Sunday January 15th, 2006                                                  HOME


New CD's this past week:

- Public Announcement - When the smoke clears
- Sharissa - Every beat of my heart
- Maxine Braham - If... (UK release)

Music news headlines this week:

Blige Says Breaking Through Is Hard To Do

The Breakthrough' is the 7th chapter in her evolving relationship with the
Mary J. Blige says she began laying down the groundwork for her current
album way back in 2004, as songs like “Not Today” and “Love at First
Sight” from her 'Love & Life' album were blowing up the airwaves.
“I came up with the title way before I even started recording the album,”
reveals Blige of 'The Breakthrough,' the singer’s seventh album (on Gefen
Records) and seventh chapter in her constantly-evolving relationship with
the world around her.
“I broke down everything that I wanted the record to do, and what I knew
it would make people feel like, but I knew the work that I had to do first
in order to bring that kind of anointing or beautiful feeling to people,”
she says. “'The Breakthrough' is basically how I broke through mentally,
spiritually, physically, intellectually, in every way, but knowing that I
still have a lot of work to do on myself.”
Featuring U2’s Bono, Jay-Z, Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas and her new
artist Dave Young, 'The Breakthrough' has already seen the view from atop
the Billboard Album chart and dominated sales during the Christmas week
following its Dec. 20 release. In fact, the album’s first week sales of
727,163 was the most for a solo R&B female artist in SoundScan history,
not to mention the fourth-best debut of 2005.
With her 35th birthday coming up in five days, the Bronx, New York native
and wife of record executive Martin Kendu Isaacs is content these days
being a step-mom to his three kids (5, 6 and 18), making more good music
and continuing in her journey of self-discovery.
Blige says a tour in support of 'The Breakthrough' will launch sometime in
the Spring, to be followed by the start of production on MTV’s upcoming
feature film biopic on Nina Simone, starring Blige in the title role.


Isley Brothers Craft 'Baby Makin' Music'

R&B icons the Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley a.k.a. "Mr. Biggs"
will on March 7 release a new album, "Baby Makin' Music." The Def Jam Soul
set sports production by Jermaine Dupri, Tim and Bob and Manuel Seal, Jr.,
among others.
Lead single "Just Came Here to Chill" was produced by Troy Taylor (Mary J.
Blige, Whitney Houston, Yolanda Adams) and Gordon Chambers (Houston,
Brandy, Aretha Franklin).
"Baby Makin' Music" is the follow-up to 2003's "Body Kiss" (DreamWorks),
which bowed atop The Billboard 200 and has sold 787,000 copies in the
United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The Isley Brothers'
preceding albums, "Eternal" (2001) and the Def Jam set "Mission To Please"
(1996), have both sold more than 1 million copies.
"Baby Makin' Music" could be arriving at an inopportune time for Ronald
Isley, who in October was convicted of five counts of tax evasion and one
count of willful failure to file a tax return. His sentencing is scheduled
for this month; he faces a maximum possible sentence of 26 years in
federal prison.

New Public Announcement CD Makes Its Appearance

It has taken a little longer than expected, but this week the Chicago
vocal group Public Announcement finally releases When The Smoke Clears
(Boss Entertainment/Fontana). This session was originally slated for a
late October debut, and has already generated some interest via the single
"Guessing Games." But the group also has a new member in Mar-K, and once
again maintains a careful juggling act between potent uptempo/dance tracks
and sentimental ballads.
They collaborate with rappers Gitt It Boyz on "Put Your Drink Down," offer
their own rendition of the Rene & Angela hit "You Don't Have To Cry" and
present their latest entry in what's become a Chicago R&B staple with
"Stepper Friend," a nod to that city's step tune tradition.


Fresh Fears For Whitney Houston's Health

Whitney Houston's health and state of mind have come under the spotlight
once again, after an unflattering picture of the R&B singer was printed in
US tabloid the National Enquirer.
The I Will Always Love You star was snapped as she walked to a garage near
her home in Atlanta, Georgia, looking ravaged and unkempt, while wearing
her pyjamas and a $54,000 (€45,000) fur coat.
A passing motorist comments: "She was like a bag lady in an expensive
coat. She looked horrible."
Houston was ordered into rehab last year following a court order bidding
to curb her drug misuse, but her fans hope she is on the road to recovery
after spending time recording in the studio.


Toni Braxton Getting Repackaged

"Blackground/Universal is said to be repackaging her last cd Libra, adding
4 new songs and will re-release it later this year. Apparently Toni wasn't
a label priority and so she kinda flopped. Lack of label support had her
performing at parades, baby showers, kindergarden graduations and such.
Check out her perfomance of "Trippin" from Libra last year on the Tom
Joyner Show."


Remembering Lou Rawls

An A-list of mourners, from Stevie Wonder to Joan Baez to Little Richard,
descended upon a Los Angeles chapel Friday for a soul music-filled,
two-hour-plus funeral/celebration of Lou Rawls, who died Jan. 6 of lung
"We'll have his music to celebrate moments of joy, to cry in moments of
sorrow," Wonder said during the service at West Angeles Church of God in
"We got you, Lou. We got you forever."
The Reverend Jesse Jackson led the often rollicking memorial, calling
Rawls "authentic, an original, a source of light in dark places."
"Put your hands together for Lou Rawls," he urged at one point. "For all
the joy, all the children, all the scholarships, all the hope, all the
help. Put your hands together."
Aside from his eulogy, Wonder was one of many who performed. Also taking
turns on the dais: actress and singer Della Reese; gospel singer and
pastor Andre Crouch; Baez, who brought the congregation to its feet with a
rousing rendition of "Amazing Grace"; and Willie Rogers of the Soul
Stirrers, a group Rawls performed with, belted "A Change Is Gonna Come."
Hundreds filled the church, including Louis Gossett Jr., Angela Bassett,
music man Kenny Gamble, who produced Rawls' 1976 hit "You'll Never Find,"
and even David Hasselhoff.
Rawls, a three-time Grammy winner best known for the classic "You'll Never
Find Another Love Like Mine," was hailed as a consummate singer, whose
four-octave baritone could melt hearts. His charity work was also lauded;
though he never made it past high school, Rawls raised more than $200
million for the United Negro College Fund during three decades of TV
His estranged wife of two years, Nina Rawls, who reunited with her husband
in his final days and was at his beside when he died, also spoke.
"Lou loved everyone," she said. "I know the heavens are resonating with
the sound of your voice."
Rawls, she said, would always close his concerts with a song. As she
finished speaking, Rawls' "One Life to Live" began playing.


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