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Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010
We wanted a follow up to How I Do and now we have it. Res shares the stories behind some of the highlights on Black.Girls.Rock!

“When is your next album coming out?” Ever since How I Do (2001) introduced Res to music audiences craving a progressive blend of rock, pop, and soul, the Philly-based rocker has regularly fielded that question. Finally, she has a definite answer: “Now.” Black.Girls.Rock! is the album that was intended to follow How I Do, but it got tangled in Geffen Records’ executive turnstile. Amidst many current projects, including Idle Warship (her group with Talib Kweli and Graph Nobel) and a solo mixtape, Res is offering the previously unreleased Black.Girls.Rock! as a free download on her website www.the1res.com. She recently shared her thoughts about five of the album’s numerous highlights with PopMatters. (Note: watch for an extended interview with Res on PopMatters later this winter.)


“On My Way”
The opening song on Black.Girls.Rock! that, for many listeners, is a “Res anthem.”
“Every artist has a song that represents them. I think this song represents what Res is to people, what people think Res is. I wrote most of it. I didn’t have to compromise for it. It was written by me and this girl Jill Cunniff from Luscious Jackson. For me, I felt like it was a great album opener because it bridged the gap between How I Do and this album.”


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Monday, Feb 15, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” - Isaac Hayes
Written by Jimmy Webb
From Hot Buttered Soul, (Enterprise, 1969)


“By the Time I Get to Arizona” - Public Enemy
Written by Carlton Ridenhour, Cerwin Depper, Gary G-Wiz, Stuart Robertz, and Neftali Santiago
From Apocalypse ‘91… The Enemy Strikes Black, (Def Jam/CBS, 1991)


These two songs are bound together, musically, lyrically, and spiritually, by the inventively funky vision of the artists, and by both artists’ commitment to civil rights. In 1969, after taking a break from music in the wake of the death of his close friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Isaac “Ike” Hayes took a country/pop hit performed by Glen Campbell and turned it into a striking, 18:40 soul-sermon about love and leaving. Twenty-two years later, Chuck D of Public Enemy (PE) borrowed the title of Isaac’s tune, swapped a state for a city, and lit into that state’s racially-charged refusal to acknowledge the holiday for Dr. King. Isaac Hayes and Public Enemy are both unabashedly funky, strong, cerebral-in-a-good-way, and multi-dimensional in their approach to conveying their desired message.


Hayes’ version of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” begins with a hypnotic ride cymbal and organ (courtesy of the Bar-Kays), and Hayes’ stretched-out rap exploring the meaning of the song. He gives it an incredible back-story, expanding on Webb’s emotionally detailed lyric. He also breaks into little melodic moans every now and then, but for the most part, he sustains a very compelling, spoken-word-only intro for about nine minutes or so. Many old-school R&B songs have brief, spoken explanatory intros or interludes (e.g., the Chi-Lites’ “Have You Seen Her?”, Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “All About Love”, )—but Ike really shows off here, digging deep and coming up with a fascinating narrative to complement Webb’s song. His “sermon” is packed with details about the protagonist’s “love blindness”, the nonchalant emotional (and financial) exploitation of the protagonist at the hands of his partner, sexual betrayal, and the dangers of mistaking a kind heart for a weak constitution.


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Monday, Feb 8, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

In 2008, the Grammy Museum featured singer-songwriter Mark Guerrero’s 1972 watershed Capitol Records single, “I’m Brown”, in an exhibit called Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom. A Chicano-pride song with a humanist heart, the song acknowledges pride in one’s background/ethnicity while also recognizing, to quote the lyric, “I’m first a member of the human race.” The nod from the Grammy Museum regarding this philosophically inclusive song is a fitting crowning achievement for Guerrero, a unique artist who has largely gone unnoticed by the masses, though he has been making music, both on major labels and DIY style, for five decades.


The son of the late, legendary Chicano songwriter Lalo Guerrero, Mark Guerrero began his career at age 13 with Mark & the Escorts, an East LA band who shared bills with “Eastside Sound” legends like Cannibal & the Headhunters and Thee Midniters. After a stint leading a group called The Men From S.O.U.N.D., Guerrero went on to record two singles for Capitol (the aforementioned “I’m Brown”, and “Rock & Roll Queen”) Later, he signed with A&M Records and released one album in 1973 with his group Tango (check out the dramatic back-story about Tango, written by Guerrero himself, here). Later, Herb Alpert , the “A” in A&M, Records, would go on to record Guerrero’s song “Pre-Columbian Dream” on his 1983 album, Noche de Amor. Guerrero has remained active and prolific over the past three decades as well, releasing several albums,  lecturing and consulting on various Latino-focused exhibits, shows, and concerts, and performing regularly with various groups, including his own.


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Monday, Feb 1, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

Bay Area songwriter/recording artist Francesca Lee and her producer Michael Winger  do a wise thing by highlighting Lee’s lovely, engaging voice in each tune on her new album, The Pieces Left. At first listen, Lee has the kind of almost-familiar voice that may remind listeners of artists they’ve heard before, but a more discerning listen reveals a unique, emotionally brave vocalist and songwriter who handles quite well the delicate task of evoking both strength and deeply felt passion, as well as vulnerability and thoughtful restraint—sometimes within a single song.


The daughter of a Polish mother and Japanese-born Korean father, Lee has been calibrating and fine-tuning her unique combination of influences and interests since high school, where, according to her press materials, she “kept to herself and wrote songs.” Since graduating from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (the college founded by Sir Paul McCartney) in 2002, she has been performing with her band, The New Believers, all over Northern California, making headway in major venues and broadcast outlets.


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Monday, Jan 25, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats

An earlier edit of this V-C-V first appeared on pcmunoz.com on December 20, 2005


“Say Goodbye” - Howard Hewett
Written by Monty Seward
From It’s Time, Eagle Records reissue, 2004
Originally released in 1994


First, a little background: I’m a complete Solar Records freak. Solar was a Southern California R&B/disco label, active mostly in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, that released consistently tasty dance music featuring killer bass lines, undeniable hooks, and shiny production, often provided by the super-talented Leon Sylvers III. Some of Solar’s best releases came out during the early ‘80s, which is my favorite era of modern R&B because of its adventurous mix of funk, synth-pop, new wave, and disco.


Howard Hewett first became famous with Shalamar, one of Solar’s mainstay artists. Shalamar was at first glance a kind of prefab disco group; the two other members were future hitmaker-superstar Jody Watley and trendsetting dancer/choreographer Jefferey Daniel. Though all three members were talented and charismatic, I always found myself drawn to Hewett’s vocals. He is a masterful, nuance-filled singer, and his glittery high notes and vocal gymnastics turned ditties like “This is for the Lover in You” and “Sweeter As the Days Go By” into soul-stirring testimonies. After departing Shalamar in the mid-‘80s, Hewett embarked on a risk-taking solo career that has included unique, soul-injected versions of The Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why” and Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”, proving he is bent on using his voice for interesting interpretive means.


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