SIMPLY RED: Blue Eyed Soul (BMG)

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 20:35 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altSimply Red's latest single 'Sweet Child' has been all over mainstream radio for the last few weeks (Record Of The Week, no less on a national station!); easy to hear's easy on the ear with a soulful undertow and no matter what you think of Mick Hucknall, most would admit that his voice is a remarkable instrument. One commentator described 'Sweet Child' as a perfect aural example of "blue eyed soul" and by strange coincidence (or not) 'Blue Eyed Soul' is the title of 'Sweet Child's' parent album. We've always been told that Hucknall is a soul boy – a trait he inherited from his soul loving father. And indeed Simply Red's first hit, 'Money's Too Tight To Mention' was a cover of a Valentine Brothers' soul song. A little later, Simply Red's signature song, 'Holding Back The Years' went on to be covered by numerous soul luminaries. So, yes, spot on, 'Blue Eyed Soul' is an apt title for this new 10 tracker... but what else does it offer? In short – plenty!

'Tonight' is the LP's big romantic moment – perfect for the quiet storm programmers and/or late night romantics. At the other end of the sonic spectrum, 'Don't Do Down' is a sparse, rough, funk workout while 'Thinking Of You', 'Riding On A Train' and 'Chula' are big, bold, brash, brassy soul meanders. 'Ring That Bell' is a bass-led dancer while 'Badbootz' is a rumbling electro disco pastiche.

However, the best soul moments are 'Take A Good Look' and 'Complete Love'. Both seem to take their inspiration from authentic Southern soul (remember, Hucknall is a self-confessed Bobby Bland freak). 'Complete Love' is a Muscle Shoals/Memphis style emotion-tugging ballad, while 'Take A Good Look' is an easy mid-tempo groove with home spun philosophy at the heart of its message. Indeed it's the kind of thing that Bobby Bland did so effortlessly.

'Blue Eyed Soul' is "blue eyed soul" for sure and if anyone needs to define this particular genre, just grab a listen here.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 November 2019 21:04



Thursday, 14 November 2019 19:23 BIll B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe Mighty Mocambos are a hard-gigging, Germany-based funk septet (at the last count anyway) who for some time have been going out under the alias "the Bacao Rhythm and Steelband". Now the core players return as the Mocambos (yes still "Mighty") to offer what they've always offered.... hard driving, old school, brassy funk - recorded in analogue and delivering an organic, energized sound. Hear that sound at its most typically "mocambo" on the opening 'Preaching To The Choir' – a relentless, 21st century take on instrumental funk. Then, maybe to show exactly where they're coming from, try 'Here We Go'. Here the tight sparseness is obvious homage to someone called James Brown... however, on this one we have a kiddie chorus... something the Godfather never ever tried. Odd, but it kind of works!

Highlights of previous Mocambo albums have always been the vocal spots and here there are some fine examples. Obvious standout is the bluesy, Southern soul ballad 'Where Do We Go From Here' and to help them deliver, the band have brought in a real soul heavyweight... Mr Lee Fields. 'Today' is another searing soul ballad – sparse and haunting with (I think) Nichola Roberts at the mic. Long-time collaborator Gizelle Smith fronts the perky 'Take On The World' while for something slightly different there's some old school rapping from Ice T on 'Bounce That Ass' – the song title says it all!

THE MIGHTY MOCAMBOS: 2066 is out now

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 November 2019 19:29


INCOGNITO: Tomorrow’s New Dream (Bluey Music)

Saturday, 09 November 2019 16:45 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

alt'Tomorrow's New Dream' is, I think, Incognito's 18th studio album and as soon as the needle hits the groove on the busy, bustling opener, 'Haze Of Summer' you know that age and custom has not staled Bluey's appetite to craft top class modern soul. The music on this new 14 tracker is different to 1981's 'Jazz Funk' but it's delivered with the same passion, the same attention to detail and the same kaleidoscopic take on modern black music genres.

Of course, over forty years, the Bluey/Incognito sound has evolved – most notably in the inclusion of more vocals and on 'Tomorrow's New Dream' Mr M has brought in a stellar team of singers to help him deliver. The singer you always associate with the band is the incomparable Maysa Leak. She features on two songs here... the bright and busy 'All For You' and the gorgeous 'For The Love Of You' where she duets with the ever-dependable Phil Perry. By the way, the songs aren't (respectively) the Stevie Wonder or Isley Brothers' songs. They're new and by now you should be familiar with the Leak/Perry duet. It's rightly been all over the soul airwaves in the last few weeks and its class sets the album's benchmark.

Amongst the other guest vocalists are Mario Biondi and Take 6. Signore Biondi takes lead on 'No Show', an atmospheric piece that has hints of the best of Jon Lucien. Take 6 bring their harmony skills to 'The Weather Report' which cleverly likens the ups and downs of a relationship to swings in the weather.

The other guest vocalists are Joy Rose, James Berkeley, Cherri V, Roberta Gentile, Imaani and Vanessa Haynes who fronts another album highlight – the building 'Still The One' on which the (uncredited, on my copy) harmonica is a delight.

The album also offers two instrumentals... the flute-led, complex 'Saturday Sirens' and the brash closer that is 'Say What's On Your Mind' on which Bluey allows the band to stretch and shine... just like he did back in 1981... "plus ça change".

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 November 2019 16:55


VARIOUS: Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures (Kent)

Friday, 08 November 2019 18:45 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altUK soul pioneer/entrepreneur/advocate and journalist (a colleague of mine many years back on Blues and Soul by the way) needs no introduction here. Amongst his many achievements was making "Tamla Motown" a name in the UK, coining the phrase "Northern soul" and defining another black music sub genre "Deep soul". Dave explained that "Deep soul" was hard to define but it was essentially an adult, tortured music that speaks of pain, heartache, misplaced passion and unrequited love. It's not always an easy listen and the irony is that this often depressing music possesses a stark beauty all of its own. And Dave was always intrigued by the conundrum as to why a music that was so overtly painful could be so inherently and sweetly addictive. As eloquent as he was though, Dave was ever keen to allow the music do the talking and Ace/Kent were happy to allow him to compile four albums worth of "Deep soul treasures".

Now some 15 years later the Kent crew offer us a fifth volume. This one's been put together by Ady Croasdell and to keep the Godin connection strong the accompanying booklet includes an interview with Dave conducted by writer/sociologist Jon Savage in 1997 while there are also briefer contributions from noted soul commentators/DJs like Tony Rounce, Richard Searling and Stuart Cosgrove who add their Godin-influenced ideas on specific tracks and the whole deep soul genre.

But Dave Godin would always say it's what's in the grooves (or whatever there is on a CD) that counts and what we get here are 25 magnificent soul cuts ... no matter how you want to tag them! As with most Ace/Kent compilations the compilers mix well-known names with the not so well-known... so Gladys Knight and Dee Dee Warwick sit cheek by jowl with unknowns like Rene Bailey and Helena Ferguson whose 'Where Is The Party' is an album highlight, described in the notes as "a tremendous slab of pleading female soul"... bob on!

Amongst other personal favourites are The Emotions' 1968 Stax outing 'Someone New', Kenny Carter's stark 'I'm Not The One' and the Chantels' 1958 doo-wop flavoured 'Every Night I Pray'. In truth, though, each of the 25 tracks is a real soul highlight and though the selections here aren't Dave Godin's, he'd be proud of what's been created... an album fit to stand alongside the first four volumes of 'Deep Soul Treasures'.

(BB) 5/5

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2019 18:53



Monday, 04 November 2019 18:49 BILL B E-mailPrintPDF


Come And Get These Memories... The Genius of Holland-Dozier- Holland

As Motown celebrates its 60th anniversary, fans have been treated to all kinds of goodies – album reissues, TV specials (in the US at least), a major movie and plenty of memoirs. The latest memoir is 'Come And Get These Memories' an absolutely apt title for a book that chronicles the achievements of the mighty Holland-Dozier-Holland.

The 360 page hardback takes us from the projects of Detroit (where the Hollands were brought up by their grandmother and single mother) to the creation of perhaps the greatest song writing triumvirate in music history, crafting countless classics and then onto their falling out with Berry Gordy, the creation of their own labels and the fallout from that – including the Holland brothers alienation from Lamont Dozier.

The book's been put together by Eddie and Brian Holland with help from Dave Thompson, a UK born, US based writer who's a columnist for Goldmine magazine; his work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Mojo, Record Collector and many other major publications. Tellingly, there's no input from either Berry Gordy or Lamont Dozier. Sure they're mentioned (copiously, of course) but because they were such major players in the H-D-H story, maybe we're not getting the full picture especially re. the H-D-H split with Motown and the Hollands' falling out with Dozier. Any legal eagle will tell you that there are three sides to every dispute: the stories told by the two protagonists... and the truth! I guess in this saga we'll never know the truth, especially as there are still plenty of legal writs being thrown about.

That said 'Come And Get These Memories' is a treasure trove for Motown anoraks who'll learn all sorts of things. Like, for instance, on the early Motown revue shows often only the lead singer of the girl groups went on the road... Eddie Holland picked local singers in the tour towns to provide the backing; then, back in 1966 Brian Epstein started negotiations to have Holland, Dozier and Holland come to the UK to produce the Beatles! It never happened (of course) and in fact Eddie and Brian first visited the UK as late as 2004 when they were surprised by the reverence in which they were held. Each chapter turns up intriguing facts like those and for those interested in the personal stuff you get plenty of that too... like Lamont Dozier's dalliance with Mary Wilson and Brian Holland's affair with Diana Ross – leading to a fist fight with his then wife.

There's also plenty of business stuff too – contracts here, negotiations there, writs and counter claims everywhere! As a Motown fan I found this the least satisfying part of the book – but I guess it's part of the story. And in that complex story a few things really stand out. - 1... Without stating the bleeding obvious, H-D-H were hugely talented BUT to get the hits they absolutely needed the Motown artists, the musicians AND Berry Gordy. 2 ... In their rise to prominence and evolution, Eddie Holland called all the shots. 3 ... at Motown Smokey Robinson was the big cheese... Gordy's right hand man and getting first pick of who to work with. The Hollands (especially Eddie) never got over that!

The book is completed with extensive discographies and its stuffed with archive pictures. It's available now and is published by Omnibus Press.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2019 19:13


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