Review: Boom: three years, three albums. No biggie for Bristol duo The Allergies, Jalapeno's biggest success story since Kraak & Smaak. Each album shows them getting deeper into the groove, creeping away from the cheeky samples and sculpting their own pedigree funk originals. With Ugly Ducking Andy Cooper onside through the mix from the wild ride vibing "Fade Away" to the white knuckle lyrical fire of "Run It Back", there's a real band feeling to the whole album as familiar voices thread throughout the jams... including that of UK hip hop legend Dr Syntax.
Review: Joe Armon-Jones has been a driving force in the resurgence of contemporary jazz and now makes something of a victory lap with this new album on the always essential Brownswood. It's a very modern mix of bass and dub, du jour club culture and his own jazz styles featuring peers like Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia. Frankly, the whole record is silky, starry-eyed and sublime and the excellent artwork also hist at the cosmic subtleties of this album, but our picks of the bunch are the neo-soul, summery stroll through the park vibes of "Yellow Dandelion", "Gnawa Sweet" which glows with mellifluous Rhodes chords and the uncompromising yet accessible sax and big brass action of album highlight "You Didn't Care".
Review: Second time around for "Virgin Ubiquity", a killer collection of previously unreleased Roy Ayers recordings that first appeared in stores way back in 2003. Focusing on the period between 1976 and '81, much of the material joins the dots between jazz-funk, soul, disco and boogie. Highlights are plentiful throughout, from the weighty, horn-heavy release of the Merry Clayton voiced "What's The T" and heady "Oh What A Lonely Feeling", to the languid vibraphone solos of mellow groover "Green and Gold", jazzy bliss of "Mystic Voyage (Version)" and the stomping, disco era street funk of "I Am Your Mind". In a word: essential.
Review: This is the second part of Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 and is again packed with tracks that are far more than unreleased findings from the cutting room floor. Each one serves as another feather in the bow of the virtuoso Ayers, who combined jazz, funk, soul and disco in magical and unique ways throughout his career. In doing so he laid down a precursor to acid jazz and hip hop. These are tracks that show off his dynamic, liquid rhythm sections and mellifluous keys, as well as the vocal talents of a range of collaborators who touch on soaring and sensuous highs as well as more gravel and earthy lows. Essential.
Voyage De Charme - "Hotel Des Savanes" (instrumental)
Passion Theatre - "Vacation Day"
Claude Miss - "Paco Ye Adama" (12" extended mix)
Cecilia - "Chocolat"
Nathalie David - "Coup De Foudre" (instrumental)
Jade 4 U - "Rainbows" (Midnight mix)
L - "La Boite A Musique"
Jean-Claude Watrin - "Game City"
Marc Et Frank - "Cap'tain Coke"
De Dion - "Sexy Cola" (Glu Glu version)
Les 36'15 - "Zoulous!" (remix)
Week End Millionnaire - "Exit"
Review: A couple of years ago French crate digger Charles Bals invited us to "Club Meduse", an imaginary Riviera club where the music was always obscure, European and decidedly mid-80s. Here he opens the doors once more, delivering an open-air friendly soundtrack heavy on rare private press gems, overlooked beauties and the kind of cuts that most would consider Balearic (even if they may have been more popular in Italy and France). Highlights are plentiful, from the eccentric instrumental of Voyage De Charme's fretless bass-powered "Hotel Des Savanes" and the soft-focus, flamenco-tinged bliss of Claude Miss' "Paco Ye Adama", to the sun-kissed jazz-funk/synth-pop fusion of Marc Et Frank's "Cap'tain Coke" and the reggae-zouk quirkiness of Les 36 15's "Zoulous! (Remix)".
Review: Once dubbed "the screaming eagle of soul", Charles Bradley passed away in 2017 after a late career surge that saw him finally find the commercial success that had long eluded him. "Black Velvet", his second and final posthumous set, draws on material recorded with long-term producer Tommy "TNT" Brenneck over the course of his career. Much of the material is either exceedingly rare (see his covers of songs by Nirvana, Neil Young and Rodriguez, as well as a sought-after funk duet with LaRose Jackson) or previously unreleased (see "Can't Fight The Feeling", "Fly Little Girl" and the never-before-heard "full band" take on Bradley classic "Victim of Love"). More importantly, it's all exceptionally good, making this a fitting farewell to Floridian soul singer.
Review: Athens of the North originally contracted obscure 80s boogie artist Billy Bruner about reissuing two of his rare, sought-after singles - "The Tulsa Song" and "The Dream" - but instead raided his tape archives and putting together what's effectively his debut album. Combining previously released tracks (including some made as part of similarly obscure outfit T'Spoon and the gospel-leaning band The Davis Family), unheard extended versions and previously unreleased songs, the album is warm, soulful, slick and summery. Highlights include the stuttering P-funk flex of "Cats Meow", the sizzling dancefloor heat of "School Dance" and the deliciously extended version of glassy-eyed '80s soul jam "Never". If sparkling, synth-heavy '80s soul is your thing, this is one surprise retrospective you won't want to miss.
Review: Since its creator pressed and released it himself in 1981, Louisville gospel musician Lamont Butler's sole album, "It's Time For A Change", has become something of an in-demand item amongst collectors. As this timely reissue proves, the album has aged rather well. Rich in infectious grooves, righteous lyrics, superb vocals (mostly provided by the man himself, with the occasional assistance of a gospel choir) and addictive instrumentation, the album's ten tracks range from funky church hall stompers ("Get Up And Praise The Lord") and deliciously jazzy slow jams ("Thank You Lord"), to summery soul songs ("Time For A Change") and the kind of hybrid folk-soul that was once associated with the late, great Terry Callier ("Smile"). In a word: superb.
Brian Auger's Oblivion Express - "Foolish Girl" (feat Alex Ligertwood)
The New Mastersounds - "Tantalus"
The Getup - "Hush"
Orquesta Akokan - "Mambo Rapidito"
Gizelle Smith - "Scared Of Something"
Menagerie - "Spiral"
Review: Craig Charles' annual "Funk & Soul Club" compilations are fast becoming as much of a Christmas tradition as turkey, dodgy decorations and ill-advised snogs at office parties. As with its predecessor, this sixth volume does a good job in showcasing the best in modern funk, soul, Afrobeat and heavy Latin jams, with a few stone cold classics thrown in (see the Mighty Ryeders' peerless "Evil Vibrations"). Look out for deep and heavy funk gems from the Bamboos, the New Mastersounds and Lance Ferguson's Rare Groove Spectrum, some suitably smooth fare from Courtney Pine and Omar, a scintillating, salsa-focused cover of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" by Scotland's Grupo Magnetico, and a dash of dancefloor goodness from funk breaks scene stalwarts Smoove and Turrell.
Review: Kalita Records announce the first ever and definitive discography of Carrie Cleveland. Here, they offer an expanded version of her 1978 album 'Looking Up', including both the issue and promotional versions of her single 'Make Love To Me', and the previously unknown sweet soul single 'I've Got A Feeling'.
Privately arranged, recorded and produced by Carrie and her husband Bill as a labour of love in their backyard studio in 1978, 'Looking Up' is one of the most in-demand soul/disco LPs in existence, sought-after in particular for their track 'Love Will Set You Free'. In addition, the promotional version of Carrie's single 'Make Love To Me' is one of the best and rarest sweet soul records to have emerged out of the West Coast soul scene, and her single 'I've Got A Feeling' is until today virtually unknown even to the most seasoned of collectors, with even Carrie herself unsure if it was ever released. With the album originally pressed in a limited run of just 1000 with 500 copies of each single, original copies of Carrie's records deservingly command eye-watering figures on the second-hand market. Kalita now satisfy the thirst with the first ever official reissue of her entire discography.
The CD is accompanied by a mini-poster and includes extensive interview-based liner notes and never before seen photos, detailing Carrie and Bills' life and musical career.
Review: Gospel/funk fusionists the Como Mamas debuted on Daptone back in 2013 with Get An Understanding, a fine full-length that perfectly showcased the female trio's talents. While that set was recorded live at Mt Merrion Church some years earlier, this fine follow-up is a studio set with Daptone chief Bosco Mann in the producer's chair. Unsurprisingly, it's deliciously authentic, sounding like a long lost 1970s, private press gospel-soul album. It's packed with highlights, from the bluesy shuffle of "He's Calling Me" and rhythm and blues bounce of "He's Mine", to the acapella brilliance of "Glory Glory Hallelujah", where the trio's brilliant vocals and a lone drumbeat combine to create an intoxicating mood.