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Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr Singers Tags: kurt carr kurt carr singers true worshippers word life production new qulaity entertainment featured

Just the Beginning Gospel music has its fair share of mainstays and superstars, but only a fraction has been gifted with the higher calling of leading the saints in song. Even fewer have been commissioned with the task of breaking through denominational and ethnic backgrounds, while still maintaining an in-demand career that includes performing, composing, arranging, and producing for the biggest acts in the genre and beyond. Kurt Carr is one such minister.

JUST THE BEGINNING, his latest release on his newly minted Kurt Carr Gospel imprint in association with Zomba Gospel, is a testament to this industrious spirit. The album is a capstone that is bound to extend the reach of Carr’s growing legacy in contemporary gospel—a celebrated repertoire that, in less than a decade’s time, has left an indelible imprint in the sacred-music canon. “God has called me to preserve the music of the church,” Carr says, matter-of-factly. “There are people, there are ministers, who are called to go into the world and evangelize it. I feel that I am called to perpetuate the music of the church so that there’s substance to feed seasoned saints, and new converts once we catch them. That summarizes my calling.”

In light of Carr’s already extensive résumé in gospel music, JUST THE BEGINNING may sound like a non sequitur, but the artist truly believes he’s turning a page. “I feel it’s the beginning of many new horizons,” says the psalmist, who recently moved his quarters to Houston, Texas, after a 20-year tenure in Los Angeles. “God wants us to know that there’s so much more in store for us. People have seen great things, but they haven’t seen the greatest yet.” For those keeping tabs on Carr, it’s been almost four years since he turned heads with his chart-topping One Church project, but this time around the multiple Stellar recipient says he’s not looking to replicate the genre-bending eclecticism of that recording. In many ways, JUST THE BEGINNING is about him stripping things down and going back to the basics.

“The last album was a thematic album; it was a stretch. We had bagpipes, accordion—sounds that have never been associated with gospel music,” Carr says. “These songs are very singer-friendly, very congregational. This time, I’m going back to my roots—church music.” (more) Kurt Carr/Just The Beginning/2 That’s good news for the church. A protégé of not one, but two gospel legends—he was mentored by both Richard Smallwood and James Cleveland—Carr has carved a niche of his own in Sunday-morning liturgies, blessing worshippers with his unmistakable knack for choir-friendly melodies and a cross-cultural appeal second to none. For proof, one needs not look further than Carr’s signature song, “In the Sanctuary”—also the centerpiece of his breakthrough, gold-selling recording Awesome Wonder—to realize his keen ear for the corporate.

To this day, millions continue to sing the song across the globe every week, in no less than nine different languages. “After the success of that song, I knew that God had called my music ministry to reach people of all races and all people who have an open ear for God’s message,” says Carr. Through the years, this calling to reach anyone with ears to hear has led Carr to write an armload of instant classics and standards for the modern church, including the bona fide hits “I Almost Let Go;” “For Every Mountain;” “Kumbaya;” “God Great God;” and “God Blocked It,” as well as “The Presence of the Lord,” the song that put Byron Cage on the map. Kurt Carr has ministered in over 20 countries and was recently named honorary principal of a Gospel music school in Japan that boasts a “Kurt Carr” class of gospel music production!

A renaissance man in every sense of the term, Carr has used the last few years to continue to write and produce for various heavy-hitters, develop his own music label, nurture new artists, and perform all over the world with his inimitable Kurt Carr Singers—Yvette Williams, Michelle Prather, Troy Bright, Timiney Figueroa-Caton, Nikita Clegg-Foxx, Nikki Potts, and Vonnie Lopez.

In between travels, listeners and congregants alike have continued to reap the benefits of Carr’s prolificacy, as recent songs and albums by the renowned Tramaine Hawkins (her highly applauded ‘comeback’ CD “I Never Lost My Praise”) and Bishop Paul S. Morton (his seminal “I’m Still Standing”), with whom Carr teamed up in the aftermath of Katrina, have made waves in airplay charts and houses of worship throughout the nation. In fact, Morton says all the time that Kurt Carr “is a genius and has found a way to tailor make songs that completely express my heart;” and Hawkins has said the single “I Never Lost My Praise” was a song that she’d been waiting on for over 20 years- while critics compared it to her legendary classics “Changed” and “Going Up Yonder.” JUST THE BEGINNING is all set to further this tradition.

Right out of the gate, the CD gives listeners a trip down memory lane as a high-powered medley of Carr’s greatest hits reminds us of the scope and breadth of his heritage in gospel music. Deftly sequenced and rearranged, this retrospective montage is simply a primer for what’s to come: one of the most tautly conceived gospel recordings of 2008. In grand Carr fashion, the first single “Peace and Favor Rest On Us” stands tall as one of the most energetic calls to worship in the artist’s songbook, a lively corporate number that, once again, asserts Carr as one of the most culturally relevant worshippers of this generation. One of Carr’s favorite moments on the CD is 89-year-old Narcissus Hinton-Brown – a traditional soloist from Carr’s hometown in Hartford, Connecticut and one of his mentors – singing “This Little Light Of My Mine” as a prequel to the affirming “Don’t Let Your Light Go Out.”

“I have friends from all walks of life,” says Carr, “and my whole purpose is to be a light to them…that’s how I live my life and that’s what I am encouraging and reminding others on this song.” (more) Kurt Carr/Just The Beginning/3 Nikita Clegg-Fox leads on the soaring “Spiritual Makeover Extreme,” an ultra-contemporary uptempo track with a “never ending hook” proclaiming “I’m so glad I don’t look like what I’ve been through;” while the lively “Right Time, Right Place” delivers a foot-stomping frenzy like only Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr singers can. For those who have relied on Carr to offer songs of encouragement, Just the Beginning is brimming with a thoughtful parade of ballads, like the faith-filled “I Believe God;” the reflective “Sanctuary (God Is a Healer),” which Carr says is a song for this hour; and the empowering title track, a tender motivational piece where the singers proclaim “you haven’t seen your best days yet” and push believers to name and claim with authority the totality of God’s unfailing promises.

By the time the song reaches its praise-filled climax, it’s evident “Just the Beginning” is more than just a song - it’s a prophetic word that Christ followers are called to make their own. All of these set the stage for “My Shepard (Psalm 23)” featuring the dynamic vocals of top-selling Christian group Avalon. The track is one of Carr’s favorite songs on JUST THE BEGINNING and undoubtedly a composition that will permeate Christian circles. The song almost didn’t make the album, but, at the 11th hour, it made the cut after Carr played it for his vocal ensemble and they immediately loved it. As JUST THE BEGINNING unfolds and moments like the majestic, worship inspired “I Exist to Give You Praise;” the worshipful “Great Jesus (God Has Done Great Things);” the powerful Ten Thousand One Million led by Vonnie Lopez; and the swaying, Nikki Potts-led “I Am the One” join the processional of hits-in-the-making, the 2-disc project is already an absolute triumph—yet another milestone from the pen and the heart of this consummate champion of church music. Carr, who has a love and passion for preserving the gospel sounds of African-American heritage, could not complete the CD without delivering gems such as “I Am The One” and “Blessed Be The Rock” that, in Kurt’s own words, are “Sunday morning, choir robe, march down the aisle, sit down if you can songs!”

While each track demonstrates Carr’s penchant for sophisticated, neo-classical arrangements and the Spirit’s unbridled touch, JUST THE BEGINNING still marks the start of an exciting phase in Carr’s storied trajectory. Among various other ventures, the gospel heavyweight is in the planning stages of developing new projects from established and up-and-coming talent through his new imprint, as well as mapping out future recordings for soul divas Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole. But regardless if Carr is guiding the careers of others or carrying saints in the wings of praise, the minstrel is quick to not attribute his gifting to anything but God’s incomparable anointing. “Most times when I sit down to write I go, ‘Oh, God, I don’t have any songs. I can’t hear anything,’” Carr confesses. “And then as I pray and seek God, He gives me ideas. I definitely know that it’s a gift from Him. I’m so appreciative that He’s chosen me to share it with the world.”

Source: RCA

The Staple Singers have been called “God’s greatest hitmakers.”
Category: The Art of Soul
Tags: staple singers art soul gospel soul singers word life production feature blog

Steeped in the music of the church, this singing family from Mississippi crossed into the pop mainstream without compromising their gospel roots. Fronted by patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the Staple Singers have left an imprint of soulful voices, social activism, religious conviction and danceable “message music” across the decades since the release of “Uncloudy Day” in 1956. The clan’s musical signatures have been Pops Staples’ gospel-based songwriting and bluesy guitar, Mavis Staples’ rich, raspy vocals and the supple, ringing harmonies of Cleotha and Yvonne Staples. All three women are the daughters of Pops and Oceola Staples. Until 1969, son Pervis also belonged to the group, which was configured as a quartet for more than half a century, with Pops and Mavis joined by Cleotha, Yvonne and/or Pervis.

By force of conviction and the rollicking, rhythm & blues underpinnings of their music, the gospel-based Staples cracked the Top 40 eight times from 1971 to 1975. Two singles reached Number One: the funky, inspirational “I’ll Take You There,” which was the highlight of their tenure on Stax Records, and “Let’s Do It Again,” a film-soundtrack song recorded for Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label. Beyond these watermarks, the Staple Singers have enjoyed a lengthy history that dates back to the late Forties.

Pops Staples was born in 1915 in Winona, Mississippi. He took up guitar at an early age and soon became very adept at playing the blues. By 1937, he was playing with the Golden Trumpets, a spiritual group based in Mississippi. Then, in 1941, he and his wife, Oceola, moved north to Chicago. There, Pops played in another group, the Trumpet Jubilees. Then, after having three daughters and a son, the Staples formed a family gospel group and began singing in churches around the upper Midwest. They became regulars on a Sunday radio sow and, in 1953, they cut their first single, “These Are They”/”Faith and Grace,” for Pops’ own label, Royal Records.

Another record for a local label ("Won’t You Sit Down,” on United) led to a contract with the Chicago-based Vee-Jay Records. The Staple Singers stayed at Vee-Jay from 1956 to 1962, a tenure that included their breakthrough single, “Uncloudy Day.”

Moving to the New York-based Riverside label, the Staple Singers adopted a more folk-oriented sound, recording contemporary, message-oriented songs by the likes of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Their late-Sixties tenure on Epic Records found them moving further in this direction, as the Staples recorded protest songs (Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth") and inspirational material ("Marching Up Jesus’ Highway") in a folk-gospel style.

Then, in 1968, the Staple Singers signed with the Memphis-based Stax label. Their first two albums for Stax, Soul Folk in Action and We’ll Get Over, were produced by Steve Cropper and featured Booker T. and the MG’s as the back-up band. Those albums featured such “message” songs as “Long Walk to D.C.” and “When Will We Be Paid.” Then, in 1970, Pervis Staples left the group, and he was replaced by his sister Yvonne. More significantly, Al Bell became the group’s producer, and the Staple Singers’ message-oriented material was emplaced in a funkier setting.

The Staple Singers’ run of Top 40 hits began in 1971 with “Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom).” That song reached Number 27 on the pop chart and Number Six on the R&B chart. The group’s next two singles for Stax – “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You These” – both went gold. “Respect Yourself” reached Number 12 on the pop chart and Number Two on the R&B chart. A new plateau was reached when “I’ll Take You There” topped both the pop and R&B charts. As regards their crossover from pure gospel to folk and soul-flavored material – a source of controversy within the religious community – Pops Staples explained to Essence magazine: “We’ve always tried to make affirmative, happy music that makes a positive point. Our aim is to get across a message while we’re entertaining people.” Overall, the group scored 12 hits while at Stax.

After the demise of Stax, the Staples moved to Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label in 1974. The label change resulted in the Staple Singers’ second Number One hit, “Let’s Do It Again,” a disco-era favorite. Another single, “New Orleans,” reached Number 12 on the R&B chart. Both songs were from the film Let’s Do It Again.

Moving on to Warner Bros., where they remained till the end of the decade, the group shortened its name to the Staples. (As a side note, guitarist George Benson – who played in the Staples’ band --launched a successful solo career with Pops Staples’ help at Warner Bros.) While at Warner Bros., the group scored two R&B hits, 1976’s “Love Me, Love Me, Love Me” and 1978’s “Unlock Your Mind.” In 1976, the Staples also collaborated with the Band, performing “The Weight” in The Last Waltz. The Staples’ final hit came in 1984, when they covered the Talking Heads’ song “Slippery People.”

At Stax, Mavis and Pops Staples had recorded solo albums, and they continued to do so for Warner Bros. and other labels. In 1987, Prince signed Mavis Staples to his Paisley Park label and produced, played on and wrote much of the material for two memorable solo discs, Time Waits for No One and The Voice. In 1994, Pops Staples’ Father Father won a Grammy for the Best Contemporary Blues Album.

More recently, Mavis has been collaborating with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. He produced her 2010 solo album, You Are Not Alone. That album won a Grammy in 2011 for Best Americana Album. It was Mavis’ first Grammy award. Tweedy also produced her 2013 album, One True Vine. Mavis has also received honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of Music and from Columbia College in Chicago.

Pops Staples died in 2000, as a result of a concussion he had suffered, and Cleotha Staples died in 2013, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for about a decade.

The Stapes Singers received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2005.

Source: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

One of the most gifted soul singers of all time-Al Green is a True Legend Tags: al green gigted soul singers.music hall fame word life production feature blog

With his incomparable voice, full of falsetto swoops and nuanced turns of phrase, Al Green rose to prominence in the Seventies. One of the most gifted purveyors of soul music, Green has sold more than 20 million records. During 1972 and 1973, he placed six consecutive singles in the Top 10: “Let’s Stay Together,” “Look What You Done for Me,” “I’m Still in Love With You,” “You Ought to Be With Me,” “Call Me” and “Here I Am (Come and Take Me).” “Let’s Stay Together” topped the pop chart for one week and the R&B charts for nine; it was also revived with great success by Tina Turner in 1984.  In terms of popularity and artistry, Green was the top male soul singer in the world, voluntarily ending his reign with a move from secular to gospel music in 1979.

Beyond his chart-making abilities, Green set a new standard for soul music and essentially created a new kind of soul – one that combined the gritty, down-home sensibility of the Memphis based Stax-Volt sound with the polished, sweeter delivery of Motown. Over a fat, funky bottom, Green’s subtle and inventive voice would soar into falsetto range with beguiling ease. His finest recordings showcase a penchant for jazzy filigree and soulful possession rivaled by the likes of Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. They also are the products of teamwork, as Green benefited immensely from a longstanding association with producer Willie Mitchell and the house band at Hi Records.

Green was born on an Arkansas farm in 1946 and grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He sang gospel with the Greene Brothers, a family quartet, and belonged to the Creations and the Soul Mates in the Sixties. In 1967, Al Green and the Soul Mates had a Number Five R&B hit with “Back Up Train.” In terms of influences, “I was raised on the sound of Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers,” Green has said. A fateful crossing of paths between Green and Willie Mitchell in Texas, where both were performing, resulted in Green’s signing to Memphis-based Hi Records in 1969. Mitchell produced Green’s recordings and co-wrote material with him for the next eight years. It was a fruitful association that yielded high-quality albums (such as I’m Still in Love With You and Call Me), as well as 13 Top 40 hits that helped keep the sound of soul pure and alive in the Seventies.

Mitchell cut Green’s groove-oriented records at his Royal Recording Studio, a converted movie theater in downtown Memphis. Essential components of Green and Mitchell’s mix of silky ballads and bouncy funk included the Hi Records studio band: guitarist Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, bassist Leroy Hodges, keyboardist Charles Hodges and drummer Howard Grimes. In addition, drummer Al Jackson (of Booker T. and the M.G.’s) co-wrote and played on many of Green’s biggest hits. Strings, horns and backup singers added to the intricate tapestry. But it was Green’s light, skillful touch as a vocalist that made it all work so well.

Green’s breakthrough came in 1971 with “Tired of Being Alone” (Number Seven R&B, Number 11 pop). A slew of hits followed, keeping Green in the Top 40 (and often the Top 10) through 1976. His consistent quality and flawless phrasing prompted music critic Robert Christgau to pronounce him among “the half dozen prime geniuses of soul.” His peak work as an R&B master is contained on a string of hit-filled albums released in the early Seventies: Al Green Gets Next to You (1971), I’m Still In Love With You (1972), Let’s Stay Together (1972), Call Me (1973) and Livin’ for You (1973).

With The Belle Album (1977), Green made an overt turn toward religious themes. The album was self-produced, as Mitchell amicably parted ways with Green over his turn to gospel. The 12th album of his career, it was “the most important release of my life,” according to Green in his autobiography, Take Me to the River. He elaborated: “God had called me to a higher place, turned me away from earthly to heavenly love, and while it hurt to say it, I had to leave the sensual for the spiritual.”

During the Eighties, Green recorded inspirational music for the Myrrh label while serving as pastor at a church he founded. The Nineties found him returning to his soul roots from time to time, yet to this day he remains primarily a singer and preacher of the gospel. On most Sundays, Green occupies the pulpit at Full Gospel Tabernacle Church on Hale Road in Memphis. The public is welcome to witness Green’s sermons, which are no less full of fire and feeling than the flood of singles that set the standard for soul in the Seventies.

Source: Official Website: http://rockhall.com/inductees/al-green/bio/

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