….in the world of ‘everything old is new again,’ I am delighted to launch this (hopefully) bi-weekly blog of reflections, thoughts, insights, observations and news (not of course the fake kind) from my vantage as a champion for soul music since – would you believe – 1965 when I launched the Nina Simone Appreciation Society in the UK as a teenager… To what, you may wonder, do I refer when I start this blog with a reference to ‘old’ and ‘new’? Well, sometime in October 1973, some six months after my 25th birthday, when I was working at Contempo, a multi-faceted enterprise in London created by music industry pioneer John Abbey that included a famed in-office record store frequented by future UK black music leading lights like Jazzie B (of Soul II Soul fame), Pete Tong, Junior Giscombe, Leee John and others; a booking agency which brought Al Green, Roberta Flack and Barry White to Britain for the first time; a record label whose roster included Ultrafunk, The Armada Orchestra, deep soul singer Doris Duke, Southern soul man Oscar Toney Jr. and Detroit hitmaker J.J. Barnes among others; and the ‘jewel in the crown’ Blues & Soul magazine, I went to John and asked if I could start writing my own regular column for the magazine, by then in its sixth year of publication. He assented and my “Take A Look Around” feature was born and appeared in issue No. 121, dated October 26, 1973!
“Kiwanuka” is the surname of Ugandan origin that teachers struggled to pronounce when Michael Kiwanuka was at school in London, the name the music industry counselled against. So an element of defiance commingles with a new sense of self-acceptance on this British troubadour’s expansive third album title. The songs follow suit. A sizable US audience now figures in Kiwanuka’s reckonings, thanks to the success of Cold Little Heart – from his second album – repurposed as the theme tune to HBO’s Big Little Lies. Kiwanuka is equal to the challenge, combining Kiwanuka’s Stateside-facing retro soul with broader, occasionally more Afrocentric influences.
The soulful singer’s third LP is timeless and contemporary at the same time, with shades of everything from What’s Going On to Screamadelica
Michael Kiwanuka’s first two albums established him as a folksy symphonic soul man akin to Bill Withers and Terry Callier, and set the bar pretty high. This one knocks it skyward. Together with producer-to-the-stars Danger Mouse and London hip-hop producer Inflo, the British-Ugandan 32-year-old has broadened his territory to stretch from Donny Hathaway-style melancholy soul through to Rolling Stones-y gospel rock, psychedelic soul and breakbeat. There are strings and harps, samples of civil rights campaigners, Hendrix-type frazzled guitars and Burt Bacharach-type orchestrations. The dreamlike, revelatory quality is reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Primal Scream’s Screamadelica.
In this 60th anniversary year, we, as fans, have been treated to several memorable surprises, and I believe the news that – after a couple of false starts – Sondra Williams, known to us all as Blinky, is set to have a compilation released, is another unexpected gift. In fact, when I first got wind of this, I thoroughly checked in with my contacts to ensure it wasn’t another rumour. When the CD artwork and music came through, I knew contacting Blinky was next on the agenda. My exclusive chat between two pals, rather than a history lesson, follows. Titled “Heart Full Of Soul: The Motown Anthology”, this 2-CD package is released next month, although the exact date seems hard to pin down as I write this. So, do keep your eyes on internet links and there are many, such is the unprecedented interest in this release. With Janie Bradford writing the Introduction, the accompanying booklet offers a selection of striking visuals, quotes from her fellow artists, and an excellent essay by Joe Marchese that incorporates the singer’s own words, plus recording dates and details of each track. Nothing is left to chance here.
The singer-songwriter is releasing his sixth album in three years – his best since 1997. Would he like to expand on how he made it, or why he chose his collaborators? He would not
There is a song on Van Morrison’s 1991 album Hymns to the Silence called Why Must I Always Explain? in which the Northern Irish singer-songwriter appears to rail against the endlessly tiresome process of giving interviews. “And I never turned out to be the person that you wanted me to be,” he sings. “And I tell you who I am, time and time and time again / Tell me why must I always explain?”
Firmly established as a multi-genre chart topper in the early ’90s thanks to her timeless internationally-popular club anthem “Show Me Love,” Robin S has created an enduring career as a globe-trotting performer. The October 2019 release of the powerhouse ballad “The Way You Are,” co-written by Robin with the track’s producer, award-winning music man Preston Glass is a demonstration of her multi-faceted talent on a song with a timely message of self-acceptance, empowerment and inspiration. SoulMusic.com founder David Nathan finds out more in this illuminating interview with the soulful songstress…