DeepSoul: Pieces of a Dream - "Fo Fi Fo"

With their 1984 hit, Pieces of a Dream demonstrated that jazz has more in common with soul, R&B, and funk than listeners may realize.
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Take three gifted teenagers equally versed in jazz and R&B, and what results is the crossover jazz sound of Pieces of a Dream. Still recording today, the group helped pioneer contemporary jazz with their smooth sound, pop hooks, and street feel. Their third album, 1983's Imagine This, proved to be one of their most successful due to the silky single "Fo Fi Fo." Philadelphia has spawned an impressive array of talent, and its roster includes keyboards James Lloyd, drummer Curtis Harmon, and bassist Cedric Napoleon. The teen musicians formed the group in 1976 and played throughout the Tri-State area. Their

CD Review: The Blind Boys Of Alabama - Atom Bomb

This mid-2000s Blind Boys Of Alabama classic has been reissued with bonus tracks.
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By the mid-2000s, The Blind Boys of Alabama were in the midst of a late-career resurgence that saw the group being introduced to new audiences and receiving critical acclaim and numerous awards. Continuing this hot streak was Atom Bomb, an album that featured several guest stars and showcased the group's signature blend of gospel, blues, R&B and rock. Originally released in 2005, the album has been rereleased with bonus tracks and expanded liner notes. The album opens with "(Jesus Hits Like The) Atom Bomb," a song that likens the return of Jesus Christ to that of an atom bomb and

CD Review: The Blind Boys Of Alabama - Go Tell It On The Mountain

The Blind Boys of Alabama's Christmas album rereleased with bonus tracks.
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Despite having been around for over 50 years at that point, The Blind Boys Of Alabama never recorded a Christmas album until 2003's Go Tell It On The Mountain. The album came during a period of renewed interest for the group that saw them reaching wider audiences, opening for (and performing on the albums of) the likes of Peter Gabriel and winning multiple Grammy Awards. The album featured the groups trademark harmonies, matched by an eclectic list of guest stars such as Tom Waits and Aaron Neville, and has been rereleased with bonus tracks. The album opens with "Last Month

Blu-ray Review: Black Sabbath - The End

The final chapter for this legendary heavy metal band.
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From their debut nearly 50 years ago, no band has been more synonymous with heavy metal than Black Sabbath. After numerous lineup changes over the years, including a reunion with the Ronnie James Dio-era band for the Heaven and Hell project, fans of the original Black Sabbath finally got their wish when, in 2013, the group (albeit without drummer Bill Ward, who sat out due to contract issues and was replaced by Brad Wilk) recorded a new album, 13, with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals, their first since 1978's Never Say Die! After touring extensively for 13, the band, now with

CD Review: Charles Billingsley - It's Christmas Time Again

Charles Billingsley crafts a fun, swinging Christmas album.
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From his beginnings 25 years ago as a member of the contemporary Christian group NewSong to his lengthy solo career, which has also seen turns as a speaker and author, Charles Billingsley has had quite the career. His latest release, It's Christmas Time Again, brings to mind classic Christmas releases by the likes of Frank Sinatra and mixes traditional jazz sounds and the Great American Songbook with modern sensibilities, making for an excellent holiday release. The album leads off with the hard swinging "The Man With The Bag." The track could just as easily have been from the 1950s as

Review: The Rolling Stones - On Air (Deluxe Edition)

A trip in time to those years The Rolling Stones were one of the baddest blues bands around...
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I love the years when The Rolling Stones were one of the best blues bands on the planet, before they were frozen in time in the pop culture consciousness as famous for their personal and musical indulgences and excesses as for the music. On Air collects live performances from the BBC from 1963-65 and captures them when they were five British kids possessed of both the skill and attitude that would see them segue from credibly covering blues and rock standards to a band that would write some of the greatest, most enduring songs of the 20th century. You can

DeepSoul Salutes Fats Domino: "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey"

The final installment of our salute to the rock pioneer spotlights a fun Beatles cover.
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During their heyday (and into the solo years), the Beatles often professed their love of Fats Domino. Songs such as "Lady Madonna" can be directly traced to the rock 'n' roll architect's influence. During a New Orleans stop on their 1964 tour, the Beatles had one request: they wanted to meet their idol. After the meeting, Domino later repaid the favor by covering three of their tunes: "Lady Madonna," "Lovely Rita," and his ebullient rendition of "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey." While covering the Beatles is often fraught with difficulty, Domino manages to incorporate his

DeepSoul Salutes Fats Domino: "Blue Monday"

Our salute to the R&B pioneer continues with a 1956 classic first introduced in a seminal rock film.
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Rolling Stone calls it the "working man's blues," and "Blue Monday" does demonstrate rock's indebtedness to the genre. While Fats Domino did not write the track--he was not even the first to record it--he transformed the song into a memorable blend of rock, blues, country, and New Orleans jazz. What results is a track addressing a subject with which most listeners can relate, along with a dose of good-natured naughtiness. Domino's longtime collaborator Dave Bartholomew originally penned "Blue Monday" for New Orleans R&B singer/guitarist Smiley Lewis. Released as a single in 1954, this version prominently features rhythm guitars, horns, and

DeepSoul Salutes Fats Domino: "I Hear You Knocking"

This week's DeepSoul is the first in a three-part salute to the rock and roll pioneer.
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One of the early architects of rock and roll, Fats Domino combined R&B with New Orleans swagger to create a feel-good but raunchy form of music. Lyrics such as "I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill" leave little doubt as to the nature of that thrill, but Domino's radiant smile and rollicking piano never offended. A huge part of rock history was lost upon his October 24, 2017 death. but his timeless catalog will remain for new fans to discover. This week's DeepSoul is the first in a three-part salute to the music pioneer. Born in the Big Easy in

Blu-ray Review: The Who - Tommy: Live At The Royal Albert Hall

The Who performs Tommy for a good cause
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The Who's Tommy is one of the most legendary albums of the rock and roll era, or any era really. The classic rock opera pushed the limits of what could be done within the confines of a rock record and was meant to be listened to as a complete piece. The band has performed Tommy live many times since it was first released in 1969, but never in its entirety until now. In April 2017, The Who took to the stage at London's famed Royal Albert Hall to perform the complete Tommy in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. The

Blu-ray Review: Jeff Beck - Live At The Hollywood Bowl

The legendary guitarist looks back at over 50 years of music.
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Among guitar heroes, Jeff Beck has had a career like few others. The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee pioneered hard rock and psychedelia with the Yardbirds and later his own Jeff Beck Group. Not wanting to rest on his laurels, he has also been at the forefront of jazz-fusion and instrumental music and has dabbled in electronica. More than 50 years into his career, he has outlasted most of his contemporaries and has few, if any peers. To celebrate his remarkable career, Beck played a 2016 gig at the Hollywood Bowl with numerous guests, including: Steven Tyler,

DeepSoul: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "Breakdown"

Tom Petty, soul artist? His first hit single melds elements of R&B with rock and blues, making the track a standout in his catalog.
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The music world has been mourning the loss of Tom Petty, the iconic rock artist who died from cardiac arrest on October 2. What few critics and fans have discussed, however, is that Petty's sound encompassed genres besides rock, namely blues, country, and folk. Another major influence that has been little explored is R&B, and that element permeates his first hit, 1976's "Breakdown." Its dominant drums, bass, and keyboards along with Petty's snarling narrative of a deteriorating love affair makes "Breakdown" sound like no other song in Petty's catalog. Coming off the breakup of his band Mudcrutch, Petty formed a

Blu-ray Review: The Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live At The Fonda Theatre 2015

The Rolling Stones deliver one of their best albums to a small group of very lucky fans.
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For years bands have been playing classic albums in their entirety in concert as a way to entice fans to their shows. One notable exception to this has been The Rolling Stones -- until now. The band began their 2015 American Zip Code tour at Hollywood's Fonda Theatre, a tiny venue for the Stones. That's nothing new as the group has traditionally played smaller venues to begin tours or as nice surprises for fans during their tours. What was new was that they performed their classic album, Sticky Fingers, in its entirety for the first and, as of now, only

DeepSoul: Stargard - "Which Way Is Up"

A slice of late '70s funk/disco, "Which Way Is Up" remains an underrated track by an unjustly neglected group.
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A slice of late 70s funk/disco, "Which Way Is Up" remains an underrated track by an unjustly neglected act: Stargard. A female trio who drew comparisons to Labelle (particularly through their flamboyant costumes) and the Pointer Sisters, they achieved only one hit with the theme song to the 1977 Richard Pryor vehicle Which Way Is Up? Their blend of R&B, funk, and gospel should have achieved more success, but their lack of smash followup led to their 1983 breakup. The original lineup consisted of Rochelle Runnells, Debra Anderson and Janice Williams, and their more gritty, aggressive vocal approach led to

DeepSoul: Herbie Hancock - "Chameleon"

The jazz pioneer impacted modern hip hop, r&b, and funk in this 1973 classic.
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Herbie Hancock may be a renowned jazz master, but he also influenced early hip hop and contemporary R&B. Most listeners can point to 1984's "Rockit" as the soundtrack for breakdancers, but his 1970s experiments in fusion led to an important track in the development of funk: 1973's "Chameleon." The corresponding album, Head Hunters, became not only Hancock's most successful album, but one of the bestselling jazz albums of all time. Along with collaborator and reedits Bernie Maupin, bassist Paul Jackson, drummer Harvey Mason, and percussionist Bill Summers, Hancock wrote material expanding the very concept of jazz. "I always enjoy working

DVD/CD Review: Journey - Live In Manila

A triumphant homecoming gig for Arnel Pineda of Journey.
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In 2007, Journey was at a career crossroads of sorts. Singer Jeff Scott Soto replaced Steve Augeri, who had sung with the band since 1998, the year before, but by mid 2007, Soto was out as well. The band took to YouTube to look for a replacement and found one in Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, who has held the role ever since. It helps that Pineda's vocals sound uncannily like Steve Perry's, too. After the success of the group's debut album with Pineda, the Wal-Mart-exclusive Revelation, the band decided to go that route again in 2009, with the DVD Live

CD Review: Justin Hayward - All The Way

All The Way is a great starting point to Justin Hayward's solo career.
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For more than 50 years, Justin Hayward has been best known for his role as guitarist, singer and songwriter in The Moody Blues, penning and singing such hits as "Nights In White Satin" and "Question." During that time, he has also forged a successful solo career, beginning with 1975's Blue Jays, recorded with fellow Moody John Lodge. A new compilation, All The Way, brings together 15 of these solo recordings, including a rare track once thought lost and a brand new recording "The Wind Of Heaven." The album opens with the original stereo mix of "Blue Guitar." Though the song

DeepSoul: Bob and Earl - "Harlem Shuffle"

The 1963 single has experienced an unlikely resurgence of interest through covers, samples, and an appearance in a 2017 summer film.
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With its prominent use in the Summer 2017 film Baby Driver, "Harlem Shuffle" by Bob and Earl has gained renewed attention. The Rolling Stones previously scored a hit with their hit 1986 cover (featuring Bobby Womack on backing vocals), accompanied by its humorous Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi-directed video. The 1963 original features not only a more soulful vocal performance but also funky horns and drums. Over 50 years later the question remains: just who were Bob and Earl? The duo originally consisted of Bobby Day and Earl Nelson (aka Jackie Lee), two singers who had previously recorded classics still

DeepSoul: The Temptations with Rick James - "Standing on the Top"

A funk superstar and a legendary Motown act team up to produce a 1980s R&B classic.
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The eighties may have brought changes in soul and R&B, but Motown music remained a favorite among baby boomers (the success of 1983's The Big Chill film and soundtrack proved this fact). In 1982, the Temptations returned to their original label, Motown, after a brief tenure with Atlantic; to celebrate, the then-current members reunited with three former lead singers: Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, and Dennis Edwards. Looking to make a comeback, the group teamed with a seemingly unlikely producer: Rick James, the "punk funk" artist who was then at the peak of his popularity. What emerged from this collaboration was

DeepSoul: Tank - "You're My Star"

This 2014 single demonstrates how old school R&B and modern hip hop can be merged to create timeless music.
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Long a valuable behind-the-scenes player, Tank has penned and produced hits for top R&B artists such as Dave Hollister, Charlie Wilson, Jamie Foxx, and Kelly Rowland. His underrated solo material, however, has received comparatively less attention. A fusion of classic R&B and hip hop, Tank's work further impresses with his malleable voice and catchy hooks. These elements are on full display on the 2014 single "You're My Star," a standout from the album Stronger. Born Durrell Babbs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before later moving to Clinton, Maryland, Tank honed his singing skills in the church choir. He got his start as

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