listen out for 2018...
mamas gun - golden days
Is it nearly a decade since the debut release, by the band Mamas Gun? Seems like yesterday, I was singing the praises of ‘Let’s Find A Way’ at this site. Great track as that was, as with many bands, I felt the group had more about them, than just a stand-out song from a first album. ‘Routes To Riches’ represented many aspects of the group’s sound. I metof the guys briefly at Jazz FM’s Love Supreme a few years ago, and spoke about that track. The feeling I got from the group, were they really were ‘finding their way’. Mamas Gun are Andy Platts, Cameron Dawson, Dave Oliver, Jack Pollitt and Terry Lewis. Subsequent album releases by the guys, namely ‘The Life And Soul’ (in 2011) and ‘Cheap Hotel’ (in 2014), saw some minor developments, without being earth shattering. For myself, ‘Let’s Find A Way’ hinted at the sound of Seventies daytime radio, when the likes of Hall & Oattes, England Dan & John Ford Coley, or Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, were the order of the day. 2018’s ‘Golden Days’ sees the group realising their potential. This is my album of the year, thus far. A quite superb, no nonsense, stream of song led melodies, containing no filler tracks, and, all told, it is an absolute joy to behold on every level. I was sent some mp3 files of this album, and walked straight into my local record store, and bought a ‘proper record’ to place in my ‘favourites box’ in this house. Superb from start to finish. Where to go to first for advice? Well, can I recommend ‘Strangers On A Street’, which is certainly a track of the year, if ever I heard one. Whether Mamas Gun will ever improve on this album, well, who knows. They might emulate the songs, however, tilting my head to one side and listening again, I think this could well be a high watermark album. Go and treat yourself. This really is terrific stuff.
jon allen - blue flame / tyra levone - testimony (a soul set free)
Jon Allen is a ‘pop’-ular singer, on the folk-rock scene, whom I have been aware of, via appearances on Jools Holland’s late night shows, amongst others. By and largely, I have been too immersed in the Soul Scene to pay much attention to the mainstream flow of pop music. Most of the stuff, I can take or leave. Every now and then, one of these artists has a ‘eureka’ moment, and this Winchester born singer’s ‘personal moment’ is, just about, now! Firstly, this artists new material would have simply passed me by, if it hadn’t been for (that meddling kid :))) Bill Buckley (a fine reviewer from the excellent http://www.soulandjazzandfunk.com/ website), who suggested the track ‘Stay’ to me a month or so ago. Jon has taken off his ‘rock music hat’ and slipped on a very comfortable blue eyed soul replacement. ‘Stay’ is one of my tracks of the year. Out and out Soul music, full to the brim with melody and joy. If this doesn’t get your spirits lifted, then nothing much will, is all I can say. The parent album ‘Blue Flame’ is more mainstream in sound, however, another real gem, is the Soulful ballad ‘Since You Went Away’. This is very strong on melody, song led, as they say, and Jon’s vocal stylings suit the track down to the ground. Another winner! ‘Blue Flame’ is out on Monologue Records, with ’Stay’ and ‘Since You Went Away’ worth the entrance fee alone. Thanks Bill, and thank you Jon....
...Tyra Levone is a new singer to me. Recommended by, the excellent promoter, Gary Van Den Bussche here, this album is constructed from hugely impressive materials. Tyra hails from Silver Spring in Maryland (born in Washington). She writes, sings and produces much of her material, and stylistically, I would place her sound somewhere between Regina Belle and Maysa Leak. High praise, all told. ‘Testimony’ is a 12 track release, which, marking up the album track by track, the ratings hit 5 star on several occasions, and never dip below 4 stars throughout. All told, a superb debut. ‘If Only I Knew’ is the album’s initial single release. I found myself returning to several tracks including ‘You & You’, the bass bin trembler ‘Can You Feel It’ (great dancer), the tender ‘It’s You’, ‘Fantasy’ and, perhaps the killer tune ‘What Do You Want’. Tyra’s roots were honed in her local church, singing with her father, later playing piano in two choirs, and, interestingly, she has collaborated with the previously reviewed band here, Spur Of The Moment. That aspect has a comforting aspect with this reviewer, in as much as it showcases that, if nothing else, my tastes are consistent! :)) We certainly will hear more from this singer in the years to come. Cream always rises, as the late Gregg Diamond once informed us!
janelle monae - dirty computer / spur of the moment - n2 deep
I have to admit that much of today’s mainstream ’new R&B’ doesn’t do a great deal for me. It wouldn’t do, would it. An white English bloke over 60? This stuff just wasn’t made for the likes of myself, so I should get on with the 40 year old vinyl re-releases, and mind my own business ‘old man’! :)) Here’s the thing, though. I completely ‘get’ what some of these artists are trying to do, and.....’hold on to your hats’.....I like the music that goes with this stuff as well! Stick that in your carburettor and ‘rev’ it! Beyonce, I have to admit, if I had my complete collection of her material removed from this house, the space would remain the same. That cannot be said for the likes of Vivian Green, Chrisette Michelle and Janelle. They are trying to ‘move and shake’ the music, to see what falls from the trees. ‘Dirty Computer’ is this singers fourth release, and, for myself, much of each of the albums I could take or leave the music, however, with each release, there are terrific pieces of music. On her ‘Archandroid’ album, there was ’Say You’ll Go’. With the ‘Electric Lady’ album, the superb ‘Dorothy Dandridge Eyes’, and with ‘Dirty Computer’, the cherry on top of the cake has to be ‘Don’t Judge Me’. Janelle’s ability to shock, for myself, doesn’t come with the Cab Calloway-esque dance routines, or the outlandish costume changes, but in this album’s case, is the inclusion of a certain Brian Wilson. When I read the sleeve notes from the CD here, I thought ‘she probably means the Brian Wilson from that Gangsta Rap band’ (yeah ‘Big Bad Brotha Brian from tha Bronx’:), or the ‘Brian Wilson flown in from a hideous version of the Voice’, and yet, yes it is, ‘him from the Beach Boys’. I wish this track ran longer than the two or so minutes on show here. As with much of this singers ingenuity, the ‘least likely’ works! More power to her elbow. The only thing Janelle has to decide on from this juncture is, whether she is a singer, songwriter, actress or model. She has the potential to do all. I think within herself, she would find the future as a singer and songwriter, most rewarding. Janelle certainly ain’t boring! :))
Spur Of The Moment confused me for a short while, as the album title ‘N2 Deep’ is also the name of a Rap band from the early Nineties. Once I had taken off my ’stupid hat’ off, and put on my ‘thinking head’, everything fell into place! This is one of the better albums released this year so far. The harmonies reminded me a little of the ‘Otis & Shugg’ group from the Nineties. In fact, if you want an overall guide to the feel of the album, you could do worse than to start from that aspect. Spur Of The Moment have been around for some 20 years now. They have worked with the likes of the late George Duke and Al Jarreau, Patti Austin, Ledisi, Stanley Clarke, Oleta Adams and Lalah Hathaway. The blurb that came with the album suggest a 2014 release for this album, and yet, the distributor sent me this album as a new release. Very pleased they sent the album from whenever is was made. It was a real pleasure to listen to something of a greater substance than much of the current material out there. Even the lovely Maysa makes an appearance on this album. If that isn’t a ‘kite-mark of quality’, then I don’t know what is! The group have assembled many famous followers, who include the likes of Will Downing, Eric Roberson, Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, Brian Culbertson and Raheem Devaughn. Of the 11 songs on show here, the tracks that really rose to the top were the title track, ‘Free Urself’ and the superb ‘Love Her’. Hugely refreshing in a very stale ‘musical market of re-releases’. I will be looking out for these guys in the future.
soulutions - thankful
I went to see a friend yesterday, who is a deejay. Nick and I both work together on our, once a month, gigs at our local Soul shindig, and I took a copy of the second SouLutions album round to play to him. He said to me one thing, about this group, which I absolutely agree with. That is, today’s sound is very much about setting a ‘back in the day, moody, groove’, which can be at times a wearing affair. SouLutions music, if nothing else, and even in it’s ballad format, is nothing short of joyous. Steve Lee and Louise Mehan have a very clever knack of taking segments of Soul history, and re-inventing them. Whether the intention is for a new generation, well, that is down to the listener. All I know is I can play this music to my 24 year old daughter, and she gets the same vibe and enjoyment, from this rabble, that I do. I want SouLutions to continue making music, so, even though I get sent a digital review copy of the album to listen to, I also go buy the CD off the band’s website. I am always left wanting for more with this group. 40 years or so ago, SouLutions would be up there on Top Of The Pops along with the Real Thing and Heatwave.
In 2018, folks are prepared to put up with anything the industry tells them to like. Failure Swift and Lazy Gaga? Give me strength! Those who utilise the left hand side of their grey matter, are looking for more. With SouLutions you get that. Track-wise, you guys will already know the singles ‘Thankful’ and ‘I Got To Party’, which would almost be enough for most punters to go buy the album on their own. There are 11 other fine songs on show here. For myself ‘Get Out’ is superb. ‘Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover’ was released a couple of years ago, and makes a welcome return here. I think Louise has met some shallow people out there, who do judge that proverbial book by it’s cover. I am sure you guys are not amongst those foolish folks. ’Shooting Star’, ‘Thinking Of You’, ‘Second Guessing’ and about a further 5 other tracks (or so), all made the five star rating for myself, with this set. Louise has a beautiful vocal delivery, and is allowed to develop the songs melodically and lyrically, articulating each gem for the better radio stations in 2018. Probably the best album so far this year (respect to Diane Shaw and Swing Out Sister I would add). Now how many of these CD’s do I have to buy to keep this group in business......:)))). I need to know!
lindsey webster - love inside / tatiana ladymay mayfield - the next chapter / jazzy d feat. amber sweeney - sweet light
In recent weeks, I have been away from home, working in a design company in London. When I started work there, during mid-January, the best albums around were Diane Shaw’s and Swing Out Sister’s superb new offerings. Since that time, much of the music I have been listening to has been, mainly, funk and dance music from the Seventies. I began to think this year was going to be a fallow year, and, following my first break in weeks, along come two of the ‘music police’, who are so reliable, they re-install your faith in music. Both Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield and Lindsey Webster, are regular inclusions at this website. The types of artists, you can buy their albums ‘blind’, as you know you are about to hear the best music around, even before kick off!
Lindsey’s career I have followed on social media, always interested in her progression, and how that is transpiring. ‘Love Inside’ was the initial single, which was great in itself, and now we have the full monty, and I have to thank her and Keith Slattery for delivering yet again, music of the highest quality. Normally, when I set up a review, I mark various tracks of (pardon the pun) ‘note’, which I feel are worth revisiting on subsequent listens. Of the 12 tracks I have here to re-listen to, I have twelve tracks marked for revisiting. In today’s marketplace, if you have three tunes of merit, on any album release, you are doing well, but to have a complete ‘put it on and leave it on until the run out groove’ type of album, well they are usually destined for ‘album of the year’ status. ‘Love Inside’ is certainly a real contender. Real music, real instruments, along with a delivery that isn’t screeched, but ‘articulated with feeling’. Of the complete set, the cherries on this proverbial cake, for myself, have to be ‘Free To Be Me’, ‘Opportunity’, ‘By My Side’ and ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’, however, I would point out that I am being pretty fickle in my choices, as, you could choose any track in all honesty. A very refreshing relief to see the light of day through the ‘mundane mayhem’ on daytime radio. Thanks to Lindsey, Keith and all the folks that constructed this mini-masterpiece. Brownie points to all concerned!.....
....and talking of deserving musicians, Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield is another woman who is a particular favourite at this website. Whenever I hear she has new material about, my ears prick up. In the true Rose Royce tradition of ‘putting my money where my mouth is’, I set sail to CD Baby and bought this set. Worth every penny, all told! ‘The Next Chapter’ is the third in a trio of superb releases from this fine singer/songwriter. With this new album, we are now looking at the real deal. Tatiana has penned 10 all new original compositions on show here. The melodies move from the simplest of love songs, to a woman with her, full on, political hat on. Comparisons can be utilised in describing her stylings. Is she the new Billie Holiday, or, perhaps the female Gil Scott Heron?, but hey, I can hear all sorts of influences going on within her delivery. Everyone from Joni Mitchell, to Minnie Riperton. Of the 15 tracks on offer here, Five stars definitely go to ‘Me and You’, ‘Insomnia’, (the gorgeous) ‘Forgive Me Someday’, ‘Sweet Refrain’, along with two genuine epic songs in the form of ‘The Next Chapter’ and the inspirational ‘Freedom’. As a white man, it is unfair of me to try to understand the civil rights aspect of the politic, as I am a bystander. I completely empathise and write about these things at Soulwalking. If anything, I am as annoyed about the actions of my ancestors, as much today, as I was as a child in the Sixties, asking my parents ‘why do people treat others differently, just because of the colour of their skin? It is a stupid thing to do’. I still believe that some 50 years on. Tatiana is a mouthpiece for many, who may have received a verbal equality from the powers that be, but that doesn’t mean diddly-squat, if it isn’t followed by action. The struggle certainly goes on. Artists like Tatiana are hugely important in music generally. The stage is the artists soapbox. Listen up!
Finally, a single! I don’t usually add a 45 to the mix on these pages, however, ‘Sweet Light’ by Jazzy D feat. Amber Sweeney, is certainly worth a mention. Jeff Young at Jazz FM gave this track a run out last Sunday, and the melody shone out of the whole playlist for me. From the Land of the Rising Wallaby, comes this beautiful piece of Soul heaven. If only people demanded more from the ‘nursery rhyme set to a disco beat radio fodder’ these days, this would be filling daytime radio. Superb piece of songwriting. Thanks to that nice Jeff Young for bringing this to my attention. First rate!
diane shaw - second chance / various artists - the wants list 4
Is it really 3 years since Diane Shaw released her debut album ‘Love, Life & Strings’? Yikes! Time really does fly. That album embedded itself into most of the better charts, for a large part of that year, and quite rightly so. In the same way the group Soulutions, just get on with making the music they understand, and love the most, the same applies to Diane Shaw. At times her sound is set in an early Seventies, Detroit Spinners-esque vibe, and then she sneaks in to a Sixties mode, before returning to her Real Soul pastures, musically. Wherever Diane lays her hat, she fully embraces the term ‘song-led’. Her songs are not pastiches or remakes, but are very much melodies in their own right. I nearly didn’t make track 3 on this album, after first listening to ‘Through The Rain’ (track 2). What a true beauty. One of 2018’s finest, thus far, and I am sure I will be saying likewise come the end of November this year. Folks don’t make music of this high standard in pop’s mainstream, so I think I will reside in Soul Music’s ‘quality slipstream’ this year, if the going is going to be of this standard. ‘Second Chance’? There should be no question of ‘chance’ involved in future recordings by this fine singer. She put be placed firmly on the U.K. obligatory musical curriculum! A national treasure! Now, not forgetting there are 11 further songs following ‘Through The Rain’, cherry picking is a hard task, as I honestly, love the overall product here. ‘(Come Back) Halfway’ will become a live show favourite, I am sure. I really love the mid-seventies sounding ‘Love Has No Right’, a song out of it’s era today, however, would have been a hit in those times, and should be in 2018. It’s a shame the hallmark of a good record today, is that it isn’t a huge pop hit! The penultimate ’Shall I Wait For You’ sits perfectly in the albums ‘departure lounge’. An ‘end of the night’ melody, which is a quite moving listen, all told. Folks like myself, and yourselves (if not the case, what are you doing at this site in the first place! :))) will not be able to have enough of Diane Shaw albums in years to come. More power to her elbow, is all I can say. The woman and her team, are, quite simply, superb!
‘Want’s List 4’ I thought might never see the light of day. The previous issues date back to 2003, with the last (‘Want’s List 3’) release dating from over a decade ago at the time of writing. Why the break? who knows, but I am very pleased that the guys have decided to run with the reissue process, making hard to find tracks, more easily accessible to those trying to track this fine music down. With the help of the guys at Soul Brother in East Putney, you can now pick up a copy of the likes of, say, Almeta Lattimore’s beautiful, ‘These Memories’, Tommy McGee’s rare 45 ‘Now That I Have You’, Dee Edwards’ superb, ‘(I Can) Deal With That’, Carolyn Franklin’s evergreen ‘Sunshine Holiday’ and Maxine Weldon’s gorgeous take on ‘I Want Sunday Back Again’. Other great tracks featured include songs by The Ebony’s, The Manhattans, The Impressions, Natural High, Bobby Wilson, Margie Joseph, Aretha Franklin, Jocelyn Brown, Zulema, McArthur and Pat Lundy. Boy, there are some rare tracks on show here, and better still, is they are about to retailed by Soul Brother on vinyl, as well as CD. The release date is the 23rd of February, which I know many of you will mark in your shopping diaries, and why not? Not often so many gems are released in one great package. Highly recommended.
various artists - sir wick - a tale of two fools
Sir Wick (a.k.a. Chad Hughes) hails from Detroit, Michigan.
He, previously was featured at this website, regarding his 2008 album ‘An Interpretation Of A Universal Language’.
As he says himself ‘ Sir Wick sees no lines between classical, jazz, and R&B’. That aspect is certainly apparent on this new album by this intriguing artist.
Recorded at the House of Wick Studios, the new album, is entitled ‘A Tale of Two Fools’.
Currently the Director of Bands at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, this artist has performed with the the likes of Kid Rock, Tia Fuller, the Temptations, Martha Reeves, Dwele and Marcus Belgrave.
The new album covers several genres, including classical, gospel, hip-hop, and R&B.
Many of the songs, which relate this story, feature the singers Anthony Saunders's and Angela Birchett.
The story, imparted by the music, goes as follows:
‘Eli’ Brooks is a music major whose main objective is perfection. He works tirelessly in a practice room to become the best trumpeter in the world but his dedication to his music makes him a social hermit. Despite his focus, he unexpectedly falls in love with Alexandra Hylton: a young MBA student who is being courted to work for a major-marketing firm post-graduation. Although she loves Eli, Alexandra realises that her life may be better by returning to her ex-boyfriend Harrison, a six-figure executive who can give her everything she desires’.
That said, it would be easy to ignore the music, within the story, which is of a very high standard. Highlights, to these ears, are the songs ‘Give My All’, ‘I Love You’, ‘You Will Never Know’, ‘Dream Come True’ and ‘I Refuse To Say Goodbye’.
As an artistic piece, this is a very fine album. Whether many reviewers are prepared to listen closely to some 25 tracks, is debatable, however, I would encourage them to do so, as the album is a very rewarding listen.
The Gospel version of ‘Down By The Riverside’ is worth the entrance fee on it’s own!
The Swing Out Sister musical bus is arriving less and less frequently these days, which is a real shame, as they never release poor product. The influences are Sixties and Soulful more recently. Very Jim Webb in places, and orchestrated richly, giving Corinne Drewery a perfect backdrop for her vocal skill set. When I talk to my daughter about her own singing career, I point her in the direction of albums by Swing Out Sister. Music influenced by bygone times, but not replicated. Corinne and Andy Connell’s self released album, ‘Almost Persuaded’ is, to put it simply, lovely. They seem to get on with what they do best, despite todays ‘trends’. Song led, beautifully arranged songs, that would be top ten melodies in another era. Who wants to be like Taylor Swift in 2018? Only attraction is a financial one I think, but certainly no yearning for artistic parity. There is no comparison. If you are a young musician, this is what you should be listening to. 12 songs that create pictures in your mind. ‘Which Wrong Is Right?’ is a perfect canvas to build the rich tapestry which forms the overall album. One thing this album definitely isn’t, is a ‘bang on’ house music album! The melodies are easy on the ear, and flow seamlessly between the tracks. Corinne has become very Dusty Springfield-esque in her new recordings, offering that ‘yearning’ quality which wasn’t a part of the group’s earlier, excellent dance formatted, melodies. This album will certainly receive heavy rotation on the jazzier stations out there. Folks who love their music with a ‘Northern’ aspect to the scene, will love this set. Check ‘I Wish I Knew’ (my favourite track on show here). First rate. Old Soul boys, such as myself, are simply grateful that music of this standard is still being crafted at the latter end of this decade. For ourselves, bookmark ‘All In A Heartbeat’ or 'Everybody's Here'. Nice to be sung to, and not have your brains drilled out and lobotomised by mainstream daytime radio! Terrific stuff, all told, and all I can say is thank you Andy & Corinne. Hugely appreciated and quite superb.
One of the few things to look forward to, in the post holiday season, are the annual new releases from the fine Expansion Record label. Ralph, Richard and their fine team, always deliver albums of quality, and more importantly, reliability. This 3CD release features some of the tracks which made the chart at this site, throughout 2017. Will Wheaton and Bridgette Bryant’s superb ‘How Do You (Do The Things That You Do)’ is one tune in point. I had this track on my iPod (yes, I still use my old technology here!) on rotation over the summer. Very underrated IMHO, and pleased to see the guys running with the fine song again. ‘Give Love’ is a tune that I missed (by Marcus Anderson). Another great find and a track. Soulutions are a band that are beginning to embed themselves into the U.K. R&B market, and deservedly so. As the group’s new singles arrive, they are consistently of a very high standard. Gordon Chambers ‘The Diamond Inside’ was another 2017 highlight, and Chris Jasper arrived in a series of excellent Boogie Back remix formats on different artists. These guys certainly know how to get the bass bins thumping in the systems out there. On the retro front, I was very pleased to see the Uno Melodic 1982 12” single instrumental version of Bobbi Humphrey’s ‘Baby Don’t You Know’. I uploaded this track to my YouTube channel, a year or so ago, and it has become one of the most listened to tracks on my playlists. Great to be able to pick up an actual hard copy of the track here. Essential listening, all told. I believe that Ralph has now signed the excellent Robb Scott to the Expansion artist roster. Robb can best be described as the U.K.’s answer to Norman Connors (my humble opinion). He listens to all of the better artist from back in the day, I think. On disc 3 here, Ralph and Richard pay respect to Kashif, who passed away a few months ago, including his song ‘So Emotional’ here. Lost a great artist there. Also receiving a posthumous mention, is Leon Ware, whose very fine ‘Heartbeat’ is also included here. Other welcome inclusions are Linda Clifford’s, lovely ‘’I Just Wanna’ and the Jones Girls fine ’If You Don’t Start Nothin’. To complete a very nice triple CD collection, is the superb ‘Galveston Bay’ by Lonnie Hill. I think that is one of my favourite songs from the last 50 or so years. Essential collection, all told, and thank you to the guys at the label.
galveston by - lonnie hill
Also on Expansion, comes the third collection of DJ Tony Monson’s choices of material from the vaults, along with the newer choices around right now. Tony is a very fine deejay, whose shows I have enjoyed over the last 35 years or so, whilst at various radio stations. Tony isn’t afraid to choose something that isn’t an ‘I’ve got it and you haven’t’ rare groove tune, or something left field, which is aspect of the man I really empathise with. Which Soul jock out there would include a Judy Collins, Judy Tzuke or an England Dan & John Ford Coley tune in amongst some of the ‘hipper’ Soul tracks doing the circuit? ‘Ethreal 3’ I think is my favourite of Tony’s 3 collections thus far. I think it is the diversity of the material which stops the listener from becoming bored! I was hooked, and found myself ‘bullet pointing’ several tracks, such as the excellent Buford Powers ‘Bluz 4 Eyes’, which was an inspiring listen. Loved the Ola Onabule tune ‘The Picture’ here, and Judy Collins take on the Randy Newman song ‘I Think It’s Going To Rain Today’. Check out Dusty Springfield’s fine version of this on YouTube. Both are great takes on a song from a fine songwriter. The CD also features ‘You Will Rise’ from Sade’s backing group Sweetback, Kazu Matsui’s wonderful ‘Time Flies’, the Jones Girls ‘Children Of The Night’, along with some great sides by Faze-O, The Isley Brothers, Lesette Wilson and Bobby McFerrin, sitting alongside 16 other songs, which go to make up another must buy CD from a man whose taste is impeccable. Roll on ‘Ethreal Magic 4’!
buford powers - bluz 4 eyes