Monday, April 29, 2013

Reed Seed - Grover Washington

There were some records my dad played for me, and I loved them because of the wonderful stories he'd include with them. Then there are some records I looked for because I knew there were samples buried in there somewhere, and this Grover Washington record was in that group. My favorite Tribe Called Quest record at the time was People's Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm and played it over and over again. So when a DJ at my 16th birthday told me where the sample for the first song on that tape/cd came from, I checked to see if my dad had that record, and lo and behold he did. So here's Grover Washington's "Loran's Dance" follow by Tribe Called Quest's "Push It Along. And if you're lazy, skip to the to the 5:45 mark of Grover's song, and the 57 second mark of the Tribe song to hear the similarities.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Perfect Angel - Minnie Riperton

From birth until I was four years old, my mother would sing Minnie Riperton's "Lovin You" to me before I went to sleep. She didn't do it every night, but she did it enough that I would recognize the song, and try to chime in during the few parts I understood. Of course, there were some lyrics that weren't exactly applicable to the mother/son relationship, but my mother was savvy enough to elude or ignore those parts. As I got older, and as my mother and father played records every Saturday, my parents would still pepper in this song, as I reminder of how things went down when I was younger. Of course as I wrote here a couple of years ago, now when I hear the song, it creeps me out because I know it'll make me sad when and if my mother passes away. I know that's a bit dramatic and morbid, but he this is how I think occasionally.

Anyway, once I got older, I was able to appreciate Minnie Riperton, "Perfect Angel" album in its entirety. Every song on this album (except for two) was written by Minnie and her husband Richard Rudolph (also known as Maya Rudolph's parents). The two other songs they didn't write were written by Stevie Wonder and they were: "Take A Little Trip" and "Perfect Angel". "Take A Little Trip" featured Michael Sembello (Mr. Maniac) on lead guitar. "Perfect Angel" featured a young Denise Williams on background vocals. This is just a great f**king album.

Here is Stevie Wonder singing "Perfect Angel" and "Lovin' You" a short time after Minnie died in 1979.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Street Life - The Crusaders

My mother used to play The Crusaders all the time, and there didn't seem to be anything special about their sound. They mostly created smooth jazz, and every now and then, they'd pepper in a singer (like Randy Crawford on the title) track, but it wasn't enough to command my attention as a youngster. As I got deeper and deeper into hip-hop, I appreciate the abundance of samples that could be found on smooth jazz records, and then as I got older, I came to appreciate the genius of Joe Sample (a member of the Crusaders) as a producer. But this record is perfect background music of chores around the house, or reading the paper on a Sunday morning. It also can border as the soundtrack for 70s porn, and ultimately, isn't that the kind of versatility you're looking for in your music?

Night Faces - The Crusaders

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Right On Time - The Brothers Johnsson

There were some records that my father played for my brother and I all the time, and then there were other records we specifically requested for him to put in rotation every Saturday--The Brothers Johnson's "Right On Time" was one of them. I didn't even appreciate the other songs on this record, I just wanted to hear, "Strawberry Letter 23", so my brother and I could dance to this song over and over again. Our favorite part of the song was the guitar solo from the 2:16 mark to the 3:18 point, and all we did is twirl around at a high speed until we could barely stand. And even once the guitar solo was over, we would still try to dance around like damn fools while we were dizzy as hell. This was 1984, I was nine and my brother was six. Now at 38, I don't twirl around like a jackass when I hear that solo, but I do listen closely to the bass guitar, to the lead guitars, the high-hats, the drums and everything in that song, and album as a whole. By the way, it is worth mentioning that "The Brothers Johnson" also played bass guitar on "We Are The World".

By the way, there was a great article in the NY Times two weeks back on Shuggie Otis, who wrote "Strawberry Letter 23". You can read that here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fulfillingness' First Finale - Stevie Wonder

My dad never played Stevie's "Fulfillingness' First Finale" album for me when I was young. Not even once. In fact, I heard most of the songs on this album on various other Stevie Wonder greatest hits albums over the years. After awhile I got curious about how this entire cd, so I bought it in 2001, and of course I couldn't get enough of it. Back in 2000, during a bad snowstorm, I decided to play the "At the Close of a Century" four-cd collection that my girlfriend at the time got me for my birthday. The last song on the second cd was "Creepin", and at the time, I thought Luther Vandross was the only who had written and perfomed this song. Of course later I find out that not only did Stevie write and produce this song, but the great Minnie Riperton sang background vocals.

So I actually have two favorite songs on this album.


And then the song Stevie Wonder sang at Michael Jackson's funeral, "They Won't Go When I Go" (which is a song that only Stevie can do justice, which makes me wonder who will try to sing it at his funeral):

Monday, April 22, 2013

Brenda Russell - Brenda Russell

I remember my mother playing this Brenda Russell record and loving the song, "So Good, So Right". I remember my father telling me that Brenda Russell wrote, produced and performed, "If Only For One Night", a few years before Luther Vandross took the song and ran with it. And I remember reading the words and the credits of this album (always the best part of the record opening/buying experience) and seeing that Brenda Russell wrote every song on the album and produced or co-produced the rest. She's a good singer, but she's an even better songwriter. My favorite song on this album is entitled, "In The Thick Of It". This song sounds like it could have easily been sung by DeBarge or Switch:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Temptations - Meet The Temptations

My father moved to Arizona today, leaving the DC area (he lived in Ellicott City, which is right outside of Baltimore) for better opportunities and of course, a warmer climate. I've known he was going to move for a few weeks now, and I was in total denial about how it would affect me. But today, after my brother and I said our goodbyes to him, and I got in the car to drive back home, I cried like a baby for 45 minutes straight. I just feel like at my dad's age (62), he needs to be closer to me, not all the way across the the country. Plus he's lived in this area for quite some time, and I took comfort in knowing that at any moment, I could drive 30 minutes up the road, and see how he was, rather than just listening to him talk on the phone. Now that he's in Arizona, we will Skype, we will talk more, and I'm ok with that. I just hope he moves back soon.

Also, I would like to shout out my main Sabin, who led a beautiful Honors College ceremony at THE Hampton University with my mother as the keynote speaker. I was sitting in the audience next to my 15-year old son Carlton, while I watched my mother and my roommate from college sit on the stage. It was a great feeling that had me emotional in a good way.

Now, back to the albums. In honor of my dad leaving me here in the DC area by myself, I choose The Temptations - Meet The Temptations, which was the first album the Temps ever released in 1964. I remember my dad sitting me down one day in 1988, and breaking down the entire album, including the first single, "Dream Come True". David Ruffin was a late addition to the group, so he was on this album, just not on this song.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Main Ingredient - Afrodisiac

I wish I could say I like this next album because of the singing, the harmony, or the fact that the lead singer's son is Cuba Gooding Jr--but I cannot. Growing up, the only reason I was infatuated with The Main Ingrdient's Afrodisiac album had everything to do with the nekkid lady on the front and back covers. This was way before I had access to google and a wife, which both allow me to see as much nudity as I want on a daily basis by accident. So I was loving this cover as well as many others by the Ohio Players.

Of course 20 years later, I still dig the nudity, but the harmonies are now a bit more prominent in my mind...just a bit. I also think "The Main Ingredient" is just a stellar name for a group. You're making a statement that you ARE the sh*t, and you challenge anyone to think otherwise. Plus most of the songs on this album were written by Stevie Wonder and his writing partner/wife at the time, Syreeta Wright, including my favorite song "Girl Blue":

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Clifford Brown - Alternate Takes

I met Wynton Marsalis way back in 1984 before I had really developed my sound as a trumpet player (a 9 years old no less), but 5 years later, when I was a veteran 14-year old trumpet player, Wynton's advice was a little more sophisticated and specific. He told me to buy a Miles Davis album called, "Bags Groove", (which took me forever to find), and Wynton also told me to buy anything and everything by Clifford Brown. I already knew Brown's song "Cherokee", but I didn't own a full-length album from him, so my father bought his album, "Alternate Takes". Instead of appreciating the greatness of Brown's sound and technique, I was intimidated by how far I had to go as a trumpet player, and I wanted no parts of this f**king album--until now of course.

My favorite song on the album, "Wail Bait", was written by Mr Quincy Jones, and it features the great Art Blakey on drums:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Charles Mingus with Eric Dolphy and Jaki Byard - Portrait

First off, I have never gotten as sick as I have since Nyles was born. He's given me at least 4 or 5 colds, and yesterday (and today) he gave me a nasty stomach virus that has caused me to lose obscene amounts of weight. Nyles had it Friday, my wife had it late Saturday and all day Sunday, and I got it at 5am yesterday, and I'm still not right. Thanks Nyles

Anyway, there were some records in my father's collection that he rarely played, which I meant I didn't even know they existed. Charles Mingus' (with Eric Dolphy and Jaki Byard) "Portrait" album was one of those records. I knew my dad loved jazz, and he certainly had his favorites, but he did a great job hiding this record from me. Mingus isn't someone I appreciated until after college, when I dove head first into the cds of every bass player I could get my grubby little hands on. This particular Mingus album features Eric Dolphy on the flute, clarinet and alto sex, Jaki Byard on piano and other lesser-known artists I'd never heard of before playing this record. This album was released the year Mingus died (1979), and it features live music from his Concert Performance At Town Hall New York, Spring 1964 and a concert Performance in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 1965.

This songm "Praying with Eric" is about 27 minutes long, but it is my favorite on the album so far, and it also seems to be keeping Nyles' attention which is always a plus. There are lots of tempo changes in this song, and selfishly speaking I just like to hear flutes and clarinets in my jazz. Because I started off playing in marching band when I was younger, I never associated clarinets and flutes with jazz, but now I know better. Anyway, I digress...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

War - Deliver the Word

As I've gotten older, I've learned to appreciate ths musicianship and message of the group War. But when I was younger, I only knew them as the group that sang, "Me and My Baby Brother". I blogged about this song back in 2006 right before my brother got married. I won't rewrite that entire blog entry, but I'll just say that my father used to tell Jamal and I to always look out for one another no matter how old we were. That song, and this album in general, have stuck with me every since. Of all the records I took from my father's record collection, this one had the most sentimental value.

War - Deliver the Word (1973)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lionel Richie - Lionel Richie

If it weren't for Michael F. Jackson, Lionel Richie may very well been the HNIC of the 1980s. He wrote, he danced (kind of), he sang, he played the piano, and he successfully worked his way out of the shadow of the Commodores. His first album after going solo was entitled Lionel Richie, which featured a picture of inside the record cover, laying down with some red and white Nikes on..very sexy. Although as my wife points out, it is sexier than Michael Jackson laying down inside HIS record cover with a tiger.

Anyway, my favorite song on the album is "You Are", which Lionel co-wrote with his then-wife Brenda. Also, Richard Marx who had a few minor hits in the 90s sang background. Anyway, here's Lionel:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Manhattans Greatest Hits

Back when my parents were together and fully in love with one another, my dad would put on the Manhattans Greatest Hits album, play air guitar (no matter what instrument was really playing, his default move was the guitar), and sing to my mother with lust and love in his eyes. My brother and I would watch this and be totally disgusted, but we appreciated the love our parents had for each other and us. There was no cynicism, no worries about bills or money, just love via a Manhattans record on a Saturday night. I loved that feeling, and hearing this record makes me think of that--in fact, on the first day of my honeymoon, as I laid on the beach with my wife, I played, "I'll Never Find Another", and I just smiled my ass off. But the song I will link in this blog is entitled, "Don't Take Your Love From Me", and I did so because of urgency Gerald Alston (the lead singer) has during the last 21 seconds of the song. That type of urgency is rarely displayed in R&B, but he nailed it.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

First off, please read my article right here.

Today's record of the day is entitled The Louis Armstrong Story - Vol. 2, Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven This and Volume 1 were recorded with Armstrong's band (the Hot 7) and they were recorded over a span of eight days in 1927. Yes, 1927 (two years after Malcolm X was born, two years before MLK). It is listed as jazz, but true to his New Orleans' roots, there are strong elements of blues as well.

Monday, April 08, 2013

So a couple of weeks ago, my father called me up and told me that he was finally ready to give his extensive record collection to both me and my brother. He's in the process of moving, and he realized that he hasn't played his records in years, and the righteous thing to do would be to give up his records to his selfish, but appreciative sons. My brother and I have had designs on his record collection since 1990, when we discovered that he had Richard Pryor and a ton of hip hop samples in the mix. Back then, my father consistently said no, and he wasn't ready to share, so thank god he changed his mind.

When my brother and I were divvying up the collection, it was fairly easy to decide who got what. I got all the jazz and smooth jazz (smooth jazz in the 1970s was way more hip and rich in sound and texture than it is today), and Jamal got mostly R&B with some exceptions. But there were four records that we could not agree upon initially:

1)Minnie Riperton - Perfect Angel
2)James Brown - Solid Gold
3)Otis Redding - The Dock of The Bay: The Definitive Collection
4)Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

I really wanted the James Brown album because you could basically put it on and dance for a good 2 hours straight. I wanted Minnie Riperton's album, because "Perfect Angel" (written by Stevie Wonder) is one of my favorite Minnie songs ever. I wanted Otis Redding because..well its fucking Otis Redding and Innervisions is the best Stevie Wonder album (in my opinion) recorded. Unfortunately for me, my brother had those very same reasons for wanting those exact same albums, so we were in a bit of a pickle. In the end, he got the James Brown, I got everything else, and neither one of us is truly happy, which is the sign of a good compromise.

So now, in honor of this great record collection my father has given to me, I will play a record a day and write a bit about it. You see my father, from 1980 until 1990 (when my parents started to drift apart..they eventually divorced in 1992) played records every Saturday, so that my brother and I would share his love for all types of music--and it worked because I'm a rabid fan. So every day (or every time I blog) I will share the record I chose to play that day.

First up? White Rabbit by George Benson. It came out in 1972, and the title track is a cover of a Jefferson Airplane song written by Grace Slick. The musicians on this album are like an all-star roster: Ron Carter on bass, Earl Klugh on gee-tar, Herbie Hancock on electric piano, Billy Cobham on drums, Hubert Laws on flute, clarinet and piccolo) and others. My favorite song off the album is California Dreamin: