Reviews

THE BOB JAMES TRIO: Espresso (Revolution/Evosound)

Wednesday, 10 October 2018 13:28 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn a long and garlanded career, keyboard doyen Bob James has worked across genres and in a variety of formats. For his latest album, the 11 track 'Espresso', the 78 year old James returns to the format he began his career with – the classic jazz trio... piano, drums and bass. Specifically, here the drummer is veteran Washington DC sticks man, Billy Kilson while bass duties are handled by the more youthful Michael Palazzolo.

The track grabbing the attention at the moment seems to be 'Submarine'. The attention comes from the fact that this "sub" is a re-working of one of Bob's most famous tunes, 'Nautilus'. That one first appeared on the 1974 album 'One' and over the years it's been sampled dozens of times –notably by a varied crew of hip-hop pioneers. (Our statistician, by the way, tells us that Bob James is the 14th most sampled musician of all time!) . So here Bob simply samples himself – safe in the knowledge that he won't need to pay royalties to a third party!

There's a second cut here on which Mr J revisits his past.... a new version of William Salter and Ralph McDonald's 'Mr Magic'. The tune, of course, is most famously associated with Grover Washington Jr but (and, as Michael Caine might say) not a lot of people know this .... Bob James was the arranger and MD for the Washington original. So he feels fully justified putting his spin on it here whilst also allowing drummer Kilson to show his dexterity.

For James, there's more nostalgia on the album's other cover... a version of Fats Waller's 'Ain't Misbehavin'. James tells us that the cut is homage to his wife who passed away 18 months ago. She was a big fan of 30s jazz.

'Topside' is another album highlight. Here the homage appears to be aimed at the classic 60s soul-jazz of the Ramsey Lewis Trio. 'Topside' (with a flavour of Bobby Hebb's 'Sunny') has all the verve live atmosphere and swing of those chart-topping Lewis live albums. Best of the ballads on 'Espresso' is the gentle 'One Afternoon'.

Oddly, maybe, there's no track called 'Espresso' on 'Espresso'. Maybe the music, like the short, sharp coffee, is meant to stimulate and fortify; the 11 tracker sure does.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2018 13:35

 

THE SPINNERS; While The City Sleeps (Kent)

Tuesday, 02 October 2018 10:50 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altPrior to their huge success at Atlantic, the Spinners were second stringers at Motown. They'd joined the Gordy empire via their connection with Harvey Fuqua but sporadic sessions, limited releases and low key promotion left them very much in the shadows. That despite some excellent output – notably the magnificent 'Sweet Thing' (covered in the UK, of course by George Fame).

Then right at the end of the 60s it almost all changed. A personnel change... GC Cameron in for Chico Edwards and a Stevie Wonder song, 'It's A Shame' saw the Spinners scale the charts. The business heads at Motown naturally demanded an album to capitalise on the success of 'Shame' and so in 1970 the soul world welcomed '2nd Time Around' (that's right, it was their second Motown LP). Long out of print, the album has just won reissue via Ace/Kent under the title 'While The City Sleeps' (more of that later).

Like most 60s and early 70s soul albums, '2nd Time Around' was a cobbled together affair... a collection of old singles and the odd new recording to take the set up to the obligatory 12 tracks. The new ones that were commissioned for the album were covers of the Stairsteps' 'O o h Child' and the Dells' 'I Can Sing A Rainbow/Love Is Blue' alongside a new reading of 'My Whole World Ended'. The remaining 9 cuts were mainly Motown chestnuts like 'Bad Bad Weather' and 'Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music'. 'It's A Shame' remains the album highlight – a strong song, beautifully produced and performed. Of note too is a take on the Bobby Scott-penned 'Pay Them No Mind' and a cover of the Moonglows' doo-wop hit 'In My Diary'. On both, the Spinners do what they do best... harmonise sweetly and expertly. The ending on 'Diary' is a thing of harmonic beauty... a tribute to the group and producer Harvey Fuqua, who, of course, was an original Moonglow.

As with most Ace/Kent reissues, this album comes with plenty of bonuses.... here 13 "extras" – of which ten have never been issued anywhere before. They include a remake of the group's very first record 'That's What Girls Are Made For' which sadly comes nowhere near the doo-wop purity of the original and a new mix of the falsetto-led 'While The City Sleeps'. It seems that when Ace/Kent first contacted the Spinners back in 2012 with a view to reissuing their material, group member Bobby Smith asked could this particular track be included. In 2012 the Ace/Kent Spinners' first Motown collection 'Truly Yours' just didn't have space for it to be included... so here it is now and as a mark of respect for Bobby (who passed in 2013), the song has been given album title status.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 October 2018 11:01

 

TIMI YURO: The Lost 60s Recordings (Jasmine)

Friday, 28 September 2018 18:00 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altTimi Yuro was a so-called "blue-eyed soul singer" long before the phrase was ever used. Born in Chicago in 1940, Rosemary Timothy Yuro began her singing career entertaining diners in her parents' Italian restaurant, before moving onto the LA cabaret circuit. In 1959 she was signed to Liberty records and enjoyed her first hit in 1961 with a revival of Roy Hamilton's 'Hurt'. More hits followed – most produced by Clyde Otis and, famously, we're told, she rejected the offer from Burt Bacharach to be the first to record his 'What The World Needs Now is Love'. Burt obviously heard something in Timi's powerful, emotional, soulful delivery; for her part, Timi clearly didn't hear anything in the song! After a dalliance with country music Timi signed with Mercury where she cut one LP under the guidance of Quincy Jones. Then she was back to Liberty but more success proved elusive and as her career lost momentum, she quit the business to concentrate on her marriage. There were "comebacks" of sorts but after contracting throat cancer, Ms Yuro sadly died on in 2004. She was 63.

Timi Yuro left a concise but excellent music legacy and it seems that Burt Bacharach and Quincy Jones weren't her only fans. She has a large fan following that is almost cultish. I remember, for instance that the late Dale Winton always claimed Timi's 'It'll Never Be Over For Me' was his favourite record of all time.... and whenever he had the opportunity it always featured in his radio shows.

Well Ms Yuro's legions of fans will be delighted with this new release from Jasmine Records. The set brings together a generous 20 "lost" Timi Yuro recordings. The album offers previously unissued cuts from Timi's Mercury and Liberty years along with a few Mercury singles that have never been on CD before.

Interestingly the album opens with two tracks from Timi's first ever recording session back in 1960. They are the old Italian favourite 'That's Amore' and a nod to rock and roll, 'I Still Love You' - a duet with an unknown singer. They'll please the TY completists but the soul folk will look for something deeper.... and they'll find plenty to savour. Here's just a few - the lazy 'Satan Never Sleeps' shows the power and emotion of the lady's voice; Teddy Randazzo's 'Big Mistake' is classic uptown soul; 'Spoil Me' sounds a lot like 'Take Me For A Little While' (it was penned by the same Trade Martin).

However, whether it's soul, jazz, country, pop or Italian balladeering, the collection proves why Timi Yuro was such a unique talent and why she has such a huge coterie of adoring fans.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2018 18:34

 

ED MOTTA: 'Criterion Of The Senses' (Membran/Must Have)

Wednesday, 26 September 2018 11:49 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                          altThough he started his career making Brazilian dance music 30 years ago with the short-lived band, Conexão Japeri, Ed Motta grew up addicted to rock, soul and funk. His solo career, which began in 1990, witnessed many stylistic twists and turns, as the Rio-born musician navigated his way through a myriad of different genres in a quest to find his true musical self. With 'AOR' in 2013, he seemed to have found his desired musical destination. It was a homage to Adult Oriented Rock  that sounded to some like Steely Dan fronted by the smoky, soulful vocals of Donny Hathaway. Motta expanded on and refined the aesthetics of 'AOR' with 2015's 'Perpetual Gateways,' recorded in America with Gregory Porter's producer, Kamau Kenyatta, at the helm. Now, Motta unveils his latest offering, the self-produced 'Criterion Of The Senses,' which seems to perfectly crystallise the smooth, late-'70s jazz-soul-rock sound that he has been striving for since 2013.

People often talk about Ed Motta's influences without praising his originality. Though his musical inspirations are often transparent and immediately recognisable - something he readily admits to - the key to his music is how he filters these influences through his own unique sensibility to arrive at something that sounds fresh, original and contemporary rather than derivative and retro. Containing eight songs and with a running time of only 34 minutes, 'Criterion...' might seem a short album by today's standards, but it's a substantial artistic statement and, of course, it is ideally suited to vinyl, Motta's favourite medium for recorded music (he boasts a collection of 30,000 records).

The new LP starts off with a mellow mid-tempo groove called 'Lost Connection To Prague,' a meditation on alienation and discombobulation, where Motta's rich, soul-infused vocals are framed by jazzy Rhodes chords. Also striking is lead guitarist Tiago Arruda's extended Larry Carlton-esque jazz-rock fretboard tropes.

The soul community will lap up 'The Sweetest Berry,' a succulent, romantic, groove ballad that has echoes of Motta's favourite vocalist, the great Donny Hathaway, in its musical DNA. That particular song's virtue is its relative simplicity, which means that it contrasts acutely with the taut, sophisto-jazz-funk of 'Novice Never Required,' a more cryptic song seemingly about espionage and a shady business deal.

Also draped in mystery is the more breezy 'Required Dress Code,' which sonically comes across like Christopher Cross re-imagined by Messrs Becker and Fagen. Its lyrics tell the story of a party where a new, unspecified and perhaps illicit, 'substance' is introduced to the guests.  'X1 In Test,' on the other hand, enters into the world of sci-fi while 'The Tiki's Broken There'- a sinuous duet with female vocalist Cidalia Castro - is steeped in film noir mystique. It's also distinguished by something you don't often hear on pop records - a lovely bass clarinet solo.

More direct and less oblique is a humorous chunk of shiny FM pop-rock called 'Shoulder Pads,' Motta's tribute to the 1980s, though one suspects it's coming from a tongue-in-cheek angle, especially when he sings, "I'm missing the '80s...my mullet and my car."

'Criterion Of The Senses' is an immersive listen that takes you deep into Ed Motta's intriguing world where the songs resonate like half-remembered dreams. Ultimately, it's a supremely enriching experience that is deeply satisfying and yet leaves you craving more.   

(CW) 4/5

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2018 12:21

 

VARIOUS: Soul Togetherness 2018 (Expansion)

Tuesday, 25 September 2018 18:43 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThere is probably a complex explanation as to why, as you grow older, annual events seem to come round more quickly than ever before. So, it's with a shudder of surprise that I'm pleased to announce that Expansion's soul extravaganza that is the annual 'Soul Togetherness' compilation is now with us. Can it be 12 months since the last one.... can it be 18 years since the first one? Yep, that's the simple fact and yep, the new 15 tracker has been put together (by Richard Searling and Ralph Tee) with the same passion, love and knowledge as the very first instalment in the franchise..... and yep, the quality of the music is every bit as good as any of the other 'Togetherness' sets.

The recipe is the same too (why change a winning formula?). That's to say you get the musical cream from the year's modern soul scene along with the odd left-fielder and a choice oldie or two. Here the big oldie is The Ritchie Family's 1982 outing 'One And Only' and even though it's something like 35 years old, its sonic template, groove, vibe and feel isn't a million miles away from the more contemporary items on offer.

Over the year, here at SOULANDJAZZANDFUNK, we've pointed you to most of those contemporary items – notably Cornell Carter's 'That Feelin'', Kenny Thomas' 'Your Love', James Day's 'He's A Hurricane', John Reid's 'All Night Long' and Jakki Graham's 'About Your Love'.

Of the less familiar stuff we heartily recommend the Change "comeback cut" 'Hit Or Miss', the Motown Gospel outing 'One More Praise' from Brian Courtney Wilson' and the ab fab 'Do Something' from the wonderfully named Ernest Ernie and the Sincerities which magically blends uptown sophistication with gritty southern passion. Yes, it does owe more than a little to 'What's Going On' but it's still a magnificent modern soul gem. But we could say that about any other 14 tracks here!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2018 19:00

 

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