Results for R&B

interviews

Los Lobos

Recently, Jim and Greg were joined by an audience of Sound Opinions and Los Lobos fans for a special recording at City Winery Chicago. Louie Perez, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin showed everyone what it means to have 4 decades of chops and unity under their belts. Since forming in high school in East L.A., Los Lobos has always pushed the boundaries of whatever genre they explored: rock, punk, Mexican folk, R&B, jazz, psychedelia. Most of that is a far cry from their huge 1987 hit "La Bamba." But, perhaps that cover got fans like Elmo in the door. Now the group has a new album called Gates of Gold, its first release in 5 years.

Go to episode 533

Kelis

R&B singer/songwriter Kelis has been making music since her debut release in 1999…longer if you count her time at the "Fame" school (New York's LaGuardia High School of Music, Art & Performing Arts). But it wasn't until 2003's breakout hit "Milkshake," that Kelis really brought all the fans to the yard. That song, produced by Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes, went gold. But, Kelis' next step was surprising. She released 2006's Kelis Was Here and then took a big break…to go to culinary school! By this time she had married rapper Nas, and in 2009 they publicly announced their split while Kelis was 7 months pregnant with her son. All of that—motherhood, family and food—has made its way on to the new record, aptly titled Food. It's a focused reinvention of sounds, produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek. Kelis stopped by our studio to performed songs from Food and talk about the pitfalls of stardom, her breakup with Nas, and how Jerk Ribs found its way into a song title.

Go to episode 454

Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini of Sly & the Family Stone

In the 1960's, Sly & the Family Stone, with its multi-racial, co-ed lineup, broke down barriers of how a band should look and sound. It also bridged rock, funk, R&B, soul and jazz, thanks in large part to its virtuoso musicians: guitarist Freddie Stone, bass player Larry Graham, drummer Greg Errico, keys player Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson and sax player Jerry Martini. Then, of course, you have Sly Stone, one of the most charismatic frontmen in music history. But, once the charming star who stole the show at Woodstock and on Dick Cavett, Sly Stone dropped out of public life in 1975. We've had occasional glimpses since then, but for the most part his legend only lives on in recordings. Luckily fans have a new box set called Higher! Upon its release, Jim and Greg spoke with Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini.

Go to episode 431

L.A. Reid

lareidcoachella TLC, Mariah Carey, Pink, Justin Bieber, Outkast, Usher, Whitney Houston, Jay-Z, Kanye West…you name the pop star, and chances are he or she has worked with this week's guest, Antonio“L.A.”Reid. While he began as a drummer in the R&B group The Deele, it's really behind-the-scenes that L.A. has made the most awesome noise—first, as a songwriter/producer with Babyface in the 1980s and 1990s, then as a record exec at LaFace, Arista, Island Def Jam and now Epic Records.

L.A. shares his insights into what makes a great pop song, great (melody, hooks, emotion and the ability to sound good, even with a pillow over it) and some of his biggest professional triumphs (signing“the Beast”Rihanna, coaching Kanye West) and failures (Lady Gaga…the one that got away). He's also not afraid to get candid about music industry sacred cows, whether it's Michael Jackson or major labels themselves.

Go to episode 542

Seinabo Sey

Swedish artist Seinabo Sey may be a bit of an old soul, but her music is breaking new ground. This week, Greg and Jim chat with pop/neo soul singer Seinabo Sey, who just released her debut album Pretend. Sey was raised in Sweden, born to a Swedish mother and a Gambian father (musician Maudo Sey), but growing up, she idolized American pop & R&B stars like Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Alicia Keys, which is evident in her sound.

A few years ago, she teamed up with Magnus Lidehäll, an accomplished producer who has worked with Katy Perry, David Guetta, Avicii and more. The result really lets Sey's authetic voice shine through.

Go to episode 545

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding exploded onto the jazz scene as a bass prodigy, recording her debut album in 2006 and winning the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011. But she's never been satisfied being just one thing. Her many talents include being a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, bandleader, producer, librettist, and more. Her music ignores genre boundaries, freely incorporating funk, R&B, classical music, and progressive rock. She's even introduced a theatrical element with her latest album, Emily's D+Evolution..

Jim and Greg sit down this week with Esperanza Spalding for a spirited chat about the new record. She also discusses her collaborations with legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter, the challenges of being taken seriously as a female musician, and the moment she discovered the bass was for her.

Go to episode 580

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613

Warpaint

Jim and Greg are joined in the studio this week by the Los Angeles band, Warpaint. The band is made of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman on guitar and vocals, Jenny Lee Lindberg on bass, and drummer Stella Mozgawa. The band combines rock, electronica, r&b and a host of other genres into a mix that they like to call“sexy,”apt for a band formed on Valentines Day of 2004. Jim and Greg talk to them about musical influences, why it takes so long between records and what is was like working with production superstars, Flood and Nigel Godrich. The band plays us 3 songs from their latest self-titled album, Warpaint.

Go to episode 444

Van Hunt

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt grew up in funk-soaked Dayton, Ohio. Today he counts Frank Zappa and Ray Charles - not to mention Bach - among his influences. That musical adventurousness is just one reason Jim and Greg were drawn to his latest album, 2011's What Were You Hoping For? Van dropped by the studio to perform tracks from the record, and he let Jim and Greg in on the story behind his first independent release. Van got his start in the music biz a decade ago producing R&B and hip-hop tracks for the likes of Dionne Farris in Atlanta. When he went solo in 2004, it was on a major label. But the higher ups at Capitol weren't so thrilled when Van shunned the standard R&B format for a freewheeling mix of sounds that recalled the soul and funk of Sly Stone as much as it did the glam of David Bowie. In 2008, they shelved his third record Popular. Now that he's on his own, Van's free to indulge his genre-blending impulses.

Go to episode 344

Debbie Harry

Even now, 31 years after the release of "Rapture," one is impressed by how cool a rapping Debbie Harry sounds. The Blondie lead singer was always ahead of the curve sonically, incorporating R&B, reggae, and, gasp, disco into her songs. During her visit to the show, Debbie talks to Jim and Greg about these varied influences, and what the scene was like in downtown New York in the '70s and '80s. We certainly have Blondie to thank for bringing a little dance back to the punk mix. And the up-tempo sounds continue on the band's latest release Panic of Girls.

Go to episode 322
specials

Remembering Prince

Prince Remembered

"Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last." Yet the party ended much too soon for music legend Prince, who died on April 21 at the age of 57 at his Paisley Park home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Volumes have been said about the late Prince Rogers Nelson in the past week, but Jim and Greg draw attention to aspects of his music and career that aren't acknowledged enough. Growing out of the Minneapolis funk scene, Prince refused to be boxed into a single genre, fearlessly blending funk, pop, rock, soul, new wave, and R&B to create a sound all his own. He was known as a guitar god, but could really play any instrument he touched and often was the only musician on his recordings. Prince carried on the Marvin Gaye and Al Green tradition in R&B of mixing the sacred and the profane, sex and salvation. On records like The Black Album, he created some of the most lascivious music ever, but at the same time, Jim and Greg argue he showed a deep respect for women. Not only did he mentor and collaborate with up-and-coming female stars, but he also was eager to help out his idols like Chaka Khan and Mavis Staples.

Prince was unafraid to explore psychedelia, especially in the crucial three album run of Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Parade in the mid-80s. He spent the rest of his life toiling away at Paisley Park, churning out recording after recording – not without quality control issues. But in the past couple decades, Prince was defined by his unpredictable and often transcendent live performances. Prince was ahead of his time in recognizing the internet as a way to sell music directly to his fans without a label. But his greatest legacy will of course be his music, and his influence on generations of artists is immeasurable.

Go to episode 544
genre dissections

Ska

Ska is an often misunderstood music genre. Isn‘t it the same as reggae? Didn’t it die out in the '90s? Jim and Greg dig into ska in a Sound Opinions genre dissection with pioneering ska musician Charley Organaire and Jump Up records founder and ska scholar Chuck Wren. Charley was present at the creation in 1950s Jamaica for what is now known as the 1st Wave of Ska. He tells us where the name came from and how the sound originated by mixing folk music known as mento with American R&B, giving rise to artists like The Skatalites, Prince Buster and Laurel Aiken. Then Chuck leads us through the 2nd Wave, or Two-Tone, movement in the late '70s England with bands like The Specials, Madness and The English Beat. And finally the 3rd Wave breaks in the United States in the 1990s with an aggressive strain of punk-infused ska that looked to be reaching the mainstream, only to fade away as quickly as it grew. But Chuck tells us that ska can still be found all over the world.

Go to episode 558
reviews
Back to BlackBack to Black available on iTunes

Amy Winehouse Back to Black

This first album up for review this week is of Back to Black, the second album by British import Amy Winehouse. The singer/songwriter was one of the most buzzed about acts at this year's SXSW Festival, and her off-stage antics are getting her a flurry of attention in the British press. Jim and Greg, however, aren't sure the phenomenon will translate overseas. Winehouse prides herself on being influenced by jazz and the R&B and soul singers of the 1960s. But, both critics find her music to be a retro parody more than an authentic homage. In fact, Jim outright hates this album and gives his Trash It rating right up front. Greg didn‘t dislike the album as much as he thought he would, but was still unimpressed by Winehouse’s pale imitation of artists like Donnie Hathaway and Nina Simone. He also gives Back to Black a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 71
PopularPopular available on iTunes

Van Hunt Popular

Soul-rocker Van Hunt's album Popular, originally slated for release back in 2008, is finally seeing the light of day. According to Greg, the record is“totally contemporary, and totally of the moment… still.” The album, a stylistic diversion from Van Hunt's previous efforts (Van Hunt [2006] and On the Jungle Floor [2007]), was shelved by Blue Note Records after promotional copies had been distributed to critics. Jim and Greg received copies of the album back then and gave the album an "enthusiastic double Buy It" – despite listeners not being able to purchase the music at the time. Now that Blue Note has given the record a proper release, Jim and Greg revisited the record. Greg calls it a Freudian, avant-garde take on Prince's Dirty Mind. He adds that the record has an“adventurous”blend of sonic elements like the mix of punk with falsetto soul vocals in "Turn My TV On." Jim says the record was ahead of its time in 2008 and still sounds absolutely fresh and current beside "other genre-bending maestros of R&B like Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar." Both Greg and Jim give Popular another double Buy It (and this time you can actually buy it).

JimGreg
Go to episode 614
Raymond v RaymondRaymond V. Raymond available on iTunes

Usher Raymond V. Raymond

Usher is back this week with his 6th record called Raymond V. Raymond. The title is a reference to the R&B singer's divorce, and based on the content of the songs, Jim and Greg would say he's quickly back to being a playboy. Usher carved out a successful niche as a less threatening version of R. Kelly, but Jim thinks a few of the songs would make even Kelly blush. He calls it empty, tasteless, and worst of all-boring-and gives Usher a Trash It. Greg believes the singer should've known better. He has always admired artists like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, but is currently doing a poor job emulating them. There are a couple of tracks where he digs deep and explores his relationship issues, but Greg gives the rest of it a Trash It as well.

JimGreg
Go to episode 227
PopularPopular available on iTunes

Van Hunt Popular

The first album up for review this week is Popular by soul singer Van Hunt. Jim and Greg both received their review copies, and were excited to talk about the album on the air. Then, they saw a post on Van Hunt's blog. The singer announced that he had been cut from the Blue Note roster and wasn‘t sure if the album would ever see the light of day. Both Jim and Greg agree that this is a shame. Jim admits that Van Hunt isn’t reinventing the wheel, but he borrows from all the right places. He thinks the singer has great style and great taste and loves this record to pieces. Greg calls the album lean and sparse, and says that it will be jarring to most R&B fans. But, he hears more of Van Hunt himself in this album, rather than just Prince and Sly Stone. Both Jim and Greg urge listeners to seek the music out online, and if they could give it a Buy It, they would.

JimGreg
Go to episode 114
Soldier of LoveSoldier of Love available on iTunes

Sade Soldier of Love

This week's review is another possible prescription. What couple wouldn't like a romantic dose of Sade? The Nigerian-British singer is back with her first album in a decade. Most people associate Sade with that smooth R&B sound of the 80s. Now she's created a smooth R&B sound for the 10s. As Jim and Greg discuss, Soldier of Love is not a radical departure. But Sade still sounds great, and has brought her complicated and compelling life stories into her music. It's a welcome return for both critics and a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 219
CurrentsCurrents available on iTunes

Tame Impala Currents

On the heels of their 2013 appearance on Sound Opinions, listeners will hear a new sound with the new Tame Impala album Currents. Lead singer Kevin Parker has taken the band in a new direction laden away from classic psychedlia and towards sounds that previous albums didn't touch upon, namely Soul and R&B. Greg thinks this change in sound along with more pointed, introspective lyrics has led to a step forward for the band, especially in a live setting. He gives the album a Buy It. Jim agrees and compares Parker to another pop auteur, Brian Wilson. Jim thinks that the album displays Parker's ability to take different elements across the musical spectrum and make them orchestral and moving. He too gives Currents a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 503
Jamila Woods

Jamila Woods HEAVN

In the last few years, Chicago poet and soul artist Jamila Woods has made memorable cameos on tracks by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, and more. Now, she's breaking out with her debut album HEAVN. Jim loves how Jamila effortlessly blends genres like soul, R&B, and hip hop. He also finds her lyrics to be powerful and effective in painting a picture of her life as a black woman. Jim thinks Woods is elevating the neo soul genre to the next level and gives HEAVN a Buy It. Greg wholeheartedly agrees, and thinks this album is another great release coming from the Chicago hip hop and R&B scene. He greatly respects Jamila's ability to poetically articulate her struggles against society's perceptions of black beauty and womanhood. Overall, Greg thinks this is one of the best albums of the year so far, and gives it an enthusiastic Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 558
The ArchAndroid (Deluxe)The ArchAndroid available on iTunes

Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid

On the other end of the rock spectrum is Janelle Monáe. The alternative R&B singer's debut album is called The ArchAndroid. It's a dense science fiction concept record that incorporates hip hop, soul, funk, rock and big bandsounds. Jim hears the most ambition from an R&B singer in a long time. He loves Monáe's universe and gives The ArchAndroid a Buy It. Greg goes even further, calling this record the best he's heard this year. Spend time with it and you will love it. The ArchAndroid gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 234
Heads UpHeads Up available on iTunes

Warpaint Heads Up

Former Sound Opinions guests Warpaint have returned with their third studio album Heads Up. As Jim explains, with the new album comes a new sound for the band. While previous records were heavy on atmospheric moodiness, Heads Up is more of a party record with a euphoric dance vibe. Jim loves this celebratory new direction and awards it a Buy It. Greg agrees that rhythm is at the center of the album, led by the spectacular drumming of Stella Mozgawa and the melodic bass playing of Jenny Lee Lindberg. Greg says this new turn toward a club sound isn't selling out – Warpaint retains their identity with a very personal, experimental take on R&B. Heads Up is a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 566
Black MessiahBlack Messiah available on iTunes

D'Angelo Black Messiah

The enigmatic neo-soul revolutionary D'Angelo is back after 14 years underground with the surprise year-end release of Black Messiah, the follow-up to his triumphant 2000 album Voodoo. Greg couldn‘t be happier to utter the words“new D’Angelo album,”as the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter is truly an R&B visionary. Black Messiah sounds like no other music out there. D‘Angelo’s meticulously layered and sensuous grooves aren‘t afraid of a little dirt and grime, which fit the record’s two overarching themes of love and war perfectly. Jim credits D'Angelo for being able to connect the dots within, and across, musical genres bringing the past into the present and pushing the present state of R&B into the future. The only problem either critic has with the album is that it came out after they made their best albums of the year lists, because Black Messiah is easily a contender for number one. An absolute Buy It for both Jim and Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 473
Graffiti (Deluxe Version)Rated R available on iTunes

Chris Brown & Rihanna Rated R

Last week Jim and Greg reviewed Rihanna's new album Rated R. This week they look at her former boyfriend Chris Brown's new album Graffiti. The R&B star's third album is being released only months after he pleaded guilty to assaulting Rihanna, and Jim and Greg hear more of a botched public relations attempt than a good record. The songs might have been innocuous had Brown not addressed the violent incident, but he does and seemingly without much remorse. To Greg it's a taudry he said/she said game. To Jim it's bad experimentation, not to mention creepy. Either way, it's a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 210
NO ONE EVER REALLY DIESNo_One Ever Really Dies available on iTunes

N.E.R.D. No_One Ever Really Dies

After a seven year hiatus, N.E.R.D. (the Pharrell Williams/Neptunes side project) has returned with their fourth album No_One Ever Really Dies. As The Neptunes, Chad Hugo & Pharrell crafted synthy, quirky, poppy hip hop and R&B for the likes of Jay-Z and Kelis in the 1990s and early '00s. Then in 1999, they formed N.E.R.D. with Shay Haley. In the time since N.E.R.D.'s last album, 2010's Nothing, Pharrell Williams has made a name for himself as a solo artist. Most notably, he achieved mainstream success with the smash hit "Happy," all while maintaining his signature sense of quirk. Greg says it's that quirkiness, along with a knack for hooks that attracted him to their sound in the first place. He likes this effort for its“weird, buzzy tone”and its psychedelic energy. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim calls N.E.R.D. an“experimental garage band.”He adds this project has an uneven success rate with its long list of collaborations, including tracks with Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and Ed Sheeran. Jim gives it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 632
UnapologeticUnapologetic available on iTunes

Rihanna Unapologetic

Reigning pop/R&B queen and hook-singer du jour Rihanna is back with a new release called Unapologetic - her first to top the Billboard albums chart. The 24-year-old Barbadian singer has been all over the news in recent weeks, though not necessarily for her music. By dueting with the man who assaulted her in 2009 (fellow R&B singer Chris Brown) on“Nobody's Business,”Rihanna ensured her seventh studio album would be everybody's business. So how's the music? Jim calls the upbeat dance-pop fare on the first half of the record“pure pop pleasure.”But when things get sappier and slowed-down on side two, her limits as a vocalist become clear. Greg agrees with Jim that Rihanna's Chris Brown collab is pure“button-pushing.”He points to her 2009 album Rated R as a more ambitious and successful exploration of that troubled relationship. While he appreciates that the singer is moving in a more serious direction, he laments that the pop hooks just aren't there. Unapologetic gets a double Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 366
WildheartWild Heart available on iTunes

Miguel Wild Heart

Wild Heart is the third studio album from cutting edge R&B singer and songwriter Miguel. Miguel who is of both Mexican American and African American heritages, has always had a different approach to the R&B genre. While his first album was tinkered with by A&R folks, his last record was his coming-out party; displaying his affection for multiple genres and subject matter of an adult variety. On this third album, Wild Heart, Miguel continues his exploration into genre and sexuality. Jim thinks he comes from the school of thought of Marvin Gaye and D'Angelo, artists whose avant garde nature scared traditionalists. He gives this album a Buy It rating. Greg agrees and says the orchestration and the honest lyrics make this album one of his favorites of the year. He gives it a Buy It as well.

JimGreg
Go to episode 501
Def Mask - SingleDef Mask available on iTunes

Divine Styler Def Mask

R&B singer D'Angelo wasn't the only artist to emerge from an extended hiatus last month. Brooklyn rapper Divine Styler also returned with a surprise album in December. Def Mask is his first new dose of radical hip-hop in almost 15 years. The album steers clear of Styler's previous pseudo-psychedelic rhymes and rhythms. Instead, it charts a course for the stars joining the ranks of prominent musical Afrofuturists like George Clinton and Janelle Monae in creating a dense, sci-fi-laden sound. Styler's impressive wordplay takes a leery look at today's technology obsessed culture, but despite its dark, neo-noir tone, the album is able to maintain a certain amount of optimism throughout. Def Mask is an ambitious undertaking that is at times both unsettling and uplifting and it marks a celebrated return for Divine Styler. Both Jim and Greg say Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 476
Do to the BeastDo to the Beast available on iTunes

The Afghan Whigs Do to the Beast

After almost 16 years, Greg was genuinely excited to learn about the return of Greg Dulli and The Afghan Whigs. He always loved the Jim Thompson-like storytelling in the songs, and the R&B exuberance of Dulli's on-stage persona. But, Do to the Beast is a somewhat mixed return to form. The Whigs are missing their original guitarist and drummer. So Greg says Try It. Jim is not so kind. He was never as taken with Greg Dulli's“schtick”and thinks the record is a poor imitation of other great R&B-tinged albums. He gives Do to the Beast a Trash It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 439
HollyHolly available on iTunes

Nick Waterhouse Holly

Neo-soul singer and guitarist Nick Waterhouse made a big impression on Greg during a performance at SXSW in 2012, but unlike a lot of acts that passed through the annual music conference, Waterhouse had staying power. On his second album, Holly, the retro-rivalist deftly channels the likes of Ray Charles and pianist Mose Allison. Jim finds the occasional grittiness of the album appealing, but mostly it's too sterile and formulaic to warrant anything more than a Try It. Greg disagrees, saying Holly nails the snap-and-swing feel of old R&B records while tossing a Raymond Chandler, L.A. noir vibe into the mix. Waterhouse's first album was good, but Greg says Holly is even better: Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 434
The Fun Rises, the Fun Sets.The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets available on iTunes

Van Hunt The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets

Atlanta multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt has flirted with mainstream R&B success, but his genre-hopping tendencies have kept him from a wider audience. Jim thinks that's a shame, as his latest album The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets confirms that Van Hunt is one of the most innovative voices in neo-soul music along with Kendrick Lamar and D'Angelo. Jim sees both depth and joy in the record. The lascivious, erotically charged moments are naughty, yet never offensive. Van Hunt's musical prowess is on fine display, as he plays every instrument himself. Greg hears The Fun Rises as more narrowly focused than the previous album What Were You Hoping For? in a good way, showcasing a more uniform trippy funk style. For Greg, it's a record that works equally well for headphone listening as for dancing. Both critics give Van Hunt a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 496
As I AmAs I Am available on iTunes

Alicia Keys As I Am

Alicia Keys has a record out this week that's poised to be #1. Keys has been groomed by Clive Davis in the old school star-making machine, and has become one of the biggest recording artists of this decade. Jim has never been overly impressed by Keys' style which is part polished R&B, part gritty hip hop. But, As I Am is so campy and over the top, that he found himself enjoying the record…even the John Mayer duet. Like a bag of candy, Jim knows it's not good for him, but he gives the record a Buy It. Greg wants to like Keys a lot more; she's obviously got real talent. But, he thinks her lyrics are nothing but a string of clichés. He also wishes she wasn't so bogged down by the over-production. He gives As I Am a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 103
Beauty Behind the MadnessBeauty Behind the Madness available on iTunes

The Weeknd Beauty Behind the Madness

Canadian R&B artist Abel Tesfaye spent several years as a mysterious underground phenomenon, releasing acclaimed EPs for free under the name of The Weeknd. After guesting on songs by his friend Drake, he's now become a star, selling out arenas behind his new album Beauty Behind the Madness. The Weeknd is a major voice in the new wave of neo-soul along with Frank Ocean, FKA Twigs, and Solange. Jim thinks his musical ability is undeniable, particularly in the moments when he is reinterpreting the sound and vulnerability of Michael Jackson. Yet on the more R. Kelly-inspired half of the album, Jim feels The Weeknd crosses the line from sexiness into lewdness, so he can't give the album more than a Try It. Greg agrees the sexual content of the lyrics is troubling, but believes Tesfaye is self-aware and ultimately critical of the attitudes his character expresses. The album represents a huge step forward musically, thanks in part to master pop producer Max Martin who managed to add hooks without watering down the darkness. Greg says Beauty Behind the Madness is a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 510
BlondeBlonde available on iTunes

Frank Ocean Blonde

Who doesn't love a surprise? Frank Ocean surprised fans when he dropped not one but two albums without notice this past week. The R&B singer broke out in 2012 with his album Channel Orange before essentially disappearing. Over the past few months he has hinted about new music and now he has finally delivered: a visual album called Endless and a more traditional album (as traditional as it can get) called Blonde. Was it worth the wait? Jim and Greg both say“yes.”Jim finds that the low-key and moody Blonde takes on some weighty issues, addressing gender-fluidity and a feeling of disconnection from other humans at a time when technology has made communication“easier than ever.”Greg says the album's production sounds like nothing else and“occupies its own universe.”He says that love is the theme to the record – and while that might seem simple, Ocean takes the concept in complex and moving directions. It's an enthusiastic double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 561
A Seat at the TableA Seat at the Table available on iTunes

Solange A Seat at the Table

Let's just get this part out of the way: Solange is the younger sister of Beyoncé. But that is where the comparisons end. Solange's new album A Seat at the Table is her 3rd studio album was produced by the noted R&B and neo-soul mastermind Raphael Saadiq. This is a protest album addressing elements of the Black Lives Matter movement. While it is an album with a political message Greg says it is a not a knock-out punch, it is much more subtle with a message of being“weary of the world.”While Solange's voice is beautiful and delicate, Greg says her voice is also strong. Jim also hears Solange's weariness and notes how it contrasts to the anger of sister Beyonce's Lemonade. A Seat at the Table gets a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 567
Ain't Nobody Worryin'Ain't Nobody Worryin' available on iTunes

Anthony Hamilton Ain't Nobody Worryin'

Next up is a review of Ain‘t Nobody Worryin’, the new album from Anthony Hamilton. This R&B singer reminds both critics of classic vocalists like Bill Withers and Bobby Womack. While keeping his day job as a barber in in Charlotte, North Carolina, Hamilton began recording. He sang back-up for D'Angelo on his Voodoo our, and eventually caught the eye of mega-producer Jermaine Dupri during a Grammy performance honoring Stevie Wonder. While Greg initially objected to the lack of up-tempo songs, both he and Jim appreciate the quality of the songwriting and the substance of the lyrics. Therefore Ain‘t Nobody Worryin’ gets two Buy It ratings.

JimGreg
Go to episode 7
Double UpDouble Up available on iTunes

R. Kelly Double Up

One man that is always in the news is music star R. Kelly. The self-proclaimed "Pied Piper of R&B" has a new album out called Double Up. The Chicago native has sold more than 40 million albums in his career, but that's not the only reason he's making headlines. As Jim and a team of his colleagues first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, Kelly engaged in a number of sexual relationships with underage women (according to lawsuits those girls filed against him), and he is under indictment for making child pornography after allegedly videotaping one of these encounters. (He is still awaiting trial but has always maintained his innocence.) These charges have not affected Kelly's sales or his prolific rate of recording, and Jim notes that he finds it difficult to listen to the lyrics on Double Up while Kelly talks so cavalierly about sex and makes light of the criminal case. To Jim it's just not art — it's a disturbing look into a troubled psyche. Greg agrees that it can be difficult to separate the man from the music, and this has been a challenge throughout pop music. Musically though, Double Up feels a little played out to Greg. He describes R. Kelly as a masterful producer, but doesn‘t think the sounds on this album are as strong as those on his earlier efforts. In terms of the lyrical content, a lot of Kelly’s fans find humor in some of his freaky, over-the-top professions of lust. But, this time around, Greg hears much more of a mean spirit in his voice. He describes it as one of the worst R. Kelly records and gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 78
Exclusive (The Forever Edition)Exclusive available on iTunes

Chris Brown Exclusive

Pop sensation Chris Brown has a new album out this week that both Jim and Greg predict will spawn a number of hit singles. But our two hosts disagree on whether or not Exclusive is worth your money. Jim really enjoyed listening to Brown's take on modern R&B — hints of masculine braggadocio tempered by an old-fashioned sweetness. He gives the record a Buy It. Greg admits that Brown's more mild-mannered approach to the opposite sex is something the genre needs right now, but he insists that talented vocalists like Brown are a dime a dozen. It's the production that makes them stand out, as Usher did with his 2004 Lil John-produced single "Yeah." Greg's certain Brown will mature to a more interesting sound, but for now he gets a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 105
The Real Thing - Words & Sounds, Vol. 3The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3 available on iTunes

Jill Scott The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3

Next up is another female singer/songwriter, Jill Scott. After her successful 2000 debut Who Is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds, Vol. 1, Scott established herself as one of the most powerful voices in R&B and soul. Now she's back with The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3, which Greg describes as having two stylistic poles, strong and sassy and soft and soul-searching, with a whole lot of“boot-knocking”music in between. Both Jim and Greg are fans of Scott, but wish there was more spunk and more hooks on this record, since they know she is capable of it. The Real Thing is a real Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
Wake Up!Wake Up! available on iTunes

The Roots Wake Up!

During the Obama campaign R&B singer John Legend and hip hop group The Roots were inspired by the African-American community's rich tradition of socially conscious protest music. So they decided to put together an album of covers of these funk, soul and reggae gems called Wake Up! Legend and The Roots really show their encyclopedic knowledge of music with their choices, which, Greg notes, are not the big hits by artists like Donny Hathaway and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. He appreciates that scholarship and hopes this will turn a new generation on to these artists. But, his main issue is that they don't transcend the original. So he gives Wake Up! a Burn It rating. Jim has major problems with Legend's vocal performance, which doesn't match the emotional content of the songs. He wonders if he has a“tin ear”and gives the record a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 251
Memoirs of an Imperfect AngelMemoirs of an Imperfect Angel available on iTunes

Mariah Carey Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel

Mariah Carey's new album is more than just a collection of songs. It's a corporate multi-media experience. Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel comes with an ad-filled mini mag, but lucky for Jim and Greg, they only need to worry about the music. Carey has never been Greg's favorite vocalist, but he applauds her choice to base the record around slow-jam R&B. It's not cluttered with mega-guest producers, and Greg thinks it's her best record yet. He gives it a Buy It. Jim is shocked. He describes the songs as empty and hollow and gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 200
Stone Rollin' - SingleStone Rollin' available on iTunes

Raphael Saadiq Stone Rollin'

Raphael Saadiq is a music veteran at age 44. He was a member of the successful R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! and then Lucy Pearl. Now he's released his fourth solo album called Stone Rollin'. Jim loves the vibe of it, even Robert Randolph's pedal steel guitar. You could accuse Saadiq of living in the past–he makes no bones about his roots–but he has the songwriting chops to put behind it. Jim gives this“great party record”a Buy It. Greg has always respected and liked Saadiq, but on this album he falls in love. He calls this album the singer/songwriter's crowning achievement, adding that Saadiq falls on the right side of the divide between retro and classic. Stone Rollin' gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 289
The Light of the Sun (Deluxe Version)The Light of the Sun available on iTunes

Jill Scott The Light of the Sun

Is Jill Scott a contender for the next round of lists? Her new release The Light of the Sun is the number one album in the country, a first for Scott. The R&B singer started as a poet in Philadelphia and has gone on to have a successful career in both music and acting. Since her last release in 2007, Scott has gone through tough breakups of the romantic and professional variety. And that's provided much of the subtext for the songs on The Light of the Sun. Jim doesn‘t think the level of self-pity is warranted though, especially when the music is so upbeat. He’s not used to this tough lady feeling sorry for herself. And more disappointing is her singing. Jim says Trash It. Greg can‘t believe what he’s hearing. This isn't a return to form, in his opinion, but a whole new territory. The record sounds loose and fun, and despite the massive life changes, Scott sounds remarkably resilient. He says Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 292
Stronger With Each Tear (Bonus Track)Stronger with Each Tear available on iTunes

Mary J. Blige Stronger with Each Tear

Jim and Greg continue their winter review round-up with a discussion of Stronger with Each Tear, the 9th album from R&B singer Mary J. Blige. Blige has built a career inspired by a life of drama. Now, self-proclaimed to be drama-free, she has to face doubts that she's lost her power. Jim insists happiness hasn't weakened Blige. What has weakened her is terrible production. With the exception of a beautiful Raphael Saadiq song, this album is filled with generic, glossy R&B. Jim can only give it a Burn It rating. Greg agrees that the production lacks authenticity, but thinks Blige fights through it. She's the best R&B singer working today, and he gives the album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 216
The Element of Freedom (Deluxe Version)The Element of Freedom available on iTunes

Alicia Keys The Element of Freedom

Pop and R&B singer Alicia Keys also has a new album out this week called The Element of Freedom. This is the 4th record from one of the biggest artists of the last decade, and according to Greg, she's being more conservative and less gimmicky. The album is therefore more consistent, but lacks the rough edges you can hear in a song like "Love is My Disease." He wishes she'd let lose more and gives the record a Burn It rating. Jim is able to overlook Keys‘ horrible lyrics, but can’t get over the hair metal production. He thinks these songs fit better in the hands of Jon Bon Jovi and gives The Element of Freedom a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 215
Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) [Remastered]Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) available on iTunes

Ray Charles Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959)

Ray Charles is another deceased musician who has recently been brought back to life in the media. Last year, Charles was profiled in his own biopic, Ray, and this year his music was featured in a song that was number one for most of 2005Kanye West's "Gold Digger." Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) is a six-disc overview of Charles' early period. Charles was signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun in the 1950s, and according to Greg, these Atlantic recordings came to be what we now know as R&B music. The music, originally produced by Jerry Wexler, will appeal to the soul aficionado, but neither Jim nor Greg can recommend this set as a Buy It for a casual listener. Both say it's a Burn It. The song Greg chooses is Charles' original 1954 performance of "I've Got a Woman," as opposed to Jamie Foxx's rendition you hear on "Gold Digger."

JimGreg
Go to episode 3
I Am... Sasha FierceI Am...Sasha Fierce available on iTunes

Beyonce I Am...Sasha Fierce

Beyonce and her alter-ego have a new album out called I Am…Sasha Fierce. The album contains two discs, one comprised of ballads (the Beyonce side) and one comprised of funkier, up-tempo tracks (the Sasha Fierce side). Greg explains that Beyonce has reinvented being an R&B diva in the 21st century by putting the emphasis on songs. But, that's where this release falls through for him. The songs are not as strong, and he doesn't buy the Sasha Fierce attitude. For Greg this is a Trash It. Jim couldn‘t disagree more. He thought the ballad side had surprising range. Another pleasant surprise was Beyonce’s take on europop dance music. The second disc is full of great party tracks, and Jim recommends listeners Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 155
EvolverEvolver available on iTunes

John Legend Evolver

The first album up for review this week is Evolver by R&B artist John Legend. Legend first emerged on the scene after touring with Kanye West and has since released two successful albums. On this third one Greg thinks the title may be overly optimistic.“Evolver”implies growth, but Greg hears more of the same, and even less so. This is Legend's most commercial sounding record, and if Greg were going to assign it a color it would be beige. Jim agrees about the blandness of this album. He essentially“hates”the boring, mid-tempo sound and feels betrayed by Legend, an artist who at one point had so much promise. Evolver gets a Trash It from Jim and a Try It from Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 152
Here I Stand (Deluxe Version)Here I Stand available on iTunes

Usher Here I Stand

Usher, one of the reigning kings of R&B, has a new album out called Here I Stand. This is the fifth album for the crooner, and the first since he has gotten married and had a child. How do Jim and Greg like the more mature Usher? Jim appreciates his take on an old art form. It isn't radical, but refreshing, especially compared to some of his raunchier counterparts. Greg wishes Usher had a stronger identity and relied less on his collaborators. But, both critics think Here I Stand is worth a listen and give the album a Try It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 131
The Breakthrough (Bonus Tracks)Mary available on iTunes

Mary J. Blige Mary

Jim and Greg next review the latest release from reigning R&B queen Mary J. Blige. Blige is an artist who has been put through the ringer, but things were a lot more stable during the making of The Breakthrough. This didn‘t affect Blige’s sound, however, which is as gritty as ever. While Jim and Greg prefer the singer live, they agree that this is Blige's best album since 1992's What's the 411. (Sound Opinions H.Q. also recommends her 1999 release Mary). Our hosts are especially impressed with how Blige manages not to be overshined by the presence of so many star producers like Dr. Dre, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Will.i.am, nor star guests like Jay-Z, Raphael Saadiq and Nina Simone (from the beyond). Fellow divas Beyoncé Knowles and Alicia Keys can't always say that.

JimGreg
Go to episode 6
Ghetto ClassicsStill Ghetto available on iTunes

Jaheim Still Ghetto

Our hosts also tackle the new album by soul singer Jaheim. Ghetto Classics is the last installment in a "ghetto" trilogy, after Ghetto Love and Still Ghetto. Following in the footsteps of smooth singers like Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass, Jaheim loves to sing about love. In his ballads, he is never the player, and prides himself on being respectful of women, even when he is being used and abused. Jim can't imagine that Jaheim ever gets played in real life, but appreciates his old-school, down-to-earth approach to R&B. He and Greg both recommend listeners Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 14
On the Jungle FloorOn the Jungle Floor available on iTunes

Van Hunt On the Jungle Floor

R&B/soul singer Van Hunt also has a new album out. His 2004 self-titled debut album was very well-received — listeners could hear the funk influences of bands like Sly Stone and Curtis Mayfield, as well as the more romantic, slow jams of singers like Marvin Gaye or D'Angelo. (And with a pimp for a father and a nurturing caregiver as a mother, Greg muses, Van Hunt's own family parallels his musical influences'.) On On the Jungle Floor, Van Hunt stretches himself more. He makes the surprising choice to cover "No Sense of Crime," a punk classic by The Stooges. And, fans will hear the influence of yet another R&B/funk idol: Prince. However, both Jim and Greg assert that with this release, the grasshopper has surpassed the master, and rate On the Jungle Floor higher than Prince's new album 3121. It's a Buy It for both critics.

JimGreg
Go to episode 21
Growing PainsGrowing Pains available on iTunes

Mary J. Blige Growing Pains

Mary J. Blige is back with a new album that's getting lots of attention. Growing Pains is the R&B diva's 8th album in a career that has seen six Grammy Awards and 40 million records sold. So how does this effort compare? Jim thinks that Blige may have lost some of her edge — whether that's due to sunnier times or sunnier production isn‘t clear though. She’s known for her honest and emotional performances which often relay tough times. But Jim finds Growing Pains a little too sterile. He gives it a Burn It. Greg admits that he too was worried about how a happier MJB would sound, but he disagrees with Jim's conclusion. As a singer she has no peer, and Greg thinks she's gotten even better. He calls Growing Pains another landmark Blige record and gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 109
The River In Reverse (Digital Version)The River in Reverse available on iTunes

Elvis Costello The River in Reverse

Elvis Costello, the singer/songwriter who has taken on New Wave, punk, ska, country and pop, is tackling R&B on his latest release, The River in Reverse. The album is a collaboration between Costello and Allen Toussaint, the multi-talented New Orleans musician. Toussaint is responsible for hits like "Working in a Coal Mine," "I Like It Like That," and "Lady Marmalade," and has worked with The Band, Paul Simon and The Meters. The two collaborated after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, but neither Jim nor Greg think Costello's voice is up to the task of handling Toussaint's songs. Costello is a name that can garner attention for Toussaint, and Greg knows that his heart is in the right place, but it is only a Burn It record for both critics.

JimGreg
Go to episode 27
blackSUMMERS'nightblackSUMMERS'night available on iTunes

Maxwell blackSUMMERS'night

Neo soul artist Maxwell does things his own way and on his own schedule. Over his twenty year career he has put out five albums, sometimes with long periods of time between them. In 2009 he released BLACKsummers'night and announced it as the first of a trilogy. Seven years later, he has finally released part two of that series with the confusingly similar title blackSUMMERS'night. Jim and Greg both say Maxwell's sensitive style on this album is well worth the wait. Greg notes that Maxwell bucks the R&B trend of loading up on guest appearances and star producers. Instead he does it on his own and creates a sound that is unique and complex. And that complexity carries through to the album's“bedroom jams”adding a level of“lyrical density”to the genre. Jim hears echoes of Prince on the album as“gender gets lost in the mix”and notes an overarching respect for love and relationships. blackSUMMERS'night gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 554
The Bravest Man In the Universe (Expanded Edition)The Bravest Man in the Universe available on iTunes

Bobby Womack The Bravest Man in the Universe

Like Patti Smith, Bobby Womack's got a storied musical history. He played with Sam Cooke in the sixties, was a session musician for Aretha Franklin and Sly Stone, and finally made a name for himself as a solo artist with classic R&B albums like Communication and The Facts of Life in the seventies. Unfortunately addiction dragged him down and by the nineties Womack was a musical nonentity. With The Bravest Man in the Universe, Womack announces his comeback. He's cleaned up and is working with producer Damon Albarn of Blur. Womack and Albarn have played it smart, Jim says, by not living in the past. The electronic soul tracks Albarn's created for Womack don't sound vintage in the slightest. The themes might be familiar - Womack sings from the point of view of a man who done wrong - but the music is challenging and fresh. Greg agrees. While he wishes Albarn and Womack hadn't turned over quite so many tracks to guests like Lana Del Rey, he's loving Womack's sandpapery voice. Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 345
DevotionDevotion available on iTunes

Jessie Ware Devotion

UK singer Jessie Ware has slowly been making her way stateside, first with buzz from tracks like "Wildest Moments" and then with a U.S. tour. Now her album Devotion is getting a proper American release with bonus tracks. Greg loves the shadow play of her vocals and chiming keyboards and hears a little reggae in the mix. But for him the key is restraint, with Jessie demonstrating that it's a choice, not a limitation. She can belt it when needed, but overall it's a beautiful, subtle record. Jim loves the new R&B palette and is excited by this trend that also includes The Weeknd and Rhye. Devotion gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 388
Bankrupt! (Deluxe Edition)Bankrupt! available on iTunes

Phoenix Bankrupt!

It's been four years since the French electropop band Phoenix dropped by Sound Opinions to play those infectious breakout singles "Lisztomania" and "1901." For most American music fans, those tracks and the band's 2009 breakthrough album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, came out of nowhere (savvy French fans would‘ve known the band’s previous collaborations with Air and Daft Punk). Phoenix's latest album, Bankrupt!, isn‘t nearly so under the radar. But does it measure up to the hype? Greg doesn’t hear a single as strong as“Lisztomania”or“1901,”but insists the album may fare better overall. Frontman Thomas Mars was inspired by his wife Sofia Coppola's 2010 film Somewhere, giving the album a theme. And, more ambient and R&B-inspired tracks show the band is evolving musically. Greg says Buy It. But Jim can't get over the lack of a hits. This is fine bubbly dance pop for summer, he says, but Bankrupt! is only a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 386
G I R LG I R L available on iTunes

Pharrell G I R L

For a long time, baby-faced Pharrell Williams was better known as a producer for artists like Jay-Z and his own N.E.R.D. But in 2006 Pharrell stepped out more as a vocalist, releasing a lukewarm solo album and increasing his guest appereances on other artist's tracks. In 2012, two of those tracks, one with Robin Thicke and the other with Daft Punk, launched him to new heights of stardom. And with that momentum, Williams is back with a second solo album. G I R L's slick combination of disco and R&B sounds make the record an instant Try It for Jim. He would‘ve gone Buy It if it weren’t for Pharrell's tired lyrics about women. Greg also sighs at the empty lyrics, adding that Williams should stick with what he does best: producing. His ability to channel dancable rhythms from the likes of Prince and Stevie Wonder is his greatest asset and ultimately the only thing earning G I R L a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 433
Kaleidoscope DreamKaleidoscope Dream available on iTunes

Miguel Kaleidoscope Dream

Kaleidoscope Dream, the new album by Miguel debuted at #3on the Billboard chart. But he's still an unfamiliar name to most people. The R&B singer and songwriter had moderate success with his first record and has penned songs for Mary J. Blige and Usher. And with this sophomore effort, he really goes all out. You can hear influences from all over the map - from Marvin Gaye to The Zombies. But it's his unique spin and musical chops that make Jim and Greg give the album an enthusiastic double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 360
Fragrant WorldAll Our Cymbals available on iTunes

Yeasayer All Our Cymbals

Jim and Greg review Fragrant World, the third album from Brooklyn band Yeasayer. Yeasayer started gaining buzz in the indie underground shortly after their 2007 debut, All Our Cymbals. Critics praised their inventive merging of shoegaze and world rhythms. Fans couldn't get enough of the hooks. Fragrant World promised to be something a little different: band members said they were inspired by Aaliyah's work with Missy Elliot. Fragrant World would be their take on R&B. Greg says the new album isn‘t as immediately hooky as past efforts, but when it comes to taking R&B to an alien landscape, Yeasayer succeeds big time. It took him a road trip with the record to be won over, but now he says it reminds him of Bowie’s alien soul and funk in the seventies. Jim was a convert on first listen. The hooks are there, he says, but what really gets him is how the band downplays the novelty of their Eastern and African-tinged percussion, folding those drums seamlessly into electronic grooves. Fragrant World gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 352
Channel ORANGEchannel ORANGE available on iTunes

Frank Ocean channel ORANGE

Speaking of musicians who put their sexuality out there, rising R&B star Frank Ocean recently made the news when he wrote on his tumblr that he‘d fallen in love with a man when he was 19. That’s a bold statement coming from an artist linked to the outwardly homophobic hip-hop collective Odd Future. The buzz surrounding Ocean's major label debut channel ORANGEwas already intense given the success of his mixtape, last year's nostalgia, ULTRA. Does it live up to the hype? In short, yes. Jim thinks Ocean's a contender to be the next Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye. Not only is he bringing new sounds into R&B, but he's writing about money, sex, and class in a way that's honest and gimmick-free. What's getting him riled are those interstitial skits and snippets of conversation. They break the flow of the record and make channel ORANGE a Burn It for him. Greg echoes Jim's praise but isn't as bothered by the skits. For him this record is all about a singer telling emotion-packed stories. He gives channel ORANGE a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 347
LP1LP1 available on iTunes

FKA Twigs LP1

FKA Twigs is the debut album from Tahliah Debrett Barnett, an English singer-songwriter. Barnett started making music at 16, and at 17, she became a well-known backup dancer, appearing in videos by Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, and Taio Cruz. Her first album, LP1, has garnered a great deal of attention from the likes of Pitchfork and The Fader for its mix of avant-garde soundscapes and R&B vocals. Greg thinks this album is a grower, but what it's growing into is one of his favorites of 2014. He says Buy It. Jim gave the album plenty of time to grow, and it really never kicked in. He calls FKA Twigs a poor Kate Bush imitation and complains about the music's lack of movement, emotion, soul and energy. Therefore, Jim says Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 459
The Lady Killer (Deluxe Version)The Lady Killer available on iTunes

Cee Lo Green The Lady Killer

Cee Lo Green has evolved from hip hop front man to soul crooner to "Crazy" guy, and his latest solo effort is called The Lady Killer. Many listeners will already be familiar with his angry viral hit "F@*k You". And, the album is packed with even more oddball tracks. Jim loves the diversity of sounds and can‘t get enough of Cee Lo’s voice. Greg agrees, praising the more eccentric songs that don't follow the standard R&B formula. The Lady Killer gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 259
Once AgainGet Lifted available on iTunes

John Legend Get Lifted

The second album up for review this week also charted high on Billboard. John Legend's new album, Once Again, debuted at number three, following My Chemical Romance. Legend received a lot of acclaim, as well as a number of Grammy Awards, for his first release, Get Lifted. So, the pressure was on for this sophomore effort. Both Jim and Greg think Legend is a really wonderful songwriter who brings R&B back to its heyday. And both critics find tracks like "Show Me" (which had surprising inspirations in Jeff Buckley and Sufjan Stevens) to be standouts. But neither felt that Legend was really doing anything new. Therefore Jim only recommends listeners Burn It. Greg agrees that Once Again gives listeners much of the same, but he thinks the same is pretty good. He gives it a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 49
Yell Fire!Yell Fire! available on iTunes

Michael Franti and Spearhead Yell Fire!

Politicially charged group Michael Franti and Spearhead has a new album out this week. Michael Franti's songwriting has ranged from R&B to funk to hip hop, and he's been a part of numerous groups including The Beatnigs and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. On this effort he expands his sound with the help of reggae greats Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Much of Yell Fire! was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica with the seminal Jamaican producers. While the album's sound is slightly different, the message is no less socially conscious. Franti recorded it after a trip to the Middle East in 2004, and has also released a documentary film based on his travels. Jim respects Franti's message, and strongly recommends people see the movie — but he thinks that the lyrics are weak and wishes Franti didn't sound like he was trying so hard with the reggae sound. His rating is on the cusp between Burn It and Trash It. Greg disagrees, and thinks the production and the dancehall beats were done well, but he has to agree with his co-host about many of the cheesier, U2-style ballads. It's a Burn It for Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 34
Take Care (Deluxe Version)Take Care available on iTunes

Drake Take Care

Is the new album by rapper Drake another contender for the Turkey Shoot? According to Jim, yes. He really enjoyed the former Degrassi star's debut in 2010. But on Take Care, Jim just hears a young man whining about his wealth and fame. And worse, that whining stays in the same tempo for 17 tracks. Jim says Trash It. Greg had a completely different reaction. He thinks this sophomore effort is an improvement and doesn't hear whining as much as an honest depiction of what happens when fame shatters your moral compass. Greg also appreciates the way Drake blurs the lines between hip-hop and R&B. This host would encourage you to Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 312
Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites (feat. Lou Ann Barton)Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites available on iTunes

Jimmie Vaughn Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites

Guitarist Jimmie Vaughn's new album is Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites, and as the title suggests, the concept is pretty simple. This record has the former Thunderbird playing the songs he grew up with - deep cuts of blues, R&B and country - with accompaniment by guest vocalists like Lou Ann Barton. In fact, Jim wishes Barton was more than just a guest. He finds the strongest tracks are the ones where she is singing, not Vaughn. So he gives the record a Burn It rating. Greg really appreciates his guitar style-it's more terse and incisive than that of brother Stevie Ray. Kind of a“say it and get out”approach. Also, he appreciates the deep cuts on Plays More. Greg says Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 298
Kelis Was HereKelis Was Here available on iTunes

Kelis Kelis Was Here

Kelis scored a big hit with her 2003 single "Milkshake," and this week she tries to do it again. Kelis Was Here is the R&B singer's first album since splitting from former collaborators The Neptunes and marrying rapper Nas. Our hosts are split on their opinions. Jim is happy to see Kelis working with a variety of producers, including Scott Storch and Will.I.Am, and is glad that her sexual self-empowerment remains intact. The album earns a Buy It from him. Greg finds this record to be pretty generic, though, contending that all of the producers have buffed her personality out. He describes Kelis Was Here as“milkshake leftovers,”and only gives it a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 39
dijs

Jim

“Sour Times”Portishead

It's Jim's turn to select a song to take with him to the desert island this week. His DIJ pick was inspired by the two albums reviewed in the show. Amy Winehouse considers herself a modern day Nina Simone, and Timbaland uses a Nina Simone sample in his song "Oh Timbaland." Jim is in favor of referencing the past, but wanted to go back to a band that was able to bring a hip hop attitude to classic '60s soul and jazz much more successfully than Winehouse ever could. That band is Portishead. Portishead came out of England during the 1990s as part of the "trip-hop" movement. While their tenure was short (though word is they are making music again), Jim is still impressed by the group's ability to merge American hip hop with British psychedelia with early soul and R&B. The album he urges listeners to go back to is 1994's Dummy, and the track he wants to add to the Desert Island Jukebox is "Sour Times."

Go to episode 71

Jim

“Whatta Man”Salt-N-Pepa,En Vogue,Linda Lyndell

Recently Jim's better half was watching VH1 promos of the new TLC biopic. It got him thinking about better R&B and hip hop groups from the '90s like Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue. The two came together in 1993 for "Whatta Man." To Jim, this is a girl group sound at its best—with En Vogue's“perfect”choruses and Salt-N-Pepa's witty verses over a sample of Linda Lyndell's original 1968 hit Jim wants this funky tribute to“a God-sent original, the man of my dreams”on his Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 416

Jim

“Stranger to My Happiness”Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

This week, Jim pays tribute to Sharon Jones, a huge figure in the neo-soul revival, who died November 18 after a battle with cancer. With her powerful voice and electric stage presence, Jones was, according to Jim, the true inheritor of the legacy of fellow Augusta, Georgia native James Brown. She moved to Brooklyn where she ended up teaming up with The Dap-Kings, the finest soul / R&B backing band since Stax. Their 2013 song "Stranger to My Happiness" exemplifies her bravery against her illness. Ostensibly a love song, the lyrics also find Jones reckoning with mortality. She didn‘t wear a wig after losing her hair from chemotherapy, refusing to pretend to be anything she wasn’t. You can see that in a powerful video Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings recorded for“Stranger to My Happiness,”which is Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.

Go to episode 575

Greg

“California Soul”Marlena Shaw

One of the best things about music is it can transport you to a whole other place without ever having to leave the room. Greg's DIJ pick this week is Marlena Shaw's 1969 track, "California Soul." The song was written by Ashford & Simpson and had been covered by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and The 5th Dimension. However Shaw's version is the most definitive, having been sampled numerous times over the years. Her cover combined elements of R&B, soul, jazz and a hypnotizing string arrangement. While Shaw recorded the track in Chicago, it transports the listener straight to California.

Go to episode 495

Greg

“Trying to Live My Life Without You”Otis Clay

Greg's Desert Island Jukebox selection this week is inspired by the death of R&B and soul singer Otis Clay on January 8th. It got Greg thinking about his track "Trying to Live My Life Without You." Most people will remember Bob Seger's version of the song. And as Greg explains, Seger was such a fan, he was angry when the Eagles released something similar: "The Long Run." Eagles member Glenn Frey also died this week, but it's the Clay original Greg chooses to remember.

Go to episode 530

Jim

“Rock the Boat”Aaliyah

During The xx interview, the band spoke of their admiration for Aaliyah. This got Jim thinking about the R&B singer, who died in 2001. As he says, she wasn‘t the greatest singer, she wasn’t the most original, but she had real charisma and star power. He adds the track Rock the Boat, from Aaliyah's third and final self-titled album.

Go to episode 233

Jim

“The Oogum Boogum Song”Brenton Wood

It was movie night recently in Jim's“Critiquing the Arts”class at Columbia College. He and his students sat down to watch Almost Famous - still the only feature film he knows about rock criticism. The film's opening number "The Oogum Boogum Song" blew his students away, so this week Jim pays homage to this hidden gem with his Desert Island Jukebox pick.“The Oogum Boogum Song”is the work of R&Bsinger Brenton Wood, a Compton native and fan of Sam Cooke who narrowly avoided being a one hit wonder with his other hit, "Gimme Little Sign." Jim puts“The Oogum Boogum Song”alongside other nonsense rock classics like "MMMBop" and "Tutti Frutti."

Go to episode 363

Greg

“Fever”Peggy Lee

This week Mr. Kot makes a Desert Island Jukebox pick. He chooses "Fever" by Peggy Lee. "Fever" is a rare example of a white singer covering a song by a black artist and actually bringing something positive to it. "Fever" was originally recorded by Little Willie John. Greg points out that Peggy Lee is the last person you'd imagine covering a testosterone-fueled R&B song like "Fever," but she certainly was up to the task.

Go to episode 19

Jim

“My White Bicycle”Tomorrow

Jim uses his turn with the Desert Island Jukebox to pay homage to a man who changed the face of rock and roll. Albert Hofman, the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD, died last week at the age of 102. After LSD hit the music scene, bands that were once R&B and pop became experimental, psychedelic acts. One of the best examples of rock's psychedelic era is Tomorrow. Jim always interpreted their song "My White Bicycle," as a tribute to Hofman's famous bike“trip,”and he thinks that listening to the tune is the best way to remember the scientist.

Go to episode 128

Greg

“Talk to Me”Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Bruce Springsteen has a new box set out, and while this is of no interest to our own Jersey native (and Bruce-hater) Jim DeRogatis, Greg dove right in. It has numerous cuts from the Darkness on the Edge of Town era that didn‘t make the album, and as Greg explains, one of the recipients of Springsteen’s prolific writing was the group Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Like Springsteen, they defined the horns-filled, R&B-influenced Jersey Shore sound-not to be confused with the Shore of today. It's a sound Greg wants with him in the Desert Island Jukebox, so he adds "Talk to Me" by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

Go to episode 259

Jim & Greg

Go to episode 42
lists

Anti-Love Songs

With the ghost of St. Valentine looming over us all, this week's show is dedicated to those music fans for whom "Love Stinks." Jim and Greg discuss their favorite anti-love songs and hear some listeners' picks. Here are some songs to get you out of the mood for Valentine's Day.

Go to episode 11
rock doctors

Cassie

Whenever Jim and Greg become the Rock Doctors a different challenge is presented. They've had to consult with couples, families and have even staged an intervention. Now they enter the business world. Cassie is a store owner in Chicago who reached out to the Rock Doctors earlier this year. Cassie's problem: What to play in the shop? She tends to return to the same well of old pop and funk over and over again, and her employees are ready to strike. She wants a dose of new music that will keep customers happy and won't cause any eyerolls from the staff.

Jim's prescription is The Budos Band III. The Budos Band is an instrumental band recording on the Daptone Records label, which is also home to Sharon Jones and Amy Winehouse's backing band The Dap-Kings. Jim is confident that Cassie will appreciate their sound, which fuses old-school soul with afro-beat.

Greg prescribes Jim by British singer Jamie Lidell. Greg praises Lidell's vocal style and live performances and thinks that this album will give Cassie the retro R&B she loves, while keeping it fresh.

After playing both albums in her store for a couple of weeks Cassie returns to the show for a follow-up appointment. She has nothing but good things to say about Jim by Jamie Lidell. It's upbeat, feel-good music that impressed her staff and got customers tapping their feet. She also really liked The Budos Band III, and fancied herself in a British spy film. But, Cassie admits it did get repetitive, so she'll be mixing it in a playlist rather than putting the record on beginning to end. All in all, a healthy, happy patient.

Go to episode 259

Julie

For what has become a recurring segment on Sound Opinions, Jim and Greg again don their white lab coats and assume the role of Rock Doctors. This week's patient is Julie, a listener who needs Drs. Kot and DeRogatis to prescribe some new music for her ailing ears. Julie consumes a steady (and stale) diet of Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill.

So, what do Jim and Greg prescribe to bring Julie into 2006?

Jim keys into how Julie appreciates Ella Fitzgerald's vocals and recommends L'Altra. He knows this is a risky (non-FDA) approved medication, but thought he'd go out on a limb and ask Julie to check out the latest album from the Chicago duo. His second remedy is D'Angelo's Voodoo. He knows Julie likes dense, layered R&B like that of Lauryn Hill and Stevie Wonder, and thinks Voodoo, though much darker and moodier, is one of the best R&B records made in the last decade.

Greg also keys into Julie's appreciation for songwriting and strong vocals, and gives her a dose of Jill Scott. He thinks that the patient will appreciate the way Scott describes the world and the way she playfully uses her voice. His second prescription is John Legend's debut album Get Lifted. Though Legend is often compared to singer/songwriters like Stevie Wonder, Greg thinks he brings that genre forward in a wonderful way.

A week later the patient returns to the Rock Doctors to let them know how she's progressing. While she appreciated the Jill Scott record, she found the songs almost too clever. Still, she wasn‘t completely turned off by this remedy, and also understood why Jim would prescribe her the D’Angelo — but that didn‘t really hit the spot. In fact, she completely forgot that she bought and listened to this album years ago. L’Altra overwhelmingly had the worst side effect. This patient can appreciate alternative medicine, but even a spoonful of sugar didn‘t help this album go down. By far the big winner of the bunch was John Legend’s Get Lifted; Julie loved this album. Sound Opinions hopes that it was just the right cure to keep her healthy and full of good, new music.

Go to episode 44
features

Hooked On Sonics: Amber Mark

Amber Mark Amber Mark is a young, up-and-coming singer whose sound is a mixture of R&B, soul and pop. Mark recently made a splash with her EP 3:33am, a record about the sudden passing of her mother. Critics lauded her strong voice and evocative lyrics, and she's currently signed to the British independent label PMR with distribution through the famous Interscope Records. Amber Mark shares that the artist that got her "Hooked on Sonics" is Michael Jackson, and the song that made her love music was the percussive "Working Day and Night" from his Off the Wall album. Listen to Amber tell the story of first hearing the song and the unique experience of sitting in the V.I.P. section at Michael's concert in Munich.

Go to episode 630
news

Music News

These days national headlines coming out of Chicago are generally about one thing: gun violence on the south and west sides of the city. So far this year there have been more than 3,200 shootings, more than 530 of them fatal. At the same time the city is home to a vibrant and creative hip-hop movement that continues to grow. Greg recently attended two festivals that highlighted the creativity in Chicago while addressing the city's violence. Chance the Rapper hosted the Magnificent Coloring Day at US Cellular Field on the southside. The next day, Common hosted a festival on the westside. Greg says the two events were Chicago rappers addressing the city's violence while trying to do something positive about it.

Go to episode 566

Music News

Maurice White, founder of the great R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away on February 4 at the age of 74. White started in Chicago as a jazz drummer, playing on Chess Records sessions by Willie Dixon and Etta James before being recruited into Ramsey Lewis's band. The crossover success of that gig allowed him to finance Earth, Wind & Fire, an extravagant showpiece band that could contain more than a dozen members – a flashy update of the big bands of the swing era. Greg goes so far as to call White the "Duke Ellington of R&B." Blending Latin music, R&B, jazz, and African music, Earth, Wind & Fire scored a string of hits in the 1970s. For Greg, the epitome of the band was the 1975 song "Shining Star" which offered a uplifting message during a period of racial strife.

Go to episode 533

Music News

Go to episode 585

Music News

R. Kelly surprised people by turning up in Chance the Rapper's closing set on the final day of the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago this past weekend, but it's his involvement with another, much smaller festival that has been making headlines. The Fashion Meets Music Festival (FMMF) of Columbus, Ohio, scheduled to kick off at the end of this month, originally booked Kelly as headliner of the three-day weekend celebration. However, the Columbus community and the event's sponsors met the news of the controversial R&B star's involvement with disapproval and condemnation. Kelly, well-known as the target of allegations of manufacturing child pornography, as well as dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct from young women, was removed from the festival bill last week. And this is one instance of an ongoing public conversation about whether or not you can support the art without supporting the artist. Jim has been at the center of this debate—with reporting that was captured in a Village Voice piece by Jessica Hopper. Kelly is certainly not the first (Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, etc.) to raise this question, and he won't be the last.

Go to episode 454

Music News

Fans continue to mourn the death of David Bowie, who died January 10th. His most recent album, Blackstar, released two days before his death, rose to #1 in America as fans and strangers alike tuned in to hear Bowie's last artful words. Blackstar's huge sales represent a trend found in Nielsen's 2015 music report, which says rock music is going strong. According to Nielsen, rock is the #1 genre for album sales—33% of albums sold in North America were rock. Though pop and R&B may be topping the charts, rock gets sold the most.

Music streams continue to be popular with listeners and are up 93%. But, there's hope for high fidelity fans too: MusicWatch reported an estimated 25 million U.S. consumers are willing to pay more money for higher sound quality. And while we live in a digital world, radio, surprisingly, remains people's #1 source for music discovery.

Adele The biggest winner in 2015 was, of course, Adele. Her record 25 accounted for 3.1% of all album sales in 2015 and 16% of all album sales during the six weeks following its release. So, it's not surprising that she was the most searched artist according to the BBC and Shazam. The BBC allows you to find out what people are searching for in your city, and also, that city's“musical twin.”Here in Chicago, our listening matches up with Johor Bahru in Malaysia.

Go to episode 530

Music News

Go to episode 587

Music News

Jim and Greg discussed the great Kanye West/50 Cent sales battle a couple of weeks ago, and this week the results are in. Kanye took it in a landslide with a #1 spot on the Billboard charts and a whopping 957,000 copies sold. Kanye's album Graduation is the biggest selling album so far this year and is the 15th biggest sales frame since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. 50 Cent's album Curtis only sold 691,000 in the first week, though for a hip hop debut that's nothing to scoff at. As Jim and Greg note, no one should shed a tear for 50 Cent. On Forbes' list of the biggest earning hip hop stars, Fiddy holds the #2 spot behind mogul Jay-Z. So, despite this recent loss, 50 Cent is laughing "Straight to the Bank."

If you've been surfing YouTube recently, you may have noticed Trent Reznor's call for more stealing. The man behind Nine Inch Nails is fed up with his record company's decision to hike prices for his album Year Zero and he let his grievances be known at an Australian concert. While he doesn't legally have the authority to give his music away, he does have a point; HMV in Australia is selling Year Zero for AU $32.99, which converts to about $28 in the States. That's definitely more than a music fan should have to pay for an album, especially one that utilized a web-based marketing campaign.

And while one musician embraces the web, another does not. Pop icon Prince plans to sue YouTube and other major web sites for unauthorized use of his music in a bid to“reclaim his art on the Internet.”In a recent statement his representative wrote:“YouTube … are clearly able (to) filter porn and pedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success.”Prince obviously doesn‘t need to use the web to build a fan base, but to Sound Opinions H.Q., he’s beginning to sound like a cranky old man.

Also in the news is the death of longtime James Brown collaborator Bobby Byrd at the age of 73. One of the chief architects of Brown's trademark sound, Byrd is often referred to as“The Godfather of Soul's Godfather.”You can hear his contribution in tons of early Brown tracks. In fact, the repeating phrase“Get on up,”on "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine" was sung by Byrd. Byrd also had a successful solo career, and as Greg explains, his music can be heard sampled in countless late early hip hop songs. To pay honor to the soul/funk/R&B legend, Jim and Greg play his song, "I Know You Got Soul."

Jim and Greg speak with John Jurgensen, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. John recently wrote an article about how US visa procedures are squelching a British pop invasion. Artists like Lily Allen, M.I.A. and recent Mercury Prize winners The Klaxons have had to cancel tour dates and postpone recording sessions due to difficulties obtaining visas. John explains that this is partly due to Homeland Security crackdowns, which now mandate that artists themselves have to go to an embassy in person for fingerprinting and a retinal scan. John also says that artists have to prove that that they are legitimate,“internationally recognizable”acts. Jim and Greg wonder just how much more legit you have to be if Mercury Prize winners are getting hassled. The three reporters understand that these procedures are in place not just to protect Americans from danger but also from a loss of jobs, but unlike in the agriculture and technology industries, you can't sub one musician for another. And a loss of jobs and tour dates for one singer means the loss of many for the hundreds and thousands of promoters, roadies, sound engineers and teamsters here in the States.

Go to episode 95

Music News

Sad news this week: Carl Gardner, the heart and soul of The Coasters, died at age 83. The Coasters were one of the great R&B bands of the '50s and '60s with songs like "Yakety Yak" and "Charlie Brown." Songwriters Lieber and Stoller counted them as their favorite collaborators. To honor Gardner, Jim and Greg play "Young Blood."

Go to episode 290

Music News

Dr. Dre announced a partnership with Best Buy. The rapper/producer will promote the new "Club Beats" area of the store featuring the latest audio and technology products, in addition to in-store appearances by Lady Gaga, Will.i.am and Dre himself. The big box retailer sees a growing market for DJ-oriented marketing, especially with the release of DJ Hero. So has this underground urban art form officially jumped the shark?

One of Dre's biggest hip hop productions was his 1993 track for Snoop Dogg, "Who Am I (What's My Name)." It featured a memorable sample of George Clinton's song "Atomic Dog." Most recently that song was at the center of a lawsuit between Clinton and his fellow songwriters and the R&B group Public Announcement. A federal jury agreed that Public Announcement infringed on the song's copyright by wrongfully using the lyric“bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yea.”But, most notably, the jury ruled that even the word“dog,”if used in an original or unusual way, can be protected by copyright.

Go to episode 207

Music News

This week music industry giant Live Nation swallowed up its sole competitor, House of Blues Entertainment. The company formerly known as Clear Channel is now that much closer to total concert industry domination. They reportedly grossed over $1.3 billion dollars last year, compared to the House of Blues's mere $245 million. But, while the HOB was never close to nipping at Live Nations's heels, they, along with the few remaining local concert promoters, represented an alternative for music fans. For lay people, Jim compares this transaction to that of Microsoft procuring Apple. A scary thought indeed.

It was quite the Fourth of July weekend for R&B producer Dallas Austin. The Grammy-winner, who has composed hits for TLC, Madonna and Pink, flew to Dubai to attend the birthday party of supermodel (and super-boss) Naomi Campbell. Apparently Austin wanted to get this party started a little too quickly. At the airport he was arrested for possession of 1.26 grams of cocaine, then sentenced to four years in prison. But, just a few hours later, he was pardoned by Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Perhaps the Sheikh is trying to maintain Dubai's growing status as a party destination. Or perhaps he is simply a "Motownphilly" fan. Either way, this is one lucky guy, who Sound Opinions imagines "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." (Sorry, we couldn't resist)

Go to episode 32

Music News

The biggest music news story in recent weeks has been the R. Kelly child pornography trial. Last week the R&B singer was acquitted of all charges by a Cook County jury. Jim, who was ordered to court to appear but not forced to testify because of the first and fifth amendments, gave his thoughts on the verdict in his Sun-Times column. He and Greg are interested to see how Kelly's fans respond to the trial and what Kelly will have to offer with his next album.

Go to episode 134

Music News

Earlier this week, Jim published an in-depth piece on BuzzFeed about new allegations against R&B star R. Kelly that he is keeping women in controlling relationship and requiring them to sever communications with their families. The article details the allegations of two families who say their daughters have been“brainwashed”by Kelly and that he is controlling when they can eat, what clothes they can wear and who they can communicate with. Kelly, and at least one of the women in the piece, denies these allegations. Jim has reported on similar claims about Kelly going back to the year 2000.

Go to episode 608

Music News

Every week Sound Opinions reports music news, but we've never before been in it. As many listeners are probably aware, this was a busy week for our host Jim. His reporting was central to the indictment of R&B star R. Kelly, who is currently on trial for charges of child pornography. So, on the day this episode of Sound Opinions was taped, Jim was required to appear in court. Upon advice of his Chicago Sun-Times counsel, he cited the first and fifth amendments and did not have to testify. Sound Opinions will keep you updated as the trial progresses, and we look forward to having Jim back next week.

Bo Diddley died this week at the age of 79. Greg discusses how much of an impact the former boxer made on rock and roll and how he never got the credit he deserves. This is largely because Diddley was ahead of his time, but by the time the Brits invaded the music scene, it was apparent what a musical stamp he left. Read Greg's obituary of Diddley here.

Go to episode 132

Music News

(Unfortunately) the music news is often focused on a death in the industry. This week it's the death of a club. Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ will be closing its doors next month. This is the famous bar where Nirvana performed, Bruce Springsteen shot the video for "Glory Days," and Yo La Tengo celebrated Chanukah. This is also the place where a young Jim DeRogatis came of musical age. Read his tribute here. And check out our own live recording at Maxwell's with The Feelies.

Jim and Greg also say farewell to Marvin Junior who sang tenor in the Chicago R&B group The Dells. As Greg explains, the original members performed together for six decades, something many groups from that era weren‘t able to do. Perhaps that’s why Robert Townsend captured their story in The Five Heartbeats.

Go to episode 393

Music News

The biopic film Straight Outta Compton debuted this past weekend to a monster box office earning over $56 million. The movie tells the story of the group N.W.A. and how they created the blue print for west coastand gangster rap in the '80s and early '90s. Jim recently saw the film and thought more about the biopic genre in general. He thought that this was a VH1-type film that largely glossed over many of the important truths of the band's history, including Dr. Dre's misogyny in both his lyrics and his actions. Greg agrees that the story of Dee Barnes, a female journalist covering N.W.A who was physically assaulted by Dre, was excluded from the film. Jim ultimately thinks the biopic doesn't work as journalism or biography, but instead acts as a missed opportunity to tell the whole truth of the story.

Two celebrated '70s producers passed away this week: Bob Johnston, longtime Bob Dylan producer, and Billy Sherrill, creator of the countrypolitan genre and producer of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. As an in-house producer for Columbia Records, Johnston produced some of Dylan's most notable albums, including Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline. Johnston also served as the producer for Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison, which only came about after Johnston's persistent efforts. With a similar determination, Sherrill ignited the careers of country artists like Jones and Wynette with hit songs "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "Stand By Your Man." However, Greg chooses to honor Sherrill by playing The Staple Singers' "Why Am I Treated So Bad," a track that he produced before entering the country music scene. Sherrill produced songs for early R&B artists when no other producer would, earning him tremendous respect.

Go to episode 508

Music News

First up in the news is a discussion of the legacy of R&B singer Ruth Brown. She passed away earlier this week at the age of 78. One of the original divas, Brown helped establish Atlantic Records and the R&B sound as we know it today. In fact, Greg explains that Brown even predates the great Ray Charles. She also won a Tony Award for her part in Black and Blue, and starred as“Motormouth Maybelle”in Hairspray. The singer was an activist in the music industry and pushed Atlantic to start the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which worked toward royalty reform and distributed millions of dollars directly to musicians in need.

Go to episode 52