Audiophile: Vinyl, February 2022

hfnalbum.pngEtta James
The Montreux Years
Montreux Media/BMG BMGCAT460DLP (two discs; 180g vinyl)

For those of us who cannot get enough of Etta and who rate her as the only soul or R&B singer equal to Aretha, this is an unalloyed gift from the archives of the late Claude Nobs. As with the Nina Simone title in this series [HFN Jan '22], the two LPs contain tracks culled from five concerts, this set's dating from 1977-93, and they leave you begging for whole gigs. Many of her stellar tracks are included – 'Tell Mama', 'At Last', 'I'd Rather Go Blind', 'Sunday Kind Of Love', and nine more. But the shock is the recording quality: whoever mastered this makes it sound like one continuous gig despite the 16 year span, hence the high score. If you didn't see the sleeve, you'd think that's just what it was. KK


Fàshiön Music
Pröduct Perfect
Modern Harmonic MH-8238 (coloured vinyl)

Released in 1979, with a band name punctuated as if it were a heavy metal outfit but a sound that exhibits 'rude boy' rhythms, punk edge and the synthetic feel of the New Romantics, the debut from Fàshiön Music (later just Fashion) was an eclectic oddity. The inability to force it into a niche is what makes it irresistible to art-school types, or those who want a bit of rough while ensuring that their Loro Piana cashmeres don't pill. Pretence aside, the music is engaging, filled with pop hooks and continually-disconcerting touches like vocals which could have been lifted from the Buzzcocks. I don't know if he heard this, but Andy Warhol would have loved it. KK


David Newman
Ray Charles Presents Fathead
Speakers Corner/Atlantic SD1304 (180g vinyl)

With Charles' name in the title, there can be no higher endorsement for this jazz – mainly bebop – gem. I'm a huge fan of Atlantic's 1950s recordings, and tenor and alto saxophonist Newman's solo debut from 1958 exudes the open, airy and warm atmosphere which each Speakers Corner release reminds me is worthy of Capitol or Mercury. Charles provides piano, the rest of the group including Marcus Belgrave (trumpet), Hank Crawford (baritone sax), Edgar Willis (bass) and Milt Turner (drums). It swings like Basie, at times suggesting a far bigger band, and the version of 'Willow Weep For Me' is – like the other cuts – perfect for Sunday morning chilling-out. KK


Bobby Womack
The Poet II
ABKCO 8790-1 (180g vinyl)

His career revived by The Poet, R&B legend Womack delivered more of the same in 1984. It's not a criticism: that album and this sequel were perfect 'soul sets' redolent of the era, and both were as good as, if not better than, anything from the remarkable Philly Soul stable. Among its attractions are three duets with the equally-revered Patti LaBelle, superstar guests including George Benson and Wilton Felder, and chart success with 'Love Has Finally Come At Last'. I am still compos mentis enough to recall that, beyond its commercial success, both Poets were perfect hi-fi demo material. Audiophiles weren't alone: NME named it the best album of 1984. KK