KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Booker T. & The M.G.’s – “Soul Dressing” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

A collection of cuts recorded at various times during ’62, ’63 and ’64, some with Lewis Steinberg on bass and the rest with his replacement, the legendary Duck Dunn. The music itself is the Stax sound stripped to its essentials and sinew. Glorious, glorious stuff. Reviewed by Johnny P., January 8, 1992.

Booker T. & the M.G.’s – “Green Onions” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

The first Booker T. & the MG’s album (1962) and this provided the blueprint for it all. Not just this band but the entire Stax/Volt sound and aesthetic. Stripped down, no-bullshit ensemble playing. Pre-Duck Dunn with Lewis Steinberg on bass. – Reviewed by Johnny P., February 12, 1992.

Blowfly – “Twisted World of Blowfly, The” – [Pandisc Records]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

While many Johnny-come-latelys having been using the foul word as a career (2 Live Crew, etc.), the man called Blowfly has been doing it for more than thirty years. He’s like a R’n’B Redd Foxx. This is all old material, but new versions helped out by members of Fishbone and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Some are lame, but most aren’t. Reviewed by Lucifer, July 3, 1991.

Blind Boys of Alabama, The – “Higher Ground” – [Real World Records Ltd.]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

This group has been around for 7 decades! Since forming their group at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939, they have kept alive the spirit and energy of pure soul gospel music. The Blind Boys’ music has not only endured, but thrived, helping both to define the sound of the American south and to push it forward through the 20th century and well on into the 21st. This is one of their best known albums (a Grammy winner) from 2002. The sound is fresh and often more gutsy than traditional gospel music. The best known tracks on this album are: “People Get Ready”[1] and “I Shall Not Walk Alone”[11]. I especially like [9] and [10]. Reviewed by Ann Arbor, May 23, 2018.

Black Children Sledge Funk Co.- Band – “Vol. 3 – Aviation Grand Father” – [PMG Audio.CD]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

Nigerian psych rock. Re-issue of 1979 album. This was the band’s third album, Vol. 3: Aviation Grand Father, is soul, funk, jazz and a little bit of early synth. In the mid-sevens Nigeria, everybody loved the Black Children Sledge Funk Co. Band. Blasting out of the bustling river port of Onitsha, their infectious, feel-good grooves were the perfect antidote to the dark economic clouds gathering over the country. Everyone in the band changed their last name to Black. Last track is an instrumental. – Reviewed by Carson Street, January 31, 2018.

Birmingham Sunlights – “For Old Time’s Sake” – [Flying Fish]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

The Sunlights are a dynamic young a cappella gospel group. They hail from Jefferson County, Alabama, where gospel music has flourished since the turn of the century. The Sunlights have received priceless instruction from groups like the Four Eagles and the Sterling Jubilees, and have taken that technical know-how and combined it with unusual syncopation for a fresh sound. This is lively, fervent, joyous stuff. Please enjoy.

P.S. Note there are 5 singers in this quartet — a fifth voice was added so the lead singer can “step out front” for long solo passages without sacrificing the groups 4-part harmony. – Reviewed by Peggy O, August 26, 1992

Biggs, Travis – “Challenge” – [Universal Sound]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

Multi-instrumentalist, martial artist, and magician Travis Biggs recorded and self-released this debut album in the mid-70s, then went on to work with higher-profile artists including The Supremes and Isaac Hayes. The current reissue comes to us in conjunction with Soul Jazz’s NEW THING! compilation, which featured the very best track here, “Tibetan Serenity.” While Travis plays several instruments on the album, his most obvious (and unique) contributions are the acoustic and electric violins, which make him sound like a funkier version of Jean-Luc Ponty. Check his Stevie Wonder cover, “I Wish,” or the instrumental track “Solar Funk for more highlights. – Reviewed by Rococo, January 11, 2006.

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.

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