Sunday July 1st 2001

Hello all, this is my first effort to keep you updated on the world of RnB, new
and upcoming releases and things that have been hitting the media recently.
I'll try to do this on a weekly basis, depending on available time and news items.

To start it of, last week saw the release of albums by Luther Vandross, Alicia
Keys, Jagged Edge, Patti Austin and Main Ingredient. I couldn't find much on
this last one, but anything I find I'll post on the Main Ingredient album page.


Luther Vandross  - Luther Vandross

I myself was eagerly awaiting the Luther Vandross album and I was not
disappointed. At first I rated it not more than a 7 out of 10, but gradually it grew
on me and now I'll give it 8 points. Not as strong a his work during the 80's but
definitely better than some of his '90 albums. This one for his new label J-Records
is simply called "Luther Vandross" and finds him working again with old
companion Marcus Miller, on "Love Forgot" a soulful ballad. Other producers
include Skip Crawford on "I'd Rather" and Soulshock and Karlin on "Can Heaven
Wait". The single "Take You Out", which is already high in the US charts, is
produced by Mike City, known for his success which Sunshine Anderson.
Luther proves he can cut it with the best of today's RnB stars with the up tempo
footstomper "How Do I Tell Her" and "Say It Now" which is reminiscent of one
of the better tracks of his '98 album "Get It Tight" (but without the rap luckily).
But Luther wouldn't be Luther without some ballads and they come in the form
of "Can Heaven Wait", "Like I'm Invisible", "If I Was The One" and "Bring Your
Heart To Mine" (the latter written by RL of the group Next and produced by Kay
Gee). Of course there's also a cover on this album, the 1962 Chuck Jackson hit
"Any Day Now". Luther himself says that one day at a soundcheck they did this
song and he knew he would record it. Nat Adderley Jr. (Luther's longtime musical
director) produced the track for the album and Cissy Houston did background
vocals on the song. Although some of the ballads can be a bit tedious this is a
well balanced album and a must for any Luther fan. Luther is back, and how!!


Jagged Edge - Jagged Little Thrill

Jagged Edge this week released their third album "Jagged Little Thrill" definitely
taking the saying "strike while the iron's hot" to heart. Still riding the momentum
of its popular 2000 sophomore release "J.E. Heartbreak. In fact, Jagged Edge finds
itself in the uniquely enviable position of having three records on Billboard's Hot
R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart simultaneously: "Promise" (from the J. E.
Heartbreak album), "Puppy Love" (as featured guests on the Lil' Bow Wow-led
song), and "Where The Party At," the new set's playful lead single that features
rapper Nelly. Highlights include "Cut Somethin'" featuring Ludacris, "I Got It"
featuring Trina, and "This Goes Out," with guest artists Big Duke and Tatu. Also
of note is the midtempo track "Nothing Without You" and the emotional relationship
ballads "Best Man" and "Head of This Household."


Patti Austin - On the way to love

It's hard to believe Patti Austin made her stage debut some 50 years ago as a 3 year
old at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theatre during a performance by her godmother
Dinah Washington and the lady is still going strong. Originally signed to Qwest
(again) where she spent a couple of years during the 80's, Patti found herself
automatically switched over to Warner Brothers when by the time this album was
finished and ready for release, Qwest was no longer.
This album, "On The Way To Love" is filled with tunes that alternate from the
smooth to the soulful.The record was produced by a man Patti tags "the emporer
of smooth jazz." Paul Brown who has has most recently worked with Al Jarreau
on his "Tomorrow Today' album. Patti herself co-wrote three of the songs, including
the tittle track which reflect how she wanted to feel after coming out of a bad
At the time, she didn't realize that so many of the songs on this record would have
true meaning for her in her own life. For instance, "Girlfriend" - originally intended
as a theme for a TV show - tells the story of two lifelong friends and how, even
though their lives have taken different directions, the friendship remains intact.
Other highlights of the album include "Let Me Be Me" which Patti says "reminds
me of the song "Love Me By Name" [from the 1979 "Live At The Bottom Line"
LP] - it's very plaintive" and "If You Really Need Me Now".
Patti : "The minute I heard "If You Really Need Me Now," I said 'we must have
James Inrgam or Michael McDonald for that.' We got James to come in and do
some vocals on that and Boney James played on it".
The whole album is a triumph for Patti and in the notes for the CD, she states:
"I worked on it during a very challenging time in my life. Turning fifty in a youth
culture is certainly challenge enough, but I also endured personal upheaval that
tested the fiber of my being in many ways. Yet one thing remained constant.
The music."


Alicia Keys - Songs in a minor

And last, but certainly not least, in this week's rundown of new releases is
newcomer Alicia Keys. Like Luther she is signed to the new Clive Davis label
J Records. In the past Clive Davis already proved he has an eye for quality and
picking winners (Whitney Houston) and this couild well be another big star of
the future. Alicia signed to Arista Records in 1998. There, in the spirit of a genius
like D'Angelo or Prince, she continued the process of writing, producing and
recording the debut she'd begun penning at age 14. In late 1999, Alicia followed
Clive Davis to his new J Records where she continues to chart her arrival to the
music world.
Creations now rising out of the studio show signs of both a critical and commercial
monster - a deep, melodic, soulful gem of an album that showcases Alicia in all
her universal glory. Though most of the album- including the luminous "Fallin'"
and the moving "Troubles" - was written and produced by Alicia Keys, the artist
collaborates with Jermaine Dupri on "Girlfriend" and with Isaac Hayes on "Rock
Wit U" from the Shaft soundtrack. She also collaborated with Brian McKnight
(on the song "Goodbye"). There's a very impressive version of Prince's "How
Come You Don't Call Me" too, recalling Stephanie Mills' sassy version of a few
years back. This 21 year old delivered a fine album.


Upcoming releases - July / August

Releases for the month of july include the new Aaliyah, Michael Cooper of Con
Funk Shun fame, newcomer Jimmy Cozier (watch out for this, the single "She's all
I got" is hot), Blu Cantrell, Bilal, Full Force and Athena Cage (formerly of Kut Klose).

August will be filled with new stuff. What to think of Usher's 8701 (finally!), IMX,
Isley Brothers, Toya (ex-Destiny's Child), Mary J. Blige, Dazz Band, Kool & the
Gang, Faith Evans, Maxwell, Joy Enriquez (already out in Japan in januari) Brian
McKnight, Christopher Williams and Eric Benet.
Some of the tracks originally intended for the new Mary J. Blige may not be on the
album now that they already hit the streets early. One of them is "Rock Steady" a
very infectious song featuring Jay Z. if the rest of the album is as good as this one
(or better), we're in for a real treat.


Other news items this week :

Brian McKnight: soul and pop aid

R&B singer Brian McKnight found a little help from two very different directions
on his new album - Stevie Wonder and 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake, the latter of
which may seem to be lightweight and flavour-of-the-month pop fluff. McKnight,
however, doesn't see it like that. "Justin is the little white brother that I never had.
I've known him since he was 9 and he's probably the greatest young singer out there.
This kid is the real thing and that's why I put him on my record." Timberlake joins
McKnight on the track "My Kind Of Girl" whilst the 51 year old soul legend Wonder
guests on "Without You".


All star support for Isley's new set

More news on the upcoming Isley Brothers album. The new album entitled
"Eternal" is released next month and features vocal and production input from
R. Kelly, Raphael Saadiq, Avant, Jill Scott and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The
project also includes a piece called "Think" which features music written by the
late Curtis Mayfield. Said Ron Isley: "It's our 40th anniversary and we wanted to
make a record worthy of our entire career. This is the Isley Brothers Super Bowl
record". The first single is "Contagious", which also features R. Kelly and Chanté
Moore (both on the song and in the video). The video is like a mini-movie where
Ron Isley (AKA Mr. Biggs) catches R. Kelly in bed with his woman. Isley and
Kelly also teamed up for R. Kelly's "Down Low" where R. Kelly also got caught
cheating with Isley's woman. Line from "Contagious" : "The down low happening
to me all over again"In 1998 Isley and R. Kelly also appeared on Kelly Price's
debut "Friend Of Mine".
The album "Eternal" should hit the streets August 7th.


New deal for Teddy Riley

The creator of new Jack Swing, Mr. Teddy Riley has signed a producer / remixer /
label / artist deal with Virgin Records. The deal includes a new four piece male act
that includes Riley and a new solo set from Teddy due in stores in November
"BlackRock". Teddy also appears on Def Jam's "Rush Hour 2" soundtrack with
the single "Party" featuring Method Man.