Review: Another gem from the archives of Des Moines' favourite son: Samuel Jonathan Johnson - gets a much needed official reissue here. Johnson came from a family of musicians who were originally based in the Midwest. When he was six years old, the family moved to New York City, where he played for several churches and quickly gained notoriety as one of the city's finest musicians. His LP My Music was released in Europe to modest acclaim, but never received recognition back home. Disappointed in the outcome, he went into early retirement as a recording artist and began to work with local bands in the New York area. The 12" mix featured here of "You" combines the original funk riffs, captivating string arrangements and uplifting piano with a squelchy lead synth - which elevates the track to a whole new level. The aforementioned "My Music" on the B side is now a favourite with the diggers - spiritual soul from the one and only Samuel Jonathan Johnson.
Review: By the time "Touch Me In The Morning" was mailed out to American DJs in 1979, Marlena Shaw has long since established herself as one of soul music's greatest voices. "Touch Me In The Morning" was merely a promo-only affair, remixed from the shorter "Take A Bite" album version - but it did become something of a dancefloor anthem in certain underground clubs. Here, the sought-after 12" is given a replica reissue, with the stomping, string-drenched title track being accompanied by exactly the same B-side cuts as the '79 pressing.
Review: Splendor were a very short lived outfit - '70s funk/soul group including Billy Nunn, Robert "Bobby" Nunn, Sascha Meeks and Richard Shaw. "Take Me To Your Disco" and "Special Lady" were released in 1979 as the first single from the group's eponymous and only LP. It represents a heyday of disco - a zeitgeist where big budgets made for some amazing and seminal productions. With the likes of Philip Bailey (of Earth, Wind and Fire fame) and the legendary Tommy Vicari on production duties - you can really hear the magic on these ones.
Review: Lonnie Liston Smith made a lot of rather good records in the 1970s and '80s, though few are quite as heavy, intergalactic and intoxicating as "Space Princess". Initially recorded and released in 1978 as the opening track of his jazz-funk focused "Exotic Mysteries" album, the track - a suitably cosmic workout of epic proportions - quickly became a firm dancefloor favourite at both the Loft and Paradise Garage in New York thanks to its extended, Latin-tinged percussion breaks. Here the original DJ promo 12" gets the reissue treatment, with the peerless classic being accompanied by fellow "Exotic Mysteries" cut "Quiet Moments" - a gentle, samba-soaked shuffle through sunrise-ready jazz-funk bliss.
I've Been Waitin' For Tomorrow (All Of My Life) (12" mix)
Review: A triumph of enigmatic melody and an enduring document of one artist's personal vision, Matt Johnson's 1983 album still sounds as unique and affecting thirty years on as it did on its release. Replete with bittersweet gems like "This Is The Day" and "Uncertain Smile", "Soul Mining" is an album of paradoxes; too deft of touch to be rock, too weighty to be pop, it defies genre, and still sounds fresh despite being a product of Thatcher's '80s. Moreover, this album, which Johnson would arguably never top, is testimony to the good cheer that can be spread by even the most perennially gloomy songsmith.
Review: You might have heard about this LP..... After a pre-release campaign that took on Hollywood-esque proportions, French pair Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter return as Daft Punk with their fourth studio album Random Access Memories sporting a A-list cast of guests and contributors. Given the input of disco icons Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rogers it's entirely understandable that the overbearing sound on Random Access Memories is one of classic disco with lead single "Get Lucky" a good indicator for what to expect. There's also a smattering of yacht rock within the thirteen track set, whilst the ubiquitous Panda Bear turns up on the midnight stutter funk album highlight "Doin' It Right". Those expecting a return to Daft Punk's Homework heyday will be disappointed but Bangalter and de Homem-Christo are touching forty so the polished, expertly constructed disco direction makes perfect sense.
Review: Best known amongst house heads for being the source of the lilting orchestral sample in Pepe Bradock's "Deep Burnt", Freddie Hubbard's 1979 version of "Little Sunflower" is a soul-jazz classic and a half. Since the full version of Hubbard's vocal re-make (the trumpeter first recorded an instrumental take in 1968) only ever appeared on a hard-to-find promo 12", this Record Store Day reissue should be an essential purchase. It remains a gentle, breezy and sunset-ready jazz-dance gem, with Hubbard's emotion-rich vocals and mazy trumpet solos riding Latin-tinged percussion, elastic double bass and some suitably jammed-out jazz pianos. In other words, it's the kind of life-affirming treat that's capable of spreading sunshine on even the cloudiest day.
Review: It's the first album in eleven years from Jason Lytle and his unique outfit, whose penchant for narcotic melancholy and dystopian disquiet - yet always couched in rich and rewarding songcraft, has lost none of its lustre and otherworldly charm in the near twenty years since their debut. The strange meld of homespun and alt-country tinged reflection and technological fear, indeed, has scarcely sounded more relevant than the here and now, making 'Last Place' - aided and abetted by the always excellent production work of Danger Mouse - rather more than a comfortable listen from a familiar force, more a rewarding transmission from a band always curiously out of time and place.