THE SOFTONES - THE SOFTONES / BLACK MAGIC
Harmony soul heaven – and two great albums back to back in a single set! The initial Softones album is a stellar first set from The Softones – labelmates of The Stylistics in their early years, and a group who really share a similar sense of east coast harmony soul! There's a nicely fragile approach to the group at all the best moments – a style that's better than shakey indie soul, but which is still quite personal – even amidst some really well-penned charts by Van McCoy! The strings have all these sweet and subtle touches and changes – never detracting from the vocals, but instead really underscoring the unique appeal that makes the group this great. A wonderful set to file next to your New Jersey classics by The Moments and Whanauts – with tracks that include "The First Day", "Extra Ordinary People", "Why Why Baby", "Never Let A Woman Like That Go By", and "Everybody Knew But Me". Black Magic is a funkier set than the first one by The Softones – and a record that has the group picking up a bit more confidence in their groove! The style is never too tight or slick – and even amidst full arrangements from Horace Ott, the vocals really come through nicely – mixing with the studio help at a level that recalls some of the hipper Philly productions of the time, or maybe the second generation of New Jersey group soul. Those fragile lead vocals still entrance us wonderfully – and titles include the Landy McNeal tracks – "Maybe Tomorrow", "Laundromat", and "Call It Love" – plus versions of "That Old Black Magic", "Love Story", and "Love Child". ~ Dusty Groove.
CHAKACHAS - CHAKACHAS
The coolest, funkiest, and most soulful set ever issued by Chakachas – a record that's way different than most of their Latin-based music – with a strong American funk vibe all the way through! There's still lots of percussion in the mix, but it's often used in ways that echo more of a pan-global and African approach – plenty of congas at the bottom, next to some riffing guitars, sweet reed lines, and some occasional strong soulful vocals. The cut "Jungle Fever" isn't on here, but the whole album definitely feels like that one – with that killer sense of spacing and percussion that makes the group really funky on that hit. Titles include the killer "Stories", plus "Oye Mi", "Bantu", "Love Love Love", "Oye Mi Guaguaco", "Soledad", and "By The Way".~ Dusty Groove
BRAINSTORM - FUNKY ENTERTAINMENT
They're not lying with the title of this album from Brainstorm – because this classic late 70s set has the group moving into some very funky territory – stepping up the basslines even more than before, and really finding a great way to focus on the groove! The approach is right on the money throughout – and sparkles with some deeper touches than usual for a group of this nature – thanks in part to work from key guests like Ernie Watts on reeds, Phil Upchurch on guitar, and Harvey Mason on drums – plus a bit of guest vocals from Syreeta too! The grooves grow up nicely from the energy at the bottom – filled out with lots of quick-stepping instrumentation over the top – and maestro Jerry Peters produced the whole thing with that great mix of sophistication and groove that can make his records so great. The album's definitely one of the clubbiest moments ever from the group – and titles include "Hot For You", "Don't Let Me Catch You With Your Groove Down", "Popcorn", "Funky Entertainment", "A Case Of The Boogie", and "You Put A Charge In My Life". CD features a cool book-style cover, new notes, and bonus tracks that include "Hot For You (12" version)" and "Popcorn (edit)".~ Dusty Groove