Review: Don't be fooled by the smoky jazzy horns on the intro: The Allergies are still at the front of the party queue! They were just lulling us into a false sense of security before hitting us with a precision range of big soul swingers and dynamite party killers; both "Hold You Close" and "Since You've Been Gone" pop with big beat bangs, "Entitled To That" stamps and sweats like Wigan Pier is still holding the best dances in the country, "Main Event" parps and pumps while long-standing affiliate Andy Cooper reminds us who's boss while "It Won't Be Me" (also with Cooper) is coded with so much horn and guitar powered gusto you could be fooled into thinking Ugly Duckling are back. Yet another triumphant album from one of Jalapeno's most exciting acts.
Review: 1975's "Simigwa" album not only launched the career of Afro-funk fusionist and eventual Highlife great Gyedu Blay Ambolley, but also inspired a Ghanaian dance craze. The album was co-produced by another Highlife great, Ebo Taylor, and has long been exceptionally hard to find on vinyl. For this official vinyl reissue on Mr Bongo, Ambolley's landmark set has been fully re-mastered for the very first time. It sounds spectacular, with great clarity on the ear-catching brass solos, serious weight to the bass and superb stereo separation. Highlights include - but certainly aren't limited to - the Afro-blues brilliance of "Toffie", the jaunty dancefloor fuzziness of "This Hustling World" and the heavyweight swing of ear-catching opener "Kwaakwaa".
Review: Celebrating 50 years of one of the most definitive fusion records ever made, Now Again present the most fitting remaster Axelrod's critically acclaimed debut album Song Of Innocence has ever had. An immense piece of work that pays homage to William Blake and brought together nodes and notions of rock, classical, funk, psychedelic and boogaloo, this reissue comes straight from the original masters with engineering and consultation from Axelrod's production partner H B Barnum, original keyboardist Don Randi, his widow Terri and producer T-Ray. Still as complex and cosmic and sounding better than ever.
Review: Massive reissue incoming! BBE have answered many of our prayers with this long awaited repress of Roy's 1983 disco funk excursion "Silver Vibrations". A record that's currently fetching triple figures, this is the first time it's been repressed since it was released. Opening with the iconic whispered message of "Chicago", Roy takes us on a trip through his funkiest of quarters; the salubrious slap bass of "Lots Of Love", the Afrobeat staccato vocals and glock rocking vibrancy of "Silver Vibrations" and the dreamy cosmic jazz trip of "DC City" are just some of the highlights, all shared across the 12"s with no more than two tracks per side. Vibes that can't be slept on.
Review: German funkateer Bjorn Wagner launched the Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band in 2007 following months spent learning to play steel drums during an extended stay in Trinidad and Tobago. 11 years on, Wagner and his trusty backing band return with album number two, "The Serpent's Mouth". As usual, the set sees them gleefully combine killer grooves - a mix-and-match fusion of funk, soul, hip-hop and jazz-funk - with a hint of humid tropical music and the distinctive melodies of oil barrel steel drums. There are, of course, nods to reggae and calypso (see "Real Hot") and a few eyebrow-raising cover versions, of which their rendition of Jan Hammer's "Crockett's Theme" from "Miami Vice" stands out.
Review: The jazz and broken beat revival continues apace as we race through 2019, so original pioneers of the sound are rightly coming back into focus. Enter the Brand New Heavies, one of the key acts of the mid-eighties who sound as good on this brand new album as ever. It's littered with funk-licked pop, crystalline acid jazz and singalong songs that range from tender ballads to soaring soul. Angie Stone, Beverley Knight and other vocalists lend their tones along the way, but importantly TBNH is not a revival or self-satisfied celebration. Instead, it feels like a forward-looking and accomplished album that takes the band in subtle new directions.
Aldo Vanucci - "You're All Show" (feat Kylie Auldist - Smoove remix Craig Charles edit)
Lack Of Afro - "The Outsider" (part 2)
Mop Mop - "Run Around" (feat Fred Wesley & Anthony Joseph)
Euro Cinema - "Koekwaus"
Saskwatch - "Second Best"
The James Taylor Quartet - "Blow Up"
The Bongolian - "The Riviera Affair"
Hot 8 Brass Band - "Ghost Town"
Hidden Jazz Quartett - "High Heels" (feat Omar - Lack Of Afro remix)
The Perceptions - "Bite The Bit"
Jessica Lauren Four - "Happiness Train" (featt Jocelyn Brown)
Omar - "There's Nothing Like This" (feat Pino Palladino)
Dr Rubberfunk - "Creek Walk"
Cookin' On 3 Burners - "Cars"
Deep Street Soul - "What She Said"
The Sweet Vandals - "Feel Alive"
Emma Beatson & The Hawkmen - "Do It" (Mako & The Hawk version)
Tape Five - "Geraldine's Routine"
Review: Self-proclaimed "complete package" Craig Charles (actor, poet, DJ, radio host, stand-up) seems to be enjoying life as Britain's most famous funk and soul fan. Here, he curates a second installment of his Funk & Soul Club compilation series. Predictably, there's plenty to tickle the fancy, from the reggae-soul-house shuffle of Lack of Afro's remix of Hidden Jazz Quartet's "High Heels", and the psychedelic funk madness of The Bongolian's "The Riviera Affair", to the celebratory release of Jessica Lauren Four's "Happiness Train" (featuring a brilliant vocal from old Jocelyn Brown), and a pair of ripsnorting cover versions (Cookin' On Three Burners' fantastic take on Numan's "Cars" and Hot Eight Brass Band's famous remake of the Specials' "Ghost Town").
Brian Auger's Oblivion Express - "Foolish Girl" (feat Alex Ligertwood)
The New Mastersounds - "Tantalus"
The Getup - "Hush"
Orquesta Akokan - "Mambo Rapidito"
Gizelle Smith - "Scared Of Something"
Menagerie - "Spiral"
Review: Craig Charles' annual "Funk & Soul Club" compilations are fast becoming as much of a Christmas tradition as turkey, dodgy decorations and ill-advised snogs at office parties. As with its predecessor, this sixth volume does a good job in showcasing the best in modern funk, soul, Afrobeat and heavy Latin jams, with a few stone cold classics thrown in (see the Mighty Ryeders' peerless "Evil Vibrations"). Look out for deep and heavy funk gems from the Bamboos, the New Mastersounds and Lance Ferguson's Rare Groove Spectrum, some suitably smooth fare from Courtney Pine and Omar, a scintillating, salsa-focused cover of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" by Scotland's Grupo Magnetico, and a dash of dancefloor goodness from funk breaks scene stalwarts Smoove and Turrell.
Review: Many African disco enthusiasts will already be familiar with the title track of Benis Cletin's 1979 debut album, Jungle Magic, thanks to the fine re-edit Sofrito released back in 2011. Few, though, will have heard the whole album, which here gets a well-deserved reissue on CD. Cletin's take on Afro-disco-calypso-funk fusion is undeniably sweet, with cuts such as "Mr Teacher" and "Love Forever" balancing the needs of dancefloors with a cheery looseness that's never less than intoxicating. Highlights include the urgent, synth-laden Afro-funk grunt of "Fireman", and the touching, down-tempo tribute to Africa, "Beautiful Continent".
Review: Kalita Records announce the first ever and definitive discography of Carrie Cleveland. Here, they offer an expanded version of her 1978 album 'Looking Up', including both the issue and promotional versions of her single 'Make Love To Me', and the previously unknown sweet soul single 'I've Got A Feeling'.
Privately arranged, recorded and produced by Carrie and her husband Bill as a labour of love in their backyard studio in 1978, 'Looking Up' is one of the most in-demand soul/disco LPs in existence, sought-after in particular for their track 'Love Will Set You Free'. In addition, the promotional version of Carrie's single 'Make Love To Me' is one of the best and rarest sweet soul records to have emerged out of the West Coast soul scene, and her single 'I've Got A Feeling' is until today virtually unknown even to the most seasoned of collectors, with even Carrie herself unsure if it was ever released. With the album originally pressed in a limited run of just 1000 with 500 copies of each single, original copies of Carrie's records deservingly command eye-watering figures on the second-hand market. Kalita now satisfy the thirst with the first ever official reissue of her entire discography.
The CD is accompanied by a mini-poster and includes extensive interview-based liner notes and never before seen photos, detailing Carrie and Bills' life and musical career.
Review: She may be best known as a TV and radio presenter, but Nigerian star Julie Coker also enjoyed a short but successful music career. She released two albums of note - highlife-focused 1976 debut "Ere Yon (Sweet Songs)" and 1981's more disco-centric "Tomorrow" - both of which now fetch eye-watering sums online. This fine retrospective showcases cuts from both of those sets, with the many highlights including the spacey, delay-laden highlife cheeriness of "Re Hese", the Clavinet-sporting disco-funk-goes-pop bounce of "It's All For You", the low-slung but rising, gospel influenced brilliance of "Gossiper Scandal Monger" and the heavily percussive, off-kilter goodness of album closer "Iyo-Re". You might also notice the intro of 'Ere Yon', which was recently sampled to great effect in Anderson .Paak's "Saviers Road"!
Motihar Trio, Schweizer Trio, Schoof & Wilen - "Yaad"
George Gruntz - "Djerbi"
The Albert Mangelsdorff Quartet - "Never Let It End"
Smoke - "Shelda"
Michael Naura Quartet - "Soledad De Murcia"
The MPS Rhythm Combination & Brass - "Timbales Calientes"
El Babaku - "El Babaku"
Hannibal & The Sunrise Orchestra - "Revelation"
Tony Scott & The Indonesian Allstars - "Burungkaka Tua"
Dave Pike Set - "Raga Jeeva Swara"
Review: As part of their ongoing 50th birthday celebrations, German jazz label MPS asked Italian musician and crate digger Nicola Conte to trawl through their archives for spiritual gold. The result is "Cosmic Forest", an eye-opening set of largely obscure and little known tracks originally recorded between 1965 and 75. There is much "straight-up" spiritual jazz to enjoy (Nathan Davis' "Evolution" being a prime example), but it's the cuts that draw on a wider palette of influences that really stand out. Check, for example, the Middle Eastern flourishes of George Gruntz's "Djerbi", the hippy-ish vocal bliss of The Third Wave's "Maiden Voyage", the meditative jazz raga that is "Yaad" by Motihar Trio, Schweizer Trio, Schoof & Wilen, and the tropical drums of "El Babaku" by El Babaku.