Friday, August 26

Neo Soul Sabre - Sandra St. Victor

Check out the Mack Diva, Sandra St. Victor, former lead singer of The Family Stand. (Remember their sizzling hit of 1988, "Ghetto Heaven?!" However, Sandra's earliest musical roots on the national scene included stints with Chaka Khan and Roy Ayers. So you know this brazen Gemini is packing heat!

A native of Dallas, Sandra is a power vocalist who's masterful at mixing it all up. She don't back down, and she don't ease up! She's never scared to say it, sing it, confront it, love it, or hate it... What ever "it" is. Not only does she render songs with heart-stomping, soulful expression, she often does so in a musical cul-de-sac of funk, rock, or jazz. This Gemini is always a delightful, put-ya-foot-in-it-and-smash-it-TUP trip!

Don't miss these killer tracks from Sandra's solo CDs:
Mack Diva Saves the World
Gemini on Both Sides:

  • Move Me
  • In a Zone
  • Since You Been Gone
  • Rise
  • Lonely In a Crowded Room
  • Chocolate
  • Molassas Rain
  • Mack Diva
  • Come Over
  • Slippin' Into Darkness (yes, a cover of 'that' one!)
In 2000, Sandra was featured on, like, FOUR tracks on the CD commemorating guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. Of late, she's been touring Europe, and I'm ecstatic to see she's doing so with a number of other stellar, original sisters!

Sandra is a bit of a musician's musician, beloved by Industry insiders but hasn't quite cracked the commercial code, as enormous as her talent is. That's a great thing for us who like that deep, edgy ish, but probably doesn't result in what she deserves financially.

Hope you'll check her out from time to time, catch her when she comes to your city, and show this rare, funked-out Mack Diva gem some love:

Viqi French

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Monday, August 22

Tell My ... Horse

As if channeling African American writer Zora Neale Hurston, I trekked across rare, foreign soil on which probably 99% of Americans would never, ever travel. And with the commitment of that treasured author-anthropologist, I braved it.

But only for a week and some change. Small change at that. Like a half dollar's worth.

Each steamy, Caribbean night, well past the bewitching hour, the sound of conga drumming in wild abandon echoed from the smokey hills. Haunting me, beating the soul of me with more intensity than I've ever experienced in a house music club. And I, mind you, dance next to the six-foot speakers in these dark, thunderous dens. (Which is why I now feel damn near deaf.)

But it wasn't the volume of the hillside drumming; it was their deep purpose that had me on edge. The drums were driving traditional religious ceremonies... Every night... Until the crack of dawn.

I rarely slept. Luckily, the hotel bar was always open! I stayed at the Oloffson, a "gingerbread" mansion surrounded by lush gardens. But I was hardly the only wide-eyed guest swizzling a little plastic stick in a glass on the porch at 4 a.m. Not with the drumming keeping us so awake and social.

The location was Haiti. The city: Port-au-Prince. My reason for going there? I was conducting a little informal "research" for a suspense novel I was writing back then (and have recently blown the dust off). It's a story set in "The Industry." Something they used to call a competitive set of corporations vying for our new car and soft drink dollars: an industry. But now, the term seems to "belong" to Hip-hop.

Hip-hop, indeed, is at the crux of the aforemention novel. And this post... So I ask you, "How can black music that so brilliantly echoes the intense, African sentiment of the drums I heard in Haiti seem so overwhelmingly dismissive of its true power and potential uses?"

Now don't get me wrong: I own enough of this music to trade toward a nice Frigidaire. In the beats I hear profound evidence of deeply embedded, DNA-bequeathed intelligence. It's as if aural tribal marks are cut into the essence of many tracks. I'm almost like "Mozart who?" For real! And there are so many of these highly evolved producers, I am convinced that something of an underground Renaissance is unfolding before our eyes.

But when will we ever harness that artistry, that lyrical power of persuasion, to inspire meaningful change? I mean, if Hip-hop can make some white folks want to "act black," surely there's some deep-ass science going down. I mean, ain't nobody use to wanna be like us! Only Hip-hop gets that unprecedented, head-scratching, bragging right. World-wide, too. (Well, maybe the Rastas get a little credit, too. Given the number of blond dreadlocks that have been bonded over ganga, as if smoking Jamaican Super Glue.)

But what could Hip-hop really accomplish? I believe it could serve as a catalyst to spur world change in profound ways. I believe there's potentially enough energy there to be instrumental in helping unseat evil governments.

But alas: we're only racking up street cred points for doing away with each other. (Where's a damned Black Panther when you need one? Fiddy?)

And this is what my dusty, old manuscript is about. Sort of. "What if...? Fiddy?" ...

Now I don't mean him personally. But someone who'll someday be as influential as he. Or as indefatigable as our very own "Elvis": the ever-green and growing Tupac Shakur. (Why, just last spring, my boyfriend swore Pac popped up on the West side of Chicago! Then I thought I saw him, too: he sprouted on the parking lot of MacArthur's, the soul food restaurant!)

Anyway, the premise is probably best understood by relating this tidbit... There's a theory about the impetus behind Hitler's power, that he sort of... snapped early on. He allegedly believed he'd been blinded in a gas attack. The doctors treating Hitler found absolutely nothing wrong with his eyesight, and determined this "blindness" was all in his mind. So the doctors "cured" him through @hypnOsis@, telling him, "Yup! You're blind, all right. But because God has chosen you as a special person, you can regain your eyesight through sheer will power." And so he did; he "fixed" his vision. And in so miraculously healing himself, he ultimately also convinced himself that he could "heal" just about all the ills of the world. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I suppose it would take some type of mass hypnosis -- or vodou, which may be about the same -- to get this rap thang on a higher ground. So in the spirit of the great novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, I say, "Somebody tell my Hip-hop horse that it's time to turn around, carry us in another direction." Because every good "horse" under the influence of a steamy boom-bap does exactly as told. Get just the right one spittin' about change on a mic, and the entire Rhythm Nation may follow.

Wonder if we hooked up on a dark hillside one night and rubbed together two quarters, could we make make 50 Cent? Hey, the @revolution@ may be televised, after all?

by Viqi French

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Tuesday, August 16

5:00 a.m. and It's So Strange'

Long before she crawled on a table as
the few lights there were faded to black. And like slaves to her rhythm, the throng of
chi-chi poo-poo la-la "kids"
crammed closer to the stage at the
Paradise Garage
pulled up to the bumper: to feel
the heat of
Her Royal Highness.
Her adoring fans stood sweating in NYC's
legendary underground club
packed like salty fish
and waited... and waited... for over an hour. For once, the dancing stopped.
But the music didn't: the DJ played Her "slavish" anthem in repeat the entire time.
After the longest while, she arrived
by two burly brothers to the stage... each lifting Her by a long, sinewy arm: She couldn't walk.
Or simply wouldn't.
I hoped she wouldn't do a "Sly," too STONEed to go on.
But this Diva from Another Planet?
This Diva writhed and spat and convulsed and hissed and kicked and ranted and whipped
the crowd senseless. Like a B&D Afro-bot -- straight, no chaser -- from Mars. She did this six-feet-deep in tough, Jamaican jerk skin: Her warm leatherette was swathed in nothing more than
white hierorglyphic body paint...
Nu vodou. Ancient to the future.
A Neo (Soul) Wave(ing) Diva who shouted out today's fierce fusion music long ago,
in ways that no one else had -- or has since.
100% out-of-the-box performance artist
100% avant garde DNA.
There was always just EXTRA Her
Body, Mind, and Soul
In The Reign...

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Monday, August 15

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses, And whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles, And warm woolen mittens, Brown paper packages Tied up with strings, These are a few of my favorite things . . . Cream colored ponies, An' crisp apple strudels, Doorbells an' sleigh bells, An' schnitzel with noodles, Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, These are a few of my favorite things . . . Girls in white dresses, With blue satin sashes, Snow flakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, Silver white winters, That melt into springs, These are a few of my favorite things . . . When the dog bites, When the bee stings, When I'm feelin' sad, I simply remember my favorite things, And then I don't feel so bad . . . From "The Sound of Music"

Not until I heard the incomparable Carmen Lundy sing My Favorite Things did I really "hear" (i.e., deeply absorb and appreciate) these powerful lyrics.

Carmen's voice is like a perfect, velvet rose. Plucked from Venus. When she sings My Favorite Things, I suddenly see all that's so beautiful in life. And connect with the importance of shifting one's outlook so that you don't miss it.

Stop and smell the roses -- especially this gifted one known as jazz diva Carmen Lundy.

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Sunday, August 14

The Acid Jazz assassins

If Yo-Yo Ma whipped up a soul food meal, peppered it with Sly & Robbie's five-alarm bass, and cooked it in a funky pot out back -- in the elements of Earth, Wind, and Fire -- you'd have a taste of Outside.

This London-based Acid Jazz band is the ultimate fusion food for me! Led by multi-instrumentalist extraordinairre Matt Cooper, this cult classic import CD was released on the Dorado label in 1995. Titled The Rough and the Smooth, no truer words could describe Outside's sound. Theirs is Nu Jazz genius, music so funk-da-fied they indeed have the effect of sandpaper: they play rough, but execute with gutter smooth precision. Sounds a bit like S&M, doesn't it? You know you want it. (Freak!)

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Saturday, August 13

Tweet in Real-time

What's not to love about this "Southern Hummingbird?" I was blown away by Tweet's first CD. Musically, she chose lots of airy, acoustic, minimal tracks over which to record. Sophisticated stuff. The writing was hot to death, with out-of-the-box lyrics she penned for Smoking Cigarettes, Drunk, Motel, Beautiful, and Best Friend (w/ Bilal). The exceptional lyrics and free-spirit of many of these songs whispered Prince to me! And then there were her sublime vocals, paving a unique path apart from the middle of the R&B road. So Tweet is an artist parked alone and interestingly where Neo Soul meets Neo Folk, on a steamy R&B night.

That said, it took me a while to purchase her second CD, "It's Me Again." And once I finally bought it, I didn't crack it open... until tonight!

So here we go with Tweet in Real-time... Hold on a sec, I'm putting it in the CD player now...

[ * = Hot ones I'll play in repeat and highly recommend ]
(1. Intro... yadda, yadda...)
* 2. "Turn Da Lights Off" Killer production by Missy Elliott and Kwame', who smash up this wicked-nasty-hip-hop beat! Tweet's soulful harmonies make you want to go seduce somebody. You know, check out the ish she's talking about with those lights turned off.
* 3. "Iceberg" Ballad with a nice Old School/Neo Soul-ish beat (Angie Stone-ish feel, laid waaaaay back in the cut.) Her man's turned "so cold," she repeats. You'd think this girl's twittery butterfly vocals could melt the heart of her Iceberg Slim-ish ex-lover.
4. "Could It Be" Love collabo with male vocalist Rell. Nice and easy with a heavy, walking bass line. Reminiscent of Bobby Womack tunes. Should be popular, just not for me.
5. "You" Due to its sample from "Louis Armstrong's "Stardust," this track has the feel of Dr. Buzzard's Band meets hip-hop with a Big Foot stomp rhythm. Tweet's vocals are so delicate and essential, I can *feel* the little girl she must have been, turning out a Baptist church somewhere. This song ain't about the Lord, though.
* 6. "Cab Ride" Theme from TV show "Taxi" is surprisingly -- but beautifully -- sampled. Now this is the spacy, sweet-sexy stuff Tweet does so well that I play over and over! This is "Smoking Cigarettes" for this CD (which she shouts out mid-song). This is as lacy as "Poetry Man" by the great Phoebe Snow. Sentimental production by the gifted Nisan Stewart.
7. "Things I Don't Mean" A House beat -- you know how she and Missy do that House thing so well together. Smooth as Chaka's "I'm Every Woman," but the message here is clearly "It's Not Over Between You and Me." Smooth, bouncy dance tune. Should be quite popular.
8. "My Man" Another solid, Old School-feeling number. I'm thinking a bit of Rose Royce as I listen to this -- almost like there's live instrumentation here. (But that couldn't be the case, now could it?) Reminds me of back in the day, dancing slow and close in a sweaty basement with a sweaty boy: foreplay for (R&B) lovers.
9. "Sports, Sex & Food" That Missy Elliott is one sick-to-death producer! This beat spazzes out with a dynamic New Orleans-styled Second Line beat -- with bayou/juke joint piano breaks... So this feels like the kind of song your mama and 'nem probably danced to barefoot in the 1950s, with a half-cup of Moonshine sloshing in one hand. That is, until "Shug" showed up in the shack and cleared the dance floor, grinding on Mister! Big fun musically, and the offbeat hook is probably true: "The way to his heart is sports, sex, and food." (I'm making notes...)
* 10. "Small Change" An anthem for the ladies when a man has walked away, leaving her mystified. Recovered and now doing well without him -- thank you very much -- Tweet croons this empowered hook: "You must be sort of deranged. Your worth is less than small change." If you've ever been dumped by a man you cherished, this track magically takes you back to that time -- no matter how long ago it was -- and Tweet gives you the perfect words to tell him off nice-nastily. Chords remind me a bit of the classic "Always There," but slowed down and wonderfully bluesy. I like this one a lot! Sweet guitar work and intense sub-kick by the sonically sound Nisan Stewart.
11. "Two of Us" Hmmmm... A precious mother 'n daughter duet, and Tweet's kid can sing! Sounds just like her mom. Another anthem, this one for single parents who are best friends with their children, and get that adoration right back. Refreshing approach, Tweet. You go, mommie! Makes me a little teary. :-)
* 12. "Where Do We Go" Sweet Tweet is given enormous space for gorgeous vocals and powerful lyrics. A bit on that folksy, harmonic Jhelisa vibe we love. Tight, classy production by Charlie & Kenny Bereal.
13. "Steer" Soulful vocals with Tweet not sure where her relationship is headed. I, on the other hand, am not sure how much air-time this one will get from me. It's okay, but feels a little like "filler" compared to some of the others. Perhaps not as fully inspired.
14. "I'm Done" Stunning piano chords with lush, gospel-ish feel -- but standard issue R&B drum work. So much pain, these lyrics... I'm getting a little worried about girlfriend with all of these unrequited love songs. If I glance at my stereo, I'm afraid I'll see Tweet's tears dripping down the knob panel, rusting up my system!
* 15. "We Don't Need No Water" Turn up the volume and "Let the mother *up* and burn!" when Missy intros this joint. Has to be hot, titled with the party mantra of all time! Has me bumping my butt in the chair!! Check this bananas verse: "Can I ask y'all a question? (Yeah!) Is it gettin' hot up in here? (Yeah!) Can I make a suggestion? (Yeah!) Strip down to your underwear!" (LOL Nellie may not like how close this comes to his "so take off all your clothes," but I've gotta roll with Tweet on this one.) Fierce sub-kick, if you're a bass-head like I am. Report to the dance floor ASAP for this butter-ass party track.
15. "When I Need a Man" Bonus Track buried in the back... Something sort of exotic about it, but!: there's also something a little "snow queen-ish" (i.e., commercial disco) about it to me. This track, I'll not play again. It's nicely produced, but feels out of sync with *everything* else on this CD. They may be testing Tweet's vocal range or something with this one, as she may hit a few highs she normally doesn't. But hey, Tweet, as Billy Joel so aptly wrote/sang it: Don't go changing!
Nice work. Very well produced tracks, and consistenly so. Vocals are delivered with plenty of 1960's throw back attitude, gospel-ish passion, and intimacy that few achieve. These are the talents that distinguish Tweet in Hip-hop! She tells compelling stories (making me wonder if she's studied Country music, which does this so well!) But compared to Tweet's first album, this one's on a bit of a salt-restricted diet. I'd have really enjoyed, say, two more out-of-the-box songs like Motel, Smoking Cigarettes, Drunk, and My Place from her first CD. That said, it you're a Tweet fan, or if you're open to exploring some of the less pedestrian hip-hop talents, I'd definitely recommend it. I hope that next time, she'll freak a little more of that Prince-type vibe that she and Missy churn out like no other!

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Welcome: Where You're At, and What It Is!

Dial 9-1-1: This Music Blog Spot is on Fire!

Here's a mock-up of my book cover. I don't suppose I need to type the title here...

What's a book with such an intriguing title about? Well, you'll have to visit for that insight.

However, I will say that it's a humor memoir of narrative essays about events from my teen and childhood years.

By the way, I'm offering a free music CD to everyone who visits and participates in my "e-mail this site to your friends" promotion.

The free music CD features many of my favorite Neo Soul and Progressive Jazz acts, which is precisely what this blog spot -- Viqi French Fever -- will be about. At this blog spot, I'm writing about these eclectic genres of music, spotlighting artists such as Bilal, Return to Forever, Lizz Wright, Jhelisa, Fela, The Roots, Doug & Jean Carne, Grace Jones, Lewis Taylor, Tweet, Flora Purim, N'Dambi, Common, Gil Scot-Heron, Nina Simone, Carmen Lundy, MeShell N'degeOcello, and sooooooooooo many others.

This blog spot -- Viqi French Fever -- will be highly interactive. If you love this music, and have similar favorites you'd like to write about, don't be shy!! Tell us who you're feelin', tell us your top 5 artist/albums, tell us about the time you met your favorite act, tell us the story of your favorite concert and why!

Every other Saturday, we'll explore new topics involving some of these artist and special thoughts or memories they may inspire.

So come here often, and come here buckled in for a mind-bending excursion through some of the most remarkable music ever made!

Don't Lose Your Salt, Baby!


Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like