THE BRIT FUNK ASSOCIATION: Full Circle (Expansion)

Thursday, 04 January 2018 19:36 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLast summer we enjoyed the first fruits of a UK soul "supergoup" – The British Collective; a team that consisted of star vocalists Don E, Junior Giscombe, Leee John, Noel McKoy and Omar. Now as we enter a new year, another UK "supergroup" arrives to treat us to some fine music. The Brit Funk Association is made up of former members of Beggar and Co, Hi Tension, Central Line and Light of the World and though the various members have known each other for a long, long time it was in the autumn of 2016 that they decided to get together. The catalyst was UK soul entrepreneur Fitzroy Facey who brought the players together to play at a gig promoting his Soul Survivors magazine and from there things just took off and if you're a listener to Jazz FM or equally switched-on internet soul stations you'll already be aware of the band. Tracks from this, the band's debut album have been regularly rotated and easy to hear why. The music is easy on the ear, adult soul – perfect for radio but also perfect for the dance and club scene.

The tune that's been attracting the attention has been the sweet and steady dancer that is 'Stand Strong, Stand Tall'. The cut stands out here and it's also a focus track on Expansion's annual Luxury Soul compilation. The brash and brassy 'I've Found Someone To Love' is another potential floor filler while tracks like 'Get Up', 'Water' and 'Make It Funky' deliver the gritty funk inherent in the collective's name. 'Seventeen' and 'Lucky' are sweet ballads and if you liked the unique sound that Light Of The World achieved back in the day with 'London Town' and 'Bahia', you'll love 'We Love The Sunshine On Our Face' and 'The BFA Theme (Let The Music Blow Your Mind)'... both written and produced by Kenny Wellington ... but you'd probably guess that from the soundscape.

The Brit Funk Association's 'Full Circle' is out now on Expansion Records.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 January 2018 19:51


JACKIE MOORE: ‘I’m On My Way (bbr)

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 18:54 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altJacksonville's Jackie Moore is revered by soul collectors for her signature sounds – 'Precious, Precious', 'Sweet Charlie Babe' and 'Both End Against The Middle'. Pacted to Atlantic and working chiefly with Dave Crawford, Jackie delivered everything in a passionate southern fashion though her work was maybe a little glossier than what you might expect from the southern studios. After Atlantic Ms Moore moved on to work with Brad Shapiro at Kayvette before pitching up at Columbia in the late 70s. There the execs paired her with Philadelphia's Bobby Eli. The Philly guitarist/arranger/producer had already worked with Jackie at Atlantic (he and the team at Sigma Sound had provided the sweetening on things like 'Both End Against The Middle') and between them they crafted the long player 'I'm On My Way' which was released on Columbia in 1979.

The long-neglected album has just won reissue on bbr Records and as you'd expect from the above and the date of issue, the 8 tracker was/is a great example of the sweet Philly soul sound. All the usual Philly suspects are on board.... including Don Renaldo and his strings and with Jackie's southern-bred vocals riding on top there's nothing not to like.

On offer? Well, there are plenty of swinging disco items.... amongst them the charting 'This Time Baby', 'Can You Tell Me Why' and 'How's Your Love Life Baby' and some great ballads – the best of which is the quite lovely 'Joe'. Jackie had originally recorded the song at Atlantic and here Eli resurrects it beautifully. Crate diggers are well advised to seek out dear Dusty Springfield's version too.

This reissue offers up the album's original 8 cuts alongside 6 "bonuses" – different mixes of 'This Time Baby' and 'How's Your Love Life Baby'. Dancers will love 'em all especially Mike Mauro's 9 minute re-working of the former.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 December 2017 19:09


VARIOUS; Ethereal Magic 3 (Expansion)

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 20:28 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altTony Monson is a respected UK soul writer and broadcaster... indeed he's' one of the founding fathers of Solar Radio. Some years back in his late night shows Tony would play some real left field items that were linked by their laid back qualities, their complex arrangements and poignant vocals. The spot during which he played these tunes he dubbed "the Ethereal Magic Sessions" and to his surprise the station received loads and loads of positive feedback most notably from the team that runs the Expansion soul label. They commissioned Mr M to compile an 'Ethereal Magic' album and the collection was so successful that volume 2 soon followed, and now – voila... here's Volume 3.

This new 16 tracker, naturally, follows the same pattern as volumes 1 and 2...that's to say lashings of what we mentioned above.... laid back qualities, complex arrangements and poignant vocals. And like those first two collections Tony M hasn't just restricted his choices to the soul genre. Here you can enjoy classy, adult pop like England Dan and John Ford Coley's 'Love Is The Answer' and Judie Tzuke's 'Stay With Me Till Dawn'; laid back jazz like Bobby Mc Ferrin's version of Van Morrison's 'Moondance'; Deep House in the form of 'Into The Sunrise' from the Ananda Project'; and Judy Collins' bleak, genre bending reading of Randy Newman's 'I Think Its Gonna Rain Today'.

Given Monson's pedigree you can be sure that there's plenty of great soul too – and a well-thought out mix of big names and lesser luminaries. I mean the Isley Brothers ('Groove With You') sitting cheek by jowl with the almost unknown Buford Powers whose 'Bluz 4 You' channels a wonderful Lou Rawls. Add to all this, music from the Jones Girls, Ola Onabule, Sweetback and Lesette Wilson and you have a very different kind of compilation and one that works on many levels.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 December 2017 20:38


VARIOUS: Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 6 (Kent)

Monday, 18 December 2017 20:18 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altAs you can see from the heading, this is Ace/Kent's sixth volume in their Northern Soul's Classiest Rarities series and as the introduction to the sleeve notes point out, it is amazing that so much great 60s and 70s soul is still being discovered!

Like the previous five volumes in this franchise the Kent compilers have cast their soul nets far and wide and come up with a 24 tracker that highlights music from plenty of big names alongside a crew of soul wannabees.

First the big names.... maybe none bigger here than Johnnie Taylor. JT's offering is the 1970 Stax outing 'Friday Night' which was first released as the B side to Taylor's #3 hit 'Steal Away'. The song is a Hester/Wylie affair and soul heads will know it via the Steve Mancha Groovesville version but here producer Don Davis ups both the beats and the funk quotient.

Other "names"? Well what about Betty Everett, JJ Barnes, The Detroit Emeralds, Carla Thomas and Maxine Brown! Maxine's track, by the way, is 'One In A Million' and I can already hear you saying ... "rarity... never!" Sure, the song is one of Maxine's best-known outings (indeed one of Northern Soul's enduring anthems) but here you get a previously unissued version – one of five early takes of the song recently found in the vaults. You'll spot and appreciate the differences right away!

The lesser-known artists include people like The Lon-Genes, the Vows, Jock Mitchell, the Hyperions and The Fidels whose 'I Only Cry Once A Day' is a huge in-demand item. Collectors will also be pleased to have easy access to the Jack Ashford produced 'I Can Fly' by the Magnificents... classy and rare – like each of the other 23 inclusions!

(BB) 4/5


VARIOUS: We Got A Sweet Thing Going On 3 (Soul Junction)

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 20:52 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altJust in time for that last minute soul stocking filler, UK reissue specialists, Soul Junction offer volume 3 in their wonderful 'We Got A Sweet Thing Going On' series. A series that sets out (and succeeds) in turning up rare, esoteric, sweet group harmony sounds.

As with volumes 1 and 2, the team at Soul Junction have scoured all the major Stateside urban soul centres to come up with their goodies. So let's start by revealing what they discovered in "Sweet Soul Central" – Philadelphia. From the City of Brotherly Love you can enjoy great soul harmonising from the Toppiks, Bobby Banks, Music Machine, the Delegates of Soul, the Four Thoughts, the Coalitions and the Jonsettes. All offer strong tunes but maybe soul collectors will find most interest in the trio of tunes from the Toppiks.... 'Give It A Chance To Grow', 'Win All Your Love' and 'Surrender'. All are gorgeous examples of sweet Philly soul and feature classic lead lines from a certain Ted Mills – later, of course, of Blue Magic. The Jonesetts, by the way, are the only girl group on the album. Here you have both sides of their only single – 'Once I Had A Love'/'Stop Look And Listen' – Norman Harris involved in both; quality assured!

Chicago soul is represented by the Flairs. They have two cuts – 'Where You Live' and the finger-clicking good 'You Got To Steal It'. The Motor City sounds come via The Holidays while The Donations (their cut is 'I'm Going To Treat You Good') hail from Cleveland.

The album's other featured artists are The Scott Three and Robert Montgomery who originally came from Georgia and though a solo artist (of course) his sweet n' lovely 'Love Song About You' perfectly fits this album's template.

Soul Junction is known for quality 7" vinyl single releases and a number of this album's cuts have been issued in that format by the label. However, even if you already have some of those, it's soulfully exhilarating to have them alongside lots of previously unissued material. Together the 18 tracks offer a wonderful sweep of the sweet soul genre.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 December 2017 21:09


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