Category: covers

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello Releases Tender and Joyful Cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, JOVM mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello– and as you may recall, the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in Berlin, Germany and was raised in Washington, DC.  When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”

In the late 80s, Ndedgeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with a number of local acts including Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello eventually caught the attention of Madonna, who signed the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist to her Maverick Records. Most readers will remember her commercially successful collaborative coverof Van Morrison‘s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp, a single that peaked at #3 on the BillboardCharts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine‘s “Album of the Year.”  Her coverof Bill Withers‘ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Ndegeocello has also collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping  on “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx,Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti,The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissetteand Zap Mama.

Throughout her lengthy career, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feet of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromising and iconoclastic artists of the past 25 years — all while being credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul sound, thanks in part to a genre defying and difficult to pigeonhole sound that draws from hip-hop, classic soul, jazz, rock, reggae and singer/songwriter pop. Over the past few years, Ndegeocello has been rather busy — she wrote and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and released a gorgeous tribute album to the legendary Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with fellow JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others.

Ventriloquism, Ndegeocello’s later album was released earlier this year, and the album finds the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist covering songs by  TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, who have been influential to her and her work — but with her unique take. As the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist explains in press notes, “Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support. There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.” Ventriloquism’s first single was a coverof Force MD‘s smash hit “Tender Love,” that found Ndegeocello turning the slow-burning, 80s piano ballad into a folksy, Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac track, complete with shuffling drumming, twinkling Fender Rhodes and harmonica. Though she eschews some of the song’s cheesiness, which makes it endearing in its own right, Ndegeocello’s cover retains the song’s earnestness — pointing out that a well-written pop song can reach for something downright timeless. 

The album’s latest single is a cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity,” that briefly nods at Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” as it’s centered around loose, bluesy guitar chords, shuffling drumming and a New Orleans brass band-like bridge — and while retaining the song’s sultry nature, Ndegeocello manages to pull out and further emphasize the song’s tenderness.  Much like its predecessor, the new single continues Ndegeocello’s commentary on society’s narrow expectations on what music created by and performed by black artists should sound like and be like. 

Directed by the Cass Bird, the recently released video for “Sensitivity ” was specifically released in conjunction with the end of Pride Month — and in our dark and uncertain age, the video is a much-needed burst of joy and humanity, as the video was specifically cast to focus on faces, body types and identities that are less conventional, less celebrated and often misunderstood, capturing these people at their most vital, most joyful and most human — whether dancing, tenderly embracing, kissing and loving. Certainly, the world would be a much better place if there was more love and more gentle and human moments. 

New Video: Brass Against the Machine Returns with a Funky Cover of RATM’s “Guerrilla Radio”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the New York-based collective Brass Against the Machine, and as you may recall, the act currently comprised of founding member Brad Hammonds (guitar, arrangement), Andrew Gutauskas (baritone sax, arrangement), Darius Christian (vocals, trombone), Sophia Urista (vocals), Mariel Bildsten (trombone), Wayne Tucker (trumpet), Oskar Stenmark (trumpet), Steven Duffy (sousaphone), the New York-based collective Brass Against the Machine specializes in covering protest music but with a unique sound and approach, as their sound meshes rock, alternative rock, hip-hop and New Orleans brass — and for repertoire that features covers of Rage Against the Machine, Living Colour, Gil Scott-Heron, Jane’s Addiction, A Tribe Called Quest, Led Zeppelin and a list of others.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0kJLW2EwMg&w=560&h=315]

The band is prepping for a series of live shows in the NYC area, which you can see below — and to build up buzz for those shows, the collective released an incredibly funky brass-backed interpretation of Rage’s “Guerrilla Radio” — and with vocalist Sophia Urista confidently taking filling the vocal role of Zack de la Rocha, there’s a decided and forceful reminder that women have long been the heart, soul and moral backbone of any resistance movement against corrupt and venal power — but also serves as a reminder, that music is a powerful weapon.

Live Footage: Million Miles’ Sultry and Jazzy Cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Beggin'”

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit about the Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry, whose solo recording project Million Miles is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music. After completing her studies at  Berklee College and a stint as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write music inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers. On an inspired whim, Baudry decided to make a trip to Nashville, where she spent her first few days wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers, as though she were saying “I ’m new here and I’m a songwriter and i’m looking for people to collaborate with.” As the story goes, Baudry wound up having chance meetings with local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing material that eventually became the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter’s Million Miles debut EP, Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio. And from EP singles “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” and “Love Like Yours,” Baudry quickly received attention across the blogosphere, as well as this site, for an easy-going yet deliberately crafted, Sunday afternoon, Soul Train-like soul that nodded equally at the aforementioned Bill Withers and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
Recently, Mahogany Sessions invited the French-born, British singer/songwriter to participate in their Covers series in which she contributes a sultry and jazzy soul-like cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Beggin'” that sounds as though it nods more towards Brown Sugar-era D’Angelo, giving the classic song a modern interpretation without erasing the song’s plaintive and urgent need. 

Michelle Blanchard is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and alt pop artist, whose recording project Madyx draws from P!nk, Katy Perry, The DistillersBrody Dalle and Melissa Etheridge — although Blanchard has received attention for pairing earnest and socially relevant lyrics with crowd pleasing, infectious production. Adding to a growing profile, her debut EP was recorded with Grammy nominated producer Brian Howes, who has worked with Daughtry, Simple Plan and Hedley among others. Her latest single is a bold cover/re-imagining of Modern English‘s iconic “I Melt With You,” turning the familiar song into a contemporary singer/songwriter guitar pop – and although the melody and the tempo have been slowed down, Blanchard cover manages to reveal a subtly different take, while retaining it’s essence.

 

 

New Audio: Renowned, Spanish Indie Rock Act The Parrots Release a Shambling, Garage Rock Take on Latin Trap Star Bad Bunny’s Smash Hit “Soy Peor”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about the Madrid, Spain-based indie rock trio The Parrots. Comprised of Diego Garcia (vocals, guitar), Alejandro de Lucas (bass) and Daniel “Larry” Balboa (drums), the members of The Parrots are among the forefront of a collection of Spanish artists, who sing in English and Spanish that have received attention both nationally and internationally; in fact, with the release of “I Did Something Wrong”  off their Aden Arabie EP, were praised for a boozy and riotous garage rock/garage psych rock sound comparable to Thee Oh Sees,  Black Lips, Raccoon Fighter, High Waisted, White Mystery and others.

Adding to a growing profile internationally, back in 2015, NME named the Madrid-based trio as one of  SXSW‘s “buzziest bands” and since then the members of The Parrots have managed to be pretty busy — they followed up with a critically applauded EP Weed for The Parrots, made a repeat appearance at SXSW before signing to renowned indie label Heavenly Recordings with whom the band released their full-length debut  Los Ninos Sin Miedos, which featured the shambling and swooning “Let’s Do It Again,” a single reportedly inspired by the members of the band drinking beers and Horchata, eating Moroccan delicacies and the feelings of profound friendly and loyalty they all felt towards each other — and in some way, the song evokes the sort of feelings that are brought about when you’re drinking way too much and having ridiculous adventures with your pals. Album single “A Thousand Ways” was largely inspired by that moment in one’s youth when you may be most tempted by the forbidden and unknown, and when you may drop or avoid responsibilities of any sort. “This is the moment when, along with your friends, childhood dies,” the members of the band said. And much like its predecessor, the shambling, garage rock barnburner managed to remind me of Raccoon Fighter and 60s garage rock. 
Some time has passed since I’ve last written about them but as it turns out while the band is currently working on the much-anticipated follow up to their full-length debut, the members of the band have released a one-off, ramshackle, shambling, garage rock cover of Latin trap artist Bad Bunny’s smash hit “Soy Peor,” and as the band explains “We’ve always been big fans of urban music, trap and hip-hop. Not long ago, these styles started to be everywhere again in Spain, and with it we discovered many interesting new acts, both Spanish and Latin American. One of them was Bad Bunny, from Puerto Rico. The first song of his that we listened to was “Soy Peor” and we loved it. Since we started the band, we’ve always liked to cover songs that we like, usually it’s from bands that are more similar to our style — rock ‘n’ roll, punk . . . It’s the first time we picked a song in another style and tried to make it ours. The idea came up in a rehearsal, talking about choosing a new cover for a forthcoming show. People really dug it and a few weeks later we went to Paco Loco’s studio to record it. We have all been through one or several relationships where things didn’t end up well, you realize you are not the same, you go out partying and blame it on your ex but, maybe, it was all your own fault.”

New Video: Meshell Ndegeocello’s Soulful and Atmospheric Rendition of TLC’s Smash Hit “Waterfalls”

Born Michelle Lynn Johnson to US Army Sergeant Major Jacques Johnson, a saxophonist and Helen Johnson, a health care work, the Berlin, Germany-born, American-based singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello was raised in Washington, DC where she attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Oxon Hill High School. When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”

In the late 80s, Ndegeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with bands like Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello, has the distinction of being Madonna’s Maverick Records first signings and while achieving a fair amount of commercial success. Her collaborative cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp peaked at #3 on the Billboard Charts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine’s “Album of the Year.”  Her cover of Bill Withers‘ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx, Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissette and Zap Mama.

Ndeogecello has also had her music featured in the soundtracks of How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Lost & Delirious, Batman & Robin, Love Jones, Love & Basketball, Talk to Me, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, The Best Man, Higher Learning, Down in the Delta, The Hurricane, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom and Soul Men. And interestingly enough, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feat of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromisingly, iconoclastic and unique artists of the past 25 years. But perhaps more important Ndegeocello has been credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul movement — thanks in part to a sound that routinely draws from hip-hop, classic soul, rock, reggae, jazz, and singer/songwriter/balladeer-like pop. She has also written and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and she released a gorgeous tribute album to Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others, which add to her iconoclastic and difficult to pigeonhole reputation. 

The renowned bassist, singer/songwriter and rapper’s latest album Ventriloquism is slated for a March 16, 2018 release and the album will feature covers of songs by TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, all of which have been influential to Ndeogeocello’s work — but with a unique take. And if you had been following this site earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about her folksy Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac-like cover of Force MD”s smash hit “Tender Love,” a rendition that eschewed the 80s keyboard pop cheesiness of the original, which made it so beloved and awkward — while retaining the song’s earnestness, pointing out that well-written songs can be interpreted in countless ways and still be as wonderful as we remember.  Ventriloquism’s latest single is a slow-burning, atmospheric cover of TLC’s smash hit “Waterfalls” that manages to slow the tempo and the melody down to the point that it turns the song into something familiar yet kind of alien, all while retaining the sense of loss and confusion of the original. (I should note that Left Eye’s verse is removed — perhaps for obvious reasons.) Much like it’s predecessor, Ventriloquism’s latest single continues Ndegeocello’s larger commentary on society’s narrow expectations of what Black American music should sound like, be like and thematically concern itself with. 

Produced by Inga Eiriksdottir, directed by Damani Baker and featuring gorgeously cinematic work by director of photography Thor Eliasson, the recently released video for Ndegeocello’s rendition of “Waterfalls,” features a diverse, international cast and although shot in Iceland, the video consists of surreal yet symbolic visuals that at points nods at the original. 

JUICEBOXXX s a Milwaukee, WI-based emcee, who has developed a reputation within underground circles for a sound that draws from rock, punk rock, hip-hop and a disparate array of other influences that frequently finds him attempting to walk a difficult tightrope between appealing to the avant garde-leaning artist fringe and a pop sensibility.

Unsurprisingly, the Cleveland, OH-based punk band The Pagans were a major influence on the Milwaukee-based rapper’s work. “I rarely do covers, but The Pagans classic ‘Dead End America’ always seemed like a great fit, and a good b-side for my coming ‘Freaked Out American Loser’ single,” JUICEBOXXX explains in press notes. “It was recorded last summer in LA with my backing band (The Thunder Zone Band — Rocker Mike and Willy D) and Aaron Espinoza. I had a blast going crazy in the studio and trying to remember why I do this shit in the first place. ”

“I was saddened to hear about the passing of Pagans singer Mike Hudson,” JUICEBOXXX says in press notes “Coming from the Midwest, I can’t help but think of this thread of punk rock as heartland music, born in rustbelt basements and dive bars out of desperation and boredom. Freaking out to stay alive.” And although it’s a fairly straightforward and loving JUICEBOXXX’s cover manages to evoke the same sort of furious and desperate urgency of the original — while suggesting that throughout the years kids everywhere are practically the same.

 

New Audio: Meshell Ndegeocello Releases a Folksy Cover of Force MD’s “Tender Love”

Born Michelle Lynn Johnson to US Army Sergeant Major Jacques Johnson, a saxophonist and Helen Johnson, a health care work, the Berlin, Germany-born, American-based singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello was raised in Washington, DC where she attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Oxon Hill High School. When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”

In the late 80s, Ndedgeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with bands like Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello, has the distinction of being Madonna’s Maverick Records first signings and while achieving a fair amount of commercial success. Her collaborative cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp peaked at #3 on the Billboard Charts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine’s “Album of the Year.”  Her cover of Bill Withers’ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx, Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissette and Zap Mama.
Ndeogecello has also had her music featured in the soundtracks of How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Lost & Delirious, Batman & Robin, Love Jones, Love & Basketball, Talk to Me, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, The Best Man, Higher Learning, Down in the Delta, The Hurricane, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom and Soul Men.

Interestingly, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feat of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromisingly, iconoclastic and unique artists of the past 25 years — and she’s been credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul movement, thanks in part to a genre defying and difficult to pigeonhole sound that draws from hip-hop, classic soul, rock, reggae, jazz and singer/songwriter pop. Adding to that iconoclastic nature, Ndegeocello has written and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and she released a gorgeous tribute album to Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others.

The renowned bassist, singer/songwriter and rapper’s latest album Ventriloquism is slated for a March 16, 2018 release and the album will feature covers of songs by TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, all of which have been influential to Ndeogeocello’s work — but with a unique take. The album’s first single, her cover of Force MD’s smash hit “Tender Love,” finds Ndegeocello turning the slow-burning 80s piano ballad classic into a folksy, Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac track, complete with shuffling drumming, twinkling Fender Rhodes and harmonica. In my mind, what makes Ndegeocello’s cover truly fascinating is that she manages to completely eschew the 80s pop ballad cheesiness of the song, which makes it endearing 30 years after its release but without doing away with the song’s earnestness — while pointing out that the song manages to possess something that listeners far removed from the song’s initial release can grasp and connect to on a very visceral level. That’s what separates the great, timeless songs from the countless songs that will be forgotten 6 months or more after they’ve been released.  And on another level, the song will continue the renowned and iconoclastic Ndegeocello’s commentary on society’s narrow expectations of what black music should sound and be like.

Rosie Carney is an up-and-coming, 20 year-old, Hampshire, UK-born, Downings, County Donegal, Ireland-based singer/songwriter, who has started to receive international attention for pairing mature beyond her years songwriting with vivid lyricism paired with minimalist arrangements and her effortlessly gorgeous vocals. Recently, the British-born, Irish-based singer/songwriter released a hauntingly spectral cover of Cigarettes After Sex‘s “K,” which features gently strummed guitar, swirling feedback and Carney’s gorgeous vocals singing an equally gorgeous melody — and although her cover is a bit more straightforward, sonically it bears a resemblance to Mazzy Star and Widowspeak.

As Carney explains of her decision to cover “K,” “I wanted to record a song that was released by one of my favorite artists this year. I chose ‘K’ by Cigarettes After Sex because, firstly I’m a huge fan of this band and their music and aesthetic, and secondly because this song definitely resonated with me the most from their new record. It’s such an honest song and I just love the message it carries. I love how relaxing and transcending the melody is. It’s one of those songs that I wish were mine.”