Parlophone Records, 2005A gimmick. That’s what they put Gorillaz’ success down to. Despite everything that had been achieved by this unusual musical concoction in the 18 months since the launch of their 2001 debut album, detractors still labelled them a here today, gone tomorrow band. But little did they know that the virtual band, created by musician, Damon Albarn, and cartoonist, Jamie Hewlett, would front what would later be acknowledged as one of the most influential and progressive records of the noughties: Demon Days. Continue reading
Polydor Records, 1999This month sees the return of a pop band that signifies my generation is now firmly in the category of ‘nostalgia marketing’ in the eyes of the music industry: S Club 7. The announcement last November that Tina Barrett, Paul Cattermole, Rachel Stevens, Jo O’Meara, Hannah Spearritt, Bradley McIntosh and Jon Lee would be returning – with a reunion performance on BBC Children in Need and a 2015 UK tour – sent ripples of ecstasy through my Facebook feed (occupied, as it is, nowadays by engagements, work outings and the occasional overboard night out). Continue reading
Honest Jon’s / Capitol Records, 2004
Christmas with candy has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But while overindulging in the sweet stuff will see you spending more time at the dentist the following month, there is one confection you can indulge in all calendar year without guilt: the music of Candi Staton.
This southern-born soul and gospel singer is best known for featuring on the 1986 version of ‘You’ve Got the Love’ by the Source. But it is Staton’s early soul music that will really make you sit up and take notice. UK independent label, Honest Jon’s Records, released a compilation of her music in 2004, making 26 songs from her much-sought after FAME recordings available to new listeners. (You can now get a double-CD, featuring all her master recordings from this era, but the Honest Jon’s CD is a bargain nowadays – got mine for £2. Its vinyl version, however, is almost as pricy as Staton’s classic LPs.)
All of the songs on the simply titled compilation, Candi Staton, are unfettered confessionals that steam with emotion. Continue reading
Stones Throw Records, 2007
People of a certain persuasion still don’t consider hip hop an art form. And it doesn’t matter how many conscious cats you bring up, because, to them, when it comes to sampling and beat-making, they don’t believe the act of reusing musical phrases in new ways constitutes ‘real music’.
They’re wrong, of course, because without being moulded, shaped and, crucially, edited, songs as we know them could never be formed. This role of editing gave rise to the music producer and, today, they are very much originators in their own right. Continue reading
Timmion Records, 2005
It feels like a disservice to describe Keep Reachin’ Up by Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators as a ‘throwback’. Sure, that’s what it may sound like, but that doesn’t reflect the passion that these musicians have for soul music which makes this album so much more than what it first appears.
Brooklyn-born Nicole Willis has a credit list longer than most in the contemporary soul scene. Her professional career began singing and writing with the Washington Week in Review, before contributing vocals for Blue Period, Hello Strangers, Deee-Lite, Leftfield, singing backup for The The and a duet with Curtis Mayfield. She’s made two albums with the New York soul-hip hop collective Repercussions as well as her own solo material. There’s a little bit of Barbara Acklin, Mary Wells and Roberta Flack in her.
As for the Soul Investigators, this Finnish ensemble’s love of soul music led to the creation of Helsinki-based Timmion Records in the late 1990s. Members include bassist Sami Kantelinen, guitarist Petri Toikkanen, drummer Jukka Sarapää, saxophonist Lasse Tolvanen and producer and instrumentalist Didier Selin, among others. They’d released two full-length records and handful of 45s around the time of Keep Reachin’ Up – the 2005 collaboration that won them international praise (Gilles Peterson’s 2006 Worldwide Winner), put Timmion on the map for Northern Soul fans and discerning record collectors and landed the group on the Presidential playlist. Continue reading