Review: If you're a DJ who digs funk, soul and disco, there's a fair chance that you are familiar with Average White Band classic "Pick Up The Pieces", a staple of those kinds of sets - and, of course, hip-hop, where its killer break has been looped countless times over the years - since its initial release in 1974. Should you not own a copy of the distinctive, horn-heavy classic, we'd suggest picking up this reissue, not least because it also boasts the band's lesser-known cover of Ned Doheny classic "Get It Up For Love", featuring vocals from no less than Ben E King, on the flip. Their version of the hazy blue-eyed soul gem sits somewhere between Doheny's original version and the arguably better known Tata Vega disco cover.
Who, What, Where, When & Why (Disco version) (5:10)
No Promises (Disco version) (6:46)
Review: Best Records do it again, dusting down a searing slice of robo-funk from the early 80s that will pop your lock every which way. B Funk was a one-off project from Mario Boncaldo and Tony Carrasco, best known for their incredible work as Klein & MBO. They released the "Magic Spell" album in 1983, and it was loaded with richly produced Italo disco and proto house sounds - there's a good reason the original release has been fetching such crazy prices on the second hand market. Now Best have cherry picked two of the finest cuts from the album, sought out the extended disco versions from Carrasco's vaults, and given them a glorious new pressing.
Review: Dedicated to the Hammond-heavy 1960s soul-jazz sounds of Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Grant Green and Reuben Wilson, the Beat Bronco Organ Trio are a fresh outfit with classic inspirations. The Madrid threesome's debut single is something of a retro-futurist treat. We're really enjoying A-side "Easy Baby", a loose and languid fusion of ear-pleasing Hammond licks, laidback, breakbeat-driven drums and flanged jazz guitars that impressively increases in intensity throughout, culminating in a frenzy of sweaty drums and eyes-closed guitar solos. "Geriatric Dance", meanwhile, is even more up-tempo, with high octane Hammond and jazz guitar solos stretching out over a feverish funk drumbeat.
Review: German-Ghanaian group the Polyversal Souls have previously collaborated with a number of bands and solo artists from West Africa, so this hook-up with Northern Ghanaian outfit the Bolga All Stars - a collective made up of leading local kologo and frafra-gospel singers and musicians - should not come as much of a surprise. Separated into two parts for the seven-inch release, the track blends the Polyversal Souls' lolloping, late '60s style Afro-funk grooves - complete with fuzzy, period style production - and sharp horn section with glistening guitars, snaking solos and fine vocals from the Bolga All Stars. It's one of the Polyversal Souls' finest releases yet, and that's saying something.
Review: First up on the freshly minted Bacalao imprint is Bosq, a Ubiquity Records contributor renowned for his blends of funk, soul and sweaty South American music. While the heavy horns featured on this release were recorded in Bogota, the producer's usual Colombian flavour takes a back seat as he joins forces with Kaleta to deliver two covers of Fatback Band classics. First up is "Goin' To See My Baby", which is re-imagined as a fuzzy funk workout rich in rasping horns, tropical guitar flourishes and woodblock-driven Latin disco percussion. Arguably even better is the duo's cover of "Backstrokin'", which is given a Barrio-funk flavour complete with prominent bass, heavy-hitting horn motifs and excitable lead vocals.
Review: Since first appearing in stores back in 2016, this cover of Rick James' sweet and punchy "Mary Jane" by Brooklyn collective Breakdown Brass has become something of an in-demand item. Happily, they've decided to sling it out again for those of us who missed out first time round. Their version of "Mary Jane" is impeccable, with funk-rock guitar solos, heavy tuba bass and lolloping drum breaks underpinning the band's rousing brass rendition of the song's famous refrains. Throw in a few tight solos and you've got a stone cold party-starter. Turn to the flipside for "The Horseman", an urgent and foreboding chunk of fuzzy New Orleans brass band funk complete with psychedelic organ solos and fizzing Mariachi style horns.
Lafayette Afro Rock Band - "Hihache" (extended Breaks Special edition version) (4:23)
Gaz - "Sing Sing" (extended Breaks Special edition version) (4:27)
Review: More sneaky 45 action from the Breaks & Beats crew, a shadowy organization whose tried-and-tested re-edits offer DJ-friendly extensions of popular break-digging favourites (many of which were sampled on classic hip-hop cuts). Their latest seven-inch excursion begins with a tidy revision of Lafayette Afro-Rock Band's brilliant "Hihache", a low-slung favourite rich in lolloping, head nodding drum breaks, jazzy bass, flanged funk guitars and fuzzy horn motifs. The new version is deferential towards its source material, extending breaks here and there whilst leaving much of the tune in tact. One of the most doubled-up drum breaks in hip-hop history takes pride of place on side B, where Gaz's Salsoul released wiggler "Sing Sing" gets the re-edit treatment.
Review: New Norwegian label Neppa launches with something rather special: a timely reissue of the headline cut from South African jazz musician Don Laka's 1986 EP "Stages Of Love". The track is reminiscent of some of countryman Hugh Masekela's work from the same period, with Laka conjuring up a breezy, dancefloor-ready synth-pop/electrofunk workout rich in thrilling electric piano solos, heady vocals and funk-fuelled synth-bass. Scandolearic overlord Prins Thomas gets busy on the flip, serving up a superb re-edit that stretches out the original's groovy instrumental parts before introducing the vocals. As usual with the Full Pupp boss, the edit tends towards the epic (it clocks in around nine minutes); however, given the quality of Laka's original an extension was well overdue.
Review: Mushi 45 is keeping tight lipped about the story behind their latest release - so much so, in fact, that we can't ascertain whether it's a reissue or a new production. Given the label's history, we're thinking the former, though it's hard to find any reference to the record, the artist or the producer. Either way, the release is fire - a killer chunk of Afro-funk blessed with heavyweight drum breaks, punchy sax solos, celebratory African vocals and super-funky bass. In classic funk style "Ashadwa" is split into two parts; the first boasts chant-along vocals, extended drum breaks and a genuine "party in the studio" vibe, while the second is more instrumental and stripped back with greater use of snaking saxophone solos. In a word: essential.
Review: Best known amongst house heads for being the source of the lilting orchestral sample in Pepe Bradock's "Deep Burnt", Freddie Hubbard's 1979 version of "Little Sunflower" is a soul-jazz classic and a half. Since the full version of Hubbard's vocal re-make (the trumpeter first recorded an instrumental take in 1968) only ever appeared on a hard-to-find promo 12", this Record Store Day reissue should be an essential purchase. It remains a gentle, breezy and sunset-ready jazz-dance gem, with Hubbard's emotion-rich vocals and mazy trumpet solos riding Latin-tinged percussion, elastic double bass and some suitably jammed-out jazz pianos. In other words, it's the kind of life-affirming treat that's capable of spreading sunshine on even the cloudiest day.
Review: The colourful obi strip astride the cover of this audiophile reissue boasts that Imani's "Out of The Blue" album is "the ultimate private press jazz holy grail". While that claim is debatable, copies of the Gilles Peterson championed 1983 edition, which the San Francisco based band pressed up themselves, have been known to change hands for four-figure sums. Musically, the four tracks are breezy, sunny and summery. Opener "Just Another Love Song" sets the tone, with soulful group vocals and jazz solos rising above a warm groove, while "Somebody's Love" is a slow jam smothered in spacey synthesizers. "Byrd's House" is a jazz-funk dancefloor number - this time blessed with extended, eyes-closed guitar and piano solos - while "Friendship Cover Charge" is a stomping peak-time workout that should send dancers spinning.
Etta James & Sugar Pie Desanto - "In The Basement" (Soul Flip edit) (3:20)
John Gary Williams - "My Sweet Lord" (Soul Flip edit) (3:59)
Review: On their latest limited edition salvo, the hardworking Soul Flip crew (AKA experienced DJs and producers Aldo Vanucci and Del Gazeebo) gets to work on two more stomping dancefloor cuts from the golden age of soul. First up on side A is a gently tooled-up and tightened up take on Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto's 1966 floor-heater "In The Basement", a hybrid soul-jazz/rhythm and blues jam rich in rubbery double bass, bustling drums, restless handclaps and brilliant lead vocals from the two legendary soul singers. On the flip they tackle Memphis musician John Gary Williams' 1972 cover of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", which brilliantly re-imagines the former Beatles' spiritual song as a sweaty gospel-soul stomper.
Review: TRAMP Records' latest must-have "45" is an incendiary double-header of killer cuts. On the A-side you'll find "Candy Man", the suitably obscure sole single from Josephine Jones. It's a lolloping, lo-fi soul affair, with Jones' distinctive vocals rising above the kind of head-nodding breaks, heavy bass and clipped guitar riffs that will get hip-hop DJs hot under the collar. Turn to the flip for another chance to savour Raw Soul's "Just Walk Funky", a track recorded in their home town of Norfolk, Virginia in the early 1970s that went unissued until Put released it in 2009. It remains a tidy chunk of off-kilter instrumental funk rich in intricate guitar licks, booming bass and fizzing drums.
Review: Multi-track re-edits, where producers utilize the instrumental and vocal parts found on studio master tapes, are all the rage right now. While the Rephlex crew and Joey Negro are the most famous exponents of the art, Galaxy Sound Co regular Kadena has previously proved to be rather adept at it, too. Here the little-known producer channels the spirit of original disco remixer Walter Gibbons, first to provide a lolloping, groove-based revision of Instant Funk's intergalactic Salsoul classic "I Got My Mind Made Up" (side A), and then to deliver a similarly minded take on First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder". Like its A-side companion, it's warmer, looser and predominantly instrumental, with judicious use of key vocal passages.
Review: In 1981, a multi-cultural group of young musicians headed by local lad Harbans Srih headed into a tiny eight-track studio in Walsall to record what they hoped would become their debut single. 28 years later, that single, credited to Klimate, is finally getting a release thanks to the diggers at Super Disco Edits. A-side "ESP" is an inspired chunk of Brit-funk that wraps soulful vocals, delay-laden sax solos and intricate electric piano lines around a warm and heavy, jazz-funk inspired groove. Flipside "To See You" is equally as impressive, with the action focused on rubbery slap bass, meandering sax lines, twinkling keys, reggae-soul style vocals and the kind of flash-fried guitar licks that were so common on dancefloor cuts during the period.