I`m gonna start with the new stuff…
I’ve already raved, 2 or 3 times, about Ruf Dug’s collaboration with Poppy “Private Joy” Roberts, Don’t Give In. If I haven’t convinced you by now of its brilliance, I’m not sure what else I can say. There was also the stunning debut single by New Zealand / Aotearoa’s Summer Vee, that contained two tracks of terrific 21st Century jazz-funk.
Toby Tobias launched his new label, Voice Notes, with an E.P. from Cherrie Bea. Jafar’s 21st featured three forays into fantastic futuristic fidget. Chunky, sub-buzzing, broken beats, chopped about in a decidedly jazzy way. A sleek, sophisticated techno-soul remix from Nuron topped off the package, swapping the fusion keyboard solos for soothing, ethereal, deep space pads.
The Monks Road Social is a star-studded gathering. A community-based project that brings together and showcases the combined skills of celebrated singer / songwriters. A collective of likeminded, and in some cases legendary, musical mates, which with their latest record, Rise Up Singing!, also became a family affair. The progeny of members, such as Matt Deighton and Paul Weller, performing vocals on a few of the hope-filled songs. A set of perfect Sunday morning serenades, while moments boast a cool jazz swing, and there’s also a definite nod to Lee Hazlewood, the album’s roots are, perhaps, in folk. A fine example being the brilliant Karen Dalton-esque Borderline. That said, the wonderful Weller-penned, and sung, title track is a shot of lush, Leroy Hutson-like, sweet symphonic soul.
The marvelous Marley Monroe covered Tony Joe White’s blues Did Somebody Make A Fool Out Of You? for Record Store Day. Lady Blackbird, making the song her own, just like a modern day Nina Simone.
Also for RSD, Prime Direct repressed several old rarities, the standouts for me being Charlie Mitchell`s sublime rare groover After Hours – a repro on Janus Records from 1973, Eunice Collins` horny and frustrated At The Hotel – saved from a 1974 Chicago Mod-Art 7, and the discerning dance-floor filling Fly Away from the 8-piece Electrified AGB (All Girl Band).
Taking 2022’s other reissues in chronological order, the earliest, Richard Caiton’s Listen To The Drums – raucous New Orleans “voodoo beat” R&B revived by Swiss label Rocafort – dates from 1964. “Do you wanna jump children?” Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Reggae label, Jah Fingers, rescued John Fitch & Associates from 1969. Their Romantic Attitude is a rejected but resilient piano-led ballad that dissolves into a wall of ringing fuzz guitar – like The Delfonics with added Jimi Hendrix. Stoned Out Of It is a psyche go-go stomp. A head banging hedonistic hell-raiser’s anthem.
Keeping the Caribbean link, the Chosen Few were a Kingston vocal group, who in the late `60s / early `70s recorded a stack of skanking soul covers for producer Derrick Harriott – adding a reggae twist to stuff like Isaac Hayes` Shaft and Billy Paul’s Am I Black Enough. In 2022, Emotional Rescue reissued a couple of tracks from 1974, rendered for the Miami-based Noel “King Sporty” Williams and his label, Konduko. Funky Buttercup is straight-up brass-punched funk, while Wandering is an outstanding orchestrally strung Styistics-esque belter.
I’ve got a ton of reggae covers of soul classics, after all that`s what the genre of Lovers Rock is founded on, but Chuck Jackson’s Waiting In Vain is one of the few things I have where the reverse is true. Jackson, the man behind Northern classics like I Keep On Forgetting, and I Only Get This Feeling, in 1980 recorded this radical reworking of the Bob Marley tune. A bouncing mid-tempo blast Balearic soul if ever I heard one.
Hudson People’s Trip To Your Mind is a behemoth of Brit-Funk. A record that, like Atmosfear’s Dancing In Outer Space, defined the times. It also happened to be a huge hit at David Mancuso’s New York Loft parties. The brilliant Backatcha have pressed both sought after versions of the song on a single 12, and as far as I’m concerned it’s an absolute essential. I don’t know if “trance dance” is the right term to use here, but it always has my head locked in its hypnotic, feel-good, groove.
Chuck Bynum’s It’s You, a fantastic find from L.A.`s Nice Choice Records, also pushes positivity, with a musical nod to Stevie Wonder, and passion to rival early Sly & The Family Stone.
Originally from 1983, I had no idea that Candy McKenzie’s Remind Me was reissue until I came to write this up. The sorta skanking “Different Style” version in particular sounds so contemporary. Taxi Gang-like catching its drums clapping in delay.
From 1986 Mr. Bongo revived South African band, Stimela`s E.P., Rewind. The quartet of cuts in places touch on the afro / cosmic drum-machine fusions of Bill Laswell’s Celluloid, but the gospel-influenced Hate Telling A Lie is a gorgeous, soulful, seductive sway.
Hitting the `90s, Backatcha, again, leased the “loved-up” pop of Leonie’s Closer To Heaven from a forgotten 1991 white label, while Invisible City Editions gave new life to Ghanian ex-pat, Frank “Accura” Ed’s Five X Five, a of set of UK swingbeat, street soul, and rap first released in 1994.
Spanning the same time-frame as these two treasures, was Numero Group’s comprehensive overview of Brockley-based label, V4 Visions. Titled Of Love & Androids, the compilation mapped a South London sound’s seamless movement from soul, through house, into jungle, and as such is an incredible document.
Finally moving more up to date, and bringing us almost full circle, Masato “Slowly” Komatsu`s cover of Curtis Mayfield`s Tripping Out was originally released as a lovers rock reimagining in 2018, but in 2022 received a terrific 2 Step Soul Remix.
Lady Blackbird – Did Someone Make A Fool Out Of You
Monks Road Social – Rise Up Singing
Stimela – I Hate Telling A Lie
Chosen Few – Wandering
Eunice Collins – At The Hotel
Ruf Dug X Private Joy – Don’t Give In (Soul Mix)
Slowly – Tripping Out (Soul Mix)
Candy McKenzie – Remind Me (Different Style)
Charlie Mitchell – After Hours
Accura – Summer Jazz
Leonie – Closer To Heaven
Electrified AGB – Fly Away
Chuck Bynum – Its You
Chuck Jackson – Waiting In Vain
Rohan Delano – Inflight
Summer Vee – Judas
Hudson People – Trip To Your Mind