Saturday, October 29, 2005

Magic City Revived

What's so magical about the Magic City?

Almost sixty years ago when the city of Birmingham had grew multiplied by the thousands in its population and job growth, the citizens coined the city as being the "Magic City". Sixty years later, Birmingham has struggled through a turbulent past including historical points within the Civil Rights Movement and many escaping the Dirty South and moving to Chicago and Detroit for decent jobs. Now, Birmingham, Alabama, which continues to be the center of the Southeast, is living up to their "magical" moniker; emerging into a booming city full of life and zest. Even though the city has always been a nice spot for tourism due to its cultural attractions (Civil Rights Center, Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, the Summit, City Stages, Birmingham Heritage Festival, VisionLand, etc.), the city continues to reinvent itself, even though nay-sayers and doubters continue to doubt the facts at hand.

The Magic City Classic, a football tradition filled with festive celebrations, tailgate partying, parades and joyous drive, continues to be the main attraction to the region on the weekend of Halloween and All Saints' Day (weird). And even though it has been sixty three years since its debut, the Classic which brings the football armies and zesty marching bands of Alabama State University of Montgomery, AL and Alabama A&M University of Huntsville, AL to Birmingham for face-off continues to attract folk by the thousands. Kick-off takes place at 2:30 p.m. at Legion Field.

Unfortunately I wont be there....but the party goes on.

For an entire weekend, the party will be in Birmingham, AL. Need proof?

Tom Joyner brought his annual Birmingham SkyShow here once again this past Friday. This time at the BJCC Concert Hall. The place was packed and filled with infectious joy. New Edition was the special musical guest.

Leela James, urban R&B songstress, also performed on Friday at the Harbert Center; delivering neat performances from her debut project, "A Change Is Gonna Come".

Bill Cosby, during the height of his remarkable controversial comments on black economics and civil rights (hmm), arrives in Birmingham for two shows at the Wright Center on the Samford University campus. The shows are already sold out. Should be interesting to hear what he has to say...pretty sure the laughs are guaranteed.

L.L. Cool J's (that means, "Ladies Love Cool James") presence will be mighty big here. And you prolly will be seeing alot of him if you are here in Birmingham. From the parade to the half-time show, the mighty "cool" brotha from Brookyln will definitely issue his rare form of coolness to the ladies (and to the fellas'); proving to be an urban legend years after he brought his "Radio" LP to the masses. He will also be appearing and performing at the TI Concert After Party. Yea, TI will be in town too. But that's not all, add Trina, Tony Yayo, Young Buck, Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Master P, BG and G-Unit to the mix, and the entire world of gangsta rap and hip-hop will surely view Birmingham as a cultural magnet. They all will be at the Alabama State Fairgrounds for their after-party taking place at 6:00 p.m.

Anthony David and Three 6 Mafia will be here too.

Love comedy? Bobby Rush, former host of "Showtime at the Apollo" whom showed off his rare form of comedic talent on BET's Comic View, will be bring down the house at the StarDome Comedy Club, along with Lester Bibbs and Joe Clair. October 28-30, 2005.

Just too much for me, but...

What does that have to do with gospel music?

Well, let me close on this note. Prince Yelder & Disciples For Christ, whom has appeared on projects with Beverly Crawford, Angela Spivey and Dorothy Norwood, hosted their annual Praz N Da Houz celebration on Friday evening. Always at 8:00 p.m. And the praises continued until 2 in the morning. That's normal for the event, since choirs and groups from all across the Southeast merge together for the all-nighter event. B. Chase Williams and Pastor Juandolyn Stokes (gospel DJ and announcer) from Atlanta, GA spoke and gave Yelder their best wishes. Of course, Stokes brought a word with her and tore the house up with her infectious form of evangelism and prophetic decrees. The choirs came in good fashion, which consisted the Alabama A&M Gospel Choir, Min. Kevin James & the Louisville Voices, the Birmingham Community Mass Choir and Courtney Moore & the Remnant of Praise. Most of the groups were far from original, doing their interpretations of Ricky Dillard ("Without God", "I Give It To You"), James Hall ("Hold To God's Unchanging Hand") , but Prince Yelder always shows off and impresses fans with his spunky flamboyant directing skills. And that kind of drive was definitely showcased that night, especially on traditional throwbacks including Dr. Charles G. Hayes' "He Laid His Hands On Me/Jesus Can Work It Out". He even ripped Richard Smallwood's "Thank You" up to pieces; turning it into a ten minute odyssey. Too bad some of the vocalists studied the album version and forgot to add in her own testimony to the mix. It pays to be original, folkz.

Anyway, regardless of how people view this article, the Magic City is full of magic. The city of Orlando may have the Magic for a national basketball team, but we are proud here in Birmingham to be the original magic. Let's just hope the magic doesn't die out like most tricks.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Israel Visits The Motherland

Gospel albums being recorded overseas is nothing new to the gospel music community. Donnie McClurkin had a chart-topping success with his "Live In London" project, while fellow contemporaries including Hezekiah Walker and Rev. Timothy Wright paved the way for him with their very own projects in the U.K. But Integrity Gospel does the remarkable: going to a place that is past due. South Africa. Over the years, South Africa, along with their most celebrated hero of faith, Nelson Mandela, has experienced torterous decades of below-the-line poverty, even centuries, of global neglect and suffering including slave trade and the latest epidemic, the increasing population affected with AIDS. But above it all, South Africa celebrates a new day, a new season and continues to triumph by showing the world that there is much more to dwell on.

Add praise-and-worship done in gospel style to their new season of refreshing change. All thanks to Israel Houghton and New Breed. The profound success of their "Live From Another Level" double-CD project caused a major stir of excitement within the gospel industry, especially when word leaked out that Houghton would take his next recording overseas to Capetown, South Africa. And this is not just another album either.

Two CDs packed with new material featuring the first-released single "Not Forgotten" and the joyous "Favor of The Lord" and even a medley of his most treasured compositions ("New Season", "Your Latter Will Be Greater", "Again I Say Rejoice", "Friend Of God" and "You Are Good") are too die for. Add R&B/jazz icon Jonathan Butler to the mix and a neat hologram cover and you are bound to rush to the register with this album in your sweaty palms. This is sure to send Kirk Franklin's "Hero" project down a notch or two on Billboard Gospel charts this week, no doubt. Remember, two CD projects constitute as two units. So when you purchase ten copies of "Alive In South Africa", you are actually buying twenty units, according to Billboard. How clever.

Gospelflava Review and E-Card (
Integrity Gospel Coverage
Listen to "Not Forgotten" (
30 Second Snippets (Integrity Music)


Rosa Parks stood for many things. Within her gorgeous face and her beautiful skin texture, one could only fantom the amazing potential this woman could have released just for being a fashion model. Yet she shifted her capabilities in yet another direction; becoming a model of great faith and helped revolutionized how we see faith operated in the natural. Her stand for equality and justice has been etched into the hearts of most Americans and has greatly impacted the systems of our society. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement (1960s), while photo images of African-Americans being lynched by the Ku Klux Klan, hosed down by police officers and black churches suffered in raging fires caused by demonic racists, Mrs. Rosa Parks did what many consider the turn-around for the Civil Rights Movement. Many will even label her involvement in the struggle as being the starting point for change during this time. Regardless of where one positions her refusal to head to the back of the bus for a white male on a Montgomery public bus just because of his skin color, her choice brought change. It took courage, it took boldness, it took guts to do such a thing; especially during the hateful environment created by our forefathers. To her it didn't matter. What mattered was her future, our future and her enormous faith to make a difference.

If only we had more leaders, pastors, civil workers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, gospel artists, executive directors, managers, parents and regular everyday people with that same courage. I don't think it takes a lot personally to do such a thing. But whe you are fed up, you will took whatever it takes to see change. As Malcolm X is known mostly for quoting, you will do whatever is possible, "by any means necessary". And God will do the rest.

It was brought to my attention by a good colleague of mine that Apple has posted a tribute to Mrs. Parks on their website; which is befitting for the hour since we lost her on Monday at the age of 92 in her home in Detroit, Michigan. The cause of her death was reported as being a mix of "hypertension and dementia". Memorial services have been set up in both Montgomery, Alabama and Detroit, Michigan; both cities have agreed to work together to bring tribute to one of America's beloved figures in civil rights history. Saturday and Sunday her body will lie in state for public viewing at St. Paul AME Church in Montgomery, AL. Funeral services will be held at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, MI on Nov. 2.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

#5 Ain't Bad

The Box Office has released the information we all have been waiting for. And despite what the gospel industry expected, The Gospel, a dramatic motion picture based on Gospel music and deals "knowledgeably with the role of the church in black communities", finished at #5 for its opening week rather than parking at #1. The cast features Hollywood known celebrities including Boris Kodjoe, Nona Gaye, Omar Gooding, Clifton Powell and some of Gospel's popular giants including Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and Hezekiah Walker. The Christian community began to embrace the movie when first announced and hoped the movie would achieve the success that Passion Of The Christ, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman and The Fighting Temptations created.

The Passion... debuted at #1
Diary Of A Mad Black Woman debuted at #1
The Fighting Temptations debuted at #3
The Gospel reached #5.
That's not bad at all, especially when you compare this movie with its predecessors.

Check out some of the comments by the serious critics on the movie and see if you agree.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Rating: B
"'The Gospel" is the first mainstream movie I can remember that deals knowledgeably with the role of the church in African-American communities. It is not a particularly religious movie; the characters are believers, but the movie is not so much about faith and prayer as about the economic and social function of a church: How it operates as a stabilizing force, a stage for personalities, an arena for power struggles, and an enterprise which must cover its costs or go out of business."

Ty Burr, Boston Globe
Rating: C
"...a heartfelt but muddled melodrama..."

Bob Townsend, Atlanta Journal-constitution
Rating: C
"...a preachy soap opera about Saturday night and Sunday morning."

Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
Rating: B-
"The Gospel may not surprise us, but it's a likeable movie done with verve and style."

Laura Kern, New York Times
Rating: C
"Unlike actual soulful and infectious live church services, this muddled film probably won't inspire people to jump out of their seats."

More mementos from The Gospel below. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rappin' Shirley

Who would have imagined...the impossible...

Pastor Shirley Caesar, renowned gospel artist and recipient of eleven Grammy awards and tons of Dove and Stellar awards, willingly raps. On her 41st musical project, "I Know The Truth", she joins with Verity recording artist Tonex' on the title cut; exploding on an "in-your-face", infectious churchy track. But it is her rap, which floats right in on the vamp, that may send an alarm to the masses. Good or bad, you be the judge.

Talk about me just as much as you please
But the more that you talk, I'm gonna sell CD's...
You tellin' lies but I know the truth
We're off to the Grammys

Sounds like Rappin' Shirley has gotten a lil' too edgy for most conservative listeners. Can't wait to hear her join 50 Cent and G-Unit.

A lil' more info for you, the legendary Caravans DID record a live recording at West Point Baptist Church in Chicago a few weeks ago and featured Albertina Walker, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews and Delores Washnigton. Shirley was scheduled to appear from earlier press statements but was not present. Evelyn Turrentine-Agee, known for her sensational hit "God Did It", was one of the guest vocalists.