Album Review: Leela James - "Let's Do It Again"
(Black American Standard Music - Where All da Party People At?)
I'm not quite sure why I'm even bothering to write this review. I already know that some of yall aren't going to like the album, Leela James - "Let's Do It Again". That's cuz it's...
Really and truly I don't really have to say much more than this album is simply...
"One that you wait for your parents to be away for the day, roll back the carpeting in the living room & dining room, remove all of the good glasses & plates that might break, invite your friends over, fry up some chicken wings, break out the paper plates & plastic silverware, get a few bottles of Boones Farm/T-Bird and run the whole M*therF*ckin album from end to end and then run it back it again..."
Any of yall who ever lived in the projects knows exactly what kind of a party I'm talkin about. The album Leela James - "Let's Do It Again", can easily provide ALL of the music that you need for a party in the projects!!!
(Am I allowed to use the word FONK around here?)
This album exists in an "alternate universe" that's sweaty, it's funky, there's no health food, the term "dow jones industrial average" doesn't exist in our vocabulary, and political correctness is something that we aren't bothered with!!!
In short this album is a self contained, hellified, project apartment 4D house party, from an alternate universe that quite simply doesn't exist, or does it? Well it's a universe that exists for me. That universe is called...
Check out this track listing....
1. Clean Up Woman
2. Miss You
3. It's A Man's Man's Man's World
4. Baby I'm Scared Of You
5. You Know How To Love Me
6. I Want To Know What Love Is
7. Nobody Know's You When You're Down And Out
8. I Try
9. I'd Rather Be With You
10. Simply Beautiful
11. Let's Do It Again
Yes it's true, you have heard these songs before. You may have even heard them in that "alternate universe" that I spoke of earlier. True enough Betty Wright, Al Green, Bootsy Collins, Mtume, Angela Bofil, Foreigner, the Rolling Stones, James Brown and other famous artists are covered here. (but you ain't never heard these songs like this before)
It's Jazz, Blues, R&B, Rock n' Roll.......ain't no "neo/creole" sh*t happening here.
So therefore, I'm not certain how many of yall will dig an album of...
That's because it comes from that same "alternate universe" where although you planned everything perfectly for the party, grandma comes walking in suddenly, everybody stops dancing, and grandma sees the mess, but listens to bout 10 seconds of the music, starts shakin her be-hind and says; "why did yall stop dancing?" (everyone smiles and starts dancing again).
It's that "alternate unverse", where Black folks dig the Rolling Stones, as ling as you don't tell them that is what is playing...I can say with certainty that knee-grow (urban) radio stations won't play it. Knee-grow (urban) radio stations don't play...
I can however say with absolute certainty that there will be songs from this album being played on:
--Blues @ RadioIO.com: http://www.radioio.com/channels/blues
--NuSoul @ RadioIO.com : http://www.radioio.com/channels/nusoul
--RnB Mix @ RadioIO.com : http://www.radioio.com/channels/rnb-mix
--Today's RnB @ RadioIO.com: http://www.radioio.com/channels/todays-rnb
--Top 20 RnB Hits @ RadioIO.com: http://www.radioio.com/channels/top-20-rnb-hits
(look for it on these stations in the next few days)
This album is what mah boy the late Jon Gilbert used to call "an instant party in a box." From end to end....channeling Betty Wright at the beginning and Mavis Staples at the end.
Some of yall aren't gonna like this kinda music. However I can't afford to worry about what the rest of yall are gonna like or not like right now, cuz I'm too busy right now pullin back the carpeting, "mrs. earthjuice" is frying up some chicken (in bacon grease), I just emailed a bunch of friends to come over here tonight and I'm callin up liquor stores to find out if I can get some Thunderbird here in the suburbs....
Although some of yall won't like this music, cuz you really don't want to deal with
(the young kids will be stealing it, they know what the real deal is...)
But you shyoud buy it...and have your own party!!!
Concert Review: The Future Is Now: Leela James @ The World Cafe Live (Philly) 09-22-08
I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you all the sheer joy of seeing the Leela James show. The diminutive fireball of dynamite that is Leela James is exactly what being a part of Soul Patrol is about. This is a living, fire-breathing testimony of the phrase 'Back-To-The-Future'.
I recently (maybe last year?) saw Ms. James open for Rachelle Ferrel at the Keswick up in the burbs of Philly. She was great then but I think the intimacy of this venue made this performance all the more spellbinding. Carrying a five piece rhythm section (bass, guitar, drums, percussion and keyboards) and two gorgeous background singers, Ms. James helped to allay any fears I have had about the state of funk, musicians and performance as art. For me the entire show was an open love letter to any and everyone over the age of 45.
I don't think anyone in this band is over 40 (much less 35). Without being obsequious, cloying or disingenuous the James gang basically tore the roof off of the World Cafe Live. It's been a long time since I've been entertained in such a way as to be so thoroughly worn out.
My face felt frozen in a smile because that's all I did for the entire set. Please forgive me for not remembering all of the band member's names. The keyboardist was evidently the musical director and got things started off with a nod to the City of Philadelphia by opening up with Eye Of The Tiger (gladly only the intro). That was the only low point because of all of the things to associate with my fair town, Rocky aint it.
However from there everything ratcheted up about 10 notches as Ms. James two background beauties strutted onstage. A note of warning here: This lady as well as the entire performance was not one of nouveaux soul posturing, outsangin and band riffing. No,no mah bruvas and sustuhs this was of the old tent/church revival variety. Lots of spirited dancing, SANGING and FULL engagement of and with the audience here.
After the intro Ms. James created the time-worn suspense/drama (usually done to great effect on Broadway) of beginning the tune Long Time Comin offstage. The fact that Ms. James embodies the spirit of such great southern soul ladies as Millie Jackson, Bettye Wright and Candi Staton is just the tip of the iceberg.
By the time she got onstage the whole place was lit with the incandescence that only true soul can bring. One of the first things this Houstonian did was (w/out asking for house lights) demand that everybody from the audience to the staff of the venue COME CLOSER to the stage. She said:" I gots ta be close to mah peoples". Any semblance of inhibition anywhere in the house was at that point completely dispelled. Once satisfied with the intimacy created by this audaciousness she then launched into a series of down home funk and soul music that had me wondering what night of the week it was.
Good Time was some funk that reminded me a bit of Gwen McRae's Funky Sensation. Then came a medley of Doin It to Death, Make It Funky and Give It To Me,Baby. Unlike up nawth, the folk down south truly love them some James Brown and are proud to tell it. This was no different.
Knowing that more than half of this group were probably mere toddlers (if even born) when these tunes were released shows the care and sensitivity of this artist not only to her musical roots but the importance of the continued exposure of this music to her fans and peers alike. Not only does Ms. James put 'skin in the game' from ONSTAGE it's clear that
this lady has no intention of ever relinquishing the flying of her funk flag high for the world to see.
She then delved into the world of the blues but it was the way she got there that was truly amazing. Here the sheer vocal power of Leela James as well as her backing singers was on full display. They substituted the words from that old Bootsy Collins chestnut I'd Rather Be With You with I'd Rather Sing The Blu-ues...yeahhhhh...yess I'd rather
sing the blu-oo-oo-oooos!
It was then that I started getting all moist and whatnot. They then did something that a lot of cats just wouldn't even think of arrangement-wise (unless you play contemporary gospel music-more about that later). They played a blues structure in a sort of 6/8 time. Now when we think of 6/8 time on the gospel tip we think of any number of tunes (Yes, Jesus Loves Me, At The Cross...y'all know whumsayin right?). Well they took the usual handclap part, moved the whole thing around and just made it feel all bluesy and gut-bucket stanky.The name of the tune was My Joy.
By now she was all over, up, in and around the audience. Nothing was sacred as she sang grunted, hollered and implored her audience. Oh yeah make no mistake about it this audience was now hers to do anything she wanted. Now she brought several member of the audience onstage to dance but mostly just to party and have a good time.
They broke off into the slickest tune NOT played on the radio called To Whom It May Concern (It's All Right). Almost all of Leela James tunes make a figurative pit-stop of tribute to the past. Inside of It's All Right (as good a feel good anthem as ever) they broke into Joy and Pain.If that wasn't enough at the end of the tune the group went all acapulco on em and actually DOO-WOPPED the Impressions' It's All Right. Can you believe this shiggity? None of em were surely around for Mr Mayfield's genius but they learned their lessons well and pulled it off without a hitch.
The audience onstage continued to jam and sway with the music. Next up was the hit single from the first album called Music. Now calling on the ancestors yet again Leela made everybody onstage form a (big strong) Soul Train line and they proceeded to do the Soul Train thang during the tune. She segued nicely into the Stones Miss You and even got a lil audience vocal participation thing going on the vocal hook. Lastly was the fully expected and needed suggestion to register and vote including a recording/sequence of one of MLK's speeches. This took us into A Change Is Gonna Come. This was supposed to be the end of the show. But it wasn't over yet. Ms. James was a willing vessel to receive the spirit of God and so she did.
They TORE into the gospel Jubilee ( when I think of Jesus and what He done for me I could dance, dance, dance, dance....y'all know what I'm talkin bout). The ENTIRE black church/gospel music experience was rolled out for this one as the place was in a sho-nuff frenzy!
This show was one of uplifting inspiration. Nary a cuss word nor gratuitous sex move was present. All good clean ADULT fun. Just what the soul needs on a clear fall night. I've always felt that the best funk and r&b being made today is contemporary gospel music.
I also have felt that what Ray Charles did to kick start his career (and r&b/soul) by delving into gospel music is exactly what's needed today because nobody seems to understand that all of this tuff just repeats, aint nuthin new under the sun. The arrangements and presentation of this show was nothing less than pure gospel music camouflaged with the funk and soul that has made today's gospel music what it is for so many today.
Without beating-over-the-head proselytizing or fire and brimstone, Ms. James was able to bring forth her ministry of love and feel-good positivity. Lastly of all of the excellent musicians performing there was one guy that did stand out in pure simplicity.
His name is Rabu and he plays the bass. LAWD did he play dat bass. There were no multi-note lead guitarisms. No running up and down the fret board. I'm sure he like all other bass playas loves Stanley, Jaco and Victa ta DEATH. But instead all I heard was James Jamerson walking that bass dawg. Not ever MOVING from his appointed post of the bottom.
When you cats hear music that makes you want to dance remember it was probably the likes of Jamerson or Babbit or Chambers or Sherrel that put dat glide in yo stride not the five and six string meanderings of the killer dillers of bass today. They are all great but this is the essence of bass playing and I HAD to give my man his props for moving the earth beneath my feet if only for a little while.
Thanks Rabu and thanks to the entire Leela James organization for a fully entertaining and soul satisfying night.
Hire A Band
Leela James - A Change is Gonna Come
Imagine if a major label decided that it would be in their best interests to hire a crack production team to take a young Black woman out of South Central Los Angeles with a POWERFUL set of lungs and create a piece of art that takes you back to the time when singers like Carla Thomas, Betty Wright, Mavis Staples and others ruled the charts? Now imagine this recording being created back in 2003 and sitting on the shelf till now? Do you like your slow jams dripping with a mixture of erotic love juices and BBQ sauce made for dipping your "biscuit" into? Well if u do (like I do) then you might just like this CD by Leela James...
Click Here To Return To
The Classic Soul Homepage