Tarika Blue – Trust Is the Key/Dreamflower (Athens Of The North)
Purveyors of rare groove, Athens of the North cap off a fine 2015 by lifting two tracks from Tarika Blue’s 1977 self-titled debut album. Featuring the stunning vocals of Irene Datcher, famous for her work on James Mason’s ‘Rhythm of Life’ – who incidentally contributes lead guitar on this track – ‘Trust is the Key’ will please anyone who is a fan of mystical 70’s jazz-fusion. Yet it is ‘Dreamflower’ which cements this release as a late contender for one the best 45’s of the year. Famously sampled by Erykah Badu on ‘Didn’t Cha No’, the track features the talents of Ryo Kawasaki whose elegant guitar work induces a serenity and calm melancholy which is impossible not to be entranced by. Essential!
Mabrak – Drum Talk (Dug Out)
“Our group was initially called Genesis, it was a seven-piece drum group, but I changed the name to Mabrak, which means Thunder in Amharic. We knew that we were coming with a heavy sound”. Mixed by the legendary King Tubby, Mabrak were one of the first Jamaican groups to release an album featuring talking drums as the lead instrument. While an album of percussive dub may sound a touch monotonous, Mubrak avoids these obvious pitfalls by exploring a diverse ranges styles and moods. Whether it’s the chirpy ska of ‘Liquid Talk’ (a dub of ‘Liquidator’), the loose and gentle romance of ‘Serenade Talk’, or the heavy echo-laden title track, fans of roots music will undoubtedly find something to love about this record.
Candido – Dancin and Prancin (Salsoul)
Like Donald Byrd before him, Cuban percussionist Candido abandoned the jazz scene which he made his name in to produce some of the best dance music ever committed to wax. Whereas the former became a main player in the mid 1970’s jazz-funk scene, by layering his signature latin percussion alongside the steady pulse of a disco beat Candido soon found his calling. Released on Salsoul in 1979, ‘Jingo’, ‘Thousand Finger Man’ and the title track soon became staples at the Paradise Garage and are still played in many clubs today.
Various Artists – Musique Sans Paroles LP (Editions Syliphone Conakry)
1958 marked a banner year for Guinea as it followed many countries in Western African by gaining independence from French rule. Yet, as the celebrations slowly died down, the country began searching for its own unique identity and culture. Sponsored by the state, the Syliphone imprint was set up and countless musicians where given instruments and encouraged to form bands. Music would be incremental to establishing the Guinean national identity. ‘Musique San Paroles’ collects tracks from this fertile period of African Music where traditional Guinean folk meet spiritual jazz, R&B and latin styles. A fascinating snapshot of a nation and its culture in transition.
Roy Davis Jr – Gabriel (Large Records)
Like ‘Blue Monday’ or ‘Show Me Love’, Gabriel has become a dance classic. Not an underground dance ‘classic’ like ‘Strings of Life’, but a true dance classic. A track almost universally loved by everyone; your sister, your mum, your grandma, your best friend. A track as loved by those who buy Sam Smith records at Tesco as nerds who spend hours in a record stores looking for the next obscure afro-jazz release. A track which can unify the nerds, jocks, racists, grungers, hipsters together and can teach them to love one another.
Severed Heads – Clifford Darling, Please Don’t Live In The Past LP (Dark Entries)
With over 25 releases, including the sublime Lena Plantonas and Patrick Cowley reissues, Dark Entries are another label that’s had a productive 2015. Finishing off in some style, they bring you Clifford Darling by experimental electro outfit Severed Heads, who emerged from Australia’s post-punk scene in the late 70s. Collecting tracks recorded from 1979-1983, the compilation includes live recordings, raw demos, unreleased studio recordings and solo pieces from each member of the band, characterised by the use of tape loops, noisy arrangements of synthesizers and other new wave and industrial sounds.