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Issue 1084

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Feature

ANGELA JOHNSON SHOWS B&S READERS 'A WOMANS TOUCH'

Angela Johnson
Angela Johnson Angela Johnson

âYou see a lot of women vocalists up there behind the mic wearing mini-skirts or whatever. But people need to recognise that some of us do also MAKE MUSICââ¦

⦠It`s spring 2005, and New York singer/songwriter/producer/instrumentalist Angela Johnson is expressing to âB&Sâ her frustrations at ongoing traditional perceptions of women in the music industry...

⦠Come March 2008, meanwhile, and former State University of New York student Angela is most definitely practising what she preaches, via the release of the groundbreaking `A Woman`s Touch Vol. 1` - her first-ever all-star âproducerâ LP. Boasting an impressive line-up of today`s independent soul vocalists (including Eric Roberson; Rahsaan Patterson; Maysa Leak; Frank McComb; and Julie Dexter), said album unquestionably elevates the classically-trained Ms. Johnson`s studio prowess to a whole new level. In particular building on the vocal, songwriting and musicianship talent displayed on her first two solo albums (2002`s `They Don`t Know` and 2005`s `Got To Let It Go`), to additionally showcase her expanding skills as both multi-artist producer and string and horn arranger.

âWe came up with the idea of using the title `A Woman`s Touch`, basically because it`s stating exactly what this album represents - a different perspective of music through a woman`s point of viewâ, begins an ever-articulate Angela from her New Jersey base: âGenerally speaking, there`s no representation for women in the music business today other than being a vocalist or a dancer. And, because I felt that women definitely have a different approach when it comes to arranging and producing music, we went into this album with the idea of creating a Quincy Jones-type project. You know, he basically arranges music for other vocalists to sing on top of his production - and this album is really a female perspective on that. And I hope that, by doing my own producer album, I will be setting a trend. Because the fact is - particularly within the independent, underground sector - women still have a long way to go in terms of being respected on an equal par with the guys. By just doing my own thing, I`m hoping to encourage other women to feel good about taking control of their project too. By proving I do have other talent besides my voice, I can hopefully give heart to other females to do the same.â

Meanwhile, Angela has nothing but praise for all the vocalists she was able to involve in the project: âMany of the artists I`d already met from shows that we`d done in the past. And, in terms of us connecting for the album, the medium of MySpace really did prove very important. It really is crazy that people, who years ago I`d never be able to get in touch with, I`m now - with just the click of a button and the type of a few words - able to communicate with easily! And overall I think their contribution to the project was largely down to the mutual respect we all share for each other, along with the fact that a female producer putting a compilation together involving many different vocalists is not something that happens too frequently! You know, I think the fact that this album - in that way - was something monumental that they all wanted to be a part of, was a major factor in attracting them. And, as well as top-notch artists like Claude McKnight of Take 6 and popular women like Julie Dexter and Maysa Leak, I was also very happy to be putting lesser-known artists like Tricia Angus and Lisala - who do backgrounds with me on live shows â centre-stage too. Because they too are amazing vocalists.â

Having initially come to prominence as female vocalist in popular New York funk/dance combo Cooly`s Hot Box - which she first joined in 1992 - Angela (who is prestigiously signed to Sony/Columbia in Japan) feels her latter-day all-round musicality reflects her early upbringing: âI grew up in an all-white neighbourhood in Upstate New York. But, with me also going to a black church and having many relatives who were into interracial relationships, I was exposed to a lot of different styles. Because though, back in the late Seventies/early Eighties, the music played on the radio up there was mostly classic rock and soft rock, my aunts and uncles - who were only a few years older than me - at the same time exposed me to a lotta the R&B that was big back then. Plus of course at home my parents brought me up on a lotta gospel, as well as funk and classic soul artists like Aretha Franklin and The Pointer Sisters. Which is why this latest album has elements of everything I grew up with as a young girl - from gospel, to soul, to rock.â

Predictably, Angela is overjoyed at the ever-increasing exposure given to today`s thriving independent soul scene: âYes, I am so, SO happy to hear that we indie artists are shaking up some things in the music industry these days! Because, while the major companies and radio stations are still working together to keep that certain type of mainstream music on the airwaves, we are definitely now - largely thanks to the internet - getting our voices heard more and more. To the point where not too long ago many of the major labels were actually knocking on my door - mainly because they are very interested in seeing how we get our name out there and finding out what we`re able to achieve by ourselves. So yes, the fact that things are now changing - that the major labels are having less power because of all the greatness that`s happening in the indie world - to me is great. Because it`s now making everything a lot more fair.â

The album `Angela Johnson presents A Woman`s Touch Vol. 1` is out now through Dome

www.domerecords.co.uk>Visit Dome records here
Words PETE LEWIS

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