Today's post is one I've intended to do for quite some time now. It's a departure from the norm in that I'm featuring newer material for the most part. But this post is overdue, because one of the pleasant (and unexpected) consequences of having this blog is that I have been contacted by several artists, record companies, and record marketing firms about various projects that are out there. Although quite a few of them are outside of the general scope of the blog, a lot of the material is actually very good, and I have wanted to feature some of it for some time. Today I'm featuring four CDs that have come out this year, two featuring vintage material or a more vintage-styled sound, and two which feature newer sounds, one by a well-known neo-soul diva and the other by an eclectic New York newcomer songstress.
Angie Stone (featuring James Ingram) - My People
Angie Stone (no relation to your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul) has been doing her thing in the R&B world for the last decade, and when she was signed to the newly-reactivated Stax label some soul purists decried the decision by Concord Music to record modern R&B on the legendary label. Frankly, I've always felt that such opposition is nonsense. I think the classic Stax recordings will endure forever, as have the Motown classics; Motown has not shied away from cutting new artists, and has had success in the recent decade with soulstress India.Arie. I don't see why Stax should be an amber-enclosed relic, and I think an artist like Angie Stone will not sully the label's name. Her new album, The Art of Love & War, is a nice piece of mellow neo-soul, featuring guest turns by Betty Wright and James Ingram, the latter of whom participates in "My People," a great piece of black pride soul which is my favorite from the CD, hence its feature here. Check out this info page on Stone and the CD for more details. Good luck to Angie and Stax on this new venture!
The Budos Band - His Girl
Daptone Records has been championed on this blog many times for its commitment to the classic funk sound, and The Budos Band II, the second Daptone album by the Afrofunk-inspired Budos Band, continues the label's tradition of excellence. My favorite from this CD is "His Girl," which starts off with a reference to the Motown classic "My Girl" but then slips into a blaxploitation-styled groove. Check out the Daptone Records page about the album for more info.
Shelly Bhushan - Picking Daisies
New York singer/songwriter Shelly Bhushan emailed me some time ago, inviting me to check out her first full-length CD, Picking Daisies (an EP, The Shelly Show, had been a prior release). Bhushan presents an eclectic mix of pop, soul, jazz and even a country-flavored track on Pushing Daisies which shows off her great vocal chops and fine songs. I've picked the title track for this post, as it finds Shelly soulfully working it out over a nice '70s-styled jazzy soul groove. The CD is available on iTunes and via CD Baby (check out the CD Baby info page). It's a good CD.
Mongo Santamaria - You Need Help (snippet)
Finally I turn to the new series of releases involving the classic Latin label Fania Records. You can't say "Latin Soul" without thinking about Fania, whose output of the '60s and '70s gave the world the salsa star Hector Lavoe, had records with Latin soul greats like Mongo Santamaria and Ray Barretto, and gave the world the Latin soul supergroup the Fania All-Stars. Part of the new Fania project was the CD Fania Live 01: From the Meat Market, on which New York's DJ Rumor mixed a very satisfying set of Latin soul and other Fania sounds. Featured here is the portion of Mongo Santamaria's "You Need Help" that Rumor used in the mix. I have heard this CD and La Voz, a great 2-disc comp of Lavoe's '60s and '70s sides (both with Willie Colon and as a solo act), and I'm excited about what Fania product is forthcoming!