JAKI GRAHAM; When A Woman Loves (JNT Music0

Friday, 08 June 2018 12:53 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThough she was the first British black female solo artist to enjoy 6 consecutive top 20 hits, Birmingham's Jaki Graham somehow tuned out to be the forgotten woman of Brit soul. Despite a properly soulful voice and a great back catalogue, it seems Ms G's struggled to find a niche in a musical world dominated by "talent" and reality show wannabees. Well, after what Jaki herself calls an at times challenging life journey, things might be set to change as she launches an excellent 14 track "comeback" album, 'When A Woman Loves'.

The set's most revealing track, as I hear it, is 'Get It Right'. Ostensibly it's a bright, 80s style dancer but the lyrics and indeed the title are telling. I mean, the whole thing implies that she got things badly wrong last time and though "everyone's funkin' like the 80s", this time things will be better. Who said there's no future in nostalgia! 'Get It Right' is one of several 80s style boppers – others that are noteworthy are the opening 'Sometimes' and the bumpy Loose Ends flavoured 'About Your Love'.

All good stuff, but the best bits of this collection are the ballads when Jaki does what she does best... sings her pants off. 'News For You' is one of the most memorable ballad moments. The Eric Benet song is given a dreamy Earth Wind and Fire 'That's The Way of the World' style treatment. And speaking of EWF, sleeve note readers will notice the name of Maurice White amongst the credits. He penned 'Eye To Eye' - presented here in a bluesy, southern soul kind of way... there's a lovely hook in the song too.

Interestingly the album boasts three Michael McDonald songs – the introspective 'Through The Rain' and two gentle, reflective items - 'Song Inside Me' and 'Someone Like You'. Indeed that last one is an album highlight. It has an almost mystical quality rather like the Van Morrison song with the same title. Equally satisfying is the big production "not-quite-a –ballad" 'Ready For Love' which proves that Jaki Graham still knows how it's done! Brit soul's forgotten star? Don't think so.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Monday, 11 June 2018 13:32


VARIOUS; On The Soul Side (Kent)

Thursday, 07 June 2018 15:22 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altBy common consent UK reissue specialist, Ace Records' subsidiary, Kent, has done the most sterling of work for soul collectors. The label began back in the 80s issuing (mainly) compilations drawn from the back catalogue of US label group Kent/Modern (hence the "Kent" name). One of the first long players that featured non Kent/Modern material was the acclaimed 'On The Soul Side'. The 16 tracker offered soul rarities and in-demand items from labels like Capitol, Liberty, Minit and United Artists and, though over the years Kent has released hundreds more soul compilations, I suggest that few match the variety, class and soulfulness of the pioneering 'On The Soul Side'.

Well if you missed it first time around, those nice Ace/Kent people have just reissued it on a CD with the original 16 tracks enhanced by a further 10 cuts that perfectly match the feel of the original collection. In respect for that original LP, the first 16 tracks are sequenced in the same order as before and from Patrice Holloway's 'Love And Desire' through to Timi Yuro's 'What's A Matter Baby' you'll hardly draw breath. If you don't know the album, let me just list a few of the cuts – The O'Jays' 'Lipstick Traces', Bobby Sheen's 'Dr Love', The Showmen's 'It Will Stand' and Jimmy Holiday and Clydie King's 'Ready Willing And Able for starters. That should convince you that my use of the "classy" adjective up top was spot on!

Then there's the ten "newcomers"... none more welcome than the mighty 'Love Is A Hurting Thing' from Lou Rawls; still a majestic definition of sophisticated soul. The other nine cuts come from Clydie King, The Magnificent Men, Patrice Holloway, June Jackson, Bobby Womack, Earl King, Sylvia Robbins, Marv Johnson and Merry Clayton and if that's not enough to get you investigating, you shouldn't really be visiting this site!

(BB) 5/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2018 15:33


LAMONT DOZIER - Reimagination ( V2/Golden Lane))

Friday, 01 June 2018 12:23 Billl B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn the mainstream Lamont Dozier is rightly known as a legendary songwriter/producer with a seemingly endless list of classic credits. Soul purists also revere Lamont as an artist in his own right and will cite recordings like 'Fish Ain't Biting' and 'New Breed Kinda Woman' as every bit as worthy as anything from his garlanded writing repertoire. So when the man decides to record a selection of tunes from that classic repertoire we know we're guaranteed a sort of soul excellence and that's just what we get here on the 13 tracker that is 'Reimagination'.

Now Lamont's done this kind of thing before – remember his 'Reflections Of...' album? But this new one is a little different in as much as Lamont works here with a star-studded guest list from across all sorts of musical genres . Helping out here are people like Graham Nash, Todd Rundgren, Cliff Richard (yes!), Marc Cohn, UK newcomer Jo Harman and Gregory Porter.

The Cat In The Jazz Hat is on hand for one of the album highlights – the version of "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You' . Porter adds his grace and beauty to what is essentially a stripped down version - illustrating just what a mini masterpiece the song is. The same's true for the new look at 'Heatwave'- with little more than piano accompaniment (before a guitar solo) the tune simply swings. Duettist, by the way, is Jo Harman who acquits herself wonderfully before the song segues into a brasher 'Nowhere To Run'.

Other featured songs include 'Reach Out I'll Be There', 'I Can't Help Myself, 'Baby I Need Your Loving'', 'Bernadette and a medley of 'This Old Heart Of Mine' and 'My World Is Empty Without You'. This is the one that features Sir Cliff and the boys does OK!

In truth Lamont's voice right now isn't the voice of 'Black Bach' and some of the tracks have a demo feel to them; but c'mon – here's some of the 20th century's best pop songs performed by their creator and if you're not moved here by Lamont's new version of 'In My Lonely Room', your soul's gone AWOL.

The album has been produced by Fred Mollin and the accompanying booklet features an interview between the pair with Lamont explaining the origins of each song. Interestingly they talk about the Chairmen of the Board's 'Give Me Just A Little More Time' and Lamont claims credit for writing it! No Mention of "Dunbar/Wayne"! The song's not on the album by the way.

Lamont Dozier was meant to be coming to the UK this summer to promote the album. Illness has forced cancellation. We wish him well.... in his absence... just enjoy the album!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 01 June 2018 12:28


THE NEW MASTERSOUNDS: Renewable Energy (One Note)

Monday, 28 May 2018 12:15 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altOriginally from Leeds, the New Mastersounds have been around for almost 20 years and they have something like 15 long players under their belt. Despite that, the band (Eddie Roberts (guitar), Simon Allen (drums), Pete Shand (bass) and Joe Tatton (organ)) are probably best known for giving Corinne Bailey Rae her start. The reason for their inability to break into the big time is apparent on this new album.... what they create musically doesn't pander to the mainstream. Their energetic brand of funk and soul-jazz is aimed very much at a niche market and I'm guessing that the foursome are quite happy with that (if not they'd have folded long ago). They're rarely out of work – gigging constantly – as much at home at the big festival as in the small cellar club and their loyal fans turns out in numbers wherever they play.

Said fans will be delighted with the 12 tracks on 'Renewable Energy' – it provides what the Mastersounds have always provided. So, there's plenty of funk – like the scratchy, percussive opener, "Chicago Girls'. I have to say, though, that this sounds more New Orleans than Windy City despite some lovely brass work from the West Coast Horns (Mike Olmos and Joe Cohen). There's also plenty of mid 60s style, "Hammond to the fore" soul-jazz on the collection ... try 'Tantalus' or 'Green Was Beautiful'. 'Stash' shows the more experimental side of the band while 'Swimming With My Fishies' is a lovely, mellow, cinematic way to finish the album.

The long player boasts one vocal – a meandering, funk workout fronted by a feisty, swooping Adryon De Leon. In truth it's not that remarkable – a workmanlike funk outing. Indeed that's the issue. This is a workmanlike album.... nothing to make you sit up and take real notice and help take the band to the next level (if indeed that's where they want to go).

Interestingly I note that the album was recorded in two venues – New Orleans and Denver – back in 2016 and February '17... may be the Mastersounds have something newer/fresher up their sleeves?

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 28 May 2018 12:33


JEFFREY OSBORNE; Worth It All (Artistry)

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 19:22 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altDear old Jeffrey Osborne is a proper old school soul veteran and latterly, sadly, his recordings are few and far between. I think his last release was maybe five years ago – 'A Time For Love'. However, out of the blue – it seems Jeff is all set to drop a new album – the 12 tracker that is 'Worth It All' but, sadly, sneak previews reveal that maybe it wasn't really worth it – well not entirely.

The problem – as I see it – is that there is too much here that is formulaic and pedestrian. The soundscape here alternates between polite beaters and twee ballads and it's those beaters that really disappoint. Jeffrey is 70 and he won't mind admitting that he's been around the block a few times, so maybe he could have come up with better lyrics than "Get out on the floor baby" ('Just Can't Stand It') or "I want your sexy body close" ('I Want You') or –even worse – "I like the way you work it. I wanna say you're so perfect" ('Work It'). OK, this is soul and R&B, and we don't expect metaphysical poetry, but c'mon Jeff – you're better than this.

The album's ballads work better but they're still heavily clichéd and there's no 'Love Ballad' or 'On The Wings Of Live' here. Best efforts are 'Greatest Night' – a chronicle of an evolving relationship (but what about "It was the 23rd June...a freaky full moon"?) and 'Saving My Love' which proves what Jeffrey can do when he really tries – a simple, uncluttered song on which that remarkable voice carries the day.

'Worth It All' boasts guest appearances from Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, rapper Kid Capri and Jeff's son Jeffrey Junior but they can't lift the album out of the mediocre category. The set is self produced and sure, Jeff knows what he's about but maybe a third ear might have made 'Worth It All' worth a little more.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 May 2018 19:29


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