Review: For their latest deep dive into forgotten and sought-after African music, Mr Bongo has secured the rights to reissue Togolese singer Akofa Akoussah's eponymous 1976 debut album. Akoussah was already something of a scene veteran when she recorded the set for Paris-based Sonafric, having made her vinyl debut in Togo 11 years earlier. The set remains something of a classic, with Akoussah variously delivering sweet vocals over local rhythms and guitars, bass, horns and Moog synth parts that showcase her Western funk and soul influences. There are some suitably heavy dancefloor workouts throughout (not least superb opener "Tango") as well as more laidback and stripped-back cuts. Curiously, the echo-laden production makes it sound like it was recorded in the mid '60s rather than the 1970s, but that's no criticism; it just adds an extra edge of intoxicating fuzziness.
Review: Don't be fooled by the smoky jazzy horns on the intro: The Allergies are still at the front of the party queue! They were just lulling us into a false sense of security before hitting us with a precision range of big soul swingers and dynamite party killers; both "Hold You Close" and "Since You've Been Gone" pop with big beat bangs, "Entitled To That" stamps and sweats like Wigan Pier is still holding the best dances in the country, "Main Event" parps and pumps while long-standing affiliate Andy Cooper reminds us who's boss while "It Won't Be Me" (also with Cooper) is coded with so much horn and guitar powered gusto you could be fooled into thinking Ugly Duckling are back. Yet another triumphant album from one of Jalapeno's most exciting acts.
Room Enough For Us (feat Ray Lugo - Terrificos mix)
Review: The Alma Afrobeat Ensemble is a ten-piece outfit from Barcelona created, in part, to pay tribute to the pioneering work of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen, amongst others. It's Time is their third full-length, and comprises both new material, and fresh remixes of previous work. In the former category, you'll find the thrilling, horn-heavy brilliance of "It's Time", and the slower, organ rich thrills of "Lost". As fine as these tracks are, it's the dancefloor-ready reworks that arguably hit home hardest. Highlights include DJ Quiet's low-slung, broken beat influenced interpretation of "DWB Breakdown", Los Kalakos killer dub rework of "Lost", and the subtle Afro-house infusions of Terrificos' remix of "Room Enough For Us
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: Initially released in South Africa in 1982, Gyedu-Blay Ambolley's sophomore set is now regarded as a boogie-era Highlife classic. Here issued on CD for the very first time via Mr Bongo, the album features the Ghanaian star brilliantly joining the dots between driving disco-funk, jazz-funk, intoxicating slow jams, calypso, dub reggae and his beloved highlife. Highlights come thick and fast throughout, with standouts including heavy percussion jam "Simigwa", the boogie-dub skank of "Adwoa", the down-low grooves of "Walking Down The Street" and the killer disco highlife anthem "It's High Life". Simply essential.
Review: Rotterdam is one of the many big port cities around the world that welcomed a high number of Cape Verdean immigrants. In the 1970s, Americo Brito was one of them and he soon got involved with the local music scene and found an ever larger community of likeminded talents. He took to the stage with his band and made for a buzzy little scene that found them tour with their own sound system. Here he works with Rotterdam local Arp Frique to serve up Cape Verdean music old and new with plenty of traditional Funana and Coladeira sounds next to jams influenced by wave, disco and funk, jazz, reggae and Latin pop.
Review: Building on his Brownswood debut earlier this year - "Go See" on the label's deep-digging We Out Here collection - Ezra Collective's pianist and composer lays down his most expansive and expressive body of work to date. Weighing in at near album size, it's a powerful experience from the off as Afrikan Revolution's Asheber sets a political framework and sense of freshness and unity on the title track. Elsewhere we're treated to hazy bluesy hip-hop on "Ragify", raw freeform fizz on "London's Face" and soul-soothing narratives in the form of "Mollison Dub". Stunning.
Review: Joe Armon-Jones has been a driving force in the resurgence of contemporary jazz and now makes something of a victory lap with this new album on the always essential Brownswood. It's a very modern mix of bass and dub, du jour club culture and his own jazz styles featuring peers like Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia. Frankly, the whole record is silky, starry-eyed and sublime and the excellent artwork also hist at the cosmic subtleties of this album, but our picks of the bunch are the neo-soul, summery stroll through the park vibes of "Yellow Dandelion", "Gnawa Sweet" which glows with mellifluous Rhodes chords and the uncompromising yet accessible sax and big brass action of album highlight "You Didn't Care".
Review: According to Brownswood Recordings, Dayme Arocena took a conscious decision to opt for a more "stripped back" sound on her latest album, which marks her fourth full-length excursion for Gilles Peterson's admirable imprint. That's certainly the impression given by the opening track, "Nangareo", which sees the Cuban singer layer her own spoken and sung vocals over the sounds of lapping waves and moody, elongated synthesizer chords. It offers a striking introduction to an Afro-Cuban jazz set that smartly incorporates elements of both samba and the distinctive drum rhythms associated with her home country (as well as some superb chanted vocals). As a result, "Sonocardiogram" has an ear-pleasing vibrancy that encourages repeat listens.
Review: Dutch dude Arp Frique won plenty of praise for his 2017 debut 12" on Rush Hour Store Jams, which featured contributions from Senegalese and Cape Verde musicians. On this surprise debut album, he continues the same approach, delivering a scintillating set of tracks that gleefully join the dots between Afro-disco, jazz-funk, boogie, Caribbean reggae-disco, bossa-soul and the kind of up-tempo, synth-laden madness that defies easy categorization. Throughout, the presence of live drums, vocals and instrumentation gives the album a loose and fluid feel, as if what we're listening to is not a fresh album, but rather a long lost African rarity from the turn of the '80s. As debut albums go, it's a bit of a corker.
What I'd Do For Love (Portuguese version - bonus track)
Review: On his previous albums for Favorite, Brazilian Lucas Arruda has proved adept at adapting a range of vintage sounds from his home country - most notably 1970s MPB, jazz-funk and jazz-fusion, as well as 1980s boogie - into tasty new songs. He's at it again on "Onda Nova", his first album for four years. This time round, he's added a little blue-eyed soul, AOR and West Coast jazz-rock flavour into the mix alongside his usual breezy blend of ear-catching Brazilian style (check, for example, the Michael McDonald-ish vibes of English language cut "What I'd Do For Love" and the guitar solo-laden smoothness of "Heaven's In Your Arms"). It's a blend that guarantees glassy-eyed and loved-up thrills throughout.
Review: These days, Mulatu Astatke is widely considered to be the "Godfather of Ethiopian jazz". Yet when he recorded the two-part "Afro-Latin Soul" album in 1966, he'd just left music college in Boston. As this fine reissue proves, Astatke was years ahead of the game. While rooted in American jazz from the period, all 19 tracks (both albums have been compiled on to a single disc for this edition) draw heavily on Cuban jazz, in particular, as well as Ethiopian musical traditions. In truth, the latter aspect doesn't come through quite as strongly as you'd perhaps expect, though some of the album's highlights - the brilliant "Soul Power" in particular - draw more heavily on the percussive polyrhythms of Africa. Regardless, this is a superb set of forward-thinking global jazz that delivers high quality entertainment from start to finish.
Review: Last year, Strut reissued the earliest albums in Mulatu Astatke's catalogue - 1966's "Afro-Latin Soul Part 1 & 2". This quality collection from Buda Musique picks up the story three years later, when the man who would become known as the "Godfather of Ethiopian Jazz" was beginning to establish himself as a true pioneer. The compilation draws on work recorded between 1969 and '74 in Boston, New York and London, most of which explores Astatke's unique and distinctive fusion of turn-of-the-'70s US jazz, dancefloor-friendly jazz-funk, Afro-Cuban rhythms and traditional Ethiopian music. While some of the recordings are fiendishly fuzzy and lo-fi, there's no arguing with the quality of Astatke's composition, playing and production. In fact, it's a near perfect introduction to his now familiar "Ethio-jazz" style.
Kathy Kosins & Paul Randolph - "Could You Be Me?" (Theo Ss translation)
Tatham, Mensah, Lord & Ranks - "Cascade"
Cotonete - "Earth Overshoot Day" (Hugo LX remix)
Cro-Magnon - "Midnight Magic" (feat Roy Ayers)
Freeeze - "Stay"
Grooveman Spot - "Do The Dance"
Root Soul - "My Dream Came True"
Kip Hanrahan - "Her Boyfriend Assesses His Value & Pleads His Case"
Nicole Willis - "Curiosity" (Zanzibar remix)
Velvet Hammer - "Party Hardy" (Alex Attias edit)
Material With Nona Hendryx - "Over & Over"
Sunaga T Experience - "It's You" (Disco Alert mix)
Paul Johnson - "Better Than This" (Soul Talk remix)
Review: Veteran Swiss DJ/producer Alex Attias has long been one of Europe's more versatile and open-minded DJs, so it's fitting that BBE have given him a chance to flex his curatorial muscles. LillyLillyGood, which shares its name with a monthly party and label Attias runs, was inspired by Attias's desire to present "really good grooves that people want to dance to or listen to or home". He's done just that, whizzing through an unmixed selection that giddily flits between trippy, polyrhythmic acid madness (Grooveman Spot), jaunty jazz-funk (Freeeze, Cro Magnon's ultra-deep hook-up with Roy Ayers), synth-fuelled broken beat business (Tatham, Mensah, Lord and Ranks), deliciously spacey deep house (the Zanzibar remix of Nicole Willis's "Curiosity") and killer disco (Attias's own edit of Velvet Hammer's "Party Hearty").
Review: Celebrating 50 years of one of the most definitive fusion records ever made, Now Again present the most fitting remaster Axelrod's critically acclaimed debut album Song Of Innocence has ever had. An immense piece of work that pays homage to William Blake and brought together nodes and notions of rock, classical, funk, psychedelic and boogaloo, this reissue comes straight from the original masters with engineering and consultation from Axelrod's production partner H B Barnum, original keyboardist Don Randi, his widow Terri and producer T-Ray. Still as complex and cosmic and sounding better than ever.