funk . soul . jazz . nu-jazz


Genre pick of the week Cover of Frank - 180g Vinyl Edition by Amy Winehouse.

Amy Winehouse

Frank - 180g Vinyl Edition

Years before Amy Winehouse garnered international attention with 'Back To Black', the sassy soul singer put herself on the UK music map with her 2003 debut, 'Frank'. Nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, the record glides along on the subtly jazzy production of Salaam Remi, which allows Winehouse's expressive voice, strongly influenced by Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, to shine, particularly on the downbeat 'Stronger Than Me', "Take The Box" (which made it onto Gilles' "Worldwide 2" compilation), the powerful 'You Sent Me Flying', and the sultry 'I Heard Love Is Blind'. It's an impressive debut, fusing soul with jazz, hip hop, reggae and Latin flavas, all topped off with her distinctive soul-jazz vocals. 


LP Info: 180g vinyl pressing in gatefold sleeve.

Napoleon Cherry

When You Had The Chance

    It feels like it's getting hot in here, we should slip into something a little more comfortable. PPU celebrate our summer heatwave with a little groove for the lovers out there, courtesy of the one and only Napoleon Cherry. NCM is the independent production company / label the producer has been working under since the late 80s with releases as Cool Waters and Station To Station. "When You Had The Chance" is from an unreleased slo-jam session from a few years back, and it is criminal it's taken this long to get a full release. Cherry's emotive vocals ride a slinky and sexy beat, preaching some come-to-bed-bizniz while the clipped beat, smooth keys and fuzzy bassline roll on. Get that champagne on ice kids, there's gonna be some babymakin' going' on.

    Seven Davis Jr releases his debut album 'Universes' via Ninja Tune – his most honest and heartfelt musical statement to date. Recorded in LA, San Francisco, Amsterdam and London, it’s a unique exploration of his musical landscape, traversing tempos and flipping styles with typical panache but always embedded in the bedrock of soul and funk.

    Born in Houston, Texas, before relocating to Northern California, Seven Davis Jr was raised on the classics - from Michael Jackson and Prince to Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. He studied gospel and jazz singing, inspired by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Burt Bacharach. During his teenage years he discovered dance music, specifically house and jungle.

    SDJR’s early Bandcamp output was more closely aligned to Los Angeles’ vibrant left-leaning electronic underground. Nurtured by the Hit+Run crew, he owes his first official release to Kutmah (who bagged "Thanks" for his ‘Worldwide Family Vol.2’ compilation on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint in 2012). It was the only four-to-the-floor jam on an album curated by a DJ who is rarely drawn to that style and that fact alone is significant.

    When he’s making straight ahead house music, the swing is reminiscent of classic Todd Edwards and the drums bump ‘n’ shuffle like Tuff Jam and Derrick Carter. And the vocals… well at times it’s like he’s channeling the spirit of George Clinton, offset with the sweet character of Peven Everett - the perfect balance of rough and smooth - it’s that undeniable funk that hooks in the hip-hop fans, the cats that don’t generally mess with “house” music. "Good Vibes" (feat. Julio Bashmore) nails this dynamic in a whirlwind 3 mins 18 secs that recalls Daft Punk at their boisterous best - proof that sometimes all you need is a chopped-up disco loop and a hook.

    Elsewhere on "Universes" Seven brings a similar soulful energy that Moodymann or Theo Parrish purvey. "Sunday Morning" picks up where Seven’s "Wild Hearts" 12” left off, a mighty ditty with the cheeky mantra “I bet ya never had a love like this before?” sitting pretty upon bustling drums and bass punctuated with snatches of guitar. “It’s about having healthy confidence in yourself and what you can offer the world,” says Seven. There are more introspective moments on the record too – such as "Fighters" and "Afterlife" (feat. Kutmah) – that explore murkier downtempo depths.


    2xLtd CD Info: Exclusive indies-only 2CD edition with an additional disc featuring bonus beats from Seven’s ‘Life In Deep Space’ poetry opus.

    Formula 1

    Walking With My Eyes Closed / Life Is A Beautiful Feeling

    Athens Of The North / Owl Of Athens come up trumps with a monster two-sided disco funk banger from Mighty Ryeders man Rodney Matthews. The OG of this very rare and collectible piece of Miami musical history always hits $1000+ when and if it comes up for sale. Now you can keep your cash money and buy this reissue 45 instead. First championed in clubs by UK funk DJ Ian ('The Praying Mantis') Wright who had it on rotation in the mid-00s (He also helped Athens Of The North compile their "Henry Stones Miami Sound" LP, which has been a firm shop stereo favourite). "Walking With My Eyes Closed" is a superb bump & hustle funker with hip swinging beats, superb vocals and uplifting bridge - a must for the dancefloor. Opening with teasing, stuttering drums and hot clavinet "Life Is A Beautiful Feeling" is another surefire winner - everything is just perfect here.

    Lexx' second release on Zurich based label Phantom Island. After the “Young Corner” EP he puts more wood to the fire with a reconstruction of Bing Ji Ling's cover version of “Hangin' On A String” by legendary Brit 80s Brit soul band Loose Ends. Lexx not only pays tribute to the original from 1985 but also leaves enough space for Bing Ji Ling's voice to shine, imprinting though his over the years developed distinctive trademark sound, the Compass Point Studio 2015 stamp so to say. That's how this version of the producer and record collector by heart becomes more than just a mere rework; it's plain and simple one of his most dedicated work so far. Whilst the A-Side catches you instantly, don't miss out on the flipside: “All That Is Now” seems like a clever dub version of a song, and is exactly the track you might want to hear after the A side. The timid but later dominantly instating bassline still bares a faint resemblance to “Hangin' On A String”, but eventually the guitar by Roger Szedalik carries it obliquely towards the Balearic sound of today. It's foremost Lexx' arrangement though, which heaves this tune above other current midtempo dub house. Sensitive timing of tension and pleasingness is Lexx' favourite discipline after all and here he puts his mastery once again to the test. This is for a certainty a record which will unfold its gracile beauty also in summers to come. So be careful with it, you'll need it quite regularly from now on.


    Herbie's Jam / Oliver

    The mysterious Stamp imprint returns just in time for the summer season with two killer cuts tailor made for the boisterous basement and sunbrushed terrace alike. Kicking things off on the A-side is "Herbie's Jam", an effortlessly cool house edit of the legendary jazz pioneer that features an infectious piano loop, live drums and a funky bassline which is certain to become a staple at day time parties and sunset sets this summer. If that weren't enough, there's also an incredibly smooth and soulful trumpet sample which fills out the jam and tie everything together. Flipside banger "Oliver" takes the same jam session vibe and runs with it straight to the peak time, employing sultry organ keys, breezy guitar licks and a truly groovy sax contribution that just makes you wanna move! As with their previous releases, this hand stamped, limited, 12" won't be around for long, so get on it early.

    For the fifth release on his so far unblemished Intimate Friends imprint, Marcel Vogel turns to the new keeper of London's soul, Reginald Omar Mamode IV. Hailing from the same fertile scene responsible for Tenderlonious, Paul White, Mo Kolours and Jeen Bassa (the latter two of which are his flesh and blood) Reggie merges soul and jazz tones over hip hop rhythms and warm boogie grooves to create an organic sound which seems simultaneously futuristic and rooted in the past. Undoubtedly a true spiritual cat, Reggie moves from the Dam-Funk stylings of "Real Thing" (produced by Jeen Bassa) to the blunted funk of "Ain't I Been Good To You", before simmering through the loose and wonky bedroom soul of "All Together" to arrive at the Balxploitation strut of "Try Again". The B-side opens in strong fashion with the emotional punch of standout track "Fussin N Fightin" and the Dilla-esque "Mercy", before the frankly indecent freak-funk of "Sugar Cane" takes us to the bedroom eyes of curtain closer "Bye". Another wonderful release from the London musician, and another beauty from the Amsterdam label.

    "In 2005, having decided to approach Gil Scott-Heron to suggest that we made a record, I stopped listening to any of his previous output. This was to avoid feeling intimidated by the weight of Gil's musical history, and by the sheer quality of the 14 studio albums he'd released since 1970.

    Part of my initial suggestion to Gil was that we recorded sparse, stripped down versions of his old songs. We both thought that might make an intriguing album. So we started off recording versions of some of Gil's repertoire, just voice and piano. But our album gradually evolved into something different - "I'm New Here", which as the title suggested, didn't touch on any of Gil's previous recordings (except for "Your Soul And Mine", which is a re-imagining of "The Vulture" from Gil's 1970 debut LP "Small Talk at 125th and Lennox").

    I didn't pay much attention to the acoustic versions of Gil's older repertoire that we had recorded, as I was so focused on our making an entirely new album. We didn't make the album we set out to; we made something different.

    In November 2011, six months after Gil died, I sat down to listen to the whole of Gil's back catalogue, on vinyl, album by album, chronologically. It's an incredible body of work; 13 albums between 1970 and 1982, and then 2 ("Spirits" and "I'm New Here") until Gil passed in 2011. I did this as a sort of meditative exercise, for the joy of sitting and listening to Gil, now that I was no longer getting to hear his voice down the phone from Harlem.

    I listened to these 15 albums over the course of a few weeks as a way to keep our communication going. They led me back to the acoustic piano versions of Gil's old songs that we had captured in New York and I found that they were in themselves remarkable; completely different to the originals, and full of magic in their simplicity. I realised we in fact had made the album we originally set out to, as well as "I'm New Here". We had recorded an album's worth of new, stripped down versions of some of Gil's best (but not necessarily best known) songs. We had recorded an album I thought should be called "Nothing New".

    "Nothing New" is recordings Gil and I made in New York of songs he chose from his catalogue, just voice and piano, pure Gil. I realised that each song he had chosen was from a different album of his. He had carefully curated the selection, so the album serves as an excellent introduction to his previous output.

    In our early letters, Gil had picked up on my use of the word "spartan" to describe how our record could be. The Oxford dictionary defines "spartan" as showing "indifference to comfort or luxury". Very Gil. "Nothing New" is truly spartan in that it is utterly sparse and devoid of anything that is not completely necessary. All it contains is Gil's singing and piano playing.

    You also hear excerpts of our conversations between takes; these give a sense of Gil's profound and profane nature. I believe Gil would approve of calling an album of him covering his own material "Nothing New"; the wordplay is inspired by him. Gil once expressed that he felt our album "could do with a few more yuks" - so now you can check out some of Gil's asides, and particularly the final interlude "On Bobby Blue Bland" for a glimpse of the man's playful sense of humour.

    Once I'd compiled and edited these songs, I made three acetates, and we screenprinted artwork at XL. I gave one of these three special copies to Gil's son Rumal Rackley, sent another to Gil's friend and keyboard player Kim Jordan in Washington DC, and the third went to Ms Mimi, who kept Gil's house in order. This could have been the end of the process, but Rumal felt we should share this work with people - so here it is.

    I hope you enjoy this album. It completes the set of 3 albums generated from our sessions in New York between 2005 and 2009 - the first 2 records being the main work "I'm New Here" and Jamie xx's remix album "We're New Here".

    This is "Nothing New"."

    Richard Russell, XL Recordings, London, 2014


    LP Info: Includes DVD 'Who Is Gil Scott-Heron?'.

    Having been one of the bands that has spearheaded the resurgence in deep, gritty funk and soul for over 10 years, and having collaborated with luminaries like Eddie Bo, Marva Whitney, Sharon Jones, Billy Wooten, Sir Joe Quarterman and most recently ex James Brown vocalist Martha High, Speedometer enjoy a worldwide reputation as a class act.

    And now in 2015, band leader Leigh Gracie and the group bring a welcome spotlight to a fresh vocal talent - James Junior.

    James has been part of the UK soul and gospel scene mainly as an in-demand session vocalist and arranger. He has generally stayed of out the limelight until now. Having grown up on a diet of classic soul and Motown, his collaboration with Speedometer on this album brings together the band's heavy grooves with James' rich vocal tones to produce an authentically old school sound - yet totally fresh.

    You only have to listen to the album opener Don't Fool Yourself to immediately grasp that this young man's voice is the perfect choice to grace this new Speedometer collection. Likened to a young Donny Hathaway or Stevie Wonder, James has all the perquisite tone, phrasing and soul to make a big impact on a world awoken to genuinely soulful sounds by acts such as Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, but is also fully adept to adapt to the varying genres Speedometer specialise in - the latin/bossa nova groove of the title track No Turning Back, the deep, funky afrobeat of Troubled Land and the stomping Northern Soul style track Homebreaker.

    James Junior gives the band an extra dimension and purpose but more importantly gives James the spotlight which he deserves. And No Turning Back is just the beginning...

    Wax Poetics

    #62 - Giorgio Moroder / Ratatat


      Giorgio Moroder
      The Ladies of Chic
      Steve Arrington
      Unknown Mortal Orchestra
      The Photography of Les McCann
      Van Hunt
      Divine Styler
      Nu Shooz
      Jamaiel Shabaka
      Seven Davis Jr.
      Bixiga 70
      Nick Hakim
      45 Francki of IAM
      Shusei Nagaoka


      Iconic computer composer Giorgio Moroder got his start writing and producing pop music in Germany. But a chance encounter with American session singer Donna Summer would change the course of his career. A string of hits together would make Summer an R&B and disco superstar and Moroder a wanted musical asset in the States, and their proto-techno, all-synthesizer dance track “I Feel Love” set the tone for the future of music. As Moroder embraced the Moog synthesizer and continued to revolutionize dance music, he transferred this electronic sentiment to multiple soundtracks, including the now-classics Midnight Express and Scarface. After a cameo on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, the seventy-five-year-old composer now returns to the scene with a new album, Déjà Vu.

      When fellow college alums Mike Stroud and Evan Mast ran into each other in Brooklyn and decided to jam together, they realized they had a penchant for making catchy yet cerebral instrumentals.Their newly formed band, Ratatat, featured smart interplay between guitar, synthesizers, and crisp beats. Four albums later—and collaborations with Kid Cudi and Jay Z along the way— the multi-instrumentalists return with their fifth LP, Magnifique.

      With Chic, Nile Rodgers and partner Bernard Edwards created sophisticated dance music draped in mystery and anchored in the unison singing of a rotating cast of female vocalists—Norma Jean Wright, Luci Martin, Alfa Anderson, Robin Clark, Diva Gray, Michelle Cobbs, and newcomers Folami Ankoanda-Thompson and Kimberly Davis.

      In the 1970s, Ohio’s blue-collar cities started churning out the hardest-working musicians in the business. Dayton native Steve Arrington came up watching the Ohio Players in the spotlight, spurring him to grind. As the drummer for the R&B band Slave, he quickly rose to take over as lead singer, which led to a successful solo career. But when he found a new calling in the Lord, he dropped out of the business altogether. After decades away, Steve is dipping his toes into the musical waters once again.

      Various Artists

      Chess Northern Soul Box Set

        One of Chess Records’ greatest gifts to the world was releasing some of the most brilliantly recorded 7” singles ever committed to wax. Now, as Chess turns 65 years old, Northern Soul oracle Ady Croasdell has opened the label’s vaults to bring together an outstanding collection of hugely collectable vinyl movers & stompers that left their dancefloor imprint on Britain’s choicest Northern Soul clubs. The treasures featured within the set are full of pure, undiluted soul joy, real goose-bump stuff. From The Valentinos (featuring Bobby Womack) mod fave ‘Sweeter Than The Day Before’ to Etta James ‘Can’t Shake It’, Doug Banks ‘I Just Kept On Dancing’ to Mitty Collier’s ‘My Party’, Tony Clarke’s dancefloor bomb ‘Landslide’ to the magnificent Terry Callier with ‘Look At Me Now’, the goodness just flows and flows.

        The release comes in a stylish replica UK Chess livery (black / silver and black / gold in a black and yellow label sleeve) presentation box with an 8-page leaflet featuring detailed notes by Ady Croasdell and includes a download card.

        Various Artists

        The Capitol Northern Soul 45s

          The Capitol set, compiled by another Northern Soul expert, Richard Searling, comes from the celebrated label and its spinoffs Tower and Uptown. The collection of ultra-rare sides covers the recording era of 1965-69 and includes the first vinyl issue anywhere in the world for Alexander Patton’s ‘(True Love Is) In The Heart’, and first-ever UK seven-inch pressings of (later Apple recording artist) Doris Troy’s ‘Face Up To The Truth’ and Jay D Martin’s ‘By Yourself’. The Outsiders’ ‘Lonely Man’ is also released here legally for the very first time, and there’s the vinyl debut of the Magnificent Men’s Wigan Casino favourite ‘Keep on Climbin.’’

          Other featured artists in the Capitol release include The Girl’s Got ‘It’ by another later Apple signing and Beatles favourite, Billy Preston. There are further contributions by Patrice Holloway, Bobby Paris and Gloria Jones, later Marc Bolan’s partner, who recorded the original Northern Soul standard ‘Tainted Love,’ and is represented here by ‘Come Go With Me.’ The accompanying booklet will also include many rare photographs and a download card.

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