Review: Wewantsounds' 2019 Record Store Day release takes us back to 1978 and a hard-to-find 12" single from Lebanese composer, pianist, playwright and political commentator Ziad Rahbani. "Abu Ali" is perhaps not Rahbani's best known work - in the Arab world his various albums are far more celebrated - but it is one that has chimed with Western audiences thanks to its assimilation of elements of American disco, soul and funk. The title track is something of a beast: a 10-minute epic that wraps Arabic orchestration, mazy horn refrains and prominent piano motifs around an atmospheric disco groove and intergalactic synthesizer lines. It's bonkers but brilliant, making this reissue more than welcome. On the flipside there's a chance to enjoy "Prelude (Theme from Mais El Rim)", an epic example of Rahbani's 1970s soundtrack work.
Review: Alanna Royale has been active in the funk and soul scene for quite a few years now, though her releases have previously been limited to a handful of self-released EPs and a sole album (recorded live and thrown out to raise funds for Puerto Rico hurricane survivors). Here she debuts on Transistor Sound, with Kelly Finnigan of label owners Monophonics handling production duties. "Go" is a great chunk of fuzzy, retro-futurist soul, with Royale's superb Alice Russell style vocal simply soaring above a bustling backing track rich in parping horns, skittish drum breaks and razor-sharp funk guitars. Royale remains in fine form on flipside "I Know", another distorted stomper of the sort that should excite both Northern Soul diehards and modern soul aficionados.
Review: Tramp Records' latest vital reissue delves into the back catalogue of the Reggie Saddler Revue, a largely little known funk combo that released a handful of 45s at the start of the 1970s. This double A-side brings together two killer cuts that originally appeared on different 7" singles, both of which are now near impossible to find. A-side "Raggedy Bag" is raw, weighty and impassioned - a scorching slab of deep funk that more than lives up to its high reputation amongst collectors. Over on the flip you'll find "Love Is Just Like A Baseball Game", a sweeter and more loved-up affair blessed with superb vocal harmonies that's nevertheless impressively fuzzy.
Let Me Put It In Your Ear (previously unreleased) (2:49)
In My Life (previously unreleased) (3:56)
Review: Two never-before-released cuts from ill-fated Indianapolis troupe who looked set for the big time but moved to LA and consequently got shelved. 1978's loss is 2018's gain, however, as we're treated to two of their shelved gems right here. "Let Me Put It In Your Ear" is a belting falsetto soul slammer articulated with real urgency while "In My Life" is much more of a smouldering affair that builds up into an emphatic soul crescendo. Put it in your collection.
The Rotating Assembly - "Seasons Of My Life" (feat Billy Lo)
Green Pickles - "Feedback" (feat Billy Lo & M Pittman)
Review: Sound Signature kick off the new year with a pleasing reissue of some smoky soul from Theo Parrish's outlet for his most jazzy tendencies. On "Seasons Of My Life" Billy Lo croons over a muted trumpet while a surprisingly rough stomp gets hammered out of a live kit. It's a dreamy, sunkissed jam with all the loose, free-flowing elements you would expect from something with Parrish's stamp on it. Marcellus Pittman helps out on "Feedback", as a sparser, meandering groove does the nasty with some restrained keys. For that Detroit beatdown flavour away from the dancefloor, this is as good as it gets.
Otis Redding - "(Your Love Lifted Me ) Higher & Higher" (Soul Flip edit) (4:03)
Gerri Granger - "I Go To Pieces" (Soul Flip edit) (3:33)
Review: Sometimes you just can't beat the golden oldies and so it is that Soul Flip turns his attention to a couple of raw soul bangers. Up first is Otis Redding's classic "(Your Love Lifted Me ) Higher & Higher" with a rousing bass section which drives along the original version.The hits hit hard, the vocal is given room to breathe and the swing in the drums is infectious. The flipside houses a soaring tweak of Gerri Granger's "I Go To Pieces", with its clattering keys and rolling soul all quickly finding a way into your affections.
Review: Some of you may remember Ricardo Vincenzo from his 2015 debut Pororoca Transatlantica, a two-track missive that blended South American production with all the warmth of sun-kissed downtempo electronica. If anything, this belated follow-up for esteemed Finnish label Sahko is even better. Vincenzo begins with the farmyard animal samples, rolling tribal percussion, African chants and rich electronic bass of "Cabras No Elevado Quilombia", before chopping and looping a dusty old tango track on the mid-tempo house pulse of "Onna No Yujo". On the flip you'll find the low-slung, post-dubstep creepiness of "Haru", where exotic vocal samples drift across a sparse but heavy beat pattern, and the aural trip to Morocco that is "Excellent Drom".
Review: Since Nick The Record has one of the deepest collections going, it's little surprise that his ongoing Record Mission series has delivered some killer re-edits of ridiculously obscure gems. For this third 12", he once again joins forces with Idjut Boy Dan Tyler to rework a trio of gospel-tinged cuts from the late '70s/early '80s. Arguably most impressive is A-side "Highway To Heathen", a gradually rising, off-piste, boogie-era disco jam blessed with killer talkbox vocals. On the flip you'll find the more straight-forward gospel sing-along of "For Heathen's Sake", and "he Touched Me", a slower, more soulful gospel excursion that benefits greatly from lashings of Tyler's trademark space echo and tape delay.
Review: Marta Ren has made us wait for a follow-up to her superb 2016 debut album "Stop, Look, Listen". The good news is that a belated sequel is in the works, with this limited seven-inch single offering a first taster of the studio sessions. "Worth It" was certainly worth the wait (sorry). Based around a lolloping deep funk groove rich in heavy bass, hip-hop style drum breaks, crunchy guitars and rising horns, the track sounds like a long lost original 1960s recording rather than something made earlier this year. That's no criticism, though, because Ren's powerful, forthright vocals - available on the killer A-side version - suit that kind of fuzzy, retro-futurist production. Don't sleep on this one - it's one of the strongest soul records of the month without doubt.
Review: Late last year Los Angeles-based synth obsessive Nicholas Benedek made his PPU bow with a untitled album filled with untitled tracks, executed with the sort of lo-fi panache that fit the label to a tee. Here Benedek returns to PPU as RX, a rather surprising self-styled 'smog prog' project with LIES artist and LA Club Resources boss Delroy Edwards. Taking shape in a signature PPU 7 inch, both "Strung Out" and "Prescriptions" sound like a fine balance between the hazy boogie of Benedek and the tape degraded grit that's been a hallmark of Edwards work since his emergence on L.I.E.S.
Review: La Differencia, Dutch singer Hubertus Richenel Baars' 1982 debut, has long been considered something of a slept-on classic by those in the know. Charmingly lo-fi and homemade in feel, the cassette's 10 tracks - six of which are featured on this first ever vinyl reissue - brilliantly joined the dots between blue-eyed soul, spacey electro, disco, electrofunk and slap-bass wielding space boogie. As usual, Music From Memory has done a terrific job with the re-mastering; the tracks sound stronger than ever, if even they have retained some of the charming fuzziness of Baars' original production. All told, it's another essential reissue from Music Is Memory.
Take It Personally (Exclusive unreleased instrumental) (1:30)
Review: Mukatsuku's latest must-have release offers another opportunity to own early Freddie Cruger AKA Red Astaire favourite "Take It Personally". The wonderfully dusty, smoky and life-affirming hip-hop-soul cut first appeared as a Swedish only CD single in 2001, before later being included on the Stockholm stalwart's 2006 debut album "Soul Search". This time round, the inspired original - all head-nodding beats, sumptuous strings and sugary-sweet vocals from guest Desmond Foster - comes accompanied by a previously unreleased instrumental take. This vocal-free version is superb, offering listeners a chance to wallow in the quality of the Swedish veteran's bumpin' beats and intoxicating, head-in-the-clouds production. In the record box of Danny Krivit,DJ Spinna, Kid Koala and more! Only 300 hand-numbered copies and strictly no repress. Juno copies come exclusively in additional hand stamped kraft paper inner sleeve and branded card outer sleeve. Don't sleep !
Review: Exploring the sounds emanating from South Asia, Masaala is a new label with a fresh outlook. The first release features Manchester-based producers Raheel Khan and Adesi turning in some powerful edits that will appeal to anyone seeking invigorating sounds from further afield. Khan's twist on "Mast Qalandar" sounds like a striking version of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's "Mustt Mustt". Adesi offers up the lions share of the edits though, channeling South Asian sounds through grooves ranging from the fierce disco stomp of "Sansani" to the low slung funk groove of "Nah Nah Nah". "Kammata" has a more dense rhythmic complexity at its heart, and "Kuchi Kuchi" collides traditional sounds with contemporary broken beat to brilliant effect.
(Soul) Rebel 23 (Reginald Omas Mamode IV remix) (3:30)
Snake Eyes (Ishmael Ensemble remix) (8:11)
Review: If you've not yet got your ears around Roger 'Chip' Wickham's sensationally sunny, jazz-fired "Shamal Wind" mini-album, we suggest you check it out post-haste. In the meantime, Lovemonk has reminded us of its magnificence via a new set of reworks from some seriously hot producers. Max Graef handles side A, first serving up a chugging, mind altering and heavily percussive "Bongo Mix" of "Soho Strut", before reaching for the sub-bass and fizzing, juke-tempo jazz rhythms on the bonkers but brilliant "Bass Mix" of the very same song. Over on the flipside, Peckham beat-maker Reginald Omas Mamode IV serves up a dusty, Rhodes-laden take on "(Soul) Rebel 23" featuring his own soulful vocals, before Gilles Peterson favourites Ishmael Ensemble mix live jazz instrumentation with rolling house beats on a sublime revision of "Snake Eyes".
Review: Labels Hot Mule and Secousse have teamed up to deliver something special: a killer EP of "lost gems from the golden era of Zouk and Gwo-Ka" in Guadeloupe (that's 1985 to '92, fact fans). The four tracks showcased here were performed and produced by an artist whose fame in Guadeloupe sadly never spread any further, Max Rambhojan. The A-side boasts two versions of the rather brilliant and suitably cheery "Tou't Jou Pa Min'm": the jaunty, sun-kissed, whistle-sporting 1986 original mix, and Rambhojan's heavily electronic, synthesizer-heavy, calypso-tinged 1992 re-make of his biggest local hit. Over on side B you'll find the bubby dub bass, sparse synths and flute solos of the decidedly tropical "Cecilia" and a suitably breezy, sunset-ready gem entitled "On Jou Matin".
Roger Damawuzan - "Loxo Nye" (Pushin Wood remix) (5:39)
Napo De Mi Amor - "Cacatchoule "Berceuse Bassari"" (3:04)
Sewavi Jacintho - "Miade Dua" (5:35)
Review: Hot Casa's latest must-have release is a veritable smorgasbord of Togolese treats. It focuses specifically on obscure soul music made in Togo in the 1970s, with two hard-to-find original cuts being joined by two contemporary re-edits of similarly obscure classics. The EP opens with Bosq's smooth, dancefloor-focused tweal of Yta Jourias's breezy, horn-heavy tropical soul workout "Adome Nyueto", before Pushin Wood takes over and adds a little contemporary electronic bounce - and some particularly colourful synths - to Roger Damawuzan's "Loxo Nye". Over on side B, Napo De Mi Amor's "Cacatchoule Berceuse Bassari" is a fuzzy soul shuffler rich in bright, Juju style guitar solos, hazy vocals and Hammond organ stabs, while Sewavi Jacintho's "Miade Dua" is a sweatier and heavier concoction powered by loose-limbed drumming and sun-kissed instrumentation.