Paul Young is coming to Israel and eager to check out some Israeli cuisine.
By DAVID BRINN
You'd have to forgive Paul Young for not having such a great impression of Israelis.
After all, it was an Israeli businessman/restaurateur whom his wife Stacey left the 1980s white soul crooner for in 2006.
But the 52-year-old British one-time pop idol and current amateur chef doesn't hold any grudges: Earlier this year, he even ended up in the kitchen of the north London restaurant Stacey and her beau had opened, serving up Cajun specialties to hungry diners. And the singer of such hits as "Every Time You Go Away" and "Wherever I Lay My Hat" is going to grace Israeli stages three times this month - January 29 at Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium, January 30 at Haifa's Congress Center and January 31 back in Tel Aviv at Reading 3.
"I don't know much about Israel from him, but one of my daughter's good friends is also Israeli. And I was there once about 10 years ago playing at a festival, where it was just in-and-out. So, I'm looking forward to spending a little time there this time," said Young in a phone conversation from London.
He's also looking forward to checking out some Israeli cuisine.
Young, who's well known in Britain for his love of cooking, has appeared on the BBC1 cooking competition show Celebrity Masterchef, and last year he was a contestant on another show, ITV's Hell's Kitchen.
Young explained that his love of food derived from his constant touring in the '80s. "Wherever we went, I wasn't interested as much in the local music as I was in the local food. The keyboard player I had back then was a really good cook, and we'd check each location to see if there was a particular style of food native to that place. And we'd make reservations into restaurants, buy books about that kind of cuisine, that kind of stuff," said Young, who, to some, is best known as the main vocalist in the Band Aid 1984 benefit single "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
His chef's stint at his wife's bistro was short-lived, lasting only four months, as Young's calendar began filling up with concert dates. But he said he thoroughly enjoyed the chance to practice his cooking on dishes like barbecue shrimp and vegetarian nut cutlet.
"I love cooking Cajun food, and but I also like Mexican and Italian. I can find things there to make that are just great for children, which is important to me," said Young, who is raising three kids with Stacey.
Between his family, cooking, occasional '80s revival tours and developing his sideline Tex-Mex band Los Pacaminos, Young has his hands full. His multi-platinum-selling 1983 debut album No Parlez - containing "Love of the Common People" as well as "Come Back And Stay" - has just been rereleased, and Young is counting his blessings, after only a few years ago being down on his luck.
GROWING UP in Bedfordshire, Young sang in a succession of rock bands in the late 1970s, but he kept getting pulled toward soul music.
"A lot of the bands I loved when I was young had these blues and soul elements - like Free and Cream. I had a great local record store, and the guy there would talk to me for ages. He turned me on to people like Joe Tex and Wilson Pickett. And that was it for me," recalled Young.
Following his breakout with No Parlez, Young enjoyed a number of Top 10 hits, but by the late 1980s, he had made a conscious decision to move away from the spotlight, only releasing music sporadically through the '90s.
According to the Daily Mail in London, Young lost some of the riches he had earned during his 1980s heyday in bad investments, forcing him to return from a self-enforced musical retirement through most of the '90s. He succumbed to the temptations of the lucrative oldies circuit and for the past few years has regularly toured with cohorts like Rick Astley, Bananarama and ABC. Most recently, he's teamed up with former Spandau Ballet front man Tony Hadley and Go West's Peter Cox.
"It's been great, really good fun. We didn't get to see much of each other back then. We might bump into each other at a TV studio or something, but we were all so busy then touring and recording," said Young. "So, to now actually get to spend some time with other people who had relatively the same experiences I did in the '80s has been great."
One time that he was able to get together with his mates in the '80s was at the recording of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" the Bob Geldof-inspired benefit single for Africa which spawned the giant Live Aid event the following year. According to Young, there was no particular plan that landed him the opening solo slot on the record.
It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to put my voice first, and I didn't think anything of it at the time," said Young. "Once it became a big song, someone said to me, your voice is all over it, it's mixed up loud. And it's true, you can hear me through the whole song. I must have had some friends there. But there were no jealousies or jostling for position, we all got along famously."
YOUNG'S TOURING collaboration with Hadley and Cox is likely to result in an album of all-new material featuring the trio, a project that is in the works and awaiting a decision by Spandau Ballet whether to reform or not.
Another factor is Young's singing voice, which suffered its share of problem in the 1980s. The topic arose recently when Young appeared on a musical nostalgia show, Now That's What I Call 1983, and lip synched a version of "Wherever I Lay My Hat." But Young dismissed any concern over his vocal chops and claimed his voice was in fine form these days.
"I used to overwork, and it caused a muscular strain. It's been greatly exaggerated, and I'm fine. I just need to be careful," he said.
Young especially needs to watch himself from getting overenthusiastic when singing with his British Tex-Mex band Los Pacaminos, a group he formed with friends over a decade ago as a hobby.
"This is a band I started for a laugh just to do a different style of music. It's a kind of music that you really need to dig deep into its skin," he said. "Once we started doing shows, we couldn't stop, it was so much fun. They're all my great friends and we love to be together."
Young seems to have rolled with whatever punches life has thrown at him. And in a way, he's adopted the philosophy of the tag line of his Marvin Gaye-written signature tune "Wherever I Lay My Hat" - as long as there's a kitchen nearby.
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