Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Janelle Monáe Releases Prince-Inspired New Track “Make Me Feel”

R&B star Janelle Monáe gives a nod to her late mentor Prince on her new track “Make Me Feel,” a wickedly funky bisexual anthem. It’s fitting that there’s so much Prince flavor on this song, as he was all about sexual freedom and gender fluidity—long before it was widely accepted. It’s sort of a 21st century update on the Purple One’s funky classic “Kiss.” It has the same minimalist funk sound, replete with tight chicken-scratch guitar licks, hot synth jabs, a rubbery electro beat and an irresistible chorus.

“Make Me Feel” is a single from Monáe’s forthcoming album, Dirty Computer, which is set for release on April 27. In a recent interview on BBC Radio 1, she said that Prince was working on the album with her “before he passed on to another frequency, and helped me come up with sounds.” The album marks a welcome return to music-making for the six-time Grammy Award nominee, who has been busy with her budding acting career, appearing in the widely acclaimed films Hidden Figures and Moonlight. She released her last album, The Electric Lady, in 2013. So anticipation is very high for the new album.

“Make Me Feel” is accompanied by a provocative music video that was directed by Alan Ferguson and features actress Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok). It takes place in a hip nightclub where Monáe flirts with both Thompson and a good-looking male patron, which culminates in a bisexual triangle/dance-off. The video is fun and very sexy but stops short of being raunchy. It’s also peppered with lots of cool Prince references; and Monáe pulls off some smooth dance moves.

On the same day that Monáe dropped “Make Me Feel,” she released the hard-hitting rap track “Django Jane,” which is also a single from Dirty Computer. These two strong tracks bode well for the new album, indicating that Monáe could have another classic on her hands.

Related blog entry: Janelle Monáe Tore The Roof Off The Grammys With Explosive Funk-Filled Performance

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Album Review of The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown’s Volume 2

The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown are back and funkier than ever. The behemoth funk collective dropped their much-anticipated second album, Volume 2, last month. It’s a stellar follow-up to the Getdown’s critically acclaimed debut album, Volume 1 (2012). The collection is filled with powerhouse grooves, impeccable musicianship and tons of funk. And like its predecessor, Volume 2 boasts an amazing lineup of top musical talent, including Fred Wesley (James Brown, Horny Horns), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Taylor Dayne, Norwood Fisher (Fishbone, Trulio Disgracias), Larry Dunn (Earth, Wind & Fire), Karl Denson (the Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz) and members from the following bands: Parliament-Funkadelic, Graham Central Station, Kool & the Gang, the Funky Meters, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, The Time, Dumpstaphunk, Mandrill and Bootsy’s Rubber Band, among many others. In all, more than 50 musicians from 18 bands contributed their talents to this album.

Volume 2 kicks off with the exuberant funk track “Rock It,” which features Speech from famed hip-hop group Arrested Development on vocals. This song has a lively, upbeat flow with tight horns, infectious guitar licks and a funkalicous trombone solo from horn legend Fred Wesley. And Larry Dunn brings some of his keyboard wizardry to the mix with some fantastic synth work.  Also, Speech’s energetic vocals help enhance the track’s fun, party vibe.“Rock It” is followed by the marvelous “Love Somebody.” Acclaimed singer-songwriter Laura Reed elevates the song with her exquisite vocals.

RonKat Spearman (Katdelic, P-Funk All Stars) delivers a dynamic vocal performance on the sizzling, high-powered funk jam “Groovy Nasty.” Jamar Woods (The Fritz) serves up a blistering organ solo while Ryan Martinie (Mudvayne) lays down some wicked bass. Additionally, the funk is augmented by blazing horn volleys from sax man Greg Hollowell (Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band); trumpeter Michael Ray (Kool & the Gang, Sun Ra Arkestra); and trombone players Clifford Adams (Kool & the Gang) and Derrick Johnson (Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band).

One of the album’s biggest highlights is the stunning “Mantra.” This jazz-laced soul gem features Grammy-winning songstress Kendra Foster (P-Funk, D’Angelo’s The Vanguard) and Speech on vocals. Foster serves up a mesmerizing vocal performance, and Speech is at the top of his game here, delivering his rap verses in a powerful, captivating fashion. Bassist extraordinaire Norwood Fisher holds down the bottom with his usual funky finesse. And the horn lines on this track are pure fire.

Laura Reed returns with more vocal magic on the lovely ballad “Word.” The track boasts some sterling flute work by Karl Denson.  It’s followed by the superb “Dream,” which features renowned singer Taylor Dayne, whose vocal skills are as impressive as ever.

The Getdown turn up the funk again on the hard-hitting fusion groove “Past, Present, Future.” The epic jam features some dazzling fretboard work from legendary guitarist Leo Nocentelli (co-founder of the Meters). Also, Mike Dillon (Mike Dillon Band, Primus) kills it on the vibes.

Fishbone’s frontman Angelo Moore and guitar virtuoso Vernon Reid are featured on the deep funk groove “Creatures of Habit.” Moore turns in a spirited vocal performance, and Reid tears it up with a scorching solo.

Rev. Desmond D'Angelo (The Soular System) provides the soulful lead vocals on the irresistible “B4u Loved Me.”

The Getdown brought it again on Volume 2, which is a superb collection soul, funk and R&B tracks. Those who enjoyed the Getdown’s first album definitely won’t be disappointed with this offering.

The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown is an ambitious project that bassist/producer John Heintz (Trulio Disgracias) conceived in 2007. The Getdown was created to celebrate funk music and its massive impact on contemporary music and culture. With the help of Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band members Derrick Johnson and John-Paul Miller, Heintz assembled a group of some the baddest players on the planet in New Orleans for the Getdown’s first jam session in December 2007.

The epic session set the project in motion in a big way. The Getdown continued to expand, recruiting more talented musicians along the way. The funk supergroup released their debut album, Volume 1, in 2012, which received high praise across the funk, soul and R&B communities.

To learn more about the Getdown, visit their website or Facebook page.

"Rock It"


Related blog entry: The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown Pays Tribute To Funk Music

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Former Temptations Frontman, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dennis Edwards Dies At 74

Dennis Edwards, former lead singer for legendary Motown group the Temptations, died on Thursday, Feb. 1, at a Chicago-area hospital of complications from meningitis. He was 74.

Edwards was one of the foremost R&B vocalists of the late 1960s and ‘70s. As the lead singer for the Temptations, he lit up many classic tracks with his gritty, gospel-infused vocals. The singer joined the Temptations in 1968 as David Ruffin’s replacement. This was right when the group was entering its psychedelic-soul era, which was guided by visionary producer Norman Whitfield.

Edwards had has his work cut out for him, but he immediately proved that he was more than up for the task. His powerful, gutbucket vocal style turned out to be a perfect fit for the Temps’ new sonic direction, which was edgier and funkier than their previous work.  He brought his vocal magic to classic tracks such as “Cloud Nine,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today),” “Shakey Ground” and “Runaway Child, Running Wild.” Edwards’ vocals were filled with passion, conviction and a sense of urgency, which helped drive home the power and significance of the songs’ social and political themes. Edwards was a member of the Temptations from 1968 to 1977. He would briefly rejoin the group at various times throughout the ‘80s.

The singer also enjoyed success in his solo endeavors. His song “Don’t Look Any Further,” a duet with singer/songwriter Siedah Garrett, spent two weeks at #2 on the U.S. R&B singles chart in 1984. Edwards’ album of the same title also performed well on the charts, peaking at #2 on the U.S. R&B album chart. The song has been embraced by the hip-hop community and can be found, via sample, on a slew of rap tracks. 

 Edwards won three Grammy awards as a member of the Temptations. The first one was for “Cloud Nine.” The hit single earned the group a Grammy for “Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental” in 1969. It was the first Grammy win for the group, as well as the first Grammy win for the Motown label. In 1972, the Temps landed two Grammys for their classic “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”:  “Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus” and “Best R&B Instrumental Performance.”

Edwards was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 as a member of the Temptations; and he was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame as a Temptation in 2013.

Edwards will be remembered as the vocal powerhouse who led the Temptations through their most socially conscious and experimental period. He gave those tracks the rawness and immediacy they needed. The singer brought an abundance of soul and funk to the Temptations’ recordings, and his legacy will forever live on through those classic tracks.

The Temptations performing"Shakey Ground" on The Midnight Special in 1975

"Runway Child, Running Wild"

"Don't Look Any Further" -- Dennis Edwards, featuring Siedah Garrett