Review: With the state of world politics at the moment, we could all do with the occasional pick me up. Enter The Pharaohs who link with Chicago natives Spencer Jackson Family for "Bring Back Peace To The World", which gets a timely reissue on Ubiquity. It's a spiritual bit of jazz funk with sax lines to get you grooving, deep soul vocals that stir you from the inside out and gospel overtones that get anyone ready to rejoice. Each part is as essential as the other and despite adding up to just over five minutes in total, both cuts will no doubt enhance your mood.
Review: Ubiquity is back with another of its two part 7"s, this time from contemporary soul group The Soul Surfers. Experts at covering the greats, they recently turned their hand to a classic from The JB's, while this time out it is Kool & The Gang's classic "Summer Madness" that gets a deep-cut and sexy make over. Part 1 is a sensuous slow burner with downtempo drums and heavenly guitar playing, while part 2 has harder drum grooves and dreamy , psyched-out guitars. It's another ageless rework that you need in your life.
Review: Best known for being the backing band for countless soul singers - most notably Emilia Sisco, Willie West and Thee Baby Cuffs - Timmion Records regulars Cold Diamond & Mink have finally been given a chance to take centre stage. "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" is the tight funk and soul combo's debut album and contains ten killer cuts from the Finnish combo in their usual jazz-flecked 1960s/early '70s funk and soul sound. Highlights are plentiful from start to finish, with the hazy bustle of "Remember Me", the super-sweet and glistening "Ain't That Love" and rush-inducing "This Is What Love Looks Like!" amongst our current favourites.
Review: In 1981, a multi-cultural group of young musicians headed by local lad Harbans Srih headed into a tiny eight-track studio in Walsall to record what they hoped would become their debut single. 28 years later, that single, credited to Klimate, is finally getting a release thanks to the diggers at Super Disco Edits. A-side "ESP" is an inspired chunk of Brit-funk that wraps soulful vocals, delay-laden sax solos and intricate electric piano lines around a warm and heavy, jazz-funk inspired groove. Flipside "To See You" is equally as impressive, with the action focused on rubbery slap bass, meandering sax lines, twinkling keys, reggae-soul style vocals and the kind of flash-fried guitar licks that were so common on dancefloor cuts during the period.
Otis Redding - "(Your Love Lifted Me ) Higher & Higher" (Soul Flip edit) (4:03)
Gerri Granger - "I Go To Pieces" (Soul Flip edit) (3:33)
Review: Sometimes you just can't beat the golden oldies and so it is that Soul Flip turns his attention to a couple of raw soul bangers. Up first is Otis Redding's classic "(Your Love Lifted Me ) Higher & Higher" with a rousing bass section which drives along the original version.The hits hit hard, the vocal is given room to breathe and the swing in the drums is infectious. The flipside houses a soaring tweak of Gerri Granger's "I Go To Pieces", with its clattering keys and rolling soul all quickly finding a way into your affections.
Etta James & Sugar Pie Desanto - "In The Basement" (Soul Flip edit) (3:20)
John Gary Williams - "My Sweet Lord" (Soul Flip edit) (3:59)
Review: On their latest limited edition salvo, the hardworking Soul Flip crew (AKA experienced DJs and producers Aldo Vanucci and Del Gazeebo) gets to work on two more stomping dancefloor cuts from the golden age of soul. First up on side A is a gently tooled-up and tightened up take on Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto's 1966 floor-heater "In The Basement", a hybrid soul-jazz/rhythm and blues jam rich in rubbery double bass, bustling drums, restless handclaps and brilliant lead vocals from the two legendary soul singers. On the flip they tackle Memphis musician John Gary Williams' 1972 cover of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", which brilliantly re-imagines the former Beatles' spiritual song as a sweaty gospel-soul stomper.
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - "I Can't Dance To That Music You're Playin'" (3:57)
The Jackson 5 - "The Love You Save" (4:17)
Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (3:43)
Sam & Dave - "Soul Sister, Brown Sugar" (3:18)
Aretha Franklin - "A Change" (3:33)
Sugar Pie DeSanto - "Go Go Power" (4:20)
Joy Lovejoy - "In Orbit" (3:52)
Judy Clay & William Bell - "Private Number" (4:30)
Review: Jobbing DJs will do well to pick this one up: it's a way to bring some original soul into your sets while also serving up some big tunes that people know and love. These careful edits pump up the sunny elements, layer in funky riffs, energetic strings and up the tempos of tried and tested classics from The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Sam & Dave and plenty more golden oldies. Our picks: Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers' fine cover of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and Sugar Pie DeSanto's hardcore swinger "Go Go Power" that's sure to get those hips moving.
Review: Earlier in the year, Kutiman took his brand of psychedelic fusion to Wah Wah 45s for the very first time. Here he returns home to Siyal Music with Turkish vocalist Melike Sahin in tow. "Sakla Beni" is wonderfully odd and exotic - a spaced-out psych-funk affair that wraps mazy, Moog style motifs, mind-altering orchestration and Sahin's wide-eyed vocal around a skewed, low-slung groove. It's brilliantly hallucinatory, as is the accompanying "Karaoke Version" - a superb instrumental take that allows listeners a chance to revel in the intricacy of Kutiman's arrangements. In this context, "Sakla Beni" sounds like it should be gracing the soundtrack of a particularly odd late 1960s Turkish film
Review: Stefano Tirone has been a stalwart of the Italian scene since making his debut on legendary Italian house label Calypso Records way back in 1992. Since then, his productions have become increasingly more jazz and soul focused, with a sizeable side order of groovy downtempo beats. His latest seven-inch single begins with "Try My Love", a hazy chunk of head-nodding jazz-funk/soul fusion rich in languid synthesizer solos, lazy grooves, hazy horns and soulful vocals. It's really good all told, though we'd argue that flipside "Odoya" - a wiggling chunk of Afro-tinged mid-tempo funk - is even better. Either way, it's another rock solid release from the effervescent Tirone.
Review: Legendary Harlem label Queen Constance brought the world the most raw and authentic disco direct from the source. Years later, collectors and dancers alike still fawn over plenty of its output and now two of its more notorious tracks get on-point edits by contemporary stars Kon and Moplen. With Kon at the buttons, High Voltage's "Rock Spank Freak" is tweaked and coerced, with extended funk breakdowns and heavier bottom ends. Moplen then adds some extra colour and pumps up the trumpet lines to make for an unabashedly glorious disco stomper. This is a 100% legit reissue with fresh remastering, so do not sleep.
Review: Mystery might surround fuzzy soul peddlers The Penny Arcade but we know their cover of Rufus Thomas' "Funky Way" was such a strong favourite on Perfect Toy's "Deep In The Valley" collection that they've served it up on its own 45" complete with a fresh soul sojourn in the form of the hazy, light footed swooner "New Love". Penny for your thoughts?
Evidence For The Existance Of The Unconscious (9:12)
Review: Co-produced by none other than James Brown and featuring a band led by fellow funk/soul legend Dave Matthews, The Grodeck Whipperjenny's sole album has long been considered something of a must-have by heavy funk fans. Original copies have tended to be hard to come by, so this Record Store Day reissue from Now Again Records, which comes complete with a booklet telling the story of the 1970 set, should be an essential purchase. It's a curiously psychedelic affair, with string-laden, near symphonic moments (see the almost entirely beat-free "Conclusions" being joined by cuts that explore spiraling funk-rock ("Sitting Here On A Tongue") and acid-fired psychedelic rock ("Why Can't I Go Back").
Review: Hozan Yamamoto is a widely revered figure in Japan, and a true icon of the seventies jazz scene. This album from 1971 is one of this best and a seminal work that effortlessly floats through fusion, soul and big band styles and has been basically impossible to buy in original format. Trust Mr Bongo to come correct with this fully licensed version which features his trademark flute playing and finds the maestro in a soaring, uplifting mood here. Big brass adds weight to his leads while well formed grooves drive the album along. Add in subtle Japanese stylings and it all adds up to a J jazz classic.
Review: Matasuna Records' latest release offers up two sought-after tracks from Bossa 70, a relatively short-lived Peruvian band whose ultra-limited 1970 releases (a total of 400 copies were pressed of their sole single and eponymous debut album) brilliantly joined the dots between jazz, bossa, soul and funk. Listening to these cuts for the first time, it's easy to see why Matasuna has gone to the trouble of licensing them: A-side "Si Voce Pensa" is an inspired Peruvian funk cover of a 1968 Roberto Carlos track rich in bustling breakbeats, punchy horns and confident female vocals. Just as potent is the band's flipside cover of Baden Powell's "Berimbau", which puts a funk-soul twist on a certified bossa-nova classic.
Review: According to the South American music specialists at Matasuna Records, Ralph Weeks' 1971 single "Let Me Do My Thing" - recorded alongside backing Los Dinamicos Exciters - is arguably the most sought-after Panamanian soul record around. As this reissue proves, Weeks' original version is rubbery, heavy and rousing, with the singer's rasping lead vocal soaring above a weighty backing track that sounds like a breezier take on the New York boogaloo sound. On the flip, Voodoocuts tools it up for modern dancefloors, underpinning his club-ready edit with punchy new drums that give the cut more of a breakbeat style swing.
Review: Founded in 1967 by singer/producer Carlos Oliva and other Cuban immigrants to the United States, Los Sobrinos del Juez were briefly one of the leading protagonists of the turn-of-the-'70s "Miami Sound" - a humid and intoxicating fusion of blues, rock, funk and dancefloor-focused Latin sounds. Their 1974 debut single "Harina De Maiz" - here reissued for the first time since - is a perfect example of that short lived style, offering up a mixture of wah-wah-guitar and psychedelic organ-powered Latin funk grooves and righteous Cuban vocals. On this edition it comes backed by the previously unheard "Corned Beef Hash", a swinging Latin-jazz number rich in vibraphone solos, jaunty piano riffs and plenty of hip-wiggling percussion.
Save Your Love (feat Boogie Back & David A Tobin) (5:19)
Sexability (feat Kevin East) (4:56)
Slow Burn Love (feat D Train) (3:55)
No Matter What (feat Yolanda Lavender) (5:28)
Keep On (feat Matthew Winchester) (4:51)
Come Back Home (feat David A Tobin) (5:03)
Share The Light (feat Janus Soliand) (5:06)
Your Move (feat Sophie Ripley) (4:51)
Summer Rain (feat Faye B) (4:38)
Review: Over 10 years deep and sounding Stronger than ever (not sorry) Cool Million return with their fifth album and it's delicious in all directions. Still smacking with that powerful early 80s soul, boogie and RnB blend, still packing heavyweight vocalists, still stacking serious levels of musicianship, Stronger runs the gamut. From juicy feet-tickling boogie ("Stronger", "Keep On") to sultry ballads ("Share The Light") and steamy soul jams ("Come Back Home") with killer vocals from the likes of the legendary D-Train plus Janus Soliand, Jasmine Franklin and David A Tobin, "Stronger" is one of the Danish/German duo's most accomplished albums to date.
Review: It would be fair to say that Paris Holley is not one of the best-known purveyors of 1980s funk and soul, though the handful of releases he put out in the decade tend to be cherished by serious diggers and DJs. 1984 jam "I Choose You", which is here reissued for the first time since the '80s, is undoubtedly one of his standout moments. Hazy, super-sweet and laidback, the cut sees Holley adding his soulful, high octave tones to a blissful backing track rich in fluid piano lines, sun-kissed guitars and mazy synth lines. Arguably even better is synth-funk B-side "Punkin' Funkin", a fizzing workout that sounds like a more soulful, talkbox-free take on Zapp man Roger Troutman's trademark sound.
Review: Over the last few weeks, Jazzman's ongoing "Holy Grail" reissue series has focused on obscure but in-demand albums from the Fable Records catalogue. The latest to get the deluxe reissue treatment is Steamheat's "Austin Funk", a 1975 set that's notably harder and funkier than the Texan label's usual jazz-funk fare. Of course, there are still plenty of jazz-funk flourishes to be found amongst the soulful vocals, crunchy clavinet lines, fast-tempo grooves and heady horn lines. Our picks include the low-down deep funk headiness of "Radiator", the fizzing brilliance of "Body Talk", the harmonic jazz guitar, horn and electronic piano solos of "Ghetto Tool" and the eyes-closed, in-the-zone madness of closing cut "Frozen Tundra Lady".
Review: Dr Rubberfunk (AKA long-serving DJ/producer Simon Ward) may have reached the start of middle age, but he's showing no signs of succumbing to a typical "midlife crisis". In fact, his recent releases have been among the strongest of his career to date. The third part of his ongoing "My Life At 45" series is another belter, with opener "A Matter of Time" - featuring talented, fast-rising vocalist Izo FitzRoy - being a particularly strong exercise in revivalist 1960s soul. Elsewhere across the EP, "Slim's Mood" is a fine chunk of hazy rhythm and blues featuring some awesome, Peter Green style jazz guitar solos, while closing cut "Moody Drums" is a chunky beats track tailor-made for funk and hip-hop DJs who like to get busy in the mix.
Tonis Magi & Music Seif - "Sa Haara Kinni Mu Kaest" (3:30)
Els Himma - "Keskoo" (2:44)
Valter Ojakaar - "Rasked Veosed" (4:05)
Uno Naissoo - "Marss Eksprompt" (2:49)
Gunnar Graps & Magnetic Band - "Leidmine" (3:17)
Eesti TV & Raadio Estraadiorkester - "Keskoosamba" (instrumental) (4:10)
Tarmo & Toomos Urb - "Valgud Peeglis" (feat Vanemode - short version) (4:59)
Eesti Raadio Estraadiorkester - "Malestuste Teel" (instrumental) (5:41)
Review: Several years deep into their quest to amplify their homeland's rich funk talent, Eastern European collective Estonian Funk Embassy level up with this exceptional compendium of tracks written and recording during Estonia's time under Soviet control. The first time most of these records have been released and distributed beyond domestic release, it's a total treasure trove of grooves ranging from upbeat, big band-led swing ("Keskoosamba"), thigh-slapping horn-heavy funk ("Rasked Veosed"), smokier, lounge-lapping jazzier influences ("Naed Vaid Oma Silmi"), sleazy disco funk ("Sa Haara Kinni Mu Kaest" and many shades in between. Capturing Estonia's musical legacy in all directions, this is a genuinely unique record.
Review: Funk fans hold tight: Food City have licensed a reissue of a holy grain tune from 1969 that would usually cost you a month's rent to purchase. The People's Choice were a short-lived group from Grand Rapids, Michigan who only put out a handful of tunes but still managed to leave their mark. "Destruction" is a raw jam with a consistent funky groove as a baseline weaves its way in and out. Big and expressive, it's bound to get any dancefloor going. Flip side "Off-spring" that's led by some florrid flute playing is just as effective.
Review: Here's something to set the pulse racing for all those who love Al Green's distinctive brand of soul: a deluxe box set containing re-mastered, replica versions of "45s" released by the singer on Hi Records between 1969 and '78. It's a wonderfully packaged and produced item, with no less than 26 seven-inch singles being joined by a 56-page hardback book and an ultra-limited Hi Records 45 adaptor. The music is, of course, superb, with the singles containing many of Green's most potent, celebrated and well-known works alongside largely forgotten B-sides and lesser-celebrated bonus cuts.
Review: Before they found fame with their 1975 debut album, Azymuth divided their time between working as backing musicians (attending recording sessions with some of Brazil's top talent) and recording experimental home demos. Recently rediscovered, these demos are finally being given a release thanks to the efforts of Far Out chief Joe Davis. There's much to admire on this first batch (a second volume is also available) of previously unheard early recordings, from the high-octane Brazilian funk insanity of "Prefacio" and Jimmy Smith-esque "Melo De Cuica", to the spacey samba/jazz-funk fusion of "Xingo (Version One)" and the relaxed, slow-burn brilliance of seven minute B-side opener "Laranjeiras".
Review: In 2016, Family Groove Records released a 12" of previously unheard 1979 demo recordings by Webster Station, a boogie-funk band from Dayton, Ohio whose studio efforts were initially binned by Warner Brothers for not being commercial enough. Demand for Family Groove's limited 12" of their recordings has remained high, so the label has decided to do a reissue. There's much to admire throughout, from the high-octane thrills of opener "Are You For Real" and the spacey warmth of the super-soulful "Can You Feel My Love", to the sugary sweetness of the Latin tinged ballad "Lady" and righteous closer "If You Feel Like Dancing", a killer combination of spacey synths, crunchy drums, urgent vocals and killer Clavinet lines.
Carlton Jumel Smith - "This Is What Love Looks Like" (3:47)
Jonny Benavidez - "Tell Me That You Love Me" (3:45)
Pratt & Moody - "Lost Lost Lost" (2:57)
Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators - "Paint Me In A Corner" (3:52)
Ernie Hawks & The Soul Investigators - "The Scorpio Walk" (4:57)
Wanda Felicia - "Until You're Mine" (3:19)
Bobby Oroza - "This Love" (part 1) (3:57)
Bardo Martinez & The Soul Investigators - "Bad Education" (3:53)
Emilia Sisco - "Don't Believe You Like That" (3:45)
Willie West - "I'm Still A Man" (4:31)
Review: Destination Helsinki: Daptone dig deep into the vaults of their friends at Timmion Records. Heavily championed by the likes of Nicole Willis, it's one of the most influential funk labels to come out of Finland this century, and this collection brings some of the many highlights together. The syrupy falsettos of Jonny Benavidez, the yearning lament of Pratt & Moody, the sincerity of Wanda Felicia and of course the driving focus and funk power of the Soul Investigators. The list of talent on Timmion goes on and on and this is a great snapshot of what they offer. See you in detention.
The Truckin' Company - "Got The Feeling" (Massimo Berardi edit) (5:41)
Izk Eyes - "Ton Of Groove" (The Funk District re-edit) (6:30)
Review: Fledgling label Daje Funk is sure to turn heads with their second sizzling offering of edits, with Rome's Massimo Berardi and Mexico's The Funk District both stepping up to the buttons. Truckin' Company's "Got The Feeling" is a loopy and rolling funk gem that keeps the energy up as strings soar to the skies and a squelchy bassline keeps you locked. The Funk District takes care of the flip with a top tweak of Izk Eyes's "Ton Of Groove", which is an appropriate title: big brass sections to shake your booty, a buttery male vocal and busy guitar licks all drive it forward through big breaks and killer drops.
Karate Boogaloo - "Do You Even Know What A Passport Is" (4:35)
Review: The second salvo from Aussie imprint College Of Knowledge offers up two sizzling sides of revivalist instrumental soul and funk from bands who've yet to make their mark outside of the Southern hemisphere. Surprise Chef, who helped launched the label earlier in year, handle side A, offering up a loose, percussive and hugely attractive number rich in mazy organ lines, fuzzy bass and classic funk guitar licks. Karate Boogaloo take a slightly more relaxed approach on the flip, layering fluid guitar solos and sustained, elongated Hammond organ chords over a bluesy soul groove.
Review: Africa Seven's second tribute to the "funky sounds of female Africa" is packed to the rafters with gems. While some of the material may be familiar to those digging Afro-funk, disco and boogie - see Oby Onyioha's breezy boogie sing-along "Enjoy Your Life", the similarly awesome early '80s dancefloor pressure of Nayanka Bell's "Just A Boogie" and the gnarled disco-rock pressure of Christy Essien's "Nobody Can Stop You" - the vast majority of tracks are not only little-known, but also simply essential. Our picks include the disco-reggae bounce of Bebe Manga's "Lokognolo", Theodora Ifudu's Teena Marie style disco-boogie workout "This Time Around" and the spiraling heavy funk pressure of Diane Solo's "N'Ziketio".
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.