Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blue Eyed Soul

In the beginning, there was soul. There was Motown and Stax. The Temptations and Otis Redding. And it was good. There was Rock & Roll, the Rolling Stones, And it was good.  Then in 1964, Righteous Brothers looked at Soul music and said "Let There Be White!" and with their hit single "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" blue eyed soul was born. And it was good.

The 70's came, and racial lines began to blur. Elton John played his hit "Bennie & The Jets" on the traditionally black "Soul Train". The (not so) Average White Band Picked up The pieces, and Cut the Cake in fine Funk fashion, and with the worst of the civil rights era behind us, our music was becoming far less segregated.

The 80's and 90's brought more integration, and sadly less soul.. We had blue eyed greats like Michael McDonald and Teena Marie, but soul music as a whole was on a decline. The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder. All of those artists who we loved in the 60's and 70's, with the era of new jack swing and hip hop seemed to mean an end to mainstream soul as we knew it. Rap music exploded in the 80's. We saw the meteoric rise of Michael Jackson. And then we had artists in the 80's like Hall & Oates & Rod Stewart still making blue eyed soul music. Or trying to anyway.

Fast forward to today, and the racial lines in pop music seem to have been washed away entirely. Katy Perry, Adele, Justin Timberlake. It's really cool to see how the lines have been blurred (did you catch that?) and all we're worried about is making good music.

But it kind of bothers me, thinking about classic soul, and today's R&B. I don't want to take anything away from today's artists, but it's just different. The sound of classic soul isn't there and I miss it. That's why I find myself listening to Otis Redding on Spotify all day, and not Chris Brown. But, there is one guy who's in my rotation that seems to fit in quite well with the classics

Paolo Nutini
Scream (Funk my life up)
Caustic Love (2014)

This is the lead single from Nutini's album "Caustic Love". The album debuted at number one on the UK Album Charts and was certified platinum by the BPI in June. In July, the BBC referred to him as "Arguably Scotland's biggest musician today".  People often ask me what kind of music I listen to. It's a hard question to answer because there are a bunch of artists that I like that just can't be categorized. Depending on the album, or even the song they move casually between folk jazz and R&B like a whiff of smoke, making beautiful music in the process. That's how I discovered Paolo Nutini. I created a radio station on Spotify based on Martin Sexton (see below) and his song 'Coming Up Easy' came on the station. It's a toe tapper and I liked it instantly. Later on, YouTube recommended the official video for this particular song. To find a recording of him singing it at the Bing Lounge was almost a gift. This review was kind of a no brainer. You can tell when you watch the video that this guy has got a set of pipes, and is getting into this song. I don't like music that's overproduced, so this is right up my alley. The vocals are solid, and to me reminiscent of a classic soul song. I can hear Memphis Stax running though Paolo's veins and hear the groove in his voice. Singers are a dime a dozen. To be able to take a song and make it your own is rare and that's exactly what Nutini does here. Like Otis Redding or Donnny Hathaway, it's almost like he's on his knees, singing to a woman in front of him. Which, I don't think is coincidental. In 2006 Nutini became the newest, and sadly last artist signed by Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun. Yes, the same gentleman responsible for launching the careers of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and you guessed it, Otis Redding. Looks Like Paolo is in good company

Jamie Lidell
Little Bit Of Feel Good (La Garage Mix)

I love the internet. Jamie Lidell is another artist that I would have never heard of were it not or eMusic. I downloaded a free album, and was pleasantly surprised to find two artists that I liked on the album.

In the UK, Jamie Lidell is known for recording his voice one and performing the percussion and melody as a sequenced, beatboxing one-man band. Then over the recordings, he sings soul-inspired songs. I haven't seen him in concert, or heard any of his concert recordings, but I can say this; The guy is good in the studio. If you listen to his album "Jim", you can see that Jamie Lidell has a clear idea of what good R & B sounds like. But where Lidell really comes alive is the remix. Listen to this song and not get into it. Go ahead, try it. You can't, can you? This song to me is evocative of 'Cloud Nine' era Temptations. Motown soul with a splash of psychedelia. The electro-funk of this track is electric, and Jamie Lidell's soulful vocals, with the distortion effects make for some classic sounding soul that would make Berry Gordy proud.  This song makes me want to dance every time. When I'm alone in the car, I roll the windows down and turn the radio up with this one. Jamie Lidell is good that way. If you like this one, be sure to check out 'Multiply' and 'Another Day'.

Martin Sexton
Seeds (2007)
Will It Go Round In Circles

Martin Sexton is another gentleman who is a performer. Listen to any one of his three live albums, an you can clearly hear how this man is cut out for the stage. He's also been known to take a song and make it his own. From Johnny Cash to Prince to Van Halen. Nothing is off limits to Martin Sexton, and he does them all surprisingly well. Here he covers Billy Preston and he doesn't let us down. On his 'Satellite Sessions' live recording, Martin explains how he was recording Seeds when her heard Billy Preston passed away, and decided to record 'Circles' as a tribute. I think Mr. Preston would be proud. As someone who lived though the 60's and got to hang out with the Beatles, Billy Preston knew good music when he heard it. I wouldn't call this soul, per se but it's definitely got a funky feel to it. Martin Sexton is another artist I discovered courtesy of a free album from eMusic. I came across his song 'Freedom Of The Road' and was highly impress when I heard him singing. He hit high notes that no grown man should be able to hit. Martin Sexton has some vocal chops. Seeds is a great album, but "Satellite Sessions", a stripped down acoustic live album is even better. Check out "Happy" "Going To The Country" or 'How Far I've Come", all three are on both albums and are great live and in studio.

No comments:

Post a Comment