We have, my dears, reached the end of the road. In this final stretch, let me remind you that this list is completely subjective, and I don't care for your opinions. Great! Let's do this.
6. Phyllis Hyman - Loved, LOVED, Phyllis's voice. It's a hackneyed expression, but the woman was/is seriously underrated. She could sing anything, was absolutely gorgeous, and hilarious as hell--what more could you ever want in a woman? Unfortunately, as is the case with some of our best voices, her material was often inconsistent. Fortunately, that voice could carry some of the most marginal material.
"Loving You - Losing You"
"Betcha By Golly Wow"
5. Anita Baker - Old mush mouth herself. I'm telling you, the Midwest breeds some serious talent. Please, don't be in the car with me if/when "Been So Long" comes on. I will sing this song from beginning to end, scats and all, LOUDLY, and will not give a tinkler's damn. She was it in the 80s/early-90s, one of those artists whose material will automatically grant or deny "black points." I mean it, think back to the post-Saturday morning cartoon house clean, what was your mother playing? Yep, Old Nita here.
"Been So Long"
4. Bobby Blue Bland - The voice of the blues, my dears. That is all. The man's voice in its prime was a magical amalgamation of bitter tears, alcoholic evenings, and pre-Keith Sweat pleading. Unlike most of my musical heroes, I actually saw him in concert. Granted he was at least 70, and I seriously feared for his health when he did his trademark chortle-snort, but I was in the presence of greatness. Nevermind that I was the youngest person there. (Really great Salon.com article linked; read it.)
"Little Boy Blue"
"If You're Gonna Walk on My Love"
"Jelly Jelly Jelly"
3. Patti LaBelle - If I were capable of idolizing people, I'd be all over the Patti thing. No one puts on a show like her. Sure, she'll be dipped to the high heavens, but she has a job to do and those stilettos will come flying off when things get truly serious. Patti will sing anybody under a table, and she doesn't even mean to. She's just doing her. Patti ain't no punk, y'all, for real.
"Over the Rainbow (Live)" -YouTube link because you have to see it.
"Walk Around Heaven All Day"
"You Are My Friend"
2. Sam Cooke - I'm pretty sure I don't have to explain this, and again, Chicago runs this. (Just in case you didn't know.)
"Nothing Can Change This Love"
"Lord, Remember Me" w/ Soul Stirrers
1. Donny Hathaway - You do not know how interested (obsessed) I was with this man's music some years back. I'm not creepy. I just wanted everyone to understand how great he was, that's all. Plus, he was a fellow Libra. Plus, he was a Chicagoan. Plus, his voice could conjure up sadnesses you didn't even know you had. Plus, you can't go a Christmas without hearing at least one of his songs. (Note: New singers, stop remaking "This Christmas"; you sound terrible.) Reader, if you're out there, I need you to know that Donny is more than "Giving Up" and "A Song For You" and "This Christmas"; there's a whole world of Donny that you're missing out on. For that reason, I'm gonna include more than my standard three audio files cuz I expect somebody somewhere needs some schooling.
"Come Back Charleston Blue" w/ Margie Joseph
"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
"I (Who Have Nothing)" w/ Roberta Flack
"I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know (Live)"
"Sack Full of Dreams (Live)"
And that's it. I'm done.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
After a short intermission I'm back with the latest installment of ...
TOP 25 VOICES EVER!!!!!!!
12. David Ruffin - Real weird coincidences here. He had two brothers named Quincy and Jimmy. So do I. His sister's name is Rita Mae. That's my nickname Down South. Just weird. Anyway, Leon sure showed out in that miniseries, huh? Well I guess you'd have reason to as well if you were playing THE voice of the Temptations (okay, ONE of THE voices cuz Paul Williams and Dennis Edwards could blow). I don't know what it is about talented people and "demons." Perhaps we like to make them even more special by considering their tragic stories extraordinary; after all, there are plenty of regular folk with demons too. Whatever, the voice was just plain undeniable, and for a few years he was hot as sin.
"(I Know) I'm Losing You"
"Somebody Stole My Dream"
"I Don't Know Why I Love You"
11. Cassietta George - Another Midwest entry, a Chicagoan in fact. A legendary member of the legendary Caravanas (who incidentally pretty much introduced the world to almost every major gospel star of the 60s-80s-Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker, Dorothy Norwood, James Cleveland, and that ain't even the half). So revered, in fact, that I want her version of "Walk Around Heaven All Day" to play at my funeral. I don't know, every time I hear her voice I feel so connected to my Baptist upbringing. I just throw up my hands and do the "gospel snatch". RIP Cassietta.
"Walk Around Heaven All Day"
"I'm Ready to Serve the Lord" w/ The Caravans
10. Al Green - Let me get this out of the way. I think Al Green is creepy, a real weird dude--strangely upbeat and kinda vacant in the eyes; however, dude has pipes, so he must be honored. Teamed up with Willie Mitchell (who strangely reminds of me of my grandma), he's made some of the most memorable tunes of all time. Hearing them, you just think of grits and beige-colored kitchens and love.
"Jesus is Waiting (Soul Train -Live)"
"I'm Glad You're Mine"
9. Luther Vandross - Oh, Luther. I'm still pissed about his death and often find it difficult to believe. This man is responsible for one of my top five R&B albums of all time (Never Too Much), one of my favorite Aretha tunes ever ("Jump to It"), and millions of births. I'll never forget where I was when I found out, The Chicago Taste, at the ticket booth. Within minutes my age advanced about 30 years and I exclaimed, "Looord! Not Luther!!!!" Yeah.
"You Stopped Loving Me"
"Make Me a Believer"
"I Can Make It Better"
8. Sarah Vaughan - I spent so many days of my youth trying to sing like this woman. I swear, she has the most beautiful voice. Her version of "Misty"? Flawless. Sassy was the woman. I remember Donnie Simpson's interview with her right before she died. I recall being so surprised that this tobacco-voiced, feisty woman was the same one who sang "The Man I Love." I decided then to like her even more. I love my women tough.
"Have You Met Miss Jones?"
"Shulie a Bop"
7. Dinah Washington - Another woman I'd put against your Ellas and Billies. I'm not quite sure about the amount of adoration she receives, but I feel it's not enough. You don't hear her name mentioned with Billie Holiday's and Ella Fitzgerald's, and that's plain ridiculous. Have you heard this woman's voice? It was dumb great, like John Woo choreography and perfectly edited curses and Giuseppe Zanottis--forbidden, dangerous things so beautiful you have to pay attention. Plus, she reps both Alabama and Chicago, need I say more?
"Sometimes I'm Happy"
"Back Water Blues"
"Long John Blues"
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Needless to say, I'm a needy girl, meaning I need tons of shit in my closet to feel alright. Unfortunately, Ms. Atrack is on the broker side of things this Christmas, so supply is definitely not meeting demand. Let's pretend, though, that I actually had a mess of funds and could buy whatever I wished. Well, things would look a little something like ...
Chie Mihara Saigon Bow Boot - Chie Mihara is still my girl. Now that she's all popular and cavorting with the likes of Saks and Nordstrom, there'd be reason to believe she'd drop the ball. Not so. This boot is a beauty, and the line is still mad comfortable.
Mackage Nissa - Another favorite, Mackage, maker of all things stylish and warm redefining the puffer silhouette. Made for Canadian winters, this is perfect for a Chicago girl looking to avoid a case of the winter uglies. (Other Chicagoans, take note. Blue or black Sears parkas are not the move.)
Look From London Feather Tight - I love tights ... and feathers. This chick's shoes are a problem, but let's just focus on the tights.
Jeffrey Campbell Biz Bootie - It has been hell trying to find a short boot that isn't the run-of-the-mill cuffed or fold over stiletto look that's so popular nowadays. This is how it's done.
John Fluevog Helen - Fluevog has some of the most well-made and comfortable shoes around. If you ever find a sale on any pair, buy them. They're worth every penny.
Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair Zip Glove - Last season, I fell in love with a pair of Burberry zippered, croc, opera length gloves and couldn't, of course, afford them. These somehow fill the empty space that was left by my penury.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
18. Z.Z. Hill - Another one of those voices from barbecues and family gatherings. Raspy, bluesy, and just right. Unfortunately Arziel died too soon to capitalize on his vocal gifts.
Down Home Blues (THE Version)
Everybody Knows About My Good Thing
Let's Make a Deal
17. Angela Winbush - Will there be a louder woman on this list? Save for one, I doubt it. Angie's levels of loudness surely surpass your favorite singer's, and it works. Who can forget her fierce sequined body suits from the 80s and the haircut all black mothers (including Claire Huxtable) had in the late-80s/early-90s?
I'll Never Be The Same
16. Regina Belle - I don't know what the people's problem is. Folks (that includes you) are straight narcoleptic on Regina's rawness. That voice? C'mon! She can do jazzy, straight R&B, cheesy Disney, what else do you want? Plus, she looks fantastic nowadays. I love it when people age well.
So Many Tears
Show Me the Way
Baby Come To Me
15. Chaka Khan - Okay, maybe save two cuz Chaka is definitely in contention for loudest woman (hell, person) ever, but again, she can sang. You can't just be loud, you have to be able to control it. This Ms. Khan does.
Love Has Fallen on Me
We Got Each Other
Stop on By w/ Rufus (Bobby Womack wrote it!)
14. Gladys Knight - Another voice of velvety gravy and oyster dressing and other aptly symbolic foods. (And on another episode of When Fat Girls Get Literary ....) Gladys isn't as big as Aretha 'nem and that's a shame cuz unlike some others she hasn't lost that voice at all.
The Makings of You
If I Were Your Woman
13. El DeBarge - This is kinda blasphemous cuz El is meant to represent the ultimate male falsetto on this list, and I know somebody's gonna go, "Phillip Bailey? Eddie Kendricks?" Yeah, I know, I know, but this is MY list, and I do what I want! Now, Bobby could've easily been here instead, but let's face it, El is more of my contemporary. These days, I can't listen to him without becoming a little sad. All that talent. Poor baby. (Okay, I'm including a Bobby DeBarge song, too. I just can't leave him out. Also, if you're out there and have the Gemini album by El, hook me up.)
Time Will Reveal
Where Is My Love?
Secret Garden w/ Quincy Jones, Al B. Sure, James Ingram & Barry White
I Wanna Be Closer (Bobby DeBarge w/ Switch)
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
In this flaccid, useless period I'm currently existing in, I've had time to think about doing lots of things--knitting sweaters, alphabetizing my CDs, rearranging the furniture in my bedroom--fun, constructive things like that. Unfortunately, the more idle I am, the lazier I get, as evidenced by my recent purchase of bottled water to save me from descending stairs for refreshment. (Sad, so very sad.)
Despite my hatred for all things metabolically challenging, I have done plenty of music downloading and listening (all legal, I swear *fingers crossed*) and have come to some small epiphanies regarding my taste. My weird dispassion for Marvin Gaye, Minnie Riperton, and others of that ilk? Explained away by my recent tide of music acquisitions. Let me walk you through it.
Despite my current heathenry, I grew up in the Baptist church and was impressed with some pretty strong musical memories. Sitting in the pulpit (for hours--both for Sunday school and regular service) was one hell of a job, but the choir almost always redeemed the whole exercise; the sense of communal belonging, submitting together to our imperfections before some larger being and, for a moment, without ego, is something I miss. I simply don't have that type of community around me anymore. It makes plenty of sense, then, since I'm super nostalgic anyway, that I would miss those sounds now that I have little access to them. All of this to say I love churchy sounding folks---the burly, stout church-sounding folks, the ones that remind me of those buttery pancake and sugary grits Sunday school breakfasts. This is why I prefer Donnie Hathaway over Marvin Gaye and Millie Jackson over Minnie Riperton; their sounds are so much more raw and earnest, so much closer to the sounds I remember from those long-ass hours in church as a child.
Often these folks go unsung (check your local listings for a pretty awesome four-part miniseries on Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman, The Clark Sisters, and Debarge on TV One), so I thought I'd take some time to appreciate my top 25 voices in music, take a little of my space to give them the accolades they deserve and to expose my two or three readers to them. Enjoy.
To start, in no particular order, we have:
25. Johnnie Taylor - I've gone on and on about him on this blog, and in some ways, he doesn't really belong here since he's been a successful artist. However, he's not a household name and that is simply not acceptable, so it doesn't really hurt. From taking over lead duties after Sam Cooke left the Soul Stirrers to his early millennium hit about a broke and stranded woman at the casino (Hi, Mom!), this mans voice turned almost everything he sang into straight platinum. I still regret never seeing him live. (It almost happened. I was supposed to see him at the 2000 Blues Fest, but he died of a heart attack soon before.)
Who's Making Love
What About My Love
When the Gates Swing Open w/ The Soul Stirrers
24. Meli'sa Morgan - I still don't get the apostrophe. Melly-suh? Whatever. This woman helped define my early tastes, those that were my own and not just an extension of my parents'. Sorry, y'all, I do prefer her version of "Do Me Baby."
Do Me Baby
Fool's Paradise (Extended Version)
Love Changes w/ Kashif
23. Rachelle Ferrell - Homegirl can just sing, for no reason, retarded notes and shit. It's ridiculous. I'd always liked her, especially the early-90s material, but once I saw her at the African Festival of the Arts some years back, it was solidified.
Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This w/ Will Downing
You Don't Know What Love Is
Til You Come Back Me
22. Sharon Bryant - I have always wanted her voice. I mean, Barbara Weathers can sing and everything, but Sharon led the Atlantic Starr I love most. Too bad that solo career didn't work out too well.
When Love Calls (Atlantic Starr)
Circles (Atlantic Starr)
Am I Dreaming? (Atlantic Starr)
21. Lou Rawls - My fellow Chicagoan had a voice like chocolate fudge, rich and oh so satisfying (take that, take that, take that!). My dad always sang "Tobacco Road" when I was a youngin', but "You'll Never Find" was, of course, the song. His back up vocals on Sam Cooke's "Bring it on Home to Me" didn't hurt either.
Bring it on Home to Me w/ Sam Cooke
Southside Blues/Tobacco Road
You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
20. Bobby Womack - Not just a singer, but a writer, producer, and session player. Another alumnus of The Soul Stirrers and responsible for my favorite Rufus/Chaka Khan song.
I'm in Love
Across 110th Street
California Dreamin' (Live)
19. Rahsaan Patterson - Rahsaan Patterson loves Chaka Khan. This is evident. However, that does not change the fact dude got some serious go. See him live and tell me otherwise. He'll stand on stage with a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and show off.
It Ain't Love
Where You Are (Silk's Old School Mix)
To Be Continued