Harder than the rest
With each volume of the SuperFunk compilation series of "Rare and classic street funk from the vaults 1966-1973" put out by the UK Ace label's BGP subsidiary momentary lapses in taste have resulted in troubling detours into bland R&B instrumental and prissy northern soul territory. So it's a pleasant surprise to find that the just-issued Volume 4 - rising to the high bar set by the competition from Stones Throw and Jazzman - avoids the lightweight filler and sticks with the heavy-pounding program enhanced by the presence of Sugar Billy Garner (I Got Some) and groovin' bluesmen Eddie Clearwater (Doin' The Model) and Albert Washington (Crazy Legs, Part 2).
Overlooked jazz classics
There seems to be a commonly held belief that the past 20 years have been a particularly fallow period for exciting new jazz music. Judging by the variations on a standards theme that the major labels continue to offer, this misconception is completely understandable. Fortunately, many adventurous artists have been releasing fabulous - though poorly distributed - music all along, which BBC DJ Kevin LeGendre would plug on his Now's The Time program. Sadly, his show got axed two years ago, but LeGendre's hooked up with the Cosmic Sounds label and compiled a fantastic Now's The Time selection of overlooked contemporary classics by the likes of the Tied & Tickled Trio , Charles Brackeen , Omar Sosa , Martin France and others. These stand up to the best of the early-70s indie boom.
Like a scene straight out of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Ralph and Carter Stanley showed up at the WCYB radio studios in Bristol, Virginia, on March 24, 1956 - after a busy day of barn dances and greased pig chases - to perform an impromptu set of their favourite old-time music from the mountains of West Virginia. They pressed up some vinyl copies of the session and sold them at shows. Over the years, the original release has become a sought-after artifact for bluegrass fans due to the Stanleys' atypically laid-back performances of ancient traditionals and hymns. Thanks to T-Bone Burnett 's DMZ label, which has released the broadcast as An Evening Long Ago, we can all enjoy the warmly engaging sound of the Stanleys' sweet harmonies as they might've sounded on a back porch surrounded by kin.
Afrobeaten to the punch
While Fela Kuti was in London cooking up his own concept of "highlife jazz" in the mid-60s, back home in Lagos former I. K. Dairo saxophonist Orlando Julius was reworking the sound of American R&B into his own brand of "modern highlife." At around the same time, they both hit on a similarly funky sound that would later be known as Afrobeat. Orlando's Afro Ideas 1969-72 (Ekosound/Soundway) neatly documents the James Brown-inspired path that Julius was blazing with his Afro Sounders combo at their peak. It should prove very enlightening for those who assumed Afrobeat began and ended with Fela.