Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Michael de Koningh's World Music Column (September)

Michael De Koningh's World Music Column
Michael De Koningh's World Music Column Los Charly's Orchestra: Chicano Disco Funk Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost Burning Spear:  Marcus Garvey / Garvey's Ghost Wilson Das Neves: Pra Gente Fazer Mais Um Samba Leballet National De Guinee-Co: Invite Bertrand Renaudin Carlou D: Muzikr Tom Moulton Remixes: Philly ReGrooved Pulp Fusion: The Return Of The Original Ghetto Jazz & Funk Classic Orchestre National de Barbes: Rendez-Vouz Barbes Tito Puente: El Rey - A Man And His Music Gappy Ranks: Put The Stereo On Baaba Maal: African Soul Revolutionary - The Early Years [Double CD] Harmless Records: Backbeats series

Welcome to another nail-biting fun-filled ride through the world of music that’s graced my hifi lately. Without further a-do let’s launch into the good, bad and indifferent……………..


The new album of the month award goes easily to Los Charly’s Orchestra with Chicano Disco Funk out on Imagenes Records. If you dug, or indeed dig, funky 70’s disco then this is the album for you. Los Charly’s have worked their magic by creating an album which could quite easily have been recorded in 1978 by the likes of The Salsoul Orchestra. It’s full of funky breaks, chattering guitars, vamping electric piano and of course the ever-present rolling bass so needed to keep the dance-floors moving back then.

Each track makes you think of something good from the halcyon days of disco-funk, yet at the same time is all original recordings with – gasp – real instruments. Funkanova romps along like a mad Michael Zager whilst the more wistful Tanto Soul uses all the Salsoul tricks in the book to create a sweeping disco classic like a slowed down The Beat Goes On And On from Ripple. It’s a great album and one that kept me happily grooving away for hours simple fool I am.
The back out again gong this month is awarded to an Island/Universal twofer.


Marcus Garvey from Burning Spear and the album’s dub counterpart Garvey’s Ghost out on one nice snappy looking digipack CD. Right, so let’s get the grumble out the way first. Back in 1975 producer Jack Ruby released the Marcus Garvey LP on his Jamaican Fox imprint and it sold like hotcakes. Spear was the name on everyone’s lips and quickly Island picked it up for UK release hopeful of another Marley no doubt. For some unspecified reason the guys at Basing Street decided to speed up the tracks and generally jiggle with the mix. There was a big to-do and NME ran a half page rant about the dilution of this stunning album. The lame excuse from Island was they wanted a stereo mix and the JA tapes were all in mono.

Anyhow, my grouch is that beautifully presented and remastered as it is, it’s still the UK Island mix not the superior super-heavy Jamaican original. That aside, Marcus Garvey just about eclipsed every other reggae album in the hot summer of 1975. It was and still is Winston ‘Burning Spear’ Rodney’s best work and aided by the crack Black Disciples band it’s a stunning set even in its UK format. Slavery Days, Give Me, Jordan River and Resting Place all tell you where the Spear was coming from back then, and still is heading for all those years later. The dub companion, Garvey’s Ghost popped out to a lukewarm reception, maybe due to the plethora of dub albums around at the time. It ain’t Tubby for sure, but it’s OK yet given the power in the rhythms it doesn’t whack you between the eyes as you might expect. That all said Marcus Garvey is just one of those albums you need if you’re into roots reggae and any issue is better than no issue.


While we’re on a reggae-tip I must mention that Trojan have just kicked-off a series of vinyl seven inch 45s by putting out – to quote the press blurb - ‘..the previously unreleased Desmond Dekker & The Aces double-header, Sentimental Reasons b/w Sugar And Spice, recorded toward the latter end of the Rock Steady era’. And I’m pleased to say that the mastering and actual sound is superb. Delightfully crisp and clean. The rhythms are great too – not rocksteady at all but top Leslie Kong thrashing crashing fast upbeat reggae - just how I like it.
The songs themselves - well, to be honest they don't exactly grab you like Israelites or Rude Boy Train, but they're pleasant in a slightly meandering way. Whatever, it’s lovely to see the old original all orange Trojan label on the streets and with dear old DD on it it’s 1969 all over again. Grab it quick as it’s a limited issue of 250 so I’m informed.


Harmless have zipped out Pulp Fusion, a various artists set of ‘ghetto jazz and funk classics’, and very nice it is too. My only grumble is that being an old git I have loads of the tracks on original vinyl. I’d like to have seen a bit more crate digging stuff as opposed to Gil’ s The Bottle, The Last Poets It’s a Trip and MFSB’s Mysteries Of The World (which seems a bit out of place). Don’t get me wrong, the music is absolutely first rate, I mean who could not think Joe Quarterman’s (I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind is stunning, likewise the floor-filling Captain Connors, from Norman C, and it’ll be great as a starter for younger funky-fellas and gals but personally I’d have like to have been surprised by a few tracks I didn’t know.

I’m completely enamoured with Philly Regrooved – Tom Moulton Remixes also from Harmless. I always loved the sweeping disco-strings and happy-time sounds of the 70’s so to bring in ace mixer Tom from those days to reinvent so many classics was either a dreadful or brilliant idea. It was most certainly the latter.

As you may or may not know, the Philly Groove label slammed out some heavyweight hits like Armed & Extremely Dangerous from First Choice, but this was in the pre-disco twelve era so now Tom’s got his mits on the original tapes and extended them to 12” length and boy what a job he’s done.
Strings, horns, breaks; it’s all there with no real highlights as every tracks glows like a glitterball during the slowies. If I had to pick I guess I’d go for Armed & Extremely Dangerous which is superb in its new-found extension, so too Nat Turner’s Ruby Lee, not forgetting the now-in demand Ultra High Frequency with We’re On The Right Track.

While we’re on the remix tip Strut have got Dj-mixer Danny Krivit of such places as NYC’s The Roxy and Save The Robots to remix a pile of club classics which he does in fine style. Danny Krivit-Edits By Mr K Volume 2 is an elongated grove-fest of some of my all time favourite tracks from the funky 70’s.

The Fatback Band’s sublime Spanish Hustle is given extra life by Danny’s super-stretch, likewise Music Of The Earth from Patrice Rushen and Philly All Stars Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto. Black Blood’s in demand Chicano is present too which will no doubt get plenty of groovers to stick their hands in their pockets.


Carlou D used to be in the Senegalese rap group Positive Black Soul but thankfully on Muzikr (World Village) he sticks to singing and playing a mean acoustic guitar. It’s a nice varied album with a more traditional sound to many of the tracks, particularly Goree where he duets with his old mentor Youssou N’Dour. It’s a gentle completive piece as you’d expect from the master and used-to-be apprentice. Fave tracks – Fi Mar Diar, a more upbeat track with sweet guitar playing from Carlou, Yaa Fall which has a lovely wistful feel to both the vocal and the tinkling backing and the sprightly Yaa Boyo which zips along at a fair pace.

I was more than a little bemused to receive a CD with ‘Ballet’ in the title as I’m not really into men in tights, but all was well as Le Ballet National De Guinee Conakry (Harmonia Mundi) is a collection of work recorded by the Ghanaian musicians who support the Ghanaian National Ballet dancers. It was actually recorded in 1998, not that it sounds dated or anything as it’s has a nice traditional sound. I have to be honest and say it’s a bit hit and miss as some of the tracks are too ‘ethnic’ (am I allowed to say that), yet when it hits like on the shimmering, jazzy Guinee Un and mournful N’Nafanye it’s lovely stuff in a gentle way. I hate to admit it but Tanataton Conakry reminded me of Kenny G with its flowing sweet horn and laidback percussive rhythm. Oh dear – more hate mail on the way!


The sun’s out so it’s Samba time, and no better than Wilson Das Neves with Pra Gente Fazer Mais Um Samba (Totolo). I have no idea what the title means but it’s a great album of vocals from Wilson on nice shuffling Samba rhythms. The tracks range from mid to fast tempo with some nice vocals, and it’s pointless singling out particular ones as you’ll either like all this album or you won’t. Basically if you like Marcas Vale and Sergio Mendez then you’ll like this too.


A rather bizarre CD came my way the other day. Orchestra National de Barbes with their latest offering, Rendeez-vous (Chant du Monde) which in truth I just don’t know what to say about. A French cross between Ian Drury and Madness is the first statement which came to mind with cod-reggae tracks like Chokoun, Rod Balek and No No No, but then Laafou turns up and is a decent West African sounding cut and then the weird closer Allah Sdaousa, which sounds like a jiving 60’s number which Sacha Distel would’ve flashed his teeth through on The Val Doonican Show. A very odd CD indeed.


Fania/Strut have just released a double CD of Tito Puente, El Rey, A Man And His Music which collects tracks from the dawn of his career in the late 40’s right through to the early 1990’s. It’s all lovely Latin grooves with some additional guests popping up on various tracks and well worth investigating. Some tracks are smooth as silk like the big-band flavoured Mambo Inn and the jiving Babarabatiri with fearsome percussion while others have a rawer sound. There’s the great brassy original version of the Santana staple Oye Como Va which Tito wrote and first preformed in 1963 alongside many faves from the man.

Fania/Strut have also zipped out Salsa Explosion, a various artists set featuring just about every performer you’ll ever need to know where Latin Salsa is concerned - Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Joe Cuba…and the list goes on. Just buy it and shake your maracas until they drop off!
Bluba Lu are a couple of Bulgarian guys who make a kind-of Massive Attack-trippy-dubby sound. Quadrotopia is their latest and comes as a double CD. The lead track, The One, has a big sounding production with earnest U2 style vocals, female backing and slightly rocky overtones, whilst its follower, It Comes, has a slightly more funky flavour.

Far better in my small opinion is Monetary Slave with a bit of a screechy lead female vocal but a smooth soulful-funky feel while 30,000 Days is a nice modern jazz number and much more to my liking. The whole album is so varied that to be honest I wasn’t quite sure where these guys were heading. CD2 is a pointless remix CD of the original by some bloke called Balkansky who just about looses all the good points and ambience of the original for computer derived bang-bang-banging beats. If you like Massive Attack and that moody sound you’ll like this – well CD1 anyway – so it’s worth picking up and you can always use CD2 to mix Polyfilla!


Trundling back to a bit of reggae we come to man-of-the-month Gappy Ranks who has just released his debut CD – Put The Stereo On via Greensleeves Records.
Gappy has a decent voice and the backing tracks are revamped samples and rhythm tapes of old staples of Jamaican music. So what you actually get is similar to Bitty McLean’s very popular On Bond Street Duke Reid derived album of a few years ago except this time it’s not all just one producer’s rhythms and a more modern approach has been taken to the music. One unfortunate aspect of this is that the over-used and annoying auto-tune machine has been applied to Gappy’s vocals on some tracks making him sound like Robbie The Robot. Thus, Mountain Top, a really good roots tune sounds like an escaped Dalek on helium has dropped in to cut the vocal. Pity. Once you get him off the bloody autotune he comes into his own with splendid tracks like Little Understanding and Thy Shall Love. Put The Stereo On could’ve been a standout album but thanks to the heavy-handed use of the autotune on too many tracks it’s been spoilt and will date very quickly. Let’s hope his next album will be recorded after the fad has passed and then we’ll hear some of the real talent of Gappy.


Roots reggae artist Toussaint has dropped a killer of an album with Black Gold on I Grade Records. Toussaint headed up the Stax and Blue Note recording group Soulive before going solo with this his debut album. The album is full of great songs such as This Song which is a chunky rocker with mournful horns, subtle lead guitar and a strong vocal as too the more up-tempo Be You. Marching has a Dennis Brown feel to it both in T’s vocal style and the mid-tempo rockers rhythm while Nobody Knows has that meditative quality that the best 70’s roots reggae had imbibed in it. Black Gold is a fine album from an artist who I for one will be eager to hear more of – and not a sign of autotune in sight!


Nascente have a fab retrospective of Baaba Maal just out – African Soul Revolutionary which comprises of his first three albums spread over two CDs, Wango, Taara and Jombaajo plus a couple of bonuses. I always liked Baaba when he got funky as in the brassy Laam Tooro or Yiiri Yalla with its sharp horns, but wasn’t sure when the reggae rumbled in such as Demgalem but all said and done he’s a great artist and to get his first three albums in one package is pretty nifty.

Steve Coleman and Five Elements come forward with Harvesting Semblances and Affinities for PI Recordings. In truth it’s all a bit freeform for me especially the first track, Attila 02 (Dawning Ritual) where Ms Jen Shyu suddenly belts out of the speaker between the thrashing and bashing background – almost made me spill my tin of Fanta so dynamic was her delivery. Other tracks are calmer such as Flos Ut Rosa Floruit which goes the other way and meanders with again Ms Shyu warbling about something or other. I like the album but it does go on a bit and is really for jazz-buffs not old funkers such as me.

And finally...


Harmless have been mighty busy of late zipping out ten CD collections in their Backbeats series. It’s all lovely stuff ranging from 60’s Soul through the Detriot sound to NY Disco and all stations in between. Crate Digging Fever is fun with quite a few tracks I’d never heard before such as Bobby Marchan’s Push The Button and Strutt with Front Row Romeo, while Philly Freedom and Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah-70’s NY Disco are a bit more predictable, but great music all the same. My fave is Jazzy Vibes with such scintillating grooves as Ruben Wilson’s take on the mighty War’s Cisco Kid and my all-time favourite Funk Inc track Give Me Your Love where they wah-wah up Curtis in fine style.

Well, that’s it I think. Another edition done and dusted.
Keep the groove.

Michael de Koningh

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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