Review: Athens Of The North celebrate the longstanding contributions of host, presenter, writer, personality and occasional singer Bernard "Spider" Harrison. Recorded sometime around 1970, and fetching large triple figures between collectors, the feel good bluesy soul cut "Beautiful Day" first landed on Lulu Records and has barely seen the light of day since... Until now. And it's loaded with a never-before-released drum cut. Don't sleep, though. Only 500 of these have been pressed.
Review: Giving Nicole a rare night off, inimitable troupe The Soul Investigators team up with killer flautist Ernie Hawks for two impeccable instrumentals. "Scorpio Man Theme" is all slinky 70s cinematica with a wry nod towards Lalo Schifrin while "Journey To The Bottom" adopts a more languid perspective with slower beats, a smouldering groove and a flute line that takes us right down to the bottom of our souls and right back up again. Beautiful.
Review: Finnish revivalist funk combo the Soul Investigators are no strangers to collaboration, having previously provided backing for Nicole Willis, Myron and Ernie Hawks. Here, they once again join forces with the latter for two more chunks of instrumental funk and soul goodness. A-side "Scorpio Walk" is the kind of cut that should come with its own named dance; a shuffling, mid-tempo funk affair that layers Spaghetti Western guitar solos and fluttering flute lines over a backing track rich in flanged guitar licks, bustling bass guitar and on-point drum breaks. Flipside "Message of Love" is an altogether deeper and more dewy-eyed affair, with woozy backing vocals and electric piano solos rising above a shuffling groove.
Review: John Heartsman and Circles are precisely the sort of fellas you'd expect to see land on Athens Of The North, the most recent boogie-jazz reissuers to come out of the US of A. This material from the late 70's is like gold on the second hand market, and more like a mirage given the fact that original copies are her impossible to come by. Anyhow, this is proper soul-jazz goodness at its best, so if that's your thing, then get on it real fast. "Mr Magic" appears here as an edit from Fryers, but it's not million miles away from the original, its subtle organs still intact and that catch, funky swing still very much at the core of the tune. Heard the Idris Muhammad version? Check it to compare. "Talking About My Baby" is looser, more soulful affair with a faster tempo and Heartsman's rugged vocals in its underbelly. Quality.
Review: Incredible late night smoochy stuff right here from one of the most decorated bassists of all time. A major figure in the bands of Miles Davis and Stevie Wonder, Henderson was also a killer solo artist amassing eight artist albums between 76-86. This AOTN "45 showcases his true breadth as "Let Love Enter" lilts on a soft bossa with rising horns, velvet backing vocals and an unabashed come-to-bed message. "Come To Me" gets even deeper under the sheets with as he goes toe-to-toe, cheek-to-cheek with Rena Scott with smoking results.
Review: Since 2003, Record Kicks has been the "explosive sound of today's scene" and, by the looks of this latest nugget from Martha High, they're right on track to fulfill that promise! The talented US vocalist was on the front row of James Brown's hits in the 60's and 70's, but she's since then focused on her own glorious soul material. "A Little Taste Of Soul" comes as a ray of shining light on a wet October afternoon, full of funky sensibility and heartfelt vibes, making for the perfect dance number for those looking for that groovy thang. For the B-side, "Unwind Yourself" slows the tempo down, breaks up the groove, and unleashes High's Goddess-like voice amid those tasty breaks - what a winner!
Review: Brand new sub-label from the Favorite camp, SOL Discos launches with an absolute reissue gem that has previously passed hands for well over a L100. Hiram & Direct's Detroit-recorded, Hirome-released double-A sets up the new label's stall really well as we're treated to frenetic jazz boogie on "Love Flight" which hasn't lost so much as an ounce of dancefloor focus in its 30+ years while "Turn It Around" is a classic torch ballad Faze-O style. One for getting freaky on the floor, one for getting freaky elsewhere. More please.
You're Doing It With Her (When It Should Be With Me) (2:45)
Cry Myself To Sleep (2:06)
Review: Rhetta Hughes (Los Angeles, California, November 9, 1953) is a R&B singer and actress. She starred in the Broadway musicals Dreamgirls, Don't Play Us Cheap and Amen Corner: for which she was nominated for a Tony Award in the category for Best Actress in a Musical in 1984. She also appeared in the films Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, The Wiz (as a member of the choir) as well as the film version of Don't Play Us Cheap. She was also seen in the TV version of the musical Purlie, and appeared in an episode of Law & Order. In addition, Hughes had two entries on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart including "Angel Man (G.A.)" which hit #1 in 1983. "You're Doing It With Her (When It Should Be With Me)" is the kind of soul classic that the late Amy Winehouse could have taken her cues from while "Cry Myself To Sleep" appears on the flip.
Review: This more than handy 7" single brings together two classic disco-era cuts from soul legend Willie Hutch. A-side "Easy Does It", which was originally featured on 1978's In Tune album, features Hutch in full-on Curtis Mayfield mode, singing passionately over a jaunty, jazz-funk influenced backing track laden with swirling strings, choral backing vocals (think Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" album) and Dexter Wansel style synthesizer solos. It's undoubtedly one of Hutch's finest moments and deserves to be in any serious soul head's collection. Flip for 1979's "Kelly Green", a sumptuous soul slow jam in which Hutch pines over a lost lover.
Review: Acid Jazz has pulled off something of a coup here by persuading legendary '70s soul man Leroy Huston to part with a couple of previously unreleased cuts. A-side "Positive Forces" was recorded by Hutson in 1977 and sits somewhere between the sweeping, orchestrated bliss of Philly soul, the soaring dancefloor celebration of disco and the loose-limbed instrumental goodness of jazz-funk. It's an absolute stunner, all told, and sounds like it was tailor-made for spins at sweltering summer festivals. On the B-side you'll find a previously unreleased instrumental version of 1975's "All Because of You". While a vocal-free version has previously been released, this particular mix includes a little more drum action at the beginning to assist with mixing.
Review: Two Arista classics from 79/78 respectively, the cult (not to mention heavily sampled) charms of Pittsburgh soul queen Hyman are presented immaculately right here on this heavyweight vinyl double-A. "You Know How To Love Me", taken from the 79 album of the same name, is a straight up disco stomper that should be recognisable to all with its distinctive horn fill and rousing backing vocals while "Living Inside Your Love" (from her 78 album Somewhere In My Lifetime) is a slinkier, sultry affair with some sizzling scat vocal flare and harmonies that will have you weak at the knees. It's all love.
Review: It's been two years since Nick Hakim set out his soulful, sultry and Balearic stall via the Where Will We Go Parts 1 & 2 LP. Since that gathered together tracks from previously released EP, Green Twins is officially his debut album. It's rather good, too, effortlessly joining the dots between hazy, Harry Nillson style dream pop, horizontal psychedelia, intergalactic soul and horizontal grooves. Hakim apparently used a more experimental approach to writing and recording, which manifests itself through effects-laden drum tracks, a use of lo-fi electronics, and vocals drenched in reverb and tape delay. The results are, for the most part, hugely impressive.
Review: Following 2014's When The World Was One, Halsall and the Gondwana collective continue their spiritual jazz adventure with another immaculate narrative. Now with much more vocal prowess, singer Josephine Oniyama plays a lead role in the story, adding consistency and personality to the Halsall's swooning, cinematic odysseys. Highlights include the Hathaway-style half spoken/half sung "Badder Weather", the frenetic double bass and brushed drum crescendos of "The Land Of", the (lark) ascending strings and oriental scales of "Cushendun" and the smoky, faraway Coltraneisms of the title track. Modern jazz doesn't get any more authentic than this.