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M. Scarola "Mac" (Essex)

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Nothin Is Easy
Nothin Is Easy
Price: £11.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid-retro-London soul that comes over like a sunny Sunday stroll in the park, 24 April 2015
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This review is from: Nothin Is Easy (Audio CD)
Solid-retro-London soul that comes over like a sunny Sunday stroll in the park. It smacks of some of the recent US revivalist labels such as Truth & Soul and Daptone but feels more British. More restrained than Lee Fields and Charles Bradley, the often thoughtful vocals (well, thoughtful for soul) offer a richer variety than the usual love-you-baby-lyrics, and are complemented by a tight n funky backing band. There are some nice horn and piano melodies and break outs that give a number of the tunes a bit more depth. Occasionally, the vocals are a little to light, coming over like a stoned Aloe Blacc, I'd imagine the chap busts it loose live, which is just as well as I'm planning to see them at the Mostly Soul & Jazz Festival this Summer! Not ground-breaking but worth supporting. Stupid band name though.

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis The Third
Kitty, Daisy and Lewis The Third
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They’re also great fun live and as others have mentioned, 8 Feb. 2015
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These cats have already delivered two refreshing albums, bringing a unique, raw talent to an infectious blend of ska, rock n roll and boogie woogie. They’re also great fun live and as others have mentioned, they’re a family affair and this is music that truly appeals to any generation.

This Third outing is clearly more ‘produced’ with at times a fuller sound. Clearly the vocals have improved. It was an endearing feature when I first heard them that the vocals weren't always pitch perfect! However, the apparent improvements in production means you do lose a small bit of that spontaneous, rough-diamond feel at times and very occasionally sounds contrived as on the opener. One or two others such as Good Looking Woman is a bit too Jools Holland (pleasant but far too polished).

Still, the majority of the album are highlights - the upbeat ska number Turkish Delight epitomises KDL’s ability to melt different styles. It ain’t your business is a simple toe-tapper, Never get back starts off stripped back and builds to a wonderful harmony. Bitchin in the kitchen reminds me of previous favourite ‘don’t make a fool out of me’, it shows how they really can pull off the funkier tracks (and could maybe do more?) as with the album closer feelings of wonder.

Overall, thoroughly recommended. Yes, there’s a few weaker tracks which maybe partly due to the more professional production sound, but you can hear others have benefitted particularly in the vocal department. If you like to hear a good mix of styles and vocals mean this still works really well as a package. Be interesting to hear what they think are their stronger tracks on this one when I see them live next week.

Modern Streets
Modern Streets
Price: £11.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Steve Spacek’s output has been pretty remarkable (despite offing to Australia), 24 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Modern Streets (Audio CD)
As a long time fan, I recall when Spacek’s first album Curvatia was touted as dragging soul music into the 21st century thanks to Steve’s blend of softly-spoken, curtailed vocals and sometimes curious lexicon, with future-funk beats.

Over the last decade or so, Steve Spacek’s output has been pretty remarkable (despite offing to Australia). He’s teamed up with countless producers from Katalyst to Mark Pritchard for Africa Hi-tech, all the time striving to move his own brand of street-soul forward. Much of his work feels heavily influenced by live performances, gauging listeners and stepping out at the sharp edge of cavernous clubs such as the already much missed Plastic People in London. For me, Space Invadas was Steve’s strongest collaborative effort, not least because the album moved away from the stripped-bare grooves of his earlier efforts to offer a broader mix of styles from hip-hop to breakbeat funk.

Beat Spacek, by contrast, is akin to the stripped bare space-soul of Spacek or his debut solo effort. With a twist. Apparently this album was made only with Iphone apps. Whatever kit he’s using, Spacek’s talent is creating deceptively simple hypnotic grooves where the breathless, repetitive vocals are always understated and often secondary to 20,000 leagues deep basslines and other worldly sounds. Tonight is Modern Streets first highlight which gets this balance spot on, on a refreshingly up tempo electro meets afrobeat number.

Spacek’s experimentation with lyrics sometimes jars as with Infinite Waves where he wants to ‘fly you around with his supersonic wave’. Quite. The title track is a moody jaunt around East London, which isn’t as compelling as it could be because of a thin, scratchy beat. I want you is classic Spacek, where the repetitive groove is the right side of infectious. Gotta get some music is a bit too noodly, coming across as a pardoy of the genre that Spacek has been championing for so long. We’re back to jarring lyrics with If you were my chalice, a solid groove with the amusing ‘If you were my chalice, the I would drink of you’. There is a love is another solid track, although the vocal isn’t as engaging as others on here.

The latter end of Modern Streets – barring the irritating Back to school – is all killer Spacek. Stand Firm is a robot-reggae classic that you’d happily play on repeat. Love it. Same goes for the deeply emotive chords in Compact n Sleep which perfectly complement the snap beats and a heavy bass, with a distant Spacek vocal adding beauty over the top. You’re the only one is another gentle, well-crafted groove. The standout track is left until last in Alone is Da Sun, released last year which grabs you instantly and never lets go.

Sure, there are a few tracks which don’t quite get the balance of beats, bass, synths and vocal spot on, and they kind of stand out. But most of Modern Streets is classic, future-proofed Spacek. Buy it. Fingers crossed he jets back to London to perform in 2015.

Grandville Noel
Grandville Noel
by Bryan Talbot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute joy to read as always, 12 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Grandville Noel (Hardcover)
Waited so long for Grandville to return. An absolute joy to read as always.

Black Messiah
Black Messiah
Price: £5.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He's adored but at times I got the simplicity of it all, 12 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Black Messiah (Audio CD)
D'angelo - he's a tricky one. Judging by the reviews here and his past form he's one of those who has a loyal, often unquestionable following. I've always been both an admirer of his talent and finer tracks, yet also perplexed of the level of the adulation considering that he's neither prolific nor entirely original. Still, I bought BM with hype and expectation set high.

In truth, BM starts off a bit confusing, dare I say boring, almost as a tired Flying Lotus sat in on production for the first few numbers. By track 3 - Sugah Daddy - Lotus has clearly left the building and things get far more conventional with this pleasant Prince-alike number.

Really Love takes a lifetime to start but once it does it'd be easy to dismiss as a by-the-numbers slow groove. Actually it's a really sweet number with beautiful strings and George Benson esque guitar.

Back to the future moves the tempo up to slick-chiller filler territory. Till it's done is a tight number, sounds a bit like an old Erykah Badu track. Prayer plods along with a guitar you'll be wondering where you've heard it before.

Betray my heart is the stand out track for me, it's stripped bare but gradually builds on a contagious melody. I'd have loved it even more if it would build into a full drum and brass workout. But instead it holds back, strips back down and then ends.

The door is a track you'll quickly pass through, whilst back to the future 2 is a welcome if slightly unnecessary return.
Another life is another track that we've heard many, many times before. That's not to say it's bad, just a bit obvious.

Lovely to see D'Angelo return with an honest effort, but nu-soul or whatever we call it these days has progressed. Meanwhile, the original sounds that some of the tracks lend themselves too remain so much better. And whilst the production is of high quality, the moods, melodies and tempos are just not engaging enough to warrant anything more than three stars. I know loyal fans will disagree but BM is just about worth getting for its two or three stand out tracks.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 24, 2015 4:36 PM BST

Suing online made easy: A brief guide to getting compensation online in the UK
Suing online made easy: A brief guide to getting compensation online in the UK
Price: £1.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 29 Sept. 2014
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Easy to read and take action! A concise yet clear insight into making an effective bid for compensation. Recommended.

The Man [Explicit]
The Man [Explicit]
Price: £5.49

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time waits for this man, 24 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The Man [Explicit] (MP3 Download)
Five long years since Omar's acclaimed 'Sing', we're finally blessed with 'The Man' his 7th (!) blend of soul, funk, latin and above all very British street sounds. I've followed said Man since his first releases with Kongo, Talkin Loud and the subsequent circus of labels and managers.

Whilst he's seemingly been mislead and occasionally mis-directed by some of these folks with a few of the past single releases and occasional forays into weaker covers (Golden Brown, Be Thankful) and 'pop' sounds (especially on the last album), Omar typically maintains a distinctive, timeless sound.

What makes this album so glorious is that his underlying musical integrity is demonstrated from start to finish. 'The Man' is a much stronger effort than many of his previous works because, like 'Best by Far' there is a refreshing lack of trying to be 'current' (which also means, thankfully, no half-arsed raps).

Sounding a little like a revamped 'This is not a love song', 'Simplify' kicks us off on the right trumpety note. The strolling, oboe lined, title track follows, already an Omar classic. 'Come on Speak to me' gives us the first latin-laced track with a nice vocal arrangement. 'I can listen' has a 60s soul taste; nice track which feels a little bit of a filler track. In contrast is the skip-stomp of 'Bully' which injects slick scratching and some high-pitch warbling! A gentle collaboration with legendary Caron Wheeler takes the tempo down (I don't think he'll ever better his duet with Carleen Anderson but this is still for the lovers). We move uptempo with the F**** War, make love - classy funk with solid bass, keys and trumpet that Omar and his pals do best. Omar's musical intelligence is always impressive and best demonstrated with the diversity of percussive styles and classical instruments (praise to the return of the oboe!).

The highlight for me so far is 'High Heels' (collaboration with Hidden Jazz Quartet) which I understand wasn't originally intended for the album. Good thing his wife persuaded him otherwise. Omar's been involved in loads of collaborations over the years and this is one of my favourites. Quality jazz-breaks and vocals. And just when you think the album might dip, 'I love being with you' follows up with Omar's trademark funk-key-stab. An absolute gem for the summer ( and with a little remix could be a scorcher).

The inevitable reworking of "There's nothing like this' is sweet and respectful and matures the original for old and new fans alike. Latin makes a reappearance with 'Eeni Meeni', nice vibe but I really can't dig the chorus. Sorry. No matter how beautifully you sing 'Myni Mo' it still sounds ridiculous. 'When you touch...' feels similar to 'Dancing' Omar's collaboration with Zed Bias. It's fine but it's not 'Dancing'. Lastly, we have 'Ordinary Day', an ode to his family. A breezy end to a sun-soaked set of classic soul.

Let's be honest, unless you want to hear the sound of 'now' or another US pop-tart you won't find a better, genuine soul/funk/jazz album this Summer. Get yourself a partner, a barbecue and get your groove on. Thanks Omar, man.

Price: £7.49

1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars sub-standardly orchestrated, 10 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Fragments (MP3 Download)
Enjoyed much of their promising first album, with a couple of stand out early-UK-Garage-soundy-likey tracks (Always, Secrets) and some really sweet downtempo tracks (All Yours, Angel Eyes) reminiscent of Hinda Hicks (GMT soundtrack) and even a nod to Alice Russell.

On the strength of first few listens, this doesn't live up to or build on that promise. It's ramped up the early-UK-garage vibe, reaching fromage overload, whilst the softer tracks are thin, poppy plops. Exceptions are 'Times Strange', only track with a guest artist which bumps along and builds nicely against convincing spoken patter. The best track could have come straight off the first album 'It's not me it's you'; lively and pleasant with a few cheese shavings but overall a good track with great trumpet break (wish they gave the trumpet guy more room on this album).

I can see this album really appealing to young, happy go lucky women who happen to be living in 1997.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2013 12:29 PM GMT

Price: £17.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Let this cocktail of nu-soul and space-age hip -hop invade your ears!, 28 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: Soul:Fi (Audio CD)
Steve Spacek is back and this time he's teamed up with future-funk producer Katalyst to deliver a rich and sublime mix of space-age soul, hip-hop and funk. I rate Spacek / Steve Spacek as one of my favourite contemporary British artists, but one of the criticisms of their/his previous work was that (albeit deliberately) the albums were loop n groove orientated, so albums sometimes felt repetitive. Not so here, every track is fresh and funky so much so this feels like a contemporary street-soul compilation. Indeed, nu-soul and the like is often criticised for delivering a few gems and too many fillers and Spacek and Katalyst have worked hard with a crew of top guest artists, to deliver highlights from the open-top, laid-back, blazing 'Imaginist', the uptempo funky breaks of 'Life', the space-sexy 'Listen', the driving lo-fi groove 'Closer' and the porno-strut of 'Give me the love' to name a few. This is pure class. I implore you to buy it!

Seventeen tracks in all, with a few odd interludes, means great value too. Almost every track's a winner, and where it falls short for me is on the few 'mainstream' tracks like their debut single 'Original' (which sounds nothing like the rest of the album, thankfully). But with such a broad mix of styles, including the 60s psychadelic 'Done it again' (which I love), not every track is gonna hit the spot.

It's time to stop pushing so many hum-drum US artists and stand up for the still experimental and utterly listenable Brits like Steve Spacek (albeit he's shipped off to Australia - I only hope he returns to UK for gigs this Summer.)

Can't recommend this one enough. So strong.

No Time for Dreaming [Re-Issue]
No Time for Dreaming [Re-Issue]
Price: £13.29

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bradley sticks to the 'Golden Rule' for 60s soul revival, 21 Mar. 2011
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There's a growing body of revivalist soul out there, much of it thanks to Daptone and Truth & Soul. And with these labels having helped push soul back into the mainstream with Winehouse, Duffy and the legions of pretenders, it's good to see soul driving on so unashamedly retro. Like Lee Fields, Charles Bradley is getting on a bit but the sound is that much more authentic, dripping with emotion and echoing with depth. The man has a wonderful voice no denying. I've been waiting for a long-player from this chap since 'Take it as it comes' a sharp, high-tempo break that sadly doesn't appear on this album. Instead of funky beats, this is well-produced picnic soul.

I guess it's hard to sound fresh when you sound a bit like Otis Redding. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the soul-by-numbers ballads on here. Everything works and sounds good, it's just a little too safe.

Where this album does really work is in the faster tracks - Golden Rule and No time for Dreaming are brilliant and engaging tracks but there aren't enough to make the album vibrant and separate from the many similar albums vying for your ears. I guess this is here the revivalists and I differ. I prefer Sharon Jones and Lee Fields' earlier stuff that mixed lashings of dance-floor funk with just a drizzle of quieter moments. Like with this Bradley LP, the over reliance on the slow makes the output feels less inventive as a result (I've no idea how anyone can compare this to 'What's Going on?'. Mental.)

The sweetest melody on here by far (and the most creative) is 'Since our last goodbye' which despite a number of changes could have been a classic vocal if it wasn't an instrumental (I keep singing over it!).

Overall, Charles Bradley has an amazing voice and deserves success and that's why I bought the album. There are a few gems on here and if you don't already have an extensive soul music collection then get this or get Lee Fields' 'My World' which is better overall. Or if you prefer funkier soul go for 'Problems' (Lee Fields) or Sharon Jones' 'Dap Dippin'.

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