by: Jarret Lovell
Five Alarm Funk - Sweat - (Factor)
The opening track on Sweat is called “Widowmaker,” and given the strength and speed of the opening bass guitar, one certainly understands the track name. This is heavy funk/rock coming from a nine-piece outfit out of Vancouver. “Ddpp” is a fast jam with conga drums, slap/Primus-esque bass, and a vocal refrain urging listeners to “Dance, dance! Party, party!” The title track “Sweat” opens with Spanish horns giving way to a nice drum and bass beat. Roughly a minute into the track, drum, bass and horns are in sync, and the track sounds like fantastic Spanish funk – something Ozomatli in their heyday would create. Halfway through the jam, a heavy guitar riff kicks in. Overall, “Sweat” is filled with heavy, funk power jams! Almost exclusively instrumental, there’s something here for everyone. Good stuff. Play.
Morgan Heritage - Avrakedabra - (Empire Records)
Legends in reggae music, Morgan Heritage have made it big (in part) by creating soulful reggae. While some might call it reggae-lite, they’d be incorrect. MH is often more reggae/r&b. This is why their last offering “Strictly Roots” was so welcome to fans who prefer their more rootsy tunes, and that release certainly didn’t disappoint. Avrakedabra finds the pendulum swinging a bit back to R&B. Tracks #2 “One Life to Live” is electronic heavy and quick good, with the bass getting a bit dubstep at the chorus. “One Family” (#3) features Ziggy and Stephen Marley and was likely penned during their shared tour last summer. This is a fun CD with lots of guest vocals, danceable beats, and soulful lyrics.
The Elovaters - The Cornerstone - (self release)
From Boston, the Elovaters describe their sound as “beach reggae,” and that’s a fitting description. Similar to the sound of Hawaiian and California reggae, the sound here is mellow, with acoustic guitar and songs about “sunshine” and “wind on my back.” The third track (“House of the Stoic”) is a nice, mellow number with a simple bass line. “Stop Arresting Johnny” is an interesting track that makes no reference to why Johnny is repeatedly arrested. Is it because Johnny’s addicted to drugs? Homeless? Mellow CD overall.
Tanika Charles - Soul Run - (Record Kicks)
From Edmonton, Tanika Charles seems to have one foot in the past, and one foot in the future – and that’s a good thing, for “Soul Run” is beautifully soulful and quite beat-oriented, with contemporary hip-hop beats providing the backdrop to her fantastic voice. Her backing band is “the Wonderfuls,” and it deserves much credit for the fresh sound of this album. If you’ve enjoyed the Lady Wray album, you’ll dig this. Try “Money” which begins with a killer beat.