DeepSoul Tribute: Yvonne Staples, "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)"

The passing of the Staple Singers' Yvonne Staples reminds listeners of her important role in the legendary family group.
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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

CD Review: Big Star - Live At Lafayette's Music Room

A fascinating live time capsule from this classic power pop group.
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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

DeepSoul: New Birth - "I Can Understand It"

The group's cover of a 1972 Bobby Womack track proves that passionate funk never goes out of style.
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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

DeepSoul: Young-Holt Unlimited - "Soulful Strut"

The 1968 hit is a prime example of how jazz and R&B can merge, resulting in an irresistibly funky and timeless track.
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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

CD Review: Ali McManus - Unbreakable

Ali McManus delivers a strong debut album.
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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

CD Review: Big Star - The Best Of Big Star

An excellent overview of this power pop's short, but memorable run.
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Big Star may be the biggest band a lot of people have never heard of. Formed in the wake of the Box Tops dissolution by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, they were a group that was seemingly out of place with what was going on in popular music. A power pop band on a soul label making concise, Beatlesque pop songs in an era of 10-minute jams and rock and roll excess. A critics' darling, they were the victims of poor distribution from their record label Stax and broke up. After being persuaded to reform, Bell left the group, and

DVD Review: Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters - Live At David Lynch's Festival of Disruption

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters deliver a spirited performance at the Festival of Disruption.
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Robert Plant's solo career has taken many interesting turns, continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible in a rock music context. Backed since 2012 by his excellent band, The Sensational Space Shifters, the former Led Zeppelin front man has mixed rock, blues, folk and world music, combined with a healthy dose of African rhythms and exotic instruments to create a sound that is uniquely his. The fact his music has remained powerful and relevant nearly 40 years after Zeppelin's demise is a testament to his talent and vision. In October 2016, while on tour for his Lullaby And...

DeepSoul: Angie Stone - "I Wish I Didn't Miss You"

A deep dive into her catalog, beginning with this track off Mahogany Soul, reveals an immensely gifted R&B vocalist who spans other genres and deserves more attention.
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Since the late 1970s, Angie Stone has recorded everything from soul to hip hop to dance. Despite her talents, she remains an underrated artist who has never quite managed to score a massive hit. Yet she remains a pioneer of the late 1990s "Neo-Soul" movement and a "singer's singer," well-respected in the R&B industry. One of her best releases, 2001's Mahogany Soul, is a prime example of her songwriting and earthy vocal talents, particularly on "Wish I Didn't Miss You." In addition to being a deeply soulful track, it also demonstrates how samples can be effectively used to create an

DeepSoul: Hugh Masekela - "Afro Beat Blues"

The Afro-jazz legend blended other genres such as R&B, funk, and pop to create a pan-African sound that appealed to worldwide audiences.
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Called the "father of South African jazz," Hugh Masekela actually spanned several genres to create his own melting pot music. Perhaps best known for his 1968 instrumental hit "Grazing in the Grass," Masekela also became a pioneer in world fusion. The trumpet and flugelhorn player even dabbled in dance music, mixing Afro-pop with disco. One such example is "Afro Beat Blues," a previously unreleased 1975 track that finally surfaced on a 2006 compilation. Its slinky beat suits the dance floor as well as the radio, also paying tribute to the father of Afro-pop: Fela Kuti. Growing up in South Africa,

CD Review: Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer - Two Of A Kind

Two giants from different eras make magic with a big assist from Billy May
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In the early 1960s, Bobby Darin's manager Steve Blauner had a brainstorm: he wanted Darin to cut an album with famed lyricist/singer/composer Johnny Mercer with arrangements by Billy May. Darin was 24 at the time and Mercer was 51 and the record was a major nod to the Tin Pan Alley songs of old. While this might seem a recipe for disaster, quite the opposite happened. The pair had immediate chemistry and a playful camaraderie that is evident throughout. Add in the hard swinging sounds from May, who had worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, and the resulting album,

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

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