…The Young Soul Rebel Rebel
Regressing like Benjamin Button to the “Golden Years” circa 1973-1974 I recall a specific memory of my pre-teenage youth at the height, birth and merge of glam rock and disco. One day my school chum Kevin “Ted” Goodchild who was naturally ginger haired walked in to our classroom and I and everybody either gasped or had been subliminally living the Tremelo’s “Silence Is Golden” experience. Kev was bravely sporting the David Bowie Aladdin Sane persona hairstyle and I’m certain Kev’s sudden popularity with the girls made him “Top Of The Pops” that day. He looked so cool like Fonzie and I admired him, because not even the older kids could touch that kind of bravado. Only last year December 2015 after I reminded him of this on his earthday via Facebook, he managed to find the photo of that momentous hair cut. Within a month his iconic “Hero” singer songwriter, musician, actor, artist and ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ millions of records, The Star man, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and “Young American” ‘blue eyed soul boy’ David Bowie, passed away two days after his 69th earthday on the 8th January 2016.
Straight Outta Brixton south London born as David Robert Jones, he would become the ultimate and iconic “Rebel Rebel” reinventing himself with the many “Changes” of popular music. David Bowie was south London’s musical rock star like Michael Caine was to the movie industry, and was quite an anomaly as an individual. With his unusual androgynous features, different coloured eye pupils and eccentric fashion attire, David was a bit of a silent ninja who appears to be shy but could be profoundly articulate and quite well spoken when challenged especially in TV interviews. He had a unique, unorthodox soulful coolness to his voice and one of his songs up there for me personally with Queens “Bohemian Rhapsody” is his “Space Oddity” themed “Life On Mars”. If you were to check Bowie roots into R&B, listen to his intelligently constructed novelty single from 1967 “The Laughing Gnome”, as it is based on that Motown back beat that has become synonymous with what is refereed to as the Northern Soul sound.
Although he had dabbled with elements of more funkier rock and soul cuts like “1984” from the 1974 “Diamond Dogs” album, it was in 1975 when David, looking for a new musical direction went to Philadelphia’s famous Sigma Studios, and records his soul surviving album “Young American” that cements him in R&B musical history. Reputedly regarded by Bowie as his ‘plastic soul’ album it hosted the talents of percussionists, the late Ralph McDonald and Larry Washington, saxophonist David Sanborn, bassist Willy Weeks’s, backing vocalist Ava Cherry and an in demand velvet voiced Luther Vandross. The title track “Young American” showcases the harmonious tones of a young Luther, who co wrote Bowie’s funkiest soul track “Fascination”. “Fascination” was covered in 1977 by Fat Larry’s Band, and Luther Vandross revised the lyrics and recorded his own incredible version called “Funky Music” on his debut Luther album in Cotillion 1975.
What created history is David Bowie being one of the first British caucasian artists, second to Elton John to appear on Don Cornilious’s “Soul Train” TV soul show. On Nov 4th 1975 he appeared performing to a black audience, renditioning his funky penned “Fame” with the late John Lennon. The then dubbed super heavy minister of funk James Brown was influenced by the track simulating blatantly elements for “Hot (I Wanna Be Loved)”. I guess now both James and David can have a spiritual copyright and royalties discussion whilst they are they “Breakin’ Bread” like Fred Wesley & The New JB’s, around the creator’s dinner table. I personally loved Bowie’s ‘blue eyed soul’ era when he continued later with “Stay” and “Sound And Vision” his fusion of moog funk and pre sub bass menagerie of the “Golden Years”. “Golden Years” would later be covered by a Luther Vandross affiliated outfit Mascara in 1979 and by Loose Ends in 1985. When both Chic’s Nile Rodgers and David Bowie were looking to resurrect their careers, they providentially collaborated on Bowie’s “Lets Dance” album, the title track reminding me of Saturday nights dancing amongst electro and Nu Romantic appreciators at the old Camden Palace Camden circa 1983.
14 years later the late Notorious BIG and Puff Daddy would use that sample for Biggy’s “Been Around The World”. No stranger to being sampled in hip-hop Public Enemy and Jay Z sought his catalogue as well as Vanilla Ice for “Ice Ice Baby” utilising David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure”. Bowies “Black Tie, White Noise” feature Al B sure as a response to the LA Riots in 1993 filmed with powerful video. Despite some alleged earlier association with fascism in the mid 1970’s when he was going through a turbulent rehabilitation period for which he since apologised for, Bowie seemed to have quite an affinity with black music from a very early age. In a 1983 interview with MTV, Bowie flipped the script and raised the issue of the lack of black music video’s on the predominantly rock TV channel. The interviewer was clearly unprepared for Bowie’s intrusive questions and was left feeling suitably uncomfortable answering David’s questions. David later married black world famous super model Iman with whom he had a child, Alexandria Lexi Jones. Bowie’s previous wife was model Angie Bowie, and they had a son filmmaker Duncan Jones previously known as Zowie Bowie.
So now we hear the cry for ground control to Major Tom for the expected return to “Space Oddity” from “The Man Who Fell To Earth”. Bowie was part of the soundtrack to my life. I liked much of his music but not all of it. He certainly had a distinctive style like his song “Fashion”, that is similar to fellow universally known entertainers, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince that made him instantly recognisable on a track. I like many other music lovers recognise the artistry of David Bowie and was taken aback at the announcement of his passing. The gathering in Brixton singing the funky soul folk pop classic “Star-man” says it all. It seems poignant and scarily prophetic that his 1980 classic title “Ashes To Ashes” is somewhat relevant now. But it’s mentioned in a universal and positive way of spiritual spreading his musical ashes to all who loved him. Rock the mic In Paradise (RIP) David Robert Jones universally known as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane aka David Bowie.
Cover image by Fitzroy Facey
Nicholas Caldwell was born April 5th 1994 in San Francisco. He was a co founder member of Solar Records most successful and consistent male vocal group The Whispers, who originally formed as a vocal quintet before a name change in 1964. Nicholas was a harmonising baritone singer of the group and also the main choreographer. His first performance was for Sly Stone then a Dj in San Francisco and despite passing the audition he declined to join The Temptations. Nicholas penned and arranged quite a few of the groups songs including “Lady”, “Small Talkin’“, “For Romancin’”, “Chocolate Girl”, “Say You (Would Love For Me Too)” and “Give It To Me” as well as for other acts and artist. He wrote, produced and arranged for Collage’s “Do You Like Our Music? / “Get In Touch With Me” albums and Leroy Hutson’s “Nice And Easy”. Nick survived a triple by pass in 2000 but unfortunately passed 5th January 2016. RIP Nicholas Caldwell
Natalie Cole (6th Feb 1950 – 31st December 2016) “Sophisticated Lady”
When you are born into musical royally with a father like the charismatic black crooner Nat King Cole and Mary Hawkins who sang as a jazz singer with Duke Ellington and Count Basie, it would be slightly “Unpredictable” to assume with those genes that Natalie would be anything else other than a gifted singer. Born an Aquarian on the 6th February 1950 Natalie performed as young as 6 years old on her fathers Christmas album and later began performing aged 11 Natalie worked various club circuits performing classic soul and rock standards.She eventually met in 1973, producers Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, the latter whom she later married. Her debut album “Inseparable” was recorded in Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom studios in Chicago and landed her a deal with her late fathers label Capitol. The albums major hit and universally recognised anthem “This Will Be” was a swing beat jazz soul arrangement that would pre date by two years, later similar productions of Lenny Williams’s “Shoo Doo Fufu Ooh” and Paulette Reeves “Jazz Freak”. That vocal performance gained her a top ten hit and a Grammy as the best newcomer. Natalie was being likened to the “Queen Of Soul” Aretha Franklin who actually revealed that she was offered a selection of songs including “This Will Be” and “I Can’t Say No” but only decided to record “You”. Natalie recorded “You” on her debut so at a guess the similarities have some merit. Natalie’s second album “Natalie” from 1976 featured the funktastic favourite of mine “Sophisticated Lady”, but it’s probably her third “Thankful” album that resonates quite highly and was especially sort after here in the UK in the mid 1980’s. Apart from the beautiful and atmospheric “La Costa” featuring Linda Williams of “Elevate Our Mind“ fame on piano, also covered by Ahmed Jamal on his “Jamalca” album, it was the social school of hard knocks message in “Annie Mae” that showcased Natalie as a vocal goddess. Her 1977 “Unpredictable” album’s “I Can’t Break Away” was sampled brilliantly by Sunshine Anderson’s early 2000 RNB classic “Heard It All Before”. Natalie had her own TV special and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame by the time we get to 1979. Natalie worked on duet projects with Peabo Bryson and Johnny Mathis in the early 1980’s but also had to deal with some personal challenges that threatened her career. Still recording albums Natalie bounced back with a pop dance cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac”, which helped her 1987 “Everlasting” album sell one million records. Natalie also has acting credits to her name appearing in “I’ll Fly Away” “Touched By An Angel” and “Law & Order Special Victim’s Unit”. Natalie also made several appearances in feature films, Cole Porter biopic “De Lovely”, several made for TV movies, most notably as the lead in “Lily In Winter” .In 2001 she starred as herself in “Livin’ For Love The Natalie Cole Story” and received the NAACP image Award for outstanding actress in a Television Movie Mini Series or Dramatic Special. In 2008 Natalie made an album “Still Unforgettable” performing with technology “Walking My Baby Back Home” with her late father and she’s also done a version with her father of his classic “When I Fall In Love”. I managed to see Natalie two years ago live at Blue Fest at the Royal Albert Hall for the first time. The image projected of her father Nat King on a huge screen so they could duet was somewhat surreal and enchanting to watch in real time. She opened with “Annie Mae” to my delight a song that a dear friend of mine Michele Hutchins loved so much she named her daughter after that song. Natalie also sung “La Costa” and naturally “This Will Be” also covered by lovers rock artist, Jean Adebamo so I’ve been blessed to see her. Born and Aquarian and her passover was during the Richard Evans “Capricorn Rising” period sadly on 31st December 2015. She’d have been 67 on the 6th February but will always be remembered as the “Sophisticated Lady”. We’ll be eternally “Thankful” for your music RIP with ya late great father Nat King.. Natalie Cole!!
Cover artwork by Fitzroy Facey
Fitzroy Facey formerly “Da Buzzboy” a true “soul survivor” like many from his generation, danced as a teenager on the West End club circuit and progressed to becoming a DJ, Remixer, Producer, Compiler, Songwriter, radio and media Presenter with nearly 30 years experience behind him. With all these aptitudes Fitzroy has been able to reach audiences UK and beyond with his unique and eclectic mix of various black music fruit genres that have been spawned from the jazz funk and soul roots.
Fitzroy carved himself a niche working with live acts mainly at the Mean Fiddler’s Jazz Café since 1991, establishing a repertoire that has supported an eclectic whose who’s list of world famous Black music artist’s from the 70’s including Gil Scott Heron, Roy Ayers, Bobby Byrd, Gwen McCrea, Rose Royce, The Crusaders and War to 90’s acts Digable Planets, The Pharcyde, Omar, Incognito, Carleen Anderson, Courtney Pine, Ereka Badu, Jill Scott, London Gospel Community Choir, Sounds Of Blackness, De La Soul, Naughty By Nature to present day performers Raphael Saadiq, Bilal, Rahsaan Patterson, Brian McKnight, Floetry, Gerald Levert (R.I.P), Conya Doss, Eric Roberson, Angie Stone, Leela James Dwele, Mint Condition and Pete Rock.
His resume within other spheres of the entertainment and media industry includes the 2000 MOBO Awards After Party and several guest radio shows on Solar, Kiss FM, GLR and Choice FM. The BBC1 Tribute to Muhammad Ali in 1998 credited Fitzroy for his musical contribution to this highly successful documentary. He also appeared in BBC 2’s “Dance Energy’s” “James Brown Special” and ITV’s “Club A Vision”. In recent years Fitzroy has DJ’d at the Indigo2 for the late Teena Marie, Cameo, UB40’s lead vocalist, Ali Cambell, Angie Stone and Steve Arrington.
8th – 10th January 2016, Hilton Hotel, Blackpool
There are usually only two reasons to rush out and thrust yourself into the bitter cold winter weather this time of year. Huge applause to Richard Sealing, Ralph Tee and the undercover brutha’s who make the weekender work. So in brief here’s my John Craven News Round highlights of another enjoyable weekend. Vivy B’s 10-11pm Friday night Lounge slot was well received especially when she threw Leon Timba’s “You’re My Darling” into her mix, so well done that girl. Loved the Saturday afternoon Noleen & Crossley “Salsa Boogie” Strictly Come Modern Romance “Everybody Salsa” Dancing session with Clinton Cambridge and Hughie with such energy!! Straight after 2-6pm from the Lorraine Chase manor of Lute (Luton) Airport, Perry Louie took an “Endless Flight” for an hour as a special guest for the Freestyle crew at the infamous 4-hour jazz session. Many including myself were cutting shapes to yesteryear classics like Yellow Jackets “The Hornet” and Judy Roberts “The Other World”. Perry had me shiftless shuffling to Ramsey Lewis’s “Slick” like I was back at the Lyceum Alldayers circa 1981. Later the well dressed to impress night owls came out in full force with excitement to see Kashif live on stage. Kashif went through some of his vast catalogue. He opened with “Gotta Have You”, “Stoned Love” and the Slave tinged “Help Yourself To My Love”. Tracy Hamlin and Hazel took turns in lead vocals with “I’m In Love” and “Love Come Down”. Loved Tracy Hamlin’s powerful glass shattering and make a grown man cry rendition of Whitney’s love ballad “You Give Good Love”. Kashif encouraged a Soul Train dance on stage to his former BT Express’s groups “Do It Till Your Satisfied” and covered his own-penned Howard Johnson classic “So Fine”. Thanks for those who had kind words to say about my four sets, in particular the Thelma Houston “Saturday Night Sunday Morning” 3 -4.30am set. For me the most inspirational set of the weekend was from my west London Zhane “Hey Mr DJ” Norman Halley. His first 45 minutes following me straight after 4.30-6am was an uplifting up-tempo boogie fest full of Maysa’s “The Bottle “, Sunlightsquare’s “All Around The World” Ron Hall’s Philly mixed “The Way You Love Me” and Teddy P’s sublime “Badluck”. On the Chaka “Any Old Sunday” session Bigger certainly had that Lounge room “Groovin” on a Janet Lawson “Sunday Afternoon”, with his trademark familiar and a few surprises set. Later in the evening session Ralph Tee dropped a mixture of musical bombs including Sara Devine “Take Me Home” Big Bubba “I Like Your Style” and an edit of Jean Carne’s “Lucky Stars” that made me and Jon Jules rush the decks. Nice to see fellow soul survivors from the corners and crevices of the UK come together and celebrate life in the dance lane. “Good Times” like Chic.
19th December 2015, Indigo 2 Greenwich, London
This was a long awaited gig featuring two powerhouse 1970’s and 80 powerful vocal bold soul sisters. Cheryl Lynn after 20 year hiatus to the UK and doing her first historical gig as the headline act, doubled up with Evelyn Champagne King and support act Chanel with the intent to “Shake It Up” and “Get Loose” with some retro classics. It was very busy and I was on call with Victor Anderson to warm the audience before a demure Chanel performed eloquently “My Life” and a couple of her repertoire with strong conviction. Evelyn who is no stranger to The UK or Indig0 in recent years strutted her stuff and belting out with a smile her catalogue of hits including “Shame”, “I’m In Love”, “Love Come Down”, “Betcha She Don’t Love You and to my delight “I Don’t Know If It’s Right”. Cheryl Lynn opened with a melody of “ Sweet Kind Of Life” from “Sharks Tale” and was feeling the groove with some quirky shoulder moves on stage. Naturally she sang “ Got To Be Real”, “Shake It Up” and “Encore” her massive hits. Cheryl’s voice is stlll very powerful and it was good to hear her live for the first time. Calvin Francis Stretch Taylor, Scott James and Peter P spun the jazz funk and soul classic till 2am. Hats off to Orlando and Scott James who were both serenaded by the ladies on stage, it was a nice start to the festive season!!
28th November 2015, Under The Bridge, Chelsea
Adrain Gibson asked me to play for The Blackbyrds once again like he did back in the late 90’s when we worked together at The Jazz Cafe. With original members Keith Killgoe on drums, Orville Saunders lead guitar, Allan C Barnes sax and flute and Joe Hall on bass it could only be one conclusion. 100% pure “Do It Fluid”. Another packed night of old school jazz funk and soul die hards witness musical splendour as the band performed some Donald Byrd classics “Think Twice” (sounded so glorious), “Dominoes” and “Blackbyrd” alongside some of their own musical brilliance. They touched “Walking In Rhythm”, “Happy Music”, an unbelievable version of “Do It Fluid” and a 10-minute version of “Rock Creek Park”. The keyboard replacement for the original Kevin Toney was on par and their new lead vocalist fits in nicely in this current line up. Absolutely one of my fave gigs with huge soul surviving love and thanks to those kind words who came from those who stayed for the after performance session and didn’t want to leave before the 11.30pm curfew.
29th November 2015, KOKO Camden
I’ve seen packed events at this venue since I used to frequent it in 1983 when it was known as Camden Palace both as a paying punter and as a working DJ. However I’d never seen it packed to the rafters on a Sunday with all 5 or 6 tiers to capacity. The Tower Of Power ensemble with original members Emillio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka fronted vocally by the truly incredible vocals of Ray Greene were breathtakingly amazing. The mixed aged audience knew every single word to each song and totally showed their appreciation for probably the funkiest band still performing from the San Francisco Bay Area. I was happy because although he’s not Lenny Williams, Ray Greene who actually plays as part of the horn section also, sang my favourite “So Very Hard To Go”. As musicians TOP were faultless and synchronised more than a Timex watch. I really was impressed what I saw and was fortunate to represent with some old school funk and break beats that seemed to be appreciated. Next time they are here you must catch them.
20th – 21st November 2015, Jazz Cafe
Returning to my long-standing residency of 24 years at Jazz Cafe is always a joy especially when for the umpteenth time I work with “Soul Don Of South London” Omar. Packed both nights Omar changed up his set and showcased a wide variation of his long and almost 30-year career. “Feeling You”, “It’s So” “Fuck War, Make Love” and “When We Touch” were flung into the mix to an always appreciative dedicated fan based crowd. With his faithfuls Lex on keyboards, Chris Balling on vocals, Omar includes “This Is Not A Love Song”, “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got” and introduced on alternative nights Don E singing on “Be Thankful” and Kele Le Roc on their funky duet “Come On”. Naturally he does “There’s Nothing Like This” and always includes a bit of his cheeky chappy sense of humour. Good to see some old faces from my past like Sharon Stanley and Lisa Missah Warden (massive Omar fan).
15th November 2015, London.
Gwen Dickey: Nothing “dicky” about Gwen – she delivered all our favourites from a wheelchair!
Meli’sa Morgan: Mis”s”ed her set? Then you really are “… living in a Fool’s Paradise …” – silver (her dress code) but with liquid gold oozing from her mouth!
Soul II Soul: “The Meaning of Life”? No need for a Thesaurus for this group as the lesson came across loud and clear!
Loose Ends: Nothing loose about their ends … neatly packaged and everything tucked in nicely!!
The S.O.S Band: Rescue needed for this group? Their set had us on dry land and viewing an oasis of sheer delight!
The Whispers: The decibels were off the Richter scale when they performed – no whispering here as their thunderous set put paid to that!
Patti LaBelle: Sassy, soulful, VERY LOUD and, most definitely, blew away the youngsters before her! 71 years of age but, without a doubt, one of THE greatest and powerful voices of any woman (or man!) I know!!
For those who missed this experience, all I can say is that you would have been brought back in time – a time when life really was all it should have been … happy, soulful and absolutely AMAZING!!Luciana Moschetti