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by Eastsider
posted 08/02/2017

ALBUM REVIEWS FEB 2017

MUSIC REVIEWS FEBRUARY 2017

To listen or purchase click ≈≈≈ or album artwork

Omar Love In Beats
OMAR

Love In Beats ≈≈≈
(Freestyle Records)
Reviewed 
by Chelsea Deeley

Bursting onto the soul scene in the early ’90s with his international hit There’s Nothing Like This, it is a foundation that has served Omar Lyefook well within his home country. Over the course of his 20+ year career, Britain’s crowned “father of neo soul” has released over seven albums, a handful of EPs and countless singles that continuously stoked the fire of soul music in the modern era.

It’s with a host of collaborative partners that Lyefook releases his eighth studio album Love In Beats: a 12-track soul-driven delight underpinned by smooth, flowing compositions, subtle yet funky basslines and a myriad of melodic vocal performances.

By placing track Vicky’s Tune as his opening statement (featuring none other than contemporary jazz forefather Robert Glasper and Brixton hip hop artist Ty), you can tell Lyefook was striving for the stars with this collection of tracks. We’re treated to the classic, delayed vocal injections of Leon Ware on the delightful, string-featured track Gave My Heart / It’s So Interlood, and the hip hop echoes of Feeds My Mind featuring the sultry spoken words of south London artist Floacist in the first half of the record.

But hand-in-hand with this half comes the personal side to Lyefooks artistry. It’s introduced by a 2.5 minute insight into the lives of Lyefook, his wife and his daughters as we hear playful conversation and much laughter fade in and out atop ambient, tinkling beats. From here on in, it’s all Omar, as he showcases the Caribbean remnants of eighth track Hold Me Close, the playful shuffling beat and grime-styled delivery of tenth track Doobie Doobie Doo and the paced beats of eleventh track Grey Clouds providing a backdrop to Lyefook’s declarations of love and want for another human being.

A pure delight to listen to, Love In Beats is a stunning marriage between traditional soulful ideals and modern musical flourishes. By it’s very definition, this is neo soul at it’s finest.

Reviewed by Chelsea Deeley
(Amrap / presenter of The New Thing)

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NATURE STRIP

Presents ≈≈≈
(China Pig Records)
Reviewed 
by James Tsai

I love rock bands with attitude, not an attitude with posturing, but one which encompasses the band’s own modus operadi, and not giving a toss about current fashion and music trends, which are extremely pervasive and hard to avoid. Sydney four-piece Nature Strip is one of those rare bands with that rare attitude. Nature Strip is spearheaded by the two main songwriters, John Encarnacao (who’s also a co-presenter on Eastside Radio’s Spirit House program!) and Pete Marley, along with veteran musicians Matt Langley and Jess Ciampa rounding out the quartet formation. The band’s second album Presents is armed with eleven extremely catchy-quirky-psychedelic-sunshine-power-pop tunes unlike anything you’ll hear these days. What the two songwriters brought to the table reminded me of Andy Partridge / Colin Moulding of XTC, or Alex Chilton / Chris Bell of Big Star, musicians who understand and know all the secrets to the magic of song-craft.

The album’s opener Take Me Over, written by Encarnacao, is like a great Beatles song you’ve never heard, filled with power pop urgency. Pete Marley’s Bad matches the opener with its many hooks and catchiness. Encarnacao follows with three of his compositions in a row, all with the best ingredients picked from the 60s and 70s pop spectrum. Marley answers with his King Biggie and Dark Matter, great lyrics and again, extremely catchy, they are the kind of songs you want to mime to in front of your bedroom mirror. Encarnacao follows on with two modern-day psychedelic pop numbers, Cup of Tea and Leaving The Lights On, both calling to mind songs from the XTC album Oranges & Lemons. Deadly By Night, written by Marley, is just pure poppy cow-punk bliss. The album closes with Encarnacao’s power pop sing-along mini anthem, The Geeks Or The Fuzz. I know it’s a cliché to say it makes you want more after the album finishes. But how true that sentiment is here!

Nature Strip might be considered out-of-step with what is going on nowadays. But who cares? I think that makes them just that much more treasurable and adorable. A line from Pete Marley’s King Biggie: “Look out for me, I’ll be king of the world, you will see out tails uncurled”. They might have made one of the best Australian pop albums of all-time in the year 2016 without knowing it themselves.

Reviewed by James Tsai
(Radio Free Alice / co-presenter of Spirit House)

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hi-tops brass band

HI TOPS BRASS BAND
We Came To Party ≈≈≈
(Yum Yum Tree Records)
Reviewed 
by Melanie Christodoulou

From party anthems to stilling gospel serenades, Hi Tops Brass Band really know how to cram a lot of goodness into a single EP. We Came to Party is the Sydney outfit’s return to our ears packed with a punch. With a history of having the crème de la crème of local vocal talent on speed dial, including the likes of Ngaiire, this EP is no exception. This time around, front and centre of this instrumental powerhouse are Samuel Dobson and Katey Wadey. Both contribute strong vocal performances as well as inspired lyricism from capturing the vibrancy of a crowded house party in the EP’s title track, to the highs and lows of paying your dews in the music business in Are You Feelin’ Fine?

Speaking of the latter, it’s definitely a highlight. From its unassuming soulful intro, paring Wadey’s vocals with the vintage hammond organ work of Andrew Bruce that transitions into a full band complete with an all-male chorus line, it really sees the band hark back to their New Orleans roots. On a different note that plays on one of the band’s other influences, hip-hop, Spinnin is a slow burner. The hammond has been traded in for an echoing piano and the horn lines feature more swelling harmonies. Briefly breaking Dobson’s observational lyricism is a moody solo featuring the elegant work of one Justin Fermion on saxophone.

Second last on the EP’s playlist is the all instrumental Summertime bringing the beat back up with plenty of blues and even a surprise tuba solo from Cazzbo Johns. Keep Sydney Open ambassador and trumpeter extraordinaire Dane Laboyrie briefly steps out from the brass line for a rambunctious solo and they even manage to squeeze in a tight feature from drummer Ross Ferraro. Closing out the release is an extended version of its title track to remind us why we started listening to the album in the first place. We Came to Party is defiantly tailor made for the live stage and although its inaugural tour is up for the moment, there’s still plenty of 2017 left for the troupe to celebrate another fantastic accomplishment.

Reviewed by Melanie Christodoulou
(Eastside Music Director/ presenter of Take One)

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menintheglassbooth

VARIOUS
The Men In The Glass Booth ≈≈≈
(BBE)
Reviewed 
by Paris Pompor

If you’re old enough to register the album title’s similarity to a mid-‘70s Holocaust film starring Maximilian Schell as a man accused of Eichmann-like atrocities, then don’t be turned off. What we’re reviewing here is a musical story, albeit also an historical one, which likewise has some of its drama centred around Manhattan in that hot, heady and hirsute decade. Rather than dealing with human suffering (we’re quite certain the woman loudly groaning in the tune Bumpsie’s Whipping Cream is experiencing pleasure – and a great deal of it – not pain), The Men In The Glass Booth celebrates both the birth of the commercially available 12 inch vinyl single format so important to disco’s development and economic success, as well as the first career transitions of DJs to producers. These men – yes, shamefully but not surprisingly they’re all men – began to muscle their way into recording studios to sometimes direct, but also often get their hands dirty splicing tape and turning knobs, in order to turn out extended versions of songs. And who better to be in charge of directing a dance remix, than those who knew what was already working on a club dance floor because they were there each night mixing tracks via turntables? Some of these visionary men will be immediately familiar to even cursory disco fans: Salsoul stalwart Walter Gibbons, one-time Madonna beau and remixer John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez, and the man who is still churning out edits, remixes and club tours at an impressive rate, John Morales. There are plenty of other pioneering producers represented by the 30-plus extended workouts collected here, including Frank Sestito, Canada’s Robert Ouimet, Bobby ‘DJ’ Guttadaro and Tom Savarese.

The album’s compiler, Scottish disco devotee Al Kent, sure knows how to pick ’em. In terms of tunes and vocalists, he’s selected some absolute gems, terrific in their original form but all the more desirable here with dubbed sections, added drum elements and beefed up bass and beats. Skip Mahoney’s northern crossover tune Janice (Don’t Be So Blind To Love) and Gladys Knights It’s A Better Than Good Time – stretched to 12 minutes by Mr Gibbons – to name just two.

It’s an education and an unencumbered joy to listen to most of these, heavy as they are on percussive rhythms drawing on Latin and African influences and featuring those protracted, all-important breakdowns. At times quirky and built exclusively with the DJ/dancer relationship in mind, in this current age of abundant re-edits, it’s important to remember these were created well before the days of digital editing; the occasional rough edge and abrupt change making them all the more charming. Collectable? Well I doubt you’ll find the Sunshine Sound Acetate Edit of the Black Water Gold  instrumental by KC’s Sunshine Band elsewhere, or for that matter Ricky Gianatos’ filtered Disco Queen Acetate edit of Juggy Murray Jones. Plus, the 5-LP collection comes with a 40-page colour book. Hurry though, that’s selling like hotcakes – the spandex-clad sweaty variety. Also available as a 3-CD or high-quality digital download set, the BBE label again proving they know how to do things properly.

Reviewed by Paris Pompor
(Groovescooter / co-presenter The Vinyl Frontier)

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