Harry Styles – Harry Styles

Harry was always the 1D member with a wild glint in his eye, exhibited in his many tattoo’s that hinted at a grittier side than his boy band membership HarryStyles-albumcovermight allow.  That’s What Makes You Beautiful is actually a brilliant pop song but his new solo album is not quite pop, having a more indie-rock sound.  I am surprised how much I am liking this album.  Thankfully Sign of the Times is not a Prince cover but it is a pretty good song. Some have slated Sweet Creature for sounding too much like McCartney’s Blackbird, but I am sure there are other acoustic guitar songs that do too. The album kind of tails off a bit towards the end for me but after a few listens it’s a pretty good debut, although I could have done without the hotel room imagery. Thanks for that, Harry!

Standout track : Carolina , but Only Angel is great!

Various Artist – Blues Brothers Soundtrack

bb ostI was too young to be able to reference the film when it came out in 1980 but by the mid 80’s the legacy of the Blues Brothers was still going strong ( and still is!), not only with the film which we watched on VHS (yo kids, go look that up…) but with loads of tribute bands.  It was they who introduced me to Atlantic RnB and classic soul tracks.  I think this soundtrack still holds up as a great collection of music in its own right.  The music is fantastic, particularity the horns and bass, played by some of the musicians who worked on the original tracks back in the 60’s.   Of course the supporting cast including Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles bring their great performances, but John Belushi’s vocals stand up well amongst the Kings and Queens of Blues and Soul.  A great album to start the day to!

Standout track: She Caught The Katy  – easily overlooked as the opening track.

Various Artists – Classic Funk Mastercuts Volume 1

MC funk 1The bass line, drumbeats or breaks from a few of these tracks might seem familiar because they form the base of many hip hop tracks.  As much as I like funk its that element that attracted me to this CD as I am a big fan of old school hip hop, but I mean proper old school – 1986 and older.  A good funk track just finds its groove and takes you with it, and when it does you happily succumb.  There is a good mix of loud funk with some smoother mellow tracks. I like collections like this where the tracks aren’t all well know and Mastercuts albums are great for this, particularly the original releases.  If you fancy dipping your toe into any genre and there is an MC collection for it then its worth picking up, and you can usually get them pretty cheap too.

Standout track: Fatback Band- Wicki-Wacky – I love anything with a cowbell sound!

Alexander O’Neal – Hearsay

hearsayProduced by Minneapolis-based Jam & Lewis, Hearsay is Alexander O’Neal’s magnum opus and the source of his biggest singles in the 80’s. Hearsay was my first “concept” album,  set at Alex’s party with “Interludes” in between the songs playing out events. Hearsay combines funk and soul in a pop package and there are some classic tunes on here. As with most parties you get the upbeat tracks at the beginning and the mellow stuff near the end, but it’s kind of the wrong way round for commuting into work!  Alex just has one of those powerful voices and 30 years later (yes, 30! Can’t believe it!) its still a great listen from start to finish. I have seen him live a few times, and I remember seeing him walking to Hammersmith Apollo because the of the traffic jams.  Awestruck, we snapped a photo but his minders presence dissuaded us from saying hello personally!

Standout Track :  Never Knew Love Like This (with Cherrelle) – Yeah, there’s Fake and Criticize but this is a classic.

Haim – Days Are Gone

Haim_-_Days_Are_GoneI missed seeing Haim last time they were in the UK as they sold out pretty quickly.  Not surprising as their live shows are notoriously great!    I think Haim have a very distinctive sound and whether they like it or not there is a touch of Fleetwood Mac in some of their songs.  Their varying style and vocal harmonies are what makes this album work so well.  You can tell their influences stretch wide, with RnB, Rock and Pop sounds running through.  Some tracks are great pop tunes while others go in other directions.  The prospect of a new album might mean they come back to the UK soon and this time i’ll be looking to book earlier.  On an unrelated note, I did my first proper street run this morning (ie: not in a gym).  Picking today when I was very tired might have been a mistake – it was.

Standout Track :  If I Could Change Your Mind does it for me every time.

Lianne La Havas – Blood

Blood_by_Lianne_La_HavasLianne La Havas just has one of those voices.  It has a distinctive tone and depth that makes it hard to mistake her for anyone else.   I was expecting not to like this album, her second,  but found myself liking it almost instantly.  Its not all funky beats, there are some guitar-based and rockier tracks where at times I am reminded of Skunk Anansie.   She can let rip with her voice or bring it down to quietness, sometimes in the same song, but every time her soulful voice cuts through it all to stand out.  Its easy to see what Prince saw in her with her contributions to his album Art Official Age, and as a songwriter she clearly has talent. I look forward to her next album, and will probably seek out the first one. Soulful, jazzy and a bit rocky at times – in a good way.

Standout track : Unstoppable – if the opening track doesn’t grab you nothing will.

The New Power Generation – Exodus

mpg exodusIn 1995 Prince was having a big beef with his record company, and one of the results was this NPG album, Exodus featuring “unknown” masked vocalist Tora Tora. While this is an NPG album Prince runs solidly through it, and like most Prince-produced albums you get something that is different to any other Prince release. He was still quite sweary at this point in his career and there are plenty of mofo’s to be heard!  The segues on this album are great and you get a feel for Prince’s sense of humour.   Out of all his side projects this is one of my favourites and is a lot more accessible than the previous Goldnigga. Lots of funky tunes and some spacey references towards the end gives the feel of a Parliament/Funkadelic album, so if this is something you like this is worth a listen even if you’re not a Prince fan.

Standout track: Should be Count The Days, but as soon as Return of the Bump Squad kicks in…