It’s another really vibrant welcome to the week with the new-not-new.
Firstly, two excellent new releases under the Decca / Blue Note ‘Classic Vinyl Series’ this week with Bobby Hutcherson’s San Francisco and Grant Green’s Green is Beautiful. San Francisco has such filmic vibes, a brooding strut with locked-in bass and Hutcherson’s vibraphone dancing across the speakers. Green is Beautiful was not well-received on release (1970), with Green moving into a funk mode, but in retrospect it is full of breakbeat energy and his takes on the James Brown, Beatles and Burt Bacharach numbers are really fresh.
Both releases are in stereo, all-analogue mastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes and pressed on 180g vinyl at Optimal.
It’a a huge week for the Strut label with some all-time icons back in stock. Firstly, parts of the vast Sun Ra catalogue get a new ‘23 pressing for all of the astronauts out there. The two volumes (Volume 1 / Volume 2) of The Definitive Singles are a really great jumping-in point for anyone looking to dive into ‘Ra. We also have Discipline 27-II, which was recorded in 1972 during the same sessions that would yield Sun Ra's legendary Space Is the Place. Also inbound (in a few days) will be Marshall Allen Presents In The Orbit Of Ra, the brilliantly curated compilation looking at 25 years worth of highlights with extended and unreleased tracks.
Strut also take us back to Nigeria in the 1970s for new editions of the quite brilliant Nigeria 70 series. First released in 2001, Nigeria 70 was hugely formative getting us interested in afro funk, jazz and rock. That first album is now presented as a definitive 3LP edition and we also have the thrilling Lagos Jump - and its dancefloor bangers - from the same series. We’ll have the No Wahala edition soon too and hopefully the excellent ‘Sweet Times’ at some point soon as well.
Honestly, just gold from start to finish.
A couple of excellent compilations on Trojan too this week, with ‘Essential Artist Collection’ albums from The Maytals and The Skatalites. Amazingly vibrant from start to finish, absolute must-haves. Both albums are on double vinyl in gatefold sleeves. The Maytals are Transparent Yellow colour vinyl, The Skatalites are Transparent Clear colour vinyl.
We have an expanded edition of The Message, the debut studio album of American hip hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. A hugely evocative portrait of early 80’s New York City with the hip-hop classics and also paths into funk and soul. This edition features bonus tracks and instrumentals too.
A couple of other releases to flag up for the jazz heads now with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers’ hard boppin’ Hard Drive and Duke Ellington’s big band sounds on Duke Ellington Presents… Both were originally released on the Bethlehem label and benefit from 2022 remasters.
Lastly today and firmly on the stereo as we speak (and I am sure many, many more times this week) is Safe At Home, the seminal 1968 album by Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band. Widely regarded as one of the key records to launch the country-rock movement, it is full of life and Parsons' charismatic vocals are just unreal. Special stuff and cut all analogue from the original mono masters for a remarkable 2023 listen. All-time recommended.