This timely re-release of the singer’s 1979 album features her most well-known number, This Time Baby but the story digs deeper than that. Sleeve notes are from Malcolm McKenzie who explains it all in detail but for the purpose of this review the nuance is located purely in Jackie Moore’s richly resonate voice, which portrayed a full bodied range and depth of emotions, emanating from Rhythm and Blues though so clearly steeped in the classier end of Disco as that decade finally closed. Whether taking care of slower, reflective ballads such as Joe or tearing up the dancefloor, as any of the other tracks do, the influence of the Philly sound plays evidently throughout and it’s that quality which lends the music such longevity. Try, Can You Tell Me Why for an unadulterated rush of string-drenched excitement. Also of note of course are the additional versions which feature great remixes by John Luongo and Michael Barbiero of the albums other single, How’s Your Love Life Baby, plus a new reworking of the now classic, This Time Baby by Mike Maurro.
Donald Byrd blew some of the coolest blasts of Jazz-fusion (one of the few terms that works) through seminal releases such as Change (Makes You Want To Hustle) and Places & Spaces by the mid-seventies. And went onto to score even higher with the classic (the most over-used word since Beethoven) Love Has Come Around in the later seventies – the way the Piano and Trumpet sends tingles and shivers does it like little else. Following hot on the heels is the almost equally wondrous, in my opinion, Loving You which you may well be acquainted with care of others sampling the bitter/ sweet refrain. As the selection continues so the Funk influences dominate, of course punctuated by those Horn blasts, but are also contrasted on occassion by Disco flavoured numbers like the R&B referencing Midnight, altering again with the gentler, breezier sounds such as Morning. The second disc opens with the robust Thank You For Funking Up My Life, a life lesson for us all. And again traverses the sounds and sights of his imagination talking about the frailty and beauty of our human condition amongst the consequent world of possibilities. Cristo Redentor, returns to that poignant, heart-tearing infusion from the earlier timeline on this compilation (most tellingly from 1978) and I guess you take from the music what you require. But, whether that’s yearning melodies, hard-funky instrumentation or moodier, midnight Jazz then one and all are apparent here.
P.S a big thankyou to Malcolm McKenzie for informative sleevenotes.
Archie Bell & The Drells
Let’s Groove: The Archie Bell & The Drells Story (50th Anniversary Collection)
Big Break Records
Before I get to the music I have to say a BIG thank you (again) to Christian John Wikane for his continued sterling work on the sleeve notes for bbr. Always a pleasure and always more than informative. That said, this two cd compilation starts with one of favourite all-time grooves in the shape of Tighten Up which still plays like the supremely, soulful party piece it is. If music is about feelings then here they are in abundance. And in ways that to me is what Archie Bell & The Drells are most definitely about: life and confirmation of joy. From the low down Soulful delivery of A Soldiers Prayer, 1967 to the explosively beautiful I Could Dance All Night, and Northern Soul gem Here I Go Again, it’s great to hear just how they evolved in terms of the song writing eventually provided by the supreme team of Philadelphia International Records writers, plus of course it’s fascinating to hear how music production has developed over the timeframe – Let’s Groove, still sounds like a masterpiece of six minutes in ecstasy. As indeed did Disco/ up-tempo R&B became the dominant force by the mid to later seventies they were also creating numbers like: The Soul City Walk, Where Will You Go When The Party’s Over, and the most apt ‘Everybody Have A Good Time. Very recommended.
Hi Pauline, thanks for taking time out to do this for Magazine Sixty. I wanted to begin by asking what do the words ‘Soul Music’ mean for you in 2016.
Feeling is the language of the Soul. I love when an Artiste have the ability to convey feelings through music, melody and words. In 2016 I find I am quite moved by Disclosure. They are extremely talented musicians. The sound of their production is quite unlike anything around. The ‘Omen” Disclosure Ft Sam Smith is very moving and soulful to me. I have noted that Disclosure only work with singers who sing from the soul, very expressed. It is my favorite Sam Smith rendition. When Disclosure collaborated with Mary J. Blige “F FOR YOU” it was apparent that these Uber Cool Cats really understood the language of Soul Music. I have a lot of admiration for their keen eye on quality Soulful productions. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to collaborate with Disclosure. The double billing at the 02 in October with Mary J. Blige and Maxwell was phenomenal. I was in a world of Pure Soul Music and possibly the best concert I have ever seen in a long time bar Michael Jackson’s showmanship. I was left feeling truly inspired.
On a slightly different note, the “House Gospel Choir”, where Gospel Singing meets House Music. Labrynth is not the only musical member in his family. His sister Shezar, who has also had a successful solo career, leads the band, innovatively mixing House music with quality vocals and amazing harmonies. This is as good as “Soulful Modern Music” gets. Gospel fused with uplifting energetic House tracks is VERY COOL. One of my the songs they Sing to is the outstanding House track “Follow Me – Aly us ” I get goose bumps just thinking about it. Shezar introduced me to Amede Unabona from the band, he now does back up vocals for me. He is absolutely awesome and an amazing person, and now a permanent member of my team as we also work together in other areas. The House Gospel Choir is performing at Jazz café in December 2016. Don’t miss it. ..I can’t wait!!
And how do you find working in today’s music industry and the digital age compared with when you were in The Chimes?
The technology that you got to keep up with is exasperating. It is a strain because of the speed of progress. The challenge is keeping abreast of the rapid pace. The advancements are frighteningly fast. Computer and Social media Specialists are now staples requirements for a successful music career.
In the Chimes so much more physical interactions and movement was necessary to produce a record. I spent long periods away from home, from my family and friends while working on the Chimes album, terribly lonely times I recall. I lost out on important occasions and ontact with so many of friends because of this, especially my friends America where I live for a year. Now, it is amazing to be able to communicate with Family, Friends, Fans and the Music Industry at large via all the advanced technology at our fingertips most of which is free.
Digital production massively reduces the costs and time of producing music. I worked with “Stonebridge” in Sweden and “DJSpen” in USA on House mixes of “HEAVEN’ found on Disk 2. I never left London.
There is also the growth of independent music. Independent Artistes are FREE to do what they want to do, without constraints or dictates, and LIVE their lives accordingly. This is particularly important for a mature artiste like myself. I have a family now and want to perue other interests outside music. Major labels are no longer the only vehicle to get music out there. If you have a computer and know how to use Logic for example, you are effectively a producer and can sell music via online aggregators. Everything from marketing, promotion and sales can be done at the click of a button. All you need is an account. This is phenomenal freedom.
YouTube is such an amazing medium. So much information is available freely on line. Where it works for artiste, it reaches people who share the same musical interests all over the world and acts as a ‘High Visibility Calling Card” where you can promote yourself, build your fan base and following.We are so privileged to live in an ere where available where infinite amount information is available freely. We live virtually, computers run out lives, that’s leaves us open to a level of intrusion in our private lives which is a necessary evil.
There is a small percentage of People who upload other people’s work online AND make money from it. This needs to be challenged so that the benefits go the right people who have created it, invested time and money in producing it. Much scrutiny and specialist knowledge is needed to safe guards your music in the digital era, because as it stands there is no requirement or proof of Ownership / ID for the Right to use another’s image or Copyright material. Proof is not a requirement when uploading content, which is “Copyright Theft” of other people’s work, and the Law so far seem inadequate to combat this.
Producing music is a fraction of the cost, it is also easy to buy just the track you want so purchase cost is also minimal, profits made in online sales, but available for sale at minimal cost for infinity once uploaded. There is no going back with Technology, models like Spotify creates the right platform, where music is freely enjoyed but they pay a revenue to the owners of the music. Compared with the days of the Chimes, we don’t make the kind of money we were used to making from the physical production of music. It was a huge financial undertaking for Major labels, but it was the golden era of Live Performances and Cd Album sales. I commend Big Break Records for taking the decision to manufacture physical copies only of ‘Chimes Re mastered .” There is also a new found of appreciation for physical CDs. Vinyl records, and Live Performance of good Music, somewhat lost in the emergence of the digital era.
Big Break Records have re-released and re mastered The Chimes debut album. How would you place the importance of the group in the context of when it was released? And if possible is there a particular track that holds a special memory for you from it?
A huge Thank YOU to Big Break Records and the team at Cherry Red for re mastering and re releasing the Chimes Double CD Album. Now 26 years old, I feel a sense of pride, as it is a testament that our music stood the test of time. A dream come true for me, in respect to paying homage to timeless music rhythms. On CD2 there are so many fresh mixes, never been released. They still sound relevant today. I will be focusing on those in my live shows. Singing familiar song with a fresh twist will be very enjoyable. I am encouraged by the interest. Re working the songs feels so surreal, a sense of DeJaVou.
When the Chimes Album was first released, it was well received by the general public. We were riding the crest of a new wave and appetite for Live Soulful yet Urban style Club Music. Where Street meets Musical Craftsmanship. Classical string productions and Brass sections were “In”…. and Phat Drums with Heavy Base lines were the order of the day.
Mike, James and I, had all served our apprenticeship in music, developing our craft, they were accomplished musicians and for me, a musical heritage inspired by the 70s era of Motown and Soulful Legends. Consisting of Raw Talent- Organic Live Sounds Musical Craftsmanship and Timeless rhythms. This was my aspiration, so it was a perfect time for the Chimes to emerged. The cream of Soul Singers, Song writers and Producers like, Family Stand- “Ghetto Heaven”, Young Disciples “Apparently Nothing” and En Vogue – “Hold On” – are joyously a few of my Peers in the late 80’s to 90’s. Soul II Soul being the forerunners, encapsulated all the above. They had a massive impact on the Street Soul cross over. The Chimes were privileged to work with Jazzie B and Nellie Hooper on two songs, “1-2-3” and “True Love So Strong”. Few bands went on to break America and the Chimes did that successfully, in particular with the USA mix of “I Still Haven’t Found What I ‘Am Looking For” on (Disc 1).
Bono making THAT comment about our version and my interpretation of
the song was quite remarkable, now a memory for others too, it always crops up in interviews, and in light of new information I stumbled across on YouTube, with Bono saying they used the Harlem Gospel Choir to get a Soulful feel, now make much more sense to me. It marked global success and achievement for the Chimes, such that it separated us from the norm and carved out our very own USP crossing Rock with RnB.
But.. the track that holds a special but “strange” memory is “Love Comes To Mind”. I still really enjoy performing it this song. The extended mix (CD2) is also a favorite of mine with the extended Base Line Groove. I am really not sure where the saying comes from. but babies are said to have been made due to this Love Song. I love it from the very Tile.. The thing I praise and acknowledge James Lock for.. Boy he could Pen a lyric. I fell in love with his poetic flow of words, hours and hours of crumpling paper until he was happy. We all took it in turns to write parts but the final editing was always down to James. This I consider HIS baby. What is more incredible, I don’t sound Drunk on “Love Comes To Mind”. WHY..? because my A&R (artiste representative) got me drunk then asked me to sing the vocals again. I DID NOT KNOW THAT WAS COMING. Seems he wanted something different from my performance that he did not hear when I was sober. Very unorthodox I know but it seemed to have done the trick. He left the studio ‘Grinning” like a Cheshire Cat. Now there is a man who knows what he want to hear and how to get the results. I on the other hand, was very proud of myself to have pulled that off. I happen to think it is one of my best vocal recordings. When I stepped into the recording booth for the second time, Marvin Gaye (my musical ancestor and guide) stepped in the studio with me like an Angel, serving as my inspiration and filling my head with melodies and harmonies in abundance.., layers and sub layers of the stuff,, Me grooving and feeling every impassioned word and nuance, state of mind is euphoric, and very relaxed while inebriated with Mike’s Peden’s Hypnotic base line keeping me in the Groove. A real master piece I think. The video to “Love Comes To Mind” is also one of my favorites. It is beautifully shot with happy loved up couples, even Myself, Mike and James appear to have a Aaaahhh moment altogether, which lends itself perfectly to the sentiment of the song. There are also members of my family in the Video, including my dear Aunt now passed. Fund memories all round.
Can you tell us about how you approach a song, either writing or singing? Do you have a preference as to what type or tempo of music you like to sing to?
I generally have a lot of energy and love to Dance. I enjoy performing songs like Heaven, and think people like songs that makes them want to move. It is no surprise that “HEAVEN” was selected for extra reworking by GRAMMY nominated StoneBridge. The producer of the Robin S classic ‘Show Me Love’ who has many Bill Board Chart toppers to date, and also with renowned US re-mixer DJ Spen (& Reelsoul Rodriquez) having worked with Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Everything but the Girl. They both bring a modern Dance twist to be found on CD2.
When I worked in the Chimes, we had a fixed way of writing. Mike and James would prepare sketches of music. I would then fly to Scotland and spend two to three weeks there. On hearing the sketches I would gravitate to one or the other, usually lyrics would flow from there. As a result I have always written that way, with a producer sending me a backing track I like then write to.
Recently I have been collaborating on new material with Carl Mackintosh who wrote for Loose Ends. He took me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to write a story first. It was like a therapy session. I realize I could no longer hide behind singing only positive pretty love songs. Carl wanted the negatives too, as without it there really was no depth. This was one of the hardest things I had ever had to do in my writing career, write about real life experiences, usually involving pain or darkness of a kind, as opposed to working from a vibe I liked which would naturally stimulate positive feelings to sing about. After challenging myself to write more honestly, I loved the end results, and very different. There is nothing wrong with either formats, just different process. I read once that David Bowie would tear words he liked from news papers and formulate his lyrics that way. So ultimately what ever works for the individual. When I wrote from the heart, the lyrics had more meaning. I can readily inform my audience what inspired me to write that song.
What is your favorite instrument? And do you own one?
I would have to say a Grand Piano. I do own both a Guitar and Piano.
What advice would you give to someone starting out as an artist?
Expect the Unexpected. If you expect to find overnight fame and fortune, think again. A lot of soul searching is needed first. A starting point would be to examine your heart. Ask yourself why you want to succeed in the music business? What do you know about the industry? The old adage, “IF YOU FAIL TO PREPARE, YOU PREPARE TO FAIL”. Make it your business to learn about every part of the business because if you don’t someone WILL take advantage of you along the way.
Because of what happened in the past with myself, not understanding the business, I am having to put on seminars to help educate artiste and musicians alike, imparting my knowledge and wisdom gained from many years working in the industry both as an artiste and as an entrepreneur. Education is key, the knowledge you gain will dictate the kind of money you earn, and your sustainability. I have a website you can visit and find out more http://paulinehenry.com
Who remains your biggest influence and why?
My Father Charles Henry remain my biggest influence to date. He instilled in me the quest for Knowledge, Wisdom, Drive, and Determination, and to be the best I can be. I have inherited his love of learning, such that I went on to study Law, did my Masters in IP Law, did a Chef Degree, also one of my passions, while raising my daughter. The extra knowledge I have invested in has helped me to grow. There is still so much more I am interested in, Horticulture, Spiritual Growth, being proficient in IT, and expand my music seminars in developing artiste alike and still mentioning my primarily passion and life’s purpose, which is MAKING MUSIC.
There will be plenty of time to relax when I am old and frail. My Dad was the same, a ball of energy always on the go, which made him an interesting and vibrant personality to be around, helping the community and inspiring young people.
My gratitude and appreciation for my Father, extends to the things that he did that were great, and the things that he did that were not so great, especially in appreciation of all the negative stuff, it turned out to be an opportunity for me to learn and grow, and the importance of developing emotional maturity to help me to be a better example to my Family. I have become all the more because of them. He is a huge part of who I am today.
What have you got planned for 2017?
2017 is going to be an amazing year. From now through to 2017 I am currently promoting the CD, with interviews press and radio promotions.
I am working with my agent on plans for some Live Tour dates and Appearances soon to be announced. Updates can be found on my website http://paulinehenry.com
The Chimes are also planning to do some Re Union shows in Australia, NYC and London. Between our crazy schedules and wide demographics, a new record is planned in 2017. It will be fun working with Mike and James after all this time.
I am also working on completely new recordings to be released in 2017, and look forward to bringing something new to the industry and taking to the Live Stage in a venue near YOU…..Thank you to everyone how have supported our Music.
Save The Children
Big Break Records/ Philadelphia International Records
bbr once again rise to the occasion with yet another classic re-release. This time in the shape of Intruders 1973 album which opens with the rather fine version of Gil Scott-Heron’s timely title track, finely honed in this version with typically soulful infused orchestration and exquisitely arranged movements. It’s always a pleasure to listen music that transcends the timeline so effortlessly and while, of course, I’ll Always Love My Mama stands up like the classic it is – here complete with Tom Moulton’s definitive remix, along with his String drenched reworking of (Win, Place Or Show) She’s A Winner – there are plenty of other rousing moments too, such as Hang On In There closing the show with its hopeful message. Also happy to report Christian John Wikane again supplies the sleeve notes so all the background info and beyond you may need is at hand.
The Chimes: Deluxe Edition
Big Break Records
The Chimes burst onto the world in the late 1980’s with a sound that fused soulful, soaring melodies together with sure-fire rhythms which at times delved emotional depths, while at others tearing up the dancefloor. The sheer intensity of Heaven blew things wide open when released in 1989 gaining acceptance across the Dance board, not least of all because of the funk-fueled breaks but also, of course, due to Pauline Henry’s superlative vocal delivery. This two CD collection features the hits plus a whole lot more in terms of remixes etc and inevitably includes their excellent version of U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. The package also includes exhaustive sleeve notes from Stewart Allan with full credit due to Mike Peden and James Locke who completed the threesome. On a personal note David Morales Red Zone version of Stronger Together is also featured and is in my mind one of his best remixes to date. An essential release for fans and friends alike.
The second instalment of Joss Moog & Around7’s elegant Jazz-Funk referencing experience is every bit a sumptuous as the first with the opening lounge factor of The Movement scoring particularly high. Next, No Trouble No Men ups the tempo driving the beats hard, while the gorgeous Deep Dip follows in a more melancholy vein. The Right Color then reworks a touch of Jazz with a vengeance, as the excitable Hot Saucisse again raises the temperature Ron Hardy style. Which leaves the down-tempo smoky vibes of Lunatique to round off another excellent set of productions from the duo.
Release: May 13
Far Out Monster Disco Orchestra
Where Do We Go From Here?
Far Out Recordings
Featuring the arrangements of Azymuth’s late José Roberto Bertrami and the legendary Arthur Verocai alongside a feast of other Brazilian icons the Far Out Monster Disco Orchestra have been at the receiving end of a sterling number of remixes recently. Now it’s the turn of Andrés and the LTJ Xperience who both rework Where Do We Go From Here? Detroit’s Andrés revisits the track for a second time producing an excellent and certainly crisper version of the killer vocal. While Luca Trevisi aka LTJ Xperience fuels the song with smoother, more traditionally soulful flavours. Either way this is quality guaranteed.
Shoot Your Shoot: The Divine Anthology
Big Break Records
Ok, so it may not all have been genius, but at least it was fabulous. Divine exploded all over almost everywhere by the early 80’s with hits such as the highly-energised ‘Native Love (Step by Step)’ and the gloriously trashy ‘Shake It Up’. The larger than life persona was originally christened by John Waters who called Harris Glenn Milstead’s alias “the most beautiful woman in the world, almost.” And began starring in underground films by the late sixties, becoming all the more infamous by the time of Female Trouble (1974) and notorious with the arrival of Hairspray in 1988. In between times Divine released a series of stunning records produced by (the criminally underrated, in terms of Dance history) Bobby O. Prior to the electronic sounds employed on this compilation the artist had a rockier sound, which certainly contrasts with the more polished collaboration via S.A.W by the later eighties. Anyway, sit back and enjoy the ride into oblivion.
It all goes back to Ashford & Simpson’s production of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for Diana Ross. I was two years old. I remember finding the 45 single in my mom and dad’s record collection. Hearing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” singlehandedly revealed to me the transformative power of music. The introduction, the choir, the orchestration, Diana’s voice, the build towards that climax, Paul Riser’s arrangement, the unique structure of the song … all of those elements created a masterpiece that still moves me to this day. At two, I wasn’t analyzing any of that of course, I just knew that I wanted to hear more. In fact, the other night I was talking with Joshie Armstead, who was one of the background singers on that song, and even she still marvels at how that song was produced, so it was very special for me to share that love with her. The flip side of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was “Can’t It Wait Until Tomorrow,” which I also loved. The yearning in Diana’s voice really got to me, the way she almost cried “tomorrow.” This is why I hold Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson, and Diana Ross in such high esteem and so dear to my heart. They started me on my journey through music.
What made you want to become a writer (and not a DJ to share your love of music)?
Growing up, I collected all of these books about music, Billboard books, the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Music, etc. Initially, it was just so I could have photos of my favorite artists but then I became fascinated by the words on the page. I was eight when I got my first music book, “Paul Gambaccini presents the Top 100 Albums” where all these critics listed their Top 10 albums, which Paul Gambaccini then compiled into a master list of 100 albums where he wrote comments about each album. The seed for writing about music must have been planted there. I just absorbed all of these facts. I still reference some of what I learned back then in the essays I write today. Lily Tomlin calls that process “imprinting.” You spend the first 20 years of your life imprinting all of this information and then you spend the next 20 years releasing it through your work.
When I was 12, I wrote my first artist bios, just for fun. It wasn’t a school assignment or anything like that. I used my sister’s typewriter. CHIC and Patti Smith were the first artists I wrote about. I must have had a fascination with NYC. It wasn’t until college that I even considered the possibility of a career in writing. Before then, I’d majored in music and theatre, I’d done many musicals in high school, but I finally realized that I didn’t want to be involved with music from the performance side of things. It was actually through writing about plays in my theatre classes that I realized how much I enjoyed writing, period. After trying four different majors, I finally created my own major and took courses that gave me the opportunity to write about music by examining the social and cultural conditions that influenced artists and their work.
It’s funny you should mention DJ-ing. When I was eleven or twelve, I used to make mixes on cassettes where I’d create my own edits of songs. In college, I bought DJ gear and actually played a couple of parties …. so maybe I have some latent desire to be a DJ! Actually, the main reason why I could never be a DJ is because I enjoy dancing too much. I’d keep leaving the console.
How would you describe your working day and the process of writing?
My working day always begins with a good cup of coffee! I work from my apartment. The day can start as early as 5:30 a.m. and end as late as 3 a.m. I try my best to avoid having too many late nights, though. The day itself varies depending on whether I have to prepare for an interview, conduct an interview, transcribe an interview, research, write an essay, or edit an essay … or some combination of all those tasks. Today I’m putting the finishing touches on a Kleeer essay and preparing for an interview with Kathy Sledge later this evening.
My actual writing process? A professor of mine once said, “Writing is re-writing.” That is so true, especially if you know the writing’s going to be published. I think of the specific kind of writing that I do as storytelling. Ultimately, I just want to tell the story about the artist and their music. I try to find some some sort of hook that I hope catches the reader’s attention and keeps them reading.
One mantra that I created for myself is “It’s better to be clear than clever.” It’s easy to be impressed with a word or sentence you wrote but what good is that if your audience doesn’t understand what you’re saying or if it disrupts the tone of the essay? Sometimes the things that I want to include the most end up in the trash bin because I realize they’re only significant to me and wouldn’t mean much to anyone else, at least in the context of the essay I’m writing. That ties in to another tenet I observe, especially in writing liner notes: be invisible. I know that’s antithetical to everything we’re supposed to do in 2015 but I learned this when I started writing for PopMatters in 2006. When people are reading about an artist, very few of them want to hear about you the writer, unless there’s some compelling reason that you need to insert yourself in the essay. Over the years, I’ve been very careful about using “I, me, my” in anything I write. There are a few instances where I did “appear” in the essay but it was to establish the fact that the quotes were culled from a first-hand interview. All that said, these are just my personal guidelines and what I’ve found works best for me. I’m still growing. Oh, one more thing that my 8th grade English teacher Linda Fuller told our class: “Lay off clichés.”
I know it’s a big ask. But who have you most enjoyed interviewing?
Wow! There isn’t just one person because there have been so many. I’ve interviewed more than 300 different artists, and have interviewed some of those artists on multiple occasions. Donna Summer was the very first artist I interviewed, so that conversation will always stand apart from the others, especially since it pre-dated my first published article. The interview was for an independent study I was doing in college that I later presented at NYU. I will tell you that one of the most meaningful and memorable interview experiences I’ve ever had was interviewing Nona Hendryx, Ruth Pointer, Kathy Sledge, and Rochelle Fleming onstage at the Apollo Theater earlier this year. I’d interviewed each of them previously but to have them all there together and see the rapport between them … I still get goosebumps thinking about it. I’d never moderated a panel before so to have that be the first panel, especially with those phenomenal women, was a life-defining moment for me.
Do you find that the more famous a person is the more guarded they are?
To tell you the truth, no. I think it really all depends on the person and how comfortable they are with themselves and with whoever’s asking the questions.
Tell us about life living in New York?
I love living in New York. I’ve lived here since August 2004 and have lived in Hell’s Kitchen, specifically, since March 2005. I’m very aware of the history that gives the city its lifeblood, though much of that history is disappearing. I’m glad I could attend shows at CBGB’s and the Lenox Lounge before they closed, or dance at the Roxy before it shuttered. It’s still a thrill to walk by Studio 54, even if it’s not a club anymore. With the type of work I do, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Everyone comes through this city! If I may, I must give a shout-out to The Public Theater, which houses my favorite music venue in all of New York, Joe’s Pub. I’ve hosted and/or produced eight shows there over the years for artists like JOHNNYSWIM, Aziza Miller, David Bronson, as well as a benefit concert I founded called Three of Hearts. It’s intimate, sophisticated but not pretentious, centrally located, has an excellent staff and superb sound/lighting. Let’s see … that’s where Amy Winehouse made her NYC debut, where I saw Alice Smith for the first time, where they supported Allen Toussaint after Hurricane Katrina, where Janelle Monàe danced on table tops, Carly Simon held a private CD release show, Nona Hendryx climbed atop the drum set, Martha Redbone premiered “Bone Hill,” Alfa Anderson and Norman Jean Wright sang “Saturday” and “I Want Your Love,” and Martha Wash/Linda Clifford/Evelyn “Champagne” King recently performed two-sold out shows as the First Ladies of Disco … I could go on and on. They support developing and established artists alike. They just do amazing work.
Is there such a thing as bad music or is it all in the eye of the beholder?
Mostly, I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Music is such a subjective thing. I respect music critics and I respect the institution of music criticism but I just don’t enjoy critiquing music. I’m much more interested in documenting the stories behind the songs. That’s why I pretty much stopped writing CD reviews. Who am I to say something’s bad if it brings you joy? If my 8-year old niece is smiling and dancing to a song, even if it’s a song that I’d never willingly listen to, then that’s a beautiful thing. However, I’d want to make sure that she also knows some of the classics and expose her to other types of music. (Actually, my sister already does a good job of that!) I know there’s music I loved when I was 13 that I’d never listen to at 36, yet it helped me through that particular part of my life. I think of it as another stop on the journey.
Truthfully, some albums that are considered the most influential of all-time are albums that I wouldn’t necessarily play or have in my collection. I personally might favor the Brand New Heavies over the Velvet Underground, but I understand the appeal that both bands have, depending on the listener. It’s easy to fall into a herd mentality where you buy something or force yourself to like something just because it’s on every critic’s list. Over the years, I’ve kept myself in check about that. Do I like this because it moves me or because Pitchfork says I should I like it? I also don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I feel that’s a construct created by the rock elite who secretly or “ironically” enjoy a song like “Physical” whereas I openly, un-ironically enjoy “Physical.” Why feel guilty if you enjoy the music?
I must say, Smokey Robinson was the artist who instilled that belief in me. I remember when the 20th Anniversary of Rolling Stone special aired on TV. I think it was 1987 because that was also the summer PBS aired a special on “The Summer or Love” and I saw the Monterey Pop Festival documentary for the very first time. I taped both all those programs and would watch them over and over again. Anyhow, I can remember Smokey’s quote from the Rolling Stone special almost verbatim: “Music is a thing that touches you way deep down inside where you cannot deny yourself. You can’t say to yourself, Hey I don’t like that because I’m not supposed to like that. If you like it, you like it.”
What are your thoughts on the art of songwriting now?
I was at a panel sponsored by the Polar Music Prize back in April where one of the panelists made the point that pop songwriting used to be more about melodies and chord progressions and now it’s about hooks and beats. I thought that was an interesting way to characterize the difference. I know songwriters who are doing fabulous work but either they’re new artists who’ve yet to get massive support from the industry or they’re veteran songwriters who the industry doesn’t seem to value anymore. That’s really a shame because both the emerging songwriters and veteran songwriters have things to say. In the case of established artists, some of them are even better now than they were 30 years ago. I must be honest though, in the realm of dance music, I’d take anything that was written or recorded in the ’70s over contemporary EDM any day. Give me strings, horns, chord changes, a rhythm section, and outstanding vocals!
What are you looking forward to in 2016?
I’d love to build on all the high points of 2015. It’d be wonderful to lead another panel discussion and work on a music documentary. For years, people have been asking me about writing a book so maybe I’ll start exploring what that book could be. There are lots of great re-issues on the horizon. As you know Greg, I’ve been writing the essays for BBR’s re-issues of Ashford & Simpson’s Warner Bros. albums. In early-2016, BBR will release A&S’s first two Warner albums, Gimme Something Real and I Wanna Be Selfish, so I’m looking forward to that since it will complete BBR’s campaign of all the studio albums Ashford & Simpson released on Warner. I’m also working on a re-issue of Circle of Love by Sister Sledge. It will include bonus tracks of the group’s work with Phil Hurrt and Bobby Eli. Lots of good stuff happening in the new year!
After a stream of releases on labels like Supplement Facts and Cocoon this stunning production for Visionquest now appears. It’s the sort of music that could played loud or quite and still leave an indelible impression. The title track, Underwater bubbles with energy yet combines an airy sense of ambience alongside a series of unrelenting beats all of which rewards your experience. Forward thinking and emotional music.
1996 seems like a long way away now but that’s when this series began and now we’re at number 40 with maestro Solomun. The mix opens with an emotive sequence of sounds cumulating in Avatism’s haunting Different Spaces and then develops the mood across the breadth of the first CD with a blend beautifully atmospheric music ending on SOHN’s notable The Wheel. The second CD continues the theme with music from Audiojack and Radio Slave elevating the temperature while providing more muscular productions that end with Ada’s acidic 2 BUM BUM.
Kostya Skober is a Ukrainian Techno DJ and producer and while this style of music doesn’t usually say that much to me the unrelenting drive of Step Outside definitely appeals. It’s not all down to the beat either as the rich atmospheric layers of sound and funkier touches all lend this something special. Listen below…
The Rule To Survive – 31st Anniversary
Originally emerging from Italy’s electronic music scene of the late seventies N.O.I.A. has been now re-releasing their back catalogue, accompanied by remixers updating it all into 2014 etc. Not that the original of The Rule to Survive needs evolving anyway having been mixed in 1983 by Tony Carrasco it still bears all the hall marks that went on to influence House and Nu Beat, besides sounding excellent in its own right. Prins Thomas Diskomiks is a good choice of remixer and he handles it with due care and affection, there’s also a great version from Baldelli & Dionigi which again expands the originals possibilities. Next is, Time is over, which was from later in the decade and doesn’t sound quite so edgy employing typically popish melodies, although is complimented by a remix from Gaudi & The Orb.
TJM- Expanded Edition
Big Break Records (Casablanca Records)
Tom Moulton has been pivotal to the development of Dance music in the 70’s as Christian John Wikane’s eloquent sleeve notes proudly testify. This self-titled solo album was released in 1979, recorded at the Legendary Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia it also featured former Temptation Ron Tyson on lead vocals and also one Arthur Baker who helped to co-write and arrange. Opening with the blistering Disco-tastic, ‘I Don’t Need No Music’ the music trips the light fantastic through the tail end of the Disco era but remains fresh to this day, percussion and melody fuelled. Try the epic ten minute plus version of ‘Storm Warning’ complete with sound effects plus soaring strings and horns for a touch of exuberant Tom Moulton magic….
Down To Love Town: Expanded Edition
Big Break Records/ Motown
Always a pleasure to hear Freddy Gorman’s impassioned vocal adorn the horn punctuated rhythms and strings highlighted by The Originals on this re-issue of their 1977 album. Positively fizzing with Disco energy while also containing irresistible melodies via the full version of the title track (co-produced by Frank Wilson) this is uplifting, soulful music that remains a personal favourite, never mind its seductive percussion fuelled instrumentation. The Originals were originally studio back-up singers who worked on tracks like: ‘For Once In My Life’ and ‘War’ to provide you with some context in the sixties. But this album certainly proves the group’s cool when required and equal state of ecstasy where needed by the next decade. Credit is also due to the production talents of Michael Sutton who lends the music a warm touch while providing the dancefloor with the contemporary punch that still works perfectly today. Two ballads on offer too, both of which have the heartfelt sincerity you’d expect from the band, while the album ends on the sassy funkiness of, ‘Been Decided’. As always with this series from BBR invaluable sleeve notes are present, in this case from Justin Cober-Lake.
I like this. No messin’ it aims straight for the jugular right from the word go. Limited to a 5oo coloured vinyl release i.e. be quick the EP boasts three tracks plus two Shonky edits. It’s fast, heavy sounding House music that you just know is going to be epic played LOUD. Opening with Juice and its succession of punchy percussion, aided by pulverising bass and twisted synth lines, this aims squarely at the dancefloor, and scores alongside the Shonky Edit (digital only). We Can’t Stop, comes next with a slightly less frantic trip into bass and moody sound effects, and again is accompanied by a spot-on edit from Shonky. Ishine Ushine, completes with further adventures in bass rattling, although time accompanied by funkier breaks, warmer chords and voices.
Great EP from Esa & Mervin Granger who inject a genuine inspiration from the Nu Groove school of thought into their well crafted music. Starting with Visum which cross wires Detroit and classic Chicago House together with 2014 to produce a refreshingly tense, yet emotionally charged sound. Complimented by an Africaine 808 remix that comes complete with cool, jazzy inflections and a tech shuffle. The stunning Anwar 491 is up next delving deeper into cinematic atmosphere’s and depth of feeling with taught Techno bass and an almost melancholy ambience, which is time remixed by Dief & Baker’s bubbling Acid referencing version to complete this first rate release.
Love this. But then it’s hard not to. Hinting at somewhere in-between Disco and Balearic but landing in ethereal, blissful territory this gorgeous production from Satin Jackets combines gentle melodies alongside a romantic punch on the suitably named Sunrise In Paradise. Next, Gelee Royale follows with a more mid-tempo swagger containing funky 80’s styled bass and chiming keys amid haunting synths, with the engaging breathiness of, Fall Apart (feat. Patrick Baker) ending not so much on a high but a delightful low.