Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kiki Dee's Soul

Recently, I have been listening to quite a lot of music that could be described as blue-eyed soul, or white soul. Why white soul, you ask. It might have originated from my fascination towards 60s and 70s bubblegum music which sometimes has a very close connection to soul and/or funk.

It seems that ever since there was gospel, jazz and rock'n roll, white people have adopted the same styles and even identified very strongly with some genres – all of which were originally based on African rhythms. Even today, certain singers reach popularity very much due to sounding black despite being white. And even if all soul singers don't sound black, soul music has come to stay.

In any way, the concept of me listening to white soul is not entirely new. I came across an English singer called Kiki Dee through Scott Walker and Dusty Springfield, both of whose music I recently had become very fond of. Kiki once performed on Scott Walker's TV show, and Kiki Dee also sang background vocals for Springfield who was a soul music singer. Even Scott Walker sometimes flirted with soul.

I practically only needed one song to get impressed enough to purchase a compilation called I'm Kiki Dee: The Fontana Years 1963-1968. What a fantastic voice Kiki has! Even forgetting the voice, it is extremely easy to like her music. Almost everywhere you hear big arrangements with strings and/or horns. There are even some jazz elements present. It is all very, very carefully arranged and professional. However, you could say that a few songs in the beginning of the compilation represent a slightly more primitive sound (and I like those songs too) but the rest perfect in all possible ways.

Kiki's voice is bright, yet suitable for any big heartbroken ballad. Dusty Springfield is a fairly good comparison even though the overall impression you get from Kiki's voice is surely different, gives different vibes. There is an element of delicate sensitivity in Kiki's voice but also many other different nuances. Many of the songs are ballads. Kiki performs sad ballads (Excuse Me, Patterns), happy ballads (Sunshine, We've Got Everything Going for Us), songs that are playful (Doctor in Clover) or bitter (Running out of Fools), and groovy dance numbers (Take a Look at Me, He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'). She also gives a great version of Can't Take My Eyes off You.

Despite having performed very similar and equally good music, Kiki Dee is not as well-known as Dusty Springfield. Kiki didn't have any big chart hits in the UK in the 60s. However, she was apparently the first white artist to be signed by Motown. She has had a long career and I really only have scratched the surface. At least check out the 60s material!

Not many songs on YouTube, try Spotify instead. Here is one, though.

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