Category: r&b

On this day in music history: June 17, 1987 – …

On this day in music history: June 17, 1987 – “Everlasting”, the eleventh studio album (twelfth overall) by Natalie Cole is released. Produced by Reggie Calloway, Vincent Calloway, Jerry Knight, Aaron Zigman, Dennis Lambert, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Marcus Miller, Eddie Cole, Andy Goldmark and Bruce Roberts, it is recorded at Larrabee Sound Studios, Studio 55, Encore Studios, One On One Studios, Oh Henry Studios, Yamaha Studios in Los Angeles, CA, Soundcastle Studio Center, Image Recording Studios, Ocean Way Studios, Lion Share Studios in Hollywood, CA, Conway Recording Studios in North Hollywood, CA, House Of Music in West Orange, NJ, Messina Music, 39th Street Music in New York City and 5th Floor Recording in Cincinnati, OH from Late 1986 – Mid 1987. Finally overcoming a years long addiction to drugs by the mid 80’s, Natalie Cole begins to rebuild her career in earnest. Though that is an uphill climb as Cole’s record sales have declined steadily since the turn of the decade. Wary of her reputation during the height of her substance abuse problems, many record labels are unwilling to sign her. However, Cole finds ardent supporters in music executives Gerry Griffith and Bruce Lundvall, at EMI imprint Manhattan Records. Looking to engineer a comeback for Natalie, they pair the singer with a host of top producers including Midnight Star members Reggie and Vincent Calloway, Dennis Lambert, Marcus Miller, and Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Titled “Everlasting”, the first single is the up tempo groover “Jump Start” (#2 R&B, #13 Pop, #28 Club Play), written and produced by the Calloway brothers. It is an out of the box smash, sending out the word that Cole was back in a major way. The third single is a cover of the Bruce Springsteen rocker “Pink Cadillac” (#9 R&B, #5 Pop, #1 Club Play). Produced by veteran pop and R&B producer Dennis Lambert, it is given an effervescent and funky dance pop reinvention. It’s an even bigger hit, and Natalie Cole’s first top ten pop hit since “Our Love” in 1978. Also given a hot house flavored remix by Robert Clivilles and David Cole (aka C+C Music Factory), “Cadillac” also becomes a huge club hit, topping the Billboard dance chart. The album spins off two more singles including the ballad “I Live For Your Love” (#4 R&B, #13 Pop, #2 AC). and a cover of “When I Fall In Love” (#31 R&B, #95 Pop, #14 AC), originally made famous by her father Nat King Cole. “Everlasting” successfully re-starts Natalie Cole’s recording career, earning her first Gold album in nearly a decade. It begins one of the greatest “second acts” in music history, hitting its peak with the album “Unforgettable… With Love” in 1991. “Everlasting” peaks at number eight on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty two on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: June 17, 1985 – …

On this day in music history: June 17, 1985 – “Single Life”, the eleventh album by Cameo is released. Produced by Larry Blackmon, it is recorded at Quadraphonic Sound Studios in New York City from December 1984 – March 1985. Continuing to charge ahead after the success of the R&B chart topper “She’s Strange” and its namesake Gold album, Cameo head back into the studio in late 1984 to begin work on their next release. Having progressively evolved their sound since “Alligator Woman” in 1982, the band maintain their razor sharp funkiness while incorporating the latest musical technology into their sound. After the release of the previous album, guitarist Charlie Singleton steps away from Cameo as a full time member to pursue a solo career, but continues to contribute as a side man in the studio on subsequent albums. And though not an official member of the band, keyboardist Kevin Kendrick also becomes a significant force creatively. The first taste of Cameo’s next album comes with the funky mid tempo track “Attack Me With Your Love” (#3 R&B, #39 Club Play), co-written by band leader Larry Blackmon and Kendrick. Though technically not a concept album, many of the songs on “Single” center around the ins and outs of relationships. The title track “Single Life” (#2 R&B, #26 Club Play) is released as a single in September of 1985. It makes a pointed and timely statement about wanting an intensely passionate relationship, but remaining free to pursue other options. The song adds the ironic coda of the whistle from Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” (played as a hook on a synthesizer), to drive home the point of potential dangers of casually fooling around in the age of AIDS. “Life” is another R&B smash, and like its predecessor “She’s Strange” becomes a sizeable hit in the UK, hitting #15 on the charts and becoming their biggest hit to date there. It spins off a third single with the mellow, and melancholy “A Good-Bye” (#76 R&B). Issued as the B-side of the title track, the jazzy “I’ve Got Your Image” also becomes a favorite of Cameo fans both on record and when performed live. The success of “Single Life” helps set the stage for the worldwide success of the next album “Word Up”, just over a year later. “Single Life” peaks at number two on the Billboard R&B album chart, number sixty two on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

Blues guitarist Matt “Guitar” Mu…

Blues guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy (Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Etta James, The Blues Brothers) (born Matthew Tyler Murphy in Sunflower, MS) – December 29, 1929 – June 15, 2018, RIP

On this day in music history: June 16, 1990 – …

On this day in music history: June 16, 1990 – “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)” by Quincy Jones Featuring Tevin Campbell hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #75 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by George Johnson, Louis Johnson and Siedah Garrett, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the legendary producer, composer and arranger born Quincy Delightt Jones, Jr.. “Tomorrow” is originally composed as an instrumental by George and Louis Johnson, and included on The Brothers Johnson’s 1976 debut album “Look Out For #1”. During the recording of “Block”, Jones discovers the twelve year old singer from Waxahatchie, TX named Tevin Campbell. Impressed with the young singers vocal prowess, he searches for a song for him to record on the album. Jones asks singer/songwriter Siedah Garrett (also one of his proteges) to write lyrics for the previously instrumental “Tomorrow”. The song also features jazz saxophonist Gerald Albright performing the sax solo. Issued as the third single from producer/arranger Quincy Jones’ album “Back On The Block”, in March of 1990, “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)” is the third consecutive R&B chart topper from “Back On The Block”. The chart topping success of the song, is followed by Tevin Campbell beginning a successful recording career starting with his first album “T.E.V.I.N.” in 1991. Campbell also makes a cameo appearance in Prince’s third film “Graffiti Bridge”, performing the hit single “Round And Round”, written and produced by the superstar musician.

Born on this day: June 16, 1942 – R&B voca…

Born on this day: June 16, 1942 – R&B vocal legend Eddie Levert of The O’Jays (born Edward Levert in Bessemer, AL). Happy 76th Birthday, Eddie!!!

On this day in music history: June 16, 1979 – …

On this day in music history: June 16, 1979 – “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on June 30, 1979. Written and produced by Frederick Knight, it is the biggest hit for the former school teacher turned singer from Memphis, TN. The song is originally written and intended for then thirteen year old singer Stacy Lattisaw. When Lattisaw does not end up signing with Knight’s production company (signing with Atlantic Records instead), Knight re-writes the lyrics, originally about kids talking on the telephone, to something more suited for an adult singer. Anita Ward, a twenty two year old former school teacher from Memphis, TN discovered by Knight is given the song for her debut album. The track is cut at Malaco Studios in Jackson, MS and released on Knight’s Juana Records (distributed by Miami, FL based TK Records) in April of 1979. “Bell” is remixed by famed New York club DJ Richie Rivera, who helps turn it into a massive worldwide hit. “Ring My Bell” sells over 2.5 million copies in the US alone. “Bell” is later sampled and interpolated by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince on their hit of the same name in 1991.

On this day in music history: June 16, 1975 – …

On this day in music history: June 16, 1975 – “Why Can’t We Be Friends”, the seventh album by War is released. Produced by Jerry Goldstein, Lonnie Jordan and Howard Scott, it is recorded at Crystal Studios in Hollywood, CA and Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco, CA from Late 1974 – Early 1975. Scoring back to back hit albums “All Day Music”, “The World Is A Ghetto” and “Deliver The Word”, War become one of the most successful bands of the era. “Music” becomes their first Gold album, with “Ghetto” the best selling album of 1973 in the US, and “Word” moving nearly two million copies, the band sit out much of 1974 due to infighting and squabbles over business concerns. They return to the studio by the end of the year to begin work on their next album. The inspiration for the title track comes while War are on a tour of Japan. “Why Can’t We Be Friends” (#9 R&B, #6 Pop) makes a statement about not judging others for their differences, and discovering that “we’re more alike on the inside than we are on the outside”. Working the song out in the studio, the band also arrange it so that each member has a turn at singing a line or verse. Danish born harmonica player Lee Oskar wryly sings the line “sometimes I don’t speak right, but yet I know what I’m talking about…”, referring to English not being his native language and his struggle to learn it. Issued as the first single ahead of the album in April of 1975, the simple and hooky sing-a-long “Friends” is an immediate smash, and becomes War’s fifth million selling single in the US. Band members Howard Scott and Charles Miller are instrumental in coming up with the funky follow up “Low Rider” (#1 R&B, #7 Pop), which also becomes a Gold single. Also a big hit on the dance floor, United Artists Records issues the track backed with “Heartbeat” as a promotional 12" single in the US, becoming a very rare and highly sought after collector’s item. “Heartbeat” later becomes a Hip Hop staple when it is sampled by Nice & Smooth, Whodini, Ice-T, Tung Twista, Madlib, and Pete Rock Featuring J. Dilla. Original copies of “Why Can’t We Be Friends” are issued with a poster of the band. Originally released on CD in 1992, it is also issued as a limited edition 24K gold CD in 1995. It is most recently reissued in 2015, when War’s catalog is licensed to Universal Music Group. “Why Can’t We Be Friends” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number eight on the Top 200, number fourteen on the Jazz chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: June 15, 1991 – …

On this day in music history: June 15, 1991 – “Power Of Love/Love Power” by Luther Vandross hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on June 29, 1991. Written by Luther Vandross, Marcus Miller and Teddy Vann, it is the sixth chart topping single for the R&B music icon from New York City. Starting the new decade with the Grammy winning smash “Here And Now”, Luther Vandross returns to the studio in the fall of 1990 to begin recording his first album of all new material in nearly three years. As he has done many times in the past, Luther draws on the music of his youth to inspire him to write new material. On every studio album since his debut “Never Too Much” in 1981, Vandross makes it a point to include a cover version of at least one classic pop or R&B song from his formative years, made over in his own unique and inimitable style. Having scored a hit with the medley “Bad Boy/Having A Party” (#3 R&B, #55 Pop) in 1982, combining his own composition “Bad Boy” with the Sam Cooke classic “Having A Party”, the singer is inspired once again to seamlessly connect the past with the present. Along with long time collaborator and bassist Marcus Miller, Luther writes the positive and uplifting “Power Of Love”, fusing it together with The Sandpebbles’ 1968 hit “Love Power” (#14 R&B, #22 Pop). The track is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA and Right Track Recording Studios in New York City in January of 1991. An obvious stand out from the outset, it is chosen to be the title track of Vandross’ seventh studio album, and the first single. Released on April 9, 1991, “Power Of Love/Love Power” is an immediate hit, giving Luther Vandross not only his sixth number one R&B single, but his highest charting solo single on the pop charts. The single wins Luther two Grammy Awards for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song in 1992. Ironically and sadly, “Power Of Love” is the last time that Luther is heard singing by the public. He suffers a debilitating stroke in 2003 following the completion of his final album “Dance With My Father”, seriously impairing his speech and physical movement. Vandross appears on the 46th Annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2004 in a pre-taped segment, accepting the Song Of The Year award for the title track. In his heartfelt acceptance speech, the singer quotes from “Power Of Love”, speaking and singing the opening lines “when I say goodbye, it’s never for long, because I believe in the power of love…”.

On this day in music history: June 15, 1991 – …

On this day in music history: June 15, 1991 – “Rush, Rush” by Paula Abdul hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 5 weeks on June 29, 1991. Written by Peter Lord, it is the fifth chart topping single for the singer, dancer and choreographer from Los Angeles, CA. Coming off of the enormous success of her debut album “Forever Your Girl”, spinning off four number one pop singles, and selling more than twelve million copies worldwide, anticipation is high for the follow up. Rather than go the safe route and produce another predominantly dance oriented album with the same producers, Paula Abdul chooses to go in a different direction. Working with a group of producers that include Don Was, Jorge Corante, Colin England and Prince, the bulk of the project is helmed by the R&B group The Family Stand. The New York based band consisting of lead singer and keyboardist Sandra St. Victor, keyboardist and vocalist Peter Lord and multi-instrumentalist V. Jeffrey Smith, make their breakthrough in the US in early 1990 with the album “Chain” and the hit single “Ghetto Heaven”. With only a handful of credits to their name at the time, they seem like an unorthodox choice to work with Abdul. But the pairing turns out to be an inspired one, with them writing and producing eight of the eleven tracks on Paula’s second album “Spellbound”. The ballad “Rush, Rush” written by Peter Lord becomes an immediate favorite of Abdul’s when she hears the original demo recording. The track is recorded at Greene Street Studios and Z Recording in New York, with Paula recording her vocals at Studio Masters in Los Angeles in the Fall of 1990. Her initial scratch vocal on the track winds up being used as the final lead vocal, with The Family Stand feeling that the right emotion and feel is perfectly captured in that initial take. Radio programmers and fans are surprised at the dramatic stylistic departure from the previous album, but are immediately taken with “Rush, Rush”. Released as a single on May 2, 1991, it is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #36 on May 11, 1991, it rockets to the top of the chart five weeks later. The song is supported by a music video that pays homage to the iconic film “Rebel Without A Cause” with actor Keanu Reeves and Abdul playing the roles immortalized by James Dean and Natalie Wood in the original film. Part of the video is filmed the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, the original location for the films famed street racing sequence. The success of “Rush, Rush” propels the “Spellbound” album to number one on the Top 200, spending two weeks at the top, and selling over three million copies in the US alone. “Rush, Rush” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: June 15, 1978 – …

On this day in music history: June 15, 1978 – “Sunlight”, the eighteenth studio album by Herbie Hancock is released. Produced by Herbie Hancock and David Rubinson, it is recorded at The Automatt, Different Fur Trading Co. in San Francisco, CA and The Village Recorder in Los Angeles, CA from August 1977 – May 1978. Following collaborations with his former Miles Davis band mates Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard under the name V.S.O.P., Herbie Hancock shifts musical gears once again.  A tireless innovator always in search of new musical avenues to explore, Hancock merges his stellar jazz chops with more mainstream R&B, pop and disco sounds on his next release. For “Sunlight”, Hancock assembles a group of top musicians to back him including Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, Harvey Mason, Tony Williams (drums), “Wah Wah” Watson, Ray Parker, Jr. (guitars), Jaco Pastorius, Byron Miller, Paul Jackson (bass), Bennie Maupin, Ernie Watts (saxophone), Bill Summers and Raul Rekow (percussion). The first album to feature him singing, it also marks the beginning of Hancock’s use of the Sennheiser Vocoder VSM 201 heard prominently on the first single “I Thought It Was You” (#85 R&B), becoming a key element of his sound throughout the rest of the 70’s and well into the 80’s. To promote the single in clubs, Columbia Records in the US issues a promotional 12" of the song (b/w the title track), featuring a unique edit that to date has never been released anywhere else. This promo has become a sought after collector’s item by fans in later years. The jazz/funk fusion and disco flavored sound of “I Thought”, while drawing a mixed reaction from his more straight ahead traditional jazz audience, it brings the prolific musician a newer and younger audience that embraces the new sound. Hancock also re-records “I Thought It Was You” again in 1979 with Japanese vocalist Kimiko Kasai for the album “Butterfly”, released exclusively in Japan. In and out of print for many years, the album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2013 as part of the career spanning box set “The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988”. “Sunlight” peaks at number three on the Billboard Jazz album chart, number thirty one on the R&B album chart, and number fifty eight on the Top 200.