Interviews

STILL PEACHY – Veteran soul diva Melba Moore talks to SJF.

Thursday, 16 February 2012 21:34 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

MelbaNewPiccopyThere was a time when MELBA MOORE was a frequent visitor to the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. She enjoyed five UK chart entries between 1976 and 1983, breaking into the British Top 10 with the rousing Van McCoy-penned dance anthem, 'This Is It.' But it was in her native America where she experienced most success, racking up an astonishing thirty two hits on Billboard's R&B chart during a fertile fifteen-year period spanning the years 1975-1990.

Blessed with a supple multi-octave voice and renowned for sustaining a single note for a lung-bursting amount of time – exemplified on her signature song, 1976's 'Lean On Me' or on the 1986 R&B chart-topping ballad, 'Falling' – Melba began her career as a background vocalist before successfully auditioning for the stage musical 'Hair' in 1970. A stint in another Broadway production, 'Purlie,' followed, for which she earned a prestigious Tony award. A year later, in 1971, at the age of 26, she signed with Mercury Records and received a Grammy nomination for her debut LP, 'I Got Love.'

It was at Buddah Records in the mid-'70s that Melba began to accumulate hit records, her first being the plaintive romantic ballad, 'I Am His Lady,' in 1975. A productive session with the legendary soul music producer and songwriter, Van McCoy, in 1976 yielded two of Melba's most enduring records – 'This Is It' and 'Lean On Me.'  A label switch to Epic in 1978 witnessed a US Top 20 smash with a soulful interpretation of the Bee Gees' 'You Stepped Into My Life.' In 1981, Melba joined EMI America briefly – a deal masterminded by her then husband, Charles Huggins – before switching to its parent company, Capitol, where she stayed until 1990. That phase of her recording career was the most productive in terms of commercial success and saw her scoring two Stateside number one records – 'A Little Bit More,' a duet with Freddie Jackson, and the impassioned ballad, 'Falling.'  In addition to that, infectious groove-based songs such as 'Mind Up Tonight' and 'Love's Comin' At Ya' established her as the queen of early '80s dance floor R&B.

The 1990s witnessed Melba Moore drop off the soul radar as changing tastes in music and the record industry's obsession with youth pushed mature performers into the background. Fast forward to 2012 and Melba Moore – who returned to recording with 'Gift Of Love,' a duets album with Phil Perry in 2009 - is preparing a comeback. Not only is there a new solo album in the pipeline but she's also just announced that she's visiting the UK and will perform here for the first time ever (at London's Jazz Café on April 29th).

SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with Melba, who talked excitedly about her new recording venture as well as her keenly-anticipated trip to the UK and also looked back at key events in her long career...

 

OPENING THE MUSIC BOX....

Tuesday, 03 January 2012 18:57 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

sarah_2As 2012 begins, the big guns of the music industry have already started to talk doom and gloom. Once again the major players are listing the problems they're facing, but what about the people at the sharpest end of the biz.... the artists trying to get a start? And trying to get that start the old-fashioned way – by mastering their craft, playing live whenever possible and financing their own recordings rather than taking the quick route via the TV talent shows. One such artist is Yorkshire-based singer/songwriter SARAH BRICKEL. At the back end of last year she released her second full album, 'Music Box' – a pleasing mix of original songs and well-chosen covers that some reviewers felt had the light soul-jazz feel of CORINNE BAILEY RAE. We caught up with SARAH to find out just what it's like to try and get a start in the UK biz, but first we wanted to know how she was bitten by the whole music bug.......

It all started at school. I learnt to play a few different instruments at primary school and then it led on to singing. There was a lot of music and performing going on and I got involved in all the different shows and concerts. I just loved music and sang all the time. My music and performing arts teachers were very supportive and encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts. From there I went and trained at LIPA in Liverpool and I carried on from there.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 January 2012 19:11

 

LIVING MY LIFE ... RONNIE MCNEIR SPEAKS

Sunday, 04 December 2011 16:03 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

Ronnie_Mac_with_hatRONNIE MCNEIR is one of soul's true gentlemen and I know he won't mind me calling him a veteran. He himself readily admits he's been around the block a few times but that experience allows him to craft some wonderful music. Though he's now a permanent and valuable fixture in the FOUR TOPS, he still pursues his successful solo career.... a career that began back in the heady days of the early 70s. Then, proper soul fans became hooked on classics like 'Wendy Is Gone' and those same fans have stuck with the man ever since, assured that he keeps the "real soul" flag flying high. Earlier this year RON released his latest solo album, ' Living My Life' (check out the review in our archive) and with the set riding high on the CD Baby charts we though it high time we reconnected and the best place to start was to ask the man about that new album......

My new CD is called 'Living My Life' and it's something I'm really proud of... even though it took me two years to complete... but I like to take my time. I need to get things just right. I called it 'Living My Life' 'cos a lot of the songs on there are about my life while there's songs about other peoples' stories too... people who have been a part of my life. You could say it was a tribute to myself!!!(Here RONNIE laughs)

Two of the album's many high spots are covers of MARVIN'S 'I Want You' and CURTIS MAYFIELD'S 'Gypsy Woman'... why did you choose those songs for the album?

Both those artists have always been big favourites of mine. I mean I've been with them since I was a kid! I loved MARVIN right back to 'Hitch Hike ' and all that, and 'Gypsy Woman' is just one of my favourite songs and I always wanted to record a version of it. Matter of fact when I was a youngster I was in a number of vocal groups and we always sang it... but sang it in the original style. Now, years later, I decided to do it my way... it's a little different. Even with 'I Want You', I tried for something different... just a different groove but hopefully I've retained the same special magic. A lot of people are liking these new versions.

 

FAMILY VALUES… FDELUXE’S SUSANNAH MELVOIN TALKS TO SJF

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 14:28 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

fdeluxe_stairsRewind to 1985. Prince Rogers Nelson was on top of the world. The global success he had experienced as a result of his 1984 smash movie, 'Purple Rain,' and its platinum-selling, hit-packed soundtrack, led to the prolific Minneapolis genius spreading his creative wings – on the back of 'Purple Rain's' success he started his own Warner-distributed label, Paisley Park (located at his million dollar studio complex that boasted the same moniker), and when he wasn't making his records under his own name, he was busy providing the music for a welter of his musical protégés and various side projects.

One of the first signings to Paisley Park was The Family, a group that rose from the ashes of The Time (which had disbanded when lead singer Morris Day pursued a solo career). Comprising keyboardist Paul Peterson (aka St. Paul), drummer Jellybean Johnson and vocalist/dancer Jerome Benton from The Time, saxophonist Eric Leeds and Prince's then girlfriend Susannah Melvoin (the twin sister of Wendy Melvoin, who was the guitarist in Prince's band, The Revolution and went on to form the duo, Wendy & Lisa), The Family issued a couple of singles ('Screams Of Passion,' a Top 10 US R&B hit, and 'High Fashion') and a self-titled parent album, which was an alluring blend of pop, soul and funk that boasted dramatic orchestral charts by jazz pianist and Rufus arranger, Clare Fischer.

But just as they were about to take flight, St. Paul suddenly quit the group and The Family all but disintegrated. The remainder of the group went their separate ways but over the years, The Family's eponymous album gained a cult collectability (the original vinyl is almost impossible to find these days); a fact that is underscored by the album's failure to materialise on CD in the digital age.

But now SJF can confirm that rumours of The Family's reunion are not bogus – in fact, Susannah, St. Paul, Jellybean and Eric Leeds have reconvened and recorded an album together called 'Gaslight,' which has just been released. Not only that but the quartet has also started performing live (they recently played Joe's Pub in New York to a packed house). Sadly, though (and for reasons which are explained below), the group were obligated to change their moniker and are now known as fDeluxe. The group's co-lead singer, the lovely Susannah Melvoin (who also co-penned much of the album's material) recently talked at length to SJF's Charles Waring and shed light on one of the '80s most enigmatic and short-lived bands...

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 November 2011 20:07

 

PERCUSSIONIST EXTRAORDINAIRE - PONCHO SANCHEZ SPEAKS

Friday, 04 November 2011 17:13 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Poncho_pic_1"Cal Tjader was the greatest guy in the world," remembers conga maestro Poncho Sanchez as his voice conveys a sense of deep affection and respect that's almost palpable. "He was a sweetheart of a guy and he could play so pretty, man. Nobody plays vibes like Cal Tjader."

Sanchez has good reason to hold Tjader in high esteem - the genial, bespectacled vibraphone maven, who was a key figure in developing Latin jazz in the '50s, '60s and '70s, gave percussionist, Sanchez, his first big break. That was back in 1975. Then just 24-years-old, Sanchez – whose specialty is playing the congas – joined Cal Tjader's band as a greenhorn and spent seven years touring and recording with the vibraphonist. It all came to an abrupt end when Tjader died suddenly of a heart attack on a tour of Manila in the Philippines in May 1982. He was just 56. But as a result of Tjader's mentorship and the experience he'd accrued in the recording studio and on the road, Sanchez formed his own band and has been successfully flying the flag for Latin jazz ever since. He won a Grammy in 1999 for his acclaimed album, 'Latin Soul,' and today in 2011 – having just notched up his 60th birthday on October 30th – he's just released a brand new album, 'Chano Y Dizzy,' which explores the roots of Latin jazz. The affable conguero recently talked to SJF's Charles Waring about his new project and also reminisced about his friendship with Dizzy Gillespie and recalled his formative years as an aspiring conga player...

 

Last Updated on Friday, 04 November 2011 17:28

 

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