Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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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 I’ll 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 don’t actually know what ‘modal’ means but it’s a trendy word these days, looks impressive and makes me sound as if I know what I’m talking about. Lloyd’s been around since the 50’s 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 60’s 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.

It’s all a bit laidback and mellow such as the opener, Electricone which keeps the feet tapping, or maybe that should be head-nodding as it’s ‘modal’, 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 I’ve ever heard plus a suitably squawking lead horn and is completely different to the rest of the album. It’s 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 – Jungle Music 1976-1986, a 2CD set of his work. Just in case you’re too young to have boogied in the 70’s Walter was one of the ace remixers who pioneered the dance-round—the-handbag full length 12” disco mix single. And a mighty fine talent he was too. Double Exposure’s 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 It’s 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 80’s 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 12” and annoy the neighbours for a few hours.

Soundway have gone a bit rocky with The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970’s Nigeria. It’s a 2CD or triple vinyl affair and put together with Soundway’s customary excellence. My only problem is that I like neither ‘rock’ or ‘psychedelia’ 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.

It’s summer so VP Records issue their annual Soca Gold CD with obligatory large-chested and scantily clad lady adorning the sleeve. There’s a bonus DVD of Trinidad’s 2010 carnival added for extra appeal this time. If you’re into soca you’ll recognise the popular hits, but as I’m not it’s all fresh to me. Fresh being the operative world with Rikki Jai and his ribald Barman which I’m told is one of the biggest tracks of the year. Some of it sounds like fast-paced reggae-dancehall such as Huntin’ from Roy Cape which isn’t 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 Movin’ album out on First World. This Scottish assembly (Haggis – Scotland – 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 ‘F’. The Jerk reminds me of something Kool and his pals would’ve dropped in ’73 – 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 70’s, not that it’s a duffer at all as it’s yet another example of The Haggis Horns liquid slippery funk. All in all Keep On Movin’ is a very strong album imbibing bits of Mizell/Donald Byrd, Kool and The UK Players – 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 wasn’t for the vocals in Malian you’d 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 wasn’t for dear old Lloyd and the Haggis chaps Idrissa Soumaoro would’ve 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 isn’t surprising as he’s 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. It’s all very ‘fusion’ (if that’s a word still used today) and calls to mind Weather Report and similar 70’s outfits which isn’t a criticism in any way as Mystic Radikal is a strong album through and through.

If you’re into funny noises and sqiddly Moog synth then look no further than Reverse Engineering from The Simonsound out on First World Records. That’s a bit unfair really as it’s 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 don’t actually know what I’m listening to as the disc is in the drive, but I have to say track one reminded me of the old French 70’s 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. It’s all rather good stuff giving a firm nod to background music from 60’s and 70’s TV shows and funky Blaxploitation movie soundtracks.

I was more than pleased to receive some lovely shiny vinyl in the post the other day. There’s nothing better than a good crisp 12” single to brighten my world sad fool I am, and this packet presented me with three plus one 7”. 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 70’s 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 I’d have made this the A side – sorry Leroy but you can do a lot better – remember past stunning records like Mr President, Blood In The Streets and Revolution?

Of the 12”, 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 shouldn’t have been. You’re treated to a dub and also another decent roots vocal from one Nattykaf who-ever he/she is (‘Kaff’ as in ‘Kath[erine]’ 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 12” in the packet was the Basque Dub Foundation’s latest eight-track 12”, Roots Melodies featuring some of the best musicians Jamaica has toEarl ‘Wire’ Lindo, plus of course Mr Inyaki who basically is a one man roots band! It’s a showcase thingy which for those of you who don’t 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 70’s Revolutionaries feel to it.

The final 12”, Lightening & Thunder, once again from the Baske Dub Foundation (note the different spelling of Baske – so it’s 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 it’s 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. It’s 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 90’s and 00’s 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 it’s 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. It’s a solid album sung well in his own style with decent thoughtful lyrics and happily no jabbering dancehall Dj’s wrecking perfectly good tracks.

So there you go. Another month’s worth of music which in my tiny way I enjoyed and hope you’ll investigate too. As Robbie Vincent almost said – if it moves eat it.

Till next time
Michael ‘Modal’ de Koningh

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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