Saturday, August 25, 2012

Larry Graham & Graham Central Station Set To Release New Album Raise Up

A new album release by music legend and slap-bass innovator Larry Graham has the funk community abuzz. Larry Graham & Graham Central Station's new album, Raise Up, is set to drop on September 25, 2012. It will be the first album that Graham & GCS has released in 14 years. Their last album, GSC 2000, was released on July 21, 1998.

Raise Up consists of 13 tracks, which includes updated versions of three previously released GCS tracks, nine new songs, and a cover of Stevie Wonder's classic "Higher Ground."

Additionally, Raise Up includes contributions from Prince, who's a longtime Graham collaborator and friend. Prince plays drums, keyboards and provides backing vocals on the album's title track. The Purple One is also featured on the song "Shoulda Coulda Woulda" (lead guitar, keyboards, drums and backing vocals) and plays guitar on "Movin'." And songwriter/guitarist/producer Rafael Saadiq makes a guest appearance on the song "One Day," which also includes vocals from Graham's wife Tina.

Graham's new GCS lineup for this album includes guitarist William Rabb; keyboardists David Council and Jimmy McKinney; drummer Brian Braziel; and vocalist Ashling Cole.

I'm really looking forward to this release. It sounds like Graham and company are going to bring a healthy dose of some good 'ol gutbucket funk to this collection.

Download Raise Up at Amazon

Related blog entry: Larry Graham's Ten Funkiest Bass Lines

Friday, August 24, 2012

Janelle Monáe and Erykah Badu Performing At The Afro-Punk Festival

A diverse cross-section of musical talent will descend upon Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park for the 8th Annual Afro-Punk Festival on August 25-26. The festival celebrates Afro Punk, which is an alternative black cultural movement that consists of black people and various other minorities who are actively and heavily involved in the punk rock and alternative community, according to the website

The annual festival has become the epicenter of the expanding Afro-Punk movement and has been described by The New York Times as putting “rock and rebellion squarely in the category of African-American music."

Since its debut in 2005, the festival has attracted some of the brightest and promising new artists on the Afro-Punk scene as well as acclaimed established acts. Some of the artists set to perform at this year's festival include Janelle Monáe, Erykah Badu, Das Racist, Ninjasonik, Toro Y Moi, Gym Class Heroes and Cerebral Ballzy, among others. For more info on the Afro-Punk festival, check out their website.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Flaming Lips and Girl Talk Among Lineup For LouFest 2012

Girl Talk
A plethora of talented bands and artists will be hitting the stage at the 3rd Annual LouFest Music Festival this weekend (August 25-26). The two-day indie music fest is set to take place at Central Field in Forest Park, St. Louis, MO. The event will be open to all ages and will feature national and local bands on three stages. Some of the musical acts scheduled to perform at the event include the Flaming Lips, Girl Talk, Dinosaur Jr., Dr. Dog, Son Volt, Wild Nothing, Phantogram, Wild Barrie, among many others.

The first LouFest took place on August 28-29, 2010 and was held in Forest Park, St. Louis. The event was the creation of Brian Cohen, a documentary filmmaker originally from Abilene, Texas. Some of artists who performed at the inaugural LouFest, included Broken Social Scene, She & Him, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Airborne Toxic Event, the Bottle Rockets, Jeff Tweedy, Fruit Bats and Built to Spill.

To learn more about LouFest 2012 and ticket info, visit their website

"Cool Joe": George Clinton's Funky Ode To a Mack

This swaggalicious tale of a pimp's downfall is one of George Clinton's most underrated tracks. The song's wicked funk groove fits the lyrics extremely well. Clinton and company crafted the perfect mack theme music for this cut. While listening to the groove, you can envision the song's protagonist rollin' down the strip in his tricked-out caddy, perm slicked back, and his super-fine ladies in the back ready to hit the track for him.

Multi-instrumentalist Steve Washington lays down the track's bodacious bottom, and horn legends Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker infuse the groove with a double dose of brass funk. Additionally, Maceo delivers a killer pimp-style sax solo.

"Cool Joe" is a track from Clinton's album R&B Skeleton's in the Closet (1986). While the album is not up there with  his best work, it's a pretty strong collection. In addition to "Cool Joe," some of the album's other stand-out tracks include "Do Fries Go With That Shake?" and "Hey Good Lookin'," which features vocals from award-winning actress/singer and former Miss America Vanessa L. Williams. Clinton assembled an impressive lineup of musicians for the album. In addition Maceo and Fred, some of the other P-Funkers who contributed to the album include Bootsy Collins, Garry Shider and DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight. "Cool Joe" was written by Clinton, Andre Jackson and Kevin Burke.

Download "Cool Joe" at Amazon

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Your Love Is a Miracle" By Average White Band

"Your Love Is a Miracle" is a tasty slab of funk by Scottish groove masters Average White Band. The song is another one of the band's slow-burn funk grooves in the spirit of earlier tracks such as "Person To Person" and "School Boy Crush."

From the prowling horn arrangement to the wicked bass line to Alan Gorrie's soulful lead vocals, this track is a killer. Oh, and let's not forget Steve Ferrone's terrific drumming on this cut.

"Your Love Is a Miracle" was a single from AWB's album Warmer Communications (1978). The track didn't burn up the charts like some of their earlier singles, but it had a respectable showing at #33 on Billboard's R&B singles chart. Warmer Communications is a stellar collection and was the band's last album to go gold. However, the band continued to record and perform great music and still retains a solid fan base. In fact, AWB is currently on tour. Check out their site for tour dates.

Download Track At Amazon

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Funky Chick" By The Majestics

I recently came across this rare old-school cut called "Funky Chick" by the Majestics. The band serves up a heavy dose of raw funk on this bad instrumental track. The syncopated groove crackles with funk, and bandleader Gray lays down a dope percolating bass line. This was the Majestics' first and only record. The track was recorded in 1969 on the Morsound label, which was owned and operated by guitarist E. H. Moore Jr. and his father. They only pressed 500 copies of the record. The song was written by R. Allen and produced by Moore.

And what's particularly impressive is that all the members of the Majestics were still in high school when they recorded this track--their average age was 18 at the time. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented the band from following up on the tremendous promise they showed on "Funky Chick."

The track has experienced sort of a rebirth recently. It's played around the world in clubs, and it's an extremely hot item among funk aficionados and record collectors.  Original vinyl 45 copies of the record have been commanding ridiculously high prices on the collector's circuit.

Download "Funky Chick" at Amazon

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jeffrey Osborne and The Brand New Heavies Among Lineup For Vail Soul Music Fest 2012

Natalie "The Floacist" Stewart
A number of talented artists and bands are scheduled to perform at the the 3rd Annul Vail Soul Music Fest later this week. The three-day festival will take place on August 17th, 18th and 19th at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, an outdoor venue nestled in the mountains of Vail, Colorado.  According to the festival's website, the event is designed to "celebrate the heart of soul music."

The festival will feature top-notch artists from around the world in the genres of R&B, alternative rock, conscious hip hop, blues and Neo-soul. In addition to the musical performances, the festival will offer empowerment events and cultural activities.

Some of the musical artists and bands scheduled to take the stage at the festival include Jeffrey Osborne, Anthony David, Allen Stone, Sugarfoot's Ohio Players, the Brand New Heavies, Julie Dexter, DJ Newlife, and Natalie "The Floacist" Stewart, among several others.

To learn more about the festival or for ticket info, visit their website.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"I Come Off" by Young MC

"I Come Off" is a great old-school cut by rap artist Young MC. The 1990 track has an irresistible beat, and Young MC's flow is right in the pocket while he spits his clever rhymes. Vocalist N'Dea Davenport of the Brand New Heavies brings her sultry soul to the track's hook.

Young seems like such an easygoing, unassuming guy that even on boast tracks like this one he comes across as extremely confident rather than cocky. And the G-rated rapper always kept it clean and classy, which probably cost him records sales with the growing popularity of Gangsta Rap in the early '90s.

"I Come Off" is from Young MC's debut album Stone Cold Rhymin', released in 1989. The double platinum-selling collection featured Young's Grammy-winning hit "Bust a Move."

Young MC was born Marvin Young in London, England in 1967. When he was eight, his family moved to Queens, New York. Young attended Hunter College High School in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He later earned a degree in economics from the University of Southern California (USC). While a student at USC, he met record producers Michael Ross and Matt Dike from the independent label Delicious Vinyl. The two signed Young in 1987 after he delivered a rap to them over the phone. He made his rap debut on the song "Let 'Em Know"(1988).

In addition, Young co-wrote Tone-Loc's rap smashes "Wild Thing" (1988) and "Funky Cold Medina" (1989). Young MC has enjoyed a 20-plus year career in the rap game, and in 2009, he released his eighth studio album titled Relentless.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Slave Burned Up the Charts And Filled Dance Floors With Hit "Slide"

"Slide" is a killer track that Ohio funk band Slave dropped in 1977. The sinister groove is anchored by one of the sickest bass lines I've ever heard. The groove has a smooth funky flow with some nice quirky touches, such as a bicycle horn and a cool ghoulish intro.  Additionally, the track has a blistering guitar solo, tight horn work, and a dope slap-bass breakdown. It's just an all-round badass cut.

"Slide" is from Slave's eponymously titled debut album that was released in 1977. The track was an instant smash. It was played constantly on R&B radio stations and had folks rushing the dance floor at parties and clubs. The track reached #1 on the Billboard Soul chart and #32 on Billboard Hot 100. The album also did quite well. It was certified Gold, climbing to #6 on Billboard's Soul albums chart and #22 on Billboard's Pop albums chart.

Slave was formed in Dayton, Ohio in 1975 by trumpeter Steve Washington and guitarist/vocalist Mark "Drac" Hicks.  In addition to Washington and Hicks, the band included Mark Adams (bass); Orion Wilhoite (alto and tenor sax); Floyd Miller (trombone); Tom Lockett Jr. (sax, keyboards); Tom Dozier (drums); Danny Webster (rhythm guitar, lead and background vocals); and Carter Bradley (keyboards).  Drummer, percussionist and vocalist Steve Arrington and singer Starleana Young joined Slave in 1978, with Arrington eventually becoming the band's lead vocalist.

In addition to "Slide," some of the band's other hits included "Just a Touch of Love" (1979), "Watching You" (1980) and "Snap Shot" (1981).

Download Slide at Amazon

Related blog entry: "Just a Touch of Love" by Slave

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stevie Wonder and Florence + the Machine Headlining Bestival 2012

Florence + the Machine
Bestival will close out the summer with a bang next month. The annual four-day festival will feature a diverse lineup of high-caliber musical talent.  The event will take place at Robin Hill country park on the Isle of Wight, England, and it's set to kick off on September 6th (Thursday) and will run through September 9th (Sunday). Some of the noted artists and bands who will take the stage at the event include Stevie Wonder, Florence + the Machine, New Order, Sigur Rós, Frank Ocean, the xx, Friendly Fires, Del La Soul,  Hot Chip, Adam Ant, Gary Numan and many others.

Now in its ninth year, Bestival began in 2004. The festival was organized by DJ and record producer Rob da Bank as an offshoot of his Sunday Best record label and club nights. The first Bestival drew 10,000 attendees and had grown to 55,000 by 2010. Bestival was voted the Best (Medium-sized) Festival at the 2006 UK Festival Awards, and it was also voted the best major UK festival at the UK festival awards 2010. Bestival is renowned for its  fancy dress themed days, which usually occur on Saturday of the event. For more Bestival into, check out their website.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jay-Z And Pearl Jam To Headline Made In America Festival

Music powerhouses Jay-Z and Pearl Jam will be joining a cavalcade of prominent artists and bands next month for the inaugural Made In America Festival. The Budweiser-sponsored two-day event will take place on September 1st and 2nd and will be stretched across three stages on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.

The festival will feature an eclectic array of musical talent. In addition to Hova and Pearl Jam, some of the other musical acts set to hit the stage include Chris Cornell, Janelle Monae, the Hives, Run-DMC, Mike Snow, Calvin Harris, Jill Scott, Skrillex, D'Angelo, Rita Ora, DJ Shadow, Drake, Santigold, Afrojack and Odd Future, among many others.

Tickets for the event went on sale August 3rd. For more festival info, visit their website.

Spike Lee Unveiling Documentary On Michael Jackson's Bad Album At Venice Film Festival

Spike Lee is set to premiere his new documentary on Michael Jackson's Bad album at the 2012 Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy later this month. The festival is scheduled to begin on August 29th and will run through September 8th. The outspoken filmmaker made the documentary to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Bad album, which was originally released on August 31, 1987. Bad was MJ's follow-up to his landmark game-changing album Thriller. And Bad was a huge success in its own right. To date, the collection has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and it was the first album to spawn five #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. The pop/soul superstar launched a record-breaking world tour in support of the album on September 12, 1987.

The documentary will focus on MJ's career during the Bad era. It will contain tons of behind-the-scenes footage. Lee has said that the documentary will have footage that no one has ever seen. It will also feature interviews with people who had worked with MJ, including choreographers, musicians, engineers, songwriters, technicians and collaborators. In addition, the documentary will contain interviews with a number of celebrities who have either worked with MJ or were inspired by him in some way. Some of the celebrities who were interviewed for the documentary include Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, L.A. Reid, Martin Scorsese, Chris Brown and Sheryl Crow, who was a background singer on MJ's Bad World Tour.

Lee had worked with MJ a few times and considered him a friend. The acclaimed filmmaker directed two music videos for MJ's controversial song "They Don't Care About Us," which was released in 1996. The first video was shot in two locations in Brazil, a favela in Rio de Janeiro called Dona Marta and in Salvador da Bahia. The second video for the song was shot in a prison and contained video footage of references to human rights abuses.

Additionally, MJ recorded the song "On The Line" for Lee's film Get on the Bus (1996), which is about the historic Million Man March. Lee also directed the official video for MJ's posthumous single "This Is It."

Since MJ's death in 2009, Lee has held an annual celebration in the pop icon's honor. The tribute extravaganza is held each year in Brooklyn's Prospect Park on MJ's birthday (August 29) and is filled with dancing and wall-to-wall music from MJ, the Jacksons and the J5.

In a recent interview, Lee shared his thoughts about MJ and the upcoming documentary:

"I’m more than just a huge fan of Michael Jackson, and having the chance to actually know him and work with him, I deeply care about his legacy. With this BAD project I was able to uncover just what made this such a huge, important coming of age in his career and unearth compelling stories surrounding the making of the album, the long awaited follow-up to Thriller — the best selling album of all time – the short films and the tour that may have never seen the light of day.”

The Venice Film Festival will honor Lee with its "Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker 2012 Award" on August 31st. According to the festival's organizers, the award is given to "a personality who has brought great innovation to contemporary cinema."  Lee is scheduled to debut his yet-to-be- titled documentary following the ceremony.

Here's a teaser from Spike Lee's upcoming documentary on MJ's Bad Album:

Related blog entry: Michael Jackson's Bad: Out of the Shadow of Thriller