Review: The jazz and blues-focused DOL division of Moscow-based archivists Vinylogy LLC hits the jackpot once again with this sumptuous reissue of the Etta James album, At Last. Originally released back in 1961 on the Argo Records subsidiary of the iconic Chess operation out of Chicago, At Last provided James with a wealth of chart hits, not least the title track and "All I Could Do Was Cry" which was co-written by future Motown mogul Berry Gordy. It's for this fact and more that musical historians regard this album as an important footnote in the development of Rhythm & Blues. Great work as usual from the DOL crew - do check their other reissues of Chet Baker and Nina Simone that dropped this week.
Review: One of Baker's most iconic, enduring albums enjoys a reissue. Written and recorded two years after his debut with Vido Musso and as many years before he hit Hollywood and heroin, Chet's debut album is laced with his lullaby dulcets and a sombre, spacious musicianship that creates a bubble that somehow sits both in and ahead of its time. Regarded as one of his most important pieces of work and accepted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2001, while it's clearly Chet at his youngest and purest, scratch the surface (both sonically and with the art of hindsight) and his barbed future is softly embedded in the album's DNA.
Review: Despite being 57 years old, Charles Mingus's 1959 full-length Mingus Ah Um still sounds incredibly fresh. It's rightly regarded as one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, an accolade based not only on the consistently high quality of the tracks, but also their musical variety. So, while "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" and "Self Portrait in Three Colours" are traditionally melancholic, down-tempo jazz explorations, the album also contains the gospel-influenced rush of "Better Git In Your Soul", the high-octane Duke Ellington tribute, "Open Letter To Duke", and the atmospheric late night blues of "Pussy Cat Dues". Thanks to the excellent re-mastering work audible on this vinyl reissue, Mingus Ah Um has never sounded so good.
Review: ** REPRESS ALERT ** Bossa Nova is an album by guitarist Bola Sete that was released in 1962 by Fantasy Records. It's a good showcase for the Brazilian's style: a mixture of bossa nova and American mainstream jazz in arrangement, with elements of the latter appropriately muted - adding rhythm and punch without getting in the way of Sete's soloing being the centerpiece. Later on in his career, he went on to play with legends such as Vince Guaraldi and Dizzy Gillespie. He died in 1987 and the compositions he recorded shortly before his death were compiled and released on the Windspell in 2008.
Review: Before finding fame as funk's most famous exponent, James Brown traveled the United States performing rhythm and blues with backing band the Famous Flames. The group eventually secured a recording contract in the late 1950s, going on to have a number of hits on the rhythm and blues chart in the early '60s. This slightly re-jigged reissue of 1963 compilation Shout & Shimmy - itself a re-branded version of 1962's Good, Good, Twistin' - boasts some of the group's most potent work, including the rip-roaring title track, killer dancefloor workout "Hold It" and the melancholic R&B shuffler "Don't Let It Happen To Me". While the music is of course notably different to Brown's later work, he's still at his impassioned vocal best.
Review: Stone cold Latin gold. After releasing no less than four albums in 1957 (including Night Beat and Dance The Cha Cha Cha) in 1958 Tito and his decorated troupe delivered what's universally agreed as one of the most important Latin albums of its time. Fusing the cha cha cha and the mambo with a contemporary vitality and energy that's almost mischievous, the whole album is delivered blast after blast as we're hurled deep into the percussive hypnosis of "Mi Chiquita Quiere Bembe", soothed by the glockenspiel harmonics and sudden horn blasts of "Hong Kong Mambo" and totally smitten with the melting vocals of "Llego Mijan". Setting the world up for his paradigm shifting "Oye Como Va" a few years later in 1963, this album put Tito and his orchestra on the map forever...