Sunday, 23 October 2016 15:59 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altDear Dusty Springfield, by common consent she was the finest female soul singer these sceptred isles have ever produced. After quitting the folksy Springfields, throughout the 60s and 70s she released a clutch of records that stand comparison with anything recorded by the so called bona fide, Stateside soul divas. Indeed her remarkable 'Dusty In Memphis' is often cited as one of soul's finest albums of all time.

Sadly, like her personal life, Dusty's career trajectory sometimes resembled a roller coaster. A late career high was the collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys but by the mid 90s she was in another lull exacerbated by her own poor health. By 1995 though she was ready to record again. So with producer Tom Shapiro, Dusty decamped to Nashville to record what was to be her 15th studio album. The set, echoing the aforementioned classic 'Memphis' album, was to be called 'Dusty In Nashville' but her label execs felt that that title sounded "too country" and might put off prospective buyers and radio play-listers, so when the 10 tracker finally came out in June '95 it was called 'A Very Fine Love', named for the catchy, poppy/soul 'Very Fine Love' that was sequenced on the LP as track 2. It remains an album highlight on this new, expanded reissue from boutique label, SFE. Another album highlight is the sultry, almost bluesy 'Where Is Woman To Go' which features KT Oslin and Mary Chapin Carpenter on backing vocals.

The album's other chief guest is Daryl Hall. He duets with Dusty on the Dianne Warren-penned 'Where Would I Be'... which, when released as a UK single, became Dusty's last chart hit, albeit a modest one. Indeed sales of the album were modest too and with this reissue you might want to try and work out why. Despite her failing health (Dusty was diagnosed with breast cancer doing the recording), Dusty sings as well as ever. Maybe the songs lack a little magic, maybe things are a little too lightweight for a great soul singer... whatever, it's good to have the album (Dusty's final studio recording, by the way) readily available and as with most reissues there are special extras. Here you get Dusty's solo version of the aforementioned 'Wherever Would I Be', the Walter A mix of the song , an interview with Dusty and (on a separate DVD) two promotional videos.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 October 2016 17:37


MYLES SANKO: 'Just Being Me' (213 Music/Lounge Records)

Thursday, 20 October 2016 14:37 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


This is the third album by UK-based singer/songwriter, Myles Sanko, who originally hails from Accra in Ghana and debuted in 2014 with an LP called 'Forever Dreaming.' For various reasons, that particular album passed me by (though it was reviewed at SJF by my colleague Bill Buckley) but after being mightily impressed by this, his latest, opus, I'm prompted to go back and investigate his previous work. That's because 'Just Being Me' is a supremely classy, soulful offering that has substance as well as polish. Sanko's influences range from Gregory Porter and Bill Withers to Aloe Blacc and Gil Scott-Heron and though it's not hard to detect their DNA in his music he's managed to assimilate and fuse those elements with both his own personality and musical sensibility. What results is a sound and approach that is distinctive rather than derivative. Having a good sound is one thing but being in possession of good songs is another though thankfully, Myles Sanko knows how to pen decent tunes that marry strong melodies with a serious lyrics and meaningful messages.

From the first few bars of the opening cut - a short, tone-setting instrumental called 'Freedom' - it's apparent that 'Just Being Me' is going to be a quality record. The first proper song, the album's title cut, confirms this. It's got an addictive hook and is characterized by a dynamic vocal over a simmering jazz-infused groove. 'Promises' ups the tempo and adds horns. It's a political diatribe targeting lies and hypocrisy over a brisk retro soul beat. The slower, 'This Ain't Living,' is even better; an anthemic meditation on modern life where Sanko pleads for "a revolution of the mind" and his soulful pipes  are framed by horns and mellow flute arrangements. 'Empty Road' with its string orchestra  is bleaker but haunting and there are shades of Gil Scott-Heron on the more overtly-jazz-inflected 'Land Of Paradise,' a propulsive slice of modal jazz whose serious message is at odds with its vibrant dance, joyous pulse. It's not all doom and gloom, though, and  Sanko proves that he can also do romantic ballads, as the lovely 'Sunshine' demonstrates, a song that channels the spirit of Bill Withers with its gospel-inflected simplicity.

Without doubt, 'Just Being Me' is a tremendous cache of songs and one that should establish the super-talented Myles Sanko as a bona fide contender in the world of soul-jazz. Look out, Gregory Porter...

(CW) 4/5

Read a review of 'Forever Dreaming' here:

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2016 14:55


VARIOUS; Motortown Revue In Paris (Motown/Universal)

Sunday, 16 October 2016 20:20 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn the early days of Motown, one of the ways in which Berry Gordy promoted his acts was to mount lengthy live tours throughout the States. He'd put together a bill of six or seven of his acts and send them out to spread the message and, of course, bolster record sales. It was logical therefore that when the UK and Europe began to show interest in the Motown sound, he'd send similar shows across the Atlantic. So, Spring 1965 saw the arrival of the first such package tour in the UK and, sadly, it's famously told that apart from the London shows, the concerts were poorly attended. In panic, the promoters added Georgie Fame to the line up (and Georgie will tell you that's when he got to love Motown and found the song 'Sweet Thing', but that's another story).

The Motown Revue eventually pitched up in Paris and the shows were recorded with the subsequent live album released in America in Summer '65 and in Europe the following year. That album has just won reissue in an extended 2CD or 3 LP vinyl format and, though mid 60s live recoding quality isn't up to the quality standard of the 21st century, the package magnificently captures the atmosphere and all the excitement of early Motown.

The artists on the bill included The Supremes, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder and Martha And The Vandellas while the backing was provided by the Earl Van Dyke Sextet. Van Dyke's band opened proceedings in their own right on both halves of the show and on each stint they were given a generous 4 tunes. The other acts, unsurprisingly, go through a selection of their biggest contemporary hits though they also have a stab at what I guess we would call "standards". So, for instance, the Supremes trill through 'People', 'Somewhere' and 'You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You', The Miracles have a MOR stab at 'Wives And Lovers' while Little Stevie has a go at 'Make Somebody Happy' and Willie Nelson's 'Funny How Time Slips Away'. Students of Motown will know that this was consistent with Gordy's policy of trying to get his acts out of the chittlin' circuit and into (what he saw) as the more lucrative supper club market and the inclusion of these songs only adds to the veracity of the release as wonderful primary source material for Motown lovers in particular and anyone who cares about soul music in general.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 October 2016 20:36


SMOOVE AND TURRELL; Crown Posada (Jalapeno Records)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 20:06 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSmoove and Turrell are a Brit soul duo hailing from Newcastle. 'Crown Posada' is their fourth album and by now you should be familiar with the lead single... S&T's energized take on the old Hot Chocolate song, 'You Could've Been A Lady'. The cut's been all over the radio for the past few weeks with BBC Radio 2 jocks being particularly partial to it. Easy to hear why... it's big and brash and though it is vaguely familiar the two Geordies give it their own special treatment. It's a proper party tune and no wonder that it opens the set. It sets out the stall in fine form and there's plenty more of the same throughout the album

Second cut 'No Point In Trying' is another pacey stomper with just a whiff of Chic style guitar in the mix; that's followed by another frantic item, 'Given It All Up' while 'Now That Love Has Gone' maintains the momentum, though this time, there's a garnish of hip-hop. The riff-laden 'Fight On' is another with floor appeal, though the lyrics here (and indeed throughout the album) transcend the usual "get out on the floor" type of thing. This one tells the tale of an old North East wrestling champion who finds it hard to fit into the modern world. 'New Jerusalem' also deals with the conflict of the old and the new but the bassy, funky cut is a million miles away from the traditional hymn.

Want more proper story songs? OK try 'Glue Bag Flags' on which the boys dip into their childhood memories as they retell the tale of finding sniffers' glue bags in the woods where they played; then using the bags as toy flags on the little castles they built. You've got it ... don't expect the expected from Smoove and Turrell. Take the album's title track for instance. The Crown Posada is actually an historic Newcastle boozer and S&T's jazz funk tune of that name is their homage to the pub and the times they've had there.

The LP's big ballad is 'Glass' – a reflection on the fragile nature of relationships. John Turrell proffers a big, soulful vocal over a simple piano (Andy Champion) and cello accompaniment. Like all the music herein, it's real, modern soul music but maybe not soul as you've known it.

(BB) 4/5


CHRIS JASPER; Share With Me (Gold City Music)

Sunday, 09 October 2016 20:06 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSince the implosion of the second incarnation of the Isley Brothers and the demise of Isley-Jasper-Isley, keyboardist/vocalist Chris Jasper has forged a successful solo career and in an amazing 30 years he regularly releases fine album after fine album and this latest, 'Share With Me', it's right up there with his best. The ten tracker offers all that Chris' fans have come to expect... "proper", grown-up soul songs (both Jasper originals and covers) delivered with a passion and a commitment to his craft, driven, I'm guessing, by the artist's faith and belief in a higher power that directs and supports him.

I'm making that assumption since one of this album's highlights is a revelatory treatment of the traditional Christian hymn, 'How Great Thou Art'. Forget how you might have been forced to sing it at school; hear it here as it was meant to be sung.... a thing of simple beauty and even if you're not a believer, if the stunning fade out harmonies don't make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, then you don't have (or understand) soul!

Other album highlights? Well there are plenty. The LP's title cut is a gentle, insinuating builder; the cover of 'You Are So Beautiful' has a lovely ethereal quality; 'Love You' boasts a great melody over beats that should satisfy modern soul dancers; and 'That's What Love Can Do' is another with sophisticated dance appeal. Little wonder it's already being regularly rotated on Jazz FM.

Elsewhere, 'Why' is a bumpy, almost funky groove while 'Funky Thing' is just that... complete with Ernie Isley style guitar and vocoder effects.

On the debit side, I found it hard to connect with 'America'. Sure I'm not an American, but I do avidly follow news and current affairs and I found it hard to reconcile the song's sentiments with some of the news stories that have come out of the States in recent months. I'll choose to pass on this one, Chris, but thank you for the solace of 'How Great Thou Art'... and the other great tune herein.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 20:18


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