Thursday, August 28, 2008

Niyoki's REST for the Weary


In 2006, D2G Records contemporary gospel and inspirational vocalist Niyoki (pronounced Nie-yo-kee), came on the gospel scene with her debut release, MY EVERYTHING. The project independently sold more than 15,000 copies, and spawned the hit single “He’s Here” (which ultimately reached the #8 position on Billboard’s Gospel chart and was named the 27th most-played gospel song of 2007 by the trade publication R&R (Radio and Records). Now she is back with her sophomore CD entitled REST which hit stores on August 19th via partnership with Executive Music Group and distribution by Fontana.

All 13 songs on REST were written and co-produced by Niyoki in collaboration with her four producers: Ralph B. Stacy (Mario, Dru Hill, Jagged Edge and K-Ci and JoJo); Antonio Neal (EMI Gospel recording artist and producer for Canton Jones, Darlene McCoy, and Kierra “Kiki” Sheard); and up-and-comers Floyd Thomas and Quintin X. Coleman. The first single, “Joy,” was shipped to radio in May, and is currently seated at the #40 on the BDS e-Chart.

Recorded while she was pregnant with her first child (Kedron Nero), REST is a solid collection of songs, each of which has a different sound and feel. REST crosses all musical genres to incorporate R&B, Jazz, rock and hip-hop all laced together with what Niyoki describes as “a central theme of hope and love for Jesus Christ.”

REST includes the beautiful and soothing “I Will Rest,” the high energy and driven single, “Joy,” the praise-filled “Where Would I Be?” and the earnestly prayerful “All That I Have.” These are just a few of the highlights featured on Niyoki’s new project which gives Niyoki a suitable platform on which to showcase the strength of her voice as well as her remarkable contralto-to-mezzo-soprano vocal range. “I was so much more comfortable with this project because I’d been there, done that,” said Niyoki who previously was part of the R&B group Milenia which Prince tapped to perform as his background vocalists. “I’m more settled in my thoughts, with my lyrics, and with what direction I wanted to go with the music. And more importantly, my relationship with God has evolved into a place of peace.”

To listen to JOY, the new single from her sophomore project, click here.

Niyoki Unplugged
Niyoki; Album Review of Rest []
Niyoki [Official Website]
Niyoki []
He's Here Music Video []

No VIBE for Tye Tribbett

Wow, if I had wrote this review, I probably would have been viewed as one of the biggest haters in the industry. But I like to be honest and real with my readers...and I'm so glad that their are outlets out there in the press that are fighting to make a change and difference with the freedom of speech. Linda Hobbs of VIBE Magazine recently wrote a very truthful album review of Tye Tribbett & G.A's pop-less recent release, StandOut, and critically breaks the album down better than I did.

"If those fossilized relics we call “albums” have been replaced by the live show, then the leaders of the new school ought to be gospel artists, who get a chance to practice their chops every Sunday. The boss of this genre is Tye Tribbett, a young, beanpole-looking belter who dances orgasmically and grins like a madman. But unlike his stylistic predecessor Kirk Franklin, Tribbett hasn’t gotten much shine around pop land. StandOUT, his third album for a major label—and his second live effort—offers strong evidence for why he’s failed to hit the stratosphere. Like so many live zealots, Tribbett struggles to translate his rapturous stage presence beyond the congregation."

On the title track, Tribbett and his choir, Greater Anointing, begin with a holy order: “It’s time for you to choose whose side you’re going to be on /...all we have to do is stand /…Rise up!” But even with the Anointing, Tribbett can’t transcend. Take “Let Us Worship”: It’s big, bombastic—and boring. There’s clatter, but no impact. And “I Made It Through” fails to merge the old with the new: Tambourines, a schizo brass free-for-all, and an ecstatic organ blare as the choir squeals, “He’s so faithful!” And yes, He is…if only we could feel Him."

Now if i used words like "boring," "schizo" and "beanpole" in a review, would I be destined to go to hell? Many of my readers tend to think so. But let's not revisit the past.

To read the VIBE album review online,
click here.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gospel Fall Lineup 2008

As usual, plan to expect a drove of gospel album releases to hit retail this fall.

It seems like the gospel music industry prepares to toss out their very best releases, like Sweep's Week and Season Premieres hit the tube, during the fall. This year should be no exception.

The first project already getting major coverage and media support comes from John P. Kee and his beloved VIP Music and Arts Seminar convention. Live in Miami, featuring guest appearances from Earnest Pugh, Fred Hammond and LeJune Thompson, hits shelves nationwide on September 2. Expected radio favorites will be Kee and Lowell Pye's duet on "I'm Covered" and the infectious "Yes, We Can." Ain't it a strange coincidence that the song bears the same theme of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's campaign. The album will be released on Verity Records with distribution from Zomba.

On the same day, Verity plans to drop Revealed; the highly talked-about album release from Deitrick Haddon. In just two years, Haddon related projects including Tyscot's Together In Worship (2007) and Damita's No Looking Back (2008) . With production from Tim & Bob, Blaze, Baby Dubb Campbell and gospel veteran Percy Bady, Revealed will serve as the tenth album release from the hip-hop/urban gospel singer. And with mesmerizing cover art and photography, Haddon is bound to shake the industry with his blueprint of urban crossover gospel. The album, originally meant to drop August 19, will finally be released nationwide online and in retail stores on September 2.

Gospel's sweethearts Mary Mary will also reveal their latest musical experience - their fourth studio project - with The Sound. A follow up to their 2005 critically acclaimed effort Mary Mary, The Sound finds sisters Erica and Tina Campbell stretching their wings into realms rarely explored in gospel music. The disc melds the group’s love of truth-grounded gospel, mixed with patches of R&B, pop, soul, jazz, electronic/techno and then some. “We consider ourselves to be unpredictable,” Tina says. “We like to think that we’re innovative and original so you cannot figure out what our next move is and you can’t really define our ability or what you think the expectations are.” The lead single, "Get Up", has already been released to gospel and R&B radio and can be downloaded off of iTunes. The album - featuring production from Warryn "Baby Dubb" Campbell - officially drops on October 14 on the Columbia and Integrity Media music label.

Other noteworthy releases we will be sure to follow up on include:

September 16, 2008
Dottie Peoples
Do It

(DP Muzik Group)

September 23, 2008
Sean Simmonds
It's Over
(Xist Records/Tyscot)

September 30, 2008
Paul Porter
A New Day
(Light Records)

September 30, 2008
Terry Dexter
(Penny Gang's Records)

September 30, 2008
Take 6
The Standard
(Concord Music Group)

October 14, 2008

Stephen Hurd
Times of Refreshing

(Integrity Gospel)

October 28, 2008
Bishop Paul S. Morton & the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Mass Choir
Cry Your Last Year
(Light Records/Tehillah)

October 28, 2008
Kierra Sheard
Bold Right Life
(EMI Gospel)

New Releases (July - Dec 08)
Summer Sizzlers of 2008 [PRAYZE Report]
Word Products, released Fall Quarter [Word Distribution]

Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer Sizzlers of 2008

Summer 2008 has been quite hot, hazy and has left an unpleasant drought of super gospel hits for us to enjoy during those nice drives down the boulevard. Add in the fact that the U.S. is still struggling over the idea of seeing $4.00 a gallon for regular unleaded. Just think about the countless hundreds of dollars pumped into your gas tank just during the week. It has been quite depressing, to say the least.

We usually place our annual pickings for the best summer jams at in our Summer Sizzlers' section. And boy, would we want to feature a healthy list for our faithful viewing audience. But this time around, there have been very little jams to spread around. Luckily, we were able to manage to pull out ten songs that inspired us and got us going during the dog days of summer. Let's see who and what made the cut this year.

10. "Holding On To You" - 21:03
Total Attention (PAJAM/Verity)
The charm tucked in the cool R&B groove and the sexy-sounding production fits oh so well on the young gents. It's riding music with a "B2K meets Commissioned" touch.

9. "For Your Feet" - Rance Allen Group
Closest Friend (Tyscot)
A fun track that sho'nuff makes you wanna boogie woogie woogie (slide to the left/then move to the right/everything that's breathin'/get your praise on tonight). The funky groove, laced with flashy horns and tough percussion, is a comfortable revisit to the golden days of this legendary group. Got Stax?

8. "Favor of God" - Martha Munizzi
Change The World (Martha Munizzi Music)
Shelia E. should be jealous right about now! Martha Munizzi works the sweat out of this jubilant praise celebration and is perfected with Munizzi's enthusiastic ad-libs. And while the lyrics are quite encouraging, the funk is where the song thrives.

7. "Words of Life" - J.R.
Life By Stereo (Cross Movement Records)
With the brand of cool resembling a John Legend and the lush production of an Al Green tune, this song is definitely one of the 2008's ultimate summer gospo-ballads. While radio focused more on the rock/hip-hop-sliced single "Not A Slave," we were too busy enjoying this smooth worship ballad.

6. "Friend of Mine" - The Murrills
Family Prayer (QuietWaters Entertainment/Verity)
And then D. Lawrence opened up his collection of 45's and unearthed a treasure with Eddie Kendricks' gospel-inspired "He's A Friend." He took the song into the studio and put new verses with the soulful lead vocals of the Murrills on it...and breathed new life into the disco gem. And it was good.

5. "Made It" - Cheryl James & Voices of Worship
Live (Source of Synergy)
The glorious East Coast groove on this joint is worth hearing again and again. Melvin Crispell's arrangements on top of VOW's juicy harmonies nail this funky cut. And when the vamp kicks in, turn up the volume. You are bound to declare:"I'm still here/standing/standing/standing."

4. "Stand Out" - Tye Tribbett & G.A.
Stand Out (Columbia)
You got a taste of hip-hop, rock and tough gospel mixed into this outcry for holiness. The super-charged gospel anthem is a hyperactive party starter that sums up the high-octane of Tye Tribbett's live performances into one cutting-edge radio-friendly track. About time!

3. "Ooh La La" - LeJune Thompson
Metamorphosis (LeCe Entertainment)
Cedric Thompson is still one of the coolest masterminds in the studio today. This cool vibe, featuring Lejune Thompson's impressive vocals and slick executions, is one of the year's freshest tracks cut. With just a little extra push from a major distributor, this track would have blazed many urban gospel radio markets. It sure did get our attention.

2. "Still In Love" - Kirk Franklin
The Fight of My Life (GospoCentric/Zomba)
After hearing Kirk Franklin's skate party introduction, this track grooves with the dazzling effects of Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" and the legendary Larry Gold's crisp strings. It's another heavyweight summer jam from the reigning gospel veteran. This is fun music!

1. "Return" - Dorinda Clark-Cole
Take It Back (GospoCentric/Zomba)
PAJAM gets jiggy with it on this big urban jam featuring the awesome raspy, jazzy vocal work of Dorinda Clark-Cole. Surprisingly, the song fits like a magic glove on Clark-Cole's personality. The melody is totally strong, the chorus is smart and the vamp is outrageously addictive after one listen. that we finished our annual summer report for 2008, what summer jams do you feel should have been mentioned in our assessment?

Summer Sizzlers' 07 []
Summer Sizzlers 2006 []

Monday, August 11, 2008

Remembering Isaac Hayes

Beyond “Shaft,” Isaac Hayes remains a highly celebrated artistic icon for his legendary workmanship on the soul music genre and for making full-length albums friendlier for black consumers. Before Hayes released the classic LP Hot Buttered Soul in 1969, the black market of R&B and soul music surrounded the assembly-line 45 r.p.m. singles. But Hot Buttered Soul changed everything and has remained the most significant event in the world of R&B music ever since. Up to the release of Hot Buttered Soul, virtually everyone in the record industry had assumed that the black audience was neither economically equipped nor aesthetically interested in purchasing LPs in large numbers. Consequently black artists were not afforded the great luxuries enjoyed by their white contemporaries in creating elaborate album concepts or extended songs. Instead, most black LPs were rushed to release and were aimed to be economically friendly to the music companies; focusing only on a string of hit singles. But Isaac Hayes’ crafty abilities in pulling a string and horn section into the studio and working on soothing and heavily orchestrated arrangements changed the entire music biz. At the very beginning of the 1970s, Hayes was accredited for being the very first super artist in R&B - being hailed as “Black Moses” by his beloved followers and fans. And even with his symbolic golden chains, his shaven head and his highly recognizable deep baritone, Hayes was much more than a cultural superhero.

Go back to the early years of Stax Records, the popular music empire of Memphis, Tennessee, and you will find the superstars of Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the M.G’s, Sam and Dave and the Staple Singers. Behind all that talent stood the writing duo of David Porter and Isaac Hayes. Together the two wrote genre-defining hit singles including Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man,” “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” and “Hold On I’m Comin’.” Other hits came about: Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y,” Mable John’s “Your Good Thing Is About To End” and The Astors’ “Candy.” He also played piano and other instruments on dozens of Stax records and had developed a name as one of the most dependable and creative session players within the company.

Rob Bowman wrote about Hayes in July 2005 in his moving biography about Stax Records in Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records.

“As monumental as his contributions were in the first part of his career, they are dwarfed by the impact of his solo albums such as Hot Buttered Soul, Shaft and Black Moses. With these records Hayes would become the biggest artist Stax ever produced and one of the most important artists in the history of rhythm and blues. From 1969 through 1975, he single-handedly redefined the sonic possibilities of black music, in the process opening up the album market as a commercially viable medium for black artists.”

When Hot Buttered Soul was released, the music world was stunned. The epic soulful creations of the Dionne Warwick hit “Walk On By” and the stunning 18-minute remake of “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” (capped with his signature storytelling monologue) gave birth to a cool, sexy, seductive and charming soul brother during what some music historians call a “new day” in R&B music. With only four tracks on the album, radio edits of “Walk On By” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” were shopped to the big stations to met the public demand of Hayes’ new sound. But history was already rewritten, the LP itself reached number one on both the jazz and R&B charts and even climbed to number eight on the pop charts - doing far greater in sales than the singles themselves.

Other hit albums repeated the Hayes’ formula including To Be Continued, The Isaac Hayes Movement (featuring the amazing reworking of the Jerry Butler hit “I Stand Accused”) and the colorful double-LP Black Moses. The latter also landed at number one on the R&B charts, number two on the jazz charts and number ten pop. Hayes had perfected an unique groove, a holy soulful sound, that merged the glorious emotions of gospel into the heartfelt expressions of soul music. This sound would later be enriched by fellow counterparts including Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Barry White.

In 1971, Hayes broke all ground with his phenomenal effort of writing a musical score to the hip “blaxploitation” film Gordon Parks’s Shaft. The resulting double LP and the signature theme song were both influential in kick-starting the disco movement and the uprising of the black soundtrack for future motion pictures. The #1 pop/R&B single earned Hayes both an Academy and Grammy Awards - one of the first of African Americans to win in both the world of music and film - and made him an icon overnight.

At the height of his career, he landed a spectacular performance during the Wattstax festival at the Los Angeles Coliseum in August 1972. Portions of that concert were featured in the 1973 documentary film Wattstax by Mel Stuart.

While bankruptcy woes and his departure from Stax Records troubled him and his image throughout the ‘70s, Hayes bounced back with colorful disco and Quiet Storm gems in the late ‘70s on the Polydor music label. Hits like “Don’t Let Go,” “A Few More Kisses to Go” and “Moonlight Lovin’” kept his radiant star glowing during this new era of Hayes’ musical expressions.

Hayes, raised in the Baptist church, never laid sight off of his upbringing and his spirituality. His moving composition, “Soulsville,” tells of the tough climate and environment in the inner city and the passion for the poor and forgotten to survive its calamities with God’s help. On the 1973 LP Live at the Sahara Tahoe, Hayes breathes faith and inspiration into the Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune “The Windows of the World.” And while his dabs in Scientology has baffled many of Hayes’ longtime fans and has left behind an unexplainable cloud of unanswered questions, he remained a beloved hero in his hometown of Memphis, a hardworking humanitarian and remained an active force towards black empowerment and achievement.

In his latter years, Hayes became well known for his voice; appearing on South Park as “Chef,” appearing in commercials, film (Dr. Doolittle 2, Reindeer Games, Hustle and Flow, I’m Gonna Get You Sucka) and television (The Rockford Files, The Hughleys, Girlfriends, Stargate SG-1). And he continued to work in the music industry with international tours, heavy sampling by Mystikal, Ashanti and Jay-Z and even working with Alicia Keys. He was also inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and a wonderful documentary, featuring Hayes, was also released that same year.

Unfortunately, our Black Moses left us so soon. Isaac Hayes passed away at the age of 65, just ten days short of his 66th birthday, in his Memphis home on the Sunday morning of August 10.

I grew up on Hayes music but took greater dips into the portals of Hayes's music a few years ago. I began to appreciate the creative process of his music and how he brilliantly created these super musical episodes of gorgeous symphonic beauty. From the lovely French horn part in “Ellie’s Love Theme” to the innovative wah-wah rhythm guitar on the “Theme From Shaft,” from the gorgeous and heavily-sampled “Hung Up On My Baby” to the misty sweet sounds of his 1980 reworking of “It’s All In The Game,” from the beautiful harmonies of the female group Hot Buttered Soul on “(They Long to Be) Close To You” to the funky sounds found on “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” - there was always something refreshing and beautiful about Hayes’ music.

I was blessed to know Hayes personally in his latter years. He was a charming and well respected man and emailed me a few times. In one of his last emails to me, Isaac stated:

“My apologies for not replying sooner-my schedule is extremely hectic. Thank you very much for acknowledgment of my work as an artist. I very much appreciate it. Keep on enjoying the music...there will be a new album out at the end of this year!”

I was later told today that the album was never recorded. But there is good news in knowing that Soul Men, an upcoming movie about two estranged soul-singing legends (played by Samuel Jackson and the late Bernie Mac) agreeing to participate in a reunion performance at the Apollo Theater to honor their recently deceased band leader (played by John Legend), is slated to hit theaters November 2008. The film features Isaac Hayes playing himself..It’s so sad that we have lost an earthly treasure like Isaac Hayes. His music will forever live long and will always linger with us - as long as great music lives. Can you dig it?

Isaac Hayes [Official Website]
and for more reading...
Stax of Music [PRAYZE Report]

Friday, August 01, 2008

Marvin Sapp and Shekinah Glory Goes Gold

While recent reports of gospel sales have dropped in the last two quarters, there is still a bit of good news in the music market with the RIAA's recent announcements of Chicago's Shekinah Glory Ministry and Marvin Sapp reaching gold status.

Marvin Sapp was recently featured in USA Today and by the Associated Press about his record-breaking success of the hit single "Never Would Have Made It;" a song that remains perched at number one on the gospel charts to this day and continues to touch the lives of millions with his inspiring message. The song is a crossover success - reaching number one on the urban adult contemporary charts and crossing over to the R&B and pop charts - and has become the longest running number one single in all of Billboard's genre history. The album Thirsty, released last July, has since been certified gold and continues to break records.

Shekinah Glory Ministry, the urban worship magnet of Chicago, also has alot to be thankful for. Their double-CD, Live, was also certified gold by the RIAA this week; becoming their second straight RIAA gold record released. The album, released independently through Kingdom Records and distributed by Universal, featured the radio hit "Yes."

Elder Phil Tarver is the Praise and Worship Leader of Shekinah Glory Ministry: "We are taught that the more God exalts you the more you should humble yourself. We are humbled but honored to know that more than a few folks are enjoying what we do as we continue our mission of creating music that pierces the kingdom of darkness and enlarges the Kingdom of God."