Archive for the ‘Slow Jam Mixes’ Category

Fell in Love in the 80’s

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My first mixtapes consisted of bad radio recordings via my Casio cassette recorder with the external mic; more often, the background noise was louder than the music.  Once I got ahold of a radio with a tape deck built in, I felt unstoppable.  I still have some of those childhood tapes, one of my favorites had Shelia E.’s Hold Me, Culture Club’s Mistake #3 and Tech and the Effx’s Perfect Match (from School Daze).  My goal was to always catch the songs that didn’t get a lot of airplay, now I’m excited to share that music with you.

Fell in Love in the 80’s is the first installment in my new series of mixtapes showcasing some of my favorite love songs according to decade.

When I first started work on this mixtape I thought it would be part 2 to the first slow jam mix I posted on entitled, While You Were SwingingWhile You Were Swinging focused on slow jams released during the New Jack Swing era in R&B.  But Fell in Love in the 80’s goes beyond that with music predating the late 80’s and incorporating songs from the mid and early years of that decade.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a 70’s baby who loves 80’s music and the rarer the song the better; please enjoy this mixtape of classics. Love!

Slow Jammin’ Like Kevin

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Slow Jammin’ Like Kevin is a mixtape honoring the style of Kevin “Slow Jammin” James, a pioneer of slow jam radio shows.  If you don’t know James’ style, you’ve been missing out on a DJ who loves the classics yet has a gift for recognizing a classic in the making.  Delivered between his amazing collection of rare slow jams is one of the warmest yet coolest voices in radio; his mellow tone whispers it’s time to turndown the lights and vibe.

This legendary radio personality influenced my musical taste and also was the DJ I most imitated when doing my radio show in college.  Even this website has a bit of James in it.  The information I share about the artists and the music posted here is a direct reflection of James’ approach to teaching a little something about the music and artists he features.  After a set of his music, I always look forward to hearing what he has to say.  He has a deep respect for R&B and because he’s been such a dedicated student of the format, he is a wonderful teacher.

Kevin James, a Pennsylvania native, came to WKYS FM in Washington, DC in the mid 70’s and stayed for nearly 15 years hosting the nightly Slow Jam Show.  I had the privilege of growing up with Kevin on my radio.  Just before I graduated from high school, James headed west to L.A.’s 92.3 the Beat.  Between James leaving and the death of Quiet Storm creator, Melvin Lindsey a kind of silence fell over Washington’s airwaves as stations scrambled to find their footing.

Kevin James went on to be a major influence in California too.  Snoop Dogg featured Kevin’s voice on two of his albums and thanked him for his music in the liner notes.  I understand the feeling; Kevin not only plays great music but also connects with his listeners.  He says he’s not a DJ, but is a friend who enjoys sharing music.  Unlike many R&B DJ’s who want to stay in a groove, Kevin has no problem switching it up; he even takes listener requests, which is very rare for an urban Slow Jam Show.  Anyone who’s called into Kevin’s shows knows he loves to talk with his listeners as much as he loves playing them music.

Kevin returned to DC’s airwaves when he hosted the Weekend Edition of The Quiet Storm on WHUR, the original home of the Quiet Storm Show.  He actually did the broadcasts from his house in California, I learned that after calling in one night and talking with him about some music I was searching for.  I told him how much his style and work meant to me during that conversation.  I also told him about how happy I was to hear him back on our airwaves.  For Washingtonians, hearing Kevin on the weekends was a treat, like a walk down memory lane.  He’s a part of that rare club of radio personalities who play what they feel, not what they are programmed to play; as listeners and lovers of music, we hear the difference.

Kevin’s style is for the true R&B connoisseur; please enjoy Slow Jammin’ Like Kevin.


Download the 192 kbps version (108.7 MB) here!

Melvin’s Quiet Storm of Melodies

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It took quite a while for me to compile this Mix honoring one of the most influential DJ’s in radio’s history.  Melvin’s Quiet Storm of Melodies is a dedication to Melvin Lindsey, the slow jam radio format pioneer. Lindsey, who was born and raised in Washington, DC, was the creator of the Quiet Storm show; a nightly presentation of R&B love songs.  The format is now copied around the world.  Ballads after sunset have become the staple of many FM radio stations across formats from rock to pop; so it’s hard to remember that there was a time when there was nothing special or consistent to listen to after dark.  Then, in 1976, a young intern named  Melvin Lindsey got the chance to host a show for WHUR FM, Howard University’s radio station in Washington, DC.   Lindsey slowed things down for the night and listeners have been responding to that format ever since.

Melvin Lindsey’s love of slow tempo music featured the best and in many cases some of the most unknown artists in R&B.  The term slow jam was coined describing the sound.

Lindsey broadcasted in Washington for nearly 15 years, first with the Quiet Storm on WHUR, then with Melvin’s Melodies on WKYS.  He was the star of the night on KYS; while radio and T.V. personality Donnie Simpson hosted the morning show.  What a time for radio!

There is still a beautiful residue of Lindsey’s style lingering in Washington, but like so much of what made radio great, it too is fading.   To compile songs that reflect Lindsey’s taste was a challenge that I tried to overcome by focusing on his favorite groups like Heatwave, Con Funk Shun and Enchantment; as well his favorite singers like Patti LaBelle.

None of these songs were huge hits on Billboard; for instance, the group Heatwave is most known for Boogie Nights, not Star of the StoryDeniece Williams got her Grammy nominations for Let’s Hear it for the Boy, not for You’re All that Matters.  These artists existed before the MTV or BET countdowns and probably wouldn’t have been included if they had.   Their music was played because of the emotion it conveyed, the classic sound it delivered and because a DJ took the time to listen to the whole album.  A lot of this music has been forgotten except for the occasional sample used by a Kanye West or 9th Wonder, it’s a shame really. These love songs expressed a vulnerability and compassion lost in current slow jams.  Today’s artists would benefit from a session of the Quiet Storm in the early 80’s or Lindsey’s later show, Melivin’s Melodies.  Maybe then they would understand that being hopelessly in love is OK, and so wonderful that those emotions deserve to be captured in a nice slow song.  Melvin got that, and spent most of his life conveying feelings of love over DC’s airwaves.

I would like to think many of these songs were recorded because of Melvin, because artists found they had a consistent place to share this kind of music.  Just imagine what could happen in today’s musical landscape if artists could find stations dedicated to playing love songs as easily as they do stations hungry for divisive and misogynistic lyrics; imagine how that could change the complexion of our society.

This dedication compilation begins and ends with the theme songs from Lindsey’s two slow jam radio shows, just like the title of this Mix. Please enjoy Melvin’s Quiet Storm of Melodies.

Download the 192 kbps version (105 MB) here!

Sounds Like Washington Vol. 2

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I’m so excited to present Sounds Like Washington Vol. 2 to you.  Ten years ago I compiled the first Sounds Like Washington to keep me company when I lived far away from D.C. and missed listening to the exclusive sounds of this City.  After returning home, I was inspired to create Volume 2.  Like with Volume 1, some of these songs are regularly played on D.C.’s adult contemporary radio stations, others should be.  Please enjoy these soothing sounds that go best with the Washington skyline in the distance — but will make you feel good wherever you are.

Download the 192 kbps version (108 MB) here!

Warm and Peaceful Lady T

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I was probably around 12 years old when I began a real love affair with R&B.  Suddenly, what used to be just background music spoke to me and I got it. In that moment there were two artists who really mattered to me, Luther Vandross and Teena Marie.

On December 26th 2010 we lost Teena and I felt like I lost a friend even though I never met her.  The closest I’d ever been to her was seeing her perform in 1994 at the Ritz Nightclub in D.C.  I was smack in the middle of a tightly packed standing-room only crowd.  But when she sat down behind that piano and played “Casanova Brown” I felt like I was the only one in the room.  She had the ability to be so intimate with her audience.

I tried it myself senior year of college; I performed “Casanova Brown” in a lip-sync contest with my sorority sisters acting out the words of the song behind me.  We won first place.

I also strongly considered adapting the DJ name “Warm and Peaceful Lady T” for my college radio show, a tribute to Teena’s rap in “Square Biz,” but some of my friends said it was too much.

Then there was that time I had one too many in New Orleans and thought singing “I Need Your Lovin” during karaoke night at the Black Cat would be a good idea, the video tape is proof that it wasn’t.

I’m sharing all this to say I loved Teena Marie’s music and never considered saying goodbye.  I loved the way her voice made me feel.  I loved how her lyrics made me think about love.  To really get Teena, I think one has to have loved hard… I mean really experienced passion.  As Teena sang in “Out on a Limb,”  “My lips begin to burn and my heart beats faster than the normal pace,” whooh!

She wrote about loving, caring and wanting deeply.  Her lyrics are poetry and a good lesson for any woman struggling with how to open herself to her man.

When Rick James first toured with Teena Marie back in the early 80s,  they both appeared at the Capitol Center in Landover, MD.  I was just a little girl, but I’ve heard many stories about that night from people who were there.  This was before music videos, so for many this would be their first time putting Teena’s face with the booming voice they heard sing “Fire and Desire” on the radio.  Of course Rick opens the song, so he was on stage first.  Then Teena sang, “I used to love them and leave them” from backstage, holding that amazing note as she walked to center stage.  Someone who was there that night told me a hush fell over the crowd as people watched in shock; this powerful, soulful voice was coming from this tiny, redhead white girl.  One person went on to tell me a woman sitting next to him said, “So Rick couldn’t find a “sista” to sing this song?”  It’s such a funny story to me… because wasn’t she?  Wasn’t she a “soul-sista” who felt, loved and sang with more passion than most?

Years ago I was discussing music with a white college professor.  We were talking about Motown when I mentioned Teena Marie.  He was in his early 60s and had never heard of her before.  Of course I went on to say she was one my favorite singers of all time and talked about how significant her contributions were.  He asked a very interesting question.  He said, “Why wasn’t she ever a major crossover success?  I mean isn’t it most unusual for white artists doing black music not to have great pop success…especially if they’re signed to a label like Motown?”

I’d never thought about it before, not like that.  Teena had been a part of our community for so long I think most of us forgot she was white.  My answer was this; she wasn’t Elvis, she wasn’t stealing R&B, she was R&B, there is a difference.  I think it’s an insult to call what Teena created “blue eyed soul,” as if she was some sort of imitator.  Teena Marie was soul and she was an original.

I think Teena was right when she said in the song “Deja Vu,” “I’ve been here before;”  and maybe it was that experience that made her music so powerful and her voice so timeless.  But if that’s true, it must also be true that she’s “not coming back no more,” meaning there will never be another Teena Marie.  I’m so happy I was here to experience her last visit.

I mixed this compilation the night of Teena’s death to help comfort me; I hope this celebration of her iconic slow-tempo songs does the same for you.

Download the 192 kbps version (107 MB) here!