UK Soul Karaoke

Beverley Knight is a talented singer from Wolverhampton who has had considerable success over the years and is probably at this point in time the UK’s most successful female soul artist. Recently freed from the shackles of her label and now an independent, she decided to record a retrospective of the most influential soul tracks of the last 30 years emanating from the UK. A worthy project, you might think. And indeed, she chooses some absolute crackers for ‘Soul UK‘ and, united with some of the artists she covered on the album, gave a rather good account on why she chose to rerecord these ‘golden oldies’ in The Guardian.

So far, so dandy.

Today I got the album from iTunes and was pleased to see a digital booklet and some live cuts added to the covers. The tunes -as mentioned above- are indeed great. There is just no way that you can ruin ‘Southern Freez’, ‘Cuddly Toy’, ‘Round and Around’, ‘Mama used to say’ or ‘Say are your Number One’.

Nevertheless.

She doesn’t ruin them. Not as such. Her arranger does indeed does a good job taking some of these elektrofunk classic and re-gig them for classic soul sextet (plus strings). But by doing this, he sucks their manic energy completely out of them. As I am unfortunately old enough to remember all of these tracks being released, I remember being excited by how new and cool they then sounded, especially the electrofunk tracks by Freeez, Junior and (Stock, Aitken Waterman’s) Princess (yes, really). Now that they got the elegant winebar treatment, they completely lost their sparkle. Add to that Ms Knight’s vocal acrobatics and uncalled for ad-libs, this album grates quickly.

I am nevertheless sure that it will do well. You will hear it blasting out the Chelsea Tractors, out of posh wine bars, and I am sure Ms Knight will be invited to loads of corporate gigs, where she will be able to play these songs to the marketing team of private banks and will be able to crown the top-grossing broker of the year at the next CIB annual general meeting.

For the rest of us, dig out the crackly vinyl and listen to the original (or download the original from iTunes).

Honestly. What was the point?

Club Classics. Only at Home?

So last Friday the best girlfriend ever and myself were having a glass or Viognier while cooking my beloved Penne with rosemarie’d lamb in white wine, Heart FM’s club classics pumping out the stereo. Inspired by the bass lines of Jamiroquai, Incognito and Chic we were grooving around the kitchen, chopping onions and garlic, all while shimmying our middle-aged booties (in the best girlfriend’s ever case of course a middle aged bootie that looks like a teenage one). Then her attractiveness suddenly declared:

‘Why are there no clubs for middle-aged people? This is London, for goodness sake’

Doesn’t she have a point? We are a club-owners dream: moderately affluent enough not to survive an evening on lager-shandies (after already having drunk a bottle of 2 pound Vodka at home), old enough not to get hopelessly drunk, destroy the interior and annoy the other guests, young enough to still party like it’s 1999 (well, I was around thirty then, so I was getting on a bit already. I am sure that Prince never imagined that partying like 1999 would be something reminisced about by middle aged geezers). The 30 to 40 year olds should be positively begged to appear in clubs: spending like hell, but still responsible enough to be home at a sensible time , without leaving the club in tatters. Looking at the Guardian’s clubbing diary, I can’t find any clubs advertising club nights for the moderately aged.

For heaven’s sake, is it too much to ask for a club night in which I can drink a decent red wine or a glass of Hoegaarden or two, dance outrageously happy to intelligent funk and soul without having to listen to rappers telling me how they knifed somebody while having intercourse with a gangsta-bosses female associate?
The government should do something about it immediately. Maybe the Liberal Democrats could put it on their next manifesto?

‘If elected, we will endeavour to improve access to clubs to the criminally neglected age-bracket from 30 to 40 by scheduling dedicated funk nights in urban dance halls”

That could be the ultimate vote winner for the Lib Dems. Heck, I might even vote Tory if Boris Johnson would promise me free Jazz Funk nights every second Friday of the month in the Royal Albert Hall. Instead he wants to eliminate the smoking ban. Talk about the wrong priorities.

So instead I have to continue to use the kitchen floor as my dance floor, and do my JK impressions and the air bass-guitar moves with the casserole.

Groovy.

The Best Contemporary Concert DVD?

Today the mail lady brought a much anticipated DVD: A Japanese release of The Prince’s Trust ‘Produced by Trevor Horn‘ showcases the work of my all time favourite producer (hey, I spent my teenage years in the eighties. What do you expect from me? Jack White?). Anyway, in 2004, to celebrate 25 years of his bombast pop, he hosted the annual Prince’s Trust Wembley gig, showcasing some of the artists he worked with. And what a lineup that is:

  • Boggles
  • ABC
  • Grace Jones
  • Art of Noise
  • Yes
  • Propaganda
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Belle and Sebastian
  • Seal
  • Liza Stansfield
  • Frankie goes to Hollywood

Now I have seen quite a bit of ABC, Frankie, The PetShop Boys and Propaganda live over the last two decades, but I honestly say neither of them ever sounded so perfect. This is a gig of massive proprotions to make Trevor Horn’s rich, orchestral sound possible: I am sure that it I still haven’t got them all, but I counted 8 brass/woodwinds, 8 strings, 8 backup vocalists (some people call that a ‘choir’), 2 drummers, Anne Dudley (the Oscar winning Anne Dudley, who also arranged ABC’s strings on the ‘Lexicon of Love’), numerous other keyboarders and 4 percussionists (including the brillant Louis Jardim), Steve Howe and probably half a dozen musicians I forgot.

This is truly a wall of music. I have seen ABC in various incarnations over the last 20 years, but I can not remember ‘Poisoned Arrow’ and ‘The Look of Love’ ever sounding so luscious on the stage.

Frankie (even in the absence of Holly Johnson) sound glorious, Propaganda, Yes and Seal are magnificent and Seal probably gives the best twenty minutes of his life. Grace Jones is amazingly pitch perfect but outrageous as ever. As a bass player myself it’s fascinating to see FGTH’s bassist to punch himself through ‘Two Tribes”s superfast plectrum based lines. That looks ike amazingly hard work.

All of the musicians look like they’re having an enormous blast. Just look at the face of the drummers. They’re so immersed and enjoying themselves, it’s infecting. I’ve caught myself jumping around the living room with my Macbook in my hands, headphones on head.

This means I have now have two favourite saturday morning DVD’s: Jamiroquai’s ‘LIve in Verona‘ and this. And it looks like there’s a UK release in the pipeline as well.

Get it. It’s worth it.

P.S. And to have a little bit more fun: here’s the world’s grumpiest prog rock band.