Now, here’s a shocker – a Soundway collection of Nigerian music from the mid-70s that isn’t filled with Fela Kuti knockoffs playing Afrobeat! In a welcome change from Miles Cleret’s typical Afrobeat programming, Nigeria Special instead brings attention to what else was being rocked in Lagos clubs between 1970 and 76. That means you get a good dose of amped-up modern highlife along with West African blues and various funky fusionary experiments mixing old-school highlife with rumba, calypso, samba, funk, disco and rock to form thrilling new hybrids. A very welcome turn.
Like many of those putting out the rarities collections currently hitting shelves, the mystery compilers of the Serge Gainsbourg psych set Les Années Psychedeliques 1966-1971 (Le Smoke Disques) appear to have sidestepped all the legal red tape to present a long-overdue selection of the forward-looking French icon’s fantastically fuzzed-out movers and trippy groovers, mostly recorded for film soundtracks.
Having spent years digging for the obscure 7s and LPs from which these tracks produced by Jean-Claude Vannier and Michel Colombier were lifted, I can tell you that assembling a set like this took serious time and effort. Off-the-chain creations like Psychasténie, La Horse, Première Blessure and Chanson Du Forçat really need to be heard.
Hearts of Stone breakout
The Hearts of Stone were one of the Motown label’s strange anomalies. Their 1970 debut, Stop The World: We Wanna Get Off, for the label’s VIP subsidiary seemed like a throwback to another era. Just as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone. A few years later, frontman Floyd Lawson surfaced in Montreal and recorded a funky comeback album called Coming Out, which was pressed up for promotion under the name Floyd Lawson and the Hearts of Stone.
It’s taken 32 years, but Afrokats Records have finally reissued Coming Out, which discerning vinyl junkies will note sounds much more like a horn-heavy Miami recording than anything else that came out of Montreal or Detroit at the time.
Fortunately, the Florida pre-disco funk bump happens to be all the rage at the moment, so the appearance of the covers-enriched set couldn’t be better timed.
Jamaica Soul Shake – rewind!
If there was a Jamaican parallel to Motown’s celebrated Funk Brothers recording unit, it would have to have been Sir Coxsone Dodd’s super-busy Studio One house band Sound Dimension (intermittently featuring Jackie Mittoo and Ernest Ranglin), which provided bangin’ grooves on a daily basis for everyone from Alton Ellis and Bob Andy to Dennis Brown and the Heptones.
As a follow-up to 2006’s excellent Jamaica Soul Shake (Soul Jazz) overview, Mojo Rocksteady Beat (Soul Jazz) fills in some of the gaps with another stellar compendium mixing well-loved jams like Rockfort Rock and Drum Song with lesser-known gems such as Great Mu Ga Ru Ga. The notes are skimpy, but you can’t fault those badass grooves. Too tough!