AAMAM: Don’t Miss This Train or You’ll Be Sorry. Part 9 of 30

The+OJaysPeople all over the world

Join hands

Start a love train, love train. . .

The lyrics to the O’Jays’ song “Love Train” can certainly be counted among the most uplifting lyrics ever written. The song encourages an unbridled love for the fellow man around the world. “Love Train” literally takes the listener on trip around the world to embrace and hold the hand of every nationality.

Released in December 1972 and written by the formidable writing team of Gamble and Huff, “Love Train” stripped away race, culture, ethnicity, and even in some respect class–essentially sending the message that nothing else matters but love in an era of increasing global social and political tension and lingering war. Similar to the images made in the “Hilltop” Coke commercial and song “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,” the O’Jays song created a sense of hope. In early 1973, “Love Train” ascended to the top of urban and pop charts making it a crossover success.

“Love Train,” today, if piped to the masses every hour would serve every community around the globe well in terms of loving your fellow man.

Love and Happy AAMAM!

My BFF is Better Than Yours: Prince And Sheila E.

BFFs Prince and Sheila E share a moment

BFFs Prince and Sheila E share a moment

Prince and Sheila E., BFFs if there ever was a pair!  The above photo was taken in Oakland, California during Prince’s Welcome 2 America tour.  On this night of the tour, Sheila E. opened for Prince.  The picture captures the moment as she finished her hit song “Glamorous Life” and Prince walked on stage to congratulate her.  She immediately grabbed and hugged her BFF.  They then shared a laugh.

Inseparable and certainly joined at the hip for almost 3 decades, Prince and Sheila E. have collaborated to create some of the most memorable music from the mid to late 80s.

According to Alex Hahn’s book Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince, Prince Rogers Nelson and Sheila Escovedo met in 1978, while Sheila was touring with her father, the magnificent timbalero Pete Escovedo.  They met back stage and Prince prophetically proclaimed they would one day make music together.  Soon Prince and Sheila began to jam together and share musical ideas.  Prince began to produce Sheila as an artist and bestowed upon her the moniker Sheila E.  Their first recorded collaboration took place just a few years later when a reluctant Sheila sang background on Prince’s big hit “Let’s Go Crazy”.  Hahn suggests Sheila, up to this point, saw herself as an instrumentalist and in no way a singer.  Prince was able to instill in her the confidence to sing.  The newly minted BFFs began their productive and legendary collaboration.  Prince produced Sheila E’s albums The Glamorous Life (‘84), Romance 1600 (‘85), and Sheila E. (‘87)During the same period Sheila shared her drumming and percussion talents on Prince’s albums, Purple Rain (‘84), Around The World in a Day (‘85), Parade (‘86), and Sign O’ The Times (‘87).  Sheila E.’s ability to play complex Jazz and Latin rhythms added a new dimension to Prince’s recordings and live sound.

Prince and Sheila E. have over the decades forged an unbreakable music bond that is filled with love, respect, honor, and support for one other.  When you see one of the BFFs perform the other is no doubt not too far away.

Prince and Sheila E.’s friendship fused musical cousins R&B, Funk, Rock, Blues, and Latin Jazz together in a way that allowed it to soar far beyond rigid musical genres, which were intended to keep the masses in their respected cultural places.  Their music was multi-genre and multicultural; simply put, they used Black music to bring people together.

Happy BMM!

Keys and Maxwell Get Steamy!

Alicia Keys, Maxwell, and Keys husband Swizz Beatz celebrate slow burning soul duets!

Alicia Keys, Maxwell, and Keys husband Swizz Beatz celebrate slow burning soul duets!

Weather it’s on a sultry dance floor or in a red-light basement, or in those dark private spaces where attraction is mutually communicated, the slow burning soul duet has been responsible for bringing bodies together for years.  Alicia Keys’ duet with Maxwell “The Fire We Make” will certainly continue that time-honored tradition.

Not since Teddy Pendergrass and Stephanie Mills recorded Peabo Bryson’s “Feel The Fire” in 1980 has there been such a magnetic and hot duet!  Keys and Maxwell combine their popular sex appeal (evident in the video below) and vocal talent to create a classic feeling song that is robust in sexual desire and anticipation.  Keys vocals are filled with tension and emotion, while Maxwell’s falsetto soars, almost Prince-like, to new heights as he mirrors her yearning.

The slow burning soul duet provides a space for listeners to role-play and perform for one another lyrical scenes of love.  Overall, slow burning soul, Alicia Keys and Maxwell has placed black romance in the public sphere.  They have invited black (and white) bodies to express deep feelings of love and wanting, while engulfed in smooth tempos, squeezable chords, and passionate lyrics.

This is soul! This is Black music! Happy BMM!

Grab a partner and take a listen!

José James: Your Sunday iPod Add

Returning with a vengeance, here is your new Sunday iPod add “Touch” by the extraordinary vocalist José James. “Touch” has become one of my favorite mid tempo jams to listen to.  The driving groove goes down smooth and easy.  Led by the drum and bass, this cut allows James to vocally float over chord changes with what some call a “romantic baritone” voice.  His voice is unique and defies comparison to other male vocalist on the scene today.  Admittedly inspired by the supreme John Coltrane, James’ music is rooted in Jazz and utilizes elements of Soul and Hip Hop, which displays a certain youthful exuberance to be admired.  If you were wondering where is that new vocalist who makes audience stand up and take notice, wonder no more.  José James is an artist you should know.  Add this song to your iPod as soon as possible.  You will thank me later.

Oh, and note to the romantics reading this: James’ songs are smoking hot!  Some soft light and a little wine can amp up an intimate moment . . . watch out dere now!

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:



More photos of Pat Evans

Zagora: Soul, Relationships, and Travel

In 1986, the British Soul, Electronic Groove, and R&B dance band Loose Ends released their 3rd studio album titled Zagora.  This album was every bit of brilliant in terms of its musical orchestration, lyrical content, and its overall theme.  In the arena of smooth, sexy, and sophisticated R&B Zagora easily held its own among the best R&B albums in the mid 80s.  Still reeling from their hugely successful debut album A Little Spice, which contained the hits “Dial 999” and of course the stylish “Hangin’ On A String” as well as their sophomore album effort So Where Are You? (U.K. release) in ’85, Loose Ends entered the mid-eighties with a musical masterpiece . . . Zagora!  It is for this very reason, I feel, Zagora needs to be re-reviewed and at least lightly analyzed.  I may be coming from the place of a “fan-boy” here but I think this album is all that and a bag of chips. Loose Ends was/is one of my favorite bands.

60s Black London

Loose Ends (L.E.) formed in London in the early 80s.  The group was a trio that consisted of the wonderful Carl McIntosh, the vocal siren and beauty Jane Eugene, and the musically gifted Steve Nichol.  Collectively, these three were able to convey the intricate and nuanced and even historical elements of American Black Soul to a listening audience.  This is a remarkable feat considering they were not part of the African-American freedom struggle; in the sense that African Americans have created a musical legacy, which helped propel them through an epoch of strife and ultimately on to freedom.  African-American artists habitually draw from this unique musical legacy to imbue their music with a certain historical familiarity, expression, and purpose.  Ergo the spirit of pain, jubilation, and freedom can be heard in all forms of African-American music.  Somehow, L.E. was able to tap into that crucial legacy and create a soulful sound and groove–one that resonates especially well with African-American audiences.  Is it possible that L.E. was able to draw similar musical elements from the historical perils of Black London’s route to equality that ranged from racial discrimination, the Windrush emigration, to the Commonwealth Immigration Act(s), and on to the Honorable Learie Constantine’s struggle for Black liberation?  It is also possible L.E. tapped into the intricate and nuanced musical elements of Soul through a collective Black diasporic experience? I think yes!  But I digress. . .

L.E. emerged as the leading R&B and Soul band of the 80s out of Europe.   A few of L.E’s British R&B and Soul contemporaries at the time were Linx, David Grant, Hot Chocolate, Billy Ocean, Junior, Sade, Mica Paris, and Fine Young Cannibals.

Sade Power Plant 1985

These artists were part of the second wave of the “British music invasion” of the 80s and represented fresh R&B and Soul music from across the pond.  L.E. stood at the forefront of this soulful British entourage.

During the 80s L.E. worked almost exclusively with music producer Nick Martinelli, who had roots with Motown and earned his stripes in Philadelphia.  He worked with and produced albums and songs for the S.O.S. Band, Mtume, Phyllis Hyman, Eugene Wilde, Stephanie Mills, and Gladys Knight. Martinelli brought a Motown savvy-ness and an established Philadelphia vibe to his production, which made for a sexy and smooth R&B sound. Martinelli imparted his distinctive knowledge and musical approach to L.E. and the Zagora album.

In 1986 and 1987 the Zagora album peaked on the R&B Billboard chart at #7 and #59 respectively and contained several hit songs that found their place on the singles chart as well.  Martinelli along with McIntosh, Eugene, and Nichol created an album with songs saturated in sexy, soulful, and intimate grooves while at the same time flushed with a myriad of global rhythms and sounds. The album’s concept finds the members of L.E. stranded in a desert in need of help.  According to the website Black Evolution, L.E.’s press release constructs a visual and sonic landscape for the album, which drives the theme.  It states

The car breaks down, they are out of water, lost and in the distance they can hear the faint crack of gun shots. The gun shots come from a tribe of nomads, who give them water and send them in the direction of a nearby village, called ‘Zagora’ . . . a real paradise in the middle of nowhere.

The album cover visually supports their “situation” as it depicts the trio with eyes fixed on the distant horizon where presumably relief and paradise can be found.

Loose Ends just outside of Zagora

Zagora is, in fact, a real city in the desert of Morocco.  It is from this locale that L.E. begins what is in essence a travel narrative in sound where the location provides the musical backdrop to illuminate the complexities of a vacillating relationship between two people.  Various levels of desire and intensity that make up a relationship are explored in song to reveal the emotional ebb and flow of love.  The precariousness and dramatics of relationships while in an assumed paradise is the overall theme of Zagora.

The few songs reviewed and “analyzed” here are on the U.S. version of the album.

To begin, the mid-tempo, dance groove single “Stay A While Child” peaked at #18 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1986.  It explored the desire of escalating a relationship from a mere friendship to a committed union and the loss of it all brought about by that vary escalation.  The music of this recording suggests this narrative took place in Zagora itself as it contains echoes of traditional Moroccan music embedded in an R&B groove.  For example the song’s intro immediately confronts the audience with traditional Moroccan sounding percussion made up of drums, cymbals, and chimes coupled with a blaring zurna: a Mediterranean wind instrument that resembles the physical aesthetics and sound of a clarinet in its upper octave.  The zurna, with its unique sound and utilization of a foreign scale leads the listener into L.E.’s familiar and infectious groove.  As the recording progresses it develops a strong R&B feel (2 and 4) while also retaining traditional Moroccan musical elements.  The vocals of the song are fashioned in a call and response style as Eugene and McIntosh take turns crooning the merits and pitfalls of escalating a friendship to a loving union.  Their vocal performance on this cut was convincing as Eugene pleaded for her sought after lover to stay and give love a chance.  Meanwhile, McIntosh mused on how the escalation may cause an end to their friendship.  This type of call and response through verse creates a palpable tension that is never resolved, which is evident in the fading chorus toward the end of the song.  Eugene repeatedly interlaces between the chorus lines of “don’t leave me” with the lyric “stay a while child,” while McIntosh adlibs “you know I got to go” signifying the escalation may not have been the right thing to do to in terms of their friendship.

The next track on the album is “Slow Down.”  This song peaked at #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart in 1986.  The song’s electronic instrumentation was, as far as I know, well orchestrated by McIntosh and Nichol.  I feel this up-tempo jam depicts the trio in motion.  Its driving tempo and title suggests movement and thus I surmise they are moving out of Zagora and on to other places.  Also, absent are the traditional Moroccan instruments and their unique rhythm and sound, which further indicates movement out of Zagora.  The rustic instruments are replaced by the sounds of a synthesizer, which was immensely popular in R&B music during the 80s.  The theme of this song articulates a yearning to speed up or advance the development of a relationship in the midst of one partner’s struggle and unwillingness to “settle down.”  Again, through call and response, Eugene portrayed the character whom harbors a desire for love and commitment, while McIntosh takes on the character whom is not quite ready to engage in a committed relationship . . . yet!  Through indignant demands and hurt feelings, Eugene implores McIntosh to commit.  He responds in the chorus to her commands with “slow down, cause I can’t take the heat.”  Frustrated, one verse suggests that Eugene will have to replace him in the relationship if he des not get with the so-called program of loving her.  McIntosh defiantly responds in the verse “then I guess that’s how it’s got to be, you for you and me for me.”  I imagine McIntosh saying this while doing the Kanye shrug– he could care less at this moment about any relationship.

The infamous Kanye Shrug. "I don't give a . . . .!"

However, there is a turning point in the song and McIntosh has a change of heart.  Eugene poses the question “Now tell me what you’re going through?”  And rather than a cantoric response from McIntosh, a soloing saxophone abruptly emerges as his vocal avatar, answering Eugene’s question in a rhythmic guttural grow full of angst, turmoil, and self-riotousness about his fear of a committed relationship.  From this point on in the recording McIntosh gives in and relinquishes his fight against a pursuing relationship.  He did more than just slow down, he stopped.

L.E. recorded keyboardist Dexter Wansel’s 1979 hit “Sweetest Pain.”  I’m almost certain Martinelli, who was its original producer, introduced the song to the group.  The original song featured Terri Wells on lead vocals and the Jones Girls on background.  Being careful not to lose the overall feel of this sincere Soul burner, L.E. made very little changes to the song; they even chose to leave in its very disco (and dated sounding for 1986) chorus.  This song continues the theme of relationships by describing the emotional and physical intensities of love.  Crooned by Eugene, whose voice easily rivals Wells, takes the listener into the center of a powerful and fully functioning relationship.  She explores the mental and physical toll of love as it takes her through the paces of its painful march, which according to Wansel and now Eugene and the gang is the sweetest pain.  In terms of the travel narrative, Eugene begins to speak in French and their location becomes ambiguous.  Have they traveled to France to continue their love affair in Paris or are they near the “village” of Zagora?  It may be possible they have moved to other parts of Morocco where the country does speak proper French.  I guess in paradise anything is possible.

The recording “Who are you?” is an unapologetic, musically well crafted, funny, and playful up-tempo song that should have entered the single charts.  Conversely to “Sweetest Pain,” “Who are you?” examines the drama of an ill-conceived and dysfunctional relationship, which propelled the participants into a state of confusion regarding the familiarity of the other.  The recording is smartly constructed in terms of its musical references and its nod to 60s era cinema, which was very evident to the perceptive listener.  The song begins with the strumming of a guitar in the style of flamenco.  Tight trumpets blasts out a tight mariachi like cadent and wooden sounding xylophones keep a decidedly Latin time accompany the guitar.  The rhythm, sound, and tempo are quickly established.  At this point McIntosh begins to narrate, in a weak Spanish accent or drawl, a playful story that defines the comical.  He states:

They came from over the hills. They took my land; they took everything I have, my children, oh yeah, my wife–they killed my wife, but most of all they stole my last Clint Eastwood movie!

This bit of narration is brilliant in that it is able to convey to the listener simultaneously a stereotypical 60s “Western” cinematic Mexican character, a specific film genre, and the image of an iconic cinematic actor all couched in a playful spirit.  What L.E. has done here is resurrect the imagery of the “spaghetti western” of the 60s then placed the drama of a dysfunctional relationship in its plot.  In the intro, L.E. borrows and interprets Tuco’s motif in the 1966 film The Good Bad and The Uglycomposed by Ennio Morricone.

1966 GBU Soundtrack

Echoes of Tuco’s motif, which was comprised of yodeling voices can be heard in the songs musical intro in essence foretelling the listener of the wild, crazy, and certainly ugliness that a dysfunctional relationship can bring about.  Amid the fully developed bouncy R&B groove with musical elements borrowed from Morricone, Eugene and McIntosh engage in playful banter throughout the verse and chorus of misdeeds and lies.  McIntosh, towards the end of the song states he is Mexican in the same weak Spanish accent heard in the opening narrative, which further confused Eugene and the listener of his identity.  It seems at this point in the album L. E. has moved out of Zagora, Morocco and are now in Spain or Mexico or possibly in a 60s spaghetti western.

“You Can’t Stop The Rain” is the quintessential grown and sexy R&B cut.  In this song L.E. created a sexy in the moment and intimate vibe that conjures up the image of skin on skin movement, slow hands sliding over stomach and thighs, while bodies are tangled in Italian silk imported Egyptian sheets.  It is sensual to say the least.  Musically the song is exceptional from the beginning to end.  The introduction materializes with the sound of heavy rain hitting the pavement.  Most often the sound of rain symbolizes loss, sadness, despair, and loneliness, however, in this cut rain evokes feelings of in the moment intimacy between two lovers.  This intimate moment was recreated a year later by Herb Alpert in his single “Making Love In The Rain,” which also contained heavy rain in its introduction and featured Lisa Keith and Janet Jackson on vocals, which added a definite sexiness to it (at least for me it did).  As much sexiness as it is in the rain intro Eugene’s smooth crescendo “Ooohs” takes the song up a notch.  Her voice enters as a flawless call to love.  On this recording Eugene’s smooth silky underrated voice really shines here.  There is no doubt she was among the top female singers of the mid 80s.  In a true duet style, McIntosh’s voice keeps pace with Eugene’s.  Although not on par with some of the male singers of this era, his voice was indeed distinctive and capable.  And at some points his voice taps the tone of Marvin Gaye ever so briefly.  But, what McIntosh lacked in vocal range he made up in his ability to continuously impart a deep felt passion and sincerity needed to make a L.E. song soar.  Evidence of this is can be heard in his one and only verse of the song and his ever-present vocal interjections throughout the tune.  Furthermore, Eugene and McIntosh intensify the sense of intimacy in “You Can’t Stop The Rain” as they employ what L.A. producer Louis White and I suggest what could be called a chant.  The two harmonize the chant in unison and in doing so create a sort of language only two lovers in the moment of intimacy can understand.  It’s brilliantly done and spot on!  This song places the trio squarely in the middle of paradise.  They have long since left Zagora and are neither here nor there.  They are in that place of warm contentment, love, peace, and understanding.  This place paradise is just the right spot for a respite from the realities of relationships amid dusty places.

L.E. R&B and Soul's Magic Touch

These are but a few songs off the Zagora album.  This album in 1986 was musically and lyrically ahead of its time as it still resonates today.  The trio managed to create a sonic landscape in a far away place that became just the right setting to explore the throws of relationships.  Through R&B grooves that move, bounce, and grind with smooth grown ass sexiness L.E. certainly captured the Black Diaspora Soul that vibes with and communicates to its audience from similar historical places.  Zagora’s travel narrative reminds us of the wide range of relationships and how they drive our lives in the here and now and in paradise.

Open Letter to Whitney

Dear Whitney Elizabeth Houston,

I was more than shocked upon hearing about your sudden departure from this world on Saturday.  I literally stood still for a moment to take it all in.  My first thought was,  “could this be a joke?”  But sadly, it wasn’t. Your death was confirmed by a local news reporter who started his “Breaking News” commentary with “we have tragic news for you . . . “ Whitney, it seemed like he was speaking directly to me.  I didn’t want to believe it.  But it was indeed true.  Sadness enveloped me.  I texted a few friends and called my wife (she loves you Whitney) in an effort to reach out in the midst of my sadness.  Whitney, everyone was in shock about your passing.  Folks texted back saying “Oh no,” “What?? . . . No!,” “What happened?,” “When?,” and “How?”  My brother from Atlanta texted me saying, “Please tell me this is all a bad dream!!!”  They loved you Whitney.  My wife stated to me in sadness, “why does this keep happening to us?”  She said “to us” Whitney.  You were a part of our lives.

Whitney, you will be missed.  I will miss your voice.  I know the past few years you’ve had a tremendous struggle with recapturing and maintaining your God-given gift . . . your voice.  Now that you are gone I will not have the opportunity to observe you battle back from that dark place where all seems lost.  Somehow, I felt in time, you would regain that wonderful voice that once demanded my attention.  I know you needed just a little more time to get well and back on top of your game.

Whitney, as I reminisce, I can easily recall how effortlessly you were able to release the magic of your voice.  I remember on several occasions when you were about to belt out a final last note, you would sturdy yourself in a strong stance, take a deep breath, stretch your arms out toward the crowd, and then actuate a sound from your throat and mouth that would give the choirs of heaven goosebumps.  Your voice was only limited by the physical confines of the human body.  Whitney, your gift, that immutable passion, and confidence will be missed.

Whitney, you must know that every time you sang your song you brought joy not only to my life but to the lives of others as well.  You were the voice of my generation.  You were the gold standard that all aspired to come close to.  Whitney, I watched your majestic rise to success and your awful demise.  The witnessing of this fall has been painful for me.  I wished and prayed that you received deliverance from the evil that taunted you.  Girl, what was it that gripped and cast such a dark shadow on you and led you to the horrors of addiction?

Whitney, now that you have moved beyond this world my thoughts are with you and your family.  I sympathize with your daughter Bobbi as I have lost a mother too.  Bobbi will struggle with your passing and in time she will make sense of your life.  She will remember everything you taught her.  Whitney, my heart goes out to your mom who has lost a child.  I cannot truly understand the dept of her loss for you.  I hear that to lose a child is devastating to ones soul.  Whitney, I have a daughter and at this moment cannot phantom the thought of losing her without great great sorrow.  Whitney, please know that their grief is out of an irreplaceable love for you.

Cissy and young Whitney 1979

In the end, Whitney, I know at this moment you are in a good place.  You are now a member of that heavenly choir.  You are in full embrace with the one who gave you your gift.  Knowing this gives me great comfort and eases my sadness.


One of but many who love you!

P.S., Jennifer Hudson laid it out for you at the Grammys!