Summer 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during June, July and August 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

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Mourning [A] BLKstar – The Cycle

 

Title: The Cycle 
Artist: Mourning [A] BLKstar 
Label: Don Giovanni 
Formats: Limited ed. CD, LP, Digital 
Release date: May 5, 2020 

 

The Cleveland, Ohio-based funk and soul collective Mourning [A] BLKstar is a “multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.” Boldly confronting themes of racism, oppression, and injustice, the group’s albums reflect the reality of living in a world that is all too frequently hostile to people of color. Their previous release, The Garner Poems (2018)was a eulogy to Eric Garner and the many other victims of police brutality past and present. M[A]B’s new double album, The Cycle, is yet another epic and thought-provoking addition to the group’s catalog. Set as an 18 movement song cycle featuring vocalists James Longs, Kyle Kidd and LaToya Kent, the group envisions the work as “a humble addition to the long legacy of James Baldwin’s adage of the artist as witness.” 

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Junko Beat – Satirifunk

Title: Satirifunk 
Artist: Junko Beat 
Label: Drumparade  
Format: CD, LP, Digital 
Release Date: June 5, 2020 

 

Trance-inducing, cutting-edge, and improvisational: all are terms that have been used to describe the newest release from the New Orleans progressive funk outfit Junko Beat. On their sophomore album, Satirifunk, the group presents an innovative musical fusion of New Orleans funk and West African tribal jazz with electronic and Latin-Caribbean influences. The result is a powerful, rhythm-heavy sound that truly captivates the listener. 

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May 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during May 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.  

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Thundercat – It Is What It Is

 

Title: It Is What It Is   
Artist: Thundercat  
Label: Brainfeeder  
Formats: CD, LP, Digital  
Release Date: April 3, 2020  

 

Electric bassist and singer/songwriter Thundercat, aka Stephen Lee Bruner, has released his fourth studio album, It Is What It Is. Executively produced by Bruner and Flying Lotus, the project features collaborations from artists such as Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, Ty Dolla $ign, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, and comedian/rapper Zack Fox. The new album is the follow-up to Thundercat’s ambitious Drunk (2017), which cemented his genre-defying reputation and provided an evolutional framework for It Is What It Is, which continues the versatile artist’s experimentation with sound and compositional technique. 

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The Meters – Gettin’ Funkier All The Time

 

Title: Gettin’ Funkier All The Time: Complete Josie/Reprise & Warner Recordings 1968-1977
Artist: The Meters
Label: SoulMusic/Cherry Red
Formats: 6-CD Box Set
Release date: January 24, 2020

 

Released just in time for Mardi Gras, this new box set celebrates the kings of New Orleans funk, otherwise known as The Meters. Featuring guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter, Jr., keyboardist/vocalist Art Neville, and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, The Meters combined street rhythms with second line vibe and fatback drums to create their own unique, laidback style. Compared to James Brown’s hard driving, frenetic performances, The Meters just let the good times roll through the Big Easy accompanied by a funky backbeat. Produced by SoulMusic’s David Nathan, Gettin’ Funkier All The Time takes listeners on a journey through The Meter’s eight studio albums recorded between 1968-1977, their non-album singles and  bonus tracks issued on previous compilations, plus a few surprises thrown in like beads along the parade route.  In other words, this set has it all.

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LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown, 1969-1972

 

Title: LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown, 1969-1972
Artist: Various
Label: Now-Again
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 2, 2019

 

For those of you who aren’t from the Midwest, “Naptown” is a nickname created by local jazz musicians back in the day to describe the sometimes sleepy city of Indianapolis. Bringing some old Naptown soul and funk to light, the new anthology LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown offers an overview of the city’s fabled record label, little known outside of hardcore soul collectors. Now, current and former Indianapolis natives can reminisce while the rest of the world can finally hear the soulful sounds that sprung from Naptown during the years 1969-1972. The liner notes for this release, researched and written over a twenty year span by Eothen Alapatt, Jeff Kollath, Jason Yoder and Kyle Long, read like a book as these four experts uncover the history of the LAMP label and Naptown’s music scene. Continue reading

Prince – 1999 Super Deluxe Edition

Title: 1999 Super Deluxe Edition
Artist: Prince
Label: Warner Bros.
Formats: 5CD or 10LP + DVD box set
Release date: November 29, 2019

 

This new box set is the latest release from the Prince Estate and Warner Brothers. On the plus side, there’s the first remastered edition of Prince’s 1982 breakthrough album, 1999, in addition to a CD of remastered promo mixes and B-sides, plus a CD/DVD of a previously unreleased live concert performance in Detroit on November 30, 1982 (which allegedly will not be released separately). Somewhat more controversial are the two additional CDs of tracks culled from the vast vault at Paisley Park. While some hardcore fans will welcome this glimpse into the inner workings of Prince’s compositional process, others may consider it a travesty that the estate is releasing material that the artist would have keep private.

James Brown – Live at Home with His Bad Self

 

Title: Live at Home with His Bad Self
Artist: James Brown
Label: Polydor/Republic
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 25, 2019

 

This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of James Brown’s homecoming concert in Augusta, Georgia’s Bell Auditorium on October 1, 1969. Live at Home with His Bad Self captures this historic performance by the legendary Soul Brother No. 1 and the James Brown Orchestra with occasional dialogue by Brown and emcee Maceo Parker. Intended to “attract notoriety” to his hometown, Brown “decided to record this local concert and commemorate it with a live album” for release during the Christmas season of 1969. Unfortunately, the two-disc album was shelved for various reasons. While some selections were issued on previous compilations, Live at Home with His Bad Self finally includes the concert in its entirety from start to finish, just in time for the 2019 holiday season. Continue reading

London Afrobeat Collective – Humans

 

Title: Humans
Artist: London Afrobeat Collective
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Label: London Afrobeat Productions
Release Date: October 25, 2019

 

Following their popular 2015 release Food Chain that earned them glowing reviews and widespread radio support, London Afrobeat Collective has released their newest album, Humans. The collective is formed of nine members who hail from England, Congo, Italy, France, Argentina, and New Zealand, and their music reflects the varied cultural backgrounds of their members. LAC is known for their eclectic sound that draws on funk, jazz, rock, and dub paired with socially conscious lyricism and their latest project is no departure from this. Continue reading

November 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during November 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading

The Hornē Electric Band’s Self-Titled Debut

 

Title: Hornē Electric Band
Artist: Hornē Electric Band
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: September 27th, 2019

 

Hailing from New York City, The Hornē Electric Band is a modern funk group that combines funk, jazz, and soul with modern music technology. According to their website bio, they “integrate current electronics soundscapes with horn-section-centric arrangements.” Their self-titled debut album is full of witty band humor and, like with all great funk albums, a groove that lives around “the one.” The rhythm section features bassist/producer Massimo Biolcati, drummer Corey Rawls, and vibraphonist/malletkat Tyler Blanton, who also provides midi electronics. Heading up the horn section is Wayne Tucker on trumpet and Yacine Boulares on tenor sax, as well as the Snarky Puppy team of Mike Maher (trumpet) and Chris Bullock (tenor sax). Continue reading

October 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during October 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading