Omar Cunningham (21st Century)
Daddy B. Nice's #20 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"The Beauty Shop"
Omar Cunningham (21st Century)
Composed by Omar Cunningham
July 19, 2015:
NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Sample/Buy Omar Cunningham's ALL MY BEST: THE SOUL HITS at Amazon.
Sample/Buy Omar Cunningham's ALL MY BEST: THE SOUL HITS at iTunes.
Hell at the House
Check to Check
Party Have a Good Time
Something's Gotta Give
I'm in Love With a Married Woman
Shysters & Wannabes
Find a Good Woman
If We Can't Get Along
I'm Your Maintenance Man
That's a Lie
Can't Make You Do Right
What You Want With My Mama
That's My Jam
I Get By
She's Making Eyes at Me
Send Her to Me
Browse all of Omar Cunningham's CD's in Daddy B. Nice's CD Store.
July 19, 2015:
Omar Cunningham's longtime friend and fellow Soul 1st recording artist Vick Allen gives a "shout-out" to Omar in his evocative and popular ballad, "My Baby's Phone" (Soul Music) in a manner much more creative than usual, embedded in the song's narrative. He makes Omar the villain/cheater/Mister-Jody character:
"Tried to figure out where she was,
Tried to guess who she was with.
Then I heard her say his name,
And I broke out in tears
It was my good friend Omar
I worked with him for years."
Fans needn't take the lyrics literally. This is the way one singer/songwriter toasts another singer/songwriter he considers his peer.
Listen to Vick singing "My Baby's Phone" (with references to Omar Cunningham) on YouTube.
Now if you really want to take this personal/professional matrix to a mind-bending level, listen to Omar Cunningham's lyrics on a song that could be considered a prequel to Vick Allen's "My Baby's Phone." The song is an adaptation of the Staples Singers "Do It Again" called "She's Making Eyes At Me":
Listen to Omar Cunningham singing "She's Making Eyes (At Me)" on YouTube.
(From Omar Cunnningham's ALL MY BEST: THE SOUL HITS)
--Daddy B. Nice
Note: Omar Cunningham also appears on Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (90's-00's). The "21st Century" after Omar Cunningham's name in the headline is to distinguish his artist-guide entries on this page from his artist-guide page on Daddy B. Nice's original chart.
December 16, 2012:
Daddy B. Nice's Updated Profile
If there's any one thing that gives your Daddy B. Nice satisfaction, it's knowing that in some small way I was able--through the Southern Soul website--to give the young musicians of the Deep South the public platform and the reassurance that the music of the passing masters could succeed in today's world--that it MEANT something, and that it had a name, "southern soul," that they could take pride in--something even the old masters didn't think possible. And sure enough, instead of the music dying with Johnnie, Marvin, Tyrone, Quinn, Blackfoot and Little Milton, an entire generation of stars has sprung up to replace them.
Number eighty-one. That's where Omar Cunningham started out on Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists chart after his first album, Hell At The House. Five albums and a decade later, Omar debuts in the Top Twenty Southern Soul Artists of the new century.
No one ever talks about Omar Cunningham as a pure singer. His accomplishments as a songwriter and arranger/producer tend to take center stage, but a song such as "Give Me A Chance" ("The Early Bird Always Catches The Worm") is a vocalist's fantasy: verses rendered in a rich, charismatic tenor with just the right conversational tone and choruses featuring tracks overlaid with heavenly barbershop harmonies.
Listen to Omar Cunningham singing "Give Me A Chance" on YouTube.
The reason we forget about Cunningham's vocals is their effortlessness--Omar's "oneness" with the lyrics. Whether he's singing about a potential lover ("Give Me A Chance") or relating the incriminating gossip filtered through an angry wife's eyes ("The Beauty Shop"), Cunningham inhabits his lyrics like a comfortable pair of house slippers, never drawing attention to his impeccable technique. Everything is in service to the story in the song.
Cunningham started out under the influence cast by Sir Charles Jones in the first years of the century, which resulted in one fantastic collaboration:
Listen to Omar Cunningham singing "Baby Don't Leave Me" on YouTube.
("You'd have to go back to the first album by Crosby, Stills & Nash or the Pet Sounds album by the Beach Boys to find its equal in harmonizing." Daddy B. Nice, 2008.)
But Cunningham's real calling card at the outset of his career was a folksinger-like bent as seen in early hits like "I Get By" and "Check To Check," songs that would have sounded just as natural coming from singer-songwriters like Randy Newman, Neil Young or James Taylor.
Omar soon discarded the "bouncy" style of those early hits, however, in favor of the rich, melodic, ballad-style material at which he so obviously excelled. And if there was any doubt that Omar had what it took to pen great slow jams (without Sir Charles Jones), "Sweet Sweet" from the second album (Omar Cunningham) was the harbinger of change.
Listen to Omar Cunningham singing "Sweet Sweet" on YouTube.
From there--and with the next two albums in particular--Cunningham was on his way. Worth The Wait (2006) and Time Served (2008) are albums that can stand with the song-rich, every-track-counts LP's of yesteryear, full of meaningful song/stories delivered with Omar's casually powerful vocals.
Among the great songs from those sets are:
"I'm In Love With A Married Woman"
"Party, Have A Good Time"
"The Right Woman"
"The Same Soap"
"The Beauty Shop"
and "Give Me A Chance"
--and when Southern Soul fans perk up with respect at the name Omar Cunningham, they are thinking of the repertoire represented by those songs.
Read about Omar Cunningham's early career in Daddy B. Nice's original Artist Guide to Omar Cunningham. (090's--00's).
--Daddy B. Nice
About Omar Cunningham (21st Century)
Omar Cunningham was born in Gadsden, Alabama in 1969. Like most R&B musicians, he grew up singing gospel music, and he was exposed to secular music through his family members, including a grandmother who ran a boarding house that catered to musicians.
Song's Transcendent Moment
OMAR CUNNINGHAM: Growing Pains (Soul 1st) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.
Pent-up interest in this new Omar Cunningham album, Growing Pains, has been heavy, so let me just caution fans at the outset that it's not the home run some--including your Daddy B. Nice--may have anticipated. That speaks to expectations, and when you're beginning to put a guy up there with Sir Charles Jones and T. K. Soul and two or three other top young guns in Southern Soul music, expectations can get out of hand.
A lot of the expectations were based on two songs Omar Cunningham didn't even record but gave to others, both of which became very popular Southern Soul singles in the last two years, "Man Enough" by Karen Wolfe and "If They Can Beat Me Rockin'" by Vick Allen. If Omar could string together together two or three more classics like that on a CD, the thinking went, he'd have the Southern Soul equivalent of "Sergeant Pepper."
All of the selections on Omar Cunningham's Growing Pains CD are of excellent quality, but they blend into one another rather than jump out at you. In fact, the most surprising thing about the album is that there is no one spectacular cut: no song on the order of "Baby Don't Leave Me" or "I Get By" or "Give Me A Chance" or "The Beauty Shop" or "My Life."
"Maintenance Man," the first radio single and the most radical departure from any prior style of Omar's, is probably the best candidate for an exception, but let's get to the tracks in order first.
1. "Let Me See You Shake Your Jelly" is a variation on the most well-known "jelly" song, the late Fred Bolton's "It Must Be Jelly" ("Girl it must be jelly/ Because girls don't shake like that)." Omar's song honors the same tempo and keyboard sound.
2. You may shed a tear when you hear how close the rhythm track, tempo and overall sound of "Find A Good Woman" are to "Man Enough," the song Omar wrote for Karen Wolfe, the song that put her over the top, the song--let's admit it--that's better than this one. The tears may continue for two or three listenings, then the "Good Woman" hook begins to take over. You gradually forget about "Man Enough" and everything's okay.
3. "Here I Am" is as traditional and Vandrossian as you can get, almost--dare I say the dreaded word--"mainstream".
"Here I am standing here
Ready and willing and able.
I just want you to know
I'm putting my cards on the table."
The chorus is old-old-school (which I liked), Ames Brothers-old if anyone is left alive who remembers them. One oddity is a man/woman call and response in which Omar uses his own voice, rather than a female's, on the woman's part.
4. But just when you're maybe thinking this is Cunningham's bedroom album, along comes "If We Can't Get Along," a ballad on the subject of separation.
"If we can't get along
We need to get apart,
Because you broke up all of my shit
And now you're breaking my heart."
As with the preceding cuts, the production is crisp and lush.
5. A real change of pace, "I'm Your Maintenance Man" features upfront percussion and a Ray Manzarek-style keyboard on a fast, bare blues that visits the territory of Bobby Rush's "I'll Be Your Handyman." This is the toughest, most aggressive rocker ever by Omar.
6. "That's A Lie" returns to the separation theme of "If We Can't Along." Here Omar takes it to the limit, complete with rousing arrangement with urban r&b crescendos hitherto unheard (except for maybe Carl Sims and more recently Queen Emily) in Southern Soul.
Maybe this is the album's "spectacular" song. It's without a doubt Omar's most impassioned vocal.
7. "What You Want With My Momma" is a novelty song with children's voices somewhat reminiscent of the late Jackie Neal's "The Way We Roll" or, more recently, Unckle Eddie's and Crystal Dylite's "I'm Gone Tell Momma."
"Mr. Lowdown" (9) and "Do Right" (8) are mid-tempo, "Check To Check"-like tunes, the latter co-composed with Vick Allen. The hooks are generic but the scintillating sheen of Cunningham's production is everywhere evident.
Omar closes out the set with an extravaganza of guest cameos on a soulful, gospel-drenched coda, "Gotta Keep (Do You Know Him?)," in order of appearance Lacee, Bigg Robb, Vick Allen and LaMorris Williams. The album is co-produced by Soul 1st Record's Reginald McDaniel.
Growing Pains, I think, is an apt title. This album has a "transitional" feel to it.
One thing's for sure. Once you start playing it, you won't turn it off. Highly recommended.
--Daddy B. Nice
Sample or Buy Omar Cunningham's Growing Pains CD/MP3's.
Honorary "B" Side
"Baby Don't Leave Me"
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