Al Jarreau: A Personal Tribute

Al Jarreau: A Personal Tribute

He had style: from his cool sense of dress to his one-of-a-kind vocalize…

It in with much sadness that I learned of the passing of the great Al Jarreau on February 12 after a recent hospilization in Los Angeles at the age of 76.  My first interview (for Britain’s Blues & Soul magazine) with Al took place around October 1975 and I remember vividly that he and then-manager Patrick Rains came to my Hollywood apartment on North Formosa to conduct it, one of the handful of times when I played host to artists in my own abode.  He was mild-mannered, aimiable and a little nervous as he shared about his life and the musical journey that had led him to a major recording contract with Warner Brothers Records.  Al’s scintillating debut set – “We Got By” – had already become one of my personal favourites of the year and he had become the ‘talk of the town,’ with critics marvelling at his distinctive vocal dexterity.  

dn-aljarreau-dec75

I became a firm supporter and a few months later, we did our second interview (reprinted below) on the eve of his first European tour; over the years, Al created a solid and loyal audience among UK audiences in particular who loved his unique approach to singing, his innovative jazz-veered artistry and his genial personality – so much so that he recorded an entire album live in London in November 1984. He inspired other artists with his interpetative skills, prompting illustrious singer/songwriter Brenda Russell to express her own feelings about his prodigious musicality in 1983:

Over the years, we did a number of interviews and I witnessed him onstage, transforming classic tunes and his own original material into musical works of art, none more thrilling than attending the live studio sessions for his brilliant 1994 LP, “Tenderness.” In person, Al was cool, funny and a great conversationalist with a deep passion for his art and for music, as well as an acute awareness for whatever was happening in the world. Our personal chats were illuminating and richly rewarding. A seven-time Grammy awardee, Al’s prodigious talent was forever unique and his self-expression as an artist, rare, sensitive and soulful. His magic with a song will be truly missed along with his gift to the world. RIP, Mr. Jarreau, your contribution to life and art lives on.

==================================================================================================================

APRIL 1976 INTERVIEW – AL JARREAU with DAVID NATHAN

“IT SEEMS like but a short time since we last spoke to a talented gentleman who has been hailed by many of his peers and people in the know in the music industry as one of the brightest and most exciting discoveries of the seventies. His name is Al Jarreau and his debut Reprise album, “We Got By” caused something of a sensation when it was released late last year. Since then, Al has picked up a strong following wherever he’s performed and his every appearance has brought further accolades and compliments. Right now, he’s getting ready to conquer Europe with his very unique style and on the eve of his departure, we got the chance to rap with the genial gent.

“Since we talked last, I guess I’ve mostly been involved in performing and getting our second album ready,” Al commented. “I seem to have spent a good deal of time on the East Coast — places like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. have been very good for us — the response has been pleasantly surprising. Yes, I feel that the momentum is picking up slowly and we’re getting over to the cities and markets that are really important when you’re trying to establish yourself.” Al’s acceptance in the East has prompted him to seriously consider the idea of getting an apartment in New York for a few months. “It’s much easier to operate from New York because the cost of running back and forth to the West Coast — where I live — is, frankly prohibitive. But nevertheless, I still dig living in L.A. — the living is nicer and there’s more space. “But I would have to also say that living in New York can add to your creativity — there’s a certain tension that keeps you on the go.”

Al has been the recipient of strong critical acclaim in recent months and he confesses that “I feel as if I’m just coming out of the blocks. In all truth, of course, I haven’t just started out but what I am doing is going out there constantly in front of brand new audiences so every night is a challenge. Particularly as most people haven’t even heard of me!” People may not have heard his name but by the time Al finishes mesmerising everyone with his special style, they certainly remember who he is. “It’s like with the first album. I’ve almost forgotten that it happened and it seems so far back in the past so it’s surprising to hear people still talk about it. It’s almost like a delayed reaction, you could say.”

Much of Mr. Jarreau’s energy of late has been concentrated into his second album and in some ways, it will differ from the first. “I guess we learnt a lot from the first album — oftentimes, you can get caught up so much into your own little world that you become unaware of what’s going on outside. Maybe it was a mistake for us to put the album out there with completely new material, presenting a new artist, and a new style all at the same time. So, for this album, we’re gonna do a couple of other people’s songs although the balance of the material will be my own.

“We’ve done Elton John’s “Your Song” and we did a whole number on Sly Stone’s “Somebody’s Watching You” — I guess you could say we’ve given it an ass-kickin’! I’ve also cut an old Oscar Brown Jr. tune, “Hum Drum Blues” but it may not be on the next album. I feel that this album — which is being produced by Al Schmidt (who produced the first one) and Tommy LiPuma — presents a more even texture and mood than the first one.

“My main objective in recording is to work in such a way as to ensure that whatever we do can be easily recreated on stage so this album will probably be a lot less orchestrated — that’s something I learned from the first album.”
Although Al kicked off his recording career with an album, there was no hit single to emerge from it. How much importance does he attach to having a hit? “You bet I really want a hit! It’ll open a lot of doors for me and give me the opportunity to do some other things. I think we may have a hit in one of the tracks we’ve done. It’s called “Hold On” and it’s less than two minutes long and it’s accapella. I have a feeling that it may just jump off the album!”

Al says he’s confidently looking forward viagra online to his European trip and it looks likely that he will gain a good measure of acceptance whilst on the Continent. “I feel pretty confident about it all because I feel that I’ve grown by leaps and bounds from just working in the studio again. So far, my performing growth has been somewhat stunted by not having a regular group of musicians to work with — that can definitely be a handicap. Once we can get that situation sorted out, I know things will only continue to get better.”

With the new album — tentatively tabbed “Glow” — ready to re-inforce Al’s acceptance and acclaim both at home and overseas, the future looks particularly bright for this dynamic young performer. If you get the chance, check him out — he really has something different to offer.”
(C) 2011, David Nathan/SoulMusic.com

=================================================================================================================

Listen to AL’s 2011 ‘Voice Your Choice” session with JEFF LOREZ for SoulMusic.com

===================================================================================================================

CLICK HERE FOR THE AL JARREAU PAGE IN THE SOULMUSIC.COM ARCHIVES

==================================================================================================================

CLICK HERE FOR THE AL JARREAU (UK) STORE AT SOULMUSIC,COM

Motown Spotlight - January 2017

Motown Spotlight – January 2017

Welcome to the first column of the new year and, needless to say, hope we’ll spend the next twelve months together talking Motown and related issues. In the aftermath of suffering from this awful cough lurgy, I decided I needed to ease my way into this  2017 debut, so unearthed a CD I’d long forgotten – “Strung Out” from Gordon Staples and the String Thing.  First issued on the Motown label in September 1970, the version I’m playing is the Reel Music 2009 reissue and I have to say, it focuses on ‘old school’ musicianship delivered by the finest exponents of Motown inspired music, all under the directorship of the wonderful Paul Riser, about whom Berry Gordy once said – “(He) is one of the great unsung heroes of Motown.  His string arrangements, creativity and warmth, on so many songs, created a unique flavour that helped the Motown sound become the Motown Sound.”   As a whole, it’s an easy listening journey which was just what I needed today, covering tracks like “Toonie”, “Sounds Of The Zodiac”, “The Look Of Love” and “Someday We’ll Be Together”.  Jackie Hicks, Louvain Demps and Marlene Barrow provided their oh-so distinctive vocals to several tracks, including the last named title, while the musicians, of course, were Motown’s finest, like James Jamerson, Dennis Coffey, Earl Van Dyke and Jack Ashford, joined by violins, violas, cellos and harps, with the resulting rich, full sound that ebbs and flows, easing tensions in an unhurried fashion. And that’s just the job this afternoon.

Gordon Staples penned the album’s original sleeve notes to mention the following – “In a symphony orchestra of 105 musicians, 65 are string players. There is hardly a musical composition that is not enhanced by a string section.  The sound of strings has a wide range of colour that is without boundaries – all the way from Mahler to Leroy Anderson.   Come along with us and get ‘Strung Out’, for the sound you will hear in this album is yet another example of our ‘String Thing’”.  And, he’s so right: strings do sing!  Together with playing for Berry Gordy, Gordon was, as you know, the concert master of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and of course was much in demand.  Anyway, this Reel Music release was dedicated to his memory, as Gordon died in 1990, and what made this an even more special release was the involvement of his widow, Beatrix, who provided visuals and anecdotes. Do check it out if you’ve missed it…  Let’s move on…

With every new year, Motown fans – me included – start speculating about what the next few months have to offer. What I’ve read so far is that “The Early Motown EPs – Volume 2” box set will be available from Universal this month, featuring discs from The Contours, The Marvelettes, The Temptations, Mary Wells, Kim Weston, Stevie Wonder and The Supremes.  Check out the relevant websites for further information including price.  It seems Spectrum could have five further classic albums available during March; well, according to Amazon that is, while Ace/Kent have yet to make any announcement.  Meantime, we’ve been treated to “Motown Unissued 1966” but as a digital release only – darn it.  Anyway, have been listening to the trio of Chris Clark tracks included, namely, “Never Trust A Man”, “I Still Love You” and “Never Stop Loving Me” which are remarkably vital and so typically Motown.  A valid trip into the past and one I know she’s rather pleased about.

That reminds me, as I’ve mentioned Ms Clark, she’s involved in a charity single organised by Paul Stuart Davies sleeve-front-small-copyfinale-copy5-big-white-n-lil-white-copytitled “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”. Other contributing artists are Tommy Hunt, Dean Parrish, Sidney Barnes, Pat Lewis, Johnny Boy,  The Signatures and, of course, Paul.  A rousing, happy live recording bursting with enthusiasm, and wrapped in love, with sale proceeds earmarked for  Wigan DJ Jon Bates, who is wheelchair bound and desperately needs to raise £30,000 for a life-changing operation that’s only performed in America.  So, a very worthy cause for sure. “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” can be downloaded now but those of you who’d like to own a vinyl copy, here’s the link http://thesignatures.co.uk/product/northern-soul-survivors-single/    It’s a terrific version and I wish all concerned the best in raising much needed funds to help Jon become whole again.

Now some belated sad news… Our thoughts are with the family of Sylvester Potts, a member of The Contours from almost day one, who recently died in a Detroit hospital following a battle against cancer and alzheimers.  He joined the group around 1961, following the release of their debut single for Motown. The Berry Gordy penned “Do You Love Me” elevated The Contours into US R&B stardom, but, due to the nature of the record buying market, that was their biggest seller despite following it with cracking sounds like “Can You Do It” and (my all-time favourite) “Just A Little Misunderstanding.”  If you need reminding of their music, do check out Kent’s compilation of unissued material on “Dance With The Contours 1963-1964”, you’ll not be disappointed I promise.  From recorded music to live performances…

Moving on to October this year, there’s a planned five day event titled “Detroit A-Go-Go”, celebrating the best in Northern Soul and Motown, at the St Regis Hotel, Detroit, a spit away from the Hitsville building.  Participating artists so far include The Velvelettes, The Elgins, Ronnie McNeir, Spyder Turner, The Dynamics and Pat Lewis.  It appears top DJs pharmacy-no-rx.net from the UK, Europe and America have also been booked, and there’s a guided tour of the city,  a visit into the Hitsville studio, and a record fair,  included in the package.  That’s all I know for now, but for more information, visit www.detroitagogo.com. However,  be aware it’s rather expensive and air fares aren’t included in the prices as far as I can see.

Now thitsville412o the written word, and Keith Rylatt’s much talked about book “Hitsville – The Birth Of Tamla Motown”, recently published by Modus, the first title in the company’s publishing arm. You know the story behind the book I’m sure, but briefly, it’s come about following the discovery of a carrier bag of photos and memorabilia dating back to the early sixties, which had been hidden for nearly fifty years, following the passing of Clive Stone, one of the founding members of Dave Godin’s Tamla Motown Appreciation Society. And, my, wouldn’t they have been so chuffed to see this book, packed full of historical data that’s treasured by stalwart Motown followers.  By the way, I popped by the preview exhibition of the book’s launch in London, briefly met Keith (whose work I’m familiar with having read and reviewed his “CENtral 1179” about the Twisted Wheel Club,  which he co-penned with Phil Scott), but due to a mishap with the publisher’s computing system, have only recently received “Hitsville”.  However, have now had plenty of time to give it a dedicated, uninterrupted read, and was instantly transported to the early sixties when Motown was testing the musical water in the UK.  I won’t go into great detail as you know the early history as well as I do, but what struck me immediately was the all consuming enthusiasm and fired determination, spearheaded by Dave Godin and the TMAS, to promote this young new sound from Detroit.  With no internet, it was purely word of mouth, letter by mail, or talk via the phone, and with a relentless energy, Dave and others left no stone unturned to spread the word with Berry Gordy’s blessing.

I’m thinking “Hitsville” is almost the UK equivalent to Al Abrams’ wonderful tome “Hype And Soul!” published in September 2011 by Templestreet Publishing, because Al generously shared his tireless hustling to secure news coverage in a white dominated media system. With so much material to choose from, Keith Rylatt has wisely used the book’s pages to the full, while retaining the historical beauty and significance of the originals.  For example, there’s personal letters to and from Dave Godin, newspaper cuttings, advertisements, readers’ letters and reviews, snuggling up with Clive’s breath taking selection of exclusive visuals, many of which are on public show for the first time.   All credit then to Stuart Russell, the book’s designer.

As a member of the TMAS, I welcomed the addition of pages from the actual magazines which I’m sorry to say, I no longer have as they, like so much of my memorabilia, got waylaid in my several London moves.  Something I’ve always regretted and that’s putting it mildly! Anyway, from the book’s opening chapter “1955 – 1962 From Bexleyheath To Detroit” I knew I was destined for a glorious read through the history of my beloved Motown, and within seconds, was lost in those days of this fledgling company making its first tentative steps on UK soil and the struggle that was to come.  From the first concerts and tv appearances, through to the UK Revue and, of course, “The Sound Of Motown” programme which crossed all barriers in British home entertainment, by presenting a black-based prime time music show, hosted by our top girl, Dusty Springfield, herself such a pioneering force for the sound she adopted and adored.

Of course, when the TMAS folded, individual fan clubs were allocated across the UK with myself securing the Four Tops, and when it was decided by Motown US to drop these also, Motown Ad Astra (MAA) was opened, run primarily by myself, Lynne Pemberton, Jackie Lee and Geraldine Jones, from our flat in London’s Ealing.  Aw, more memories, trials and tribulations, but all wonderfully good!

Well, what more can I say?  “Hitsville! – The Birth Of Tamla Motown” is an all consuming read, an important document of events for fans and curious alike, and shows that without the unmoving commitment and driving tenacity of a few dedicated folks, Motown may have taken just a little longer to cross the British drawbridge.  We applaud them with our thanks and love, while thanking Keith and the team for getting it all together for public consumption.

That’s it until next month.  Thank you for your continued support and very much look forward to spending this year in your company.

 

From The Vaults:  GEORGE DUKE - "Voice Your Choice"

From The Vaults: GEORGE DUKE – “Voice Your Choice”

 

georged

To celebrate his induction into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame as a Legacy Award recipient, we’ve gone into the SoulMusic.com vaults to present this audio interview.  In January 2011, SoulMusic.com contributor Jeff Lorez caught up with legendary George Duke. He asked the multi-faceted music man to share seven tracks from his extensive catalogue as an artist, producer and songwriter as well as choosing three tracks by others.  The session went so well…we split into it two parts!

Pt. 1 – George’s favoutites from his own catalogue…

Pt. 2 – George’s choices from recordings by others…

Click here for the GEORGE DUKE Page at SoulMusic.com

 

 

Congratulations to the latest inductees into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame; nominations now open for the next round of inductions!

Congratulations to the latest inductees into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame; nominations now open for the next round of inductions!

Thanks to all those who voted and congratulations to our latest round of inductees into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame at SoulMusic.com:

sister_sledge_groupmiki-howard bobby-eli sylvia-nice2 loveunlimited mica-paris eldeb dianar georged lionelr barrettstrongpharrell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTEMPORARY SOUL MUSIC ARTIST/GROUP or DUO: Pharrell Williams; FEMALE ARTIST: Miki Howard; MALE ARTIST: El DeBarge; GROUP/DUO: Sister Sledge; LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Lionel Richie; LEGACY (POSTHUMOUS) AWARD: George Duke; R&B PIONEER: Love Unlimited; INSTRUMENTALIST/MUSICIAN: Bobby Eli; PRODUCER/ARRANGER: Sylvia Robinson;
SONGWRITER/SONGWRITING TEAM: Barrett Strong; UK SOUL ARTIST/GROUP or DUO: Mica Paris; MOTOWN ARTIST/GROUP or DUO: Diana Ross. Check out the list of other 2016 inductees right here

Voting for nominations into the next round of inductions (February 2017) is now open!

Just click the link to vote (voting is free, no registration required),

LATEST REISSUE REVIEWS

LATEST REISSUE REVIEWS

MELBA_MOORE_ANTHOLOGY

MELBA MOORE: STANDING RIGHT HERE: THE ANTHOLOGY – THE BUDDAH & EPIC YEARS (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

A fabulous musical trip in two halves. Firstly, we’re invited to remember Melba’s Buddah years in 1975 when she began her journey into stardom. Here we are heavyweight in hits via the international smash “This Is It”, hotly followed by the equally compulsive and mesmerising dance hits “So Many Mountains” and “The Greatest Feeling”. All are disco classics, with a driving beat that can’t be ignored. The hooklines in all are instant, vital and stay in the mind for hours afterwards (particularly “So Many Mountains” for me – just can’t shake it, but no bad thing!) However, there’s others here that spring out, and “Natural Part Of Everything”, with its fascinating melody, is one. There’s so much Van McCoy here – he was responsible for several of the songs – and it’s wonderful: his sound is so recognisable. Singer and producer are a perfect match. With a gospel feel, Melba changes pace with “Lean On Me”, although the musical backdrop is too low keyed for me. A more full blooded presentation would have heightened the dramatic approach that the song lacks. Mind you, when the lady sings, my, she really lets rip. Into the Epic CD now from 1978, where one of the decade’s biggest disco hits roars from the speakers – “Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance”. With “You Stepped Into My Life” a close second. This side highlights tracks from Melba’s three Epic albums, with producers ranging from McFadden & Whitehead and Pete Bellotte. Of the ballads, there’s the delicious “There’s No Other Like You”, very plush; while “Where Did You Ever Go” is a little on the dark side. A touch of disco funk with “Miss Thing”, which surprised me as it seemed out of place here, but, hey, it’s interesting. This is a first-of-its-kind package, covering Melba’s career between 1975 – 1980, reminding us of the Moore excitement that contributed to the changing music scene of that period. And, it was during this time that I met and interviewed the lady. Instantly smitten was I. Highly recommended.
Rating: 9

veryfinelove409

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: A VERY FINE LOVE: EXPANDED COLLECTOR’S EDITION (SFE)
Little did anyone know when this album was first issued in 1995 that it would be Dusty’s last. Having bought it the first time round, I feel I know it inside out, yet when I received this latest CD, it was like hearing it for the first time. Strange? Well, kind of. Recorded a year earlier than its release date, and originally intended to be titled “Dusty In Nashville” as a tie in with the 25th anniversary of “Dusty In Memphis” masterpiece, it was re-named because her record company feared the public would think it a country and western release. While recording it, the lady suffered from laryngitis and other undiagnosed illnesses, and when she returned to the UK, she faced her worst nightmare, her cancer had returned. With the immediate future being devoted to further http://www.ourhealthissues.com treatment, the album was delayed to enable Dusty to promote it, which she did, with great courage. With Tom Shapiro as producer, the album is true to her. From the opening track “Roll Away”, into the CD’s title, the scene is set. Distinctive melodies, wistful vocals, as she meticulously adapts her voice to blend in with the music, with material provided by some of her much loved composers, like Diane Warren who penned the single “Wherever Would I Be”, her duet with Daryl Hall. Both powerful and feisty. With its haunting, melancholy feel, “Go Easy On Me”, typifies all that’s great about Dusty, while with “You Are The Storm” she delivers an epic whirlwind that wraps itself around you. With a commitment, that’s almost chilling, Dusty’s intenseness shows in “All I Have To Offer You Is Love”, leaving the uptempo, almost chirpy, “Lovin’ Proof” to change the mood. “Where Is A Woman To Go” is magnificent on every level, leaving the listener dry mouthed. It oozes with the Springfield magic from its winding melody to her compassionate, soulful delivery, which is sometimes cautious, or is it defiant? However, there are two things I must mention which aren’t musically related: the sound of her spoken voice at the close of the CD which almost caused me heart failure, and the visuals in the booklet. While I appreciate why they’ve been included, they show a desperately ill singer. Just look at Dusty’s eyes because no matter now upbeat she seems, the battle she fought against this dreadful disease is all too apparent. Like so many cancer stricken ladies, Dusty put on a hugely brave fight to beat the monster, but tragically lost it in 1999. If I have to say anything more to close this review, it’ll be this. “A Very Fine Love” is the ideal, or perfect, finale to a career that spanned decades, from our very own, homegrown soul singer who defied all the rules throughout her lifetime and stood up for what she believed in. A legend in more than one way – and I miss her still.
Rating: 10

newyorkcity411

NEW YORK CITY BAND WITH LUTHER VANDROSS: NEW YORK CITY BAND (WIENERWORLD)

One of the seventies top session singers, Luther went on – following his first album “Never Too Much” – to carve a huge niche for himself in music as a top R&B singer on a global basis. His voice was warm, welcoming and oh so, seductive. Anyway, back to the plot, here his vocals front the New York City Band on the soundtrack for the 1979 film “Sunnyside” which I’d not heard of until now, so it must have slipped off the radar somehow. Sadly, there’s only one commercial highlight here, namely, “Got To Have Your Body”, a hot dance inspired song that demands attention. With this title being so vital, the others seem uninviting by comparison. Having said that, the fact that this CD is now available, only adds credence to the foundation of a career that soared into the sky, thanks to Luther’s innate ability to turn a song into a masterpiece. His personal stylish presentations are legendary. And Luther’s multi-million selling albums, said to be 35 million-plus, during the eighties and nineties, are indicative of his unmistakable talent, with the Grammy awards he won during his career recognising that. You don’t need me to tell you that Mr Vandross was also an brilliant commercial composer and producer, working with the likes of David Bowie (he worked on David’s “Young Americans” album), Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Diana Ross, and the list goes on. I’m sure we all have our favourite Luther track but for me it’s, um, “Dance With My Father” – what a song! Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but thank goodness we have a vast, rich catalogue to remember him by, and as for this CD, its historical value will delight Mr V’s fans.
Rating: 6

Motown Spotlight - December 2016

Motown Spotlight – December 2016

Tell me, why is it that colds, sniffles, coughs and sneezes last so much longer when Christmas Day is looming? Now in my third week, it really is a pathetic, sickly creature writing this but, hey, the show must go on – and Motown is the show! I know what I’ll do, play some Festive songs. “The Ultimate Motown Christmas Collection” is just the job. In between some of the tracks like The Supremes’ “White Christmas”, Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas”, Four Tops’ “Merry Christmas Baby” and The Miracles’ “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, there’s spoken word greetings from some of the contributors. They’re all young voices of course, but the sentiment is there. A splash of tinsel on the grooves! Feeling better already…let’s TCB

The other day I decided to play the “Magic Lady” CD first released in the late eighties and was surprised to hear it’s stood the test of time. And the music reminded me of a chat with Linda Stokes during the time of its release, and the first single “Betcha Can’t Lose (With My Love)” which reached the UK top forty, following its American success. Sadly, it was the only one but, hey, for a new act, it was a brilliant result. So, I dug out that interview printed in Blues & Soul, thinking it might be interesting to re-visit my chat and also remind ourselves how the duo got together. Hope you’ll join me on our journey…

Michael Stokes, producer and composer, was the key to Magic Lady: he was also Linda’s husband. It appears his first break came when he was a mere thirteen years old because his mother’s restaurant was opposite Spector Records in New York, and its employees were regular visitors there. “It was part of my life” Michael told a 1988 edition of Voices From The Shadows magazine. ”One day Marvin Schlachter (owner of Prelude Records) came in and I told him I was working on some songs. He fobbed me off for a couple of weeks, but then decided to listen. He thought (they) were very good.” One thing led to another, resulting in Michael being offered a job writing material for him. Moving on to the late sixties, he moved to Detroit to hook up with Eddie Kendricks’ EJK Records, before returning to New York. Long story short, Michael had carved a niche for himself in the business and was subsequently in demand as a producer during the seventies and eighties. Now based in Los Angeles, he successfully worked with Creative Source, Shirley Caesar, Rose Royce and Smokey Robinson, among others.

Let’s backtrack a bit. Hailing from Palmer Woods, Detroit, Michael never knew his biological father because he was murdered while on a visit to the hospital where his son was born. However, as his mother owned a string of restaurants, their future was thankfully financially stable, helping to closet him from the racial tensions that plagued America while he was growing up. He mentioned this in the same interview with the before mentioned magazine. “I went to white schools, and I lived in a Jewish neighbourhood so people weren’t black and white to me. It was only my later education that opened my eyes to what was really going down. I decided my music was the best way I could give people something to alleviate their suffering in whatever small degree.”

Back to the plot. Magic Lady – Linda Stokes, Kimberley Ball and Jackie Steele – was Michael’s brainchild, first signed to Arista Records in 1980. From here they switched to A&M where they enjoyed a US R&B hit “Hot And Sassy”, and a UK specialist soul hit with “Hold Tight”. Then came Michael’s licensing deal with Berry Gordy via his MS International Productions set up, where Magic Lady, now minus Kimberly Ball, was one of several acts included in the deal.

I had in fact spoken to Michael prior to chatting with Linda, and he told me Magic Lady’s eponymous album was a women’s album for women. When it was in the embryonic stages, Linda, Michael and Jackie had actually discussed the project at length, as Linda told me “We have a democratic attitude when we work. Jackie and myself both think alike…it’s almost as if our brains are locked into each other.” When they all came up with identical ideas, they knew they were onto a winner. However, working and living with her husband must cause problems I thought, but not so, because they never took their work home and, she laughed, she let him win their arguments. “But basically, we think alike, so arguments don’t happen that often!”

Linda and Jackie are Detroiters. Linda caught the singing bug in high school, while Jackie’s father was a minister, so was raised in a gospel environment. However, both were avidly aware of Motown and dreamed one day of joining the company. “It’s such a great feeling being with (them). I believe we have a good union and hopefully that relationship will work for us both. Everything seems to be going to plan right now and we’re excited about what’s happening. Performing comes easily because it’s fun.”

So, let’s talk music, and the “Magic Lady” album which, she said at the time, was a different type of project for Motown which, she believed, would surprise a lot of people. They worked on it for over three months because the intention was to release a concept work that carried a theme throughout. “It’s a personal album and when we were turning it around it felt we were holding conversations with music. We wanted it to reflect today’s attitude about love and chose not to bring sex or drugs into it.” Sticking to romance was better, they believed, keeping their ideas ‘clean’ and acceptable. Preaching to listeners was also not on their agenda. “We wanted stories that touched the heart. It’s hard for us to write gimmicky lyrics because our songs have to mean something to us first if we’re going to effectively convey them to people.” Anyway, I think the result speaks for itself because apart from the terrific debut single “Betcha Can’t Lose (With My Love)”, I instantly fell in love with “Misty-Eyed” and “Summer Love”. In fact, there wasn’t a lot I didn’t like and that still holds strong today. However, what caught my eye was the album’s packaging – the piercing green eyes that appear on the front cover. You feel drawn to them because they follow you around. Or is it my cold medication kicking in?! Then I also noticed that Berry Gordy was credited as executive producer; not a cosmetic title either Linda explained, because his input was invaluable. “It was a daunting prospect working with him but he is so respected by everyone that I soon lost my nervousness.”

To round off this musical re-visit, I must mention that Linda was also a dress designer, and this would have been her chosen career if music hadn’t beckoned. An example of her work can be seen on the reverse side of the album sleeve. Wherever she went, so did her sketch pad, just in case. Oh lor, as always, I seem to have written more than I had originally planned but nonetheless, hope it’s of interest and, perhaps, re-kindled a little curiosity to play the ladies’ music again. It was just by chance that I spotted the CD in my collection and thought – why not?

Just one more item before leaving. As it’s now in the public domain, and as I made mention of this project last time, there was an exclusive luncheon presentation at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Beverly Hills, California, just recently to officially announce plans for the Motown Museum Expansion project due to open in 2019. Among the VIP guests was SoulMusic.com’s own David Nathan, who, as a member of the panel of experts, spoke about the profound impact Motown made on the world. “Motown is one of the best imports this country has produced,” he said in his speech. Hosted by company vice president Iris Gordy, she introduced her cousin Robin Terry, chairwoman and chief executive officer of the museum, after taking over the role from her grandmother (the late) Esther Gwen Gordy. Over time, Robin transformed Hitsville USA into a world-class museum attraction for Motown fans the world over. Although Berry Gordy wasn’t in attendance, many of the seventy or so guests spoke about him and the music empire he created, including members of his family, Suzanne DePasse, and other industry figures. Motowners in attendance included Scherrie Payne, Betty Kelley, Janie Bradford, Mable John, Mary Wilson, Claudette Robinson, Eddie Holland, Brenda Holloway and Charlene. So now you know. Fabulous, just fabulous!

Well, the Christmas CD has been re-played a couple of times since I started this and I must say it’s cheered me immensely. Marvin Gaye singing “Christmas In The City” to be followed by The Temptations’ “Silent Night”. No better way to close this last column of 2016 than with the beautiful voices of these guys.

So, all that’s left for me to say is a very Happy Christmas to you all, where I’m hoping you’ll spend time with your family and closest loved ones. For all those people who are working over the Festive period in a variety of jobs, keeping us safe, and tending to the sick and less fortunate, thank you so much for your dedication. To wish you a successful and healthy 2017 goes without http://premier-pharmacy.com/product/topamax/ saying, and I’d like to think there will be peace on earth for us all as well. Although it seems grossly inadequate, thank you for keeping the Motown faith this year; you really are a treasured bunch of people and it’s been a real treat for me to have met so many of you during the past twelve months.

Motown is yesterday; Motown is today, and Motown is tomorrow.

LATEST REISSUES REVIEWS

LATEST REISSUES REVIEWS

GLADYS_KNIGHT

GLADYS KNIGHT: THE SOLO COLLECTION EXPANDED EDITIONS (SOULMUSIC.COM RECORDS)

Oh my – how I remember these albums on their first outing, where the elegance of the lady is matched only by her warm, soulful deliveries that cover all emotions, with a defining edge that has often been imitated but never replaced. Gladys’ voice is one of the most recognisable in the business; her personal stylish presentations manifest themselves across most music genres, whether it’s ballad, funk, dance and in between. With the Pips, her Motown history of success and failures is well documented, so let’s get straight to the point with tracks from her two solo albums – “Miss Gladys Knight” released by Buddah in 1978, and “Gladys Knight” from Columbia a year later. “You Bring Out The Best In Me” is a hi-octane dancer which she effortlessly deals with, while the opening track “I’m Coming Home Again” is unpretentious, yet powerful. Against rolling strings that weave across the melody, her sumptuous vocal expressions are softly determined. At the other end of the spectrum, she hits the dancefloor, blasting across the speakers with the brassy “It’s A Better Than Good Time”. Then, hitting you between the eyes, “We Don’t Make Each Other Laugh Anymore” hugs relentlessly at the heart strings. The mournful orchestra tries to placate an almost tortured singer, with the overall effect of a masterpiece. “I Just Want To Be With You” follows along the same lines, except there’s full blooded support vocalists uplifting the chorus: musically mesmerising. There’s little to dislike here, and is a credit to the lady because when she originally recorded this she was locked in legal hassles with record companies, and fielding off multi million dollar law suits. Into the second CD, and a step further into mainstream music. Check out “For All We Know” for instance, it has a free and commercial feel to it. Likewise the two versions of “You Bring Out The Best In Me” and the extended single mix of “It’s The Same Old Song”. “Maybe, Maybe Baby” is an updated take on the B-side of their 1964 Maxx single “Giving Up”. Nice touch. And before that, with its spoken introduction, “Am I Losing You” , a gentle, mid-pacer that is so typically Gladys. Lovely. Informative accompanying booklet with notes penned by the highly respected Charles Waring, rounds off this wonderful re-issue just nicely. Full marks for sure!

Rating: 10

teddy318

TEDDY PENDERGRASS: TEDDY EXPANDED EDITION (BBR)
What a satisfying time I’ve had playing this re-issue over and over. “Teddy”, his third album, followed a pair of platinum releases, and has been called a collection of ‘bedroom ballads’ akin to Marvin’s “Midnight Love” set. Don’t know about that, but can see why the connection was made and will leave it at that. Mr Pendergrass was Philadelphia Records’ biggest star, and this release proves the statement wasn’t misguided. Kicking off with “Come Go With Me”, we’re in for a passionate, emotional ride where his vocal performances can, on occasion, reduce listeners to jelly. Oh my, “Turn Off The Lights” does it for me every time, as he seduces and cajoles against a sweeping melody. Both are flawless examples of the man’s distinctive voice that has graced so many titles. “I’ll Never See Heaven Again” and “All I Need Is You” are further testament of his persuasive ways with their melting lyrics. With its mellow introduction, moving along at an easy pace as the melody takes hold, giving way as the main beat hits the groove, “Set Me Free” is launched. Perhaps the big build up is a little excessive but, I suppose, it does set the scene. The tempo is lifted to a light disco with “If You Knew Like I Do”, while “Do Me” is rather sexy on the funky side. So we’ve got get-down smoothies hand-in-hand with touches of funk/dance, accompanied by the best musicians the record company has to offer, all under the production control of Gamble and Huff, except where indicated on the inlay notes. What more could we ask for?

Rating: 9

grover406

GROVER WASHINGTON JR.: GROVER LIVE (WIENERWORLD)
To my shame, although in my defence jazz isn’t my first love, I initially came across Grover’s music with “Reed Seed” released via Motown in 1978. Unfortunately, it was a music genre the company was incapable to promoting to its fullest extent although jazz fans supported this and his subsequent Motown releases. So, here we have one of his last live performances recorded at the Paramount Centre For The Arts in New York during 1997, and it’s thanks to his wife Christine and Jason Miles (who restored the DAT tapes of the show) that we’re able to hear this highly influential jazz player at work. Kicking off with “Winelight” into “Take Five” and “Soulful Strut”, this has a calming effect as there’s nothing rushed; even Grover introducing his group is laid back. This 80-minute set is a showcase to Grover at his career peak; he was one of the most popular saxophonists of our time and considered by many to be a forerunner in bringing jazz into the commercial arena. An interesting eight-song medley is included here that includes “Black Forest”, “Inner City Blues” and “Jamaica”. I’m not a great lover of ‘live’ CDs but have to say, the sound here is excellent; almost up to studio standard. This is a wonderful tribute to this late musician accompanied by an informative booklet, with notes penned by a certain Mr N!

Rating: 8
Sharon Davis

super-duper407

VARIOUS ARTISTS: SUPER DUPER LOVE (KENT)
Kent Records once again introduce the Mainstream label, following their well-received first compilation. This New York indie made inroads during the seventies embracing R&B names like Freddie Scott, Little Richard and Sugar Billy whose driving “Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin’ On Me)” starts this musical visit. Afrique follow with a beaty “Soul Makossa”, the label’s first major hit swiped from the original by Manu Dibango, while Special Delivery featuring Terry Huff calm the somewhat maddening beat with “The Lonely One”. A haunting, sweeping ballad “I Need Someone” via Linda Perry drifts slowly along, allowing Eleventh Commandment’s “Then I Reach Satisfaction” to raise the mood and rhythm into a mid-paced dancer. Lenny Welch’s “Eyewitness News” is twangy and semi-funky, with Chocolate Syrup’s “Just In The Nick Of Time” simmering away on the back burner with liberal splashes of brass adding a dramatic touch. Little Richard’s “Try To Help Your Brother” is passion personified until the driving beat takes a hold. The smooth delivery of The Dramatics on “Feel It” easily slips into this outstanding compilation. Likewise, the final track, “I Need You Back Home” from Sandra Phillips who’s on the phone talking/whispering to her lover, leaving little to the imagination (my, Millie J would be sooo proud!) and making this ol’ lady blush!

Rating: 8

fivespecial400

FIVE SPECIAL: FIVE SPECIAL EXPANDED EDITION (BBR)
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here as knew little about these guys. My, what a wonderful musical trip I was destined to take. First released in 1979, this is the first of three albums credited to the group. Hailing from Detroit, they were raised on traditional R&B which they turned into commercial music for the disco market. With Greg Finlay, Steve Harris, Steve Boyd, Mike Petillo and Bryan Banks in the line-up, they tucked in nicely, forging a place for themselves in this lucrative genre. Bryan was, by the way, younger brother of Ron Banks (The Dramatics) who, during the mid-seventies, took them under his wing, by producing their early material. Signing to Elektra Records, and armed with a few of the A-team including Banks and Wayne Henderson, this album was conceived and released. Enter the mix master Rick Gianatos, fresh from huge success with Gene Chandler’s “Get Down” and Edwin’s “Contact”, to steer the group into the dance groove. Check out their first single “Why Leave Us Alone” which wraps itself around the nightclub scene, compelling the body to move with the beat. A change of tempo came with their follow-up single “You’re Something Special”, the only ballad on the album. Not only do the harmonies cleanse the soul, but it treats listeners to a full orchestra weaving its way through the voices. Just smashing! The driving dance/funk with a mid-tempo feel comes alive with “Do It Baby”, while the smooth “It’s A Wonderful Day” and the disco slanted “Rock Dancin’” are heaven sent. Throughout, the standard is high, with strong choruses climaxing the tracks, all delivered with warm, silky harmonies that melt in your mouth. A couple of hiccups but, hey, who’s counting. Recommended for sure.

Rating: 9

SOULMUSIC HALL OF FAME - Voting open for December!

SOULMUSIC HALL OF FAME – Voting open for December!

Voting has now begun in the latest round for inductees into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame at SoulMusic.com

Just click the link – voting is free, no registration required. Our nominees include Miki Howard, El DeBarge, Sharon Jones, The Three Degrees, George Duke, Bobby Eli, Patti Austin, Diana Ross, Beverley Knight, Barrett Strong, Dexter Wansel and The Sweet Inspirations.

bobbyeli

dexter_wansel

dianar

eldeb

georged

mickey-stevenson

miki-howard

omar-2013-sepia

patti-austin-closeup

sharon-jones-press-2013-650

Sweet Inspirations

threedegrees

Voting ends December 31!

Just click the link

Motown Spotlight - November 2016

Motown Spotlight – November 2016

Wow! Amazingly wonderful news to start with this month which is quite a treat these days. On behalf of us all at soulmusic.com, many congratulations to Diana Ross who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from the current President Barak Obama! She is one of 21 recipients of America’s highest civilian award which represents admirable contributions to the security or national interests of the US, world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours. Much like our honours system methinks; wonder when I’ll become a Dame which is my wildest wish. Anyway, the President said “It’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists and public servants to activists, athletes and artists, these twenty-one individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.” “I am so deeply humbled to be one of the recipients….and I am truly grateful and appreciative of such a great gift” Diana responded. Other recipients included Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks and the other boss, Bruce Springsteen.

chris-clark-and-stevie-wonder

And more hugely great news, this time concerning Chris Clark! Remember last month I mentioned her song “The Ghosts Of San Francisco” featured in the movie “When The World Came To San Francisco”, was in the official selection at New York’s Jazz Festival? And a video was also posted alongside the story? Well, it won its category of Mixed Genre Jazz Festival Award! So congratulations to all concerned and especially to the lady herself who told me the people attending were from around the world, and that the intention behind this Festival is to create a place for jazz musicians and film makers to network and interact. There’s another planned for next year in New York at the Adam Clayton Powell Building. Needless to say, Chris is over the moon and then some….and so are we.

Just a little something slightly off the wall now. It probably comes as no surprise to my regulars that among my all-time musical wonders of the world is Terry Lindsey’s “It’s Over” (have now got it uploaded on to my HailshamFM playlist thanks to a like minded soul presenter Paul Orr). Well, I was reading up on said Terry, born in Romulus, Michigan, and when she decided singing was for her, she headed for Detroit where she signed with Correc-tone because she couldn’t see herself settling at Motown. “I had been there, not as an artist, but I was there” she once said. “I just decided uh-uh. The artists would go on the road and they would have no place to stay. Not only did they have no place to stay, but the company would get paid before them. They were scratching to survive and I couldn’t go through that.” To cut a long story short, when that label folded, Terry hooked up with Golden World, Motown’s biggest local rival, where under the name Theresa Lindsay she recorded “Daddy-O”/”I’ll Bet You” in September 1966. As you know, Berry Gordy purchased Golden World, whereupon Terry was offered a contract with Motown. She refused. “I didn’t want to go with (them) as all the female acts they had, the only one they were running with was Diana. I didn’t want that, just to be on the shelf, sitting there. And I wanted to study show tunes and Broadway tunes. So I went to New York. I studied stage presentation, television, how to breathe again, phrasing, everything.” And it was while she was there that producer Ed Lubunski approached her to record “It’s Over”, released by President Records during 1969. “He felt I could do something with it” she said. Do something with it? My, my, the lady turned her soul inside out and that of the listeners to deliver a passionate, awesomely emotional few minutes following a haunting introduction that’s so persistent it’s difficult to shake. Just think, if Terry had signed to Motown “It’s Over” might never have been, or would it? Interesting little tale isn’t it? Not too sure of its origin, but my thanks to whoever conducted the interview with the lady. Let’s move on….

temptations-001

Although the original report about this was first announced a couple of years ago, it’s once again galloped into the public forum, so maybe this time there’s some credence to the news circulating the music business. The Temptations’ Musical based on the 1998 television mini-series about the group’s public life, with a smattering of personal stuff thrown into the mix. Suzanne de Passe was the producer of this, by the way. The only original group member Otis Williams said when the musical was first mooted that the television series was still popular and much loved. “I never would have imagined the possibilities of the Tempts’ life story going to Broadway. But it’s wonderful.” From the news available this month, it would appear casting is about to start, and Suzanne is involved in the new project. And that’s about as much as I know, so it’ll be a case of watch this space.

hitsvillekc

No Motown fan can have escaped the news that the Hitsville studio which stands proudly in its white and blue overcoat along West Grand Boulevard is to undergo a massive $50 million expansion that aims to transform it into a world-class tourist destination. A 50,000 square-foot project will rise around the existing museum which was, as you know, founded during 1985 and has been visited since then by countless fans, including myself. As the existing building only houses a fraction of Motown’s memorabilia, the expanding museum will doubtless showcase exhibitions drawn from private collections. Y’know, as much as I welcome change, I just so hope none of the magic will be taken from the humble little house with its “Hitsville USA” sign hanging out front.

This planned development is part of a community revitalisation in the area, alongside neighbourhood projects that includes a $110 million Henry Ford Health http://premier-pharmacy.com/ System cancer centre and a retail-residential complex. The HFHS sold a vacant plot of land on Holden Street to the Hitsville board and is expected to become a key connection road to the planned hospital. Thomas Habitz, who is the urban planning specialist working with the Henry Ford complex said “We’re overwhelmingly supportive of Motown and have been collaborating with them in the planning. There’s a co-operative synergy between the two institutions, as different as they are.” This month, Ford boosted the Motown fund with an investment of $6 million, with the company’s president Joe Hinrichs saying “We are thrilled to play a role in the next chapter of a global music icon. The enhanced museum will not only upgrade the visitor experience, it also fits with our commitment to investing in the cultural heritage of Detroit and southeast Michigan.” While the Hitsville spokeswoman, Robin Terry said “Motown and Ford Motor Company have wide and deeply connected roots. As two Detroit-born brands, they have had, and continue to have today, a transformative and profound impact on creativity and innovation around the world.” Detroit is on the up and not before time too!

Alongside all this great news, comes sadness I’m afraid. The first I heard about it was when Gloria Jones contacted me saying – “we lost Ray Singleton. She was an incredible woman.” Known as Mother Motown, I’m sure you don’t need me to elaborate but Raynoma Gordy Singleton was a pioneer of Motown’s formation. In 1958 she fell in love with ex-boxer and – I quote her words – a small-time agent named Berry Gordy, ‘a raggedy bum with a bad hairdo’. Together, they formed the Rayber Music Writing Company, followed by Tamla (their first record label), Jobete publishing and later in 1961, the Motown label itself. A multi-talented lady for sure as she wrote arrangements, sang back up vocals, fine-tuned harmonies and prepared the all-essential professional lead sheets for copyright and recording schedules. Raynoma was all things to loads of people because not only was she a hot business-minded manager and ace trouble-shooter, but was the essential creative spark and mother confessor to the fledgling record company. Her marriage to Berry Gordy produced one son, and when that ended in divorce, she married Eddie Singleton, a successful writer, producer and artist during the late fifties/early sixties working with names like Barbara Lewis. As Mrs Singleton Raynoma, she became the cornerstone of his Shrine Records label, a byword for quality soul releases.

Both Berry and Eddie credit her as being the biggest influence behind Motown’s success, as the latter told me. “The company started in her little apartment. She also plays fourteen instruments. The Motown Sound in essence stemmed from her, she even trained all the arrangers. She was the musician.” Later on, in 1970, Eddie married Motown singer Barbara Randolph, and I was lucky enough to meet them both in London during April 1989: in fact, spent a lot of time in their company which was a huge thrill for me. Sadly both are no longer with us. Anyway, in 1990 Raynoma wrote her autobiography “The Untold Story: Berry, Me And Motown” and I have to say, it’s probably the most honest read about the company and its personnel and artists that I’ve chanced to read. Certainly a lot of questions are answered and it’s a compelling read from start to finish. Don’t know if it’s still available though. Naturally, our sincere condolences go to Raynoma’s family and friends at this sad time. Also we would also like to thank her from the bottom of our hearts for her young ambitions that assisted, or spearheaded, the birth of one of the most significant record companies of our age.