Review: Boom: three years, three albums. No biggie for Bristol duo The Allergies, Jalapeno's biggest success story since Kraak & Smaak. Each album shows them getting deeper into the groove, creeping away from the cheeky samples and sculpting their own pedigree funk originals. With Ugly Ducking Andy Cooper onside through the mix from the wild ride vibing "Fade Away" to the white knuckle lyrical fire of "Run It Back", there's a real band feeling to the whole album as familiar voices thread throughout the jams... including that of UK hip hop legend Dr Syntax.
Review: 1975's "Simigwa" album not only launched the career of Afro-funk fusionist and eventual Highlife great Gyedu Blay Ambolley, but also inspired a Ghanaian dance craze. The album was co-produced by another Highlife great, Ebo Taylor, and has long been exceptionally hard to find on vinyl. For this official vinyl reissue on Mr Bongo, Ambolley's landmark set has been fully re-mastered for the very first time. It sounds spectacular, with great clarity on the ear-catching brass solos, serious weight to the bass and superb stereo separation. Highlights include - but certainly aren't limited to - the Afro-blues brilliance of "Toffie", the jaunty dancefloor fuzziness of "This Hustling World" and the heavyweight swing of ear-catching opener "Kwaakwaa".
Review: Despite being a bunch of white guys from Scotland, Average White Band released some of the heaviest and most authentic-sounding funk and soul of the 1970s, becoming big stars on both sides of America's racial divide. This deluxe, five-disc showcase showcases the best of their work during the '70s and early '80s. You'll find an opening disc of classics (think "Pick Up The Pieces", "Work To Do", "Let's Go Round Again" etc.), two discs packed with AWB tracks that were later sampled by hip-hop and R&B producers (the second of which features their awesome version of Ned Doheny's "Get It Up For Love", with Ben E King om vocals), a CD of alternate takes, 7" edits and 12" versions, and a collection of rarities and live recordings.
Review: Second time around for "Virgin Ubiquity", a killer collection of previously unreleased Roy Ayers recordings that first appeared in stores way back in 2003. Focusing on the period between 1976 and '81, much of the material joins the dots between jazz-funk, soul, disco and boogie. Highlights are plentiful throughout, from the weighty, horn-heavy release of the Merry Clayton voiced "What's The T" and heady "Oh What A Lonely Feeling", to the languid vibraphone solos of mellow groover "Green and Gold", jazzy bliss of "Mystic Voyage (Version)" and the stomping, disco era street funk of "I Am Your Mind". In a word: essential.
Review: The jazz and broken beat revival continues apace as we race through 2019, so original pioneers of the sound are rightly coming back into focus. Enter the Brand New Heavies, one of the key acts of the mid-eighties who sound as good on this brand new album as ever. It's littered with funk-licked pop, crystalline acid jazz and singalong songs that range from tender ballads to soaring soul. Angie Stone, Beverley Knight and other vocalists lend their tones along the way, but importantly TBNH is not a revival or self-satisfied celebration. Instead, it feels like a forward-looking and accomplished album that takes the band in subtle new directions.
Review: 15 years have passed since self-styled "doom rock Afro-soul big band" the Budos Band released their debut album on Daptone. They've returned to Bosco Mann's imprint on multiple occasions since, with each successive album moving a little further away from the Ethio-funk-inspired sound of their early recordings, towards a style that draws just as much influence from psychedelic rock. Long in the Tooth, their sixth set, sees them doff a cap to their Afro-fired roots whilst continuing to explore the more hallucinatory, horror-fixated end of the psychedelic funk spectrum. The results are uniformly impressive, with our picks including 'Sixth Hammer', 'Haunted Sea', 'Gun Metal Grey' and reverb-drenched closing cut 'Renegade', which sounds like Carlos Santana having a bad acid trip.
Review: Over the last decade, Lebanese DJ and traveling crate-digger has developed an obsession with the "golden age" of Ethiopian music in the late '60s and 1970s. Back then, Ethopian musicians developed a distinctive "Ethio" style that drew influences from a myriad of black American styles - most notably funk, soul, jazz, rhythm and blues, boogaloo and rock & roll - whilst remaining home-grown and East African in feel. To prove the dancefloor-slaying potential of some of these raw, fuzzy and thrill-packed gems, Chahaud has joined forces with BBE to deliver this fine 22-track set. There's not enough space to list all of the highlights, but suffice to say it will appeal to all those who enjoy heavy, funk-fuelled hybrids of East African, Arabic and black American music.
Nostalgia 77 - "Seven Nation Army" (feat Alice Russell)
Prince Fatty - "Insane In The Membrane" (feat Horseman)
Lack Of Afro - "A Time For" (feat Wayne Gidden)
The Stiff Naked Fools - "Rocket Man"
The Apples - "Killing"
Treva Whateva - "Singalong"
Federation Of The Disco Pimp - "More Than Dancing"
The Haggis Horns - "The Bump"
The Fantastics! - "Cold Case" (feat Sulene Fleming)
The Incredible Bongo Band - "Satisfaction"
Frootful - "Fish In The Sea" (feat Angeline Morrison)
Al Wilson - "The Snake"
The Mighty Showstoppers - "Shaft In Africa"
Speedometer - "Dragging Me Down"
Tape Five - "A Cool Cat In Town" (feat Brenda Boykin)
Review: Having re-invented himself as the UK's favourite funk and soul selector via shows on BBC 6 Music, comedy actor-turned-Corrie cab driver Craig Charles brings his wildly successful Funk & Soul Club brand to CD for the first time. Pitched at newcomers rather than confirmed diggers, it features a mix of well known nu-funk floor fillers (The Apples' version of RATM's "Killing In The Name", Nostalgia 77's ubiquitous White Stripes cover), lesser-known cuts from modern soul 'names' (Speedometer, The Haggis Horns, The Bamboos), older gems (Al Wilson, Incredible Bongo Band), a dash of reggae and a few curveballs (Treva Whateva's long-forgotten banger "Singalong"). Good times guaranteed.
Brian Auger's Oblivion Express - "Foolish Girl" (feat Alex Ligertwood)
The New Mastersounds - "Tantalus"
The Getup - "Hush"
Orquesta Akokan - "Mambo Rapidito"
Gizelle Smith - "Scared Of Something"
Menagerie - "Spiral"
Review: Craig Charles' annual "Funk & Soul Club" compilations are fast becoming as much of a Christmas tradition as turkey, dodgy decorations and ill-advised snogs at office parties. As with its predecessor, this sixth volume does a good job in showcasing the best in modern funk, soul, Afrobeat and heavy Latin jams, with a few stone cold classics thrown in (see the Mighty Ryeders' peerless "Evil Vibrations"). Look out for deep and heavy funk gems from the Bamboos, the New Mastersounds and Lance Ferguson's Rare Groove Spectrum, some suitably smooth fare from Courtney Pine and Omar, a scintillating, salsa-focused cover of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" by Scotland's Grupo Magnetico, and a dash of dancefloor goodness from funk breaks scene stalwarts Smoove and Turrell.
Review: Many African disco enthusiasts will already be familiar with the title track of Benis Cletin's 1979 debut album, Jungle Magic, thanks to the fine re-edit Sofrito released back in 2011. Few, though, will have heard the whole album, which here gets a well-deserved reissue on CD. Cletin's take on Afro-disco-calypso-funk fusion is undeniably sweet, with cuts such as "Mr Teacher" and "Love Forever" balancing the needs of dancefloors with a cheery looseness that's never less than intoxicating. Highlights include the urgent, synth-laden Afro-funk grunt of "Fireman", and the touching, down-tempo tribute to Africa, "Beautiful Continent".
Review: Kalita Records announce the first ever and definitive discography of Carrie Cleveland. Here, they offer an expanded version of her 1978 album 'Looking Up', including both the issue and promotional versions of her single 'Make Love To Me', and the previously unknown sweet soul single 'I've Got A Feeling'.
Privately arranged, recorded and produced by Carrie and her husband Bill as a labour of love in their backyard studio in 1978, 'Looking Up' is one of the most in-demand soul/disco LPs in existence, sought-after in particular for their track 'Love Will Set You Free'. In addition, the promotional version of Carrie's single 'Make Love To Me' is one of the best and rarest sweet soul records to have emerged out of the West Coast soul scene, and her single 'I've Got A Feeling' is until today virtually unknown even to the most seasoned of collectors, with even Carrie herself unsure if it was ever released. With the album originally pressed in a limited run of just 1000 with 500 copies of each single, original copies of Carrie's records deservingly command eye-watering figures on the second-hand market. Kalita now satisfy the thirst with the first ever official reissue of her entire discography.
The CD is accompanied by a mini-poster and includes extensive interview-based liner notes and never before seen photos, detailing Carrie and Bills' life and musical career.
Review: She may be best known as a TV and radio presenter, but Nigerian star Julie Coker also enjoyed a short but successful music career. She released two albums of note - highlife-focused 1976 debut "Ere Yon (Sweet Songs)" and 1981's more disco-centric "Tomorrow" - both of which now fetch eye-watering sums online. This fine retrospective showcases cuts from both of those sets, with the many highlights including the spacey, delay-laden highlife cheeriness of "Re Hese", the Clavinet-sporting disco-funk-goes-pop bounce of "It's All For You", the low-slung but rising, gospel influenced brilliance of "Gossiper Scandal Monger" and the heavily percussive, off-kilter goodness of album closer "Iyo-Re". You might also notice the intro of 'Ere Yon', which was recently sampled to great effect in Anderson .Paak's "Saviers Road"!
Motihar Trio, Schweizer Trio, Schoof & Wilen - "Yaad"
George Gruntz - "Djerbi"
The Albert Mangelsdorff Quartet - "Never Let It End"
Smoke - "Shelda"
Michael Naura Quartet - "Soledad De Murcia"
The MPS Rhythm Combination & Brass - "Timbales Calientes"
El Babaku - "El Babaku"
Hannibal & The Sunrise Orchestra - "Revelation"
Tony Scott & The Indonesian Allstars - "Burungkaka Tua"
Dave Pike Set - "Raga Jeeva Swara"
Review: As part of their ongoing 50th birthday celebrations, German jazz label MPS asked Italian musician and crate digger Nicola Conte to trawl through their archives for spiritual gold. The result is "Cosmic Forest", an eye-opening set of largely obscure and little known tracks originally recorded between 1965 and 75. There is much "straight-up" spiritual jazz to enjoy (Nathan Davis' "Evolution" being a prime example), but it's the cuts that draw on a wider palette of influences that really stand out. Check, for example, the Middle Eastern flourishes of George Gruntz's "Djerbi", the hippy-ish vocal bliss of The Third Wave's "Maiden Voyage", the meditative jazz raga that is "Yaad" by Motihar Trio, Schweizer Trio, Schoof & Wilen, and the tropical drums of "El Babaku" by El Babaku.
Review: During their continuing trawls through Patrick Cowley's archives, Dark Entries has uncovered a string of cover versions that the late, great San Francisco-based producer recorded between 1974 and '77. They've now decided to gather them together on Some Funkettes, a synthesizer-fired set that more than lives up to its title. Perhaps the most headline-grabbing number is a 10-minute re-creation of Donna Summer's Giorgio Moroder-produced electro-disco masterpiece, 'I Feel Love' - a record that Cowley famously remixed, but here re-imagines as a more spacey instrumental workout - but there's plenty elsewhere across the CD that's arguably even better. For proof, check Cowley's colourful synth-funk versions of 'Papa Was a Rolling Stone' and 'Do It Any Way You Wanna', and his brilliant interpretations of Herbie Hancock's 'Chameleon' (here re-named 'Spiked Punch').
Review: Having previously impressed with their reissue of Patrick Cowley's brilliant, all-synthesizer soundtrack to obscure '70s gay porn flick School Daze, Dark Entries and Honey Sound System once again join forces to shine a light on the high energy disco pioneer's work for San Francisco's Fox Studios. Unsurprisingly, it's another impressive collection, and features material recorded for a number of different pornographic films. There are naturally more up-tempo moments - see "Somebody To Love Tonight", which would later be re-recorded with Sylvester, and the synth-weirdness-meets-jazz-funk brilliance of "5oz of Funk" - but it's the impressively cosmic and exotic ambient moments, such as the stand-out "Timelink" and "Jungle Magic", that really stand out.