Born on February 20th, 1938, in Jackson, Mississippi, Cicero moved to Chicago with his family in the early 1950s and settled on the west side. Blake singing career began in a church choir, then the Golden Tones while still in high school, and he performed in military shows in the Air Force. Cicero Blake's was the original lead singer of the group, who evolved into the Kool Gents, the group that sprung Dee Clark After leaving the group Blake made many solo recordings for small Chicago labels (Brainstorm, Renee, Success, etc.). When he got the chance to record for a major label-Brunswick Records in 1967--the two tracks he cut "You Got Me Walking," and "A Woman Needs To Be Love" were shelved for 20 years. He recorded his first single, "Don't Do This To Me" for Success Records in 1962; though he never charted, many of his R&B singles "Sad Feelings," and "If I Had My Way," found acceptance with Northern Soul lovers. "Love Is Like A Boomerang" received more attention then previous efforts. Blake continued working and recording throughout the 70's, 80's, and 90's while holding down a job working for Cook County as one of the Maywood Park Districts' commissioners. He recorded two albums for the California-based Valley Vue Records, followed by a pair of LPs for Johnny Vincent's Ace imprint. In the 2000s Blake had only two albums to his name- one for Mardi Gras in 2003 and one for Hep' Me in 2008. A new album is due in 2010.
"Too Hip To Be Happy" (Valley Vue 1988)
1. Dip My Dipper
*** Breakthrough album containing his signature song "Dip My Dipper". Also includes the fine Blake originals "Too Hip To Be Happy" (later covered by Vernon Garrett) & "I Saw It Coming". He also does two songs associated with Albert King ("Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong", "Oh Pretty Woman"). Despite the synthesizer this is enjoyable modern soul blues.
"Just One Of Those Things" (Valley Vue 1993)
1. Don't Wanna Blow My
Chance With You
**** Blake's second outing for Valley Vue is even stronger. Again he covers all the bases in the soul/blues realm. Good straight-up blues ("Laundromat Blues", "As The Years Go Passing By" & "High Steppin' Mama"), strong soulful slowies ("Don't Wanna Blow My Chance With You" & "Just One Of Those Things"), midtempo Memphis soul ("I'm Into Something", "Girl I'm In Love With You" & "Caught In The Wrong Again") & funky blues ("Low Down Dirty Blues"). Six songs came from the prolific pen of Bob Jones.
"Wives Night Out" (Ace 1996)
1. Wives Night Out
*** First for Ace Records features the Bob Jones-penned title track (with Pat Brown, who continues her famous "Equal Opportunity" theme) and two strong Ronnie Lovejoy covers ("Getting The Best Of Nothing" & "Turn Your Porch Light On"). Blake also redoes a cut from his Valley Vue days ("I Saw It Coming"). For some reason two of the cuts were carried over to his next album ("Telling Her About You" & "Time To Get Up (And Go Home)".
"Stand By Me" (Ace 1998)
1. Stand by Me
**** The strongest yet from Cicero features the entire arsenal : Modern Memphis soul ("Stand By Me", "Give Me Something", "The Great Pretender",), soul blues ("Time To Get Up And Go Home", "Somebody's Telling Our Business" & "Talk To Your Man"), funky R & B ("Black Cat Bone") & romantic crooning ("Telling Her About You"). Blake's singing is smooth and earnest and the album never dips in quality.
"Ain't Nothing Wrong" (Mardi Gras 2003)
1. Ain't Nothing Wrong
**1/2 It had been 5 years since Cicero Blake's last disc (the fabulous "Stand By Me" ). I heard he battled cancer and is winning! Hope so! But you'd never know he had any illness because this is the best singing he's waxed to date! His debut for Mardi Gras Records called "Ain't Nothing Wrong" is a euphonious, midtempo head-bobbing listen with Cicero sounding fired up on the slow ride "Waiting On You". Mardi Gras' ubiquitous "southern soul" dance tempos are here ala "Let's Go Dancing", "Jump", & "Shake It Up". Unfortunately the lyrics are rather weak (all songs written by Floyd Hamberlin) and the programming is almost identical on all 10 cuts. (Mardi Gras' needs to try some variety). One of the best cuts, "Ain't Nothing Wrong", is hampered by the asinine words: "Ain't nothing wrong with a little cheatin' sometime/C'mon let's get together and have a goodtime". "Stroke You" is also lyrically-lame. But Blake's voice rises above the production and it's great to have him back. Don't wait another five years!
"Here Comes The Heartache: The Soul Years" (Grapevine 2004)
1. Should I Go
**** Compilation concentrating on his soul years 24 tracks originally issued on Success, Renee, Brainstorm, Tower, Capitol and Sound Plus etc. Included are all the favorites such as "How Can I Go On Without You", "Sad Feeling", "Here Comes The Heartache" and "You Got Me Walking". Chronologically it begins with his first 45 "Should I Go" through his 1993 hit "Don't Wanna Blow My Chance With You".
"It's You I Need" (Hep' Me 2008)
1. It's You I Need
** It's a delight to hear the ailing Blake sing some "new" material after a five year hiatus (although some of the tracks appear to be reissues from some bygone session or obscure LP). During this recording break he suffered at least one stroke and a debilitating car accident. The fabulous title cut and album kickoff, a Deep Soul ballad, portended one great Soul album. Sadly, Blake is let down with low budget backing and poor sound quality. The downhome Bluesers "Saturday Night Feelin" & "South Side Saturday Night" sound like they were dubbed from a third generation cassette. Same goes for the wimpy R & B cut "Stranger In My House". Perhaps the worst is "Somewhere Private" where it sounds like Blake is singing the track through headphones used as a microphone (I've done this before so I know what is sounds like). The mixing is wretched. Again, this is not Blake's fault. He's still a fine singer but this is bootleg quality. Some decent songs are wasted (such as the closer "Livin' Double"). As said earlier the title track is a keeper but even this has an irritating footnote. Track 1 is called an "Extended" version but it appears again at Track 4 in a "Regular" version that is 6:44 in length (only twenty seconds shorter)...? This disc was a huge disappointment and a waste of Blake's talent."I'm Satisfied" (CDS 2010)
1. I Can't Go on Mrs. Jones
"Cicero" (CDS 2013)
1. Be Careful of My Heart
"Greatest Hits" (CDS 2015)
1. I'm Into Something