The Happy Organ to RCA for national distribution. After a couple more singles and an album, Cortez left Clock for Chess and scored a top ten hit with Rinky Dink in 1962. The problem is you can't get both hits on the same CD because they are on different labels. So I suggest this 2CD various artists budget comp from the British label One Day Music. In the 60s, Cortez recorded for Roulette and in the 70s for The Isley Brothers' label T-Neck and All Platinum. In 2011, Cortez recorded his first album in years with veteran sax player Lonnie Youngblood. Here's a video for The Happy Organ by Dave "Baby" Cortez.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
The Fleetwood Mac most music fans are familiar with is much different than the original blues rock band led by guitarist Peter Green that they probably should have changed the band name. But they didn't change the name and the 1977 album Rumours was one of the biggest selling albums in history. After Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1970, there was a five year period of aimlessness. In the early 70s, Bob Welch attempted to revive the band but was ultimately unsuccessful. The band's manager even made plans to tour a fake Fleetwood Mac in 1974 but he abandoned the plan after one show. Welch finally left Fleetwood Mac in 1975 to go solo. Mick Fleetwood started looking for a replacement. Recording engineer Keith Olsen played Fleetwood a song from the album Buckingham Nicks and then Fleetwood was introduced to Lindsey Buckingham. Buckingham agreed to join Fleetwood Mac on the condition that his musical partner and girlfriend Stevie Nicks comes with him. Fleetwood agreed to this. The 1975 album Fleetwood Mac was a huge success with hits like Rhiannon. The album was certified 5XPlatinum. While recording the 1977 album Rumours, John and Christine McVie were divorcing and Buckingham and Nicks were having problems too. Those problems fed the songs on Rumours. The album was certified 12XPlatinum. Dreams which was written and sung by Nicks was Fleetwood Mac's first number one pop hit. Don't Stop was written by Christine McVie about her divorce and sung by Christine and Buckingham. It reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Today the song is best known for it's use in Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. He was even able to get Fleetwood Mac to reform to perform Don't Stop live. The original album Rumours is available as a budget CD. But last year Warner Bros. released a 3CD enhanced version with all kinds of extras. Their success continued until Buckingham and Nicks left in 1987. In recent years they have reformed to tour. Buckingham says that after their current tour and a new album, they may disband for good. We'll see about that. Here's Fleetwood Mac performing Don't Stop 1977.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Song:Moonlight In Vermont
Album:The Bespoke Man's Narrative
Aaron Diehl is an outstanding young jazz pianist. The Bespoke Man's Narrative was his 2013 major label debut. He was born Sept. 22, 1985 in Columbus, OH. His grandfather was local jazz pianist Arthur Baskerville. Diehl began classical piano lessons at age seven. He attended the Interlochen Summer Camp where he met Russian jazz piano prodigy Eldar Djangirov who got Diehl to listen to Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum. As a teen, Diehl performed with the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra. He was a finalist in the 2002 Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington competition. Then he toured with Wynton Marsalis while studying at Juilliard with Kenny Barron and Eric Reed. After releasing a couple of CDs independently, he appeared on the 2013 debut CD by singer Cecile McLorin Salvant. Diehl signed with Mack Avenue Records and the Bespoke Man's Narrative was released in 2013. Musicians are Warren Wolf on vibes, David Wong on bass and Rodney Green on drums. Moonlight In Vermont is a jazz standard written by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf and popularized by Margaret Whiting in 1944. Diehl's new CD Space Time Continuum was released in June and features a guest appearance by sax legend Benny Golson. Diehl is currently on tour and he's worth checking out if he's coming your way. Here's Aaron Diehl performing Moonlight In Vermont at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola in New York City 2011.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Album:It's A Good Day
Cyrille Aimee is a French jazz singer who had success on the jazz charts with her Mack Avenue Records debut CD It's A Good Day. She was born 1984 in Fountainbleu, France. She got interested in jazz after attending a local Django Reinhardt festival. After graduating high school, she moved to New York City to study jazz composition at SUNY Purchase. She also got a weekly gig at a local club. After graduating in 2007, she won the International Vocal Competition at the 2007 Montreux Jazz Festival. She released her debut CD on her own label in 2009. She also recorded a couple of albums with guitarist Diego Figuereido and a 2010 live CD featuring trumpeter Roy Hargrove. She was also a finalist in the 2010 Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition and she won the 2012 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition. This led to a deal with Mack Avenue Records and her 2014 CD It's A Good Day. The album is mostly jazz standards though Cyrille wrote Nuit Blanche. Her band is led by guitarist and arranger Michael Valeanu along with her usual band of bassist Sam Anning and drummer Rajiv Jayaweera. Guests are guitarists Adrien Moignard and Guilherme Monteiro. The album did very well on the Jazz Album chart. Cyrille will be on tour with her band in September and then she is touring Europe. She also likes to experiment singing with a loop box to give her music a bigger sound. I could see her recording a full album using that technology. Jazz vocal fans should check out Cyrille Aimee. Here's Cyrille Aimee performing Nuit Blanche on the French TV network TV5's Les Talents Acoustic 2011.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Here's the video for Valerie Letourneau vs Maryna Moroz from last night's UFC show in Saskatoon. Valerie is a veteran fighter from Montreal who has fought mostly at a heavier weight but is trying 115. She trains now at American Top Team in Florida. Maryna is from the Ukraine and trains with her boxer husband. In her UFC debut, she beat Joanne Calderwood with an armbar from bottom position. She has won several fights using this move. So what happens if she can't get an armbar from the bottom. Because you can be sure that Valerie's trainers at ATT scouted this. In round one, Maryna is quicker but Valerie is bigger. Both are landing punches and neither has KO power. Maryna kicks but she isn't very good at it. Valerie drops her with a punch and then jumps on her. Of course Valerie needs to be conservative because of Maryna's rep of hooking an armbar from bottom position. So for Valerie this becomes a lay and pray strategy and sometimes that can work if the ref is lenient which Yves Lavigne was in this fight. Maryna was still going after the arm. But at some point she needed to get out of there because she's losing the round. Then they get tangled up and neither could do anything. I don't know why Lavigne didn't stand them up then. Valerie wins round one 10-9. Round two is mostly even but Maryna hurts Valerie with a punch with about a minute left in the round. So what does Maryna do? She goes for a flying armbar. Are you kidding me? Of course when that failed it let Valerie off the hook. Maybe if Maryna followed up with more strikes, she could have finished. That's just terrible strategy. I gave Maryna round two 10-9. In round three, Valerie knocked her down and sat on her again. She was just stalling knowing if she held Maryna down, she gets the win. Again I don't know why Lavigne didn't stand them up. He never even warned Valerie. Maryna tries for a kimura and then a triangle choke but she's still losing because she's on the bottom. When she starts making progress with the triangle, Valerie gets out of there. I scored the fight 29-28 for Valerie. The judges scored it 29-28, 29-28, 30-27. Maryna needs to learn that when your usual strategy doesn't work, you need to adjust. She didn't do that. Valerie has trouble making 115. She missed weight on the first pass. A lot of fighters use IV fluids to rehydrate after a tough cut. As of Oct. 1, the UFC won't allow fighters to use IVs anymore. Valerie is one of several fighters who may be forced to move up in weight because of that. Enjoy the video!
Song:On Our Own
Bobby Brown was probably the most successful R & B artist of the late 80s. On Our Own was one of his biggest hits in 1989. Today Brown is best known for his turbulent personal life. He was born Feb. 5, 1969 in Boston. He formed New Edition with Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell and Ralph Tresvant. They won a record contract with Maurice Starr in a 1982 talent contest. He had a distribution deal with MCA Records. Of course New Edition was very successful. But Brown didn't think he was getting enough money and that their management didn't care about them. As chronicled on VH1's Behind The Music, Brown was voted out of New Edition in 1986. So then he signed a solo deal with MCA. His 1986 debut CD King Of Stage didn't do well. And though the single Girlfriend topped the R & B chart, it didn't cross over to pop. His 1988 CD Don't Be Cruel was Brown's big breakthrough. The big difference was working with producers LA Reid and Babyface. His biggest hit from this album was My Prerogative which Brown wrote and produced with Teddy Riley associate Gene Griffin. It topped the Billboard Hot 100. Roni and Every Little Step were top five hits. Don't Be Cruel was certified 7XPlatinum. On Our Own was from the soundtrack of the 1989 film Ghostbusters II. it reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written and produced by Reid and Babyface. Brown wouldn't record again until the 1992 CD Bobby. Humpin' Around was his final top five pop hit. He married Whitney Houston in 1992. Because Brown's music career faded in the mid-90s and his personal life has been so notorious, I think a lot of folks have forgotten how big he was. You can get all his hits on this budget comp. Brown reunited with New Edition in 1996 and his next solo CD was released in 1997. Of course with Brown's bad behaviour including jail time for a DUI and the death of wife Whitney Houston and then daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, it is unlikely that Brown will ever be able to revive his music career. He was a big star in the late 80s but think about how big he could have been. He has been touring with New Edition. Here's the video for On Our Own by Bobby Brown. See if you can spot all the guest cameos in the video.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Mexican composer and arranger Juan Garcia Esquivel recorded experimental instrumental music in the late 50s and early 60s. Not much notice was taken at the time but he underwent a revival in the 90s as the creator of Lounge Music called Space Age Pop. He is known as The King Of Space Age Pop. He was born Jan. 20, 1918 in Tampico, Mexico. His family moved to Mexico City in 1928. Esquivel was a self taught musician. He appeared on radio in the 30s and he formed his own band in 1940. He started recording in the early 50s and after releasing one of his Mexican albums in the US, RCA brought Esquivel to Los Angeles in 1958. Esquivel's music might seem at first to be similar to someone like Ray Conniff. But Esquivel liked to use odd instruments like the theremin, chinese bells and he also liked to experiment with mixing. Remember in those days, stereo was new and record companies frequently released albums to highlight the use of stereo. Harlem Nocturne is from the 1960 album Infinity In Sound Vol. 1. It was produced by veteran RCA house producer Neely Plumb. He was the father of Eve Plumb of The Brady Bunch. Harlem Nocturne is a jazz standard written by film and TV composer Earle Hagen as a tribute to Duke Ellington. Earl Bostic probably had the most success with that song. This comp is a good intro to Esquivel's music. Esquivel left RCA for Reprise in 1962. Frank Sinatra was a huge Esquivel fan and Esquivel opened for Sinatra in Las Vegas in 1964. By the late 60s, Esquivel moved back to Mexico to live in obscurity. But a 1995 interview led to a revival of his music. So he was a celebrity again as the inventor of Space Age Pop. I guess everything old is new again. Esquivel suffered a couple of strokes and he died on Jan. 3, 2002 at age 83. Here's a video for Harlem Nocturne by Esquivel!.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Album:Ultra-Lounge Vol. 2: Mambo Fever
Latin music has changed over the years. Back in the 50s, it was sold mostly as dance music. Today there is still a cult market for it as kitschy lounge music. Don Swan recorded a few albums in the late 50s and then retired from music in the 60s. He was born Wilbur Schwandt June 28, 1904 in Manitowoc, WI. Schwandt's claim to fame was as co-writer of the pop music standard Dream A Little Dream Of Me with Fabian Andre and Gus Kahn. It was first recorded in 1931 by Ozzie Nelson. The best known version was recorded by Mama Cass in 1968. In the 30s, Schwandt was an arranger for various big bands and toured with Bob Hope. He joined Xavier Cugat's orchestra in 1940 and was his arranger for the next 20 years. This was Schwandt's background in Latin music. He also was an arranger for Perez Prado, Desi Arnaz and Freddie Martin. In 1956, Schwandt signed with Liberty Records and recorded five albums of Latin Dance music as Don Swan. Tico Tico is from his 1960 album Latino Vol. 2. This was Schwandt's final album for Liberty. Tico Tico is a Brazilian song that was popularized by Carmen Miranda in the 1947 film Copacabana and it was also a hit single for organist Ethel Smith in 1945. Today this kind of music has a cult following as retro kitsch. Capitol has released the CD series Ultra-Lounge. Mambo Fever includes a couple of Don Swan recordings along with other similar artists. Wilbur Schwandt retired from music in the mid-60s and he moved to Florida. He died on July 23, 1998 at age 94. Here's a video for Tico Tico by Don Swan & His Orchestra.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Song:First Tune Of The Set
Album:The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion
Though trumpeter Randy Brecker is best known for his long time partnership with sax player brother Michael Brecker, Randy has always had a separate solo career. This 2013 CD is billed as a Brecker Brothers Band reunion which it is in spirit. He was born Nov. 27, 1945 in the Philadelphia suburb of Cheltenham, PA. He is the older brother of the late tenor sax legend Michael Brecker. After studying at Indiana University, he moved to New York City in 1966 and played with Clark Terry, Duke Pearson and The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Brecker was a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears. He appeared on their 1967 debut album Child Is The Father To The Man. He left when Al Kooper was kicked out of the band and joined Horace Silver's band which is where he met drummer Billy Cobham. Brecker recorded his solo debut album Solid in 1969 which was Michael Brecker's recording debut. Then he formed Dreams with Michael, Cobham, guitarist John Abercrombie, and the songwriting team of Jeff Kent and Doug Lubahn. Dreams was supposed to be a more jazz influenced jazz rock band. They recorded two albums for Columbia and fell apart after Cobham left to join The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Then Brecker formed The Eleventh House with guitarist Larry Coryell and pianist Mike Mandel. He left after one album to join Cobham's new band. At the same time, Randy and Michael were doing plenty of session work. They finally formed The Brecker Brothers Band in 1975 and they recorded several popular albums for Arista Records. When they disbanded in 1982, Randy met and married Brazilian singer and pianist Eliane Elias and they recorded and toured through the 80s. Their daughter Amanda Brecker is a singer and frequently tours with her mom. The Brecker Brothers reformed in the 90s and Randy won a Grammy for his 1995 CD Into The Sun. After Michael's 2007 death, Randy decided to form a Brecker Brothers Reunion Band which is what this 2013 CD/DVD set is called. To be fair, I think it's more of a tribute than a reunion. The sax player is Randy's wife Ada Rovatti. Keyboard player George Whitty produced the CD. Other band members include Mike Stern on guitar, Oli Rockberger on keyboards, Will Lee on bass and Dave Weckl on drums. The music is what one would expect from these Jazz Fusion veterans. Despite recent prostate surgery, Randy Brecker continues to tour. He does a lot of guest appearances with local bands. He just released a 1976 live Brecker Brothers CD. That's around when I saw them live at the Queensbury Arms in Toronto. Here's Randy Brecker and the Brecker Brothers Reunion Band performing First Tune Of The Set at the Blue Note in New York City 2013.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Song:All I Want Is Forever
Most music fans should know James "J.T." Taylor as the lead singer of Kool and the Gang in the 80s. He had some solo success after he left them in 1988. All I Want Is Forever is his biggest solo hit. He was born Aug. 16, 1953 in Laurens, SC. and he grew up singing in church. He sang in local clubs and was a teacher before joining Kool and the Gang in 1979. Kool and the Gang were already successful in the 70s. But group leaders Robert and Ronnie Bell felt they needed a stronger lead singer to cross over from R & B to pop. Taylor sang lead on all the big Kool and the Gang hits from the 80s including Ladies Night and Celebration. Taylor left Kool and the Gang in 1988 and signed with MCA Records. He wrote and produced most of the songs on his 1988 debut CD Master of the Game. All I Want Is Forever isn't on that album. It's on the soundtrack for the 1989 Gregory Hines film Tap. All I Want Is Forever is a duet with Regina Belle who was popular at the time. The song was written by Diane Warren and the record was produced by Narada Michael Walden. Veteran session musician Chris Camozzi played the guitar solo. The record reached #2 on the R & B Singles chart. Taylor recorded three albums for MCA and All I Want Is Forever was his biggest hit. You can get it on this Hip-O comp which also contains his Kool and the Gang hits. Taylor appeared on the 1996 Kool and the Gang album State of Affairs and he released a solo album in 2000. Here's the video for All I Want Is Forever by J.T. Taylor featuring Regina Belle.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Song:Hard To Handle
Album:Greatest Hits 1990-1999: A Tribute To A Work In Progress...
The Southern rock group The Black Crowes had success in the early 90s with hits like Hard To Handle. They were a very successful album and touring act. Lead singer Chris Robinson and guitarist brother Rich Robinson are from Marietta, GA. Their dad Stan Robinson had a minor hit with Boom-A-Dip-Dip in 1959. They formed the band Mr. Crowe's Garden in 1984 while still in high school. The band name was from the children's book Johnny Crowe's Garden. They were discovered in 1988 by producer George Drakoulias and he signed them to Def American Recordings. He probably was responsible for the band name change to The Black Crowes. When they released their debut CD Shake Your Money Maker in 1990, the other band members were Jeff Cease on guitar, Johnny Colt on bass and Steve Gorman on drums. Chuck Leavell of The Allman Brothers Band played keyboards on the album and The Black Crowes soon added a permanent keyboard player. The Robinson brothers wrote most of the songs on the album, their biggest hit single was a cover of the 1968 Otis Redding classic Hard To Handle which reached #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. Shake Your Money Maker was certified 5XPlatinum so that's where their real success lied. The Black Crowes had success with their next couple of albums and faded in the late 90s. You can get all of their 90s hits on this budget comp. The Black Crowes toured with Jimmy Page in 1999. Chris Robinson married actress Kate Hudson in 2000. They moved to V2 Records in 2001 and released one album. Then they went on hiatus. Chris Robinson released an album with his new band New Earth Mud. Rich Robinson formed Hookah Brown but the band split up before they could record. The Black Crowes reformed in 2005. Except for the Robinson brothers, it was an all new band including guitarist Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All Stars. He was on the 2008 CD Warpaint. They went on hiatus again in 2010 and reformed in 2012 mostly to tour. They did release a live CD in 2013. Another tour was planned for 2015 but the Robinson brothers got into an argument over ownership of the band and The Black Crowes split up for good in Jan. 2015. Chris Robinson has plans to record and tour with his band Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Rich Robinson is working on a solo album. Here's the video for Hard To Handle by The Black Crowes.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Album:The Very Best Of Spyro Gyra
Spyro Gyra are pioneers in what is known today as Smooth Jazz. Of course it wasn't called that when Morning Dance was a crossover hit in 1978. Of course Jazz Fusion as popularized in the early 70s by acts like Weather Report is what Spyro Gyra leader Jay Beckenstein had in mind when the group was formed in 1976. Beckenstein was from Long Island but attended college in Buffalo. In high school, he played sax in clubs with keyboard player Jeremy Wall. In the mid 70s, they played Buffalo clubs mostly playing instrumental covers. Eventually a band was formed. The name Spyro Gyra is a biology term Beckenstein wrote about in college. Wall left Spyro Gyra after Beckenstein's other high school buddy Tom Schuman joined the band. They released an album independently in 1977 featuring guest Dave Samuels on vibes. It attracted interest from the local label Amherst Records and they released the 1979 album Morning Dance. The big surprise was when the single Morning Dance reached #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Adult Contemporary chart. The song featured a steel drum solo by Dave Samuels. Other guests included John Tropea on guitar, Randy Brecker on trumpet and Michael Brecker on tenor sax. Amherst sold Spyro Gyra's contract to MCA and Spyro Gyra recorded for MCA and GRP for many years. Many guys have bounced in and out of the band. But Beckenstein is the one constant. Schuman is still in the group as well. This comp was released on Verve in 2002. It includes a live version of Morning Dance. Spyro Gyra is much better live than in the studio. They still tour. They left GRP for Telarc in 1998 and since Telarc closed, they have released a couple of CDs independently, most recently in 2013. Here's Spyro Gyra performing Morning Dance at the 1991 Newport Jazz Festival.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Album:Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration
Here is a very ambitious project that is a gospel, soul and jazz interpretation of Handel's Messiah. It did well on the gospel and R & B charts in 1992. The best known song from this album was an interpretation of the Hallelujah Chorus by an all star choir conducted by Quincy Jones. The recording has turned up on Christmas CDs but the album itself is not a Christmas album. The man behind this album is producer Mervyn Warren. Gospel fans should know him as a member of the very successful 80s a capella group Take 6. After leaving Take 6 in 1991, Warren got into production. He was asked by the Warner Bros. owned gospel label Warner Alliance to produce a gospel interpretation of Handel's Messiah. They decided to go the all star route. Artists appearing on the album include Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Daryl Coley, Chris Willis, Dianne Reeves, Patti Austin, Tramaine Hawkins, Howard Hewett, Stevie Wonder, Take 6, Sounds Of Blackness, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Leaders of the New School, The Richard Smallwood Singers, The Yellowjackets, Commissioned, The Clark Sisters, Al Jarreau and Tevin Campbell. Warren produced most of the tracks. The album ends with an all star choir singing Hallelujah Chorus conducted by Warren and Jones. The choir has no name so I have named them after the album. When you watch the video, I'm sure you will recognize some people but here's who was in the choir. First, the solo at the end of the song is by veteran gospel singer Daryl Coley. Others in the choir are Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Patti Austin, Bernie K., Commissioned, Andrae Crouch, Sandra Crouch, Clifton Davis, Charles S. Dutton, Kim Fields, Larnelle Harris, Edwin Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Linda Hopkins, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Lizz Lee, Dawnn Lewis, Babbie Mason, Johnny Mathis, Marilyn McCoo, Mike E., Stephanie Mills, Jeffrey Osborne, David Pack, Phylicia Rashad, Joe Sample, Richard Smallwood, Sounds of Blackness, Take 6, Darryl Tookes, Norman Whitfield, Vanessa Williams and Chris Willis. The album did very well on the gospel and R & B charts and it is available as a budget CD. Not long after this, Mervyn Warren moved to Los Angeles to write and produce songs for the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit. He continues to work in film and TV including the 2012 film Joyful Noise. Here's the video for Hallelujah Chorus by A Soulful Celebration.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Satin Sheets was the only number one country music hit for Jeanne Pruett in 1973. It also crossed over to pop. Jeanne had country music success in the 70s and then retired in the 80s. She was born Norma Jean Bowman Jan. 30, 1937 in Pell City, AL. She grew up as a country music fan and sang in high school. At age 19, she married guitarist Jack Pruett and they moved to Nashville. He worked for Marty Robbins and Jeanne worked as a secretary at Robbins' publishing company. Robbins recorded a few of Jeanne's songs and she recorded for RCA in the 60s with little success. Then Jeanne signed with Decca Records in 1969. After a couple of her singles charted, Jeanne struck gold when Satin Sheets topped the country music charts and reached #28 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was a traditional country record recorded at a time when country music was leaning in a more pop direction. The record was produced by veteran steel guitarist Warren Haynes. Satin Sheets was written by John Volinkaty who came up with the idea for Satin Sheets while grocery shopping near his home in Minneapolis. He wrote the song in 30 minutes and then it took three years to get someone to listen to it. It was Volinkaty's only hit song. Jeanne had a few more chart hits but Satin Sheets was her biggest hit. When record sales fell off, Jeanne retired to raise her family in 1985. Varese Records released a really good Jeanne Pruett comp in 1998. Unfortunately it's out of print and this budget CD released in 1991 is too short. But Universal needs to get a better Jeanne Pruett comp out there. They have chosen to license her music instead of releasing a CD themselves. Apparently Jeanne is a great cook. She hosted a cooking show on TNN in the 80s and has written several cookbooks. Jeanne performed occasionally usually on The Grand Ole Opry until she retired in 2006. She still manages her own publishing company. Here's Jeanne Pruett performing Satin Sheets on That Good Ole Nashville Music 1973.
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Song:You're The One For Me
Album:The Best Of D Train
The R & B duo D Train has success in the early 80s mostly on the dance charts. You're The One For Me was their biggest hit in 1982. James "D Train" Williams and Hubert Eaves III met at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, NY. Williams was 15 years old when he recorded a gospel album with Rev. Timothy Wright. The nickname D Train was from his high school football days. Eaves became a session musician and he was a member of Mtume from 1977-1980. At that point, he formed D Train with Williams. Williams was the lead singer and Eaves did everything else. They signed with Prelude Records. Prelude was a division of the British label Pye Records. They were mostly a disco label with hits by France Joli and Musique (In The Bush). In 1982, You're The One For Me topped the dance charts and it reached #13 on the R & B Singles chart. Disco had faded by this time and Williams' vocals had a much harder edge than the disco music of the late 70s. You're The One For Me was a worldwide dance music hit. D Train recorded three albums for Prelude and then Prelude closed in 1986. Their catalog is owned by the Canadian label Unidisc and they have released this comp CD. That was the end of D Train but Williams and Eaves continued to work together when Williams recorded two albums for Columbia as James "D Train" Williams. After that, Williams became a session and jingle singer and he's been doing that for years. Eaves is still a studio musician and producer frequently working with his son Hubert Eaves IV who is a drummer. Williams released an album in 2009. And there is talk that Williams and Eaves are working on a new D Train album. I don't know if that's true. Here's D Train performing You're The One For Me on Top Of The Pops 1985.
Friday, August 14, 2015
Song:How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong
Album:How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong
Blues harmonica player James Cotton started out as a sideman in the 50s and became a leader in the late 60s. His recordings from the 70s on Buddah Records are probably his most popular. And the great thing is he's still touring today. He was born July 1, 1935 in Tunica, MS. Cotton heard Sonny Boy Williamson II on the radio and he went to Arkansas to meet him. When Williamson moved north to Milwaukee, he left his band to Cotton. That didn't work out so Cotton moved to Chicago to play with Howlin' Wolf and then he replaced Little Walter in the Muddy Waters band in 1955. He was in the Waters band for ten years. Cotton formed his own band and played shows when he wasn't touring with Janis Joplin. In the late 60s, Cotton recorded for Verve, Vanguard and Capitol. Then he signed with Buddah Records and in 1974 he released 100% Cotton. This is considered to be one of Cotton's best albums. The key figure on this album is legendary guitarist Matt "Guitar" Murphy who was best known for his work with Memphis Slim. Murphy was mainly a sideman and session musician. He's always a treat to listen to. The other musicians were Charles Calmese on bass and Kenny Johnson on drums. This was followed by the 1975 album High Energy and then the 1976 live album Live & On The Move. The band on this is the same as 100% Cotton along with Mike Zaitchik on keyboards and George Gregory on sax. These two classic James Cotton albums have been repackaged on CD in 2011 by Blues Boulevard as How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong. Cotton currently records for Alligator Records. His latest CD Cotton Mouth Man was released in 2013. He also continues to tour and you should check him out if he's coming your way. James Cotton was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2006. Here's James Cotton with Douglas Fagan on sax, Eddie Hawrysch on piano, Michael Coleman on guitar, Herman Applewhite on bass and Merle Perkins on drums performing How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong at the 1983 Montreux Jazz Festival.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Song:Finally Got Myself Together (I'm A Changed Man)
Most music fans should be familiar with The Impressions from 60s classics like People Get Ready. But you may not be aware that The Impressions continued after Curtis Mayfield left to go solo in the early 70s. Finally Got Myself Together was their biggest hit of this period in 1974. Mayfield left The Impressions after the success of Superfly in 1970. Remaining members Fred Cash and Sam Gooden decided to continue The Impressions and the group continued to record for Mayfield's label Curtom. The first singer they hired was Leroy Hutson. He was a member of The Mayfield Singers when he attended Howard University. So Mayfield knew him. He was a member of The Impressions from 1971 to 1973. It just didn't work out and Hutson left to go solo with hits like Feel The Spirit in 1976. He was replaced by Ralph Johnson and Reggie Torian. The other key figure during this period was producer Ed Townsend. In 1958, Townsend scored a hit single with For Your Love. But he was mainly a writer and producer who wrote Let's Get It On for Marvin Gaye. Townsend wrote and produced four songs on the 1974 album Finally Got Myself Together including Finally Got Myself Together (I'm A Changed Man). The single topped the R & B chart and reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Townsend also worked on the 1975 album First Impressions and the 1976 album Loving Power. The singles Sooner Or Later and Same Thing It Took were R & B hits. Then The Impressions left Curtom for Cotillion and then 20th Century. Johnson was replaced by Nate Evans and then Torian left in 1979. This budget comp mostly covers the Mayfield years but Finally Got Myself Together is also on the CD. The Impressions are still touring featuring original members Gooden, Cash along with Torian. They released the single Rhythm! in 2013 on Daptone Records. Here are The Impressions performing Finally Got Myself Together (I'm A Changed Man) on Soul Train 1974.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
The Neo Soul group Jacksoul had success in their native Canada. I don't think their music was ever released in the US. Their biggest hit was Can't Stop in 2000. The lead singer of Jacksoul was Haydain Neale. He was born Sept. 3, 1970 in Hamilton, ON. He formed Jacksoul in 1995 with guitarist Justin Abedin, bassist Dave Murray, keyboard player Brett Setterington, sax player Adam Leo and drummer Roger Travassos. The other key figure was Philosopher Kings keyboard player Jon Levine who was their producer. They released the CD Absolute independently in 1996 and it caused enough buzz that Jacksoul signed with the RCA Canada label Vik Records. The CD Sleepless was released in 2000 and Can't Stop reached #8 on the Canadian Singles chart. The album won a Best R & B/Soul Recording Juno Award. Levine wrote Can't Stop. Jacksoul released a couple more albums but only in Canada. Because of Canadian content requirements, they were guaranteed airplay on radio and on MuchMusic. The US is a larger market but also a more competitive black music market. In Canada, Jacksoul was a big fish in a small pond. Maybe Neale didn't think they could break the US market. On Aug. 3, 2007, Neale was seriously injured when a car hit his scooter in Toronto's east end. He was in a coma but by Jan. 2008, he was starting to record again. Sadly, Neale, a non smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on Nov. 22, 2009 at age 39. It's too bad because he was a talented guy. You can get all of Jacksoul's hits on this comp released by Sony Music Canada last year. Here's the video for Can't Stop by Jacksoul.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Song:The Pink Panther Theme
Album:Midnight, Moonlight & Magic: The Very Best Of Henry Mancini
Though it was not his biggest chart hit, Henry Mancini's theme from the 1964 film The Pink Panther is probably his most durable and memorable song. After RCA Records botched the release of Mancini's theme from the TV show Peter Gunn, they had more confidence in Mancini's movie and TV themes and they got better chart and record sales results. Mancini may have been the first film composer to be considered marketable as a recording artist. Mancini's hit singles in the early 60s included the theme from the TV show Mr. Lucky, Moon River from Breakfast At Tiffany's, Baby Elephant Walk from Hatari! and The Days Of Wine And Roses. That brings us to The Pink Panther. Mancini had much of his success working with director Blake Edwards starting with Peter Gunn. Edwards hired legendary Looney Tunes animation director Friz Freleng to design an animated Pink Panther for the opening titles. Mancini took his cues from Freleng's design and came up with a jazz influenced theme featuring sax player Plas Johnson. Johnson was a Los Angeles session musician and a member of The Wrecking Crew studio musician group. I'm sure you have heard Johnson on many recordings but The Pink Panther is his most memorable performance. Of course The Pink Panther was a very successful film and spawned sequels and remakes all using Mancini's original theme. The single charted. The soundtrack album was a big seller and Mancini won three Grammys. And Freleng and partner David DePatie turned The Pink Panther into an animated TV series. The song is still popular today as a ringtone. You can get The Pink Panther Theme on this budget comp. Here's Henry Mancini with The Terry Gibbs Band featuring Plas Johnson performing The Pink Panther Theme on The Steve Allen Show 1984.