Want to get excited about something? Here is your opportunity: Home School Records! This new endeavor by creative genius John Legend is a truly wonderful venture into the world of musical entertainment that hasn’t been tried for a long, long time. If you are a John Legend fan you already know that he comes from a place others simply cannot go. His sound, his style, his presence and his presentation leave one awed whenever he takes the stage. What I find exceptional about that is that whatever that ultra extra special something is isn’t something you can put your finger on and say “there, there it is!” No, at least not from my vantage point it is not that simple to identify. It is something old and deep, rare and ethereal and it seems boundless. That he can possibly transfer some of that “something” to an entire stable of other artist is a question that will remain open for a while, but, from what I’ve seen of what he has to work with I think it is definitely doable. So who are these artists? Estelle, the British phenom who struts and entertains with a tasty sense of class that blends reggae and rap, harmony and delivery in a way that makes her unmistakably her own star. Then there is The James Gang, three super talented song and dance men with a Broadway skill that has you rocking in your seat, then up on your feet clapping them on in the privacy of your own den. (Okay, so I’m confessing!) The other one who impressed me was Vaughn Anthony, who I wasn’t really expecting to because of his relationship to Legend, but who was a thoroughly refreshing surprise. He has a lot of directions he can go with his voice and his style if he continues to hone it into some of his own. What Legend is doing is a real risk, which is a feather in his hat and the hats of those visionaries that are willing to back this venture. I believe he and they are at the forefront of the exciting curve and I am hoping that they build each of these talented individuals into enduring performers that even history will be able to look back on and say they were a part of a musical revolution. Perhaps that is a lot of expectation but it is time we have an expectation of change, positive change that spins music into absolute magic.
StarTribune.com: JL and friends live at Fine Line
Date added: November 13, 2007
Thanks to underwriting from Baileys Irish Cream, John Legend was able to play his smallest Twin Cities gig ever on Monday - an unadvertised affair for 500 folks at the Fine Line. Actually, it wasn't just Legend and his 11-member band (playing on a stage that was expanded by 50 percent to accommodate them). He also showcased three artists from his new label, Home School Records. The best and the brightest of the newcomers was Estelle, a 27-year-old from London, who told me she's been singing and rapping for 10 years. She put out one CD in England and her sophomore effort, 'Shine,' will come out in February. On her five numbers, Estelle showed an impressive ability to move seamlessly from rapping to singing. 'Substitute Lover' was a sunny marriage of island, hip-hop and R&B. 'Just a Touch' had an irresistible hip-hop groove. And she commanded the stage when Legend joined her on the duet 'Come Over.' There!—s no question that Estelle (think a sunny Corinne Bailey Rae meets Erykah Badu) has star quality. Diggy, a rapper from Legend!'s hometown of Springfield, Ohio, can command the stage but there was nothing original about his 'Rock the Mic.' And Vaughn Anthony, who is one of Legend's backup singers, proved that he's not yet ready for prime-time with his hip-hop balladry. As for Legend, he was onstage for 85 minutes, supporting all his new charges and doing 10 of his own selections. At first, his voice was a little raspier than usual but he was his usual charming, dreamy self. 'I Can Change' featured a taste of the Beatles' 'I Want You,' which showed off both Legend's rock-heavy funk and jazzy musicality. 'PDA' and 'Still Number 1' both got remix treatments, which suggested that Legend continues to challenge himself musically. Btw, a similar show with Legend and friends was filmed last week in NYC for broadcast on Dec. 16 on Station 1.
VA/Estelle/The James Gang live at the Roxy
Date added: November 10, 2007
You could say that John Legend got a little help from his friends Wednesday. Not that he needed it, but it was all part of the package.In a free concert presented by Bailey’s Irish Creme, Legend appeared and took the Roxy crowd by storm before fading into the wings and letting up-and-coming acts from his new label, Homeschool Records, take the spotlight. The Grammy-winning r & b singer served up tracks off his latest album, “Once Again,” including “Heaven” and “Save Room.” Dressed in casual cool threads, Legend worked the stage with his usual intensity. He also performed the title song off his debut studio album, “Get Lifted,” with the already funky track getting some niceorgan embellishments and help from the Roxy lighting department. Legend’s able band - which included three backup singers and a horn section - deserve credit for re-creating his textured compositions with vigor. The crowd may have wanted more from Legend, but after whetting their appetite the star slipped into the background as British artist Estelle took center stage. The up-and-coming singer may not have Legend’s name-recognition, but with her self-described blend of hip-hop, jazz and r & b and a commanding demeanor and sense of personal style, she demonstrated both considerable talent and stage presence. Legend’s younger brother and backup singer, Vaughn Anthony, also made an appearance. Visually the two couldn’t be more different. While Legend arrived in a leather jacket and khakis, Anthony took the stage in wind pants, sneakers, a tilted cap and a black tank-top exposing his numerous tattoos and bulging biceps. Vocally, however, they bear a striking resemblance; it’s a good bet that Anthony won’t be serving as backup to his big brother for long. The James Gang was a definite break from the norm and offered a new style of performance that isn’t easy to categorize. Picture three males in knickers, blazers and bow ties swinging canes in a high-energy mix of music and theatrics. If nothing else, it was different. By the time Estelle returned to the stage for another go-round, the crowd was obviously longing for Legend. He did return eventually, closing out the night with “Slow Dance” - complete with a risque slow dance onstage with an excited female fan - the steaming “Used to Love U” and breakout hit “Ordinary People.” The free show clocked in at about an hour and 15 minutes, and Legend left the crowd wanting more. But in the performance arts, if nowhere else, that’s a good thing.