r&b Archive

Album Review: Lou Ragland – I Travel Alone

Way back when I was nineteen, I was a full-time college student, but I also held down a part-time job in retail. I became friendly with a co-worker name Wade White, and our conversations often centered around (you guessed it) music. Our backgrounds couldn’t have been more different: I was a suburban kid, and he

Album Review: Father’s Children – Who’s Gonna Save the World

The story of Father’s Children is fascinating, but not altogether unique. Group comes together, develops a style, records an album, sinks without a trace. This Washington DC-based group recorded an album for Mercury at the tail-end of the 70s, but by that point they were past their prime, had endured myriad lineup changes, and had

Album Review: Ray Charles — Genius: The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection

The word Genius is thrown around far too cavalierly. At this writing, Michael Jackson (the self-proclaimed King of Pop) has been dead only a few days, and tributes everywhere call the onetime child star a genius. Oh yeah? I recently sat through Martin Bashir’s 2003 documentary Living With Michael Jackson (an icky title in light

Album Review: Wattstax: The Living Word

With apologies to Sir Walter Scott, “oh, what a tangled web we weave, when again we practice to re-release.” The 1972 Wattstax festival was black R&B’s excellent (if belated) answer to Woodstock and other festivals of the era. Concerts in and around the Watts district of Los Angeles put the spotlight on Stax Records’ best

Album Review: Stax: The Soul of Hip-Hop

This compilation would have been an inspired, brilliant idea, had it not been done already (see review of the 2008 Blue Note compilation Droppin’ Science). So instead it’s merely a very, very good idea. Hip-hop is a genre that is largely built on synthesizing earlier works. And one of its virtues is its sense of

Album Review: Various Artists — Stax Does the Beatles

Before succumbing to the vicissitudes of the record biz, Stax Records was one of the coolest labels in the 60s and 70s. Rawer and earthier than Motown, the black-oriented label out of Memphis turned out classic albums from Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MGs and many others. Many of these artists wrote their own

Album Review: Droppin’ Science: Greatest Samples from the Blue Note Lab

This is one of those projects that makes you ask, “Why didn’t someone do this sooner?” Many artists on the famed Blue Note label have had their work sampled over the years. The 1969-’75 work of their artists would be a treasure trove for innovative hip-hop artists; many of the era’s best jazz/pop tracks were

DVD Review: Otis Redding — Respect Live 1967

This brief DVD is an effort to collect all extant performance footage of Otis Redding in the months before his untimely death. On that level, it succeeds, more or less. But in doing so, it — by necessity — re-re-recycles material that’s been around for years. Half of the running time consists of Redding’s stellar

Album Review: Isaac Hayes — Juicy Fruit (Disco Freak)

It’s with some trepidation that this reviewer plays an album called Juicy Fruit (Disco Freak). Had said album been credited to anyone other than the estimable Isaac Hayes, the disc likely wouldn’t have gotten a spin. And in fact the leadoff title track would seem to confirm the worst fears one might conjure. A too-long

Album Review: Arthur Alexander — Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter

I first heard the name Arthur Alexander many years ago when listening to an interview with John Lennon; the then-former Beatles was talking about his major influences, especially some of the lesser-known ones. The Beatles covered “Anna (Go to Him)” early in their career, and performed his hit “Soldier of Love” on their BBC radio