Friday, August 28, 2009

Alexander O'Neal

I always liked singer Alexander O'Neal. He has a great voice and sung some stone jams in the 1980s as one of the many acts benefiting from Prince's Minneapolis Sound.

But O'Neal seemed a little more worldly than the other performers in the Purple One's extended family. First off, he had the sound of a 1960s soul singer (and his best material never quite put his voice to its fullest use) and he was already past 30 when be broke big. In videos, he appeared little raffish; a little the brother had lived some before he found himself before a mike.

So the Soul Closet shuts this week with a look at Alexander O'Neal. Above, her turns up on Cherelle's "Innocent" from 1985. And below, a personal fave--both video and song: "Fake" from 1987.

And we close out with "Criticize" from 1987. And, man, if I ruled the world, Alexander would show up in an episode of "Mad Men"--dressed the way he is in this video--eyeballing Joan in the elevator while stroking his chin, and daring anybody to say anything.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

To the Land of Funk...!

The Soul Closet has much love for Lakeside, a group that was part of that great--and sorely-missed--wave of self-contained R&B funk bands of the late 1970s and pre-Hip Hop early 1980s.

The above video for their hit "Fantastic Voyage", apparently cribbed from a Netherlands broadcast in 1981, showcases the band in its prime. Mark Wood--as underrated a lead singer as they come--brings the heat and the band is as tight as that brother's stripped pirate shirt. My favorite part? The transformation and subsequent breakdown at 1:26.

But you know what else is cool? That almost 30 years after, them brothers can still get down:

Monday, August 24, 2009


It's been a l-o-n-g time since I've listened to Sade. We gonna fix that today, even it comes at the expense of me feeling old. I can't believe it's been 25 years since I bought her debut album, "Diamond Life" on vinyl. I've never seen her in concert, though. I gotta fix that. Until then, enjoy:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blue-Eyed Soul Closet (part 2)

Quite a few folks have knocked on the Soul Closet's door since yesterday's post on blue-eyed soul, so a follow-up is order.

And maybe a little clarification, too. The discussion is really about white acts who contributed to soul and R&B canon, as opposed to those who ripped off black music and high-tailed across town to play before white audiences. So again, a Michael McDonald gets the soul brother shake; a Michael Bolton gets to kick rocks. Hall & Oats get in. Rick Astley (sorry, reader James) does not.

One Soul Closet reader suggested the Average White Band. Agreed. AWB's "School Boy Crush" is about as funky as it gets.

Josiah, a buddy from high school gave a shout out to Ambrosia, a group (frankly, one I'd forgotten about) whose song "Biggest Part of Me" was played on black radio back in 1980:

And remember the 1987 hit, "Making Love in the Rain" by Herb Alpert? It still gets played during "Quiet Storm" programs. Alpert handled the horn playing of course and Janet Jackson does the backgrounds. But white Lisa Keith does the soulful slow burn on lead vocals.

Reader Quintin dug in the crates for the name of Gino Vanelli. His "I Just Wanna Stop" also got heavy rotation on black radio in the 1970s

Hall & Oates "Rich Girl."

And dig this white girl, Chris Clark, who sang on the Motown label in the 1960s. I'd never heard of her until a year ago when I downloaded this song by mistake. She is fierce.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blue-Eyed Soul Closet

Soul and R&B are black musical genres, of course. But the field has always been open to white--and non black--artists who know how to bring it. And up until recently, pretenders, fakes and hijackers need not apply. Teena Marie and Bobby "What You Won't Do For Love" Caldwell? In. But Michael Bolton? Hell naw.

Those who brought something to the game were welcomed and made part of the family. Like Toto, a white AOR group from the 1970s and early 1980s who created the classic "Georgy Porgy". It helps that an uncredited Cheryl Lynn--who is black--sings the hook, but that's just icing. The bass is velvety as the inside of a Crown Royal bag. And lead singer Bobby Kimball doesn't try to mimic the wild runs and phrasing of "black" singer. Indeed, he finds his coolness in restraint--like a Peabo Bryson does to even better effect--and pulls off a heck of song.

I cringe with the next song, though. Not because it isn't a brilliant piece of 1970s blue-eyed soul--because it is--but because of that commercial for a glorified mop uses it as a jingle and has ruined it for me. But here goes:

The Native American band Redbone had a R&B jam in the early 1970s with "Come and Get Your Love."

Even Elton John--for a moment there--in the early 1970s, long before all that "Candle in the Wind" bullcrap:

And you gotta get Michael McDonald in on this:

We close the door with this super-oldie from the O'Kaysons, "I'm a Girl Watcher."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Adventures in 'Afro American' Advertising

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Time for more black advertising from the late 1960s and early 1970s, courtesy of my stack of old Ebony magazines from the era.

We begin our journey with the happy young couple of above. Look at the husband...the kiss-up. Striving, trying to impress the boss. So much so, you know he invited Bossman over at the last minute and now his wife not only has to be beautiful, but she's got to cook all that shrimp and hang them evenly around that bowl. Mama told her--told her--not to marry that guy. He was to cheap to spring for wedding rings. Now give her a couple of pops of Old Forester so she can get though the night.

Surgically Clean?

The above ad: You see that, don't you? That soap doesn't just get her clean. I mean any cheap-azz bar of Lava could have done that. This soap gets her surgically clean. That's the difference right there. Do you think when she came out of this shower, her man said, "Come here baby...mmmm, you smell not just clean, but surgically clean!"

Dress Patterns go Mod

Theory: It was 1969. Simplicity was tired of churning out countless patterns of do-it-your-self poodle-skirts and mock-turtle neck outfits. "We need be happening, Man. With-it. Today. Dig," somebody said. So they threw caution into the wind and create this pattern. Never occurred to them--not until 1970, I bet--that the dress will reveal two things nobody wanted revealed in 1969: (a) the wearer ain't wearin' drawers (b) the wearer is wearing a big pair of above the navel bloomers because the thong wouldn't be invented until 1974.

I Believe! I Believe!

Look. At. That. Car. A 1970 Buick Riviera. Great name. Great car. But wait a second. Look at that guy. And that jacket. You think maybe he's the guy from the Old Forester ad above? His wife got rid of him after Bossman's visit, but he bounced back with a new car, a new woman with straighter hair, and a brown vest to go under that jacket. He gave up the Old Forester, but he'll be drinking Colt .45 in the back seat of that car by 1978.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adina Howard

"It's hot outside," a woman said to me last week. "But not enough to make me come out the house with some Adina Howard shorts on."

Adina Howard. Dag, I had forgotten all about that girl.

It's been 14 years since Adina dropped the "Do You Wanna Ride" CD, which featured the above track, "Freak Like Me" (not to mention "You Got Me Humpin'" "Horny for Your Love" and "Baby Come Over)".

"Freak Like Me," and the video were racy then, drawing the ire of parents and feminists. Other videos by female R&B/Hip-Hop acts of the era drew the same fire. I can remember the clucking of tongues over the thrusting and jiggling in Oaktown 357's "Juicy Gotcha Krazy" video and B Angie B's "I Don't Wanna Lose You Love" video.)

Fifteen years onward, "Freak Like Me" seems pretty tame now when viewed against what the industry has put out since. What also grabs me now? Adina can really sing. No wonder "Freak" went platinum.

But that song, so far, is about as good as it's gotten hitwise for Adina. Her next album didn't do as well. In 1998 she did a song "T-Shirt & Panties" with Jamie Foxx for the movie "Woo". (You know you don't remember that movie and don't feel bad. Jada Pinkett-Smith probably forgot about "Woo"...and she was in it.) And I guess Adina's "Nasty Grind" made a little noise in 2004, but nothing like "Freak" a decade earlier.

Yes, a question from the audience? You, there, with the Afro:
Q: Mr. Soul Closet, does that mean we can't see the video for "Nasty Grind"?
A: Yes we can see it. But it's not really safe for work and parents should use a little caution. 'Cause Adina ain't talking about bad coffee. And she is nekkid. Like D'Angelo was in that video back in the day.

Adina's still out there making music. Her MySpace page features a load of tracks and current music.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Coolest Thing You'll See Today

Let's pretend it's 1974 again. It's Saturday afternoon and the "Fat Albert" episode ended about three hours ago. You played some strike-out, or maybe a little hoops with that de-spoked bicycle rim nailed onto the back of somebody's garage that ya'll use for a basket. But you're tired now, so you run back home for a drink of water or Kool-Aid. You pass by the television on your way to the kitchen. Your sister's watching "Soul Train."

And for two minutes and 34 seconds, the rest of the day can wait.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Soul! LIVE!

Martin V., my boy in Arizona, posted on his Facebook page yesterday this fonky clip of Marva Whitney singing live--and backed by the JBs--on the Mondrian-inspired pop art set of the Mike Douglas Show in 1969.

Dig it. Now dig it again. It's okay.

The Soul Closet is turning over the day to live performances. Check em out:

Otis Redding:

Sam & Dave bringing it--unfortunately before a crowd of astoundingly dispassionate Germans:

Labelle. Live on "Midnight Special."

And we close it out with Sly and the Family Stone live on "Soul Train." Actually live, y'all, not lip synching.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Forgotten Jam Friday

It's Friday--finally--here in the Soul Closet. Time to dig in the crates for some old skool jams that you might not often hear. We kick off with the 12" version of "All Night Thang" a 1980 cut by The Invisible Man's Band, a group composed of members of The Five "Oooh Child" Stairsteps. You can't hear nothing this fonky on the radio no mo..

This 80s jam from Aurra. Or where they Deja by then?

I STILL have this on vinyl: Unlimited Touch, "Searching to Find the One" from 1981.

Next: "This Beat is Mine" by Vicky D.

Billy Ocean, 1980. Before he went mainstream and stuff in the mid 1980s. Makes me think of the old WDAI (Disco 'DAI) in Chicago.

And we close out with Carly Simon. Carly Simon? Yep. Produced by Chic (you can tell when you hear it.) Believe it or not, I found this years ago in the basement of my (then) mother-in-law. And I swiped it! With permission, of course.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Originally uploaded by ChicagoEye