Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Michael de Koningh's World Music Column (October)

Michael De Koningh's World Music Column
Michael De Koningh's World Music Column Ebo Taylor: Love and Death Max Romeo: War Ina Babylon Lee Perry: Kiss Me Neck – The Scratch Story In Words, Pictures & Records Aloe Blacc: Good Things Jaja Matsimela: Una Bonita Open Road: On The Verge Segun Bucknor: Who I Say Tire Ike Turner: That Kat Sure Could Play

Here we go again, with autumn already here and everything wilting, but that could just be my age, so without further smutty comment let̢۪s hit the joyride of musical fun.

New music wonderfulness was an easy choice this month. Not because most of what I̢۪ve been sent is doo-doo but sometimes an album will just hit you between the eyes, much like the books my wife throws at me when I̢۪m rambling on about some record or another. Of course this smack between the eyes was far more pleasurable than the latest Eoin Colfer whacking me one.

EBO TAYLOR'S LOVE AND DEATH

From the off Ebo Taylor̢۪s Love and Death hits my Afro funny-bone dead on with muted banked brass, hypnotic rhythm guitar and that lovely zinging keyboard sound that only comes with Afrobeat.

Strut have enticed Ghanaian Ebo into the studio with the fantastic Afrobeat Academy band to come up with a scintillating new album. Starting off in the 1950̢۪s Ebo Taylor has paid his dues many times over and it̢۪s thanks to the likes of Afro-revival label Soundway and of all people, Usher who used an Ebo sample in his She Don̢۪t Know single with Ludacris, for their interest in his work that̢۪s enticed him into the studio.

African Woman rumbles along in the finest Africa 70 tradition with some vocals and is a magic horns and keyboard workout, meanwhile Victory is an instrumental that just gets the head nodding and shoulders shaking to the insistent rhythm guitar and exemplary horn soloing. Some vocals are in English while others are in Ghanaian such as the vibrant Nga Nga which rolls over you as Ebo struts his stuff, while Mizin shuffles along nicely with a great picked guitar solo and chant vocals again in Ghanaian.

There’s a bit of woman babbling at the start of Aborekyair Aba, but not speaking Ghanaian I have no idea what’s being said, likewise the vocal which runs on a wildebeest stampede of a rattling rhythm. That’s the only tiny criticism that I have no idea what’s being said in most of the songs – but hey, really it’s all about the groove and Love And Death has more grooves than every Max Bygraves record put together!

MAX ROMEO'S WAR INA BABYLON

Out again winner this month is Max Romeo̢۪s rootsy War Ina Babylon album collaboration with Lee Perry. Originally issued in 1976 by Island and now Universal/Island̢۪s budget offshoot Spectrum have popped it out on CD.

I slapped the disc in the draw and got ready to skank myself silly to One Step Forward, my favourite track, and instead of the deep round bass that the Black Ark is known for, a feeble bumbling came forth from my speakers. A quick check with my original vinyl showed that someone has been fiddling with the balance for the CD reissue – pity – and more importantly – why Anyhow once I’d cranked the bass up we were off on some of the best Perry/Black Ark rhythms around including the much sampled Chase The Devil, Norman and of course the immortal title track.

I know it̢۪s a budget release but it̢۪s a straight album-to-CD issue with no dubs or anything. Surely a few bonuses wouldn̢۪t have gone amiss particularly as the 45s from the original album came with dubs on the flipsides so they̢۪re easily available and One Step Forward Dub has a window-cracker of a bass line.

THE SCRATCH STORY

Contrary to many people’s opinion of me I can read and have enjoyed dipping into Lee Perry – Kiss Me Neck – The Scratch Story In Words, Pictures & Records by Jeremy Collingwood (Cherry Red Books).

It̢۪s basically like a telephone directory of every record Mr Perry produced or had involvement with, both Jamaican and overseas which of course includes all the lovely UK pressed Trojan Upsetter 45s which I so avidly sought out way back in my misspent skinhead youth of four decades ago.

It really is an astounding piece of work, building on Dave Katz original Perry discography Give Me Power from a few years back. Whilst Dave̢۪s book was a bit tricky to get to grips with due to layout constraints, Jeremy̢۪s effort is clear and precise with loads of pictures of labels for those who like to drool over bits of plastic. It̢۪s well presented with a nice cover and in large paperback size, with the only tiny letdown being all the pictures are in muted black and white, and with so many JA labels coming in bold and beautiful colour it̢۪s a shame a glossy section wasn̢۪t inserted.

MORE TROJAN

Trojan have their second yummy vinyl 45 out. This time it̢۪s from the Randy̢۪s stable (and on the Randy̢۪s label) with Count Matchki̢۪s Pepper Pot backed by an unreleased Lick It Back from Winston Samuels.

The vinyl is rigid and thick and the sound quality superb, but I do wonder why Pepper Pot was chosen as not only is the original UK 45 quite easy to find but it̢۪s been around on a repress for donkey̢۪s years. That said it̢۪s a decent 1969 style toasting tune with a nice Hammond running along. The flip, the unissued Lick It Back, has a great rhythm zipping through it but I got the feeling dear old ska-man Winston was making the lyrics up as he went along.

As I feel like rambling on about reggae I must point out Jamaica Recordings latest effort. King Tubby & The Aggrovators rather delightful Shalom Dub which originally turned up on the tiny independent Klik label in 1975 and features hit Bunny Lee produced tracks such as Johnny Clarke̢۪s immortal Move Out Of Babylon deconstructed by the master himself, Tubbys. People have always paid silly money for originals as it̢۪s one of the finest examples of Tubby working over Bunny̢۪s rhythms, so now you can all annoy the neighbours with earth shattering bass and not just the rich ones amongst us who could afford the vinyl album.

IKE TURNER

Secret Records sent me a nice present the other day – Ike Turner – That Kat Sure Could Play – a 4CD set with the strapline The Singles 1951 To 1957.

I don̢۪t profess to know much about 50̢۪s R&B, as that̢۪s Mr Atherton̢۪s territory, but I do now what I like and this romping rock n̢۪ roll extravaganza is just great!

It includes what is said to be the first rock n̢۪ roll record, Rocket 88, and all the tracks feature Ike on guitar, piano and/or vocals, plus you get a nice booklet with biography as well.

SEGUN BUCKNOR/OPEN ROAD
JAJA MATSIMELA

Nigerian Afro-pioneer Segun Bucknor has had a nifty 2CD retrospective of his work put out by Vampisoul. Who Say I Tire consists of all Bucknor compositions which were political with social comment overtones, but really don̢۪t worry it̢۪s not all deep and moody stuff. While Fela was all about fast heavyweight Afrobeat rhythms, Segun took the slower US soul style into his afrocentric vision creating a fusion of jazz, rock, soul and Nigeria.

Tracks like Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow and Poor Man Get No Brother have as much funk as afro instilled in them, with the latter having heavy psychedelic overtones with its bluesy vocal and haunting organ.

Further on Dye Dye is all rumbling funk bass and hits much more of an afro-groove, with Gbmojo being a real surprise as basically it̢۪s jazz with organ up front and a bit of rhythm.

You Killing Me is the killer track with off-key repetitive horns, afrobeat bass and a heavyweight JB influenced sound. Top afrobeat without doubt. It̢۪s an interesting and varied set which is very well presented with a nice booklet giving a potted biography and rundown of each track.

Open Road are a nice little smoooove jazz group from the West Coast and On The Verge, is their latest album (and first for Rhombus Records), and is all mellow and just the sort of stuff Smooth FM listeners would lap-up as they sip their sherry and snuggle into their flock-lined slippers.

Most of the CD is self-compositions such as Turbo 409 which gets a little R&B̢۪ish with harmonica and twangy bass, likewise Beating Of My Heart which has a nice solid backbeat. There̢۪s a decent cover of Feelin Alright, with the original being from Dave Mason of Traffic fame, plus some more rather languid tracks which I have to say stray far too near Kenny G territory for my taste.

Jaja Matsimela are a great funky Latin style band and Blues Sauce is their new album. They̢۪re well groovy with some tracks a little frantic like El Balador which sounds like a cross between wild Latin and disco-giants Chic. Una Bonita is much more to my liking with a sweet clipperty-clop rhythm and understated flute and horns, so too the salsa of the title track which had me slinking all over the place.
So, a weird name, Jaja Matsimela, but a very nice album.

ALOE BLACC

Gotta make mention of Aloe Blacc and his great new album very aptly titled Good Things which takes a social commentary slant rather than the usual, and boring, R&B luuvve dross that seems to spew out of the US these days.

I Need A Dollar, the taster single, was a corker and so too the rest of the album with some great 70̢۪s throwbacks like the very Bill Withers-esque Hey There Brother complete with fuzzy wah-wah and oh-so-funky bass and the epic Curtis inspired Life So Hard.

JOHN LEGEND & THE ROOTS

And believe it or not another soulman pops up, John Legend, a man who I took to at first but quickly grew tired of his too-smooth pop soul. Wake Up! is a different kettle of fish with some great covers of known and unknown social commentary tracks from decades gone by. Much to my surprise he even covers a reggae track by one of my fave artists, the late and much missed Lincoln Thompson whose Love The Way It Should Be aka Humanity was a classic blues dance tune from the mid 1970’s. Mr L plus The Roots do it justice – they’ll never equal it but they come close. I’m sure you’ll be delighted to now know you’re back in my good books John!

MICHAEL O'NEILL

George Benson̢۪s backing guitarist, Michael O̢۪Neill has a new album out, Touch The Past, which is basically some of the finest jazz guitar-lead tracks I̢۪ve heard for years; this is no surprise really as Michael, in his 30 year career, has backed people like Joe Sample and Natalie Cole as well as George. If You Dare fairly zipps along with some very deft playing while Indiansong is almost jazz-dance in its chirpy upbeat way. Smooth Sailin is more laidback and reflective, and across the whole album Michael manages to avoid the syrup which oozes from so much Smooth Jazz these days.

And finally Harmless have boogied out Jumpin̢۪, a 2CD set of great disco groovers from 1976 to 1986. Too many to mention but faves like Jean Carn̢۪s Was That All It Was, Big Fun from The Gap Band and Barbara Mason with Another Man all hit the spot and give me that old wistful feeling.

That̢۪s it for another month. Enjoy.
Michael de Koningh

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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