Episode 169: Carleen Anderson – Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Producer, Arranger, Writer…

My latest Paul Weller Fan Podcast guest – Carleen Anderson – really needs no introduction.

A genuine world class artist… She’s such a huge talent in her own right and another to enter Paul Weller’s orbit during the solo years – providing us with some very special moments on record and live.

Throughout her solo career, she’s been featured alongside a multitude of established artists from a wide array of musical genres – Nigel Kennedy, Dr. John, Omar, Chrissie Hynde, Jocelyn Brown, Meshell Ndgeocello, Paul McCartney, Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Ramsay Lewis and more…

The Huffington Post called her “Without doubt one of the all-time great female vocalists… Carleen must be seen to be believed…”

Amy Winehouse once said “Carleen Anderson – She’s someone who I would sit around the venue all day, just to hear her soundcheck…”

On this exclusive podcast chat, we hear about her upbringing in Houston, Texas where she was raised by her paternal grandparents during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Reared up on the sounds rooted in Gospel music inherited from the Pentecostal church where the pastor, David Anderson, Sr. her paternal Grandfather, and her Grandmother Alberta, raised her from an infant.

We’ll hear stories of her musical family. She is the daughter of soul singer Vicki Anderson, step-daughter of singer, songwriter, Bobby Byrd… and god-daughter of James Brown!. Her birth Father, Dr. Reuben P. Anderson, Sr., is the pastor of his own church in Compton, California, further extending the connection Carleen still retains in gospel music.

We’ll hear about her relocation with her son to England in 1990 and the just-by-chance beginning of her professional career as the vocalist, composer, arranger and recording artist for Young Disciples.

The band were shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize in 1992.

Carleen released her debut solo album in 1994, and was nominated for a Independent Artist Brit Award in 1995.

Our connections with Paul Weller begin with Young Disciples as their album was recorded at Solid Bond Studio, and take us through Paul’s debut solo album through standout highlights on Stanley Road -especially their spine-tingling shared vocals on Wings of Speed, a co-produced Carleen Anderson album called Blessed Burden in 1998, and performances on record and on stage around Illumination and Studio 150 – complete with two DVD releases of those Weller gigs…

Carleen was named Jazz FM’s UK Vocalist of 2013 and four years later, musicologist Gilles Peterson presented her with a Worldwide FM Lifetime Achievement Award.

These days, Carleen is focused on establishing a platform to expand the stylings of music storytelling theatre.
Her most recent album – Cage Street Memorial – was nominated in 2018 for Jazz FM’s Innovation of the Year. The project was more than just an album of original music, it was also a theatre production written and performed by Carleen, and an autobiographical book of the same name.

Since 2020, she has been working on what she describes as “a blended-roots Opera called MELIOR Opus Griot” with a regional premiere in Devon and a worldwide double album release scheduled for 2024.

Click your preferred podcast platform to listen…

EP169 – Carleen Anderson – Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Producer, Arranger, Writer… Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul

MELIOR Opus Griot brings a futuristic approach to Opera, blending classical theatre form with various contemporary sounds telling an Atlantis type narrative about a seafloor society where the main character, Cassie, travels through centuries delivering harmony in the midst of chaos.
Find out more with information on how you can support / pre-order the album etc at melioropusgriot.com

Carleen Anderson has featured on a heap of magical recordings with Paul Weller and plenty of brilliant live shows – whether on tour or TV such as Jools Holland. I’ve highlighted some of those here but I would also encourage you to scroll down the page for more of Carleen’s wonderful music – some of which also features Paul Weller and others with PW connections – eg Steve White, Mick Talbot, Matt Deighton etc.

1992 – Bitterness Rising – Carleen is credited on this one from the first solo album – although has no recollection of recording it.
1992 – Feeling Alright – A cover of the song by Traffic featured on the b-side to Above the Clouds – the third single taken from “Paul Weller” – it was released on 28th September 1992. Sleeve notes on the single say “Recorded Drunk at Comforts Place. Additional backing vocals Dee C.Lee and Carleen Anderson”.
Carleen told me “I don’t remember ever recording with Dee at all in any scenario… I do remember Comforts Place residential studio. Matt Deighton and his then wife Nicola Bright-Thomas, who he has two children with, were there. Nicola came up for a night to see her husband Mat. Marco Nelson was there. I think a few journalists may have stopped by as well but I tended not to hang around after work with the guys when we stayed in residential studios. I had to save my voice for the recordings. They often teased me for being a ‘lightweight’ as late night partying is beyond feasible for me.”

1995 saw the release of Paul Weller’s multi-platinum selling album Stanley Road.
Carleen sings backing vocals on The Changingman with Dr Robert and Steve Cradock (although recorded separately), and on Out of the Sinking.
Their standout moment comes through album closer Wings of Speed.
Joy Hawley on cello, Mick Talbot on hammond organ, Paul and Carleen doing what they do best.
Just stunning – check out this performance from Wings of Speed.

1995 – Smokin’ Mojo Filters – Come Together
Carleen was part of the Help! recording session at Abbey Road with Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Steve Cradock, Steve White, and others…

1998 – Dr John – Anutha Zone
Carleen also joined the Weller band (Paul, Matt Deighton, Damon Minchella) for Party Hellfire with Annie Whitehead and Dr John!

2002 – Illumination
Carleen sang on All Good Books and Leafy Mysteries with Jocelyn Brown.
The live show recorded at Hyde Park was another real highlight…

2004 – Studio 150
Carleen sang on All Along the Watchtower and Birds.
The album launch saw a live show at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, which was released on DVD…
“Paul asked me to source singers for this and I called Jocelyn and Louise”.

Carleen’s first connection with Paul Weller came via Young Disciples and introductions from her band-mates – Marco Nelson (bass, guitar and organ) and Femi Williams (percussion and programming)>
Their one and only album – Road to Freedom was recorded at Paul’s Solid Bond Studio in Marble Arch, with producer Brendan Lynch at the controls.

As well as Marco – who would go on to work with Paul Weller, the album also featured alumni such as Max Beesley (credited as Maxton G. Beesley, Jr) on drums, The Style Council’s Mick Talbot on piano, keyboards, clavinet and moog synthesizer, Steve White on Drums and Paul Weller played guitar on Track 7 – As We Come (To Be) – which was written by Carleen.

Released in 1991 – the album was Mercury Music Prize shortlisted.

The Young Disciples, London, 1991, Carleen with Femi Williams, (on her right) and Marco Nelson, on her left.

Released in June 1994, Carleen Anderson’s debut solo album, True Spirit was produced by Paul Weller’s then producer, Brendan Lynch (who also contributes glockenspiel, synthesizer and hand-clapping to the LP!).
Nominated for a Brit Award – the album went Silver in the UK – sold over 60,000 copies and reached number 12 in the charts, spawning four Top 40 singles: “Nervous Breakdown” (No. 27), “Mama Said” (No. 26), “True Spirit” (No. 24) and “Let It Last” (No. 16).
Other Weller connections get credits with Mick Talbot on keys, Martin “Max” Heyes for mixing and Marco Nelson on bass.

The second solo album showcased Carleen’s exceptional musical prowess and emotive storytelling through a jazz-infused, soulful sound, that pays homage to her roots.

Paul Weller played guitar and organ on album opener Fortunes Drive, guitar on a stunning cover of Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed (more on that in the podcast chat), guitar and piano on Van Morrison cover Who Was That Masked Man, and guitar with Matt Deighton on Piece of Clay and Shifting Times.

Paul also had a couple of co-writes with Carleen on the album – the fabulous I’m Gonna Miss You (on which he also played organ and guitar) and Burnin’ Bridges.

Elsewhere across the album, players include Steve White, Mick Talbot, Yolanda Charles, Wired Strings, Marco Nelson, Rosie Wetters, Ernie McCone and Steve Cradock amongst others…

This self-released album combines Carleen’s amazingly varied range of musical styling and influences, but with the common thread of roots instrumentation and R&B sounds that straddle funk, full on blues, jazz and even a touch of the operatic.
Listen out too for a stunning version of Oasis’ – Don’t Look Back In Anger” – with Carleen on piano – and those incredible vocals – taking the song to another level.
A real labour of love – this deserves it’s place in any music collection.
You can buy it here.

Carleen’s fourth solo album, Grace and Favours, was recorded live at the Glee Club in Birmingham, England. It was released in 2003 by Orange Room Music on CD and DVD formats with clips that includes Jools Holland and Paul Weller… The DVD includes an impromptu performance with her Godfather, James Brown, the only footage of them together.

Carleen’s fifth solo album saw another collaboration with Paul Weller for a cover of Wanna Be Where You Are. Written by Leon Ware and T-Boy Ross, this song was first released by Michael Jackson in January 1972, with later versions coming from Marvin Gaye, Thelma Houston, The Keane Brothers, José Feliciano and others.
Paul also played guitar on Just Like Me
Following this album release, Carleen made a guest appearance with Sir John Dankworth and his band at his English countryside venue, The Stables,. Carleen received high praise from Dame Cleo Laine, resulting in Carleen securing several residencies a year for a decade since then, at the world-famous jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s, to packed houses of enthralled audiences.
Carleen was the Head of the Vocal Department at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music where she taught vocal performance from 2002 to 2007. This association led to her performing for and meeting HRH, the Queen of England, in 2007.
In 2013 Anderson sang the lead role of Isolde in Julian Joseph’s music compositional reimagining of the legendary Arthurian story of Tristan, performed at the Royal Opera House.

Carleen joined Stone Foundation at Black Barn Studio (Paul Weller HQ) to record a song called When You’re In My World for their 2014 To Find The Spirit album…
On their blog in May 2013, the band noted, “Once in a while some days come along when you just have to pinch yourself to believe that they are really happening, yesterday was one of those rare moments…
An angelic presence and voice that we have respected & adored for many years graced our album, we are proud, privileged and honoured to announce that the wonderful Carleen Anderson will appear on our next release.

After six acclaimed solo albums and a multitude of collaborations she began developing her style of dramatic music storytelling for the theatre. This long-held creative passion of hers was supported by Arts Council England for her first theatre production, CAGE STREET MEMORIAL, in 2014, which was nominated for an Innovation Award.

Cage Street Memorial ~ The Pilgrimage, Carleen Anderson’s 7th solo album, is something special, different and absolutely unique. The winner of Jazz FM’s 2013 Best UK Vocalist Award blends styles ranging from jazz, soul, gospel, opera, to classical chamber music. The mixture of musical genres makes this an exciting, genuine and highly personal offering that sits far outside the boundaries of contemporary soul and urban music. This project is not just an album of original music, it is one part of a creative trilogy, also taking the form of a multi-media theatre production and Carleen’s generational book, Cage Street Memorial ~ The Chapel of Mirrors.

Carleen has lovingly crafted this album using the whole of her talents, lifelong influences and experiences and forged all this into a stand out evolution allowance imbued throughout with her delicate personal approach. Utilising basic instrumentation – her incredibly versatile voice and simplistic piano manner, Orphy Robinson’s synergistic vibraphone & percussion, Samy Bishai’s consummate violin playing, and the subtle and diligent bass skills of Renell Shaw – the collective musicianship delivers an authentic concept.

While each of Anderson’s compositions and arrangements for this soundscape of a tribal narrative symbolises a specific significance, here are a few to signify her chronicle notations:

Upwards from the Ground, lyrically describes an abandoned little girl tracing her roots for salvation as a middle-aged woman. The links of the African Diaspora expressed in the multi-dimensional percussive performance by Orphy Robinson sets the tone for a sort of it takes a village to raise a child theme. The build of the rhythmic groove transports the vocal melodies supported by the harmonies provided by the vibraphone, violin and bass to symbolise the rise from the ashes in spite of dire circumstances.

A chance YouTube viewing of singer/pianist Blossom Dearie alongside vibraphonist Peter Appleyard inspired Anderson to reference the Rachmaninoff motif swung by Charlie Parker for the bass line in her tune, All That Glitters. The subject matter of the song relates to the parallels of fools rushing in pursuit of golden love as it links to the perils of Anderson’s music industry heritage, being the Goddaughter of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, the stepdaughter of the JB All Stars’ Bobby Byrd, and the daughter of soul singer, Vicki Anderson, aka, Myra Barnes, who was often cited as the most favoured of James Brown’s featured vocalists. The jazz tinged swing of this composition is a cautionary tale to mind that things may not be what they seem.

With the platform provided by her singer/songwriter contributions for the band, The Young Disciples, whose album Road to Freedom and music chart hit, Apparently Nothing, introduced Anderson to an audience beyond the shadows of her inherited legacy, Pond Crossing contextualises the grateful awareness she has of the podium the UK supplied her with. England’s embrace of Anderson led to her Brit Award nominated first solo album, True Spirit, followed by her second album, Blessed Burden, co-produced with Paul Weller. In between her independent album releases, Alberta’s Granddaughter, Grace & Favours, Up to Now and Soul Providence, Anderson was honoured to be featured and/or collaborate with Nigel Kennedy, Dr. John, Omar, Meshell Ndgeocello, Sir Paul McCartney, Incognito, the London Community Gospel Choir, Johnny Cash, Pops Staples, Ramsay Lewis, the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, Lalah Hathaway, and Chrissie Hynde, a short list of the wide range of artists she’s worked with. The music and lyrics are a snapshot of an ocean put into a cup.

In this seventh autonomous overture, Anderson redefines herself as a Singing Poet from the New Guard, setting music to the scenes of the human experience. CAGE STREET MEMORIAL is The Pilgrimage universally lived by all of us, to some degree or another. 

You can buy the album on Bandcamp here

Published by PaulWellerFanPodcast

The World’s first Paul Weller Fan Podcast - For the fans by the fans. A musical journey from In The City to Will of the People. A radio broadcaster who gave up his career with one big regret. Never getting to interview the legendary British musician Paul Weller. This podcast exists purely to solve that issue. Welcome to Desperately Seeking Paul...

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