The Greatest Artist You’ve Never Heard.

First off, I love the fact that, through this blog, you all have allowed me to share with you the things I love and loathe (I’m a Libra, so, for me, there’s no middle ground). You guys should know by now that music and film (and shoes and books) are my thing(s). I know I’ve been coming at y’all pretty aggressively with the music of late, but it’s only because I love it so, and since you’ve been so receptive to everything I’ve offered up, I herewith pull out the ace in my back pocket…the one I’ve been waiting to slam down for some time now. I’ve been working my way up to springing him on you (actually, I was kind of hoping one of you would mention him first, but that’s okay. I’m more than happy to be the one to big him up and trot him out, so to speak.)

I don’t even know where to begin to start defining this cat. I really don’t think he can be pegged. His name is Lewis Taylor and his music is soulful, psychedelic, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring. And no, it’s not more of that neo-soul, “ooh, check it out, this white boy can sing like he’s black” stuff, either. I can’t even come up with enough adjectives to convey how unique and extraordinary Lewis Taylor is. He plays every instrument. And he’s really, really, really (did I stress really?) gifted. Ordinarily, I’d say I’m running the risk of overselling him, but I can’t. He’s. that. good.

David Bowie and D’Angelo are fans. So is Elton John. But the soul man Lewis Taylor isn’t exactly thrilled by his growing popularity. Happiest as a studio hermit at home in London, he has little interest in performing live or seeking a wider audience, say, in the United States…

That was a quote from The New York Times earlier this year. (By the way, he did come and perform in the States.) Here’s more praise:

For much of the last decade, arguably the most brilliant R&B artist of this generation has toiled in relative obscurity in Britain. It’s not that Lewis Taylor is unknown — Elton John, David Bowie, D’Angelo, Chaka Khan, Darryl Hall (of Hall & Oates) and the late Aaliyah — are among his fervent admirers.

That was from the website PopMatters.com. And this:

Lewis Taylor is a brilliant soul singer. But his artistic strength and Achilles’ heel is that he’s so much more: Musical tributaries flow in from Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Prince and Jimi Hendrix, just for starters. His near-flawless eponymous 1996 solo debut had the faithful swearing that Marvin Gaye had been reborn…

That was from LA Weekly. Oh yeah, check this out:

On paper, Lewis Taylor’s musical formula looks like a surefire recipe for disaster. But when the reclusive Brit combines his natural affinity for old-school soul with his flair for prog-rock bombast, the results are usually enchanting, sometimes jaw-dropping.

That was Variety. I think you get my point.

It took what many consider his seminal work, Stoned Pt. 1

…seemingly forever to make it Stateside, but it finally arrived in the fall of last year, repackaged with some extras under the name Stoned.

I got the original nearly four years ago and it is so damn great, even my best hyperbole can’t do it justice (and y’all know I can whip out some hyperbole…but only when I mean it, natch).

Here’s the video for the title cut, “Stoned Pt. 1.” I love this guy.

Nice, huh? I actually first became acquainted with Lewis Taylor’s magnificent talent when he dueted (is that a word?) on a remake of the Pete Wingfield song, “18 With A Bullet,” with Carleen Anderson

…from the soundtrack of Guy Ritchie’s awesome breakout film, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

Speaking of Carleen, I first got hip (hep?) to her more than a dozen years ago when she was the lead singer of an incredible UK acid jazz band called the Young Disciples. Carleen’s voice was not typical in any way, and the chemistry she had as a part of the Young Disciples very much mirrored the way N’Dea Davenport fit so magically as the lead singer of another great UK acid jazz group that I’ve written about here, The Brand New Heavies (I also thought it was cool that they were both black American chicks fronting British bands). The Young Disciples released an album in 1993 called “Road To Freedom“…

…a splendid, splendid, splendid piece of work from top to bottom that I’ve had in active rotation from the moment I bought it (in 1993). It’s such an extraordinary album, I simply never tire of it. The big hit was a song called “Apparently Nothin’” that really put Carleen on the map, but the entire album is unbelievably good. I kid you not when I say I’ve listened to it at least once a week for the last thirteen years.

(Carleen temporarily fronted the Heavies after N’Dea left for that much too long stint. Nobody, in my opinion, can come behind N’Dea and have the same connection and effect, no matter how good they are; thank goodness N’Dea and the Heavies are back together again).

But I grossly digress. Back to my ace in the pocket, Lewis Taylor.

Here’s the audio for the song, “18 With A Bullet“, featuring Lewis and Carleen.

18 With A Bullet

I also have a clip (well, “clip” is an extreme understatement) of him performing live on L.A. public radio station KCRW’s groundbreaking, career-making show, Morning Becomes Eclectic. This is a real treat. A nice little mini-concert/interview clocking in at 44:55 minutes. When you click the link below, you can either save the file to disk and play it from your hard drive, or open it with RealPlayer (which you can download for free by clicking RealPlayer) and listen. Enjoy!!!*

And if you want even more, CLICK HERE to go to the MySpace page his U.S. record label has set up. You can hear more music there.

In June of this year, he officially “retired” from music. Here’s hoping, however, he changes his mind or at least continues to dabble in some way.

And hell, since I brought ’em up, here’s Carleen Anderson and the Young Disciples’ big hit, “Apparently Nothin’.” Remember, this was circa 1993, so adjust yourself accordingly. No matter. Good music begs to be shared (and this wasn’t even the best cut from the album…that, in my opinion, was a song called “All I Have“). Enjoy!!!

*Juan G., I know you told me to ixnay with the usicmay because I’m making you spend money every time I do it, but trust me, this is money well spent.

18 thoughts on “The Greatest Artist You’ve Never Heard.

  1. >1993 Hmmm let's see – That's the way love goes (Janet Jackson), SWV had a few hits, Whoomp There it Is! and Daisy Dukes (Deuce), Comforter (Shai), Nuthin' but a G-thang and Dre' Day (Dr. Dre), Another Sad Love Song and Love Should have brought you home(Toni Braxton), If I had no loot and Anniversary (Tony, Toni, Tone), Knockin da boots (H-Town), Just Kickin It (Xscape), Hey Mr. DJ (Zhane), One Last Cry (Brian McKnight), Hip Hop Hooray (Naughty by Nature), Can We Talk (Tevin Campbell), Sweet Thing and Reminisce (Mary J. Blige), Slam (Onyx), I get around and Keep Ya Head Up(Tupac), No Ordinary Love (Sade), I'll Die Without You (PM Dawn), Rebirth of Slick – Cool Like Dat (Diggable Planets), Something in your eyes (Bell Biv Devoe) Mr. Wendel (Arrested Development) — The point is, there was a lot of good music (R&B, Hip-Hop) that came out in 1993 (some of this emerged in late 92') so your girl had some stiff competition back then, which is probably why I never heard of her. I probably could have become a fan had I been introduced to her back then. R&B and Hip Hop was in heavy rotation, but I've always been a versatile listener. Retrieveing that list of music also reminds me of two things. I was having a good time in 92'- 93', because I lived in Atlanta at the time, and secondly I met an aspiring writer back in 1993, who just happens to be our gracious hostess. Which reminds me:Good Friends are like Good Music. No matter how long it's been since you've heard from them, they always make you feel good inside.

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  2. >man, rich…that would be one helluva mixtape, just on the '93 music alone. i haven't heard a lotta that music in a looooong time. slam?!!!! by onyx?…are you kidding me? classic.like i've always felt, especially with today's radio, they are more infused with "taking the backseat to video's lead" and play the hottest videos, in which the music sounds like shit. (the only exception to the rule is NE-YO. why? if you listen to his lyrics, no video needed, it's embedded in your mind)i have to admit, this cat lewis taylor is very soulful. and if the video "stoned, pt.1" is a reflection of his personal life…wow, sorta like musical genius, like our lo's "penn"…hahahaha i wonder does he kills the girl in the end…to wit, his sounds reminds me of prince, van hunt and the ever so reclusive maxwell, who comes out now and then, make a hit then retreat back to the caribbean or sade, who does the same but has a cult following like you wouldn't believe.thanks for sharing lo…

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  3. >Um, Rich, you actually met me in 1992. There are reasons I remember this.But you're right, the period between '91 and '93 were probably some of the richest years in R&B and hip-hop (you left out, among other things, all the R. Kelly music that was flooding the streets).Lance, Lewis Taylor is amazing. You need to hear his albums to truly appreciate his range. His genius has oft been compared to Stevie Wonder's and Prince, and it's well-deserved. And he does have a cult following.I heard Maxwell going to be coming above ground to drop something new.

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  4. >"There are reasons I remember this" Hmmm. I have no clue what that means, but I'm almost certain it was 93'. But considering you have the memory of an elephant, I might have to let you win that one. As for your boy, I'm going to download his 45 minute showcase and listen to him in depth. I liked his voice and the video was cool, but I wasn't ready to run out and get him.Yeah, I also remember R. Kelly dropping 12-play in late 93', but it got most of it's rotation in 94', because that's when I moved to St. Louis, I remember riding around Listening to him. Aaliyah's – Age ain't nothing but a number – "R" was all over that, dropped in 94' also. How many of you all remember Public Announcement dropping their joint (She's Got that Vibe, Honey Love, Dedicated) in 92' before "R" went solo. Lance, you are right, that would be a nice mix to have. I wish I had a few CD's with music that dropped in that 92' to 94' time frame. I've never checked that Neyo cat out (maybe I have heard him and don't know it), his name keeps coming up, I'll have to give him a listen.

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  5. >Rich, you've heard Ne-Yo. He had a song earlier this year called "So Sick" that I got so sick of hearing. ("And I'm so sick of love songs, so tired of tears…" or something like that.) He also wrote several hit songs, including Mario's big hit, "Let Me Love You." Trust me, you've heard these songs. If you were a mile within a radio, you couldn't escape them.

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  6. >Maxwell that is, he moves me. Ne-Yo can go somewhere with his exposing his ding-a-ling for more record sales. And there are rumors that hes gay but nothing is confirmed. He prolly put that out there for the masses.

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  7. >about lewis taylor…even if he was to come to the US, would the urban/r&b audience embrace him?i don't know about elsewhere, but black brit, corinne bailey rae wasn't heard here in nyc, except for the smooth jazz station, cd101.9. urban stations kiss & wbls wouldn't even play "put your record on". wbls is finally "recognizing" her not for the first single hit, but for this new slow ballad joint that out now (go figure)sorry, can't recall the name of her latest single.

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  8. >The unfortunate thing, Lance, is tht the music industry and radio are all about putting artists in a box so that they can define them by a certain genre, and thus know how to target their market. Hell, publishing is like that, and so is the film business (thus the reason why execs hear, in pitch meetings, things like "It's 'Star Wars' meets 'Friday the 13th'"). It's an attempt to avoid as much risk as possible in terms of their investment and to strike in areas where the return on the investment is known to prove good.From a business standpoint, that's practical, but for the artist and the audience who may never be exposed to someone who doesn't fit a "type" or familiar profile, it's sad. There's so much amazing talent out there, but if you can't describe the person by saying, "It's Ne-Yo meets Aerosmith" (which would still probably scare the shit out of a record label), then they often end up passing…until somehow a unique artist manages to find a way to break through, and then every label rushes out to find a copycat version of that artist because they've now identified another market where they can tap into cash.It's a really wretched catch-22, which is why MySpace has the potential to play such a unique role. Artists who aren't signed whose music doesn't fit in a box can still be heard and build an entire audience (as of this writing, there are 111 MILLION people on MySpace) without ever going through a major record label. It's allowing an entirely new model to be built for artists to break through.

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  9. >good lookin' lo…thanks for sharing that advice. i remember in a luther vandross interview of him mentioning the same issue of the "catch-22" in the music business, explaining his early years.his voice was so unique, they couldn't match him with anybody, until nat adderly, jr., fonzi thornton and others believe in him and took a chance with "never too much".

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  10. >Hey, I was all day at Ameoba Music this weekend traipsing around the Soul section. There was just too much good stuff to buy, I was going crazy. I love the early 90's TLC, Tevin Campbell, Toni Braxton, Luther and Peabo Bryson. Well, there are many more but those are on the top of the list. I bought two Anita Baker CD's this weekend that I owned once upon a time and wanted back. Seems to bring back good memories….

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  11. >Was one of them "The Songstress," Matt? That is arguably the best of all Anita's cds. It is my very favorite and always the one I go to when I need to hear some Anita.You could literally blow a lobe in Amoeba. That place, for me, is like a crackhouse is for a junkie (do people still say "junkie"? well, at least I didn't use the word "dope").

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  12. >Giving You The Best That I Got/Rapture….You Bring Me Joy is possibly one of my favorite songs ever. Didn't see Songstress or I probably would've bought it as well. I'm writing a romantic comedy concerning, natch, a white writer and black actress and needed some nice background music. Bought some Michael McDonald and some salsa. I was in Ameoba so long they should've charged me rent.

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