Lockdown led many of us to seek consolation in streaming services as well as to overdose on both food and strong drink. In contrast, Mica Millar just did drugs.
Wait: I think I should explain. In January 2020, shortly after beginning to record what would become Heaven Knows, her recently released debut album, the Manchester-based singer, songwriter and self-taught producer suffered a severe injury to her spine: a crushed vertebra, the result of a trampolining accident. A subsequent stay in hospital led to surgery, very large amounts of morphine for the excruciating pain – said drugs – and then nine months of rehabilitation, during which time Mica had to re-learn how to walk again, wearing a support brace. It was a calamity that changed everything.
Horace Andy no longer likes doing interviews because he keeps on having to answer the same old questions. He does want a Grammy though and with his most recent album Midnight Rocker, he’s odds-on favourite to win one at last. It’s not often that a Jamaican veteran comes forth with an album that sounds so contemporary, even when including a sprinkling of old favourites. Rock To Sleep and the evergreen Mr. Bassie are among those reworked on Midnight Rocker, but there’s far more to it than that, since producer Adrian Sherwood is renowned for rejuvenating reggae legends – Lee “Scratch” Perry for example – who defy expectations by making music their grassroots fans will love, whilst also pushing the envelope a little. Horace, who’s a graduate of Coxsone Dodd’s famed Studio One label, has already ventured down that road to a certain extent with Massive Attack and on 1999’s Living In The Flood, yet Midnight Rocker is undoubtedly a landmark release – one that’s been rightfully hailed as his best album in years…
HOW MUCH OF A HINDRANCE WERE THE PANDEMIC/LOCKDOWNS DURING THE MAKING OF THE ALBUM?
To be honest, it was quite helpful in some ways. It helped me focus on the music, with far fewer distractions to get in the way. It was tricky not having gigs to try out new material, but there was also a thrill to making something and thinking ‘I can’t wait to play this out when all of this is over’.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF FROM THE PROCESS OF ASSEMBLING IT? That working with other musicians is the way forward! Up until I started on my own album, everything I had produced in the music realm [remixes/edits/DJ mixes] I had pretty much done by myself. Once I started getting other people involved, doors and possibilities opened that I had never previously considered.
Many of the major figures in jazz recorded so much that there is always something new to enjoy for the first time, or old anthems to reappraise with fresh ears. To mark the centenary of Charles Mingus’s birth, an album, Mingus Three, recently surfaced. It is a 1957 session by the iconic double bassist, on which he is joined by pianist Hampton Hawes and drummer Dannie Richmond. The music is uber killin’.
Which, of course, begs the question: how could this minor classic have previously flown under the radar in the first place? There are a couple of straightforward answers. The set was originally issued on an independent label, Jubilee, which had fairly limited distribution and insufficient financial muscle to keep the title in print for any great length of time after its release. It quickly fell into the bottomless pit of vinyl obscurity, destined to have cult status for only the most zealous of Mingusians. Yet there is a wider context to consider…