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Miss Diamond if you’re disco

Today’s blogpost is dedicated to the sultry sounds of British singer Kathy Diamond. If there’s a Queen of New Disco, it must be her. Three different tracks in 22tracks’ current disco playlist are sung by her, with a fourth on the way as soon as I can get my hands on it. Anything Kathy Diamond touches turns into something precious.

“Love Saves the Day” by Kaine is as good a showcase as any for Kathy Diamond’s understated but soulful voice. It helps that the title is the same as Tim Lawrence’s groundbreaking disco chronicle from 2004, and the remake by Mario Basanov gives the track just that little extra push on the dancefloor. It’s not the first time that the producer from Lithuania has worked with the singer from England. Last year’s collaborative “In My System (Make You Move)” is a 90 BPM slowburner of a gem.


“A Little Bit More” is a little bit faster, but not much. The track is by UK producer Toby Tobias, who doesn’t introduce the singer until three minutes in—very very slowly. They may just be some repeated phrases (“hold me a  little bit more”), but they sure set the mood. Exquisite strings take over from luscious synths and the whole thing is just a dream. Not much of Diamond’s contribution remains on Nick Chacona‘s “The Fear (Beg to Differ Remix)” but, again, what does is enough.

Not only is Kathy Diamond a very fine singer, but she knows how to choose equally fine production talent. I first heard about her three years ago, after her album Miss Diamond to You had already been out for a few months. That record is produced from start to finish by the legendary Maurice Fulton, and that’s all the recommendation anyone needs, really. Another big record Miss Diamond featured on was 2008′s “Whispers“, where she handed Aeroplane their breakthrough single. Nuff said.

I don’t know if a second Kathy Diamond’s album is forthcoming any time soon, as she seems to be preoccupied with a new duo called The KDMS. You can figure out for yourself what the KD stands for, but the MS is Polish producer Maksymilian Skiba. Last year’s “Never Stop Believing” was a jam, and new KDMS single “High Wire” (out later this month) is again sure to satisfy DJs on the lookout for a spot-on vocal performance. The video is rather silly, I’m afraid:


(Also, I don’t think I’ve mentioned “Tic Toc“, which is insane.)

Mayer Hawthorne needs some Chicago soul

One day, California singer Mayer Hawthorne was listening to a bunch of beats sent to him by hip-hop producer Nottz. One particular beat stood out, he tells the Stones Throw website. “It had the same chord progression as [Otis Leavill's "I Need You"], so I just went with it.”

Indeed he did, rescuing a 41-year-old ballad from obscurity. Mayer Hawthorne’s cover version of “I Need You” is #nowplaying at 22tracks’ soul playlist.

It’s pretty stunning that hip-hop produce Nottz did not create the track with “I Need You” in mind, because the song fits perfectly. Here is the original, produced by Willie Henderson, a protégé of the great Chicago record man Carl Davis.


“I Need You” was the B-side of “I Love You“, an R&B Top Ten hit in 1969 for Carl Davis’s assistant, Otis Leavill Cobb. He never released an album, but he certainly had good ears because according to Allmusic, Leavill discovered The Chi-Lites, Bohannon and also a group called Manchild, that included a teenage Babyface! (Apparently, he also passed on Chaka Khan, but I guess you can’t be right all the time.)

Otis Leavill died of a heart attack in 2002. Both “I Love You” and “I Need You” were reissued on CD in 1999, on the compilation The Class of Mayfield High, and unless Mayer Hawthorne is something of 45 collector, I guess that’s how “I Need You” wound up on his DJ mix album Soul With a Hole Vol. 1. (It’s funny how Otis Leavill’s name is spelled incorrectly, in two different ways even, on both the mix CD and the Stones Throw site.)

Dominick Lamb AKA Virginia producer Nottz is best known for his work with luminaries such as Busta Rhymes, Xzibit, Ghostface Killah, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and The Game. Most of it is on album tracks rather than hit singles, though I guess this Nottz production did pretty well:


If that video gets you in the mood for scantily clad ladies, Mayer Hawthorne has a new video out for one of his own compostitions, “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’”:


Skream if you want to go faster

Skream is on a roll, there is no other way to explain him #nowplaying four different times on 22tracks’ dubstep playlist. Two tracks are from his free downloadable Freeizm series of zip files, one is his current UK Top Ten hit with Magnetic Man, and the other is a jungle throwback taken from his new album Outside the Box.

I blogged about Magnetic Man a few weeks ago, so if you missed that go here. Suffice to say that “I Need Air” entered the UK chart at number ten last weekend, and that the album is coming out October 4. Besides Angela Hunte, who sings on “I Need Air”, the album features Ms Dynamite, Katy B and John Legend.

On Outside the Box, Skream’s second solo album coming out next week, you can hear Cali rapper Murs, UK synth pop star La Roux and a certain Sam Frank, who sings on the record’s potential chart hit, “Where You Should Be”. Skream is definitely pushing for a crossover on his new album, but more in a musical sense. Unlike other young dance producers, he is (thank goodness) not pursuing some kind of muso credibilty with jazz odysseys or out-of-place indie rock vocalists. He’s doing something more dangerous than that: Outside the Box sees Skream broadening dubstep’s sound to include more a melodic, European sensibility. You can even hear this is in “Listenin’ to the Records on My Wall”, a track that references the hardcore jungle sounds of Skream’s (early) youth.

Here’s a record young Oliver may have have heard as 9-year-old. Like “Listenin’…”, J Majik‘s classic “Your Sound” (1995) cuts up the famous “Amen” break. The track was included on Grooverider’s Hardstep Selection Vol. II, a compilation by pioneering jungle DJ Grooverider, who was friends with Skream’s older brother Hijak, also a DJ/producer.


As much as I love dubstep, I don’t think it ever gets as devestating as this. And although I’m not interested in a revival, it is interesting to hear a young producer like Skream getting influences like these, as well as others, on board. If you want “proper’ dubstep, you can download his Freeizm collections. I’m looking forward to the Magnetic Man album. “The fear of selling out is always in the back of your mind but you grow up and get over it,” MM member Benga recently told Britain’s Metro newspaper. “Nothing stays underground forever. If we don’t do this, someone else will and they might not have done all the grafting and groundwork.”

Let’s stay outside the box.


Life Hurts

We don’t keep logs here at 22tracks, but I’m pretty sure I playlisted “Wonderful Life” by English duo Hurts early this year already. I know we’re all about new music, but the song is again #nowplaying on the pop playlist. After Hurts’ major label debut single “Better Than Love” hit the radio last spring, “Wonderful Life” is only now ready to finally fulfill its destiny, and hit the bigtime.

Better Than Love” wasn’t a huge smash, but it got quite a bit of radio play across Europe. The sound and feel of Hurts’ music may be reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys, but singer Theo Hutchcraft has a much bigger voice than Neil Tennant does, so a good additional comparison is probably… early- to mid-’80s Ultravox:


Still, I was surprised that Sony Music had picked up Hurts, seeing as their debut single “Wonderful Life” is a bit of a moody record. I was probably misled by the (original) video, and the lyrics, that see a woman pleading (at night, in the rain, on a bridge) to a suicidal man to not give up on life. The original video looks a bit gloomy, too, despite the dancing:


The grandeur of the song comes out much better in this new video of the same song. Director Dawn Shadforth took Hutchcraft, keyboardist Adam Anderson and what is possibly the same dancing woman from the previous video to a stylish mansion in Ibiza. In a twist, by this time, it is Susie who lies at the bottom of the pool.


If you ask me, this is a much better song than “Better Than Love”.

Hurts’ debut album is called Happiness and is scheduled for a September 6 release. They’re performing all over Western Europe starting August 20 at Belgium’s Pukkelpop festival.

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