Arts: Pop: Soul man finds perfect pitch
DAVID MCALMONT FLEECE AND FIRKIN BRISTOL
Tuesday 02 February 1999
How best to harness his gorgeous instrument, however, hasn't been entirely clear up to now. A background in indie-crossover acts, first with Thieves, and then in the brief partnership with Suede's Bernard Butler, allowed McAlmont to avoid the black hole that all Brit-soul careers seem to end up in. But where was it leading to, other than occasional Shirley Bassey pastiche?
Thankfully, on the recent solo album A Little Communication (Hut), McAlmont has put his soul cards on the table. The result is a record, produced by Tommy D, with backings stripped to the bone, that just keeps getting better with every listen. The rare jewel of a voice is at last given a setting worthy of it. Whether the programmed beats and murmurs could be reproduced live remained the wild card in the pack.
A pre-gig soundtrack of Al Green's greatest hits tempted fate, but once McAlmont took the stage, all doubts vanished immediately. The superbly versatile and laid-back quartet of two keyboard players, bass and drums stroked out the insouciant rhythms; the singer took his position by the microphone, and we all prepared to swoon. Almost from the first note, it was achingly, breathtakingly good. With his retro specs and the sweeping gestures of his pipe-cleaner arms making him look like a less messianic version of Malcolm X, McAlmont was a marvel.
Unlike Al Green, Aretha or Marvin Gaye (whose "Sexual Healing" era beatbox rhythms are copied occasionally on the new album), McAlmont's voice is more airy than earthy. Rather than testify, he soars, twitters and trills like a miraculous bird. The mastery of his voice and microphone technique are quite remarkable. Notes are projected at an intimate volume and then subtly caressed, with the off-mike breath calibrated to produce the desired effect. The only doubt is that the music is so subtle and elegant, and McAlmont's charm so sophisticated, you wonder if they risk going over the audience's heads.
Though the performance was one of the best I've ever heard from a vocalist, the encore was far from assured. It came all the same, in the beautiful form of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", with the opening verses sung wonderfully, not by McAlmont, but by keyboard player and bassist. It was magical already, but when it came to McAlmont's turn it got better still. What a voice!
McAlmont plays the Jazz Cafe, London NW1, tonight. His new single `A Little Communication', was released yesterday on Hut Recordings
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Enrique Iglesias injured trying to catch a drone mid concert
- 2 Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, reveals new look on Annie Leibovitz shot Vanity Fair cover
- 3 Arsenal players boo chief-executive Ivan Gazidis after being told they would not get bonus for FA Cup triumph
- 4 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 5 UK weather: Temperatures set to soar making parts of Britain hotter than parts of the Mediterranean
The 1975 leave social-media after tweeting cryptic comic strip hinting at break up
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Winner Matisse had secret dog double, says owner Jules O'Dwyer
Top Gear to follow Have I Got News For You format with 'different host for each episode'
Britain's Got Talent final 2015: Ofcom receives 90 complaints about Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden's 'revealing dresses'
Ed Sheeran debuts new love song 'Sweet Mary Jane' about relationship with weed
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history