Aretha Franklin's "Amazing Grace" concert film will finally be released

In January 1972, Aretha Franklin performed at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles' Watts neighborhood. The LP of those performances is an absolutely breathtaking celebration of soul gospel. It won a Grammy, became the biggest selling live gospel record in history, and remains the highest selling record of Franklin's career. Filmmaker Sydney Pollack documented the performance and the plan was to release the concert movie as a double feature with Super Fly during the summer of 1972. The problem though is that Pollack hadn't used a clapper board during the filming that would enable him to sync the audio and footage from the five cameras. With no way to properly edit the film, the project was shelved until about ten years ago. And in a few months, the world will finally see it. From the New York Times:

(Alan) Elliott, who had been obsessed with the lost footage since working as a music executive in the mid-1980s, ultimately persuaded Warner to sell him the reels in 2007. (He mortgaged his house.) By 2010, digital technology had evolved to a point that syncing film and sound was finally possible....

As a planned release date approached in 2011, however, Ms. Franklin sued Mr. Elliott for using her likeness without her permission. That started years of legal wrangling, with Ms. Franklin and her lawyers blocking Mr. Elliott and the Telluride Film Festival from showing “Amazing Grace” in 2015 and 2016, even after deals for her compensation seemed to have been worked out.

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Do you remember the 21st night of September?

"Do you remember the 21st night of September?"

Happy 40th anniversary to Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," which was actually released on November 18, 1978. What's the significance of September 21 in the lyrics? Well, none.

"We went through all the dates: 'Do you remember the first, the second, the third, the fourth ... ' and the one that just felt the best was the 21st," co-writer Allee Willis told NPR in 2014. "I constantly have people coming up to me and they get so excited to know what the significance was. And there is no significance beyond it just sang better than any of the other dates. So ... sorry!"

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Keith Wilder, singer of Heatwave, RIP

Keith Wilder, singer for 70s funk powerhouse Heatwave, died on Sunday at age 65.

"From Heatwave is your heart," Wilder once said. "If your music is where your heart is, and you put your whole heart into, it will come out the way your heart is as a person and a human being... We kept our music in a vein that also was a pure, clear picture and representation of what we were like, and what we were about. And we kept our music that way... We just kept it real and kept it pure."

(Rolling Stone)

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Turn your funk up to 7, with the Chi-Lites

The titular track from 1971's (For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People by The Chi-Lites. Read the rest

Afghan Whigs announce new album with video for "Demon in Profile"

My friends in The Afghan Whigs released a stunningly weird and and dark new video for their track "Demon in Profile," from their just-announced album In Spades to be released May 5. (And yes, that's Har Mar Superstar in the clip.) I've listened to the entire album and it's a phantasmagoric, expansive, soulful masterpiece that to my ear harkens back to the noir magnificence of my favorite Whigs record, Black Love (1996).

“(In Spades is) a spooky record,” says Greg Dulli. “I like that it’s veiled. It’s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me it’s about memory – in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.”

A few weeks after the release of In Spades, the Whigs take their magick to Europe.

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David Axelrod, incredibly influential soul/jazz/rock composer and producer, RIP

David Axelrod, whose 1960s and 1970s production and compositions melding jazz, soul, and rock had an indelible impact on contemporary hip-hop and R&B, has died at age 83. From Billboard:

Born in Los Angeles in 1933, Axelrod produced his first album in 1959 and went on to become a pioneer in combining jazz, rock and R&B in recorded music. He spent several years working for Capitol Records in production and A&R in the 1960s and went on to release more than a dozen of his own albums.

While a contemporary of, and somewhat analogous to, idiosyncratic composer/arrangers like Van Dyke Parks, Axelrod was much more influenced by jazz, as reflected in his orchestrations and his own compositions. He produced David McCallum's Music: A Bit More of Me, the 1967 release featuring "The Edge," a song that famously turned into the predominant sample in Dr. Dre's 2000 hit "The Next Episode." He also collaborated with the Electric Prunes on their bizarre 1968 album Mass in F# Minor, and when the group splintered in the middle of recording, he finished it with session musicians.

So sad to hear about the passing of musician/composer #DavidAxelrod. He was so immersed in creativity and so pure with his arrangements he WAS hip hop. And understood and appreciated hip hop culture (most cats would get guarded about time moving on & easily take the "NO!!!!!!!!" disposition if they aren't informed. David embraced and often reached out to producers and beatmakers for cool collabos) he appreciation for music and his ability to recognize musicianship is what I'll take from him.

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Scorching Caribbean soul covers of Neil Young, Isaac Hayes, and Jimi Hendrix (1975)

In 1975, Suriname's Dutch Rhythm Steel & Show Band released "Soul, Steel & Show," a killer funk-psych-soul LP that included scorching covers of Neil Young's "Down by the River," Isaac Hayes's "Theme from Shaft," Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe," Kool & The Gang's "Funky Stuff," and other great jams. Can you dig it? I knew that you could.

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Watch incredible video of Prince's "Purple Rain" debut

Footage from the August 1983 concert at Minneapolis' famed First Avenue club when Prince (1958-2016) debuted the magnificent 13-minute original version of Purple Rain - with an additional third verse - that was later edited and overdubbed for the Purple Rain album. This was also guitarist Wendy Melvoin's first performance with The Revolution. (Apologies that the video host's Flash-based widget won't work on some mobile browsers.) Read the rest

Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White (RIP)

Maurice White, founder of the incredible psychedelic R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire, has died at age 74.

“Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music … which somehow ended up becoming pop,” White wrote. “We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners’ spiritual content.”

(New York Times)

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Honey Cone's "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show"

If you don't want my love, you're free to go... Read the rest

Watch David Bowie get down on Soul Train (1975)

On November 4, 1975, David Bowie performed "Golden Years" on Soul Train. Sure, he was lip-syncing, but who cares. The Thin White Duke's got soul.

The Bowie Golden Years site has more background on the appearance.

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Music: "Hip Hug-Her," Booker T. and the MGs (1967)

An absolute favorite. Read the rest

Music: "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)," Al Green (1974)

You'll find yourself lost and alone. On a darkened street. Read the rest

Watch Bill Withers play "Ain't No Sunshine" in 1971

Withers was inspired by the film "Days of Wine and Roses," starring Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. Read the rest

Dig this mash-up of The Ramones vs Marvin Gaye

"Peculiar Bop" by Go Home Productions (aka Mark Vidler). Read the rest

Ska is the mother of reggae

Public Radio International aired this short audio piece on ska, the musical form that took off in the early 1960s, blending Jamaican jazz with American soul and rhythm and blues, and influenced numerous excellent bands, from The Clash and The Specials to No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Read the rest

Reissues of rare New Orleans funk/soul 7"s

The first-rate crate-diggers at Soul Jazz are reissuing a series of scarce New Orleans funk/soul 7-inches in sweet packaging including this early 1970s smoking groover by Inell Young, "What Do You See In Her." Listen below! Read the rest

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