MOMENTUM

imageClass. If I were to sum up in one word Soulpersona’s ‘Momentum’ it would be that word. Sheer and utter class.

Thankfully, I’m left with the freedom to elaborate a little more freely here.

So what defines the singular priceless timepiece that is ‘Momentum’ for me. To begin with, there was the anticipation. I’d long known of its inception, of the work being put into it. I was familiar with earlier creations by its writer and producer, as well as that of cohorts thus so assigned to help him on his mission. So I kind of knew what to expect. Kind of. Because this was hardly going to be a paint-by-numbers job, it was still assured to be a revelation. Excited as I was for its arrival, ordered months before its completion, the thrill of eventually holding it in my hands was palpable. Peeling back the cellophane made me feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; I didn’t know exactly what treasures were awaiting me, but I knew a cd from this Willy Wonka of sophisticated soulful music carried with it an assurance of excellence. I pressed play, and slipped into auditory heaven, only regretting that I could not afford the vinyl and an almighty sound system second to none.

What is this album to me? It conjures up magical imagery of yore. It’s John Steed and Emma Peel racing through the countryside in an open-topped car. It’s Buck Rogers seducing Princess Ardala with his foxy moves. It’s Flash Gordon taking the Emperor Ming to task. In short, it’s superhero stuff, but when superheroes relied on their wit and their charm rather than some special powers or armoured suits. Or else it’s you, me and my good friends chilling by the pool at my villa in Tuscany, or perhaps bobbing about the Azures on my 18-berth yacht, playing poker in the drawing room after dinner – dressed to the nines, because it smells ‘rich’, and a true class rich at that.

I’m hoping you get the picture. Now to the actual musical content of ‘Momentum’. What to expect?

First off, let me say Pete Simpson blew me away with ‘Don’t You Think’, a truly sublime vocal that you just want to soak in again and again, seduction with love guaranteed. His later step in with ‘Your Love Is Mine’ is another modern classic in the making. I love how the triumphant uplift slips into sultry sax a little way over the half way mark. For me, both combining to be perhaps the best work Pete Simpson has delivered to us to date.

Now if you’re familiar with my pages here you’ll know I’m a huge devotee of the Olympian Deity that is Princess Freesia. Aside from her interstellar vocals she has to be one of the craziest most accomplished lyricists around, a defining edge that to me sets her head and shoulders above the rest. How she consistently comes up with such splendour is beyond me, but if she told me she had a direct through-line to that blue tentacled alien opera singer from ‘The Fifth Element’ I’d not be surprised, she’s of another world alright. She’s also her own best backing singer, with delicious harmonies. Anyway, step into ‘Open Sesame’ to discover her magic, and allow this Majestic Temptress of Tune & Melody captivate you under her spell (then delve into her other tracks there, and then on to her albums.)

Before I leave Princess Freesia, let me please mention too her ‘duet’ with the truly brilliant Carl Hudson’s keys on ‘Ride In Time’, because it’s bliss.

Guest artist the Madam Palindrome that is Deborah Bond comes in with ‘Let It Go’. Oh, we’ve all been there haven’t we? I sure have.

Have to mention ‘Unjustified’ sung by Darien, simply because it lept out, not in a jarring way, just it seemed to hold a different vibe, whilst still consistent with the whole. As I said at the beginning, there is nothing formulaic about ‘Momentum’.

Far from it. Indeed with each listen, it is as if you discover new depths. This is no eau de toilette, but a very expensive multi-layered eau de parfum, you know, like Tom Ford does in those smoked glass Art Deco Chess-piece bottles. The tracks I’ve listed above are by no means favourites above the rest, simply because there are no favourites; they are merely a sample of the sumptuous selection of tracks that awaits you. Buy ‘Momentum’, buy it.

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MAYSA

Maysa-Blue-Velvet-SoulWhen you venture out to catch a live performance, a vibrant conduit between performer and audience opens up. Hopefully at such times they will heighten you with their gift of song, in the supreme way that only music can, even making, when at its best, the sensual sound akin to spiritual and vice versa.

However, for all the elevatory joys I personally have had on such occasions, and they have been rich in multitude and splendour, I don’t think I’ve ever found myself literally open-mouthed in amazed rapture, almost frozen in awe, only to look around and witness a sea of faces around me clearly feeling exactly the same. On the 23rd of July 2014 at the Jazz Cafe in Camden, London – such a moment came into being. Spinning into town on the cusp of her latest (10th) album for a flying three-date UK visit was the acclaimed Maysa who, after delivering to the avid collective present the track Sophisticated Lover in the main, then took said tune and continued on with free-style improvised vocals reaching a whole new and unsurpassable level. As she took everyone witnessing this showcase on a truly bewitching journey of adept vocal agility it is no exaggeration at this point to use that adage you could hear a pin drop; only matched in full counter-balance by the immense roar that rose in unison when she closed her epic rendition. Be they well-versed or uninitiated to her talent, undoubtedly what stood before her from thereon in was a crowd with one unified and lasting impression; they had just borne witness to undeniable greatness.

I am unable to provide you with an audio of what I’ve just described, her engagingly humorous lead-in to why she penned this track, nor the incredible vocal journey that followed; but here is Sophisticated Lover as it so sublimely sits on her new album Blue Velvet Soul.

maysa (1)Like many truly transcendent singers weaving their soulful thaumaturgy for our delectation, Maysa (or Maysa Leak as she is also known), whilst undeniably acclaimed with a two-decade career, is not a house-hold name. She should be. If this were the era of Ella Fitzgerald and the like being at their peak, I have no doubt Maysa would be right up there with them. Of those who do possess the good fortune to know of her, certainly here in the UK, they may well have first come to do so through her work as lead vocalist with the highly acclaimed British jazz/funk/R&B band Incognito.

This is work she gives great gratitude for, which came to her after a rather swift transatlantic audition over the phone. Her subsequent pretty much instantaneous and nervously naive arrival into the UK was retold with brilliant wit in the aforementioned concert. Something that only really comes to the fore when seeing her live is that Maysa is not only an incredible singer but also a fantastic raconteur – with charm, humour and a soul-bearing truth as equally captivating as the songs she subsequently elicits following each monologue. In her own words:

“I am a storyteller, a counsellor and a friend that helps others through the good times and bad through my music. It’s important for me to connect with the audience because it’s my God given job.”

Prior to making that career-affirming trip to these shores with Incognito she had spent a year touring with Stevie Wonder, whom she met whilst still a student at Morgan State University, which she graduated from with a degree in classical performance having trained as a mezzo-soprano.

Interestingly, of the many memorable tracks Stevie Wonder has given the world there is the positive-vibe of Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing, taken from his 1973 album Innervisions, and this was subsequently covered as part of Incognito’s 1992 album Scribes, Tribes & Vibes, featuring Maysa’s debut with the band.

Now, before I continue, I must please make mention of the artist who was on prior to Maysa, a young woman whose candescence has to be in assured ascendance.

As I wrote on my facebook music page ‘The G Spot’…

I had the joyous honour of seeing Debra Debs earlier this week. I could begin a long list of high-praising superlatives at this point, so instead, as a friend remarked: “It is amazing when a singer is even better live.” When you immerse yourself into her tunes, you’ll see the power in that statement of truth. 

I wrote one of my ‘spotlight’ pieces on her album LifeCycles earlier this year, the link to which is at the foot of this article. I strongly recommend making a purchase

To return then to the ‘now’, and Maysa’s newest album Blue Velvet Soul, which has garnered considerable acclaim, not least of which being has her first Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance earlier this year for the song, Quiet Fire, her stunning interpretation of one of the last compositions by Johnny Hammond, which was released as part of the Nancy Now album by the legendary Nancy Wilson in 1989.

“Receiving a Grammy nomination for the first time in my 22 year career is incredible and means the world to me, but to get it for a song from my tenth solo CD is even more significant because I struggled to make this record so soon after the passing of my mother, Laura Leak. I truly poured my heart and soul into this record, so this is a great milestone not only in my career, but my life as well. I have been dreaming of and praying for a nomination since I was a little girl. I’m so grateful.” 1.

Blue Velvet Soul also carries the strength of Maysa’s song-writing skills, with eight of the fifteen tracks self-composed. These include Good Morning Sunshine, an uplifting duet with her long-standing collaborator and dear friend Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick, founder of Incognito

…and her beautiful meditative Inside My Dream

It is wonderful to hear that an artist such as Maysa is gaining more widespread recognition, simply because a gift such as hers deserves to be known by an ever growing international legion of admirers. If it is not yet evident to you, I most eagerly encourage that you become one of that number yourself. Dive head on in to her deep pool of musical delight. Discover those tracks that speak something to you for, undeniably, they will.

And should you ever find out that this lady is singing live somewhere, anywhere… that you can get to – go. Without question – GO.

Giles Addison

1. http://baltimoretimes-online.com/news/2014/jan/24/baltimores-maysa-leak-nominated-grammy-award/

‘Fateful Attraction’ EP

Returning with her first release for 2014 the divine chanteuse that is Princess Freesia now gives us her new EP ‘Fateful Attraction’, which is, once again, masterfully produced by her long-standing collaborator Soulpersona and presented by R&B Moguls. It is sure to inflame her ever-ascending star into further luminescence.

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As is eagerly hoped for and gladly fulfilled upon the first listen, Princess Freesia’s own musical influences shine through, as is her mark. A musical connoisseur enriched by the influences of Rare Groove, Soul, Jazz, Funk and Fusion et al, she describes her musical tastes as “anything with sexy Rhodes, warm analogue drum sounds, a wubby bass line, etheric synthaholics and kitten purring vocals…”.  As ever then, the music here holds an undeniable and graceful touch of the most delicious classic grooves, though just because Princess Freesia is clearly inspired from yester-year in her music this doesn’t make her some retro copycat. There may well be touches reminiscent of earlier decades, but her delectable voice alone claims these tunes as totally today.

This EP is a journey into that eternal experience of yearning love and desire, as the brief to “write something heartfelt about the longing, pining, heartache kind of love” so directed her to. She has channelled such emotions “as delivered by some of my favourite female vocalists from back in the day such as Teena Marie, Marlena Shaw, Phyllis Hyman, Angela Bofill, Angela Winbush etc…”   In short, she’s keeping the finest sounds very much alive, with a fresh Freesian touch.

As was so ecstatically established in previous EP releases ‘The Hoxxy Demos’ and ‘The Lapdancer’ and follow-up album ‘The Rainbow Ride’, her music sees her stand undeniably unique and incomparable. Those distinctive and delicious vocals aside, she also delivers consistently strong with her accomplished lyrics, which are richly coloured with the finest floridity that engages from the off and pulls one ever further in.

Once again Princess Freesia shows her sublime ability to present a collection of tracks that incite a desire to take a sultry walk upon the streets, groove upon the floor, or else to set the mercury rising between the sheets: ‘Do it Baby’ and the more imploring ‘I Won’t Forget’ here confirming the latter there most assuredly. ‘Missing Love’ is hauntingly beautiful, a true classic with the musical backing and the way it really allows for her vocals to soar on high reminiscent of the late, great Roberta Flack.

This is not simply a soundtrack to seduction or sorrow-tinged hearts however, with tracks such as ”I Am Still Young’ calling upon love as a sort of prophetic self-empowerment. As such, they are very fine words to finish here with: “I’ll take it higher, I will inspire, I will take it further than you ever wanted to believe it, I will solve the mysteries of what is wrong and what is needed. Never underestimate the power of a single person – Little things become the biggest power for the every person.”

 Giles Addison

‘Fateful Attraction’ is available on i tunes; click here for a taster.

 

 

AT A GLANCE…

Harvey William Mason was born in 1947 in New Jersey and is a highly acclaimed jazz drummer. He is also responsible for one of my favourite tracks of all time – Groovin’ You – which was released in 1979, taken from the same-titled album under Arista records that same year.

With the handclaps, the agogô (go-go bells], the tambourine, temple blocks and timpani… the vibraslap… vocals of cha-ca-cha… the falsetto… and the bass “bom bom bom bom bom bom bom”… that “groovin’ you” growl… and so on. I never tire of this track, and often play it to myself on repeat. Enjoy it here now.

It also gave birth to the massive hit in 1995 by house music producer Gusto entitled Disco’s Revenge, of which there are many mixes, this being just one.

Prior to Groovin You he released the album and titular single Marching In The Street in 1975 which, amongst others, features Randy Crawford on vocals.

Both of these albums thus mentioned, together with the stellar classic jazz/funk albums Earthmover, Funk In A Mason Jar and M.V.P. are well worth discovery if you are not yet acquainted – this really is the best in musicianship coming to the fore.

Limiting myself to just one from each… mmm, this is a toughie… I’ll go for ones that swing with such uplift of mood, elevation is always good.

With Earthmover I go for K.Y. And The Curb.

On to Funk In A Mason and it is Phantazia.

And from M.V.P. I choose Universal Rhyme.

Along with his own productions, Harvey Mason has collaborated with many other great artists, such as Donald Byrd, first on Street Lady in 1973…

…followed by Stepping into Tomorrow in 1974…

…and Places and Spaces in 1975.

1976 saw him again with Donald Byrd for Caricatures and also joining George Benson for that true classic Breezin’.

The list of who he has worked alongside is almost inexhaustible – “flip across your radio dial on any given day and you’re sure to come across a gem that Harvey Mason has polished” (fourplayjazz.com) – Seal’s Kiss from a Rose in 1995 for example.

He truly is a master quite unparalleled. I trust this brief glance at some of his work here inspires you to delve further in, an odyssey of plenty as it is; it certainly has me.

Giles Addison

Hello to… KATHY BROWN

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.

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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.

Beginnings…

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.

Giles Addison

vimeo.com/61536277

http://www.vibe.com/article/exclusive-kathy-brown-edm-remix-stream

SPOTLIGHT

Introducing… Natasha Watts

The name of this charming songbird has been on the lips of those by fortune blessed to be in the know for a while now. With what and when I shall get to momentarily, but the ‘spotlight’ feature is about an album first and foremost, so be you a fan of hers for some time or only now to be afresh in the delight, the marvellous news is that at last her debut collection is upon us.

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I first became familiar with the lady a few years back with Time To Shine (Aaron Ross feat. Natasha Watts). It was an instant case of “WORD!” – anyone who knows me or is familiar with my musings upon these pages is aware of how I adore songs of affirmation.

As it was the MuthaFunkaz Soul Time Mix that got my juice initially a-boiling to that most sweet sizzling state, so it is that one that I now select here.

I later discovered of Natasha’s personal loss in having to say goodbye to her greatest support and inspiration, that being her Mother, and how this track therefore held a special meaning for her. As I too have had to do the same  – Time To Shine truly takes on that extra power to myself also. As someone once wrote:

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.”

Another worthy listing here is 2009’s MuSol feat. Pete Simpson & Natasha Watts – I Believe; so much so that both the Original Mix and the Central Avenue Soulful Remix sit here for your auditory cortex stimulation.

In 2012 she released the four-track Downtown Diva EP,  which included a wonderful take on Touch Me (All Night Long). An undeniable classic, first brought to us with Wish & Fonda Rae in 1984 and then covered by both Cathy Dennis in 1990 and Angel City in 2004, with her rendition she gives the familiar a whole new lease.

That year also saw her being one part of the stellar collective brought together for the Cool Million III album with the track Show Me.

To her debut album then, and to begin at the beginning with Born A Star. Upon playing this tears wetted my cheeks with a smile, carrying its deeply personal expression of love that both Natasha and I, as mentioned, have been blessed to hold as ours. It is a beautiful, bouncing chorale of eternal gratitude, and this song will remain with me now as a forever favourite.

The best culinary dishes are created by putting together the finest ingredients, and it is just the same with a musical enterprise. So the fusion of Natasha Watts upon an album produced by Cool Million (aka Frank Ryle & Rob Hardt – the European production duo whose mission statement most assured in accomplishment is to “take soul back to the future”) well, it makes for a sumptuous feast of many flavours.

Singles taken from this rich body of work have been Change, and Go Slow, both of which hit the Number One spot in the UK Soul Charts last year

Other stand-out tracks for me are Worth (too right!) and Skywards – it is a mighty good way to be looking. This is an album of variety, which illustrates with polished precision Natasha’s abundant music education. It is both comfortably retro and quintessentially current. She has the sultry slo-jams, the gentle lilts, the kick-sass no attitude and the affirmation; so in my castle, Natasha Watts is not only welcome, she is a Queen with whom I place a crown upon her head. Though she’s been at this game for a wee while, I think this is just a taste of what is yet to come.

Giles Addison

Check out more on the producers Cool Million here: https://musicgspot.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/coolmillion/

Six Degrees or Less…

RHYTHM OF THE NIGHT

This series begins with a particular track from an artist, with a look into their story, which then follows up with a musical game of ‘Six Degrees…’ as I dig into both covers and the many other connections born from that initial tune.

Six Degrees of Separation is the theory that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. In the world of music, that number is often much less.

‘Rhythm of the Night’ and DeBarge

The breakthrough for the siblings DeBarge came in 1983 with their self-penned release of I Like It. However, by far their greatest hit was Rhythm Of The Night, which was their first music video, and indeed their last, more of which I will come to in a moment.

With huge, if relatively brief, success in the US, this 1985 release was the only major hit single in the UK for the Pop/R&B sensations DeBarge, a family group consisting of brothers Mark, Randy, Eldra, James, Bobby* and sister Bunny.

*Eldest brothers Bobby (and Tommy LeBarge ) were originally with the R&B/Funk band Switch that found fame recording for the Gordy label in the late 1970s with such hits as There’ll Never Be.

Bobby, like his younger brother El following him, was known for being able to sing in beautiful falsetto. After leaving Switch to join his siblings his tenure with the group was brief due to his continuing battle with heroin addiction.

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Rhythm of the Night was featured in the soundtrack of the musical film ‘The Last Dragon’, which though a critical disappointment was a financial triumph, and is now considered a cult classic. Set in New York City, it is about a teenage martial arts student who is said to possess “The Glow”, a mystical energy that can only be attained by a true master.

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DeBarge were one of the few big acts for the Motown label during the early 1980’s. Their multiracial roots (their Mother was black and their father was white) that had been the cause of such difficulty growing up made them hugely marketable at this period.

“Motown had big expectations as far as a possible television series, movies… they had big plans for the DeBarges, very big plans.” Bob Jones (Former Motown Publicist)

Their song Share My World proved to be an inspiration for Mary J Blige, with her 1997 track of the same name.

Another track of theirs is:

Released in 1983 and reaching number one on the Billboard R&B singles chart, this was their biggest hit prior to Rhythm of the Night. It has been covered by, amongst others, Jed Madela in 2004, Purple Ribbon All-Stars feat. Janelle Monáe in 2005, Boyz II Men in 2004 and Jay-R in 2008.

In 1985 You Wear It Well (El DeBarge with DeBarge) found itself on to the B-Side of a white label promo of Depeche Mode’s It’s Called A Heart. One would wonder how these two groups connect… take a listen for yourself.

DeBarge had both the looks and the talent that, with the backing of the Motown label, had seen them ascend rapidly to stardom in the early 1980s, setting them up to become heirs to the Jackson 5. Unfortunately, a growing propensity for substance abuse was prevalent. The siblings were all marked by a rough upbringing under a highly abusive father, and were gaining the reputation for being wild and often uncontrollable. ‘Fours and Doors’, the street name for pills that mixed barbiturates with codeine, became known as the drug of choice for DeBarge; with one noteable exception. “It just so happened that the one stand-out in DeBarge was diligent about it, was not doing drugs, was in the studio doing what he was supposed to be doing.” (Greg Williams – Musician).

El became known as the one dependably sober member of the group, and the management increasingly put more focus on him, which did little to help the fractures already in existence.

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Despite the colossal boom of Rhythm Of The Night, Motown dropped DeBarge as a group that same year, then offered solo deals to Bunny, El and their younger brother Chico, though any further rises were swiftly curtailed as individually they all succumbed to addiction. A seeming button for self-destruction sadly prevented them, both as a group and as individual artists, from achieving the lasting success that was envisioned. Nonetheless, to many, they are still held as soul music royalty.

El DeBarge made a high profile come-back (after a 16 year hiatus) in 2010 with the album Second Chance. He performed at the 54th Grammy Awards in February 2012.

 

‘Rhythm of the Night’ continues…

The song was first covered as Al Ritmo De La Noche by Puerto Rican artist Sophy, also in 1985, sung in Spanish with merengue rhythms.

It was also covered in 2001 by Valeria Andrews in 2001 for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

Diane Warren

Rhythm of the Night was written by the songwriter Diane Warren, and was the kick-start to her prolific career.

Di

Her songs have received an incredible six Academy Award nominations, five Golden Globe nominations and seven Grammy Award nominations.

She was the first songwriter in the history of Billboard to have seven hits, all by different artists, on the singles chart at the same time, and her songs have been featured in more than 70 films or television shows. These include I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing performed by American rock band Aerosmith for the 1998 film Armageddon.

Were I to even simply list all of her songs, let alone place the links to them, what you read here would be running close to the length of the novel ‘War and Peace’, so instead, to illustrate her diversity, I chose to highlight with just a few:

This next one brought tears to the eyes as I played it just now, knowing how things went for her in the end. Another article for another time, but here, the truly legendary Whitney Houston.

Released in 1996, Un-Break My Heart was a number one in countless nations, among them the US, where it held the top spot for 11 weeks. It made Toni Braxton a superstar and remains her signature tune. Warren hadn’t written this song with a specific singer in mind, and according to Warren, Braxton initially “didn’t want to do the song. She hated it. But I was there for her vocal performance in the studio, and predicted that she’d win a Grammy for it. And she did.”

In all she has over 800 songs under her belt, and still counting. Bearing this in mind Diane Warren is probably one degree of separation from probably every music artist on the planet.

‘Rhythm of the Night’ by Corona…

It was in 1993 that those four words took on a whole new life with the release from Italian pop dance band Corona, who had a world-wide hit with its debut single.

This track took multiple elements from the Playing With Knives (Quadrant Radio Mix) by Bizarre Inc (1991), Scream for Daddy by Ish Ledesma (1987)  and Save Me by Say When! which was also released in 1987.

Playing With Knives by Bizarre Inc was in turn built in part from:

Happiness Is Just Around the Bend by Cuba Gooding (1983) – who also had a brief solo career with Motown Records the same time as DeBarge.

Shelter Me by Circuit feat. Koffi (1989)

Move Your Body by Tyree feat. J.M.D. (1989)

Bizarre Inc were a house/dance duo from Stafford, England, formed in 1989 by DJs Dean Meredith and Mark “Aaron” Archer.  They were also behind the hit I’m Gonna Get You in 1992 with Angie Brown…

…which takes the main vocal hook from Jocelyn Brown’s Love Is Gonna Get You, released in 1985.

Jocelyn Brown had a huge hit with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, which was written by husband and wife Ashford & Simpson. In 1986 they performed in concert with special guest El DeBarge.

The shout-out you hear on I’m Gonna Get You – “Yo DJ Pump This Party” – is from Brass Disk by Dupree (1991).

Corona’s original hit has had numerous remixes, and has subsequently been covered many times over. For the purposes of my own tastes and not wishing to extend this article beyond measure I’m not going to place the links to all of them, but should you wish to hunt them out they include:

Yo Tengo Un Novio en Hawai by No Se Lo Digas a Mamá in 1997, Alex C. feat. Yasmin K in 2002, Miguel Picasso in 2008, Ex-Otago, also in 2008, Hermes House Band in 2009, Sex Worker in 2010 and Cascada in 2012.

Corona’s original version was also sampled in My Life by Slaughterhouse feat. Cee-Lo Green in 2012.

And in October 2013 British band Bastille released Of the Night, which is made up of both The Rhythm of the Night and Rhythm Is A Dancer by Snap. Incidentally, I’ve Got The Power, also by Snap, features a hook sung by Jocelyn Brown (again from 1985s Love Is Gonna Get You). She was never credited, and in 2009 sued the German pop group for £10 million.  At present, I am unable to find any information regarding the outcome of the judicial progress, which I hope indicates that she was able to settle out of court for a very handsome sum.

The version that I do feature here is The Rhythm of the Night as released by Ely Bruna in 2010, a delightful bossa nova take on the track.

It is taken from her album Remember The Time, which, along with this one, features remakes in a soul-jazz style of numerous 80s/90s hits, a cover of I’m Your Baby Tonight.

I close here then with the original of that track, of course featuring the late, the great Whitney Houston. I place both the U.S. release and the European Version.

The song was written and produced by L.A.Reid and Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds.

Finally… Whitney worked with Luther Vandross on the album this song gives title to. For his ‘Busy Body Tour’ back in 1984, Luther Vandross had two support acts; one was an unknown group by the name of The Deele… which featured L.A.Reid and Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds. The other, handpicked because of their success, was DeBarge.

SOURCES:

An article by Chris Rizik, which can be read in full here – http://www.soultracks.com/debarge.htm

A great in-depth interview with Diane Warren by Paul Tingen https://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug08/articles/warren.htm#Top

The television series ‘UNSUNG’. The site http://www.whosampled.com