by: Jarret Lovell
Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974 – 1984 - (Chocolate Industries/Numero Group): Sometimes an album comes along that is just a mash of sounds that – sonically speaking – shouldn’t work, and yet it does. In this case, it isn’t an album per se but an experiment that took place during the 1970s. At the same time that funk/soul reigned supreme, the synthesizer and drum machine were looming large on the horizon. Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk were becoming household names, and 80s new wave synth pop was soon to take over. This left a nice window of opportunity for innovation: merge the sound of the 60s with the approaching sound of the 80s by creating electronic funk/soul. And leave it to the folks at Chocolate Industries/Numero Group to find 17 “underground, self-produced, often solo, electronic soul” - as the liner notes explain. To be sure, the sound quality on these recordings are somewhat (shall we say?) rustic. And some of the compositions work better than others. But as is almost always the case with compilations distributed by Numero Group, even the weaker tracks are better than most of what is heard anywhere else! The compilation begins with a short little piece (1:41) from Jeff Phelps which is simply drum machine and synth and sounds a bit like something Dam-Funk would produce, only this is vintage jazz/funk at its minimal best. Track #2 continues the instrumental vibe with a simple drum machine beat and a deep, heavy synth that builds and builds in a manner that reminds me of a Chemical Brothers track, except instead of a crash of samples and drums, the build gives way to blues guitar (the artist is, after all Guitar Red.) For me, the recording really gets going on track #3 – for me probably the standout here! The artist is Jerry (J.G.) Green, and sadly – a search on the web could not uncover any other recording from this artist than this 4:12 gem, so set your player to repeat. (Liner notes indicate that Green was “a member of the second incarnation of Motown’s long-running Contours vocal group.”) The first vocal track on the compilation, a simple drum hit gives way to Green’s soulful wailing while synth and drums punctuate his vocals, but know when to drop out, letting his voice carry the emotion when most effective. This is precisely the sound I’d hoped to find on this collection. Other standouts include Cotillion’s “If You Give a Dance” with a heavy funk bass line and falsetto vocals, the Makers “Don’t Challenge Me” with funky synth and beautiful female vocals, Deborah Washington & the Astros “Shortest Lady”, and Steve Elliot’s “One More Time.” This is an amazing compilation, so play! New release.
The Black Ark Years: The Jamaican 7” disc 2 - (Trojan)
Disc 2 of this massive retrospective of the legendary Black Ark studio continues to impress. Not only does this disc features known entities such as Michael Campbell (aka Mikey Dread), Augustus Pablo, and the Heptones, but less-known artists like George Faith, Danny Hensworth and Lord Sassafrass are also featured. Disc 2 spans the years 1977 -1978, and it’s amazing to see so many gems emerge in such a short span. Reissue.
Atta Kid - East Basics - (Atta Kid)
From Oakland, CA – Atta Kid aptly describes their sound as East Bay funk with New Orleans Soul. Organ and Wuriltzer combine with wonderful horns (trumpet and sax), bass, and guitar to create grooves that will move your feet and make you happy. All instrumental. Play if you like Budos Band, Bad Bad Not Good, etc. Hooray! New release.
Trojan Roots -Box Set Disc 1 - (Trojan Records)
Sometimes, record labels earn such a reputation that one can pretty much purchase an album based on the label alone. For techno industrial, it used to be Wax Trax! For glitch electronic, it used to be Warp! Before the label (successfully) branched out. And edgy underground, Sub Pop was always a good bet. And for reggae, the Trojan label was the tops for roots reggae. Hence a massive box set featuring some of their best releases. All the acts are here over 3 CDs. Not a new release, but surprisingly – new to KUCI. Ras Michael, Viceroys, Sugar Minott, Big Youth. They’re all here. Discs 2 and 3 coming soon. Reissue.