Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1094

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Michael de Koningh's World Music Column (JULY)

Michael De Koningh's World Music Column
Michael De Koningh's World Music Column Lloyd Miller & The Heliocentrics Walter Gibbons: Jungle Music 1976-1986 The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970's Nigeria Soca Gold 2010: Various Luciano: United States Of Africa Shez Raja Collective: Mystic Radikal The Simonsound: Reverse Engineering Haggis Horns with Nia Saw: Keep on Movin'

Well here we are again another month older and none the wiser!

Lots of yummy things have been plopping through my letterbox, and aside from various soft fruits inserted by a strange neighbour, most of the rest have been rather tasty CDs which Iâll offer for your delectation here.

My fave new release has to be the latest from Strut. Old fella and all-round jazz-man Lloyd Miller has teamed up with The Heliocentrics to produce an untitled but extremely good modal jazz album. I donât actually know what âmodalâ means but itâs a trendy word these days, looks impressive and makes me sound as if I know what Iâm talking about. Lloydâs been around since the 50âs and spent a good bit of time in the Middle East where he formed a great interest in traditional instruments. He then zipped over to Europe where he toured extensively before hosting a TV show on NIRTV in Tehran.

His mid 60âs Oriental Jazz album fetches very silly money on the internet auction site you all love to hate, and Jazzman put out a tasty compilation of his work a little while ago. All this interest in Lloyd has got him back in the studio and this time with ace band The Heliocentrics fresh from their excellent album with Ethio-jazz king Mulatu Astatke.

Itâs all a bit laidback and mellow such as the opener, Electricone which keeps the feet tapping, or maybe that should be head-nodding as itâs âmodalâ, but anyway, great drum rolls and a sweet flute dominate an interesting shifting track with very Middle Eastern overtones. Track two, Nava, has a finger-snapping double bass and great tinkling piano before a clarinet-type instrument grabs the theme.

The majority of the album is similar with solid what-sounds-like acoustic backing very much in the jazz format augmented by various interesting lead instruments presumably played by Lloyd. The surprising Lloyd Lets Loose really got my attention with a great rap from Lloyd backed up by some of hardest acoustic funk Iâve ever heard plus a suitably squawking lead horn and is completely different to the rest of the album. Itâs a standout track on a standout set and easily one for the more discerning dance-floors.

Strut also win my un-coveted old-music-back-out monthly award with Walter Gibbons â Jungle Music 1976-1986, a 2CD set of his work. Just in case youâre too young to have boogied in the 70âs Walter was one of the ace remixers who pioneered the dance-roundâthe-handbag full length 12â disco mix single. And a mighty fine talent he was too. Double Exposureâs Ten Percenton Salsoul was a gem I recall with misty-eyed fondness and the track that broke Walter to the whole glitterball disco world.

Plenty of other super-duper hits followed such as my fave, TC James who desires us to Get Up On Your Feet with even Gladys Knight getting a musical seeing-to from Walter with the bright and breezy Itâs A Better Than Good Time. These plus others are all on CD1 and of course all in glorious full length mix. CD2 jumps to the early 80âs where Walter was still getting the feet on the floor with such great tracks as Go Bang from Dinosaur L and the wonderful early house track Set It Off courtesy of Harlequin Fours. This album is a great way to remember the late mixer who passed in 1994 and tremendous stuff which makes me want to drag out my old boxes of 12â and annoy the neighbours for a few hours.

Soundway have gone a bit rocky with The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970âs Nigeria. Itâs a 2CD or triple vinyl affair and put together with Soundwayâs customary excellence. My only problem is that I like neither ârockâ or âpsychedeliaâ and do wonder who this set will appeal to. Still, I have to say that at least half the tracks could happily sit on any Afro-funk compilation such as the jiving Isi Agboncha from The Semi Colon and the twangy Ofege thanks to In Concert, and of course the set does exactly what it says on the label so who am I to complain.

Itâs summer so VP Records issue their annual Soca Gold CD with obligatory large-chested and scantily clad lady adorning the sleeve. Thereâs a bonus DVD of Trinidadâs 2010 carnival added for extra appeal this time. If youâre into soca youâll recognise the popular hits, but as Iâm not itâs all fresh to me. Fresh being the operative world with Rikki Jai and his ribald Barman which Iâm told is one of the biggest tracks of the year. Some of it sounds like fast-paced reggae-dancehall such as Huntinâ from Roy Cape which isnât quite what I hoped for at all while others are a bit more soca-orientated.

Reggae artist Gyptian pops up with a remix version of Hold You which is to be honest a bit uninspiring. In fact much of the album is brash computer-generated rhythms with little old-time real musicians evident and was subject to my skip button quite a few times during play.

A tight contender for new album of the month goes to the bizarrely named Haggis Horns with their oh-so-funky Keep On Movinâ album out on First World. This Scottish assembly (Haggis â Scotland â geddit) are straight out of the Average White Band tradition with chattering rhythm guitars, snappy horn lines knee-bending funk bass. Way Of The Haggis is a great brassy instrumental opener before a grinding bit of funk arrives with naasty (as in 1975-esque vocals) from Nia Saw in the shape of Pass It On. Boy, has she got the funk with a capital âFâ. The Jerk reminds me of something Kool and his pals wouldâve dropped in â73 â all blazing brass and cowbells, while Love Gets You High and Too Blind have a more UK jazz-funk 1981 feel featuring again the excellent Nia Saw on the latter. Chant vocals and a silly track name, The Snarf Dance, has to bring comparison of the dozens of funk albums trotted out in the pre-disco mid 70âs, not that itâs a duffer at all as itâs yet another example of The Haggis Horns liquid slippery funk. All in all Keep On Movinâ is a very strong album imbibing bits of Mizell/Donald Byrd, Kool and The UK Players â oh and of course the AWB.

Another very tight contender for new album of the month comes from Idrissa Soumaoro with Hidden Strength out on Lusafrica Records. Idrissa is a Malian bluesman. In other words he takes the lovely shuffling rhythms of Mali and adds the blues in both guitar and voice. Some tracks head in a more US direction like the harmonica lead straight forward Sigui Ka Fo which is all down-home and if it wasnât for the vocals in Malian youâd be forgiven for thinking it was a first-rate American bluesman laying down the chops. Ali Farka Toure drops by on the lovely Berebere which is far more traditional in sound despite the use of a nice understated electric guitar, while Tilenen Ya is a contemplative piece with mesmerising vocals and shuffling beat. This really is a stunning album and if it wasnât for dear old Lloyd and the Haggis chaps Idrissa Soumaoro wouldâve been new album of the month without doubt.

Shez Raja is getting all lowdown and funky on his latest CD Mystic Radikal from 33 Records which isnât surprising as heâs roped in Andy Sheppard and Claude Deppa. Chakras On The Wall really kicks along with Andy giving it some bigtime, while the moody Karmic Flow rumbles on a nice deep bassline. Itâs all very âfusionâ (if thatâs a word still used today) and calls to mind Weather Report and similar 70âs outfits which isnât a criticism in any way as Mystic Radikal is a strong album through and through.

If youâre into funny noises and sqiddly Moog synth then look no further than Reverse Engineering from The Simonsound out on First World Records. Thatâs a bit unfair really as itâs not all burbling and squeaking as a pretty decent beat is instilled under many tracks. The annoying thing is that the track list is printed on the CD so I donât actually know what Iâm listening to as the disc is in the drive, but I have to say track one reminded me of the old French 70âs disco-hit Space from Magic Fly, while a deep and moody track four has touches of Massive Attack running through it. Track six certainly has the funk without doubt and shuffles along with insistent rhythm guitar and funky drumming while track seven sounds like a Radiophonic Workshop backdrop for an alien dance sequence in Dr Who. Itâs all rather good stuff giving a firm nod to background music from 60âs and 70âs TV shows and funky Blaxploitation movie soundtracks.

I was more than pleased to receive some lovely shiny vinyl in the post the other day. Thereâs nothing better than a good crisp 12â single to brighten my world sad fool I am, and this packet presented me with three plus one 7â. Why Did You Go is the seven inch, and is from Heptones lead singer and principle songwriter Leroy Sibbles. Out on Soul Of Anibessa the track has a great 70âs roots reggae feel to it although I have to say the lyrics are so slight I get the feeling Leroy whipped them up on the way to the studio, but no matter the guy can sing, and on the flip is a great instrumental workout on the rhythm, La Linea Crossing, courtesy of Inyaki. Personally Iâd have made this the A side â sorry Leroy but you can do a lot better â remember past stunning records like Mr President, Blood In The Streets and Revolution?

Of the 12â, all are pretty nifty with a nice roots reggae vocal from Nereus Joseph, Rasta Calling on Kaf Island which again is actually the B side but shouldnât have been. Youâre treated to a dub and also another decent roots vocal from one Nattykaf who-ever he/she is (âKaffâ as in âKath[erine]â maybe). The official A side is more Nattykaf with a pretty reasonable tune, Faith plus dub and a wicked horns workout on the rhythm, Dreadful Horns.

Another 12â in the packet was the Basque Dub Foundationâs latest eight-track 12â, Roots Melodies featuring some of the best musicians Jamaica has toEarl âWireâ Lindo, plus of course Mr Inyaki who basically is a one man roots band! Itâs a showcase thingy which for those of you who donât speak the reggae-lingo means each track is followed by its respective dub. The moody Ghetto Organ is my pick but the whole set has a nice tight mid 70âs Revolutionaries feel to it.

The final 12â, Lightening & Thunder, once again from the Baske Dub Foundation (note the different spelling of Baske â so itâs not just me that forgets how spell his own name) and is a nice instrumental resplendent with its dub. The flip is a dull as ditchwater UK dub effort, Eastern Fire from The Disciples recorded in 1994 and quite why itâs been dredged up is a mystery.

As Jamaica continues to dilute its glory of reggae music with hip-hop and dancehall other countries are stepping up and one such is The Virgin Islands where over the last decade a number of artists have been creating hard roots reggae. Niyorah is one such guy and his latest, Feel Your Presence, out on Denknesh Records, is a solid album recorded actually in part at Tuff Gong with the cream of JA musicians. Itâs all solid stepper sounds such as the title track and World Jungle featuring veteran Sugar Minott.

Finally, VP Records have a new Luciano CD out, United States Of Africa, which after his overexposure in the 90âs and 00âs is good to hear him back on roots form. The first couple of tracks ramble a bit but when track three, In This Recession kicks in with some sold chucking rhythm guitar, weaving horns and a strong vocal from Luciano you know itâs going to be all right and the poised finger over the skip can relax. He even drops on an old Duke Reid rocksteady track for Moving On, and what a great success he makes of tarting-up Your Smiling Face to a roots anthem. Itâs a solid album sung well in his own style with decent thoughtful lyrics and happily no jabbering dancehall Djâs wrecking perfectly good tracks.

So there you go. Another monthâs worth of music which in my tiny way I enjoyed and hope youâll investigate too. As Robbie Vincent almost said â if it moves eat it.

Till next time
Michael âModalâ de Koningh

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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