dirty martini

old music for new people

you must be my lucky star February 3, 2008

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stars are everywhere this season. i love it when the star prints pop up in shops. not as cutesy as hearts and infinitely more interesting than polka dots.

my favourite childhood dress was a little white rara dress with blue, red and yellow pastel stars. i haven’t found anything for my grown up wardrobe that was quite right but i live in hope. in the meantime i do have an old ollie and nic bag in green velvet with purple stars, which i love.

download here

air – kelly watch the stars

i loved ‘moon safari’. if you can’t decide whether something sounds retro or futuristic, or both, that’s generally a good thing.

cheri – star struck

cheri were a moderately successful 80s girl band a la the mary jane girls and vanity 6.

china black – stars

like the lighthouse family, china black were always on the edge of sounding a bit worthy, a common affliction for brit soulsters.

con funk shun – she’s a star

very prolific but not a widely known as their peers such as kool and the gang and earth wind and fire…

earth wind and fire – star

…who had a penchant for singing about stars. this is lesser known than ‘shining star’ but i prefer it.

heatwave – star of the story

one word – royalties. ‘mind blowing decisions’, ‘boogie nights’ and ‘always and forever’ must have earned this lot a fair wad over the years.

index – starlight

early 80s boogie soul.

madonna – lucky star

perhaps the most starry sounding song about stars ever.

mariah carey – underneath the stars

think deep blue skies, wet green grass and twinkling yellow stars.

prince – baby i’m a star

golden era prince.

rah band – message from the stars

cute, slightly novelty band. you could get away with that kind of stuff in the 80s without being labelled completely shit.

simply red – stars

i loved this.

stevie wonder – another star

stevie didn’t venture into disco too often despite releasing quite a few albums in that era.  

terri walker – star

another underrated uk r&b artist…

 

cool britannia January 5, 2008

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watching ruby turner on jools holland the other day was further proof of the abundance of underappreciated talent we have in the uk.

this is a selection of new and old uk talent, worth investigating.

download here 

terri walker -flirtin’

sadly, terri will at best be underrated in the beverly knight tradition for the rest of her career. her three albums are ten times better than anything mya has ever put out…

soul ii soul – love enuff

new age funksters who retained their peace and love vibe well into the mid 90s when everyone else had given up.

loose ends – choose me

those that know revere loose ends as the 80s soul band to end them all.

five star – rsvp

family group who turned out to have more in common with jacksons than we thought possible – a veritable mountain of plastic surgery. this song is from their first album, when they had their own noses and steadman didn’t look like a circus freak.

light of the world – no1 girl

named themselves after a kool and the gang album, and had several hits. after splitting in 1981 some members went on to form beggar&co, who also had some success.

heatwave – super soul sister

ok only the keyboardist was british, the band was in fact, international. heatwave were responsible for standard ‘always and forever’ and countless 70s funk gems.

cool notes – i forgot

originally part of the young south london lovers’ rock scene, then a jheri soul success, by uk standards, with several top ten hit.

central line – you’ve said enough

another success, and singer camelle hinds is still active.

leona lewis – suga sweet

a pre-fame remake of juicy’s 1985 jheri soul hit ‘ sugar free’. some more midtempos like this would have sat well on ‘spirit’…i hope she gets back to this style for her second album. leona had the biggest selling uk album of 2007 so even in this uncertain era for the music industry, this hopefully means a sophomore effort is a dead cert!

celetia – special

the uk’s answer to brandy and aaliyah in the 90s – sadly without the success but happily without the drama. this was from her second album, ‘runaway skies’.

shola ama – who’s loving my baby

still waiting on that comeback, shola. and sister sadie’s debut for that matter….what’s going on ladies? shola had the biggest selling r&b album in the uk, of all time.

lemar – fresh

things have also gone a bit quiet on the lemar front, after three successful albums. apparently a radio DJ in barbados mistakenly announced his name was ‘lemar bedingfield’  and now the population, or at least those listening, now believe he is related to those tiresome, delusional big-toothed horrors….as if!

 

crazy is as crazy does December 23, 2007

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 artists like to sing about being crazy -and over the christmas period their claims to insanity may be more valid. families can send you nuts.

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chaka demus and pliers – love you like crazy

became a bit of a comedy reggae act in the 90s after a pointless cover of ‘twist and shout’.

corina – loving you like crazy

freestyle artist corina is still going strong – this track is from 1990.

dream – crazy

teenage girls do not make for a harmonious group – lineup changes led to their second album, ‘reality’, being shelved. a shame, as this, and some of the other tracks sounded a lot better than their debut.

five star – crazy

i loved this video, which followed the group as they rampaged through an empty fairground. very low budget ie classic 80s.

mark morrison – crazy

actually mark’s first single before ‘return of the mack’. is he in jail again? not heard from him for a while.

missy elliott and beyonce – crazy feelings

a restrained effort from beyonce here, thankfully. missy’s midtempo tracks are actually very good.

mj cole – crazy love

lushly produced uk garage, bound for the lounge rather than the club. vocals are by uk urban mainstay elisabeth troy.

musiq – halfcrazy

nice slow jam from the soulchild.

occasions – crazy world

gospel meets 90s r&b and the results are impressive.

paul davis – i go crazy

downtempo weepy later covered by jazz vocalist will downing.

trellini – crazy about you

90s girl trellini wasn’t hugely successful but her one and only album (i think) was nice.

yvette michele – crazy

yvette started off singing about being crazy about a dj, then just decided to be crazy. then decided to sing about a dj again…she only had one album.

 

yuppie soul…for wannabes and estate agents alike July 13, 2007

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yuppies were everywhere in the late 80s. inspired by wall street and dressed by armani. or more likely, next, in fact i think the blame for the continuing success of next and its unflattering, boxy clothes can be laid squarely at the feet of the yuppie movement.

think del boy falling over in an underground wine bar trying to impress snooty trophy wives while hapless trigger looks on in his blue suit. being the average man on the street, never mind the underdog, was not a celebrated thing in the late 80s. my parents knew someone who aspired to be a yuppie. if he held a barbecue, it was a ‘dinner party’ by virtue of the fact that he would provide a musical backdrop of ‘now thats what i call classical music’. the fact that he worked at asda didn’t hold him back – he assumed the look, the lifestyle and the self delusion.

it’s sad to watch the ex-yuppies now, especially those that were young at the time. they cling desperately to their trench coats and briefcases, and we don’t invite them out for after work drinks. unless we want them to pay.

dodgy, drab fashion and buck teeth aside, the most hilarious part of the yuppie image was the mobile phone. or the brick, as its now commonly known. not dissimilar to lugging around your own portable phone box, and requiring an antenna that would spear anyone within fifty feet.

it’s no surprise that some of the soul artists that broke through at this time were white, and very middle of the road. they were reflective of the audience. the music was criticised as manufactured and lacking in grit, but its a hell of a lot better than most of the crap we’re forced to endure today. ‘pop’ does mean ‘popular’ after all…

smooth wine bar grooves for the upwardly mobile – download here

al jarreau – we’re in this love together

alexander o’neal – hearsay

sade – hang on to your love

mica paris and will downing – where is the love

luther vandross – give me the reason

whitney houston – you give good love 

lisa stansfield – live together

simply red – a new flame

wet wet wet – angel eyes

tracy chapman –  fast car

terence trent d’arby – if you let me stay

michael bolton – soul provider

 

00s brit soul – national identity June 3, 2007

finally, after the copycat 80s and highs and lows of the 90s, british soul was ready to take on its own identity.

one of the first ways in which it achieved this was by redefining soul. house and garage were big business in the 90s, but the urban clubs and superclubs rarely mixed. typically, r&b was a smaller room adjacent to the the cheesier, townie clubs and didn’t even get a look in at cream, renaissance and the ministry of sound.

 

the speed garage scene that took off in the late 90s eventually slowed to a two step beat, and created a completely new sound. r&b vocals were married to stuttering, club-friendly beats and for a few years, between 1999 and 2002, uk garage was the sound of young UK.

 

after the inevitable drop in demand, uk hiphop and r&b were faced with a decision. either they could continue to emulate their US counterparts or they could use elements of uk garage to make their output distinctly british.

now we have traditional soul, copycat r&b, grime and some artists that defy classification and confuse the hell out of the yanks. we’re back in business…

 

twelve very different uk tracks from the 00sdownload here


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lemar – if there’s any justice

the only good thing to come out of the dull fame academy, simon cowell surely wishes he’d been able to get to lemar first. lemar, like girls aloud, has truly transcended his reality show beginnings and is pretty much the best current british male r&b act.

 

 

misteeq – why

south london girl band who leveraged links with the so solid crew to create a successful career in the early 00s. swiftly shook off their uk garage roots by the time they reached their second album in 2002. the group split largely due to their label, polydor, sinking after investing way too much in tone deaf victoria beckham. that’s got to hurt.
 

unklejam – love ya

relative newcomers who have been blessed/cursed with the ‘sounds a bit like prince‘ tag. time will tell if there is more to them than this track, but the odds are in their favour with the hype reaching all corners of the globe right now. another myspace success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sadie ama – so sure

shola’s little sister had a valuable induction into the industry at an early age, and she’s making some good choices production-wise, collaborating with the likes of kano and terror danjah amongst others. looks and sounds exactly the same – with shola expected to relaunch anytime soon, could be interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

conner reeves – oughtabelaw

irish soul boy who first came to prominence in the late 90s. this track from last year deserved way more attention. possibly one of the breed of artists that has suffered greatly from the download revolution as his image doesn’t quite fit his music. i always think people navigate this poor fit by just grabbing the audio.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

emmanuel and terri walker – flirtin’

always tipped to break through. hopefully it will happen for her before she is talked into a beverley knight-style commercial compromise. this track is from emmanuel‘s 2006 project that featured numerous british soul artists on his productions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

keisha white – open like so

came through around the same time as keyshia cole, and is far more talented, but received about 5% of the promotion. so, keyshia collaborates with p diddy and is set to release her second album whilst keisha‘s future is unknown. harsh. a good example of why leona lewis has been whisked off to the us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nate james – universal

actually received some promotion around his debut in 2005, and it did ok. i’m going to be lazy and say he’s a hybrid of stevie wonder and lenny kravitz and worthy of your attention. hopefully an association with next big thing, sway, will catapult him back into the limelight.

 

 

 

 

 

craig david – seven days with mos def

back in 2000, referring yourself in the third person was even more ridiculous than it is now. the ensuing bo selecta parody may outlive his music in the nation’s consciousness if he doesn’t pull his finger out soon. craig, unfazed, still refers to himself in the third person when appearing on mtv cribs showing us how all his cash has enabled him to construct a state of the art pulling den. no women in sight though, and you can’t swing a jocasi bag round london without hitting someone he’s tried it on with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ms dynamite – fall in love again

made a good contract choice and got the promotion other uk artists would kill for. this resulted in numerous awards for her debut album which, although nice enough, sounds dated only five years later. this track, from her largely ignored second album, will hopefully age a bit better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spl2rge – scuse me

like unklejam, appear to be on the verge of big things, promotion notwithstanding. i never hold my breath on these things anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

taio cruz – i just wanna know

mario soundalike who can’t be accused of trying to create a british identity. which is fair enough. we don’t want to end up like the irish, who have to be irish all the time.

 

 

90s brit soul – quality over quantity April 30, 2007

at the turn of the decade, it looked as if uk soul had found an identity. for the most part, artists eschewed the trappings of new jack swing, with its distinctly american, over-produced sound, for a truly local style.


soul ii soul spearheaded this movement, that whilst fiercely british, paid homage to the daisy age, summer of love principles of artists such as de la soul. some stayed true to their soul roots, some moved into dancier territory and others built the foundations of new genres – acid jazz and jungle/drum and bass.


it was looking positive. but as r&b moved into the mainstream in the mid 90s, uk artists gazed enviously at their us counterparts and tried to emulate their success. usually this resulted in a diluted experience that wasn’t street enough for the clubs, yet still too urban for the dinner party set.


these are the ones that survived despite the odds.


ten 90s brit soul survivorsdownload here

shola ama – you’re the one i love – 1996
shola
signed a deal on her 16th birthday that would lead her to become the UK’s most successful r&b female singer in the late 90s. in good rags-to-riches tradition, she was discovered singing at a tube station and released her first single ‘celebrate’ on an independent label in 1995. amusingly, her wikipedia entry declares an addiction to pork pies as a reason for her downfall. when ‘pork pies’ became a euphemism for ‘cocaine’, i’m not sure…





kele le roc – my love – 1999


kele has perhaps become more well known for guest appearances with artists such as basement jaxx than for her solo career. her debut arrived at a time when every r&b single was subjected to the 2-step remix treatment and the uk garage mix of ‘my love’ is one of the best known examples of the genre and certainly eclipsed this underappreciated ignorants‘ r&b mix at the time.


caron wheeler – i adore you – 1992

a stalwart of the uk black music scene since her days in teenage lovers rock band brown sugar in the mid 70s. in the late 80s caron hooked up with legendary dj jazzie b and the rest is history. her role in soul ii soul laid the foundations for a renewed solo career and her album ‘uk blak‘ was released in 1990 to critical acclaim. ‘i adore you’ is her best known solo track, from the 1992 soundtrack ‘mo’ money‘.


elisha la verne – i may be single – 1996

elisha seemed destined for bigger things when she arrived in 1996. like many other artists, she has found enduring success in japan. i can remember a pa she did at my local club in 1996 that was met with cool indifference by the predominantly house-loving crowd. if she’d arrived a few years later things could have been quite different.


tongue ‘n’ cheek – nobody – 1990

tongue’n’cheek’s initial outings, covers of cheryl lynn and patrice rushen disco-era classics, were met enthusiastically after the foundations for brit soul were laid by soul ii soul. this track, remixed from an 1988 original, had a new jack swing feel to it and was far more interesting. tongue’n’cheek suffered somewhat from being difficult to pigeonhole as either a soul or dance music act.


kenny thomas – thinking about your love – 1991

cheeky chappy kenny thomas charmed his way in to the british record buying public’s hearts with a cover of the gap band’s ‘outstanding’, together with winsome video in which he strolled through an east end market. this track was another cover, but not many people realised at the time. he also covered the force md’s ‘tender love’ as if it was his own soon after, capitalising on the fact that mainstream britain knew fuck all about soul music until quite recently. fair play to him.


celetia – missing your love – 1995

with aaliyah, monica and brandy on the scene, it was decided that the UK needed its own underage r&b starlet. enter brixon girl celetia martin, sort of. her debut album failed to ignite, with the then 14 year old slammed for her raunchy lyrics. sometimes i wonder what these critics were doing when they were 14 – knitting? it wasn’t really that shocking… her second album ‘runaway skies’ saw her adopt a more unique and organic persona and was infinitely more successful. she now lives in LA and is working with big name producers such as soulshock and carlin. impressive.


lynden david hall – do i qualify – 1998

could have been one of the biggest artists in the uk if his life wasn’t cut short last year due to hodgkin’s lymphoma. first album ‘medicine 4 my pain’ was a huge success in 1998, and was the first uk artist voted as best male by blues and soul readers. he went on to star in ‘love actually’ as a wedding singer.








don-e – love makes the world go round – 1992

don-e arrived in 1992 with this sunny track, from his debut ‘unbreakable’. although his career stalled after this brief success, he resurfaces occasionally, and joined forces with deni hines to cover new edition’s ‘delicious’ to great effect in 1995.

beverley knight – flavour of the old school – 1994

the most consistently successful artist on this list and owner of an amazing voice. beverley started out in 1994 with ‘b-funk’, and i prefer this early material to her later more poppy/mainstream offerings as I get a bit annoyed when uk r&b artists feel the need to start including guitars in their work to get any kind of recognition…

 

the uk’s answer to the jackson five…?? April 18, 2007

five star – a family r&b group comprising five siblings – were touted as the uk’s answer to the jackson five. in 1985. come on, back then there was definitely a delayed reaction as we responded to musical and cultural missives from across the atlantic, but 16 years?deniece, doris, lorraine, delroy and steadman were just teenagers when they burst onto the scene in 1984 with their brassy bleached hair (the girls) and jheri curls (the boys). plus braces all round. their first single, problematic, failed to make an impression despite landing the plum performance spot on pebble mill at one. actually maybe that was the problem…before they enjoyed chart success and proved the old adage that money can’t buy taste, five star, despite their tender ages (ranging from 14 to 21) produced classic 80s brit soul a la loose ends. seriously, that good. they had their own label, tent records, and ok, like the jackson five and later beyonce, their dad, buster pearson, was pulling the strings.

the obvious family schtick aside, their careers took off because deniece had a great voice. the others found roles for themselves beyond backup, ‘why don’t you’ style. delroy was the, er, baby. (actually this is sounding more like the spice girls). steadman was the oldest and ‘looked a bit like michael jackson‘. doris was the choreographer and ‘looked a bit like janet jackson‘. lorraine, brainwashed by blue peter, felt compelled to make mock ups of their video sets out of old cardboard boxes. and dated eddie murphy, briefly. you can decide which of these achievements is greater.

so their first album, ‘luxury of life’ was a triumph of slinky mid 80s electro soul replete with bubbling basslines, sweet vocals and summery instrumentation. so much so that an unprecedented seven singles were released, with moderate success right up until the last one, a song about being mechanically manipulated – ‘system addict’. someone in a&r (probably buster) had finally noticed that in 1985, we were obsessed with futuristic gadgetry and convinced that by the year 2000, computers would rule the world.

but soon they were bonafide popstars and commerciality struck resulting in the music becoming more hit and miss quality-wise. they bought more cars than their romford home could accommodate and started wearing matching catsuits. yep, including the boys.

so, if you’re too young to remember what they looked like, don’t look too closely at the image at the top of this page. it’ll only put you off, just listen to the music…

ten five star tracks you need to owndownload here hide and seek
lots of people think this is a new edition song that five star covered – in fact its the other way round. this was their first proper single and the dancing in the video is hilarious….

let me be the one
the five star track most likely to be mis-labelled as loose ends if you try to download it from limewire.
all fall down
a big hit stateside and a popular choice to accompany majorettes (remember wanting to be one of those?) and aerobics classes nationwide.
love take over
hmmm. either five star‘s music videos are intended to have nothing to do with the song or there is a genius undercover message that I can’t decipher. five star gatecrash an empty country house and prance about.
find the time
actually, I seem to remember the video for this track had lots of clocks in it, cos of the time thing. there goes my last theory.

if i say yes
another upbeat track that I didn’t appreciate at the time. I think partly because in the video they wore awful oversized grey suits and pranced about a haunted house.
show me what you got for me
best track on their second and most successful album, ‘silk and steel’. perhaps because as a non-single, it was not sullied by live performances in matching shoulder padded frightsuits with a dance routine in which poor delroy looked increasingly unwieldy, what with him being in the throes of puberty and all.
whenever you’re ready
the first single from 1987’s ‘between the lines’ album. more polished, but still good with nice bubbly sound effects.
strong as steel
a great slow jam from 1987 that has been covered by gladys knight amongst others.
rock my world
from their last commercially successful album in the UK, ‘rock the world’. different again, but worth a spin.