Reviews

AUBREY LOGAN: Where the Sunshine Is Expensive (Resonance)

Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:25 BILL B E-mailPrintPDF

altA graduate of the famed Berklee College of Music, Aubrey Logan is a well-respected jazz trombonist who also does vocals. Based in LA, she's worked with an eclectic bunch – people ranging from the Boston Pops Orchestra through to Pharrell and on to Josh Groban! That eclecticism is apparent in her own music. She made that obvious on her debut LP – 2017's 'Impossible' and it's even more obvious on this new 12 tracker – the lady's debut for Resonance Records. The music on the album at times is whimsical, often clever and witty, sometimes serious but always intriguing and never predictable.

Enjoy that unpredictability on two of the album's big covers – Michael McDonald's 'I Keep Forgettin'' and Joe Sample's 'Put It Where You Want It'. Both are very different to the familiar versions. On 'Forgettin'', the vocal phrasing comes on like a Joni Mitchell/Kate Bush hybrid – a contrast to the crazy rock guitar that leads the track out, while the Sample tune is a real bumpy ride. On it Ms Logan is helped out by Dave Koz's sax (she previously worked with him on his 'Summer Horns' project.) The album's other cover is more respectful... and rightly so. Why take liberties with Burt Bacharach's 'Alfie' – always a wonderful tune, made more doleful by the trombone intro. It elicits a round of applause from the studio audience -the album was recorded "live" at the legendary East West Studios in Hollywood, in the very same room where Frank Sinatra recorded 'My Way'.

The remaining nine tracks on 'Where The Sunshine Is Expensive' are Aubrey Logan originals and they range from the 70s inspired R&B groove 'Understand' (the lead single) to the mournful county-tinged 'One Three Nine'. In between there are plenty of clever, witty offerings like 'So Cute' and 'Laundry' (another Dave Koz collaboration) – with the lovely come on line "if you, love me you'll do my laundry... do the rinse and spin, baby!" The life of the modern itinerant musician is highlighted on a couple of cuts inspired by airports while 'The Remembering Song' is a lovely reflection on breaking up.... so see what we mean by "eclectic"?

The album is out now and Aubrey Logan will be performing at Ronnie Scott's London 11th May 2019 and Pizza Express Maidstone 16th May 2019.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2019 15:46

 

THE COMET IS COMING: 'Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery' (Impulse!)

Thursday, 28 March 2019 07:59 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                                 altThough he's still a young man, 34-year-old MOBO winner, Shabaka Hutchings, has the status of a veteran compared with the young pups now breaking through and making a big noise on the vibrant and very exciting contemporary British jazz scene. The London-born, Barbados-raised, multi-reed man has been a mover and shaker of the English capital's music scene for many years, since he was a member of the prescient jazz group, Tomorrow's Warriors, in fact (UK's very own version of The Jazz Messengers, perhaps). These days, Hutchings - who has never been one to limit his musical options - leads three exciting, cutting-edge groups, all of which have been signed to the revived Impulse! label.  They are Sons of Kemet, Shabaka & The Ancestors, and The Comet Is Coming. The latter is a trio that whose sound is defined by resonant saxophone and bass clarinet framed by filmic electronica, and comes across like the offspring of an unlikely union between Tangerine Dream, Grime music and Alice Coltrane. To add to the surreal, sci-fi dimension of the group's music, Hutchings uses the guise of his alter ego, King Shabaka, in the group alongside keyboardist Dan Leavers (aka "Danalogue") and drummer Max Hallett (aka "Betamax"). 

'Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery,' the group's second album,  is a bold and breathtaking opus whose music takes the listener on a mind-expanding sonic journey. The killer cut for many will be the album's first single, 'Summon The Fire,' which is a veritable musical conflagration that comes across like Archie Shepp backed by a speed-fuelled New Wave group. Stirring, too, is 'Super Zodiac,' another compelling example of the group's uptempo material and is characterised by a febrile tempo and  jabbing saxophone motifs.

The trio, though, are effortlessly able to switch gears and also excel on slower songs. 'Astral Flying' is a beautifully reposeful soundscape. There's more urgency in 'Timewave,' which is vibrant yet delicate and highlights Max Hallett's creativity behind  the drum kit.  In sharp contrast, is the visceral thrust of 'Blood Of The Past,' a tune driven by an industrial rhythm track, searing sax  and features spoken cameo by UK poet, Kate Tempest.  Tranquil vibes emanate from the peaceful 'Unity,' which channels Pharoah Sanders while the album's beatific closer, 'The Universe Wakes' radiates cosmic mellowness before being transfigured by a Coltrane-like sense of spiritual ecstasy. The album's deepest track, it features some of Hutchings' most lyrical saxophone playing on the album, which floats on waves of celestial keyboard from Dan Leavers.  

British jazz is experiencing a wonderful renaissance right now and rising stars like Binker & Moses, Nubya Garcia, and Theon Cross - together with bands such as Ezra Collective and Maisha - are making the headlines but they probably wouldn't be around if it wasn't for Shabaka Hutchings. With this exciting and highly original new album from The Comet Is Coming, he shows that he's still a leading pathfinder of cutting-edge jazz in the UK.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2019 15:48

 

THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH: Cosmic Truth/Higher Than High (Kent)

Monday, 25 March 2019 16:34 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altAce/Kent's latest foray into the Motown vault offers two oft neglected LPs (on 2 CDs) from an oft neglected group – the Undisputed Truth. Most Motown commentators would argue that they are "oft neglected" because they lack real identity and this collection helps explain that.

First a little history. Everyone knows that the Undisputed Truth were a creation of Norman Whitfield who wanted to take the Motown sound in a new directions (with or without the consent of Berry Gordy). Working with the Temptations he began that task but the Tempts' legacy always weighed heavily on him, so a brand new group obviously offered him much more scope. Thus Undisputed Truth were born ... Brenda Jo Evans, Billie Rae Calvin and Joe Harris. The trio enjoyed success fronting a soundscape sculpted by Whitfield but after 4 LPs the group's two ladies quit. Rather than replace them with two more females, Whitfield drafted in, lock a stock and barrel, the Magictones – a hard gigging Detroit quartet – three guys and just one doll – Vee McDonald. And it was this quartet plus Joe Harris that fronted 1975's 'Cosmic Truth' and 'Higher Than High'. So yes, a complete change of line up, made more confusing, I think, by the sleeve art work and publicity photos that had the quintet geared up in spaced out make up and weird and wonderful wigs.

Sonically, both LPs are, well, typically Norman Whitfield circa mid 70s... big productions, heavy bass lines, and lashings of wah wah guitars – often it's as if the vocal input is secondary. As ever Norman Whitfield used some of his old songs to flesh out his albums; so, for, instance, amongst the new songs, he lets the band have a go at the Temptations' classic 'I Know I'm Losing You'.... I know which version soul fans prefer.

Whatever, for Motown fans, it's great to have these two albums in circulation again. Ace/Kent think this is the first time both LPs have been available (since original release that is) in any form and the twofer is out now.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2019 18:52

 

MARVIN GAYE: 'You're The Man' (Motown/UMC)

Friday, 22 March 2019 15:28 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                                 alt                

Marvin Gaye was the man in 1971, having struck chart gold with 'What's Going On,' an album laced with socio-political themes that Motown supremo Berry Gordy was initially reluctant to release, but which topped the US R&B LPs chart and spawned three hit singles in the shape of the pleading title track,  'Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),' and 'Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).' Life seemed good, then for the softly-spoken soul man from Detroit, and in 1972, he planned to follow up 'What's Going On' with an album that continued his exploration of deeper and more meaningful concerns than the effervescent love songs that Motown had given him to sing in the 1960s.

The first fruit of his new post-'What's Going On' project was a single, the funkafied 'You're The Man,' released in May 1972, which was intended to be a taster of the parent album of the same name. Stylistically, in terms of its music and layered vocals, it continued from where 'What's Going On' left off but had more bite. It was a sarcastic and sneering put-down of the US politicians competing in that year's US presidential race but was unable to emulate the chart-topping exploits of his previous three 45s and stalled at No. 7 in the American R&B singles chart. That wasn't a bad thing but the fact that it was not unanimously embraced by the US public (it failed to go further than No. 50 n the US pop charts) purportedly dented Gaye's confidence and fearing it would be a failure, he put the planned 'You're The Man' album on hold.

In its stead came the soundtrack album, 'Trouble Man,' issued at the end of 1972, followed by 'Let's Get It On,' a return to old themes of love, sex, and romance, in 1973. Sadly, the 'You're The Man' album never came out, though most of the tracks that Gaye intended to use on it  trickled out over the years on various compilations. Now, though, to coincide what would have been the singer's 80th birthday (on April 2nd), Universal have re-assembled, with the help of Gaye biographer and confidante,  David Ritz, what they believe to be the original running order of the lost album and issued it on double vinyl complete with bonus material.  

Certainly it lacks the thematic coherence, artistic cohesion and single-mindedness of vision that characterised 'What's Going On' but that's probably because of the diverse number of producers involved, which include Gaye, himself, on nine tracks, Willie Hutch on four, plus contributions from Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell, Gloria Jones with Pam Sawyer, Hal Davis. The album's 17 cuts show that there was nothing wrong with Gaye's creativity in 1972. Highlights include 'Where Are We Going,' a tune that jazz trumpeter, Donald Byrd, recorded as an instrumental on his 'Black Byrd' album. It's written and co-produced by Fonce Mizell, one half of the Sky High team that he formed with his brother, Larry. Gaye fans who know their stuff will be familiar with this lovely track from its appearance on the 2005 career overview compilation, 'Gold.'   

Marvin fans will also know the cinematic 'The World Is Rated X,' another topical, socio-politically-slanted infusion of funk, which first appeared on Gaye's 'Anthology' Motown compilation in 1995. The four tracks he cut with Willie Hutch - just before Hutch broke out as a solo artist at Motown with his soundtrack albums 'Foxy Brown' and 'The Mack' - bring a different feel to the album with bright horns and an earthier, more direct sound distinguishing the likes of 'I'm Gonna A Give You Respect' and 'Try It You'll Like It' (which Hutch recorded himself for Motown). They show Marvin at his soulful best as an interpreter of other people's songs.

Ballad-wise, the haunting 'Piece Of Clay' (helmed by Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer), is memorable for its pleading vocals, bittersweet gospel cadences, searing guitar lines, and lyrics that hint at Gaye's domestic troubles. Controversially, perhaps - Motown fans can be a conservative bunch - Salaam Remi has remixed three cuts for the project. He treats 'My Last Chance, ' the silky ballad 'Symphony,' and 'I'd Give My Life For You' with the utmost respect and doesn't veer too far away from the originals. Appended to the album is a rare extended version of his superb 1972 Yuletide single, 'I Want To Come Home For Christmas' (where Gaye views the world as a US serviceman in Vietnam) and an unissued instrumental B-side, 'Christmas In The City.' An intriguing alternative version of 'I'm The Man' - which is smoother and features eerie warbling synth lines - is also included in the set.

Given that a lot of these tracks are spread over so many different Marvin Gaye compilations, it's good to have them together all in one place on 'You're The Man.' More importantly, the album brings to light a forgotten and overlooked chapter in Marvin Gaye's creative life. 35 years after his death, these recordings (available to buy from March 29th) prove that as far as soul music goes, Marvin Gaye is still the man.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 March 2019 11:30

 

TANIKA CHARLES: The Gumption (Record Kicks)

Friday, 22 March 2019 15:21 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altCanadian soul singer Tanika Charles first came amongst us with her catchy 'Endless Chain' a year or so ago. The tune was from her 'Soul Run' album which really took off after she licensed it to the Record Kicks label and that label has shown its confidence in Ms C by releasing her second full length album, 'The Gumption' which sonically takes off where 'Soul Run' ended... that's to say it delivers a punchy modern soul sound which at the same time pays huge respect to soul's golden age.

The 12 tracker has been produced by a team – DJ Kemo, Chin Injeti, Daniel Lee, Kevin Henkel and Marlon James. All are well-respected Canadian musos and despite their number the album has a real cohesion and unity – secured by Tanika's consistent and warm soulful delivery and the team's respect for old school soul values.

Amongst the album's highlights is the closing 'Always Restless' – a sweet ballad with the gentlest of atmospheres. Vocally it shows that Tanika is a real contender. 'Look At Us Now' is another ballad – slightly tougher, its flavour is redolent of classic Southern soul. The most striking of the up-tempo numbers is the Northern sounding 'Upside Down'. It's rough round the edges and sounds like it could have come from some  60's obscure US indie studio. In fact, that's this album's attraction ... it's honest and for real –a far cry from the polished, smooth soul that seems to win the airplay these days.

The album's title by the way is a reference to the opening lines of the opening track, the rolling, insistent 'Tell Me Something' but it also alludes to Tanika's stickabilty and her doggedness to deliver what she believes in.

Tanika Charles' 'The Gumption' will be officially released in May and you can learn more about Ms C by checking out our interview with her. Go to out interview archive

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 22 March 2019 15:35

 

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