HAIRCUT ONE HUNDRED: 'Pelican West' (Cherry Pop)

Sunday, 26 June 2016 09:54 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

haircut100-_pelicanwe_101bHaircut One Hundred were a one-album wonder who briefly carried the torch - alongside early Wham, ABC and Funkapolitan - for homegrown British pop-funk in the early '80s. With their toothy smiles, Aran sweaters and danceable, effervescent sound, they were a bright beacon of hope in the gloomy, post-Joy Division pop landscape of the UK at the start of a decade that would eventually be remembered for the vibrancy and vividness of its fashions as well as music.

The six-piece band led by singer/guitarist Nick Heyward announced themselves to the world with 'Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),' a fast and furious funk groove with loud horn blasts that strode into the upper echelon of the UK pop charts. It's the opening cut on this 2-CD reissue of the group's only album, 'Pelican West,' which dropped in '82. Distilling funk and jazz influences (the band boasted a good brass section and weren't averse to the occasional saxophone solo), the group served up an entertaining platter of strong vocal tunes and zesty, sunshine-drenched Latin-flavoured instrumentals (exemplified by the surrealist imagery of 'Lemon Firebrigade'). Two more singles were issued from the album, the super-infectious 'Love Plus One' and 'Fantastic Day,' both even bigger hits than 'Favourite Shirts.' They were more pop-oriented but elsewhere on the album, the band showed that they can really groove (as on 'Marine Boy,' 'Baked Bean,' and 'Kingsize [You're My Little Steam Whistle]).

The first CD includes the original configuration of 'Pelican West'  and is bolstered with sundry B-sides ('Boat Party,' 'Ski Club,' and 'October Is Orange') as well as the non-album single, 'Nobody's Fool.' If that weren't enough, there's a second disc packed with a welter of 12-inch singles mixes, extended iterations and a live version of 'Favourite Shirts.' Sadly, success seemed to affect the band adversely and during the strained sessions for an intended second LP, Nick Heyward - the band's poster boy - quit and began a moderately successful solo career.  This album, though - unlike many '80s albums - has stood the test of time (mainly to its organic production style and good songs) and stands as an enduring and enjoyable monument to the short-lived but much-loved Haircut One Hundred in the largely ephemeral, here-today, gone-tomorrow world of pop music.

(CW) 3/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 June 2016 10:19


STEVE COLE: Turn It Up (Artistry)

Friday, 24 June 2016 18:39 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1_steveStudents of chart placings and listeners of smooth jazz stations will already be familiar with an insidious little tune from sax man Steve Cole. The cut's 'Mirage' and it's just risen to #1 on Billboard's BDS chart, a placing reflected by 'Mirage's' heavy rotation on discerning music stations. The track is the first single from 'Turn It Up', Cole's newest long player and those who are digging the tune will be delighted to know there are plenty more like it on the 10 tracker.

The title track, for instance, offers more of the same soul-inflected grooves (shades of prime time David Sanborn) while the opener 'Sidechain' is another bright n' breezy, easy on the ear romp. 'Workhouse' is just a touch different.... Cole's smooth jazz take on house. We're told he's a big fan of the Chicago house scene, but don't expect it being play listed in Ibiza any time soon.

From a soul perspective, 'Turn It Up's' USP is the album's big cover, a version of Bobby Womack's 'Woman's Gotta Have It'. It's such a great tune isn't it? And Cole doesn't mess with it. He just lets his tenor glide over the melody lines while vocalist Keith Fluitt coos the title line sweetly... but he's so far back in the mix you might not even notice.

Other guests on the album include Ricky Petersen, Khari Parker and Pieces of A Dream's James Lloyd who adds pleasing, distinctive keys to 'Bright Side' - like everything else on offer here, a perfect summation of what contemporary smooth jazz is all about.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Friday, 24 June 2016 18:54


MILES DAVIS & ROBERT GLASPER: 'Everything's Beautiful' (Columbia)

Sunday, 19 June 2016 10:47 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Miles_and_GlasperRobert Glasper revealed to SJF in an interview last year that he had been given permission to rummage through Columbia's tape vaults with the view to making a 'collaborative' album using Miles Davis's music. Well, now, in the wake of Don Cheadle's 'Miles Ahead' movie - which Glasper also contributed to - that project is now released and while it will probably be slated by hard-line jazz purists as being sacrilegious and tarnishing the memory of Miles's music, it's actually a very engaging venture that should open up Miles' music to a new, much younger audience. Stylistically, it's an adjunct to Glasper's two 'Black Radio' albums with its vocal cameos and hip-hop-inflected R&B grooves. The opener, 'Talking Shit,' is an overture of sorts, with sampled ghostly snippets of Miles talking (in that unique raspy voice he had) over a funkafied Rhodes-led groove. 'Ghetto Walk' (which samples Miles's tune of the same name) features singer Bilal on a loose-limbed R&B jam.

Even better is 'Maiysha (So Long),' a dreamy bossa nova-tinged number featuring the superb Erykah Badu and warbling synth solo from Glasper (there's also a horn cameo from Miles). By contrast, 'Little Church' - a revival of the Hermeto Pascoal song that Miles recorded on 'Live Evil' - is performed by Australia's 'future soul' mavens, Hiatus Kaiyote, with lead singer Nai Palm's voice sounding wonderfully ethereal. The UK's own Laura Mvula fronts the meditative 'Silence Is The Way' but an even bigger cameo comes from Stevie Wonder on 'Right On Brotha,' which takes its inspiration from Miles's 'Right Off' but is less visceral than the original: a mellow jazz-funk groove with a disco pulse and some plaintive harmonica notes from the man born Steveland Morris.

Much tougher is the sinewy funk of 'I'm Leaving You,' where singer Ledisi shows off her athletic pipes alongside some tasty fretboard work by former Miles Davis guitarist, John Scofield. The only true 'cover' of a Miles Davis song is Glasper's quirky take on 'Milestones,' where a synth takes the place of the original horn line over a jaunty hip-hip beat. Purists will seethe but it works well. Indeed, the album says much more about Robert Glasper than it does about Miles Davis. Miles may have been the inspiration behind 'Everything's Beautiful' but overall the whole thing (despite a constellation of guest stars) reflects the keyboard player's aesthetic vision and as such is perfectly in tune with his commercially successful 'Black Radio' concept.

(CW) 4/5


Read SJF's interview with Robert Glasper here:


YVONNE ELLIMAN: 'Yvonne/'Night Flight' (Soul Music/Caroline)

Friday, 17 June 2016 18:07 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Hawaiian singer, Yvonne Elliman, rose to fame as Mary Magdalene in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera, 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' in 1970. Not long afterwards she branched out into the world of recording by inking the first of several record deals but success proved elusive until she signed with Robert Stigwood's fledgling RSO label in 1975. This Soul Music twofer combines her third and fourth albums for the label, 1978's 'Yvonne' with the following year's 'Night Flight.'

By the time 'Yvonne' came out, Honolulu-born Elliman had already scored a UK Top 10 hit with 1976's 'Love Me,' the title song from her third RSO LP. Two other hits followed from that album in '77 and then in 1978, Elliman hit the mother lode when a song she recorded written by the Bee Gees and which appeared in the blockbuster disco movie, 'Saturday Night Fever,' took off big time. It was, of course, 'If I Can't Have You,' a #4 UK hit and which as well as being available on the movie soundtrack album appeared on 'Yvonne' (as well as the shorter single version the longer 'disco' mix of 'If I Can't Have You' is included here as a bonus track). It provides the stand-out moment on a solid 10-track album that also includes reggae excursions, soulful pop moments and singer-songwriter vignettes.

Undoubtedly buoyed by the success of Elliman's appearance on the 'Saturday Night Fever' soundtrack, the follow-up LP, 'Night Flight' is a more danceable, disco-inflected effort, opening with the uptempo 'Love Pains.' Elliman proves she's an expressive balladeer on Tom Snow's mid-tempo 'Cold Wind Across My Heart' and Bernard Ighner's classic 'Everything Must Change' (as recorded by Quincy Jones and Randy Crawford) which receives a sensitive, jazzy reading. There are some rock and pop elements too but the soulfulness of the set is underlined by Elliman's  interpretations of  Thelma Jones' 'How Long,' Ray Charles's 'Hit The Road Jack' and Jimmy Holiday's 'I'm Gonna Use What I Got To Get What I Need.'

(CW) 3/5


BEVERLEY KNIGHT; Sousville (East West)

Friday, 17 June 2016 13:15 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

BeverleyKnight-Soulsville-300dpiMidst much media attention Beverley Knight has just released this, her first album for something like five long years! Mind you in that hiatus Brum's finest has been busy, busy. For starters, she's starred in a couple of sell-out stage shows. For one those shows, 'Memphis', Bev travelled to Tennessee's soul capital for a spot of musical acclimatisation and she vowed that when she found time to record a new long player, Memphis had to be THE place to do it.

So last February Bev and her team decamped to Memphis for a week long session in Willie Mitchell's famed Royal Studios and with producer Justin Stanley (CV includes work with Beck and Prince) and engineer Boo Mitchell (Willie's son) they set to work. For session men they rounded up the best of the Memphis soul mafia – including brothers Leroy and Charles Hodges on bass and Hammond respectively. Bev says; "As soon as I walked into Royal I knew I had to record an album there. It had such a great vibe and it turned out the best recording experience I've ever had."

We've been listening to the album for a few weeks now and we're pleased to concur. Beverley's "best recording experience" has produced "our best and certainly most soulful listening experience of Beverley".

Why? Well three reasons really. Firstly Beverley's gospel-reared voice has never sounded more passionate; secondly she's chosen some proper soul songs while the originals fit the classic soul template; thirdly, the players understand what soul is... they play it like it should be!

Highlights? Well there are plenty – especially amongst the well chosen covers. Bev treats stuff like 'I Can't Stand The Rain', 'Hold On I'm Coming' (a duet with Sam Moore) and 'Private Number' (a duet with Jamie Cullum) respectfully, but THAT voice and energy gives the familiar a new life that transcends mere karaoke. Our girl's also done plenty of homework. For instance her version of 'Hound Dog' references the original of Big Mama Thornton while the take on 'Don't Play That Song' combines the drama of the Ben E King original with the churchy piano of Aretha's version.

Amongst the best of the originals are the first single, 'In The Middle Of Love' (watch out for a great modern soul mix of this) and 'Still Here' (which feature awesome Southern soul horns).

To be honest, I didn't want to like this album. As a curmudgeonly, battle-scarred proper soul veteran I baulk when young whipper snappers meddle with cherished classics. Beverley Knight, young whipper snapper or not, has won me over! Welcome to 'Soulsville'!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 17 June 2016 13:20


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