Mercury Studios’ Marvin Gaye Live Re-Issue Is A Mostly Successful Presentation

Courtesy: Mercury Studios

This Friday, Mercury Studios will re-issue Marvin Gaye’s previously released live recording, Greatest Hits Live in ’76 on CD.  Originally released in 2007 on DVD, the 23-song presentation is a welcome presentation for anyone who does not already own the recording’s aforementioned DVD presentation.  That is due in large part to its featured songs, which will be discussed shortly.  While the songs that make up the recording’s body are clearly of note in a positive way, the recording is not perfect in its new forthcoming presentation on CD.  That is because of its lack of any liner notes.  This will be discussed a little later.  The recording’s production works with the songs to make for more engagement and entertainment and will be discussed later, too.  When it is considered along with the songs, those two elements make the recording a presentation that Marvin Gaye fans and R&B fans in general will find positive.

Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live in ’76, Mercury Studios’ forthcoming re-issue of the same recording originally released by the label – then known as Eagle Rock Entertainment – in 2007 on DVD, is a mostly positive companion piece to that recording.  The engagement and entertainment that the recording offers audiences comes in large part through its featured songs.  Totaling 23 in all, the songs present a rich cross section of Gaye’s catalog up to that point, reaching as far back as his sophomore 1963 album, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow and as far into his catalog as his 1976 album, I Want You.  While so many people know Gaye primarily for his hit slow jam serenade, ‘Let’s Get It On,’ he also produced some more socially conscious content, such as the timeless classic ‘What’s Going On?’  Both those songs are here and were originally featured in two separate albums released by Gaye, Let’s Get It On (1973) and What’s Going On (1971).  Also featured in this set is the equally iconic song of determination, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,’ which Gaye released way back in 1967 in his album, United.  Lots of people know Diana Ross’ take of the song, which was actually composed by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson in 1966, and Gaye then first made it a hit not long after its composition.  At the time of the songs’ performances and recordings, only two of Gaye’s original albums – That’s The Way Love Is (1970), his 1961 debut record, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye — and one tribute album – A Tribute to the Great Nat “King” Cole – were not represented in this collection.  To that end, again, what audiences get in these songs are a relatively rich representation of Gaye’s catalog.  This is something that is certain to appeal to so many audiences.

While the songs that make up the collection’s body are unquestionably important in the best way possible to Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live in ’76, knowing when and where the songs were recording is impossible to know is impossible.  That is because this new CD re-issue of the recording lacks any liner notes at all.  That is at least the case with the review copy received by this critic.  Hopefully consumer copies do not suffer from this issue, too.  If they do, however, then that definitely will detract from the overall engagement and entertainment because it means audiences do not get that background on the songs.  It means no stories on the performances or any other notable anecdotes and pieces of history that might otherwise enrich the listening experience even more for audiences.  While the lack of any history on the performances featured here is undeniably problematic for the recording’s presentation, it is not enough to doom the recording.  To that end, there is one more positive to examine here.  That positive is the overall production presented here. 

The production featured in these songs makes the listening experience so immersive.  There is something about the quality of the sound that really makes audiences feel like they are right there in the concert hall(s), taking in the performances with everyone else.  At times, given, Gaye’s vocals do get a little washed out against the instrumentations, but for the most part, what audiences get is a positive concert experience thanks to the positive general effect generated through the production.  When this is considered along with the positive of the songs that make up the recording’s body, the whole makes this recording still well worth owning among Marvin Gaye fans and R&B fans alike. 

Mercury Studios’ forthcoming CD re-issue of Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live in ’76 is a largely successful presentation from the label’s previous 2007 DVD presentation.  Its success comes in large part through its featured songs.  The songs featured here represent such a rich portion of Gaye’s catalog up to that point, omitting only two of his original studio recordings.  While the songs are clearly and collectively a positive to the recording, the seeming lack of any background on the performances’ histories detracts from the engagement and entertainment guaranteed through the songs themselves.  It would have been nice to have at least some background, knowing whether the songs were all from one concert or multiple performances, and if so when and where they were recorded, as well as any other background on Gaye’s rising star through that portion of his career.  The lack of that background is problematic but not enough to doom the recording.  To that end, the positive general effect of the recording’s production works with the songs to make up for that issue of the lack of liner notes.  That is because of the general effect that is guaranteed through the performances.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered they make the recording a presentation that Marvin Gaye fans and R&B fans in general will find mostly enjoyable.

Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live in ’76 is scheduled for release Friday through Mercury Studios.  More information on this and other titles from Mercury Studios is available at:




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Listening To Honey Made’s ‘Brand New’ Will Never Get Old

Courtesy: Honey Made

Independent musical collective Honey Made is scheduled to release its aptly titled album Brand New next Friday, and in celebration, the band is going to host a livestream concert at 9 p.m. ET that night.  The concert and album are not to be missed for anyone who enjoys vintage soul, funk, R&B, and even disco.  That is proven throughout the course of this 10-song record in part through its musical arrangements, which will be addressed shortly.  The record’s lyrical content joins with the musical content to make the album even more appealing.  It will be addressed a little later.  The album’s sequencing works with the record’s overall content to make the album feel new with every listen.

Honey Made’s latest full-length studio recording Brand New is a record that will never feel old (pardon the bad pun).  That is due in part to the record’s collective musical arrangements.  The arrangements leave listeners feeling like they have taken a trip back to a much greater era of music; an era when music was, simply put, so much purer.  From the funky horns and drums of ‘Chicken Sweat’ to the reggae style arrangement of ‘Smoove’ to the groovy R&B sound of ‘Like You’ to the semi-doo wop vibe of ‘Be True,’ audiences get so much to love here.  There are points when the stylistic approaches are along the same lines as one another, but the actual sounds presented through the songs still remain unique from one to the next.  There are hints throughout this record of Marvin Gaye, Sly & the Family Stone, Bob Marley, and The Supremes, just to name a handful of familiar acts.  In relation, none of the songs try to just rip off the noted influences.  Rather, they exhibit their own unique identity all while using the noted influences as starting points.  Simply put, the album’s musical content overall is itself more than enough reason for audiences to take in this record.  Of course as noted, they are but a portion of what makes the record such a success.  The lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical content adds even more to that noted appeal.

The lyrical content that is featured in Honey Made’s new album covers just as much ground as the record’s musical arrangements.  One of the most notable examples of the importance of the album’s lyrical content comes early in its 49-minute run in the form of ‘Be True.’  The song finds its vocalist essentially reminding audiences that they need to just be themselves.  Additionally, it also encourages listeners to keep their personal lives personal.  Not having liner notes to reference, the identity of the female vocalist is unknown.  The woman in question sings at one point, “to thine own self be true.”  She also make note that continuously putting one’s daily updates out there for everyone to see does no good for a person.  This two-pronged message couples with the song’s infectious groove to make it even more enjoyable.  It is just one example of what makes the record’s lyrical content so important.  The record’s closer, ‘So Good’ is yet another way in which its lyrical content proves its importance. 

This song delivers a reminder to listeners that as difficult as it is, we need to look for that proverbial silver lining in life.  The vocalist even comes right out in the song’s opening moments, stating, “Now I know/Living this life that/Maybe/Easy to focus on/The wrong things at times/I mean there’s so much/That you see everywhere in the media and what not/That it really doesn’t shine that light on all the good things in the world/So we had to/Do a little something about that.”  This spoken word type introductory line sets the stage for the rest of the song, which continues, reminding people that “it’s real easy to get lost in those things that are bad and get you down/But you know/Life ain’t about that y’all/Life is too short/Don’t waste time/There are so many good things like good music/Good people/Your family alive/Your son and daughter/You know/Maybe your team just won the Super Bowl/So many things you can focus on.”  Things continue on this relaxed, positive tone from here.  To that end, this song’s motivational speech of sorts is sure to motivate plenty of listeners.  Together with the equally relaxed musical arrangement, the whole makes that lyrical presentation’s impact that much stronger, showing even more why it is so important and why the album’s lyrical content in whole is so important.  It is again, just one more way in which the record’s lyrical content proves so pivotal to the record’s presentation.  ‘Like You’ is one more way in which the album’s lyrical proves its place.

This song’s lyrical theme is fully accessible.  This one is a straight forward song that features a man declaring that he is head over heels for a woman.  He even tells the woman to “Wrap your arms and legs around me, girl/’Cause I ain’t going nowhere.”  From there he talks about the woman’s smile, and overall beauty and noting “I ain’t met nobody quite like you.”  One need go no further here to know that this is just a classic style love song.  It is one of those lyrical presentations that is sure to set the mood for any romantic moment between a couple.  It is also one more example of the lyrical diversity featured throughout Honey Made’s new album.  When this is considered along with the lyrical content in the other noted songs and the rest of the album’s featured works, no doubt is left as to the importance of Brand New’s lyrical content.  When the importance of the album’s lyrical is considered together with that of the record’s musical arrangements, the album’s content overall paints a picture that ensures listeners’ maintained engagement and entertainment.  The impact of that collective content is still not all that makes the album a successful new offering from Honey Made.  The record’s sequencing puts the finishing touch to its presentation. 

The sequencing of Brand New is important to note because it ensures the album’s energy is balanced from its opener to its finale.  The crests and troughs are maintained throughout right from the album’s outset.  The record starts with a big musical punch in ‘Chicken Sweat’ before pulling back noticeably in its title track.  From there, the energy immediately rises again in the dance-inducing ‘Steppin’ Out’ before pulling back again in ‘Be True.’  The middle ground is found in ‘Smoove,’ which fittingly is the album’s midpoint.  Putting the song here serves well to break up the album and keep listeners engaged.  The ups and downs continue just enough and at the right points from there on out to the album’s end.  The end result is a record that will keep listeners engaged and entertained just as much for its aesthetics as for its content.  This leads the album in whole to be a record that will never get old.

Honey Made’s new album Brand New is a successful new offering from the independent soul/funk/R&B collective.  That is proven throughout the course of the album in part because of its musical arrangements.  Listening to the record’s featured arrangements is like taking a musical trip back to a greater era of music.  The record’s lyrical themes add their own touch, ensuring in their own way, listeners’ engagement and entertaining.  The album’s sequencing puts the final touch to its presentation.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make Brand New a record that will never get old.  Brand New is available now.  More information on the album is available along with all of Honey Made’s news at:




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The Devonns’ Self-Titled Debut Will Take Listeners Back To The Golden Age of Soul, Funk, R&B

Courtesy: Record Kicks

Neo-soul/funk outfit The Devonns will release its self-titled debut album Friday.  The 10-song record has already spawned three singles – ‘Tell Me,’ ‘Blood Red Blues (How Long?)’ and ‘Green Light’ – ahead of its forthcoming release.  All three songs are engaging and enjoyable in their own right, especially ‘Blood Red Blues (How Long?),’ the latest of the record’s singles.  It will be discussed shortly.  For all that it and the other singles do for the record’s presentation, they are only a portion of what makes the record stand out.  ‘So In Love With You’ does its own part to make this record memorable.  It will certainly become a fan favorite, and will be discussed a little later.  ‘More,’ which comes just past the record’s midpoint, is another notable addition to the record.  When it is considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of the album’s content makes it a record with a far-reaching appeal

The Devonns’ self-titled debut album is a strong first impression from the neo-soul/funk quartet.  That is proven from beginning to end in its musical and lyrical content.  The group’s latest single, ‘Blood Red Blues (How Long?)’ is just one of the songs featured in the album that supports the noted statements.  The song’s musical arrangement, with its subtle guitar line, steady time keeping and vocals from front man Mathew Ajjarapu, immediately lends itself to comparisons to Marvin Gaye’s timeless song ‘What’s Going On.’  That is no coincidence, as Ajjarapu noted in a statement on the group’s official Facebook page, that he had been listening to that song as well as renditions of ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ from Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin when the song was crafted.  Hints of both songs are evident, and welcome.  Such connections leave little doubt as to why this song was chosen as one of the album’s singles.  The song’s lyrical content, which was written prior to the recent events in Minnesota, but plays right into what has happened and is happening.

Ajjarapu noted in his statement about the song that he wrote it “about my frustration with the lack of progress America has made on issues, such as the Trayvon Martin case or the Sandy Hook massacre.  It’s like everyone here is mad about those things, but no one actually has any power to change them…I remember trying to imagine if Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye could somehow come back and see how things had changed in 30 or 40 years, how might they feel?”  Again, while the song might not have been connected to what has recently happened in Minnesota, such comments make it just as easily connected to the ongoing events.  Ajjarapu sings in the song’s lead verse, “Blood dried on the parking lot/Cop said another boy’s been shot/mama worked for everything she’s got/Then the bank came along/Got everything she got/What’s going wrong/What’s going wrong?”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “Blood dried on the parking lot/TV says another school’s been shot/Now we all know what we got to say/But everybody’s scare of the NRA/Oh, what’s going on/Hey, what’s going wrong/How long, how long, how long, how long/Must we wait for the time of justice to be done.”  As the song progresses, he also asks, “How long must we wait for the time for us to live as one?”  The rest of the song’s lyrical content follows in much the same fashion.  He even goes so far as to sing in the song’s closing verse, “Doesn’t matter how hard we fought/None of this is ever gonna stop…killin’ us from the inside out/What’s going wrong?”  Once more, this is one of those songs that will connect with listeners in any era.  Its lyrical content was constructed at a certain period in time, but could just as easily have been written in response to so much social dischord that has plagued this nation.  Keeping that in mind, the song, both musically and lyrically, proves itself a strong addition to The Devonns and just one key example of what makes this record such an influential start for the group.  ‘So In Love With You’ is another notable addition to the record.

‘So In Love With You’ leaves zero doubt as to its subject matter.  It, like so much of the material featured in this record, is a work that centers on the topic of romantic love.  It stands out in part because of its musical arrangement.  This song’s arrangement is a smooth, old school work that throws back to the days when acts, such as The O’Jays, The Temptations and The Isley Brothers were at their peak popularity.  It is one of those works that will do well at any formal (or informal) event involving dance.  It will give couples every bit of motivation to embrace and get lost in the moment (and each other).

The lyrics that accompany the song’s musical arrangement are just as smooth as said content.  Ajjarapu sings in the song’s lead verse, “I don’t know what you have got/Now baby/Just what keeps you on my mind/I just know that you can do the things you do to me/Each and every single time/And I’m so in love with you, baby/Said I’m so in love with you/You just save me my love, girl/And I’ll be right there by your side/You don’t have to be so particular with me, honey/I’m the one who’s begging this time/And I’m so in love with you, baby/I’m so in love with you.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “Tell me/Can you understand me, girl/I don’t think you do sometimes/I can tell that you’re the who’s gonna be with me through endless time/And I’m so in love with you, baby/Said I’m so in love with you.”  The song continues with Ajjarapu repeatedly singing, “I’m so in love with you” as strings play in the background alongside the drums and keyboards, eventually fading out.  Once again, the lyrics leave zero questions as to the song’s theme, which adds to its ability to connect with listeners.  That connection will ensure listeners’ engagement and entertainment, all while making this neo-R&B work a song that could help break the group into the mainstream.  It’s just one more example of what makes The Devonns a standout work.  ‘More’ does its own share to show why The Devonns’ self-titled debut is worth hearing, too.

‘More’ presents an arrangement whose guitar, drums and strings boats a distinct old school disco-infused sound that audiences will enjoy just as much as any of the album’s other works.  The addition of the horns to the whole enriches the song even more.  The song’s upbeat tempo adds to the engagement in the song because that and the arrangement in whole is such a stark contrast to the song’s lyrical content, which is apparently about a breakup.

The note of the breakup is inferred as Ajjarapu sings in the song’s lead verse, “You smile at me/Like you don’t love me anymore/It’s not like your smile before/Is loving me such a chore/I don’t want/I don’t wanna be draggin’ you down/So you should let me know right now/If you need to be getting out/If I told you once/I told you a thousand times/I don’t need your love/If you can’t be kind/If you think this love/Is something worth fighting for/Then you’ve got to give me more/There was a time I loved you/Has our love died, too/We have to try to save this/Before we take our last…”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “You go out/At all hours, it seems/Hwo could you ever do this to me/Don’t you think that I’ve got needs/I don’t think you recall/Just how this really is/So let me spell it out like this/Pretty soon I’ll be done with this s***.”  From here, Ajjarapu returns to the song’s chorus twice more asking about what happened to the couple’s relationship.  Again, this is interesting, considering that most R&B songs that center on breakups tend to be rather melancholy.  So to have this juxtaposition of familiar lyrical content to such upbeat musical content makes for its own share of engagement and entertainment.  It is certain to generate discussion among listeners for this very reason.  That’s a good thing for The Devonns, too.  It shows the group obviously paid attention to such a minute, yet important detail.  Considered along with the overall content of the other noted songs and the rest of the album’s songs, the whole of The Devonns proves itself a work that will appeal to a wide range of listeners.

The Devonns’ self-titled debut album, set for release Friday through Record Kicks, is an impressive first offering from the group.  That is due to the album’s musical and lyrical content.  While much of the content focuses (and quite well at that) on personal relationships, there is at least one social commentary featured in the album.  The album’s musical arrangements will take listeners back in time as if it is another time capsule unearthed and filled with old school funk, soul and R&B records.  It is a work that many listeners will find appealing.  That wide appeal, thanks to the engaging and entertaining content makes the record one of the year’s best new independent albums and overall albums.  More information on The Devonns is available along with all of The Devonns’ latest news and more at:








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Motown 25 Is A Musical Diamond In The Rough

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Television in America possesses a rich history in its modern era.  The moon landing, JFK’s assassination, The Korean and Vietnam wars, presidential elections, 9/11 and so many other events fill the history of television in its modern era.  While it would seem that many of the most important events broadcast on television in its modern history are memorable because they are tragic, there are positive events recorded in television’s modern history, too.  Some of the most memorable of those more positive events are concerts that have brought people together from all walks of life.  Live Aid, The Concert For New York, and the Beatles’ first ever live performance on American television each make the list of television’s top live broadcast draws.  Next Tuesday, September 30th, Time Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment will add another concert to that list of television’s greatest live concerts when they release Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever.  Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever was originally broadcast on NBC on May 16th, 1983.  This new three-disc DVD presentation marks the first time since its original VHS release in 1983 that the concert has seen the light of day.  Being that this is the first time in just over three decades that it has been released to the public, this edition of Motown 25Yesterday– Today.-Forever is well worth the price and the watch.  The central reason for that is the sheer magnitude of material included in the overall presentation.  Audiences don’t just get the original broadcast.  They get to hear from the concert’s original heads and some of the artists that performed on that night.  Audiences also get a brief yet still insightful history on the famed “Hitsville USA” as a bonus.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this recording is the overall audio and video mix.  The painstaking efforts undertaken by those charged with restoring the concert’s footage paid off in spades.  Both the audio and video presented here sound and look just as good as the concert’s original broadcast if not better.  Completing the set is its companion booklet.  The booklet includes a brief yet thorough history on the concert and its lasting impact by author Nelson George and Motown 25 EP Suzanne De Passe.  Also included in the companion booklet is a complete guide to the concert’s lineup and bonus material along with full credits listing those behind the show.  The booklet is the final touch to a package that any old school r&b fan and lover of music and music history will appreciate.

Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever is one of the most enjoyable live recorded concerts in the modern history of television.  As enjoyable as it proves to be even today, it sadly is not one that most people think of when they think of major broadcast concerts.  That view will hopefully change though, after watching this presentation.  The amount of material included in this three-disc set alone is more than enough reason for viewers to change their view of Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever.  That vast amount of material includes not just the original concert recording, but a number of bonuses to go along with it.  Those bonuses include roundtable interviews with both the show’s heads and some of the performers, a brief but still thorough history of Hitsville, USA, and even an in-depth look at the very creation of the concert from pre-production to the finished product.  Audiences will be moved to hear the emotion as the show’s heads discuss their favorite memories from the concert.  There are plenty of laughs along the way.  And there are some tears, too.  The history lesson on Hitsville, USA is especially enjoyable for those that might not be so familiar with the history of the label that started it all for so many legends.  And the insight into the concert’s creation will interest anyone with any interest in television production.  Collectively, those bonuses along with the concert itself more than make Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever worth the watch whether one is a lover of old school lover of r&B, a music lover in general or even an individual with a love for music history.  And it is just part of what makes the collection worth the watch, too.  There is far more worth nothing that audiences will appreciate and enjoy just as much.  Another aspect worth noting is the overall quality of the concert’s footage (I.E. its audio and video mix).

The vast amount of material that makes up the body of Motown 25 is by itself more than enough reason for every lover of music.  It is just one part of the whole that makes the viewing experience a joy for audiences within this presentation.  The presentation’s collective audio and video mix adds to the presentation’s enjoyment.  StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment included a disclaimer before Motown 25’s central concert presentation begins stating the footage may have some minor discrepancies at various points throughout the concert.  But audiences will see that if there are any such discrepancies, they are too minute to see with the naked eye.  Those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation in this set are to be commended for their painstaking efforts as they paid off in spades.  That applies both to the audio and video mix.  Every note comes through crystal clear as does every single camera shot.  Again, kudos go out to those responsible for bringing the footage back to life as it most definitely looks and sounds as good as it must have in its original broadcast.

The work that went into restoring the footage from the Motown 25 concert and the amount of material included in the new upcoming box set collectively makes it such an enjoyable experience for anyone that has any love for the classics and for music history in general.  As enjoyable as they make the experience together, the people at Star Vista and Time Life didn’t stop there.  They also included a companion booklet with the set that adds even more depth to the presentation.  The companion booklet included with this three-disc set features its own look back at the Motown 25 concert from the show’s EP, Suzanne De Passe as well as one from author Nelson George, who wrote The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Dance and Style.  Their shared insights offer a look at the concert that echoes the sentiments shared in the round table discussions that were included as bonus features.  Along with the additional insight and background on the concert, the set’s companion booklet also includes a complete song-by-song guide to the concert and bonus features.  And closing it out is a full listing of the names of those responsible for both the original concert and its re-working for its presentation here.  It finishes off a set that is arguably one more of this year’s best new archived live recordings.

Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever is a diamond in the rough. With its full concert experience, bonus interviews and retrospective roundtable discussions, it offers audiences a concert experience unlike most others released so far this year.  The painstaking efforts on the part of those charged with re-mastering the concert’s original footage make the concert even more enjoyable for audiences.  And the bonus booklet added as a companion to the concert adds even more depth and insight to the show and its importance to the history of both r&b and the music world in whole.  All three factors together make Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever one of this year’s best new archived live recordings and one that every lover of music will enjoy.  It will be available next Tuesday, September 30th and can be ordered online via Amazon at  A special limited edition six-disc set and an expanded limited edition six-DVD/eight-CD set online via the Time Life online store at  More information on these and other releases from Time Life and StarVista is available online at



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