Archived Magazine 2014 February


A sneaky peak of just some of what is in the February 2014 issue!

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Zara McFarlane



Artistic control is one the great imponderables in the music industry. Some musicians see it as not at all open to negotiation, while others are more willing to entertain opinions from somewhere other than the end of their nose. Zara McFarlane is proof positive of a third way, one that satisfies both scenarios.

The 30-year-old British vocalist is irrepressibly single-minded and pens the bulk of her material, but she is happy to recognise the input of Gilles Peterson, boss of Brownswood, the label to which she is signed, on her new album If You Knew Her.

“Although her didn’t attend all of the sessions, there was a lot of discussion on where it was gonna go,” McFarlane tells me on Skype. “I still had a lot of say over what I wanted to do, but we did experiment a bit more. So I did recordings with Matt Halsall’s band. He orchestrated Angie La La – that track is done with mostly his band. Gilles instigated working with Matt, and he and I wrote another song together. Gilles didn’t get overly involved because he can see… I’ve got plans. I’m quite a determined person. I make clear what I like and what I don’t like.”

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Everybody knows that Luciano is a major reggae star and yet there’s always been this realisation that his career hasn’t quite reached the heights it should have done. People felt the same way about Dennis Brown. It just didn’t seem possible that two singers so gifted and so well loved by grassroots reggae fans could fail to attain long-lasting crossover success, and yet neither of them managed to breach the international market in the way we’d all hoped – not even when signed to major labels.

In Luciano’s case, it’s always been the message and not money or fame that’s provided the main driving force behind his music. Not for nothing is he known as “The Messenger” and after a career stretching back more than two decades he’s still resolute in singing about social and spiritual issues, together with the occasional love song.

His latest album, The Qabalah Man, is another triumph of modern-day roots reggae music…

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Jennifer Holliday



Think Jennifer Holliday, think And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going. There’s just no escaping the song, either for the singer or for anyone who’s ever heard her sing it.

The extraordinarily powerful ballad once shot its then 21-year-old originator to national fame back in 1980 when the US stage show in which it first appeared, Dreamgirls, made its Broadway debut. It sent her global two years later when released as a single by Geffen Records. Holliday’s was the BIG voice that roared at her feckless man to stay and bring her the love she deserved; and it kick-started a recording career that promised to sweep her to long lasting chart success throughout the eighties. Trouble is, the latter part never really happened the way it was supposed to.

True, Holliday’s star was in the ascendant for the opening part of that particular decade, but by the end of it, with only a handful of albums in the stores, she’d pretty much moved on into TV and theatre acting [Holliday became a recurring character in nineties series Ally McBeal, for instance], whilst her ability to sell CDs had ground to a halt. The reason? According to Geffen, she was too fat for mainstream consumption in the age when video was [allegedly] king…

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Boldy James



Boldy James is a rapper typical of the Midwest. Stuck in the middle of hip-hop’s main regions, he’s soaked up something from each of its main districts without feeling he needs to apply one more than the other. On the phone from his native Detroit, his stretched and slurred drawl could easily get him mistaken for a southerner. But his biographical raps have more in common with Prodigy than Slim Thug. Which might be why – now in his early 30s – he’s been finding it hard to relate to his city’s younger rappers.

“A lot of dudes in Detroit right now, they’re chasing that club music,” he says wearily. “It’s that club music that everybody’s chasing, trying to get the girls to shake their ass to the song. That’s a fad. ‘Cos club music come and go, but I try to make the music that stand the test of time. It don’t get dated; it don’t go out of style. That’s that real hip-hop. It last longer. It got a slower burn on it.”

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