J.P. Bimeni and The Black Belts ‘Free Me’ LP/CD/DIG (Tucxone) 5/5

Well well well, you had better be prepared for this, musically it’s like listening to an Otis Redding or Arthur Conley album, horns galore which include a sax, heavy bass, dominant percussion and the kind of vocal that will have you shaking your head, as black and soulful as it can get, this lot really are on fire, with ten tracks and not a dud anywhere. J.P. Bimeni is a native of Burundi who is now London-based having had to flee his birth place due to the troubles in the early ’90s, in which he was actually targeted by the authorities, where by 1993 a full-blown civil war was happening. It didn’t help with his father being a high-ranking military official and his mother who was a descendant of the royal family. There can’t be too many people with a story like that, soul folk are looking for a figure-head, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones have sadly passed. St. Paul and The Broken Bones look like they have moved well away from their roots, Lee Fields needs some company, well J.P. Bimeni is set to give him a run for his money. The sound is created by Spanish funk outfit, The Black Belts, which consist of the following; Rodrigo Diaz on drums, Pablo Cano Fernandez on bass, Fernando Vasco on guitar, Alex Lerraga plays keys, Riccardo Martinez plays a mighty trumpet, Rafael Diaz blows a mean sax, and the special guests include Eduardo Martinez on guitar and Lucas Dupla on keyboards. I’m also convinced I can hear an Organ on here too! With the ‘Roaring Lion of Africa’, J.P. Bimeni, singing as only a black man can, he’s in pain, he’s emotional and he’s telling us. My introduction to him was the majestic single, ‘I Miss You’, five minutes plus of the deepest weeping and wailing you can encounter as a new release in 2018, mournful horns open and then we’re off, it’s a tale of broken love, “Now that you’re gone, time seems so long. I did my way alone, day by day, until now in someway your still here, some part of you is gone, it’s killing me, I can’t go on”. You get the drift now. The album contains all tempos but staying with the deeper cuts for a minute, he’s at it again on ‘Pain Is The Name Of The Game’, oozing passion and grits. So what’s going to make you dance? Well get your ears and feet around the funky crossover, ‘Honesty Is A Luxury’, which starts off slowly with fat horns and then morphs into a choppy funker. The slightly faster, ‘Same Man’, might just be the one to set the dance-floors alight, it’s certainly got repeated plays here, however, I think ‘Madelaine’ might just be the standout dancer for me, full of melody and an instant chorus – quite superb. The rest of the album maintains the very high standard throughout. Undoubtedly the album of the year and there will have to be some serious soul to top this one. The musical director was Eduardo Martinez whilst song writing credits go to Marc Ibarz and the whole project was mixed and mastered by Tucxone. At the time of writing, we are unsure what formats this will be released on, but hopeful of vinyl to challenge the not-so-chic physical CD market. Street date: 26th October 2018. Pre orders will be forthcoming so for now keep a watchful eye on the Tucxone website.

Brian Goucher