A signature hit song is a blessing… even if, after 29 years, it can just occasionally also feel like a curse.
“Sometimes I don’t want to sing All Around The World,” admits Lisa Stansfield, only half-seriously, as she reflects on the subject ahead of the release of her first new music in four years. “But you know there are people in the audience who have driven for miles just to hear you sing it. I suppose it does get to you after a while. I mean, it’s unbelievably good… but there are more songs to sing… ”
Times, they are a changing. Thirty-odd years ago Anita Baker hit the top of the US R&B charts and we called her a soul artist. Now Lindsey Webster, working pretty much the same musical territory, is claimed by the smooth-jazz guys because the R&B charts and radio in the States no longer ‘does’ soul.
On the one hand, it’s only a label: who really cares if the music is still good? [And it is.] On the other, well, it’s also a marketing tool, a career opportunity, a vital support and business structure for a talented vocalist and songwriter who may not otherwise have just recorded her fourth album. Love Inside, just out on Shanachie, Lindsey’s second for the flourishing US indie, will go down as well with her UK soul following as it is likely to put her again at the pinnacle of the smooth-jazz chart… ”
“Sorry, the driver took me a different way,” apologises Jammer. He’s unsure where his taxi driver is taking him. “Why you going up there?” he asks, alarmed. “Just go straight.”
Jammer might not be a pop star, but the success of grime has meant he’s recognisable enough that you probably won’t see him on public transport too often.
“I take the tube sometimes,” he says, “but most of the time someone knows who you are, so it’s better I don’t use it too much.”
Bearing in mind his cascading dreads and shades, you probably couldn’t mistake Jammer for someone else, not in the way other grime stars could slip under the radar. Part of that is down to one of his own co-creations, Lord Of The Mics, a DVD series of clashes between MCs that [along with TV stations like Channel U] took grime from the visual anonymity granted by pirate radio and made video stars of MCs who previously you might have struggled to spot if you saw them on the bus… ”
Oku Onuora is the father of Jamaican dub poetry and 40 years after his emergence he remains a compelling figure, despite a dearth of new material. Until recently, his best recordings have been all but forgotten, books of poems have remained out of print for years and precious little of his work can be seen online. Yet his words still blaze with righteous energy, and the relevance of his message has only deepened with time.
His current reappraisal owes much to the French label Iroko Records, who’ve reprinted Oku’s two classic volumes of poetry ECHO and Fuel For Fire, and reissued an anthology of former singles and dub versions called I A Tell Dubwise And Otherwise that dates from the early eighties and features Bob Marley’s band The Wailers, whose dread rhythms helped transform Oku’s poetic vision into word, sound and power…