Underground Disco Diva Donna McGhee Talks About Her Classic LP, The Fatback Band And ... Heavy Breathing

Friday, 20 December 2019 13:47 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

          altFor people of a certain age, the word "disco" is synonymous with the image of a white-suited John Travolta strutting his stuff in the blockbuster movie Saturday Night Fever while the hirsute, shiny-toothed Bee Gees squawked 'Staying Alive' with impossibly-high helium falsettos. However, as true connoisseurs of that much-maligned musical genre will know, there is much more to disco than the mainstream hits that brought what became a cultural as well as musical phenomenon a big slice of immortality.

But for every big disco hit, there was a stack of mirrorball-oriented singles that for various reasons, did not connect with the public at large but which enjoyed some healthy notoriety at a cult and underground level. Such was the case with Donna McGhee, a young, fine-voiced Brooklyn singer who made a superb single and a fabulous LP in the late '70s, but whose name is not a familiar one to those who think the Gibb brothers were gods of the dancefloor. Donna recorded what turned out to be one of the most collectable disco records ever: an album called 'Make It Last Forever.'  Released by a small, New York-based indie label (Red Greg Records), the LP was a quality product packed with great tunes but perhaps lacking the distribution clout and promotional machinery of a more affluent major label, failed to generate the kind of interest it undoubtedly deserved.  

Now, though, Donna McGhee, who is 65 and still working, is back in the limelight thanks to We Want Sounds' reissue of 'Make It Last Forever,' a record that in its now rare original US pressing commanded a three-figure price. Talking to SJF's Charles Waring from a rainy Portland, Oregon, where she was due to perform, Donna says she is elated by her album's revival. "I just got my copy the other day so I'm very happy that it has been reissued because now I have a new generation of people that appreciate it," she says. "It's had a good lot of good write-ups so I'm very pleased." 

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 December 2019 16:23


Singer Vanessa Rubin Talks About Life, Jazz, and Tadd Dameron. "Over time, you live, and you have stories to tell," she says.

Wednesday, 06 November 2019 14:15 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

        alt"Life happens while you're a jazz singer," laughs Vanessa Rubin, explaining her long absence from the world of recording. For those mystified by her sudden disappearance back at the dawn of the 2000s, she says "I never stopped singing," adding, "but you can't be on stage all the time. I'm happy to have had time to be with family and do some normal things, instead of just travelling and focusing on my performance."

Now, six years after her last LP, the independently-produced 'Full Circle' - an organ-driven soul-jazz collaboration with saxophonist, Don Braden - Vanessa Rubin returns to the fray with the ninth album of her career, 'The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron.' Vanessa will be promoting it when she travels to the UK to perform later this month as part of London's EFG Jazz Festival. She'll be appearing at the Chelsea venue, The Pheasantry, between Thursday, November 21st and Saturday, November 23rd. Though she can't give too much away about what her show entails, the singer says that she'll be serving up "some classic standards, blues and originals." She'll also be accompanied by a trio that includes US pianist, Danny Grissett. "Danny is wonderful," reveals the 62-year-old chanteuse. "He's a fabulous piano player. When he first moved to New York, I gave him his first gig there, so he's like my little brother. We're like family and have a really great connection and chemistry together. I love working with him. A couple of years ago, he married and moved to Austria. So when I come to Europe, I usually work with him."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2019 20:46


João Gilberto: The Shy, Quiet Genius Behind Bossa Nova

Monday, 08 July 2019 14:57 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF



The late singer, guitarist and songwriter helped to ignite bossa nova's quiet revolution in the 1960s.

João Gilberto was catapulted to international fame in the early 1960s as one of the principal architects of Brazil's popular bossa nova style. He patented a unique musical language, which with its sensuous intimacy, caressing melodies and gentle but insistent rhythms was both hypnotic and hauntingly beautiful. His death at the age of 88 on Saturday July 6th, which was announced via social media platforms by his family, brings the curtain down on the distinguished career of one of Brazil's most admired musicians.

Gilberto was born João Gilberto Do Prado Pereira De Oliveira in a small town in Brazil’s northern Bahia region called Juazeiro on 10th June 1931. He was given his first guitar by a relative when he was fourteen and quickly sought to master the instrument and become a singer. He moved to Bahia's capital city, Salvador, endeavouring to establish himself as a resident crooner for local radio stations, though without much success. In 1950 he went to Rio de Janeiro, ostensibly to join a vocal harmony group called Garotas Da Lua, though he was later fired for unreliability and tardiness. Even so, he cut a couple of 78 rpm singles in 1951 though they failed to launch his fledgling music career. He then left Rio and for several years afterwards, his life seemed to drift aimlessly along, much to the dismay of his father,  who genuinely thought his seemingly work-shy son needed psychological evaluation and got him admitted to a mental hospital. Gilberto stayed there a week for tests and was then released without further investigation.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 July 2019 07:25


Protest Songs - Keb' Mo' On Immigration, Donald Trump, and Glastonbury

Wednesday, 26 June 2019 08:32 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

        altThough he comes across as a softly-spoken man who laughs a lot, is self-effacing,  and knows the value of humility,  there's a core of inner steel that gives folk-blues troubadour Keb' Mo' a toughness that seems at odds with the gentle demeanour he projects. He's a strong believer in fighting for just causes and during a career that began in 1994 and which to date has yielded seventeen albums,  Mo' has tackled many different and difficult social, political and  environmental issues. Though he's been described as a protest singer, the 67-year-old Californian - who now lives in Nashville - doesn't express himself using cheap or catchy slogans; nor does he adopt a blinkered, dogmatic approach to his subject matter - rather, he convinces us his cause's worthiness by dint of his common-sense-reasoning combined with simple eloquence and the gentle art of persuasion.   

On his latest album, 'Oklahoma,' the quadruple-Grammy-winning singer/songwriter focuses upon two hot topics that are igniting debate all over the world - immigration and plastic pollution. But there are also heartfelt love songs ('Beautiful Music') as well as perspectives on feminism (the anthemic 'Put A Woman In Charge') and songs about persevering to overcome and heal personal troubles ('The Way I'). There are guest spots for the blues elder statesman Taj Mahal, who appears on two cuts, as well as a telling cameo from lap steel guitar virtuoso, Robert Randolph. They're joined by Mo's wife, Robbie Brooks Moore, country music doyenne Rosanne Cash, and award-winning Latin gospel singer Jaci Velasquez.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2019 19:52


Shining Star: Philip Bailey On His New Solo Album, Earth, Wind & Fire, And Playing Golf.

Thursday, 13 June 2019 09:40 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

      altSonically unique, Philip Bailey's celestial falsetto voice, with its unmistakable haunting quality has been a key component of Earth, Wind & Fire's sound for  47 years now. For a long time it was the yin to the yang of the late Maurice White's smooth baritone and helped define some of the R&B supergroup's biggest hits, including 'Fantasy,' 'Reasons' and 'After The Love Has Gone.' From time to time, though, Bailey has expressed himself as a solo artist away from the group. He first recorded on his own in 1983, when he released his debut LP 'Continuation,'  and up until 2002, when he released his ninth solo LP, 'Soul On Jazz,' he was recording solo albums on a fairly regular basis. Since that album, though, he's been silent for 17 years. Now, though, the Colorado-born singer and percussionist returns with a brand new solo offering called 'Love Will Find A Way,' which was initially a self-funded project but is now being released by Verve Records on June 21st. 

"It was actually sparked by my working with my 'night gig' a few years ago," reveals Bailey, whose natural talking voice is surprisingly much deeper than his high-pitched singing tone. "I call Earth, Wind & Fire my day gig," he laughs, then adding:  "I was doing stuff with (jazz keyboardist) Ramsey Lewis, and later on I decided I wanted to do some recording of that kind of music. So my daughter and my son plus my art director came up with a concept to work with using people who I had already established relationships with, such as (pianist) Chick Corea and (bassist) Christian McBride."

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2019 14:51


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