MILLIE JACKSON: Exposed (Ace/Southbound)

Wednesday, 25 July 2018 19:58 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe wonderful Millie Jackson needs no introduction on these pages. She is a soul super star and thankfully most of her best, classic work is easily accessible. New material, though , is rare so to satisfy Jackson fans in particular and soul lovers in general, Ace Records embarked on an ambitious project a year or so back.... they brought in top UK producer and mixer, Steve Levine to reimagine 12 of Ms J's best.

Levine has a remarkable track record. He started off in the punk era but went on to work with the Beach Boys and Culture Club. Those gigs secured his reputation and since then he's worked with plenty more big names . He became chairman of the Music Producers Guild and has produced and presented all kinds of music shows for the BBC. A Brit and Grammy award winner, he works out of a studio in Liverpool and it's there that he worked on the Millie Jackson project.

Essentially Ace, who have the license to work Spring product, digitalised Millie Jackson's original multi-track analogue recordings and charged Levine to come up with something a little different but which retained the essence of the woman!

He choose 12 tracks – including 'My Man A Sweet Man', 'If Loving You Is Wrong 'and the Isaac Hayes duet, 'Sweet Music, Soft Lights And You' - and his efforts have just been released on CD (and for those who like new-fangled technology, on a seven track vinyl LP). It's important to note that these new mixes aren't what we night call "contemporary mixes" where mixers and producers add new elements to the original recording. Here Levine only uses original material – tracks recorded at the original sessions. And come on ... who would meddle with stuff laid down at Muscle Shoals or "sweeteners" recorded by people like David Van DePitte at Detroit?

The result is music that isn't better than the original – just different... maybe a wee bit sharper, maybe a wee bit edgier; let's call it a new perspective. The Ace people tell us that the album's been called 'Exposed' because these new mixes "open up" the tracks. Make up your own minds! 'Exposed' is out now.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 July 2018 20:16



Tuesday, 24 July 2018 19:00 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altBack in 2014 we were mightily impressed by a lovely smooth jazz album from San Francisco's Greg Chambers'. The long player in question was 'Can't Help Myself' and we enjoyed its polish and soulful undertow – typified by the standout, 'Wait Awhile'.

Right now classically-trained Greg, has just released his latest offering – the ten tracker that is 'A New Day' – like 'Can't Help Myself', it's a master class in what the best, old fashioned smooth jazz is all about; that's to say, strong melodies, a soulful vibe and a polished, clean and clear delivery that makes no real demands yet offers plenty of laid back enjoyment.

'A New Day' boasts plenty of foot-tapping, moderate up-tempo moments – best typified by the title cut; though 'When I Think Of You' and 'Midnight Drive' offer more of the same. If "Quiet Storm" is more your thing, you'll find plenty to enjoy. Sweetest of the down-time moments is 'Gotta Get Back To You' while there's an enchanting horn riff on 'Side To Side'.

Most ambitious or experimental track (though maybe "experimental" isn't the best word to use in the smooth jazz context) is 'Tell Me All Your Secrets'. There's a touch of electro about this one and Preston Smith's flugelhorn adds some welcome alternative shading.

Sadly, we think, there are no vocal tracks (if I remember, there were two on 'Can't Help Myself'); a vocal or two – maybe even a cover version – might just have added a little variety. That said, 'A New Day' does offer everything good that we associate with smooth jazz and like Greg's earlier albums, it's sure to make its mark on the smooth jazz album charts.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 July 2018 19:12


LIVE REVIEW: Judith Hill @ Birmingham's Pizza Express Live 17/7/2018

Wednesday, 18 July 2018 16:18 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


There was a time when Prince's female protégés were gifted with good looks and not much else besides. But that's not the case with Los Angeles-born, JUDITH HILL, one of the Purple Potentate's final discoveries, whose combination of photogenic beauty and genuinely jaw-dropping musical talent shows why she deserves to be taken more seriously than the likes of Vanity, say, or Apollonia Kotero, or even Jill Jones. Though her mentor, sadly, is no longer with us, Prince's musical DNA certainly lives on in some of the blistering funk grooves that Judith and her six-piece band (which includes her mom and dad on keys and bass respectively), served up in Birmingham's Pizza Express venue. Sadly, and inexplicably, the place wasn't filled to the rafters, but that didn't seem to perturb Judith and her cohorts, who went full throttle from the start and never gave less than their all.

Alternating between grand piano and electric guitar (which she donned for the harder funk numbers), Judith proved to be a charismatic performer  whose gospel-reared voice proved to be a superbly expressive and flexible instrument. Though she can scream and holler like Aretha at a church revival - especially on the uptempo material - she also intuitively knows how to nuance her voice on the gentler songs and gradually unfurl a story in a sensitive and emotionally-intelligent way.

The highlights of her two-hour performance ranged from the juggernaut funk of 'Turn Up' and 'Jammin In The Basement' to reflective, life-affirming anthems such as  'We Are One' and the moving 'Angel In The Dark.' As well as playing key cuts from her 2015 Prince helmed debut album 'Back In Time,' Judith also premiered new material from her forthcoming opus and stage ballet, 'Golden Child,' including the super-funky 'The Pepper Club,' the anthemic 'We Are One' and the uplifting ballad, 'Irreplaceable Love.'  She also threw in a delightful cover of The Staples Singers' Curtis Mayfield-penned '70s hit, 'Let's Do It Again,' where her terrific backing vocalists got to shine in the spotlight. 

On this evidence, Judith Hill is a dynamite talent who deserves a bigger audience than the rather meagre one that turned out on a stickyTuesday night in the UK's second biggest metropolis. Hopefully, at the Pizza Express in London tonight and tomorrow (18th and 19th July), more people will turn out to see her and experience this outstanding 21st century funk and soul phenomenon in person.


Read SJF's interview with JUDITH HILL here:

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 July 2018 16:42


CHRIS JASPER: Dance With Me (Gold City Music)

Thursday, 12 July 2018 10:43 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSince the implosion of the Isley Brothers and off shoot, Isley-Jasper-Isley, the genial Chris Jasper has forged a successful solo career. Experienced and savvy enough about the machinations of the business, he runs his own label and, free from the pressures of the board room and it bean-counting mentality, Chris makes the music he loves...grown up soul music. He cares little for gimmicks and the vagaries of whatever is the current fly-by-night flavour and he also knows that there is a sizeable community out there who want, musically, what he offers. OK, that community might not run into millions and millions, but they appreciate and revere what Mr J serves up and for his part Chris is always happy to oblige. It's a win/win situation and there are winners all round as Chris releases a brand new long player – the ten tracker that is 'Dance With Me'.

Long standing Jasper fans will already be familiar with four of the album's cuts. First there's the two sides of a recent single - 'The Love That You Give' c/w 'Its A Miracle'. The former is a sensuous, R&B ballad (one of several on the album) while the latter is a crisp, mid-tempo beater with a gospel message. You see, Chris recorded 'It's A Miracle' for the burgeoning US Gospel market – but, hey, if you're a non-believer, don't let that put you off - it's a great contemporary soul groove. And speaking of modern soul beaters, the two other tunes on 'Dance With Me' that will be familiar are 'I Love You' and 'That's What Love Can Do'. Both featured on Chris' last album - 'Share With Me' and they were both issued (later) in Boogie Back remixes... and it's those BB mixes that are included here.... both classic examples of the modern soul groove!

The other track that will please the dancers (the more sedate!) is the lovely 'Sweet Margie' – the easy-going steppers tune is homage to Mrs Jasper and it has a chorus hook to die for. Elsewhere, 'Make Your Move' is a crisp, snappy, bassy, Isley type funk workout but if ballads are your thing, there are plenty to please. We've already mentioned 'The Love That You Give' but then there's 'I Don't Want To Miss A Thing' and the album's title cut.

That leaves a lovely mid-tempo 'Show Somebody Love' and the intriguing 'Happy Birthday Love'... deceptively simple, there a bit of old school doo-wop about it... short (just under two minutes) but very sweet and a highlight amongst many!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 July 2018 11:14



Wednesday, 11 July 2018 10:43 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSummer is officially here and all kinds of music marketeers are offering us what they're calling "the perfect summer soundtrack" (or something like that). Well if you're a child of the 80s and/or a lover of classic soul and R&B from there or thereabouts, then Universal has something that will fit that "perfect" bill.

To tie in with the heat wave (more luck than accurate weather forecasting, me thinks) they've just released this ab fab 3CD, 55 track compilation that's named for the Montell Jordan smash, 'This Is How We Do It' and listening across the three silver discs , this, indeed , was how we did it!

All the big hitters and all the big tunes of that era are included – things like Bobby Brown's 'Every Little Step', Mary J's 'Real Love', Zhane's 'Hey Mr DJ and 'Request Line', Keith Sweat's 'I Want You, Shanice's 'I Love Your Smile', the Whitehead Bros'  'Forgot I Was G' and the always welcome, evergreen 'Optimistic' from the Sounds of Blackness.

There are plenty of lesser-known gems too and when tunes like Melvin Riley's Goin' Thru A Thang', Christopher Williams' 'Every Little Thing You Do', Today's 'Why You Get Funky On Me' and/or Teddy Riley's 'Is It Good' come on, I guarantee that they'll raise a smile and make you realise how much you've missed 'em.

Good too to see there's a strong Brit contingent in the mix – Beverley Knight's 'Flavour Of The Old School', Mark Morrison's 'Return of the Mack' and Soul II Soul's 'Keep On Movin'' amongst 'em.

The PR people tell us that this collection's title cut is James Corden's favourite song of all time; I'll bet that there are loads and loads of you out there who, amongst this 55 strong treasure trove, will find your own particular fave!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 July 2018 10:50


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