Monday, July 18, 2016

Under the Influence of a Groove (funk fiction)


Ever since I was kid, music and reading have always been two of my passions. In my Harlem household, the radio was always playing, and there were enough books, magazines and comics to keep me occupied for hours. Even before I began merging my two loves -- combined with a third: writing -- I also enjoyed reading music criticism or essays about jazz, pop and soul stars; I suppose it started back in the 1970s when I discovered Right On, Creem, 16, Black Star and Rolling Stone. As I got older, I also began seriously diggin’ those scribes that wrote about music in a different way than just straight reviews, including the Nik Cohn/Guy Peellaert tome Rock Dreams and my mom’s copy of Nappy Edges by Ntozake Shange, who wrote so lyrically about jazz and was another book I read and re-read constantly.
In the ‘80s, guided by the literary spirits inside the original St. Mark’s Bookstore, I discovered writer Al Young when I stumbled upon his wonderful book Things Ain’t What They Used to Be (1987). Although I’d never heard of Young, I was intrigued by the beautiful Stephen Henriques watercolor cover illustration of a jazz trio. Flipping through the trade paperback that was billed as the third volume of Young’s “musical memoir,” the book was actually a collection of essays and short stories inspired by various artists, songs or aural situations ranging from Charles Mingus (a friend of the Young’s, who would become of one his favorite subjects), Marvin Gaye, Billy Strayhorn, Aretha Franklin and others.
“What I tried to do in these books was take a piece of music and conjure in prose, in one form or another, what the music meant to me,” Young explained. Not only was his writing poetic and smart, but his musical taste was diverse as he boogied from tales of be-bop, Motown pop and girl-group teardrops. Reading Young’s essays was like listening to the stories of one of my elders as we sat on the back porch sipping lemonade. His style excited me in the same way that the music writing of David Henderson, Greg Tate, Carol Cooper, Nelson George, Lisa Jones and Barry Michael Cooper did during that same period. 


Within weeks, I bought Bodies & Soul and Kinds of Blue, the earlier books in Young’s “musical memoirs,” but it was Things Ain’t What They Used to Be that had the most impact on me as an aspiring music journalist/ essayist and fiction writer. Twenty-nine years later, I thought hard about Young’s writing, as well as the various subjects the piece was inspired by, including my old bass-playing buddy Malcolm, a young cat I knew back in the day who grew up in 150th between Broadway and Riverside. Malcolm was a tall, lanky dude with long arms and a giant Afro; he reminded me of one of the cool guys in an Ernie Barnes painting.
I’m not sure how we became friends, but whenever I saw him in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, we always talked about music, as well as the progress he was making on his instrument; he often praised dudes like Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller, and he spoke with such excitement that I just knew (though, admittedly, I’d never heard him play) that one day he, too, would be one of the best.
Although I couldn’t play anything, I, like him, was an old-school electric bass funk head who’d been reared on Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins and Louis Johnson, so whenever Malcolm and I bumped into each other, we would have these hour-long convos.
Throughout our discussions, one could always hear the passion in his voice and see a gleam in his eyes. However, one day in 1984 (or ’85), I ran into a mutual friend from the ‘hood who shocked me with a truth I wasn’t ready for. “Yo, did you hear about Malcolm, man?”
“Naw, what happened?”
“Car accident, man. He got fucked up pretty badly.”
“Word? What the fuck, man?”
“Yo, broke a bunch of bones and shit. The doctor told him he won’t be able to play bass anymore.”
“You serious?” I was gobsmacked.
For a moment, the world felt like a very dark place. I tried to imagine how I’d react if I suddenly lost the ability to read or write. I tried to imagine what it would be like if a doctor told me I could no longer do the one thing I loved the most.
A few months later, I ran into Malcolm, who told me himself about his accident and showed me where there were pins in his arm. In that macho way that men often portray to one another, Malcolm pretended it wasn’t such a big deal that he’d never play the bass again. He knew I didn’t believe him, but I held back the tears, for both of us.
     After that day, I may’ve seen Malcolm once or twice, but he eventually moved away, so I haven’t seen Malcolm in decades. Still, his story never left my mind. A few years back, while song surfing on YouTube, I fell into a wonderland of ‘70s funk (Bootsy Collins, Sly Stone, Ohio Players) that made me think about my old friend and the car crash that changed his life.


Taking a few tokes of my peace pipe, which often serves as a tiny time machine, I sat down at the computer and knocked-out the first draft of my funk fiction “Under the Influence of a Groove." The story was written as a tribute to my old friend as well as the many other bass playing mavericks that rocked my world and opened-up my earholes. 

Earlier this year, I became friendly with movie expert and Art Decades publisher Jeremy Richey. Along with his wife, Kelley, they produce one of the smartest and smartly designed magazines I’ve seen in years. Having contributed an essay to the special David Bowie issue that was Art Decades #7, I was very impressed when I saw the magazine, as it reminded me of old-school publications like Evergreen Review, View or the ‘90s U.K. journal Modern Review, which billed itself as "Low culture for high-brows."


For some reason, I thought about the funk fiction piece that was gathering computer dust on my hard drive. After doing a slight remix, I sent the story to Jeremy, and he replied a few days later saying that he dug it deeply and was going to publish it in the next Art Decades issue, #8. A few months later, when he sent me the opening page (see above) I knew my story had found the perfect home. I’d like to thank the Art Decades folks, as well as writer Al Young, whose masterful Things Ain’t What They Used to Be helped put me on the path of writing more personally and deeply about music.

 
For more info on Art Decades, go to:







Friday, March 18, 2016

Slow Down Heart



fiction by Michael A. Gonzales, copyright © 2007
In the fall of 1965, when Dawn Rodgers was fifteen years old, the sleek boogie of Motown music had been as vital to her existence as blood and water. Living in a regal Harlem building on a 116th Street and 8th Avenue, Dawn had converted her girly bedroom into a soulful shrine of her favorite singers: countless seven-inch 45s were sprawled on the carpeted floor, and Ebony magazine pictures of Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Little Stevie Wonder and The Supremes hung on the white wall.
Across the room, on top of an antique dresser, was the blue record player that had been a Christmas gift from Dawn’s father before his sudden death from a heart attack two years ago.
When she first unwrapped the present, it reminded her of a magical, aqua hued jewel box. With its mono-speaker and hard cover, the record player was her most prized possession.
On the weekend, Dawn and her lanky girlfriend Barbara Jean played the records repeatedly, dancing like American Bandstand regulars as their  wavy press combed hair flipped.



As Barbara Jean belted “ooohhs and aaahhs” in the background, Dawn grabbed a broomstick from closet and strained her vocal chords singing lead on “Baby Love,” “Tracks of My Tears,” “Where Did Our Love Go” and other soon to be classic tracks.
Yet, since buying the sweet swoon of “My Girl” from Shadow’s Record Store-the first record Dawn had bought-the sweet song held a special place in her heart. As Barbara’s charm bracelets jiggled, Dawn perfectly pantomimed those silky moves.
On those school days when Dawn was finished with her homework, she scoped the smooth skinned older boy singers who sloughed on the stoop and sang beneath the dim street lamp outside the living-room window.
With their conked hair and starched slacks, those slick boys slurped sodas and sang about roaming Romeos until dusk.
“Girl, you better get your face out of that window and into those books,” Dawn’s mother Amy scolded one autumn afternoon. Styling a sky-high beehive and lush lashes, Amy puffed on a Marlboro.
With wide-hips and thin waist, she stood in front of the curtained French doors; when the doors were closed, it was damn near impossible to hear another sound. Dawn wasn’t aware of her mother had been observing her for a few minutes
Dawn and her mom had once shared a special bond that faded with each birthday. Many years had passed since they had played in the playground sandbox or dressed identically on Easter morning. Though the death of her father should have brought them closer, it seemed to make her mother that much more neurotic.
“Girl, don’t make come in there and snatch you up,” Amy yelled. Her mom made a pretty penny as the proprietor of the Smart Set Beauty Shop.
However, since it was a Monday, the shop was closed.
“Damn,” Dawn mumbled. She had hoped to see the singing man of her fantasies, a conked head boy named Miles Fontaine. Everyday, she anticipated the moment that slick heart breaker would slink around the corner and connect with his rhythmic street-corner crew.
A sharp dressed dude whose shoes were never snuffed, Miles had a smoky voice that was smoother than her panties. Even though he and Dawn didn’t know one another, Miles often glanced-up at Dawn’s third floor window and grinned.
At nineteen, his gleaming smile was perfect, as was the square jaw that was the foundation of a clean-shaven, light-skinned face. Whenever Miles wore his stylish black-framed glasses, Dawn thought he looked exactly like “a lighter version of David Ruffin from The Temptations.”
In Dawn’s mind, she believed Miles possessed a princely charm that only she could see.



With her curvy figure and shoulder length ponytail, Dawn was too old for children’s games and too young for grown folks business. In her teenage mind, it didn’t matter that Miles was much too old for a girl who wouldn’t be able to date for another year. Feeling Amy’s penetrating eyes on her back, Dawn slinked out of the window and flopped on the plastic slip covered couch.
While the weekdays were devoted to schoolwork and household chores, come Saturday morning Dawn was down at the Smart Set helping her mother.
“That girl just keep getting so big,” observed Millard Jones, one of Amy’s oldest customers. “Seems like yesterday I was giving the child lollipops from my purse.”
“As long as she keeps her head up, her eyes in a book and her legs closed, I’ll be happy,” Amy replied. Pretending not to listen, Dawn swept-up hair, set the dryers and ordered lunch for the gossiping flock.
As was Amy’s habit, at four o’clock she handed Dawn three crisp dollar bills for her allowance. Tossing the stained smock on top of a shelf, Dawn said, “I’ll be back. I’m going down to Shadow’s.” Not that it was news, because Dawn went to Shadow’s Record Emporium every Saturday afternoon.
“Can’t keep them young folks away from their music,” Millard said.
“Just don’t be down there all day,” Amy said. “I have other things for you to do around her.”
“Alright, ma,” Dawn answered, carefully watching her tone of voice; a slip of the lip was all Dawn needed for her mother to snatch back the money or pop her in the mouth.
Dressed in a her blue Fall sweater, white button down shirt, jeans and matching Pro-Keds sneakers, Dawn ran the five blocks past rooming houses and number holes, liquor shops and soul food shacks. As visions of shiny discs spun in her head, Dawn barely paid attention to the roar of the world around her.
Nearing Shadow’s, she sped around the corner at St. Nicholas Avenue and slammed into a hard body exiting a men’s shoe store.
Crashing to the ground, Dawn’s head banged on the sidewalk. Lying still, she groaned and tried to regain her bearings. Rubbing her skull, blood trickled from the wound.
“Are you alright?” a soothing voice asked. With her eyes still closed, Dawn struggled to stand until she felt a reassuring touch on her shoulder. “You really shouldn’t move until the ambulance gets here.”
Squinting through barbecue smoke simmering from a nearby restaurant, it took awhile for Dawn to see clearly. The moment her blurry vision finally focused, she saw Miles’ face hovering in front of her.
Yet, before Dawn was able to utter a word, a thundercloud exploded in her head. Seconds later, the slight concession caused her to faint completely.
Between the hardness of the concrete and the softness of the hospital bed, Dawn’s mind be-bopped through a dreamscape where she and Miles sailed on a chocolate-flavored sea. With a tender voice, Miles serenaded her with a sweet love song.
Moments later, the dream lover gently touched her bare shoulder and kissed her quivering lips.
Days after recovering from the accident, Dawn noticed a slight change in her mother’s behavior. It began the morning when the usually stern faced Amy strolled past the stove smiling and melodically humming ‘My Girl.’ Startled by Amy’s blissful demeanor, Dawn stared longingly as her moms fluttered through the kitchen like a nightingale.
Sitting down at the Formica table, Amy smiled at her bemused daughter. Pouring orange juice into a blue glass, Amy asked, “Are you sure you’re well enough to go to school? Maybe you should stay home another day or so.”
Dawn noticed a musical lilt to Amy’s voice. Not since Dawn’s daddy had died, had her mom sound so happy.
“It’s just strange,” Dawn explained to her girlfriend Barbara Jean as the two trooped towards their small Catholic school building. Both girls were dressed in white blouses, gray plaid skirts and black shoes. If they were even a minute late, sadistic Sister Regis would make them do detention.
Bending down to buckle her shoe in front of Jesse’s Candy Shop, a cool breeze caressed Dawn’s face.
“Maybe she thought when you got the concussion you were going to die or something. You know how mothers are when something bad happens to their babies.”
Dawn pushed open the steel and glass door. Swathed in the store’s Hershey chocolate warmth and fumes of fresh brewed coffee, they greeted the overweight owner. Overcome by a yearning for chocolate, Dawn stood in front of the glass counter and stared at the gleaming silver wrapped Kisses.
“Yeah,” Dawn agreed, sliding ten-cents across the counter. “You’re right. I’m just being goofy. It’s just weird to hear Miss Mean Jeans suddenly being so nice. And, to top it off, honey is humming Motown songs.”
Barbara Jean giggled, and glanced at her Timex wristwatch. “Just wait for a couple more days, I bet she’ll be right back to her regular self,” she said. “Now hurry-up before Sister Regis has us standing on our tiptoes for an hour or something crazy.”
Although Dawn didn’t bring up the subject again, Amy’s slight change had developed into a full-blown transformation. With a wiggle in her walk, Amy bought a few tight skirts that enhanced her shapely behind.
In the past, while Amy had always come straight home after closing the beauty shop, she was now “stopping for cocktails at the O’Neal’s” or “going to the movies at Loews's Paramount Theater.” Coming home slightly intoxicated, Amy sang sweet soul songs under her peppermint-scented breath.
Later that afternoon, Dawn sat in the classroom staring at the dusty blackboard when she a developed an aching headache. “Is your mother home today?” Sister Regis asked. Knowing the details of her slight concussion, the nun thought it would be best to send Dawn home.
“Yes, Sister,” Dawn answered, rubbing her forehead. After a year at St. Catherine’s you would think these nuns would remember that her mother owned a beauty shop, Dawn thought. Everybody in Harlem knows that beauty shops are closed on Monday.
“I’ll call and tell her you don’t feel well. Barbara Jean can bring your homework.”
“Thank you, Sister,” Dawn replied, gathering her books.
Nearing her block at one o’clock, Dawn wondered what had happened to Miles and the rest of his singing buddies. “I suppose it’s been a little chilly,” she reasoned, but I still haven’t seen him since the accident. Of course, that hadn’t stopped her from scribbling Miles’ name in her three-ring binder or in the margins of her textbooks.
Slowly, Dawn climbed the tarnished marble steps to her apartment. From behind the closed doors of her neighbor’s flats, she heard crying babies and the theatrical voices of soap opera stars. Yet, standing in front of her doorway, Dawn didn’t hear a sound.
Maybe ma went to laundry or something, she thought. Pushing open the metal door, Dawn dropped her coat and school bag on the foyer floor. Walking quietly across the carpet, Dawn headed towards the living room.
Standing in front of the French doors, she was surprised to hear the dreamy voices of The Temptation’s “My Girl” streaming from the blue portable hi-fi her dead father had given her.
Hesitating, Dawn slowly pulled back the multicolored curtains and peered through the door’s small window.
Blinking, she stared, stunned and paralyzed by the wicked image of her mother and Miles lustfully entwined on the sticky couch. Oblivious to the world, their naked bodies rhythmically moved to the music.
A few feet away, Dawn’s record player rested on top of the wooden coffee table.
Dawn’s eyes jumped frantically from the blue record player to the couch. Dawn’s fragile emotions cracked, and wanted to shatter the French door’s windows with her bare fist.
Sniffling, she wiped tears from her eyes as a thousand blue record players blared in her head. Crying, Dawn watched with disgusted fascination as the sweaty bodies of Miles and her mother slithered to the hardwood floor. Eyes closed, they swam in the sea of love while The Temptations continued to sing.
Before Dawn was even aware of her own movements, she had run down the stairs. Standing in front of the silver street pole where she had first seen Miles, a cold wind caused her to shiver.
Staring upwards at her living-room, either her mother or Miles had snapped on end-table lamp. Still crying, Dawn silently vowed never
to touch that blue box ever again.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Return of the Jungle Love: On Jesse Johnson

As a brown sugar toking D’Angelo fan who has been digging his sonic voodoo since seeing him jam live that memorably crazy night in 1995 when he played the Supper Club for his debut album release party, for me the release of Black Messiah on December 15 was an early Christmas present that stayed in constant rotation throughout my holiday season spent in Baltimore. “Don’t you want to listen to something else?” my Baltimore host (and former Village Voice jazz critic) Don Palmer asked.
Standing in the kitchen, I’d already played Black Messiah twice since arriving a few hours before. Looking at Don, I smiled and simply answered, “Nope.” I was thrilled that D’Angelo’s team was able to finally deliver Black Messiah to the world as the first Christmas miracle in centuries. It was an album as complexly layered, bugged-out and soulful as I’d hoped, but the Newport puffing southern man had also brought along guitarist/singer/producer Jesse Johnson for his magical mystery journey into sound.
Two months later, seeing Johnson performing alongside D’Angelo and his fellow Vanguard posse this past weekend on Saturday Night Live, especially on the second number “Charade,” where both he and D were able to get into some rock star guitar theatrics, was equally as special. All incognegro in his winter hat and shades, perhaps the getup was Johnson’s way of forging his own identity on stage or the set was really that brick. Regardless, his playing sounded splendid.
Back in 2011, I interviewed Jesse Johnson in Philadelphia on MLK Day in the living-room of our mutual friend and radio personality Dyana Williams. Over a light lunch and Perrier, the former pink suit wearing Johnson told me he was in the studio with D’Angelo. Although vague on exactly what kind of aural tests they were conducting in the lab, Johnson hinted modestly, “We’re just fooling around. I’m not really sure where D is going with it, but I love working with him.
“The only problem is I don’t smoke, but everything I take to the studio now smells like a cigarettes. We’ve played together on a bunch of stuff. He’ll play bass or drums or I’ll play bass. We just jam and record to get licks and things.” Thankfully for both the new jacks and the old heads fans, Johnson was willing to make the smoky sacrifice in the name of Black art, muddy soul, singing in tongues and a little brimstone thrown into the mix.
While neither D’Angelo nor Jesse has spoken publicly on the process of their years in the making collaboration, I assume D learned a few things from the man that the press still keeps referring to as guitarist for The Time as though he never released a few dope solo joints of his own beginning with his 1985 album Jesse Johnson Revue (the bridge between Ernie Isley and Vernon Reid) up to his underrated bluesy excursion Bare My Naked Soul in 1996 and the rock-soul militancy of Verbal Penetration in 2009.

Friday, November 14, 2014

P.M. Dawn/Jesus Wept (Slept on Soul)

Back in the early 1990s, when so-called “realness” began reigning supreme over rap music, most anyone not subscribing to the sinister outlook of street narratives was perceived as a fake punk just asking for a beat down. The equivalent of young Black kids being teased by their peers for “talking white,” the rules of rap realness kept the music as grimy as possible, caught up in a trick bag of ghetto demands. Real men, according to macho hip-hop mythology, represented and rapped about the streets, their honey booty sweeties and “playing the game” with the precision of hustler.
Unable to be merely content doing their own thing, some artists were determined to tear down any aural agitators who dared not to embrace the soiled imagery of crack infested buildings, pissy projects staircases and dope boys slinging rock on park benches until the break of dawn. While a few bohemian crews, namely De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and whoever else was down with the Native Tongues, was given a ghetto pass, perhaps because they socialized at the same spots (Union Square, The World) or recorded at the same studios.
Without a doubt, many hardcore hip-hop fans never really gave P.M. Dawn a chance. With their hippy clothes, surreal lyricism and Dr. Strange personas that reeked of Black mysticism and white witchcraft, P.M. Dawn wasn’t hanging in deathtrap hip-hop clubs, banging out beats on abandoned cars or worried about their baby mamma’s hounding them for child support. Indeed, as Prince Be later explained on the hypnotic single “Reality Used to Be a Friend of Mine” (1992), “What is real, a positive plane, reality and life are not the same.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Eternal Soul: The Aaliyah Story (excerpts)

Wax Poetics Magazine Remembers Aaliyah’s Musical Legacy and Examines Her “Eternal Soul”

Excerpts
Story Online on August 5th

Print Edition on Sale August 13


New York, NY – July 14, 2014 –R&B star Aaliyah will be on the cover of the upcoming summer issue of Wax Poetics. Journalist Michael A. Gonzales, who lays claim to being the first journalist to interview the vocalist, wrote the 5,000 word piece, which will premiere in its entirety online on August 5th. Gonzales has a storied career as a journalist, having covered popular culture for more than 20 years and interviewing countless R&B legends, including Sade, Barry White, Curtis Mayfield and Sade. Below are quotes from the story.

Excerpted quotes from “Eternal Soul,” Wax Poetics (#59) cover feature on singer Aaliyah by Michael A. Gonzales.

Aaliyah on meeting R. Kelly: “He was just completing Born into the ‘90s, and I sang for him. I sang for him and he liked what he heard. Still, we didn’t start working on the album until a few years later.”

Aaliyah on working on with R. Kelly: “We vibed off of one another, and that’s how the songs was built. He would vibe with me on what the lyrics should be. He’d tell me what to sing and I’d sing it. That’s how the whole album was done. We put in a lot of hours; as far as the music, we’d be in there all night making sure it was perfect. There were times when I was tired, but I knew I had to push on if I wanted to come off.”

Aaliyah on sex/marriage scandal: “I faced the adversity. I could’ve broken down, I could’ve gone and hid in the closet and said, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore.’ But, I love singing and I wasn’t going to let that mess stop me. I got a lot of support from my fans and that inspired me to put that behind me, be a stronger person and put my all into making One in a Million.”
  
Aaliyah on Timbaland and Missy producing much of her second album One in a Million: “At first Tim and Missy were skeptical if I would like their work, but I thought it was tight, just ridiculous. Their sound was different and unique, and that’s what appealed to me. Before we got together, I talked to them on the phone and told them what I wanted. I said, ‘You guys know I have a street image, but there is a sexiness to it, and I want my songs to compliment that; I told them that before I even met them. Once I said that, I didn’t have to say anything else. Everything they brought me was the bomb.”

Aaliyah on covering Marvin Gaye’s classic “Got to Give It Up”: “I don’t know how Marvin Gaye fans will react, but I hope they like it. I always think it’s a great compliment when people remake songs. I hope one day after I’m not here that people will cover my songs.” 

Aaliyah’s first collaborator R. Kelly on his early days: “(Kenwood Academy music teacher) Miss McLin started me writing (songs) every day. I’d write a song and she’d tell me it was the most beautiful song she’d ever heard. She also started me messin’ around with the piano. I just wanted to make her happy.”

R. Kelly on songwriting: “I write from everyday experiences and what moves me; that, to me, is a true writer. I love all forms of music. Everything that comes into my mind and hits my heart, I write it and record it. I love songs that mean something, and have some kind of truthfulness to them.”  
  
Singer Courtney Noelle on Aaliyah: “There are so many artists trying to recreate the Aaliyah vibe in their music Aaliyah was so relatable and cool; she wasn’t over sexualized, so we didn’t worry about mom disapproving. She sang, danced and acted, but she did it all so effortlessly. She was just so beautiful and graceful.”   


Eternal Soul” by Michael A. Gonzales http://www.waxpoetics.com/magazine

Eternal Soul (The Aaliyah Story)/Wax Poetics #59




Wax Poetics Magazine Remembers Aaliyah’s Musical Legacy and Examines Her “Eternal Soul”

Cover Story by the First Journalist to Interview the Singer Offers New Perspectives on the “Princess of R&B”

Story Online on August 5th

Print Edition On Sale August 13

New York, NY – August 4, 2014 – As Hollywood reshuffles the casting deck for a posthumous bio-pic on R&B star Aaliyah, the summer issue of Wax Poetics delves into the singer’s background and career as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of her debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number (Jive Records,1994). In his cover story “Eternal Soul,” veteran journalist Michael A. Gonzales fuses exclusive content from interviews with the late singer with recent recollections of those who guided her career, to reveal fresh insights into her short life.

Gonzales lays claim to being the first print journalist to interview the vocalist, just as her professional career was taking off. Having first met the singer at a Motor City Sheraton back in 1994, Gonzales says, “Aaliyah was a sweet, shy young lady. But I could tell immediately that she was serious about her art.” After going on to achieve fame as a singer and actress, Aaliyah died on August 25, 2001 at the age of 22 in a plane crash that also killed the pilot and eight other passengers.

Gonzales has a storied career as a journalist, having covered popular culture for more than 20 years and interviewing countless R&B legends, including Barry White, Curtis Mayfield and Sade. “When I first heard the R. Kelly-produced Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, I was already comparing Aaliyah to pop legends Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Marilyn McCoo and Janet Jackson. She had a soothing and slightly-reserved soprano that was pop while still being soulful.”

Featuring stunning images shot by celebrity photographer Jonathan Mannion (Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z), “Eternal Soul” largely focuses on the singer’s musical legacy while briefly touching upon the sex scandal surrounding Aaliyah and her musical mentor R. Kelly. Covering the time-period between her first two albums Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number and the groundbreaking One in a Million, the article was culled from interviews Gonzales conducted from 1995 to 2005 with the late singer as well as R. KellyWayne WilliamsTimbaland,Missy Elliott, and Kelly’s former music teacher Lena McLin.

The chorus of voices Gonzales interviewed to compose “Eternal  Soul” also includes Michael J. Powell, who produced Aaliyah’s earliest demos and is also best known for Anita Baker’s Rapture album; Jeff Sledge, former Jive Records A&R man, photographer Terrence A. Reese, who shot the Age Ain't Nothing But A Number album cover; engineer Jimmy Douglass who has worked with producer Timbaland since the beginning of his career; Jason King, inaugural and founding faculty member of The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music; fledgling artist/singer Courtney Noelle, the first lady of Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang; Bill Banfield, composer and professor at the Berklee College of Music and pop journalist Elon Johnson.
  
Wax Poetics is a quarterly American music magazine dedicated to vintage and contemporary jazz, funk, soul, Latin, hip-hop, reggae, blues, and R&B in the crate-digger tradition.Wax Poetics #59 can purchased through their online store beginning August 5th.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Slept on Soul (new column @ soulhead.com)


soulhead.com Launches Slept On Soul by Michael A Gonzales 
Monthly Column Debuts July 1

(JUNE 30, 2014) NEW YORK - Respected music critic and journalist Michael A. Gonzales will launch a new column, Slept on Soul, July 1 on the popular music website soulhead. Debuting with singer Chico DeBarge’s post-prison gem Long Time No See from 1997,the monthly column will revisit great soul records audiences paid little attention to when they were originally released.
“I’ve loved many albums that, for some reason, didn’t connect with listeners,” Gonzales said. “And Long Time No See represents the kind under-the-radar record I’ll be spotlighting. It displayed a mastery of style, honest lyricism and musical depth, but inexplicably nobody seemed to care about it.”
soulhead founder Ron Worthy said, “soulhead exists to uplift classic artists and shed light on the best in new music. Michael is an exceptional journalist who is enthusiastic about everything he covers. He’s been a contributor to our site for the past year, and his colorful, confident style connects with our readers. We know our readers will love it!”
Gonzales has written about popular culture for over twenty years. He has penned features for, among others, Wax Poetics, New York, XXL, The London Telegraph, and Pitchfork Review. He is a frequent on-air contributor for TV One’s popular Celebrity Crime Files.
soulhead® is an music lifestyle community targeting passionate music fans looking for unique and relevant content that enhance their lifestyle. Focusing on urban music, including new and classic soul, funk, jazz, and progressive electronic, the site offers reviews of albums and concerts, free mp3 downloads and streams and rare interviews and movies. The soulhead® brand was conceived by Ron Worthy, new media visionary, product developer and disc jockey, and is wholly owned by Buzzworthy Media Ventures, LLC of Brooklyn, New York.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Here Come the Warm Jets

Back home, in Harlem building where M. lived on the sixth floor, he turned on the stereo and put on a bulky pair of headphones. A few weeks before, for his eleventh birthday, his hip mother bought him a copy of Brian Eno’s strange debut Here Comes the Warm Jets.
“He’s way better than Elton John,” she said as he stared baffled at the album cover. Knee deep in his David Bowie, Kiss, Queen phase, he had never heard of Eno, but dug his hair and mascara. The warm buzzing guitar soaring through the title track like a fighter jet frightened him.
It took a few listens before his young mind started to comprehend Eno’s bugged-out brain. The man was crazy, no doubt, M. thought as epic guitars glided between majestic notes, lyrics slowly faded in, incoherent babble was buried in the music. What M. could understand, at least to his Catholic sensibilities, appeared to have spiritual undertones.
“Father, we make prayers on our knees,” the voice murmured. “Dawn enter here, for we've nowhere to be, nowhere to be, nowhere to be. Father drowned we're on our saints/paid to appease though we've nothing these days, nothing these days.”
From the moment M. heard "Here Come the Warm Jets," airplanes and prayers were eternally connected in his head. Years later, when he was the music critic for Blur magazine, he wrote an essay on Eno that a few people read, but he still believed was brilliant.