SHAKATAK: Night Birds (Label: Vocalion)

SHAKATAK: Night Birds

Statistics prove that good old Shakatak are the most successful of all the UK jazz-funk groups that emerged back in the 80s. The band – who were named after the record store (The Record Shack) that distributed their first release – still tour and record … and, to coin a phrase, they are “big in Japan”… “massive” actually! That said, CD reissues of their old material have been few and far between. Here Vocalion offer Shakatak’s second full album – their most successful in terms of spawning hits, most notably ‘Easier Said Than Done’ and the title cut. Memory might suggest that both are easy listens with cooingly sweet vocals …and in essence they are – but, listening again, you’ll delight in the clarity of Bill Sharpe’s immaculate piano and the steady grooves that can still fill dance floors. Generally the LP’s other six cuts follow much the same pattern but when the track features the sax of Dick Morrissey (‘Streetwalkin’ and ‘Light Of My Life’) the end result is a lot grittier. Without his passion, stuff like ‘Takin’ Off’ and ‘Rio Nights’ are just a little too lightweight. The original LP is featured here in its entirety but as a bonus there are two extras – ‘Go For It’ and a remix of one of the album’s original tracks, ‘Fly The Wind’. That particular pair have only ever been available on vinyl and, as you’d expect, they fit perfectly the Shakatak template – though the attempt on both to create a vibraphone sound via the synthesiser doesn’t quite come off. Still Shakatak collectors will want ’em and, if we’re to believe the hype, there’s plenty of them around!
(BB) 3/5