Monday 19 December 2016

2016 albums: honourable mentions

As 2016 draws rapidly to a close, the compilation of our top 5 albums of the year has been hotly contested with last-minute changes still being made.  While the final list is being prepared, and is due to be unveiled around ten days from now, here's a list of the albums that just narrowly missed out on a slot in the top 5 but are still so worthy of your time if you've yet to hear them...

‘blackSUMMERS'night’ by Maxwell [Columbia Records]
The gap was longer than anyone would have liked but when Maxwell comes back THIS strong, the frustration subsides that much quicker.  Maxwell’s second album in his long-gestating BLACKSUMMER’SNIGHT trilogy is an excellent entry and it’s sadly just barely missing out on a top 5 entry.  Musical contributions come from Derrick Hodge and Robert Glasper, as well as a welcome reunion with Stuart Matthewman on the songs ‘Lost’ and ‘Listen Hear’.  Other standouts include ‘All The Ways Love Can Feel’, ‘Lake By The Ocean’ and ‘Of All Kind’.

‘Natural’ by Stefania Dipierro [Far Out Records]
Another album I desperately wanted to include in the Top 5 but unfortunately it’s just missed out(!)  Nicola Conte albums in the summertime should just be the natural order of things – to not vibe out to a Conte album in the sunshine is to severely miss out.  his production talents are put to expert use in 2016 as he presents the debut album from Stefania Dipierro and thus extends his relationship with Far Out Recordings (the home of his Viagem series).  The musical union is perfect and Stefania flourishes on ‘Natural’.  Standouts include the title track and the excellent Betty Carter cover, ‘Open The Door’.

‘Lost Myself’ by Shola Adisa-Farrar & The Florian Pellissier Quintet [Hot Casa Records]
A project that’s been two years in the making, the music on ‘Lost Myself’ is punctuated by an understated elegance born really of the chemistry between Shola and Pellissier’s Quintet.  Shola is hugely adept at conveying her warmth, charm and personable nature through her writing and particularly through her vocals, leaving Florian Pellissier & Co the task of providing an exquisite musical backdrop.  While the majority of the album features original compositions, it seems only fitting that this “exploration into jazz” feature sprinkles of outside inspiration: an impressive bossa-esque re-imagining of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ is included, along with an interpretation of Herbie Hancock’s ‘I Have A Dream’, but the most exciting cover comes courtesy of a seminal Jay Dee (Dilla) production for his one-time hip-hop group, Slum Village… ‘Fall in Love’.

‘Cosmic Unity’ by Family Atlantica [Soundway Records]
The second album from Family Atlantica is delivered by Soundway Records and is a masterful amalgamation of world music incorporating Ethiopian jazz-funk, Venezuelan music, African rhythms...  London born Jack Yglesias acts as the band’s leader, producer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist and makes the scope of music presented here just sound effortless.  ‘La Humanidad’ steals the show here amongst an album with a lot to boast, but also check out the group’s first self-titled album which was released back in 2013.

‘Nite-Funk’ by Nite-Funk [Glydezone Recordings]
We don’t normally include EPs in our round-ups but we couldn’t resist in this case.  Nite-Funk pairs the excellent vocals of Nite Jewel with the excellent production of Dam Funk resulting in this 4-track gem which is hopefully a teaser for a full-length album to come.  The charm of this one rests in their blissful basking of 80s Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis levels of soulful soundscapes.

‘Changes’ by Charles Bradley [Dunham Records]
The screaming eagle of soul.  If you've listened to a Charles Bradley album before then you know that's an apt description of his prowess.  The third album release from the marquis act at Daptone's Dunham Records sees Bradley embrace that moniker like never before.
The album's title track sees a brilliant reworking of Black Sabbath's 'Changes', but further highlights come courtesy of 'Nobody But You'and 'Things We Do For Love' and the album's gem 'Slow Love'.  It's a very family affair throughout: although the Menahan Street Band provide the music throughout, they do step aside on two tracks to provide shine for The Budos Band ('Ain't It A Sin' and 'Changes') while Saun & Starr provide additional vocals on songs as do the Gospel Queens.

‘Hello Baby’ by Lack of Afro [LOA Records]
‘Hello Baby’ marks the fifth album for Adam Gibbons under the Lack of Afro moniker and boasts an eclectic mix of Lack of Afro’s trademark fiery northern soul stompers and disco-funk boogies all expertly balanced out by Gibbons’ production skill and brought to life by a diverse mix of vocalists including Joss Stone, Juliette Ashby, long-time friend and collaborator rapper Herbal T, and fellow LOA Records artists Emma Noble and Elliott Cole.  Standouts throughout the album include 'I Got The Rhythm', 'Take You Home', 'Fires Glow' and 'All My Love' but it's an album with very little to falter.

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