Review: Locking down their chops on the live circuit for years, Minneapolis ten-piece Black Market Brass finally deliver one almighty debut album that's raw, loose and real. All recorded live, there's a rich, warm sound and dynamic as the players ease together from all corners around the campfire of percussion. Bluesy, Afrobeat, jazzy and funky, we hurled around from total horn euphoria of "The Powers" and highlife euphoria the disarming, alarming chaos of "The Grog" by way of the steel drum rough and tumble of "Half A Cig" and a whole load more. Pay attention... This is the sound of band of playing each other inside out. Tight.
Review: Little did Wanda Davis know when she cut her version of "Save Me" for a single on Project Soul Records in 1971, that her first (and unfortunately only) release would go on to become one of the most sought-after records in the history of American soul, fetching well over $1000 from collectors worldwide. Now, 40+ years later, Wanda returns to wax with the spooky "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (a 100+ year old murder ballad made famous by Leadbelly). Backed by the always rock-steady grooves of the Secret Stash house band (aka The Lakers), it's immediately clear Ms. Davis' vocals haven't lost any of their power in the ensuing decades - if anything, she's upped the soulful sultry quotient tenfold!
Review: Minneapolis 11-piece Derobe Dance Band sound so authentic, if you didn't know they're a new act you'd think they came straight of Lagos in 1970. Even these recordings come with that dusty weight of the original Afrobeat recordings. Lead track "Gogoplata" is all about the dramatic dynamics, first emphasising the horn messages before dropping into a lush organs while the guitars shimmer with highlife nuances in the background. "Kem Dahg" comes with more of a funk flavour than its soft subtle opening that ignites to a bold horn chorus. This band has clearly studied their inspirations for a long time and they've conjured a fantastic fusion as a result. An essential 7".
Review: One of Nigeria's most consistent Afrofunk contributors, Peter King released six albums during 10 years between the 70s and 80s. Each of them deserves attention and Omo Lewa is a great place to start. Still just as resonant with funk floors today as it ever was, highlights abound; from the savage organ slapping on "Yere Africa" to the softer groove, sad sax and golden harmonies on "Eda" via the fiery flute fusion and subtle highlife guitar sparkle on "Congo", there's something very special - not to mention timeless - about this album.
Review: US-based, Latin-rooted: Malamanya are dedicated to fusing sounds of the south Americas contemporary dynamics and aesthetics but authentic writing and studio techniques. The best of both worlds; as proved by this new vinyl version of last year's debut self-titled album. Heaving with rawness and soul throughout, the album hurls us from peak to emotional peak such as the rising horn salvos of "Aguanile" to the lamenting, crooning ballad "Cafe Colao". Thanks to the recording techniques used (and the band's collective energy) there's a real live feel and physical energy throughout. Prepare to be literally moved.
Review: Following the runaway success of the William Onyeabor compilation on Luaka Bop, it's unsurprising that more labels are looking to the Nigerian music scene for more unheralded and little-known gems. Funkees (For You Specially) definitely falls into this category. Recorded in London in 1977 by former Funkees leader Harry Mosco and his band, Africanium, it sunk without trace on its initial release (according to the sleeve notes, even Mosco himself had forgotten about it until Secret Stash contacted him about reissuing it). It's something of a belter, all told, offering an enticing fusion of low-slung American style funk and Cymande-ish conscious grooves, with occasional traditional Nigerian vocals (see the stand-out "Ada Aku").
Review: Secret Stash dig into the archives of Nigerian funk and present a gem from one of the country's most influential musicians. In the early 1970s, Harry Mosco formed the now legendry funk-rock band, The Funkees. In search of greater opportunity and a wider audience, the group moved to London in 1973. Four years and two albums later they disbanded. Meanwhile, back in Nigeria, prominent businessman GAD Tabansi was interested in getting into the music business, and signing the Funkees was his top priority. He traveled all the way to London to meet with the band only to find out they'd broken up. Tabansi returned home with no record deal. Mosco had already formed a new group called Africanium with drummer/singer Willie Bestman. Later that same year (1977), they recorded an album at TMC Studios in London. It was originally intended for release by EMI, but instead, Mosco licensed the album, titled For You Specially, to Mr. Tabansi for release on his new label. Despite Tabansi's attempts to capitalize on the success of Mosco's previous recordings with The Funkees, For You Specially was released with very little commercial success. Big applause to Secret Stash for this reissue which will hopefully give the album some belated but well deserved praise.
Review: Recorded 38 years ago but never to see the light of day, the Booker T & The MGs-on-mushrooms "POP" and its frisky Hammond-smashing B-side "46th Street Bump Time" were recorded for an album that sadly never got released. Unearthed during the creation of Secret Stash's Twin Cities Funk & Soul; album - a compendium of unreleased and forgotten grooves - they thought these were so special they dedicated a very special, stupendously limited 7" to them. This is most definitely a wise choice for all funk connoisseurs.
Review: Secret Stash have been working with the Leaner family for over two years, digging and documenting their family's One-Derful label dynasty. The result of this work will be six compilations that comprise all manner of funk soul treats and unreleased gems from the label's many off-shoots. The party starts right here with two never-before-released tracks from Northern Soul faves The Ringleaders. With only one official release (and a super-rare acetate surfacing in the 80s) these recordings - that span uptempo stomps and smouldering smooches - will delight all soul fans who've been craving more from the Michigan act for many years. Delivered with the original M-Pac stamp of approval, this is as close to a time machine as we're likely to get.
Review: Originally released in October 2013, there's a particularly awesome story behind this special soul slice from Minneapolis act The Valdons. While their live operations made them city legends, they only ever released one 45". Secret Stash managed to bring the band back together, complete with a slew of recording sessions where a range of demos and ideas were brought to life by their in-house band. This is the first of many new slices you can expect from the band. An upbeat Four Tops-style falsetto / harmony fusion ("Stop Wait A Minute") and a deep and spacious, heart-tugging ballad ("Whatcha Gonna Do") So popular it's been repressed, jump on this now.