Sunday October 12th, 2003
New CD's this past week:
- Gary Taylor - Eclectic bohemian
- Rhian Benson - Gold coast
Music news stories this week:
Luther Vandross Showing Steady Signs Of Recovery, Begins Singing Again
Nearly six months after suffering a serious
stroke, Luther Vandross is
showing slow, steady signs of progress. Music has become a central part
of his therapy and the R&B singer has been testing his voice daily as he
regains his strength, according to his longtime assistant.
"Every day he's a little bit stronger," assistant Max Szadek said. "From
the beginning, he's been much more responsive to anything that has to do
with music. He has been singing for awhile now and his band and backup
singers have been coming in to take part in his therapy. He is a long
way from where he was, but he is taking it slowly and making strides
Vandross, 52, is still unable to get out of bed or walk without
assistance and is expected to remain at a New York-area rehabilitation
facility for an undetermined amount of time. "He still needs his team of
health-care providers," Szadek said. "He's getting a lot of therapy and
they meet weekly to discuss how much longer he needs to stay here."
The most encouraging sign is the slow return of Vandross' singing voice.
"He's been able to sing and it sounds great," Szadek said. "He is
sharing his gift with friends and family." In addition to singing along
to instrumental tracks of his favorite songs, such as "So Amazing" and
"Here and Now," Vandross has been harmonizing with friends Patti LaBelle
and Aretha Franklin, who've both come to visit and duet with the singer
in his room.
Though he still drifts in and out of lucidity, Vandross was on his game
enough recently when Labelle visited to correct her when she flubbed the
lyrics to a song they were singing together. "Not only did he correct
her on the lyrics, but he corrects people on what notes they're
singing," said Szadek, who is also working on getting a keyboard for
Vandross so that he can play along while he sings. "Singing is a part of
his essence and so doing it daily is a big part of who he is."
Vandross is undergoing up to five hours of intensive physical and
occupational therapy every day, including work intended to help him
re-learn everyday tasks such as getting in and out of a car. Along with
singing, Szadek said part of Vandross' therapy includes two of his other
favorite pastimes, playing blackjack and video games.
Szadek found Vandross on the floor of the singer's New York apartment on
April 16 where he had suffered a massive stroke that friends and family
have attributed to overwork and stress prior to the release of his
latest album, Dance With My Father. A story in a recent issue of
Entertainment Weekly quotes Vandross' mother as saying that her son -
who has publicly struggled with his weight and had gained quite a bit
before the stroke - ignored signs that he was pushing himself too hard,
including a nagging headache that lasted nearly a week before his
Vandross lapsed into a semi-coma after being admitted to the hospital
and was just barely conscious for a time. Soon after, he was fitted with
a tracheotomy tube in his throat to ward off pneumonia. The tube was
inserted in a manner that avoided damage to his vocal cords; it was
removed in June.
The crooner will not perform in public anytime soon, but his first live
album, Luther Vandross Live at Radio City Music Hall 2003, is slated for
release on October 28. The album was recorded on Valentine's Day of this
year during the last public performance before his stroke. Among the 11
songs on the LP are such classics as "Never Too Much," "Stop to Love,"
"Superstar/Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)," "A
House Is Not a Home" and "The Glow of Love."
Dance With My Father has sold more than 1.3 million copies in the U.S.
to date, according to SoundScan. The album recently garnered two
American Music Award nominations, including Favorite Male Artist and
Musiq Tunes In The '80s On His Soulstarradio
On the back cover of his last album, Musiq
is pictured thumbing through
crates of vinyl, surrounded by 8-tracks. Perhaps his new artwork will
find him immersed in cassettes.
"I'm a '70s baby, but I'm trying to step into the '80s a little bit,"
Musiq said, talking particularly about his upcoming single,
"Forthenight." "It has a little bit of a nice four-on-the-floor,
skating-rink kind of feel-good vibe. I'm just trying to break the
monotony of things that's going on, trying to cut through, create my own
lane in the process, but definitely just trying to make feel-good
"Forthenight" is the first single from Musiq's third album, now due
December 9. Originally called Soulstar, it will now carry the title
"I didn't wanna come out as like this arrogant dude saying, 'I'm the
soul star!' " Musiq said, explaining the change backstage at Sunday's
Shortlist concert. "I chose Soulstarradio because it's more like I'm
trying to make music and contribute to what I would like to hear on the
radio. But the idea of Soulstar comes from all of the soul stars from
the past, like Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, James Brown,
Sly & the Family Stone, etc. that I'm basically trying to follow within
the tradition of.
"I'm just praying that I can live up to it," he added, with a smile.
That shouldn't be a problem. Musiq's last album, Juslisen, topped the
charts when it was released last spring, and while the new material
flirts more with '80s sounds, it won't be that different from what fans
are used to.
"If you fused Aijuswanaseing, which is my first album, with Juslisen,
then you get Soulstarradio, basically," Musiq explained.
The new album will likely include a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Miss
You," but Musiq isn't sure if any artists themselves will guest. What he
is sure about is that Soulstarradio will be promoted with a world tour.
"I definitely have to give it up to my international fans, 'cause I
didn't really do it on my last album," he said. "I might even go and
live [somewhere overseas] for a little while. I'm thinking about that
really hard. Go to London, go to Japan, somewhere, and just chill out
there for maybe a month or so."
R. Kelly Cleared To Launch Second Tour
R&B singer R. Kelly received a
clearance from Judge Vincent Gaughan on
Friday, October 3rd, to launch a second tour, according to MTV.com. The
singer, who is currently out on bail, will tour during the month of
October but must be back in his home state of Illinois by November 4th.
The singer is scheduled to return to court on December 1st.
R. Kelly is currently awaiting trial in Illinois's Cook County on 21
counts of child pornography, with charges relating to a videotape that
allegedly shows the singer engaged in sexual acts with a minor. He also
faces child-pornography charges pending against him in Florida, stemming
from photographs authorities say they found on his digital camera.
The singer is still lining up his tour dates but has confirmed the
following four dates:
October 25 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center
October 26 - New Orleans, LA - New Orleans Arena
October 31 - Philadelphia, PA - Wachovia Center
November 1 - Hampton, VA - Hampton Coliseum
In related news, Kelly recently released his first ever greatest hits
set, The 'R.' In R&B Collection Volume 1. The set stands at Number Four
on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The first single from the set is
Newlywed Heather Headley Already At Work On Second CD
R&B singer and actress Heather Headley
has already begun work on her
second album, the follow-up to the gold-certified CD, This Is Who I Am.
But preparations for her sophomore set were interrupted by the two-time
Soul Train Lady Of Soul Award winner's recent honeymoon. Headley married
former New York Jet Brian Musso on September 6th at Musso's home outside
Recently Headley talked about preparing to work on a second CD project
with RCA executive Clive Davis and compared it to having a second child:
"We're gonna start working on a second album, Mr. Clive Davis wants to
start working on it. So we're gonna start doing that. I don't know, for
me, it's like telling a woman who just had a baby, 'Let's get pregnant
again!' And so I'm like, oooooh, you know? But I'm excited about the
second child. This one is up and starting to walk, so it's time to get
the second baby out."
Trinidadian-born Headley added that the one constant in her life and
career is her faith in God, and that she never goes anywhere or does
anything without prayer: "In my life, I just try to do my best to have a
closer relationship with God, my aim is that if He directs me in
everything, everything will be fine. Before I sing, I talk to Him;
before we get a song, I talk to Him; before I get dressed, I talk to
Him. You know, I pray for everybody in the camp, everybody's been prayed
for, every musician, every person I run into's been prayed for, and I
just ask Him to guide me through. I don't ever want to go anywhere
Headley's first CD included two Number One R&B singles: "He Is" and "I
Wish I Wasn't."
Headley -- who won a 1998 Tony Award playing the title role in Elton
John and Tim Rice's musical Aida -- is scheduled to appear in two films
next year: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, the Cuban-set sequel to Dirty
Dancing, and The Breakup Handbook, a comedy starring Morris Chestnut and
Ashanti Wants To Rock Wit U This Christmas With Holiday Album
Ask Ashanti what she wants for Christmas,
and she just might say she
wants to rock with you.
The singer has a holiday album titled Ashanti's Christmas due November
18, a spokesperson said Friday. The album will include about four new
songs as well as such classics as "Joy to the World," "Silent Night" and
Meanwhile, Ashanti will be traveling to India in the next couple of
weeks to shoot a small part in an undisclosed Miramax film. Not much is
known about the role, except that she'll be singing in the flick.
Though it's her first movie, it won't be the first time fans will get to
see Ashanti on the big screen. An 11-minute version of her "Rain on Me"
video will be shown at 4,000 Regal theaters across the country in the
next few weeks. Moviegoers will get to take the clip home with them via
a promotion called Lid Rocks. A disc of the video is attached to the
lids of soft drinks sold at the theaters' concession stands.
Boyz II Men Member Michael McCary Inks New Deal
Boyz II Men member Michael McCary and his
company 9th Street Music have
inked a deal with Florida-based Blue Moon Group. The entertainment
company is distributed by Sony Music's Red division.
In related news, Boyz II Men released their second greatest hit
compilation, the Best Of Boyz II Men, on Tuesday (October 7). The set
has three songs, "Uhh Ahh," "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday
(Radio Version)," and "Thank You," which were not included on the
group's 2001 best of compilation, Legacy.
Alexander O'Neal's Saga
Calling the chance to work with Prince
drummer Bobby Z "an opportunity I
couldn't pass up," Alexander O'Neal ("Fake") is back stateside with a
new album. "Saga of a Married Man" on Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle
Records was initially released in the U.K. before making its U.S. bow
As the title implies, the set musically portrays the ins and outs of
wedded life. "I'm on my third time around," O'Neal says of his current
marriage. "So I feel qualified to speak on this."
It has been about four years since O'Neal's last studio album. Commuting
between London and Minneapolis, the singer is doing a U.K. tour this
month with Shalamar and Tavares.
As for a U.S. tour, O'Neal notes, "If someone wants to give me an
extensive tour in America, I'll take it. I'm constantly working. I built
a worldwide base so I'm not dependent on the U.S. for my next meal. I'm
glad I had the foresight."
The singer is also busy grooming 21-year-old son Carlton for a singing
career. And O'Neal says another pairing with Cherrelle is in the offing.
"I'm working on a best-of album so I can get some royalties on it. It
will have some new tracks, and she'll definitely be on [board]," he
The Color Of Success For Gary Taylor
R&B and Smooth Jazz specialist Gary
Taylor has collaborated with The
Whispers' Scotty Scott, Will Downing and saxophonist Keith Fiddmont for
a beautiful and poignant ballad called, "Woman of Color" on independent
Morning Crew Music and independently distributed by Gary himself.
"Woman of Color" is the first single lifted from Gary's new album