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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jazz Juice & Jive!, 11 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: Jazzy Vibes: Soulful Jazz Licks From The 70s (Audio CD)
The initial 'Back Beats' series extended over ten issues, with the promise that further volumes might follow. This release is part of the promised second batch, being Volume 20 in the series originally "conceived and compiled with love by Ian Dewhirst". The stated aim of the collection remains the same, to "entertain and educate" whilst bringing "some of the best music in the world from some of the greatest independent labels over the past 50 years..(using)...only the full 12" or album versions". This is a sentiment previously expressed by Dewhirst in his previous role as conceiver and compiler of the 'Original Mastercuts' collection - a series that provided a musical education in quality black music. Since the demise of the 'Original Series' Dewhirst has continued his engaging in the issuing of quality driven music compilations, always displaying the light touch expertise and willingness to guide, in a manner that is never patronising.

For this volume the responsibility for the process of compiling falls to the very experienced Dean Rudland, a man renowned for his involvement with the Acid Jazz label in the early 1990s and the very successful 'Blue Break Beats' compilations. Rudland has also previously worked on the 'Back Beats' series by helming 'Crate Diggin': The Cult Of Rarity' issue (BACKB018). This time around Rudland writes of the period, "...when Jazz was losing its mainstream appeal... (with)...a level of wilful obscurity...losing its relevance to ordinary people". He writes of a large Urban audience that had an appetite for Jazz that could be listened to, and this need was taken up by producers such as The Mizell Brothers, Creed Taylor and Sonny Lester, creating a musical fusion where melody and rhythm still mattered.

Fans of the 'slap bass' technique will smile at the opening of Micheal Pedicin Jnr's 'Sneaky Return' (1979), which features some great saxopohone work, conducted over a tight groove, whilst 'In Good Faith' (1980) by Norman Harris (taken from the album 'The Harris Machine') is a wonderfully atmospheric and melodic groove featuring strings and a rather lovely female vocal accompaniement. Leon Huff's 'Latin Spirit' (1980), as the title suggests, has an insistent rhythm with percussive lead piano work. Again, a very strongly melodic track and clearly composed with a romantic eye (and ear) for the dancefloor. Lou Rawls' 'Trade Winds' (1977) has a strong social message delivered over a deceptively swinging rhythm, whilst Dexter Wansel's 'Latin Love (Let Me Know)' (1978) is a harder edged instrumental groove taken from the album 'Voyager'. If this particular track appeals to you then you will be pleased to know that the album has been re-issued with Wansel's album 'Time Is Slipping Away' by Edsel on a single cd disc, and is available via Amazon for a bargain price. M.F.S.B's 'Metamorphosis' (1980) has an affirmative message softly sung over a beautifully arranged and orchestrated groove, and (along with 'Is It Something I Said') can also now be bought as part of the Edsel M.F.S.B double album / single cd pairing of 'M.F.S.B. Gamble Huff Orchestra' and 'Mysteries Of The World'. Hysear Don Walker's 'Killing Me Softly' (1972) is an instrumental cover, featuring some interesting keyboard work.

Larry Willis' 'Out On The Coast' (1974) opens with a break that is worthy of sampling by any Hip Hop producer, and is a real fusion of funk allied to more obviously 'traditional' Jazz arrangments, rather like Mike Longo's 'Like A Thief In The Night' (1974). Dexter Wansel features again with the lead album track 'What The World Is Coming To' (1977), which sounds curiously similar to a song by The Carpenters in places. 'Killing Time' (1973) by Natural Essence is one of the strongest tracks here, and the compilation concludes with 'Give Me Your Love' (1973), here covered by Funk Incorporated.

So. Do you buy?

Unsuprisingly, and in common with other 'Back Beats' compilations, this issue draws heavily from the 'Philadelphia International' back catalogue, yet still manages to convey the sense of listening to a variety of material, musically and stylistically. Musical purists may scoff at the notion of there being anything 'jazzy' about the tracks, although they might do well to remember that 1970 had seen Miles Davis release 'Bitches Brew' (Columbia Records), with its veritable rock and jazz fusion. Is this 'Jazz-Funk'? 'Jazz-Fusion'? 'Disco-Jazz'? Frankly, given the quality of the tracks included this doesn't matter. For sheer 'ear to ear' enjoyment this could quite possibly be one of the strongest 'Back Beats' issues yet - and a follow up volume would be warmly welcomed.

Once again Dewhirst and the Demon Music group have managed to issue an outstanding title at an incredibly low price. Rudland is also to be congratulated for compiling tracks that have not been heavily featured elsewhere, and the real value of such a title is in the encouragement it provides to explore artists' back catalogue that may be unfamiliar or neglected.

A 9.5 / 10, and a veritable bargain.
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