Thursday, 23 June 2011

Gil Scott-Heron Saved My Life

After a traumatic childhood Abdul Malik Al Nasir seemed to be heading for jail or an early death. Then, at the age of 18, he met the famous poet and musician – with remarkable consequences

I read with interest this article in the Guardian by an associate of Gil Scott-Heron's - which shows that this man walked the walk.  When he talked of helping fellow men - he meant it and demonstrated how.  I've read a number of obituaries over the last few weeks for him as an artist - this is a fitting testament to the man.

Bobby Womack - Jazz Cafe, London - 21st June 2011

Anyone visiting this site before will probably know that BW is one of my musical heroes (See Post - In Appreciation of..) Since I was about 13 (and prior to that if i'd known he was responsible for "It's All Over Now").  I have seen him twice before - once in about 1976 and then later during the Only Survivor phase in 1988.  I hoped to see him again but drug and health problems made it look like it was unlikely. Then he surfaces in Gorillaz last year, appearring at Glastonbury and on Jools' Later... There was hope.

Thanks to SC for the early tip of the four nights at the intimate venue of the Jazz Cafe in Camden.  This was a show to die for.  14 musicians on stage - all his rather than some pick up band.  They knew his moves.  His set list was built to please.  The American Studios 70's hits - "Harry Hippie" about his wayward brother, "That's The Way I Feel 'Bout 'Cha" and my favourites "Across 110th Street" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out".

He told us that he hadn't been well and it showed in his lack of confident balance and, whilst his voice broke in some of those gravelly shouts of some tunes, he made it more times than not and at any level he delivered.  He gave thanks and paid tribute to past stars, Sam Cooke (his mentor), Wilson Pickett, Janis Joplin, James Brown.  There was a moving moment when on the mention of Marvin the room picked up on the hummed melody of "What's Going On" and took it over without him.  He didn't dwell but moved onto his Gospel roots and then through the 80's hits of "Daylight" and "I Wish He Wouldn't Trust Me So Much" A soul standard written probably a decade out of time but thrilling here all the same.  This is a true soul man.

The crowd on Tuesday including Rod Stewart (and Penny Lancaster), Mick Hucknall, Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones and Glen Matlock appreciated they were in the presence of class.  As Mick Brown wrote in the Telegraph after Monday's show "...this was a demonstration of a noble and vanishing musical tradition, and of a great artist raging against the dying of the light."

Special mention to long term side vocalist Altrinna Grayson, who has a belter of a voice and acted as his aid throughout.  This was an event and not just another great gig.

Mick Brown's Telegraph Review - Link

Sunday, 19 June 2011

In Appreciation of.... Daryl Hall And John Oates in the 70s

The first time I heard these guys was when UK radio picked up on "She's Gone" in 1973.  I'm a soul fan so I was hooked.  Investigation of the "Abandoned Luncheonette" Album was a joy.  Produced by Arif Mardin for Atlantic - they delivered a classic which has not been given the credit it deserves.  I love "Laughing Boy" and Everytime I Look At You" which ends with an instrumental run through America - from bluegrass violins and banjos to rock guitar.

They moved forward using Todd Rundgren for "War Babies" resulting in more great songs ("Beanie G and The Rose Tattoo"; "Can't Stop The Music") with a little less smooth production - more pop rock than rock n soul.  "No Goodbyes" was their third and last for Atlantic and included some out takes from the earlier sessions - it was seen as a contract filler by the critics.
Their first album "Whole Oats" is also worth finding - it includes "I'm Sorry" which was later covered by Justin Heyward of the Moody Blues and, "Fall In Philadelphia" again good songs all round. 

A move to RCA followed and the self titled (but known as "the silver album") lp was issued showing a progression of the rock n soul sound.  "Back Together Again" an uptempo opener is a great start but the killer for all was "Sara Smile" a number 1 in the USA; prompting Atlantic to re-issue "She's Gone" which made no 7 in 1976.  "Bigger Than Both Of Us" followed that year with "Rich Girl" being their new signature song.  This was really popular in the UK.  My favourite duo were at last breaking ground here.  Thank goodness as that brought them to the UK and I was able to see a blinding show at the Hammersmith Odeon.  They issued "Beauty On A Back Street" in '77 and this was less immediately accessible but they had grown and tracks like "Winged Bull" showed their development.  I particularly love "Bad Habits And Infections" a grower but worth the investment. 
These two have entries on the Lost Record Covers Club.

Same for "AlongThe Red Ledge" which followed, more rock oriented but delivers.
A continuation of the sound followed but with a nod to disco-dance which was king at the that time was included in "X-Static" which also includes a much lost and forgotten "Running From Paradise" and the hit " Wait For Me" - this track is a brilliant song but the live performance on "Rock n Soul part 1" is better in my opinion.  "Portable Radio" was a turntable hit here in Britain but not released as a single in the US - a mistake.

More about the 80's another time - they are seen as eighties hit makers but their career has a legacy in the 70s which deserves attention.
All these albums are available on CD except "No GoodByes" which is listed on Amazon but rarely in stock - if you see a vinyl copy, it's worth a try.