dirty martini

old music for new people

britain’s got talent April 19, 2008

there is more to the uk than leona, joss and amy.

i’m not getting into estelle’s rant about whether white girls can claim soul. i’ve barley heard adele or duffy but from the snippets i haven’t managed to avoid, i would think we’re in danger of confusing soul, which they may well have a claim on, with r&b, which is the category estelle et al would fall into.

but her point about the under-represented existing soul/r&b artists in the uk is true. some – beverley knight, jamelia – are often persuaded to stray into pop territory to raise their profile. i would say there’s a huge talent chasm between those two however. somehow i don’t think anyone will be talking about jamelia in a few years, no matter who she’s slating. bitter 30 something brummie with cheating footballer husband – now that will not be a good look.

download here

corinne bailey rae – young and foolish

craig david and kano – this is the girl

estelle – 1980

keisha white – out of my hands

lemar – someone should tell you

lisa maffia – bad girl

nate james – universal

taio cruz – backseat love

terri walker – flirtin’

winta gordon – surveillance

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cool britannia January 5, 2008

star-ice.jpg

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!

 

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.

 

 

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.