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on 17 October 2010
Barely Breaking Even (BBE) Records presents a further volume to the gradually expanding 'Strange Games & Funky Things' series, issued here in the now familiar format of two cds (one mixed and one un-mixed) with tracks from the former featuring on the latter. For this volume, subtitled 'Smoking 70's Soul & Rare Grooves', the mix is undertaken by DJ Spinna (also responsible for volumes 1 & 2 in this series and the more recent 'The Boogie Back'), with credit for the compilation extended in the liner notes to Peter Adarkwah and Jonathan Rau. For the purposes of this review I will concentrate on the un-mixed disc, with reference made to the mixed disc where necessary.

The disc opens with Ned Doheney's 'Get It Up For Love' (1976), a track that opens with grumbling and menacing synthesiser notes before opening up to a light guitar strumming over a slow groove. Initially it sounds very much like a late 1970s track from Toto et al, before the chorus arrives and you realise this is unexpectedly enveloping. If it sounds familiar then you may have already heard the 'disco' version that apparently exists on Motown (recorded by Tata Vega). This is followed by Sylvia's 'Sweet Stuff' (1974), a meandering groove featuring softly spoken vocals with light orchestration. 'I Ain't Got The Love (Of One Girl On My Mind)' by the Ambassadors is the type of record that fans of the 'Philly Sound' and 'Motown' will instantly warm to whilst 'Capricorn Rising' (1979) by Richard Evans (featuring Linda Williams) features a latin groove with percussive vocal shading allied to tightly orchestrated string stabs, an interesting mix that fans of Norman Connors may like. 'Motherland' (1980) by Sylvia St James, is reminiscent of the sound of the Jones Girls, but St James has a warmer and deeper tone of voice. Fans of Hip Hop may recognise the sample sourced from Cal Tyler's 'Morning' (1972), and can relax in the slow groove of Eddy Sensay's 'Cameo'.

Jazz fans with an ear for latin percussion and vocals may warm to the swaying 'Desire' (1999) by Francisco Aguabella, and Hip Hop fans and House fans will recognise the cover of the O'Jay's 'For The Love Of Money' by The Philly Armada Orchestra as having provided key segments of the Todd Terry produced 'Flow With The New Style' (1988) by T La Rock. 'Family Tree' (1975) by Family Tree (featuring Sharon Brown) is described in the liner notes as being "...super rare in it's original 12" format...", and it is a very pleasant musical affair. 'Hands Of Time' (1977) by The Perfect Circle is a record to be played during a funk driven set where dancing is the key, with a rolling and bouncing tight drum driven groove. 'War Is Coming, War Is Coming' (1977) by War is a groove with a typically textured sound, featuring horns and flute and a vocal line not unlike The Equals' 'Funky Like A Train' (1976). 'Hunt Up Wind' (1978) by Hiroshi Fukumura is a groover possibly likely to appeal to fans of Jazz Funk, and 'Always There' (1976) by Wood Brass & Steel follows in the tradition by providing another version of this well loved tune. CK Mann & His Carousel 7's 'Asafo Beesuon / Obaa Yaa Aye Me Bone'' is an infectious and polyrythmic delight that one suspects has been endlessly sampled, leading to the concluding track 'Brazillian Skies' (1977) by Bill Summers.

So. Do you buy?

As a compilation this manages to work very well, drawing tracks from a diverse range of artists whilst managing to provide a cohesive context and standard, enabling the listener to enjoy the entire cd without concentrating on one or two 'standout' tracks. The mastering is good, and BBE are to be complemented on the standard of the liner notes, with short commentaries on each track and accompanying photographs of the record covers of each track featured. This is particularly useful for vinyl collectors looking for help in instantly recognising and identifying a record in a box before every other collector does so...

The mixed cd does feature tracks not included on the other disc, notably 'Groove On' (1980) by Willie 'Beaver' Hale, 'Ashley's Roachclip' by The Soul Searchers, 'Faded Lady' (1976) by The S.S.O Orchestra, 'Gimme Shelter' (1970) by Merry Clayton and 'Body Fusion' by Starvue. Given the generally smooth and mellow quality to this collection the inclusion of 'Ashley's Roachclip' strikes as odd, but it does allow DJ Spinna to demonstrate his skill as a technical DJ, with very well executed juggling. The Mary Clayton cover of the Rolling Stones track is also very interesting.

If there is a complaint to be made against BBE collections it is the label's insistence on issuing product in flimsy cardboard cases which are simply not up to the job of protecting the discs over the long term. This might be less of an issue if the cds were priced more competitively than at present, but one can't help suspect that the label would prefer buyers to download rather than purchase tangible (and thereby cost expensive) goods.

This issue aside, this is a very good collection, and a further return to form for BBE.
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on 29 August 2012
After hearing a DJ play one of these tracks I had to get the album. Sure glad I did.
There are some great tunes that delight after returning to listen to them again and again. I'll let the other reviewers speak with more knowledge about the tunes specifically, but suffice to say the originals are given a great treatment in the mix with a light and slightly humorous touch by DJ Spinna.
Only gripe is the CDs slip easily out of the cover, but I give it 5 stars for the music.
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on 4 January 2013
I`ve bought a lot of compilations in my time, and in fact had bought the very first in this series from BBE.
This not only has a fresh and varied playlist but the quality of each track is top notch.
Having 1 disc with the tracks in full as well as a cd with all the tracks mixed by DJ Spinna is a great feature.
My only problem is now i `ll probably have to buy all the other cds in this series , mmm
Get this compilation, it shines !
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on 14 January 2016
This is a great compilation.
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on 8 June 2015
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