Monday, October 24, 2016

Loren-Up All Night (1997)


I stayed up late tonight just so that I could serve up an especially sweet throwback treat for the r&b lovers! The sultry singer who only identifies herself as Loren is another fine voice whom I never got acquainted with back in the 90's; therefore, she was a virtual mystery to me as I prepared to stake out her only known album, "Up All Night". On the case as usual with these rarities that I target, confident that I was in for something really good the very moment I took in the superb beats to the opening cut, "Remember". I.....still.....remember.....way.....back.....when', Loren declares in the chorus, stylistically adding in a noticeable pause between each word as she reflects on how simple life was in the past (and really, any one of us listening to her reflections can relate and apply them to our own present, given the state of the world today in contrast to what it was a long time ago) while the funky, orchestral riffs stylistically spice up the music in the background. Loren wastes no time in getting close and personal on "Lights Out". Music down low, telephone off, a two-people party with them being the only ones starring in their own show—sounds like a long night of romancing to me! But then, her mood begins to shift on the nicely chilled slow number, "What Ya Hidin' In Your Brain?" (I like the catchiness of the title, plus the sass and attitude she puts on her delivery of the title lyrics in the chorus, demanding to know what the guy is thinking), and only worsens on through to "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" and "Go Your Own Way" (' if you can't get it right, if you're not around, I won't be down ', she confesses on this one). Then the pouring rains cast an even darker cloud on "Loverman", the first 'rain themed' song I have heard in a while that is not a seductively romantic, quiet storm tune, as Loren starts off by singing 'you used to be my loverman'. It's apparent that the pouring rain signifies her tears falling, but despite the sadness and the gloom, the haunting background music (particularly the funky jazz accompaniment) and her brilliant rising vocals make for a killer combination! The rain is pouring even heavier and the tears are still flowing on the follow-up number called "Tears", but I loved listening to all six minutes of the bitterness, particularly due to the twinkly sound of the stilled tones that play in sync with the beat. Finally, the tears are gone and the pain and troubles have gone away when Loren bounces back on the jam of liberation that is "I Feel Fine"—feeling fine and ready to spend some time with anyone who doesn't mind taking her on. And as if it were a ray of sunshine casting down and thawing the frozen state of her heart, the warming, upbeat vibe of "Secret Alphabet" is there to wrap up her all-nighter in a charming way:

1. Remember
2. Lights Out
3. Up All Night
4. In Too Deep
5. What Ya Hidin' In Your Brain?
6. Things Ain't What They Used To Be
7. Go Your Own Way
8. Loverman
9. Tears (Bitter Mix)
10. Interlude
11. I Feel Fine
12. Just A Dream
13. Secret Alphabet



Here comes another sweet throwback treat that I know is gonna make a lot of music lovers happy! The 1994 crime movie starring Wesley Snipes was highly and critically acclaimed for its raw and rugged portrayal of the harsh and grinding reality of inner-city operations. The accompanying soundtrack has been highly and critically acclaimed as well, and just like the "Made In America" soundtrack I featured less than 24 hours ago, it too was 'made' to be heard to its fullest degree. Of this particular star-studded bunch, I had only recognized and was familiar with exactly two artists before I tuned in: the r&b/new jack swing trio AFTER 7 and the legendary soul diva Chaka Khan. The former kicks this soundtrack off with already what should be nominated as the next 'Slow Jam Of The Night'; from the very moment they open up with their sublime vocal harmony in delivering the song's title lyrics during the acapella movement, you know you're in for a soulicious love affair! It's not the rock duo STEELY DAN, but rather a reggae singer named Screechy Dan performing a very lively and funky hip-hop cut called "Worries" that makes for an entertaining 4+ minutes. DEFINITION OF SOUND's "What Are You Under?" continues the funky trip-hop/reggae with a message to the songwriter's lovergirl, in my interpretation, of what's she's taking that's making her all messed up in the mind, putting a strain on what they have together. I love the groove and the rap flow to DIRT NATION's "Khadijah" (even more throwback memories were suddenly conjured up when I thought about the character that Queen Latifah played by the same name when she starred in the 90's sitcom, "Living Single") while I was all ears for the the smooth, jazzy groove to Simplé E's "Play My Funk" (this was a welcome change from the usual male-dominated old-school 90's hip-hop I'm so accustomed to listening to). But the smooth jazz on "Play My Funk" is nothing compared to the wild cacophony of jazz instrumentals that erupt on the TERENCE BLANCHARD QUINTET snippet called "War Council". The coolest of trippy, jazz-groovy beats keeps me all tuned in to the conceptually interesting piece that is FREESTYLE FELLOWSHIP's "Park Bench People", especially during the closing movements when the big band-style jazz party takes over. Besides the music, I was just impressed with the guy on lead vocals on this track, his quick tongue in flawlessly delivering the lyrics makes him a lot of fun to listen to. Back to the trippy hip-hop beats on D.B.C.'s "Hit The Boomz", AFRO-PLANE's "Afro-Desiac" and, a couple of tracks later, on Snoman's statement of truth about the material things that cash brings on "Money". From creating loan sharks and scapegoats to cooking leftovers and building military soldiers—the message that everything that we have and everything that we do takes some kind of money is an excellent message that we all need to remain mindful of in out day-to-day life. Then it's time for the soulicious Chaka Khan to shine on her elegant jazz piano offering of " Miles Blowin' ", which does indeed quite literally 'blow' my mind whenever she shows off that distinctively powerful voice of hers! Turns out that Chaka Khan's jazz offering serves as fine transition to the concluding piece entitled "Roemello's Theme". The same TERENCE BLANCHARD QUINTET, who had wowed my senses for just a few minutes before on "War Council", returns for a second time to flex its muscles out and entertain my ears with three nice minutes of epic orchestral music:

1. After 7 - Gonna Love You Right
2. Screechy Dan - Worries
3. Definition Of Sound - What Are You Under
4. Dirt Nation - Khadijah
5. Simplé E - Play My Funk
6. The Terence Blanchard Quintet - War Council
7. D.B.C. - Hit The Boomz
8. Freestyle Fellowship - Park Bench People
9. Snoman - Money
10. Afro-Plane - Afro-Desiac
11. Chaka Khan - Miles Blowin'
12. The Terence Blanchard Quintet -

Sunday, October 23, 2016



Music is made to be heard, no matter when and where it was made and no matter who was the music's original maker That brings me to this special throwback jewel that was definitely 'made' to be heard: the original soundtrack to the Ted Danson/Whoopi Goldberg motion picture, "Made In America". Being the ultimate Whoopi fan and having seen just about all of her movies (my two favorites that will always reign supreme are "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Sister Act"), it only made sense that I would've acquired this rare compilation, even though my memories of the songs included on it—not to mention my memories of the movie itself—have faded over time. So my Sunday afternoon, therefore, saw me getting reacquainted with a slew of familiar artists and their not-so-familiar hits, beginning with Latin sensation Gloria Estefan and her festive conga party that is "Go Away". A fun and humorous way to kick off the soundtrack, considering how playfully blunt her words are to the man she wants out of her life for good. A quick change of pace when the mood switches to the silky slow jam offered up by Keith Sweat on "Does He Do It Good?". Here, the question of love here is self-explanatory: he can do it even better than the last man. I was having another fond Roger/ZAPP moment with the cool electronic effects disguising and distorting the background vocals in chorus. The movie's title track served up by the hip-hop artist named Del Tha Funkee Homosapien is both funky and trippy and wittingly wise with the words, reminding me that I miss the old-school hip-hop days of the early 90's as much as I miss the entire decade of the 80's. Which brings me to another fun old-school hip-hop piece that comes up later: "Dance Or Die", performed by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (a.k.a. Will Smith). While I was taking in the funky skip and thel beats to this jam, I suddenly recalled fond memories of the duo's performance with Robert Englund on "A Nightmare On My Street" (and its accompanying video) back in 1988, which then led me to conjure up a lot more memories of the whole "A Nightmare On Elm Street" movie series altogether. Lisa Fischer: The lady who made a hit out of the soul staple, "How Can I Ease The Pain?", and one of those sultry soul songstresses that seems to have been forgotten over time is a shining star in her warming performance of the starry ballad, "Colors Of Love". After that, the mood shifts again with the Afro-beat rhythms to the concept spoken word offering, "What Is This?". Although the main lyrics are delivered by a lady of ethnic descent while a unified collective chimes in with background vocals, the song is credited to the Brazilian-born Sergio Mendes, whom I'd forgotten was a multi-instrumentalist and producer in addition to being a singer (best remembered for his timeless hit, "Never Gonna Let You Go", in the popular music mainstream). My favorite part of the song: the almost spiritual chanting of ' don't you know it is the music of the hour? '. Speaking of spirituality, "If You Need A Miracle" by the legendary soul legend Ben E. King is one to lift up your spirits with his inspirational words of 'have a little faith to pull you through'. I found it soothing and satisfying to hear him singing in a time period much different than the era where he performed his timeless soul-gripping number, "Stand By Me". Soothing and satisfying further describes the excellent slow groove performed by the late British singer, Ephraim Lewis: "* "I Know I Don't Walk On Water". I felt a breezy, ethnic air to this one as well, and the one line from this song that stuck to me is 'I do believe that love is the only color'. It's not "The Color Purple", but instead the rock band DEEP PURPLE who changes up the pace again with the soundtrack's lone classic rock offering, "Smoke On The Water"; it was nice to hear some good old-fashioned classic rock, considering my ears have been neglecting music from that genre for far too long. Then there's one made just for all of the instrumental music lovers out there: "Made In Love". Ahhhhh, nothing like the sweet jazz sounds of the trumpet to chill to; coupled with the backing ambiance, it really could cap off a quiet night of perfect romance. Then serving as the perfect bookend song to complement Gloria Estefan's festive "Go Away" is the joyful noise that is Y.T. STYLE's "Stand!". So many wonderful ingredients cooked up to create this delicious dance jam: the uplifting and encouraging words of standing for the things that you know are right, the flawless flow of the raps delivered by the individual members of the Y.T. STYLE crew, the groovy 90's-style house rhythm..... No other way to put it—"Stand!" is a musical celebration for everyone to take part in, and it truly is the one song here that has already made my day complete:

1. Gloria Estefan - Go Away
2. Keith Sweat - Does He Do It Good
3. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien - Made In America
4. Lisa Fischer - Colors Of Love
5. Sergio Mendes - What Is This
6. Mark Isham - Made In Love
7. Ephraim Lewis - I Know I Don't Walk On Water
8. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Dance Or Die
9. Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water
10. Ben E. King - If You Need A Miracle
11. Y.T. Style - Stand!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tammy Trent-Tammy Trent (1995)


And now here's something to satisfy the spiritual soul: the self-titled debut album by Tammy Trent, a Christian contemporary pop singer whom I've just had the pleasure of listening to for forty-five minutes of my peaceful Friday night. This lady looks to be quite the prominent force within the world of CCM music, as showcased on her official website at Meanwhile, she's surely a force to be reckoned with right here at "The Music Spectrum", where she brings a delightful smooth jazz/pop sound and a supply of heartwarming messages that both religious and non-religious music listeners will adore! When I scanned the track-listing, I wasted no time in jumping straight to a familiar song that the popular music world has heard time and time again: "You've Got A Friend". This Tammy Trent remake of the Carole King favorite is instantly appealing on all fronts—the vocals, the chilled, graceful rhythm and, of course, the unforgettable lyrics (that 'winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call' gets to me every time!); much deserved is the instrumental reprising of it later on. Then jumping back to the album's proper beginning—"Emotional" was indeed quite 'emotional' for me for multiple reasons: her praises about all of the wonderful things her Creator has done for her (her words of ' I've got peace, love and unspeakable joy ' declared midway say it all), the beautiful background music making my ears happy, and then the fact that she vocally reminded me of two other familiar singers whom I adore from the popular music mainstream: Janet Jackson and Karyn White. The Janet Jackson comparison, in particular, is very noticeable on "Hear My Heart" (ahh, the sweet sounds of the trumpet are so amazing here!) and especially on "Love's Not So Far Away", where Tammy's shouting of ' what's love? '—before the subsequent breakdown defining what true love is—eerily reminds me of the way Miss Janet shouts ' let's go! ' on her memorable 80's hit, "Escapade"! It's that tight, mid-90's swing that makes "Love's Not So Far Away" an awesome jam, and I'd have to second that notion for "Your Love Is 4 Always", where the meaningful message of eternal protection amidst the pop goodness and the saxophone sexiness is all in the title. It's a celebration reminding us that dreams do come true when we smile through pain and focus on things above on "Starting To Believe", the music arrangement being so beautiful that some listeners may even be driven to tears of joy. I really like what Tammy has to say on "Supposed To Be". Here, she makes a stand and declares that he wants a man who walks with the spirit and who will be faithful to her. It's almost like a continuation of previous track, the surprise dance jam "Someone To Love", where she's searching for that special someone to love, but further defines those qualities that the someone should have. "Someone To Love" has a couple of fun moments: the unexpected rap midway by the guest male MC—keeping with the theme of that male MC/female vocalist formula that was so prominent in the house/Eurodance movement of that decade—and MC's cheeky remark in response to the song's title itself: ' Doesn't everybody? '. Ending the soul-lifting celebration on a peaceful note (and quite literally, thank to the delicate piano and the soothing slow groove) is "Let It Go", where she encourages those dealing with the stresses and pains of life to just let it go and embrace the light:

1. Emotional
2. Your Love Is 4 Always
3. The Way To Love
4. Starting To Believe
5. You've Got A Friend
6. Someone To Love
7. Supposed To Be
8. Hear My Heart
9. Love's Not So Far Away
10. You've Got A Friend (Reprise)
11. Let It Go

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Levi John-Generations (1999)


Here's a beautiful album that persons of all generations can embrace! Even with the gazillions of unlistened to material still awaiting the undivided attention of my receptive ears, I took some time to break away from my personal music lineup to listen in on something that one of my blog readers wanted to hear. I can thank my natural music curiosities for getting me acquainted with the delightfully aching, soul crooner's voice that belongs to a Levi John, a man whom I'd never heard of before until today. 'Mr. Silky Voice', as this well-traveled, multi-talented artist has been publicly nicknamed according to his website at, and he proves just how silky he can be when the romantic side of him expresses his feelings in song on such elegant, sweetly jazzed-up selections as "Beyond The Sunset", "Take This Heart" (this one found a special hold on me, given that it has that perfectly late-80's, starry soft rock radio glow about it), "You Are My Star" and "I'll Never Let You Go", where his earnest words of wanting to hang on to his special lady now that he's found her are just as comforting and soothing as the smooth groove and the beautiful melody in which those very words are blanketed in. One of Levi's more exotic offerings is served up on "Forbidden Dreams"; I myself was captivated right away with the suspenseful ambiance, then again later as the song grows and blooms to life with the added unified voices supporting him the rest of the way. But it was well before any of those gems dazzled me and all the way back on the opening track where I had already found the one song that made my journey with 'Mr. Silky Voice' complete: "People Helping People". It's like the ultimate meaningful song to unite the whole world, a simple and positive message decorated and celebrated with a very lively, ethnic rhythm that makes you wanna dance and just fills you up with happiness! Then as much of a glorified musical paradise that one is, there would be an actual song entitled "Paradise" that maintains that upbeat, positive state of mind I'd already loved the musical arrangement, which starts off with the light plucking of the guitar and the breezy melody while 'Mr. Silky Voice' delivers his speech describing the favorable weather conditions that make up his idyllic locale . Though this paradise becomes a full-fledged ethnic music party before long; the sudden jumps in tempo and the addition of the background singers add some fun to the already-festive affair! Then serving as a perfect bookend for this sunny album that began with a sunny song for the world to embrace is the song of encouragement and advice that is the title track itself. ' It's what you give, not what you take, that keeps the world as one ', as the lyrics to the main chorus go, and that qualifies as an excellent candidate for someone's motivational 'Quote Of The Day':

1. People Helping People
2. Beyond The Sunset
3. Take This Heart
4. You Are My Star
5. Want You To Be The One
6. Paradise
7. Forbidden Dreams
8. I'll Never Let You Go
9. Take A Chance
10. Generations

AJA-Aja (2003)


Aha—AJA at last! Well, at least for me, as I finally got the chance to listen in to the sisters otherwise known as Andrea Anderson and Jame Anderson. Their self-titled album had been a long-standing request here at "The Music Spectrum"—so long, that I'd nearly forgotten how I came to know about the sisters in the first place! The guru over at the "Dance Love Pop" blog surely had to have been responsible, as AJA was among the pop goodies previously showcased there. Though as they're still on hiatus as of today's date, I thought I would help fulfill the wishes of long-time "Dance Love Pop" fans and the rest of the popular music world by presenting a showcase of my own, despite the fact that this AJA duo remains a virtual mystery to me in regards to their music background. I can at least say this—contemporary r&b artist Mario Winans of the iconic musical Winans Family is one of the producers on this album, and it's his voice that pays a very respectful tribute to the AJA sisters in the introductory movement to the opening track, "Movin' On". Right away, the sisters establish themselves as bonafide r&b singers with their sultry, crisp and mature voices that totally sound like they were tailor-made for contemporary r&b, delivering the sharp message that they're not havin' it anymore—the back-and-forth games played with love—while a big-time r&b bounce serves as the song's driving beat. It's that same killer combination of hip-smart lyrics and bumpin' beats that give I-like-the-way-you-work-it-in-the-club jams like "Shake It Baby" and "(Make It Hot) Hotter" their simmering sizzle and turns tunes like "He's All Mine" and "Shy" into playful pleasures. When the AJA sisters mellow out some, though, is where I find them especially alluring. The one simply titled "Sunshine" really does make me feel all sunny inside, loving especially the funky electronic arrangement playing in the background of the smooth groove and the slick way their collective soulful voices slide on the 'shine' voiced in the main chorus. The interlude to "Missing You" just may be the best part about the two-part track performed for 7+ minutes midway through the album, the natural outdoor ambiance setting the mood for some moments of sweet tenderness. And I've heard many songs over the years whose theme is friendship, but the lovely piece serving as this album's concluding track is especially captivating, as my music senses took in the graceful flow of the throwback old-school groove, the saddening tonality and even the smallest of sweet nuances that includes the sisters' vocal harmony when they sing 'friend until the very end' at a later point during the song. Definitely puts a warming glow on my near-hour-long listening journey with them, perhaps even filling me up with more sunshine than that which radiated from the sparkling gem eight tracks before it:

1. Movin' On
2. Shake It Baby
3. Mmm Yeah (With You)
4. He's All Mine
5. Sunshine
6. Missing You (Interlude)
7. Missing You
8. Shy
9. I Know
10. On And On
11. (Make It Hot) Hotter
12. The Heartbreak
13. Friends

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

EUROBAND-This Is My Life (2008)


As much as I try to keep up with all of the Eurovision Song Contest goings on year in and year out, it is often a daunting task to keep track of who's representing which of the respective countries and who's making it big once the competitions have concluded, Yet somehow, from within the multitude of artists hailing from the various countries of the European Union, I've managed to stay close to a select few whom I'm particularly fond of. The Icelandic pop star Friðrik Ómar is one of those select few, and I had the joy of being entertained by him and fellow Icelandic pop star Regína Ósk—together posing as the duo EUROBAND—on their collaborative effort entitled "This Is My Life". THE most thrilling thirty-three minutes of Eurovision pop I've ever enjoyed! It's a short ride, but the trip is worth it! ' I don't wanna change a thing, all the pain, all the joy you bring, all through the years, what will be, will be ': the lyrics featured on the album's opening title track are like the perfect anthem of self-motivation! Recalling that the Eurovision entries max out at around three minutes of running time, I was happy that this album not only included the original Eurovision version of "This Is My Life"—which is already an awesome dance jam by itself with all of its naturally Eurovision arena-pleasing energy, and even reminds me of all of those other dance hits with the glitzy production and the super-cool video effects performed by the likes of Swedish phenom Mans Zelmerlow and my favorite Russian pop star, Sergey Lazarev—but also the even cooler four-minute 'Credheadz Remix', which has a distinctively different electronic rhythm that gives the song a much more smoother feel along the borderline of ambient/downtempo trance. Looks like the dance music bug is gonna stay in my system for a little longer, because besides the trio of version of "This Is My Life" infusing me with an energetic charge, there's the equally entertaining Eurovision-quality "Don't Leave Without Me Now". This time, Regina shows off on lead vocals, and her earnest words of rising above the stars and the clouds and living together forever comprise the big hook that gives this song its dreamy and epic, "NeverEnding Story" feel. My next high-energy charge came with "A Bani Bi"; no idea what the title means, but grateful that the lyrics are in English once I heard Friðrik delivering the words. And thanks to the EXTREMELY catchy and bouncy dance beat, I figure this is something I'll need to add to my 'Energy Mix' playlist. DEFINITELY needs to be remixed, extended or whatever else a producer can do to make it an even bigger listening experience! That goes double for the mellow gem called "Hold Me Now", which is much too short for my taste, as the music zings by and doesn't last on the dance floor very long! Yet I'd have to say that the most magical moments offered by this Icelandic pair consist of Friðrik's solo, "In My Dreams" (the light acoustic guitar and the slowed-down rhythm make this into the really nice listen that it is, becoming even nicer when pitch taken up in final movement and the lyrics that go 'come on, come on, come on, love is all over me' become more prominent); Regina's own slowed-down solo, "By Your Side" (an instantly alluring tune that gracefully flows and sways along while comforting the senses; there's almost a theatrical stage feel about it); and the majestic song of burning passion that is "Fire" (love EVERYTHING about this song—from the mellow chords and the soft, woodwind accompaniment to the infusion of the edgy rock guitars and the grand ending with Friðrik's soaring vocals delivering the final words of 'how wonderful love's gonna be'). Then there are a couple of gems that are just pure pop fun: "Thinking Of You", thanks to its VERY groovy piano beat, and "Vid Sigrum Ad Ari (Making Your Mind Up)", whose classy, throwback dance rhythm perks me up an makes me think about all of those other classic goodies from the jukebox 'malt shop' era. Absolutely no idea what words are being said on this one, but Friðrik and Regina sound so wonderful singing in perfect unison together:

1. This Is My Life [Icelandic ESC Entry 2008]
2. Don't Leave Without Me Now
3. In My Dreams
4. A Bani Bi
5. Hold Me Now
6. By Your Side
7. Fire
8. Thinking Of You
9. Vid Sigrum Ad Ari (Making Your Mind Up)
10. This Is My Life [Credheadz Remix]
11. This Is My Life [Final Version]

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Yana Kay-Loveland (2000)


OK, so the dance bug must be working overtime through my system! My latest guilty pleasure saw me breaching international cultural horizons once again when my ears and I got acquainted with the voice of the Latvian dance/pop singer Yana Kay. An adventure in "Loveland" seemed to be just what the music doctor ordered on a night where I really needed to hear only positive words and happy melodies. Leave it to bubblegum Eurodance to provide the sweet remedy, the sugar-coated "Play That Song (Na-Na-Na)" being the forerunner of the all instantly catchy sing-alongs while a little heat spices things up on the very Italo-disco inspired "Set My Heart On Fire" and "Fire Of Love". Though before I even indulged in those, Yana had already captivated me when her words sweetly confess everything she wants to offer on "Give You My All". It was that, plus the breezy atmosphere and the thumping dance beat, then Yana's distinctive voicing of 'ah-ha' in second chorus, which almost makes like an ethnic chant of sorts. My second favorite: "How Can I Forget?". While the Latvian singer conjures up all of the reminders of a love that's never forgotten, the production crew did a marvelous job here in conjuring up some cool beats, highlighted by the drum rhythm that builds up before the pounding rhythm in the main movement, the an awesome instrumental following Yana's delivery of the main chorus and that smooth midway pause with the slowed beat and the dreamy ambiance before that infectious dance beat sweeps back in! One that's sure to charm you: "If Only Stars Could Speak". The music has such a bubbly, starry air about it and that right touch of spacey electronic glitz that makes her words of ' i'm so weak without your tender touch ' an enticing engagement. If that one doesn't get you, then perhaps the lush and gentle flow of either the slower-tempo "Waterfall" or the chilled "Just Come And Stay With Me" will do the trick instead:

1. Intro
2. Set My Heart On Fire
3. Give You My All
4. Don't Stop The Night
5. Say You'll Never
6. Waterfall
7. Tell Me That You Love Me
8. How Can I Forget?
9. Play That Song (Na-Na-Na)
10. Fire Of Love
11. I Wanna B
12. If Only Stars Could Speak
13. Just Come And Stay With Me
14. Loveland