Review: After her magnetic debut EP for Running Circle in 2017, Nottingham's Yazmin Lacey lands on our charts with her follow-up 12", a piece of work that sounds deeply accomplished and expansive for being her second EP to date. Largely roaming within the jazzo-sphere, When The Sun Dips 90 Degress is a beautifully seductive five-tracker, with the artist's voice reigning supreme over the cascading showers of piano keys and subtle electronics, somehow tapping into the Alice Coltrane sort of vibe. There's no harp here, but plenty of soulful charisma. Fear not thy devout jazz fanatic - this can get real deep and real smooth. It's a broken beat fan's dream some true. More from Lacey is, indeed, expected in the remainder of the year. Marvellous stuff.
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: A reissue of American singer Debra Laws' 1981 single here on Expansion. She made her debut as a solo recording artist in in the same year, with the release of her album titled Very Special. This album, produced by her brothers Hubert and Ronnie, was a success with the singles "On My Own" (a lovely neon-lit disco-funk groove) and "Very Special" (a super sensual ballad on the slo-mo tip) being featured here. Up until the beginning of the '90s, Laws worked with her three siblings, recording and doing many live performances in the United States and abroad. Samples from "Very Special" can be heard in Jennifer Lopez's 2002 hit single of "All I Have".
Review: Despite being something of a confirmed jazz-funk classic, Hubert Laws' "Family" was never released on a 12" single first time around. Curiously, the full version - contained on the A-side of this edition - only ever appeared on the veteran flautist's 1980 album of the same name. It remains, particularly in its original stereo mix form, a superb summer breeze of a jam, with a loved-up female vocal and punchy orchestration riding a sumptuous mid-tempo groove rich in rubbery slap bass and lolloping drumbeats. On the flipside you'll find the more obscure Mono Version, which interestingly feels a little weightier at the bottom end whilst allowing Laws' superb flute solos space to breathe.
Review: Recorded and originally released in 1999, "The Bottle" has been released twice by Expansion on 12" single and now finally gets its first 7" issue. The song is the most classic Gil Scott Heron song, vocalist Maysa Leak (of British supergroup Incognito) is still the finest contemporary soul singer with a unique voice and all here with the magic of a full Incognito production. It is coupled with "Hooked On Your Love", both songs from the Incognito produced album All My Life'. Another fine rendition of this timeless anthem by one of the all time greats.
Review: Dynamite Cuts come back with a bang with four sublime cuts taken from the criminally short discography of funk soul troupe Leo's Sunshipp. The first half of their only album, we kick off with their cult solar celebration "Give Me The Sunshine" before "I'm Back For More" shreds through the stratosphere with a swooning Average White Band sparkle, "Get Down People" salutes with an Off The Wall style shine and shimmy before "Madame Butterfly" drifts back into the atmosphere with velvet falsetto harmonies and a groove so laid back it drips off the wax. Feel the sunshine.
Review: When Leo and his Sunshipp crew asked for the sunshine way back in 1980 they meant it. And with a tune as beautiful as this, they deserved it too. Released in 1980 in various forms (and also on the funk trio's only album in 1978) the most sought after was the 45" that came with the gutsier, more upbeat traditional soul cut "I'm Back For More". But let's face it, this is all about the lead track. A cult Balearic soul funk jam and one of the coolest summer cuts ever pressed to wax, reissues have been on request for over 30 years... Like the summer itself, this won't hang around.
Review: Two serious rarities from Pittsburgh's Little Hank. "Mister Bang Bang Man" is mythical northern soul anthem made famous at Manchester's infamous Twisted Wheel club in the early 70 and only saw very limited release on London Monument before becoming the sole preserve of savvy and lucky selectors. "Try To Understand" was Little Hank's debut from a year earlier in 1965. More of a straight up bluesy soulful ballad, it's still become a cult collector classic and, like the long-awaited A-side, regularly fetches triple figures. Until now...
Review: Athens Of The North strike again. A big spinner for the likes of Floating Points, this rare-as-pigs-shoes 1980 45 from Ohio troupe Love Company has gone for big sums in the past. It's not hard to hear why; "Love Tempo" raises the heat with an unrelenting disco beat, coastal guitar textures and harmonies to swoon to. "Somebody Help Me Be Fair" flips for a much more sentimental story as Love Company unravel the problems of a menage-et-trois. Steamy.
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: E Da Boss (Myron & E/Pendletons) & Ishtar team up as 'Lucid Paradise' for their second release, produced by non other than Russia's finest, 'The Soul Surfers'. 'Tonight' is the accumulation of two Bay Area soul aficianados coming together to create a smooth & crisp, timeless yet modern cut. Written alongside UK's pioneering soul singer Gizelle Smith, 'Tonight' epitomises the talent of contemporary soul acts worldwide.
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: You'll struggle to find a more sumptuous of folk-soul bliss than Jon Lucien's 1973 single "Lady Love". Similar in tone to some of Terry Callier's finest works, it features Lucien delivering a smooth and sultry vocal over twittering flutes, soft-touch acoustic guitars and swirling instrumentation. This timely reissue pairs the full-length 'Rashida" album version with another cut from the same set, "Love Everlasting". This glassy-eyed affair boasts more of a samba shuffle than the better-known A-side, but a similar reliance on evocative orchestration and Lucien's wonderfully delivered lead vocals. In a word: essential.
Review: For the second release on their new joint venture Mixed Signals, Henry Jones and Seance Centre founder Brandon Hocura have decided to offer-up a selection of tracks from Harold Lucious' overlooked 1990 album "Connected". Lucious' far-sighted blend of soulful house, new jack swing and what us Brits would call street soul comes to the fore on opener "Let The Feelin' - Turn You Out", a stripped-back, synth-heavy chunk of deep house-soul, and on the much more upbeat club cut "What Does It Take". It can also be heard, too, on delicious flipside opener "I Like It", where Lucious' layered vocals ride a tactile, lo-fi deep house groove. Our pick of the bunch though is sumptuously slow closing cut "Try My Love", which is much closer in tone to street soul.
Review: While Luther Davis is undoubtedly best known for his sought-after disco smash "You Can Be A Star", many collectors and deep funk DJs have long insisted that the more obscure "Keep On Dancin" is even better. Thanks to Athens of the North's timely reissue of the latter, you can now decide for yourself. Certainly, it's a ludicrously infectious, full-throttle disco-funk affair whose extreme dancefloor intensity is helped by Davis and company's liberal use of studio effects, psychedelic backing vocals and some serious eyes-closed guitar solos. This reissue comes with B-side bonus soothing slow jam "You", which is a serviceable chunk of deep soul.
Review: Longstanding reissue kings Soul Brother flex back to this powerful double A last issued by Cultures Of Soul in 2010. Two of Barbara Lynn's fieriest soul sessions, both released on Tribe in '66/'67 respectively, there's a strong northern stomp to proceedings on both sides. "I'm A Good Woman" is characterised by the driving kicks, tight horns and Lynn's urgent vocals while "I Don't Want A Playboy" comes with more of a traditional soul swing. Sleep on this and, in the words of Babs herself, you'll lose a good thing.
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.
Lou Ragland - "Since You Said You'd Be Mine" (3:15)
Review: Two rare northern soul gems from two much slept-on OGs. West coast royalty Mitchell takes the A-side of this powerful 45" with the gutsy feel-good romp from 79. Fittingly titled "I'm So Happy", it's a driving piece of late 70s soul right down to the wolf whistles and band cheers. Flip for an equally potent spell from Lou Ragland. Usually famed for his four-figure cult piece "I Travel Alone", here we find him yearning with authenticity on the 1979-release "You Said You'd Be Mine". Backed by honeyed BVs and full band orchestration, this has the power to stop a dancefloor in its tracks almost 40 years later. And probably still will in 40 years time.