Monday 18 November 2013

Me, myself and my CDs (part2)

Following on from part 1 of the ‘me, myself and my CDs’ series, here’s our first batch of CDs – whether it be down to the artwork or the packaging – that would breathe life into any music fan’s collection...

‘Destiny’ by Shuya Okino [2011]
Shuya Okino - one half of the infamous Kyoto Jazz Massive - spun the soul world on its head in 2010, first by teasing fans with the release of 'Still in Love' the year before, and then following it up with its equally inspiring full-length release, 'Destiny'.  Filled with dancefloor, string-heavy releases, and a vocal guestlist including N'Dea Davenport and Pete Simpson, the album stormed to the top of the year's best-ofs.  The packaging is particularly noteworthy though - as it's a book: a beautiful matt-laminated hardback book with the CD tagged in at the end.  What do the pages consist of though?  Er... well, they're really just pictures of him getting dressed in really fly gear and close-ups of said really fly gear (cufflinks, shoes, etc.), unfortunately no real info about Shuya, the album or the record label.  To add to its appeal though - it's not a particularly easy album to find.  I had to get it from CDJapan but thankfully SImply Soul now stocks it, so visit them to get yourself a copy.

‘True Soul: Deep Sounds From The Left of Stax’, Volumes 1&2 [Now-Again Records, 2011]
Released in 2011, this two-volume compilation – probably more aptly dubbed an anthology – took thirteen years to compile(!) and comprises of rare and unreleased funk and soul music from the legendary independent Arkansas record label amidst the 1960s and 1970s.  Music-wise, Volume 1 boasts brilliance like ‘Follow the Rainbow’ by Thomas East, and ‘The Real Thing’ by The Conspiracy, while Volume 2 counters with ‘You For Me and Me For You’ by The Right Track and two gems by Portrait in the form of ‘Springtime Smile’ and ‘Love You For Now On’. 
The volumes are each beautifully-presented in matt-laminated hardback cases containing a CD and DVD (which features live performances by the True Soul All Stars captured from 1973’s True Soul Revue television program), as well as a 56-page colour booklet containing photos and interviews.  Frankly, these volumes are about as essential hardcopy purchases as it gets!

‘The Outsiders Are Back’ by Kings Go Forth [Luaka Bop Records, 2010]
The debut album by Wisconsin's own ten-man soul orchestra went on to secure the coveted title of 'The Blue-in-Green Session's AlbumOfTheYear' in 2010 – having deservedly done so by becoming a group (of varying ages and backgrounds) brought together by their love and passion for playing and performing quality funk-filled soul music.
The icing on the cake with ‘The Outsiders Are Back’ is the album’s cover art, which are original drawings by Mingering Mike.  If you’re unfamiliar with Mingering Mike – let me introduce you:  Mingering Mike is you.  Mingering Mike is me.  Mingering Mike is that dreamer with the unattainable ambition of gracing a stage and being heralded as an international soul superstar – but as people couldn’t celebrate the superstar, they celebrated the dreamer.  Mingering Mike would go on to create a fictional career as a soul sensation by creating actual record sleeves for over 50 of his own ‘albums’ featuring his sketches of himself and his friends, and even including cardboard ‘vinyl’ in the sleeves.  ‘The Outsiders Are Back’ marks the first album that features Mike’s artwork that was actually released! (The story is truly incredible and far more extensive so for more info, please visit

‘Made by Maceo’ by Maceo Parker [What Are? Records, 2003]

Oftentimes, it feels like Maceo has been one of funk's unsung heroes despite a resume that includes saxophonist for no less than the actual architects and pioneers of funk music, including: James Brown, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Prince, despite carving out an incredible solo career including no less than fourteen solo albums and a relentless touring schedule.  It's his 2003 album 'Made By Maceo' which is of particular importance to us here though - despite featuring a brass section of Ron Tooley, Candy Dulfer and my favourite trombonist, Greg Boyer, throughout the record, the album can also boast a beautiful package as displayed in the following picture.

‘Kingdom Come’ [deluxe] by Jay-Z [Def Jam Records, 2006]

Jay-Z's 2006 comeback album, three years after what was intended to be his swan song, borrowed the title from a classic Superman comic book story that sees the Man of Steel come out of retirement to don the cape once more and save the world.  (In case anyone was wondering 'wow, Jay-Z's a comics fan!?', he isn't, the title was pitched to him by long-term collaborator, album producer and comics fiend, Just Blaze.)  Certainly an apt album title when discussing the Ruler of Rap's return to hip-hop and a theme smoothly carried over to the deluxe album packaging with a cardboard case featuring a cover of 'suit and tie'/corporate Jay-Z, and a slip case sleeve 3D cover that when inserted over the cardboard image, reveals the true identity of 'street hustler' Jay-Z.  Quite nifty.  There's a bonus DVD too in this edition.

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