It all started with a phone call; ‘would you want to do Freeze at the Hollywood Bowl?’ Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow jumped at the chance to be the first-ever headlining turntablists at the legendary 16,500 capacity venue, the site of infamous concerts by everyone from John Williams to the Beatles and the Doors. In the process of preparing for the June 2007 show, the duo recorded their rehearsals, allowing for this latest and greatest episode in all-45 mayhem. As with « Freeze » and « Product Placement », the emphasis is on the eclectic, but « The Hard Sell » is leaps and bounds beyond the expected, on a musical basis, as well as technical. Now utilizing eight turntables and two loop pedals, plus four mixers and a fat stack of 7-inch vinyl, new possibilities in live mixing are explored, as doo-wop mixes with punk, new wave with grime, and everything in between, all with taste and humour. Forget mash-ups, forget computers, and never mind the MP3s: this is real turntablism at its genrebending, skills-dominated best.
Tommy’s music, like his graphic design, is beguilingly simple. He sounds like a guy fucking around on his front stoop, and maybe that’s exactly accurate, but the results touch you down to your toes. His melodies dance lightly around your head while the rhythms build under your feet. His is soul music, made by a street kid raised on Santana and Bill Withers, with more than a little nod to The Clash and Public Enemy in there, too.
A masterclass in mature, resonant pop, the album includes the singles « Mercy » and « Rockferry ». Her soulful voice has already beguiled many of the nation’s musical tastemakers and news of its beauty and of the strength of her songs is spreading by word of mouth. Now, as the comparisons fly (Dusty Springfield has emerged as the favourite), it’s time to discover her for yourself. Duffy was born and spent her childhood years in the north Wales coastal community of Nefyn, a place too remote to be driven by style wars or opposing music factions (the nearest record counter was a bus ride away and only stocked the Top 40). The upbringing she describes is one in which everyone had to rub along together, making do and mending, accepting each other and their tastes without prejudice.
Chess Records takes on the music of Burt Bacharach, with amazing results – thanks to the deep soul vocals from the Dells and impeccable production from the legendary Charles Stepney! The album’s a tremendous meeting of minds, as The Dells really transform Bacharach’s brilliant compositions – giving them depth and feeling in ways that are quite different from any other renditions of the songs. The Arrangements by Stepney are incredible too – on a par with his work for Minnie Riperton, Rotary Connection and Ramsey Lewis – as majestic as Burt might have wanted, but with a very different approach, and a slight undercurrent of funk. Instrumentation is by Stepney, Phil Upchurch and members of The Pharoahs, plus a full string section as well. Another baroque-soul classic from the glory days of the Chicago soul scene.
A rare session by the mighty Axelrod for Polydor Records, never previously reissued. Produced by Cannonball Adderley and featuring Joe Sample, Ndugu Chancler, Ernie Watts and Jerome Richardson. This is one of the rarest albums ever from the funky maestro, and quite different from his earlier work for Reprise and Capitol. This time round, Axe is working in a jazz-funk mode – in a setting that’s heavy on the keyboards from Joe Sample, and also features reeds and vibes, plus a nice undercurrent of strings. There’s a subtle dose of fusion in the mix, but one that’s never too jamming – and Axelrod always maintains his trademark sense of space and timing – turning the simplest musical measure into the kind of groove that holds up well into the 21st century.
Quasimode are a four piece jazz band based in Tokyo, formed in 2002. With previous releases on Freestyle, Inpartment and Columbia they now join the Sonar Kollektiv label. Their sound is based on authentic jazz rhythms from the 60s and 70s and has been linked with similar Jap-jazz bands like Soil & ‘Pimp’ Session and Sleep Walker. In fact, album track « The Man From Nagpur » features Masato Nakamura from Sleep Walker on saxophone. Other guests on the album include one of the world’s greatest jazz vocalists, Carmen Lundy, on the song « Time Is Love ». Amongst the album’s great instrumental numbers « For Self Defense » has a classic swinging feel, while « The Land Of Freedom » captures the energy that Quasimode exude when they play live in clubs.
« Revivals, Rituals & Union Songs » is the second album release from Southern Tenant Folk Union, a London based band that in their short tenure have shredded all expectations associated with the term ‘bluegrass’ and developed into one of the most exciting groups performing and recording roots music in the UK. Hearing the new album proves a highly rewarding experience with opener « Never Got The Best Of Me », as rambunctious as it is infectious, leading the listener into a collection of songs that weave styles and genres effortlessly. « Back To Front » is a glorious Celtic soul fusion, « Cocaine » has an undeniable Eastern European gypsy influence, whilst « Can You Light A Flame » drips with country harmonies. This tight, 40-minute record does what every second album strives to do; it surpasses the achievements of its predecessor and should ensure easy passage for Southern Tenant Folk Union on to the next level in terms of their artistic and commercial potential.