dirty martini

old music for new people

girls dem sugar July 5, 2008

in contrast to what looks like a male dominated roots reggae scene, in the uk, the lover’s rock movement was exemplified by young girl bands. lovers rock merged reggae with smoother soul sounds in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.

way before brandy, monica and aaliyah became notable for launching careers barely into their teens, groups of south london schoolgirls were rocking sound systems and making some of the best reggae music of the late 70s.

download here

15-16-17 – funny feeling

althea and donna – uptown top ranking

brown sugar – hello stranger

cool notes – i’ve got to let him

the gaylets – lonely feeling

revelation – with you boy

the sadonians – goodbye my love

sister love – goodbye little man

the tonettes – i’ll give it to you

winsome – am i the same girl

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our reggae music May 19, 2007

reggae and jamaica are inextricably linked. but in the mid 70s, south london took reggae, added a dash of brixton and sent it back across the airwaves. disenfranchised black britons found an identity and an alternative to the us-led soul scene.
in contrast to the political protest of 70s island reggae, lovers rock dealt with the same issues as 70s soul, but to a different beat. not since this movement has british culture influenced the entire reggae scene to such an extent.
the south london soundsystems provided a haven and identity for inner city teenagers and clubgoers of all races. as such, many of the artists were very young, especially the girls, who provided a realistic and honest outlet for the romantic and sometimes plaintive lyrics.
i was just a baby when this music was popular and it was one of the last truly underground urban scenes – i can’t imagine many outside of london were aware of it even at the time. i had no exposure to it whatsoever but when i first heard them, most of the tracks were instantly familiar and perfectly encapsulate the mood of the nation in the late 70s and early 80s.
now in their 40s and 50s, the lovers rock massive recently welcomed many of the genre’s stars back into the limelight as part of the soul britannia concerts held at the london barbican centre. though the distinction between reggae and lovers rock became blurred with the advent of dancehall in the mid 80s and later ragga, its legacy survives today.
ten lovers rock classics – download here
the cool notes – i’ve got to let him know
not all of this group’s listeners would be aware that they started their careers as part of the lovers rock movement. in the 80s they were true jheri soul artistes, albeit with a british edge, and had sizeable mainstream success. their most popular lovers tune was the era-defining ‘my tune’, so I’ve included a lesser known 1977 cut.
bob andy – honey
established reggae artist bob was one of many jamaican acts swayed by the new british sound, and this 1983 track cemented his new and successful direction. prior to this he served as part of bob marley’s band, and since he has become a respected stalwart of the reggae scene, taking up the mantle at bob marley’s tuff going empire.
15 16 17 – if you love me smile
one of several lovers rock girl bands, and named after their respective ages when they formed. they didn’t change their band name as they got older – in fact they weren’t around for very long. they covered soul classics to great effect but also sang sweetly on their own compositions.
john mclean – if i gave my heart to you
a true child of the lovers rock era, john grew up in 70s south west london and started singing with the black starliner sound system at the age of 16. it was another decade before he gained meaningful success with this song, which topped the reggae charts in 1987.
portia morgan – let me be your angel
in the early 80s, the influence of ska has become more prominent. the contrast of hopeful lyrics against a typically melancholy backing track sums up the restlessness and fear of urban britain in 1981.
junior brown – long time me call
more upbeat example of the genre from the mid 80s on the ubiquitous fashion label. not much info can be found by googling this artist…could possibly have recorded under another name?
brown sugar – hello stranger
like 15 16 17, brown sugar were schoolgirls at the peak of their success. if you thought caron wheeler was fresh faced when she hooked up with soul ii soul in 1989, you might be surprised to learn that a 14 year old caron and friends carol simms and pauline cattlin were making music back in 1977.
musical youth – heartbreaker
best known for their no1 hit ‘pass the dutchie’ which escaped the moral majority despite being very obviously about smoking weed. the shamen got away with a similar act ten years later with ode to ecstasy ‘ebeneezer goode’, no1 during national drugs week, no less. its easy to forget that musical youth weren’t just a novelty act, they also made proper lover rock – like this.
louisa marks – caught you in a lie
by now you know the score…15 year old louisa marks was arguably the first lady (ok, girl) of lovers rock in 1975. she was the first british artist to score a reggae hit.
winston reedy – dim the lights
early 80s example of the genre from popular reggae artists winston, who had several successful albums. still doing his thing.
 

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…