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Issue 1081

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Feature

Jim Diamond: Great Scott!

Jim Diamond @bluesandsoul.com
Jim Diamond @bluesandsoul.com

Backed by the cream of todayâs Scottish musicians, pop-rock/blue-eyed-soul singer/songwriter Jim Diamond returns this month with a new album "City Of Soul," which aims to raise money for businessman and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunterâs Radio Clyde-affiliated childrenâs charity Cash For Kids.

Indeed. featuring the talents of Wet Wet Wetâs Tom Cunningham on drums; Hue And Cryâs Greg Kane on keyboards; The Proclaimersâ Garry John Kane on bass; and Marianne Faithful collaborator Brian McFie on guitar (in addition to John Milneâs horn section; Hammond organist Stevie Mulhearn; plus young Glaswegian backing-singers Tippi, Lynnie Carson and Joe Gallacher), âCity Of Soulâ finds Jim lovingly and respectfully covering 12 classic-soul songs which - with each track being a live take - range from James & Bobby Purifyâs "Morning Glory", Aretha Franklinâs pounding "Donât Play That Song" and Ashford & Simpsonâs punchy "Ainât Nothing Like The Real Thing"; to Latin funk-tinged renditions of Inez & Charlie Foxxâs "Mockingbird" and Sam Cookeâs haunting "Chain Gang."

Born James Diamond in Glasgow, Scotland in September 1953, Jim began his musical career at 15 with his own band The Method before, at 16, going on to front the Glaswegian band Jade - who in 1969 played regular pub, club and college gigs across London. The early-Seventies meanwhile found him hooking-up with legendary UK bluesman Alexis Korner, whose band he eventually left in 1976 to form the rock group Bandit. Who later the same year - with their line-up also including future AC/DC member Cliff Williams - released their self-titled debut album through Arista Records.

However, it was in 1982 that Diamond would finally hit the big-time after forming (alongside keyboardist Tony Hymas and drummer Simon Phillips) the new wave/blue-eyed-soul trio Ph.D.. Who, having signed to WEA Records, later the same year impressively enjoyed a multi-million-selling pan-European hit single with the song âI Wonât Let You Downâ. Nevertheless, with the band having decided to part ways, it was as a solo artist signed to A&M Records that, in 1984, Jim would eventually attain a UK Number One with the ballad "I Should Have Known Better," which interestingly also topped charts across Latin America. Following which, 1986 would see him return to the British Top Five with âHi Ho Silverâ - the theme to the popular Midlands-based TV detective series âBoonâ.

Recent years meanwhile have found Diamond teaming up with respected British soul saxophonist Chris âSnakeâ Davis (best known for his work with Nineties dance/soul chart-toppers M-People) under the name The Blue Shoes, while also in 2005 releasing his first solo LP in 11 years, âSouled And Healedâ.

⦠All of which brings us back to this monthâs release of his aforementioned new soul covers set "City Of Soul." Which - with all its proceeds going to aforementioned Scottish childrenâs charity Cash For Kids - proves interesting conversation fodder. As an instantly-friendly and humble-mannered Mr. Diamond hooks up with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a brightânâbreezy early-afternoon chat.

The background behind the "City Of Soul" project

âWell, with Tom Hunter doing a lotta charity things for the children up in Scotland, heâs asked me a few times to sing at his functions - and for me itâs always a privilege to go up and DO it⦠So, last year I did this gig for him up in Glasgow - you know, it was a fund-raising night for the (Cash For Kids) charity; I did some soul things... And afterwards Tom came up to me and was like âJim, it would be great to do an album of soul stuff for the KIDS up hereâ - which to me sounded like a dream come TRUE! And so, because the band Iâd sung with that night were absolutely fantastic and were as crazy about soul music as I am, I decided to use them for the PROJECT! Which is why on the album we have Tom Cunningham from The Wetâs; Greg Kane from Hue & Cry; John Kane, whoâs the bass-player with The Proclaimers; the guitarist Brian (McFie) whoâs a brilliant soul player⦠Plus of course we have the horn section - who are absolutely excellent players - as well as some young backing-singers... And what was especially great about the whole thing was that everybody was really, genuinely excited about doing it and pleased to BE there.â

How Jim went about choosing which songs to cover

âWhen Tom first suggested the idea, I had great difficulty deciding which tracks to cover - and I actually literally ended up with 100 songs! But then I just thought âWhy donât I just do the songs that I sang as part of my repertoire back when I was a kid singing in the Glasgow PUBS?â... And so for me singing these songs today is a big thing. Because in my eyes it really is a kinda homage to all the other people whoâve done them BEFORE me. You know, itâs basically just my way of saying âThank you very much for all the JOY youâve brought meâ.â

Jimâs personal connection to soul music itself

âWell, my brother was actually the one who bought all the soul records in our house. You know, the soul boys in Glasgow back then all had scooters; everybody used to do the clubs; there were so many good bands in the city... So yeah, it was quite an exciting TIME - especially when you heard a new song for the first time! I mean, hearing Sam Cooke on the radio was a REAL showstopper for me. Plus I also liked listening to Ray Charles; I loved Otis Redding; I remember hearing Inez & Charlie Foxx singing âMockingbirdâ and thinking it was one of the most joyous things Iâd ever heard... So, when I first decided to become a singer, that was the music I wanted to SING - because that was my LOVE! You know, to me soul music is a bit like a religion that stays with you all your LIFE. Which is why for me itâs an honour to now be having go at some of these tunes and to express my joy through them.â

His memories of performing soul classics in the local Glasgow pubs, clubs and YMCAâs when he first started out as a teenager back in the late-Sixties

âOh, it was FANTASTIC - the best days of my LIFE! Because it was all just purely about the music and nothing ELSE! There were no thoughts of making records, no thoughts of making a living... It was just the pure joy of getting out there and singing classic songs like âAinât Too Proud To Begâ! You know, as an aspiring live singer back then you had all these great songwriters at your disposal; you had all these amazing pieces of work that they were creating; you had these amazing vocalists to listen to and emulate⦠I mean, EVERY DAY youâd hear this fantastic singing that just made you go âMy God! This is just getting too good to be TRUE!â... And ultimately itâs days like that that ANCHOR you! You know, they influence who you ARE, the way you THINK⦠Which is why, throughout my life, that music has been a great THING for me! Itâs helped me through EVERYTHING!â

The significance of the 12 tracks on "City Of Soul" being all live takes

âWell, Greg Kane co-produced the whole album with me; we had a wonderful engineer in Stuart Hamilton, a great studio (Castlewood Recording in Pencaitland) - and we had a really good TIME! You know, everybody was SMILING! There were no overdubs; we just played every song through from start to finish; all the vocals are live... And if somebody made a mistake, or if we didnât think the feel was right, weâd stop and do it again from the TOP! And with this type of stuff, I do think thatâs IMPORTANT - because it is such an emotional MUSIC⦠So yeah, it is all very of-the-moment. And to be honest, if that hadnât been the case then it wouldnât be the record that it IS! Because that would have meant we were dropping things in, changing things around⦠Whereas to us it was all about being spontaneous and capturing the excitement of the MOMENT. You know, once we got in the groove, that was IT!â

The album "City Of Soul" is released November 7 through Camino Records/Cash For Kids
Words PETE LEWIS

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