Bernard Fowler Turns the Rolling Stones Inside Out with New Album

Prev2 of 3Next

Aside from his work with the Stones, Fowler has recorded with Herbie Hancock, Philip Glass, Yoko Ono, and Public Image Ltd, among many others. He has also released two solo albums of original material, 2006’s Friends with Privileges and 2015’s The Bura. Even though he’s known for his strong vocals and belting out songs on stage, Fowler felt comfortable restraining those vocals to a spoken word format.

“It wasn’t difficult, I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted the lyrics clear for people to hear it,” he says. He took inspiration from some of the music of his youth growing up in New York City like the Young Lords and the Last Poets, two proto-rap groups that focused on social injustice.

Spoken word should not be seen as an easy alternative to singing, however. It requires a forceful presence that sears the messaging into the listener’s mind – and Fowler more than succeeds with his steady, deliberate cadence. 

A standout from the record is “Undercover of the Night.” The song begins with a woman panicking in Spanish, running away from something quite sinister. Even for the non-Spanish speaker the recording chills you to the core. Fowler translated the introduction from English into Spanish that was originally featured on the Stones’ 1983 Sony/CBS single version that dramatized the conflict in Nicaragua.

Fowler wanted to find a Nicaraguan woman who could recite the dialogue for the track. He called bassist Carmine Rojas, one of Fowler’s oldest friends and fellow A Bowie Celebration band member, and Rojas rose to the occasion immediately. Soon he and a Nicaraguan woman named Raquel came to the studio. In a full circle moment, Fowler learned that Raquel grew up in Nicaragua during the tumultuous Revolution. “She goes in the studio and starts to read this dialogue and she’s crying. So that performance you’re hearing on that song, that’s the real deal,” he recalls.

He had many other musicians and good friends collaborate on this record, such as: long-time Stones bassist Darryl Jones, former Miles Davis drummer/producer Vince Wilburn, Jr., guitarist George Evans, pianist Michael Bearden, drummer Clayton Cameron, renowned as “the Brush Master,” guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., trumpeter Keyon Harrold, and beloved David Bowie pianist and A Bowie Celebration organizer Mike Garson on “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Fowler sent his friend, the celebrated drummer Steve Jordan, a “taste” of the album and Jordan insisted he play on it; he ended up playing on all the percussion-based songs. Fowler calls his participation “validating” because “people like him don’t like nothing,” he laughs.

Prev2 of 3Next

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.