Benjamin Escoriza - Aleventa!World Music Network
Probably best known as the vocalist for the superb Radio Tarifa this is the debut solo album for Granada-born vocalist and lyricist BenjamÃn Escoriza. Several of Radio Tarifa guest on this acoustically driven album and that blend of medieval, Moorish, Sephardic, Andalusia folk is still to be heard but flamenco comes more to the fore bringing out the best of the North African influences and driving this compelling CD forward. Highly recommended.
Graham Radley, 05/07
Bennson - Let The LoveRaw Fusion Records
On his debut “Let The Love”, Australian born Bennson delivers a disc filled with 80’s style boogie tunes, modern soulful stompers and a few instrumental groovers mixed in for good measure. Bennson is a multi-talented artist who has performed with heavyweights like Alice Russell, Quantic and is also a member of the Bamboos. “Let The Love” has several standout tracks like “Whatever It Is”, an energetic foot stompin dance track. “Can’t Get Enough” is a downtempo soul track with smooth keys that float over Bennson’s voice. “Incredible” is another soulful gem that has a sound reminiscent of the Brand New Heavies. Fellow Aussies Gary Pinto and Christin Deralas perform a lovely duet on the mellow “One Minute Left”. There are many more selections here to enjoy so you’ll just have to check them out for yourself. Overall “Let The Love” is a well conceived feel good record that is certain to make you move. Bennson has emerged from the background and based on this project there’s no way he’s going back. Listen and enjoy.
Reg Dancy, 10/08
Benny Tones - ChrysalisBBE Records
If you were among the fortunate to enjoy the sleeper lp by Electric Wire Hustle from 2009 then you’re already familiar with New Zealand’s Benny Tones. Benny was the architect behind the beats and rhythms that made EWH such a huge hit. For his solo debut “Chrysalis”, he delivers once again with another lp filled with hypnotic beats, irresistible grooves plus a few contributions from some of the most talented vocalists not just from New Zealand but on the scene today. EWH front man Mara TK appears on four tracks and all of them strike the right chords but the standout is “Nevermind”. The future soul mid-tempo synth flavored gem captures the imagery of a man in search of a companion as Mara TK lyrically states. Joe Dukie from Fat Freddy’s Drop shines on the laidback dub stepper “Home”. “Odyssey” is another mid-tempo musical voyage filled with clever synths and the beautiful voice of songstress LP. There are other selections that deserve to be heard like the instrumental “Little City” and the title track, a sublime slice of electronica which features the blissful vocals of Sacha Vee. Benny has crafted another superb record that you’ll no doubt wear out just as you did with the EWH recording. It won’t be long before other vocalists and rappers start seeking his services to out the best in their recordings as well. With a record as strong as this, that’s not a bad idea.
Reg Dancy, 05/11
Benny Tones - Chrysalis The RemixesBBE
2012 proved to be a quiet year for Benny Tones but “The Chrysalis Remixes”, armed with thirty tracks should make up for his absence. You’d be hard pressed not to find a handful of favorites among this impressive collection however there some prime cuts that you shouldn’t miss. For starters the Negghead remix of “aero:soul”, sung by Mara TK is a banger and a nice precursor of more goodness forthcoming. The Night Panther remix of “On my Way”, also sung by Mara TK is certain to put you in a neck brace due to the fierce bass line. Dizzy I’s rework of “Home”, performed by Fat Freddy’s Drop is a keeper as well as the AD Bourke remix of “Fire Fly”. Rather than trying to decide what to play first, just hit the random button and you’re certain to find a new favorite with every spin.
Reg Dancy, 02/13
Beta Simon - Kraity Payan GuezFakoly
This is Beta’s first release since he moved to France in 1999 and dropped out of music to become a farmer. His welcome return to the studio was helped by Tiken Jah Fakoly and this was recorded with Fakoly’s band in Mali to become the first release on his new album. Delightful spiritual roots reggae from Africa - mighty fine.
Graham Radley, 08/07
Beto Villares - Beto VillaresSix Degrees Records
Well known Brazilian producer and soundtrack composer this is his debut CD and very good it is too, among the top guest vocalists he uses are CeU, Zeila Duncan (Os Mutantes) and Rappin' Hood. It’s a chilled mix which has a bedrock of bossa and other Brazilian rhythms joined by gentle flavours of reggae and funk. Perfect for all the lovely summer sunshine we should be having.
Graham Radley, 08/09
Big Bang - Way In JazzArision Recordings
I bought this album on the strength of hearing one track which we know can be a little risky nowadays but "Way In Jazz" is as good as I was hoping. Things kick off with the well known "Favourite Things" which is, yes, a little obvious but it has to be said it's a great version. The rest of the tracks are a damn fine selection of Jazz that is not a million miles away from Nicola Conte and Five Corners Quintet, with an amazing array of guest vocalists and the exceptional Nathan Haines on sax and flute plus a top notch horn section featuring Ingrid Laubrock. Here is another ace soundtrack for the summer.
Simon Harrison, 06/06
Biggabush Presents Lightning Head - 13 Faces of Lightning HeadLion Head
This is the third solo long player from former member of Rockers Hi-Fi, Biggabush, following on from 2002’s Best 7 release, “Studio Don”. The bulk of this album may have been recorded in Bigga’s farmhouse studio in the south-west of England, but don’t be fooled, for the music here is a beautiful fusion (in the nicest sense of the word) of skanking dub-reggae, JBs era funk, bass-heavy electronica, Hi-Life, Afro-beat and the other West African sounds about which Biggabush is so passionate. A hybrid approach on this scale can often produce such insipid, disappointing results, but not under the stewardship of a master craftsman like Biggabush, who somehow appears to be forever shredding up the blueprint and yet, at the same time, treating the music with an unquestionable integrity. This is one of the albums of the year and its music speaks for itself. Miss it at your peril.
Tom Breslin, 12/08
Bilal - A Love SurrealBBE
Upon listening to “A Love Surreal” the new release from Bilal, it’s evident that this record finds him in brighter spirits. Whereas “Air tights Revenge” had some dark moments, the mood is considerably lighter on his new release. Although there are moments when he deals with setbacks and losing love, there are many blissful moments and he appears to be having fun in the process. Musically the album has a jazz rock blend filled with tasty melodies that’s reminiscent of early Steely Dan. That’s evident on the tracks “Back to Love” and “Winning Hand”. “Right At The Core” follows suit as well plus the presence of pianist Robert Glasper here with an assist from the vocal trio King pays big dividends. Glasper creates beautiful melodies on “Butterfly”, a beautiful ballad that highlights the chemistry between these two musicians. “Never Be The Same” is a soulful slow burner that was recently sung by Joy Denalane that certainly qualifies as dim the lights music. Finally free of contractual constraints, Bilal is able to create music with no limitations. This isn’t watered down RnB, instead it’s a refreshing collection of quality that merely scratches the surface of his immense talent.
Reg Dancy, 03/13
Bilal - Airtight's RevengePlug Research
There aren’t many artists that can have a nine year gap between albums and still remain relevant but Bilal has done just that. In fact, with each guest appearance and live performance, the anticipation for this release grew at a rapid rate. Finally with “Airtight’s Revenge”, Bilal delivers an eclectic project that merely scratches the surface of his unique talents yet still provides definite satisfaction. Right from the start we’re treated to the twisted funky grooves of “Cake and eat it too” where he unleashes many layers of his infectious voice. “Move On” is another funky experimental highlight that laments on the heart break of a lost love. “Robots” is laden with slick grooves and wicked electric guitar licks. It also provides some social commentary on the political machine that exists how it affects the common man while the rich get richer. The disc wraps up with the acoustic flavored “Think It Over”, a warm and heartfelt ballad. Bilal isn’t content with going with the flow but instead seeks to push the boundaries of his musical landscape. This is a welcome return and hopefully there’ll be much more to follow.
Reg Dancy, 12/10