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
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.
Today I fancied listening to something a bit chilled so I dug out this album from the iPod archive. I’m pretty sure we have all bought albums on the strength of one track, and in this case it was The Finest because it features Alexander O’Neal and was produced by Jam and Lewis. It has that classic 80’s jazz funk/soul sound with deep bass lines and electronic drums which I would normally enjoy but I have to say I found this album a bit of a tough listen. I’m all for a bit of moodiness but for me many of the tracks edged too far into the dreary. The lead vocal is almost stand-offish and I can’t quite get the feeling behind it. Still if this sounds like your thing then give it a try, maybe it just wasn’t the right day for it.
Standout track: The Finest
I know that some people don’t like Adele’s music, that’s inevitable, but its hard not to like Adele for being Adele. Last night at Wembley she proved (again!) what a superb artist and person she is. Despite having a croaky voice regularly soothed with honey and lemon, she gave a flawless performance of every song she sang. I don’t know if people generally consider her as a soul singer, but she has got a great soul voice and 21 is really a great soul record. She has such a depth to her voice and this album captures the real angst of her relationship breakup at the time. The stripped down feel in some tracks allows her vocal and lyrics to shine, but whatever track you listen to her voice powers through in feeling, not just in volume. There is a real authenticity to her performance that you don’t always get.
Standout track: Take It All
I was too young to be able to reference the film when it came out in 1980 but by the mid 80’s the legacy of the Blues Brothers was still going strong ( and still is!), not only with the film which we watched on VHS (yo kids, go look that up…) but with loads of tribute bands. It was they who introduced me to Atlantic RnB and classic soul tracks. I think this soundtrack still holds up as a great collection of music in its own right. The music is fantastic, particularity the horns and bass, played by some of the musicians who worked on the original tracks back in the 60’s. Of course the supporting cast including Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles bring their great performances, but John Belushi’s vocals stand up well amongst the Kings and Queens of Blues and Soul. A great album to start the day to!
Standout track: She Caught The Katy – easily overlooked as the opening track.
Produced by Minneapolis-based Jam & Lewis, Hearsay is Alexander O’Neal’s magnum opus and the source of his biggest singles in the 80’s. Hearsay was my first “concept” album, set at Alex’s party with “Interludes” in between the songs playing out events. Hearsay combines funk and soul in a pop package and there are some classic tunes on here. As with most parties you get the upbeat tracks at the beginning and the mellow stuff near the end, but it’s kind of the wrong way round for commuting into work! Alex just has one of those powerful voices and 30 years later (yes, 30! Can’t believe it!) its still a great listen from start to finish. I have seen him live a few times, and I remember seeing him walking to Hammersmith Apollo because the of the traffic jams. Awestruck, we snapped a photo but his minders presence dissuaded us from saying hello personally!
Standout Track : Never Knew Love Like This (with Cherrelle) – Yeah, there’s Fake and Criticize but this is a classic.