Friday, October 17, 2008

Getting Funky With Nikka Costa

This week, Nikka Costa released her latest album, Pebble To A Pearl so I headed over to the store and picked up my copy on release day. I got hooked on Nikka's music when I fell asleep with the television on one night. I woke up in the wee hours to the video for "Like A Feather" from her then current release Everybody Got Their Something. There on my screen with a shock of fiery hair, decked out in vibrant blue and on very good terms with double-sided tape was one funky lady with "NIKKA" flashing behind her in lights and swirling colors. I scribbled her name on the box of tissue by my bed and went back to sleep. Later that morning, I went to the store and bought the album. A Nikka fan was born.

Other than being a fan, I was looking forward to Pebble To A Pearl because she signed with Stax. Stax, for those who don't know, released some of the finest classic Southern soul back in the day. I grew up seeing their finger snapping logo spinning around on my record player. This is the label that released records from Sam and Dave, Booker T. & The MGs and Otis Redding among others. Now with that kind of label history, a girl has got to be a bad ass funky soul mama to call Stax home. And that, is exactly what Nikka Costa is. Why she's not huge here in the States is a mystery to me.

The record sets fire to you from the start with the single "Stuck To You." I hear the term throw back being used in reference to this song and the album in general. Yes, it's a throw back to old sch
ool soul. But, Nikka makes the old school sound fresh. This song demands you sing along while soul clapping. I should mention, this is one of those albums that calls for a pile of pillows on the floor, fairy lighting and a bottle of wine.

The jaunty "Can't Please Everybody" will have you getting up and dancing around the room. This is obviously an autobiographical song. It seems every artist that
has dealt with the bullshit that often accompanies record labels, the music business in general and the politics that goes with it, ends up expressing their feelings about it. This is Nikka expressing hers with a killer beat. You go girl!

"Cry Baby," which wins my prize for personal favorite, is the real highlight of the album. This song is for anyone who has cried, let go and moved on. The cause of your tears is now reaping what they sowed and that's just fine by you. "Keep Wanting More" is a funky rev-up that refuses to let you sit still. If this song doesn't have you clapping and longing to dance down the
Soul Train Line showing off your moves I don't know what will. It's followed by "Keep Pushin'" which just as easily could have been at home on a classic Chaka Khan record as it is here.

"Love To Love You Less" leans on the blues side of the R&B plate reminiscent of Etta James. Nikka shows off her wit in this song. Everyone has someone they wish they loved less ... someone with every flaw you can imagine and you know you shouldn't love them so much and don't want to but, you do. This song is the song every woman lovin' and supportin' some lost cause of a man will call into a request line and dedicate to her "boo" who probably just won't get it.

Another highlight is, "Damn I Said It First." I call this a shoulder dancing song. We all know somebody who gets out on the dance floor and only moves their shoulder area. Those people will love the rhythm of this song. Everyone else will too. This is a song about the three words that have sent people running like they were being chased by bulls. I love you. "And now you're freaky and needy 'cause I said I love ya." We've probably all been tagged with that description at some point in our lives and if you haven't you will be. Those three little words scare more people than the words "tax audit" and Nikka does a bang up job of lamenting on the subject.

Pebble To A Pearl is a stellar piece of work. This is an album full of what should be hit singles but you would do it and yourself a disservice breaking it down like that. It deserves to be listened to as a whole.

Track Listing
  • Stuck To You
  • Can't Please Everybody
  • Pebble To A Pearl
  • Someone For Everyone
  • Cry Baby
  • Keep Wanting More
  • Keep Pushin'
  • Love To Love You Less
  • Without Love
  • Damn I Said It First
  • Loving You
  • Bullets In The Sky

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