funk

Dirty Dozen Brass Band 'Medicated Magic'

Dirty Dozen Brass Band 'Medicated Magic'

New Orleans' most famous, well-traveled, and recorded brass band celebrates its 25th anniversary with its ninth release.

Best known in rock circles for contributions to albums from the Black Crowes, Elvis Costello, and especially Widespread Panic, the hotshot horn men offer few surprises on this disc predominantly comprised of popular Crescent City classics.

But why bother stretching boundaries when their sound remains unique, stimulating, and inspiring?

Guests range from sacred steel guitar master Robert Randolph -- whose soaring, hair-raising solos on three tracks infuse even more goosebumps than the already nail-biting musicianship -- to Dr. John on vocals and piano, and sexy chanteuse Norah Jones gets slinky on the most sensuous version of "Ruler of My Heart" ever recorded.

No matter how often you've heard these tunes, the Dirty Dozen's crackling second-line rhythms, bumping tuba basslines, and uncanny ability to shift from boiling low-down gumbo to cool jazz make the versions here essential listening. "It Ain't Nothin' but a Party," as they say in the appropriately titled opening track.

Idjut Boys - Press Play

Idjut Boys - Press Play

In my mind these guys are another Nextmen or Unabombers; a DJing duo that put great lesser known tunes that make you want to dance before everything else. I accidently caught them at The Big Chill in 2005 and really loved what I heard. I think they Manchester based too.

They definitely swing more towards the soul / funky / disco side of the dance floor. The mixing is really simple - in fact, it's not really mixing at all, blending would be a better term. It's primarily a showcase of good tunes.

I've only heard a couple (consistently showing my ignorance, eh?) of the songs on here before (Word Up and Low Rider), though not these versions. Of course they're all killer. The music itself sounds like good old funk/soul stuff - but it can't possibly be. I need to do a bit of digging but I think some of these songs must be from the last couple of years (Lindstrom & Prins Thomas' Ballerina for example).

Yes yes, I have some friends that are about to find out they've been missing this all their lives.

Orgone - The Killion Floor

Orgone - The Killion Floor

You get a wonderful cover of George McCrae's I Get Lifted. Jesus, that's enough really, isn't it? Well, it's even better than that. Sweet funk licks, great breaks and real horns. Real horns!

Do Your Thing must be a hidden tribute to 90% Of Me Is You (Gwen McCrae). Oh my, look at that - Gwen and George McCrae used to be married. Who'd have thought (I'm not being sarcastic, this connection only just occurred to me).

Anyways, I know some folks that are going to be very very excited when I show this to them.

The Nextmen - Not the Nextmen (Live From The Newsroom)

The Nextmen - Not the Nextmen (Live From The Newsroom)

When I first moved to the UK I thought I'd get to see various DJs blow me away with what they could do live. Imagine my disappointment on discovering (on the 2nd day in town) that for most of them it's a fa├žade. DJs that were meant to be the greatest mash-up artists in the world turned out to be little more than slightly experimental electro/breaks DJs.

Now, I'd heard The Nextmen's work on various Grand Central offerings over the years but it was a chance meeting in 2005 that refuelled my interest in what they were doing. I have no idea how many Nextmen gigs I've been to since then. They tend to lean more towards soul/funk/hip-hop/reggae/dnb but really nothing is off limits - tunes to make you dance seems to be the only criteria. This album, or any of their mixtapes for that matter, are great showcases of what they do live.

I love the Nextmen. Hands down the most fun live DJs I've ever seen.

ESG - A South Bronx Story

ESG - A South Bronx Story

I didn't look at the year on this album when I first listened to it. I had my suspicions (the first track, You're No Good, has a distinctive Joy Division vibe going on) that it was old but in all honestly if you had told me that it came out this year I'd have believed you without batting an eyelid. It's precisely what so many bands are trying to sound like now - and this lot had it sorted in 1981.

Hey, I've heard that sound in UFO before - it's been ripped for a modern track that I just can't think of right now. Actually, there are lots of little bits in here that I'm sure I've heard sampled all over the place.

Indie funk rock stripped down to the bare essentials. What a great sound - makes me want to get up and dance.

DJ Vadim - Sound Catcher

DJ Vadim - Sound Catcher

This one is getting the prize for most enjoyed album I've given to other people recently. There are a handful of people that I've shown this one to that seem to have fallen in love with it. I haven't listened to it enough to get to this stage but I can see why. I put it down to the super slick dubbed out hip hop production work.

There's plenty of variation in pace from soul vibes in Talk to Me to head nodding use of Beastie Boys samples in Got To Rock. The two city named tracks, Manchester and Milwaukee feel like abstract Shadow/RJD2 productions.

There are guest vocalists all over the place here (a different one on each track). We even get treated to the current favourite in my house of residence, Skinny Man.

If you're off to go chill out in the sunshine anytime soon put this one on the top of the playlist. You really won't regret it.

Tony Allen - Homecooking

Tony Allen - Homecooking

It's funny, it's gotten to the point that when I drag an album into my itunes I really have absolutely no idea what it's going to sound like. I mean, I just purchased this a couple of days ago - clearly it was a considered action - but I have no idea in what context. That's not to say I'm disappointed - I'm not.

The genre stamped on this one is new-age - so far off target with that bit of tagging. Funk/soul/hip-hop spring to mind. Makes me think of Michael Franti/Spearhead. The title track has a Sly Stone inspired pre chorus build up going on.

Basically it's all about the funky breaks.

Betty Davis - Betty Davis

Betty Davis - Betty Davis

Turns out the wife of Mile Davis was one talented lady. Her debut is a bonified funkfest. There's a great team behind it too, members of Santana, Sly and the Family Stone and The pointer Sisters to name a few.

Seems she knew a lot of people in the music biz (it's rumoured that an affair with Hendrix is the reason for her break up with Miles). Fit model to boot before that too.

Little Stevie Wonder - 12 Year Old Genius

Little Stevie Wonder - 12 Year Old Genius

This was the album that made Stevie Wonder famous back in 1963. The opening song, Fingertips, was at #1 at the same time the album itself was, a first in history of the industry.

There's a good reason he'd already earned the title of genius at age 12. The first few songs see him playing different instruments; harmonica, bongos, drums included. I think Marvin Gaye plays the drums on the other songs - my guess is that the whole band consists of a star-studded Motown line-up.

My pick would have to be La La La La La, in which he plays the drums. It's the funkiest track on the album and his talent really shines through (how many kids have rhythm like that at 12?).

The last few tracks, while impressive, are a tad on the disturbing side (Don't You Know in particular). I always find there's something a bit strange about kids singing grown-up songs.

It's one of those albums everyone should hear - if for no other reason than the history lesson.

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information

For so many years I've told that Shuggie Ottis should be top of my to-hear list. It was only a few months ago that I actually managed to get hold of the album (I had tried sever times in the past). All I can say is I'm sorry I didn't do it right away. Man, The Neptunes and Co are still tearing pages right out of this book. It's so damn ahead of its time.

I've heard a number of covers of Strawberry Letter over the years (my favourite being Tevin Campbell's version... when he was like 14 or something) so the track was not entirely unfamiliar to me. It's a beautiful track, however the same can be said of any on the album. As I flick through it now trying to figure out which track to single out I just can't do it. It'd be criminal to elevate any single one of them above the others, they're all so good.

I'm going to make sure I put aside some quality time for this album this summer.

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