VARIOUS: Trip To The Moon (Tramp)

Monday, 15 July 2019 19:53 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIt's probably not escaped your attention, but its fifty years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and the occasion is being celebrated and commemorated in all kinds of ways. But I'll wager that there is no stranger commemoration than this bizarre and esoteric compilation from German niche label, Tramp. Tramp is known for its left field esotericism. The Tramp team are inveterate crate diggers and they always come up with stuff that's obscure and rare and here, on this 13 tracker, they've come up with the obscurest of the obscure! What holds it all together is the "moon" concept – be it the artists' names (e.g. the Moon Dawgs) or the tune titles (e.g. 'Full Moon', 'Voyage To The Moon' etc) or in one case, both –the Swinging Astronauts' 'Crazy Stockings On The Moon'.

That one kicks things off and its rough and tough vintage R&B and there's plenty more of the same. There's also some crazy funk – try Rev James and Bob Johnson's 'Walking On The Moon', which despite its funky sound, asks the pertinent question why spend billions on moon shots when people are starving?

Elsewhere? Well all kinds of everything – garage rock, psychedelic folk, break beat even a couple of German sourced tunes –notably jazz sax man Ambros Seelos with 'Mondgesicht' which adds to the album's unusual variety.

The Tramp people tell us that the LP's raison d'être is to fund a rescue mission for an African astronaut stranded on the moon (you may have seen the internet spoof) - a great cause for sure! Really though, it's to commemorate that one giant leap for mankind and if you want the oddest memento, this album is out on July 19th. It comes as a 12 track vinyl LP, a 13 track CD and in digital. Most of the songs are released for the very first time!

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 15 July 2019 20:01


VARIOUS; Masterpieces Of Modern Soul (Kent)

Thursday, 11 July 2019 13:20 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

alt'Masterpieces Of Modern Soul' is one of Ace/Kent's most popular compilation series and here it reaches its fifth edition and like the previous four it's stuffed with a great cross section of what's dubbed "modern" (by sound rather than age) soul – some relatively well-known and easy to get hold of but plenty, too, that's rare, elusive and collectable.

Let's look first, then, at some of those better known items. First up – a personal favourite.... Major Lance. Always a great uptown stylist, forever linked with the classic 60s Chicago sound, his inclusion here comes from 1972 when he was pacted with Stax/Volt, but his 'That's The Story Of My Life' harks back to his glory days at Okeh. More well-known quality from the Independents (their version of 'Lucky Fellow' –a song more usually associated with Leroy Hutson); John Edwards (his take on Philip Mitchell's 'How Can I Go On Without You'); Eddie Floyd (a previously unissued edit of the lovely 'Can We Talk It Over'); Mille Jackson (a bustling and busy 'I'll Continue To Love You') and Loleatta Holloway (another unissued item – 'Mr So And So's Daughter). Sweetest cut from the "known names" is 'I Guess God Wants It This Way' from Freddie Scott. It's a beautiful recording with the feel of those great Jim Webb classics about it.

Now some of the lesser known inclusions. I don't know much about Reggie Milner but his 1970 Volt recording of 'Hello Stranger' is superb – it should be, it was produced by Ollie McLaughlin! A tad rougher is Lee Porter's 'Nobody's Doin' A Doggone Thing' – which, we're told, is ultra rare. Equally elusive is Chet Ivey's 'Dose Of Soul'. But, of course, rarity and elusiveness should never be the yardstick by which a sound is judged!

Here across a generous 24 cuts you do get plenty of rarities; like we said, they sit alongside better known items; what unifies them is their sweet soul quality.... everyone's a winner!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 12 July 2019 10:09


PATRICE RUSHEN: 'Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984' (Strut)

Thursday, 04 July 2019 08:23 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                             altWhen Patrice Rushen stopped recording, the world became a poorer place. That's just pure hyperbole, you'll probably declare, but for this writer, she really was a beacon of jazz-funk goodness illuminating the darkness of the human condition. Okay, so the last bit might be a tad over-egged but in truth, Patrice Rushen's music was like healing balm to me back in the early 80s.  Though she released three fine albums for the Prestige label between 1974 to 1976 - including the excellent 'Shout It Out' - it was the California singer/pianist's work at Elektra Records that really got her noticed. She was signed to the label by Don Mizell in 1978 when the label was branching out into jazz and soul territory and immediately made an impression with her debut LP, 'Patrice,' which yielded her debut R&B hit single, 'Hang It Up.' She went on to record five very good albums for the label, the biggest of which was 1982's 'Straight To The Heart.' It included Patrice's biggest hit single, 'Forget Me Nots': boasting a killer bass line and infectious chorus, the song became her signature tune and was later sampled by George Michael ('Fast Love'), Will Smith ('Men In Black') and several others. Patrice moved to Arista in 1987 but after one album for the company - the disappointing 'Watch Out!' - she gradually faded from the R&B scene.

Though not blessed with the strongest of voices, there was something beguiling about Patrice Rushen's delicate, almost ethereal but supremely soulful voice and of course, given her keyboard prowess (she could play guitar as well) made her a very formidable musician indeed. Collaborating with producer Charles Mims Jr, she made some elegantly-arranged music that blurred the boundaries between soul, jazz, gospel, disco and funk. Her unique sound is immediately evident on 'Music Of The Earth,' the first track of the new Strut compilation, and reaches it apotheosis on the brilliant 'Haven't You Heard' and anthemic 'Forget Me Nots,' both of which appear in all their 12-inch glory.  Other dance floor highlights include 'Look Up!,' 'Never Gonna Give You Up (Won't Let You Be)' and 'Number One,' the latter a breezy piano-led instrumental that blew British jazz-funk pretenders like Shakatak away. Patrice could also serve up some achingly delicate ballads, too, as the gorgeous 'Settle For My Love,' and 'When I Found You' attest. And as for mid-tempo groove ballads, this collection's exquisite title tune has no equal.   

Although she continues to play and teach, Patrice hasn't made a solo album since 1997 but with any luck, this new 15-track retrospective will stimulate interest in her music and give her career a much-needed jolt - or at the very least bring some fresh royalty payments in. Overall, 'Remind Me' is a great listen though some of Patrice's fans will lament, perhaps, the absence of the Elektra singles 'Hang It Up,' 'Breakout!' and 'Get Off (You Fascinate Me),' though the latter two are not really essential. There are some good album cuts missing too ('Keepin' Faith In Love,' and 'Don't Blame Me' come to mind) but even so, 'Remind Me' is a tasty overview of Patrice's unique blend of jazz, soul and funk flavours. All in all, a great reminder of an underrated talent.

'Remind Me' is out on CD and triple vinyl on July 19th.


Last Updated on Monday, 08 July 2019 18:05


PIECES OF A MAN; Made In Pieces (Tru Thoughts)

Wednesday, 26 June 2019 15:55 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altPieces of a Man (named, of course, for Gil Scott-Heron's first studio album) is an acclaimed six piece collective from Manchester and the Zed Bias produced 'Made In Pieces' is their debut album. The 11 tracker is already winning support from some of soul and jazz's edgier tastemakers – people like Laurent Garnier, Supernova, Robert Elms and Mike Chadwick. Easy to hear why; 'Made In Pieces' is an envelope-pushing adventure in real "modern" soul music – not the 80s retro flavoured soul that is often called "modern". The collective experiment with and manipulate their sonics to create unusual textured soundscapes that pay homage to hip-hop, funk, gospel and jazz. To show where they're coming from, may we point you to the album's only cover – a respectful treatment of – yes – a Gil Scott-Heron song - 'Lady Day and John Coltrane'. Here the tricky vocal is handled by Detroit's Amp Fiddler who brings just the right amount of elasticity to the lyric. We're not saying that Pieces of a Man's music is what Heron would be making today but like their obvious hero the band are prepared to challenge sonically and lyrically.

Mr F's out front too on 'Nothing To Lose (part 1)' (couldn't see a part 2, by the way). It's a lazy, neo-soul meander with a gospel undertow and some sweet brass parts towards the hypnotic end. The brass figures are excellent throughout the album – most notably on 'Listen'. 'Grits' offer something a little different – a melding of scat and funk while the mix of vocoder and alto sax on 'Drifting' offers another interesting cocktail.

The tone of 'Made In Pieces' is set from the opening track – 'Walk Out'. Lazy, shifty, laid back and with a gospel chorus behind the brief vocal, it tells you to expect the unexpected. Producer Zed Bias (Maddslinky) tells us that 'Made In Pieces' "is one of the best records I've been part of in 20 odd years". You'd say he probably would say that; but he's probably right.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2019 16:01


REZA KHAN; Next Train Home (rezakhanmusic)

Friday, 21 June 2019 19:28 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altPlenty of releases have great back stories but none, I'd say, as interesting as 'Next Train Home' from New York based jazz guitarist Reza Khan. For starters Bangladesh born Reza is (no disrespect) a part time jazzer. He has a very important "day job" that puts music into perspective. You see he works for the United Nations as a programme manager – working world-wide in conflict zones trying to broker peace and reconciliation. It was during his last tour for the UN that the idea for 'Next Train Home' crystallised. Whilst away, in his down time, he sketched out 12 tunes on his lap top and, we're told, a folding guitar! Sadly he was then hospitalised – he was suffering severe dehydration but defied doctors, to leave his hospital to recuperate in a hotel room while polishing the music sketches he'd made earlier on his trip.

Then back in NYC, Reza got down to work and despite being that "part time jazz man" that I've just described, his standing in the East coast jazz milieu is such that he can call on some big names to help him create his music and here, amongst the side men, are guitarist Nils, pianist Mark King, bassist Mark Egan, saxophonist David Mann and drummer Graham Hawthorne. Maybe the biggest names though are sax player Jeff Kashiwa and ace keyboardist Philippe Saisse. Those two join Reza on one of the LP's big tunes... 'Gathering'. This easy paced smooth jazz romp (flavours of the Rippingtons and Special EFX) sums up the album's feel.... classy and cool with a soul undertow. Saisse plays keyboard vibes on this one while he takes to the marimba on the exotic 'Club 368' which offers flautist David Mann the opportunity to shine. The lazy Latin shuffle 'Beyond The Trees' is another album highlight as is the LP title track – the Earl Klugh flavoured 'Next Train Home' is the more poignant given the context in which it was written. And, says, Reza, it's the key to his current sound "I feel The title represents a destination where I'm totally comfortable and at ease surrounded by familiar sounds, emotions and convictions as an artist".

REZA KHAN; Next Train Home is out now.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 June 2019 11:02


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