Sunday September 25th, 2005
New CD's this past week:
- Earth, Wind & Fire - Illumination
- Ray J - Raydiation
- Kindred the family soul - In this life together
- LaToya London - Love & life
- Various artists - So Amazing...An All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross
- Various artists - Andreas Hellingh presents: Soul exposed (UK release)
Music news headlines this week:
R&B Artist Dwele Dons Many Hats For Second Album
Dwele boils down his style of R&B to this phrase: all-purpose music.
The singer-songwriter was one of the few R&B newcomers to elicit critical
praise in 2003 with his debut album for Virgin, "Subject." The same
sophisticated mix of soul, hip-hop and jazz supplies the creative
foundation for his sophomore set, "Some Kinda ...," due October 4.
"I left the title open-ended," the Detroit native says. "I want people to
listen and fill in their own definitions."
Dwele's own defining moment was his 2003 single "Find a Way." Its midtempo
vibe returns on his new track "I Think I Love U," written and produced by
Mike City. The single is No. 15 on the Adult R&B radio chart. Dwele's new
13-song set also includes collaborations with Jay Dilla (of Slum Village)
and G-1 (who has worked with R. Kelly and Raphael Saadiq), plus nine
"I got the chance to show more of my personality," Dwele says. "When you
work with outside producers, it pushes you to step out of your box and
come up with different sounds."
Having played the piano since age 6, Dwele (born Andwele Gardner) also
took up the trumpet, flugelhorn, sax, guitar and bass. He puts those
musical skills, along with his soothing tenor, to use on the title track,
which tells his family story (his father died when he was 10), and the
hip-hop-influenced "Keep On" featuring Slum Village.
Before embarking on his R&B path, Dwele earned an underground rep as an
MC. Word-of-mouth eventually led to guest spots with Slum Village -- on
the 2002 R&B hit "Tainted" -- and with rapper Bahamadia.
"R&B now wears a lot of different hats," says Dwele, who wants to add rock
to his repertoire as well. "Every form of R&B has its place. There will
always be a market for it."
Aside from guest stints lined up for upcoming albums by Slum Village, Hil
St. Soul and Goapele, Dwele will head out on a promo tour in mid-October
to support the album's October 3 release outside the United States.
And while his first album, "Subject," has sold a respectable 239,000
units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, Dwele says he did not then -- and
still does not -- harbor any expectations.
"I'm happy with what 'Subject' did. It created a buzz and put my name out
there overseas. And if we do our job correctly, it's the perfect setup for
'Some Kinda ..."'
Keys nearly had Bruce, Keef for 'Unplugged'
Alicia Keys' upcoming "Unplugged" CD/DVD has no shortage of special
guests, including Common, Mos Def, Damian Marley and Maroon 5's Adam
Levine. But the project nearly got a major lift from rock legends Bruce
Springsteen and Keith Richards, who had to back out at the last minute.
"I was going to cry," Keys told Billboard.com with a laugh. "Bruce and I
were going to do 'New York City Serenade' but the schedule just
conflicted. And with Keith, the day the show taped was the day the Stones
started rehearsal for their tour. But it was really lovely to reach out to
people I admire and for them to be so down to do it."
"Unplugged" premieres Friday night on MTV, and the CD/DVD will reach
stores October 11 via J Records. On the show, Keys uses the opportunity to
premiere a new song, "Unbreakable," which was originally intended to
appear on her 2003 studio album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys." It is the top
debut at No. 61 in Billboard's current Hot 100 singles chart.
"We set the crowd up and the vibe was just perfect, and then I walked over
to my piano and I asked them if they wanted to hear something new, and
they just went crazy," Keys said. "It was so great to perform that song
there for the first time."
Although she may "do a couple of spontaneous, small, 'Unplugged'-style
things" in the near future, she said she has no plans to tour for a while.
Instead, Keys will move directly into working on her first feature film,
"Smoking Aces," which begins shooting November 3 and will wrap December
She is also still planning to star in a biopic about biracial child piano
prodigy Philippa Schuyler, which she said is "still in development. That
one we should have the script for by the holidays and we'll take it from
By early next year, Keys says she'll be ready to get serious on her third
"I have this new direction I'm feeling I will go in for the next album.
I've been playing around, experimenting and vibing on different styles. I
have about four or five songs I've been working with but I'm constantly
writing all the time."
Motown Singer/Songwriter Willie Hutch Dies At Age 59
Veteran singer/songwriter/producer Willie Hutch died Monday (Sept. 19) of
undisclosed causes in Dallas. He was 59.
Best known for his work at Motown, his association with the label began in
1970 when record producer Hal Davis asked Hutch to help complete a song
for the Jackson 5. "I'll Be There" became a huge hit for the group as did
Hutch's subsequent collaborations with the quintet: "Got to Be There" and
"Never Can Say Goodbye."
Hired to work regularly with other Motown artists by label founder Berry
Gordy, Hutch logged production credits on albums by the Miracles, Marvin
Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, among others.
Branching into soundtracks, he penned the music for the 1973
blaxploitation movie "The Mack." The critically acclaimed soundtrack spun
off two of Hutch's biggest R&B hits, "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" and
"Slick." Hutch's other Motown solo albums during the 1970s include "Fully
Exposed," "Foxy Brown" and "Concert in Blues," as well as his 1975 top 10
R&B hit, "Love Power."
Earth, Wind & Fire’s Illumination Released
R&B/pop veterans Earth Wind & Fire released their long-awaited new
album, Illumination, this past week (September 20th). The Sanctuary Urban Group
release, which celebrates EWF's 35th year together, features Raphael
Saadiq, Brian McKnight, Floetry, Kelly Rowland, Will.I.Am, Vikter Duplaix,
as well as production by Jam & Lewis, among others.
In the last few years, EWF has experienced a resurgence in popularity and
visibility. The group performed on last week's 57th Annual Emmy Awards
telecast, and was recently presented with a gold plaque for sales of its
live DVD project with tour mates Chicago. The group received a BET Award
and a National Recording Academy tribute last year and were inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2000.
Producer and bassist Verdine White told Billboard that pairing with acts
like Saadiq, Floetry, and Jam & Lewis was not much of a stretch for the
veteran band. "Raphael is a die-hard Earth, Wind & Fire fan, so he
understood what was going on with us," said White. "Floetry kind of
reminded me of the '70s, when urban music was really at its infancy.
"And Jimmy and Terry, in terms of typecasting, you'd never think of them
with us because of their work with Janet Jackson," White continued,
"but you have to remember they were in The Time, so they understood the
dynamics of the band. So we were all not that far away from each other."