Review: Many disco-era modern soul collectors regard, Larom Baker's "You're The Best", which initially appeared in 1978 on an impossible to find, single-sided 7" single, as one of the style's genuine "Holy Grail" records. It's good news, then, that Athens Of The North has secured the rights to reissue it, releasing the full studio version (rather than the shorter edit that was released all those years ago) for the very first time. It's a genuine gem, with Baker's deliciously breezy West Coast soul vocal seemingly floating over a killer backing track rich in hazy horns, bustling slap bass and crunchy Clavinet lines. Turn to the flipside for the more disco-minded "Train Of Thought", one of a string of recently discovered Baker recordings that form the basis of a forthcoming album of previously unreleased tracks.
Karate Boogaloo - "Do You Even Know What A Passport Is" (4:35)
Review: The second salvo from Aussie imprint College Of Knowledge offers up two sizzling sides of revivalist instrumental soul and funk from bands who've yet to make their mark outside of the Southern hemisphere. Surprise Chef, who helped launched the label earlier in year, handle side A, offering up a loose, percussive and hugely attractive number rich in mazy organ lines, fuzzy bass and classic funk guitar licks. Karate Boogaloo take a slightly more relaxed approach on the flip, layering fluid guitar solos and sustained, elongated Hammond organ chords over a bluesy soul groove.
Review: Stefano Tirone has been a stalwart of the Italian scene since making his debut on legendary Italian house label Calypso Records way back in 1992. Since then, his productions have become increasingly more jazz and soul focused, with a sizeable side order of groovy downtempo beats. His latest seven-inch single begins with "Try My Love", a hazy chunk of head-nodding jazz-funk/soul fusion rich in languid synthesizer solos, lazy grooves, hazy horns and soulful vocals. It's really good all told, though we'd argue that flipside "Odoya" - a wiggling chunk of Afro-tinged mid-tempo funk - is even better. Either way, it's another rock solid release from the effervescent Tirone.
Review: Since it was released on Springfield, Missouri label American Artists in 1975, Kansas City Express' sole seven-inch single has become something of a collector's item amongst dusty-fingered funk diggers. We should all thank Ocean Of Tears, then, for offering up this fully licensed reissue - the first time the "45" has been made available to a wider audience. "This Is The Place" is a wonderfully sweet and melancholic affair - a seductive, poetic soul song featuring both male and female lead vocalists and a languid, superbly produced backing track full of lilting trumpet lines, glacial vibraphone solos and jazzy guitars. That instrumental backing track takes pride of place on Side B, where you can hear the vocal-free mix for the very first time. Spoiler: it's superb.
Review: Here's something to excite those who dig quality 1970s funk, soul and disco: a tidy 7" containing two stone cold classics from the Rod Temperton-helmed, UK-based "international band" Heatwave. Side A boasts one of the standout moments from the group's much-loved 1977 album "Central Heating", seductive, string-laden love song "The Star Of A Story". It's superbly arranged and brilliantly produced, with warm keys, Spanish guitar solos and rich orchestration combining beautifully with the band's slick and smooth vocals. Side B is taken up by 1976 single "Ain't No Half Steppin'", a bolder and more dancefloor-friendly chunk of warm and woozy dancefloor soul.
Review: Last time we heard from London's Lord Tusk, he was joining the dots between deep house and dub via a fine 2018 EP on MIC. Seven-inch single "Tell Me" is an altogether different beast, with the A-side title track offering a spacey, guitar-laden trip into lo-fi rock/intergalactic synth-pop fusion featuring the woozy vocal talents of sometime Unklejam member Tyson. Turn to the flip for "Healer", a gloriously reverb-heavy trip into late night Fleetwood Mac/AOR guitars, skittish drums, tipsy lead vocals and all manner of starburst dub effects.
Review: Ubiquity is back with another of its two part 7"s, this time from contemporary soul group The Soul Surfers. Experts at covering the greats, they recently turned their hand to a classic from The JB's, while this time out it is Kool & The Gang's classic "Summer Madness" that gets a deep-cut and sexy make over. Part 1 is a sensuous slow burner with downtempo drums and heavenly guitar playing, while part 2 has harder drum grooves and dreamy , psyched-out guitars. It's another ageless rework that you need in your life.
Family Man & Youth Professional - "Southern Version" (version) (3:51)
Review: More than 40 years after its initial release, Afrik revisit the blissed out reggae of Melford Jackson's one and only hit, "Southern Africa". At its heart is some fantastic chord work, which trills and shimmers above the rumbling drums and jangling little guitar riffs. The flip finds Jamaican reggae bass player Family Man link with Youth Professional Band for the enchantingly aimless and wandering "Southern Version", in which it is so easy, and so enjoyable, to get lost in on a lazy afternoon.
Otis Redding - "(Your Love Lifted Me ) Higher & Higher" (Soul Flip edit) (4:03)
Gerri Granger - "I Go To Pieces" (Soul Flip edit) (3:33)
Review: Sometimes you just can't beat the golden oldies and so it is that Soul Flip turns his attention to a couple of raw soul bangers. Up first is Otis Redding's classic "(Your Love Lifted Me ) Higher & Higher" with a rousing bass section which drives along the original version.The hits hit hard, the vocal is given room to breathe and the swing in the drums is infectious. The flipside houses a soaring tweak of Gerri Granger's "I Go To Pieces", with its clattering keys and rolling soul all quickly finding a way into your affections.
Review: The Polyversal Souls are renowned for the strength of their collaborative singles, which to date have featured all manner of legends and rising stars from the underground African music scene. This time around, the German-Ghanaian band provides high-grade backing for guest vocalist Frank Karikari, son of legendary Highlife musician Ralph Karikari. The A-side medley of "Siakwaa/Nana Agyei" is particularly good, with Karikari's confident lead vocal rising above shuffling, soft-focus drums and ear-catching juju guitars. Flipside cut "Odo Agye Gye Me" is great, too, offering a slightly more upbeat and undeniably percussive fusion of highlife/Afrobeat fusion.
Review: Matasuna Records' latest release offers up two sought-after tracks from Bossa 70, a relatively short-lived Peruvian band whose ultra-limited 1970 releases (a total of 400 copies were pressed of their sole single and eponymous debut album) brilliantly joined the dots between jazz, bossa, soul and funk. Listening to these cuts for the first time, it's easy to see why Matasuna has gone to the trouble of licensing them: A-side "Si Voce Pensa" is an inspired Peruvian funk cover of a 1968 Roberto Carlos track rich in bustling breakbeats, punchy horns and confident female vocals. Just as potent is the band's flipside cover of Baden Powell's "Berimbau", which puts a funk-soul twist on a certified bossa-nova classic.
Review: This Juno exclusive is a hip hop beat from Australia that has had props from Public Enemy's DJ Lord, no less. A heartfelt eight-minute medley from Brisbane's DJ Bacon whose title is a mash up of Run-DMC and Beastie Boys, it is said that more than 150 samples feature on the two tracks and the resulting collages are real bangers. "RUN-BST Megamix (Part 1)" skews iconic vocals, cow bells, stabs and punctured kick drums through a streetwise lens, and part 2 on the flip offers a more tender groove with soulful vocals over crisp hits.
Round & Round (feat Darrion - Living Room version) (4:44)
Review: SimonAyEm has been collecting records and generally immersing himself in rap for a quarter of a century. He makes his own beats, held a rap show on Swiss national and here one of his homemade demos is presented on Burning Sole. The first version was a raw, made in the kitchen jam with rough drums and noodling keys next to a heady whistle, while the flip side is a more refined lounge version with a fuller, richer, warmer sound and more steamy chords, as well as a hook sung by the producer's own young son. Nice.
Review: Originally pressed (on a limited run) in 2013, LA Latin funk troupe Boogaloo Assassins have reissued these two spellbinding cover versions again due to public demand. Still on a highly limited run, both cuts need to be in your collection: Dawn Penn's "No No No" gets a strict samba switch with lavish percussion and consistent vocal harmonies throughout while Sonny Henry's "Evil Ways" (best known from its Santana cover) gets the dreamy instrumental treatment where the horns and glocks do the narrating over a tight bed of wood blocks, shakers and liquid Rhodes. Killer stuff and Juno is one of the few stores outside of USA which is carrying the 45. Don't Sleep !
Review: Dr Rubberfunk (AKA long-serving DJ/producer Simon Ward) may have reached the start of middle age, but he's showing no signs of succumbing to a typical "midlife crisis". In fact, his recent releases have been among the strongest of his career to date. The third part of his ongoing "My Life At 45" series is another belter, with opener "A Matter of Time" - featuring talented, fast-rising vocalist Izo FitzRoy - being a particularly strong exercise in revivalist 1960s soul. Elsewhere across the EP, "Slim's Mood" is a fine chunk of hazy rhythm and blues featuring some awesome, Peter Green style jazz guitar solos, while closing cut "Moody Drums" is a chunky beats track tailor-made for funk and hip-hop DJs who like to get busy in the mix.
Review: First time round, this bonafide classic reached #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the highest charting tune from the Geto Boys. Sampling Isaac Hayes' "Hung Up On My Baby", the Geto Boys' edit plays out in several movements and goes big and small. Stretched over a long legged beat with crisp snares and languid chords with lyrics that touch on a range of deep subjects such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the track was originally destined for a Scarface solo album before it was decided it was more valuable as a Geto Boys single. Wise move.
Review: New York hip hop outfit Missin' Linx's debut release is notable for two reasons: firstly, it features two stone cold jams in the deep cut of "MIA" and the woody boom-bap and smooth flow of "Lock'd". But secondly, and more importantly, "MIA" made use of David McCallum's "The Edge" break before Dr Dre did. Dre's use of it on "The Next Episode" might be more famous, but now you know who did it first.
Review: Short-lived Pennsylvania funk troupe Maxwell might be recognisable from a few cheeky compilation cameos with their "Radiation Funk" track. A cult success in their local charts, it took decades for it too see beyond the Columbia city limits and become a secret weapon for diggers and collectors. Now reissued officially for the first time, it's fronted by the unreleased A-side "Meltdown". Another track written in response to an accident at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979, it packs a big vocal punch, tight playing, infectious hooks and blasts of percussive funk. This sure ain't no junk.
Review: If you're a talented soul vocalist who wants an authentically fuzzy late 1960s sound, you could do worse than join forces with Timmion Records' in-house backing band, Cold Diamond & Mink. They're in fine form here providing admirable backing to rising star Carlton Jumel Smith. "Love Our Love Affair" is undeniably attractive, with Smith's confident and emotion-rich vocal rising above the band's hazy horns, languid trumpet solos, sun-bright guitar licks and lolloping, hip-hop style funk-soul beats. As is customary, the band's tidy instrumental version can be found - and enjoyed - on the flip.
Review: Alchemy Dubs have cooked up more heat here with a ninth 7" that is a collaboration between Ojah and Jamaican singer Ras Tavaris. "Long Run" is a live mixed, proudly analogue cut with a stepper rhythm overlaid by Tavaris' important lyric work that muses on plenty of contemporary issues. Some lively percussion adds character and a flip-side instrumental dub lays even more fantastic studio work. That this one comes in a hand-stamped, hand-numbered, thick custom sleeve and is limited to 500 units makes it all the more collectable.
Review: According to the South American music specialists at Matasuna Records, Ralph Weeks' 1971 single "Let Me Do My Thing" - recorded alongside backing Los Dinamicos Exciters - is arguably the most sought-after Panamanian soul record around. As this reissue proves, Weeks' original version is rubbery, heavy and rousing, with the singer's rasping lead vocal soaring above a weighty backing track that sounds like a breezier take on the New York boogaloo sound. On the flip, Voodoocuts tools it up for modern dancefloors, underpinning his club-ready edit with punchy new drums that give the cut more of a breakbeat style swing.
Rapha Pico & The Signal One Band - "Lead The Way" (4:58)
The Signal One Band - "Lead The Dub" (4:55)
Review: The Signal One Band formed in 2017 after a bunch of local regular session musicians linked up after meeting at Earth Works Studio in Amsterdam. Between them the gang has worked with big names from the worlds of ska, reggae and dubstep, and all this goes into a crucial melting pot that brews up the old and new, finished off with a warm vintage aesthetic. Their new label is minted with a rumbling, roots tune that has lush trumpets and billowing chords cushioning your daily grind. The dub on the flip is even fatter and perfectly easy to get lost in.
Review: Some fans argue that "It Ain't Hard To Tell" is the best production on Nas' legendary "Illmatic" album. Large Professor certainly did his job in making it pop: the beat is killer, and the whole thing is driven by a Michael Jackson sample of "Human Nature". As if that weren't enough, samples from Stanley Clarke and Mountain are layered in to perfection and the smooth, sweet rolling beat draws you in over and over and Nas' creamy delivery finishes it in style. Flip over for the instrumental and bask in the glow of it all. Classic.
Review: Founded in 1967 by singer/producer Carlos Oliva and other Cuban immigrants to the United States, Los Sobrinos del Juez were briefly one of the leading protagonists of the turn-of-the-'70s "Miami Sound" - a humid and intoxicating fusion of blues, rock, funk and dancefloor-focused Latin sounds. Their 1974 debut single "Harina De Maiz" - here reissued for the first time since - is a perfect example of that short lived style, offering up a mixture of wah-wah-guitar and psychedelic organ-powered Latin funk grooves and righteous Cuban vocals. On this edition it comes backed by the previously unheard "Corned Beef Hash", a swinging Latin-jazz number rich in vibraphone solos, jaunty piano riffs and plenty of hip-wiggling percussion.
Review: There will always be a place for politically charged records, but lines like "The government man bring the working man down to his knees/It's time to take a stand against the government man" seem particularly relevant right now. It's the lead cry on the a-side of this new 7" from eight-piece band Christel & The Goldmaster AllStars who have a bold two piece horn section driving along this fusion of ska, reggae and rock which was first recorded in 1998 and has recently been unearthed. The flipside version has sci-fi studio effects and warped synths layered in for extra trippiness.
The Truckin' Company - "Got The Feeling" (Massimo Berardi edit) (5:41)
Izk Eyes - "Ton Of Groove" (The Funk District re-edit) (6:30)
Review: Fledgling label Daje Funk is sure to turn heads with their second sizzling offering of edits, with Rome's Massimo Berardi and Mexico's The Funk District both stepping up to the buttons. Truckin' Company's "Got The Feeling" is a loopy and rolling funk gem that keeps the energy up as strings soar to the skies and a squelchy bassline keeps you locked. The Funk District takes care of the flip with a top tweak of Izk Eyes's "Ton Of Groove", which is an appropriate title: big brass sections to shake your booty, a buttery male vocal and busy guitar licks all drive it forward through big breaks and killer drops.
Review: Long running dub dons Nice Up! unveil a brand new talent on their latest: that man is Escape Roots, a Glaswegian producer and Mungo's HiFi's Walk n Skank resident who calls upon vocalist Dandelion to muse on the many different joys of ganga. Riding on classic dancehall rhythms with hooky guitar riffs and tumbling claps, Dandelion touches on toothpaste, butter, soap and the titular Ganga Socks. It's tongue in cheek, head in the clouds stuff that will have you skanking for days. For those who like it more stripped back, flipside "Version" is where it's at.
Review: It makes sense that Names You Can Trust would be fans of Conjunto Papa Upa - after all, the band's first two seven-inch singles (released in 2013 and 2015 respectively) offered a suitably psychedelic and soulful fusion of African, Caribbean and South America sounds fully in keeping with the Brooklyn label's open-minded ethos. This "45" is a teaser of sorts, offering as it does two cuts destined for the Amsterdam-based outfit's long promised, forthcoming debut album. A-side "El Secreto Del Metalero" is particularly potent, offering a suitably psychedelic, heavily electronic 21st century take on Cumbia full of weirdo electronics, twisted vocals, rumbling sub-bass and colourful synth lines. In contrast, "Chicarron Puelo" is a little more traditional-sounding, delivering a formidably fuzzy fusion of dancefloor-focused Latin rhythms and 1960s style psychedelia.
Review: Funk fans hold tight: Food City have licensed a reissue of a holy grain tune from 1969 that would usually cost you a month's rent to purchase. The People's Choice were a short-lived group from Grand Rapids, Michigan who only put out a handful of tunes but still managed to leave their mark. "Destruction" is a raw jam with a consistent funky groove as a baseline weaves its way in and out. Big and expressive, it's bound to get any dancefloor going. Flip side "Off-spring" that's led by some florrid flute playing is just as effective.
Echoslim X Nicko Rebel X Mr Williamz - "Higrade Skanking" (3:43)
Review: Nicko Rebel Music are back to serve up more top shelf skanking material after their debut release sold out in quick time. The EP introduces a host of debutants including Nadine Sutherland, Echoslim and Nicko Revel who sit next to the more established Mr Micah Williams, a Necessary Mayhem mainstay with skills to burn. Sutherland's "Dance Africa" is a rootsy roller with flabby bass and big trumpet lines accompanying her vocal work, which celebrates the glory of Africa, while B side "Higrade Skanking" from Echoslim X Nicko Rebel X Mr Williamz does exactly what it says on the tin.
This Love Is Magic (feat Chanel - Soul Rockers mix) (3:48)
When It Rains (feat Cleveland Jones) (4:39)
Review: It would be fair to say that Dee "Kejam" Majek (real name Oladisun Majekodunmi) is something of a veteran, with the Nigeria-born writer, musician and label owner producing his first released music way back in the early 1980s. This double seven-inch single marks his debut for Izipho Soul, and his first release of any sort since 2016 debut album "Majek". There's much to admire throughout, from the slick '80s soul warmth of Lisa Taylor collaborations "Can You Feel The Love" and "My Only Love" - the latter featuring a slight two-step soul feel - to the electrofunk-influenced R&B shuffle of Chanel hook-up "This Love Is Magic (Soul Rockers Mix)" and the toasty, dewy-eyed goodness of "When It Rains", which features lovely lead vocals from Cleveland Jones.
Review: With the state of world politics at the moment, we could all do with the occasional pick me up. Enter The Pharaohs who link with Chicago natives Spencer Jackson Family for "Bring Back Peace To The World", which gets a timely reissue on Ubiquity. It's a spiritual bit of jazz funk with sax lines to get you grooving, deep soul vocals that stir you from the inside out and gospel overtones that get anyone ready to rejoice. Each part is as essential as the other and despite adding up to just over five minutes in total, both cuts will no doubt enhance your mood.
Review: No longer dealing in edits, but instead long lost or out of print disco and soul gold, Super Disco Edits turn their focus to the early works of The Plainwrap Band here. These are all tracks produced and arranged by Marvin Augustus that were recorded to a dusty reel that ended up in the hands of producer Stu Gardner. He transferred the reels and once the label got wind they decided to track down Augustus. He'd forgotten all about the project but revelled that some of leading musicians from America's West Coast were called upon to play on these romantic, emotional and musical soul-groovers.
Review: In 2009, two years after the original version appeared on Somi's debut album "Red Soil In My Eyes", Joaquin "Joe" Claussell and Brian Bacchus joined forces as Soul Feast to remix Fela Kuti cover "African Lady". A decade on, Claussell has decided to reissue the package's most potent and percussive moment, the layered "Drum Dub" on a tasty seven-inch single. While there are key elements of Somi's original version present - the killer bassline, some delay-laden horns and fleeting glimpses of guitar - the mix is dominated by layered Afro-house percussion. This time round, the mix comes backed with an "Acapella EFXS" version, which contains all of Somi's superb vocal and is closer in tone to the duo's 2009 club mix. Like the A-side, it's superb.