Archive for January, 2011

Melvin’s Quiet Storm of Melodies



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It took quite a while for me to compile this Mix honoring one of the most influential DJ’s in radio’s history.  Melvin’s Quiet Storm of Melodies is a dedication to Melvin Lindsey, the slow jam radio format pioneer. Lindsey, who was born and raised in Washington, DC, was the creator of the Quiet Storm show; a nightly presentation of R&B love songs.  The format is now copied around the world.  Ballads after sunset have become the staple of many FM radio stations across formats from rock to pop; so it’s hard to remember that there was a time when there was nothing special or consistent to listen to after dark.  Then, in 1976, a young intern named  Melvin Lindsey got the chance to host a show for WHUR FM, Howard University’s radio station in Washington, DC.   Lindsey slowed things down for the night and listeners have been responding to that format ever since.

Melvin Lindsey’s love of slow tempo music featured the best and in many cases some of the most unknown artists in R&B.  The term slow jam was coined describing the sound.

Lindsey broadcasted in Washington for nearly 15 years, first with the Quiet Storm on WHUR, then with Melvin’s Melodies on WKYS.  He was the star of the night on KYS; while radio and T.V. personality Donnie Simpson hosted the morning show.  What a time for radio!

There is still a beautiful residue of Lindsey’s style lingering in Washington, but like so much of what made radio great, it too is fading.   To compile songs that reflect Lindsey’s taste was a challenge that I tried to overcome by focusing on his favorite groups like Heatwave, Con Funk Shun and Enchantment; as well his favorite singers like Patti LaBelle.

None of these songs were huge hits on Billboard; for instance, the group Heatwave is most known for Boogie Nights, not Star of the StoryDeniece Williams got her Grammy nominations for Let’s Hear it for the Boy, not for You’re All that Matters.  These artists existed before the MTV or BET countdowns and probably wouldn’t have been included if they had.   Their music was played because of the emotion it conveyed, the classic sound it delivered and because a DJ took the time to listen to the whole album.  A lot of this music has been forgotten except for the occasional sample used by a Kanye West or 9th Wonder, it’s a shame really. These love songs expressed a vulnerability and compassion lost in current slow jams.  Today’s artists would benefit from a session of the Quiet Storm in the early 80’s or Lindsey’s later show, Melivin’s Melodies.  Maybe then they would understand that being hopelessly in love is OK, and so wonderful that those emotions deserve to be captured in a nice slow song.  Melvin got that, and spent most of his life conveying feelings of love over DC’s airwaves.

I would like to think many of these songs were recorded because of Melvin, because artists found they had a consistent place to share this kind of music.  Just imagine what could happen in today’s musical landscape if artists could find stations dedicated to playing love songs as easily as they do stations hungry for divisive and misogynistic lyrics; imagine how that could change the complexion of our society.

This dedication compilation begins and ends with the theme songs from Lindsey’s two slow jam radio shows, just like the title of this Mix. Please enjoy Melvin’s Quiet Storm of Melodies.

Download the 192 kbps version (105 MB) here!

Sounds Like Washington Vol. 2

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I’m so excited to present Sounds Like Washington Vol. 2 to you.  Ten years ago I compiled the first Sounds Like Washington to keep me company when I lived far away from D.C. and missed listening to the exclusive sounds of this City.  After returning home, I was inspired to create Volume 2.  Like with Volume 1, some of these songs are regularly played on D.C.’s adult contemporary radio stations, others should be.  Please enjoy these soothing sounds that go best with the Washington skyline in the distance — but will make you feel good wherever you are.

Download the 192 kbps version (108 MB) here!

Top 5 Neo-Soul Females

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Erykah Badu

One of my favorite albums, across all music genres, is Erykah Badu’sMomma’s Gun.”  I honestly believe it’s one of the last true albums produced; and by that I mean it’s not a collection of singles… it’s a well-arranged production of songs.  Erykah is the mother of Neo-Soul;  I say this because she was the first major female Neo-soul artist, and has also “birthed” a number of new Neo-soul singers.   A couple of her background singers, N’Dambi and Yahzarah, have gone on to be hit makers in the genre as well… like Badu said, “[she] goes on and on and on and on.”

Badu calls her self an “analog girl in a digital world,” but that’s just her modesty.  She’s actually one of the most forward thinking and creative artists in music today.  A good songwriter can express the words and thoughts that you may feel everyday but don’t know how to say on your own; that’s why we love good music, it’s relatable.  A good singer can bring well-written lyrics to life; they have soul and passion.  A musician finds the notes to tie it all together…  but an artist is all this and more.  Whatever has created Erykah Badu, I love it.  She is a fantastic mix of flawed yet unapologetic womanhood.  She strips herself bare, sometimes literally, and shares her soul.  I don’t hear artists paying tribute to Badu or crediting her genius and influence, but isn’t that always the way for women?  The industry may not appreciate her now, but it will.  Maybe what’s really going on is she is the digital girl and we’re stuck in an analog world.

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Jill Scott

When the “Who is Jill Scott” album was first released, I put it in my car’s CD changer and didn’t take it out for like two years.  From her soft vocals echoing hope of lasting love to her screams of celebration, “Who is Jill Scott” is a classic album.  While I obviously love her recordings there is nothing like Jill Scott live.  She writes with the soul of a poet, performs with the intensity of a dramatic actress and sings like a goddess… I would say an angel, but I don’t’ think angels bring it like “Jilly from Philly.”  When her heart is broken, yours breaks too.  When she’s in love, you can’t wait to feel the same way.  That’s what Philadelphia soul has always done and that’s what flows through Jill Scott, from her hair follicles to her toenails.

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Ledisi

Not since Sly and the Family Stone has a sound so raw and real come out of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Ledisi’s vocals can make you want to kick off your shoes in celebration or ball up in the corner and cry.  In her music, she asks the hard and serious questions aloud that so many women keep inside like; “How am I going to pay my bills?”  and “Will you be there in the morning?”  She is a down-home “gal” from the left coast and represents for the everyday sister everywhere.

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Amel Larrieux

Now here lies the voice of an Angel. From the first time Amel Larrieux sweetly said, “Tell me if you want me to give you all my time,” the answer was a resounding yes from music fans everywhere. This singer, songwriter, musician and producer, began as a member of Groove Theory in the 90’s and has since become a solo, Neo-soul staple. Her sweet, soft and often pain stricken vocals always seem to feel a little melancholy even when she’s singing a happy song. She was a part of pioneering Neo-soul and continues to perform it better than most.

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Me`shell Ndegeocello

From the fist time I heard Me`shell Ndegeocello’s low moan over her sensual bass guitar I thought, “Thank you God for sending my generation the music of Ndegeocello.”  She was so wonderfully retro-soul it almost seemed like a cosmic mistake.

Originally from the DC area, she flirts with hints of go-go in her percussion-driven up-tempo songs but is obviously in a serious relationship with soul.  She is a visual and stimulating songwriter; I can see what she’s describing and I can feel what she’s feeling.  My favorite Me`shell song changes from time-to-time, but my top two would be Outside Your Door and Rush Over.  These are literally two of my favorite songs of all time and there are quite a few other Me`shell songs that would easily go in my Top 50.  This musician, singer, songwriter is simply amazing and if you haven’t heard her album “Bitter,” get it immediately.  From the first note to the last, it is one of the most haunting R&B, Neo-Soul, Funk, Soul compilations ever!  And “Bitter” is great after a hard break up… just stay away from all sharp objects while you listen.

Bill Withers – Sweet Wanomi

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“If you’ve read the album cover by now, you know that my name is what my name is…” – Do It Good, by Bill Withers.

I love that line! I feel like…if you’ve read my About Page by now then you know that I love Bill Withers!  I’m starting to work on a soul compilation for a friend and was going through some Withers when I came across Sweet Wanomi, the b-side to Grandma’s Hands.  I’ve never heard Withers talk about the meaning behind this song, but I like to imagine that it’s about a little girl falling asleep in her Daddy’s arms.  I used to love hearing my Dad sing this song.  Enjoy!

BEHAVE – “Be” Mixtape Vol. 3

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After BETRAYAL, and being stuck in “BETWEEN,” it’s understandable that there may be feelings of anger, want, and regret but…BEHAVE!  That is the sentiment behind this third installment in the “Be” series of mixtapes.  This fantastic voyage into experimental music rocks out with some international soul and American alternative, then mellows some with jazz-fusion, hip-hop, house, Afrobeat and Neo-soul.  Like the other Be-mixes, this is for serious music-heads only.  Please download, enjoy and tell me what you think.

Download the 192 kbps version (98.4 MB) here!