Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love! : Vinyl Boxset Review. Is it worth it?

After 6 months, £70 and a whole lot of patience, Gambino’s latest project, Awaken, My Love! has finally arrived on gorgeous double heavy weight vinyl, complete with a VR headset, full colour booklet and download code. So, was it all worth it?

Words: Darius Azadeh

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Childish Gambino fan or not, there’s something for everyone in this latest album from multi-talented man-of-the-moment Donald Glover. Ditching the rap and hip-hop previously explored over the course of his previous albums, Glover returned under the same moniker in late 2016 with a new album so far off the beaten track of his career that it just went further to prove that the man can literally do anything. While not perfect, Awaken, My Love! demonstrated not only his extensive musical knowledge, but also prowess. It was a smooth, silky powerful funk/soul record that excelled past it’s peers with sheer inventiveness and influential adaptation that made a vinyl release seem inevitable, especially with it’s 70’s soul music vibe. So, when it was revealed that it would only be released as a limited edition, £70 boxset, which (expectedly) included two 180gram heavyweight records and (unexpectedly) included a Virtual Reality headset, anticipation and confusion grew and grew.

To think that his previous album, Because The Internet, came complete with a 72 page script, this level of ambition and exclusivity should really come as no surprise. And it’s very welcome. What other artist comes to mind when thinking of album releases that come packed with this sort of thing? Not many. As rumours of a shipping date and VR content poured through over the course of the next few months proceeding the pre-order of the record, excitement was reaching fever pitch. After a number of push-backs, a final release date was secured in April, and the end of the painfully confusing long wait was in sight.

Eventually, mid-June comes around. It is now just over 6 months since the initial pre-order of the record, and it’s finally awaiting collection at the post office. Once it’s home and unwrapped, a quick moment needs to be taken to simply appreciate that it’s physically here. After enough courage is mustered to open it, things are looking very promising. The full colour record sleeves present what are assumed to be unused album artwork, which are beautifully photographed images of various models in headdresses, similar to the stunning final album artwork. Next is the booklet, which is more of the same, yet more familial this time, with the headdress and model from the front cover in different poses. Though not sounding like much, it is actually rather beautiful, and thankfully as big as the records them selves, and not shrunk down to a flimsy booklet half the size. Finally, we get to the base of the box, which houses the VR headset. While lavishly decorated in what seem to be the tribal paint patterns akin to Gambino’s style during his live ‘Pharos’ performances. While looking great, however, it is still simply a piece of cardboard.

First off, the records play beautifully. The sound quality is really top notch, playing the record’s smoothest and grooviest tunes with a lovely, warm, subtle grain, perfect for this album’s sound. You can really feel the weight of the wax during slower grooves such as Redbone, adding to the timelessness and authenticity of the album. And if that wasn’t enough, a surprise bonus track, a live performance of the instrumental track The Night Me and Your Mama Met, is included right at the end. The VR headset, however, is a slightly different story.

Before use, the free ‘Pharos’ smartphone app is required to be downloaded, and then it’s off to the races. After slotting your phone into the opening, the content kicks off with a visceral 360 degree live performance of the album’s opening track, Me and Your Mama, from Gambino’s ‘Pharos’ showcase last year. While terrifically exciting, and offering a new dimension to the recorded track, the low frame rate and video quality does dampen the show. After awhile, the VR element slowly evolves into a gimmick that wears off.

The subsequent videos to accompany the rest of the tracks get even more confusing. As well the as live performance audio, the accompanying videos feature lavishly decorated alien landscapes, with purple hills and wild green creatures. Oh, and of course a Star Wars-esque holographic projection of Glover himself performing amidst the extraterrestrial environment. It’s at this point in the experience when one will likely step back and say, “Okay… what?”. It can only be assumed that this is Gambino’s idea of what should be envisioned when listening to the tracks. While an interesting and innovative thought, it doesn’t, and can’t, hit the mark, as this is too subjective. As well as the underwhelming video quality, this most ambitious element of the release, while thankfully ambitious, isn’t something that warrants much repeat usage.

So, overall, is it worth it? Hell yes. It’s a beautifully designed boxset, with embossed features, brilliant artwork and records of absolutely top sound quality. Worth the money and wait? Well, if the VR feature is indeed what jacked up the price tag, then no. It was probably the most anticipated element of the release during the 6 month wait, and for it to be revealed as a cardboard gimmick is rather disappointing. Nevertheless, the level of ambition that sparked it’s inclusion in the set is a very welcome breath of fresh air to the industry, and hopefully an inspiration to artists everywhere. At the end of the day, it could’ve been an overpriced, flimsy single record release with nothing else to it, but it wasn’t. It was, yet again, proof that Glover really is one of the most forward thinking artists working today. It’s undeniable that whatever he does next, in whatever field, is sure to be unlike anything else.

 

The Numbers:

Record – 10/10

Booklet – 8/10

VR – 5/10

 

Check out the VR video for Me And Your Mama here –

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The Great Voices Of Soul – LIVE IN CONCERT

15th November, SSE Arena, Wembley

At the very top of the bill will be multi-Grammy award winner Patti LaBelle

The Whispers

Soul II Soul

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The list of incredible talent on hand for the ‘Voices of Soul’ goes on, including:

The S.O.S. Band (Sounds of Success) – Whose debut album ‘SOS’ immediately went Gold and spawned several hit singles.

Loose Ends – The first ever UK band to top the US Billboard  R&B chart with massive single ‘Hanging on a String (Contemplating)’ in 1985

Gwen Dickey – Lead vocalist of Rose Royce whose iconic hits ‘Car Wash’ and ‘Wishing on a Star’ are true classics of pop/soul music, Gwen has also worked with Mealoaf, James Brown, and most recently Jay-Z.

Meli’sa Morgan – US R&B chart topping vocalist who cut her teeth singing with Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan

Ticket outlets:

www.AXS.com (Box Office) www.Ticketmaster.co.uk

www.Seetickets.com

www.Gigantic.com

Tickets: £50, £60, £75, £80, £100

Promoters: http://www.tbhevents.uk/

Yo Will Make You ‘Shake It’ With New Single!

Post-punk indie single set to hit on June 15th

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Currently based in New Orleans – the birthplace of soul and jazz – Yo are a rock band not afraid to go against the grain. After travelling the globe and making homes in various corners of the USA and Europe, the music and songwriting draws upon a wealth of inspirations and tales from the road.

The single is taken from the album ‘Vagrancy’, an LP which shows perfectly the versatile nature of Yo’s songwriting. Songs such as ‘Shake It’ are seemingly bold for the high energy of live performance, but other tracks on the album suit different environments. Whether relaxing out at a festival, going for it on a club dancefloor, jumping around at a live gig or relaxing in a local pub, there will be a song on this album which slots in brilliant to every situation.

Altogether, it makes for a jazzy cocktail which is tough to pigeonhole, sewn together by the originality of vocalist Andre’s delivery.

Single ‘Shake It’ will be available from June 15th.

You can hear the track here:

Watch the video here:

Links:

https://twitter.com/itmustbeyo

https://www.youtube.com/YoMusic

http://instagram.com/itmustbeyo/

https://www.facebook.com/itmustbeyo

Harris Adams to release new single ‘Ring Ring’

Harris Adams Studio 3Born near Sheffield but now playing his trade in London, Harris Adams is a songwriter who revels in blending the old with the new. Marrying the soulful sounds of Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles and the 60s mod vibes with the contemporary spirit of Aloe Blacc, Raphael Saadiq and Amy Winehouse, his is a unique mix of retro and modern which is beginning to beguile and turn heads wherever he goes.

Having already supported Curtis Stigers and received rave reviews at live shows from the likes of Rod Stewart, Keifer Sutherland and Johnny Depp, this is clearly an artist who knows how to make an impression.

The team behind the single includes Grammy Award Winning producer Steve Sidwell and recording engineer Haydn Bendall (Van Morrison, James Blunt, Kate Bush and many more). Tracks were recorded at the world famous Air Studios, with vocal sessions at the iconic Strongroom Studios in Shoreditch and mixed by Ben Lamdin at the Fish Factory – both name-checked by Jamie Cullum on his Interlude album.

As well as this, Adams has a team of stellar musicians to help him realise his musical ambitions in the studio. Guitarist Adam Goldsmith (Rod Stewart, Mick Hucknall) and pianist Pete Murray (John Legend, Joss Stone) were involved as well as the smoking-hot horn section led by Paul Spong (whose punchy trumpet can be heard, among many other hits, on Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”), going some way to show how impressive Harris Adams is to those already in the industry.

So, with the “Ring Ring” to be released on April 28th, Harris Adams is set to make the music lovers everywhere respond to his soulful call. You can listen to the track here:

Debut Album Release – Hard Copies pre-sold #FTMusicBook. 29th July 2014….

Band Overview
The Franks are Jon, Kaleb and Tane. A Gritty Pop Soul Trio fresh out of London who released their debut single, Lies on 12th March 2012.

The Franks have been broadcast by Alex Lester of Radio 2 on 13th March 2012 and have received Regional airplay at Lionheart Radio FM Newcastle, Saint Fm in Essex and Alan Robson’s Night Owl’s Programme on Metro Radio to date.

The Franks have had a great deal of online activity. Links and articles will be pasted below along with Comment, Quotes from National and Regional Producers and Programmers as below*

The Franks BACKGROUND

Jon, Kaleb and Tane had been performing individually for several years as musicians. Jon played the piano, Kaleb the guitar and Tane the Drums. Their union was a little unexpected as they were all from very different parts of the globe. Jon was from Essex, Kaleb was from Newcastle and Tane from New Zealand. However, their passion for Gospel, Soul and Motown music brought them together.

In 2009, The Franks met through a Gospel Choir performance in London. They then went on to jam together and later that year, were discovered by a music manager at a rehearsal studio in Kings Cross.

Kaleb, Jon and Tane found that when they just sang together they were creating a big Soul sound. They each went on to front a track with the other two singers echoing sections, splitting the songs into three part harmonies.

They developed their contemporary, vibrant, commercial music, keeping the influence of 60s soul. Their sounds are reminiscent of The Four Seasons, The Four Tops along with the Pop Soul grooves of Duffy and Winehouse.

“Lies” is a hard-hitting pop soul track. It’s catchy and fronted by Kaleb who has the gritty soul voice. The echoes are harmonised by Jon and Tane. The song reveals the anger Kaleb is facing towards his ex-girlfriend. It tells the story of how she has had a hold over him and how the past relationship wasn’t real. It also reveals the emotion and passion he still feels for her.

In 2014 a second single and album ‘Love Drunk Soul’ will be released via #FTMusicBook. The band have already built a strong live fan base playing regular gigs at venues including, Ronnie Scotts, Floriditas, Café De Paris and Madame JoJos.

They are thrilled to be releasing their tracks via Freethemusicbook.com and will keep you posted via ‘The Book Review’ on their page of forthcoming news on the bands progress.

Quotes to date:

The Franks “LIES” – NATIONAL AND REGIONAL RADIO COMMENTS : Alex Lester – RADIO 2- Lies has received airplay.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01d5qg4

MALCOLM PRINCE, Executive Producer – Graham Norton & Paul O’Grady Radio 2 “Lies is a good upbeat track. I have no problems with the production. It will be up for consideration on our playlist.”

Mark Plant, Producer DRIVETIME Radio 2 – “The track is a really strong song. I can very easily hear the song on the Radio 2 playlist.”

RADIO 2 – Broadcast assistant Joe Haddow – ‘I like the feel of this track…it’s fresh and soulful and has a really good rhythm. The chorus is quite instant and becomes catchy after a couple of listens. The lead vocal is really interesting – I think it works though, not too gruff, just the right side. It compliments the brass really well…and the harmonies at the end soften the blow too. It stands out from other singers at the moment and harks back to some of James Brown’s earlier efforts. I can see Radio 2 playing this – certainly spot plays, but perhaps a cheeky c-list too. I think it would work well on certain shows across the board’

Maxximum FM – “I’m going to fit this in to one of our shows”

Music Scheduler/Playlist Manager Saint FM – “’Lies’ has been aired on two Saint FM shows, Midnight Café & Local Talent. It will go out again on the Local Talent show on Monday between 7-9pm. We think it’s a fabulous record.”

BBC Radio Wales – “Good track. I’ll take it in to the next Playlist meeting.” – Music Scheduler/Playlist Manager

Smooth Radio – “ I would consider putting them on as the opening act on one of our ‘Love Music Live’ shows.” – Head Of Presentation, Smooth Radio Network

Metro Radio – “I have played this, more plays to come.” – Alan Robson, Night Owls Show

Smooth Radio Network – “Love the track, very Northern Soul-esque. Smooth is definitely a station that can play this band.” – Head Of Presentation, Smooth Radio Network

Live Session with Robert Elms, BBC Radio London 94.9 – March 28th 2012
Robert Elms and his producer Graham love the track “Lies” and have played it numerous times on BBC London and gave The Franks the opportunity to sing live and have an interview… Click on the link and go to 2:33.40

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00pyf32/Robert_Elms_With_Russell_Clarke_Judit h_Walkowitz_Wayne_Modest_and_The_Franks/

The Franks Online Press and Video Links:
http://entertainment-focus.com/music/articles/interview-the-franks
http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/music/indiemusic/single/the+franks-225504.html

http://www.malextra.com/music/indiemusic/single/the+franks-225504.html
http://www.bollyfirst.com/music/indiemusic/single/the+franks-225504.html
http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/news/Gritty_Pop_Soul/46756/p1/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:SoulGroupsFan


http://www.facebook.com/TheFranksBand/videos

http://www.facebook.com/thefranksband
http://www.twitter.com/thefranksband
http://www.youtube.com/thefranksband

http://www.thefranksonline.co.uk
http://www.myspace.com/thefranksonline

Singer-Songwriter Jessie Lowes looks to the ‘Stars’ with new single

Jessie Lowes, Soulful acoustic artist release new Single in light of her debut album coming soon!

Available from September 22nd, ‘Stars’ is the new single from acoustic singer-songwriter Jessie Lowes. Based in Northumberland and specialising in a delicate mix of clear vocal and guitar picking, Lowes is a songwriter not afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve when it comes to her music. The single ‘Stars’ was written for her mother who passed away in 2008 from Cancer, and the song is a tribute to their close relationship:

It’s hard to believe that a song this delicate is the work of an ex-cage fighter and club level rugby player – the light touch and subtleties of her music covering a tougher background than most, a childhood that music played a huge part in.

It comes as little surprise to learn that Jessie grew up around music, often using it as an escape. Her Uncle Tony Raine was a famous jazz pianist working with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Julian Slade, Judy Garland and Diana Ross, and had his own TV show in the 60s called MusicBox. And it is from this solid pedigree that Lowes’ musical pedigree was borne.

And now, with further singles and an album due before the end of this year, Jessie Lowes is set to take her love affair with music to the next level.

‘Stars’ will be available from September 22nd.

Links:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jessie-Lowes/166706493351429