Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"Smoked Sugar" by SMOKED SUGAR - A Review oF Their 1975 Soul Album on 20th Century Records - Now Remastered & Expanded In 2012 by Big Break Records of the UK (BBR)...



This review is part of my "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters Soul, Funk & Jazz Fusion" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:

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“…First Thing I Do…My Eyes Search A Lonely Room For You…” - Smoked Sugar by SMOKED SUGAR (2012 BBR Expanded CD Remaster)

This is a fantastic reissue – an obscure Funk-Soul album from 1975 that few people outside of deep circles will have heard of (including me) – and typically it’s a peach worth rediscovering.

Reissued February 2012 in the UK, Big Break Records CDBBR 099 breaks down as follows (38:02 minutes):

Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Smoked Sugar" - originally released in the USA on 20th Century Records T-473 in early 1975

Track 11 is "My Eyes Search A Lonely Room For You (Promotional Single Version)". Track 2 is the album version at 4:09 minutes – this PROMO-ONLY single version is edited to 3:09 minutes

The jewel case is one of those new rounded corner deals and the 12-page booklet features detailed liner notes by RICO "Superbizzee" WASHINGTON – a New Yorker who has edited and contributed to American music publications like "Free" and "XLRBR" magazines. The remaster is by PETER DOELL at Universal and is superlative – incredibly clean, clear and present reflecting HADLEY MURELL'S superb production values back in the day. I can't emphasize enough how good BBR CDs sound – I've reviewed nearly 10 now (see list below) – and this is no different. A joy to listen too…

It opens with a lethal triple whammy – "I've Found Someone Like You", "My Eyes Search A Lonely Room For You" and "Bump Me". The first whacks into existence with a tremendous Al Green type vocal - while the sublime second track "My Eyes Search A Lonely Room For You" is 'the' tuneful masterpiece on here – no doubt. Imagine The Chi-Lites circa 1972 to 1974 with a grittier Al Green as the lead vocalist rather than Eugene Record (it’s gorgeous stuff - lyrics above). The funk of "Bump Me" is a great tune too. In fact the lead singer JAMES "Jimmy" CONWELL deserves special mention because his pleading voice lends every song a sort of Soul sweetness that’s worth its weight in gold. He featured with 60's bands The Exits and The Trips and had a decade of experience to bring the smooth ranks of Smoked Sugar. 

Less successful is the frantic keyboard funk of "I'm A Blues Singer, Guitar Banger" that sounds like its trying too hard to be a hit without the killer hook and words to get it there. Better is the slightly uptempo Philly feel to "I Can't Get Enough" (remastered drums and bass so clear). Nice too are "It's Funny Till I Start Crying" where they sound like mid-70’s Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate and the mid-tempo "Loving You Coming Out Of A Brand Bag" sounds like a talking Chi-Lites number. It ends on "Keeping Up My Front" co-written by Conwell and keyboardist Oliver Williams – where the slow pace changes mid-tune.

It's not all genius for sure – but the good stuff is great – and huge kudos go to BBR for reissuing the album (long prized by collectors and used by mixers for samples) – and with such top sound quality. Recommended. 

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