The ‘Hello to…‘ series is where I celebrate the work of a favoured artist. It always begins with introducing a tune I listen to regularly, followed by delving a little deeper into that particular persons work. As ever, if you enjoy this piece, please be as so kind to leave a comment in the box at the very bottom of the page, because love is love and “energy breeds energy”. Thank you.
The name Kathy Brown may not be familiar to all. Unless, that is, you like your soulful house music, in which case she is a shining star up there with the best vocalists of our time, singing (and, most often, writing/arranging) songs that prove very much the truth as once written by Berthold Auerbach:
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Indubitably! I open here then not from the start, but on the pulse of now, with the release in October 2013 of Not This Time under the King Street Sounds umbrella. Written by Kathy Brown and Atsushi Asada, together here with producer Namy, we are given an affirmation of ascendence to cut ties with a ‘bad un’ and to move on up. I can’t express how much I loved this upon the very first listen, and I knew immediately it would become a much-treasured tune, both for the musicality and the message. It also has – as you will hear momentarily – one of the best vocal hooks ever.
It was the Original Mix I first heard, but at present I’m unable to find that on youtube. Now with most tracks that get released I’m able to choose my personal favourite as ‘my’ definitive mix; not when it comes to the divine Ms.Brown – there are always several. What I present to you now then is the Director’s Cut Classic Mix (aka the legendary Frankie Knuckles, who’d been wanting to work on one of her tracks for quite some time, and the acclaimed Eric Kupper).
Were you singing those three words over and over? I sure was. Of course, this lady is much more than just an infectious hook.
I’m placing the link here to her original as it sits on her soundcloud page because you are less likely to catch this particular version, with the rap included – by her son no-less.
Like many a great diva (in the truest sense of the word, as in: ‘a celebrated female singer; a woman of outstanding talent’), Kathy first found her voice by singing with her local Gospel Choir. She had begun doing so with three of her sisters (she has seven in all). Given that her Mother – a Minister – played guitar, and that her Aunt is Shirley Caesar, the ‘Queen of Gospel Music’ – winner of eleven Grammy Awards, with such a heritage Kathy’s chosen path comes as little surprise, and these roots shine through in every note she sings.
One day she was singing at a Laundromat, next thing she was performing in the group Sweet Cinnamon. She was 16 years old at the time.
“We met people like The Joneses*, The Commodores… you name it… Studio 54 was my spot. Bow-Legged Lou*, Cheryl Pepsii Riley*… These were the people I hung out with every week, that was my upbringing.”
*The Joneses had one of the earliest club hits with Sugar Pie Guy in 1974 (re-released in 1983). Most splendid as it is, I’ve placed the original here. It was released as Part I and Part II as 45 singles – remember there were no 12″ back then, though they are perfectly blended here as if there was.
*And for good measure, because it is beautiful, here is the 1998 smash Cheryl ‘Pepsii’ Riley track, given to her by Bow-Legged Lou (of Full Force).
Kathy began to venture into acting. She auditioned for, and got offered a role in the musical ‘The Wiz’, but her Minister Mother refused to allow her to be in something so non-secular. It is Karen Bernard, who was singing with The Joneses at the time, that we have to thank for all the music from Kathy that we have today, at least in part, because Karen kept pushing her to pursue the singing. Then the time came, when in 1993 she met up with David Shaw who was producing a cover of the Lace track Can’t Play Around. He put down Kathy’s vocals, it was released and it shoot her up into the US Billboard Dance Charts. The star was born.
I place here first, the original demo release, followed by the Masters at Work mix.
This wasn’t the only track released in that year she featured on. It may well have said Chantay Savage on the cover, and only list Kathy Brown as backing vocals, but one listen here doesn’t take much to decipher. This is not the only time her gift has been used to ‘ghost sing’ as it is called. Anyway, two different versions of this track are placed for you here.
A year later into 1994, and again as with Can’t Play Around came her second smash from the Cutting Records label; Praxis featuring Kathy Brown – Turn Me Out. A Number One Hit, it is an eternal house classic that in many variations and a multitude of mixes is heard out on the floors, as fresh now as it was then.
Onwards, and Upwards
Since then she has never stopped, tune upon tune, year upon year.
From such a catalogue, selecting a few is no easy task, but I’ve limited myself to five.
To kick off, two releases from 1999, both of which sublimely uplift. Press play on this right now and dance around your room for the next 6 minutes – purest medicine for body and soul as can be found in Happy People.
…you can double that by soaking up this deliciously smooth version too.
Feeling good? I trust you are. But we’re not stopping there, as the other from that year is Joy – David Morales Classic Club Mix (Azuli Records). When I spoke with Kathy I asked her if she had any favourite projects, and I’m pleased this was one she mentioned.
“When I first thought of David Morales… I’d never heard him play but I always heard his name. So I went one night and I couldn’t sit down. I’ve never been anywhere where a producer, literally every time I tried to sit down – I just keep getting up back and forth – that’s how passionate he is when he plays – the same electricity that is running through him is running through you, you feel it.”
Extra special meaning is added with the fact that the backing sisters to this (also Mariah Carey’s) were the same girls she grew up in the Gospel Choir with, so the ‘joy’ really is full circle.
In 2003 she came forth with Don’t Give Up (here with the Copyright Classic Mix) on Defected. Those verses… that chorus… “You’ve got to be strong, you’ve gotta hold on, and never give in, til you find a heaven…” This is WORD!
That same year, again with Sam Holt and Gavin ‘Face’ Mills (the Copyright chaps), Never Again.
As a perfect follow up to that I look to 2005 when we received Soul Central featuring Kathy Brown – Strings Of Life (Stronger On My Own). Come, come now – I simply had to include this one. Originally released in 1987 Strings of Life by Rhythim Is Rhythim (aka Derrick May), with those orchestral stabs and piano riffs, is considered by many to be one of the most influential dance records ever made, and a good few versions abound. For me, with her voice soaring as it does here, this is ‘The One’ as a supremacy of feeling rises up. The version I post begins with her little talk-in; I love it when Kathy places these segments into her tunes – it is like the Goddess Athene imparting wisdom from Mount Olympus.
In 2006 came the release of Dare Me with Miami Calling.
Originally sung by The Pointer Sisters in 1985, providing them with their only number one hit in the U.S. dance singles chart (you can see the very retro and fun video of the original directly below this – the Dj Chus & David Penn Vocal Mix).
“Baby make your move, step across the line, touch me one more time…” Kathy sent that classic refrain soaring out on to the dance floors like never before.
2006 also saw the release of Get Another Love with Defected, a cover of the original featuring Chantal Curtis, both of which I place here.
Going off on a tangent momentarily. Sadly, we never heard a great deal from Tunisian-born Chantal Curtis. Due to her serving time in prison for drugs, which her musician boyfriend Philippe Briche had turned her onto, some of her recordings, such as Disco Dance, were released by West End Records under the pseudonym of Michele.
Another of her tracks was Hitman.
This track proved to be tragically prophetic for Chantal, who was murdered in 1986 by a bullet that was intended for Philippe.
But let us put that sad little segue into disco history to a side now, and return to the real task at hand. Here then is Kathy Brown’s supreme take on Get Another Love.
What I adore about this is not only those stellar vocals that are what we have come to know and love from her, but the whole production is just golden. In other hands this may have just simply become an update; here it becomes a classic all in its own right.
Ok. So I said five, and you got more. But were you really counting? No, neither was I.
And so of late…
In 2010 Kathy Brown reconnected with David Shaw (the producer of Can’t Play around and Turn Me Out) and Deep Influence. The results – dazzling as ever as you can hear in Feel the Music…
Check out the 2 Good Souls & Matt Early Remix and the Master Kev & Tony Loreto MKTL Remix to this too.
Love and Pain – here is a shorter taste, the version that first grabbed me is a whole ten minutes of glorious Kathy Brown perfection.
…Give Me Your Love…
…Tell Me Why
…bang, bang, bang and… BANG! Kathy Brown just keeps knocking them out of the ball park. As we soak these up, it becomes clear as day that we need a Kathy Brown album. Can you imagine how great that would be – magnificence assured!
Apologies… lost in wistful thought… there is more.
Oozing hotness… this demands close-up moves… The Things You Do produced by the 2 Good Souls (Owen Clarke and John Lindsey Taylor )
Other recent delights are now with us, such as Micky More & Kathy Brown – Show Me How To Love – a blissful bounce of Jazz and Soul. The first time I heard this, I played it three times consecutively.
Something old, something new… Kathy Brown & Artificial Intelligence – Somebody To Love. This track was actually written by Kathy Brown and Asha Keys some seventeen years ago, and has recently been given the light of day through a new project called ‘Musical Gateway’ that connects people together; the drummer used here is Darrin Mooney from Primal Scream and on percussion is Patrick Dawes from Groove Armada.
You know what… in case it wasn’t obvious, I really have been in musical heaven writing this piece – listening to Kathy Brown’s great body of work as I did. The fact that it also brought me the unforgettable opportunity to speak with The Lady herself which she generously offered to do was the icing on the cake with a cherry and gold dust and… you get the picture. I hope you’ve enjoyed this even a tenth as much as I did.
And so… The Final Word
When asked what drives her as an artist Kathy Brown replies: “Loving me first of all, the love that I have for myself. And what I see, when I sing, what it does to other people – that drives me. How I make you feel when I sing. Not to just get up and sing because anyone can get up and sing but if someone can get up and sing and you feel it and it touches you and your hairs stand-up on your arms or whatever… So when I sing, if I don’t feel it then I know you don’t feel it, and at the end of the day it is all about how you are feeling. That’s what drives me – the thought that I get when knowing how it makes you feel.”
As the great Maya Angelou once wrote:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We won’t. We never do. I know I can speak for many when I say that Kathy Brown makes you feel more than just good, she elevates to the happiest place possible. Long may that continue.
Bless you for that joy you give Kathy Brown.