Review: If you're a talented soul vocalist who wants an authentically fuzzy late 1960s sound, you could do worse than join forces with Timmion Records' in-house backing band, Cold Diamond & Mink. They're in fine form here providing admirable backing to rising star Carlton Jumel Smith. "Love Our Love Affair" is undeniably attractive, with Smith's confident and emotion-rich vocal rising above the band's hazy horns, languid trumpet solos, sun-bright guitar licks and lolloping, hip-hop style funk-soul beats. As is customary, the band's tidy instrumental version can be found - and enjoyed - on the flip.
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: While most of the obscure old records being reissued by Floating Points' Melodies label fetch eye-wateringly high prices on the second-hand market, there's no doubt that they're all astonishingly good. This latest gem - a little-known 1974 7" from folk-soul songwriter Bobby Wright (now Abu Talib) - is another fantastic example. "Blood of an American", a sweet sounding but politically heavyweight song inspired by the singer-songwriter's opposition to the Vietnam War, is every bit as inspired as the works of that better-known folk-soul legend, Terry Callier. In fact, B-side "Everyone Should Have His Day" sounds like a long-lost Callier recording. As ever, the record is beautifully packaged and comes bundled with a 16-page "mini-zine" packed with interviews and articles about the record.
Review: Incredible late night smoochy stuff right here from one of the most decorated bassists of all time. A major figure in the bands of Miles Davis and Stevie Wonder, Henderson was also a killer solo artist amassing eight artist albums between 76-86. This AOTN "45 showcases his true breadth as "Let Love Enter" lilts on a soft bossa with rising horns, velvet backing vocals and an unabashed come-to-bed message. "Come To Me" gets even deeper under the sheets with as he goes toe-to-toe, cheek-to-cheek with Rena Scott with smoking results.
Review: Athens of the North founder Euan Fryer has described Willie Dale's "Let Your Light Shine" as "one of the best discoveries in the last 15 years". Only five copies of the original 7" single have surfaced to date, with the most recent changing hands for eye-watering sums of money. You can see why Fryer was so excited by "Let Your Light Shine": while rooted in both funk and soul, the track also draws heavily on psychedelic rock and the fuzzy, funk-rock fusion brilliance of Sly Stone. Original B-side "Somebody Help Me" is an altogether more laidback affair, with Dale offering impassioned and melancholic lyrics over a psychedelic era take on old rhythm & blues ballads.
Review: Not to be confused with the sports commentator, David Coleman was behind the scorching boardwalk vocals that graced Hector Rivera's debut 1966 album At The Party. The right levels of swoon and croons over vital Latin orchestration - led by the renowned pianist and regular Tito Puenta collaborator - David exudes some serious emotion. "Drown My Heart" lilts with a soft samba while Coleman scatters powerful heartbreak tales, "My Foolish Heart" takes a much more stripped back rhythmic arrangement with yearning, soaring strings that break out into the full orchestra on the chorus. Both cult attractions on the northern soul and popcorn scenes, it's another hearty reissue from them up north.
Cold Diamond & Mink - "Let's Get Together" (instrumental) (4:22)
Review: We just love hearing new soul and funk. Sure, a rare single from the 60s or 70s goes a long way in satisfying our needs, but how good is it to hear NEW music!? That's why we rate Finland's Timmion imprint so highly; they always come through with the goods, and there isn't a single EP they've put out that hasn't interested us... or flown off our shelves! This time, Jonny Benavidez, Cold Diamond and Mink team up for the absolute sexiness that is "Let's Get Together", a seductive soul ballad that is bound to lit up the room instantly! The instrumental is rather fine, too.
Review: Two serious rarities from Pittsburgh's Little Hank. "Mister Bang Bang Man" is mythical northern soul anthem made famous at Manchester's infamous Twisted Wheel club in the early 70 and only saw very limited release on London Monument before becoming the sole preserve of savvy and lucky selectors. "Try To Understand" was Little Hank's debut from a year earlier in 1965. More of a straight up bluesy soulful ballad, it's still become a cult collector classic and, like the long-awaited A-side, regularly fetches triple figures. Until now...
Review: Imogen have stumbled across a rare gem here, presenting some previously unheard liquid funk jams from the lesser known Chicago pioneer James Perri. Some of his jams as Jimi Polo are perennial classics, while his time spent in Soul II Soul and elsewhere are testament to his gifts, but this particular set of recordings from the 90s have lain in wait for their time to shine. You can hear his skills as a session musician and arranger coming through in abundance on this warm, grooving, acid jazz inflected EP. "70s Theme" is a sparse, moody jazz funk cut, while "Brother Beware" is a smooth, sultry slice of message soul. "Express Yourself" is the truly uplifting slice of the pie, and it will chime just fine with any lovers of that classic Soul II Soul sound.
Review: Following the excellent excavation of the Miami band's unreleased album Best Kept Secret, AOTN's Fryer treats us to his two favourite cuts on a 500-only never-to-be-repressed 45. Seeped in powerful vocal harmonies, "Let Go" is rare groove gold with smooth sax and a dynamic that keeps on surprising while "Will You Be There" is an end of night soul shakedown with a tenderness that's tangible in every element. Don't sleep on this... Or the album. One of AOTN's most exciting releases this year.
Review: DJ Fryer's Athens of the North label continues its relentless charge the annals of funk and disco, focussing attentions here on the mid '70s debut of Jeanie Tracy. Glance at the discography of the Houston-born singer and you are presented with a storied recording career that includes credits alongside Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin and Sylvester so it's little surprise to see that original copies of Making New Friends / Trippin On The Sounds rarely change hands below the $1000 mark. Originally released on Marvin Holmes' Oakland-based Brown Door Records around 1975, this Athens of the North edition is a must for any self-respecting 45 wielding selectors out there! The A-side is a recognised classic of the rare groove canon but it's "Trippin On The Sounds" that you need to hear; a glorious horn-laden deep funk nugget.
Review: Chop-walloping funk soul: AOTN bossman Fryer has allegedly spent the past 15 years trying to secure this '70s rarity. Silky, youthful and compounded with an insatiable groove, it's dangerously close to Jackson 5's best output and no one would blame you if you thought it actually was. Flip for "Dimona", a slower burner that swoons and shows the band's more mature side. This is the first time either side has seen a 45... You know what to do.
Review: A serious self-press rarity from the heart of Clarksville, Suggs never achieved the recognition he deserved during his tenure as a band leading soul man. Still in Clarksville and now a missionary, the sentiments of this recording history peak resonate with what he does now: "Everything That Looks Good" is a JB style message on the lure of temptation while "You Don't Deserve", an instrumental that sees Bubba switching his vocals for equally commanding sax, is a moment for poignant, soul-searching reflection. Lord have mercy.
Review: When you talk about 'kid funk', it's always long-lost B-sides that record collectors talk about like myths. But, Athens Of the North have managed to get their hands on the masters of a super-rare Virtue 7" that goes for no less that L1000 on the second-hand market in its original form. "Listen" is a deep, sublimely odd little funk tune that is as deep as you can get for boogie and funk; "Party" on the flip is no less of a gem, backed by Little George's supreme vocals and a tight little break, too. Sick.
Review: Leroi's back! Well... He never went away. As a studiosmith and designer his fingerprints are all over many of Colemine's on-point curations, but now we're about to enjoy a whole new tonne of Conroy as he prepares to drop his debut album. These two heavyweight instrumentals set the scene perfectly; "Tiger Trot" looks east for melodic inspiration with a touch of New Orleans in the swampy sweaty delivery. "Enter" hits with more of a jazzier, freeform air as we spiral into trumpet dizziness into deep bluesy introspection and some damn fine breaks from fellow Colemine consistency Rob Houk. Only 300 copies pressed.
Review: Giving Nicole a rare night off, inimitable troupe The Soul Investigators team up with killer flautist Ernie Hawks for two impeccable instrumentals. "Scorpio Man Theme" is all slinky 70s cinematica with a wry nod towards Lalo Schifrin while "Journey To The Bottom" adopts a more languid perspective with slower beats, a smouldering groove and a flute line that takes us right down to the bottom of our souls and right back up again. Beautiful.
Review: Dreamy mid '70s funk from Caribbean (St Maarten to be precise) trio Cool Creations: "Wish Upon Love" struts with a Boz Scaggs-style confidence and a deep, cloudy finish that would make Faze-O proud. Flip for a straight-up cloud burst as "Night On Beach Island" lives up to its name with measured pace, cosmic trumpets, sandy pianos and lavish, lolloping wave-lapping double bass. Beautiful.
Review: John Heartsman and Circles are precisely the sort of fellas you'd expect to see land on Athens Of The North, the most recent boogie-jazz reissuers to come out of the US of A. This material from the late 70's is like gold on the second hand market, and more like a mirage given the fact that original copies are her impossible to come by. Anyhow, this is proper soul-jazz goodness at its best, so if that's your thing, then get on it real fast. "Mr Magic" appears here as an edit from Fryers, but it's not million miles away from the original, its subtle organs still intact and that catch, funky swing still very much at the core of the tune. Heard the Idris Muhammad version? Check it to compare. "Talking About My Baby" is looser, more soulful affair with a faster tempo and Heartsman's rugged vocals in its underbelly. Quality.
Review: Two big cuts taken from the Melbourne trio's sixth album Blind Bet, here the band flip two sides of a ridiculously funky coin. "Mind Made Up" features the vocals of Tru Thoughts starlet Kylie Auldist. Her rich emphatic vocals fit the 70s soul licks perfectly. Smooth and dynamically delivered with big horns, subtle strings, major chords and an instantly catchy chorus, you'll make your mind up on this long before the last horns blast a final cheerio. "Skeletor", meanwhile, is a much more party-focussed jam where big breakbeats provide the back bone for sharp horns, heavy Hammond slapping and warm gravelly vocals.
Review: Funky Geordies Smoove & Turrell return to London's spiciest funk indie with the first single from their forthcoming new album Mount Pleasant. Two sides, two vibes: "You're Gone" is an uptempo pop funk jam with a wry dash of disco, Rodgers style strums, big horn blasts, rhythmic vocal calls and a subtle harmony between Turrell and new Jalapeno signing Izo FitzRoy. Flip for a little twist of melancholy as the blues groove and yearning tones of "A Deckham Love Song" ooze into your soul. Most pleasant.
Review: Anticipation for the northern duo's fifth album Mount Pleasant continues to rise as the Jalapeno funksters drop another cheeky doublet ahead of the release. Two sides, two very distinct vibes: "I Feel Alive" tips a wee nod at their label mates Kraak & Smaak with its fluttering space disco elements and hip-strutting beats while "Mr Hyde" takes us up a notch with a sweaty northern soul twist. Bring on the album.
Review: Finland's Timmion Records should, by now, be categorised as leaders in the leftfield soul game. Their catalogue contains a wealth of both old and new talents and, whenever we see that famous 'TRI' sign hit our shelves, we just know we're in for the good shit. Thankfully, this new collaboration by the mysterious Cold Diamond and Mink is right up there with the rest of the label's wacky, soulful mind-melters, except that here we head into even deeper quarters. The 7" contains two parts of "Queen Of Soul", a rough, wavy piece of lo-fi strumming that uses its wonderfully exchoing guitars to guide the listener into a state of total psychedelia. We love it, and we suggest you to cop one now before it pops up for the triple the price in a decade's time. Bliss.
Review: Milan mystic funkateering five-piece Calibro 35 tease with two songs from their forthcoming album Decade. As always, expect full instrumental mischief as the long-haired gang duff us up with fast-paced, super-tight grooves laced with heady levels of cosmicity. "SuperStudio" is the entrance theme of your dreams. A big ballsy riff, full orchestration and a momentum that pushes you deep inside your favourite 70s movie. "Gomma" is straight up funk prog fusion with its warbling synths and big dark energetic waves. Bring on the album!
Review: Bona fide Wigan Pier anthem from 66, Sam & Kitty's full-energy double-sided stomper is the stuff of northern soul legend. "I've Got Something Good" rolls with a rhythm & blues-style guitar hook and big review-style horns backing up Sam and Kitty's duelling dulcets every step of the way while "Your Money My Love" is a bluesier affair with a slower tempo and even bolder horn-work. Often passing hands for around L60, this reissue should be welcome news to many enthusiasts.
Review: Soul Tribe celebrate the epic legacy of Chess subsidiary Argo with two of the label's many outstanding soul burners. Etta's big swing sauce-pot number takes pride of place with all 55 years of sultry devotion still deeply embedded into the recording. Banks' slightly lesser known pastoral ballad sets up camp on the B. Lilting and lolloping with horseback storytelling, it's the perfect foil both musically and narratively.