Category Archives: Soul

Dionne Warwick, always a heartbreaker

My first impression of Dionne Warwick was from listening to her pleasant, calming vocals during car rides with my mother 30 years ago. In the ’80s, her music was experiencing a mini revival, gaining new fans from her time hosting “Solid Gold” and riding on 70s hits like “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and the 1982 disco-jazzy “Heartbreaker.”

My second impression was that she was from San Jose — she must be, because she says so in the song, right? Apparently a lot of people have thought that, which is what she told me during our interview recently. But the Princess of Pop was totally cool with it and doesn’t fault people for assuming she’s from the West Coast. But she grew up in New Jersey – slightly different locale. One of my favorite lines from the song is when she airily suggests dropping $100 to help buy a car. Sounds like a deal to me!

At the time though, I didn’t realize she was part of one of the most successful collaborations in popular music history. The three of them — Warwick and songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David — struck gold with memorable songs like “Say A Little Prayer,” “Walk On By,” and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.”

It’s a massive catalog. If you’ve never taken the time to listen to her hits from the 60s, it’s worth it. Part of it is the Bacharach/David easygoing style of orchestral melodies and brass that makes them memorable, part of it is how Warwick was able to melt so gracefully into the lyrics. “Walk On By” is one of my most favorite songs ever; the piano line is so comforting, like a rainy Sunday.

Some of the songs haven’t aged as well — “Wives and Lovers” has a fantastic, breezy melody. The song is a good example of that ’60s James Bond-style grand sound, but the lines about keeping pretty so your husband doesn’t leave are pretty stale now.

I’ll finally get the chance to see her live tonight in Derry, NH. Hearing songs in person when you’ve had the original stuck in your brain for years is a weird experience. She’s probably not going to sound like she did then, but that’s what will make her performance unique.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under '60s, '70s, Disco, Gospel, New Music, Pop, R&B, Soul

Charles Bradley cancels tour dates due to cancer diagnosis

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires have canceled their upcoming tour dates. In a statement released today, the soul singer, 67, announced that doctors have found a cancerous tumor in his stomach.

Bradley wrote part of the statement:

In the past few months, I have had to cancel a number of shows due to illness, taking me away from my beautiful fans.

My doctors recently discovered a cancerous tumor in my stomach.  

I’m getting the best medical care and we are all extremely optimistic. I will fight through this like I’ve fought through the many other obstacles in my life.

My upcoming tour dates will be postponed so I can concentrate on healing.

Thank you all for understanding. Music is how I share my love with the world, and the love that my fans have given back brings me so much joy. I look forward to seeing your gorgeous faces soon, and to continue to share my love through music.

Bradley has been on the road for much of 2016, but has recently canceled several shows  in light of his health issues. The press release states part of his time off will be for treatment and recovery. 

After Bradley worked as a cook for 10 years, he lived in various cities across the country, playing  at small venues and working menial jobs for about 20 years. His career began again in 1996 under the alias “Black Velvet,” as a James Brown impersonator. He was later discovered by Daptone’s Gabriel Roth. His first single was 2002’s “Take It As It Come, Pt. 1” and “Take It As It Come, Pt. 2.” Since 2011 he’s released three albums, including Changes, out this year.

Read more about Bradley in this 2011 story.

While I haven’t covered much of Bradley’s music on the blog, I’ve admired his music and soulful style, and I hope he makes a quick recovery.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music News, R&B, Retro Soul, Soul, Uncategorized

Nina Simone’s estate to Zoe Saldana: ‘Take Nina’s name out your mouth’

The estate of Nina Simone has spoken out after a trailer of the upcoming Simone biopic, ‘Nina,’ was released.

The trailer, released today, stars actress Zoe Saldana as Simone. The film’s production has remained controversial for several years since it was announced that Saldana was to play Simone, a jazz singer, pianist, activist and songwriter, also known as the High Priestess of Soul.

In a story on the Guardian‘s website, Saldana has been seen on the set wearing dark makeup and a prosthetic nose. The backlash has come down hard. Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, has continuously disavowed the film due to its casting choice.

Today, the Twitter account representing Simone’s estate tweeted to Saldana:

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.25.51 PM

The account also posted a link to a Simone interview, called “That Blackness,” where Simone talks about black culture and how she’s dedicated to helping black students  who feel alienated in white colleges:

“To me we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world,” Simone says in the clip.

Simone’s Twitter account also posted a link today to Simone’s performance of “Go To Hell,” recorded in 1968 at The Bitter End in New York City. Some of the lines in “Go To Hell”:

“If your mind lies in the devil’s workshop/evil doins your thrill/ and trouble and mischief is all you live for/ you know damn well /that you’ll go to hell

Now you living high and mighty / rich off the fat of this land
Please don’t dispose of your natural soul / cause you know damn well that you’ll go to hell”

In 2013, Zaldana responded to the backlash that was already building at the time, saying in part, “I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free.”

So far Saldana hasn’t directly responded. ‘Nina’ is due for release in April. Read more on the story at the Washington Post.

Watch the trailer for ‘Nina’ below:

Leave a comment

Filed under Biopics, Blues, Jazz, Soul, Uncategorized, VIdeos

Erykah Badu imparts cosmic wisdom to fans on Okayplayer

Singer songwriter Erykah Badu, maker of the baddest rendition of “Hotling Bling” to date, recently answered fans’ questions for Okayplayer.

Hear gems of wisdom from the Analog Girl in a Digital World as she discusses her new mixtape and other pressing matters on “The Questions.”

(Disclaimer: The “Hotline Bling” link in the first graf is not the best, but it’s been removed from Soundcloud, as it’s now on her But You Caint Use My Phone EP.)

In the meantime, listen to Badu’s live performance of “Tyrone” to get a sense of the Queen’s power:

Visit okayplayer.com for more, and check out highlights of her Reddit AMA.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blues, Erykah Badu, Jazz, Neo-Soul, Okayplayer, R&B, Soul, Uncategorized

Bill Withers grants rare interview ahead of Carnegie honors

Bill Withers posing for a portrait around 1973.

Bill Withers posing for a portrait around 1973.

OkayPlayer has put out an interview with musician Bill Withers ahead of a tribute honoring the legendary musician.

The interview is part of several retrospectives about Withers, who penned the romantic acoustic classic “Ain’t No Sunshine” when he barely had experience as a musician.

Earlier this year Withers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Tomorrow (Oct. 1), Withers will be honored at Carnegie Hall by artists like Michael McDonald, Anthony Hamilton, Sheryl Crow, Ed Sheeran and others. D’Angelo bowed out today due to unspecified illness.

In the interview, Withers speaks about his songwriting skills, his concerts, such as his Zaire event in 1974, and sampling. He also acknowledges he’s 77 and admits he fits squarely in that age group:

I would like to run and jump and roll over and stuff like that, but I don’t want to hurt myself.

Check out Withers’ scathing, honest funk-driven “Use Me”:

And watch him as he sings “Ain’t No Sunshine,” one of the most iconic songs of the 1970s. What has always been striking to me is the song’s simplicity, and beginning with just a minimal acoustic guitar melody sets the tone as the song builds, and then quickly fades. “Ain’t No Sunshine” seems built to go on and on, and the melody is so beautiful that you wish it would last longer than a couple minutes.

Maybe that’s part of the song’s appeal, but Withers packs in so much soul, from the lyrics to his pained voice to the tune’s rolling beat, it’s almost too much to bear. Like all good things, it’s over much too soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Acoustic, Blues, Funk, R & B, Rock, Soul, VIdeos

Thundercat’s rolling bass drives “Them Changes”

Thundercat is back, this time with the retro-soul gem “Them Changes.”
Singer, producer and bass player Thundercat (Stephen Bruner) is known for working with Flying Lotusthundercat bass and Suicidal Tendencies. Bruner has also made a recent appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly,” but his resume includes working with Erykah Badu’s “New Amerykah” in 2008. He’s been collaborating with Flying Lotus since Bruner’s first album, 2011’s “Golden Age of Apocalypse,” which Flying Lotus produced.

Thundercat’s new single “Them Changes” channels slivers of Kool and the Gang’s romantic vocals and the easy-living piano of Hall and Oates and modernizes it into a new version of smooth R&B funk.

It’s an infectious hit, and its bumping and rolling bass lifts you off the floor.

Via Rolling Stone, Thundercat’s new mini-album, “The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam,” which Flying Lotus co-produced, is out June 22. Thundercat is on the Brainfeeder label.

Leave a comment

Filed under Funk, Retro Soul, Soul

Watch the bittersweet trailer for the new Amy Winehouse documentary

It starts with a woman singing, “black….,” alone. Then it sails through her life, starting when she was a child, and before you know it, she’s gone.

amy_winehouse_34That’s part of the trailer for “Amy,” the new documentary about British singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011 at 27 of alcohol poisoning.

For the early seconds in the trailer, Winehouse is smiling, laughing and vivacious. In a later scene, she’s drinking onstage.

When Winehouse burst onto the jazz/soul/doo-wop scene with albums “Back to Black” and “Frank,” her success seemed like a fairy tale. But her inability to cope with sudden fame coupled with alcohol and drug use caused her personal life to spiral quickly.

The documentary will feature previously unseen footage and aims to tell Winehouse’s story in her own words. It’s due for release in July.

“The thing is, I don’t think I’m gonna be at all famous,” she says. “I’m not a girl trying to be a star.”

https://www.youtube.com/embed/_2yCIwmNuLE“>Watch the video.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Doo Wop, Soul

Nile Rodgers, CHIC sign deal with Warner Bros.; album drops in June

Nile Rodgers performs with his band Chic on the third day of the Glastonbury music festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset June 28, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Nile Rodgers performs with his band Chic on the third day of the Glastonbury Music Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset, June 28, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Warner Brothers has announced a recording deal with guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers and his band CHIC, which Rodgers co-founded. Warner Bros. has also announced a deal with Rodgers’ and Michael Ostin’s label, Land Of The Good Groove.

Even bigger news — Rodgers has been busy prepping the first CHIC album in almost 25 years —  with the first single scheduled for March 20, and the album to drop in June.

Rodgers’ influence on popular music has thrived, since the golden days of 70s funk and disco, through his producing, composing and guitar work.

CHIC’s disco smash “Le Freak” will be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame on Sunday. Rodgers is set to receive the President’s Merit Award during the Academy’s 8th Grammy Week Celebration for the Producers & Engineers Wing of NARAS.

For the uninitiated, watch the video for “Le Freak”; its free-living, jumping soul-funk style that melds classical points with disco fire is unmistakable.

Le-Freak-Chic_crop

Concocted during New Year’s Eve 1977 and released in the disco/funk-rich period of 1978, “Le Freak” commemorates Studio 54’s snubbing of the band after Grace Jones didn’t notify the staff of the band’s arrival.

The song’s “Freak out!” and “Le Freak, C’est Chic” catchphrases can be found everywhere in pop culture across generations and with no sign of stopping; CHIC’s revival this year may only fan the flames.

Leave a comment

Filed under Disco, Funk, Pop, Soul, VIdeos

BC Camplight’s “How To Die In The North” streaming now

BC Camplight

BC Camplight’s new album, “How To Die In The North,” is streaming now and already gaining momentum ahead of its release.

BC Camplight (songwriter Brian Christinzio) originally hails from New Jersey. After moving to Philadelphia, he signed a deal with One Little Indian and released “Hide, Run Away” and “Blink of a Nihilist” in 2005 and 2007, respectively. In 2011, he moved to Manchester, England. Christinzio has played with The War On Drugs and on Sharon Van Etten’s 2011 “Epic.”

Just by listening to the first few notes of “Just Because I Love You,” you might be struck by its easygoing dream-pop style, which puts you in good hands. He has a penchant for blending that romance with blindingly honest bitterness, and it catches you off-guard.

“I stuffed her with my heart but the bitch bled me dry,” he pleads on “Just Because I Love You.”

Also check out the link to his song, “You Should’ve Gone To School.”

“How To Die In The North” will be out Tuesday on Bella Union.

Leave a comment

Filed under Indie pop, Psychedelic rock, Soul

Aretha shuts it down on Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep”

Aretha Franklin Sings the Gread Diva Classics

Aretha Franklin Sings the Gread Diva Classics

Aretha Franklin is back with her latest covers album and she feels great.
“Aretha Sings the Great Diva Classics” is just that. The ultimate diva puts her spin on songs like “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “I Will Survive” and “People” by Barbra Streisand.
But it’s Franklin’s version of Adele’s 2010 soul hit “Rolling in the Deep” that has people talking.
It takes no small effort to outshine the young Brit singer’s powerful chords on the pop single that propelled her to instant fame.
Although somewhat overpowered by a busy disco beat, in Franklin’s capable hands, she can coax even more angry passion from “Rolling in the Deep.”
The Queen of Soul’s voice continues to mellow to a honeyed mahogany. But make no mistake, she can still bring out the claws and own any note she pleases.
While the song will always be Adele’s baby, Franklin easily meets, then surpasses, Adele’s stronghold on the radio-friendly empire of “Deep,” bending it to her will.

“Aretha Sings the Great Diva Classics” was released on vinyl Sept. 30 with a digital release Oct. 21.
Listen to Aretha’s version, then to Adele’s and tell me what you think.

Leave a comment

Filed under Covers, New Music, Pop, Soul