The whole world is currently mourning Prince and rightfully so. Last Sunday, churches offered tribute in the most puzzling ways...E. Dewey Smith even offered his explanation for the brief tribute that took place at his church...not sure everybody gets it, though. That's the enigma of Prince Rogers Nelson, though...he was a lot to everybody. Whether you were wild, crazy sex driven Prince fan or the overall creative, innovative brilliant minded Prince fan, you like me were a fan nonetheless.
Prince was the definition of an artist. There will never be another like Prince, all the rest are imitations. He was weird and made us ok with it! As enigmatic as he was, death was the only one who had him figured out. The bible says there'd come a time when we'd be glad to see 'em go and sad to see 'em born...if these aren't those days, I just don't know!
However, as all the tributes have poured in, I've silently sat back waiting for someone to steal my story! To my fortune, they have not. So let me share with you Prince's biggest influences on myself. This of course follows after the very obvious musical legacy.
As a twenty something, it hit me early that I needed to study Prince's music. I got hold of my late uncle's 8-track collection as a pre-teen and was hip to most of what Motown had to offer before the age of 13. So when I began to study Prince, I really studied Prince. College was my first real Prince experience...the Gold Experience album. Of course the single was "Diamonds and Pearls" but there was a song one club in particular always seemed to be playing when we walked in..."P-Control". I laughed and never really danced to it thinking it was some EDM track from overseas or something! Yep, that's Prince, too! LOL
I studied his albums, I have a few LP's as well. Of all the albums he recorded, I loved his creativity and the album title: "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic". I was always kind of leary of Prince as a believer because of the obvious reasons. But when my friend Charles basically challenged me to check out his album "The Rainbow Children" I debated but finally acquiesced. It was actually one of the best musical decisions I've ever made. The reason it's not talked about much is because it's actually a biblical album. Prince was a devout Jehovah's Witness and while I don't know what the doctrine is currently, for years they didn't recognize Jesus as the son of God as "Christians" do. Listening to the album, I had a feeling that he'd tapped in to some deep truth that not many believers cared to discuss. "Who are the rainbow children"? Are those the Hebrews scattered, slaves? Who are they? It takes listening to the entire album to really begin to discover any remote possibilities to what that answer may be. The album is a huge part of my development as a musician and for that I will always appreciate Prince.
One of my favorite DJ's of all time is Rudy Vee. He was at 105.7 KRNB in Dallas for years on the Quiet Storm and he introduced me to Prince's track "Muse 2 The Pharoah". I loved it and then I knew that Charles was onto something, so I went out to get it.
I love that album and it's my favorite Prince album. John Blackwell on drums just spoke the clearest drummer language I'd heard anybody speak and I'll never forget that summer! I was also really trying my darndest to woo this young lady named Angela and we spent many nights riding in my Volkswagen Passat (with the Rabbit engine) listening to tracks from the album with the moonroof open...the Angela thing didn't work out but the album stayed in my cd changer! ;) One thing as a producer I learned from Prince was the untitled/hidden track idea. I'd be riding in the car and a song would just start playing. I thought my cd changer was messing up until I realized that the cd was made that way! How genius an idea it was...I've done the same on albums I've engineered and mastered.
"She Loves Me 4 Me" was the song I used to look for a wife. I heard the lyrics and I was like: "Where is she?" LOL I can definitely say that my wife Rhonda comes the closest to that, so yeah, Prince helped me pick a wife, too!
Sign O' The Times
The summer of 2002 in what would be my last days at Weatherford College I went on a vintage music feast..."a smorgasbord at least" (from "Wedding Feast") I'd located a turntable and proceeded to spin every '33 I could find. One of the greatest treasures from that summer was finding Carole King's "Tapestry" LP. I loved it and played til I thought it would die right there on my turntable. I had also started my journey into adulthood...I finally had a video rental card in my name! I found the movie "Sign O' the Times". To this day, I don't remember what it was about, more like a concert video. I remember seeing Sheila E (I was in love) and hearing "Little Red Corvette" and a few other amazing tunes...the most vivid memory from watching that movie was watching Prince go around the bandstand and play each instrument like a virtuoso. You may remember Tonex doing the same thing on his "Out the Box" video.
That solidified Prince's legacy as one of the world's greatest musicians, for me. I didn't think he'd know his way around a Hammond B-3...but he did, he absolutely did! I was a Prince fan, at that moment!
As a fan I was disheartened that I didn't see or hear from him as much as I did earlier so I did a little research and discovered the NPG site. The site is no longer but it was more than a fan club...It was actually the hub for all things Prince! If he released new music, he released it there! If he was in concert, the only way to buy tickets was there! I hit the Prince jackpot..."so how much does all this cost, anyway?" Well, let's say that as a young college musician, I couldn't pay it! LOL
I remember seeing word of Prince concerts here and there and hearing people talk about music that wasn't for sale...but then it hit me, this guy is a real genius! He reinvented the whole music industry! This is the same guy who handed out cd's with ticket purchases...WOW! But he's Prince so this doesn't work for everybody. But could it?
Since I've been working with and for indie artists, I want to share this with you what I learned from Prince:
1) Be Yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it makes others
2) Find your audience
3) Engage them
4) Reward them
5) Use your platform the right way
The last point really speaks volumes in regard to who Prince was. He denied people the right to idolize him, declining a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame twice! He made his faith known, well known! He is quoted as saying: "Jesus is King" a number of times over the years. We spend a great deal of time in faith wars in our world and on social media, but when you're firm in your faith, nobody can war with that!
So that's it, that's what Prince taught me! Not some musical epiphany, but those five things are solid Prince "things". So when I remember him and celebrate him, that's my Prince story and I'm sticking to it!
The world is ever changing and with it, everything within it. As a media person, I'm constantly overwhelmed by what's new, emerging and pertinent for success in this industry. I mean, literally each day I'm reading articles that clue me in on exactly how far behind the curve I am (LOL). Good thing is, I'm headed in the right direction and actually keeping pace with industry superiors. Just today, I read that small radio will be the ultimate salvation of the medium...what I've been saying a lot lately.
That being said, there are moments when I feel inadequate. Times when I feel like people just don't see me (Brian Courtney Wilson has an awesome testimony about 'visibility') and times when I feel like it's just not worth it. I had a conversation with a colleague the other day and over the course of the conversation I had to just check myself and say something very true about the topic of the conversation (an actual person). I panicked over what looked like the spirit of encroachment. It looked like all of what I'd done and built was fleeting in favor or Instragram likes and Facebook re-posts. It was grim, I felt suddenly out-witted and well, inadequate (did I say that, already?). I was worried and borderline slanderous.
I stepped back to not only be gracious but affirm the word on my life in this season. I know what God said and told me to do. I have to focus on that, only! What I also had to do was encourage myself to keep 'showing up'. Keep airing programs when they're supposed to air, keep Today's Top 10 lit at 4 pm and keep these articles popping! Just do what I'm supposed to do, believing that it's my assignment in this season. Be not only steadfast, be efficient!
Just yesterday I posted on the SoulProsper Radio Facebook page about listeners. I mean literally, 'are you listening yet?' It's a literal question, these days. Where are the people? Why aren't likes translating to listeners? It was a very hard day but there IS encouragement in the living word!
*KEEP DOING WHAT YOU'RE DOING*
Now, go with me to 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul here says for us to: "be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know, your labor is not in vain in the Lord." But, what does that actually mean?
Try me now herewith and see if I don't...(Malachi 3:10)
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58
And now, the glue
You may have identified the 'shout' in verse 58, but that's not it. The real shout in this text is in verse 57.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57
Now, how cool is that? Victory in Jesus is literally guaranteed! That's why we can be steadfast, unmovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord...God has given us victory through Jesus! So, when you like me find yourself questioning your assignment or not sure when it's 'gonna happen' remember this. 1) We already have victory and 2) We have been commissioned to succeed in and on purpose! How ya like that?
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
I haven't written in this particular column in a while BUT...I had to return to my own site to talk about this topic! I have come into some great music as of late and I love every beat of it! I mean, I really do! I could do a formal review in one of my columns but I need to use my own voice and not third person as I tell you about these artists! If I were to listen to everything I've encountered, I'd still be listening, studying and learning music as I type this. So, with that being said, let's establish that I'm not excluding music, just sharing what I love at the moment. In fact, if you want to experience that, you should check out Today's Top 10 at 4 pm CST each day on SoulProsper Radio!
Maybe you'll dig it too, maybe not. Still, I think the artists I name here are pretty good and worth at least a casual glance!
As a journalist and radio programmer I come in contact with a lot of music. Most of it is good, some is GREAT and some of the submissions are so bad I have to vent on Facebook about it! Seriously, I have taken to Facebook to make general posts brought on by music submissions. Some of the posts were in reference to mixing and mastering, some were in response to communique, some questioned the artist's motivation (skill) and some were general, 'why don't you know this?' posts. All in all, music has been great to me over the last few months.
SP Radio was at the Stellar Gospel Music Awards and while we were there, we came across some amazing artists. We also came across some...well, you get where I'm going with this, don't you?!? I want to share some of these artists and their projects with you. This is from me, the owner and programmer of SoulProsper Radio. So, here goes...here are a few artists whose project/single I'm currently enamored with (in no particular order).
Kanesha "NeeCee" Trott
When Fred Stewart hit me up about NeeCee a while ago, I was anxious to hear her music. Fred has been the greatest connection for me since I began this level of journalism. Bishop Carlos Cannon hit me up and told me to expect NeeCee's project and I have...I promised a review but was too busy listening to it to get to work on it! I did jot a few thoughts down to share with you.
Last year, as I was adding new music I came across Dasha Moore's version of "My God is Big", not to be confused with Myron Williams/Karen Clark-Sheard's "Big Victory". I fell in love the song immediately and added the song to the station. Fast forward to a few months ago when I saw pictures of her album release...I was so down because I couldn't be there! I really wanted to be there but of course I couldn't. My Pastor, Alvin Pope told me to remind him to bring me a cd his brother sent him.
He'd said that the Minister of Music at his church released a cd and he wanted to send me a copy. Gary Pope is a strong supporter of SoulProsper Radio in California and I thank him for it! Pastor Pope walked into rehearsal and handed me the cd...IT WAS CHRISTMAS at the organ! LOL
I was literally giddy when I saw the cd and just could not believe I had the project in my hands! As I listened to the album, I was in pure music Heaven. I love the album, its flow and of course the voice of Dasha Moore. My favorite song on the album (now that I have it) is Ascend. I love the song and as I listened, I prepared each song to teach at church. Can you imagine us singing the whole album? We just might! ;)
Pastor David Wright and The N.Y. Fellowship Choir: "Clap Your Hands"
I hadn't kept up with Pastor Wright following "We Made It Through the Storm" but meeting him at Trenia Moore's All White Party at the Stellar Awards, I got a hard copy of the New York Fellowship Choir's latest single! I again waited to try this one out on the kids and again, they loved it! I guess they've got an old soul like me...time will tell. This is perfect church music for any choir wanting to keep that Sunday morning feeling strong! The first line of the song says: "I don't know what you come to do", it's hard to go wrong from there and the N.Y. Fellowship choir doesn't disappoint at all.
Pastor Wright deserves a great deal of recognition for keeping his father's legacy strong and helping push it forward. We spoke briefly about it on the red carpet at the all-white party, I'll share that interview in its entirety at a later date on SoulProsper Radio.
James Jackson & Atlanta Praise: "We Make Your Name Great"
After listening to this song on repeat for at least five times, it hit me...this is a great choir anthem! It didn't take that long for me to figure it out, but it did replace Ricky Dillard's "Amazing" which currently held that spot for me. This song is a great choir anthem with an easily lovable refrain: "He is great and greatly to be praised".
Kevin Monroe & DEvotion
While at the Stellar Gospel Music Awards, I met a few artists at the official kick-off of the weekend. One of them was Kevin Monroe. Mr. Monroe was actually one of the friendlier artists there when I introduced myself. I took his album and card and put his cd in my bag. I didn't really hear the song until I got home but when I did listen to the single "Heaven" I was blown away. The single is produced by legendary composer and artist Edwin Hawkins.
In today's industry, securing a high profile producer is not a formula for success but I love the tandem of Hawkins and Monroe. "Heaven" is the only song on the cd and it replayed constantly as I drove, sometimes the whole way to work and back home.
There is nothing about this song I don't like! The music, the lyrics, the mix...it's top notch and PERFECT!
"We're on our way to Heaven just to behold His face.
He'll wipe all our tears and pain away, when we get there!"
I'm using all my journalistic authority to proclaim this song the new funeral song! It can easily be a praise and worship song, as well. But I think it's time to celebrate earthly transition the way Heaven does and this song is the perfect soundtrack for your celebration of life!
Rock Boy Fresh
Let's see if I can remember...Jesus is the ROCK...We should come to him like children...BOY...and He makes all things new (2 Cor. 5:17...FRESH! This group is crazy talented and I have no clue why they aren't in the mainstream conversation as of yet. This group ministers the gospel with rap, rop, hip-hop and urban gospel. By the time you get to "All I Wanna Do" on their Love.Forgive.Restore. album, you've already gone through most of the aforementioned genres. Imagine the Fugees doing a gospel album. Not exactly Lauren Hill, Wyclef and Pras...but imagine the unrivaled musicality and lyrical content wrapped up in the gospel message...you'd have this one on repeat, as well!
album is beyond measure! When I met this group of siblings, I had no idea they'd completely captivate my senses with their self titled album. When I asked their manager which song was their single, I was told it was "Dreamfighter". I listened to the song but I just couldn't separate myself from the opening song, "Beautiful". WOW, what a song. These voices are so robust you're not really sure if it's gospel, but rest assured the message in this music is crystal clear.
I love classic easy listening music so the cover of BJ Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" made this album extra special. The group has a unique style and they give Thomas' classic their treatment. "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" is also delivered in their style but the refrain: "...watching over me, watching over you" gives the song new life and is an escape to new creativity for such an iconic song.
"Love Is Watching" is a cool tune. Infinity's Song's voices are so beyond their years and I enjoy it on each track! It's like listening to the very best of modern jazz singers sing a plethora of songs in each genre. The album closes with "What the World Needs Now". You remember that song, the Burt Bacharach classic...well it's got new life in the 21st century thanks to IF. The album speaks to the time the world finds itself in. "Dreamfighter" is an ode to the new struggle and challenges those breaking beyond the struggle. "Why" lets you know that there's a daily choice to be made, "there will always be a sad song to sing..."
My overall favorite is "Walking In Your Eternal Love". I encourage you to have a listen, and see why for yourself!
Giel (God Is Eternal Love)
I accepted Frankie Wilson's invitation to cover Inside Gospel's SXSW (South by Southwest) event "LIVE". After setting up, I got things cranking with a few on-air interviews. One of my first interviews that night was GIEL. At the time, all I'd heard about her was everybody hyping up her song "130:5 HOPE". I couldn't wait to hear the song but once I actually heard the album, I never took it out. Seriously, the whole time I was in Austin (and San Antonio-I love sight seeing) I played her album "The Decree) in my car.
I'm not actually sure what I actually love more, the artistic genius or the actual music. In between songs are powerful vignettes of scripture, affirmations. The affirmations are segues between songs and actual art themselves. With so much of this new thought stuff going around, it's great to hear someone create positive affirmations actually derived from scripture. She channels Cyndi Lauper in "Never Change" and I always have to do a double check as if I forgot which cd is in the player!
I took everyone's advice and I listened to "My Hope". But when I heard...K.O.H. I was floored! As a musician, there are certain elements that really stick out to me and grab me in a song. The meter of this song, grabbed me from the down beat. The bgv work is incredible,too! The vamp is killin' so hard, the only comparison I can find for it is Mint Condition...I'm telling you the truth!
A few vignettes later, we get to my 'take this secular music!' song...Forever! Yesterday after church, we came to my mother's house and she was having some work done outside. While we were all outside, I turned my car radio up and blasted this song on the same street that was flooded with blues and R&B the night before.
I LOVE THIS ALBUM! It's only 40 minutes but it's a jam packed forty minutes!
PAstor James Powell
I met Pastor James Powell on The New York Fellowship's single "We Made It Through the Storm". I knew of his singing but not enough to really call myself a fan on any level. I met Pastor Powell in passing during Stellar weekend and shook his hand. My kids love him on the song with Pastor Wright and the NY Fellowship choir. I don't remember exactly at which event I got his album in my bag...but from the first track, I was hooked! Powell's treatment of hymns and classic gospel songs are immeasurably great!
Powell's arrangements of "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name", "There's Power in the Blood", Victory in Jesus" and "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" place this album in my top 10 of all time. The creativity that drives this album is off the charts. His current single "Recover" is making the rounds and he's even released a video for the song, but it won't be a single song on this album that'll make you love it! The whole album...get the whole album! You will NOT be disappointed, in fact you will be inspired whether you're a singer/musician or not!
Add James Powell "Reconstructed" to your music collection, today!
The Abyssinian Mass Jazz at Lincoln center with Wynton Marsalis featuring Damien Sneed and Chorale Le Chateau
As a young musician, I had two favorites: Edward Kennedy Ellington and Quincy Jones. As a matter of fact, watching Q's transformation of Michael Jackson's sound, I knew with absolute certainty that I wanted to be a producer. Now couple Q's genius with Berry Gordy's ingenuity and there ya have it...my future! Duke Ellington's lush compositions made me a young fan. I studied his music and knew nearly each member of his band by name. Tricky Sam was my hero! When I started playing trombone, I immediately started working on my plunger technique. As a young drummer, Sonny Greer was my inspiration! I mean, he kept time for my favorite musician of all time! As a young believer, I searched for a dynamic that melded the sacred with my love for swing and I found it when I discovered Ellington's Sacred Music concert. With this I experienced Duke's divine compositions, thus solidifying his place at #1 on my list.
Fast forward to 2016 and Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra has released the only contemporary to Ellington's iconic Sacred Music offering. In 23 tracks, Wynton Marsalis has masterfully composed original tunes that swing from the call to order the benediction/doxology. I love this one because jazz literally comes to church! The overlapping dynamic here is one that may be intrinsic to my experience...jazz and church, it's me all day! The genres are also fleeting in the marketplace while at the same time experiencing new creative heights.
*I met Wynton Marsalis as a senior in High School. LCJO was performing at The Bass Hall in Fort Worth and I'd been given tickets. Ironically, I met a few band members and showed them to the hall. The doorman held the door for me and I followed them inside. It happened just like that. I met the band and Herlin Riley gave me his home number (504 something)-he'd been on the cover of Modern Drummer that year so I was completely geeking out! Wynton was cool and I even got to hang with them after the show. Unforgettable night, LCJO will always be one of my favorite bands.*
Each song has a scripture assigned to it! Wynton dug in and really made this a genuine worship experience, through the vehicle of jazz. I can't really say enough about this project other than to say that for jazz lovers, this is the perfect contemporary blend. Add in the choir and what you also have here are a fair share of selections for Sunday morning. Who'd be willing to take this on? I'd love to see it, and allow this music to move during the corporate worship service setting.
Here's a little something from the original press release:
The Abyssinian Mass - a landmark collaboration of jazz, gospel, instrumentation and vocals -marks Marsalis's first original recorded composition in six years.
In 2008, nine-time GRAMMY® award winner Marsalis was commissioned to write a piece commemorating the 200th anniversary of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church. The result was a sacred celebration: a sweeping composition for big band and 70-piece gospel choir conducted by Damien Sneed. The work's popularity sustained a 16-city, 19-concert tour that brought the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, award-winning recording artist Damien Sneed and his choir Chorale Le Chateau across the American south and into deep dialogue with the black tradition.
Bonus Track: Gerald Davis
Being in journalism has its perks. I've been listening to an unreleased version of one of Gerald Davis' songs for the past few weeks. Gerald is a close friend and I played for him when he was here at home in Texas. Since moving to California with his wife and now children, we continue to keep in touch. Gerald released his first single "The Earth is the Lord's" and continues to prep for his full album release. This track "Rescue Me Again" is pure fire! FIYA, I tell ya...and you'll have to take my word for it, until he releases it.
As a writer, Gerald's got a lot to say and not many singers can really bring that through. Tatiana Mayfield is a solid singer who brought the vision through with clarity and ease! In fact listening to the song's "throwback" groove made me reminisce of George Duke and Rachell Ferrell's good days in the studio. This song is different for both Gerald Davis and the gospel music industry, but the message..."you rescued me..." is plain enough for the newest convert to understand!
I have no idea about any potential release date but I will tell you that whenever you get to hear it, you'll be glad you did!
** Bring Back the Hymns
I'm jumping the gun on this one, but when this project is released it's definitely on my list! Roy Cotton has assembled a number of amazing musicians and singers for this project which features hymns of the church. The musical foundation, if you will. Let's see, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Pastor Darrell and Latonya Blair, Crystal Rucker...the list goes on an on. The album is being released this weekend at the Pastors and Leaders Conference this week in Florida.
We'll see, but I hope while Roy's "Bringing Back the Hymns" in Florida, he remembers to 'bring back' a few copies to DFW next week!
In this blog, you will hear from Fred directly about a broad variety of subjects. Though Fred normally expresses his thoughts in his columns, he has created this space to share his most intimate thoughts concerning everyday life!