Sunday, March 29, 2015

Funk-Rock Guitarist Malina Moye Blazes Her Own Unique Path

Malina Moye is one of the most dynamic rising artists on the music scene today. The talented guitar slinger has been blowing people away with her considerable fretboard prowess and prodigious skills as a live performer. Moye’s sound is a potent fusion of funk and rock. And in addition to her impressive guitar kills, the Cleveland, Ohio native is also an accomplished singer and songwriter.

In October of last year, Moye dropped her latest EP Rock & Roll Baby, which is a marvelous six-song collection of funk, rock and soul tracks. Its first single, “K-yotic,” features legendary funk master Bootsy Collins. The song is an irresistible slice of funk-rock, with Bootsy bringing his signature goofy charm to the mix. The song debuted at #5 on the Billboard Twitter 140 chart and at #11 on Billboard’s Hot Singles sales chart. And the album landed on Billboard’s Heat Seekers.

And in February, Moye released the EP’s second single, “Are You The One,” which is a superb R&B/rock ballad. Another great track is the ferocious funk-rocker “Run Free” in which she lets loose with some dazzling fretboard fireworks. Additionally, Rock & Roll Baby boasts a terrific cover of Jimi Hendrix’s song “Foxey Lady.” Moye delivers a blistering guitar performance on this rock classic.

And the musician recruited some top-notch talent for her record. Bass maven Rhonda Smith played on “K-yotic,” and studio ace Alex Al laid down the bottom for the hard-rockin’ cut “A Little Rough.” And famed P-Funk and James Brown drummer Frankie “Kash” Waddy played on “K-yotic.” He also appeared in the song’s video along with fellow P-Funk alum Bootsy.

Moye’s star has been steadily on the rise over the last several years. She has been getting love from tons of music fans across the globe, and a number of noted music publications have been showering her with praise. Guitar World Magazine lauded her as one of the “10 Female Guitarists You Should Know” and described Rock & Roll Baby as “insanely good.” And Billboard Magazine called Moye’s collaboration with Boosty “explosive” and wrote the following about her: “If Moye has her own way, she’ll usher in a revival of funk, rock, and R&B into mainstream music.” In January, Moye graced the cover of Gitar Plus magazine, which hailed her as the “Queen of Funk Rock.”

And addition to recording, Moye has been killing it on stage. She’s a charismatic live performer who knows how to captivate an audience. Her live performances are also marked by her unconventional playing style; she plays left-handed and strums upside down. The guitarist has a special custom-made Fender Stratocaster to fit her unique style of playing.

One of Moye’s notable concert outings was her participation in the Experience Hendrix Tour in 2012 and again in 2014, which paid tribute to the late guitar genius. As a performer on these tours, she had the opportunity to play alongside acclaimed axmen such as Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Gales, Zakk Wylde and Robert Randolph. And Moye was the only female guitarist invited to perform at the 2012 tour.

She also performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute concert for Chuck Berry that same year. And she had the privilege of performing “God Save the Queen” on guitar at the world-famous Goodwood Festival of Speed in honor of the Queen of England’s 60-year jubilee.

And in 2010, Moye performed a soul-stirring rendition of the National Anthem on guitar at the sold-out Vikings/Cowboys game in front of 65,000 people. She was the first African-American woman to play the National Anthem on electric guitar at a professional sporting event. And last year, she performed her track “A Little Rough” on The Arsenio Hall Show. Moreover, Moye has toured with several big-name artists, including Robin Thicke, Boyz II Men, Journey and Lyfe Jennings.

And in addition to being a great musician and performer, Moye is a successful entrepreneur. She founded her own record label in 2004 called WCE Records and released her critically acclaimed debut album, Diamonds & Guitars (2009), on the label. And she is the first African-American left-handed female guitar player to join Fender Guitars’ esteemed roster of endorsees, which includes Eric Clapton and John Mayer.

 In 2013, Moye and her record label, WCE Records, signed a global distribution and marketing partnership deal with Brody Distribution Group, distributed by Red (A Division Of Sony Corporation). Her latest EP, Rock & Roll Baby, was released under this new partnership.

 Moye is carving out her own niche in the music game with a winning combo of talent, style, drive and business acumen. The multitalented musician/entrepreneur is an exciting new voice on the scene and has no doubt inspired legions of girls and young women to consider a career in music—particularly as badass guitar slingers.

To learn more about Moye and to get tour dates and music release info, visit her website.

Video for "K-yotic"

Moye playing the National Anthem

Performing Original Song "Hustler's Blues" live

Rock & Roll Baby at Amazon

Monday, March 23, 2015

"You And I" By Rick James

“You And I” by Rick James is the ultimate party jam. The track is crackling with energy, attitude and FUNK. And 37 years after its original release, it still gets me hyped and in a party mood whenever I hear it. It’s a stone-cold club banger. The dynamic, high-octane groove kicks you right in the sacroiliac. And the horns are on fire. This track makes me miss the days when many popular music acts had real horn players in their bands.

The explosive groove also boasts an irresistible, booty-shakin’ bass line, funky clavinet and wicked guitar licks; and axman Freddy Rapillo serves up a smooth, jazzy guitar solo. James brings his patented brash charm to his soulful vocal performance. Also, the female background singers help sweeten the groove. This is one of those tracks that sounds best turned all the way up—be it in your ride, the club or in your living room.

“You And I” was written and arranged by James. It was the first single from his double-platinum debut album Come Get It! (1978). The song spent two weeks atop the U.S. R&B singles chart and peaked at #13 on the pop charts; and it climbed to #3 on the U.S. dance chart. The album’s second single “Mary Jane,” also performed well on the charts, reaching #3 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and #41 on the pop singles chart. The collection, which was released on Motown sub-label Gordy Records, made it to #3 on the U.S. R&B albums chart and #13 on the pop albums chart.

James wrote and composed all the songs on Come Get It!, except for "Mary Jane," which he co-wrote with keyboardist Billy Nunn. James co-produced the album with Motown producer and engineer Art Stewart. The Stone City Band lineup for Come Get It! was Billy Nunn (keyboards, background vocals), Freddy Rapillo (guitar), Andy Rapillo (bass), Bobby Nunn (keyboards, background vocals), Richard Shaw (bass, background vocals), Lorenzo Shaw (drums), Mike Caputy (drums), Sascha Rose (background vocals); and the horns were provided by Michael and Randy Brecker, sax and trumpet, respectively.

The album successfully launched James’ solo career, and it firmly put him on the map in the popular music scene. He went on to drop several more great funk and R&B hits, including the crossover smash “Super Freak.” Outside of the studio, James distinguished himself onstage as a charismatic and exciting live performer; and he eventually became one of the biggest names in the funk game. The late musician/performer was probably known just as much for his bad-boy persona as his music.

You And I at Amazon

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Prince Covers Christian Song “What If” and Kicks Off U.S. Leg Of Hit & Run Tour

Prince and his new band, 3RDEYEGIRL, recently released a cover of the Christian song “What If.” The song was originally written and performed by Christian singer-songwriter Nichole Nordeman and was a single from her album Brave (2005). The Purple One and his talented all-female trio put their own musical spin on the song. Their rendition has a more dynamic, hard-edged rock flavor to it—with louder guitars—than the original. The cover is also more electronic-heavy. However, they kept all the lyrics from the original intact. Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL drummer Hannah Welton share lead vocals on the song. Nordeman has said that the song is about the “transforming love of Jesus.”

Prince premiered the song on a local radio station in Louisville, Kentucky, where he and 3RDEYEGIRL launched the U.S. leg of their Hit & Run tour on March 14 at the Louisville Palace. It was the first of four concerts at the venue. (More dates for the tour will be announced in the coming days.) And kicking off the tour in Louisville had a special meaning for Welton, who's a Louisville native. The other two members of 3RDEYEGIRL are Ida Nielsen (bass) and Donna Grantis (guitar).

It’s not really surprising that Prince has covered a Christian song. There has always been a religious element to his music, even during his wild-and-risqué gender-bending Purple Rain period. His melding of sex and spirituality in his music is one of the things that has made him such an intriguing and provocative artist.

Prince’s spirituality has become more pronounced since he converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith in 2001. He’s a devout follower of the faith and has even done some door-to-door proselytizing in its name. That must have been a trip for those unsuspecting folks whose houses His Royal Badness visited.

Nordeman is a well-known American contemporary Christian music artist. She has won several Gospel Music Association Dove awards. She is currently on tour and has some dates lined up for April of this year.

Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL's cover of the "What If"

Nichole Nordeman's original version of "What If"

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review of the Ohio Players' Album Fire

The Ohio Players enjoyed an extremely productive five-year run from 1972 to 1977. During that fruitful period, the Dayton-bred R&B/funk band dropped an insane amount of great music—including several tracks that went on to become funk and R&B classics. One of those funk classics was the incendiary title track from the band’s million-selling, chart-topping album Fire (1974). The monster funk/dance smash packed dance floors across the U.S. back in the day and lit up the airwaves.

“Fire” has a unique and interesting rhythm arrangement that is simultaneously explosive and hypnotic. It also has some tight horn work, a roof-raising percussion-driven breakdown and a powerful chorus. And frontman/guitarist Sugarfoot brings some rock flavor to the mix with a scorching guitar solo. Also, the fire truck siren at the song’s intro is a nice touch. The track, which was written by all the band members, topped both the pop and R&B singles charts in the United States and went on to sell a million copies.

“Smoke” is another terrific funk track from the Fire album. This percolating, bumpin’ cut takes a friendly jab at heavy smokers and touches on how the habit can do serious damage to your health. The song boasts a ridiculously funky horn arrangement. And in the spirit of Ohio Player hits like “Funky Worm,” “Jive Turkey” and “Fopp,” the track contains the band’s signature goofy humor.

The album also contains the luminous ballad “I Want to Be Free” where Sugarfoot delivers a sterling lead vocal performance. And the silky falsetto background vocals lift the track up to the heavens. Additionally, James “Diamond” Williams kills it on the drums with some fantastic fills. The Ohio Players reached a brand-new audience with this classic slow jam when it was featured in a scene from Paul Thomas Anderson’s critically acclaimed 1997 film Boogie Nights. The song performed well on the charts, peaking at #6 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and #44 on the U.S. pop singles chart. This is definitely one of the band’s best ballads—a true gem.

“Runnin’ From the Devil” is a kinetic, high-energy funk track about battling your demons, sins and temptations. The song has a great horn/percussion breakdown at the end of the song that kind of sounds like a circus clown car driving away.

 “What The Hell” is a blaring, chaotic rock track about the turbulent state of the world. The song features some blistering guitar work from Sugarfoot, and the jazzy bridge provides a nice contrast to the rampaging main groove. This is a terrific cut, and it’s very effective in musically conveying pure pandemonium.

And in addition to “I Want to Be Free,” the other mellow jams on the album are “Together,” and “It’s All Over.” “Together” is a sweet love song that boasts some splendid keyboard work from Billy Beck. His soaring synth lines nicely complement the feathery falsetto vocals, and his work on the piano is also top-flight. And the lovely ballad “It’s All Over” has a cool 1950s vibe to it.

Fire is a marvelous collection of funk and soul tracks that not only showcased the band’s considerable chops as musicians but also their impressive songwriting and production skills. (The band wrote and produced all the tracks on the album.) And the album’s two hits, “Fire” and “I Want To Be Free,” encapsulate the band’s dual strengths: the ability to craft gorgeous ballads and irresistible, super-funky grooves. The album also has an interesting low-key concept that touches on hellfire and Satan.

Fire captures the Ohio Players at the top of their game and is one of the band’s most successful albums, critically and commercially. The album reached the summit of both the pop and R&B album charts in the U.S., remaining atop the R&B chart for five weeks. It also went platinum (a million copies sold).

The lineup for the band at the time of the album’s release was the following: Leroy “Sugarfoot Bonner (guitar, lead & background vocals); William “Billy” Beck (piano, organ, Fender Rhodes piano, synthesizer, clavinet, percussion, lead and background vocals); Marshall Jones (bass); James “Diamond” Williams (drums, congas, flugelhorn, timbales, percussion [Gong], percussion [Miscellaneous], lead & background vocals); Clarence “Satch” Satchell (percussion, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone, lead & background vocals); Ralph “Pee Wee” Middlebrooks (trumpet, trombone & background vocals); and Marvin “Merve” Pierce (flugelhorn, trombone, trumpet).

The Album Fire at Amazon

Related blog entry: "Contradiction" by the Ohio Players

Monday, March 9, 2015

"Snip Snap" by Goblin

Italian progressive rock band Goblin released this superb fusion-funk instrumental back in 1976. The track has incredible syncopation and boasts a killer bass line. Other cool things about this cut include its terrific synth work, wicked guitar, funky clavinet and ace drumming. The song was co-written by all of the Goblin members and was featured on their 1976 album Roller. This track immediately grabs your attention with its singular sound and edgy funk flavor. And it showcases the band's strong musical chops.

Goblin was formed in 1972, and the original members were Claudio Simonetti (keyboardist and bandleader); Walter Martino (drums); Massimo Morante (guitar and occasional vocals); and Fabio Pignatelli (bass). The four musicians were previously members of Italian prog rock bands. Simonetti and Martino played with Ritratto Di Dorian Gray; Pignatelli laid down the bottom for Rivelazioni; and Morante was a member of the band Era di Acquario.

The band started out with the name Oliver but were soon calling themselves the Cherry Five at the behest of their record label Cinevox Records; English vocalist Clive Haynes was briefly the lead singer for the band and was replaced by Italian singer Tony Tartarini. The band’s sound mimicked popular British progressive rock bands of the day, such as Yes, King Crimson and Genesis.
In 1975, the Cherry Five released their self-titled debut album on Cinevox.

The album didn’t make much noise, but it did catch the attention of Italian film director Dario Agento. He recruited the band to finish the soundtrack for his 1975 horror film Profondo Rosso (aka Deep Red). Italian jazz pianist and composer Gassini was originally hired to do the soundtrack but Argento became dissatisfied with Gassini's work, feeling that his jazzy score didn’t capture the right mood for the horror film.

The Cherry Five brought a harder, rock-edged feel to the score. And in keeping with the horror-film theme, the band renamed itself Goblin. The band composed and performed all the songs for the soundtrack save for three tracks that were left over from Gassini's score. The film became a big hit, and the band’s soundtrack topped the Italian album charts, selling more than a million copies.

Goblin’s stellar soundtrack played a significant part in the film’s success. Profondo Rosso is now considered a horror film classic. The band embarked on a tour in support of the highly successful Profondo Rosso soundtrack. However, Martino and Tartarini departed from band right before the launch of the tour. Martini left to start his own band Libra and was replaced by drummer Agostino Marangolo, who had previously played with the bands Flea and Etna.

Argento was so impressed with Goblin’s work on the Profondo Rosso soundtrack that he brought in the band to score several of his other horror films, including Suspiria (1977), which is lauded as Goblin’s most critically acclaimed work. And as in Dario and Goblin’s previous collaboration, both the film and soundtrack performed extremely well commercially.

Goblin’s oeuvre mainly consists of horror film soundtracks, which was their forte and what they're best known for. Roller (1976) is one of the Goblin’s few non-soundtrack albums. During the recording of Roller, the band added another member, keyboardist Maurizio Guarini.

Worldwide, the band is probably most recognized for their soundtrack for George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), which was the sequel to the horror-meister’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. The film was co-produced by Romero and Argento. Both the film and the soundtrack enjoyed great commercial success internationally. The soundtrack has two different versions, one is the complete Italian version that Argento used; and the other is the American/Romero version, which cut out much of Goblin’s rock-tinged score and replaced it with stock orchestral music.

Goblin recorded several albums—mostly horror film soundtracks—over the years and went through several personnel changes and incarnations. In the last two decades or so, the band’s musical output has been sporadic at best.

However, over the last few years, Goblin has enjoyed a rebirth of sorts. The band has been pretty active of late, touring off and on since 2009. According to Goblin’s website, the current lineup of the band is the following: Massimo Morante (guitar), Fabio Pignatelli (bass), Maurizio Guarini (keyboards), Agostino Marangolo (drums) and Aidan Zammit (keyboards).

In October of last year, Goblin announced plans to release an album of new material, entitled Four of a Kind. The band launched a crowd-funding campaign via the website  to assist in the album’s completion.

For more info about Goblin and tour dates, check out their website.

Snip Snap at Amazon