Reviews

VARIOUS: In The Naked City (Label: Kent)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008 13:52 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: In The Naked City

Kent's latest themed compilation takes New York City as its focal point, though, for the Naked City (a nickname from a popular 60s TV cops show) you could substitute any major urban centre that acts as a magnet for society's flotsam and jetsam and optimistic wannabees. But it's New York, more than any other place, that has a unique gravity and that fact is reflected in the number of popular songs that either take the Big Apple as a literal or an implied focus, and this CD offers 24 great examples from the soul genre. What, though, makes this album so attractive is that the compilers (Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce) have gone for less obvious items. Naturally, we get songs like 'Spanish Harlem' and 'On Broadway' but in the "secondary" versions from Aretha Franklin and The Cookies respectively. Other "big city chestnuts" on the set are 'Up On The Roof'' and 'Uptown', but, again, rather than the well-known and/original versions, here the artists are Ralfi Pagan and Little Eva - making the album that bit more intriguing - an intrigue accentuated by lesser-known recordings from people like the Drifters ('Up In The Streets Of Harlem'), Walter Jackson ('No Butterflies'), the Tymes ('Street Talk') and Chuck Jackson ('Big New York'). Other goodies include Audrey Freeman's 'Three Rooms' (covered in the UK in the 60s by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers) and Dee Clark's 'In My Apartment'. Good, too, to have Jerry Butler's reading of Randy Newman's classic tenement life saga 'I Don' Want To Hear It Anymore' and Barry Darvell's Drifters' pastiche 'I Found A Daisy In The City' if only for the fact that his backing band are the wonderfully named Hash Brown and His Orchestra. Personal favourite amongst the 24 is Colette Kelly's jazz-infected 'City Of Fools'. The original Stax/Volt original is hugely collectable and possesses a unique sound not usually associated with the Memphis label 'cos it was recorded in Baltimore and licensed to Stax. It is, though, just one treasure amongst many.
(BB) 4/5

 

PRESTON GLASS: Music As Medicine (Label: Expansion)

Friday, 13 June 2008 07:31 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

PRESTON GLASS: Music As Medicine

Preston Glass is a music producer. He's worked with people like EWF, Aretha, the Temptations and George Benson - as well as Kenny G and Johnny Mathis, and sadly too many of the MOR influences associated with the last pair infect this 16 tracker. I say "sadly" 'cos Glass' credentials are such that he can call on lots of big names to help him put together his music but he seems to waste what they can offer. Soul-wise, there's no bigger name here than Ali Woodson. The big-voiced ex Temptation is a huge favourite in the UK, but here Glass saddles him with a pair of poor songs. 'Blackberry' begins well enough and Ali's in typical forceful form - but then the song morphs into Rod Stewart's 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' and all is lost. There there's 'Without The Music'. This one's an overblown, trite ballad of the Dianne Warren-type and though Ali gives it his all (along with duettist Punkin), he deserves better. Both of those cuts sound very old-fashioned; indeed the whole LP could have been recorded in the 80s. The almost funky 'Feel No Pain' (featuring Keni Jackson) best exemplifies the sound. Best cuts? Well the Wilton Felder-led 'Good For Me' mines a steady groove, but, again could've come from an album like 'Rhapsody And Blues', while 'Everybody Let's Dance' (featuring Lyndon Carter) might please the undemanding steppers. Worst cut? Easy… the cod-Caribbean romp that is 'Burn It' is pretty dire and possibly the worst track to grace any Expansion album. Indeed there's more than one cut here out of kilter with what we've come to expect from Expansion.
(BB) 2/5

 

FUNKATIZED: Funkatized (Label: www.funkatized.com)

Thursday, 12 June 2008 15:05 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

FUNKATIZED: Funkatized

Funkatized are a Berlin-based duo - Dee Gee and En Bee, and though their definition of "funk" isn't the classic definition, the pair certainly know how to concoct a good groove. The "funk" in Funkatized, you see, isn't the sparse, gritty, raw funk of people like James Brown, Dyke and the Blazers and George Clinton: rather, it's the more polished variety that found favour in the 80s with bands like Incognito and the Brand New Heavies. Purists might say that it isn't funk at all; they might call it Acid Jazz and if they were being pernickety they'd also mention the house overtones. But that's all down to labelling and tags and as has been said long and often, labels only have a limited use - musically, in the end, there's just good and bad music… and there's lots here that's good. Driven by a jazzy Fender Rhodes and burbling bass lines the Funkatized 14 tracker debut CD will set feet taping and heads nodding. In what can be a limiting soundscape the duo bring variety with a number of clever gambits. 'Monster Funk', for instance, is led by a synthesized vibraphone; 'Let Me Know features vocoded vocals, while 'Pfunstudh' (don't ask!) defies the studio setting with a real live feel. Overall the sound is busy, bright and bubbling and will bring to mind the aforementioned Incognito and the Brand New Heavies, though in places I was reminded of Down To The Bone. The nearest Funkatized get to old school, classic funk is on 'Cheescaked' where the mid-tempo beats really do hit home. What this album lacks, though, is a big vocal track. In places there are vocal hints - chanted choruses and loose interjections, but no proper 'song' to give the LP a focus. Maybe next time? In the meantime, if you still hanker after the classic Acid Jazz scene and dig a good groove, you'll find much to satisfy here. You can find out more at www.funkatized.com
(BB) 3/5

 

INCOGNITO: 'Tales From The Beach' (Label: Dome)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008 17:31 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

INCOGNITO: 'Tales From The Beach'


You know exactly what to expect with Incognito. In fact, it's true to say that their records offer very little in terms of surprise. But that isn't necessarily a negative thing - far from it. Indeed, it's the band's reliability and even their very predictability that's the key to their enduring popularity. In short, they never disappoint. Their music follows a familiar template comprising smooth, slickly-arranged songs that blend soul, jazz, Latin and funk flavours into an immediately identifiable whole that's become the group's signature sound. With that in mind, this new album - the umpteenth offering from Bluey Maunick's long running jazz-funk outfit - is largely indistinguishable from its predecessors: the grooves are burnished, the vocals impeccable, the horns punchy and the tunes well-crafted. More importantly, it maintains the high quality of previous efforts like 'Positivity,' '100 Degrees & Rising,' and last year's 'Bees + Things + Flowers.' For me, the group's vibrant, upbeat sound is synonymous with summer and there's no better summer record around at the moment than this gorgeous collection featuring stunning lead vocals from Incognito stalwarts Maysa Leak, Joy Rose, Tony Momrelle and Imaani. Highlights here include the propulsive dancer, 'I've Been Waiting,' a chunk of earthy funk called 'I Come Alive (Rimshots and Basses),' and a lovely mid-tempo ballad entitled 'I Remember A Time,' featuring a sublime vocal from the ever-dependable Maysa Leak. Another predictably fine offering from the UK's best jazz-funk band.
(CW) 4/5

 

ELI 'PAPERBOY' REED & THE TRUE LOVES: Roll With You (Label: Q Division)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008 11:18 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

ELI 'PAPERBOY' REED & THE TRUE LOVES: Roll With You

The wonderfully-named Eli 'Paperboy' Reed is a white musician who, along with his six-piece True Loves, operates out of Boston. The Paperboy, though, served his musical apprenticeship in the Mississippi Delta and at Mitty Collier's Chicago church, where he led the choirs and played the piano. It would be too obvious to say that those experiences show - but they do. 'Roll With You', you see, is a brand new album, but it's stuffed with real, old school soul - the kind peddled back in the day by the great and classic soul stylists. Listen in here and hear echoes of Otis Redding, Joe Tex, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Dyke and the Blazers and many more, but what makes this eleven tracker much more than an exercise in pastiche or karaoke is the commitment of the young Reed and his tighter-than-tight band. Simply put, the seven piece have a huge, youthful exuberance which makes the music exciting and vibrant - just as it was in those heady days of the 60s when classic soul was crystallising. Though I'm not suggesting that 'Roll With You' matches albums like 'Otis Blue', it does offer the same kind of passion, commitment and variety. If you dig soul ballads, there's 'It's Easier' - a big pleading song with a throbbing bass line, while 'Am I Just Fooling Myself' has almost the same ache quotient as 'I've Been Loving You Too Long'. Fuel for the feet is provided by the fast and furious ' Stake Your Claim' while 'Doin' The Boom Boom' is one of those catchy dance numbers that populated the best 60s soul output. Stand out cut, though is 'Take My Love With You'. It starts with some honest James Brown-style testifying before morphing into a rough, swinging affair that even Sam Cooke would have been proud of. It has a real internal energy - indeed the uncomplicated dynamism of the whole set makes 'Roll With You' totally refreshing. If Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings represent the distaff side of the new breed soul/funk revival, then the Paperboy and his True Loves represent the male side.
BB 4/5

 

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