A Journey on a Slave Ship with The O’Jays

Title: Ship Ahoy

Artist: The O’Jays

Date: 10 November 1973

Label: Philadelphia International Records

Length: 9:41

The O’Jays are known for their smooth love songs, funky and groovy jams and soulful sounds. What some people don’t pay attention to are some of the songs that have at their core political and social relevance. This R&B group has been speaking to their audience and using music as a teaching vehicle through some of their hits. Ship Ahoy is one of these wheels that carried a heavy message and lesson on it.

The song begins with the crack of whips, a strong cold wind blowing and the sound of crashing waves. “…the motion of the ocean…” as they point out in the lyrics. There’s an eerie quality wrapped around the song but they did it so without leaving out the powerful and sweet voices of this remarkable trio. It’s dark and spine-chilling.

Ship Ahoy brings awareness to the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade when Africans were captured and shipped to the New World. Some of the slaves died at sea while those who survived remained alive in unimaginably horrific conditions. Diseases and starvation accompanied them on the voyage to the so-called land of Liberty.

It’s quite a long song but with not as many lyrics, with the repetition of “Ship Ahoy” more than other lines. However, they didn’t need to write out a full, long sermon of lyrics to make a point. The combination of those few lyrics, the slavery theme sounds of the ship and the waves, and the honeyed vocals create a grim yet pleasing gem.

The song is the second track on the track-titled album. The album cover itself produces the clear image of slaves, including the members of the group in the slave hold. The artwork successfully registers with the listener and adds accuracy and support to the song and the title of the album.

This is what I love about music, the ability to speak beyond the written lyrics, to educate, to entertain, to reach out, to bring the hidden or unknown to the surface and to touch us in new and meaningful ways. R&B lovers, people with an interest and social and political consciousness, history lovers, those who die for golden oldies and just anyone who has an ear and a heart for smooth soul or fans of The O’Jays will definitely dig this.

Enjoy.

Pretty in Pink with Jackie and P!nk

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Pages and melodies – bliss!

“Falling in love is like getting hit by a truck and yet not being mortally wounded. just sick to your stomach, high one minute, low the next. Starving hungry but unable to eat. hot, cold, forever horny, full of hope and enthusiasm, with momentary depressions that wipe you out.” – Jackie Collins

“The truth about love is it’s nasty and salty
It’s the regret in the morning, it’s the smelling of armpits
It’s wings, and songs
And trees, and birds
It’s all the poetry that you ever heard.”

– Pink, The Truth About Love

Album Review: Kiss and Say Goodbye: The Best of the Manhattans

“Romance, heartbreak and longing are the fastening ropes that hold these songs tightly together.”

This collection of mature and soulful love songs puts together some of the best works of this well-known American R&B vocal group. The nineteen-track album opens with the ever-popular Kiss and Say Goodbye, a slow number that touches home with a lot of people. This was one their biggest hits and a worldwide success. There’s a love affair in the yearning Wish That You Were Mine. From the first four slow paced tracks we move to a warm dose of the poetically rich The Day the Robin Sand to Me with lyrics;

Cherry blossoms smile in the warm summer bliss

While butterflies plant each flower with a kiss

And dandelions stretch their arms to pray

I miss you a little more

Each passing day

 

The upbeat and perky That’s How Much I Love You is a thing for the dance floor with your lover – beautiful and sweet in its entirety.  The gloomy and sombre songs like Hurt and I Kinda Miss You will have you lost in the blues, bleeding your heart out as you sing along to the harmonious, tender and pleading voices of these remarkable men. The Grammy-winning Shining Star is featured and reminds us of its popularity from 80s and how it always had the audience singing along with fervour and enthusiasm. The album closes with a comforting Goodbye is the Saddest Word, a smart choice putting the first track where it is and closing with this one.

Although a compilation of tracks from different albums here they fit together all well, as if they belong in this exquisite arrangement. Rhythm and blues have a way of permeating your soul and reminding you of your own romantic stories, past or present or a yearning for things to come. Kiss and Say Goodbye: The Best of Manhattans is one of the golden treasures you must add to your collection, sometimes you just need to hear the voices of the old masters to sing you these immortal love songs and make you appreciate the art of music.

Listen with your soul:

Album Review: Never Too Much by Luther Vandross

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Never Too Much

Luther Vandross

Label: Epic, Legacy

 

If this were a dish it would have all the perfect ingredients, flavours that work together to produce a satisfying meal that calls for a repeat serve. The album serves one phenomenal track after another, none of them disappointing or falling behind with impressing the ear. It has seven stunning tracks; the up-tempo tunes, the easy jams and the last soulful ballad.

The debut solo album was released on 12 August 1981 and the title track sat at number one on the Black Singles chart for two weeks. The title track, Never Too Much has remained an anthem ever since, a well-known favourite amongst music lovers and was done by Mary J Blige and samples of it were featured in Will Smith’s 1,000 Kisses.

Up-beat songs like Sugar and Spice and I’ve Been Working come in with energy and bounce, you snap that finger, tap that foot and step side to side. The fever in them is uncontainable. Don’t You Know That? is a sweet love song that speaks the right words that are assuring and soothing. The second last sentimental number, You Stopped Loving Me penetrates all the fibres of the heart, it collides with your emotions and hits the deepest spot within. You cannot not feel the intense sentiment in his voice and in the lyrics. He closes the album, a grand exit it is, with a melting rendition of Dionne Warwick’s ballad, A House Is Not a Home. It is here that you get to fully experience Luther’s velvety voice and unmatched talent. This album remains one of his best works, memorable and contains songs that have inspired many of the musicians that we have today. A precious legacy that he has left behind and a favourite of R&B, soul, pop and quiet-storm lovers. The tracks are still included in many playlists on radio and television, and it’s a must-play whether you’re having a relaxed day on the couch with a glass of wine, throwing a chilled get-together or simply working the soles of your shoes while cooking up in the kitchen. Careful not to get carried away and burn anything.

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(Image: Soul Train)

Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born in Manhattan, New York City on 20 April 1951. He was an award-winning singer, songwriter and producer. He did backing vocals for famous artists such as Chaka Khan, Ben E King, Stevie Wonder, Donna Summer, Roberta Flack and many more. Throughout his career Luther released a string of successful albums that placed him on the music map as one of the greatest artists of all time. He also wrote and produced popular songs for other music stars such as It’s Hard for Me To Say for Diana Ross. How can we forget his duets with Mariah Carey on the much-loved cover version of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’s Endless Love and the film Mo’Money soundtrack, The Best Things in Life Are Free with Janet Jackson?

The Grammy Award winner passed away on 1 July 2005 at the age of 54. Luther Vandross was a powerful artist and an unforgettable contribution to the successes of many other artists, as well as an irreplaceable gem in the music industry.

Here’s my favourite track from the album, it’s sweet and it’s spicy:

 

Aretha Franklin’s ‘A Rose is Still a Rose’ Are the Words of a Wise Woman

One always needs that someone who hands tissue, offers a comforting ‘there, there’ and suggests a sensible way forward. If you’ve been done wrong by a lover then this song is just the cure for you. This modern soul track will confront any concern you have with self-issues and the temptation to indulge in sadness and destruction.

The song is a cocktail when the sun is setting, that bids farewell to what was and salutes the greatness that is to come. It’s about moving on and realizing one’s self-worth. Do you want to be a mere leaf that wilts with self-pity or a flower that blooms with self-love? The energetic beat matches the power in the lyrics and the force in her voice. Oh, and did you notice the voice of another soul diva, Lauryn Hill? Yes, the line “what I am, is what I am.”

There is no room in between the lyrics for sobbing over a man, it fills all its passages with an uplifting and strengthening air. An honest reminder that another person can hurt your feelings but you shouldn’t let them take a single petal away from you. You bloom as fierce as ever and make sure your stem is still armed with those sharp prickles. “Let your life be in the sunshine/Not the darkness of your sorrow” encourages you not to let the mess get you down. Add it to your playlist, wipe your eyes and let the sunshine in.

A Rose is Still a Rose is a title track released in March, 1998 and first on the list of the thirty-sixth studio album.  The song was nominated for “Best R&B Song” and it got the album nominated for “Best R&B Album.” I listen to it from the collection, Love Songs [BMG International].

Enjoy the video:

To Be “Freer Than A Smile In A Baby’s Sleepin’ Eyes”

Free quality

Song Title: Free

Artist: Stevie Wonder

Album: Characters

Year: 6 November 1987

Label: Motown

I must have been about seven or eight when I first learned to use a record player, and the album Characters by Stevie Wonder was one of the records I learned to carefully play. The thing with records is that you have to start at the outermost part and when a song you love is the last one you have to wait and listen to everything – no skip or fast-forward. Well, you could place it near the innermost part but you might scratch it. So, I had to wait until the last track of side two for my favourite track, Free. It’s difficult to choose a favourite when it comes to the mighty Stevie Wonder but this one is the first on my favourite list.

Free is a lyrically rich song that conveys meaning deeper than that of physical freedom. The song penetrates into freedom within us, beyond the skin. This is one of the most powerful songs of its time, evoking emotions of self-liberation, a sense of personal victory and peace. I’ll do my best not to quote the whole song but lyrics such as the ones below are so wealthy with soul and poetry.

“Me, having nothin’
But possessing riches more than all
And I’m free
To be nowhere
But in every place I need to be”

A number of instruments like the piano, drums and percussion blend harmoniously with the featured gospel choir. The song didn’t become as popular as most of his songs such as Isn’t She Lovely, I Just Called to Say I Love You, As and I could go on for long, but it is still a masterpiece. The album Characters is the twenty-first of his work. Stevie is a musical god and has been an inspiration for many of the great artists that came after him and of our generation.

I’d prescribe this as a song for one of those moments when you need to meditate and throw yourself into a few minutes of self-examination. However, this doesn’t make it a just-sit-down-and-ponder song, it has a buoyant and colourful beat, it’s a “take me to church” song and you won’t help but dance your soles off.

Enjoy!

Get Your Friday Boogieing On

Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind & Fire

“I find romance when I start to dance in Boogie Wonderland
All the love in the world can’t be gone
All the need to be loved can’t be wrong
All the records are playing and my heart keeps saying
‘Boogie wonderland, wonderland'”

One of the biggest R&B bands of the 20th century gave us this get-up-off-your-ass-and-dance hit in 1979. It was released as a single on the 20th of March and was also included in their ninth album, I Am. The jam hasn’t lost its fire ever since.

In this song the band features the sister-band The Emotions who add extra spice to it. It’s an electric and energetic song, add the enthusiastic performance of the band and you just won’t stop dancing. True to its name it takes you to wonderland, to a happy place.

You definitely must watch the video, the fire in their feet and the twist and in their bodies. We all know what a spirited and lively performance Earth, Wind & Fire always gave. Dance and sing along here:

 

Boogie Wonderland was successfully received, sold over a million copies and it won a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance. The song has been covered by many musicians, it has been featured in TV series, films and other media, but my favourite is in the film The Intouchables when Driss (Omar Sy) is smoothly boogieing on the dance floor.

Watch the scene from The Intouchables here (no need to understand the French):

 

Go ahead, play it on repeat and have a blasting start to the weekend.