Tag Archives: Joss Stone

Rocks In The Attic #712: Various Artists – ‘Negro Spirituals’ (1961)

RITA#712I watched Soundtrack For A Revolution recently – Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman’s 2009 documentary charting the civil rights movement through its music. The films blends archival footage with studio performances of contemporary musicians interpreting songs from the struggle.

The performances were a little sterile, a little too VH1 Classics for my tastes – and included a song from Joss Stone of all people. Joss Stone? Really?

The archival footage was fantastic as always though – and provided a history of the movement from its inception up to the assassination of Martin Luther King. As a film, it’s not as powerful as Raoul Peck’s brilliant I Am Not Your Negro from 2016, although the two films do overlap as you might imagine.

RITA#712aI often wonder whether we’ll see documentaries like this in 30 or 40 years about the #metoo movement, or about the rise of trans-gender rights, or the (almost) universal acceptance of gay marriage. Part of the fascination with the civil rights movement is that it was originally reported on by a right-wing, conservative media with an arm-length stance that is difficult to fathom now. Current issues instantly provoke outrage from the liberal majority, and are reported on by a (more) liberal media, and so a documentary might be less revelatory than we have seen for twentieth century issues.

The Eighties documentary miniseries from CNN (originally broadcast in 2016) included a fairly lengthy segment about the AIDS crisis. This is something I remember hearing a lot about when I was growing up, but didn’t really understand the finer details like the initial confusion and lack of understanding about the disease.  Even such a brief, potted history within the confines of a much larger series was fascinating – and a full retrospective would make for a great subject in a feature-length documentary.

Hit: He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

Hidden Gem: Jericho

RITA#712b

Rocks In The Attic #654: Wings – ‘Band On The Run’ (1973)

RITA#654The first time I saw Paul McCartney live in concert. I couldn’t have been closer. It was at Glastonbury 2004, and I endured sets from the likes of Joss Stone and the Black Eyed Peas in the early evening to get to the crash barrier at the very front of the field. It was worth it – getting so close to a living legend.

This time around, in December 2017, I couldn’t have been further away. I went for the cheapest GA standing tickets, not wanting to auction off my remaining kidney for a ticket closer to the stage. It was still a blast, and the hi-def, crystal-clear screens at the side of stage made sure I didn’t miss out on much.

The difference in set-lists between the two times I saw him play was quite interesting. At Glastonbury in 2004, he was playing the hits for what would ultimately be a BBC audience enjoying the festival on the television, sat at home minus the mud and discomfort. In Auckland a few weeks ago, on the final date of the band’s world tour, the set threw up some unexpected numbers.

RITA#654aKicking off with A Hard Day’s Night – ostensibly a ‘John’ song – the set included a couple of other Beatles songs written predominantly by Lennon: Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite and A Day In The Life. Also played were a couple of genuine 50/50 co-written Beatles songs – I’ve Got A Feeling and Birthday – which I was surprised McCartney would even bother with.

Ever since the former Beatle was happy to lean on a Beatles-heavy set-list (post-Flaming Pie?), there’s always been an embarrassment of riches. He can’t possibly play everything, so this time there was no Drive My Car, no Get Back, no Paperback Writer. So it’s even stranger that he made the decision to play some of the songs that he did include. He played Mull Of Kintyre for fuck’s sake!

The Band On The Run record was well represented though. Band On The Run and Jet are probably a feature of the band’s set-list every night, and Let Me Roll It sounds like the kind of song they just love to play live, but it was the appearance of the album’s closer, Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five, that was the most surprising. At four songs, this made Band On The Run the most represented album in McCartney’s back catalogue – not including Beatles compilations of course – a testament to how strong the record is in relation to everything else he has produced in his career.

I prefer Ram, and always will, but it’s clear that Band On The Run is the closest McCartney ever got to replicating the strength of the Beatles’ output.

Hit: Jet

Hidden Gem: Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five

Rocks In The Attic #248: Amy Winehouse – ‘Back To Black’ (2006)

RITA#248I remember Amy Winehouse coming onto my radar with her first album, Frank. I don’t think I ever heard any songs from that album – or at least I don’t remember them If I did – but I definitely read a few interviews with her when she was promoting it. The music press was touting her at the time – together with the initially promising, but consequently disappointing Joss Stone (ugh) – as the saviour of British soul music.

From the sounds of it, Frank didn’t set the world on fire, but some time later I heard Rehab, prior to its release and it hit me like a thunderbolt. I even remember being so enamoured with it – just the sheer Etta James-ness of it – that I emailed friends and told them they had to listen to it.

Rehab makes the list of my top 5 favourite songs of the 2000s. You could say that if Amy is just doing an Etta James impression, then why don’t I just listen to an Etta James record? Okay, I will. But I’ll still listen to Amy Winehouse. You can’t trademark a vocal style, and Amy brings a whole load of other things to the table. Mark Ronson also needs a lot of credit, I think, for producing her and managing to make her sound not only retro and contemporary, but more importantly relevant, without falling into the ‘easy listening’ trap that other ‘retro’ sounding female vocalists fall into. I’m talking to you, Anastacia and Gin Wigmore…

It’s always sad when an addict dies, and it always feels sadder when said addict is young and talented. I recently read a quote from one of Amy’s pre-fame friends who was saying that when she was a struggling musician, Amy was always going on about the classic soul album that she was going to make one day, and even though she didn’t make many albums (two studio albums only), Back To Black is pretty close to what she used to describe, in terms of sound and feel. I’m happy about that.

I was fortunate enough to see Amy Winehouse play at Glastonbury when she was promoting Back To Black. She had a crack band of musicians including Blues Brother Tom “Bones” Malone on trumpet,  but the one thing that I first noticed about her when she walked on stage was how tiny she was – and we’re talking Prince Rogers Nelson-tiny here – but with a remarkable beehive that was almost equal to her body length.

My friend Shelley has a great joke on that subject: Where is Amy Winehouse’s favourite London Underground station? High Barnet!

Hit: Rehab

Hidden Gem: Back To Black