Sounds of summer

I have three uplifting music recs to make this summer.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the cinema for the first time in over a year and it was so worth it. (It was also pretty empty.) We saw Summer of Soul, a wonderfully observed documentary revisiting the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. Never heard of it? That’s because it was completely overshadowed by Woodstock. TV producer Hal Tulchin’s 40 hours of footage were relegated to a dusty basement for 50 years until Summer of Soul’s director Ahmir Thompson (aka Questlove) decided it was time to edit, update and air them.

Wow. Everything about it is fantastic – the clothes, the music, the performances, not to mention the emotional recollections from people who were there. Not just a music doc, it serves as a time capsule of a pivotal point in American socio-political history. Let’s just say you ain’t lived till you’ve seen the clip of Mavis Staples and Mahalia Jackson’s immense vocal power. (Nina Simone’s ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ performance comes a very close second.)

Bringing more nostalgic joy to the summer of 2021 is Gary Crowley’s second Lost ‘80s 4-CD (or double vinyl) compilation. As with his first of these curations, it spans the gamut of 1980s music genres, with new wave, pop, hip-hop and soul happily co-existing – sometimes all within the same track!

Having spent a good chunk of lockdowns one and two tuning into Tim Burgess’s Twitter Listening Parties, I’ve been very happy to revisit a few forgotten or under-appreciated 80s bands. This is the best kind of compilation, full of surprises. A couple of gems in particular – World’s Famous Supreme Team’s mellow and melodic Hey DJ, The Waitresses’ sardonic I Know What Boys Like and The Kane Gang’s ace cover of (them again) The Staple Singers’, Respect Yourself.

Finally, the next film on my list is the new Sparks documentary, ‘The Sparks Brothers’, which has just been released in UK cinemas. I’m expecting equal doses of bonkersness and brilliance from pop’s most enduring duo.

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The culture of fashion: Steve McQueen Small Axe series

Scene from Steve McQueen Small Axe series for the BBC

I can’t wait for Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series telling the Black British experience story, which starts on BBC tonight at 9pm. As a born and bred West London girl, I’m always interested to learn more about local history and this series hopes to be an important social history lesson for everyone.

Serious business aside, I will also be watching avidly for the style and music references. McQueen talks about some of them as part of his brilliant Observer New Review takeover. (more…)