Sunday April 22nd, 2007 HOME
New CD's this past week:
None to report this week
Music news headlines this week:
Will Downing Diagnosed With Debilitating Muscle Disorder
Vocalist Will Downing has cancelled touring for the immediate future after
being diagnosed with a disorder called polymyositis, a debilitating
chronic inflammatory disease of the muscles that can possibly lead to the
point where those afflicted are no longer walk or move their bodies. Its
cause is unknown. Downing, 46, has been hospitalized since January.
Although polymyositis can occur at any age, it mostly affects adults in
their 40s and 50s. It is more common in blacks than in whites, and women
are diagnosed more often than men. According to the Mayo Clinic, periods
of remission, during which signs and symptoms improve spontaneously,
rarely occur in polymyositis. However, treatment can improve muscle
strength and function.
Downing says that he first came down with symptoms over the holidays when
he felt extremely tired and sick. He adds that his fear of doctors kept
him from discovering what his affliction was. However, the singer says he
is now in rehabilitation and working to get himself back in shape. He’s
moving slowly, but he’s moving nonetheless and is thankful for that and
for the fact that his voice so far has not been affected.
Downing says he still plans to release a new CD this September on Peak
Records, which was co-founded by Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons.
Mya 'Liberated' On New Album With Storch, Cox
In the last four years, R&B singer Mya replaced her entire management
team, made a label switch and broke up with her boyfriend. So it's no
wonder the Washington, D.C. native titled her upcoming Motown debut
"Liberation," set for a June 26 release.
The album was originally due last fall but has been bumped from the
schedule a number of times since. "Litigations, court, transitioning from
label to label, teaching kids and building a studio, that takes a while,"
the 27-year-old singer tells Billboard.com. "That's why this album is a
lot more aggressive, very honest, in your face and cut and dry."
The 12-track album features production from Scott Storch, Bryan-Michael
Cox, Tricky Stuart and Kwame. Lil Wayne and Snoop make guest appearances.
The first single, "Lock U Down," featuring Wayne, is "very grown and sexy,
very spring time, just an all-around feel-good record," says Mya, while
the JR Rotem-produced "Walka Not a Talka," slated to be the second single,
is more of a reflective song. "It's basically a conversation with myself
reminding me of all the things I have to get rid of in order to get what I
want in life," she adds.
Other tracks include the midtempo "Life's Too Short," produced by Cox, and
the Kwame-spinned "Nothing At All."
Mya, who teaches dance and sound engineering via the Mya Art & Tech
Foundation in her spare time, is on the road with the Seagram's Live Tour
alongside Virginia rappers the Clipse and newbie soul singer Jovan Dais.
She also just wrapped up a Fox film titled "Cover," based on the AIDS
epidemic among African Americans. The movie is set to hit theaters by the
end of this year.
Mya's last studio album, 2003's "Moodring" (Interscope), spawned the hit
"My Love Is Like... Wo," which peaked at No. 14 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop
Songs chart and at No. 13 on the Hot 100.
Chris Brown Offering 'Exclusive' In September
Teen R&B star Chris Brown is eyeing a September release for his sophomore
Jive album, "Exclusive." Brown, who has also written several songs this
time around, says recording has been like "a family reunion." Among the
songwriter/producers working on tracks are several from his self-titled
first outing -- Bryan-Michael Cox, the Underdogs, Sean Garrett and Scott
Storch -- as well as will.i.am.
Containing elements of rock and go-go ("Being from Virginia, I've got to
go back to my go-go roots," says Brown), several tracks recently previewed
by Billboard exhibit an edgier, more mature tone that meshes well with
Brown's exuberant mix of R&B, hip-hop and pop. At deadline, a first single
had yet to be chosen.
"I'm not trying to go grown," he told Billboard in December. "I'll be 18,
but I'm not trying to go overboard and lose my fans. I'm trying to have a
bit more mature songs, about sexuality and stuff like that. I'm not trying
to go deep into it." One song, "Take You Down," was produced by the
Underdogs. "In a sense, that's stepping over the 18, 19 boundary to get an
older crowd," Brown says.
As for ongoing career comparisons to Usher, Brown says, "It's nice but I
don't focus on that. I think I've strayed away from now. I'm in a lane of
my own, just having fun and making it to the best of my ability."
Beyoncé Sued For Copyright Infringement
Beyonce Knowles is being sued by British singer Des'ree for failing to
obtain proper clearance to cover her song "I'm Kissing You" on the new
deluxe edition of her current album, B'Day, and including it in her video
anthology. Though the track was reinterpreted and retitled "Still In Love
(Kissing You)," Des'ree says that copyright law was still ignored. The
lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday (April 17th), seeks
to halt distribution of the song, video and album, and asks for $150,000
Beyonce had said in the past that she wasn't planning on recording the
song, but that she was pressured to by people who insisted she'd be
"crazy" not to. The song was originally performed by Des'ree, who co-wrote
it with Timothy Atack. It was featured in the film Romeo + Juliet.
A hearing to show cause has been scheduled for Monday (April 23rd).
Des'ree is best known for her 1994 hit "You Gotta Be."
Mario Ready to 'Go'
Multi-platinum R&B sensation MARIO returns with his highly anticipated
third album, Go (J Records), in stores July 31. The first single, "How Do
I Breathe," produced by Stargate, is a lovesick anthem full of the
signature crooning that has earned Mario the reputation as one of the best
voices of his generation. The emotional ballad will impact radio on April
30.The follow-up to 2004's double platinum Turning Point, Go features
Mario's silky smooth vocals and showcases a more mature Mario, talking in
equal breaths about romance, love, and even sex. While past hits have seen
a young Mario skirting the issue in his chart-toppers, the now 20-year-old
Mario tackles it head on in the sexually charged banger "Go" and the
sensual "Lay In My Bed." Also on his mind are relationship challenges,
asking why his girl can't let their relationship be what it is on "No
Definition" and confessing to a roving eye on "Kryptonite." Mario is truly
holding nothing back."Over the years in this industry, I feel like I've
grown to a point where I'm comfortable in my own skin, and this album
truly reflects that," says Mario. "Go is sexier and more passionate, but
there's another, more personal side to the album as well."In fact, Mario's
new-found comfort extends to personal topics he's never before touched on,
including his difficult upbringing. On "Do Right," Mario sings of his
early years growing up with a drug-addicted mother and fighting for a
better life. The confessional ballad was in part inspired by his star turn
in the recent film "Freedom Writers" as Andre, a teen struggling to rise
about life with an incarcerated brother and an addict mother. The "Freedom
Writers" DVD will be out April 17 and Mario will appear on The Late, Late
Show with Craig Ferguson on April 25 to promote the DVD.While his
character Andre finds an outlet for his frustrations in writing, music is
what inspired Mario, who became a star at the young age of 15 when he
released his debut album, 2002's Mario, which spawned the Top 10 single
"Just a Friend 2002." His follow-up album, 2004's Turning Point, featured
the megahit "Let Me Love You," which skyrocketed to #1 on the Billboard
Hot 100, where it stayed for five weeks, propelling Turning Point to
worldwide double- platinum status and earning Mario two Grammy nominations
and two Billboard Award wins. In the summer of 2005, Mario made his foray
into acting with a noteworthy performance in the teen dance movie "Step
Up," which debuted at #2 and grossed over $21 million during its opening
Deniece Williams Back With 'Love, Niecy Style'
Deniece Williams will forever be one of the great all-time R&B divas.
Processing an infectious, angelic and soulful honey -coated voice with an
awe-inspiring range, Deniece Williams set the bar high for R&B singers
back in the 70s and to this day her influence can be heard on everyone
from Mariah Carey to Beyoncé. Her songs have been sampled by dozens of
artists including Will Smith and Master P. Deniece's pure, rich and
spine-tingling vocal quality, along with her impeccable diction and
ability to honestly connect with any song has resulted in a vast catalog
of hits. Some of her timeless anthems include "Silly," "Too Much, Too
Little, Too Late" (her No. 1 pop and R&B duet with Johnny Mathis), "Let's
Hear It For The Boy" (the million-selling pop/soul chart-topper from the
movie Footloose), "It's Gonna Take A Miracle," "Free" (from her
gold-certified This Is Niecy album) and "Black Butterfly." In recent years
the chanteuse has primarily been recording gospel records but on April 24
Shanachie Entertainment will release Deniece Williams' highly anticipated
return to R&B Love, Niecy Style produced by renowned Philly soul producer
Bobby Eli. Deniece's label debut will mark her first major return to R&B
in over a decade. For this momentous occasion Deniece called upon some of
the artists who have been instrumental throughout her career: Stevie
Wonder, George Duke and Philip Bailey.
In 1978, Deniece Williams' sophomore album Songbird was released, coming
two years after the classic "Free" (from her gold-certified This Is Niecy
album) propelled her into international fame and success. The title was a
perfect description of the soulful vocal beauty associated with this
legendary singer/songwriter and it is as appropriate now as it was back
then. Indeed, a songbird with a dynamic range, a distinctive sound and a
true gift for lyrical interpretation, Deniece has long enjoyed a place in
the hearts of music buyers who embraced her through a rich legacy of close
to thirty charted singles and a dozen best-selling albums. Her career also
includes four Grammy wins and an extensive list of credits including
sixteen Grammy nominations, three Stellar Awards, an American Music Award
and an Oscar nomination.
As Deniece reflects "I wasn't really thinking about making a new record
until a mutual friend put me in touch with Bobby, who I knew from the
recording sessions I did with Thom Bell in the early '80s which included
songs like "Silly" and "It's Gonna Take A Miracle." Bobby talked to me
about the idea of doing a project of songs that I've always loved. I
thought it was a great way to honor artists like Luther Vandross, Donny
Hathaway and Gwen Guthrie and what their music has meant to me. When
people listen to this project, I hope it will take them back down memory
lane as well as create new memories for those who may not be familiar with
all the songs on the album."
Within weeks of agreeing to Love, Niecey Style, Bobby Eli (whose extensive
production credits include such favorites as Sister Sledge, Atlantic
Starr, Major Harris, Blue Magic and Engelbert Humperdink and whose
discography includes countless Philly soul sessions as a star guitarist
with Billy Paul, The Spinners, Wilson Pickett, The Salsoul Orchestra, The
O'Jays, MFSB, The Temptations and Elton John) and Deniece had begun
selecting songs for it. "There were so many songs I had been carrying
around forever, humming them, singing them and never thinking I would be
recording them!" she declares. "By the time we finished, I felt we had
done what we set out to do." For Eli, working with Deniece was "a pure
pleasure. She's a producer's dream, a very special artist and someone I
always wanted to work with from being on the Thom Bell sessions with her."
Love, Niecey Style is particularly special, given the presence of three
distinguished music men who have played an integral role in Deniece's
career at different times: icon Stevie Wonder (with whom Deniece got her
first gig as a member of his touring backup vocal group Wonderlove in
1972); super producer, songwriter and artist in his own right, George Duke
(who produced 1984's Grammy-winning "Let's Hear It For The Boy"); and
renowned vocalist Philip Bailey, of Earth, Wind & Fire, with whom Deniece
was associated by virtue of working with EW&F's Maurice White and Kalimba
Productions from 1976 to 1982.
In addition, what distinguishes Niecy's new CD from other albums of R&B
'cover' tunes is the range of her choices, starting with the 1963 Baby
Washington chestnut "That's How Heartaches Are Made" through to Donny
Hathaway's eternal "Someday We'll All Be Free" and on to Luther Vandross'
first solo 1981 smash, "Never Too Much." For good measure, Deniece
re-recorded her own "Cause You Love Me Baby," a staple in her repertoire
since the track was included in her 1976 Columbia debut album as well as
cutting a brand new song, "The Only Thing I'm Missing Is You," a prime
romantic mood-setting, sensuous cut which showcases the songbird sounding
better than ever!
The basic tracks on Love, Niecey Style were cut by producer Eli in
Philadelphia; an all-star cast of West Coast musicians including saxman
Everette Harp, bass player extraordinaire Freddie Washington and Tower Of
Power trumpeter Greg Adams then added their musical skills to the album.
Says Deniece, "It was an extraordinary experience to make music with such
gifted musicians…words could never truly express how special it made me
feel being in the studio again with Stevie, George, Philip, Greg, Freddie
and Everette. Truly, I was surrounded by friends and loved ones."
The spirit of love and celebration is displayed throughout Love, Niecey
Style. Speaking about her choices for the album, Deniece explains, "I'd
been wanting to record "That's How Heartaches Are Made" for years. I was
thirteen when I first heard Baby Washington sing this song. It touched my
heart because at the time, I was in love with this boy but he didn't love
me the same way! When we started recording the song, I could hear Stevie
(Wonder) playing harmonica on it. 'Can you come down?' I asked and he was
gracious enough to play on the track. It turned out beautifully. Then,
"Love's Holiday" has always been one of my favorite EW&F songs.
It was also written by Skip Scarborough, who I feel was one of the best
songwriters of our generation. Then having my dearest friend Philip Bailey
sing on it…it doesn't get any better than that!"
The standout ballad "This Time I'll Be Sweeter" (previously cut by both
Angela Bofill and Roberta Flack, one of the many artists whose recordings
- including Minnie Riperton and Esther Phillips - benefited from Deniece's
work as a session singer in the '70s) is a tribute to a longtime friend:
"The song was written by the late Gwen Guthrie who we lost to breast
cancer. Gwen used to sing with me, Lani Groves and Patti Austin - we were
in the same circle of background singers when I lived in New York and I
remember when she wrote the song. I always wanted to do it and it's my way
of honoring Gwen."
Deniece says the two most challenging tunes were her reading of Donny
Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free" (which features Greg Adams) and one
of the only covers ever done of Luther's "Never Too Much." The vocalist
shares, "I told Bobby (Eli) and Executive Producer Danny Weiss that I
wanted to do Donny's song. After I listened to his rendition again, I just
broke down and cried. I thought, 'do I have the audacity to do this song?'
I called the record company and told them I'd made a mistake. They said,
'are you crazy? No…you gotta do the song!' It has a beautiful message of
encouragement so I'm glad I did it. As for the Luther song, well, he was a
friend and certainly one of the best vocalists of our time. I had no idea
how hard a song "Never Too Much" was to sing – you can hardly sing and
breathe on it. I tell people, when I get to heaven, I'm going to tell
Luther how hard it was to do!"
Keeping with contemporary classics of the '80s, Deniece chose Kool & The
Gang's "Cherish" about which she says, "real love only happens on a few
occasions and when we have it, we shouldn't take it for granted"; and
George Benson's 1983 hit, "Love Me (One More Time)" which she declares is
her favorite Benson song, given "something really special by George (Duke)
who played on the track." Rounding out this stellar collection are her own
"Cause You Love Me Baby" and "If You Really Love Me," another nod to
Stevie Wonder. "I sang this song so much as background for Stevie that at
one time, I was singing it in my sleep! I was very apprehensive about
doing this song because he was and still is my mentor and I wanted to
please him. I think I've made him proud." The choice for Deniece Williams
to revisit one of her own classic tunes "Cause You Love Me Baby" was easy:
"I've been very blessed as a songwriter and publisher to have so much of
my music sampled. I was going to re-do "Free" but then I thought it would
be good to do something up-tempo because it's been sampled by so many
other artists…and being the romantic I am, it seemed perfect for this
Since the mid-'80s, Deniece has been busier than ever, recording a
children's CD, Lullabies To Dreamland, appearing in the London cast of the
pioneering musical "Mama I Want To Sing," producing and hosting her own
radio program, "The Deniece Williams Show" for BBC Radio for almost ten
years. Purposely devoting much of her time to raising her four sons,
Deniece says she made a conscious choice to limit her touring activities:
"I've been doing maybe ten concerts a year and in recent years, I've
really got into writing theater pieces and developing film scripts with my
older sons. I felt it was time to test myself in other creative ways. Now
with my children grown, it's time for mom to be out there again! I chose
to stay at home and did only 10% of what I could have done. Vocally, I
think I'm stronger than I've ever been and it's time to get out there and
do it. I've been blessed with a fantastic audience and I'm always humbled
by that. My audience reminds me that this is what I'm supposed to be