Choice Cuts: Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas

Columbia Records, 1994Mariah Carey - Christmas at Rockefeller Center, New York, by MariahJournal.com 034 (1500x844)

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

Choice Cuts: Etta James – At Last!

Argo Records, 1960Etta James, The Chess box, by Jazz Guy (752x423)Listening 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

Choice Cuts: Massive Attack – Blue Lines

Wild Bunch / Virgin Records, 1991
Lone figure in underpass, Apr 22, 2013, by Tramsformer18 (1000x563)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

Choice Cuts: Danger Doom – The Mouse and the Mask

Lex Records, 2005Danger Doom - The Mouse and the Mask (800x450)Danger 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

Choice Cuts: Gorillaz – Demon Days

Parlophone Records, 2005Gorillaz - Demon Days artwork, wallpaper edit (1024x576)A 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

Choice Cuts: Millie Jackson – Still Caught Up

Spring Records, 1975Millie Jackson - Still Caught Up (1280x720)

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

Choice Cuts: S Club 7 – S Club

Polydor Records, 1999S Club 7, press photo 2002 - Don't Stop Movin' (1024x576)This 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

Choice Cuts: De La Soul – De La Soul is Dead

Tommy Boy / Warner Bros Records, 1991
De La Soul, by Robbie Jeffers, 2013/4 (1035x582)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