‘I love a good spanking’: Paloma Faith, Nao, Sleaford Mods and others on 2018’s music controversies

Artists including Kojey Radical, Let’s Eat Grandma and Róisín Murphy discuss the year’s biggest stories, from Childish Gambino’s This Is America to the rise of K-pop and Jessie J’s success in China

April: Kanye West reaffirmed his support for Donald Trump on Twitter, part of a turbulent year in which he claimed slavery was “a choice”, released several albums, visited Trump in the White House, handed out Yeezy shoes in Uganda and announced he was thinking of building a flying-car factory. Continue reading

Harlem 69: The Future of Soul by Stuart Cosgrove – review

Fascinating musical byways abound in the last part of a doggedly researched trilogy charting the history of late 60s soul

On the evening of 25 February 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated on the stage of the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, New York. Amid the chaos, his personal bodyguard, Eugene Roberts, risked his life by leaping on stage while shots were still being fired to assist his fatally wounded boss. The two men had grown close in the preceding months, bonding over a shared love of jazz and soul music.

As Stuart Cosgrove notes in an early chapter of Harlem 69, Roberts had become “a familiar face among the first generation of recruits to the Harlem Black Panther party. His closeness to Malcolm X had virtually given him a free pass into the newly emergent movement.” Unbeknown to his radical compatriots, though, Roberts was an undercover agent for the New York police department’s bureau of specialist services, tasked with trailing the movements of local black radicals and taping their conversations. He later helped gather information about a possible bombing campaign against white-owned businesses, leading police to conduct a number of dawn raids in Harlem and the Bronx. In April 1969, 21 Black Panther members were charged with conspiracy to murder police officers and blow up several prominent New York buildings, including police stations and midtown department stores. Continue reading

Lauryn Hill review – a difficult re-education

Birmingham Arena
Once the soul voice of a generation, Lauryn Hill has long had a reputation for being a difficult star. But could she do justice to her landmark album?

It could all be so simple, you might argue; but Lauryn Hill would rather make it hard. The 20th anniversary tour of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the five-Grammy-winning, game-changing cri de coeur from a reluctant pop star, has gone down in the annals as one of pop’s most notorious waiting games.

Never mind the legend of the album itself – written in exasperation and hope after the dissolution of the Fugees, and the relationship between Hill and her bandmate Wyclef Jean; a towering achievement, after which Hill effectively disappeared, keeping far away from the Babylon of the music industry and raising her children in the bosom of the Marley family. When she arrives on stage in Birmingham on Tuesday just a little after 10pm, this tour’s already sizable Stateside myth (cancellations, lateness, challenging reworkings of the songs) comes bolstered by the ire of French fans unimpressed by the singer’s incurable tardiness last week. Complainants took to Hill’s Facebook page to vent; “miseducated”, you note, literally means ‘ill-mannered’ in France. Continue reading

Motown Spotlight – November 2018

I’m a little late with this because I’ve not been at my desk for the last few weeks or so, and then there was a delivery hiccup but, hey, we’re here now with this review of Thelma Houston’s mega release featuring her last four Motown albums on one CD package, courtesy SoulMusic Records. Not only are we treated to the full track listings on “The Devil In Me”, “Ready To Roll”, “Ride The Rainbow” and “Reachin’ All Around”, but also bonus titles and extended editions like 1977’s non-album flipside “If You Won’t Let Me Walk On The Water”, and 1978’s “Love Masterpiece” from the “Thank God It’s Friday” movie. Phew… Continue reading

Roy Hargrove obituary

Gifted American trumpeter and flugelhornist who made it his mission to spread the jazz message

When the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis emerged as the champion of a return to traditional acoustic-jazz values in the 1980s, his single-minded charisma inspired talented disciples all over the world. One of the most gifted of them was the trumpeter and flugelhornist Roy Hargrove, who has died aged 49 after a cardiac arrest.

Hargrove began his jazz career in the late 80s sounding as if he could have dropped neatly into a classic Blue Note Records session band of 20 years earlier – and looking like it, too, in his sharp suits, natty hats and shades. Continue reading

Four Tops/Temptations review – evergreen hits from veteran party-starters

SEC Armadillo, Glasgow
They may have only one original member apiece, but the Motown legends put on a revue full of soul and spirit

Otis Williams recently turned 77 and is the last surviving founder member of the Temptations. In a gold-flecked indigo jacket, he still looks dapper and rather dashing. “Do we have any party people here tonight?” he asks, rather redundantly. The audience for a classic Motown double-header are self-selecting party people, an enthusiastic crowd who prove ready and willing to jump up and bop to two back catalogues brimming with evergreen hits. Continue reading