Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Def by Temptation

Not many black horror films made over the years. Help me out here: Blacula, Abby, maybe J.D.'s Revenge, Bones, Tales from the Hood. Beyond that, I'm struggling to think of more.

Ah yes--Def By Temptation, released 20 years ago this month. It starred Kadeem Hardison, Bill Nunn and James Bond III as a trio trying to keep a sexy succubus from killing the men of NYC. Bond directed and wrote the film.

I haven't seen it since 1990 and probably should watch it again, but I remember it being a not-at-all bad flick, despite the pretty low production budget. The idea of a sexy black woman as the "monster" in a horror movie seemed pretty cool at the time. And the hot actress who played her, Cynthia Bond--well, let's say if I were in that movie, she woulda ended up killing me, too.

Looking at the movie's details on imdb.com, the cast includes singer Freddie Jackson, Najee--remember his jam "Betcha Don't Know"--a pre-fame Samuel L. Jackson, Melba Moore, John Canada Terrell (the playboy character from She's Gotta Have It and Starleana Young (!) who my old skool R&B fans will remember co-wrote sang the female second lead for Slave and wrote the group's smash "Just a Touch of Love."

Ok, searching netflix this week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When R&B Went New Wave...

It doesn't get remembered much anymore, but there was a brief period in the early 1980s when elements of New Wave--a predominantly white musical genre--found their way into R&B.

And these weren't tunes designed to crossover into white markets. A segment of black teens were listening to New Wave music (such as the B-52s, the Vapors, Blondie and others), and influential black radio DJs like Chicago's Herb Kent--whose "Punk Out" show on the old WXFM was huge--were spinning New Wave jams for black audiences. So black music took steps to keep up.

Leon Sylvers III's wicked-as-hell bassline (coupled with Earnest Reed's guitar work) in Janet Jackson's "Come Give Your Love to Me" from 1982 has heavy New Wave elements. As does O'Bryan's "Gigolo":

Even jazz folks got in on it. Here's a forgotten (and partly inexplicable) one from Bill Summers & Summers Heat, "Seventeen."

And there is Andre Cymone, the talented protege of Prince:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Robert "Squirrel" Lester of the Chi-Lites Dies at 67

We'll get back to the fun soon here at the Soul Closet. Lately, its been a place of mourning with Teddy Pendergrass and Willie Mitchell dying this month. And now we have another name to add to the roll: Robert "Squirrel" Lester, of the Chi-Lites--the group's second tenor, who died today at 67.

Lester's death death leaves Marshall Thompson as the last remaining original Chi-Lites member. Creadel "Red" Jones died in 1994 at the age of 54. The group's leader Eugene Record passed in 2005 at 64.

But those boy leave behind some great music.

And their biggest hit, performed live sometime between Red's death and Eugene's. The sounded good, still.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

R.I.P. Teddy Pendergrass

Teddy Pendergrass died Wednesday at 59 in Philadelphia. Pendergrass underwent colon surgery last year and, according to his son, had a "difficult recovery," news reports said.

So as we hang the purple bunting on the doorknob of the Soul Closet today, let's honor the Teddy Bear with a few clips.

And here: "Two Hearts<" with Stephanie Mills:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Willie Mitchell

Willie Mitchell's name might not immediately ring a bell. But if you're over the age of 40, you have--no doubt--shook, finger-popped, nodded or flat out sang along to the music Mitchell created.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, the producer-songwriter was responsible for those iconic, deep-footed soul classics on Hi-Records, cut by folks like Al Green, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles. You know the ones. But click on the links to listen anyway.

Mitchell died Monday. He was 81.

Monday, January 4, 2010

M*A*S*H...with a black cast?

..well, not quite. But that was the intent with "Roll Out," a short-lived black-cast 1973 CBS series that was the brainchild of "MASH" TV show creators Larry Gelbert and Gene Reynolds. Rather than focusing on Korean War medics as did "MASH," "Roll Out" focused on the hi-jinks of the predominantly black 5050th Quartermaster Trucking Company in World War II. The show started Stu Gilliam, Hilly Hicks and Mel Stewart (best known as George Jefferson's brother Henry on a few eps of "All in the Family.")

Here's a photo from the St. Louis Dispatch's TV listing book for October, 1973:

So the question for today is, "Was the show funny?"


Which goes to show moonlighting--and I'm talking about Gelbert and Reynolds--is not always a good thing. "Roll Out" lasted 12 episodes and was later replaced in its CBS time slot with a show that had a lot more staying power (and laughs): "Good Times."

Friday, January 1, 2010

"No-o My Brother; You Got To Buy Your Own."

You remember the commercial for "Hey Love," a mid-1980s late-night spot that advertised 1960s and 1970s slow jams? You probably can't recall the songs offered. But what you do remember--no doubt--is when one actor in the commercial asks to borrow the compliation and is rebuffed by the second actor with a line that became immortal:

"No-o My Brother; You Got To Buy Your Own."

The line became a part of pop culture lexicon for years, turning up with a wink on the tv show "Martin" and the movie "House Party." Even in 1989's "Say Anything," John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler character asks, "Hey my brother, can I borrow a copy of your "Hey Soul Classics"? Dobler's young brother replies: "No, my brother, you have to go buy your own." The line still resonates. I was at a gathering two weeks ago of 30- and 40-something black folks and the line was mentioned, bringing a laugh.

The commercial is still fun to watch. The guy who utters the line is John Canada Terrell, who would become better known as the pretty boy Greer Childs character in Spike Lee's 1987 breakthrough film "She's Gotta Have It."