Wednesday, 17 September 2014

'Emma Jean' by Lee Fields [album review]

Lee Fields’ job of securing his spot as the marquis act for Truth & Soul Records could be argued to be an increasingly difficult task bearing in mind the label’s ever-growing popularity and achievements: aside from being the production team behind Aloe Blacc’s mega-selling ‘Good Things’, the label also boasted an unexpected overnight sensation with the trans-Atlantic pairing of Terri Walker and Nicole Wray forming the group, Lady.

Well, as difficult as the aforementioned task may be for 62 year-old Lee Fields, he completes it with an incredible ease that his last three albums that with the Daptone/Truth & Soul super-group mash-up – ‘The Expressions’ – as backing, steadily secure coveted spaces among any worthwhile ‘best of the year’ lists amongst soul music releases.  ‘My World’, ‘Faithful Man’ and 2014’s ‘Emma Jean’ – while serve to direct keen fans to celebrate and explore his older catalogue – show Fields as practically as good as it gets for soul music.  I amuse myself by imagining that being a comment that would make him smile, considering how hard Fields admittedly tried earlier in his career to emulate the unabashed funk-ness of the legendary James Brown [see Fields’ release ‘Problems’, recorded in 2002 where he showcases what’s now known as the signature James Brown style, even going as far as covering ‘Get on the Good Foot’].

Funk’s loss was soul’s gain as currently exemplified by ‘Emma Jean’ (named after Fields’ late mother) with production handled by Leon Michels.  Much like Charles Bradley’s incredible ‘Victim of Love’ album from 2013, Fields comfortably opts not to play it safe and stick to traditional fare, even though – through all the musicians involved – it would result in sure-fire success.  What we’re left with though is genuinely something special and, with twinges of country soul throughout, album highlights include ‘Just Can’t Win’, ‘Magnolia’, ‘It Still Gets Me Down’ and even more notably ‘Stone Angel’ which you can hear in full below.

I’ll conclude with a statement I made earlier and that’s that Lee Fields & The Expressions are genuinely as good as it can get in today’s contemporary soul market so if you’re yet to board the bandwagon, then ‘Emma Jean’ could be as good a place as any to start.

Friday, 12 September 2014

My Funky (In)Disposition Make Believe MashUP Series [No.05]

We’ve talked a lot about Nicola Conte recently – his name deserves to be mentioned a lot in any circumstances but with the release of his new album, ‘Free Souls’, Conte’s inimitable blend of bossa-infused jazz is as apt an accompaniment for the summer as the sunshine itself.

‘Free Souls’ marks Conte’s fifth studio release, excluding his compilation series, ‘Viagem’ and his remix albums, ‘Jet Sounds Revisited’ and ‘Modern Sound of Nicola Conte’.  Focusing on the latter though, the two-disc opus ‘MSONC’, is another project to demonstrate the Italian guitarist’s ability to produce for a whole range of artists including The Five Corners Quintet, Mark Murphy and [re:jazz], naming a select few.  As far as vocalists go too, his appreciation for soul and jazz voices is beyond demonstrable when assessing his album’s past contributions from both heavy-hitters and up-and-comers like Jose James, Gregory Porter, Melanie Charles, Nailah Porter, Bridgette Amofah, etc.  [This feature aside, fans are doing themselves a disservice by not exploring Conte’s catalogue further so I urge you to do so.]

Maxwell, following the release of ‘Urban Hang Suite’ in 1996, had already become a premier soul artist for his generation in the way Marvin Gaye was to his.  Subsequent releases were equally cherished and appreciated by fans but, in truth, that album etched his name into soul music stone and secured him an ever-loyal fanbase that some artists would need four or five albums to garner.  ‘Ascension’, ‘Sumthin Sumthin’, ‘…Til the Cops Come Knockin’, all still classic records even by today’s standards, and we haven’t even moved on to discuss songs like ‘Downdeep Hula’, ‘Get to Know Ya’ or ‘Love You’.  Famed for the overgrown afro, unparalleled coolness, silky smooth voice, Maxwell really is in a class all of his own.

As far as collaborations go, he’s certainly been no stranger to the idea even though he tends to handle the majority of his own production on his albums.  Stuart Matthewman, from Sade, an inspired choice, has served as a long-time collaborator, and with his most recent album ‘BLACKsummer’snight’, Chris Dave and Saunders Sermons were recruited to the team, as was Robert Glasper as part of his touring band.

Could it happen?
By no means impossible at all actually.  If there’s one thing Nicola Conte seems to have an appreciation for, it’s an elegant and soulful voice layered over his equally sublime production, and frankly, who better is there?!  Conte’s contributors do tend to fly a little further under the radar than the platinum-seller and Grammy winner that is Maxwell but it’s not to say that it couldn’t happen for a song or two on a Conte release, as in honesty, I don’t see anything full-length imminent from the two, or even see Conte recruited for a Maxwell album which is a shame.

What would be of particular interest though is hearing Conte helm the rains on a full-blown soul release which he’s yet to do.  ‘Love and Revolution’ was the closest he’s come but I think there’s more gold for him to mine for, and Maxwell would be a perfect conduit and collaborator.

To further the cause however, here’s two somewhat like-minded songs from each, hopefully exemplifying where the magic in their musical union would be.  Exhibit A, ‘Do You Feel Like I Feel’ by Nicola Conte featuring Gregory Porter...

...and Exhibit B, ‘Get to Know Ya’ by Maxwell.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

[Urban Vibrations Radio] x [The Blue-in-Green Sessions]

This is crazy exciting news for us but… The Blue-in-Green Sessions has just been picked up by another radio station – Urban Vibrations Radio who broadcast from New York!

This is such an incredible thing for us to say but our new slot is 9-10pm (US time) every Tuesday evening starting from tonight so I’m beyond ecstatic to be able to spread the Blue-in-Green brand that little bit further.  While our slot on Starpoint Radio affords us the opportunity to spread our unwavering affection for like-minded soul, jazz and funk music, UVR will allow us to dabble in sounds that fraction more left-field, hopefully, resulting in a pretty decent show for anyone that tunes in.

UVR have such a diverse mix of shows and music so we’re thrilled to join the team for their current season’s broadcasting.  Check out the station online here:

Monday, 8 September 2014

New mix: "BinG Loves Jazz!"

I'm particularly happy to be able to pitch a new mix for you guys - first proper mix too.  While the 'Get to know' series goes from strength to strength, I've since been inspired to put together my very first mixtape comprising of fairly recent jazz numbers, which I'm hoping people will enjoy.

I'm really enthused about it and people that have grown tired of my voice on my previous recordings can rejoice as I don't actually say a single word in this at all :)

Jazz is as fresh and exciting a genre as you can get so if you're already a fan, hopefully this goes down well, but if you're someone that's always teetered on becoming one, hopefully this will make you a believer.

Full tracklist below, and as always, please feel free to check out the other shows available from our SoundCloud page:
(Blue in Green Sessions intro)
'Army of the Faithful' - David Murray Infinity Quartet f/t Gregory Porter
'Free Souls' - Nicola Conte f/t Bridgette Amofah
'Are You Ready Cat?' - Angeline Morrison
'Take 5' (Studio Rio Mix) - Dave Brubeck & Carmen McRae
(Interlude I: 'Cosmic Travels', Chris Dave)
(Interlude II: The Bahama Soul Club)
'Settle Down' (Diggs Duke Remix) - Kimbra
'Bon Bon Villa' - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
(Interlude III: 'Maintaining Focus', Guru)
'Everybody Loves the Sunshine' - Takuya Kuroda f/t Jose James
(Interlude IV: Christina Dahl)
'Wake the Neighbours' - Kris Bowers
(Interlude V: 'Mel + O's Vibe' - Melanie Charles & The Journey)
'Nowhere to Run' - Zbonics f/t Gregory Porter
(Interlude VI: 'I Travel Home' (IMS "Black Codes" Mashed Mix), Iyeoka)
'Our Basement' - Ambrose Akinmusire f/t Becca Stevens
(Outro, Christina Dahl)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The 80s just got more awesome...

EDIT: Just found out this is fake but what can I say... sure is funny though :)

Just stumbled onto this awesome ad on Google+ and had to share.  Firstly, to fellow 80s babies - show of hands who rocked an Atari...?!  (My hand is raised too by the way)

I'm kinda mind-blown that this was even printed and although I feel fairly horrible for thinking it's the funniest thing I've seen in a long time, I just had to post it here.  Featuring quotes that showcase the epitome of insensitivity such as:
With some system controllers, Stevie would be all thumbs. What use are numbers when you can't see? ... Even Stevie can fumble his way through a joystick.
All the best ATARI games can be enjoyed by a single player... Stevie likes to play alone, even if he has no idea what's happening... "I love the sound of fun!"
 I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself.  Bless you Stevie.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Monday Funday Post: 'Girl 2.0'

While my anticipation for Pharrell's 'Girl' album was immeasurably high, I have to confess that in complete honesty... the end result didn't really move me as I hoped it would.  I'm a humungous Pharrell and Chad fan (as other posts here prove) so ultimately, I'm thrilled for the huge resurgence in his star and popularity - it's also compounded with the amazing work he's actually done for other artists too so my current musical fantasy is for a Pharrell album with his vocals on the songs he produced for others.

Can you imagine what that version of 'Girl' would sound like?  Well, below is my fantasy playlist for 'Girl' featuring my favourites from 'Girl' as it was initially released...

(1) Brand New (f/t Justin Timberlake)

(2) Happy

(3) Know Who You Are (f/t Alicia Keys)

(4) Gust of Wind

(5) Blurred Lines
 Originally performed by Robin Thicke featuring TII imagine little needs to be said about this number - this is what made Pharrell an in-demand producer again and although he does include this song amongst his current live set-list, a studio version would be amazing.

(6) Get Lucky
Originally performed by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell on lead vocals with Nile Rodgers on guitar.  The song served as one of two vocal contributions Pharrell made to Daft Punk's 'Random Access Memories' album and catapulted Pharrell back into front-man limelight.

(7) Scream
 Originally performed by Cee Lo for a song that appears on the 'Dispicable Me 2' soundtrack.  Recent reports state that Cee Lo's camp turned down 'Happy' so I imagine they did so for this song instead.

(8) Reach Out Richard
 Originally performed by Mayer Hawthorne for his album 'Where Does This Door Go'.  I actually named this one as my song of the year last year - it serves as one of four songs Pharrell contributed to Mayer Hawthorne's album.
 (9) Wine Glass Woman
 Also originally performed by Mayer Hawthorne for his album 'Where Does This Door Go'.

(10) Love is the Answer
 Originally performed by Aloe Blacc for his album 'Lift Your Spirit'.

 (11) Can't Rely On You
 Originally performed by Paloma Faith for her album 'A Perfect Contradiction'.  Definitely an unlikely union, but that's what's great about Pharrell.  The funky guitar sounds like a James Brown riff and could have made a great addition to 'Girl 2.0' (I may need to copyright this title quick-smart!).

 (12) See That Boy Again
 Originally performed by Mary J Blige, featuring Pharrell, for the 'Think Like A Man Too' soundtrack.

(13) My Life
Originally performed by Robin Thicke for the 'Dispicable Me' soundtrack.

Friday, 29 August 2014

What I'm listening to...

'And So We Dance' - Kellylee Evans
Stumbled on to this gem online and bought the album it comes from, 'I Remember When', the next day.  Turns out this is from Evans's fourth album so I clearly have some catching up to do, but if the catalogue is anything like this, I imagine I'll have fun doing so...

'I Want You To Stay' - The New Mastersounds
Taken from the band's ninth studio album, 'Therapy' (released on Legere Recordings this year), this excellent number, featuring vocals by Kim Dawson, has been getting lots of plays on the show and is the standout song from a brilliant album.

'All The Critics Love You in New York' - 4St
How awesome is this?!  There's a bunch of songs I could have linked to from this SoundCloud page, and I'm sure I will do on separate occassions but, for now, I'll leave you with this fairly incredible version of Prince's classic 1980s number.  As I say, 4St's SoundCloud page has some amazing gems so please feel free to explore it...