Best known as the organist with jazz collective Snarky Puppy, Bobby Sparks II released a particularly grand solo debut with ‘Schizophrenia: The Yang Project’ in 2018. A lengthy two disc affair, the album took in elements of jazz, funk, pop, soul and rap to create a listen that was varied, but eventually uncovered a selection of tracks that – depending on where you dropped the needle – could appeal to heavy jazz fusionists, lovers of Herbie Hancock’s dance oriented 90s releases, those on a nostalgia trip with an old Arrested Development album, or even a few Prince fans.
Formed from the ashes of Dada, a huge jazz/blues rock band featuring guitarist Pete Gage, vocalist Elkie Brooks and (latterly) Robert Palmer, Vinegar Joe rode on the coattails of the British blues movement, releasing three albums in the early 70s. Over the years, their recordings haven’t been the easiest to track down, despite Lemon Records reissuing ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsies’ (1972) and ‘Six Star General’ (1973) on CD in 2003, before giving the 1972 debut the same loving treatment somewhat belatedly in 2008. Bringing the Vinegar Joe legacy back to the masses once again, ‘Finer Things: The Island Recordings (1972-1973)’ rounds up absolutely everything the short-lived band ever recorded in the studio and issues it in one place for the first time. Although they never recorded what you’d call “a perfect album” they came pretty close on two occasions, and this set shows off a great band, even though the studio recordings supposedly never captured the fire of their live shows. There are enough great tracks scattered throughout the three discs to potentially attract a new generation of fans.
The inaugural release from Strawberry Records, ‘Halcyon Days’ aims high in terms of 60s entertainment. Bringing together a great selection of mod, soul and freakbeat sides, it presents famous names alongside forgotten heroes; places cult floor fillers, deep cuts and a few genuine rarities among fantastic (and sometimes very interesting) covers of well known tunes. Across nearly 90 tracks, it sets itself up as a varied and comprehensive listen. It’s very much the kind of set tailor made for those who’ve worn out the more bog-standard mod comps and are looking for a world beyond The Action, The Creation and those much-loved Spencer Davis Group hits.
In 1968, Capitol Records issued a selection of tracks recorded by Curtis Knight with Jimi Hendrix as the ‘Get That Feeling’ LP. These session recordings, made a few years earlier, were a deliberate attempt to cash in on the guitarist’s meteoric rise to fame over the previous eighteen months. Over the years, various combinations of those recordings made for the PPX and RSVP labels were issued as unlicensed albums in shoddy packaging, destined to fill the discount shelves of supermarkets and petrol station shops.
Issued in March 2015, ‘You Can’t Use My Name’ represents the first “Hendrix Family Approved” release of the session material. The chosen numbers allow a good insight into the range and talents of the younger Jimi, making it a worthwhile compilation.
In some ways, Tasmin Archer’s work seems like an odd choice to be given the priority box set treatment. For many years, her best selling debut ‘Great Expectations’ was somewhat of a charity shop staple and, indeed, the original album has often obtainable for little more than a few copper coins on the internet’s second hand market. In addition, Archer’s time at the top seemed so brief when compared to some of the other pop heroines of the age. Then again, perhaps Archer’s fleeting moment of genuine stardom makes her the ideal candidate for such a reissue package. For most, she’s only really known as the lady who sang ‘Sleeping Satellite’ – a soul-pop #1 hit that seemed to take on an omnipresent annoyance – but as this set shows, she wrote and recorded better songs during her first few years of stardom. Much stronger and more interesting material than her once hugely popular hit would have you believe.