This is my first post on Soul Jazz records, and it certainly won’t be my last. For those of you who don’t know, they’re a record label who specialise in reissues of classic reggae, soul, funk, hip-hop and other stuff (even including NYC punk-funk), a lot of which is rare or previously unreleased. Probably their best-known compilations are the Studio One reggae series, which has seen a whole heap of totally ace compilations of tunes from Kingston’s legendary Studio One records, usually released by genre (Roots, Ska, Rockers, Lovers’ Rock, Dub etc).
The best selling comp of the series was Studio One Soul, which was (self-evidently) various Jamaican artists doing their own takes on classic American soul numbers. Now they’ve recently released the second in the series.
Where the first one had the more obvious soul biggies (Express Yourself, Respect, Time is Right), this one digs a bit deeper. Sure, there are covers of well-known songs like ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ (by the evergreen Horace Andy), but most of these will not be familiar to those with just a rudimentary knowledge of US soul (that includes me!).
Curtis Mayfield covers are popular on this comp (there are five), but it’s not the well-known Superfly stuff. It’s lesser-known gems like 'Ten to One' and 'Choice of Colours'. It’s not even all ‘proper’ soul on this album either - there’s a fine instrumental dub take on ‘Norweigan Wood’, and a back-to-Africa rasta call to the tune of ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Prince Jazzbo’s Fool for Love is a DJ version of Dawn Penn’s No No No (itself a soul cover). And there’s a bit more of this covering and re-covering going on, usually to pretty good effect.
This collection isn’t as immediate as its predecessor, but repeated listening brings rewards. I’m on my third spin (if you can do that on an iPod) now and it’s beginning to work its way into the groove part of my brain. Nice stuff.
Download: Westbound Train by Jacob Miller
Download: Ain't No Sunshine by Horace Andy
Download: Fool for Love by Prince Jazzbo
Buy Studio One Soul 2 direct from Soul Jazz's Shop, Sounds of the Universe.