Reviews

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

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS: 'The Jerry Ragovoy Story: Time Is On My Side 1953-2003' (Label: Kent)

Tuesday, 10 June 2008 11:43 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS ARTISTS: 'The Jerry Ragovoy Story: Time Is On My Side 1953-2003'

"I was like Hitler when it came to vocals." Those are the recent words of 73-year-old Jerry Ragovoy - a self-confessed perfectionist and despot in the studio - for the liner notes to this fabulous career chronicle that spans a fertile fifty-year period in the Philadelphia-born record producer's career. Like fellow East Coast record producers, Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler, Ragovoy was a big city white boy with immigrant parents who was seduced by R&B music and, to use his own words, "absorbed the black musical idiom. I could well have been born black because, ultimately, it became a natural musical expression for me." The collection begins with Ragovoy's undisputed magnum opus: 'Stay With Me,' as recorded by big-voiced Lorraine Ellison in 1966. An epic slice of symphonic soul, 'Stay With Me' was really a stunning showcase of Ragovoy's abilities as a musician - not only did he produce the record, but he also wrote, arranged and played piano on it too. Another of Ragovoy's big tunes was 'Time Is On My Side,' as made famous by Irma Thomas and The Rolling Stones - this CD includes the original version, cut by Danish jazz trombone player, Kai Winding, in 1963, with Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston on vocals. Other gems featured here come from soul man Garnett Mimms, Dusty Springfield ('What's It Gonna Be'), Howard Tate ('You're Looking Good'), Irma Thomas ('The Hurt's All Gone'), Lou Courtney ('What Do You Want Me To Do?'), Dionne Warwick ('Move Me No Mountain'), and Major Harris ('Pretty Red Lips'). The album closes with one of Ragovoy's most recent productions - 'Get It While You Can,' taken from Howard Tate's 2003 comeback album. Although he compared himself with a fascist dictator in the studio, all the recordings here reveal that Ragovoy possessed the knack of eliciting great performances out of the singers he was working with. A wonderful and absorbing portrait of the artist as producer.
(CW) 5/5

 

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