Reviews

REEL PEOPLE: Seven Ways To Wonder (Label: Papa Records)

Friday, 11 January 2008 08:40 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

REEL PEOPLE: Seven Ways To Wonder

Musos, producers and all round good guys Oli Lazarus and Mike Patto make up the core of Reel People and their debut set 'Second Guess' won acclaim from right across the soul/dance music spectrum. It found favour with both the modern soul crew and those who like their beats a tad more house-flavoured and with this follow-up, 'Seven Ways To Wonder' they're set to repeat that success. Here, the duo almost repeat the formula - but if anything they up the soul quotient - though they don't totally ditch the house sensitivities. It appears to me that the Reel boys might have spent some time this year listening to 4 Hero's wonderful 'Play With Changes' set. There the sound owed much to the classic soul grooves of 70s and 80s artists and producers like Maze and Charles Stepney and here we get that same addictively mesmerising soul feel - though (as with 'Play With Changes') everything's thoroughly modern. Take the opener as a case in point. 'Alibi' remarkably features a production that seems to combine the feel of Incognito, the rhythms of Sergio Mendes and the energy of Stevie Wonder. Add to all that a big vocal from native New Yorker, Darien, and you have a cut that satisfies at every level. Darien's also at the mike for another of the LP's big tunes - 'Upside'. This one's a crisp, fastish, finger-clickin' dancer that will delight the modern soul room. They'll also lap up 'Amazing'. Here the vocal's down to the ever-reliable Tony Momrelle and Imaani and they're just right for the tight little beater that features bubbling keys that will recall Maze's 'Twilight'. Other album goodies include 'Anything You Want' (featuring a funky vocal from Tanita D'Mour), 'It Will Be' (an Incognito shuffle layered under Benson-esque vocals) and 'Perfect Sky' (on which Joy Rose recalls the lovely Minnie Riperton). In truth I could have done without 'Ordinary Man' - too much like Hall and Oates' 'Man Eater' - but it's more than compensated for by the jazzy Vanessa Freeman vocalised 'Rise And Fly'. Add to all that a couple of bonuses in the form of a kitchen-sink-all-hands-on-deck Rasmus Faber remix of 'Alibi' and a great sparse soulful Pete Kuzman tweak on 'Upside' and you have a delicious modern soul album that is truly modern, despite its retro roots. The album will be available in March.
(BB) 4/5

 

TONY REMY & BLUEY: 'First Protocol : Incognito Guitars' (Label: Dome)

Friday, 11 January 2008 06:06 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

TONY REMY & BLUEY: 'First Protocol :  Incognito Guitars'

In theory and on paper at least, this Incognito side project featuring the 'duelling' guitars of Jean Paul 'Bluey' Maunick and ace axe man, Tony Remy, seemed to offer a potentially exciting musical collaboration - after all, given Remy's high standing in the UK jazz fraternity and Bluey's impeccable Incognito jazz-funk credentials, their joint creative labours should in all probability amount to something significant and maybe, if we're lucky, even special. No such luck though. In actuality, the all-instrumental 'First Protocol' is disappointingly lightweight and even, I'm afraid to say, dull and slightly sterile - despite the presence of heavyweight funk meister Amp Fiddler playing keyboards on the Latin-tinged opener, 'Beyond Jupiter.' Mostly what 'First Protocol' amounts to is indulgent melodic doodling over ambient and largely programmed dance beats (exemplified best by 'See No Evil' and 'Where Did You Go?'). If perceived solely as innocuous background or mood music, this CD is fine, but don't expect it to engage you in the same way that Incognito's music does…it patently lacks the soul that vocalists like Maysa Leak inject into the group's sound (in fact, it's a shame there are no vocal cameos here to add a bit of variety to the proceedings). Tracks like the fluid, fusion-lite grooves 'Only Child' and 'The Other Side Of Me' - arguably the album's best number - are pleasant enough and will seduce some smooth jazz devotees, but they are also overlong and reek at times of muso self-indulgence. At least that's my take on this album. Still, if mesmeric guitar-led smooth jazz is your thing, this might be right up your street musically speaking.
(CW) 3/5

 

VARIOUS: 'American Gangster: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack' (Label: Def Jam)

Thursday, 10 January 2008 12:03 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: 'American Gangster: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack'


There are some fine vintage soul cuts on this soundtrack CD to movie director Ridley Scott's epic recent crime flick, 'American Gangster,' starring Denzil Washington as '70s Harlem drug lord, Frank Lucas. Most soul buffs will have, of course, Bobby Womack's brilliantly cinematic 'Across 110th Street' in their collections along with Sam & Dave's 'Hold On I'm Comin'' and The Staple Singers' 'I'll Take You There' - however, this CD is worth listening to for two brand new tracks by the doyen of neo Southern Soul, Anthony Hamilton. 'Do You Feel Me' with its sanctified organ, Steve Cropper-esque guitar licks and greasy horns is a stunning big ballad that sounds like it was cut at Stax in the '70s. That's remarkably surprising given that it was penned by MOR tunesmith, Diane Warren. Not quite as impressive is 'Stone Cold,' a slice of frenzied, organic, retro-funk influenced by James Brown. The remainder of the album is fleshed out by blues cuts from Lowell Fulson and John Lee Hooker plus some militant hip-hop from Public Enemy and funky soundtrack cues from Hank Shocklee. That may not be enough to convince most soul fans to risk a purchase - perhaps the best option, then, is to acquire Hamilton's 'Do You Feel Me' in CD single format or as a download.
(CW) 3/5

 

TED TAYLOR, REUBEN BELL & EDDIE GILES: 'Sound City Soul Brothers' (Label: Soulscape)

Wednesday, 09 January 2008 11:10 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

TED TAYLOR, REUBEN BELL & EDDIE GILES: 'Sound City Soul Brothers'

For some listeners, Ted Taylor's distinctive high-pitched tenor voice with its dramatic, keening quality might be something of an acquired taste but that didn't stop the man from Okmulgee in Oklahoma cracking Billboard's R&B Top 30 on three occasions in the '60s and '70s. Taylor's biggest smash was 'Stay Away From My Baby' for Okeh in 1965 and although the going got tougher chart-wise in the '70s, he scored a minor chart-entry with 'Steal Away,' one of several strong cuts recorded at a Shreveport company called Alarm run out of Sound City Studios by music entrepreneur, Jim Lewis (incidentally, Alarm rose out of the ashes of the Soul Power label, which gave the world the marvellous Tommie Young). Taylor's 'Steal Away' from 1976 is one of several fine and largely forgotten tunes on this superb 24-track compilation (subtitled 'The Untold Story Of Shreveport Soul') that also showcases recordings by label mates Reuben Bell and Eddie Giles. There are eight songs in all by Taylor, including the funky 'Everybody's Stealin'' and the wonderful ballad, 'I'm Gonna Hate Myself In The Morning,' one of three fine numbers co-penned by the redoubtable Sam Dees. Unlike Taylor, Texas singer Reuben Giles (whose easy-on-the-ear vocal style sounds like an amalgam of Bill Withers and Johnny 'Guitar' Watson) was unable to score a chart hit while at Alarm in the mid-'70s (he did, however, make the R&B lists in 1972 with 'I Hear You Knocking' for DeLuxe). There are seven of Giles' recordings here, including the gospel-infused 'Asking For The Truth,' and an excellent orchestrated ballad, 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.' Concluding the collection is Eddie Giles, a Shreveport native, who was born Elbert Wiggins Giles. After recording for the indie labels Murco and Silver Fox, he joined Alarm in 1973. Nine of his songs are featured here, including the strident 'Are You Living With The One You're Loving With' and gutsy, uptempo 'How Many Times,' where Giles' energetic, soulful vocal is punctuated by Stax-style horns. The pleading, Sam Cooke-esque slow ballad, 'How Many Times' is also strong and illustrates that Giles was much more than a Wilson Pickett-style soul shouter. Paul Mooney's informative liner notes fill in the necessary background detail, rounding out what is a vivid and rewarding snapshot of a small Southern soul label and its three principal male artists.
(CW) 4/5

 

SANDRA PHILLIPS & BETTY WILLIAMS: 'Swamp Dogg's Southern Soul Girls' (Label: Kent)

Wednesday, 09 January 2008 11:06 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

SANDRA PHILLIPS & BETTY WILLIAMS: 'Swamp Dogg's Southern Soul Girls'

Adultery was a big money-spinner in the 1970s - at least in relation to soul music, which spawned a slew of risqué records focusing on adulterous love triangles, steamy ménage a trois and clandestine sexual liaisons. Everyone was doing it - or at least in seemed that way, what with Billy Paul extolling the joys of infidelity on 'Me & Mrs. Jones,' Bill Withers asking 'Who Is He And What Is He To You?' and a lust-crazed Luther Ingram proclaiming '(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right.' Women, too, got in on the act, with the likes of Millie Jackson, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, and Shirley Brown (to name a few) all chipping in their pennyworth. This new double-header from Kent is jam-packed with heart-rending tales of illicit love and lust and focuses on the work of two obscure female singers who worked under the aegis of legendary Southern Soul producer, Jerry 'Swamp Dogg' Williams. Cult songstress Sandra Phillips cut an album with Williams at the helm for Wally Roker's Canyon label - home also to Doris Duke and her classic album, 'I'm A Loser' - amusingly titled 'Too Many People In One Bed,' which came out in 1970. It appears in its entirety here. Dominated by Phillips' passionate vocals and featuring excellent arrangements and first class material penned by Williams, it proves to be a forgotten tour de force of Southern Soul. Highlights include harrowing confessional ballads like 'To The Other Woman (I'm The Other Woman)' - as good as the original cut by Doris Duke - 'She Didn't Know (She Kept On Talking)' (which became a US hit for Dee Dee Warwick later the same year), the thumping Aretha-like 'Some Mother's Son' and a super-soulful remake of The Supremes' 'Someday We'll Be Together.' Besides Phillips' 12-track Canyon LP, this compilation includes 9 cuts by recondite chanteuse, Bette Williams. Little is known about the mysterious husky-voiced singer, but amongst her meagre recorded output are some fine performances - notably the gospel-infused stomper, 'He Took My Hand,' the funky, strident 'A Feeling (For Someone Else Has Grown),' and the memorable cheatin' songs 'If She's Your Wife (Who Am I),' and 'Another Man Took My Husband's Place.' Also included are two previously unissued cuts, making this 21-track CD an essential purchase for aficionados of gritty, tell-it-like-it-is, sock-it-to-'em Southern Soul. Absolutely unmissable.
(CW) 5/5

 

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