Saturday, 23 May 2015 19:11 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

RandyRobertsCpitalStrokes_CSFronted by the charismatic Randy Roberts, the Capital Strokes are a huge 12 piece Italian funk n'soul band. Listening to this debut 12 tracker, though, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Strokes were straight out of Harlem, Atlanta, Watts or any other US funk breeding ground... the storm they cook up is that authentic! Mind you the outfit have pedigree. Singer Randy "Reverend" Roberts is the son of US born R&B singer Rocky Roberts, who after quitting the US navy, settled in Italy where he became a big star. Randy has inherited his dad's showmanship and soulful flair and for the past two years he's starred in his own Italian TV show. His band, the Capital Strokes are drawn from the cream of Rome's session scene and collectively they've starred at festivals all over Europe while individually some of the team have worked with Incognito, Tony Momrelle and other soul illuminati.

'CS' is the collective's debut set and listening you know that the band's PR blurb isn't just hype when it describes their influences and inspirations ... the music of the Meters, Parliament, Sly and The Family Stone and certain Purple presence.

Randy and the Strokes set out their stall from the start with a blistering opener, 'They Wanna Funk Me Up (Freddie's Dead)'. It's a new tune – totally contemporary but it's built round the hypotonic riff for dear old Curtis' 'Freddie's' Dead'. It kind of sums up where the band's music is coming from – a bridge between the present and the past, if you would. Whatever, it's a dynamic slab of soul and funk and it's a long time since I've heard an album open so explosively! There's more of the same, on 'Do It Like The Strokes' (which borrows something from the intro to 'Car Wash'), the instrumental 'Distinct 11', 'Foxy' and the lengthy 'Oh Yeah'.

For variety, 'The Sound Of Love' is tad smoother, the flute-led Tomei's Joint' could be an out-take from the 'Shaft' soundtrack while 'Doo-Wop Like The Strokes ' is a surprising a-capella moment. The whole album though is one big surprise and proves that you can find real soul and genuine funk in all kinds of unexpected places. Find out more @

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 May 2015 19:18



Friday, 22 May 2015 16:05 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

BLSimply Red are Brit music institution and though Mick Hucknall has tried to put the band to bed, he's found the job impossible. Back in 2008 he announced Simply Red were finished and he released a Bobby Bland tribute LP under his own name. Then in 2012 he issued an odd 'American Soul' set – again under his own moniker. Both were reasonably successful but Simply Red just won't lie down... the fans won't let them and I'm guessing that Mick himself feels more comfortable and secure in the band format – a format the he's employed with incredible success for 30 years! Yes, hard to believe it, but Simply Red are currently celebrating their 30th anniversary. They're lining up a major tour and here's the album to go with the tour and to celebrate that 30th landmark.

And you know, on this all-original song, 12 track album Mr H. really does sound "comfortable"... really "at home", if you would. The reason? Well, I'm guessing that young Mick has finally decided what kind of band Simply Red are. He's realised that he can't out-soul the real soul men (the Bland album proved that), so let's go with the next best thing ... blue-eyed soul. Absolutely nothing wrong with the genre and when delivered well it can be as soul satisfying as the real thing and here Hucknall and co deliver a stunning blue-eyed soul album that's right up there with any of their earlier classic sets.

Highlights abound, but anyone with an ear for a good tune and a passionate performance will keep going back to the LP's title cut. 'Big Love', a gentle ballad, is simply superb and underlines why Simply Red have survived for 30 years. The tune has all the elements that made the band's best so memorable and as a little bonus they channel that magical Bacharach muted horn sound in the instrumental break.

Elsewhere 'Daydreaming' has a touch of Philly soul about it while the bold 'The Ghost Of Love' has a flavour of Barry White to its swirling strings. For variety, 'The Old Man And His Beer' is whimsical; 'Dad' is more reflective while tunes like 'Shine On' and 'Tight Tones' are polite dancers in the manner of 'Fairground' and if you want another string-laced ballad try 'Love Gave Me More', but dip in anywhere here and if you like your soul with a blue-eyed tinge, you won't be disappointed.

Happy thirtieth!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 22 May 2015 16:11


THE MIGHTY MOCAMBOS; Showdown (Legere)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015 18:18 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

mocmaboThe Mighty Mocambos are a hard-gigging funk septet and 'Showdown' is their third full LP though they have many more recordings under their belt – either working as a backing band or using a not too hard to spot alias. In whatever guise you come across Mocambo music you'll hear driving old school, brassy funk – usually recorded in analogue and delivering an organic, energized sound.

The 11 tracks of 'Showdown' fit that template perfectly. The majority of the tunes on offer here are sparse, riff-based funk instrumentals like 'Locked And Loaded' but to add some variety to what can be a limiting genre the band are also prepared to innovate. For instance the opener, 'Road To Earth' begins as a funk workout but soon develops a haunting quality as guest pianist Peter Thomas (a noted German film composer) adds subtle keyboards shadings. There's a whiff of the cinema too about the album's title track, 'The Showdown'. I don't really know why but it reminds me of spaghetti western music! Then there's 'Drifting Stars', which is surprisingly mellow.

The big tunes on the album though are the ones featuring a vocalist and the best straight soul cut of that bunch is 'In The Dark'. It's another loose-limbed funky groove but young singer Nichola Richards offers a rather sweet vocal – not the usual femme funk rasp; the juxtaposition works.

The set piece items, however, are the trio of cuts featuring the album's big name guest, Afrika Bamabaataa. Of those the one that grabs the attention is the discofied hip-hop of 'It's The Music' on which AB is aided and abetted by Charlie Funk, Hektek and Deejay Snoop. Little wonder the track's been championed by Craig Charles. Proper old school – like the rest of the album

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 18:27


CAREY FRANK; Keep Smiling (careyfrankmusic)

Thursday, 14 May 2015 17:30 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

careyfrank2'Keep Smiling' is piano man, Carey Frank's debut album and for a first shot, it shows a depth of maturity and a fine understanding of the classic jazz trio tradition. Mind you Los Angeles-based Frank is steeped in "proper" jazz. He recorded this 10 tracker whilst finishing his Masters degree at the University of Southern California. His subject? Jazz Studies... so, listening here, I'm guessing Mr F passed with flying colours. 'Keep Smiling' must have been a great practical project for his assessors to consider!

Helping him deliver the album Carey has enlisted the support of bassist Sezin Ahmet Turkmenogulu and drummer Jamey Tate, whose credits include working with David Benoit. And veteran keys man, Benoit, is a good reference point for Carey's work. Like Benoit, Carey writes tunes that are strong on melody and delivers them with a precision and clarity that will, as the LP title suggests, make you smile. The opening cut, 'Song For T' (a tribute to cult keyboardist T Lavitz, by the way) is a good example of what I mean. Cool and measured, it has all the hallmarks of Benoit. Other tracks of a similar elegance are 'I Wrote You A Ballad' and 'What's Her Name' while the tempo is notched up for the well-named 'Hot Chick' – some great bass here from Turkmenogulu.

The album also boasts some interesting covers and they add real variety. First up there's a version of Ellington's John Coltrane tribute, 'Take The Coltrane' then, very different, there's Carey's treatment of John Mayer's 'The Heart Of Life'. Both feature sometime Yellowjackets sax man, Bob Mintzer and where he's fiery on the former he couldn't be more mellow on the latter. The LP's third cover is a reading of the Charlie Chaplin standard 'Smile' which is given a reverential treatment.

You can find out more about the album, which, incidentally is now #1 on Amazon's Cool jazz chart @

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 17:41


JAGA JAZZIST: 'Starfire' (Ninja Tune)

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 11:40 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

JagaLed by Norwegian multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Lars Horntveth, Jaga Jazzist - a long-running and highly-respected octet that formed in 1994 and previously had six albums to their name - return with arguably their best ever long player. With its prominent electronics it's radically different from what they've done before and, as a result, categorising it - as well as describing it - is extremely difficult. Stylistically, it's an allusive hybrid that draws on jazz (but only slightly perhaps, with a hint of fusion pathfinders Weather Report) along with musical elements assimilated from avant-pop (think Propaganda, Yello and Daft Punk), prog rock and electronica. The album consists of five extended tracks where live players (drums and guitar) interact with electronic soundscapes. The first offering, 'Starfire,' is a glorious piece of music that is by turns ethereal and visceral. It builds from Marcus Forsgren's moody, churning electric guitar arpeggios into a bold cinematic tone poem that is suffused with exciting musical drama. The atmospheric 'Big City Music' with its shimmering, layered keyboards, and bustling rhythms is deeply evocative of the large metropolis that is said to have inspired it. The way that the piece evolves musically, structurally and texturally over fifteen minutes is utterly breathtaking. After the high-octane drama of the first two tracks, the pastoral 'Shinkansen' with its strummed twelve-string acoustic guitars and harmonised flute motifs offers a haven of sonic tranquillity.  'Oban' is distinguished by bubbling electronica and big synth themes while the closer, 'Prungen,' is initially more meditative before morphing into something more tense and brooding. It concludes an inspired, even transcendent, collection of music that will undoubtedly find this redoubtable Scandinavian band many new admirers.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 13:22


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