Artist: Leon Bridges
Album: Coming Home
A 25-year-old with a golden voice is comfortable living in the past. His debut album “Coming Home” finely recalls all the well-bronzed giants of soul, like Aretha, Otis, and especially, in Bridges’ case, Sam Cooke. This kind of soul revival brought over the last decade by places like Daptone Records and artists like the Alabama Shakes, the late Amy Winehouse and others. Regardless of skin tone, fans of classic R&B will dig this album as it wholly echoes the tropes we associate with the genre. Tons of reverb, backing female singers, organ, complementary horn arrangements, doo-wops, ballads, songs of love, loss and pretty girls who can shake that thing across several municipalities.
Artist: James Brown
Album: It’s A Man’s Man’s World: Soul Brother 1
To truly experience the magic and soul of James Brown, one must do so in a live setting. Running constantly on all cylinders, the Godfather of Soul’s infectious grooves and potent performances are elevated to a whole other level few others can dream of reaching. “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” captures one of those impassioned performances from the later stages of Brown’s career, and finds him still in fine form. All of the classics are represented in this session, including an over the top version of the album’s title track. While the performances are stellar and the quality of the record palatable, this is by no means an essential release except for die-hard Brown collectors and fans. Casual listeners should turn their attention to the groundbreaking Live at the Apollo series for a full-on orientation to the man and his magic bag of soul. “It’s A Man’s Man’s World” is a must have LP especially James Brown’s listeners, and for all funk maniacs!
Artist: Various Artists
Album: Psych-Funk 101 (1968-1975)
Madlib and brother Oh No have both put out compilations sampling various countries’ records, and the underground funk scene has certainly gained a strong following in metropolises worldwide. And the compilation, put out by World Psychedelic Funk Classics, for its own part, should help inform the discussion of psychedelic funk, as it provides a very interesting and in-depth look at how English and American musical traditions made their way into the rest of the world. Despite its title, however, and informative liner notes, Psych-Funk 101 is not a primer in the genre, as the majority of the artists included are obscure, even in their own countries, and none of the songs have been reissued before. Musicians like South Korean guitarist Shin Jung Hyun and Italian composer Armando Sciascia are both included, along with recognized artists like Ennio Morricone, Mulatu Astatke, and Omar Khorshid, doing work that may be less. The compilation is still one of the better ones out there. The tracks are funky and experimental and cool enough to appeal to a music fan looking for new sounds, but obscure enough to teach even a seasoned crate-digger a couple of things. Get your copy of Psych-Funk 101 online at The Barbershop Music store.
Album: The History Of Loop Digga
The fifth volume of Madlib’s monthly Medicine Show series is comprised of unreleased beat tapes the producer made during the ‘90s plus some recordings of his early crew C.D.P. (Crate Diggas Palace). The results are nowhere near as kick-ass, aggressive, or awesome as the cover art, but these trip-hop beats and chilled head-bobbers are of interest to fans who go deep. With all the ‘episodes’ falling somewhere between his early productions and his later, richer work, fans can hear his trademark fuzzy funk coming together on these tracks. Notable moments include the truly messy and freaky number “Live from Outer Space” plus the handful of C.D.P. cuts that close the album, all of them filled with energy and throwback attitude. On my top ten list of Madlib recommendations. It’s worth checking it here if history is what you crave.
Artist: Shuggie Otis
Album: Freedom Flight
1971’s Freedom Flight is perhaps, in its own way, every bit as adventurous as Shuggie Otis’s masterpiece, Inspiration Information. Produced by Shuggie’s father, R&B legend Johnny Otis, the album features seven stellar, genre bending cuts, most of which were written or co-written by Shuggie. Oh yes, he was 15 was the time. Shuggie not only arranged the date, he played everything from guitars and bass organ to various percussion instruments. Upon listening to Freedom Flight, the influence of Jimi Hendrix is everywhere. The tenderness in Shuggie’s voice as he intones the lyrics is a real draw. Freedom Flight is just as important as Inspiration Information. More raw, not quite as lush, but it is every bit as visionary and groundbreaking. Listen first, and you surely have to add Freedom Flight to your collection.