Tag: James Brown

Back in 2004, Chicago-based producer David Vandenberg brought the Leeds-based funk act The New Mastersounds to the States as an opener for Greyboy All-Stars for what would be the acclaimed British act’s first Stateside tour. As the story goes, Vandenberg took The New Mastersounds’ guitarist, bandleader and producer Eddie Roberts out to Rosa’s, a legendary blues club on Chicago’s West Side on Roberts’ first night in town to catch local bluesman Omar Coleman, a local blues legend, who had been playing Rosa’s for decades. 17 years later, Roberts wound up producing Coleman’s forthcoming album Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times.

Slated for release this summer through Roberts’ own Color Red Music, the album’s title is an ode to The New Mastersounds 2001 debut, Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds — and in many ways Coleman’s album finds Roberts, an acclaimed musician, bandleader and producer taking on the role of curator and influencer, championing and supporting artists he believes should be heard and loved.

Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times‘ latest single, album title track is a strutting and gritty synthesis of The Payback-era James Brown funk and Chicago blues within a classic 12 bar blues structure featuring a looping bluesy guitar line reminiscent of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, an enormous horn line, bursts of shimmering strings and a funky bass line that would make Bootsy Collins‘ proud paired with Coleman’s powerhouse, soulful vocals. Lyrically, the song’s origins can be traced to a series of conversations Coleman had with Roberts during the album’s recording sessions about bizarre, infuriating and tragic state of America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the exchange between the two kept turning back to the fact that we were all living in very strange times. Coleman took that and ran with it, immediately scribbling out incisive and fiery lyrics that accurately describe life in our very moment with the song talking about the abject poverty, desperation and uncertainty that hardworking and decent folks everywhere face. As the old saying the rich get richer while the poor get sicker.

Roberts’ recruited an accomplished backing band that features himself, Ghost Light’s Dan Africano (bass), Matador! Soul SoundsChris Spies (keys and organ), Dragondeer’s Carl Sorenson (drums), Lettuce‘s Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet), Michal Menert‘s Nick Gerlach (sax), Adrienne Short (viola) and Kari Clifton (violin) to help him with a sonic approach that would combine classic blues with funkier blues. And to capture the rawness and immediacy of the material, they recorded it straight to tape on Color Red Studios’ Tascam 388. “I hear Omar’s voice as a cross between Muddy Waters and Charles Bradley,” Roberts says. “I tried to reflect those qualities in music approach and songwriting as well as the way we recorded the album and built the instrumentation of the tracks.”

Throwback: Black History Month: Parliament-Funkadelic

Amazingly, the month has managed to fly by: Today is February 13, the 13th day of Black History Month. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been proudly featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles with the hopes that these artists can guide you towards further understanding of the Black experience.

As the month goes on, I hope that you’ll be reminded of these urgently important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

As a child, I grew up listening to a lot of Parliament Funkadelic. I pretty much know the smash hits and the super deep cuts forward and backwards. Besides James Brown, can you think of an act that’s more beloved, influential than Parliament Funkadelic?

Throwback: Black History Month: James Brown

Amazingly, the month has managed to fly by: Today is February 13, the 13th day of Black History Month. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been proudly featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles with the hopes that these artists can guide you towards further understanding of the Black experience.

As the month goes on, I hope that you’ll be reminded of these urgently important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

James Brown is without a doubt, one of the most important and influential artists of the past century. Rock, soul, R&B, dance music, pop, funk and hip-hop all are indebted to the legendary godfather of soul, the soul brother #1. Sadly, I never got a chance to see Brown live — but if you saw him in the height of his powers, Brown was a transcendent performer.

Seriously, can you think of anything more righteous than James Brown playing “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” in Kinshasa? Probably not.

Throwback: Black History Month: Roy Ayers

Today is the eighth day of Black History Month. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few days of this month, you’d see that I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards understanding the Black experience.

Through the month — and throughout the year, I hope that you’ll come to understand and appreciate the following:

Black culture is American culture
Black music is American music.
Black history is American history.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
You can’t love black art and black artists without loving black people.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

If James Brown and Parliament Funkddelic are among the most sampled artists ever, Roy Ayers is likely the third most ever. His work automatically creates nostalgia for summer afternoon picnics with your family — but perhaps even more important, for being cool, groovy and defiantly and jubilantly Black.

Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist Adryon de León has had a vast and varied career. de León has been a backing artist for an eclectic and impressive array of acclaimed artists including Lady Gaga, George Clinton, Macy Gray and others. She spent seven years as the frontwoman of Orgōne — and she’s currently one of the dead vocalists in Matador! Soul Sounds alongside Eddie Roberts, Alan Evans, Kim Dawson and Nate Edgar. Recently, de Leòn contributed vocals to a a track on Trent Reznor‘s score for the Netflix biopic Mank.

de Leòn’s Max MacVeety and David Tam-produced single “Ally” is funky, Motown soul-inspired strut, centered around the Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist’s soulful, powerhouse vocals. And while seemingly indebted to the likes of James Brown, Steve Wonder and others, the song was inspired by contemporary events: The song finds de Leòn reflecting on the riots incited by George Floyd’s murder happening two blocks from her Long Beach home — and the messages she received from well-meaning friends the following morning.

As, a response, the Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist decided to stop being precious and cute with the subjects of race and injustice. “Ally” wound up being a vehicle to process her emotions and respond to all of them — with the song being a fiery and soulful reminder and call to the arms. The fight for equality and justice is an ongoing one, the song says. this particular iteration of uprising and struggle is a small chapter in a much longer story. And as the song — and its narrator — demands of the listener: if you’re in a position of privilege, it’s your responsibility to stand up for the disenfranchised, the vulnerable and overlooked, and to be an ally for positive change.

New Video: Lost Horizons Teams Up with Ural Thomas on a Shimmering and Soulful Single

Lost Horizons — Cocteau Twins‘ and Bella Union Records label head Simon Raymonde (bass. guitar, keys, production) and Dif Juz’s Richie Thomas (drums, keys, guitar) — each ended a 20+ year hiatus from creating music with the 2017 release of their full-length debut together, Ojaiá, (Spanish for “hopefully” or “God willing”) to critical praise. “These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world,” Thomas said in press notes at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music . . . And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!”

Since the release of Ojalá, the state of the world has gotten much worse. And while many of us had begun to feel hope that things may turn for the better with a Biden Administration, the events yesterday in Washington, DC has quickly brought that sense of hope and possibility crashing to the ground. Things are dire: our socioeconomic and political systems are collapsing, exposing both the worrisome gaps in our systems. The fight for a better and fairer world continues, as it always does but interestingly enough, one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been immediately fulfilled: Raymonde and Thomas will be releasing a new album’s worth of together, In Quiet Moments.

Written and recorded during pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, In Quiet Moments‘ material is inspired by the sense of existential doom, fear, uncertainty and anxiety of the larger world surrounding them and everyone else, as well as the same emotions and sensations of their own personal lives: Just as the duo were settling into the studio to craft the largely improvised, instrumental bedrock of the album’s material, Raymonde’s mother died.

As a response, Raymonde threw himself into his work as a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.” The duo forged ahead, crafting 16 instrumental tracks that they sent to an eclectic array of guest vocalists including Ural Thomas, Penelope Isles‘ Jack Wolter, The Hempolics Nubiya Brandon, Tim Smith, Gemma Dunleavy, the innocence mission’s Karen Peris, Horse Thief‘s Cameron Neal, Marissa Nadler, Porridge Radio‘s Dana Margolin, John Grant, Ballet School‘s Rosie Blair, Penelope Isles’ Lily Wolter (as her solo recording project KookieLou) and an impressive list of others.

When they sent the instrumental tracks to their then-prospective guest vocalists, Raymonde suggested a guided theme for their lyrics: “Death and rebirth. Of loved ones, of ideals, at an age when many artists that have inspired us are also dead, and the planet isn’t far behind. But I also said, ‘The most important part is to just do your own thing, and have fun.” Roughly half of the album’s lyrics were written during the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns but as it turns out, Raymonde in particular, saw a sliver lining: people were forced to slow down and take careful stock of themselves and their lives. Interestingly, after having heard a lyric written by Ural Thomas, Raymonde singled out on praise “in quiet moments,” and thought it would be a perfect album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful.”

Although generally centered around loss and heartbreak, the album’s material is imbued with a sense of hope. And as a result, the album subtly leans in the direction of rebirth more so than death. “I think it’s more joyous than Ojalá,” Thomas says. “But both albums have a great energy about them.” That shouldn’t be surprising as both Lost Horizons albums find the duo and their various collaborators on a journey through a dizzying area of moods and voices.

Last year, I wrote about three of the album’s previously released singles:

“Cordelia,” a lush track centered around atmospheric synths, gorgeous steel pedal guitar from David Rothon, elegant strings from Fiona Brice, and John Grant’s brooding vocals. The song is a meditation on the passing of time, the inevitable changing of the seasons — but with the tacit understanding and acceptance that all things in our world are transient.
“One For Regret,” a dark and foreboding song centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming and Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin’s frantic vocals. While sonically, the song finds Raymonde and Thomas paying homage to the beloved sound and approach that won Raymonde accolades “One For Regret” is a meditation on the messiness of regret and loss, that acknowledges that regret and loss are a necessary part of life — and that the only way out is through.
“Every Beat That Passed,” an old-timey waltz centered around shimmering and arpeggiated keys, jangling guitars and Kavi Kwai’s Julia Ringdahl ethereal vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, In Quiet Moments’ third single sonically seemed indebted to Raymonde’s while being defiantly upbeat.

The album’s fourth and latest single, album title track “In Quiet Momtents” features Ural Thomas. Born in Louisiana in 1939, the seventh of 16 children, a young Thomas learned how to sing in church. His family relocated to Portland, where he would spend the bulk of his life.

In the 50s, Thomas became a professional singer, opening for the likes of Etta James, Otis Redding, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder at the Apollo Theater. But by 1968, Thomas had returned to Portland. In terms of music, Thomas fell off the map, and not much is really known until the early 2010s when Scott Magee, a Portland-based soul DJ, was informed by the owner of Mississippi Records that Thomas — whose early records he regularly spun at this DJ sets — still lived in the area.

As it turned out, Thomas had been hosting weekly jam sessions at his home since the 1970s but seldom performed live. But Thomas and Magee started Ural Thomas and the Pain, an octet that backs Thomas. The act has released two albums so far, 2016’s self-titled debut and 2018’s The Right Time. So now that we went through the necessary background, let’s talk about the track: “In Quiet Moments” is a shimmering and slow-burning bit of old-school inspired soul meets shoegaze centered around twinkling keys, jazzy drumming, gently buzzing guitars and Thomas’ easygoing and gorgeous vocals. It’s a gorgeous and thoughtful track that evokes a complex and confusing array of emotions with a simple yet profound earnestness.

“Sometimes you just have a clear vision for a song and then try as you might, it doesn’t quite hit the mark and other times, you’re not quite sure where it’s going and then all of sudden it’s like The Matrix and you’re buzzing!” Lost Horizons’ Simon Raymonde says in press notes. ” I’d been talking to Ural and his team since I heard about him earlier that year, and they were all working on a new Ural Thomas and The Pain album, but just as I finished the bass part on our piece, which Richie had started at a session in London, my inner voice was screaming ‘ASK URAL TO SING!’ Scott and Brent who are his producers and write with Ural and in his band too, responded very positively to my enquiry and said Ural was into it, and it looked like they could do it all at their studio in Portland, AND film him at the same time as they were making a documentary about him! I couldn’t believe my luck. After he was done with the first half of the song I asked if he could make the ending spoken-word in the style of Gil Scott-Heron and he did something ad-libbed which I loved. I then asked Wendi Rose who sings with Spiritualized to add some of her beautiful vocals and I think this took it all to the next level. Paul Gregory and Jonathan Wilson also played some delicious guitar parts which were the fairy dust on top!”

“When I first heard the song, I thought it was such a wonderful thing, both open and calm, with that steady, insistent groove,” Ural Thomas adds. “The chords go from looming to embracing then back again, like a sad, friendly giant. It took a quiet moment to go over it in my mind and then we were off and running with the tune. At times I feel strong and one with the world. At other times I feel tiny and solitary. In a way they’re two parts of the same feeling. That sense of being closed in and defined by walls became more real just a short while after we worked on the song. But we’re all those other things, too—connected, hopeful, with a long arc that will go beyond this time.”

The recently released and cinematically shot black and white visual for “In Quiet Moments” is split between footage of clouds passing the sun, stock footage of a slow pan of a forest, Thomas singing the song in the studio and other natural phenomena. It’s a fittingly gorgeous and thoughtful visual.

Now, as you may recall In Quiet Moments was slated for a two part release through Bella Union. The first part was released last month with the second part due February 26, 2021, along with the physical release of the entire album.

Starting her lengthy career as a member of acclaimed breakbeat outfit The Bombazines, Porto, Portugal-born and based-vocalist and JOVM mainstay Marta Ren has kept herself very busy: after a two-record stint with The Bombazines, Ren contributed her vocals to a number of nationally known acts. Over the past couple of years, Ren, who has long been inspired by 60s funk and soul, has received national and international attention with The Groovelets, releasing 2016’s full-length debut Stop Look Listen to airplay from BBC Radio 6′Craig Charles and Radio France‘s Francis Viel, as well as praise from this site and others.

As a result of a rapidly growing profile, Marta Ren and The Groovelets played sets across the European festival circuit, including stops at Trans Musicales FestivalSziget FestivalEurosonic Nooderslag and Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul Festival. But since then, Ren decided to go solo, further establishing what she has dubbed “Funk & Roll,” while uncompromisingly asserting her own destiny.

Last year, Ren collaborated with Matosinhos Jazz Orchestra on re-interpreted and re-worekd versions songs off her critically applauded debut with The Groovelets, the psych soul barnburner “Worth It” and beloved classics from the American Songbook. The collaboration was so fruitful that it continued with Ren performing with Matosinhos Jazz Orchestra at this year’s Avant Festival, which was aired nationally on Antena3/RTP in her native Portugal. That live set included Ren’s latest single “22:22.”

Centered around a propulsive groove, wah wah pedaled guitar, an enormous horn line and Ren’s self-assured, take-no-prisoners and take-no-bullshit delivery, “22;22” sounds as though it owes a sonic debt to James Brown — in particular The Payback-era James Brown. Thematically, the song finds Ren’s narrator referencing the continuous need to be honest struggling with the need to listen to herself while maneuvering the challenges and pitfalls of pleasing others, who may not be easily pleased.


Rising Lincoln, NE-based soul and funk act Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal — Josh Hoyer (vocals, keys), Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar) Harrison El Dorado (drums) — formed back in 2012, and since their formation, the act, which features some of the Lincoln area’s most acclaimed musicians, has received attention nationally and internationally for a boundary crossing sound inspired by the sounds of Stax RecordsMotown RecordsMuscle ShoalsNew OrleansPhiladelphia and San Francisco.

Over the past eight years, the members of the Lincoln-based act have been one of the Midwest’s hardest working bands, releasing four, critically applauded albums, including last year’s Do It Now, which they’ve supported through several tours across the Continental US and two European tours. Adding to a growing profile, the act has opened for the likes of George Clinton, Charles BradleyBooker T. Jones, Muscle Shoals Soul Revue and an impressive list of others.

Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal’s Eddie Roberts-produced fifth album Natural Born Hustler is slated for release later this year through Color Red Records, and the album further establishes the act’s sound — music written for grown-ass folks by written-by grown-ass folks rooted in earnest and honest songwriting while sonically drawing from 70s funk and blues, doo-wop and psych soul with a modern twist.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Hustler,” Natural Born Hustler‘s third single was a strutting and defiantly upbeat bit of soul that seemed indebted to The Payback-era James Brown, 70s Motown, Muscle Shoals, Daptone and Memphis soul in a seamless yet period specific synthesis. The end result was a track is one-part, much-needed proverbial kick in the ass and one-part, much-needed rallying cry for our uncertain times.

“Sunday Lies,” Natural Born Hustler‘s fourth and latest single continues a run of coolly strutting, bluesy soul centered around twinkling organ, Hoyer’s Tom Jones-like crooning, wah wah pedaled guitar, twinkling organ, a looping and propulsive groove and a cinematic yet powerhouse horn line. But underneath the expansive song structure and cool strutting vibes is a simmering anger, as the song calls out the widening chasm between word and action when those in power corrupt their message. In fact, the song’s narrator makes the observation that for voters, the voter dynamic is often swayed when politicians co-opt their platforms with religious messages — and the willful blinders that sometimes inhibit the faithful from accepting the truth and reality: that they’re being cynically played by wanton hypocrites.

New Video: Montreal’s The Brooks Release a DIsco Soul Ode to Unrequited Love

The Brooks is a rising Montreal-based soul act that formed over eight years ago. And since their formation, the Montreal-based act proudly claims some of that city’s most accomplished musicians:

Florida-born, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and frontman Alan Prater has toured with Michael Jackson — and the band itself can trace much of its origins to behind the walls of the Motown Museum:
Alexandre Lapointe (bass) has worked alongside Joel Campbell, the musical director for Tina Turner and Janet Jackson.
Prater and Lapointe are joined by Maxime Bellavance (drums), Phillips Look (guitar, vocals), Daniel Thouin (keys), Sébastien Grenier (sax), Hichem Khalifa (French horn), and Phillipe Beaudin (percussion).

Developing and honing a sound that draws from James Brown, D’Angelo, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and J. Dilla, the members of The Books have a songwriting approach that eschews rules and trends, fueled by the dual missions of spreading joy and the funk. And with the release of two albums and an EP, the band, which was once named the“best kept secret of Canadian funk” by La Presse, and nominations, and award wins at GAMIQ, Independent Music Awards, ADISQ, and others has built up a provincial and national profile.

Slated for an October 23, 2020 release through Duprince Records across North and South America and Underdog Records through Europe and Japan, the Montreal-based soul outfit’s third album Any Day Now finds the band firmly establishing their unique songwriting approach and sound. Earlier this year, I wrote about the strutting and stomping party anthem “Turn Up the Sound,” a track that recalled The Payback-era James Brown, Dance to the Music and Stand!-era Sly and the Family Stone while encoring people to get up out of that seat, dance and enjoy themselves, and escape their worldly concerns for 3-4 minutes or so. “I just wanted to write a fun song to get you to escape from whatever you’re doing,” the band’s Alan Prater explains in press notes.

Any Day Now’s latest single “Gameplay” is a slick, two-step inducing synthesis of 70s disco soul, funk and psych soul centered around a supple bass line, shuffling Nile Rodgers-like rhythm guitar, wah-wah pedal -driven lead guitar, a soaring string arrangement — within an expansive, yet pop-leaning song structure. Thematically, the song as the band’s Alan Prater explains is about a fairly common experience that countless straight men have had: “This song is about a boy wanting the girl that’s out of his league, but he has to have her. I’m Sure most guys have been there…haha”

Directed by Fred Remuzat, the recently released video for “Gameplay” visually recalls the animation style of Gorillaz — but while sweetly telling the song’s central story: boy falls for girl, who may not know he even exists. And yet through music, the boy makes his earnest plea of devotion and love, which manage to move the woman. The video is a blast of something adorable that I desperately needed. I suspect y’all will feel the same.