March 2014 Playlist

28 Mar

By the skin of my teeth for this one, but these are doing it for me just now (new releases or re-releases only, so reasonably easy to get – we’re not about rarity here!).

1) Esther Phillips ‘Baby I’m For Real’ (Raven)

4 of her Kudu albums on 2 CDs, these include ‘From A Whisper To A Scream’ and ‘Performance’. Contains probably the best version of ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’, however…

2) Gil Scott-Heron ‘Pieces of A Man’ (BGP)

…this has just been re-released by Kent as a mid-priced Cd with bonus tracks. So you can decide which really is the best version of ‘HIWTHI’ – Gil’s original, or Esther’s version (the answer really is that they’re both great). You need this if you haven’t already got it – top 10 soul CDs of all time easily.

3) V/A ‘Real Side Records Presents – Soul On The Real Side’ (Outta Sight)

Nice comp with some re-recorded versions of modern soul classics like ‘The Whole World Is Going Crazy’, together with some classic originals: Larry Saunders ‘On The Real Side’ and Madagascar ‘Rainbows’.

4) Nicola Conte, V/A ‘Presents Mystic Prestige’ (Universal Japan)

Follow up to his ‘Spiritual Swingers’ set from a few years ago, this puts together some deep stuff from 50s/60s Prestige and Riverside releases: John Coltrane, Gigi Gryce, Yusef Lateef…you get the idea. Nice comparison to BGP’s forthcoming Paul Murphy comp ‘The Return of Jazz Club’ (of which more later).

5) Mary Love ‘Lay This Burden Down’ (Kent)

Great (updated – it’s been out before in a different version) career-reterospective of the late Mary Love (Comer)’s work – from the Motown-esque early dancers to her funkier early 70s work right up to the gospel dancefloor fillers of the 80s, it’s all here. Really gives you an idea of the breadth and overall quality of her work. Hugely underrated.

6) Sam Dees ‘One In A Million: The Songs of Sam Dees’ (Kent)

And talking of underrated…Sam Dees is the pre-eminent soul songwriter of his generation, a fact that has probably undermined what would have been a great solo career as well (‘The Show Must Go On’, finally given a proper re-issue last year, is another top 5 soul album, and can definitely be compared to other classics of its era such as ‘What’s Going On’ and ‘Curtis’). This fact seems to have escaped most British music critics, but it hasn’t escaped the absolute A-list of US r’n’b royalty – Sam has written million sellers for Gladys Knight, Whitney Houston, George Benson and Aretha Franklin. This CD, in typical Kent fashion, doesn’t follow the easy route, instead picking a selection of Sam’s best songs sung by a wide variety of (in some cases unexpected) artists. Can’t recommend this enough, and there are apparently further volumes in preparation to take account of Sam’s huge output and incredibly high quality standards (btw if you wonder why I feature so much Ace/Kent/BGP material, it’s no mystery – pound for pound it’s the best vintage black music label out there).

7) Dionne Warwick – complete Sceptre/Warner Brothers albums (Rhino/Edsel

Not much to say about these, other than the fact that these are double (and in one case treble) CD resissues of some of the most timeless records ever made, completely remastered and annotated with preditably excellent notes from the great Tony Rounce – all for a tenner a pop! 4 sets, all good, but the first one (containing her first 4 albums: ‘Presenting Dionne Warwick’ / ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ / ‘Make Way’ / ‘The Sensitive Sound’) probably takes the prize just because of the amount of classics it contains.

8) Lack of Afro ‘Music for Adverts’ (Freestyle)

New retro funky soul and jazz from Brit collective Lack of Afro, with an impressive set of vocalists involved. Best tracks for me feature the Northern-ish vocals of Jack Tyson-Charles, who sounds great (and is the son of Craig Charles, looking the spit of his dad!)

9) Irma Thomas ‘Full Time Woman’ (Real Gone Music/Rhino)

Great reissue of New Orleans stalwart Irma’s ‘lost’ Cotillion album (basically she recorded the single ‘Full Time Woman’ at Malaco Studios, which was released, but subsequent tracks from that session, plus a follow-on session, remained undiscovered until 2004). Lovely country influenced soul, if you like the Candi Staton Fame and Bettye Swann Capitol reissues from the same era, this will definitely be your thing.

10) Young-Holt Unlimited ‘Born Again’/’Mellow Dreamin” (Water)

OK, not a new record, or even a new reissue, but I was listening to this whilst typing the above, and had to reference it. Already mentioned on these pages as an example of the sublime moment when soul, jazz and MoR met in the late 60s and procued sun-dappled music for driving to the beach (or anything really!), this is really too good for the lounge set. First brought to my attention via the excellent Jamie Cullum show on Radio 2 (btw you should put aside your prejudices and listen to him, he’s fantastic), this is music to love and share – check their version of the peerless ‘Wichita Lineman’ and feel that longing:


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