Ferris Bueller was right --- life does move fast. So fast that I missed how many classic and memorable bops Brandy had, but I was warmly reminded of such facts when Brandy took the stage at the 2016 Soul Train Awards to perform a medley of her most notable hits, this after receiving the richly deserved Lady of Soul honor.

For 9 glorious minutes, Brandy brought her soulful and influential catalog to life with performances of "Angel In Disguise", "Full Moon", "Baby", "Wanna Be Down" and a Kanye West-less, "Talk About Our Love". She even conjured Ma$e from 1998 so they could dust off their hit collaboration, "Top Of The World". As a bonus, some shade towards Monica was thrown into the mix during "Talk About Our Love" --- stirring the pot on what the Innanets have been detecting --- just in case the performance wasn't 1998 or petty enough for you.

While the whole show, which was hosted by Erykah Badu, was a blast into the past of the 1990s, with Teddy Riley, Bobby Brown, and Dru Hill also taking the stage, future soul troopers Anderson Paak and Yuna carried the torch well with their performances, proving that even though the R&B and Soul landscape is limiting, it hasn't gone by the wayside.

So grab a hairbrush and sing along with me as I try to do my best Brandy (which is me pretty much screeching like a sick cat) and dive deep into some childhood nostalgia:

(Apologies for the autoplay...)

Video: 'Lady Soul' Brandy Brings It Back To 1998 At The 2016 Soul Train Awards


'Purple Women' is a limited tribute series honoring the women who made music and history with Prince during his lifetime. To follow this series and check out the who's who of women on the roster, be sure to visit the introductory page for further information.  

Prince crossing the threshold from stan to kindred spirit when it comes to Chaka Khan is one of my top 10 Prince "stories". As a pleb who sometimes wonders what it would be like to meet one of my favorite celebrities --- and knowing that I'd either faint, get tongue-tied, or blurt out something stupid that would get me slapped with a restraining order if such an occurrence happened --- it amazes me how confident and bold as hell Prince was to approach Chaka Khan. I mean, who has the guts to run a prank call on someone they've never met? Who has the galling cojones to impersonate a legendary musician in order to fool another one? Prince, that's who, and his impersonation of funk legend, Sly Stone in order to lure Chaka to the studio for a meeting is where Prince truly earns his 'bawse' stripes.

Dig if you will this picture:
"I was completely fooled,” Khan said to TIME. "He said ‘this is Sly, I’m down at Electric Ladyland.’ ‘OK, I’ll be right down!’ And that’s how he got me down to the studio. I get there and there’s nobody there except for one little guy in this room with a guitar. And I said ‘Do you know where Sly is?’ He said to me, 'Hi, I’m Prince, I called you.' I was very pissed. And that’s how we met."
Game. Blouses.

Still, thank goodness Chaka had a sense of humor or the "little guy with the guitar" wouldn't have become not only the man she'd call 'brother', but someone whose musical alliance would honor her with a big hit and long-lasting artistic kinship.

As I work (slowly) through this series, it's obvious that Prince has a tendency to shift the dynamic of an artist and their sound, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. Since Chaka Khan is an established artist and a legend in her own right, she is of the tiny minority of associates who really didn't need Prince's expertise. When Prince officially came into the picture to grace her with permission to cover his 1979 cut, "I Feel For You", Chaka had a hit-laden catalog and was a well-known vocal force in funk and pop music."I Feel For You" is interesting in how for the first time a Prince song didn't introduce a new vocalist, rather, it gave Chaka's career its second wind.

Building off the success of "Ain't Nobody", her swan song with Rufus, "I Feel For You" was the TKO punch for Chaka to solidify that she was onto the next phase of her solo career. Upon it's release in 1984, the song zipped up the charts, crossing over to the Hot 100 at a nice #3, and blessing Chaka with her biggest pop hit since 1978's girl power anthem, "I'm Every Woman". The icing was the single's energized 1980s-in-a-blender music video as it too gained massive play on MTV, back when so few Black-American artists were featured on the channel.

Honest Time: Chaka's version of "I Feel For You" slaps Prince's original into the next oblivion.

I'm sorry, it does. I was never crazy about Prince's original take when I first heard it, and maybe me being so conditioned to Chaka's version had something to do with it, but Prince's "I Feel For You" doesn't have the pizzazz nor the outright edge that Chaka's clearly contains. Not to mention the original didn't possess the iconic intro by Mel Melle (of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five fame) nor Stevie Wonder's unmistakable harmonica solo.


"I Feel For You" does have a unique history prior to it's success as at first Prince wrote the song not for himself, but intended it as a demo for Patrice Rushen. As it's known, Prince crushed hard for the jazz-funk pianist, and after meeting her at a concert in the late 1970s he put pen to paper to write songs for her, and out of the writing sessions came "I Feel For You", and what would be Prince's first Gold record, "I Wanna Be Your Lover". I never noticed it before, but these two songs do groove in the key of Rushen, as I can imagine Patrice wrapping her feather-light coo around the verses, seasoning the tracks with her urgent piano riffs. Such details lends to what makes this song pretty damn significant, as it amplifies the fact that Prince --- at this early stage in his career --- was able to hone in on tonal and dictivie qualities of other artists, and write songs geared for them, and not so much in the vein of himself.

Scant are the reasons why Patrice passed on these songs. I've heard that Prince was advised to keep "I Wanna Be Your Lover" in order to give himself a breakout commercial single --- something he was kind of starving for in the beginning of his career --- but as for "I Feel For You" not much is known why Prince decided to keep it, maybe with some of Patrice's funk flourish it could've made a home on her 1980 Posh album amid hits like, "Never Gonna Give You Up (Won't Let You Be)", but then often, the song may not have suited her in the end.

"I Feel For You" was also previously 'test-driven' as a cover by The Pointer Sisters in 1982 for their I'm So Excited! album, and a version also appears on Rebbie Jackson's Centipede from 1985. Both versions, while competent, are topped and deemed forgettable once Chaka's version came strutting in as the lead-off single for her I Feel For You project. It being strapped with juddering synth work by Philippe Saisse and The System's David Frank, clattering drums, and Chaka's signature china-shuddering wails, just added to the ways "I Feel For You" downed a stiffer, more stimulating drink than Prince's mellowed version, or any other cover versions prior and thereafter.

Of course Chaka's version is pure 1980s synth-pop, the type of style that Prince thwarted often with his ever-mutating asethetic, but I try not to write it off so easy considering how Chaka's version had an epic, and long enduring quality behind it as it became one of the many songs that steered Black music and its culture into the 1980s mainstream.

Chaka had often used hip-hop's phonetic ancestor, scatting, as a ingredient in her works --- most notably on her Grammy-winning vocal workout, "Be Bop Medley" --- but "I Feel For You" utilized the then-rising trend of hip-hop with more of its visual and aural hallmarks. While the memorable 'record scratch' opening proved to be happy mistake by producer Arif Mardin, the blending of a rapper with a pop singer on one composition was one of the first, and most successful instances of such a union, and it would be a combination that would become a staple in R&B and Pop in the decades to come.

"I Feel For You" as a visual game changer rests in how notable breakdancers and stars of Breakin' Shabba Doo, Boogaloo Shrimp, Bruno Falcon, and Ana Sánchez were featured poppin' and lockin' amid a day-glo and graffiti street setting. Such inclusions no doubt led to Chaka trading bars with the Fat Boys on "Can't Stop The Streets" for the hip-hop genre flick, Krush Groove, and utilizing hip-hop in her latter works.

So in looking at it 30+ years later, "I Feel For You" truly became bigger than the words Prince wrote down intially and its track eight, side two placement on the Prince album.

As "I Feel For You" is iconic on its own, I find the lesser-known "Eternity" to be the best of Chaka's Prince-directed songs. It's a surprise entry on 1988's CK album, opening the second side and resting amid jazz standards, a spicy synthezied cover of "Sign Sealed & Delivered", and slick nighttime grooves with noted jazz-soul disciples like Brenda RussellGeorge Benson, and Bobby McFerrin making apperances. Unlike "I Feel For You" where other musicians interpreted the original music, Prince was involved in playing all the instruments and creating the vibe for "Eternity". The end result is a love letter in the key of Prince, it intersecting themes of romance and religion, with some of the most heartfelt lyrics of Prince's oeurve:

Seems like an eternity since I've been in your arms 
A multitude of colorless hours pass 
I crave the life inside you, it keeps me from harm 
I only pray that it's not just another God 

But I want you all the time (I want to hold on) you are the beginning middle and end to every story told you are the science of my mind 

The music behind it is just as etheral, giving the impression that such a love was built within the cosmos.


Another Prince collaboration, "Sticky Wicked", a spiky sparse funk groove that features Miles Davis, is also present on CK, but it stands out like an sorer, blistering thumb than the unpredictable sublime detour of "Eternity".

"Eternity" also too was test driven by a previous artist, as Sheena Easton did a pretty inferior version in '86 that featured lots of operatic vocal climbs, orchestra strings, and a really cheap and puffy shoulder pad-infested video. The result is laughably bad, not only for how garish the video is but how over-the-top Easton waxes this delicate love song. To hear her version backed with Chaka's is just...glaring, it truly is a big o' pile of 'nope', and I say this as a fan of Easton. Stick with Chaka's version and you won't be steered wrong.

Prince would eventually come around and produce a full album for Chaka, 1998's Come 2 My House. I'm embarrassed to say I've only heard a few songs off of it ("Spoon" and "Don't Talk 2 Strangers" for starters) and not much else, but I have a small feeling that whatever is on that particular album cannot compare to the spontaneous magic of "I Feel For You" and "Eternity".

Purple Women: When Prince Met Ch-Ch-Chaka Khan


"Luck" is often defined as success (or failure, depending on if you walk with rain clouds...) that is brought on by chance rather than a person's actions.

In a sense, I do consider myself 'lucky' to have come across the music of Los Angeles-based artist Sidibe when I did as her single, "See You Girl" and sophomore EP Soul Siren were the type of aural escapism I needed at the time I was introduced to it. I also consider myself lucky to have gotten the chance to chat with Sidibe for an exclusive interview, as my opportunities to engage in conversations with real artists and kindred music spirits is well, embarrassingly rare. I was also lucky to know that Sidibe has a personality as warm and inviting as her music. So yes, luck was all around when it came to Sidibe.

Well, luck (the good kind) has fallen again, as Sidibe has delivered another arresting collection of sensually soulful goodies with her latest EP, You Got The Luck --- a title that cannot ring true enough.

Like Soul Siren, You Got Luck is for those who like their soul to transcend genres, as well as remain rooted in the traditional. From the cumulus-parting of ethereal opener "You Wanna Love Everybody" to the steamy and seducing Janet Jackson-esque "Maybe", Sidibe takes you on a sublime n' soulful wanderlust that blends in house, funk, and world music with the casual accessibility of R&B and pop, all of it caressed with Sidibe's angelic coos and come-hithers. It's truly a collection to get lost in not just by the various temperaments in Sidibe's vocals, but by how absorbing the music is, with the Eastern flavors of "Everything I Wouldn't Do" and the intertwining of '70s-era jazz fusion and '90s era neo-soul of the title-track being the key standouts of such experimentation.

Also within in this collection you might recall the song, "I'm Only Dreaming", a wonderful neo-funk-disco workout that prior to his untimely passing perked Prince's attentions, as well as mines in anticipation for this collection.

With creative partner, Nico Standi, Sidibe has crafted the ultimate soul excursion, where there is something for everybody to escape within. So go on, press your luck --- or rather press play --- and catch my drift...
 

+ You Got The Luck is available to purchase via Apple Music and Bandcamp, and streaming via SoundCloud and Spotify

Liner Notes: Sidibe Is Lady 'Luck'

My 200th post! Yay!


Kimbra - Sweet Relief 

Um, I was slumbering on this....

While I hide my shame at not highlighting new Kimbra (from September no less...womp) let me allow my favorite zany New Zealander to give the deets on what this new single means:
‘Sweet Relief’ came from a season of experimentation where I took time to work with some upcoming artists and producers that I love. I’m a big fan of Redinho’s work. We made this track together in London. It highlights our shared love of warped funk and groove royals like Prince and Janet Jackson. For me, the song explores the push and pull of human desire for intimacy, the tension and power of touch, and a liberation of the senses. I’m about to start recording my third album, which is already going in new directions for me, but I really wanted to share this song before I embark on that new endeavor.
Warped funk, "Sweet Relief" definitely is. I do hear Prince in there, and a smidgen of Janet --- especially in those high-pitched parts --- and during the breakdown there is a little Tim Burton/Danny Elfman spooky-poo weirdness going on. Me likes a lot.

Oh, and if your in for a good ol' mind fuck, watch the video...

Lykke Li/Liv - Wings Of Love

SO. Fleetwood. Mac. But. SO. Freaking. Good.

"Wings Of Love" is the first fruit of labor from the super group, Liv, which features the roster of Lykke Li, Jeff Bhasker, Miike Snow members Andrew Wyatt and Pontus Winnberg, and Björn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John. Whew. The song is more easy-going than saying all those names 5 times fast, and so is the video, which marks Lykke Li's directorial debut, and features nakedness, running through trees, and random artwork. You know, pure 2016 hippy-dippy-hipster bullshat.

But the song is gooooood. 1970s revival gooooood.


Arima Ederra - In My Garden

Though it deals with New Year's Resolutions (and why it's silly to make them), Anais Nin's quote is so damn true about how the habit of making plans, sanctioning and molding one's life is a daily event. Los Angelian, Arima Ederra's latest cut shares that same sentiment, just that a garden is the metaphor for continuous personal growth itself. You won't be "waiting to sprout" with this serene and beautiful joint, all you have to do is kick-back, and watch your garden grow, this tune being all the photosynthesis you need.

"In My Garden" is the first single for Arima's upcoming sophomore EP, Temporary Fixes (out November 15th), and since I liked her last EP, 2012's Earth To Arima, I know for sure I'm going to enjoy this one even more.


Yuna - LoveSong

Anything 1980s, and I'm there. So you bet I had my ears perked up for, The Time Is Now!a collection of re-imagined '80s hits by such diverse performers as Bebel Gilberto, Aloe Blacc, Marian Hill, and more, in order to support amFar AIDS benefit. Aside from Theophilus London being born to re-make Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days", Yuna makes a wonderful and medative entry with The Cure's "Lovesong. I know, I know Adele made the definitive cover of this song, but Yuna's chic rendering takes the song into a soulful house space, one that gives the feeling if Sade or Everything But The Girl took a stab at it.


Sylvie Grace - Lately

Trying to figure oneself out is not always a smooth ride, but Sylvie Grace makes self-doubt, growing pains, and pushing past personal demons sound about as pleasant as a Sunday drive by the sparkly lakeside. Serious. This is about the most serene "The internal struggle is fo' real" song I've ever heard. "Lately" merges aquatic synths with grainy, folksy guitars, and the mesh a delight to the ears. I'm glad I stumbled on this Chicagoan vocalist and songwriter (and cellist, and poet, and romantic...etc.), as she has the same patience and grace as Andy Allo did before she met Prince and began to wild out. If you've heard, Allo's UnFresh debut, you'll notice how Sylvie and Andy have a similar vocal tone, and with "Lately" it was nice to revisit that vibe. Lots of interesting tempo changes happen here as well, and stay tuned for the 3 minute mark where some really cool diction and technical things happen. A hidden gem this one is.

All The Single Ladies: Week #4 - Kimbra, Lykke Li, Arima Ederra, Yuna & Sylvie Grace


I sit here counting on my painted fingers (and toes) how long that it's been since I've been excited about a female rapper...and really all my digits have been spent. True facts: it's been a looooong time since I've enjoyed dope beats and flows coming from a female roar. Like Missy Elliott, Floetry, and Eve making their debuts loooong time. Well, what about Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks, you say? Yeah, what about them? One was always "too much in a little bag" for me, and the other spends more time spitting insult bars on social media than making actual music. Unreliable and unrelatable they are to me.

Now Noname, she was someone who I gravitated to with immediacy.

Maybe it was because she had such an unusual, grab-your-attention nom de plume. She was formerly called "Noname Gypsy" but dropped the "gypsy" when she felt it had an offensive tone to it. Noname became not just name, but personal thesis, as the Chi-Town raptress believes not having a name expands her creativity and causes her to live with no limits.

Or maybe it had something to do with her FADER interview where she seemed, forthright, real, and one of the few musical artists who didn't rattle off fellow musicians names as influences --- she named authors and poets, one of them being Toni Morrison. It's why a lot of Telefone, Noname's breakout debut album, has a storytelling quality about it, and why it drives with purpose and intellect, something that I'm always down for.

Maybe it was just because Telefone is like a cool stream of keen thought and poetic awareness in a desert of mediocrity and just plain crap that is the hip-hop landscape these days?

Maybe...I'm running out of maybes...and need to cut to the chase....

While rap often rests on grandstand and ego, Noname (birth certificate name, Fatima Warner), doesn't have to flaunt that she's wide-awake with a flashy persona (remember she's about expanding her creativity beyond name...), rather, she's puts self-awareness and trust in her lyricals, pushing her ego aside for finding deeper meaning outside of material gain. Her voice sparks thought, the intent and beats all just falling into cohesive step with each other, and its doper than dope.

If you keep up with rap circles better than I do you'll remember Noname making her first impression on fellow Chicagoan, Chance The Rapper's "Lost" from his breakthrough, Acid Rap project. Her child-like coo, while china fragile on feel, declared words of Teflon. Such a striking, and effective contrast happens and expands on Telefone.


The 10-track player, which features guest spots from Raury, Eryn Allen Kane and Saba, unfolds as a conversation within, a social studies of self and surroundings. There are some heavy duty topics here --- addiction, police brutality, relationships, familial bonds, the transition from child to adult  --- and they are timely, and necessary in all of their expression. Aside from the abortion realness of skewed lullaby of "Bye Bye Baby", where mother and baby trade dialogue, "Casket Pretty" stands out as the most brutal truth that is spilled on the record, as its lyrics drum up the emotional strain, mistrust, and the constant violent images we've witnessed on timelines and TV concerning unarmed African-Americans being unjustly gunned down by the men (and women) in blue. "All my n----s is casket pretty/ain't no one safe in this happy city/I'm afraid of the dark blue and white/badges and pistols rejoice in the night".  

Not all is grim and weeping on Telefone. Optimism blooms on the gorgeous, "Yesterday", as it opens the album like a promising, serene morning, with Noname reminiscing about lost love ones, and how such losses, the "little things that saved her soul" taught her about the deeper corners of love and life. Sharing love with another, with personal ground rules in tow, is nicely rendered on "All I Need". On "Reality Check" while rejecting the mainstream and highlighting the creative roadblocks that lent to why Telefone took three years to compile, but the song is motivational in how Noname persists with her art in the fashion she does, Eryn Allen Kane quelling doubts with her genial hook ("Don't fear the light, that dwells deep within/ You are powerful, beyond what you imagine/Just let your light glow"). The albums consensus is that there is light at the end, keep following.

Black women have clearly raised their megaphones and fists higher than high this year, and Noname's album too joins the enthralling conversation with other 'magical' sista girl albums, like Solange's A Seat At The Table and Jamila Woods' HEAVN (which Noname has a guest spot on), as it's an album geared to make the political, personal, being as unapologetic and B-L-A-C-K as can be, but still finding room amid the harsh realities to be gentle and soothing in its rehabilitation of self.

So, yes, thank goodness for Telefone and for Noname, thank goodness R&B and hip-hop can fuse together in blissful aural form, as for a moment there I thought women in hip-hop had lost their voice, and all sense of themselves. Here, now, we're back on track...



Noname 

New In Town: Noname


The saga of The Supremes is based on not just the music, the sad departure of Florence Ballard or the 'bossiness' of Diana Ross, but on the fact that they managed to stay strong past expectation. Girl groups are fickle entities after all as they never stay around long past that second or third album, because of a, b, and the c of "catty" behind-the-scenes squabbles, but the Supremes managed to weather such storms without so much as a wane in interest. Of course being nine members deep and a revolving door of line-up changes throughout a decade doesn't exactly scream "stability", but rather it points a finger at Motown's ability to stretch that all-mighty dollar till it could rip. Still the Supremes remaining to deliver hits (let's not forget about "Nathan Jones" and "Floy Joy") and be a fixture in the soul cannon even in the midst of big alterations is nothing to sneer about.

As I've been combing through the post-Ross years recently, I noticed how truly great the replacement players have been. I know, I know it's utter sacrilege to diss the legend that is Ross, but believe me, I'm not. While Ross is forever immortalized with the immediate infectious hits like "Stop! In The Name Of Love" and "Baby Love", hits that everybody and their mama can sing (off-key) right when those opening lines chime in, her voice was never truly as 'colorful' as Jean Terrell's or Scherrie Payne's or Susaye Greene-Browne's.

Oof.

I know, you're winching at that line and have already dismissed any opinion I have from here on out, but my ears just hear how exceptionally more...electric, how much stronger the vocalizing was in the Supremes camp A.D. (After Diana). But I guess Diana may have gotten the last smirk, as the twist of fate is that while the vocalizing game was on-point, the music for Mary Wilson and Co. was oftentimes hit-or-miss.

Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene-Browne were a part of the final reincarnation of the Supremes, and they came about during The Supremes disco makeover era. Disco and the Supremes were never the best of meshes, but they worked out fine on albums like High Energy and the swan song, Mary, Scherrie and Susaye. It's just the Supremes were all about the sweet, supple harmonies and the voices, and disco's latticed backdrops of strings and bass sliced into the fluidity of that. Still this never stopped them from having big hits on the disco charts ("He's My Man, "Where Do I Go From Here", "You're My Driving Wheel").

Susaye, Mary and Scherrie circa 1977

When the Supremes decided to severe ties once and for all, Scherrie and Susaye rode off into the sunset as a promising new duo, and in 1979 their alliance birthed Partners.

I didn't know what to expect when I came upon this album. At first I was surprised that Spotify even had it (to my knowledge its a rare find), and then I was thrilled because that cover is soooo super fly seventies with the satin, velveteen and the faux potted plant. That cover just announces "I AM 1979!" and creates the ambiance right there, and with Scherrie and Susaye striking curious poses in satin-backed chairs, I knew the music inside was probably the plushiest soul-disco around.

Gosh, I love it when I'm right...

From jump you're frolicking in the flora and fauna of disco! (exclamation point is necessary), with the opening notes of "Storybook Romance". The horns bleat and sting, the frantic pace of the percussion and bass chugs. Scherrie and Susaye have got this snarling snazzy tone to their voices to where they give a real workout. Freda Payne had previously worked some of her magic on this song for her 1978 album, Supernatural High, but I'm sorry Ms. Payne, Scherrie and Susaye have gotcha beat.

I should dive in to say that the duo also wrote a majority of the material here, and in a previous life, the two were prolific songwriters of their own, penning some pretty impressive cuts. Scherrie's writing roster included tunes for Dusty Springfield and sister Freda Payne, while Susaye has co-writing credits for hits like Deniece Williams' "Free" and Marvin Gaye's "Distant Lover". And it's not everyday that a writer gets to co-scribe with Stevie Wonder, but Susaye's name is right there next to his on Michael Jackson's much-beloved, "I Can't Help It". So yes, these sistas were doling out the receipts that they were forces to be reckoned with.


Partners wasn't meant to be a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am deal, Scherrie and Susaye were hoping to continue on well into the next decade, but since Motown didn't see any future promise for the duo, they squashed the idea before it could really get to rolling.

Haters.

As I'm just a mere music lover and observer, I never know what record labels are looking for or why certain artists adhere more to a listen public or prevail over others. Sometimes it's just luck. Sometimes timing is just off. It was 1979 after all, and disco was on its last legs, wobbling into the 1980s, and since Partners one and only single, "Leaving Me Was The Best Thing You've Ever Done" was swathed in suave sweeps of disco-fied strings and was dramatic the way the best disco songs are, it got stuck with such a label.

If only someone had listened past that song and culled some more single options, maybe Partners wouldn't have been dead on arrival.

Production for Partners was overseen by the late Eugene McDaniels, whose prolific trackrecord included production for the likes of Lenny WilliamsRoberta Flack, and Nancy Wilson. He is also best known for penning the seminal soul classics such as "Compared To What", "Feel Like Makin' Love", and "Reverend Lee", as well as my personal favorite Esther Phillips song, "Disposable Society". Partners benefited from having a true soul man in the fold, as much as it benefited for having the exuberance of Scherrie and Susaye's intertwined harmonies.

Digging deeper into the album, you'll hear its funk undercurrents and attempts at curbing away from the gaudy pageantry that disco was becoming more and more associated with at this time. "Luv Bug" is a sly fox of a song, as it slinks in, with Ray Charles (!) coming into the fold to provide piano riffs and responses to Scherrie and Susaye's seductive propositions. Churning and burning, "I Found Another Love" features more electric diction from the duo, and while some may find there vocals 'over-cooked', I personally love their energy.

If a slower pace and sweeter ruminations is you vie for, then "You've Been Good To Me" is a tender love ballad that shivers with strings as it gets intimate. "Your Sweet Love" missed its opportunity to be a single, as it sways effortless with its touches of brass and its infectious doo-wop sensibilities.

Aside from "Your Sweet Love" and "Storybook Romance", I adore the hypnotic "In The Night". It's a really incredible slow burning joint, that begs for nighttime play only, though in the daytime its just as steamy.

The lack of success for Partners didn't stall Scherrie and Susaye, as they continued in the 1980s to write and record music, and have since reunited as "partners" for various Supremes events over the years. Still, Partners failures to capture the right audience shouldn't stand in the way of the record's enjoyment. Not just for Supremes completists but Scherrie & Susaye's Partners is also for the curious (like me!) who just want to revel in a little glamorous disco, and re-discover the many buried gems that the era so abundantly produced.

Rewind: Scherrie & Susaye Are 'Partners' In Glam Disco Crime


While the sharp stab of cool fronts and the aromatic sweet of pumpkin spice are announcing the rise of autumn, there is still nothing like reminiscing on the love(s) we had in summer. Muhsinah knows that we're all kind of jonesing for summer to return, I myself wish I could get a do-over on summer as mines just went by in a blur of boxes and empty pockets (note to self: never ever move again), but in some ways I can vicariously live through the what-could've-been as I catch some sonic rays with Muhsinah's calendar collection of summer joints.

Don't feel bad for not being aware of these EP drops (which are now available on Spotify and Apple Music) or for keeping tabs with Muhsinah's monthly project, as the D.C.-musician took advantage of summer's lazy days doling out these EP's at a more languid sprawl. In today's "binge-now, sleep later" culture it's nice to be able to take time with music like this, allowing each month to speak in the way it wants to. Short and sweet again are the collections, and all are flavored with Muhsinah's brand of hypnotique alt-soul. Only August is on that live vibe, as Muhsinah revives tracks from February, March, and April for a special live performance that was streamed live on August 10th at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Of the highlights? May has the rhythmically scathing "Rob", where Muhsinah bites the (static-y) beat as she dances all over the pieces of her broken heart. June and July share in carefree and bouncy bops with "Strawberry Moon" and the Alex Isley featured "High Road" being highlights. And "Careless" gets an acidic alt-rock make-over for its live-wire act.

So bring a little bit of that summer back into the flurry of falling leaves...and keep it close so you can thaw yourself out when winter rears its frosty head.

BONUS: And if you missed Muhsinah's live performance on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center because you were chilling and Netflixing too dang much this summer, then have at it via YouTube.

Liner Notes: Summer Of Muhsinah


'Purple Women' is a limited tribute series honoring the women who made music and history with Prince during his lifetime. To follow this series and check out the who's who of women on the roster, be sure to visit the introductory page for further information.

It begins with the shivering swell of strings. The vocals soon slink into the fold, tinged with hymnal gospel tones, as it holy rolls in sensuous intent. Then, slicing into the warm interior of woodwinds comes scything percussion and rubberband snaps of bass, a lone trumpet begins to whine. What you hear are the beginning sounds of what is seven minutes and 21 seconds of sonic heaven. This heaven is "Mia Bocca" and it is fucking flawless.

"Mia Bocca", of course, wouldn't be flawless if it wasn't for Jill Jones.

Jill Jones, a talented singer and songwriter in her own right, was one of the brighter heavenly bodies that became ensnared in Prince's orbit during the 1980s, but whose glow (unfairly) dimmed out quicker than it should've. Before making our acquaintance with "Mia Bocca", she had waited in the purple wings for some time, as she met Prince in 1980 back when she was singing backup and writing material for Miss Ivory Queen of Soul herself, Teena Marie (Jill is responsible for co-writes on "Young Girl In Love" and "The Ballad Of Cradle Rob & Me").

When Jill moved to Minneapolis in 1982, she became an official part of the early inklings of the Revolution as she made memorable appearances in the iconic videos of "1999", "Little Red Corvette" and the lesser-seen "Automatic" as the elusive lingerie-clad 'lady cab driver', and as the waitress who questions the legitimacy of Apollonia Kotero's name in Purple Rain. Behind the scenes, her vocals went unaccredited on numerous associate projects such as albums for Vanity 6Apollonia 6, and Mazariti. It is also rumored that Jill was the inspiration behind "Raspberry Beret" b-side and fan favorite, "She's Always In My Hair".

At the time of her official coming out in 1987, Prince had had a near-perfect track record of formulating signature hits for others. The Bangles' "Manic Monday", Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls", Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl", Sheila E.'s "The Glamorous Life" and "A Love Bizarre" --- all of these singles had not only become huge hits, but in turn, gave either fresh first impressions or career boosts to their respective performers. Even Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" proved that when a moderate Prince album cut was re-worked, it too could climb to the top of the charts in a blaze of flourish.

Jill Jones' "Mia Bocca" (which is Italian for "my mouth"), while unconventional in the sense of mainstream fare, also had flourish. It was erotic and sophisticated, as it was playful and funky with its uniqueness resting in the stacked electronic-meets-symphonic soundbed that is blessed with the legendary Clare Fischer's remarkable orchestral work. Like its sweeping structure, the lyricals too unfurl at a dreamy, whimsical pace as Jill gets caught up in her own cinematic paradiso, referencing Federico Fellini at one point, and linguistically twisting her tongue to coo in English and Italian as she struggles to give into desire and kiss her star-crossed suitor ("I'll pretend I'm in a movie"), when she in reality "loves another".

Drama, drama, drama.


As much as this is a Prince production, one that was first derived in 1982 during the recording sessions that gave us "Little Red Corvette" and "1999", Jill proves she can also 'steal the show' as she embodies every inch of this passionate revelry, right up to its 'climatic' end where after the fanfare blast of horns, Jill is spent on the bocca-to-bocca contact, a few puffs of a lighted cigarette no doubt the next course of action.

"Mia Bocca" is seduction, plain and simple, but seduction and even an art house visual directed by the photography legend Jean-Baptise Mondino, couldn't sway a listening public, as the song failed to connect Stateside and failed to gift Jill Jones with the chart-topping success of her protege peers.
The 'wholesome' warpath of Tipper Gore may be somewhat to blame for "Mia Bocca" to be blasted into sheer obscurity, as Jill stated in an 2013 interview with Beautiful Nights Blog"Tipper Gore was on our ass. (MTV) banned my video. They would only play it in the middle of the night, at 3 am. She directly impacted my life, she actually did in a weird way."

As "Mia Bocca" was her first impression, its suppression on radio and MTV also effected the lukewarm attitude directed towards Jill's self-titled debut, which is arguably one of the best, and most artistically adventurous of the protege efforts. Unlike Taja Sevelle's debut's, Prince's handprints are all over Jill Jones' slinky n' jazzy production, and it benefited from his avant-garde forays into experimental jazz, an era where Prince was utilizing more live instrumentation and was even more daring and metaphorical than ever before.


Jill Jones is the sexiest of the protege albums. One listen to the ABCs of carnal pleasure that are flirtatiously proposed on sax-heavy "G-Spot" will make you blush a bit, but get highly aroused at the same time. It also genre-bends a lot, as most Prince albums tend to do, but there is a thread of thematic and rhythmic cohesion on Jill Jones, with Jill's captive personality taking center stage, not following orders.

Lots of the songs take on a free-form vibe, with songs like "For Love" taking on the guise of funky jam session or "All Day, All Night" being a frantic, fiery romp that picks up where the live version of "It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night" sweated, screamed, and sexed. But plenty of melodic moments are present and purr with sensuality like the jazz groove of "Violet Blue" and the horn-spackled blue light blusey of "Baby, You're A Trip", which revisits "Mia Bocca", musically and lyrically, wrapping the album up with some conceptual flair.

Though deliciously sound as Jill Jones was, the cultivation of it was a rough experience for Jones (she describes it as a "very long pregnancy"), and even worst, once the album was released, nobody knew what to do with it. As she told Beautiful Nights Blog:
I don't think everyone was ready for it. Radio wasn't looking for it. There's a rap convention in Atlanta that I went to and people came up to me saying "You're Black? I didn't know you were Black! I would've played your record." I just came back to Prince, like, "Should I just get a tan?" White people somehow knew I was Black and they said "I'm not playing that house Negro on the radio." The album was dead in the water.  
I think the album was a very intellectual album. We made a decision to take a lot of the poppy songs off. Once Clare Fisher puts the strings on it... I wanted to leave them on. That's where I sealed my fate to never have a hit record. 
Even Jill herself wasn't sure about the course of action towards her career, and in some ways felt as if Prince himself, didn't supply her with the surefire songs to propel her career. She doesn't hold back:
I opened for Jody Watley in LA and, seriously, the crowd just stood there whole time with their arms crossed. I was angry dancing. I was singing "G-Spot" and I was like "I'm not going to shake my ass." I know (on past tours) I would go out in my bra and panties, but, then I put on my trench coat and I'd leave. I just threw the mike down and walked off the stage. Prince came to me and said "Is that it, are you done?" Maybe he created the diva in me. 
(Prince) could have given me "The Glamorous Life". Sheila E. would come to the studio to play basketball and I did not know that the child was going in (to the studio) late at night and singing the songs.
As someone who spent her childhood with a Crayola marker in one hand crooning along to Mariah Carey songs, and from time to time dabbles in daydreams of headlining my own pyrotechnic spectacle of a concert tour, it's whenever I read about the music industry, its shaded corners and thorny practices, that I feel some relief that I took the practical route and picked up a pen and notebook instead. Of course, I have a singing voice that would make all types of flora and fauna wilt and decimate on site, but writing about the intricacies of music and its culture allows me to observe it from a safe and ample distance, understanding with every word I write that the music industry is one tough biscotti, where not everybody is meant to be a star, no matter what Sly said.

Even with the music and all of her magnetism, Jill Jones seemed to get a very raw deal in the end. After Jill Jones' promotional failure, and creative differences arose between Prince and Jill during recording sessions for a follow-up, Jill's contract with Paisley Park quietly expired in the early 1990s. Her story is quite the lesson to learn, if you so ever feel like diving into the feral wilderness that is fame and fortune, in that you'll realize that not everything in this life is guaranteed.

Still whatever were the mis-communications, disappointments, and missed chances, Jill Jones should be honored that the epicness of "Mia Bocca" and the classically provocative Jill Jones is hers to own. Cause nobody could make seven minutes and 21 seconds of heaven like this again:

Purple Women: Lessons In Sensual Anatomy & Music Industry Mayhem With Jill Jones



They say that love is supposed to make you stronger, but on Emeli Sandé's latest slice of sound, she proves that sometimes being in love can have you writhing in sheer agony. A toxic romance is where Sandé finds herself, but she's not going quiet as "Hurts" is her dramatic confessional of being dangerously in love, and the result is about as blistering and savage as Colin Powell's e-mails --- erm, well, with much more melodic fire and a lot less political pettiness. 

I didn't realize it has been four years since Miss Sandé released her acclaimed debut, Our Version Of Events, but here we are and soon its follow-up Long Live The Angels will be making its appearance before the year is up. Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of OVOE, even though its lead-off single, "Heaven" snatched my soul with its Massive Attack-esque epicness. "Hurts" reminds me of "Heaven", as it brings on the heartache and raises the gooseflesh with its uprising of cinematic strings, claps, and towering gospel backing, and Sandé spitting out a couple of swears now and then (she says "shit"...a lot) but doing it so tastefully that it's almost...poetic.


Nelly Furtado - Islands Of Me 

Though I'm a bit sadden that the 'palette cleanser' "Behind Your Back" won't be featured on Miss Furtado's forthcoming 2017 release of The Ride, but "Islands Of Me", the album's official first single, is a nice frolic into synth-ville that gives us a strong preview of what's to come. 

Furtado's lost weekends with Dev Hynes have been paying off as Furtado seems to be tapping into the homespun off-kilter vibe she made her forte when she flew in 'like a bird' back at the turn of the millennium. Even though those Timbaland-Loose years were a great look for her (yes, Loose is fantastic album, I didn't stutter...), on "Islands Of Me" she sounds like she's chasing herself, not a trend. It's not ZOMG amazing, but I like the urgency of this track and its reflective lyricals cause sometimes you just need to put down the script and get back to self, and that is sometimes the realest offering you can gift yourself.  



AlunaGeorge - Mediator

It's always a sad moment when I cannot engage into an album, no matter how many listens I give it, especially an album from an artist that I enjoy. Maybe I need more time to marinate in the grooves, but the Briton duo's sophomore set, I Remember, hasn't exactly charmed me. Though I'm quite the tough customer to woo, I appreciate that the duo decided not to play safe for their second go-round, and instead expand their electronic sound and experiment. One song that gave me an eyebrow raise was "Mediator", a twilight jam that doesn't play safe at all, even though it's about as leisured as can be due to its lush quiet storm groove and heavy dosage of strings.

The track's subject matter on the other hand isn't as chillaxed, as Aluna Francis waxes from a bluesy disposition about her coming to the aid of a romance-wrecked friend, offering wine, a little smoke, and a shoulder to cry on as most good friends do.


Kherya - Spring Cleaning

The opening verses in this track are the truth.com. Sometimes you just gotta weed out, scrub out, and sanitize all the negativity, and all the people, places and things that aren't allowing you to put your best foot forward. Kherya shows you the way on "Spring Cleaning", giving you the unfiltered and unapologetic truth of what it means to totally detox your inner circle.

Kherya is a newcomer to the R&B game, hailing from the small town of Sedalia, Missouri and with one album to her name (last year's Take Flight), but she's not small in voice as on "Spring Cleaning" she belts out with effortless conviction. Of course the first thing that came to mind when I first heard this was: This is sooooo Mary J. Blige-y. But I think that's a compliment, considering that I was in the mood for a little nostalgia this side of My Life. "Spring Cleaning" won't dethrone "Be Happy" as the call-for-self-care anthem, but it still rests in a timeless message about getting over and under bullshit and having the scars and the regained self-esteem to prove it.


Lulu James - Falling

Like Nelly Furtado and Kherya, Lulu James is also on that self-preservation tip as her artful DJ Simbad-produced single, "Falling" is a breathtaking survey of what it means to be caught up in the one-sided love affair and losing all sense along with it. Oh, this track is a heartbreaker alright, but it has a happy ending, as in the midst of viewing the wreckage her heart has made, James emerges, and rebuilds, learning from her 'fall' to regain back her sense of self.

An elegant hymn is what this song feels like as it ascends in an echo chamber of thematic vocals and repeated refrains, this true to the cosmic chicness of James' "21st Century Soul", a sound that I've been a fan of since indulging in singles like 2013's "Sweetest Thing" and 2014's "Beautiful People". 2017 could finally be the year people covet Lulu James as a soul-ist for the future, and with "Falling" that sentiment is more fact than fiction as can be.

All The Single Ladies: Week #3 - Emeli Sandé, Nelly Furtado, AlunaGeorge, Kherya & Lulu James

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