The Rev. Lonnie Farris at home in 1980. His recording of "Peace in the Valley" opens Fire In My Bones.
February 24, 2010 Two new collections, ranging from scratchy field recordings to intricate vocal harmonies to snappy adaptations of rock 'n' roll rhythms, prove divine inspiration takes on many forms.
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In "College," the fifth-grade MCs in 3 Titans unleash a charmingly clever and upbeat jam.
courtesy of the artist
February 24, 2010 The fifth-grade MCs in 3 Titans aren't exactly baby Jay-Zs, as far as flow is concerned, but there's charming cleverness to their ode to the importance of higher education. You'd have to have a cold, cynical heart not to be at least slightly moved by Khalil Jackson, Jorden Plaines and Dallas Ifill's optimism.
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On the compilation Black Man's Cry: The Inspiration of Fela Kuti, Cumbia Moderna de Soledad covers Fela's "Shakara," and shares with it a common bloodline.
courtesy of Stone's Throw Records
February 18, 2010 With its sparse but powerful percussive push and chanting chorus, "Shacalao" strips Fela Kuti's more groove-laden song "Shakara" down to rhythmic studs, pushing it forward with the two-step beat that lies at the heart of cumbia. Yet, while Cumbia Moderna de Soledad remakes Fela, it also gestures to the deep tradition that bonds eastern Colombia with western Africa.
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Cameroonian saxophonist and vibraphone player Manu Dibango performs the title track of Africa Boogaloo.
Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer/Getty Images
February 17, 2010 The compilation provides an impressive and compelling introduction to Africa's embrace of Latin music. Its songs are simultaneously global and local, offering up a twist on "world fusion" without the associations with toothless tropical music.
Courtesy of the artist
February 12, 2010 Aside from a handful of jarring, military marching beats, Sade's new album is sonically spartan. She's always tended to do more with less, but Soldier of Love — her first album in 10 years — feels like less, period.
Aretha Franklin in 1968, the first year she won a Grammy. For the next 10 years she completely dominated the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category.
January 29, 2010 More so than other genres, R&B seems to only have room for one reigning queen at a time. Don't expect 2010 to be much different as Beyonce's well-kept coif has likely already been measured for this year's Grammy crown.
courtesy of Lewis Recordings
January 25, 2010 Part of what makes the producer and DJ's obsessive effort so remarkable is that, if you try to reverse-engineer what he's doing at any given moment, this is the cut-and-paste equivalent of a great violin solo. But he executes so seamlessly and effortlessly that he never calls attention to the parts, only the sum.
January 21, 2010 In a vintage photo, a solitary man with a Cab Calloway mustache grabs his hat with two hands and lets out a yell. Off the page and across 30 years, you can still hear the holler. Oliver Wang reviews a collection of music and photos from Chicago's 1970s soul scene.
November 18, 2009 Retro-soul's popularity raises any number of intriguing thoughts and questions about nostalgia, race and American pop cycles.
September 24, 2009 This multi-talented vibraphonist, bandleader, producer and label owner was a prominent figure in New York's Latin music scene. But when he retired from active recording in the mid-'70s, his legacy was largely forgotten. Now, he's re-entering the spotlight, thanks to a new anthology which samples some of his strongest works in Latin soul, rock and salsa.
September 16, 2009 Among those who find today's soul throwbacks too mired in the past, Hawthorne's A Strange Arrangement is unlikely to change many minds. Yet the album suggests a promising future for the artist.
September 9, 2009 The Blueprint 3 is the latest release by rapper Jay-Z; it's the second sequel to one of his best-known releases, 2001's The Blueprint. It's also Jay-Z's 11th solo album in 13 years, making him one of hip-hop's most prolific artists. Reviewer Oliver Wang suggests that, even this far into his career, the rapper is still finding ways to stay on top.
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August 19, 2009 Summer is, unfortunately, more about what we want it to be than what it actually is. Idealism may make a potent brew, but we know the season inevitably ends. That's why some of the best summer songs are tinged with fragility and marked by melancholy. This is music that admits the painful truth about summer: that even the best times won't last, as long days fade with autumn's encroaching dusk.
July 21, 2009 In a curious case of musical evolution, the older Lee Fields becomes, the closer he gets to perfecting the sound of soul that he grew up with. His latest release, My World, finds an ideal middle ground between the slow grind of Southern blues and the faster, funkier stylings of retro-soul.
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July 21, 2009 Soul singer Lee Fields may be a rhythm-and-blues veteran, but don't call him a relic. Since the 1970s, the North Carolina native has amassed a prolific catalog of albums, and part of the secret to his success has been flexibility. To younger fans, Fields is retro-soul royalty. For his older fans, Fields has been a stalwart of Southern soul music.
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