Tagged: soul

The Best Of The Isley Brothers

The Guardian have started an interesting new feature where they will be highlighting the ten best songs of  key artists or genres and launched it with a look at the Isley Brothers.

I always forget just how far back the Isley Brothers go, but it’s kind of incredible that the first song on the list is from 1959 and the last from 2001. What’s even more incredible is just how long they managed to keep up the quality; Shout & Testify, recorded in ’59 & ’64 respectively, are up there with the best of James Brown’s early output, whilst the likes of That Lady & Harvest For The World, from their 70s purple patch, are simply up there with the best records of that decade.

The Spotify playlist above is one that The Guardian put together but I thought it would be interesting to also pull together a video mix via Dragontape, the app that the Brownswood crew used to highlight Gilles Peterson’s favourite tracks of 2013. Which all goes to show, of course, that it doesn’t matter what type of tech you use to listen to it, it’s the music that really matters at the end of the day, whether it’s 5 months or 55 years old.

Picture: United Pentecostal Church on flickr

The picture at the top has nothing to do with The Isley Brothers. I was trying to find a picture for the word harvest (see what I did there) and this came up. How could I not use it?


Twitter + Instagram + Spotify = Great Music

I was browsing Twitter the yesterday when I noticed that Gilles Peterson had posted a link to Instagram.

Because I am essentially a Gilles Peterson groupie and hadn’t started following him on Instagram yet, I decided to do so.

It was a good decision.

This was the next photo I saw.

Because I was on my phone anyway I typed Matt Deighton into Spotify and found the album, You Are The Healer. I’m really glad that I did.

It’s kind of like a cross between John Martyn, Terry Callier and Paul Weller; finding out that he was the vocalist in Mother Earth and therefore responsible for the amazing Jesse, made a lot of sense. It sounds like an autumn morning, and would undoubtedly sound great on a sunny afternoon. He’s done a couple of albums since and I’m looking forward to hearing what else he has to say. Obviously, he hardly sells any records. Maybe he should get his foofa on.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my eyes on Twitter and Instagram for more great new music. Which just goes to show…


Terry Callier – Ordinary Joe

Browsing Facebook the other day a post from the (excellent) Ubiquity Records reminded me that it had been a year since the (even more excellent) Terry Callier had passed away.

For those of you who don’t know his story, it’s an incredible one. He was an active recording artists in the 60s and 70s, produced by the great Charles Stepney, he quit the music biz in the early 80s and got a job as a computer programmer. He was rediscovered by the British Acid Jazz DJs of the late 80s and early 90s, and was championed by the likes of Gilles Peterson. As Eddie Piller, the man who tracked him down, said:

Terry was the most spiritual person I’d ever come across. Very quiet, shy, humble. He had not had a good time in music, but once he came to the UK and saw the passion and obsession that British kids had for him – which he had no idea about, like so many black Americans who come here to perform totally unaware that they are cultural icons – it blew him away

This gave his music career a second lease of life and he went on to tour and record great music with bands and artists including Massive Attack and Paul Weller. If you want a single album to give you an idea of just how great he was, or why so many people absolutely loved him, I’d suggest Alive, his live album recorded at London’s Jazz Cafe and released on the seminal Soho label Mr Bongo. I was lucky enough to see him at the same venue, as well as at the wonderful Union Chapel, both of which are gigs that will stay with me forever.

If there’s one song that sums up Callier for me, it’s the beautiful Ordinary Joe; its melody, rhythm and lyrics all show him at his best. It’s brilliantly unassuming and makes a magnificent legacy for such a great man.

RIP Terry, you were anything but ordinary.


There’s Still Nothing Like This

It must be terrible to be thought of by millions of people as a one-hit wonder if you’re actually an artist who has had a long and varied career with artistic highlights and influential fans in high places, yet been unable to turn any of those things into mainstream success. If, in other words, you’re Omar.

His breakout hit, and most famous tune, There’s Nothing Like This, was released on Gilles Peterson’s era defining Talkin’ Loud  label and was, and is, an acid jazz standard. Since then he’s released numerous great pieces of music, including one of my favourite albums of the last decade, the brilliant Sing.

But, for most people Omar is probably still the guy who sang that song about ‘champagne wine’ back in the early 90s, even though he was even awarded an MBE in 2012 (probably the best thing that Cameron’s mob have done since coming to power) and despite the fact that Stevie Wonder supposedly said this about him:

When I grow up I want to be Omar

Many musicians have become bitter about situations like this, even ones who have gone on to great success. We all know the bands who will wilfully refuse to play the song that most people want to see them perform (Radiohead and Creep is an old example that springs to mind). But Omar, in what strikes me as a signal of the sort of man he is has, instead, taken an opportunity to revisit his defining moment 20 years later and, if anything, perfected it.

It still sounds exactly like a lazy summer’s afternoon, but this time has more of a Spanish air, has a slightly more pensive air about it, a beautiful touch of brass and is, simply, beautiful. It is an inspiring and heart-warming slice of modern soul. 

Thom Yorke was bashing Spotify again this week, and maybe he has a point. But maybe it’s also the case that in the modern world where uniformity is prized over all, and the ability of mediums like radio to break new music is being crushed, we need the Spotify’s of this world to ensure we don’t run out of people like Omar.

Overall Omar highlights why we should all stop pandering to the Miley Cyrus’ and Sinead O’Connor’s of this world (they’re both looking for attention, just in different ways), stop side-lining music that doesn’t fit a money spinning formula and focus instead on spirit, talent and soul. All of which Omar has in abundance, which is why this record will probably not come within a million miles of the chart.



Tune Of The Day: Faith No More – Easy (Commodores Cover)

Because today’s Sunday.

Because it was a totally left-field cover for Faith No More, probably the biggest alternative rock band around when they released it (the Red Hot Chili Peppers of their day, even though the Chilis were around at the time.)

Because the original version of Easy, by Lionel Richie’s Commodores, was used in an ad for a bank in the 80s (below) which made me want to live in a loft, with a cat. Quite possibly the only cool bank ad ever made.

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Tune Of The Day: Marc Mac Presents The Visioneers – Paul’s Guitar Story

Marc Mac has been close to the beating heart of contemporary British for over two decades now. He was genre defining in the early 90s dance/hardcore movement, as part of A Homeboy, A Hippie & A Funki Dredd and redefined drum & bass as half of 4hero, where he was responsible for my favourite ever remix. And more recently he has been cataloguing his love of soul music, in all its forms, through his Visioneers project.

Their album Dirty Old Hip Hop, which consisted of instrumental covers of many of the most sampled tracks in rap, was and is one of my favourites of the last few years, and the follow-up, Hipology* (and the associated free mix-tape), which I only just discovered, is even more of a love-letter to the last great art-form of the 20th century. Kind of like an album length version of The Roots’ Act Too.

Anyway, I’ve been listening to his Visioneers stuff again quite a lot recently, and this has to be the stand-out track; it really is just beaitiful. The guitar line is wistful, funny & sad, the beat is, of course, absolutely spot on, and the whole is simply wonderful. Seriously, it has to be one of my favourite pieces of music of the last few years.

It’s like he bottled nostalgia, wrapped a beat around it and then pressed it on vinyl. Just listen to it, you’ll get the idea.

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*He’s also created a wonderful scrap-book site cataloguing the things that have influenced his work.

Wallflower photo by yours truly


Tune Of The Day: Ty – Like You Never

I’m a bit of a one trick pony. Or maybe two or three tricks. There are a couple of little obsessions I have, and I tend to keep coming back to them.

One of these is how ridiculous it is that British rapper Ty isn’t a whole lot more famous; he’s an amazing rapper, with thoughtful lyrics, great beats and melodies, and deserves to be a massive success.

Whilst his recent move to the Tru Thoughts record label isn’t likely to propel him into the upper end of the charts, it does mean that we get some new music from him, including this classic slice of intelligent British hip hop.

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Photo via Tru Thoughts


DJ DSK & Mystro – I Know You Got Sole (Heaven) [Eric B & Rakim Cover)

I’ve written before about DJ DSK (AKA my old flatmate from Sydney, Nick). And I’ve written about Eric B. & Rakim before.

Well, now my Nick/DJ DSK has got together with a rapper called Mystro to do an homage to the Eric B. & Rakim classic I Know You Got Soul.

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It’s excellent in many ways, but particularly because it ticks so many of my own personal loves/obsessions.

  1. It’s a cover version
  2. It’s a cover version of a track that is, itself, famous for an amazing use of a sample (of Bobby Byrd’s epic track, which is also called I Know You Got Soul)
  3. I used to play the Bobby Byrd track back in the days when I used to DJ (if you can call playing good music badly DJing)
  4. It appears that the song is actually an ad, (in the style of the Nike track Classic by Kanye, KRS-One and a host of rap luminaries), for the sneaker-pimp heaven that is the trainer shop Sole Heaven

So, I Know You Got Sole (Heaven) ticks any number of my meme tickboxes.

And, on top of that, DJ DSK’s beats and scratching are great, Mystro’s lyrics are pretty amusing, referencing any number of classic trainers, and the video reminds me of a slightly strange version of the cult British movie Human Traffic.

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That ought to be enough reasons for anyone to like it, so why not download it now.

Air Jordan by Jon Rawlinson on flickr


The Best New* Albums Of 2011

Well, that’s 2011 more or less wrapped up.

Where the bloody hell it went, I have no idea, but, as I do most years, I thought I’d finish it by wrapping up my favourite albums of the year. Now, I should probably add at this point that, because I’m no longer a teenager who buys NME every week, or even a 20-something buying a monthly music magazine, I don’t hear as much new music as I’d like. So, whilst many of these albums were released in 2011, some are actually older but were new to me in 2011.

Anyway, here we go, in no particular order:

  • Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part Two: I’ve never actually been a massive Beastie Boys fan, and have always liked the idea of them, more than the reality. But Hot Sauce Committee Part Two was an absolute belter from first to last, was utterly life affirming, probably because one of the Beasties was recovering from cancer during its recording, highlighted how small-minded the OFWGKTA clique are, and it’s promo film was ****ing genius.
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  • The Streets – Computers And Blues: The Streets, or Mike Skinner as he’s known to his friends, is, I think, a perfectly English genius. This was his last album under The Streets moniker, and is, I think, a very fitting obituary. It mixes his trademark engagingly everyman raps with some lovely beats, and includes much of the (slightly cod) philosophy from his (amazingly under-rated) last album. I’ll be sorry to see The Streets go, but his new outfit The D.O.T. sound like they might be quite good, if their first track is anything to go by. It’s called Trouble and features a young man called Ghostpoet.
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  • Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam: His taste for bad puns reminds me slightly of Carter USM, but don’t let that put you off. He’s signed to Gilles Peterson’s excellent Brownswood label, his album is a brilliantly captured time-capsule of Britain in 2011 and it’s a crime that he didn’t win the Mercury.
  • Lee Fields & The Expressions – My World: Released in 2009, but to be honest it doesn’t matter as it sounds like it was released in 1969, this is an amazing piece of pure R&B soul delivered by a true soul survivor, and one that I discovered through the marvelous Hunch FM. Honeydove is possibly my favourite track of the year.
  • DJ 2 Tone Jones – Shaolin Jazz: This is brilliant – a bunch of tracks by the Wu-Tang Clan, and is constituent members, with the backing tracks replaced with samples from classic jazz. Seriously. It’s what the wannabe hipsters would call amaze-balls. And his similar re-imagining of classic Gil Scott-Heron tracks is not to be missed either.
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  • Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues: Nothing particularly different from their first album, but when you have a début as beautiful as the Fleet Foxes did, why would you want to change that? Music to get lost in.
  • The National – High Violet: I know, this was released in 2010. But I’m getting old, I’m not as up to date as I was, and this is simply too amazing not to put in a Best of list. Also, there might be people who are like I was – ignorant of the splendour of The National: possibly better than Arcade Fire.
  • Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys: A couple of the tracks sounded like attempts to replicate One Day Like This, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a truly beautiful record. Build a rocket boys indeed.
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  • SBTRKT – SBTRKT: Soulful house music made by a man wearing a massive African tribal mask – what’s not to love? Listening to this today it occurred to me that it bears a lot of similarities to the all-time classic All Systems Gone by Presence which, if you don’t own, you really should.
  •  Gilles Peterson – Masterpiece: Part of  a series of mix albums released by Ministry of Sound, this 3 part epic shows why Radio 1 are fools to have let him go: like a 20th Century John Peel, he touches everything from techno to jazz and just about everything in between. Worth the price for just one of the three free extra mixes alone.
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So, there you go. Hopefully something for everyone and some things that will be new to you and should get you through the festive season and into 2012.
*New to me.
Photo of Ghostpoet performing at Whelan’s in Dublin in September 2011 by yours truly, with a little help from Instagram.