Interviews

STILL EVOLVING - NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN TALKS, PART 2

Thursday, 19 November 2015 12:44 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

narada-michael-walden-2012-wide"When you get hot, everybody starts calling." So says legendary drummer, producer, songwriter and performer NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN, who had risen to fame as a jazz-rock drummer in 1974 with John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra before transforming himself into a disco dude with hits 'I Don't Want To Dance (With Nobody Else)' and 'I Shoulda Loved Ya' in the late '70s. In 1980, Narada's career took another surprising twist when he consciously sought to move into the world of pop and R&B production starting with precociously-talented teenage singing prodigy, Stacy Lattisaw. When her Narada-helmed Cotillion album, 'Let Me Be An Angel,' was a smash hit, the phone started ringing with offers of production work and eventually led the producer to work with some of the greatest voices in R&B, including Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Phyllis Hyman, the Four Tops and many others. In the second part of Charles Waring's interview with Narada - whose new album, 'Evolution,' finds him returning to an accessible soul/funk groove - he looks back at his time playing with jazz-rock guitarist Jeff Beck, making his own solo breakthrough on Atlantic Records, and metamorphosing into a top pop and R&B producer in the 1980s when he helmed memorable hits for Aretha and Whitney...

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 November 2015 17:16

 

BACK IN THE GROOVE - NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN SPEAKS

Thursday, 05 November 2015 12:47 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Narada_largeHe's been a jazz-rock drummer, a funky, hit-making disco dude, and a stellar R&B and pop producer whose achievements include twenty number one records and three Grammy awards. His name is NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN, and in truth, there aren't many CVs in the music business that are able to rival his. But all that success and all those accolades - as impressive as they are - aren't able to match Walden's proudest and most recent achievement: being a father. "It's mind blowing," confesses Narada, now sixty-three, talking from the heart of his Tarpan studio complex in San Rafael in sunny California. "I never was going to have kids. In 1974, when I became a disciple of Guru Sri Chinmoy, he said to me, 'just throw your life into your music,' and so all I ever did was fill my life with music all those years." His single-mindedness, focus and dedication to his art certainly paid off handsomely but his life trajectory altered and followed a new course a few years ago. "Guru passed away and my life went through a bit of a change, took a turn, and presto, voila, I got children and I just feel really blessed by the whole thing."

Becoming a family man certainly inspired Narada's latest recording venture, 'Evolution,' arguably his most exciting studio project for many a year. It finds the former Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report drummer putting his dancing shoes back on and reviving memories of his disco hits in the late-'70s and early-'80s when infectious records like his biggest UK smash, 'I Shoulda Loved Ya,' blew up big in the clubs and stormed the charts. Packed with strong songs that boast memorable choruses over addictively funky grooves, 'Evolution' looks set to ignite an exciting new phase in the Narada's career, whose solo work largely went on the back burner once he became an in-demand record producer.

In the first instalment of SJF's two-part in-depth interview with R&B's hardest working multitasker, Narada Michael Walden tells Charles Waring about his new album. A passionate and engaging interviewee who exudes positivity, humour and, despite his success, great humility, Narada also reflects on his past and the influences, people, experiences and events that helped shape him as a musician and human being...

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 November 2015 10:09

 

STILL RISING - THE S.O.S. BAND ARE IN THE UK NEXT MONTH AND TALK TO SJF

Thursday, 22 October 2015 09:39 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

SOS_Band_todayIn the spring of 1980, an unknown band from Atlanta came from nowhere and took the US charts by storm with the infectious dance floor burner, 'Take Your Time (Do It Right).' They were called the S.O.S. Band and their debut single (written and produced by the late Sigidi Abdullah) spent five weeks nestled at the top of the American R&B singles chart that summer. More significantly, its across-the-board popularity was such that it crossed over into the US pop charts (Billboard's The Hot 100) rising to #3 and selling a million copies in the process.

Its meteoric success suddenly thrust the seven-piece Georgia funk and soul group - fronted by smoky-voiced singer, Mary Davis - into the limelight but during the next two years in the wake of that phenomenal debut hit, the group struggled to emulate its success with subsequent singles.

A fortuitous hook up with Time members and budding tunesmiths, Jimmy 'Jam' Harris and Terry Lewis, gave the band new momentum and a new 'electro' sound and they scored a series of big international hits, beginning with 'Just Be Good To Me,' in 1983 and followed by 'Tell Me If You Still Care,' 'Just The Way You Like It,' 'No One's Gonna Love You,' 'Weekend Girl,' The Finest,' and 'Borrowed Love' during a fertile three-year period. Mary Davis's departure for a solo career in 1987 didn't sink the band, which continued with Pennye Ford on vocals and continued to record well into the I990s.

Recently, Mary Davis - whose husky, soulful vocals gave the band a distinctive sound - returned to the fold and the long-running group - who've always been popular with the UK soul community - are coming over to the UK in November to perform at two Great Voices Of Soul concerts In London and Birmingham) alongside fellow soul legends Patti LaBelle, The Whispers, Gwen Dickey, Loose Ends, Soul II Soul and Meli'sa Morgan. Ahead of the concerts and with a new album in the pipeline, the band's long-serving original members, Mary Davis and Abdul Ra'oof, chewed the fat with SJF's Charles Waring...

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 October 2015 08:25

 

AN AMERICAN IN FRANCE - THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF MEMPHIS SOUL SIREN TONI GREEN AND MALTED MILK

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 11:55 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Malted_and_Toni_2TONI GREEN might appear to be an unfamiliar new name on the soul scene to some onlookers but  in truth she's a mature, experienced singer who boasts a truly impressive musical pedigree that goes back to the genre's golden age. She toured with Southern soul legends Isaac Hayes, Luther Ingram and Millie Jackson in the '70s, was a member of producer Willie Mitchell's Hi Records' stable during the same decade and, if that wasn't enough, one of her many cousins was part of the Stax Records harmony group, the Mad Lads.

Green was steeped in music from a young age. "It was in my DNA," explains the seasoned, Memphis-born chanteuse. "My father was a singer and his voice was similar to Nat 'King' Cole. Then there was a family gospel group, The Jones Boys, who were my cousins, and another cousin, John Garry Williams, was in the R&B group,  The Mad Lads. My aunts and other cousins were also all singers, singing at family reunions. They were all terrific and actually, if you could hear some of our relatives sing you'd probably boo me."

Green came under the aegis of Memphis' legendary producer, Willie Mitchell, as part of a group called Imported Moods in 1970 (a quartet comprising Green alongside her cousin Elvritt Hambrick, plus Patricia Love and Leroy Broadnax) and after that she provided background vocals for Luther Ingram, whom she went on the road with alongside bald-domed superstar Isaac Hayes during the latter's 'Shaft' period. She guested with the group Lanier in the '80s - produced by Gene 'Bowlegs' Miller, a longtime friend of Toni's - but it wasn't until a decade-and-a-half later, though, in 1998 when Green - who earned money writing and singing TV and radio jingles to make a living - got to make her first solo album, 'Mixed Emotions' for Quinton Claunch's Soultrax label.

Three more albums followed in the noughties which largely - and undeservedly - fell on deaf ears but now the singer has joined forces with super-funky French R&B band, MALTED MILK (pictured above with Toni Green) and recorded an superlative album-length collaboration titled 'Milk & Green.' Comprising strong original material and inspired covers (especially Mary J Blige's 'I Can Do Bad All By Myself'), the album is a stunning showcase for Green's vocal artistry.  Ahead of the album's October 30th release and a concert scheduled at London's Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on Wednesday 25th November, Toni Green talked at length to SJF's Charles Waring...

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 October 2015 16:17

 

"I'm not dead yet!" Guitar legend John McLaughlin talks to SJF about life, death, retirement and his brilliant new album, 'Black Light.'

Thursday, 08 October 2015 08:14 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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JOHN McLAUGHLIN - without doubt the doyen of jazz-rock guitarists, now 73 - is in a deeply philosophical mood. "I don't have ambitions like I used to when I was a young man," he reveals. "The older I get the more aware of my mortality I become, especially when you hit the biblical age of seventy. Every day over that is a present, a gift, and every concert that I do might be the last one I ever do. I think I might as well give 100% just in case. Know what I mean?" He follows his rhetorical question with a laugh that suggests that he appreciates the bittersweet ironies in life. It's the carefree chuckle of a man who is seemingly in the twilight of his career but who seems benignly at peace with himself and his past.

Born in Yorkshire, McLaughlin was drawn to the guitar at the age of eleven and became a London-based session guitarist-for-hire in the swinging '60s. His ability to read music as well as his stylistic versatility (he could switch from jazz, pop, classical, flamenco and blues at the drop of a plectrum) meant that he was always busy. As a result, he played on countless records by a variety of well-known hit-making British artists - everyone from Georgie Fame and Tom Jones to Engelbert Humperdinck and Petula Clark. He was making good money but wanted something more, something deeper. His big break came in 1969 when Miles Davis's then drummer, Tony Williams, heard a jam tape that McLaughlin had played on and immediately recruited him for his new jazz-rock group Lifetime. That opportunity in turn led to McLaughlin meeting Miles Davis and playing on the trumpeter's game-changing fusion records 'In A Silent Way' and 'Bitches Brew.'

In '71, McLaughlin put his own band together, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a phenomenally powerful and influential quintet that originally featured drummer Billy Cobham and keyboardist Jan Hammer, and became a trailblazers in the nascent field of jazz-rock. He made a spiritual jazz album with Carlos Santana called 'Love, Devotion, Surrender' in 1974 and a little later in the same decade, McLaughlin's interest in Indian music prompted him to form Shakti, whose exotic acoustic sound was a sublime fusion of western and eastern idioms.

Interestingly, there's a perceptible eastern tinge to the guitarist's latest album, 'Black Light,' which was recorded with his band, the 4th Dimension (Gary Husband, Etienne M'Bape, and Ranjit Barot) and follows in the wake of last year's incendiary live recording, 'The Boston Record.' In a candid interview, the venerable fretboard master talks to SJF's Charles Waring about the inspiration and intent behind his latest project...

 

Last Updated on Monday, 19 October 2015 20:02

 

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