Tagged: ben westbeech

Ben Westbeech – Falling

I was listening to a random playlist this morning when the epic Get Closer by my one-time hope for the future, Ben Westbeech, popped up. I’d forgotten quite what a great track it is, with Die’s piano-led drum & bass and Ben’s vocals melding perfectly. I’d not heard much of Mr Westbeech since he contributed one of the stand-out vocals to Jazzanova’s (excellent) album Of All The Things and so thought it might be worth seeing if he’d done anything new recently.

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Well, one quick search on YouTube later and I found Falling, the video of which is above. It struck me as a very different vibe to his earlier stuff, and according to Wikipedia, that’s because he’s moved from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood to house label Strictly Rhythm: I’m not sure it’s such a great idea. Whilst it might be the case that Strictly can offer him more backing in terms of support and marketing (I know the guys at Brownswood have to do most things on a tight budget) I can’t help thinking the change of direction means he’ll find it even harder to stand out from the crowd.

His early work, such as So Good Today and Get Closer had a really unique feel: a great blend of soul, hip-hop, drum & bass & whatever. But a lot of the album fell somewhere in the middle and I think that Jamie Lidell rather stole Ben’s thunder, and probably did what he was trying to do better than he could himself.

Now James Blake is all set to be the next best thing, and Ben’s releasing rather middle of the road vocal house. I hope it does well for him, but it’s certainly not setting my world on fire like his first singles did.

Image by Neal Fowler on flickr

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Jamie Lidell – Compass

It’s been a while since I posted anything (don’t worry, there’s a flood of Lost Gloves on the way), so here’s a quickie just to get back into the swing of things.

Courtesy of UK European champion chair dancer Jo Wiggins comes Compass, the new track from Jamie Lidell. As with all of his best work it’s rather schizophrenic, both lovely and, well, Lidell-esque.

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It starts off rather plaintive, suggesting our Jim’s been listening to a lot of Nick Drake, before some lushly orchestral strings come in, giving it a rather Scott Walker kind of flavour. It reminds me of Rope of Sand, the final and, I think, best track on his last album. But then, after an attack of very moody drums, it goes all weird. And stays that way for the last minute or so.

As Phil Sheard pointed out, this should come as no surprise:

he’s that kind of guy, isn’t he. For Multiply tour he just wigged out sampling himself live but played easy listening on Jools H(olland)

And he is that kind of guy. As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan. And whilst I’d probably prefer a 7″ mix of Compass to the full track, it’s the fact that he’s so hard to second guess that makes him so interesting. Jim (one of my albums of the noughtieswas the LP I wish Ben Westbeech had made, whilst, in general, Lidell reminds us what Jamiroquai might have been like if he’d not had his head turned.

Jamie Lidell’s new album, also called Compass, is out in May, and I for one can’t wait.

Compass image by mikebaird on flickr

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Best Songs Of The Noughties

So, when Absolute Radio announced their quest to find the best songs of the decade, I said that I found it hard to pick any. Well, I’ve changed my mind, thanks to some inter-office discussions (ending in this playlist) and listening to a lot of stuff from the last ten years. Like this.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6rk52

And so, without further ado, here are my Best Songs Of The Decade – I should add that these are simply my favourite songs – I don’t claim that they’ve necessarily defined the Zeitgeist or anything like that, I just really like them. Oh, and they’re not in any particular order.

  1. Amy Winehouse – Rehab: Not my favourite song off of Back To Black, but this song, and the singer, have certainly defined the last few years. And, along with Lily Allen’s début album, is the reason that Mark Ronson has the career he does now. And on that note…
  2. Lily Allen – LDN: Maybe it’s because I moved there in 2000, and find myself moving back there in 2009, but London has (again) loomed over this decade, just as it did in the 60s & 90s. And Lily Allen blended genres just as London mixes cultures, and came up with an absolute belter, with a little help from that man Ronson.
  3. Mark Ronson – Just: Valerie is the one that really got him the fame (and royalties) but his cover of Radiohead’s 90s indie classic, for an album of Radiohead covers, is simply wonderful. The ‘indie tune with brass’ thing still seemed fresh then, and the video was rather wicked too.
  4. The Strokes – Someday: Making rock cool again, The Strokes channelled The Stooges & The Velvet Underground whilst looking like they’d been spawned by specially reared supermodels (most of them probably had): they’ve not lived up to expectations since then, but by clearing the path for the likes of Kings of Leon, they’ve earned their spot here.
  5. Kings Of Leon – Use Somebody: It may not be cool anymore in these days of firework bands, who explode onto the scene and then disappear from sight (see above), but the Kings Of Leon spent the decade tirelessly touring the globe, building a devoted European following, whilst slowly improving their music. It led to them owning the last couple of years with Sex On Fire and this, Sex’s more pared down, moody brother.
  6. Radiohead – Weird Fishes: They spent the early part of the decade experimenting with electronica, but then decided to shake up the recording industry by giving away In Rainbows, which also happened to be their best album in years. And this was the best song from a very strong set.
  7. Arctic Monkeys – I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor: To show how quickly times have moved on since this stormed to the top of the charts, but just think about the fact that the Arctics were lauded for their use of MySpace (something the band always denied). Whatever the case, they were like a British Strokes, making rock cool again. Except that, if anything, their second album was even better that their  début.
  8. Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournelle: This track can only be described as a French Unfinished Sympathy, with the (several minute long) piano intro alone being worthy of inclusion on this list. The word epic is one that is over-used in music reviews, but is just about the only word that truly does justice to this track.
  9. LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends: As if being the mentor for the early 90s New York punk-funk scene, James Murphy also found the time to create amazing music as LCD Soundsystem. He’ll probably be best remembered for Daft Punk Is Playing At My House but for cataloguing the terror of ageing for music loving hipsters, All My Friends has no peer. And it reminds me of Marquee Moon by Television.
  10. Amerie – 1 Thing: Beyoncé may have had her boyfriend rapping on Crazy In Love, causing many people to laud it as the greatest R&B record of the decade but, for me at least, this takes that title. Like Crazy In Love it’s a product of Rich Harrison. With that awesome Meters sample it’s still a song that could be used to test whether people are medically dead, because if this doesn’t make you want to dance, there’s something seriously wrong with you.
  11. Coldplay – Everything’s Not Lost: Though they were famously derided as making ‘bedwetters’ music‘ (no Alan, they just made music for people not overwhelmed by admiration for one trick pony Beatles wannabes) and have followed an Oasis like trajectory where quality of output is directly inverse to their popularity, there’s no doubt that Coldplay’s debut Parachutes was bloody good or that this, it’s epic closing track, is pretty hard to beat. They’d never have had a career without Travis though.
  12. Travis – Driftwood: It may seem hard to believe now, but in the early years of this decade Travis were poised for greatness. Their album, The Man Who, had swept the UK and they were poised to do the same to the rest of the world. Then their drummer broke his back and the career had to be put on hold. In the meantime Coldplay took their formula of gentle indie music and sold it to the world. Driftwood is a nice reminder of exactly why Travis were the men who nearly did.
  13. Common – Go!: Kanye West is probably one of the biggest musical phenomenons to come out of the last ten years, but much of his best work has been his productions for other people. This, a track from Common’s amazing Be, is a brilliantly up-tempo paean to what can only be described as an interesting love-life. But, being Common, it lacks any of the lazy misogyny that blights so much other hip hop.
  14. Aqualung – Strange & Beautiful: Plucked from obscurity thanks to this beautifully understated track being used as the soundtrack to a lovely VW ad, Aqualung is viewed in the UK as a 1-hit wonder. Apparently he’s done pretty well in the US, thanks to his tracks being used in popular dramas, but this is the one that whisks me back to a time when I couldn’t imagine being 30, let alone approaching my mid-30s. Ho hum.
  15. Paul Weller – Have You Made Up Your Mind: 22 Dreams is Weller’s best album for years (in fact it’s just one of the best albums for years) and this is one of the many amazing tracks on it. For a man who will never see his forties again he sounds fresher & more full of life than artists half his age. A national treasure, this goes to show why he’s one of the best British artists of the last few decades.
  16. Gorillaz – Feels Good Inc: Talking of the best British artists of the last 30 years, Damon Albarn’s reinvention of himself since 2000 has been amazing. His ability to invent the ultimate rock-band and then use this vehicle to produce cutting edge 21st Century pop with collaborators such as De La Soul has even seen his nemesis Noel Gallagher expressing admiration. The début was made with uber-producer of the time, Dan The Automator but the the follow-up, including this track,  was a collaboration with the even more ubiquitous Danger Mouse.
  17. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy: Fresh from conquering the world with Gorillaz, Danger Mouse created another ‘virtual band’ (of a sort) when he teamed up with Cee-Lo (the man who, by writing Don’t Cha, gave us The Pussycat Dolls – I’m not sure if he should be shot or sainted). This was their biggest hit and, despite being a look at mental illness set to a thundering beat, is an absolute belter.
  18. Zero 7 – Destiny: Chill-out, and the dreadful coffee-table CDs it gave us, has thankfully fallen out of fashion. But, as with most fads, it produced some amazing music. Zero 7′s début Simple Things was one such record; for me it was the soundtrack to countless summer holidays and never fails to make me think of Mediterranean sunsets and chilled white wine, which is no bad thing at all.
  19. Jamie Cullum – Frontin’: Another fad that swept the decade was jazz-lite, as exemplified by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Madeleine Peyroux & Jamie Cullum. It was an unfair tag as they all had their moments and for Cullum his greatest moment was this inspired cover of Pharrell’s stripped down hip-hop classic.
  20. N*E*R*D – Provider: As with Kanye, Pharrell Williams nearly always saved his best work for other people. Having said that, Provider is a truly fantastic track: raw 21st Century soul which lacks much of the bombast that spoils so much of N*E*R*D’s other work. A true classic and one which Zero 7 did a rather lovely remix of.
  21. Snoop Dogg – Beautiful: If you needed proof that Pharrell was always very generous with his genius (for a hefty fee, of course) then I give you Beautiful. It more or less reignited Snoop’s career as well as featuring a fantastic Brazilian drumming break-down. Oh, and it also demonstrates Pharrell’s other stroke of genius – insisting he feature in the video for just about every track he produces, thereby getting paid by others to build his profile ready to launch his solo career & clothing range (which he wore in most videos) – pity he didn’t keep some of the best tracks for himself.
  22. The Streets – Weak Become Heroes: Mike Skinner managed to encapsulate UK garage just as he was outgrowing it (much like Dizzee & grime). There are a bunch of his tracks that could figure on any Best Of The Noughties list, but this one, with its craving for the more innocent early days of the UK house scene is one that will always be close to my heart, and not just because it was the focus of one of my first ever posts.
  23. Ben Westbeech – So Good Today: One of the best aspects of the noughties as far as I’ve been concerned has been the return of Gilles Peterson to the position of record label owner. This was the 1st single released on Brownswood and remains one of its best releases to date. I really don’t think I could ever get bored of its fantastic simplicity, though I’m still disappointed that his album, though great, didn’t live up to So Good Today’s promise. Not something that can be said of all the artists on Brownswood Recordings though…
  24. José James – The Dreamer: Another début single from Brownswood, this featured on the first Brownswood Bubblers compilation and is, like much of James’ work, simply stunning. Classic jazz delivered with a hip-hop attitude the single and the album of the same name it came from should be must-haves for any discerning music lover. Here’s hoping the next ten years sees him develop a career of sustained quality.

As I write this I keep thinking of more I could add but I’ve decided that, like all good things, this post needs to come to an end. I think I’ve shown what a good few years it’s been for music, even if nothing has really had the over-whelming cultural significance of house, punk, hip-hop or even the New Romantics. But maybe that’s just a sign of these splintered, multi-media times that we’ve lived through. Whatever the case, I’d love to hear which tracks you think I’ve missed – maybe this one?

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Over to you, and I’ll see you in 2010 (if not before) when we can start working out what the hell we’re going to call the next decade.

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Jazzanova feat. José James – Little Bird

Anyone who has read this blog on more than one occasion is likely to have realised that I’m rather fond of Mr José James and just about everything that he does. I’m also, as all like-minded people are, rather partial to a bit of Jazzanova every now and then. So Little Bird, the collaboration between Jazzanova & José James from the new Jazzanova album Of All The Things, is just about the most perfect meeting of the musical minds that I can think of, and, what’s more, lives up to its potential.

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Many people will only be familiar with Jazzanova’s more lively, house based productions. But Little Bird, and indeed much of the album, is very different to their normal fare. This particular track is an absolutely stunning piece of modern jazz: it starts with little more than James’ amazing voice and a very simple piano line. As the song, and the intensity, builds so scatter-shot drums and some mournful strings come into play until the whole thing builds to an almost unbearable point, before winding back down again, all to the sound of James’ stunning vocals.

I’m honestly not sure that I’ll hear anything more beautiful than this all year and think it may be the best thing that James has done to date. The whole of Of All The Things is worth checking out (especially the collaboration with my other favourite Brownswood vocalist, Ben Westbeech) but this, its undoubted high-point, deserves to be an absolute smash-hit. Obviously it won’t be but in a way that only makes it even more special.

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Little birds image by kiwanja on flickr

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Jazzanova feat. Ben Westbeech – I Can See (Remix Competition)

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As part of my ongoing nostalgia trip (I think it’s an end of year thing) & because I was on the subject of artists introduced to me by Gilles Peterson, I also checked out Ben Westbeech’s MySpace profile to see if he has anything new in the offering, and sure enough there was a new tune up there.

I Can See is a collaboration with Jazzanova from their most recent album Of All The Things, which I will now have to endeavour to check out before the end of the year to see if it’s one of the best of 2008. If this track is anything to go by then it should be pretty good: it backs up my feeling that with a couple more killer tunes Ben could have been where Jamie Liddel is now. With any luck this track signals that next year he will be.

What’s also interesting about I Can See is that, like Radiohead with Reckoner, DJ Shadow with the video for This Time, (and many other artists before that) Jazzanova have asked fans to remix the track. The best remix of I Can See, as judged by the Jazzanova boys, gets a load of prizes but the closing date is January 15th, so you’ll need to be fast. There’s already been 183 remixes submitted and whilst I’ve only listened to a couple, one of them is really good.

The tom lown mix which is #2 on the widget below, keeps the original track’s soul vibe but gives it a very stripped down feel – I can well imagine it being played at some impossibly cool bar in Ibiza or similar. Oh God, Ibiza – here comes another nostalgia trip.

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Jamie Lidell – Another Day

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Jamie Lidell is the sort of artist who could confuse you. He’s white, British, painfully trendy, and signed to Warp so one’s immediate assumption would probably be that he makes achingly cool electro, or ragged Hoxton rock. In fact he creates 21st Century (blue-eyed) soul of the finest variety.

His new album, which is called, in what is certainly a nod to the great soul albums of the 60s, Jim, starts off with this amazing track. If you knew nothing more about Jamie Lidell than what you heard on Another Day you would probably swear that he’s a pure blood descendant of Sam & Dave, or maybe Jackie Wilson. There’s no attempt at irony, no Ronson-esque playing with the genre; this is just soul, pure & simple.

Everything about Another Day is wonderful; the beautifully naive lyrics, the optimistic sound of bird song at the start, the glorious piano. From the hand-claps that open the track to the uninhibited whoops that close it, this song just screams of the joys of summer, love & music. If I play it much more I’m liable to ruin it, but I just can’t help myself; playing Another Day is like turning on the Sun in your ears. It is, to be blunt, fabulous.

And the rest of Jim is pretty good too. Wait For Me sounds like Otis Redding reborn in East London; Little Bit Of Feel Good is warped funk; Figured Me Out is an amazing blend of everything from early Jamiroquai to classic Prince whilst final track is a beautifully laid back affair that always reminds me of ELO. In a good way.

This truly is an amazing album, and Another Day opens it in true style. The only thing that annoys me about this album is that it makes me think of how good Ben Westbeech’s should have been. His early singles (particularly So Good Today & Get Closer) showed real potential but in too many places Welcome To The Best Years Of Your Life drifted into average.

Apparently Ben’s working on his 2nd album now; I know that Gilles Peterson (the owner of Westbeech’s record label Brownswood Recordings) is a big fan of Lidell – here’s hoping he find whoever produced Another Day & the rest of Jim and sets him to work on Westbeech. Maybe they could even call the 2nd album Ben?

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Ben Westbeech – Jazz Cafe

Ben Westbeech played his first London headline show – shame that most people seemed to be there to continue ongoing conversations with friends….

Last night saw Ben Westbeech’s first headline show in London, at Camden’s Jazz Cafe. Despite being two of only about 10 people there when my mate & I arrived, by the time Ben came on there was a nice little buzz, following a great jazz/soul set by his ‘boss’ Gilles Peterson.

The band opened with a live rendition of a house version of So Good Today which was interesting for the trainspotters in the crowd like me, but meant that half the audience didn’t seem to realise that the show had started till half way through the 2nd song.

Whilst Ben sounded great, and the band were very tight, they didn’t seem to get the audience fully on side till the last two tracks: the awesome live version of drum & bass stormer Get Closer, and a ‘proper’ rendition of So Good Today. There were some nice touches such as a drum work-out to close Pusherman, but overall there was something missing (maybe the drum & bass outro they added to Taken Away when I saw Ben at Ronnie Scotts).

I still have high hopes for Mr Westbeech, but as my friend said after the show, he might be better making more of his seamless blending of drum & bass & hip hop with the live band. Here’s hoping that the (seemingly imminent) 2nd re-release of So Good Today will give him the push he needs to cross over into mainstream success.

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Ben Westbeech – Live At The Jazz Cafe

Following his storming showcase at Ronnie Scott’s Ben Westbeech is playing London’s Jazz Cafe this Wednesday – and I’ll be there….

Although Ben Westbeech’s debut album Welcome To The Best Years Of Your Life hasn’t been quite the smash hit I had hoped that it would be, he’s still building up a strong following as shown by the fact that Ben’s headlining at the Jazz Cafe this Wednesday (May 9th). This will be the third time that I’ve seen Ben perform live since I first saw him live at the Lovebox Festival last summer.

It promises to be a storming show as Ben & his band have got really tight over the last few months. I’m not sure whether there are any tickets left, but I’d definitely recommend checking to see if there are any available. Support comes from 1Xtra DJ Benji B and the man himself, Gilles Peterson. It may be a school night, but you know that it’ll be worth it!

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Ben Westbeech – So Good Today

My biggest tune of last summer, So Good Today by Ben Westbeech, is set to become the UK’s summer tune of 2007…

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Ben Westbeech – So Good Today video

A recent visit to the Brownswood Recordings page on YouTube saw me find a video for Ben Westbeech’s signature tune (& debut single) So Good Today. Now the original release never got a video, which makes me think that they’re going to release it again and get a better response.

All I can say is that I hope it works. My wife may be sick of it because I’ve played it so much, but So Good Today still sounds as fresh to me now as it did back at the start of last year. Check back here for updates, but if you see it in the shops, snap it up!

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Ben Westbeech – Welcome To The Best Years Of Your Life (Live Showcase)

Ben Westbeech showcased his debut album Welcome To The Best Years Of Your Life at Soho’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club – and I managed to blag an invite…

Following a bit of the sort of blagging I haven’t tried for years (Hi. Can I come to your gig? Who am I? No one really..) I managed to get my name on the list of the album showcase for the launch of Ben Westbeech‘s debut Welcome To The Best Years Of Your Life at the iconic Ronnie Scotts. Am I glad that I did? You f***ing bet I am (and thank you again Emily).

Having seen Ben play at Lovebox back in the summer of last year I had an idea that his live show would be pretty good. But since then his act has tightened up several notches and his show was absolutely awesome (the drummer in particular was genius). The set consisted of most of the album, and if it was anything to go by (I haven’t had a chance to properly listen to the copy of Welcome.. that I got after the show yet), it promises to be one of the best albums of the year. Worldwide Winners #1 here we come!

As far as I could tell (there was free red wine!), the set list was as follows:

  1. Welcome
  2. Nothing Else (2nd single as showcased on Brownswood Bubblers)
  3. Pusherman (21st Century update on the Curtis Mayfield track – not a cover though)
  4. Taken Away From (with an amazing drum & bass outro, and a nice little nod to Oasis’ Wonderwall in the verse)
  5. Gotta Keep On (co-written with DJ Clipzwhose MySpace page seems to be down at the mo)
  6. Get Silly (although Ben introduced it as Rolling Round – has a nice sample from Ray Barretto’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise)
  7. Don’t Know Why (great accoustic number – doesn’t seem to be on the LP)
  8. So Good Today (absolute fu**ing roadblock!)
  9. Stop What You’re Doing (Ben didn’t anounce what this tune was, so I hope my memory serves me right!)
  10. Dance With Me (really ought to be a single – it does make you want to get and give it some)
  11. Get Closer (never have you heard a drum & bass tune sound so good live!)

Anyway, this just confirmed my feeling that 2007 really ought to be the year of Ben Westbeech. If anything his live stuff is even better than the recorded versions, and the guy is just pure niceness in the flesh (said hello to me after the show, rather than trying to get a restraining order). If you have any sense you’ll buy the album as soon as it comes out, and get your tickets for what promises to be an amazing gig at the Jazz Cafe before it sells out.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the music that was playing whilst we were waiting for Ben to start was the new Brownswood Bubblers compilation – as Gilles said when introducing Ben, he was pretty proud of it: I’m not suprised, it sounded bloody excellent.

Anyway, before the album comes out why not get your hands on the limited edition release of the single Hang Around (also available on iTunes)? Have a look at the video for Hang Around of the performance at Ronnie’s below whilst you think about it (or read my full review of Welcome To The Best Days Of Your Life over at MOG)… Oh, and did I mention that Sanjay from Eastenders was in the audience (at one point having an conversation with Ben’s girlfriend’s Dad – talk about random!), as was British soul singer Nate James (sporting an awesome afro). Who’d have thought that Sanjay has such good taste?!

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Ben Westbeech – Nothing Else live at Ronnie Scott’s

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