Reviews

VARIOUS: Mainstream Soul 2 (Kent)

Tuesday, 22 August 2017 18:44 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLast year Ace/Kent treated us to a wonderfully soulful retrospective on New York indie label, Mainstream. The imprint was founded in 1964 by jazz guitarist Bob Shad. Shad had previously played countless sessions, produced numerous indie jazz recordings and worked for the Mercury and Decca labels as well as fronting his own early imprints (like Shad, Time and Brent). In '64 he wanted Mainstream to focus on jazz but, as ever, the market called the shots and so he recorded and released all kinds of everything – including some mighty fine soul music, as that 2016 Kent compilation amply illustrated.

The notes to that album indicated that there was still plenty of soul in the Mainstream (and associated labels) vault, and lo and behold, here we go with Volume 2... another selection of the best of Mainstream. As with volume 1, here there's plenty to interest fans of the harmony vocal group. Amongst the featured groups are Special Delivery, Chapter Three (their inclusion is 'I'll Never Be The Same', an early Patrick Adams production) and Detroit's Steptones whose 'Your Love Is Like The Rising Sun' is an album highlight... shades of the Temptations.

Amongst the solo artists are Charles Beverley, Sugar Billy and Almeta Lattimore whose sweet 'Oh My Love' shares the same provenance as the Steptones' tune. There's also an inclusion from sometime jazz crooner, Lenny Welch. Welch was a particular favourite of Shad's – a throwback to his jazz days. Welch's inclusion here is a lush mid-tempo groove, 'When There's No Such Thing As Love'.

Like many indie music entrepreneurs, Shad would cast a wide net looking for material and given the times he worked in, it was inevitable that he'd license plenty of music from the Southern studios. Amongst several Southern gems, of note are Lee Bates with 'Your Love Is Slipping Away' and the wonderfully named Count Willie with LRL and the Dukes whose 'I've Got To Tell You' is proper, tortured Southern soul.

Many of the featured artists here were never "mainstream" but their Mainstream recordings are high quality soul and, as ever, the exhaustive sleeve notes will tell you all you need to know.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 August 2017 18:57

 

IZZI DUNN: Recycle Love (Absolute Marketing)

Monday, 21 August 2017 19:02 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSince May we've been promised a new album from UK soul cellist and vocalist Izzi Dunn. The lady debuted way back with 'The Big Picture' but her second solo album 'Cries And Smiles' won her quite a reputation - and 2017 singles 'Our Time' but more especially 'Look Up To The Sky' got more believers on board. Well the new long player has just become available and 'Look Up To The Sky' still impresses. There's a definite Rotary Connection feeling about it... little wonder it was chosen as one of the lead singles... a great hors d'oeuvre. Sadly, though, the newer items on Izzi's platter don't quite match up.

The next best cut on the album is 'Love Interrupted'. This boasts a sweet, string driven cinematic intro and gentle, soothing vocal over a chilled out backing track. Once again soul veterans might be reminded of Rotary Connection or indeed Minnie Riperton's solo work but many of the album's other tracks lack a similar focus and tend to meander. Things like 'Unforgiven' and 'Lady' are prefaced by mournful strings but what ensues doesn't quite deliver. Maybe the meandering is explained because the message that Ms D is trying to get over is complex and itself "meandering": "' Recycle Love' toils through human emotions, nature and values within the world presented to us. A story of belonging and personal experience runs through the album's tone, and through musical diversity there's a cinematic journey to reflect on our own selves. With a current state of affairs where fact is indistinguishable from fiction, and terror hides behind shirts and ties, 'Recycle Love' exposes vulnerability and talks about our families, our time, and all that lies within." She explains.

There are funkier items on the album too. The single 'Our Times' was/is a funky bumper but on release some commentators noted that Izzi's voice was too pretty, too polite.... yes, too English to harness the power of the funk. You can hear the same problem on 'Control'. This offers a Norman Whitfield style backdrop behind Izzi's warbling... but the two don't quite gel.

Izzi sounds much more convincing on the chillier things – stuff like 'Don't Let Them'. Even that, though, doesn't match the charm of 'Look Up To The Sky'... the one tune here that deserves serious consideration. It's also available in interesting Wookie and Twilite Tone remixes.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 21 August 2017 19:08

 

VARIOUS; Cool Heat – The Best of CTI (Robinsongs)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:15 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn 1967 frustrated jazz trumpeter, Creed Taylor was allowed by A&M records to set up his own jazz label – CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated). The label allowed the indulgence because Virginian-born Taylor had previously enjoyed success as producer and A&R exec at labels like Bethlehem, Impulse and Verve. His new imprint enjoyed quick success with artists like Wes Montgomery, Quincy Jones and a young guitarist named George Benson. Ever-ambitious, in 1970 Taylor severed his link with A&M and went out on his own and his faith in his own ability was justified as the newly indie CTI (and its Kudu subsidiary) continued to score hits and win accolades.

Serious jazz buffs will know all about CTI and most likely have all the label's key discs in their libraries but for those less familiar with the CTI catalogue, this new 2 CD, 25 track compilation serves as a first rate introduction.

The collection (which focuses on CTI output between 1970 – 1980) brings together all of CTI's big hitters and their big hits – so enjoy (again) things like Deodato's 'Also Sprach Zarathusa', Lalo Schifrin's take of the famous 'Jaws' theme, Bob James' 'Westchester Lady', Hank Crawford's 'Wildflower', George Benson's 'Supership' and Ron Carter's 'Barreta's Theme'.

Soul fans can luxuriate with Patti Austin's ever-lovely 'Say You Love' and can remind themselves that soul can be harrowing too via Esther Philips' ever-haunting 'Home is Where The Hatred Is'.

The sleeve notes for the album come from SOULANDJAZZANDFUNK'S Charles Waring, so quality and excellence are both guaranteed.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:21

 

FRANK PIOMBO: Keep It Movin’ (Sound Exchange)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:12 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altItalian-born, New Jersey-based Frank Piombo is a smooth jazz guitarist who debuted in 2010 with 'Smooth Reminiscence'. The album won Frank a plethora of local awards. So, encouraged, here he follows up with the 8 tracker that is 'Keep It Movin''. The set is named for the opening cut – a sprightly soul strut that is full of optimism with hints of the Blackbyrds' 'Walking In Rhythm' about it. Mr P knows it's one of his best tunes 'cos he reprises it at the end adding a vocal from Joe Armino. Without knowing why, I think I prefer the original instrumental.

Enjoy similar grooves on 'Al Dente' and 'Rush Hour Funk'. If you prefer a Latin vibe 'Middle Of The Night' would be you go-to track, while the quiet storm flavour comes via 'Sunset Beach'. On 'Easin' Up', Frank shows he can do more cerebral jazz though on 'Sogno D'Amore' (the only non- original tune on the LP) our man shows off his Italian heritage with a romantic reverie that could have come from an obscure 60s Italian movie. On this cut Joe Armino is featured on sax – other sidemen include Michael Mahadeen on flute, Sam Hankins on trumpet and sax man Tony Exum.

Frank Piombo's 'Keep It Movin'' is out now and you can learn more @ www.FrankPiombo.com

BB (3/5)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:22

 

LEVERT: Family Reunion (SoulMusic Records)

Sunday, 06 August 2017 14:35 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altEddie Levert is the soul man's soul man. The O'Jays front man has a delivery that is both passionate and forthright. He takes no prisoners and with such commitment to his craft it was a given that his sons, Gerald and Sean would follow in his considerable music footsteps. So it was that in 1985 the Levert siblings along with childhood friend, Marc Gordon secured their first record deal as LeVert (the upper case V was how they spelled their name back then). They'd long been honing their craft and polishing their songs, so, it was a mighty disappointment  when their first outings on the indie Tempre Records bombed.

It wasn't long however before the trio scored a deal with Atlantic Records and pretty quickly the hits and the acclaim started to flow.... 'Pop, Pop, Pop Goes My Mind', 'Fascination', 'Casanova' et al. Gerald Levert was , it seems, always the driving force behind the group and in time he began to strike out on his own; at first, though, still remaining part of the group. But by the early 90s Gerald was a bona fide solo star and in demand as a writer, producer and collaborator too. Apart from collaborating with dad, Eddie, maybe his most remarkable collaboration was with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill in LSG.

Label hopping and a cameo in the Motown Funk Brothers movie kept the Gerald Levert profile high; then, at his peak, he tragically died. In November 2006, aged just 40, he overdosed on pain killers. Compounding the Levert tragedy, brother Sean passed two years later. In 2008 he'd been incarcerated and, denied the drugs he depended on, he died from withdrawal symptoms.

It's impossible to gauge how Eddie Levert felt. He was left to reflect and mourn but maybe deep down he drew a little satisfaction from the knowledge that his boys had left a considerable soul music legacy.

SouMusic Records have here brought together the best of that legacy in a 32 track, 2 CD album that pulls together all the hits along with a slew of rarities and hard to find items. Interestingly some of the hits arte offered in different versions to the originals – for instance 'Casanova' comes in its "Dance Mix" but more interestingly we get the likes of Gerald's duet with Mikki Howard ('That's What Love Is'), his duet with Sean ('Point The Finger'), a selection of Sean solo tracks and, maybe most poignantly, a trio of duets between Gerald and Eddie that include their version of 'Wind Beneath My Wings'... a "family reunion" indeed.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 06 August 2017 14:53

 

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