Reviews

JASON MILES AND GUESTS: Soul Summit (Label: Shanachie)

Monday, 21 January 2008 05:30 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

JASON MILES AND GUESTS: Soul Summit

Last Spring award-winning producer Jason Miles put together a stellar band to play the Berks Jazz Festival in Reading Pennsylvania. His players included Bob Babbitt, Karl Denson, Richard Elliott, Reggie Young and Steve Ferrone - who between them have played on dozens of classic soul cuts. Add to those the vocal talents of Maysa, Susan Tedeschi and Mike Mattison and you have a fail safe recipe for the good groove. Playing a selection of soul covers and handful of originals, the vibe the collective cooked up was such that Miles took them straight off to the studio to make a '"proper" recording of the proceedings and though he was originally going to call the album 'Can You Feel It', there was so much righteousness in the music that he changed the overall title to 'Soul Summit' - and listening to the live, organic grooves on the 11 tracker you realize why he made the change. Things kick off with a version of Junior Walker's 'Shotgun' on which Richard Elliot cooks up the same rockin', raucous grooves as the tune's original creator and the proceedings end with a big James Brown medley featuring the whole ensemble. In between there's southern style soul with 'Son Of A Preacher Man' 'and 'What A Man' , groove-riding instrumentals in 'Memphis 2000' and 'Chicken And Waffles', and a blistering ballad, 'It Tears Me Up'. Best cut though is the original tune 'Can You Feel It'. Here Karl Denson's tenor tracks Maysa's emotive vocal on a recording that manages to capture all the live energy of true, one-take soul music… now with the wonder of the web you can watch some of the proceedings too - go to www.youtube.com/soulsummitchannel
(BB) 4/5

 

SNOWBOY: Snowboy's Soul Spectacular (Label: BGP)

Friday, 11 January 2008 08:42 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

SNOWBOY: Snowboy's Soul Spectacular

Mark Cotgrove is Snowboy and that dual identity is only half the story of the man's complexities. He's been part of the UK music scene since the mid 80s and since then he's recorded in different guises for a number of labels and in a number of styles. He's also the percussionist of choice for any number of name artists who want authentic rhythms on whatever track they may be recording. That said there's not a lot of easily-accessible material currently available on the man … and it's especially hard to trace those great tunes he cut in his non-Latin Section periods. Well, it's all been put right now, thanks to Ace's BGP subsidiary. Here we have 13 cuts collected from a number of labels, covering the period 1991 - 2001 that show (again) that when the spirit's right and there's a genuine motivator in place, UK studios can turn out soul every bit as authentic as their US counterparts. Case in point here is Snowboy's' beautiful version of Dorothy Moore's Malaco tune 'Girl Overboard'. When ever two soul heads get together, arguments will rage over which is the better version… and more often than not the vote goes to Cotgrove's Anna Ross-vocalized take. Equally, even Leroy Hutson fans concede that Snowboy's version of 'Lucky Fellow' (featuring) Noel McKoy) is every bit as good as the original - though in fairness it's treated a whole lot differently. Elsewhere on this collection you get more vocals from McKoy and Ross - 'Give Me The Sunshine' and 'Where Love Loves' and plenty of free ranging instrumentals that go from loose jazzers to funky steamers via Afro foot-tappers. Best of those instrumentals is 'Astralization' - a sincere homage to the Mizell brothers with just the precise amount of other-worldliness. As a portrait of one side of the artist the compilation is faultless and we're told that BGP plan to complete the picture with a collection of Snowboy's best Latin bits later in the year.
(BB) 4/5

 

REEL PEOPLE: Seven Ways To Wonder (Label: Papa Records)

Friday, 11 January 2008 08:40 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

REEL PEOPLE: Seven Ways To Wonder

Musos, producers and all round good guys Oli Lazarus and Mike Patto make up the core of Reel People and their debut set 'Second Guess' won acclaim from right across the soul/dance music spectrum. It found favour with both the modern soul crew and those who like their beats a tad more house-flavoured and with this follow-up, 'Seven Ways To Wonder' they're set to repeat that success. Here, the duo almost repeat the formula - but if anything they up the soul quotient - though they don't totally ditch the house sensitivities. It appears to me that the Reel boys might have spent some time this year listening to 4 Hero's wonderful 'Play With Changes' set. There the sound owed much to the classic soul grooves of 70s and 80s artists and producers like Maze and Charles Stepney and here we get that same addictively mesmerising soul feel - though (as with 'Play With Changes') everything's thoroughly modern. Take the opener as a case in point. 'Alibi' remarkably features a production that seems to combine the feel of Incognito, the rhythms of Sergio Mendes and the energy of Stevie Wonder. Add to all that a big vocal from native New Yorker, Darien, and you have a cut that satisfies at every level. Darien's also at the mike for another of the LP's big tunes - 'Upside'. This one's a crisp, fastish, finger-clickin' dancer that will delight the modern soul room. They'll also lap up 'Amazing'. Here the vocal's down to the ever-reliable Tony Momrelle and Imaani and they're just right for the tight little beater that features bubbling keys that will recall Maze's 'Twilight'. Other album goodies include 'Anything You Want' (featuring a funky vocal from Tanita D'Mour), 'It Will Be' (an Incognito shuffle layered under Benson-esque vocals) and 'Perfect Sky' (on which Joy Rose recalls the lovely Minnie Riperton). In truth I could have done without 'Ordinary Man' - too much like Hall and Oates' 'Man Eater' - but it's more than compensated for by the jazzy Vanessa Freeman vocalised 'Rise And Fly'. Add to all that a couple of bonuses in the form of a kitchen-sink-all-hands-on-deck Rasmus Faber remix of 'Alibi' and a great sparse soulful Pete Kuzman tweak on 'Upside' and you have a delicious modern soul album that is truly modern, despite its retro roots. The album will be available in March.
(BB) 4/5

 

TONY REMY & BLUEY: 'First Protocol : Incognito Guitars' (Label: Dome)

Friday, 11 January 2008 06:06 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

TONY REMY & BLUEY: 'First Protocol :  Incognito Guitars'

In theory and on paper at least, this Incognito side project featuring the 'duelling' guitars of Jean Paul 'Bluey' Maunick and ace axe man, Tony Remy, seemed to offer a potentially exciting musical collaboration - after all, given Remy's high standing in the UK jazz fraternity and Bluey's impeccable Incognito jazz-funk credentials, their joint creative labours should in all probability amount to something significant and maybe, if we're lucky, even special. No such luck though. In actuality, the all-instrumental 'First Protocol' is disappointingly lightweight and even, I'm afraid to say, dull and slightly sterile - despite the presence of heavyweight funk meister Amp Fiddler playing keyboards on the Latin-tinged opener, 'Beyond Jupiter.' Mostly what 'First Protocol' amounts to is indulgent melodic doodling over ambient and largely programmed dance beats (exemplified best by 'See No Evil' and 'Where Did You Go?'). If perceived solely as innocuous background or mood music, this CD is fine, but don't expect it to engage you in the same way that Incognito's music does…it patently lacks the soul that vocalists like Maysa Leak inject into the group's sound (in fact, it's a shame there are no vocal cameos here to add a bit of variety to the proceedings). Tracks like the fluid, fusion-lite grooves 'Only Child' and 'The Other Side Of Me' - arguably the album's best number - are pleasant enough and will seduce some smooth jazz devotees, but they are also overlong and reek at times of muso self-indulgence. At least that's my take on this album. Still, if mesmeric guitar-led smooth jazz is your thing, this might be right up your street musically speaking.
(CW) 3/5

 

VARIOUS: 'American Gangster: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack' (Label: Def Jam)

Thursday, 10 January 2008 12:03 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: 'American Gangster: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack'


There are some fine vintage soul cuts on this soundtrack CD to movie director Ridley Scott's epic recent crime flick, 'American Gangster,' starring Denzil Washington as '70s Harlem drug lord, Frank Lucas. Most soul buffs will have, of course, Bobby Womack's brilliantly cinematic 'Across 110th Street' in their collections along with Sam & Dave's 'Hold On I'm Comin'' and The Staple Singers' 'I'll Take You There' - however, this CD is worth listening to for two brand new tracks by the doyen of neo Southern Soul, Anthony Hamilton. 'Do You Feel Me' with its sanctified organ, Steve Cropper-esque guitar licks and greasy horns is a stunning big ballad that sounds like it was cut at Stax in the '70s. That's remarkably surprising given that it was penned by MOR tunesmith, Diane Warren. Not quite as impressive is 'Stone Cold,' a slice of frenzied, organic, retro-funk influenced by James Brown. The remainder of the album is fleshed out by blues cuts from Lowell Fulson and John Lee Hooker plus some militant hip-hop from Public Enemy and funky soundtrack cues from Hank Shocklee. That may not be enough to convince most soul fans to risk a purchase - perhaps the best option, then, is to acquire Hamilton's 'Do You Feel Me' in CD single format or as a download.
(CW) 3/5

 

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