PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

The Stunning Return of Soul Legend P.P. Arnold

Photo: Gered Mankowitz / Courtesy of GreenGab PR

Legendary soul singer P.P. Arnold's new adventures include recording new baroque, soul-pop hybrids and a wild take on an old Dylan poem with Ocean Colour Scene's Steve Cradock and Paul Weller.

The New Adventures of P.P. Arnold
P.P. Arnold

earMusic

9 August 2019

You might not initially know soul singer P.P. Arnold's name, but here are five random items from her voluminous resume:

  • Arnold began her career as one of Ike and Tina Turner's Ikettes.
  • She released two solo albums for Immediate Records, a label owned by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, in 1967 and 1968. A third album, a compilation of never-released tracks produced (separately) by Barry Gibb and Eric Clapton, was released in 2017.
  • She is one of the backing vocalists heard on Peter Gabriel's hits "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time".
  • She had a role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express, which she performed entirely on roller skates.
  • She was an integral part of Roger Waters' live band during his In the Flesh and Dark Side of the Moon world tours in the early 2000s.

These and many other accomplishments are indeed impressive. But P.P. Arnold, a legend within the British Northern soul genre, has topped them all with her new solo album, her first in a half-century, appropriately titled The New Adventures of… P.P. Arnold.

Produced by Paul Weller/Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Cradock, The New Adventures of… P.P. Arnold is a sprawling and kaleidoscopic collection of songs. Arnold's distinctive voice is the common denominator that brings the whole album together.

Clocking in at over an hour-long, The New Adventures of …P.P. Arnold seems more like a collection of two or even three separate records mashed together. That isn't a bad thing. Although, any album with such a strong "something for everyone" aesthetic will leave any particular listener with a clear set of favorite tracks, along with a few they might be less likely to enjoy. People who go for big ballads might not fall for 1990s-style dance jams or a free jazz-influenced take on an ancient Bob Dylan poem. But matters of personal taste are just that, and it's hard to deny the quality of even the songs a listener might not love on The New Adventures.

Producer Cradock, who also plays a variety of instruments on The New Adventures, contributes one of its best songs, the baroque soul-pop "The Magic Hour". Truly a magic piece of work, "The Magic Hour" brings Arnold's voice together with flute, trumpet, trombone, and string quartets, and Cradock's instruments contributions, to great effect. Several of the songs on The New Adventures, including Arnold's own "Though It Hurts Me Bad", have this same orchestral soul-pop feel, echoing classic Bacharach/David songs, but also very much their own thing.

Cradock's friend and fellow P.P. Arnold fan Weller also contributes to the album with his songs "When I Was Part of Your Picture" and "Shoot the Dove", both mid-tempo ballads. The album also includes a set of covers not written by Cradock, Weller, or Arnold. One such cover, her take on Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum" is fine. Although, Linda Ronstadt continues to own the song with her Stone Ponys' definitive country rock version.

But then there is Arnold's electrifying reinvention of Bob Dylan's poem, "The Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie". Dylan is known to have publicly recited "The Last Thoughts…" just one time, unaccompanied at New York City's Town Hall, on 12 April 1963. Dylan's solo recitation was not officially released until 1991 on the first volume of the now long-running Bootleg Series, and is well worth hearing. But Arnold and her crew take the piece to a whole new transcendental level. She speaks/raps the words, sticking absolutely to the original text, with musical accompaniment that includes a modular synth, trumpet, trombone, and string quartet. The music darts and jabs, with various instruments fading into and out of the jam, which lasts nearly 10 minutes as Arnold recites.

Arnold and the musicians bring the final seconds of Dylan's poem -- in which he ties together Guthrie, God, the "church of your choice", and the Grand Canyon -- to a stunning conclusion that may or may not cause a listener to burst into tears, or simply sit in wonderment over what they've just heard. Maybe both. It's just that kind of crazy-good. As Dylan covers go, P.P. Arnold's "The Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie" is Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower"-level good.

Arnold closes The New Adventures quietly, with her most personal song "I'll Always Remember You (Debbie's Song)". A heartfelt tribute to her late daughter, "I'll Always Remember You" is a sacred ending for an album that could very well be the crowning jewel in P.P. Arnold's lifetime of musical accomplishments.


8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.