Review: Amongst highlife enthusiasts, Nkem Njoku & Ozzobia Sound's sole album is regarded as something of a classic, not least because of its party-friendly take on "Igbo highlife", a sub-genre of the Ghanaian style that utilises traditional Ogene 6/8 bell rhythms. The album's six tracks are infectious and wholeheartedly positive, with the assembled band - which included John Kante on guitar, a full horn section of boogie-era highlife keyboard maestro Jake Sollo - delivering instrumental backing tracks that ripple with colourful motifs, killer grooves and more than a hint of gospel righteousness. The title is certainly fitting, because it's a very special album indeed.
Review: When it comes to creating fresh instrumental hip-hop jams out of record label catalogues, Oh No has an impressive track record. The long-serving producer - famously Madlib's younger brother - has previously performed the service for Stones Throw, Miserable Beast Music and Now Again, a label he first worked with a decade ago. Here he returns with a third set of tracks created from gems in the Now Again vaults. It's a sparkling set, all told, comprising head-nodding beats and musical treats deftly sculpted from obscure, inspired and overlooked jazz, soul, funk and boogie rubs. Those with a good knowledge of the Now Then back catalogue will have fun spotting the samples; everyone else can just sit back and enjoy the producer's brilliant work.
Review: There's little doubt that honey-voiced singer Omar Lye-Fook is one of the finest soul talents to emerge from the UK in the last four decades. For proof check out this much deserved two-disc retrospective (his first since 2004's "The Collection"). Stacked with collaborations with top-tier talent (Terri Walker, Leon Ware, Carleen Anderson, Kele LeRoc, Scratch Professor and Stevie Wonder all feature), "Anthology" showcases his impressive diversity through top-quality tracks that variously touch on turn-of-the-90s street soul, neo-soul, jazz-funk, boogie, easy listening, acid jazz, hip-hop soul, jazz, R&B and broken beat. Throughout, his slick vocals and thoughtful lyrics stand out.
Review: Conceived by Colombian musician Mario Galeano and English producer Will Holland, (better known as Quantic), Ondatropica brings together Colombian legends and young musicians alike and mixes up Columbian styles such as cumbia and champeta with beatboxing, hip-hop and funk. Although the project is undeniably audacious, the results are hugely impressive, with classical styles going hand in hand with all manner of analogue squiggles and experimental dub. Highlights are too numerous to mention, but include the dubbed out weirdness and live instrumentation of "Punkero Sonidero" and the live beatboxing and copious effect mangling on "3 Reyes De La Terepia". The CD version also comes with a 52 page booklet telling the fascinating story behind the project.