LAMONT DOZIER - Reimagination ( V2/Golden Lane))

Friday, 01 June 2018 12:23 Billl B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn the mainstream Lamont Dozier is rightly known as a legendary songwriter/producer with a seemingly endless list of classic credits. Soul purists also revere Lamont as an artist in his own right and will cite recordings like 'Fish Ain't Biting' and 'New Breed Kinda Woman' as every bit as worthy as anything from his garlanded writing repertoire. So when the man decides to record a selection of tunes from that classic repertoire we know we're guaranteed a sort of soul excellence and that's just what we get here on the 13 tracker that is 'Reimagination'.

Now Lamont's done this kind of thing before – remember his 'Reflections Of...' album? But this new one is a little different in as much as Lamont works here with a star-studded guest list from across all sorts of musical genres . Helping out here are people like Graham Nash, Todd Rundgren, Cliff Richard (yes!), Marc Cohn, UK newcomer Jo Harman and Gregory Porter.

The Cat In The Jazz Hat is on hand for one of the album highlights – the version of "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You' . Porter adds his grace and beauty to what is essentially a stripped down version - illustrating just what a mini masterpiece the song is. The same's true for the new look at 'Heatwave'- with little more than piano accompaniment (before a guitar solo) the tune simply swings. Duettist, by the way, is Jo Harman who acquits herself wonderfully before the song segues into a brasher 'Nowhere To Run'.

Other featured songs include 'Reach Out I'll Be There', 'I Can't Help Myself, 'Baby I Need Your Loving'', 'Bernadette and a medley of 'This Old Heart Of Mine' and 'My World Is Empty Without You'. This is the one that features Sir Cliff and the boys does OK!

In truth Lamont's voice right now isn't the voice of 'Black Bach' and some of the tracks have a demo feel to them; but c'mon – here's some of the 20th century's best pop songs performed by their creator and if you're not moved here by Lamont's new version of 'In My Lonely Room', your soul's gone AWOL.

The album has been produced by Fred Mollin and the accompanying booklet features an interview between the pair with Lamont explaining the origins of each song. Interestingly they talk about the Chairmen of the Board's 'Give Me Just A Little More Time' and Lamont claims credit for writing it! No Mention of "Dunbar/Wayne"! The song's not on the album by the way.

Lamont Dozier was meant to be coming to the UK this summer to promote the album. Illness has forced cancellation. We wish him well.... in his absence... just enjoy the album!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 01 June 2018 12:28


THE NEW MASTERSOUNDS: Renewable Energy (One Note)

Monday, 28 May 2018 12:15 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altOriginally from Leeds, the New Mastersounds have been around for almost 20 years and they have something like 15 long players under their belt. Despite that, the band (Eddie Roberts (guitar), Simon Allen (drums), Pete Shand (bass) and Joe Tatton (organ)) are probably best known for giving Corinne Bailey Rae her start. The reason for their inability to break into the big time is apparent on this new album.... what they create musically doesn't pander to the mainstream. Their energetic brand of funk and soul-jazz is aimed very much at a niche market and I'm guessing that the foursome are quite happy with that (if not they'd have folded long ago). They're rarely out of work – gigging constantly – as much at home at the big festival as in the small cellar club and their loyal fans turns out in numbers wherever they play.

Said fans will be delighted with the 12 tracks on 'Renewable Energy' – it provides what the Mastersounds have always provided. So, there's plenty of funk – like the scratchy, percussive opener, "Chicago Girls'. I have to say, though, that this sounds more New Orleans than Windy City despite some lovely brass work from the West Coast Horns (Mike Olmos and Joe Cohen). There's also plenty of mid 60s style, "Hammond to the fore" soul-jazz on the collection ... try 'Tantalus' or 'Green Was Beautiful'. 'Stash' shows the more experimental side of the band while 'Swimming With My Fishies' is a lovely, mellow, cinematic way to finish the album.

The long player boasts one vocal – a meandering, funk workout fronted by a feisty, swooping Adryon De Leon. In truth it's not that remarkable – a workmanlike funk outing. Indeed that's the issue. This is a workmanlike album.... nothing to make you sit up and take real notice and help take the band to the next level (if indeed that's where they want to go).

Interestingly I note that the album was recorded in two venues – New Orleans and Denver – back in 2016 and February '17... may be the Mastersounds have something newer/fresher up their sleeves?

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 28 May 2018 12:33


JEFFREY OSBORNE; Worth It All (Artistry)

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 19:22 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altDear old Jeffrey Osborne is a proper old school soul veteran and latterly, sadly, his recordings are few and far between. I think his last release was maybe five years ago – 'A Time For Love'. However, out of the blue – it seems Jeff is all set to drop a new album – the 12 tracker that is 'Worth It All' but, sadly, sneak previews reveal that maybe it wasn't really worth it – well not entirely.

The problem – as I see it – is that there is too much here that is formulaic and pedestrian. The soundscape here alternates between polite beaters and twee ballads and it's those beaters that really disappoint. Jeffrey is 70 and he won't mind admitting that he's been around the block a few times, so maybe he could have come up with better lyrics than "Get out on the floor baby" ('Just Can't Stand It') or "I want your sexy body close" ('I Want You') or –even worse – "I like the way you work it. I wanna say you're so perfect" ('Work It'). OK, this is soul and R&B, and we don't expect metaphysical poetry, but c'mon Jeff – you're better than this.

The album's ballads work better but they're still heavily clichéd and there's no 'Love Ballad' or 'On The Wings Of Live' here. Best efforts are 'Greatest Night' – a chronicle of an evolving relationship (but what about "It was the 23rd June...a freaky full moon"?) and 'Saving My Love' which proves what Jeffrey can do when he really tries – a simple, uncluttered song on which that remarkable voice carries the day.

'Worth It All' boasts guest appearances from Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, rapper Kid Capri and Jeff's son Jeffrey Junior but they can't lift the album out of the mediocre category. The set is self produced and sure, Jeff knows what he's about but maybe a third ear might have made 'Worth It All' worth a little more.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 May 2018 19:29


BONNIE BAILEY; Song Book Volume 1 (Fierce Angel)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018 13:06 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThough they may not be too familiar with the name, soulful house connoisseurs/anoraks will recognize the voice of Bonnie Bailey. Her waif like vocals graced countless tunes in the early noughties – chiefly on the renowned Hed Kandi label. Bonnie fronted countless tracks that were featured on all kinds of beach/chill compilations. And why not? Her wispy, light and cute voice (the polar opposite of your usual gospel reared house diva) was (indeed is) perfect to accentuate those lovely laid-back Cafe del Mar moments.

At the peak of Hed Kandi's success a whole solo album was planned for Ms Bailey but for all kinds of reasons it never happened. Bonnie, however, continued to record –working chiefly with her original mentor, acclaimed US producer Eric Kupper and sometime Hed Kandi boss, Mark Doyle – now head boy at Fierce Angel Records. A number of Bonnie Bailey tracks have appeared on Fierce Angel and now – fanfare please – here's the long awaited BB solo set.

In truth not all the material is brand new –essentially this is a package of greatest hits and associated remixes and the menu, given the context, is very varied. There are, of course, those signature "Bonnie Bailey beach grooves" – 'Safe', 'Rise' and 'Even After' –all in the classic "Eric's Beach" mixes. All three are still wonderful summer sounds. Then there's the "harder" stuff, though tunes like 'Firefly', 'I Know You're There' and 'Sweet Serendipity' aren't too tough. They couldn't be. Bonne's more Kate Bush than Jocelyn Brown and – lo and behold – the 12 tracker actually boasts a Kate Bush cover... Bonnie's version of 'This Woman's Work'. (also covered by Maxwell, you may remember). The song allows Bonnie to show off the purity of her voice which also shines on the ballad 'I Can't Hardly Wait'. 'This Woman's Work' also comes in a "Fierce Angel" remix; too fierce, methinks, for the sentiment of the song.

You'll note that this is "Volume 1" –presumably there's more to come from Ms Bailey later in the year?

(BB) 35

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 13:14



Wednesday, 09 May 2018 14:47 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSpur of the Moment are a confusing band. I don't mean that in any kind of derogatory sense; rather I mean I find it hard to pin them down. And I'm not the only one. Over a 20 year career, various music writers and record selling sites have pitched them into all kinds of categories – ranging from smooth jazz right through to hard funk (with all kinds of stops en route). Even more confusing is the fact that the title of this rather fine new long player – 'N 2 Deep' - also happens to be the name of a 90s rap outfit! Well for sure, the music on Spur Of The Moment's 'N 2 Deep' isn't rap! So what is it? Well there is some smooth jazz; also a touch of funk (maybe not too hard, though); but there's also plenty of classy soul music. Someone called Berry Gordy tried to defy categorises. He once famously said that there were only two kinds of music – good and bad ; put it another way – what you like and what you don't like. So homing in on 'N 2 Deep' – here's a platter of good music, which if you're a soul fan, you'll love!

If you want some kind of guarantee about what I've just said, it should suffice just to say that a certain Maya Leak makes a guest appearance . Now we all know that Ms L only gets involved in quality projects and here she fronts a crisp, mid-tempo workout 'Free Urself' . OK – it does veer towards smooth jazz ; but it's a rather classy smooth jazz and THAT vocal is the cherry on the top!

Amongst the other vocalists is Kenny Allen who leads on a Jonathan Butler acoustic styled 'Love Her' and a brash, soulful 'Move On'. Jon Rych is at the mic for the Buddy Johnson jazz standard 'Save Your Love For Me' but the most interesting cut is a version of Stevie Wonder's 'Love's In Need Of Love Today'. Here the sax takes the lead lines while the vocalists offer Take 6 style support – lovely treatment of a lovely song.

That one, by the way, is preceded by 'NATB!' which I'm informed stands for "not the average band" - which kind of takes us back to where we came in. Yep – not an average band; not one to pigeon-hole. But purveyors of great music? Sure thing!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 May 2018 15:56


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