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: 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: Chic – Real People

Atlantic Records, 1980
Chic - Nile Rodgers at Sonar 2014, Jun 14, 2014, by scannerFM (1000x563)The first total solar eclipse in the UK since 1999 took place on Friday. A significant event, I’m sure you’ll agree. And this rare celestial event will now be even more significant in the history of music, for it marks the release of Chic’s ‘I’ll Be There’, the first single from Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards’s defining dance group for 23 years.

So what better time to (re)introduce you to, Real People, Chic’s fourth LP, an album of exceptional sonic grooves and lyrical quality that goes largely overlooked, thanks to changing music tastes at the tail end of the 1970s. Continue reading

Choice Cuts: Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – Keep Reachin’ Up

Timmion Records, 2005
Nicole Willis, promo 03 (1920x1080)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

Choice Cuts: Wanda Jackson – Rockin’ with Wanda

Wanda Jackson, press photo, 1950s, Creative Commons (972x547)Is it possible to make old music sound sexy and essential in the space of a two-word header? Golden Oldies? Bygone Beats? Essential Echoes? Well, I’ll spare you anymore chocking examples of alliteration and get to the point.

Old music is fantastic. Whether it’s some forgotten hip hop mixtape from four years ago or an aging jazz LP from four decades ago, any music you haven’t heard is still new to you. So with this new series of posts, I intend to write about classic albums that I’ve been listening to, underappreciated artists whose music I’ve had on heavy rotation and perhaps even little-known relics you won’t find on Spotify.

So, my discerning reader, join me as we delve into crates and explore digital frontiers in search of audio gold.

To start with, an artist I learned of only last week, whose music has already hijacked many of my listening hours. Continue reading