Coming soon…. Candi Staton and the many aspects of her career

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Candi Staton has been a singer and recording artist since the 1960s, and she’s gone from being called “The Queen of Southern Soul”, to Disco Queen, to gospel interpreter and since 2006 she’s once again an undisputed, secular soul queen.

Her music has touched millions of people, and all the more so for her being such a versatile singer, in different types of music.

Stay with me for a closer look at Candi’s recorded output – coming on this blog very soon!

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Easter Holiday!

Sharon Redd – 20 Years On….

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On May 1st 2012, it will be 20 years to the date since Sharon Redd died – I can hardly believe it… Must be because her music lives on, and she still lives through her music. There can’t be anyone over the age of 40 who hasn’t, at one time or another, danced to some of the great club hits she recorded. As a solo performer, her career encompassed much more than most people are aware of, and due to her much too premature death, I feel a loss of music that could have been – if she’d lived longer….

80's publicity photo

Sharon Redd (19 Oct. 1945 – 1 May 1992) may be first and foremost remembered for a lot of dancefloor-filling club hits of the 80’s, but before those came out she had done a whole lot more! She started her recording career in the late 1960’s, and released a total of 6 singles during the next 4 years: “Half as much” (1967), “Do you want me?”, “I’ve got a feeling”, “Since I lost you” (all 1968), “Easy to be hard” (1969), and finally “Where the mind can breathe” (1971). All these records helped her to establish a reputation as a very fine R n’ B singer with an expressive voice. They reveal a much more soulful Sharon than what you find on most of her club hits of the 80’s.

After 1971 there were no more records for quite some time, but Sharon branched out into acting. Her first major part was in the Australian production of “Hair” 1969-71, and Sharon stayed with the play during its entire run – becoming quite a star in Australia also! She appeared on the TV programme “GTK”, she made a fabulous commercial for Amoco Oil that was seen all over the country and she got to starr in her own Television Special! Later on, she was featured in the American TV sit-com “Rhoda” playing the role of Sherrie. She had a starring role in the London production of “The Wedding of Iphigenia” in 1974, and you can see her in a smaller part in the 1978 movie “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

And of course: from the mid-70’s and up to 1978 she was one of Bette Midler fabulous singers/dancers “The Staggering Harlettes” doing a lot of touring and shows with Bette. The 1977 Midler album “Live at Last” feature the Harlettes very prominently! They also made an album of their own in 1977, called “Formerly of The Harlettes”

Sharon (left) in The Staggering Harlettes, 1976

1979 saw the release of the song for which she is maybe best remembered; “Love Insurance”. For some reason this record never carried Sharon’s name – with the label reading “Front Page”. If any band of that name really existed, they were a studio product only, and it is Sharon who should be given all credit for this classic disco hit. It’s widely available under her name now, and can be downloaded from most music sites. Its almost seven minutes is pure musical bliss, and when she shouts “Surrender, baby!” during one of the breaks, that’s the only thing to do!

Right after “Love Insurance” hit, she was offered a contract with Prelude Records, quickly being turned into that labels “First Lady” and making three albums in quick succession for them. Her first album was titled simply “Sharon Redd” and she had big hits with songs like “Can You Handle It” and “You Got My Love”. The album also includes two songs that should have been hits; “Try My Love On For Size” and “It’s A Lie”.

Her next album, “Redd Hott” came out 1982, and she scored more hits with the songs “Never Give You Up”, “Beat The Street” and “In The Name Of Love” – ALL of them bona fide club classics, and ALL of them reached number 1 on the Dance Chart!  Her final solo album, “Love How You Feel” (1983) kept the hits coming with “You’re A Winner” and “Somebody Save The Night” – songs that will guarantee packed dance floors anywhere. The album also included “Activate” and the totally gorgeous “Liar On The Wire”. All three of her 80’s solo albums are available as downloads from iTunes, and they have been re-released on CD as well. There are numerous compilations out there too, most them compiling her biggest hits, so if you want just those – anyone of those will do. For those of you who want it all, go for the three solo discs altogether! They contain a lot of great music, performed by a woman whose smooth, soulful but still strong voice will no doubt leave a lasting impression on music lovers!

One of the better collections of Sharon's music

Although there were no more solo albums, Sharon kept on working in the music business. She was a prominent back-up singer for the group Soiree, and she made a duet with Les Adams called “All The Way To Love” – the last time her name would appear on any record. She was gradually fading from sight in the later part of the decade, but “Beat The Street! The Very Best of Sharon Redd” came out 1989 and caused some flurry of activity. This hit collection includes a 15-minute “Mega mix” of all of her greatest hits.

Includes all 12" versions and a Mega Mix

When Sharon suddenly died in May 1992, at just 46 years old – the music industry was shocked; Though never a superstar diva, she had been a consistent hit maker for some time, and as a person she seems to have been very nice, as everyone who’ve met her will tell you that she was just wonderful to be around. The cause of death was given as pneumonia, then a magazine published an article stating that Sharon had died of AIDS, and that the pneumonia was just a sideline to her much more serious diagnosis.

Personally, I don’t care – she was a wonderful singer who died much to young, whatever the cause of it was. If I sometimes feel like dancing, chances are that it’s one of Sharon’s discs I play. And I like to believe that she sits on the edge of a cloud, tapping a high-heeled foot to the beat and smiles that half-shy smile of hers. As a singer, she was one of the very few who could put some soul and sincerity into the electronic beats of 80’s dance music – and that is one of the main reasons I’m such a fan. She cuts straight through the sonic melee, aiming for your heart….. “Surrender, baby!” – Yes. miss Redd – I’m all yours…!

Amii Stewart – The girl who knocked on wood

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Amii STEWART (Jan 29 1956 – ) is one of those singers who always get labelled a “one hit wonder”. In terms of chart action, that is partially correct, as she hit the top of the Hot 100 in the US just once; In 1979 with her discofied version of “Knock on wood”. She might also be considered one of the true disco divas, but she took her career in a completely different direction, and I will focus on her musical merits in other fields in this post.

Amii burst on the scene in 1979 when her break-through hit “Knock on wood” was a big success, its sales giving her a platinum record and a Grammy nomination along the way. She followed this one up with several other songs in the same style; Her 8 minute “Light my fire/137 Disco heaven” might be a little over the top, but at least her very fast reworking of The Doors’ classic hit proves that she has a very big and flexible voice that can scale the octaves in a way most singers could never do. She named her first album “Knock On Wood”, and in addition to the two afore-mentioned songs it also included “You really touch my heart” and “Get your love back”. Her next album “Paradise Bird” was released within the same year, and she had further hits with “Jealousy” and “The Letter”. This album also included the fabulous “Step into the loveline”.

Amii in her "Knock On Wood" gear!

Amii has stated that she was never really fond of disco, even though her success in that category started her career. She settled in Europe in the early 80’s (and now seems to have made Italy her permanent home), and her 1981 album “Images” was recorded and released in Europe only. On this album she steers away from disco, spreading her gorgeous voice over a lot of different styles; she’s funky on “Tonight”, soulful and sexy with duet partner Johnny Bristol on “My Guy/My Girl”, tantalizingly sensual on “Love is bad for your health” and she’s a subdued but still soulful pop singer on “Save this night for love” and Randy Edelman’s “Don’t let go of me”. The last song must have been one of the most popular that year, as it was also recorded by (Mrs. Edelman) Jackie DeShannon, Letta Mbulu and Jane Olivor… “Images” was given a new name, “I’m gonna get your love” and under that name saw a limited release in the US in 1982.

The 1981 single with soul man Johnny Bristol

For the rest of the 80’s, Amii put out several great albums; Her 1983 “Amii Stewart” was a pop slanted record, seeing her having some success in Europe with the single “Working late tonight”. “Try Love” from 1984 was a more urban contemporary production, and after her 1985 single “Friends” was a hit, it was included on the new pressings of the album.  She worked with Giorgio Moroder and the Dutch Bolland brothers on 1986 “Amii” which was an electro-up tempo affair, and the only one of her later albums that really show any connection at all to the 70’s disco diva she once was…. “Time For Fantasy” came out 1988 and is a rather soft and quiet album, quite unlike anything you’d expect from someone with Amii’s voice. It’s a record for late night cuddling!

Amii’s albums of the 1990’s present an interesting collection, as she spread her talents to even other different musical genres: Having settled in Italy, what was more natural than making a collection of Ennio Morricone’s music – the album was called “Pearls” (1990). 1992 saw her collaborating with Narada Michael Walden and the British team of Climie & Fisher, resulting in the album “Magic” and it’s two singles “Don’t stop” and “Don’t be so shy”. This album also included the totally stunning “Le Storie Lunghe”. Next up were her two “tribute” albums, “Lady To Ladies” (1994) and “The Men I Love” (1996). The first one sees Amii doing songs made famous by Streisand, Ross, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Labelle and other female singers. Without ever falling into the trap of copying any of the original singers styles, it proves that Amii can sing anything! The male “counter-part” that came out 2 years later took on a similar approach, with Amii interpreting songs by The Beatles, Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, Sting and Elton John, and it is another proof of her power as a song interpreter of the first order… She did more urban contemporary stuff on 1996 “Love Affair” which also includes a beautiful duet with Salvatore Campanile, “How could I know”. Her next album “Unstoppable” contained 2 new songs; The title track and “Can I come home”, the other songs are Amii’s re-recordings of her previous hits, and these are very good too, even if I don’t really see the point – as the originals are just great!

Lady Stewart as "Lady Day" 2004

In addition to making records, Amii has also done stage work, and her 2004 musical “Lady Day”, written and performed by herself had an original cast recording put in the shops. Her last album so far, “Caracciolo Street” was released in 2010, and it’s a 2 disc album, where one disc is entirely in Italian, the other in English – but it’s the same songs.

A few words about her stage work and other interests: Even before she started out as a recording artist, Amii starred in the musical “Bubbling Brown Sugar” on Broadway, and staying with the play when it reached London’s West End. Returning to the stage, she played Mary Magdalene in the 2000 revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, and then her own cabaret-musical “Lady Day” in 2003/2004. Also, since 2001 she’s been appointed a goodwill ambassador for Italian UNICEF, concentrating her affords towards children with AIDS. She’s recorded a single to raise funds for these causes: “Love Song” (2006), followed by a 2007 single made as a duet with Mike Francis called “Nothing can come between us”. She also performed one of the entries at the 2007 San Remo Festival, a song called “Schiavo d’amore” performed with Piero Mazzocchetti. Having lived in Italy for many years, Amii is fluent in Italian…

With Ivo Monte, early 2000's

My hope is that this little blog post will show all of you that Amii Stewart, for all her “disco diva” status, is so much more, and that she instead deserves to be regarded as one of the finest singers since the 70’s who just happened to make a great disco hit somewhere along the way….

Coming up…. Amii Stewart!

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Amii Stewart might be looked upon as a so-called “One Hit Wonder”… She topped the American Hot 100 chart in 1979 with “Knock on wood”, a disco remake of the older Eddie Floyd hit.

If you look beyond the drum programming and the sort of overloaded arrangement, you will hear a singer with a tremendous vocal power, and Amii has proven time and time again in the years following her brief time as a disco diva that she is a one-of-a-kind singer!

She took a completely different musical path after disco music petered out, but she’s kept on singing, performing and making a string of very good records since then. Her last album “Caracciolo Street” came out in 2010.

I will shortly give you a survey of Amii’s recording career from the late 70’s up to the present. Hopefully it will provide some interesting information, and give you a new perspective on this fabulous lady whose voice have graced many different kinds of music through the years!

 

 

 

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