Sunday, January 04, 2009

A jewel

I’m emerging from two weeks of general inactivity with the realisation that it’s back to work tomorrow. I always feel the Christmas/New Year break seems to be a bit of a twilight zone, and this one has certainly been no exception. I have done virtually nothing of note for two weeks, and certainly nothing on the blog front. I have eaten too many chocolate biscuits. And as a family we have sat down together (which has got to be a good thing) and watched more TV and DVDs than we have for a while. That’s about it really.

With our children both out all night at friends’ houses, and no parties in the calendar, for the first time in years the better half and I we spent New Year’s Eve in front of the telly. A straw poll of some of our friends indicated that this seemed to be de rigueur this year.

With the days of Al Stewart thankfully long gone New Year’s Eve telly in the UK now means Jools Holland’s Hootenanny. This year’s line up could be said to have had a distinct soul flavour. For instance Duffy and Adele were both on the bill. In 2008 they were both lauded (or is that hyped) as great new talents with a strong soul influence. I have to say I’m not impressed. Adele’s rendition of Chasing Pavements left me thinking that she must have been taking singing lessons from Vic Reeves Shooting Stars club singer persona (Uvavu!). Meanwhile Duffy seemed to get squeakier with each song she sang and by her final number I think she was actually in danger of disappearing up her own squeaker!

As for top billed Martha Reeves (with the Vandellas, who are excused from my following comments) “squeak” does not adequately describe the sound she was making that was passing for singing. Judging by the comings and goings of our cats I think they were probably following more of it than I was. I know Martha's knocking on a bit now and maybe she should consider hanging up the microphone.

It wasn’t all bad, I have developed a soft spot for the Ting Tings, and on the soul front proceedings were rescued by Ruby Turner. Jools has surrounded himself with an impressive big band and Ruby has joined the ranks as a lead singer. Now Ruby can sing - as Jools Holland has said: Ruby can sing soul, gospel, blues, boogie woogie.

I’ve always thought that Ruby has existed under the radar and has been under appreciated as a singer. Like many British (actually she was born in Jamaica but moved with her parents to Handsworth, Birmingham when she was 9) grown soul singers it seemed she missed out on the success, stardom if you will, that she deserved. Or so I thought, but that is not really true. Now I’ve read up on her I realise that she had a string of charting UK singles hits during the 80s and a US R&B number 1 no less in 1990 (“It’s Gonna Be Alright”). Her chart exposure coincided with a period in my life where I wasn’t following the music scene too closely so Ruby’s success didn’t exactly slip under my radar, rather my musical radar was completely switched off. Still, chart success and stardom alone shouldn’t be used as a measure of talent. You only have to listen to her sing to realise she’s got it, and she’s proving to be a soul survivor of our times.

I remember seeing her a few years ago in a soul revue of sorts called (I think) “Blues Brother, Soul Sister” that was produced in my home city, Bristol. I also hadn’t realised she had released so many albums (16 in all if you count her latest collaboration with Jools Holland), and one of those, released in 2001, was called “Live In Bristol”. Well I never!

Thank you Ruby for lighting up our New Year’s Eve. We raised a glass to you.

I admit to having only one of Ruby Turner’s records (but “The Informer” will soon be joining it). Her fifth album was “The Other Side”, released in 1991. I picked it up a few years ago in Atlanta of all places. Many of the tracks have a Soul II Soul feel to the production. The thrust of the album (contemporary – at the time - R&B) maybe doesn’t allow Ruby to demonstrate the true power and range of her voice but I will leave you with a track anyway.

Ruby Turner – A Little Bit More (mp3) 1991


Davy H said...

The Martha stuff was PAINFUL wasn't it? Just awful And that's a hard thing to write, because she is Martha, after all. But true : (

Davy H said...

Oh, HNY btw x

Darcy said...

HNY to you too Davy.

Yes a cushion came in handy whilst watching Martha (to hide behind annd cover the ears. As you say it's difficult to put her down but it was truly painful.

el said...

Interesting post, Darcy. I saw Jools Holland's Hootenanny partly on New Years Eve. I am wondering: are the weekly programmes from Jools still broadcasted ? On what evening? (I am living in the Netherlands, and I used to watch . But lately, I don't know if the programme is still on.)
Greetz, El

Darcy said...

Hi el. Jools' weekly tv program (Later... with Jools) is off air at the moment. When it's on it is normally on a Friday night at around 10:30pm here in the UK. The series seems to be on for about 12 weeks at a time then off for about 12 weeks I think.

Jools also does a good radio show (BBC Radio 2 - you should be able to find it easily enough on the BBC site). Again this comes and goes.

el said...

Thanks for answering, Darcy . Hope the series will start soon again !
Greetings, El