Review: Sam Shepherd's Melodies International imprint has barely put a foot wrong to date, serving up a string of must-have reissues. Predictably, the label's latest offering - a facsimile reissue of a thoroughly obscure but in-demand disco 7" from 1979 - is another belter. A-side "Back Into Your Heart" is particularly potent, offering a rich, cheery and pleasingly fuzzy dance through horn-heavy disco-funk pastures, with a loved-up lead vocal joined by cascading strings, intergalactic synth solos and energy-packed drums. Turn to the flip for "Dance, Dance, Dance", an urgent chunk of funk-fuelled disco-rock that's almost as essential as the majestic A-side.
Review: One of the few records Atlanta legend Lee Moses ever pressed, the highly sought after "Bad Girl" enjoys its first official reissue since 1967. So good it stretches over two sides, Moses' powerful bluesy delivery hits hard while the band keep a tight grip of his emotions from start to finish. Gutsy, grainy and still just as powerful as it was 52 years ago; there's a reason the original has consistently fetched triple figures among collectors for all this time.
Review: Longstanding San Fran soul troupe Monophonics celebrate the release of their fifth album last month with this cheeky 45". Taking The Four Seasons' forever-faved standard "Beggin'" and adding their own uptempo charm, polished guitars and yearning vocals, it's an impressive and respectful cover that's backed up all the way with a stone cold instrumental on the B. Some classics never grow old...
Review: Never pressed to 45 before, both firing sides are taken from Esther's debut album from 1969; Newport News, Virginia. Both cover versions, JJ Barnes' "Chains Of Love" is given gospel-funk muscle as Esther belts out her heart over an impeccably frenetic band while Joe Zawinul's instantly recognisable jazz standard "Walk Tall" gets a powerful spoken word flex. Gutsy business to the very core, this is a snapshot of Esther at her most ambitious, energetic and creative.
Review: The latest 7" missive from the Outta Sight camp features two more impossible-to-find rarities. On the A-side you'll find a storming chunk of horn-heavy, Hammond-rich funk from obscure US psychedelic band Mr Floods Party. Originally released on GM Records in 1971, the cut has long been an in-demand amongst Northern Soul collectors thanks to its stomping beat and impassioned vocals. Speaking of Northern Soul favourites, flip to the B-side for the greatest moment from short-lived Detroit soul group Fork In The Road. Originally released in 1970, "Can't Turn Around Now" is a thrillingly energetic workout full of heavy instrumentation, surging vocals and an even heavier backbeat.
Everything That Shines Ain't Gold (part one & two) (6:12)
Everything That Shines Ain't Gold (Floating Points edit) (4:38)
Review: You'll be unsurprised to learn that the latest reissue on Floating Points' Melodies imprint is of a record that is fiendishly hard to find. Collectors have long regarded "Everything That Shines Ain't Gold", a sumptuous funk-soul workout full of bold Hammond organ lines and jazzy guitar licks, as something of a "Holy Grail", so it's fantastic see the track getting a worthy reissue. For this edition, you'll find the full version (originally cut into two parts to fit on a 7") on side A, with a fresh Floating Points re-edit on the flip. His revision is naturally tastefully done, rolling with the sweetest instrumental passages before breaking into Moore's superb vocal.
Review: You'd probably have to take out a loan to buy an original, second-hand copy of Master Force's sole single, 1979's "Hey Girl", so this dinky reissue is more than welcome. The title track is a dewy-eyed slice of two-step soul sweetness rich in Curtis Mayfield style lead vocals, glistening guitars and trumpet solos that sound like they've been lifted from an early Herb Alpert recording. Arguably better for dancefloor plays is "Don't Fight The Feeling", a Clavinet-heavy disco-funk affair that boasts some brilliant group backing vocals and heaps of authentic New York flavour.
I Want To Thank You (KON Shine Your Light remix) (7:54)
I Want To Thank You (KON dub) (7:49)
Review: Having previously breathed new life into classic cuts from L.T.D, George Duke and Sylvester, Kon has now turned his attention to another all-time favourite: Alicia Myers' 1981 stunner "I Want To Thank You", a disco-era gospel-soul favourite that remains one of the era's most timeless club records. Working from the multi-track tapes, Kon teases out Myers' killer vocal - drenched in just the right amount of reverb and delay - atop a slightly stripped-back groove before giving it the full kitchen sink treatment. Just as good is the flipside Dub, which flits between beat-free sections and the track's killer groove in the manner of disco dubs from the early 1980s. The song itself may not have needed tampering with, but Kon's versions are genuinely superb.
Cold Diamond & Mink - "Let's Get Together" (instrumental) (4:22)
Review: We just love hearing new soul and funk. Sure, a rare single from the 60s or 70s goes a long way in satisfying our needs, but how good is it to hear NEW music!? That's why we rate Finland's Timmion imprint so highly; they always come through with the goods, and there isn't a single EP they've put out that hasn't interested us... or flown off our shelves! This time, Jonny Benavidez, Cold Diamond and Mink team up for the absolute sexiness that is "Let's Get Together", a seductive soul ballad that is bound to lit up the room instantly! The instrumental is rather fine, too.
Review: If you're a talented soul vocalist who wants an authentically fuzzy late 1960s sound, you could do worse than join forces with Timmion Records' in-house backing band, Cold Diamond & Mink. They're in fine form here providing admirable backing to rising star Carlton Jumel Smith. "Love Our Love Affair" is undeniably attractive, with Smith's confident and emotion-rich vocal rising above the band's hazy horns, languid trumpet solos, sun-bright guitar licks and lolloping, hip-hop style funk-soul beats. As is customary, the band's tidy instrumental version can be found - and enjoyed - on the flip.
Review: Short-lived Pennsylvania funk troupe Maxwell might be recognisable from a few cheeky compilation cameos with their "Radiation Funk" track. A cult success in their local charts, it took decades for it too see beyond the Columbia city limits and become a secret weapon for diggers and collectors. Now reissued officially for the first time, it's fronted by the unreleased A-side "Meltdown". Another track written in response to an accident at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979, it packs a big vocal punch, tight playing, infectious hooks and blasts of percussive funk. This sure ain't no junk.
Review: San Francisco psychedelic soul ensemble Monophonics were once described by Stax Records co-owner Al Bell as "one of the best soul bands I have ever seen", which is high praise indeed. Mirrors, which comes pressed onto clear green vinyl, is the combo's fifth full-length and first album for three years. It's a surprisingly breezy and eclectic affair, with the band variously turning their hands to bluesy, Rare Earth style funk-rock ("Lying"), Hammond-heavy peak-time business (a tasty cover of Frankie Valli's "Beggin"), spiraling instrumental wig-outs (fabulous closer "California Dreaming"), heart-aching torch songs ("My Heart Cries") and laidback, acid-fried Balearic soul (opener "Summer Breeze"). In other words, it's a fine album that sparkles from start to finish.
Review: Soul4Real's latest seven-inch release is rather special for one specific reason: it boasts two previously unheard 1968 recordings by Dallas vocal soul group the Masqueraders. Both were recorded at the legendary American Sound Studio in Uptown Memphis at a time when an astonishing 25% of the records in the Billboard Top 100 (according to the label's liner notes, the backing band on this session included Bobby Womack on guitar) originated there. "Prophet Of Love" is a particularly sweet chunk of harmonic soul, with the Masqueraders' providing the kind of dewy-eyed vocals that wouldn't have sounded out of place on earlier doo-wop records. Over on the flip "You're The One" has a more Phil Spector "wall of sound" kind of feel and a more lolloping rhythm track.
Review: Finland's Timmion Records should, by now, be categorised as leaders in the leftfield soul game. Their catalogue contains a wealth of both old and new talents and, whenever we see that famous 'TRI' sign hit our shelves, we just know we're in for the good shit. Thankfully, this new collaboration by the mysterious Cold Diamond and Mink is right up there with the rest of the label's wacky, soulful mind-melters, except that here we head into even deeper quarters. The 7" contains two parts of "Queen Of Soul", a rough, wavy piece of lo-fi strumming that uses its wonderfully exchoing guitars to guide the listener into a state of total psychedelia. We love it, and we suggest you to cop one now before it pops up for the triple the price in a decade's time. Bliss.
Review: Fresh from this year's Cordial collection comes this outstanding 12". The lead track is his most famous "Signs Of A Dying Love". Presented in all its full-length glory, listen to those powerful backing singers and hear why OG copies have gone for over 300 quid. Remix wise the previously unreleased "How I Feel For You" gets the rub from Ourra (big funk swing), DJ Spinna (thumping gospel boogie) and Sean P (full on vocal belter), each one a sign of a lovely release.