Cult of funk
Joining a weird religious cult isn't usually a good career move for an artist, but it seems to have worked wonders for Brazilian soul singer Tim Maia . His two Racional LPs, recorded in 1975 for his own Seroma label after joining the spacey Universo em Desencanto sect, contain some of the flat-out funkiest jams of his career. Thanks to Brazil's Trama label, the first album, ingeniously titled Vol. 1, has just been reissued on disc so you no longer need to shell out $150-plus to enjoy Maia's badass club bangers. Let us pray that Trama will also reissue Vol. 2 with bonus tracks from the 7-inch singles Maia released on Seroma.
Previous reissues of Shelby Singleton 's soul and R&B holdings have come from companies in England and the U.S. that specialize in northern soul and 60s rock archival releases. These compilations have focused on just about everything but the greasy R&B and down-home funk recorded for SSS International and its subsidiaries. Spain's Vampi Soul label has redressed the oversight with its great Action Speaks Louder Than Words disc. Although it includes a few well-comped tracks like Bettye Lavette 's Do Your Duty and Betty Harris 's Break In The Road, there's still a decent complement of lesser-known stormers like the Bright Lights ' Motor City Funk, Mr. Jamo 's Shake What You Got, South Street Soul 's Poppin' Popcorn and Johnny Barfield 's Soul Butter. Like Baby Al says, Grab Your Partner And Do Your Own Thing!
Every couple of years some label seems to come up with a novel new way of repackaging some previously reissued Gram Parsons recordings for no really good reason, but the Complete Reprise Sessions ( Rhino ) three-disc box is the most comprehensive collection of the alt-country godfather's post-Burritos solo work. Along with the classic GP and Grievous Angel albums with the original track sequence intact, there are informative interview clips with Parsons -- it's great to hear him talking about his music -- and a couple of fabulous impromptu radio studio renditions of Sin City and Love Hurts with Emmylou Harris providing typically gorgeous harmonies. A third disc collects interesting alternate takes, most of which have never before been issued, and closes with a moving cover of the Louvin Brothers' The Angels Rejoiced Last Night. Sweet.
The two three-track volumes of the Domino label's Exchange Sessions appear to be just an excuse for Four Tet's Kieran Hebden to throw down improv-style with master percussionist Steve Reid , the only Motown session drummer to have played with James Brown, Sun Ra, Fela Kuti and John Coltrane. Vol. 1 comes off like a sound check in which Hebden tries to figure out what electro bleeps go with Reid's bumps, while the slightly more structured Vol. 2 finds them developing more of a rapport, with recognizable song-like forms emerging. Provided the Arctic Monkeys keep shifting units, Vol. 3 should be the charm.