Shot Of Rhythm

[ Saturday, January 20, 2007 ]



In this young new year, there are two new songs that have made a deep impression on me, each for similar reasons: they're drop-dead gorgeous. The first, Anthony Hamilton's "Struggle No More," is a pure-gospel plea from the soundtrack of Tyler Perry's new movie, DADDY'S LITTLE GIRLS. The entire soundtrack has the warm glow of early-1970s soul, from stylistic texture to thematic material, and Hamilton's addition to the mix is yet more evidence that he works the Curtis/Withers/Al Green vibe about as well, and yet as freshly, as anybody since those giants. Heartbreaking struggle mixed with hopeful determination, "Struggle No More" fits smoothly, snugly on the gospel train.

Anthony Hamilton - "Struggle No More"

Speaking of gospel, and the blues, The Holmes Brothers have been killing copyrights for over a decade, and they've now worked their magic on - of all things - Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me," which the Brothers transform into straight soul music. Though such a move could reek of smirky gimmickry, this works incredibly well, probably because the vulnerability that was masked in Cheap Trick's driving, melodic angst has now been stripped of all potential mitigations, and listeners are left all alone with the depths of life and love. Between the aching vocals and the astounding piano part (which splits the difference between Monk, Chopin and Aretha), "I Want You To Want Me" is a stone cold stunner, worth playing over and over again.

The Holmes Brothers - "I Want You To Want Me"

Judging by these two, it might be a pretty good year.

On the box right now: Ronnie Milsap, ESSENTIAL, Disc 1. (Shout-outs to Michael Cepress and David Cantwell for getting me to listen to this guy much more closely.)



Dove With Claws [3:26 PM]

[ Tuesday, January 16, 2007 ]


Soul sister

I've been digging Rhino Handmade's recent Lorraine Ellison collection, SISTER LOVE: THE WARNER BROTHERS RECORDINGS, for a good couple weeks now. As with many comprehensive career compendiums (even those which bespeak the limited nature of the artist's output), not everything on SISTER LOVE is great, or even really good, but a significant portion of the collection's offerings do reach a level of quality that - beyond Ellison's classic, powerful hit "Stay With Me" - oughta be a surprise for anybody who hasn't spent significant time or energy geeking around in obscure R&B collections. In fact, even those listeners are rewarded, since - as usual, Rhino's dug through the vaults with arthroscopic precision, finding unreleased sessions with Leon Russell and the Muscle Shoals Sound (!), plus a remarkable third disc of songwriter's demos cut by Ellison; these spare tracks, usually backed only by piano, offer an important glimpse into the creative process of this striking vocalist, whose tremulous intensity seems well-suited to ballads, gospel and even the down-and-drrrty R&B that her graceful elegance would seemingly contradict.

I've only hit three of the collection's many highlights below: "Stay With Me" is easily her most famous cut, but it's most definitely revisiting here. Ellison's take on Jimmy Cliff's masterpiece "Many Rivers To Cross" both embodies and transforms the original version, and offers Ms. Ellison a perfect opportunity to apply the unique timbre and texture of her voice to a rich piece of source material. Finally, "God Can't Stop The Rain From Falling" is from that revelatory demo disc, and it works a pure-gospel combination of strength and vulnerability to the fullest

Here's to the late, great Lorraine Ellison. May we all have an epitaph so eloquent and beautiful...

"Stay With Me"

"Many Rivers To Cross"

"God Can't Stop The Rain From Falling"

On the box right now: Various Artists, TYLER PERRY'S DADDY'S LITTLE GIRLS (soundtrack)


Dove With Claws [11:22 AM]