*Los Angeles, CA — Craft Recordings is proud to reissue two significant titles from New Orleans royalty: Classified from R&B piano virtuoso James Booker and the GRAMMY® Award-winning After the Rain, from soul singer Irma Thomas. Both LPs will be available July 31.
These albums are not only significant to the rich, musical culture of New Orleans but are also standouts in Rounder Records’ vast catalog. The legendary root’s label, which is celebrating its 50th year throughout 2020, will be reissuing key titles, as well as special box sets via Craft Recordings. Additionally, the label will be planning events, an original podcast series, curated playlists, exclusive video content, and limited-edition merchandise.
James Booker — Classified
Throughout his short but blazing career, James Booker was one of the most unique and innovative talents in the jazz and R&B world. Known for his dizzying technique at the keyboard, the flamboyant artist coined a myriad of titles for himself: from “The Piano Prince of New Orleans” to “The Bayou Maharajah” to “The Bronze Liberace.”
The New Orleans native’s musical talents were apparent early on, and he made his recording debut while he was still a teenager—releasing a series of singles in the late ’50s and early ’60s, including “Gonzo,” which hit No. 3 on the R&B Chart. Throughout the ’70s, the artist was a regular fixture in Dr. John’s touring band, while in the studio, Booker recorded as a sideman for Ringo Starr, The Doobie Brothers, John Mayall, and Labelle, among other major acts. The artist also spent time in Europe, where he enjoyed a warm reception as an artist. While abroad, he made appearances at the renowned Montreux and Nice Jazz Festivals in France and performed on the BBC in the UK. Sadly, Booker, who struggled with drug addiction throughout much of his life, died at the age of 43.
A deeply complex character, Booker only released two studio albums in his lifetime. However, Classified—his unintended swan song—offers one of his greatest commercially released performances. Recorded in 1982, Classified is primarily the result of a whirlwind, four-hour session, in which Booker gave it his all, after a frustrating few days in the studio. In addition to several originals, the tracklist includes a jaunty repertoire of mainly local fare, including Fats Domino’s “One for the Highway,” a Professor Longhair medley, “Bald Head”/”Tipitina,” and Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.”
Jazz Times called Classified “A masterful work,” declaring that “Booker was at the top of his game,” while AllMusic proclaimed the recording to be “One of the great blues albums of the ’80s,” praising that the tracks on the album “showcase his idiosyncrasies; how he simultaneously builds on tradition while playing with it.”
In the liner notes for a 2013 expanded edition of the LP, the session’s producer, Scott Billington, wrote, Classified is by no means James Booker’s best album. In fact, that mythical recording is still out there, on the cassette tapes that fans around the world…traded for the past thirty years. Yet, the album offers material and perhaps an attitude that can be heard nowhere else.” He adds, “One can imagine so many ‘if only…’ moments that might have led James Booker down a different path, but perhaps the life he lived was the only one possible for him, and that his recklessness was the counter-balance to the musical heights he could so often achieve. As [tenor saxophonist] Red Tyler said to me after Booker left the studio, ‘It’s like trying to capture the wind.’”
On August 14th, Vinyl Me, Please will be releasing an exclusive color variant (taupe splatter) of the James Booker Classified vinyl in celebration of Rounder’s 50th.
Irma Thomas — After The Rain
While James Booker was “The Bayou Maharajah,” Irma Thomas continues to reign as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans.” The singer, who scored her first charting R&B single, “Don’t Mess With My Man” before her 20th birthday, has enjoyed a long career, working with some of the greatest songwriters of the modern era. Early on, Thomas collaborated with songwriter, musician, producer and fellow New Orleans icon Allen Toussaint, releasing singles like “It’s Raining” and “Ruler of My Heart” (which was later reworked by Otis Redding as “Pain in My Heart”). In the mid-’60s, Thomas scored a string of popular songs including, “Wish Someone Would Care,” “Breakaway” (written by Jackie DeShannon and Sharon Sheeley), and “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand),” co-written by Randy Newman. In the span of her sixty-year career, Thomas has released 21 albums and over 30 singles.
For her 18th studio album, After the Rain, Thomas lent her rich and deeply nuanced vocals to a varied repertoire that spanned 75 years of American songwriting—from Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas’ “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” to Blind Willie Johnson’s “(The) Soul of a Man” to Eleni Mandell’s more recent “Another Lonely Heart.” It was an unusual selection of songs for Thomas, but Billington—who was about to produce his seventh album for the singer —“wanted to try something new,” he recalls. “I felt that we were repeating ourselves—going for a kind of ’70s New Orleans R&B vibe. I began to imagine instead a mostly acoustic setting for Irma, with songs that were chosen simply because they would resonate with her—because she would sound good singing them, and they could showcase her voice without horns or a big band.” Thomas was hesitant at first, but decided to give it a try.
Billington enlisted an all-star collection of local talent to join Thomas in the studio, including singer-songwriter Marc Broussard on backing vocals, blues and reggae artist Corey Harris on acoustic guitar, jazz and funk percussionist Stanton Moore on drums, the late David Egan on piano, and bassist James Singleton (who was also, coincidentally, the bassist on Classified). As Billington predicted, the band’s spare, often acoustic accompaniment allowed Irma’s soulful vocals and direct-from-the-heart delivery to be the focal point on each track.
Recorded at the rural Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana only months after Hurricane Katrina, After the Rain is a remarkable declaration of resilience. Though the majority of the songs were chosen prior to the hurricane—which destroyed Thomas’ home—the album’s eerily prophetic themes offer a poignant message of hope after loss. “It was the first time any of the musicians had seen one another, and it was very emotional,” remembers Billington. “Even though we had chosen all of the songs before the storm, every one of them seemed now to be about the loss everyone had suffered. We added only one song—Stevie Wonder’s ‘Shelter in the Rain.’”
Upon its release, After the Rain received wide acclaim. The Austin Chronicle called the album “a statement of [Thomas’] extraordinary strength, as well as her ability to inhabit a surprisingly varied repertoire,” while AllMusic praised that Thomas “gives each song a kind of elegant resignation with her low-key vocal approach, until the whole album seems like one long, whispered effort to recapture hope in the future.” After the Rain also earned Thomas her first GRAMMY® win—for Best Contemporary Blues Album at the 49th annual awards ceremony.
Click here to pre-order James Booker’s Classified
Click here to pre-order Irma Thomas’ After The Rain
Exclusive bundle available via the Craft Store!
Classified Track List
- All Around The World
- One For The Highway
- King Of The Road
- Professor Longhair Medley: Bald Head/Tipitina
- Baby Face
- Madame X
- Lawdy Miss Clawdy
- Angel Eyes
- Hound Dog
- If You’re Lonely
- Three Keys
After The Rain Track List
- In The Middle Of It All
- I Count The Tears
- Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
- I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
- If You Knew How Much
- Another Man Done Gone
- Till I Can’t Take It Anymore
- These Honey Dos
- Another Lonely Heart
- Soul Of A Man
- Stone Survivor
- Shelter In The Rain
About Rounder Records:
Rounder Records is one of the world’s most historic Americana and bluegrass record labels. Rounder’s rich catalog includes critically-acclaimed offerings by iconic artists like Gregg Allman, Alison Krauss, and Steve Martin as well as rising stars Samantha Fish, Sierra Hull, I’m With Her, Sarah Jarosz, Ruston Kelly, the SteelDrivers, Billy Strings, and The War And Treaty.
Rounder has consistently demonstrated a commitment to nurture and develop careers over the long haul—a number of artists who got their start at Rounder are still recording with the label today, including Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck, and George Thorogood. A leader in the preservation of precious historic recordings, Rounder has brought the music of the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, and Jelly Roll Morton back to vibrant life and released epic anthologies from the Library of Congress and the Alan Lomax Collection that have been universally acclaimed.
About Craft Recordings:
Craft Recordings is home to one of the largest and most prestigious collections of master recordings and compositions in the world. Its rich and storied repertoire includes legendary artists such as Joan Baez, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Vince Guaraldi, John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, Nine Inch Nails, Thelonious Monk, Otis Redding, R.E.M. and Traveling Wilburys, to name just a few. Renowned imprints with catalogs issued under the Craft banner include Concord, Fania, Fantasy, Milestone, Musart, Nitro, Prestige, Riverside, Rounder, Specialty, Stax, Sugar Hill, Vanguard, Vee-Jay and Victory Records, among many others. Craft creates thoughtfully curated packages, with a meticulous devotion to quality and a commitment to preservation-ensuring that these recordings endure for new generations to discover. Craft Recordings is the catalog label team for Concord Music. For more info, visit CraftRecordings.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify.
Supermodel Don Benjamin Opens Up About Tyra Banks, His Faith And Making Babies / The Trend
*Supermodel Don Benjamin Talks Tyra Banks, His New Novel “My Truth,” His Faith and Making Babies / The Trend W/ Derrial Christon and Courtney Stewart.
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The Pulse of Entertainment: Guitarist Norman Brown Releases 3rd Shanachie Album, ‘Heart to Heart’ / LISTEN
*“We are one, part of each other,” said Grammy-nominated lead guitarist Norman Brown about the meaning of the title to his 12th album and 3rd project on the Shanachie Entertainment imprint. “God created all of this. Everything is interconnected like machines are interconnected.”
Brown connected with a group of musicians that included Peter White (guitar), Jeff Lober (piano), Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis (keyboard), and David Mann (sax) to complete the “Heart to Heart” project.
Norman said the featured musicians on his album understand his sound and went on to say, “Jeff and I wrote a song together but never used it…been trying to work together every since. (Big Dog) I decided to do something different…and called Big Dog. We stayed up all night. I did a duet with Peter White, it’s the title track.”
As a lead guitarist Norman Brown has collaborated with the elites in the music business which includes Brian McKnight, Miki Howard, Gerald Albright, George Benson, Peabo Bryson, and Chante Moore. His solo debut was in 1992, a collaboration with Boyz II Men, Stevie Wonder and Kenneth H. Williams, and it was produced by drummer Norman Connors. He launched the trio BWB in 2002 with Kirk Whalum and Rick Braun and they have released three albums.
About his unique style of guitar playing Norman said, “I do what music tells me to do.”
Norman Brown was really philosophical about the meaning to the album, adding, “No one can succeed alone, as soon as we understand that the better the world will be.”
SYNDICATED COLUMN: Eunice Moseley, MS, MBA, MPhil has an estimated weekly readership of over ¼ million with The Pulse of Entertainment. She is also a Public Relations Strategist and Business Management Consultant at Freelance Associates, and is Promotions Director (at-large) for The Baltimore Times. www.ThePulseofEntertainment.com. EVENTS: “Uplifting Minds II” Entertainment Conference (ULMII), founded by Eunice in 1999, is into its 21st year. Next events are coming to Los Angeles Saturday, November 7, 2020 via Zoom Video Conferencing and to Baltimore Saturday April 17, 2021 at Security Square Mall. The ULMII event is a free conference offering an Entertainment Business Panel Q&A Session, a Talent Showcase and Talent Competition (vocal, songwriting, dance and acting) where aspiring artists have a chance to receive over $15,000 valued in prizes/product/services. Log onto www.UpliftingMinds2.com for more information or to RSVP for Zoom Access email [email protected]
Happy 47th Birthday to the Break Beat! [EUR Video Flashback]
*On August 11, 1973, in the Bronx, NY, a neighborhood DJ known for throwing house parties decided to try something different for the “Back to School Jam” he would hold that night in the rec room of his apartment complex.
DJ Kool Herc noticed that people on the dancefloor had more energy during the instrumental breaks of the songs he’d play. So the 18-year-old figured he’d spin only the intros and breaks of his vinyl stash and see what happened.
Welp, what happened was the birth of the break beat that, in turn, birthed hip hop. The instrumental breaks gave his friend, Coke La Rock, a music bed to shout out individuals among the 300 or so people who showed up to the party.
For parties in Cedar Park the following summer, Herc figured out a way to make those instrumental breaks continuous, providing an endless music bed for emcees to talk over.
This merry-go-round technique would be refined and expanded with scratches and such by other DJs like Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa, but it was Clive Campbell, a.k.a. DJ Kool Herc, that started the break beat 47 years ago today in that rec room at 1520 Sedgewick Ave. in The Bronx.
The three songs that Herc used in his very first merry-go-round experiment deserve just as much credit for the birth of hip hop. Below are the tracks in their entirety, and more.
James Brown – Give It Up Or Turn It a Loose [at the 4:20 mark]
James Brown – Give It Up Or Turn It a Loose Live 1971 (Remastered)
Incredible Bongo Band – Bongo Rock
Incredible Bongo Band introduces themselves on “Action 73,” hosted by Dick Clark
Incredible Bongo Band reunited (Scene from “Sample This” 2012 documentary)
Babe Ruth – The Mexican
Babe Ruth – The Mexican – Live in Montreal 1975 (Remastered)
At the 3:06 mark below, Janita Haan and Alan Shocklock of Babe Ruth on finding out that their “progressive rock” song “The Mexican” was being used as a hip hop break beat | #SFLive Interview
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