Tag Archives: Soul

Good vibrations with Jacko and Bambool

JackoWithBambool-JackoWithBambool-VisuelBDWant to hear U.S. pop singer Terence Trent D’Arby sing reggae and soul? Well, then you could head over to your nearest retailer or digital outlet and check Jacko with Bambool’s self-titled debut album, which was released in November last year.

Singer Jacko has a voice with a striking resemblance to Terence Trent D’Arby. They share a slightly raspy, delicate and nasal tone with a passion for the emotional. You could also hear influences from Michael Jackson in Jacko’s phrasing.

The album is in the intersection between reggae, funk and soul and comes complete with three dub versions, of which the dreamy Dub Food is pick of the bunch.

The set has dramatic strings (City so Shitty and African Beat) and Latin percussion (What They Do) on the one hand and deep bass lines (Sea is Empty) and gospel (Friendship) on the other. Very catchy and refreshingly different from many other releases.

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Mos Def meets Marvin Gaye on new mash-up masterpiece

coverU.S. experimental hip-hop producer Amerigo Gazaway has finalized his incredible two disc Yasiin Gaye project, where he has paired Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, with Marvin Gaye.

This project builds on deconstructed samples of Marvin Gaye’s Motown classics with additional samples and vocals provided by Yasiin Bey. Amerigo Gazaway has re-constructed the arrangements and instrumentation into new productions. It’s of the highest quality and sounds like an authentic collaboration between two musical maestros.

The Departure (Side 1) and The Return (Side 2) are inspired by Mos Def’s song Modern Marvel, a nine minute tribute to Marvin Gaye in which he raps over instrumental versions of Marvin Gaye’s Flyin’ High (in the Friendly Sky) and What’s Going On. During the second half of the song, Mos Def asks – “If Marvin was alive now, wow… What would I say to him? Where could I start? How could I explain to him? I know the modern world would probably look strange to him. Would he feel like today had a place for him?”.

This project is a response to Yasiin Bey’s tribute, and an attempt to answer the question he posed in Modern Marvel.

Both albums are available for free download over at Bandcamp, and they also include excellent track by track liner notes by Amerigo Gazaway. Stream The Return below and download that album here and The Departure here.

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Reggae loves soul

untitledReggae and soul have since the 60s had a fruitful and productive relationship. Rocksteady is for example more or less based on U.S. soul and the genre and its groups and artists were influenced by The Impressions, The Temptations and Al Green, just to mention a few.

Reggae adaptations of soul hits have been too many to mention and several of them have been extremely popular, one of the most notable examples is probably Bob Andy & Marcia Griffiths’s cover of Nina Simone’s Young, Gifted & Black, which reached number 5 in the UK Singles Chart in 1970.

France’s Undisputed Records has now put out a compilation where contemporary reggae artists cover soul songs, several of them bona fide classics originally issued in 60s.

It’s an excellent compilation that gives these nuggets a fresh and modern reggae treatment. It also presents these gems to a new audience, an audience that might not have been exposed to their parents or grandparents favourite songs.

Of course it’s hard – or impossible – to outshine the original versions. But Marina P certainly gives Wendy Rene’s I Wish I Were That Girl a run for its money. Same goes for the big voiced Maikal X and his cover of Bobby Bland’s I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me).

Other highlights include Diana Rutherford’s powerful version of Ann Peebles’ Trouble, Heartaches and Sadness and Faye & Mystic Loic’s swinging take on California Soul, originally sung by The Messengers, but made famous by The 5th Dimension and later by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell and Marlena Shaw.

Chezidek & Skarra Mucci’s Sunny, originally performed by Bobby Hebb, is also strong, even though it might have been even better without the fragile voice of Chezidek. Skarra Mucci alone would probably have been a wiser voice.

Don’t miss out on this compilation. It’s lovely that Undisputed Records takes reggae back to some of its roots.

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Jah Cure moves from riddim to rhythm

World-CryJah Cure’s sixth album World Cry was slated for release more than a year ago, and for some reason it was postponed several times. Now however it’s finally here, and it shows Jah Cure in a different light compared to his previous albums. Where The Universal Cure – his fifth album – was reggae influenced by contemporary R&B, it’s the other way around with World Cry. This set is mostly contemporary R&B and electronic dance music spiced with dancehall and reggae.

Those who wanted Jah Cure to go back to his early hard roots reggae sound will be disappointed, but I guess no one really thought World Cry would be full of commitment to Rastafarian ideals set to dread and eerie beats.

Jah Cure mostly sings passionate love songs and his voice is as usual intimate and heartfelt, but also a bit whiny and tiresome. The electric beats are bombastic and the arrangements are lush and the producers have gone all in on several tracks, for example the title track which has gentle strings, a melancholic piano and an army-styled snare drum. It could have been recorded by Coldplay and suits any football stadium around the world.

The reggae tracks include a version of The Gladiators Mix Up and a cut of House of Riddim’s brilliant up-tempo riddim The Sensimillionaire. Best is however the heavyweight hip-hop and dubstep-tinged Like I See It with Mavado (the non-album version also features U.S. rapper Rick Ross). The mariachi trumpets in the chorus seem a little out of place though.

There was a time when Jah Cure was seen as one of the leading lights in roots reggae. But that was then, and this is now, and now he has travelled down the same path as Sean Paul. Hopefully this direction will be successful in the mainstream charts.

World Cry is now available on digital platforms. A CD version will be available in January.

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Toussaint’s call for mama earth

low_RES_toussaint-REAL-53_V1In late November the World Bank presented a new scientific report showing that the world is barreling down a path to hear up by four degrees at the end of the century if the global community fails to act on climate change. This might lead to extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people.

And just a few days ago the two week long UN conference in Doha, Qatar, came to a close and the talks wound down with few major issues being resolved and there were for instance no agreement on the key issues of financing and carbon permits. The overall feeling from most countries was disappointment, especially the lack of engagement by the U.S.

Rich and poor countries have different agendas and it’s obviously hard to agree on a common goal and how to reach it.

But for reggae and soul singer Toussaint it’s simple – if the earth dies so do we. His latest album Dear Mama Earth – produced by Brian McKenna – has perfect timing and he calls for a change in the way we live and exploit the earth and its resources.

Dear Mama Earth is an earth-conscious and soulful suite of music that mixes reggae, vintage soul, neo soul and hip-hop with fine results, and Toussaint’s rich voice and vocal versatility suit the smooth production nicely, and he sounds convincing when he sings about taking action to heal the earth by making both small and big changes in everyday life and in society. Energy consumption, energy conservation, renewable resources, global warming and wasteful habits that affect our planet’s sustainability are some of the topics he touches upon.

Dear Mama Earth has a distinct vintage feeling, but is at the same time very modern, and I guess messages about mankind’s relationship with the planet never go out of style.

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Toussaint Liberator leads the way

U.S soul turned reggae singer Toussaint Liberator dropped his debut reggae album Black Gold in 2010, a wickedly soulful set produced by the mighty Zion I Kings.

Two years later he is back with his second reggae album – the raw Where I Lead, produced by Jack Riddim courtesy of I Dwell Records in California, U.S.

The album collects ten original tunes, of which three are lethal dub versions and two are engaging combinations with Kulcha Knox and Mikey General respectively.

The sound is raw and warm and some of the very tasty influences include soul, ska, funk and blues. And if his debut album was soulful in the vein of smooth Philly soul or the distinct melodic soul of Motown, Where I Lead is more of the crude and unpolished southern soul from Stax.

He has a versatile, rich and very capable tenor voice, and sings smooth and stylish, the title track for example, but can easily switch to a gritty Wilson Pickett mood, such as the upbeat and joyous I Wanna Fly, with a chorus reminiscent of Lulu & The Luvvers 60’s UK hit Shout.

This album has been flying below the radar for me for some reason, and when I first listened to it I was completely blown away. Black Gold was a great set, but Where I Lead actually outshines the debut.

Currently available as digital download and on CD.

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One of the best lovers rock compilations yet

Song titles such as It Must Be Love, Thinking of You and I Love You give a hint of what lies behind the album title Harmony, Melody & Style – Lovers Rock & Rare Groove in the UK, one of Soul Jazz Records’ recent compilations.

You probably guessed the genre – lovers rock. A British style of smooth reggae kick-started in the mid 70’s with Louisa Marks’ Caught You in a Lie.

Fusing the tough bass lines and relentless drum patterns of Jamaican reggae with U.S. stylish soul, elegant R&B and pulsating disco and funk rhythms, lovers rock almost became the antithesis to the dread riddims and conscious lyrics that reigned the Kingston and London sound systems at the time.

Lovers rock was an escape from the tough urban jungle of London and other big UK cities marked by racism and tough financial conditions. It was way a expressing heartaches and relationships as well as a tool for female vocalists to make themselves heard, and lovers rock is truly dominated by women, also manifested by the track list of this compilation – only five out of 25 tracks are sung by men.

Harmony, Melody & Style moves from some of the earliest cuts in the genre to its commercial explosion in the late 70’s and early 80’s to being an underground phenomenon in the 90’s.

The album includes classic tunes and ones rare as a hen’s teeth. Several of them are also extended, providing plenty of space for the mixing engineer and the players of instruments to shine. Just listen to the last one and a half minute of La Famille’s cover of Mary Jane Girls’ funky All Night Long. The interplay between the saxophone and trumpet is sublime.

The extensive liner notes – about 40 pages – is written by Soul Jazz Records’ founder and boss man Stuart Baker. It contains photography dating from the 50’s to the 80’s along with interviews and features on the artists, musicians and producers who helped define lovers rock and put it on the global music map.

Harmony, Melody & Style may not be the definitive lovers rock compilation since smash hits such as Janet Kay’s Silly Games and Brown Sugar’s I’m in Love With a Dreadlocks are missing. But those tunes can be found on almost any lovers rock compilation, and it’s a clever choice focusing on a less obvious collection of tracks, tracks just as great, but less known to other than hardcore collectors.

The album is available as a double CD pack with slipcase, digital download and as limited edition two gatefold sleeve double vinyl sets. The vinyl edition might be a bit expensive, but the investment is definitely worthwhile.

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Fascinating album from Ziggi Recado

There’s a new Ziggi in town. His last name is Recado and he has got a brand new reinvented sound on his third album. It’s an adventurous blend of reggae, soul, hip-hop, funk and rock.

One thing that has remained from his previous albums is his vocal style. It’s rebellious, cool and edgy.

Most of the production is handled by Ziggi Recado himself and the majority of the tracks are recorded together with his live band The Renaissance Band. And the live feeling is present through most of the album.

Ziggi Recado celebrates musicianship and careful production. There are pleasant surprises on almost every single track.

Just listen to the beautiful and organic Can’t Stop Me Now built around a laid back rock guitar. It starts with guitar, moaning saxophone and funky drums. Then it’s just Ziggi Recado and the guitar. Along the way it adds organ, percussion, drums, bass and strings. You’ve to wait over three minutes until the song is complete in its instrumentation.

Real Talk showcases his vocal capabilities, when he sings both in a high Prince style and then switches to his usual singjay approach.

Reggae purists also get their share too. The heartfelt single Mary produced by Special Delivery, the Omar Perry/Tippa Irie duet Jah Alone on Curtis Lynch’s Gorilla riddim and the pumping Maikal X duet This Year are contemporary one drops in fine style.

Whether or not you like the genre mixing of distorted funk rock, psychedelic Prince-styled soul and reggae riddims you have to be fascinated by this bold, remarkable and unexpected set of songs.

Ziggi Recado has been available in the Netherlands since April and is released internationally on June 20th.

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Pama Outernational dubbed to the bone

Legendary dub master Mad Professor has taken on Pama International’s latest album Pama Outernational released last year.

Pama International is known for their exquisite blend of 60’s soul and 70’s reggae with a modern edge. Their music is neither reggae nor soul. And that’s why this new album Rewired in Dub is so interesting. It’s like hearing a soul or disco album in dub.

Mad Professor has been producing and mixing since the early 80’s. He has worked with a broad range of artists – Max Romeo, punk rockers Rancid and soul songstress Sade to name a few. So he knows how to twiddle a knob and work with faders and delays.

And he has certainly done some great twiddling on Rewired in Dub. The main elements of the songs have remained intact and the other parts show up from time to time.

Just listen to the two versions of the up tempo track Happenstance that is stripped to the bone. Dubstance Dub with its great drumming and percussion and Orgon You Don’t with a lethal organ work. Dub A Disco, here titled Disco Dub, takes you to the 70’s club scene.

Mad Professor may have blown a few fuses when he dubbed this one, but the result is astonishingly well-wired.

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John Legend should embrace his reggae curiosity

Last week John Legend dropped his latest album titled Wake Up! The album is a collaboration with hip-hop band The Roots.

Wake Up! is essentially a cover album and features eleven versions of great songs from artists such as Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. The songs that get the John Legend & The Roots treatment are mostly in the soul and R&B vein, with one notable exception for reggae fans.

Humanity (Love the Way It Should Be) was originally recorded by the late and great Prince Lincoln Thompson. The version included on Wake Up! isn’t nearly as nice as the original, but it certainly shows that the expressive and emotional John Legend should embrace his interest in reggae.

However, John Legend isn’t a rookie when it comes to reggae. Last year his duets with Estelle and Buju Banton hit the streets. And those are actually well worth picking up, especially the remixes provided by Curtis Lynch.

Hopefully John Legend – and other soul singers as well – will pick up on Jamaican tunes and make their own reinterpretations.

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