dirty martini

old music for new people

under the sea October 27, 2007

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i love anything that sounds watery. as an aquarian, perhaps this is to be expected. my favourite fairytale was always the little mermaid and this is what i used to say i wanted to be when i grew up.

when i was very young, we had actual aquarium photo style wallpaper in our bathroom and i was so upset when my mum redecorated to some beige early 80s monstrosity but lacked the articulation to tell her so at the time.

i can stare at fishtanks all day and when i play ‘kitty goes fishing’ a dvd for cats, that i bought for my little fluffballs, i often end up mesmerised right along with them.

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air – sexy boy

like swimming with frogs, and no not because they’re french, i  just hear frog noises in there. so less of a sea on this one, more like a pond. with lily pads.

all saints – pure shores

purpose built wateryness as this was on the soundtrack for ‘the beach’. at the time this track was a huge departure for the girls –  a long way from the met bar and maharishi.

carnival of the animals – aquarium

this used to play as we filed into the hall for assembly at infant school. hearing it takes me right back to that huge wooden floor and the sun beaming in through the windows.

fish go deep – the cure and the cause

this act were aptly named as their track sounds like the theme to a deep sea adventure.

grid – flotation

so much better than their later efforts, especially the ghastly ‘swamp thing’. if only water had become a theme instead rednecks…

maxwell – submerge

like the aural equivalent of a jacuzzi. or, sticking your head underwater in the bath, for those on a budget.

prince – diamonds and pearls

no obvious watery theme here but thats what it sounds like to me. i suspect prince was actually going for ‘twinkly’.

sade – no ordinary love

i seem to remember that sade was a mermaid in this video, so it seems that the director agreed with me that it sounds aquatic.

smoke city – underwater love

obviously.

sos band –  weekend girl

something very tide in, tide out, about this one.

ten sharp – you

this sounds so aquatic to me that i once had a dream in which it was the soundtrack to big crashing waves.

 

neo soul pioneers October 25, 2007

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 it would be easy to assume that neo-soul artists started to emerge in retaliation to the commercial and ostentatious r&b scene we’ve had since the late 90s.

 in fact, neo soul’s inception was much earlier, sometime in the early 90s. suddenly there were artists who weren’t new jack swing, they weren’t 8os, and they didn’t really complement the g funk scene. their closest contemporaries were the jazzhiphop and daisy age movement, but this sound was based on a classic soul sound updated for the new decade.

polished, note perfect vocals and overproduced instrumentals were replaced with more organic sounds and melancholy vocals. one of the things i really love about neo-soul is that whilst the lyrics are generally more intelligent and so better crafted than most r&b, there is an honesty and accessibility that speaks directly to you.

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d’angelo – brown sugar

one of the few comnmercially successful neo-soul artists. the naked image on his second album didn’t hurt.

des’ree – feel so high

default brit nominee des’ree started her career with this track in 1992, and has bubbled under ever since. last year she took on beyonce after she rerecorded ‘kissing you’ without permission. can’t wait to see how that one turns out…

jazzyfatnastees – unconventional ways

girl duo formed in 1992, originally with four member but now going strong as a duo supporting the likes of jill scott and alicia keys.

jhelisa – friendly pressure

didn’t receive that much attention on release but was revived a few laters with popular uk garage mixes by sunship.

lauryn hill – ex-factor

who knew the girl hailed as the saviour of soul would end up looking and acting like a circus freak? she had everything going for her, maybe the pressure to deliver another ‘miseducation’ was just too great?

lynden david hall – the jimmy lee story

sadly departed, and i’m glad he had that cameo in love actually or he might have been forgotten in a decade’s time. criminally underrated.

me’shell ndegeocello – if that’s your boyfriend

as difficult to categorise as pronounce, i heard of me’shell years ago but never quite got round to hearing her music until recently.

oleta adams – rhythm of life

best known for ‘get here’ but this was actually her first single in 1990.

omar – something real

a later track from omar lye-fook, who all but invented neo-soul with ‘there’s nothing like this’.

rahsaan patterson – crush on you

later reworked by lil kim and biggie. rahsaan has been a consistent figure since the early 90s.

seal – future love paradise

i never did get why seal rereleased ‘killer’ a year after adamski’s original version with him on vocals. i still think of ‘killer’ as an adamski track and cetainly this track and ‘crazy’ were a millions miles from the rave scene.

shara nelson – one goodbye in ten

not sure what happened to shara. after rising to fame with massive attack, she had commercial success with her first album in 1993, then promptly disappeared.

 

80s boys: softly does it October 13, 2007

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the 80s were a time of smooth sophistication – or at least, that was the aspiration. it wasn’t supposed to look as effortless as the impossibly slick culture we have today where even boho takes hours to perfect. in the 80s, looking as if you had spent time and money on your style was a badge of honour.

everything was designed to flatter this image and music was no exception – the music was polished and the vocals didin’t interrupt the flow. male pop/soul vocalists were often soft and understated, with an overtone of smugness. which is why i’ve chosen a picture of steff, james spader’s character in pretty in pink. the baddie you hate to love.

all of these bands feature cooing vocals, so much of a rarity these days that anything remotely understated evokes the 80s. it wasn’t particularly manly but the new romantics pretty much put paid to any notions that the 80s would be a macho decade.

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breathe – how can i fall

not breathe’s biggest hit, but since they only had one other…close.

howard jones – like to get to know you well

classic synth pop soul which few did better than howard. good use of a mullet too. howard’s sound was slicker than his look. he looked like a tramp with a vidal sassoon haircut and bleach job.

stephen tin tin duffy – icing on the cake

original member of duran duran and has had more success in production than with his own music.

climie fisher – love changes everything

sweet late 80s boy pop that can still be found on heart fm to this day. they had one other notable song, ‘rise to the occasion’.

curiosity killed the cat – down to earth

smash hits favourite ben volauvent parrot and co were minor challengers to bros and wet wet wet in the late 80s. i used to fancy migi.

wet wet wet – sweet little mystery

cheeky scot marti pellow looked so much better with the caught-in-a-dodgem spiky haircut than his later curtain style look when they caught their financial break with ‘love is all around’.

scritti politti – absolute

i love the sound of green’s voice, its like candyfloss. all of scritti  politti’s music sounds the same across albums spanning the entire decade. i like that in a group.

johnny hates jazz – i don’t want to be a hero

oddly sincere sounding group taking into account the jazz were rich pretty boys. proving rich boys don’t need to go indie to compensate for their roots. all of jhj’s music has that late 80s wine bar sound on lock.

omd – if you leave

i don’t care for much of omd’s music but of all the 80s teen movies, this was the most fitting soundtrack to the obligatory high school dance scene. i think we all wanted andie to get with duckie, but its not so bad for him as he’s ended up in two and a half men with charlie sheen…

brother beyond – how many times

god nathan moore really wasn’t any better a singer than he is an agent. and don’t get me wrong, i loved bb way more than bros. no wonder lisa scott-lee’s career haas gone down the pan…oh wait, no, that’s because she’s shit.

blow monkeys – it doesn’t have to be this way

i’m sure i heard carol mcgiffin say that she slept with monkeys frontman dr robert. maybe if you were a bit older – and i mean of an age when you should be fancying people, not 11 like i was – then he was the 80s version of russell brand. who i don’t get either.

hipsway – the honeythief

don’t know much about this group but they typified the smooth sound of the time.

 

80s girl bands – hair, hair and more hair September 29, 2007

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 there weren’t as many girl bands back in the 80s. boys shifted units and were infintely more marketable.

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bananarama – i heard a rumour

infamous for their total lack of singing ability but this added to their girl next door appeal. as a trio they managed to hold a note though, even when the lineup alternated, destiny’s child style. no one remembers the dark haired one they brought in to replace siobhan when she left to form shakespear’s sister. well, her name was jacqui and she looked like a prison warden.

bangles – eternal flame

possibly the most hair of all the girl groups. prince wrote their first hit, ‘manic monday’ and it was all good from there, for a god few years. have joined the long list of acts who have had one of their songs butchered by rough as old boots scouse band atomic kitten.

expose – seasons change

expose were huge in the US, not so much in the UK. predated en vogue and once they arrived, we really didn’t need expose anymore.

klymaxx – i’d still say yes

one of few all-girl 80s soul groups, and all the better for it. doubtlessly inspired many a 90s r&b girl band.

mai tai – body and soul

dutch group who had an interesting euro twang to their vocals and sound. huge smils, braids and pvc catsuits were the order of the day. this track is enjoyably bouncy machine pop but most of their output was smoother.

mary jane girls – in my house

sassy girls who must hopefully be reaping some royalties from the endless sampling of their biggest hit ‘all night long’. this track, sounds like it belongs in ‘fast times at ridgemont high’.

mel and kim – flm

chirpy cockney sisters who inspired a nation of girls to raid their local branch of chelsea girl for bowler hats and cropped jackets. mel sadly died only a few years after they found success. whilst the track refers to ‘fun, love and money’ the title actualy stands for ‘fuckin’ lovely mate’.

pepsi and shirlie – goodbye stranger

started their careers singing backup for wham and came into their own after the split. owned the puffball skirt look in 1987.

pointer sisters – automatic

responsible for enduring party classics ‘i’m so excited’ and ‘jump’. actually formed in the 60s and didn’t achieve commerical success for 15 years by which time the girls were in their mid-late 30s.

salt-n-pepa – i like it like that

first ladies of hiphop and there was actually a third member, spinderella, who was gradually coaxed out from behind her decks. now the subjects of a reality show, these girls astound me as they do not appear to have aged in 20 years.

seduction – heartbeat

another girl band with big hair and small clothes.

vanity 6 – he’s so dull

prince’s band, whose one and only album is quite literally the sound of four teenage girls on a sleepover.

 

80s brit soul – big hair, smooth grooves May 1, 2007

Filed under: 80s,soul — chillijazz @ 10:28 am
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uk soul artists in the 80s were not obviously from these shores on first glance. sure, if you listened carefully or read smash hits you would find out soon enough that they were from basildon or wigan rather than minneapolis or atlanta. they didn’t go out of their way to represent britain, maybe because the music wasn’t as distinct as it is today. they dressed like their us counterparts, sounded like them and some even had as much success across the pond.

many of these acts embraced jheri curl soul in all its aesthetic glory, and so visually you probably wouldn’t realise say, that loose ends and midnight star were from different parts of the world. they wore the same metallic suits and piled their hair high on one side (the girls, mostly).

others, well they just did their thing and some endeared themselves to the american record buying public more than the home crowd. critics often believe british artists make cynical attempts to crack the us market by adopting a us-style persona and sound, and that this is the secret of their success. the truth is, they stick out like a sore thumb over there.

what the british acts did have though, despite copycat images and sounds, was a certain sweetness and honesty that shone through their lyrics. most preferred to sing about relationships and avoided the overconfident posturing that captured the essence of the soul glo genre so well.

ten brit soul classics from the 80sdownload here

loose ends – hanging on a string (1985)
loose ends are still held up as shining examples of 80s soul – both here and across the atlantic. this 1985 hit from their second album ‘so where are you’ was one of their many chart successes. one time vocalist trish lewin’s daughter, lisa roxanne, has carried on the family pop legacy in recent years.
royalle delite – i’ll be a freak for you (1983)
not that much is known about this group, although they had several other club hits which I don’t remember but would love to find. great squelchy bass, nonchalant vocals and stop-start percussion.
princess – say i’m your number one (1985)
princess was part of the saw stable…but a million miles from kylie, jason and er, big fun. in 2005 she resurfaced on ‘hit me baby one more time’, miming. vernon kay barely hid his disgust…wish i hadn’t seen it. this was my jam and i nagged my way to a ‘1’ earring like she had in the video. even though it would be another 5 years (of rows) before I was allowed to get my ears pierced.
mica paris – my one temptation (1988)
mica was only 19 when she released her debut album ‘so good’ in 1988 inlcuding a duet with will downing. never quite hitting the big time, her sound heralded a more sophisticated late 80s, like the aural equivalent of a glossy coffee table book, an ideal background to dinner parties and wine bars nationwide. don’t get me wrong, i like mica, but i’ve never been as surprised at her lack of lasting crossover success as she seems to be.
jaki graham – round and around (1985)
jaki was perhaps best known for several duets with david grant. the former ub40 backing vocalist had a long run of solo hits between 1985 and 1988, of which this was the first. i can remember making myself sick trying to recreate the dizzying spinning dance she does in the video.




errol brown – your personal touch (1987)
he is of course, known primarily as the lead singer of 70s soul band hot chocolate, and this track was released from errol‘s first solo albun in 1987. after being somewhat ubiquitous around london in the 90s, charming his way around the club and bar scene, he’s now living a more settled life with long-suffering wife ginette in the bahamas.
cool notes – in your car (1985)
this south london group started life as a lovers’ rock act in the late 70s, morphing via disco to true eighties jheri soul artistes. their biggest hits were this track and ‘spend the night’ in 1985, from their much sought-after album ‘have a good forever’. band couple steve and lorraine mcintosh are the parents of bradley from s club 7. tsk, it’s always a shame when the parents are so much cooler than the kids…
pasadenas – enchanted lady (1988)
the pasadenas were a band that paid homage to 60s/70s soul greats – hence ‘tribute’ in 1988. despite a lot of covers and straight jacking the o’jays, they were decent songwriters, as evidenced by this 1988 track. ok, one of the reasons i like it is also because it featured in the episode of only fools and horses when rodney and cassandra get it together, in the nightclub under the watchful eye of mickey pearce and jevon.
sade – the sweetest taboo (1985)
sade, whilst a respected and successful artists amongst the soul fraternity, was also a favourite of estate agents and dinner party hosts. especially her first album in 1984 ‘diamond life’. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – she carried this theme through her next five albums. she also invented (or reinvented) the ‘croydon’ facelift’ ponytail . except she looked good in it. she found her work extensively remixed, covered and sampled in the 90s.

billy ocean – caribbean queen (1984)
lazy 80s music journalists labelled billy ocean the uk’s answer to michael jackson. i don’t remember this ludicrous comparison but i did always dance to ‘caribbean queen’ in a line with my friends at school discos after one too many cherryades. hilariously, in current chris rock sitcom, ‘everybody hates chris’, his younger sister tonya is a huge billy ocean fan, and claims that he invented the moonwalk not wacko, who stole it. it would have been great if that were true.
 

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…