Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sade collected

We're back online, mes chattons! After our brief sojourn to the UK, we've returned to find out that the ever elusive Sade will return with new material just over a year after her last studio longplayer, "Soldier Of Love".

"The Ultimate Collection", released on May 9 to coincide with her world tour, collects 29 soulful gems from across the Sade oeuvre. No word on weather the much sought after single versions will appear on the compilation. However, the double disc will feature three new recordings - "Still In Love With You", "Love Is Found" and "I Would Have Never Guessed" - plus a jacked up remix of "The Moon And The Sky" with dubious rap mogul Jay-Z. Yawn.

If they wanted some serious attention to this collection, the Ben Watt remix of "By Your Side" should have been slotted into the tracklisting at some point.

One of the tracks, "Still In Love With You", is a rather understated cover of a Thin Lizzy tune.

The following is the official tracklisting for "The Ultimate Collection".

CD 1

1. Your Love Is King
2. Smooth Operator
3. Hang On To Your Love
4. The Sweetest Taboo
5. Is It A Crime
6. Never As Good As The First Time
7. Jezebel
8. Love Is Stronger Than Pride
9. Paradise
10. Nothing Can Come Between Us
11. No Ordinary Love
12. Kiss Of Life
13. Feel No Pain
14. Bullet Proof Soul

CD 2

1. Cherish The Day
2. Pearls
3. By Your Side
4. Immigrant
5. Flow
6. King Of Sorrow
7. The Sweetest Gift
8. Solider Of Love
9. The Moon And The Sky
10. Babyfather
11. Still In Love With You
12. Love Is Found
13. I Would Never Have Guessed
14. The Moon And The Sky (Remix featuring Jay-Z)
15. By Your Side (Neptunes Remix)

Take a look at the cover art. Ms. Sade has never looked more sultry. All that time away from the studio has been kind to her.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

step back in time

Attention Kylie fans! It's time to put your hands up and smell the poppers! PWL alumnus, Pete Hammond, has crafted a frothy, SAW inspired remix of what will hopefully be the next single from Ms. Minogue's current longplayer, "Aphrodite".

"Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)" has been reswizzled into a glittering, early 90s, retro jam. Get ready to dance around your handbag!

It's a beautiful marriage of Kylie's PWL past and her showgirl present. Love the colorful little clip that's been put together for it. One litte suggestion. Someone should learn how to spell. When has "come on" ever been spelled "common'"? Have I missed something? Sorry, I'm a bit of a grammar granny.

Let's hope EMI do the right thing for once. Release this now!

Monday, March 21, 2011

incredible discussion

With mere days before I jet off to London to see "The Most Incredible Thing" at Saddler's Wells, I'm getting acquainted with the score. The ballet, adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen short story of the same name, features the choreography of Javier De Frutos married to the electro symphonic stylings of Pet Shop Boys.

Check out this rather in depth interview with Les Boys as they enthusiastically discuss nearly every aspect of the ballet. Watch Neil's eyes widen as he talks about it. You can feel the passion he has for the entire project.

Always up for any opportunity to make their rabid fans froth at the mouth, PSB have collaborated with The Vinyl Factory once again for a limited edition package. "The Most Incredible Thing" will be released as an exclusive, deluxe, limited art edition. Only 500 copies will be made available worldwide which makes it an instant collector's item. Each set will be hand-numbered and signed by Neil and Chris.

The outer packaging will feature a silk cloth bound hard board slipcase. The contents will include a hardback book with seven record sleeves. Six sleeves will house heavyweight 180 gram vinyl records featuring the Pet Shop Boys’ music for the ballet as well as the original demo versions of each of the compositions. The demos will only be made available as part of this release.

The seventh sleeve contains an oversized foldout sheet music print signed by Neil and Chris. The ballet synopsis will be printed onto the record sleeves so that each has an accompanying narrative that reads like a storybook.

Be prepared to plonk down £350 for this pricey piece of PSB paraphernalia.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

seafood for thought

I'm a bit late on this one, but there's been a lot going on at So Hip It Hurts HQ this week as I prepare for my first trip to the UK this year.

The Human League, mighty masters of electronic pop, have lensed a vid for "Never Let Me Go", the second single from their forthcoming ninth longplayer, "Credo".

Surely, the video will win an award for best appearance of a mollusk in a music video.

Critics who have criticized the THL for the use of autotune in the chorus of this radio friendly gem, have missed the point. Phil Oakey and co. have always been about the sound of now without compromising their uncanny ability to fashion of cracking tune. After a few listens, I challenge you to escape the charms of this electro earworm.

the big smoke

The interwebs have certainly been sprinkled with its fair share of less than flattering reactions to George Michael's drastic reworking of New Order's "True Faith", a single which was released this week in the UK for the Comic Relief charity.

The dreamy production features a heavily affected vocal and even dares to remove some of the original lyrics. Treating GMs vocal with a vocoder effect allowed for some interesting harmonics that would not have been able to be created naturally. At least that's how George explained and defended his use of it. Let's keep in mind that he hardly needs autotune. George is quite capable of staying in pitch.

So, it's clearly an artistic statement of some sort. At least he has continued be top of mind with something related directly to his career. It's a nice change of pace from him being slumped over the steering wheel of his car. Regardless of your thoughts on the merits of the single, it's all for a good cause with all the proceeds being donated to the Comic Relief charity.

Now, just days after the release of "True Faith", George revealed the video for it. Let's have a look.

Well! I heard George likes a good smoke! Oh, such delicious irony.

I like how the clip develops into a bit of a tribute to the original, Philippe Decouflé produced video from New Order. I'm especially fond of George's new found desire to look directly at the camera. Nice to see him ditch the sunglasses. Let's hope he continues the trend.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

a little communication with David McAlmont

It has been a good year for David McAlmont, ladies and gents. One of the UK's premiere vocalists, David has seen fit to return to the live stage and is currently playing to enraptured audiences with his unique blend of rock, soul and standards.

Simultaneously with his current tour, David has taken the opportunity to release "Live From Leicester Square", his first live longplayer which captured his vibrant performances in front of a sold out audience.

For the uninitiated, David's voice blends the unbridled joy Stevie Wonder, the world weary ache of Nina Simone, the grand dame diva delivery of Shirley Bassey and the passionate arch of Billy McKenzie sprinkled with lovely Princely funkisms.

Not only has David written some fine gems like "Yes" and "Falling", two collabs with guitar legend Bernard Butler, but he wraps his velvet pipes around some truly inspired covers like "I'm A Better Man" and "Never, Never, Never". All of these and more McAlmont magic are lovingly delivered on "Live From Leicester Square". The two disc set features his entire show with the CD including two, brand new, studio recordings - "Isn't It A Pity" and "Grapefruit Moon". The companion DVD is the visual document of the show.

"Isn't It A Pity" was originally written and recorded by George Harrison, but made equally as famous by premiere soul singer, Nina Simone. It is her version that inspired David to record the song and imbue it with his heartfelt vocal style.

Here's a recent, stripped down performance of "Isn't It A Pity" David did for UK station, Smooth Radio, accompanied by the piano stylings of his current collaborator Guy Davies.

Tom Waits has inspired and been interpreted by everyone from Rod Stewart to Annie Lennox. Now, David lends his formidable vocal prowess and uncanny, interpretive, pop sensibilities to Tom's work. The anthemic and slightly boozy "Grapefruit Moon" was originally recorded in 1973 and featured on Tom's landmark album, "Closing Time".

And now, here's a little taster of what you will find on David McAlmont's latest collection.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. McAlmont in between tour stops to discuss life, love and the pursuit of a sustainable career in the music "biz". He gave his time graciously and answered all manner of burning questions.

At the turn of the century, you recorded an album entitled "Be" for Hut. A couple of singles, "Working" and "Easy", were previewed and then the album never saw the light of day. Can you elaborate on the situation without causing any litigious activity? :) Will "Be" ever be released?

I don’t know if "Be" will see the light of day. I wanted to make a Myspace profile for it, but that site is a mess now so those plans stalled. I asked my manager to help me get dropped from Hut because of their bizarre attitude towards my work with the advent of Garage (the music) and Craig David. It got to a point where Garage was all the rage and a remix was commissioned on the song "Working". I was invited to re-sing the vocal by the remixer Sweet Pea. When I did, the record company thought I should do the same with most of the album. I was surprised when "Easy" became the single, but the reasons for releasing it were that it was the most Craig David-like thing I had recorded.

It has been stated that the first McAlmont & Butler singles were only ever supposed to be special events - little bursts of musical energy without the support of a tour or promotional activities. Someone once described them as brilliant flashes of light you had to catch before they diffused into the night sky. Were they only meant to be that way?

They weren't even supposed to be "they". They were supposed to be "Yes". Bernard had the glorious notion of making a one off musical statement, but a motley crew of record companies and managers prodded and jabbed us into doing more. The idea would have worked better in the download era.

How did it come to pass that you recorded the second M&B album? And why only one single, "Speed", on Rough Trade in 2006?

"Bring It Back" was a happy reunion. Bernard had gotten over the acrimony to the extent that he could hear my voice on some new music that he was writing. I was anxious to make amends and an opportunity arose. After "Bring It Back" was finished we started working on new material that got put on ice after a hideous experience at EMI, courtesy of one of the most odious characters I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. This experience was so demoralizing that Bernard and I went our separate ways for a bit; Bernard reteamed with Brett, and I made an album for my mom. "Speed" was something that we managed to salvage and release from that ignominious era.

How would you describe your clutch of shows in NYC last year? How did they come about? You mentioned they were your very first shows on American shores. Why such a long wait?

I was delighted to play in the states for the first time; that little cluster of shows felt timely and right; I was grateful and very happy. There used to be a lot of corporate nonsense: every time I went to one of those suspect, record company meet and greet events, the non-UK record companies would spout the same bull-crap, "We’re just waiting for the story." Consequently, I barely played out of the UK at all. The advent of social networking has changed everything: Facebook friends flew us to New York to perform a surprise birthday party; another Facebook friend got wind of it and said he’d arrange for us to play additional shows. That was all that was necessary. Amazingly, all of these US fans came to see it and me amazes me that getting me some American shows had been such a headache for "well-oiled" corporate machines.

In classic 70s and early 80s form, "Saturday" and "Look At Yourself" were stand alone singles in the 90s. Neither one was included on an album. Was there any conscious reason behind those decisions?

"Saturday" was a limited edition collectible that I created for the Pride festival of that year, but I absolutely adore that song. "Look At Yourself" was pre "A Little Communication". It was written early in the writing process and used as a water-tester. As I type this I am becoming aware of some real record company floundering. After its release we radically altered the musical direction and "Look At Yourself" became too noisy for the "A Little Communication" album.

Similarly, why was "The Coldest Day On Earth" not included on "The Glare", your collaboration with Michael Nyman?

Paul Morley invited us to contribute to his Guardian Blog in December of 2009, a month after "The Glare" was released. They asked us if we had a seasonal song and I thought that we could do something with Michael's "The Piano" theme as it was going to be a Guardian exclusive, but Michael's label fell in love with it and insisted that we record and release it.

Speaking of which, Mr. Nyman's audience seemed a bit puzzled by your collaboration while your fans rightly effused heaps of praise on it. Your thoughts?

There was a lot of bad will from Michael's fans. Some of them were downright offensive to me personally and surprisingly rude to Michael. I think they felt that I was the wrong kind of personality or voice. As fans of minimalism they perceived me as being too busy, too soulful, untrue to their vision of what Michael was, whereas my fans enjoy my collaborative spirit and enjoy the anticipation of who I will "collar" next. :)

You seem to enjoy recording covers. Your rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Conversation", from your first album, is outstanding. What is your criteria for recording a cover?

Thank you. If I respond to a song emotionally, which is to say if a song brings me close to tears, it's a no-brainer. I adore jazz standards and really can't get enough of them. Surprisingly I rarely touch the songs by artiste's that I hold most dear. I'm yet to cover Prince, Stevie or the Pet Shop Boys.

There seemed to be a few gaps between albums over the last decade or so. It appears you've come roaring back with Guy Davies as your musical compadre. What was the catalyst for your return? How did you and Guy strike up this current collaborative effort?

It's been a long friendship and we have a huge love and respect for each other. We're both looked upon as two talents with huge potential, and after my coming close to quitting and Guy's seemingly endless, mind-numbing stint in the private sector, we decided to commit to each other and "Do this thing!". It's the happiest chapter of my career. There have been gaps over the years and I have to file those under bad luck; I got frequently stonewalled by labels that didn't know what they wanted, although I did know.

The way you have taken social media and made it work in your favor is quite impressive. Hue And Cry, another favorite of mine, have approached their career in a similar fashion by engaging their dedicated fanbase. Was this intentional or did it happen organically (ie. by accident)? :) How do you find the experience of being laid bare to your audience, so to speak?

I've always been communicative. One of the early conflicts I had with "management" was the issue of me speaking to my audience. It was perceived by some as being "uncool" or "too cabaret". What pray is so wrong with cabaret? I had no idea what to expect when social networking was suggested, but you're right, I have really embraced it. I think the day I realized that I had an on-line audience was the day I grasped that I could create for and entertain that audience using social media, that it was just another set of raw materials. It's been life-changing.

You're about to undertake your first solo tour across the UK in quite some time. Why the lengthy break from the live experience?

Once again, bad luck: I'm not lazy, I'm incredibly creative, but my business acumen is bogus. That's why I need a compadre like Guy who addresses those gaps. It's quite different since we reconnected.

Prior to the current tour, you played a few, intimate salon dates. What was the thinking behind that? Will there be more salon appearances this year?

I saw Jane Siberry do a salon gig in Manchester and was blown away by the experience. I live for intimacy and interaction, so for me the home concert is incredibly powerful and moving and most of all true. I would love "salons" to be central to what Guy and I do, but I think that a lot of work has to be done to make them really take off.

Lastly, where do you find your fabulous, bejewelled baubles?

In London there is a lovely, eccentric ex-actor called Christopher St. James on Cecil Court off St Martin's Lane. His jewellery is incredibly beautiful and heart-stoppingly reasonable. Approach at your peril. He creates addicts.

With that, Mr. McAlmont was off in his tour van. Whooosh!

Please note that I will be tweeting, updating my blog and causing general mayhem at David's show at Dingwall's in London on March 27. Huzzah!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kate's cut

This just in! Be warned, it's a bit confusing. Kate Bush will release a (sort of) new album, "Director's Cut", on May 16. The longplayer, her first release since "Aerial" in 2005, will revisit some of her classic songs.

Released on her own Fish People label, Kate will feature new versions of songs from her albums "The Sensual World" and "The Red Shoes" which were released in 1989 and 1993, respectively. "Deeper Understanding", which originally appeared on "The Sensual World", will be issued as a single in April.

The album will be released in various fan friendly flavors. You can choose between four formats. A digital album. the standard CD, a two disc vinyl package, and a deluxe three CD set, including "Director’s Cut","The Sensual Word" and re-mastered edition of "The Red Shoes" in a case bound book.

Kate's label will be distributed through EMI, her home for the last 33 years. Not sure how I feel about her revisiting her mighty catalog with new versions of her work. Apparently, she has rerecorded some elements of the tracks whilst keeping the best musical performances of each song. An interesting concept, if nothing else.

Those of us who are looking forward to new material from Ms. Bush will have to wait a little longer. She is currently in the studio working on bits and bobs, but no release date has been scheduled for a full length album.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

clamor for glamour

Morrissey is about to release yet ANOTHER compilation. "The Very Best Of Morrissey" will be issued by EMI on April 25.

A week earlier, the label will pluck "Glamorous Glue" as a single from it with various b-sides to entice Sir Moz's rabid fanbase. It will be released across three different configurations in order to insure maximum purchase potential.

The CD single will feature the lead track, which originally appeared on "Your Arsenal", backed with "Treat Me Like A Human Being". The 7" single and picture disc will both include "Safe, Warm Lancashire Home". Both b-sides are outtakes from the sessions for Moz's debut longplayer, "Viva Hate".

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

faith, hope and charity

Color us with curiosity! George Michael, fresh from the clink and back promoting the deluxified edition of his landmark longplayer, "Faith", has decided to record a song for this year's Comic Relief.

Always showing the best taste in covers, GM will show off his soulful pipes on a rendition of New Order's classic 1987 single, "True Faith". Sense a theme?

Released ahead of Red Nose Day which will take place on March 18, "True Faith" will be released as a single backed with an instrumental version of the track as a b-side. It will be available digitally on March 13. A CD will be released on March 14. A music video is currently being lensed.

George Michael and all the members of New Order have graciously agreed to donate all royalties from the sale of the single to Comic Relief. Let's hope George gets the poppers out for this one! Can't wait to hear it.

And now, a taste of the original.