When historians look back at the year 2015, what will be of most importance? Will it be remembered as the year that world turned another blind eye at the Syrian crisis? Will it be known as the year that America entered its end-days with the rise of Donald Trump? Or will it remembered for the year that The Funk & Soul Revue was launched? We like to think it will be the latter, but in reality it’ll probably be remembered for the year that the new Star Wars movie came out. Nevertheless, it’s been an exciting debut year for us here at TFSR and we would like to offer (to quote the Donald) a HUGE thank you to everyone who has read our posts, listened to our interviews and shows, liked and shared our posts, and sent us lovely emails about the site. It has been truly wonderful to have your support as we try and share the music we love, and we hope you stick with us over the next year and beyond.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a soul or funk buff, and would like to write for us, then drop us an email – we’re always on the lookout for new people to become involved! And of course please do check out our Kick Starter campaign, any financial help you might be able to offer us continue to deliver our funky service is most gratefully appreciated.
And now, onto why you’re here: the music. 2015 has been an excellent year for soul and funk music, with a plethora of brilliant new releases and epic re-releases, as well as some great gigs, and, sadly, some notable deaths in the world of soul and funk. So without further ado, we present our review of the year!
It’s the launch of the site and we start proceedings with a real treat for you all: an interview with none other than the legendary funkster Bill Curtis, founder of the pioneering funk band The Fatback Band. Haff spoke at length with Mr Curtis about his new music, the challenges he faces as an older artist on the scene, and the legacy of the group. We also spoke with Brit-Funk icon Junior Giscombe about his British Collective project, his career, and being presented an award from Soul Brother Number One James Brown. We’re pretty jealous about that one.
The second month of the year saw the release of some great new music. ‘Uncle’ Charlie Wilson, formerly of The Gap Band, released his disco-orientated album Forever Charlie to much acclaim (most from us), largely due to his tasty collaboration with Snoop Doggy Dogg. We were also treated to yet another fabulous album from the dynamic duo of Soulpersona and Princess Freesia, which saw them pair up with the iconic voice of Jocelyn Brown on one of our favourite songs of the year ‘Makes You Feel Good’. Haff also spoke to current lead singer of the official Drifters Michael Williams about their 2015 tour, and what it is like carrying on the legacy of such a pioneering vocal group.
We spent the latter half of March dancing on the ceiling in the glorious aftermath of seeing Lionel Richie at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena, Haff’s third experience of the balladeer at work. Sure, Lionel isn’t necessarily the most soulful artist out there – he is quite the pop act, but he is nonetheless a legend, and as his Glastonbury performance in June proved, he still has it. Meanwhile, Nile Rodgers released his hotly anticipated new single ‘I’ll Be There’, supposedly taken from his new CHIC record, but so far nothing else has been released. Get your finger out, Nile! Jesting aside, the single is rather tasty. In addition, our favourite romancer Will Downing, or to give his full title ‘The Prince of Sophisticated Soul’, released another brilliant album in Chocolate Drops. It’s worth checking out just for his cover of Whitney Houston’s ‘Saving All My Love’, which we think, is probably better than the original. Sorry Whitney.
For us here at TFSR, April was all about the funk. In fact, they made their funk the P-Funk on one very notable occasion. By some miracle unknown to man, the legend of funk none other than George ‘Dr Funkenstein’ Clinton had granted TFSR a brief audience with him, before his mammoth 3-hour set at the O2 Academy in Leeds. We spoke with Mr Clinton on varying topics: his latest Funkadelic album, the re-issue of Chocolate City, and most importantly, whether two white boys, one from Sussex and one from Yorkshire, could truly ever have the funk. Fortunately for us, he said yes. Haff also spoke to Shalamar singer and dancer-extraordinaire Jeffrey Daniel, as well as Detroit musician Drew Schultz about his excellent Back To Class series of singles and albums and his work with Detroit icons such as The Four Tops and The Funk Brothers.
Everybody say: HOTEL, MOTEL, HOLIDAY INN! This month the legends of rap Wonder Mike and Master Gee of The Sugarhill Gang turned up in Newcastle for an exclusive performance. These icons of popular music are, sadly, banned from using the name ‘Sugarhill Gang’, and now are forced to tour as Rappers Delight. It’s a cruel, cruel world. And that cruel, cruel world became a much sadder place to live in this month as it was announced that the King of the Blues Mr B.B. King had passed away at the age of 88. Along with the rest of the music world, we miss B.B badly.
June saw the return of the Empress of Soul Gladys Knight to these shores to perform a full UK tour, her first since her now rather oddly titled ‘Farewell’ tour in 2009. Haff was there, alone as usual, at her date in Gateshead at the Sage, a fabulous auditorium that hosted Knight superbly, with the Empress putting on a memorable night of soul music. Hearing her sing both ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ and ‘Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)’ was truly beautiful; Haff is crying about it now. Haff also spoke to none other than the Godmother of Soul Patti LaBelle about her first UK shows in over two decades, and to much delight she called him ‘honey’. He hasn’t shut up about it since.
Another month, another exciting gig – this time from the King of the Vibes, Roy Ayers. Newcastle’s Hoochie Coochie played host to Ayers, with the gig being sold out for weeks in anticipation of seeing the master at work. As we wrote shortly afterwards, Roy Ayers did not disappoint, bringing with him a tight four piece band, and many of his classic tunes. Naturally, our favourite moment was his ten-minute rendition of the classic ‘Running Away’… All together now: “DOOBY-DOO, RUN RUN RUN…” We also spoke with Philly Soul man Bunny Sigler about his career and his new album Bundino, a fascinating listen to anyone who loves that sophisticated Philly Soul sound. Better yet, we spoke with The Whispers founder Walter Scott ahead of their UK tour with Patti LaBelle, and spoke at length about the highs and lows of being a Whisper. It’s more than just a love thing, you know.
This month was a busy one: Haff finished his Masters degree in Politics, and Will was finishing another Wetherspoons meal in Leeds. In the meantime, some decent releases came out, including legendary O’Jays lead singer Eddie Levert’s ‘S*** Starter’. The video alone is well worth checking out, particularly if you have any knowledge of American politics and/or Fox News. Elsewhere, Incognito finally released their Live in London album as well, and a controversial new album emerged featuring Teddy Pendergrass on some posthumous duets with a whole host of singing stars. Sadly, the album was a bit naff to say the least.
September proved to be an exciting month for live gigs, with Martha Reeves & The Vandellas performing just days before The Fatback Band headlined the Street Sounds Indian Summer All-Dayer in Essex. For those who saw Miss Reeves perform at the Brooklyn Bowl this month it was a rather memorable gig, if only because a fight erupted in the half-full auditorium. Two things I’d never thought I’d see in life: a fight at a Motown gig, and Donald J. Trump becoming President. This month also saw us receive a copy of Gerald Alston’s epic new gospel album, True Gospel. The Manhattans’ lead singer has delivered one of the finest albums in his long career, and it features his two sons Todd and Calvin, as well as the Prince of Sophisticated Soul Will Downing on a brilliant number, ‘Jesus Is A Friend of Mine’. Whether you’re religious or not, this is one album to check out. We rounded off an exciting month of soul with an interview with none other than founding member of The Stylistics Airron Love ahead of their most recent UK tour.
October saw the release of another brilliant album from Brighton-soul man Soulpersona; the album, Momentum, is one of finest, drawing on the rare groove of yesterday to reach his unique sound. We also had another new single from Eddie Levert, the sultry and rather raunchy ‘Did I Make You Go Ooo’ (if Eddie did, please email in). We also looked back at the lives of two iconic members of The Temptations: the late great bass singer Melvin Franklin, and the last surviving original member Otis Williams. For Temptations fans, Williams is a divisive figure, but we have nothing but respect for the man here. In other news, we also read our first book. Well, we read the first book written on funk legend Charles Wright. Mr Wright released the first in a series of books detailing his life, his first talks at length about his upbringing into an America defined by slavery and sharecropping, a truly fascinating, if rather depressing, read that is particularly interesting given race relations in America today.
As the capitalist world we lives in swings further into the season of selling us stuff we don’t really need nor want, we sent Haff to meet jazz-man Jason Miles in London. Miles has released a great new jazz CD in homage to Miles Davis, and Haff spoke at length with Miles about his career, in which he worked with the likes of Davis, Luther Vandross, Marcus Miller, and Michael Jackson, and, of course, his thoughts on Donald J. Trump. That man is like the plague. We also attended the Great Voices of Soul show at Wembley Arena which consisted of shouting really loudly to The Whispers’ ‘It’s A Love Thing’ in a British southern accent, and trying not to cry when Patti LaBelle sung ‘Love Need And Want You’. An emotionally challenging night overall.
As 2015 draws to a close the beat goes on here at TFSR: we launched our ‘Collections’ of great soul and funk playlists for you to enjoy, we enjoyed the new sounds from the all-female group KING, were serenaded by former Four Top and Temptation Theo Peoples, and got down to the real nitty-gritty with the Queen of Soul on her version of ‘That’s The Way I Feel About Cha’. We also sent Haff to London to speak with none other than eighties groove icon Melba Moore, and they spoke about her life, her career and her future plans. Both Haff and Will spent Christmas eating non-stop leftovers and nibbles and vow not only to bring you more great soul and funk in the New Year, but also to cut down on the carveries.
Thank you once again for your support this year, we hope to make 2016 an even better year here at The Funk & Soul Revue!