Mint Condition – The Definition of a Band

Image courtesy of the Centric.
I was beyond pleased to see Mint Condition featured in an episode of TVOne’s latest season of “Unsung.”  Dubbed “the last great Black band,” Mint Condition has carried on a musical tradition that burgeoned in the 1970s and 1980s with groups like Earth, Wind, & Fire, The Ohio Players, and Slave.  For over 20 years, they have captivated audiences with high-energy performances and “Gumbo,” a term they use to describe their music (which is a seamless blend of R&B, Funk, Rock, Jazz, Latin and Caribbean music).

I’ve been a fan of Mint Condition since the age of 9.  The first tune I remember hearing was their No. 1 signature hit, “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes).”  In the early 90s, there was nothing on the radio that sounded as organic and soulful as that tune or the follow-up Top Ten R&B hit “Forever In Your Eyes.”  Though competition in the 1990s with groups (like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Silk, and Shai) was quite fierce, Mint Condition remained true to themselves and made music that spoke to their souls.  Their music is affirming, heart-warming, and emotionally acute.  To this day, songs like “If You Love Me,” “What Kind Of Man Would I Be,” “Someone To Love,” “U Send Me Swingin’,” “Single To Mingle” “This Day, This Minute, Right Now,” and “You Don’t Have To Hurt No More” give me the chills.  That’s the effect of music when it’s real, heartfelt, and timeless.

Many musical trends have come and gone, but Mint Condition’s music is as vital and relevant as ever.  Like many groups/bands, Mint Condition has experienced its share of trials and tribulations.  Yet, they’ve remained committed to themselves and the music.  After 8 albums and several hit singles, it’s easy to say the best is yet to come!

Mint Condition Releases:
Meant to be Mint (1991)
From the Mint Factory (1993)
Definition of a Band (1996)
Life’s Aquarium (1999)
Livin’ the Luxury Brown (2005)
Live from the 9:30 Club (2006)
E-Life (2008)
7… (2011)
Music @ the Speed of Life (2012)

Compilations:
The Collection: 1991-1998 (1998)
20th Century Masters: The Best of Mint Condition (2006)

Related Post:
Day 55: Black Music Month – Mint Condition

"Beautiful," Teena Marie’s Final Album, To Be Released 1/15/2013

I’ve been getting behind the groove of Teena Marie’s catalog quite a bit lately.  Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since her death.  Like many, I was shocked and saddened by her passing. Having been touched by her music for so long, it’s a loss that I, like many I’m sure, still have yet to get over.  Much to my surprise, I discovered Teena Marie’s final album, Beautiful, will be released on January 15, 2013! 

Teena Marie was in the process of finalizing her 14th album just before she died.  Composer/bassist Doug Grigsby, Marie’s longtime musical director, co-produced the project and Alia Rose, Marie’s daughter, oversaw the completion of the project.  Alia performs on three songs, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love,” “Rare Breed,” and “Sweet Tooth” (both of which she co-wrote along with the title track).  According to Urban Bridgez Entertainment, Beautiful, “with its intimations of death, was a difficult one for Alia, with her mom seemingly prescient about her destiny…” Alia said, “If you listen to the lyrics, it’s almost as if she was making that transition to the spiritual world as the record was being made, which is incredible…It’s like we’re going on this journey with her.”

One can only imagine what it’s like losing your mother and going into the studio to finish what would be her final album.  Alia said it was a “a very dark and emotional time for her,” but she knew she was the only one who could finalize her mother’s album.  She said she “almost didn’t want to finish [Beautiful] because [she] knew it would be the last time [she’d] get to work on it.”  As perfectly stated by Urban Bridgez Entertainment, “Beautiful is a mother’s gift to her daughter, who returns the gesture the only way she knows how, by completing it. The end result is a true labor of love.” 

The first single, “Luv Letter,” is classic Lady Tsoulful, passionate, and funky.  The song is a tribute to Alia Rose’s father, who was a postman, and pays homage to The Marvelettes and Stevie Wonder, specifically his hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).”  The single was sent to radio in November and is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.  If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out on Soul Tracks or Urban Bridgez Entertainment.

Beautiful is a bittersweet opus that I’m sure will add to Marie’s iconic, awe-inspiring, poetic, and rich musical legacy.  The album is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

Miguel, A Maestro Adored

Miguel Live at The Howard Theatre (DC). Photo by Victoria Ford/Sneakshot via The Couch Sessions site.
Miguel is an artist, visionary, and innovator.  He’s one of the most promising talents to come along in quite some time.  With two albums and several mixtapes, he’s started what could be called a movement…A movement that brings the focus back to talent, style with substance, and entertainment the old fashioned way.  Back in the day, you had to be able to put on a great showwhether you had a hit song or album out or not.  You had to know how to keep your audience entertained.  That’s how you kept working.  After seeing Miguel live at The Howard Theatre (in DC) at the end of September (as part of his Kaleidoscope Dream Tour), it’s without question that he more than knows how to keep his audience entertained.  
While being pegged as an R&B artist, there’s more to Miguel music than that.  If anything, his music is a fusion of many different styles and genres of music.  It’s contemporary, futuristic, psychedelic, and old-school.  It’s R&B/Soul, Hip Hop, Rock, Pop, Funk, and Electronic.  Hence, his aptly titled second album Kaleidoscope Dream.  Miguel’s well-crafted, authentic, soulful music always seems to get at you.  His latest No. 1 R&B single “Adorn” is solid proof of that.  The heartfelt emotion in the lyrics and his vocal performance are what make it so affecting and so effective.  It’s simply one of the best R&B songshell, it’s one of the best written songs in contemporary music today (PERIOD).
With the stage presence as potent as the greats before him (Prince, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Sam Cooke), Miguel captures your attention instantly.  He doesn’t have to utter a word…A simple gesture and the crowd goes wild.  Now that’s what you call impact, power, and love.  With awe-inspiring creativity, endless style, hypnotic showmanship, and an emotive, supple voice, Miguel is a beast.  After seeing, experiencing really, Miguel live know that I am without a doubt a fan for life.  
One can only wonder how he’ll continue to push the boundaries of contemporary music and performance forward.  The sonic masterpiece that is Kaleidoscope Dream is sign enough that there’s much more in store from this maestro.