Saturday, April 28, 2012

Here Today Gone Tomorrow by Mandrill

I've recently been jammin' to Mandrill's 1972 track "Here Today Gone Tomorrow." It is a ferocious rock/funk workout that rivals some of the stuff Funkadelic were doing at the time.  Mandrill was one of most progressive funk outfits of the 1970s and was an influence on legendary bands such as P-Funk and Earth, Wind & Fire. Mandrill was very experimental and had quite an eclectic sound, which was a rich fusion of African, funk, jazz, psychedelia, Caribbean, Latin, blues and rock. They were sort of like Santana meets P-Funk by way of War.

"Here Today Gone Tomorrow" is filled with sizzling rock guitar riffs and funky interludes. It takes the listener on a badass sonic journey. The track showcases the band's great versatility and considerable chops as musicians. "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" is from Mandrill's second album, Mandrill Is, which was released in 1972. The album was critically well-received but didn't fare too well commercially.

Mandrill was formed in Brooklyn, New York in 1968 by brothers Ric Wilson (sax, vocals), Lou Wilson (trumpet, vocals), and Carolos Wilson (trombone, vocals). All three brothers were born in Panama and raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The Wilson brothers' parents were musically inclined, and they passed that on to their sons.  The other members of Mandrill included Bundy Cenas (bass), Neftali Santiago (drums, percussion, vocals), Juaquin Jessup (lead guitar, percussion, vocals, Charles Padro (drums), Claude 'Coffee' Cave II (keyboards, percussion, vocals) and Fudgie Kae Solomon (bass) and Omar Mesa (Guitar).

Mandrill achieved their biggest chart success in 1973 with the monster funk track "Fencewalk" from their third studio album Composite Truth. In addition to influencing fellow '70s R&B and funk bands, Mandrill has been an influence on the the hip-hop generation via samples. Their tracks have been sampled by a slew of notable rap artists including Eminem, Public Enemy and Kanye West.

Related blog entry: "Fencewalk" by Mandrill

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hip Hop Comes To The Los Angeles County Museum of Art in May

Next month, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will kick off its first-ever hip-hop concert series titled "Through The Mic." The concert series will explore contemporary Los Angeles hip hop, with an emphasis on the diversity of L.A.-based artists. It will provide a platform for aspiring hip-hop artists to have their work heard on a larger scale. "Through The Mic" will be co-curated by LACMA and underground rap legend Murs, who's co-founder of the annual independent hip-hop festival Paid Dues.

The concert series will run from May 17 through October 18, and will take place on the third Thursday of every month.  It will feature emerging and experimental L.A.-based hip-hop artists chosen by Murs himself. "Through The Mic," will make its debut on May 17 with a special performance by rap group 3MG, formerly known as 3 Melancholy Gypsys. The group is comprised of Murs, Elich and Scarub. And in June, Korean American underground rapper Dumbfounded will be the featured artist. To learn more about "Through The Mic," go to LACMA's website.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Jacksons Gear Up For Unity Tour 2012 This Summer And Also Plan New Album

Earlier this month, The Jacksons finally announced the dates to their much-anticipated Unity Tour 2012. The 27-city tour will kick off on June 18 in Louisville, Kentucky and will wrap up in Snoqualmie, Washington on July 29. It will be the first time the brothers have toured together in nearly 30 years. Their last tour was the Victory Tour back in 1984, in which all six brothers participated. However, only four will be participating this time around. Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito are all on board, but youngest brother Randy will not take part in the tour.

Michael, of course, will be missed, but his presence will definitely be felt. It will be interesting to see how they pull off their old classics without Michael, as he sang lead on the bulk of the Jackson 5 and Jacksons' songs. The Jacksons will no doubt take a moment during each concert to pay tribute to their late brother, who died nearly three years ago from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol.

The tour will hit major cities such as New York, Detroit, Los Angeles,Washington, D.C. and Houston, Texas. It should be a great tour, as all the Jackson brothers are highly talented musicians and performers. After they complete the tour, the brothers plan to visit the studio to work on their first  album since their 1989 collection 2300 Jackson Street.  Here's a link to Billboard magazine's website where all the tour dates and locations are posted.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Kiss From a Rose": Seal's Majestic Pop Classic

"Kiss From a Rose" is a beautiful and elegant romantic ballad by British soul singer Seal. His warm, soulful voice and lavish harmonies elevate the song to greatness. It is superbly arranged and orchestrated and has a baroque quality that distinguished it from other Top 40 tracks. It's one of the best pop songs of the 1990s. I just recently learned that Seal wrote it.  I've been seriously underestimating this dude all these years.  I always knew he had a great voice but wasn't aware of his other talents. In addition to being a singer, he's also a talented songwriter and plays the guitar and bass. He has written or co-written a number of his other songs, including hits "Crazy" and "Prayer For the Dying."

"Kiss From a Rose" was originally on Seal's self-titled second album, which was released in 1994.  The song reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was re-released in 1995 and included on the soundtrack for the blockbuster film Batman Forever.  After the film opened, the track blew up. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and climbed to #4 on the UK Singles Chart. The song also held the top spot on the U.S. Adult Contemporary charts for 12 weeks. And it did extremely well in other parts of the world, charting in the Top-10 in Australia, France,  Norway, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland. For a while, you couldn't get away from the track; however, it's such a powerful song that it never gets stale even after multiple plays, well for me anyway.

Seal wrote "Kiss From a Rose" in tribute to folk-rock supergroup Crobsy Stills & Nash while he was living in a squat in Kensal Green, London. The tracked earned the singer three Grammys at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards in 1996 in the following categories:  Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Male Performance. It's cool that this song was given a second life upon its re-release in '95. It would have been a crime for such a great song to have been overlooked.

Download at Amazon

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Overton Loyd Makes The P-Funk Universe Just A Little Bit Funkier With His Cool Artwork

Overton Loyd's imaginative and unique artwork has been a big part of the P-Funk universe for more than three decades now. The Detroit-born visual artist is currently the creative director for George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. In this capacity, Loyd designs multi-media stage shows, costumes, album covers, websites and animated videos.  He has toured throughout the U.S. and abroad with the funk/rock collective. The multifaceted artist creates in various styles, including loose pen and ink drawings, cartoon illustrations, and mixed media paintings. Loyd's signature style is known as "Funk Aesthetic" or "Bop Art."

Loyd is most recognized for his cover art for Parliament's 1978 album Motor Booty Affair. The iconic album cover contains a cartoon image of Starchild's arch nemesis Sir Nose D'voidoffunk holding his ears while what looks like a prehistoric bird of prey swoops down on him with its mouth wide open. Parliament fully utilized Loyd's talents for Motor Booty Affair. The album was released in several different incarnations, and Loyd provided artwork for each one. The main release consisted of a gatefold album cover, with Loyd's artwork on the front and back covers.  His illustrations included cartoon portraits of some of the characters mentioned on the album's tracks, including "Mr. Wiggles the Worm." There was also a picture disk, with Loyd's illustration printed directly on the vinyl LP.

Additionally, there was a special edition that included cardboard cutout figures that featured Loyd's cartoon illustrations of most of the characters mentioned in the songs. And if that wasn't enough, Loyd did the animated TV commercial for Motor Motor Affair. The commercial featured Sir Nose D'voidoffunk, Rumpofsteelskin and assorted cartoon characters that inhabit Parliament's funky underwater city. The commercial only ran for a short time, and a lot of people didn't get to see it when it originally aired.

Motor Booty Affair was not the first time that Loyd had provided artwork for a Parliament album. He also illustrated a comic book that was included in Parliament's classic album Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome (1977). The narrative in the comic echoes the lyrics to songs on the album. The comic depicts  the epic battle between extraterrestrial funk savior Starchild and Sir Nose D'voidoffunk, who represents all that is unfunky and the suppression of free thought. Sir Nose believes he's immune to the Funk and defiantly states, "I will never dance!" Armed with his trusty bop gun, Starchild ultimately defeats Sir Nose and gets him to dance by shining the "Flash Light" on  him.  "Ol' Smell-o-vision" succumbs to the Funk, and all is well again in the P-Funk universe.

Other P-Funk-related work Loyd has done include the cover art for Parliament's album Gloryhallastoopid and This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N by Bootsy's Rubber Band. Both albums were released in 1979.  Also, Loyd won Billboard magazine's "Best Use Of Computer Graphics" award for his work on the 1982 "Atomic Dog" video, which was for George Clinton's influential funk anthem. And in 2006, the prolific artist was guest art director for two episodes of animated series Class of 3000 that aired on Cartoon Network. Loyd was also the featured caricaturist on the popular television game show Win, Lose or Draw (1987-1990).

Loyd and his good friend George Clinton recently paid a visit to Sly Stone. During the visit, Loyd and renowned graffiti artist Man One decorated Sly's RV with their artwork. Loyd painted caricatures of music legends Jimi Hendrix, Prince, James Brown and Sly himself on the RV, and Man One spray-painted the letters. Even George added a few brushstrokes. They pimped out Sly's ride in style.

Loyd's art has been exhibited at several galleries, and his fine-art works can be found in private collections worldwide. Loyd is known as the "Art Philanthropist," and, according to his website, his intention is to use the medium of art to transcend boundaries of social/cultural barriers. "I believe art can act as a clearing for whole new realities," said Loyd in an interview. "I’m standing for the possibility that we can use art to generate a breakthrough in communication." To learn more about Overton Loyd and his artwork, check out his website.

Overton Loyd's Motor Booty Affair commercial

Overton Loyd and Man One Pimpin' Out Sly's Ride

Related blog entry: Pedro Bell: Picasso of P-Funk

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rare Clip Of The Parliaments Performing With Funkadelic in 1969

This great old clip from 1969 shows Parliament when they still called themselves the Parliaments. At this time, the Parliaments were a vocal group, and Funkadelic was their backing band. In addition to George Clinton, the Parliaments consisted of vocalists Fuzzy Haskins, Grady Thomas, Calvin Simon and Ray Davis. Funkadelic's players for this performance included axmen Eddie Hazel and Tawl Ross; Mickey Atkins on keyboards; bassist William "Billy Bass" Nelson; and Langston Booth on drums. The songs they performed on the clip include "What Is Soul," "Testify" and "Into My Own Thing," a Sly & the Family Stone track. The name of the show was called Say Brother, which aired on WGBH in Boston.

It's a raw, gritty performance of the legendary funk/rock collective when they were still trying to figure out how to bring it all together and find the best way to harness all that funk and talent at their disposal. The performance is a bit sloppy and unfocused, but the soul, energy and talent still shine through. A very young George Clinton, sporting a Mohawk years before the punk rock movement made it fashionable, gives a sweaty, primal performance. Fuzzy Haskins also shines with a soulful vocal performance. These brothers already had tons of stage charisma. And Funkadelic are bringing the rock and the funk.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Crossword Puzzle" by Sly Stone

"Crossword Puzzle" is a super-funky track by Sly Stone that didn't get a lot of play when it was released back in 1975.  The track is from Sly's highly underrated album High on You, which is the first album attributed to Sly Stone rather than Sly & the Family Stone. Sly wrote, produced and arranged the song, as well as played guitar and keyboards.

Bobby Vega's nimble bass work keeps things nice and funky, and Little Sister provides some soul-stirring background vocals. In the song's lyrics, Sly presents his sharp social observations in his inimitable hip-poet fashion.

Around the time that High on You was released, most of the original members of the Family Stone had left the band, and the album is essentially a solo effort by Sly. However, some of the band's original members did make appearances on the album. Sly's brother Freddie (an original Family Stone member) played guitar and provided vocals on a few tracks. And original band members Cynthia Robinson (Trumpet) and Jerry Martini (Saxophone) played on most of the tracks. Sly also enlisted a few session musicians to play on the album as well as more recent additions to the Family Stone, such as bass player Rustee Allen, who replaced Larry Graham following his departure from the band in 1972.

During this period, Sly & the Family Stone's fan base had shrunk considerably since their heyday in late '60s and early '70s when they were selling out huge venues and topping the charts. This was due in large part to Sly's increasingly erratic behavior and his crippling cocaine addiction. This started causing great internal friction within the band, which resulted in several members jumping ship. However, High on You showed that Sly was still very capable of creating great music when he was so inclined. In addition to "Crossword Puzzle," the album boasts other forgotten funk gems, such as "I Get High on You" and "Organize."

Purchase High on You CD at Amazon

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tupac Shakur's Spirit Loomed Large At Coachella 2012

On Sunday night April 15, a frighteningly lifelike hologram of the late rap legend Tupac Shakur miraculously appeared onstage and performed two songs before an amazed audience during day three of Coachella 2012 in Indio, California. The hologram entrance came right after headliners Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg performed the monster rap anthem "California Love." The Tupac apparition appeared like a mythical rap prophet and blew the minds of the 100,000 concert-goers. It was truly a chilling moment and felt like a resurrection. Fittingly, the first song performed by hologram Tupac was "Hail Mary." The track is from Pac's album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, which was released just eight weeks after he was gunned in Las Vegas in 1996 at the age of 25.

The performance was eerily haunting and also quite powerful. I can imagine how incredible it must have been for those in attendance watching it firsthand. "Hail Mary" was followed by Snoop Dogg and hologram Tupac performing "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," a song that the two rap superstars recorded together for Pac's multi-platinum double-disc album All Eyez on Me (1996). The hologram Tupac tribute was by far the biggest highlight of Coachella's concert yesterday and will no doubt go down as one of the epic moments in rock-concert history. It was also one of the finest examples of how the integration of art and technology can sometimes produce magic.

However, in addition to the many positive responses to the Tupac hologram tribute, there were also a number of negative reactions to it as well. Some felt that it was disrespectful to the slain rapper's memory, that it was in poor taste and bordered on the creepy side. I personally thought it was brilliant and showed how Tupac will forever be remembered: the gifted, charismatic and controversial rap giant who out-swags most other rappers even in death.

But I do foresee a possible problem with all the buzz that the Tupac hologram tribute has generated. I have a feeling that the hologram tribute thing is going to spread like wildfire and ultimately be run into the ground. Many other late music legends will probably start getting the hologram treatment. I can see it now, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performing onstage with holograms of John Lennon and George Harrison for that long-awaited Beatles reunion, or a hologram of Michael Jackson moonwalking across the stage one last time for those who never got a chance to catch him in concert while he was alive.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

R&B And Funk Greats Set To Perform At The Las Vegas Soul Festival

The Dazz Band
The Las Vegas Soul Festival is gearing up for a  massive groovathon on April 28, 2012. The festival will host a cavalcade of R&B and funk greats at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Some of the artists and bands scheduled to perform at the event include Con Funk Shun, Zapp, the Dazz Band, the Bar-Kays, Lenny Williams and Jagged Edge.

It's cool that great old-school funk bands like Con Funk Shun, Zapp and the Bar-Kays still have a following and continue to tour. These bands dropped many a funky track back in the day and should be getting a lot more love. Samples of their classic grooves can be found in numerous hip-hop records, but, unfortunately, many young listeners aren't aware of the source of these samples. The festival is being advertised as "The Concert Of The Year," and proceeds from the event will benefit the Lazarex Cancer Foundation. For more info about the Las Vegas Soul Festival, go to their website or check out their commercial below:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Very Early Music Video Of Funkadelic Performing "Cosmic Slop"

I was checking out this early music video of Funkadelic in all their freaky glory performing their classic track "Cosmic Slop" in 1973. This video is quite a scene. You've got George Clinton in whiteface and sporting what looks to be a half-Mohawk while flicking his tongue like some possessed blue-tongued skink; and there's Fuzzy Haskins rocking a ripped-up, dirty-looking jumpsuit, as well as Garry Shider in his signature Diaper-Man getup. The rest of the band are wearing equally freaky attire.

The video was shot on the streets of New York City, and actually it's not bad, considering the time it was made and no doubt the limited funds available to make it. This video was made about eight years before the MTV video explosion in the early 1980s, and the Funk Mob already saw the possibilities of the medium. It's kind of refreshing to see a low-budget, unscripted video like this, as opposed to the expensive, overproduced spectacles made today where it seems like the music is often secondary.

In this video, Funkadelic exude a really strange aura. I can imagine when this video first aired back in the day, people were probably saying, "Man, those are some crazy, freaky brothers right there!" I like the naturalness of this video. It's simply the band members being their freaky selves...well, perhaps with a bit of chemical assistance, quiet as kept.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Jungle Walk" By The Rascals

Here's a hot track by hit-making blue-eyed soul group The Rascals. The cut is called "Jungle Walk," and it's overflowing with funk—bubbling guitar rhythms, tight horn lines, a kickin' backbeat, a dope bass line and soulful vocals. The horns are provided by the Butterfield Blues Band horn section (fronted by sax great David Sanborn). Bassist Robert "Pops" Popwell of legendary jazz-funk band the Crusaders laid down the bottom. The track was written by renowned guitarist Buzz Feiten and is from the Rascals' last album, The Island of Real, before they disbanded in 1972.

The Rascals were formed in New York City in 1964 and were originally named the Young Rascals. The original members of the group included keyboardist/singer Felix Cavaliere (the group's founder and guiding light), singer Eddie Brigati, guitarist Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli. Calvaliere and Brigati would split the lead vocal duties, and the two co-wrote much of the group's material.  The Rascals enjoyed tremendous success from the years 1965 through 1969; the group scored a string of top ten singles during that period, including #1 hits "Groovin', "Good Lovin'" and "People Got to Be Free." The Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The group was later inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2010.

Jungle Walk at Amazon

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Janelle Monáe Does Her Thing At The White House For Annual Easter Egg Roll

Critically acclaimed R&B artist Janelle Monáe brought her singular brand of soul to an appreciative audience yesterday for the 134th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. During her set, Monáe did an exuberant cover of  the Jackson 5 classic "I Want You Back." She also performed the songs "Cold War" and "Tightrope" from her Grammy-nominated debut album The ArchAndroid.  Monáe is one of the most electrifying and talented young artists on the music scene at the moment. She has a unique quality that distinguishes her from most of the other pop, hip-hop and R&B stars currently ruling the charts. She is truly a breath of fresh air. And although she's finally receiving some well-deserved accolades for her work, I still think she's quite underrated. In a way, though, I think this is a good thing. Monáe is slowly building a dedicated following through the strength of her music and live performances, rather than being over-hyped and forced down people's throats through some massive marketing campaign to the point where you're tired of the sight of her before she really hit her stride. She's earning her stripes the old-school way: through hard work and talent.

Monáe is set to perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 29, and she will be touring for the next few months in the states and overseas. There no doubt will be more dates added to her tour throughout the summer.

Monáe performing "I Want You Back" at The White House Easter Egg Roll

Monáe performing "Tightrope" at The White House Easter Egg Roll

Download The ArchAndroid at Amazon

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Carolina Chocolate Drops Scheduled To Perform At Jazz Fest 2012

Grammy-winning traditional black string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops will be performing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (also known as Jazz Fest) on Saturday April 28. The band will perform on the Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage. After their stop at Jazz Fest, the Drops will continue their busy schedule throughout the remainder of the year. They have a slew of tour dates lined up from now until December. Also, the band recently released their fourth album, Leaving Eden, on February 27, 2012. The collection received positive reviews from music critics. Additionally, their original song, "Daughter's Lament," was featured on the soundtrack for the blockbuster film The Hunger Games, which opened last month.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is an annual festival that celebrates the music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. It debuted in 1970 and is now one of the premier music festivals in the world. More than 300,000 music fans from across the globe attend Jazz Fest each year. Some of the biggest names in music have performed at the seven-day festival. The dates for this year's festival are April 27-29 and May 3-6. The festival is spread out over 12 stages and will host more than 450 musical acts from around the world. Some of the celebrated artists scheduled to hit the stage at this year's Jazz Fest include Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Herbie Hancock, Ne-Yo, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Al Green, Bonnie Rait, The Foo Fighters and The Beach Boys. So it's going to be a helluva party. For more Jazz Fest info, go to their website.

Related blog entry: The Carolina Chocolate Drops Bring Traditional Music To A New Audience

Saturday, April 7, 2012

James Brown Wows Soul Train Audience With Dynamic Performance

James Brown, February, 1973, Musikhalle, Hamburg
Photo by Heinrich Klaffs
James Brown brought his raw, uncut funk to the Soul Train stage in this groovalicious 1973 performance. The Godfather and his band treated the Soul Train audience to a mini concert.  Wearing a purple jumpsuit with his hair perfectly coiffed and combed to the side, James funked his way through a few of his hottest tracks. The songs he performed were "Get On The Good Foot," "Soul Power," "Make It Funky" and a snippet of "Escape-Ism." The band was super-tight as usual, and James slayed with some killer dance moves. This is funk at its rawest and most electrifying.

There's nothing like seeing James Brown completely in his element and blowing the audience away. He did a few showcases like this on Soul Train, and he killed on each and every one of them. Soul Train was one the hottest music/dance shows back in the day, and all of the baddest bands and artists performed on its stage, but none were badder or funkier than the Godfather.

Hyperactive! by Thomas Dolby: New Wave At Its Funkiest

In the 1980s, British musician, songwriter and producer Thomas Dolby had a knack for creating great tracks by fusing new wave and funk. And "Hyperactive!" was a prime example of this ability. The song is a spastic jolt of electro-funk that only Dolby could have cooked up. It is driven by a jittery, mechanical-sounding bass line that is quite funky in its own unique way. Trombonist Peter Thoms brings some additional funk to the proceedings, as does singer Adele Bertei who trades off on lead vocals with Dolby. Even the cowbell sounds funky on this cut. The track also has a nice synth flute solo. "Hyperactive!" has a singular quality that makes it still sound fresh and original today.

The song, which is from Dolby's The Flat Earth album (1984), saw some chart action. It climbed to # 17 on the UK Singles Chart and #16 on the Canadian RPM magazine charts. The song didn't fare as well in the U.S., peaking at just #62 on the Billboard Hot 100. Dolby originally wrote "Hyperactive!" for Michael Jackson. The two met when Dolby was editing the video for his song "She Blinded Me With Science" back in 1982, and MJ was making his "Billie Jean" video next door. Dolby said in an interview that the two hit it off and became good friends. The two musicians would discuss grooves, new recording techniques, hip hop and other music-related topics. Dolby even visited the pop superstar's home in Encino, California on a few occasions. According to Dolby, MJ needed some material for what would become the Jacksons' Victory album (1984) and asked the synth-pop pioneer to write some songs for him. Dolby later sent MJ some demos, including "Hyperactive!" MJ didn't think the track would be a good fit for the Victory album, so Dolby decided to record it himself.

At the dawn of the MTV era in the early 1980s, Dolby distinguished himself from the pack by creating the persona of a nerdy mad scientist who ironically knew how to funk. It was a clever move on the musician's part, as he understood that image would soon become just as important as the music with the fast-growing popularity of music videos. His eccentric new wave funkster fit right in with the new MTV era, and he played it up to the hilt. However, unlike a lot of other image-driven artists during that period, Dolby was genuinely talented. He was adept on the piano, synthesizer and guitar and was a skilled songwriter.

Dolby first made a name for himself by writing tracks for other artists. He wrote "New Toy" (1981) for new wave artist Lene Lovich. Dolby played keyboards on the track and provided background vocals. He also co-wrote and produced "Magic's Wand" (1982) for pioneering hip-hop group Whodini. He played synthesizers on the track as well as provided the drum samples. Additionally, Dolby worked for a time as a sound tech and studio musician, providing synthesizer parts on tracks for platinum-selling rock bands Def Leppard and Foreigner. And he played on the Thompson Twins' album Set (1982) and singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading's album Walk Under Ladders (1981).

Dolby scored his biggest hit as a solo artist in 1982 with "She Blinded Me With Science." The quirky new wave/funk track made Dolby one of the biggest names on the burgeoning synth-pop scene. The video for the song received heavy rotation on MTV and is now remembered as one of the iconic videos of the music channel's golden age when it actually played videos. The track climbed to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. and spent two weeks at #1 on the Canadian RPM magazine charts but only managed to reach #49 on the UK Singles Chart.

Following the huge success of "She Blinded Me With Science," Dolby continued to collaborate with other artists. He co-produced Joni Mitchell's album Dog Eat Dog (1985). And he even worked with Uncle Jam himself, George Clinton. Dolby co-produced and played on Clinton's album Some Of My Best Jokes Are Friends (1985). He collaborated with Clinton again on the funky single "May The Cube Be With You" from Dolby's album Aliens Ate My Buick (1988). He also co-wrote the song "Howard The Duck" with the P-Funk ringleader. The song is from the Dolby-produced soundtrack of the ill-fated 1986 film Howard The Duck.

 In addition to being a successful recording artist, Dolby is quite the tech-head. Throughout his musical career, he was on a quest to integrate music and technology. In the early '90s, Dolby took a long break from his music career to establish Beatnik, Inc., a Silicon Valley tech company that built the ringtone synthesizer that's embedded in more than three billion mobile phones worldwide. In addition, Dolby and Beatnik, Inc. have made other innovations in computer music and software that have significantly impacted the sound of popular music today.

On October 25, 2011, Dolby released his fifth studio album titled A Map of the Floating City. It's his first full-length studio album since the release of Astronauts & Heretics in 1992. Dolby maintains a solid fan base and has been touring pretty extensively of late. His "The Time Capsule" tour began last month, and he has a number of dates lined up this month as well as in May. Here's a link for more tour info.

Incidentally, doesn't the  trombone player (Peter Thoms) in the "Hyperactive!" video bear a striking resemblance to Gene Hackman?

Download at Amazon

Related blog entry: Thomas Dolby Brings The Funk On Live Performance of "She Blinded Me With Science"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"You're The One (Part 2)" by Little Sister

"You're The One" is a forgotten gem by the soul/funk group Little Sister. Little Sister was primarily the background singers for Sly & the Family Stone but had a brief recording career of their own (1970-1971). The soul-singing trio was composed of Vaetta Stewart (Sly's youngest sister), Mary Rand and Elva Mouton. They were originally a gospel group called The Heavenly Tones before becoming Little Sister. During their short-lived career, they scored two hits with "You're The One" and "Somebody's Watching You," a cover of a track from Sly & the Family Stone's visionary Stand! album.

"You're The One" is a great cut. It has that classic Sly & the Family Stone funk sound that can't be mistaken for any other band or artist--the percolating rhythm, the gospel-inflected harmonies, the tight horn riffs and the rumbling bass. It basically sounds like a Sly & The Family Stone song sans the members providing the vocals. Sly wrote, produced and arranged "You're The One," which was released on his record label Stone Flower Records in 1970.  The song had a pretty strong showing on the charts. It climbed to number #4 on the R&B charts and # 22 on the pop charts. In 1971, Little Sister's time in the spotlight had run out, and they were relegated back to doing background vocals for the Family Stone again.

It's not clear why Sly stopped production on the trio. Perhaps it was a matter of time constraints.  It would have been pretty time-consuming to continue splitting his time between recording, producing and touring with the Family Stone and working with Little Sister, especially since his drug-abuse problems were really starting to take hold around this time. Or maybe he just lost interest. No one knows for sure. Sly is (and always has been) a mercurial and enigmatic cat who's as unpredictable as he is brilliant.

Related blog entry: Review of Sly & the Family Stone's Stand!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Erykah Badu Scheduled To Perform at Funk Fest 2012

R&B star Erykah Badu is among the talented lineup of artists who will perform at Funk Fest 2012. Funk Fest is an annual outdoor festival that celebrates old-school funk, R&B, rap and soul music, and it takes place at several different locations throughout the South. The festival is celebrating its 18th anniversary this year. Funk Fest had very humble beginnings. It began as a small concert in an outdoor venue in Mobile, Alabama. Today, the festival attracts thousands of music lovers each year from all across the country.

Badu is set to play three dates at Funk Fest, and each show will be at a different venue. Her first show will be held at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 6. The other artists slated to perform on that date are Fantasia and Evelyn "Champagne" King. Badu will then perform at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, Flordia on May 12. The other artists scheduled to perform on that day are Ledisi, Loose Ends and Doug E. Fresh. And her final Funk Fest show will be held at the Wolf Creek Amphitheater on May 19 in College Park, Georgia. The other artists who will perform on that date are Special Ed, Loose Ends and Raheem Devaughn. For more Funk Fest info, go to their website.