Some people said that Omar’s last album, Sing [If You Want It] was the best of his career. I didn’t agree: while it definitely had some wonderful highlights – the Stevie track and Be A Man, for two – the whole did not, in my view, top This Is Not A Love Song. Now, however, there may have to be a rethink.
Coming after seven years of relative quiet, Omar’s new set for summer 2013, entitled The Man, could just be the finest, most rounded piece of work he’s ever delivered. It definitely has that unmistakable Omar vibe – how wouldn’t it? – but it also branches into other areas, bouncing off at unexpected tangents all the way through. Usually it’s a result of an intriguing collaboration – like that with The Hidden Jazz Quartet which puts High Heels into a jazzier place than Omar’s generally known for, or with keysman Daniel Fridell, who worked on the Womack/Woman’s Gotta Have It-inspired title track. And then there’s bass/guitar legend Pino Palladino, who contributes to a superb reawakening of Omar’s standard There’s Nothing Like This.
“Yeah, it’s nice to get this kind of feedback,” smiles Omar…
Reggae mythology is rife with tales of visits to see Bob Marley at 56 Hope Road, where The Gong held court for the last few years of his life. For today’s equivalent, drive past Marley’s old house and head for Liguanea, before taking a right-hand turn down Mona Road and entering August Town.
Judgment Yard is to the left after passing the University of West Indies campus. World champion sprinter Usain Bolt trains just a hundred yards away, behind a wall emblazoned by portraits of Sizzla, Etana and one or two others. A quick glimpse down a side-road reveals an Army jeep manned by four soldiers, all of them armed with semi-automatic rifles and handguns. The area has a bad reputation – a perception reinforced by the sight of gun-toting police once inside Judgment Yard itself. Sizzla, sans turban and with his dreadlocks folded into a topknot, is sat facing them…
So, Maysa is making a new album for Shanachie, her fourth for the label, and she’s in need of some – I quote – “authentic disco.” Better call Bluey.
‘Sure, I got two tunes for you’, the Incognito mainman responds in trademark ‘can do’ manner, and soon Maysa is grooving to and approving the Chic-like Put It On Me and the teensy bit more urgent Nothing But You.
Right away Maysa notices something different: Bluey’s vocals on the demo sound really cool – even better than usual. She asks if he wouldn’t mind leaving them on the finished article for release. He’s delighted. In fact, he also mentions that he has a new tune in the works with studio partner Richard Bull, something they intended to be a duet. Would she like to hear that? Er… do popes crap in the woods?
“Man, I’ve been begging Bluey to make a solo album since about 1992,” laughs Maysa down a crisp and clear Skype connection to Baltimore. “I loved having him on my album… ”
It’s been a couple of years since we first alerted you to Sherry Davis, the UK vocalist/songwriter who came to our notice in the middle of 2011 with an Omar-produced single Ain’t That Love.
An album was at that time in the works, she’d told us, her management, Metropolis, having set up a deal with a major label that would soon see the Peckham-born singer/songwriter make her mark. Unfortunately, the process was soon fatally interrupted at a higher level on the acquisition of EMI by Universal, a takeover that also involved a mass shedding of subsidiary labels [including Sherry’s]. It was back [almost] to square one.
She’s just resurfaced, however, with a very good four-track EP, Star Crossed Lovers, now available and with plans once more in place to complete an album’s worth of material.
We meet in a newly opened café on the west side of Peckham Rye, Sherry describing how she’d been in the studio until 2am the night before, working on a new song…