Chassol ‘Ultrascores II’ (Tricatel) 3/5

chassolThe notes that accompanied this digital only album were in a format my computer did not recognise and so I was listening to this ‘blind’ as it were.
My first impressions led me to wonder whether this was an album compilation by different artists as the styles went from the quiet introspective – almost classical introduction of ‘Lamb Ouverture’ to the indie pop of ‘Les Oiseaux’; from the jazzy pop of ‘Reich & Darwin (The Dashaa-able Prep)’ with its soprano saxophone and mixed up time signature to the electronic soul/funk of ‘I Looove you Negacra’ – all weaved together with little 30 second snippets of speaking voice and single instrument.
It proved a tad annoying at first but once I looked into Monsieur Chassol and saw that he does indeed score music for film, it made more sense.
His influences are Steve Reich, Miles Davis, Stravinsky, Ennio Morricone and The Cure and you do certainly hear most if not all of those influences here.
A few of the songs caught my ear and put a smile on my face – like ‘La Route de la Trace’ a light pop instrumental plucked straight from the 70’s that chugs along sounding unmistakeably French. It features a nice solo violin or fiddle (I think) but could well be a computer generated synthesized sound.
Also one could do a lot worse than to wrap their ears around ‘Friday morning LA’ – a delightful minimal piece featuring voice, piano, electric piano and then bass (synthesized). It runs for more than 6 and a half minutes but you never get bored of it.
Similarly with ‘Free Samak’ featuring just electric keys and flute, this is well played and easy to get lost in – a delight!

‘The Troup (Nola Cherie)’ is an overly long piece weighing in at almost 13 minutes crossing a few different musical genre styles a little crudely. This could probably have been edited to be 3 or 4 songs in their own right perhaps with that common musical motif running through.

Overall, a pleasant listen and certainly an album that you could sit down and take in.
I don’t think the idea here was to hit you in the face with the sounds; more rather bathe you in them. And if you let it do that, you won’t feel too hard done by.

Sammy Goulbourne

Julie London ‘Your Number Please’ / ‘Julie at Home’ (Fine and Mellow) 4/5

julie-londonFormerly a model, but enjoying a second career as a singer with jazzy inflections to both mass and critical acclaim, chanteuse Julie London seemingly arrived from nowhere and laid down some of the most enduring late night music of the 1950s and beyond. This CD pairs two of her albums with contrasting accompaniment that serve as an ideal illustration of how gifted a performer London was in both intimate and larger-scale musical surroundings. The second of the two albums, from 1960, is the strongest with a distinctive west coast jazz vibe and captures to perfection London in late evening jazz mood with a stellar line-up of Al Viola on guitar, Jimmy Rowles on piano, Emil Richards on vibes and Don Bagley on bass, not forgetting the trombone of Bob Flanagan. The album is full of classily interpreted romantic standards from the great American songbook of the calibre of ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’, a sumptuous ‘Round Midnight’ and ‘You stepped out of a dream’, which might just be the most apt way to describe London from a strictly male perspective.A gently carousing take on ‘The thrill is gone’ is a million miles from the blues drenched B.B. King version, but one imagines he might have approved of this. Viewed as a whole this album has become something of a favourite among London cognoscenti. The second album, features a large band arranged and conducted by André Previn, with an iconic photo of the singer. It builds on the reputation Julie London immediately established with the 1955 hit single, ‘Cry me a river’, and once again a deeply romantic repertoire that were imbued with London’s utterly personal approach. A fine re-issue and everyone should own at least one Julie London album in their collection, but this value for money set enables you to own two.

Tim Stenhouse

Cannonball Adderley ‘Complete Live in Tokyo 1963’ 2CD (Solar Records) 5/5

cannonball-adderleyOriginally released on Riverside records as a single vinyl LP that contained just five lengthy interpretations, this is the complete concert edition that trumps all previous CD re-issues of the various concerts in Japan during 1963, and is a stunning testimony to this terrific group in its prime with brother Nat on cornet and Cannonball even acting as vocalist as well as his famous repartee wit. What really propels this formation of the Cannonball Adderley sextet is the inclusion of both multi-reedist Yusef Lateef and keyboardist Joe Zawinul, here still an acoustic pianist and several years before co-founding Weather Report with Wayne Shorter.
Naturally the classic Cannonball repertoire is included and this veers strongly towards the melodic soul-jazz side of things , which was always an Adderley virtue. Particularly strong are the readings of ‘Work song’, ‘Dis here’ and a terrifically catchy version of ‘The jive samba’. Indeed Latin grooves are not far from the surface on ‘Primitivo’, which Adderley first recorded with the Sergio Mendes group. The rhythm section here is first-rate with Sam Jones on bass and Louis Hayes on drums and there is some interesting standard material such as ‘Easy to love’ and, interestingly, a take on Ellington’s ‘Come Sunday’. Cannonball’s visit to Japan served as the inspiration for the title track which is a seldom heard self-composition and underrated at that. The original album became an unexpected hit on both the Billboard jazz chart, reaching the number five spot, and a minor pop success, climbing to one hundred and sixty-nine. That may not seem especially high, but remember even ‘Kind of Blue’ did not originally figure in the top two hundred upon its original release. For fans of the modal side of jazz, however, the jewel in the crown here must surely be an extended take on ‘Brother John’, which Lateef later reworked for Impulse barely a year later. This significantly expanded edition boosts the tracks presented from five to nineteen with only a few second takes. Arguably, this is the finest formation of Cannonball Adderley’s illustrious career as a leader and one that is indispensable for any serious jazz fan.

Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘Greg Belson’s Divine Disco – American Gospel Disco (1974-1984)’ 2LP/CD/DIG (Cultures Of Soul) 4/5

greg-belson-divine-discoWe live in a world of excess. I know I don’t need to tell you that.
No more is excess more apparent than with compilation albums. Small labels thrive on comps, because they usually sell well for a relatively small price to put together. And an area where competition between the compilations is at its fiercest is the good ol’ Disco compilation. Everybody loves a little disco, right? Well, you have another to chew over here in the form of Greg Belson’s Devine Disco: Gospel Disco 1974 – 1984
As you can probably work out, this is Disco music from the Gospel side of things and if that makes one or two of you cringe then don’t worry because it is an example of another quality compilation.
Greg Belson is an expert on all things Gospel Soul related and he has curated 15 outstanding tracks of soulful, uplifting music that will have anyone up and dancing.
This set comes as a single CD or double vinyl and features many artists that I must admit to not knowing who they are. But in the larger picture does that matter too much when you’re on a dancefloor or in your lounge or listening on headphones on a bus?

As I said, the disco comp scene is a particularly competitive one with a good few quality compilations and re-edits of classics that have been released over the past few years so anything else that comes along has to ‘muscle in’ on the action and make their mark. This compilation does just that.

We could pick out any song to start with but let’s go with… the first track on the album ‘Faith is the Key’ by Enlightment with its near Shuggie Otis’ ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ signature motif running throughout; the sharp funky bass playing; its perfect strings; its tasty background vocal stabs ably supporting the delightful main vocals.

Shirley Finney’s ‘Give your best to The Master’ is probably the track that sounds most like what you would expect a Gospel/Disco fusion to sound like with its tight gospel vocal backing, strong soaring main vocal from the woman herself and driving disco beat. The song suddenly stops about ¾ of the way through and just breaks down so Ms Finney and co can drive that message home – pure quality!

The Herman Harris & the Voices of Faith, Hope & Love cut ‘Give yourself to Jesus’ is pure Gospel soul and still feels right at home here.

Other highlights here are The Inspirational Souls’ ‘Jesus is Going Away (But he’s coming back Again)’ – an all-male vocal funky disco tune. Think O’Jays with a touch of the Mizell Brothers thrown into the mix.
Also ‘No Greater Love’ by The Testimonials is very strong with its driving beat, awesome vocals and kick ass rhythm section.
There’s also ‘Nowhere to Run’ by The Gospelaires of Dayton, Ohio and ‘Thank you Jesus’ by Gospel Ambassadors – both worthy of your attention – although the latter ruined by the addition of a Steve Cobby – of Fila Brazilia fame remix. There was just no need for it!

Sammy Goulbourne

Michael Kiwanuka ‘Love & Hate’ 2LP/CD/DIG (Polydor) 4/5 & 5/5

michael-kiwanukaThe predecessor album, ‘Home again’, was one of the favourite of all summertime albums for this writer and thus the new recording was approached without not a little trepidation, Happily, any doubts that may have lingered proved unfounded and the new album has its own clear identity and stands out in its own right. If anything, the tone is darker this time round from Michael Kiwanuka, with personal questions of identity seemingly uppermost in the singer-songwriter’s mind, but the universal influences that so enchanted in ‘Home again’ are once again present. These include the orchestrations and social commentary of Nina Simone with the production sound of Chicago’s Cadet label, the folk-soul hues of Windy City native Terry Callier, and the improvised vocals of Marvin Gaye among others. However, Kiwanuka is firmly his own man and that comes through on the album’s opus, ‘Black man in a white world’, that could be the soundtrack to a thousand tales of injustice. the infectious groove and handclaps help propel the omnipresent subject matter.
Pared down instrumentation is one additional feature of the second album with the use of strings understated as on the soulful ballad, ‘Place I belong’, while gospel tinges emerge on ‘Rule the world’. Another impressive quality is that of quiet introspection and this is a feature of ‘Father’s child’ and ‘I’ll never love’, that could have come straight off Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ period. Not all the music, however, is as bleakly framed with, ‘One more night’, possessing a mid-1970s neo-Motown meets the Hi sound rhythm section feel and the lengthy title track is an obvious candidate for single release.

In sum, an extremely well thought and expertly executed release from a singer who deserves to be heard by a significantly wider audience, and one who may well catch on in the United States if given sufficient promotion.

Tim Stenhouse rating 4/5

The young Michael Kiwanuka is back with a gem offering: “Love & Hate”.
The opening track “Cold Little Heart”, with its long instrumental intro of over 4 minutes and the stupendous backing vocals is only the start of a love affair with this man’s music.
Michael Kiwanuka strides into the listeners’ mind with a bow and arrow piercing the heart through and through. Marvellous production by Dangermouse, Inflo and Paul Butler, makes the album a treasure trove full of soft nuances that deserve to be listened to attentively. Then follows track 2, the clever “Black Man in a White World”, musically perfect, with simple yet striking lyrics and voice that would melt even titanium.
Michael Kiwanuka is part of Communion Records stable which, in itself, is part of Communion Music, an incredible music company founded by musicians and based in London and New York (Brooklyn).
Hat off to Communion Records then for snatching the talent of this great guy that is Michael Kiwanuka. I am in awe!
Oh and by the way: Michael hasn’t just written all the tracks, but he also plays guitar, bass and piano on them!
“Falling” is a mellow, heart-wrenching track: listen to Michael’s raucous voice, full of promise and pain at the same time.
The title track “Love & Hate” catches one, draws one in, almost like in a vortex. The strings arrangements are simply faultless.
Although very young, Michael has come a long way, a North London dude, working along with the likes of Chipmunk and Bashy, before moving onto his own path, signing with Communion Records in 2011.
Michael has versatility and spark of the genius: he supported Adele on her 2011 tour, has played various venues and last month performed at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park.

“One more night” has beautiful saxophone playing on it, whilst “I’ll never love” is melancholic to the core, striking words for a track that deserves to be a single!
“Rule the World” is a hymn against solitude or perhaps a cry for some peace of mind and peace in one’s heart? It is this diversity that makes this album one of the best I have listened to so far this year.

I could make a few comparisons here, but Michael’s way of singing and lyricism is unique. What would be the point of making comparisons when it is clear this man is a true artist, a genuine musician and, most of all, a fantastic raconteur!

I could listen to “Love & Hate” for hours on end because each time something else, something new will arise and surprise me and lead me into a fresh thought and path.

I am going to try to catch Michael for an interview soon, so watch this space.

Favourite track = “Cold Little Heart”

Erminia Yardley rating 5/5