Review: Nicole "Lady" Wray has reinvented herself in recent years, swapping the contemporary, radio-friendly '90s R&B of her youth for a sound heavily influenced by vintage, 1960s and '70s soul and funk. It's a blend that was explored on last year's superb Queen Alone full-length. The two tracks showcased on this 7" were both featured on that album. "Underneath My Feet" is particularly potent, with Wray offering a rasping, impassioned vocal that seems to soar above the triple-time backing track. "Guilty", with its sweet guitars, harmony backing vocals and rock solid funk breakbeat, sounds a little like some of Sharon Jones' more poignant moments.
Review: Many disco-era modern soul collectors regard, Larom Baker's "You're The Best", which initially appeared in 1978 on an impossible to find, single-sided 7" single, as one of the style's genuine "Holy Grail" records. It's good news, then, that Athens Of The North has secured the rights to reissue it, releasing the full studio version (rather than the shorter edit that was released all those years ago) for the very first time. It's a genuine gem, with Baker's deliciously breezy West Coast soul vocal seemingly floating over a killer backing track rich in hazy horns, bustling slap bass and crunchy Clavinet lines. Turn to the flipside for the more disco-minded "Train Of Thought", one of a string of recently discovered Baker recordings that form the basis of a forthcoming album of previously unreleased tracks.
Review: A reissue of American singer Debra Laws' 1981 single here on Expansion. She made her debut as a solo recording artist in in the same year, with the release of her album titled Very Special. This album, produced by her brothers Hubert and Ronnie, was a success with the singles "On My Own" (a lovely neon-lit disco-funk groove) and "Very Special" (a super sensual ballad on the slo-mo tip) being featured here. Up until the beginning of the '90s, Laws worked with her three siblings, recording and doing many live performances in the United States and abroad. Samples from "Very Special" can be heard in Jennifer Lopez's 2002 hit single of "All I Have".
Review: For their latest trawl into the world of rare soul and funk, Outta Sight has decided to reissue Lou Lawton's brilliant "Knick Knack Patty Wack", a punchy, horn-heavy and occasionally stomping 1967 cut that regularly changes hands for eye-watering sums online. Part of the appeal to collectors and DJs is the track's association with the British northern soul scene. The same could be said of Walter Wilson's "Love Keeps Me Crying", another 1967 recording that was only ever released in limited quantities as a "promo-only" 7" single. While not as sought-after as the Lou Lawton track on the A-side, its every bit as cheery and life affirming (despite the presence of rather melancholy lyrics above the driving Motor City production).
Review: When Leo and his Sunshipp crew asked for the sunshine way back in 1980 they meant it. And with a tune as beautiful as this, they deserved it too. Released in 1980 in various forms (and also on the funk trio's only album in 1978) the most sought after was the 45" that came with the gutsier, more upbeat traditional soul cut "I'm Back For More". But let's face it, this is all about the lead track. A cult Balearic soul funk jam and one of the coolest summer cuts ever pressed to wax, reissues have been on request for over 30 years... Like the summer itself, this won't hang around.
Review: Dynamite Cuts come back with a bang with four sublime cuts taken from the criminally short discography of funk soul troupe Leo's Sunshipp. The first half of their only album, we kick off with their cult solar celebration "Give Me The Sunshine" before "I'm Back For More" shreds through the stratosphere with a swooning Average White Band sparkle, "Get Down People" salutes with an Off The Wall style shine and shimmy before "Madame Butterfly" drifts back into the atmosphere with velvet falsetto harmonies and a groove so laid back it drips off the wax. Feel the sunshine.
Review: Straight from 68; Diane Lewis's Wand double-A has passed hands for well over L300 in the past, and it's really not hard to understand why... Northern soul anthem "Without Your Love" comes with gutsy vocals, full spectrum backing vocals and drums so lively and crisp they sound like they're marching out of the speakers. "Giving Up Your Love" plays the consummate soother; a raw soul ballad with strings and delicate harmonies, it's the ultimate antidote to the emotional frenzy on the A. Highly limited.
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: 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...
The Lively Set - "Blues Get Off My Shoulder" (2:48)
The Three Dudes - "I'm Beggin You" (2:45)
Review: The unstoppable Big Crown label is back with what is, once again, a rare find. In fact, we have two previously impossible tunes to get on this tidy 7" - first up, The Lively Set's excellent "Blues Get Off My Shoulder" roars a deep wave of glorious vintage soul, putting the very best of James Brown material to the test. As a follower, The Three Dudes' "I'm Beggin You" is one for the swings and the shakers, storming out of the speakers with that inimitable Mo-Town glory. An unmissable little 7" from the heart of the 60s!
Review: E Da Boss (Myron & E/Pendletons) & Ishtar team up as 'Lucid Paradise' for their second release, produced by non other than Russia's finest, 'The Soul Surfers'. 'Tonight' is the accumulation of two Bay Area soul aficianados coming together to create a smooth & crisp, timeless yet modern cut. Written alongside UK's pioneering soul singer Gizelle Smith, 'Tonight' epitomises the talent of contemporary soul acts worldwide.
Review: the return of Eric Boss (aka E Da Boss of The Pendletons and Myron & E) and Ishtar Peeler's Lucid Paradise flexing their falsetto fire over a swinging groove and brazen Hammond smashes while on side B we head to St. Petersburg for an incredible medley/b-boy homage from Russian troupe the Great Revivors. More organs and references than you can pull a powerhead at. Jam on it!
Review: You'll struggle to find a more sumptuous of folk-soul bliss than Jon Lucien's 1973 single "Lady Love". Similar in tone to some of Terry Callier's finest works, it features Lucien delivering a smooth and sultry vocal over twittering flutes, soft-touch acoustic guitars and swirling instrumentation. This timely reissue pairs the full-length 'Rashida" album version with another cut from the same set, "Love Everlasting". This glassy-eyed affair boasts more of a samba shuffle than the better-known A-side, but a similar reliance on evocative orchestration and Lucien's wonderfully delivered lead vocals. In a word: essential.
Review: This excellent seven-inch single mines the rich seam of Terry Callier style folk-soul that is Jon Lucien's incredible 1973 album "Rashida". On the A-side you'll find the brilliantly breezy, horn-heavy samba-soul sunshine of "Would You Believe In Me", a song so beloved to Lucien that he re-recorded it several times later in his career. On the B-side you'll find the arguably even sweeter and more loved-up "Kuenda", where Lucien delivers attractive scat-style, double-racked freestyle vocals over a backing track rich in finger-picked folk guitar arpeggio lines and atmospheric field recordings of nature. It's a joyously simple track, but one that will stay with you for hours after you've put the record back on the shelf.
Review: "Sweet Tea (With My Sweetie)" was originally destined for inclusion on Lucky Brown & The SG's 2018 album "Mesquite Suite", but for one reason or another ended up getting cut. Happily, Tramp Tapes has decided to make it available as a 7-inch single instead. As with previous Brown excursions, the title track sounds like it was recorded sometime in the late 1960s, with authentically fuzzy production, punchy horns, Meters style Hammond licks and sweet, eyes-closed guitar riffs riding a loose but punchy funk-soul groove. "More Sweet Tea" sees the assembled band offer up a jazzier, solo-heavy instrumental revision of the title track that's even dustier and heavier than the A-side.
Review: **REPRESS ALERT** Barbara Lynn (b. 1942) is an American rhythm and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter best known for her 1962 R&B chart-topping hit, "You'll Lose a Good Thing". Her highly sought after 1976 song "Movin' On A Groove" gets a much needed repress here from London's Soul Brother, with the funky "Disco Music" featured on the flip. The title track is a soul anthem for those who know, and it's been sold for extortionate prices on the second-hand market but thanks to Soul Brother you can finally get a copy for a reasonable price! A very strong 45 release for DJs and collectors alike.
Review: Longstanding reissue kings Soul Brother flex back to this powerful double A last issued by Cultures Of Soul in 2010. Two of Barbara Lynn's fieriest soul sessions, both released on Tribe in '66/'67 respectively, there's a strong northern stomp to proceedings on both sides. "I'm A Good Woman" is characterised by the driving kicks, tight horns and Lynn's urgent vocals while "I Don't Want A Playboy" comes with more of a traditional soul swing. Sleep on this and, in the words of Babs herself, you'll lose a good thing.
Review: Ooof! Two forever-scorching disco gems from the one and only Cheryl Lynn. This extended version of the screaming funklet "You Saved My Day" has only been available on rare promo, while the full version of her seminal party jam "To Be Real" enjoys pride of place on the B. 40 years young and still untouchable.
Lou Ragland - "Since You Said You'd Be Mine" (3:15)
Review: Two rare northern soul gems from two much slept-on OGs. West coast royalty Mitchell takes the A-side of this powerful 45" with the gutsy feel-good romp from 79. Fittingly titled "I'm So Happy", it's a driving piece of late 70s soul right down to the wolf whistles and band cheers. Flip for an equally potent spell from Lou Ragland. Usually famed for his four-figure cult piece "I Travel Alone", here we find him yearning with authenticity on the 1979-release "You Said You'd Be Mine". Backed by honeyed BVs and full band orchestration, this has the power to stop a dancefloor in its tracks almost 40 years later. And probably still will in 40 years time.