BY BILLY SUTER
TAKE some blues, tinge with jazz, sprinkle liberally with flakes of folk, then fold in a whole lot of passion, flair and African soul. The result is Enormous Flowers, the latest album by seasoned and stellar guitar wizard Tony Cox.
After 20 albums, a collection of awards and much regular touring all over South Africa, the amiable, Zimbabwean-born musician has now put some meaningful lyrics and his voice to self-penned songs on a captivating album that has marked a first for him.
The reason? For the first time in his 63 years, Cox is being recognised with airplay and even a chart placing for the title track from Enormous Flowers, a song for which he also produced his first commercial promo video.
The track reached No 4 on the Coastal Radio SA chart earlier in May, and is now also playlisted on Radio Algoa.
Many have been loudly applauding the song and album. Cox’s Facebook page is filled with words of praise from fans, and Durban blues and jazz specialist, musician and seasoned radio presenter, Richard Haslop, has raved about the album.
Haslop said of the collection: “Overall there’s a slightly retro feel to the stylistically broad album; a gently South African folk-rock dotted with classic adult-orientated rock touchstones, like Paul Simon with Ladysmith Black Mambazo here, perhaps, and, maybe, Sting with Branford Marsalis there, as well, even, as a couple of shots of pre-hip hop R&B. It’s superbly played.”
Cox is delighted with the airplay and reviews but would love it if his single and the album reached an even wider audience.
Frankly, he is angry that, in a country that recently insisted on a 90 percent local airplay quotient, he has constantly been given a cold shoulder.
He feels “blessed and fortunate” that he has been able to push the Enormous Flowers track but wants the song and the album to have a wider reach, and has started a Facebook appeal to his fans to help him achieve this.
But it is no mean task – extending the track’s reach “seems akin to sucking blood out of a stone,” he writes on Facebook.
“I am up against music compilers who don’t give a damn for me or my music. and the fact that I, the artist himself, is phoning them up, asking them to please consider my song, is like saying to them, here’s a guy with zero management, representing himself, he must be desperate.”
Cox adds on his Facebook post: “Well, considering my non-existent bank balance, I am desperate… but that’s neither here nor there. I have a small army of fans and friends out there, and if you guys are willing to write to, and submit my song en masse to, a chosen radio station, they will have to sit up and take notice.
“That’s the theory, anyway, and I’m real keen to see if we, as a collective force, can make it work.”
Cox has appealed to friends and fans to write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I will fill you in on just what radio station we’re going to target. I’ll give you a template for the email, the address and an mp3 of the song Enormous Flowers.
“On confirming that you have sent the submission to the radio station in question, I will post to you a signed, hard-copy CD of Enormous Flowers, by way of showing my gratitude for your willingness to help me,” Cox adds.
Also likely to help the cause is the scheduled airing, on SAFm 104-107 at 2.30pm on Sunday, May 28, of a documentary on Cox.
Discussing songs on his album., Cox says: “They are dark, funny, whimsical and a few are political in nature. All are deeply connected to me as this person who lives in South Africa, expressing what I think, feel, see and hear.”
Another standout track on the album is the catchy House of Parliament Blues (now affectionately known as Voetsek Shutup). Already hitting more than 43 000 views on Facebook and 5450 views on Youtube, the song, and black comedy lyric video, have struck a socio-political chord with many South African listeners and viewers, evoking much feedback and commentary, says Cox.
Watch the lyric video here: https://www.youtube.com/user/tonycoxmusic
The Enormous Flowers track, dosed with strutting basslines and sassy, honeyed backing vocals, can be viewed at https://soundcloud.com/tony-cox-20/enormous-flowers
NOTE: If you happen to be in Knysna, where Cox lives, note that he is planning a gig at his home at 6pm for 7.30pm on Saturday, June 17, which he hopes will turn into a monthly series of home concerts featuring top acoustic acts.
“I am going to perform an intimate and totally acoustic (and I mean utterly, completely and totally un-ge-plugged) concert at my home. Pure acoustics will be a feature of these soirees,” says Cox.
“I’ll be performing a bunch of songs from Enormous Flowers, a sprinkling of new stuff too, and, generally, will be having a warm and fantastic time performing the music I love with good people.”
“There will be a full buffet spread with tea and coffee but not alcohol, so feel free to take your own.
“Space is limited to 25 people only so really, when you read this and you want to be there, write to me at email@example.com and book your spot asap.”
HOW TO BOOK: Once you have written to Cox, he will give the address of his home. When he sends you the bank details, EFT R280 per adult and R180 per child under 12, including your full name as a reference and remembering to email the transaction to the address supplied above. Your booking is confirmed once payment has been received.
TO ORDER A COPY OF COX’S NEW ALBUM: Write to firstname.lastname@example.org