Colchester based singer, songwriter, artist and all round renaissance man Greg Blackman is best known for his uniquely versatile voice, his prolific writing rate, his passionate approach to his subject matter (whether that be life, love, social upheaval or just having fun) and his memorable hooks. He’s also a bloody good illustrator too.
The video for Greg Blackman’s latest track, filmed and directed by Film Tribe’s very own William J Wright is released on the 18th September 2015. Keep Colchester Cool will be sharing that video on this website as soon as we can.
Until then, it’s time to reveal Greg Blackman’s top ten tracks of all time, in no particular order. Enjoy!
Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together?
A beautiful mellow soulful song from 1972 with an almost minimalist arrangement, Thomas’ soulful hammond chords over the simple drum machine loop are the perfect backing to this simple plea for love and brotherhood between human beings. His vocals ring with sincerity and heart, which lends his lyrics meaning and depth.
“No more war, no more war
just some peace in this world
No more war, no more war,
all we want is just a little peace in this world
Everybody wants to live together,
why can’t we live together?”
Joe Jackson – Stepping Out
Joe Jackson’s 1982 album “Night & Day”saw the british punk songwriter attempt an album with no guitars whatsoever and the result was some of the greatest melodic songwriting of his career.
I could have put any track from the album on here (Everything Gives You Cancer and Slow Song are also highlights) as I love them all equally but there’s just something quintessentially perfect about Stepping Out in it’s sheer 80’s-ness. It’s impossible not to be momentarily whisked away to some perfect fictional tv new york, in a yellow taxi on the way to somewhere wonderful.
“We, so tired of all the darkness in our lives
with no more angry words to say can come alive
get into a car and drive
to the other side”
Rotary Connection – Respect
My rule with covers is a simple one: if you’re just reheating and reserving the same old dish you may as well not bother. Very occasionally in my digging I’ve come across a cover that transitions into a genuine fresh interpretation of the source material and this is one of them.
Rotary Connection not only had a full orchestra to call on for their 60s psychedelic soul creations, but they were fronted by the spectacular vocals of Minnie Ripperton. This slow, dark, cinematic rework turns Otis Redding’s swaggering demand for respect into a soaring plead from the heavens for mercy and almost half a century after it’s release it’s still an incredible experience.
“All I’m asking….”
Eddie Harris – I Don’t Want Nobody
During the early noughties I worked in the now defunkt Tower Records in the centre of piccadilly circus in the soul, funk and jazz department. And people, you had best believe I abused the hell out of that employee discount. Eddie Harris’s 1976 album I Need Some Money was possibly the crowning gem of the music I collected while there.
Eddie Harris was known in jazz circles for being the pioneer of the electric saxophone and was among the first to use distortion, effects and wah peddles on his saxophone to create totally unique sounds, often mistakable for a guitar. 5 of the 7 tracks on the album are just cheeky bare bones funk jams for the fun of it, but the first and last tracks are something else.
I Don’t Want Nobody is the album closer and runs at almost 12 minutes. Now a lot of you will be getting some major alarm bells ringing internally at the concept of a 12 minute jazz song, and rightly so in many cases. But this is no trad work through, it’s a stripped down epic journey through gospel infused suffering underpinned by some of THE most graceful and effortlessly classy bass playing you’ll ever hear.
“You make me feel so bad
I don’t know why you do it to me
because I love you so…”
Stevie Wonder – Looking For Another Pure Love
Stevie Wonder is a fascinating character having been responsible for some of the greatest music in modern history and also some of the most unthinkably twee and trapped in it’s time. But even his detractors cannot deny that when Stevie is good, he’s VERY good. Listening to and deconstructing his music with headphones on for hours on end has made me a better songwriter in the same way that sitting near enough to a fire will warm you.
I chose this song from the album Talking Book in particular because I have a lot of great memories of being in my early 20s in my first home in my first adult relationship attached to it. And also; how often do you get to hear Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck on one tune?
James Brown – Ain’t It Funky Now
For all the funk anthems that James Brown has given us, this supremely downtempo one chord jam holds a very special place in my heart. Like a lot of Brown’s work there’s really nothing to it but everything that’s in place is %100 effective. It also contains lots of James Brown’s uniquely funky keyboard playing which we never get to hear very much of on record as he most often simply used the instrument to indicate to his musicians what they wanted him to do.
It’s clearly a very late night session and everyone’s clearly very “Relaxed”. You can hear laughter and silliness going on in the background occasionally and Brown himself is just having a blast walking around enjoying himself. At one point he passes the mic to his drummer Jabo and they have a silly moment together which clearly pleases Brown a great deal and when Mr Brown enjoys himself into the mic we ALL benefit.
“Say Jabo! Do you like it?”
“Jab!… do you like it? (giggling)
“sho is funky now”
Idris Muhammed – Could Heaven Ever Be Like This
This tune is pure 70’s dance floor heaven from just before the tipping point into disco where it all went so horribly wrong (with the obvious exceptions of Donna Summers I Feel Love, Mighty Real by Sylvester and anything produced by Quincy Jones). It’s got all the wonderful stuff about that era, the driving rhythms, lot of percussions, funky baselines, stabbing horns and singable hooks. And none of the …the…… well….. you remember what the 80’s was like. I don’t have to remind you. And if you don’t, trust me: you’re better off.
Plus it’s got one of THE all time great intros to any song and ends on a shreddingly beautiful and deeply melodic guitar solo which doesn’t happen nearly enough in danceable music if you ask me.
“I feel music in your eyes
rainbows in your kiss
I have never reached such highs
could heaven ever be like this?”
Faith No More – Everything’s Ruined
FNM’s first 3 albums are woven so completely into the fabric of my youth that I’m incapable of thinking about them in any way rationally or objectively. I love every moment of every song on all of them but without a doubt Angel Dust had the most impact on me as a songwriter.
(True Story: The band originally wanted to call the album “Crack Hitler” but the label objected. Can’t imagine why.)
Everything’s Ruined is an example of just how original and innovative these guys were being in an era of hairspray up leather clad industry poseurs. It contains everything that’s great about everything they each do individually (even containing a rare example of a restrained and in-context guitar solo from Big Jim) but works as a unit perfectly. To me it’s the very definition of the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts.
“and he made us proud, he made us rich
but how were we to know, he’d counterfeit?”
David Axelrod – Holy Thursday
Probably a bit odd for a singer to have an instrumental in his or her top ten songs of all time, but this is exceptional. For one thing it contains one of the All Time Classic Drum Breaks about half way through when everything else that’s been sampled by everyone and their Nan.
But independently of it’s role in subsequent musical history it’s just a beautiful, varied, cinematic, bold and moving piece of music with not only tons of funk and vibe but a full beautiful orchestra arrangement to boot. In his heyday David Axelrod was one of the best and listening back to his music makes you realise how quintessentially he captured the sound of the times without it ever sounding redundant or cliched. Put this song on and watch the sunrise one morning. Thank me later.
Jeru Tha Damaja – You Can’t Stop The Prophet
If like me you were a lot more a fan of the east coast than the west coast hip hop sound in the 90s, you’ll know that pretty much everything Jeru did with the mighty DJ Premier is untouchably classic. It was pivotal as a conscious album that didn’t lose it’s rage and used metaphors as sharp as samurai swords to make a point.
You Can’t Stop The Prophet is one of the first times I ever heard hip hop and superhero concepts mixed together and to this day I think it stands the test of time as a superb piece of work. Jeru casts himself as The Black Prophet, an urban superhero fighting the forces of his arch nemesis Mister Ignorance, his wife Deceit and his henchmen Hatred, Jealousy, Animosity, Despair and Envy with his super science and sharp steel bookmarks.
It changed the way I looked at music forever and I still enjoy it. That drum loop too! RAWR!
“I leap over lies in a single bound
Who are you?
The Black Prophet
one day I got struck by knowledge of self
it gave me super scientifical powers!”