Recent Articles

Mint Condition: New CD an improvement, but not a return to glory days

Music @ the Speed of Life is an improvement on 2008’s E-Life, a static, paint-by-number disappointment from a band renowned for fresh, even innovative fare. But, not by much. With hints of Guy, Earth Wind & Fire and Kool & the Gang, Stokely Williams (frontman-vocalist-drums), O’Dell (guitar), Lawrence El (keys), Jeff Allen (sax, keys) and Ricky Kinchen (bass) haven’t returned to the form that made them international standard bearers of contemporary R&B. They have, however, somewhat returned to credibility. Intermittently, Williams’ vocals regain some sense of urgency and the songwriting again is fairly imaginative. Continue Reading →

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New releases by Etta James, Leela James link old and new soul music

A music review

By Stephani Maari Booker

Associate Editor


Like many people who weren’t even born during that time, I’m most familiar with the late music legend Etta James through her 1961 classic “At Last.” She had a long string of hits on the R&B/soul chart starting in the mid-1950s (with her biggest hit period in the ’60s) and ending in the late 1970s while hitting the pop chart occasionally as well. I only know a handful of James’ hits as they were sung by James, including “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” and “You Can Leave Your Hat On” — many of the songs she recorded were covered by other artists, including Janis Joplin (“Tell Mama”) and Joe Cocker (“You Can Leave Your Hat On”). The 2008 film about Etta James’ 1960s record label Chess Records, Cadillac Records, and then her death this year have renewed interest in the great singer’s career and music, which has probably led to the July 24 release of Etta James: Live at Montreux 1975-1993 by Eagle Rock Entertainment. The CD is a collection of songs from four different performances by James at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the famed multi-artist, multi-genre (despite its name) showcase held yearly since 1967 in Switzerland. The track selection is lopsided when it comes to how many songs are from which Etta James performances: More than half the tracks are from her 1993 show, three are from 1975 and one each from 1977 and 1989. Continue Reading →

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