hasn’t been infected by an M-People chorus in the last three years (‘Someday’, ‘Excited’, ‘Moving On Up’, ‘One Night In Heaven’, ‘Don’t Look Any Further’, etc . . .) and I’ll show you Xanadu (the mythical place, not the movie). M- People have never been out of step with the BPMs; it is the popular belief that, as he is a DJ, Pickering can assess what’s happening amongst the nation’s clubbers and M-People’s success just follows suit. Heard is unconvinced, believing that it’s the songs themselves which do the work. ‘To an extent, Mike keeps us in tune with what’s happening. It’s a matter of taste; Mike has been a musician as long as he’s been a DJ. We don’t really work that hard on the groove. We work on the songs, and it’s only when we start producing that we think about the groove because that’s rcallyjust the taste ofthe song. We could do “Moving On Up” in five years but give it a different groove to have a different flavour.’ What was originally a marriage of convenience has become untamed wedded bliss. Each M- Person has become accustomed to one of the
‘It’s simple, if you like it, go with it, if you don’t like it, don’t. It’s a natural thing and I’m just happy it worked out this way.’
most difficult elements of a band, actually getting along with each other.
‘lt’s the first group that I’ve been in where there’s no competition,’ continues Heard. ‘We’ve all been in groups before where people are competing for the same things ego-wise or influence-wise, but each of us kind of brings a different feel to the group and that relaxes us, stops us getting over-conﬁdent. We haven’t set ourselves goals. it’s too dangerous. I mean, we could release a record in America and tailor that record towards success in the American market, but I don’t think you’ve got to do that, you’ve got to be honest with yourself. It’s simple. ifyou like
- it, go with it, if you don’t like it, don’t. It’s a
natural thing and I’m just happy it worked out this way.‘
M-People are happy people. Well, who wouldn’t be, currently Number Two in Australia
‘7 and burning up the hit parades ofjust about every 5 country in Europe. Little annoys them. apart ; from the perennial question, ‘What does M-
People stand for?’ ‘Honestly. I think we must be asked that
. question fifteen times a day when we’re in
Germany,’ guffaws Heard. ‘lt actually stands for any nice superlative beginning with M; magnificent, mellow and marvellous are in but manky and morbid are right out.’ Arguably, they are Menagerie-People whose over-success is tempered by their closeness of bonds between the group.
‘Yeah, I’ve got a daughter who’s two, and any time 1 get free I spend with her. Mike and l are both in relationships where we’ve got kids and our girlfriends understand the situation. You have to make the time. when you get free time you make the most of it. We personally all go on holiday together. All of us went to St Lucia in January, including Heather and our percussionist. I know it sounds corny but we’re all good close friends.’
M-People - a soul surviving family affair.
M -People play The Barrowland, Glasgow on Tue 2/.
nlike rock and rock u musicians, soul and its
singers are ﬂexible, adaptive and resilient. From afar, this lends credence to the notion that one diva is no different from another diva, interchangeable and, the corollary of that, faceless. Close up, though, the preponderance of past projects and the readiness to branch out is what gives today’s crop of groovesome divas their energy and talent — and what makes them stars.
Having been round the block once before, as a member of Hothouse in the late 80s, Heather Small is no ‘songbird’ ingenue, a novice tasting sudden success. Hothouse’s one album, 1988’s South, was soul-smooth without being bland, soul-lush without being indulgent. That year. Hothouse appeared on the Friday night pop programme of the time ‘Wired’, performing a stunning version of Willie Nelson’s country lament ‘Crazy’. While Hothouse failed to take off, Small refused to buckle under. Four years later, still with De/Construction Records, she emerged as the voice of soul-deep, disco-daze M People.
From three albums with Latin
jazz groovers Working Week Juliet Roberts also reaped the critical plaudits, but not the commercial paybacks. She’d been in the spotlight before, hitting the Top Ten in 1983 with the Funk Masters’ ‘lt’s Over’. and before long outside projects were again exerting their pull. Roberts left Working Week in I989 to study classical music in Amsterdam and collaborate with L. A. Mix, producer Dancin’ Danny D and Courtney Pine. Finally, resilience and diversification having done
their part, Roberts signed with Cooltempo last summer. Her debut solo album, ‘Natural Thing’. is out next month.
Cooltempo is also home for Shara Nelson. Her acclaimed role as the voice of Massive Attack gave a solid base from which to launch her successful solo career last year. While writing collaborations with PM Dawn and St Etienne had proved her musical dexterity, it was her ‘What Silence Knows’ album which became a major hit beyond the normal expectations of soul-dance albums. and got Nelson nominated for Brit Awards for best British Newcomer and Best British Female Vocalist.
Dina Carroll has come a long way from mid-80s street soul with the Streetwave label, two failed dance singles with Jive. and guest vocals on Quartz’s ‘lt's Too Late’. Over the last eighteen months, six top twenty singles and a million album sales her solo career at A&M has seen her mutate into plodding MOR queen. As if we needed one, Carroll is the UK’s answer to Whitney and Mariah.
Carleen Anderson, god-daughter of the Godfather (that’s James Brown), was the silkily seductive front for The Young Disciples at Talkin’ Loud, before moving over to Virgin and two acclaimed solo singles, Dusky Sappho and the recent Nervous Breakdown. A 36- year-old mother of a teenage son. Anderson was a session singer and bank clerk in her native America before relocating to London in
I988 and bumping into DJs Femi and Marco. The Young Disciples were born. Three years later the partnership would give us the modern funk-soul classic ‘Apparently Nothing’ and the Mercury~nominated album ‘Road To Freedom'. But different roads beckoned for the band, and via an appearance on GURU’s ‘Jazzmatazz’ album, Anderson released her first solo single last autumn. Her cousin .Ihellsa. meanwhile, ﬂitted from Soul Family Sensation to The Shamen, all the while finding time to write and arrange material for her more soulful sideline with London label Dorado.
I; . , s.
And now comes Misty Oldland. The 28-year-old Londoner recalls supporting Heather Small’s Hothouse in 1989 when she was half of ‘sophisticated pop’ act Oldland-Montano. ‘We signed when l was 21. really young, and I wrote all the songs for our album. But I was quite unhappy about the way they turned out and what happened to them. But it was a really good, positive learning experience. I call it my university.’ And there was more hard lessons to come. Dropped by Siren after three (failed) singles, Oldland recorded live tracks in New York with the then-unknown Lenny Kravitz. Three years on, she can’t touch the songs, since Kravitz paid for them. Now, with a new deal and a new single, the hippy bedsit groove of ‘A Fair Affair’ (Columbia), and an album in the planning, Oldland’s trying to regain the rights to some of the tracks. But like she says, it’s the hard knocks, the hard graft, and (too often) the hard-nosed disdain that greets each ‘new’ sister-with- voice. that gives soul divas the strength to come back, stronger and better. ‘Yeah, it’s like the whole soul cliche — having to suffer to get the grit in your voice.’ (Craig MacLean)
Misty Oldland plays King Tut 's Wah Walt Hut. Glasgow on Wed [6 and The Music Box. Edinburgh on Thurs l7.
The List 1 l-24 February I994 11