To Napster Or Not To Napster...
Well I guess that this one will sort itself out on it's own. If you use Napster, you probably feel a bit like a criminal if you own up to it. Have I used Napster? Yes, I have. There, you caught me bang to rights guvnor! As I have quite a lot of music, purchased over the years, here, I may feel a little less guilty than some, as I have invested a lot of money in the music business over the years. When Napster first came on the scene, I must confess that it did raise a smile. For years, the music business, apart from the one or two honourable exceptions like Expansion in London, have been overcharging the music pundit for years. Those of you in the States enjoy CD prices at around half of that in the U.K.
So where do I stand? Well, I have friends who are recording artists, so I understand their perspective as well. Strikes me that there are two innocent parties here. The artist and the punter. Napster may have stuck two fingers up at the industry and the industry has had their noses bloodied. Well it looks as if the industry people have got their own back. Everyone knows that the industry will succeed at shutting down Napster, however, whatever happens, Napster have sown a seed. Soul music buyers will team up and set up their own servers where they can swap MP3 and Real Audio. We now live in a Global Villiage guys.
Let me put this to you. Those people who advertise their wares on Napster have already 'bought' their music. They have paid their royalties already. The industry wants people to pay royalties for a second time. Who are they kidding? People are not stupid, in fact people are ingenious. The facts are that, people download a track, they like what they hear, they go buy the CD. That is what happens. In fact, the industry should own up to the fact that Napster represents free advertising for their back catalogues.
Personally, I prefer Real Audio streaming. It protects the artists product whilst it allows the punter to listen to the product. The other downside of MP3 is you get no cover, so no breakdown of who played what. The jury is out.....................
I would love to hear what you think out there. E Mail me here. I will add your opinions below. Very interested to hear the view from the artists perspective.
Vinyl Versus Compact Disc..........
Similarly to the discussion, between soul followers, regarding 'what is soul' and 'what isn't', the arguements between folks preferring Vinyl to Compact Disc and vice versa have been debated for some time now.
To begin with, where do I stand? Well, for this old soul music fan (who has been brought, in the Seventies and Early Eighties, up listening to soul music totally on vinyl)........I couldn't give a shirt!!! For me it is the longevity of the product, and what is contained therein, that is paramount.
Some of my vinyl albums hail from the mid sixties. Forty years lifespan ain't bad, eh? Compact Disc's are guaranteed to have a shelf life of around 100 years!
The arguements between Vinyl and Compact Disc are a non issue. It is the solid state of both items that are all important. Let me explain.
Vinyl and Compact Disc's both have one thing in common. No moving parts. Reel to Reel, Cassettes, Minidisks, Cartridges and DAT all do. Anything that moves, wears. With Vinyl and Compact Disc's it is the surrounding equipment that gets replaced. The solid state endures.
Vinyl was said to have a better base resonance. That used to be the case and people who argued their corner were correct, however, today with the technology becoming more sophisticated, it is now possible to reproduce the sound with a 'vinyl feel'. Indeed, many Compact Disc's are re-mastered from the original vinyl, as last years excellent 'Lamont Dozier Anthology' testifies. The master tapes were either unavailable or, basically, not up to the job. Vinyl and Compact Disc working in perfect harmony.
I guess that vindicates my point. Vinyl versus Compact Disc is a non arguement. If it's parts move, don't expect a long shelf life. With Vinyl and Compact Disc's you can always replace the equipment.
The only discussion point between Vinyl and Compact Disc that, I believe, is valid, is the issue of Cover Artwork. The size of a Compact Disc, being much smaller than a Vinyl LP, does have an impact upon the art of cover design. That is another issue.
Remember, as the old Motown poster above testifies, 'It's What's In The Groove That Counts'.
I would bring that into the 21st century and add '......Or At The End Of A Laser!'.
Toby Walker @ soulwalking
Blue Eyed Soul?
I have been reading, recently, various different opinions regarding this matter in the daily digest sent to me by the US website Soul Patrol (excellent site this one is too).
Now bearing in mind, Soul Patrol is essentially a Black run site, I was really interested to find out what the contributors opinions were regarding some 'White soul' artists.
The name Don Henley came up in several exchanges and I got to wondering why. The man used to be in the Eagles, right? Well, I guess it is down to the individual. I mean, for me, I have found the music becomes all of a piece. What do I mean by that? Well, I have always liked the music of Todd Rundgren. Now most of you might think that he is a Rocker. Well, he is, however, he penned Love Is The Answer (covered by Keni Burke on his Youre The Best set) and he wrote Hello Its Me (brilliantly covered by the Isley Brothers). That is what I mean by all of a piece.
Seems to me that these artists must have some soul to appeal to the soul artists.
There are also those, whom I have mentioned before in these pages. Dusty, Carole King, David Lasley, Michael Franks, Daryl Hall, Bobby Caldwell, Teena Marie. I mean there are a lot of those all of a piece artists out there. Sharers of tunes and employers of Black artists.
There are other artists that I do like, whom might raise an eyebrow, too. The band America (above). I have a wicked version of Tin Man by John Edwards (ex Detroit Spinners) that was first performed by these guys. Check out the John Edwards page at the site. There is a real audio file there.
I guess the only real difference between the Blue Eyed Soul guys and The Real Deal is that (with very few exceptions) the 'Real Soul' guys can sing the pants off the 'Blue Eyed Brigade' nine times out of ten.
By the way, Tom Jones aint Blue Eyed soul. I have heard him described as such by folks in the record business. Look at the artists he chose on his Reload offering (?), to find out where he is coming from.
The litmus test for these big ears is, well, listen to a track by someone you think of as a Blue Eyed Soul artist. Now imagine Bobby Womack getting his tonsils round it? Does it work for you?
Here are some suggestions from Reverend Tim............................
'Blue Eyed Soul ?
Ned Doheny -To Prove My Love
Chris Rea - On The Beach
Steve Miller - Fly Like An Eagle
Toto (Avec Cheryl Lynn ) - Georgy Porgy
Barbara Streisand & Barry Gibb- Guilty
The Doobie Brothers
Crosby Stills & Nash
John Miles - Slowdown
Rolling Stones - Miss You
Laid Back- Ride The White Horse
Nick Straker Band - Little Bit Of Jazz
etc on & on till the break of Dawn .................'
Chris Rea?............................Thanks for the input, Tim.
Plagiarism. What exactly does the term mean? Well, in my Collins English Dictionary, it is as follows:
'To appropriate ideas from another work or Author'.
So why have I got a picture of Donny Osmond and his brothers on a soul music site? Well, personally, I find them absolutely gorgeous...............or is that Jody Watley.....!!!!! (any excuse to add a picture of the fine ex Shalamar singer!)
The Osmonds recorded, back in 1974, one of the biggest hits of their careers, 'Love Me For A Reason'. Hit number one, on the national charts, both sides of the Atlantic. I remember this release really clearly, because, at the same time, a one Johnny Bristol was just releasing the same tune, as a follow up to his enormous smash 'Hang On In There Baby'. The Osmonds have always got on my nerves. The face of White America. Johnny Bristol wrote that tune...they nicked it and got the hit and the qudos. Most people think that the tune was written and belonged to the Osmonds. This occurrence has happened on a regular basis throughout the soul music scene, over the years.
Another example? Fine. 'Money's Too Tight To Mention' by The Valentine Brothers. Really excellent song from a really good album 'First Take'. Out comes Simply Red from the woodwork and the whole world thinks that they did the original. Now I know some of you guys like that band, but they ain't my cup of tea and I have never liked their stuff since this outset.
So why are these groups allowed to get away with this? Well, whatever you say about society, the bottom line is, the work of a black person is, in the record companies eyes, not seen as valid as a white persons. In fact, I believe that the industry is bigotted in a very much more subltle way than it used to be back in the fifties. Wasn't all that long ago that people like Nat King Cole and Lena Horne had to 'white-up' before performing. We had the Black & White Minstrels. What was that all about? The racism has just gone back in the closet.
You might say that this is all reactionary rubbish, but what I would say is, look at the two examples I have given. Remember, don't judge people by what they say...judge them by what they do.......
Toby Walker - November 2000
As an add on to this article, I have just received this......
Monday January 22 10:41 AM ET
Pop Singer Michael Bolton Loses U.S. Top Court Appeal.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pop superstar Michael Bolton lost a U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) bid on Monday to overturn a $5.4 million jury verdict that his hit, 'Love Is a Wonderful Thing,' copied parts of a song by the legendary soul singers, the Isley Brothers.
......maybe there is some justice after all?
I was expecting it to be a while before I would add another inclusion to this page.
As usual on a Sunday, I was sitting down listening to Robbie Vincents Sunday show. He played 'Going Back To My Roots' as a prelude to the up and coming Lamont Dozier concert at the Jazz Café this coming Wednesday the 4th October. Robbie finished his show, on came Pete Young (and you could tell he was gutted) and announced that Lamont has cancelled his trip due to 'differences between the record companies involved'.
As you can imagine, I felt really depressed about the whole thing. I have listened to Lamont Doziers music all my life. All those Motown songs from my childhood and then those great albums from the seventies and eighties. Hell, he is my favourite soul artist. A concert, by the man, is about as rare as a sensible Tory policy! There I was, going to take Chris Bangs along with me as a major musical event in my lifetime, only to have the wind, well and truly, taken out of my sails.
So, once the shock had subsided, what did they mean by 'differences between the record companies involved'? Well, you can guarantee that the dreaded 'M' word is lurking somewhere in the background and therein lies the old problem that is, people involved in the music business (with the rare exceptions of folks like Ralph Tee or Chris) are purely, money driven, business men/women. They are out for the big bucks and not for the interests of the music loving punter. It is the reason why the pop charts are full of the latest boy bands or the latest Ibiza anthem...............that is what makes money these days. The problem lies, therein, that the soul music punter is therefore, out of sight, out of mind and consequently our wishes are expendable. In fairness to the good people at the Jazz Café, they offered a refund and a ticket to see Noel McKoy, free, as a replacement. Not the same thing though. I really hope that they can get this concert on again. Maybe Lamont could deal directly with the Jazz Café and cut out the vultures?
Well done the record companies. Bitter?.......you bet!
Thank you for the feedback regarding the 'What Is Soul' article. Generated positive comment and inclusion on David Lasley's website news page. Very interesting singer/songwriter Lasley is. Not only wrote 'You Bring Me Joy' for Anita Baker & Norman Connors, but wrote 'Meant For You' (In Real Audio) for Debra Laws (Old Favourite) and has written for Chaka Khan, Angela Bofill, Aretha Franklin and Patti Labelle amongst others. He has, recently, been touring with folk singer James Taylor. A portfolio to be proud of.
Buying music on the net? Well, I had my first experience of buying a CD from the World Wide Web last week. Usually, I prefer to browse through the soul section in a specialist shop, knowing it to be more expensive. There is nothing quite like the ergonomics of the real world. However, Rosie Gaines threw down her musical gauntlet and released an album entitled 'Arrival' purely for web sales. She says at her website:
"The whole reason I'm doing the Web site is so that I can artistically express myself in the way that I want to, and not get forced into a box,". "I want to branch out and do different styles of music."
Fine. I understand her thoughts completely. Most people know my thoughts regarding the music industry. Pure capitalism showing it's ugliest face. Anyhow, I ordered the CD from MP3.com, in San Diego, and within a week the CD arrived. Three days later another one arrived. On contacting MP3.com, they said that there had been an error and I should post the second package back to them.
The cost of the CD was 15 dollars, which is around £10. Good value on the surface until you check the sleeve packaging. The cover appeared to be a colour photocopy. There was a tracklisting, but that was all. The rest of the casing was covered with MP3.com's advertising. So, I don't know who the players were, the release date or the, obligatory 'I would like to thank my cat and God' text within the sleeve.
If the web music retailers wish to make a go of this form of retailing, they must see the purchaser more as a human being and less of a .com. Get your act together guys, it is not too late. By the way, can I get the cost of the return postage refunded? Great album, by the way, Rosie.
What Is Soul?
Since I set up this website, I have added various opinions on various subjects and I knew that, at some stage, I would have to get around to this old chestnut.
I hate this subject. There was a time a few years ago when the topic became hi-jacked by the Northern soul scene, who threw down the challenge as if it were a test of loyalty that, if you failed, you would be cast out into the wilderness and sent to Coventry until Hell froze over! We all know that Hip Hop ain't soul, so what was the beef?
I am really stuck with some artists, however, and with others I can't see what there is to discuss. The above montage has various people who definitely are either, interested in real soul, or are real soul artists, and those who are imposters. On the outside are the people who are the real deal (Luther Vandross, Donny Hathaway, Robbie Vincent and Terry Callier) and in the centre are the pretenders (Tony Blackburn, George Michael and Heather Small).
When I say that 'I struggle' with some artists, what I mean is that they have, unquestionably, had an enormous input on the real soul market. I am talking about the likes of Michael Franks, Dusty Springfield, Carole King, David Lasley, Bernard Oattes, Brecker Brothers etc. Now, I love the output that has originated from these great people and I would consider them to be within the real soul fraternity. When it comes to the Northern purists, however, would I be considered wrong in my thinking? Hell, Kiki Dee was signed to Tamla Motown.
So what really is soul music? I remember having a chat with a long time black friend of mine (Hi Trevor!) about the credentials of Van Morrisson. Trevor insisted that Van was a 'soul man' but, for me, there was/is something lacking and I can't quite work out what.
Soul music is such a broad church, that many artists have been bundled together by the music business as 'soul acts'. Paul Young, Michael Bolton etc. Yuk! Soul music is Marvin, Curtis, Lamont, etc. But that is my opinion.
I guess the definition of real soul music is in the ear of the listener and, just to confuse things further, I have added a resumé of one of my favourite Brazilian singer/songwriters (to the artists page), I van Lins....on a soul music website....what am I like!
A Tom Moulton Mix - What is Disco? - 3.8.2000. (Thanks Tim)
Tom Moulton was a fashion model on hiatus from the music business when he visited Fire Island's Botel during a photo shoot. "I got a charge out of it, all these white people dancing to black music."
Painstakingly, he spent 80 hours making a 90-minute dance tape using sound-on-sound and vari-speed to create a nonstop build. The Botel's owner rejected the tape, but the competing Sandpiper offered to listen, and Moulton left the reel. At 2:30 on a Saturday morning, Moulton was awakened by a call from the Sandpiper that was unintelligible except for the screaming of dancers. To a tape!
Moulton worked in promotion for Scepter Records, and mixed DCA Productions' "Dream World" by Don Downing for the label. In 1974, when DCA called him to work on Gloria Gaynor's first album, he made history. Never Can Say Goodbye featured a side-long medley of three long songs segued together. Meco Monardo says it was "a revelation" when Moulton extended three-minute songs to more than six by lengthening the instrumental. But Moulton knew by instinct that this would intensify and modulate the impact of a song or a series of songs: "You start here [he points down], and go allll the way up." Incredibly, Moulton's credit does not appear on the album because of a potential conflict: he'd by then launched the first music trade-paper column on the scene, "Disco Mix," in Billboard.
Tom Moulton's concepts singlehandedly created a new industry of remixing--producing records with greater dance impact. He leapfrogged Philadelphia sonics by rebalancing the frequency range, extending the high frequencies much further than Motown ever did. "Because 45s were geared for radio, they were all 'middle,' and you couldn't cut a lot of [bass] onto the record. A lot of records didn't have the fidelity and sounded terrible. But you were playing them for the songs, not the fidelity."
That regard for the integrity of a song also guided Moulton in the studio. He not only sharpened sound for high-volume nightclub play, but he also restructured records, setting up hooks and repeating the best parts, greatly amplifying the original song scheme's tension and release. He'd tweak levels obsessively all through the record--effectively rephrasing a track or vocal by hitting the volume control--when he felt it would increase intensity. "I was so wired into the song. They thought I was crazy. But you go for the blood and guts, the thing that really counts in a song." Moulton's hook might be a mistake by the players, and he points out that the insane sonic power of "Disco Inferno" happened when he was compensating for a console that was set up wrong. Repeatedly--with the simple woodblock in "More, More, More (Part 1)," in the strong but never overdone pop pump of "Instant Replay"-- Moulton made good records stronger.
His blueprint has been used thousands of times over. Like everything else in disco, formula set into remixing, but it wasn't Moulton's fault. He often critiqued remixers for making music into a DJ tool, instead of mixing to maximize the original intent of a song. He used drum breaks, for example, as transitions within a song, to set up an emotional rush with the return of the rest of the music, or when key changes made a break necessary to create dramatic structure--not merely because drum breaks made it easier for a DJ to mix in or out of a record. "People have said, 'You make disco records,' and I said: 'Wrong. I make records you can dance to.' I wouldn't know how to make a record just for discos."
Brings me to the point, what is disco and what is just dance music?
24.7.2000 - Smooth Jazz?
Smooth Jazz? Well 23 years ago Grover Washington was playing live at the Bijou Café in Philadelphia, and the resulting output was, probably, one of the best live fusion sets that has ever been recorded. 'Sausolito' and 'Summer Song' come up fresh each time they are heard. In fact, if I am asked to play music out, these days, 'Sausolito' will always be on the decks or in the record box.
Thing is, what if this great double album should come out today? Truth be told, I don't really know....but I can guess. I reckon the set would be returned to the artist, from the parent record company, informing the artist that the sound isn't 'radio friendly' enough. There would be an army of producers brought on board and the result would be something lacking in individuality. The result might get played by that DJ who is around 'a bit in the morning and a bit in the afternoon' (Jazz FM listeners in London will know who I am talking about!). But where would the 'cutting edge' be to the sound, that made the track the great tune that it originally was?
The mass American Music Market is draining the life from 'Live at the Bijou's' of today. There are less and less Black Contemporary jazz musicians around today and the mass jazz market is becoming very 'white'. Now I am not saying that there are no great white jazz musicians out there. Bob James, Peter White, Down To The Bone etc. US radio, however, is run, mainly by white businessmen, who have hi-jacked a form of black music and turned it into something more acceptable to a white audience. It makes you wonder where the next great black jazz musicians are going to come from. The likes of Grover Washington Jnr, Hubert Laws, George Benson, Earl Klugh, Charles Earland or, day I say it..John Coltrane? Not from the street methinks. They are all off cutting rap tunes.
''Westchester Lady'? Listen here Mr James. This here needs more drum machines, a sax solo and a vocal from Toni Braxton!'.
Miles Davis said 'Jazz Is Dead'. Makes you wonder what he was talking about.
27.6.2000 - MP3 or not MP3?
Over the last year the web has become a major market place in music. You can get everything on CD for at least one or two pounds cheaper than it is available on the high street. MP3 reared it's head last year bringing the feasablity of downloadable music direct from a web site. Well, first of all, what is it?
MP3 is a CD track, with the parts your ear doesn't hear removed, allowing for compression. It is like a JPEG image which is a PICT file with the parts your eye doesn't register, removed. The file then becomes around one tenth of the size of a CD file.
So what is all the fuss about? Well, those parts of the music business, that have for years been overcharging customers, (you only have to compare Stateside prices for CD's) are getting fearful that their enormous profits are going to decrease due to music piracy. That is 'their' downside.
My arguement is that the arrival of MP3 gives new struggling artists an opportunity to share their music / demo's with a much wider audience. They get feedback...the word spreads...they become famous...they complain about music piracy and MP3's!
My personal view is that, if the larger companies wish to compete and avoid music piracy, they have to cut high street prices. We go out and buy the new releases and MP3 becomes no more of an issue than 'Do I buy CD, Vinyl, MP3 or Tape'. The jury is still out....
As a follow on to this issue, I received this e-mail from mp3.com. As I said, the jury is still out....
'Help Us Help You
Dear My.MP3.com user,
Earlier this week the United States Senate's Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the future of digital music. Called by Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Minority Member Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont), the hearing was a strong indication of the Senate's inclination to get involved with issues facing music and the Internet. MP3.com is continuing to fight for your rights as a consumer, but now is the time to stand up and be heard yourself. Senators Hatch and Leahy are seeking public comment on these issues, and by voicing your support for My.MP3.com, you will be helping to restore the music that is currently disabled in your My.MP3.com account. '
23.5.2000 - The 'New R & B'
I would like to commence the opinion page with an observation regarding 'pigeon-holing' artists into specific groups.
Within the last 2 or 3 years there has become a new genre entitled 'New R & B'. In the past 'R & B' was utilised as an 'umbrella' which covered artists from Maxwell to Stevie Wonder.
In recent times I have noticed that the larger record retailers are segregating the 'New R & B' from the more 'traditional' artists. So, for instance, you might go to the soul section to get the new Rahsaan Patterson CD, only to find it ain't there. So, presuming it is out of stock, you go somewhere else. Rahsaan Patterson, Amel Larrieux and Maxwell are now relocated to the R&B section sitting alongside Missy Elliott and her like.
Now I am not saying that Missy Elliott's music is unworthy (not my taste however!), but it is new 'grey area' that has been created that means that there is a new abyss that Rahsaan Patterson and his like might fall into. His music appeals to the 'new R&B' crowd as well as the Jazz FM listener.
In short, the record companies have, inadvertantly or not, created an environment that suffocates a music form, struggling at best through the years to gain the recognition it deserves.
If you want your say, let me have your thoughts, by e-mail, and I will cut and paste the article to this page.