Wednesday, April 18, 2018

John Davis-Still Be Loving You (1990)


Got another goodie to share from the treasure trove of golden oldies! Despite the fact that I'm a huge music lover of anything from the 80's and the early 90's, I was recently surprised to learn about this John Davis guy and his connection to the infamous German r&b duo which the world came to know as MILLI VANILLI. The connection is a really simple one: John being one of the true MILLI VANILLI voices! Well it seems he'd already proven himself to be a true singer when, according to the music catalogs, he released a very rare LP called "Joker"; this second and final solo project, "Still Be Loving You", definitely reinforced that notion, as my ears and I gathered from the wondrous listen of it that I enjoyed last night! Already, the very first track served as my latest 'Music Surprise Of The Day': a breezy and oh-so-sweet pop/soul version of "Who Do You Love?", which I'd actually heard for the very first time by the 90's dance trio, NO MERCY. Knew there was something familiar wen I heard the recognizable 'who-who, who do you love?' delivered by the backup singers in the chorus. So then, is John the original performer of this song with NO MERCY performing the dance cover of it? While I ponder on that, I got another question for you: "How Can You Know (When You Love Someone)"? While a lot of us are still trying to answer that age-old question, this album's eighth track explores the task of looking for all of the signs that you really care about somebody romantically. Yes, it's a simple theme for a love song, but what particularly draws me in is the production: the sweet, sunny sound of the chords, the perky synthpop beat and especially the light, happy woodwind that flows along with the music. In fact, it's that whole pop-friendly, easy-to-get-in-to sound of the good ole 80's that made me like a lot of these songs: the bouncy and cheery title track, the delightfully mellow story about a past childhood girl named "Mary", the dancey pre-90's house jam that is "We Can Work It Out"..... Track #6's "Break Away" does differ from the rest of the pack with its funky and super-catchy energetic dance beat and John's gritty vocals replacing the more smoother side of him presented on his other songs. Speaking of smooth, that is exactly what "Live Your Life" is—a deliciously smooth yet bittersweet soul piece performed as a duet with a lovely lady, dealing with a couple's mutual understanding of ending it all and going their separate ways; slowed and smooth further are his solo ballads of "No Alibi" (this one would be perfect for the soft rock radio channels) and the concluding cut, "More Than I Can Say To You". As for me, there's nothing more to say except that you should download this album and hear a real singer at work:

1. Who Do You Love?
2. Still Be Loving You
3. Live For Life
4. We Can Work It Out
5. Mary
6. Break Away
7. No Alibi
8. How Can You Know (When You Love Someone)?
9. You Satisfy Me
10. More Than I Can Say To You

Sunday, April 15, 2018

BLACKWOOD-Friday Night (1998)


I just love it when I listen to a random album, then come away with a handful of brand new favorites that I'm already addicted to! Such was the case when I spent part of my Sunday morning—and eventually afternoon as well—indulging in the jam-packed pleasure that is this "Friday Night", the fourth album by the 90's Eurodance project that called itself BLACKWOOD. Every Eurodance album has its share of big thrills, but none here on "Friday Night" was bigger than the soulicous, raspy voice of BLACKWOOD's lead vocalist—a Miss Sheila Elaine Washington. All by herself, she's made "Friday Night" THE best Eurodance album I've heard all year! I knew I was in for something awesome the moment her powerful chords screamed into my ears on the funky opening anthem, "Peace", which starts off the Eurodance party with a positive message to the people—that all of us living together in true harmony without conflict doesn't have to be just a fantasy. Following that thriller is the lovely title track—a more chilled Eurodance jam with a starry, romantic glow, as Sheila sings about spending time on the dance floor with the man of her dreams to ring in the weekend. Two other dance thrillers later on this album further fueled my Eurodance appetite: "My Love For You" and the great club anthem, "Ride On The Rhythm". Both are tagged as remixes of their respective originals, but you may not need to hear the originals since these sound perfect just the way they are! Oh yes, and you also get some killer remixes to both "Peace" and the title track for bonus kicks at the very end of this thrill ride! Before that, however, there's some awesome treats that pop up when the beats and the tempo slow down for a spell. "I Miss You" has gotta be THE most piercing, soul-shaking ballad I've heard within the past month! If you're gonna confess how badly you want for that special significant other to come back into your life and how empty you are without that person, you've gotta do it with burning emotion and passion, and Sheila does exactly that! And if "I Miss You" doesn't shake the soul in some way, then the inspirational piece "Be Strong" will take care of you there! Then saving the best treat of all for my final thoughts, I got my latest 'Music Surprise Of The Day' when I got to Track #6. "Kiss" could've been referring to anything, but it just so happens that it is a brilliant Europop cover of the same hit made famous by the late Prince back in the 80's! I always go ga-ga over these dance/pop remakes of these golden oldies from my childhood, but Sheila's sultry vocals delivering the familiar lyrics—altered slightly to say ' you don't have to be rich to be my man ' in the chorus—shot me through the roof!

1. Peace
2. Friday Night
3. I Miss You
4. Refugees
5. Craving
6. Kiss
7. Be Strong
8. I Believe
9. Stop Jhonny Do It
10. Live For Love
11. Piramyd
12. Get Back
13. Peace (Remix)
14. Friday Night (Mellow Remix)
15. My Love For You (Marascia & Kortezman Mix)
16. Ride On The Rhythm (Alex Natale Mix)

Bobby DeBarge-It's Not Over (1995)


That's right—the good tunes are never over here at "The Music Spectrum", and this latest treat proves that there is still so much throwback music from the 90's that is out there waiting to be discovered or re-discovered. Well in my case, it was both. I didn't recall ever having enjoyed listening to the solo works of Bobby DeBarge, despite me being knowledgeable about his accomplishments while performing with the legendary family soul/r&b group called DeBARGE back in the 80's. So then, Bobby's first, last and only album, "It's Not Over", provided me with a chance to groove to some brand new tunes, and my good time of music-listening got jump-started right away with the opener that's entitled exactly that: "Good Time". Actually, I tuned in to the instrumental first, for some reason; I guess I really was in a chill-out mood at the offset, the fluid tempo bringing back fond memories of the old-school r&b days. That feeling was heightened when I played the proper opening track and had some lyrics to go along with the music. And that's when I recalled how suave of a vocalist that Bobby was, especially when he sings that 'you turn me on' part over and over after the chorus. And he's even better on the poetically epic "Something About Your Loving", where there's something about the chords of the music that sparks my senses an attracts my ears in addition to the sweet jazzing up on the sax in later movements and the charming rap he concludes the song with in the final movements. Yet his maximum vocal versatility isn't showcased until he's heard on "Taste Of Your Love". I really like these pieces with the stilled, stop-tempo beat and backing instrumental ambiance as the only music, as they always highlight these soulful singers well; here, Bobby shows off his vocal range, repeatedly hitting that high note flawlessly! "Never Meant To Hurt You" awakens my senses as well; there's a delightful, sunny air about the music already in the beginning, and the crisp, r&b/pop beat and Bobby's words of sincerity only add to the all of the goodness. "Feel Real Good" is a very good candidate for your next 'Slow am Of The Night". It's a simple groove about a man who is willing to do anything for a woman's love, but once again, it's a simple song that really shimmers! And then there's "Like Heaven", which I suspect I actually may have heard many times before. Something in the chorus has a distinctive flow that struck me, the part that goes 'even a plain damn fool can see, just how much you mean to me'. And the fact that "Like Heaven" too gets some sweet jazzing up on the sax instrumentals means that it's one I gotta preserve on one of my playlists of favorites:

1. Good Time
2. Let You Know
3. Never Meant To Hurt You
4. It's Not Over
5. Thief In The Night
6. Something About Your Loving
7. Taste Of Your Love
8. Feel Real Good
9. Like Heaven
10. Good Time [Instrumental]

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Colin England-Out Of Control (1993)


On the heels of making a great music choice this past Sunday night with the South African quartet called CHOSEN, I followed that up with a second great music choice last night while I was in the mood for some throwback new jack swing from the early 90's. My latest discovery is Colin England, who becomes the latest 'unsolved music mystery' to be added to my ever-expanding case files. Well at least there's little information that I myself could access on him; I'm sure those who had the opportunity to listen to this guy could relay additional details and fill in the blanks about his singing career. For the moment, my investigation so far has turned up two solo albums with Colin's sophomore effort, "Out Of Control", being the one I chose as my music-listening companion for forty-five minutes of my Wednesday evening. Actually, it ended up being about closer to an hour, because I had to enjoy two good helpings of an excellent song that I nearly deemed as my latest 'Slow Jam Of The Night': "You Took My Love Away". I say 'nearly' only because of the negativity of the title and the accompanying lyrics. Because usually, I only award that 'Slow am Of The Night' title to a song that is positive and beautifully romantic in addition to having the sublime, soulful vocals an that super-chilled, just-right-for-the-bedroom groove and all of the other delicious ingredients that good slow jams are always comprised of. Either way, "You Took My Love Away" became my #1 favorite, and that's even with me getting my kicks out of the opening dance jam, " No 1/2 Steppin' "—where I would get formally introduced to Colin and his soulicious vocals and the brilliant swing beat production—and everything else upbeat that sparked my senses and brought back the feel-good days of the new jack swing era: "Come Over, Baby", "24/7", "Can I Touch You?" and one I really like, "I'll Do Anything" (again, it's these simplest of songs that always seem to make for the best listens). There's a couple of songs where Colin's vocals are particularly impressive: "Bring Me Love", which has a heavenly, airy glow with its stilled, ambient instrumentals as the earnest lyrics speak of removing all sadness and replacing it with gladness, and "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word To Say", which is one that keeps you hooked with its nice and long extended groove and the ear-pleasing display being shown off by whatever skilled musician is on the piano/keyboards:

1. No 1/2 Steppin'
2. Come Over, Baby
3. Out Of Control
4. You Took My Love Away
5. Bring Me Love
6. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word To Say
7. 24/7
8. Can I Touch You?
9. I'll Do Anything
10. What's On Your Mind?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

CHOSEN-Abakhethwa (1996)


I could have chosen to indulge in one of the many albums that were either gifted to me by my fellow music lovers in my circles or that I gifted to myself recently; instead, I chose to explore the soul music catalog, and that's where I discovered this truly divine all-male South African gospel quartet that I'd never heard of before. Their heavenly, exotic voices captivated me the moment my ears received the opener, "Everything I Desire"—first the tenor and baritone of the group introducing the song, then the delightful falsetto of the group's lead singer—delivering the uplifting words of 'you are my friend, you are my joy, you are my comforter' against the beautiful reggae-style rhythm. It's a great one to hum along to because of the lush melodies, and one you've gotta listen to at least a couple of times, like I did! Following that soul-sweet number, the music follows the familiar Western-style r&b production with the inspirational, socially-themed feelgooder, "We Can Live Together", which you get treated to hearing an alternate version of later on. On that same r&b wavelength is "Easy Does It", a song whose message is about not rushing into things and finding your true purpose in life. But I kept getting captivated by the ones where the luscious instrumentals and/or the soulful harmony dazzled my senses. On "No More Pain" and "Keep Holding On", it was the latter; the songs really blossom into something marvelous as they near their respective final movements. On "Strength Of My Heart", it was the former, as the light calypso and ethnic/world fusion drum beat attached me to the music. Then on "Come As U Are", it was both; I was particularly sparked the arrangement of the chords, and it was nice of them to quote the famous Bible passage that begins with 'God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son'. Though perhaps CHOSEN's greatest accomplishment of all on this album is the humbling song about self-sacrifice that is "The Greatest Love Of All". I already wanted to listen to it again in just the first minute or two; it's easily the most touching song I've heard within the past week! 6+ minutes of warmth, reflection and spiritual filling—I couldn't have chosen a better group of words to describe it:

1. Everything I Desire
2. We Can Live Together (Remix)
3. No More Pain
4. Strength Of My Heart
5. Come As U Are
6. When I Remember
7. Easy Does It (Remix)
8. The Greatest Love Of All
9. Keep Holding On
10. Sengiyohamba
11. Thank You Lord
12. We Can Live Together (Original Version)
13. Easy Does It (Original Version)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Windy-Windy (1999)


My weather forecast indicates that something real good has just blown in to "The Music Spectrum"! Still wanting to catch up with some of the numerous past music recommendations gifted to me, I took a few minutes out of my Friday evening to check out the tunes by a lovely pop/r&b songstress known professionally only as Windy. I like how she opted for the meteorological spelling of her name instead of the more common 'Wendy' that most women choose to spell it. And her name/spelling totally fits, as she brings it to you softly and sweetly on a number of great slow jams that are quiet storm radio worthy in addition to being candidates for your next 'Slow Jam Of The Night'. There's "You're What I Want (Creep With)"—a seductive, bedroom-perfect goodie that I felt coming on in first few seconds with the dreamy chords, the cool voice box thing going on and her hushed vocals. Then there's "Gotta Let You Go", which I declare as the #2 in ranking for 'Slow Jam Of The Night" and is such an easy one to get into. And then the concluding piece, "I Love You"—a simple song but one that sneaks up on you with her surprising high-soaring, soulicious vocals reaching into the stratosphere! Although even before the slow jams, I'd already been sold on Windy on the opener, "On The Strong", which sets the stage with a crisp r&b beat and her words of ' keep it comin' baby, if you really wanna do me baby ' setting the stage for the luscious themes that are to follow. Here's one that I found particularly luscious to my ears: "Come Back To Me". It's all in how she recites the months of the years as she earnestly proclaims to be faithful and expecting the man to be in her life, no matter how much time has passed or however long it takes. And I further enjoyed all of the ones that are fun and playful, whether it be "Eenie Meenie Minney Moe"—this one, in fact, is all about a man playing love games with her emotions, taking her love an then wanting to go—"Tender Love" (it is the chorus on this one, where she teases with her sweetly-sung 'tender, love and care', that makes this song fun) or "Did You Really?", where it's the man this time who gets played this time around. This album is chock full of the exact kind of 90's r&b that I love to indulge in, and my next weather forecast predicts that you'll be indulging in these savory songs yourself:

1. On The Strong
2. Eenie Meenie Minney Moe
3. Come Back To Me
4. Thought About It
5. Interlude (Thought About It)
6. You're What I Want (Creep With)
7. Summer Love
8. Tender Love
9. Gotta Let You Go
10. Hot Hot Hot
11. Baby Don't You Worry
12. Dedication: Thank You
13. Did You Really?
14. I Love You

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

21ST CENTURY GIRLS-21st Century Girls (1999)


There was the British-Irish all-girl pop group called GIRLS ALOUD.....and then there was this short-lived all-girl pop group called 21ST CENTURY GIRLS who were just....LOUD!!! More on that in a moment, but while I am going with the whole 'loud' theme here, I may as well proclaim loud and clear that one the longest-standing music requests made to me some years back has finally been fulfilled! That would be the group's first and only known album, which was originally exclusively released in Japan; it feels good to be one of the presumably few proud owners of it on CD. And making me feel good is exactly what listening to these energetic eleven tracks did to me! The excitement erupts right away when the girls make a big and bold statement on the opening track that bears their own name—a rockin', power-packed, punk-spirited jam of an anthem where they sing together in cheerful unison! It had occurred to me—either before, during, or shortly afterwards—that their group name was most likely inspired by the whole Y2K/New Millennium craze that had swept the world. And another likely supposition: they wanted to keep using this hard rockin', big-and-bold anthem style to please their fans and attract listeners, as just about every track after the opener sees the girls showing out with plenty of attitude and coming at you with a raucous, in-your-face persona. "Drive" could've made for a great summery anthem with the whole carefree-ness about going different places and not letting anything stop them from taking on the whole world. "Teenage Attack" is so much fun; their chants of ' we're coming at you! ' and ' look out, you're under teenage attack ' will hook you in a heartbeat! "Do Anything You Wanna Do" may seem a bit angst-ridden, but it's all just the girls expressing their freedom and showing how out of control they are. And even them mentioning that they are gonna scream and let it all out further feeds the whole 'loud' theme. So of course they even had to make a song called "Scream And Shout". Well haven't the girls already been doing a lot of screaming and shouting? I had asked myself about four songs through the album when I peeked down at the title. Apparently not, because they employ a fast-bangin' tempo to come at you with another anthem of what they love to do best! "I Want It Now" is just pure pop joy; it's simply about everything that these girls want to have, if their greedy chants of 'gimme gimme gimme' are any telltale indication. "Record Shop" is highly entertaining on so many levels—from the high-speed rockin' tempo to their name-dropping of THE BEACH BOYS and BLONDIE and a bunch of other 70's groups in the lyrics to their nifty sampling of "Pop Music" by the quirky band that was called M. And it's definitely a case of, to quote a memorable Cyndi Lauper hit, 'girls just wanna have fun' on "We're On Holiday". Such a delight hearing them go ' we're on a holiday, hooray! ', and that is part of the reason why the song makes me think about THE GO-GO's "Vacation", another memorable 80's hit. It's really too bad they actually didn't keep performing together into the real New Millennium, but at least my ears and I can say they had some awesome hits in their abbreviated stint during the 20th century:

1. 21st Century Girls
2. Drive
3. Teenage Attack
4. All Of You
5. Do Anything You Wanna Do
6. Yesterday Morning
7. Scream And Shout
8. I Want It Now
9. Record Shop
10. Teenage Rampage
11. We're On Holiday

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Aaradhna-Sweet Soul Music (2008)


How sweet it is whenever I get to hear a lot of familiar old-school soul classics in a contemporary r&b setting! That is what I got to enjoy for nearly an hour in the early part of my chilly Tuesday spring evening, as I took in my first listen to this amazing r&b soulstress from New Zealand. My sharing of her "Sweet Soul Music" not only fulfills a recent music request, but also served as an awesome reminder that these golden oldies deserve to get sung until the end of time and to never die away. Aaradhna sure made some excellent selections for this fourteen-track collection, astounding me in particular with her ringing renditions of "Natural Woman" (I can totally hear Aretha Franklin, the great 'Queen Of Soul' herself, echoing every memorable word all throughout), MARTHA & THE VANDELLAS' "Heatwave" (I absolutely LOVE her funky remake of this classic, because I'm just a sucker for those girl group pop hits from the 60's/DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES era) and THE JACKSON 5's"I Want You Back"(such a terrific sound on this one, and she really, really shines with her powerful vocals, sounding exactly like vintage Michael until she cools it down with a smoother r&b-style approach to close out the performance). And as with every one of these covers albums I come cross, I encountered another slew of cool surprises. Like the fact that Aaradhna performs the Motown favorite, "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing", with fellow New Zealand artist ADEAZE, who are all-male r&b group whom I became fond of when I discovered them a few years ago. Or like realizing that "Bring It On Home To Me" was already a soul classic, which I first heard by English actor John Alford in a dazzling pop format and assumed was a John Alford original.....until now; her version of the Sam Cooke original should definitely satisfy the older generation with her more slower and convincingly soulful approach. Or like "I Wish It Would Rain", which I too thought was an original when I heard the Danish pop group 4OUR LIKE US performing it on their one and only album released in 1998 called "The Job" (also previously featured on this blog). The 4OUR LIKE US instantly captivated me, and so does Aaradhna's interpretation of it, especially with the gripping acapella piano and her sultry voice grabbing hold of me right from the start. I further marveled at hearing her sing "Betcha By Golly Wow", which is one I personally like because of the dreamy chords and just the whole soothing, romantic flow to the song, and "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", which is something fun to really get down and jam to with its funky, upbeat kick perking my pop music-loving senses and the familiar words of ' please don't leave me boy, don't you go ' satisfying my ears. This entire album actually isn't full of covers, though; it sounds like the final track, "Warrior" (and yes, I did think it would be some kind of soul/r&b remake of the 80's hit by Patty Smyth and her band SCANDAL!) is an r&b original intended to be an Aaradhna exclusive. But you will find pure sweetness in any of these fourteen selections, music that listeners of all ages and backgrounds can appreciate:

1. Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)?
2. I Want You Back
3. Betcha By Golly Wow
4. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
5. I Wish It Would Rain
6. Bring It On Home To Me
7. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing
8. Let's Get It On
9. Let's Stay Together
10. Natural Woman
11. Ain't Too Proud To Beg
12. Heatwave
13. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)
14. Warrior