Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oldie of the Day: December Soul many afternoons did I spend singing my heart out: "Been around the world and I-eye-yiii, I can't find my babehhh, I don't know and I don't know whyyyyy, why he's gone away..." A lot of folks were shocked when Lisa Stansfield showed up on the scene with a sultry voice like a female Barry White, but with the looks of the Iowa girl next door.  Well, maybe not Iowa -  maybe more like a NYC Village gal.  I definitely wouldn't have guessed she was British.  Stansfield has also delved from time to time into recording a few jazz tracks.

Have I said yet how interesting it is that so many blue-eyed soul artists are from the UK? Does anyone have an opinion as to why? 

Anyways, below is a fave track, "All Woman" and "Change".  I started to include the MTV videos, but went the live route so you can see this woman holding her own (over 20 years) without auto-tune.  Also, the classic 90s outfit made me laugh. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December Soul: Mayer Hawthorne

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope everyone had a wonderful time, I know I did.  There's nothing like having no drama and lots of fun with loved ones.  I even heard from a long-lost friend - #mega-smile.  However I feel like I'm suffering from a food hangover.  Seriously, I think cabbage, green tea and prune juice are in the near future. Welcome 2012.

Anyways, here's a late installment, and hopefully you've heard of this guy already - Mayer Hawthorne.  He's been on the scene for a while...I finally checked him out after reading a comment on a NCIS blog. Yes, it took an off-handed comment from actor Michael Weatherly (aka "Tony") to convince me to deliberately and formally check out Hawthorne's music.  And that is the power of media.

Hawthorne continues the trend of neo/blue-eyed soul in the US...note the 60s/70s/80s/retro sound and the falsetto voice.  (I wonder if it's possible to be a male contemporary soul singer - black or white - and sing baritone or bass.) Hawthorne also continues this underground trend of musicians who play, write, sing, produce - in other words, the return to talent.  Being from Michigan, I'm sure he's familiar with the Motown way of producing records.  I hope to see him the next time he's close to town.

"You've Got the Makings Of A Lover" definitely copies the sound of 70s R&B ballads; it reminds me of "Too Late To Turn Back Now" by Cornelius (listen to it here).

"Shiny and New" is kind of a hybrid of Earth, Wind & Fire "Love Holiday" and The Stylistics "You Make Me Feel Brand New". Very Nice!

For a blue-eyed soul explosion, youtube Hawthorne singing on Darryl Hall's Live From Darryl's House.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December Soul: Remy Shand

I remember when Canadian neo-soul singer Remy Shand first came out with "Take A Message". I thought, ok please don't be a one-hit wonder.  His sound is that quintessential tenor/falsetto male soul, influenced by people like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye.  But after his early 2000s cd, where did he go?!  From what I can gather, he's had a difficult few years, including a messy divorce and his mother's passing. 

I hope that he chooses to come back soon and share his music publicly again. If I ever make it to his neck of the woods, I will be tempted to try to track him down.   There's an unfinished track floating around, but it's got a few sound glitches. You can check it out here: A Day In the Shade.  Meanwhile below is "The Way I Feel".

Since Remy doesn't have any Christmas songs available, here's a throwback from the band Chicago.  Just a couple days til Christmas, are you ready?

Friday, December 16, 2011

December Soul - Duffy

Duffy, a Welsh artist, is part of that so-called "British invasion" of soul artists in the past few years.  I just listened to her cover of "Mercy" and realized she also kind of reminds me of Kristin Chenowith, both in physical features and because of the high-pitched voice.  Duffy seems to have cut her teeth on the old Motown sound and old soul/R&B music.  And in my opinion, her covers of old tunes like "These Arms of Mine" show her respect to the soul genre  without parrot-like imitating those singers.   That is a trap many singers, regardless of style, tend to fall into when covering a song. 

I am concerned about this Adele-like trend of singing the saddest songs ever known.  There's such pain that comes from her; I hope that her personal demons do not extinguish her voice at a premature age. 

Enjoy this *BUM-BUM* "Tainted Love" cover from Duffy. And I've included "Mercy" since I couldn't find any Christmas song from her that I liked enough to post here.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oldie of the Day: December Soul Pt. 3

You know what gets me excited? Being caught up in a google vortex searching for music and finding treasures I never knew existed.  That's how I find independent artists, long-forgotten albums and unique collaborations.  So the current blue-eyed soul theme is gonna take a slightly more bluesy turn today, thanks to Dr. John and Eric Clapton.  Ok, I have to admit that something about Dr. John makes my right earlobe itch a little bit, but dang that man can kill a piano! And what music lover can't get along without a little Sir Clapton?

This first clip is from one of the installments of VH-1 Duets (great idea VH-1) - Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time".  After that is a clever song, "Mixed Nuts", from a Christmas movie with the same title starring Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, and host of other actors. 

*Have you finished all your Christmas shopping?

Friday, December 9, 2011

December Soul - Pt. 2

Wednesday's Hall & Oates was a serious throwback, so let's go with someone under the age of 40 today and is part of the flow of soul-inspired music coming from the UK.

Jamie Lidell is one of those guys that I didn't realize who he was until his music was used on a Target commercial:

There's something about Lidell that reminds me of Jamiroquai (whew, throw-back to the 90s).   Maybe it's his voice, or the walk on the slightly weird side that they both have.  I do enjoy his sequencing, and mix-in of beat-boxing.  His earlier work definitely is electornic dance music inspired; while his latest releases has some elements of this, it seems to be (a little) more accessible.  It will be interesting to see what he does in the future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Soul

I'm taking this month to pay tribute and/or bring awareness to the artists that personify "blue-eyed soul".  I touched on this briefly a few entries ago when I talked about Robert Palmer's covers of two great Marvin Gaye songs.

It's been said that you can't teach soul.  That statement may hold a lot of truth, but one must be careful not to exclude an entire group of people as not being soulful or incapable of performing excellently in this style.  Are there certain elements inherent to a culture's music and art? Absolutely...just watch a group of people clapping to a song.  Most black folks will clap on beats 2 & 4, most white folks on 1 & 3 - and a few folks from both groups will be lost on beat 3.66666.  But I can't entirely agree with the statement because every great African American soul singer learned the craft by being immersed in it, growing up in it, walking it on the way to work, singing it in the church or bar - living it.  And if music is an expression of internal emotions, can these emotions be only relegated in every case to a group of people? No.  I think this is why "blue eyed soul" has always been interesting to me.  These seem to be artists that were only content when expressing musically in a style previously known only to African American culture.  They studied and learned to be more than proficient in it.  They take elements of it and brew it into their songs and are quick to publicly acknowledge its influence.


Ok, I'm done - how about some music?

A few months ago I got re-acquainted with Hall & Oates as I watched their dvd, Our Kind Of Soul, which was very entertaining. I also spent an entire morning at work (shhhh!) in a H & O vortex, trading audio and youtube clips and teen-angst stories with a co-worker.  Here's a nice gem - am I the only one that didn't know Hall wrote "Everytime You Go Away"?  And listen to that opening...guitar, organ, drums taking back down to the blues...#SMOOCH!! Love it!  And after that, enjoy "Children Go Where I Send Thee"...which totally reminds me of Steve Martin and his "family" singing and dancing in The Jerk.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmastiiiiiime is heeerrre....

Tonight I watched Charlie Brown Christmas - it is now officially Christmas  This old classic is such a part of my psyche I can't even remember the first time I watched it.  What is it about this cartoon that still attracts me? It's not like I don't know the story, and can't quote half the movie in my sleep.  And by today's standards, the animation is archaic at best.  There are no explosions, no special effects, no cute gimmicks...and on top of it all, it moves along at a s-l-o-w pace.

The answer is two-fold - the story and the music. Poor Charlie Brown... between all the "good griefs" and "I always mess everything up" and "nobody likes me", he is truly depressed.  Be honest - how many of us have said and/or thought the same negative way.  I've spent a couple Christmases in this same funk.  It's worse than a's a lifeforce-sucking, mind-numbing vortex of swirling, stank pessimism.  And the more you cater to it, the more paralyzed you become, until you end up spending Christmas day alone, watching movies or horrible daytime TV, probably crying into some leftovers or a frozen dinner. 

This peek into Charlie's life reminds the viewer that you don't have to be alone, you don't have to spiral to the depths of despair. Save all that drama for your next re-enactment of Hamlet. It also reminds us to return to simplicity.  Quite a feat in today's smartphone-ridden, hectic society.  But it is possible.

Second part - the brilliance of Vince Guaraldi and his music was the perfect match to Charlie's story.  Piano, light percussion, a little bass....simple music + simple songs = complete mastery. 

The challenge I've issued myself - and renewed tonight - is to keep the season simple for me.  Spend time with the folks I care about, remembering that without the birth and life of Christ "peace on earth, good will towards men" is impossible, and find some way to express that peace and good will to others this year.

And here's something else by Vince Guaraldi, just to show that his musicianship went beyond a Charlie Brown soundtrack.

Friday, December 2, 2011


I hope you take the time to check out a couple of relatively new songs.

First, apparently not a lot of people know that Boyz 2 Men released a new cd a month or so ago. Unfortunately Michael, the bass, didn't return to the studio with them, but even so they still sound great. This release has a mix of their old songs, revamped for the times, and a few new ones.  The one below definitely harkens back to the Motown sound of the 60s, which probably is residue from the Motown cd they did a couple years ago.

The other one is from an New Zealand artist, Kimbra, who currently resides in Australia.  I'm currently working my way through her body of work, and so far, I'm impressed.  She seems to combine jazz, R&B, pop, and a little folk.

*Let me know what you think about these tracks.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Diamond in the Back's the end of November! The Christmas season's hot breath is curling the fine hairs on the back of our necks.  Maybe we all should've done 30 days of thanks in December instead of November, to help keep us grounded.  This final day of November, one thing I am thankful for - I've already purchased presents for the fam, without going over budget, thanks to Cyber Monday.  And I'm thankful I didn't participate in the fooly-wank of Black Friday.

Here's a final song for November, "Diamond In the Back" by Curtis Mayfield.  This was written and recorded by William DeVaughn, under the title "Be Thankful For What You've Got".  I'm sure those of you that have listened to any rap in the past couple of decades will recognize the hook, "diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean".  I never knew this had such positive lyrics: "But remember brothers and sisters, You can still stand tall, Just be thankful for what you got." 

I think that sums up November quite nicely.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankful for Change

This penultimate entry of this month of Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for life and the seasons of change that are bound to happen.  A few years ago, I never thought I'd actually be grateful for change. I tend to be kind of a rigid person, stuck to routine, and a bit scared of anything that's new or requires me to operate differently.  Change, to me, always meant something negative and/or painful was about to happen.  Very pessimistic I know.  But I've learned that change is the one constant in life, and is unavoidably inevitable. Embrace it, fight it, or try to ignore it - change is constant. I've also learned that change can be good and freeing.  There are so many good changes I've jobs, new friends, new house, new closeness in relationships, or newly drawn boundaries that protect me from toxic relationships.

Three songs that are pretty far removed from each other in style came to mind as I thought about life and seasons of change today. 

1. "I Am Changing", from the musical Dreamgirls. 
One huge change in my life happened when I moved from east coast to Okie-ville. I kept this song on repeat during the 2000+ miles drive.  I’ve noticed that it pops up again in my playlist whenever I’m in some type of life transition – job, location, relationship, whatever.  I prefer the Jennifer Holliday version to J-Hudson, since Ms. Holliday originated the role of Effie.

2. "Breaking the Habit" by Linkin Park 

Ironically, this song also pops up during periods of change...mostly when I'm at a frustrated point of change, or I'm just ready for it to be over with already.  After all this time, I still love this band.
3. "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke.

So many artists have covered this song (most recently Afro-Blue from The Sing Off), but there's nothing like the original.  Cooke's tenor voice with this arrangement captures the premonition of his untimely death, and the hope of break-through that he had for his life - his life as a black man in America, his success as an artist.  The hope that life really will change for the better.  I think the positioning of foreboding against hope in this simple melody is what causes this song to be incredibly emotional and unforgettable.      

*Name one positive change you've had in your life in the past year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

Nothing really to say than that...enjoy the weekend! Music will continue Monday, Nov. 28.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanks for the Laughs

Another great thing to give thanks for....humor.

A merry heart does good like a medicine.

It’s been said that a good belly laugh boosts the immune system, exercises the heart, and clears the mind.

Most of all, it just feels good.

Some studies have shown that children laugh a few hundred times a day, while adults may only laugh a dozen times a day.  Whether that’s true or not, it does seem that children find it easier to laugh than adults.  How sad. Ever since reading that I’ve made it my goal to belly laugh more.  I will even seek out a fave song, movie clip or crazy friend to instigate laughter. I already have a pretty silly sense of humor, and am determined to keep it that way.  As I told a friend long ago, it’s better to laugh than cry on any day.

Below are a couple things that make me laugh…

Psych - my latest comedy TV obsession. This clip includes their all-to-brief cover of "Ebony & Ivory". For comparison, afterwards is the original video with Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

A Christmas Story - one of my all-time fave movies, and I'm preparing to watch it for the umpteenth time during Thanksgiving. 

*What makes you laugh?

Friday, November 18, 2011

I'm Just A Girl...

Thanksgiving No. ?: Chick-flicks

Last night I squealed when I found Hope Floats on Netflix - and I immediately put it in my Instant Queue. It's not like I haven't seen it a ga-zillion, fa-fillion times.  Not like I don't watch some portion of it every time it's on TV.  Y'all, I think I even have the VHS somewhere.  That scene when that no-good, testosterone-deficient, horrible excuse for a father drives off leaving his daughter sobbing in the street, screaming "DAADDDDYYYYYY!!!"....Oi vey, I'm about to tear up right now. 

For me, a good chick-flick must have humor, likable characters, and a memorable soundtrack. And No VAMPIRES.  That's right, I said it!  Keep yo' fangs & fur for the kiddos.  Ugh.  In that regard, I guess I'm a bit of a traditionalist. Give me Sleepless In Seattle, Runaway Bride, some old Cary Grant movie, maybe I Can Do Bad All By Myself, etc., etc. etc....

Another point about these type of movies....I also had to learn early on that guys usually aren't too keen on them.  Case and point - trying to force my then-guy to watch An Affair to Remember, 20 minutes later I hear this ceiling-rattling "skknnnzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" in my right ear.  Yep, my man fell straight off to sleep.

No worries though - that punch in the gut woke him right up. 

But he only fell asleep again. 

So, most importantly, I gotta enjoy such cinema with my girls. I'm grateful for the girls that have had my back over the years; some I've known since the adolescent acne years, some I've just acquired.  But all of them are precious.

So I guess today is about being thankful for good chick-flicks, and good chicks.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Mercy / I Want You

This is a part deux of giving thanks for music...and for people in the field that don't follow the norm.  Do you remember this guy?  I guess this is also a pre-cursor to the "Blue-Eyed Soul (a.k.a. "White Chocolate") singers/performers I want to discuss at some point. 

Anyways, I like Robert Palmer, and I always thought he had the kind of voice that made you take notice.  These Marvin Gaye songs he covered are beautiful - and this is a unique medley - Mercy Mercy Me and I Want You. I wouldn't have thought to put those together, but he makes it work.

This is kinda lengthy, but it's from Palmer's interview on The Arsenio Show, which totally fits the Oldie day theme.  It also gives a glimpse into the  musician he was.  So sad that he's gone. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweet Sleep

Today I'm thankful for sleep. 

Sleep that eluded last I sat up fretting about those horrible scratching noises in my walls. Is that...please...oh sweet Jesus...

A mouse.

I can kill a snake. I will chase a dog and ape-ninja slap a cat. I will mutilate a wasp (and leave my living room dripping in wasp spray, but that's another story). But the one thing that will make me scream like a 4 year old girl is......a mouse.

Sweet sleep was chased away by a teeny, horrid, nasty, germ-ridden rodent.

So perhaps if I give thanks today for sleep, the slumbertime geishas will meet me tonight, surround me and cover me with sleep-dust (not pixie dust thank you), knocking me out cold.

Before the scratching begins.


Lullaby - Take 6

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another thing I'm thankful for is...

Music...well, duh, of course!

There's a quote, one of many, about music - "When you are so strongly drawn to music, you can't 'NOT' be a musician."  That has been my experience. I was hooked on the piano as a very young child...I remember being hynoptized watching Tom & Jerry or Bugs Bunny perform their wonderful (and comical) piano concertos. I remember hearing the harmonies all around me while the church sang, and learning to sing alto that way. I remember riding my bike at a certain pace so the tires would hit the cracks in the sidewalk with a beat, so I could sing.  I remember learning to write out piano charts for songs I was trying to learn by ear....and making the notes backwards (and upside down!) on yellow notepad paper.  How could I NOT be a musician.

So today I am thanking God for music, and the big, wonderful universe that it is. The groove, the emotion, the poignancy, the tears, the imagination, the creativity it gives me, and that it allows me to express.

Today let's mix it up a little bit...THREE selections all about music.

1) Beethoven - Sonata No 8 In C Minor Op 13 'Pathetique' - III, as performed by Glenn Gould. Beethoven is my favorite classical composer, and this sonata brings back memories of the blood, sweat and tears while I learned this for my senior piano recital in college.

2) Old Time Rock & Roll - Bob Seeger. Nuff said.

3) September - Earth Wind & Fire. Ok it's not directly abotu music, but I DARE you to make it all the way thru this song without singing out loud "baaa-di-yah!". Always respect The Elements baby!

Have a great weekend!

*Give me your suggestion of songs about music or musicians.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Thank You

Alright, more songs about thanks that both qualify as oldies.

First of all, who doesn't like Sam & Dave....I wish I had their moves!  "I Thank You" is basically an old gospel song they revamped (like so many R&B/soul artists did in those days).

And I couldn't resist putting ZZ Top's cover of the same song. Isn't it amazing - two completely different genres, backgrounds, arrangements....and both entertaining in their own right.  Like I heard someone say, one group's clapping on beats 2 and 4, the other group's clapping on 1 and 3 -- it just means we've got all the beats covered.  Love it. 

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Month of Thanks

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the fb status floating around - "30 days of thanks: Day x: I'm thankful for ____".  Well here it is music nerd style. I wanted to participate, but am not foolish enough to think I will remember to post something everyday this month. Cuz then I would have this crazy status: "Days 7 – 16: I’m thankful for insert hurriedly concocted list that makes no sense here".

So I decided instead to feature songs this month about thanks, or gratitude, or even Thanksgiving (are there any?).

Today's thanks - God and family, so here are songs for them, in that order. 

"Happier Than the Morning Sun" I didn't know was yet another wonderful Stevie Wonder song.  I only knew the Jon Gibson version for years. I'd encourage you to check that one out too.  Either way, it completely and eloquently captures my heart's condition since Jesus, in spite of the crazy things life has thrown me.

This clip reminds me of my family every time I watch it.  It brings back memories of us laughing til we cried at Mr. Cosby and his family...and my dad's music-nerd like observations as he explained that was a Ray Charles song that came out in 19xx, etc., etc....and my mom doing an ever-so slight rolling of the eyes. LOL. And how that would sometimes lead to both parents telling me & sis stories about their childhoods, and whatever crazy stuff they did in high school. I still remember them chanting "SOUTHEASTERN!   SOUTHEASTERN! Rah-Rah-Rah! V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!"  Good stuff.

*Do you have a favorite Cosby show scene or memory? What is it?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday - End of Reggae Week (For Now)

Ahhh perfect Friday...not too stressful, not too cool and good music.  To wrap up this Reggae-fest, I debated for a while about which track to use. But this one is just plain out fun.  And I get absolutely tickled watching Bobby Brown (Bobby!....BOBBYYYY!) complete spaz out on this.  Note the sneaky sampled riff from Shanice's 90s hit, "I Love your Smile" and the tune lifted from Des'ree's "Feel So High".

So groove out on this gateway to the weekend. And of course, don't forget to let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Third World

Ok I had to do it....before Heavy D and da Boyz was Third World groovin' out this song. Of course, the O'Jays originally recorded this, but it's reggae week so I'll have to post that version later.  One of the endearing qualities of reggae is the ability of artists to take a rock/pop/R&B song and reggae-fy it. Some drums, guitar and dancing are all that's needed.

Here's "Now That We found love", a nice live concert version....Enjoy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Reggae Week - Part 2

I liked some of the comments received last week, so I'm gonna continue the reggae theme this week. 

I went on a quest for videos by female reggae or dancehall artists that aren't just totally "nekked" some time I finally found this song by Alaine, No Ordinary Love. Of course I thought of Sade's song, and that this was probably a cover. Not so, this is a different song - although it's not so new (maybe 4 or 5 years old). Check it out and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Roots Rock Reggae

Alright, here's part 2 of Reggae week, and as I preminitioned, I had to include Bob Marley. Easily the most recognized reggae artist, I think he easily fits into the Oldie Wednesday format today.  A few years ago a compilation cd was done of some of Marley's hits and featured various artists, including Rakim (where are you man?!), Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill.  I started to post Hill's track - Turn Your Lights Down Low - but probably most of have heard this or some snippet therof.

Instead let's go with a song featuring, of ALL people, Steven Tyler: Roots, Rock, Reggae. No video today folks, apparently because this is so old.  Note the energy Tyler brought to this; the more I look at this guy's body of work, the more I am impressed by him.

Click Here to listen and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reggae Week -

I just realized I haven't featured any reggae yet - how horrible! I think this week will be all reggae, so stretch yourselves and try something different.  Bob Marley will be posted at some point, but I didn't want to start with the obvious. How mundane, right? 

So how about some Christafari? Here's Boomshots. I wish I'd listened to this earlier this morning, I really needed a pick-me-up to get going.  I hope I don't start singing out loud "NOOO-OOO, no compro-mise!"  I remember back in the day people looked at me and my bff (shout out Hope!) like we had an extra butt or something for listening to reggae, and to Christafari. Glad to say times have changed some.

*What song do you love that causes people to look at you like you're crazy?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday with Mary J

I just looked at some of my playlists and also some of my previous blog entries.  Evidently to me, the perfect Friday soundtrack includes music from the 90s. So let's continue with this old one that got seriously worn out at my my the shower....anywhere with the right acoustics to make me sound absolutely stellar.  Love No Limit, a serious Mary J. Blige oldie, is one of my favorites because you hear a little more jazz/Anita Baker influence than in some of her other hits.  Plus, who doesn't want to be in a club singing to some gorgeous creature that just happened to stop by?  But I also wonder if this couldn't also be an ode to music? Kinda like that song "What I Did For Love" from Gypsy. It's not just about the opposite sex, but about the dedication to the craft of good, effective music-making. Just a deep thought on a Friday is allowed.

Here goes - enjoy! Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oldie of The Day: Hold On - Lisa Bevill

Flashback to the 90s again, but this time Christian pop. Now, a lot of Christian pop is...umm...nauseating, sad to say.  It's like there's this mindset that subpar music and lyrics are ok for "lil baby Jesus". But there are some real gems out there, and in my opinion this is one.  It did my heart good when this song, Hold On, came out. I finally had something to thump in my Oldsmobile along with "My Boo".  And anything with Tommy Sims (the other vocalist/bass player) is gonna be good. 

Ironically this song very accurately describes where I am in my life right now - holding on for the next change to come in my life.  I began making some steps recently to pursue too-long dormant dreams, and today marked another good step in the right direction.  I'm learning that even if things don't go the way I had them so perfectly planned, it's ok.  God has a way of working it out to be way better than I ever could've concocted in the first place.  So it's time-out for "sideways movement" and no true progress, and for all the excuse-making. It is time to act, to move, to change, to let be and do all that was destined for me.  I'll never forget a statement I heard about destiny - that everyone comes to this earth with a destiny or purpose ready for them. Not following it only leads to frustration, apathy, and unhappiness.  The reason why? Because Purpose is always calling you. So you land at a job or a relationship or whatever, and you just can't get comfortable, because that Purpose is out there pulling on your heart, drawing you to it.  It's your choice to answer and follow.  And since I've decided I will NOT be in the same place in my life 10 years from now, I'm answering.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jazzy Monday

It's now Monday nite, and I'm taking a break from watching The Sing-off. Those that know me have heard how I - ABSOLUTELY - cannot stand reality shows. First, they're not reality. Second, in the case of reality shows involving competition or evaluation of talent, it's more a popularity contest than giving an opportunity to someone with a real gift.  But The Sing-off so far has been different. There are some folks out there with golden vocal chords absolutely letting loose this season.

I found myself applauding and yelling at the TV more than once tonight - I bet my neighbors think I'm crazy.  I really liked what Afro Blue did with "I Wanna Dance W/Somebody"...especially the samba breakdown in the middle. Something about it made my mind jump to the song "Mas Que Nada" - not the cover with Sergio Mendes and Black Eye Peas, but the original tune.  So here it is...this particular recording is by Dizzy Gillespie.  Nice, mellow, rhythmic, happy...a nice soundtrack for a Monday nite.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Weekend!

This week has been interesting....up and down, lots of laughter, and unfortunately a little crying. I think all these emotions are apropos, considering this weekend is my bday. I plan to arrive at work Monday tired from celebrating. I actually think bdays should be celebrated a minimum of 2 weeks, preferably the entire month.

Anyways, shout out to Alison the best work buddy every for making 2 AWESOME mixes for me to enjoy. I'm sure I'll share some of these trax  on the blog at some point.  For now, here's a major throwback - Groove Theory's "Tell Me".  I'm also sure at some point I'll have to discuss the disappointment of everyone overlooking Amel Larrieux. 

It's amazing, sounds and smells have a way of conjuring up old memories; this song literally takes me back to college, riding the highway to class (I was a commuter) in my old gas guzzler Oldsmobile.  I still miss that car! :)

Enjoy your weekend! 

Groove Theory-Tell me by SirDroopy

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Two from Lou

Featured today is the silky voice of Lou Rawls.  Yes, that guy, the "youuuuu'll never find (duunnn dun dun dun-dun dunn) another love like're goonnna MISS my luvin'" man. The UNCF emcee from back in the day. Mr. Rawls was a respected blues & soul singer long before the disco days. Remember he sang with Sam Cooke (thank you sir for the great harmony on "Bring It On Home to Me").

I don't know what made me think of his music today, but I'm glad I stumbled onto some great gems.  Check out the live concert version of "The Street Corn Hustlers Blues" - complete entertainment.

Today I included 2 songs, since the main one I wanted to share is pretty short. Below are Nobody But Me and Groovy People, which is just a plain old fun song. Hope you enjoy!

Nobody But Me

Groovy People

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm Tired of MiMi

MiMi...aka Mariah...aka Mariah Carey...going back "like baby and a pacifier"...

I've been a little done with her for some time now. I loved her debut - don't know a lot of people that didn't. But in the years since.....The flailing hands, random dog whistle siren sounds and non-existent stage presence has been quite irksome to me since her 2nd album. Can someone please tell her she doesn't have to remake all of her fave ballads from back in the day? 

The song up for discussion today - "I Still Believe", originally by Brenda K. Starr.  Mariah released this about 10 years ago I think, but for some reason it's having a bit of resurgence in airplay lately...maybe because she's a mom now? One of the summaries I read stated that Mariah did well with the song, keeping the basic nature of the song while still able to add her ad libs. And that's my problem I think...I don't always enjoy her runs and ad libs. So I put it to you - listen to both versions, and cast your vote - original or MC's cover?

Brenda K. Starr

Mariah Carey

Friday, October 7, 2011

Check It Out: Grandad Turner

I heard a while ago that Fred Hammond was returning to performing bass with a jazz ensemble  he formed. For those of you unfamiliar, Hammond is a contemporary/urban gospel music icon, with the ability to write some of the best groove-ilicious songs as well as  fall-on-your-face-tender songs known in worship.  But folks have forgotten, or maybe never knew, he started out as a tremendous bass player. 

This cd, Grandad Turner: My Friends My Fam, marks his return to the bass and also shows his smooth jazz side.  I encourage you to check out this cd; I'd start with the song below, "Marcus My Dude," (recognize Fred's vocal @ 5:16) and then go to Wayman My Friend, a song in memory of the late Wayman Tisdale. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Oldie of the Day: On My Own

This classic song qualifies as the Oldie of the Day as well as the “Songs I Sang the CRAP Out of in the Shower”. I’ll have to do a series of those entries soon.  This song just matches the fall day we’re having too….makes me feel like going for another drive with the windows down, and the wind blowing around all the crap left in my back seat.  I really need to do something about that.

I love the fire of Ms. Labelle and the cool groove of McDonald; whoever came up with the idea of pairing them back in the day deserves double whatever money he/she made from this hit.  At the beginning of this performance it feels a little like Patti makes the orchestra slow down their tempo slightly…in other words, y’all follow me and NOT the other way around. I’m glad – it was going along at a pretty good clip as they walked out.  This is a ballad after all.  I also love McDonald’s smile at the end to Ms. Patti, like “dang girl”.  Poor man…just get in and hang on bro and let Patti do her thang.

I also can’t help but chuckle whenever I hear a McDonald song…I have a musician friend that absolutely, positively cannot STAND McD….prolly cuz, bless his heart, he IS McD. LOL.  Happy Wednesday.

*What’s your fave Michael McDonald song?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Daddy's Girl

Maybe it’s only in the South that a grown woman will (and is expected to) still refer to her father as Daddy, often with the same affection that she had for him as a child.  My dad’s birthday is coming up, and while I’m glad I got to see him and the rest of the family last month, I’m sad that I’m missing yet another birthday.  It’s hard to live away from family at these times. 

I am an unashamed Daddy’s girl…probably to the point of nauseating others at times.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t had our misunderstandings, arguments and times of separation. There were a number of years where things were really bumpy between us. But at the end of the day, I know that Daddy has always loved me and wanted the best for me and my sister.  I know he worked hard for his family.  I know he loved/loves being a teacher.  There came a time when – if I wanted to be mature, and be whole – I had to forgive people for real and perceived shortcomings, the offenses I suffered, and accept that person as he/she is.  This is just as true when dealing with family.  It's only then that I could work on building any kind of relationship in the present, as we are now as people.  

Both sides of my family love music and have very talented, creative people. But I think I got my music nerdiness from Daddy.  Even now, he’ll play a song and then have to share the story behind it. The general formula goes something like this: “See, this song came out in 19__.  Me, Brit (or another bff) and xxxx were [insert some action - walking, dancing, driving, whatever] and DJ xxx played this song".  Which is usually followed by some sort of little-known family, Virginia and/or Black History fact. :) And of course, there’s the occasional statement “Cheray, I need you to find this song….”  Hmmm, apparently this is what music nerdiness looks like 30 years from now - good to know. 

Anyways, even though I’ll have to read this to him long distance, or send him the link and ask Jesus to help me figure out how to help him pull it up on his computer (lol), I'm dedicating today's entry to him.  There are a few great father-child or father-daughter songs out there, I just chose 2. The other ones made me too weepy. There's one song in my arsenal that I hope to send him soon; if it goes well, maybe I'll post it here later.
*Is there a song that reminds you of a parent or loved one?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Distant Lover

Ahhh Marvin of the few artists to win artistic control from Motown's Berry Gordy. R&B was never the same. And yet, a tortured man with great talent is still, at the end, a tortured man. Although I was a very young child when he was killed, the story of his life has made an impression on me.  I still remember seeing my dad's Marvin Gaye vinyls around the house.

It doesn't matter where I am, when I hear this live recording of "Distant Lover" I stop in my tracks, frozen until the last chord dies away.  Maybe the dramatic side of me responds to the lyrics -- "Heaven knows that I long for you every night and thru the day....when you left you took all of me with you".  Perfect torch song lyrics.  Maybe it's the fact that Gaye could SING a song, without being an overbearing powerhouse, but just using this light tone, a beautiful tenor/falsetto voice to cut through the lush accompaniment.  What I learned as a singer from this - you don't have to yell, or do a bunch of crazy runs to communicate the essence of a song. Sometimes backing off will draw the audience in to listen to you. Make sure you have something to say when that happens.

*Do you have a song that makes you freeze in your tracks?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sometimes You Gotta Rock...

So, if Thursday is baby Friday, then Tuesday is Grandpa Monday and this is my Grandpa Monday entry. :)

Heard Fading by Decyfer Down today - thanks Air1 for reminding me how much I love this song. "But now, by letting go somehow, unshackled and unbound, I'm calling out Your Name I'm fading"....interesting choice of lyrics. It's really in the letting go, losing all perceived reins on my life that I can truly call His Name, call for help. Nobody really has their life "together". You gotta have help.

On the music nerd end, any rock song that starts with a nice low cello holding down the low end within the first 2 bars is awesome.  And the lead vocal making that octave jump at the end of the phrase "wait, it's all that I can take and every single DAY" at the same time that the whole band starts wailing always grabs me right in the pit of my stomach.  What a way to build excitement in a song. I could talk about the switches between four on the floor and the slow 2 and then back, but that would cross me over into MUSICIAN-nerd land, and this isn't the forum.

Another point - I am so glad to see more GOOD Christian rock bands coming out. For a minute there, I was concerned.

OK, that's all my ramblings for the day. Tomorrow, Oldie of the Day.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hush, Hush Darlin'

So, growing up in suburbia I listened to a lot more than just R&B and gospel; I think I mentioned that in a previous entry. One group I distinctly remember from my "anguished" teenage-hood (is that a word?) is No Doubt. I had much respect for the pipes on Gwen Stefani even before she went solo. And how  "Don't Speak" seemed to hit me square in the face the first time I heard it. 

Ahhhhhh, the hours spent 'performing' this song in the mirror, a legend in my daydream, declaring this to the latest heartbreak.  "I know ya real good". Classic!!

I was intrigued by the jazzed up, stripped down approach Chrisette Michele took with this song. Here they both are, for your enjoyment. Let me know what you think.

No Doubt

Chrisette Michele

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Shake Your Groove Thing

Last month I wrote about certain songs that make me move.  This is another one I've loved a long time. I seem to remember being in a department store at the local mall and busting a move when this song came on overhead....much to my friends' chagrin, lol. Who cares? Which would you rather do - be all mean and stressed out shopping for clothes, or groovin' out as you pick up some slacks for work? I choose to follow the Groove Theory (let's see how many of you pick up on that reference!).

And I will probably listen to this on the drive home to wash away the silly lunacy of the day. Maybe a little chair dancing too.  Yep, sounds good.

*Do you remember Groove Theory?
*What song can ALWAYS make you move?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gimme A Break!

I just finished reading the email from Netflix about the further changes coming...give me a break. I mean really...don't act like you're so broken up over splitting the company Mr. CEO. "Oh no - I have to split the company so I'll have TWO companies making money, not just one." #Backofthehandtotheforehead!

In honor of this sentiment, here's my Monday Top 5 Things From Which I Need A Break -

  1. Netflix-related news
  2. All conversation about taxing the rich. As if new tax shelters won't be used. Please.
  3. Tickets for speeding and/or using the cell phone issued by the same police that I see flying past me like a bat just freed from satan's cloven hooves or chatting like the high school cheerleading captain. Again, puh-leeze.
  4. 98.7% of all reality TV shows. #gagging&retching
  5. Complaints about the weather growing cool. Dude, did we not just live through a hell-orchestrated summer? SIT. DOWN.
And yes, my rant is accompanied by a quick little ditty...enjoy! (Don't lie, you know you used to watch this show!) 

*What would you add to my Top 5 list?

Friday, September 16, 2011

This Moment

Another lesson learned while on vacation....being thankful. I thought I had it down by now.....but it is SOOO easy to be a total CRABmonster the minute the least amount of discomfort is experienced.

I was, um..., "powdering my nose", one afternoon while in VA, and thought "Man! I wish I was home already. I'm tired, I think my feet hurt, I haven't exercised the whole time i was here" blah, blah, blah. And I didn't stop there: "Ain't no Wii here, No Netflix, what the heck. I'm ready to take a nap, ughhhhh". You know, just flat out crabbing...that pathetic pity party that ultimately leads down the road of self-imposed martyrdom. [Self-crucifixion because of no Wii? Hi my name is Miss Dramatic, and I'm ready for my close-up. *SMH*]

And then that oh-so-familiar, still, quiet voice: "Cheray --- enjoy THIS moment. You're here with friends you haven't seen in a while. You got to enjoy your family, which you haven't been able to do in almost TWO long, hard years. What a way to celebrate coming out of the difficult time you've faced. Really, what do you have to complain about?"

I had no answer to that question.

'Enjoy this moment'....hearing that got my attitude right again right then. 

And now, forgive how my mind works, but this is literally what I thought of: A comedian did this joke about seeing a woman gulf breakfast biscuits one after the other "like a pelican" and after all were consumed, she rubbed her face in the wrapper.  She ENJOYED what she had. And then it was so good to her that she had to have one last smell. Ok, she was slightly mentally off....but that's how I approached the rest of vacation. And THAT is the picture of 'enjoying the moment' that I have now.  Folgers to the last drop....McD's to the last smell.

For some reason, Santana says "WEEKEND!" to me right now, so I've been pumping him for the last hour. Here's a pretty good recording of Europa.

Enjoy your weekend...every moment.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Oldie of the Day: Let The Good Times Roll!

I'm back!!

As you noticed I haven't written in a few days - I took a real vacation for the first time in over 2 years.  I made a concerted effort to not be a phone/technology addict and lay off the email/facebook/blog/phone during that time.  I had a WONDERFUL time - the family & friends were great, and I gotta admit I didn't want to leave.  However, I'm glad that when I returned, the weather in the Midwest was definitely not set on hell anymore.

I got to spend a few hours alone driving and listening to music, (which I love to do) and "Let The Good Times Roll" came up as I scanned the stations. I've always loved this song, it's just plain out & out fun. Even if you don't like the blues, you can't help moving to this and smiling. Imagine, the blues making you smile. It definitely made a perfect 80 degree sunny drive even "perfect-er" for me. I picked this version because I think the arrangement's pretty hot...and a lot of you may know of B.B. King but not Bobby "Blue" Bland, a great artist in his own right.

Hmmm, I wonder if this signals the beginning of a trend since this makes the 2nd or 3rd blues song for an Oldie of the Day entry.  Keep in mind that as I type this, an documentary about the music of New Orleans is playing in the background.  OH, they're talking about Zydeco now, gotta run! :)

Enjoy! And I promise to get back on schedule now...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ship Ahoy!

It seems like many of the people around me are going through changes or some type of transition.  Everything from having babies, to shifts in relationships, to new can be stressful.  But it also seems to me that these changes are not the kind that happen because of dumb decisions - we've all been there, right? Dumb decisions that we knew would not lead to good: "ohh I shouldn't have eaten 30 hot wings" or "ohh I wish I'd never met him/her".

No, these changes I'm seeing are like we're all being lined up for the next good thing in our lives. It's exciting...and scary. I know I'm learning how to use my energy to pursue my goals instead of always being someone else's right hand. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy being the supportive person. But there comes a point where it's time to head up your own pursue those God-given dreams.  And stop. discounting. yourself.  What is that one quote from Coach Carter - most people aren't really afraid of failure, they're afraid of success and greatness.

I hope that this weekend you'll spend a bit of time taking inventory. What dream keeps making its rounds in your heart? What idea just won't leave you alone.  Refuse to let fear short-circuit the changes that are leading to your place in life.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I checked out a friend’s band last night….being out late on a Thursday nite just to be at work by 8 AM is not incredibly smart.  But it was WORTH. EVERY. MINUTE. The guys were on point, the jam was fun and it was good to be in a live music atmosphere again.  I hope that this weekend you get a chance to do the same.  I love the radio - actually that's a lie, I think radio has been sold out to corporations. So let's change that to I love recorded media - mp3s, m4as, even my vinyls, yada-yada-yada...but there's nothing like live music. If I can clean up my recordings, I'll post a sample.

Got a great little heart-jolt when I came home afterwards…there was a nice little snake waiting for me.  Silly city-girl that I am, I thought it was just a really fat earthworm….until it slithered away from me into the living room.  I’m surprised y’all didn’t hear me scream.

In honor of the now dearly departed snake,  and the good times I had with friends, here’s my fave Travis Tritt song, T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
Have a good one!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oldie of the Day - It's Probably Me

This second entry under Oldie of the Day isn't quite as old as the 1st one featuring Johnny Adams, but I like it just as much. 

I hope by now in your music nerd-dom you've come across Sting and Eric Clapton (if not, get on it!). And I'd love to know how many of you remember this song from the Lethal Weapon soundtrack.  I saw all those movies, but I didn't really come to love this song til just a while ago.  Perhaps I was too young back then to appreciate it.  It features Sting, Eric Clapton, Michael Kamen and David Sanborn. There's something about Sting's voice that makes it easy for me to listen to him all day.  And this is one of those perfect Sunday-afternoon-drive songs....or mellow Wednesday-afternoon songs :) 


Monday, August 22, 2011

Better Late Than Never

A little late getting this entry out - it's been an interesting day.  A couple hours left in it, and I'm ready to vampire-like alertness tonight. 

Anyways, last night I was reminded of the importance of giving different styles of music a chance.  To actually live by the stuff I spout here.  Remember my first blog entry, "At Last"?  I said that any self-respecting music nerd and/or musician will deliberately expose him/herself to everything - to new experiences, new artists and new sounds. 

There's this new-to-me DVD of Wynton Marsalis, Congo Square, which I checked out a couple weeks ago thanks to Netflix. [brief description: "Congo Square" is the ground-breaking 2-hour co-composition by Yacub Addy and Wynton Marsalis that celebrates the historic Congo Square in New Orleans. The only place in America where African slaves were allowed to perform their own music and dance in the 1700s-1800s, it established the roots of American music by providing a means for African music to enter and mingle with American forms."]

I am not typically a fan of African music, but figured I needed to stretch a little.  And I remained true to that a couple weeks ago --- I did not like this performance. Lost interest in 15 minutes and switched to Psych.  Well, last nite while hanging out with some musician friends, we began to watch this. And I wanted to leave the room. Yep, that's how much I didn't like it the first go-round.

And.....I am soooooo glad I didn't leave.  By halfway through the performance, I was totally mesmerized. And the Finale was Amazing!!

Pay attention to the ENERGY here - everyone's moving, singing, dancing....just totally LIT from the inside out.  What started out a little slow-moving to me built to an awesome climax at the end.  And Mr. Marsalis is dancing?? What the heck?  This. was. FUN!  When is the last time you or I did anything THAT fun? I tell you what...I've got some stuff planned now. I suggest you get to it...

Friday, August 19, 2011

You've Got To Move

I don't consider myself much of a dancer.  I wish I could really move, but the most I can do is look cool.  You know, that cool stance you get, with a little smooth move to the left, to the right, to the front, to the back. And my face looks like "watch out now, I am DOING it!"

Yes, there are certain songs that  We all have at least one.  You know, that song that you recognize in 3.7 seconds and you almost lose control of the car dancing in your seat. Sometimes, it's a song that we're ashamed to admit that we like (dougie anyone?).  Sometimes - hmmm, I think most times, it's a song connected to good memories.

So here's two for today, a little far apart in the music spectrum but hopefully you'll like anyways...

Morris Brown by Outkast (fyi a little language)

Lady by Lenny Kravitz....yeah, pretty much get out of my way when this comes on (and this video proves pianists can rock out too).

Hey, it's the freakin' weekend --- enjoy yourselves!

*What song makes you "jam on it"?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


You know, I really don't like to feel rushed, or being stressed out. Unfortunately, the past couple days have been a little stressful.  I find it ironic that this happens just as I'm trying to follow the advice in I'm reading a book suggested to me by my dear friend Sharita.  At the very beginning of this book, The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide, the author Ted Zeff talks about the importance of beginning your day stress free.  In other words, for the perpetual procrastinator like me, it means avoid the snooze button, get up, get dressed and spend a few minutes in calm before heading out the door.  Yeah, I've never been really good at that.......EVER.  Ask my mom.

Anyways, after blah-blah years on this earth, I've decided to try and follow this practice.  I know it's good, and it'd be great to get in some devotion time early in the morning.  And I did it this week---ONCE.  After that, my mornings have sucked, my days have been crazy, and my nights not as restful as I wanted.

Now, part of the "dramatic" nature of the creative or sensitive person tends to exaggerate things, so I guess I need to pull on my reins here.  It's only Wednesday.  My week will get better.  And because I've made a decision to do better, my actions will, in time, line up with my goal.  My goal - not to spend so much time RUSHING.

In the midst of my crazy yesterday, I needed to hear some music. Yeah I know, there's a shocker.  I remembered a song by 4th Avenue Jones, Overloaded.  But I'm not gonna put that clip here.  I want to share their song, Rush today. 

I absolutely LOVED this group back in the day --- great combo of hip-hop/rap, rock and just straight-up talent.  And I'm disappointed that they've broken up.  This week I also learned about a friend's daughter who is heading off to college.  Actually, some of my former students are also heading off to college.  And I'm sad.  Life keeps moving, and if you're not careful you fall out of touch with people.  Sometimes that's ok - it's that whole "life has its seasons" thing. 

But....I don't want to waste my time and emotional energy being so stressed or rushing around about stupid stuff that I don't spend it on what I love.  On what is beneficial and life-giving for me, and for those I care about.  I make the decision today to spend less time *rushing*.  More time being thoughtful, having fun, conquering the stupid things I like God intended me to live.