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Friday, 6 March 2009

Fatback - Is This The Future? - 1983 - Spring

I LOVE Fatback - especially their 1980s material. The group, already stepped in funk embraced the new electronic, programmed synth style and turned out a whole series of albums crammed with crackin' jams and ballads. their move to Cotillion in 1984 for two albums, "So Delicious" and "Phoenix" was a great move but their Y2K efforts have been far less inspiring. This album, though, rates as one of my favourite Fatback albums and contained 5 tracks which floated my boat. The title track dallied with rap and the fresh, synthy groove is one that was very much a treatise on the day rather than what was to come. Hell, that was MUCH worse, especially where music was concerned! "Double Love Affair" is another quality fun slice of uptempo Fatback fare which still gets my bass-pins in a good work-out!

"Spread Love" remains a real gem, the dirty moog bass, flute and sassy vocals courtesy of Evelyn Thomas still work a treat today. I think it's fair to say that most will err towards the more traditional outing, "Sunshine Lady" - a classic Fatback Band mellow groove if ever there was one; a really strong summertime good-times groove with a catchy guitar hook. This is up there with the best of them! My final pick is "The Girl Is Fine (So Fine)" which is another classic in the vein of "Start It Up" or "So Delicious". Such a classy piece of early 80s Fatback, aimed at the dancefloor. This is a song that still gets me moving all these years on - and I wish the guys would get back to this kind of groove and stop mucking about with rap and ragga. Thankfully, unlike "So Delicious", this has been reissued legally and from master tapes by the good people at Ace Records via their South Bound imprint. Available very reasonably from Amazon.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

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Starvue - Upward Bound - 1980 - Midwest International

This album has always been highly sought after and in the late 80s was changing money for stupid, stupid money. The reason for this was one track, namely "Body Fusion", a track that was set free by Kiss FM on their excellent "Boogie Tunes Vol. 2" compilation. This is a killer slice of midtempo boogie and remains a killer tune to this very day, as you will gather from the sound clip below. The group only made one release on the tiny Midwest International label in 1980 before disappearing into obscurity which is a shame. the group offered much and I fear were a victim of the burgeoning electronic switchover that tripped up many traditional self contained combos. The group consisted of Keith Blake, Judy Davis, Andre Morgan, Anthony Hicks, Burton Fowler, Lester Falconer, Victor Hughes and Larry Horne. The album, too had much more to offer than said "Body Fusion" and on it's CD release in Japan scored big points with me for supplying us with a bonus, previously unreleased track!

The original 7 track LP can be purchased at a fraction of it's Rare Groove heyday asking price, and the CD can still be located if you look hard enough. Whichever format you can lay your hands on you will be very pleased with your purchase. "Body Fusion" was a popular tune amongst reggae fans, as it happens, due to the deep underpinning bassline, and one can see why. It's a monster track, enough said. The spangly guitar rhythm-led "Love Affair" weighs in at a whopping 7:08 and if you are into groups such as Splendor who were about at that time then this will be much to your liking. Vocally we're in Modulations sort of territory. "Put The BS Aside" has a telling title and is much more smooth with strings and horns - a slight late-70s Mizell Brothers edge that gives it a real edge over the other cuts. The real winner, though, appeared on the CD reissue, and that is the SUPERB "Let's Hold On To What We Got". This ballad really is the business, the bluesy Eric Gale-ish guitar, swirling strings and Beau Willaims type vocal make this a much sought after song. The backing music and vocals are very much what we would have expected from the Michael Stokes camp at this time, perhaps even Enchantment or Fatback. Not as easy to come by, but if you see it GRAB IT!

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

Buy from Amazon

Buy Rare Starvue CDs and LPs at MusicStack

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Various Artists - Wildcats OST - 1985 - Warner Brothers

I don't usually rate movie soundtracks, as I've already said, yet I would recommend you check out this gem from 1985 from the Goldie Hawn comedy, "Wildcats". This compilation features three stunners from James Ingram, Randy Crawford and Michael Jeffries. The songs, as was common in the days when music was made for films and not vice versa, are really pertinent to the storyline and the haphazard, zany existence of the main character. This is, I fear, only available as an LP and not on CD. One track, however, can be found as a 'bonus' track on Randy Crawford's "Abstract Emotions" CD from 1986. I've posted a link below so you can get the feel of this wonderful, feelgood track. Randy Crawford is an artist who has so much potential and has delivered much in the way of quality goods. This is a track that does not have enough exposure and it's about time it was really given the props it deserves.

Randy's song "I Don't Wanna Be Normal" is SUPERB. The lyrics are so relevant to many people's lives, and is an enabling song which makes you feel like you can shatter the chains and do what you really need to do. I live this way and am happy to have jumped outside the sheep pen many years ago. Thank God I'm not 'normal'! Whatever that means. The song is produced by Rufus' "Hawk" Wolinski and James Newton Howard. A brilliant song oozing an effortless positivity. The version below has been extended and not as good as the album version though! My second choice is a track called "Hard To Say" by James Ingram. Man, this guy can project his voice like no other and this song has to be one of the best, rarest and least known songs he has recorded. Can we not have this on a compilation, please, Mr. Warner Brothers???? This is another epic Hawk Wolinski / James Newton Howard collaboration. Thirdly is the single, "Razzle Dazzle" by Michael Jeffries. A shade poppy perhaps, but of it's time and great fun. The album featured tracks from the likes of Brenda Russell, Tata Vega, Mavis Staples and the Isley Brothers. Well worth picking up.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

Buy Randy Crawford "Abstract Emotions" from Amazon

Buy Rare Wildcats Soundtrack CDs and LPs at MusicStack

Nighttime Lovers 10 - 2009 - PTG

Nighttime Lovers 10 Dutch soul funk connoisseurs Vinyl Masterpiece (VM) will always have a special place in my heart. I was there from the very start when they were born in 2004 and I was asked to write the liner notes of their very first release, the rare album “I Need You” by Network. I’m both honoured and proud of that! Many great both albums and compilations have been released ever since and one of the finest and earliest series of compilations is “Nighttime Lovers”. On the 16th of February 2009 the 10th CD in the series was out, and of course, I couldn’t refuse to review such an intriguing CD.

What is so special about this release is the fact that VM have included an extra CD with a top-notch megamix by Frankie Rodriquez! But let’s start with CD 1.

When listening through the CD the first time I noticed that it has both ups and downs. Angela Bofil’s electrofunkish “Can’t Slow Down” is not her best track (think “This Is A Dream” instead). Jimmy William’s bouncy “All My Lovin’” is better and I like that crazy synth a lot plus William’s off beat song! The break is darn tasty too! Candy Bowman’s smoker “I Wanna Feel Your Love” needs no further presentation, what a stomper!

Keyboardist Jeff Lorber and his Band are next with “Best Part Of The Night”, a soul pop effort reaching not much higher than average. Richard John Smith’s song is not much better. Earl Turner’s “Love Caught You By Surprise” is quite catchy but far from a top-notch production. And I don’t like Elaine & Ellen’s track either but an early lay back mid-tempo effort of later New Jack Swing king Keith Sweat in “My Mind Is Made Up” bring me up again! He’s perhaps not the best singer out there but I sure like his soar voice.

Tough and funky “Word Up” by Legacy is nice and so are the three beauties of The Jones Girls and their 1983 hit “On Target”. Next up is yet another bouncy funker in The Husdson’s “You Keep Me up”. I really like the end result here, tight and solid! Kim Herte’s sensual “Do You Wanna Dance With (With Me) is THE highlight of the CD. This is a brilliant production with sassy vocals and a soulfully interpreted funky beat that makes you craving for more. Glass wraps it up with moody “Let Me Feel Your Heartbeat”.

So what about CD 2? The megamix is very competent and a pure joy to listen to. It is jam-packed with great tunes of Krystol, Sahara, Beau Williams, Lillo Thomas and Evelyn “Champagne” King. The big surprise for me was Legion’s infectious and messy mid 80s achievement “Guarantee”, LOVE IT!

Considering it’s a 2CD set with an exclusive megamix CD by Frankie Rodriquez besides some really competent 12” versions it’s an easy buy.

Patrik Andersson
Patriks Soul Funk Music

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Booker T. Jones - I Want You - 1981 - A+M

Michael Stokes was firing on all cylinders in the early 1980s, and his work with legendary Stax artist Booker T. Jones was no exception. The uptempo and ballad material on here really are magnificent and I am sure that many a modern dance floor would still heave to a few items of choonage on here, and the ballads enough to ruffle up the most satin of sheets. This LP was made available on CD in 2002 but is, sadly, unavailable now and when it does pop up on the likes of eBay commands a king's ransom. I'm not surprised either. Check out the hot dancer, "Don't Stop Your Love" below and see why this should be getting some serious airplay, even today. Quality always persists and stomping dance tracks of this caliber prove that assertion right time after time after time. Another strong dance floor groove comes in the form of "Power In Your Love", an explosive string-laden effort with more than a familiarity with the Emotions' "Best Of My Love" in the detail of the groove. These are great tracks, and complimented by the slower dance groove of "You're The Best" which should get a few creaking old bones and more wee timorous beasties such as myself at least on the very edge of the dance floor!

You know me, folks, for ballads and stuff, and the three ballads to burn a hole in your bedsheets and set the bed alight. The Sam Dees penned "Prized Possession" is simply luxuriant. The swirling strings, Fender Rhodes piano and Booker's more smooth vocal approach add up to a bubbling pot of super-sexy soul. Fans of Tyrone Davis a la "Leave Well Enough Alone" or "(Love) Ain't Over There" will melt when they hear this. However, this is not the best of the sexy trio, not by a long chalk. Check out the unbelievable "Treasure Chest", complete with a solo Jerry Hey styled trumpet, harp and swirling strings. If heaven could be l;aid down on vinyl then here it is. What a genius Michael Stokes is. Thankfully my final choice has been included on the recent Leon Ware and Friends" compilation so there's no reason you cannot lay your hands on it here. "I Came To Love You" is, unsurprisingly, a joint collaboration with Leon Ware and is just knockout. Those strings and Rhodes are a dream. What I call this material is "sophistisoul" - sophisticated Soul. Mega rare, mega expensive BUT a mandatory purchase.

Barry Towler

The Vibe Scribe

Buy Rare Booker T CDs and LPs at MusicStack

Buy Leon Ware and Friends on Amazon