MOLLY JOHNSON: If You Know Love (Label: Anthem, Universal)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:43 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF


This Canadian chanteuse was something of a precociously talented child prodigy, performing in professional stage productions as a youngster and then fronting her own disco covers band, Chocolate Affair, as a teenager. Come the 1980s, Johnson was performing with the rock bands Alta Moda and the Infidels though with success proving elusive, she turned her attention to jazz. Judging from the smoky, finely-nuanced sonorities of Johnson's voice on this follow up her to her much-lauded one-off Blue Note offering, 2003's 'Another Day,' the Toronto-born singer has found her musical vocation. That's not to say, though, that she's abandoned pop and rock altogether, as the catchy 'Rain' and 'Sunday' illustrate, the latter evincing a lovely summer ambience. But jazz is Johnson's true metier, as evidenced by the delicious title track, a succulent slice of retro-jazz that will inevitably draw comparisons with Madeleine Peyroux. There are tasty covers, too, of the jazz standards 'Let's Do It,' and 'But Not For Me,' while 'Avignon Blues' is an after-hours number that invokes the spirit of blues singers like Bessie Smith. The album's eclectic nature is underlined by 'Let's Waste Some Time,' a gorgeous Brazilian bossa groove, and the funk-tinged original, 'Sticks and Stones.' Likely to get airtime on the influential Michael Parkinson radio show, Molly Johnson looks set to finally break into the big time.
(CW) 4/5


THE MEMPHIS HORNS: The Memphis Horns With Special Guests (Label: Telarc)

Friday, 19 October 2007 06:03 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

THE MEMPHIS HORNS: The Memphis Horns With Special Guests

Here's a great re-issue that will appeal to classic soul collectors AND Bobby Womack completists. Originally issued in 1995, the set ostensibly belongs to the Memphis Horns - essentially Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, a duo whose brass work graced and embellished countless Stax hits through the sixties and seventies. Here, however, they're joined by a number of very special guests including the aforementioned Mr. Womack. Bobby gets to sing on a couple of cuts - a version of Sam Cooke's 'Somebody Have Mercy' and his own original composition, 'Break The Chain'. Both are as you'd expect from the line-up that's enhanced by Isaac Hayes on Hammond and Bobby himself on guitar. Other featured vocalists include Etta James, Mavis Staples, Robert Cray, Leon Russell and William Bell and if that's not enough to tempt real soul lovers I don't know what is. Song-wise, most of the tunes are soul standards like 'Take Me To The River', 'Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa' and 'You Don't Miss Your Water'. Insensitive people would call the sound old-fashioned, but those who really know soul will call it all timeless. One of the best cuts on the set features a new name to me - Warren Haynes. Haynes, apparently, is a member of the Allman Brothers touring band and he offers a truly impassioned vocal and some biting guitar to a standout version of Otis Redding's 'I've Been Loving You Too Long.' Real soul music for real grown ups.
(BB) 3/5


VARIOUS: Vintage Grooves - Funk (Label: Seamless)

Friday, 19 October 2007 06:01 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Vintage Grooves - Funk

Seamless continue their Vintage Grooves Series with this generally excellent two CD funk compilation that scores by combining the obvious and familiar with the rare and esoteric. Of the well-known there's stuff like AWB's 'Pick Up The Pieces', Labelle's 'Lady Marmalade' and Sly's 'Family Affair'. Maybe a bit less obvious are the Watts 103rd. Street Rhythm Band's 'Express Yourself' and Positive Force's 'We Got The Funk' -both great cuts but so often overlooked in collections like this. A lot less obvious are Jackie McLean's 'Doctor Jackyll and Mister Funk', George Duke's 'Reach For It', the Brecker Brothers' 'Sneakin' Up Behind You' and The Headhunters' 'God Made Me Funky'. Critics could point to the omission of real hard funk of the James Brown/Dyke and the Blazers variety and the spaced out funk of the whole Parliament/Funkadelic brigade, but generally over the 28 cuts here, you do get a good definition of what funk is/was all about… and anything that flags up Donny Hathaway's 'The Ghetto' and Curtis Mayfield's 'Freddie's Dead' deserves some recognition
(BB) 4/5


THE DRIFTERS: Now, Love Games, Every Nite's A Saturday Nite, There Goes My First Love (Label: 7t's - Cherry Red)

Friday, 19 October 2007 05:59 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

THE DRIFTERS: Now, Love Games, Every Nite's A Saturday Nite, There Goes My First Love

The Drifters are soul institution. Indeed their 'There Goes My Baby' is often cited as the first uptown soul record. However, despite a hugely distinctive sound the group were more of brand than an actual entity. With the name owned by George and Faye Treadwell, who put band members on a salary, personnel came and went with an annoying regularity and it was no surprise that by the end of the sixties the soul hits started to dry up. Then something strange started to happen. In the early 70s several of their old sixties sides became re-issued hits in the UK and the band decamped to Britain to promote them. Led by veteran vocalist Johnny Moore, they packed audiences in the length and breadth of the cabaret circuit and as a result they landed a deal with Bell Records. The label put them in the studio with Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook and between them they concocted a sound that had little to do with the Drifters' US roots, but it was a sound that was hugely successful in the UK charts. Sing-along pop ditties like 'Love Games', 'Like Sister And Brother', 'Down On The Beach Tonight' and 'More Than A Number In My Little Red Book' stormed the hit parade even though the band's line-up remained in a constant state of flux. For those who are Drifters' completists, the Cherry Red people have just re-issued all three Bell albums along with their Arista set, and yes the sound is poppy but it is a rather superior pop - and amongst the albums there is the odd old soul gem - like a great version of 'Always Something There To Remind Me'. So, not to be knocked these albums … somewhere, someone will love 'em.
(BB) 3/5


DOMU presents PETE SIMPSON: Look A Little Further (Label: Papa Records)

Friday, 19 October 2007 05:50 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

DOMU presents PETE SIMPSON: Look A Little Further

Domu is the alter ego of UK DJ/producer Dominic Stanton known on the underground dance scene for his soul influenced beats. Here he's teamed up with Reel People's Mike Patto and Jill Scott collaborator Pete Kuzma to craft a tasty ten tracker that won't appeal to the conservative element within the soul crowd (nothing retro here - sorry), but it will attract those with adventurous ears seeking something just a little different. There are some great songs herein, but what really makes it all happen is the vocal of Pete Simpson. Simpson is a Yorkshire lad - buy you wouldn't know it. He's worked the UK gospel circuits for some years, is a key elements of the Unabomber's Elektrons set up and he sounds every bit as soulful as anyone currently recording Stateside. Hear the proof from the off with the opener, 'Don't Hide' - it's a great rumbling tune. Good - but bettered by 'Ain't No Fool' which reminds me (and I can't really say why) of a Rahsaan Patterson dancer - the tasty Rhodes solo is this particular cake's icing… think classic Bob James. Elsewhere, 'Second Chance' is an almost housey shuffle; 'Won't Give Up' has a light Latin feel to it; while the title cut brings the album together in fine style. 'Look A Little Further' draws its lyrical inspiration form the words of Martin Luther King, while musically, the clear influence is Charles Stepney's work with Rotary Connection. It's a complex piece and as I said in opening, this LP's changes and diversity will delight those who want a little controlled, soul-heritage based adventure in their music.
(BB) 4/5


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