Recap: Cameo at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix

Everyone’s allowed a pure and simple nostalgia trip from time to time, right? For me tonight, it was the funk/soul/R&B of Cameo that brought me back to simpler days. Crazy to think that the last time I saw Cameo in concert, Ronald Reagan was president and I was a junior in high school.


After discovering Prince in ’84, I threw myself into all the funky sounds I could get my hands on. Cameo was a huge part of that mid-80’s funk explosion in my life. Sitting in my room, cranking up the volume on “Flirt”, “I Just Want To Be”, “Candy”… and taping all the videos on BET’s Video Soul and New York Hot Tracks – “Attack Me With Your Love”, Single Life”, and of course “Word Up.”

So when I saw that Cameo was stopping through Phoenix in this year 2013, I jumped all over it.

The wife and I headed down to the Celebrity Theater, an old school theater-in-the-round room in Phoenix (Bruce Springsteen played there in 1974). It was around 9:30 when the house lights went down and out walked the familiar faces of Tomi Jenkins, Charlie Singleton (covered in a space-age silver Mardi-Gras mask), and of course the one and only Larry Blackmon.

Larry’s put on a few pounds, shall we say, and can’t jump around with his bandmates like he used to, but the big ol’ red codpiece was still on display, and he was still busting out his signature moves… The rest of the band were fit as could be. They looked great. They busted out all the familiar moves, shaking it to “Candy”, “Single Life”, “Attack Me With Your Love”… slowing it down for “Why Have I Lost You” and “Sparkle”… and laying down the old school funk with “Flirt” and “Keep It Hot.”

The crowd participation during “Candy” was a crowd favorite – with the ladies and the fellas trading off the line “It’s like Candy” one after another. Overall, the crowd was full of energy, and showed some serious love to the veterans of Cameo, now in their 34th year as a band.

It wasn’t a long show – only 12 songs with no encore, lasting about 70-75 minutes. But we didn’t mind. Sure, we all wanted more, but we were happy just to forget about the day to day for part of a Friday night; to listen to the sounds that bring back those good memories, and be just fine with letting the nostalgia wash over for a little while. Music, sweet music…

~~~ Set List ~~~ 

January 18, 2013
Celebrity Theater
Phoenix, AZ

She’s Strange
Single Life
Attack Me With Your Love
I’ve Got Your Image
Why Have I Lost You
Hangin Downtown
I Just Want To Be
Keep It Hot
Word Up

Here’s a little bit of “Flirt” from the show…

Ick’s Pick: Jesse Johnson’s Verbal Penetration

As a Prince-obsessed maniac since the age of Purple Rain, I’ve always been interested in following those he helped spawn back in the day. The Time were obviously the most talented of the bunch, and a sizable contributor to the feel and sound of the band – along with Prince, Morris Day, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis – was guitarist Jesse Johnson.

After the success of Ice Cream Castle (which featured “The Bird” and “Jungle Love”, tunes co-written by Jesse), he left the group for a solo deal with A&M Records. His body of work has always ranked up there as my favorite – his first two albums, Jesse Johnson’s Revue and Shockadelica, are classic Minneapolis synth-funk. Also solid were his other two studio efforts: 1988’s Every Shade of Love and 1996’s Bare My Naked Soul.

Except for a 2000 greatest hits collection, Jesse has been quiet all these years… that is, until Verbal Penetration came along. I know, I know, the album title is pretty cringe-worthy at first glance. But after picking it up earlier this week, I’m here to tell you – this is a fantastic collection of neosoul, retro-funk and R&B. It’s 29 tracks spanning two discs, and clocks in at almost two hours, and you quickly succumb to the verbal penetration ride that Jesse wants to take you on.

At the forefront is Jesse’s prolific guitar work. It’s been 13 years since his last studio album, and this album burns with a funky ferocity that feels like Jesse’s been bottling up this energy all these years, and he’s finally been uncorked. Case in point is the instrumental “Merciful” [mp3] – where a smooth, simmering groove sets the backdrop for a jaw-dropping guitar solo that kicks off 25 seconds into the song, and doesn’t let up until the song finishes at almost 5 minutes.

There are so many highlights, and I’m just a few listens in… Check out “Sheila Rae” [mp3], a dose of warm and sunny pop/funk with synth horns and some catchy female backing vocals (which show up a lot on this album).

“1000 Watts of Funky” is old school – you guess it – funk, paying obvious homage to Sly & the Family Stone.

There’s “Ali vs. Frasier”, where Jesse puts on his Wes Montgomery hat and kills with some jazz guitar.

“Letter From a Soldier (Reprise)” and “Love Letters” mashup classic Curtis Mayfield vibes with smooth neosoul grooves.

Even the strange ones are captivating. There’s “Redemption for the Soul, Enlightenment for the Earhole”, a tale set in the far future where music is banned. It is the “Days of the Deafening Quiet”, after the “Great Last War left the Nurennus Realm in control”. It’s narrated by French-Norwegian artist Jezabella Kipp-Messmer, and her accent will confuse, possibly annoy, and probably mesmerize you. What’s truly mesmerizing is the funky sounds backing up the story.

Verbal Penetration is a welcome surprise from a familiar old friend. It sizes up well against Prince’s post-2000 output, and even far exceeds it at points. Jesse’s hiatus hasn’t diminished his talent and potency in any way whatsoever. If you have a little purple in you, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Buy: Verbal Penetration


New Tunes: Rob Murat

Rob Murat is a singer/songwriter/producer who just dropped his first album, So Much To Say. I like the soul revival feel of this one. Sort of sounds like something Amy Winehouse would sing (only with “fuckery” and “Blake incarcerated” added to the lyrics). Blake, what on earth did you do to that girl? You look like you spent 5 years face down on a puke-stained floor of the South Kensington tube station – you must really hold sway in the sack, you dog.

You can check out Rob’s Official Site for every link you need…

Rob Murat Ready To Love (mp3)

Ick’s Pick (Week XI): Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

This week’s new releases were a pretty blah bunch as far as I was concerned. I lost my focus listening to Old Californio’s new album over and over. But alas, I committed to listening to one new album every week of this year. So week 11 (xi), here we go.

It’s SXSW week, and as much as I try to ignore the mountain of e-mails and Tweets and coverage everywhere I turn, the fact is I’m jealous, and I’d drink a gallon of hot sauce to be in Austin right now. I’m shooting for next year as my 1st SXSW experience.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears are from Austin, and they’re playing around town this week in support of their brand new album, ‘Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!

This release stuck out from the rest as something I clearly needed to hear: Black Joe Lewis channels his inner James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding for some soul revival craziness. This album clocks in at 30 minutes, and is filled with Lewis’s spirited, good humored (and sometimes explicit) hootin’ and hollerin, tasty retro (60’s) soul grooves, and a great horn section courtesy of some members of Austin’s Grupo Fantasma.

This one will be perfect for a weekend barbecue and some cold beer. You may wanna grab a babysitter though, unless you want your kids jumping around to “Get Yo S***”, “Humpin'”, and “Big Booty Woman”. You can thank Black Joe for leaving “Bitch, I Love You”, another one of his songs, off this record (don’t worry, Joe’s no misogynist – even you ladies will be groovin’).

BUY Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!

Links: Official Site | MySpace |Twitter

Take a listen to the horn blasts on “Gunpowder”, the album’s opener…

Gunpowder – Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

The Mellowness of the Shug

Like Michael mentioned in his 100 Words post today, when your music library gets too big, the challenge is to figure out what to even listen to. A lot of great artists and songs seem to go underground for a while, and pop up in a shuffle a few months down the road. One that plopped back on to my radar today was Shuggie Otis and his psychedelifunky 1974 album Inspiration Information.

It’s a mellow Monday, so a couple of laid back joints here.  “Island Letter” sounds like a cousin of Prince’s “Crazy You”, if you ask me. And I know you did. I heard you.

Shuggie OtisIsland Letter (mp3)

“Freedom Flight” is thirteen minutes of dream-inducing lite funky jazz and sweet sax & guitar effects. Close your eyes and drift off. But not if you’re at work. NSFW. Definitely NSFW.

Freedom Flight (mp3)

Check out Inspiration Information.

Looking Back: Cameo

I know I speak for all middle class suburban white males in their late thirties when I ask: “Where the hell is Larry Blackmon??

Okay, well maybe not – but I do get nostalgic for the funky old days of Cameo from time to time. They were one of the first live acts I ever saw, back when I was 16 and 17 years old. Most know ’em only for “Word Up”, and maybe for songs like “Candy”, “Attack Me With Your Love”, or “Single Life”. All great tunes from great albums.

But fact is the boys had been around since the early to mid -70’s, when the Julliard-trained Blackmon formed the New York City Players. In ’76, they changed their name to Cameo and signed to Casablanca’s Chocolate City label.

Their debut, Cardiac Arrest, was released in ’77, and gave the world what they never lost: danceable, funky music with a heavy dose of quirkiness.

I’m all about the quirk.

Cameo – Rigor Mortis

Cardiac Arrest looks to be wayyy out of print, but you can find “Rigor Mortis” and other classics on the The Best of Cameo

Hot Video Action

Take a look at this great title track to ’82’s “Alligator Woman”…

Oh, and “Attack Me With Your Love” and “Candy”, live…

And of course their crossover smash from 1986…


Prince hips me to Janelle Monáe

(Photo from Nastassia A. Davis’s Flickr photostream.)

There’s lots of ways to hear about a new artist. Find a cool blog posting. Hear it on the radio. Have a friend tell you about it. Or in this case, have one of your favorite artists wait outside of the Viper Room for the artist’s gig to end so he can talk to her.

Prince drove down the hill to the Sunset Strip last night to meet with Atlanta-based, futuristic R&B singer Janelle Monáe after her gig. E Online found it newsworthy enough to write about it, and I apparently find it newsworthy enough to repeat it here. It’s just that I often wonder what my purple friend is up to. The man still doesn’t have a functional official web site, which is stupefying to me. For all the fuss he makes about people posting his images, songs, and videos on the internet, you’d think that he would have something to offer us. But nope, still zilch on the internet front.

But on to Janelle. The music is unique, fresh, funky, and you can hear influences from Prince to Outkast to smooth singers like Shirley Bassey (she sang some of the James Bond themes). Janelle was recently signed to Diddy’s Bad Boy Records, which is okay as long as he keeps his paws off. I don’t feel like hearing his “yeah”s and “uh”s in her songs.

Janelle’s well on her way to establishing herself as the next best thing on the scene. As usual, I’m a little behind. So thanks Mr. Nelson for swinging by the Viper Room last night. I owe you. No, not actual money. Man, that Prince… always looking for a payday!

Janelle Monáe – Sincerely, Jane (mp3)

Buy her new EP, Metropolis: the Chase Suite:

Sites: Official | MySpace

The DIY site is a week old and it’s waiting for YOU

At one week old, Ickmusic DIY is off to a great start. We have a Cristina post with some mp3’s, a Grace Jones video that will terrify your kids, links to brand new Pretenders tracks, and a look at Barack Obama’s iPod.

I encourage anyone with a passion for music to sign up and contribute! I’ve already learned a lot already,  just a few posts in. So go on over and check it out.

Go on and do it, do it, do it ’til you’re satisfied – whatever it is…

B.T. Express Do It Til You’re Satisfied (mp3)


Buy The Best of B.T. Express

Old School Friday

My geeky music life just got geekier. You know the new iPhone came out today. Well, those of us with “old” iPhone get the 2.0 upgrade gratis, which includes the App Store – which includes a ton of free apps made exclusively for iPhone. The coolest, in my humble opinion? Remote!

By downloading the free Remote app, I can now control my iTunes from anywhere in the house. I’ve had the Airport Express, which lets me stream my iTunes to any stereo inside or outside my house. So how does Remote enhance the experience? It means when I’m out washing my car in the driveway, and Manilow’s “Mandy” comes blasting through the speakers, I can coyly hit the “Next” button.


But that was now and this was then…

George Clinton – “Do Fries Go With That Shake?”

The System – “Don’t Disturb This Groove”

Beastie Boys – “Hey Ladies



I watched Wattstax today for the very first time. Now, I’m burying myself in Stax music, and totally in a 70’s funk / soul / R&B frame of mind. What a film!

Wattstax was a music festival that took place at the L.A. Coliseum in August of 1972. Organized by the Memphis-based Stax record label to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Watts riots, it featured Stax artists like Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, the Bar-Kays, the Staples Singers, Luther Ingram, and a lot of others.

The film features music footage interspersed with interviews of Watts residents, a pre-‘Love Boat’ Ted Lange (Issac!), and Richard Prior, who all talk frankly about being Black in 1972 America.

By far the highlights for me were this Rufus Thomas performance of “Do the Funky Chicken”, and this, the Bar-Kays’ “Son of Shaft”. You just have to love the style of the times. And just check out how the Bar-Kays hit the stage. Now that’s showmanship! I guess the band wanted to come on to the field in a chariot, but that was rejected at the last minute. Well, the outfits stayed. S-t-y-l-e.

It really doesn’t get any better than this….

If you want a new (or renewed) appreciation for 70’s soul & the Stax label, as well as a fascinating document of the early 1970’s L.A. Black community, check out this film.

Thanks Gonzo for the recommendation!

By the way, if anyone can recommend any other good films / concert videos that document this era of 70’s soul, funk, and R&B, please drop a comment below. I want more!

Amazon: Wattstax (30th Anniversary Special Edition)