Thursday, April 28, 2005

Gotta Love That Theme Song

Growing up, we all had that show that we had to dive in front of the tube to watch. But have you ever considered how some of those theme songs just seem to stick in your memory bank...and not just because of the show itself, but because of bouncy, infectious melodies.

And have you ever wondered why the Norman Lear shows of the 70s always had that incredible gospel sound attached to it. Shows like "Sanford & Son", "Good Times" and "The Jeffersons" had that spirited feel to it, and even possessed incredible choral a mass choir on the first Sunday of the month. You kinda miss that sound in the theme shows today. Even though shows like "Seinfield" and "Fraizer" are known for their jingles and "The Simpsons" has its dynamic orchestra foundation covering the bulk of the show's score, you still miss that soulful singing that rested on theme songs like "Amen", "Three's Company" and "227".

Everybody has their favorite theme show song...but if you're looking for sum' serious gospel sang'in and soulful melodies, check these out and catch the spirit. The lyrics might not be gospel...but it sho'nuff sounds like Sunday Morning.

The Jeffersons
We're moving on up...Occasional spiritual lyrics lay within a social message of liberation for middle-class African Americans overcoming poverty. Who can forget Janet Du'bois (from Good Times) and that powerful chorus singing this bouncing gospel-styled tune.

Vanessa Bell Armstrong, one of Gospel's premiere female vocalists, is accredited to singing this stylish, traditional up-tempo number; in which was penned by Andrae' Crouch. It's gospel fever at its best...and the truest of all theme songs that can be called gospel. Don't you wish they had this song on her "greatest hits" compilations?

Good Times
"Anytime you need a payment...good times"'s another Gospel-styled gem tucked with a social-themed cause. The ending is soulful and unforgettable. It's so amazing that the song speaks of even in the worse of situations (temporary layoffs, easy credit rip-offs, etc), but closes out with the fact that even in those horrible situations, they are good. Reminds me of Romans 8:28!

Sanford & Son
Quincy Jones laid down the score and produced this memorable track...and the rest is history. Probably one of the most popular of the 70s theme songs, the organ grooves and the instrumentation is a great mix of jazz, funk and soul. Wish they had a long version of that tune somewhere.

Family Feud
Tonex' recently recorded this popular game show tune on his "Out The Box" double CD collection, but with lyrics. And his reason...because he felt while growing up that the "Theme Song to Family Feud" was gospel! And how can you not think's filled with all of the wondrous ingredients for a riveting, up-tempo choir rocker. Tambourine are going off and the horns are no match to Mo' Horns on today's gospel projects. Now get out on the aisles on this one...and get yo' shout on.

A Different World (w/ Aretha Franklin)
Aretha is truly the Queen of Soul. And on this modern-aged contemporary track, Re'Re released an incredible vocal on this theme was so good that you wish she released this as a single. It prolly' would have rocketed up the Billboard R&B charts.

Night Court
The bass guitar enters and then a jazzy, up-tempo groove filled with spunky horns and heavy percussion is released. It's a groove that you would think Bob James would put together...but it's a piece that reminds you of a Gospel jam session. If there were lyrics to this thing...

The Price Is Right
This song is delightful from beginning to end. You feel like a winner when you hear those smooth flutes, the moving bass lines and the xylophone action. Reminds you of shopping in a grocery store, it just leave you with a good feeling deep on the inside.

It's a blues fest when you hear this funky, soulful musical joint. But don't disappear, there's enough soul on here to get your fan a-going and your head a-swaying. There's a musical modulation in the middle of the song and that's enough right there to remind you of a good traditional church number.

Now what are you favorite theme show songs. Maybe Family Matters. Golden Girls. Peanuts (Charlie Brown Theme). Or is it Baywatch (lol)? My opinion....I kinda love "The Love Boat" and "Inspector Gadget" the best. :-)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Saturday Night Forever?

Okay, don't get mad at me, but this weekend I finally watched Saturday Night Fever (1977) for the first time.

The familiar dance film featuring Tony Manero, played by a young John Travolta, chases his aspirations for life through his joy of dancing on the night floor at Club Odyseey 2001. Outside the club, he's a nobody working a dead-end job in a local Brooklyn paint store. But inside the club, on the dance floor, Tony is a king and treated like such. Yet the movie shifts into various changes that proves to be relational and possess a strong significance even today, after all these years. And believe it or not, this film, which surrounds the hated genre of disco music, still outshines some of the greatest movies released during the late 70s.

I don't know why I, for the first time, viewed Saturday Night Fever...or desired to see the movie after all these years. The cashier at my local Wal-Mart looked at me with a puzzled and confused stare; as if I was related to Bin Laden when I handed her my copy of Saturday Night Fever for purchase. She immediately thought that I had the "night fever" after viewing the dance/disco show of FOX's American Idol (yeah, that was the same show that caused Anwar Robinson to finally go home). But it wasn't that. I just felt like watching it and owning a piece of music history.

You gotta give it to Robert Stigwood and his Saturday Night creation for what it did to suburban America. Disco was a fad that was part of urban America and was a way of escape from all of the toils and heartache during the difficult 70s (remember the high gas prices, Watergate, Vietnam). This movie helped revolutionize America to dance their pain off their shoulders. And finally, you could hear various music styles ranging from Euro-disco to classical, from jazz to funk, from pop to rock joining together to make music that helped individuals across America smile again.

After watching the dark, yet engaging film of Saturday Night Fever, I pause and wonder if disco, in all of its glory, revisited us today. Yes, we have many alterations of disco music with us; which include house, hi-NRG, techno, garage and other dance/club styles, but what if we had real music with real musicians to return into the studios and put out music like this once again, could be become the "one nation under a groove" that we once used to claim.

This week I sit here listening to "One Nation Under A Groove", performed by George Clinton and Funkadelic. And I remember when everyone jammed to the funk, to the sounds of the early synths and the message that help unite cultures and diversities. Also this week, hundreds of individuals will be engaging their ears to Kurt Carr's "One Church" project. I just hope that Kurt Carr can pull off what he intended to do (unite cultures and make a project appealing to all...while also making money) can do for gospel and Contemporary Christian and Southern Gospel and...the list goes on...what Parliament for secular music.

For those individuals that considered disco music to be a vain lifestyle only full of druggies, homosexuals, sinners, they are misguided and dangerously misdirected.

If they only knew.

Watch out church folkz, I got the FEVER.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Giants Are Coming!

GospoCentric/Zomba recording artist Kurt Carr at 2004's Stellar Awards.

Technically, spring is usually the season of growth and expectancy. These are just some of those "signs and wonders" that point us to that glorious fact.

  • We celebrate Jesus' resurrection during Lent season.
  • FOX's American Idol rules the airwaves this time of year.
  • March Madness begins a fast-paced journey for anxious college basketball athletes while many of them fix their pupils on the NBA for their "hoop dreams".
  • The lawn gardeners returns to their roots and begins beautifying their front yard's landscape while our vehicles are sprayed with strong dosages of yellow pollen.

But you may want to beware of the most obvious point of them all. Music companies put out their best, or should I say, their "top crop" during this period. But let it be said that everything that looks good ain't always good (that's what Mama always say).

Take mama's advice.

GospoCentric and Verity Records, the big meatballs in the Gospel music industry, has unleashed a heavy load of projects in the last few weeks that are intended to satisfy your gospel tastebuds until the end of the year, or at least 'til the next batch of Stellar and Grammy Awards are given out. With new material from Kurt Carr and Donnie McClurkin leading the pack from GospoCentric/Zomba/Verity (and so on), and artists including Anointed, LaShun Pace and newcomer Micah Stampley trailing behind, there is no way to escape the hard-hitting album releases for this quarter. They are everywhere. And that's not all...John P. Kee just released a children's project a few weeks ago and now Verity drops a second project from the Prince of Gospel debuting newcomers packaged as being "John P. Kee presents The New Artist Showcase". That's two albums out already...and we haven't even see the middle of the year 2005!

But don't be shocked. Television has its revival session in the fall, while the music industry celebrates their newborns in the spring.

But with all of this said...most of the stuff from the "giants" (as I like to refer them as being) are not always big. Much of the projects are packaged mighty rapidly and are released too soon - meaning some of these big boys need to stay in the incuberator a little longer. Radio isn't even ready to find real singles for most of these "blockbusters", since it's hard to distinguish which song sticks out the greatest. Problems have already generated regarding EMI's LaShun Pace long-awaited album...and barely one song from John P. Kee's projects get a nod on radio and with the public. And even though Donnie McClurkin experienced a breakthrough with his double-cd project, reaching #1 on the Billboard Gospel charts, it was suddenly knocked down by Kurt Carr's single CD project ("One Church") the week after. That may be a success for GospoCentric/Verity on one hand, but it's like the humongus superpower is competition with itself.

By the way, both projects from McClurkin and Carr, according to most valuable and reliable sources, seem to be insipidly mediocre; in comparison to their previous recordings.

The giants are coming...but they are no problem for David.
All he need is a sling-shot and a rock.
That's why I love independents.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"Give Me That Old Time Religion"

"Gimmie that ol' time religion...It's good enough for me." - Traditional, Negro Spiritual

Words of that classic hymn of the church rings with clarity in the ears of the young in spirit. Seems like the high-demand for classic gospel projects are pushing the big companies to refinance those treasures and distribute them once again. Not only that, today's zealous consumers aren't just looking for the old stuff, but they are doing the old stuff too.

Nothing wrong with dusting off the ol' albums and putting those vinyl masterpieces back on the phonograph...And also re-producing it into
digital mp3s. A sound that was designed by the master architects of Sam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers, the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Jackson Southernaires, the Fairfield Four, the Gospel Harmonettes and the Mighty Clouds of Joy during the Golden era is now resurfacing, but with new faces.

On Tuesday, April 19, 2005, a new generation of God-fearing, gospel-
sangin' soulful talent on the GospoCentric label (distributed by mega-giant Zomba) that goes by the name "The Soul Seekers" will make their grand entrance to gospel society. The group consists of eight young brothers, whom have worked with a Who's Who in R&B, hip-hop and pop music (which include Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Missy Elliot, P. Diddy and the Backstreet Boys), have come together to return to their roots. And it's not your grandson and granddaughters music. Instead they draw back on the power and brilliance of quartet gospel music.

The group's personnel consists of Teddy Campbell (married to Tina of Mary Mary) on bass, renowned R&B and gospel producer Warryn Campbell (married to Erica of Mary Mary), founder Nisan Stewart, lead guitarist John "Jubu" Smith, vocalist Gerald Haddon, Charlie Bereal on guitar, Craig Brockman on the organ and drummer Eric Seats. They have all expressed their passion to the rich traditions of quartet gospel and believe that they will open the ears of today's generation to its incredible, lasting sound. With them being young, talented and handsome themselves, there is no doubt that the Soul Seekers will attract a large, younger audience.

But don't let the age of this style of gospel overwhelm you...the Soul Seekers bring a fresh, vibrant perspective to the classic, down-south, churchy sound. What started in 2000 at a one-night tribute celebration to gospel quartets in Los Angeles, now stand as a beacon of light to the gospel industry. On their debut project, tunes such as the balladic "What Would You Do?", "Somewhere Listening" and "Make A Way", which features Harvey Watkins, Jr. of the Canton Spirituals, are sure to be album highlights and are filled with high-octane energy and zeal. Enough zeal to appeal to the young and the old.

With this project awaiting to drop on Wal-Mart shelves across America, it seems like quartet gospel is surely on the rise. Artists and groups such as Robert Randolph & the Family Band, RiZen, Keith Wonderboy Johnson, the Canton Spirituals and the Christianaires have done their share to reach new audiences...go ahead and add the Gospel Seekers to the mix.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Long Time, No Hear

Well, I am back...

And it has been a good minute since the last time I embraced the BLOG.

But hey, a brotha's been busy. This past weekend, I went to a local engagement which featured Cinque Cullar (without the Tribe of Judah) and Emtro Recording Artist L. Spenser Smith & Testament. The event was hosted by Rich & Krew, but the night was all about Cinque' and Testament. Worship entered the room and I was very much pleased. A few other groups showed up and it turned out to be a success. I don't go to too many concerts and I have my reasons...they be too long and not enough substance. Plus my ears can't take too much horrible music, and sometimes that's just what I get. But I was very much pleased and I'm grateful to hear that.

American Idol is sumthin' else, ain't it (using my Southern Everytime you look up, one of your favorites are gone. Well, my bets are that a rocker is gonna win this year. And Constantine has the better voice. Of course, I may be from Alabama and you may assume that Bo Bice may be my pick, but I do believe the better talent should win. Constantine is that pick...but don't get me wrong, it would be nice to see Vonzell or Anwar win.

Enough of that. The BLOG is sure to boom in a few more days with more check me out lata.