Jaki Graham – All Boxed Up

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It was just a matter of time (cause we all knew it HAD to happen, right..!?) before some smart record company executive did it: All of Jaki Graham’s 7 albums recorded 1985 – 1998 in one nice box. Finally it’ s here!

 

Step right up - the Jaki box is here!

Step right up – the Jaki box is here!

 

Jaki Graham (born September 15, 1956) burst on the scene in the mid-1980’s, and immediately placed herself in the front line of British singers. Her music was the much need vitamin shot for the 80’s: Soulful, danceable, well produced and extremely well performed!

The Box includes these original albums: “Heaven Knows” (1985), “Breaking Away” (1986), “From Now On” (1989), “Real Life” (1994), “Hold On” (1995), “Rhythm Of Life” (1996) and “My Life” (1998). All of her great hits and best known songs are here, as well as a few pleasant surprises and at a total of 86 songs – this is a treasure chest!

Anyone who ever set foot on a dance floor during the 80’s and 90’s have surely done some dancing to songs like “Could it be I’m falling in love”, “Round and round”, “Mated”, “Step right up”, “The closest one”, “Set me free” and “Ain’t Nobody” (her cover of the Chaka Khan song that hit no. 1 in the US Dance Charts). Also you get a whole bunch of very nice and soulfilled ballads – of which my absolute favourite is the stunning “The better part of me” (off the 1989 album).

If you think that now I’m going to give you an overview of the different songs and albums, you’re wrong – I am hereby chasing you off to the record store (whether online or physical) to buy the box, because this one is not to be missed! And while you’re at the store, you should also get the one album that is not included in the box: Jaki’s great album of jazz and blues standards “For Sentimental Reasons” (2012). It is her last album so far, and while it stylistically is very different from the other seven albums, it does fill out the picture of what Jaki can do as a singer, and who knows – maybe a career in jazz is on the horizon. A great album, get yourself this one as well!

Her 2012 collection of jazz and blues standards must not be overlooked

Her 2012 collection of jazz and blues standards must not be overlooked

Jaki Graham is one awesome singer, and whether you wanna dance or just relax you are sure to find songs in her recorded legacy that will fit your mood at any time.

It it usually considered an honour to get your collected works all boxed up. This time around the honour is bestowed upon the great Jaki Graham – very well deserved!

 

 

Susan Maughan – Bobby’s Girl is all grown up

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Eyes fixed at the top of the charts in 1962…

Born Marion Susan Maughan, in Durham County, North East of England, on July 1st 1942, she grew up in Birmingham.  As a child, her family relocated to Birmingham, and after leaving school she became an office typist. She answered an advertisement in Disc Weekly for a featured vocalist with the Ronnie Hancox Dance Band. Susan successfully auditioned and spent three years with Hancox.

In 1961 she was introduced to agent Dick Katz, who was looking for a female vocalist to join the Ray Ellington Quartet. Within a few weeks Susan was enjoying her first engagement with the quartet at the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo. She remained with Ellington for a year. Her 1961 debut release was titled “Mama do the twist”. Her second single, “Baby doll twist”, and on the B-side she did an updated version of the old 1920’s Hit Song “Some of these days”. Her third single was the more melancholy “I’ve got to learn to forget”.

In 1962 she was regarded as a challenge to the young and very talented Helen Shapiro. This followed the release of her wonderful record, “Bobby’s Girl”. The song had already been a hit in the US for Marcie Blane. Susan dropped the spoken, syrupy intro and jumped into the song head on. To this day it is still regarded as a classic, and one of the true “girl group” sounding gems of the 60’s!

Susan’s debut album, named after her big hit

Susan followed with more song in the same vein, but none of the came anywhere near the popularity of “Bobby’s Girl”. And none were very original either, so they sort of got lost in all the other records released by girl singers and girl groups in the early 1960’s.

Having been featured as a band singer previously, Susan of course had plenty of experience with the more classic pop songs, standards and evergreens. So, after just one pop album, she switched lanes – and went in the opposite direction, back to the classic American Songbook!

Her 1963 album found Susan “swinging” twelve classics from the Great American Songbook

Obviously being very comfortable with this kind of material, she takes a completely different vocal approach to this 12 songs. The result is very good versions of i.e. “If I were a bell”, “The gypsy in my soul”, “Gone with the wind” and “A lot of livin’ to do”. The album has been re-released on CD, and is still available from Amazon – but at terribly high prices!

The photo on her 1964 album, reflects the music. Smooth, silky and very beautiful…

On her next album, “Sentimental Susan” (1964), she still stuck to standards and classic pop, but this time going for the more gentle and tender stuff. The whole record is very good, and this is actually one of the best collections of this kind of music ever released! You will love her versions of “I’m in the mood for love”, “I’ve grown accustomed to his face” and “Someone to watch over me”!

Susan was part of the line-up for the 1963 Royal variety show, which also starred the Beatles. Susan sang “It might as well be spring” and “Bobby’s girl”.

Susan in the arms of The Beatles, 1963

She became a popular guest on television shows, including “Ready steady go!”, “Thank your lucky stars” and the “Morecambe and Wise Show”. Susan also had the female lead in the musical film “What a crazy world” alongside Marty Wilde (Kim’s father), Joe Brown and Grazina Frame.

A further musical feature, “Pop gear”, recently released on DVD, starring Billie Davis and Susan, who sings “Make him mine” in the film. The same year (1966) she put out another single, tailor-made for the German market. Singing in German, both sides had Susan singing (once again) about boys!

A 1966 single – still dealing with the eternal theme – BOYS!

Back in the UK, her second single of 1966, “Where the bullets fly”, was the title track of a spoof James Bond film and very much in the dramatic, Shirley Bassey/James Bond mould, but with a little more subdued vocals of course!

A year later, another album,  “Hey look me over” featured Susan offering a jazzy approach to some old songs like “Great day” as well as current pop hits like  “I’m a believer” and “There’s a kind of hush”.

Her 1967 album “Hey, Look Me Over”

After this, Susan worked continuously in clubs, concerts and travelled extensively around the UK and Europe. She was signed to different labels during the early 1970’s and had some singles on the market at infrequent intervals.

Despite the title of this 1971 single, I personally find it very easy to love Susan!

A lot of the girl singers who appeared on the scene in the early 1960’s was all gone (well, most of them!) a decade later. Actually, I think Susan was smart to widen her range of music, and getting a position as more of an all-round kind of entertainer. She has a clear, strong voice that can do a wide range of material, and with her cheerful personality and charm, she has always been a pleasant attraction in any musical setting. I doesn’t hurt either, that she is very beautiful to look at, has a fabulous figure and an infectious laughter….

Another single, from 1973. By then, Susan had certainly found HER way!

She went on to make another album in 1974. Titled “This Is Me”, it is a very nice collection of new material, in the pop/country mould that was very popular in the early 70’s. Extremely rare and never released on CD – the track list is listed below the cover photo:

Her very rare 1974 album – “This Is Me”

Time (Is Such A Funny Thing)
Help Me Make It Through The Night
Bigger Than I
There’s Gotta Be A Way
For the Rest Of My Life
Once More With Feeling
Almost Close To you
This Is Me
We’ll Singing The Sunshine
If We Only Have Love
Where Do You Go
Children Of My Mind

1975 had Susan doing her version of “El Bimbo” on a one-off 45, competing with versions by Finland’s Marion Rung and Italy’s Roseanna Fratello.  The next year, she released another single – this time her version of the Motown classic “It’s the same old song”.

One of very few examples of UK girls doing Motown stuff; 1975 single “It’s the same old song”….

In 1979, Susan released her (so far) last album of new material. Called “Superlady” – it finds the gorgeous Susan doing her own versions of a lot of current pop hits. All the songs are good, but still you can’t keep from comparing them to the original versions. Among the tracks, you find “With you I’m born again”, “Ain’t no mountain high enough”, “Last dance” and “Love is in the air”.

Call the fashion police! Awful cover, but the music on 1979’s “Superlady” is quite good

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Susan had carved a niche in pantomime work and as a regular fixture on the 1960s nostalgia circuit.

Susan ca. 1980 – still cute as a button!

By the early 1990’s, Susan could look back on 30 years in the spotlight – and a career that while based on ONE hit song alone, has seen her branch out into a lot of other fields of entertainment!

Looking slightly garish in this early 1990’s photo, Susan is obviously joking about push up bras!

Even today, she is still in demand for 1960s tours. Part of her set features a tribute to some of the other girl singers of the 1960s – Helen Shapiro, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Kathy Kirby and Cilla Black – and she sings a song most associated with each particular star.

A blond Susan with male company, taken around 2002/2003

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Susan is one of my favorite girls from the 60’s – and her voice and music never ceases to please my ears….. After 50 years of making music, the eternally beautiful Susan has reached the age of 70, but Bobby’s girl still seems ageless. Much like her music!

A fairly recent photo of Susan. She, like her music. remains untouched by the hands of time….

Coming soon – a closer look at Susan Maughan

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I feel it’s about time we put the spotlight back on to this wonderful British Girl Singer – who this year could celebrate no less than two big events; On July 1st she turned (incredibly, I know) 70 years old – and 2012 also marks the 50th anniversary of her big break through record, “Bobby’s Girl”.

Susan Maughan at age 21 – in typical early 60’s fashion.

Although her run of chart hits proved to be rather short, she still had a long career – and was active on stage well into the 2000’s! Never quite getting away from her 60’s “very cute pop girl” image and the girl-group sound of her biggest hit, Susan actually had a lot more going for her, and she released some wonderful albums – all of which are quite hard to find nowadays (and if you do find them, they tend to be quite pricey!)

43 years after she wanted to be Bobby’s girl, Susan at age 63 still looks like Bobby and a lot of other guys would line up be her guy!

So, in a short time – I will give you a closer peek into the wonderful musical world of the wondrous and beautiful Susan Maughan….

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