Stephanie McKay - Tell It Like It IsMuthas of Invention
Finally! We’ve been waiting over a year since the original release date but the sophomore project by Stephanie McKay is here. “Tell It Like It Is” is gritty no holds barred soul with a 70’s vibe. Not to mention the passion and intensity that we heard on her debut “McKay” in 2003. The disc starts with the title track in which she laments on the problems that surrounds her community in particular and in the world in general. She advises a young girl to avoid some of the mistakes she made at her age. The wah wah guitar is a perfect compliment to this funky track. “Jackson Avenue” is the perfect summertime jam.. It evokes images of kids playing in the street and relying on the fire hydrants sprouting cool water for relief from the heat. The compostion has a classic Holland-Dozier-Holland sound and would’ve fit in perfectly in the Motown catalogue sans the Eric B & Rakim samples that add spice to the track. “Where Did Our Love Go” is a sweet ballad that features soul crooner Anthony Hamilton. With just twelve tracks, this disc sticks to the strong material and lays off the filler. One year after the EP of the same name, Stephanie McKay delivers with a disc full of soulful tasty treats that touches on social issues and everyday life experiences. This certainly emerges as one of best records of 2008 and an much needed voice to breathe life into soul music.
Reg Dancy, 08/08
Steve Austin - The Cyborg ChroniclesUprock Recordings
Uprock Recordings started back in 2000 with the merging of some serious heads. One of the seven original members is Steve Austin and here is his latest album. He has worked with some of the big names in hip hop, the broken beat scene, and is a regular MC and DJ at CO-OP, which has certainly given him a wealth of knowledge and experience. Steve has gone back to his roots and turned out an album which displays UK hiphop at its best. Even though there are some obvious samples used, especially in 'Rapper Have No Style', they are worked to perfection with Steve's lyrics, timing and production. Fans of Roots Manuva and TY need this.
Simon Harrison, 03/06
Steve Reid Ensemble - DaxaarDomino Recording
Steve Reid has some track record, his recording debut at 19 was playing on Martha and the Vandellas' 'Dancing in the Streetâ€. From there he played with a range of top jazz and soul legends including Miles Davis, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra James Brown and Dionne Warwick. This new CD sees him on his first visit to Africa for 40 years and once again working with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet). Recorded in Senegal the guests are Khadim Badji (percussion) Dambel Diop ( bass) Roger Ongolo ( trumpet) Jimi Mbaye ( guitar) and Boris Netsvetaev (keyboards). The opening track 'Welcome' is probably my favourite and sees the band joined by Isa Kouyate on kora and vocal . Well worth checking out.
Graham Radley, 09/07
Steve Reid Ensemble - Spirit WalkSoul Jazz
Drummer Steve Reid's musical career stretches back to the 60s. Not only has he played with such greats as Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Miles Davis and Gary Bartz to name but a few, but recorded a handful of much sought after deep jazz albums under his own name for his Mustevic label. 'Spirit Walk' is a welcome return for Steve and sees him team up with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), who respectfully brings electronic elements to the mix. The renowned 'Lions Of Judah' is revisited but my advise is to touch down on 'Lugano' and 'For Coltrane' for some truly exceptional timeless music.
Andy Allen, 11/05
Steve Spacek - Natural Sci-FiEglo
Steve Spacek explores mellow cosmic funk with his second official solo release "Natural Sci Fi". The initial stages of production for this lp began in 2005 but it was put on hold while he worked on various projects. Since then Spacek has added a few wrinkles, notably the appearance of rapper Oddisee and vocalist Natalie Slade. Oddisee's effortless flow fits seamlessly on "Take Ova" while the title track is long spacious laid back funk. It's a bit disappointing there's only eight tracks but at least it ends on a high note. "Plain Site" is a dreamy tune where Slade's soulful vocals mesh beautifully with Spacek's signature falsetto over a slinky funky groove. A solid release that will leave you wanting more but will satisfy you nonetheless.
Reg Dancy, 02/19
Steve Spacek - Space ShiftSound In Color
For those of you who have been in hiding for the last few years, Spacek have released two excellent albums 'Eve' and 'Vintage Hi-Tech'. Back when 'Eve' was released they upset the applecart by mixing a fusion of Steve's unique yet stunning vocals and beats that will shake your house. In 2005 it's time for Steve, the voice behind Spacek to go solo. There has been a lot of hype about the single 'Dollar' and quite rightly so: It was produced by the beatmaster J. Dilla. 'Spacek Shift' continues in that formula as did the previous albums and still sounds as fresh as ever. This is soul music for the twenty first century and beyond.
Simon Harrison, 10/05
Strange Fruit Project - The HealingOM Hip Hop
The first thing that stands out in the tracklistings for this album is that "Get Live" features Erykah Badu. It's as good as you would expect and the perfect selling point for those who reside behind record counters. The Strange Fruit Project have been missed in the past and judging by both their previous albums there's just no explanation. They've stuck to their guns and kept their effective sample-based beats and basslines. There is only one slight difference to their previous long players in that they have brought in a few guests: these include Little Brother, Bavu Blakes, Darien Brockington, DeLoach and of course the lady of soul mentioned above. I really hope this gets them the attention they thoroughly deserve, but only time will tell.
Simon Harrison, 07/06
Submotion Orchestra - KitesSMO
With their fifth LP, The Submotion Orchestra return to their roots with jazz infused electronica combined with live instrumentation. "Kites" maintains the atmospheric soundscapes that we fell in love with from their debut "Finest Hour". Each member drew inspiration from photographic images they brought to the recording. They transformed those images into a splendid collection of emotive compositions. "Variations" is a elegant slow burning tune with blissful keys and hypnotic beats. "Own" is another winner filled with warm strings and blissful horns. Ruby Woods angelic vocals, missing for most of their previous lp shines throughout here. The disc wraps up with "Alone", a haunting orchestral gem where Woods weaves images of space and open skies around her soft vocals. This is a gorgeous release that is simply sublime. Loyal fans will be more than pleased while new fans will realize what they've been missing.
Reg Dancy, 03/18
Sugar Beats - Search for PeaceCalm Beast Records
Back in 2004 Steve Williams from UKvibe gave me a copy of a four track cd from a new Birmingham band called the Sugar Beats. This featured a cracking version of Stevie Wonder's "As", a live version of the "Balcon Hotstep" and the excellent "French Girl from Luton". I've been hooked ever since. The Sugar Beats were formed by Chris Mapp and Leo Altarelli, and then became a seven piece band for "Search for Peace". The foundation here is jazz, which not only works on dancefloors but also when pottering around the house. Leo's vocal works a treat whether scatting or in a full vocal workout. Top marks to these guys for persisting and getting their music out there, now all you've got to do is support!
Simon Harrison, 09/06
Sun Circle - RebornFuturistica Music
Simon S’s soulful electronic compositions and Deborah’s angelic vocals have given birth to many wonderful Futuristica recordings. With “Reborn” the duo has crafted a canvas filled with sublime down tempo music that will paint pictures of peace and serenity. Among the highlights are “If You Speak”, a jazz influenced soulful tune enhanced by a lovely melody and warm yet subtle keyboard arrangements. “My Story” is a lush arrangement that features Deborah supported by lush strings These compositions would sound great with anyone but when Deborah lays her vocals down, they turn to gold. Simon’s catalogue continues to grow with high quality music and is firmly established as one of the leaders of electronic soul filled with melodic jazzy soundscapes and this record is further proof of that.
Reg Dancy, 08/10