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Music Lover "Looking for the Perfect Beat" (The United Kingdom)

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FUNKHAUS STUDIO SESSIONS
FUNKHAUS STUDIO SESSIONS
Price: £17.15

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Reminder, 5 Jun. 2012
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The Berlin based collective 'Jazzanova' is, as their website proudly proclaims, '...many things to many people', a collective that produces, remixes, DJs, presents a radio show and releases material via the Sonar Kollektiv record label. For the last three years the group has been touring extensively with a nine-piece band, developing and transforming their earlier work, and now releases the result of this activity, the 'Funkhaus Studio Sessions', capturing and presenting anew the essence of their live work, joined by vocalist, bass player (and on 'I Human' co-writer) Paul Randolph. This is the first 'proper' release of their own material since 'Of All Things' (2008). The question is, has the wait been worthwhile?

The disc opens with 'Let Me Show Ya', a wonderfully warm and gently building song, here allowing Randolph's voice to dip and soar over the gorgeous key changes, as he continues to seek 'that sound'. 'Theme From Belle Et Fou' is an instrumental rework of a track taken from the 2006 'soundtrack' of music designed to complement the Berlin based revue, whilst 'I Human' is the first all new Jazzanova song, already available as a download (with accompanying promotional video). This perfectly encapsulates the multi-dimensional aspect of the collective's musical character, whilst retaining that individual edge (driven through percussive edges and key changes). It certainly isn't soul music by numbers, but it has soul (nicely counterpointing the song's lyric). 'Look What You're Doing To Me' is faithful to the version on 'Of All Things' (sung by Phonte), as is the take of 'Lucky Girl'. 'No Use' is a cover of a track taken from their album 'In Between' (featuring Clara Hill), whilst 'Flashback' takes a Fat Freddy's Drop song (which the group had previously remixed) and presents it here as a solid chugging groove with Jazz stylings. 'Believer' re-works a 2007 release which also featured Randolph, but perhaps the most interesting song here is the cover of 'Little Bird'. The original version (on 'Of All Things') featured the magnificent voice of Jose James and was (for this listener) one of the standout moments, conveying a pain soaked vocal. Randolph's opening retains the plaintive quality, especially against the subtle piano edging, but it is a perfornance driven with a far more self-consciously dramatic vocal that almost collapses at the 4.13 mark.

Of the other songs featured 'I Can See' (originally featuring Ben Westbeech in 2008) has an unashamedly bouncy 'sing a long' quality whilst 'Boom Clicky Boom Clack' tries to take a song best heard in the Mr Scruff vocal mix - most recently issued on Jazzanova's 'Upside Down' (2012) - and rework it as an organic stripped back Jazz dancer. This is probably best heard at the conclusion of a night out.

So. Do you buy?

Sonically this album bears the familiar Jazzanova musical imprint, captured, recorded and delivered in great sound. If you wished to introduce someone to their work this would be a nice concentrated starting point, avoiding the confusion of the numerous remixes that are available to explore. Fans familiar with their work may find the project interesting, offering a sonic picture of the collective that they might have missed live, but there is a nagging suspicion that as a standalone project this might have been better accompanying further new material, especially as 'I Human' is intriguingly good. Perhaps this is an indication that of the collective's choosing to work as 'a band' with Paul Randolph alone? Whilst his versatility is unquestionable (he confidently tackles material familiar through other artists) not all of the songs work equally well, and one of the key attractions and strengths of the collective has been their willingness to work across a range of vocal deliveries.

For fans and completists this will be a 'must buy', for new listeners it represents a good musical starting point, but one hopes that new material will be along very soon.

8/10.


AMERICANA - ROCK YOUR SOUL - BLUE EYED SOUL AND SOUNDS FROM THE LAND OF THE FREE
AMERICANA - ROCK YOUR SOUL - BLUE EYED SOUL AND SOUNDS FROM THE LAND OF THE FREE
Price: £18.31

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little Gem, 20 May 2012
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Barely Breaking Even (BBE) Records has consistently issued interesting and challenging compilations, eschewing the obvious and shining a light on hitherto neglected music. This single issue un-mixed disc features sixteen tracks compiled by Zaf and Mark 'Goodvibes' Taylor, friends since the late 1980s, who discovered they had a shared passion for what is often termed 'Adult Orientated Rock' (AOR). This is, as they write in the liner notes, an "...absurd abbreviation for such a great genre, but basically to us it was soft rock with elements of soul, jazz, funk, folk and disco." That is quite a definition to work against, but with each man providing eight records the question is does it work as a cohesive listening experience?

The album opens with Babadu's 'I Love Music' (produced by Kirk Thopmson) in which a piano riffs over a lovely climbing groove, and Babdu sings (quite obviously!) of his love of music. 'I love you my dear, but my music stays here', he intones, a phrase that will be familiar to any DJ or record collector who has ever had to explain to his or her partner why they just need to buy one more obscenely priced 12" or album. 'Living Off The Love' (1977) by Eric Tagg has been taken from the album 'Rendezvous', and it is a warmly enveloping piece that moves along wonderfully, replete with lush orchestration. Jaye.P Morgan's cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) 'Can't Hide Love' is a slow groover that uncoils seductively, with her voice supported by a stellar cast of musicians (including Harvey Mason and Lee Ritenour). The pace shifts for 'I've Got The Feelin''(1979) by the James Walsh Gypsy Band, which features a strong stepping groove, whilst 'Thought You Ought To Know' (1973) is clearly influenced by Isaac Hayes, Barry White and The Love Unlimited Orchestra. It may not reach the Olympian heights of such influences, and it would work better as an instrumental, but it is pleasant enough. 'Love One Another' (1980) by Mike Lundy opens nicely, clearly influenced by Jazz and Funk, delivering a life affirming message of love. 'Coast To Coast' continues the laid back vibe, with gently articulated guitar and soft hazy melodies interweaving, this would be akin to listening to the sun (if possible). Listening to 'I Just Wanna Love You' (1977) by Midnight Flyer is to be instantly transported to a time when a great many songs opened with a mournful piano, soon joined by the big warm bounce of a real bass and a nostalgic vocal, and finally sweetend with subtle orchestration. This is followed by one of the highlights of the compilation, Ian Wilson's 'Four In The Morning', here apparently presented in an edit by James Glass. The real star isn't the vocal duet but the lovely groove underneath, and this will likely catch the ear of suitably talented DJs and remixers looking to restructure and recast for contemporary audiences (this is also true of the Society of Seven's 'Between Hello & Goodbye' (1978)). Life Force's 'Slow Dancer' (1977) has a very faint bounce that suggests a reggae version would work particularly well, and this is another personal highlight. The compilation concludes with 'Never Gonna Leave You' by Evans Pyramid, a driving track built over alternating bass notes. It could be dancefloor friendly under the right circumstances.

So. Do you buy?

This is exactly the type of compilation with which BBE Records excels, providing a space for knowledgable compilers to showcase records that might have been ignored, forgotten or which would otherwise remain the preserve of a musical cognoscenti. In musical terms this collection offers simply structured songs that are predominantly driven by melody and not rhythm (although there is an attractive groove to be heard amongst them). The use of the term 'soulful' may be questionable, but the influence of black music is to be heard clearly, without obfuscation. This is, quite simply, a collection to be enjoyed, without posturing and pretence, and it is to be hoped that this will attract enough support to warrant another volume.

Available as a vinyl doublepack, CD, MP3 or WAV, this collection works very well. There are interesting liner notes included, with full colour photgraphs of the label or record cover of each track featured. As always with BBE, the CD has been issued in a cardboard slip case that will not protect the disc over the longer term, although this is likely to continue to be motivated by considerations of cost. Excepting this point, congratulations to Zaf, Mark Taylor and Peter Adarkwah for issuing this little gem.

9/10


NU ELECTRO VOL. 4
NU ELECTRO VOL. 4
Price: £16.14

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nu-Electro = New Direction, 19 May 2012
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This review is from: NU ELECTRO VOL. 4 (Audio CD)
In 2009 the iconic 'Streetsounds' label issued 'Nu-Electro 1', heralding the return of Morgan Khan and a record label that remains one of the most important in any consideration of the development of the black musical scene in the United Kingdom (UK). This was the return of a re-invigorated label that was prepared to reclaim the title of the seminal 'Streetsounds Electro' series, with appropriate references to the classic iconography that had been so essential in the 1980s, simultaneously referencing the past whilst celebrating (and supporting) the contemporary and beyond. For this release, 'Streetsounds' has opted to provide two cds, one mixed (by Cal Alex) and an un-mixed disc of the same material. This review will focus upon the un-mixed disc , making reference to the mixed disc where necessary. More broadly, however, the question remains, does 'Nu Electro 4' promise to develop upon the success of the earlier volumes, and what does it signal for the label's future in 2012 and beyond?

The disco opens with 'More Of The Raw' by DJ Cheese, the 1986 Disco Mix Club (DMC) World Champion, responsible for redefining the future direction of the DMC Championship whilst developing significantly upon the technical heritage provided by Grandmaster Flash and other original Old School pioneers. This is best described as a musical collage developed upon a simple beat, featuring excerpts of classic Hip Hop records with a significant nod to Soul and Rhythm & Blues. It works well but it does not quite provide the expected turntabalism hoped for by fans of Cheese's original genre defining sets. 'I Remember Hip Hop' by Davy DMX and Chuck D is a similarly paced track that features a beatbox driven descending melodic hook, guitar stabs and scratches of classic Hip Hop, in a nostalgically tinged paen to Hip Hop's past with a wish for it's future. This is continued in Red Venom's 'B-Boy Supreme (Boogie Down 2012)', which lifts the bassline from Man Parrish & Freeze Force's 'Boogie Down Bronx' (1984), and explores what it means to be a B-Boy (and B-Girl!), delivered through a confident and suitably assured vocal delivery. If you remember Sergio Tacchini and Kappa suits.....this is for you! 'Breathe' sees the return of the Imperial Brothers, the vocal force behind 'We Come To Rock' (1984) and 'Live It Up' (1985), and the focus shifts from Hip Hop to the faster paced Electro-Funk production roots that provided the musical framing for much of the material included in the original series, but delivered through the prism of House, Techno and the electronically driven musical DNA from Kraftwerk via Arthur Baker, John Robie and Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force. This is most clearly evidenced in 'Electro Gumbo' by The Knights Of The Turntables, which references Kraftwerk, Zapp and The Jonzun Crew in a vocoder driven monster (with a self-referencing re-use of 'Woody Woodpecker'). If you know 'Techno Scratch' (1984), this will make perfect sense. 'What Is A DJ' by The Freakazoids offers a further development of the lyric provided by the Egyptian Lover, whilst Lil Rockin' G's 'The Adventures Of Rockin' G' threads the musical narratives of The Knights Of The Turntables.

'Empty Handed' by Yamasaki & Mr Spin (Featuring CRF) is an intriguing soundscape that features some very interesting sonic textures that demand to be re-worked (as a dub and beyond) in a manner reminiscent of the tracks taken from 'Streetsounds UK Electro'. 'We Are The Future' by MTO is also a track that could be re-worked to accomodate the tastes of many audiences, but there is an inner musical core (like 'Empty Handed') that deserves greater exploration. 'Analog Feeling' (Streetsounds Version) by Flashmaster Ray is clearly influenced by Zapp! and Roger, delivered via a West Coast lean from the early 1990s (via Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2 Pac et al).

So. Do you buy?

Any reaction to this release may well be predicated on the title 'Nu-Electro', a term that has a very specific meaning for a hard core of electronic music fans who have nutured and developed 'Electro' in the years subsequent to 'Streetsounds' releases, with little support (or interest) from major record labels. In this narrative 'Electro' draws very heavily upon the electronic heritage drawn from Kraftwerk (and other predominantly European models), whilst (as I wrote in my review of 'Nu-Electro 1') struggling to negotiate the heritage to be drawn from black music (and Hip Hop in particular). From this position it appears easy to accuse 'Nu-Electro 4' of lacking musical authenticity, with no right to use the 'Nu-Electro' label, but this is particularly ironic given that the original 'Streetsounds Electro' series incorporated musical styles as diverse as Run DMC's 'Sucker MCs', Cybotron's 'Techno City', Arthur Baker's 'Breaker's Revenge' to 'Cold Gettin' Dumb' by Just Ice. The label was even able to issue 'New York Vs LA Beats' (helmed by Capital Radio's Mike Allen), acknowledging the eclectic cultural narratives that were to be found under the term 'Hip Hop'. It is highly likely that such distinctions matter less to US Hip Hop fans, for whom the original 'Electro' period reflected the use of new musical technology from 'Planet Rock' onwards, but was always seen as being part of the larger Hip Hop musical tapestry (a perspective not always evident in UK fan's discourse).

In 2012, after nearly 30 years of musical interweaving, generational and cultural cross-referencing, that is what 'Streetsounds' has delivered. 'Nu-Electro 4' could arguably be said to be far more authentic and true to the original series, incorporating a wider range of musical styles, meaning that the release could find a wider audience than the previous volumes (which is to be welcomed). It should also be acknowledged that no other label has managed to bring Davy DMX, Chuck D, the Imperial Brothers and DJ Cheese together in a contemporary setting, and one suspects that there may be more from these particular artists to follow....

'Streetsounds' continues to offer releases that are interesting and challenging and Morgan Khan is to be congratulated for his continuing commitment to music and for his attempts to provide a musical space for Old School (and Mid School) artists to perform, giving back to the inspiration and foundation.

An 8/10 release - and let's hope that future releases are even more eclectic and wide ranging.


JOHNNY D PRESENTS DISCO JAMMS VOL. 1
JOHNNY D PRESENTS DISCO JAMMS VOL. 1
Offered by SEDIVA United Kingdom
Price: £11.09

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How To Listen & Learn, 6 May 2012
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Johnny 'D' DeMairo was responsible for setting up the Henry Street Music label in conjunction with Tommy Musto in 1993, but prior to this his involvement with music had begun at the age of 12, when (in his own words) he started to learn how to DJ using '...the absolute worst turntables ever made' before he (like many others of his generation) managed to obtain a pair of Technics 1200 Mk 2s. From here it was an easy transition to play at neighbourhood parties, whilst also attending the legendary 'Studio 54' club, and listening to (and being influenced by) legendary names such as Shep Pettibone, Dave Morales and the Latin Rascals (Tony Moran and Albert Cabrera). This compilation, according to the liner notes, '...is about the tracks that would inform Henry Street, the tracks found deep within the complex strings of it's DNA....this is real Disco'. This compilation, in keeping with previous Barely Breaking Even (BBE) Records policy consists of two cds, one mixed (featuring 19 tracks) by Johhny D and an unmixed disc featuring 13 tracks. For the purpose of this review I will concentrate on the unmixed cd, making reference to the mix where necessary.

The unmixed disc opens with The System's 'It's Passion' (1982), a record dear to DeMairo's heart as he was fortunate enough to be presented with the original acetate by vocalist Mic Murphy. More widely known for the later track 'Don't Disturb This Groove', this is an excellent example of the electro-funk driven sound that sought to merge black soul with the newly available electronically produced sounds that would flourish in the 1980s. 'This Time Baby' (1978) by The O'Jays is a gorgeous example of the Philadelphia International Records (PIR) marriage of the tightly delivered groove sweetened with tight harmonsing and suitably soaring orchestration. This is a song widely known and appreciated through a later cover by Jackie Moore, but the original is certainly worth hearing. 'Key West' (1982) by Kasso is the type of record likely to be familiar to B-Boys and B-Girls of a certain age, and if you have ever wondered about one of the samples used for 'The Real Life' (1989) by A Corporation Of One you will recognise it. This is one of those instrumental electronically driven tracks where the musical DNA points at Freestyle, Electro Funk, Hip Hop, back to Disco and onwards to House. 'Ma Cum Ba' by Tantra (1982) is a record that reflects the wider integration of electronica, in a soft-funk influenced guise that would likely appeal to fans of Haircut 100 and Spandau Ballet et al in the UK. 'For The Same Man' (1983) by The B Beat Girls is another track that exemplifies the varied musical strains running through New York at the time. 'Spank' (1979) by Jimmy 'Bo' Horne contains various elements likely to have hit the eardrums of anyone who has danced in a club since its release, here presented by way of a bootleg by Tony Garcia, with a thumping bass driven groove and looping bassline punctuated by horns and 'that' sample. If you love House music, you will know the sample! Klein and MBO's 'Dirty Talk' has featured on a number of recent compilations, whilst Spencer Jones' 'How To Win Your Love' (1986) looks back to the basslines of D-Train with a vocal style clearly influenced by Michael Jackson, and whilst this might not whet the appetite it works wonderfully. Another highlight is Zena Dejonay's 'I've Got To Find The Way' (1977), originally appearing as a 12" on TVI Records. Here we have the vocal version, but if you can track down the original 12" do so for the instrumental to be found on the B side. Other highlights include Ultra High Frequency's 'We're On The Right Track' (1973), which has featured recently on compilations highlighting the work of Tom Moulton, in the original and remixed versions.

So. Do you buy?

BBE Records are consistent in their issuing of material that is never less than interesting, and an obvious care has been taken with the material presentation of this set. The liner notes feature commentary by Johhny D, providing an insight in to why particular records have been included in the compilation, and his enthusiasm and dedication to the music he loves is palpable, infused with love and respect. He clearly belongs to the generation of DJs who had to learn their craft without the help of computer software and automatic bpm counting, where mixes were cut together by way of tape and countless time consuming edits (or by riding the pitch control) and here the likes of Shep Pettibone and The Latin Rascals deserve the deepest respect for what was achieved. This means that the mixed cd included may not reach the technical perfection expected in some quarters, but if you are familiar with old style mix tapes (replete with 'shout outs') the format will be perfectly familiar, although it is clear that editing has been used in the process of putting the mix together. Irrespective of this it is wonderful to see such a range of material being incorporated in to a mix, thereby avoiding the potential soporific peril of an hour long mix that sits at 120bpm....

If the mix is not to taste then the quality of the tracks included on the unmixed cd are more than worthy of purchase. If there is a complaint it relates to BBE's policy of issuing cds in a cardboard slipcase that simply isn't up to the job of protecting the discs in the longer term (although this is likely to be a decision motivated by cost). If you are a fan of the music of the 1980s, and in particular the rich melting pot of sounds emerging out of New York this is an essential collection, and BBE Records and Johnny D are to be commended for working together on such a fine product.

A 9/10.


Disco Discharge: American Hot
Disco Discharge: American Hot
Price: £12.72

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars American Hot - Hot According To Taste, 6 April 2012
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'American Hot' is a further addition to the gradually expanding 'Disco Discharge' series, helmed by Mr Pinks, with liner notes written by Alan Jones, co-author of 'Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco'. The release features the same distinctive artwork and packaging, featuring two cds of un-mixed full length 12" or original album version tracks. The series has been particularly successful for the Harmless Record label and Demon Music imprint, but with this release (part of the fourth series) is this likely to continue?

CD 1 opens with Claudja Barry's 'Love For The Sake Of Love' (1976), a track known widely to modern soul and R&B audiences for the sample lifted for Montell Jordan's 'Get It On Tonite' (taken from the 1999 album of the same name). This is a glorious track, featuring a deep slow groove and swaying strings, apparently featured here in a 'Tom Moulton Mix' - for some musical purveyors a guarantee of quality. 'Are You Ready For This' (1974) by The Brothers (taken from the album 'Are You Ready For This') is an instrumental track that will already be familiar to fans of 'Northern Soul', and has previously featured on the lauded Sony cd series 'The Northern Soul Story'. Randy Crawford takes the pace down with 'Last Night To Danceland' (from 1980's 'Now We May Begin'), a song featuring Jazz inflected keyboards riding over a smoothly delivered groove. The pace moves up gears for Herbie Mann's 'Superman'(1978), a cover that bounces along, replete with female vocal lines that some may call 'classic', others will say 'cheese'. Tony Orlando's 'Don't Let It Go' (1978) features some very interesting production work, mixing strings with a bubbling hypnotic bass, and this demands to be reworked or re-edited by imaginative DJs. The Ritchie Family's 'American Generation' (1978) takes the tempo up again with a distinctively Europop feel that may divide opinion. 'Sexy Cream' (1979) by Slick continues in a similarly inspired vein, described by Jones as being "one of the classic Disco tracks of all time", with an entirely unsophisticated lyric delivered over a generic backing that looks to Philadelphia International for inspiration. 'Love Is The Ultimate - Medley' (1979) by Ultimate originated as a concept by Casablanca Records and Juliano Salerni, and blends a driving beat to a melody driven largely through and by a string section, working as a musical triptych. Lush and sprawling, this demands to be reconstructed to work better on a modern dancefloor. 'Think It Over' (1979) by Cissy Houston (mother of the late Whitney Houston) reorientates towards a slightly harder edged funk sensibility, whilst Delores Hall's 'Snaphost' (1979) returns to a glitzier, but sadly blander aesthetic, but this can not detract from the powerful (if criminally underused) vocal performance. The disc concludes with Marilyn Mcleod's '(I Don't Wanna Dance Tonight) I Got Love On My Mind' (1979), a woman responsible for co-writing 'Love Hangover' with Diana Ross. This is bright, light and bouncy, ending the disc on a melodically driven high.

CD 2 features the mighty voice and presence of Sylvester, delivering a quirky electro tinged track originally found as a B side to 'I (Who Have Nothing)'. Cited as being from 1979 this is one of the most distinctive and intriguing songs to feature, with a soundscape that looks ahead to Electro Funk, Disco, House and beyond. The Andrea True Connection's 'Fill Me Up (Heart To Heart)' (1976) bears the mixing imprint of Tom Moulton, and it shows in the melodically driven construction and pared down delivery. Aretha Franklin takes on the Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins 1978 penned 'What A Fool Believes' (1980), in a version that Jones describes as 'Discofied', but to these ears the production speaks of funk melding with the big and brash 1980s production sound that would envelop commercially driven black music, for good and ill. An example, despite the presence of the magnificent Franklin, of less providing more. Another great name arrives with the inclusion of the sadly departed Luther Vandross, here singing on a track taken from his debut solo album 'Never Too Much' (1981). Unsurprisingly 'Sugar & Spice (I Found A Girl)' shares the same musical DNA, meaning if you like 'Never Too Much' this should appeal too - but you already own a copy of the album 'Never Too Much' already...surely? Another undoubted classic is Donald Byrd's 'Love Has Come Around' (1981), well known and well loved, having been sampled and played endlessly. Finally we have Elbow Bones & The Rackateers' 'A Night In New York'(1983), a track that sounds curiously similar to the work of Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, the distinctive production provided by August Darnell. Disco it certainly isn't, but fans of his work will love the familiar big band flourishes.

So. Do you buy?

As a series 'Disco Discharge' has managed to create a distinctive brand identity, with artwork fusing the bold and bright with black and white photography in a wonderfully coherent way. Buying and owning each edition certainly feels as if one is adding to something of artistic value, in an age where liner notes and photography often appear to be entirely secondary concerns. But what of the music? Here the story is complicated by the use of the title 'Disco', which appears to be intended to be understood in the same way as the generic term 'Dance Music'. This is either decidedly democratic, inclusive and non-pursit, or disjointed, confused and incoherent, according to your own preference. Fans of the series will undoubtedly continue to support this approach, but some listeners would be strongly advised to seek out sound clips of the featured tracks. There are a few gems here (Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Donald Byrd, Claudja Barry, Slyvester), but there are others that (quite subjectivley of course) work less well. This is certainly one to sample prior to purchasing.

A 6/10.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 3, 2012 8:15 AM BST


Backbeats: 2 Steps to Soul Heaven-More 70s & 80s Steppers
Backbeats: 2 Steps to Soul Heaven-More 70s & 80s Steppers

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Back Beats' Soars Again, 1 April 2012
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The 'Back Beats' series continues to slowly and steadily expanded, with veteran compiler extraordinaire Ian Dewhirst adding a further ten volumes to an already impressive catalogue, still informed by a desire to explore "the rich musical tapestry known as soul music". For '2 Steps To Soul Heaven', the 26th in the series, Dewhirst once again mines an impressive roster of label catalogues, including SSS International, Invictus, Curtom and Brunswick, covering the period 1974 to 1983. As always Dewhirst continues in his role of exploring and informing with a light touch expertise that is never patronising.

The collection opens with Arnold Blair's 'Trying To Get Next To You' (1975), originally appearing on the Curtis Mayfield owned Curtom label. This is a timeless track that still retains the ability to impress, and one can hear why it would have been rediscovered during the mid to late 1980s 'Rare Groove' explosion. Leroy Hutson's 'Lover's Holiday' (1976) first appeared on the album 'Feel The Spirit', providing a great example of Hutson's productions skills and ability to deliver a well honed mellow groove. 'Ain't It A Shame' (1977) has featured previously on the Dewhirst helmed 'Original Mastercuts' series (on 'Rare Groove 3'), and it remains a classic, with wonderful harmonies weaving over lightly tripping orchestration and a deceptively driving bass. The Jones Girls' 'This Feelling's Killing Me' (1979) is taken from their work for Philadelphia International, and is another example of a beatifully swaying groove with tightly delivered vocals and light orchestration. 'Sweet Music, Soft Lights & You' (1976) by Ken Williams bears the musical influence of Marvin Gaye, melding a sweeteness of sound with a funk influenced lean. 'Take It Slow' (1975) is smoothly delivered before Leroy Hutson features again with 'Lucky Fellow' (1975). Older Hip Hop fans will recognise the use of the opening break on 'Love Sounds' (1975) by Intimate Strangers, having also appeared on 'Dusty Fingers Volume 5'. Having been warmed up, worked hard and worn out the listener is then greeted by The Staple Singers' 'Let's Do It Again' (1975), originally featured on the soundtrack of film with the same name (featuring Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier). 'I Touched A Dream' (1980) is a ravishing reminder of the vocal power of a group that had been preforming since the early 1950s. This is a track to simply savour, a gorgeous example of soul at its very best. The quality continues with The Natural Four's evergreen 'Try Love Again' (1974) and Jean Carn's 'We Got Some Catching Up To Do' (1981). Fans of Nelly and Kelly Rowland will also learn where the lead vocal line for 'Dilemma' (2002) came from, with Patti LaBelle's 'Love, Need And Want You' (1983).

So. Do you buy?

Fans of the 'Back Beats' series will be reassured that '2 Steps To Soul Heaven' manages to continue the pattern of providing exceptionally high quality catalogue at an outstandingly good price. This is a testament to the quality of the music recorded during the period covered and the artists featured. Some collectors might argue that many of the tracks have been featured previously on a number of compilations, including Dewhirst's 'Original Mastercuts' series in the early to late 1990s, but this is music that deserves to be heard and discovered by new audiences. 'Back Beats' works so well because it provides a tangible product (despite the continuing growth of download driven markets) within a well considered and coherent musical framing (and at a ridiculously cheap price).

Congratulations to Ian Dewhirst and the Harmless / Demon Music Group for issuing another great compilation, and for their continuing hard work.

Simply buy.

10/10.


The Best Is Yet To Come - Deluxe Edition
The Best Is Yet To Come - Deluxe Edition
Price: £12.35

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Joy To Re-Discover, 13 Mar. 2012
Barely Breaking Even (BBE) Records takes the opportunity to re-issue a record originally released in 1977, conceived as the result of the pairing of Sandy Barber with record label boss Clyde Otis. Also featuring artistic input from Tasha Thomas (vocal arrangement) and Nat Adderly Jnr (musical arranger and son of the noted Jazz Trumpeter), BBE clearly believe that this is a record that deserves wider musical exposure, having long been sought out by DJs and record collectors. The question is, does the release confirm their commercial and artistic judgement?

The record opens with 'Look Out Sky', a record driven by hi-hats and wonderfully organic bass playing, sweetened with light orchestration. 'Well happy is as happy does', sings Barber, continuing, 'Look out sky I think I've found someone to love me'. The vocal delivery is utterly assured, Barber conveying completely the mood of the uplifting lyric. 'I've Got Something Good' is a driving dancefloor stomper, featuring bouncy chords and tightly controlled brass and bass work (with at least one melodic nod to Kool & The Gang's 1974 'Summer Madness'). 'The First Time' is a slow ballad, featuring a powerful vocal performance over wonderfully sustained strings, the type of song that could only have been created, perhaps quite lamentably, in an earlier age. The tempo shifts upwards for the album title track 'Don't You Worry Baby (The Best Is Yet To Come)', again allowing Barber's vocals to soar over a track that shifts from a disco like drive to a swaying midsection (featuring a lovely saxophone solo), before concluding with a return to an uptempo vocal coda.

'I Think I'll Do Some Stepping (On My Own)' features in the original album version and two remixes, one each provided by John Morales and Al Kent. The quality of the arrangement shines through, with Barber's voice soaring and sweeping across the accompanying string arrangement whilst delivering a salutary message to an unnamed beau. Listeners of a certain age may remember Lynda Carter starring in the television series 'Wonder Woman' (running between 1975 and 1979). Here Barber sings over a funkified cover of the show's main theme, on a track released as a single to perhaps exploit the commercial success of the series. 'Can't You Just See Me' is short and church infused, followed by the original album's concluding track 'Say Here With Me'. This ballad features another confident vocal performance, delivered as a plea for emotional and physical redemption. For this Deluxe Edition BBE have added the B Side to the 'Wonder Woman' single release 'Remember Me', whilst it appears that 'I'll Belong To You / Yea Baby', 'Woman Of The World','Can't Nobody Take Your Place' and 'Let's Get Back Together' originate as part of the intended follow up to this album. This would appear to be confirmed by the notable change in production, with strings being replaced by synthesised sounds and an altogether slower groove being adopted.

So. Do you buy?

There is a clear consistency to the original album, with obvious care to be heard in the production and musicianship. Real instrumentation supports Barber's voice, which if not previously experienced, is a joy to listen to. The two ballads 'The First Time' and 'Stay Here With Me' are simply gorgeous, and (as to be expected of a record from this period) the influence of Disco can also be heard, although not in the highly structured (and often repetitive) manner often associated with the genre. The feel here is fluid and certainly more organic (akin perhaps to the 'Disco' efforts of Philadelphia International). In this particular vein 'I Think I'll Do Some Stepping (On My Own)' arguably remains the strongest track, complemented by the two remixes included in this Deluxe Edition. John Morales opts for a slightly stripped down groove over which to preserve Barber's voice (whilst extending the length of the original), whilst Al Kent's 'Disco Jam' is a largely instrumental offering tweaked and tuned for a modern, looping dancefloor. It should be noted that further remixes by Morales and Kent of this song have been released and it is certainly worth hearing Al Kent's 'Classic Mix'.

As a reissue this works very well, and BBE Records are to be congratulated on making this album available to a wider audience (via CD, WAV and MP3 formats). Undoubtedly the album was produced in a different time, reflected and heard especially in the soundscapes presented, but for fans of 'a groove with strings' there is much to smile at and appreciate.

For fans of Soul and Disco this is a very worthwhile purchase, and it is another impressive addition to the BBE catalogue.

8/10


Glimpse
Glimpse
Price: £11.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Abstract For Attention?, 12 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Glimpse (Audio CD)
Julien Dyne, originally from New Zealand, has previously attracted attention for his work as a drummer with Opensouls and Tyra & The Tornadoes, prompting related work with Nathan Haines and Fat Freddy's Drop (amongst others). This album follows on from the 2009 Barely Breaking Even (BBE) Records release 'Pins & Digits'. The album has been released as a single issue, 19 track CD, WAV and MP3 download, with remixes recently issued of 'Who Are You?' (Featuring Ladi 6).

The album opens with 'Bent' (Intro), which establishes the musical template to be followed throughout the project, with short vocal samples emerging in fractured bursts over a rising and descending melodic line. The production sytle draws significantly on heavily synthesised instrumentation and 'gated' audio manipulation (in a style very familiar to fans of Flying Lotus). This is quickly followed by 'Mask', a slowly shifting track that features snatches of processed vocals, sampled and conjoined to a slowly plodding beat, similarly explored in 'Get Closer' (Featuring She's So Rad). Here there is a more clearly articulated male vocal to be heard, before 'Glisten Up' opens up, returning to the material briefly provided in 'Bent'. Here the track offers an almost P-Funk groove, before a darker mood takes over with 'Thirts', a ballad like instrumental that hints at a slower paced soul driven mentality - but squished and squashed through a sound processor. 'Who Are You' (Featuring Ladi 6 & Parks) is the first track to emerge as a fully recognisable 'song', featuring Ladi 6 (winner of the Best Female Solo Artist and Best Urban / Hip Hop album in the 2009 New Zealand Music Awards). If you like the work produced by Bonobo and Andreya Triana, then this may appeal strongly to you. The album returns to being largely instrumental until 'Creebin' (Featuring Parks), with vocals filtered and manipulated and 'So Far' (Featuring Mara TK - vocalist with Electric Wire Hustle), another nod to Hip Hop and Funk driven antecedents. A later vocal, 'Candy Apple Grey' (Featuring Claire Duncan) is similarly executed, with a female voice placed like a mist in the track, fleetingly emerging before disappearing again under the weight of electronic manipulation.

So. Do you buy?

According to the available promotional material regarding Dyne, he is noted for his melding of live instrumentation and beats produced electronically, drawing on a love of Hip Hop, Funk and Jazz. There are, undoubtedly, moments on this record when the beat appears to be played percussively, as an instrument in (and of) itself. There is a particular aesthetic which, once established, remains entrenched throughout, with little change in sonic texture or in the techniques deployed. Listeners not fully devoted to this particular soundscape may find the experience over 19 tracks claustrophobic, finding some relief in 'Who Are You' (subjectively the standout track on the album), 'Creebin' and 'Candy Apple'. This will appeal to fans of the aforementioned Bonobo, Andreya Triana, Electric Wire Hustle and Flying Lotus (some of whom have worked with Dyne), resulting in a similarity of musical expression. Given this fact it is strongly recommended that potential buyers attempt to listen to tracks from the album prior to purchasing.

An album to respect, but with an abstract too limited to love.

5.5/10


Black Radio
Black Radio
Price: £9.80

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Black Radio' - Promise Unfulfilled?, 2 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Black Radio (Audio CD)
Robert Glasper has caused a stir with his impressive musicianship and with his spiky and vocal articulation of wishing to develop music that is free to move beyond the aesthetic values imposed by the (often self-appointed) guardians of a specific musical culture. As a Jazz musician Glasper is keenly aware of the cultural, historical and ethnically informed narratives that weave through the Jazz tradition, and is equally aware of a purist strain in Jazz practice and interpretation that seeks to preserve the artform against what are viewed as the 'the barbarian hordes'. Glasper has, however, recognised that there are multiple musical traditions operating which form a part of the same ethnic and culturally inspired experience, and is clearly comfortable in attempting to merge what some consider the 'high art' of Jazz (thereby ignoring key components informing the art form) with popular vernacular and folk inspired traditions, of which Hip Hop offers the most recent example.

This is not to suggest that 'Black Radio' should be seen as a pluralist all encompassing rejection of purist aesthetic celebration as the liner notes (written by Angelika Beener) speak of a tradition that has informed and constantly revitalised popular musical culture, whilst also being appropriated by elements existing within the same popular framework, both within and outside the ethnic and socio-culture that she references. According to Beener, 'Black Radio' offers an example to take forward, '...the solution is not to keep reaching behind us for authenticity...but (the past) cannot be the sole definer of legitimacy. Modernism is now...when minstrelsy fades, and monotony jades, there will still be Black Radio'. So joined by the core of Derrick Hodge, Casey Benjamin and Chris Dave, 'Black Music' has been framed and offered as a correlative to much of what is 'out there' now, a celebration of inclusive excellence that recognises the past whilst looking to the future. The question is, with such an ideologically informed narrative apparently informing the work, does the music fulfil the promise?

The album opens with 'Lift Off' (featuring Shafiq Husayn), replete with vocoder, scratchin' and swirling piano work, the spoken word introduction calls for the listener to bring their ears and soul to the 'experimentation for meditation' and to 'rock on' (in a clear echo of the MC driven Hip Hop tradition). Erykah Badu provides the vocals for the Mongo Santamaria written 'Afro Blue' (famously recorded by John Coltrane), an oft covered work that provides an early qualitative touchstone, with Badu providing a typically assured yet restrained performance. Lalah Hathaway takes up the lead for 'Cherish The Day', emerging over a wonderful hovering piano and drum. Her voice is clear, powerful yet controlled, accompanied by a vocoder that hints back at the work of Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder. 'Always Shine' features the talents of Lupe Fiasco and Bilal, an individual with a clear musical affinity with Glapser, having previously appeared on 'Double Booked' in 2009. This is first track to obviously fuse Jazz with Hip Hop, and this will promote wildly varying responses, according to the tastes (and musical experiences) of the listener. 'Always Shine' allows Ledisi to take centre stage, a woman with an authentic and clearly attested involvement with Jazz, and the possessor of a voice that has a purity of tone that retains the power to soar and stun in equal measure. KING consists of three female vocalists who have been promoted in the UK by Gilles Peterson (appearing most recently on 'Brownswood Bubblers Seven') and on UK soul stations (including Starpoint Radio). Their blend of voices is beguiling and enticing, and their appearance here will hopefully alert music fans to their talent ahead of the release of their album.

Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele duet on 'Ah Yeah', a standard groove, before Meshell Ndegeocello emerges with 'The Consequences Of Jealousy', offering her 'sweet devotion' whilst emploring someone not to 'waste her time', a vocal providing a performance that moves through a sustained supporting musical texture. Stokley's 'Why Do We Try' features a propulsive skittering edged drum beat that is percussive and driving, joined by a piano that skirts and spins. The title track 'Black Radio' is driven by a vocal provided by Mos Def, referencing significant lyrical markers drawn from within Hip Hop ('Radio Sucker Never Play Me' (Chuck D) for example). It is undoubtedly significant that the title track is a fusion of Hip Hop (the spoken word) and Jazz. Bilal features again on a cover of David Bowie's 'Hermione', entirely in keeping with his free ranging and experimental approach to music. 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' offers an interesting take on Nirvana's song, itself often interpreted as a paen to revolution and internal conflict. Here is is driven by the ethereal vocoder, shifting before settling to a coda that sees Hathaway providing vocal accompaniment. The album concludes with 'Fever' (featuring Hindi Zahra), enjoying acclaim as the voice behind 'Handmade'.

So. Do you buy?

The fact of the inclusion of Beener's notes would suggest that there is a relationship between her narrative and that of the music, offering a way forward, incorporating and embodying an excellence that remains a transcendental value, however specifically informed by race, society and culture. This is quite a burden for any music to bear, and when considered against what is already 'out there' (within and outside the musical traditions which it references) 'Black Radio' fares reasonably well, although it does not quite offer the dramatic 'pinnacle of inventiveness' Beener might suggest. Jazz musicians have long sought to move outside and beyond parameters, indeed the music is itself such a process (as evidenced by Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock), despite the highly contestable assertions of the 'Jazz traditionalists' (one thinks particularly here of Wynton Marsalis et al).

There is a youthful swagger to the project, perhaps reflected in the liner notes ('Indeed, young lads...indeed'), and the fusion of Soul and Jazz is impressive, but that might seem unsurprising given the quality of the vocalists involved (Badu, Bilal, Hathaway etc). The two noted fusions with Hip Hop perhaps fare less well, and this certainly isn't the first time that a Jazz musician has looked to Hip Hop for renewed inspiration ( consider for example Herbie Hancock (most notably with 'Future Shock') and the UK's Courtney Pine). Moreover, one has to wonder at the artists who are not included in the project - Jill Scott is perhaps the most glaring omission - if this is indeed to be read as a mainfesto of contemporary excellence in black music.

Setting this aside there is no denying that it compares well with much of the music that is accorded the label of contemporary black music, and Glasper is certainly an artist and musician likely to continue producing interesting and stimulating music, building upon this and 'Double Booked'. Just ignore the hyperbole and settle down, and most importantly, engage with the music.

An 8/10. Very good and worthy of your consideration.


Upside Down
Upside Down
Price: £17.18

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Upside Has A Downside - Inside Or Outside?, 28 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Upside Down (Audio CD)
The Berlin based collective Jazzanova have long been known for remixing the work of other artists, as attested by a number of compilations currently available, spread across a number of record labels. The reason for their success probably lies in the eclectic nature of the soundworld in which they choose to operate, reflecting a love of Soul, Funk, R&B, Folk and (most notably) Jazz. This release features a number of tracks issued by the collective, remixed, retouched or reframed by the musical vision of similarly inspired artists, and serves as reminder of what they are about whilst fans await a follow up to 2009's 'Of All Things'. The release features a single issue cd or as a vinyl release issued as two separate discs.

The collection opens with the heavy thump of Alex Barck's remix of 'Little Bird', taking a yearning and beautifully constructed track (featuring the vocals of Jose James) and adjusting it suitably according to a dance informed vision. Subjectively one suspects that the original version (featuring on 'Of All Things') will outlast this remix, which whilst effective in a utillitarian way significantly lacks the emotional impact and sheer engagement of the original. Henrik Schwarz takes the helm for 'Let Me Show You' (Featuring Paul Randolph), created according to the requirements of a slower paced electronic groove (think rumbling bassline and sparse almost instrumental vision, with odd snatches of real instrumentation). Someone will use this as the musical setting for an international advertising campaign, a fate also likely to fall upon Ame's remix of 'Glow & Glare' - another studied electronically driven dancefloor groove.

'I Can See' (Featuring Ben Westbeech) features in two versions, a warm Jazz driven rework by Ye:Solar and the Midnight Marauder's elongated (and largely instrumental) vision, which unfurls slowly, building and suggesting an imminent (and possibly interesting) development, yet never quite delivering what it initially promised. 'Dance The Dance', remixed by Atjazz, follows on from the sound provided by Ye:Solar, a Jazz inflected construct that builds over a propulsive and skittering rythmn that is suggestive of further musical traditions, and is undoubtedly a highlight of the collection. 'Lie' (Featuring Thief) is represented by a Soldiers Of House remix, brooding, dark, with ethereal processed vocals. Mr Scruff's reworking of 'Boom Clicky Boom Klack' originally appeared in 2004, and features the vocals of Shaun Escoffrey. The bassline is low and threatening, whilst the percussive edges propel the track along in a highly concentrated and 'club friendly' manner. One best appreciated when being heard through the ears and and felt through a rattling ribcage. Paul Randolph appears again to provide the vocal to Neve Naive's reconsideration of 'Lucky Girl', which owes much to the fractured, broken sound of of Julien Dyne, Flying Lotus et al.

So. Do you buy?

Unsurprisingly each remix reflects a particular musical vision, resulting in a variety of soundscapes that may not compliment or enhance the other tracks also included (some purchasers will possibly buy this attracted by the sound of a particular remixer). Some tracks are clearly created according to a dancefloor inspired aesthetic, and may not work particularly well as part of a domestic listening experience. As a result the collection veers from the self-consciously cool 4/4 dancefloor (where sweat doesn't exist) to the loin lurching influences of Soul, Funk and Jazz. Subjectively (of course) it is the latter that work best, whilst others may leave the listener wondering what has actually been gained or achieved through the process of remixing (perhaps also a reflection on the strength of the original versions). For completists such considerations are likely to be redundant, but for other purchasers I would recommend listening to sound files of the chosen tracks prior to buying (if possible).

Jazzanova are to congratulated for allowing their work to be open to such a creative process, but hopefully the collective will be issuing a follow up to the phenomenal 'Of All Things' very soon.

A 7/10 compilation.


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