BILLY VALENTINE (yes, one half of the Valentine Brothers) is lining up a rather special album for release later this month; ‘Billy Valentine and The Universal Truth’. His people tell us that the long player is a collection of songs that are both significant and provocative; they’re all cover songs that reflect the social, racial, political and economic turmoil that we all currently struggle with and the pre-album released singles certainly back up those assertions. So with the album almost with us, what better time to hook up with Billy to learn a little more.
First though we just needed to know a little about The Valentine Brothers, the group Billy set up with brother John in 1975. We asked Billy about their most famous song, ‘Money’s Too Tight To Mention’…
Back in ’77, though we were still “The Valentine Brother”, we spent some time as part of the touring company of ‘The Wiz’; then when we were laid off we wrote ‘Money’s Too Tight.’ That lay off from our jobs became the inspiration for the theme of that title.
And what did you think of Simply Red’s version? And why did you disband?
The Simply Red version is fantastic and soulful. and we disbanded for the usual old reasons…. sibling rivalry and creative differences!
As a solo singer one of your best known outings is the acclaimed album… ‘Brit Eyed Soul’. What can you tell us about that?
I’ve always admired American artists Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Al Green and heir take on British songs and how they made them their own. This period (around 2015)was a time of uncertainty for me ; I wasn’t sure of what was next for me. So ‘Brit Eyed Soul’ became positive therapy. It was something I always wanted to do. I always wanted to make songs my own. I thought all of the songs were really good. My friend, Tom Vickers, who I have great respect for, proposed the idea of doing British songs. I always thought I should do something like that. We got T.C. Campbell, formerly with the group Cameo to produce it. It was great fun working with him.
Now the new album… what was the motivation behind ‘The Universal Truth’?
An old friend, Bob Thiele, Jr. asked me if I would be the first artist in his relaunching of his father’s record label, Flying Dutchman Records. This was in the middle of Covid lockdown, George Floyd, Black Lives Matter an all that. He presented me with a couple of songs from that original label – Gil Scott Heron ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’ and Leon Thomas ‘The Creator Has a Master Plan.’ We thought it was perfect timing based on what was happening in the country and around the world.
How did you choose the other songs?
Well, the recording of this record during Covid was an incredibly emotional time and was quite an experience. It was a dark time. The songs we chose were dark. Singing them became both therapeutic and cathartic, going deep within my soul.
What’s your favourite song on the set?
I’d say ‘Home Is Where the Hatred Is’ and ‘The Creator…’
The album is being released on a revitalized Flying Dutchman label…. Tell us more about that link..
As I said earlier, Bob asked me to be the first on his label. We have been working together for years, writing for Ray Charles, the Neville Brothers and more. It was a no brainer for me. What an honour, the label, my dearest friend.
Is there more to come from the link between Flying Dutchman and Billy Valentine?
I hope so! Bob and I go back a very long time. He is a great producer, has great ideas, thinks outside the box.
… and you’re coming to the UK for a tour?
I am coming to do two shows at The Forge in Camden on April 7 and 8 plus a few interviews. So not a full tour as yet!
Billy Valentine and The Universal Truth is released via Flying Dutchman/Acid Jazz on March 24th.
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