B.B. KING – Let the Good Times Roll- The Music of Louis Jordan


In the twenty-five years since Louis Jordan’s death, it’s a real tragedy that his legacy as one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll is largely unknown outside those people in the musical profession. Mention Louis Jordan to most under-fifties and your likely to be met with blank expressions. That’s what makes this album a double treat. First, it helps to expose Jordan’s music to a wider audience. Second, these songs are a perfect match for B.B. King’s brand of electric blues.I’ve been listening to B.B. King for more than twenty years when for three dollars I could still find vinyl copies of his early Kent sides in the cutout bins in the discount stores, featuring classics like “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “Rock Me Baby.” King is a national treasure and well into his seventies he’s still recording some of the best albums of his career–Blues on the Bayou, Making Love Is Good For You, and Riding with the King (with Eric Clapton).This tribute to the music of Louis Jordan ranks right up there. Whether it’s taking on the lighter fare of “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” and “Caldonia” or the more serious blues of “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “Nobody Knows You When Your Down and Out,” B.B. King and band are stellar. The band featuures Dr. John on piano (and also shares vocals on “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t (My Baby)”) and Dave “Fathead” Newman on tenor sax.

James Brown – Funky Men


As James Brown worked with a stable of talented female singers, so he also allied himself with the best and brightest funky men in the business. This imported single disc collects those men and their classic songs in a nice, tight package that rounds up a lot of difficult to find (or even remember) material from his years with the TK label. While the bulk of the disc focuses on the mid- to late-’70s material of Bobby Byrd and the J.B.’s in particular, it hinges around the seminal 1980 “Rap Payback (Where Iz Moses?)” — the song that opens and closes (with the 14-minute remix version) Funky Men. Released late in the year, it is a winning combination of funk mixed with a little proto-rap and, although it failed to make much of a splash in the U.S., where rap was rising thanks to Fatback Band’s “King Tim III” and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight,” it did quite well in the U.K. charts. An additional highlight is the incredible funk groove of Byrd’s “Back From the Dead” — a solo venture recorded after he had parted company with Brown. Elsewhere, the contemporary, sharp disco of “Just Wanna Make You Dance, Pt. 1,” by the J.B.’s featuring Maxxi, and the quiet groove of the J.B.’s Internationals’ “Nature, Pts. 1 & 2” round out the mix nicely. And, of course, no compilation would be complete without a dance or two. Brown, Byrd, and the J.B.’s teamed up for a jamming 1980s rehash of “Mashed Potatoes,” which finds its way on board as well. Although it can be argued that Brown’s earlier collaborations are his best, this is still a solid collection of late-in-the-day hits that have been cruelly overlooked in recent years.

Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming


It’s taken just two short years for Dunham Records – an imprint of Daptone Records – to establish itself as one of the most captivating creative forces in soul music. The brainchild of guitarist/producer Thomas “Tommy TNT” Brenneck, Dunham’s indelibly atmospheric sound is epitomized by its flagship artist, Menahan Street Band. After releasing a handful of crucial 45s, Dunham Records prepares to enter the next phase of its evolution with the debut album of its inaugural vocalist, Charles Bradley.Charles Bradley’s voice has evolved from a lifetime of paying dues, having nomadically labored for decades at various day jobs from Maine to Alaska singing and performing in his spare time before re-settling in his hometown Brooklyn and eventually finding a musical home at Dunham. In his distinctively rough-hewn timbre one hears the unmistakable voice of experience each note and gruff inflection a reflection of his extended, sometimes rocky, personal path. It’s only fitting that No Time For Dreaming’s producer Brenneck (also a member of The Dap-Kings and The Budos Band) would recognize in Bradley a kindred musical spirit, a singer whose performances exude both raw power and poignant beauty. Recorded at Dunham Studios, and mixed at Daptone Records’ internationally revered “House Of Soul” Studios, “No Time For Dreaming” is the inspired sound of an awakening.

Gil Scott-Heron – Moving Target

Gil Scot - Moving Target - front

Gil Scott-Heron’s last proper album for more than a decade, Moving Target was recorded after a period of intense touring (hence the title) and, perhaps understandably, finds the Midnight Band playing a larger role than usual. It also may reflect the group’s travels, as the typical, tastefully jazzy R&B and funk grooves — like set-opener “Fast Lane” and “Explanations” — are supplemented with more exotic sounds. Like Stevie Wonder, for whom he and the Midnight Band opened a tour in 1980, Scott-Heron and his bandmates were experimenting with reggae. “No Exit” has clear echoes of Bob Marley, while “Ready or Not” is a sultry island jam. Both tunes also had themes more personal than political, a shift noticeable elsewhere on the album (even “Washington D.C.,” with its seemingly obvious subject, is as much about the resilient spirit of D.C.’s citizens as it’s about the city’s politicians). That’s somewhat surprising, given that Scott-Heron had recently enjoyed success with “B-Movie,” a pointed attack on then-president Ronald Reagan. But “Blue Collar” is a populist manifesto that gives shout-outs to working folks in a variety of professions across the fruited plain before concluding with the dispirited chorus, “There ain’t no place we ain’t been down,” and “Black History/The World” offers nearly ten minutes of Afro-centric theorizing, beginning with a spoken introduction that hearkens back to Scott-Heron’s sarcastic, poetic beginnings and ends with a simple — some would say simplistic — plea for peace and world change.

Deborah Coleman – Soul Be It


A powerful guitarist and an expressive vocalist, Deborah Coleman is a major force in the blues world. On Soul Be It, a well-rounded live set by her quartet, there are many highlights, including the rousing opener (“Brick”), the minor-toned blues “My Heart Bleeds Blue,” the bluish romp “Don’t Lie to Me,” and a jump blues, “I Believe.” However the most memorable selection is “Goodbye Misery,” which has a marathon solo by Coleman that is full of fire and creative ideas. This highly enjoyable set serves as a perfect introduction to the music of Coleman.

Amar Sundy – Najma


The blues have been brought to France by singer/guitarist Amar Sundy. Affectionately known as “the bluesman of the desert,” Sundy masterfully combines American blues, traditional French music, and music from the Sahara to create what Blues Sur Seine called “one of the most beautiful successes of inbreeding and a new path for the blues.” A native of Toureg, Sundy honed his craft as a busker in the Parisian subways. Moving to the United States in the 1980s, he learned the blues from the masters, working with such influential bluesmen as Albert Collins, B.B. King, James Cotton, Jimmy Johnson, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and Albert King, with whom he toured the United States twice. Sundy began to develop his unique approach to the blues after returning to France at the beginning of the 1990s.

Janice DeRosa – DeRosa


This native Harlem girl gone self-proclaimed Parisian diva is a woman who has defined her own way in this city and on the international music scene. She moved to Paris in 1990, playing clubs ever since and working her way up to a sort of fame not only in Paris, but Europe as well. She’s produced five records, two of those with Warner Bros. Last year her recording of “Groovin” was at the top of French radio charts for weeks.
Her new CD “deRosa” is a blues-flavored concoction that triggers Janis Joplin flashbacks with a graceful pace reminiscent of a Tom Waits album. There’s a wisdom in her lyrics that women relate to. Several world-renowned musicians, from Cambodia to New Jersey, contributed to the new CD such as Sam Andrew-the guitarist and songwriter for Janis Joplin- and Paul Breslin, the bandleader for Percy Sledge.
Like her previous albums, most notably “Afroblues” (1998), “deRosa” is a melange of world music traditions. The album is a mix of covers and original songs, featuring redrawn classics such as “Little Wing” by Hendrix, “Sure Had a Wonderful Time Last Night” by B.B. King and “Baby, Baby, Don’t Cry” by “Smokey” Robinson.