A Selection from my Personal Playlist (Vevo wherever possible) – Enjoy!
Santana was 52 when the Supernatural album was released. He had been performing his unique fusion for more than 30 years. True as ever to his sound and his message Supernatural broke through to new audiences and huge chart success around the world, reminding us all what an arresting and inspiring artist he really is. Santana, you give us inspiration and courage. Thank you 🙂
Yemi Alade is one of those inspirational artists whose talent , energy and elevating vibe makes us all want to be African! I love the positivity, love, dignity and diverse beauty of the music and the message that she brings.
I love the sophistication of contemporary R&B. This subtle mix from 1999 just has an ease to it that make the sound seamless and effortless. It just has the ooze!
For me this is one of those once heard never forgotten songs. Another one that just has the ooze.
Complex, compelling, authentic, animated, electrifying performance. I love this song. It was part of the ambience of my home in Camden Town back in the ’90’s. Joni Mitchell is a living legend.
When a vocal sounds this powerful and textured with the scant musical production of TV in 1970, can you imagine what Pacific, Gas and Electric would have been live?! With his energy, emotion and conviction and Charlie could take an audience from cold to being with him, on his side and racing with his emotion in the blink of an eye. Gospel, Blues, R&B and Soul all roll together in his deft delivery.
There are some bands and artists whose artistic growth through a long career causes us to look back on earlier performances and see and hear even more than we did first time around. I think of Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and the peerless Rolling Stones. Here the guys are still in their thirties and yet the integrity of the sound and the performance and the assuredness with which it is all delivered give it an amazing authority. On top of all that it’s FUN!
Every thing I said about the Stones above I could say about John Mayer – re his career and re this performance from when he was a stripling of 23!
When you need to find joy, energy and the spirit to overcome, Stevie Wonder is The Man. Here he knocks out of the park with a Song in the Key of Life – Another Star!
Fela Kuti’s original given wonderful gravitas power by the unique jazz fusion of Hugh Masakela and his band. A special song for me and Ruth, it is the song to which we entered our wedding breakfast. I want to tell you about “Lady!”
This is Tom Jones…in 1969. If you’re not familiar just watch this and listen and you will get a sense of Tom’s warmth, humour, musicality and energy. In upbeat songs like this one Tom sings with a touch of irony yet coupled with 200% commitment. This recording only gives a tiny sense of the immense power of Tom Jones’ incredible voice, full of blues texture and sensitivity. I don’t think many British performers in 1969 had the feel for Rhythm & Blues that Tom shows here – and talk about entertaining, Tom always had the showmanship to respond to random input from his audience, as you’ll see here. He was only 29 when he turned in this performance but his confidence and authority on the stage is total. The man is an absolute legend whose stature has only grown through the decades. Am so glad he has never stopped. For another impression of his phenomenal vocal ability the following song is Tom’s signature hit, originally gifted by Sandie Shaw and performed here, inpromptu, on The Voice UK by Tom at 80 years of age! Scroll further down this list and you can hear Tom duel with the outstanding Jennifer Hudson. Just sit on the edge of your seat and enjoy!
Music is never just music. In Pansa Pansa play Fela Kuti’s “underground spiritual game!” as he performs with Africa 70, playing, celebrating, prophesying and calling forward love and courage in Berlin 1978
This song and its choreography from the musical movie, Oliver, are to my mind a creative masterpiece. Nearly 50 years after the movie was released my young children watched Oliver. They instantly remembered and loved the songs, which have become embedded within their musical imagination. Somehow the joy of this song just lodges in your soul.
Together the music , lyrics and dance convey so vividly an idea that all the daily business of human life, street trade, and urban life could be seen by an innocent and joyful eye as something harmonious, and tapestried together into something beautiful. For that, Lionel Bart, Thank You and Bravo! (The same vision is expressed in my second choice from this musical further down my list.) Lionel’s score, and the phenomenal production of the movie at every level generated, what for me is, the very zenith of the musical movie genre.
Few songs have been as arresting in my lifetime as this offering from Lenny Kravitz in 1993. Confidence + Intensity + Swagger!
This epic is an absolute icon of a song. When a piece of music becomes as much a part of the cultural fabric as Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain has done it separates from its time and place becomes like a song without ancestry. But to help you hear it with a fresh ear… the brooding rhythm, instrumentation and intense vocal harmonies place the opening of the song in the raw mountainscapes of Bluegrass. The lead vocal then lifts us into the territory of Soul, while the insistent downbeat earths a strong Funk within the song’s groove. The bass break takes the second half of the song into an epic Rock finish and fadeout.
That’s a whole lot to get into a single song. And it is one song, brought together so intensely and delivered with such commitment that you cannot help but listen every time, with your head nodding out the fight between drum and bass with the pain of the song lyric etched over your face. I defy you to try!! Enjoy!!
Thank you Neil for introducing me to Steely Dan back in the 70s and early 80s. Took me a while to understand what I was listening to. The with, the songwriting, the fusion of genres, Donald Fagen’s authentic voice, and the panoply of incredible musical talent gracing the Dan’s studios. Now there music is, for may, layered with so many associations that it has become part of me. Thank you Becker and Fagan and all your wonderful crew. Inimitable 🙂
I have only one The Voice Australia artist in my personal playlist. Johnny Manuel brings a beautiful, powerful and emotional voice to everything his sings. Ruth and I watched Johnny perform this song live and took a long time to come down after this performance. Johnny’s delivery of Guy Sebastian’s “Before I Go” made me stop and hear its meaning in a way I had not done before. (I also love the moment of Gospel harmonisation late in this arrangement.) Listen and remember that this is the audio from a live performance. So I doff my hat to this talented young man 🙂
A sweet reminder from Nikos Vertis that music takes us to a place that is timeless
Tina Arena is an Australian icon. Hers is a voice that has to be heard live for the power of it to be really understood. I love this performance for the respect and affection of her fellow-performers. Together The Veronicas, Jessica Mauboy and Tina create a fun and compelling performance of Tina’s signature number. Memorable and iconic. Sit up and enjoy!
The close falsetto harmonies of the Brothers Gibb are so perfect and utterly inimitable. To my generation they were not cool. My generation of blokes perhaps saw them as a middle of the road, housewife’s choice, but even for that lack of cool factor we couldn’t deny them respect – simply because their sound was absolutely phenomenal. Saturday Night Fever relaunched their career and anchored them in their transatlantic falsetto style, having taken a couple of decades to find it. As song writers and record producers, the Bee Gees were sought after by A-list performers and were widely respected within the music industry.
The Bee Gees have sold between 120 and 220 million records setting them among the best-selling artists of all time. The Bee Gees’ Hall of Fame citation says, “Only Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees.” So many of the Bee Gees’ songs are classics, perfect and ageless, that it is hard to make a pick. I choose Stayin’ Alive because I find every element of it electrifying – even after 43 years of listening to it.
Hats off to Craig David. He really pushed the envelope in Soul / RnB and changed the rules. For a UK artist to change the direction of an American genre is an incredible achievement. Beautiful mood in Rendezvous. And a great soul – from just down the road from me in Southampton! So I feel like a stakeholder in his outstanding success. Bravo Craig!
This is a real feel-good pop song, penned by Robert Civilles, David Cole, and Mariah Carey and lifted to stellar heights by the incredible voice of Mariah Carey. She has great texture and tone and an absolutely unmatched whistle-register. Nearly thirty years on and it is still a song and a performance that you can’t see and hear without smiling widely and feeling a little higher 🙂
Witty lyrics, catchy melody, authentic voice, a touch of style and it’s good to dance to – all adds up to a Fun Track from the Jonas Brothers. Classic Rock video of youthful hedonism in a formal setting. Works for me 😉
A double whammy (pardon the pun) of George Michael – just to remind us what it was that made him sooo goood!! Soul, physical swagger, sheer musicality and a love for his audience – George exuded it all so easily. An amazing talent. A musical great. Vale George XX.
Credence Clearwater Revival have a power, passion and an iconic sound that have a unique place in the musical journey of the twentieth century. In 1969, on a TV stage, all that danger and energy had to be channeled without moving from the spot. It gives the performances of that time and incredible intensity. Q.E.D!
Three words: Ac. Com. Plished! Prince, absolutely comfortable with his craft and with his audience, reminding us why we love him. Wonderfull!
When a performer projects a song through their own being, and imbues it with their spirit, and their sensuality something beautiful happens. Combine that with talent and swagger. You’ve got the ooze. Especially if…you’re Marvin Gaye.
In this moment in Marvin’s career after he had creatively resurrected himself and taken real ownership of his own music and his message. His style in this performance is that of an adult man – in a way that adulthood and maturity are not often embraced and projected in popular music today. Yet in 1976, when he gave this performance, Marvin Gaye was only 37 years old. The confidence and assuredness we see in this performance is that of a “born again” artist – in the sense that by 1976 Marvin had lived one life, come to the end of it, and reawakened to a new one. He was now determined to seize the day, make his contribution – and have his fun. For Marvin this second burst of momentum in his life took him to great places in his creativity but also set him in a darker direction in his private life. Knowing all this as you listen makes this song about living life while he have it, and his soulful performance if it, all the more poignant. Enjoy!
I grew up on Steely Dan so Michael McDonald’s voice was in my living room long before I knew who he was. Discovering him was a wonderful moment of recognition. Watching him live in Hammersmith in the 90s was an absolute revelation. What a pro! Just a beautiful matchless voice with intelligence and soul. And rhythmically, hmmmmm! Michael, never stop!
I can so hear MJ singing this. But when Robin Thicke offered the song to Michael he didn’t take it, choosing another Robin Thicke song instead for his next album. This eventuated well for Robin’s own profile because he totally aces this one himself!
A band absolutely without peer, Queen’s panoply of sounds is perpetually powerful and iconic. I choose this song because I think it was when this song was in the charts that I first realised that Queen could do no wrong! Elsewhere in my playlist I have the moment in 1985 when the world realised the same thing. All these years after Freddie Mercury’s death it is still hard to believe his is no longer here with us. A lesson to all of us in how to fully inhabit ones place on planet Earth!
Can you hear Michael Jackson singing this? Yes, it was written for him but am so glad these two icons took the song and did this with it.
To have a long-lived career in the genre of pure pop is a rare achievement. Kylie is an absolute doyenne of pop. She began her pop career at the age of 19 with “I Should Be So Lucky” penned by pop-writing powerhouse, Stock, Aitken and Waterman. It was a lucky success, which Kylie leveraged, as she has done with every hit since, by continually honing her craft as a performer. Her management has also served her well, with creative partnerships which have continually pushed the envelope in image, staging, video, and dance.
Kylie shows that you do not have to be the “best singer” or “best dancer” in order to be the best performer. Star power in performance is an element all its own. To captivate an audience, thrill and entertain a crowd and continuing to hone your craft in such a way that you can hold the an audience’s attention not only for a three hour show but for more than thirty years; that is the work and the talent of a superstar. And Kylie has that talent in spades. Kylie’s audience is so loyal because she loves really her audiences when she performs, projecting her presence in such a genuine way that all those of us who have followed her career, somehow feel like stake-holders in her success. Go Kylie!!
This beautiful song was arresting on the first hearing and it still moves me every time I hear it. If you can be honest and tap your inner innocence and youthful hope and hunger, this song evokes an inspirational vein. Enjoy this powerful and flawless performance by two artists absolutely at the top of their game – the late Paebo Bryson and Regina Belle. Thank you! Thank you!
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, this is a song for a mature singer. It was inspired by the Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong classic, Papa was a Rolling Stone – and you can hear it in brooding set up of the song. Here with the boys, Mick Jagger performs at 73 years old, still the best front-man in the world, to an audience of 700,000. And they don’t coast it. They give it their all. Awe inspiring!
Get on up on up off the floor and enjoy…Janice Marie Johnson @64 delivering on a song that she co-wrote with band-mate Perry Kibble. Janice wrote the song to tease motionless audiences into dancing. The song hit for her band A Taste of Honey in 1978 winning them Grammies for the Best New Artist and Best Rhythm & Blues Song. It was Capitol Records’ first ever Platinum Single. In this performance Linda Taylor on lead guitar is an absolute treat. 40 years on from its release, watch as Janice plays bass, sings, and MC’s – all in heels. This lady is funky! Love the groove 🙂
Within seconds of first hearing this song on the Quincy Jones movie, I was searching for Alfredo Rodriguez and Richard Bona’ s performance of Raices (Roots.) The sweetness in the song, the soul in the playing, and the beautiful voices – all instantly and totally arresting. Beautiful and moving. Thank you dear brothers. XXX
A song remembering a time when the world was our oyster. From his first solo album Nightfly, it’s Donald Fagan.
My second choice from the 1968 musical movie, Oliver
Prince and Sheila E – This number has everything! I love all the musical and dance references in this number – and cannot help beaming at the feeling and precision of Prince’s guitar solo. Nor would it be complete without the swagger of Sheila E’s contribution on percussion. Just this one song would give you reason enough to travel through the whole of Prince’s incredible catalogue. Vale Prince. R.I.P.
Bonnie Raitt is a unique talent. This track reveals the simple, raw, soulful quality that Bonnie brings to every performance. The grit of heartbreak and survival gives her voice such a powerful and poignant quality. When John Mayer was hitting the big time for the first time he was asked if he would ever consider a collaboration and if so, with whom? Without a moment’s hesitation he answered Bonnie Raitt. This is why!
I can’t leave the Bee Gees with only one witness in this list. Their place in popular music is truly without parallel. Their prolific songwriting and the longevity of their career secured them more awards and accolades than any other band. In 2020 the Bee Gees remain among the very the best-selling musical artists of all time. They wrote hits for Dionne Warwick, Dianna Ross, Olivia Newton John, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers, Jimmy Ruffin, Yvonne Elliman, Nina Simone, Kim Wilde, Destiny’s Child, Frankie Valli, Conway Twitty, Celine Dion – the list goes on and on. The Bee Gees’ fusion of fraternal voices in close harmony, layering falsetto over soul made them instantly recognizable and impossible to imitate or surpass in their very particular musical niche. The Bee Gees were too “pop” for my generation but even for a generation where to be cool was only to be a metal-head, it was impossible not to stop and listen and admire what the Bee gees were doing whether ecountered on the radio or on the stage. Thee song above illustrates how relevant to pop music their fresh tracks and their voices were in 1997, forty years after they set out to become famous. God Bless Them 🙂
Two awesome talents with legendary voices – Jennifer Hudson and Tom Jones. BTW in this spontaneous moment Tom Jones is 79 years old! I love the love and respect among the artists as these two greats sing together. Watch and let your jaw drop!
As for a lot of people Windows 10 connected me with the amazing Habib Koite. Wonderful sound. Arresting presence – and in translation – great songs!
Prince @47 with Tamar and Sheila E, putting on a show in 2006
If you missed the opportunity to witness one of Fela Kuti’s prophetic performances then don’t miss Seun Kuti. The apple has not fallen far from the tree. Great skill. Great spirit! Seun and his father’s band knock his dad’s song out of the park!
I remember the first time I heard this song at the age of 14. Was completely arrested by it. I didn’t know much about love at that age. But I knew this was a love song. Billy Preston and Syreeta’s beautiful vocals imbue this song with such sweetness and sincerity it still touches me deeply when I hear it.
Albert Collins’ final album “Iceman” was an outstanding musical swansong to a 43 year career in Rhythm N Blues. What made it fresh and accessible to a wider pop audience had nothing to do with alloying the musical tradition in any way. It was pure force of talent and integrity in performance. The energy he injected into his telecaster sound, tuned to an open F minor, gave Albert Collins’ performances an immediately recognizable sound and grabbing the attention of even the most passive audience.
Albert was not a cool performer but had a way of showing his audiences that he was enjoying working hard to entertain them with each song. Co-produced by Albert and James Gaines the album “Iceman” captured that spirit and delivered a sound that was at the same time crisp, raw and LOUD!! Watch this performance and you’ll understand why the great Jimi Hendrix pointed to a young Albert Collins and said, “That’s a guy to watch!” Today, more than 25 years since his premature passing, Hendrix is still right! Watch and enjoy!
Something about James Ingram’s voice made him feel like family to me. He may have lacked the swagger that a singer in the age of TV really needed and this may have kept his international profile lower than he deserved. But his talent is undeniable. Any artist who can stand up and sing next to Michael McDonald or be backed by Luther Vandross has to have something pretty special. And James had it. In spades. Missing him xx
Love the mood and how the dance captures it
A great Aussie performer, just having fun! My kids’ favourite!
Yes they’re white – which caught me by surprise first time I saw them. But they’re certainly not average.
This was one of those pull over and stop the car songs. Great talent. Simultaneously raw, abandoned and precise.
We were all scared of Grace – here’s why!
Timeless and sweet!
A wonderful, timeless and feel-good celebration of boogie. Maurice White had a voice of so many beautiful textures that both reflected and defined the incredible melting pot of 1970’s soul. He was one of a generation of singers who emerged from American Gospel roots and brought something new that was for the people and for the promotion of humanity and one-love – what Stevie Wonder called For all these reasons I just love the spirit of Maurice White, a fount of many uplifting hits – this one included! Click on it and party!!
Great artist. Great song. Timeless.
How many layers can a song have? There’s too much going on here to name. I find this arrangement and performance completely arresting. There are performances in which the artist looks at the audience, connects with them emotionally, and gives them a performance. Not here. Here Joni immerses herself in the moment of the song and pulls us in to a very private, intimate place of empathy and connection. Just stunning!
In an age where image is the apotheosis talent, charisma, pure voice and musicality still win through. There will never be another Joe Cocker. Authentic to his core.
This is the song that Cliff released under a pseudonym – Black Knight. It charted and reached #10 in the UK before radio stations worked out who it was. Other than BBC Radio 2, mainstream radio stations with contemporary pop music mixes had a policy of not playing Cliff Richard “because nobody wants to listen to him.” Black Knight proved them wrong and there was some eating of humble pie. Cliff did this to call out ageism in popular radio. You’ll see from my list, I’m not an ageist. In fact I love longevity and am inspired by it – hence Cliff’s inclusion on my list!
Tony Joe White wrote several songs carried by Tina. This song, close to her blues roots was one of Tina’s favourites.
Written by Jimmy Webb, and produced by Bones Howe, this song created an iconic, never-forgotten hit for The 5th Dimension. Bones Howe’s musical arrangement was vital to the sound and success of this song. His prowess as a sound engineer made other indelible imprints on the sounds of 60’s pop with his arrangements of California Dreaming and Monday, Monday for The Mamas and the Papas. Today it is easy to forget the cultural importance of MOR crossover hits in the 1960’s – a time when popular music on American radio and TV was still very segregated along racial lines.
Following on from the sucesss of Up, Up and Away, The 5th Dimension went on to enjoy other significant chart successes, most notably in 1969 with another Zeitgeist number, which has remained on the airwaves ever since – Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine. This song (below) allowed the band an opportunity to air some Black R&B / Gospel in the song’s final vamp. Knowing the cultural context of this performance evinces a whole layer of poignancy and respect for its courage and intent when viewed today. The 5th Dimension’s boundary-breaking, and spirituality, paved the way for 70s bands like the Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire. Besides all of which, the energy, optimism and uplift of these numbers is simply undeniable.
Many a true word spoken in song
The Godfather of Soul at the top of his game in 1974 in Kinshasa
Keep slaying it long enough and a whole new generation will realise how good you are. And you can’t help but feel the message of one love that underlies all of this great man’s work. Bravo Santana!
This may seem a left-fielder but I want to give a nod must to the vocal styles that preceded Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll and the 60s revolution. Crooners had their own attitude and edge. Think the South African / British Al Bowly and, here the American singer and voice-actor, Cliff Edwards. This song has a unique emotional power to it. And the reason is context.
When Disney’s “Pinocchio” was released the year was 1940. The world was entering the second year of a terrifying and history-defining war. Wives were separated from husbands never knowing if they would return from the theatre of war. In Britain children were separated from their parents and billeted in rural areas with strangers. These were the wives and children who sat and watched Pinocchio – all in desperate need of escape, consolation and hope. In the theatre auditoriums of 1940 I cannot imagine that many would have listened dry-eyed as Cliff Edwards took this beautiful song to its ultra falsetto conclusion. So sweet and so sincere. If you didn’t know the story before, listen again and rediscover the song in a new light.
The first voices that sing over us, parents and grandparents, all carry their own musical heritage in their voices. So when I pulled the car over to listen to this arresting piece by John Coltrane and sung so artfully by Johnny Hartman, there was for me a feeling of recognition as I soaked in a song I had never (knowingly) heard before. The inflections of Johnny’s voice, his tone and smoothness really take me back to my very early years, to very intimate experiences of song – the lullaby of home life, and the quiet intimate delivery of the jazz lounge. Experiences that are deeply woven into my own sense of music. Thanks John and Johnny for an artful and profound gift in this song.
I can honestly say that these songs by Pink Floyd – along with the entire Dark Side of the Moon album – changed my life! And it is astounding how closely the band recreated the sound and ambience of this iconic album two decades later and live at Earls Court. Vale!