KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Bell, William – “Soul of a Bell, The” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

William Bell was the best-kept secret on the entire Stax/Volt roster. He was there from the very beginning, and continued recording with the label ’till the end. A versatile musician, he was both a writer and a singer. As a singer, he could hang with anybody – as his gutsy cover of Otis’ “Loving You Too Long” attests – and he possessed a sweet, understated voice. The first half of this is ballads, the other half more up. Both are sublime. Do yourself and your listeners a favor and play this … a lot (especially the ballads). – Reviewed by Johnny P., October 9, 1991.

Basehead – “Play with Toys” – [Emigre]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Inventive Washington D.C. duo that uses mostly live instrumentation mixed with imaginative samples. Languid, clever stories of a lovelorn individual over slow non-cliche mixes. A whole new approach here: had a good one. – Reviewed by Lucifer, January 29, 1992.

Basehead – “Not In Kansas Anymore (Unedited)” – [Imago Recording Company]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Follows in the style of their “Plays With Toys” CD. Michael Ivey’s voice is predominant, as is his attitude – he’s definitely pissed off with social and criminal justice – racism – police treatment. Humor on some tracks – but not as enlightened as on “Play With Toys.” Some tracks deal with the pleasure of smoke (try playing together with Ring Tee.) Overall, a step down from “Toys”. Reviewed by Ned Walker, February 24, 1993. [N.B – lots of FCCs]

Bar-Kays – “Soul Finger” – [Rhino Records]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

I don’t know why Stax Records they they needed a younger clone of Booker T & the MGs but they did, and even got Book and MG drummer Al Jackson to mentor them. A more aggressive, maybe even more energetic and enthusiastic than the MGs, but lacking in that rock solid, yet slinky panache. Still, quite a nice record, this. Reviewed by Johnny P., 1994.

Ballard, Hank – “Sexy Ways: The Best of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters” – [Rhino Records]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Hank Ballard wrote “The Twist” – Chubby, born and raised in Detroit, Ballard was discovered singing on a Ford Motor Co. assembly line (so the liner notes say). Ballard’s connections go way back: Johnny Otis picked him over Jackie Wilson – out of an amateur bank contest – to win a recording contract. Ballard is a good friend and singing buddy of Mr. James Brown. Some tracks on this CD are bluesy (3)(7). Some are gospelly (10), most are R&B. – Reviewed by Ned Walker, May 11, 1994

Baker, LaVern – “Soul on Fire” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

One of the earliest Atlantic superstars — a versatile singer who could torch up a ballad or growl out an uptempo number, who sounds little-girl sweet or make nonsense syllables a non-refusable proposition. This is a fine, fine re-issue. – Reviewed by Johnny P., 1994

Baby Huey & the Baby Sitters – “Baby Huey Story, The” – [Curtom]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

370 lbs. of pure soul … Baby Huey never got a chance to get off the ground … he died the same months of Jimi & Janis’ demise … this is a powerful soul/rock/funkfest produced by Curtis Mayfield and later released on his label after Baby Huey died … this record is so f****** amazing … the liner notes are very interesting as well … words can not describe the power & emotion in Huey’s voice … a couple of instrumentals to round it out and you got it … phenomenal!!! – Reviewer unknown, October 27, 1999

Amnesty – “Free Your Mind: The 700 West Sessions” – [Now-Again]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Forgive those transgressions brothas & sistas! Free your minds as you grasp this tight & cut your teeth on some seriously psychedelic Indianapolis soul funk! Prog rhythms & rock structures fortified & glistening with a smooth groovin’ soul gloss. Fat bottom bass vibes, funky horn infusions & effortlessly fresh vocal harmonies. Soul salvation complied from the original obscure 7-inch cuts & B-sides onto a single LP/CD. Sensational transitions throughout though by album’s end, the remaining grooves merely suffice as stripped guitar & vocals. Satisfactory enough but it’s almost like they ran out of steam. Funk-ee skillful soul o’ the early 70’s! – Reviewed by Guy Montag, May 23, 2007

Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir – “Shakin’ The Rafters” – [Columbia]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

The sounds captured here feature celebrity gospel singer Alex Bradford and the 120-voice Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir of Newark in a program of Bradford compositions. All songs are characterized by the big, booming organ accompaniment and echoing sound of in-church recording. Call-&response lyrics, lots of shrieking, clapping and carrying on. Great historical significance and great fun. – Reviewed by Peggy O, April 2, 1992

Axiom Funk – “Funkcronomicon” – [Axiom]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

A f****** mind blowing interstellar funk exploration. “This is your brain, this is your brain on funk.” There shouldn’t be any questions. An all-star line-up from Herbie Hancock, Brain, Buckethead, Bernie Worrell, Bootsie, etc. just check the liner notes. 2 CDs of funk, baby. The last track on Disk Two has Umar Bin Hasan of the Last Poets ripping out your guts for all the world to see with his spoken word. This is a variety of styles, so check it the funk out. – Written by Vinny Fink, August 2, 1995

Washington, Baby – “The Best of Baby Washington” – [Collectables]

cadilliac margarita   6/26/2019   CD, Soul

Born in South Carolina in 1940, and Raised in Harlem, Jeanette “Baby” Washington joined vocal group The Hearts at 16 years old in 1956. The following year, she began recording solo tracks. Her voice is so rich and emotive,  and these tracks are dripping with love, heartbreak and melancholy. The production is classic northern soul and very well done, with lots of strings, percussion, and horns. Dusty Springfield (who stated several times that Washington was her favorite singer) was clearly influenced, and that may explain why she isn’t better known. But hot damn!! Now’s your chance! Like a lot of 60s soul performers, disco took its toll, and she hasn’t recorded much since the late 70s.  She’s now 78 years old and still actively performing mostly in Europe.

Thomas, Irma – “My Heart’s In Memphis: The Songs of Dan Penn” – [Rounder Records]

scottfree   2/27/2019   CD, Soul

Irma Thomas, a Grammy-Award winning contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James who never experienced their level of commercial success, teamed up with Dan Penn, one of the great Southern soul songwriters for this album. And so, I was excited to listen to it. Unfortunately, although her vocals are certainly great, Thomas just doesn’t seem to connect to many of the songs on this album. I felt like I had walked into the lobby bar of a really nice hotel and was listening to the house band and singer. There’s a laid-back modern soul feel that gets too relaxed at times and not fiery often enough. My favorite track is #4, “If You Want It, Come and Get It”, although many others are solid. Overall good, just not as big or great in this effort from 2000 as her prior and later work.

Hill, Z.Z. – "That's It" – [Kent Records]

humana   2/9/2019   CD, Soul

These recordings from 1964-1968 on the Kent Recordings label are perfect for our Soul Collective. Alternating between the catchy pizzazz of soul and the ballad-like nature of blues, Z. Z. Hill’s hearty, smooth baritone skates those soul-rock-blues lines with ease. You can choose almost any song on these two CDs and be assured of finding a gem for your set.

Sylvester – “Immortal” – [Megatone Records]

Naysayer   2/4/2019   CD, Soul

One of the wonderful things about this station growing older is that it can hear sounds it passed up in the past and now value them for the creative push that they were and still are. Such is the case of Sylvester, one of the true divas of disco and dance music of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Born in Watts, California, he was heavily influenced by his Pentecostal church and the gospel singing that happened there. Moving to San Francisco he joined the Cockettes and did acts based on African American blues singers. His career grew with several chart busting dance club hits. His outrageous and flamboyant appearance brought the crowds of worshipers to their feet. He was able to whip a crowd in a frenzy with his looks, but more so with his dynamic stage presence and falsetto voice which could hit the notes for sure. His activism educated people about what was happening in his community. This posthumous collection, (Sylvester died of complications due to AIDS) was put out on Megatone, his friend Patrick Cowley’s label. This collection contains never before released remixes of Sylvester songs as well as unreleased picks. The disco beat is driving but the production is really interesting, what with the likes of Harvey Fuqua, Patrick Cowley and others taking the reigns. Sylvester’s vocal skill is overwhelming when you hear it blasted on a real stereo with real speakers. He could convey the message, suggestive though it may be, with just a few phrases and wow is the message clear. Basically, have fun. Two surprises, “How Great Thou Art” and “He’ll Understand” are gospel church songs. The vocal power on these two brought chills and made me double check that this was still Sylvester. How great thou art indeed.

Akwassa – “La’ila” – [PMG Audio.CD]

humana   12/2/2018   12-inch, Soul


From Nigeria and a remastering of a 1975 album, this is just the ticket for injecting some funk into your life. Felix Day and Kevin Coburn make music that gets into your blood and makes your feet shuffle. The songs are long enough to satisfy your dance craving and lift your mood.

Young-Holt Unlimited – “The Definitive Young-Holt Unlimited” – [Brunswick Record Co.]

Naysayer   11/12/2018   CD, Soul

Isaac Holt and Edee Young are solid members in the soul and rhythm and blues world and their “Soulful Strut” is a classic insturmental that everyone has heard. This collection of the “definitive” Young-Holt Unlimited paints a broader picture of this duo. The 20 tracks present a mix of insturmental and vocals treats that cover a wide blues and soul spectrum. Some of the instrumentals are so smooth, as if you were sitting in a bar in Las Vegas at 3 am listening to their show. It’s so perfect, cocktail lounge sounding and feeling with a smooth rhythm section that goes down easy. The vocals tell great stories of how they can get the girl, how great the girl looks, how the girl should hook up with them. Then there is the “Horoscope” song, a crazy, man, medium hard soul strut with horns a plenty testifying to the ladies about what they should do. Example: “To the Libra with yo’ scales in your hand. Come on baby, open up your eyes and kneel.” Whoa, and then whoa. Soulfulness aplenty.

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.

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