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Album reviews with Kevin Bryan, Tony Burke and Chris Searle

Miriam Makeba, RB Morris, Logan Richardson, Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela, Paul Carrack, Chris Potter, Georgia Thunderbolts, Various: Unreleased Masters & Demos from the British Blues Years 1963-1976, Masabumi Kikuchi

Miriam Makeba
The Roots Of – From South Africa to New York
Jasmine
★★★★★

Known as “Mama Africa,” Miriam Makeba was one of the most visible, audiable and outspoken opponents of South Africa’s apartheid regime until its collapse in the early 1990s.

She appeared with the popular vocal group the Manhattan Brothers and led the female group the Skylarks who had a number of big hits.  

While in New York she played at the Village Vanguard club where she met Harry Belafonte.

In 1960 following the Sharpeville massacre, her South African passport was revoked and she lived in exile for the next 30 years — a thorn in the side of the South African regime.

This two-CD set features rare SA discs, recordings with The Manhattan Brothers and others: the popular The Click Song from 1960, live recordings with Belafonte and rare album tracks from the early 1960s. Vitally historic recordings.
Tony Burke

RB Morris
Going Back To The Sky
(Singular Recordings)
★★★★

He may not be a household name just yet, but RB Morris’s compelling approach to the art of songwriting has already attracted heartfelt accolades from a coterie of similarly gifted luminaries led by Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and the late lamented John Prine.  

Morris’s latest long playing creation mines a rich vein of dutsy old highway songs and stories inspired by the singer-songwriter’s early road trips across America’s west.  

These expertly crafted narratives are stylishly underpinned  here by some of the finest sidemen that the Americana genre has to offer these days, including mandolin and fiddle wizard David Mansfield and vastly experienced harmonica ace Mickey Raphael.

Ample evidence of the rare qualities that have prompted perceptive pundits to hail Morris as “the greatest unknown songwriter in the country” is provided by stand-out tracks such as That’s The Way I Do and Old Copper Penny.
Kevin Bryan

 

Logan Richardson
Afrofuturism
Whirlwind Recordings
★★★★

When you listen to Afrofuturism, the new album by the Kansas City saxophonist and composer Logan Richardson, you’re hearing the sonic scrapbook of a personal musical life, but with it something much deeper and broader: “I was trying to tell a story,” he wrote: “a bit about me, but then about us all.”

Lines from a poem by his mother in Awaken; references to the 1921 Tulsa racist repression in Black Wall Street, and protests against police violence in 2020 in Round Up all resonate with now-times.

There is also a tribute to saxophone innovator Anthony Braxton in For Alto, and a lament for the late pianist McCoy Tyner in Farewell, Goodbye.

Many layers of black US history are explicit in this album, flowing from its rhythmic and melodic heart: echoes, years, events and their soundscapes, narratives of a family and a people — a century of music and struggle.
Chris Searle

 

Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela
Rejoice (Special Edition)
World Circuit
★★★★★

The undoubted jazz/global music album of 2020 the original release kept me going through the first Covid long lockdown — if was never off the deck. A month later drummer Tony Allen’s sudden death added to this album’s mythology.

Nick Gold at World Circuit went back to Allen and Masekela’s 2010 mixes and added previously unheard parts from the follow-up 2019 sessions to create eight wonderful reimagined bonus mixes (Cool Cats Mix).

The original tracks here are the stuff of legend especially Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same) — a tribute to Fela Kuti, Obama Shuffle Strut Blues and Coconut Jam.

The remixes are fantastic and the sound unbelievable. The set is available as a two-CD casebook edition and a 180g gatefold double LP and has new liner notes and photos. Too important to miss.
TB

Paul Carrack
One On One
(Carrack-UK)
★★★★

Sheffield-born keyboard player, guitarist and vocalist Paul Carrack has been plying his trade with style and excellence for over half a century now, with an impeccable musical CV, which includes stints with highly regarded outfits such as Mike and the Mechanics, Squeeze and Ace to name but a few.

Paul’s latest offering is largely a one-man show, as the pandemic forced this multitalented character into his home studio to assemble the eagerly anticipated follow-up to 2018’s These Days, with the vast bulk of the vocal and instrumental input supplied by the great man himself.

The finished product provides an eloquent vehicle for the soulful tones which graced classic creations such as The Living Years, Tempted and Ace’s timeless How Long in the past, with a string of  freshly minted new songs nestling snugly alongside Carrack’s  affectionate cover of  the Charlie Rich hit, Behind Closed Doors.
KB

Chris Potter
There Is A Tide
Edition Records
★★★★★

In 1941, the pioneer New Orleans saxophonist Sidney Bechet, using studio overdubbing, recorded The Sheik of Araby, playing soprano and tenor saxophones, clarinet, piano, bass and drums.

In 2020 the Chicagoan saxophonist Chris Potter played an instrumental array of flutes, guitars, bass clarinet and samples to create his home-produced lockdown album There is a Tide.

An astonishing historical achievement, that a musician can do so much with breath, surfaces, strings and electronics in one US household.

His sonic metaphor of tidal menace, with tunes like Mother of Waters or Beneath the Waves, expresses the power of the pandemic.

Hope burns in this irrepressible music, all the notes, instant melodies, improvised inventiveness, creative soundscape and artistic defiance, to the final track, aptly called New Life (In the Wake of Devastation).

The resurgent Bechet-like power of music is affirmed: an album of our times, a marker of the human spirit.
CS

Georgia Thunderbolts
Can I Get A Witness    
Mascot Records
★★★★

Hailing from Rome, Georgia, the five-piece band’s debut opens a new era of Southern rock.

Influenced by the Allman Brothers, (they cover the Allman’s Midnight Rider), Lynard Skynard, Neil Young and Little Feat they deliver 13 sides of riffing, swaggering blues-rock sides with fluid guitar solos, interchanges and solos supported powerhouse drumming.

So You Wanna Change The World, the first song the band wrote, and the dynamic Looking For An Old Friend and Spirit Of A Workin’ Man reflect the experiences of their rural hometown.

With great hook lines and lyrics like “Got a full tank of gas, and I’m headed down the road, no money in my pocket, destination still unknown” on Take It Slow, you know what you are getting.

Great cover of Frankie Miller’s Be Good To Yourself too.
TB

Masabumi Kikuchi
Hanamichi
Red Hook Records
★★★★★

Hanamichi was the last studio recording of the Tokyo-born pianist who died in New York in 2015.

Masabumi Kikuchi had a stellar jazz life, playing with maestros as far stylistically apart as Lionel Hampton, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins.

The album expresses Kikuchi’s protean genius, with beautifully and innovatively etched versions of Gilbert and Warne’s Ramona, Gershwin’s Summertime and two very diverse versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favourite Things.

Songbook ballads jell with his much freer track, Improvisation, and the melody dedicated to his daughter, Little Abi.

It’s an album wrapped in profound and reflective quietude, as if every note were a personal discovery and revelation of a full and inventive musical life.

As longtime bass partner Gary Peacock said of him: “It wasn’t a few years before he died that his voice found him.” Hear its unique piano expression on Hanamichi, a compendium of sonic beauties.
CS    

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