Friday, 28 August 2015 14:51 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     "I feel like I'm in a witness protection programme," laughs a reflective and disarmingly candid RUMER, the charming Islamabad-born chanteuse whose warm, mellow contralto voice first seduced listeners five years ago with her genre-defying debut album, 'Seasons Of My Soul.' She's referring to the fact that she and her husband - Rob Shirakbari, who's also her producer and musical director - have elected to move from Los Angeles to live in a small, obscure, town located somewhere in deepest Northwest Arkansas. The decision to move there, she reveals, was to remove her from the glare of the spotlight, the perpetual grind of the music business  and relentless scrutiny of the press. "It's sort of like the land that time forgot," she explains. "There are lots of things that are quite old-fashioned, like being able to use a cheque book in a supermarket and the fact that we're the only people that probably recycle.  But there's also some charm about that as well. It's just really interesting and the perfect antidote to the electro-magnetic pollution caused by media exposure."

Certainly, Rumer knows all about media exposure - indeed, the instant fame that she experienced after many years of seemingly fruitless and futile knocking on the door of the music industry put her life out of kilter for a while. "It was so unbelievably hard and tough," she confesses. "It's physically tough, and demanding on your spirit - and on your soul and on your body." It's not an experience that she'd care to repeat and now she's happier and feels more in control of her career. She's also established her own label, Night Owl, and has just compiled what to date is her fourth long player, 'B Sides & Collectables.'  Initially available to her fans exclusively via her website it's now being officially issued by Warner/Rhino. Containing seventeen orphaned songs that were recorded as flipsides, for EPs, compilations and movie soundtracks, it finds golden-voiced Rumer putting her inimitable imprimatur on a range of material that include classic tunes by Christopher Cross, Paul Simon, George Harrison, Burt Bacharach, and Steven Bishop. The latter also guests on the album, as does the legendary Dionne Warwick.

SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with the award-winning 36-year-old singer, who talked in detail about her new album as well as her life and music...


Last Updated on Saturday, 29 August 2015 18:25



Thursday, 20 August 2015 07:47 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Joyce_solo"It's great to be back," admits Joyce Sims, the Rochester singer/songwriter who, most soul music fans will agree, has been absent from the music scene for too long. She's best remembered for her anthemic dance groove, 'Come Into My Life,' an innovative record that successfully fused soul and electro music with club sounds and became a massive global smash. That was in 1987 and a couple of years later, when her label, Big Apple indie, Sleeping Bag Records, bit the dust, Joyce was left in limbo and languished in obscurity for many years.

The good news is, though, that the singer that brought us such era-defining hits as 'All And All' and 'Lifetime Love' is coming back into our lives with a brand new album (her fourth), 'Love Song,' which is released on August 21st via her own August Rose label. It's preceded by a single, 'All I Want Is You,' and even more exciting, perhaps, for her UK fans is the fact that at the time of writing the 56-year-old chanteuse is in the UK and due to perform in Birmingham at the Jam House (tonight, 20th August) and on Saturday 22nd at London's Jazz Cafe. Joyce recently talked to SJF's Charles Waring about her new recording project as well as her career and, of course, the story behind the record that brought her immortality, 'Come Into My Life'...


Last Updated on Thursday, 20 August 2015 08:20



Wednesday, 19 August 2015 08:34 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Ernie_IsleyErnie Isley was, by his own admission, precociously talented and an early starter. He was just fourteen years old when he played his first live gig with his three elder brothers Ronald, Rudolph, and O'Kelly, better known as the Isley Brothers, who'd lit up the US charts with 'Shout!' and 'Twist & Shout.' The year was 1967 and schoolboy Ernie was recruited to play drums for the sibling trio's backing band at a gig playing alongside their then label mates and Motown hit sirens Martha & The Vandellas in Philly. The memory of the event is indelibly etched upon his mind. "Martha & the Vandellas didn't have a drummer on the same show so I wound up playing drums behind them on 'Dancing In The Street' and 'Heat Wave' and all of that," says Ernie, his voice still betraying a sense of disbelief. Things got even better after the gig was over: "My brother Kelly handed me a fifty dollar note and said go get a hot dog and then I went through the back stage doors and all of these girls of my same age started screaming at me as if I was Justin Bieber." It was an epiphany-like moment for Ernie Isley that he would never forget: a point at which his fate was sealed and he would be destined to become a musician.

Two years later, in 1969, Ernie had moved from drums to bass and made his first recording with his brothers called 'It's Your Thing' for the Isley's own T-Neck label. It was a massive, game-changing hit for the group, who had quit Motown a year earlier. In the early '70s the Isleys had begun experimenting by fusing and funk soul with rock and in 1973 - by which time Ernie had started playing guitar in a flamboyant Hendrix-style - the brothers released the groundbreaking '3+3' album where Ernie, his brother Marvin and Rudolph's brother-in-law, keyboardist Chris Jasper, officially joined to make the Isleys a six-piece, self-contained band. The album, featuring their new rock-tinged sound (and Ernie's searing lead guitar lines) spawned the singles 'That Lady' and 'Summer Breeze,' which catapulted the group originally from Cincinnati into the world arena. In the rest of that decade, the band released album after classic album, which all appear bolstered with bonus tracks on the forthcoming box set on Sony called 'The RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983),' which traces the band's footsteps during four decades of music-making.

In an exclusive interview, Ernie Isley - whose distinctive guitar sound was such an important component in the band's success - talks to SJF's Charles Waring about the band's long and storied career and recalls key moments in their history...


Last Updated on Thursday, 20 August 2015 08:31



Thursday, 30 July 2015 12:01 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Gwen_Dickey"I never wanted to be a singer or be in the music business - I wanted to be a flight attendant so I could travel the world for free." So says GWEN DICKEY and it's a surprising admission given that the super-talented and magnetic Mississippi-born singer - who fronted soul-funk aggregation Rose Royce between 1976 and 1980 - was the voice that shined brightly on the group's memorable Norman Whitfield-produced international hits 'Car Wash,' 'Wishing On A Star,'  'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' (the latter song was also covered by Madonna, Faith Evans and Beyonce) and 'Is It Love You're After.' Touring with Rose Royce, Gwen fulfilled her wish to travel and see the world but the pressures of stardom caused her to quit the group after the band's fourth album, 1979's 'Rose Royce IV: Rainbow Connection.' Initially reluctant to return to the music business, in the '80s Gwen slowly began rebuilding her career as a singer with a series of soulful, dance-oriented singles.

Today, in 2015, Gwen is still in demand as a performer, particularly in the UK, where she's been a popular live attraction for many years. On Sunday 15th November, Gwen appears on the bill of the keenly anticipated 'Great Voices Of Soul' concert at Wembley's SSE Arena and ahead of the gig, she talked to SJF's Charles Waring about her music, career, and, of course, her time as a member of the influential Rose Royce...


Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 16:56


REFLECTED GLORY - Ian Phillips, the author of a new Diana Ross book ('Reflections'), talks about the iconic singer they call 'The Boss.'

Monday, 20 July 2015 19:19 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Diana_Ross_bookIt may be an inexplicable mystery to some, perhaps, but the facts just don't lie - Diana Ross is indisputably one of the most written-about female singers of all time. True, she's patently no Aretha Franklin and can't claim to be one of the most technically-gifted vocalists of all time, but she possesses her own unique and immediately identifiable sound and there's an aura about her that her legion of devotees around the globe seem to find irresistible. Maybe it's the glamour, or the mystique...or even the records she cut as a member of the legendary Supremes in the '60s or as a solo artist from the '70s onwards.  Her allure can't really be quantified but also, it can't be denied and her storied journey from the projects  to the penthouse  has inspired countless books and biographies over the years - some worthy, some less so - and now UK author, Ian Phillips, has just unleashed his second book on the now 71-year-old diva. Back in 2010, Phillips wrote 'Diana - Queen Of Motown' and today, five years later, he returns to the subject of Ms. Ross with a new tome, 'Diana Ross - Reflections,' where he casts a critical and insightful eye over  the singer's oeuvre. For both Ross aficionados and Motown fans it's a must-read, page-turner of a book that comes with forewords from ex-Motown staffers, Janie Bradford and Al Abrams. More importantly, it eschews tabloid sensationalism - which has so often characterised books on Ross's life and career - and, refreshingly, focuses intently on the music more than anything else.

In an exclusive interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Ian Phillips talks in detail about his new book and discusses his long-time fascination with Diana Ross...


Last Updated on Monday, 20 July 2015 19:44


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