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Simon "The Pieman" (Home)

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Searching for Soul
Searching for Soul
by Reg Stickings
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeps on burning!, 26 July 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Searching for Soul (Paperback)
If you are looking for a definitive history of the Northern soul scene I could recommend some excellent, well-researched and nicely-packaged books by the likes of David Nowell, Mike Wilson and Stuart Russell or - more recently - Neil Rushton. Most of them, however, do tend to treat Northern soul as a standalone movement - slightly frozen in time, constrained by geography and more-or-less book-ended by the opening of the Twisted Wheel in Manchester and the closing down of Wigan Casino.

But Reg Sticking's story is not like that. Instead it recounts - in first person - the story of a Hemel Hempstead lad who discovered soul music at his local youth club in the late 1960s and the life long journey this discovery sent him on.

From Bennetts End Youth Club to the Cali in Dunstable, to Wigan Casino, Cleethorpes Pier, the Blackpool Mecca, to the Top Rank in Watford, the Goldmine in Canvey Island and numerous Caister Soul Weekends. Reg's sharp memory brings all these legendary old venues to life - the sounds, the smells, the atmosphere. It is also a tale of Blues & Soul magazine, back street record shops, Kingsway loafers, Levi jackets, Fred Perrys, white socks and tonik suits, Oxford bags and soul club patches. At centre stage is Reg's beloved archive of imported US vinyl, the records that soundtracked his journey, from Edwin Starr to the Salsoul Orchestra to the Sunburst Band.

But perhaps most importantly of all, it is the story of the characters, of the laughter and tears, the fun and camaraderie - the lifelong friends (the 'soulies') that Reg made along the way and their passionate dedication to great music which - despite recent reports to the contrary - is still burning just as strongly in the 21st Century!


Miles Away
Miles Away
Price: £11.29

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Electric jazz, 13 Mar. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Miles Away (Audio CD)
Pretty much a straight jazz album from Madlib - and quite possibly the best thing he has ever done.

As the title (of both the album and Madlib's 'band') suggest, "Miles Away" seems to be influenced by Miles Davis' post-Bop late '60s/early '70s "Electric" period. That said, it is definitely not "Bitches Brew", but rather a kaleidoscope of rhythms, sounds and textures reminiscent of artists such as Larry Young, Roy Ayers, Harry Whittaker ("Black Renaissance" - oh my word) and Pharoah Sanders from the same period. Maybe it's my imagination but I can also hear the spirit of Can's "Tago Mago" bouncing around in there too (check the Larry Young track).

Remarkably, as with his other excursions into jazz (e.g. as Yesterday's New Quintet) in reality there is no such band as The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble. Madlib is not just a Hip-Hop DJ and producer, he is also a talented multi-instrumentalist. These sounds are not samples of other people's music - all of it is created by one man in a studio with a bunch of instruments.

However, the really clever and original bit about "Miles Away" is that unlike "Bitches Brew", "Big Fun" or "On The Corner" (or even "Tago Mago") you won't find yourself having to sit through hours of experimental, improvised sound to experience their fleeting splashes of psychedelic pop genius. Applying his Hip-Hop principles, Madlib has stripped away the indulgent and impenetrable bits and spliced together all the peak elements - those rhythms, stabs and riffs, the bits which work for a hungry pop fan like myself - and created ten short tracks that deliver that radical Electric jazz sound without ever once disappearing down a musical cul-de-sac. For somebody who loves the idea behind "In A Silent Way" and "Dark Magus" but is usually far too impatient to listen to them in one sitting, this is a very beautiful thing. The result is joyful and infectious in a way that jazz rarely (or probably never) is. As if to underline the broader appeal this record may have, I was alerted to it after reading a gushing review by Paul Morley (Paul Morley!!) in The Observer.

Oh and, just as with some of Mile's '70s work, the cover art - the whole package in fact - is fantastic too!
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2011 8:47 PM GMT


The Cleethorpes Story
The Cleethorpes Story
Offered by JB's CDs DVDs
Price: £57.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality and diversity, 31 July 2009
This review is from: The Cleethorpes Story (Audio CD)
Conventional wisdom has it that, in the late 1970s, the Blackpool Mecca was the exclusive home of the 'progressive' end of Northern soul. However, if you believe that it was Wigan Casino-style Sixties stompers everywhere east of the Golden Mile, then Goldmine's superb 'Cleethorpes' retrospective might come as a shock.

Cleethorpes' "Talk of the North" all-nighters began in February 1975, housed in the town's Pier ballroom. They ran every fortnight for thirteen legendary months and proved so popular that the promoter, Mary Chapman, ended up having to hire the local Winter Gardens to house the over-spilling crowds of ecstatic soul fans and spinning dancers.

One factor in this success must have been the all-embracing music policy. Chapman's DJs would play any shade of Black American-style dance music as long as it was rare, soulful and good quality - and kept the soul boys and girls dancing all night! Thankfully, the magical quality and diversity of the 'Cleethorpes' sound' is reflected in this collection, chosen by Mary 'the Queen of Northern Soul' Chapman herself.

So, what we have here is a 25-track journey from traditional sixties soul through funk to disco and beyond. Typical of the variety on offer is the raw, spaced out funk of "Your Autumn of Tomorrow" by The Crow and "I'm Your Pimp" by the Skull Snaps, the pure modern soul sound of Spooky & Sues' "I've Got The Need" and the proto-Balearic house style (yes, honestly!) of Silvetti's "Spring Rain" with its piano hooks and thumping rhythm. The amazing thing is that, despite all of this eclecticism, the music never sounds anything less than perfectly 'right-on' for the Northern soul scene.

There are no real low points on this album and the proper killer tracks (such as Danny Hunt's Wonder-ful "What's Happening To This Love Affair" and "Girl You Better Wake Up" by Liberty) make it doubly worth seeking out. Unfortunately, both the CD and vinyl editions are now out of print so it has become reasonably collectible and, unless or until Goldmine reissue the album, paying a little extra for a second hand copy is the only option.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2010 12:11 AM BST


FROM JAZZ FUNK & FUSION TO ACID JAZZ: THE HISTORY OF THE UK JAZZ DANCE SCENE
FROM JAZZ FUNK & FUSION TO ACID JAZZ: THE HISTORY OF THE UK JAZZ DANCE SCENE
by Snowboy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.95

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expand your mind!, 28 Jun. 2009
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It often feels as if the story of the long love affair between the culture and music of black America and British youth, which stretches back from the 1950s up to today, has been overlooked. There are a few books out there about the Northern soul and House Music movements but not much else.

In particular, the underground jazz funk/jazz dance scenes are criminally unrecognised in the mainstream version of British popular music history. Thankfully, Mark 'Snowboy' Cotgrove, a leading DJ and musician on the scene, has made amends with a superb history of this musical movement.

The book is not an exhaustive history of jazz funk and fusion but is about how this music was consumed and enjoyed by British youth. The story begins at the tail-end of the Northern soul scene and spans legendary clubs such as the Goldmine and Lacy Lady in Essex (which became almost as popular as Wigan Casino in the late 1970s), through such notable venues as the Berlin club in Manchester, The Wag, Electric Ballroom and Dingwalls in London and the Thekla in Bristol. It also encompasses the emergence of the Acid Jazz movement in London (and the music label of the same name) and how influence of this essentially British culture spread internationally to Europe, America and Japan. Snowboy's work has also managed to show how this entire story crosses back and forth over into other contemporary UK music scenes such as Northern soul, the Mod revival, New Romanticism, Brit Funk, The Hacienda/Factory Records, House music and Electro/Hip Hop, and may potentially appeal to anyone with more than a passing interest in them.

The book is divided into two halves. The first is in effect a long essay which tells the overall story chronologically and is based on a series of interviews with DJs, dancers and musicians involved. In the second half, the interviews are printed in full. Interviewees include luminaries such as Neil Rushton, Chris Hill, George Power, Colin Curtis, Hewan Clarke, Paul Murphy, Pete Tong, Gilles Peterson, Nicky Holloway and Eddie Piller. Also included are images of the people and venues involved and, for added historical significance, reprinted flyers for such legendary jazz sessions as 'Crackers', 'Cock Happy', 'Special Branch', 'Talkin Loud' at Dingwalls and the Brighton Jazz Bops. The book is beautifully packaged but, unfortunately, all of the images are in black and white. With fairly limited availability, I would tip this book to become a serious collector's item in the future.


Ian Levine Presents - Reaching For The Best
Ian Levine Presents - Reaching For The Best
Offered by trec002
Price: £34.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Northern Soul history lesson..., 24 Mar. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
...but just in case you didn't come looking for a history lesson, this double CD is just a bunch of great, soulful, black American dance music from the `60s and `70s, colloquially known as `Northern soul' - and you don't need to read any further!

However, more interestingly, it is probably the best primer available on what was known to many on the Northern soul scene as `the Blackpool sound'.

Even in it's heyday in the 1970s, Northern soul was mainly a revivalist movement based around the fast-paced soul sound of a decade earlier. However, things were a little different at the at the Highland Room soul nights at the Blackpool Mecca, which ran from 1971 to 1979. Controversially, resident DJs Ian Levine and Colin Curtis started to program some of the more sophisticated sounds that were coming out of the US at the time into their playlist - Philly soul, disco, even jazz funk - anything as long as it had that particular combination of driving beat and soulful vocals. Their attempt at following the lead of the studios of New York, Philadelphia and Detroit created a schism that split the scene into two camps - those who wholeheartedly accepted the new sound and those who resisted any change.

Fittingly, the catalyst for this change in direction is actually track 1 on CD1 of this collection - the extraordinary "It Really Hurts Me Girl" by The Carstairs. It's a peculiar combination of a frantic, shuffling disco rhythm with some deeply soulful vocals - and it was an instant hit with the Mecca dancers. Even today, it still defines the `modern sound with a Northern soul feel' that the Mecca DJs were striving for and is, in my opinion, probably the greatest record ever played on the Northern soul scene.

Even so, after setting the bar impossibly high at the outset, this collection actually contains at least a dozen more truly great (and sought-after) Blackpool classics from the likes of the Voices of East Harlem, Dianne Jenkins, Pat Lundy, The Montclairs and The Moments. Elsewhere, there are a few Blackpool `60s old-schoolers to satisfy the Wiganites out there - notably including Tony Clarke's "Landslide" - and some of the more soulful and mid-tempo numbers which rocked the Mecca dance floor. There are even a handful of Ian Levine's own productions that found their way on to the play list. Whilst these are of varying quality, James Well's "Baby I'm Still The Same Man" is a bonified, hand-clappin', foot stompin' Blackpool Mecca classic.

CD1 is the undoubtedly the strongest of the two discs but, overall, this is a great collection that very much represents how the Blackpool sound developed in those dizzy years between 1971 and 1979.


Slim's Return
Slim's Return

5.0 out of 5 stars Mad Hip Hop/Jazz mash-up, 13 Jan. 2009
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This review is from: Slim's Return (MP3 Download)
Some additional material recorded at the same sessions as Madlib's "Shades Of Blue" album - the one in which he was given license to do his thing with the entire Blue Note back catalogue. The result of that was an infectious and organic-sounding jazz meets hip-hop mash-up with the cream of '60s and '70s American jazz colliding with Madlib's reliably jaw-dropping beats. These four tracks (three of them just a touch over three minutes long - ignore Amazon's timings) were originally only released as a bonus 12" single.

Track 1, "Slim's Return" is classic, moody Blue Note - slow and dubby, with killer vibes/piano and double bass riff. For the re-rub of Donald Byrd's "Stepping Into Tommorow", the beat is stripped down to a simple 808 shuffle with that gigantically fat Mizell bassline brought to the front and mixed up with the mad organ solo and studio chants. Pure genius! Track 3 starts as a heavy hip-hop jam and morphs into a raw re-interpretation of the Horace Silver tune "Dimples", featuring more stripped down beats and chiming electric piano. "Young Warrior", the final and longest track, is pure soul-jazz plus beats, starting slow and funky and then heading off at warp speed into a crazy fusion jam.

When it comes to popular music, I 'spose the word genius is over-used but what Madlib does in the studio with a bunch of samples and a few musicians is a wondrous, genuinely creative thing. Not only has he managed to breathe new life in to some of these dusty old jazz classics but also into the whole hip hop'n'jazz genre as well.


aerolatte Milk Frother with Stand, Stainless Steel
aerolatte Milk Frother with Stand, Stainless Steel
Offered by Cutting Edge Retail
Price: £15.81

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect frothy coffee without unneccessary expense !, 26 Dec. 2008
I wouldn't normally review this type of item but I can't resist recommending this excellent gadget to the world at large. Nigella is quite correct, the Aerolatte produces damn near-perfect frothy coffee and proves that those expensive machines are an unnecessary expense!

Here's what you do: 1/3rd fill a mug with milk, nuke it for about half a minute or so in the microwave. Meanwhile, make up a cup of black coffee in your preferred manner. Take the warm milk out of the microwave, Aerolatte-it for 20 seconds and pour the coffee over the milk straight into the mug - et voila, un creme parfait (as they might say in France)!

Highly recommended!!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2012 5:47 PM GMT


Gears
Gears
Price: £19.15

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sky high Mizell magic, 23 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Gears (Audio CD)
A timeless and spellbinding album from 1975, written and produced by the legendary Larry & Fonce Mizell and starring jazz keyboardist Johnny Hammond.

"Gears" blends the trademark Mizell sound - that kind of multi-layered, yin/yang balance of soaring, string-laden, spaced-out disco music floating high over complex, funky rhythms - with Hammond's driving, jazzy piano and B3 organ.

Literally every track is great but "Fantasy" is sailing so close to absolute musical perfection that it shines out like a beacon. It opens with a funky drum beat, followed by a chunky bass riff and then staccato stabs of guitar. This is then rapidly augmented by a cascade of light, circular rhythm guitar and piano. As the pace quickens, waves of solo instruments appear in the mix - notably the flute and a strange bluesy violin sound. Towards the end, Hammond exchanges piano for the B3 organ and rides the rhythm to its close. I first heard this song about 20 years ago - I was stunned by it then and it has never lost its potency.

Whilst I have singled out "Fantasy" as the star of the show, I feel almost equally passionate about "Los Conquistadores Chocolates". Featuring Hammond on the B3 again, it has a similar spacey (europhic?) mood but with a faster tempo and is probably even more spaced-out. It is so full of lightness and free space that, for me, it always evokes the sensation of flying. (However, the strange minute-and-a-half long introduction before the rhythm kicks in was a mistake in my book!)

"Shifting Gears" is much funkier. Of Bobbi Humphrey's "Blacks & Blues" (another different but equally brilliant Mizell production), one Amazon reviewer described the sound as "pimpish" and this song also fits that bill, brimming as it is with potent hip hop breakbeats and blaxpolitation-like cinematic imagery. You can probably deduce from the title what happens during the song and there are indeed several `gear' or tempo changes, suggesting the sensations aroused by controlling the speed of a fast car. I also love Fonce Mizells's funky clavinet that kicks in about half way. "Tell Me What to Do" has a similar sound but this time with a jerky, stop-start rhythm and some gorgeous, soaring trombone.

The other two tracks, "Can't We Smile" and "Lost on 23rd Street" are a much slower tempo, almost ballads and quite reminiscent of those big, funky orchestral songs by Love Unlimited. I prefer the four up-tempo numbers but, such is the genius of the production team, these two are far from being album fillers.

This is a shockingly great album.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2010 7:06 PM GMT


Gears/Forever Taurus
Gears/Forever Taurus
Price: £14.19

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mizell brothers at their most Sky High, 21 Sept. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gears/Forever Taurus (Audio CD)
Great value this. Two LPs on one CD, teaming up Johnny Hammond's Larry & Fonce Mizell-produced "Gears" from 1975 with his subsequent "Forever Taurus" album produced by Wade & Ralph Marcus.

The Mizell brothers wrote and produced a string of ground breaking LPs in the early 1970s that took the kind of multi-layered orchestral soul music typified by Isaac Hayes and Barry White, fused it with a jazz sensibility and raised it to a completely new level. I've found that you can't go far wrong with any of their work from this period but along with "Places and Spaces" by trumpeter Donald Byrd (also from 1975), "Gears" probably saw the Mizells at their creative zenith. The music is full of lightness and free space and, for me, always evokes the sensation of flying - as alluded to in the name of their production company, Sky High Productions Inc. Lost and buried in the era of Philly soul, disco, glam pop and prog rock, this was the left-field, avant-garde dance music of its day. There is still a small but dedicated band of enthusiasts out there but the music has oddly never received the critical acclaim it deserves.

"Gears" blends the trademark Mizell sound - a yin/yang balance of spaced-out disco music soaring high over complex, funky rhythms - with Hammond's driving piano and B3 organ. Singling out an individual track is difficult because they are all great but "Fantasy" is sailing so close to absolute musical perfection that it just does stand out. It opens with a chunky bass riff and stabs of rhythm guitar, rapidly augmented by Hammond's driving piano. As the pace quickens, waves of solo instruments appear in the mix - notably the flute and a strange bluesy violin sound. Towards the end, Hammond exchanges piano for the B3 organ and rides the rhythm to its close. I first heard this song about twenty years ago - I was stunned by it then and it has never lost its potency.

Whilst I have singled out "Fantasy" as the star of the show, many people feel equally passionate about "Los Conquistadores Chocolates". It has a similar spacey (europhic?) mood but with a faster tempo and is probably even more spaced-out. However, the strange minute long introduction before the rhythm kicks in was a mistake in my book!
"Shifting Gears" is much funkier. Of Bobbi Humphrey's "Blacks & Blues" (another almost flawless Mizell production), one Amazon reviewer described the sound as "pimpish" and this song also fits that bill, brimming as it is with potent hip hop breakbeats. You can probably deduce from the title what happens during the song and there are indeed several `gear' or tempo changes, suggesting the sensations aroused by controlling the speed of a fast car. "Tell Me What to Do" has a similar sound but this time with a jerky, stop-start rhythm. Again, both songs have the same, spaced-out Sky High feel.

"Gears" is such a great album that "Forever Taurus" inevitably suffers in comparison. It lacks the same peerless consistency and often veers into the fatal `cheesiness' that nails so many otherwise potentially great jazz-funk records. Despite this criticism, there are some superb tracks, particularly the heavily Mizell-influenced "Cosmic Voyage". And seeing as you can pick up this CD for the same price as "Gears" on its own, you can't really argue can you?


Essential Blue
Essential Blue
Price: £43.69

4.0 out of 5 stars Silver n' niiiice, 10 Aug. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Essential Blue (Audio CD)
A compilation of the extremely prolific cult jazz pianist Horace Silver's classic recordings for the Blue Note label, as chosen by DJ Jazztronik.

This collection, a Blue Note Japan release, is pure, out and out jazz with absolutely no concessions to the soul or funk fraternity. I bought it for the mind-blowing "African Ascension Pt.1: The Gods Of Yoruba" (from the long-ago deleted and very hard to obtain Blue Note LP "Silver 'N Percussion"), which I first heard being played by Gilles Peterson on his Worldwide radio show. Getting hold of that particular track was worth the price to me alone - I love Mister Silver's driving piano and the chanting vocals - but, as I discovered after a few plays, there is more to the album than that.

For instance, "The Sophisticated Hippie" is nearly as compelling as "The Gods of Yoruba", and the chiming, latin-esque version of the much covered "I've Had A Little Talk" (with Horace on the electric piano) is a proper slice of groovy jazz heaven. On the mellower side, the gentle vibes laden "Kathy" is an absolutely beautiful piece of music. In fact, one of my guiltiest pleasures is to slip the album on in the car and listen all the way through,a very niiiiice feeling.

A great collection - and one that leaves me eager to check out more of Horace Silver's rather extensive back catalogue.


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