26th Feb2016

Various ‘Praise Poems Vol.3’ CD/LP/DIG (Tramp) 4/5 & 2/5

by ukvibe

praise-poems-3Germany’s Tramp Records offer another rich and deep compilation of obscure and lesser known jazz, soul and funk related material that continues in the tradition of their previous releases in the series. And thus, there are no real superstar artists featured here or major label records, just solid music.
Generally speaking, I would say that there isn’t a stand out track, which commonly transpires with new compilation albums, but overall the quality control is high with only a few less exciting numbers and with 19 songs featured, the strong/weak ratio is very high.
But personal favourites include the Rhodes heavy jazz/soul instrumental ‘West 15th Street Strut’ by The Rosewood Trio, which is quite a modern sounding record for a tiny 7” release from Chicago in 1975. Toby Cooper & Brick Street ‎’The Guru’ is a loose, Louisiana funk instrumental with sax, Rhodes and a touch of Hammond in the mix and also Lexington with ‘The Loving Side of Me’, is a slice of Bay Area funk from 1973 with its laid back soulful female vocal – all very credible and worthy pieces.
Other notable additions include Keyboard player Geoff Tyus and ‘Mt. Vernon Ave’, which is another Rhodes led jazzy soul instrumental 7” from 1980, Jennie Misty’s cheeky jazz vocal swinger with its slightly off kilter and maybe dubious vocal performance of ‘Nature Boy’, the 1948 Nat King Cole standard is great fun. And Project IV ‘Just a Little More Time’ is a fantastic Philly soul groover and something that I wasn’t aware of previously.

Praise Poems Vol. 3 also features a new recording from trumpeter Lucky Brown, ‘Buddha On The Road’, a funk instrumental that appeared on his debut 2015 album, ‘Mystery Road’, also out on Tramp Records. This is condemnable to include newer material on an album of this kind.

But as like all compilations, there are a few oversights that tended to come from obscure funky-ish rock/pop bands, but these are heavily overshadowed by the other inclusions here. And the album promo material states similarities between many of the songs here and Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters, but the Herbie stuff is musically much ‘heavier’ than what’s contained here, but you can’t take nothing away from the fine work Tramp have done in curating this unyielding album and of the 19 cuts here, at least 15 of them are very strong, and so this is a recommended album for any soul, jazz or funk fan wishing to dig a little bit deeper.

Damian Wilkes rating 4/5

In the space of a year the German label Tramp, have reached number three in their series of Praise Poems compilations. The mission statement of these releases is to take us on “a journey into deep, soulful jazz and funk from the 1970’s”, with the emphasis on tracks that have not previously been compiled. I must admit that I approached this compilation with some reservations. Whilst the subject matter, 1970’s soul, funk and jazz is pretty broad and has lots to give, is number three a release too far?

By and large I think my concerns were well founded. There are tracks that I quite like, indeed, one or two I even own, but I felt underwhelmed by the overall content.

Lets start with the positives. Overall the blend of styles works, and is sufficiently varied to maintain interest. Folk-funk, psych, jazz funk, soul and lounge jazz all figure in the mix.

My favourites are the jazz funk tracks – Geoff Tyus on the laid-back “Mt Vernon Avenue”, The Herbie-esque electric grooves of The Rosewood Trio on “West 15th Street Strut” and Plas Johnson on “Lift Off”. Finding out that Plas played the sax solo on the Pink Panther Theme may have influenced me here.

Elsewhere, Shebbi Smart sounds like an interesting singer, in the style of Carmen McRae, if “Love is Like the First day of Spring” is anything to go by. The up-tempo bossa beat of Wanda Stafford’s “Happy Sunday” is pleasant without being jaw dropping. However both songs would sound at home on compilations from ten years earlier, the same could be said of some of the folk-funk.

Reviewing music is inevitably subjective, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that Cal Andrews and his Trio’s “O Sing to Me” is poorly played, poorly sung and poorly recorded. That said it has to be heard.

There is something about Abraham Battat’s “Listen Baby” (I should know I went to great lengths to get hold of a vinyl copy some years ago), but in the grand scheme of things it’s not a classic. If you have ever thought to yourself that the one thing Nature Boy was missing was a steel drum accompaniment, then Jenny Misty’s version will not disappoint.

Flippancy to one side, across the whole album I find that there are just not enough quality songs on offer although I admire Tramp’s approach to look around at the less obvious.

Andy Hazell rating 2/5

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