Darrian Ford ‘New Standards’ (Private Press) 5/5

During the course of last year I had at least 45 new albums land via various sources, most of which contained at least one great track, the odd few were complete albums in that you could put them on and leave them, no track jumping needed, but they are a rarity. Well here’s one for this year, promoted as a Jazz album but this is much more than that, it’s very soulful with jazz touches, his voice has such clarity and dominance, the album has been mixed perfectly so this lovely soul voice in its rightful place. I stumbled over him on CD Baby when he put out the scintillating soul grower “On the ocean”, I would suggest this will be one of the tracks of the year and would be perfect at 4am at the forthcoming Soul Essence weekender, kicks of a bit like “Dock of the Bay” and then it morphs into an emotional beat ballad, he sounds like Little Anthony and played loud this is simply stunning, easily the best version of this tune I have ever heard, he owns it now.

It seems like an age waiting for the album but it’s here in all its 15 track glory, it really is a thing of beauty. He hails from Chicago and has been on tour with his Sam Cooke revival show since 2006 when he kicked it of to rave reviews in New York City, you see, he doesn’t want Sam’s music to die, he wants to bring it to the masses, good on him. One of my earliest memories is dancing to Sam’s “Another Saturday Night” at Barbarella’s Night Club in Birmingham totally lost in the music and then realising a couple of hundred people were watching me, I was a couple of weeks away from my 14th birthday I had blagged my way in and pestered the jock for soul tunes all night – anyway back to this album – now Bill’s “Lovely Day” shouldn’t be tampered with as it is a stone classic, but hang on, Darrian has smashed it with an unknown female providing a foil to his silky smooth vocals, she posses a beauty of a voice and it all works so well, so far removed from the original this will get spins for years to come – if only there were some info of her identity! You could buy this album just for those two cuts and you would be very happy indeed. Now then, if rare groove is your bag then jump on “The One” because if this had appeared on some obscure album from the late 70’s early 80’s it would be seriously sought after. OMG he’s at it again with his Little Anthony sounding “Not my brother’s keeper” with a thumping big bass to keep him company, horns to die for, I really can’t get enough of this, the album kicks of with the Jazz fuelled “Loose Cotton Shirt” which wouldn’t have sounded out-of-place on the recent James Hunter Six long player, the meandering “Acorns” is another grower which is getting repeat spins here. I could go on, just buy it, you will not find a duff track on here, I’m converted.

Brian Goucher

ILL CONSIDERED ‘ILL CONSIDERED 3’ Vinyl/Digital (ILL CONSIDERED MUSIC) 5/5

The third Ill Considered album continues to showcase this London based trio/quartet their progressive approach to contemporary jazz. The line up remains as previous recordings with Leon Brichard on bass, Idris Rahman on saxophone, Emre Ramazanoglu on drums and additionally here, Satin Singh, who also appeared on the group’s second release ‘Live at The Crypt’ (2017) providing percussion duties. Ill Considered apply loose musical ideas to support further improvisational embellishments with ‘Ill Considered 3’ possessing a live quality, although, it was recorded in the same recording studio as their first release.

‘Djinn’ is the perfect introduction to the project; spiritual in its sensibility, the piece proposes a sense of tranquillity juxtaposed with an eeriness of sorts emanating from its mainly drum-less rhythm, sparse saxophone lines and winding electric bass accoutrements. ‘Incantation’ sees the group embrace a Weather Report era Jaco Pastorius thru bassist Leon Brichard, in addition to fluid sax runs which at times make use of digital delay effects. The drum track progresses from light to dense and rhythmic, and back to light again within its five and a half-minute track length.

Interestingly, the group decided to offer three short separate tracks for all band members to display their own individual musical personalities. Leon Brichard’s ‘Retreat’, is again obviously derived from the influence of Jaco Pastorious, the fretless bass innovator who made full use of artificial harmonics, chordal playing and a mid range focused sound that is now so revered by bass soloists. ‘Scatter’ with a track length of 1’16” is basically a brief workout for drummer Emre Ramazanoglu alongside percussionist Satin Singh. And ‘Perplexity’ sees Idris in practice mode with some supplementary reverb and delay added to his saxophone, although, the track length for this review copy had a timing of 2”33”, but the final minute and a half contained dead silence.

‘Delusion’, my personal favourite, is the most percussive and funkiest track of the set with its strong rhythm running beside the expressive but solid bass elements that then allow room for the dynamic saxophone flourishes. The bass sound on ‘Mediation’ is more akin to a sine wave synth bass and probably processed as much, and so, moving away from the fretless Jaco sound. ‘Nada Brahma’, the longest piece here at nearly 7 minutes is an exploration of musical space and atmosphere. I’m unsure of the title as an influence, because ‘Nada Brahma’ is the name of a contentious book by Joachim-Ernst Berendt which explores how music and sound impact upon spiritual development.

The combination of their rawness, complexity and intrigue gives Ill Considered a presence and attitude that serves them well as one of the ‘hottest’ UK jazz groups. The recording quality and audio engineering skills have improved upon previous projects, and obtaining an Ill Considered album on vinyl especially a first pressing is somewhat comparable to finding a Blue Note original – they are out there but it takes patience and resourcefulness. A few hundred copies are not fulfilling the demands of their growing consumer base, with their DIY cottage industry approach via their Bandcamp profile aiding their popularity.

So what is the future for Ill Considered? They could continue to record and release pretty much every live show and studio recording session and there would be paying customers for those experiences. This 3rd album does briefly touch upon the use of additional effects and processing – which could open up another world of options particularly within an improvisational context, something which UK bass soloist Steve Lawson has used effectively over the years. Or they could keep this project especially for this specific approach and then use other group configurations for different musical expressions. Nonetheless, having three strong albums released in less than a year is a rare feat and very much welcomed.

Damian Wilkes

Ethiopians ‘Reggae Power’ / ‘Woman Capture Man’ CD (Doctor Bird) 5/5

One of the great harmony groups of all-time, the Ethiopians belong to a select number of musicians of any genre whose melodic qualities are guaranteed to cut through the toughest of hearts. The Everly and Louvin Brothers practically defined the art of harmony singing, though in country music the Carter family were undoubtedly the early pioneers. Jamaican popular music took a leaf out of these practitioners of vocalese and the likes of the Heptones and later the Gladiators would emerge. Leonard Dillon was the leader of the Ethiopians and their chief composer. While previous compilations have sought to provide a wider vision of the band, and the 2 CD anthology on Sanctuary is praiseworthy in this regard (especially if you require the essential starting blocks of ‘Train to Skaville’ and ‘Engine 54’), the present CD offers something different; it focuses attention on a more narrowly defined period both in time and in genre. The two albums contained within were released in 1960 and 1970 respectively and are highly prized, not just for their rarity, but equally because they personify what is known as the ‘boss reggae’ period, associated primarily with the rise of the ‘skinhead’ sub-culture among youths in the UK. This is not to be confused with the later far right political connections that had nothing to do with Jamaican music. Rather, the youths in question aped the sartorial elegance and lifestyle of the Kingston ‘rude boy’ and reproduced what they perceived as a similar dress code. This came to coincide with an interest in their favourite football teams, several of whom adopted boss reggae tunes, with Harry J’s All Stars and the anthemic, ‘Liquidator’, becoming the adopted theme of a club such as Chelsea.

The first album has some of the most enduring of the Ethiopians song and these include, ‘Everything crash’, and, ‘Hong Kong flu’. A key element in the production was Karl ‘J.J.’ Johnson who worked on the two albums. Variations comes in the form of two instrumentals on the first album, with the J.J. All Stars offering up a then topical tribute to the politician and civil rights campaigner, ‘Robert F. Kennedy’. The second album continues in the same vein with social commentary prevalent on the opener, ‘Things a get bad to worse’, while a more optimistic tone is adopted on, ‘Joy joy’, and, ‘High high’. As a major bonus, there are another seven 45’s included and thus even those in possession of the original album vinyl may wish to purchase these and have the complete package in one handy place. These alone have some enticing titles with, ‘Everybody talking (aka ‘Big splish splash’) and especially, ‘Buss your mouth’ (aka ‘Contention’) from 1969, while later examples of the Ethiopians from the early reggae era are to be found in, ‘Mek you go on so’ and, ‘Wreck it up’, the latter from 1970. Detailed notes from authoritative boss reggae writer, Marc Griffiths and Andy Lambourn, coupled with terrific graphics of the various labels the band recorded on plus the UK and Jamaican covers of the very same albums round off an exemplary re-issue. The re-formed group would later record some memorable roots reggae music, with the 1977 Niney produced, ‘Slave call’, Leonard Dillon recorded further in his own right with Coxsone Dodd and lived until the age of sixty-eight in 2011. As for J.J., he re-invested his profits and founded a bus company that serviced rural Jamaica.

Tim Stenhouse

Justin Hinds and The Dominoes ‘From Jamaica with Reggae’ CD (Doctor Bird) 4/5

Straddling eras and genres, Justin Hinds (sometime spelled ‘Hines’) is quite simply one of the most important and endearing singers in Jamaican popular music, and belongs to be placed alongside Alton Ellis in the pantheon of vocalists. While this original album collecting songs from the mid-1960’s has been re-issued on countless occasions in vinyl format, this new CD re-issue goes one step further and provides a wider parameter, taking the story of Hinds’ music up into the late 1970’s when he was still plying his trade as a fine practitioner of roots reggae. Hinds was adept at adapting to the times and re-focusing his musical accompaniment for a new audience with the same quality of music and reflective lyrics.

Indeed, even into the mid-1980’s, Justin Hinds was recording superior quality albums for the US indie label Nighthawk and these should be investigated as a matter of urgency. However, the music contained within here serves as a mini and condensed introduction to the singer’s music and as such for the reggae neophyte, this may actually be a better investment than a multi-CD set. Classic ‘riddims’ abound and from the very start with, ‘Carry go bring home’, an essential slice of upbeat ska. Equally strong is, ‘Rub up, push up’, which has graced many a various artists compilation, and is included here as one of the fourteen bonus cuts. What makes this music so distinctive is the quality of the songwriting which invites the listener in. There is attention focused on the less well off and needy, with, educative yearnings on, ‘Teach the youth’, and a strong Baptist underpinning (though never preaching excessively) and thus secular ears need not feel excluded. Far from it. Generous additional tracks include the late 1970’s roots era, with Sky Note label productions such as, ‘Rig-ma-roe game’, and, ‘Wipe your weeping eyes’. Historical overview sleeve notes comes courtesy of respected reggae aficionado and writer, Mike Atherton.

Tim Stenhouse

Micah Shemaiah ‘Roots I Vision’ LP (Evidence Music) 4/5

The album was voiced in Geneva at the label’s Evidence Music Studio and mixed by one of the champions of the dub underground; Munich resident producer and soundmix engineer Umberto Echo with the music being provided by The 18th Parallel band.

‘Roots I Vision’ is presented as an eight track vinyl LP with the digital version benefiting from the inclusion of three bonus dub version cuts.
An easy to digest album when played in its entirety with a potent blend of vintage mixdown style and vocals and its progressive delivery courtesy of the underground arena, notably as example the use of speed control effects and percussive elements in the mix with the overall sound coverage tipping the nod to 1980s reggae roots and culture sounds, musically similar say to the later music of Gregory Issacs and the later Mikey Dread albums in fact I detect a few vocal refrains uttered by Micah throughout tracks that have that Michael Campbell touch and many other references appear throughout the set not least with its sub genres, we get healthy doses of rootsy one drop, mid tempo steppers style, rockers style and ambient leaning modern digi dub not forgetting that wonderful era of minimalist mid 1980s dancehall sound all blended together rather well making a short yet superbly crafted set.

From the album’s opener and title track ‘Roots I Vision’ through to its powerful closer ‘Death Trap’ we embark on a traditional reggae journey of roots and Rasta, of love and unity. Lets take the track ‘Boom Shakalak’ which has all the ingredients for a lovers sway, with Micah crooning away in positive vibe spreading unity not hate over a sumptuous down tempo slice of musical ‘gateau à la crème’ along side smatterings of fairground ride style sirens and a brass section -featuring on trumpet Alex Schneiter and on tenor sax Michael Borcord not forgetting Anthony Buclin on trombone- who give nice back washes and hooks throughout the album with some crucial drumming provided by the one Antonin Chatelain, indeed peppering the set are those hexagon shaped ‘syn’ drums of old giving a warm sound to the riddim tracks. I can’t detect any filler tracks to be honest in this creation. The album has a nice ‘mid’ range bass sound, it pumps but not overly ‘belly’ bass playing, not ultra deep like digi dub.

The high piece of the album comes to us by the name of ‘Death Trap’ which features Daniele Raia on the keyboards who also produced this track, all the other tracks on the album having been arranged and produced by The 18th Parellel band keyboardist Mathias Liengme. ‘Death Trap’ is a pure organ led roots special with some nice guitar picks from Léo Marin and lead guitar from Adrien Stern with handpicked subject matter from the voice of Micah Shemaiah, the dub version of ‘Death Trap’ is minimalist cool.

It’s a nice album to play in the background, calming and charming, a very Jamaican sounding band and the album absolutely benefits from the mix of Umberto Echo at the controls. The three bonus dubs (digital release) are underground heaven. Treat yourself to the vinyl LP and download the three dubs from a store, it’s rockers galore. Nice work by the backing singers Julien Plaza and Patricia Carvalho. A good team and a good project. A healthy 4/5 I would say.”

Gibsy Rhodes

Various ‘The Wants List Vol 4: The Return Of The Soulful Rare Grooves’ 2LP/CD (Soul Brother) 5/5

The highly regarded Wants Lists series continues with the fourth instalment of the Soul Brother Records compilation. Here, 17 carefully chosen soul flavours are selected, and as the title suggests, these are primarily 1970s tracks of the two-step, mid tempo and modern soul variety. The compilation begins with The Harold Wheeler Consort and ‘Black Cream’ (1975), a one-off album track by the prolific producer and keyboard player, which possesses touches of soul, jazz and disco with strings parts a la Love Unlimited Orchestra. Almeta Lattimore and ‘These Memories’, a (pricey) Mainstream Records 7” co-written by Almeta, is a stunning slab of deep soul and as like many others here, was reissued on a Soul Brother 7” in 2017. Ty Karim and the shuffling ‘Lightin’ Up’ is a genuine rare soul piece from the obscure Romark label, although, Kent Soul have previously re-released the track on two occasions.

Mary Clark ‘You Got Your Hold On Me’ which was originally a B-side to the massively in-demand boogie monster ‘Take Me I’m Yours’, is another swinging soul bouncer. This was removed from the official 2017 reissue 12” of ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ and replaced with the previously unreleased instrumental, and thus, this would set you back £100+ for the original 12”. Zulema ‘Wanna Be Where You Are’ is a remake of the Jackson 5, Leon Ware and ‘T’ Boy Ross produced record (their first collaboration), from the self-titled 1975 ‘Zulema‘ album. The first minute prior to the noticeable vocal parts is the strongest part of the track. Buddah Records have two inclusions, Bobby Wilson and ‘Don’t Shut Me Out’ which comes from his only 1975 LP ‘I’ll Be Your Rainbow’ and The Ebonys ‘A Love Of Your Own’, cut from the second of their three 1970s long players are both worthy additions. Tommy McGee ‘Now That I Have You’ is a bit of a cult classic and is featured here in its 1981 form and not the later boogie remake.

The sought after Dee Edwards ‘(I Can) Deal With That’ has been a known favourite on the soul scene since the ‘90s, but this is the uncredited ‘Strings’ version which has a slightly different mix to the standard release – but also possesses marginally inferior audio quality than the original. This version again appeared on a limited Soul Brother 7” in 2016. McArthur and ‘It’s So Real’ from their only release on Mainstream Records subsidiary Brown Dog is a sweet male ballad which recently appeared in 2016 on a Soul Junction UK repress. And unknown to this writer, Jocelyn Brown ‘If I Can’t Have Your Love’ is a pretty obscure 1981 7” only cut from Posse Records from New York, who are also known for their early 80s rap releases. This puts Jocelyn in a genuine soul context for this Keith Barrow written number for a more subtle performance by the legendary vocalist.

One time Spinners vocalist G.C. Cameron and his double negative insinuating ‘Love Just Ain’t No Fun’, was recorded in 1980 but first issued in 2014 on a Soul Brother 7” – but this is its first appearance since that release. Natural High ‘Trust In Me’, was also featured on a 2016 Soul Brother 7” as a B-Side to ‘I Think I’m Falling In Love With You’, both taken from their impressive debut and solitary 1979 album. The Impressions ‘We Go Back A Ways’ is taken from ‘Finally Got Myself Together’ (1973), and although it’s both a post-Curtis and Leroy Hutson Impressions track, it still manages to capture the essence of the Chicago group with this strong two-step groover. The Manhattans and their ultimatum offering ‘Give Him Up’ from their ‘With These Hands’ (1970) album on Deluxe from their pre-Columbia days, is one of my personal favourites here from the popular New Jersey group.

Aretha’s sister Carolyn Franklin’s ‘Sunshine Holiday‘ has been a known two-step preference for years and is taken from Carolyn’s fifth and final album ‘If You Want Me’ (1976). Pat Lundy and the bouncy ‘Let’s Get Down To Business’ from her 1976 album ‘The Lady Has Arrived’ is a nice inclusion, as is Margie Joseph ‘Ridin’ High’, taken from ‘Sweet Surrender’ (1974) with its deep strings, electric piano, sweet horns, background organ and warm flute touches. Aretha Franklin’s ‘Daydreaming’ is the most obvious track here plucked from one of Aretha’s strongest LPs, ‘Young, Gifted And Black’ (1972). Surprisingly, this was never issued on 7” – except in Peru! ‘I Want Sunday Back Again’ has Maxine Weldon recollecting about happier times and was featured on a US promo only 7” (1975) but more commonly from Maxine’s fourth solo album ‘Alone On My Own’ on Monument.

There isn’t a poor inclusion here on Wants Lists 4. And I appreciated that it is not just a compilation of very rare or ‘trending’ records because as we all know, a rare record is not always a great record, and around 50% of the tracks featured can be bought in their original vinyl form for under £25. I commonly find that many of the records that are slightly under the vinyl digging radar are more interesting than the rarities.

Damian Wilkes

UK Vibe Records present… Chris Bowden ‘Unlikely Being’

UK Vibe celebrates 25 years with the release of
CHRIS BOWDEN ‘UNLIKELY BEING’

Album launch Wednesday 28th February 2018
Riverside
Tiddington Road
Stratford-upon-Avon
Warwickshire
CV37 7AB

Mò Kalamity meets Sly & Robbie ‘One Love Vibration’ LP/CD/DIG (Sofia Thea / Musicast) 5/5

Mò Kalamity has something special about her voice. You can’t really translate it into words, it’s just a feeling that’s inspired by her voice. May be it’s this whispery vibe she has which is ethereal and at the same time has a universal appeal simply because it contains a magical kind of quality. Born in Cape Verde and raised in Paris, France, Mò Kalamity turned to Reggae from a young age and has been on that journey since 2004.

It’s no surprise then that her new LP “One Love Vibration” has been produced by the Original Riddim Twins Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare and it is truly an outstanding collection of artistic work. ‘Kingdom’s of Africa’ sets the pace from the start and like all the songs it’s the kind of track you will play over and over again, with the dub version as well. It’s the voice that carries things along in a mystical way. Extending words and utilizing modal scales that have this special pentatonic sound. May be some might call it Middle Eastern, Arabic, but it’s also common in a lot of Greek music, from Ipirus for example, and classic Reggae artists like Dennis Brown and Augustus Pablo often looked to ‘the middle east’ for inspiration. So it’s nothing new. But every once in a while a singer comes along in Reggae who sounds born for that vibe. Although he is completely different, Ini Kamoze has that same quality, and many newer Reggae artists from Jamaica have been walking this more rootsy experimental path a lot of late, such as ‘Likes’ by Chronixx, Micah Shemiah’s ‘Jah Works’ and Samory I’s ‘Rasta No Gangsta’. It’s within that kind of framework that Mò Kalamity’s new release should be put, rootsy to the bone and with a vocal inflection that symbolizes a different modal approach. The best example of this is ‘Throw Down Your Guns’ a powerful song, manifesting with perfect timing topically in a world where brainless knee jerk reactions by politicians rhetorically fuel never-ending cylces of destruction prevalent around the world. So just ‘throw down your arms, rat da ta ta ta’ sings Mò Kalamity with such conviction, power and vibe that you just sing along, and know this is righteous music. And of course, you cannot ignore the music…Sly ‘n’ Robbie need no introduction, they just simply keep doing it rootical time and time again. Respect as always to this fine production team who have been taking Reggae all over the world for decades. “One Love Vibration” was recorded by Sly & Robbie at the legendary Anchor Studios in Jamaica together with acclaimed musicians such as Robbie Lyn(Keyboard) Mikey Chung (Guitar), Winston “Sparrow” Martin (Percussion) and my bredren blowing with passion Dean Fraser (Saxophone). This release is a fine testament by a very talented and special singer with a voice that mesmerizes, and it will be spinning for some decades in selections far and wide….

Haji Mike

John Surman ‘Invisible Threads’ LP/CD (ECM) 4/5

ECM has a wonderful habit of championing unusual and unexpected combinations of musicians with consequent new musical fusions created and this is a case in point. The genesis for this collaboration with Brazilian musician Nelson Ayers came at a much earlier stage when John Surman met the Brazilian singer and musicologist Marlui Miranda. She in turn introduced the multi-reedist to pianist Ayers and the artistic juices started to flow in both directions. Nelson Ayers has enjoyed a long and distinguished career and was actively involved in the 1972 Airto Moreira led Light as a Feather formation including at various junctures both Chick Corea (memorably for an ECM album which is one of this writer’s all-time favourites) and, interestingly, a young Keith Jarrett. During the 1970’s and 1980’s Ayers also served as conductor and artistic director for the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra for the state of São Paulo, and for the smaller ensemble Pau Brasil. Surman’s long-time love of folk melodies and Ayers own interest in Brazilian rhythms makes for a fascinating cross-pollination and added to the mix is vibraphone/marimba player Rob Waring. In terms of mood, the music divides up into two different, though interrelated parts and is a tale of two halves. The first half is more introspective and this is reflected in a piece such as, ‘Autumn Nocturne’, where sensitive accompaniment on piano creates with the leader on soprano saxophone a gentle and subtle musical palette. Likewise, there is a distinctly calming influence for, ‘On Still Water’, with piano and Surman this time on bass clarinet. Ayers is never overly flamboyant which is not necessarily a characteristic one would expect of a Brazilian pianist. In the second half of the album, especially where Ayers’ own composition, ‘Summer Song’, is showcased, the music is more joyful and Surman in turn adopts a lighter and more upbeat tone on soprano. A pity we could not hear more of Nelson Ayers’ writing which is excellent. The influence of Hermeto Pascoal and a strong Brazilian folk presence permeates, ‘Pitanga Pitomba’, where piano takes the limelight. While not quite on a par with John Surman’s other explorations into other folk cultures, notably, ‘Mathar’, this Brazilian-Scandinavian métissage does work and is definitely worthy with possibly a greater emphasis on the Brazilian folk tradition and why not even a couple of Brazilian songbook standards re-interpreted. Perhaps, surprisingly, this is Surman’s first CD for the label in some six years, but it has been worth the wait. Lengthy three page notes by Steve Lake are unusual for ECM, but a pleasant surprise and well worth investigating to find out about the other two musicians and how the project came about.

Tim Stenhouse

Astral Travelling Since 1993