Friday, 14 December 2012

Best of 2012 Albums: #5-#2

Ok gang, after much-too-much head-scratching, planning, strategising and in-between naps, I've finally compiled my stand-out albums of the year.  Firstly, I should say that this is based on what I've actually been able to get my hands on so apologies straight away for anything that really, really should be here but isn't.  There will be a follow-up post featuring a handful of honourable mentions within the next few days.  Please note our 'best of 2012' show featuring songs from these albums and many more will air on Starpoint Radio 8-10am, Sunday 30th December, so we'd love the pleasure of your company for that one!

This post only deals with #5-#2 with the #1 album of the year being unveiled shortly afterwards.  Right, let's kick things off...

#5: 'Best of Perception & Today Records' - v/a [BBE Records]

The New York-based label ran from the late 60s to 1974 and was famed for its artists engulfing the spectrum of soul, jazz, funk and proto-disco.  This compilation, unearthed and compiled by DJ Spinna (one of our heroes of 2012!) along with the BBE Soundsystem, brings us undeniable gems from each genre of their arsenal, including Astrud Gilberto's fantastic 'Take It Easy My Brother Charlie', JJ Barnes' 'Wishful Thinking' and a couple of excellent numbers by The Eight Minutes, 'Take My Love Don't Set Me Free' and 'Looking For A Brand New Game'. 

#4: 'Together' – Pitch & Scratch [Legere Recordings]

Fresh from Hamburg, this electronic-spaced out funk duo seemed to have crept out of nowhere to storm their way on to this list with their second album, 'Together' which features brilliant vocal contributions from Leila Pantel ('Maculele'), Wayne Martin ('Papa Never Was A Genius') and Alex Prince ('Funk Is Ruling My Head'), and Lack of Afro also turns up to provide percussion on the aforementioned 'Papa Never Was A Genius'.  The best thing about this record is that, although a funk album, it doesn’t root itself, or restrict itself, solely to a singular sound and it enthusiastically embraces more far-reaching genres and styles, like hip-hop and Latin rhythms.  This is new millennium funk in the best sense – respectful and aware of the music’s heritage and history, but also progressive and ambitious, trying things you wish more bands would try.  Not just a good record... this is a great record and one that'll be rocking our speakers for some time to come!

#3: 'Faithful Man' – Lee Fields & The Expressions [Truth & Soul]

Secondly, we doth our proverbial caps to Truth & Soul’s marquis act, Lee Fields, who, along with The Expressions, delivers ‘Faithful Man’ – his official follow-up to the extraordinary ‘My World’ in  2010.  ‘Lee Fields’ releases now seem to be dripping consistently from the vault as ‘Problems’ and ‘Treacherous’ have both now been made available in the interim.  A record from Truth & Soul, brought to life by the quality of musicians including members of the Dap-Kings, is never going to be met with the question, ‘Is it any good?’, just, ‘How good is it?’, but the one gripe I’d make mention of is the length.  Clocking in well below 40 minutes, and consisting of nine songs plus an instrumental, you do feel that tiny bit short-changed as it’s a fraction more than EP status.  Short and punchy has always been the Truth & Soul/Daptone way, but when you compare that structure to songs like the album closer, ‘Walk On Through That Door’, it gives you an indication of what’s achievable when songs are allowed to be fleshed out a bit more.  Ultimately, another stunning release though from someone who’s fast becoming my most bankable name in traditional soul music!

#2: Clementine Sun – Khari Cabral Simmons [Dome Records]

Brand new – in many ways – for Dome Records in 2012, Simmons’ album sounds like nothing else I can think of ever having come out from UK’s Dome, which is a great thing!  Heavily summer soul and jazz-tinged, this bass player has rounded up an impressive array of talent for his debut release, including the brilliant bossa star, Sabrina Malheiros, who appears on the appropriately-named, ‘Major Bossa’; label-mates, Incognito, who contribute to the album’s standout song, ‘How Can We Go Wrong’; Oteil Burbridge (who, as a quick aside, can also be heard on 2011’s live release from Soulive, along with his brother Kofi Burbridge, ‘Bowlive’ – very worth the price of purchase if I may say!) who plays bass on ‘Ninos’; and India.Arie, who appears on the Stevie Wonder cover of ‘Never In Your Sun’, and had boasted Simmons as a member of her band for some years.

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