Supporting the War Child charity, this concept album by Amsterdam-born Stephen Emmer (whose past work has been produced by Tony Visconti and included cameos from Lou Reed and Midge Ure) takes its inspiration from Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ to articulate a narrative about the human cost of conflict, prejudice and division.
Helping to bring Emmer’s artistic vision to life is a cadre of noted R&B and Jazz singers, including the volcanic-voiced Chaka Khan, the venerable Andy Bey, the late Leon Ware and also the hip-hop poet Ursula Rucker. Their charismatic presence injects a soulful gravitas into the music, where socio-political themes are delivered by impassioned voices over lush, cinematic, orchestral backdrops. As a heartfelt plea for unity and harmony in an increasingly fractured, polarised world, Home Ground proves to be an eloquent meld of messages and music.
[Charles Waring - Mojo Magazine]Home Ground Album
Dutch musician Stephen Emmer worked with the unique voice of Associates’ Billy Mackenzie on his 1982 imaginary soundtrack Vogue Estate.
32 years on, he presents his tribute to this late, much-missed talent with Untouchable, released as a single on April 7. Sung in dramatic style by Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory, it pours on the hurt with a polished update of the string-heavy ’60s pop model, with inescapable echoes of a villainous Bond theme.
Mackenzie would have suited International Blue, the impending new album by Emmer, who played guitar in Minny Pops and The Lotus Eaters, and recorded 2008’s spoken word Recitement LP with help from Lou Reed and Ken Nordine. Paying homage to “the rare art of the pop crooner”, the album features lushly orchestrated tales of heartbreak delivered by singers including Liam McKahey of ’90s contenders Cousteau and Neil Crossley of Bristol nocturnalists Furlined. Mixed and produced by Tony Visconti, it’s out in July.
[Mojo 4 Music / 26-03-14]
International Blue comes with serious support. Produced by Tony Visconti, the album’s guest singers include Midge Ure, Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory and Liam McKahey (Cousteau).
Ex-Cure/Associates bassist Michael Dempsey also contributes. Emmer himself is Dutch, formerly of Joy Division support band Minny Pops and has played alongside Billy MacKenzie in The Associates.
Untouchable, a Gregory-voiced tribute to MacKenzie, is immediately striking, a soaring yet subtle Scott Walker-via-John Barry epic. The Ure-sung Taking Back My Time is a lovely and lush, conjuring a feeling of being borne over valleys in a glider. Song For A Deserted Wife (voiced by McKahey) is an evocative cousin of Walker’s Montagu Terrace In Blue with a dash of Bowie’s This Is Not America.
More than an exercise, International Blue is about its instantly timeless songs.
[Kieron Tyler - Mojo Magazine - 24-06-14]