Hugh Masekela – Hope

Over the last few years I've picked up a few records by Hugh Masekela. The south african trumpeteer has been releasing them for way longer than I've been born and I guess I still have quite a few to collect. A couple of years ago I bought his record on Bernie Grundman's 'Straight ahead' records, 'Almost like being in jazz'. It was immaculately produced and presented but the music left me somewhat cold. It was literally 'straight ahead' jazz but didn't seem to have much to stand out.

In 2004 Hugh performed live at Washington, D.C.'s Blues Alley and ran through a selection of his classic tracks from over the years. 'Grazing in the grass' is there as is 'Stimela(The Coal Train)'(Coltrane??).

Some like 'Lakuta' are fairly standard, but most appealing, jazz with the trumpet obviously to the fore, but for the most part this double 45rpm set is full of the african rhythms and also vocals from the townships of South Africa where Hugh might have grown up. Its a vibrant, thrilling set of songs, a classic collision of the best musicianship and the joy of African music. I can only imagine what it was like to be there that night. It would have been pure heaven for me.

The aforementioned 'Stimela' is the last track on the album, out of 7 tracks and is a ten minute epic. This political tale of the trains that run to the mines in South Africa from all across the continent send the blood cold and the music is shocking and thrilling, tension builds and you are drawn into a frenzy. You stamp your feet and shake your head as you bow your will to that of the music. It reaches into the deepest emotions, most primitive feelings and is thoroughly rivetingly gripping.

Not only is the music of the highest quality, the musicianship peerless but the sound quality, particularly for a live environment is equally stunning. The realism, space and depth is astounding, the detail wonderful. We are blessed that such an excellent engineer was on hand that night to capture the performance. And that Analogue productions elected to put this out on the 45rpm dbl lp set that we have here. You can't get better sound than this and you really should snap this up before it is gone. Its $50 dollars but you'll never regret it. The only downside is the packaghing is flimsy and minimal, but the inner sleeves are the plastic lined paper ones that do keep your records in excellent condition.

Duffy – Rockferry

And so, after Amy here they come.

Duffy is one of the latest young things to come along, singing her heart out. Just as if the 70’s 80’s and 90’s never happened. This is apparently due to her paren’t record collection. The fact that it is released is probably more due to the success of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album.

While that album was heralded, and made famous by, the (annoying)single Rehab, Duffy’s calling card is Fever. A virtual homage to Aretha Franklin. A gutsy belter, funky enough to shake both your head and booty to. You’ll be singing along to this one and I can’t see it being quite as annoying as the aforementioned Rehab. Probably who I find it most similar to is a 60’s band called The Cake who sang some songs by┬áJack Nitzsche.

All the right names are on board here. Bernard Butler helps out on guitars, production and songwriting. He also helps with the string arrangements but luckily seems to stop short of singing. fot that he (or err she, Duffy) gets in his old partner the magnificent David McAlmont on backing vocals.

The above names will give you some idea of what this record is about. There is an appealing melodrama throughout much of the record with crescendos of sweeping strings and Duffy’s effective vocals. Other tracks are straightforward soulful and lightly funky. No dirty grit here but enough to appeal to the mainstream public.

Production is pretty much Motown wall of sound. You have this great impressive wave of music coming at you. You’re not so much expected to concentrate on the intricate details as get carried away in the waves of emotion and music.

Voicewise and musically this record has often been compared to Dusty Springfield. This is an obvious comparison, and err an apt one. Tunes are all solid and memorable.

I love the closer, Distant Dreamer, an emotional gripper that builds and builds for a fitting finale.

The NME don’t like it because its not cool enough, or modern enough. Or something.

Most enjoyable.

Standard packaging in general. Simple inner sleever with credit in a thick enough outer picture sleeve. Pressing not bad and heavy enough. Sound quality is deliberately retro.