Archives for posts with tag: Paul Weller

2018 Year in Review

This past year was particularly bountiful with new music. So many albums and singles resonated with me and they ran the gamut across jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and genre-blurring styles. It was also the year I crossed off a bucket list concert, finally seeing Herbie Hancock Live in Toronto.

Album of the year for me was The Return by Kamaal Williams. It is still fresh after so many listens and will remain in high rotation for years to come. A close runner-up was Shaun Martin’s Focus. Both albums, although quite different stylistically, are grounded in improvisational jazz and boast enduring compositions.

Some of my favourite albums also came from artists I only discovered this year: Tom Misch, Masego, and Australian jazz ensemble, Menagerie.

Albums

  1. Kamaal Williams, The Return (Black Focus)
  2. Shaun Martin, Focus (Ropeadope)
  3. Detroit Swindle, High Life (Heist Recordings)
  4. Tom Misch, Geography (Beyond the Groove)
  5. Phil France, Circles (Gondwana)
  6. Mac Miller, Swimming (Warner Bros.)
  7. Menagerie, Menagerie (Freestyle Records)
  8. Nightmares on Wax, Shape the Future (Warp Records)
  9. Ady Suleiman, Memories (Simco Ltd.)
  10. The Expansions, Murmuration (Albert’s Favorites Ltd)
  11. Masego, Lady Lady (EQT Recordings)
  12. Reel People, Retroflection (Reel People Music
  13. Brandon Coleman, Resistance (Brainfeeder)
  14. Fatima, And Yet It’s All Love (Eglo Records)
  15. Thomas Dybdahl, All These Things (1MicAdventure)

My pick for song of the year was Mac Miller’s “What’s the Use” featuring Thundercat. Thundercat featured heavily in many of my favourite songs this year, namely on collaborations with Flying Lotus and Louis Cole.

Special mention to Chaka Khan for the flyest video in decades for “Like Sugar.”

Thundercat & Mac Miller; Image Credit: NPR Tiny Desk Concert (August 2018)

Songs (Listen to this playlist on Spotify)

  1. What’s the Use, Mac Miller, Swimming (Warner Bros.)
  2. Trouble on Central, Buddy, Harlon & Alondra (RCA)
  3. Tried (single), Badbadnotgood & Little Dragon (Badbadnotgood Ltd.)
  4. Like Sugar (single), Chaka Khan (Diary Records / Island Records)
  5. Tadow feat. FKJ, Masego, Lady Lady (EQT Recordings)
  6. King of the Hill feat. Badbadnotgood & Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Brainfeeder X (Brainfeeder)
  7. Dancing to a Love Song (single), Barry & Gibbs (Sakura Music)
  8. Flight 22, Kali Uchis, Isolation (Rinse / Virgin EMI)
  9. Old Castles, Paul Weller, True Meanings (Solid Bond Productions / Warner)
  10. Cheers feat. Q-Tip, Anderson .Paak, Oxnard (12 Tone Music)
  11. Thinking About Your Love feat. Omar, Reel People, Retroflection (Reel People Music)
  12. Love 4 Love (Joey Negro Extended Remix), Change, Love 4 Love (Nova 017)
  13. Testify, Kamasi Washington, Heaven and Earth (Young Turks)
  14. Everything feat. John Legend, Ella Mai, Ella Mai (10 Summers / Interscope)
  15. Summertime Magic (single), Childish Gambino (mcDJ Recording / RCA)
  16. State of Mine feat. Philippe Saisse, Nile Rodgers & Chic, It’s About Time (Virgin EMI)
  17. When You’re Ugly, Louis Cole, Time (Brainfeeder)
  18. Lost & Found, Jorja Smith, Lost & Found (FAMM)
  19. Wait, Sabrina Claudio, About Time (SC Entertainment)
  20. Secretly, Onra, Nobody Has to Know (All City Records)

New to Me

Ryo Fukui, Scenery (Trio Records, 1976)

Ryo Fukui was a self-taught pianist who released this album in 1976 to great critical acclaim in his native Japan. Remarkably, Fukui had only started learning the piano 6 years before this album’s release. The ten minute track at the album’s heart, “Early Summer” is rich, complex, and moving, but most of all, it just swings. I have to thank Toronto DJ Jason Palma for introducing me to this album on his radio program, Higher Ground.

I also became re-enamoured with the late great George Duke, in particular, this performance of “It’s On” at the Java Jazz Festival in 2010. Duke has long been a favourite of mine but I hadn’t seen this performance until recently.

Passings

Legends like Aretha Franklin and Hugh Masekela left us in 2018. I was lucky enough to see them both live in years past. Their stage presence was larger than life. One of the most moving videos I watched this year was this tribute by Chaka Khan at Franklin’s Funeral.

 

Hugh Masekela; Image Source: YouTube, Hugh Masekela Live in Berlin (2014)

Other passings that were particularly sad were Mac Miller at the young age of 26 and Roy Hargrove, who was such an innovator in the crossover of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop.

Anticipating in 2019

Speaking of Chaka Khan, there is apparently a new album in the works although no sign of a release date. If “Like Suger” is any indication, it will be worth the wait. Khan’s last studio release was more than 10 years ago.

I’m still eagerly awaiting a sophomore release from Jarrod Lawson and, perchance, a new album from my favourite musical group, Incognito.

Feature: The Music of The Style Council

The Style Council were Paul Weller (vocals, guitar), Mick Talbot (keyboards), and Steve White (drums). Active from the early 1980’s to their demise as a group in 1989, The Style Council were an enigma of that decade in music. They were unclassifiable within the milleu of genres that came to characterize the decade. They were neither pop, nor new wave, nor progressive rock. And they weren’t jazz or easy listening either. They have no clear musical disciples although their influences were certainly from soul, jazz, and later, rhythm & blues.

In my view, it was this very musical conundrum that made them an important part of the Eighties.

Weller, having just disbanded The Jam after their hit album The Gift (Polydor, 1982), seemed to take a mellow turn in musical style, exploring jazz and string arrangements with Talbot’s soul-infused hammond and piano work. Their first release was a mini LP, entitled Introducing the Style Council (Polydor, 1983). It included the iconic hit, “Long Hot Summer” which put The Style Council on pop music’s radar but only charted modestly outside of the U.K.

Aside from the easy-going hit, the collection was remarkably varied in style. “Headstart for Happiness” was a feel-good pop tune with Weller’s driving vocals and soulful backing vocals by D.C. Lee (who Weller would later marry). That track, along with “Speak Like a Child” have definite Motown influences. “Money-Go-Round,” on the other hand, is proto rap. They would dabble in rap stylings in later releases but this one is the least clumsy of their outings in that genre. It was bold to include the track but not unexpected since its message was consistent with the group’s politically left leanings and their criticism of Thatcherite policies of the day.

A full length album was released a year later with 10 new songs and two from Introducing. My Ever Changing Moods (Polydor, 1984) was more consistent stylistically than their debut, with the exception of “A Gospel” and “Strength of Your Nature.” “A Gospel” was another experiment in early rap and was too brash and contrived to believe. “Strength of Your Nature” is a hard hitting number, more similar to The Jam’s style but not as melodically satisfying.

The title track and “You’re the Best Thing” were particularly successful, the latter making it onto numerous Eighties compilations and becoming one of the more recognizable love songs of the decade. The rest of the album is a mix of soul and jazz with a deliberate nod to the French jazz tradition. “The Paris Match,” featuring Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt who had recently formed Everything But the Girl, is a smokey jazz ballad. “Here’s One that Got Away” features a jazz violin lead-in that smacks of French legend Stephane Grappelli but was played by British violinist Bobby Valentino.

Strings were prominent in The Style Council’s sound in the first half of their active years, culminating in the hit Shout to the Top! released in 1984 as a single EP. The song became an anthem of sorts but once again defied classification. It enjoyed the success of a pop song but John Mealing’s exuberant string arrangement had us guessing once again whether this was jazz, soul, disco or something entirely different.

The follow-up to My Ever Changing Moods was 1985’s Our Favourite Shop (Polydor). Stylistically different yet again from what they had done in the two years prior, this album was less jazz and more pop with richer production. Two notable singles, “Walls Come Tumbling Down” and “Internationalists” continued the Council’s strong social activist messaging. “Walls Come Tumbling Down” was also a commercial hit, charting as high as number 6 in the U.K.

The overall sound of this album is more lush than their previous work, incorporating heavier bass, more electric keyboard sounds, and fuller backing vocals. Weller & Talbot’s compositions are just as strong both lyrically and musically as the Moods album.

Paul Weller is quoted as saying Our Favourite Shop was The Style Council’s culmination. Although the band would record three more LPs, including the commercially successful Confessions of a Pop Group (Polydor, 1988), I can’t help but agree with his characterization.

The Style Council’s first three releases were unique for many reasons. In a decade that gave rise to the new wave genre and mega-acts like U2, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, The Style Council quietly created a body of work that that was unmatched at the time and never really emulated by bands that followed. An anomalous spur of musical evolution, you might say. But a damned good one.