Thursday, April 18, 2024

New Music: Thom Bell, Kirk Whalum, Red Hot & Ra (Meshell Ndegeocello), and Josh Johnson

Thom Bell – Didn’t I Blow Your Mind? The Sound Of Philadelphia Soul 1969-1983 – Various Artists

Thom Bell, along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, was part of the holy trinity of Philly soul. Reaching an apogee in the early to mid-70s with records for the Delfonics (‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time’), Stylistics (‘Betcha By Golly, Wow’), the Detroit Spinners (‘The Rubberband Man’), and Dionne Warwick (‘Then Came You’), Bell was the classically trained arranger who introduced the celeste, the French horn and the harpsichord to soul music. This is the sequel to “Ready Or Not”, Ace’s first acclaimed compilation of the late Thom Bell’s productions and arrangements. Put together by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley, “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind?” combines some of Bell’s biggest and best loved 70s hits with rarities and 80s quiet storm classics such as Deniece Williams’ ‘Silly’ and Phyllis Hymans seductive ‘Let Somebody Love You’. Elton John lines up alongside soul legends like Lou Rawls and Eloise Laws. This collection will appeal to Northern Soul collectors as well as pulling in lovers of smooth 70s and 80s soul. Bob Stanley’s sleeve-notes – with a rare interview with Bell himself – and a wealth of rare photos are icing on the cake. Bell’s unique and instantly identifiable Philly sound has proved timeless.

Kirk Whalum - Epic Cool

Saxophone icon Kirk Whalum blasts off with his highly-anticipated new album Epic Cool, an electrifying collection of original grooves. Teaming up with producer Greg Manning (Keb’ Mo’, Herb Alpert, 2x GRAMMY® nominee, composer/collaborator on 10 #1 Billboard hits), Whalum focuses on his songwriting to craft an album that’s passionate and spirited on a monumental scale, but with his trademark soul. From danceable hits like “Bah-De-Yah!” to melodic, sultry jams (Whalum calls “Pillow Talk” the strongest song he’s written in 20 years), Epic Cool weaves a musical story that has wide, cross-genre appeal. Get ready to groove, because Epic Cool is anything but ordinary.

Red Hot & Ra (Meshell Ndegeocello) -  Magic City

Maybe the coolest album so far in the Red Hot series – even amidst the unique Sun Ra subgroup – as the album's the brainchild of Meshell Ndegeocello, and comes together with all the complex soulfulness of her own recent albums! Back in the 90s, Meshell was a great but more mainstream soul artist – and over the years, she's developed into a really fascinating talent – one able to reach out with a complex blend of jazz, funk, and soul elements – woven into patterns that are always very much her own – a musical legacy that the great Sun Ra might have appreciated! Ndegeocello leads a very diverse lineup here – playing bass and keyboards, and singing a bit – next to other players who include longtime Arkestra giant Marshall Allen on alto and EWI, plus Immanuel Wilkins on alto, Christopher Bruce on guitar, Darius Jones on saxes, Daniel Mintseris on keyboards, and Justin Hicks, Pink Siifu, Kenita Miller, Nio Levon, and Hanna Benn on vocals. The album channels Ra's spirit through territory that's very much Meshell's own – and titles include "Yet Differently Not Mars Hall", "El Soul The Companion Traveler", "The World Of Shadow", "Reproductive Manatees/Sunny Said Up", "Bedlam Blues", "#9 Venus The Living Myth", and "Departure Guide Of The 7 Sisters".  ~ Dusty Groove

Josh Johnson - Unusual Object

A solo record, but one that's got the sound of more things at once than you might expect – as saxophonist Josh Johnson has this great way of processing the sound from his horns, then layering them with samples and other elements too – but all in a way that's never gimmicky, and really retains the jazz energy at the core! Johnson is already a great saxophonist in a conventional setting, with a sense of tone that's wonderful – and here, he carves out a space that's all his own – with a sense of uniqueness and post-jazz creativity that resonates with some of the hippest recent experiments on the London and Chicago scenes! Titles include "Marvis", "Deep Dark", "Quince", "Telling You", "Jeanette", "Reddish", "Local City Of Industry", and "Free Mechanical".  © 1996-2024, Dusty Groove, Inc.

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