Album Review - Various Artists - "Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of EWF"
Question (CEO/Soul-Patrol.com): "hey man, I really dig your sound, why don't you include a few covers of some songs from the past that inspire you creatively, you might be able to get a few more people to check you out...?"
Answer (Most Every Nu Soul Artist the Question has been Posed to): "man I got to do my own thang..."
This is an outstanding album. It's one of the best "neo soul" albums ever released IMHO. Take a look at the track listings:
1. Shining Star - Chaka Kahn
2. Be Ever Wonderful - Angie Stone
3. September - Kirk Franklin
4. Devotion - Ledisi
5. Can't Hide Love - The Randy Watson Experience
6. Love's Holiday - Lalah Hathaway
7. That's The Way Of The World - Dwele
8. After The Love Is Gone - Mint Condition
9. Reasons - Musiq Soulchild
10. Fantasy - Meshell Ndegeocello
In fact, had this album (or something like it) been released 5 years ago (in the wake of the commercial success of Erykah Badu) then in my opinion "Neo Soul" (both the term and the music) wouldn't be so frowned upon today.
Let's look at the ingredients
1. The catalog of EWF. It's a no brainier and much like the GREAT "Devoted Spirits" EWF tribute album of a few years ago, demonstrates that the body of work that EWF created during the 1970's is indeed "timeless" and much like "jazz", deserves to be reinterpreted over and over again.
2. Several well known stars (Chaka Kahn, Angie Stone, Kirk Franklin, Meshell Ndegeocello).
3. Several talented artists who should be among the "leaders" of the "neo soul movement", but aren't because there is no "neo soul movement" (Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, Dwele, Musiq Soulchild, Mint Condition).
4. All turn in GREAT "covers" of familiar EWF classics, different from the originals that stand on their own as examples of great artistic vision and integrity.
If this album had been released in say 2002 it could have been seen as a bellwether/benchmark for the future of Soul music that transcended demographics and opened up the door for more of the same. It could even have become the basis for a legitimate radio format that includes; the R&B fan who listens to "smooth jazz radio", the "classic soul" fan and the "nu soul" fans.
My prediction is that all three of these groups of listeners would fall in love with this album (much as I have), if they ever get a chance to hear it.
All of this and more could still happen. My hope is that today's crop of talented "nu soul artist" embrace this format and start including 2-3 songs like the ones here on their albums. I realize that they have to "do their own thing", but if they don't start being more "inclusive", they will never be able to expand their audiences and as a result won't be able to sustain their careers. I swear if I hear another "nu soul album of boring self indulgent mid tempo crap", that contains just two or three songs that are worth listening to, I am going to puke. If the "nu soul" artists were to incorporate this kind of format into what they are currently doing, it would significantly raise the quality of the albums they are creating. It would mean that most "nu soul albums" would have 6+ really good songs on them, thus making them worth purchasing.
Kudos all of the way around to all who were involved in the creation of the album: "Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of EWF". It truly bridges the gap between the past and the future!
Pick up on it at Amazon.com...
CD Review - Earth Wind & Fire: Illumination CD Review - Earth Wind & Fire: Illumination
(2005 Pop Music)
Earth, Wind and Fire is one of the most legendary performers in the history of Black music. The very first concert I ever attended was in 1972 at Hofstra University with Earth, Wind and Fire and Zuleema. And subsequent to that I have seen them many times in concert. Therefore they are one of my all time favorite artists (along with millions of other people). However their music has been a source of continuing disappointment for me since the 1980's. Yet I still continue to root for them, because I'm an "old fart" and I remember when they were truly a force to be rekoned with.
When I first heard about this album, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. This latest effort by EWF called "Illumination" has guest stars like Black Eyed Peas, Raphael Saadiq, Big Boi, Kelly Rowland and Sleepy Brown, Floetry, Brian McKnight, Kenny G, I was at a loss to understand what EWF was trying to accomplish.
I wondered if they were "selling out" (again??) or perhaps just trying to incorporate the sounds modern popular music into their classic sound? I also wondered how this project would sound when compared to the magnificent CD I reviewed early in 2005 called "Devoted Spirits" (EWF tribute w/former members of EWF). After listening to the CD, I am still confused. I'm tempted to say that this is "sell out 2", because it doesn't really sound like an EWF album, it's pretty much "devoid of funk" and the "guest stars" bring little to the table beyond name recognition My favorites from this album "Love's Dance" (with echoes of "Mighty Mighty"). I also liked the song "Pass You By" (Has a nice "Neo Soul" feel to it). "Too You" features Brian McKnight sounding an awful lot like Maurice White (sounds a little like "After The Love Has Gone"). The remake of "The Way You Move" featuring Kenny G. is awful. Everything else is mediocre.
At the end I find myself still confused. If this was an album by a brand new artist, I would say that they had a lot of potential for the future. But it isn't an album by a brand new artist. It's an album by one of Black Music's legends along with a cross section of the most popular musical artists of the decade. This may ultimately work out well for EWF as a marketing move, they have already gotten quite a bit of TV exposure and I hope that it makes them a lot of money and introduces them to a new generation of fans.
However strictly on a musical tip, for EWF this is an average CD, if you are a longtime fan, this CD will probably make you yawn if you focused on it intensely. If you had it on in the background, you would probably hardly even notice it was there. However in today's marketplace some people might think it's pretty good, and maybe that's good enough.
I'm confused...(maybe I'll just have to listen to it a few more times before I "get it"???)
CD Review: Devoted Spirits - "Tribute To Earth, Wind and Fire" Devoted Spirits - "Tribute To Earth, Wind and Fire"
(Mind Expanding Soul/Jazz/Funk/Rock/Gospel)
I have been a frustrated EWF fan for many years. I have always felt that they along with Kool and the Gang & the Commodores led the way for the commercialization of funk music back in the 1970's. In doing so all three groups literally broke my heart as each succeeding album brought their fierce and inspirational music closer and closer to being "elevator music". I am not alone in this feeling. Over the years many "children of the 1970's" have written in and expressed similar feelings of disgust about all three groups. In fact the criticism of Kool and the Gang & the Commodores has been absolutely scathing over the years. However I have always thought that EWF (for reasons) that are beyond me has mostly gotten a "free pass" on this whole issue. For me the "sellout" of EWF was always the most heart breaking of the three. That's because of the high minded jazz/soul/rock/afrocentric ideals that the band seemed to stand for when I first got hip to them in the early 1970's. I have NEVER forgiven them for abandoning those ideals in the mid 1970's.
Enter Mr. Sheldon Reynolds, EWF's lead guitarist during the 1990's, founding EWF member Larry Dunn and former EWF musical director Morris Pleasure. At first I am wondering just what in the heck is the purpose of having former members of a once great band doing a tribute album" of that bands old songs? When the CD starts, that question is quickly put to rest. This CD starts off with "Devotion" & an AWESOME version of "September/Mighty Mighty" and after listening I come to understand the purpose of this CD very quickly and why it's actually a very important release. To my ears it almost sounds like the three of them have decided to "go back and correct history". For example "Serpentine Fire", no longer sounds like a "pop/disco" song. It now has some firece funk/rock guitar playing in a "call and response" duel with the Kalimba. This album kept me smiling thru all 20 plus songs because it feels like someone decided to go back and redo EWF's music as if it all retained "the high mided jazz/soul/rock/afrocentric ideals" of the original band? If you (like me) are a person who silently sheds a tear every time you hear one of EWF's "Saturday Night Fever" type hit songs played on "oldies radio stations" or perhaps even at a "corporate function"....
....THEN YOU WILL LOVE THIS ALBUM....
In the liner notes it says..."This tribute is to the original sound of love that was earth, wind and fire"
I couldn't agree with that statement more!!!
In addition to Reynolds, Dunn & Pleasure this CD also features the following players Bobby Watson (Rufus), Ricky Lawson (Eric Clapton, Quincy Jones), John Paris (Earth Wind & Fire), Randy Ellis (Christina Aguilera), Francois Dean, Solomon Singers (Maurice James, Jo-Anna Solomon, Amee' Solomon, Danene Solomon-Sepulveda, & Grady Austin Shakiah), David Danner.
This CD is a perfect manifestation of a term we like to use here at Soul-Patrol called "BLACK AMERICAN STANDARD MUSIC". Devoted Spirtis has taken great songs from the songbook of Black History and given them the historical treatment that the songs deserve, but done so with a love and care that will insure that listeners will understand its true context.
For certain there will be some folks out there who won't like this concept or approach. Those people would probably best be served by searching the cutout bins, in the "oldies section" of their local "wreckastow".
Devoted Spirits - "Tribute To Earth, Wind and Fire" isn't designed for those type of EWF fans. It's designed with the connoisseur in mind who wants a deeper exploration into the historical legacy of Earth, Wind and Fire. The inside cover of the CD jewel box contains a picture of Sheldon Reynolds along with Maurice White, along with a thoughtfully worded dedication of the album to Maurice White.
(In my mind, that just about says it all....)
Count on seeing and hearing more about this GREAT ALBUM here on Soul-Patrol.
(Thanks Experience Hendrix!!!!)