by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)
Many of our Spotify playlists on Good Black News celebrate the songs of years past – but today we’re going to twist it up a little.
With our “Surprise! We’re Still Making Great Music“ playlist, we’re going to spotlight 30 favorite artists from throughout the years who you maybe didn’t know had something new to offer.
With major record companies so focused on the youth/hip hop market, it’s often just part of the accepted path of a musician that after the hit-making years are over, an artist’s career shifts – sometimes concerts/touring, sometimes acting/performing in musicals, sometimes just retiring or changing careers.
But as the technology for recording gets less expensive, and the ability to distribute music electronically becomes simpler – more and more favorite acts are deciding to record new music. However, just because they’ve made new music, doesn’t mean its been easy for us to find out about it. Not many radio stations play new soul from veteran artists, and on the streaming services, these tracks are often not well-promoted – even to their likely audiences.
So we started exploring, and we’ve stumbled across dozens of fresh recordings from artists that we haven’t checked out in awhile, often in decades! Some artists have been recording all along – and we didn’t realize it. Some seem to be testing the waters – can they reignite their fanbase? And, this year in particular, with musicians stuck at home – and with news events and protests inspiring the artistic desire to say something, many are using their art to address the politics of today.
So, here are 30 favorite artists (+ one bonus artist) – a mixture of men, women, and groups with recent music from the last couple years you can check out now electronically. Let us know in the comments who you are happy to see back in action behind the mic:
The Temptations – “Stay With Me” – Starting with the heyday of Motown in the early 1960s, The Temptations became one of the Top 5 R&B acts in the history of the Billboard charts. But as other Motown legends have either stopped recording or passed away, The Temptations have kept going through changes in musical trends and in their membership lineup.
Anchored by founding member Otis Williams, The Temps still tour frequently – and in 2018, released a new album All the Time, packed with soulful Temps-style renditions of many contemporary hits, including this Sam Smith hit. The Temps have reported that they’ll have more new music available soon after coronavirus winds down.
Deniece Williams – “When You Love Somebody” – Famous for pop hits like ‘Let’s Hear It For the Boy’ and ‘Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,’ and Quiet Storm classics like ‘Free,’ ‘Silly,’ and ‘Black Butterfly, the octave-stretching Deniece Williams turned towards gospel by the mid ‘80s, and has not released an album in any genre since 2007. But just a few weeks ago, the bouncy groove of this new single hit Spotify, serving as a preview to an upcoming full-length album to be called Gemini.
Montell Jordan – “First Date” – Montell Jordan burst onto the scene with a debut #1 club jam in “This Is How We Do It” before racking up numerous other chart hits both as a performer and writer. But by the early 2000s, Jordan had tired of the type of material he was being encouraged to do, as well as the way he was marketed. First he left his longtime label, and eventually, he seemingly retired, focusing on his ministerial efforts. But by 2011, Jordan and his music ministry Victory World Music, released a gospel album called “Shake Heaven.” And this past fall, Jordan released his first solo album in 11 years, the well-crafted “Masterpeace.”
O’Bryan – “Sometimes (Lockdown)” – For half a decade back in the early to mid ‘80s, O’Bryan Burnette II, known simply as O’Bryan, was the hunky newcomer in town. The singer/musician, discovered by producer and Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius, hit the charts with “Lovelite” and a remake of Stevie Wonder’s ballad “You and I” that likely served as a theme for many a wedding. With his major label career fading away amidst late ‘80s music biz chaos, O’Bryan didn’t release anything new for two decades, when he finally dropped an album independently in 2007. Now, in 2019/2020, the still youthful 58-year old is back with a couple smooth new singles, the most recent one released just this past May.
Billy Ocean – “All Over the World” – The 70-year old vet (with the now gray goatee) brought us uptempo ‘80s hits like ‘Caribbean Queen” and “Loverboy,” and ballads like “Suddenly” and “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry).” From his home base in England, Ocean’s planned spring album release of his first new material in 7 years has been pushed to fall, but in the meantime, he’s dropped a series of five singles from the new release, capturing those memorable Ocean vocals over lyrics promoting world togetherness in these crazy times.
Maxi Priest – “It’s Alright” – British-born reggae crossover artist Priest hit big in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with the #1 hit “Close to You” and smash collaborations with artists ranging from Shaggy (“That Girl”) to Roberta Flack (“Set the Night to Music”). In late 2019, Priest came back with his first album in five years, “It All Comes Back to Love,” produced by Shaggy and featuring the same strong R&B-fused reggae vibes that have always been his strength.
Melba Moore – “Just Doing Me” (with Terry Hunter) – The multi-talented Melba Moore first broke through on Broadway in Hair, subsequently winning a Tony for her star-making role in Purlie. Soon after, she hit TV as co-lead of a variety series with then boyfriend Clifton Davis. By the late ‘70s, Moore became a disco star with such hits as “This Is It,” “You Stepped Into My Life” and “Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance” before segueing to smooth soul ballads in the ‘80s with “Falling” and “A Little Bit More” (with Freddie Jackson). Now in her mid-late 70s, Moore has most definitely not retired – staying active on social media and and continuing to issue new work steadily – the last few years primarily focusing her recording efforts on collaborations with prominent dance music producers on new club singles, including this year’s perfectly suited new house track, “Just Doing Me.” Yes, she is!
Change – “Hit or Miss” – This Italian-based dance collective of the early ‘80s was patterned after the elegance of Chic, and gave us memorable pre-solo Luther Vandross recordings such as “Glow of Love” and “Searching,” as well as the 1984 album Change of Heart with multiple songs produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in their classic sound. In late 2018, original members Davide Romani and Mauro Malavasi revived the Change moniker with additional new musicians and expertly created a slick, updated version of their classic sound. “Hit or Miss” comes from the effortlessly enjoyable full album entitled “Love 4 Love.”
Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights – “Shape of My Heart” – Eighty-five year old legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, who prominently worked with the Earth, Wind & Fire crew on the classic “Sun Goddess” in addition to recording multiple albums with vocalist Nancy Wilson, is still going strong. 2019 saw the release of a well-reviewed new release from Lewis’ jazz collective Urban Knights entitled VII – their 7th in the past 25 years. “Shape of My Heart,” featuring Dee Alexander on lead vocals, is a lively remake of a Sting song, featuring Ramsey Lewis signature piano mastery front and center.
Philip Bailey – “We’re a Winner” (with Bilal) – If you haven’t been paying attention to the jazz charts, the return of Philip Bailey to solo recording may have passed you by. Bailey, the falsetto-voiced vocalist behind many of Earth, Wind & Fire’s renowned hits (as well as his big individual collaboration with Phil Collins on “Easy Lover”), has continued to tour through the years with the EWF crew. But, also a talented percussionist, Bailey has released 3 well-regarded jazz albums over the last two decades – the most recent of which, Love Will Find a Way, was issued just last year after a 17 year solo hiatus. Teamed with prominent new jazz musicians like Christian McBride, Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington, Bailey took on interesting songs in jazz-fueled ways, including this Curtis Mayfield classic he performed with Bilal.
Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Guarding the Gates” – Unless you watched last fall’s critically acclaimed movie Queen & Slim, you might have missed the fact that it included this strong new Lauryn Hill song. Since her landmark solo debut, the Grammy Album of the Year release The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in the late ‘90s, the enigmatic artist has only issued new music sparingly, so a fresh track is always a hopeful sign that we may someday see a whole new studio album from Ms. Hill. Hill’s voice can also be heard this year in a speaking appearance on Teyana Taylor’s new album and on Mariah Carey’s recently issued “Save the Day” – a track from the vault that includes a piece of Hill’s vocals from the Fugees‘ “Killing Me Softly.”
Des’ree – “Don’t Be Afraid” – Circa 1994, Des’ree was on the top of the charts with her worldwide smash “You Gotta Be.” The folksy British soul singer created a unique sound with her rich, languid voice backed by worldly beats and lyrics focused on positivity. Last fall, after a 13 year silence, Des’ree dropped an entire new album, Love Story, on streaming services via her own label – and it’s a truly beautiful return to form. The reclusive singer though, has done little publicity and isn’t even pictured on the cover art – leaving fans to pretty much find it on their own.
Candi Staton – “Just Breathe” (featuring Yo-Yo) – Perhaps most known for the worldwide ‘70s disco smash “Young Hearts Run Free” and more recently, the ‘80s/’90s dance anthem “You Got the Love,” Candi Staton has also recorded a dozen gospel music albums and in the past decade, jumped back to the rootsy Southern soul that defined her breakthrough years with a series of high quality recent releases. At this point, you’d forgive 80-year old Staton, recently recovered from breast cancer, if she decided to finally retire. However, 2020 has so far been a prolific time for Staton, who has released three heartfelt new singles in as many months, all seemingly inspired by the national conversation on racial relations. “Just Breathe” includes an added bonus with a new verse from legendary rapper Yo-Yo.
The O’Jays – “Stand Up (Show Love)” – After more than 50 years performing, the mighty O’Jays announced last year that they were finally hanging up their satin suits for good – but not before they released one final album, called The Last Word, which mixes their classic harmonies with the same kind of political messages that infused much of their important ‘70s hits. You may have seen them go viral in recent weeks with a video remake of “Love Train” re-crafted to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. If that video has you intrigued, check out this strong track and the rest of its surrounding album.
Gloria Gaynor – “He Won’t Let Go” (with Bart Millard) – Her run as a disco queen started in the early ‘70s, peaking with the inescapable anthem “I Will Survive.” Since then, Gaynor has made a steady living performing her classics around the world and issuing the occasional new dance music single or re-recording of one of her old songs. But last year’s impressive “Testimony” jumpstarted a new gospel music career for the 76-year-old Gaynor, earning her a Grammy Award for Best Roots Gospel Album in the process.
Force MDs – “Fly With You” – We loved their ‘90s throwback harmonies in hits like “Tender Love” and “Love Is a House” – but we hadn’t heard much from Force MDs in decades. Today, after a stream of members come and gone, a trio remains. A new album of the group tackling slow jam classics was issued in 2017, but in 2020, they’ve released four new singles, the most recent being “Fly With You,” a sentimental winner in which their harmonies of old are displayed in full “force.”
Denise Pearson – “You Raise Me Up” – The lead singer of Five Star, Britain’s ‘80s answer to the Jackson family, Denise Pearson has been doing her best to keep the flame alive since the band disbanded. She’s had a few reunion concert appearances with her siblings and opened for The Jacksons during a British tour. She appeared as a contestant on The Voice UK and has even posted some powerful cover versions on YouTube (look for her version of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man”). But most recently, still in impeccable voice, she was inspired by the world’s coronavirus crisis to issue a new version of the popular Secret Garden/Josh Groban inspirational anthem “You Raise Me Up” in support of healthcare workers.
Tony Terry – “My Soul Has Been Anchored in the Lord” – Washington D.C. native Tony Terry, now 56, came to prominence in the early ‘90s with a string of Top 10 hits including “Lovey Dovey,” “Everlasting Love,” “She’s Fly” and “With You.” After the hits faded away, Terry continued to entertain by touring nationally in the casts of various gospel plays. In the last few years Terry, both in fine voice and fine shape (judging by the abs displayed in some of his music’s accompanying artwork), has been alternating single releases between the sexy and the serious, which has included a strong version of “A Change Is Gonna Come” from last year, and this summer’s remake of Douglas Miller’s gospel classic “My Soul Has Been Anchored in the Lord.”
Mandisa – “Way Maker” – The fifth season of American Idol saw its share of contestants that have ultimately made a path in the entertainment business. Though the season was won by bluesy rocker Taylor Hicks, the list of other contestants includes successful rocker Chris Daughtry, country singer turned talk show host/reality personality Kellie Pickler, and runner-up, actress/singer Katharine McPhee. But unless you’ve been paying attention to the Christian music world, you might have lost track of Mandisa – the 9th place contestant who has actually issued more albums (six) than any other contestant from that season – and the only one to win a Grammy Award. “Way Maker” is a new track from her 2020 greatest hits release.
Siedah Garrett – “The New Frontier (Say Their Names)” – Singer/songwriter Siedah Garrett has always pieced her musical career together from a bunch of different directions. As a solo artist, she hit the charts with the danceable single “K.I.S.S.I.N.G.” in the late ‘80s. As a duet partner, she famously collaborated with Michael Jackson on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and on the funky classic “Don’t Look Any Further” with former Temptation Dennis Edwards. And, as a songwriter, she notably co-wrote Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” as well as multiple other Quincy Jones efforts. She even joined British dance outfit Brand New Heavies for an album in the ‘90s. Turning 60 this summer in the era of protests about police brutality, Garrett was inspired to release her own powerful anthem on the subject.
Terry Ellis – “Angry Black Woman” – This original member of the legendary female group En Vogue only stepped out solo one previous time, with her 1995 album, “Southern Gal” – featuring the romantic single “Wherever You Are.” Today, like so many artists, the national conversation on race has Ellis issuing her first new solo work in over two decades, with this pointed protest single.
Sananda Maitreya fka Terence Trent D’Arby – “The Madhouse” – Of course you remember this dreadlocked neo soul innovator that emerged in the shadows of Prince and Michael Jackson with his 1987 debut album Introducing the Hardline according to Terence Trent D’Arby (including the hits “Wishing Well,” “Sign Your Name” and more). Over the course of the early ‘90s, he tired of the trials of fame and big music industry, and quietly relocated to Europe and reinvented himself in 2001 as Sananda Maitreya. And, under his new name, he has been releasing ambitious new music ever since, including “The Madhouse” – a tune released just this year.
Martha Wash – “Rise and Shine” – The legendary dance diva is still bringing it at 66, with the 2020 release of her third solo album Love and Conflict. Famously, although she has only three solo albums, Wash’s vocals have been a part of numerous legendary dance music classics, including The Weather Girls iconic “It’s Raining Men,” C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat” and Blackbox’s “Everybody Everybody.” Currently performing solo and as part of the dance supergroup The First Ladies of Disco (with Linda Clifford and Chic’s Norma Jean Wright) – who released a single last year, Wash also has her own YouTube series, 10 Minutes with Martha Wash in which she interviews classic stars such as soul singer Dorothy Moore, dancer Shabba Doo, and disco group Odyssey, among others.
Morris Day – “Lil Mo Funk” (feat. Snoop Dogg) – If you liked Morris Day’s classic turns in The Time throughout the ‘80s, chances are you will appreciate his latest effort, “Lil Mo Funk” – which sounds straight out of Minneapolis, by way of Long Beach, with a guest turn from Snoop Dogg. The tune from 2019 is only Day’s third new solo song in the last 15 years .
112 – “For Us” – The hip hop soul of Atlanta’s 112 was burning up the charts in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s with such songs as “Only You” and ‘Peaches and Cream.” But after 2005’s Pleasure and Pain album, it would be 12 years before they released another record. Now, they’ve released two new singles in 2020, including this fresh-sounding one from just a couple weeks ago.
Jordin Sparks – “Gimme More” – In 2007, Sparks won American Idol, becoming the shows youngest winner to date at age 17. nd her solo career kicked off strongly with a hit duet with Chris Brown (“No Air”), which has had nearly a quarter of a billion plays on Spotify alone. A solid second album and a star turn in the movie remake of Sparkle followed. But after a commercially disappointing third album in 2015, Sparks took some time to pursue other avenues, including some Broadway roles, in addition to getting married and having a baby. Now 30, and without a major label, Sparks is back with an EP of six catchy soulful pop songs this summer, including this Doja Cat reminiscent tune, “Gimme More.”
Robin Thicke – “Forever Mine” – For pop fans, Robin Thicke is a novelty – a one-hit wonder (“Blurred Lines”) known for being a Hollywood kid who rebounded from his marital troubles (with actress Paula Patton) most recently via his current comeback judging stint on America’s top 5 ranked TV show, The Masked Singer. But R&B fans go back 20 years with Thicke, the rare blue-eyed soulster who has stuck with R&B through thick and thin. The early 2000s were packed with smooth slow jams like “Lost Without You,” “Can You Believe,” “Magic,” and “Sex Therapy.” Thicke hasn’t released an album since 2014’s commercial flop Paula, aimed at winning back his estranged wife. But he has released a steady stream of soulful singles aimed at winning back his R&B audience. His latest single is this year’s “Forever Mine.”
Lenny Williams – “Say So” – First coming to prominence as lead singer of Tower of Power in the early ‘70s (“So Very Hard to Go”), Lenny hit his solo stride in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, issuing such ballads as “Cause I Love You” – immortalized by Steve Harvey in his routine in the concert movie The Kings of Comedy. Starting in the ‘80s, Williams was an early star to pioneer the route of releasing music on smaller, independent labels, which he continues to do today. This spring, Williams, now 75 years old, issued his newest LP Fine on his own label, including the song “Say So.”
Joyce Irby & Howard Hewett – “Because You” – Irby’s the former lead singer of Klymaxx who topped the charts with songs both funky (“Meeting in the Ladies Room”) and full of feelings (“I’d Still Say Yes,” “I Miss You”). Hewett was the lead male voice in Shalamar (“Second Time Around,” “This Is For the Lover In You”) before becoming a successful solo star in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s (“I’m For Real”). In 2019, the two teamed up for this sweet ballad, both proving to still be in fine voice.
Kelly Price – “UnSung” – It’s been over 20 years since Kelly Price emerged on the scene as a powerful new voice in R&B with her debut album “Soul of a Woman.” But now its been six years since the last full album from the current BET Sunday Best personality. Thankfully, this summer she’s released two new singles, including this dramatic, powerfully sung new ballad courtesy of a collaboration with veteran producer Shep Crawford (“Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here”).
Tevin Campbell – “Standing on the Outside” – This is a bonus track on our list – because it’s not exactly a fresh release from the last year or two like the rest of the tracks. However, it is still the most recent effort from a long lost favorite. In 2016, when this was released, Tevin hadn’t recorded any new studio solo material in over a decade and a half. A good tune, with still flawless vocals, this could have signified a welcome return to more regular recording, but alas, it has not yielded anything new since. Tevin – will you get back into the studio again please?
With this playlist of just a couple hours, we hope you’ll revisit some long lost favorites – and uncovered some new potential ‘greatest hits’ to reintroduce you to them. Who would you like to see back in the recording studio again?
Original article source: https://goodblacknews.org/2020/09/26/surprise-were-still-making-great-music-playlist-of-new-songs-to-savor-from-30-rb-soul-favorites-listen/ | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council