Music Reviews

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.


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.

Knight, Sonny and His Fabulous Lakers – “I’m Still Here” – [Secret Stash]

Naysayer   6/18/2014   CD, Soul

SOLID! What else can I say? Well you know I’m going to go on, but just remember….. SOLID.
So Sonny Knight made a recording about 50 years ago which became a sought after soul cult hit. And that was that, musically speaking. He was in the army for a few years, travelled across the country, became a truck driver. He did have a stint in the mid 70’s funk band Haze, but that was it musically. A few years ago, things changed when Secret Stash records released their “Twin Cities Funk and Soul” compilation and Sonny was asked to join in on the promotion concerts. From that sprung Sonny Knight and the Fabulous Lakers, the house band for Secret Stash label, whose focus is primarily soul and afrobeat rereleases. They played around in different joints and then spent time listening to music and coming up with ideas. A half a year or so later and out comes this stunning piece of soul.
This thing is so good…. you close your eyes and think you are in the 1970’s…. this soul and funk is so good. And it’s not retro. This is serious. Filled with the joys of soul- sex and sultriness and teasing and suggestiveness and just enough of oh oh to make you smile and get your temperature up a bit. There is the soul ballad which hits it right on. And the talking tale of how Sonny’s life was tough, right outta Lou Rawls and Isaac Hayes, knocks your socks off on “I’m Still Here (Pt. 1).
Knight’s voice is a bit gravelly with these smooth patches that go straight to the heart. He hits those high notes like all of the masters. The Fabulous Lakers, a seven piece, kick out the soulful jam, hitting it with the snare, digging in with a serious bass line, horn section blurting out just the right amount of brass to accentuate the point but not to overpower it.
This is the real deal. And there is no sadness of “what if he had been recording all those years”? No way. Knight has come at the right time and he is taking it in the palm of his hand. Get ready. Soul lives.

Brown, James – “Singles Volume 9: 1973 – 1975, The” – [Polydor]

Naysayer   4/26/2014   CD, Soul

Yep, it’s James Brown. What else can be said about the Godfather of Soul? We all know it. Yet there always seems to be another piece of the puzzle found somewhere. This singles series, of which this is volume 9, really probes deep into the Brown archives, focusing on the singles from 1973 to 1975. By this time, Brown had already established himself as a force in music. He had hits. He had the 1962 and 1968 “Live at the Apollo” albums which established himself as a superstar. But then the ’70’s hit, psychedelic instrumentation had pushed into soul, funk was becoming the lead style on the r&b soul charts, disco was around the corner, women’s liberation and the sexual revolution hit hard: Brown had to keep up with the times even though he was getting older. He had clout at Polydor Records and could do just about anything with them, so one of the things was to release singles he had recorded and had been sitting on the shelf as well as pulling the select single from recording sessions. He released 5 albums between 1973 and 1975, therefore there was a wealth of material, including remakes of previous hits. The booklet that comes with this collection is full of in depth information that follows this period.
Musically, this is classic funky James Brown, holding on to all the old tricks while attempting to change with the times, often with success. Many songs have the wonderful banter between Brown and his team. There are the introductions of Brown. The funk is kicked up. A number of songs are the parts 1 and 2 of the singles. Hear them without even flipping them over, though this makes me wish we could hear them without the pause and just listen straight through to get the full effect. I must say, the few numbers without Brown singing are the most interesting to me. It gives us a chance to hear the superb musicians and back up singers that made up Brown’s musical family, that were the backbone of his style.
Listen, enjoy, learn, dance.

Rufus – “Rufus” – [Abc Records]

Naysayer   3/15/2014   12-inch, Soul

C’mon. It’s Rufus. What else can one say? Well just a bit, okay. This is Rufus, Chicago based funk outfit which launched the career of party girl vocalist supreme Chaka Khan. Their bio is familiar. It is the classic story of a group already working hard to establish themselves. Along comes an unknown replacement vocalist who has the chops, captures the industry’s attention, helps to land the group a contract with a big record company, and… BOOM…hello gold and platinum records and hello Grammy. Bitterness, tension, folks leave, solo career is started with increasing success, jealousy, contractual recording obligations, bombed recordings without the star. Oh, and don’t forget the drugs. That nasty white powder. Classic HBO mini-series. This album, “Rufus”, by Rufus is at the beginning of this oft told story.

This is quintessential 1973 sound. Steeped in Chicago soulfulness and rhythm and blues, hard southern gospel, and the ever tight sound of nightclub funk, “Rufus” introduces us to what is to come while showing us where it started. I like good beginnings and this beginning is an explosion of amazingness. From the first choral opening notes of “Slip N’ Slide”, the listener knows they are in for some fun. That evangelical gospel beat used for the song about going down to a roadhouse lets us know what are the roots of this group. For the next nine tracks Rufus gives a sort of musical tour of all that is happening soulfully in 1973: upbeat love songs, down and quiet love songs, funky love songs, soulful love songs (with electric piano and flute —- it doesn’t get anymore ’73 than that), songs about brotherhood and sisterhood
At track three, with Stevie Wonder’s “Maybe Your Baby”, we get what is the greatness of Rufus. While not all songs on this album are sung by Chaka, this one is, and WOW can you hear why she gets so much attention. This is what Rufus does best: down and dirty funk. Not as dirty as Betty Davis, but still. The opening drum beat, then wah wah organ with funky bass and rhythm guitar set the beat. In comes Chaka and in 30 seconds she hits ALL the vocal stylings: low guttural growls, extended notes, drawn out consonants (the “ow” in “down” goes through an “owww” and “uhhh” in 1 second), the high pitched wail, long drawn out notes held, the pinched nasal sing recitation style that you know when you hear it, the over ennunciation of vowels. She and they TEAR IT UP!
Just enjoy the whole thing. Get it. Get it. Get it on!

George Clinton’s Family Series Vol. 2 “P” Is The Funk [coll] – [AEM Record Group, The]

Naysayer   1/14/2014   CD, Soul

What can I say but….. HELL YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!! George Clinton’s Family Series says it all. Released in 1993, this is the third in Clinton’s Family Series and it is killer. It has the familiar faces of Parliament and Funkadelic as well as Bootsy. That means bass heavy funk reaching down deep into your inner Funkateer funkstressness. There are some surprises like Jessica Cleaves doing Paul McCartney’s “My Love”, with Minnie Ripperton vocal stylings and oh soooooo good cheese electric piano 1990’s style. “Think Right” by Parlet and the Brides gets the jam going nonstop. Infectious beyond a doubt. Jimmy G does “Shove On” which may be my current favorite thing to say: and it is Clinton’s younger brother. Shove on!!!!! The Brides of Funkenstein add there first recording. BUT really I wanna ask, can you say TRAYLEWD? Traylewd’s song “Personal Problems” is THE song. Just listen and try to think otherwise. Track 13 is an interview with Clinton and family who are reviewing the whole album, telling tidbits about each song. Track 14 is Bootsy and Clinton doing commercials. Essential. And remember “all I wanna do is funk with you baby, all I wanna do is funk.” So, really, where are volumes 1 and 2?

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