Freitag, Januar 11, 2008

01 - Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators: Keep Reachin' Up & Amy Winehouse: Back To Black



These two records largely made my year. I like them both so much there was no way of choosing one of them over the other. Each perfectly fits into one of the two halfs this year has been for me. Keep Reachin' Up is me in Manchester, I can see myself sitting on the bed doing make up and getting ready for going out. I can feel this even now listening to it, the memories are so intense. Back To Black is me in Berlin. The images that come up are less, well, images, rather diffused, but the feeling is the same. I feel butterflies in my stomach when I hear these records. The perfect soundtrack for 2007.
Both records were released in 2006. Like I wrote before, I think that even if I made a list of records released in 2007, it would still make a lot of sense to consider albums that came out in the late 2006. A good records, a NUMBER ONE RECORD needs some time to climb to that position, to become worthy enough for this. This is Keep Reachin' Up for me. Ironically, the first time I heard about it was in a Best-of-2006-list, namely as the number one of the best soul records of 2006, chosen by the staff of Picadilly Records Manchester (which was elected "best independent record store" by the readers of Music Week and "one of the best shops at all" by The Observer in 2006). Their praise of Nicole Willis' record sounded so good I just had to get it. I was curious whether the record would keep the promise made by Picadilly Records - whic was stiring the Northern Soul fire that had been burning in me since I came to Manchester. Needless to say that is just what it did.
Back To Black, however, needed a lot more time to make it into my heart. Although I had heard about Amy Winehouse already when her first album Frank was released, I did not mind her at all back then. I have complained about her quite harshly, but in her case endless repetition of her songs, being played over and over kind made way for her record - through the backdoor.
So Keep Reachin' Up won my heart at the very beginning of the year, and in a straight, steady way. Back To Black only had very few time to overwhelm me, because it took the long way round. But both had to get my in the end.

The two records are very much different, regarding their popularity. Amy Winehouse was massive this year, whereas no one seems to have heard of Nicole Willis at all. I got the feeling that the record might be a bit of a grower, not in terms of the music, but in terms of popularity. Musically, they have a lof of things in common. Both are outstanding up-to-date and new Northern Soul records, and, I must admit, the only two modern Northern Soul records I know about. There might be more coming up this year, with songs like the remix of Frankie Valli's Beggin' getting quite some attention. For me, discovering and exploring Northern Soul was the biggest musical gain I got this year - even more than living in the city of music.
2007 has been the year of Northern Soul for me, and what would be more obvious than to mention Amy Winehouse as the woman who made Northern Soul music fashionable this year. You couldn't avoid Back To Black this year, the songs seemed to be in everybody's ears and her name on everyone's lips. But Nicole Willis made way for her in my heart. So now I hope that the people who love Back To Black could make space in their hearts for Keep Reachin' Up...

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