Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oldie Of The Day: Spring Again

Howdy everyone! Yes I've not posted anything since March, which is just about the time my life because incredibly busy. I had the wonderful opportunity to be the music director yet again for a high school musical production. The highs, the lows, the tears, the profanity....dontcha love theater? I'll write more about it at a later date I'm sure.

Anyways, today is an absolutely gorgeous day. It seems that the shortlived spring is here in these parts.  Hopefully we won't dive headlong into a Dante-like summer anytime soon. Which reminds me to take my car in for freon.  In honor of the wonderful weather, which I hope you're enjoying too, here's the late Lou Rawls, Spring Again.  Definitely an oldie feel-good song.

Happy Wednesday!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oldie Of The Day: Mazel

While I don't always agree with some of the politics espoused on public radio, the one reason why I will continue to listen, particularly to NPR, is because I always learn something new. It's kinda like what Bill Cosby said in the Fat Albert intro: "This is Bill Cosby Coming at you with music and fun, if you're not careful you may learn something before it's done". Dang I loved that show.

Anyways, sometime before Christmas, this episode of NPR's Fresh Air program discussed, of all things, Jewish American music after World War II. I thought, "hmmm that's random, let's see what they say". One of the points brought out was how, as is usually the case, there was one man that promoted this music among Jewish Americans, but also attempted to make the music more mainstream. One tactic he used was to have various artists, including African-American R&B groups, record these cultural songs. The oldie today is one example, "Mazel", as recorded by the doo-wop group, The Ravens.

Mazel tov!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Randomness

It's been two weeks since the last entry; I think maybe I've been a little busy. Also, I was a bit uninspired, and I feel like if I don't have anything to say, then I should just be quiet. Hence - 15 days w/o a posting.  And now, a few random statements and songs....

  • For some reason I never knew Bruce Springsteen did "Hungry Heart"? Where have I been?  

  • I found this track - Kenny G w/Darryl Hall, "Baby Come to Me" - and am somewhat disturbed that I actually like the sax playing.  I'm sorry, but normally I can't stand Mr. G.  

  • I am still in mourning over Whitney Houston.  The funeral was beautiful, and did anyone else pick up on Piers Morgana being totally blown away by the experience. Piers, go to church every once in a while.  Even so, as everyone's been playing Whitney's music, I still can't believe her voice has been silenced. As I've been saying for the past few days: first Luther, then MJ and now Whitney. Dang.

  • For the record, Nancy Wilson is the smoothest diva ever.  When I grow up I wanna sing like her.

Feel free to leave any comments.  Have a great Monday!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Blues

Yep Friday blues. Not like I'm sad - although quite perturbed at the sudden artic quality of weather around here. I mean blues, like some southern rock, Memphis blues.

Last week I heard this great song on public radio (I told y'all I was a nerd), I don't remember which show it was. Anyways I heard the coolest song, and immediately SoundHound-ed it, and discovered the North Mississippi AllStars.  They've been around for a while, but I've never heard of them, but they have a pretty impressive story and body of work. I won't go into it here, but check out their website.  These guys make me want to try picking up guitar again. 

Here are two songs for today - "The Meeting" (Mavis Staples) comes from their latest album, Keys to the Kingdom.  The song "K.C. Jones" comes from an earlier work, Shake Hands With Shorty. 

Blues music always has the best and most unique titles.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oldie Of The Day: I Wanna Be Where You Are

Today - cold-ish, gray-ish, and boring-ish. For some reason "I Wanna Be Where You Are" has been running through my mind this afternoon.  I think I'm longing for summer road trips.  You should hear me screeching to hit MJ's "OOH!". Hilarity.  Also comedic - overhearing me use the bit of Spanish I remember from high school to sing along with Jose Feliciano's version.

Anyways, both of them make me smile on this cloudy day. Hope you enjoy them too. Do the bump with somebody as you listen :)

Oye Jose!

Monday, February 6, 2012

RIP Soul Train Conductor

First Heavy D., then Etta James, now Don Cornelius, the creator and original host of the famed Soul Train.  Children of the 70s are mouring everywhere.  Nothing could strike up fun, belly-busting laughter, and TERROR like the Soul Train line at the local party/wedding/family reunion.  Fun - because it's dancing to the best grooves. Laughter - because someone is gonna do the bump, some gray haired person is gonna yell "see y'all don't know nothin' 'bout dis here" and then proceed to look crazy. and Terror - because you had to come up with a good move or people were going to laugh at YOU.

Don Cornelius opened the window to let the country view African American culture, fashion, and just plain gorgeous people on national TV.  Soul Train was the mark of success for the up-and-coming artist trying to make it in the business. It was a way to get music out to the masses for the established artist. 

When Soul Train went into syndication in the 80s and 90s, I was finally old enough to watch. One Saturday I was forced by my mother to take a nap. I woke up hours later in a cold sweat, terrified that I'd missed the ST episode for that day. What did little Cheray do? She ran crying hysterically to her daddy, who was baffled (as I'm sure he was many times in this house full of women). He tried to calm me down and find out why his first-born had completely lost it. The conversation went something like this: "Was it a nightmare?" "No." "Are you hurt?" "No." "Well what's wrong baby?" "I MISSED SOUUUUUUUUULLLL TRAIN!!" "Girl sit down, it hasn't come on yet!"

Today's clips are a few Soul Train moments:

Soul Train was known for having musical guests lipsynch their performances (cuz it's kinda hard to boogie down AND sing well at the same time). But I did find this clip of the O'Jays mixing live singing with a track:

Mariah Carey, back in the day (when she was good). She also breaks the mold and performs live with a track.

Quick example of REALLY bad lip-synching - David Bowie, the first white artist to be featured on Soul Train. 

Clip from The Fresh Prince - GO CARLTON!

Friday, January 27, 2012

My Latest Country Fave...

I haven't posted many country songs featured on this blog yet, probably because country is the the most recent genre added to my music library.  Honestly, I did not care for country AT. ALL. growing up.  Upon moving to the glorious - where am I, Midwest? Southwest? - I found myself s u r r o u n d e d by country and country lovers.  Like, get-in-your-face-and-beat-you-down-for-not-listening-to-country type of country lovers.  So I thought, hey try just a few songs to get started.  After all, I liked Hee-Haw and Dukes Of Hazzard when I was a kid.

Thankfully, over the past 10 years or so I've grown to appreciate country quite a bit - to the point of one country station actually being on my radio pre-set and owning a couple country cds. Not a lot mind you, but yeah, 1 or 2.  And as an aspiring songwriter, how can I deny the power of a song like "He Stopped Loving Her Today".  Holy smokes.

The Zac Brown Band is one of the latest groups to burst on the scene, and seem to bridge country and mainstream.  Note the serious James Taylor influence in the middle of today's song, "Keep Me In Mind".

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oldie Of The Day: The Impressions

I had to go waaay back for this one, back to the days of doo-wop, men standing on the corner making amazing harmonies together.  Whether you're talking about gospel quartets, barbershop groups, or doo-wop, there is something just appealing about men singing together. Especially a capella.

Which, I'd love it if we'd stop saying "A capoco". That joke is done. Let the dead bury dead. Jeez.

Anyways, enjoy this selection by The Impressions, "Say That You Love Me". I believe this is when Curtis Mayfield was still their lead singer.  And meet me at the ice cream parlor, where we'll put a dime in to listen to the latest hits :)

Happy Baby Friday!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just One Of Them Days...

Today has definitely been one of them days...when my personal soundtrack includes some DMX and Linkin Park.  Hostile? Maybe a bit. Irritated and annoyed at least.  There's nothing horribly wrong, just dealing with people being people.  And people are not always the nicest, smartest, most intelligent beings to deal with, right? Maybe I'm also a little bit hacked at the Sleepytime Geishas that have been trying to taunt me into a nap this afternoon.  But alas Sleepytime Ninja, I cannot partake in afternoon dreamland delights, I must work.  Sad face. 

Maybe I'm a little sad about a friend moving away.  Yeah, that's got me out of sorts.  And upon further self-evaluation, I find it's pretty self-centered.  What is it about good news for other people that puts me in a fight with jealousy and envy?  And not "oh how wonderful for you I wish I could go too" but a fight with "why doesn't good stuff happen to me?"  What a complete lie.  Good things happen to me all the time.  And you know the heart of the lie is really me saying to God, "why have I been left behind?" 

The truth? I haven't been left behind. I have a beautiful life, with family and friends that love me. I've experienced tears from a broken heart, and tears from a heart full of thanks.  There are people, not just ONE PERSON, but PEOPLE in my life that would drop everything to come running to help.  I used to be the one that did that but never had it reciprocated.  And I know it's more blessed to give than receive, but who said receiving for a change didn't feel good too?  The real danger of feeling left behind is that you begin to think you're wasting your time, and that ultimately you have no good ahead of you.  No future, no hope.  Hope deferred/delayed/ignored still makes the heart sick.

So, I guess I've talked myself into breaking out of the funk.  Maybe do a little kick-boxing or zumba tonight, laugh some, get to bed on time for a change, and hang out long enough to watch my tomorrows get better, like they always do. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rest In Peace Etta James

If you haven’t heard already, Etta James passed away today, due to complications from leukemia (link to google or CNN).  Known of course for her hit, “At Last” (originally written and recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra), Ms. James’ body of work includes hearty, painful, sweet, beautiful songs that will last throughout the years. One can only hope that upcoming musicians and music lovers will continue to discover and appreciate her gift, and her memory & influence will not fall to the roadside like so many great soul and blues singers have.  Having suffered through a difficult childhood, battling with drugs, illness and obesity, Ms. James never stopped singing.  She continued recording and touring throughout her life, and it was only at the November 2011 cd release that she announced she would not record again.  When I listen to her, I hear a fierce voice endued with strength and a love of life and of being in love.

Enjoy her performances of "The Very Thought Of You", "Somethin's Got A Hold Of Me" (that Flo Rida sampled in "Good Feeling") and "Take It To The Limit".  That's right, a cover of The Eagles - and she NAILS it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oldie of The Day: Brown-Eyed, Handsome Man

Alright, alright, alriiiiight!! I've finally worked in a Chuck Berry song!   I don't know enough to make a call on his true king of rock & roll claim yet, but the more I listen, the more I like him. 

"Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" (aka "Brown-skinned Handsome Man") was inspired by some experiences during Berry's travel through heavily black and Latino areas of California.  He also saw a good-looking Chicano being arrested for loitering until, as Berry put it, "some woman came up shouting for the policeman to let him go." This song made it to #383 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 top songs of all time. 

Of course it's been covered by everyone from Elvis and Buddy Holly to Waylon Jennings.  Below is  a live concert version Chuck Berry did with Robert Cray (note Keith Richards in the band).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday: MLK Day

MLK Quotes to ponder:

A lie cannot live.

Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

Songs for today: "I Have A Dream" by Common & Will.I.Am. and "Blackbird" by The Beatles.  The first song is one of the few songs I actually enjoy with Will-sir on it.  Also, I had no idea the inspiration for Paul McCartney writing "Blackbird" was the turbulent racial tensions in the late 1960s.  In fact, "bird" is a common UK expression for woman, so the song also points to black women rising.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dr. House Has The Blues

If you like the blues, the piano, Dr. House, or just good music, you need to check out Hugh Laurie's cd, released late 2011.  I got stuck on the very first track, "St. James Infirmary", just because that song always gets to me.  Months later I'm finally getting to the other tracks, and I'm enjoying it.  He does sound a bit like Dr. John to me, but maybe because it is piano-based blues. 

Here's a couple to whet your appetite - "Swanee River" and "After You've Gone". 

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oldie Of The Day: Cherie Amour

You can't have a name like "Cheray" - or Cheryl, Cherry, Sherry, Cherie - and not be serenaded at some point in your life with "My Cherie Amour".  So I have a certain affinity for it.  Yet another song ripe with unrequited love that I have mirror-performed and car-performed on multiple occasions.  So here's two versions of it - the original by Stevie Wonder, and one by the latest artists added to my arsenal, Elaine Elias.  I watched a performance of her trio - and she almost makes me consider quitting piano.  The woman is seriously gifted....and plays barefoot. 

BTW, all those other names I listed above - yes I've been called that before. Major annoyance factor for me. I can give you Sherry, but Cheryl - really? Do you see an "L" anywhere in there? And Cherry - you're just not even trying.  Ugh. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

December Soul: Farewell

This little parade of December/January blue-eyed soul artists comes to an end today.  There are many that haven't been featured...the obvious History of Rap co-conspirator Justin Timberlake, ivory princess Teena Marie (RIP), Jon B., Average White Band, Joe Cocker, Adele, etc. etc.  However, I absolutely can't end this without mentioning 2 final names - Marc Broussard and Michael McDonald. 

The first song I heard of Broussard's "Home" was actually performed on Clash of the Choirs by a choir directed by Blake Shelton.   A friend of mine called me all excited (as music nerds can be sometimes) and literally yelled into the phone, "you've GOT to listen to this guy!"  I did and loved it (good call Christy).  Before then, I'd heard Broussard's cover of Al Green's, "Love and Happiness". But for some reason it didn't click with me the 'hugeness' of his talent until that call.  I think what impresses me is his ability to go from hard core soul classics like "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" as featured on his S.O.S. Save Our Souls album to the pop sound of "Cruel" from his 2011 project Marc Broussard.  Below is "Let Me Do It Over" from that same project.

Michael McDonald always brings a smile to my face; I enjoy his music, his lyrics and imitating his voice.  So much soul, so little enunciation.  Thank God for cd jackets and websites dedicated entirely to lyrics.  I have done many stellar performances of "This Is It", "I Keep Forgettin'"(with that killer bass line as stolen by Warren G and Nate Dogg), and "What A Fool Believes".  Of course the words for "Fool" for me kinda went like this: "He came from somewhere back in derr long ago, somethin' somethin' SOOOOMEthin, sunting sunting alriiight...Sheeeeee had a place in his life, heeeeee never made her think twice, as she riiifal to hur apologeee...".  LOL.  McDonald's recent projects have featured remakes of golden oldies - some tracks are just "eh", but many are well done, keeping true to the era but still in his style. I think what I like about Michael is his likable persona, and he seems to record, write, sing both behind the scenes and on stage because he loves it.  No selling out, no unnecessary short cuts, just simply a musician making music.

Below is a video of his performance at Berklee's commencement ceremony, graciously performing with their students.  There's 2 things I'd like to do - graduate from Berklee, and perform with Michael McDonald.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Oldie of the Day: Jon Gibson

Truly unfairly not known R&B/Christian/gospel artist Jon Gibson freaked out a lot of folks because he looked like he belonged in a Ferris Bueller movie scene but sounded like Stevie Wonder.  It pains me that his music has never been widely known or distributed.  It's like he was too Christian for the secular market, but too on the edge musically for Christian companies.  Definitely sad.  Whether he was performing one of his well-written songs (he's a self-taught musician and songwriter), or covering Stevie Wonder or Andrae Crouch, he has a voice not easily forgotten. 

I was in absolute love with today's first song, "Friend in You" in junior high; I realize now that part of the reason is because it is similar to Wonder's way of crafting a song with simple accompaniment (like "Overjoyed").  This song also mysteriously played on the radio repeatedly for 30 minutes one Friday night when I was 15; it was the same night that a friend told he planned to commit suicide.  Thank God he didn't.  I don't know if he heard this song at all that night, but I do remember many tears and much praying that night.  And I remember the relief and gratitude when I saw him again.  Sadly this friend passed away years later due to cancer.  Although we had lost touch by then, I still cherish the memory of him and our jr. high comraderie.  I think of him every time I hear this song.

The second song, "So Blue, doesn't have such a deep meaning to it; I just  like it ;). My favorite lines: "I think too much, sometimes I think myself right into a jam". This is from the Love Education album, which I consider to be Gibson's best work.  And in checking my cherished cassette copy (yes I said CASSETTE), I see the copyright is 1994....this thing is 18 years old.   Oi and vey.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and Merry 2012!  I hope you had an amazing holiday season and that you're getting geared up for the next 12 months.  If 2011 was tough (as it was for a lot of people), may 2012 be the complete opposite, an upturn for you, full of peace, relief, fun and accomplishment. If 2011 was great for you, may 2012 blessedly continue your winning streak.

My 2012 has already begun quite awesomely, simply because I have not heard any silly year-themed rhyming phrases.  I'm absolutely t h r i l l e d. You know the ones: 2008 is gonna be great (#gag), 2009 is gonna be fine (#ACK!), 2010 we're gonna win (#RETCH!!), 2011 the year of heaven (#commeresoIcancutyou).   All 2012 rhymes, please pass me by.

January will continue the December soul theme, simply because the holidays were so good I missed a few posts.  Recently a friend reminded me to post as part of blue-eyed soul theme UK-born Joss Stone.  Like Duffy, she grew up listening to R&B/soul artists, and began training her voice by singing along with Aretha Franklin's Greatest Hits album in her early teens.  She's performed both original music as well as some great oldies such as For the Love Of You and I Put A Spell On You (with Jeff Beck). This past fall the group Super Heavy, whose members include Joss, Mick Jagger, Damian Marley, A.R. Rahman and Dave Stewart, released its debut. 

What do you think about this Super Heavy collaboration?