From the heart of Snowboy
If I'm known for anything it will probably be as a Latin Percussionist, Band Leader, Recording Artist and a DJ of different permutations and era's of Jazz, Latin, Funk and Soul, so no one was more surprised than I when Wayne Hemingway MBE contacted me and offered me a job as a curator at the inaugural and enormous 'Vintage' festival at Goodwood on the Sussex Downs in 2010. I was honoured and flattered that Wayne said that he'd been told that I know a lot about many styles of music. Whether that's correct or not, I've been a music writer, reviewer and CD compiler for years and have even written a music history book (“From Jazz Funk And Fusion To Acid Jazz”). I have a very varied 30,000 piece record collection which started in earnest in the early 1970's. I am just one of these boring people that just retains all kinds of musical facts and figures that make people glaze-over when I talk to them, so it's great to put that knowledge to some use at last. So here I am now at 'Vintage': the curator of 1940's music and entertainment in the 2,000 capacity 'Torch Ballroom'.
Looking back at it, I think I have my brother Paul to thank for initiating my early taste in music. With the exception of the 45 of the theme to 'Thunderbirds' purchased in 1966 and an obsession with 'Archie Comics' throughout the 60's, and by dint, the Archie's records ('Sugar Sugar' et al), I was healthily enjoying all the new Glam Rock the same as any other teenager until my brother's relentless playing of the 'That'll Be The Day' film soundtrack in 1973. I'd never taken much notice of Rock and Roll before, and now, all of a sudden there was this whole new exciting world of music to love, learn and discover. It was also an exciting time because there was a huge Teddy Boy revival and Paul was one of them. In 1974 the film 'American Graffiti' came out and that was it for me, with all those Doo Wop classic's on there. My brother was starting to buy Rockabilly records too and as often as I could I would buy Doo Wop, Rockabilly and Rock and Roll 45's and albums too, and even a bit of Swing. His crowd got sick of seeing Teds with long hair and flared trousers ('plastics', they were called) so they started wearing the US 50's style instead and having suits tailor-made. The 'Southend Hep Cats' they were. There was no one at all in the Ted scene wearing US suits and flat-top hair cuts at the time. And whether people like it or not, they were the first, and therefore I witnessed the very beginning of the UK Rockabilly movement. When I went to college in 1978 everyone was going to the classic Jazz Funk club 'The Goldmine' which I got dragged along to. Within weeks I was collecting Jazz Funk, Disco, P-Funk, Soul, old Funk and Jazz Fusion too. I was 17 and my music obsession was already getting out of control. My best friend at the time, Paul Webb, became one of the founder members of the alternative group 'Talk Talk' so I heard and absorbed all the music from that scene too. From Rockabilly one can go to Hillbilly, Western Swing, Cajun, Zydeco, Gypsy Jazz, Country Blues, Chicago Blues, all periods of Jazz. I know I did. I learned about roots Latin music from it's beginnings (particularly Cuban), I was buying a bit of African music, all forms of Soul, Boogaloo, all kinds of Funk, all periods of Swing, early Rap, Electro, and David Rodigan was influencing me with his Reggae show on Radio London then too. Funnily enough, I've always been able to compartmentalise and just love music. If I was pushed to say my favourite music of all time, sentimentally, just slightly edging it would be Doo Wop; and particularly the ballads, but then I may say something different tomorrow! I've never stopped collecting all permutations of rockin' music but am also a Soul, Latin, Jazz and Funk specialist as a DJ. Work that out!
On my journey as a musician over the last 30 years I've met many artists and musicians, and it recently occurred to me that I know virtually everybody on this compilation. It is a very small world indeed. I'm very excited that BBE have given me the opportunity of doing this album as it's something I've wanted to do for years. There are so many artists around making amazing period-influenced music that I thought it would be great to see a compilation mixing it up. This would have been the first time it'd been done but I got pipped to the post by the very friendly US Vintage connoisseur, promoter and musician, David Gasten (his CD 'This Is Vintage Now' introduced us to the delights of Caro Emerald infact), but nevertheless, I have a different take on it. With a backlash against bleak, sterile chart music, it excites me to see the huge worldwide public interest in artists such as Amy Winehouse, Imelda May, Kitty Daisy and Lewis, James Hunter, Sharon Jones, Eli 'Paperboy' Reed, Caro Emerald and (don't shoot me) even Paloma Faith in places. She was very, very ingrained in that whole underground vintage burlesque world. No one can deny that. Through their influence and exposure it means that there's a chance that thousands of other similar dedicated artists may get noticed too.
As all the bands on here are current, you may be surprised to see that I've included Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers 'Teddy Boy Rock And Roll'. They've recently celebrated 40 years together and I wanted to acknowledge that achievement. They're still out there doing it too, and that makes them current. They defined a whole new Rockabilly-based Ted sound in the 70's and are still the Kings. This track still sends shivers up my spine, even after 36 years. I'm proud to have many of the aforementioned artists on here that are leading the way, such as the wonderful world-conquering Imelda May, her husband, Darrel, who I think is the best male Rock and Roll/Rockabilly artist that the UK has ever produced post-1962. No arguments. I'm overjoyed to have James Hunter on here; a huge star who has made a massive impression in the US in the Blues world too with his incredible Ray Charles/Sam Cooke/James Brown/Bobby Bland/Lowman Pauling-style early-60's R&B Soul sound. He's on here twice, one being with my Afro Cuban group doing a cover of Ivory Joe Hunter's 1955 R&B hit “I've Got To Learn To Mambo”. Naturally, any comp like this would have to include something by Kitty, Daisy and Lewis and interestingly, just as I was finishing compiling, their new 45 came out and was an entirely different sound to the Hillbilly/Rockabilly that we're accustomed to. This has Funk drums pounding through it! Now, that's what this comp is all about – cross-pollination. What great timing. The hard-working Steve Hooker from Southend-on-Sea is rightly represented on here with this tough 60's Garage/Soul hybrid. Another surprise on here for you will be to see a track by a Cliff Richard and The Shadows tribute band (Rich Clifford & The Saddows), but they're amazing. Their version of 'Find Me A Golden Street' is actually better than the original. Sorry. It's true. The Rapiers are on here, and again, if they'd been around in the late-50's/early-60's they'd have been as big as the classic brit-guitar bands like Nero & The Gladiators, The Flee Rekkers et al. Incredible. Many other styles are represented too, from the unique tough Blues sound of the mighty Big Boy Bloater to some of the current authentic Funk bands such as the Norwich-based Speedometer and The Perceptions (which features James Brown's Trombonist and artist in his own right, Fred Wesley), and the Godfather of the UK Funk scene, the James Taylor Quartet, with his thrilling debut 45 'Blow Up'. Going for some tough funky Northern Soul is Sweden's Magnus Carlson – who is a huge star in Scandinavia, and Kings Go Forth from Milwaukee. They're that powerful and authentic that they even caught the attention of the legendary David Byrne, and they are now on his Luaka Bop label. Two artists on here that have already reached stellar heights and are achieving enormous record sales are my old friends Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings from Brooklyn and Eli 'Paperboy' Reed. The Dap Kings band-leader, Gabe Roth, owns the label Dap Tone and previous to that, Desco. No wonder their authentic 60's and early-70's Soul, Funk and R&B sound is doing so well, as Sharon is as superb a Soul singer as has ever been, with a band to match. Again, with Eli, he captures that early/mid-60's R&B sound to perfection and delivers with the spirit of youth as it's meant to be. His rare debut 45 from 2008 is on here for your delight. I've noticed a theme of R&B running through this comp, so it will be of no surprise to you then to hear Laura B and The Moonlighters excellent and fresh version of Big Maybelle's 'That's A Pretty Good Love'. They're without doubt one of the UK's top groups for that early-50's Jump Jive and Blues sound and here's why. Talking of Jump Jive and one has to immediately think of the legendary Ray Gelato. He started professionally with the Bill Haley-esque group 'Dynamite' (a superb group I have to say) and shortly after formed the beloved Chevalier Brothers before eventually going solo and becoming the institution he is today. This version of 'Old Black Magic' is from his latest CD of duets with the UK-based, US dynamo, Kai Hoffman. From one dynamo to another: I couldn't really do this compilation without including Si Cranstoun's Jackie Wilson-tribute club smash 'Dynamo'. He's packing out everywhere he plays at the moment, and everyone that knows who he is knows that it's just a matter of time before he's a huge star. Lastly, we find gold-dust in the form of Ondrej Havelka and his Melody Makers from Prague. His orchestra are so authentic playing the Swing music of the 30's and 40's, and the recording is so authentic too, that it may as well be a recording from then by one of the top orchestras. Although already a household name all over eastern Europe as an artist, actor and film director, many people have discovered him by word of mouth on You Tube, like myself, and I was very proud to present him in concert at 'Vintage At Southbank' in 2011. A very rare occasion. The heaving room of 2,000 people went wild.
That's the thing with this compilation: what I love about mixing these era's of music by current dedicated groups playing classic music is that it's the same principle as Wayne Hemingway's Vintage festivals; from a musical point of view. It's Swing, R&B, Funk, Northern Soul, Rockabilly, Mambo and Rock and Roll all on one CD/record to be discovered and enjoyed by everyone; after all, there's only one degree of separation, at most, between all the styles of music on here. You may buy this for Imelda May's track but then discover the James Taylor Quartet or vice versa. Perfect.
Personally, I'm not keen on the term 'retro'. To me that say's “A thing of the past”. Whether you're keen on the term 'Vintage' or not (and some of the artists here are not comfortable with that term), a definition in the Collins Dictionary is “Representative of the best and most typical”. There you have it. Of all the amazing artists on here, I have been very fortunate that BBE have somehow managed to license a track by virtually every single major artist and group making waves in that world today too. You're in for a treat.