• Aretha ontvangt eredoctoraat

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    Aretha Franklin en zeven andere hoge gasten ontving eredoctoraten van Harvard University op donderdag tijdens zijn 363e aanvang ceremonie. De legendarische zangeres , 72 , begeleid zichzelf op de piano een - evangelie gearomatiseerde vertolking van het volkslied dat mensen juichen had voeren .

  • LEEE JOHN/IMAGINATION 2013 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW

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    As a celebration of their over three decades of music-making, Sony Music UK has just released "Flashback: The Very Best Of Imagination," a collection of the pop/soul group's biggest hits along with two brand new tracks. Lead singer and co-songwriter Leee John shares with Paula Hartley of Digital Rebel (on behalf of SoulMusic.com) about the project, a hectic touring schedule and more...

    Paula: Okay. So, Lee, this is for SoulMusic.com. The first question is how do you feel about having been involved in the music industry for over four decades? Is that right?

    Leee: Is it four decades? 1981 to 1992 to 2000…

    Paula: Someone’s math’s not working there.

    Leee: No, yes, exactly, three decades. Yes, exactly. God. We’re nearly through this one. It’s amazing because it’s gone so fast, so quickly and everything’s changed drastically. We were very much in an analogue, very organic state and now everything’s digital and it’s just like going through times. It’s like something you’d see in the Jetsons cartoon, from being the Flintstones to the Jetsons. It’s just amazing. Even in the ‘80s, things were changing, even when we were recording and using equipment and stuff. Things were just like, every year, every month there’s something new coming about. So, it’s just amazing and what’s interesting is that people still love the music, even up ‘til now.

    Paula: Fantastic. So, other than the two new tracks, all of the tracks on the compilation have been available before. So, what’s the reasoning behind doing this, the ‘Very Best’ package now?

    Leee: Well, THE VERY BEST OF IMAGINATION, it’s over 30 years, it’s about bloody time. And, I’m doing the tour, which starts October the 20th in the UK. The dates are all online, so everybody can go online and check them out, www.Leeejohn.com or they can go on my Facebook page or on the Imagination page, which Sony has kindly put up with all the dates. And I do so much work in Europe and all over the place that everybody, all my friends, all the fans here were kind of starved with it and I was doing the music festivals, actually as a matter of fact, I was doing festivals every month the last year, all summer. So, it was great and I think the timing is right.

    I think since, for example, with Nile Rodgers and Daft Punk, that’s kind of built up quite a bit, people are going back to that sound and I think the Imagination sound, which is so special and it contributed a great deal and it was UK-based. So, I think it’s important. Plus, because I’m doing this film, which I’m producing, Flashback, a documentary, a history of UK black music, I think everything, as I say, is apt.

    Paula: Okay. Fantastic. So, tell us about the two new tracks, when they were recorded, and what they are?

    Leee: The first one’s called “The Truth” and “The Truth” I’ve been doing for quite a long time. I wrote it many, many years ago. It’s quite a serious track. It’s kind of biographical. I think people identify with the lyrics because it’s about going through the hardship and seeing the light, in a sense, and also wanting people to see that ‘it’s you I need.’
    … It kind of goes into a gospel kind of outro and I spent time recording it last year. I did it through a few different ways. I recorded it acoustically, which is available actually in a free download. Also, I did it in a studio where we filmed the making of it with some live musicians. That didn’t work out so good because the way it was recorded, and then I had to do it again. So, it was like, ‘wow, this truth is becoming like non-truth!’ So, by the time I finished that, I wanted to do something a little bit saucier. Going back to the old style, going back to the kind of’ 80s kind of retro feel.

    That’s how [the second new track] “Krash” came up. It wasn’t until February of this year that we really decided, ‘let’s put it on the greatest hits’ because everybody listened to it and thought, ‘wow, this is crazy. You’ve got to put this on the album.’
    It was out of my hands. It was like, ‘wow, we want “Krash”. So, and “Krash” is fun. ‘“Krash” is a combination of the heyday of Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris and Rome, all my homes.

    Paula: Do you have a home in each city?

    Leee: No, no, no, no. I’ve got places in St. Lucia and in Spain and London, but it was kind of a reflection of what you see in the MTV Videos and a compilation of the fun we all have and you just want to Krash. It doesn’t mean Krash out, Krash up and Krash and enjoy yourself.

    Paula: So, it’s very upbeat? Very sort of vibrant sound?

    Leee: Oh definitely. Definitely.

    Paula: Fantastic. So, Imagination’s hits still remain memorable as part of the’ 80s music scene. Why do you think this is? Why has it always been?

    Leee: Someone asked me the same question actually. Yesterday, I was doing another interview and I said, when we were writing them, we weren’t writing them like normal pop songs. We were writing them [and] they were quite youthful experiences. I was a kid when we were doing them. So, “Body Talk” was like, I was going through all my young anxieties.

    Paula: How old were you at the time?

    Leee: I don’t do age, only champagne! No, I was in my late teens. With “Body Talk”, it was a very important and pivotal point in my life because, obviously, it was a first hit single and, as we gravitated and by the end of that year, we’d written “Flashback”, which was also a hit and “In and Out of Love”, which was also a hit.

    It was kind of biographical in the way we were writing them because, there’s a content in each track that we can identify with. It was a personal thing. With the classic-ness, that goes down to a combination of the vocals, the arrangements, the lyrics and also the bass. We had a very familiar sounding bass, and just how it was all recorded. It was very organically done and I think that gave it its originality, but there were a lot of other artists in the ‘80s that were also original. I think when we first did Top of the Pops, every artist on there was different. So, I think that kind of kept our legacy going, plus the fact of our outrageous costumes in the early days and stuff.

    Paula: Yes, it was very flamboyant.

    Leee: Flamboyant all the way! We need that.

    Paula: Yeah, it’s exciting and fun.

    Leee: Exactly. It’s kind of lax today.

    Paula: Yeah, I think so. Okay, so basically your hits are considered classics. Did you have any idea that they would endure?

    Leee: No. That was another question I was asked yesterday. Somebody asked me, there was a joke actually. Rick Astley said to me, ‘ did you write them because you thought, yeah, okay, that will be really great?’ Because basically, “Body Talk” has been used on a load of films. “Illusion” was used on the recent Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor film and FX and “Flashback” is used for sport, when they’re going back on stuff, they use it a lot. “Body Talk” for exercise, and magicians use “Illusion” a lot for their acts. So, he said, ‘you wrote it because you think, oh that would be great, magicians can use this and all that?’ No way, no one would even know, that was the farthest thing. It’s amazing that such innocence of what we did has become something that has become classic.

    Paula: Yeah, that’s amazing isn’t it? So, you’ve had your own solo career. What have the other two been doing since? Errol and Ashley?

    Leee: Errol is, I think he’s still doing certain shows. I don’t see him as much, but Ashley has done a wonderful thing. He has a music school in Canada. He’s basically educating. He’s educating the kids in music and he’s kept it that way, he found his forte in that.

    Paula: Wow, giving it back.

    Leee: He is, which is important.

    Paula: Yeah, nurturing talent. That’s really important, yeah. So, are you in regular contact with them?

    Leee: Not as much, no. You never know. I spoke to Ashley the beginning of this year and he was in good stead. He just had a little baby girl. So, he was quite happy.

    Paula: Aw. That’s nice, isn’t it? So, you continue to perform globally?

    Leee: Yes I do. I’m performing all the time.

    Paula: All over the world? Obviously, globally.

    Leee: Yes. For example, I just came back from Spain, and then I had to go from Spain to France. I had a brief holiday, you know, if you can call it that, because there were so many people ringing about this and the other, it was fun, and then I went to France and Italy and it’s great because what I tend to do when I’m doing shows, I try to go a little bit early so I can get an idea of the atmosphere of the people that I’m going to perform for and also what they actually think about the music. So, you can then kind of communicate in their own language. I went to Brazil and we were there a few days. So, I can feel and relax as part of that. Years ago, we would just rush in and rush out. I say to the promoters, ‘I don’t mind paying for my hotel for one night because then I can actually see the country’ and so many artists miss out – they say ‘oh, I went here, I went there…’

    Paula: They never saw it or experienced it.

    Leee: They didn’t experience it. For me, as we’re getting older, I’m thinking, I want to be able to embrace and understand and I do that with SOS Children, and it’s a worldwide children’s village for orphans around the world. So, when I’m doing shows, I kind of tap in and say, ‘look, if I’m in South Africa, if I’m in Zambia or something like that, let me visit an SOS village.’ Even in France, in south of France, they have an SOS village. So, it’s worldwide orphans. In Haiti they had some. So, it kind of works out, you’re giving something back while you’re actually also performing. I was talking to Rick Astley about that because we did South Africa together. That was one of the things.

    Paula: Okay. So, tell us more about the SOS charity stuff.

    Leee: Many moons ago, well, I think every artist is dedicated to different charities and stuff like that. I do stuff for Terrence Higgins Trust and for breast cancer and for SOS children, I’ve been involved with it the longest because years ago I was part of another charity and I found out they were like fraudulent because I went to find out more about what they did, and I’d been paying my money every month to this charity and it just went to a bank account. So, I really was put off with all charities and I went to this event and I asked the people at SOS, ‘I’d like to go to one of your villages and see what you do, where the money goes, how it helps.’ They said ‘yes. If you can raise the money and get a sponsor to go, we can, anywhere around the world, we can let you know where the villages are and you can go for yourself.’ So, I did that. I’d been to South Africa before and I had some great experience there. And I went to Langa and Thornton in South Africa and I met the mothers of all the villages. Each house, like they’ve got ten houses with orphaned kids and each has a mother, and I went and visited them. I saw the work that they do. Each house has about ten or twelve children. They’ve got schools there. Kids from outside the villages, kids outside the village can sometimes go to that school if they can’t afford to go to regular school.

    So, I saw the work they do outside the village as well as inside the village and also in the shantytowns and stuff because the AIDS pandemic in Africa is huge. They’re involved quite strongly in that area. So, it was something that all of a sudden I just gravitated to and it became a very important part of my life. So, I absorb a lot more. I get very involved in what I’m doing. I think I get that from my mother because she’s involved in a lot of community stuff. So, even in my career, I’m not your average artist. I’m kind of like hands in different pies. If I’m going to do something, I know, when people get me involved, I’m very involved. So, because we want to make it the best, and with SOS, it was one of those challenges that I needed to see how people are living in other areas and where the money does go. SOS does a wonderful job. I’ve seen the effect of it and they’re building villages. When I went to Zambia for the documentary for that, which is now in a few film festivals. So, we’re just bringing more awareness. I do my little bit.

    Paula: That’s really nice. So, going back to performing in different countries. Which countries give you the biggest response or what kind of different responses do you get?

    Leee: Well, you know what, I always say I look at every audience as a different audience. So, if I’ve got to sing the same songs every night, I can change things up. I try and keep it so that I’m giving something special each night to each performance or each territory. I must admit, the French territory has been amazing because it’s led me to Switzerland, Belgium, the Caribbean - like Martinique and Guadeloupe, Africa. I did the X Factor, which was in Cote d’Ivoire last year, which was quite impressive. It’s brought me to quite a few different places, Monaco, and so it’s interesting. I’m overwhelmed by sometimes the response, also in Italy. I have huge Italian fans. They think I’m Mick Jagger sometimes the way they treat me. Over here, it’s a little bit different because I haven’t been as profiled and I think these days everybody wants you to be on a reality show or that’s the kind of thing they want to see you doing. It’s a completely different mandate, I would say, different to how it was when I was doing stuff consistently in the UK.

    Paula: Would you go on any reality shows if they offered you?

    Leee: They’re trying to get me on a reality show. I’m not sure about doing The Jungle and I wouldn’t do Big Brother. I love the cooking programs, maybe Strictly Come Dancing.

    Paula: The Big British Bake Off ?

    Leee: Maybe something like that. Maybe something that’s fun. Something that’s fun and you know, I’d feel relaxed in doing it, but you know, I speak to people all the time and say, ‘what do you think of Celebrity Get Out Of Here? What do you think of Big Brother?’ And they say, ‘well it’s okay for the period that they’re in it, but then afterwards what happens? Will it work, will it not work?’ I think sometimes, ‘do you want people to see you that way?’ Because I think sometimes you need to separate a little bit of you, so people can still fantasize. They can still say ‘wow!’

    Paula: That’s an important part of it, the mystique?

    Leee: Yes, years ago the old stars, your Elizabeth Taylors, Betty Davises and all those kinds of people, divas, Sophia Loren, people I think are just gorgeous. You didn’t know that much about them. It was only toward the end of their lives, kids started writing books or all that kind of thing, but by that time, who cares? Because they’ve given you such a beautiful body of work and that is what you leave with, a beautiful body of work that you can fall in love with over and over again. You see Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart and wow, this is fantastic, though she left America because she had an affair with a married man and had twins in that time period. Nowadays, you wouldn’t think nothing about it, but it was, there was something special about it, even the artists. Some of the great people. I’ve met a lot of people that I’ve admired, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, people like that. So, you don’t know a lot about them still. They try and keep it on that level, separate, which I think is important.

    Paula: Absolutely. So, let’s talk about America. You’ve had some success in the US, but you weren’t able to break through consistently.

    Leee: It wasn’t a consistent thing. What we did to, we did have a lot of R&B Top10’s. They were different to here, we had “So Good, So Right”, that was big, we had a number one, “Instinctual”, as a solo artists, I had a big record, number two, “The Mighty Power of Love” in 1995, which is like a classic dance record. And three or four years ago, I’d done a jazz album in 2005, or 2006 called FEEL MY SOUL, and I didn’t want anything mixed from it. It was done in France and we filmed the video, a making of, and I ended up, there’s a DJ called Sammy G, J, and he did a mix of a track called “Sensuality” and that got Top 10 I think on the dance chart on Billboard and that was three years ago. So, there’s always been a DJ affinity with me and right now there’s a track called “Spiritual”, which is with ‘The Collective,’ and The Collective is myself, Don E, Omar, Junior Giscombe, Carl McIntosh from Loose Ends, Rick Clarke, who’s an R&B singer from before and there’s one more, Noel McKoy. And we’ve done this one track and we’re doing a whole album together called The Collective with different tracks with each one of us and that’s been like number one on the R&B charts for the last three weeks.

    Paula: So, there’s always that connection with the U.S., it’s always been there?

    Leee: Yeah. I mean, that track is here, but it’s getting play over there. So, and we had another actually R&B track called “The Last Time”, which was a big track and on the DJ side, each for example, Larry Levan, who was a big New York DJ, he remixed “Changes”, one of our tracks and that made it massive over there and we’ve had people like Mariah Carey recording our records and Destiny’s Child on their first album did “Illusion” as well as Mariah. The Pharcyde, the rap group, did “Illusion”. Jay Z does a mash up of something. There’s quite a few records.

    Paula: That’s a tremendous acknowledgement of your work, isn’t it?

    Leee: Well, LA Reid is the one who asked Mariah, ‘you’ve got to do this track,’ and they redid it. So, I’m not complaining, I got a platinum disc for it.

    Paula: Wow, fantastic still. Cool. So, next question. Other than Sade and Incognito, no British black artist or group has been able to sustain a career in music in the US. What’s your thoughts on that?

    Leee: It is very, very hard. I think had I stayed there in the US… I lived in the US as a kid for five years, and so I know America well, New York especially and I have loads of family there. I think if I’d just worked in America a lot more, then I think possibly. I’m intending to probably next year spend more time in the States and work it on the musical level. For example, I did a tour in February/March in Germany, which is very successful and that was with Kool & The Gang, Sister Sledge, Earth Wind & Fire, and what was the other one? I was the last act before Kool & The Gang, the only British black act, and so they all thought that Imagination was American. So, you had Nile Rodgers dancing to “Musical LIghts. “I’m thinking, ‘wow, this is fantastic!’

    Paula: It’s like a dream, isn’t it?

    Leee: Yes, and we met him years ago in the ’80s, and he thought we were an American group. So, most of them think Imagination are American. So, they’ve accepted us in that way and then they found out no, I’m from North London. It’s really – just around the corner from Arsenal!

    Paula: Are they fascinated by your accent?

    Leee: Yeah, I think, but I think now, ours are always pseudo, I’m kind of like Black European, I have a tinge of American, tinge of English, tinge of Caribbean. It’s all mixed up.

    Paula: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, back to the UK then. There were a number of British black artists who enjoyed success in the 80s, Junior, Central Line, Dacid Grant, but found it challenging to continue with sustained careers in the UK. Why do you think that is?

    Leee: I think there is a scenario with a lot of British black artists, and as I’m dong this documentary film called Flashback, I almost said Flatback!

    Paula: Flapjack!

    Leee: Flapjack! It’s very hard to sustain because the trends change so quickly and I think you end up dancing to the beat of the management and the agents as opposed to what you originally started doing. It becomes more about the business and less about what the music and the content and at that time, we finished the ‘80s in 1989 with a Top 5 album, which was a remix album, but it was not easy because the trends change so quickly and to sustain it and get that support and you have the influx of American artists. I was saying today to the A&R people, I was saying, ‘if you have an American artist here, you’re giving him 25 and I’m getting 2 and that’s always been the problem’ and in the documentary, you’ll find lots of the black artists in the UK say exactly the same thing. When it comes to the budgets, they were always getting the smallest bit and that’s the truth.

    Paula: What do you think could be done about that?

    Leee: You have to be independent and do your own thing. I’m aligning with Sony to do this still. So, therefore, I have got a certain amount of control. There’s certain areas where you have to let them do their own thing, of course, but at the same time, I know my image. I know my look. I know what the music is all about. It’s different for me because we’ve been very established.

    Paula: Okay. So, next question. There are still UK black artists, such as Mica Paris, Omar, Beverley Knight, who have been around for a while and Emeli Sande is the best example of someone who has broken through recently. Is there still a bias in the music industry again homegrown UK black music artists versus - I guess you’ve just answered the question, in fact – US black musical artists?

    Leee: Yeah, I mean Emeli Sande has been very lucky. She’s got a versatile album. She’s like where Sade was in a sense, in that her style is very different. Mica, she’s had the hits but the last hits were mainly late ‘80s early ‘90s. Omar had “Nothing Like This”. He’s doing shows and stuff and things like that and they are recording, but to get the whole national side of stuff is still very hard. Though, using the internet, I’m seeing a lot of Omar more than I would. I think Mica Paris is due to come.

    Paula: Right, okay, with Emeli Sande of course you’ve got the Olympics, which was a massive event.

    Leee: Yeah, she got worldwide exposure straight away. That’s what I’d hope I’d like to have.

    Paula: That was a gift, really.

    Leee: Exactly.

    Paula: So, you branched out a few years ago and you did a jazz-oriented album, FEEL MY SOUL. Was it easy to be accepted for doing music that was different from Imagination?

    Leee: Doing FEEL MY SOUL the jazz album was interesting because I’d always listened to it and after each show or warming up to my shows I’d be listening to jazz music, all different sorts of jazz, jazz funk, jazz fusion, from Ella Fitzgerald to Chet Baker to Billie Holliday. I listened to a lot of the traditional stuff. So, it wasn’t hard to fall into that. About 10 years previous to that, or even a little bit longer, I had attempted to do a jazz album or started and then I listened back to how I was sounding and I felt my voice hadn’t developed yet for it. It was still developing, there’s certain, all my life hadn’t brought me, it wasn’t coming through the voice enough.

    Paula: Do you think you needed a certain amount of life experience to channel that?

    Leee: What I wanted to do, yes, what I wanted to do was like an opera singer. I needed to have that amount of experience to be the right time and then I was offered this deal in France that whatever I wanted to do, even now they want me to do part two. It was a friend of mine who was a film producer who also said, ‘look, you know what, film this. This is the making of your life. It’s changing and it will never be the same once you’ve done this album.’ I thought, ‘Oh my god, okay.’ So, his name was Stefan Peyrolo, we went down to Rochefort, wonderful studio, which was an old cinema and it was a place where they filmed this film called La Dame Madmoiselle de Rochefort with Catherine Deneuve and her sister and it was one of the very last films Gene Kelly was in. It was in this small town called Rochefort. It looks like, the whole town looks like a film set. There’s water fountains, it looks very MGM. The studio we were in was an old cinema.

    It was a very organic, pure organic scenario because it was very, very live. We were using modern technology to tape it, but at the same time, it was lovely just to excel and on the musical side I really indulged in what I wanted to do. I’d do three takes of one track, but each version was different. I wanted to show a lot of different dexterity to what my voice could do and being an instrument as opposed to just the voice and also, I was gravitating to a different direction than being in Imagination. I actually didn’t look at MTV or anything like that. I just completely focused, which is important.

    Paula: Yeah. Fantastic. So what’s your current plans in terms of promoting the new CD?

    Leee: I’m promoting the new CD, THE VERY BEST OF IMAGINATION, with interviews and TVs and online and viral promotion and magazines and everything and a new video for the single “Krash”. We’re promoting “Krash”, which has just had 40,000 views on MuseTV.

    Paula: That’s pretty impressive.

    Leee: Yeah, for the last ten days. So, I’m very, very pleased about that.

    Paula: Fantastic. Thanks, Leee!

    Leee: You’re welcome and thanks to SoulMusic.com! 

  • A TASTE OF HONEY AUGUST 1978 INTERVIEW

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    Boogie Oogie Oogie has shot A Taste Of Honey to international stardom, but John Abbey discovers they are more than just pretty faces!

    TO HAVE your first record top the charts, earn a Gold record and hit virtually every chart around the world is literally "a taste of honey" but that is exactly what has happened for Los Angeles-based quartet, A Taste Of Honey. The two girl/two guy group have done just that with their self-penned "Boogie Oogie Oogie" single and now the ensuing LP looks like attaining the same kind of acceptance around the world.

    The self-contained foursome consists of Janice Johnson and Hazel Payne on the distaff side and Perry Kibble and Don Johnson representing the men. Janice plays bass, Hazel guitar, Perry on keyboards and Don on drums with the two ladies handling lead vocals.

    Because of the fact that Janice and Hazel tend to front the group, they have been compared with the similarly slanted Brothers Johnson. "I guess it is a natural comparison," Janice admits, "but we are so different musically that it just isn't where we are coming from. If we had been first, I guess people would have said that the Brothers Johnson are a male version of A Taste Of Honey!"

    Even allowing for that, though, it is rather unusual to see two girls out front and playing instruments. "That's what makes us unique and it really is time for something new to make a change out there," Janice suggests. "During concerts, people are sometimes mesmerized by us because we are so different."

    However, the two girls' backgrounds are vastly different. Hazel was taught guitar during her school years by one of her teachers whereas Janice's rather unusual love for bass sound goes back some seven years, to the time when Taste Of Honey was first put together.

    "I had been in several vocal groups but had always been attracted to the sound of the bass," she tells. "Sure, it was rare but there are other female bass players around.

    "What happened was that the group that Perry and I had been with fell apart and Perry — who plays keyboards now within the band — taught me to play bass. At that time, a girl called Carletta Dorhan was also in the group and Perry taught her to play guitar, too.

    "I find the bass a fascinating instrument and I am always learning, all the time. There is always room to grow and that in itself was a challenge to me. The hardest thing for me was playing bass, singing and then moving on stage, all at the same time.

    "I think I was fortunate because I had been a singer first. But it still can be difficult to play a bass line, sing a different melody and then move to the rhythm all at once. Some songs, for example, are more difficult than others — luckily, "Boogie Oogie Oogie", is one of the easy ones!"

    The actual roots for A Taste Of Honey stem back to 1972 when the first line-up of that name was formed. Perry and Janice had actually been with another group called Sound Stage Number One but that didn't last long. Janice and Perry stayed a duo until 1974 and that was when Carletta was added and she was replaced by Hazel Payne in 1976 when Carletta decided to get married and settle down.

    Shortly afterwards, Don Johnson was added on drums. Gradually, the group built up a reputation from playing local clubs in the L.A. area and that was how they came to the attention of the ever-alert Larkin Arnold, who helms the whole Capitol R&B programme.

    Immediately prior to Larkin's visit, the group had come under the scrutiny of producers, Larry and Fonce Mizell, and although A&M has offices directly opposite the club (The Etc., by the way, is its name) their A&R Department overlooked the talented Taste Of Honey. Anyway, Larkin was impressed, the Mizells were hired to produce the album and the rest is now history.

    Does it worry them that they toiled out there for some six years before being discovered? "No, not at all," Janice is quick to point out. "We always knew we would make it and I guess I'm a little surprised that we were not discovered before we were but I believe that paying our dues is a necessity so that we can avoid hitting the top and then falling away.

    The fact that "Boogie Oogie Oogie" has been this year's outstandingly successful disco record, will, however, have no influence on the single that has the task of following it.

    "It will not necessarily be a disco record," Janice hesitantly relates. "We don't want to be labelled or categorised because, if you listen to the album you'll see, we are a very diversified group. If we become just a disco group, it'll be hard to get out from that label. That's why it could even be a very soft love ballad — but with "Boogie" still going strong, the decision hasn't been made yet."

    Meanwhile, the question of a second album is about to rear its head. "Well, we are presently doing a tour of the Eastern cities but while they are freezing through winter, we'll be back in California working on the next album," Janice smiles. "And the experience of this tour will play a big part in influencing what we record.

    "Everything we write is based on our experiences. For example, we wrote "Boogie" while we were doing a show at an air force base and the people were just sitting around listening to the music — so I started saying how everyone was gonna get up and boogie and then when we got back to the hotel, I wrote the song. That was in June or July of last year and we cut it in October.

    "Previously, we had only done demos — oh, so many demos, too! It was comforting to actually be recording for a definite company but we had always had faith in ourselves. After all, if you don't believe in yourself, how can you expect others to believe in you. Our only question at the time was what had taken companies so long!

    Right now, then, A Taste Of Honey are experiencing the good times for the very first time and they stress that they want to thank the fans who have put them where they are today. "We never forget the people because without them, we are nothing," Janice adds.

    Their immediate plans call for a proposed trip to Europe in October and then, on their return, into the studio for that second album.

  • VIVIAN REED DECEMBER 1973 INTERVIEW

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    MOST European soul fans remember Vivian Reed as being the beauty who toured their continent with 'the Beast', Joe Frazier, on his ill-fated tour of the world as an entertainer. That was three years ago and unfortunately for the jovial Joe, he wasn't anywhere near as good an entertainer as he still is a boxer. However, those of you who recall Muhammed Ali's excursion into the music business a few years earlier with his version of "Stand By Me" on Columbia — when he was plain old Cassius Clay — would probably agree that Joe's Philly Sound would have just about beaten Ali on points on that meeting, too.

    But for Vivian Reed, the tour did nothing but good. Not only did she turn in an enterprising performance but she also rated among the most beautiful soul ladies to adorn our European stages.

    "I loved England especially," Vivian now cheerfully recalls. "Though I was only there for about four days, I loved the warmth of the people. I remember those two clubs we played in Birmingham — what were they called…Rebecca's and Barbarella's, that's it. I think we all had a ball, really, and I think that everybody likes Joe so much, that we all felt bad for him during the tour. I'd love to get back over if the chance ever comes along, I know that!"

    Since then, much has happened for the June-born Gemini from Pittsburgh. She has starred in a Broadway musical for one thing. And then, more recently, she has switched record companies from Epic to Atlantic.

    Her career with Epic was a period in her life that Vivian now thinks will become meaningless as far as her musical contribution was concerned. "Of all the releases I had on Epic, there were about two that I liked myself," she admits. One of those two is undoubtedly "Yours Until Tomorrow".

    Between the spring of 1971 and last summer, Vivian starred in the Broadway musical, "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope". However, it was far from your typical Broadway all-glitter musical. "There was a lot of singing, of course," Vivian explained, "but it was all build around messages and the cast had no names given them for the show. In fact, though, we followed the same script every night, there was no real story line!

    "And, boy, was it hard! I was constantly active for the full two hours every night and you really need energy plus for all that. And I kept that going for almost two years, every night until I retired last summer."

    It was then that Vivian decided to redirect her activities back into the record business. She joined Atlantic and went into Philadelphia to cut an album under the direction of Leba¬non Taylor, Tony Bell and Phil Hunt. It was all cut at the famed Sigma Sound Studio in that city.

    "For me, it's the best thing I've ever done," Vivian enthused, "because it allows me to sing all types of music. You see, I started out by singing classical music and my voice was trained as a young child. And I was a voice major at college. Really, I guess you'd say my style was a cross between classical and gospel because gospel really is my roots.

    "I still don't really know what made me switch from singing straight to pop. Maybe, it was because I was able to perform more by being a pop entertainer. And then if I had stayed with classical music, my voice wouldn't settle until I was thirty and I'm not sure I wanted to wait that long.

    "Anyway, this new album really captures all of my musical moods. I'm able to express all of my musical styles, vocally.

    For example, the album ranges from Diana Ross' song, "Touch Me In The Morning" through to a straight Blues number called "Just Give It To Me". This way I'm not limiting myself to either being a strictly pop singer or R&B of Blues or whatever. And, the way I see it, there aren't too many girl singers trying that just now."

    Vivian's single debut has been with "I Didn't Mean To Love You", a soulful original song that has put our lady back on the charts for the first time in three years. Though this probably won't be the one to really break her in a big way, it looks odds-on that the break isn't far away.

  • LINDA CLIFFORD 2003 INTERVIEW

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    While Donna Summer has been acknowledged as one of the ‘queens of disco,’ the ‘70s also brought to prominence a slew of great performers who achieved much success in the dance, pop and R&B musical arenas. Without any doubt, Linda Clifford made her mark with some bonafide hits for Curtom Records including “Runaway Love,” a Top 3 R&B hit and a remake of “If My Friends Could See Me Now” (from the musical ‘Sweet Charity’), a certified 1978 club classic. The former ‘Miss New York’ native – who started out singing jazz and Top 40 hits in supper clubs – had further success with a couple of hit duets with the late Curtis Mayfield who had formed Curtom some years earlier and in all, Linda cut five solo albums during her years with the company from 1977 to 1980 along with “The Right Combination,” an entire LP with Mayfield.

    Linda’s parting with Curtom came when the label essentially stopped its operation in the early ‘80s and speaking with Linda in late September – thanks to a hookup through Rudy Calvo, she noted, “I always remained friends with Curtis. He was a wonderful man and I loved him and his family so there was never a problem with him. Recording the album “The Right Combination” was so much fun. Curtis was so easy going and there were quite a few times when we were there in the studio together so the recording experience was good…” The demise of Curtom was “not a difficult adjustment because at that point, I had experienced so much in the business itself. I missed some of the people at Curtom but you have to keep going…”

    Linda did just that, continuing to perform and work through the ‘80s and ‘90s: “I did a series of projects with independent labels including [the Chicago-based] Red Label Records for whom I did an album called “Sneakin’ Out” which included the song “A Night With The Boys.” I worked with some other labels doing singles and the most recent was a U.K. company, One Little Indian Records. I did [the Lamont Dozier song] “Goin’ Back To My Roots” with them – we took it on and changed it up a little…”

    Naturally, the acclaim Linda received during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s left her with the ‘disco’ tag but she says, “I was never able to let go of it but I never had a problem with it because even now, when you go into clubs, folks are dancing! I think of myself as a dance music and R&B artist because of “Runaway Love” and “If My Friends Can See Me Now” and there were times when I would do shows, mostly in clubs and that I was worried they would not know my songs and then I would people singing along with every one of them including the young people in the audience.”

    A few years back, Sequel in the U.K. reissued all of Linda’s work with Curtom through a series of three compilations that encompassed her five albums with bonus tracks. Linda says she was “very surprised” when she found out the music had been reissued: “Shortly after that I started hearing some of my music on the radio and it was very exciting!” Reflecting back on her Curtom years, Linda says, “Initially, it was kinda stressful. I didn’t know what to expect and when “If My Friends Could See Me Now” came out, I had no idea how big it was. I remember when Marv Stuart from Curtom called me and said ‘Your song is No. 1,’ I hung up on him! I thought it was a joke! He called back and told me to go get Billboard magazine. Once I saw it was at the top of the dance charts, I realized it was real and life became a whirlwind. I had been working the Chicago scene, doing supper clubs singing jazz and pop and covers of other people’s hits. Suddenly, I had the biggest song in the country overnight. I was working so much, promoting the albums and doing tours. I must have toured straight for eleven months, playing huge venues as well as dance clubs, going from audiences of 1,500 to 11,000. I think I was happy but I was so tired all the time, I never had time to think much about what was going on. In between performances, there was radio, television shows, which is what everyone dreamed of…”

    Of all her Curtom material, Linda says she particularly liked “Here’s My Love,” her fourth LP: “It was so different from what I had done previously, a little calmer musically. But it didn’t do that well because the audiences wanted uptempo material from me.” All in all, Linda says, “they were very happy years. There were times when the phone wasn’t ringing off the wall but then I have a marriage of 25 years and two great children so I had to say, ‘Wait a minute – I’m so blessed in my life and a lot of people don’t have that.’ Having my family was such a warm and loving cushion to fall back and the music is a bonus.” Linda’s son and daughter “both love my music and they’re into music themselves. My son BJ plays bass but his music is so different from mine. I go to see his shows and he come to see mine. My daughter Gina who won the ‘Chicago Idol Search’ show for a local radio station is in a musical, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” She was also the runner up in the “Ms. Illinois” contest…and she should have won! Both of my children grew up traveling with me and then my husband, Nick was my drummer during the years when I was performing and touring. We actually knew each other for eight years before we got married in 1978 when everything was going through the roof. We met when I was singing at the Chicago Playboy Club: Nick was playing in the room upstairs at the club and he told me he fell in love with my voice before her ever saw me!”

    With her children continuing the Clifford legacy, Linda is looking at some upcoming shows including an October trip to Los Angeles for the show, “Divas Simply Singing.” There are performances at corporate events on the horizon and Linda says, “I’m talking to an agent about a show of divas and that could be really nice. I’ve done some writing with a U.K. writer/producer Joey Negro – and we have one song “Ride The Storm,” which I’m singing on a various artists CD called “Jakatta.” I’ve also been writing for Warner Chappell [Publishing] for a while and Gloria Gaynor recorded a song I wrote specifically for her, “Gotta Be Forever” which is on her last CD “I Wish You Love.” Naturally, I thought it was great. I was happy to hear that she was coming out with something new. We’ve met a few times over the years – it seemed like we would follow each other on club dates but we never spent a lot of time together.”

    Linda says she stays in contact with musical friends from the ‘70s, noting, “I’ve maintained some of the relationships. I talk to Jody from The Ritchie Family very often. I talk to Thelma Houston and Martha Wash from The Weather Girls was here in Chicago. We talked on the phone and then she came by and visited. Of course, yes, we do reminisce! We gab about the old days, about who did what…and who did who!” Linda laughs.

    Personally, my own memories of interviewing Linda for “Blues & Soul” in the late ‘70s are all good. She was always an enjoyable artist to speak with, a woman who seemed to have her head on straight and a real handle on the kind of fame and success she was experiencing so it was really delightful to catch up with her once again. Can’t wait to see that Clifford magic onstage real soon…

  • Cors Disco and Soulshow van 25 juni 2014 via Mixcloud

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    Cors Disco en Soulshow van 25 mei 2014 by Cor Shops on Mixcloud

     
  • G.C. CAMERON AUGUST 1976 INTERVIEW

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    One-time Spinner G. C. Cameron, still waiting for that final breakthrough, talks to David Nathan about his preparation for the big-time and his brand new album…

    WHEN IT comes to being in the 'underrated' stakes few folk can compete with Mr. G. C. Cameron! After some four years away from being lead singer with the Spinners (G.C. left in 1972), the gentleman has turned out consistently good product as a solo artist on Motown without exactly tearing the charts apart.

    He's enjoyed sporadic success, chartwise, with items such as "Let Me Down Easy" (a Van McCoy song) and "No Matter Where" achieving a good showing in the soul stakes but G.C. is still waiting for that breakthrough that should catapult him to the top.

    With one album already under his belt — "Love Songs And Other Tragedies", which featured two sides produced by Stevie Wonder on the gentleman — Mr. Cameron now has a new set out entitled, very simply, "G. C. Cameron".

    Speaking long distance from his Los Angeles home, G.C. is more than happy with the album. "It's a giant step forward from the first album, as far as I'm concerned. Everyone who worked on it was good at what they did and I'm happy about that!"

    Anyone who takes a look at the credits on the album will be quick to notice that there are several producers and arrangers involved. Folk like T-Bone Ross (Diana's brother) and Leon Ware, the men behind "I Want You" from Marvin Gaye, James Carmichael (responsible for The Commodores' work), producers Hal Davis and Lawrence Brown. Freddie Perren (phenomenally successful right now with The Sylvers and Tavares), arranger Gene Page and G.C. himself. Quite a star-studded cast but why so many different folk?

    "Well, that's simple," explained the man. "I feel that a lot of people have a lot to say and they can give expression to it through me. I don't like dealing with just one producer because you can get locked into a particular situation which doesn't allow the freedom you need.

    "Everyone who worked on the sessions was fantastic. Freddie (Perren) has just a fantastic aura about him and people like Mark Davis have been around me for a long time. And then Berry's's niece, Iris Gordy. Without her, the album just wouldn't have happened!

    "A lot of the tracks were actually recorded four years ago and Iris spent time re-mixing, working on them. And the result is really great, I'm very happy with it. Plus I have three songs on the album that I wrote.

    "One of them, "The Joy You Bring" will be the next single in a couple of weeks time and the flip, "Tippin"' which is from the first album, is another of my songs. So you know I'm happy about that!"

    Ask G.C. if he's happy about his career in general and he's quick to reply: "As far as I'm concerned, my career is strictly in the hands of God. After all, in this business, no one tells you when you're gonna make it, right? I go by my faith and my feelings. After all, I'm into music for people because there's nothing like getting your message across. And right now, I feel very secure about everything."

    G.C.'s absence from 'live' appearances ever since he left the Spinners may have contributed in preventing his breakthrough but behind everything there is a reason.

    "It had a lot to do with management decisions and so on. Gwen Fuqua, who manages me, wanted to make sure that I was ready. That involved a lot of things like vocal training, dance lessons, karate instruction. I wanted to be physically and mentally ready.

    "You have to learn to do whatever you can do best. That was Gwen's thinking and I have to go along fully with that. We've been spending time tying up loose ends, and we want to get a show ready that is not just quick garbage.

    "Right now, I'm rehearsing with a band for some dates because now I feel I'm ready. And it's not just a mental thing: it's spiritual too. You have to put your priorities in place and you've got to have peace of mind. That comes with natural living and it has much to do with your environment.

    "It also has a lot to do with the people you have around you. That's why I'm thankful for people like Berry Gordy, Barney Ales, Suzanne de Passe, Ronnie Wakefield and Bob Jones. They've all contributed alongside so many others to getting me where I am today. And I truly thank God for them."

    Naturally with the fantastic success that the Spinners have enjoyed since joining Atlantic Records a few years back, it's only natural to wonder whether G.C. had any regrets about leaving them.

    "No, none at all!" he laughed. "I'm still very close with the guys — they will always be my good friends. In fact, they were here in Los Angeles a couple of weeks back and it was really a thrill to watch them from the wings.

  • QUINCY JONES JULY 1978 INTERVIEW

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    Quincy Jones finds that the ideas and his music are just flowing these days, he feels like a man on the sea, just going with the flow.

    COMPOSER, arranger, producer, Grammy and Emmy Award winner Quincy Jones is known by most to be the man of many hats, and if his schedule of events for 1978 is any indication, that handle isn't likely to falter.

    Currently immersed in his 30th year in the entertainment industry, Quincy is glowing over what he calls the most creative period of his life. As he puts it, "The ideas and the music are just flowing and I feel just like a man on the sea, going with the flow."

    On the recording side of his career, "Q," as he is known by most, is following the success of his million selling soundtrack to last year's epic television series "Roots" with some new sounds on his latest A&M LP "Sounds…And Stuff Like That". Quincy says he "went a little bit left" with the album and the public reaction has been resoundingly right. Both the album and the single release title tune are tearing up the charts and burning the airwaves from coast to coast.

    "Essentially the album features a rhythm section of some of my friends in New York, like Steve Gadd on drums, Eric Gale on guitar, Ralph MacDonald on percussion, Richard Tee on keyboards, and Anthony Jackson on bass. The album is funky rhythmically, with pretty, lyrical, melodic horns, with strings and keyboards on top.

    "Patti Austin, who sings "Love Me By Name", is one of New York's finest session singers. Man, I've known her since she was a little girl and she's turned into one of the biggest talents around. And Chaka Khan…what CAN'T you say about Chaka! Her style and vocal quality are so unique and so bad!…she's just in a class by herself. There's just nobody like her.

    Nick (Ashford) and Val (Simpson), I've loved them for years. Their music is just starting to get the recognition it deserves. And what was so beautiful was that when we got all these super-talented people in the studio together, they were each knocked out to be working with the other! They were all each others fans.

    "These are all people whom I've admired for years, and it felt so great to be able to put them all together at last. I guess you'd say that this album really shows when I'm at in 1978."

    During the recording of "Sounds…And Stuff Like That" Q juggled his recording schedule to allow for his role of producer for The Brothers Johnson, whose first two platinum plus albums he produced and arranged. Their third album, entitled "Blam", promises to follow its predecessors down the platinum brick road of success.

    Quincy showed himself to be a man who truly enjoys his work as he described recording with The Brothers.

    "It's really a job to work with George and Louis…they're so talented, both as musicians and as songwriters, with a totally open mind to new ideas. We spend hours in the studio toying with concepts for tunes, and when one of those ideas comes to life it's really great.

    "Basically on this third Brothers album we are using the first two albums as a point of reference, but taking the music a step further. Everyone said that the second album, "Right On Time", was totally different than the first, "Look Out For Number One", and that is precisely what we were after.

    "George and Louis and I have this thing about not making the same album twice and we constantly want to pursue new directions and diverse possibilities. I feel that "Blam" is the best album that The Brothers have made."

    The third phase of 1978 is the taskmaster according to Q, for he is involved in something that he promised himself he would never get into again.

    "In an eight year period, I scored about fifty-two films, and was fortunate enough to receive three Academy Award nominations for my work. After going nearly out of my mind doing films, I decided that I wanted to get out of it altogether, and redirect my interest toward the record business.

    "I felt essentially the same about television, but when Alex Haley called me and asked if I would get involved in the music for Roots, I found myself bending my principles. Roots was the kind of project that I had to be a part of. Well, I've bent once again…"

    "Early last spring my good friend Sidney Lumet called me. As everyone undoubtedly knows, Sidney is one of the finest film directors in the world. He directed, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, and Equus, just to name his most recent work. He called me to tell me that he was going to be directing a film version of The Wiz, and wanted me to be musical director. At first I told him that I couldn't get in it, I had too many projects to deal with as it was, and that getting back into film wasn't what I wanted to do at all.

    "Well, my subconscious mind was in total control, which meant I couldn't sleep at night. All I could think about was the original film of The Wizard of Oz and the longlasting effect it had on me, and how turned on I was when I saw the original Broadway cast of The Wiz. About two days later Sidney called me back hoping to convince me to change my mind, and before he could even attempt to pitch me on how great it would be, I said, "I'll do it". So much for my principles.

    "The Wiz is a 24 million dollar musical based loosely on the original film version, and the Broadway adaptation, starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, and Ted Ross, from the original Broadway cast, as the Lion. Lena Horne plays the Good Witch and Sidney does an impeccable job of directing.

    "The hardest part of describing The Wiz for me is to not sound like I'm hyping it; but I've never seen anything quite like this movie. Diana is incredible. She has the uncanny ability to just capture and enrapture you with her emotion.

    "Michael Jackson is making his acting debut after being a star all of his life with The Jackson Five. He is the epitome of a natural actor. Scenes that take seasoned veterans a while to pull off, Michael does in one take. The kid is going to be a major motion picture star, and this movie is going to let everyone know.

    "Musically, my task was really a challenge, for it involved rearranging some of the original score written by Charlie Smalls, to make the music more workable for the screen, as opposed to the stage, as well as composing four new songs.

    "I got together with my friends Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson and wrote "Is This What Feeling Gets?" which is Diana's big song in the picture, as well as "Can I Go On?" which is her opening song. I also composed the "Emerald City Theme" which is the biggest scene in the film when Diana, Michael, Nipsey and Ted arrive at the palace of the Wiz.

    "The movie will be released close to Thanksgiving of this year and the soundtrack album will be released as a three record set with plenty of picture stories about the film. That's going to be three records of some of the best music I've ever been a part of."

    If all of that is not enough, Quincy's other businesses are thriving as well. His publishing company, Kidada Music, is on the upswing, having recently had three copyrighted songs recorded by artists like Noel Pointer, Henry Mancini, Dusty Springfield, as well as being broadcast on the hit series "Saturday Night Live" and "Wide World of Sports".

    His management company is kept busy handling his career and, in co-partnership with The Fitz-Gerald-Hartley Company, the career of his protegees, The Brothers Johnson.

    Quincy summarizes the current rush of activity with a warm glow of satisfaction.

    "Honestly I've never felt better or more creative in my entire life. I feel like I have gotten a second wind and the juices are just continuously flowing. I guess the only way to look at it is by saying I am feeling great in '78 and I'll be a whole lot finer in '79…Well, I never said I was a poet!"

  • MARILYN MCCOO & BILLY DAVIS JR. DECEMBER 1976 INTERVIEW

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    AFTER ALMOST ten years with The Fifth Dimension, Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo announced in November of last year that they'd decided to go it alone — a decision which they'd been in the process of making over a two-year period which finally culminated in informing the other members of the successful group in June and their last appearance as a unit on November 5, 1975.

    For most people a split of that kind would have left the individuals concerned full of doubts and fears. For Billy and Marilyn, it was a natural progression and the success that they've enjoyed since has only served to justify their faith in themselves and each other.

    "We worked it out to tie in with the group's itinerary because we didn't want to leave them stranded," the husband-wife team report. "And it didn't come completely out of the blue for them when we told them of our intentions back in June of last year. They knew it was coming because when people are dissatisfied with their work it shows. And it sure did show with us!"

    The team go on to explain further their motivation in leaving a group who had proven consistently popular over the years. "Basically, we complained about the lack of progression. We never got too much chance to hear what was happening out here musically so there was little opportunity for us to move ahead musically.

    "It's very important to continue to grow within this business because it's easy to become complacent. And that's what was happening with us. There were no more challenges — we'd become too secure in what we were doing to the point where it was just mechanical and that's dangerous. It was as if we had no more to say and when we weren't having hit records on top of that, we figured it was time to move and grow."

    Billy and Marilyn confess that immediately having made the decision, they were not entirely sure what would happen next. "Having made the decision and then actually leaving, were different things. Fortunately, there were no bad personal feelings about it because we'd made it clear that this was what we wanted and we'd allowed time for everything to be sorted out. But after we left, we didn't quite know the next step."

    So the couple took off time to cool out. "We started interviewing people as managers and thinking about what we would do. We'd talked about the possibility of a duo or of us each having solo careers and we figured solo careers would place a strain on our marriage because we wouldn't be together as much. So we decided to opt for a duo sound."

    Having set Dick Broder as their manager, the couple were involved in discussions with A.B.C. Records regarding their recording career.

    "Otis Smith at ABC recommended Don Davis as a producer so we got together and found three songs which we cut. It was an entirely new situation for us but those first sides seemed to come out so well that we decided to go ahead and work on the album."

    In fact, Billy & Marilyn's single debut, "I Hope We Get To Love In Time" proved an instant hit on both r&b and pop charts, their first appearance on the soul charts for some time.

    "We'd finished the album by the end of April and we did the vocals in L.A. whilst Don cut the tracks in Detroit. We all three selected the material — some of it we brought to Don, some he brought to us. The album was released a couple of weeks ago and is already doing far better than we could have ever hoped. It was really fun working with Don and we're looking forward to our next album."

    After discussions with their management and interested parties about the direction they would take, the team set about working on a stage act.

    "We didn't want to jump out there, so we took time to work on it. But it doesn't matter how much you rehearse, how precise you make your rehearsals, the final test comes when you hit the stage.

    "Our first date was at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and it was very important because there were a lot of people there from other places who book acts in Vegas etc. After ten years, we were not exactly amateurs but it was a whole new ball game."

    Marilyn recalls that opening night "I was scared to death — really terrified. I just wanted to get through that first show — just give it everything we had. Fortunately, we had family and friends out there rooting for us. That made it easier."

    In fact, their performance was so well received that the duo had a full date sheet before they knew it.

    "We've been doing selected dates although we did have five weeks solid without a break — that was about 70 shows non-stop! We knew before we left the Fifth that to begin with, we'd have to do this. How else are people going to get to know you?

    "But we also decided that we wouldn't work as hard as we did in terms of being out on the road nonstop as we did with the Fifth. We wanted time to develop as a recording and performing act. And you need time for that — time to work out your pacing, building your audiences to the point where they are satisfied."

    Initially, the couple have concentrated their work on nightclub venues. "You require a different act for concerts — they are two different venues and you have to work to the kind of audience you have out there. Basically, we've been working on commercial standards for the club act — songs people will know, with a couple from the album.

    "No, we don't do any of the Fifth's songs but when we get to that point of being established, where people know who we are, then we intend to put in a special tribute to the group.

    "Right now, some people know who we are but a lot of people look at us if they know us but can't place us. So we tell them we used to be with the Fifth and usually people nudge each other and say 'I told you I'd seen them before'! It's really funny."

    Concerts are on the agenda and the twosome are looking forward to doing them. "That will give us a chance to spotlight material that may not be well known as yet — and of course, we'll be able to do more of our own album tracks.

    "You can't just throw things at people — we don't want to hit them straight away with completely new material that they're unfamiliar with."

    Television is another important vehicle, the couple say. "We really would like to establish ourselves in that media. We've already done some TV work and we taped a segment for a Christmas special. It was really funny because the producer asked us to do a gospel segment!"

    Billy mentions that he was originally into gospel — "I worked at it for some four years so it was nothing new to me" but Marilyn confesses that she'd never "sung in church at all! But I have a good ear for picking up sounds. I was a bit apprehensive but it came out very well.

    "We had a gospel group behind us — the Robert Lyons Singers — and we had to choose the material ourselves. It was a challenge but we welcomed it because it gave us the chance to experiment — and one of our basic goals is to cover as much musical territory as we can."

    The team are unanimous in declaring that they now have different goals from ones they had in the past.

    "We looked back to our childhood to try and remember how we used to feel about what we wanted out of life. Some people told us we were crazy to leave the Fifth because they figured we had all we wanted in terms of money and success. But there's more to life than that: you have to achieve a sense of personal satisfaction. And there are so many avenues we haven't even begun to explore yet that we couldn't have done within the confines of the group.

    "Our main objective is to establish ourselves through commerciality and then enjoy the flexibility that our new situation offers. You have to do what you feel is right for you and we both felt that this was right for us."

    Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo are proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they've discovered what's right for them — and they're making it work!

  • Quincy Jones niet te spreken over nieuwe cd Jackson

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    Als het aan Quincy Jones lag, was Michael Jacksons postume album Xscape niet uitgebracht. Volgens de producent, die meerdere keren met Jackson samenwerkte, is de plaat enkel gemaakt om geld te verdienen. Dat laat Jones weten in een interview met de Canadese radiozender CBC Radio.

    "Het gaat iedereen alleen maar om het geld. De nabestaanden en de advocaten", somt de 81-jarige producent op over de plaat die eerder deze maand verscheen. "Ze willen eraan verdienen en dat snap ik ook want het draait voor iedereen om geld."

    Jones vindt het vervelend dat er nummers van de in 2009 overleden blijven verschijnen. "Maar dat zijn mijn zaken niet meer." De producent, die 27 Grammy Awards op zijn naam heeft staan, werkte met Jackson samen aan albums als Thriller, Off the Wall en Bad.

    Door: Novum

  • Film over Whitney Houston in de maak

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    Er komt een film over het leven van Whitney Houston. Dit maakte het televisiestation Lifetime donderdag bekend. De televisiefilm moet volgend jaar af zijn en wordt geregisseerd door actrice Angela Bassett.

    De film zal het regiedebuut worden van Bassett, die zelf in 1993 de rol van Tina Turner speelde in haar biografische film. De film over Whitney Houston zal inzoomen op haar onstuimige huwelijk met Bobby Brown. "Ik heb veel respect voor zowel Whitney's als Bobby's geweldige talenten en prestaties", vertelt Bassett in een statement. "Hun menselijkheid en band fascineert ons allemaal. Ik ben superenthousiast dat ik deze kans krijg om vanachter de camera in hun wereld te kruipen."

    Wie de rollen van Whitney Houston en Bobby Brown gaan spelen is nog niet duidelijk. Angela Bassett kent Houston van dichtbij; ze speelde in 1995 samen met de diva een van de hoofdrollen in de film Waiting to Exhale.

  • HAROLD MELVIN AND THE BLUE NOTES AUGUST 1972 INTERVIEW

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    EVERY year, there are only a handful — maybe six — records which go on to become all-time personal favourites, records that get played at home even after they've become old and forgotten. So far this year, the most notable inclusion to my personal gold vault has been the Independents "Just As Long As You Need Me", which still sounds as good today as it did some six months and several hundred plays ago. In short, it's been a good year for our music but there has been a definite absence of true gems for all seasons.

    To avoid the Independents becoming lonely in their 1972 pigeon-hole, I am now happy to announce a welcome addition to the ranks. The record is "I Miss You", the debut on Philadelphia International by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, produced by Messrs. Gamble and Huff, surely the most consistently brilliant producers in the business.

    As with all (or nearly all!) of my own favourites, it's a ballad with more than its fair share of deep soul and, to satisfy my personal quirks within our musical framework, there's even a monologue.

    Harold himself is the oldest of the quintet of Philadelphians. He is 30. The Blue Notes are Bernard Wilson, 27; Teddy Pendergrass, 23; Lawrence Brown, 26; and Lloyd Parkes, 24. As a group, they've been in existence now for twelve years although Teddy and Lloyd are fairly recent acquisitions. Lloyd was with the Epsilons before joining the Blue Notes — they had one local Philly hit with "The Echo" on Stax, which Bobby Martin produced. The other three are all founder members of the group. On record, they had their debut as long ago as 1956 when they cut a single called "If You Love Me" for Josie, merely using the name of the Bluenotes. They followed through some four years later with "My Hero" on Value but neither record achieved any serious measure of success.

     So, how come that a group with no real background of success should team up now with Kenny and Leon? "Oh, well, we all grew up together," explained Harold. "We've been knowing Kenny since we were at school together and we've known him through all these years. I don't really know why we never got together before now but we're all just happy to be where we are right now."

    Following the huge success of "I Miss You", Philadelphia International is rushing out the group's first album, with the same title. "Naturally," enthused Harold, "it's got the hit in it; also, it includes the one we expect to be the follow-up, "Be For Real". In all, there are seven songs, some of them are long tracks, such as "I Miss You" Which goes on for more than eight minutes on the album. The only song that is not a Gamble and Huff composition is "Ebony Woman". You'll be pleased to know that there's plenty of talking on the album — both Kenny and Leon like it that way, too!"

    Just for the record, Harold is the king of the monologues whilst Lloyd is the man with the fantastic falsetto on "I Miss You" and Teddy sings the actual melody. Do yourself a favour — sample the very best of our music and go listen to "I Miss You" — now!

    Having had the pleasure of hearing Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes LP for Philadelphia International, I am now in a better position to comment on their music. Of the seven cuts, there are two especially strong — needless to say, the paramount track is "I Miss You", which sounds even better non-stop than ever it did as 'parts one and two' on the single. My own runner-up is "If You Don't Know Me By Now", which, after a few plays comes close to "I Miss You" in its depth, sincerity and sheer warmth. I feel it to be far stronger than "Be For Real", the favourite right now to follow "I Miss You". Whilst it's another musical marathon, it doesn't hit home in the way that "Miss You" and "If You Don't Know Me By Now" do. For the non-informed, their music is difficult to decipher but the nearest comparison I am able to make is with the more recent Dells albums — professional, suave, good music and deep, deep Soul.

  • CARRIE LUCAS 2003 LINER NOTES

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    Named "The Sound Of Los Angeles Records," Solar was home to a slew of hitmakers during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Think Midnight Star, The Whispers, Shalamar, Lakeside, Dynasty and in latter days, the likes of Calloway and The Deele. Strangely, the label founded by industry veteran Dick Griffey as the successor to Soul Train Records, a company he had formed with Don Cornelius of the famed weekly television show, had just a couple of female solo artists - Kat Miller and Carrie Lucas. Kat's career with Solar was short-lived while Carmel, California-born Carrie enjoyed a six-album, seven year-run with Griffey's companies (first, Soul Train, then Solar and finally the MCA-distributed Constellation imprint). While she was not a major chartmaker in the same way some of her labelmates were, the tall, sweet-voiced vocalist recorded consistently during her tenure with the company.

    The elder sister of renowned keyboardist and musician Greg Phillinganes, Carrie's move into music as a profession was not an obvious choice: "I never thought of singing as a serious career," she stated in a 1979 interview with Britain's "Blues & Soul" magazine, "... The truth was that I'd dreamed of being a singer from when I was a little girl but I'd always been too shy to tell anyone about it..." Likely encouraged by brother Greg's musical involvement with Stevie Wonder, Carrie started developing her songwriting skills, penning songs for The Whispers and South Shore Commission among others. A recording date with L.A. soul man D.J. Rogers singing backgrounds led to more session work and after Carrie sang on The Whispers' "One For The Money" album in 1976.

    Dick Griffey - who subsequently married Carrie - was there for that fateful session: The Whispers had been signed as the first act to his newly-created Soul Train label. He heard and saw Carrie and after he heard a demo of a song she'd written entitled "Fairytales," she was signed to the new company. Griffey pulled out all the stops for "Simply Carrie," her 1977 debut, hiring some of the cream of L.A.-based musicians, including brother Phillinganes, saxmen Ernie Watts and Hank Redd, guitarist Jay Graydon, keyboardist Clarence MacDonald, horn players Oscar Brashear and George Bohannon. Noted arranger Jerry Peters (of EW&F and Seawind fame) worked on the album while background vocals came courtesy Carolyn Willis (of The Honeycone), D.J. Rogers and Walter & Scotty of The Whispers who could be heard on the album's first single, "I GOTTA KEEP DANCIN,'" a Top 100 pop and Top 50 R&B hit and undeniably, a favorite among disco-goers of the day. This was, after all, the mid-‘70s when disco flourished and even groups like The Whispers (who could tear the house down with a ballad) were using their vocal prowess on uptempo, dance-oriented cuts.

    The Whispers would indeed play a role in Carrie's career: Dick Griffey would often have Carrie open for the ever-popular group, giving the young vocalist a chance to work with the team's musicians while gaining national exposure; her 1980 album, "Portrait Of Carrie" included the soulful duet "JUST A MEMORY" while Carrie's biggest chart success came in 1985 with her revival of Barbara Lewis' 1963 classic, "HELLO STRANGER" which featured The Whispers and was a Top 20 R&B hit for Carrie and the group.

    With dance music so much in the fore, Carrie's albums featured their share of uptempo groove cuts like 1979's "DANCE WITH YOU," a Top 30 R&B and Top 100 pop-charting single and the infectious "I GOTTA GET AWAY FROM YOUR LOVE," both from "Simply Carrie"; "IT'S NOT WHAT YOU GOT (IT'S HOW YOU USE IT) ," a Top 100 R&B hit from 1980's "Portrait Of Carrie"; and the ever-popular ‘SHOW ME WHERE YOU'RE COMING FROM," a 1982 charted single from the "Still In Love" album.

    Carrie herself may have a felt a sense of frustration when her second LP ("Street Corner Symphony") did not make a greater impact since it reflected a more musically in-depth approach: "I feel there's going to be a strong move back towards the black roots and real soul music," she said in her 1979 "Blues & Soul" interview, and indeed her own blend of honey-voiced pop and R&B was only fully evident on album cuts (like "I'LL CLOSE LOVE'S DOOR" from her debut set and "STILL IN LOVE," the title cut of her 1982 set). Eventually, the record-buying public seemed to accept Carrie as something more than a mere dance-oriented hitmaker: her last charted single reviving "HELLO STRANGER" from her 1985 swansong album, "Horsin' Around" cast Carrie as more of a sultry songstress much like the song's originator, Barbara Lewis.

  • WILL DOWNING 2010 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW

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    Will Downing has given the term 'consistency' a new meaning in the world of soul music. Now on his fifteenth album, the affable song stylist has been a constant with US music buyers in particular for the past two decades. Will's latest project, "Lust, Love & Lies (An Audio Novel)" is ambitious in concept and content. He shares more about it with David Nathan...


    David Nathan: There are some people that, when I have the opportunity to interview them for soulmusic.com, I unhesitatingly say yes. In this particular instance, this is because the gentleman that we’re about to speak with is somebody I’ve known for a long time. We have always had a wonderful association together and I’m very proud to call him a friend as well as a musical master—someone who has made consistently great records and who has… even in the preamble to this conversation we were discussing the woes of being a recording artist/performer in the current economic climate. Nonetheless, Will Downing has been able to hold on to his audience and keep delivering great music—in fact, the occasion for this interview is the release of his brand-new album, about which we are going to talk at length. Hello, Will Downing.

    Will Downing: What’s going on, David. That introduction, you had my looking around. I was like, “Man, you’ve really got some quality guy coming on the show to talk to.” So it was good to hear you speak so highly of me and my music, and I appreciate it.

    DN: Absolutely. Well, I’m going to actually start not where I thought I was going to start, but I’m going to start with a question that pertains to what I just said, which is actually: to what do you ascribe your longevity? The fact that you’ve been making records…is it… let’s see, is it ’88?

    WD: ’88 was the first solo record, yeah.

    DN: So ’88 to—because you were recording before that, so let’s just say, ’88 to 2010…

    WD: Twenty-two.

    DN: Okay, so how come? [Laughs] How come you’re still making records, twenty-two years later? Not that you shouldn’t be, but we do know many people who started in 1988—they may be around, they may still be performing, but they’re certainly not making records.

    WD: Well you know what, I’ve been very fortunate to still be in this industry. I mean, as you just said, there’s a lot of my contemporaries who I started out the race with who are no longer performing. And some of them are no longer with us in general, so I’m grateful to be alive and grateful to still be active, doing what I do. I think the one thing that has sustained me is the one thing that I’ve always—that I used to fight with the record company in the early part of my career, was staying the course. You know, when the musical styles changed, I kind of stayed with what I knew my strengths were, which is kind of singing, you know, ballads or singing more soulful songs… just staying the course. I’ve always kind of meshed jazzy elements to an R&B/soulful sound, and that’s been my sound and I’ve stayed the course. And fortunately, I’ve always had one or two songs per project that people around the world could identify with, and it’s kind of helped me maintain.

    DN: Well, when you say that you’ve always stood—essentially, you’ve stood your ground, has that been a fight?

    WD: In the early part, yeah. It was a huge fight. I mean, they’ve always kind of given me the autonomy to do what I do, but once they had a success with something, they would say, “Okay, give me all of that; give me more and more and more of that.” And I would say, “There’s more to me as a singer than that, and I’d like to express myself in other ways.” So over the course of the career it’s kind of been give-and-take, but they’ve always allowed me to do what I do. And apparently they must have made some… there must have been some monetary gains on what I do, on their standpoint and on mine, so we’ve all kind of been in a win-win situation. Now they truly allow me just to be me. I have a really good core fan base, the folks that, as you said earlier, when they see the name or when they hear the name, they kind of go, “That name is synonymous with quality, and I’m just going to pick it up whether I’ve heard it or not. This guy’s never let me down.” So I think that my consistency, musically, has been the one thing that’s sustained me.

    DN: Well, before we begin talking about your new project, let’s just talk about the last one—I know we interviewed you for that, for Classique. And ultimately, did it reach the… do you feel that it was successful, and I don’t know what your measurement of success is, but was it successful from your standpoint?

    WD: I think we did okay with it. I mean, from a personal standpoint and a musical standpoint, it was extremely successful. I accomplished what I set out to accomplish, musically. As far as a sales base is concerned… you know, no one knows what successful is anymore. I mean, here in America I think I sold, probably, about 85,000 copies. And it may not sound like a great number, but then when you look at my contemporaries and folks who are in the same genre as I am, and you look at their numbers, 85,000—that’s a hit [laughs]. But I think in comparison to what people are selling out here. The game has changed quite a bit, so no one can judge what a success is. And I’ll repeat the same line that I just said even prior to this question, was… obviously someone must have made some money, because they gave me some more to make this one [laughs].

    DN: This is true. All right, well that’s a good segueway into discussing this album. Now I have to confess that every time I’ve tried to say the title of your album, I get the words the wrong way round.

    WD: You want me to get it right for you?

    DN: So let me see if I’ve got it right this time. It’s Lust, Love and Lies.

    WD: Correct.

    DN: Wow.

    WD: Now, the easy way to remember that, David, is just think about a relationship. The first time that you meet someone, there’s a physical attraction—you’re looking at them and there is a lust factor: man, this girl is beautiful, oh, this gentleman is handsome, you know, whatever, I’d like to get to know them—so there is a lustful sort of a thing. Then hopefully, that grows into a like/love situation. And in this case—just in this case—there was something that happened along the way in the relationship which was considered a lie, and it takes the whole story down this whole… and you’ve got to listen to the whole project in its entirety to understand what the lie was.

    DN: And I am tempted, but I won’t—I will not give in to temptation—

    WD: [Laughs]

    DN: —to have you reveal what that is, because it would spoil the whole point of people listening to the whole thing.

    WD: Well, yeah, just in case someone else is walking into the movie theater just after you’ve seen the movie, and you say, “Hey, man, it’s too bad that so-and-so dies in the movie,” before you walk in. We don’t want that, we don’t want to spoil it for everybody.

    DN: Well now, particularly given what we’ve been talking about—the different economic world that we live in and the different music business that we live in—to do anything that even remotely resembles a concept album is probably either very smart or really crazy. So…

    WD: [Laughs]

    DN: I’m not sure which, but I mean—obviously, this is a concept album. Because as those of you who will check it out will find out, in parentheses after the title it says: “An Aural”—as in—

    WD: Audio. I don’t know where your mind was, but I hope you can get back on it [laughs].

    DN: It was still in lust, I guess [laughs]. I was going to say aural, A-U-R-A-L, but as I’ve been corrected—it is an audio novel. So the first, most obvious question is: when did you come up with the idea of doing what is essentially a concept album?

    WD: Well, I’ve always had this—I’m not going to say always. I had this idea probably about five or six years ago, and I was working with Rex Rideout at the time. I told him about it and he was like, “Man, that’s a great idea,” he said, “But man, that’s a lot of work.” And he said that to me, and it’s always kind of like been that thing that’s made me slightly hesitant to do it. Because it is a lot of work, and I didn’t know exactly how to go about doing it, because I’ve never done anything like this before—you know, the spoken vignettes inbetween songs to tell the complete story. So what better time than the present? This is my fifteenth project, and it’s funny, when I talk to journalists and radio jocks around the country and around the world, unfortunately they start to say, “Oh, it’s another Will Downing record. Oh, it’s a Will—” you know what I mean? There’s no cachet to it, there’s nothing special. So I said, “Well, I may as well shake up the pot a little bit, and if it hits, it hits; and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.” But I mean, it’s something I’ve wanted to do, so just go ahead and do it. At what other point in my career am I going to be able to do something like this? So I just went and I did it, and it was a lot of fun. And we’ll see whether or not it hits and/or misses. As you said before, either someone has to be really crazy or they have to have one hell of a vision—so we’re going to find out, once this project is released, how people feel about it.

    DN: Well now—distinct from when you do just a regular album, even though you may have a general concept or a theme going on, this one, because it is, as we alluded to, an audio novel, how did you… did you have to create the songs… I assume you had to create the songs to fit—you had the concept first, and then you had to create songs that fit the concept, right?

    WD: Exactly, exactly. I mean, basically, you have to set the scenario up from the moment that they meet to the moment that this thing ends, whether it be a happy ending and/or sad ending. So for me, I started them off in a club—they met in a club.

    So the first song is called “Glad I Met You Tonight.” So within that song, I tell the story. The song starts off saying, “Hello, can I sit here and have a drink or two?” And you know, the young lady’s looking at him, like, “Who are you?” And then, “And by the way, can I get you one? My name is Will. What’s your name? Can I have your number? Would you like to dance, would you like to…?”

    It tells the story of a relationship from the moment that they meet till the ending. So those spoken vignettes kind of piece the whole story together—it’s the glue to the album. And if you take those pieces out, you just have what I consider to be a very good record, musically, but it won’t tell the complete story—it jumps around. But the spoken vignettes kind of ties everything in together.

    DN: Sure. Now when you—let me ask you: when you presented the idea to your record company, what was their first reaction?

    WD: They didn’t know what to make of it, because they didn’t know exactly what I was talking about. And I’m not the type of artist that, as I’m going along, I present the record company with, you know, “And check this out, oh, and listen to this!” I gave it to them in its entirety, so when they heard it, they finally got it—’cause it’s kind of difficult to explain when you say, “Just imagine reading a book, reading a novel—a romance novel.” They’re looking at me and saying, “Well, how are you going to do this? Is it all going to be spoken?” I said, “You’ll see.” And they kind of trusted me with it. Then when I turned it in, they loved the idea; it’s something different. I can’t think of anyone else that’s really done it from a complete story standpoint the way I’m doing it. So I think it’s kind of unique—I think it’s interesting.

    DN: The only person that comes to mind that I can remember ever trying this, or even doing this, was Millie Jackson—and that was very clear, what it was about—it was about infidelity. But you’re talking about 1974, ’75—

    WD: Right.

    DN: It’s not something that people really try very often. And it really was responsible for her breakthrough, in terms of career. And she did have little spoken pieces in-between. But that was also at a time when it wasn’t as unusual to do concept records, because you have Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On, and other people were doing kind of concepts here and there—Cutis Mayfield, and so on and so forth—but this is…certainly, you are the only person I know of your generation and of your peer group who has done this, so it is a brave move. I want to talk to you a little bit about, again, the construction of the songs. So once you had the basic scenario and you knew what the story would be, then did you actually set about writing songs to fit each aspect of the story?

    WD: Absolutely. Absolutely. We went—I can’t say really in sequence, but—I would have an idea to say, maybe halfway through the recording I would say, “You know what, I think I know how I want to end this thing.” So I would start writing a song with that ending. Or then I’d say, “You know what? I need to put this idea here.” And it was a little scattered, but when it all came together, it came together. And what I couldn’t write, musically, that’s what I’d use the spoken vignettes for, to even further tell the story. Because I think when you hear those together, then it makes a lot of sense. It’s like—“Oh! She got mad because—oh, she fell in love with… he loves her, they’re calling, this is a phone sex song, this is…” you know what I mean? So it kind of ties everything in together. So what I couldn’t sing, I—

    DN: You spoke.

    WD: We spoke, exactly.

    DN: And I assume you wrote all the spoken pieces yourself?

    WD: Yes..

    DN: Would you consider this the most ambitious recording you’ve ever done?

    WD: Without a doubt [laughs]. I wish I could’ve answered you faster, but yeah, this is definitely like nothing I’ve ever thought I was gonna do when I first started out in my career, and this is definitely the most ambitious outing I’ve ever had.

    DN: Now if someone comes along and…isn’t going to listen to the entire thing, which songs would you recommend they listen to, just as songs. In other words—I mean, it’s probably an unfair question, because you can probably say all of them. But are there particular songs that you think will stand out beyond the concept, you know what I mean? In other words, someone says, “Oh you know, I just want to listen to a couple of songs, but I don’t know if I want to get the whole CD yet.”

    WD: Well yeah, there’s obviously certain… I mean, if you mute, and you have the option of taking—of not listening to the…

    DN: Vignettes?

    WD: Conversation, yeah. They’re I.D.’d so that they’re almost like songs, so you could, say, click on 14—or not, you could jump over 14—you know what I mean, which might be a spoken part. But if you listen to the songs like that, without the spoken parts, it’s just a great record. And it’s funny… this morning, one of the musicians—I’d sent him a copy because it was a very intricate part and recording, Randy Bowland—sent me a text this morning saying, “Oh, this song, ‘Tell Me’, off this record, is my favorite song on the record.” And then someone else called me today and said the same exact thing. So I could easily say that the song entitled “Tell Me” would be a great song. And there’s another song on the record called “Saturday.” And I actually did a really good friend of mine’s wedding last week and he got married on a Saturday, so he asked me to come sing, so I sang that song at the wedding—and that song went over really, really well, so… it’s gonna be… I think it should be a well-received record and well-liked, for those who hear it.

    DN: Yes, yes. Now, I know I’m probably not the first person who’s asked you this question in the interviews that you’ve done so far, and I’m absolutely clear I’m not the last, but how much of this album is based…on anything that’s ever happened to you?

    WD: Well…Honestly, I would say a lot of it. And I’m not just saying that it’s just from my standpoint, for me: I think that everyone of a certain age has been through this.

    I think anyone that’s a certain age has been through this in their life and their relationship. And if you haven’t, that means that the first person that you got to meet, that you instantaneously fell in love with—it’s a storybook ending. But anyone that I know that’s twenty-five and up has been through this story. They met someone—when they first met, all they could do was call each other repeatedly, and they couldn’t get enough of each other, and they would tell jokes and the jokes were funny, in the early part of the relationship—and then they stayed together a little longer. After a while, the jokes aren’t as funny anymore, and you don’t go out as much anymore, and then things kind of happen—and then things go sour. It’s like, “You know what? Maybe this is not the person for me. There’s somebody over there that I like.” And then they kind of tip over that way. And that goes from a man’s perspective and a woman’s perspective.

    DN: Sure, absolutely.

    WD: So everyone has been through this, so I would be lying if I said pieces of this story weren’t related to me personally.

    DN: Good answer [laughs].

    WD: I also write for Obama as well, so you know… [laughs].

    DN: Oh… well, okay. I’m not sure where to go with that one.

    WD: Oh, I’m messing with you.

    DN: Oh—I gotcha.

    WD: I want to be politically correct, is what I’m saying.

    DN: [laughs] Okay, I gotcha. Now, I would have thought that given the age we live in, which is the age of technology, and the fact that video is so much a part now of pretty much anyone making a record—almost, one could say—have you considered or are you considering making a whole… well, a series of videos that portray the story?

    WD: Well, I mean… when I first started working on this, that was sort of the big picture. My thing was, I wanted to do it in conjunction with a book and I also wanted to do it in conjunction with a play, which could potentially be made into a movie and/or videos. The one thing about the world today is you can do things relatively cheaply, but I’m a person that loves quality as well. And I can’t find a way to do this economically the way I’d like to see it from a quality standpoint.

    DN: I understand.

    WD: I would love to tell the whole story. I would love for people, as we release singles or as they hear it, they could visualize it, but you know, it’s not economically feasible. There’s not enough outlets for it. Yeah, I can put it on YouTube and people can kind of go there and watch pieces of it, but the Internet is such a big machine—what draws you to a Will Downing? What draws you to any other artist? It’s very difficult. So you know, the ends have to justify the means.

    DN: How often do you perform now, Will? You perform, pretty much, three or four times a month?

    WD: Yeah, I mean… yeah, I perform at least two weekends out of every month. I leave tomorrow to go do a show in Kansas City for three days. Then I’m home, then obviously we release this record, and I’ve got a slew of dates that I’ll be doing across America.

    DN: That’s great. Well, since you said across America, that’s kind of a segueway into me asking you about your plans to come back to Europe, particularly to Britain? Are there any?

    WD: At the moment, with the release of the new record at least, the pre-hype that I’m hearing over there seems like I’ve finally got my chance to come back and do what I do. I haven’t been there in quite a few years.

    Hopefully the public’s reaction will be the same as your reaction, and others who’ve been writing and kind of covering this CD. So I hope to get back—I’d love to, obviously. Believe it or not, musically, where you are is where my roots are—that’s where it kind of really started for me. So I’d love to be able to come back and do the classics and do some of the newer stuff as well.

    DN: Okay. So that sounds like a positive possibility.

    WD: Absolutely.

    DN: Well, I know that we have limited time, only because I know there are other people who want to talk to you today.

    WD: They’re not important. They’re not as important as you are, but—

    DN: Oh, then I’ll keep talking [laughs].

    WD: Well, let’s humor them and let’s take their calls [laughs].

    DN: Okay. Well, I wanted to ask you, as you look back for a moment—pause and look back at the twenty-two years of recording and performing: what would you say has been… what do you consider to have been your greatest accomplishment? Is it simply that you’re still making records, is that it?

    WD: Yeah, that is definitely it. I mean, you hear stuff like this all the time—so much so that you think it’s almost just a catchphrase, but I sincerely feel blessed to be able to continue to be doing this—I feel blessed to still be here, period.

    you know, physically, because I’ve seen the other end of the spectrum as well, where I thought my days were numbered. So I really feel blessed to continue doing this; I don’t take anything for granted. Matter of fact, yesterday I started writing for what could potentially be the next project. And people say, “Why do you keep going?” I said, “Because my creative juices are flowing.” I have to wait for someone to write me a check or give me X amount of dollars to create—you gotta create when the feeling hits you. And who knows? Tomorrow is not promised. If something happens, at least I got it off my chest. Maybe there’s something that… I’m leaving something for my children, you know? It’s just—that’s just the way it is, you just gotta keep going; you gotta live every day to the fullest.

    DN: Now that’s some pretty good advice, I would say. You made a reference, obviously, just now, and I’m sure everyone who’s going to be checking out this does know, that a few years ago you really had some serious health challenges. Happily you’re now, I’m assuming, fully recovered. Is that correct?

    WD: Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully recovered. I’ve done some extensive research on this disease, and I don’t think anyone has ever come back a hundred percent. But I feel pretty good. I get from point A to point B; I perform. Like, most people who even aren’t necessarily deathly ill have their good days and their not-so-good days. So… I’m here talking to you, I’m on this side of the dirt, so… [Laughs].

    DN: Yeah. Something’s working [laughs].

    WD: Yeah, something’s working, yeah, absolutely. So I’ll run with what I’ve got. But sincerely grateful to be here, sincerely grateful to still be doing what I really love doing. I can’t imagine doing anything else. So I’m blessed, man.

    DN: Well, let me ask you one final question, which is: what is it you feel that you would like to accomplish, moving forward?

    WD: You know what? I really don’t know, man. I would just like to be sincere in what I’m doing and what I’ve done—that’s the way I’d like to be remembered. As far as things that I’d like to do, there’s a whole bunch of stories out there and a whole lot of things that I haven’t talked about, in life. It was funny, I got a call about three or four months ago to come sing at some black-tie event—it was like a mayoral, political thing. And they said, “We need a song that’s kind of positive and uplifting.” And I’m going through my catalogue, and I’ve recorded fifteen projects, and I’m going, you know what? I think I have, like, one or two songs that fit what they need - and that even have like a positive overtone. And one of them was “Come Together As One,” which is not even relative to what they would need, so it kind of gave me an idea to add a little bit more positivity to some of the lyric and music things I’m going to be doing in the future, so… a few more things that are uplifting and maybe have a spiritual overtone, a more positivity sort of a thing. That’s something I can do in the future, so there’s always something. I ain’t tapped out from a musical standpoint, there’s still a lot to say.

    DN: By no means, Mr. Downing, by no means. Well, it’s always, always, a delight and a pleasure to speak with you.

    WD: You too.

    DN: And I really, sincerely request that all the people who are checking out this interview take some time and check out the album, because it’s definitely worthwhile. Especially given that it is something special, something different, and you know, there’s a lot of great music out here. But it does, as I said, take courage—I think it takes a lot of courage—to put together a concept album, and this one really does work—and is real. I mean, I know you, so I know that the vignettes, the speaking parts, are really you speaking the way you speak.

    WD: Oh, yeah. I’m not acting. I’m playing a character in the audio novel, but it’s sincere. You get to hear all my friends in some of the spoken parts—you know, my wife—and if you listen to it, I think you hear a dog in the background—my dog’s on the record [laughs].

    DN: [Laughs]

    WD: You know, my producer friends are on there. Rex Rideout, he has a spoken part on there. So it was… it was a lot of work, I’m not going to lie, but it was a lot of fun, man. And I just cannot wait to hear what the public at large has to say about this record.

    DN: Well, we’ll know really soon.

    WD: I know [Laughs].