The Trammps: Burn Baby Burn – Disco Inferno – The Trammps Albums 1975-1980 – Robinsongs

If you’re going to do a boxset then do it right, make it big. Totalling eight discs charting their album releases over the course of 1975 to 1980 this pays testament to the enduring legacy of the band in the national consciousness. While the final album Stepping Out succumbs to the schmaltz and musical clique characterising a lot of mainstream R&B as it drifted into the 1980’s it’s time to turn to that initial run of five albums which provided a wealth of soulfully charged, incendiary passion with songs such as the meaningful Love Epidemic contained on their debut. 1975 is of course a great place to start proceedings as the sounds of what became Disco had become well and truly established as the instrumental Trammps Disco Theme eloquently testifies. The legendary Zing Album contains the timeless Hold Back The Night and the rather beautiful Tom’s Song. But its perhaps by their third album that the band’s sound truly matures with numbers such as the exuberant title track Where The Happy People Go and Can We Come Together, alongside the quietly smouldering Love Is a Funky Thing.

The Trammps III released in 1977 contains one of my favourite tracks of the era, The Nights Went Out crystallising Early Young’s signature drumming alongside the powerful instrumentation and soaring vocals by Jimmy Ellis. More often than not The Trammps wrote about love and heartbreak but this song was about the Electricity blackout the same year. And it’s songs like these which give the band real depth of meaning. It is also well worth reading the sleevenotes by MOJO and Record Collector’s contributor Charles Waring for the bigger picture.

Release: March 25



Various Artists – Disco 75 – Robinsongs

Starting a series celebrating the music based around the word Disco this first compilation from 1975 spreads its wings across three discs, plus sleeve notes written by Bob Fisher further highlighting the story. Of course the music’s roots can be readily traced a decade back but the sounds, styles and songs which congregate here feel like a melting pot in the making. As with all collections (they are subjective by default) it’s down to the sounds in the end and as far as I’m concerned the full length version of Harold Melvin & Bluenotes – Bad Luck is worth the price of admission alone. Add to that Pick Up The Pieces and lesser known gems such as Rhythm Makers – Zone and you’re a third of the way there.

The second disc feels more soulful in terms of De-Lite-Ful, Chuck Jackson and Pat Lundi’s sublime Party Music and you can still hear the echo of classic Motown float across the melodies, though equally the welcome evolution of Crown Heights Affair – Dreaming A Dream and sheer exuberance of MFSB – Sexy, Peoples Choice – Do It Any Way You Wanna plus The Glitter Band – Makes You Blind are still hard to beat in any decade.

The final CD again takes steps forward with its amalgamation of sounds like the James Brown referencing Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – I Am Somebody, The Salsoul Orchestra’s supremely funky Chicago Bus Stop, capped off by the soaring harmonies of Archie Bell & The Drells – Let’s Groove. It’s exciting to hear how all in one given year the record releases progressed the genre capturing influences far and wide alongside the subsequent development of invigorating rhythms as well as production values. Consequently this somehow seems more like an adventure rather than an exercise in plain nostalgia.


Donald Byrd & The Blackbyrds – The Jazz Funk Collection – Robinsongs

Listening to Donald Byrd play Trumpet leaves you with the impression that nothing else in life matters quite as much. In a class of his own, whether composing, playing or even singing there is a quality unique to the individual that celebrates the high and lows of daily existence. Remarkable given the longevity of his career which started out recording for the Transition label in the mid-fifties, before arriving at the evolving styles which decorate this newly available digital compilation which span three discs of equal beauty. The title refers to the genre that appeared by the early 1970’s and Donald Byrd was undoubtedly one of its finest components. Sometimes the Funk was more apparent than Jazz, at others the opposite was the case and for me that’s where all the magic is. The big hitting numbers such as Dominoes, Walking In Rhythm and of course Love Has Come Around are all present, sounding as resonate then as now. You will also discover the likes of Change (Makes You Want Hustle), Happy Music through to the later compositions captured here such as 1982’s Star Trippin’. Plus, there is a fascinating set of sleeve notes by Charles Waring explaining the background in detail to all the genius. Priceless.

Release: April 17

M.F.S.B. – The Definitive Collection – Robinsongs

M.F.S.B. will always be synonymous with some of the most transcendent moments Disco ever reached. Truly cherished records like T.S.O.P (The Sound Of Philadelphia) featuring the wonderful Three Degrees typified the breezy yet hard-hitting productions which they became most celebrated for. While perhaps the era’s most defining break, care of, Love Is The Message rightly secures their place in all-time history. The instrumentals they created are second to none and as musicians their like are sorely missed. Jazzy, soulful, rhythm and blues evolved into part of the first wave of ‘Disco’ in the 1970’s yet they were not averse to getting down, hard and funky on the likes of the joyous Sexy alongside K-Jee either. They also provided the backing to other releases on the famed label: Philadelphia International Records and the driving licks that drove the fevered Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto by 1977 pushed the music into socially conscious directions. It’s also interesting note how sounds and moods altered by the close of the decade with the jazz-funk strains espoused by the seminal Mysteries Of The World. A great selection of words from MOJO/ Record Collector scribe Charles Waring accompanies too. An essential addition to your collection.

Release: March 9


grover-washington-jr-600x594Grover Washington JR.
The Definitive Collection: Deluxe Edition

I was introduced to Grover Washington JR. like many I suspect from my generation who first heard the classic break from the equally classic Mister Magic, albeit sampled on a Hip-Hop record. Some years later and this excellent compilation of the range and diversity that the artist has to offer becomes all the more apparent. Opening this double CD selection is his fiery cover of Inner City Blues – perhaps all the more incendiary, even minus the vocal. The music then blows between the smoother more melodic sounds of No Tears In The End through to the tougher street funk of Knucklehead. Also included are ‘featured on’ tracks such as Idris Muhammad’s beautiful Loran’s Dance, as well as Bill Withers ‘Just The Two Of Us’, plus the sublime Asphalt Canyon Blues recorded with Kenny Burrell for Blue Note. Do read Charles Waring’s sleeve notes too and you won’t miss a beat.