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Mental Combat 915

Author: Blaze
Monday, 30 June 2008
The Hapsburgs would be proud. They of the Austrian persuasion certainly made a good fist of it when it came to making funk music in the 70s. Well okay, that line was a serious stretch of the imagination. Though I’m not talking out my arse when I say that the recent reissue of the mysteriously unavailable self-titled 1977 album from Atlas is one perplexing head scratcher. The impossible to locate original has gone for around $500 on eBay, but this new release will send you back a couple of lunches via the exquisitely handled Sonorama repress available through Creative Vibes. There’s plenty of them brassy horn things to captivate your attention, some warm basslines to keep your body snug, percussion to make you strut with style and a few guitar bits and bobs to keep your hair in curlers. An English language sounding dude called Reinhard Ploil provides the only vocal contributions. Might not sound totally convincing on all the tracks, but he does put in a solid effort on the more downbeat soulful tunes such as the burning embers of Let’s Not Believe. He has a peculiar RSL cabaret demeanour about him at times, but then if he was at my local, I’d probably get my bingo chips ready and watch him perform. At first I thought Skybird, Fly was going to be a version of The Carpenters It’s Only Just Begun, but nope, it certainly drifts by in the same casual manner and its influence is more than just a coincidence, but then it meanders into a more jazzy landscape. A quality ‘re-imagining’ if ever I’ve heard one. There is a bonafide version of Bill Wither’s Ain’t No Sunshine that shows great respect to the original. There are also a few rocking funk tracks like Necessity, Pasteboard and the rousingly positive We Are Happy. Originally recorded in Vienna when no one cared, but now available worldwide to a very caring listening audience. Such as me… and you!

Who the heck are Martha High & The Shaolin Temple Defenders- I saw a live recording under the album title Woman in all sorts of obscure corners of the blogosphere. So I downloaded it and was greatly pleased with my curiosity. Apparently the 63 year-old Martha High had worked with James Brown for many years until 1995, but somehow she seemed to have escaped my attention. Now I know plenty about Lyn Collins, Vicki Anderson, Marva Whitney, etc… but crap all about this lady. After listening to the album she certainly fits into the same calibre with ease, so no doubts should be had by any.  She recorded a disco based album for Salsoul in 1979, but she has mostly been a touring with Maceo Parker’s band in the latter years. Now she records with the French outfit The Shaolin Temple Defenders. I like this quote taken from their bio ‘To defend the temple of soul, their weapons are as follow: vintage outfits, lamp amplifiers, a Hammond organ, tight horns, an unbeatable rhythm section and a roaring lion.’ They released an album in 2006 entitled Chapter One: Enter the Temple, but this latest release is all the more groovy with Martha at the helm.

Have I told you how I love it when labels compile all their 7 Inch singles into one glorious CD package. No- Er, well I really should be doing so. The latest label to cash in on this multi-platinum selling idea, are those roughnecks in Brooklyn, the Truth & Soul imprint. The new collection is Fallin’ Off the Reel II (Truth & Soul/Creative Vibes) and as expected, probably because I have most of the 45 releases, it’s a sonic version of the Great Wall of China. I mean there’s like heaps and heaps of tracks, 18 all up and some of the great warriors holding down the fort are the brilliant Latin soaked Bronx River Parkway, the incredibly sweet soulful chick squad Black Velvet, the slightly twisted Tyrone Ashley & his Funky Music Machine and the one-time Daptone stalwart Lee Fields and his Expressions crew. I must champion the sounds of Timothy McNealy. One of those old school soul cats whom you’ve never heard of and who probably has a few album’s worth of material sitting in his garage waiting for a knock on the door to release a ‘best of’. Now you’d be correct in assuming that some of these tracks are old. Yes, but some, like the three tunes from El Michels Affair are as contemporary as they come, though as old school sounding as they want to evoke. The Raekwon vocalized PJ’s would be the best clue to show the real age. All up it’s another brilliant collection from the humble almost non-descript label from NY.