Review: It's been almost 11 years since Featurecast dropped their heavyweight revision of Aretha Franklin's "One Step" on Wah Wah 45's "Dubplate" series. Here the sought-after side is finally given the reissue treatment. It remains one of their finest revisions: a loose, languid and head-nodding fusion of hip-hop beats, subtle dub skank, occasional Marvin Gaye samples and seduction sections from Aretha's sugary, string-drenched original. Over on side B you'll find another gem from Featurecast's vaults: a tidy hip-hop style revision of Marvin Gaye's "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" from 2016, which was made in collaboration with Washington D.C pal The Gaff.
Review: Another week, another masterful 7" reissue from the unstoppable Athens Of The North. Moreover, it's another sublime find from the label, and it sticks closer to their usual trick of finding one-off soul singles from much coveted artists of the '70s and '80s. Felony Theft only released this one single back in 1972, "When You Have Love", but you can understand why AOTN would want to resurface its dusty percussion for the modern audience; it's one of those rare tunes that sounds like nothing else from the genre, a quirky piece of magic for the diggers. "Run For Cover" is fun, upbeat but less alluring than its A-side sibling, but that is not to say that it isn't also a fine slice of soul-funk mastery. Go.
Review: New Zealand-born Lance Ferguson has been the beating heart of Melbourne's modern funk and soul scene for the best part of two decades. It's this that allowed him to gather many of the city's best musicians together to record "Rare Groove Spectrum", an album of fresh covers of rare and classic funk, soul and Latin jams. This sampler seven-inch contains two killer covers. On the A you'll find Ferguson and company charging through the deep funk brilliance of "Egg Roll", an instrumental track that first rose to prominence when Keb Darge reissued an un-credited test pressing of mysterious origin. Over on the flip, Ferguson's charges deliver a heady, exotic and intoxicating interpretation of "The Dump" by Soul Vibrations.
Review: Having enjoyed a help in hand courtesy of the Arts Council-funded "Future Bubblers" project and mentor Esa (whose Afro-synth band he played in), Forest Law has graduated to the Brownswood Recordings roster. The producer and multi-instrumentalist has a wide palette of influences, but is particularly interested in West African and Brazilian music. These inspirations naturally come to the fore on this inspired debut, which gathers together three tracks bristling with effervescent Latin-percussion, Afrobeat-influenced grooves, Afro-synth electronics and vocals - presumably provided by the artist himself - that sound a little like Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor. It's an alluring blend that results in three fine cuts, of which A-side "New Thoughts New Eyes" - a future dancefloor classic, we reckon - being the pick of a very strong bunch.
Review: The Foster Jackson Group are one of those forgotten but highly coveted one-hit disco wonders that exist in the bottomless pit that is often classed simply as 'soul'. All that aside, these people made an incredible 12" back in 1979 that has been going for serious bucks on the second-hand market, but thankfully the prodigious P&P Records have saved the day yet again. "Feel The Spirit" is a devilish, inimitable disco jingle that is split between the more percussion ridden "Long Disco Version", and a more contained, more floor-focussed "Disco Version" They both contain that instantly addictive dose of piano, though. Check it out, you'll know what we mean...
Review: The latest missive from France's Stereophonk imprint is a heavy double header focused on the production and remix work of cut-and-paste funk and soul heroes Funky Bijou. On side A you'll find a fresh slab of P-funk flavoured B-Boy breaks from the Gallic production twosome that wraps classic early '80s rap samples and excitable synth solos around punchy electro beats and a squidgy synthesizer bassline. On the flip they give their interpretation of the Baker Brothers' 2011 track "Snap Back", re-imagining it as a Clavinet-heavy slab of hazy soul rich in blue-eyed vocals, Funkadelic style synth stabs, squelchy bass and crunchy machine drums.
Come Back To Me (Soopasoul remix - instrumental) (3:22)
Review: DJ Soopasoul has previously breathed new life into tracks by Croatian producer Funky Destination, so it's little surprise to see him putting his spin on the Osijek-based artist's latest missive. He does a terrific job, offering up vocal and instrumental versions of "Come Back To Me" rich in long, tension-building intros, fuzzy funk horns, bass-heavy grooves, swirling orchestration and hard-wired guitar riffs. While the instrumental version is tidy, our pick of the pair is undoubtedly the A-side remix. We're not sure who the lead vocalist is, but her delivery is incredible. Don't sleep on this one!
Review: The latest limited 7" single from the Beats & Breaks camp features subtle, DJ-friendly edits of two break-diggin' favourites. On the A-side, Juice's 1976 jazz-funk B-side "Catch a Groove" gets tweaked and extended, with lengthier passages of drum breaks at the beginning and end, as well as a sizeable percussion workout midway through. Turn to the flip for a similarly minded treat of Fuzzy Haskins' album-only cut "The Fuz & The Dog", where jazzy guitar licks and riotous horns buzz around a heavy, Blaxploitation-inspired funk groove. While less well known than the A-side, it's arguably the stronger of the two tracks; certainly, its extended percussive break is particularly suitable for hip-hop style doubling up.
Review: Tennessee's legendary jazz pianist, Harold Mabern, is surely one of the kings of the mighty Prestige label, and his material helped bridge the gap between jazz and funk back in the 1970s, alongside the likes of Idris Muhammad, The Jimmy Castor Bunch and all those geniuses. "I Want You Back" is a stone-cold classic and contains one of the most hummable trumpet lines ever, and if you hear closely it's been reworked and sampled by none other than the King of pop when he was only a little one. Funk Inc's sublime "Sister Janie" resides on the flip, a more lo-fi funk bullett for the diggers, and complete with a dusty organ!
Review: Those who've studied the history of hip-hop will know the crucial role these two tracks played in the early Bronx block party scene. Later down the line, golden era hip-hop artists extensively sampled both records, making their breaks amongst the most recognizable in rap. On the A-side you'll find The Mighty Ryeders hazy, glassy-eyed 1970s soul classic "Evil Vibrations", a cut that many will recognize from its use in De La Soul's "A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays". Over on side B there's a chance to savour Family Tree's disco-funk era workout "Family Tree", a heavier affair that remains as fresh in 2020 as it did when it was first released in 1975.
Review: New Zealand-born Lance Ferguson has been the beating heart of Melbourne's modern funk and soul scene for the best part of two decades. It's this that allowed him to gather many of the city's best musicians together to record "Rare Groove Spectrum", an album of fresh covers of rare and classic funk, soul and Latin jams. There are some killer versions to be found amongst the 11 tracks on offer. We're particularly enjoying the collective's riotous instrumental revision of Pleasure classic "Joyous", the strutting deep funk heaviness of "Egg Roll" (a similarly restless cover of a mysterious but much-played cut that should be familiar to dusty-fingered diggers and knowledgeable dancers) and the sumptuous summer breeze that is the combo's meandering take on Earth, Wind and Fire staple "Brazilian Rhyme". It is, though, all superb.
Review: By the time he recorded "Brazilian Dorian Dream" in 1976, Brazilian composer, musician, producer and bandleader Manfedo Fest had already worked on countless bossa-nova, samba and jazz albums, both in the United States and his native Brazil. Yet the album, which Far Out has now reissued, is like nothing else he recorded before or after - and not just because it was based on "the principle of the modal diatonic scales of the Dorian mode". Musically, it's deliciously vibrant and colourful, combining elements of his native Brazilian samba and bossa-nova with Azymuth style jazz-funk, American jazz-fusion, and futuristic, then cutting edge synthesizer sounds. Above all, though, the album strikes a near perfect balance between funkiness and the sweet sunniness that defines some of the greatest Brazilian music.
Review: 17 albums deep and Lee Fields still has something to say. Arm in arm with longstanding band The Expressions, the troupe dig deep an impeccable roll of soul: The soft harmonies and yearning horns of "I'm Coming Home", the light electronic elements on the rhythm of the hazy, laidback torch song "Never Be Another You", the swooning blues of "Let Him In", the almost highlife sparkle to the guitars on "Where Is The Love"... Each of the ten tracks hits with a freshness, energy and realness that few - if any - 70s troubled troubadours could muster. Essential.
Review: Although he's released a swathe of albums with his contemporary jazz ensemble and a quartet of collaborative sets alongside Warren Hampshire, "The Mage" actually marks Greg Foat's first solo full-length outing. It's been a long time coming but well worth the wait, as the talented pianist and producer works his way through an evocative set of tracks that variously touch on sax-laden funk breaks ("The Mage", "The High Priestess"), intergalactic synthesizer soundscapes ("Incantation"), slo-mo jazz-funk mood pieces (the spellbinding "The Magic Radish"), folksy ambient jazz ("Driftin'") and beautiful, pastoral pieces that recall Charles Stepney's work with Rotary Connection ("Endless Love", "Of My Hands"). The result is a fittingly brilliant album from one of British jazz's most talented participants.