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: 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: 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: Since first emerging 23 years ago, Turkish outfit Baba Zula has developed a distinctive take on their homeland's psych-funk and psych-rock traditions, offering up albums that combine elements of occidental musical culture with low slung psychedelic rock grooves, spacey electronics and the delay-laden hum of dub. It's this unique fusion of past, present and future sounds from Middle Eastern and Western culture that makes their latest album - their first for five years - such a rewarding and enjoyable listen. While unique and hard to pigeonhole, each of the ten tracks is undeniably impressive, wonderfully evocative, genuinely atmospheric and - as you'd expect given their roots - more psychedelic than tea with Timothy Leary on the moon.
Review: BBE continue to explore the little-known catalogue of Ghanaian athlete-turned-musician Sidiku Buari, whose West African style takes on disco and boogie made him a surprise star on the New York underground in the late 1970s. Here they offer up a fresh pressing of "Disco Soccer", a brilliantly vibrant and over-the-top set of NYC disco floor-fillers that's been stretched out across two slabs of wax (the original album was a single LP) to ensure a more dancefloor-friendly cut. Highlights include the bass-heavy, Moog-laden hustle of "I'm Ready", the Patrick Adams-esque brilliance of "Hard Times", the intoxicating, high-octane thrills of "African Hustle" and the pitched-down sweetness of "Games We Used To Play".
Review: Recorded in 1983 and '84 respectively, "Feelings" and "Sidiku Buari & His Jam Busters" were the last albums recorded by Sidiku Buari, a New York based musician who turned to music after a promising career as an athlete in his native Ghana. He initially rose to prominence making highlife and afro-disco, but by the early '80s Sidiku was in full-on Afro-boogie and electrofunk mode, offering up tracks rich in colourful synthesizer lines, punchy electronic drums and righteous vocals in his native tongue. There's much to set the pulse racing across both slabs of wax, from the squelchy, club-ready brilliance of "Music" and "Anokwar (Truth)", to the slap bass propelled flex of "Minsumobo", dub disco grooves of "Karambani" and flute-laden breeziness of "Rhythm Of Africa".
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: Ever since its' initial 1983 release, Ahmed Fakroun's debut album, Mots D'Amour has been considered something of a global fusion classic by Balearic-minded record collectors. Initially released by legendary label Celluloid - home to some genuinely genre-bending electro, post-punk and experimental World Music - the well regarded full-length saw the Libyan singer/songwriter/musician blend traditional Arabic instrumentation and vocal harmonies with the distinctive shimmer of synthesizers, and typically Western pop production. 33 years on, the album has lost none of its' potency, with the breezy, English language track "Love Words", Talking Heads-ish "Soleil Soleil" and cheery "Kalimat Hob" standing out.
Tony Antoniou - "Send In The Night" (instrumental mix)
Spats - "Hot Summer Madness"
Banzai - "Runaway"
Review: For the latest volume in their crate-digging disco series, Under The Influence, Z Records has turned to long-serving British brothers Simon and Robin Lee AKA Faze Action. In keeping with the series' dusty-fingered ethos, there's plenty of brilliant rarities to set the pulse racing - see the smooth '80s boogie of Leston Paul's "All Nite Tonight", the sublime Afro-disco brilliance of Bebe Manga, the up-tempo hustle of Oscar Perry's "Body Movements" and the South American disco swirl of Don Lurio's "Ruba Ruba" - as well as a smattering of obscure versions of classic dancefloor hits (check Michele Claire's version of "In The Bush"). You'll also find a smattering of killer Faze Action edits, too, with their version of Midway's "Set It Out" and Mikki's freestyle-era boogie ham "Dance Lover" standing out.
Review: Point Of No Return, the 1974 debut album by Nigerian combo the Funkees, has long been a sought-after set amongst those who dig for Afro-Funk and Afro-Rock fusion. Here, the inspired set gets a CD reissue for the very first time. It's a fine set, all told, with much of the material sounding not unlike similarly minded British combo Cymande, who burst onto the scene two years before the Funkees made their recording debut. Dotted throughout the album you'll find fuzzier, harder-edged cuts inspired by psychedelic rock, and the electric piano-laden, William Onyeabor-ish bounce of the inspired title track. If you're in the mood for heavy percussion, wild organ lines and even heavier guitars, this should be an essential purchase.
Groove Ma Poule (feat Djeuhdjoah & Lieutenant Nicholson)
Daddy Sweet (feat Pat Kalla)
Li Dous Konsa
Sa Ce Kado
Shake It & Rise Up
Nosso Carimbo E Do Mundo (feat Pinduca & Nazar Peirera)
Se Nou Menm
Boug Bagay La
Penda (feat Emma Lamadji & Kandy Guira)
Review: Under the Guts guise, instrumental hip-hop beat-maker turned tropical soul enthusiast Fabrice Franck Henri has become one of Heavenly Sweetness' most reliable artists. "Philantropiques" is Henri's first album for three years and could well be his most expansive and adventurous to date. The set's 15 tracks are as colourful and musically rich as you'd expect, with the storied producer and a range of vocal collaborators conjuring up tracks that draw influence from a myriad of Central American, Caribbean, South American and African styles. The results are uniformly excellent, with highlights including the tropical shuffle of "Mucagiami (feat Vum Vum)", the sun-kissed French Caribbean funk of "Daddy Sweet (feat Pat Kalla)", the Afro-Tropical rush of "Kenk Corner" and the synth-powered brilliance of "Shake It & Rise Up".