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.
…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).
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…
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.
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!!!*
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.