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Music Reviews

Bongolian, The – “Bongohead/ Farfisian” – [Blow Up Records]

Kai Sync   7/12/2018   7-inch, Soul

Can’t go wrong with bongo drums and Farfisa organ for a soul warm-up party with bottom jeans and floral everything. This is actually Nasser Bouzida from Wales who has produced retro-soul material used for hip-hop and funk 45 DJs. A side Bongolian has some surprising echo chamber effects, B-side Farfisian is an organ jam fest. Can you dig it?

Scene Club, The [coll] – [Charly Records]

humana   7/8/2018   CD, Soul


This is a great compilation giving you a slice of life from 1963-66 in London at the Ham Yard, where American soul made its way to the UK in a former basement jazz club. The acts on here are classic (including early Ike and Tina Turner and songs such as “Ol’ Man River”). You can’t go wrong anywhere on here. It’s distinctive soul of the time and place, and the liner notes are very informative.

Sylvers, Foster – “Foster Sylvers” – [Fever Dream]

Naysayer   2/25/2018   CD, Soul

Foster Sylvers was the younger member of the late 1970’s pop soul group The Sylvers. Foster attempted a solo career to parallel Michael Jackson and many similarities are apparent in dress, style, vocal skills, moves. Yet Foster never quite hit it like Michael. His big hit, which was also part of The Sylvers repertoire, was “Misdemeanor”, a soul hit which got the Soul Train audience dancing. The 12 tracks on this collection demonstrate his captivating voice, his high notes and funky kid take on songs about getting the girl and how he really loves her. Like, he REALLY loves her. A lot. Great sugar coated pop funk soul tunes that bring you back to the 1970’s. Do not miss the amazing “Lullabye/Uncle Albert” mix up/mash up. It’s a bold interpretation that goes psychedelic funk with an acid trip rendering of the spoken word part of Uncle Albert.
As an adult, Sylvers got into trouble and oddly many of the titles on this collection explain it. So, it wasn’t a “Misdemeanor” is all I’m going to say. Connect the dots while you get funky.

Alexander, Arthur – “Ultimate, The” – [Razor & Tie Music]

humana   12/5/2017   CD, Soul

Out of undeserved obscurity comes the clear, smooth voice and stylings of Arthur Alexander, who paved the way for soul with his songs mixing country, blues, pop, and rock. As Paul McCartney said once, “If the Beatles ever wanted a sound, it was R&B. We wanted to be like Arthur Alexander.” The Beatles and Rolling Stones were only two bands that recorded Alexander’s songs. Try any of these gems–they sparkle with feeling and emotion.

Shane, Jackie – “Any Other Way” – [Numero Group]

Naysayer   12/3/2017   CD, Soul

This is the most amazing thing I have reviewed in a long time. Jackie Shane, born in Nashville, soul singer who worked a lot in Toronto, left the scene in 1971 not to be heard from again for decades until just recently. Born a woman in a man’s body, she lived trans and gay, never apologizing, never turning away. Proud of who she was.
She was a soul singer supreme who would TESTIFY to the audience about herself, about how they needed to deal with it and get it together. Her voice went from cool to wail and all in between. The tracks on this exquisite collection sizzle and pop with covers of soul classics as well as lesser known, but equally superb songs. “In My Tenement” is THE hit, as are the numbers on the Live disc which keep up the full on banter she would give to her wudiences. Read the booklet. An amazing life including gangsters and kidnapping. Jackie Shane is the real deal.

Cotillion Soul 45’s [coll] – [Cotillion Records]

humana   10/1/2017   7-inch, Soul

Oh what fun it is to open a box of 10 7″ discs recorded in 1968- 1970 on the Cotillion label and dance to the soul sounds of artists including Darrell Banks, C and the Shells, Moses Smith, and Lou Johnson. There are ballads on here, too, and the liner notes are a must-read for cool background info. Covers of “Ain’t No Sun” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” are highlights. Pick any disc and get your soul groovin’!

New Orleans Funk: Voodoo Fire In New Orleans Vol. 4 [coll] – [Soul Jazz]

humana   9/10/2017   CD, Soul

These songs from 1951-77 get the funk to rise in your blood in the best possible way, and the liner notes explain in a most excellent fashion how this type of music came to be from the earliest days in Congo Square, New Orleans, where “slaves, ex-slaves and free blacks congregated each Sunday to socialise, dance, party…and worship.” From Eldridge Holmes to Norma Jean to Chocolate Milk to Clifton Chenier to Zilla Mayes, this is a not-to-be-missed compilation, meant for more than just Soul Patrol.

Northern Soul Weekender [coll] – [Charly Records]

Naysayer   6/3/2017   CD, Soul

Russ Winstanley is a DJ who spun Northern Soul sounds at Wigan Casino in England from the 1970’s to the early 80’s. This compilation, on the Charly label, is a collection of some of his favorites from his personal stash. Northern Soul was so termed as a way for the north England soccer fans visiting London, who loved the specific American soul sound, to find the specific American soul records they wanted at record stores. The sound is not Motown, but it is definitely Soul. It’s history in England is steeped in the Weekender when all night clubs played Northern Soul to the masses. 2am to 8am was when it fully kicked in and the Wigan Casino was one of the shrines of Northern Soul Weekender dancing and partying.
The 27 tracks on this collection have some familiar names but more often than not some rare finds. The stomping beats from each number keep the listeners happy and moving, with tales of love lost, love wanted, love gained, love grown pale. Tight instrumentation and lush strong vocals carry us from one tune to the next, keeping up the rhythm and making the body move. All songs shine but some standouts for me are Loleatta Holloway singing “Mother of Shame”, Big Daddy Rogers’ “I’m a Big Man” and Ruby Winters testification on “Better”. The Sharpees’ “Take Me to Your Leader” has a bit of alien fun. Joe Tex has the strangest, most difficult tune, “Under Your Powerful Love”, where he describes a night in his hotel room intentionally listening to the couple in the next room. The woman finds herself in a situation she wants out of and is trying to convince the man to let her go, all while Joe listens in. Wrong.
But everything is super danceable. Enjoy.

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson — “1980” — [Arista]

milo   3/1/2017   12-inch, Soul

Forward-looking, synth-heavy, pop-oriented soul, released in 1979. This album has Scott-Heron and frequent collaborator Brian Jackson closing out the decade that began with “Pieces of a Man” (feat. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”), and rounding the corner into the uncertainty of the 1980’s. Lyrics touch upon dark visions of the future (1980), fate, foible, and the musicians’ life (Corners, Late Last Night), the wisdom of nuclear power (Shut ’em down), and the flow of immigrants over our southern border (Alien). This is driven by superb vocals, thoughtful lyrics, and demonstrates a serious commitment to songcraft on every track.

Funk Inc. [s/t]

milo   12/13/2016   12-inch, Soul

This initial 1971 offering from Indianapolis’ Funk Inc features wonderful interplay between organ, tenor sax, drums, congas, and guitar. Like so many “first” releases, tracks on this LP come loaded with a fierce, raw energy. “Kool is Back” (A1) is an epic funk journey that you’ll want to play again and again, while “Sister Janie” (B1) offers a more relaxed approach, and “The Thrill is Gone” (B2) has Steve Weakley channeling BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The band put out 4 more releases on Prestige through ’74 before disbanding in 1976.

 

Parlet “Invasion of the Booty Snatchers”

milo   12/13/2016   12-inch, Soul

Interpretive: Funky situations, groovy syncopation. With gyrating hips, flailing arms, and stomping feet, greet your robot sex machine overlords.

Descriptive: This P-Funk spin-off is a female-fronted funk freakout for the whole family. “Ridin’ High” (A1) is a synth dance explosion sure to get you moving. “Huff-N-Puff” (B3) is a fun re-telling of the The Three Little Pigs vs. the Big Bad Wolf with spooky sounding keys, and showcases some solid musicianship. “You’re Leaving” (B2) is a vocal-led stomper that doesn’t seem to have a commitment to any key signature, but somehow works–I had to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with my turntable for this song, but found it quite enjoyable when I just accepted this as fact. With sparse percussion and slinky bass work, “Don’t Ever Stop” (A2) is your sex jam. Warnings: “No Rump to Bump” (A2) is a snoozer, “Booty Snatchers” (B1) starts off with some odd vocals and has lyrics that don’t make a lick of sense.

Brief: It’s like Parliament, but they took the men out. “Par-let”

FCC: All tracks clean.

Brown, James – “Nothing But Soul” – [King Records]

kev   7/6/2016   12-inch, Soul

This all-instrumental 1968 LP is sort of the missing link between the cheesy-but-enjoyable organ dominated records that James previously recorded on Smash and the crucial funk sides the JBs would turn out in the ???70???s. While the Smash LPs were mostly a side project (and a means for James to get around his measly vocalist contract with King records), this one seems like something taken more seriously???yet for once James submerges his ego. While there are a few short organ solos from Mr. Dynamite, he mostly uses it as a rhythm instrument (remember, in his world everything???s a drum) and lets others solo. No personnel is listed but Maceo and the chickenscratch guitar of Jimmy Nolan come through loud and clear. There???s noodling and meandering and they???re not quite there yet, but it???s a nice stop along the way.
Consider the time of its release, too. As the liner notes attest to, it was fresh off the killing of Dr. King and in the midst of all the other ravages of that shocking, often wretched year. The knee-jerk response of many musicians was to write dirges like ???Abraham, Martin & John??? and ???Hey Jude,??? sorta the ???68 equivalent to the current moments of silence after the latest slaughter. James and company chose instead to chill, and then move on. Worth playing.
-Kev

JMSN- It Is

cadilliac margarita   6/29/2016   A Library, CD, Soul

Pronounced JAMESON

3rd solo album from Michigan multi-instrumentalist Christian Berishaj.

He writes and produces his records. He directs his own music videos.

Tracks dripping with soul grooves, lush string orchestrations,

the poetry of a hard life lived, longing and heartbreak. He has

a smooth voice, easy flow, decent falsetto, and is clearly very

talented. This record is sexy, melancholy, and quite beautiful.

A real panty dropper! I loved it! FCCs on tracks 3-7; 12

-<3<3<3 Caddy

Eccentric Soul The Dynamic Label [coll] – [Numero Group]

Arcanum   5/14/2016   CD, Soul

Overseen by San Antonio???s Abe Epstein ??? who had a hand in at least five other labels at the time ??? Dynamic ran for a little under three years in the mid 1960s, and put out in excess of 20 singles over its lifetime. Artists featured on the label include The Tonettes, Don & The Doves, Willie Cooper & The Webs, and Little Jr. Jesse & The Tear Drops. The closest the label came to a hit was 1966???s ???No Time For You???, performed by four-piece Commands. FCC FREE. Low riding and faith keeping.

Jackson, Mahalia – “Newport 1958” – [Columbia]

Cousin Mary   5/11/2016   12-inch, Soul

Recorded live at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, Mahalia Jackson’s stunning voice goes straight to your soul. She sang in church, had a hit “Movin’ on up” in 1948, hosted a show on CBS radio starting in 1954, and later went on to sing at JFK’s inauguration and at Martin Luther King’s funeral. Fine gospel style piano and organ and bass accompaniment. Often considered the greatest gospel singer of all time and I would not argue with that. You might try “I’m going to live the life…” if you are not familiar with Ms. Jackson.

Hamer, Fannie Lou – “Songs My Mother Taught Me” – [Smithsonian Folkways]

humana   6/21/2015   CD, Soul

I listened to the CD first, then read the booklet. Hamer’s rich, soulful voice recounts memories of songs her mother sang to her at various times, such as while the family picked bale after bale of cotton. Hamer was the 20th child of a sharecropper family in Mississippi, but really she was so much more–she used the songs her mother taught her to shore up spirits and rally support for civil rights. She was a crucial participant in Freedom Summer activities, and she worked tirelessly to achieve voting rights for blacks, despite the retaliation and threats of white supremacists. She ran for Congress, she sang, and she spoke at mass meetings. Some of those speeches are included here. This is a must-listen, a slice of African American history that needs to be told. Inspiring and horrifying at the same time.

Universal Togetherness Band s/t CD (2014)

rasbabo   2/3/2015   CD, Soul

What started as a house band for Columbia College audio engineering program in Chicago, grew to be a dissertation for seventh year senior and band leader Andre Gibson. The tapes went missing for over twenty years, and then surfaced to give life to this album.
Good energy soul and R&B with a tiny dash of disco thrown in to make you shake your booty, but not enough to make you run away. (It was the 70’s by the way)
Good raw energy and smooth musicianship, not overblown or overproduced. All tracks are solid.
Dig it.
Ras Babo

Karl Hector and The Malcouns – “Unstraight Ahead” – [Now Again Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2014   CD, Soul


KFJC Soul Patrollers jonesing for something made this millenium
feast your ears upon this. There are many onion layers to the
imaginary Mr. Hector, like a good spy movie, it sends you
overseas to the Woima Collective, then a newspaper left on a bench
by the Poets of Rhythm and ultimately JJ Whitefield aka Jan
Weissenfeldt turns up as the mastermind. This has trace elements of
Ethiopique sleaky chic no doubt, “Who’s Fooling Who” with
that throaty sax and snake-doing-jumping-jacks definitely lays
in wait for you. But what about that Otha Turner-style fife funk
on “Transition T” that somewhere along picks up a video game
virus. So much great percussion throughout, “Sharpesville
Massacre” being a, well, *killer* example. My favorite right
now is “Spirit of Gine” with a racing violin scraping the
sky and a little clean guitar pushing the clouds away. Tracks
2,4,12,14 have vocals, “Push Na Ya” with some possible voodoun
Ogun action, while “Ombele” ignites your feet with an Afro
Beat treat. Styles are tried on like fantastic Halloween
costumes, enjoy this excellent release Now and (often) Again!
I bet these songs expand and blow folks away live, they often
feel like a recipe that best cooks when it’s got an audience
interacting and dance-devouring a couple hours.

Scott-Heron, Gil & Jackson, Brian – “Bridges” – [Arista Records, Inc.]

Naysayer   6/18/2014   12-inch, Soul

There’s a certain something about the 1970’s that makes me get all giddy. If it is soul, funk, Black Power and synthesizers, I’m knockin’ you over and pushing to the front of the line. This Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson album, Bridges, from 1977, is what that is all about. Scott-Heron and Jackson are best known for the song “The Bottle” and we know all about it blah, blah, blah. But these guys put out around ten albums in the mighty decade of the ’70’s and this one is not taking a back seat to any bottle.
Jackson is the keyboardist, on this album Rhodes (!!) and T.O.N.T.O.(!!!!!!) but we’ll get to that later, as well as flautist, singer and composer. Scott-Heron is lyricist and singer. Jackson often took the back seat to Scott-Heron’s vocal and lyrical bravado, but it is Jackson’s musicianship that solidifies the projects and keeps them funky and soulful. There’s always the supporting actor who keeps it all together and Jackson is that. It’s 1977 and the Rhodes is in full force, heading into a bit o’ fusion but not snoozey fusion (which I like to call “snoozsion”). With a solid back up band, Jackson leads us on a tour of 1977 soul: slow and dripping sex, funky, street strutting, ballad-like. It’s all there with the bass line moving your hips in the right direction and the drums keeping up your attention, in case you forget.
Can we talk about the T.O.N.T.O. (The Original New Timbral Orchestra)? It’s the largest, multitimbral polyphonic analog synthesizer in the world. It takes up a room. It was used in “Phantom of the Paradise”. Jackson uses it and it blasts. Squeaks, and bloinks and weirdo shots of electronic spaceyness. Yum.
Scott-Heron actually sings more than speaks on this album and that’s a good thing. His mellow, mid octave range voice takes the listener where he wants you to go but not forcefully. His tales of travel, urban dilemma and social consciousness are not bats beating you over the head, usually. The listener makes a connection.
Now a few heads ups: 1.”Vildgolia” has Bela Lugosi/vampire vocals and references. 2.”Racetrack in France” sounds like how Jamiroquai got his sound. 3. The beginning of “We Almost Lost Detroit” sounds like one of those deep soul cuts you play when you invite your lady over for the evening. The lights are low, the incense is lit. You’ve got the bottle of Courvoisier open and ready to pour and then BAM, Scott-Heron starts signing about the 1966 nuclear meltdown at the Fermi Atomic Power Plant near Monroe MI. He even mentions Karen Silkwood. Talk about a buzz kill. You ain’t getting any tonight with that kind of talk.
All three of these get the Naysayer nod of approval.
You will be satisfied with this when you listen.