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Mandrill - Mandrilland (Digipak)
Mandrill - Mandrilland (Digipak)
Offered by Nic Nac Music Store
Price: 12.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ADVENTURES IN THE MANDRILLAND OF MUSIC, 31 May 2011
Just looking at the scope of material and knowing Mandrill's reputation as progressive funk juggernauts, Mandrilland would seem like the most alluring album in their catalog. The wonderful artwork and the number of songs will tempt you to measure its greatness before listening to it. The album is excellent in its own right - even if it's not the magnum opus it appears to be.

Given Mandrill's knack for taking on many genres of music at once, they make the most of the double album format by spreading various elements of their style across two albums. The four sides of the album are neatly divided into four parts. The first side is a long jam session consisting of "Positive Thing I & II/ Skying Upward/ Road to Love /Armadillo". The extended session is most noticeable for its pocket bass groove, stellar organ work and smooth shifts in rhythm throughout its duration. The long workout is probably the most complete uptempo record on the album. Side two consist of ballads. While there are plenty of gems to be found on this side, the energy level tends to sag a bit as too many ballads are sequenced back to back. "The Reason I Sing" is a strong folksy ballad and "Khidja" is a great atmospheric vamp in vein with Moroccan Nights from Composite truth, but hearing four Mandrill slow songs in a row can be a bit boring. The energy level kicks back in on the third side with one of the standouts being "Love Is Sunshine". While the dance minded approach easily makes this the simplest song on the album, it's a welcome diversion from the heady and introspective material that dominates Mandrilland. When you hear the song, it's as refreshing as a cool breeze blowing through the Bayou on a muggy summer afternoon. "Folks On The Hill" is a down home piece of blues funk punctuated by bubbly synths and a double shuffle drum groove. Side four is where the headiest material lies. The side opens up with a cryptic tribute to Duke Ellington entitled "Mini Suite For Duke" in which its various parts are divided into five classical movements. The movements themselves is a textbook progressive jam session that starts with a dramatic vamp, shifts into a quiet piano vamp, glides into a string laden section , flows into a Latin funk groove, and ends with the same dramatic vamp it started with. Tribute songs are typically weak, but this is one of those rare exceptions that make for a serious highlight on this album. "After the Race" is a brooding guitar instrumental in which you're bound to match samples of certain parts that you've heard if you're a hip hop fan.

Considering the sum of its parts, Mandrilland is another stellar album in Mandrill's catalog. While the album sounds very good for what it is, it sounded a bit rough in a few areas. "Drill in the Bush" ,"El Funko", and "Bro Wevil The Swallow" feels incomplete even though they're good instrumental vamps that holds your attention. All three of these instrumentals float through the same groove throughout its duration without either no build up or little to no solos to make the jams more complete (El Funko for example just fades in out of nowhere in which it has you wondering where is the beginning). These jams seem so half developed that they come off as being incidental or extended interludes rather than the fleshed out jam sessions they had to the potential to be. Since this album was likely mastered from a vinyl source, the sonic details are not as crisp as it should be- even though it's one of the better vinyl rips for a reissue you'll hear. While you get a fairly clear, balanced and loud sound, you can hear some faint static noise during quiet passages on certain songs. You will also notice the bass drum being somewhat muted on the song "Love Is Sunshine". While I recently mentioned the weaknesses of the ballads on Side Two, you can also count the album's closing track "Lady Jane" as pure filler- as it's essentially one of the band members rappin' to his lady over a nice little horn spiked latin instrumental in the background. These weaknesses keep Mandrilland from being the phenomenal double album it could've been since the loose ends make the album sound a bit underwhelming in terms of execution.

While not being the climax as one would expect it to be, if you own their
predecessors, you must have this album in your collection as well. Hopefully this album will get a proper reissue from PolyGram from the original master tapes where the sonic details are clear. Until then, this will definitely satisfy you if you're a fan of this album and band. So if you're looking for a progressively funky adventure with enough music to fill a fine arts curriculum, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to Mandrilland.


Nile Rodgers presents: The Chic Organization, Boxset Vol. I / "Savoir Faire"
Nile Rodgers presents: The Chic Organization, Boxset Vol. I / "Savoir Faire"
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 21.04

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THESE ARE THE GOOD TIMES AND MUCH MORE!, 2 Jan 2011
The Chic Organization boxset would come as somewhat of a surprise since the boxset treatment are typically reserved for legendary recording artists who are household names ( James Brown, The Temptations, Bee Gees, and Rod Stewart- just to name a few). Looking at Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards output, it would seem like their output is not deep enough to warrant a box set spanning four CD's - since one would assume that their songs under the Chic umbrella and a few for Sister Sledge represents their total output as producers and songwriters. Little do many people know, Nile and Nard was quietly expanding their musical reputation by extending their patented grooves to a number of artists outside of their successful run with Chic. While Nile and Nard influence may not be as widely regarded here in the States, their influence is massive overseas as proven by this boxset being packaged and released under Warner's branch in France.

Given the depth and breadth of this boxset, the international dance scene is keen on the material Nile and Nard produced outside of their most familiar hits. While everyone will be familiar with the original Chic and Sister Sledge tracks; it's the rare mixes, unreleased material, and alternate mixes that makes this boxset a must have for any casual or hardcore Chic Fans. Since Nile and Nard initially established their musical reputation under the Chic banner, it's not surprising that half of the songs on this boxset consist of their songs. The Chic song selection can actually be just as feasible as any of their double and single disc anthologies since you get the bare essentials as well as alternate and 12" inch versions of some of their songs. The most notable of these songs are their unreleased takes on "Funny Bone" and "What About Me" in which both songs are stripped down to their funky elements without the disco finish of the originals- similar to the feel many of the songs have on their 1981 album "Take It Off". Also worth a nod is "Just Call Me" an unreleased gem most likely taken from the "Believer" sessions which Nile and Nard proved they were able to break from their groove and adapt to the post disco era. The song had hit potential so it's a wonder why it was never released until now.

While most of the Chic and Sister Sledge tracks are what you will expect with the exception of a few of Dimitri from Paris Remixes, it's the songs they produced for other artists that makes this boxset essential because it contains hidden gems and stylistic detours. I would bet that a lot of listeners haven't heard the Fonzi Thorton tracks and would be surprised to know that they measure up quite nicely with the Chic songs. Fans of Norma Jean will to be happy to know that "Sorcerer" and "High Society" are here in their full length 12" versions - which beats having to pay a ridiculous amount of money for her OOP self titled CD reissue which contains these mixes. Johnny Mathis "I Want to fall in Love" is probably better than any Chic ballad as his voice brings a sense of distinguished warmth to the slow and funky groove. The same can be said for a previously unreleased take On Teddy Pendergrass" Dream Girl" as TP brings a great deal of soulfulness that was often missing from Chic's own slow jams. One of the other Johnny Mathis tracks "It's Alright to Love Me" is one of the few tracks where Nile and Nard take some risks by adding an unique piano texture that breaks into a funky Chic-ish groove in the middle. Deborah Harry brings an offbeat vocal performance to "Backfired" that sound better than one would expect- given it's a mismatched merging of Blondie's new wave swagger and the trademark Champagne disco funk of Nile and Nard. On Sheila B and Devotion's "Spacer", The duo flirts with euro disco with a ethereal groove and spacey vibe that's devoid of the funkiness of their usual productions but in a good sense. Carly Simon's "Why" is an interesting hybrid of synths, reggae, and drum machines that sounds mechanically mesmerizing.

Then there are the Dimitri from Paris remixes. The quality of the remixes may never surpass the originals since many fans are accustomed to them, but I feel they make for great alternatives to the originals if you want "pure" dance mixes. My only complaint about the remixes is that the reediting does take away from the musical interplay between Nile and Nard- which made them standout from many of their disco contemporaries. The remix "I Want Your Love" doesn't feel as loose as the original. However, the remixes are built on the original elements- making that flaw in the re-editing a minor issue.

Coming out of this boxset, I was floored by how universal the Chic sound actually is. A variety of artists from different genres was all touch by Nile and Nard patented grooves, but the results come out sounding just as great as those for Chic throughout this collection. I would like to think of them as MFSB on a smaller scale, but that wouldn't be appropriate given that both had an original style that warrants individual classification. While I can easily point out the flaw of this boxset being somewhat repetitive throughout four discs, it's also a fluid listening experience for the most part since you know to expect.

So the next time you have a get together or a night alone, put on the Chic Organization Boxset and expect to DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!


Philly Re-Grooved - The Tom Moulton Philly Groove Remixes
Philly Re-Grooved - The Tom Moulton Philly Groove Remixes
Price: 7.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars REGROOVED WITH A TOUCH OF BROTHERLY LOVE, 22 Dec 2010
As cliché as this will sound, I love the Philly sound as much as the next man- which could be manifested by the amount of albums and CD's I have in my collection with the Philadelphia International/TSOP label on it. That's not even counting albums by Blue Magic, The Spinners, and Salsoul which I also own that's entrenched in the Philly soul sound. And it's easy to fall in love with these songs with its sweeping strings, funky grooves, romantically soulful vocals, and thumping bass drums beats that either flirt with disco or becomes out and out dance floor stompers. Tie its impeccable pop sensibility into this; it has the knack for being sophisticated and gritty at the same time. If the sound of Philly soul was a person, it will be a fully dressed individual from around the way (or simply the hood) mingling and injecting his/her soul into mainstream high society- and fitting in perfectly in the process. It's like the perfect interracial romance set to music.

As great as the Philly sound is, it can become repetitive when taken in huge doses. Much like the classic Motown sound of the 60's, the Philly sound can become formulaic with its emphasis on the same production values, instruments, and textures throughout a bulk of the songs within that genre. On the other hand, when you're really in the mood for these songs, you will thoroughly enjoy them no matter how monotonous they can get after so many consecutive listens. That double edged sword of quality runs rampant on this latest collection from the legendary Tom Moulton. Throughout these twelve generally excellent remixes from the Philly Groove imprint, the exuberant joy and limitations of the Philly sound becomes explicitly apparent.

For every song that standouts like Ultra High Frequency's "We're On the Right Track" and First Choice's "Let Us Entertain You", you can easily hand pick two other songs in this collection that's interchangeable with them with very little difference between them as far as sound. In spite of its tendency to be a one note affair, Tom Moulton's "Philly Re-grooved" does have many more standouts including a raw take on The Delfonics "I Told You So" which is actually better than the original IMO, The Motown assembly line sound shading into Philly Soul with another First Choice selection in "This is The House" and the only deviation from the strings, soft funk, bass drum sequence with the smooth silky stepper in Heaven n' Hell's "Whatcha Gonna Do" - included here as a bonus track- which is hard to understand given that this compilation was never previously released . The previously mentioned track "Let Us Entertain You" by First choice is worth a nod as its atmospheric groove makes the song sound like something you'll hear in a Hotel Ballroom party or a Vegas show as the tenderly sung title welcomes you to sit back and enjoy the show.

Tom Moulton mixes each song down with his usual form of professionalism and technical proficiency- with each song having a extended instrumental build up to the actually song and prolonged breaks of the best parts of the songs. While this collection is consistently enjoyable, it's only so much of the same sound you can absorb from track to track before it begins to sound exhausting at the halfway mark. That's why I would check out his 2006 Soul Jazz double disc anthology of his work "A Tom Moulton Mix" first since it have more variety than you're find here. Nevertheless, if you're a Philly soul fan you'll greatly appreciate this latest collection- if only in small does at a time.


Bionic Boogie
Bionic Boogie
Offered by Silkysoul
Price: 5.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SHOT ME DOWN...STARSTRUCKED!, 22 Dec 2010
This review is from: Bionic Boogie (Audio CD)
After years of this album being out of print and an extended delay in its reissue, funky town grooves has finally blessed us with Bionic Boogie- the official debut of Gregg Diamond's disco oriented projects in the late 70's. Categorizing Gregg Diamond's music can be as mind boggling as it sounds on record. While many of the formulaic disco arrangements that were typical of a late 70's record were prevalent in his releases (Strings, synths, funky guitar licks, deep bouncing basslines), Gregg attacks the dancefloor with an audio ferocity that's only matched by Patrick Adams and Larry Levan at their peak. This is emphasized by his use of loopy breaks, melodies, and big arena rock styled hooks that are made for the 12 and 1AM crowd at nightclubs. While the sonic delivery is raw, it has the clean and concise execution of Giorgio Moroder and the top flight musicality of Salsoul at its best- yet Gregg Diamond's sound is totally original.

The whole album is fair game but "Dance Little Dreamer" and "Risky Changes" are the key cuts on this album. "Risky Changes" in particular is probably the dance record that Rod Stewart and KISS wished they would've made when they were attempting to get a piece of this market. If you strip away the disco arrangements and add guitars and drums, it could a pop rock record. The song itself is marvelous as it got the high energy to throw one into mind warped frenzy on the dance floor. Dance little Dreamer has a warm feel of a intergalactic adventure with its floating piano loop and easy going hook. "Don't lose that Number" and "We Must Believe in Magic" continues in that same vein. Even if the latter record kind of comes off as sounding like theme music for a 70's amusement park, all of the crucial elements that makes Gregg diamond's tracks addictive is still prevalent. While the last two tracks on the original album sound basic compared to the others ("Feel like Dancing" and "Big West") they're still solid.

Also noteworthy are the short but informative liner notes by Brian Chin- which puts Gregg Diamond's sound into perspective, the stellar remastering job from Tom Moulton himself straight from the original master tapes, and the 12"versions of "Dance little Dreamer" and Risky Changes included as bonus tracks. This reissue is perfect in every way. Grab this while you can get a hold of it because there's no telling when this will go out of print (also grab Hot butterfly which was also reissued by funky town grooves). To the people at funky town grooves, keep up the good work. Now that this and Hot Butterfly have been released, bring on Starcruiser and Hardware.

BTW, Don't be fooled by those cheap CDR russian reissues of this album and hot butterfly that you may see being sold on ebay from time to time. This is the real deal.


FACES
FACES

4.0 out of 5 stars WE'RE ALL THE SAME WITH DIFFERENT NAMES, 12 Dec 2010
This review is from: FACES (Audio CD)
The theme of Earth, Wind and Fire always seemed to reflect the 70's social ideology of love, peace, and brotherhood. At the peak of their popularity, EWF was able to capture the hearts and imagination of millions of music fans who yearned for togetherness and peace with their fellow man and woman. EWF quite simply were musical prophets for a liberated generation who looked to bring down social barriers and integrate people of all walks of life into one. At the dawn of 80's, a new generation was rising with its own set of views and customs that was aimed towards self prosperity, glamour, and monetary gain at the expense of dividing people and alienating others. So when Faces dropped in 1980, Bands who were a symbol of peace and unity like EWF were beginning to look out of place in what will become the decade of individualism.

That fate is unfortunate considering that Faces is in many ways vintage EWF-though it doesn't contain any established classics. Outside of the sense of mystery that this album carries in their catalog, Faces is intriguing because the overall tone finds Maurice White and Co. trying to come to grips with the then new social reality while stubbornly maintaining their ideology. Their feelings are made very transparent on the opening track "Let Me Talk" where Maurice White enter the 80's aware as well as defensive with references to inflation, business practices , and superficial women who finds gratification in image rather than character. "Turn into Something Good", "Pride", and "Take It to the Sky" aims to inject the self determination, confidence, and the belief of one's ability to succeed in an era where hope seemed to be lost for many.

Of course there are the ballads and other songs removed from its socially aware stance. As far as the music goes, some may argue that some of the elements sounded a tad dated, but in actuality, EWF does bring their classic 70's sound to date with the then happening production qualities- if only slightly. Notice how the keyboards on "Pride" and "Win or Lose" are in the front of the mix almost drowning out the bass to give it a stripped down synth funk feel. On the gorgeous ballad "You", EWF take the same structure of After the Love is Gone and give it a more pronounced pop/ easy listening feel than its sister song. The sleek execution kind of predated much of the slick yuppie ballad soul that will practiced by a lot of urban contemporary artists in the decade, but in EWF hands it's so uplifting that the slick sheen helps the song more so than hinder it. On "You Went Away", Phil Bailey and the band goes into Power Ballad territory where its bombastic chorus incite listeners to raise their hands in wave them back and forth and sing along in the same way that Foreigner when they hit that power chord and invitingly plead " I wanna Know what Love is... I want you to show me". "And love Goes On" foreshadows a lot of the up-tempo perky dance songs of that decade- but without the soul and funk EWF possess here. The way they pick up the pitch at the end will immediately bring to mind Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody". "Sailaway" also standout for its smooth wavy groove where you feel like you just retreated to an exotic island with the one you love to escape your troubles. The only time where I feel like the experiment is a bit off the mark is "Back on the Road" where its pop rock feel is well intended but sounds underwhelming compared to the other songs- though the power guitar riff at the beginning will probably incite a smirk on Eddie Van Halen's face and the lead guitar solo at the end is also worth a listen.

Faces is consistently strong from start to finish- especially for a double album. A lot of artists who record two albums worth of original material tend to overreach as they try to take on too many styles that's radically different from their core sound. Rather than EWF trying to adapt to different styles, they let the different styles adapt to their core sound on Faces. Even though they bring in different textures here and there throughout the course of the record, their patented sound over powers the experimental touches. The fact that most of these songs- with the exception of the title track- are three to five minutes long, make them easier to digest as a whole.

Faces was to Earth Wind & Fire in 1980 what Muse-Sick N- Hour-Message was to Public Enemy 1994. The albums find both groups adjusting to new realities in society while shrewdly sticking to their principles. Faces nonetheless is a fascinating EWF album its own right. The fact the most of these themes still hold weight in today's volatile American landscape makes this album sound even more relevant. While some may be put off by the disco/pop touches on the album, others who love funk, soul, and disco in equal measure will grow to appreciate this. While the world and music was changing drastically in 1980, EWF was still able show why they were Shining Stars.


Faces
Faces
Price: 16.90

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WE'RE ALL THE SAME WITH DIFFERENT NAMES, 12 Dec 2010
This review is from: Faces (Audio CD)
The theme of Earth, Wind and Fire always seemed to reflect the 70's social ideology of love, peace, and brotherhood. At the peak of their popularity, EWF was able to capture the hearts and imagination of millions of music fans who yearned for togetherness and peace with their fellow man and woman. EWF quite simply were musical prophets for a liberated generation who looked to bring down social barriers and integrate people of all walks of life into one. At the dawn of 80's, a new generation was rising with its own set of views and customs that was aimed towards self prosperity, glamour, and monetary gain at the expense of dividing people and alienating others. So when Faces dropped in 1980, Bands who were a symbol of peace and unity like EWF were beginning to look out of place in what will become the decade of individualism.

That fate is unfortunate considering that Faces is in many ways vintage EWF-though it doesn't contain any established classics. Outside of the sense of mystery that this album carries in their catalog, Faces is intriguing because the overall tone finds Maurice White and Co. trying to come to grips with the then new social reality while stubbornly maintaining their ideology. Their feelings are made very transparent on the opening track "Let Me Talk" where Maurice White enter the 80's aware as well as defensive with references to inflation, business practices , and superficial women who finds gratification in image rather than character. "Turn into Something Good", "Pride", and "Take It to the Sky" aims to inject the self determination, confidence, and the belief of one's ability to succeed in an era where hope seemed to be lost for many.

Of course there are the ballads and other songs removed from its socially aware stance. As far as the music goes, some may argue that some of the elements sounded a tad dated, but in actuality, EWF does bring their classic 70's sound to date with the then happening production qualities- if only slightly. Notice how the keyboards on "Pride" and "Win or Lose" are in the front of the mix almost drowning out the bass to give it a stripped down synth funk feel. On the gorgeous ballad "You", EWF take the same structure of After the Love is Gone and give it a more pronounced pop/ easy listening feel than its sister song. The sleek execution kind of predated much of the slick yuppie ballad soul that will practiced by a lot of urban contemporary artists in the decade, but in EWF hands it's so uplifting that the slick sheen helps the song more so than hinder it. On "You Went Away", Phil Bailey and the band goes into Power Ballad territory where its bombastic chorus incite listeners to raise their hands in wave them back and forth and sing along in the same way that Foreigner when they hit that power chord and invitingly plead " I wanna Know what Love is... I want you to show me". "And love Goes On" foreshadows a lot of the up-tempo perky dance songs of that decade- but without the soul and funk EWF possess here. The way they pick up the pitch at the end will immediately bring to mind Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody". "Sailaway" also standout for its smooth wavy groove where you feel like you just retreated to an exotic island with the one you love to escape your troubles. The only time where I feel like the experiment is a bit off the mark is "Back on the Road" where its pop rock feel is well intended but sounds underwhelming compared to the other songs- though the power guitar riff at the beginning will probably incite a smirk on Eddie Van Halen's face and the lead guitar solo at the end is also worth a listen.

Faces is consistently strong from start to finish- especially for a double album. A lot of artists who record two albums worth of original material tend to overreach as they try to take on too many styles that's radically different from their core sound. Rather than EWF trying to adapt to different styles, they let the different styles adapt to their core sound on Faces. Even though they bring in different textures here and there throughout the course of the record, their patented sound over powers the experimental touches. The fact that most of these songs- with the exception of the title track- are three to five minutes long, make them easier to digest as a whole.

Faces was to Earth Wind & Fire in 1980 what Muse-Sick N- Hour-Message was to Public Enemy 1994. The albums find both groups adjusting to new realities in society while shrewdly sticking to their principles. Faces nonetheless is a fascinating EWF album its own right. The fact the most of these themes still hold weight in today's volatile American landscape makes this album sound even more relevant. While some may be put off by the disco/pop touches on the album, others who love funk, soul, and disco in equal measure will grow to appreciate this. While the world and music was changing drastically in 1980, EWF was still able show why they were Shining Stars.


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