Monday, September 29, 2014

Prince Has Big Launch Party Planned For His Two New Albums

His Royal Badness is back and ready to blow minds with his new music. He’s set to drop his two new album projects—PLECTRUMELECTRUM and Art Official Age—this Tuesday. And the multitalented music legend is doing it in style. A massive event is planned in celebration of the two new releases. According to Rolling, a release party is scheduled to be held inside his famous Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The party will kick off at 7:30 pm PT. The event will be live-streamed via Yahoo Live Nation and will feature his new band, 3RDEYEGIRL, and a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse inside the fabled studio.

The event is significant for a couple of reasons. One of them is that the albums are Prince’s first releases under his new deal with Warner Bros. The Purple One had a huge falling out with Warner Bros. in 1996, which brought about his departure from the label.  In April of this year, the two parties made amends with a new mutually beneficial agreement. Also, this is the first album he’s recorded with 3RDEYEGIRL since its formation in 2013. The members of the talented trio are Donna Grantis (guitar), Hannah Ford (drums) and Ida Nielsen (bass).

Art Official Age is a solo effort by Prince, and PLECTRUMELECTRUM is a collaboration between him and 3RDEYEGIRL. The latter is the more rock-oriented collection of the two with 3RDEYEGIRL having a lot of creative input on the tracks. Art Official Age is grounded more in R&B, which he’s dubbed “classic Prince.”  He produced, arranged, composed and performed this collection with singer/songwriter/producer Joshua Welton, who’s the husband of 3RDEYEGIRL member Hannah Ford.

The event will be streaming on Yahoo! Screen Live and on the Yahoo Screen App.

Art Official Age at Amazon


Related blog entry: Prince And 3RDEYEGIRL Rocked The House On Arsenio

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Neutronics Bring Fresh New Sound To UK Music Scene

London-based band the Neutronics have been wowing audiences across the UK with their exciting, high-energy live shows and infectious brand of indie soul and pop. The talented four-piece outfit has built a dedicated and enthusiastic international following over the last few years. I’ve been really getting into their music recently and have their song “She’s Gotta Be” on repeat. The track is a delicious slice of soul/pop with an irresistible animated groove.

Lead singer and guitarist Delroy Blake (aka Supa Soul Brotha Del) ably handles the lead vocals and brings tons of soul and energy to his performance. And the instrumentation on the track is super-tight, displaying the band’s strong musical chops. And the female background singers provide great vocal support with their sweet, soulful harmonies. The song is accompanied by a fun and quirky video.

“She’s Gotta Be” was the lead-off track from the Neutronics’ self-titled debut album, which was released in 2012. “Psychofunkadelia” is another dope track from the album, and I’ve been playing this cut quite a bit as well.  The Neutronics is a funk/rock/soul concept album that is loosely based around the story of an intergalactic superhero who travels to Earth on the dual mission of seeking love and rescuing the planet from a barrage of horrible music. Sounds a bit like a P-Funk concept—very cool. The groovalistic eight-song collection was well-received by both music critics and fans. It’s filled with strong tracks and made for a very impressive album debut for the band.

The Neutronics were formed in 2008 in East London. The members are guitarist/lead vocalist Delroy Blake (aka Supa Soul Brotha Del); Milt “The Professor” Mavrakakis (keyboards); George “The General” Malamas (bass); and Talbert “Mega-Tal” Wilson (drums).  The band has a pretty eclectic selection of influences, which include Jimi Hendrix, Parliament/Funkadelic, Led Zeppelin, Sly & the Family Stone, Arctic Monkeys, Prince, the Foo Fighters, N.E.R.D., Franz Ferdinand, James Brown, Rage Against the Machine, Motown and Bob Marley. The Neutronics pull all these diverse influences together to form their unique and dynamic sound.

The Neutronics have been steady gigging over the past few years and have made a name for themselves as a stellar live act. They’ve played festivals, tours, residencies, etc.  And they’ve served as a backing band for several prominent UK and American artists, including Dwele, Don-E, Omar, Marsha Ambrosius and Clement Marfo.  Last year, the band headed back into the studio to work on their EP Kryptonite. The EP’s title track is set to be released soon, according to the band’s Twitter page. To learn more about the band, visit their website.

Video for Neutronics song "She's Gotta Be"

The Neutronics Performing Their Song "Dance With Me" Live

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Larry Graham & Graham Central Station Deliver Funky Sermon On “Water”

Larry Graham and Graham Central Station brought massive doses of funk to this wicked groove back in 1975. The track is anchored by Graham’s ferocious thump-and-pluck bass line. It’s one of the bass master’s funkiest riffs. The super-funky groove also boasts tight brass jabs, soulful gospel organ, a monster backbeat and powerful vocals.

Graham had become a devout Jehovah’s Witness the year this track was recorded, and his strong religious beliefs were reflected in the song’s lyrics. The song is about repentance and the cleansing of one’s sins in preparation for judgment day: “Let him find you spotless in each and every way, hey/ Time is gettin’ nearer to Armageddon day.” And the song’s secondary theme is about how people don’t appreciate what they have until they’ve lost it: “You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry.”

Some listeners were a bit turned off by Graham’s heavy sermonizing in some of his songs after his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, but no one could deny the music legend’s tremendous talent and the sheer power of his bass-driven funk.

“Water” was written and produced by Graham and is from Graham Central Station’s third studio album Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt It (1975). This collection was one of the band’s most successful LPs. It contained their bumpin’ funk classic “The Jam” and the #1 R&B smash “Your Love,” among several other stellar cuts. The album peaked at #4 on Billboard’s R&B album chart and climbed to #22 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart.

The lineup for Graham Central Station at the time they released Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt was the following: Larry Graham (bass, synthesizer, drums, organ, clavinet, timpani, lead and backing vocals); Patryce “Choc'let” Banks (lead and backing vocals, drum machine [electric funk box]); Robert “Butch” Sam (organ, piano, vocals); David “Dynamite” Vega (guitar, vocals); Manuel “The Deacon” Kellough (drums); and Hershall “Happiness” Kennedy (clavinet, synthesizer, trumpet, vocals).  Tower of Power’s legendary horn section also played on the album.

"Water" at Amazon

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Set It Out" By The Detroit Emeralds

“Set It Out” is a forgotten gem by R&B/soul group the Detroit Emeralds. This irresistible track  transports you back to the 1970s, a truly glorious period for R&B and soul music. During this era, there was an abundance of great R&B vocal groups, including the Dramatics, the Whispers, the Temptations, the Four Tops and the Stylistics to name a few. The Detroit Emeralds weren’t as popular as the aforementioned groups, but they were a very talented outfit who released some splendid tracks during their time.

 “Set It Out,” (released in 1977) is an infectious slice of smooth soul, boasting catchy horn parts, kickin’ congas, tight bass work, rockin’ piano and sweet vocals. The song was co-written by Abrim Tilmon, Belda Baine and Louis Crane. It’s from the group’s 1977 album Feel The Need.

The Detroit Emeralds (originally known as the Emeralds) were formed in the early 1960s in Little Rock, Arkansas by the four Tilmon brothers: Ivory, Abrim, Cleophus and Raymond. Cleophus and Raymond later left the band and were replaced by vocalist James Mitchell. Abrim, Ivory and Mitchell moved to Detroit and changed the group's name to the Detroit Emeralds. The vocal trio quickly scored a modest hit in 1968 with the song “Show Time,” which was released on Ric-Tic Records. The song peaked at #22 on the R&B singles charts and climbed to #89 on the pop charts.

 In 1970, the group signed to Detroit-based label Westbound Records. The move to Westbound proved very beneficial for the trio. From 1971 through '73, the group had a string of R&B hits (with four top tens) under the label, including “You’re Gettin’ a Little Too Smart,” “Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms),” “Do Me Right” "You Want It, You Got It” and "Wear This Ring (With Love).” Abrim, who also played guitar, wrote all the hits during this period, and Chapter 8 was the group’s backing band.

Despite this successful run, the group began to fall apart in '74. Things were such a mess that for a time, there were two versions of the group touring. Ivory and Mitchell finally exited the group, making way for new members Johnny Allen, Paul Riser and Maurice King. Abrim was the only remaining original member of the the group. And Mitchell went on to co-found the vocal group the Floaters in 1976. The Floaters scored a major hit with the single “Float On” in '77.

The Detroit Emeralds are most remembered for their transatlantic hit “Feel The Need In Me” (released in 1972), which was penned by Abrim Tilmon. The song performed particularly well across the pond, reaching #4 on the UK Singles Chart. It peaked and #22 on the U.S. R&B charts and #110 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group rerecorded the song in 1977 under the title “Feel The Need.” This version also performed well overseas, peaking at #12 on the UK Singles Chart. The song was covered by Graham Central Station in 1974, and Bryan Ferry recorded a cover of the song in ’78, which wasn’t released until ’85. And American singer Forrest covered the song in ’83.

Contemporary artists have kept the group’s music alive through samples. For instance, their song “You’re Gettin’ a Little Too Smart” has been sampled by well-known artists such as Nas, Monica, Common, Raekwon and Limp Bizkit. Other tracks by the group have also been sampled by popular artists.

"Set It Out" at Amazon

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Cappella Dynamo Inhyeok Yeo Takes On Stevie Wonder’s Classic “I Wish”

Korean-born vocalist Inhyeok Yeo is a veritable one-man band. He can emulate almost any instrument with just his voice.  The gifted young musician has been blowing people away with his impressive a cappella renderings of well-known classics on his Youtube channel. One of them is an amazing multitrack cover of Stevie Wonder’s smash hit “I Wish.” Yeo sets the groove in motion by vocalizing the track’s famous walking bass line. He drops the bottom right in the pocket as if were actually playing a real bass.  Following the bass intro, he skillfully takes on each instrument with his voice, dazzling the listener with his vocal virtuosity, style and flair. And his delivery is flawless on both the lead vocals and background harmonies. It’s a superb and thoroughly unique rendition of the song and makes you  really appreciate what a great piece of music it really is.  And I also dig his little ad-libs: “Knee bone connected to the thighbone.”

Yeo was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1987 and grew up in Japan.  He started singing when he was in junior high school and joined the renowned a cappella Circle of Kyoto "CrazyClef" while in college in Japan. Following graduation, Yeo joined the military for two years, which is a requirement in Korea for all young males. After completing his military service, he began studying composition, jazz piano, country guitar as well as developing his voice and performance skills. He soon began making demo tapes. That’s when he began a cappella overdubbing.

In 2013, Yeo was hired by an IT company in Japan.  On the weekends, he focuses on his music. Some of Yeo’s other a capella covers include Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” George Benson’s “This Masquerade," Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”  and “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys. Like many smart, enterprising young musicians these days, Yeo recognized the power of the Internet and its potential to help him reach a big audience; he effectively utilized Youtube and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter in launching his music career. Yeo’s Youtube videos caught on like gangbusters, with each receiving thousands of views.

In late August, Yeo released his debut album ONE MAN ACAPELLA. The 13-track collection contains a cappella covers of classic R&B and pop songs, including “I Wish.” Yeo has been busy doing radio interviews and other speaking engagements in support of the album.

Yeo's cover of "I Wish" at Amazon

Friday, September 5, 2014

Prince And 3RDEYEGIRL Rocked The House On Arsenio

Rocking a wicked ‘fro, bell bottoms and a huge gold chain, Prince and his new band, 3RDEYEGIRL, set the stage on fire with a mesmerizing performance of his rock/soul classic “She’s Always In My Hair” on The Arsenio Hall Show earlier this year. His Royal Badness more than lived up to his sobriquet. And his three-member all-female band showed that they weren’t some gimmick or window dressing.  These ladies can jam! They effortlessly held the groove down, and axe-maiden Donna Grantis and Prince both delivered electrifying guitar solos during the performance. I’m not 100-percent positive, but Prince may very well be the first major male artist to have an all-female backing band.  The members of 3RDEYEGIRL are Donna Grantis (guitar), Hannah Ford (drums) and Ida Nielsen (bass). Prince and the trio also premiered his new track, "FUNKNROLL," during his visit on Arsenio; and he performed "Mutiny" with the New Power Generation.

Being the convention-flouting iconoclast that he is, Prince never had any qualms of about recruiting talented female musicians for his bands, and I’m not talking backup singers—but prominent players front and center.  This practice goes all the way back to his first backing band, the Revolution (1979-1986). By ’83, the Revolution had two female members: guitarist/vocalist Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (keyboards, vocals).  Both had pivotal roles in the band and occasionally made songwriting contributions.  Prince took it to the next level when he assembled powerhouse trio 3RDEYEGIRL as his new backing band last year.

“She’s Always In My Hair,” was the B-side of Prince’s top-ten single “Raspberry Beret,” released in 1985. The song is about his protégé singer/songwriter Jill Jones, with whom he was romantically involved in the early ‘80s.  She also sang backup on several tracks on his groundbreaking double LP 1999. "She's Always In My Hair" was also included on his comprehensive greatest hits compilation The Hits/The B-Sides (1993). And critically acclaimed R&B star D’Angelo recorded a superb cover of the song in 2008.

Prince has been keeping very busy of late. He has been gigging across the globe with 3RDEYEGIRL and has two new albums coming out later this month. His album with 3RDEYEGIRL, PLECTRUMELECTRUM, is set to drop on September 30, and his solo album, Art Official Age, will be released on the same day. There will be a slew of special events, live concerts and other activities going on in celebration of these two new releases. Also, these two albums will mark Prince's first releases under his new partnership with Warner Bros. Prince departed from the label acrimoniously in 1996. In April of this year, he and Warner Bros. patched things up with a sweet new deal.

Under his new partnership with Warner Bros., he regained ownership of the master recordings made during his previous contract with the label, including classic albums such as 1999, Dirty Mind and Sign ‘O’ the Times. Also, Warner Bros. will release previously unheard material by Prince, as well as a digitally remastered deluxe 30th anniversary edition of his landmark album Purple Rain. So there are a lot of cool things going on in the Purple One’s world right now.

She's Always In My Hair at Amazon

Related blog entry: Prince Has Big Launch Party Planned For His Two New Albums