It’s December. The lights are up. The holiday festivities have begun. And most us are probably thinking about what colourfully-wrapped confectionary we’ll be chomping down come the Christmas holidays. So what better time to look back at Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas*, a catalyst for selection box-guilt, cheeky high school kisses, bruised backsides and general Christmas party embarrassment. Continue reading
Argo Records, 1960Listening to Etta James can bring you as close as it’s possible to get to heaven without leaving your physical body behind you. Take the title track of her phenomenal debut album, At Last!: when James’s pure voice rises in perfect concert with the nuzzling strings, it’s as if flowers have spontaneously sprung into bloom, the clouds have parted and, for three glorious minutes, all is well with the world. Continue reading
Wild Bunch / Virgin Records, 1991
My abiding memory of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines is a strange one in that it began with reading a confessional article by a girl I have never met. The girl*, then a student at my former Nottingham university, had had a fling with her best mate’s boyfriend, and she was writing about how Blue Lines got her through the inevitable fallout that occurred when her affair was discovered. Continue reading
Lex Records, 2005Danger Doom’s album is high-wire fun that’d be an offence to anyone who takes themselves too seriously. So you can bet it’d go down well with smiley Liam Gallagher and today’s hardline extremists, right?
A collaboration between enigmatic super-producer, Danger Mouse, and equally reclusive masked rapper, MF Doom, The Mouse and the Mask is a marvel of audacious jams and masterful short stories, spliced with animated skits and more humour than a Hanna-Barbera classic. Continue reading
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
Millie Jackson will make you blush. We’re used to the idea of Marvin Gaye, Ike Turner or Bobby Womack hollering passionately about how much they’re yearning to get on down with their respective ladies. But when it comes to soul sisters, mainstream radio, and society in general, seems far less tolerant of the women of this era expressing their experience of love and desire in an equally candid manner, lest it shatter their demure professional persona. Coming from a young black woman, Jackson’s raunchy soul music – along with kindred spirit, Betty Davis – almost certainly broke sex and relationship taboos in music during the 70s, and remains an empowering step for female artists*. 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
Tommy Boy / Warner Bros Records, 1991
The hip hop albums of the 90s were dense. Not just in length, but in concept and originality too. And De La Soul’s second album, De La Soul is Dead, is as about as dense a 90s hip hop record as you’ll find.
Opting to avoid record labels in favour of keeping more creative control over their music and relationship with their fans, the De La boys – Kelvin ‘Pos’ Mercer, David ‘Dave’ Jolicoeur and Vincent ‘Maseo’ Mason – recently turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund their comeback record (at long last). The funding round for their new album, And the Anonymous Nobody, ended today with a whopping $600,875 from 11,169 backers. So, for those that are less familiar with this pioneering hip hip trio, now’s the perfect time to look back at one of my favourite De La albums: De La Soul is Dead. Continue reading