Brit Eyed Soul, Billy Valentine's forthcoming album of songs by British rockers inspired by the American soul music of the '50s and '60s, hearkens back to the Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show a half century ago.
By that time, the Fab Four had already covered Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout" and the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman." Scores of other British Invasion bands -- such as the Stones (Marvin Gaye's "Can I Get a Witness," Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me"), the Moody Blues (Bessie Banks' "Go Now," James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy") and Small Faces (Sam Cooke's "Shake") -- were similarly inspired.
In turn, soul masters from Ray Charles ("Eleanor Rigby") to Otis Redding ("Satisfaction") to Tina Turner ("Jumpin' Jack Flash") to Al Green ("How Can You Mend a Broken Heart") mined the Britrock songbook.
Valentine, 64, came of age during the heart of that transatlantic cross-pollination, giving him a DNA-like connection with the music on Brit Eyed Soul. (I, like him, was 14 when the Beatles hit, a chronological sweet spot for maximum pop music awe.)
Industry vet Tom Vickers, also 64, dreamed of producing a Brit-soul record for years, but could never find the right singer -- until he heard Valentine sing at a gig a couple of years ago at the exclusive Bohemian Club in San Francisco. "Blues was the first American roots art form to be discovered by the various British bands and it didn't take much of a stretch for them to move on to Soul," Vickers says. "It seems every British act's first stop when they hit New York City was the Apollo Theater in Harlem."
Vickers and Valentine clicked, and brought in arranger/producer T.C. Campbell (former member of Cameo) to choose the 13 songs for the album, including "Here, There and Everywhere" (Beatles), "Beast of Burden" (Stones), "More Than a Woman" (Bee Gees)," "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" (Culture Club), "First Cut Is the Deepest" (Cat Stevens/popularized by Rod Stewart) and "Train In Vain (Stand By Me)" (The Clash).
Valentine has enjoyed a long career as a singer, songwriter and performer. He began as a solo artist and then, with his brother John, formed the Valentine Brothers, touring and producing four albums from 1975-1989. He's also been a frequent presence singing in films (The Five Heartbeats) and on TV (regular gigs with Boston Legal and Sons of Anarchy).
He's written and produced hundreds of songs and performed throughout the world. Valentine is especially revered among LA-area songwriters, who describe him as a "songwriter's singer" for the demos he's sung over the years, some of which were better than the hit records they spawned.
Rhino Records and Shout Factory! co-founder Richard Foos -- you'll never guess how old he is! -- agrees that Valentine is a major talent, and is acting as a kind of bodhisattva for the project, lending financial support and wisdom about surviving/thriving in the music biz trenches.
With the album in the can, Vickers has launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to defray the costs of marketing, radio promotion and touring (with an eye on some dates in England, where Valentine has a following) -- you know, what record labels used to do when there was something called the "record business."