Diana Ross: A Concert Review: It’s Her House

When it comes to defining superstar look no further than Diana Ross. From the elegance of her smile to her ageless vocals, she is the entire package.

Recently, I saw Ms. Ross’ during her mini-residency at New York City Center. Her final night was Saturday. This was my fourth time seeing Ms. Ross in concert and although my pocket-book feels pain, I feel completely blessed.

Ms. Ross started the concert out with her iconic 1980’s anthem “I’m Coming Out.” The energy in the room was magnetic, drawing all eyes to the stage as one began to hear her fragile, yet demanding voice. The atmosphere turned electric when she stepped on stage.

She quickly followed with a near chronological order of some of her biggest hits and fan favorites. She started out with the timeless tunes from her tenure with the Supremes. These songs have lost none of their splendor with Ms. Ross. It’s nearly impossible not to sing along with her with the likes of “Baby Love,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Stop! In The Name of Love.” I don’t think she has aged a day since The Supremes 1962 debut.

It wasn’t soon that Ms. Ross turned to her everlasting solo career with some of her top dance/disco hits, “The Boss,” “Upside Down,” and “Love Hangover.” There are no words for the energy she produced in the room. A few lucky fans were even lucky enough to be chosen by Ms. Ross to come dance alongside her during “Upside Down.”

Although Ms. Ross knows how to throw a party with a song, some of my favorite moments of the concert were when she slowed it down and simply sang. “Touch Me In The Morning” and “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going Too)” are always amongst my favorite moments from each show I have seen of hers. For this concert, my favorite moment was when she embarked on Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain.” No one will ever be able to sing a song like Holiday, but Ross also proved that no one can sing a song like her.

Then Ms. Ross began to close the show. This is a process at one of her concerts. It’s hard to come off the high of Ross. She begins with her first solo hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” This song immediately had me on my feet. And yes, she can hit all the same notes she could when the song was released.

Then comes her cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Again, it’s impossible to sit as she walks the stage in her 5th gown of the evening belting a number everybody relates too. This is her closing number, but there is always room for an encore if the audience properly requests it (I’ve been to shows where she hasn’t returned). She closed the night with another one of her early hits “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”

With each show I see of Ms. Ross’ I have always walked away amazed, not only from her pure musical talent, but the atmosphere she creates for an audience. When the music begins and her smile comes to the stage there is immediately a feeling of acceptance. When Ms. Ross sings she immediately erases your background, race, age, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Her music and presence bring people together. This atmosphere is created through the love she portrays for every fan. It’s seen in the halls of the auditorium and the random dance partners found all over the concert hall.

I had two thoughts as I walked away from this show. First, entertainers just aren’t constructed the same as they once were. Ms. Ross comes from a land where autotune didn’t exist and dancers were not a necessity. She is the fully rounded performer.

My last thought walking away was, “When’s the next show?” I think I could see her a dozen more times and still want to see her again. Not many artists do this for me, and I’m often a tough critic, but it’s not just the music that brings me back. It’s the memories and love that I have wrapped up in her music and celebrity and how she brings this element together amongst everybody in the room. That is what keeps me returning.

Basically, when Ms. Ross enters a room, she makes it her house.

Diana Ross: My Top Ten

As I have pondered over my music collection, I have started to notice a trend. The artists that I go back to repeatedly are oddly my mother’s favorites as well. When she would play these singers for me when I was younger, instead of rebelling and listening to the music of the day, I fell in love with what she liked.

I think this was all part of her plan. She didn’t have a desire, nor did she like the current music. She definitely didn’t want a “rebellious” child listening to the “devil’s music” (I did grow up in Oklahoma). Needless to say, her master plan worked, and she’s had to fund a vinyl addiction since around 2004.

For my third installment for Women’s History Month, I decided to go with one of our favorites, Ms. Diana Ross. My mom and I have gone to see Ms. Ross twice in concert and both times she was impeccable. What I loved most about these shows was what Ms. Ross and her music brought out in my mom….

I found out my mom could dance! She would be a regular on American Bandstand if those moves were still in style. My mom was stopping in the name of love and literally turning upside down. Seriously, my mom totally could have been the white Supreme.

So for this post, I have gathered 10 of my favorite Diana Ross songs. This list is not comprehensive, complete, or in any order. It’s all a little glimpse into one of my musical journeys with my favorite duet partner.

1. “He Lives In You”

The above clip is the first I remember seeing of Diana Ross. In 1999, Ms. Ross starred in the made for television movie Double Platinum along with Brandy Norwood. This movie was an instant hit for my mom, which in turn became a must-see for me (whether I liked it or not). Although she is not performing one of her hits in this clip, I believe it shows how iconic Ms. Ross is. From the dress and staging to her ever fragile yet strong vocals, Ms. Ross captured my heart in this scene.

2. “I Will Survive”

I know this song was not originally Ms. Ross’, but she has made it a staple in her live performances. This song holds a very important memory for my mom and I. We had second-row seats at one of Ms. Ross’ shows in Tulsa and I had brought along Ms. Ross’ first solo album with me to wave in the air. Push literally came to shove and I found myself right by the stage holding this album in the air with a sharpie. I now have a signed album of Diana Ross on my wall, but my mom got so excited she forgot to take pictures.

3. “Summertime”

As I venture down Ross street, I have found many favorites on some of her lesser-known albums. Here is one of my favorite songs from her 1987 album, Red Hot Rhythm & Blues. Fun fact, this song was co-written by Leonard Cohen.

4. “Endless Love”

Most know this song as a duet with Lionel Richie, but she also recorded a solo version on her 1981 album Why Do Fools Fall In Love. I’m a sucker for the original, but I love Ms. Ross’ vocals on this solo recording. She is daring with her vocal technique and it is sung straight from her heart. (Sorry for the odd video, the Spotify link was not working)

5. “It’s My Turn”

This was my first favorite Diana Ross song. I’ve had many since, but I will always love this ballad of independence.

6. “Upside Down”

If I need to dance all I have to do is turn this song on. This track’s electric beat mixed with Ms. Ross’ sassy and sultry vocals makes it one of her best.

7. “The Boss”

At my first Diana Ross concert, she opened with “The Boss.” It was magnetic watching her walking down a stairway belting out “Uhhhhhh….yea…” I’ve never seen an audience jump to their feet so quickly.

8. “Home”

After I had watched Double Platinum a few dozen times, I asked my mom if we could go to Blockbuster and rent another movie Ms. Ross was in. We returned with The Wiz. Over the years as I have moved from home and embarked on my life, I have realized that home is where your mom is. On Mother’s Day a few years ago, I surprised my mom in church and sang this song to her. It holds a special place in both of our hearts.

9. “Touch Me In The Morning”

This song is classic Ross. When she sang this at one of her shows, I began to sing it with her. I didn’t realize how loud I was for a lady turned around to me and told me that I had a nice voice. It was just another great moment brought to me by Ms. Ross.

10. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

I never get tired of hearing this song. As Ms. Ross’ first big solo hit, it serves as a staple in her career, especially in defining her as a solo artist. It differs drastically from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s version. This arrangement is dramatic and literally feels like a musical mountain range. Ms. Ross’ vocals soar over these mountains like a bird going in and out of valleys. It’s one of those songs that is just perfection.

Whew, I don’t want to stop! I could make a list of my 50 top favorite Diana Ross songs, but I thought that would be overkill. Diana Ross is an icon of icons and this list barely touches on her music catalog.

For me, Diana Ross will always hold a very special place in my heart, because she is one of the artists my mom and I love together. She’s always a safe choice when going on long car rides with my mom. There isn’t another artist that compares to Ms. Ross. I hope one day I can thank her for all the joy she has brought to me and my favorite duet partner, my mom.

Check out my full playlist here on Spotify:

 

Yesterday is Not Over: The Sound of Melinda Doolittle

As I have dived deeper into the music listening world of vinyl albums, I have found a culture emerge, especially in the realm of vintage vinyl. I have vinyl records ranging from the 1940’s to today, but there is a different quality to some of my more dated albums and artists.

Back in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s performers had a real task on their hands. Their career could not simply evolve around annual albums and recordings. These performers had to prove themselves time and time again in front of audiences. They had one shot to prove who they were, if it was an audience of 5 or broadcast to millions of people across the world. Their performance and raw talent defined their success.

FOX+American+Idol+Finale+Farewell+Season+Arrivals+1CsQg0FYyxRlThese performances did not have rewind, pause, or “do over” opportunities. It was a one shot game. If they missed, the audience in front may walk away, but if they made it, they had audiences for a lifetime.

That is exactly why I am a fan of Melinda Doolittle. Many of you will remember her from American Idol season six where she came in 3rd, yet I remember her for her timeless performances and how she encompasses the vinyl culture.

I recently sat down with Doolittle via Skype for a one on one conversation about her career, performance style, and what the music world means to her. After speaking with her one on one, I can tell you she is an artist of sincerity, skill, and raw talent.

To know Doolittle’s career and to understand her character and ambition, one must first start at American Idol. Ironically, this was a competition based solely on performance. We quickly began discussing different aspects of her season on American Idol, like what was it like to have Diana Ross as a mentor and the audition process. Doolittle told the story of how she went to try out for American Idol with a group of friends, frankly not expecting to get anywhere.

“When my friend talked me into auditioning for Idol, I thought of it like a joke. First of all, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Secondly, that I would make it as far as I did.”

This wasn’t a lack of confidence on Doolittle’s part though, she was simply content in her line of work. She had become a “first call” back up singer in Nashville. Often producers would wait for Doolittle to come into the studio and lay down background vocals for different artists, including Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville and Michael McDonald.

“I loved singing background and I had the delusion that when the show was over that I would go back to that…It didn’t dawn on me that I was going to have to do the artist thing.”

Many of Doolittle’s performances dominated season six of American Idol. She got rave reviews for many of her performances from the judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. Her first big breakthrough was her rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” after which Jackson said she was the one to beat. Cowell began to call Doolittle his personal favorite. When she was eliminated in the top three Cowell has remarked that she should have won.

Although, Doolittle was actually at ease when she didn’t win the American Idol crown. She said she was content and “not upset at all” when Ryan Seacrest called her name to be eliminated.

a98cdbaa5e964c4c82ab029d7d201700“The fact I made it to 3rd doesn’t sound right in my head and I never expected it, but it forced me to learn I really did have a voice as an artist. It taught me what my voice was.”

American Idol may have taught Doolittle what her voice was, but what she channels in her talents today is remarkable.

After season six, American Idol went on to set up meetings for Doolittle with various labels, most of tem being Christian labels. Doolittle, who is an avid Christian, didn’t want to sign with a Christian label.  Although she is a woman of strong faith and her concerts today are not complete with out a few gospel numbers, she wanted to make a different kind of record.

In the end, Doolittle was happy with the path her career initially took. She was free of a contract and in charge of her own musical fate. Doolittle began to shop around labels and eventually signed with Hi-Fi Records and recorded her debut album Coming Back To You. This was Doolittle’s coming out record for she took 10 steps up to the front mic for a full record. Now she needed backup singers.

“Idol forced me into being an artist, which is great. I feel like God tricked me into actually being an artist.”

Although this gave Doolittle freedom, she was also sceptical. When Doolittle began looking for labels she didn’t know what kind of music she wanted to do. She had already ruled out a Christian record at the moment and she was now ruling out pop, for a very observant reason.

“I feel when I try to sing pop it’s like an elephant stomping on a track. The track is all nice, light, and airy, and then I sing. I have a heavy voice.”

18888-coming-back-to-youSo Coming Back to You resulted in a pure soul album that was reminiscent of Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, and Al Green. Doolittle said that she is just an old school girl and she didn’t know anything different. She made an album that was her style and by her own rules.

Doolittle has gone on to release various recordings that have received praise. Her most recent set of recordings is an extended play titled You’re The Reason in 2013. These tracks find Doolittle experimenting with modern R&B with a dash of pop while keeping in touch with her old-school, soulful roots. With this EP Doolittle co-wrote 3 of the 7 tracks. Writing was some what new for Doolittle and this process became therapeutic.

“When I went into the studio we were supposed to write a fun, up-beat, really great song. They asked me ‘What has been going on in your life?’ These people on Twitter had just reamed me. I posted a picture and they were saying ‘you’re so ugly.’ They were saying the worst things and I was so hurt by it, but I was trying to be strong about it…I needed to find out what my reaction to that is.”

Rolling with the punches was not an option for her and it was time to take a stand in her professional and personal life. Doolittle said she really didn’t find out who she was till about two years ago when this EP was released. This is obvious in the song content and the history behind these recordings.

melindadoolittle-epAlthough Doolittle had recorded with success, she stated that making records was not her favorite aspect of being an artist. So instead of delving deeper into her recordings we began to discuss her favorite way of delivering music: live performance. She was quick to say why she loved singing live.

“If there is not an audience I am bored out of my mind.”

Since American Idol Doolittle has performed around the world. She has performed at such esteemed venues as Carnegie Hall and The White House, amoungst many others. These experiences led Doolittle to look at making music differently then the industry’s generic formula. She decided to define herself through performing, not an album.

“From now on I’m going to let the shows determine the record. A lot of people let the record determine the show.”

Today, Doolittle decides what works with her voice by watching an audience’s reaction. It’s all about what the crowd brings out in her at that moment. The song has to work for both her and the people she is singing for. Then, I was curious what the determining factors assisted Doolittle in making musical choices.

“It’s the give and take with the audience. It doesn’t have to be because of applause. Sometimes I see it in somebody’s eyes, somebody cries when I’m singing or just like, I see joy on people’s faces in the audience….If their joy matches the joy I have singing it, then I found the song that works for both of us.”

Melinda_Doolittle_performs_in_the_East_Room_of_the_White_House

Singing at The White House.

For Doolittle it is completely about the performance of the music in the here and now. Sure, she makes brilliant recordings, but that’s not the only aspect she is focused on when it comes to music. She stated how she didn’t care about the production or how grand the show was, the most important thing to Doolittle is how her music connects with an audience. She likes to see this first-hand, when she has her one chance to prove to the people immediately in front of her that she is a true artist with real talent.

This is a little reminiscent of days past.

“I need people to have an experience when they come to a show. I need it to be an escape, because the world we live in is not fun.”

Number one songs and awards don’t determine Doolittle’s status as a musician, nor does she particularly care about accolades. An artist’s true mission should be the music, the message, and the performance. If the music doesn’t resonate what does it mean? If the performance isn’t an experience, why would you go?

Doolittle isn’t of the old school, she’s of the real school. She can really sing and she can really perform.

She doesn’t take music lightly and she is a master of her song in its rawest environment, a live performance. This is what the singers of yesterday possessed, but that doesn’t mean it is an antiquated idea. This is what I believe is the vinyl culture. The reason I collect vinyl is for its genuine, warm, and pure vocals. Basically, the over all performance.

Vintage vinyl has within its groves some of the best, unaltered voices and performances of some of the greatest artists. It took a certain caliber to make a record and perform when these albums were made. Doolittle is of the vinyl caliber.

Doolittle does not take this feat lightly and she is aware of the torch she is carrying. She explained how it meant the world to her when people compliment her and tell her how she channels the great soul and classic artists.

Cnb2kwmUkAANGVi.jpg-large“I met Percy Sledge before he died. He stopped me backstage at an event we did together. He said ‘You carry our mantle and there aren’t many who will. Please don’t loose that. Please continue to do this. Promise me that you will.’ I was like ‘Oh yes sir'”

As I talked with Doolittle and as I have listened to her music, I have fumed over so many names in my head of who’s mantle she is carrying. I’ve thought Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, and many more. The true question is now, how does Doolittle want to be remembered? Who does she look up too.

“I want to be Barbra [Streisand] with a side of Gladys [Knight].”

That, my fellow vinyl collectors, is the essence of a true performer, one that belongs on vinyl. Doolittle reminds me of the legends and performers that have come and gone, but the most important thing Doolittle reminds me is that….

Yesterday is not over.

Check out Doolittle’s latest performance with Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox and hear Toxic like you’ve never heard it….

A Different Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day! I hope everyone is having a riveting, blessed, and safe holiday. This day is often filled with fun times barbecuing with family or hanging out at the lake, but this year it has taken a new meaning for me.

On May 1st my grandpa, John, passed away. He was a Korean War veteran and served many years in the Army and then in the Active Army Reserves. When he retired from the Army he had reached the rank of Command Sergent Major. He was extremely accomplished and I am proud to call him grandpa. I had him to thank for my freedom.

My grandpa was quoted as saying that he had two loves in life: his wife, Helen, and the Army. At the time of his passing my grandparents were married 68 years. The love they had for one another was simply beautiful. When you walked into their home you could just feel the admiration and love they had for each other. It was the air they breathed.

For today’s Memorial Day I am going to think about my grandpa. I miss him more with each passing day, but I know that he is in Heaven with Jesus. He instilled so much in each of his daughters and grandkids. He meant the world to me, but I didn’t realize that till he passed.

So today I have made a playlist of the songs that will always remind me of and honor my Grandpa. Dealing with grief is tough, but the power of music helps sustain me.


1. “Grandpa, Tell Me Bout The Good Ol’ Days”

I began to sing this song when my grandpa was in the hospital. My grandpa loved to tell you stories, anywhere from him and my grandma’s camp outs to the war. In his later years he was a man of many words. I look back now and I often wish that I had listened a little closer to these stories or given him time to tell me more. He told me about the good ol’days and the good ol’days described in this song were instilled in his character. Lovers really fell in love to stay. Promises were something people kept. And Families really bowed their heads to pray. Now thinking back, I’m not sure my grandpa ever left the good ol’days.

2. Endless Love

For Christmas one year, my family put a video together of pictures from my grandparents life. This was the main song of the video and nothing describes their love better. I will always hold this song close to my heart because every time I hear it, it reminds me of my grandma and grandpa. This song gives me hope that true love is still out there and that it does still last. My grandparents are my example.

3. “Battle Hymn of The Republic”

This song has been one of my favorites for many years after I heard Garland’s version. Garland did not sing this song like a hymn, she sang it like a testimony. Now, when I listen to this song it has a new meaning. This song combines God and country. That is what I love about it. I discussed my grandpa’s love for his country earlier, but it was equally evident that my grandpa was a man of God. He loyally attended church service nearly his whole life, but that isn’t necessarily why I know he was Christian. I knew he was a Christian by his actions and looking back, in the way he would say “Love you too.”


My grandpa has been gone for exactly 30 days. He is still fresh on my mind. I often pray that God will tell him hello for me and that I love him. My mom recently told me that every time you see a cardinal that it is a sign from somebody in heaven. I have seen 4 since he has passed. This is the most I can ever remember seeing. Even though he may not physcially be with us anymore, he is talking up a storm.

For me this Memorial day is a tribute and celebration of my grandpa.

Lastly I wanted to write a grand conclusion to this article and find the words that exactly explained my grandpa. I wanted this whole article to be worded perfectly to express who he was to me. That is a lot of pressure for a writer and I don’t think I achieved it. Words are just not enough when you lose someone who is close to you. So I am going to end with what’s on my mind.

I love you Grandpa and I miss you everyday.

That Infectious Smile You Get

Today I was driving with my head phones on. I decided to listen to a live version of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” from her 2009 tour. This has always been one of my favorite Turner songs like the majority of the world, but this time I felt something different.

I just oddly began smiling. After around a minute into the smile I realized how odd I must look to those passing me.

So tonight I have decided to compile a list of songs that give me that infectious smile or at least those songs that make me look like I’m smiling at nothing while driving.

1. “Proud Mary” -Tina Turner

If you are a music fan and don’t love the energy, spunk, and high-octane vocals this song possesses then I do not know who you are. “Proud Mary” immediately hooks me from the beginning guitar rift to Turner telling me how she likes to sing it “nice and rough.” Every time I hear this song I find myself (to the best of my ability) doing Turner’s iconic dance moves as the song progresses, but I will warn you, my legs ain’t that pretty. Least we forget the original though by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

2. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” -Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

There has never been another blend of vocals like Marvin Gaye’s and Tammi Terrell’s. They are simply superb. Tammi’s voice echoed that of Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin combined. She had a star-studded career ahead of her until brain cancer stole her away from the world too soon. AIthough she now dwells in the valley of peace, her artistry lives on. I could go on and on about this song, but there’s only two other words that truly describe its greatness….Marvin Gaye.

3. “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” -Kiss

This is pretty much my anthem for every Tinder swipe…ummm…date I go on. I try to walk out of the house with the spirit of the star child intertwined in my swagger, but it doesn’t ever quite work out. I’m not sure if it is because the 1970’s are over or if I just can’t quite find my mojo. I never did think those leotards looked good on me anyway.

4. “If I Could Turn Back Time” -Cher

What’s a list without Cher!?! I have been in a long-term relationship with Cher since I was about 11. She has always liked younger men that are on the shorter side so I fit the bill. This riveting song was penned by the great Diane Warren and is one of her best pop masterpieces. From Navy ships to bootys and hips, Cher never disappoints.

5. “All Night Long (All Night)” -Lionel Richie

This song and I go way back. I grew up listening to Richie and his smooth vocals. My mother had many of his cassettes in the car and we would listen to them…. a lot. I’ll admit, as a young kid I wasn’t a fan, but then I grew up and I was like “Hello!” I have been addicted to his music and writing genius ever since. Moms generally know what’s best, yet she never let me dance all night long. First it was the 9:00 bedtime then the curfew.

There are many, many more songs that make me extremely happy. I could literally go on and on. It would be impossible for me to make a complete list. It’s like asking me who my favorite singer is. In closing I would like to leave you with a brief poem I wrote especially for this post.

If you need me call me

No matter if you are rolling on the river

No matter if sailing on a riverboat queen

I was always made for loving you

No matter how far back you turn back time

We’ll have a party, fiesta, whatever

All night long

The Scruff After The Shave

I remember the first time I ever heard Neil Diamond. Actually, wait, no I don’t. For as long as I can comprehend there was Neil Diamond. He was not one of those artists that captivated me when I was young, yet I always knew he was somebody important. I was certain he was of legendary status, but I just never explored his music.

FullSizeRender 2Neil Diamond is much like the “American Popular Song,” the first track off of his album You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. Diamond’s catalog and musical genius goes on and on. This album truly encompasses Diamond’s raw talent in the middle of his biggest days.

This vinyl also contains the Diamond classic “Forever in Blue Jeans.” This is a song for summer. With its light guitar and uptempo beat, it reminds me of a warm summer afternoon with that special someone. It strips love of all its complexities into a simple afternoon in blue jeans.

This albums next milestone comes with Diamond’s version of “You’ve Got Troubles.” His rendition of this song comes with all the Diamond charm, including those scruffy vocals, and a riveting piano line, yet it is mixed with a slight disco/ folk feel. I could easily roller skate or protest to this song.

After these light-hearted songs of love and troubles comes the pinnacle of this album and one of the finest songs that Neil Diamond had a hand in composing. “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” a duet with Barbra Streisand, has been a long time favorite of mine. I find it to be the companion piece to Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’s “Endless Love.” These songs together show both extremes of romance, yet they can flow in and out of each other.  Streisand’s vocals flow effortlessly over the piano and strings, but Diamond’s vocals provide the concrete of the song.

FullSizeRender 3One can feel the angst in his voice as he contemplates the idea of separation, and he is placing himself in a vulnerable position. It’s clear the downfall of this relationship lies with both sides, yet it is sprung by the simplest situation. They simply no longer bring flowers home anymore, a metaphor that can mean many things. This song is about the spark in a relationship that is essential through little actions and what it means when they go undone.

As one flips this album they are immediately met with a pure dance anthem, “The Dancing Bumble Bee/Bumble Boogie.” This song is composed of pure funk arrangements with a spinning disco ball in mind. This tune insists you must dance.

The listener is then confronted with an eerie and light guitar rift that turns into a dramatic menagerie with “Mothers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons.” This song makes me picture the pilgrims landing on Plymouth in bell bottoms and crop tops coming down the Mayflower with a little boogie. Not a bad idea.

The last three songs on this album are solely written by Diamond. The biggest gem from this trilogy is “Diamond Girls.” It’s a Diamond power ballad with a major disco bass line that tells the story of a girl giving her all for the sake of her dreams and a better life. This is Diamond’s version of Gentry’s (or McEntire’s) “Fancy.”

IMG_2108Diamond is in all his glory with this album. He encompasses many emotions from the air of an uptempo disco party to the trampling of flowers. What I find most intriguing about this album though is his vocal performance. You Don’t Bring Me Flowers really brings Diamond’s voice to fruitionI’ve listened to him many times, but I have now finally pinpointed exactly what his voice mirrors.

Diamond’s vocals are essentially the scruff you get hours after a good shave. His voice is crisp and clean yet it possess a grit. A man can never fully rid himself of this issue, just like Diamond has been in music forever. One cannot quite get a hold of those tiny 5 o’clock shadow hairs either, just like one cannot pinpoint Diamond’s voice, writings, and longevity.

Diamond’s music is timeless. His writings are authentic. He is a pillar in the evolution of music.

He is the scruff after the shave where it gets real.

 

She’s a Christmas Woman

Last Tuesday I had the privilege of seeing Melinda Doolittle in concert. I have been waiting years to see her in person. Many of you will remember her from season 6 of American Idol where she was the third runner-up.

doolittle_web_largeNeedless to say, the minute she was voted off, I turned off the TV and went to my room. I have never watched an episode of American Idol since.

So when they announced Melinda was coming to OKC to do her Christmas show I was elated. I have all her recordings and I have been keeping up with her since 2009. I bought tickets the moment they went on sale.

Anybody that has heard Melinda knows how immaculate her voice is. Her voice is as strong as a brick, yet as emotional as your mother on graduation day. She possess the soul of Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and Diana Ross combined, topped off with a sprinkle of Melinda’s own sass.

(And of course I’m super proud to call her my fellow Okie. She is a graduate of Tulsa Union High School.)

There wasn’t a single Christmas carol or tune left out of the entire show. She took the audience on a journey from winter wonderlands to the manger of Jesus. Her powerful journey took us through “Winter Wonderland,” “All I Want for Christmas,” “Mary Did You Know?,” amongst many others. I could write over every song she sang, but that would make this post nearly a novel.

Here are my favorites and greatest takeaways from her flawless show:

  1. IMG_1586“God Bless Us Everyone.” This was one of her beginning numbers. This is a song
    she cowrote. She sings of love, joy, and peace for all families and how Christmas is a time where everything is brand new. This song really focused on the family and the renewing spirit of the season. It’s just beautiful.
  2. “Home” from the Wiz. Melinda sings this song like it is meant to be sung, an emotional ballad longing for the love that only home can provide. At the beginning of the song, she treats the lyrics with childlike vulnerability and by the end of the song, she has gained the confidence on where home really is. Her rendition is sure to give you chills. This was one of her first performances on American Idol.
  3. “O Holy Night.” Melinda proclaimed this is one of her favorite Christmas tunes of all time. She took a seat next to the piano and sang this song completely stripped down. Her voice painted the nativity and took you there through both the soft touch of a baby with the strength of the King of Kings.
  4. “Mary Did You Know?” She opened with this song right after intermission. Everybody was quickly right back in the show. She gave this song nearly the same treatment she gave “O Holy Night,” yet this time she was full of confidence and undeniable faith. The moments where she had to lean back from the mic due to the power of her voice, nearly made the walls shake. This song must be recorded.
  5. “All I Want for Christmas”/ Diana Ross smash-up. Melinda told the audience that IMG_1585while everyone wanted to be Mariah Carey during school, she was over in the corner listening to Motown and Diana Ross. She opened this song with her best Mariah Carey impression, which was nearly spot on, and ended the song with lyrics from various Ross and Supremes songs (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Stop, In The Name of Love”). This was pure entertainment and fun.
  6. “I Am Woman” She told us after she had seen Rod Stewart sing “Love Train” at the Rockefeller tree lighting while proclaiming it’s a Christmas train, that she felt she could now sing any song and make it Christmas. Talk about attitude and a full soul, rock, r&b performance! She gave her all in telling everybody that she will give them the shivering fits while she gets grits in the pan. She walked around the whole auditorium as she sang this one. A true performer willing to entertain her audience.
  7. “Drummer Boy.” Now we all know this as a traditional Christmas song, but let’s be honest, what does it mean? Even Melinda can’t figure it out. Well, she decided to do a special version by the reknowned artists Justin Bieber and Busta Rymes. All I have to say is yes, Melinda can rap with the best of them.

These are just a few of the songs that stuck out to me. The show was nearly two hours long with a 20 minute intermission. I didn’t even get a chance to mention her golden gown and glitzy jumper.

One of the greatest aspects of this show was Melinda being Melinda. She shared stories and accolades from her ventures through American Idol to personal stories with her family and friends. Melinda was very expressive of her faith in God and how this is the season to celebrate Jesus’ birth (something we need to see more of). She held nothing back and her pure personality shined through. Her show isn’t staged, it’s lived.

To my delight after the show, Melinda came out to sign autographs and meet her fans. I came with her first album insert in tow ready to prove I’ve been a fan since the beginning. As I walked up to the table for her to sign my items she looks at me and asked “Aren’t you the one that tweets me?”

I almost thought I was about to get security called on me.

IMG_1579 (1)We then proceeded to talk about our tweets and we declared ourselves BFFs. She signed everything for my mom and I and continually thanked us for our support of her throughout her career. My mom and I took a picture with Melinda, then she said get one of her and “her Gabe.” It was a priceless moment for me. She is in my top 5 singers and to be recognized by her meant the world.

I can not clearly verbalize my thoughts on Melinda’s concert. My words do not do the concert complete justice. This was the only concert I have ever attended that I wish had a back button, so I could hear certain songs over again.

What is different about Melinda now compared to her American Idol days is that now Melinda can be completely herself. There was no pomp and circumstance. It was just her and her band. That was all that was needed. The band was extraordinary, and Melinda’s vocals were brilliant. She is one of the greatest vocalist of the 21st century.

If you ever have the chance you MUST see her live. It will renew your faith in music and remind you that there are still real performers out there. Melinda is atop the list.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go tweet my new bestie.