Review: Anticipation for the northern duo's fifth album Mount Pleasant continues to rise as the Jalapeno funksters drop another cheeky doublet ahead of the release. Two sides, two very distinct vibes: "I Feel Alive" tips a wee nod at their label mates Kraak & Smaak with its fluttering space disco elements and hip-strutting beats while "Mr Hyde" takes us up a notch with a sweaty northern soul twist. Bring on the album.
Review: What a trip it's been for The Allergies; rolling from one killer album to the next, funk is flying from their HQ at a rate of knots. Here are two fine examples from their last LP Push On, both featuring their long-time friend and MC from Andy Cooper. Best known for his witty wordplay and character on Ugly Duckling records, here Andy gets to show off both sides to his expansive flow; "Main Event" is a chubby disco groove laced with mountains of funk, creating space for Andy's laidback-but-hypey charm. In perfect contrast "Buzzsaw" is a much sweatier funk jam allowing Cooper to get rapid and tongue-twisty in a way that only he knows how. Keep on pushing...
Review: Straight out of Kansas via Solo in LA circa late 60s, this rare-as-hens-teeth 45" has passed hands for bionic bundles almost striking four figures in recent times. Now liberated by AOTN sister label Owls Of Athens, its loose soul funk can be felt by everyone. "Everyone Needs Someone" sees Leroy Tucker guide his troupe amid brazen horns and rolling toms. "Crazy About You Baby" flips the tone for a more bluesy ballad led by a more heartfelt Leroy backed by lonely strums and warm organs. Two sides, two stories, AOTN strike gold once again.
Review: Stanky sickness from the Brizzle's double M funk machine, Mako & Mr Bristow return with the fifth instalment of their deeply dug (and consistently sold out) Stank Soul Edits series. For this edition we're treated to a heavy weave of breaks and dusty grooves on "Funky Diggin'" and something a little more cosmic and psychedelic on the B with "Dynamic B-Boy". Stick it to the man and get busy on the dancefloor.
Review: The Fryers sub-label of Jazzman Records come correct once again with this crucial 7" reissue from The Isley Brothers! With a career spanning some 50 years and covering R&B, Rock, Funk, Soul and Disco, it's fair to say The Isley Brothers have been one of the most influential groups on how 20th Century music turned out, yet few people actually know that their universally regarded 1973 hit "That Lady" was in fact a cover version of a track they'd previously recorded a decade earlier. Presented here in all its dusty glory, "Who's That Lady" is a jazzy doo-wop workout that will have the collectors out there running towards the turntables to find out whose version it is. On the flip is their wonderful version of the Blues standard "St. Louis Blues" which has been freshly pressed from the original master tapes!
Review: Born on the French Island of Martinique, Louis Xavier later settled in France where he discovered the freedom of jazz, and an idea to mix his influences into a global melting pot of sound. He formed his band (Synchro Rhythmic Eclectic Language) in Paris in the early '70s, making music that was both spiritual and eclectic for its time. Both tracks are jazz in essence but with instrumental funky rhythms infused with intricate percussion and electric keys.
Review: Two big cuts taken from the Melbourne trio's sixth album Blind Bet, here the band flip two sides of a ridiculously funky coin. "Mind Made Up" features the vocals of Tru Thoughts starlet Kylie Auldist. Her rich emphatic vocals fit the 70s soul licks perfectly. Smooth and dynamically delivered with big horns, subtle strings, major chords and an instantly catchy chorus, you'll make your mind up on this long before the last horns blast a final cheerio. "Skeletor", meanwhile, is a much more party-focussed jam where big breakbeats provide the back bone for sharp horns, heavy Hammond slapping and warm gravelly vocals.
Review: After releases on a dozen labels, one of Britain's finest funk groups Speedometer unleash their new single "The Shakedown(Say Yeah)" on Freestyle. Their current vocalist is none other than the legendary Martha High, a long time vocalist with James Brown until 1995 when she left to tour globally with James's sax player Maceo Parker. Does it hit all the right spots? Does it tick all the boxes? Hell yeah! Martha is firing on all four cylinders, ably assisted by UK soul man Myles Sanko whilst a killer guitar licked, punchy brass groove carries things on at a furious pace. "Dragging Me Down" on the flip sports a crystal clear performance from Martha as the band cook the bubbling organ tempo on gas mark 10; oven gloves at the ready people.
Review: The new soft-spoken, hard-rocking group from Baltimore debuted their full length live show at the Wolf + Lamb Marcy Hotel this March. Following in the footsteps of greats like Nicolas Jaar and PillowTalk, they were the first invited guest in over 2 years to perform at the legendary Brooklyn proving grounds. Life on Planets is a duo that met in the studio lofts of their east coast hometown, whereby a collaboration fusing indie artrock and electronic music began to take shape. It was a pairing of two dramatically different personas, merging as one for a serendipitous, romantic sound that's now been signed to the Double Standard label. Life on Planets has also released music through Better on Foot, where the debut single 'Apollo' made waves in early 2014. The touring act features live vocals and guitar, backed by a dj/producer, dawning a long-awaited return to authentic songwriting in dance music.
Review: By now, you should know Devon Russell's sought-after 1984 cover of Curtis Mayfield classic "Move On Up", a incredible, post-disco era reggae-soul revision that just oozes sun-splashed positivity. It's virtually impossible to pick up the original 45 so this dinked reissue from Mukatsuku Records is most welcome and has been lovingly remastered. The seven-inch is also notable for including another overlooked gem from Russell's even lesser-known 1993 album of Mayfield covers, "Darker Than Blue". His rendition of "Give Me Your Love" here presented for the very first time in a 45 format is blissfully glassy-eyed, colourful and hazy, giving the Mayfield classic a decidedly Balearic reggae feel via head-nodding grooves, fluid synthesizer lines and jazzy guitar solos. In a word: brilliant.Supported so far by DJ Koco & DJ Muro from Japan and Craig Charles BBC 6 Music, The Allergies,Mr Thing, Andy Smith & Boca 45 from the uk....
Review: Christopher Sprains and The Strange Band recorded a whole heap of material in a hazy, drug-fuelled 19178, but their - surprisingly - never gained enough traction with the NYC disco crowd. Perhaps this work was too ahead of its time and, while it does share some qualities with the music of Rick James, it contains something dark, sexy, a little bit twisted and, of course, strange. The lead track "You" is a synth-heavy, electrifying boogie cut with a rugged percussion swing and an air of post-punk to its mix down, not to mention those utterly freaky vocals; our favourite, though, is actually "Space V", an insanely nutty electro cut that would have undoubtedly been on The Electrifying Mojo's playlist should it have landed on his lap. Totally recommended...
Review: For their latest dive into the depths of funk history, Athens of the North travels back to 1978 and the debut of John Hawes and Velma Bunch's obscure Hard Drivers project. The record initially appeared on Hawes' own short-lived imprint, and his since become a sought after 7" amongst serious collectors. "Since I Was A Little Girl" is a disco-era funk gem, with guest singer Vivian Lee providing a brilliantly confident vocal to compliment Hawes and Bunch's driving, horn-heavy backing track. On the flip you'll find original B-side "Straight Talk", a touching torch song full of harmony backing vocals, impassioned builds, and lyrics capable of melting even the stoniest of hearts.
Review: The Incredible Bongo Band were a loose studio collective interpreting classics of the day in their own inimitable percussive fashion .They are of course most famous for their ultimate b-boy classic version of "Apache". This particular 7" however features two Incredible Bongo Band cuts that have not previously featured on any albums. "The Riot" is a frenetic drum workout and has been championed by the likes of the Chemical Brothers. "Ohkey Dokey (Part 2)" takes on a somewhat more subdued hue in comparison, but has some dope funky clavinet in the mix. Well worth checking.
Review: Should you require further evidence of the all-round genius of Curtis Mayfield, look no further than this early '70s funk gem from Patti Jo. "Make Me Believe In You" was written and produced by the velvety-voiced musician in 1973, one of just a few singles released by Patti Jo but undoubtedly now an all-time classic. That rolling drum intro, the ear-wagging piano, the subtle orchestration and, above all, Patti Jo's killer vocal all combine for a perfect example of the halcyon days when funk was beginning to transform into disco. Mayfield himself later covered the track for the closer to his Sweet Exorcist LP! This BGP 7" sees Tom Moulton's extension of "Make Me Believe In You" combined with his remix of the other Patti Jo burner, "Ain't No Love Lost". Any self-respecting DJ needs the A-side though.
Review: Finnish revivalist funk combo the Soul Investigators are no strangers to collaboration, having previously provided backing for Nicole Willis, Myron and Ernie Hawks. Here, they once again join forces with the latter for two more chunks of instrumental funk and soul goodness. A-side "Scorpio Walk" is the kind of cut that should come with its own named dance; a shuffling, mid-tempo funk affair that layers Spaghetti Western guitar solos and fluttering flute lines over a backing track rich in flanged guitar licks, bustling bass guitar and on-point drum breaks. Flipside "Message of Love" is an altogether deeper and more dewy-eyed affair, with woozy backing vocals and electric piano solos rising above a shuffling groove.
Review: Soul Tribe celebrate the epic legacy of Chess subsidiary Argo with two of the label's many outstanding soul burners. Etta's big swing sauce-pot number takes pride of place with all 55 years of sultry devotion still deeply embedded into the recording. Banks' slightly lesser known pastoral ballad sets up camp on the B. Lilting and lolloping with horseback storytelling, it's the perfect foil both musically and narratively.
Review: Chop-walloping funk soul: AOTN bossman Fryer has allegedly spent the past 15 years trying to secure this '70s rarity. Silky, youthful and compounded with an insatiable groove, it's dangerously close to Jackson 5's best output and no one would blame you if you thought it actually was. Flip for "Dimona", a slower burner that swoons and shows the band's more mature side. This is the first time either side has seen a 45... You know what to do.
Review: A hot and steamy funk jam on the A, a swooning samba with a hectic climax on the B: dynamically this is pretty much the perfect 45 as it ticks all funk dancefloor scenarios. Sonically it's just as sweet with widescreen production, fireside harmonies and pianos that could meander on for days and you'd never get bored. Previously rarer than unicorn knickers, this Underground Resurrection re-release comes our way the same week as the Second Resurrection 45. AOTN are clearly working on biblical form right now.
Review: A serious self-press rarity from the heart of Clarksville, Suggs never achieved the recognition he deserved during his tenure as a band leading soul man. Still in Clarksville and now a missionary, the sentiments of this recording history peak resonate with what he does now: "Everything That Looks Good" is a JB style message on the lure of temptation while "You Don't Deserve", an instrumental that sees Bubba switching his vocals for equally commanding sax, is a moment for poignant, soul-searching reflection. Lord have mercy.
Review: Another week, another masterful 7" reissue from the unstoppable Athens Of The North. Moreover, it's another sublime find from the label, and it sticks closer to their usual trick of finding one-off soul singles from much coveted artists of the '70s and '80s. Felony Theft only released this one single back in 1972, "When You Have Love", but you can understand why AOTN would want to resurface its dusty percussion for the modern audience; it's one of those rare tunes that sounds like nothing else from the genre, a quirky piece of magic for the diggers. "Run For Cover" is fun, upbeat but less alluring than its A-side sibling, but that is not to say that it isn't also a fine slice of soul-funk mastery. Go.
Review: Released in 1971 and written and recorded by Dave Hamilton (one of Motown's most prolific and influential session players), Sugar Billy Garner plays the consummate band leader over a relentless groove that rolls with drama. Billy gets sweatier, the guitars get busier, the dynamic gets heavier and heavier... So heavy it rolls into a second part. Primed for the floor, it still hits hard 44 years after its release.
Review: Tennessee's legendary jazz pianist, Harold Mabern, is surely one of the kings of the mighty Prestige label, and his material helped bridge the gap between jazz and funk back in the 1970s, alongside the likes of Idris Muhammad, The Jimmy Castor Bunch and all those geniuses. "I Want You Back" is a stone-cold classic and contains one of the most hummable trumpet lines ever, and if you hear closely it's been reworked and sampled by none other than the King of pop when he was only a little one. Funk Inc's sublime "Sister Janie" resides on the flip, a more lo-fi funk bullett for the diggers, and complete with a dusty organ!