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Nik Kershaw “The Works” todays Album Spotlight




Nik Kershaw The Works cover

He was the UK’s most successful solo artist during 1984 and 1985, but by 1989 Nik Kershaw’s star was on the wane. So how did he rally to produce The Works, arguably the pinnacle of his songwriting modus operandi? By Matt Phillips

For many 80s artists it was the Holy Grail, but ‘doing a George Michael’ – gaining mainstream critical and commercial success after an early pop career as a heartthrob – was much easier said than done.

By the end of 1985, Bristol-born, Ipswich-raised Nik Kershaw had enjoyed five Top 10 singles and two Top 10 albums, but then his 1986 self-produced collection, Radio Musicola, failed to set the charts alight.

With celeb fans like Elton John and Miles Davis, his musical credentials were never in doubt, but it begged the question: who was actually buying his records? The contemporaneous NME headline said it all: When All The Little Girls Have Grown Up…

So when the second half of Kershaw’s Musicola tour was pulled in April 1987, he had little choice but to plough on with his fourth, contract-fulfilling studio album for MCA Records.

Austrian-born, Los Angeles-based producer-songwriter Peter Wolf – who had enjoyed a stellar career playing keyboards with Frank Zappa between 1977 and 1980 and crafted hits for Starship, Kenny Loggins, The Commodores and Wang Chung – headhunted an intrigued and somewhat flattered Kershaw.

Over dinner in L.A., Wolf – in the broadest of Viennese accents – asked Kershaw who he wanted to play on The Works, as Nik recalled to Reg Webb in 2007: “Do you want Vinnie (Colaiuta), do you want Jeff (Porcaro)?’ He wheeled out all these names… but it became apparent that all you’ve got to do with these people is phone them up! I was like a kid in a candy shop.”

Kershaw was delighted to discover that some of the greatest session musicians and singers in L.A. were aware of his work: horn players Jerry Hey, Gary Grant and Larry Williams, vocalists Michael McDonald and Siedah Garrett (most famous for co-writing Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror and performing on his I Just Can’t Stop Loving You) and percussionist Paulinho Da Costa.

Recording commenced in August 1987. It was an exciting time to be in La La Land; Kershaw rented a house in Nichols Canyon and had a Mustang at his disposal.

The only real threat was the occasional earthquake. Fellow Brits Roddy Frame, Prefab Sprout and Thomas Dolby were in nearby studios, as were some of Kershaw’s Stateside heroes: Joni Mitchell was finishing Chalk Mark In A Rain Storm, Prince was completing The Black Album, while Wolf and Colaiuta’s old boss Zappa was down the road rehearsing for his first world tour in four years.

But sessions for The Works didn’t run smoothly, Kershaw and Wolf clashing repeatedly over musical direction. Wolf seemed hell-bent on crafting some kind of Anglicised version of AOR, while Kershaw was unwilling to jettison the quirks and melodic risk-taking that characterised his best work.

He returned home to England just before Christmas 1987 with a nagging feeling of unease. Sure enough, listening back to the tracks after a few weeks’ rest, he was not happy.

Kershaw made a number of quick decisions, bringing in engineer Julian Mendelsohn (Frankie/Level 42/Pet Shop Boys) to reformat the L.A. tracks and also co-produce three new songs (One Step Ahead, Elisabeth’s Eyes and When I Grow Up) at London’s Sarm East and Sarm West studios – Mendelsohn recently told the 80sography podcast that he rated Kershaw as the most talented artist he’s ever worked with.

The Works was finally completed in October 1988. It had taken a big dent out of Kershaw’s bank balance and been over a year in the making but was well worth the wait, the apotheosis of his melodically complex, though always logical, songwriting style, resplendent with key changes and modulations, analysed these days in some detail on YouTube.

Kershaw also had the uncanny knack of writing generally ‘happy’ music that wasn’t twee or cloying.

Opener and lead single One Step Ahead lyrically hinted at the steeliness needed to stay successful in the cutthroat world of 80s pop. The Scritti Politti-influenced Elisabeth’s Eyes was written from the perspective of Willie Darden, then America’s longest serving Death Row prisoner.

During his 14-year tenure, he corresponded with an Essex schoolteacher named Elisabeth Allen who professed his innocence and championed his cause – sadly to little effect as Darden was executed in March 1988.

Read more: Nik Kershaw interview

The second and final single from The Works, Kershaw performed Elisabeth’s Eyes on Wogan to little effect – it failed to chart.

Cowboys & Indians was a meticulously crafted slice of pop-prog in 6/4 time while Don’t Ask Me was pure muso fun, a stunning mix of ZTT flash and 80s R&B in the Quincy Jones/Michael Jackson mode with a killer Jerry Hey horn arrangement.

Burning At Both Ends foregrounded a beguiling Middle-Eastern motif, with Kershaw’s voice blending beautifully with Garrett’s and an exciting Da Costa percussion breakdown to boot.

The memorable Lady On The Phone, co-written with Wolf, was boosted by a great turn from backing vocalist Michael McDonald.

The album’s only misfires were plodding rocker One World, apparently written with US radio in mind, and Take My Place, a rather drab shuffle with an almost non-existent verse melody. It’s a shame When I Grow Up didn’t take its place on the LP.

Kershaw was finally happy with The Works but his enthusiasm quickly fizzled out when it was released with very little fanfare in May 1989.

Shockingly, it failed to even make the Top 100 in the UK, MCA seemingly focused mainly on its American roster of predominantly soul and hard-rock acts. Kershaw was also paired with a new A&R manager who knew nothing of his past history.

Still, he jumped at the chance to join Elton John on a 120-date world tour (taking Sarah Greene on a tour of Berlin for Going Live!) but, returning to the UK, things were compounded when MCA’s new MD rang Kershaw to say they weren’t going to renew his option for a fifth studio album.

It was time for a well-earned rest from the album/tour bandwagon. Kershaw wound up his publishing and management deals, and, with a young son to take care of, became more of a homebody, a period detailed in Giles Smith’s Lost In Music book.

He came up with Old Friend for Elton’s Duets album and quickly penned Chesney Hawkes’ enormo-hit The One And Only plus further tracks for Bonnie Tyler, Let Loose, Ronan Keating, Cliff Richard and Elaine Paige. Kershaw returned to a solo career with 1999’s 15 Minutes and has toured regularly since.

Sadly, he has rarely looked back to The Works – Cowboys & Indians is the sole track that gets a regular live airing at the time of writing.

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The post Album Spotlight – Nik Kershaw: The Works appeared first on Classic Pop Magazine.

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Norah Jones’ Top 10 Album Sales No. 1 Jazz Charts ‘Visions’ Debuts




The set leads both the overall Jazz Albums and Contemporary Jazz Albums tallies.

Norah Jones Visions bows at No. 9 on Billboard‘s Top Album Sales chart (dated March 23) and at No. 1 on both the overall Jazz Albums and Contemporary Jazz Albums rankings. It’s the eighth top 10 on the Album Sales tally for Jones, and her fourth leader on both Jazz Albums and Contemporary Jazz Albums.

Visions also enters at No. 40 on the Top Rock & & Alternative Albums chart, her first debut on the list since Dec. 2013, when Foreverly, her collaborative album with Billie Joe Armstrong, opened at No. 7 on its way to a No. 4 peak in Jan. 2014.

Visions was preceded by the radio-promoted single “Running,” which has so-far peaked at No. 7 on the Adult Alternative Airplay chart– marking her eighth top 10 and highest-charting song on the list in over a decade, since “Happy Pills” hit No. 4 in 2012.

Also in the top 10 of the new Top Album Sales chart: the latest releases from Ariana Grande, Judas Priest, xikers and Bleachers arrive.

Billboard‘s Top Album Sales chart ranks the top-selling albums of the week based only on traditional album sales. The chart’s history dates back to May 25, 1991, the first week Billboard began tabulating charts with electronically monitored piece count information from SoundScan, now Luminate. Pure album sales were the sole measurement utilized by the Billboard 200 albums chart through the list dated Dec. 6, 2014, after which that chart switched to a methodology that blends album sales with track equivalent album units and streaming equivalent album units. For all chart news, follow @billboard and @billboardcharts on both Twitter and Instagram.

In the tracking week ending March 14 (which is reflected on the March 23-dated Top Album Sales chart), Visions sold 7,000 copies in the U.S., according to Luminate. Of that sum, physical sales comprise 5,500 (3,500 on CD and 2,000 on vinyl) and digital download sales comprise 1,500. The album was available in four vinyl variants (including exclusive iterations for Barnes & & Noble, indie retailers and Spotify), a standard CD, a Target-exclusive CD (with a bonus track and a poster) and a signed CD (available in Jones’ webstore).

At No. 1 on Top Album Sales, Ariana Grande’s Eternal Sunshine starts with 77,000 copies sold– earning Grande her sixth chart-topper. The set was available in a dozen physical configurations and two digital download offerings.

Veteran rock band Judas Priest starts at No. 2 with Invincible Shield (23,000 sold), scoring the group its third top 10-charting set on Top Album Sales. (The list began in 1991, well after Judas Priest began its overall Billboard chart career in 1978 on the Billboard 200 with Stained Class) The new album’s first-week sales were bolstered by its availability across six vinyl variants, a standard CD and a Target-exclusive CD with a lenticular cover.

South Korean pop group xikers nabs its highest-charting effort on Top Album Sales, and second top 10-charting set, as House of Tricky: Trial and Error debuts at No. 3 with 12,500 copies sold (the act’s best sales week). The set’s sales were almost entirely from CDs, with a minimal number of sales from digital downloads. The album was issued in 10 collectible CD editions, all including branded paper merchandise (some randomized).

TWICE’s With YOU-th falls 1-4 in its third week on the chart, selling 10,500 copies (down 37%).

Bleachers’ new self-titled album opens at No. 5 with 9,500 copies sold. It’s the second top 10-charting effort the for the act, led by Jack Antonoff. The album was available in a standard 14-track edition on digital download, CD and cassette. It was also available on 10 vinyl editions, all boasting bonus tracks and most pressed on colored vinyl.

Rounding out the rest of the top 10 on the new Top Album Sales chart: Taylor Swift’s chart-topping 1989 (Taylor’s Version) falls 3-6 (9,000; up 2%), Swift’s former leader Lover is steady at No. 7 (8,000; up 8%), LE SSERAFIM’s Easy falls 2-8 (7,000; down 30%) and Swift’s chart-topping Folklore dips 8-10 (6,000; up 4%).

In the week ending March 14, there were 1.196 million albums sold in the U.S. (up 3.7% compared to the previous week). Of that sum, physical albums (CDs, vinyl LPs, cassettes, etc) comprised 909,000 (up 7%) and digital albums comprised 287,000 (down 5.5%).

There were 474,000 CD albums sold in the week ending March 14 (up 7.3% week-over-week) and 430,000 vinyl albums sold (up 6.7%). Year-to-date CD album sales stand at 4.792 million (down 30.8% compared to the same time frame a year ago) and year-to-date vinyl album sales total 5.031 million (down 48%).

Overall year-to-date album sales total 13.132 million (down 36.3% compared to the same year-to-date time frame a year ago). Year-to-date physical album sales stand at 9.872 million (down 40.9%) and digital album sales total 3.260 million (down 16.5%).

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Lenny Kravitz Nominated to Rock Hall ‘It’s a Beautiful Thing’




The rock legend chatted with Jimmy Fallon about his Rock Hall nomination and new album “Blue Electric Light”.

If form is a guide, Lenny Kravitz ought to be a shoo-in for the Rock Hall class of 2024.

With a new album out in May, the veteran rocker has been soaking up the plaudits on the awards trail, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, presented earlier this month (with a savage roasting by his daughter Zoë Kravitz), and the Music Icon Award at the 2024 People’s Choice Awards, held last month in Santa Monica, Calif.

The most-coveted music award of them all potentially awaits, a spot in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, for which Kravitz is nominated alongside the likes of Mary J. Blige, Oasis, Dave Matthews Band, Cher, Mariah Carey, Kool & & the Gang and more.

Nothing is certain. Though Kravitz is taking the time to smell the flowers.

” It’s a beautiful thing. It’s lovely to receive flowers,” he explained when he stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, for an interview which aired Wednesday night, March 20.

The “Fly Away” singer’s recording career took off in the early ’90s, following a bidding war among the-then five major labels. He decided on Virgin, and the label’s promise that the multi-hyphenate would have total creative control.

” I promised myself,” he told host Jimmy Fallon, “when I was coming up I never took the time to enjoy those kinds of things. I was always moving forward, not thinking about the past or what was happening. So, I said when this stuff starts happening again, I’m going to take the time, and I’m going to enjoy the moments because it’s beautiful.”

Awards are a bonus for Kravitz, who is readying the May 24 release of Blue Electric Light, his 12th studio album. The collection, he remarked, is about “celebration, life, humanity, sexuality, sensuality, spirituality.”

Its title track came to Kravitz in a dream during the final stretch of recording sessions in the Bahamas. He cut it the next day, and guitarist Craig Ross persuaded Lenny to dump his previously planned album title.

Blue Electric Light is “just that vibration of love, of god, of spirit,” he explained to Fallon.

Kravitz will support the album with a summer European arena and festival tour, kicking off June 23 at Sporthalle in Hamburg, Germany. But first, the rock star and his band gave a taste of things to come with a late-night performance of album track “Human,” a song about us “spiritual beings having a human existence, the journey, man.”

Watch the late-night interview and performance below.



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Billboards Hottest Top 10 Countdown for March 23rd | Billboard News




New entries enter the Hot 100 top 10 with Drake and Ariana Grande, Benson Boone and Teddy Swims hit new highs and we crown a new No. 1. This is the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 for the week dated March 23rd. Tetris KellyWith Ariana Grande’s new album out and monster tracks from Beyoncé and

New entries enter the Hot 100 top 10 with Drake and Ariana Grande, Benson Boone and Teddy Swims hit new highs and we crown a new No. 1. This is the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 for the week dated March 23rd.

Tetris Kelly
With Ariana Grande’s new album out and monster tracks from Beyoncé and Teddy Swims, who’s going to end up on top? This is the Billboard Hot 100 for the week dated March 23rd.

Back in the top 10 is “Yes, And?”.

Zach and Kacey slip two spots to No. 9 as Tate McRae falls to No. 8.

4Batz and Drake blast from No. 61 to No. 7.

Beyoncé is down to No. 6.

” Lovin’ On Me” is in at No. 5.

Ye and friends fall from No. 1 to No. 4.

” Beautiful Things” is up a spot to No. 3.

While Teddy Swims stays locked in at No. 2.

And with the release of Eternal Sunshine, Ariana Grande grabs her ninth No. 1 with “We Can’t Be Friends.”

Watch the full video above!

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