Choice Cuts: Otis Redding – Blue Otis

Stax Records, 1965
Otis Redding banner, Apr 3, 2014, by Bill Lile (800x450)Had Otis Redding and his band not been tragically killed in 1967, we can only imagine what head-spinning music they would have made. It’s been said that if Otis and company had let go of their ethos for playing every single show they were booked for, they might have kept their feet on the ground, instead of boarding a plane bound for the storm that claimed their lives. We can’t know that. Their tireless work ethic and commitment to audiences brought about stacks of stirring soul that’s among the greatest examples of music full stop, as this week’s Choice Cut makes clear. Continue reading

Choice Cuts: Candi Staton – Candi Staton

Honest Jon’s / Capitol Records, 2004
Candi Staton, press photo, Dec 2005, Alan Messer, 01 9590x332)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.

Candi Staton - Honest Jon's 2004 comp artwork, 500This 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

Marlena Shaw: the underappreciated queen of soul

Marlena Shaw, press photo, Cadet, 01It’s a real struggle to try and sum up what’s so arresting about Marlena Shaw. This New York-born chanteuse of soul and blues is best known in the UK for her interpretation of ‘California Soul’, the exuberant, feel-good soul-stunner written by Ashford & Simpson.

From the instant Shaw’s coffee-blend-rich voice takes over from the gust of strings and hand claps that greet your ears, you are enveloped by visions of a picturesque California. Glamorous figures gliding by sun-soaked beach strips; open-topped convertibles streaking through the heat haze, coursing down bare roadways; M&S Food ad-style close-ups of buffet tables and barbeques awaiting party guests; lovers laughing together like not a thing in the world could trouble them. Not just good times, the best of times. Continue reading

Newsroom playlist

What was it like to work in a 1950s newsroom? Fingers chattering out news stories on aging typewriters, cigarette smoke hanging in the air, leaving the room’s occupants – dressed in sharp suits, fading ties and trilbies – in a permanent state of intoxication.

I may never get to find out. But, thanks to my MP3 player and selection of hot tunes, I get feel like I’m a newsroom hack, sniffing out stories, on my daily trip to college. Continue reading