by: Jarret Lovell
Joseph Israel - Paradise - (S/R)
Born and raised in Tulsa, OK – Joseph Fennel was raised on reggae. When others his age were listening to metal-rap or boy bands, Fennel was grooving to Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Burning Spear. It wasn’t long before he changed his surname to Israel (to reflect his newfound spiritual path) and began putting together a reggae band. In 2006 Joseph Israel was signed to the New Door Records division of Universal Music Group. Joseph was the sole reggae artist to be signed to Universal Music in recent history, which is an impressive accomplishment with the record label that is home to Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Island Records catalog. Joseph Israel’s newest release “Paradise” is his third lp, and its sound is strictly roots. Opener “The Son” sets the tone right with a great rhythm highlighted by wonderful piano keys. “Paradise” offers big horns to get the song going, and nice bassline to boot. “People Need Hope” features Gentleman and Tarrus Riley on vocals, and nice lyrics about the need for social change. A nice release of old-school, roots reggae.
Boogie Breakdown - South African Synth Disco - (Culture of Soul Records)
I’m so excited to be able to bring this release to KUCI (thanks to Jason Pulaski). After spending 6 weeks in South Africa this past year, I found the same trend in the U.S. to be plaguing the land of Mandela: the disappearance of record stores. Moreover, the ariewaves were filled with American sugarpop. But thanks to the folks at Culture of Soul Records, here’s a great compilation of South African acts who – from 1980 – 84 – released a hybrid sound of funk, disco and afrobeat. As the label explains, “In the late 70s and early 80s, many of the country’s best young musicians were guided by funk. All over the world, disco was growing harder and more electronic, with new synthesizers entering the market every month. The southern tip of Africa was no exception.Global music industry geo-politics, however, aided by the country’s pariah status and a UN-sanctioned cultural boycott, prevented the vast majority of this music from ever being heard outside the country, nor ever being released on CD or digitally. Until now.” And the sound is great. Wa wa guitar, big bass, wormy synth, lyrics about parties. Try track #5: Don Laka – “I Wanna Be Myself.”
Blackbyrd McKnight - Bout ‘Funkin Time - (Dewayne McKnight)
Wowee! This is hot! I mean H-O-T! Blackbyrd McKnight – legendary guitarist and P-
Funk member from 1978 – 2008, one-time guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and guitarist for Miles Davis – delivers a punch here. From the very first note, a wall of sound hits the listener with guitars so screeching good, it is reminiscent of the work of Buckethead. But it doesn’t stop there, for bass kicks in and propels this purely instrumental song forward. “Joke of the Butt” doesn’t slow things down; quite the contrary. More fuzz and a hip-hop beat bury barely audible vocals calling for “world domination.” “PTPB” quiets things down a bit, but barely. A great drumbeat accompanies more guitar, and spoken vocals by McKnight, though again – it’s a bit hard to hear what he’s saying, but does it really matter? The liner notes read, “There are absolutely no samples or loops of any kind on this CD.” Incredible. Play!
Andre Cymone - Black Man in America - (Andre Cymone)
One-time bass player for Prince (pre-Revolution), Andre Cymone delivers here an important e.p. that responds to the racial tension in the United States. Having had a successful career in the spotlight, Cymone now explains his desire to be making music “that is the real me.” To that end, the e.p. begins with the title track delivering powerful lyrics: “Black men shot/no hesitation/the way of life/for a generation;” The sound itself straddles funk and rock. “Hot Night in the Neighborhood” is more straightforward rock, with lyrics again highlighting the tensions between police and the African-American community. “Black Lives Matter” is sweet, soulful and quiet, sung very much like a Dylan ballad. “Hallelujah” is a Leonard Cohen cover. An important e.p. for our times. Track #1 is the standout. Play it, because we certainly know commercial radio won’t…
Mile High Club - Skiptracing - (Stones Throw)
Somewhere between lounge and downtempo, between sweet slow jams and soulful melodies is Mile High Club. Is it jazz? Indie pop? Soul? Yes. An interesting release worth your listen. And it’s on Stones Throw, so you know it’s going to be interesting.
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad - Make it Better - (self-released)
From Ithica, NY, GPGDS are a reggae/jam band that’s been touring for years, and their shows are often recorded and posted to online forums much like other jam bands. Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad based their name off a fictional band "Giant Panda Gypsy Blues Band" in the novel "Another Roadside Attraction" by Tom Robbins. The sound itself is reggae/bluesy. In fact, Blues Traveler comes to mind a bit, though there’s always a reggae vibe. Very laid back and mellow.