Praise & Blame
“We wanted to go back to basics, go back to the source, it was just me singing live with a rhythm section – no overdubbing, no gimmicks, no complicated horn and string arrangements, just get the song down in an entire take, capture the meaning of the song, its spirituality, its life, and capture that moment, right there. And I think that’s what we’ve done,” says Tom Jones, the veteran singer from Wales, who turns 70 this year and who has just completed Praise and Blame, his follow up to 2008’s acclaimed 24 Hours and quite simply his finest work to date.
It is a truly remarkable record, one that captures the Tom Jones who listened to Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the radio as a child growing up, who thought gospel music was “just like rock’n’roll, every bit as exciting but with deeper lyrics,” the Tom Jones who belted out The Lord’s Prayer as a jubilatory spiritual in school assembly, “because that was the only way I knew how to sing it, it was natural for me.”
This is Tom Jones going back to his roots on an album of gospel, blues, traditional and country songs, wearing his heart on his sleeve, emotionally raw and true. With musicians including steel guitarist BJ Cole, keyboardist Booker T Jones (of Memphis soul legends Booker T and the MGs), Hammond organist Chris Holland and background vocalists Gillian Welch, Alison Pierce, Dave Rawlings and Orin Waters at hand, Tom has quite simply delivered his tour de force. It’s him bearing his soul, singing from the heart, telling it like it is.
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Maya Arulpragasam was born in Hounslow, London, England. When she was six months old, her family moved back to their homeland, Sri Lanka. At eight years old, Maya moved back to London, where she and her family were housed as refugees from the civil unrest in their native region. Maya learned proper English at school and slang at home by listening to NWA and Public Enemy on the radio.
In 2000, Maya was encouraged by electro-clash icon Peaches to make music on a Roland MC-505 Groovebox and she pulled lyrics from journals she had written during a four-month trip to the Caribbean island of St. Vincent to craft her first songs. In 2005, she released Arular, and reached the mainstream charts in Europe and the U.K. It was considered as much a political statement as a musical one, as it referenced the Tamil Tigers.
In 2007, Kala was released. Like Arular, it received unanimous international critical praise. It topped multiple “Best of the Year” lists in publications around the world with its deft mixture of politics, social consciousness, and inimitable genre-blending.
On Maya, M.I.A. continues her musical exploration into new territory including rock, dubstep and more. She is not a typical artist and Maya pushes the envelope with controversial sounds, lyrics, and imagery. M.I.A is many things — a visual-artist, musician, revolutionary, and style-icon — and just when you think you have Maya pegged, it will surprise you.
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