P.P. ARNOLD: 'The New Adventures Of ...P.P. Arnold' (earMusic)

Friday, 09 August 2019 07:00 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Pat Arnold's solo career started spectacularly with a big bang in 1967 only to disappointingly fizzle out three years later. By 1970, the big-voiced Los Angelino and former Ikette, who had settled in London, was without a record deal but began earning a living as a background vocalist, both in the studio and touring with name musicians. Occasionally she recorded one-off singles under her own name or made cameos as a guest artist on charting dance records (such as The Beatmasters' 'Burn It Up' and Altern-8's  'Evapor-8') but until 2017, when a long lost album from the late 60s/early 70s helmed by Bee Gee, Barry Gibb, was released, she hadn't made an LP since 1968.  Appropriately enough, the album was called 'Turning Tide' and loved by the critics, played a pivotal role in reviving the singer's career. Now, finally, we have the first album of brand new P.P. Arnold material since 1968's Immediate LP, 'Kafunta.'

'The New Adventures Of...' reminds us of what the world was missing out on when Arnold wasn't making her own records. Her distinctive, church-reared voice - now weathered but still soulful at 72-years-old  - fronts a kaleidoscopic melange of R&B, pop and rock flavours written and produced in collaboration with Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller band member, guitarist/songwriter, Steve Craddock. The US soul-meets-UK pop sensibility of the singer's '60s sides for Immediate is present in the DNA of some of the new material. The opener, the infectious 'Baby Blue,' with its subtle orchestral touches, has a nostalgic 60s pop feel, as does the shimmering 'Magic Hour,'  while the stirring 'Finally Found My Way Back Home' is imbued with a sanctified gospel feeling. 

In acute contrast, the house music-inspired 'Hold On To Your Dreams' has a completely different vibe, evoking memories of Arnold's cameos on '80s and '90s dance records. Different again is the long 'The Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie,' Arnold's distinctive take on a Bob Dylan poem, which is recited over an eerie percussive groove. She also covers two Paul Weller tunes, the '60s-esque 'When I Was Part Of Your Picture' with baroque orchestration and the more ruminative, 'Shoot The Dove.'  The singer's versatility is spotlighted again on 'I'm A Dreamer,' which shows that Arnold can convincingly  do anthemic power ballads without making them sound cheesy. Even more powerful is the album's closing song, the haunting 'I'll Always Remember You,' which is the singer's moving lament for her daughter Debbie, who perished in a car crash during the mid-'70s. It concludes what is a fabulous showcase for a singer whose talent never received the rewards it deserved.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2019 07:11


VARIOUS: Serving Up Some Soul (Jasmine)

Wednesday, 07 August 2019 18:22 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLatest compilation from budget label Jasmine is a superb collection of embryonic soul – 25 memory jerking tracks all released prior to 1963 (the date after which royalties kick in). You know you're in for a treat from the cover which sports a classic black and white pic of the Impressions  in full flight. Curtis, Sam and Fred look ultra cool in their tuxedos. Their included track is 'Minstrel And Queen' – one of Curtis' famed "story" songs. The Impressions are just one of many big names on the album. You can also enjoy Jr Walker's 'Cleo's Mood, Chuck Jackson's 'Any Day Now', Walter Jackson's 'I Don't Want To Suffer' and The Supremes' 'Your Heart Belongs To Me'. The sound on that last one (a Smokey song, by the way) sums up the magic of the album. It's rough round the edges but very atmospheric – which, of course, was the attraction of early Motown. Sadly the song, Mr Robinson not withstanding didn't chart, justifying the girl's 1962 nickname at Htsville – "the no-hit Supremes".

Many of the other artists on this album, unlike the Supremes, remained "no hit" performers but that doesn't make contributions from people like Sidney Barnes, Jamie Coe, Leroy Jones, Jean Dushon, Eli Lee and others any less important in the evolution of soul... and that's exactly what this album is all about. Here is soul music in its infancy with artists (like the Supremes and the Impressions) searching for their special and unique sound which went on to resonate world wide.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 August 2019 18:32


STEVE COLE: Gratitude (Mack Avenue/Artistry)

Saturday, 03 August 2019 15:46 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altSax man Steve Cole is the "Mr. Reliable" of smooth jazz. He rarely fails to deliver a classy set of glossily produced, melodic, foot tapping and head nodding tunes and this new 10 tracker is classic Steve Cole. That's to say, it's packed with his trademark soul-infused, sax-led grooves – like the big opener 'Good News Day'. There's more of the same on the oddly titled 'Five60H83', 'Can't Get Enough' and 'Let's Go'. 'Starting Over' is a touch funkier, featuring some 'Shaft' style guitar from Bernd Schoenhart while the bouncy 'Soho' (Cole's tribute to Brit soul bands Incognito and the Brand New Heavies) is another pleaser. 'Neo Soul' offers a second "homage"; here the inspiration is Ramsey Lewis's 'Sun Goddess'

The album's focus cover cut is a version of Skip Scarborough's 'Love Ballad'. Steve takes no liberties with the beautiful melody and vocalist John James plays it straight too, though the sax is the lead... Mr. James' sweet cooings are the backing vocals to those lead lines.

Elsewhere, 'Toronto' brings the album to a moody close while the album's title track is a sweet and slow, melodic meander. Its title (and that of the album) is significant. We're told that Steve Cole recently suffered a health scare (no more details than that) and this whole long player is his way of showing "gratitude" to those who cared for and supported him.

'Gratitude' has been co-produced with longtime collaborator and fellow saxophonist David Mann and sensibly Cole and Mann use the same band throughout ... his regular rhythm section, bassist Lamar Jones and drummer Khari Parker playing alongside guitarist Bernd Schoenhart, organist Ricky Peterson and horn players Trevor Neumann and Dan Levine. The empathy is obvious and between them they craft classic smooth jazz/classic Steve Cole.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 August 2019 16:01


CANDACE WOODSON; Desire (Expansion)

Wednesday, 31 July 2019 19:23 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altFor some time now we've been enjoying some tasty singles from one time southern gospel singer, Candace Woodson. A music graduate of the Tennessee State University in Nashville, we first heard of Candace back in 2015 when she released the insistent mid-tempo modern soul groove, 'Free' (not the Deneice Williams' classic, by the way). Candace's 'Free' was tough and gritty and we learned that the lyric really was intensely personal. Candace, you see, had, thankfully, just been given the all clear from a life threatening cancer.... she truly was "free".

We were also told that the single heralded an imminent album but instead of a long player we were treated to several Tom Glide mixes of 'Free'. Now at long last the album is with us and the ten tracker confirms what we guessed from 'Free'.... Ms Woodson is a real contender with a powerful voice that can also do "tender". Her gospel roots are obvious.

Hear the lady's soul credentials at their best on the ballad 'The Answer Is No' – a convincing piece of work. It's one of several slower moments though equally insidious is a brace of electro-flavoured mid tempo items.... 'Don't Think I Want It' and 'Perfect' on which some clever brass fills weave in and out of the electro backing. 'Free' (in its Ton Glide mix) remains the big dancer though the more mid tempo album title track will please the more sophisticated, less frantic rug cutters.

I'm sure that Ms Woodson would be the first to admit that this album pushed few envelopes. It's not meant to be a ground breaker. But factor in a great soul voice, catchy songs and memorable hooks and there's nothing here not to like. With health issue now behind her, Candace can build on 'Desire' and go on to fulfil  the potential that she shows here.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 August 2019 18:56


SHALAMAR: 'Gold' (Crimson)

Sunday, 21 July 2019 10:38 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                           altIt's 42 years since this much-loved US vocal trio made their recording debut with the percussion-driven Motown medley, 'Uptown Festival,' for Don Cornelius' Soul Train label. Despite sounding like a disco novelty single, the tune became a Top 10 US R&B hit back in March 1977 and also, significantly, landed in the UK Top 30 and began the group's long love affair with the British public that is still going strong.  Indeed, between 1977 and 1986, Shalamar racked up eighteen chart smashes in the UK, and hit a particularly rich vein of form during March '82 and June of the following year when they scored four Top 10 singles. The first decade of their career is chronicled by this fabulous new triple CD, which besides containing all the hits features near misses and prized albums cuts as well - in fact, here, you'll discover all the Shalamar tunes you'll ever need.

Unsurprisingly, the collection begins with the group's biggest UK hit, 1982's unforgettable 'A Night To Remember': the record that truly immortalised the classic line-up of Howard Hewett, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel. Watley sang the lead on that but it was mostly Hewett (a replacement in 1979 for Gerald Brown who had taken over from original singer, Gary Mumford) who stepped out front, his soulful tenor impressing on the hits 'The Second Time Around' - the group's only US R&B chart-topper - 'I Can Make You Feel Good,' 'There It Is,' 'Make That Move,' and the anthemic dance floor burner, 'Friends.' More hits followed in '83 - namely 'Dead Giveaway,' 'Disappearing Act,' and 'Over And Over.' All three tracks were  taken from the group's seventh album, 'The Look, ' which showed them moving in a rockier, new wave-like direction. Even so the LP was a Top 10 UK hit but by that time cracks had begun to appear in the group's relationships with each other and their record label and management. 

Consequently, at the very apex of the group's fame in 1983, Watley and Daniel left under a cloud to pursue solo ventures. Howard Hewett, however, soldiered on with new recruits Delisa Davis and Micki Free and scored hits with the synth-heavy 'Dancing In The Streets' (which featured on the hit movie Footloose) and the electro-flavoured 'Deadline USA.'  The latter also graced a film soundtrack (the quickly forgotten Irene Cara movie, DC Cab)  while 'Don't Get Stopped In Beverly Hills' appeared on the Eddie Murphy-starring blockbuster, Beverly Hills Cop. All those tracks are included on 'Gold'  and some of them you'll find in 12-inch form on the third disc of this 3-CD set alongside long club mixes of  favourites like the evergreen 'A Night To Remember' 'The Second Time Around,' and 'Right In The Socket.'

If you're looking for a time machine guaranteed to take you back to the mirror-balled dance floors of the late '70s and early '80s and the heady days of your youth, perhaps, then 'Gold' is unquestionably the album to get. (By the way, for vinyl fans, 'Gold' is also available as an 8-track LP). 

(CW)  4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 July 2019 18:57


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