Noel McKoy: Nothin' but the real McKoy
With a two-decade-plus career that has already encompassed reggae (The Albions), rock (Impact), acid jazz (The James Taylor Quartet), and conscious soul (Mc Koy), Brit-soul vet Noel McKoy will unquestionably prove one of the key homegrown attractions at August’s upcoming Vintage At Goodwood Festival. Where his performance will likely include tracks from his latest, third album - 2009’s old skool soul-flavoured ‘Brighter Days’ - plus its forthcoming offshoot single, the lyrically-insightful, percussion-driven ‘Jealousy’.
Indeed, with the South London-born-and bred singer/songwriter/producer’s upcoming plans including releasing his first dance music album as well as production/writing work for Italian songstress Kira plus upcoming UK singers Jade and Cheri Davis, he now happily reacquaints himself with long-time industry acquaintance Pete Lewis. As an ever-personable and down-to-earth Noel (whose CV impressively includes duets with both UK soul Queens, Mica Paris and Beverly Knight) looks back over past career highlights, while also expressing his candid opinions on today’s British black music scene.
How Noel recalls his early days in little-known mid-Eighties London rock group Impact, with whom he recorded and performed live for six years
“Back then it was very much the era of bands like Loose Ends, who were all about the funky/jazz sound. So it was just refreshing to be in a band doing something with a lot more of a blues/rock edge to it - and we did manage to build up a good live fan-base. I remember one of our biggest fans was actually (late-Eighties UK black rock hit-maker) Andrew Roachford - who we first met when we did a gig at The Notting Hill Carnival and he was on before us! You know, back then he was doing a lot of Stevie Wonder covers - and, after we went on and did our rock set, he was like ‘I really enjoyed the gig!’... And from then on, at every show we did, we’d see Andrew there in the front; he’d come backstage; we’d chat... And the next thing I know, I’m seeing him on ‘The Ben Elton Show’ now doing the rock thing HIMSELF! So I think it’s fair to say we inspired him! And I guess one of my fondest personal memories of the band is the way we’d just turn up at a rehearsal and just CREATE! You know, back then - unlike music now - it was purely about the freestyle jamming. There was never a plan of action!”
His ideas on today’s UK black/soul music scene
“Well, if you’re talking music scene in terms of black PEOPLE, it’s definitely on the UP! Because, if you look amongst the artists, we’ve never SEEN so many black UK males in the charts at the same time! You know, the Wiley’s, the Dizzee’s, the Chipmunk’s, the Ironik’s - all these guys are having Number One HITS! Whereas prior to them it was just your Lemar, Craig David... And then prior to THAT we can go back to maybe Seal, Billy Ocean... So, in terms of actual exposure, things are very GOOD! But having said that, for me personally I’m not really convinced the actual QUALITY of the music is at a high. I just find a lotta the music I’m hearing, that’s coming out and crossing over, is very synthetic and not really that inspiring. To me it’s very beat-oriented and, while I’m definitely all for change in music, I just think there could be more lyrical content and musicality. I basically think we need to make it more soulful again and have the kinda characters that we had back in the day, like the Omar’s and the Mica Paris’ - as well as more recent people like Terri Walker, who was also very good… But, you know, things always go round in circles. So I guess we’ll just see what HAPPENS!”
In this month's special printed edition of Blues & Soul... Read about Noel's time touring with the James Taylor Quartet in the '80s and how the distinctive funky/jazz sound that they were creating went on to influence a plethora of other artists. He also recalls soul/funk group Loose Ends and the exceptional talents of singer Andrew Roachford... Order your copy now.
Noel performs at The Vintage At Goodwood Festival on Saturday, August 14
Noel’s single ‘Jealousy’ will be released in September. His album ‘Brighter Day’ is out now, both through Tri-Sound
Words PETE LEWIS