Whenever a musical icon passes it always leaves a hole and with Aretha Franklin this is certainly no exception. Her voice was distinctive and magical, as befits the Queen of Soul. Some artists have vowed never to sing certain songs again after Aretha performed them. I probably heard her voice first in the Blues Brothers film revisiting 1968’s Think but soon got to know more of her musical catalogue. This album is a pretty good place to start if you haven’t heard an Aretha album. Released in 1972 and is amazingly her 20th album, winning her a Grammy. Her vocal talent just shines here, effortlessly delivering the soul of the ballads and dropping the amazingly funky Rock Steady. Another true talent departs but leaves behind an amazing legacy that you really should make time to explore.
Standout Track: Rock Steady
I can’t believe I have only just picked this album up. Of course I had heard the singles She Said and Prayin’ but I never thought to buy the album. It’s a great mix of Northern Soul and urban hip hop. If you think of the current grime artists but with a smoother soulful backdrop then you are getting close to Plan B. Having always been a fan of soul and RnB the music is definitely my kind of sound. This is just another example of when you can miss albums or artists that you can really get into. Definitely worth picking up if soul is your thing providing you dont mind the rap side of things. He now has a new album out too which you can check out here.
Standout track: The Recluse
It’s easy to think that Prince’s side projects as nothing but token artists providing an outlet for his ego, however most (if not all) were/are talented artists in their own right. Jill Jones provided backing vocals and appeared in the video’s for 1999, Little Red Corvette and Automatic but her debut album didn’t surface until 1987. The Family and The Revolution make appearances on the album with Prince providing the songs. It is very much a Prince album, and he features on backing vocals, but Jill’s performance stands up on it’s own and her voice really suits the tracks. Jill has spoken very positively about the whole experience of working with Prince and if you like that 80’s Prince sound it is well worth a listen and for big Prince fans its an essential if you can get it – mine is ripped from my vinyl copy!
Standout track : For Love
Aside from fancying Louise Nurding (now Redknapp), I remember Eternal as one of the most successful groups of the 90’s. With their debut album they had a string of hits and I had it on tape but finally picked it up on CD. Their blend of RnB and pop has that Britishness that always manages to stand out from American groups. I don’t know how well the sound translates to new ears some 20 years later as the distinctive 90’s beats and rhythms dominate this album, but it is still very listenable with some great songs and powerhouse vocal performances. If you like En Vogue or SWV then you are in the right place for Eternal. Following Louise’s departure they continued as a trio then eventually a duo, however it’s their debut album that finds a place in my collection.
Standout Track: Save Our Love
I was lucky enough to grab a ticket to see Jessie Ware perform at All Saints Church in Kingston, Surrey, as part of her promo tour for her new album Glasshouse. With only about a couple of hundred people it was a intimate setting with a stripped back band in a fabulous venue. I liked her debut album Devotion but never gave the follow up, Tough Love, as much of a listen. Her performance was fantastic! Its always great to see someone in this kind of setting where there is no place to hide and its down to them show what they can do, and she didn’t disappoint. She has a real soulful voice and delivers with emotion and depth. The new songs sounded great, so time for me to get the first two back into rotation and then check out Glasshouse. Lucky for you can see the gig here.
Before you have heard a note there is a lot to like about Dr. Feelgood. The band’s name for a start, as well as the names of the musicians themselves, Lee Brilleaux, Wilko Johnson, John B. Sparks and The Big Figure. If you have ever seen the Old Grey Whistle Test performances of the towering “Roxette” and “She Does It Right” Johnson’s choppy guitar licks and back and forth strut should be enough to get anyone interested. I finally got around to picking up this album and it doesn’t disappoint with it’s British take on RnB mixed with the pre-punk sound of the later 70’s. With everything else going on it could be easy to overlook Sparko’s bass but it really is great to listen to. The only track that doesn’t really do it for me is Boom Boom. Nothing can match the growl of John Lee Hookers original.
Standout track: She Does It Right
Guilty pleasure time! This album came out alongside a TV special parodying the comeback of an influential musician celebrated by the likes of Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson and the Bee Gees. At the time Bruce Willis was starring in the hit TV show Moonlighting which I was a big fan of so this CD was an easy purchase. Almost all RnB covers, Bruce’s vocals are pretty good and the 80’s re-imagining of these songs is pretty good musically too. I’m am pretty sure that most people will see this as a novelty but I think it is a fun album and an enjoyable listen. Some people get a bit snooty about this sort of thing, citing it as not being “real” music, but any music is worth a listen and you can take it or leave it. Who is anyone to dismiss what someone else enjoys? Embrace the cheese!
Standout track : Fun Time