Motown/UMe to Release Digital Album ‘Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition’ on April 16th

In keeping with a promise made to the legendary artist/author and original and founding member of the Supremes, Mary Wilson, Motown/UMe announce the release of Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition, available for pre-order today, here. In time for what would have been Mary Wilson’s 77th Birthday, March 6, we celebrate her birthday and honor her history and legacy with the first of her album projects.  

Ms. Wilson, who retained ownership of her solo recordings, wanted to make the album – and much more – available to her many fans around the world. ‘Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition’ is a newly compiled version of her solo album, originally released by Motown in 1979, that will now be available on all digital platforms for the first time. Added to the album are eight incredible bonus tracks, four of them unreleased, including the legendary tracks recorded as a follow-up to the album produced by Gus Dudgeon (Elton John, Joan Armatrading, Chris Rea, et al). Featured as the lead single is a brand-new song, ‘Why Can’t We All Get Along’, produced by Richard Davis and co-written with Angelo Bond, who previously had great success as a co-writer with General Johnson and Greg Perry for ‘Bring The Boys Home’.

Mary Wilson, who had many fond memories around recording her solo debut, was so excited about the release of this album that, after finalizing details with UMe, she created an impromptu ‘teaser’, posting what was to be her final YouTube video. “I finally decided how to work with Universal, and they are going to release new Mary Wilson recordings,” she said. ‘Yes! At last! At last’, adding that the expanded version of the album, known by her and to fans as ‘Red Hot’, referring to its lead single, will include the Dudgeon productions – and something new.

It was four wonderful songs that were never released… and I also have some other songs, some surprising new songs… Thank you Universal for chiming in with me and helping this come true. Hopefully some of that will be out on my birthday, March 6th… I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Mary Wilson

Sadly, the world mourned the sudden passing of Mary Wilson on February 8th, which also marked the 56th anniversary of The Supremes’ #1 hit, ‘Stop! In the Name Of Love’. She was a world-renowned singer, best-selling author, a humanitarian, artist rights advocate, philanthropist, cultural ambassador for the U.S. appointed by Colin Powell, but she was best known as a ‘Supreme’. She was the co-founder of the original Supremes, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, which signed to Motown in January 1961, making this year their 60th anniversary. The group broke down barriers by becoming the world’s most popular female singing trio, with an unprecedented string of 12 number one hits, 33 top 40 singles, a record breaking 5 consecutive number ones, and the first number one album for a female group. Mary Wilson is the only member with the group from their signing in 1961 to their disbanding in 1977. Their legendary history is the foundation for dozens of books, movies, and even three Broadway musicals.

But the often-overlooked history is of the solo careers of Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Ballard had previously released an album on ABC Records while, upon leaving the Supremes, Mary Wilson released her self-titled solo album debut on Motown, her label for the previous 18 years. ‘Mary Wilson’ had the potential of becoming a dance classic. Famed Motown Producer Hal Davis, known for #1 hits on the Jackson 5, Thelma Houston and Diana Ross crafted a lush disco album for Wilson, with six dance tracks and a mid-tempo ballad. Wilson recorded the album while pregnant with her youngest son, Raphael, and for the album’s cover shoot she was wrapped in a jacket to hide the pregnancy.

‘Red Hot’ was the obvious lead single. But just prior to the release of the album the infamous Disco Demolition Night took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 12, 1979. The ‘Disco Sucks’ movement impacted the release of ‘Mary Wilson’, and the single reached #85 on the dance chart and #95 on the R&B chart. This new collection retrieves for history the song’s rare 12″ and 7″ mixes, which were unique from the album’s version. Despite being loved by fans, and the release of a second single, ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ in the U.K., the ‘Mary Wilson’ album did not get the recognition it deserved.

In 1980, Mary Wilson headed to Europe to record with Elton John’s producer, Gus Dudgeon. The late Dudgeon, who started as Decca Records’ in-house recording engineer, became a key creative collaborator with Elton John, producing seven No. 1 albums, in addition to creating masterworks with David Bowie, Joan Armatrading, Chris Rea, and many more.

Wilson wrote in her second autobiography, ‘Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together’, “I was very excited about these four songs.  It wasn’t the formula disco of my first album. Two of the songs were big ballads. The other two were rock and roll in the style of Tina Turner’s mid-eighties hits; I was certainly ahead of the time”. Three of the four songs were never released. The fourth song, ‘You Dance My Heart Around the Stars’, first made available in 2015 on a collection of the co-writer’s, Steve Kalinich, a frequent collaborator of the Beach Boys, is considered one of Wilson’s finest performances. 

In 1986 Mary Wilson wrote her best-selling autobiography, ‘Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme’, followed by two more books, ‘Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together’, and ‘Supreme Glamour’.  Although Mary continued to record and release music through the rest of her career, fans have continually requested to hear this music. These songs remain among the most requested items in the Motown catalog.

While recording more music over the last 10 years, Mary Wilson reconnected with Richard Davis, executive of Gold Forever Music, a publishing company established by Eddie Holland after leaving Motown. In the early days of Motown, Holland-Dozier-Holland was the songwriting team responsible for The Supremes’ string of hit records.

While Mary continued to record, she kept a journal with her most personal thoughts, perspective, outlook, philosophy on life, beliefs based on her experiences and topics of the day. Richard Davis discussed this song with Wilson. Mary told Davis and Bond that their lyrics were able to capture and articulate her feelings into song and help her tell her story. As she was watching and writing about her feelings about the political unrest and the division in the country, Mary felt strongly about releasing ‘Why Can’t We All Get Along’, now in the hopes of spreading a positive message through music.

TRACKLISTING:
Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson: Expanded Edition

1.   Red Hot (6:06)
2.   I’ve Got What You Need (5:08)
3.   You Make Me Feel So Good (5:51)
4.  (I Love A) Warm Summer Night  (4:07)
5.   Pick Up the Pieces * (5:01)
6.   You’re the Light That Guides My Way (3:18)
7.   Midnight Dancer (3:08)

#1-7: Produced by Hal Davis
* Co-Produced by Hal Davis & Bobby Belle
Originally issued as Motown M7-927 R1 (1979)

Bonus Tracks

The Red Hot Singles
8.   Red Hot 7″ Single Version (3:53)
9.   Red Hot 12″ Disco Version – Remixed by Rusty Garner (7:12)
10. Red Hot 12″ B-Side Promo Version – Remixed by Rusty Garner (3:53) – previously unreleased commercially

The Gus Dudgeon Sessions – previously unreleased except **
11. You Dance My Heart Around the Stars** (4:34)
12. Save Me (3:53)
13. Love Talk (4:05)
14. Green River (3:36)

The Richard Davis Sessions – previously unreleased
15. Why Can’t We All Get Along Single version (4:50)

Sting, Carlos Santana, and Jeanie Tracy to appear on livestream event celebrating new Narada Michael Walden album…

On Saturday, September 19 at 7PM PT/10PM ET, three generations of legendary artists will unite to celebrate the release of Narada Michael Walden’s 18th solo album, ‘Immortality’ on Quarto Valley Records (QVR). Presented by Laudable Productions, the livestream event features a lineup of conversations with Sting, Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana, Jeanie Tracy, Billy Amendola, Larry Batiste, and others who reflect on their long-standing relationships with Narada.

Narada Michael Walden has produced music royalty like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Patti, Labelle, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Barbra Streisand, and worked with world-class musicians like Sting, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock and Lenny Kravitz.

Producing hits for artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin (including the platinum ‘Freeway of Love’), Ray Charles, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand, Patti Austin, Lionel Ritchie, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Gladys Knight, George Benson, Angela Bofill, Al Jarreau, Nathalie Cole, Regina Belle, Stacy Lattisaw, Steve Winwood, Wynonna Judd, Tom Jones, Clarence Clemons, Kenny G., Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge and The Temptations, the Emmy and multi-Grammy winner (Producer, Album and Song of The Year) has been at the helm of hit music that spans decades. His music flows freely from soul, pop, and rock, to the rarified realms of jazz, fusion and world music. Walden was an integral part of introducing Whitney Houston (producing six of her seven #1 hits to break Michael Jackson’s record) and mega-star Mariah Carey to millions of fans worldwide, producing and writing the breakthrough hits that first brought these divas to the spotlight. Billboard Magazine honored him as one of the Top Ten Producers of all time.

Before he became a mega-successful producer with hits constantly dominating the R&B and pop charts, Walden burst on the music scene as a virtuoso drummer with the groundbreaking jazz-rock fusion band Mahavishnu Orchestra. Soon after, his impeccable rhythmic chops and inveterate creativity made him a first-call drummer and collaborator for other instrumental heavyweights such as Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, Joe Zawinul, and Weather Report.

On August 7, 2020, the multiple award winner released his dynamic new solo album, ‘Immortality’, via Quarto Valley Records. The album represents a change of direction for Narada, one that brings him back to his roots in Dance and Club Music, Funk and Soul. The superb musicianship and masterful production of ‘Immortality’ are fueled at every beat by Narada’s abundance of amazing energy. He is a true artist, in a class by himself

“‘Immortality’ is an album for that part of my fan base”, Walden explains. “I love pop music, but I come from a world in which we mix it all up together – jazz, rock, pop, funk, soul and R&B. That’s what fusion is all about. A lot of my early fans still want to hear me stretch out and fly, so this record is me drumming and singing and putting my heart out to them. People can hear the love that’s inside of me when they listen to this record”.

Walden, who plays both drums and keyboards on ‘Immortality’, produced and recorded the album at his own Tarpan Studios in San Rafael, California, with his longtime engineer, Jim Reitzel, and his astonishingly gifted band Thunder (keyboardist Frank Martin, bassist Angeline Saris and guitarist Matthew Charles Heulitt).

‘Immortality’ makes good on Walden’s goal of making ‘a killer jazz-fusion/progressive-rock record’, but it’s also an album that was made to be performed live.

I was always thinking, ‘We’re going to take this music out to the people. I’m looking forward to playing with the band in the spring. It’s going to be a love fest. My thing has always been to shake, rattle and roll with good spirits and electricity. I can’t wait to get out there, play my drums and bring good times to all of my fans.

Narada Michael Walden

“This is one of the best bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with”, Walden says. “The joy they bring to music is remarkable, and there’s literally nothing they can’t play”. Guesting on the record is guitarist Jackson Allen, whom Walden calls “a sensation. He played on a session with me, and I really enjoyed the sounds he got. Bringing him in on the album felt natural to me”.

Unfortunately due to the Corona virus it is not possible to celebrate the launch of the album as Walden is used to, with family, friends, and everyone who has worked on the album. Then you have to come up with something else to celebrate the launch….

Artists set to take part in a virtual event this Saturday, September 19, celebrating the recent release of ‘Immortality’. The livestream gathering, which will be viewable on YouTube and Facebook starting at 10 p.m. ET, will feature conversations with Sting, Carlos Santana, Carlos’ wife Cindy Blackman Santana, good friend and singer Jeanie Tracy, and a number of other musicians chatting about their relationship with Narada.

The virtual retrospective will give viewers a behind the scenes look at his expansive career as a drummer and producer. The livestreaming event also incorporates the premiere of a new music video ‘We Can Live Forever’, the lead-off track from ‘Immortality’, and a screening of the recent video for new COVID-themed tune ‘The Quarantine Blues’ that Narada recorded remotely with Carlos and Cindy Santana and jazz-fusion legend John McLaughlin.

‘The Quarantine Blues’ was written by John McLaughlin with Cindy Santana Blackman and Narada Michael Walden. The song was socially distance recorded and filmed in Monaco, Hawaii, Detroit and San Rafael in a collaboration to raise money for Musicares Coronavirus Relief Fund to help struggling musicians who have been hit hard by the shutdown of all live music. ‘The Quarantine Blues’ features John McLaughlin, Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos Santana, Narada Michael Walden and Ralphe Armstrong and Narada’s dancing kids, Kelly, Kayla and Michael with mom Katie.

Narada, who plays drums and keyboards on Immortality, notes that the album is geared more toward jazz fusion and progressive rock than pop music.

I love pop music, but I come from a world in which we mix it all up together – jazz, rock, pop, funk, soul and R&B. That’s what fusion is all about. A lot of my early fans still want to hear me stretch out and fly, so this record is me drumming and singing and putting my heart out to them.

Narada Michael Walden

As previously reported, Walden also recently produced several tracks for Cindy Blackman Santana’s upcoming solo album, ‘Give the Drummer Some’, which will be released this Friday, September 18. Among the songs is the cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, on which Cindy collaborated with Carlos.

Come into the beautiful world of Narada Michael Walden.

Narada Michael Walden Unveils New Album Immortality in August

One of the most kind people in the business, and with a musical resume a mile-long, Narada Michael Walden is one of the most prolific and popular musicians, composers and producers working in the worlds of jazz, soul and world music.

Narada Michael Walden has produced music royalty like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Patti, Labelle, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Barbra Streisand, and worked with world-class musicians like Sting, Carlos Santana and Lenny Kravitz.

Best known for producing platinum-selling songs for iconic singers like Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey, Walden is also an accomplished drummer who just recently joined legendary rock band Journey and he produces and records his own original music at his Tarpan Studios in San Rafael, where he created his latest solo album, ‘Immortality’.

On August 8, Walden will release ‘Immortality’ via Ouarto Valley Records. The eight-track LP boasts a killer blend jazz-fusion and progressive-rock.

Immortality is an album for that part of my fan base. I love pop music, but I come from a world in which we mix it all up together; jazz, rock, pop, funk, soul and R&B. That’s what fusion is all about. A lot of my early fans still want to hear me stretch out and fly, so this record is me drumming and singing and putting my heart out to them. People can hear the love that’s inside of me when they listen to this record.

Narada Michael Walden

Walden and longtime engineer Jim Reitzel collaborated on producing the album, which features Walden singing and playing drums and keyboards along with his band Thunder, made up of keyboardist Frank Martin, bassist Angeline Saris and guitarist Matthew Charles Heulitt.

‘Immortality’ begins with the spiritual rock ballad ‘Aretha Dances in Heaven’, dedicated to the late Queen of Soul. Walden produced several hits for Franklin, including her chart-topping single ‘Freeway of Love’, and he wanted to celebrate the music legend in an exuberant and jubilant way.

There’s a bell pattern in the song that, to me, sounds like Aretha being welcomed into heaven. I want people to experience that feeling when they hear the song.

Narada Michael Walden

Other inspirations found on the album include Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, jazz piano great Horace Silver, multi-instrumentalist Charley Drayton and drummers Chick Webb and Cindy Blackman Santana.

Throughout ‘Immortality’, Walden takes listeners through a visceral and emotional odyssey that includes highlights like the ballad ‘Michael Anthony Kadillac Walden’, named after Walden’s four-month old son, as well as tracks like the thrilling orchestral prog-rock epic ‘The Real Baptism’ and album-closer, ‘Immortality, Part 2’, which offers a veritable master class in percussion when Walden lets loose with precision and passion.

The title Immortality is significant to me on a couple of levels. I have a family whom I love deeply, so I’m inspired to take care of my body, mind, soul and energy so that I can live as long as I can. The second part of the meaning is from a musical standpoint. Music comes from our soul, and we need to acknowledge and love that spirit inside of us. It’s something we get from our creator, and it’s everlasting.

Narada Michael Walden

In addition to making music, Walden is also known for his nonprofit organization the Narada Michael Walden Foundation, which is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of young people through music.

The foundation’s projects include the Music Grant Program, which is available to Marin County students in grades K to 12. The program assists students in pursuing music by helping them to purchase musical instruments, obtain tuition for music camps and coordinate private lessons.

We are honored to include the multi-talented Narada in our Quarto Valley Records family of artists. Immortality is filled with the spiritual and soulful energy that makes his music so transportive and unique, yet universally appealing.

Bruce Quarto, Founder and CEO Quarto Valley Records

‘Immortality’ is available on August 8 on vinyl, CD and online. Pre-orders can be placed at Amazon.com. Come into the beautiful world of Narada Michael Walden.

Michael Alago, Who the F**k Is That Guy?

Michael-Alago-Who-the-Fk-Is-That-Guy-Visual

Record label executive, photographer, and author, Michael Alago takes readers through this amazing journey that is his life.

‘Who the Fuck is That Guy’? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago tells the astonishing story of a gay Puerto Rican kid growing up in a Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood, who got on the subway one day and began a musical odyssey that helped shape the musical landscape across N.Y.C. and around the world.

Alago grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a large, spirited, and devoted Puerto Rican family. Through his early passion for music, art, theater, and photography, he soon found himself rubbing elbows with many downtown NYC scene makers, from Stiv Bators to Jean Michel Basquiat, Cherry Vanilla and Wayne County to Deborah Harry and Robert Mapplethorpe. As an underage teenager going to Max’s Kansas City, CBGB, and various art galleries, Alago also began running The Dead Boys fan club.

A few years later, he became the assistant music director for legendary nightclubs the Ritz and the Red Parrot. At age twenty-four, he began a storied career as an A&R executive at Elektra Records that started with signing Metallica in the summer of 1984, changing the entire landscape of rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal. Alago continued to work in A&R for both Palm Pictures and Geffen Records. He was thrilled to executive-produce albums by Cyndi Lauper, Public Image Ltd, White Zombie, and Nina Simone.

“Recording with the incomparable Nina was my finest hour”, says Michael, who worked with Simone on her final album, the critically acclaimed ‘A Single Woman’. 2010 saw Alago team up with Cyndi Lauper on her Grammy-nominated album ‘Memphis Blues’, for which he acted as A&R executive.

In the late 1980s, he was diagnosed with HIV, which manifested into full-blown AIDS ten years later. He survived to continue his music career, but in 2005, he left music to pursue his other love: photography. Alago went on to publish three bestselling books: Rough Gods, Brutal Truth, and Beautiful Imperfections with German-based publisher Bruno Gmünder. He has since overcome his longtime addiction to drugs and alcohol.

In his clean and sober life, he has reconnected with his family, continues to be a working photographer as well as record producer, and only through the grace of his 12-Step program is he able to live this big, beautiful life.

In 2017, a documentary directed by Drew Stone and produced by Michael Alex on Alago’s wildly successful career in music was released in theaters and on Netflix, entitled ‘Who the F**k Is That Guy?’ The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago.

 

 

 

 

MasterClass Follows the Beat with Legendary Drummer Sheila E.

MasterClass, the streaming platform that makes it possible for anyone to learn from the best, today announced that Emmy and Grammy nominated Queen of Percussion, Sheila E. will teach its first class on drumming and percussion.  Through a series of dynamic lessons, Sheila E. will help members find their rhythm, explore the fundamentals of percussion and drumming and share intimate stories and career advice for aspiring musicians.

Sheila E. is a musical pioneer. Her MasterClass is a rare opportunity for members to learn drumming and percussion from a legend—and you don’t even need a drum set to get started. Sheila E. is nothing short of inspiring and magical.

David Rogier, co-founder and CEO of MasterClass

Sheila Escovedo, best known to music fans as Sheila E., first picked up drumsticks and started making music at the age of three. Inspired by her percussionist father, she delivered her first solo performance to a live audience only two years later and has since established herself as one of the most talented percussionists in the world.

By the age of 20, Sheila E. was already a top session and touring musician, performing with some of the industry’s biggest names such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, and Stevie Nicks. In the 1980s, her undeniable talent and hits like ‘The Glamorous Life’ and ‘A Love Bizarre’ led to her international fame. Sheila E.’s producing, arranging and performance talents have been showcased in the music industry through numerous Grammy nominations and performances with the likes of Beyoncé, Hans Zimmer, Jennifer Lopez and Pharrell Williams.

Away from the spotlight, she co-founded the Elevate Hope Foundation, which helps young people heal from trauma or neglect through music and art. Sheila E. continues to produce and perform music across the globe and her most recent album, ‘Iconic: Message 4 America’, pays tribute to songs that have defined movements fighting for justice and peace.

I am honored to be the first-ever drummer for MasterClass. When you know what your passion is and what your purpose is, no one and nothing can stand in your way. In my MasterClass, I will share my passion and teach members the fundamentals of percussion, drumming and hopefully, inspire them to make their own music.

Sheila E.

Sheila E.’s MasterClass will take members on a musical journey through her dynamic world of rhythm, percussion, and drumming. Rooted in the belief that anyone can learn to drum, she will demonstrate how to find rhythm by moving, clapping, and using household items like pots and pans. Not only will Sheila E. bring the foundational techniques of drumming to life, but she’ll also teach you how to play some of her most beloved instruments, including the congas and timbales, with help from her father, renowned percussionist Pete Escovedo, and her brothers, Peter Michael and Juan.

Sheila E. will share intimate stories and insight from her experiences capturing the spotlight on stage alongside some of the world’s greatest talents, to rising to fame as a solo artist and becoming one of the world’s most famous Latin percussionists. Members will begin by learning the principles of rhythm and basic rudiments on the American drum set, in addition to music theory. The class will also cover intermediate concepts, such as leading a band, training tips, performance techniques and career advice.

MasterClass members at all experience levels will master basic drumming techniques and develop a language for drumming that will inspire them to make music and play with others. 

Sheila E.’s class joins the 85+ classes taught by world-renowned instructors on culinary arts, photography, writing, performance and much more. Each MasterClass has digestible video lessons sized to fit into any part of your day and cinematic visuals with close-up, hands-on demonstrations that make you feel one-on-one with the instructor. The All-Access Pass gives you access to every MasterClass and new ones as they launch. Learn on the go with mobile apps or in the comfort of your home with Apple TV®,  Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Roku® devices. Subscribe to greatness at MasterClass.com.

The Shapeshifters Featuring Billy Porter – ‘Finally Ready’

The-Shapeshifters-feat-Billy-Porter-Finally Ready-02

Billy Porter debuts on Glitterbox with this empowering anthem, produced by The Shapeshifters. A label debut for the Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-winning singer, actor, director, composer and playwright, ‘Finally Ready’ will be released digitally during Pride month, on Friday 26 June.

As a gay man coming out in 1985 in the middle of a plague, love was not an option, love was transient, love was what other people had. Because if you allowed yourself to be vulnerable enough to be in love that person could be dead in a matter of weeks. So we cut ourselves off from that unconsciously ….. I’m ready. I’m finally ready. To experience what real love is.

Billy Porter

The message behind the music is that no matter where you come from, on the dancefloor there’s acceptance and hope. Co-written by Billy, ‘Finally Ready’ is a declaration of Pride, of breaking free from past traumas to take a chance on love. Motivated by his personal journey through the AIDs crisis and the emotional scars that left him with

‘Finally Ready’ hits on so many levels for me. First, being ‘finally ready’ to experience what real love is. And thankfully, I have somebody who loves me enough to love me through trauma, to be present, and allow me to grow, into this. I’m also ‘finally ready’ to be who I am, who I’ve always been. It has been a rough road, I’ve been through so many changes, but I always kept the faith and now I’m here. And lastly, I’ve made a lot of different kinds of music – R&B, show tunes, ballads. But it should come as no surprise to anyone at all that disco is in my blood! I love to feel sparkly and have that light shine back into the audience. So, yes, I am ‘finally ready’ to make a classic disco record. And I am so very lucky and blessed to be working with the best in the business, Defected, Glitterbox, and The Shapeshifters. Now, let’s dance!”

Billy Porter

The Shapeshifters’ Simon’s dedication to his craft has resulted in singles that could stand up alongside golden era disco records as much as they sound fresh on dancefloors today. His relationship with Glitterbox has previously yielded tracks like ‘Try My Love’ and ‘Life Is A Dancefloor’, tracks that lyrically and musically epitomise the label’s ethos, preserving disco’s mission to uplift and empower.

The Shapeshifters’ cinematic strings and live horns give a suitably theatrical backdrop to Billy’s voice. Crafted and brimming with emotion, the joyful message of ‘Finally Ready’ rings true through Billy’s lyrics, aiming to create dancefloor moments for years to come.

The Shapeshifters & Billy Porter deliver a future classic…  ‘Finally Ready’ is out now on Glitterbox Recordings.

 

 

 

 

Love Me Like You Should

Disco icon Sylvester may best be known for the international hit singles ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’, ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’, ‘Do You Wanna Funk’ and ‘Menergy’, but the recording artist’s groundbreaking career also furthered queer visibility in popular culture. Leaving a legacy that continues to influence today’s pop music.

Through the compelling new documentary ‘Love Me Like You Should: The Brave and Bold Sylvester’, produced for Pride 2020 by Amazon Music in collaboration with filmmaker Lauren Tabak and writer/consulting producer Barry Walters. The short documentary details the life and times of Sylvester James Jr., known mononymously as Sylvester.

When I saw Sylvester, my life was altered, my life was changed for the better. As a Black queer gay man, any glimmer of seeing oneself reflected back at them, through our culture, changes lives.

Billy Porter

The legacy of a musician who set new precedent for genderqueer, gay and black entertainers has been revisited the new mini-documentary. Sylvester’s story comes to life once more and the true extent of his impact – inside and out of the music industry – is explored.

It is a compilation of archival footage, as well as rare performance clips, charting Sylvester’s rise from Los Angeles choir boy to glam 1970s hit-maker. Starting with his birth in South Central Los Angeles, it charts the course of his move to San Fransisco’s Castro District and later breakthrough as a singer/songwriter.

He crossed over, he was a genderfluid Black man in mainstream music. That hasn’t happened since. There’s been a lot of us who have tried – and I’ve been trying for 30 years – nobody did it like Sylvester.

Billy Porter

While the significant influence of black culture on mainstream music extends back at least a century, James was among the first non-binary artists to achieve superstardom. As pointed out in the documentary, he championed gender fluidity years before it would be called that through his unapologetic style and demeanor.

The filmmakers also incorporate interviews with Sylvester’s sister Bernadette Baldwin, singer, actor and activist Billy Porter as well as collaborators like musician Peter Mintun, producer/songwriter James ‘Tip’ Wirrick, former background singer Martha Wash (Two Tons of Fun/Weather Girls), and Sylvester biographer Josh Gamson.

Sylvester was always ahead of us. He did things like talk about being married to a man before gay marriage was a thought. He responded to Joan Rivers saying that he was this drag queen by saying, ‘But I’m not a drag queen, I’m Sylvester.’ He wasn’t saying there’s something wrong with being a drag queen, he was saying that’s not how gender works. It was gender fluidity and nonbinary gender before we were really there.

Josh Gamson

In addition to interviews, and with his version of ‘God Bless The Child’ on the bacjground, – its is musical treasure! The kind of music he loved more then disco! – the 15-minute doc shows rare archival footage of Sylvester, including performances at The Stud, the historic San Francisco gay bar that recently shuttered. It also depicts how a 1979 show at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House was a healing, joyous moment for the city in the wake of the assassination of gay politician Harvey Milk.

Sylvester died at the age of 41 on December 16th, 1988 after a long battle of an AIDS-related illness. He had attended the San Francisco Pride parade in a wheelchair shortly before passing on to show solidarity even in his final years. His legacy, however, continues to live on…..

Watch the 15-minute documentary:

Amazon has also curated a playlist called Pride History on which ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ is an entry.

Want to read the whole story of Sylvester? Use the ‘Sylvester’ tag….

Lord Finesse Remixes And Reimagines Classic Motown Songs For Inspired New Album, ‘Motown State of Mind’

Lord Finesse - Motown State Of Mind Artwork

Legendary rapper, hip-hop producer, and founding member of the influential collective Diggin’ In The Crates Crew (D.I.T.C.), Lord Finesse is back with his most ambitious project to date: ‘Motown State of Mind’, a set of handpicked Motown classics remixed and reimagined.

Legendary hip-hop producern and rapper reinterprets songs by Debarge, Eddie Kendricks, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson Sister’s Love and Switch.

The inspired new remix album will be available to stream on June 26 via Motown/UMe and the remix of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’ is available to stream now (available here). In true DJ style, the remixes will also be released as a 45 RPM box set on July 24 containing seven 7-inch records on black vinyl featuring the remixed version on Side A and the classic original on Side B. In support of the release, there will be digital activations throughout June including livestreams and IG live takeovers from Motown’s various handles.

Curated and arranged for the new generation, going back to the original masters/sources, the remixes include chart toppers such as Michael Jackson’s ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’ and DeBarge’s ‘I Like It’ alongside deep cuts from Motown’s catalog like Sisters Love’s ‘Now Is The Time’.

‘Now Is The Time’ is a unique track as it was originally recorded in 1970 and in 1973 the group recorded a version of the song which was produced by Willie Hutch and appeared in the movie The Mack, but was never officially released. As an ode to the 1973 version, Lord Finesse and J Zone (producer, drummer, multi-instrumentalist, rapper, and writer) recreate the song as if it was released that year. The instrumental version of the track will be included as the B-side in the 45 box set.

The reimagined versions also feature collaborations from the likes of Dinky Bingham (the CEO of production/publishing company Dinky B. Music and a producer of gold and platinum hits for artists such as Changing Faces, New Edition, Kylie Minogue and Jaheim) as well as producer Tall Black Guy (who’s worked with artists such as Gilles Peterson, Lefto, Anthony Valadez, Jazzy Jeff, Questlove, amongst others).

I’m my own worst critic. If I like it, I don’t think no one can really tell me anything.

Lord Finesse

Lord Finesse classifies the remixes to be his ‘best project to date’. “I’m my own worst critic. If I like it, I don’t think no one can really tell me anything”, he explains. With that in mind, Finesse closes out the album with a mastermind remix of the critically acclaimed Jackson 5 medley ‘I Want You Back/ABC/The Love You Save’. The standalone singles of those three original aforementioned tracks, alongside the release of their fourth single ‘I’ll Be There’, made the group the first to debut with four consecutive number one hits on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Lord Finesse (born Robert Hall, Jr., in February 19, 1970) is a hip-hop artist and producer, hailing from The Bronx, N.Y. and best known as the leader of the D.I.T.C. rap crew. In 1989, Finesse and his former partner DJ Mike Smooth signed to Wild Pitch Records, and the next year, the duo released their debut album Funky Technician (which featured production from future star beat-makers DJ Premier, Diamond D and Showbiz). Shortly thereafter, Finesse along with Showbiz & AG and Diamond D formed the popular New York underground crew ‘Diggin In The Crates’ (aka D.I.T.C.), future members would include Fat Joe, O.C., Buckwild and the late Big L.

Finesse’s second solo album Return of the Funky Man was released in 1991 and featured guest appearances from Percee P and AG as well as some songs produced by Finesse himself. The title track, ‘Return of the Funky Man’, peaked at #13 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. Return of the Funky Man started his career as a much respected hip-hop producer, most notably for The Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, his fellow D.I.T.C. members, as well as for his third album, The Awakening.

Finesse has also been notably recognized for having provided the vocal sample on the hook to ‘The Rockafeller Skank’, the 1998 hit single by British musician Fatboy Slim as well as having produced ‘The Message’ on 2001 by Dr. Dre. He was also featured on Handsome Boy Modeling School’s 2004 track ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll (Could Never Hip-Hop Like This) pt. 2′, collaborating with famous DJ’s as QBert, Grand Wizard Theodore and Jazzy Jay. Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park make appearances, as well as Rahzel formerly of The Roots.

 

 

 

Matt Zarley teams up with Jeb Havens to honor the educators and students of the class of 2020

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Award winning Broadway veteran, Billboard dance sensation and People Magazine’s first-ever gay ‘Hottest Bachelor’ Matt Zarley (L) has received critical acclaim as an LGBT artist for over a decade since his debut on the music scene.

Fresh off his single with Emmy, Grammy, and Tony winner, Billy Porter (Pose), Matt has now joined forces with acclaimed indie artist and frequent collaborator, Jeb Havens (R), to release their reimagined, anthemic rendition of the Kelly Clarkson self-empowerment pop classic, ‘Stronger’.

In addition to producing the track, Zarley produced, directed, and edited the music video; which features a cast of 50+ students and parents from Canoga Park High School. The video was shot on location at the school two weeks before the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

If we had to delay shooting a week, we probably wouldn’t have been able to complete this. I can’t imagine being a high school senior and not getting to experience those special end of school year moments that you’ve been looking forward to for the past 4 years. I feel so bad for these kids. This entire situation is just awful.

Matt Zarley

To honor all of the incredible educators and awesome students, Zarley & Havens decided to dedicate the video to the class of 2020.

In addition to the single and music video, an extensive set of remixes will be released over the summer. Some of the biggest names in dance music are on board and contributing to the set.

 

 

‘Front and Center’ to Feature Country Star Dustin Lynch in Upcoming 10th Anniversary Television Episode

The critically acclaimed television music concert series Front and Center is pleased to announce that Country superstar Dustin Lynch will appear on an upcoming episode of season ten airing in 2020. Lynch will be filmed on February 18th at Analog, a state-of-the-art 5,000-square foot music venue, situated in Nashville’s Four-Star Hutton Hotel, located in the city’s lively West End neighborhood and steps from the heart of Music Row.

We’ve had the opportunity to play some of the biggest stages around the globe, but there’s something special about the up close and personal connection that happens in an intimate venue such as Analog. This is a special stage, and to film an episode of Front and Center there feels like the perfect combination for an unforgettable performance.

Dustin Lynch

“We are excited to be filming a performer of Dustin’s caliber for our 10th anniversary season at such a fantastic venue like Analog”, stated Don Maggi, Executive Producer of Front and Center. “It is going to be a special performance in an exceptional setting”.

Since his debut with Platinum single ‘Cowboys and Angels’, Lynch has held a steady presence on the Country music charts earning seven #1 hits and four Top 5 albums to date while touring with the genre’s biggest names (Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley). Lynch’s brand-new album ‘Tullahoma’ (Broken Bow Records) features back-to-back chart-topping singles ‘Ridin’ Roads’ and ‘Good Girl’, both of which he co-wrote. Early raves for the project are piling up with Entertainment Tonight proclaiming, ‘Lynch finds himself reconnecting with his roots and digging deeper into the artist he’s become’, while People praises his ‘sunny, sexy vibe, giving the entire project a feel-good sound’. The Tennessean calls it ‘some of Lynch’s most personal work’, as Billboard asserts Lynch ‘finds his lane’.

The Tennessee native is bringing these new songs to the stage on his headline ‘Stay Country Tour 2020’ through March, and then will join Old Dominion’s ‘We Are Old Dominion Tour’ this spring. Scoring over 1.7 billion total career streams, the Grand Ole Opry member continues to affirm his place as one of Country’s elite stars.

Lynch has earned industry recognition with Billboard Music Awards, iHeartRadio Music Awards, and CMT Music Awards nominations, and has made high–profile appearances at the ACM Awards, CMA Awards, CMA Fest, and on Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Lip Sync Battle, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, TODAY and more.

He joins an eclectic mix of top Grammy, Country Music Association, American Music and Academy of Country Music Award winners, rock icons and multi-platinum acts to appear on Front and Center. Musical artists have included Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Shawn Mendes, Train, Steven Tyler, Lady Antebellum, lovelytheband, Carlos Santana, The Head and the Heart, Dua Lipa, as well as Darius Rucker, Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls, Cyndi Lauper, Dierks Bentley, Jack Johnson, Counting Crows, and many more… Come into the world of  Front and Center.