BAR-KAYS: 'Injoy' (Label: Hip-O Select)

Thursday, 13 March 2008 13:46 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

BAR-KAYS: 'Injoy'

Beginning life as The River Arrows, this Memphis R&B group was reborn after a fateful plane crash claimed four of its members along with soul singer Otis Redding in 1967. Survivors, James Alexander (bass) and Ben Cauley (trumpet), brought in new personnel and the group established itself at Stax/Volt in the late-'60s and early'70s as a funky instrumental combo with hits like 'Son Of Shaft.' By 1979 when this Mercury album was released, The Bar-Kays had gained a lead vocalist in Larry Dodson and morphed into a ten-member funk-disco outfit. The album (on CD for the first time) spawned a big US hit in the shape of 'Move Your Boogie Body,' which boasts a dirty synth bass line and sounds like a sonic synthesis of early Gap Band and Parliament. Its follow-up, 'Today Is The Day' - a grandiose Commodores-style pop/soul ballad - wasn't as successful chart-wise, but illustrates the group's versatility. What the group did best, though, was churn out chunks of seismic, horn-saturated funk and there are plenty of tunes here that fall into that category. Mighty funky and finally available in the UK via Universal's Import Music Services.
(CW) 3/5


BOBBY HEBB: 'Sunny' (Label: Hip-O Select)

Thursday, 13 March 2008 13:43 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Born in Nashville, the Mecca of American country music, Bobby Hebb studied guitar with Chet Atkins and even performed at the famous Grand Ole Opry venue before taking his unique amalgam of soul, country and jazz to New York in the early '60s. Hebb is often regarded as a one-hit wonder, though for the record, he enjoyed a couple of hits on both sides of the Atlantic. 'Sunny,' of course, was his biggest chart triumph and that much-covered number became his signature song. The parent album was released in 1966 on the Phillips label and interestingly, its front cover didn't feature Hebb at all - as was de rigueur back then with many black artists, the front cover featured a wholesome vanilla-hued model. The famous title song is profoundly poignant given its source of inspiration: it was written about Hebb's brother Hal, who was tragically killed in a mugging the day after J.F.K. was assassinated in November 1963. The original album that spawned the song was available to US buyers a couple of years ago but is now available via UK retailers through Universal's Import Music Services. Remastered and packaged in a facsimile of its original LP cover, besides the classic title track, 'Sunny' features 'A Satisfied Mind,' Hebb's soulful reconfiguration of an old country tune, and the big Northern Soul anthem, the stomping 'Love Love Love,' which dented the UK Top 40 in 1972. This is a reissue guaranteed to light up the life of many a soul music connoisseur. But you'd better hurry though - it's strictly a limited edition item.
(CW) 4/5


THE RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO: In Person 1965-67 (Label: Rev-o-La)

Thursday, 13 March 2008 06:41 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

THE RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO: In Person 1965-67

Though some short-sighted jazz purists enjoy taking pot shots at Ramsey Lewis, there can be no argument about the sterling work he did in the mid-sixties to popularize jazz with a series of swinging albums and chart-riding singles which he cut for the Chess organization. There's any number of Ramsey Lewis compilations out there and, rightly, they're stuffed with the big hits and the well-known tunes. This new Rev-o-la set, however, is different. It contains two full albums back to back - '65's 'Hang On Ramsey' and '67's 'Dancing In The Street'. Both were recorded live - the former at the Hermosa Beach Lighthouse Club and the latter and San Francisco's Basin Street West - and both have that lovely live, organic swing that marked out Lewis's hits like 'Hang On Sloopy'… and indeed that foot-tapping rework of the Vibrations/ McCoy's hit is at the heart of this collection. But the great thing about having the full albums (as opposed to just the hits) is that it's patently clear that Lewis was - indeed still is - a great and true jazz stylist. On stuff like 'Satin Doll' and 'What Now My Love' the playing is as dextrous, as sensitive and as soulful as anything the "proper" jazz heavyweights were laying down at the time. Maybe, just maybe, the purists we alluded to up top felt that scoring hits wasn't quite right; maybe they wanted to keep the great music to themselves. Thank goodness then for Ramsey Lewis. He turned many onto jazz and plenty of that many - me included - went on to investigate and discover a whole new world of exciting music. Great to have these two fabulous LPs back on the racks and for the anoraks Eldee Young and Red Holt are bassist and drummer on 'Hang On…' while Cleveland Eaton and a young Maurice White take the roles on 'Dancing In The Street'.
(BB) 4/5


CLARE TEAL: Get Happy (Label: W14 Music)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008 10:37 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF


Clare Teal isn't everybody's idea of a jazz singer but she has a legion of devoted fans who'll simply point doubters to the numerous jazz awards she's won in recent years and those fans will delight in this new album - chiefly because it follows the recipe of her previous best sellers. That's to say it contains a good mix of standards, original songs and Clare's unique take on classic pop tunes. That latter category provides a couple of the album's high spots in 'Love Hurts' and 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do'. On the old Everly Brothers' hit, her vocal brings out the poignant beauty of Boudleaux Bryant's melody while the Neil Sedaka '62 teen angst anthem is beautifully slowed down. The lady treats Van Morrison's 'Moondance' with more respect , while versions of standards like 'Love For Sale', 'Cheek To Cheek' and 'The Very Thought Of You' aren't too different from the way their venerable writers would have envisaged them. Of the originals, 'All For Love' is an almost 50s kitsch throwback, 'Get On It Sam' has a lovely Bacharach-Swingle Singers feel to it, while 'High Love' is a lovely lounge ballad. By using the same five piece band throughout, 'Get Happy' achieves a real coherence despite the variety of the material and that unity is reinforced by Teal's convincing vocals and her enthusiasm. She sounds happy doing what she's doing and my guess is that she doesn't give a toss for the doubters. She's having fun getting happy and you can too.
(BB) 4/5


NAYO: 'African Girl' (Label: Fyro Music)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008 08:07 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

NAYO: 'African Girl'

Soul purists - a blinkered, myopic breed at the best of times - will probably turn their noses up at this soul-infused 10-track collection by Nigerian singer/songwriter, Nayo Abidoye. If so, they're denying themselves a deeply delicious and eminently memorable musical experience - sure, 'African Girl' is pop-tinged and peppered with catchy hook lines but behind the gleaming radio-friendly production values you'll some truly fabulous songs and alluring vocal performances. Although she cites Astrud Gilberto, Bob Marley, Sade and Fela Kuti as her four main influences, Nayo's music bears no resemblance to anything issued by that illustrious quartet. In fact, her sound isn't easily definable and transcends categorization - what is unequivocal, though, is that the resulting album is as refreshing, exotic and colourful as a thirst-quenching tropical cocktail. Some readers may be familiar with a couple of tracks - the excellent 'African Girl' and 'Desert Storm' - which were issued as singles in 2007. The title track is a beautiful song - a gently undulating, hypnotic groove laced with subtle tinctures of keyboard and guitar over which Nayo delivers a plaintive and infectious vocal melody. The soft, bossa nova-style ambience of 'Overdose On Love' is also seductive to the ear, as are the poignant 'Harder Than Rock,' 'Fool For You' and the sensuous, Latin-flavoured 'Mr. So & So,' which features atmospheric touches of Spanish guitar. To tell the truth, there are no duff moments on this attractive album - the fact that I've been playing 'African Girl' more than any other album during the last month or so tells its own story. A shining example of well-crafted, noughties pop-soul.
(CW) 4/5


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