Category Archives: Album Reviews

Samuel Martinelli ‘Crossing Paths’ CD (Private Press) 5/5

Martinelli’s debut recording with the leader at the drums, Marcus McLaurine on bass, Tomoko Ohno on piano and the only name that I recognise here, Claudio Roditi on trumpet and flugelhorn. The repertoire consists of eight pieces, six of which are composed by Martinelli. The remaining pieces will be very familiar to seasoned jazz listeners, Sonny Rollins’ ‘St Thomas’ and Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Birks’ Works’. Martinelli is from Brazil but now lives in New York and has been generating a lot on interest in both the jazz and Brazilian worlds. Whilst his accompanists (other than Roditi) may be lesser known names, they all have impressive jazz pedigree, between them having worked with a veritable who’s who of the jazz world. Each of these musicians are equally adept at performing jazz and Brazilian music. ‘Crossing Paths’ is, however, contemporary straight-ahead jazz.

Ever since the evening of November 21st 1962 when Antônio Carlos Jobim, Sérgio Mendez, Oscar Castro-Neves and others introduced bossa nova to America at the landmark Carnegie Hall concert, Brazilian music has become a part of American music, working its way into the fabric of jazz. This album continues that tradition showcasing the relationship between these two enduring musical genres.

The album opens with ‘Samba Echoes’, ushered in by the leader’s delicate percussion work. When the trumpet enters, one is immediately reminded of the more exotic work of Dizzy Gillespie. As the piece progresses the trumpeter emphatically makes his own mark on the music. This is exciting music, full of interest. ‘Talking about Spring’ is an up-beat medium swing tune and very easy on the ears.
The trumpeter introduces ‘Bob’s Blues’ and his muted trumpet work here again recalls the spirit of Gillespie. As the piece progresses, I’m reminded of another fine trumpeter, Miles Davis. Am I alone in thinking that the tune has more than a passing affinity with Davis’s ‘All Blues’? There’s a fine bass feature and the leader’s subtle brush work is a joy to behold. The pianist displays a humorous musicality in her solo feature to round out a fine performance.
‘St Thomas’ gets an unfamiliar treatment with the theme statement emerging played on arco bass. Minus its original calypso rhythm, it becomes a meditation on the island which shares its name. The pianist shines on this piece.
‘A Gift for You’ brings the shadow of Miles Davis to the fore again and Roditi acquits himself in fine style, as does the pianist once again.
I’ve already alluded to the Gillespie influence and this is unavoidable on ‘Birk’s Works’. Here we have another feature for the bassist in addition to Roditi.
‘Whispering Loud’ is a bebop inspired performance and everyone is once more playing at the peak of their powers.
The set ends as it began with the drummer ushering in ‘Song for Carina’, setting up a tango tempo. Oddly, I’m reminded of yet another late trumpet master here. It seems to me that the ghost of Kenny Wheeler is not far away.

This is a very auspicious debut recording and I’m left wondering what Martinelli’s next move will be.

Alan Musson

Antonio Adolfo ‘Encontros – Orquestra Atlantica’ CD (AAM Music) 4/5

Antonio Adolfo is a new name to me, although my colleagues here at UK Vibe have reviewed several of his albums in these columns over the past few years, so clearly not a new name on the jazz scene. Throughout a 40 year career, he has been busy as a pianist, composer and arranger. His home is in Rio de Janeiro and one of his better-known teachers was none other than Eumir Deodato. During his career to date, Adolfo has worked with such major artists as Flora Purim, Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento. He has more than 25 albums to his credit as leader, artfully combining the best of the Brazilian rhythmic style with a jazz sensibility. Until now, small groups have been Adolfo’s preferred method of working which showcase his music and his solo abilities. However, he has long-held a dream to record an album with a larger ensemble. This album is the realization of that dream.

The result is a new partnership with Orquestra Atlantica, a Brazilian jazz orchestra founded in 2012. Together they perform nine of Adolfo’s compositions plus the Miles Davis classic, ‘Milestones’. The result is an exciting mixture of big band sounds and Samba, Bossa Nova, Baião, Frevo, and the Afoxê to create memorable and infectious music.

The album opens in explosive fashion with ‘Partido Samba-Funk’ – a heady mix of Samba and Brazilian funk. Colourful percussion and powerful horn riffs just add to the excitement of the piece. This is followed with the strong forward motion of the melodic, ‘Pentatonica’, which also features some fine vocal work.
‘Atlantica’ was especially written for this band and is a warm medium-tempo ballad. The concise bass, flute and piano solos are the icing on this musical delicacy. We are on familiar territory with ‘Milestones’ where bebop meets frevo in an exhilarating exchange. The ensemble work by the horns is a highlight of the piece as is the accordion solo. ‘Saudade’ alternates between joyousness and melancholia with flugelhorn featured, seeming highly appropriate. The gentle form of ‘Delicada Jazz Waltz’ follows and as the title suggests, is a delicate melody featuring Adolpho and more from the accordion.

The album concludes with what is apparently Adolpho’s most popular tune, ‘Sa Marina’. This song dates back to 1967 and was released internationally as ‘Pretty World’ with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and has been recorded by more than 200 artists. This is a fine way in which to conclude an album. If you like the music of the big bands, Brazilian music or jazz you are sure to find something to interest you here. This is truly a life-affirming album and would make ideal listening on those long winter evenings to come.

Alan Musson

Desmond Dekker and the Aces ‘Action!’ / ‘Intensified’ Expanded 2CD (Doctor Bird) 5/5

Singer Desmond Dekker occupies a special place in the heart of UK reggae cognoscenti, largely due to his chart success in the late 1960s and early-mid 1970s. However, that early period in his career when Jamaican popular music morphed into rock steady and then early reggae had hitherto been hard to find, certainly in original vinyl format, and this re-issue brings together some of the classic early period material, supplemented by a plethora of 45s and alternative takes, which simply put makes this an essential purchase. The complete album of ‘Action!’ from 1966 captures Dekker in fine form from the outset, with the gentle paced, ‘Don’t Believe Me’, a stunning example of the rock steady genre with tight vocal harmonies and that Beverly’s rhythm section composed of Kingston’s finest session musicians, arranged by Leslie Kong. The guitar motif on ‘Unity’ leads into an anthemic number, and historically important in its message of calling upon unity in the post-independence era of Jamaica as a fully fledged nation now politically separate from the United Kingdom. Naturally, the compelling ‘007’ has over the decades acquired legendary status as the hit single off the album, and its hook has not diminished in force. Often it is the seeming simplicity of the lyrics that comes across, but there is a real skill in condensing a message down to its bare essence as illustrated on ‘It Pays’, with beautifully executed harmonies. That optimistic tone that is omnipresent on the album is demonstrated further by the uplifting, ‘Young Generation’, while humour is not far from the surface on, ‘Mother Long Tongue’. That album contains yet another killer riff on, ‘Sabotage’, which is the writer’s favourite number.

By the release of the second album, ‘Intensified’, Jamaican music was evolving and one hears a more pronounced tempo on the early reggae of, ‘Ah It Mek’, or on the uptempo beat of ‘Too Much Too Soon’. While entirely different from the later Two-Tone song, one wonders whether The Specials might have been inspired to write a similar sounding title. Back in a rock steady vein, ‘Sweet Music’, is a celebration of those knock out vocal harmonies, with Dekker at his peak. However, the influence of US soul on Jamaican singers should never be underestimated and there is a clear nod to what was happening Stateside on ‘My Lonely World (to sir with love)’. The concept of the ‘rude boy’ in the toughest areas of Kingston became a phenomenon ripe for song and Dekker was not behind with times in penning ‘Rude Boy Train’. Both CDs contain thirteen extra tracks that boost the listening enjoyment immeasurably, and serve as a de facto ‘Best of’ from the period between 1966 and 1968. Authoritative sleeve notes come courtesy of Laurence Cane-Honeysett who has been an unwavering supporter of reggae throughout the years. Graphical illustrations are sumptuous from the outer original album sleeves to the UK flyers and with black and white photos of Dekker and the band in live performance, plus the usual excellence in 45 label covers that adds just the right touch of authenticity. A fine re-issue that fills in a vital part of the Desmond Dekker musical jigsaw.

Tim Stenhouse

Lalomie Washburn ‘My Music Is Hot – Expanded Edition’ CD (Robinsong) 5/5

Memphis born (1942) and a classic tale of the singer-songwriter, Lalomie Washburn was already thirty years of age when she released her debut album, but five years later came her masterpiece, ‘My Music Is Hot’ (1977), and the title was a fitting description of the musical pleasures contained within. It certainly helped that she was surrounded by some of the industry’s top session musicians. That began with arranger/conductor Gene Page, and included the who’s who of instrumentalists from guitarists Michael Sembello (work with Stevie Wonder), Melvin “Wah Wah” Watson, keyboardists Greg Phillinganes (Michael Jackson) and Joe Sample (Crusaders), to master percussionists Paulinho da Costa and Jack Ashford (one of the Funk Brothers at Motown).

What makes this album so memorable is that it dissects the field of black music, with heavy doses of soul-blues (which you might expect from a Memphis born singer), gospel, funk and even Latin, yet it still sounds distinctively like Lalomie and the percussive, on the edge production is both timeless and exhilarating. As a singer-songwriter, Washburn by the mid-1970s was regularly writing or co-writing (especially with guitarist Tony Maiden) for Rufus and Chaka Khan. An instant classic was born with, ‘Give me love’, which is the kind of soulful groove that contains elements of disco and funk with gorgeous gospel harmonies, yet is never contrived. Sounding as though it could have been penned and performed by War, the mid-tempo Latin-funk flavoured, ‘My Love Is Hot (caliente)’, is a personal favourite of this writer and Patti Labelle would struggle to communicate more convincingly than this. For an album with just seven original songs, there is an awful lot to admire and the lovely mid-tempo percussive, ‘Shade Of Blue’, is worthy of mention, with flute and those blissful gospel harmonies that once again come to the fore, Among the bevvy of extras, largely 7″ versions of the album songs, pride of place goes to the 12″ take of, ‘Man Power (can do it)’, which in its extended format has an extended introduction with guitar and keyboards in tandem over a rippling percussive beat. Heavy on the bass line and heavy on the funk in general. ‘My Music Is Hot’; this album most certainly is, and a well deserved re-issue on CD.

In-depth and lengthy historical sleeve notes are courtesy of journalist/writer Charles Donovan are accompanied by photos of the singer early in her career. Lalomie Washburn passed away in 2004, aged sixty-three.

Tim Stenhouse

Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio ‘Something Smells Funky ’round Here’ (Alligator) 4/5

If Chicago blues is your bag, then Elvin Bishop has been a constant presence and contributor to the Windy City blues scene for several decades. Originally born in California back in 1942, Elvin Bishop’s close relationship with Chicago began as far back as 1959 when he enrolled at the University of Chicago. He immediately found himself at the very heart of the Chicago blues scene, and soon became immersed in the music. After two years, Bishop dropped out of college life and was befriended by no less than Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Smokey’s Blues’, and was thus taught how to play the blues guitar. Bishop practiced day and night and eventually became proficient enough to join the Butterfield Blues Band. This gave him the necessary live performance experience in a multitude of settings, from university campuses, to clubs and individual’s homes. A tenure with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band led to regular work at Big John’s blues club on Chicago’s north side. Among a long and distinguished recording career, Elvin Bishop famously performed on the ‘Pigboy Crabshaw’ album, and though he left that band in 1968, he has been a sub-leader ever since.

This new recording with pianist Bob Welsh and on cajón and vocals, Willy Jordan, is a return to the gritty Chicago electric blues sound. That includes soulful material such as on the soul-blues delivery plus guitar riffs of, ‘Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher’, or the more laid back, ‘My Soul’, which is noteworthy for its spoken monologue plus piano accompaniment, depicting the different stages in a life, and a fine way to end the album. However, Elvin Bishop has a strong wider general knowledge of what the blues comprises and that is amply illustrated on the piano-led boogie woogie, ‘Bob’s Boogie’, while further variety is offered up on ‘Another Mule’, which is a fine, relaxed paced number. The best is reserved for a storming reworking of the Ann Peebles Hi records opus, ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’, which is an ideal vehicle for a soul-blues rendition, and this features Welsh this time on Hammond organ, with some stabbing guitar riffs from the leader. So convincing is this interpretation that one wonders why Elvin Bishop does not devote an entire album to like-minded covers. Quality Chicago blues for folks who feel the blues deep down in their soul.

Tim Stenhouse

Tom Barford ‘Bloomer’ CD/DIG (Edition) 4/5

Produced by Iain Bellamy and recorded at Real World Studios, “Bloomer” is the debut album from the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize winner, saxophonist and composer Tom Barford. Alongside the saxophonist for this recording there’s Rupert Cox on piano, Billy Marrows on guitar, Dave Storey on drums and Flo Moore on bass.

The session begins with Moore’s energetic bass riff supported by Storey’s tight drumming, soon joined by the impressive Marrows on guitar, with Cox’s engaging piano leading us into the tune itself. Then for a while it’s a sax, bass and drums trio before the musicians come together as quintet. The title track opens the album and it’s a good indication of what’s to follow; some intricate compositions matched by some excellent soloing, especially from Marrows and inevitably, the band-leader himself.

There’s some lovely changes of pace and variation throughout the recording, and as the album’s second tune “Space to dream” begins, it’s a clear declaration of intent from the composer. This spacious, gloriously atmospheric track is followed by the quirkier “Phizzwizard”, featuring Barford’s Chris Potter-esque soprano sax. Lovely playing and a lovely tune, one which reminds me of Potter’s collaboration with Pat Metheny’s Unity Band, similar in compositional style and execution.

“FStep” takes the bull by the horns, with the funkier vibe allowing Barford and Marrows to flex their musical muscles with some exciting interplay and soloing. “Music for an imagined dream” features Cox’s piano supplying the backdrop for the melodious sax, with a very nice solo section of piano mid-course. “Razztwizzlwer” gets into a deep groove with organ and guitar surfacing in strong waves of John Scofield/Larry Goldings interwoven tapestry-like playing.

There’s an all-round lighter touch on the exquisite “Ideology”, with the closing tune “The highly strung trapeze artist” resplendent with spacey guitar and a more inquisitive and progressive outlook, nicely concluding Barford’s debut.

A promising debut from Tom Barford, there are moments of brilliance here in the writing, with some great performances as the musicians share the spoils. One might make the comment that perhaps as an overall album the music could be more expansive and suffers a little from being slightly formulaic in parts, but that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that this is an album that excites and intrigues, and leaves the listener looking forward to hearing what’s to follow from this effervescent, gifted new talent.

Mike Gates

Johnny Clarke ‘Creation Rebel’ 2LP/2CD (VP) 5/5

Singer Johnny Clarke occupies a special place in the hearts of roots reggae fans and his countless 45s, 12″ extended mixes and albums are non-negotiable items in any self-respecting reggae collectors treasure trove of sounds. This anthology follows on from the 1998 Blood and Fire 2 LP/CD set that assembled some of the greatest of Clarke’s collaborative work with the producer Bunny Lee, including many of those tracks, and is crammed full of wonderful songs, thirty in total, that remain as evergreen anthems to the roots era. What is sometimes overlooked is how young Johnny Clarke actually was when he cut some of these immortal sides. By 1975, he was only twenty years old, yet the voice had already matured and the hits singles flowed as a consequence.

A second aspect that now stands out is Clarke’s interest in and commitment to the African diaspora and related themes related. While opposing the Apartheid regime in South Africa and all it stood for, Johnny Clarke has regularly toured there over the decades and, in the process, become one of the most popular of reggae stars in Africa, rivalling home-grown acts on that continent such as Alpha Blondy, Lucky Dube, and not forgetting the undisputed King of francophone African reggae, Tikhen Jah Fakoly from Ivory Coast. Clarke was equally attuned to what was happening in US soul music in the 1970s, as evidenced by the use of a Philly International All Stars classic rhythm, ‘Let’s clean up the ghetto’, redeployed as the backing ‘riddim’ to ‘Peace And Love In The Ghetto’, and that bass line is a mighty potent musical weapon at his disposal. Another killer rhythm comes in the shape of ‘Blood Dunza’, while the steppers tune, ‘Jah Love Is With I’, features some lovely percussive work, a dub section, complete with breakdown here in a lengthier 12″ version. Arguably, one of the finest of all the songs he composed is, ‘King In The Arena’, and it is indeed one of the most reworked of all reggae ‘riddims’, while that African connection is celebrated on ‘Roots Natty Congo’, and on ‘African People’, with a daunting tale of forced repatriation. A nyabinghi drum intro to, ‘Time Will Tell’, adds a natural Afro-Jamaican flavour to the mix, while the spoken intro to, ‘Fire Brimstone A Go Burn The Wicked’, leaves the listener in no doubt that lyrics count. For a stunning example of vocal roots that is enhanced by an instrumental dub section, look no further than the aforementioned and here extended version of ‘Peace and love in the ghetto’, while for repetitive chorus line, rocking drums and catchy keyboards of ‘Dread A Dread’ is another compelling number.

Lengthy sleeve notes courtesy of Harry Hawk are accompanied by some illustrated graphics of the 45 labels, both Jamaican (Attack, Jackpot, Justice) and the premier league of British labels including Third World. Quotes by the producer, Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee, and other reggae music aficionados including Steve Barrow make this an essential part of any roots reggae collection, even more so if you were not lucky enough to pick up the earlier Blood and Fire edition.

Tim Stenhouse

Stefon Harris + Blackout ‘Sonic Creed’ (Motéma Music) 5/5

In 1999 the American jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris was noted by the Los Angeles Times as being one of the most important young artists in jazz. Since that time he has confirmed his early promise, working with some of the biggest names in jazz., including Kenny Barron, Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter. He has also steadily amassed an impressive discography with several critically acclaimed albums to his credit.

His latest album, which is due to be released on 28th September, is a further collaboration with Blackout following on from their Grammy nominated album ‘Urbanus’ from 2009 and 2004’s ‘Evolution’.

Harris was inspired to record this latest offering by asking himself the question “If I don’t record this music will the sound of this music exist in the world? And if the answer is no, then we have to go into the studio”. Thankfully, the decision to record was the right one.

Harris states that the album is about music that chronicles the story of a people and their time on earth. It is a reflection of African-American life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Furthermore, it is a sonic manifestation and creed of family, community and legacy. The album explores afresh the music of masters such as Bobby Hutcherson, Abbey Lincoln, Wayne Shorter and Horace Silver.

This is a very varied album and all the better for that. Each performance is completely different from the last. The album opens in familiar territory with “Dat Dere” but in a very funkified mode. Harris explains that every Blackout record starts with a classic tune which we put a Blackout stamp on. This is a wonderful tribute to Art Blakey, who Harris describes as a mentor of the highest order.

“Chasin’ Kendall” was written for Harris’ two sons and is a remembrance and reflection on family get-togethers that he experienced growing up. The music reminiscent of the likes of Donny Hathaway, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye. It is clear that the group are adept at bringing elements of R&B, pop, hip-hop and funk into their modern jazz mix.

“Let’s Take A Trip To The Sky” introduces us to the talents of vocalist Jean Baylor.

Horace Silver’s “The Cape Verdean Blues” is next and is great fun to hear and, I imagine, to play on. The subtle tempo changes add to the interest on this jazz staple.

“Go” from the pen of saxophonist Wayne Shorter follows and, once again, is in contrast to all that has preceded it. The sound pallet included bass clarinet and marimba. Casey Benjamin, the saxophonist here, playing what I take to be vocoder as he does on at least one other track.

Harris has mentioned Abbey Lincoln as an influence upon his own music in the way that he learned from the vocalist how to phrase and here he produces a delicate reading of “Throw It Away”. The studio lights were turned off so that the band were performing in pitch black darkness, summoning up the spirit of Abbey Lincoln.
Fellow vibraphonist the late Bobby Hutcherson contributed “Now”. With vocals from Jean Baylor, this is an outstanding performance which is enhanced with the addition of violin and cello. Throughout the album we have subtle electronics added to the sound mix which simply enhance the overall production.

The album ends with a delightful tribute to Michael Jackson, “Gone Too Soon”. Here Harris performs a duet with a new name on the vibraphone, Joseph Doubleday. Doubleday is the first ever vibraphonist to be accepted to the Jazz Studies programme at Julliard and is already a sideman with saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Kenny Barron and Ralph Peterson. As I mentioned accolades, here’s another to end with. Harris has been named a recipient of the 2018 Doris Duke Artist Awards and also tops the vibraphonist category in the 66th Annual DownBeat Critics Poll.

If you only buy one jazz album this year make it this one. You will be rewarded many times over.

A US tour to celebrate the release will commence in October with a European tour set for July 2019.

Alan Musson

Tia Fuller ‘Diamond Cut’ CD (Mack Avenue) 4/5

A new name to these ears and, if the cover photo might suggest either smooth jazz, or a vocalist, then think again. Tia Fuller is a serious alto saxophone (with occasional forays into soprano) who, thanks to the excellent production duties of one Terri Lyne Carrington, has some heavyweights musicians on board to accompany her on this fourth album for Mack Avenue. Previously, Fuller was part of the Beyoncé touring band, and she leads a parallel career as a full-time professional with lecturing duties at the Berklee School of Music. Among other jazz artists, Fuller has performed more recently with Esperanza Spalding.

Drumming duties here are divided up between Jack DeJohnette, Bill Stewart and Carrington herself, while both electric and double bass are performed by either James Genus, or Dave Holland. For this debut on the label, it is in fact the sensitive accompaniment of guitarist Adam Rodgers that makes for a highly enjoyable listen, with just two numbers featuring organist Sam Yahel. If the majority of the compositions are self-penned, it is the reworking of classic standards that marks Fuller out as a young musician with credentials. Best of all, a lovely reworking of Mal Waldron’s’ ‘Soul Eyes’, here taken at an unusual brisker, mid-tempo with bossa inflections, and this works supremely well, with Rodgers adding some delicious guitar licks. Another modern update is that of Cole Porter’s ‘I Love You’ (another memorable interpretation of an early album from a then young Turk, was pianist Jacky Terrasson), which retains its essence, yet here emphasizes the bass line to a greater extent. Opening up proceedings is a fast-moving, ‘In The Trenches’, with alto and guitar in tandem, and Genus operating on double bass. For some intimate balladry, the maturity in Fuller’s playing is showcased on, ‘Crowns of Grey’. In terms of influences, Tia Fuller is difficult to pin down. There is fire in the belly in places that a 1960s Jackie McLean or Kenny Garrett might feel at home with, and elsewhere refined and soulful hues that might even hint at Johnny Hodges. That is illustrated on the third standard, a gentle interpretation of the Buddy Johnson composition, ‘Save Your Love For Me’. If one thing does need to change for future releases, then probably the inner cover sleeve photo would have projected a more serious side to the saxophonist whereas the present one just confuses the potential buyer and listener. Otherwise, a blossoming career and one that is worth observing over time.

Tim Stenhouse

The Whispers ‘Three Classic Albums: ‘Whisper in Your Ear’ / ‘The Whispers’ / ‘Imagination’ 2CD (Robinsong) 4/5

The Sound of Solar came to fruition with groups of the calibre of groups such as Dynasty, Shalamar and The Whispers and this 2 CD set takes us through the breakthrough albums for the label that led to major disco and pop chart success. Part of that ingredient was the highly distinctive instrumentation, with heavy bass lines prominent, clipped rhythm guitar, full brass and strings, and those oh so mighty handclaps. On the first album, ‘Whisper in Your Ear’ (1979), that sound was still in its infancy and, consequently, the album originally sunk without trace, although The Whispers soulful collective harmonies are very much in place. While nothing equated to dance floor action in the end of disco era, the quality mid-tempo soul songs hinted at greater things to come, as evidenced on, ‘If I Don’t Want Your Love’ and ‘Jump For Joy’.

Of course, the second album from the same year, ‘The Whispers’, was a different kettle of fish, and the Solar sound was by then fully in place. A lovely soulful disco interpretation of the Motown classic, ‘My Girl’, with a terrific bass and percussive intro, now sounds totally fresh and worthy of a disco reprise. The major hit was, ‘And The Beat Goes On’, a definitive piece of disco action, and it became a monster hit on the disco, R & B, and pop charts alike. However, the soulful ingredients that made The Whispers such an entertaining act were still very much in evidence, as heard on the staccato rhythm ballad of ‘Lady’, with blues-inflected electric piano, and a faithful reading of Donny Hathaway’s ‘Song for Donny’.

By the third album, ‘Imagination’ (1980), The Whispers were hitting a creative prime and this was by far the strongest of the albums on offer, and one moreover that places major emphasis on dance floor grooves this time round. A worthy successor to ‘And The Beat Goes On’, came in the shape of ‘It’s A Love Thing’, which is just as catchy, while the title track oozed those trademark Solar ingredients. Sounding ahead of its time, and one that label mates Shalamar would pick up on ‘Continental Shuffle’, featured a more left-field sound, and remains a personal favourite of this writer. For a classic disco sound, the brass and strings intro to ‘I Can Make It Better’, guaranteed chart success and this particular album sold well in the UK on import and as a UK release. As ever with this re-issue series, fully detailed notes from regular writer, Christian John Wilkane, provide the historical context, and all the usual attention to graphics in terms of original labels. As a bonus, five of the singles are added in their 45 versions.

Tim Stenhouse