South London’s Noel McKoy is an underground UK soul hero. In a 20 year career he’s worked with people like Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Mica Paris, Beverley Knight, Omar, Courtney Pine, The Sounds Of Blackness and Snowboy – even Cliff Richard! Indeed, when on tour, Sir Cliff always makes sure that Noel is there leading his backing vocalists. There’s so much session and bv work for Noel that he hardly finds time for his own recordings. He has, though, recorded some great solo sets (find a review of his last one, ‘Brighter Day’, in our archive). Now, for his latest album, he turns the clock back 20 years – to his start in the business when he worked with his siblings , Cornell, Junette and Robin in family band, McKoy.
The result is the thoughtful and lively 14 tracker ‘Cut From The Same Cloth’ – an album that skilfully blends nostalgia with contemporary soul grooves. One of the set’s key cuts is the catchy ‘Old School’ in which the McKoys explain how they got involved in music – listening to their parents soul and jazz 45s – the music of Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. It’s a pure and honest celebration of soul’s crown jewels and the theme is extended as McKoy offer their unique interpretations of some classic old songs. One of the more interesting tweaks is a bumpy look at the Isley Brothers’ ‘Highways Of My Life’. It comes with a touch of toasting, betraying the family’s Caribbean roots… ditto the cover of Freddie McGregor’s ‘Natural Collie’.
Of the original material, modern soul fans will love the pacey ‘Angel’. The collaboration with the Cool Million team has all the crucial, energized urgency of the best of the 80s, while ‘Lady’ is a catchy bouncy slice of pop/soul.
Those who like things a little more sedate will delight in the ballads ‘It’s Not Right’ (insightful, socio-political lyrics here) sees a guest appearance from UK soulstress Terri Walker, while Noel showcases his soulfulness on ‘I’ve Changed’ and though the liner notes detail 13 tracks, my copy boasted a fourteenth – ‘The First Time’ –another lovely ballad.
As you’d expect from a family group, the harmonies are superb throughout – ‘Cut From The Same Cloth’ indeed.
You can find out more about the remarkable career of Noel McKoy by accessing our 2010 interview with him via the search engine at the top right of this page… and you can watch McKoy in action @ www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJvBerEjBaI