KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

The Best of Baby Washington

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.

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.

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