Thursday, 19 December 2019 18:19 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn 2020 Liverpool's the Real Thing will be celebrating 50 years in music and to commemorate the occasion BMG have just released this new 'Best Of...' set and the 2 CD, 31 track collection really does show what an important and successful team the Real Thing were... indeed are. The quartet emerged from Liverpool's Toxteth area in 1970 with one band member, Eddy Amoo joining the ranks after a spell with seminal Liverpool band, the Chants – for whom the Beatles once provided live backing at the famous Cavern!

There have been a few Real Thing 'Best Of' sets before but the USP of this new collection is a previously unissued recording ... the jaunty and soulful 'Someone Oughta Write A Song About You Baby'. Penned by Ken Gold and Mick Dene, it has all the charm of the same team's 'Can't Get By Without You' and 'You To Me Are Everything'.... both massive hits and the centre pieces of this collection. They're included in original formats and in 1986 remix formats... they all still sound good.

The album's other big focus is 'Children Of The Ghetto' – a track from the group's second LP – '4 From 8', an ambitious and seriously themed album about their native Liverpool and the difficulties of life for immigrant communities. Interestingly the Beatles wanted to record a "Liverpool LP"... they only ever laid down 'Penny Lane' and 'Strawberry Fields'... where the Beatles failed, the Real Thing succeeded! Whatever... 'Children of The Ghetto' has become something of a soul and jazz standard covered by people like Courtney Pine, Mary J Blige and Phillip Bailey.

'Best Of...' includes plenty of other great music... stuff like 'Love Is Such A Wonderful thing', 'You'll Never Know What You're Missing' and 'Raining Through My Sunshine' – all underlining what we've just said – "an important and successful team the - Real Thing". This compact little collection would make a great little stocking filler for the soul fan in your life!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 20 December 2019 07:22


BUDDY RICH; Just In Time (Gearbox)

Monday, 16 December 2019 16:00 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altPowerhouse jazz drummer Buddy Rich is a true music icon – evolving a style and sound that had huge influence not just on his jazz confreres but on drummers from other genres like John Bonham and Phil Collins. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1917 to a show business family, Rich began drumming at only 18 months old and by 1921 was known as "Traps, the Drum Wonder" whilst performing with his parents' vaudeville act. His performance routine soon took on tap dancing, singing and comedy, and he became the second highest paid child performer of the mid-1920s. From there he went onto play with people like Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Art Tatum. In 1966, Buddy put together his own successful big band, which, over the years, featured mainly young, unknown players. Interestingly, maybe it was the youth element, the Buddy Rich Band's repertoire featured plenty of jazz interpretations of pop and rock tunes and the ensemble was soon winning a new audience of jazz fans with band albums winning wide acclaim and decent sales.

With Rich's music enjoying a recent renaissance, Gearbox Records have just issued this fine, live album... 'Just In Time'. The 13 tracker is the drummer's last ever album and it was recorded live in 1986 at Ronnie Scott's Club, London and amongst the players are Cathy Rich, Matt Harris (piano) and, Rob Amster (bass) alongside a mighty 12 piece brass section.

With such a powerful line up and the Buddy Rich name on the marquee, you know what to expect... big, brassy, brash treatments of the familiar and the not so familiar- all driven frantically onwards by Rich. Amongst the highlights is 'Harco Shuffle' – a tune that harks back to Buddy's days in burlesque and vaudeville while on 'Ready Mix' and the LP title track Matt Harris' piano is particularly sweet. Cathy Rich -the drummer's daughter, by the way, takes vocals on a version on Lambert, Hendricks and Ross' 'Twisted'. That track concludes the album which opens an hour or so earlier with Ronnie Scott introducing Rich as "the world's greatest drummer".... on the evidence of this, you wouldn't argue!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Monday, 16 December 2019 16:11


BROOKLYN SOUL STEW; Hits Where It Hurts (Riverside)

Friday, 06 December 2019 19:41 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altBrooklyn Soul Stew is a big (ten piece!) soul band from Sweden. Marshalled by bassist Pir Lindbloom, they take their inspiration from 70s soul most notably from bands like Tower of Power. 'Hits Where It Hurts' is their third long player and the first to offer a repertoire of all original, band-crafted songs.

The LP's lead single was the well-received 'Secret Love'... a brassy, mid-tempo groove that clearly shows the influence of TOP. The Soul "Stewers" four piece brass section blow for all their worth while joint lead singer Annsofi Wigert comes on like a 21st century Dusty Springfield... beefy pop/soul at its best! Ms W is out front on the album opener, 'Hold Your Head Up High'. Here the sound is more Memphis than Brooklyn while the inspiration for the lyric (and we're told, the message of the whole album) comes from a famous quotation from Cannonball Adderley... "There are times when things don't lay the way they're supposed to lay. But regardless, you're supposed to hold your head up high and walk tall".

It appears that Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali to our younger followers) is clearly another band hero. The art work references him while there's a whole track named for him and this 'Cassius Clay' is a busy, bustling affair with the male lead voice Par Grell out front and there are spoken voice samples from Clay himself. Amongst other cuts, Grell is the lead on the brash 'That's What the Doctor Ordered' and 'Brooklyn Girl' – both lovely songs but Grell's vocal is just a little too "European" to sound convincingly soulful... blue eyed soul maybe, classy pop for sure!

The real strength of this album lies in the power of the brass playing. The band boasts a four piece, core brass section and on a clutch of tracks they're joined by a guest trumpeter and between them they make quite a sound! Brooklyn Soul Stew cooked up in Scandinavia.... a great recipe!

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2019 19:49


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


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