Ethereal Magic

"Ethereal Magic"About a year after I moved to Berlin, in 1992, an intoxicating and haunting record made the rounds which was played in the derelict, fucked-up clubs of the changing and explosive Berlin. I soon added it to my DJ set as well of course. Up to this day, this particular song hasn’t lost any of its fascination. And it opens this wonderful new collection, subtitled “Deep Laid-Back Soulful Grooves”, compiled by Tony Monson.

The song is “Survival” by Martine Girault and it is featured here in its short Rebirth Edit (there are also some brilliant longer mixes around), reworked especially for this album by writer and arranger and producer Ray Hayden. And many of the tracks are real souvenirs and were recorded in the 70s and 80s, like the equally haunting “Voyage To Atlantis” by the Isley Brothers from 1977. Some obscure soungs also found their way onto this compilation, like “Ten Minutes” by French singer Isabelle Antena. The Sade-like track comes from her 1986 album “En Cavale” and her voice almost sounds surreal.

Things get folky with Seals & Crofts and their 1972 anthem “The Euphrates”, which was covered by The Main Ingredient two years later for their “Euphrates River” LP. The track is from their highly successful album “Summer Breeze”, the title track of which reached Number 6 on the US charts. But this particular track is wonderfully subdued and slightly exotic. I’ve never really been a fan of Hiroshima, a multi-ethnic group from Los Angeles with most of the members having a Japanese background. The voice of Barbara Long on the rather tedious “Save Yourself For Me” is the only real drawback here.

It is wonderful to listen to the amazing Lesette Wilson again here on the hard-to-find “Look Into Tomorrow”. The singer and pianist/keyboardist who played on Tom Browne‘s “Funkin’ For Jamaica” and a lot more classic tunes, has a compelling performance to offer. The Dutch group Tristan released their debut album “2nd Phase” earlier this year and the plaintive “Lost Outtake”, sung by Evelyn Kallansee, is featured here. It reminds me of another singer which is also featured on this comp later on. A neat and folksy arrangement, sounding like from the 70s, with cute vocals. A real grower.

The group Act Of Faith is from the UK and featured with a never before released track, “Sweet Feeling”, which has this typical early 90s feel to it. A mid-tempo swayer with flute and nice vocals. Womack & Womack also make a return with a song from 1993, the sweet “Passion & Pain”. A passionate, soulful and catchy tune produced by Russ Titelman. Linda sounds great as always. Leon Russell‘s classic “This Masquerade” is included here with a version by Japanese saxophonist Takeshi Itoh featuring Cindy Fee on vocals. Another obscure gem, even though I have heard much better interpretations. But this is a real discovery.

I have to say that I never really followed the career of Kenny Loggins and I only knew his “Love Will Follow” from a recording by saxophonist George Howard from an album of the same name which came out in 1986 and featured Siedah Garrett, Lynn Davis and Philip Ingram on vocals. Well, the orginal is right here, recorded a year prior to the Howard version and released on Kenny’s “Vox Humana” album. It’s a real hypnotic and mesmerizing track, complete with saxophone by David Sanborn and I’m really glad for this addition.

More songs come from Letta Mbulu, the South African singer who is featured here with her 1983 recording “Down By The River” – another strangely haunting and sneaky track. Bluey is also on board with “Saints & Sinners” from his latest solo album (see review on these pages) and then there is the magic of Judie Tzuke. I remember hearing her irresistible voice on the radio back in 1981 when her “I Am The Phoenix” LP was released. I still cherish her “Come Hell Or Waters High” and the title track. And she is featured here with a track from her 1997 album Under The Angels”. “Two Mountains” is signature Tzuke. Compelling and mysterious.

This well-chosen set ends with Philip Bailey‘s version of “Children Of The Ghetto” from 1984 and the group Sakhile from South Africa with its first ever CD release of their song of the same name from 1982. A superb collection with a strong repeat factor.

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