13th Jul2014

Various ‘Far Out Presents Friends from Rio Project 2014′ (Far Out) 3/5

by ukvibe

Friends-From-Rio-2014An interesting project from the UK’s specialist Brazilian label in new and old music that makes sense and does precisely what it says on the tin. Bring together some of the top session musicians, record the music in a variety of genres to reflect the diversity of Brazilian music, and into the bargain give proceedings a funkier edge with the production talents of one Daniel Maunick. If the results are not overly spectacular, they are nonetheless solid and hint towards an early 1980s musical sensibility. This is illustrated on the instrumental ‘Anthemia’ which has a jazz-funk feel à la Azymuth from their Milestone albums period and the syndrums and horns conjur up the 1980s to perfection while ‘Aguai’ has a cuica drum intro and sensitive keyboards that once again hark back to thirty-something years ago. Multi-percussionist Robertinho Silva is on hand and excels on ‘Batucada Bidu’ on which he is the featured musician and this is certainly an authentic samba guaranteed to liven up any day. More contemporary beats are covered on ‘Vam’ Bora’ with vocals by Sabrina Malheiros and this could be described as a subtle electro-bossa tune that is ideal for some dancefloor action and also features a lovely flute solo. Equally impressive are the wordless scat vocals from Denise Pinaud on ‘Veneno’ with a fender-led intro. Not everything works quite as well. A somewhat tame rendition of ‘Mas que nada’ would have been better left in the studio and the vocals on ‘Garota’ are slightly below par. Otherwise, this is very much a modern day take on the Brazilian sound with hints of the past and no better an example can be found on ‘Só nesta a porta se abrio’ with vocals from Carlos Dafé and a terrific instrumental breakdown.

Tim Stenhouse

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12th Jul2014

Ashford and Simpson ‘High Rise’ (BBR/Cherry Red) 3/5

by ukvibe

Ashford-and-SimpsonSinger-songwriter duo Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson personified all that was good about Motown and penned some of the most endearing hits for other artists including Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and the Supremes with ‘You’re all I need to get by’, ‘Remember me’ and of course ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’. By the mid-1970s Simpson had recorded a brace of albums in her own right, but as a duo it was from the mid-1970s that they really took off with the sensational ‘Bourgie Bourgie’, ‘Over and Over’, ‘Flashback’, ‘It seems to hang on’ and ‘Found a cure’ all enjoying chart sucess between 1977 and 1979. They even managed to fit in more production duties, producing the well received ‘Boss’ album for Diana Ross that included the dancefloor anthem of the title track. By 1983, Ashford and Simpson were simply among the most respected of singer-songwriters and this is reflected in the top notch backing musicians who graced the studios of L.A. While not an out and out classic in the vein of the prime mid-late 1970s period, ‘High Rise’ is significant in that it directly preceded what would turn out to be the biggest hit of their own singing careers with 1984′s ‘Solid’, eclipsing even their disco era successes. The sweet harmonies that characterised the duo’s vocal prowess are in evidence on the uplifting ‘Side Effect’ while club land would warm to the funk-tinged bass of ‘It’s much deeper’. However, it is arguably the ballads that are strongest of all and ‘I’m not that tough’ and especially ‘My kinda’ pick me up’ showcase not only their songwriting talents, but equally their ability to share lead vocals within a given song. As a bonus, the 12″ version of the title track is coupled with an M & M instrumental mix and the vocal version was a minor R & B hit, securing a place just outside the top ten in the US. Global success with ‘Solid’ a year or so later was just around the corner and this album witnesses Ashford and Simpson in a temporary in-between period veering towards a more pop sensibility that would find its zenith with the ‘Solid’ single and album.

Tim Stenhouse

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11th Jul2014

Carol Williams ‘Lectric Lady’ (BBR/Cherry Red) 4/5

by ukvibe

Carol-WilliamsRewind to 1976 when the disco revolution was then in full swing. Factor in Philadelphia’s top soul orchestra, MFSB, rebranded the Salsoul Orchestra, and add one soulful vocalist in Carol Williams who had enjoyed a previous career in the 1960s as lead singer for groups such as the Geminis and Fantasia. For a final coup de grâce factor in the considerable arranging, conducting and production talents of one Vince Montana Jr. and you have a potentially interesting project well underway. So it proved with the release of ‘Lectric Lady’. The killer track that has been sampled subsequently and was a hit all over again when Spillers’ ‘Groovejet’ climbed the pop charts is of course ‘Love is you’ which is quite simply a classic disco anthem and here you have the original album version, the extended 12″ Tom Moulton remix and a shorter single companion. A left-field contender is ‘Rattlesnake’ which actually differs from the rest of the album in that it was produced, not by Montana, but by Herb Rooney and the vocals were therefore laid down in New York rather than Philadelphia and it is a real sleeper of a tune that grows with repeated listens. However, this album is primarily about dancefloor action and a second slice of the cake comes in a reprise of the standard ‘More’ which is also included here in both album and 12″ formats. Based on the classic instrumental soundtrack version on the 1962 film ‘Mondo Cane’, the track originally became a top ten hit in 1963 for jazz trombonist Kai Windig and has been covered by no less than ol’ blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. Who would have thought that thirteen years later the tune would be a hit all over again in the disco idiom? Williams’ vocal delivery here has more than a hint of Aretha Franklin’s influence and paradoxically the latter’s career would temporarily suffer when disco reigned supreme for the latter half of the 1970s. Carol Williams, however, is a versatile singer and the jazzy intro with fine percussion on ‘Come back’ indicates that she could easily adapt to other genres as and when required, and this also became a top thirty disco chart mover at the time. Released in the same year as both the epic ‘The Bottle’ by Joe Bataan and Double Exposure’s ‘Ten Per Cent’, ‘Lectric Lady’ now stands the test of time and at the same time defines an era in modern music history. Its evocative dancefloor front and back cover speaks volumes of of the hedonism and escapist nature of the 1970s club scene and with no less than five pages of interviews with the singer and excellent photos, album and single cover graphics, this project could not have been brought to life again any better.

Tim Stenhouse

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10th Jul2014

The Bombay Royale ‘The Island of Dr. Electrico’ (Hope Street) CD/LP/Dig 3/5

by ukvibe

The-Bombay-RoyaleMelbourne-based Bollywood fusion band the Bombay Royale return with a typically eclectic mix of psychedelic, surf and disco grooves which builds upon their debut release from 2012 ‘You me bullets love’, an album that was well received. The heady interweaving of grooves works best on the title track which comes across as Blaxploitation meets Bollywood head on with heavy bass line, percussion and sitar in abundance and it promises to be a dancefloor winner of a funk track. Lo-fi production values predominate on ‘(Give me back my) Bunty Bunty’ with echo vocals that lend this song something of a 1970s retro flavour while there is no mistaking the surf guitar influence on ‘The Bombay Twist’ which is a punchy instrumental that is quite manic in parts with special effects. In places the psychedelic guitar does grate a little and a stronger element of disco and funk would attract the dance music listener in greater numbers and is, perhaps, a future project for the group to reflect upon. One could argue that there are possibly too many disparate influences on offer, but that is to lose the point that the Bombay Royale are a world fusion band in the true sense of the word. They have never claimed to be a bona fide Indian roots group and deserve credit for their stance. Little wonder they have performed to great acclaim at Womad, Glastonbury and even the Cambridge Folk Festival in recent years. This is the kind of release that may appeal particularly to an indie rock audience in search of something different and who might normally be somewhat alienated by more traditional world roots grooves.

Tim Stenhouse

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09th Jul2014

Blue Rondo à la Turk ‘Chewing the Fat’ 2CD deluxe edition (Cherry Red) 4/5

by ukvibe

Blue-Rondo-à-la-TurkThis is a nostalgia trip back to the mid-1980s when Sade was just the new kid on the block, Everything But the Girl were still in jazzy/bossa nova mode with their debut album and jazz and pop offered to an increasingly bland and uniform pop scene in the post-punk and post-disco era where synths ruled the day. Blue Rondo à la Turk were created back in 1980 by DJ and founding member Chris Sullivan and fused Latin, bebop jazz, 1970s funk music and with the do-it-yourself indie-rock attitude that permeated much of the alternative music scene at the time and included other groups such as Carmel, Kalima and Matt Bianco. The band’s title is taken from the famous jazz track performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet and was the b-side to the chart topping ‘Take Five’, which is a leading contender for the most heard jazz composition of all time. The first CD focuses on the original album cuts from ‘Chewing the Fat’ plus extended 12″ versions of the hits while the second CD takes matters right up to date with contemporary twenty-first century remixes of the first CD’s music. Old school fans will be happy to find everything they need on the first CD while newer devotees may wish to dip into the mixes that resituate Blue Rondo’s music for a younger audience. For those discovering the band for the very first time, there is much to recommend. The group’s jazz credentials are emphasized on ‘I spy for the F.B.I.’ which has something of a soundtrack feel to it and a memorable bass line with a baritone saxophone solo. Disco fans will be surprised to learn that John Luongo remixed ‘The heavens are crying’ and this instrumental really stretches out and builds up the layers of percussion to great effect with some funk-inflected guitar riffs. Best known of all is the Brazilian-flavoured single ‘Me and Mr Sanchez’ which is heard here in its full-length 12″ version and is based on samba batucada and went out on to become a sizeable hit in Brazil, even serving as a 1982 World Cup campaign for the boys in yellow, green and blue. Latin keyboard riffs plus vocals are a key feature of ‘Coco’ that was a hit across the Channel in mainland Europe as was ‘Carioca’ which was an obvious contender for a single and, with the benefit of hindsight, one wonders why this uplifting groove of a tune was not also a hit in the UK. Interestingly, this combination of Latin grooves and jazzy flavours met with a largely unreceptive audience outside the then emerging underground scene, but during roughly the same period Kid Creole and the Coconuts enjoyed unprecedented success in this country. Perhaps, it was simply a case of the latter being able to commercially package their sound and image whereas Blue Rondo à la Turk were more concerned with the music output and neglected to some extent their pop image. Irrespective, the band were influential and highly respected among other bands for their excellent live performances of the era. Lengthy and informative sleeve notes provide a handy backdrop to the band as they were in their prime, complete with photos, and today.

Tim Stenhouse

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08th Jul2014

Dave Brubeck Quartet ‘Countdown’/’Time in Outer Space’ (American Jazz Classics) 5/5

by ukvibe

Dave-Brubeck-QuartetWhile, perhaps, not as feted as other albums from the same era, make no mistake about it, this is unquestionably the Dave Brubeck Quartet at the peak of their powers with ‘Countdown’ one of the most underrated albums of their classic period. A sumptuous rendition of ‘Someday my prince will come’ compares most favourably with Miles’ around the same time while seldom had the Spanish tinge been captured so dramatically by non-Spaniards as on both ‘Castilian Blues’ and the equally fine ‘Castilian Drums’. These two compositions provide a thrilling backdrop to the rest of the album which contains stunning jazz waltzes such as ‘Phillis Waltz’ and ‘Waltz Limp’, and Brubeck would return to Latin themes on the mid-1960s live recording the excellent ‘Bravo Brubeck’ in 1967. The second album continues the exploration in unusual time signatures that made the earlier albums so memorable and is consistently strong throughout. An additional forty minutes of bonus material makes for a terrific bargain on one CD and thirty-five minutes of this is an unreleased concert from New York in 1961 with some of the classics revisited and these include the evergreens ‘Take Five’ and ‘Blue Rondo à la Turk’ as well as a lovely take on Ellington’s ‘Take the A-Train’. Lengthy original back sleeve notes by Brubeck himself are reprinted in full and are highly informative. They reveal a deeply reflective and creative musician and human being.

Tim Stenhouse

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07th Jul2014

Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins ‘The Legendary Sessions’ (American Jazz Classics) 2CD 4/5

by ukvibe

Gillespie-RollinsThe legendary sessions in question are in fact three original Verve LPs neatly contained on this 2CD set with the rhythm section the same throughout and comprising Ray Bryant on piano, brother Tommy on bass and Charlie Persip on drums. Sonny Stitt performs also, alternating between alto and tenor saxophone. Arguably the strongest of the albums is ‘Sonny Side Up’ which is really an extended jam session that features Sonny Stitt in his prime. Here Gillespie provides vocals on ‘On the sunny side of the street’. Stitt was no Parker clone, however, and had developed his own style which was more of a mellower tone and he was a versatile performer at that, later going on to perform on organ combo and even Latin Jazz albums. On the two duet recording albums with Gillespie and Rollins combining, the original compositions are penned by Gillespie and include two versions of the classic ‘Con Alma’. Two of the lengthiest cuts, ‘The eternal triangle’ and ‘After hours’ impress here. Original liner notes by Nat Hentoff on the first album are faithfully reproduced and there is a new updated review by Alec Rex. Excellent graphics include photos of Gillespie and Rollins at the 1958 Monterrey Jazz Festival.

Tim Stenhouse

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06th Jul2014

Tamba Trio ‘The Miraculous Tamba Trio’ (El/Cherry Red) 4/5

by ukvibe

Tamba-TrioBrazilian piano trio the Tamba Trio are best known for their classic rendition of Jorge Ben’s ‘Mas que Nada’ and its was in fact this instrumental version that was featured on a previous World Cup commercial featuring Brazilian forward Ronaldo. This compilation from El/Cherry Red omits the classic which is a pity, but instead focuses on three albums and bonus recordings from the period 1962-1966. The Tamba Trio were unusual in that they were both an instrumental piano trio and a vocal harmony group rolled into one and that is what gave them their distinctive sound. Leader Luiz Eça was adept at selecting some of the then up and coming Brazilian composers, now rightly regarded as maestros, and they include the likes of Edu Lobo, Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal. Of course one should not forget that great writer of the bossa nova era, Antonio Carlos Jobim, though Brazilians affectionately refer to him as Tom Jobim. Uptempo takes on Lobo’s ‘Reza’ and ‘Boranda’ are highlights alongside a Portugese version of ‘Garota de Ipanema’, while there are excellent interpretations of Baden Powell’s ‘Berimbau’ and Duval Ferreira’s ‘Batida Diferente’. While not this overview does not provide a fully comprehensive coverage of the trio (you would need to look to two CD compilations for that), this CD nonetheless provides the useful service of a more in-depth introduction to the group than average and at a budget price.

Tim Stenhouse

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05th Jul2014

João Gilberto ‘The Legend’ 2 CD Box Set (El/Cherry Red) 5/5

by ukvibe

João-Gilberto-legendIf any male singer personified all that was best in bossa nova, then Joao Gilberto was surely that definitive figure (alongside maybe Elis Regina who was, however, somewhat younger and covered a later post-bossa period also) and it is only fitting, then, that El Records should devote a two-CD retrospective to his considerable art. Gilberto was in fact highly innovative in his phrasing which was behind the beat and virtually impossible for anyone else to copy. His three albums from the period 1959-19612 are covered here on the first CD with some extremely hard to find earlier recordings handily placed onto the second CD which makes for an unbeatable package and tastily designed graphics adorn the box set and inner sleeve covers. All the great hits are contained on the first CD and include his early success in ‘Chega de Saudade (No more blues)’, a Jobim and Vincius de Moraes co-composition which Dizzy Gillespie would later cover to great effect, the instantly catchy ‘Bim Bom’, ‘Desafinado’ which literally means off-key and yet Gilberto still pulled an instant classic out of the hat, ‘One note samba’ and the list goes on and on. Thirty-six magical songs in all crammed onto a single CD. Gilberto completists, though, will not want to be without this anthology, however, since it contains a whole raft of obscure recordings and these include Gilberto backed by the Milton Banana Trio on ‘Outra Vez”, early 1950s EPs by the singer and then the rest devoted to other artists interpreting the Gilberto repertoire. Elizete Cardoso impresses with her 1958 renditions of the Jobim songbook and Gilberto actually performs as sideman guitarist which is highly unusual. Harmony group Os Cariocas are wonderful on their take of ‘Chega de Saudade’ and deserve an anthology in their own right. Rounding off a musical feast are the terrific graphical reproductions of the original albums and photos/posters of the era when Brazil ruled the waves musically and on the football field too!

Tim Stenhouse

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04th Jul2014

João Gilberto ‘João Gilberto’ (El/Cherry Red) 4/5

by ukvibe

João-GilbertoThis original 1961 album is also included in full on the aforementioned anthology, but as with other Brazilian re-issues by El, is worth investigating also because of the plethora of bonus cuts, twenty-three in total. In fact some of the greatest bossa nova songs that Gilberto recorded are reinterpreted here by a bevvy of artists ranging from Hammond organist Walter Wanderley to singer-songwriter-guitarists Carlos Lyra and Oscar Castro Neves, and even taking on board English language versions from jazz singer and scatter extraordinaire, Jon Hendricks. Female singer Leny Andarde contributes a gorgeous take on ‘Samba de una nota so’ while Lucio Alves evokes the Afro-Brazilian side of the music on a percussive take on Dorival Caymmi’s ‘O samba de minha terra’. Other singers include Sylvia Telles and Maysa. Of Joao Gilberto’s originals, ‘Insensatez’ ‘O Barqiunho’ and ‘O samba de minha terra’ remain even after all the time that has elapsed subsequently the definitive versions. Four pages of notes on the Gilberto recording shed light on how the original album gradually took shape.

Tim Stenhouse

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