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Neneh Cherry: welcome return for a unique talent

2014-02-25 22:18:40

Neneh Cherry
Still funky: Neneh Cherry is back with her first solo album since 1995

If any of the winners at last week's Brit Awards are struggling to find a place to stash their gongs, they could take inspiration from Neneh Cherry.

In 1990, the singer gave one of the two statuettes she had won to the stylist Judy Blame, who melted it down to make necklaces, and the other to the Soul II Soul frontman Jazzie B, whom she had beaten in the Best Single category.

It was a typically maverick yet inclusive gesture from the Swedish-American singer who seemed to explode on to the UK pop scene in the late Eighties after teenage years in punk bands like the Slits and Bristol group Rip Rig + Panic.

Just as David Bowie's gender-bending emergence as Ziggy Stardust on Top of the Pops in 1972 inspired a generation of art rockers, so Cherry's performance of her breakout single Buffalo Stance in 1988 blew the minds of plenty of young girls.

Seven months pregnant, she was still resplendent in skintight Lycra, bling jewellery and Adidas trainers, bringing the whole look, sound and attitude of hip hop and sampling to British pop. Not since Like a Virgin-era Madonna, dressed in lace and leggings, had a woman pushed street culture into the mainstream with such élan.

Turning 50 next month, Cherry is releasing Blank Project, her first solo album since 1995's Man. Not that Cherry has ever totally been away.

Indeed, her solo career has only ever seemed like a side line from collaborative projects - from her duet with Youssou N'Dour on 7 Seconds to nurturing Massive Attack, guest appearances with Gorillaz, raising her family and even television cookery shows.

Of late, though, there has been a surge in Cherry's musical workload, with family band CirKus, jazz outfit the Cherry Thing, and dance duo RocketNumberNine.

Those Chingford brothers have helped create the spectral electronic palette for Cherry's latest work, reminiscent of Gil Scott Heron's final album I'm New Here, which suits the tone of her sombre mood. Just as Man was inspired by the death of her stepfather, the jazz musician Don Cherry, so this album was prompted by the death of her mother, Monica Karlsson.

Cherry's spirit is not defeated, though. Rather, bolstered by a guest turn from her acolyte Robyn, Blank Project is the sound of a unique talent re-engaging with the world on her own, still very funky, terms, fusing the many influences - from punk and jazz to dance - that make her sound still brilliantly refreshing.

Source: telegraph.co.uk

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