By Various Artists
This brilliant compilation showcases a whole music scene that a lot of the other parts hardly touch. American style funk, soul and R&B is not exactly leading edge these days. But it is great social music and a whole tribe of top quality musicians are passionate about putting in stylish and accomplished performances. There's also a swathe of club goers who want to feel good about themselves and hear well played music that makes them feel as though it's their special night out and not the band's.
The HiFi Club is a very neat and friendly establishment that gets some of the best live musicians from Leeds and beyond on a regular basis. This CD presents eleven tracks by various artists who have played there recently: from the straight funk of The New Mastersounds through the eclectic rap fronted Homecut Directive to the rich jazz soul of the Kelly Dickson Quintet.
It's hard to credit that all these tracks are live recordings. The ambient sound and some unobtrusive crowd noise add to the immediacy of the music. But the playing is so damn slick that a lot of the punk and rock tribe will simply hate it. Their loss.
Every track on this is a highlight of some kind. My personal taste is neither here nor there I don't listen to much of this stuff these days. But given the chance and the reason to sit through all the tracks a few times I've got to report that every single track has something to amaze and delight. Personally I'll skip the preaching hip hop of Homecut Directive but I do go all old fashioned at some of the brass (and great bass) playing by Pocket Central. I'm not sure about a chopped up and slowed down version of Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell". But I love the slow blues of Sugarbrew's version of "Save your Love for Me" with the sweet guitar playing of Dave Pearson and the deep soul vulnerability of Corrine Bailey Rae on vocals.
What more could I want? Well if you're asking, I'd have a word about the regulation US accent and challenge one or two outfits to push the boundaries a bit. When the genre's are fully mastered, there's always scope to move it on without frightening the crowd too much.
If there's one CD this year that puts a strong case for Leeds' vibrant live scene this is it. Much respect is due to Chris Colling who recorded and engineered it. C'mon you guitar bands, listen and learn!