Reviews

BRIAN AUGER: Back To The Beginning (Freestyle)

Monday, 31 August 2015 18:02 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

baVeteran UK Hammond organ grinder, Brian Auger is celebrating 50 years in the music biz and to celebrate, Freestyle Records are about to release this 24 track retrospective that, happily, covers all the bases in Brian's long and garlanded career.

The album features music from his days as the leader of a piano jazz trio, from his Oblivion Express period, from a new live album recorded in Los Angeles and, perhaps most significantly for soul collectors, there's music from the heady days of the mod, mid sixties when Brian was a member of the legendary Steampacket and then with Trinity.

Steampacket was fronted by an A list team of vocalists – Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart and mod icon Julie Driscoll. However nothing of theirs was ever officially released at the time (dreaded contractual problems) but here, from that period, you can enjoy the Stewart-led version of Sam Cooke's 'Shake' and an energized Julie Driscoll leading on a take of Willie Mitchell's 'That Driving Beat'.

Oddly for what purports to be a comprehensive over view, Trinity's biggest hit – a cover of Dylan's 'This Wheel's On Fire' is missing. (Modern contractual problems, I'm guessing). Though you do get a searing version of Aretha's 'Save Me' (the lovely Julie again!) and a wild semi-instrumental, packed with Northern soul references, 'I've Gotta Go Now'.

The album (which comes in both CD and 2 X LP formats) is arranged in rough chronological order with the final flourishes coming from an upcoming live album – interestingly one of the cuts ('Butterfly') features Augers' latest female muse – his daughter Savannah.

Brain Auger's 'Back To The Beginning' is out on Freestyle records on 4 September

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 31 August 2015 18:09

 

LONNIE LISTON SMITH & THE COSMIC ECHOES: 'Visions Of A New World' (BGP/Ace)

Monday, 31 August 2015 12:49 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

LonnieKeyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith served his apprenticeship with four hugely influential jazz masters: drummer Art Blakey (Smith played piano in Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the mid-'60s), multi-instrumentalist, Roland Kirk (before he prefixed his name with Rahsaan), saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and, in the early '70s, trumpeter Miles Davis. Smith took musical elements from each of those avatars but also, crucially, found his own voice when he led his own band, The Cosmic Echoes from 1973 onwards. Fusing spiritual jazz with accessible dance rhythms, Smith patented a new sound on 'Astral Traveling,' his debut LP for Flying Dutchman in 1973. This BGP reissue takes us further a few years to 1975 by which time Smith's cosmic jazz-funk sound incorporated electric pianos and synthesizers. It was the follow up LP to his third album, 'Expansions,' a real game-changer where Smith married meaningful messages with dance floor funk (the set's title track is an evergreen, of course, and remains the 74-year-old keyboardist's signature tune).

'Visions Of A New World' is a glistening mixture of upbeat, brassy, vocal funk - epitomised by the classic opener, 'A Chance For Peace,' featuring Lonnie's younger sibling, Donald at the microphone - and mellow-vibed ballads. There are plenty of the latter, exemplified by the gentle 'Love Beams' and the lush 'Colors Of The Rainbow' with Donald Smith's resonant voice doing a good impression of jazz warbler, Leon Thomas, on the latter title. 'Devika (Goddess)' is a noteworthy mid-tempo instrumental groove that features David Hubbard's soaring soprano saxophone over a sedate but simmering backbeat. 'Sunset' is even mellower - a deliciously dreamy slow jam - while the two-part 'Visions Of A New World' begins with rumbling acoustic piano glissandi and Donald Smith's ululating voice before morphing into a disco-friendly slice of Latin-inflected, electric piano-led groovology.

The closer, 'Sunrise,' restores the placid vibe of earlier tracks and concludes what was to be Smith's final LP for Flying Dutchman. Although he recorded for RCA and then Columbia later in the '70s, it's true to say that Smith never quite bettered the music he recorded on the four fantastic albums for Bob Thiele's label between 1973-1975 - and the classic and much-sampled 'Visions Of A New World' is undoubtedly one of the best of that particular quartet.

(CW) 4/5

 

DAVID PORTER: '...Into A Real Thing' (Stax/Ace)

Monday, 31 August 2015 11:51 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

David_PorterThis Memphis-born singer/songwriter/pianist is best known as Isaac Hayes' songwriting partner in the 1960s. Soul music's equivalent to Lennon and McCartney, perhaps, during that decade they wrote a raft of immortal songs together - among them Sam & Dave's 'Soul Man' and 'Hold On, I'm Coming,' Carla Thomas's 'B.A.B.Y.,' Mable John's 'Your Good Thing (Is About To End),' the Soul Children's 'The Sweeter He Is,' and Judy Clay and William Bell's 'My Baby Specializes.'  When Isaac Hayes solo career took off in the late '60s, Porter aimed to follow suit and in 1970 issued his debut for Stax's Enterprise imprint, 'Gritty, Groovy, & Getting' It' (reissued by Ace a couple of years ago). Released later the saem year was Porter's second album '...Into A Real Thing,' which, unlike its predecessor, included a good handful of original songs, all penned with his new songwriting partner, Ronnie Williams.

The album opens with an ambitious and grandiose deconstruction of 'Hang On Sloopy,' originally a big pop single for the band, The McCoys, in 1965. Porter, following Isaac Hayes' example of transforming pop material into extended soul symphonies, turns the song into an eleven-minute widescreen epic. It's not as memorable, perhaps, as Hayes' similarly-styled takes on 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' or 'Walk On By,' but it's certainly arresting and dramatic though in its spoken monologue passages, Porter's voice doesn't have the gravitas of Hayes' basso profundo. By contrast, the Porter co-penned 'Ooo-Wee Girl' is a more orthodox ballad elevated by his passionate, raspy lead, which is framed by rich orchestration and female backing vocals. There's a hint of Norman Whitfield-era Temptations'-style psych-funk intro on the tense 'Too Real To Live A Lie' while 'Grocery Man' is a gutsy, rough-hewn chunk of brassy soul. The tempo drops for the subdued bittersweet ballad, 'I Don't Wanna Cry' - produced by Isaac Hayes - where Porter shows great sensitivity via his superbly-nuanced vocal performance. The set's closer, 'Thirty Days,' is more upbeat despite its pleading tone and rounds off what is a strong sophomore LP from Porter, who couldn't emulate Isaac Hayes' superstar status but nevertheless witnessed the album penetrate the US R&B albums Top 10 in early '71.

What makes this fresh reissue more desirable is the addition of three rare bonus cuts, originally orphaned songs that had no parent LP. Though their provenance is unclear, stylistically they are in harmony with the sound and vibe of '...Into A Real Thing.' The first, 'Come Get From Me (Parts 1 & 2),' is a bluesy mid-tempo groove, while the second, the gentle, meditative and quite lovely 'Gotta Get Over The Hump,' is a previously unissued side discovered in Stax's vaults. The final cut is 'Somebody's Trying To Ride Piggy Back,' an archetypal slice of Southern soul built on a throbbing bass line that finds Porter's declamatory vocal punctuated by zesty horns. An essential acquisition for connoisseurs of '70s soul.

(CW) 4/5

 

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: Come For A Dream (Real Goner/Atlantic/Rhino)

Saturday, 29 August 2015 18:28 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

come_for_a_dreamBy common consent dear Dusty Springfield is the finest female soul singer the UK has ever produced. Proof lies in everything she recorded as a solo star and if you want more evidence then consider the esteem that the US soul contingent held her in. In short, they believed (quite accurately) that "she was one of theirs".

Thankfully, her back catalogue has been skilfully curated by the copyright owners and her estate and almost all of her recordings are easily accessible. Some archive music, though, has slipped through the net – like the 17 tracks on this new Real Gone/Atlantic/Rhino collection named for the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Norma Tanega song that takes centre stage here.

The provenance of the music on 'Come For A Dream' is complex. Between 1968 and 1971 Dusty was pacted to Atlantic in the USA but in the UK she was still contracted to Phillips and between recording in the States she continued recording in the UK. However because of the high profile of the American sessions ('Dusty In Memphis' etc...) little of the contemporary UK output was released, certainly in the States. Ten of the tracks did actually form the basis of Dusty's 1972 long player 'See All Her Faces' but that one never won official US release.

I did say "complex" didn't I? In essence, though, that doesn't matter. Where the music came from or where it's been is of little import given the soulful beauty of what's on offer here... be thankful that it's accessible again.

There's so much that's good here, it's hard to know where to start with a track review. The aforementioned 'Come For A Dream' is a beauty. A lazy, languid bossa nova, Dusty simply caresses the Norma Tanega lyrics in the sweetest way. Goffin/King's 'Wasn't Born To Follow' is another highlight along with the more dramatic 'Yesterday When I was Young' and 'What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life'. Two songs just made for the Dusty Springfield treatment.

Classic soul? Dusty here offers fab versions of the Stairsteps' 'Ooh Child', Betty Wright's 'Girls Can't Do What The Guys Do' and the Glass House's 'Crumbs Off The Table' and add to those Dusty's takes on Jim Webb's 'Mixed Up Girl', the Young Rascals' 'How Can I be sure' and you have an unmissable album. Dusty even pours more soul into Spike Milligan's 'Goodbye' than the one time Goon could have ever imagined!

(BB) 5/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 August 2015 18:40

 

CAROL DUBOC: Colored Glasses (Gold Note Music)

Saturday, 29 August 2015 18:26 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

cdThough her name may not be instantly recognizable, Carol Duboc is a seasoned music veteran. She began her career in the biz as a writer –penning hits for people like Patti Labelle, Chante Moore, Stephanie Mills and a certain Tom Jones! In 2001 she made her own vocal debut with the smooth jazz long player, 'With All That I Am' and since then she's recorded regularly and worked with some of the best smooth jazzers around and there's plenty of that crowd on this new 10 tracker.... people like Jeff Lorber, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Haslip, Brian Bromberg, Lenny Castro, Hubert laws, Eric Mareinthal and Paul Jackson Jr all help out and to add a little more texture to Ms Duboc's beguiling vocals Lori and Sharon Perry are on BVs.

We're told that 'Colored Glasses' is a hugely personal album – tracking the difficult adjustments that come after the end of a long term relationship but, that said, the LP's soundscape is largely up-beat, jaunty even. In places, the smooth grooves and the punchy brass reminds me of later period Tower of Power in their more mellow moments. Hear that at its most obvious on the opener, 'Hypnotic'. It's a tight, crisp smooth jazz/modern soul groove and it's followed by something similar in 'Every Shade Of Blue'. That latter has an odd feel. The optimistic groove is at odds with the melancholy, self-pitying lyrics (great old school Hammond from Jeff Lorber, by the way).

'Celestial Skies' is more properly mournful as is 'Walking In My Sleep'. Then for something quite different there's the polite funk of the album's title cut. It's an insistent beater which adds more variety to a long payer that straddles the worlds of smooth jazz and modern soul,

Find out more @ www.CarolDuboc.com

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 August 2015 18:41

 

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