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Various – The Hurst Selection 2 []

The long awaited second comp from is another real goodie. The big track, of course, is the specially commissioned Gerardo Frisina remix of Gregory Porter’s 1960 What?, which opens proceedings in all its 10 mins and 35 seconds glory. As much as we all loved the original – and still do, obviously – this is actually one new mix worthy of the doing. It’s bound to take GP into fresh territory audience-wise too. Just as groovy and good is Gabriele Poso’s Freedom, on which the horns have that deliciously muddy sound that seems to suit the stand-up bass so well. Very nice sax solo too. Think I’m playing it more than the Porter, as it goes.

Other highlights include Moonchild’s dreamy, Erykah-meets-Jill-on-funny-fags drifter Be Free, which manages to be sexy and drippy and soulful all at the same time. Maz’s Everything I Need is cool and shuffly, with the intimate air of a man who spends too much time in his loft – reminds me of Lewis Taylor in that regard. Well, a bit. Both Michon Young’s I’m Waiting On You and Milan Ring’s Pay Day have an Anita Baker-ish lilt about them, which is timely when Anita Denise herself is on her way back to us. And Farnell Newton’s Everything Is Clear is so gorgeously Eric Benét it almost feels like a shame the tune wasn’t on El’s recent album. Overall, Volume 2 is probably an upgrade on Vol. 1. That’s a good thing, people.

Chris Wells 5/5

Incognito – Surreal [Dome Records]

Incognito albums are always good. You can rely on them to be at least that. Sometimes, though, they’re just that bit better, and this is one such.

Part of it, as Bluey explains, is to do with the new studio: the group’s mainstay has been getting to know his recording home well over the past year and has enjoyed tinkering with its finer points to get the exact sound he wants. Thus the drums have a tone and crack about them that recalls the drive of early seventies Kool & The Gang; the bass is round and deep and churning; the horns, which apparently were all played close up to the screen, feel looser, more relaxed and fluid. He’s using a sprinkling of new players too, young guys who are eager to learn and have responded to the education by turning in some superb performances.

But it’s also about the songwriting. Along with Bluey’s different approach to lyrics, there are some hooky melodies going on here. Capricorn Sun, for example, just bounces and skips as Maysa teases every last nuance out of a tune that the old Philly guys would have been thrilled to have supplied. Don’t Wanna Know, on which Mo Brandis combines a youthful pop edge with an obvious penchant for mid-seventies Stevie, just flows along, all shuffling rhythm and liquid brass. The funky, rippling Don’t Break Me Down is so late seventies it could be the great, lost Thelma Houston album track you’ve always wanted to discover – Vanessa Haynes’ vocal is gorgeous, and the sax solo lifts it beautifully towards the end. You’ll love the driving, horn propelled cover of Queen Yahna’s Ain’t It Time, a tune that Bluey picked up on at a Kenny Dope DJ gig in NYC. The two instrumentals are beefy bits of fusion too. All in all, it’s a very fine piece of work. Give this man an O.B.E. And a Grammy while you’re at it.

Chris Wells 5/5

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