THE DIARY OF A BRITISH SOUL MAN  - Dateline: London, November 15, 2019

THE DIARY OF A BRITISH SOUL MAN – Dateline: London, November 15, 2019

….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!

The column morphed into “Dateline New York ” when I moved to New York in March 1975 and “Dateline USA” after I spent a particularly memorable six months in Los Angeles and moved back to the Big Apple.  Eventually, my regular musings – in between interviewing the hundreds of artists, producers, songwriters and musicians I spoke with for Blues & Soul and attending more shows, launch parties and all manner of functions – became ‘American Boogie’ before I took a hiatus from my tenure as the primary U.S.-based correspondent for the magazine in 1981…

Now, here I am (to quote lyricist Hal David), forty-six years later and now what used to be a regular column is a blog, my first such endeavour at SoulMusic.com which I launched twenty years ago!   It seems fitting that for starters, I reference that first Blues & Soul column during which I wrote about RCA Records’ emphasis on its expanding black music roster which at the time included Carolyn Franklin, The Hues Corporation, The Main Ingredient, Jimmy Castor, (The) New Birth, Labelle and Wilson Pickett.

But far and away the most provocative aspect of that first piece, my thoughts on…the links between sex and soul, provoked by John Abbey’s review of the then-new album by Marvin Gaye, the future-classic “Let’s Get It On.”  I said – a few years before Millie Jackson made infidelity the primary focus of a series of successful albums (“Caught Up,” “Still Caught Up,” etc.) and decades before rap and hip-hop artists didn’t blush in their vivid descriptions of graphic sex – “A good deal of the lyrical content of our music does deal with sex…although more often than not it’s ‘buried’ beneath double meanings and pretty slushy words.”  I added, “It’s good to see that soul music still deals with the basic themes of life, unlike so much of the other music around today which seems to simply want to escape from the realities of life…”  These days, contemporary soul music offers less escape and more reality but nothing beats a good old school love song like “Precious, Precious,” a heartfelt slice of Southern soul form 1970 from the late Jackie Moore, who scored her first big hit as an Atlantic recording artist with the melodious ode…

Jackie – who passed away on November 3, 2019 – was one of a cadre of talented female singers who achieved varying degrees of success at Atlantic (think Margie Joseph, Bettye Swann, Dee Dee Warwick, Vivian Reed, Judy Clay and Bettye Lavette among others) in the ‘70s without necessarily scaling chart heights on a consistent basis. The artists themselves (and others) may offer conjure as to ‘why’ (the most popular theory being that with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack being at the label, other female artists were never going to get the same level of promotion and marketing): whatever the reasons why, the advent of technology allows us to listen to some of the amazing music they created back then even if it didn’t get the exposure it may have warranted at the time.

As a result of a compilation I created for Real Gone Music a few years ago, ‘The Complete Atlantic Recordings,’ which included a healthy number of then-previously-unreleased tracks, I got to speak with Jackie for the first time since 1979. She was thrilled to learn that her music was being ‘revisited.’

You can hear the interview and Jackie’s glorious recordings for Atlantic (including one of my personal favourites, “Both Ends Against The Middle,” co-written by the Philly soul team, The Young Professionals – Thom Bell’s brother Tony, famed industry executive LeBaron Taylor and renowned producer Phil Hurtt – and a song about being ‘played’ by a guy who likes to keep more than one lover on the run, so to speak…and is likely to get ‘caught,’ a tale that I may know more about than I’m going to disclose right now!)….

Jackie had hoped to come to Britain in the last few years but alas, it wasn’t to be due to her health. although I was thrilled to be able to let her know that she had been inducted into The SoulMusic Hall of Fame as an R&B Pioneer.  Precious indeed as you can hear (just click the link)…

Well, all for now…next ‘Diary’ blog in a couple of weeks..

With respect and appreciation….

David N

The British Ambassador Of Soul

Founder, www.soulmusic.com

SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW: DAVID NATHAN with JACKIE MOORE, 2015

JACKIE MOORE: THE COMPLETE ATLANTIC RECORDINGS
A RARE 2017 PERFORMANCE

Motown Spotlight - October 2019

Motown Spotlight – October 2019

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.

“I’m so excited but really humbled,” Blinky told me last week. “Actually I’m in total shock and disbelief. …. Why would someone be interested in my stuff now because Motown really wasn’t,” she added with a laugh. In fact, there was a lighthearted feel throughout our conversation, with several high points of ‘girlie gossip’. One such exchange went something like this – “Blinky, don’t you look young on the cover? I bet you looked at it and said ‘those were the days'”. She quipped. “Yeah, didn’t I? But I look like someone from The Mod Squad! I said to (the record company) why this one? It appears they had a problem finding photos they were satisfied with.” Universal contacted me, I told her, but I only had a pair of black and white shots, and suggested Chris Clark. Unfortunately, she couldn’t help either.

Born on 23 May 1944 in Oakland, California, and raised in Los Angeles, Blinky was a student at Fremont High School, later Los Angeles City College, where she majored in child psychology and elementary education. Before moving on, she was named ‘Blinky’ by a tenth grade student because she blinked a lot – “…I could blink faster than a 747!” – so she decided to keep it as a recording name. With a singing career that started in church functions, the eleven-year-old developed her talent until she was ready to record gospel songs. Long-story-short: after recording as a soloist, she joined The COGIC Singers with Gloria Jones, Billy Preston, Andrae Crouch, Edna Wright, Frankie Karl and Sandra Crouch. As such they toured the globe with stars like Mahalia Jackson. Singles and albums followed until the group dissolved. Befriending The Temptations’ Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, Blinky walked the path to Motown, where the group’s manager introduced her to Motown producers Hal Davis and Frank Wilson. Originally working as a session singer, where she would regularly forgot her support role routines, Hal Davis hooked her out to record her own material.

We next chatted about the forty-plus tracks on “Heart Full Of Soul” with me pulling out my particular favourites like “Shine On Me”, the emotive “For Once In My Life”, “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game”, “People Make The World Go Round”, “For Your Precious Love” and the sumptuous “This Time Last Summer” – the latter she did remember, “I love that song” – and starts to sing it down the phone line. “You recorded Brenda Holloway’s dramatic “I’ll Always Love You”. Did she kill you? “ “No Sharon! She’s like my play daughter. Anyway, Edwin and I did ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’ on our ‘Just We Two’ album. Brenda and I are very close.”

Then she told me a tale about the picture on Brenda’s first album “Every Little Bit Hurts”, where she is pictured wearing a long pink gown, lounging against a white pillar. “If you look closely at the picture, she’s got long white gloves on. I drove Hal Davis’ car to my mother’s house to get them because she needed gloves like Marilyn Monroe. Then, because Brenda’s waist was so tiny, I pinned her dress from the back to show her shape. She was so naïve, so humble. ‘Oh no, you’re not going to show my body are you?’ Hal said, ‘Yes, we are!’

As Edwin was mentioned earlier, Blinky elaborated on their relationship while cutting “Just We Two” which they knew wouldn’t be a hit. “We were really close, but were never lovers. He was such a sweetheart. Many people tried to put us together….We felt so bad because we weren’t getting any attention from Motown so we would walk down the street holding hands. He consoled me, I consoled him.” He also taught her to dance. “I didn’t know how to! When we were on tour he would come to my room to teach me how to move. In the end, he would move for me, so it looked like I could really dance.”

After that slight diversion, we retuned to the tracks on “Heart Full Of Soul”. “I don’t remember recording those songs. I know I’d be pulled off the road sometimes to record but seriously I have no idea.” Elaborating further – “I was telling Cornelius Grant last night at rehearsals (she’s preparing for her performance at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles on 13 November) that when I got to Motown, The Temptations needed a hit, Diana was working with The Supremes, and Gladys Knight needed a hit. So I got there at a very strange time. Tammi (Terrell) had just died, so they were putting somebody else’s voice on ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’ with Marvin. In between all of that, Motown’s getting ready to move to Los Angeles. So they didn’t really have time for Blinky. I was stuck on the road, and as Shelly Berger was my manager also, I toured with The Temptations for about two years.”

“Then I stayed with Sammy Davis Jr for (a long time) and that’s where I spent most of my time because Motown didn’t really have time for me, I never saw the ‘artist development room’. Actually, I saw it one time and that was because I was looking for Paul (Williams). They felt I was already prepared to be an entertainer because I had been on the road with Andre Crouch and the others. Sammy taught me everything.”

Speaking next about Gloria Jones, one of her best friends from teenage years – and part of the female elite at Motown, tagged the ‘L A Girls”, with Chris Clark, Brenda Holloway and Tammi Terrell – she admitted “If I Were Your Woman” was written for her. “When Gloria first got to Motown, she said ‘this is for you’ and gave it to Shelly Berger.” It was then plans went astray with the Pam Sawyer and Gloria composition because it bypassed Blinky. “Motown said ‘Blinky just got here and she’s got plenty of time to get a hit and Gladys (Knight) needs a hit’. So it was cut on her, and I never did get to record it. I guess I wasn’t one of Motown’s favourites. I also played the piano but I wasn’t allowed to because Aretha (Franklin) did that. Yet when I got with Sammy Davis Jr., I played the piano and still play it in my show.”

Briefly then, as we’re running out of space here, the second CD premiers never-heard-before items, while the first is the aborted “Sunny And Warm” album in its entirety, and some songs will be recognised from previous compilations. It was these add-ons that prompted Motown fans across the world to spearhead the ‘Free Blinky From The Vaults’ campaign. Whether or not this was responsible for this new release is irrelevant because Blinky has been liberated for the world to share! All credit and thanks to Andy Skurow and Joe Marchese for getting this project together to free Motown’s ‘lost’ artist.

Finally, and personally speaking now, Blinky lost her husband William Powell five years ago but enjoys an incredible relationship with her two daughters, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. “They take wonderful care of me. Whenever I see them, I feel like a queen.”

With the last Skegness Northern Soul Survivors weekender still ringing in people’s ears (including mine), something rather unique was also born from those fun-packed few days and announced just recently by two performing artists – Gloria Jones and Paul Stuart Davies.

As you probably know, Gloria founded The Marc Bolan School Of Music and the Light Of Love Foundation to provide music education for those children in Makeni, Sierra Leone, who have been denied the opportunity, in memory of her late partner, the T Rex front man. The School takes its inspiration from Marc’s creativity and energy, where his music touched people through time and over great distances. “It’s something that Marc would very much have approved of” Gloria explained. “And our son, Rolan, is also involved with the running of the school. Nearer home in Lancashire, Paul Stuart Davies and Mark Bateson founded the Darwen School Of Music, with the key focus of providing live performance experience for students.

In a recent chat, Paul confirmed the official twinning of their music school with Gloria’s set up in West Africa. “We are a small school, but we have everything we need to provide a top level experience for our students. We also offer recording sessions and grade exams,” he explained. “We don’t realise how lucky we are sometimes in the UK and we are looking forward to visiting Sierra Leone to provide some free music workshops. We also have some ideas up our sleeve for ways of bringing our students together with like-minded learners on the other side of the world! It’s baby steps at first, but we are keen to see what we could come up with together. As fans of both Gloria and T Rex, we’re proud of the association.”

Adds the “Tainted Love” singer, “We have great expectations for our schools creating a mixture of our cultures, exchanging ideas in music….We will also exchange ideas in incorporating our natural habitat using the sounds of the wonderful wildlife and magic of Africa.” In the pipeline are exchange visits to work with students, and a British concert next year to raise funds for the project.

Now dusted off and re-mixed is the 1972 recording of Marvin Gaye’s live performance of “What’s Going On” at The Kennedy Centre on Washington DC’s “Marvin Gaye Day” on 1 May. It was a full-on day of celebrations marking the singer’s return to his hometown. Kicking off with a visit to his old school Cardozo High, he and his parents were ushered by motorcade to several points of interest around the city, before visiting DC’s mayor, Walter Washington, who presented Marvin with the key to the city. A reception followed at the US House of Representatives before the main evening event at The Kennedy Centre, where Marvin was due to perform following a four-year hiatus. He took to the stage at 11pm!

In 2001 the concert was finally released as part of Motown/Ume’s expanded deluxe edition for the “What’s Going On” album and this month it is released as a stand-alone item on CD and vinyl, newly mixed by John Morales at M+M Mix Studios. Marvin starts his concert with a thirteen- minute “Sixties Medley” of hits in no particular order, followed by “Right On” and “Wholy Holy”. “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” is missing because during the concert there was a time delay when switching the first reel-to-reel tape to the second one which resulted in the track not being recorded in its entirety. New sleeve notes by David Ritz and rare photos from the actual performance on both CD and vinyl, is another bonus in this 60th anniversary year.

While writing this, Diana Ross has announced British dates for next year. It was to be expected that Glastonbury wouldn’t be her only performance, so it really wasn’t a huge surprise when the following dates were announced for her Top Of The World Tour:
30 June: Leeds 1st Drive Arena
1 July: Liverpool M&S Bank Arena
3 July: Manchester Arena
4 July: Glasgow The SSE Hydro
6 July: Birmingham Arena
8 July: The London 02.
Tickets on sale 1 November.

Well, a lot to take in this month for sure. But all good – and certainly a terrific way to celebrate such a special birthday. Berry Gordy may have retired, but, let me tell you, his music certainly hasn’t!

Check out this amazing television appearance by Blinky!

Robin S. 2019 SoulMusic.com Interview - "The Way You Are"

Robin S. 2019 SoulMusic.com Interview – “The Way You Are”

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…

Recorded October 21, 2019

CLICK THE LINK TO DOWNLOAD/STREAM ‘THE WAY YOU ARE’ DIGITAL SINGLE

(Available on Spotify, iTunes, CDBaby and more….)

 

HITSVILLE: THE MAKING OF MOTOWN (DOCUMENTARY) - Interview with (Directors) Ben & Gabe Turner

HITSVILLE: THE MAKING OF MOTOWN (DOCUMENTARY) – Interview with (Directors) Ben & Gabe Turner

Within a few weeks of the September European premiere of the deservedly much-acclaimed “Hitsville: The Making Of Motown” (now available on all platforms worldwide), SoulMusic.com’s David Nathan spoke with London-based brothers Ben and Gabe Turner (of Fulwell ’73 Films), the directors of the film about their approach in creating what is unquestionably one of the best documentaries about the global phenomenon that began six decades ago, particularly relevant with the recent ‘breaking ground’ ceremony in Detroit for The expansion of the Motown Museum and the announcement of Berry Gordy Jr.’s retirement…

 

MOTOWN SPOTLIGHT - September 2019

MOTOWN SPOTLIGHT – September 2019

Photo credits: Gerry Constable)

(Photo: Sharon Davis, Chris Clark, Gloria Jones, Brenda Holloway)

As you know, some months ago, founder and organiser Russ Winstanley invited me to the “Northern Soul Survivors Weekender: Celebrating 60 Years Of Motown” in Skegness last weekend, and to take part in a question/answer session with a trio of Motown ladies who were performing throughout the Saturday. I agreed in a heartbeat. To be in the company of Chris Clark, Gloria Jones and Brenda Holloway was irresistible. To mingle with the likes of, and see performances by, Bobby Brooks Wilson, The Flirtations, Paul Stuart Davies, Tommy Hunt, Johnny Boy, Eddie Holman, Stefan Taylor and The Signatures was certainly an added bonus. Besides I was a NS ‘virgin’ and had no idea what experiences lie ahead. A brief back story: I believe I last saw Gloria in 1977/78, while Brenda and Chris I caught up with after the “Divas Of Motown” show at the Hammersmith Apollo in November 2009. However, the week before setting off on my adventure, I was invited to attend the European premiere of “Hitsville: The Making Of Motown”. Such bad timing for sure and, although I was naturally thrilled to be included in this prestigious occasion, I knew I had to be in Skegness because friendship comes first. The film is, however, due to be screened locally and of course will be available on DVD within a few weeks, so I won’t miss out entirely. >With Gerry Constable and Lynne Pemberton, I travelled the long road to Skegness, and upon arrival late Thursday afternoon, texted Chris Clark. After unpacking, headed to her apartment in Minnows Way, where she and the ladies were staying; in fact, Chris and Brenda were opposite each other. As we left, The Flirtations arrived at the apartment block, so catch- up time was spent with Pearly, Shirley and Ernestine. Anyway, moving on…

At 10.30am on Friday, Chris Clark was booked in for rehearsal time in the Reds venue with Stefan Taylor and The Signatures – the coolest bunch of musicians and singers I’ve yet to meet – and once the first song was under her belt, the music fell into place. The balance of lead singer, support vocalists and music was perfected, which was an extraordinary achievement, bearing in mind this was the first time they had worked together this week. Brenda and Gloria also attended as a show of support to their friend – their rehearsals had, I believe, been the previous day – before The Flirtations arrived for their run through. Prior to this, while walking to Minnows Way, I chanced to meet Paul Stuart Davies for the first time; what a fabulously talented guy, having played his music regularly on my radio show and exchanging messages via FB. I felt the vibes were good and getting better.

After the rehearsal, we headed for coffee, diet coke, juice and snacks in the Pavilion, the huge area where stalls selling NS memorabilia, records and merchandise were being hastily erected, and where, in the centre was a dance floor overlooked on one side by the large DJ console on stage, and seating area on the other. It never occurred to me until the first time it happened – the ladies now belonged to their fans in the nicest possible way. Sitting back to watch the warm interaction between them all was touching as they exchanged easy conversation, signed autographs and posed for photos. We sat there until around 3pm before heading off, planning to meet up again two hours later for dinner in the artists’ section of The Deck restaurant.

While eating that evening, Gloria explained the three were the sisterhood, looking out for each other and, indeed, when they later switched and swopped stage clothes, it was indeed ‘family’. Like Motown in the early days, she continued, when they were Berry Gordy’s favourites because he could always rely on them. Later they became the “Los Angeles Girls” and talked over the blessed times on the West Coast, where the Mowest label was born. Working with The Commodores was a wonderful experience Gloria added; working with Pam Sawyer on their debut single “The Zoo (The Human Zoo)” lifted from the group’s debut album “Machine Gun” on which they also produced several tracks. She now lives in Sierra Leone where she tirelessly runs a children’s school in her late partner Marc Bolan’s memory.

Chris drew on her memories of touring the States with fellow artists and the audience reactions when she walked on stage: one white singer among a host of black groups. She worked hard to win them over. Talking about Michael Jackson’s envy when she introduced him to her big cat, a cougar, led to her re-telling her audition with Berry Gordy. She was eighteen years old and he kept her waiting outside his office for hours, adding to her anxiety levels. Once inside, he made it clear he wasn’t interested in signing a white singer. Undeterred she sang “All I Could Do Was Cry” accompanying herself on the piano, not realising at the time Gordy had penned the song! The rest is history. This evening Brenda was eating elsewhere with her husband, Sam, in another section of the restaurant. They joined us later.

Meal times had never been more entertaining and this was to continue: if you had told me a year ago my eating companions would be three of Motown’s most legendary artists I’d have laughed in your face. Leaving The Deck, Chris inadvertently dropped some papers where upon I bent down to retrieve them. My age kicked in as Gloria had to help me back up again! As if that wasn’t bad enough, I then accidentally knocked a small picture frame off its stand and watched in horror as it smashed to pieces, glass shattering everywhere. Chris laughed “You’ve been taking lessons from Dusty”, referring to the British singer’s love of smashing up crockery. Gloria said it was a good luck omen. Immediately, a member of the Butlins’ staff was on hand to clear it up, while a mortified me apologised profusely. By 9pm we were in our individual apartments readying to watch Martha Reeves on Celebrity Masterchief when sadly, she was voted out.

Saturday was ladies day. Brenda at 2.30pm; Gloria at 11.15pm, leaving headliner Chris to walk on stage at 00.45am, with Bobby Brooks Wilson, The Signatures, and non-stop music in between. Following our breakfast, Chris headed for another quick rehearsal with The Signatures at Reds because she was unhappy about her opening song. In the end, it was ditched to be replaced by the emotive “Rock Me”.

(Photo: Brenda Holloway)

A packed venue greeted Brenda when she hit the stage. Dressed in a flowing, almost see through, gown, this beautiful singer kicked off with “Just Look What You’ve Done” followed by “When I’m Gone”. She epitomised cool soul. Working every inch of the stage, the audience sang with her, while her strong, pure voice brought up soulful goose bumps. “Operator”, “You Beat Me To The Punch”, “Two Lovers” and “My Guy” were next – her tribute to the first ‘Queen of Motown,’ Mary Wells. With a short introduction and a huge smile, she launched into the haunting “Every Little Bit Hurts” before raising the roof with a NS anthem “Reconsider” which, she said, was responsible for her being at Skegness today. A dramatic take on “You Made Me So Very Happy” closed her awe-inspiring performance that left the audience crying for more. Wow!

(Photo: Gloria Jones)

The immediately recognisable strains of “Tainted Love”, so synonymous with NS fans, introduced a vivacious Gloria Jones to an adoring audience. Dressed in a white gown, her welcome was overwhelming as she acknowledged the love. Her plan was to party, so she invited The Signatures’ singers and members of the audience to share the moment, as she set the pace for the 1979 Gonzales’ dance single “Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” which she penned, and co-produced with Paul Riser. “Just Let It Lay” was its flipside, a song written by them both with Gloria’s (late) brother Richard who chose the title from a phrase I regularly used at the time. Following a song I failed to note down (to my shame) as I was bouncing around trying to emulate some of the dancing audience, the hard-hitting NS diamond “Heartbeat” was next. A rousing few magical musical moments where her audience belted out the lyrics alongside her – an unashamed happy mingling of hundreds of voices, before she left the stage with a reprise of “Tainted Love”. Double wow! Could today get any better? You bet…

Just after midnight, the event’s elegant, quietly-spoken headliner slowly walked on stage: microphone in hand, to a rapturous welcome that hit the ceiling and bounced off the walls. Dressed in black, Chris Clark had arrived – epitomising cool on so many levels, her voice true and emotional. Following “Rock Me”, she moved the music to a higher pitch with the immortal “From Head To Toe” and “Do Right Baby”. Like Brenda before her with “Reconsider”, Chris performed a unique NS discovery “Something’s Wrong” where, once again, the audience joined in. So much love and respect bounced from stage to auditorium where the atmosphere was hot, hot, hot in every respect. In between songs, she modestly talked about her music before telling of her surprise to be headlining the event, saying it should really be Brenda. Moving the pace down a fraction, she introduced “I Want To Go Back There Again” while “Love’s Gone Bad” raised the temperature (if that was possible as faces already glistened). What else could this remarkable singer pull out of the musical hat? “Just My Imagination” with The Temptations on support vocals, that’s what. A master stroke for sure. All too soon, the unmistakeable riff of the finale arrived – “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”. Treble wow!

Adrenalin was pulsating through the veins as we all reluctantly stepped out into the morning air to collapse on our beds. The ladies had flown the Motown flag higher than high, they had performed and conquered, reinstating the extremely special relationship enjoyed with NS folk, whose dedicated loyalty to their music is to be applauded and cherished. A master stroke by Russ Winstanley.

(Photo: Brenda Holloway, Chris Clark, Gloria Jones, Sharon Davis, Russ Winstanley)

Late on Sunday, we collected Chris Clark on our way to watch Paul Stuart Davies in Reds at 1pm. This guy certainly knows his stuff as he performed like the true showman he is through a non-stop act of favourites before an audience that was with him from the start. What a terrific way to start the day’s entertainment, and, for myself, was thrilled to be at part of it all. An hour later, Brenda and Gloria arrived for the question/answer session. Sitting on the stage, with Russ Winstanley kicking off the proceedings, I was wondering how my presence there was credible in the presence of Motown royalty. In fact, and I’m ashamed to admit it, I froze during Russ’s introduction and was shaking so much that his thoughtful wife, Claire, helped me on stage. Brenda recalled working with The Beatles during their second American tour, and the time when Ringo Starr knocked on her dressing room door to borrow her hair dryer. Chris then related how she came to be a member of the Motown family as a singer and later the script writer for “Lady Sings The Blues”. She also holds a massive collection of Motown artwork and photographs, being taught how to utilise her unique camera skills by Berry Gordy. In fact, she carried her mobile and camera with her all the time, such is her passion for the art.

Gloria, on the other hand, talked, among other things, of the writers she had worked with, and how she, Brenda and Chris had established a lifelong bond of friendship. Talking about working with the likes of Pam Sawyer, Frank Wilson (who held a special part in their hearts), Clay McMurray, alongside the often overlooked heroes responsible for laying much of the company’s musical foundation, was of great interest with the others adding their memories. Asking me how I became involved with Motown, I told Russ it was due entirely to Dusty Springfield’s infatuation with the music, saying “what was good enough for her, was good enough for me”.

While the ladies explained the 24/7 working schedule of the studio where songs were recorded in conveyor belt style, with no knowledge of what would eventually be released, I explained how difficult it was for me to actually purchase those records in East Sussex. They then confirmed they had no idea of what was released outside America. It was only through visits to the UK that they were updated on their releases – much to their astonishment – and that there was indeed a flourishing fan base for them, led by the NS contingent who elevated them to cult stardom. The fact that their records were also officially British released also bypassed them, which, I fear, was typical of Motown at the time. They had careers they knew nothing about. It was an enlightening experience being in such a gloriously friendly environment, with easy interaction from the audience who, believe me, knew their stuff. As I had mentioned Dusty, the DJ played her “What’s It Gonna Be” for me as we left the stage; a touching moment.

From here, the ladies joined The Flirtations, Paul Stuart Davies, The Flirtations and others for a meet and greet session, while I headed for the nearest bar! Watching from the sideline as long queues formed to patiently wait to meet the artists, a feeling of ‘family’ once again hit me. NS people are gentle, friendly and respectful; no elbow pushing or raised tempers in this house. My, I was so glad I came to see this for myself and be a part of what later turned out to be the last “Northern Soul Survivors Weekender”.

Early Sunday dinner meant we missed Tommy Hunt, but happily caught The Flirtations, the last act to perform, and hell’s bells, these ladies can party. What a wise choice by Russ to close the event as their act was upbeat and joyous in the extreme. Party, party, party! However, the atmosphere really hit fever pitch with the grand finale just before midnight, where all the artists returned to the stage to sing the obvious uplifting “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” led by Paul Stuart Davies, in true Motown fashion, before a sweltering packed house. Inspiring to say the least; arms were raised in the air en masse, singing from the audience mingled with that from the stage, growing louder by the beat. The second coming sprang to mind but on a musical level. A celebration to end celebrations!

As the music faded, Russ Winstanley was called to the stage whereupon Tommy Hunt presented him with a very special award recognising his tireless contribution in organising events like this and keeping NS alive. An astonished Russ was humbly thrilled yet it was so well deserved, proving just how the artists hold him in such high esteem.

As the clock passed midnight, the NS bubble reluctantly burst and it was a weary stream of people who walked from the suffocating heat of the venue into the sharp morning air, to head for bed. For three days solid, NS music filled the air that we breathed, even in the restaurants. It was the backdrop to our stay, embracing us with a much needed respite from the outside world. However, we were in for a shock.

Rumours had circulated around the dance grooves that this was to be the last “Northern Soul Survivors” weekender at Skegness, and when Russ Winstanley issued a press statement, he confirmed the damning soul whispers. After thanking everyone for supporting him at this friendliest of events, he explained that “Due to the calendar changes at Butlin’s, I regret to say that this will be our last ever Weekender. It’s not all bad news though, we’ll be including more Northern Soul into some of the Soul Weekenders next year, starting with my Northern Soul room in Crazy Horse on Legends of Soul Weekender at Skegness 24 – 27 January 2020 with more dates to be announced….There probably won’t be a dry eye at the Finale in Reds on Sunday night….Do I Love You…Indeed I Do.”

Finally, I can only echo Russ’ final words and thank him unconditionally for the invitation. And, yes, I did love it, every emotional, musical moment, while harbouring pangs of regret that I didn’t join in the fun a helluva lot sooner. Northern Soulers are very special people and to thank them for welcoming me so warmly, for their friendship and caring ways, would full more pages, but suffice to say – ‘you made me so very happy’.

COMMENTARY: By Announcing Their Retirement The O’Jays Have Broken The R&B Mold

COMMENTARY: By Announcing Their Retirement The O’Jays Have Broken The R&B Mold

When the O’Jays announced earlier this year, upon the release of their album, aptly titled, “The Last Word” that they were retiring, they broke the mold with R&B groups of their generation. Unlike rock acts, who generally stay disbanded once they decide to call it quits —  most notably The Beatles, and bar one reunion tour, The Police — R&B acts, once zimmer frames and caskets come calling, have a habit of recycling the brand with younger members.

It’s hard to imagine The Rolling Stones continuing without Jagger or Richards, U2 without Bono or despite numerous personnel changes, Fleetwood Mac without Mick Fleetwood or Stevie Nicks. Of course, there are exceptions — Toto, The Eagles, Chicago — bands without one main leader. Queen without Freddie Mercury are not really Queen but three guys with Adam Lambert.  However, a quick Google search shows that  The Four Tops are still on the road, eleven years after the death of legendary lead singer Levi Stubbs. Of course, Earth Wind & Fire are still going strong decades after Maurice White left due to Parkinson’s disease.  But with Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson, at least they do have original members in the group. Let’s not also forget that Lionel Richie’s departed The Commodores almost 40 years ago but it hasn’t stopped the band from touring, singing the hits he sang and wrote.

In fact, there are a slew of other R&B groups still earning a living from the road long after their original members have moved on — The Spinners, The Dells, The Stylistics, The Ohio Players — to name but a few. So why have the O’Jays decided to leave the stage with a big mic drop? Unfortunately, Eddie Levert has lost his two sons, Gerald and Sean, who would have been the most obvious successors to the group’s legacy. And it just seems very hard to imagine an O’Jays without Eddie Levert and to lesser degree Walter Williams. But then it seemed unconscionable that Earth Wind & Fire would keep going without Maurice White. It’ll be interesting to see what the Temptations do once Otis Williams retires or heads skywards to join many of his former group members. There have been a few versions of the band with slightly altered names doing the rounds but Dennis Edwards’ passing has put the emphasis firmly back on the Williams’ “official” Tempts.

Ultimately, time has a way of blurring the edges. The songs are what remains in the public’s consciousness. That’s particularly true with R&B vocal groups where an audience has a desire to see a suited group, singing the hits and doing the choreography. It’s less about the individual. Showmen and enigmatic lead singers like Jagger, Michael Jackson, Prince and Bowie are impossible to replicate, so the best you can hope to get is a cover band/act. Rock groups were generally all about these front men. It’s the band members who are largely replaceable as has been the case with the Stones after the death of Brian Jones and the retirements of Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman.

Money also plays its part. If the estates of the original band members stand to gain financially from newer incarnations then it makes sense to keep a bend on the road. Often, though it might be managers, promoters and businessmen who are pulling the strings on oldies tours. The members change so often that after a while the original line-up becomes almost irrelevant.

All of which makes the O’Jays decision to let the group’s name rest with the current long standing line-up (Eddie Levert and Walter Williams are in their mid 70’s) admirable. I can’t imagine that when they finally do their last show there won’t be an outfit somewhere “Singing the music of…” However, when  The Miami Herald probed Walter Williams recently, if this really was the end, he intimated that the terrific trio might be with us a little while longer.

“I don’t know that (if the group will quit) because I still have a desire to do it as long as I can do it without looking ridiculous. That means basically performance-wise. My voice hasn’t changed much, my vocals haven’t changed much, other than a little more knowledge of how to do it and not harm myself. I won’t be in that group they call the Old Jays.” There’s little chance of that.

Jeff Vasishta, September 2019

CHECK OUT THE O’JAYS 2019 ALBUM ‘THE LAST WORD’

CD REISSUE REVIEWS - August/September 2019

CD REISSUE REVIEWS – August/September 2019

HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUENOTES: BE FOR REAL:THE P.I.R. RECORDINGS (1972-1975) (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

Without wishing to go into a lengthy history lesson because 1) soul fans don’t need reminding and 2) I’d soon run out of space, suffice to say these guys were originally known as The Charlemagnes, and unsuccessfully recorded for several labels before hooking up with Philadelphia International where their story really began in earnest. Their membership had changed constantly until Harold Melvin recruited Teddy Pendergrass as lead singer, previously of The Cadillacs. Joining Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International launched Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes on an incredible career across several decades, marking them as the first group to achieve international success within the first year of the company’s trading. So, let’s get started.

With the unexpected success of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, the “I Miss You” album, the group’s debut for Philadelphia in 1972, was later re-marketed under the name “Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes”. Anyway, originally penned by Gamble & Huff for Labelle, the single was chosen as one of the Songs Of The Century by the RIAA: rightly so. Steeped in warm, emotional stylings, musically supported by a sympathetic orchestra, it was an authentic soul classic, and marked the group’s debut in the UK chart where it peaked in the top ten. Such was the power of the song that it’s been re-visited by many including the UK unit, Simply Red, where another hit was enjoyed. However, while this song is so powerfully attractive, there’s others on “I Miss You”: “Be For Real” for starters, with its interesting diversion, and their take on Billy Paul’s “Ebony Woman”.

In 1973, “Black & Blue” arrived with another block busting title lifted for single release – “The Love I Lost”, a song that was conceived as a ballad but re-arranged to make it attractive to the growing lucrative disco market at the time. A second UK hit but in the top twenty this time. And, my, that solid, driving beat exemplified the changing Philly sound with the arousing unison of soul voices. “Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back)” followed, a top forty UK hit, while you can’t ignore “It All Depends On You” and “I’m Weak For You”. Next out, the “To Be True” album, the first of two issued during 1975, where you instantly zone in on “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon” because of Sharon Paige’s involvement. The young singer toured with the group and had released her first single “Let’s Get Together Soon”, later recorded By Dusty Springfield on her “Brand New Me” album. Other notable slices of soul included on “To Be True” are “Bad Luck” and “Nobody Could Take Your Place”. So, onto the “Wake Up Everybody” album (the last to feature Teddy Pendergrass) which kick starts with “Where Are All My Friends”, but once again, among the powerhouse titles, two immediately catch on – the album’s title and, of course, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. Both were UK hits at no 23 and no 5 respectively. The latter track competed against Thelma Houston’s version which, although a much deserved hit for the lady, she lost out to the group’s version by peaking at no 13. Listening to these CDs now, apart from a few hiccups, music doesn’t get much better than this, and to chose a particular favourite is nigh impossible for this ol’ lady. Enjoy!

Rating: 9


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THE EMOTIONS: DON’T ASK MY NEIGHBORS/ THE COLUMBIA/ARC RECORDINGS (1976-1981) (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
I don’t know about you, but when I see one of these colourful boxes arrive in the post, I feel my spirits lift. Not only are they great value but the music within has been well researched and lovingly presented. Well, that’s earned me a few brownie points if nothing else! Together or singly The Emotions have worked with the best including Earth, Wind & Fire, Smokey Robinson, Nancy Wilson and George Duke. As recording artists they were nominated as one of the most influential female groups of all time. With a changing membership over the years, they first stepped on the public platform as a gospel group named the Hutchinson Sunbeams, before hitting the R&B market building up a staunch following in their home state Illinois. As The Emotions, they joined the Volt label during the late sixties, working with David Porter and Isaac Hayes, to release their first album “So I Can Love You”. The title track hit the R&B top ten and top forty mainstream listing. Here we have the ladies’ Columbia and Arc recordings spanning 1976-1981, covering five albums on this 54-track, three CD box set. It was in 1976 that The Emotions hooked up with EW&F’s Maurice White and his Kalimba Productions with the resulting “Flowers” album, when “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” elevated them into the dance market. For me the highlight is the melancholic “How Can You Stop Loving Someone” and the gospel tinged “God Will Take Care Of You”. Into the chart topping “Rejoice” album and the global runaway hit “Best Of My Love” which, apart from being a multi-million seller, won the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Grammy in 1977. Check out as well, the placid “Key To My Heart” and “A Long Way To Go”.

Their gold status “Sunbeam” album opens with “Smile”, upbeat and instant; “Spirit Of Summer” hints at jazz and “Walking The Line” is wonderfully delicious. So, a pot pourie of sounds, indicating that once again, no style is alien to these ladies. Unfortunately, “Come Into Our World” failed to reach its predecessors’ heady heights. The idea behind the release was to move forward with changing musical public demands, but somehow, apart from a handful of tracks like the R&B hit “What’s The Name Of You Love”, The Emotions had lost their impetus. Finally, the album “New Affair” from 1981, a poor seller yet it spawned the up tempo “Turn It Out” and the EW&F influenced “Here You Come Again”. It was also their final Arc release.

Following a short interlude, The Emotions recorded an album for the Red label in 1984, before releasing the one off album “If I Only Knew” for Motown in June 1985. From this, “Miss Your Love” and “If I Only Knew Then (What I Know Now)” were issued as singles. All were only moderate sellers, despite the power of Motown behind them. Rounding off this box set are various bonus tracks including “I Should Be Dancing”, “Flowers”, “Boogie Wonderland” with Earth, Wind & Fire. What’s there not to like?
Rating: 9

 
 

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BILLY OCEAN: REMIXES AND RARITIES  (CHERRY POP)

During the eighties Billy Ocean was the most popular Trinidad/British R&B singer to hit the UK chart.  After a shaky start, “Love Really Hurts Without You”, lifted from his self-named album in 1976, stormed into  the UK top two.  “L.O.D. (Love On Delivery)” and “Stop Me (If You’ve Heard It All Before)” followed to peak in the top twenty.  The next year, Billy enjoyed a solitary hit with “Red Light Spells Danger”, another top two single.  From here he struggled a bit with “Are You Ready” and “Stay The Night”, then came the new decade when his star began to rise again.  During 1984, his album “Suddenly” spawned a single that remains as popular today as when first issued – “Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)” – compelling hooks and singalong chorus.  “Loverboy” was next, top twenty, until the album’s title, the smooth sounding “Suddenly” was issued to become a top four seller, paving the way for “Mystery Lady”.

Billy’s star had not only risen but was shining brightly.  “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” (the theme from “The Jewel In The Crown” movie)  hit the top in January 1986, with “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” stalling in the top twelve.  Two further top fifty hits followed this year – “Love Zone” (the title track from the double platinum album) and “Bittersweet” – with the ballad “Love Is Forever” and “Get Outta My Dreams Get Into My Car” , hitting the top forty and top three respectively. The latter track’s lyrics sat uneasily with some and I must admit I was concerned.   A pair of singles in 1988 charted but sales were sluggish. By any stretch of the imagination, Billy’s career was the envy of many. So, yeah, he  was definitely one of the defining voices of the eighties, and now we have a number of these titles wearing different musical overcoats – dub, club, 7th Heaven and instrumental mixes. There’s driving rhythms, heavy percussion and hard cutting sequences steering the songs, adding a new dimension to the original recordings.  Drum riffs blast out, Billy’s voice is often distorted and the relentlessness of the music drives the in-demand alternate versions, some appearing on CD for the first time.  Anyone liking Billy’s music the first time around, will welcome this totally new take although I do confess some of the extended versions just don’t know when to stop!

Rating: 8

MOTOWN SPOTLIGHT - August 2019

MOTOWN SPOTLIGHT – August 2019

It’s been a sizzling bank holiday weekend in more ways than one.  Not only have we enjoyed unprecedented temperatures but we’ve had Motown music scorching the airwaves. At long last national radio celebrated the 60th birthday.  BBC Radio 2 opened its frequency with non-stop music and chatting company artists. The Motown countdown kicked off at noon today (Monday) with Craig Charles and the UK’s top one hundred, followed by Trevor Nelson – who I’m listening to now –  as he picks up the next top fifty singles. “Superstition” was the number one downloaded/streamed  song – which is a blinding track – but did surprise me a little. I’m thinking his recent concert here embedded him in the public’s mind, hence his runaway popularity in the top one hundred.  The early evening session has Ken Bruce spinning Motown cover versions, before Richard Searling highlights the company’s connections with Northern Soul. Then Lionel Richie talks to Johnnie Walker in the early hours: sorry guys, it’ll be without this gal!  All programmes are available via the BBC website though.

Other bank holiday weekend high spots included Stevie Wonder’s live 2005 concert at the Abbey Road Studios, a couple of Tony Blackburn programmes and the history of Motown narrated by Marshall Chess.   I was going to write that it’s about time the BBC acknowledged this incredible music celebration, much of which formed the backdrop to our lives.  Then stopped myself:  research for this Motown Weekend was plainly extensive, particularly with artists’ interviews linking the music.  I then also reminded myself, this was the radio conglomerate run by repressed bureaucrats, who, before pirate stations taught them a harsh lesson, wouldn’t entertain giving airtime to black artists, let alone an entire record company crammed to bursting with talent that, in some ways, changed the way music was recorded and presented.  By saying that, I certainly take no credit away from The Beatles who, it’s probably fair to say, changed the entire music industry on several levels.  So, well done the BBC – you got there in the end!

Club DJs up and down the country also paid homage during the past couple of days, while local radios, like 59.9 Hailsham FM, where I present a Motown/Soul show each Saturday evening, have taken the chance to extend the birthday celebrations, although to be honest, we’ve been celebrating since January!  Why not? A birthday doesn’t have to be confined to one day does it?  I applaud you all and only hope that by some quirk Berry Gordy gets to learn about our dedicated support.

Narrated by Ryan Mandrake and presented by 3DD Productions for Sky Arts, I had the misfortune to watch “Music Icons: Diana Ross and the Supremes” yesterday.  It is thirty minutes of my life I won’t get back. The  programme lacked enthusiasm; the handful of talking heads, whom I didn’t know, barely cracked a smile as they adopted a monotone commentary attitude about several of the trio’s releases in chronological order (with no little anecdotes that we love to hear about) while the latter part of the programme centred around Diana Ross as a singer and actress.  All rushed, particularly the visuals, and irresponsibly edited, it certainly did not befit one of the world’s most successful black female trios of all time. What a waste of an opportunity.   On the upside though…word has it that there’s at least two Marvin Gaye documentaries in the works, and that a BBC4 tv programme has recently been completed on Ready Steady Go for autumn transmission.  I’m not sure which anniversary it’s celebrating, and the person I was talking to was pretty vague, so a quick recce across the internet resulted in these dates: show pilot – 16 July 1963; series start – 9 August 1963; series end – 23 December 1966.  I’m none the wiser, but who needs anniversaries anyway!

Talking of The Supremes, Mary Wilson was in town recently promoting Supreme Glamour, published this month by Thames & Hudson, the same company behind Adam White’s ground breaking Motown: The Sound Of Young America.  I caught Mary on The One Show where she was animated and entertaining with her co-guest Robert Rinder, who appeared bemused most of the time. Anyway,  Mary’s coffee table book was co-penned by Mark Bego, whose work is familiar to us all with publications on Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and, of course, he co-authored Martha Reeves’ sterling autobiography Dancing In The Street, a much respected diary which isn’t far from my desk even now.  Martha’s dedication to detail is awesome, while, on occasion, her honesty is heart breaking.

With a foreward by Whoopi Goldberg – a lady who bubbles over with all things entertaining, while being a leading figure in civil rights, LGBT and other causes she believes deserve a public voice – Supreme Glamour readers enter the world of home-made frocks to designer gowns, celebrating The Supremes’ rise to fame through fashion rather than song. Alongside well publicised visuals there’s a huge amount of exclusive pictures indicating how the group’s brand was developed.  We travel through the stoic poses of the early line up, with photos taken wearing those heavy necklaces and suits, through to the frilly blouses and pleated skirts, t-shirts and slacks.  The conservative-styled dresses eventually explode into the rich, sumptuous gowns bedecked in glass beads, sequins,  pearls, and all in glorious hip hugging colour, which became their trademark. Utilising the talents of some of the top designers like Michael Travis and Bob Mackie, The Supremes were probably loved for their stage clothes as much as they were for their music.  Like Motown:The Sound Of Young America, the black/white and coloured visuals are lavishly presented with accompanying detail captions, while the story of the fashionista trio is recounted throughout.  Cover price is £29.95 but available at £18.54 from Amazon.

It’s certainly been a month for book releases as here’s another.  Although I knew my dear friend Graham Betts, who has a penchant for facts and figures, was publishing his long-researched tomes, the thrill is in the holding of the actual book.  The Official Charts: The Sixties is a massive research vehicle, so valuable to people like myself who constantly refer to these sources of information.  Briefly, this book uses the singles charts used by BBC Radio 1, Top Of The Pops and the much-loved industry magazine Music Week.  Listed weekly, they are easy to read, with the artists’ names in bold print. Moving on from these pages, you’ll find EP and album charts covering the same decade.  The Official Singles Hits Book is a companion read, crammed with data, listings of artist by artist hit singles, EPs and albums, brief biographies, awards, honours and sales.   Similar publications covering the Eighties are also available: £20 and £16 respectively.  By the way, Graham is known to us for his 2014 Motown  Encyclopedia, another useful guide to everyone and everything connected with the company.  Actually, I told him with a smile that I was miffed because he beat me to it as I had planned a similar project about the ladies of Motown.  All is fair in love and publishing, of course, and maybe something for another day eh?

Another book that arrived in the post is the revised and updated Lucy O’Brien’s The Classic Biography: Dusty published this month by Michael O’Mara Books.  I’ve got Lucy’s previous two books about the singer and this once features new interviews and photographs.  As the blurb says “Dusty Springfield was one of our greatest pop singers. She was a musical pioneer and the very essence of authentic white soul.”  However, as we know, she played a pivotal role in endorsing Motown over here. Lucy covers this from the time Dusty was a member of the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society, her friendship with Martha Reeves, working with the artists at The Brooklyn Fox, New York, and, of course, the crème de la crème, The Sound Of Motown which introduced the British public to the magic of the music in their own homes on 28 April 1965.  Dusty attended the opening night of the Motown Revue on 20 March, sitting in the audience of the Astoria, Finsbury Park, with other excited fans. It seemed every soul fan in London turned out that night to celebrate.  When Dusty was asked for her autograph, she said ‘Any other time but not tonight, because I’m here as a fan.”  In a Daily Express review, Ron Boyle applauded the new label – “To counterblast the Liverpool sound along came the Detroit sound known to the ‘in’ crowd as Tamla Motown…The punch of the big beat in a velvet glove.”  Martha Reeves has always given her British friend kudos for promoting the company in the UK. “Any chance she got she’d mention Detroit and the Motown sound.  Lots of things happened after that tour, so she introduced Motown to England.  She can take credit for that.”  The tour may have been a financial disaster but The Sound Of Motown lives on.

Lucy’s book, now with a new cover, covers the singer’s public life of beehives and black mascara, while dipping into how it really was behind the glare of the spotlight.  Using new introduction and interviews with the likes of Tom Jones and Dusty’s music arranger Ivor Raymonde, Lucy offers fresh material to satisfy most Dusty fans, with opinions that are rounded and often different about the shy, awkward convent girl who created a musical brand that crossed from pop into soul music.  Naturally, the ground-breaking album “Dusty In Memphis” is once again highlighted, a release the singer was shy to admit centred her squarely in the soul world.  Since her death, the floodgates opened about her struggle with being gay, her drugs and alcohol addiction, and the darkest secrets of her mental health issues.  I am a firm believer that some aspects of anyone’s personal life shouldn’t be exposed in the public arena, but such is the way of the world today, there’s no such animal as discretion. Besides, didn’t Dusty tell her lifelong friend Pat Rhodes that after her death she would hear things she wouldn’t like. So the singer was very aware!  Having said this, I sincerely hope I kept within the boundaries in my 2008 book A Girl Called  Dusty, but if asked to update this, would my thinking change?

Anyway, the legacy the singer left behind is awesome; her status as a pop icon and soul singer has never been stronger.  Dusty played a vital musical role on several levels, including her beloved Motown.  As Martha is quoted in the book – “Dusty had a positive enthusiasm for the music.  At the same time she didn’t pretend she was the bona-fide article. She acknowledged her roots and often said that she wished she’d been born black.”  Available from Amazon at £13.88.

And finally…one book that really excites me –  Lamont Dozier’s  How Sweet It Is co-penned by Scott B Bomar.  Strictly speaking, it’s not published until October, and I’ve not yet read it but thought I’d squeeze in a mention here. The publicity blurb states the book pulls back the curtain on studio secrets that inspired some of H-D-H’s songs.  “After exploring the struggle of growing up in Detroit and pursuing music, Lamont takes us behind the scenes of the Motown machine, sharing personal stories of his encounters with  Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Berry Gordy. He details the rise of own artistic career, his business and legal struggles, and the personal triumphs and tragedies that defined him. ”  On my bucket list for sure!

Let’s move away from the printed word to the musical note and a quick reminder. As you know, earlier in the year, and using the slogan “Motown Did It First!”, a huge re-issue programme of physical titles were released by Universal Japan to mark the 60th anniversary. A series of new playlists are to be unveiled during the course of the year, alongside further albums.  So, without listing them all, suffice to say it’s a real pot pourie of artists who hit the market place last March, like Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (“Heat Wave”/”Dance Party”);  Grover Washington Jr (“Mister Magic”); “Odyssey”; Edwin Starr (“War And Peace”);  Leon Ware (“Musical Massage”) and others from Earl Van Dyke, The Temptations, Syreeta, The Supremes, Nolen & Crossley and The Spinners. All releases replicate original artwork and album sequences. Yeah, it was quite a list!  Further details, of course, from the “Motown Did It First!” website.  If Japan can admirably steer this incredible collection, why not the UK I wonder?   Anyway, what we have got is “Motown: Greatest Hits”, available this month on vinyl (yay!) and a 3-CD box set. There are 27 tracks on the first, 60 on the second.  No surprises here I guess as it features the hit-making artists – Stevie Wonder, Four Tops, Jimmy Ruffin, Marvin Gaye and so on. Unless Motown fans want to mark the birthday with this, sales will come from  the curious record buyer, while connoisseurs will be satisfying their souls with the items like the  “Unreleased” compilations available online only.  I use Spotify, it costs nothing and is easily accessible but, to be honest, nothing replaces the physical vinyl/CD.  No wonder, Universal cops for the cheaper method of getting music to the public.

Next month will be devoted to my visit to the Skegness Motown/Northern Soul Weekender where hanging out with Brenda Holloway, Chris Clark, Gloria Jones, among others, will be the name of the game.  That’s if I survive the three days, as it’s been &^%$$ years since I attended such an event – and that was with Gloria and Dave Godin –  whereupon I recall sleeping for a week afterwards!

 

 

P.P. ARNOLD: 2019 SoulMusic.com Interview

P.P. ARNOLD: 2019 SoulMusic.com Interview

Embodying the true essence of what it is to be a ‘soul survivor,’ P.P. Arnold’s triumphant return with what is essentially her third full album in 51 years is a testament to her resilience, endurance and ‘against-all-odds’-perseverance. From her arrival in London as an Ikette with Ike & Tina Turner in 1966 through two classic hits (“The First Cut Is The Deepest” and “Angel Of The Morning”), P.P. has experienced all the rough-and-tumble of the music industry at its best – and worst. Her credits include names such as The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Barry Gibb, Ocean Colour Scene, Paul Weller, Roger Waters and KLF among many others. The 2019 worldwide release of “The New Adventures Of P.P. Arnold” marks a new and exciting chapter for the ever-soulful singer/songwriter as she explains to SoulMusic.com founder David Nathan who first met her in 1967!

Check it out this compelling two-part audio interview!

Pt. 1

Pt. 2

CLICK HERE FOR P.P. ARNOLD’S WEBSITE

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF P.P. ARNOLD