Saturday, 28 June 2008

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Fantastic new singer alert!

There must be something in the water. Britain is popping female SWVs (singers with voices) like a Pringle box that just can't stop. Jessie J is the latest. And the best thing? She isn't the 'new' anyone. She's all her own, a unique and legitimate voice, just listen to Free on her MySpace player for the evidence. In fact, take time out and play all four songs on rotation. These accomplished tracks sound like they've been around forever.

, a lament about conducting a relationship through a phone, email and web pages is clever; there's a catchy line in the third verse that goes "Click. And I see your face. Click. Click. And I look away". Sexy Silk is slated as the debut single and a cracking jazz-sampling romp it is. Even as a demo version here, it sounds very radio-friendly: I can picture it in the Sunday Top 40 rundown. Free is the song for the voice: the gutsy soul vocals, perfectly delivered. The fourth song Catwalk sounds vare familiar. Maybe it's the En Vogue harmonies but it's bugging me summat rotten as to which song it reminds me of... I love the Captain Caveman vocals: "Zowie, Cavey!"

Jessie is a new signing to Gut Records, that schizoid label which made it's initial millions on Right Said Fred and is home to Sarah Cracknell, Chungking, Tears For Fears and, er, Crazy Frog. It looks like she's being lined up for a launch this year. More details please! But the most interesting side to this 'major new artist' is the fact that she is another Brit School alumni; the talent hothouse which produced Adele, Amy Wino, Leona Lewis and The Feeling.

Thanks to do1frood for the heads up on Jessie. This brilliant blog always seems to uncover musical gems new to me and that's why it's there, on the right, in my blogroll. And he has a knack of finding mixes unheard anywhere. Bona!

For Jessie J's MySpace, clicky here.

And here's footage of a recent live gig...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Summer days, drifting away...

Driving around southern Spain a couple of weeks ago I thought the best music for the car should be Spanish radio. Cue two days later going mad at all the talk and oldie hit stations. And the three tracks resembling anything current were in permanent rotation: Duffy's Mercy, Amy's Rehab and Leona's bleeding Bleeding Love. Fuck me. And then along came Maxima FM. Like a breath of fresh air, this station popped up somewhere outside Seville playing dance music back-to-back. Then, weirdly, I found this CD with their current playlist, Maxima Tentacion Vol. 8. It's THE perfect music for an air-conned drive through the quiet mountain roads of Las Alpujarras or the traffic-choked highways through Malaga. Here's a selection from said CD alongside my holiday snaps...

Simple Life - Dreaminfusion (zShare)

Burning Inside - Wally Lopez Feat. Hadley & Dani-Vi

You'll Be Mine - Luis Lopez (zShare)

Justified - Dani Moreno

By Your Side - Arianna Lopez Feat. Estela Martin (zShare)

Speak 'n' Spell (Silverroom Short Clubmix) - Elin Lanto (zShare)

Speed Up - Funkerman (zShare)

I Want Your Love (Soulcast uk radio edit) - Jody Watley (zShare) Yay!!

Big Bass (3.1 radio mix) - Star Killers (zShare)

Invincible (d.o.n.s. remix radio) - Greg Cerrone Ft. Claudia Kennaugh

Monday, 23 June 2008

You go out at night, eatin' cars!

Do you remember this ad for the Citroen CX? This is why Grace Jones used to scare young and old alike. I always thought it was genius, actually.

Go here to the stunning World of Grace Jones where you can click through some of the most jaw-dropping images in popular culture alongside quotes from the diva herself. My favourite is the comment from her old high school when she was a teenager: "Grace is socially sick".

Sunday, 22 June 2008

A view to kill for

Grace Jones @ The Royal Festival Hall, London, Thursday 19th June 2008
Ordinarily, if a sixty year old woman shakes her bare bum cheeks at you, there'd be little enjoyment in it. But not if that woman is Grace Jones. And certainly not when the arse itself is attached to the gravity-defying legs that anyone, gay or straight, cannot fail to be amazed by. Grace Jones, the enigma in a Dr Zeuss hat with a snarling prowl to her gait is what I knew to expect. What I didn't expect was Grace Jones the stellar performer with a witty and warm banter. The stage at the Royal Festival Hall isn't small. It has to fit an orchestra on there. But she owned it and made every use of the theatrical set-up, including the massive wind tunnel-sized fan which gave every outfit the kind of drama Diana Ross can only dream of.

Rolling through a throbbing Nightclubbing and Private Life she had the audience from the start. Everyone was dancing. My Jamaican Guy, one of my favourites, was played brilliantly by the band, but it was too slow for the adrenalin-pumped Grace as she ordered them to speed up. From the new songs Love You To Life was the stand out. Perhaps it had a lot to do with the theatre of the performance: raised up on a hydraulic platform against a live, black and white video while the wind machine (again) was blowing her silver-flaked headgear. From what I remember, though, the new songs I heard will make a great set on their own and are to appear on an album due in September produced by her current beau, Ivor Guest, a Viscount, no less.

The headgear switched and changed throughout, like this alien big bird nonsense above, but my favourite was the black up-ended bowl thing covering her eyes. Could she see through it? Was it the best looking pair (?) of sunglasses ever? And the mirror ball bowler she wore for Love is the Drug had a purpose, of course: to bounce green lasers out onto the audience. But the fact that she spent most of the show with her best assets (ie; the legs) on show was an indication of bloody proud she must be of them! During a defiant version of La Vie En Rose, every syllable of the song's title became a gouging step as she strode up and down the stage in killer heels.

An uproarious end was on the cards from the beginning. She pulled up most of the first three rows onto stage with a party-like Pull Up to the Bumper whilst everyone else wished they were up there with her. For Warm Leatherette, she had the crowd sing the "warm" bit while she replied with a louder "leatherette" only to shout after the first few, "Sing up! Motherfuckers!". She came back for an encore with a gloriously majestic Slave to the Rhythm and then she was gone, leaving nothing behind but glitter tickertape and a sweat-drenched happy audience.

Meryl? Julie? Pierce? Colin? Together? Mamma Mia!

I can't wait to see how this combo works. Early reports suggest it is the gayest movie ever. Here are the cast interviews for the upcoming Mamma Mia! film. Previewed July 4th in London and worldwide on July 18th. When I first went to see this in the West End, Posh and Becks were sat two seats to the left. He was up and dancing at the end, but the fashion stick got up and didn't move an inch. Make of that what you will.

And here's the trailer.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The story remains the same...

Yazoo @ Hammersmith Apollo, London, Weds 16th July

Lines from the opening track, Nobody's Diary, rang loud and true this evening: "That look in your eyes, I always recognise / Would tell me everything is gonna be fine / You're gonna be mine / For a long time" Not only were Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet reuniting after a generation apart but they were also reuniting with their audience. And judging by the slightly balder of pates, wider of girths and jowlier of faces, it's been a VERY long time.

Time enough for everyone to play the two Yazoo albums Upstairs at Eric's and You and Me Both, over and over again memorising every line, bleep, bang, crash and wallop. Alison (I much preferred the Alf tag) has said how she expects the crowds to know the songs inside out and this tour has only proved it. A bloke next to me near wet himself at the choppy Nobody's Diary opening and sang every word including Alf's gutsy groans. Bad Connection followed and it was then the full scale of how the Yazoo sound has been updated hit home. It's a big and beefy sound with the higher synths being crisper and almost dazzling they're that bright. The arrangements have hardly altered at all and that was the beauty of the performance.

Frozen in amber, Yazoo's music, a canon of only about 25 songs, hasn't been through the arrangement mill like say, Eurythmics' electro tracks have. The 18 month lifespan of Yazoo v1.0 - as opposed to the 20 years of Annie 'n' Dave - has meant that the trumpets, guitars and, heaven forbid, REAL drummers have been kept well away from obvious contenders for deconstruction like Goodbye 70's and Bring Your Love Down - both electro funk affairs that sounded huge this evening. The timeless quality of these tracks belies the fact that both Vince and Alf were only 21 when they wrote them. How amazing.

Clicky piccy, make it biggy. These live pics are from a fab gallery over at

In some ways, Yazoo's sound owed a lot to their different characters: cold and silent versus hot and tempestuous. And these differences, the odd couple, was reflected in the set. A kind of hers 'n' his affair with bopping Alf on one side (with cute Adele-type bangs going on in her hair) and immobile Vince on the other behind his Apple laptop and midi keyboard. The huge screens behind them had images reflecting each song, like candy for Sweet Thing and garish wallpaper for Goodbye 70s and during In My Room and huge red bulb swung between the two. And for the latter song, Alf was sat on an armchair midstage looking like the old Maxell cassette tape TV ad. Marking the interval (the set is 80 minutes long) an old reel-to-reel tape machine is wheeled on while the instrumental I Before E Except After C is played. I went to get a couple of beers and came back just in time to hear one of the highlights of Upstairs at Eric's, the producer's mum laughing maniacally after declaring: "Yes I'm alright...".

Seeing tracks like Walk Away From Love, Too Pieces, State Farm and Ode to Boy performed live, in front of your very eyes by the very live Yazoo has a proper pinch-yourself quality. The sense of something special going on could be felt by the way the crowd reacted. EVERY song was greeted with huge cheers, although at one point, Alf asked for a "bit of hush" for the gorgeous solo piano-led Winter Kills. The audience duly complied and was rewarded with a beautifully measured vocal from Alf. Midnight, on the other hand, allowed her to stretch her unique throaty soulful voice but staying true to every intonation she originally laid onto vinyl 25 years ago. The three hits played at the end, Situation, Don't Go and Only You (for the encore) had the audience lifting the roof off in appreciation. There was a sweet emotional scene at the end of Don't Go where a beaming Vince jumped from his platform to an equally ecstatic Alison where they hugged, waved to the crowd and she shouted "Thank You. We're Yazoo, goodnight!". Simple, devastatingly effective and burned on the memory stick forever.


One lovely surprise of the evening was finding myself sat behind Tricky's Richard. An equally enthusiastic live music nut, he bopped away at the end to the hits. When I told him I was disappointed not to hear the forgotten (and apparently much despised by Yazoo) hit The Other Side of Love he replied that it would be the big capital lettered BUT in my review. So there it is.

And here IT is.

The Other Side of Love (12") - Yazoo (zShare)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

"It's like shagging the ex-wife"

Yazoo's reunion was once described by Vince Clarke as being "like shagging the ex-wife". Well, it's shagtastic at the moment. And tonight I'm off to see the pair of them perform on stage at London's Hammersmith Apollo. Oo-er missus.

The tour's already a couple of week's in. Here's a great review of the Manchester Apollo gig from The Guardian. And here's a neat little interview with Vince over on Side-line where he describes the weirdness of meeting up together with Alison in front of the press and how the "less is more" approach could be the direction he takes in any future songwriting collaboration with Yazoo. Oh, and don't worry. There IS an Erasure album coming soon.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

That 70s post (part 2)

I´m still sweating away under the Andalucian sun. Music-wise most of the chart stuff comes via TV. The radio here is mainly talk since that´s where Spainiards get a lot of their news. It means the radio stations playing music tend to play only the BIGGEST hits. And at the moment, that seems to be Duffy with Mercy, but Amy Wino´s Rehab and Shaikira´s Hips Don´t Lie are still on permanent rotation. And on the French language station Medi 1 from North Africa, I found out that Shayne Ward is the new number 1 en France. Who would have thunk it?

Anyhoo, a couple of weeks ago I posted a load of songs from the seventies, the decade where I had no idea of what was cool or not. It was all about the song for me. And funnily enough it was usually melodic and a little bit (or a LOT) camp. By '79 I'd started to work out who I liked as bands and singers, which is why there's no Blondie or Pretenders here but there is Cliff Richard.

A Glass of Champagne - Sailor (zShare)

UK Chart position: 2 - December 1975
This song sounded like the party going on downstairs you were too young for where everyone was singing along because of the champagne in the chorus. Babycham glasses go clink. Years later, it becomes a Duckie club favourite and it has the same effect. A load of happy pissed people dancing and clinking glasses. Sailor's other big hit was that strange 20s-sounding Girls, Girls, Girls which can be found amongst a right old mixture here on iTunes.

January - Pilot (zShare)

UK Chart position: 1 - January 1975
The girls used to sing this in our school. Just the first verse though. And the "Don't go, don't go" I'd join in with because it was the only bit I could remember. I was a simple child. Listening to it now, the strings are a revelation and it's still a really jolly-sounding SAD song.

We Don't Talk Anymore - Cliff Richard (zShare)

UK Chart position: 1 - July 1979
The Cliff Richard of this track looked about 25 but was probably knocking on for 35 when this got to number 1. With the pink satin bomber, the skinny jeans and white wayfarer sunnies, he'd be on trend these days, but then he was a bit naff. But I didn't care. My sister had this record and we'd both play it constantly, to the point where anyone around would come running into the room screaming "ENOUGH!".

I Can't Give You Anything - The Stylistics (zShare)

UK Chart position: 1 - July 1975
This sound is soooo grown-up. Picture the scene, it's one of the last records being played at the wedding do. You're weary, falling asleep slightly and then that trumpet intro begins. And suddenly you're awake. The harmonies are like nothing on earth, following exotic melodies that are so obviously from hotter climes. This song was the beginning of the Stylistics 2.0. The previous version had burnt out in the US, the hits having dried up with the split from Philly soul producer Thom Bell, but in Europe, especially the UK, the band enjoyed huge success for another few years and are better known for this, their biggest hit to date.

Sugar Baby Love - The Rubettes (zShare)

UK Chart position: 1 - May 1974
Like The Stylistics, the falsetto is the hook. It sounds amazing on AM radio stations and fair grounds: "The louder you scream, the faster we'll go!". Brilliant. The Rubettes, hot dogs, candy floss and waltzers. This is the start of the doo-wop fifties-sounding stuff that permeated the whole of the seventies.

Bye Bye Baby - The Bay City Rollers (zShare)

UK Chart position: 1 - March 1975
This lot were MASSIVE. My cousin loved them. Eric was her favourite but I always thought he looked like a gonk. She once camped outside their hotel after a show in Newcastle and got to see them the next morning. They were bleary-eyed and a bit rude apparently. This song was a real tartan scarf-waving track and the biggest-selling of 1975.

The Boy From New York City - Darts

UK Chart position: 2 - May 1978
Darts were unlike all the doo-wop bands of the seventies. For one, they had a female singer, Rita Hay, who does lead vocal on this cover. And secondly they were young. Mud and Showaddywaddy seemed like they were full of dads. Again, this was another favourite band of the Bay City Rollers-loving cousin. She had such an eclectic collection of 7-inch singles: Darts, Christopher Cross, Human League, Elkie Brooks, The Jam...

Seasons in the Sun - Terry Jacks (zShare)

UK Chart position: 1 - March 1974
Now I knew this was a sad song and still I loved it: "Goodbye, papa, it's hard to die / When all the birds are sing in the sky". Everyone presumes this was a one hit wonder, but he did have a follow-up hit with a English version of Jaques Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas, called If You Go Away.

Ma Baker - Boney M. (zShare)

UK Chart position: 2 - June 1977
Another Boney M. track. I like the story behind this track: the story of Ma Baker, the meanest cat from all Chicago town who really mowed them down. She never could cry, but she knew how to die. The band looked fab dressed like 20s gangsters and molls on TV.

Uptown Top Ranking - Althea and Donna (zShare)

UK Chart position: 1 - February 1978
I never knew that John Peel had championed this record, but it made number 1 for a week. It's such a happy record that would get everyone up at the school disco. Althea and Donna are the genuine one-hit wonders, and still, quite rightly, proud of their achievement. I saw them on a documentary recently and they are already telling their gradndkids (!) about the time they were number one in the UK.

Friday, 6 June 2008

3 x 17

There's a strange fascination in pop with 17 year olds. And it's never from the 17 year olds themselves: Mariah and Madonna are only trying to access new revenue streams by directing their wizened old husks towards da yoot and the who-gives-a-fucking-fuck lot in Channel 4's Skins, the supposed epitome of their generation, are dreamt up by thirty-something blokes. It's as if we forget that being 17 is either boring or one embarrassment after another (if it's neither than you're probably Debbie Gibson). But sometimes a pop song can capture those non-dull bits; tapping into the 17 year old brain with all its bravado, stoopidity and cute insecurity.

Seventeen - Ladytron (zShare)
Ah, the luverrly Ladytron. What an exotic introduction to the Liverpool band this was. It sounded so other-worldly. And vare creepy: 17 year olds as fodder for the model industry. ¨They only want you when you´re 17 / When you´re 21, you´re no fun.¨ Chew 'em up and spit 'em out.

Seventeen - Casxio (zShare)
This sweet song surfaced on someone's faves list at the beginning of the year. And it just SOUNDS like a 17 year old: careless and carefree laconic funk. Casxio are an LA band with a fine canon of stuff. Go to TheirSpace for more info and the photo is by Christina M. Felice.

7 Teen - The Regents
I actually got this band mixed up with The Human League in my little 10 year old brain because of the lead singer and two backing girls. I LOVED this record and bought a copy with birthday money, a pink label in a yellow sleeve! I used to think it was really edgy because the girls "Ooo-wee-ooohed" out of tune. It's like a load of 17 year olds all a bit shouty and pissed. The above clip is the band's appearence on Top of the Pops when the track reached number 11 in February 1980.

Thanks to Eddie Mullan of No Clarity for main pic of spooky street art from Montreal.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Antigone and her Top 5 Disco Foxes!

What we need is a brand new Disco Fox. And Ms. Antigone fits the bill perfectly. Her new track More Man Than Man is a blousey affair but underneath the chiffon are balls o' steel. It'll be out digitally on Monday 23rd June but you can whizz over to HerSpace to listen now. Here, she talks about her Top 5 Disco Foxes, the dance divas who have helped shape the sound of Antigone...


Being the wife and longtime collaborator of Stevie Wonder (imagine!), Syreeta's more soul or old school RnB than disco, but I was introduced to her years back by recording a cover of Can't Shake Your Love on my first foray into dance music with [love] tattoo (my version is still streaming on here). I'm just listening to the original now for the first time in years and it's even better than I remembered it! I love her voice because it is at once so sweet as to make you frown in disbelief at its beauty, but also strong, pure, clean and full of smiles and giggles. So fresh. RIP honey.¨

Can't Shake Your Love (Larry Levan Mix) - Syreeta Wright (zShare)


No point deferring: Donna Summer. But it was her song She Works Hard for the Money that I remember first as a young kid. Doubtless it was the little brats banging on the dinner table with their cutlery that I identified with more in the clip, but I also remember being struck by her strength and attitude, just that take no shit attitude. And for me that's the ethos of femme disco, but blended like top-shelf eyeshadow with soulful seduction and mischievous play. When I heard I Feel Love years later I fell for her and disco hard. Recently I found a clip on YouTube of her performing it live and was spellbound. She had her eyes closed the entire song and nothing but a mic stand and some gestures for company - it was just erotic. Other clips of her wearing crazy glitzy berets in the studio with massive headphones over the top were instrumental in inspiring me to become a session singer then recording artist. So I've got a lot to be thankful for with Donna, bless her.¨

I Feel Love (Live) - Donna Summer


She is just killer. It's the attitude. Even today she continues to cause it, making trouble on the Eurostar with her blatant disregard for authority (like Naomi Campbell, she seems to inherently mistrust people in uniform when traveling - who can blame them?!). Grace is the epitome of fierce: no drag queen's got nothin' on her. She growls, she prowls, she will not be contained. She bites people doesn't she? She can bite me anytime. Oddly, the only album left I have after random 'loans' of the others is Portfolio. This is the best album to do your housework to, I guarantee it!¨

I Need A Man - Grace Jones
(mp3 zShare)


For pure uplifting vocal power you can't beat Chaka Khan can you? I'm Every Woman is just phenomenal. The thing is, after experiencing that song, you seem to agree with her, that she is every woman. Not many women could get away with this claim to Plato-esque woman-ness! Plus this is the only song on the planet where the key change does not make me spasm.¨

I'm Every Woman (Live in Basel) - Chaka Kahn


When I was 15 I gravitated towards the only other cool chick living in my small town and we became inseparable friends. She was a fierce punk, 19, with a newborn to a skinhead boyfriend. She introduced me to S-Express and Bronski Beat, then that summer Deee-Lite's Groove is in the Heart hit our world. I loved it and I loved that woman: wow! Lady Miss Kier was a revelation in sound and image. Years later, at the time when I had realised I wanted to be a professional singer, I began getting into house through their album Dewdrops in the Garden which I'd found in my boyfriend's collection. I had a bit of an existential mirror moment: here was a white girl who had the strength in her voice of a black girl, but she had her own sound and - critically - she wasn't trying to sound black. That made a lot of sense to me and it still does. I'm a white girl and that's OK: I can still sing disco!¨

The Power of Love - Dee-Lite (video 1990)

FOOTNOTE: Cheers to Antigone for those entertaining choices. If I had my way, though, I would have included the UK´s very own Tina I Love to Love Charles, who you could describe as Babycham to Grace Jones´ Veuve Cliquot. Bona!