Review: The Super Disco Edits camp have pulled off something of a coup here, securing the rights to a previously unissued 1987 cut from studio duo New Jersey Connection, whose sole 1981 single, "Love Don't Come Easy", has long been a favourite of boogie DJs. "Red Light Green Light", featuring the breezy vocals of Cynthia Wilson, sounds like a long lost boogie classic: all sugary-sweet backing vocals, rubbery bass guitar, twinkling '80s soul synthesizer melodies and punchy drum machine percussion. The A-side vocal version is accompanied by a tasty instrumental mix, in which the focus switches to the NJ twosome's superb production. File under: "must have".
Review: If this fine 7" is anything to go by, the crate digging and detective skills of Athens of the North founder Euan Fryer are as sharp as ever. The two tracks featured here originally appeared on a private press single that currently changes hands for large sums online. Fryer manager to track down the original writer/producer, Chicago-based George Riviera, who not only have his blessing to the reissue, but also sent over the master tapes. Stylistically, A-side "The Time is Right" sits somewhere between Latin soul, jazz-funk and sumptuous downtempo disco, with blue-eyed soul vocals and subtle vibraphone solos rising above superb had percussion. Fipside "Feelin' Funky" is a more up-tempo affair: an undulating chunk of jazz-funk/disco fusion laden with neat musical touches.
Review: We've barely recovered from the funk blitz of last year's Undercover Mixtape album and along comes this brand new 45 from long-standing LA funk troupe. As always, the focus is on big immersive grooves with just the right balance of sleaze and looseness; "Big Day" slouches back and swampy blues arrangement with the massive backing vocals giving an almost gospel-style energy. "Hound Dogs" is more of an upbeat funk jam, loaded with snaking percussive weaves, vital horns and a positive message. Spread the good word.
Review: Since springing back to life last year, original disco-era funk label Al & The Kidd Records has delivered a string of fine singles featuring previously unheard cuts from the Washington D.C-based imprint's seemingly bulging vaults. Their latest must-have 45 features two delights from Michael Orr, an obscure funk/soul artist best known for his 1975 collaboration with Casey Harris, Spread Love. In fact, B-side "Afterawhile" - a sumptuously loose and laidback affair featuring some superb keyboard solos from Orr - is taken from that sought-after set. Arguably even more thrilling, though, is A-side "Wonder Woman (Super Lady)", a previously unreleased, synth-heavy space funk jam recorded in 1983.
Review: Following the success of "Heatwave" and "Austerity Skank", the legendary Pama International collective return with two more brand new originals. Once again we're taking deep into the very roots of all modern music - the blue and soul. "Wake Up" is a restrained sun-kissed ode to time and the cruelty of hindsight while "I Cried Till I Stopped" is a truly beautiful moment of blues that really thrusts Anna Uhuru's rich vocals to the fore. Bring on the album.
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: Singer, songwriter and session vocalist for Motown and Chess, Jeff Perry spent the late 70s on his own solo adventure and "Call On Me" was one of his earliest endeavours. A fairly urgent torch song executed with few theatrics but rather layers of soft harmonies, a funk-riddled break and a dreamy middle eighth. Flip for the instrumental and you'll hear just how much power and emergency the Jeff's vocals provide now they're removed.
I've Never Found A Man (To Love Me Like You Do) (3:22)
Review: This tidy reissue gathers together tracks from two different Esther Phillips singles, both of which were originally released in 1971. Pride of place goes to the legendary soul singer's cover of Gil Scott-Heron's "Home Is Where The Hatred Is", which also opened her brilliant album "From A Whisper To A Scream". Sounding a little like the period "conscious soul" of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, the track is brilliantly arranged and performed by Phillips and her assembled studio musicians. B-side "I've Never Found a Man (To Love Me Like You Do)" is an altogether sweeter affair, with Phillips and backing vocalists rising above a punchy, orchestrated soul groove.
Review: Chalalala move on. Outta Sight continue their two sides / two legends Atlantic 45 series with this beautiful celebration of The Pointer Sisters and The Drifters. Neither act require an introduction. The famous Oakland all-girl troupe take the lead with "Send Him Back", their sophomore single (that regularly fetches upwards of L100 a copy) it's a bubblegum soul frenzy with all the energy you'd expect from their breakthrough years. The Drifters carries a similar sense of focus and energy with vibrant backing vocals and a sunny side soul touch that will have you bouncing from here to next winter.
Review: Two sides, two years, two source labels: This powerful soul blast 45 captures two sides of LA songwriter Nolan's criminally short recording career. The A is his famous northern soul / Joy Division-riffed favourite "Keep On Keeping On" from 71 on cult soul imprint Lizard while the B "If I Could Only Be Sure" is a smoother R&B cut from his time on MCA's ABC imprint. Loose limbed feel good funk and swooning bluesy soul with big harmonies, this represents Nolan's diverse range with respect and timelessness.
Review: This Precisions (Philly Group) were a different group to the Detroit Precisions.These two tracks come from when they were working with Philadelphia producer Marty Bryant. We can imagine that some Northern Soul DJs tracked down copies of the scarce original pressing of this fine 7" for B-side "My Sense of Direction (Is Blown)", a heartfelt soul shuffler with serious dancefloor chops. Arguably even better, though, is A-side "Take a Closer Look", a slower, simmering chunk of doo-wop influenced goodness that's as heartbreaking as it is sublime.
Just Be Yourself (KON aka King Of Nothing remix) (7:47)
Just Be Yourself (extended mix) (6:34)
Review: Another royal re-edit by the one and only KON, here we find him going to town on 1974 soul classic from Pat Tandy's The Pretenders. Flipping the arrangement so each section gets a chance to shine (notably the raffish walking bassline and sweeping strings) the lead remix pays full respect to the original while giving it a completely fresh new life. Complete with the extended original for the more purest fans, KON's delivered gold once again.
Review: Some people love Willie Nelson, others prefer a half nelson. Now make way for Primo Nelson, a contemporary funk act from Southend On Sea weighing in at a cool 13 players. With such a strong squad it should come as no surprise that they punch hard: vocalist Dave Ambrose croons with real Lambert & Butler style croakiness while the band remains tighter than a bee's bundies, thumping at rapid tempo. "What's That?" nods to "Living In America" era James Brown with big Q&A dynamics between the vocals and horns while "Punched On The Train" is a sharper, pub-funk stomper with stern messages of anti-violence.
Review: Edinburgh's Athens Of The North present more soul-funk rarities, following up that hot one by Love Company a little while back. Now it's over to The Prophets Of Peace - a short lived band that released this little gem back in 1975. After graduating from Mankato State College, Walter Scott came back to Minneapolis to forge a career as a musician alongside Earl 'Sonny' Williams, Larry Loud, Bill Lubov, Dan Dahlgren, John C. Curly, Bruce Pallagi, Jimmy Wallace, Ron Atkinson, Donald Thomas, Doris Johnson, and Ed Garrett. "You Can Be" was recorded at Audiotek Studios Inc in 1975. David Z: who engineered Lipps Inc's "Funkytown" and several Prince productions, piloted the session. A year later, the group would secure its legacy on page 181 of Minnesota's Black Community.
Review: Having been a feature of Japan's revivalist funk scene since the mid-2000s, Q.A.S.B should be a familiar name to those who dig for dinked soul sevens. "Thinking of You" is their first single of 2017 and arrives a couple of months before the due date of the Q.A.S.B IV full-length. The title track, which resides on side A, is a superb piece of relaxed, summertime soul that increases in heaviness towards a sweltering, funk-fuelled conclusion. Turn to the flip for an alternative version in which male vocalist Hiro-A-Key joins the band's regular female singer to turn the track into a super-sweet duet rich in gently rising horns and sumptuous soul grooves.