Tag Archives: soul

7″ review: The Putbacks ft Nai Palm – Spanish Harlem / The Worm

HS012 Pack Shot

March 10 marked the release of The Putbacks‘ new 7″, ‘Spanish Harlem‘, which features Melbourne’s hottest neo-soul voice NaiPalm. You may know her as the Headchief of future soul band Hiatus Kaiyote, but in this Hope Street Recordings release we see a different side of the talented vocalist.

This soulful, blues-ridden track is combined with the instrumental-only B-side ‘The Worm‘, which showcases the raw talent and unbridled rhythmic intensity that is the Putbacks.

‘Spanish Harlem’ is an upbeat, joyful cover of the Leiber and Spector song first released by Ben E King in 1960 (but you probably remember the 1971 rocking Aretha version that catapulted the song into the chart stratosphere), and in this Putbacks/Nai Palm recreation the vibe is chilled out to a sunday afternoon.

Also noticeably absent in this reinvigorated, freshly pressed version is the cheesy alto saxophone solo from the Ben E King version, which is definitely an added bonus.

The slightly more funk-oriented ‘The Worm’ is a salute to the 1970s, with screaming Hammond organs, garage-tinged drums and relentless pentatonic polyphony. The climatic highlight of the record is upon you now – if you aren’t getting down and groovy by this point in the record you’re clearly subject to severe emotional capacity deficits.

And as if that isn’t enough funk for your buck, the good folks at Hope Street Recordings have included a bonus track on the digital release of Spanish Harlem/The Worm entitled ‘In The Dirt‘.

The production on this record is in classic Hope Street Recordings style, with the listener getting the feeling that the entire 7″ has been soaked in a tub of hazy, summery 1960s-70s nostalgia.

This beautiful partnership between Nai Palm and The Putbacks is reminiscent of a funkier, more soulful lovechild of Hendrix and The Upsetters (Little Richard‘s group, not the reggae band).

Get your copy of the 7″ (plus a free download of all the tracks + bonus track ‘In The Dirt’) HERE!!! Do your bit to support and sustain the wonderful work of these artists and independent labels.

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Crate diggin: George Benson – This Masquerade (Leon Russell cover)

george benson

It’s throwback Thursday… or Saturday… either way, it’s definitely the right idea to pump up your speakers, pour yourself a drink and chuck on George Benson‘s cover of ‘This Masquerade‘. You will be transported back to 1976 with the sexy, slowed-down vibe and Benson’s smooth soprano voice. Benson was not well known for his vocals, but ‘This Masquerade’ was an early occurrence of that sultry voice – and what better way to showcase it but by operating in unison with the muted tones of the jazz guitar melody. The song then eventually settles into a slow, funky groove with Al Green-esque ballad style vocals lamenting about some unrequited love. It is not hard to see how ‘This Masquerade’ catapulted Benson and his 1976 album Breezin into the stratosphere of the easy listening / R&B pop charts of the 1970s. It also set the mark for many more vocal/guitar hit releases from Benson, such as ‘Give Me The Night‘ and ‘Turn Your Love Around‘.

There’s something special about Benson’s style on this song. Arguably, it’s ‘easy’ for easy listening / ballad R&B songs to blend together (think Billy Ocean…) and it often becomes impossible to separate individuality from the heavily-populated library of overly cheesy, generic “soul” ballad music. But here lies an exception. So much soul is invested into the construction of the melody and harmony that it is difficult not to want to get up and dance around to George Benson. So disregard your innate aversion to cheesy 70s ballads and give ‘This Masquerade’ a listen…

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Album preview review: Slakah The Beatchild – Soul Movement vol. 2

Canadian soul/rhythm and blues producer Slakah The Beatchild is making us wait a little longer for the long-awaited Soul Movement vol. 2, which is now due to be released in January 2014. Thankfully the good man has released five tantalising bonus tracks available for free download off the beatchild bandcamp page, which you can find here.

This is an exciting taster – all five tracks showcase Beatchild’s extraordinary ability to blend elements of different genres seamlessly, whilst still maintaining a signature sound as a producer. Take I Surrender, for example – this sweet, soulful ballad sails over sparkly acoustic guitar and silky vocal harmonies. His sound is reminiscent of neo-soul legends such as Dwele and Bilal, but there is an unequivocal folk/ballad softness to counteract the RnB flavour. Getting In The Way is by far the most distinctive RnB track, with its 808 drums and and funky fretless bass. With a smooth, sexy groove and lots of dominant seventh chords (responsible for that sexy tension), Afrocentric ad lib vocal improvisations coalesce to produce a very Dwele-esque track.

I was really impressed by what I heard in these five bonus tracks. RnB producers are a dime a dozen these days, but artists that can create and maintain a unique sound are few and far between and I think Slakah The Beatchild falls neatly into this category. My only criticism is that the vocals on these five tracks sound very similar, with the focus being directly on high-end harmonies (especially on Plunderland), to the point that the lower register harmonies tend to be neglected. Soul Movement vol. 2 is released January 6 2014 but you can preorder your signed 12″ copy of the album here.

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Album review: John Legend – Love In The Future

On August 30 this year, R&B/soul singer-songwriter John Legend dropped his latest LP Love In The Future. The album is reportedly a collection of autobiographical love songs written in the wake of Legend’s recent marriage to Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen. I think the “love” theme certainly comes out on this album. Perhaps a little too much… I’ve always had mixed feelings about Legend. I love certain collaborations (such as with Kanye West, Jay-Z, Malik Yusef, Alicia Keys) where his voice just seems to shine and hold its own place in the music, but when I listen to his solo records none of that uniqueness is present. Although produced by Yeezy himself, Love In The Future gives me the same feeling – even after several listenings I feel nothing, if not slightly sick of over-used conventional chord progressions. The songs on Love In The Future have too much of a pop rock sound and feel way too over-produced, which dampens the rawness and imperfection that I associate with good R&B and soul.

If I had to choose a standout track I’d pick ‘Who Do We Think We Are’ (ft Rick Ross). Rick Ross provides a little interest to an otherwise uninspiring repetitive soul hook and too much auto-tune with his verse (rife with social commentary about the idea of excess within the hip hop game). I feel like Kanye is relying on his old trick of sampling a bar or two of a classic soul track and expecting Legend’s voice to take the song somewhere, which definitely isn’t happening. With 16 tracks squashed into this hour-long album, I think Legend could have written four tracks and achieved the same effect on Love In The Future.

To sum up, I was not overly impressed with this album. Maybe Legend should leave the neo-soul thing to the masters and go live on an island with his bikini model wife.

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Single review: Oddisee – Lonely Planet

 

 

Behold! D.C Native Ahmir Mohamed el Khalifa, better known as Oddisee, has finally dropped the lead single for his upcoming album The Beauty In All. It’s been a while since the rapper/producer has released a purely instrumental album and if the lead single ‘Lonely Planet’ is any indication of what is to come, then all Oddisee fans are in for a treat. The producer is well-known for his laid-back, jazz-infused grooves and ‘Lonely Planet’ is no exception. The track fades in with a slow groove featuring rim shots with soft delay, before breaking into a gentle head-bopping soulful R&B hook complete with funk-tinged fretless bass. Muted jazz guitar riffs and soft string arrangements add further interest to this beautiful track. The Mello Music Group artist had this to say about The Beauty In All:

“The Beauty In All is about the flaws & mistakes that give life its character and worth – how even ignorance can give light to knowledge … If everything we are is out in perfect tutorials, we might never deviate from the teacher. This record is dedicated to imperfection and the sense of pride & accomplishment we get from our struggles. Hopefully, you listen to this record, reflect on the ups & downs of life, and see the beauty in all.” (Mello Music Group Bandcamp, 2013).

Oddisee possesses a unique ability to be able to take a simple idea and gradually introduce subtle, unobtrusive layers until the idea is built into a deceptively complex culmination of rhythms, texture and harmony. I for one cannot wait to hear the rest of this instrumental masterpiece. The Beauty In All is released on October 20 but you can pre-order the album here.

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