Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Freddie Hubbard

I've always appreciated jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, but for some reason I was late in adding his work to my collection. Then about five years ago, I found his 1967 album, Backlash, on vinyl. And I was hooked. He played with such fire and much swag. The hunt was on for more of his stuff: Breaking Point, High Blues Pressure and more.

Hubbard, who played with luminaries such as Cannonball Adderley, Monk, Coltrane, Miles and then became a jazz giant himself, died December 30 a month after suffering a heart attack. He was 70. He was also a hell of horn man, as the clip above suggests.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Eartha Kitt

In an entertainment industry that has contentedly churned out stereotypes of black women as neck-rolling loudmouths, sexually-charged sapphires or brown-skinned Barbie dolls, that an Eartha Kitt could have existed at all is amazing.

Eartha Kitt was sexy for sure. She was beautifully feline--even until the end--and possessed a purring, arresting voice that wrapped a song or a spoken phrase like velvet. But her sexuality also conveyed power, sophistication, awareness and strength. Check out her singing "C'est Si Bon" above and the classic "Santa Baby" below. Nuff said:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Colonel Abrams

On the top shelf of the Soul Closet, right beside the wave cap and brush: the great Colonel Abrams singing "Trapped" from 1985. I can't even list all the things I like about this video. The flattop. The jacket with the spangled epaulets. The part when he's behind the jail bars. I'm digging it all.

Looking back on it now, the good Colonel is a heck of singer; his voice cuts through and rides the dominant House beat while a lesser singer would have been left adrift in synths and drum machines.

Uh, speaking of lesser singers, this post gives me a chance to re-air a 20-year-old beef. Stock Aitken Waterman, the UK producers behind this jam, lifted their own work to create a song in 1987 for this guy.

Earth Wind & Fire and the Panasonic Platinum

Who remembers this commercial from 1981 featuring Earth Wind & Fire touting the Panasonic Platinum "box"? There all here: Maurice White, Phillip Bailey and the gang, climbing out of the cassette slot of a giant ghetto blaster that has freshly landed---Mothership style--on an urban street. Each is armed with his own Platinum and the group walks about, telling us about the "two way speakers, woofers, tweeters, to carry the beat right in to the street." Man, I loved this spot (but couldn't get my parents to buy me one, though.)

The commercial is fun to watch now. Especially the overly-excited white guy who screams from his window, "WOW, EARTH WIND & FIRE!" Yes it is. Now sit down and let us enjoy the groove.

Verb! That's What's Happening

For some reason, I woke up today thinking about episode of "Schoolhouse Rock"--actually "Grammar Rock." Created in 1974, "Verb: That's What's Happenin'" was probably the most soulful entry in the long-running Saturday morning series. Singer Zachary Sanders (sounding a bit like Donny Hathaway) whips his way through the three-minute short, pushed and prodded by female background singers.

's what happening.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Is that Black Enough For Ya?"

"If it ain't now, it's gonna be..."

"Cotton Comes to Harlem", released in 1970, is a personal favorite. The movie is a contemporary updating of a Chester Himes' novel that was part of Himes' Harlem detective series featuring the characters Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones. The movie is directed with manic energy by the great Ossie Davis and stars Raymond St. Jacques and Godfrey Cambridge as detectives searching for a bail of cotton containing $87,000. Davis got great performances out of the Calvin Lockhart, Judy Pace, and a score of late 1960s and early 1970s black actors. The revelation is the spot-on chemistry between St. Jacques and Cambridge---not to mention Cambridge's performance itself. The actor/comic is smooth, tough and gets off the movie's best one-liners.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Originally uploaded by ChicagoEye
From 1971. More often than not, I would bet, it was men who weighed 300lbs and had pot bellies and manboobs who bought this stuff.

The Afro Sheen Blow Out Kit

Dig this great 1970s commercial for Afro Sheen. If you're of a certain age--and I am--you'll remember these spots airing on Soul Train on Saturdays. Watu Wasuri, Baby.