MARTA REN and the GROOVELVETS; Stop Look Listen (Record Kicks)

Friday, 05 February 2016 19:09 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1_mathaMarta Ren is Portugal's premier soul singer. She's been in the business since the 90s and with a (we're told) dynamic live show and two locally-acclaimed albums under her belt she's a big draw in the clubs of her home town Oporto and on the wider Portuguese festival circuit.

Last year her single –the brassy, brash and bold 'I'm Not Your Regular Woman', won lots of airplay across Europe (notably on BBC 6) and it filled floors in the kind of clubs that embrace the marriage of old school funk (in the mode of Marva Whitney) and the more contemporary, tough soul of, say, Amy Winehouse.

To consolidate on the success of the single, Marta and her band (the tight and funky Groovelets) have just unleashed this new long player which offers a full 12 tracks worth of the combination we've just described.

'Stop Look Listen' is topped and tailed with two remarkable funk workouts... 'Don't Look' and 'I Wanna Go Back'. Both are straight out of the Sharon Jones/Daptone school of retro funk and soul. They're fast and furious and spiced with biting guitar, mad Hammond and punchy brass. There's more of the same on 'Release Me' whose parping brass is based on classic Stax. That brass is right up front too on the Cliff Nobles' 'Horse' inspired instrumental 'Be Ma Fela'

Elsewhere 'It's Today' is a touch lighter... more of a Northern flavour while '2 Kinds Of Men' takes its drum pattern from 'Get Outta My Life Woman'. Highlights though are the more sombre moments... 'Smiling Faces' and 'I'm Coming Home'. It's that last one that made me make the Amy Winehouse comparison earlier on. Marta herself, though, would prefer comparison with Sharon Jones and the several other funk divas she name checks on 'I Wanna Go Back'

Marta Ren's 'Stop Look Listen' is released on February 19th on vinyl, CD and as a download.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 05 February 2016 19:26


CLARENCE CARTER: This Is Clarence Carter/The Dynamic Clarence Carter (Kent)

Friday, 05 February 2016 19:07 Reviews E-mailPrintPDF

1_ccOver the past few years Ace/Kent have reissued most of the recordings that Clarence Carter made for Rick Hall down at Fame and now – rounding things off- they offer the lugubrious, Alabama-born singer's first two albums as a welcome "twofer".

Though recorded at the Fame studios, both 'This Is Clarence Carter' and 'The Dynamic Clarence Carter' were issued on the Atlantic label. Fame boss, Rick Hall had struck a deal with Atlantic after Carter's first few singles enjoyed only moderate success. He figured releases on a higher profile label would get more air play and enjoy higher chart placing... and he was right. Early on in the Atlantic deal, Carter scored with songs like 'Slip Away' and 'Too Weak To Fight' and as was the way of the US music biz in the 60s, single success led to the need for an album. Equally, the 60s way seemed to be that the albums would consist of the hits, the B-sides, songs from the "home studio" teams and covers of then current pop and soul hits. The albums were usually hastily assembled with no thought of a theme or a concept... they were simply a way to cash in on the high profile of the singles. Both these Carter albums conform to that template.

The focus of the 'This Is Clarence Carter' was/is his hit version of 'Slip Away' and the other included hits, especially the driving 'Looking For A Fox', still sound good. Southern soul collectors will also enjoy a version of Jimmy Webb's 'Do What You Gotta Do' and the classic southern ballad, 'I Can't See Myself'... as mournful as you'd expect.

The focus hit on 'Dynamic' was 'Too Weak To Fight' and amongst the other cuts, there are covers of 'Light My Fire', 'I'd Rather Go Blind' and 'Harper valley PTA'... yet another country song requisitioned by the soul community. Highlight though is Clarence's version of the Brill Building pop song 'You've Been A Long Time Coming' .

This new reissue also offers five previously unissued Clarence Carter recordings including 'I'll Be Over After A While' – a demo that Carter recorded with erstwhile partner Calvin Scott. All are required material for southern specialists.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 05 February 2016 19:17


VARIOUS: Looking Stateside (RPM)

Tuesday, 02 February 2016 19:40 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

LOOKING_STATESIDE_FRONT_COVER_WEBCollectors' label RPM (part of the Cherry Red group) are currently running a box set series with the title prefix 'Looking..... '. So far they've looked at things like mod music and the girl group scene but now they turn their attention to things a bit more soulful and maybe just a little but more. Specifically what 'Looking Stateside' looks at is "US R&B, Mod Soul And Garage Nuggets"

Across the 3 CDs' mighty 80 tracks there are plenty of real, rare soul gems. Here's just a selection; Georgia Lynne's 1963 cut 'Sugar Soul Shack Queen' (her riposte to Jimmy Gilmer's pop hit, 'Sugar Shack'); Willie Jones' 'Where's My Money'; The Locomotions' 'Make It Saturday Night'; The Swans' 'He's Mine'( an early Jerry Ross Philly production); Chuck Jackson's 'These Chains Of Love'; The Showmen's 'Take It Baby' and Joe Tex's 'I Wanna Be Free' (a lovely 1963 dancer).

As with the other CDs in this series each of the 3 discs is themed. CD 1 focuses on early soul and R&B – the kind of stuff that would have been played in  the best 60s mod clubs (had the discs actually been available in the UK back then!). CD 2 offers a great selection of mid 60s soul with the compilers focusing on the less obvious. The third CD casts its net a little wider – offering a smattering of soul alongside some rough and ready garage pop. Broad minded soul people though will love stuff like 'Congo' by the International Bongo Band and 'As A Matter Of Fact' from the Knickerbockers.

'Looking Stateside' is a totally refreshing collection. Lots of quality rarities – so many in fact that even seasoned collectors will find plenty that's  new and intriguing while the sleeve notes tell you everything you need to know. Great stuff!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 19:45


PAUL CARRACK: Soul Shadows (Carrack UK)

Friday, 29 January 2016 20:05 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1pcUK troubadour Paul Carrack has enjoyed a long and garlanded career. His CV includes stints with Roxy Music and Squeeze and he was the lead voice on anthems like Ace's 'How Long' and Mike and the Mechanics' 'Living Years'. Then there's a terrific solo career – a slew of bestselling albums, a catalogue of quality songs (including the Eagles' hit, 'Love Will Keep Us Alive') and regular sell-out concert tours. Hot off a tour with Eric Clapton, Paul's in the middle of his own nation-wide tour right now and no doubt thrilling packed houses with songs from this, his latest long player... and 'Soul Shadows' certainly has plenty of thrilling music moments.... and from our perspective none more exciting than 'Sweet Soul Legacy'. Carrack, of course, has worked across a number of genres, but he's always been a soul boy at heart and this particular track indicates why. Over a wonderful four minutes the Sheffield tunesmith articulates why soul is his music of choice: "Soul music will never die, It can make you happy, can make you cry. I'm just thankful I was around to appreciate that soulful sound"... aren't we all?

And the album title, of course, indicates where Paul's musical allegiances lie and throughout he illustrates his mastery of the blue-eyed soul genre. You want instant proof.... look no further than the wonderful ballad ' Let Me Love Again'... a proper tune! 'That's How I Feel' is another pleasing ballad – just a hint of country soul about it. But there's much more to Paul Carrack's music than songs of loves won and lost. Our man has concern for social issues too and here one of the cuts, 'Bet Your Life' tackles the problem of gambling – more specifically how high stakes gambling machines (those found in betting offices) can ruin decent lives... I'm guessing Paul knows more than one individual in his Northern heartlands decimated by this legal iniquity!

Heavy stuff indeed so let's finish the review by pointing you to something more optimistic ... the album's real highlight. Paul Carrack is a consummate songwriter, but he also knows how to pick good tunes to cover and his albums are peppered with his lovely versions of classics. Here he chooses to cover Bobby Bland's 'To Share Your Love With Me'. It's an old soul chestnut of course – oft covered , most notably by Aretha and the Fantastic Four in their Ric Tic days. And you know, Paul's simple, uncluttered version is every bit as good as those, proving once again that this son of Sheffield is England's premier blue-eyed soul man.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 29 January 2016 20:16


ROSE ROYCE: 'In Full Bloom' (bbr)

Friday, 29 January 2016 12:04 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

RR_IFBRecorded in 1976, this was supposed to be the album that uber-producer Norman Whitfield would use to introduce his latest protégés, Rose Royce, to the world via his own Warner-distributed Whitfield label. But as the informative liner notes to this reissue reveal, the same year the producer was approached to provide the soundtrack to a Joel Schumacher movie called 'Car Wash' and duly obliged - the bad news was that Rose Royce's debut got shelved (albeit temporarily), but to compensate, Whitfield employed the group as his main performance vehicle in the movie. Thus it transpired that the first recordings released by Rose Royce turned up on a double soundtrack album via MCA. The movie's title song was huge hit for the band, of course, and introduced them to a global audience so that by the time 1977 arrived when 'In Full Bloom' finally got released, there was already a hungry market for their music.

'In Full Bloom' continues where the 'Car Wash' soundtrack left off, blending sweetly soulful ballads with churning, wah-wah-heavy funk grooves. 'Wishing On A Star' - penned by Billie Calvin and inexplicably rejected by Barbra Streisand before it found its way to Rose Royce - is a fabulous opener whose key - and enduring appeal - is its simplicity and  melodic infectiousness. On this track and another fine ballad, 'Oh Boy,' singer Gwen Dickey (who was originally credited on the album using the pseudonym Rose Norwalt) illustrates what a uniquely soulful voice she possesses. She was also adept at leading a funky groove and bringing a sinuous sensuousness to disco cuts such as 'Do Your Dance' (you get the single edit and the full length version on this expanded reissue), 'You Can't Please Everybody,' 'Funk Factory' and 'It Makes You Feel Like Dancin'.' Most of the material was written by Norman Whitfield who succeeds in making Rose Royce a more accessible, lighter, radio-friendly version of The Undisputed Truth, a cult vocal group that he produced at Motown (and then Whitfield) for many years with limited success.

Rose Royce released several more fine albums after this but never quite reached the same high peak of creativity again that was evident on 'In Full Bloom,' which along with the 'Car Wash' soundtrack, represents the group's finest work. Bloomin' lovely.

(CW) 4/5


Interview with GWEN DICKEY

Review of 'Strikes Again'


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