published: 12 /
Kiki and Carmelo Music
Superb latest album from singer Kiki Dee and guitarist Carmelo Luggeri which will delight their loyal fans and is a great introduction to their music for those who haven’t yet discovered it
Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri have been writing and recording together for the last twenty five years. The combination of Kiki Dee’s soulful vocals and Luggeri’s guitar virtuosity is a winning one and they have built up a strong and loyal fan base over that time.
This latest album of songs was created during the strange lockdown days of the last two years, when live performances and tours were on hold for many musicians.
Kiki Dee’s lyrics have an intimacy that seems to come from personal experience and they highlight her soulful smoky voice. Carmelo Luggeri’s production and playing references Latin and Indian influences as well as country and Americana with his use of dobro and pedal steel guitars. It’s a diverse and rich mix of influence and inspiration that also includes gospel singers on 'No Angels Tonight'. The opening track 'The Long Ride Home' rises to a crescendo with Luggeri’s Stratocaster guitar.
The lyrics of 'What You Wish For' and 'Small Mercies' take on an additional meaning, reflecting the resilience we had to find in ourselves during lockdown.
There is a real sense of Kiki Dee as a lyricist sharing her thoughts about her journey through her career as a musician and it is both poignant and encouraging to listen to the songs with attention. The final track on the album 'Happy Now' is a lovely song and sentiment to end on.
Born Pauline Matthews in Bradford in 1947, she was singing professionally from the age of sixteen Signed to Fontana in 1963, she sang backing vocals for Dusty Springfield and for some time shared a manager with her. She used to perform cover versions for BBC radio shows in the days before the launch of Radio 1. She was the first female UK singer to be signed to Motown’s Tamla Records, one of the first artists who could be described as ‘blue-eyed soul’. She came to world wide attention when she and Elton John had a huge hit with the duet 'Don’t Go Breaking My Heart' in 1976, giving Elton his first UK no, 1 hit. Through the early Seventies she had pop hits as a solo artist with 'Amoreuse', 'Loving and Free' and 'I’ve Got the Music In Me'.
She signed to Elton John’s label The Rocket Record Company and performed with Elton at Live Aid in 1985.
Over the years she has been in stage plays and musicals and has released forty singles, three EPs and twelve albums. That is quite an achievement.
At one point in this long ride home our paths crossed in a way that continues to mean a lot to me.
In the late Sixties BBC Radio recorded shows at the Hulme Playhouse in Manchester. One school holiday my friend and I, who were in our early teens, went to watch the recording. In those days Hulme was a wasteground, in the throes of demolition and redevelopment. The old Hippodrome Theatre and the local pub were the only buildings still standing.
After the show, which was hosted by Dave Lee Travis and featured session musicians, my friend and I went over to the pub to see if we could get any autographs. No ID checks in those days! We got talking to Kiki Dee and her manager Vic Billings. My friend was both knowledgeable and articulate about music and must have made an impression. I always thought she would end up working in the music business and I got the impression that Vic and Kiki saw her potential too. We were invited to meet them again for coffee the following day, which we did. I realise looking back that Kiki wasn’t much older than us in the scheme of things. Vic Billings told us some great stories about Dusty Springfield, who he also managed until she moved to the States in 1968, around the time we met.
Looking back through the internet to cross check facts with memories, I have come across more about Vic Billings. Described as an old fashioned gentleman in a cut and thrust world, his association with Dusty Springfield is still regarded as one of the best artist/manager relationships of the sixties. Sadly he wasn’t able to get Kiki Dee to the same career heights at the time and when Dusty moved to the States he gave up management and changed career.
This encounter was important to me because he and Kiki treated us with interest and respect, and that was a rare thing in my world at the time. I’ve never forgotten them and it is wonderful to see Kiki Dee continuing to work and flourish as an artist all these years later.
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