RONNIE McNEIR: Ronnie Mac and Company (Label: Jupiter Island)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:51 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

RONNIE McNEIR: Ronnie Mac and Company

UK soul hero Ronnie McNeir's now a well-established member of the Four Tops but the top Top Duke Fakir is flexible enough to allow Ron to pursue a solo career too and this new album should delight the big Mac's countless fans. They'll know what to expect - and they get it. So, no big blockbusters; rather, the set's a gentle 15 tracker of sophisticated, laid back, mature soul with more than a hint of cool jazz. Hear the flavour to best effect on the loose 'Look At The People'. The vocal may remind you of Al Jarreau, while the multi-note piano-chords are homage to one of Ron's big influences, jazz man Les McCann. Here that Les McCann influence even more on the very loose and leggy 'Don't Need Nobody'. The title of the set indicates that Ronnie's here working with others and of 'The Company', there's no bigger name than sax star Kirk Whalum. Kirk works his proverbial socks off on 'I'm In the Mood'. Kathy Lamar is another guest; She adds a sultry, spoken intro to 'Summertime Medley' and duets with Mr. M on 'Ain't It Good To Know That You've Got A Friend'. The other big name is fellow Four Top, Theo Peoples who helps out on the gospel-esque 'I Really Need Your Help Father'. Fans of Ronnie will recognize the re-working of 'Down In The Neighbourhood' and if you know anything about Ron's career you will understand why the LP closes with a personal tribute to his old mentor, Obie Benson, adding to the album's atmospherics.
(BB) 4/5


RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Wines And Spirits (Label: Dome)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:48 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF


Rahsaan Patterson is now a long-time UK soul hero and this new set should delight those of his fans who believe, like him, that soul music must move forward and evolve. That particular Patterson tenet is evident right from the off with the funky, jazzy, loose 'Cloud Nine'. It's not the old Temptations' song - but it's as adventurous as that particular creation was back in the day. Rahsaan unveils other new flavours too on 'Pitch Black', which, with its heavy bass introduction, is almost indie rock and on the lovely acoustic version of Janis Ian's 'Stars'. 'Time' is another interesting cut with and organic rap that really does fit in with both the song's feel and sentiments. However, the best tracks are those where Mr. P ploughs the furrows he's more familiar with and there's three here that are every bit as good as the man's signature, 'Don't Wanna Lose It'. First up there's the ultra wistful 'Feels Good'. Truly laid back and lazy, it's a delight. Then there's the hook-laden 'No Danger' - which is built around that swirling riff from Mark Johnson's 'Daydream', while 'Stop Breaking My Heat' will prove to be one of the year's sweetest ballads. Elsewhere, 'Delirium' is one those fast dancers that Rahsaan specialises in; 'Oh Lord Take Me' has a great live feel (interestingly it's also been released by a Patterson-fronted outfit called Sugarush Beat Company); and 'Higher Love' seems to draw inspiration from the Church. A fine modern soul album this - and I really do mean modern.
(BB) 4/5


VARIOUS: Quantic Presents The World's Rarest Funk 45s volume 2 (Label: Jazzman)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:46 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Quantic Presents The World's Rarest Funk 45s volume 2

Sequels - in music, film, literature or any artistic medium for that matter - often disappoint because they tend to dilute an original idea and reduce its impact with repetition. Not here, though. The law of diminishing returns shouldn't apply - I hope - to this second instalment of ultra-rare funk that maintains the high quality of the inaugural volume in this engaging series. Compiled by UK record producer, Will Quantic - of Quantic Soul Orchestra fame and who recently joined forces with soul chanteuse, Spanky Wilson - this compilation is jam-packed with some of the dustiest, dirtiest, low-down funk 45s that time forgot. It kicks off with the incredible booming funk of 'Clap Your Hands' by the impossibly recondite combo, Reginald Milton & The Soul Jets, who sound like the Fatback Band on angel dust. The chorus is more infectious than bubonic plague and the original 45 is apparently rarer than a hair on Isaac Hayes's bald pate. The same can be said for funk esoterica by the Innersouls ('Just Take Your Time'), Abraham & The Metronomes ('Party'), The Black On White Affair ('Funky Manuel'), and Lil' Buck & The Top Cats ('Money In A Sack'). There are sixteen cuts in all and they're all top-notch. 'New Generation' by the Universals is a personal favourite as well - the groove is slower, deeper and more sensual, as it is on the Meters'-style organ/guitar-led jam, 'Zambesi' by the Fun Company. The music is enhanced by a photo-packed booklet with extensive liner note commentary. If you're fanatical about funk like me, then you won't want to miss out on this cache of 24-carat funk gold.
(CW) 4/5


NELLA DODDS: This Is A Girl's Life (Label: Kent)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:44 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

NELLA DODDS: This Is A Girl's Life

Nella Dodds is a real soul fan's soul heroine. Born Donzella Petty-John in Maryland back in 1950, she became a recording artist almost by accident. Travelling to Philadelphia with her uncle's vocal group for a studio session, Philly legend Frank Virtue heard hers sing; he duly recommended her to Jimmy Bishop who won the 14 year old a contact with Florence Greenberg's Wand label. Between 1964 and 1966, and working with people like Kenny Gamble, the young songstress recorded just 15 songs which were aimed squarely at the pop/soul singles market that Motown seemed to be mopping up. Indeed Nella's first big recording was a fine and still well-love version of 'Come See About Me' . She tackled other Motown tunes too - notably 'Honey Boy' and 'Whisper You Love Me Boy' (issued here for the very first time), and when the occasion demanded people like Gamble and Bishop would whip up perfect Motown pastiches like 'P's And Q's' . Soul collectors will have many of these tunes already via beloved Wand singles, but it's good to have them collected like this and as a bonus, along with the aforementioned 'Whisper You Love Me Boy' there's two more previously unissued cuts. Coming with a comprehensive essay courtesy of 'In The Basement's ' David Cole (which interestingly reveals that Nella was an extra in the movie 'Evan Almighty'), the set's unmissable for collectors of vintage soul.
(BB) 4/5


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


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