Monday, 20 January 2020

Lou Rawls


1. Dead End Street
2. Love Is A Hurtin' Thing
3. Trouble Down Here Below
4. A Natural Man
5. Your Good Thing (Is About To End)
6. Street Corner Hustler Blues/World Of Trouble
7. I Can't Make It Alone
8. You Can Bring Me All Your Heartaches
9. You've Made Me So Very Happy
10. On Broadway
11. Righteous Woman /I Wanna Little Girl
12. Breaking My Back (Instead Of Using My Mind)
13. The Shadow Of Your Smile
14. Bring It On Home
15. Show Business
16. Down Here On The Ground
17. Lady Love
18. See You When I Git There
19. Groovy People
20. Let Me Be Good To You
21. You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine                                                 

Lou Rawls was from Chicago and had a background, as many soul singers did, in the gospel tradition of his church. He also served in the US Army as a paratrooper and later suffered a car crash in which he was pronounced dead but recovered, amazingly. He had a strong, soulful, expressive voice and is a most underrated when the great male soul vocalists are talked about. This is a fine collection of impressive soul that surprises by its sheer quality, both in the music and also in the sound quality. I really enjoyed it , not being initially familiar with all the material on here. I have to say I was mightily impressed. Sometimes you find yourself listening to an album and thinking "bloody hell, this is great". This is most definitely one of those. I looked on my purchase history. I had bought it three years ago and took me this long to play it. That's the way it sometimes is when you're buying music all the time, but it is nice when you get a pleasant surprise like this, out of the blue. That's the beauty of it.

Dead End Street is an evocative number about Rawls' upbringing in Chicago, the "Windy City". It is   semi-spoken at the beginning as the brass and drums build up the atmosphere before Lou's full-on soul vocal kicks in over a kicking backbeat and jazzy piano. Great stuff. Rawls' signature tune, Love Is A Hurtin' Thing was referenced in Arthur Conley's Sweet Soul Music  - "....spotlight on Lou Rawls, y'all, singing' "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing" y'alll". It is a dramatic, soulful brassy number with a fine, dominating vocal from Rawls. Trouble Down Here Below is a lovely number that sees Rawls using his vocal skills honed in the gospel church choirs of his youth. It has a great rhythm to it and some kick-ass drums too. The vocal is effortless, riding and soaring above the infectious beat.


A Natural Man starts with a beautiful, deep bass line and Lou gives us a preacher's spoken intro before launching into another wonderful vocal over a fine drum, bass and piano beat, enhanced by some nice female backing vocals. Your Good Thing (Is About To End) is a dignified slow, Stax-style brassy ballad. Street Corner Hustler Blues/World Of Trouble is a live cut, the first half being a spoken autobiographical story that seems to amuse Rawls' audience but probably goes on a bit too long, for my liking anyway - just get on with the song, man! The second half is much better when the song breaks out. I Can't Make It Alone is a magnificent piece of uplifting soul that will be recognised by Dusty Springfield fans, as she covered it on Dusty In MemphisYou Can Bring Me All Your Heartaches is a mid-pace number driven on by some impressive brass breaks and, despite its slightly less pacy beat than a Northern Soul number usually has, has a real Northern feel about it.

You've Made Me So Very Happy dates from 1970 and is a cover of the Brenda Holloway/Blood, Sweat & Tears song. Rawls does it a suitably brassy, soulful justice, no need to worry about that. On Broadway is a lively, jazzy cover of The Drifters' number. Righteous Woman /I Wanna Little Girl is another double song that begins with a spoken "rap" over a sumptuous stand up bass and ends in some fine bluesy soul vocals over the same bass, together with some excellent brass. Rawls wants his girl to cook some "good soul food" and "she don't have to wear no wigs..". Sounds good to me. The catchy rhythm of Breaking My Back (Instead Of Using My Mind) is seriously toe-tapping. Check out that bass/drum/brass interplay near the end. The Shadow Of Your Smile is another live recording  and is a late-night smoky jazz-club ballad. It is from a film called The Sandpiper, Rawls tells us. I was not familiar with it. It is a 1965 Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor film.


Bring It On Home is a slowed-down and funky over of the Sam Cooke classic. Rawls gives it a Stax-y Memphis-style groove. It cooks to boiling point, giving the song a completely different veneer. Show Business once more kicks ass, big time with some killer bluesy piano and punchy brass backing a great vocal. Down Here On The Ground is a dramatic, cinematic sort of song with a late sixties feel to it. It is a little bit orchestral and overblown for my liking - to many strings and not enough bass and brass.

Lady Love is a number that dates from 1977, and you can tell. Its production is more polished and slick, with some lovely percussion. It is an attractive, Philly/Harold Melvin-Sounding slice of seventies soul. Quality stuff. This vibe is continued on the equally Melvin-esque, conga-driven groove of See You When I Git There. Beautiful seventies soul, yes sir. Incidentally, although the title says "git", Rawls actually sings "get". Groovy People is also in the same vein, but faster and more urgent. Rawls likes to hang out with "groovy people who ain't on no ego trip". Fair enough. Let Me Be Good To You is a superb, atmospheric piece of classy disco soul from 1979, written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, with a simply delicious throbbing bass line and some intoxicating, rhythmic percussion. Rawls' vocal has a feel of Luther Vandross about it. It also has a Barry White spoken bit near the end when Lou offers to rub his lover's feet after her long day. Mmmm, that's right just relax now.... This admirable collection ends with another Harold Melvin-influenced number In Rawl's second most famous number in the vibrant You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine. It is number full of Philly-style soul. As I have said throughout this review I cannot praise this album highly enough.


Sunday, 19 January 2020

The Decca/Deram "Scene" Series


This is an excellent series of archive recordings from the Decca/Deram label in the mid/late sixties.

The albums covered here are:-

The Northern Soul Scene
The Freakbeat Scene
The R'n'B Scene
The Blues Scene
The Beat Scene
The Mod Scene
The Rock'n'Roll Scene
The Psychedelic Scene
The Girls' Scene

Scroll down to read the reviews.




This is a really interesting compilation, but an odd one in that, as someone who owns around 1200-1300 Northern Soul downloaded tracks, I was unfamiliar with nearly all of the album’s twenty-five tracks. Only one of them appears on any of my many other compliations. They were all recorded on the UK-based Decca and Deram labels, so you are not going to get any copper-bottomed soul recordings from Georgia or Tennessee, although some of the artists are American, but produced by British producers, notably Wayne Bickerton. Most of the tracks are “blue-eyed” Northern Soul, however.

Obviously, the concept of “Northern Soul” had not really taken off in 1968 (it was just beginning, but took several more years to really take off), so these records were sort of trying to get in on the act that their producers were becoming aware of. Presumably they were just trying to ape the US records that were trying to ape Motown. Whatever, they certainly did a good job as there are lots of convincing songs on here, and the sound is absolutely top notch too. Seriously so. It obviously was de rigeur around 1967-1968 for artists such as Tom JonesDave Berry and Amen Corner to record these beaty Northern Soul numbers as ‘b’ sides or album tracks.

1. I'll Hold You - Frankie & Johnny
2. So-Called Loving - David Essex
3. Nothing But A Heartache - The Flirtations
4. Don't Change - Fearns Brass Foundry
5. Baby You've Got It - Cyde McPhatter
6. Name It You Got It - Micky Moonshine
7. My Love - Ronnie Jones
8. Ask The Lonely - The Fantastics
9. Stop Breaking My Heart - Tom Jones
10. Billy Sunshine - Billie Davis
11. Our Love Is In The Pocket - Amen Corner
12. Whose Little Girl Are You - Danny Williams
13. Heart Trouble - Eyes Of Blue
14. Everybody Needs Love - Bobby Hanna
15. Picture Me Gone - Dave Berry
16. I Wanna Know - John E. Paul
17. The Way You Do The Things You Do - Elkie Brooks
18. I Just Made Up My Mind - Jon Gunn
19. Something Beautiful - Adrienne Poster
20. Reach Out Your Hand - Brotherhood Of Man
21. Giving Up On Love - Sonny Childe
22. My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down) - Truly Smith
23. All The Time In The World - Stevie Kimble
24. Let The Good Times Roll - Tony Newman
25. Listen To My Heart - The Bats

I'll Hold You by future blues rock vocalist Maggie Bell (“Frankie”) and “Johnny” and a young David Essex’s So-Called Loving both have Northern Soul-style backing, but I just can’t take them seriously as Northern recordings.

Nothing But A Heartache by black US female vocal trio The Flirtations is the real thing. It was written, however by Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington who produced The Rubettes in the mid-seventies. Don't Change It by Fearns Brass Foundry also has credible credentials. The Drifters’ Clyde McPhatter’s Baby You've Got It was also a Bickerton production.

Apparently popular at Wigan Casino was Name It You Got It by Micky Moonshine, which has a disco-ish wah-wah guitar backing. My Love by Ronnie Jones sounds like a catchy sixties pop record rather than a Northern Soul one, though. Tom Jones chips in with a mega-soulful, convincing Stop Breaking My Heart. Everybody Needs Love by Bobby Hanna is one of my favourites - this one  has a true Northern sound to it.

A real unearthed gem, for me, is the supremely catchy Billy Sunshine by Billie DavisOur Love Is In The Pocket is the one track that, of course, was familiar to me due to the JJ Barnes Northern classic. Here it is done by UK pop band Amen CornerDanny Williams’ Whose Little Girl Are You has a real Northern beat to it and an authentic black vocal and brass section. Everybody Needs Love by Bobby Hanna is one of my favourites - a true Northern sound to it.

The one track I did know is one of my absolute favourite rarities - I Wanna Know by John E. Paul (credited on my other compilation as just “John Paul”). A proper Northern classic, this one. Jon Gunn sings about travelling on the underground on I Just Made Up My Mind, a UK experience. It comes over as a swinging London pop song as opposed to a Northern Soul one. I like it though.

When I saw the name Adrienne Poster I thought “is that sixties Lulu look-alike actress Adrienne Posta?”. Indeed it is. A real rarity, this one. Her song is Something Beautiful. It is a very sixties poppy number. Also an unusual name for the Northern Soul scene is Elkie Brooks. Here she gives us a vibrant rendition of Smokey Robinson/The Temptations’ The Way You Do The Things You Do. Then we also have the early incarnation of The Brotherhood Of Man with the funky, gospelly soul of Reach Out Your Hand. This has very vague hints of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ The Night about it, for me.

Truly Smith’s (pictured) My Smile is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down) is a nice rarity, but its pop ballad strains are a long way from Northern Soul, for me. The same applies for the Hollies-esque Listen To My Heart by The Bats.

So, in conclusion, this is an eminently listenable mix of “blue eyed” Northern Soul, a few genuine Northern cuts from black US artists and some carefree sixties British pop. For the real thing, I would recommend the four volumes of The Northern Soul Story, the soundtracks to Northern Soul and Soul Boy and “The In Crowd”.




What was "freakbeat"? It was a fusion of blues and original r 'n' b with hippy, psychedelic vibes around 1966-68 in the UK. Groups that dabbled in it were The Pretty Things, Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, The Move, The Small Faces, The Troggs, Them, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and some of the lesser-known acts that appear on this intriguing compilation of material released on the Decca label and its imprint, Deram. Lots of the tracks feature a swirling guitar and organ sound, lots of reverb and echoey drums. It was popular with mods, or at least the "freakier" end of mod culture, man. It was an interesting phenomenon, and, while always staying somewhat niche, its influence on many more mainstream chart singles and British pop music in general can be clearly detected.

1. Please Please Me - The Score
2. Come On Back - Paul Ritchie
3. Anymore Than I Do - The Attack
4. One Third - The Majority
5. One Fine Day - Shel Taylor
6. Unto Us - The New Breed
7. Grounded - The Syn
8. Father's Name Is Dad - The Fire
9. Understanding - The Small Faces
10. No Good Without You Baby - The Birds
11. The Third Degree - Marc Bolan
12. I'm Not Your Stepping Stone - The Flies
13. Het Gyp (Dig The Slowness)
14. I'm Leaving - Mark Four
15. Sorry She's Mine - Jimmy Winston & His Reflections
16. Wooden Spoon - The Poets
17. Just Help Me Please - The Outer Limits
18. I Am Nearly There - Denis Couldry & The Next Collection
19. I Can Take It - Blue Stars
20. Poor Little Timebreaker - Timebox
21. Run & Hide - The Fairytale
22. Taxman - Loose Ends
23. Thanks A Lot - Sea-Ders
24. Pink Dawn - Human Instinct
25. You Better Get A Hold On - The Beatstalkers

The BeatlesPlease Please Me is given hippy-ish makeover by The Score in 1966, that, for me has echoes of Pink Floyd's See Emily Play. It throws a completely new light on such a familiar song. Anymore Than I Do is a solid, drum-driven bluesy rocker from The AttackThe Majority's One Third is The Rolling StonesGet Off My Cloud meets Manfred Mann and The Hollies.

Shel Taylor's One Fine Day is a big, bassy thumping number with hints of The Big Three's Some Other GuyUnto Us by The New Breed has a catchy "Tequila"-inspired rhythm with a touch of The StonesPoison Ivy. It also uses Bill Wyman's trademark "reverse" bass run at one point. The Syn's Grounded sounds like The Stranglers would ten years later. My Father's Name Is Dad is a Who-inspired number with cynical lyrics that display a punk-ish observational commentary that had no relation to happy sixties pop. The Small Faces (Understanding) and Marc Bolan (The Third Degree) are the only artists I had previously any knowledge of, although The Birds (No Good Without You Baby) featured a young Ronnie Wood.

I'm Leaving by Mark Four is very Stones-influenced, with a bit of Bo Diddley rhythm and blues guitar in its extended instrumental middle part. It is a bit of an unearthed gem. Wooden Spoon by The Poets is another corker, too. Just Help Me Please by The Outer Limits slightly steals the riff from Mony Mony by Tommy James & The Shondells. Denis Couldry & The Next Collection's I Am Nearly There starts as a mysterious, slow number before breaking out into a madcap Arthur Brown-style chorus. Far out, man.

I Can Take It by The Blue Stars is another frantic Poison Ivy/Don't Bring Me Down type rocker. The second Beatles cover is a trippy cover of George Harrison's Taxman by Loose Ends. It is vibrant and enjoyable. Interestingly, I am sure they sing "I'm a taxman, I'm a black man.." at one point.

Another very interesting rarity is from The Sea-Ders, who were from Lebanon, apparently, and the Eastern sound on Thanks A Lot was an electric bouzouki type instrument. The riff sounds a lot like The ByrdsEight Miles High. Surely the only Lebanese band to make an impact in the UK. Human Instinct's Pink Dawn had a riff that I am sure Tommy Roe would use on Dizzy a few years later.

Look, I think you've got the idea of what this album contains by now - lots of Who-like drumming and reverb, Animals organ, Chris Farlowe meets Eric Burdon vocals, early Status Quo and Pink Floyd guitar. Rock, blues, soul, r 'n' b and psychedelia all mixed up in short, sharp two-three minute upbeat blasts. This is a most energising collection that I would recommend getting hold of in order to discover a few hidden nuggets.




This is another in this truly impressive series of Decca/Deram released tracks from the mid-sixties. This time it deals with the "r&b"/upbeat blues rock scene. While there are crossovers with The Blues Scene, the material on here is pretty much all fast-paced, energetic rocking blues. Rhythm and blues, in fact. It only covers stuff that was released on Deram/Decca, so there is no Who, Yardbirds, Animals, Rolling Stones or Them but, among the lesser-known names, there are a few famous ones too. It goes without saying on this series that the remastered sound is 100% brilliant.

1. You're On My Mind - The Birds
2. Anytime At All - The Fairies
3. Boom Boom - Blues By Five
4. Gotta Be A Reason - Cops And Robbers
5. Don't Gimme No Lip Child - Dave Berry
6. I'll Come Running Over - Lulu
7. Long Tall Shorty - The Graham Bond Organisation
8. Keep Me Covered - The Frays
9. Louie Louie Go Home - Davie Jones with The King Bees
10. Crawling Up A Hill - John Mayall's Blues Breakers
11. Hey Little Girl - The Chasers
12. Oh Mom (Teach Me How To Uncle Willie) - Zoot Money's Big Band
13. Can't Let Her Go - Hipster Image
14. Blue Beat - The Beazers
15. Cross My Heart - The Exotics
16. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl - Rod Stewart
17. I Got My Mojo Working - Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated
18. King Lonely The Blue - The Emeralds
19. You Gotta Keep Her Under Hand - The Big Three
20. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You - The Plebs
21. Can I Get A Witness - Steve Aldo
22. Talkin' 'Bout You - The Redcaps
23. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean - Paul's Disciples
24. You Don't Love Me - The Birds            

Ronnie Wood's first band, The Birds, start the album with the early Beatles meets the blues of You're On My MindThe FairiesAnytime At All is a Rolling Stones-ish, harmonica-driven upbeat piece of blues rock. The much-covered Boom Boom is given a solid, bassy cover by Blues By FiveGotta Be A Reason is a brooding blues from Cops And Robbers that has an Animals-esque organ backing on its chorus. Don't Gimme No Lip Child by Dave Berry is a bit of a Can I Get A Witness groove. The latter track appears later on the album. The same beat backs the young Lulu's throaty take on I'll Come Running Over.

The Graham Bond Organisation and The Frays both contribute energetic blues rockers, the latter very much in an early Rolling Stones mode. A unique rarity is Louie Louie Go Home by Davie Jones with The King Bees (pictured) This was the first release by none another than one David Bowie. It is a slightly ska-influenced bluesy shuffler. John Mayall's Crawling Up A Hill is not as bluesy as much of his subsequent material. Zoot Money's track is as ebullient as you would expect.

As unusual rarity is the moody, jazzy, vaguely Doors-esque Can't Let Her Go by Hipster Image (I didn't realise the term "hipster" was around in the sixties). Blue Beat by The Beazers appropriates a slight ska beat, but it is largely bluesy. Recognise the voice? Sure you do - it's Chris FarloweCross My Heart by The Exotics has a genuine ska beat I don't know anything about the group, but I'm not sure if they were Caribbean, or a UK imitation. Now for a couple of big hitters - first up is a youthful Rod Stewart covering Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. It was his first ever single. Then it is bluesman Alexis Korner and the harmonica-drenched cover of I Got My Mojo Working. This also featured future Cream drummer Ginger Baker.

The remainder of the tracks don't see a lessening of the pace - all catchy, lively numbers. Steve Aldo's cover of Marvin Gaye's Can I Get A Witness is nothing ground-breaking, but it is still vibrant and enjoyable. The Birds are back with You Don't Love Me to close this invigorating collection. As with all of these excellent albums, it is highly recommended.




This is another in this truly impressive series of Decca/Deram released tracks from the mid-sixties. This time it deals with the "r&b"/upbeat blues rock scene. While there are crossovers with The R'n'B Scene, the material on here is pretty much all fast-paced, energetic rocking blues. Rhythm and blues, in fact. It only covers stuff that was released on Deram/Decca, so there is no Who, Yardbirds, Animals, Rolling Stones or Them but, among the lesser-known names, there are a few famous ones too. It goes without saying on this series that the remastered sound is 100% brilliant.

1. Curly - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
2. Key To The Highway - Eddie Boyd And His Blues Band
3. The Super-Natural - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
4. Pretty Girls Everywhere - Otis Spann
5. Blue Coat Man - Eddie Boyd And His Blues Band
6. Third Degree - Champion Jack Dupree
7. Steppin' Out - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
8. Train To Nowhere - Savoy Brown
9. Roll Me Over - Curtis Jones
10. Get On The Right Track Baby - Zoot Money's Big Roll Band
11. Night Time Is The Right Time - Alexis Korner Skiffle Group
12. Sweet Little Angel - Mae Mercer
13. Strut Around - The Graham Bond Organisation
14. Long Night - John Mayall
15. Goin' Down Slow - Davy Graham
16. Taste And Try, Before You Buy - Savoy Brown
17. Me And My Woman - Keef Hartley Band
18. Dust My Broom - Eddie Boyd And His Blues Band
19. Barrelhouse Woman - Champion Jack Dupree & His Blues Band
20. I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town - Rod Stewart
21. Double Trouble - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
22. 24 Hours - Champion Jack Dupree
23. Early In The Morning - Alexis Korner Skiffle Group
24. Let Me Love You Baby - Savoy Brown Blues Band
25. I Need Your Love - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers

Curly by John Mayall's Blues Breakers is a searing piece of guitar-driven fuzz to start off. It is an instrumental and it features some excellent guitar throughout, drums too. Great stuff. Their second track (there are six in all) on the album, The Super-Natural is another instrumental, this time sounding very like Peter Green's Fleetwood MacEddie Boyd's Key To The Highway is an authentic-sounding slow, piano and harmonica-backed blues. His Blue Coat Man is an early rock'n'roll-influenced boogie-woogie blues with some sumptuous toe-tapping drums and accompanying guitar. Jools Holland would love this.

Otis Spann's Pretty Girls Everywhere is a catchy and rhythmic, groovy piece of upbeat, rocking blues. Champion Jack Dupree's Third Degree is a genuine, slow-burning, bassy blues. John Mayall is back again, with another corking instrumental, Steppin' Out, once more featuring that buzzy guitar. Then we get some authentic blues in Train To Nowhere by Savoy Brown and Roll Me Over from Curtis Jones.

Zoot Money's Get On The Right Track Baby is very jazzy and Georgie Fame-like. Mae Mercer's Sweet Little Angel is a storming piece of guitar and piano solid blues. There really is so much good material on here. The Graham Bond Organisation have featured on some of the other compilations in this series. They were an impressive outfit who, unfortunately, never quite made it. They featured future Cream members bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, so no wonder they were good. Here they give us the thumping Strut Around.

The remaining John Mayall, Eddie Boyd, Champion Jack Dupree, Savoy Brown and Alexis Korner tracks are all excellent. A rarity is a young Rod Stewart's I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town.

These days, I find I am retreating more and more into the comforting blanket of music, often the blues, to keep me from going insane. This fine album is one that helps with my treatment.




This compilation is part of Decca/Deram's nine CD series of sixties rarities. This one concentrates on the mid-sixties boom in Beatles-inspired "beat" pop. Personally, I prefer the blues-orientated ones in the series, but this one is not without its interest. It goes without saying that the sound is superb, as it is on all the releases.

1. I Love Her Still - The Poets
2. Gonna Get Me Some - The Game
3. Each And Every Day - Thee
4. Walking Thru The (Sleepy City) - The Mighty Avengers
5. It's Gonna Happen Soon - Shel Taylor
6. I'll Cry Instead - Joe Cocker
7. Third Time Lucky - The Beat Boys
8. Hurt Me If You Will - Mark Four
9. Really Gonna Shake - Sandra Barry
10. Surprise Surprise - Lulu & The Luvvers
11. Everything's Alright - The Mojos
12. Now I Know - The Beat Chics
13. I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door - The Pete Best Four
14. Don't Make Me Blue - The Warriors
15. That's What I Want - The Marauders
16. Once In A While - The Brooks
17. Lost My Girl - Rick & Sandy
18. I Was Only Playing Games - Unit 4 + 2
19. Did You Want To Run Away - Tierney's Fugitives
20. One By One - The Mockingbirds
21. Itty Bitty Pieces - The Rockin' Berries
22. Who'll Be Next In Line - The Knack
23. Keep On Dancing - Brian Poole & The Tremeloes
24. Heart Of Stone - The Hi-Numbers
25. Da Doo Ron Ron - Andrew Oldham Orchestra & Chorus     

Gonna Get Me Some by The Game is one of the album's rockiest, solid, thumping numbers. It is less derivative than many of the others, standing strong in its own right. I really like this one. Each And Every Day by Thee is actually an obscure early Rolling Stones cover (their version appeared on Metamorphosis), as also did Walking Thru The (Sleepy City) which also has vague echoes of Have I The Right by The HoneycombsIt's Gonna Happen Soon by Shel Naylor (who also appears on The Freakbeat Scene) is very Beatles-influenced. A very young Joe Cocker contributes a lively, rock 'n' roll type number in I'll Cry Instead. Once again it is so very Beatles in its lively and melodic sound. Third Time Lucky by The Beat Boys uses a typical Buddy Holly guitar riff and has a Gerry & The Pacemakers vocal.

Mark Four was also on The Freakbeat Scene compilation. Here he delivers the impressive Hurt Me If You WillSandra Barry's Really Gonna Shake is a really rocking slice of fun. Lulu uses her impressive voice on the rousing Surprise Surprise, a Rolling Stones cover. The Mojo's Everything's Alright will be familiar with David Bowie fans as he covered it on 1973's Pin Ups album. Now I Know by The Beat Chics is a delightful piece of gospelly pop. Ex-Beatle Pete Best is on here with I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door, which was a chart hit for Little Jimmy Osmond later in the early seventies.

Don't Make Me Blue by The Warriors is so incredibly early Beatles-sounding, it could almost be them. The same applies to That's What I Want by The Marauders, complete with "woo-woo" backing vocals. Once In A While by The Brooks sounds like something from A Hard Day's Night or With The Beatles. Itty Bitty Pieces by The Rockin' Berries owes a lot to The Dave Clark Five's Bits And Pieces. There is a lot of derivative material on this album, it has to be said.

Unit 4 + 2 are known for their hit Concrete And Clay. Their track here, I Was Only Playing Games is a laid-back, melodic number with an Eleanor Rigby-style cello. It dates from 1969, way past the main "beat" period. The Hi-Numbers, incidentally, should not be confused with The High Numbers, forerunners of The WhoThe Andrew Oldham Orchestra was indeed Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog OldhamThe Knack are not to be confused with the US new wave band from the late seventies. Their track Who'll Be The Next In Line is one of the album's deeper, bluesier rock/pop numbers. Listening to the fast-paced guitar and bass lines you can hear ones used by The Jam on their 1977 debut album. Brian Poole & The TremeloesKeep On Dancing showed that rock'n'roll was still important in the mid-sixties. Lots of two-way influences to be found as you listen to this interesting cornucopia of rarities.




As with the entire "...Scene" series of sixties rarities released on the Decca and Deram labels, this is a compilation of interesting material, often completely unknown, and all of excellent remastered sound quality. Often, rarities are rarities for a reason - nobody bought them in the first place. Just because they are rare doesn't necessarily make them good. However, although that may be the case for many tracks, most of the ones here are pretty good, I have to say.

A lot of the tracks included are very Northern Soul in sound or else they have a pounding, brassy Chris Farlowe-style soul kick to them. (Farlowe contributes a track himself). There is an energy and ebullient vigour to all of them. There is some great straight up soul on here too.

1. Bert's Apple Crumble - The Quik
2. Make Her Mine - Hipster Image
3. That's The Way It's Gotta Be - The Poets
4. How Could You Say One Thing - The Wards Of Court
5. Stop! Stop! Stop! - Graham Gouldman
6. If Your Love Doesn't Swing - Pete Kelly's Solution
7. Girl Don't Make Me Wait - Timebox
8. Lovingly Yours - The Mockingbirds
9. Expressway To Your Heart - Amen Corner
10. We Don't Know - The Attack
11. Air Travel - Chris Farlowe
12. Little Girl - The Graham Bond Organisation
13. Just One More Chance - The Outer Limits
14. I Need Your Loving - Ronnie Jones
15. Grow Your Own - Small Faces
16. Walking The Dog - Zoot Money's Big Roll Band
17. Baby What You Want Me To Do - Steve Aldo
18. Dr. Love - Tom Jones
19. It's Not What You Do (But The Way That You Do It) - Jimmy Winston And His Reflections
20. Elbow Baby - The Habits
21. Beg Me - The Score
22. That's It - Loose Ends
23. East Side Story - St. Louis Union
24. There You Go - Paul & Barry Ryan
25. Supermarket Full Of Cans - Eyes Of Blue        

Bert's Apple Crumble by The Quik is a dare I say delicious and lively instrumental. It is incredibly catchy and toe-tapping. Hipster Image's Make Her Mine is a jazzy but also Beatles-esque number. The group also appear on The R&B SceneThe PoetsThat's The Way It's Gotta Be is a slightly psychedelic number, while How Could You Say One Thing by The Wards Of Court is a brassy, Motown-ish stomp. Graham Gouldman is none other than the same who would go on to have massive seventies success with 10cc. Here his track is a Northern Soul-ish thumper called Stop! Stop! Stop!.

The Pete Kelly track is very Chris Farlowe-esque and Girl Don't Make Me Wait, included here by Timebox, was a Northern Soul hit floor filler for Bunny Sigler. Another Northern in feel number is Lovingly Yours by The Mockingbirds. The brassy power of Welsh chart-toppers Amen Corner's Expressway To Your Heart is just a delight as is the upbeat bassy Otis Redding meets The Animals-style soul of We Don't Know by The Attack, with its quite adventurous social message lyrics (for the time). Check out that killer bass line on it too.

Chris Farlowe's Air Travel is very Sam Cooke meets The Drifters. An old favourite of these collections is The Graham Bond Organisation, featuring bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, later to be two thirds of Cream, plus guitarist John "Mahavishnu" McLaughlin. Their Little Girl has just a massive bass sound to it. Truly great stuff. This is no throwaway rarity. It is quality. The Small Faces appear with an organ-driven instrumental and Tom Jones gives us Dr. LoveZoot Money always gives value, so to speak, too. Baby What You Want Me To Do by Steve Aldo is copper-bottomed bluesy soul.

I really can't praise this album enough (or any of them in the series, for that matter). It kicks posterior from beginning to end. Highly recommended.




This is another in the excellent Decca/Deram series of comparatively unknown rarities from the sixties. As always the sound quality is truly outstanding, just really well remastered, especially considering that the material is from the sixties.

The songs on here are all from the early sixties and take in the British rock 'n' roll boom, featuring artists such as Wee Willie Harris (pictured), Joe BrownTommy SteeleBilly FuryScreaming Lord SutchFreddie Starr and crossover skiffle artists such as Lonnie Donegan. The messiahs of the milk bar. Obviously the compilation is restricted to artists who recorded under the Decca umbrella, so there is nothing from The Shadows, Cliff Richard, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer or Freddie & The Dreamers. That doesn't really matter, though, as this is a genuinely feel-good, lively, uplifting album. A lot of the tracks are fast-paced rockabilly-style rock 'n' roll - fairground fare, with that rumbling stand-up bass, and the beat doesn't let up for a minute. The skiffle tracks are all similarly energetic, as you would expect, with some blues influence in there too. As well as giving you an energised listen, it is excellent as an accompaniment for a bit of indoor exercising.

I won't go through the songs, track by track, other than to list what in on here and say that the album is a fine, nostalgic pleasure from beginning to end.

1. My Baby's Crazy 'Bout Elvis - Billy Boyle
2. Comes The Day - Joe Brown
3. Trying To Get To You - Joey Castell
4. Downbound Train - Ken Collyer's Skiffle Group
5. School Day - Bob Cort Skiffle Group
6. Too Hot To Handle - Michael Cox
7. Pretty Little Pearly - Terry Dene
8. Lah Dee Dah - Jackie Dennis
9. Rock Island Line - Lonnie Donegan
10. Yea Yea - Vince Eager & The Vagabonds
11. Collette - Billy Fury
12. Rockin' At The Two I's
13. Plain Jane - Eddie Hickey
14. Little Cutie - Sally Kelly
15. Foxy Little Mama - Little Tony & His Brothers
16. Whole Lotta Woman - Most Brothers
17. My Baby's Gone Away - Alexander Combo
18. Race With The Devil - Russ Sainty With The New Notes
19. Turn Me Loose - Mort Shuman
20. It's Shaking Time - Freddie Starr
21. Elevator Rock - Tommy Steele & The Steelmen
22. Transistor Sister - Robb Storme
23. I'm A Hog For You - Screaming Lord Sutch
24. Don't Leave Me - Bobby Tempest
25. Rock Around The Mailbag - Terry White & The Terriers




This is another in Decca/Deram’s excellent series that saw them searching through their vaults from some classic rarities that probably never made it on to Radio One in the years 1967-1969. There is probably far more “freakbeat” and hippy pop on here than Hendrix-style psychedelia, to be honest, but there are still lots of crazy Eastern influences and LSD-dripping lyrics throughout the album. I won’t describe every single track but will mention a few to give a useful taste of where it’s coming from. I have to say that the sound quality throughout the album is simply stunning. Full, bassy and warm.

1. Vacuum Cleaner -Tintern Abbey
2. Shades Of Orange - The End
3. Red Sky At Night - The Accent
4. Baby I Need You - Curiosity Shoppe
5. 14 Hour Technicolour Dream - The Syn
6. In Your Tower - The Poets
7. Colour Of My Mind - The Attack
8. That Man - The Small Faces
9. Guess I Was Dreaming - The Fairytale
10. Woodstock - Turquoise
11. Turn Into Earth - Al Stewart
12. Secret - Virgin Sleep
13. Meditations - Felius Andromeda
14. A Day In My Mind's Mind - Human Instinct
15. Ice Man - Ice
16. Love And Beauty - The Moody Blues
17. Michaelangelo - 23rd Turnoff
18. Bird Has Flown - The Societie
19. Like A Tear - World Of Oz
20. Sad And Lonely - Garden Odyssey Enterprise
21. Deep Inside Your Mind - Keith Shields
22. Gone Is The Sad Man - Timebox
23. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow - The Plague
24. Dream With Me - Andy Forray
25. Nite-Is-A-Comin' - Warm Sounds                          

Tintern Abbey’s Vacuum Cleaner is simply wonderful, full of brilliant bass, great drums and superb clear sound. Just great dreamy stuff, man. Shades Of Orange by The End is full of Beatles brass, Lennon-esque vocals and Harrison-style Eastern influence. Derivative it may be, but I still like it. It is quirky and enjoyable.

Red Sky At Night by The Accent is everything you would expect from psychedelic rock - huge, dense guitar riffs, swirling, madcap organ, mysterious, sonorous vocals, monster, rumbling bass. This is another diamond in the rough that not many people know about. Once more, the remastered sound is incredibly good. Curiosity Shoppe’s Baby I Need You has more delicious bass and a funky rolling drum beat. Pefect for some wild go-go dancing. Hey man, just let yourself go.

14 Hour Technicolour Dream by The Syn is more poppy than some of the other numbers. The Poets’ In Your Tower has another mega-heavy bass line and some groovy flute lines, plus more of the seemingly ubiquitous Eastern influences. Colour Of My Mind by The Attack was a freakbeat-ish number that merged a bluesy feel with the psychedelic vibe. The first well-known band to appear on this compilation is The Small Faces with their druggy, intense That Man.

Another known name is Al Stewart. Here he contributes a sombre-sounding number with monastic vocal influences called Turn To EarthSecret by Virgin Sleep is another beautifully bassy gem. Meditations by the fantastically-named Felius Andromeda is a wonderful piece of freaky pop. Its use of string orchestration came long before The Electric Light Orchestra. I wonder if Jeff Lynne ever heard this?

Ice Man by Ice is infectious, nonsense hippy pop with, it goes without saying, a sumptuous bass line and some of those typical sixties drum rolls. The final one from a famous group is The Moody Blues’ dreamy, harmonious Love And Beauty. I could go on, but there seriously isn't an unlistenable track on here. Just stick this on, light an incense stick and some candles and get far out...




Of the truly excellent nine album “…Scene” series from Decca/Deram, this is probably the least impressive. The songs are all mid-sixties offerings from either girl groups or solo girl singers. Many of them are imitations of The Ronettes, The Crystals or other US girl group’s in the My Boyfriend’s Back style. Otherwise they are typical mid-sixties girl-pop ballads about being in love. All of this is ok, but they are as I said they were - imitations - and most of them don’t quite match the admittedly impeccable standard of those other groups/artists. Not that they are bad records at all, but none of them were hits and when you are talking about pop, it is hits that determines the  kudos of the song, in many ways. The Freakbeat or Psychedelic songs on some of the other compilations in the series get away with being “hidden gems” because of the eclectic nature of their genres, whereas pop is different. Not too many failed pop records are classics. Having said that, Northern Soul came up with a fair few. It was full of them, so what am I talking about.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, there are probably not too many unearthed diamonds on offer here. Although I have to admit that there are a few intruguing ones all the same. (Make up your mind, man!)

1. Oo Chang-A-Lang - The Orchids
2. Jenny Let Him Go - Antoinette
3. Only You Can Do It - The Vernons Girls
4. Two Lovers - Louise Cordet
5. The Boy From Chelsea - Truly Smith
6. You Just Gotta Know My Mind - Dana Gillspie
7. Hey Boy - Barry St. John
8. When Love Is True - Susan Hampshire
9. Save The Last Dance For Me - Jean Martin
10. When The love Light Starts Shining Thru His Eyes - Dusty Springfield
11. My Friend Bobby - Pamela Blue
12. Sugar Baby - Jackie Frisco
13. I'll Give It Five - Janice Nicholls
14. What A Guy - Bobby Miller
15. Give Me Rhythm And Blues - The Mysteries
16. Till You Say You'll Be Mine - Olivia Newton-John
17. Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind - Vashti
18. Is This What I Get For Loving You? - Marianne Faithfull
19. Nobody's Home To Go Home To - Billie Davis
20. Rain On My Face - Shapes And Sizes
21. You - Lorraine Child
22. And The Trouble With Me Is You - Linda Flavell
23. Shang A Do Lang - Adrienne Poster
24. Try To Understand - Lulu
25. Soldier Boy - Exceptions                                   

Oo- Chang-A-Lang by The Orchids is a very Da Doo Ron Ron influenced typical sixties girlgroup upbeat poppy rocker. Jenny Let Him Go by Antoinette and The Vernons Girls Only You Can Do It both have hints of some of The Beatles’ early songs. Louise Cordet’s Two Lovers is an early example of increasing female independence, as she revels in having two lovers dangling on her string.

Truly Smith’s The Boy From Chelsea is just so “swinging sixties” that it could almost be a parody, about a cute and groovy boy who works in a Chelsea coffee shop. Yeah, baby, yeah. Dana Gillispie’s riffy You Just Gotta Know My Mind is excellent, featuring a lovely, vibrant bass line and powerful vocal.

Jean Martin’s cover of Save The Last Dance For Me is actually a really good cover, but a fair amount of that is down to the fact that it is a great song. Jackie Frisco’s Sugar Baby is a quirky, little rock’n’roll song. The fairground rock feel is continued on Janice Nicholls’ mildly amusing I'll Give It Five.

There are some “names” on here, though - Dusty Springfield covers The Supremes’ When The Lovelight Starts Shining Thru His Eyes impressively, as you would expect. Olivia Newton-John’s first single is present too in the vibrant Motown-esque pop of Till You Say You'll Be MineMarianne Faithfull gives us Is This What I Get For Loving You?, which was actually recorded by The Ronettes and written by Phil SpectorGerry Goffin and Carole King. Lulu contributes the soulful Try To Understand.

Actress Susan Hampshire even got in on the act with the syrupy but appealing When Love Is TrueAdrienne Posta (credited here by her real surname of Poster) was a minor celebrity in various comedy shows in the seventies, as I recall. Her song here is the girl-groupy Shang A Doo Lang. The pleasant Nobody's Home To Go Home To by Billie Davis has a sumptuous bassline, I must say. The sound on this album, as on all of them, is very good. Check out the crystal clear percussion on Rain On My Face by Shapes And Sizes. Excellent.

Overall, there are certainly points of interest on this album and it passes an hour very enjoyably, but it doesn’t justify as many revisits as others in the series.


Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Santana - Supernatural And Beyond (1999-2019)


The albums covered here are:-

Supernatural (1999)
Shaman (2002)
All That I Am (2005)
Shape Shifter (2012)
Corazón (2014)
Santana IV (2016)
and Africa Speaks (2019)

Scroll down to read the reviews.



1. (De La) Yaleo
2. Love of My Life
3. Put Your Lights On
4. Africa Bamba
5. Smooth
6. Do You Like The Way
7. Maria Maria
8. Migra
9. Corazón Espinado
10. Wishing It Was
11. El Farol
12. Primavera
13. The Calling
14. Day Of Celebration        

This is the album that, for some reason, launched the by now respected, grizzled, headbanded veteran Carlos Santana back into the commercial stratosphere. People who had no Santana albums suddenly started buying this in their millions, enticed by the intoxicating Latin rhythms, guest appearances, contemporary music fusion and Santana's instantly recognisable, iconic guitar sound. Due to all the guests contributions and the length of the album (an hour an a quarter, with all tracks over four minutes in length, at least) the album lacks a little cohesiveness and direction. It is more a selection of excellent Santana collaborations with other artists, as opposed to a unified Santana album, if you get my point. That doesn't mean it is not good. It is good. Very good in places. The sound quality is excellent and the musicianship, as you might imagine, is exemplary. It got all sorts of Grammy awards and the like, not that I ever pay much attention to those.

The album does, for me, have a bit of a feel of a an album of various songs that have Carlos Santana guesting on them as opposed to the other way round.

(De La) Yaleo is a lively Latin groove, full of rhythm, bass, funky organ and, of course Carlos Santana's trademark guitar. Some excellent piano on it too. Love Of My Life is a laid-back, bassy, contemporary "r'n'b" number that ends with some delicious Santana guitar and percussion interplay. Some lovely salsa rhythms underpin it too. Put Your Lights On is a bluesy r'n'b grinder with a gruff vocal and some seriously heavy guitar riffs. Africa Bamba features some delicious Spanish guitar in its intro and a catchy Spanish vocal, despite its opening line about dancing with a Portuguese girl.

Smooth was a hit single (I think, or of not it was certainly played on the radio a lot). It is a muscular but melodic, insistent and pumping Latin soul groove. Do You Like The Way is a hip/hop thumper with Lauryn Hill and CeeLo Green on vocals. Green's vocals are excellent. It has moved into being a soul song by now, after Hill's hip/hop opening. The "shoo-be-doo-ba-ba" vocal bit brings to mind The Style Council'Long Hot Summer.

Maria Maria was the album's other big hit with Santana memorably being name checked in the lyrics before his guitar parts. It is full of contemporary hip/hop beats. Its huge bass part, though, is way too pounding, slightly distorting the sound of the song (and I love bass). The Spanish guitar parts are superb, however, as are the West African-influenced vocals. Migra is great, with a magnificent rolling drum sound, handclaps and a captivating, tribal-style rhythm. Santana's guitar swirls and soars all over the place and some Mexican-sounding brass enhances it even more. It is an underrated number on the album.

Corazon Espinado is a classic slice of salsa-influenced rock with more authentic Spanish lyrics. Wishing It Was is a slow burning dance-ish groover, a bit Prince-like. El Farol is a beautiful guitar-led instrumental. Primavera is a sumptuous laid-back, soulful Latin number with the by now obligatory Spanish vocals. The Calling is (nominally) the final track, and features Eric Clapton trading guitar licks over a solid hip-hop-ish beat and a gospelly vocal. After a ten-second break, at eight minutes, the "hidden" track, Day Of Celebration, comes in. It is a grinding, industrial funky type of number with English lyrics, completely different from anything else on the album.

The album is a long listen, one that you can dip into, to be honest, but the quality is there throughout. It certainly had something about it. Its mass appeal would seem to back that up.


SHAMAN (2002)

1. Adouma
2. Nothing At All
3. The Game Of Love
4. You Are My Kind
5. Amore (Sexo)
6. Foo Foo
7. Victory Is Won
8. America
9. Sideways
10. Why Don't You And I
11. Feels Like Fire
12. Let Me Love You Tonight
13. Aye Aye Aye
14. Hoy Es Adios
15. One Of These Days
16. Novus              

Basically this is a remake of 1999's multi-million-selling Supernatural. Producer Clive Davis repeats the same formula - plenty of contemporary R'n'B/hip hop/smooth soul influences and the seemingly ubiquitous Rob Thomas making several contributions once more. in fact, even more so than Supernatural, it seems to be an album with scattered guest appearances by Carlos Santana. The album's songs seem to be created to meet the needs of the singer as opposed to fitting Carlos in. Like on Supernatural, Santana's role seems to be to float around guitar lines under the songs' more dominant vocals. Why not, I guess, seeming as the previous album was such a success. What you have to realise is that for a huge amount of people, these two albums are what Santana is. They know little or nothing of those ground-breaking late sixties/early seventies albums, the transcendental meditative mid-seventies material or the eighties rock/pop. Santana, for them, is Smooth and Maria Maria.

There is some excellent, almost perfect contemporary pop on here, but should it be considered a Santana album? I guess so, but only to an extent. All that debate apart, I really quite like it, indeed preferring it to Supernatural, particularly in its slightly less booming, more balanced, nuanced sound quality. I like the Earth, Wind & Fire-influenced cover too. I would say, though, that the album seems to go on forever - sixteen tracks with only on slightly under four minutes, clocking in at a whopping seventy-six minutes. Personally, thirty-forty minutes' of dipping in to it is preferable.

Adouma is a thumping, rhythmic West African-influenced, invigorating opener. Nothing At All is a succulent, slow Latin groove with distinct bassy contemporary R'n'B influences in both its sound and the tone of the vocal. The Game Of Love, featuring Michelle Branch on vocals is a sweet, soulful and irresistibly singalong number that, unsurprisingly, gained loads of radio play. It was the album's perfect hit single. Carlos Santana contributes a brief but great guitar solo. You Are My Kind is introduced by some excellent Carlos guitar and has a sumptuous, relaxing, hot summer's day soul feel to it. Very light and poppy. Amore (Sexo) has a tasty vocal from the distinctive Macy Gray and some intoxicating Latin brass and rhythm.

Foo Foo sees some copper-bottomed Santana Latin grooves arrive for the first full-on time. Lots of "arriba" type vocals and melodic, deliciously catchy horns. Some sublime bass lines too. Victory Is Won is certainly a good vehicle for some powerful Santana guitar. It is a heavy, rock instrumental with some of those trademark Santana guitar lines. America also has some serious, heavy, chunky riffs and some hip/hop-style vocal interjections between the verses. It is not as bad as I have read it described in some reviews. Sideways is a laid-back bluesy number and Why Don't You And I is a riffy, pop/rock workout.

Feels Like Fire is a pleasant soul/rock female vocal ballad featuring Dido on vocals. Let Me Love You Tonight is a delicious slow number. Aye Aye Aye has a welcome return to some more typical Latin rhythms after several easy on the ear ballads. It features some appetising Spanish guitar breaks, killer percussion and frantic Spanish repeated lyrics on the refrain. The Spanish vibe continues on the sublime Hoy Es Adios which is full of Mexican brass lines. One Of These Days is quite funky in places and again just has that laid-back groove to it, augmented by some excellent Santana guitar. Novus ends the album in dignified, stately fashion with opera singer Placido Domingo on vocals. The Latin percussion, however, seems a little incongruous.

As I said earlier, this is an album to dip in and out of, and enjoy, for me, as opposed to listening to it in one full sitting.


ALL THAT I AM (2005)

1. Hermes
2. El Fuego
3. I'm Feeling You
4. My Man
5. Just Feel Better
6. I Am Somebody
7. Con Santana
8. Twisted
9. Trinity
10. Cry Baby Cry
11. Brown Skin Girl
12. I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love
13. Da Tu Amor       

This is the third in the series of albums in which Carlos Santana seemed to be "guesting" on his own offering, such were the number of all the other artists present. Like the hugely successful Supernatural and Shaman, Santana sometimes seems to be playing a bit part to the guests fronting up the songs. As before, he functions basically as a supporting artist to a parade of guests singing highly polished rhythmic pop songs. It is all very professionally done, with immaculate sound, but Santana comes and goes on the album, however good he is - and, of course he is - but what this is, for me, like the others, is a good, summery rhythmic pop album, not really a Santana album. A bit like those interminable series of Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan albums of crooners, though, it is another trip down the same road. There are only so many times you can mine the same seam. Even the cover is lazily unimaginative.

There is an argument that many of the numerous Santana albums, particularly those from 1976 onwards, have been similar - Carlos playing some guitar here and there behind a succession of vocalists and musicians and while all are listenable, none of them really get you by the scruff of the neck. They just exist, happily enough. This perhaps just follows in the same fashion.
Hermes is a West African-influenced, lively groove, packed full of rhythm, addictive horns and classic guitar. El Fuego is a Salsa-rhythm powered Latin number, sung in Spanish. I'm Feeling You is a female vocal-led (Michelle Branch), poppy fast r'n'b meets rock number. My Man is a hip/hop-influenced workout that treads a familiar path "boom, boom, Santana's in the room...". It has echoes of Maria, Maria and Smooth from Supernatural, in that respect. Just Feel Better features Steve Tyler from Aerosmith and is suitably "big" in its stadium rock sounds.

I Am Somebody is an energetic, contemporary-sounding workout with some fast-paced rapping (from the seemingly ubiquitous will-i-am) in the middle. It is quirkily catchy in its own way, but as with many of the tracks, not really "Santana", apart from the guitar interjections.

Con Santana is a more typical piece of Latin rhythm - all captivating percussion and Spanish lyrics. Twisted is a pleasant enough, melodic rock number that sounds fine, but doesn't particularly stick in the head. Trinity is an appealing instrumental, featuring some excellent guitar. Cry Baby Cry is a thumping hip/hop-styled number with accompanying vocals and the usual searing, knife-through-butter guitar. Brown Skin Girl is the sort of laid-back, tuneful rock ballad Santana can put out in his sleep. The same applies to  I Don't Wanna To Lose Your LoveDa Tu Amor is a stirring Latin number to close the album on a pleasing note. As I said, it is all perfectly ok, but does it remain in one's consciousness or beg repeated listenings? Probably not.



1. Shape Shifter
2. Dom
3. Nomad
4. Metatron
5. Angelica Faith
6. Never The Same Again
7. In The Light Of A New Day
8. Spark Of The Devine
9. Macumba In Budapest
10. Mr. Szabo
11. Eres La Luz
12. Canela
13. Ah, Sweet Dancer    

After Supernatural, Shaman and All That I AmCarlos Santana decided to ditch the duets with guest vocalists/musicians thing that had, although incredibly successful, had seen him being reduced to something of a bit-part player on his own albums. Here he gives his legendary guitar more of a central role. All but one of the thirteen tracks are instrumentals. For the most part, it is a very Latin album, with some rock riffing too, very much in line with the late seventies through to the nineties material, but without the vocals.
Shape Shifter begins with some evocative Native American incantation, before it bursts into rocking life, full of swirling organ, pounding drums and some trademark Santana guitar. It has some heavy riffage in it too. Dom has a smoky keyboard backing and features some sharp guitar soloing. The rock grooves of Nomad are very much in the vein of some of Santana's early seventies material, with some seriously impressive guitar and organ interplay. Metatron is an uplifting, anthemic number with a wonderful refrain and guitar part. Carlos gives himself free reign on here. Good stuff.

Angelica Faith just sort of washes over you, again featuring the sort of guitar we have come to expect. Indeed the next three tracks, the chilled-out Never The Same AgainIn The Light Of A New Day and Spark Of The Devine also do just that. A bit of a change in ambience comes with the grandiose melody of Macumba In Budapest, which merges classical strings and keyboards with some Latin percussion and also some salsa-influenced piano. There is no typical Santana guitar in this track. Mr Szabo continues in this style - Latin percussion, big, rumbling bass, but this time including some delicious Spanish-style guitar. These last two tracks have been most appetising. Eres La Luz features some gorgeous Spanish guitar before we get some thumping drums and, for the first time, some vocals - in Spanish. It is a typical Santana Latin number such as he released a lot in the late seventies/eighties.

Canela has some top notch archetypal Santana guitar before it takes us into some seductive Salsa rhythms. Ah, Sweet Dancer is a slowie to end on, with some guitar/piano/synthesiser interplay on a peaceful, reflective number. The piano is very classically influenced. It is in fact Santana's son, Salvador, on keyboards.

While it is good to hear Santana giving it some virtuosity "wellie" on the guitar again, in comparison with the previous three albums, the album does seem just a little directionless in some ways, but then again, Santana music often was mood music and it serves you well in that respect.


CORAZÓN (2014)

1. Saideira
2. La Flaca
3. Mal Bicho
4. Oye 2014
5. Iron Lion Zion
6. Una Noche En Napoles
7. Besos De Lejos
8. Margarita
9. Indy
10. Feel It Coming Back
11. Yo Soy La Luz
12. I See Your Face                               

After the instrumental album Shape Shifter in 2012, Santana reunited with producer Clive Davis, who produced the hugely-successful Supernatural and he once again used some guest artists on the album. This time, though, something that could not always be said of Supernatural, Shaman, or All That I Am, this is very much Santana's album. He leads things and sounds really "up for it", so to speak. It is also a Latin album, not only in rhythm, but in its lyrics, which are in Spanish. It is an album of considerable vitality and shows an artist still hungry after all these years. Some have criticised this for being just another Santana album, but, while sort of understanding that point of view, I have always enjoyed this album for the vibrancy I mentioned. The sound quality is great too.

From the first moment, this is a captivating album. Saideira is an impossibly catchy and upbeat number - packed full of rhythm and superb guitar. It is a great, uplifting, summery track. For me, it blows away most of the stuff on Supernatural. La Flaca has a delicious, laid-back bluesy feel. Material like this is as good as anything Santana has put out for several years. Mal Bicho is lively and Latin, but with some gruff ragga-style backing vocals too. Oye 2014 merges the early seventies classic Oye Como Va with a hip-hop vocal and rhythm. It is ok, perfectly listenable, but I prefer the original, to be honest. One cover that does work, though, is that of Bob Marley's Iron Lion Zion. It is punchy, bassy and features a killer guitar solo from Carlos. Marley's son, Ziggy, is on vocals, sounding just like his Dad.

Una Noche En Napoles has a delightful female vocal and a shuffling, bossa-nova type beat. Besos De Lejos continues in a similar vein. The guitar intro to Margarita and its melody are sumptuous. A truly lovely track. Indy is a plaintive, contemporary-sounding slow number with an infectious bass line. Feel It Coming Back is a poppy, appealing song with a really catchy chorus. Santana's guitar at the end is stunning. Its Spanish version, Amor Correspondido (included on the "deluxe edition") is even better. It sounds a lot like Destiny's Gate by Tish HinojosaYo Soy La Luz has some excellent Latin brass and a Brazilian samba section. There are some cool experimental, jazzy parts on here. Most enjoyable. I See Your Face is a Borboletta-style piece of ambient instrumental to close the album.

As I mentioned in the main part of the review, this album contains some of Santana's best material for quite a while. Personally, I find it the most energising and vibrant of his post 1999 work.



1. Yambu
2. Shake It
3. Anywhere You Want To Go
4. Fillmore East
5. Love Makes The World Go Round
6. Freedom In Your Mind
7. Choo Choo
8. All Aboard
9. Sueños
10. Caminado
11. Blues Magic
12. Echizo
13. Leave Me Alone
14. You And I
15. Come As You Are
16. Forgiveness            

This was the long-awaited reunion of (almost) the original Santana line up. Old mates Neal Schon (guitar), Michael Shrieve (drums), Michael Carabello (congas/percussion) and Gregg Rolie (keyboards/vocals). It is great to hear them all back together again and they certainly bring the best out of Carlos Santana. It is good to hear this set-up, as opposed to the trend of lots of guest vocalists/musicians almost putting Carlos in the shade on some of the post 1999 albums.

The album sticks to the classic early (first three albums) Santana sound, merging rock riffs with Latin guitar, Latin percussion and organ-driven funk. There are also Afro-Cuban, salsa and samba influences. As comeback albums go, it is certainly not a bad effort at all. Where it falls down , slightly, for me, is that at seventy-five minutes, and sixteen tracks, it is way too long. Sure, it gives value for money but sometimes, modern albums like this that go on too long. That said, there is not really a duff track on the album, so there you go...
Yambu kicks the album off with some funky wah-wah guitar, before that late sixties/early seventies organ comes in together with some African vocal chanting. It is a deep, sonorous and powerful opener. Shake It features Carlos Santana's searing, fuzzy guitar for the first time over a slow burning, thumping beat. Gregg Rolie's bluesy vocals are excellent - age has made his voice more resonant. This is solid rock stuff as opposed to Latin-dominated rhythm. That always was the way with early Santana - rock with a Latin influence. Some of the nineties/2000s material was far more overtly Latin. Not that that was a bad thing, there were just differences in the various phases of Santana's career. That typical Latin-driven rock beat that so characterised an album like Abraxas is full-on here in the excellent Anywhere You Want To Go. It reminds me of Evil Ways from the band's debut album too.

Fillmore East is a delicious ambient guitar-led instrumental that could have come from 1972's Caravanserai. Both the title and the sound bring back memories of those heady early days and live performances at the Fillmore East. Love Makes The World Go Round  is a swirling, frantic slab of archetypal Santana rock. Freedom In Your Mind is delightfully funky and invigorating in its upbeat soulfulness. Choo Choo is possibly a candidate for a cull of tracks, to be honest, but despite its slightly throwaway lyrics it has an incredibly intoxicating rhythm behind it. Great percussion, drums and guitar. The instrumentation seamlessly merges into the powerful rock groove of All Aboard, an irresistible instrumental.

Time for a change in pace at this half way point in the album. The sumptuous Spanish guitar and easy rhythm of Sueños gives us a luscious Samba Pa Ti moment. Caminado is a track that has echoes of the group's late seventies/eighties material. It is another of the album's slightly less essential numbers. Blues Magic is a fine, slow burning blues, with hints of Chris Rea about it. Echizo sees the Latin groove return for an instrumental that, while upbeat, is possibly another inessential one. It features some great bass/drum/guitar interplay, however. Leave Me Alone is pleasant enough, but unremarkable, while You And I is another instrumental, which, however melodious, possibly does not have to be there.

Come As You Are is an infectious, poppy fusion of English and Spanish vocals. Forgiveness is a dreamy, ambient song with a lengthy instrumental intro. Overall, despite its length, the album never really gets tiresome. It is full of energy and vitality. Yes it is not Abraxas or Santana III but had this been released in the early seventies it would have got good press. No reason, then, for it not to do so now.




1. Africa Speaks
2. Batonga
3. Oye Este Mi Canto
4. Yo Me Lo Merezco
5. Blue Skies
6. Paraísos Quemados
7. Breaking Down The Door
8. Los Invisibles
9. Luna Hechichera
10. Bembele
11. Candombe Cumbele

This album is not as much of a surprising thing as pre-relesase publicity has made out in the "guess what? Santana's doing an album totally of African-influenced music. Wow!" way. For me, Santana has always been influenced by African music. Obviously, Latin music was always the major driving force, but African rhythms have always been there at some point on pretty much everything Santana has recorded. This album, of course, is full of full-on African drumming, but Santana's guitar is so distinctive that, in many ways, the album sounds very Santana. You would expect it to, I guess, but it does not mine the deep seam of of African music as much as maybe I would have liked. Ironically, as well, the album uses female Spanish vocalist Buika throughout, as opposed to someone from Mali, Nigeria or Congo, for example. Had such vocalists been utilised then the whole Africa theme may well have been more convincing. Buika does sing in a West African style, however. Her background being from Equatorial Guinean parents.


Personally, although there are certainly many exciting moments, I find it sounds very much like another Santana album. Yes there are differences, say, to the Supernatural series of collaboration albums, but overall it sounds far more of a Latin album than an African one. Take the track Oye Este Mi Canto as an example of the point I am making. It is sung in Spanish (albeit with a West African tone to the vocal) which instantly gives a Latin flavour and the bass lines and percussion rhythms are decidedly Latin. Just check out the bit around four minutes in, as Carlos's guitar comes in alongside the bass. It is typical Santana - instantly recognisable. The same applies to the frantic percussion-driven groove of Batonga. Buika's vocals are, as I admitted earlier, very West African and also Sufi-influenced in their inflections but they also are somewhat throaty and grate just a little at times. That is being a little unfair, because they have a lot of character but there is a bit of a tinniness to not just the vocals but sometimes to the whole production. Apparently the whole album was recorded very quickly, so maybe that was a factor. A track like Yo Me Lo Merezco exemplifies this, not that I don't like the track, I just feel it could have been given a better production. Just a matter of personal taste I guess. Santana's guitar at the end of this track, though, is superb, but it is rock guitar, nothing African about it. Maybe Santana could have played guitar in the distinctive Congolese soukous style or the South African "township jive" fashion here and there? Just a thought. Or Nigerian Hi-life? He never does, always playing in the same way, great although it is, it doesn't deviate much. Literally, just as I wrote that, though, along comes the Fela Kuti AfroBeat riff of Paraísos Quemados. Excellent! It is not Santana playing that bit though. His guitar interjection is as you would expect.

Blue Skies is far more of a jazzy number. Yes, there are African influences in its Abdullah Ibrahim piano and Salif Keita vocals but it just doesn't immediately scream "Africa" to me. I love the bassy bit near the end, however. Breaking Down The Door is completely Latin, let's be honest. I love it all the same, I have to say. Los Invisibles has a Rhythm Of The Saints drum intro straight out of South America. Bembele is very Brazilian in its sound. There is a link between Brazilian Bahian music and the West Coast of Africa, though.

So, while I do not dislike this album at all, far from it, a) it has a slightly worse production than I would have preferred, and b) I was looking forward to a more obviously "African" album than a trademark Santana one. Mixed feelings on first listen. Obviously more listens are needed for all albums so my mind remains ripe to be changed on this one. (Three listens in, and it is certainly getting into my bloodstream, so stick with it. Despite my observations, I am still enjoying it a lot).