Reviews

ANTHONY DAVID: The Powerful Now (Shanachie)

Friday, 26 August 2016 16:05 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1adAnthony David emerged from Atlanta's neo-soul scene in the late 1990s working closely with the lovely India.Arie. He debuted in 2004 with 'Three Chords And The Truth' and quickly won a reputation as a sensitive singer/songwriter with a flair for acoustic soul. Never afraid to tackle issues in his songs, his next three albums consolidated his position as neo-soul brand leader. Little wonder that he became a favourite with the Obamas and I'm sure that both Mr President and his gracious wife will continue their love for Mr D when he sends them this, his fifth solo album.

The 12 tracker that is 'The Powerful Now', you see, offers everything that we've come to expect from Anthony David. There are the gentle acoustic ballads, the questioning, provocative tracks and plenty of story telling ... all delivered in Anthony's usual, melodic, sonorous manner... but there's more... some new directions and what we might call a more experimental approach. 'Out Of My League' is a prime example. It comes on like an electro hybrid of Robert Palmer and Gary Numan and there are more of those effects on the up-tempo 'I Don't Mind'. I've noticed that more than one radio DJ and critic has singled out both cuts out as album highlights. Me? I'm not convinced by the bombastic crashing and burning.

My choice as standout cut is the old school flavoured 'Booed Up'. This is a gorgeous duet with a lady called Mylah. I can't tell you much about her save that her voice melds beautifully with Anthony's. It's a lazy, languid groove that boasts a beautiful melody and a lovely honest, romantic lyric. We've got this one on repeat here and it conjures up great images of Mr and Mrs Obama waltzing round the Oval Office to it!

Elsewhere, 'Never Again' (feat. Reesa Renee), 'Charge' (feat. Carmen Rogers) and 'Inevitable' are decent ballads while the acoustic 'Amber' harks back to Mr David's earlier days. Best up-tempo moment is the opener 'Ride On'. Never frantic, it's a solid R&B beater with a lyric line that's a cut above the norm for the genre. .. but you'd expect that with Anthony David.

(BB) 3/5

 

VARIOUS; Come Back Strong (Kent)

Wednesday, 24 August 2016 18:49 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1kentFacing a Grand Jury in the mid 70s, self-confessed, Atlanta-based gangster Michael Thevis described his "business activities" as the "General Motors of Pornography". Sure he'd made millions from porn and other nefarious activities – drugs, prostitution, extortion, protection and gambling amongst them but at the same time to offer a sort of legitimate front to his empire he also created a series of record labels... amongst them GRC, Aware, Hotlanta and later he took over more labels -  notably Moonsong and Showtime.

UK reissue specialist Ace/Kent has access to the Thevis music archive (now owned by Ginn Music) and 'Come Back Strong' is their fourth compilation of material from that source. The 23 tracker boasts no major, mainstream stars though soul collectors know and love artists like Dorothy Norwood, Jimmy Lewis, King Hannibal, Jean Battle, Floyd Smith, Loleatta Holloway, Bill Brandon and the incomparable Sam Dees. The Dees' offering is the bustling 'What Good Is Love'. It's a little tougher than your signature Dees' sound, so to enjoy that sound at its best, skip straight to John Edwards' version of his 'We Always Come Back Strong'. It's one of Dees' best songs and Edwards' performance is faultless. No wonder the Spinners had no hesitation in bringing him in to replace Philippe Wynne. The track is an album highlight, as is the opener, 'Big Boat Ride' from gospel luminary Dorothy Norwood. Previously unissued, the lyric uses boat imagery instead of the more normal gospel train metaphor while amongst the musicians are Motown men, Jack Ashford, Robert White and James Jamerson.

Elsewhere Jimmy Lewis' 'I Can't Leave You Alone' is a great, lazy southern "cheating" song, while Floyd Smith's semi-spoken 'I Want 'Cha To Let Me Come Home' reflects on the flip side of making love at the dark end of the street. It's his heartfelt plea for forgiveness and like all the cuts here, it's proper grown-up soul music.

There's one oddity amongst the Southern heart searching though. It's 'Complain To The Clouds' from Detroit group, Deep Velvet. Previously unissued, it's an attempt to replicate the sound the Temptations circa 'Cloud Nine'.

Most poignant outing is 'The Party Life' from King Hannibal. Despite the title, it's not a party song. Rather, it's a chilling tale of the dangers of prostitution seen from a father's perspective. Which, I guess, is where we came in!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 18:57

 

DARREN BARRETT & TRUMPET VIBES; The Music Of Amy Winehouse (DB studios)

Monday, 22 August 2016 14:27 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1dbDear old Amy Winehouse! Her magnificent star shone all too briefly but the wake of that very special star helped change the course of UK soul and in a wider context it impacted on all kinds of musicians. One such musician is smooth jazz trumpeter Darren Barrett. Born in Toronto but now working out of Boston (where he attended Berklee College Of Music), Darren was originally mentored by the great Donald Byrd before going on to work with people like Esperanza Spaulding, Elvin Jones, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Roy Hargrove, Common and D'Angelo. Of Jamaican descent, Mr B eventually evolved his own unique sound – a sort of jazz and reggae mash up - which he delivered via a band he called Trumpet Vibes. Simultaneously, Darren became aware of Amy Winehouse and became captivated by her whole approach to music but more specifically the way she infused some of her music with a subtle reggae flavour. After her tragic passing Darren thought it would be a good idea to produce an album in her honour and now after several years' work that album has just won release.

The collection is a 10 tracker that picks a varied selection of tunes from Amy's repertoire – Winehouse originals and some of the wonderful songs she chose to cover. On some, Darren offers instrumental treatments but on others he brings in vocalist Joanna Teters to fill the Winehouse role. Joanna is a fellow graduate of Berklee and wisely she doesn't try to replicate the Winehouse sound. In places she does manage a similar lazy, slurring approach to the lyrics but generally she's less aggressive and a touch more subtle. She fronts versions of 'Tears Dry On Their Own', 'Rehab', 'Back To Black' and a really lovely 'Just Friends' and like the vocals, the Trumpet Vibes band offer a backdrop that is a lot smoother than that offered by the Dap Tone horns... but then you'd expect that wouldn't you?

Best of the instrumentals are versions of Ruby and The Romantics' 'Our Day Will Come' and The Shirelles' 'Will You Still Love Me tomorrow'. Amy loved both of these songs and Darren Barrett does them real credit and I'm sure she would approve of his treatments. 'Our Day' is jauntily reggae-fied (great vibes from Simon Moullier) while on 'Tomorrow' Barrett's horn is beautifully forlorn as befits the song's sentiment.

DARREN BARRETT & TRUMPET VIBES; 'The Music Of Amy Winehouse' is out now

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 22 August 2016 14:38

 

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD; Reputation, De Luxe Edition (SFE)

Friday, 19 August 2016 15:04 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1dustyDear Dusty Springfield... the greatest female soul singer these islands have ever produced. She was one of THE defining voices of the 60s. Her hit list speaks for itself while amongst her many admirers were Berry Gordy and Burt Bacharach... both of whom know a thing or two about music! Then in the early 70s, a lull; a dip in a garlanded career that saw Dusty decamp to America. There she recorded sporadically but albums like 'White Heat' failed to capture the spirit, the magic, the essence of Dusty Springfield.

Then, thankfully, a renaissance... a comeback engineered by, maybe oddly, the Pet Shop Boys. The duo contacted Dusty and asked her to contribute vocals to a new song, 'What Have I Done To Deserve This' and the result was that Dusty was soon back in the UK charts some 17 years after her last appearance. The single soared to no. 2; kept off the top spot by a fresh faced newcomer called Rick Astley with an ear worm of a pop song called 'Never Gonna Give You Up'.

Ms Springfield, though, was back in business and she began work on an album right away. That long player, 1990's 'Reputation' was both critically acclaimed and a commercial success and it's just won a fabulous, expanded, de-luxe reissue courtesy of Strike Force Entertainment (SFE).

The new release offers three discs... 2 CDs and 1 DVD. The first CD contains the original ten track album along with 12" mixes of some of the key cuts like 'Nothing Has Been Proved' and 'In Private'. You also get the in-demand Shep Pettitbone remix of 'What Have I Done To Deserve This' (a song that was never actually on 'Reputation'). The second CD is labelled 'Remixes and B sides' which sort of speaks for itself. It's a treasure trove for Dusty fans and indeed for 90s collectors. At the moment we have the atmospheric instrumental version of the 'Scandal' song, 'Nothing Has Been Proved' on repeat.

The DVD disc features five promotional videos of the album's singles, one of which, interestingly, is Dusty's version of Goffin and King's 'I Just Want To Stay Here'. Despite the modernity and the contemporary gloss, Dusty still looked back to the 60s for that great song!

As befits such a landmark release the package comes compete with a lovely, thorough, 32 page booklet that lets you know everything you need to know about the album... a perfect complement to the great music.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 19 August 2016 15:12

 

GENE & EDDIE with SIR JOE: True Enough (Omnivore)

Thursday, 18 August 2016 16:03 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1geneUS reissue label Omnivore's latest release looks at the work of Washington soul duo Gene (Dorsett) and Eddie (Best) but just to add a little confusion to the mix, the long player also includes four tracks from Sir Joe (Quarterman). The link is that Joe –an artist in his own right, of course - wrote and produced many of the Gene and Eddie cuts when all three were pacted with Baltimore label, Ru-Jac.

Complicated? Well, yes – a little, and sadly the rambling and lengthy sleeve notes don't make things much clearer. Penned by Kevin Coombe, they are ultra thorough and would satisfy even the most extreme music anorak. So let's try and pick our way through who was who and who worked with whom.

Gene and Eddie first came together in a mixed race show band called The Nightcaps. Their first recording was the self-financed 'It's So Hard' which was released in 1965 on Best's own Tonjo label – in which Joe Quarterman seemed to have a share. Quarterman, by the way, was dubbed "Sir" because for a time he fronted a band called The Knights, though he also had involvement with the El Corols Band and the Maidens and indeed with some of the other Maidens he went off to work with Garnett Mimms but just to add to the confusion he dubbed this new outfit, The Magnificent Seven. Cutting to the chase, Sir Joe quit his gig with Mimms and, back in DC, he and Eddie Best decided to place their Tonjo recordings with Baltimore label, Ru-Jac and that label's boss, Rufus Mitchell, was so impressed that he promptly signed Gene and Eddie and Sir Joe and the trio thought they were on the way. However Ru-Jac lacked a studio and their artists had to sort that small matter themselves. Gene and Eddie and Quarterman, therefore, travelled to places like Virtue in Philadelphia or Edgewood in DC to cut new material for Ru-Jac, though part of the deal was that Ru-Jac would also own and release their Tonjo cuts. Hopes were naturally high, though, despite regular releases, success ultimately eluded the trio. Gene and Eddie walked away from Ru-Jac in 1971. Gene returned to his original trade as an electrician; Eddie tried his hand at production but quit the business in 1981; Sir Joe went on to form Sir Joe Quarterman and Free Soul (remember their 'I've Got So Much Trouble In Mind'?) and recorded for labels like GSF and Mercury before moving into the architecture business.

Told you it was complicated; thankfully the music they crafted is much simpler. Gene and Eddie created typical, muscular 60s soul.. . a mix of ballads and big up-tempo numbers. Like many of their contemporaries they aped the big names, so the searing 'Let Me Go Easy' owes a lot to Otis Redding's 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' while the dance slanted items take much from duos like Sam and Dave. Best offerings are the melodic, light 'It's No Sin' and the sweet ballad 'You Got To Love Me Sometimes ' (if you like the Knight Brothers, you'll love this).

Of the four Sir Joe cuts, three come on like Northern obscurities though none are particularly memorable while 'Baby I'll Drop Everything' is a meandering ballad.

Easy to hear why none of these recordings enjoyed any real success, but collectors will be delighted to have them easily accessible.

(BB) 3/5

 

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