Soul


Booker T. & the MGs, Staple Singers & Johnnie Taylor launch Stax Remasters Series

From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, the Stax label dominated soul, R&B, gospel, and related genres with a stable of artists who have since become iconic figures in the history of American popular music. Now a part of the Concord Music Group, the Stax catalog is a treasure trove of some of the most visceral and influential recordings of the 20th century. On May 10, 2011, Concord reaches back into that deep catalog to launch Stax Remasters, a series of reissues that cast a new light on classic Stax recordings with the help of 24-bit remastering, rare bonus tracks, and new liner notes to frame the recordings in a historical context.

The first three reissues in the series are:

  • Booker T. & the MGs: McLemore Avenue (1970)
  • The Staple Singers: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (1972)
  • Johnnie Taylor: Taylored in Silk (1973)


“Stax is a very important label, not only in the history of soul music, but in the history of music in general,” says Nick Phillips, Concord’s Vice President of Catalog A&R and co-producer of the series with Chris Clough, Concord’s Manager of Catalog Development. “We have a number of amazing recordings by Stax in the catalog. This is an opportunity to revisit some of the best of these classic recordings, upgrade the sound quality, and put them in the proper historical perspective that they deserve.”

Booker T. & the MGs: McLemore Avenue

Released in January 1970, McLemore Avenue is a tribute to Abbey Road, the landmark recording released by the Beatles the prior summer. McLemore Avenue sets up an interesting cause-and-effect loop by putting an R&B spin on songs by a profoundly innovative British pop-rock band that, ironically, emerged years earlier from the most basic elements of American R&B.

McLemore Avenue was inspired by “my pure fascination and admiration of the work that [the Beatles] had done,” says keyboardist Booker T. Jones in the reissue liner notes by music historian Ashley Kahn. “I didn’t know their inner workings. I found out later. I had a picture of those guys as a perfect unit. I didn’t know that they fought, had arguments, or that they needed referees. When you listen to that music, you think it comes from a perfect union, you know?”

The tribute album “represents a fascinating and musically compelling intersection,” says Phillips. “On one hand, you can look at the strength of the Beatles’ songs, and how they’re such strong songs that they can be successfully adapted — in the right hands — to soulful instrumental versions. At the same time, it is of course a testament to Booker T. & the MGs’ creativity and soulfulness and groove. It’s not only a very interesting musical intersection, but it’s also a very deep and at the same time a very fun listen.”

Clearly, Booker T. & the MGs had had plenty of their own opportunities to flex their creative muscles in the studio, having recorded with artists like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. “But on a record like this,” says Clough, “where all the songs were already written and it was just a matter of interpretation, it wasn’t work for them. It was an opportunity to put their spin on the songs and just have some fun.”

The bonus tracks include seven additional Beatles covers, recorded in sessions separate from those for the McLemore Avenue album. “We figured it made good sense to expand this edition by adding other tracks that Booker T. & the MGs had recorded of Beatles songs over the years,” says Phillips. “So the Stax Remasters reissue is not only an expanded edition of McLemore Avenue, it’s also a de facto ‘Booker T. & the MGs Play the Beatles’ collection.”

The Staple Singers: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself

Originally released in 1972, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself captures the celebrated family vocal group in what was essentially the third act of their career, according to music historian Rob Bowman. The Staple Singers had initially established themselves as a gospel group in the 1950s, then merged with the folk music closely tied to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and ultimately veered away from protest songs and toward what Mavis Staples termed “message music” in the early and mid-1970s.

“Obviously, there was a lot going on in America — politically and socially — around that time, and the Staple Singers took up the cause,” says Clough. “Stax provided a huge platform for that cause, and it worked. It wasn’t insincere or disingenuous. It was the real deal. The Staples had taken up the banner at that point.”

Be Altitude found a comfortable middle ground between gospel music and secular music. “Some of the messages in their music have that gospel element running through it, but it’s a broader message than what you’d find in traditional gospel,” says Phillips. “The soul, the gospel, the grooves — all those things blended together — really make for a unique sound that is the Staple Singers.”

The two previously unreleased bonus tracks — “Walking in Water Over Our Head” and an alternate version of “Heavy Makes You Happy” — were both recorded at the Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama in 1970 and 1972, respectively. “We felt that it was appropriate to add these bonus tracks, not only because any undiscovered material by a group as great as the Staple Singers is worthy of a listen,” says Phillips, “but also because they’re such great performances that they fit right in.”

Simply put, says Bowman, “the recording you hold in your hands represents the Staple Singers at the very peak of their career.”

Johnnie Taylor: Taylored in Silk

Released in 1973, Taylored in Silk is an ideal example of Taylor’s newly expanded and embellished sound, crafted with the help of producer Don Davis, who had united with Taylor a few years earlier, according to the liner notes by Bill Dahl. “As far as Davis was concerned, a fundamental change of sound was in order for Johnnie,” says Dahl. “Gone were the savory slow blues in favor of a hard-edged, uptempo attack that energized [Taylor’s] sound like never before.”

The issue could well have been regional marketing as much as musicality. “The story goes that Davis was brought in to forge a sound that would be sort of a combination between Northern and Southern soul, and capture the best of both Stax and Motown,” says Phillips. “He certainly hit a home run in his work with Johnnie Taylor, especially on this album.”

Taylored in Silk underwent “a lot of overdubbing,” Dahl notes, “but the end result was a splendidly conceived soul album boasting three major R&B hits within its eight selections…Blues wailer or soul philosopher, silky or gritty, Johnnie Taylor will always be revered as one of the greatest southern soul singers of ’em all.”

The six bonus tracks were previously released as singles in the early ’70s, “and they’re all outstanding performances,” says Phillips. “They certainly fit the vibe and the performance quality of the rest of the album.”

Rebirth Brass Band Announce 'Rebirth of New Orleans'

Rebirth Brass Band is proud to announce the release of their new album, Rebirth of New Orleans, out April 12 via Basin Street Records. The new album was produced by GRAMMY® Award winner Tracey Freeman (Harry Connick, Jr., Kermit Ruffins). For a sample of what to expect, listen to “Do It Again.”

Hailed by the New York Times as “a New Orleans institution,” the Rebirth Brass Band have been at the forefront of the brass band revival that they helped kick off almost 30 years ago. Formed by the Frazier brothers, Phil and Keith, along with Basin Street labelmate Kermit Ruffins in 1983, the Rebirth Brass Band has gone from playing on corners in the French Quarter to selling out concert halls across the world and appearing in David Simon’s HBO hit “Tremé.” It’s been a long road, but the Rebirth Brass Band has become one of the most beloved brass bands in New Orleans and around the world.

Since their founding, they’ve developed a signature brand of heavy funk that they expand upon on their latest effort, Rebirth of New Orleans. Opener “Exactly Like You” starts the album off with a rollicking, Mardi Gras stomp. “The Dilemma” and “Do It Again” find the group locking in to a down-tempo, Latin-influenced grooves, anchored by Phil Frazier’s tuba. And “Shrimp and Gumbo” and “Feelin’ Fine” find the band effortlessly perfecting the New Orleans-style brass lines that put the city on the map.

Rebirth Brass Band were featured in the opening scene of David Simon’s hit HBO show “Tremé” as well as on the GRAMMY® nominated soundtrack. No band exemplifies the essence and soul of New Orleans like Rebirth Brass Band.

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Rebirth Brass Band Upcoming Tour Dates:
03/05: New Orleans, LA @  Howlin’ Wolf
03/13: Perth, Western Australia @ Perth Concert Hall
03/14: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia @ Dallas Brooks Centre
03/16: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia @ The Barton Theatre
03/19: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia @ QPAC Concert Hall
03/21: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia @ State Theatre
04/01: Baton Rouge, LA @ Chelsea's Cafe
04/02: Lafayette, LA @ Grant Street Dance Hall
04/06: Wilmington, DE @ World Café Live at the Queen
04/07: Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bowl
04/08: Portsmouth, NH @ Portsmouth Music Hall
04/09: Providence, RI @ Spot Underground
04/10: Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's
04/13: Austin, TX @ Antone's
04/14: Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live Studio
04/15: Dallas, TX @ Kessler Theater
04/23: Lake Charles, LA @ Luna Bar
05/27: Chicago, IL @ Space
05/28: Chilicothe, IL @ Summer Camp
06/10: San Francisco, CA @ San Francisco Jazz Festival
06/11: Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl
06/12: Chicago, IL @ Chicago Orchestra Hall
06/13: Washington, DC @  DC Jazzfest

'Ray Charles Live in Concert' captures The Genius in 1964

In the half-century between his earliest recordings in the 1950s and his death in 2004, Ray Charles ascended to icon status by leaving his mark on virtually every form of American popular music that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. Nowhere was this more evident than in his live performances, where one was likely to hear shades of blues, soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, country, and more in a single evening — indeed, sometimes in a single song. To put it simply, the Right Reverend did it all.

All of these subtle shades and styles are evident in Concord Music Group’s April 5, 2011, reissue of Ray Charles Live in Concert. Originally released as a 12-song LP on ABC-Paramount in early 1965, Live in Concert captured Ray at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in September 1964. More than four decades later, the CD reissue brings additional depth and perspective to the 1964 recording with the help of 24-bit remastering, seven previously unreleased tracks and extensive new liner notes that provide additional historical context to what is already considered a pivotal recording in Ray’s overall body of work.

“There could be no more uplifting live musical experience than digging Ray Charles and his mighty orchestra in their prime,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his new liner notes. Indeed, the 15-piece orchestra backing Ray on this date — assembled just a few years earlier in 1961 — boasted no less than a dozen horns, including formidable saxophonists David “Fathead” Newman, Hank Crawford, and Leroy “Hog” Cooper, all of whom had been with Ray since his days as a leader of smaller combos. “This amazing aggregation,” says Dahl, “was every bit as conversant with the intricacies of modern jazz as with the gospel-blues synthesis that Brother Ray pioneered during the mid-1950s, when he began accruing serious cred as the father of what would soon become known as soul music.”

Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Live in Concert reissue, notes that the Shrine Auditorium performance took place at a transitional moment in Ray’s career, just as he was transcending the confines of R&B and entering the mainstream by demonstrating a firm grasp of various other genres. “He’d made his ascendance in the early ’60s, and he had the world at his feet by this time,” says Clough. “He’d basically invented soul, he’d done R&B, he’d conquered country and he was on his way to becoming an American icon.”

In the span of 19 songs, Live in Concert illuminates the route to that destination. Ray wastes no time taking his audience on a ride from jazzy big band groove of “Swing a Little Taste” to the Latin-flavored “One Mint Julep” to the blues-gospel hybrid of his classic “I Got a Woman.” Although his live rendition of “Georgia On My Mind” on this date didn’t make the cut on the original LP, the song is a standout track on the reissue, thanks to his complex organ runs and the flute lines moving in counterpoint with his rich vocals.

Clough considers the yearning “You Don’t Know Me” and the previously unreleased “That Lucky Old Sun” to be among the high points of the recording. “It sounds like he’s really baring his soul on those two tracks, and they just sound incredible,” says Clough, noting that Ray was unaware that tape was rolling during this performance. “This particular date was at the end of their tour, and the performance seems a little loose as a result — in a good way, and in a less slick way.”

Further in, the rousing “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” is driven by a gospel groove and embellished with a sax solo by Newman that closely mirrors the original 1957 recording. The result is a familiar hit for an audience that’s more than ready to reinforce Ray’s foot-stomping beat with handclaps.

The sly and swaggering “Makin’ Whoopee” is delivered completely off the cuff, with drummer Wilbert Hogan, bassist Edgar Willis, and guitarist Sonny Forriest improvising an accompaniment behind what Dahl calls “Ray’s luxurious piano and breathy, supremely knowing vocals.” By all accounts, Ray spontaneously inserted the song into the set in response to the negative press he’d received overseas about his private life.

In the home stretch, Ray introduces the Raeletts, the female backing vocalists who served as his foil for some of his biggest hits. Together they work their way through “Don’t Set Me Free” (with Lillian Fort stepping forward for a duet with Ray), the comical “Two Ton Tessie” and the torchy “My Baby” before climaxing with the churning “What’d I Say,” a song tailor-made to stoke any room to a fever pitch.

A huge piece of the Ray Charles legacy is his mastery of any style he touched, and his ability to make it his own in a way that no other artist could — powers that can only come from an innate sense of adventure and spontaneity that are fully evident in Ray Charles Live in Concert.

“Few performers were less predictable onstage than Ray Charles,” says Dahl. “And nobody did it better.”

Al Bell gets Grammy Trustees Award

The Memphis Music Foundation and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, located at the original site of Stax Records, proudly congratulate Al Bell on receiving the highest honor the music industry offers, the 2011 Grammy Trustees Award, given by the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy. Bell now joins the pantheon of musical icons who have received the prestigious honor, including the Beatles, Walt Disney, George and Ira Gershwin, Berry Gordy, Duke Ellington, and Stax Records’ co-founder Estelle Axton.

For Bell, the honor represents a milestone in his lifetime love of music and work in the industry.

“The phone call I received from Neil Portnow, president of NARAS’ Grammy Foundation, letting me know that I was going to be a recipient of the Trustees Lifetime Achievement Award,” says Bell, “was both humbling and honoring. This is the most meaningful recognition I could have ever hoped to achieve from my industry. I sincerely thank NARAS and the Grammy Foundation for honoring me with their highest award.”

In 1965, a young radio disc jockey from Brinkley, Arkansas named Alvertis Isbell joined a fledging record company in Memphis, Tennessee to help promote the music it was churning out in an old converted movie theater. That small label was Stax Records and Al Bell became known to be one of the driving forces who helped change music history. Decades later, in 2009, he became the chairman of the board of directors of the Memphis Music Foundation (MMF), the main organization charged with promoting the city’s musical legacy, current artists, and future plans.

“This is great news for Al Bell and Memphis Music,” said Dean Deyo, president of the Memphis Music Foundation. “Al started developing young artists during his Stax days over 40 years ago and continues to nurture artist development as chairman of the Memphis Music Foundation.  Memphis music is something very special and one of the main reasons for its success has been Al Bell.  It just may be a bit early to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award, because he is not done yet.  Al Bell is just getting started.”

Kirk Whalum, internationally renowned musician and 12-time Grammy nominee, now CEO for the Soulsville Foundation in Memphis, which includes the Stax Museum, Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School, explains, “There's a very good reason that the name Al Bell is mentioned, the voice of Al Bell is heard, and the handsome and distinguished face of Al Bell is seen more than any other name, voice, and face in the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. It's because of his body of work. Yes he remains a creative, viable, and avant-garde force in the industry. But who wouldn't give a limb to have all his ‘firsts’ and accomplishments in one’s rearview mirror?”

From 1965 until the company was forced into involuntary bankruptcy in 1975, Bell helped build Stax Records into one of the most influential labels in the world, working with artists such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the MGs, the Bar Kays, Richard Pryor, and a host of others. He also produced and wrote such hits as the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There.”  When Bell owned Stax in the 1970s, it was the second-largest African-American owned business in the United States. After the company’s demise, he went on to serve as president of Motown Records Group, and later started his own Bellmark Records label, releasing Prince’s top-selling song ever, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and Tag Team’s multi-platinum hit “Whoomp! (There It is),” one of the best-selling rap singles in history. Bell now operates his own web-based music channel, AlBellPresents.com.

For Isbell, given the name Al Bell in 1957 as radio announcer in Little Rock, Arkansas,  whose famous radio sign-on was “This is your 6-feet-4 bundle of joy, 212 pounds of Mrs. Bell’s baby boy, soft as medicated cotton, rich as double-X cream, the women’s pet, the men’s threat, the play boys pride and joy, the baby boy Al Bell,” — the Grammy Award not only marks his lifetime of work in the music industry, but also gives more fuel to what he plans to do now and in the future.

“When Mr. Portnow said ‘Lifetime Achievement Award,” Bell continues, “I didn’t think about my past. It sounded prophetic. Because what has happened to me is that I’ve begun to pursue that which I have learned in life and I’m about the business of achieving it. It’s a beginning for me. With this award and through my role with the Memphis Music Foundation, I am beginning my lifetime evolvement and development in the recorded music industry.”

Legendary Soul Singer Bonnie Bramlett Joins Lubriphonic On Stage

A cosmic meet up of musical powers joined forces in Macon, Georgia Wednesday night. Legendary soul singer Bonnie Bramlett (of Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills), in town to record with Little Richard, stopped by the Cox Capitol Theatre joining the Chicago funk and soul outfit Lubriphonic on stage for a scorching version of “Whatever You Do Don’t Stop.” Bonnie offered her trademark vocal howls and scat singing while encouraging the Lube horn and rhythm section to take it higher.

Lubriphonic’s weekend of sit-ins continues with two shows at the Bear Creek Music Festival in Northern Florida where confirmed guests for their Friday night set include JB Horn alums Fred Wesley and Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis along with funk sax master Sam Kininger.  The band continues its Fall Tour throughout the Southeast in support of their new CD “The Gig Is On”; additionally, to give folks a taster spoon of the new disc, Lubriphonic is currently offering a free download from the new disc: the scorching Curtis Mayfield track “If There’s A Hell Below (We’re All Gonna Go)” here.

Complete Lubriphonic information can be found at www.lubriphonic.com.

Check out some previous Lubriphonic coverage on The Grateful Web.

Rubber Soulive Tour Kicks Off This Weekend

Soulive has announced U.S. tour dates for the remainder of 2010 in support of their ninth studio album, Rubber Soulive. The 27-show run kicks off this weekend with a New York City hometown blow out dubbed The Royal Family Ball at Terminal 5, featuring special guests John Scofield, Talib Kweli, Christian Scott, Big Sam and Maurice Brown, as well as Royal Family crew Nigel Hall, Lettuce and The Shady Horns. Other highlights include festival appearances at Bear Creek Festival and Clearwater Jazz Festival, stops throughout the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West Coast and a handful of two-night stands, including Port City Music Hall in Portland, Higher Ground in Burlington, The Independent in San Francisco, Cervante's in Denver and a New Year's Eve celebration at Paradise in Boston.

The Brooklyn-based soul-funk trio just released Rubber Soulive, a tribute to The Beatles, which went to no. 1 on the iTunes jazz chart. The 11-track collection features Soulive's inimitable interpretations of Fab Four classics like "In My Life," "Eleanor Rigby" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." The band cut the album at their recording facility, Playonbrother Studios, and will release the effort through their own label, Royal Family Records. After a series of albums on major labels that experimented with guest vocalists, DJs and horn sections, Rubber Soulive signals a return to the band's roots with founding members Eric Krasno, Neal Evans and Alan Evans front and center and all operations under their own roof.

In early reviews of Rubber Soulive, All Music Guide declared "Like the Liverpool lads who intuitively meshed together, Soulive's members interlock to yield results greater than the sum of its parts on this successful tribute that combines the Beatles sense of excitement, imagination and musical exploration with a funky, down home, R&B/jazz groove." While Something Else blog wrote, "In bringing back some of the great tunes of The Beatles, Soulive brought themselves back to their no-frills, greasy early days when they were busting their collective tails to make a name for themselves."

Soulive's upcoming fall tour dates are:

October 1 | Maritime Magic | Baltimore, MD
October 2 | Terminal 5 | New York, NY
October 7 | Northern Lights | Albany, NY
October 8 | Port City Music Hall | Portland, ME
October 9 | Port City Music Hall | Portland, ME
October 16 | Clearwater Jazz Festival | Clearwater, FL
October 29 | Higher Ground | Burlington, VT
October 30 | Higher Ground | Burlington, VT
November 4 | The Rex | Pittsburgh, PA
November 5 | The State Theater | Falls Church, VA
November 6 | World Cafe Live | Philadelphia, PA
November 7 | Capital Ale House | Richmond, VA
November 8 | Pisgah | Asheville, NC
November 9 | The Poor House | Charleston, SC
November 10 | Neighborhood Theater | Charlotte, NC
November 11 | Masquerade | Atlanta, GA
November 13 | Bear Creek Music & Art Festival | Live Oak, FL
November 19 | Double Door | Chicago, IL
November 20 | Orpheum Theater | Madison, WI
December 10 | The Independent | San Francisco, CA *w/ special guest Karl Denson
December 11 | The Independent | San Francisco, CA *w/ special guest Karl Denson
December 12 | Humbolt Brews | Arcata, CA *w/ special guest Karl Denson
December 14 | Harlow's | Sacramento, CA
December 15 | Moe's Alley | Santa Cruz, CA
December 16 | The Roxy | Los Angeles, CA
December 17 | Cervante's Masterpiece Ballroom | Denver, CO
December 18 | Cervante's Masterpiece Ballroom | Denver, CO
December 30 | Paradise | Boston, MA
December 31 | Paradise | Boston, MA

Soulive Pays Tribute to The Beatles on 'Rubber Soulive'

New York City's preeminent soul jazz trio, Soulive, bring the funk to The Beatles' iconic repertoire with the release of Rubber Soulive due September 14 on the band's own Royal Family Records. Featuring renditions of 11 classics by The Fab Four, including "Come Together," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "Revolution," Rubber Soulive takes its place in a lineage of classic instrumental albums by the likes of Booker T. & The M.G.'s, George Benson and Count Basie that have paid tribute to The Beatles.  Soulive will announce an extended U.S. Fall tour to support the release in the coming weeks.

"We've always been big Beatles' fans. They're consistently in heavy rotation in all of our lives. And then for Halloween last year we had a great show in D.C. by trying out an all-Beatles set. The material was so much fun to play that we decided it had to be put to wax," explains Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno. "At first we thought about doing all of Rubber Soul, but with so many amazing songs to choose from we expanded the scope and picked the ones that lent themselves to our sound, and where we could  best add a Soulive flavor."

Recorded over four days at drummer Alan Evans' own Playonbrother Studios in upstate New York, Rubber Soulive presents the band back in its original trio format. After a handful of albums experimenting with different vocalists and horn sections, it's apparent from the album's opening track, a greasy rendition of "Drive My Car," that a return to form was in order. For the next 40 minutes, Soulive add their inimitable stamp to one classic after the next from The Beatles’ adored catalog. A stately bounce informs "In My Life" punctuated by a majestic organ break courtesy of Neal Evans. "Eleanor Rigby" finds Alan pushing insistent syncopation into the backbeat and Neal covering a full string section with his two hands. A gorgeous rendition of "Something" makes clear that while Krasno can get down with the best of them, he can also dig deep into the heart of a ballad as he rings every last drop of emotion from the classic George Harrison melody. The trio rounds out the set with a three-dimensional version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." The performance concisely encapsulates the definitive Soulive sound built upon the trio's shimmering, wah-drenched guitar licks, soaring Hammond organ lines and relentlessly propulsive swing.

Over a decade into their career, Soulive are having more fun than ever recording and performing together. This past March the band set up shop at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg for a two-week residency dubbed Bowlive that featured special guests ranging from Talib Kweli to Susan Tedeschi to Raul Midon. The event will be documented on a forthcoming DVD release this winter. They operate their own state-of-the-art recording studio, as well as, their own record label Royal Family Records that alongside recent Soulive projects is preparing to offer up albums by Eric Krasno, Lettuce and Break Science. In early 2011, the fledgling indie will release the highly anticipated debut album from the acclaimed, young R&B vocalist Nigel Hall. In the coming months, however, the focus is clearly on the lineup that put them on the forefront of the soul jazz revival. With a fall tour on the horizon and a delectable new album filled with red hot renditions of classics by The Beatles, things are starting to "Come Together" for the original three, right now, all over again.

www.royalfamilyrecords.com/soulive
www.facebook.com/soulive

Rubber Soulive is available September 14 on vinyl, CD and mp3.

Otis Redding's 2-CD 'Live on the Sunset Strip'

In 1966, Otis Redding had emerged not only as the star of Stax Records but as one of nation’s most influential soul singers. With his version of “Satisfaction” climbing the charts in April 1966, Redding arrived in Los Angeles to play both the Hollywood Bowl (as part of a KHJ-AM listener appreciation concert that also featured Donovan, Sonny & Cher and the Mamas & the Papas) and a four-nighter at the legendary Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip. According to Taj Mahal, whose ’60s band the Rising Sons opened the Whisky shows, “At that time, Otis was it.”

Live on the Sunset Strip, slated for May 18, 2010 release on Stax Records through Concord Music Group, captures Redding in the white heat of transition, when his star power was undeniable and it was still possible to catch him backed by his own road band in the tight quarters of a smoky nightclub. The 2-CD set features three full live sets that have never been previously available in their entirety. A definitive live statement from Redding, the songs are sequenced exactly as they went down, complete with an emcee and spoken introductions by Redding. The booklet features rare photographs as well as extensive liner notes by Ashley Kahn, author of music biographies and a contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition.

Live on the Sunset Strip highlights versions of Redding’s best-known songs: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Security,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” “Satisfaction,” “Respect,” “These Arms of Mine” and “Just One More Day,” to name a few.

As Kahn points out in his notes, “In 1966, Redding was 24 and defined not only the sound but the style and look of a true soul man. Tall and lanky, he was ready to drop to his knees and tear off the thin-lapelled jacket of his sharply pressed suit when it was time to deliver the goods. His ten-piece band was his personal, traveling amen-corner, urging him to testify night after night . . . His out-of-breath stage patter was warm and downhome. ‘Ladies and gentlemens,’ he addressed his fans, ‘holler as loud as you wanna — you ain’t home!’”

The Whisky A Go Go was known for its integrated booking policy and for helping bring awareness of R&B and blues to rock audiences, who attended shows by the Doors, Love, and the Standells at the venue. On April 7-10, the club booked the Otis Redding Revue for the Easter weekend that followed the Hollywood Bowl appearance. Redding’s entourage included an emcee and a full 10-piece band (led by saxophonist Bob Holloway) along with three up-and-coming singers performing one tune apiece before the headliner hit the stage. Engineer Wally Heider, the West Coast’s leading recorder of live performances, was hired to tape the three nights.

The shows did not go unnoticed by the Los Angeles Times, which noted: “Drawn by his growing popularity, a fervid audience shoe-horned into the club . . . Redding was assured of an In Group [sic] following Thursday night when from among his spectators emerged Bob Dylan, trailed by an entourage of camp followers.” (Legend holds that Dylan offered him “Just Like a Woman” as a possible cover that night, though Redding thought the song was a little wordy.)

Redding achieved even greater heights in the months after the Whisky performances, chalking up two new hits (“Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa [Sad Song]” and “Try a Little Tenderness”). He played San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, took part in the Stax/Volt Revue through Europe in March ’67 and stole the show at the historic Monterey International Pop Festival in June of that year. The ultimate tragedy happened on December 10, 1967, when, as eloquently stated by Kahn, “his death in an airplane crash . . . dramatically froze his star forever in its perfect, meteoric apogee.”

In 1968, Stax posthumously issued the LP In Person at the Whisky A Go Go, with liner notes by Los Angeles Times critic Pete Johnson, who’d also reviewed the live show. In 1993, the CD Good to Me: Recorded Live at the Whisky, Vol. 2 expanded on a largely forgotten 1982 LP, Recorded Live. While those releases juggled selections from different shows, Live on the Sunset Strip stands out as a historically true document, offering the last three consecutive sets capturing Redding and his band in top form.

“I’m still real clear about those shows,” recalls Taj Mahal, whose Rising Sons opened them. “It was raw and unscripted. It was just the joy of music, you know. The joy of rhythm, the joy of energy. . .”

Maceo Parker at Cervante's Ballroom - March 12th

Maceo Parker: his name is synonymous with Funky Music, his pedigree impeccable; his band: the tightest little funk orchestra on earth.

Everyone knows by now that he’s played with each and every leader of funk, his start with James Brown, which Maceo describes as "like being at University"; jumping aboard the Mothership with George Clinton; stretching out with Bootsy’s Rubber Band. He’s the living, breathing pulse which connects the history of Funk in one golden thread. The cipher which unravels dance music down to its core.

“Everything’s coming up Maceo,” concluded DownBeat Magazine in a 1991 article at the beginning of Maceo Parker’s solo career. At the time Maceo was a remembered by aficionados of funk music as sideman; appreciated mainly by those in the know. More than a decade and a half later Maceo Parker has been enjoying a blistering solo career. For the past sixteen years Maceo has been building a new funk empire, fresh and stylistically diverse. He navigates deftly between James Brown’s 1960’s soul and George Clinton’s 1970’s freaky funk while exploring mellower jazz and the grooves of hip-hop.

His collaborations over the years performing or recording or both have included Ray Charles, Ani Difranco, James Taylor, De La Soul, Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. His timeless sound has garnered him a fresh young fan base. It is almost impossible to separate which came first, Maceo or the funk. The amazing P-funk Parker has been at it with his legendary alto horn for some time dating back to the 1960’s. That’s when Maceo and his drummer brother Melvin climbed on board the James Brown funky soul funk train. It wasn’t long before James coined the solo summoning signature, “ Maceo, I want you to Blow!” . To most musicologists it’s the muscially fertile group of men from this period of James Brown’s band who are recognized as the early pioneers of the modern funk and hip-hop we still jump to today.

Tickets are $20.00 Advance / $25.00 Day of show
Doors are at 8pm, show begins at approx. 9PM
Tickets are available at the Cervantes’ box office or online at Cervante's Ticketing

Ray Charles' 'Genius + Soul = Jazz'

Ray Charles was best known for his work in the idioms of R&B, rock ’n’ roll and even successful forays into country. But he also recorded influential jazz albums, including the groundbreaking Genius + Soul = Jazz originally released in 1961, and continuing into the ’70s with My Kind of Jazz, Jazz Number II and My Kind of Jazz Part 3. On April 6, 2010, Concord Records will release a deluxe edition two-CD set featuring digitally remastered versions of all four albums including encyclopedic liner notes by Will Friedwald, jazz writer for The Wall Street Journal and author of several books on music and popular culture, along with original liner notes by Dick Katz and Quincy Jones.

Genius + Soul = Jazz was recorded at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in late 1960. The producer was Creed Taylor; arrangers, Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. Ray Charles played the organ with three vocals (“I’ve Got News for You,” “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “One Mint Julep”) and band members included members of the Count Basie Orchestra: Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Billy Mitchell, Frank Wess, Freddie Green, and Sonny Payne among others. Issued originally on ABC Records’ legendary Impulse jazz label, the record ascended to the #4 spot on Billboard’s pop album chart, and spawned the very first singles on Impulse, heretofore an album label. “I’ve Got News for You,” rose to #8 R&B and #66 on the Hot 100. In addition, Charles’ version of “One Mint Julep” charted #1 R&B and #8 pop, and his rendition of the blues standard “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” reached #25 R&B and #84 pop.

As annotator Friedwald states, “Genius + Soul = Jazz . . . was a bold and innovative album, but, at the same time, a direct step forward from his earlier work.” Although Basie himself does not appear on the album, the Count was a major model as Charles assembled a full-scale, working orchestra. Basie also influenced his use of organ in a jazz context, and Charles was happy to record at the Van Gelder studio, where Jimmy Smith had recorded his classic Blue Note albums. Truly, as Dick Katz wrote in his original January 1961 liner notes, “The combination here of rare talent plus uncommon craftsmanship has produced a record that showcases the timeless quality and innate taste that is uniquely that of Ray Charles.”

Some nine years later, Charles recorded another jazz album, My Kind of Jazz. With sessions in Los Angeles this time, Charles surrounded himself with such players as Bobby Bryant and Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Glen Childress, trombone; Andy Ennis, Albert McQueen and Clifford Scott, saxophone; and Ben Martin, guitar. The album contained Charles’ own “Booty-Butt” (which was issued as a single on his own Tangerine label), Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder,” and Horace Silver’s “Señor Blues.”

In his original liner notes to My Kind of Jazz, Quincy Jones wrote, “This album is the essence of what Ray used to tell us when we were kids: Be true to the soul of the material you’re dealing with.”

Jazz Number II was recorded roughly two years later at Charles’ Tangerine/RPM Studios and issued on Tangerine Records. Charles enlisted an impressive cast of arrangers: Alf Clausen, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Heath and Roger Neumann.  The tracks included Ray Charles and Roger Neumann’s “Our Suite,” Teddy Edwards’ “Brazilian Skies” and “Going Home,” Thad Jones’ “Kids Are Pretty People” and Jimmy Heath’s “Togetherness.”

Finally, My Kind of Jazz Part 3, which concludes the Genius + Soul = Jazz deluxe package, was recorded in Los Angeles circa 1975, featured the Ray Charles Orchestra including Clifford Solomon, alto sax; Glen Childress, trombone; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Leroy Cooper, baritone sax; and James Clay, tenor sax. Included are compositions by Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Jimmy Heath and Benny Golson. Issued on Charles’ own Crossover Records, the album reached #55 on the R&B chart in 1976.

The reissue of Genius + Soul = Jazz continues Concord Music Group’s long-term reissuing of the Ray Charles catalog in cooperation with the Ray Charles Foundation. Among the other albums repackaged in the past year are Genius Hits the Road, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Message From the People, plus the career compilation titled Genius.