Raised on the Radio

Because growing up on 70s television didn't kill me. It just made me who I am today.


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I Love Chicago, I’m Old, and The Best Night of Funky R&B Ever.

Age does funny things to you.

The one I think we are least likely to understand when we are young is the resistance to change.

Of course I know this to be true because I am a child of sitcoms. And each sitcom has at least one episode about the adults not “getting it.” Whatever “it” may be.

So while I am not happy that the world is moving so fast, and technology has caused us to lose an important part of our humanness by making communication impersonal and brisk. I am also increasingly disturbed by the lack of creativity found in popular movies and film.

While the former is a perfect illustration of my statement. The latter, I actually think, is a statement of truth.

So in my desire to not subject myself to constant disappointment, I spend much of my time listening to hand-picked music from generations past.

Which brings me to my point.

I love Chicago.

No, I don’t have ADD.

Two weeks ago we went out for my Brother-in-law’s birthday. He loves the city.

I loved the city in my 20’s. Now I’m old.

But for him, I would happily go into the city. Also, his new-found fame as Chicago’s premier roof-top designer has opened doors to some of the hottest restaurants – the kind with month-long waiting lists. Who was I to say no to a dinner with all the shi-shis?

Dinner was……interesting. The menu may have been written in Latin. The food? Let’s just say it was a little to “creative” for me.

But the atmosphere? Well…that was something else. This place is the see and be seen spot of Chicago, and let me tell you – the people watching was spectacular.

But frankly, when dinner was done, I figured we were going home because, did I mention I was old?

But my brother-in-law had other ideas.

“You know we are right around the corner from The Back Room.” He looked right at me.

He knew back in the day, hanging out at a jazz club was just my thing. He was goading me.

But we were old, and we had finished our shi-shi dinner at 8pm and The Back Room didn’t open until 9.

I shook my head and said, “The babysitter wasn’t expecting us to be out too late.”

Of course my brother-in-law scoffed, I knew I was being lame – I had no choice but to cave.

I got on my phone and saw that Avain Hightower and Full Circle were playing. Well Avain Hightower was the original keyboardist for The Chi-lites and had played with everyone in my R&B Hall of Fame. My excitement was piqued.

We were the first ones there. Because we’re old.

But that was perfect because we didn’t have reservations, which meant first come first serve. And we were first come, so we got awesome seats.

The Back Room is considered a Showcase Lounge, it is small. Really small. There isn’t a bad seat in the house because the house capacity is 150 if it’s 200. The waitresses were friendly, the crowd was happy, and the show started on time. 3 for 3.

Was I in for the time of my middle-aged life! Avain Hightower is just as much the high-energy showman as he was over 25 years ago. The band was HOT. They jumped right in and didn’t stop for over an hour.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching good live music I can’t stop smiling. They played everything from P-Funk to Michael Jackson to Pharell and back again. And they did every single song justice. I could not stop moving and I gotta tell you that by the time the first set was over my face hurt, my voice was going, and I was ready for more.

avain hightower.jpg

When they took a break we had the chance to hang with the drummer for a short few. My brother-in-law had bought him a drink at the bar, and he wanted to come over and meet us. I have never met a happier, more humble drummer. I have often used the term “drummer’s complex” you know, being in the back all the time doesn’t always work for a star. Nope, not this guy. He was as genuine as they come, couldn’t believe we thought he was great.

Our original plan was to leave after the first set, but we couldn’t. Babysitter be damned.

I did my best to keep track of the set-list so I could recreate it in the form of a playlist on my iTunes. I will share it with you, so you can enjoy the eclectic mix of music that made up this unexpectedly electrifying evening.

Let’s Groove

Brick House

Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

Flash Light

Happy

Spanish Harlem

Got to Give it Up

Groove Me

Proud Mary

Blurred Lines

Calypso Frelimo

 

And believe it or not, it was 100 times better than even that.

Go to this link to see a live clip of them from the local TV station the day before I saw them.

 

nico osteria.jpg

 

 


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Sly and The Family Stone takes you Higher!

sly higher!

Everybody is a Star

The best thing that could have ever happened to me and Sly was the release of the new box set – Sly and the Family Stone, Higher!

Growing up in the 70’s I was spoon fed Sly. I wasn’t living in San Francisco, and even if I was, I am pretty sure they wouldn’t have let a 4-year-old in his shows. So how could I possibly know?! HOW!

The truth is, I really didn’t become acquainted with Sly that much until I was a, let’s say, “free-thinking” college student looking for the funk. But even then it was just the freaking tip of the iceberg. And when you spend a lot of time with the tip of the iceberg, it starts to get old. And boring. And gray.

Ah, so how is it, that 40 years after Sly’s genius was being recognized I am only seeing it now? Because, this is one of those rare instances where the record industry did see it. Those record puppeteers pretty much gave Sly free rein. That is how you KNOW he was a genius. Sure, they gave him so input, and he gladly took it. He was not at all averse to “dumbing it down” to get in the door.

But the sheer truth is, that Sly and the Family Stone were at their very best playing live, they never failed to fill a venue. And frankly, when they were given free rein to jam in the studio, it was magical.

Did you know he wasn’t always the singer, or ever the only one? He was the magician, the creator – the genie on the sweet keys, or maybe making those strings sing, or maybe all of it. Because he was that guy.

He was that guy who ONLY played what he felt, he only wrote his truth. The music, the words they really came from his soul. He never sold out, he was perfectly happy with the idea of making his music accessible to the masses because even the straight folks should be able to enjoy his music.

If you ever had any doubt at all of his genius or his truth. Listen to this Live version of Stand! Sly will bare his soul and lend you a hand all at once.

Oh, you have to listen to this.

The more I read about Sly, the more I wanted to hug him, sit with him, be in his presence, have a conversation with him. A gift like his is so rare. It really is, that to just be able to share a moment with it, can enrich for a lifetime. And although The Family Stone has played without him, and don’t get me wrong they are some FREAKING amazing musicians, it’s not the same as the man. You can play the music, but the music was born out of the man.

I’ve read a lot of people who said is music was “simple” but when you look at the big picture, it was anything but. Sure some songs were technically simple, but look at The Beatles, it doesn’t make them any less genius.

And I’ve read that Frank Zappa didn’t think much of him, which I find fascinating and disappointing. There must be some underlying story there, because my only reason for looking into that question was some similarities I heard, as a Zappa fan. There’s allusion to Frank thinking he was a sell-out, but Sly was not a sell-out, he genuinely wanted everyone to “Dance to the Music”.

Following The Dead for so many years I can only imagine that a Sly and the Family Stone show would have been like that times a million as far as the jams and getting down, man Getting Funky!

Talk about a time when you had to be there to truly understand! Luv N’ Haight, man – I took a break from life for a while and crashed with some friends for a few months in San Francisco. Spent many a day up by the Haight, but it was not this. Nope. Those days are gone, we can only listen now.

Also, love to hear Cynthia sing.

Sly and Carlos Santana got really close, listen to this song, sound familiar? Music was love, Sly was happy for his songs to be repurposed and redone between people who loved music.

I Ain’t Got Nobody – Sly and the Family Stone

Do you know how many songs you’ve known and loved by other artists?

Turn You Loose – Sly and the Family Stone – This is how it’s done.

How about a song that starts out as a dis-jointed children’s song we all grew up with and turns into a funky jam, with an amazing horn section about social injustice?

Underdog – Sly and the Family Stone

Sy and the Family Stone opened the door for R&B funk bands like Ohio Players, George Clinton, The Parliament Funkadelic (or P-Funk), Kool and the Gang and even Stevie Wonder. Disco owes its life to Funk and Funk owes its acceptance to Sly Stone and James Brown.

Look further into Sly and The Family Stone, you won’t be sorry. I admit his Greatest Hits get’s your body groovin’, but the hidden gems are the songs that got no air time, and even the songs that never made it to an album.

Check the new box set out, you won’t be sorry.  Grab it on Amazon, don’t take a short-cut and just get the music. You NEED the book that comes with it. The images and the biographical information about each song is priceless.

Sly and The Family Stone Box Set – Higher

I never intended to write Sly and the Family Stone Higher! Review I discovered it at my local library and had to have it. So if funds are tight for you, I get that. I would totally check out your local library! Mine had this! But then it was so awesome I had to buy it anyway.

About the Author:

Jen Kehl is a 40-something chick, who has finally come to terms with the fact that she is still a deadhead music freak trapped in side the body of someone’s mother. She often finds herself stuck in the 70′s with the all of the rainbows and unicorns.  She blogs at My Skewed View and created the music site Raised on the Radio, where she’s tricked a bunch of awesome writers into sharing their music experiences with you. She is also a published author as part of the anthology The Mother of All Meltdowns available on Amazon.

Connect with her on twitter @jenkehlFacebook, and Google+.