Review: A Merle Travis blues standard, as laid down by the one and only BB King in 56. A homage to the coal miner with strong clear lyrics and vibrant horns, the original was one of many breakthrough's BB made in the 50s. It was also futureproofed for Belgium's popcorn sound with a bold brass version that's loaded with so much swing you almost forget its deep deep blues. Records like this are what 45s are made for.
Review: Two of Funk Night Records' most distinctive and innovative acts join forces for two outstanding pieces of psychedelic fiery funk fusion. Estonian duo Misha Panfilov Sound Combo set the bedrock on "Soul Strut". All fuzzy, unkempt and energetic, it sets the scene for Detroit's Coco Buttafli to lay her scorched heart on the line in an almost metal-like style. "Electrifying Woman" takes us even deeper into the psychedelic mindset as the groove is given a swampy, dizzying feeling while Coco spits spoken word with such a savage honesty you can't helped but get sucked into the story. Two of a kind.
Review: Here's something to set the pulse racing: a must-have seven-inch containing two curiously off-kilter cuts from obscure "beat generation" bands of the early 1960s. Der Evergreens "Es Lilin" (that's "Ice Lolly" in English, apparently) is a sun-kissed rhythm and blues cover of a Sudanese love song recorded in Rotterdam in 1965. It's fairly short but very, very sweet. Arguably even better is Les Jaguars De Casablanca's 1962 cover of surf classic "Gonzales". The band was truly international - Spanish and French guitarists and a Moroccoan rhythm section - and on the resultant recording you can tell. Think of it as an "outernational" take on the Shadows, and you're close.
Review: Deep into his chamber-lurking follow-up Wu odyssey, Leon Michels stumbled upon shy New York twosome The Shacks and convinced them to record this hazy summer-primed 45". Singer Shannon steals the show with softness and honesty as the band weave a psychedelic bed of sliding guitars and faraway harmonies. Both laced with a woozy 60s edge and beautifully playful lyrics, the whole EP sparkles with soul and talent from both The Shacks and Leon's ever-reliable troupe.
Review: Since launching last year, Lil Static has offered up new, lightly altered editions of classic tracks from Jeru the Damaja, Kraftwerk, Run-DMC, Nas and the Notorious B.I.G. Here they continue to serve up vital beats for break-digging DJs via classic cuts from Eric B. & Rakim and Mountain. The A side sports an edited version of 1986 cut "Eric B. Is President", a synth-bass propelled NYC hip-hop gem rich in unmistakable rap vocals and tight scratching. Over on side B there's a chance to savour Mountain's late '60s rock cut that provided the Eric B. & Rakim track (and so many others since) with its distinctive drum break, "Long Red". This edited version gives more prominence to the breaks, making it an ideal mixing tool for hip-hop DJs.
Review: For their latest trip into musical paradise, Zurich's Phantom Island crew has turned to debutants The Gagosians, a trio made up of former Soulphiction guest vocalist Suzana Rozkosny, A.C. Kupper (Guitar) and Kay-Zee (Synths). In its original form "Run For My Honey" is a slightly creepy but hugely enjoyable 4-minute chunk of no-wave wonkiness, with Rozkosny's strutting, post punk style vocals rising above lo-fi drum machine beats, surf-rock style guitar loops and elongated organ chords. On the B-side, Label co-founders Lexx and Kejeblos provide a stellar remix that drags the track further towards skewed, Balearic-minded electrofunk territory. While many of the original instrumentation remains, their body-popping beats and thickset synth bassline give the cut a whole new dancefloor dimension.
Review: Soul Tribe celebrate the epic legacy of Chess subsidiary Argo with two of the label's many outstanding soul burners. Etta's big swing sauce-pot number takes pride of place with all 55 years of sultry devotion still deeply embedded into the recording. Banks' slightly lesser known pastoral ballad sets up camp on the B. Lilting and lolloping with horseback storytelling, it's the perfect foil both musically and narratively.
Review: This desirable 7" single brings together two of the many highlights from the bulging catalogue of New Orleans soul singer Ernie K Doe. On the A-side you'll find 1961's "A Certain Girl", a sweet rhythm and blues number from the dawn of the soul era that ticks all the right boxes (strong lead vocal, jaunty piano lines, lolloping groove, question-asking female backing vocals). Arguably even better is the better known "Here Come The Girls", a later K-Doe recording that was produced by the song's writer, Allen Toussaint, and originally appeared on the artist's eponymous 1972 album. We all know it, of course, but it still remains a sing-along soul staple.
Review: Turbotrax was an intermittent curio that belched out of the Bristol underground in a fit of tongue in cheek edits and samples back in the '00s. Someone's clearly rebooted the mainframe and brought this elusive collective out of hiding for another bout of cheeky lifts from more esoteric corners of culture. Library Vultures says it all - this is the work of dedicated diggers pulling forgotten bits n' pieces out of retirement, such as, on the A side here, the storming theme to a Commodore advert, and giving it a buff up more extended retro-pleasure. "Whatever Happened To The Hippies?" on the flip is a more light-hearted affair with a jaunty lilt and a message of positivity for all.
Review: Even though it appeared on his fine 1971 album "Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse" - a suitably dystopian set in which our hero rails against the ills of godless society - "Jagger The Dagger" is not one of Eugene McDaniels better known tracks. Yet as this Japanese seven-inch reissue proves, it remains a superb chunk of bizarre-but-brilliant jazz/rock/soul fusion full of delay-laden country style guitar solos, weirdo backing vocals, sumptuously laidback grooves and vocals that take aim at Mick Jagger and his "devil's dance". Flipside "Cherrystones" is a Vietnam War-era civil rights cry built around good old-fashioned fuzz-toned grooves, Chuck Berry style rock 'n' roll guitar solos and a pretty crazy lead vocal.
Review: The latest essential missive on San Francisco-based Cumbia label Discos Mas comes from a previously unheard artist: confirmed vintage drum machine and fuzzy psych-guitar lover Pancrudo. The producer's vinyl debut, which has been pressed in limited numbers on gorgeous marbled vinyl, includes two impressively retro-futurist workouts. Check first languid and decidedly psychedelic A-side "Pulsatron", a hip-hop tempo kaleidoscopic dream that sounds like Harry Nillson after a few too many swigs of liquid acid and a fistful of hallucinatory chili peppers. Pancrudo returns to his cumbia roots on flipside "Maestro Del Kiosco", which wraps wonderfully fuzzy, boogaloo-era guitars round a shuffling rhythm track.
Phantom Band/Linear Johnson & The Protons - "Rush Rush"
Drums Off Chaos - "Drums Off Chaos"
Review: The sadly departed Jaki Liebezeit was the kind of drummer whose influence will be continually recognised over the decades to come. Best known for his work in Can, there are also many more sides to this singular sticksman, and Emotional Rescue has chosen to shine a light on his post-Can period living in Stollwerck. On the A side of this 7" curio is the sound of Phantom Band with Linear Johnson & The Protons. "Rush Rush" has a spiky new wave bent to it, but still Liebezeit's drumming stands out. The B side "Drums Off Chaos" need little explanation - it's the sound of one of the all-time drumming greats letting rip in a ferocious blast of percussive abandon.
Review: The latest dusted down archival dig from Emotional Rescue is by Politrio, a short-lived new wave / post punk band from Italy who released one album in the mid 80s. The focus of this release is their cover of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," which originally appeared on the Amnesty International P.E.A.C.E Benefit Compilation in 1987. It's a wild take full of rampant guitar wailing and limber slap bass that teeters towards the 80s funk rock of Faith No More et al, and that's no bad thing at all. On the B side of this 7" Double Wave gets busy in the edit, offering up a stripped back version for the spinners.
Review: For Sufjan Stevens, "With My Whole Heart", is said to be a self-described attempt to "write an upbeat and sincere love song without conflict, anxiety, or self-deprecation." This single arrives as a most prominent work since his album for 4AD in 2017, and the title track sees rolling toms and keys glitter alongside call-and-response choruses, and a commanding guitar solo. The 1996 demo, done entirely on acoustic guitar, carries even more melancholy and like a lot of his work from this early period, it feels fragmented, even vulnerable, but never without touch of hope and sentimentality. A voice for a new generation.
Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One) (3:11)
Blues In The Night (3:13)
Review: A powerful Stax flashback of two tracks from Arkansas soul don Taylor's 1967 debut album Wanted One Soul Singer. As covered by the likes of Lou Rawls, "Ain't That Loving You" is heartfelt bluesy ballad with a sultry swagger and serious yearning on the choruses while the even rarer "Blues In The Night" closes the B on a super-tight floor-bound riff and gutsy delivery from Taylor. Both bonafide northern soul classics and confirmed rarities with both cuts regularly fetching triple figures, this reissue changes everything. For more reasons than one.
Review: While he lived a musical life that spanned from boogie to gospel before he passed away in 2016, Nairobi's David Waciuma didn't get to record much. He was known much more for his live performances with bands such as The Monks Experience then, later, Rapture Voices who he recorded these two records in the mid-70s. "Devil Go" is a thumping rhythm and blues call and response piece while "Jesu Kristo" hits with more of a frazzled bluesy funk. Both make you wish he recorded much more.