Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Underground Legends"

Doris Troy (January 6, 1937 - February 16, 2004)

"Mama Soul" may have been a one-hit wonder, but Doris Troy was a great one and recorded several other songs that should have been soul classics. Born Doris Higginson in the Bronx, she was the daughter of a minister and performed in his church's choir. Fortunately, the legendary James Brown discovered her. Doris began singing back-up for Cissy Houston, Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, Solomon Burke, and The Drifters. After signing with Atlantic Records, she recorded her first single "Just One Look," which became a Top-ten hit in 1963. Unlike other soul singers at the time, Troy wrote most of her songs, usually under the pseudonymn Doris Payne and had written for several other singers. During her recording career, she blended Gospel, girl-group sound, pop, rock and blues to create a special New York soul sound.

In the U.S., Troy was unable to have the same chart success as "Just One Look," but she did have some success in the UK and other countries in Europe. As her career peaked, Troy did back-up for and worked with several artists, including Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, George Harrison, Dusty Springfield, and Carly Simon. Doris continued to tour and record albums after she moved to Britain in the 70s. In the 1980s, Troy created a stage musical, called Mama I Want to Sing, which was based on her life. It was a success and she remained involved with the musical until 1988. Doris Troy did shows in Las Vegas before her death from emphysema in 2004.


1) Her song "Just One Look," has been covered by many artists, such as The Hollies, Harry Nilson, and Linda Ronstadt.

2) Mama, I Want to Sing was made into a movie, starring Ciara, Ne-yo, Bobby Valentino, Ralph Tresvant (New Edition) and Pattie Labelle. It is set for an early 2009 release.

Just One Look

Face Up to the Truth

What'Cha Gonna Do About It

He's Qualified

I'll Do Anything

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Uncovering the Truth": The Meaning Behind Purple Rain

"Purple Rain" is not only one of my favorite Prince song, but also one of my favorite songs of all time. However, I have always wondered what the song's title meant. When I thought about it literally, it would be completely weird to see purple rain. I would think that I was high or on an LSD trip. Figuratively, the title has various meanings. According to, Prince was asked about what he meant by "purple rain" and his reply was "the meaning is there if you look for it. We can sit all day and discuss them and argue the point, but all we will find is we all find something different that he tried to express." Mysterious as usual, Prince.

So, I have decided to put a compilation of possible meanings of the title. Rain can represent sadness (and tears), life's troubles, or fears and it can represent a type of cleansing. It could also be a pun for the word "reign." On the other hand, purple is associated with royalty, which connects to Prince's name, his royal purple wardrobe and the pun of "reign." Also, purple rain reminds me of the Jimi Hendrix song, "Purple Haze," which was making a reference to psychedelic drugs like Marijuana and LSD. Prince's music mixes psychedelic funk and rock together and hearkens back to artists like Jimi Hendrix. In that sense, purple can represent being high or spiritual.

If one puts these into different combinations, he or she will get a variety of meanings that all could be the meaning of the phrase at the same time. "Purple Rain" could be a spiritual cleansing, a "showering" of Prince's love, to let Prince be his loved one's protection and guide, to face life's problems or get through the pain through spiritual healing, or to be "showered" in something great (royal). All of these have basis in the movie, which was named after the song.

Those are my theories about "Purple Rain." You can make some guess on your own, but while you are doing that, enjoy the song!

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Rewind"- Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours by Stevie Wonder

One of my favorite songs of all time! Everything on this song from Stevie's vocals to the background vocals to the horn section to using mail to create a love song is just perfect. This song is so great that even President Obama danced to it at his inauguration. Stevie Wonder is a musical genius!

The soul song was released on Motown's Tamla label in 1970. It spent six weeks on top of the R&B charts and peaked at number three on the Pop charts. For Stevie, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" presented several firsts: the first record he produced on his own, first Grammy-nominated song and the first to include his female backup group with Lynda Tucker Laurence (who later became a member of The Supremes), Syreeta Wright (who co-wrote the song and was his wife), and Vanetta Fields.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Covers, Samples, Reworks and Answer Songs"

"The Twist"

"The Twist" is a twelve-bar blues song that was first recorded by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, an R&B group, in 1959. It was the B-side to the group's song "Teardrops On Your Letter." Although Hank thought it would be his hit, it received little airplay and was only a hit amongst R&B fans. In 1960, Parkway recording artist, Chubby Checker, recorded a cover of the song. His cover has similar vocal inflections to and the same arrangement as Hank's version. However, due to American Bandstand, the song this time was heavily promoted and became a huge dance craze. The song became number one on the pop charts and Hank's version also entered the charts again. Since it was such a big hit, it topped the charts again in 1962. The song regained popularity in 1988 when the Fat Boys did a cover version featuring Chubby Checker.

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters

Chubby Checker

Fat Boys ft. Chubby Checker

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Brand New Flava In Your Ear"

Thirteen dollars on ITunes of new songs, just for you all:

1) Melanie Fiona - Give it to Me Right

Sampling the Zombies' song "Time of the Season," the bass and beat of the music accentuates her sultry voice. It is incredibly sexy and I am betting no man would say no to her after hearing this.

2) The Airborne Toxic Event- Sometime Around Midnight

The violin intro and the acoustic arrangement are beautiful on this song; it reminds me of Phantom of the Opera. Mikel, the lead singer, has a voice that is reminiscent of other baritones Leonard Cohen, Ian Curtis from Joy Division, and Adam Bravin from She Wants Revenge. His voice along with the music creates an eerie but beautiful song. Don't we all just love tragic love songs?

3) Asher Roth ft. Cee-lo - Be By Myself

When Asher Roth came out with "I Love College," I admit that I was thinking, "Why is this corny, suburban white boy trying to be a rapper; he is garbage." Then I heard some of his other stuff and quickly changed my mind. This song shows Asher's cleverness as a rapper and having Cee-lo on his record makes it so much better. I just do not get why there has to be half-naked women in the video, especially when the guys around her are covered from head to toe.

4) Rob Thomas - Her Diamonds

The song is ok and his voice is great, but the song sounds like the songs he had on his first solo album (i.e. "Lonely No More"). I think it is time that he goes back to Matchbox Twenty.

5) Cold War Kids - I've Seen Enough

I fell in love with this band the moment I heard this song. Their music brings me back to the rock music of the late 60s (Velvet Underground), 70s (Led Zepellin) and 80s (U2, Police). The group has a nice psychadelic feel to them.

6) Madcon - Beggin'

Listened to it once and I was hooked. I could dance all day to this song and I cracked up at the references to Halo and 70s films. The duo's style and talent definitely makes up for their ugliness. I know, OUCH!

7) All American Rejects- Wind Blows

AAR just keep getting better! "Wind Blows" has an 80s New Wave style. It is one of their few songs that I actually want to cry to. Plus, Tyson is so handsome with his long hair, leading man material.

Official Video:

8) Adele - Hometown Glory

Speaking of crying...I heard this song a few months ago and hearing it again reminded me of why I loved it. The songs makes me proud to be from my hometown and not to take it for granted.

9) Leela James - It's a Man's World

Great rendition of such a classic song and it is interesting to hear it from a female perspective, particularly a strong female like Leela James. I just wish she would go back to her beautiful natural hair.

10) Sy Smith - Fly Away With Me

Another Neo-Soul princess that reassures me that everything in the natural world from hair to the animals to nature itself to music is beautiful. This song puts me in a relaxing mood and I want to feel that way when I fall in love ... (Sigh) Someday.

11) Anthony Hamilton - Point of it All

Taking it back to the smooth soul of the 70s and 80s, Anthony Hamilton's song is so touching and sweet. Mr. Hamilton representing for all the strong, sensitive black men out there and yes, they exist!

12) Black Eyed Peas - Boom Boom Pow

Great party song because of the beat, but nothing else special about it. Also, the video is kind of wack (sorry to use old slang).

13) Stevie Wonder - All About the Love Again

To keep it simple as the song and video are,the song is cute, sweet and all about love!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mini-Reviews: American Idol Finale and Glee

This season's American Idol goes to underdogs! Who would have thought that Kris Allen would have won when the show began. About six of the other contestants, Adam, Allison, Danny, Lil Rounds, Matt and Anoop, were ahead of him in terms of who would get the top spot. Kris was a shy guy with very little confidence in his own performing at the beginning of the show. Gradually, we saw him break out of that shell and prove that he could hold his own. The two weeks in which Allen performed "She Works Hard for the Money" (sounded better than the original by Donna Summer) and "Ain't No Sunshine" pushed him into the top of the group. However, it was a shocker when he landed in the top 2 and even more of a shocker when he was chosen over the expected winner, Adam Lambert.

I am actually glad that Kris won instead of Adam and here are my reasons:

1) Kris was the dark horse of the competition and it is always remarkable to see the dark horse slowlytake over the top spot.

2) It shows that the judges are not always right and sometimes their comments backfire. On Tuesday, they kept praising Adam and I actually liked Kris more.

3) Do not get me wrong, I love Adam also, but I feel that he is too over the top sometimes. Adam needs to know when to tone it down and hold back more. His screaming distracts too much from the song. He ruined the song "A Change is Gonna Come" (which is one of my favorite songs) and Kris sounded better singing "No Boundaries." I like Kris's laidback approach to singing and he reminds me of Jason Mraz.

However, I feel there is a negative side to why Kris won. Many people know that Adam is gay and Kris is Christian. Maybe, the midwest folks supported Kris more because they did not want a gay American idol. If that is the case, that is just wrong because Adam is just as talented as Kris and deserved to win, too.

Remember the days when it was not cool to be part of glee club or show choir. Well, those days are over. The new Fox show is a mix of Disney's High School Musical and Nickelodeon's Spectacular with an actual compeling story. Using High School Musical's idea of not "Sticking to the Status Quo," the show is about Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison from South Pacific), a teacher who takes on the daunting task of leading the glee club back to glory. Not only does he have to deal with the club, but a wife who wants him to give up on his dreams and become an accountant so he can provide better for his family.

What is great about the glee club in this show is the group of misfits that it is made of, all of whom are different from each other in every way but come together through music. Here is the line-up: a performing arts obsessed perfectionist who sees glee club as a ticket to fame (Rachel), a wannabe diva who thinks she is Beyonce not Kelly (Mercedes, ouch!), an outcast with a big voice but stuttering problem (Tina), a flamboyant show boy (Kurt), a nerdy guitarist who is constantly avoiding bullies (Artie) and a football jock who secretly wants to be a singer (Finn). I cannot get enough of this show and it is only the first episode! Too bad I have to wait till Fall to see more of it. Boohoo!

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Rewind"- Ghetto Superstar by Pras featuring Mya and ODB

Ghetto Superstar (That is What You Are) appeared on Pras Michel's debut album, Ghetto Superstar, and on the Bulworth (starring one of my favorite actors, Warren Beatty) soundtrack. The chorus is a reworking of "Islands in the Stream" and it samples the song "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" by James Brown. (Check the Covers, Samples, Reworks and Answer Songs later). Wyclef Jean helped in writing the song and also appears in the video. In the video, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt and Warren Beatty make cameos.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Covers, Samples, Reworks and Answer Songs"


The title translates into "the girl from Guantanamo" and is the most famous song from Cuba. Originally, the lyrics were about a woman from Guantanamo, who the writer of the song, Joseito Fernandez (some say that Herminio "El Diablo" GarcĂ­a co-wrote it), was romantically interested in. Joseito Fernandez regularly promoted the song on his radio broadcasts. However, the original lyrics to the song were and are rarely sung. Due to its musical structure of ABAB octosyllabic verses, it gave way to many improvised verses. Fernandez actually would comment on daily events by adapting them to the song's melody. This had made the song a medium for various themes, such as love, social consciousness, comedy and most famously as a patriotic song for Cuba.

The most famous lyrics to the song is the adaptation of the first stanza of nationalist and independence hero Jose Marti's poem, "Versos Sencillos" (Simple Verses). Julian Orbon adapted the poem's stanza to the song and it became the unofficial anthem for Cuba. Several artists have covered this version of the song, including Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Jose Feliciano and Julio Iglesias. In 1997, Wyclef Jean sampled it for his rap song of the same title. His version is reminiscent of the original lyrics to the song.

Joseito Fernandez-Guantanamera

Pete Seeger - Guantanamera

Julio Iglesias - Guantanamera

Celia Cruz - Guantanamera

Wyclef Jean ft. Celia Cruz and Lauryn Hill - Guantanamera

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Brand New Flava In Your Ear"

It's time for some new music!

1) Maxwell- Pretty Wings

After five years away from music, Maxwell is back and he is as good as the day he left. As usual, Maxwell's voice and the song are smooth, soulful, beautiful and sexy. I wish I was one of those girls in the video, so he could sing to me. If I was the girl from the doomed relationship, I would immediately crawl back to him after hearing this song.

2) Franz Ferdinand - No, You Girls

Why do some artists have a really bad or "just ok" first single and then a really great second single. After I heard "Ulysses," I thought Franz Ferninand were a bit off. Now, with "No You Girls," their back in their groove. The songand video are catchy and "HOT!" in a classy way.

3) Corneille - Back to Life

He is a German-born Rwandan who has a Canadian passport and sings in French and English (huh?). But do not be distracted by those details, he is a wonderful singer and this song proves it. He definitely on the same level with other Neo-soul singers, like previously mentioned Maxwell and D'angelo. This is such a lovely song; I want him to sing this to me. I could listen to it all day, specifically with a cute guy. Any takers?

4) Amy Lavere- Killing Him

The lyrics to this song makes me think the wife who killed her husband is crazy, but Amy Lavere soft vocals is so soothing that I forget how tragic this song is. I love how the song is, as I call it, like "Boho Jazz/Soul." Its jazzy and swinging, but at the same time laidback. A good song to just sit back, bop your head and tap your feet to it.

5) Oren Lavie - Her Morning Elegance

What is great about this song? It is tender, relaxing and has touching lyrics. I would easily either fall asleep to it or wake up happily to it. But what makes it great is the stop-motion video. For some reason (like with several other songs), it sounds better as I watch the video; it is just so cool.

6) Ida Maria - I Like You So Much Better When You're... (you'll find out the rest!)

This is so hilarious! It is so catchy and dirty at the same time. One of my new guilty pleasures to sing, mainly because that is what I want the cute guys of the world to do (ha, ha!). Does the video look familiar? Well, it is the same director who did the Franz Ferdinand video "Take Me Out."

Official video:

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Underground Legends"

Booker T. and The MGs

As the house band for Stax Records, this groups was able to make a name for themselves with the 1962 hit instrumental song, "Green Onions." They were one of the first interracial bands of the Rock&Roll era.

The original members of the group were Booker T. Jones (piano, tuba, saxophone, etc.), Lewie Steinberg (bass), Steve Cropper (lead guitar) and Al Jackson Jr. (drums). In 1965, Donald "Duck" Dunn replaced Steinberg on the bass due to the other member's lack of chemistry with Steinberg. Although they recorded a number of singles, they became the Stax Records backing band for several artists, including Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd and Wilson Pickett. They have produced, co-written and played on several famous hits, such as "Hold On (I'm Coming)," "Soul Man," "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," and "Try a Little Tenderness."

Though Booker T. and the MGs had a huge hit with "Green Onions" (number 1 on R&B charts, number 3 on pop charts), they were never able to have as big of a hit again. They did have a few smaller hits, like "Hip Hug-Her, "Soul Limbo," "Hang 'Em High," and their second biggest hit "Time is Tight" (number 6 on pop charts). Their last Stax single was "Melting Pot" in 1971, which has been sampled by many rappers and DJs. Soon, the group became unhappy with business at Stax and Jones and Cropper left Sax. Dunn continued to do sessions and production work at Stax, while Jackson plyed on and wrote many of Al Green's hits.

In late September 1975, the group prepared for a reunion, but a little over a week later, drummer Al Jackson was shot to death in his home. The remaining members went on to have several reunions with various drummers. Booker T. and the MGs were inducted into the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Today, the three members continue to play as either a backing band for other artists or as artists themselves.


1) The MGs part of the groups name comes from the name of musician and record producer, Chips Moman's sports car. It does not mean "Memphis Group" as it is commonly believed.

2) "Green Onions" has been used in many movies and trailers, such as American Graffitti.

3) Writer/producer Isaac Hayes replaced Booker T. Jones when he was unavailable for sessions work because he was attending music classes at Indiana University. He also played with him in several sessions.

4) Cropper and Dunn were part of another Memphis house band, The Mar-Keys.

5) The Beatles, and Donald Dunn and Booker T. Jones had a mutual appreciation for each other.

6) Al Jackson Jr. is known as one of the best drummers in Rock&Roll history. Known as the "Human Timekeeper," he is ranked #35 on The Top 100 Greatest Drummers Of All Time.

7) Cropper and Dunn were part of the backing band for both Blues Brother's movies.

Green Onions

Melting Pot

Hip Hug- Her

Boot Leg (w/ commentary about the group)

Soul Limbo

Hang 'Em High

Time Is Tight

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Music Note" #6: The Death of Major Music Networks Part I

For the first part of this music note, I will be showing a video called "The Death of MTV" from the animated comedy sketch show, Supernews!, which is on the network called Current TV. The show is on every Friday night at 10 pm. Current TV is an Emmy-award winning independent media company led by Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt.