Review: North Carolina's Lee Fields has had a long career with some dramatic pauses, but the last few years have seen him stronger than ever with LPs on Truth & Soul and now Big Crown Records. "It Rains Love" is his second LP with The Expressions, and it strikes a classic Motown note that sounds utterly timeless in its execution. The production definitely has some of the warmth and grit of Motor City classics from back in the day, but Fields' conviction and power in his delivery sounds bang up to date. For fans of Mayfield, Redding et al, this is an unmissable set of rough-edged soul.
Review: Ernie Hawks is the occasional artistic alias of virtuoso flautist and trombonist Erno Haukkala, a Helsinki-based musician best known for his membership of long-serving Finnish funk combo the Soul Investigators. Fittingly, his debut solo album was produced in cahoots with the long-running band. Throughout, his band-mates provide brilliant backing for his languid trombone solos, jaunty flute lines and - on rare occasions - wild harmonica playing. It's a very enjoyable and impressive set, all told, with Haukkala's compositions variously drawing influence from classic soul, Cymande, Ennio Morricone's "Spaghetti Western" soundtracks and the higher quality end of the library music spectrum. Naturally, it's all brilliantly played and produced with an emphasis on gentle mood enhancement.
Review: The honey-voiced Barrett was just 29 when he wrote, arranged, conducted and co-produced "Do Not Pass Me By Volume 2", a superb collection of gospel funk and soul rich in uplifting group vocals, bustling grooves, Tambourine-heavy drums, wild organ lines and rousing horns. With Barrett handling lead vocals throughout, the ten tracks veer from sparse and laidback spiritual meditations to surging sing-alongs that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.
Review: 50 years in and still going strong, Tower Of Power are back with a new set that shows off their immense skill in the field of jazz funk. The talent spilling out of this collective is palpable at all times, but no more so than on this album's title track "Step Up", a high pressure groover where every player gets their moment in the spotlight. This special double vinyl edition is packed full of big hitters, from sizzling party tracks to passionate balladry. We'd recommend the fired up flex-out of "Look In My Eyes", where the tempo stays up and the groove remains urgent throughout.
Review: Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, Rainer Trueby compiled (or helped to compile) a string of Brazilian-focused compilations for his friends at Compost Records. It's perhaps surprising, then, that it's taken this long for him to get a chance to showcase some gems from his record collection. "Soulgliding" is as smooth, warm and glassy-eyed as you'd expect, with the German DJ/producer serving up a range of mostly obscure jazz-funk, soul-jazz, boogie and slow jam gems. Highlights are plentiful throughout, from the sparse-but-rich synth-soul of Patrice Rushen's "To Each His Own" and the sun-kissed shuffle of Bridge's "Next To Me", to the saccharine sweetness of Crystal Winds' "Lovers Holiday" and the low-slung jazz-funk bounce of "Memories Of Moments" by Demo Cates.