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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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!

 

ibiza: a post about chilling December 23, 2007

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at the turn of the 80s, there was a largely forgotten exercise in building a more caring and sharing society. new age arrived with ethereal, mystic promise, based on spirituality rather than actions. this wasn’t a rehash of 60s free love by modern day hippies. 

for many this was a stark contrast to to the overriding ethos of the 80s – you can believe in what you can see in front of you. those who disagreed with that mercenary philosophy had sought refuge away from the capitalism and excess and discovered likeminded souls by seeking out the new and the strange. 

this didn’t just mean jetting off to ibiza, or turning up to shoom and warehouse raves as a means of differentiating from mainstream society. this wasn’t a friday and saturday night revolution. some pranksters – revealed to be the klf  -got up in the early hours each day to carve crop circles into fields, leading bemused and excitable farmers to proclaim that the aliens were coming. those who have no recollection can’t imagine how alien ‘1990’ sounded at the time, when it had seemed like the 80s would never end. i remember seeing decimated fields on the news and inwardly laughing at how the adult nation were taken in by this joke. it was harmless fun, a subtle yet memorable message that things needed to change before we descended into weirdness.

the new decade was an opportunity to sweep everyone else up in this movement. i once heard a tv commentator on one of those nostalgia shows, i love 1989, probably, make the insightful statement that the 90s actually started in the summer of 1989 when soul ii soul hit number one. there was no such landmark a decade later, the new millenium was just an excuse for inflated club entry fees. capitalism had returned in 1995.

if peace and love had lasted, i’d have called that summer of 1989 the true turn of the millenium. as it went, it was the start of five years of freedom, soundtracked by emerging house, techno and drum and bass sounds. don’t be fooled into thinking that cream, ministry of sound and renaissance played any part in this – as much fun as they were, i now realise they eventually killed the scene and brought us back to where we are today. there’s nothing new age about paying £30 to get into a club in ibiza – we already live in the UK, things are supposed to be cheaper abroad that’s half the point of going on holiday.

the new age movement grabbed me – well, i liked crystals. at one point in 1990, absolutely everyone wore white jeans, trainers and a lilac tshirt, the new age uniform. we failed to grasp the fact that our levis, reebok classics and topshop tshirt were in direct contradiction to the movement we thought we were representing. like most fads, new ageism became something you could pick up and appropriate without a speck of understanding as to its roots and philosophy, as long as you liked the music.

still, those older and wiser are lucky enough to have experienced the scene for what it should have been before the superclubs took over. they sat outside the cafe del mar before the sunset ritual became a patented experience. they danced in clubs where dj’s played music and were rewarded with genuine appreciation – not a £3000 booking fee. i visited ibiza in 1994, when the tide was turning. it was underground, but the marketability of the island was slowly being realised. when i returned two years later, it was fun but inauthentic.

all the choice we have now started in 1990, but then it was genuine choice, rather than marketing making the decision for you. it was like a trial – many of the the things we did then you can get arrested for now.  bubbling resentment hadn’t boiled over into terrorism – new age ethics reasoned that 80s consumerism and power was naive and should be allowed to correct itself, not be punished.

1990 was an exciting and emotional time. it wasn’t just the music and the philosophy. there was the world cup. anyone who can sit through nessun dorma without at least the urge to cry is, well, under 25. 

most chillout tracks for me sound like they were recorded in the early 90s. those produced later tried to emulate the sounds and mood and many did so successfully, which is why they’re in the mix. to manage any expectation, i am not a dj. this is a long, inexpertly mixed set that is a blatant attempt to squeeze as many tracks as possible onto my mp3 player, but it sorts me out when i’m drunk or hungover, stressed, can’t sleep or feel like floating away in the sun (rain).

back then we knew we were on the verge of something exciting, and we were, it just didn’t last that long or turn out the way we thought it might. i miss those days, i doubt 14 year olds now feel the way i did then.

check out my posts on the 1994 and 1996 ibiza club scenes.

90s chillout mixdownload here

leftfield – melt

sisterlove – the hypnotist

ibizarre – lazy living

nightmares on wax – les nuits

sofa surfers – sofa rockers

st etienne – only love can break your heart – andrew weatherall mix

the grid – floatation – subsonic grid mix

innocence – natural thing

bentley rhythm ace – bentley’s gonna sort you out

sheer taft- cascades – hypnotone mix

the orb – little fluffy clouds

sun electric – sundance

the beloved – the sun rising – gentle night

aphex twin – xtal

sub sub – past

orbital – belfast

klf – what time is love – original mix

fsol – papua new guinea

altern8 – self hypnosis

moby – slight return

lemon interupt – dirty

sabres of paradise – smokebelch ii – beatless mix

bbe – seven days and one week – sindaar mix

energy 52 – cafe del mar – michael woods mix

moby – go – jam and spoon mix

groove armada – at the river

fc kahuna – hayling

808 state – pacific 202

bbg – snappiness

 

peace love and the daisy age August 20, 2007

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i’ve spoken about this before. unbelievable as it may sound now, seventeen years ago people were on a mission to be nicer to each other and connect more. sound alien? well that’s because it didn’t quite work out.

after the summer of love (1988), when people took lots of drugs and decided that everyone wasn’t so bad after all. we bought into the idea of a caring, sharing nineties. we all rushed out and bought a crystal – well, i wasn’t allowed one so I sulked. clearly i had this new age thing on lock….

the fashion…hmm. well i’m getting to that sorry age where certain fashions have started to come back to haunt me. leggings, pixie boots, batwing jumpers and jelly shoes all formed part of my childhood. i can always say that i didn’t exactly choose to wear them the first time round, since no one but my mum was there to witness umpteen tantrums over not being allowed a puffball skirt. i don’t envisage needing to explain away the fact that i chose to wear paisley shirts, pasties and global hypercolour t-shirts in 1990. they ain’t coming back, there will be no second round.

so suddenly, after 80s excess, came social conscience. other good buzzwords for 1990 – unity, collective, family. the soul music of 1990 was so far away from the flash and swagger of today’s r&b its actually surprising its not more than 17 years. the daisy age was really a de la soul movement, but their influence and the new age influence of the time filtered through everything and sat alongside rave, new jack swing and indie.

twelve huggy classicsdownload here

bassomatic – fascinating rhythm

is it rave? is it soul? is it house? i miss music of indeterminate genre such as this. it was good, you liked it, you danced to it – it didn’t matter.

beats international – won’t talk about it

much was made of the fact that vocalist lindy layton was once in grange hill. now, every british celebrity has been in grange hill or eastenders, usually both, then they either make it big or end up in the bill.

chimes – still haven’t found what i’m looking for

this is a rare example of the cover version being so much better than the original. plodding guitar dirge from pious irish rockers or tinkly, shifting grooves from cool acid jazz band? no contest.

de la soul – the magic number

sesame street inspired rap from the original hip hop hippies. as cute and colourful as the boys themselves.

dream warriors – my definition of a boombastic jazz style

jazz hiphop. what a fantastic concept. it sounds as fresh and as alien now as it did back then.

family stand – ghetto heaven

unique, moody soul. about a hooker, no less. i can’t track down any of their other material but if memory serves it was nothing like this track.

innocence – a matter of fact

great soul group that sat between r&b and ambient. the aural equivalent of sitting in a spring garden surrounded by dewy flowers.

jt and the big family – moments in soul

sampled art of noise’s ‘moments in love’ to great effect. another one of indeterminate genre.

movement 98 – joy and heartbreak

chillout soul at its best, but another casualty of the 90s trend for faceless one hit wonders.

neneh cherry – kisses on the wind

immensely likeable in a jordin sparks kind of way, but a lot more street. neneh was the first woman to go on tv and perform whilst heavily, and therefore obviously, pregnant.

seal  – crazy

probably the most commerical of the conscious soul contingent, but success was a sitting duck after ‘killer’ with adamski.

soul ii soul – back to life

i post this track in its 12 inch glory for my friend who dragged me round countless record stores looking for it, just after it became unavailable.

 

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…

 

the woman behind the ‘superwoman’ April 27, 2007

sometimes, you discover artists that no one else seems to know about. one day, in my german class at school, we had to name our favourite artist. it was 1990 so the most popular answers, and most acceptable if you wanted to escape the scorn of your peers, were ‘soul ii soul‘ or ‘de la soul‘. and so it went, all around the room. it must have been riveting for the teacher, although he used to play a banjo, so its likely every response was alien to him.

several brave souls ventured ‘new kids on the block‘ (shouldn’t admit to that one) and ‘madonna‘ (so passe by 1990) and a couple of geeks, keen to display ‘underground’ music knowledge, smugly named some obscure 60s bands and impressed no one. then someone said ‘karyn white‘ and the room fell silent. i didn’t have the inclination to let the rest of the class know that i also knew and liked karyn white, i just listened to the person’s explanation with interest. ‘you know, she did that song ‘superwoman’ but the rest of her stuff is nothing like that. oh, i don’t know…she’s kind of like janet jackson‘. fair enough.

karyn, was a young vocalist in the powerhouse tradition who worked with la and babyface and also jam and lewis over the course of her career, and married terry lewis in 1992. she was a session singer discovered by jazz fusion artist jeff lorber in 1986. he asked her to sing lead on two tracks for his new project ‘private passion’ that was to feature soul vocalists singing over his jazz-funk compositions. ‘facts of love’ and ‘true confessions’ proved the perfect showcase for karyn‘s talent and paved the way for a solo deal.

my classmate was right. karyn‘s eponymous debut in 1988 in a way, did fill the gap between janet‘s ‘control’ and ‘rhythm nation 1814’ albums. most people remember it for enduring ballad, ‘superwoman‘, a staple of easy listening radio playlists to this day. but the truth is that the album was far less pop and more classic r&b than that song would suggest, or that janet would have attempted herself.

the singles released from ‘karyn white’ were far more ubiquitous in the US, who were switched on to r&b far earlier than the UK where it remained a specialist genre, or subgenre of dance, until the late 90s. nevertheless, they did ok over here and I can remember her second album and lead single ‘romantic’ being greeted enthusiastically on tv-am. both a blessing and a curse.
‘ritual of love’ was handily split into a ‘dance me’ side and ‘romance me’ side, if you bought the cassette. which a lot of people still did in those days. this concept has been nicked by many other artists, especially for their greatest hits albums. with her third album ‘make him do right’, karyn continued to have moderate success but never really broke through.

over the years, sharing flats and cd collections, precious few people have ever heard of karyn white. but they all remember ‘superwoman’. aaargh! don’t get me wrong, i love the song but it was an obvious hit and a calculated move, not what she should be remembered for.

ten karyn white songs that I prefer to ‘superwoman’download here

facts of love
music by jeff lorber, vocals by karyn white. this track introduced the world to her talents, at the age of 20.

the way you love me
listen about halfway through – did karyn pioneer the speed-singing style destiny’s child and wyclef claimed to invent on ‘no no no’? beyonce….you never learn do you?

secret rendezvous
should have been much bigger than it was, this was late 80s syncopated r&b at its best. one for the bedroom and the dancefloor.

don’t mess with me
out-sassing control-era janet was always going to be tricky, but karyn has the vocals and attitude to pull it off.

family man
karyn finds out her man has a wife and kids at home. she won’t be the last…and this is the way to deal with it.

not thru being with you
in between her first two albums, karyn hooked up with michael jeffries for this uptempo club smash.

romantic
remix of one of her biggest hits, the first single from second album ‘ritual of love’. less percussion, more bass.

the way i feel about you
remix of the other big hit from ‘ritual of love’. should have been the start of bigger things.

how i want you
one of many great slow jams from ‘ritual of love’. worthy of a place on any 90s ‘do me baby’ playlist.
one heart
sweet ballad that stays just the right side of saccharine. probably written with terry lewis in mind…shame it didn’t work out.