AAMAM: Screamin’ The Gospel! Part 28 of 30

blind

Archie Brownlee is on the far right. (1936-1960)

The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi were no doubt one of the greatest, if not THE greatest singing group in gospel music.  Noted for their strong harmonies and hard gospel singing style the group delivered deeply emotional and spiritual Christian messages in song. Helping to catapult the group, which had its beginnings in the Piney Woods School for the blind near Jackson, Mississippi, was lead vocalist Archie Brownlee.  His vocal presence was commanding and felt immensely in every song.  Brownlee became famous for his ability to release an intense guttural scream in song.  In a spiritual sense he was attempting to connect with the Angels and God in heaven.

Vocals like Brownlee’s were, for the most part, unprecedented in recorded gospel music of the era, rather, vocals like his were most familiar within the walls of the Black church.  Many of Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi’s contemporaries heavily borrowed from their hard gospel harmonic singing style and the guttural screams of Brownlee.  Pop artist such as James Brown, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke, who have their roots in gospel music, cited The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi and Archie Brown as influential in their craft.

Take a listen to the Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi and the screams of Archie Brownlee.

Enjoy AAMAM!

AAMAM Begins With The Godfather Of Soul! Part 1 of 30

James-BrownWow! It’s June already! So that means it’s African American Music Appreciation Month. America has officially recognized and celebrated the contributions of African American composers, musicians, and singers since 1979. Thanks President Jimmy Carter.

To celebrate, I’ll attempt to post a song a day of the best songs ever composed, sung, and recorded by our (yours and mine) favorite and amazing African American musicians and singers ever!

First up, James Brown’s “Say It Lout-I’m Black And I’m Proud!” Released in August of 1968, “Say It Loud” ushered in a bold new perspective of “Blackness” and identity for African Americans in a newly realized post Dr. Martin L. King era. The song became the sonic manifestation of Black empowerment!

Happy AAMAM!

Your Sunday iPod add: Tony Momrelle’s Soul From Across the Pond

momrelle1Welcome to your iPod add.

Today I’m going to introduce you to that new soulful voice you’ve been looking for for some time now.  He’s singer songwriter, Tony Momrelle! He has been laying down amazing groove oriented soul from across the pond for years.  Sorry, your favorite terrestrial radio station may be clueless to who he is and thus will never air his talent in any rotation. Their loss! Momrelle is a talent who has for years been the lead vocalist for the flat out bad ass British band Incognito; a featured vocalist for the dance and smooth grooves group Reel People; as well as a backing vocalist for my girl, Sade. Yep!

Momerelle with Sade

Momerelle with Sade

Momrelle’s Extended Play (EP) titled Fly was release almost a year ago and is still kickin’ today. The standout tracks are the eponymous “Fly”–an up tempo jam with a James Brown “funky drummer” shuffle rhythm which opens up a vast space where Momrelle demonstrates bright flashes of the vocal stylings of Stevie Wonder.  His lyrics are both simple and fantastically poetic.  Upon listening to the song, SoulBounce writer Ivory, stated, “Hope and happiness seem just within reach on this joint” and imagined through the lyrics “getting away from it all could be so simple.”  While his second track Spotlight spins a tale of meeting that special someone amid a crowd of people.  This cut finds Momrelle’s voice settled deep in the soul aesthetic surrounded by a driving groove.

This is Tony Momrelle Ladies and Gentlemen! Take a listen and know this is the soulful voice you been looking for. Add some Momrelle to your iPod and you will thank me later!

Check out “Fly”

Check out “Spotlight”

Brown Quiets The Night in Boston!

Photo by Thomas E. Landers/Globe Boston, afternoon April 5, 1968

Photo by Thomas E. Landers/Globe
Boston, afternoon April 5, 1968

As you know it is Black Music Month! And if you are like me you are knee deep in the melodies of some good Black music (just like last month and the month before that and the month . . .)

Anyway here is little something for you to chew on for Black Music Month!

Did you know James Brown and his music saved Boston from being destroyed on April 5, 1968? It’s true. As Brown would say, “Here’s how the whole thang went down, man!”

On April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. was assassinated while supporting the striking Black public sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. As soon as his assassination made the news, Black folks became enraged at the untimely loss of their beloved champion of equality. Feeling hopeless, frustrated, and angry with their lingering social status as well as becoming increasingly impatient with the pace of King’s campaign of non-violence, the youth (who drove the movement of civil equality) responded with aggressive violent resistance toward the oppressive power structure. A swell of rioting broke out in Black urban centers across America the evening of April 4th 1968 . . . including Boston!

Months before Dr. King’s assassination, James Brown was scheduled to perform at the Boston Garden. However, given the social unrest in Boston by the Black youth, city officials including Boston Mayor Kevin White thought it would be best to cancel the concert in an attempt to restore order amid the growing civil unrest in and around Boston.  However, Boston’s only African American City Councilman, Tom Atkins thought otherwise. He was convinced that allowing the concert to continue would be best for the city in terms of diminishing the-sure-to-come destructive riot.  He was quickly able to convince Mayor White that allowing the concert to go on would allow a space for the youth to release their frustrations in a non-destructive way.  Atkins also suggested the concert be televised on local TV station WGBH to reach the homes of those youth who could not attend the concert.

Photo by Bob Deen Atkins, White, and Brown workin' it out!

Photo by Bob Deen
Atkins, White, and Brown workin’ it out!

His thinking Brown, one of the hottest acts in the country, would be able to persuade the city’s youth to stay in and forego a violent protest in the city.  Mayor White took a gamble and agreed with Atkins.  Atkins, White, and Brown met to work out the money details of a live broadcast.

So, the evening of April 5, 1968, while several urban centers across America experience a second night of rioting in the wake of Dr. King’s assassination, James Brown and his band put on a captivating high energy show, which redirected the youth’s feelings of angst and sorrow to one of a celebration of life and peace. Brown’s presence and music did in fact quiet the hostile youth in the city of Boston and the surrounding urban areas that evening. In the end, Boston experienced no more disruption than a typical Friday night for that city. Boston was saved by James Brown.

What’s more is that the Boston Garden concert was recorded and preserved for us to watch today.  We now have the opportunity to witness the amazing James Brown in action roughly 24hrs after King’s assassination. We can watch his music captivate and stop the youth, city-wide, from violent resistance.  We get to witness the moment Brown’s music emerged as the undisputed musical beacon of Black empowerment following the Boston concert in 1968.

Photo by Bob Deen Brown Live on stage in Boston Garden

Photo by Bob Deen
Brown Live on stage in Boston Garden

From the great words spoken by Atkins, White, and Brown at the beginning of the concert to the driving tempos to Maceo’s Parker’s solo to the pace of the Go Go dancer’s hips to the concert’s ending with Brown’s interjections of Black pride to thwart a sure riot on the Garden stage are not to be missed.  Take a look and listen below and be mindful of how quiet things are in the streets during the time of the concert. James Brown saved Boston!

Enjoy Black Music Month!

For more info on that night check this out!:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1183486/

See entire concert here:

Ohio Players: Black Body Politics & Honey!

As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” which rings true on closer examination.  Many of us have certainly seen pictures worth a thousand words and more.  That being said, how many words are the images on an album cover worth?

Album covers are meant to give the listening audience a visual clue or insight to the recorded work of the artist.  The images; some simple, some complex in their composition, speak volumes through hyperbole, metaphor, and double entendre images.  Given the decade, album covers made very specific social, cultural, and political commentary that spoke directly to the listening audience of that era.  No era was more prolific in relaying social, cultural, and political messages to a listening audience than the 70s.

The 70s followed the decade of social and political turbulence led by radicals, poets, and misfits who fought for and achieved real cultural change in all aspects in American life including music.  Simple photos of artists on their album covers were now passé.  The 70s demanded more!  Album covers had to say something else besides “look at us/me” (the artist).  The era required thought-provoking, emotional, bewildering, career defining, and indeed controversial album covers.  The Ohio Players stepped up to the plate.

The Ohio Players was (and still is) a funk and R&B band from Dayton Ohio who famously crooned about a funky worm, skin-tight britches, fire, sweet sticky thangs, and a love roller coaster.  Their album covers in the 70s are now legendary.  They constantly make the top 10 Internet list for the best album covers of the 70s and easily top the sexiest album cover lists of all time.  As you will see in this post, Ohio players featured a sexy and scantily clad woman on all of their albums in the 70s.  How many words are their album covers worth? Thousands!!!

Considering the era of the 70s, the Ohio Players’ album covers were more than just gratuitous sexy-women.  The band was engaging in the social, cultural, and political issues of the day.  Ohio Players were, in terms of album cover imagery, in lock step with the climate of the times.

The 70s ushered in a new and bold vision of blackness.  As the black urban community jettisoned out of the 60s, musical spokesperson and ‘soul brotha #1’ James Brown shouted out a new manifesto suited for a new conscious people: “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and we were.  The new vision of Blackness was righteous, cool, smart, and “sho nuff” beautiful.  The Ohio Players helped to create the musical soundtrack of this era.  Their music communicated the sentiment of the new definition of blackness.  Ohio Players sonically created that familiar black 70s swag.  Moreover, their album covers echoed black romance and the beauty of the black body–a women’s body.

In deliberate synchronicity with Blaxploitation films, their album covers exuded the new 70s black woman.  Gone was the imagery of the Aunt Jemima mammy and wash maids and here to stay was the self-assured, fearless, afro wearing, jumpsuit sporting, shit talking sista that could round house “The Man” in the throat, flip off the pigs, save your little brother from getting hit by a car on his Big Wheel, and lovingly kiss her man on the lips–all at the same time.  This was the image of the popular black woman of the 70s and this was the woman on the album covers of the Ohio Players only a bit more sexy.

Observation In Time, 1968, Capital Records

Although not recorded in the 70s, Ohio Players first album Observations In Time was telling of future album covers to come.

Pain, 1972. This is their first album on the Westbound label.
Photographer is Joel Brodsky. Model is Pat Evans.

Photographer Joel Brodsky, was instrumental in the creation of the Ohio Players album covers.  He wanted to create images of a strong black woman.  In the above photo model Pat Evans is the visual personification of this and more.  Not only is she dominating the man in the photo but she is also afro-less, which shows her defiant nature; this is extreme even in black culture.  Her bald head is a clear sign that she will not be controlled.  Think “Black Moses” Isaac Hayes.

Pleasure, 1972, Westbound

Brodsky album covers contained the “rest of the image” below or above the ‘gate-fold’ (where the album folds).  The folded album would showcase the “featured” image on the cover.  Then once unfolded the image would be “completed” or seen in its entirety to reveal an expanded visual commentary.  Examine the above photo.  Evans on the album cover is seen from mid forearm to shoulder with a facial expression that resembles the title of the album.  However, once the album is unfolded she is revealed to be bound by chains.  Which extends a whole new meaning to the title of the album.

Ecstasy, 1973, Westbound. This is the last Ohio Players album released while still on the Westbound label.  Others albums released on Westbound are compilations of unfinished songs, extra material, and previously released hits.

Brodsky’s images depict Evans as sexy and dominant.  The 70s witnessed the emergence of the black woman as sexy, exotic and erotic.  Black women, in terms of their darker skin color, emerged as objects of desire and the image of beauty.  Women such as Carol Speed, Gloria Hendry, Tamara Dobson, Pam Grier, and first black super model Naomi Sims were embraced for their sexuality and beauty alone.

Skin Tight, 1974 Mercury Records. First album for Mercury. Brodsky nor Evans were employed for the album cover.

Once the Ohio Players moved to Mercury Records, their album covers lost the image of strong black woman.  However, the albums covers did retain the sexy, sensual, and alluring body as the object of desire and muse for the album’s music. Brodsky’s beyond the gate-fold imagery was still utilized.  Mercury’s album covers pressed the sexuality of black woman, which rivaled the sexuality of white women.  Black women were sexy too!

Fire, 1974, Mercury. Heated sexuality.

Climax, 1974, Westbound. This album is composed of extra tracks from their years with the label. There is much commentary below the gate-fold.

Westbound’s image on the Ohio Players Climax album is aimed at the artists.  It revealed how the label felt when the group left and signed a deal with Mercury.  Brodsky and Evans image (a knife in the back) below the gate-fold was controversial.

Honey, 1975, Mercury.  Arguably the most famous Ohio Players album cover.  Check the net for the inner sleeve.

The most popular Ohio Players album cover came complete with a urban tale of hot honey, a deathly scream, and a studio murder, which may of may not have involved the model on the cover Ester Cordet.  Cordet was the first latin (Panamanian) Playboy “playmate of the month” (Miss October 1974). Her African heritage couched her and her body in the black aesthetic of beauty and sensuality.

Rattlesnake, 1975, Westbound.  (Rare)

The Rattlesnake album cover contains the image of a man, woman, and snake.  Evans is in a dominant position here and is in full control of the snake.  The imagery is reminiscent of Adam and Eve and metaphorically Westbound takes another dig at the Ohio Players with the presence of a snake.  (Members of Parliament/Funkadelic are rumored to have played the overdubs on this album of unfinished songs and re-recorded earlier releases.)

Greatest Hits, 1975, Westbound.

Ohio Players previous record label had yet another message for the band on their Greatest Hits cover.  Westbound’s commentary of the Ohio Players lies above the gate-fold.  Evans beauty still persists as did the Ohio Players music.

Contradiction, 1976, Mercury

The Contradiction album is indeed that.  The music contradicts their musical legacy in that it is not very appealing and the horse pictured is credited rather than the model.  This image is highly sexualized, which  plays on the image of the the black stallion metaphor and double entendre.

Gold, 1976, Mercury

Mercury’s release of Ohio Players Gold album was a compilation of the group’s gold records and a response to Westbound’s Grates Hits both sonically and in album cover image.  The model, whose look is similar to Evans, appears to be angelic-like as she flies through the air carrying Ohio Players gold record to the masses.  Her nude body and red cape exude power and femininity.

Angel, 1977, Mercury

The Angel album cover represented the last of the Ohio Players respectful image of the black body.  This should be of no surprise.  The image of the black body was by this time in American society common and had begun to lose its exotic-ness.  The black body had arrived; it was beautiful and could rival and be rivaled by any other body.  In terms of beauty there was a fair amount of parity.  This was reflected in the media and most powerfully seen on television in the form of black cast dramas and sitcoms of the 70s.

Mr. Mean, 1977, Mercury

The Ohio Players appearance on the Mr. Mean album cover ends a steak of not having any band member on cover since 1968.  Although the image of a feminine black body is present, it is, however, stifled by the men.  The model seems to be withdrawn and submissive this is far removed from the strong and controlling images of Westbound’s Brodsky/Evans covers.

Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee, 1978. Last album recorded for Mercury.  No outside gate-fold.

Inside gate-fold

Everybody Up, 1979, Arista

By the end of the 70s, as seen on the Everybody Up album, the unique  esthetic of black beauty had made a change.  Images birthed in the Blaxploitation era have waned and the black body evolved into mere sexual object; a collection of body parts to be desired.  Strong images of black women in terms of black power and feminine sexuality and attached meaning disappeared in the 80s and were reflected on not just the Ohio Players album covers but many other artists album covers as well.  The era of social and cultural commentary on black body politics and honey (beauty) was over.

Want more info on the Ohio Players? Check here:

http://wfnk.com/ohioplayers/index2.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-ohio-players-p5062

More photos of Pat Evans