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I wanted to take a few moments to just reflect on two artists that over the years have had a big impact on me and as a result on Soul-Patrol.com.
1. Prince – Believe it or not over the past 20 years, I suspect that I have probably written more about Prince than any other single human being (however I am willing to stand corrected if that is not the case….LOL.) The reason for this is from 1996 – 2003 I served as the “Chat Host” for something called “The O<+) Experience Chat Room,” and its corresponding “The O<+) Experience Message Board,” on the Prodigy Online Service. That meant that each week I was part of an online discussion about not just Prince as a musical artist, but I became a part of an underground community, that focused not only on his music, but also about his role as an activist and the role that the rest of us as a part of that community could play in the advancement of that cause. Some of you here might remember a project that we did here on Soul-Patrol called “Soul-Patrol Digital/Virtual Album Volume #1,” back in 2007?? Well that project has as its inspiration and genesis the activities that I was involved in as a result of the “EMANCIPATION” and “CRYSTAL BALL” album projects from Prince during the late 1990’s.
2. Billy Paul – As you all know Billy was one of the sponsors of the Soul-Patrol website. What you don’t know is that Billy took that role very seriously and very much to heart. By that I mean that he really took me to school on a personal level in terms of some of the kinds of things that I could do with the site and it’s potential for artist advocacy. Not only did Billy always come up with ideas for me, but more importantly he was always willing to “put skin in the game.” By that I mean that Billy was always willing to invest his own time into a project or an idea. That’s the reason why if you saw me someplace is NYC or Philly or NJ, you would often see Billy (and his wife Blanche) there with me. He turned anyplace that we went into a “Soul-Patrol Event,” thus causing others to want to become involved. We would hang out at spots like cubs in Harlem, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, R&B Foundation, Dell East, clubs in Philly, even in people’s apartments. In fact it got to the point where Billy Paul became so synonymous with both myself and with Soul-Patrol, that many people thought (and still thought) that Billy was either my “uncle” or my “cousin.” Neither of which was true, but it might as well have been. He was truly an ambassador for the music, the city of Philadelphia and most of all, simply one heck of a nice guy. I will always cherish our relationship.
Based on what I have written above, you might conclude that I have tons of material that I have written over the years about both of these two artists. And of course, you would be correct and I would like to share two pieces below from my “vault” about Billy Paul and “O<+)” (better known as Prince.) Let me know what you think...
Soon the Soul-Patrol newsletter will return with some pretty big announcements about some new projects as well as a few new sponsors.
Backtrackin - Sleep Around - Prince (Do It Like She Likes It)
NOTE: The "Starland Ballroom" is no longer in existance!
It's often said that the music of Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson is actually "soft core pornography".
I dunno if that is really true or not.
However I do want to talk about one of the FUNKIEST songs that I have ever heard. The name of the song is "Sleep Around". And it's from the GREAT album called: E*M*A*N*C*I*P*A*T*I*O*N
It's track #7 on disc #3 of E*M*A*N*C*I*P*A*T*I*O*N (1998)
"Sleep Around" is so damn funky that it's literally off the meter.
- Philly Super Rockin MFSB/Disco Action
- P-Funk/EWF/Stax Horns
- Prince's soft core pornographic lyrical dreams
As with everything that Prince does, there is nothing original here. It's all been done before. But he gives one hell of a history lesson in just what Black music is for the uninitiated, and how to mash it all together in a way that makes it sound fresh.
The "do it like she likes" vocal hook that is repeated over and over again seems to be a reference back to his early 1990's badd slama jamma duo with Carmen Electra called "The Continental".
At the same time, the song seems to be preaching against the practice of "sleeping around" and that it can be prevented by "doing your baby just like she likes it all of the time".
I'm sure that the lyrics are important to him, but as a listener they really don't matter much to me.
This song is an all out FUNK ATTACK and the groove never quits.
It's "pure d funk".
It's a MONSTER.
In fact it's such a monster, that it defies standard musical clssification timeframes. It came out in 1998. But when you listen to it it's difficult to figure out if this is music from 1974 or 2074. It's great Black Music from the Ancient to the Future. That is to say that if it were on TV, this song would be equally at home on the Flintstones or the Jetsons.
I've never heard it in a club, but that's exactly where it belongs.
In fact I've only heard it one time in a public setting.
There is a place not far from where I live called the "Starland Ballroom". It's in Pennsauken, NJ. It's an old fashioned "ballroom", that is about the size of a bowling alley. You walk inside and it's a huge space covered with a freshly waxed hardwood floor. Walking inside, it's easy to imagine that way back when, in a different time and place, that the "Starland Ballroom" was a place where the BIG BANDS of the 1930's & 1940's performed live to the delight of 1,000 or more dancers.
Today it's just a huge old building with a huge dance floor that occasionally hosts events for hard core serious dancers. People doing that Rhumba, Waltz, Lindy hop and other dances that appear far too difficult for me to ever consider getting involved with. You know, the type of dancing that you see people doing in those televised dance competitions.
I happened to be in there one night.
It was a combination birthday party and dance party featuring mostly Motown era dance tracks. There weren't many people there, perhaps no more than 50, and I don't think that there was anyone there under the age of 60, except me. However these folks were quite serious about their dancing.
This was the HARD CORE "hand dance crowd" of older folks.
I mean these folks were into a serious cha cha/hand dance groove that went far beyond my dancing capabilities. A few times the DJ ventured beyond 1965 and played a 70's EWF or James Brown cut and I was moved to venture out on to the dance floor. I would get out on the dance floor and start doin "da freak" and then my partner would grab my hand and want me to start twirling her around.
This all seemed quite unnatural for me, so I didn't venture out on the dance floor often.
I was actually quite bored watching these older black folk doing these highly intricate hand dances to 1960's Mary Wells and Jackie Wilson songs.
Then out of nowhere I heard...
"Do It Like She Like It...."
Coming from the huge speakers.
I looked up and saw these folks continuing to hand dance.
I rubbed my eyes.
I thought that I was having a hallucination.
But after I got thru rubbing my eyes, I knew it was for real. These folks were actually hand dancing to a song that might actually be close to being, "the ultimate freak joint".
I ran over to the DJ and asked him why he was playing such an obscure cut?
He said: "cuz they dig it..."
And sure enough, the every singe person inside of that joint besides me and the DJ were up on the floor dancing.
At the time, I was amazed.
But after thought about it for a while.
I concluded that "Sleep Around" is simply universal.
Hopefully one of these days more people will get to actually hear the song.
Maybe one of these days Prince will re-release it as a single? Or better yet, maybe one of these days 'll get to hear it performed live? Maybe it doesn't even really matter?
All I know is that I get such pleasure pulling it out, siding on my headphones, putting it on and turning the volume up to "ear bleed".
If any of yall are around when I pass from this earth and you are in attendance at my funeral, please feel free to slip a copy of disc #3 of E*M*A*N*C*I*P*A*T*I*O*N into my casket
Because for me, whenever "Sleep Around" is on, I am in "funk heaven". And I think that when I get there I want to make sure that I have that song with me...
And that is why the song; SLEEP AROUND - PRINCE (or "O(+>" as he was known in 1998) is in the....
"Bob Davis Funk Music Hall of Fame"
CONCERT REVIEW: BILLY PAUL AT GLORIA'S SEAFOOD IN PHILLY 9/16/2001
I just wanted to check in with a quick report on the Billy Paul show over at Gloria's Seafood in the Fairmount section of Philly on Sunday afternoon 9/16/2001.
The SOLD OUT show was excellent
I would estimate the crowd to be around 200
BILLY PAUL'S WEBSITE
I was there for the first set, which began at 4pm
The crowd was "Old School Philadelphia", not unlike the crowd that I was a part of last November at Showmans Lounge in Harlem for the Jack McDuff benefit show, just shortly before his passing.
................BRO JACK MCDUFF
BRO JACK MCDUFF
This was the "1950's pinky ring wearing folks" that reminded me of friends of my parents. These are the REAL "old school people", who have not only seen it ALL, they have also "DONE IT ALL"
Billy performed a wonderful 1 hour "classic jazz" set complete with scatting and vocal gymnastics, with a few of his R&B hits from the 70's mixed in.
Those of you who think of him strictly as a "pop singer" are going to be pleasantly surprised
Anyhow, here is a song by song review.
· · WHERE ARE YOU BILLY BOY
Billy strolls out onstage in a BLCK VELVET SUIT AND HAT. The "brim" is just that, it's the type of "brim" that my grandfather used to wear, that 1950's style SERIOUS "brim". The song is autobiographical and seems to be fitting this crowd who is also "old school Philadelphia". Billy is genuinely happy to be on the stage and singing to "his people", PHILLY STYLE! Billy mentions to the audience "I started out as singing jazz, most people don't know that". He also dispenses with his jacket
· · BILLY'S BACK HOME
Another autobiographical song. If you have a copy of Billy's new LIVE CD called "LIVE WORLD TOUR" (which you can order from his website at:BILLY PAUL'S WEBSITE ) then you are quite familiar with it. Billy continues in the same groove, also acknowledging folks in the audience that he knows as well as a few relatives.. Billy cooks right along with the trio that is backing him up. The inclusion of these two songs right at the beginning of the set seem to be designed to establish Bill's comfort level with the audience. The audience claps on each note that Billy sings. He is singing jazz and you can tell that both Billy and the audience are in a groove together. Once that comfort level is established, it is clear that we are all in for a treat.
· · JUST IN TIME
Billy starts the song out by saying that he is hot, and starts rolling up his sleeves. A woman blurts out.."take off the shirt", Billy laughs and proceeds to roll up his sleeves and then, Billy starts a scattin and the audience starts to lose it!
· · OLD FOLKS
Billy announces: This next song is dedicated to Mr. Eddie Green, who was the arranger of Billy's 1970's hit song "This Is My Life" and who also played on the 1972 Grammy winner, "Me and Mrs Jones". I thought that was a nice tribute. Here you could visually see Billy "FEELIN IT" as his body "contorts" in a different direction with each note that he sings
BILLY PAUL'S WEBSITE
· · SLEEPING BEE
Just as all good jazz singers do, Billy Paul turns his voice into an instrument and literally becomes "just another member of the band"! He sings "high" and "low" based on the "swing" of the other instruments in the band. He improvises at the same time as he follows
· · EBONY WOMAN
Billy starts this song out for a moment of silence for the victims of the events of 9/11/2001 and adds "we got to pray together and stay together, no matter what goes down". He also mentions the fat that he will be leaving in a few days to do a series of concerts in Brazil and then on to do more shows in Paris. Then he dedicates this beautiful love song which you all might remember from his 1970's LP entitled "Ebony Woman" to his wife Blanche (who happened to be sitting right next to me). The song itself is an anthem to ALL Black women. Billy sings the HELL out of it!
· · THANKS FOR SAVING MY LIFE
Billy's "Uncle Woody" happens to be sitting in the audience and so he dedicates this song to him. The song as many of you will recall is a mid tempo tune, so "Uncle Woody" gets up and starts dancing near his table. Billy reacts by beginning to take a stroll thru the audience first over to "Uncle Woody" and then later moving with ease throughout the rest of the audience, seemingly "thanking them as well"!
· · LOVE BUDDIES
There is NO WAY I could possibly be objective about this song. At the very beginning of the song Billy starts talking about Soul-Patrol, giving the members BIG PROPS for providing a wealth of information about the past present and future of Black music/culture and preserving it for future generations. He also spoke of it in terms of the "internet family" that has also grown up around it. I suppose the title of the song says it all? Then Billy asks me to stand up and take a bow for the audience and they begin to applaud me! It was a surreal moment for me on a personal level, and one that I will always cherish.
· · APRIL IN PARIS/I LOVE PARIS
Singing STANDARDS is a true test for anyone who calls themselves a "jazz singer". Billy takes these two standards and forms a beautiful medley out of them. His interpretation is soulful and emotional. Personally I'd like to see him do an entire album of this type of music
· · ME AND MRS JONES
Billy starts out this song by saying that people ask me all of the time, if I'm ever going to do a sequel to Mrs Jones and I have told them that Mrs. Jones Stands Alone". One of the things that must be truly frustrating for any artist is to be known as a "one hit wonder". It must be especially frustrating when the artist when you have had a career that actually has consumed over 40 YEARS of time and you have worked with everyone from Gamble and Huff, the whole Philadelphia International crew (Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, O'Jays, Intruders, etc), the "old school" Philadelphia Jazz Tradition (John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Sun Ra,etc), DOO WOP (the Flamingos) and more. How frustrating must it be when you have had such a full and diverse career, to not only be pigeonholed as an "R&B singer", but even worse to be know to most of the public as a "one hit wonder""? Surely there must be a "love/hate" relationship with that one song?
Instead, he sings the HELL out of the song!
He moves about the audience with ease, selecting women in the audience to sing certain parts to individually. With each successive lady that Billy sings to, that lady SWOONS and soon he's got the entire audience of females SWOONING along!
The concert ends on a high note with Billy thanking everyone for coming out!
Billy Paul surely deserves a better treatment in history than he has been given to this point in his career. At this point in time he wants to be known as a "jazz singer" and surely he's got the talent to do exactly that.
If you get a chance to go and see him live, please do so and after the show, you will be more than pleased!
For those of you who are unable to catch Billy perform live, I would highly recommend picking up on his "LIVE WORLD TOUR CD", which is available from his website at the following link:
BILLY PAUL'S WEBSITE
Feel free to drop Billy an email directly from the site and when you do, be sure to tell him that I said hello!
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Hopefully you enjoyed this edition of the Soul-Patrol Newsletter.
We will be back soon with the next edition, with email alerts for local events, Soul-Patrol website updates/chat sessions or breaking news in between, as required.
If you have any comments, questions, etc feel free to drop me an email and let me know what's on your mind.
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