Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Farewell to the Black Stars

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Ghana were finally knocked out of the world cup yesterday by a lacklustre Brazil, despite spending what felt like 70% of the game in their half. Lacking their midfield general Michael Essien, and suffering Asamoah Gyan's sending-off they still showed that it is only a matter of time before an African team will win the tournament, and I cannot wait for that day to come.

Ghana's proclaimed "King of Highlife" ET Mensah was the superstar of the Ghanian music scene for the best part of 35 years, eclipsing all in his wake, and memorably performing with Louis Armstrong at the ceremony for Ghanian independance form British rule. 

By the early 60's, US soul and R&B had wildfired around the world, hotwiring with mento and calypso to spark the birth of Ska and nascent Reggae in Jamaica, and defibrillating the skiffle and folk scenes in Britain to ignite the rhythm and blues scene.

Washing up on the shores of Africa, it's snapping breaks, insistent riffing and crafted Western structures would in turn add to the already potent mix of hot jazz, afrocuban rhythm's and tribal folk songs that formed the basis of highlife, to form a whole new sound of funk, fusion and soul - afrobeat.

I'm only starting to find my way into this sound, and at times it's like standing on the precipice and staring into an abyss. However, with a couple of decent guides, you can start to get the picture.

Many thanks to Duncan Brooker for this one. And see you in 4 years, Black Stars.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'm prepping a summer compilation at the moment - some jazz, dub, soul and other indefinables, perfect to accompany a hot day with a cool breeze.

Like the last comps, it'll be on a first come first served basis, as I've only got 20 GB of bandwidth a month. But if you want an early head-up on it, drop me a line (hugo at, replace the at with @), and I'll give you advance warning for when to expect it. I'll use the email for this purpose alone, unless you want to opt on for periodic updates....

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

RIP Billy Preston - It's Alright Ma...

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Billy Preston died yesterday. A master of driving keyboard and fierce hammond, Billy's early breaks with Ray Charles and Little Richard brought him into contact with George Harrison, who promptly signed him to Apple, and then hired him for the Beatles' Let It Be album sessions, and rooftop gig.

Preston recorded a bunch of albums in the years following, often a long way from his R&B roots, and often struggling to catch up with the changing sounds of black music ; just the man, then, to be hired by the Rolling Stones for their honky take on disco, "Miss You", on which Preston's boozy Rhodes lights the fuse.

A familiar tale of drink, drugs, fraud and moral charges through the late eighties and nineties wound up with some kind of redemption recently. Preston recently toured with Clapton, The Funk Brothers, Steve Winwood, and even recently appeared on the US TV's show Pop Idol, before signing off on the sessions for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' recent album, and Neil Diamond's Twelve Songs.

Preston's mean take on "It's Alright Ma" is taken from his otherwise expendable "Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music", though I'm a huge fan of his "Billy's Bag" 45, available for peanuts, and sporting a tremendous sprawling hammond take on John Barry's flip on the reverse.