Reviews

DONNA McGHEE: 'Make It Last Forever' (We Want Sounds)

Friday, 06 December 2019 12:45 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                         alt'Make It Last Forever'  was the only album by Donna McGhee, a gospel-reared Brooklyn-born singer, whose name appeared on the credits to recordings during the same era by the Fatback Band, Phreek, Bumblebee Unlimited and The Universal Robot Band. Helmed by mirrorball mavens, writers/producers, Greg Carmichael and Patrick Adams, 'Make It Last Forever' came out on the small Red Greg imprint (Anchor in the UK) and is considered an underground disco classic. Pristine original copies usually exchange hands for around £50, but now, though,  We Want Sounds have remastered the album for a CD/LP reissue, which means that collectors can pick up a copy for much less money than a first pressing.

The album consists of five, mostly extended, disco grooves, with McGhee not only singing but also supplying heavy erotic breathing a la Donna Summer circa 'Love To Love You, Baby.'  The production is unashamedly Barry White-like, with opulent, Gene Page-inspired string arrangements cushioning McGhee's soulful vocals.  

All the tracks are good ones. The opening title song,  where high strings complement staccato guitar riffs over a pulsing groove, comes across like one of Gloria Scott's Barry White-produced Casablanca Records from the mid-'70s. Salsoul act, Inner Life, later covered the tune, but McGhee's eight-minute version is better.  

White's symphonic soul influence is less apparent on the infectious 'Do As I Do,'  and 'It Ain't No Big Thing,' a Leroy Burgess-arranged remake of a Patrick Adams-helmed Personal Touch single from '76. Even more persistent than those two tunes is the super-soulful 'Mr Blindman,'  while the concluding song, 'I'm A Love Bug' - a tune first cut by Bumblebee Unlimited - ups the tempo to a giddy mirrorball climax (complete with orgasmic moans).  

Though 'Make It Last Forever' has been out of print for over 40 years, its allure hasn't dimmed with time, and today in 2019, its sensuous disco grooves have lasted well, still sounding as fresh and vital as they did in 1978.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2019 19:50

 

THE JAZZ DEFENDERS; Scheming (Haggis Records)

Wednesday, 27 November 2019 14:41 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe Jazz Defenders are a UK quintet formed by pianist George Cooper. The rest of the band is Nicholas Dover (sax), Nick Malcolm (trumpet), Will Harris (bass) and Matt Brown (drums). They came together in 2015 drawn by a mutual love and respect for soul-jazz and classic hard bop – the music of the Golden Age of Blue Note, if you would.

'Scheming' is their debut long player (I think) and it begins in lively fashion with 'Top Down Tourism'. Prefaced by Cooper's sparkling piano, it takes summery flight when the horns kick in before the intricate piano solo. Plenty more of the same piano/horn synergy on the bluesy 'Everybody's Got Something', the bumpy, percussive 'Late' and the lovely slow burner that is 'Rosie Karma'.

The quintet tip their collective hat to soul-jazz as Cooper takes to the Hammond on the album title track and 'She'll Come Round'. The bass-led 'Costa Del Sol' is the big Latin moment while 'Hawkeye Jorge' and 'Brown Down' could be themes to 60s art house movies ensuring that the Defenders tick all the boxes that classic jazz albums seem to demand. Clearly that's what they've been keen to do. Sticking to their mission statement to celebrate the Golden Age of Blue Note, Impulse etc, they leave little to chance and offer music across the genre spectrum. Even the art work and sleeve layout strives for authenticity. By the way, if you're intrigued by the album's label – Haggis Records; it's a new imprint set up by the funky Haggis Horns who also have a penchant for classic jazz... and in the Jazz Defenders they've found soul mates... or should that be jazz mates? Released December 6th.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2019 14:52

 

SIMPLY RED: Blue Eyed Soul (BMG)

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 20:35 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altSimply Red's latest single 'Sweet Child' has been all over mainstream radio for the last few weeks (Record Of The Week, no less on a national station!); easy to hear why....it's easy on the ear with a soulful undertow and no matter what you think of Mick Hucknall, most would admit that his voice is a remarkable instrument. One commentator described 'Sweet Child' as a perfect aural example of "blue eyed soul" and by strange coincidence (or not) 'Blue Eyed Soul' is the title of 'Sweet Child's' parent album. We've always been told that Hucknall is a soul boy – a trait he inherited from his soul loving father. And indeed Simply Red's first hit, 'Money's Too Tight To Mention' was a cover of a Valentine Brothers' soul song. A little later, Simply Red's signature song, 'Holding Back The Years' went on to be covered by numerous soul luminaries. So, yes, spot on, 'Blue Eyed Soul' is an apt title for this new 10 tracker... but what else does it offer? In short – plenty!

'Tonight' is the LP's big romantic moment – perfect for the quiet storm programmers and/or late night romantics. At the other end of the sonic spectrum, 'Don't Do Down' is a sparse, rough, funk workout while 'Thinking Of You', 'Riding On A Train' and 'Chula' are big, bold, brash, brassy soul meanders. 'Ring That Bell' is a bass-led dancer while 'Badbootz' is a rumbling electro disco pastiche.

However, the best soul moments are 'Take A Good Look' and 'Complete Love'. Both seem to take their inspiration from authentic Southern soul (remember, Hucknall is a self-confessed Bobby Bland freak). 'Complete Love' is a Muscle Shoals/Memphis style emotion-tugging ballad, while 'Take A Good Look' is an easy mid-tempo groove with home spun philosophy at the heart of its message. Indeed it's the kind of thing that Bobby Bland did so effortlessly.

'Blue Eyed Soul' is "blue eyed soul" for sure and if anyone needs to define this particular genre, just grab a listen here.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 November 2019 21:04

 

THE MIGHTY MOCAMBOS: 2066 (Legere)

Thursday, 14 November 2019 19:23 BIll B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe Mighty Mocambos are a hard-gigging, Germany-based funk septet (at the last count anyway) who for some time have been going out under the alias "the Bacao Rhythm and Steelband". Now the core players return as the Mocambos (yes still "Mighty") to offer what they've always offered.... hard driving, old school, brassy funk - recorded in analogue and delivering an organic, energized sound. Hear that sound at its most typically "mocambo" on the opening 'Preaching To The Choir' – a relentless, 21st century take on instrumental funk. Then, maybe to show exactly where they're coming from, try 'Here We Go'. Here the tight sparseness is obvious homage to someone called James Brown... however, on this one we have a kiddie chorus... something the Godfather never ever tried. Odd, but it kind of works!

Highlights of previous Mocambo albums have always been the vocal spots and here there are some fine examples. Obvious standout is the bluesy, Southern soul ballad 'Where Do We Go From Here' and to help them deliver, the band have brought in a real soul heavyweight... Mr Lee Fields. 'Today' is another searing soul ballad – sparse and haunting with (I think) Nichola Roberts at the mic. Long-time collaborator Gizelle Smith fronts the perky 'Take On The World' while for something slightly different there's some old school rapping from Ice T on 'Bounce That Ass' – the song title says it all!

THE MIGHTY MOCAMBOS: 2066 is out now

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 November 2019 19:29

 

INCOGNITO: Tomorrow’s New Dream (Bluey Music)

Saturday, 09 November 2019 16:45 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

alt'Tomorrow's New Dream' is, I think, Incognito's 18th studio album and as soon as the needle hits the groove on the busy, bustling opener, 'Haze Of Summer' you know that age and custom has not staled Bluey's appetite to craft top class modern soul. The music on this new 14 tracker is different to 1981's 'Jazz Funk' but it's delivered with the same passion, the same attention to detail and the same kaleidoscopic take on modern black music genres.

Of course, over forty years, the Bluey/Incognito sound has evolved – most notably in the inclusion of more vocals and on 'Tomorrow's New Dream' Mr M has brought in a stellar team of singers to help him deliver. The singer you always associate with the band is the incomparable Maysa Leak. She features on two songs here... the bright and busy 'All For You' and the gorgeous 'For The Love Of You' where she duets with the ever-dependable Phil Perry. By the way, the songs aren't (respectively) the Stevie Wonder or Isley Brothers' songs. They're new and by now you should be familiar with the Leak/Perry duet. It's rightly been all over the soul airwaves in the last few weeks and its class sets the album's benchmark.

Amongst the other guest vocalists are Mario Biondi and Take 6. Signore Biondi takes lead on 'No Show', an atmospheric piece that has hints of the best of Jon Lucien. Take 6 bring their harmony skills to 'The Weather Report' which cleverly likens the ups and downs of a relationship to swings in the weather.

The other guest vocalists are Joy Rose, James Berkeley, Cherri V, Roberta Gentile, Imaani and Vanessa Haynes who fronts another album highlight – the building 'Still The One' on which the (uncredited, on my copy) harmonica is a delight.

The album also offers two instrumentals... the flute-led, complex 'Saturday Sirens' and the brash closer that is 'Say What's On Your Mind' on which Bluey allows the band to stretch and shine... just like he did back in 1981... "plus ça change".

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 November 2019 16:55

 

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