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!

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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…

Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony

catb balconyWhen you don’t listen to the radio much new music can be hard to get into. Sometimes you listen to an album and something clicks.  I have had a few like that and end up loving them.  I want to like Catfish and the Bottlemen primarily because its a great name for a band. Also all the track names on The Balcony are one word titles which is a very satisfying thing. As music goes The Balcony has a lot of guitars and driving drums and is a great listen.  At the moment though nothing has clicked yet that would make this a go to album or band. It will stay on my iPod for now at least and I have their second album to listen to as well.  Definitely one to play when I fancy a bit of rock, but not a fave quite yet.

Standout Track : Sidewinder

American Authors – Oh, What a Life

American_Authors_-_Oh,_What_a_LifeIts funny when your brain knows what to say but it doesn’t transfer to your mouth.  Instead of just saying “Please, have my seat” to a pregnant lady on the tube, I said “Would you like to sit down?”.  She didn’t say “Of course I would!” so the intention was recognised but it’s funny how in the moment the right words are not important. This has nothing to do with the American Authors by the way, one of the CD’s I borrowed from my kids to dip into. The plinky-plunky banjo-sound is a motif through a lot of the tracks, so if you have heard Best Day of My Life you will know what I mean.  It’s a pretty upbeat album where a lot of the tracks feel a bit anthemic in a festival/live kind of way. Is it a keeper? Not sure yet.

Standout track : Heart of Stone – cool guitar riff.