Music recently lost one of its classiest vocalists: James Ingram, a Quincy Jones protege who scored an impressive number of hits in the 1980s and early 1990s. His January 29, 2019 passing from early onset Alzheimer and Parkinson disease marks the end of not only a successful career, but an era when smooth, pop-tinged R&B ruled the charts. Even though musical trends changed, Ingram never strayed from his strength, namely skilled interpretation. Born in Akron, Ohio, Ingram taught himself piano and sang in the church choir. When he reached his teens, he joined the group Revelation Funk and took part
The late singer's voice could dig down deep or reach the highest peaks, as on this Quincy Jones classic.
Start off 2019 right with a resolution to hear classic Memphis Soul.
Today Otis Redding may be best known for his solo hits, but he also recorded with his Stax-labelmate Carla Thomas, the Queen of Memphis Soul (and daughter of Rufus "Walkin' the Dog" Thomas). Hoping to replicate the success of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Stax paired two of their greatest stars for the 1967 album King & Queen, which produced the hit "Tramp." The album featured their takes on classics such as "Knock on Wood," "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby," "Bring It on Home to Me," and "It Takes Two" (a further indication of Stax's desire for a
For those who like their Christmas tunes tinged with melancholy, the soul trio's 1973 song fits the bill perfectly.
Christmas carols may be filled with cheer, but others prefer their holiday songs tinged with some melancholy. For those in the latter camp, the Emotions' 1973 single "What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas?" fits the bill perfectly. The Hutchinson sisters' exquisite, heartfelt harmonies, lead singer Sheila's sincere performance, and the stellar songwriting team of Carl Hampton and Homer Banks. Hailing from Chicago, the Hutchinson sisters--Sheila, Wanda, and Jeanette--got their start in the church. While they had formed a gospel act, the Heavenly Sunbeams, they shifted their focus to secular music by the late 1960s. Signing with the Stax label,
Newly restored, the Imagine/Gimme Some Truth DVD presents a remarkable time capsule for the lives of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
When John Lennon recorded his legendary album Imagine, he and Yoko Ono had the presence of mind to film everything. The pair had released albums and films together at this point and for this album, they decided to make a video scrapbook of sorts, combining footage from the recording sessions with a series of vignettes - some poignant, some humorous, some bizarre and all predating MTV by many years. Originally released in 1972, the Imagine film is part of a new reissue, combining it with the excellent documentary, Gimme Some Truth, about the recording of Imagine. For the reissue, both
Need some advice with a dash of sassiness? This 1974 deep cut may do the trick.
Like the sassy friend who doles out advice, Betty Wright's blues-inflected voice warned women of straying men. Her messages may not exemplify today's feminism, but her vocals come from a woman who has experienced life's rollercoaster and wants to share her hard-won lessons with fans. Best known for her 1972 hit "Cleanup Woman," Wright scored other hits including "Tonight Is the Night" and the 1974 thumper "Secretary." Born in Miami in 1953, Wright started singing in her family's gospel group Echoes of Joy. By 13 she transitioned into secular music by singing background on other recordings and embarking on a
An exciting debut EP from newcomer Sevi Ettinger.
Newcomer Sevi Ettinger found musical inspiration in an unlikely source - the Syrian refugee crisis. Just 15, the American singer, who lives in Shanghai with her family, channeled the anguish she felt for the victims into the lyrics of her debut single, "Salty Water," a song that also serves as the title of her new EP. Ettinger wrote the song using an app on her phone and caught the attention of songwriter Phillip Jarrell, who played it for Grammy Award-winning producer Jeff Bova, who liked the track as well. The pair agreed to work with Ettinger in the studio, helping
Legendary poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen would have turned 84 today...
It's no surprise I should be listening to the Leonard Cohen on what would have been his 84th birthday if for no other reason than it's a safe bet I'm listening to him at any point of any day. His words and melodies whether printed or sung will forever be like a sun to my soul, keeping me in its orbit, informing both my own language as well as the lens through which I see and experience my world. I can't imagine he would have ever read this modest tribute to the enduring importance of his work in my life
DeepSoul pays tribute to the Queen of Soul with one of her funkiest tracks.
Music fans remember August 16, 1977 as the day the King of Rock 'n Roll, Elvis Presley, died. This year, the day marks another profound loss: Aretha Franklin passed on August 16, 2018 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. She may be best known as the "Queen of Soul," but Franklin contributed even more to music. By bringing in elements of gospel, pop, and blues, Franklin transformed soul and R&B, shaping it to her own unique talents. Today artists still try to emulate her vocal style--passionate, wide-ranging, and spine-tingling. The church was at the root of everything she recorded,
The late 1970s dance culture is exemplified in this funk/disco track.
DeepSoul's final entry in this three-column salute to songwriting duo Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson delves into one of their funkiest tunes. In 1977, Ashford and Simpson released their album Send It, a selection of mid-to-uptempo tracks showcasing their tight harmonies. Proving their readiness to step into the spotlight, they announced their arrival as artists in their own right with the raw "Don't Cost You Nothing" a track that works equally on the dance floor and as a classic funk workout. Upon Send It's release, the album became an instant club favorite thanks in large part to legendary DJ Larry
The singer-songwriter delivers a diverse third album.
For his third album, Heroes And Demons, singer-songwriter Vincent Poag continues where he left off on 2014's excellent For The Girls. Not one to be tied to any particular style, Poag mixes pop with touches of rock, blues, jazz and county to great effect. Poag's gritty voice at times recalls Mark Knopfler or Tom Waits, but is never derivative. The weariness of his vocals give his lyrics, which often find him ruminating about everyday life, an everyman feel and give weight to the tracks. The album opens with the bouncy pop of "Beautiful Day." Here Poag channels his inner Paul
The pair proved their worth as skilled composers and charismatic performers with this 1978 track.
While the songwriting duo Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson experienced great success at Motown as the creators of some of the label's biggest hits ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand," and "You're All I Need to Get By"), by the late 1970s they were ready to reignite their performing careers. Although not their first album on their own, 1977's Send It proved to be their chart breakthrough. They grasped onto the flourishing disco trend, but the pair retained their unique chemistry and superb harmonies. The followup, Is It Still Good to Ya, produced their best-performing
An unflinching look back at one of rock's great guitarists.
Eric Clapton has had a career that any musician would envy. The only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he helped expose blues music to white America while staying a leading-edge, influential figure on guitar since the 1960s, receiving commercial and critical acclaim in multiple decades. His life has had its share of heartache however. Rejected by his birth mother (twice, no less) and raised by his grandmother, Clapton found solace first in music, but later in drugs and alcohol. That the death of his four-year-old son Conner didn't fully send him over the edge is
The legendary songwriting duo also performed their own material, such as this 1982 cautionary tale of the streets.
Name some of Motown's biggest hits--"Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Your Precious Love," and "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand"--and one thinks of two singular talents: Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. The songwriting duo were behind these classic hits, along with other Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell standards such as "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By." While their numerous compositions earned them a well-deserved place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, few focus on the couple as performers, with the sole exception of their 1984 romantic duet "Solid." The next few DeepSoul
Artists such as Rihanna can thank this Houston-born singer for bringing Caribbean music to worldwide audiences.
Say the name "Johnny Nash," and one song comes to mind: "I Can See Clearly Now," the 1972 smash that found renewed success when Jimmy Cliff covered it for the 1994 Cool Runnings soundtrack. However, Nash should also be known for bringing reggae into the mainstream, combining it with American pop and soul to create crossover hits. In addition, he became one of the earliest American artists to record in Jamaica. While "I Can See Clearly Now" remains his chief legacy, the 1968 single "Hold Me Tight" became a crossover success four years before that classic song. Due to his
While best known for the electro-funk classic "Word Up," this slow jam reveals more dimensions of this unique band.
Unlike other '70s funk outfits, Cameo successfully updated their sound to match the 1980s synthesizer era. After experiencing a dip in sales, the band came roaring back with 1986's "Word Up," a futuristic groove featuring Larry Blackmon's robotic vocals. The song served as younger listeners' introduction to the group, but in fact Cameo had been recording quirky funk since the late 1970s. Dipping into their earlier work, one can find stripped-down arrangements without the electronic sound. "Feel Me," a 1980 slow jam, typifies their first wave of success. Cameo began as a group of 13 New York City musicians led
The passing of the Staple Singers' Yvonne Staples reminds listeners of her important role in the legendary family group.
In the 1970s, soul music took on a new conscience. Songs containing lyrics addressing social injustice such as Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)" and the Isley Brothers' "Fight the Power Pt. 1" filled the airwaves. While those artists tapped into energy fueled by the 60s Civil Rights movement, the Staple Singers focused on self-esteem and empowerment. The Stax legends scored a number of crossover hits in the 1970s fusing soul and gospel, with "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There" becoming modern classics. While lead singer Mavis Staples has enjoyed a lengthy solo career, even collaborating
A fascinating live time capsule from this classic power pop group.
In 1973, Big Star was in a state of flux. Founding member and co-leader Chris Bell had left after the failure of the group's debut album #1 Record and the band was unsure of its future. The rest of the group was persuaded to perform at a now-legendary showcase show for the Memphis Rock Writers Convention in May of that year, which led to the group entering the studio to record their second album, Radio City. What isn't as widely known is that this three-man version of Big Star played the same venue four months earlier opening for the R&B
The group's cover of a 1972 Bobby Womack track proves that passionate funk never goes out of style.
Funk never goes out of style, and no song proves that notion better than "I Can Understand It" by New Birth. Originally written by Bobby Womack, "I Can Understand It" transforms into a James Brown-esque soul workout, and while it performed well on the R&B and pop charts in 1973, it is inexplicably rarely played on the radio today. According to New Birth's website, the group was the brainchild of Vernon Bullock, a songwriter responsible for classics such as "If I Can Build My Whole World Around You" by Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell as well as "What Does It
The 1968 hit is a prime example of how jazz and R&B can merge, resulting in an irresistibly funky and timeless track.
Chicago has deep soul and R&B roots. From Chess and Brunswick Records to Curtis Mayfield and his Curtom label, the city has produced incredibly talented players. Young-Holt Unlimited, featuring core members Eldee Young and Isaac "Red" Holt, were no exception, as they worked with Ramsey Lewis before branching out on their own. While they never scored major hits, they are best known for "Soulful Strut," the instrumental version of the Barbara Acklin single "Am I the Same Girl." Featuring a funky bass line, light jazzy piano, and a catchy horn riff, "Soulful Strut" has endured, covered by artists such as
Ali McManus delivers a strong debut album.
Singer-songwriter Ali McManus has had her share of adversity in her short 21 years and that's besides the near-impossible task of making it in the music business. McManus has been confined to a wheelchair since she was 7 as a result of a rare bone disorder. She's had 11 surgeries, halo tractions, and steel rods to straighten her spine. In spite of this, she became a musician, and fairly recently too. McManus has played piano since she was 14 and guitar since she was 16. One wouldn't know she has played for less than 10 years by listening to her