Love Notes For the slow jam lover in all of us. <![CDATA[Etta James Quick Tip by djevoke]]>
]]> Fri, 20 Jan 2012 17:25:19 +0000
<![CDATA[Justin Timberlake Quick Tip by BaronSamedi3]]> Wed, 4 Jan 2012 23:37:46 +0000 <![CDATA[ Fade to Black]]>
Anyway. It's easy to forget that a lot of musical groundbreakers were novelty pop acts themselves. The Beatles were written off by older folks at first. Prince is unquestionably pop. Freaking Michael Jackson was called the King of Pop! Too many N' Syncs and Britney Spears have left us jaded, so it can be hard to perk up whenever someone who sounds like the real deal does come along.

Amy Winehouse was real. An important matter in deciding whether or not an act is real is if they write their own songs, and Winehouse wrote all ten of the songs on Back to Black. She only had a helping hand in writing one of the songs, "Tears Dry on Their Own." Winehouse's voice is a bit of a throwback to a great jazz age singer, and it's tough to not imagine her belting out like Etta James. Her music is an eclectic form fusion of blues, jazz, and soul, but since that's a bit of a mouthful to place on record store labels, we usually just condense it down to a single term: Pop.

Back to Black (not to be confused with Back IN Black, the legendary rock album from AC/DC) was released in 2006. It was her second and ultimately last album. It's a tragic waste too, because Winehouse shows such promise in her "here I am" statement.

Back to Black is not a series of love letters and Dear Johns. There is a very deep vein of despair flowing through the content which is apparent right from the very beginning, with her signature song "Rehab." Yes, "Rehab."
'They tried to make me go to rehab
I said no, no, no'
How's that for a sunny, radio-friendly pop tune?

That opening is, in every respect, a taste of exactly what to expect from Back to Black. There's a lot of regret and sorrow on this album. "Just Friends" is about her becoming friends with benefits with a man who she really wants to keep in the friend zone. "Love is a Losing Game" is a rather horrific opposing argument to the phrase about how it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. "He Can Only Hold Her" is about a heartbroken woman who finds solace in the arms of the first man who comes along. The title track actually seems to be about a woman who turns to drugs after getting dumped!

It's a bit scary to think that Winehouse was actually just writing what she knew.

"Tears Dry on Their Own" has a very basic sound sampling of Carol King's "It's too Late." But most of Back to Black is its own album, and the production uses a lot of elements liberally taken from jazz and rhythm and blues from the 50's or 60's. A lot of the music can be deceptively uplifting, but then you also get a lot of lyrics like this from "You Know I'm No Good:"
'Upstairs in bed with my ex boy
He's in a place but I can't get joy'

Or this from "Me and Mr. Jones:"
'What kind of f***ery are we?
Nowadays you don't mean dick to me
I might let you make it up to me
Who's playing Saturday?'
"Me and Mr. Jones" may be one of the darkest songs on the album, full of some of the angriest lyrics. Winehouse spends much of the song telling off someone who, in her words, got between her and her man.

Of course some of the songs on Back to Black move at a faster pace than some of the others, and Winehouse is at her vocal best on the slower, more bluesy tunes. She has a bit more of a relaxed pace to let her draw out her feelings a bit more, and the result is a kind of beautiful howling. Winehouse has a fantastic vocal range, and has a rare talent which allows her to keep pace with any song, no matter what she was trying to do with it. Although Winehouse was only 27 when she died on July 23, she had the vocal experience which sounded far beyond her years. She could be soulful and reflective and angry at the same time, and it all came naturally to her.

Maybe that could be expected, given her life story. But the kind of lyrics Winehouse was writing could only have come from personal experience, which made her fate seemingly unavoidable. What we knew of her personal life and what (perhaps inevitably) came of her lends a dark new meaning to the lyrics in the "Back to Black," in which she sings of returning to black and dying a hundred times.]]> Sun, 24 Jul 2011 16:08:22 +0000
<![CDATA[ Album Review: Beyonce "4"]]>
Pop superstar Beyonce has just unleashed her fourth studio album on the world aptly title “4”. The album was named by the fans and in our opinion this is an album for the fans. Beyonce took some time away for the spotlight to reflect on life, fame, and of course music and the result is a beautifully crafted album that is a melting pot of various influences, styles, and inspiration that Beyonce took in during her time of reflection. Beyonce is the type of artist that does not have to prove anything to the industry, as she has already established herself as a star; it is great to hear an album that sounds as if she was calling the shots, not someone barking down orders from upstairs. So what if the album’s first single “Run The World (Girls)” is not performing that well, it will certainly not be the be all/end all for Beyonce’s career and there are plenty of other songs on “4” that are just begging for their time to shine.

The album opens with the beautiful ballad “1+1” written by The Dream and that track really seems to set the pace for the rest of the album, which is slightly slower than what one might expect from Beyonce, who is most well-known for her more upbeat singles such as “Crazy In Love”, “Irreplaceable”, and “Single Ladies”. However, “4” is not without its moments of catchy pop which is especially showcased on tracks such as “Party” featuring Andre 3000, “Countdown”, and “End of Time”.  The songs “Best Thing I Never Had” and “I Was Here” are two of our top picks on the album as we are certainly suckers for the empowerment ballad, and I’m willing to bet that longtime fans of Beyonce will gravitate towards these tracks as well due to the fact they showcase Beyonce doing what Beyonce does best only this time with a bit more mature tone.

We see the release of an album such as “4” as the next step in the natural progression of Beyonce as an artist. Each album has a more mature tone than the last and if this progression keeps its momentum I am very curious to see what Beyonce will have in store for us in the future.

June 30th at 7PM ET/PT, MTV and BET will jointly premiere Beyoncé: Year of 4, a half-hour TV special documenting the year-long personal and artistic journey Beyoncé embarked upon on the road to4.Full episode will be available on & immediately after at 7:30PM ET/PT.

Catch a sneak peek here:]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2011 22:51:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Tears are Going to Fall, Rolling in the Deep...]]> Rolling in the Deep, soul singer Adele's number one hit single off her sophmore album, 21 and her first number one song on US charts. It is so incredibly rare that a single enjoys such success on all radio stations- from easy listening to alternative rock to rap and hip-hop to R&B and everything in between. Currently, this song has sold 3.5 million digital copies and has ruled the Billboard Hot 100 charts, staying #1 for the last seven weeks.

It has been described by Adele and fellow songwriter, Paul Epworth, as "dark blues-y gospel disco". But, when I first heard Rolling in the Deep, I thought it to be bluesy rock. There's nothing gospel nor disco in it for me. I could just picture her singing it in a 1940s dress with bright red lipstick in some smoky bar somewhere. That could be just me, though. The reason that it's popular on all radio stations is just that reason- no one seems to be able to pigeonhole it into a category which may be why I like it so much.

I love the raw emotion that you get from her songs and this one is my favorite, by far. If you've ever been dumped and left out in the cold without any explanation then, this song will speak volumes for you, even when you can't find your own voice. She's still so in love with this man, can't let it go and she's trying to fight herself to get over him and be strong.

Adele seems to do her best work through inspiration from ex boyfriends. She wrote Chasing Pavements, her other Billboard hit, after she learned an ex cheated on her. She went to the bar that he was at and punched him in the face. After being thrown out, she ran down the street at six in the morning and asked herself, "What is it you're chasing? You're just chasing empty pavement." And with the lyrics of Rolling in the Deep along with the raw emotion of the song, there is no doubt that this was inspired by an ex as well. Is it the same one? Only Adele can answer that.

There's a fire starting in my heart,
Reaching a fever pitch and it's bringing me out the dark,

Finally, I can see you crystal clear,
Go ahead and sell me out and a I'll lay your ship bare,
See how I'll leave with every piece of you,
Don't underestimate the things that I will do,

There's a fire starting in my heart,
Reaching a fever pitch and it's bring me out the dark,

The scars of your love remind me of us,
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all,
The scars of your love, they leave me breathless,
I can't help feeling,

We could have had it all,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
Rolling in the deep,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),
You had my heart inside your hand,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
And you played it to the beat,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),

Baby, I have no story to be told,
But I've heard one on you and I'm gonna make your head burn,
Think of me in the depths of your despair,
Make a home down there as mine sure won't be shared,

The scars of your love remind me of us,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),
The scars of your love, they leave me breathless,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
I can't help feeling,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),

We could have had it all,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
Rolling in the deep,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),
You had my heart inside your hand,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
And you played it to the beat,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),

Could have had it all,
Rolling in the deep,
You had my heart inside your hand,
But you played it with a beating,

Throw your soul through every open door,
Count your blessings to find what you look for,
Turn my sorrow into treasured gold,
You'll pay me back in kind and reap just what you've sown,

(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
We could have had it all,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),
We could have had it all,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
It all, it all, it all,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),

We could have had it all,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
Rolling in the deep,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),
You had my heart inside your hand,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
And you played it to the beat,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),

Could have had it all,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),
Rolling in the deep,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep),
You had my heart inside your hand,
(You're gonna wish you never had met me),

But you played it,
You played it,
You played it,
You played it to the beat.

]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 05:30:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ 6 Artists Who Never Needed The Euro-Pop Music Trend (and some who used it anyway)]]> After a brief hiatus due to my tenure with (check out my reviews there on New York City's hottest events) I have decided to return to for a limited edition summer series! The trick for me is to post in more than one community, so wish me luck. But I want to get this party started at my old stomping ground, music matters. So let's get cracking...

The Euro-pop music trend has been a driving force in the past couple of years for the U.S. Sounds and synthesizers from the likes of David Guetta, Benny Benassi and the like have seeped into the undying machine that is pop music. Leading artists like Usher and Black Eyed Peas converted from hip-hop to full blown club/house/electronic. Seems like this trend will last forever, right? Wrong. (Jeez, you guys are so lucky you have me...)

Artists like Adele are bringing a new and somehow familiar flare without the help of European megastars and vocoders. And to prove to you that this early 90s re-incarnate is not set in stone, I'm going to name 6 artists who never needed the Euro-pop music trend in the first place (although some of them used it anyway.)



Kelis hopped aboard the booming bass bandwagon with her latest LP Flesh Tone released in 2010. After experimenting with atonal sounds and hard-hitting hip hop beats in the early 2000s, Kelis traded in her raw, eccentric sound for tracks from (you guessed it) Benny Benassi and David Guetta, even though she has achieved critical acclaim for her past, non-electronic work. Flesh Tone has since only sold 44,000 copies worldwide. Kelis is the perfect example of an artist who is too creative to follow the crowd. Should've stuck with The Neptunes!



Pink's recent release, "Greatest Hits... So Far!!!" is a compilation of her past work and also includes her current hit singles 'Raise Your Glass' and 'F****n' Perfect'. Her greatest hits album could not have been released at a better time! It differentiates her from the rest of the formulaic bubblegum and continues to solidify her rebellious brand. Although her maverick attitude has become kind of 'schtick', she even manages to stick to that. Which leads to another pop star who could use a little staying power...


Christina Aguilera

'The Voice' hosts and mainframe didn't exactly start off the year with a bang. With a flop of a movie, Burlesque, and album, Bionic, there was only one 'B' that Aguilera was accustomed to: bomb. (No matter what any die-hard gay fan told you). Bionic reviews were mixed, as the one time teen queen tried to once again change her image and sound using a driving - and somewhat jarring - beat for her first single - "not myself tonight" this time last year. All she really had to do was 'B' herself! If Aguilera had stuck to her guns - or better yet decided what her guns actually were - she would've been much better off. This 'dirty' girl is a perfect example of another artists who used a trend she didn't need.



Hova doesn't need house! Jay-z stayed on track with 'monster' tracks as a feature guest for Kanye West, not to mention releasing yet another hip-hop anthem for the empire state, 'Empire State of Mind' (featuring Alicia Keys). In the meantime, Jigga Man wrote for his wife, Beyonce, cultivated Rihanna with his management firm to true 'hottest chick in the game' status and (according to grossed 37 million dollars from international touring, landing him on Forbes Top 25 List of highest paid musicians. Who needs to follow the Euro-pop trend when you have 'Roc Nation'?


Lil' Wayne (with honorable mention)

Tha Carter never lets us down. While many urban artists jumped ship, Lil' Wayne has managed to stay true to his roots. And, after serving time for literally sticking to his guns, Wayne came back without missing a beat. Lucky for us, they were all hip-hop beats (for the most part). Even though he dabbled with artists like Guetta, Madonna and Jay Sean, Wayne never follows the leader or loses sight of his path. He was even so kind as to introduce us to a few friends of his via his label Young Money, one in particular, managed to paint the town 'pink'...


Nicki Minaj

What is there to say that already hasn't been said about Minaj? Nothing, which is why I'm gonna cut to the chase. Once upon a time there was this album called Pink Friday, and it was freaking amazing. 'Nuff said. And with Lil' Kim acting as her arch nemesis/promotional manager (seriously Lil' Kim talked about Nicki Minaj more than first time parents talk about how 'cute' their kid is) Minaj has become a force to be reckoned with. Might I add, a force who didn't release a song that could be on the soundtrack to 'Night At The Roxbury'. So kudos to you Ms. Minaj.  

And because I'm in such a giving mood, I'd like to give another honorable mention to the pond-hopping import herself, Adele.   Check out her video for "Rolling In The Deep" on youtube/vevo/whatever the kids are calling it these days (it wouldn't upload on my comp for some reason). Happy Summer Lunchers!



]]> Thu, 23 Jun 2011 02:44:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ Another *Great* Release, But *Packaging* Could Be Better!]]>
His big hits are on here like "Splish, Splash," "Beyond The Sea," and my favorite "Mack The Knife," along with other standards with Darin's interpretation on them like Judy Garland's "The Gal (Man) That Got Away," the Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So," Sarah Vaughan's "Black Coffee," and of course the album featuring Darin's covers of Ray Charles's songs like "(Nighttime Is) The Right Time."

For the most part, the tracks are swinging with infectious beats and Bobby sounds like Elvis Presley on some of the earlier songs. And even though he's legendary as a Las Vegas lounge lizard showman, Darin is equally effective singing slow and soft ballads as he is with the rockin' and swingin' hits he would become famous for.

I highly recommend this set and it's a pretty good value since each CD comes to less than $7 a piece, as of this writing.

The remastering is fantastic--no credit listed as "digitally remastered" on outer box--but the sound is crisp, loud, and no panning from the left to right speaker on the vocals; Darin sounds front and center throughout.

Packaging could've been better. Just like others in the series (Original Album Series:Anyone Who Had A Heart/Make Way For Dionne Warwick/Presenting Dionne Warwick/The Valley Of The Dolls/The Windows Of The World, which I also recommend), BOBBY DARIN ORIGINAL ALBUM SERIES comes housed in replica album covers, which is nice for the original art work, but the CDs don't come in a protective sleeves and the inside of each jacket isn't laminated. You have to be careful when putting the CDs in or taking it out, so that they won't get scratched.

The five CD mini-album covers come inside a outer cardboard box and the original liner notes are on the CD jacket, which can be really hard to read since the print is small. No current liner notes are offered and no booklet or other information on this recent release or on Darin himself. When it comes to re-issues like this and the aforementioned "Dionne Warwick Original Album Series," Rhino should have followed Hip-O-Select's design department (that does a stellar job on reissues), but maybe this was a cost cutting measure. Hip-O-Select provides original liner notes and updated liner notes, usually in an included booklet with artist bio and track chart information, as well as recreating the original album cover art, which is great for long time fans and lets new fans discover more about the artist and maybe seek out other offerings.

Of course some of those Hip-O-Select releases are limited edition and cost more, so this is all just nit-picking on my part. I didn't deduct a star because BOBBY DARIN ORIGINAL ALBUM SERIES is still a good buy for what you're getting, so I believe that it deserves 5-stars despite the packaging. I highly recommend it to fans of Darin's or those who enjoy listening to music from a time when songs had lyrics and singers could actually sing.]]> Thu, 3 Feb 2011 00:12:22 +0000
<![CDATA[ Very misleading title for a mediocre compilation!]]> "The Temptations: The Ultimate Collection". For any true Temptations fan will tell you that this disc is certainly not reflective of its title and simply does not cut the mustard.  Issued in 1997, "Ultimate Collection" is merely another in a string of largely inadequate offerings that purport to be the definitive Temptations Greatest Hits.

"The Temptations:  Ultimate Collection" is not a terrible disc.  It does offer tunes from all of the many phases of The Temptations dynamic career. The remastering job is just fine and I would rate the 12 page booklet acceptable but nothing more.  The problem here is that there are 8 or 9 pretty important titles missing including 1966's "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep", "(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It's You That I Need" and the highly successful 1968 collaboration with Diana Ross and the Supremes "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me". Some of these tunes should have been included on "Ultimate Collection" in place of filler like "Don't Look Back" and "Error Of Our Ways".  For casual fans, "Ultimate Collection" might be an acceptable choice.  But collectors and hard core Temptations fans should demand more.  The Temptations were one of Motown's marquee groups and it just boggles my mind that as of this writing in early 2011 there is still not a definitive Temptations anthology that I can get excited about.  This is a gross oversight in my view as The Temptations were one of the defining groups of the 1960's.  Hopefully, Universal Motown will see fit to finally release a comprehensive 2 disc similar to the Four Tops "50th Anniversary" set.  Such an offering is long overdue.  In the meantime,  I'll make due with what I already have.  Very disaapointing!]]> Sun, 30 Jan 2011 17:41:17 +0000
<![CDATA[ Closer to My Dreams....]]>

Goapele means "to move or go forward" in Setswana and it seems that ever since she was born the youngest of two children of a South African political exile and a New York-born Israeli Jewish protester, she's been moving forward. Growing up in a South African exile community located in the Bay Area, California and going to Arts school afforded her the ability to constantly be aware of the world that surrounded her and to express herself artistically, respectively.

After returning to Oakland from studying at Berklee School of Music in Boston, she self-released her debut album "Closer" in 2001. She did it with a limited run and only sold the album in brick and mortar stores as well as select websites, The title track premiered at 63 in Billboard's Top 100. 

After she sold out, she released a longer album through Hieroglyphics Imperium that got the attention of Columbia Records which picked it up for worldwide distribution, added tracks, and signed her to a contract through Skyblaze Recordings, her family-owned and run label. 

Several tracks were re-recorded for inclusion on a follow-up album, and it is the only album on which the uncensored version of the song "Romantic" and the song "You" are available. Now the original album is considered to be a valuable collectors’ item.

Track Listing and Breakdown:

1. Closer: Well, you can hear for yourself in the video above. I love this song. It has a smooth, soulful style and at the same time a wistful sadness to it. I think the balance is done beautifully here. For anyone that ever gets frustrated by the hard work and dedication it takes to get closer to your dreams, you'll completely relate to this song.

2. Childhood Drama: This joint reminds me of Mary J. Blige's No More Drama. It has a very Mary vibe to it. Because it reminded me so much of that song, I couldn't get over that to just let the song speak to me on its own.

First verse: "I never wanted to be, like every other child abandoned in childhood drama (oh), I always felt that I was the exception to the rule but now who's the fool, You won't give me your love your love, So when you left me I filled up that empty place and never told it's still hollow (it's still hollow)"

3. Too Much the Same: Simple keys open up the song and then, Goapele's breezy vocals meet it to create a relaxed bluesy song about a summer love that didn't work out. It's a perfect song to have on with your windows down on a nice summer day, driving along a coast. My favorite line: "But you can't get something for nothing/ So what was mine/ Sifted through like lost time"

4. Romantic (Uncensored Version): Funky bass opens it up with some bluesy keys in the background. Goapele enters with some vocal runs and then, lays it on you in her seductive best to let you know how Romantic you are and how much she loves you. This is definitely another favorite, the YouTube user disabled the embedding but, here's a link to the song on Yahoo! Music:

Lyrics: "Kiss my wounds, Love me tender, Buy me flowers i've never seen, Wake me up from my dreams
To bring me french toast and tea, In the morning light, Fly across country to spend, The night"

5. You (feat. Dwele): This song is just beautiful. If you're a R&B fan than you'll love this song with two of the genre's most talented singers. As one YouTuber put it, "this is what happens when vocals make love".

Chorus: "One look at you, you see right through me, you know my moods, you know what I'm thinking, feel what I'm feeling, cause you're my best friend, true."

6. Catch 22 (Original Vesion): This song is so full of soul and true pain of indecision when it comes to love, so much so that you can feel her tortured indecision in every word of the song. This one brings you into her world and her pain, so you'll want to be sure that you're in the mood for it before you give it a listen.

Lyrics: "How many times does it take to learn just one thing, 'cause I keep ending up here, And I'm not a scientist so I just keep on praying that I won't, Keep getting the same results each day, I said that I can't be with you, But when you turn away I pull back your hands to stay, (your hands to stay), So many days turn to years, That brought us here, And we (shied) through time without too many tears, But we still made decisions creating divisions, So many contradictions, Why didn't we listen?"

7. Butterflykisses: Another seductive song on the album that seduces you into relaxation. Her vocals are reminiscent of older Sade in parts. Play this when you're just starting to fall for someone new because this is probably exactly how you're feeling.

Lyrics: "Now that you're here, My visions clear, I'm drenched in love. Fly like a dove, And walking through my life with you, Is a blessin oh so sweet"

8. Things Don't Exist: This song is reminiscent of both older Whitney and a little of Billie Holiday. Yes, I know- what a combo! Her vocals on this are hauntingly beautiful and take you away from wherever you are to bring you on her journey of heartbreak and her attempt at breaking away from a lover.

Lyrics: "In my fear, I fear, We're seas apart in old worlds. We began, In vibrant colors, But one of the things you said, And i dread it. That everything turns grey, This is where i stray"

9. Salvation: Easily, the bluesiest track on the entire album with a simple bass line and keys that let her vocals shine. This one is the obligatory "struggle" song, every great R&B artist has a few in their repertoire and this one is one of Goapele's about feeling the pressures of the world and looking for salvation.

Lyrics: "I can feel the pain, The world is resting on my brain, I can feel the hurt of a broken child, She's going insane, I pray that she'll make it home"

10. It Takes More: A more hip-hop beat than the other tracks on the album with a wonderful message about how we all ignore the kids on the streets that turn to poor choices because they were never taught what the right choices were because their parents were too busy living their own wasted lives. If we take the time to get to know him or care, then we as a community could have taught him better choices in life and reverse the damage before it's too late.

Lyrics: "All his life, He heard "You won't amount to nothing", Low expectations, In need of money, Few too many choices, And no patience, So what do you know, For a good cash flow, You can always sell, It's easy to fit the role, But when your living the fast life, He considered all times a go"

Listen to this: after a hard day, when you're going through any emotions dealing with a relationship, or when you're in the mood for a good R&B album.

]]> Wed, 26 Jan 2011 21:27:25 +0000
<![CDATA[ You don't have to like her to enjoy her music]]>
Yet, at times when we reached the age where we look back and we find that we haven't left some stages in life. That we still long for the good things in life and that despite it all, there are still things that are worth our time and attention and sharing it with whoever who cares to look and find.

Toni Braxton is such a case. I don't know much about her nor do I even liked her that much. But, I did like a few of her songs enough to want to write a review about these productions. I didn't even know what she looked like when I first come across her song, Un-break My Heart. That was some 14 years ago. Yet, it seems just yesterday... I listen to the very same song again by looking up YouTube and I still like it as much as I did then. How is that possible, right? I'm as puzzled, as I've said before in my other review on Music, there are just some melodies which sticks to me, for ages, forever... it's like once you've heard it, it will never leave your consciousness. Which brings me to the thought, that if one suffers amnesia, one may have forgotten one's own identity, but when it comes to music, I don't think one will have forgotten that one has heard it before. Interesting, don't you think?

For those of you who love Toni Braxton, I've embed some of her music below and as much as I like them for myself, I hope you like them too. Enjoy.......

Spanish Guitar is Toni Braxton's 3rd Single released in 2000 & produced by the legendary David Foster. As with Un-break My Heart, I didn't see the MTV music video until today. How can that be possible?! Beats me!!! Anyway, now I know how sexy her videos are. It also amazes me how far a singer will go when it comes to the making of a music video. By that, I mean how much they will bare themselves. Oh, i know it's nothing new in this age and generation. Still, it is something refreshing for me. In this case though, it's done in good taste. In other cases, I'm not so sure!

Spanish Guitar is a truly sensuous song. In every sense of the word. Spanish Guitar is very latino, very much the style of Enrique Iglesias and a very romantic song. It brings to mind some of the time I've spent in Spain and Portugal. Truly wonderful and lovely. 

In 2006, Toni Braxton managed to score another hit with Il Divo in The Time of Our Lives which was performed in the 2006 FiFA World Cup in Berlin. Really? Oh wow, I didn't know that! I was there in Berlin during that World Cup and yet I missed them! That's unforgivable!!! How on earth did I missed that?!?!?! Oh well, if you are like me, here's the said video. Enjoy........

P.S. I must qualify that the rating of +4 is mainly given due to the few songs of hers which I do love very much. Other than that, there are also a great deal of her compilations which I don't care for.  This particular rating is not given on the totality but of the few singles which I thought enough to render it a +4.]]> Sat, 4 Dec 2010 13:03:47 +0000
<![CDATA[Jill Scott Quick Tip by djevoke]]> Sun, 28 Nov 2010 05:47:21 +0000 <![CDATA[ Often imitated, never duplicated]]>
Known at the time as "race records," these original blues tunes by people we now call African-Americans set the stage for early rock n roll and for white rockers like Elvis Presley to score huge hits with songs like My Babe, one of Little Walter's signature tunes. Eventually some of the black singers had cross-over hits. For instance, At Last by Etta James got decent airplay on mainstream stations, but more often than not it was the white bands that made it big. This was especially true in the South, where white and black audiences were segregated by law and many clubs refused to book black performers.

The stars of Cadillac Records (Beyonce and Mos Def, for example) do fine versions of these songs in the film, but there really isn't anything like hearing the original recordings. I recommend buying this disk and the film soundtrack and listening to them together. It's a great experience and it's also satisfying to know that Muddy and many of the Chess artists are finally getting the broad recognition they deserve.]]> Fri, 26 Nov 2010 04:45:05 +0000
<![CDATA[Adele Quick Tip by djevoke]]> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 23:31:26 +0000 <![CDATA[ A Killer From A Legend]]> Among his many observations that had a way of boring into your subconscious and never leaving, George Carlin once remarked that the Blues is the only musical form that requires absolute authenticity - "It's not enough to play the notes, you have to know why the notes need to be played." On this equally special and sadly neglected 1998 release, Etta James makes sure we know - that she knows.

During several interviews conducted around the record's release, Ms. James was very critical of the finished product that was originally conceived as a Country project but in her telling, wound up as an abortive, unfocused collection of everything - and nothing. Well, with all due respect to the artist, she couldn't be more wrong. Love's Been Tough On Me is a tough, searing and unapologetic Blues-Rock manifesto that is as far away from Nashville as Somalia is from Rodeo Drive.

Led by legendary Muscle Shoals front man Barry Beckett, every track alternately boils, simmers or steams, driven by a voice wizened and wearied by too much life and too little respect. It only takes a single listen to If I Had Any Pride left At All and I Can Give You Everything to smile at the thought of Tina Turner and Mick Jagger wishing they had gotten there first.

This is an exceptional release that proves with every listen why every note definitely needs to be played.

]]> Tue, 24 Aug 2010 17:24:36 +0000
<![CDATA[Justin Timberlake Quick Tip by theKENnection]]> Thu, 19 Aug 2010 20:12:53 +0000 <![CDATA[Ray Charles Quick Tip by MNeulander]]> Sun, 15 Aug 2010 04:45:31 +0000 <![CDATA[Sam Cooke: Portrait of A Legend 1951-1964 Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> Thu, 15 Jul 2010 17:21:52 +0000 <![CDATA[ Comprehensive anthology of this legendary soul artist.]]> Because he died at such a young age we really only caught a glimpse of the enormous talent of Sam Cooke.   Sam began his career as a gospel singer and spent six years years as lead singer of the legendary gospel group The Soul Stirrers.   But in 1957, Sam Cooke decided to pursue a solo career and signed a recording contract with Keen records.  Within a very short period of time Sam would notch his first big hit with a tune called "You Send Me".   The record would go all the way to #1 and a major star was born.  "Sam Cooke:  Portrait of A Legend 1951-1964"  is probably the most comprehensive Sam Cooke anthology issued to date.  You will quickly discover why Sam Cooke is one of the most revered singers in the history of rock and roll and why he was one of the very first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Sam Cooke:   Portrait of A Legend  1951-1964" offers up a remarkable total of 30 of Sam's biggest hits and most memorable recordings.   Sam Cooke was an extremely versatile vocalist who was just as comfortable singing a ballad as he was belting out a rock and roll or gospel number,   Over the years Sam Cooke would place more than 40 tunes on the Billboard Hot 100. You will find all of his major hits in this collection including his monster 1962 hit "Chain Gang""Twistin' The Night Away", and "Another Saturday Night".   One of my favorite Sam Cooke records is a tune called "Win Your Love For Me" from back in 1958.  Might I also recommend such terrific pop classics  as "Having A Party" and "Only Sixteen" which are both included here as well.    
"Portrait of A Legend  1951-1964" also offers you a chance to sample Sam as a gospel singer. Be sure to check out  both "Touch The Hem of His Garment"  and "Jesus Gave Me Water".  But if I had to single out my very favorite Sam Cooke recording I would have to choose his moving 1965 recording of  "A Change Is Gonna Come".  I think many Sam Cooke fans would agree that this just might be his finest vocal performance ever.

Collectors will appreciate the fact that  "Sam Cooke:   Portrait of A Legend  1951-1964" includes some outstanding liner notes by Peter Guralnick.  And while there are several outstanding Sam Cooke collections available in my judgement this is clearly the best of the bunch.   Very highly recommended!

]]> Wed, 7 Jul 2010 16:40:29 +0000
<![CDATA[ Where did this guy come from?]]>
He seriously stepped up his game with this album. Sometimes I think he's way into sex...but I guess that's just his style. I mean, anybody who performs a song called "I Invented Sex" is waaay too into himself. But somehow, Trey pulls it off, especially when he came out with the remix and even featured Keri Hilson, Usher and even Drake on it. I knew then that he was seriously considered a new part of today's R&B music. 

Here are some of my favorite songs on the Ready album: 

  1. I Need a Girl (#4) 
  2. Does He Do It (#6)
  3. Jupiter Love (#9)
  4. Be Where You Are (#10)
  5. Holla If You Need Me (#14)

For me, it's tough to say where I see Trey Songz in a  year from now and whether or not he'll still be as popular as he is becoming today. I certainly think a lot of Chris Brown fans are giving him a spin, probably because Chris is pretty much on pause at the moment. But I'm not yet if he's got a lasting effect such as Ne-Yo or Usher. Right now,  he reminds me of J-Holiday a lot. Not a one hit wonder, but perhaps a one hit album? 

I love this performance of I Need a Girl on his performance of MTV Unplugged. If you haven't heard the album, I highly recommend it!

]]> Thu, 1 Jul 2010 22:24:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ What to say about Breezy?]]>       Look, I'm about real. I believe people still hate him and are mad at him because He still hasn't really learned what he did or did wrong. I think he just figured he'll get a slap on the wrist and some community service and it'll be over. Like if you had a lot of unpaid parking tickets or something, but wrong, he got exposed trying to play the media game and sympathy card and not actually trying to understand why it all happened. 
      I don't hate Chris Brown for what happened. I just think he showed his age and who he was. We all have trials and tribulations, but it's how we react to them that shows who you are. It shows your growth, your upbringing your mindset. You can only control you. I don't care if Rihanna said that she had been sleeping with 90 football players and that's why he hit her. You don't violently react. you control you and leave the situation. You control you. You control what you say, how you say it, how you react. And sadly he flipped out and assaulted her. Now in order to grow beyond this you as a person have to reflect. You have to take responsibility for your own actions and Man up. 

    I believe the reason people don't respect him anymore is because he never verbally accepted the part that he played that night. He said he'll do community service etc, but didn't go on Tv and say in detail what he did. He just continued to talk about "regretting the events of the night in question." and constantly "apologizing". But we don't know for what. He never explained his side of the story. He never accepted what happened and grew from it. So to me until he does that he'll still be ostracized. ]]> Thu, 1 Jul 2010 04:07:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ His final recording a real keepsake for baby boomers.]]> While it is indeed true that some of Ray Charles' vocal performances on his final recording "Genius Loves Company" are mediocre at best I am willing to cut the man a bit of slack.  After all, the man was 73 years old when he made these recordings. He lived long and he lived hard. For those of us 55 and under Ray Charles was a force in popular music just about all of our lives.  When I heard the news that Ray Charles had passed away I felt much the same way I did when a major sports figure like Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle passed on. All were an important part of my era and it saddens me when they leave the scene.

But the good news is that "Genius Loves Company" affords us all a chance to enjoy flashes of the Ray Charles we all knew and loved.  Remakes of two of his hits "Here We Go Again" (with Norah Jones) and "You Don't Know Me" (with Diana Krall) are wonderful reminders of some of the great music Ray made in the 1960's.  I also enjoyed Ray and Natalie Cole in a funky rendition of the Little Willie John classic "Fever".  But unfortunately there are some clunkers here as well, most notably Ray's duet with Willie Nelson on the Frank Sinatra hit "It Was A Very Good Year".  Both men were downright awful on this one and this one should have been left off the album entirely.  But fortunately "Genius Loves Company" finishes with a flourish with the final four tracks.  Ray seemed to hit his stride alongside the legendary B.B. King on "Sinners Prayer".  Just hearing these two icons perform so well at such an advanced age is worth the price of the disc alone.  Perhaps my favorite cut on this CD is "Heaven Help Us All" with one of my all-time favorites Gladys Knight.  You might think the song was recorded 25 years ago.  The final cut is a "live" performance with Van Morrison"Crazy Love" was a tune Morrison recorded on his very first solo LP back in 1970.  Once again, a superb job by both men here.

I was stunned when I learned that "Genius Loves Company" made it all the way to #3 on the Billboard album chart back in 2004.  But when you stop to think about it there really isn't much for older folks to buy anymore.  If you are looking for a great gift for that special boomer in your life then this would be the ticket.  You can be sure it will be appreciated.

]]> Sat, 5 Jun 2010 19:12:52 +0000
<![CDATA[All Cried Out Quick Tip by mariannerosabelle]]> Fri, 2 Apr 2010 00:21:50 +0000 <![CDATA[Make Me Whole Quick Tip by zellysayz]]> Thu, 1 Apr 2010 21:02:44 +0000 <![CDATA[ Save VH1 Soul and Save REAL Music!]]>
One of VH1 Soul's most beloved programs is SoulStage that has showcased live performances from Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Chrisette Michele, Wyclef Jean, and Raphael Saadiq have all been performers on the program. My other favorite VH1 Soul show? Soulphrodisiac where it's all love soul songs, all the time. The best love songs of all music video time are shown here. Live tape of classic soul shows are shown here. Don't have a clue what I'm talking about? Real music videos? What do you mean? Well, there's Soul School to show you the way with old school soul and R&B videos.

Without VH1 Soul, where will soul-lovers go to see videos and live shows for free? Well, we soul-lovers are a rare breed and soul music doesn't sell as well as the mainstream music on the radio, unfortunately. This means that television doesn't air any shows centered on soul music, in fact VH1 Soul is it.

Good news! There's a petition going around Save VH1 Soul and they only need 500 signatures. They're about 43 away from their goal. You can also follow them at @SaveVH1Soul on Twitter for updates and informtion.]]> Thu, 18 Feb 2010 05:45:37 +0000
<![CDATA[ This album isn't the best but she makes you "FEEL" ……yeap …..sometimes life really is that simple.]]>

 After hearing this album a couple of times you can determine a balance of vulnerability, strength, and love captured throughout the progression of Key’s fourth album. This was written during a time of intense personal struggle for the New York City songstress, and her pain is evident throughout Freedom. Almost completely lacking in some of the more upbeat cuts that buoyed her last album As I Am (Teenage Love Affair for example), Freedom is often little more than Keys, a piano, some minimal backing and her extraordinary voice, making the album the least immediately accessible of her career. This is an album that does not immediately grab you. Instead, it requires some patience, demands the listener put in some work too, but those who are willing to follow Keys’ will find their effort well rewarded.

1. The Element of Freedom (Intro)

Alicia Keys does spoken word for the opening of her album.


2. Love Is Blind

Sometimes you can see the effects of loves strong hold. “Love is Blind” is the opening track that sets the bar for a soulful, powerful and lyrical album. Alicia harmonizes with background vocals and bass driven drums. Great way to start off an album.


3. Doesn’t Mean Anything

“Doesn’t Mean Anything” is the 1st single of off The Elements of Freedom. This track tells the tale of realizing that all your dreams mean nothing without anyone to share it with. Classic A. Keys is written all over this track.


4. Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart

You have to let the pass go and move on with you life. “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart” is a smooth mid-tempo track with drums and electric keyboards. The drums provide the foundation of an edgy and sultry joint.


5. Wait Til They See My Smile

Overcome sadness and judgment with a smile. “Wait Til They See My Smile” is a song about perseverance. The hook sounds like a sample of the Beach Boys “Kokomo”. It’s probably my least favorite track on the album.


6. That’s How Strong My love Is

Standing strong through the motions of love. “That’s How Strong My love Is” is beautiful song that follows the cohesive flow of the piano lined album


7. Unthinkable (I’m Ready) Featuring Drake

Unthinkable is the sexiest and most sensual song on the Elements of Freedom. Canadian rapper, Drake provided background vocals on the track and brings a masculine quality to the track. A. Key’s sultry intro sets the foundation for the best song on the album.


8. Love Is My Disease

Have you ever been in love so much that you can’t act right without them? “Love Is My Disease” is about missing the company of that spell someone to the point where it makes you sick. The track has a Caribbean inspired flare that creates a distinctly different sound.


9. Like The Sea

Love can wrap you up and swallow you like a tidal wave that’s too strong. “Like The Sea” is a song of metaphorical brilliance that captures the heavy emotions of love.


10. Put It In A Love Song (Featuring Beyonce)

“What up B? What up AAAAA?”

Two of American R&B’s most talented women team up to do a collaboration that I consider less than stellar. “Put It In A Love Song” is like a spinoff of Beyonce’s “Check Up On It” without the ghetto bass line.  I think the track was a bit rushed and they just wanted to join forces. Sometimes you need to balance out sound. Female/ Male and R&B/ Hip Hop collaborations usual work the best.


11. This Bed

Have you ever slept in a lonely bed by yourself? “This Bed” is a mid-tempo track that talks about wishing someone were here in bed sleeping next to you. A playful and sensual track that‘s smooth to groove to.


12. Distance And Time

For all those Lovers in LDR (Long Distance Relationships) that wish they were next to that special someone. “Distance and Time” is a soft and touching track that shows A. Key’s vulnerable side. This is one of those songs that will make you cry if you’re in the same situation.


13. How It Feels To Fly

Sometimes you have to let go of the materialistic and superficial things and just fly. “How It Feels To Fly” is a beautiful and motivational song that brings strength and hope to the album. A good listen to lift your spirit and give you an optimistic view on life.


14. Empire State of Mind (Part II) Featuring Jay-Z

An Ode to New York

Empire State of Mind (Part II) is the R&B version of Jay-Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind”. A. Keys vocals are amazing on this song and it makes you feel like you should be from New York.  Same hook but the chorus is provided by Alicia’s vocals. Very inspiring way to end a powerful album!


“The Element of Freedom” is an album for lovers and true romantics at heart. Piano keys fill the entire album with A. Keys signature style and grace. You may need to be in love or a place of true happiness to appreciate this album. “Element of Freedom” is lyrically romantic and full of metaphorical depth. I don’t know what Swizz Beats did to A. Keys but she is open and free of it all. While there are a few misfires ("Put It In a Love Song" comes to mind), these flaws are rendered null and void due to the excellence of songs like "UnThinkable" and "Like The Sea". With Freedom, Alicia Keys takes listeners on a lush journey, one that showcases her consistency as well as a foundation of strength, vulnerability and ultimately, hope.


The tracks that stood out to me are:
Love Is Blind

Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart

Unthinkable (I’m Ready)

Like The Sea

Empire State of Mind (Part II)

]]> Fri, 8 Jan 2010 22:12:59 +0000
<![CDATA[ One More Stream in the River that is the Untold Story of Blacks In America]]> Pros: Excellent theatrical and musical performances by all involved.

Cons: Not enough time to tell the story.

The Bottom Line: Cadillac Records was just the beginning of our musical journey into these very interesting and influential (Black) American lives.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

The roots of Rock-n-Roll, they used to change depending on your skin color and who was telling the story, but I believe the argument is pretty much settled.  So many of the accomplishments of Black Americans have been glossed over and left untold by the mainstream education system and media.  So it a good thing that movies like Cadillac Records (2008), however factually challenged, at least shine a partial light on what was once obscured by the darkness of lies and outright omissions.                 


Written and directed by Darnell Martin (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) Cadillac Records, chronicles—insofar as Hollywood possible—the birth and rise of Chess Records (Cadillac) and it recording artists including Blues guitar legend—and Father of Chicago Blues—Muddy Waters (Jeffery Wright ~ Ali, Angels in America, Casino Royale), harmonica myth Little Walter Jacobs (Columbus Short ~ Stomp the Yard, Studio 60 on Sunset Strip, This Christmas), vocalist Howlin’ Wolf (Eamonn Walker ~ Oz, Justice, ER); one of the fathers of Rock-n-Roll, Chuck Berry (Mos Def ~ Something the Lord Made, 16 Blocks, Lackawanna Blues) and the incomparable Etta James (Beyonce Knowles ~ The Pink Panther, Dramgirls).

Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody ~ The Pianist, The Village, King Kong) an immigrant from Poland started Chess Records on the south side of Chicago in 1950.  Cedric the Entertainer (The Steve Harvey Show, Be Cool, The Honeymooners) portrays double-bassist, vocalist, songwriter and record producer Willie Dixon, who narrates the story.   Muddy’s girlfriend Geneva Wade (Gabrielle Union ~ 7th Heaven, Love & Basketball, City of Angels), and Leonard Chess’ wife Revetta Chess (Emmanuelle Chiriquí (Entourage, In The Mix, Women in Trouble) round out the cast.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed Cadillac Records.  The music, the acting, the directing, the little tidbits and nuggets of actual fact made this trip down memory lane worth the trip.  I am fully aware that Hollywood plays fast and loose with the truth for “artist” reasons, so I kept Wikipedia and other sources handy throughout the move in order to do my own fact-checking. 

I am happy to report the Cadillac Records wasn’t too far off the factual mark in how it depicted the circumstances surrounding the founding of Chess Records on the south side of Chicago in 1950.  What the movie omitted, for whatever reason, is easy enough to fill in via other credible sources. 

The ensemble of (mostly Black males) actors did an extraordinary job recreating (channeling) some of the best “Rhythm & Blues” performers of their day, which only goes to prove once again that the cadre of talented Black actors in Hollywood is deep, hungry, and able to step into any role.  Even Beyonce must be given her due for her portrayal of the very volatile and troubled, but ultimately very talented, Etta James whose given name is Jamesetta Hawkins.    

The music throughout Cadillac Records is outstanding; it is so vigorous, infectious, and essential that at times it leaves the drama unfolding around it seem unfocused in comparison.  Who knew, based on her current repertoire, the Beyonce was capable of producing such beautiful vocals.  Yes we heard some of her more eloquent vocals in Dreamgirls (2006), as a member of a group, but in this movie her voice stands alone and what she delivers is pure magic.  Her renditions of the Etta James’ classics At Last, I’d Rather Go Blind, and Trust In Me are stirring and her best “musical” work to date.  Beyonce’s acting wasn’t half bad either.

And not to overlooked is the very versatile and talented Mos Def who portrayal of Chuck Barry is right on the mark, while Jeffery Wright turns in a tight vocal performance as Bluesman Muddy Waters, and Eamonn Walker vocals are chilling as he channels Howlin’ Wolf.  The music this movie brings to the light of day is reason enough to see it, and it is given added gravitas by the actors who largely perform it.

By the time the credits rolled I fully engrossed in Cadillac Records and I wanted more; two hours is not nearly enough time to tell the story of how this quintessential style of American music came into being.  We were treated to a mere snippet of the music and musicians who created, produced, arranged, and performed (and were largely unpaid) the most influential music in the last half the decade just past. 

The influence of the Blues that sprang from the Black American experience in segregated America is still making its presence felt across a broad spectrum of musical genres, and is in many respects timeless.  Cadillac Records was just the beginning of our musical journey into these very interesting and influential (Black) American lives.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

]]> Tue, 29 Dec 2009 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Album is worth hearing]]> I was hoping not to like this album but unfortunately I do even though I feel he made the wrong decision when trying to go the Rihanna route about addressing the issues between them two. One thing he did not do that she did was to make a "tell all" album! I personally feel he's all over the place with this album. Brown stated that he has written about 80% of the songs on "Graffiti", so these are mostly his words and not those of other producers and songwriters which is all good. In his own defense, he stated that he wants to move past this and go on with his life. Maybe this is his way of doing it, but most of Brown's songs say otherwise. He's expressively harsh, conflicting and cynical and shows no signs of apologetic ex lover at times again that's just my opinion. I will admit that "Graffiti" has some songs that from a musical standpoint I like:

1.I Can Transform Ya (ft Lil Wayne & Swizz Beatz)
I won't lie the beat is contagious and makes you move. The drums are constant for the duration of the song, and don't slow down during the chorus. This is one of the better songs on the album as it has no relation to half concocted apologies or a hidden underlining of shade.

2.Pass Out (ft Eva Simons)
This song gives a bit of "Disturbia" and "Forever" smashed into one song. It's an up tempo dance track that warrants the body to the dance floor. "Pass Out's" Pop/Dance feel will be a major hit Europe and clubs alike worldwide which I fine to be appleaing.

3.Fallin' Down
On "Fallin' Down", Brown sings about him trying to maintain the real CB, his pride, and ego while living in this cruel world. He sings "....I've given up everything in exchange for being alone. I'm Shaking these demons underneath all the pride... Can you imagine the weight of the world, placed on your shoulders? Trapped in this world, no one can reach you, so no one can help you!" This song has the best lyrical content and delivery to me on the whole album.

4. Movie
This track is a part of the deluxe edition bonus disc of "Graffiti"; this song sampled the piano from Janet Jackson's song "Again". The Jevon Hill produced track gives the perfect scene; the actors, the wardrobe, the script, and everything in between as Brown gives intimate details of a hot erotic night with a suspecting lover. The slow tempo song has the right mixture of current production beats but keeps it very classic, old school R&B. If you listen closely, you can hear Brown pay homage to New Edition's song "Can You Stand The Rain", sweet ;-).

5. Chase Our Love
This is another deluxe edition bonus disc track. Produced and written by Chris Brown, along with Jean Baptiste, Michael McHenry, Nick Marsh & Ryan Buendia, this song is a very fun mid-tempo dance track. It nestled in futuristic beats, heavy snares, and synthesizers. It's it giving me a summer track vibe.

Beside those mention above I also like "What I do" and "Girlfriend" because both songs are pretty uplifting, upbeat, and fun to listen into. Aside from that most of the songs on his album, besides the ones listed, are filled with apologetic clichés lyrics. Unfortunately, Chris Brown's album isn't as cohesive as my play list of favorite songs. The damaging incident between Rihanna and himself will out rule the work he put into this album. I do believe it was a great attempt by Brown to put his emotions and feelings into music. His vocal growth is showcased most in the longing ballad "I'll Go," where Brown sings about ending up heartbroken in a relationship, but not regretting a thing. "If you don't come back, this love was worth it/That's the one thing I know/If you don't make it back/Girl, remember that I said I'll go for you." It's a moment of "genuine" emotion that even the coldest critic might feel.

It's hard not to associate many of the songs on Graffiti with Brown's personal life, but for those who judge it based solely on the music, it's harder to deny that Brown is a multi-dimensional star who's fallen, but has the talent to rise again -- if afforded the opportunity.]]> Thu, 24 Dec 2009 07:10:23 +0000
<![CDATA[ Strange Greatness]]>
The two 1950 tracks of Billie with Count Basie are also special; the film is grainy and fuzzy, but the sound quality is better than most and has been well-reengineered on this DVD. The other tracks, mostly with the Mal Waldron Orchestra, are of dismal quality both in picture and sound, but hey! it doesn't matter. There's so little of Billie Holiday on film - such shabby little fragments really, of such a sublime and unique performer - that one can only kneel in gratitude to have anything.

And then there's the 'title' song, Strange Fruit. Is everybody prepared to have heartbreak? The social/historical context of American racism and apartheid is never far below the surface of the Blues, but the words of the poem Strange Fruit, sung by tragic Billie Holiday, transcend music and entertainment, and need to etched in our souls forever.]]> Sat, 28 Nov 2009 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Recalling the days when Motown truly was "The Sound of Young America".]]> Once upon a time four talented young students at Philadelphia's High School of Creative and Performing Arts formed an R & B vocal quartet. Before long Michael, Nathan, Wanya and Shawn would come to be known as Boyz II Men.  And the rest as they say is rock and roll history. Throughout the 1990's Boyz II Men would amass an impressive total of ten Top Ten hits on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart.  Remarkably, five of these tunes would make it all the way to number one!!  In 2004 Michael McCary would be forced to leave the group due to a chronic back ailment.  Fast forward to the fall of 2007Boyz II Men is now a trio and Decca Records releases the groups latest album "Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA". This disc features a baker's dozen of some of the most enjoyable Motown tunes of all time.  It is an absolute joy to listen to!

Of all of the songs on "Motown:  A Journey Through Hitsville USA" perhaps my favorite is the remake of Stevie Wonder's 1967 smash "I Was Made To Love Her".  I had never heard any other artist do this tune and the guys prove to be more than equal to the task.  Outstanding!  I also thoroughly enjoyed the groups rendition of Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)". This 1962 classic was really Motown's first big hit and Boyz II Men inject new energy into this venerable tune.  Among my other favorites on this disc are "All This Love", "It's The Same Old Song/Reach Out, I'll Be There" medley and most especially "War". This 1970 anthem originally recorded by Edwin Starr has never sounded better!  And I would be remiss if I failed to make mention the final track on this disc.  Brian McKnight leads the guys in a memorable acapella version of Boyz II Men's biggest hit "The End of The Road".   Fans of group harmony will find this track to be simply irresistable.

"Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA" proves to be one of those rare albums with multi-generational appeal.  Younger fans who enjoyed the groups work in the 1990's will certainly not be disappointed.  And those of us who are quite a bit older and purchased these original Motown 45's when we were teenagers will enjoy this disc as well.  I thought that most of the arrangements were outstanding and the vocal performances stunning.  Having said that I am sorry to report that according to my ears special guest Patti Labelle's performance on "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" left a lot to be desired.  But that one minor negative aside "Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA" turns out to be one of the most enjoyable new discs I have heard in quite some time. I think you will agree.  Highly recommended!

]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2009 00:27:12 +0000
<![CDATA[ Michael Bublé Offers Up Some Watered Down Remakes]]> Pros: Bublé has a nice voice, "Home" is a great song...

Cons: ...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...Oh, sorry, I was supposed to be reviewing, right?

The Bottom Line: Michael Bublé's remakes are good, but you might as well just listen to the original renditions.  

I don't like remakes.  Well, let me rephrase.  I'm weary of remakes.  I don't like them unless I feel as though the remake somehow improves upon the original song.  Usually, I find that when people do remakes, they've done nothing to make the song better, and I just wind up wishing I was listening to the original instead.

It's an interesting career choice to basically release albums of nothing but remakes.  Hey, I know that one of my favorite artists is Jamie Cullum, who is notorious for his first albums being quite remake heavy, but as I said before, I don't mind remakes, if they've got an original spin on them, which Cullum's always do. 

And most often compared to Cullum, for the fact that his first CDs were basically all remakes, is singer, Michael Bublé.   Canadian-born Bublé started off as an actor, but ended up releasing his self-titled debut in 2003, with producer David Foster (who has also worked with Josh Groban).  The album, mostly composed of remakes of standards, saw success and critical acclaim, so Bublé released its follow up, It's Time, in 2005.

It's Time is a decent collection of songs- you can't find fault in the selections that Bublé choose to remake, really.  However, he doesn't seem to realize that even though he has a nice voice, simply re-singing a song doesn't make it "better".  Unlike Cullum, Bublé has yet to perfect the art of reworking a song to better fit your own, original sound.

Most critics and music fans, I've found, weren't fond of Bublé's update on the Nina Simone classic, Feeling Good.   I, on the other hand, absolutely love this opening track.  The song begins with Bublé singing the opening lines, accompanied only by violin.  Soon, the horns and drums kick in, leading way to a triumphant, soulful number.  Sure, Bublé's version can't hold a candle to Simone's, but I don't think Bublé was trying to compete with her anyway.  His rendition is solid on its own, and I love listening to this song before work if I'm in a particularly good mood; there's just something about the way that he sings the final line ("It's a new dawn!/It's a new day!/It's a new life!/For me. I'm feeling good!") that just gets me pumped for whatever kind of day I have ahead of me. 

Next up is A Foggy Day (In London Town).  The song starts off with a fanfare of instruments that sounds incredibly over the top, calling to mind the bands marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, or something.  Anyway, the rest of the song is pleasant, and Bublé sounds just like an old school crooner- calling to mind whom I'm sure he would most like to be compared to- Mr. Frank Sinatra, himself.

You Don't Know Me is a remake of a Nat King Cole song.  The song is a sensual, slow-paced ballad that you'd imagine your parents slow dancing to in front of the fire.  Though the track is a bit of a bore, it'd make for the perfect background music for a romantic evening at home with your love. Quando, Quando, Quando features guest vocalist, Nelly Furtado.  The track sounds like a continuation of the song before it, and though Furtado and Bublé sound good together, nothing can really save this track from mediocrity.

Another ballad appears with Home, and the album could really use a change in tempo at this point.  However, this song definitely gets brownie points for being the only original track on the album- co-written by Bublé.  Because  of this fact, and the lyrics about being on the road and feeling homesick ("And I'm surrounded by/A million people I/Still feel all alone/Oh, let me go home/Oh, I miss you, you know"), the song is one of my favorites on the album.  Bublé's vocals are also on point, and he sounds great. 

Bublé dares to cover a Beatles' classic next with Can't Buy Me Love.  Well, the remake is a lively one, at least, but it sounds like something you'd hear in a karaoke bar, or even worse- a cruise ship.  I can practically hear Simon Cowell's voice floating around in my head, saying, "This sounds like a bad lounge act.  Absolutely dreadful."  While I wouldn't say the song is exactly "dreadful", it's not that great, either.  Let's just leave this one to Paul and the gang, okay, Bublé? 

The More I See You is another Nat King Cole/Nina Simone remake and actually is a bit dreadful, or mostly just very, very boring.  Bublé's rendition of Try A Little Tenderness lacks all the soul that the Otis Redding version has, and shouldn't have been redone in the first place, really.  The same can be said of the James Taylor classic, How Sweet It Is, which has frankly been remade too many times, and since Bublé's version does nothing to differentiate it from the many other remakes, it's unnecessary.  Save The Last Dance For Me turns out to be surprisingly spicy and fun, but still nothing incredible.

Song For You is smooth, sultry, slow and dull, and again, lacks the soul that Danny Hathaway's version had.  At least there's a nice trumpet solo from Chris Botti, which is easily the highlight of the song.  There's not much to say about I've Got You Under My Skin, except that this reworking is lifeless and uninspired, and Jamie Cullum's live version (filled with excitement, and instrument solos) is better.  But as I said at the beginning, when it comes to Cullum and Bublé, there's really no comparison- at least in my very biased eyes.

The album comes to a close with You and I.  The slow paced, power ballad definitely shows that Bublé is a talented singer, but I'm afraid it comes far too late in the album.  Chances are, you haven't stuck around this long, anyway, and if you have- the music is probably just background for something more engaging that you're doing.

I'm not here to rag on Michael Bublé.  He's talented, and likeable.  I've liked albums of standards and remakes before (I thoroughly enjoyed Natalie Cole's album of standards), but I think the problem with It's Time is that Bublé seems to rest on his smooth voice and the strengths of the original songs without trying to experiment or do anything different.  His one original song is the best one on the album, so that makes me hopeful that perhaps, if Bublé branches out (and he may already have- this is currently his only album that I own) and writes more of his own music, I may appreciate him a bit more. 
Track Listing
1. Feeling Good
2. A Foggy Day (In London Town)
3. You Don't Know Me
4. Quando, Quando, Quando - (with Nelly Furtado)
5. Home
6. Can't Buy Me Love
7. The More I See You
8. Save the Last Dance For Me
9. Try a Little Tenderness
10. How Sweet It Is
11. Song For You - (with Chris Botti)
12. I've Got You Under My Skin
13. You and I


Great Music to Play While: Romancing]]> Tue, 13 Oct 2009 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Doobies made many of the best and brightest records of the 1970's.]]> While I am not a particularly big fan of the music of the 1970's one group that stood head and shoulders above the rest was the Doobie Brothers.  Led by vocalist Tom Johnston, this group successfully combined elements of rock 'n roll and R&B and made some of the most memorable music of the decade.  And despite a rash of personnel changes along the way the group continued to make great music throughout the 1970's.

It did not take long for the group to make its mark on the American music scene.  Formed in San Jose, Ca. in 1970, the Doobies found themselves riding high on the Billboard Top Pop Singles chart when in the fall of 1972 their debut release "Listen To The Music" leaped all the way to #11.  Quite an accomplishment!  Over the next few years the hits just kept on comin' with memorable songs like "Long Train Runnin" "Black Water" and "China Grove".   What I particularly enjoyed about the Doobie Brothers was that no two songs seemed to sound alike.  This was a very innovative group that featured tight harmonies and superior musicianship.

As I mentioned earlier the group was plagued by constant personnel changes which made the fact that their music was so consistantly good all the more remarkable.  In 1975, Michael McDonald came aboard to replace Tom Johnston and lent his considerable talents to the group.  But the group had a lot of trouble coming up with another big hit.  "Takin' It To The Streets" and "It Keeps You Runnin'" were great records but it seemed the public had lost some interest.   In late 1978 the group released the album "Minute By Minute".  This record was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the public.  Not only did it reach #1 on the Billboard Albums chart, but it stayed there for five weeks.
 " Minute By Minute" also spawned the #1 single "What A Fool Believes" which in my opinion could well be the best single release of the decade.  The group continued to have varying amounts of success until they finally disbanded in 1983.  The group re-formed briefly in 1989 with Tom Johnston at the helm and released the great Top 10 single "The Doctor".

If you are looking for a great collection of this group then I would suggest Rhino's 2001 release  "Doobie Brothers Greatest Hits".  Unfortunately this disc has been discontinued but there are still copies to be found online.   In 2007 Rhino replaced that offering with the two disc--33 track package called "The Very Best of the Dobbie Brothers".  This is a bit more music than I was interested in but it is still a fine collection.   The Doobies maintain a website and still make appearances from time to time.  Long live the Doobies!

]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2009 11:35:47 +0000
<![CDATA[ Run To You]]>
Here are videos of some of my favorite songs by Whitney. Just the greatest ever!



And last but not least, this sexy number from Whitney & Enrique! When it comes to Whitney Houston, all you need to do is simply listen ... listen with your heart!




7 years of silence, she's now back!!!

" ]]> Thu, 10 Sep 2009 02:36:01 +0000
<![CDATA[ I Will Always Love You (Soundtrack from The Bodyguard)]]>
I first heard the song not by its original artist but by Whitney Houston while watching her movie Bodyguard co-starring the charming Kevin Costner. It's made famous by Houston as well and it's one of the best selling singles of all time! There are a great many good songs in the movie & one of my very favorites is Run To You, sung by Whitney Houston as well.

I Will Always Love You has got great melody & lyrics and it's no wonder many people can relate to it and end up loving the music. 



 Originally sung by Dolly Parton.


Another great version of the song by Linda Ronstadt.


And the newest version sung by a 6 year old Connie Talbot who made it to South Korea! Lovely!!!

" ]]> Thu, 10 Sep 2009 02:16:26 +0000
<![CDATA[Whitney Houston Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Tue, 8 Sep 2009 07:50:39 +0000 <![CDATA[ Mean, nasty, bitter, truthful and everything a blues should be]]>]]> Fri, 4 Sep 2009 00:59:25 +0000
<![CDATA[ Million Dollar Bill]]>

New albumn hits stores September 1, 2009. 
]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2009 00:12:25 +0000
<![CDATA[ Well, lots of hits, award winning, yes, made money....sorry, not a fan they didn't do enough!]]>
Now you might think that I have some kind of love of mediocre or bland things, that isn't true.  I love big and grand things but when something tells me that it's going to be great and isn't, it's only dissapointing and doesn't endear me to the product at all and only makes me wonder who the people are that enjoyed said product. Even worse if it comes off as pretentious when you hear the product is going to lecture you and try and tell you why it is smart and special, a cut above the rest.  If it doesn't pass muster it looks foolish.  The Doobie Brothers don't promise anything, they play music with some songs better then others and it's uncomplicated, maybe that was their problem in that they were eager to please everyone and wound up looking average.

Starting in San Jose biker bars in the late 60's and into the early 70's the band consisted of two lead guitar players in Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons.  Johnston sang the rock songs and the more folkey songs were passed off to Simmons.  A bass player named Dave Shogren and John Hartman was the drummer.  A self produced album came out at the time and is currently under a number of different labels and titles.  It's actually a decent effort but a lot of the songs sound like a real "garage" variety.  They got signed to a major deal not too much later but the self titled debut was a flop with no major hit and it's folk songs dominating.

A second effort Toulouse St. was their breakout with Listen to the Music, Jesus is Just Alright and Rock'in down the Highway as the hits.  Shogren left and was replaces by the superior Tiran Porter on bass and for a nice thicker sound added a second drummer named Michael Hosack.  The third album continued with The Captain and Me with another three hits with the infamous China Grove and it's crunching guitar chords, South City Midnight Lady and Long Train Runn'in.  These two albums are largely considered their best works.  As a note, the harmonizing on the title track to Captain and Me during it's rousing climax is some of their best work.

What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits is their infamous fourth album which some people consider a bit of a miss, some consider a huge success due solely to the track Black Water, their first number 1.

Stampede is my personal favorite and added my personal favorite guitar player, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.  Only one hit with Take Me in Your Arms "Rock me a little While" but the bouncy Neals Fandango, the laid back Texas Lullabye and the atmospheric I Cheat the Hangman are fan favorites.  Hangman being the most unique of the three and starts it's jarring instrumental piece at the 4:20 mark.  Coincidance?

Tom Johnstons partying and constant touring left him ill and needing a break.  In came Michael McDonald who like Jeff Baxter was a Steely Dan alum.  A jazzier sound was introduced and McDonalds haunting voice took over as the voice of the group.  Surprisingly a band born from Hell's Angels clubs had it's strongest following at this point and the infamous 6th album Tak'in it to the Streets with it's equally infamous title track were born and sales were never better.  A 7th album featuring even more of McDonald was Liv'in on the Fault Line.  Johnston who had little input on the previous album had even less to do here and was a member in name only.  He officially left the band.  The album had no major hits but has it's admirers.

Burning out but not out yet, the Doobies put out their most famous album Minute by Minute and to say it was a smash would be an understatement.  Selling 3 million copies, winning awards and having another #1 hit with What a Fool Believes solidifyed them in music history.  Make sure to listen to Jeff Baxters closing instrumental guitar piece for How Does the Fool Survive?  After this album though, it was a little downhill.

1980 gave us One Step Closer, and while it wasn't bad, nothing really stood out as being fantastic.  Baxter and Hartman left the band before this leaving John McFee to take over for Baxter and Chet McCracken a roadie for Hartmans spot.  Simmons the only original member left was ready to throw in the towel leaving McDonald ready to have the band fold up.  A major tour was planned to close out the band and have Simmons and McDonald join Johnston on solo projects.

Flash forward a few years shows that McDonalds solor career is doing very well but Simmons and Johnston's aren't.  After a reuinon tour, a new deal was in the works with Capitol Records and we got in 1989 Cycles.  The original Toulouse St. lineup plus former roadie turned percussionist Bobby LaKind.  Cycles sold well with a big hit with The Doctor but lately is looked at as a weaker entry in their catalog.  Brotherhood came out in 91 and was a better quality of songs then Cycles it met with fewer sales with a subject of one of the worst tours at the time with the grunge movement settling in and the Doobies stuck to regular tours with a signifigant one in 96 for the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

1999 gave us a nice box set collection on 4 cds with the first 3 CDs covering the bands different phases of music and a wonderful 4th disc of unreleased material.  2000 saw the year of their first new material in a while, Sibling Rivalry to say it was quaint would be correct but to say it tanked would be also.  The lead track is also a bit silly with a lyric decrying kids on corners selling drugs-and your band is named, what exactly?  A major concert at Wolftrap a few years ago was the last major point of their career and it led to a live CD and DVD release.

Getting back to what I said above, it's a funny thing when I said about not standing out.  Consider this now it may be hard to picture but imagine about a dozen kids, the middle school and early high school variety, and one of them is wearing a Doobie Brothers T Shirt, the others all have Led Zepplin shirts.  Now who stands out?  I bet you even more the Doobie Brother kid actually has listened to the band he's representing.]]> Tue, 16 Jun 2009 05:38:49 +0000
<![CDATA[ Enjoying the Smooth Sounds of Ms. Badu]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2009 00:18:02 +0000 <![CDATA[ Easily the finest single disc Ray Charles collection ever assembled.]]> Ray Charles overcame obstacles that would defeat lesser men.  He was partially blinded in an unfortunate accident in his back yard at age 5 and became totally blinded at the age of 7.  Rather than wallow in his misfortune, a very young Ray Charles began to study classical piano and clarinet at the State School for Deaf and Blind Children in St. Augustine, FL.   Ray quickly figured out that music was what he wanted to do with his life.  He moved to Seattle in 1948 at the age of 18 and formed the Maxine Trio.  Just a year later the group inked a deal with a small Los Angeles based label called Swingtime.   After just a few months the groups' debut release "Confession Blues" rose all the way to #2 on Billboard's R & B chart.  A couple of other hits followed and important people in the music business began to take notice.  One of them was Ahmet Ertegan of Atlantic records who had a knack for discovering important new talent.  Ray Charles would ink a deal with Atlantic records in 1952 and  the rest as they say is history.  Over the next five and a half decades Ray Charles would become an institution and one of the most important recording artists and "live" performers in American musical history.

Concord records 2009 release "Genius:  The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection" celebrates the man's biggest and most memorable recordings from his hey-day at Atlantic between 1952 and 1960 as well as his legendary hits at ABC-Paramount during the 1960's.  It is a stunning collection featuring a variety of musical styles that reminds us all of just how versatile and talented an artist Ray Charles was.  "Genius" features a half dozen of Ray's most popular recordings from his stint at Atlantic.  Enjoy newly remastered recordings of great hits like "What I'd Say""A Fool For You" as well as my personal favorite "Drowning In My Tears" which hit #1 on the R & B charts back in 1956.  You will also find "Sticks and Stones" "I've Got A Woman"  and a fabulous "live" recording of "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" from the Atlantic era.  While Ray Charles was wildly popular among jazz and R & B afficianados during the 1950's he really hit his stride with general audiences after signing a deal with ABC-Paramount in 1960.  There were certainly a lot of raised eyebrows when Ray opted to leave Atlantic but evidently he knew what he was doing.  During his 14 year stay at ABC Ray Charles had around 60 charted singles and recorded dozens of successful albums in a wide variety of musical styles.  Hear once again great hits like 1961's "Hit The Road Jack""I Can't Stop Loving You" and the haunting ballad "You Don't Know Me".  Indeed, one of my all-time Ray Charles faves was his magnificent rendition of Buck Owens' country classic "Crying Time" which was a huge hit on the pop, country, R & B and adult contemporary charts in early 1966.   Add to the mix  tunes like "Busted", "Georgia On My Mind", "Take These Chains From My Heart" and "Unchain My Heart" and it is easy to understand why "Ray Charles/Genius:  The Ultimate Collection" should be considered to be absolutely essential to any serious collection of American popular music. 

"Genius:  The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection" comes with an outstanding 24 page booklet that includes a brief biography of Ray, a number of splendid photos and a brief story about each of the 21 tracks in this collection.  And believe me when I tell you that these tracks have never, ever sounded better!  The remastering job done by the folks at Concord records is exceptional.  These are the original Atlantic and ABC-Paramount  recordings you would remember from the radio.  No re-recordings here thank God! I have been collecting records now for more than 40 years.  I can always tell when a project has been done with tender loving care.  Such is the case with "Genius:    The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection".     Very highly recommended! ]]> Sat, 11 Apr 2009 20:16:49 +0000
<![CDATA[ Goes good with Cheryl Renee Herbsman's Breathing]]> Mon, 16 Mar 2009 12:00:00 +0000 <![CDATA[ "Forever" - The Most Dance-Inducing Song of 2008]]>
Released in May 2008, the best part of the song is the catchy techno-meets-hip-hop beat.  Lush atmospheric synth riffs mix with the percussive stomp of hip-hop  to form a rousing dance beat, which seems to be an increasingly common sound amongst hip-hop artists.  Over the techno, Chris Brown delivers energetic lyrics about having fun and dancing forev-ev-ever. 

My favorite part is at the 3:12 mark when Brown sings "I won't let you fall girl, fall..." and the melody drifts away.  Percussive beats takeover and slowly the intensity rises as the melody grows stronger and then erupts in full force.  Many times at parties or clubs I have personally exploded to that part. 

If you know of any other great songs of  '08, lets hear 'em. 

]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2009 06:53:11 +0000
<![CDATA[ Underdone and overlooked]]>
1. SASS biopic of Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records, played by Adrian Brody
2. Quick look at Chicago in the time of segregation
3. Stirring portrayal of Muddy Waters by Jeffrey Wright
4. Short history of Little Walter, played by Columbus Short
5. Quick peek at Chuck Berry, portrayed by Mos Def
6. Quick leer at Etta James, portrayed by Beyonce
7. Passing glimpses of Howlin' Wolf (Eamonn Walker) and Willie Dixon (Cedric the Entertainer)

The problem with this movie is that it doesn't go deep enough into anything, skimming the historical and background stuff to focus instead on cars, cigarettes, alcohol and assorted misbehavior. The main thing you'll learn here is not what made these legends tick, but that they really, really liked Cadillacs.

A good cast, great music and a story that could have been a lot better than this. The stories of these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers deserve more than this superficial skim.

Amanda Richards, February 14, 2009
]]> Sat, 14 Feb 2009 23:28:07 +0000
<![CDATA[ Tons of useful information but the print is way too small!]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2009 12:48:45 +0000 <![CDATA[ You are Who?]]> Pros: First two releases.

Cons: Poorly written; lackluster; mostly meaningless; Who is this Sasha Fierce anyway?

The Bottom Line:

Ultimately, I Am Sasha Fierce is a highly polished, energetic, but crass offering that sadly disappoints.

Original Release Date: November 18, 2008
Genre: Contemporary R&B 
Label:  Sony Records
Number of Discs: (2)

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles.  As I wrote in my review of B'Day (2006), leave off the last name and her name bespeaks beauty, grace, and eloquence; and indeed she is a most striking woman, whose music career has begot a burgeoning business empire.  But, although Ms. Knowles is a classically trained vocalist, her voice has never stood out as one of the greats in terms of dynamic range or soul-weeping beauty , but at least as part of Destiny's Child she made reasonably good music.  

The same cannot be said of her long anticipated November 2008 release I Am...Sasha Fierce, a two disc CD that is supposed to highlight the two very different sides of Ms. Knowles persona.  On one CD we have Beyoncé, the sweet, famine, (almost) fragile female, serenading us with songs of love scorned, and then found again, in all of its rhapsodized beauty.  On the other CD, we have a hipper, wiser, (bad) Beyoncé, or Sasha Fierce, the strong woman who would die before she let a man play her again. 

While disc (1) is soft, dare I say eloquent, sweet and ballad filled, disc (2) is hard driving, street, "fierce", with enough hip-hop musical queues to give Sasha Fierce street credentials.  It's not a stretch to state the CD was meant as a gimmick, which largely tanked with me, but apparently not with the public at large, because I Am...Sasha Fierce debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making this Ms. Knowles' third consecutive number one CD.          

I was initially attracted to the CD(s) based on the simultaneously released singles-one each from each disc-If I Were A Boy (disc 1), and from disc 2, Singles Ladies (Put a Ring on It). The simultaneously released tracks were no doubt meant to demonstrate the duality-the flip side as it were-of Beyoncé's personae. On the one musical hand, the "'Beyoncé'" disc's admittedly poignant-and quickly answered by R Kelly among others-If I Were a Boy ascends with melodic indignation and unwavering role reversal sentiments (''If I were a boy/even just for a day...drink beer with the guys/and chase after girls...I were a boy/I think I could understand/How it feels to be a woman/I swear I'd be a better man").

Meanwhile on the "Sasha'" disc, Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), is pure girl-power sassy with bouncy hypnotically contagious hand claps and post-kicked-to-the curb bravado ("Kept crying my tears/For three good years/You can't be mad at me").  One has to wonder if Mr. Jay Z was not the subject of this high-stepping, estrogen-powered lyrical kiss-off, or if he was at least threatened by it real life equivalent, which is why Beyoncé finally got a ring on it! Indeed, I wondered if Mr. Z was the subject of Sasha Fierce's musical rants. 

The two aforementioned singles aside I Am...Sasha Fierce goes decidedly downhill.  While the Beyoncé side did have some notable ballad's-I loved the opening guitar string work on track No. 3 Disappear, and Track No. 4 Broken-Hearted Girl was laudable for its beautiful piano work-aside from the Single Ladies, the Sasha Fierce disc was mostly a disjoined, unintelligible waste. 

In other words I didn't enjoy the musical ride at all.  Buried within the Sasha Fierce disc, Beyoncé's voice is never more than a footnote; there is just too much going on; too much noise, too many background singers, too many instruments, too much wasted energy.  On many of the tracks Beyonce does little more than screech out intelligible lyrics, and after a while this cacophony of unsavory, uninspired sounds set my nerves on edge.  Sort of like B'Day

Reportedly Knowles spent a year working on I Am...Sasha Fierce and co-wrote and produced over seventy songs, though only 13 made it to the tow disc (standard edition), while 19 can be had with the deluxe edition of the album.  It's a shame something more enlightened couldn't have come from that time.

Ultimately, as intended, I Am...Sasha Fierce wears two faces, both of which are highly polished, and energetic, but only the Beyoncé persona works for me; Sasha Fierce mostly disappoints because when all is said, and sung, I have seen, heard, and dismissed her already as crass and sadly disappointing.  While there a few bright spots, I Am...Sasha Fierce is style and status over substance, which may endear the dual CD's to most of today's taste challenged young audience, but does nothing for those of us who crave something deeper and more profound, dare I say soulful in our R&B.            
Track Listing:

Disc (1)

1. If I Were Boy
2. Halo

3. Disappear
4. Broken-Hearted Girl
5. Ave Maria

6. Satellites
7. Save The Hero
Disc (2)
1. Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
2. Radio
3. Diva

4. Sweet Dreams
5. Video Phone
6. Why Don't You Love Me


Great Music to Play While: Driving]]> Sat, 3 Jan 2009 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Perhaps the most important recordings of a true American icon.]]> Ray Charles was clearly one of the giants of American popular music in the second half of the twentieth century.  There was simply no one else like him.  His tenure at Atlantic records began in the Spring of 1952.  Ray Charles' previous recordings at Swingtime records would remind you of the King Cole Trio.  But Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler would scrap that sound and opt instead for a more jazz and blues oriented approach.  The decision would pay immediate dividends.   And mako mistake about it.....Ray Charles had a few ticks up his sleeve as well.  Ray Charles would become a fixture on the R & B charts for the balance of the decade with tunes like "I've Got A Woman", "Fool For You" and of course one of his all-time biggest hits "What I'd Say" which would become Ray's first big crossover hit in 1959.

Now jazz and the blues are not among my favorite genres of music.  I have owned "The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years"  for quite some time now but frankly this was not a disc that I  would listen to on a regular basis.   I tended to prefer Ray Charles a bit later on in his career when he recorded all of those great pop and C & W sides for ABC-Paramount.  But while there are some cuts on this collection that are simply not my cup of tea there can be no denying the enormity of the man's talent.  Aside from the bigger hits previously mentioned,  I also enjoyed songs like "Hallelujah I Love Her So", "Ain't That Love" and the marvelous "Drown In My Own Tears".  The final cut on this disc is simply magnificent.  "Just For A Thrill" was written by Lil Armstrong (Satchmo's former wife) and Ray Charles sings this ballad to perfection.  This collection includes a very informative 20 page booklet highlighting Ray's highly successful tenure at Atlantic records.  I suspect that any reputable music guide would classify "The Best of Ray Charles:  The Atlantic Years" as essential to any collectionof American popular music.  You will certainly get no argument from me.    Highly recommended.]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2008 09:55:04 +0000
<![CDATA[ Fine acting, terrific music but a funky storyline......Beyonce is superb as Etta James.]]> "Cadillac Records" the audience is advised that the film is "based on a true story".  Well, sort of.  I have read a lot about the history of rock and roll over the years and the fact is that the producers of this film chose to take quite a bit of artistic license with the story of Chicago's legendary Chess records.   You see Chess records was founded in Chicago in 1950 by the Chess brothers, Leonard (Adrien Brody) and Phil.  One of the  problems with "Cadillac Records" in my view is that the producers chose not to even acknowledge the existence of Phil Chess.  Despite this and a few other instances where the producers chose to play fast and loose with the facts I still thoroughly enjoyed this flick.  As I indicated in the Review Headline the acting was terrific and the music was out of this world.

"Cadillac Records" fondly recalls the heyday of Chess records and remembers the incredible stable of artists that helped to put this label on the map.  The very first artist to be signed by Chess was Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright).  This legendary artist would record some of the most memorable blues sides in history at Chess and would play an important role in the emergence and growth of the label in the early to mid 1950's.  The film also tells the troubling story of Little Walter (Columbus Short), perhaps the best harmonica player who ever lived.  Other Chess legends portrayed in the movie are Howlin' Wolf (Eammon Walker), Willie Dixon (Cedrick the Entertainer),  the incredible Etta James (Beyonce) and of course rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry played ever so convincingly by Mos Def.   Remarkably, each and every one of these performers would one day be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!  Quite an accomplishment for the upstart label!  I must tell you that while I had every reason to expect that the music would be great I was stunned to discover just how good the acting was in this film.   Adrien Brody was terrific as Leonard Chess while Jeffrey Wright was thoroughly convincing as Muddy Waters.   Kudos also to Beyonce Knowles and Mos Def for their remarkable portrayals of Etta James and Chuck Berry respectively.   And the music.......just outstanding!   Beyonce does an amazing job on two of Etta James most enduring tunes "At Last" and "I'd Rather Go Blind".   She certainly proved to me that she is more than capable of handling this type of material!     
If you know anything about the early history of rock and roll you would be aware of the fact that the hundreds of black artists were routinely cheated out of their royalties by the various record companies.   Let's see, there was Herman Lubinsky at Savoy records in New Jersey,  Syd Nathan at Cincinnati's King records and oh yes,  the Chess brothers in Chicago.  From what I have read in the past Leonard Chess was not quite as kind and benevolent as he was portrayed in this film.
Despite its  flaws, "Cadillac Records" still makes for a fun night out.  For those too young to remember this is a great way to become acquainted with some of the greatest blues artists of all time.  And for older fans it is an enjoyable trip down memory lane.  Recommended!]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2008 00:11:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ One of the few artists truly worthy of a 4 disc box set.]]>
Disc One contains all of those three minute gems you might remember from 1960's Top 40 radio. Who can ever forget the sheer energy of tunes like 1965's "Uptight (Everything's Alright) or the remarkable "I Was Made to Love Her" from 1967? Other great tunes from the first disc include "A Place in the Sun" and the beautiful "My Cherie Amour" which brings back warm memories of the summer of '69.   Disc Two spotlights Stevie's work from the decade of the 70's. This was a fascinating decade as Stevie successfully experimented with different sounds. As a result, his music was much more varied as evidenced by hits like "Superstition", "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" and "Boogie on Reggae Woman."    The third disc in this set includes several more hit tunes from the late 70's like "I Wish" and the great "Sir Duke" as well as a number of tunes from some of Stevie's albums. Here again, you get a feel for just how creative and talented a writer Stevie Wonder really is.  The fourth and final disc in the set covers the final two decades of the century. In the mid-80's, Stevie Wonder struck paydirt again with big hits like "I Just Called To Say I Love You", "Go Home" and the innovative "Skeletons". And although changing times made it difficult for Stevie Wonder to continue to churn out hit singles in the 1990's the quality of his music did not decline one bit as evidenced by "For Your Love" and a beautiful tune from 1996 featuring Stevie and Babyface "How Come, How Long".

Now ordinarily I am very careful with my shekels. There are very few artists that I would deem worthy of such a box set. Stevie Wonder is one of those performers. And as a practical matter to get all of the hits included in this box set you would have have to spring for 3 or 4 different "Greatest Hits" collections anyway. Universal Music did one terrific job on this one. Included is a beautiful 92 page booklet containing remarkable photographs, biographical information and a complete discography (singles and albums) of the artist. This is the way a box set should be done.   Highly recommended.]]> Sun, 7 Dec 2008 21:14:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ Long overdue anthology of one of the great artists of the 1970's.]]> Al Green and his producer Willie Mitchell collaborated on some of the finest and most memorable soul records ever made.  Finally, Capitol records has seen fit to do justice to the music of this extremely important American artist.  "Al Green: The Definitive Greatest Hits" features 21 of the finest recordings spanning Al Green's entire career.  By any standard this disc truly should be considered essential to any serious collection of American popular music.

What seperates "Al Green: The Definite Greatest Hits" from previous anthologies is that it offers selections spanning the entire length and breadth of Al Green's remarkable recording career.  Of course this disc includes all 7 of Al's Top Ten tunes from the early 70's including "Look What You Done For Me", "I'm Still In Love With You", the #1 smash "Let's Stay Together" as well as my personal favorite "You Ought To Be With Me" from 1972.  Add to these other great hits like "L-O-V-E (Love)", "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" and Al's first big Hi records hit "Tired of Being Alone" and you will quickly understand why Al Green is such an important American recording artist.  One of the things that really impressed me about this collection is that Capitol chose to include Al Green's very first chart record from 1967.  At that time, his name was Al Greene.  His backup group was the Soul Mates.  Al released "Back Up Train" on his own label and you can clearly hear why Al Green was destined to become a major star.  In 1976, Al Green decided he wanted to pursue a career in gospel music.  This change in musical direction would cause Al and his long-time producer Willie Mitchell to part company.  His final charted record at Hi would be a tune called "Belle".  The gospel influence on this tune is quite apparent.  I had never heard it before and I must tell you that I absolutely loved it.  Shortly thereafter, Al Green would leave the music business altogether to become a full-time minister in Memphis.  In 2002, Al Green and Willie Mitchell decided that they wanted to make music together again.  They would record in the very same studio in Memphis where they had made magic and history in the early 1970's.  As an added treat, Capitol has chosen to add a pair of these new tunes to this collection.  As you will see, Al Green has not lost it one little bit!

"Al Green: The Definitive Greatest Hits" includes a thoughtful 12 page booket that features some marvelous photos and very informative biographical information.  I had completely forgotten that Al Green had a hand in writing virtually all of his hit singles!  His was Southern Soul at it's absolute best!   It is also worth mentioning that the remastering job is first rate.  As I recall, the fidelity on those old Hi 45's was never the best.   So whether you are a life-long fan or a younger person just interested in sampling this music then "The Definitive Greatest Hits" would certainly be a great choice.  Highly recommended!]]> Fri, 5 Dec 2008 12:19:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ Fine career overview of this enduring and multi-talented artist.]]> Billboard charts for more than a quarter century. Over the years this dynamic artist would prove to be not only a spendid singer but a talented musician and gifted songwriter to boot. His records were a fixture on American radio through most of the 60's, 70's and 80's.  Yes, Stevie Wonder truly was and remains an American original.  Now our friends at Motown/Universal have seen to release a marvelous single disc collection of 20 of Stevie Wonder's fantastic #1 Hits.  "#1's" brings back all of those sensational hit records you would remember growing up.  And the truly remarkable thing is that no two of these songs sound alike!

Now during the 1960's Stevie Wonder made quite a few memorable records.  The cream of the crop are included here. You might recall his first big hit "Fingertips - Pt 2" which went all the way to the top of the charts in 1963! "Little" Stevie Wonder was just 12 years old when this tune was recorded and it quickly became obvious to all that this young man was a star in the making.  One of my favorite Stevie Wonder discs was the rollicking 1967 hit "I Was Made to Love Her" which is also included here.

For all of the success he enjoyed in the 1960's Stevie Wonder would go on to even bigger and better things during the 1970's.  A whole host of Stevie's tunes would find their way to the top of the charts and all of them are included here.  This list of hits covers the full gamut from his funky 1972 smash "Superstition" to the enduring love song "You Are The Sunshine of My Life".  You will also find other great 70's hits like "Sir Duke", "I Wish" and a personal favorite "Boogie On Reggae Woman" included here as well. And while the 1980's found Stevie Wonder's popularity diminishing just a bit one could argue that this just might have been his most creative period.  Who can ever forget "I Just Called To Say I Love You" or his 1985 chart-topper "Part-Time Lover".  Some may not be familiar with a pair of his hits from later on in the 80's but I must tell you that "Overjoyed" and "Skeletons" are two of my very favorite Stevie Wonder recordings.

Now as I indicated earlier what makes the 20 tunes included on "#1's" all the more impressive is that Stevie Wonder not only had a hand in writing many of these songs but he also plays on many of them as well. Just in case you didn't know, Stevie Wonder can be heard playing the harmonica, drums, bells, acoustic piano and a couple of different synthesizers on this disc.  Being a big fan, I purchased the 1999 four disc set "At The Close of A Century" some years ago.  For me it was worth every penny.  But for most folks, "#1's" would be a more than adequate alternative. This is a disc that should be considered essential in any serious collection of American popular music.     Very highly recommended!!]]> Thu, 4 Dec 2008 17:53:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ Still the best collection of the "Queen of Soul"!!!]]> "Aretha Franklin:  The Definitive Soul Collection" from Atlantic records remains the absolute best overview of Aretha Franklin during her peak years at Atlantic from 1967 through 1974.  While her subsequent work for Arista in the eighties produced some fine singles, most of those lacked the edge, energy and intensity of these earlier recordings.  Of the 30 songs included on this terrific collection all but two made the Billboard Hot 100.  And of these a total of 14 were Top Ten tunes.  Quite surprising to me was the fact that Aretha managed only one #1 pop hit during her career and that one--you guessed it--was her 1967 smash "Respect".  The story was a bit different though on the Soul/R&B charts where Aretha had a total of 20 #1 singles during her phenomenal career.  She was also a significant player on Billboard's Top Pop Album charts during this period.  In all, more than 30 of Arethas albums would make the charts.

In "Aretha Franklin: The Definitive Soul Collection" Atlantic has included everything you would expect to find on a collection of one of their most prolific and successful artists ever.  I can think of no major omissions.  And all are the original 45 rpm recordings you heard on the radio.  Enjoy once again tunes like "Chain of Fools", "Think" and the rollicking "Since You've Been Gone".  You will also hear the more mellow side of Aretha with tunes like "Day Dreaming" and her big one from 1973 "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)".  Atlantic has provided an attractive booklet loaded with information and also presents the Billboard chart information on each and every tune. For collectors and fans of 1960's and 1970's popular music this 2 CD set is absolutely essential.  Very highly recommended.]]> Thu, 4 Dec 2008 12:35:55 +0000