Keyboard virtuoso and composer Bill Sharpe is together with drummer Roger Odell, guitarist Keith Winter and producer Nigel Wright founding member of the famous British group Shakatak. With Roger Odell, singer Jill Saward and bassist George Anderson he is one of the core members of the group.
He is the composer of hits like "Night Birds", "Invitations", "Dark is the Night", "Down on the Street" and "Mr. Manic and Sister Cool", which define the style of this popular formation.
His solo career is marked by numerous releases such as Famous People (1980), State Of The Heart (1989), Close To My Heart (2006) and successful collaborations with Gary Numan under the name "Sharpe and Gary" (Automatic), Don Grusin (Geography, Transatlantica) and bass player Jah Wobble (Kingdom of Fitzrovia).
His newest project is the album Famous People Live (2018), recorded at the Pizza Express in Soho, London in March, 2016, which was the 30th anniversary of his first solo album Famous People. After the label of the original album declined the license of a re-issue, the idea of re-recording it live aroused. I recommend to buy the CD. In the liner notes one can read the complete and comprehensive story of and behind the new creation and Bill's personal biography with a detailed interview.
Bill performs on this recordings keyboards and is accompanied by Andy Gangadeen (drums) Nick Cohen (bass), Mitch Dalton (guitar), Derek Nash (sax), and the vocalists Jackie Rawe, Tessa Niles, and Gina Foster. The live album has a different sequence of the tracks than the original album and is enriched with songs of the Shaks. The event starts with Silhouettes, stylistically close to the music style of Shakatak. Faithfully stick with the original the new version only misses the string arrangement.
The rhythm emphasized Washed Away features saxophonist Derek Nash in the lead sharing the duty with the singers. Most of the lyrics of the songs were written by Roger Odell. The Samba Brazilian Dawn is from the debut album of Shakatak released in 1981 and re-issued in 2015. A vivid song with whistles and flutes and a lot of percussion and drums presenting the group in best mood.
Streetwalkin' is taken from the Shakatak album Nightbirds (1982). The song is featuring Jackie Rawe, who also sung on the original recordings. She has a timbre similar to Randy Crawford and the song might be inspired by Street Life (1979). Jackie also sings the live version of Fools in a World of Fire and makes the song her own. The song is accompanied by Sharpe on keyboards with a wonderful electric piano sound. The original featuring Linda Taylor as lead singer was characterized by Pino Palladino's fretless bass.
Peace/Billís Blues is a medley of two instrumental songs, an instrumental memory of the original Peace abbreviated to the half length of the original and the solo piano blues, which was only available on the meanwhile very rare Japanese version of Famous People.
The Shuffle is close to the original. Significant different is only the missing of the orchestral strings background. Change your Mind features in the original version singer Gary Numan in typical Electro pop style comparable to the early works of David Bowie. The live album offers instead a jazz character, while vocalist Gina Foster introduces a female attitude.
Famous People features singer Tessa Niles like on the original. The live version illustrates the musical evolution from the beginning with a more thoughtful arrangement and punchier drums. Catching a Train is also more powerful and with the sax as lead instrument more instrumentalized in a jazzy way. As a special treat Bill delivers at the end of the album an extended version of the Shakatak hit Night Birds. Bill gave his musicians free hand to include some stretched solos and heat up the atmosphere.
The live recording is excellently arranged and recorded and the audience behaved very disciplined, so that disturbing noise was omitted. The additional goose-skin-effect of the live ambiance is nevertheless captured. Bill Sharpe's Famous People Live lets the miracle of rebirth happen.