After seeing Esperanza’s impressive live showcase of this album at Shepherds Bush Empire late last year, for those who love he soul and jazz catalogue, this embraces more of a rock, jazz, fusion influence. It’s certainly abstract and an acquired taste, very reminiscent of the 1970’s era, which is attributed to groups like Santana and The John Mahavishnu Orchestra. The first four songs “Good Lava”, “Unconditional Love”, “Judas” and “Earth To Heaven” see’s Esperanza transform into a Kate Bush ‘Wuthering Height’s’ vocal octave of eerie and mysterious proportions. “Rest In Pleasure”, the albums second longest track reminds me in parts of Art Of Noise’s “Moments In Love”. It’s more of an experimental listening album that other than a short and sweet acapella bass funk “Farewell Dolly”, does provide more R&B melodic cut. “Funk The Fear” has chants and the complicated rhythm changes funk fusion is renowned for, with a touch of Carlos Santana rock and soul lead guitar.
From one of the 20th centuries most prolific singing song writing teams comes one of a few from the Cherry Red stables. The late Nickolas Ashford and his soul mate Valerie Simpson’s “A Musical Affair” arrives with 3 extra bonus tracks including the single and a previously unreleased long and welcomed version of the album’s anthem “Love Don’t Alway’s Make It Right”. After a very seductive “Rushing To” my personal favourite is “I Ain’t Asking For Your Love”. With an uplifting feel good factor message and harmonious vocal delivery “Make It To The Sky” and “We’ll Meet Again” share the orchestral strains and crescendos that always sounded epic on 70’s disco recordings. Don’t be fooled by the mellow beginning of “You Never Left Me Alone” as it does build up nicely before it reaches its 3-minute 50 mark. As well as the longer album version as a bonus check out the single edit of the power ballad “Happy Endings”. With other album titles “Send It” and “Come As You Are”, catch up the brilliance of Ashford & Simpson.
Remixed and revitalised Jarrod Lawson’s “Spiritual Eyes” gets a moog boogie treatment from the new school soul doctors Young Pulse and ATN. The main mix is 9 minutes long with a nice clean punctuated four-floor kick drum and electro moog production. It’s reminiscent of the late 80’s mid tempo house grooves, with stripped breakdowns, ad-libs, instrumentation and build-ups, allowing Dj’s to experiment with this in the mix. In parts I’m reminded of Stevie Wonder’s “Blackman” with the moog keys and bass arrangement and it’s the last two-minute outro breakdown, that massively impressed me, as I imagine dancing to this in my youth 35 years back. Very different to the album mix and useful as an alternative depending on what audience is listening.
This is the final album Lonnie Liston did on Flying Dutchman and the first time we hear his vocal as well as his nimble fingered prowess. “Get Down Everybody” is the pinnacle fling foot shuffling dance cut with the hallmarks and keyboard interchanges of “Expansion’s” prelude legacy featuring Lonnie sounding good linguistically. Lonnie has a habit of following a tranquil and very lucid slow jazz template on each album with “Quite Dawn” exemplifying that exquisitely. He maintains that with slightly more upbeat Sunbeams in an almost glockenspiel sounding “Meditations”. Donald Smith duets with his brother Lonnie on a short but so sweet reggae tinged “Peace & Love” accompanied by a Patti Austin, Maeretha Stewart and Vivian Cherry chorus. Donald solo’s on an enchanting “Beautiful Woman” the second up-tempo serving of the album and finally on a down-tempo “Inner Beauty’” Lonnie completes his vocal hat trick on “Golden Dreams” and ends with a Sun Ra influenced “Journey Into Space”. Superb!!
Jacques Fred Petrous, Mauro Malavasi and David Romani emulated the forumlar of USA musicians and production team Chic, with the Italian American studio band Change in the late 1970’s and the rest is history. This comp features 28 songs from their 6 albums circa 1980-1985 that hosted lead vocals from Jocelyn Brown, James Robinson, Diva Gray and the late Luther Vandross. CD 1’s first 14 has an excellent selection including “Lover’s Holiday” the extended “Glow Of Love”, “Angel In My Pocket” and “Paradise”. James Robinson’s vocals dominate on most of the following classics and truly was the most consistent lead vocalist albeit a ballad or an up-tempo boogie bullet. “Miracles”, “Heaven Of My Life”, “The Very Best In You” an alternative mix of “Keep On It” and a sensual “Promise Your Love” showcase shows why he reigned supreme up until the 3rd 1982 “Sharing Your Love” album. CD 2 sees James with an evolving 1983 production sounding glorious on “This Is Your Time”, “Don’t Wait Another Night” and a lush two stepping “You’ll Never Realise”. Percussionist Rick Brennan fills the gap taking over the lead vocal reigns on the moog bass influenced “Got To Get Up” until we see the Minneapolis production team of Jam & Lewis’s not so hostile takeover, on the Change Of Heart album, introducing the serene and welcomed female vocals of Deborah Cooper. “Change Of Heart” and “You Are My Melody” the massive club classics had to be on here but I melted like hot cheese in an oven every time when I hear her dulcet tones on the other dynamic duo’s “Warm” and “Lets Go Together”. Deborah continues to hold court on the mesmerising “Mutual Attraction” and Paul Hardcastle’s remix of “Oh What A Feeling” until this comp finishes with Mike Maurro’s remix of “It’s A Girl’s Affair” featuring vocal goddess Jocelyn Brown. Great comp from Wayne Dickson my only gripe is how could you leave off the Burgess cut “You Are My Number One”?
Acknowledged as the catalyst for the experimental, spiritual and esoteric freestyle jazz from the beginning of the 1950’s, Sun Ra and his Arkestra inspired any a musician, Dj and music collector universally. His influence is secreted in recordings from John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, through to Lonnie Liston Smith and Kamasi Washington. Renowned jazz aficionado Gilles Peterson has chosen 34 tracks spread over two CD’s, dating back to the post 20th Century 1950’s swing, doo wop, rhumba, cha cha cha genres to the current millennium with previously unreleased live recordings. It’s an eclectic compilation for those with an open mind for musical close encounters of the third eye kind and mind. Sun Ra experiments with electric keyboards, instruments and eerie organ sounds on “Sun Song” circa 1957. Vocal contributions like “Dreaming” from 1955 evoke latter memories of Dr Buzzards Savannah Band successful formula 20 years later. Songs titles like “India” and “Space Loneliness” are typically very atmospheric in an acoustic vein with orchestration but without strings. With Sun Ra’s obvious connection to the astral world and various interplanetary platforms, his crystallised productions were so advanced, that some of his late 1950-1960s recordings stand the test of time in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. His catalogue is so diverse with an Art Blakey “Cuban Chant” simulated “Brazilian Sun” to a vocal harmony laced “Black Sky And Blue Moon” and a varied change of tempo and musicianship via “Watusa”. With June Tyson vocally chanting Sun Ra plays the clavinet like a lead guitar on a late 1960’s “The World Of Africa”. I’m absolutely certain that the popular BBC 1970’s children TV animation series ‘The Clangers’ was inspired by the mid 1960’s composition “Cluster Of Galaxies” with its sun harp, thunder drums and spiral percussion antidotes. Amongst the highlights are live recordings some previously unreleased from France and Zurich that conjure up the vision of imagining the live dance routines that would have been performed. With his spiritually gifted Arkestral Manoeuvred musicians Sun Ra was a pioneer in painting the dark and light colour shades of music so I urge those with open minds to check out his “Space Is The Place” music.
I eventually purchased this on vinyl randomly in the summer of 1986 for £2.50, after a previously unsuccessful 5-year pilgrimage. My musical formular and radio show from 1987 “Hustle Jam & Boogie” was inspired by the albums moognificent (H+J+B). So in my 30th year of Dj-ing receiving this as a festive 2015 present it deserves an honorary role call. Larry Young’s “Fuel” is a weird wonderment of soul fused funk and jazz experimentation. Laura ‘Tequila’ Logan’s extenuated and accompanying vocals to Larry’s nimble fingered prowess bellow loud and proudly on “Fuel For The Fire”, “People Do Be Funny” and the sexy and salacious “Turn Off The Lights”. Larry does do a vocal street jive duet intertwine with Laura on a simulated Miles Davis “On The Corner” grooved “New York Electric Street Music”. Instrumentals “I Ching”, “Floating” have unique acidic complexities but the most exceptional one is “Hustle + Jam= Bread”. Awesome!!
Saxophonist and composer Steve Khan delivers quite an exceptional album to the discerning un policed jazz ears. It features the vocal gifts of Sabrina Malheiros, Diana Martinez and Omar as well as the remix skills of Henry Wu, Ben Hauke and the reinforced steel template of 4hero. Sean’s eloquent style echoes the tradition set by UK sax exponents Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson and USA predecessors John Coltrane, Gary Bartz or the late George Howard. Sean’s inquisitiveness and passion for all things jazz take on many tentacles as showcased in jazz soul fusion “Things To Say” and my preferred album version of “Samba Para Florence”. Elements of ‘trad jazz’ are emphasised on “Dance For Little Emily”, “Tranes Shadow” Two excellent live drum and bass productions on thought provoking spoken worded “What Has Jazz Become?” and the album take of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down” all makes for a strongly recommended purchase!!