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

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

Eric Debonair McNair ‘This Could Be Love’ CD/DIG (Private Press) 4/5

Apparently those who have bought the Blu Mitchell album also took one of these too, normally I wouldn’t have bothered as I have no interest whatsoever in what other people are playing and it certainly has no bearing on what I buy. Anyway from the opening Temps style guitar licks and the crunching beat of “Every Weekend” I was hooked, this is one tough album and he is clearly taking no prisoners, with superb production and a really unique voice – and then up pops a sax solo that is just so right.
The reason for the soul heads to get on board is the Toni Tony Tone sounding “Pay Your Love Back” – the best tune all year (I know it is only February). A lazy shuffling rhythm and some great vocals including backing singers challenging his right to be on top of the mix, tinkling piano, guitar ala Curtis Mayfield, 4 minutes of sheer joy and then some. In fact because of this I pulled all the Toni Tony Tone stuff from the shelves and had a couple of hours with old friends, they were well ahead of their time.

Back to this album then and the sultry “Beck & Call” is a monster head nodder with lovely rhythms, is that a Clavinet I can hear? Slowing it down for the superb “I Adore You” and “These Three Things”, both of which just envelope your senses, and then it is on to track 6, which is a total mystery to me and I can’t get my head around why it’s there, but ‘The Sammy Slammy Show’ is and I’ll leave it up to you decide, for me it’s a total waste of valuable time.
Next up the rolling dancer “L-O-V-E”, a duet with Deon Q, who has got quite a voice, melting its way into your head. There are also a couple of tracks on here which are suitably marked explicit but they aren’t that bad really.
“I miss you” is a cracking stepper that needs sunny days and a loud sound system, perfect for your carnival.
This is an album that came my way by accident but I’m so glad it did. In the battle with Blu Mitchel this one is ahead at the minute so please do find the time to check it out on Bandcamp.

Brian Goucher

Geneva Camerata ‘Sounds of Transformation’ (Sony) 4/5

Combining classical music and jazz in one setting has sometimes proven a sticky wicket and one that fans of both genres have, on occasion, felt uncomfortable with. However, it has also produced high quality music that transcends narrowly defined boundaries with strings on recordings by Bill Evans, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker, embellishing the layered textures of sound. This new project goes a step further in two notable respects. First of all, it explores the interrelationship and commonality that exists between early music (i.e. pre-baroque and thus J.S. Bach, a major influence on a plethora of jazz musicians), more recent impressionistic classical music from Maurice Ravel and jazz. For French audiences, this is less problematic insofar as in the world of cinema, both directors and musicians have extolled the virtues of this coming together of genres. In the early 1990’s Alain Corneau scored a major commercial as well as critical success with the film, ‘Tous les matins du monde’, based on the life of the little known composer Marin Marais, and the soundtrack became a best seller with Jordi Savall and Hisperion XX opening a whole new world of music to listeners. Corneau is a jazz aficionado.

Secondly, and with particular respect to this new endeavour, the same composer is interpreted in both jazz and classical/early music idioms and that can be a little disconcerting, but also a liberating experience for the listener. It has been extremely well put together by conductor/pianist David Greilsammer and fellow jazz pianist, Yaron Herman. The former performs on piano on a complete rendition of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G, and both participate together on a scintillating four hands version of Lully’s, ‘Last dream’. The jazz interpretations work best on the more intimate pieces, including, ‘Marin’s night ballad’, composed and arranged by Jonathan Keren, and on the Gil Evans inspired big band hues of, ‘Rameau and the Flying Big Band’, where the bass playing is quite free in parts. This is preceded by the lovely early music sound of Rameau’s own, ‘Contredanse en rondeau’, which is taken from ‘Les Boréades’. The transition from classical/baroque to jazz is further exemplified on the famous Purcell, ‘Prelude from the Fairy Queen’, which morphs into a Massimo Pinca composition in the style of Purcell, aptly titled, ‘Purcell in transformation’. Maybe an initial leap of faith is required for both jazz and classical devotees alike in taking on board this project as whole, but with this caveat in mind, that faith is more than repaid several times over when listening to the album. Tri-lingual inner sleeve notes in English, French and German leave the reader in no doubt as to the devotion to the project.

Tim Stenhouse

Blu Mitchell ‘Blu Eyed Soul’ (Mastermynd Entertainment) 4/5

Now then, there I was catching up with some episodes of my favourite shows and I hear this guy on the radio, his voice shone out like a beacon in the night. Off I went to investigate. Now you must ignore the title as there is nothing blue-eyed about this, this is a black man singing with guts, grits and passion the way we like it, although I should point out that he is not the legendary jazz man who shares the same name either, so yes, it does all get somewhat confusing.

Straight then to the monster that is, “Standing Ovation”, an epic 70’s influenced dancer that back in the day would have smashed up soul clubs everywhere, but as it is, we can only hope. Everything you could ever want is here; stunning musically and a tremendous voice just riding the musical storm effortlessly. The heavy percussion fuelled “Fool For Love” meanders along, getting into your head, with fine vocals again and with real prominent backing singers too – an instant replay for sure.
He is also a fine balladeer too, take “Another Sad Love Song” where battle commences with the backing posse, Mitchell staying strong.
Such a lovely piece, “Have You Ever”, is another cracking down-low tune. I couldn’t wait to hear the track as he shares vocals with Puff Johnson, a woman with an immense voice that over the years has been wasted on kiddy pop, (sorry I should have said RnB). It was always my thought that she deserved much more than that, please someone put her in the studio with some grown up lyrics and some real instruments, after all that we don’t really get to hear to much from her.
“Anna Mae” is a stepper with some healthy touches, but the big track on the album for me is his version of “I’ll Give It Up” feat. Andre Delano, not quite a ballad but not a dancer either, fine musicianship and top vocals make this one a real beauty. The last 4 tracks are all re-mixes inc 2 of “Standing Ovation”, neither of which add anything to the original. This release is a solid addition to the heaving shelves and one I sense won’t be filed away for a while.

Brian Goucher

David Rector ‘Best of My Life’ (Private Press) 2/5

Okay, where to start… I have had this album for some considerable time, surfacing last year without much fanfare, and has been re-promoted in 2018 to try and get it off the ground. 4 of the 9 tracks on display are head and shoulders above the rest, the title track is a tidy down to mid tempo floater and “Don’t Forget To Remember” is a slightly more urgent, but refrained chugger, both these tunes have had spins on Mark Merry’s ‘Soul Sermon’ radio shows and yes I can well understand why, perfect radio fodder.
The gospel tinged “Even Me” complete with cavernous backing singers, simple percussion, organ fills and tinkling piano is a nice touch, but I am afraid that’s it for me until track 9, “You’re The Only One”, a sumptuous southern flavoured mid tempo head nodder, which, at the more adventurous clubs, would put bodies on the floor. As for the rest of the album, it simply goes nowhere, it’s as if the passion and the feeling was stripped out of the album. Having played it through several times to convince myself of my initial thoughts, it’s one of those cases where you can’t remember what you have been listening to, with the exception of the tracks mentioned – it’s all a bit ‘elevator’. Such a real shame because he’s got a great voice and some tracks do indeed work.

Brian Goucher

Weeding Dub ‘Another Night Another Day’ 2LP (Wise and Dubwise Recordings) 4/5

..And, by contrast to my previous review for a digi dub steppers album have I indeed managed to come across a breath of fresher air? A more adventurous and progressive path? Perhaps we have an album here that may just be the savior of this somewhat tired genre by its engaging in forward thinking retrospectiveness and entering the third wave of digi dub creativity with attitude.

A four sided double vinyl LP with each side having its own set of progressions and craftily blended segments, with each side having its own unique atmosphere as, seemingly, at this point in time only the one Weeding Dub can achieve. (Not forgetting Mayd Hubb) A colossal album of twenty tracks of which 4 are stand alone’s and 8 with their dub versions with each side having a stand alone track to either start the set or to finish the set.

It becomes clear that a lot of thought has gone into the presentation of this album, both its track listing and ‘sets’ concept of each side and also the eye-catching and well presented album artwork of which to be honest can only be appreciated fully on a vinyl album canvass in full size.

So what of the music contained within..?

Side A kicks off with the album’s title track, a kind of manic uptempo instru steppers piece a bit reminiscent (ish) of UB40s ‘Madame Medusa’ or ‘Reefer Madness’ but on high-octane uppers with wonderfully positively aggressive shades of dub producer Don Fe underlying the mix with a raucous percussion and those ‘drippy droppy’ dreamy snare drum tones and effects. The next piece on Side A is a pretty standard mid tempo affair, basically a voicing track to display the very apt tones of guest vocalist Dixie Peach entitled ‘Make Dem Know’ and although the voicing track doesn’t really hold its own as a stand alone work its dub version ‘Make Dem Dub’ fares better and it’s the dub version that enables Weeding Dub to commence his eclectic progression featuring some very inventive ultra heavy filtering and effect manipulations. ‘Rise Up’ and its dub version are much stronger works featuring the smooth and heartfelt vocal tones of another guest vocalist Oulda with its dub version touching then progressing beyond Don Fe mixdown territory, even surpassing Doktor Lond with Weeding Dub’s full-out assault on the dub mixing board. This ‘set’ Side A receives a healthy 3 out of 5.

Side B kicks off with the very quirky and addictive upbeat number featuring the guest vocals of Nish Wadada, vocals full of soul that compliment the voicing mix of ‘Let Go’ which could be a great contender as a single from the album as could be a piece from this same set and that finishes Side B the loony tune that is ‘Skankertainer’. The excellently and aptly titled ‘Big Men Of The World’ draws attention, again featuring guest vocalist Oulda, this piece a mid tempo (downbeat) UK Ska styled sounding affair with and by contrast with a laid back roots vocal by Oulda who rides the Ska riddim in fine style and passion and although the drum settings on this particular piece are somewhat, weak sounding, overall it’s a very strong creative statement. Side B is quirky, eclectic and warrants a nice five out of five.

Side C kicks off with a standard digi dub instrumental workout complete with alternate version ‘The Lions Claw’ which then gives way to a three version excursion that is a piece called ‘Artikal Stepper’ which again is a standard ‘set in stone’ offering from the genre and although it’s an OK tune why Weeding Dub deemed it his pleasure to give the ears two other almost similar versions of the same piece is beyond me and side C for me is the low point of the complete whole creatively yet still interesting enough to warrant a lightweight three out of five for Side C.

Side D is the one for me, the most artistic, eclectic and adventurous ‘set’ on the album and although to die-hard ‘by numbers’ fans of looping digi dub this set may not be their cup of tea, perhaps a little over eccentric for their ears? Yet it is ultra out there with its progression and attitude in manipulating the possibilities of dub in the digital studio and it is this ‘set’ where Weeding Dub showcases his full potential as a creative force.

Track 16 and kicking off Side D is the wonderfully off-piste creation that is ‘Dub Soldier Forever’ with its robot voiceovers and minimalist antidote to the ‘by numbers’ mentality of old and its dub version further displays this antidote, I am digging this full on. Followed by a piece called ‘Can’t Understand’ which has the strains of, a vibe very reminiscent to the UK Beat, Dave Wakeling and crew of old, a touch of General Public with its slight dystopian and dreamlike quality with guest vocals by Shanti D, its alternate version ‘Can’t Understand pt4’ is pure On U Sound mentality, retrospective progression and with a punk attitude, in dub. What a journey this double album has been, it finishes with the nicely played synth drums of ‘Afuryca’ a heavyweight one drop instru dub which calmly and confidently ends the set and the album. Side D receives a large five out of five.

Weeding Dub has been part of the underground scene creating and collaborating for nigh on twenty years, this is his 5th album release, his debut album was released back in 2004 entitled ‘Steppactivism’. With this new album ‘Another Night Another Day’ he has set a new benchmark both musically and in artistic presentation for the digi dub steppers and beyond genre and weighing up the marks for each ‘set’ from each side of this double album it remains for me to declare that a very heavy indeed 4/5 is awarded, so close to a five it’s tempting with only the lacklustre and staid Side C standing in the way of that. A very cool must have album for all ears that dig the sound of dub today and its progression. Forward march Weeding Dub. I may just buy a record player now.

Gibsy Rhodes

Dr. Lonnie Smith ‘All In My Mind’ (Blue Note) 4/5

Now in his second spell with the Blue Note label after an absence of some forty-six years, Lonnie Smith offers up a live recording with his latest trio from an evening at the Jazz Standard Club in New York on the year of his seventy-fifth birthday and it is both an evocation of the classic Blue Note era of the 1960’s and a re-working of some of his own material. For those not already aware, Smith emerged as a highly effective Hammond organist during the mid-late 1960’s invariably working as sideman to both a young guitarist by the name of George Benson and alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. As a leader, he cut three definitive slices of soul-jazz in, ‘Think!’, (the title track a reworking of the then Aretha Franklin soul hit) ‘Turning Point’ and, ‘Move your hand’, in the process recording with greats such as Lee Morgan, Bennie Maupin and Julian Priester, to name but a few. Meanwhile. for a generation of hip-hop create diggers, his late 1960’s live album, ‘Layin’ in the cut’, and the groovy album cover of, ‘Drives’, with a dynamite take on Edwin Starr’s ‘Twenty-five miles’, endeared him into the fold and in the mid-1990’s came the issue of the previously unreleased, ‘Live at Club Mozambique’, which continued very much in the vein of the aforementioned Blue Note albums. For the new live recording, Smith has revisited a Jazz Messengers staple in, ‘Up jumped spring’, composed by Freddie Hubbard, and this is a lengthy, winding rendition that gives plenty of space to guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, who seems to have soaked up some of the modern jazz guitar masters licks, from Benson to Pat Martino, and not forgetting Melvin Sparks, while elsewhere drummer, Jonathan Blake (Joe Dyson deputizes on one track) and the leader, engage in regular duets, including on an inventive re-interpretation of Paul Simon’s, ‘Fifty ways to lose your lover’. A hurculean take on Wayne Shorter’s epic Blue Note album title piece, ‘Juju’, is a welcome surprise with the intensity raised a notch or two.

Possibly, the addition of a horn player might have added another dimension, but Lonnie Smith is happy to retain this pared down formation. As it is, Smith’s own composition, ‘All in my mind’, is re-worked with vocals by Alicia Olatuja. A welcome return to the major label for Dr. Lonnie Smith who is still in fine form and recalling those other great Hammond organists on Blue Note, Big John Patton, Larry Young, and not forgetting the daddy of them all, Jimmy Smith.

Tim Stenhouse