Nick Pride and the Pimptones DON’T TURN ME LOOSE Legere Recordings
We’ve been listening to a lot of eclectic music recently in the RMHQ office recently, with plenty of good …. nay; great musical surprises that we’ve been bringing to you on an almost daily basis. Then, last week Nick from Nick Pride and the Pimptones sent me an early copy of the band’s latest single, DON’T TURN ME LOOSE …… and ……. minds were blown in, of all places ……. the RMHQ kitchen! After less than 20 seconds I was shuffling along to the melody and by the time Mrs Magpie made an appearance a minute later I was full on dancing! That hasn’t happened in a long while, that’s for sure. I’ve been a fan for quite a few years now, and I’m always prepared for changes, no matter how radical ……. but here, the band go back to their …. and my Roots …… as this is pure Northern Soul Gold! The band sound like they are playing an encore at Wigan Casino or more locally St. Dom’s in the Newcastle Latin Quarter; and as for singer Eliza Lawson …….. phwoar ……. what a voice! Sensual, expressive and oh so Soulful. The even better news is that there’s a whole new album called IDEOLOGY (hopefully of the same style) coming in September ………. stock up now on talcum powder and chewing gum kids.
Smouldering Soul and Fiery Funk From a Master-Craftsman.
I’ve always had eclectic musical tastes, but Funk and Jazz-Funk have mostly passed me by; probably because I associate both with Nightclubs, and being the boring old sod I was as a young man, hardly ever visited such establishments. Oddly enough; the older I got the more intrigued I became; but apart from a couple of George Benson, Commodores, Jeffrey Osborne (and Various Artist) albums, the RMHQ cupboard is bare. So, I grabbed the opportunity to review this with both hands! I presume most people reading this already know Maceo Parker’s backstory; and if you don’t there’s more than enough on the internet to fill a Tuesday evening in; so I will get straight into the music! The ‘groove’ starts with more relish than a NY Hot Dog on opening track Cross The Track; a slinky dance floor filler that’s just as listenable in the comfort of your own home; but be prepared to find yourself dancing when you least expect it. I don’t even know if Nightclubs still exist; but if they do just like that first song; most every cut here is destined to make you want to cut a rug; with or without the love of your life opposite you. For the unaccustomed like myself there’s a glorious mix of old and new songs here; all sprinkled with Parker’s saxophonic diamond dust and superbly soulful singing voice. Of the songs I recognised the Good Doctor’s Right Place/Wrong Time gets a 21st Century makeover, with the Voodoo slightly diluted but the Funk turned up to the MAX! Then there’s The Meters’s, Just Kissed My Baby which I actually have on a VA album; but hardly recognised in this format which sounds like something Allen Toussaint may have recorded; which isn’t as odd as you’d think; because Maceo follows it with a reworking of Toussaint’s own Yes We Can, Can ……… which sounds as cool as it’s apt in the current Geo-Political climate! I’ve never really been a Prince fan; but Parker’s slow and soulful rendering of the Purple One’s Other Side of The Pillow sounds as if Parker had been listening to Brook Benton and Nat King Cole on the ride to the studio; and that’s meant as a huge compliment. While not my favourite Aretha song; Maceo and friends really do add extra edge and Funk (of course) to Rock Steady and bring it right up to date. Of the new tracks; Hard Times evokes more memories of the Blue Note Club than it will Studio 54; and it adds a really cool vibe to an otherwise uptempo album. I’m not sure when Compared To What was first written; but it’s got a real hard edge to the Maceo’s message in the lyrics; and without being outright angry; it could easily be the Sound of Summer 2020 across America, in the way that Curtis and Marvin managed many moons ago. Which brings me to my Official Favourite Song here; it was very, very nearly the finale Grazing in The Grass with Parker’s saxophone sounding almost Angelic; but man you have to have big cajones to include a song MACEO; (instrumental actually) named after yourself; but Maceo Parker does it with poise, self-assurance and Class with a capital C. This is Maceo Parker’s 16th full length album; but the first in 8 years and …… yes indeed; it’s been well worth the wait.
I’ve mentioned before that we receive albums from a variety of sources; and this one came after Ramon’s ‘team’ contacted a Radio DJ friend of mine; Jack Kidd who liked the album so much he suggested that they contact RMHQ as it might be something we too might like. Jack and I have similar, if eclectic taste when it comes to ‘Blues Music’ and he wasn’t wrong. If you were in a record shop and spotted this CD; you’d be right in thinking that the title ‘said it all’ ……. it does, and in quite a special fashion. Cuban musician Ramon Taranco has lived in Canada for quite a few years now and has invented his own hybrid that combines Cuban Rhythms with Cool Canadian Blues and the world is a better place for it. While the story within opening track Desperate Love is as sad as sad can be; Ramon and his band hit a groove right from the first few notes and even I found myself moving my shoulders in time to the music. Quite contemporary at first listening; but after a couple of plays the searing guitar licks; swashbuckling keyboards and Family Stone influenced bass n drums combine with Taranco’s wonderful voice to stop you in your tracks and demand that you listen. The older I get the more I find myself actually listening to and deciphering the songs themselves; and not letting the tunes wash over me as I did in my youth ……and there are some crackers here. As you’d expect with a Cuban-Blues hybrid; the melodies and actual tunes are always danceable …… that’s a given; but Taranco’s songs Love Survives and Devil Can Blues; although from opposite ends of the spectrum will both be just as effective if just accompanied by a single acoustic guitar; but in this format they are a bit fabulous. As I checked out the album sleeve while listening the first night, I was instantly drawn to Suicide Hotel Boogie …… well; who wouldn’t? Thankfully it’s not the type of story I’d normally associate with the Grunge Bands; this is a lively tale and something of a leftfield love song; with one helluva stomping beat. Another title I was drawn to was The New York Shuffle; which turns out not to be the Graham Parker song after all; but a song driven by a funky-ass bass that evokes memories of Blood Sweat and Tears, Bozz Scaggs and War at their finest. Not for the first nor I’m sure the last time this year; I’m torn between two disparate tracks for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song; the smoky shuffle that is Take Her Dancing is always going to be a contender; but Complicate Blues has really grown on me. Not a conventional melody, as it criss-crosses Jazz, Funk, Blues and I guess Cuban rhythms and the way Taranco sings it, he actually uses his voice as an instrument in its own rite; so after some internal debate ………… COMPLICATE BLUES is my favourite track here; probably. Apparently this is Taranco’s third album; and that maturity comes across in the way each and every song is constructed; all individual but combining to create a wonderful package.
Robert Randolph & The Family Band Brighter Days Provogue/Mascot Records
An Emotional Roller-coaster Gospel, Soul, Rhythm & Blues Fusion With Added Funkliciousness.
Hallelujah Brothers and Sisters! I’ve been having something of a wobble recently regarding the carrying on the site; then along comes this exciting, and it has to be said ‘Thrill a Minute’ Gospellish Blues AND Soul album from someone I’ve never heard of to lift my Spirits and restore my Faith in the Glory of Great Music! Apparently Robert Randolph started his illustrious career playing pedal-steel alongside a Gospel Choir in Church and that glorious combination comes alive again on the Fire and Brimstone Gospel-Soul hybrid that makes up opening track Baptise Me and never goes away. Obviously Randolph’s steel guitars are front and centre here; but there is so much more going on here it’s easy to forget that as choirs come and go, the bass player thinks he’s in Sly Stone’s ‘Family Band’ and the drummer plays as if his life depends on it…… oh; and Randolph has one Helluva sounding voice too. For the uninitiated this is one Powerful album; in both words and deeds; with songs like Have Mercy and the gently beautiful I Need You sounding like they wouldn’t have been out of place on a George Benson or Jeffrey Osborne album; while Strange Train and Don’t Fight It need the dial turned to 11 to get the best from them; if your speakers can take the bass. Randolph takes us on a veritable emotional and physical Rollercoaster ride, making us think deeply on Simple Man, then rocking our Souls when necessary and then breaking our hearts with Secondhand Man and then Cry Over Me featuring the delightful voice of Lanesha Randolph. Choosing a Favourite Track was a little easier than I at first thought it would be; as the more I’ve played BRIGHTER DAYS (which is the perfect title for this collection btw) one song has stuck in my brain like an earworm; the funklicious I’m Living Off The Love You Give, which throws Stevie, The Staple Singers and Prince into a melting pot then adds Randolph’s own special blend of spices and comes out the other end with an R&B song that punches you right in the centre of the heart so hard it will make your eyes pop! While my references are from my own back catalogue; this album and the wild instrumentation is very much of the ‘Now’ 2019. Hearing this album was akin to hearing Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions for the very first time……….. it was a game changer for me; mixing Rock & Roll with Soul, Blues and the Cosmos and creating something I’d never heard before. Yep, Robert Randolph has taken a whole load of influences and rung the living daylights out of them, until he has created a very, very distinctive sound that will make your feet tap and your heart dance.
Blue Note Records are Set To Release a Vinyl Reissue Series In Celebration Of Their 80th Anniversary.
In honor of Blue Note Records’ 80th anniversary, the legendary Jazz label is launching the Blue Note 80 Vinyl Reissue Series. Distinct from the Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series, this 2nd series, curated by Don Was and Cem Kurosman, features mid-priced 180g vinyl releases in standard packaging with albums spanning the many eras of the label’s history presented by themes: Blue Note Debuts, Blue Grooves, Great Reid Miles Covers, Blue Note Live, and Blue Note Drummer Leaders. The series launches on May 10th with the reissue of 3 Blue Note debuts—Herbie Hancock Takin’ Off, Dexter Gordon Doin’ Allright Robert Glasper Canvas
and will continue with 3 albums released each month for the coming year.
I have two problems with album; firstly every time I play it I just get lost in the music and don’t get around to writing an actual review (hence this is now a month after the release date!) and secondly……. I’m damned if I can decide if this is Blues, Jazz, Country Rock or most likely, a fusion of all three! As I understand it Cole & Logan Layman are siblings who have played music together all of their lives, eventually forming a trio with percussionist and trumpet and flugelhorn player extraordinaire Hamed Barbarji in 2015 and eventually co-opting drummer Nick Davidson into the ensemble in 2017…..for everything else you can Google them! The title track Strong Roots eases us into a veritable smorgasbord of sultry, sassy and occasionally brooding hybrid of all that I love about Southern Music. That damn trumpet sure does give this cool Soul track a Jazzy tinge; but when Cole Layman slips and slides his guitar into a groove it sure sounds like the Blues to me too; and Logan’s sultry singing style criss-crosses both genres with culpable ease and grace. This is followed by some super New Orleans Funk that has Logan delivering a Cleo Lane type scat at times and a melody that revolves around a bass line straight outta Stax, and some trumpet from Blue Note in I’m Somebody! Now do you see why I’m both impressed and confused by this album? Things get slow and sultry on the gorgeous Ain’t Gonna Fake It No More; which for some reason had me thinking back to Melba Moore as Logan Layman lays it on the line for her man; as Barbarji channels the ghost of Chet Baker over some intrinsically fine guitar and drumming in the background, which all left me kinda breathless a couple of times. It’s quite funny when you see the fresh faced quartet smiling in their photos; as on record, especially Notice Me they sound like hard-nosed, long in the tooth, world weary but classy players who have played a hundred lonely Tuesday nights in sleazy and smoky clubs on the delicious Heartbroken and the cleverly astute Notice Me. There’s only one cover here, and their arrangement of the classic Fever is both reverential and classy; and sure to catch the attention of a generation who may never have never heard it before. Choosing the RMHQ Favourite Track hasn’t been easy; as this is an album for kicking back and wallowing in from start to finish; but somewhere between the Urban growl of Make Me Yours and the Jazz Funk of Way Too Far which closes the album with a sizzling nod in the direction of both Prince and Gwen Dickey you will find Heartbroken which is possibly and probably the one song that everything else shoots off from like sparks from a musical grinder. I really don’t know what else to say; but it will be one helluva shame if this band were to stay in the shadows as not just their songwriting but superb musicianship deserve a big, big audience. # Interestingly CD Baby suggest this to be for fans of Amy Winehouse, John Mayer and Tedescshi Trucks Band……. which is probably fair enough!
A Grown Up Funky Alt. Jazz Hybrid to Sit Back and Savour.
You know us here at RMHQ, we have very eclectic musical tastes that defy most people’s imaginations, so when a CD arrived with a note attached describing the Duo/Band as ‘A funky Blues Groove from a Power-Folk duo with World Music, Hip-Hip, Blues and Rock influences’ how could we not give it a listen?
What’s the worst that could happen?
Opening track Chosen One certainly digs deep into every one of those influences; with more than a smattering of Funk and Blues too behind Jonah Tolchin’s sizzling guitar and Kevin Clifford’s spectacular tub-thumping as the band play on as if their lives depended on it. It’s not clear if it;s Jonah or Kevin singing; but here and on Bless Your Children which immediately follows there’s a distinct whiff of cool Blue Eyed Soul in that larynx.
Lost for words, all I can come up with for Taste So Sweet and Addiction is that they are the epitome of Cool; think some kind of weird hybrid between Lowell George, Jimmy Smith, Charlie Watts and a guitar duel between T Bone Walker and Jeff Beck!
Dharmasoul are both from New Jersey; but I can’t help but think this album was, or at least could have been recorded in New Orleans, Memphis or Muscle Shoals as there is a wonderful warm groove throughout that I normally associate with those fine musical cities; especially Open Your Heart and the gloriously meandering Love Again, which made me want to grab Mrs Magpie and slowly shuffle around the living room. (Thankfully I didn’t)
For a duo they certainly kick up a storm with the title track Lightning Kid, building up a dark and brooding sensory state that often threatens to boil over; but being the consummate professionals they are they tease the listener several times before a volcanic ending.
Favourite Track? Phew, that hasn’t been easy, mostly because every time I play the album something new grabs my attention and I want to choose that one for you; but tonight I’m plumping for Love Again because ….no no no……it’s got to be Armoured Hearts, one of two songs that subtly deal with Socio-Politics in such a clever and articulate manner you’d think someone like Randy Newman or James Taylor had a hand in the writing; but the didn’t.
I’ve not just thoroughly enjoyed this Grown Up album in the vein of Steely Dan or Barenaked Ladies; but been really impressed by it too, as just like discovering a New World wine there’s been a huge amount of fun thinking, “Aha…that bit….. comes from…..and ooh that guitar sounds like, or this bass lick is a probably from…..” but just like that glass of wine; you really should just sit back and flavour all of the constituent parts in all of their delicious glory.
RUBBERBAND SESSIONS 12″ Single
A Masterclass in Phat, Funky and Sensual Grooves.
This is a bit of a dichotomy for me as in principal I’m totally against these ‘limited edition/special releases’ for Record Store Day, as these discs usually cost an arm and a leg and end up, unplayed in the collections of vinyl fetishists rather than being listened to by actual fans of the artiste involved; but hey; this amazing 4 track 12″ Single from Miles Davis is as Cool as a penguins bum and deserves a huge audience !
Over the last 40 years or so I’ve tried time and time again to ‘get into’ Jazz; but generally failed at the task but somehow only managing to fall in love with Acid-Jazz, Chet Baker and the main man himself Mr Miles Davis.
These four tracks though sound nothing like anything I’ve ever heard from the Miles before; one tune and a great big melody but four very different and very sensual and timeless re-mixes that are perfect for both ‘chilling’ and ‘smooching’ too.
“In 1985, Miles Davis shocked the music world by moving from Columbia Records to Warner Bros. Records and started recording Rubberband at the Ameraycan Studios in Los Angeles from October 1985 to January 1986. A radical departure for him as it was made up with fat funk and dirty soul grooves and would to include vocals by Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan..
Sadly the album was subsequently shelved and Davis went on to record Tutu.
32 years after Rubberband was originally recorded, the original producers, Hall and Giles have teamed up with Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, Jr., to finish and update the title track. In September 2017, they invited the 12-time Grammy-nominee soulful singer Ledisi, to guest on vocals at the Village Studios in Los Angeles.”
The cover artwork is a painting by Miles Davis.
1 Rubberband Of Life featuring Ledisi (Radio Edit) 4:20
2 Rubberband Of Life featuring Ledisi 5:43
1 Rubberband Of Life (Instrumental) 5:39
2 Rubberband (Original Version) 6:30
Project Mama Earth
Dazzling Fusion of Jazz, Blues, Funk and World Music.
I’d not heard a single word about this release before it arrived last week; yet it has all of the hallmarks of being a huge International story, because drummer extraordinaire Jonathan Joseph has assembled a truly All-Star cast, made up of the legendary Nitin Sawnhey on guitar, Etienne M’Bappe on bass and Jonathan Shorten on keyboards (Google their names to see who they have recorded with!) and if that wasn’t enough Joss Stone not only sings, but wrote the songs and provided board, lodging and her recording studio in Devon; where the album was written and recorded from start to finish in 10 short days.
That exciting dynamic coupled with the quality of the players oozes class right from the start, title track MAMA EARTH which combines a cool jazzy vibe with some danceable African rhythms which weave like a golden thread through every song and the short interludes too.
The playing is quite extraordinary at times, with Spring sounding like something Blue Note may have released in the 1960’s heydays and on Entanglement Sawnhey’s intricate guitar playing and M’Bappe’s bass runs twist and turn like a mountain road as Joss Stone’s voice swoops and soars like a Jazz Diva on a simply stunning song, which wouldn’t be out of place on a film soundtrack.
There are only six songs here and each is spectacularly different from each other with What Would She Say? sounding as if it had been written for Nina Simone but actually suits Joss Stone’s vocal gymnastics even better; and Breathe which brings everything to a beautiful conclusion could bring tears to a glass eye.
In between each song there is a short interlude; and these are fascinating for a number of reasons; partly because the International flavour of each truly showcases the diversity of the assembled players; but also because they give the songs room to breathe and the listener time to allow their senses to return to the default setting.
Which now brings me to the ‘favourite track’ moment; which was quite easy and difficult at the same time and in equal measure, simply because Waterfall is graceful and almost Bluesy in character; but the way Joss Stone delivers the words almost reminds me of Sade; but it just may be the finest song Miss Stone has ever recorded…..and she has recorded some stunners in her short career.
Project Mama Earth is a strange beast; as it will either sink without trace or go on to win Awards aplenty all around the world; and I expect it to be the latter; but at the very least it will hopefully draw attention to the Community Development Network in Cameroon from where the roots of this magical record were born.
Hot Coffey In the D
Red Hot Jazz-Soul Fusion By and For the Coolest Cats in Town.
Dennis Coffey? No; me neither but half way through my first listen to this splendid album I was reaching for the accompanying Press Release and found out he was a one of Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers!
The album opens with moodily cinematic Fuzz; an 8 minute opus that sets the scene very nicely and could easily have been from a cool Blaxploitation movie like Cleopatra Jones, but pre-dates that scene by 10 or more years.
I can easily imagine the patrons in Morey Baker’s Showcase Lounge, down-town Detroit City sipping their cocktails and grooving to the sweet soulful interpretation of By The Time I Get To Phoenix which follows; and Lyman Woodward then gives a master-class in playing the Hammond B-3 during a near 12 minutes of The Look of Love.
Although a live recording from 1968, it’s been edited to leave out 99% of the applause and intros, but the quality is diamond tight and as pin sharp as anything that came out of Hitsville USA.
There are only 7 tracks here; but each one captures your attention; with Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and the ubiquitous Wade in the Water showcasing Coffey’s liquid guitar style in a way that only Norman Whitfield had probably heard before.
There are only two self-penned tracks here; the opener and The Big D, a super funky tune that channels Curtis Mayfield, George Benson and Booker T at their collective very best.
My favourite track; Casanova (Your Playing Days are Over) is just 7 minutes of absolute Soulful Heaven; and perfect for any time of the day or any mood that you happen to find yourself in…..Sweet Soul Music indeed!
Oh; I’ve raved about Coffey and organist Lyman Woodward who very nearly steals the show; but let’s not forget the spine of the trio…drummer Melvin Davis who does much of the ‘heavy lifting’ in the background and is the glue that holds this band together.
BTW there is a 54 page booklet that accompanies the disc entitled Celebrating an Unsung Guitar Hero, and after reading it (and poring over the amazing photos) I have to agree….Dennis Coffey is a Guitar Hero.
I don’t go out of my way to listen to instrumental albums; but when I checked I have quite a few tucked away in my collection; mostly of the Jazz and Funk persuasions and each is there on merit, and Hot Coffey in the D will be a very popular addition too.