The past few years have seen an explosion of new Afrobeat albums. All those hard driving rhythms need to be unearthed and documented in one place. Just in case no one else has done it, here it is…
First I’m going to feature a few of my favorite albums, and then I’ll list the rest of them. All of them you need to check out.
Starting with Tony Allen’s new album, The Source (2017).
This album is raw and electrifying the whole way through, featuring not only Mr. Allen’s drum set, but also full-filling a life long dream of recording on Blue Note Records. This album is truly unique, mixing in Jazz with Afrobeat and more traditional African music. The Source also has Allen looking back at his early influences on the drum-kit, Art Blakey, Max Roach, etc…, and pays a fitting tribute to them. Employing a who’s who of Paris Jazz musicians The Source will leave you in awe of what a 76 year old veteran of the drum set can craft.
…check out this killer photo collection of Tony Allen here.
Speaking of the forefathers of the genre Femi Kuti has a new joint as well.
Femi Kuti-One People One World (2018)
I don’t think I really need to express the importance of the message on this one. With titles like Africa Will Be Great Again, Femi speaks about the future he see’s for his people. Not only does he touch on Africa but he acknowledges the entire world, imploring us to find our collective humanity and live together in unity.
…and here are a ton more to keep you busy.
Antibalas-Where the Gods are in Peace (2017)
Of course a necessary place to start digging is with Antibalas’ new album. Straight forward, politically motivated Afrobeat in the direct vain of Fela Kuti’s classic records.
Here Lies Man-S/T (2017)
“What if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat?” This is the question that Marcos Garcia of the Afrobeat collective Antibalas asked before undertaking his new project Here Lies Man, a question we didn’t know needed asking but are damn glad he did.
This dynamic offering is the brainchild of producer/composer/multi-instrumentalist David Nesselhauf. Citing the creative experimentation of kraut rockers Can and using vintage recording techniques and instruments this album has a unique sound. Combining new music and pop sensibilities with Afrobeat and striking rhythms makes it a great album to listen to and dance! Also keep your eyes peeled for the new album coming out soon!
Roberto Lopez-Criollo Electrik (2017)
A really great collage of latin, pop, afrobeat, and funk on display here. Read more here.
This very interesting album is the original soundtrack to the documentary film of the same name.
-From the Deep (2016)
The Heliocentrics are a group that is constantly hard at work. Whether they are working together as a unit or employing the help of other talented musicians, they are experimenting with the genre and pushing it further into the future. Collageing together ambient sounds from the environment, and rattling around various rhythm instruments, helps to push this experimental vibe farther along. Strictly speaking not really Afrobeat, but there is enough influence there to be intriguing and a good fit for this post.
…another new band that has been hard at work. Below is the cover for this years new album Commandments, but keep your eyes out for their 2015 self titled release, and last years release, Drinking Water.
Magic in Threes-Heady Days (2017), 3, & IV both (2016) and Return of… (2015)
Strictly speaking this side project from the folks who brought us DeRobert and the Half-Truths, isn’t just Afrobeat but is more a collection of psychedelic rhythmic bliss, and cinematic hip hop beats. Still it’s the general Ethio-Jazz and Afro-centrism of the albums they’ve concocted that make them notable contenders in the genre.
…that’s my recap of some of the more notable albums that have come out, here’s a list with way more to sink your teeth into as well.
It would take me forever to list all of the compilation’s that came out this year, and a really long time to even list all of the one’s I’ve listened to in 2017. Instead here is a list of some of my favorites. In fact more than some, a lot of them…because there were just that many great ones. Enjoy a lil of the music, check out some cool cover art, discover some new artists, and perhaps purchase stuff from some of the enormously prodigious record labels featured below…here is compilations from 2017 in no particular order (…and just the ones I’ve listened to that were noteworthy)…and I’m already hard at work on this year (2018), hopefully I’ll get it done in a reasonable time. Lol.
Let’s dig into it…
First lets look at some of the more unique and interesting compilation albums, as well as my favorite’s, along with a few tracks to accompany them.
Soul of a Nation: Afro-centric Visions in the Age of Black Power; Underground Jazz, Street Funk, and the Roots of Rap 68-79
The producers put together a really fine set here, thought-provoking and poetic. This comp focuses on the traditions of African chants, Southern spirituals and street poetry, and its effect on jazz and funk. Each track on here is unique and deserves contemplation so take some time to listen to this as a whole.
On a personal note highlighting the roots of anything is always gonna spark my interest;)
Following the success of Digital Zandoli 1, this collection of French West Indies Zouk, disco, and pop well introduce to the listener some of the coolest music from the 80s you will ever hear. This is easily one of the best compilations of last year. Enjoy a few tracks below…
Here we have the third installment of mambo cuts to tantalize your taste-buds. This compilation highlights the ongoing effort to preserve the unique sounds of mambo, a musical style that combines the sounds of Latin Rumba, Afro-Caribbean, and Cuban music on Big-Band Jazz of the late 40s-60s. Yes it is the same style that was made popular by Ricky on the ‘I Love Lucy’ show, and huge hits like Dean Martin’s ‘Sway,’ and the ubiquitous ‘ Mambo Italiano,’ but this musical style has way more to offer than just the popular version. The music was often accompanied by Cuban dances like the habanera and contradanza. More info from the release of vol.1 here.
Ostinato Records releases Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa. This compilation gives us a diversity of tracks and styles from the region, reflecting interests in East Asian Bollywood, to West African Highlife.
…this is the perfect time to discover the interesting and new age, smoothe jazz, future soul, funk, boogie and EDM work coming out of the Tokyo Dawn record label. Explore their entire catalog of jams here.
As well, the comps below are a perfect way to start to explore some of their artists.
The Heart Vol. 4-Tokyo Dawn Records
Soulful, jazzy, and smooth stylistic stirrings to warm the heart, with the flavor of 70s/80s boogie, neo-soul and R&B mixed in.
I guess I was heavy into disco jam’s last year and hey why not, dancing and cutting loose is exactly what we all needed in 2017.
Groove Line Records’ Can You Feel The Force? – The John Luongo Disco Mixes showcases the finest productions created by the pioneering and hugely influential DJ/remixer, and is the very first collection of its kind.
…and now it’s time to get serious. Let’s speed this up. Enjoy the album cover porn, and look up the ones that you are really interested in!
Keep the sock-hop rockin’.
Solid mod and soul.
The music on here is historical and important, the stories behind the songs even more so. Such a fascinating collection of early Jazz and Blues.
…and here are a bunch more comps I perused this year, check em out, mostly a lot of soul/funk/r&b.
Cavendish Library Archive Music selected by Mr. Thing and Chris Read.
BoomBox 1&2 up in this thang…its
Craig Charles the mastermind behind—is still at it picking his fare share of grooves.
Exactly what it says it is.
There is nothing like some girl group bubblegum when you’re in the right mood.
…just a lil popcorn.
Reel me in,…insert fish emoji.
a couple of these came out…
2 comps about talking on the phone…
WHEN WILL IT EVER END!?
some super dope Brazilian jams.
…the birth of Philly soul is always fun…
This was well worth the time. I felt sorta jittery and high just listening to it and not even partaking.
Bubblegum. Popcorn. Nuggets. Etc…
I had heard a lot of these many times before, but this compilation taken altogether made for a real nice vibe.
I just discovered this Pied Piper series.
More R&B? Well this is from the dawn of the Mods!
Love that rhythm and blues.
Jasmine Records resurrecting some gems.
Funk, soul, and disco from Japan? Sounds exotic…
…just gettin’ warmed up…
Tramp vol. 8.
Real pimp type shit.
Ace/Kent rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and more.
Super duperrr funk.
Radio hits, real nice.
Featurecast drops some serious funk bombs, vol.3.
Two from Stateside records.
Real Side Records throws down more outta sight soul. A real solid mix, featuring Darrow Fletcher, Jay and the Techniques, and Checkmates LTD.
Another ‘Birth of Soul’ joint from Ace/Kent.
Ministry of Sound threw this one down, and it didn’t contain the most obscure cuts, but it did contain a lot of dope cuts put together with just the right nuance. Be on the lookout for more from them, as well as the Ministry of Sound compilation Throwback Grooves.
Sorry folks I’ve been slacking on this post for quite some time now, but I’m finally catching up and updating my shiz. Here it is the best, best of list from last year, you’re ever gonna see in March of the following year. This list comprises the best albums of last year, the ones that had soul/funk throughout and were exceptional for their style and sound. It is obviously a little different than singles, but you’ll notice some crossover. Now that that’s outta the way…
As is true every year 2017 had some great soul/funk records released. Some leaning towards the past and some firmly futuristic new fashions for soul and funk. A few of this year’s best albums used hip hop as their major influence. Retro sounds also mixed with gospel and folksy campfire incantations, while dark groovy vibes crept in. Fantastic danceable afro-beat mixed in with the funk, and turned the soft ground into mud. Even dusty country, grimy rhythm and blues, and dirty ol’ southern delta blues, got soul last year. In other words, what a year for moving forward and redefining what soul/funk means to us.
As heard on the Soul Donuts radio program @KWVA 88.1 FM Eugene here is The Top 25 Soul/Funk Albums released in 2017 below!
25. Nicole Willis and UMO Jazz Orchestra-My Name is Nicole Willis
New comer on the Soul Donuts radar, this young diva hits all the right notes on her album Soul Run simultaneously fresh and sounding old. She crafts a smooth soul revival sound, with a solid cast of producers that have helped her capture a unique vintage 60’s vibe.
Rage against the current political climate and a critique of consumerism are just some of the buttons that LA’s Soul Scratch has pressed on ‘Pushing Fire’. The group excels with straight-ahead soul butt-shakers and deep groovers, add the solid horn work and it makes this album a blast to listen to.
The Abstract Orchestra takes on the music of J Dilla the world re-knowned producer, to rearrange, deconstruct, and groove as a live band playing rap and hip hop classics. A fantastic album for the headphones, to nod your head to.
A multitude of genres and styles makes this album worth listening to as a whole, start to finish. Along this journey you will stay rooted in jazz and future soul, but will find oneself meeting the likes of; electro, house, disco, jazz fusion, broken beat, afro-carribean, afro-beat, and what sounds to me like new jack swing. All of this material is accompanied by funky guitar riffs, bits of scratchy samples, and spoken word sound bytes. Meanwhile the entire album is bathed in a mellow Fender Rhodes that washes over each track binding them together.
Sudanese-American singer songwriter Sinkane gives us his second full length album ‘Life and Livin’ It’, and it does just that makes life worth living. This album blends styles from all over the world including kraut-rock, Ethiopian jazz, soul and funk rock with his signature Sudanese pop. He is also the head of the all-star Afro-Electro-Funk band (includes David Byrne, Money Mark, Damon Albarn, Dev Hynes, Alexis Taylor, Redman, Jamie Lidell, Pharoah Sanders, and more…) the Atomic Bomb! playing the songs of legend William Onyeabor. Sinkane’s star is firmly on the rise.
Lord Echo is another moniker of multi-instrumentalist, DJ, and producer Mike Fabulous from New Zealand. On this project Mr. Fabulous uses his powers to dip in and out of styles including smooth reggae, funky latin rhythms, and elegant disco jams. Ultimately he crafted a fun and highly danceable album.
Hard hitting rhythms and thunderous horns that could pump up Rocky Balboa himself define the in your face sound of Ikebe Shakedown. This album is definitely recommended for fans of the Budos Band, with their almost post-apocalyptic desert-wasteland funk style. Also hat’s off to the guitar work on this one, you can hear a mix of surfy tremolo, and nasty funky wah standing out.
Very similar in style and feel to the aforementioned Ikebe Shakedown album, but with subtle differences. They still retain that deserted wayside funk but with some tendencies toward jazz, psychedelia, and Ethiopian jazz. The elegant use of the flute and more understated horns added nice colorful nuances.
Copenhagen’s D/Troit are the new darlings on the retro soul scene due to proper packaging, essential production from Daptone’s Gabe Roth, and receiving great reviews worldwide. After the famed music aficionado Craig Charles hyped them, ‘Soul Sound System’ started getting the attention it deserves. A great vintage soul reawakening done correctly enough to satisfy. Much like the many new soul revival acts who came before them the next question is where to turn to next? Is it a smart move to aim for a larger more pop-oriented market and sound? Or is it time to use your sophomore album to double down and stay in character long enough to see where this soul revival can take them? How authentic of a sound can they achieve? Those are the big questions…
The vinyl version of Return To The 37th Chamber is presented with 4 different hand painted covers. The originals were painted on two sewn together flour sacks in Accra, Ghana by Heavy J and Stoger, two artists who are legends in the Ghanaian Mobile Cinema scene and regular contributors to the Deadly Prey Gallery’s collection in Chicago.
From the music to the presentation, this album is a perfect example of what can only be achieved through diversity. The end result is as much a kaleidoscope of influences and multiculturalism as the city it was recorded in. El Michels Affair is once again, “sounding out the city” that raised them, pulling elements of art and culture from across the country and around the globe to create an album truly unique in it’s own right.
…and here’s a great interview with Leon Michels the man behind it all over at Mass Appeal.
Will Sessions, an actual 8 piece funk collective from Detroit, have been playing together for quite some time working with the likes of Mayer Hawthorne, Danny Brown, Elzhi, and Slum Village to name a few. This album is a collection of 7 inch singles the group recorded along their journey. Raw and uncut funk bangers that will surely twist your hips and purse those lips as you yell out, OOOH YEAH that’s hot. Based on the success of this release I predict great things are in the works for Will Sessions in the near future.
The Cactus Channel deliver thoughtful and emotive blue-eyed soul or alt-soul. Home to Melbourne, Australia the group has released it’s third album ‘Stay A While.’ They have struck gold by mining the same plot of soul and funk real estate that Melbourne favorites like the Bamboos and Saskwatch have already dug.
Serving as a swan song of sorts for the surviving members of gospel/soul group The Blind Boys of Alabama. Here the group sings with the same raw emotion and energy that already made them so enduring. This album is a deep and personal journey told about the lives and through the lens of core members Fountain and Carter, featuring a few covers, and a huge collaborative effort from some of the south’s finest. Songwriting help and performances were recruited from Marc Cohn, John Leventhal, Ruthie Foster, Cris Jacobs, the North Mississippi All-Stars, the legendary Randall Bramblett, Megafaun’s Phil Cook and Valerie June. The sound on this album touches deeply on folk, gospel, soul, and Americana. After nearly 7 decades of making music together The Blind Boys of Alabama have given us an amazing and lasting legacy. The folk and soul pours from every track and creates the perfect environment for contemplative and relaxing introspection.
Veteran Memphis soul-man Don Bryant hits back in his 70’s with new album ‘Don’t Give Up On Love.’ This collection of songs reinvigorates a decades long soul career that has been shelved for over twenty years aside from gospel songs and church services. After performing with the Bo-Keys Bryant was urged to continue his soul career and together they recorded this new album of solid Memphis soul.
There is a lot more to his story so read about some of it here on Paste Magazine.
Daptone’s gospel angels are back with an album that makes gospel relevant, necessary, and cool. With the Daptone house band, “The Glorifier’s,” at the helm it’s not hard to see why this album was so successful. Using traditional call and response formats for the songs it almost recalls mumble rap in its simplicity, however blasphemous that may seem. My craziness aside, it is a great album that seems fresh, especially for gospel.
Based in Britain but originating from Missouri this amalgamation of sounds and styles seems just right for a Missourian. A country swagger melds itself with soulful grooves, sun drenched dub, and southern barroom boogie. A little bit of New Orleans jazz, 80s, 90s, and blues mingles with the lo-fi, hazy atmosphere Nichols brews up. With an overall low-key, late 70’s soul vibe, ‘Country Hustle’ makes for a solitary example of how to compose something new in this crowded world.
Son Little came onto our radar with his early work with RJD2 as half of the group Icebird. A singer-songwriter of the highest order his best moments on ‘New Magic’ come to us via an upbeat pop ditty on Blue Magic, with a guest appearances from Questlove, and his soulful ballads that appear throughout. Similar to Sinkane in that they both have crafted their own sound entirely fresh and unique, Son Little is not copying any one style. Lush strings lend poignant emphasis to some tracks and spacey funk sounds to others. This album employs elements of soul, R&B, rhythm and blues, delta blues, folk, and Americana and is an album that is exciting, fashionable, and magical.
The larger than life Texas blues man has been working hard playing shows with his own band, the Mannish Boys, and recording since 1985. This time out the big man plays as much Memphis soul as he does his signature blues, cooking up a hell of gumbo. A fat slice of funky blues that will knock your socks off in a tornado of fury.
This Michigan native emerged onto the music scene performing backing vocals for Cee Lo. Now he finds his signature raspy falsetto recording with Danger Mouse on a powerful new record. Sumptuous strings and a tinge of fuzzy psych sounds also contributes to the projects captivating quality. Curtis Harding’s new album is a slice of dark introspective soul and a heavy dose of funk.
This is the third album that Mavis has collaborated with Jeff Tweedy on, and each time they have been able to conjure up strong divination. Rooted in soul, gospel, folksy Americana and blues, this album uses the current political and social climate as it’s staging ground. The album also leans more toward a dirty and dissonant funk that reflects the overall mood of the project. A truly amazing memento full of the social consciousness of the Staple Singers of old, but with the wisdom, and grace of a current master. Mavis is busy pushing forward into an uncertain future, waving the flag of peace, hope, and love with her uplifting and inspiring songs, but on this new album we are also exposed to her outrage and frustration.
Much has been said about the life and legacy of Sharon Jones so I won’t lament the subject here, but I will say that it hurts me personally to think I won’t be able to see her perform again. ‘Soul of a Woman’ is just the Dap-Kings and Sharon doing what they do best, throwing down the most authentic soul music anywhere around. Funky, rhythmic, hypnotic and poignant it really does have it all, in terms of a soul record. The first half of the record lets loose and captures the raucous sounds of northern soul floor-fillers and dance-hall groovers. The second half of the album evokes more of the style of early Motown and souls golden age.
This work is not only her last effort (released posthumously) but may possibly be her best. I legitimately loved every song on it. So of course it had to be our number one.
I won’t say much about it here, just that you should go listen to it. Love it, cherish it, and be thankful that we got to hear one last masterpiece from the father’s and mother of this new soul revival.
We’ve danced like children, drifted off in thought and memory, and shed some tears along the way, and now that we’ve crawled through the funky, dirty swamp and emerged onto the other side, we are wiser and more aware. It”s now become clear that it was a great year for us Soul babies and it’s even more clear that big things are still to come.
On the Soul Donuts radio program I counted down the best soul/funk singles of 2017. Of course a list like this is very subjective but I’m confident, after listening and reviewing tons of music from last year, that I’ve given you guys the very best offerings. So here it is the top 15 tracks hovering around the galaxy of soul/funk from last year…(w/ download links included. You’re welcome.)
For this album I could’ve picked any of the songs on it since they were all equally amazing in their own way, but I chose Girl…because it hit me a little bit harder than the other tracks, it spoke to me, and had that perfect vintage feel.
Here’s the link for my Christmas radio show on the one and only KWVA Radio. It’s fun, it’s heartfelt, as in it will warm your heart, and it’s the perfect soundtrack to your funky, soulful, afro-centric holiday party. Disclaimer: you will have to use these songs for your holiday party in the absence of songs about Kwanza. Have a happy holiday!
Download or stream the entire 2 hour show for an instant party, shake well.
Here’s a look at the colorful world of Blaxploitation soundtracks and the amazing posters that accompanied these classic film releases. At Soul Donuts radio on KWVA FM we did three weeks of Blaxploitation exploration. Here are highlights from those 3 shows. Place yourself back in a time and place where extra large Cadillac’s floated down the street, driven by leather and fur clad hustlers draped in jewelry, wasn’t a thang. Just imagine outlaw justice being carried out on the tough streets of the concrete jungle, and what luck was left to be had was only bad-luck…
…as a side note I wanted to mention the interesting tale of the film Brotherman and it’s soundtrack. Head over to the Numero Group’s site for the lowdown on that.
The internet is awash with blogs discussing Blaxploitation films so this is in no way comprehensive or informative, just a lil fun…or should I say funk.
For more over-the-top Blaxploitation madness head over here…
Starting off our journey into this realm we start with a look at some of the most colorful pimps.
Willie Dynamite takes the whole genre over the top, even to the point of parody. This film features a battle for territory between the cities entrepreneurial pimps, and the perils associated with the world’s second oldest profession.
Let’s not forget about The Mack, one of the most poignant and thought provoking films about pimping ever made. This movie features a breakout role for Max Julien, and a fantastic co-starring role for Richard Pryor, who was further solidifying his rise to stardom at this time.
The real far out thing about both of these pimp movies are the cars, so fly.
Blaxploitation might seem like a male dominated genre, but the biggest playa of all was the lovely Miss Pam Grier. She was a playa, a tough mama, and a righteous sista all in one. Pam starred in more movies than I can list here, most famously Foxy Brown, and Coffy, and appeared in almost all of the best films of the genre, even including Scream Blacula Scream. She began her rise in popularity from appearing in a string of prison films (Women in Cages, The Arena, Black Mama White Mama, Big Birdcage, etc). Prison films is another sub-genre of exploitation, drive-in, grindhouse and B-movies, that ushered in Blaxploitation films, and were hugely influential to them. Pam’s story is pure poetic justice if you think about it, she started out her film career as a tortured, and exploited prisoner, and rose into the reigning queen and arguably the largest superstar in the genre. If that’s not playa, I don’t know what is…
In Black Samson a local nightclub owner tangles with the mob, the message here,…don’t mess with a playa.
Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite was un-matched in the genre for his comedic portrayal of a tough silver-tongued playa. Dolemite wasn’t real he was just a slightly, and I do mean slightly exaggerated form of Mr. Ray Moore himself.
…and don’t forget your very own bobblehead collecitble.
Private Eye Jesse Crowder is on the case and he won’t sleep until his man is in chains. Catchphrases include “ Never trust a woman with her clothes off!” and “You pay the bill. I’ll deliver it, legal, illegal, moral or otherwise!” This movie has a smashing title track by The Dells.
What’s better than cross-pollinating pulp film genres? Nothing. In Horror Blaxploitation films we see the already popular horror genre getting Afro-centric in these often times hilarious and perfectly low-budget classics.
Zombie themes had already been a common place to see black actors in Hollywood, typically portraying crazed Haitian voodoo priests or unwitting servants haunting other remote island locales.
The name says it all, perhaps the most perfectly coined movie title in the entire genre.
…of course the popularity of this film spawned many copycats.
High school was a common theme in the genre. Here’s 3 films about school featuring; A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, Cornbread Earl & Me, and Cooley High which all touched on the inequalities in the education system, and the difficulties of trying to go to school, even play ball, and survive the mean streets.
Politics saw it’s own take on racial segregation, discrimination, and inequality in the professonal business world…
Westerns and Exotic
..and of course Westerns, and Exotic films. These films were some of the first films to feature prominently black actors, most famously in Bull-Dogger (1922) and Harlem on the Prairie (1937). Although these very same films often had great wage inequalities, and were heavily derided for their portrayal of black Africans and indigenous people as savages.
Here’s the theme song to Buck and the Preacher man. A country and western film that may or may not fit this genre, but has a great poster, the incomparable Sidney Poitier, and that great theme song. Dig it below.
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Umoja I-nity-Tropical Disco Super Sound
Ian Simmonds-All That's Left
Nathan Barato-Past Forward
Small Feet-W/ Psychic Powers
999-The Albums 77-86
Steve Earle and The Dukes-Guy
John Coltrane-1963: New Directions
VA: Birth, Work, Death: Work, Money, and Status in Country Music 1950-70