Review: Fela Kuti fans Jaribu Afrobeat Arkestra last came to our attention in 2014 via a fantastic sophomore set on Soul Garden. Here, the Japanese neo-Afrobeat combo returns to the same imprint with the first of two simultaneously released 7" singles. A-side "Eastern Comfort" is a typically jaunty and undulating affair, with bold, Fela-esque tenor sax motifs and delay-laden spoken work vocals dancing around Nigeria '70 guitars and loose, Tony Allen style drums. Flipside "Eko Ile" is an altogether more forthright and up-tempo affair whose rasping horns and JuJu guitars are slightly overshadowed by some elongated organ action.
Review: Four years on from their last outing, Japan's premier neo-Afrobeat band returns to the warm embrace of Soul Garden Records. A-side "Scarface" is arguably one of the band's most addictive and ear-pleasing tracks yet; a rousing Afrobeat workout that sees band members trading solos over a densely percussive, Fela Kuti style workout. In a bid to let us have a bit of a breather, flipside "This Day" is a more languid and laidback affair, with drunken trumpet solos and jammed-out keys relaxing over a shuffling, Afro-Latin groove. As ever, the playing is immaculate and the production authentically fuzzy. Worth a listen.
Review: So far, Floating Points' reissue-focused Melodies International label has barely put a foot wrong. As you'd expect given his crate-digging credentials, each chosen release has not only been obscure or hard to find, but also exceptionally good. Predictably, this one is, too. Gloria Jay's 1977 single "Know What You Want" is a heartfelt chunk of saccharine soul featuring some particularly good jazz-funk style solos. Speaking of jazz-funk, this influence comes through further on the slightly more disco-minded, dancefloor-friendly flipside, "I'm Gonna Make It", whose jangling piano riffs and goodtime groove are almost impossible to resist. As ever with Melodies International, the packaging - which includes a foldout poster tucked into the sleeve - is also superb.
Review: Just 300 copies of this tasty, club-ready 7" single from the Soopastole Edits stable exist, so you'll have to move fast to secure a copy. As usual, Jalepeno Records' regular Soopasoul is at the control, using his trusty scalpel to deliver two hot-to-trot interpretations of a lesser-known cut from the "Sex Machine" sessions. On side A, you'll find "Shake Your Money Maker (Part 1)", where Maceo Parker's killer saxophone solos rise above Soopasoul's slightly tightened up version of the JB's killer groove. Flip to the B-side for more sax solos and a groove that mines some of the original track's more percussive sections for hip-swinging, toe-tapping thrills.
It's Just Begun (1970 previously unreleased version) (3:20)
It's Just Begun (1972 instrumental beats & breaks) (4:05)
Review: There are few bigger breakers anthems than the Jimmy Castor Bunch's "It's Just Begun". One of the foundation records on which the early hip-hop scene was built, it remains one of the heaviest funk records of all time. Here, scalpel-wielding producer Soopasoul serves up a 7" containing versions of both the lesser-known 1970 single version and the more familiar '72 album cut. You'll find the former, an undeniably fuzzier and arguably heavier version, subtly rearranged on the A-side, with Soopasoul naturally giving extra prominence to the drum breaks while retaining the little-heard middle eight. His edit of the1972 version strips out a lot of the vocals, instead focusing on the band's killer instrumentation.
Review: Should you require further evidence of the all-round genius of Curtis Mayfield, look no further than this early '70s funk gem from Patti Jo. "Make Me Believe In You" was written and produced by the velvety-voiced musician in 1973, one of just a few singles released by Patti Jo but undoubtedly now an all-time classic. That rolling drum intro, the ear-wagging piano, the subtle orchestration and, above all, Patti Jo's killer vocal all combine for a perfect example of the halcyon days when funk was beginning to transform into disco. Mayfield himself later covered the track for the closer to his Sweet Exorcist LP! This BGP 7" sees Tom Moulton's extension of "Make Me Believe In You" combined with his remix of the other Patti Jo burner, "Ain't No Love Lost". Any self-respecting DJ needs the A-side though.
Review: George E Johnson's "Wake Me Up" is another of those killer funk rarities that very few people know about. It was released at some point in the dim and distant past on C.R.S Records, a deep funk imprint from Philadelphia that will soon be the subject of a Tramp Records compilation. This reissue, then, is something of a teaser for that set. "Wake Me Up" is a suitably heavy number, with George E Johnson delivering an impressively impassioned lead vocal over a fuzzy, intoxicated groove rich in distorted guitars, psychedelic-era Hammond organ licks, snaking sax lines and bustling drum-breaks. B-side "The Penn Walk" strips out Johnson's vocal, allowing the backing band's killer instrumentation to really shine.
Review: Daptone drops a new single from their premier funk act Sharon Jones & The Dapkings, with two tracks lifted from their latest album I Learned The Hard Way. Sharon's catchy melodic vocal on ''Better Things'' is assisted by rhythmic hand claps, cascading piano lines, brass stabs and backing vocals from The Dapkings. On the flipside is a silky deep soul cut with Sharon's vocals telling the tale of her wandering eyed window shopping man!
Review: Fans of Anthony Joseph rejoice! This Neckbone 7" heralds the news Heavenly Sweetness are planning a fifth album from the Trinidadian jazz funker!! Excitingly the title cut finds Joseph working with the master Syl Johnson with devastating results! The steel drum heavy pulse is the back bone for the lyrical poetry of Joseph, chanted in pure Caribbean style, and complemented on the chorus by Sly Johnson. A track made for the dancefloor with a big catchy bassline. On the B side, Joseph lays down the percussive free jazz blinder "Mano A Mano", executed in the purest style of the iconic Last Poets!!
Review: The latest limited 7" single from the Beats & Breaks camp features subtle, DJ-friendly edits of two break-diggin' favourites. On the A-side, Juice's 1976 jazz-funk B-side "Catch a Groove" gets tweaked and extended, with lengthier passages of drum breaks at the beginning and end, as well as a sizeable percussion workout midway through. Turn to the flip for a similarly minded treat of Fuzzy Haskins' album-only cut "The Fuz & The Dog", where jazzy guitar licks and riotous horns buzz around a heavy, Blaxploitation-inspired funk groove. While less well known than the A-side, it's arguably the stronger of the two tracks; certainly, its extended percussive break is particularly suitable for hip-hop style doubling up.
Apollo Studio Band - "Honkey Tonk Woman" (instrumental) (2:39)
Review: For their latest deep dive into the world of obscure funk, Vienna's Record Shack has decided to reissue two hard-to-find gems from the Just Brothers and Apollo Studio Band. The former's "Honey" was recorded in the 1970s but first released in 2001. Full of their trademark surf style guitars, stomping Northern Soul style beats and dreamy, psychedelic era vocals, it remains one of the outfit's greatest tracks. On the reverse you'll find the thrillingly fuzzy "Honky Tonk Woman (Instrumental)" by the Apollo Studio Band. We found next to no information about the outfit online, suggesting the track was taken from a lauded, private press release. Either way, it's a prime chunk of Northern Soul style instrumental fuzziness that's worth the admission price alone.
Review: This desirable 7" single brings together two of the many highlights from the bulging catalogue of New Orleans soul singer Ernie K Doe. On the A-side you'll find 1961's "A Certain Girl", a sweet rhythm and blues number from the dawn of the soul era that ticks all the right boxes (strong lead vocal, jaunty piano lines, lolloping groove, question-asking female backing vocals). Arguably even better is the better known "Here Come The Girls", a later K-Doe recording that was produced by the song's writer, Allen Toussaint, and originally appeared on the artist's eponymous 1972 album. We all know it, of course, but it still remains a sing-along soul staple.
K Frimpong & His Cubano Fiestas - "Kyenkyen Bi Adi M'awu" (4:25)
Ebo Taylor - "Heaven" (4:15)
Review: Two Ghanaian grooves from 1977 on Mr Bongo's perennial Afro 45s series. First up the legendary K Frimpong with what is largely believed to be his biggest track of the era: "Kyenkyen Bi Adi M'awu". A tight fusion of highlight guitars and much more persistent organs and percussion, it's a timeless example of Afrobeat's finest fusion. Flip for Ebo Taylor's "Heaven". Released on his debut album that's regularly spotted passing hands for $500, full focus here is on the horn sections. Bold, major chords and tightly wrapped around the woodblock rhythm; just sit back and let the instrumentation saturate you. Heavenly.
Review: Athens Of The North strike gold once again as we head to Texas, circa early 70s, for two more big funk gems from the Now Again vaults. Only previously available on albums (which were all known to be limited to about 1000 units) both "Kashmere" and "Scorpio" get the full 45" treatment. The former ignites with a lavish horn salvo before dropping into a trumpet led blues groove, while the latter leans back on a smoother jazz boogie groove. Both absolutely crunch.
Review: Earlier in the autumn, obscure 1980s imprint Local Records - a label run out of the Tottenham-based home studio of London reggae and soul producer John Collins - sprung back to life with a reissue of Rick Clarke's sumptuous '80s soul slow jam "Love With A Stranger". Collins has decided to follow that up with a new edition of his 1984 production for Janet Kay, "Eternally Grateful". It's another electrofunk gem, with Kay's deliciously sweet vocal rising above reggae style horns, jangling pianos and a killer synthesizer bassline. As with the Clarke record, the flip features Collins' original dub revision ("Eternally Dubful"), a more stripped-back, echo-laden affair that's worth the entrance price on its own.
Review: A limited yellow vinyl funk odyssey from Record Store Day, "I Get Lifted" is taken from KC & The Sunshine Band's second album (1975) Still sounding shiny and floor-minded, the original stands the test of time incredibly well. Todd Terje's edit, however, takes it to another level; upping the tempo (and, possibly, the key), he's extended the right places, added a little more emphasis on the kicks and made sure we can't miss the breakdowns and instrumental sections.
There's Never Been (No One Like You) (short version) (4:26)
There's Never Been (No One Like You) (edit) (4:26)
Review: A stone cold cult classic from the West End vaults, Kenton Nix was one of New York's most prolific producers during the late 70s and throughout the 80s working his magic with the likes of Afrika Bambaataa, Teena Gardner and Gwen McCrae (among many others). On this rare 1980 solo 45" he teamed up with a young Bobby Youngblood to create an emphatic soul disco powerhouse that clear set the foundations for the wealth of big vocal proto house tracks that followed in its wake. Complete with both versions, this is a rare reissue and isn't likely to hang around for long...
Review: Congolese musician Kiala Nzavotunga is something of an unheralded hero of the Afrobeat scene. Since deciding to visit Nigeria in the early 1970s he's played with many legendary figures and bands, including Fela Kuti, and famously founded one Europe's first Afrobeat band, Ghettoblaster. Now based in Japan, Afroblaster is his latest musical endeavour, and this is the outfit's debut single. A-side "Sorrow, Tears & Blood" offers a contemporary update of the Fela Kuti/Africa '70 sound, with a straighter 4/4 rhythm that should appeal to disco and house fans as well as Afrobeat enthusiasts. On the flip, "Dear Blood" offers a more traditional take on the style, with Kiala's vocal riding punchy horns, flanged funk guitars and a Tony Allen style drumbeat.
Review: Serious funk fans should already know about the King Rooster, a four-piece revivalist heavy funk outfit that released a trio of killer 7" singles in 2017. The band's first outing of 2018 is every bit as essential as its predecessors, with both cuts offering an attractive blend of sweaty, doubles-friendly drum breaks, razor-sharp guitars and wild, Meters-style Hammond organ solos. Of the two, it's undoubtedly lead cut "Back Chattin" that's the heavier and most insatiable of the two, primarily thanks to some surf-influenced guitar riffs, heavy bass and just the right amount of organ solo action. That said, the Breakestra-esque B-side is pretty darn tidy, too.
Review: A 45 suiting the funky northern soul sound, re-reissued here on a great sounding Record Shack release. Both highly sought after versions of "What I Did In The Street" featured here: from the raw and original Gulfstream label version, backed with the smoother, disco release that came later. Originally released in 1978 as a B side to Betty Padgett's "Tonight Is The Night", King was a Florida based vocalist and this terrific song was her sole release.
Review: Thanks to the release of two fine seven-inch singles last year, those who dig for Afro-funk should already be familiar with "East African funk" combo Kingdom of Kaffa. Here, they begin 2018 in confident fashion via two more authentically fuzzy, straight-to-tape workouts. First up you'll find "K'Ut Iri", an undulating and pleasingly deep workout rich in razor-sharp '70s Afro-funk guitars, Tony Allen style grooves and cascading, marimba-style melodies. They impressively flip the script on side B, where "Yeduri Tikusati" brilliantly joins the dots between hip-hop, kuduro, dubstep and sweet electronic soul.
Review: Absolute funk fire from Gladys and co; "Love Is Always On Your Mind" is arguably one of their most overlooked jams in history. Heavily swung and quite gritty in comparison to their other work, it's an instant floor display lavished with stacks of energy and groove. Flip for the heavily referenced, sampled and edited 1980 classic "Bourgie Bourgie". Silky soul disco at its finest. Another white hot reissue success from Buddah.
Review: Cult Texan funkers enjoy a little refocus on Big Crown in the form of their strongest single and an unreleased demo. "Sitting On A Red Hot Stone" tells a story of a cold-hearted femme fatale over a smoking, sleazy groove that packs a serious punch across its three tight minutes. Flip for an incredible rarity in the form of "Funky Nassau" with an absolute killer break mid-way. DJs and diggers, you know what to do.