Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year End Favorite Albums: 2014

2014 really brought the conversation of cultural appropriation to the forefront in music with the breakout year for Iggy Azalea and Sam Smith, who have both found tremendous success with Black sounds on the charts. While Iggy commanded the single's chart and Sam broke ground on both the Hot 100 and Top 200 Album charts, D'Angelo made a much welcomed return with arguably the best album of the year, if not the past few while K. Michelle continued to grow her fanbase with a sublime sophomore effort and Ledisi continues to pump out solid and thoughtful material.

While a lot of great records were released within 2014, these 5, ok 6, as well as the honorable mentions stood out to me as some of the best vocal, sonic, and lyrical work to debut this year. The list is not numerical in order of "most favorite" as the field this year was so tight and definitely offered a variety of great albums depending on your mood. Some artists had strong comebacks this year (D'Angelo; Mary J. Blige), others were brought more into the mainstream with solid efforts (Ledisi; K. Michelle), and two superstar were overlooked with stunning sets that is some of their best work in years in my opinion (Mariah Carey; Whitney Houston). Peep the list below and in addition to several honorable mentions.

Song of the Day: "Auld Lang Syne (The New Year's Anthem)" (Mariah Carey)

"Auld Lang Syne (The New Year's Anthem)" - Mariah Carey
  • Writers: Robert Burns, Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson, Johnny Severin
  • Producers: Red One & Mariah Carey
  • Featured on 2010's Merry Christmas II You

Amazing Cover: "Lovesong" (Candice Glover)

While Candice Glover's debut album Music Speaks was released earlier this year, back in February, I feel as though her album didn't get as much promotion and attention as her vocal talents warrant the attention that we have given to some less vocally skilled individuals.

With that said, I am often reminded of her haunting cover of The Cure's "Lovesong" during her stint on American Idol and lucky for fans of hers, it found its way into her debut album with a nice new arrangement to match her smokey vocal performance.

Therefore, revisit her aw-inspiring cover of The Cure's "Lovesong" below from her time on American Idol and Enjoy!

Second Listen: "A Sunday Kind of Love" (Etta James)

"A Sunday Kind of Love" was a popular song composed by Barbara Belle, Anita Leonard, Stan Rhodes, and Louis Prima and became a pop and jazz standard, recorded by many artists. The song was first recorded though by Claude Thornhill and his Orchestra on November 11, 1946.

Claude Thornhill released the song as a single in January, 1947 and it became permanently identified as the signature song for its vocalist, Fran Warren. Louis Prima and his Orchestra released his recording of the song in February, 1947, though the version I am most familiar with, and I am sure you as well is Etta's poignant rendition.

Lifted from her 1961 album At Last!, which is probably best remembered by Etta's sublime cover of "At Last," "A Sunday Kind of Love" is also another standout from this classic work from James and warrants a second listen below!

Cut: "Good Mourning" (India.Arie)

I had the pleasure of seeing India.Arie's sublime concert last year at Club Nokia and one of the joints that truly spoke to me for some reason that night was India's cut "Good Mourning." Lifted from her third studio album Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, "Good Mourning" even features a rift on India's classic ballad "Ready for Love," which was lifted from her debut album Acoustic Soul.

I truly do not know what was in the air that night, but the lyric "[g]ood mourning independence or is it loneliness" resonated with me on some other level this past friday night and India's entire show fed by soul.

With that said, take a listen to her cut "Good Mourning" and if you like what you hear, please revisit India.Arie's vast discography, which continues to grow with the recent release of her fifth studio album SongVersation.

Live Audio: "I Love The Lord/ "I'm Your Baby Tonight/I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (Monica & Brandy)

During the 2012 BET Awards, Monica and Brandy were called upon to offer their vocal services to honor their late friend and mentor Ms. Whitney Houston.

Monica opened up the tribute with an impassioned rendition of "I Love The Lord" while Brandy sped it up a bit with her thumping performances of "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)."

With that said, take a listen to Monica and Brandy both honor the late Ms. Whitney Houston through song below and Enjoy!

A Capella: "I Do" (Boyz II Men)

While musical groups have been making a comeback for the last few years, none of them, and I mean none of them can touch the harmonies of Boyz II Men. Having put their four part harmonies to the test for over two decades now, the Boyz from Philadelphia still got it as the preceding clip shows.

Performing their joint "I Do," the sixty-five second clip proves why Boyz II Men are the gold standard of singing groups as they not only have the hits, but also the shear vocal talent to entertain you without music.

Watch Boyz II Men's phenomenal performance of "I Do" from The Mirage below and Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Song of the Day: "Lean on Me" (Bill Withers)

"Lean on Me" - Bill Withers
  • Writers: Bill Withers
  • Producers: Bill Withers
  • Record Label: Sussex Records
  • "Lean on Me" was featured on 1972's from Still Bill

Amazing Cover: "Giving Up" (Jennifer Holliday)

Jennifer Holliday is best known for originating the role of Effie White in the original broadway production of "Dreamgirls," which would later win the powerhouse vocalist both a Tony and a Grammy for her show-stopping number "And I Am Telling You."

While Holliday is still known primarily for this joint, one of my favorite songs in her discography is her cover of the Donny Hathaway hit and Gladys Knight & The Pips original "Giving Up." Having originally been write by Van McCoy and recorded by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Holliday infuses her legendary pipes into this classic and turns it into a near 9 minute soulful opus.

Take a listen below to Jennifer Holiday's sublime rendition of "Giving Up" and Enjoy!

Second Listen: "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" (Roy Ayers)

Roy Ayers is a musical pioneer and his joint "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" from his 1976 album of the same name, Everybody Loves the Sunshine is a fine example of his sonic works.

"Everybody Loves the Sunshine" has of course been sampled numerous times by several artists including Brand Nubian, P.M. Dawn, Common, Mos Def and most famously in my book by Mary J. Blige.

With that said, "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" is definitely in my top 200 songs of all time and Roy's infectious instrumentation and catchy hook make this song the perfect addition to any set list. Take a second listen after the jump and Enjoy!

Remix: "Move Love (Bossa Soula Remix)" (Robert Glasper ft KING)

Was going through an old playlist today and rediscovered the brilliance of  Ahmed Sirour’s Bossa Soula remix of Robert's "Move Love" featuring KING. This joint just never gets old for me and I can't believe I haven't had this in my current rotation as the instrumentation and vocals are just sublime.

Ahmed's remix came about through Robert Glasper who created a remix competition that Ahmed Sirour’s Bossa Soula remix won. Take a listen below to "Move Love (Bossa Soula Remix) and Enjoy! (FYI last time I checked, it's a free download, so if I was you, I would get on that ASAP).

Cut: "Gotta Get Up (Another Day)" (Jill Scott ft 4Hero)

Back in 2001, Jill Scott released her live double album Experience: Jill Scott 826+ and while the set is best known for her live renditions and the single "Gimme," my favorite joint from the bonus studio LP has to be her 4Hero assisted joint "Gotta Get Up (Another Day)."

While the song was never released as a single and Ms. Scott has not performed it live to my knowledge, the song has such a necessary meaning and a dope beat to accompany it. With that said, take a listen to "Gotta Get Up (Another Day)" after the jump and Enjoy!

Live Audio: "Sack Full Of Dreams" (Donny Hathaway)

Back in 1972 Donny Hathaway recorded a live album that would then be rereleased in 2004 as "These Songs for You Live." On the album, Donny performed numerous hits, classics and covers that truly electrified the audience.

With that said, take a listen after the jump to Donny Hathaway's amazing soulful performance of "Sack Full of Dreams" and Enjoy!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Song of the Day: "Forthenight" (Musiq Soulchild)

"Forthenight" - Musiq Soulchild
  • Producers: Orthodox & Ransum
  • Record Label: Def Soul
  • Released in 2003 from Soulstar
  • Peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs

Trailer: "With This Ring" (Jill Scott, Eve, Regina King)

Lifetime has gone through some hits and misses lately with its original movies but it looks like they have another hit on their hands with the just released trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of the best-selling book, The Vow retitled With This Ring, co-staring Jill Scott, Regina King, and Eve in the film's lead roles.

Slated to air January 24th at 8pm on Lifetime, the cable network really seems to be invested in tales about Black women as of late with the recent biopic about Aaliyah having already hit their airwaves and the Whitney Houston biopic set to air on Lifetime this January.

With that said, from the preview I know that I will be tuning into see what Lifetime has cooked up and hopefully it is more inline with their all-Black adaptation of Steel Magnolias instead of their questionable biopics on Brittany Murphy and Aaliyah. Peep the official trailer for With This Ring below and lookout for it when it airs on Lifetime Saturday, January 24 at 8pm EST.

Amazing Cover: "Love's Holiday" (Lalah Hathaway)

Over four years ago, Lalah Hathaway took part in the Earth, Wind and Fire tribute during the televised Soul Train Awards. During the segment Lalah performed a sublime rendition of "Love's Holiday" which she recorded several years ago for the EWF tribute album Interpretations.

While her sublime live rendition from that night seems to of disappeared from the net, luckily we still have her recorded tribute cover for "Love's Holiday" from Interpretations. Therefore, take a listen below to her phenomenal rendition of "Love's Holiday" and Enjoy!

Second Listen: "Fire and Desire" (Rick James & Teena Marie)

"Fire and Desire" by Rick James and Teena Marie is easily one of my top ten duets in music history. Besides the vocals being off the charts, the passion between these two can be felt even through the mechanical reproduction of their recorded duet.

Arranged, composed, and written by James, "Fire and Desire" is one of those cuts from Rick's 1981 concept album "Street Songs" that still lives on classic Soul radio. Take a (hopefully) second listen to "Fire and Desire" below and Enjoy!

Live Audio: "Promise This" (Adele)

I don't know about you, but I still really enjoying listening to Adele's cover of Cheryl Cole's "Promise This" that she offered up during her Radio 1 Live Lounge appearance during the early onset promotion of her blockbuster sophomore album 21.

Though Cole's "Promise This" wouldn't seem like a great cover choice, Adele slows it down a bit and lets her pipes do the rest on this stunning live audio cover. Take a listen below to Adele's live audio cover of Cole's "Promise This" and hopefully 2015 is the year for the followup to Adele's 2011 blockbuster 21, which is rumored to be entitled 25.

Cut: "Butta Love" (Next)

Back in 1997, Next released their debut album Rated Next and the lead single from the group's double platinum Artista debut was the smooth joint "Butta Love." While "Butta Love" peaked at a solid #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, their second single "Too Close," is the joint that people most remember from the R&B trio.

With that said, take a listen to their cut "Butta Love" below as we revisit this 90s cut from Next.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Live Video of the Day: "Not Loving You" (Mary J. Blige)

A little late on this Mary J. Blige performance from Capital Records' 1 Mic, 1 Take series, but as I always say, better late than never and this one take performance of "Not Loving You" from Mary J. Blige is yet another riveting performance from her The London Sessions era.

Co-written by Sam Smith, the powerful ballad truly showcases off Mary J. Blige's iconic tone and soulful belts in a way that brings her classic sound into the current retro soul/British invasion era. With that said, watch Mary's powerful performance of "Not Loving You" below and Enjoy!

Song of the Day: "How Will I Know" (Whitney Houston)

"How Will I Know" - Whitney Houston
  • Writers: George Merrill, Shannon Rubicam & Narada Michael Walden
  • Producer: Narada Michael Walden
  • Record Label: Arista Records
  • Released in 1985 from Whitney Houston
  • Peaked at #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 & the Hot Black Singles chart

Live Audio: "You Send Me" (Aretha Franklin)

During the early 1970s, Aretha Franklin often performed a cover of the Sam Cooke classic "You Send Me" during her sets and of course, the Queen of Soul set it off with her iconic soulfully soaked vocals.

With that said, below you will find a sublime live audio rendition of the Queen of Soul belting out "You Send Me" with a phenomenal accompaniment of her background singers and band. Listen below and Enjoy!

Amazing Cover: "Roar" (Rebecca Ferguson)

Katy Perry is a certified hit-maker these days taking a lot of her songs to the summit of the Billboard Hot 100 single's chart and towards the end of 2013, Rebecca Ferguson covered Katy's #1 hit anthem "Roar."

Offering a soulful take of the uptempo bubblegum pop anthem "Roar," Rebecca Ferguson's husky vocals and her sublime background singers really transform this song while keeping the heart of the record the same.

It also almost feels as though Rebecca and her background singers have really added some gravitas to this Air Studios' performance of "Roar" and you can watch it all go down below!

Second Listen: "Caught Up in the Rapture" (Anita Baker)

Back in 1986, Anita Baker released her sophomore breakout album Rapture and it would go onto make her a worldwide superstar, selling 8 million copies worldwide, including five million of those here in the United States. While the album's biggest single is her classic "Sweet Love," Rapture had a few other classic hits on it including "Caught Up in the Rapture."

Released in the fall of 1986, "Caught Up in the Rapture" was Baker's third top ten R&B single, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart and #9 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Singles.

With that said, take a hopefully second listen to Baker's classic "Caught Up in the Rapture" below and Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Song of the Day: "More & More" (Joe)

"More & More" - Joe
  • Writer: R. Kelly
  • Producer: R. Kelly
  • Record Label: Jive Records
  • Released in 2003 from And Then...
  • Peaked at #48 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #15 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts

Live Clip: "Love Me Harder (Acoustic)" (Ariana Grande ft The Weeknd)

Not sure when this video of Ariana Grande and The Weeknd performing an acoustic rendition of their hit single "Love Me Harder" was recorded, but it seems as if it's a rehearsal video of sorts possibly captured before the duo debuted their collaboration on Saturday Night Live earlier this year.

With that said, this acoustic rendition truly showcases Ariana's flawless vocals and why she is continually considered one of the best, if not the best up-and-coming singers to debut in the last few years. Therefore, watch their phenomenal performance below and Enjoy!

Live Audio: "Inner City Blues" (Marvin Gaye)

My favorite Marvin Gaye joint hands down his is poignant song "Inner City Blues," which is lifted from his monumental and historic album What's Going On.

With that said, below you will find the live audio of his performance of this stunning joint from his 1972 appearance at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from his May 1st performance at the venue. Listen below to Marvin's sublime rendition of "Inner City Blue" and soak it all in.

Second Listen: "Never Knew Love Like This Before" (Stephanie Mills)

"Never Knew Love Like This Before" is a Grammy Award-winning hit song written by James Mtume and Reggie Lucas and recorded by American R&B singer Stephanie Mills. The song is the second and final single from Mills' 1980 album, Sweet Sensation.

The song became Mills' biggest hit on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart, where it peaked at No. 6, outperforming her previously highest charting single, "Whatcha Gonna Do with My Lovin'", which peaked at No. 22. The single was also successful on the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, peaking at No. 12 and No. 5, respectively. On the UK Singles Chart, the track climbed to No. 4.

With that said, you can take a hopefully second listen to "Never Knew Love Like This Before" below and Enjoy!

Amazing Cover: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (Jennifer Hudson)

A few years ago, Jennifer Hudson performed at the 2013 American Cancer Society of Southern Arizona Gala Divas in the Desert in Tuscon, Arizona and during her set, Jennifer offered up a brilliant cover of the Roberta Flack classic "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."

With that said, watch her phenomenal performance of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" below as we all await more news of Jennifer Hudson's highly anticipated third studio album, which is slated for release later this year!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Live Video of the Day: "Back To Black" (Amy Winehouse)

One of my favorite Amy Winehouse joints is the title track to her sophomore album Back To Black, which helped Amy earn a then record tying 5 Grammy Awards in one night including Best New Artist, Record of the Year, as well as Song of the Year.

With that said, though "Back To Black" didn't gain as much acclaim as Amy's "Rehab," it in my opinion is as good if not better then her Grammy winning hit. Watch her sublime performance of "Back To Black" after the jump and Enjoy!

Song of the Day: "I Wish I Wasn't" (Heather Headley)

"I Wish I Wasn't" - Heather Headley
  • Writers and Producers: James Wright, James Harris III, Terry Lewis
  • Record Label: J Records
  • Released in 2002 from This Is Who I Am.
  • Peaked at #15 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks

Live Clip: "Spending The Night Alone" (Adrian Marcel)

Adrian Marcel has really been building some momentum since coming onto the scene roughly two years ago and as we get ready to close out 2014 and move into 2015, which will find him releasing his debut album Got Me F'ed Up, Adrian has released a solid stripped down performance of his current single "Spending The Night Alone."

With just him at the keyboard and a bass player accompanying on his Rico Love helmed joint, 2015 could be the year Adrian truly breaks out as he certainly has the talent. With that said, peep his performance of "Spending The Night Alone below and if you like what you hear, lookout for hm in 2015!

Second Listen: "Love Thang" (First Choice)

First Choice was a famed Philly trio who are best known for their hits "Armed and Extremely Dangerous," "The Player (Part 1)," as well as  "Doctor Love," though my favorite joint from the trio has to be their thumping 1979 minor hit "Love Thang."

Lifted from their fifth album Hold Your Horses, "Love Thang" is one of those thumping joints that you can just put on repeat and you can take a second listen to it below.

Live Audio: "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Patti LaBelle)

Back in 1984, Patti LaBelle took to the stage of the Apollo Theater to perform a spine-tingling rendition of the classic "You'll Never Walk Alone" in honor of the famed theater's 50th anniversary and grand "reopening."

As we get ready to walk into a new year, below you will find the live audio of her performance which in my opinion is in her top 5 vocal performance of all-time that I have heard thus far. Either way you feel, take a listen to the Phoenix of Philadelphia do what she does best and Enjoy!

Cut: "Joy" (Whitney Houston)

Back in 1996, Whitney Houston released the accompanying soundtrack to her film "The Preacher's Wife" and the gospel heavy album would go onto become one of the most highly successful gospel albums of all time.

With that said, one of the cuts from the album for me is her Kirk Franklin written joint "Joy," which Houston co-produced with Mervyn Warren. Therefore, take a listen below to Whitney Houston performing "Joy" along with The Georgia Mass Choir and Enjoy!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Live Video of the Day: "O Come All Ye Faithful / Hallelujah Chorus" (Mariah Carey & Patricia Carey)

Back in 2010, Mariah Carey released her second Christmas album Merry Christmas II You and to help promote her latest holiday LP, Mariah teamed up with ABC for a Christmas special aptly titled Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas to You.

With that said, the highlight of the night for me had to be her duet with her mother, Patricia Carey, to a mashup of "O Come All Ye Faithful and "Hallelujah Chorus." Peep Mariah Carey and Patricia Carey's "O Come All Ye Faithful / Hallelujah Chorus" below as we continue to celebrate the holiday season.

Song of the Day: "Soul Holidays" (Sounds of Blackness)

"Soul Holidays" - Sounds of Blackness
  • Writers and Producers: Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, James Harris III, and Ann Bennet-Nesby
  • Record Label: Perspective Records
  • Released in 1992 off of The Night Before Christmas: A Musical Fantasy

Cut: "When You Believe" (Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey)

My brother and I watched The Prince of Egypt early this morning one of the highlights from the film for me has to be Whitney Houston's collaboration with Mariah Carey on "When You Believe." Originally lifted from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack, the Houston and Carey collaboration is one of epic vocal proportions, showcasing both songbirds' vocal forces.

Written by Stephen Schwartz and produced Babyface, "When You Believe" would earn Schwartz an Academy Award and is sometimes a forgotten gem in both Carey's and Houston's discography. With that said, take a listen to this cut below and Enjoy!

Live Audio: "O Holy Night" (Mariah Carey)

 It's not the holidays in my household without a little Mariah Carey music in the background. With two Christmas albums under her belt, Mariah Carey is the epitome of holiday spirit and her live rendition of "O Holy Night" lifted from WPC in South Central Los Angeles is a great example of her vocal prowess.

Take a listen below to Mariah's sublime live rendition of "O Holy Night" lifted from her holiday collection as we continue to celebrate Christmas on this special day!

Playback: "Every Year, Every Christmas" (Luther Vandross)

It should be apparent by now, but if it isn't, Luther Vandross is my favorite male vocalist of all time. With that said, I am always revisiting his sublime holiday album This Is Christmas and the standout originals and covers.

Featuring seven original holiday jams and three covers, it is hard to choose a favorite, but "Every Year, Every Christmas" for me is always a favorite amongst "The Mistletoe Jam (Everybody Kiss Somebody)" and "With a Christmas Heart."

Therefore, take a playback to the Luther original "Every Year, Every Christmas" that he co-penned with Richard Marx ("Dance With My Father") below and Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Song of the Day: "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (Mariah Carey)

"All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Mariah Carey
  • Writers and Producers: Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff
  • Record Label:  Columbia
  • Released in 1994 from Merry Christmas
  • Peaks at #1 yearly on the US Billboard Holiday Songs

Second Listen: "This Christmas" (Donny Hathaway)

Back in 1970, Donny Hathaway co-wrote, produced and released "This Christmas" as a special single release for the holiday season.

Though it only peaked at #11 on the Billboard Christmas Singles Chart in 1972, the song has gone onto become a Christmas standard and classic having been covered by numerous high profile acts including Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Chris Brown, and Patti LaBelle.

With that said, take a first or second listen to this holiday jam below and Enjoy!

Playback: "Silent Night" (Alexandra Burke)

On Alexandra Burke's 2012 EP "Christmas Gift," the famed UK songstress offers up a solid interpretation of the holiday gem "Silent Night" and with it being Christmas Eve, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit  her stripped back rendition of "Silent Night" with those who are celebrating the holiday season.

With that said, take a listen below to Alexandra's take of "Silent Night" and lookout for her forthcoming third LP in 2015 as the official single and video for it have already been rumored to be selected and shot!

Amazing Cover: "Christmas Time Is Here" (Toni Braxton)

One of my top 5 Christmas covers of all time has to go to Toni Braxton's impecable rendition of the Charlie Brown classic "Christmas Time Is Here," which was originally recorded by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. On any holiday mix I make, Toni's phenomenal interpretation of "Christmas Time Is Here" is of course included and as we celebrate Christmas today, it's definitely appropriate to revisit this amazing cover! Listen below to Toni's "Christmas Time Is Here" below and Enjoy!

Live Clip: "White Christmas (Acoustic)" (Bridget Kelly)

Two years ago, Bridget Kelly released a stirring acoustic take of  the smooth Irving Berlin penned Christmas classic  "White Christmas."

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.

With that in said, peep Bridget Kelly's solid rendition of "White Christmas" below and lookout for her highly anticipated debut album when it's released next year!

Live Audio: "Fallin'" (Alicia Keys)

Alicia Keys' Unplugged album featured the famed singer/songwriter at her best in my opinion showcasing off bother her phenomenal soulful vocals and her excellent piano skills.

With only two albums under her belt at that time (Songs in A Minor and Diary Of Alicia Keys), Alicia pulled from her then growing discography and of course performed her #1 hit single that started it all. Why she hasn't recorded another Unplugged album is unbeknownst to me as she has released three albums since.

With that said, take a listen below to Alicia Keys' amazing live rendition of her first #1 hit "Fallin'" and Enjoy!