Interviews

"It's the greatest high in the world" - DUKE FAKIR talks about the FOUR TOPS' forthcoming UK tour with The Temptations

Saturday, 21 April 2018 12:29 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

 

           altThe mighty Four Tops scored their first British hit way back in 1965 with 'I Can't Help Myself,' a key record that helped to establish Detroit's Motown sound in the UK. Fifty-three years and thirty-four UK charts hits later, miraculously, this legendary vocal quartet are still going strong. Though only Abdul 'Duke' Fakir remains from the original line-up, they keep the authentic spirit of Motown alive. Frequent visitors to the UK since their very first tour in 1967, the Four Tops are due to return to these shores later this year in November, when they will be performing in tandem with another iconic Motor City vocal group, The Temptations. For fans of both groups and Motown, the keenly-anticipated tour promises ten magical nights of nostalgia in places ranging from Glasgow and Gateshead to Bournemouth and Southend-on-Sea.

Ahead of the tour, the Tops' main man, Duke Fakir (pictured second from right above), is waxing lyrical about the United Kingdom and its inhabitants. "It's our favourite country," he says. "It's such a great place coming over there and we love the way they reward us and respect us." In terms of what the group will be serving up to their British fans, Duke says: "We aim to please so we'll be sure to give them all the best of the things they love to hear. It's the finest tour of the year for us when we come to the UK. We know they want to hear the classics and we'll also be sure to do some tunes that are more popular in the UK than they are here in the US."

The Four Tops have been combining their talents on the road with The Temptations in Britain for many years now. Though they used to be fierce rivals at Motown, beneath the competitiveness lie deeper bonds of kinship and brotherhood. "We're very good friends and have been for a long time," says Duke. "Years ago, we used to hang out after the shows. We'd bounce around and have a few drinks here and there but now we're older and we save our energy pretty much for the stage. So when we're on the road together, we eat a lot of meals together and sometimes play cards and if it's warm enough, we'll play golf as well. Sometimes we even shop together. Myself and Ron Tyson of the Temptations are extremely close and are particularly into clothes shopping and like to go to Bond Street."

Joining the Tops and Tempts on this tour is another noted US vocal group that was big in the '70s, Tavares. "They're a great group," says Duke. "They have a couple of golfers and we have a couple of golfers, and we've done that a couple of times. So we try to make the trip very, very comfortable and enjoyable. They add to the competition so you have to totally be at your best every night, which totally rewards the audiences 100%. You have to enjoy what you're doing because every night is extremely important and it's not just a gig to get through or what we call a 'hit and split.' It's going out there and doing a job for the people ...but it's fun!"

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 April 2018 13:19

 

THE LOVE TRAIN'S BACK IN TOWN - Eddie Levert talks to SJF about the legendary O'JAYS' one-off London gig in July

Sunday, 15 April 2018 09:02 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                  altOne of the best-loved vocal groups of the 1970s, the mighty, much-garlanded O'Jays are synonymous, of course,  with the Philadelphia sound, an urbane and sophisticated style of R&B where soul and funk grooves were dressed up in opulent symphonic orchestration. Though they started out way back in 1959, it was in 1972 when the O'Jays joined Gamble & Huff's groundbreaking Philadelphia International label that the trio originally from Canton, Ohio,  hit the big time and became a global force, racking up hit after memorable hit in the shape of 'Backstabbers,' 'Love Train,' 'I Love Music' and many, many more.

Like their contemporaries, The Temptations and Four Tops, the O'Jays have been working consistently during the last six decades and are still going strong today. But unlike those two illustrious groups, who can only boast one founding member each, the O'Jays actually have two charter members on board - Eddie Levert and Walter Williams. Ahead of the trio's forthcoming show in London's West End at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane - where they'll be performing on Sunday 15th July -  SJF's Charles Waring talked to Eddie Levert (on the right of the above picture) about the group's imminent UK trip and their storied career.

Talking to me from his home in sunny Las Vegas, our conversation starts off with Levert asking me about the British weather. He chortles raucously when I tell him he'll probably need to bring an umbrella with him in July. "I love going over there because it's the only place I know that serves beans with breakfast," he laughs. While the prospect of having baked beans with a traditional "full English" palpably excites him, on a more serious note, he remarks that the UK remains a hard market for the O'Jays to crack - and it perplexes him. "We recorded a live album over there back in the '70s, 'The O'Jays Live In London,' which did very well for us, but we've never quite been able to really bust or break into that market," he says ruefully.  "Our popularity there is not as great as it is in other places and other parts of the world. I don't quite understand that because we get a lot of requests from people over there. They say, 'come back to England, come back, we want to see you,' but I'm always disheartened when we get there as the places are not really packed out."

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 April 2018 13:22

 

MAMA SAID.... The Mamas Gun Interview....

Wednesday, 11 April 2018 18:35 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altUK blue-eyed soul band MAMAS GUN broke out in 2009 with their lovely 'Routes To Riches' long player. From that set, 'Pots Of Gold' remains a classic soft soul ballad. The band are all set to release a new album in May and though busy making preparations for the launch and a mini promotional tour, the five some – leader Andy Platts, alongside Terry Lewis, Chris Boot, Cam Dawson and Dave Oliver met up with SJF to share their excitement. But, of course, first things first – we needed some back ground and band history....

TERRY: We formed back in the days of MySpace in 2007. At the time it provided a great platform for musicians to connect and share their music and that's how we all got to know each other. We borrowed our band name from an Eryka Badu album, because it sounded good. Our original line up was Andy, Dave, Jack, Rex and me -Terry. We got together based on our desire to play Andy's songs and the first album, 'Routes to Riches' was the product of that. We recorded the album on very small budget initially and then we were signed to Decca/Universal and suddenly things felt every exciting and we were able to finish the album in bucket list style, adding a 14 piece string section and dream team mixing by Jack Joseph Puig at Ocean Way in LA and mastering from Bob Ludwig. Sadly our major label ride was cut short when Decca hit financial problems before the album was even released and since then we've been an independent act on our own label Candelion. By the time we were writing our 3rd album Rex was replaced with Cam on bass and then Chris came onboard to replace drummer jack in 2016 and we began work on our 4th. Right now in 2018 we feel we are our strongest musically and personally. Our latest album 'Golden Days' is the album we've always wanted to make but somehow always got diverted into other musical segues.

I believe Andy studied at LIPA (the Liverpool Performing Arts Academy set up by Paul McCartney)... What was that like?

ANDY: LIPA for me was a right-place-right-time situation. Partying hard, experimentation - all pars for the course. The fact that I was doing it with musicians from around the globe only enriched the experience. I spent a lot of time being crap at some stuff and excelling at others. But it all served to sharpen my interest in music making and song writing to the point of obsession. Obsession (self flagellation) is how you get better at things. Well it works for me anyway. The very best thing about LIPA was meeting the woman who became my wife. We've been together 18 years and we're still kids.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 April 2018 18:50

 

THE LAST TEMPTATION! Otis Williams talks about The Temptations' upcoming UK tour with the Four Tops and the group's new album

Monday, 09 April 2018 21:29 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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The Temptations are a veritable soul music institution. In a storied recording career that stretches back to 1961 and the dawn of Motown Records,  the legendary vocal quintet have witnessed myriad changes in personnel and had many fine singers come through their ranks - including David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, and Dennis Edwards,  to name but three - but their one constant and ever-present figure has been co-founder, Otis Williams. He's been the solid rock behind the group that has given them stability and continuity during fifty-seven years of blood, sweat, toil and tears that has yielded a plethora of hit records and heaps of awards and prestigious accolades.

At 76, Otis Williams has no inclination to hang up his microphone just yet. "As long as I can keep doing the dance steps, I'll keep going," he laughs, though, sadly, you feel that the time when the curtain comes down on his career is drawing ever closer. But for the moment, though, The Temptations are still a viable and going concern and are set to bring their unique vocal magic and stupendous back catalogue to the UK this coming November when they co-headline a joint eight-concert tour with fellow Motown legends, the Four Tops. The two groups, who have enjoyed a long but friendly rivalry, have been touring together for many years now and enjoy the camaraderie of being together on the road. "We've been doing this for about four decades so it's like old hat to us," laughs softly-spoken Otis. "They travel on their own bus and we travel on our bus and then we get to the gig," he says, describing the two groups' on-the-road routine. "We laugh and talk and enjoy one another's company, and then we go and do the show and then go to the hotel and rest up and then go on the bus to the next gig. So we're like pedestrians - we just work and take care of what we do." 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 April 2018 15:35

 

Never judge an album by its covers - ace ventriloquist Meshell Ndegeocello unmasked

Friday, 06 April 2018 14:21 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

   alt"People have a lot of preconceived notions about me. Most people think I'm tall... and angry," laughs Meshell Ndegeocello, "but I'm like a lamb." A fiercely individualistic bass-playing singer-songwriter and deep thinker,  whose work, with its themes that focus on racial identity, sexual politics, and the transfiguring power of love, among many other things, has sometimes caused provocation, Meshell knows what it's like to be misunderstood. She agrees that there is a disconnect between the person her fans think they know from listening intently to her music and who she truly is. She admits to falling into that trap herself when she was younger in relation to Prince. "I love his music. Seeing him as a child inspired me to play music," she says, though confesses when she actually got to meet her idol, there was a feeling of profound disappointment on her part. She doesn't elaborate on what passed between them but sums up her experience by saying diplomatically, "I agree wholeheartedly with people who tell you never meet your heroes."

Coincidentally, Prince just happens to be one of the songwriters whose work is featured on Meshell's twelfth and latest album,  'Ventriloquism.' It's a wonderful tribute to vintage 1980s R&B that finds Meshell putting her own distinctive stamp on songs by artists that range from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam ('Take Me Home') and Janet Jackson ('Funny How Time Flies') to TLC ('Waterfalls'), George Clinton ('Atomic Dog'), and The System ('Don't Disturb This Groove'). Explaining the thinking behind the record, Meshell says: "We made the record about a year ago and it was a very tumultuous period. I had a parent who passed away and another band member lost two parents. There was just a lot going on."

Last Updated on Friday, 06 April 2018 18:59

 

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