Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A coincidence worthy of a post

This post is really a reply to Raggedy and DavyH who both commented on my previous post.

I sort of owe Raggedy an apology for wondering if she was a granny! (She isn’t). I know you are partial to sweet soul Raggedy, and today I was thinking I should send you an mp3 of a single by Tomorrow’s Promise (that I knew I had featured many posts ago) because I felt sure you would like it.

Then DavyH took up the Quality Street theme and asked me where I stood on the QS chocolate known as the green triangle (because, er, it is). The perfect answer to that question would be to link Davy back to an old post of mine I remembered called “A Green Triangle”. When I located the post I found that the music it featured was – yes, you guessed it – the Tomorrow’s Promise single!

And the post was written soon after the Christmas celebrations (of 2006), so a triple coincidence!

So, for my complete response to your recent comments Raggedy and DavyH, you should go here.

(Of course everybody else is welcome to follow that link too).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Only toffees left

Blink and you miss it. Belated Christmas greetings to you all.

Nursing a sprained ankle after falling off the Wii balance board (and it was only the slalom repechage!)?

Forgotten that you all left Great Auntie Dora having a nap in the conservatory at six o’clock last night?

Regretting eating yet another turkey and pickle sandwich, six (count them) pigs blankets, the last helping of Christmas pud, half a block of dark and intense chocolate infused with ginger, a wedge of stilton, half a bowl of olives, and a fistful of chocolate raisins, all washed down with a (rather too) large port - just before you went to bed?

Only toffees left in the Quality Street tin?

It’s enough to make you want to…

Morning, Noon & Night - Bite Your Granny (mp3) 1977

But seriously folks, I hope you had a good one. We did. Except for the toffees (because that is surely a universal truth) none of the above applied to us, and I hope they don’t to you and yours.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chicago, Chicago

From the sound of Chicago c2009 to the sound of Chicago c1971.

Something uplifting for a Friday night.

Otis Leavill - I'm So Jealous (mp3) 1971

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Counting down to..... The Jordan Years

As we hurtle headlong through December it’s not just the end of the year that approaches but the end of the Noughties. And so we will have to find something to call the new decade – the Onesies maybe, or maybe not.

So at this late stage of this decade’s proceedings will there be any more great music released? Oh yes!

Mark December 18th in your diaries because that’s when The Jordan Years release their debut single.

I know this because, amongst all the usual PR stuff (mostly genre irrelevant to Feel It) that drops in my inbox, a rather more personal message pinged in from Mike Andersen, owner of West Town Recording in Chicago and bass player with The Jordan Years.

I try and listen to most of the music I receive but if it doesn’t grab me in the first minute or so that’s it – it’s in the delete folder. The two tracks Mike sent me were never in any danger of that fate.
Pressing play on the mp3 files instantly transported me to my favourite after hours bar (you know - the perfect after hours bar which is part fact part imagination). I walked in through the tiny basement entrance and was immediately surrounded by this warm, friendly, soulful fug – the smoke, the chink of glasses, the chatter … the music!

Yes, it was an easy decision to feature The Jordan Years here.

I exchanged a couple of emails with Mike and having asked some, it has to be said, standard and off the wall (or was that inane?) questions I can now share the following with you concerning the band and the studio.

What? / Influences?

There is an eclectic contingent of jazz heads, hip hop kids, vinyl junkies, and classic rockers that frequented the infamous parties and late-night studio sessions held within the smoke filled, brick-walled confines of Chicago’s West Town Recording. The Jordan Years’ dusty, smoky, soulful grooves became the unofficial soundtrack. They are an ode to the golden age of Motown, the DIY ethic of the new music business, and the winning spirit held within their city’s heritage. Wes Restless – Vocals / Michael Cole – Keyboards / Roger Panella – Guitar / Joe Dorenbos – Drums / Mike Andersen – Bass

The name?

The Jordan Years came about as a recurring memory of the best party I had ever been to. . . The night was Sunday June 14, 1998. The Chicago Bulls had just beat the Utah Jazz for their 3rd championship in a row, I was 20 something and decided to walk a few blocks from my apartment at the time and see what was happening. As I approached Wicker Parks "6 corners" I notice that there were at least 10,000 people partying in the streets, women were hanging out of apartment windows above the crowd mistaking the madness for Mardi Gras and vying for beads that did not exist, creating uproars of excitement below.
I ran into some friends of mine and we ducked inside of the Double Door for the Sunday residency of Acid Jazzers Liquid Soul, once inside the party never stopped, I don't recall the club even closing that night cause that was the mood, either we party all night in a club or we hit the streets and start shit on fire. It really was an experience. . . So, I ended up hiring Liquid Souls horn section for The Jordan Years record and the rest is history I guess. . .

Soul food - all those late night sessions, you have to eat?

WTR FOOD: Two places are consistently called while we are recording, Phillys Best and Sultans Market as well as numerous pizza places and of course Food Smart for all of our frozen food needs and of course beer, wine and cigarettes.

Do they recline? Sofa, so good?

CHAIRS: One of them recline[s] but the other does not unfortunately. . . No matching couch either sad to say. I did grab those out of a club in 1999/2000 or so called Liquid Kitty. The clubs lease ran up and they were forced to move, I was living across the street at the time so on moving day my roommates and I ran in and acted as furniture movers and just brought them up to our place, somehow I have held on to them all of these years. . .

Thanks for sharing all this Mike. And the fact you have visited my home town not too many years ago – but that’s another story.

I’ll let you (readers/listeners) form your own opinion but a reaction when I heard these tracks was to think of Jamie Callum. Jamie had until recently been bowling along Jazz Boulevard, albeit only a block or two away from Soul Street. Then it seems he reached an intersection and hung a right into Pop Place. Never mind, Pop Place is a dead end of sorts, a square. If he goes all the way round he can head back in the other direction – down Soul Street. Cruising past West Town Recording (or calling in, even – there’s a thought) eventually he will end up sounding a lot like The Jordan Years.

The Jordan Years’ debut record has arrived! “See the Light / Warm Me Up,” featuring Wes Restless, is available exclusively at Check out the website to get your copy, or come out to the official record release party: WINTER SOULSTICE at Darkroom (Chicago, IL) December 18, 2009. Also performing Emilie Jaeger Sound, East of Edens Soul Express, and DJ LA*Jesus.
The record was conceived and captured at Chicago’s soul emporium West Town Recording during the Summer of 2009. Engineered by Mike Andersen, Mixed by Michael “Harp Da Knobs” Casey, and sizzled by the sweet horns of Grammy nominated Johnny Showtime on Trombone (Liquid Soul, Soulio), Mike Cichowicz on trumpet (Tower of Power, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker) and Nic Meyer (Tributosaurus, Larry King Orchestra).

We’ll have to wait and see, but we may just look back at this Winter Soulstice and say – yes – that’s when the new decade got a name: The Jordan Years!

The Jordan Years – See The Light (mp3) 2009

The Jordan Years – Warm Me Up (mp3) 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

This week I have been mostly listening to….

.... Marlena Shaw.

I should have been doing this thirty odd years ago. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know of her. Robbie Vincent used to play “Yu Ma/Go Away Little Boy” back in the day (well, my day at least) – I loved that – and I had a 45 of hers, “Love Has Gone Away”*, which I adored, and still do. So, the clues were there, so to speak. I think at the time there was something about her jazz inflected vocals that left me not totally convinced I could listen to a lot of her. Maybe my tastes have matured over the years and suddenly I have moved from a stance of "Who Is This Bitch, Anyway?" because listening to her again recently it finally sunk in that her music has hidden depths, and she has a gorgeous voice. It was "Just A Matter Of Time".

I picked up her Anthology CD in a charity shop for a £1 earlier this year, and have also recently found three of her albums out there in blogland, which have resulted in my wants list growing even longer. Listening to these I think the telling thing is that even though some of her material may not be instantly accessible, and in some cases possibly even appear slight or average in composition, Marlena’s voice and her interpretations really make me listen and grow into the songs.

Her albums are like a luxury box of chocolates – on first look you think maybe not all will be to your taste, but no matter which one you select they all melt in the mouth (or, in Marlena’s case, the ears) and demand to be consumed slowly and savoured.

Marlena Shaw - Loving You Was Like A Party (mp3) 1974
from Who Is This Bitch, Anyway?

Marlena Shaw - You And Me (mp3) 1976
from Just A Matter Of Time

Marlena Shaw - Look At Me, Look At You (We're Flying) (mp3) 1977
from Sweet Beginnings

* "Love Has Gone Away" came from the LP "Just A Matter Of Time" as did "Think About Me". To think at the time I passed up on a chance to have that track in my life. It's a stone cold classic and should have been a massive hit (too good to be a hit). Possibly the best use ever in a song of a pause (just before the chorus comes in). Thanks to Sounds Of The Seventies for finally alerting me to this track.

And, sorry, the following may seem totally incongruous in a post devoted to Marlena Shaw, but it has to be done (especially for UK readers). Christmas is just around the corner, so imagine it's Christmas Day and you’ve had the box of chocolates and this is a little stocking filler:

Quite probably the first and only time that Marlena Shaw and the Fast Show's Jesse will appear on the same page!

Friday, December 04, 2009


Recently London Lee over at the Chip Shop set me off on my own personal Kiki Dee retrospective on Youtube. In fact it’s not the first time I’ve done this, but I thank Lee for reminding me what a great singer Kiki is.

Lulu is loved and it seems Dusty has been deified. But what of Kiki? I’m betting that most people, if they know of her at all, will maybe only recall her later 70s and 80s output where she finally hit the higher reaches of the charts. Between 1973 and 1981 she broke the UK top 30 on six occasions, and of course hit paydirt (I imagine) with her 1976 duet with Elton John – “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – a number 1 in the UK and US. As is often the case with big hits though, that duet was by no means her best record.

In fact Kiki Dee was very much a contemporary of Lulu and Dusty, and in her early career actually sang backing vocals for Dusty Springfield. Born Pauline Matthews in Bradford she was given her performing name Kiki Dee in 1963 when her first record was released. Looking back at the whole of her career I feel it’s not too much to say she should be held up there as one of Britain’s greatest female singers. But with much of her early output almost under the radar, and with her fans seemingly holding her close to their chest, at best, perhaps, we can say Kiki is cuddled.

Kiki released a total of eleven singles, two EPs, and one LP on Fontana between ’63 & ’68. A big hit proved elusive though. Was it a lack of prolonged effective marketing that meant she didn’t enjoy much more success at that time, or the lack of a clear identity (many of her singles were covers)? It seems to me the music industry never quite knew what to do with her. Kiki was still young of course, and perhaps she didn’t know either.
Her 60s output had a definite soul slant with some ‘hip’ singles, and so it was she was picked up by Motown in 1969. Her Motown moment was brief though, resulting in a sole album “Great Expectations” (The US cover of the album was plastered in Union Jacks making a big play on the fact that Kiki was Motown’s first British signing. The UK release of that album had an altogether better cover in my opinion, sporting a gorgeous “head shot” of Kiki). This album did spawn a couple of singles, including the gorgeous “Love Makes The World Go Round”, which grazed the US Top 100 in 1971.

The Motown connection didn’t work out and 1971-72 must have been something of a low ebb for Kiki with no recording contract and only the cabaret circuit keeping her busy. But in 1973 she was back in the recording studio, signing for Rocket Records, and taken under the wing of Elton John and his cohorts. At that point Kiki took another change in direction, both image wise – girl next door, and musically as Rocket Records took her more into rock and singer/songwriter territory. The rest, as they say, is history.

You can explore Kiki’s life in a great deal more detail here. An excellent fan site, typically obsessive in places, and with a year by year timeline of Kiki’s life to date, yep starting with the year she was born!

During My YouTube trawl I was particularly taken with “I’ll Try Something New”. It came from her Motown sessions but wasn’t included on “Great Expectations”. After some research I came to the conclusion the only vinyl outing that track had was on a 1974 UK budget MFP/Sounds Superb album “Kiki Dee”. This was obviously released to cash in on her new found Top 20 fame (“Amoureuse”, “I’ve Got The Music In Me”). I was fortunate enough to pick up a copy almost immediately for a good price. In a way the album was a bit of a dog’s breakfast – the cover sported a contemporary “rock chic” picture of her whereas the record itself is full of her Motown recordings. It was almost a complete reissue of “Great Expectations” but a couple of tracks from that album were dropped in favour of “I’ll Try Something New” and “Oh Be My Love”, both written by Smokey Robinson – what a songwriter! “Oh Be My Love” was a track on a 1966 Smokey & The Miracles album and also made it to 45 in the UK. The Supremes and Barbara McNair, among others no doubt, have also recorded it but Kiki’s version really made me prick up my ears. The tenderness in Kiki’s voice really caresses and it has a great arrangement, complete with flanged(?) guitar.

To complement “Oh Be my Love” also featured here is Kiki’s version of Jackson Browne’s “Song For Adam”. Another beautiful song, it comes from the 1973 album “Loving And Free” and demonstrates Kiki’s change in musical direction when she joined Rocket Records. This album was on my very long wants list back in the Seventies but limited funds meant the list stayed long. I was lucky enough to find it at a car boot sale earlier this year and was happy to pay the princely sum of 30p for it. What goes ‘round, comes ‘round!

Kiki Dee – Oh Be My Love (mp3) 1970

Kiki Dee – Song For Adam (mp3) 1973

Kiki today. (As I said – one of Britain’s greatest ever singers).