This section is for amazing artists from outside the U.S., and has broke international stardom.
Song: Troubled Mind
Artist: Everything But The Girl
Genre: Easy Listening
“Everything But The Girl.” What a name for a group huh? I actually discovered these guys way back when I was on Napster. The moment I heard the song “Troubled Mind,” I loved it! The song and composition is just perfect with her voice. Really really relaxing music. A lot of their music really should be put in a “Modern Folk” category, but I’m not sure if that’s an official genre? Well, music has evolved so much (culturally) in the last 50-60 years, we can literally place music in any number of categories. Even hip hop has so many sub-genres it can get quite confusing if you ask me.
I Thought I Never Heard Of This Group Before!
If Joan Baez was in her 20s again, I think this is what her music would sound a lot like, “Trouble Mind” today. I played this song so much, and at first, I really thought I never heard of Tracy Thorn & Ben Watt before. But I was wrong. They’ve actually been around since the early 1980s. Not only that, they had another hit song I was totally unaware was them! The song was called “Missing (1994).” That song took this London singing duo to #2 on the American Top 100 Charts! Also, for whatever reason, it was strange that I didn’t remember hearing the original hit (or radio edit). The only version I remember hearing of the song was the legendary DJ Todd Terry’s remix of “Missing.”
Looks like I’ve really took these guys for granted. Sometimes that does happen when all of a sudden you have access to almost the world’s entire music collection on your smartphone it seams! It just never occurred to me at the time to seek out more of their music. Now, according to some sources, I’ve read that they stopped performing in 2000, but I saw a couple of albums re-released. Not sure what that means. Sometimes when albums get re-released it means a reunion shortly after. So far, it doesn’t appear that they’re doing anything (at least in the US). I’m going to flip through more of their music soon. Check out this nice smooth house mix they have called “Wrong.”
Song: Soul Makossa
Artist: Manu Dibango
Album: Soul Makossa (1972)
Genre: African Jazz
If you are lucky enough to own this album, you own a part of Africa’s forgotten history. This is my favorite album of all times from Manu Dibango! And in my opinion, this is his greatest master piece! You will play from beginning to end! Depending on where you go, there appears to be digital variations of this album. This may or may not be because the album was released in many parts of the world, including Japan, Brazil, and France. And from what I observed in situations like this, quite often I’ve noticed slight edits to original music for different countries. If you cannot open your heart to this kind of music, you can’t call yourself cultural, or even diverse.
Americans never heard of Manu before, much less his music. But that all changed in 1972 when he released “Soul Makossa,” from his 1972 album called (you’ve guessed it) “Soul Makossa.” This song (well mostly instrumental) was a huge international hit! Although it reached only #35 on the Top 100 Charts (I still consider that a huge accomplishment, since most Americans were not listening to this kind of music (let’s be real about that)), it hit #11 on the American R&B Charts. Just imagine how huge that was! This incredibly talented, badass saxophonist from Cameroon, located in Central Africa, managed to rattle many music cultures around the world with his brilliance! While at the same time, forcing people to listen to music they would have never listened to otherwise. That’s deep.
However, today’s featured album is called “Gone Clear (1980),” which has a piece called “Reggae Makossa,” which is a remix of his original afro-beat hit “Soul Makossa.” It’s just a more smoother dance groove. In my opinion, this album is worth searching for, especially if you’re in my age group from the Island. I know you’ll enjoy it. Spotify doesn’t have the original album, but they do have the original songs scattered through out his other albums. My very top favorites from this album are “Doctor Bird,” “Goro City,” and “Full Up.” Manu is now about 85 years young, and much to my surprise, he is still performing! That is a man that loves music. Very few people are this dedicated. Off the top of my head, I can only count on one hand artist with that level of dedication. Celia Cruz, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Orbison, and Tito Puente, all of those people practically performed until their last breath.
Song: Johnny Too Bad
Artist: The Slickers
Album: Johnny Too Bad (1971)
Genre: Sweet Reggae
Ok… I know, in general we shouldn’t judge people. But, I’m betting almost any amount of money that, unless you’re an old school Jamaican, or West-Indian (with age, or “seasoned” as we used to say), it’s likely you don’t know this group at all. The even sadder part is, there is so little written about this obscure group that there is little chance of discovery, unless you come from a family connected with reggae history. The Slickers was a Jamaican group that performed mostly rock-steady style of reggae. The Band’s career in music was extremely short (around 10 years give or take).
Only Well Seasoned Folk Would Know About This Group!
It’s unclear to me why they disbanded. It’s a shame because their song “Johnny Too Bad,” literally catapulted their career in ways we could not imagine. I mean, they were in fact talented, there was absolutely no reason why their career could not continue. I couldn’t even find an original album for this song. Almost every work I found from the group have all been released as singles. Now, this could also be possible that if there were more albums, they may have been released only in the UK.
If after listening to this reggae gem, you still can’t remember, or figure out where you’ve heard this song from. “Johnny Too Bad,” was on the hugely successful soundtrack to the movie called “The Harder They Come (1972),” starring legendary singer Jimmy Cliff. You know, I’ll share with you something interesting about the movie soundtrack. Growing up, I’ve always assumed that Jimmy Cliff was the only artist that sung “Many Rivers To Across,” just because I never recalled anyone else covering it. However, while searching for more of The Slickers’s music, Lo’ and behold, they have an UK album called “Many Rivers To Cross (1976).” Wow, it was strange listening to someone else sing this song. I really like the Slickers’s version of “Many Rivers To Cross,” but, I don’t know, if felt a more emotional connection to Jimmy Cliff’s version. Maybe I’m just a little bias ’cause I love Jimmy’s music. What you guys think?
Artist: Spandau Ballet
Album: True (1983)
Genre: Pop Ballads
Ok, ok. If you told me that you never heard this song before; I would have said you’re lying (unless you’re under the age of 25-30)! This song was such a massive hit in the 80’s. It was a love song of all love songs back then. No matter if you were young, old, Black, White, everyone was singing this tune. This English group named, Spandau Ballet, took this song to #1 not just in the United Kingdom, but #1 in America (Adult Contemporary), #1 in Ireland, and #1 in Canada! Other countries such as France & Germany, the song was in the Top 10 range. “True,” remains to be one of my most favorite romantic songs ever! The song practically immortalized this group forever. This was their only massive hit of their career. Of all their works after the “True” album, only one song, “Gold,” made its highest peak at #29 in 1984.Vices Reserve
I have to tell yah……… The group “Free,” in my opinion, was one of the many most underrated rock bands in history. As someone who’s in to all kinds of music, I really felt that these guys could sing as a solid rock band. In London, 4 guys decided to come together and form phenomenal rock band; Paul Kossoff, Simon Kirke, Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraiser. In 1968, these 4 guys became “Free.” It’s sad that they broke up within 5 years of getting together. It is unclear exactly why they broke up. I could only imagine it was probably about creative differences.
I guess in the end, it really didn’t matter, as two of the four members died as a result of poor health and drug issues (typical). Free struck gold, with their massive mega rock hit “All Right Now (1970).” The song peaked at #4 on the Top 100 Charts. The song was so popular, it not only made it’s way to a Burger King commercial, it also made Wrigley’s Gum commercial too. Interesting interview I’ve read with drummer Simon Kirke. He shared that “All Right Now,” was actually a song written after a bad gig one night. It was then that the group decided they must increase their tempo. Out of that meeting “All Right Now” was born.
I want to switch gears a little bit. As some of my long time followers may have already figured out, I also love listening to music of different cultures. I’d like to introduce to you a talented group named The Hygrades, from Nigeria. You know, as a whole, I normally don’t listen to a lot of Nigerian music, but when I do, I usually enjoy it very much. However, this group did not create traditional Nigerian music. From the 70s, 80s, and even perhaps the 90s popular Nigerian music had a unique sound that was unmistakably Nigerian. But, The Hygrades did not produce traditional Nigerian music. They made what they called Afro-rock.
Although, in my opinion, I hear more of funk infused with blues than anything else. Then again, 50s/60s rock wasn’t the same rock it is today; it was as though rock from that era deserved it’s own genre. The Hygrades made some good sh*t! Also, let me say, when it comes to music, I think every country/culture has their own specialty. Having said that, I always thought to myself, if you ever wanted to learn how to pick a stringed instrument, let a Nigerian teach you. Those guys can pick them some guitar, as though that guitar was a body part 🤣. It is extremely rare that we see American artists with this level of talent today. All the ones I can think of are all gone now! Like, the late Prince? Jimmy Hendrix? Or perhaps Bo Diddley? Not even them really, ’cause with the exception of Diddley, Prince & Jimmy strung a lot of long notes, whereas Nigerian strings are usually a consistent barrage of quick & complicated high pitched notes at the base of the guitar arm.
The Hygrades were put together by a producer named Goddy Oku, based in Enugu, Nigeria. They were eventually signed to HMV/EMI records, and produced many popular hits. “Keep On Moving,” “Rough Rider,” and one of my hot favorites “In The Jungle (instrumental version).” Unless you’re already familiar with their music, you’d never guess where these guys were from. If it were not for Spotify (not YouTube), I would have never rediscovered this group.
I laugh every time I see this album cover. I don’t know why but, they remind me of one of those Sy-Fy movies where the alien is disguised as a human, just waiting for the right time to eat your brains while no one is looking! LOLOL. Even their music was sort of space-aged. The attitude these guys are giving in this photo is liken to that of “Men In Black (1997).” No doubt a dated photo 🤣. The group I’m writing about to day is called “Soft Cell.”
No Doubt, This Group Was An Acquired Taste.
They were a really popular, and yet awkward 80s group. Marc Almond & David Balls both are from the UK, and they mostly perform synth-pop and new wave music. Well, let me tell ya, no matter how hard they’ve tried, no one seemed to like their music, with the exception of one song that became an explosive hit! It’s really a shame that the public did not take to their music (including myself), because I think Marc had a really nice voice. Maybe his voice just didn’t fit with the kind of music David was putting together.
Record sales were so low that their record label wanted to break the group’s contract early. However, both the label and the group agreed on one last try. The decided to do a cover of an old 1965 song by Gloria Jones called “Tainted Love (1982).” The moment the recording was released, it shot up to #8 on the Top 100 Charts. The song turned out to be the one and only final hit of their career. They’ve tried create that similar formula in their later albums; but their albums never took to music fans. In fact, it was probably their “final nail in the coffin,” as every other album after their hit sounded too much alike. Here is the original 1965 classic from Gloria Jones “Tainted Love.”
Aaah! You know, when I was practically still a baby, I believe this was the first album I remember seeing of Mr. Belafonte. I’m sure I still have the album somewhere 😃. I’m just going to come out and say it. In America, unless you came from the Caribbean, almost no one thinks of Caribbean music; unless you’re dating someone who happens to by Caribbean; or someone is talking about going to a NYC carnival/West-Indian day parade. So many things you could be writing about for Black History Month.
Let’s see now. What we can say about the incredibly multi-talented and then very handsome, Harry Belafonte? Well, he was born on 1927! That’s right guys! That makes him about 92 years old now 👀 ! BTW, he still looks healthy and amazing! Belafonte wasn’t just a singer & actor, he was also a heavy civil rights activist and a humanitarian.
Tally Me Banana!
I think it’s safe to say that, when people hear the name Harry Belafonte (and if they do actually remember him), they would most remember him for his “Banana Boat” song released in 1956; sometimes called the “Day-O” song. And that maybe because the younger generation heard it used in the then popular hit movie called “Beetlejuice (1988).” By the way, I should add that another one of his popular songs called “Jump In The Line (1961)” was also in the movie as well. If I’m not mistaken, there was supposed to be a reboot of Beetlejuice this year. Not sure if the project was cancelled or not.
Anyway, Harry was so much more than just a Caribbean performer. You know, in today’s political climate, the news media always take shots at how many people in office who’s been entertainers. In reality, this is nothing new. I’d say what is new (probably), is the lack of characters of the “once a celebrity” politicians, etc. Harry had intelligence beyond his years, an intelligence that America then and today were not ready to hear. He surrounded himself with great men in their own right; Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston. And BTW, Charlton also fought fiercely for Black rights during the civil rights movement. Some how Charlton’s name always gets omitted in conversations of Black history.
Did you know that Harry was one of Martin Luther King’s very few confidants? Harry also helped MLK and his family financially, because king made very little money as a preacher in the beginning. Wow, that’s what you’d call a friend. Not many of those today (sorry to say). Did you also know that in the mid 80s, Harry helped to organize the whole “We Are The World Project?” Harry did so much for South Africa, especially when it came to the A.I.D.S. crisis. Africa had it really bad, there were no resources for them, neither was there education about the disease. Again, Harry Belafonte was, and still is, the last of his breed. He truly not only has a pure love for mankind, but sees the undying need to help each other.Diamond Hemp