Review: Many disco-era modern soul collectors regard, Larom Baker's "You're The Best", which initially appeared in 1978 on an impossible to find, single-sided 7" single, as one of the style's genuine "Holy Grail" records. It's good news, then, that Athens Of The North has secured the rights to reissue it, releasing the full studio version (rather than the shorter edit that was released all those years ago) for the very first time. It's a genuine gem, with Baker's deliciously breezy West Coast soul vocal seemingly floating over a killer backing track rich in hazy horns, bustling slap bass and crunchy Clavinet lines. Turn to the flipside for the more disco-minded "Train Of Thought", one of a string of recently discovered Baker recordings that form the basis of a forthcoming album of previously unreleased tracks.
Review: Ooof! Two forever-scorching disco gems from the one and only Cheryl Lynn. This extended version of the screaming funklet "You Saved My Day" has only been available on rare promo, while the full version of her seminal party jam "To Be Real" enjoys pride of place on the B. 40 years young and still untouchable.
Review: Clarence Mann is from Alabama. He was 14 years old when he completed his first recording with a high school choral group on RCA Records. After high school, he sang with various bands while attending college. In 1973, he released his first single entitled "Man's Temptation / Have Faith In Me" on T&M Records followed by "Please Accept My Love" and "You Met Your Match" respectively. After his solo career, he joined the group True Image as lead vocalist. Their recordings were released on a subsidiary of the famed TK Productions. The group continued with the independent Alabama label Juana Records when T.K. closed its doors. True Image released two singles in 1980. After these recordings Clarence Mann did several different versions of the song "Come What May". The original recording was recorded by John Gary Williams in 1973 and was released on Stax Records. Although Clarence Mann did several versions of it, only two of them with True Image have seen the spotlight.
Review: It would be fair to say that the two tracks showcased here aren't among Lamont Dozier's best-known songs. For starters, they were originally tucked away on the legendary soul man's largely overlooked 1981 set, Working On You. A-side "I'm A Believer" is a breezy, string-drenched chunk of disco-boogie blessed with one of the singer-songwriter's best vocal performances. It's something of an overlooked dancefloor gem, all told. Flipside "Starting Over" builds steadily from a slow start, with Dozier's impassioned message of love reborn coming through loud and clear over sumptuous orchestration and super-sweet vocal harmonies.
Review: Two Arista classics from 79/78 respectively, the cult (not to mention heavily sampled) charms of Pittsburgh soul queen Hyman are presented immaculately right here on this heavyweight vinyl double-A. "You Know How To Love Me", taken from the 79 album of the same name, is a straight up disco stomper that should be recognisable to all with its distinctive horn fill and rousing backing vocals while "Living Inside Your Love" (from her 78 album Somewhere In My Lifetime) is a slinkier, sultry affair with some sizzling scat vocal flare and harmonies that will have you weak at the knees. It's all love.
Review: Trailer Limon and E Da Boss (he of Myron & E fame) have been recording as The Pendletons for the best part of a decade, serving up occasional slices of revivalist electrofunk and turn-of-the-'80s soul. They're at it again here, popping up on Bastard Jazz with a double dose of goodness made with the assistance of some of the Bay Area's finest musicians. The headline attraction is undoubtedly the Howard Johnson hook-up "You Do You", a rich and evocative chunk of mid-tempo disco-soul blessed with mix-friendly drum breaks, seductive instrumentation (think glistening funk guitars, toasty bass, punchy horns and fluid pianos) and a slick, smooth lead vocal. "Life To Me", a more sugary affair built around distinctive slap bass, sustained chords, relaxed drums and subtle synth flourishes, is similarly impressive.
Review: This special Record Stay Day reissue gathers together two of Philadelphia soul legend Teddy Pendergrass' finest dancefloor moments. Both are essential, making this a must-buy for disco DJs who've yet to acquire them. On the A-side you'll find "You Can't Hide From Yourself", a sumptuously orchestrated affair whose killer groove is matched in quality by Pendergrass' impassioned vocal (check the rasping freestyle vocalizations towards the end for proof). Equally as impressive is "The More I Get, The More I Want", an insatiably sexually charged affair that builds in intensity throughout and not only contains one of the funkiest basslines in disco history, but also some seriously addictive female backing vocals.
Review: During his time working at Jazzman, Athens of the North founder Euan Fryer tracked down the late, great Avelino Pitts, whose impossible-to-find mid 1970s work with Gold counts as some of the deepest psychedelic soul ever recorded. Here, Fryer offers up two of Gold's greatest, previously featured on a 2011 Jazzman compilation, on "45" for the first time. Both songs are deep, fluid, emotional and evocative, with Pitts' impassioned lead vocals rising above intricately detailed backing tracks that prioritise twinkling pianos, reverb-laden slow grooves and slowly shifting basslines over cheap soul showmanship. As a result, from the first listen you'll be hooked.
Review: This excellent seven-inch single mines the rich seam of Terry Callier style folk-soul that is Jon Lucien's incredible 1973 album "Rashida". On the A-side you'll find the brilliantly breezy, horn-heavy samba-soul sunshine of "Would You Believe In Me", a song so beloved to Lucien that he re-recorded it several times later in his career. On the B-side you'll find the arguably even sweeter and more loved-up "Kuenda", where Lucien delivers attractive scat-style, double-racked freestyle vocals over a backing track rich in finger-picked folk guitar arpeggio lines and atmospheric field recordings of nature. It's a joyously simple track, but one that will stay with you for hours after you've put the record back on the shelf.
Review: Marta Ren has made us wait for a follow-up to her superb 2016 debut album "Stop, Look, Listen". The good news is that a belated sequel is in the works, with this limited seven-inch single offering a first taster of the studio sessions. "Worth It" was certainly worth the wait (sorry). Based around a lolloping deep funk groove rich in heavy bass, hip-hop style drum breaks, crunchy guitars and rising horns, the track sounds like a long lost original 1960s recording rather than something made earlier this year. That's no criticism, though, because Ren's powerful, forthright vocals - available on the killer A-side version - suit that kind of fuzzy, retro-futurist production. Don't sleep on this one - it's one of the strongest soul records of the month without doubt.
Review: Legendary singer songwriter Barbara Mason is represented in the finest fettle on this 1974 reissue. "World In Crisis" first appeared on her Transition album. Complete with warm harmonies and soft cinematic orchestration, her honey-toned sermons cut through the mix with a cool sense of dreaminess. "Give Me Your Love", meanwhile, is a fantastic cover of the Curtis Mayfield classic where here surging emphasis coats the groove with silky come-to-bed whispers. Stunning.
Review: If you've yet to investigate the Soul Tune Allstars fine debut album, "Introducing The Soul Tune Allstars", then this taster single should be essential listening. A-side "World" is an absolute treat; a rich, undulating, retro-futurist turnoff-the-80s style soul cut full of jammed-out Hammond organ licks, punchy horn lines and effortlessly soulful vocal courtesy of former reggae singer and Freddie Cruger collaborator Desmond Foster. The similarly soulful Anna Thiam handles vocal duties on flipside cut "Natural Feeling", a particularly sweet, sunny and laidback song that sits somewhere between classic soul, jazz-funk and more contemporary cuts.
Review: Previously only available on US promo 45 - these 1973 Afrodisiac-era cuts from The Main Ingredients are well overdue. First up is a beautiful take on the Isley Brothers 1972 classic "Work To Do" (also famed for its Average White Band cover in 1974) while the B is draped in the powerful vocal harmonies and lavish strings of "Instant Love". Proof that sometimes all you need are two ingredients to cook a beautiful feast for the soul.
Review: One of Finnish funk imprint Timmion's most enduring stories; Pratt & Moody and Cold Diamond & Mink's 2017 "Lost Lost Lost" gets an update with Gerald McCauley. Not particularly known for his singing or songwriting (but very much active in other aspects of the industry) the original's raw blues struck a chord so strong in him, he put pen to paper and dulcets to tape to provide a new perspective on the track. The results speak for themselves. There's no wondering here... It's a full blown heartache conclusion.
Review: Since springing back to life last year, original disco-era funk label Al & The Kidd Records has delivered a string of fine singles featuring previously unheard cuts from the Washington D.C-based imprint's seemingly bulging vaults. Their latest must-have 45 features two delights from Michael Orr, an obscure funk/soul artist best known for his 1975 collaboration with Casey Harris, Spread Love. In fact, B-side "Afterawhile" - a sumptuously loose and laidback affair featuring some superb keyboard solos from Orr - is taken from that sought-after set. Arguably even more thrilling, though, is A-side "Wonder Woman (Super Lady)", a previously unreleased, synth-heavy space funk jam recorded in 1983.
Woman Of The Ghetto (Akshin Alizadeh remix) (5:05)
Woman Of The Ghetto (Akshin Alizadeh instrumental mix) (5:04)
Review: Put your hands together... Serial editor Akshin Alizadeh takes Marlena Shaw's iconic heavily-referenced sample (from the live recording of "Woman Of The Ghetto") and lays it softly over a breath-taking lounge-lurking jazz funk groove. All lavish strings, hazy horns, wandering keys and lazy smoky beats, think Nightmares On Wax and you're on the right Balearic boulevard. Get together.
Review: One of disco's biggest divas gets served up on a red hot platter here by Vinylators. "Extended Woman" is eight plus minutes of bubbling, piano laced and string happy disco with the iconic "I'm every woman" vocal taking centre stage over nice clipped drums. It's a tasteful edit that brings all the key parts to the fore. "Piano Woman" is more stripped back, with plenty of emphasis on some busy piano playing and the soaring original vocal left in place up top. "Dub Woman" is more paired back and built on the leggy drums, while plenty of golden strings add real colour.
Review: Calvin Carr's wonderful gospel-soul has been a digger's favourite for yonks, often being cited and used by the very best selectors in the game. This 1878 single, originally out on Philadelphia United Records, is aptly named "Without Christ" and it offers listeners, dancers and lovers an opportunity for positive redemption. Much like the rest of the gospel world, this is perhaps the best way to convert people into enlightenment and keep them positive - there is absolutely no way that this disco-tinged gem cannot make you jump up with joy and excitement. The instrumental cut is pretty killer, too. BIG.
Review: 1974's Coming Right At You, the sole album from 100% Pure Poison, has long been a sought-after jazz-funk gem. Soul Brother has previously reissued the rare (and increasingly expensive) LP, though this double 7" marks the first time most of these tracks have been available on wax since 2001. Check first opener (and title track) "Windy C", a superb chunk of lolloping, laidback jazz-funk that sits somewhere between Bob James and Cymande, before turning your attention to the slow-burn soulful delights of string-laden torch song "Puppet On A Chain". Over on the second 7", "No More City, No More Country" is a more hard-spun Blaxploitation funk affair, while "Hole In My Shoe" is a horn-fired slab of J.B's style funk-soul fusion.
Review: One song, two versions, one killer Philly 45. The Cooperettes got in first during the mid 70s with a very rare copy that picked up momentum during the Northern/modern soul crossover in mid 80s when copies began to surface and never really lost favour as OG copies on I-D-B go for near L500. Flip for a previously unreleased male harmony version by The Toppiks, fronted by Ted Mills a la Blue Magic. Just sit back and feel those falsettos.
Review: The latest must-have reissue on Athens Of The North's psychedelic-minded Ocean of Tears offshoot comes from Symphonic Four, a St Louis-based combo who released one seven-inch - from which both these tracks are taken - on local label Zudan in 1978 or 79. Interestingly, "Who Do You Think You're Fooling" - a languid, bass-heavy deep soul treat with a suitably psychedelic sound - was reportedly recorded in Detroit with members of Parliament/Funkadelic amongst the backing musicians. The A side "Part 1" version is the more straight-laced of the pair, though we prefer the wilder and weirder "Part 2" version on the flip, where odd electronic noises, delay-laden vocals and reverb-heavy instrumentation create a seriously psychedelic mood.
Review: Two crucial moments from Gil Scott Heron's immense repertoire; "When You Are Who You Are" takes the lead. Taken from his 1971 album Pieces Of A Man, it's a straight up homage to clarity and honesty told in the context that only Gil knew best. Flip for a very special alternative take of "Free Will". The title track of his following album, released a year later in 1972, the variations of this take (which has never been released on vinyl before) are subtle but strong enough to justify it a place in your collection.