Archives for posts with tag: Michael Kiwanuka

Feature: 2012 in Review – New, New to Me, and those we lost

Reflecting on my musical discoveries in 2012, there were many but the theme that emerges is squarely in the 1970’s. That decade pre-dated my musical awareness, which only sprung in the Eighties. But thanks to great DJs and musical curators like Gilles Peterson (@gillespeterson), Jason Palma (@jasonpalma), Kon (@Kon1200), and Huggs (@huggs), I rediscovered an amazing slice of musical magic from the 70’s.

So here are my favourite finds, some new releases, and a reminder of some of the musical greats we lost this year:

New Releases:

New to Me: Re-discovered

  • Leon Ware – An impressive body of work from the 70s that blends soulful vocals, jazz-influenced arrangements, and a dose of disco. The track, “What’s Your Name,” in particular, kills.
  • Ahmad Jamal – Calming, patient jazz that I overlooked in my younger years
  • The Philly Sound – Velvety
  • Donald Byrd – My 70s music hero and a mentor to the Mizzell Brothers, my other 70s heros. Not mention Harvey Mason, a spectacular jazz drummer. Mason’s beats on “Flight time” drive that track more than any other instrument in the arrangement. Not a lot of drummers can do that.
  • D-Train – Groovy synth funk from the early eighties; Credit the keyboard genius of Hubert Eaves III. “Keep on” is simply addictive.

Notable Passings

  • Don Cornelius – Host of Soul Train
  • Donna Summer – Queen of disco
  • Jose Roberto Bertrami – Azymuth keyboardist, one of the world’s best on the Rhodes
  • Sam ‘The Record Man’ Sniderman – Toronto record shop pioneer
  • Dave Brubeck – Legend of jazz
  • Ravi Shankar – Legend of Indian Classical music

Most Anticipated Release in 2013: New album from Alice Russell (expected February 2013)

Happy and Peaceful New Year!

Album Review: Home Again, Michael Kiwanuka, March 2012

“Singer/Songwriter” had always perplexed me as a genre. It seemed odd to label music in this way since all music is created by songwriters and much of it features singers. But UK based Michael Kiwanuka is a bit of a musical puzzle as far as classification goes. So, since he writes his own songs and sings them beautifully, why not call it just that?

Home Again, Kiwanuka’s debut LP, is a mix of soulful ballads and acoustically grounded songs with hints of soul and even folk. What stands out is his voice and his songwriting. At first listen, he reminded me of Keb Mo, a blues man who never found his sweet spot in the genre milieu. But Kiwanuka is less bluesy, less rock, more soul and yes, more country. There are echos of K.D. Lang’s vocal style, Neil Young’s songwriting, and Otis Redding’s sincerity.

No matter how you classify him, his voice is unbreakable. His singing is relaxed but comes across flawlessly. His vocal style is understated yet you notice the quality in even the simplest phrasing.

The tracks on this album are varied in style but consistently listenable. “Tell Me a Tale” has a 60s soul refrain and an afrobeat hook. This rare, if not unique combination works nicely with the tune. Even above this innovative arrangement,  his voice is what’s most memorable. “Always Waiting” is a gentle hymn-like ballad that’s easy to get lost in. “Bones” has a 50s ‘rock & soul’ feel that makes it sound like a lost Elvis hit.

Altogether, this is a mature album with refreshing songwriting depth and an unforgettable vocal performance. It will grow on you as a go-to record for those times when you want to take the noise down and get yourself lost in a really nice song.