Modern Musings………news and grooves from the Modern Side with Mark Randle
I find myself tempted to start once again with mention of the weather here in the UK, but it’s all just a little too depressing so I’ll keep it brief. Suffice to say my thoughts go out to all those affected by the floods after the most recent round of deluges. Furthermore, we must of course spare a thought for our American friends in the wake of hurricane Sandy. It makes what we’ve had to contend with seem rather trivial. We’ll leave it at that as there’s lots to cover on the music front.
I was sad to hear recently of the passing of Chicago great Terry Callier, who left far too soon aged 67 after losing his battle with throat cancer. Of course “The Forgotten Prince Of Chicago Soul” is particularly well known on the UK soul scene for such gems as “Look At Me Now”, “Ordinary Joe” and of course “I Don’t Want To See Myself (Without You)” for Erect Records in ‘82. I remember well seeing Terry in concert at Trentham Gardens and in fact I actually met the guy there too. I then caught him again at Warwick Arts Centre so impressed was I by his live show. The man will be sadly missed but leaves us with a great legacy of music, and of course some great memories of those live appearances. R.I.P. Terry Callier.
We waxed lyrical about the return of the Prestatyn Weekender last issue, so we won’t overdo it this time around with lots to fit into these two pages. I can tell you however, that Richard Searling has started making plans on the schedule for a 24 hour a day radio station, to be broadcast into your chalets over the weekend. I’ll just remind you that tickets for the weekend, taking place 8-10 March 2013, are available on 0844 576 5949, 01745 881800 or at www.pontins.com. I did warn you last time not to leave it too late to book your place, as some standards of accommodation are already sold out. I’m not sure of the details, but I can tell you that the weekend has continued to sell well since then, with even more of the accommodation now gone. You have been warned……….twice!!
Our last Soul Purpose of the year, and in fact our last EVER Xmas All Dayer and indeed penultimate EVER Soul Purpose event, takes place this year on Sunday 30 December. Once again two rooms will be in operation throughout the evening, with 70’s/crossover soul in the small but perfectly formed Lounge and nu soul, jazz, soulful house and club classics across in the Bradgate Suite. Confirmed DJ’s so far are first timers Steve Guarnori and Dean Johnson alongside a returning Steve J, who will all be loaded up with dusty vinyl in the 70’s room, and all sure to be wearing their Christmas jumpers. Pete Haigh, Steve Hobbs and another Soul Purpose debutant Jamie Taylor, will be sporting a combination of vinyl and shiny silver disks in the Bradgate, and as if all that wasn’t enough, for the first time at Soul Purpose the excellent Glenn Worthington will be on hand with live percussion accompanying the DJ’s in the main room. We know that Glenn will add a new dynamic to the room, as witnessed previously by many of you I’m sure at Prestatyn, and at Lin Taylor’s Soul Underground events. We look forward to having Glenn with us and are sure that he will help create that electric Soul Purpose atmosphere we’ve come to expect. As is the norm with our All Dayers, the Lounge will be open for an early session throughout the afternoon, and will reverberate to whatever our DJ’s feel like playing, keeping the early birds happy as they meet and chew the fat with friends old and new. Afternoon DJ’s are still under negotiation, but as we go to print I can tell you that another debutant Louise (Louby) Mullen will be behind the wheels of steel for us. If you’ve been to previous Xmas All Dayers, then you won’t want to miss this last ever opportunity to attend one, but for the uninitiated, the place to be is Sketchley Grange Hotel, Hinckley, Leics. LE10 3HU, where we run from 2pm on the 30th, through to a 2am close early on New Years Eve. As ever, value for money is guaranteed at just £8 OTD, with no advanced tickets either available or necessary this time around. As always the resident supporting cast of Sam Evans, Mark Goddard and myself will be filling in the gaps at what will be a bit of a tear-jerker, being the last Xmas session after almost 8 years of fantastic events at this great venue. Just a reminder though, don’t get the wrong idea, as although this will be our last Xmas All Dayer it IS NOT the last event. That takes place around Easter 2013 and is going to be really extra special………..and I mean REALLY extra special!! Right then, onto some tunage……………
Angie Stone Most cuts (US Saguaro Road Rhythm CD “Rich Girl”)
It’s always great to have Angie Stone back with a new set, and her latest released on Suguaro Road Rhythm sees her right back to her best. Having tinkered with her sound over recent years she seems to have realized where she sounds best, and that’s on finger-snapping melodic new soul grooves. The first full cut on the set, and a good example, is lead-single “Do What You Gotta Do.” This is followed by what is probably the killer dancer from the album, the upbeat “Backup Plan”, with it’s driving beat, bubbling bass line and great rhythm guitar work as she declares “….every woman’s got a backup plan……” “Proud Of Me” takes the tempo down allowing her the room to stretch out those vocals. I really like this cut: simple but effective. “First Time” is a great mid tempo, hand-clap accompanied number with Angie declaring that every time her man lays her down it feels like the first time, with the expression in the vocal conveying the sincerity of the lyric: a girlish excitement so to speak. Slightly bluesy and old skool in arrangement is “Guilty”, followed after a spoken word male interlude by “Alright”, with that snapping style again courtesy of the prominent snare, and being a great example of the quality backing vocals evident on this set, much of which are multi-tracked vocals laid down by the lady herself. Nice production I think. “Livin’ It Up” takes the tempo up: nice enough but not one of the album’s highlights to these ears. The title cut is a nice mellow number using the love or loathe simulated crackly vinyl record sound, though it’s not too intrusive here in truth, with Angie explaining to her man that if she had a dollar for every time he lied she would be rich girl. “Right In Front Of Me” is another mid-tempo dancer which could joust with “Backup Plan” for needle time (laser, surely? — Ed) in your better soul clubs. As the set draws towards a close “I Can’t Take It” reverts to a slightly old skool feel. “Push ‘N’ Pull” is a nice mid-tempo with neat work on both guitar and keys, as is the tripping “U Lit My Fire” complete with some nice brass accompaniment. The set closes with the aptly titled “Sisters”, where Angie shares vocal duties with lots of female friends. Ms. Stone is back big time, with a contender for album of the year in an era where solid albums are very rare. Brilliant stuff from a lady who would have been a household name 30 years ago when proper soul music made the national charts. Get it on that Christmas list!!
Ralf GUM All cuts (EU GOGO Music CD “Never Leaves You”)
We’ve often mentioned on these pages that the music we love is truly international these days. Ralf GUM is testament to that. A native of Germany, now relocated to South Africa, Ralf has been turning out quality soulful dance for many a year via his GOGO Music imprint. This new set “Never Leaves You” is choc full of wonderful cuts, and really is a must for the collection, though is CD only which is a shame for you vinyl hounds. You really shouldn’t let that stop you purchasing this set though. The cast of support is a who’s who in the world of soulful dance. The album opens with the vocals of Jocelyn Matthieu on the piano intro’d “Everything”, which trips along nicely. This will throw you from the off, as those unaware will expect a female vocal but this Jocelyn is actually a fella! Next up is the deeper, haunting “Burning Star” featuring Kafele (Bandele) on both vocals and trumpet. I just love Kafele’s little boy lost vocals and the trumpet stabs interject nicely throughout. Up next for one of two cuts and needing no introduction, is the King Of Gospel House, the one and only Kenny Bobien to tell us that love is “The Only Way”. I detect more of that quality Kafele brass in here, with some nice mute-trumpet work. Jaidene Veda delivers the more restrained “Do It For Love” before long time Ralf collaborator Monique Bingham arrives with “Take Me To My Love”, not dissimilar to the aforementioned Veda outing. This has a haunting melody and you really can’t go wrong with Monique’s sassy, jazz inflected vocals. Check her work out folks, she’s top quality. “Linda” is the first cut which really reveals the influence that the South African house scene has had on Ralf, with Ohlule on vocals and having a slightly more tribal feel which I really can’t describe on paper. You’ll understand when you hear it!! Next up is one of the albums highlights and a previous 12” release I think, with the deep sound of “Fly Free” featuring long time house master Robert Owens on vocals. This will get right under your skin after a few plays I can assure you of that. Former Soul II Soul vocalist Caron Wheeler turns up on “So Good”, nice enough but actually my least favourite cut from this consistent set. The penultimate cut is the second offering from Kenny Bobien “Greater Love”, with more of that great brass and a nice guitar lick running throughout. Brilliant stuff! Just when you think it can’t get much better the set closes with Jon Pierce out of Chicago on the achingly soulful “Never”, with our man explaining he will never leave his baby. Clever multi-tracking here of Kafele’s wonderful mute and normal trumpet sounds and more of that guitar-licking run through this. Just so good, this is one of THOSE cuts which I’ll never forget hearing for the first time. For those of you who don’t normally get soulful dance music, if you can’t find something on this set then there really is no hope!!
Quasimode Most cuts (JAP Blue Note Records CD “Soul Cookin’”)
I can see we’re going to run out of room this time out, due to the abundance of quality releases as we approach year-end. Onwards! From the land of the rising sun, and therefore putting a slightly more serious hole in your already penniless record collector’s pocket, comes the latest set from Jap-Jazz outfit Quasimode entitled “Soul Cookin’”. Now I know there are many who don’t get the jazz thing, but it’s worth reviewing for you this, because as the title might suggest it has an altogether more soulful feel to it than their previous sets.
The title track is a good example of its crossover potential (no, not that kind of crossover!), being as much about the soul as it is the jazz, and is for me one of the highlights. The same can be said for the piano-led semi-vocal cut “Let’s Get Down Together”, with some deep baritone sax that doesn’t sound unlike the late Mike Terry on some of those Detroit sessions! Very nice indeed. “Febre Samba” is a real nice, more straight ahead instrumental jazz workout. “Summer Madness” is up next, and though you would never know it due to the Japanese text on the sleeve, features Crazy Ken on vocals. The vocal’s a bit of a love hate thing here, as the guy is clearly of Japanese origin, but I like it. Make your own minds up! “Another Sky” is another instrumental bar some female ad-lib vocals, with a punchy stop-start arrangement, and ably demonstrates both the instrumental prowess of the outfit, and the sonic nature of most Japanese releases. “Leaving Town” takes the tempo down and is a very much more soulful affair, with a 70’s feel not unlike those Leroy Hutson cuts of old like “Cool Off”. “Slow Motion” has an upbeat poppy feel and will understandably pass most by with its Japanese lyrics. “El Paso Twist” is a swing your pants latin influenced workout. “King Of Kings” maintains the tempo before the strings and piano laced “Still In The Night”, where the piano comes across all “supper-club” in parts. A nice female vocal, nifty flute and the ever present piano and brass create another album highlight in “Give It Up, Turn It Loose”, before the album closes out with another foot-tapping instrumental “Keep On Steppin’”. Not for everyone then, but there’s more chance of your soul boy ear being caught by this than by their previous sets. Try it, you might like it!!
Various All cuts (UK Expansion LP/CD “Soul Togetherness 2012”)
I think it’s a nice habit for me to get into, to review the yearly installment of the Soul Togetherness series of albums. There are a couple of good reasons for this. Firstly, they are always well thought out and put together, and contain pretty much the cream of the crop from any given year. This is particularly convenient for those that either cannot stretch to, or are not interested, in owning the cuts on their original format of release. Secondly, Expansion still offers a choice of CD and vinyl LP, making these compilations appealing to one and all. Presumably there’s a download option to, but when there’s a choice of physical format on an album of this consistent quality, I’m not too interested in downloading! To the music, and each year you think it can’t get much better, but somehow Richard Searling and Ralph Tee manage to surpass the previous release………maybe it’s just the music getting better each year? There are some cuts here that will be familiar to you, possibly from these pages. For starters, the album opens with that huge and in demand Big Brooklyn Red cut “Taking It Too Far”, which we covered last time out. The same is true of the killer dancer from R. Kelly “Share My Love” which we also featured last issue, as we did the massive Opolopo remix of Gregory Porter’s “1960 What?” a while back. Getting the picture? Of the big tracks which are new to this column, the otherwise download only Maurissa Rose “Thinking About You” stands out, and appears for the first time on CD. Already touted as number one soul cut of 2012 amongst the tastemakers on the EMS forum, being a top drawer mid-tempo dancer. Other cuts also suffering the download only fate until they were rescued by this set are Glen Goldsmith’s “Jammin’ In The Place”, borrowing from the Jones Girl classic “Nights Over Egypt” and Soulpersona featuring the wonderful Princess Freesia with a cover of Kleeer’s “You Did It Again”. Add to these, for the first time on CD Kenny Thomas “Turn It Up” and Aaries “Don’t Give It Up”, and “Woo” from Anthony Hamilton’s 2011 set for RCA “Back To Love”, and you have another essential purchase which nicely wraps up 2012 in one neat package. An interesting footnote: with the inclusion of the R. Kelly and Anthony Hamilton cuts, do we assume that Expansion are now able to do the more major-league licensing deals which may have eluded them in years past?………….or is it just be a one-off stroke of luck with Jive/RCA? Don’t know, but it’s a must buy kids: pick your format!!
On the downlow(d)……….
Considering the proliferation of it these days, we haven’t delved into the world of MP3’s on these pages for quite some time. It’s time to put that right because presently there are a few cuts that are right up there with anything released this year in the world of soulful house music. First up, a remix of a mid 90’s cut for King Street Records and the wonderful DJ Roland Clark pres. Urban Soul and the Sean McCabe mix of “Until We Meet Again”. Yes, it’s our man McCabe once again delivering the goods, with the pick of several new mixes of this wonderful track. Heavy on the synth-bass with great key chord stabs and electric piano, this really is one for those doubters in soulful house who think it’s just about beats. Think again folks, and check out the story being told is this piece of brilliance: soul music for the 21st Century for sure. This guy is talking us through a visit to the grave of his wife/partner and explaining how desperately lost he feels without her, “…..now what am I gonna do…….without you……….I tell myself, every night and day, just hold on tight, you’re gonna find your way, I loved you so, you were my only friend, I guess I have to let you go…………until we meet again……”. You simply have to hear this cut! It’s criminal that something this good won’t make it onto vinyl!! I can’t wax lyrical enough about this tune, it’s amazing!!
Next up is another remix of an old cut though this time we don’t have to look so far back to remember Arnold Jarvis’ “Make The Time”, from the Underground Dance Artists United For Life (UDAUFL) “Keep Hope Alive” compilation for King Street Sounds back in 2004. Once again the remix comes courtesy of a UK talent, this time Danny Clark of Solid Ground Recordings delivering his Solid Ground Vocal Mix on the King Street Sounds “Reformed Classics 2012 Sampler” EP. Credited here as “Take The Time” by UDAUFL pres. Blaze feat. Arnold Jarvis, I need to make it clear that this is totally essential. Once again it’s those key chords, along with organ stabs that weave in and out around Arnold’s well established, quality vocals. There’s a lovely instrumental passage in this with some great vibes helping to maintain the musicality, but you know it’s going to be top drawer with Blaze involved, as Arnold persuades us to “…..take the time, make the time for love….” in life, in the more plutonic sense on this occasion.
Finally, a brand new cut from Groove Junkies, who blew us away back in 2002 with the likes of Soloman Henderson “Inside My Soul” on their MoreHouse imprint, a Randle fave to this day. In truth, those earlier release aside, I think they have been slightly more hit and miss in recent years, but this latest release sees them right back on the money, back to their achingly soulful best on the GJ’s Main Mix of “I’m Dying Inside” featuring the ultra-soulful vocal of Diane Carter. Once again the lyrics are bang on, as she tells how she’s dying inside, observing the world and praying that one day we’re going to get it right and that happiness is just around the bend. Uplifting stuff and these three tunes really are as good as it gets in this genre. Judging by the quality of the songs here, we live in hope that we might just be getting back to the heady days of around 10 years ago, when I believe soulful house was at a musical peak.
SIMPLY SOUL MAIL ORDER Top 10 (November 2012)
1. Positive Flow — Flow Lines (EU Tokyo Dawn CD)
2. Rhonda Dorsey — Chocolate Sound (US Rhonda Dorsey CD)
3. Various — Soul Togetherness 2012 (UK Expansion LP/CD)
4. David Ruffin — David Unreleased LP & More (US Hip-O Select CD)
5. Oliver Cheatham — Don’t Pop The Question (UK Soul Junction 7”)
6. Various - The Hurst Selection Vol. 2 (UK Soul & Jazz CD)
7. Ms. Monique — She Motions (US Tate Music Group CD)
8. Maverick Gaither — Be My Music (US Mavmani Music CD)
9. Gregory Porter — 1960 What? (Gerardo Frisina Cuban Soul Mix) (UK Soul & Jazz 12”)
10. Millie Jackson - Something About You (Re-Edit) (Glenview Sessions Vol. 1) (US Glenview 12”)
Tel - 0116 237 5461
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Web - www.firstexperiencerecords.com
Special thanks to Soul Up North.
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