Monday, 2 December 2013

Robin McKelle

My latest guest castaway to be washed ashore on a lonely island in the sea is the wonderfully talented Robin McKelle.
Born in Rochester, New York and influenced musically by her church-choir-member mother, Robin first began to reveal her talent by performing in local R&B groups from the age of 15. 

After taking up the piano and French horn, she would go on to study Jazz at the University Of Miami before attending Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, graduating in 1999. Moving to the West Coast she would regularly perform as a backing-vocalist for both Michael McDonald and BeBe Winans before subsequently returning to Berklee as a teacher. 

After being placed an impressive third in the widely-respected Thelonius Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition in Washington, DC, Robin finally begin her recording career – first coming to the public eye as a solo jazz singer with her 2006 debut album “Introducing Robin McKelle” and its 2008 follow-up “Modern Antique”, both big-band swing sessions which would in turn precede the 2010-released set “Mess Around”, which, with its more soul-jazz direction, marked the first hint of Robin’s personal yearning to return to her original R&B roots. 

2012 saw the release of Robin McKelle & The Flytones "Soul Flower", with Robin writing most of the songs.  “The Flytones acknowledgment sets this project apart from my solo and previous jazz work, and also stresses the joint effort on this album with Sam Barsh (Avishai Cohen’s former pianist) and Derek Nievergelt (her current bassist). They’re from the jazz world, but they love this music. We worked on the tracks together, some even on stage when we were touring.”  The album includes duets with soul veteran Lee Fields and with jazz vocalist Gregory Porter.

"As an artist I am often asked the question of who my greatest influences are and what are my favorite albums or singers. I always cringe when asked this question because I feel that aside from being influenced by so many singers and musicians, I am inspired by different artists/music at different periods of my life. This makes it hard for me to pick 1 or 2 people when asked. 

Over the past year I’ve been focusing on writing and recording a new album in Memphis. While writing and researching for this album I listened to so many of my favorite artists and discovered new ones too !

I’ve compiled a few of my favorites so I hope you enjoy what I’ve been diggin’ on !"

Donny Hathaway – Live

"Donny is one of the most influential singers in my life. His tone, feel, and passion are so incredible. His phrasing is so in the pocket and yet so free. 

The band includes legendary musicians, Willie Weeks (bass) and Cornell Dupree (Guitar) on this live recording… and make no mistake, they are all killing it! 

I love all the tracks on this album but What’s Going On, The Ghetto and Jealous Guy all hit a soft spot in me and take me back to the time when I discovered Donny. He changed my life."

James Brown – Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine

"What can you say about JB ! I remember hearing this at a young age… I didn’t even know who JB was. I sang I Feel Good in a cover band when I was 17 and I had NO idea how much this man would end up influencing my musical path! 

His voice is so powerful and stage presence is undoubtedly amazing! THE hardest working man in show business people!!!

It was hard to pick one song or album, because I love them all so I chose this iconic tune but I especially love the live recordings because I feel that is where you can feel most of his energy and the band !"

Aretha Franklin - Live at the Filmore West
"Just so ridiculous ! 

I mean… the voice, the band, the energy is just incredible ! I would have given anything to be at that show! 

‘Nuff said !"

Gladys Knight & The Pips - Midnight Train to Georgia

"I just love Gladys’ voice. Her phasing and tone is so gorgeous. I could listen to her forever. 

I also love the lyrics because they speak about life and trying to manage your dreams and relationships. 

Gladys is one of my all time favorite singers ! 

This tune just makes me feel good !"

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

"I had to include this album because it was the first instrumental jazz record that I really connected to. Jazz is such a part of my musical journey and it’s helped me to become a better musician and shaped my sound along the way. 

Love Supreme is so beautiful in so many ways. Coltrane’s tone is unmistakable and he plays with such passion. On the first track, Acknowledgement, the variation on the motif evolves with improvisation and groove and I found that really kept me interested and helped me understand a music that was probably way too deep for me to get as a young musician. 

Every time I listen to this album I hear something new and I hear it in a different way. It’s just a timeless album."


Vinyl junkies will be delighted to learn that Expansion Records have released "Fairytale Ending" (for me, the standout track on the "Soul Flower" album) as a double A-side 7" c/w "Love’s Work" featuring Gregory Porter.

January 2014 will see the release of "Heart of Memphis" : An album recorded in the city of Soul and produced by the legendary Scott Bomar... the man behind the mixing console for many of Isaac Hayes’ and Al Green’s recording sessions.
Use iTunes link to to pre-order "Heart of Memphis"


Friday, 1 November 2013

Adam - Revival Sound System

Washed ashore on a lonely island in the sea is my latest guest castaway, Adam Tadesse of Revival Sound System, San Francisco.

Adam cut his teeth in the L.A. Ska-Punk band 'Grandpa Knucklehead' and then began collecting rare Jamaican 45s before founding the Revival Sound System.

In addition to his DJ residency with the Revival Sound System at Festival '68 in San Francisco's Make Out Room, Adam plays a wonderful selection of Calypso, Ska, Blue Beat, Ska, Rock Steady and early-Reggae on his entertaining, and very informative, KPOO-FM 89.5 radio show, Wake the Town. 

"Thank you so much for including me on this. There are some amazing people taking part in this as I've read on the web page so far. So it's an honor to be among the ranks of those already aboard." 

Wailing Wailers – Ten Commandments Of Love

"As a child in the early 70's, my father had a record collection and would play records at home for friend or a party etc. I remember that he'd keep the tunes that were on heavy rotation around the house on one of those old metal 45 storage grates, of course with no sleeves etc.
I cringe when I think about this now.  

Anyway, he had Harvey & The Moonglows 'Ten Commandments Of Love' 45 and I remember him playing it all the time. His friends would come by and they would all be partying, playing tunes and having a good time. The Moonglows tune always struck a chord with me to the point where I learned all of the lyrics by heart.

Fast forward to 2 or 3 years later, hanging at a classmate's house who's father was a musician. I just remember being at his house and his father playing a cassette of reggae music (it could have been any group, I was too young and it was too long ago to recall what exactly was playing). Then The Wailers 'Ten Commandments Of Love' came on the cassette. I remember thinking as the intro unfolded that I knew this song and how familiar it was. When the main vocal came in I was blown away at this "other" version I had never heard. I recited the lyrics as it was playing and my friend's father was blown away that I knew the song.

While I do remember seeing The Wailer's 'Catch A Fire' and Jimmy Cliff's 'The Harder They Come' LP's around the house, this was my very first encounter with The Wailer's muzik and even at that point I still had no idea how much impact their muzik would have on my young life." 

Clifford Brown & Max Roach – Delilah

"Late '80s early '90s I played bass in a Ska-Punk band in my hometown of Los Angeles. We had a great following and would play clubs and bars that we shouldn't have been old enough to get in to at the time.

When I hear this song it reminds me of those times. I just remember hanging out with the guitarist in the band. We'd end up back at his mom's house for a smoke session. We'd put the Cliff and Max album on and 'Delilah' was the first tune. I just recall being totally sedated by the music, and us being in this ska/punk band listening to this album just wishing we were Cliff and Max instead of in the band we were in!

A couple years later I would get deep into collecting Jamaican singles. One of those singles acquired was a tune by Prince Buster : '7 Wonders of the World'. Fun fact : If you listen to the end of this Buster tune, during the outro the organist is soloing and includes the head of 'Delilah' in his solo. Now I don't know for a fact that the organist did this as an homage to Cliff and Max's 'Delilah', but it sure does sound like the melody there.

Listening to 'Delilah' always brings me back to Los Angeles 1989-90. A very carefree, happy-go-lucky time in my young life."

The Impressions – That's What Love Will Do

"Ah yes, The Impressions. One group that has been covered many, many times and will continue to be until the end of time I'm sure.

Let me just say that no one has or will ever be able to do the music of The Impressions better than they already have. That is final.

In the late '60s Kingston, Jamaica made many attempts and in my opinion came the closest but still, nowhere near the magic of the original.

With that said, it wouldn't be right to have at least one Impressions tune (could have easily been all 5 picks here) packed."

The Fabulous McLevertys – Don't Blame It On Elvis

"Everything about this tune I love. It has a playful feel in the lyrics and they go along so well with the accompanying rhythm. Outstanding musicianship and the chorus is so catchy... I dare you to try and not sing this one to yourself hours after listening to it. It will without doubt be in your head long after hearing it.

One quick fun fact about The Fabulous McClevertys... They were the band that for many performances and a few recordings backed calypsonian "The Charmer" a.k.a Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.

If I am going to spend time alone on a Deserted Island, and I only have 5 songs to choose, it would make sense to me to bring at least one tune with an Island feel to it."

Skatalites – Old Broadway

"I figure if I am going to be a castaway on a deserted Island, I will surely want something to remind me of the big city life that I've grown up in. This song is that something.

For me, I can close my eyes, turn this on and immediately get visions of fast lane driving, larger than life billboards, city lights and the hustle and bustle everyday big city living.

One of the greatest musical combinations is that of Prince Buster (on vocal or production) and The Skatalites (my opinion of course). You just cannot lose with a combo like this and this song represents the best of that combination.

The Best Ska band in the world and the King of Ska.


If, like me, you are really into 60's Blue Beat, Ska and Rock Steady, then Adam's Wake The Town radio show is essential listening. 

Great music, of course, but there's also a goldmine of background information on Jamaican music provided by Adam and his guests... and there's even a full podcast available if you can't catch the show live.

 click on image for link

 click on image to link

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Paul 'Smiler' Anderson

Washed ashore on a lonely island in the sea is guest castaway, Paul 'Smiler' Anderson.
Paul has been in love with the Mod way of life since 1979. Throughout the 80's to the present day he has been involved in organising many events, publishing fanzines and running club nights. Alongside Damian Jones he co-compiles and writes sleevenotes for the 'Rare Mod' series of compilations and EP's on Acid Jazz records. In 2011, he presented the biggest ever exhibition of 60's Mod related items. 'Reading Steady Go!' proved to be Reading museum's most successful exhibition to date.

Paul co-wrote 'Circles, The Strange Story of The Fleur de Lys, Britain’s Forgotten Soul Band' which was published in 2009 and is author of ‘Mods – the New Religion!’ which is being published by Omnibus early next year.

It all really started for me around September 1979 when I finally became a Mod after watching it flourish from a distance. I was 14 at the time so I was too young to have been a Punk but I loved New Wave and Punk music, and through The Jam the Mod scene became more noticeable. I was living in Reading (40 miles from London) and there really wasn’t anything more than our local youth club. I was always one of the youngest Mods it seemed, the older lot got scooters and went off to see bands such as Secret Affair, The Chords and other revival bands.
As I got older I too got a scooter and went to bands. By the time I was 18 in 1983, a lot of the older Mods had become scooter boys, so clothing and music became more irrelevant to them as it was more about just having a scooters. I loved scooters and have owned at least one every year since 1982 but it was always clothes and music that took priority to me. Luckily I found a like minded soul in a guy called Richard Molyneux who rejected the local Reading scene in search of something different. In 1984 we went off to London one Saturday night to a club I’d read about called The Phoenix in Cavendish Square. It was fantastic and a million miles away from the local soul nights I had been to up until then (and never felt comfortable at). It was full of sharp suited kids dancing to old R&B, Beat, Soul and Jazz. It was my Mod Nirvana. After that we became regulars at The Phoenix on Saturdays and Sneakers in Shepherds Bush every Sunday. I started getting suits and shirts handmade and collecting vinyl records with a passion. 

Around 1990 I was really heavily involved in the scene DJ’ing, running clubs, writing fanzines and helping organise the Mod rallies. I felt that somehow I couldn’t expand any further and felt very limited. I got very into Acid Jazz, and the whole vintage tops and Duffer St George look. By 1991 I was buying things like The Young Disciples, Galliano, Brand New Heavies, A Tribe Called Quest plus seeing bands like these alive alongside the early Manic Street Preachers, Revs and 5.30 bands. I became a regular at Dingwalls on Sundays and various other clubs.

By early 1992 I literally walked away from the Mod scene. I never stopped being or calling myself a Mod it was just that I had had enough of the actual scene.I sold off all my tailored suits and trousers as well as my hand made shirts. I began wearing Lacoste, Armani, Hugo Boss, Stone Island, Paul & Shark and Paul Smith. Feet were shod in Patrick Cox loafers or Adidas Gazelles. I was riding a  1966 Lambretta SX225 before moving on to a 1964 Vespa GS160 mk 2. 

It was around 2000 that I was asked to DJ at a Mod orientated club for the first time in years as I still had all my record collection. I enjoyed myself and although I have never fully immersed myself back into the Mod scene, I began to get more involved with it again. I started to get my shirts , suits and trousers tailor made again. These days you are likely to find me dressed casually in a Lacoste polo, Levi 501′s with 1 inch turn ups and Adidas Italias or Adidas Japans. Dressed up normally in a handmade shirt, tailor made trousers and either Bass Weejun loafers or vintage shoes.

To me the essence of Mod is always about being smart and sussed. Dressing to fit the occasion rather than just dressing up for the sake of it. To me a true Mod will take the best influences both musically and clotheswise from the past and the present and co-ordinate them to move forward."

Martha & The Vandellas

"I heard this many, many years ago at a soul night and fell in love with it. The lyrics seem so passionate and just make me feel great. I really like The Jam's version too and always find myself singing along to the 'yeah,yeah,yeah,yeah' bit !

Luckily I got to meet Martha and interview her for my book. She's a lovely lady and gladly signed my copy which I'll treasure forever ! "

Little Walter
Up The Line

"As much as I get a kick from soul music, my true love is the blues.

This was such a hard choice as there are so many greats : Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, the list is endless...  but harmonica driven stuff is my favourite.

It was a close call between this and Sonny Boy Williamson's 'Checkin' Up On My Baby' but I really rate Walter's phrasing, and on this uptempo record he never gives up and shows he has a great voice too."

Prince Buster
Cincinnati Kid

"I'm really into early ska music and there is only one true King... that, of course, is Prince Buster.

His output is phenomenal and once again it was hard to choose from his back catalogue. He transcended the ska thing through to rocksteady with ease. I was lucky enough to see him live a couple of times and got some of my singles signed but sadly never got to interview him. He suffered a stroke a few years back and I don't think we will see him in this country again. 

The spoken word intro on this is brilliant and it seems to draw people to the dancefloor."

Young Disciples
Get Yourself Together (LP Version)

"I had a great time at Dingwalls during that Acid Jazz period when Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge played some awesome jazz stuff : Brazilian, jazz hip hop and, obviously, new releases such as Galliano, Brand New Heavies and  Young Disciples.

When the twelve inch of 'Get Yourself Together' came out in 1990 I thought it was a great track but the following year when it was re-recorded as the introduction to the LP it sounded fantastic as they had added the Hammond organ and Carleen Anderson's wonderful gospel type opening to the tune. 

I really embraced a lot of new black music during this period after years of only really listening to and playing vintage stuff on the Mod scene. this record takes me straight back there."

The Googie Rene Combo
Smokey Joe's La La

"I thought I should put in an instrumental... but which one ?

'Green Onions' by Booker T & the MG's is worthy here. Although it's an obvious record it is probably the first true funk record. I could have gone for a rare Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff or Jimmy MGriff Hammond track or maybe some obscure jazz gem. 

No, it had to be this tune which was first released in the UK in 1966. A tune that brings back memories of sweaty London Mod clubs circa 84/85 when we were truly an underground scene : Handmade mohair suits, handmade button down shirts and basket weave shoes. 

The outside world was doing what Frankie said whilst we were gliding across dancefloors to this. I think I made the right choice ! "


Paul's book ‘Mods – the New Religion!’ is being published by Omnibus early next year, but you can pre-order your copy on Amazon now :
click on logo

Paul has written the sleeve notes to a great series of CD's 'Rockhouse : How Mods Got The Blues'. 

Check it out on the website shown below :


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Mr. Mendel

Washed ashore on a lonely island in the sea is my latest guest, Amsterdam based DJ,  Mr.Mendel.
Mr. Mendel started out spinning records at the infamous CafĂ© de Duivel. This landed him a residency at Freakin III, an old school club night at Bitterzoet, Amsterdam. He soon decided that hiphop just wasn’t enough and Waxwell Records introduced him to soul, afro-beat, rhythm & blues and disco records. He instantly fell in love with the smell of dust, thousands of album covers and the crackling sound of old vinyl.

The 25 year old Mr. Mendel has developed his DJ’ing skills to an all-round style, collecting and spinning dance music from all corners of the globe with only one condition: “as long as it’s good soulful music”. Always selecting passionate, intriguing tunes. You'll hear sexy melodies, funk filled basslines, energetic drums, exotic percussion and euphoric vocals.

Influenced by & played alongside DJ's Rich Medina, Rahaan, Sadar Bahar, Kon & Amir, Rob Manga, KC The Funkaholic, Marcel Vogel, Mr. Mendel currently hosts successful parties, like The Daisy Age at Bitterzoet and I Love Vinyl at Canvas, which continue to attract an enthusiastic crowd of music lovers. Mr. Mendel knows how to rock a party with his soulful, upbeat, heartfelt musical extravaganza.

"Being allowed to only take five songs, is one of the saddest thoughts I had in a while. But then again, it probably wouldn't be my worst problem when on an deserted island. Maybe I would take some more recent dance floor tunes, but in this case I went for some (major) artists that influenced me through time."

Bob Marley & The Wailers

"I couldn't go anywhere without Bob. I hope the deserted island is sunny at least. In that case maybe I should take only reggae music.  

Actually almost any song of Bob will do, although for me this is a song that always moves me, especially the lyrics "Until the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes, me say war!".

For me discrimination has always been an important matter. Bob always shines light on the matter, so simply, so true."

Fela Kuti
Roforofo Fight

"About 10 years ago someone told me to check out the master's music... I did. 

I skipped through some songs and didn't understand it. Then a couple of years ago, at the record shop I worked at, we got a box of records (smelling like shit) straight from Nigeria. I gave it another chance, and since then it never let me go. 

You have to listen to the songs from A-Z, the arrangements are perfect, so much energy! 

There has to be some dancing to keep the spirit up on the island right?  Plus the song is extra long, ha ha !"

Gil Scott-Heron
The Bottle (Mr.Mendel Edit)

"Though one of my favourite artists, not especially one of my favourite songs, but I would definitely take it to a deserted island to remind me of my work and help me remember spinning music for a crowd. 

This record always seems to stir up the dance floor and bring people to another state.     

It will soon be on vinyl, so I could take the record... or do I just get to take an iPod to the island ?"

Tracy Chapman
Talking 'Bout A Revolution

"Tracy Chapman was the first 'soulful' artist I listened to (it's maybe more folkish though ?). 

When I was very young my parents used to play this in the car when we where on vacation and I never knew if she was a boy or a girl, but I knew I liked it!

It always has left me with a weak spot. Good soundtrack for the sentimental mood.. which I would probably have plenty of, being lonely on an island. 

Again any song of her first album will do the trick."

Curtis Mayfield
(Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below, We're All Going To Go

"Another major artist that always moves me. 

This got to be one of my favourite albums of all time. His compositions are brilliantly intense. 

I've had a little pessimistic worldview since I can remember. In this song Mr Mayfield is touching a lot of the world's problems in a hard poetic way; "educated fools from uneducated schools". 

And that intro! His lyrics are sometimes angry and sometimes hopeful, but always sensitive and still so relevant…

Or should I take some Wu-Tang after all ?"


You liked the music, now check out these links : Mr. Mendel on Soundcloud
click the logo to open
I Love Vinyl @ Canvas, Amsterdam
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The Daisy Age @ Bitterzoet, Amsterdam
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Waxwell Records, Amsterdam
 click the logo to open

Monday, 5 August 2013

Karen Thomas

My latest guest castaway on Deserted Island Discs is Manchester Soul Girl and Radio Presenter, Karen Thomas.

Karen's love of Soul Music is aptly demonstrated on her 'Soulinfinity' radio show on Pure Rythm Radio. 

Each Wednesday evening Karen plays a great mix of Modern Soul, Neo-Soul, RnB and a few of her 'Moody Numbers'.

"Choosing these tracks evokes a lot of nice memories for me."

George McCrae - Rock Your Baby

"This was the first record that I ever bought and what moved me away from the likes of Donny Osmond and into my love affair with soul music.
I was about 15 at the time and I remember hearing it played on someone's sound system from an open window as I walked home from school. 
This track got many a repeat play on my record player."    

Bennie Braxton - Come To Me
"This tune has got to be one of my all time favs for so many reasons. 
I first heard this played at a monthly Soul event called 'Parkers' in Manchester in the 90's, that I attended often and which turned out to be a very special and poignant time in my life. 
This track was love at first hearing and a 'wow' moment for me. It will always remind me of the many happy times I spent there dancing to soul tunes that I still love to listen to today."          
Roy Ayers - Poo Poo La La

"I've chosen this particular track because the memory of Roy performing this live was an experience that I will never forget.   

His showmanship and the way he interacted with the crowd whilst singing this was brilliant and filled with so much fun and humour.

What a fab track from a fab performer and artist."           

Will Downing - The Love We Share

"Will's music has featured so much in the up's and down's of my life.

That vocal that is so characteristically him, he has the power to make me melt.

I chose this track because it reminds me of someone very special who is no longer in my life... the lyrics tell the story of the love we shared."  
Rance Allen Group - Reason To Survive

"I debated long and hard about including this track in my selection mainly because it is so very personal to me for very special reasons and to this day I find it difficult to listen to without feeling some sadness because of the circumstances involved at the time. This song has everything for me, so I had to include it. Stunning intro, wonderful meaningful lyrics, harmonies that chill and that gorgeous melody and haunting vocal that just can't fail to touch the listener."


 I am sure that you enjoyed listening to these five great tracks and reading the reasons why Karen chose them... and if you enjoyed them as much as I did, then you should be listening to Karen's 'Soulinfinity' Show on Pure Rhythm Radio.

 click on the logo below