There's No One Like Him - UK soul star OMAR talks to SJF

Monday, 16 January 2017 20:28 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


"I hated my first single, 'Mr Postman,' so much that I didn't want to hear it again." So says UK soul grandee, OMAR LYE-FOOK, MBE, who accompanies this statement with a gravelly chuckle. "This was 1984 and after two weeks of hearing it, I couldn't stand it," he explains. "So from that point, any music that I made, I had to like because you've got to play it for the rest of your life."

Six years later, and, Omar, now 22, came up with a song that he could listen to repeatedly. It was called 'There's Nothing Like This.' "When I wrote that song, I made a demo of it and put it on a 90-minute cassette," he says. "There was 45 minutes on one side of just that song and it played and played and played. Nobody got bored of it so that was a sign that it was going to be quite a big hit."

Indeed, it was, and for many soul fans of a certain age, it was the song that represented their first acquaintance with OMAR's music. It was back in the summer of 1991 when Acid Jazz was the hip and exciting new currency in the world of British R&B and bands like the Brand New Heavies, Incognito, and the Young Disciples were setting the pace. OMAR, then 23 - a multi-instrumentalist and former percussionist for the Kent Youth Orchestra - was a label mate of the latter two groups (on Gilles Peterson's influential Talkin' Loud imprint) and broke into the UK charts with 'There's Nothing Like This.' With its summery vibe, feel-good groove and addictive chorus, for many people that particular song came to encapsulate a special moment in time and was adopted as an anthem.

'There's Nothing Like This' remains one of the highpoints in OMAR's canon even though it was recorded almost thirty years ago. Though its success has eclipsed almost everything else he has done in commercial terms, he doesn't view it as a heavy and uncomfortable  albatross around his neck.  "No, I'm very happy with it," he tells SJF. "If that's the only song of mine that people know then at least they can start with that one and then get to learn the rest," he laughs. He then reveals that some people, when they recognise him, often approach him singing the 'There's Nothing Like This's' chorus line. "For the most part it's fine," he says, "but when you're trying to meet someone or get a private moment, and people come up to you singing it, you think 'not right this second!'"

But 48-year-old OMAR - who was awarded an MBE in 2012 for his services to music - isn't content to rest on his laurels and live in the past. Though not a prolific recording artist, there's been a fairly steady stream of music during the last 25 years and now he's now about to release his eighth album, 'Love In Beats,' which follows in the wake of 2013's critically-acclaimed 'The Man.' The new LP - which features noteworthy cameos from keyboardist-of-the-moment, Robert Glasper, soul veteran, Leon Ware, spoken-word specialist the Floacist (aka Natalie Stewart) and singer Natasha Watts, to name a few - is an eclectic collision of soul, funk, jazz and Caribbean flavours that has been masterfully marinated by its genius creator together with his producer brother, Scratch Professor.

In an interview with SJF's Charles Waring, OMAR talks about his new record as well as other fascinating facets of his career, including his aspirations in the world of acting....


Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 14:39



Friday, 23 December 2016 18:38 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altBy common consent one of this year's best UK soul albums is album 'Colours' from THE DOGGETT BROTHERS. A selection of singles and mixes from the album has kept the momentum at max for the Doggett Boys but despite the success the brothers are still very much an unknown quantity in the soul community... men of mystery even! So as 2016 draws to an end we decided we all needed to know more about the Doggetts. We tracked them down to their soul lair and kicked off by demanding to know just who the Doggett Brothers are ...

The Doggett Brothers are a UK based collective of musicians and producers, with strong roots in modern soul, R&B and dance music. The (actual) Doggett Brothers are Carl and Greg Doggett. We started this whole thing as a studio project in 2010, recording our first ever record, 'Azure Sky'. Since then, it has grown and grown into something a lot bigger than we expected! The collective is now far bigger than just us, that's for sure.

OK, so how would you define your sound?

Our sound is a mix of soul and dance music. We love modern soul artists such as Dwele, but also love the electro sound of artists such as Disclosure. We have a very particular idea of what we are after, and don't compromise what we want to say. We write, record and produce all of our records, from start to beginning.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 December 2016 15:50



Sunday, 04 December 2016 14:44 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIt's just over 25 years since an album icon of Brit soul was released.... 'The Chimes' by THE CHIMES. The band was essentially a trio ... Mike Peden, James Locke and Pauline Henry and back in 1990 cuts from the album were being played out everywhere. Their version of U2's 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' scaled the charts and even hard-to-please Bono was heard to say how much he loved the Chimes' version.

To celebrate the anniversary, bbr records have just reissued the album ... along with a plethora of bonus cuts (see our "Reviews" section). Now old soul heads are once more enjoying some original and ground breaking Brit soul and we felt we couldn't let the anniversary go by without finding out a bit more about the elusive and short-lived Chimes. After considerable detective work we tracked down singer, PAULINE HENRY and fired all kinds of questions at her. First, though, we wanted to know how she felt about the album reissue after all this time....

The reissue came about when a fan reminded me that it was "The Chimes 25 years anniversary, and how nice it would be to see the Chime reunite!" So I initiated the idea with Sony Music about a re- licence, and that is when BBR Records and Cherry Red got involved. And you know I am excited about it for many reasons. Firstly because the Chimes did not fulfil their potential. We signed to Columbia for a five-album record deal but we only made our one "brilliant" album. So the reissue with the un-released songs and re mixes on feels like the second album that never was. I get to savour tracks I have long since forgotten about. I'm totally loving "Stay", "Stronger" and 'No Need To Pretend'. It takes me back to the innocent and early days of the Chimes. Secondly, too, we are gaining new audiences as well as re engaging our established fan base. Thirdly, re-working the songs gives them a new lease of life.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 December 2016 15:14



Friday, 25 November 2016 15:13 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


It was exactly thirty years ago that  jazz tenor saxophone legend, DEXTER GORDON, made his on-screen acting debut at the age of 63 portraying Dale Turner (a fictional musician whose life was loosely based on that of itinerant US pianist, Bud Powell) in Bertrand Tavernier's acclaimed movie, Round Midnight. Dexter died four years afterwards but the film - which has been revived with special showings around the globe to celebrate its anniversary - remains an important part of his legacy. 

In the second and concluding part of Charles Waring's recent interview with Dexter's wife,  Maxine Gordon, the saxophonist's manager-turned-music historian, record producer and author, talks about Round Midnight and also gives us her opinion of a new film called Cool Cats, which focuses on her husband's (and fellow tenorist Ben Webster's) years living in Denmark. She also tells us about the Dexter Gordon biography she's writing, which is due to be published sometime next year...

Last Updated on Friday, 25 November 2016 15:57


"I want to make a Country & Western album!" - GUITAR LEGEND JAMES "BLOOD" ULMER TALKS

Thursday, 17 November 2016 17:38 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


"I hate interviews," declares legendary avant-funk-rock guitarist JAMES "BLOOD" ULMER as he peers over his dark shades when I introduce myself to him. His distaste for being interrogated by journalists is expressed with such vehemence and so forcefully that I don't doubt his antipathy for a second. That doesn't bode too well for our scheduled conversation, which is about to take place in his dressing room backstage at Bethnal Green's Rich Mix venue. I laugh nervously but the skull-capped big man - who's elegantly attired in a dark suit which is coolly complemented by two-tone, snakeskin boots - instantly puts me at ease. "Oh, it's all right," he chuckles, in a deep melodious voice. "It's necessary. There's a lot of shit that is necessary. If you make records you got to do interviews."

He laughs heartily again but at 76-years-old, Ulmer - who also suffers, he tells me, from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and these days plays sitting down on stage - could be forgiven for being weary of the promotional rituals and press games that go along with working in the music business. But he's here in London not to promote a new album but perform live with his trio as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. From here he travels to continental Europe for a few select dates. "The next gig is in Austria," he says, in a strong, molasses-rich, southern American accent that reveals his South Carolina roots. "We're going about six little countries. I can't play these long tours no more but I don't want to eliminate them altogether."

Being in London brings back fond memories for the man who took Ornette Coleman's harmolodic principle - a unique system of improvisation brought about by key modulation - and applied it to the guitar. It was in London in 1980 that he launched himself on the international stage when his second album, 'Are You Glad To Be In America?,' was licensed by the London-based indie label, Rough Trade, and proved something of a cult sensation.  "That record got me started," confirms Ulmer. "I wrote the music for that record in England. I was thinking of leaving America and almost moved to London at that time I was having such a good time." The guitarist admits that he"really fell in love with London" but what stopped him from upping sticks permanently was the hedonistic nature of the music scene in the UK's capital city at the time. "I changed my mind because they had too many drugs in London," he discloses, "and I thought, 'oh no I can't do that, I'll wind up a drug addict....'"

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 November 2016 11:13


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